Tag Archives: bloggish

What Day Is It?

I kid. I’m mostly sure it’s Saturday.

Mostly.

Kinda wild that another week has already gone by. Couldn’t tell you what I’ve been doing, just because it’s the thing where days tend to blur together, kinda like how summer days used to back when you were a teenager only with less time spent going outside and more existential dread. Fun times.

I’ve been doing stuff, to be sure. Reading, cooking, supposedly writing; stuff like that. Been playing video games too, and not just playing Star Wars Battlefront II while listening to podcasts, either (though certainly a lot of that).

I’m a huge fan of game maker Hideo Kojima. His Metal Gear Solids are truly singular in how wildly bonkers they are and with how committed they are to their bits. They’re games about nanomachine-enhanced soldiers, using ketchup as fake blood, and the ramifications of mutually assured nuclear destruction. The second game is a serious exploration of meme theory and the permeation of culture into a person’s psyche and their need to act it out wrapped up in a story involving clones, a roller-skating bomb man, and giant mechs. Trust me when I say these games are ridiculous and thoughtful at the same time, sometimes spinning between the two ends in a matter of minutes.

Death Standing is his latest game, one I’ve been eagerly waiting for since it was announced. The game’s borderline nonsensical, but it’s so committed to its nonsense that it somehow makes sense. I’ve talked about it before on this blog, about running deliveries in an isolated, disparate, post-apocalyptic America (and how that’s oddly prescient given where we are now).

I’m over seventy hours into the game, which is testament to how much time I’ve on my hands these days, but also pretty impressive since it’s a game I’ve only been playing with my girlfriend so it’s on her, too. Somehow, this plot involving stillborn fetuses being able to bridge the gap between life and death has just gotten weirder as it’s gone on, but it’s a game so sure of itself you can’t help but to get sucked into its melodrama and want to come along for the ride. It helps that the game’s central themes are so clearly on its sleeve; Death Stranding isn’t a game about death and life so much as it is one about the connections between people and a meditation on ways that people stay connected — like the internet. And then there’s Mads Mikkelsen playing, well, it’s almost a spoiler to say who he is, but he just adds to the madness in a fantastic way.

I’m someone who has trouble sitting still. Binging movies and tv is hard for me, since I have this antsy need to be doing something. So video games are a wonderful diversion for me, as they’re a medium where I feel like I’m taking an active part in stuff. And I’m so glad that there are games like Death Stranding to occupy my time, the sort of art (yes, art) that’s so specific and singular and fills me with joy.

See you in seven days, which should be Saturday again.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Day Thirteen

‘sup?

Today is, more or less, day thirteen of my self-imposed quarantine/isolation. I’m not sick, but as someone who’s in a position to take themself out of the equation of contagiousness, I elected to do so. Social responsibility and all that.

In the time since, New York has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the US, with the City itself being a hub within it all. It’s a lot to take in; like knowing that a few neighborhoods over there’s a hospital that’s operating in crisis mode. I’m lucky in that me and mine are safe and sound, some of us are working from home, some are on paid leave, but some have had to file for unemployment. But we know it could be worse for all of us, and we know that others aren’t nearly so lucky.

I go on walks now and then, both because I’m told I need sunlight and exercise, but also because I need groceries and wanna get takeout from places that are still offering. Being outside in my neighborhood is surreal. Lots of places are closed, which is sad to see even if they’re places I usually don’t frequent. The diner I go to most weekends stopped offering takeout earlier this week and has a sign on their door saying they’re closed indefinitely. So too went the ramen joint I like and the restaurant I live over.  A coffeeshop I adore and served me many a ginger-tinged coffee during NaNoWriMo is selling its beans in bulk before they close this weekend.

Throughout all this, I can’t help but wonder how this will all look when the pandemic is finally over, whether it’s several weeks or several months from now. Will that diner reopen? Will the staff still be there? It feels a selfish question, but it’s a place where I know a lot of the staff by name and have holed up with a book and endless coffee for hours, and truth be told, I miss that. Plus, I’ve a soft-spot for hole-in-the-wall eats and I’m loath to lose one, especially one like this. Feels like there’s so much in the air right now.

It’s funny. There’s a part of me that’s taken pop-culture’s obsession with New York as being just a trope that works. Yeah, aliens invade the City; yeah, that’s where the Ghostbusters operate; yeah, that’s where all the supervillains are for Spider-Man to fight. Seemed like Washington State was gonna be the big one for the Covid outbreak, but, no, it’s here in New York. Guess there is some truth in television to it all.

But again, I consider myself lucky. The supply chain to New York is robust, so I’m not worried about running out of food and other supplies. So long as the infrastructure holds up, FaceTime and Google Hangouts can afford a sort of companionship. I’m not worried about myself making it through this storm, but I do worry for those who aren’t as privileged. For those who still have to go in to work at grocers and hospitals, for those out of a job and those who might not have a job when this is over.

