A Budding Gamer

Knowing my fondness for retro games, this past Christmas my sister and her husband–total gamers, the both of them–got me a Super Nintendo Classic Edition.

For those who aren’t aware, the Super Nintendo Classic Edition is a cool little device that Nintendo released in 2017 that’s similar to their NES Classic: it’s a hand-held version of their classic early 90s Super Nintendo console pre-loaded with 20 classic games, designed to work on modern TVs, and guaranteed to tickle your nostalgia gland and separate you from your hard-earned money!

So while we were visiting my parents over Christmas, I fired it up and gave a few old games a spin. And my pleasure centers were absolutely engaged. Super Mario WorldSuper MetroidF-ZeroDonkey Kong CountrySuper Castlevania . . . aw yeah, total classics. And of course, one of my all-time favorites that I haven’t played in easily twenty yearsMega Man X. I loved that game, and was immediately engaged.

And of course, so was my son.

I mean, Mega Man X, like every single game in the Mega Man franchise, has bright and colorful graphics, fantastic music, exciting gameplay, and robots that fight each other, steal each others weapons, and blow stuff up. In this edition, the main character, X, has to fight animal-based robot masters in order to beat their big boss Sigma. It is, in short, tailor-made for a five-year-old.

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But the presents a bit of a parental conundrum for me. I grew up with Nintendo, getting a set for Christmas in 1987, when I was not much older than my son. I also played Atari with my maternal grandmother, who is always up on technology, and classic Sierra adventure games with my paternal grandfather on his then state-of-the-art Leading Edge computer (with two external disk drives!). So video games were always a thing with me.

I’ve written fondly about retro games before. The music in those old games was often fantastic and inspiring. And speaking of inspiring, the plots and mechanics of many old video games really stoked my imagination, and continue to be an unlikely source of inspiration. And I know for a fact that I am not alone in this.

But I also reflect on all the hours I spent playing video games as a kid, especially as the console generations marched on and got better and better and more realistic, and the games got longer. I always liked role-playing games, you know, those dorky games where you fight monsters and level up and so on. They always had really fun tactical combat, customization of characters, and a lot of options to just go and explore stuff.

They were fun. They were engrossing. And they often took sixty hours to finish.

And as the games got better and better, they got longer and longer.  Continue reading “A Budding Gamer”

Physicality = Mentality = Spirituality

 

Here we are in February, and I can reflect upon two New Year’s Resolutions I decided to make in late December:

  1. Adhere to every Greek Orthodox fast day in 2018
  2. Lose some fat

No, these two things aren’t unrelated. And I have done both before. But this year, I felt that I needed a little spiritual cleansing as well as physical cleansing, which often lead to mental and emotional cleansing. It sounds esoteric, but to paraphrase  Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes (who you should follow if you’re in any way interested in fitness):

Physicality = mentality = spirituality

Everything is connected. I’ve written about the benefits of fasting before, and I stand by my assertion that “When I’m not worrying about the food I consume, I start to think about the other stuff I consume.”

I’ve also discussed my thoughts about physical fitness, and how it helps improve other aspects of my life. It’s amazing what a little self-discipline and enforced unpleasantness can do–let’s face it, lifting feels good, but there are some days when you just don’t want to go to the gym.

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Lastly, I’ve discussed how the only way to get anything done and done well is to get obsessed and stay obsessed. Ruthless focus is what you need. At least in my life, when I haven’t been obsessed with something, I just kind of meander around.

This isn’t a post to brag, although I’ve been pleased with my results. Instead, I’d like to hopefully inspire anyone reading this to

So let’s put this all together. First, we’ll go over what I’m doing, and then we’ll go over what I’ve learned. Continue reading “Physicality = Mentality = Spirituality”

The Big Game

Well, I know I’ve said I don’t care about sports anymore, but leave it to my son to change that.

You see, he has two uncles that are younger and cooler than me. They are both huge football fans, and watch the Patriots with my son when they’re together. So when my son asked if we could watch last Sunday’s Patriots-Jaguars AFC Championship game, how could I say no?

In the interests of full disclosure, I have to say I’m more of a Tom Brady and Bill Belichick fan than an NFL fan. I dug the Pats as a kid during the Drew Bledsoe days, and went to a lot of games with my buddy Pete (wherever you are, man, I wish I kept in touch with you better) and his dad (RIP–he was a GREAT human being). Brady and Belichick took over when I was in college, and boy was that fun. And here I am…eighteen years later watching them compete for Super Bowls with my son.

And my son, my five-year-old energetic boy, sat and watched the entire game with me as I explained the rules and various strategies to him. I had flashbacks to watching the Celtics with my father, and it sort of rekindled my enjoyment for professional sportsball leagues. Continue reading “The Big Game”

Names and Legacies

Children's movies can sometimes present a purer message than fare aimed at adults, if you can call superhero movies, hyper-vulgar comedies, and blood-splattered action-fests "adult."