I don’t know what sort of conclusion to draw here, at the end of this rambling blog post. But be thankful for what you’ve got. And please, if you can, stay home and stay safe. Let’s get through this whole thing.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Quarantined

To stem the rising tide of a pandemic, the residents of New York are put under lockdown. Life in the city grinds to a halt; no one goes into work and restaurants and bars are limited to take-out only options. News chyrons speak of medication being shipped to cities and team games being banned.

Who would’ve seen March 2020 looking like some B-Movie from the 80s?

It’s a time that I’ve been filling with watching movies, playing video games, and playing board games with friends. And reading too, because it’s a good time to be curled up with a book and a cup of coffee (I’m reading Ken Liu’s The Hidden Girl and Other Stories, if you’re curious).

I’ve really taken a liking to Legacy-style board games. These are the ones that every game impacts the next one and rules develop as you go. You get to name characters and mechanics get added and changed. Pandemic Legacy has been a lot of fun, because Pandemic is a fun board game anyway and it’s a little topical now given the whole, y’know, worldwide pandemic. Given the opportunity to name the diseases, we naturally chose to name one Corona and, keeping with the theme, the other three Budweiser, Miller, and Guinness. Because theming.

A fun bonus of it is that it’s a cooperative board game, so rather than conspiring against each other (which believe me is one of my favorite things), you’re working together against whatever’s going wrong in the game. It makes for a fun tabletop experience because you’re united with a common goal. It also makes for a gaming experience that’s built more around puzzling and problem solving than usurpation, which is a fun part of the brain to exercise.

Tonight we’re gonna take a stab at the Legacy version of Betrayal At The House On The Hill, another game that lets you play together alongside each other until the Haunt begins at which point it becomes competitive. All the same, it makes for a fun time.

Of course, to play with people outside of my apartment is another affair, but we find a way. Like streaming Jackbox’s Quiplash through Twitch and setting up a Google Hangout for everyone to play together. Sure, the eight-or-so of us are all in different places, but there’s still that community of doing something together and laughing at the same jokes. Feels not too unlike everyone sitting on a couch together somewhere.

Another friend of mine is putting together some Dungeons and Dragons campaigns over Discord, which, again, though not the same as everyone sitting around a table with beers and chips, still makes for a cool simulacrum of the actual experience. We’re all still cracking jokes and riffing off each other, just not in person.

Community is such an odd thing; it’s something that you can’t really quantify but you know when it’s not there. I recognize its loss when I walk past shuttered stores and empty restaurants to grab pickup from a place I dearly hope is still open after all this blows over. It’s liable that things will look more than a little different when all the dust settles. Community will probably look a bit different, and I think we’ll really learn that we don’t have to actually be together to be together.

Comments Off on Quarantined

Filed under Uncategorized

DID IT

Hey.

Today, being the last day of November, is when NaNoWriMo comes to an end.

And I friggin’ did it.

50,000 words (and change) written in a month. Somehow.

I’ve no real idea where this story’s going and I’m pretty sure about 50% of those words are trash, but I did it. That’s 50,000 words done.

Finishing the novel is for another day, now it’s time for video games and whiskey.

Expect some regular scheduled geekery next Saturday.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Ah, Crap, It’s 7pm.

Hey!

If you’re wondering, yes, I’m still doing NaNoWriMo while trying to remain a functional adult! (I’ve also, by my count, consumed, twenty beers, nine cups of coffee, seven bottles of kombucha, and seven whiskey sours [amongst other beverages] while writing this month [yes, I am keeping count, and yes, I usually write in the evenings])

And I just realized it’s 7pm and y’all need to hear something from me because, I dunno, blogs are supposed to be ~regular~.

So. Hi. I live.

In my non-writing misadventures I’ve been clicking around the internet, and in so doing came across a LetsPlay of The Last of Us by Nolan North, Troy Baker, and Hana Hayes. Troy and Hana play Joel and Sarah, the main characters in the opening of The Last of Us (which, if you’ll recall, broke me) and Nolan, the voice of Nathan Drake in Uncharted, hasn’t played the game before.

I did not watch the video, because it’s really hard to get me to sit down and watch something and I don’t usually see the appeal of watching other people play video games, which, for the uninitiated, is what a LetsPlay is.

But I did see a screencap from it, courtesy of the Kotaku comment section:

That’s their response upon hitting the title card after the devastating prologue. Nolan’s face on the right is one of pain and shock, which is fitting giving the prologue. It’s also why I’m so hesitant to engage with a piece of media I bought (again) nearly a year ago and have had sitting downloaded on my PS4 since. Waiting. Waiting to break me.

I could wax poetic about how wonderful video games are with how they can give you a visceral feeling of doing stuff, but I’ve words to write. It’s also a horse I feel like I’ve beaten to death on this blog and there are better and more interesting to write about (eg: The wacky nonsense of Star Wars). But there will also be time later for that when I’m not trying to knock out 50,000 words in a month.