It strikes me that kids' movies, the good ones at least, have to make their message accessible and understandable while keeping the movie actually entertainingthat things like craftsmanship and universal themes and even good scriptwriting.

Shocking, outdated concepts, I know.

Anyway, I took my son to see Cars 3recently, and I was not expecting to see a treatise about aging and legacies from a movie about anthropomorphic vehicles, but I did. I know Pixar is known for high-quality children's entertainment, but still: what an interesting time to be alive.

But stories tell us things in a way that the mere recitation of facts can never hope to match, and the movie stuck with me.

So with legacies on the mind, I started to think about my own, and what I hope to leave behind for my son, any future children I hopefully have, and their children and grandchildren.

I started thinking about names and a question came to mind, or more appropriately, a theme:

Is it better to be unique–like everyone else claims to be? Or is it better to be meaningful? Continue reading “Names and Legacies”

Lowering the Bar: What Is a “Good Father” in Current Year?

It irks me when someone tells me “Oh, you’re such a good father!” when they see me out and about with my son. 

Do I have your attention? Good. 

I’m know I’m not the first to notice this. And I know I won’t be the last. 

Why does this bother me so?

Because all I do either in public or in private is the parent my son. 

That’s it. Really. 

  • I pay attention and interact with him, and not my phone. 
  • I try to bring him with me everywhere I can just so we can hang out and maybe learn something. 
  • I use situations as lessons when appropriate. 
  • I discipline him when necessary. 
  • I try not to leave it up to my wife to do everything. 

And most importantly:

  • I love the little bugger, and I love him fiercely. 

In 2017, apparently, a man being a parent is all it takes to be considered a good father. 

The bar had been set so low by forces outside of our control, everyone’s perception is completely screwed up.

I hung out at the pool with my son over the weekend, chilling with a guy who also lives in the building and his two kids that he obviously loves. 

Does spending time with our kids make us “good fathers,” or just fathers?  Continue reading “Lowering the Bar: What Is a “Good Father” in Current Year?”

Think “Fast”!

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“Fasting is that weird thing religious people do where you don’t eat so that you can go to heaven or something. I dunno. Pass the bacon.”

Or it’s a way to focus your mind, body, and spirit, exercise self-control and channel your energy away from cramming things down your foodhole and towards other things you may be trying to accomplish.

I’ve already written about the religious aspects of fasting, and won’t go into that again save to say that, at least in Christian tradition, there are no hard-and-fast fasting rules in Scripture; it’s all based on ancient traditions. If I had to boil the practice down to a sentence, it would be this:

A little humility does a lot of good.

First, let me acknowledge the elephant in the room.

Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;

That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

Matthew 6:16-18

But I’m not doing this for reward or accolades. I’m just trying to pass along an experience that’s worked for me in the event that maybe it’ll work for you.

So why am I fasting, even though Lent and Easter finished months ago?

Am I trying to lose weight? Who isn’t? Intermittent fasting is a thing that many say helps achieve your fitness goals. And while this is a part of why I’m fasting now–it’s nice to not feel stuffed and bloated, weight down by all the garbage we tend to eat!–that’s not the only reason I’m fastinjg.

Am I trying to accomplish something? I was. I was working furiously to finish the second draft of my book, which I did last week a little past the deadline I set for me, but it’s done regardless. Still, there are always other things we want to accomplish in our lives.

Am I trying to commune with The Spirit? Yes. This one is a bit more subtle, but there are things in my life that need work, and I’m taking a page out of Jesus’ book: “. . . this kind [of demon] goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” Continue reading “Think “Fast”!”

Digital Soma

You’ve heard it all before: Smartphones are bad. Technology is bad. We’ve lost the ability to think. And so on. 

Though I’m no Luddite, much of this is true to a degree. And it was on my mind during an interesting conversation with a really smart guy I had at a recent cookout. 

This gent is a little older than me, but similar in background, education and temperament, though he’s not a lawyer. But he’s into history, and he sees trends, so we talked about things like helicopter parenting and the time-sucking black hole of our endless entertainment options. 

It helps that, like me, the guy is both a historian by training and a reader of classical literature and 20th and 21st century fiction. “It’s Brave New World meets 1984,” he said at one point; a cliched observation, yes, but cliched because it’s true. 

“More Brave New World, I’d say,” I responded. “Everything is a different form of soma.”

Soma, for those of you who’ve never read the book, is an undefined, mass-distributed “pleasure drug” that’s kind of a cross between an opiate and a hallucinogen. It keeps the population happy and docile. 

What we’re drowning in now, rather than pills, is digital soma. 

Eventually, from smartphones and omnipresent media, the topic of our conversation soon turned towards video games. 

I know I’m stepping into it here, but I’m fine with any blowback. What’s the point of debate if we can’t be honest about where we stand? Continue reading “Digital Soma”