Instead, here’s a bullet point list of Pop-Culture Thoughts I Have:

  • The Mandalorian is excellent
    • It captures so much of what made movies like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly so good.
      • Including the humor!
    • I love the low stakes of Chapter 2.
    • I love how Star Wars-y Chapter 3 feels.
    • I love how it feels like a good RPG plays.
  • I really want to play Star Wars: Fallen Order and The Outer Worlds and Death Stranding but I’m WRITING and have not the time to really dig in to a game.
  • Folks, The Good Place gives me all the warms and fuzzies.
  • The Star Wars books Resistance Reborn  and The Legends of Luke Skywalker are both very good for very different reasons. The former is very much a Star Wars adventure, the latter is essentially a treatise on stories and legends using Luke Skywalker as a focus.
  • Jojo Rabbit is very good and very wonderful and very cute and very warm and a movie you should definitely go see.

 

Cheers, folks; I’m at 37,455 words.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Post

Hello. It’s November, a month where some people opt to forgo shaving for no other reason the alteration (and sometimes fundraising). It is also a month where foolish people try and write a 50,000 word novel with in its thirty days.

Reader, I am one of those fools.

In light of National Novel Writing Month, I’ve been writing pell-mell to try and reach my goal, and, as such, am going to forgo my usual rant essay this week (the last couple had been prepared in advance! I’m sneaky like that).

So maybe check out an older post. I’ve been in a science fiction mood (owing in no small part to the release of The Mandalorian and what I’ve been writing), and I really think it’s an important genre, as I rambled about on Christmas Eve three years ago. Or look at my new fancy website www.joshuatong.com.

I know this is a cop out, and you oughta expect another one next week and possibly the week after, but trust me, I’ll be back going on and on about Star Wars and whathaveyou soon enough.

But seriously, The Mandalorian is so good and it wears its spaghetti western influence on its sleeve, and not just in the gruff cowboy trope, but its use of comedy and more. That, however, is a post for another day.

Cheers,

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What I’ve Been Reading

I like reading. Always have.

University was both a boon and a hindrance for that love, though. Courtesy of my course of study, I read a lot. There were classes where I was going through a different book every two weeks. I read books that I might not have checked out of my own volition, like Jacques the Fatalist and Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook, along with books I’d wanted to read but never got around to, like Romance of Three Kingdoms and Ulysses. And that’s not even getting into the untold number of articles, excerpts, and the like that offered background and different points of view on, well, stuff.

Come graduation I didn’t have a  syllabus anymore and so didn’t really have much of a direction of what to read. So I read stuff I’d had lying around (Interpreter of Maladies) and books I’d wanted to read but hadn’t had time for (Ready Player One). But of course, there’s still that itch to read more, and, y’know, learn too. So I kept my eyes peeled for books on topics I found interesting. Interviews on The Daily Show led me to Ashley’s War and White Rage and a trip to the Museum of Chinese in America put me on course for my informal postgraduate study of the Chinese diaspora within the United States. For a while there I enforced a policy of one ‘serious’ book for every ‘fun’ book, so following up a Star Wars: Rogue Squadron book with a sociology book about tabletop RPGs, then Trevor Noah’s autobiography and then Ta-Nehesi Coates’ Between The World and Me. Sure, I was a little generous with my definitions, but hey, it forced me to read more ‘educational’ stuff.

After a while though, I longed to get back to reading a lot of science fiction and fantasy, genres that I love for so many reasons. But there was still the part of me that wouldn’t let me get away with just diving back into old comforts. So I gave myself a simple edict: read more science fiction and fantasy by authors who aren’t white guys. And let me tell you, that has been a wonderful decision.

I remember watching the credits for Arrival and noticing that it was based on a short story by someone with a Chinese last name. Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang was added to my reading list. His stories are fantastic. In addition to the titular one which plays with language and time in magnificent ways afforded only by written fiction, there’s also Division By Zero that posits a relationship falling apart alongside the basic laws of mathematics breaking down. Excellent, excellent genre work, but I wanted more.

I found out about Ken Liu with his short story “The Paper Menagerie” and shortly thereafter picked up his short story collection by the same name. Loving how he wives unique East-Asian themes into his stories, I sought out his epic fantasy book The Grace of Kings. The doorstopper sized book scratches the itch of the kid who read The Lord of The Rings over and over again and is always delighted when he opens a book to find a fantastical map. But what the book offered that others didn’t was its clear influence by historical Chinese epics like Romance of Three Kingdoms. Not only that but the books have a dramatic aesthetic that harkens more to the Chinese historical dramas that would play on my grandmother’s tv back in Singapore than whatever period drama is currently fashionable. Because why not base a fantasy series on ancient Chinese history?

One other way I’ve gone about finding new books to read has been by looking at websites’ lists of upcoming genre books, taking note of what interests me. It’s how I came upon S.A. Chakraborty and her book The City of Brass. It’s a fantastical book of magic and djinn — and one that draws on Muslim tradition at that. It’s a neat world and a refreshing approach to fantasy. I dug it, got the second book, and am eagerly awaiting the third once she finishes it.

I’m reading and reading a lot. At the risk of sounding hokey, I’m really enjoying reading new stories by people who aren’t usually the ones in the spotlight. And hey, learning new things is cool.

As I said, I like reading.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized