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By the time I began purchasing the seventh generation of video game consoles in the mid-2000s — the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii — I already had a wiring nightmare on my hands. Even before I owned those three consoles I had at least twenty other gaming systems wired up to my television and ready to play.

You’re probably familiar with those old manual RCA switch boxes that allowed you to hook four different things up to a single television. To wire up that many televisions, I had eight 4-way switch boxes connected to a big 8-way switch box. All of these switch boxes were numbered and I had a cheat sheet mapping out all the connections next to the television. To play the Nintendo, switch box 1 needed to be on 2 and the big 8-way switchbox needed to be on 3 (2-3). The Super Nintendo was on 3-3; the Commodore, 4-1. The 8th 4-way switch box was reserved to those all-in-one joysticks. I had quite a few at the time and was constantly unplugging and replugging different ones in.

The only way to power this monstrosity was by daisy chaining power strips. I had a plug in the outlet that split the two existing sockets into six, all six of those had power strips plugged into them, and a few of the power strips had additional power strips connected. There’s no part of this configuration that would have passed any kind of safety inspection. Every time I left the room I was worried something was going to spontaneously combust in the middle of the night and burn the house down.

Unhooking all that stuff was a lot simpler than hooking it up, I assure you. After we sold our last house and bought our current one, all of those consoles, controllers, power supplies, power strips, wires, and switch boxes went into big plastic tubs.

That’s where most of them remain today.

The PS3, Wii, and 360 are all still hooked up. In another area I have a Retron 3 (that plays NES, SNES, and Genesis cartridges) and my Atari 2600 hooked up. To be honest, most of them are collecting dust (if it weren’t for Mason, all of them would be). Upstairs I also have my Commodore 64 and Apple II hooked up, but to be honest most of my retrogaming these days is done through emulation. Between the Raspberry Pi, the MiST, the emulators on my PC and the 60-in-1 arcade cabinet downstairs, most of the games I enjoy playing are just a click or two away. I never said emulation was better, but it darn sure is convenient.

I don’t know what to do with those tubs of consoles, so for now, they sit. I paid too much money to get rid of them, but lack the space or interest to hook them all back up. So, in the tubs they’ll stay for now until I can figure out what to do with them.

It finally happened. Someone — not on the internet, but in real life — asked my opinion of Gamergate.

Gamergate began this past August and I only know the slightest of details, but I will try and summarize this nonsense as quickly and generically as I can. The way I understand it, a young woman wrote and released a new video game that got some attention on a few popular online gaming news sites. It was soon revealed that one of the online journalists (a young man) who had given the game a positive review had previously had a relationship with the young lady who developed the game. This came to light when another young man discovered that he was not the only young man in this woman’s life. The whole thing should have been classified as “jilted lover seeks revenge” and ended there, but it didn’t.

Instead, the young woman who developed the game was “doxed.” Doxing is the act of releasing someone’s personal information (anything from their real name to their home address, phone number, social security number, and more) to the general public. After all of this young lady’s personal information was leaked began calling her (and other family members) on the phone and making death threats for some inexplicable reason. And then some people started doxing other women involved in gaming too, I guess because some people are mean.

All of this has led to a lot of conversation on the internet, like how gamergate is terrorism, but more importantly, it has instigated a lot of conversation defining what gamers are, how gamers should act, what gamers should think and what they should be doing.

All that has led me to a conclusion: I am not a gamer.

Not in that sense, anyhow.

I’ve been playing electronic games just about as long as anybody. If you’ve read Commodork you know that we owned a Pong clone in 1977. Over the next couple of years we purchased an Odyssey 2 and Atari 2600 before moving on to owning home computers. We first owned a TRS-80 Model III, and by the mid-80s we owned an Apple II clone (the Franklin Ace 1000), an IBM PC Jr., a Commodore 64, and our own computer store — Yukon Software.

I’ve never been comfortable with labels. I enjoy photography, but I do not call myself a photographer. I enjoy occasionally playing and recording music, but I don’t refer to myself as a musician. There are lots of things I enjoy doing, and that right there is the key — lots of things. I don’t have time to be pigeonholed by a single label. I’ve got too much going on for that.

I suppose by the simplest of definitions, I’m a gamer because I play games. Then again, aren’t most of us gamers? Don’t all those cell phone and Facebook applications like Candy Crush and Farmville count as games? You can delve into semantics real quick when it comes to definitions. Are gamers people who enjoy playing games as their primary source of entertainment? That leads us into multiple categories: there are casual gamers, classic gamers, modern gamers, and hardcore gamers.

Oh, and don’t forget “real” gamers. That’s my favorite, when someone tells you what a “real” gamer should or shouldn’t do.

I don’t know where I fit in to all of that and to be honest I don’t care. I don’t mean that smugly; I mean, matter-of-factly, I do not care one bit what you think about the games I play. Mostly because, I play games for me. I don’t care whether or not you approve of emulation. I don’t care what old system you liked the most (or the least). I don’t care if you don’t enjoy the same types of games I like. I don’t care if you don’t think I’m a hardcore (or worse, a “real”) gamer. It just doesn’t matter to me.

I play the games I play for my own enjoyment. Occasionally I run into people online who enjoy the game things I do, and when that happens that’s great. But when I run into people that don’t enjoy the same types of games that I do and want to convince me to change… I just can’t convey what a dumb concept that is to me. Go play what you enjoy. I don’t need your approval to like what I like.

Y’all go back to arguing about what gamers are and what they should be doing. As for me, I’ve got games to play.

Huey Lewis and the News released their third album Sports in September, 1983. The album’s first two singles, “Heart and Soul” and “I Want a New Drug,” both cracked the top ten.

The third single, “The Heart of Rock and Roll,” was a tribute to rock and roll. The song consists of three verses. The first two are each dedicated to specific cities while the third verse mentions ten more (one of which is Oklahoma City). That’s one of the things that caught my attention as a kid. I thought it was really cool that I lived in a city mentioned in the song and dreamed about visiting all the other cities mentioned.

I recently heard the song on the radio and realized that I actually have been to them all.

The song’s opens with the words “New York, New York,” and fittingly the first verse is dedicated to the Big Apple. I visited New York City back in 2010.

The second verse starts with “L.A., Hollywood, and the Sunset Strip.” We went to California this year on vacation and did indeed see Hollywood and drove right down Sunset Strip.

The third verse leads off with a string of towns: “DC, San Antone, and the Liberty Town, Boston and Baton Rouge / Tulsa, Austin, Oklahoma City, Seattle, San Francisco, too.” Or rather, “DC, San Antone, and the Liberty Town, Boston and Baton Rouge / Tulsa, Austin, Oklahoma City, Seattle, San Francisco, too.”

For what it’s worth I visited New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Baton Rouge for work purposes and L.A./Hollywood, Tulsa, Austin, San Francisco on personal vacation. I’ve been to Washington D.C., San Antonio, and Seattle for both business and pleasure. A fairly even mix.

As the song trails off we get two final cities: Cleveland and Detroit. Last year we drove through Cleveland on our way to Niagara Falls and visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Detroit is the one “stretch” (I went through it on a train). The next time we are up north I will make a point of doing something there.

Here’s a picture of Morgan and I standing outside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Best we could tell, the heart of rock and roll was still beating.

I try my hardest to ignore suggesting advertising. “If you bought that, you might also like this!” Sometimes they are right and sometimes they are wrong and that’s not the point. I would like to think that I am capable of purchasing what I want and only what I want. (Notice that I said “want” and not “need.” I didn’t “need” a life-size skeleton, I just wanted one.)

i bought some things online last year and as I checked out I got the prompt. I think it said, “other people who purchased this item also bought these.” Below that was a link to a 32 gigabyte USB thumb drive. Two things caught my attention: the thumb drive’s size (which is tiny) and the price (which was $10). I bought two of them.

Here’s one of the thumb drives, next to a quarter.

On the upper right-hand side of the thumb drive is a small plastic loop. Both thumb drives came with a lanyard that you could attach to the loop to prevent you from losing it. Both plastic loops broke almost immediately. In another example of “you get what you pay for,” the “metal USB part” fell out of the “blue plastic part” on both drives. In both cases I had to figure out how to reassemble the drives and get the innards oriented in the right direction. A drop of super glue has prevented that from reoccurring.

I use one of these drives in my drone. I can record video directly to USB. I use the other to move files to and from computers. I have a lot of stuff on it.

About a month ago, I lost it. That’s something I hadn’t considered about buying a USB thumb drive this small. I’ve been checking pants pockets, backpack flaps, and clutter piles everywhere. It just disappeared. With a bunch of “stuff” on it. Depending on your point of view, 32 gigs of data is either “almost nothing” or “a ton of space.” I suppose the size is less important than the contents.

While cleaning out some drawers last night, the drive turned up. When I plugged it into the computer I found that it contained nothing important — a few mp3s and some files I had moved from one machine to another. Still, the thought of losing it has had me searching high and low for the stupid thing for a month now, wondering what its fate was. (I was pretty sure it had fallen behind something, never to be seen again.)

Mason lost interest in trick-or-treating this year. He went through all the motions Halloween night, knocking on doors and collecting candy, but told me afterwards that next year, if it’s all the same to me, he would rather stay home and just hand out candy to kids.

I remember the last year I went trick-or-treating. I was slightly older than Mason — fifteen years old and in tenth grade. My friend Louis and I both owned motorcycles and lived within a mile of one another so we could often be seen riding around town together. by then I was working at the ballfield concession stands and Louis worked at a local greenhouse. Both of us had to take off work for the night. Two signs you are too old to be trick-or-treating: you can legally drive, and you have to ask your boss for the night off.

For Halloween that year Louis and I decided to dress up as the Blues Brothers. We did not coordinate our outfits. I wore a blue denim overcoat, black jeans, white tennis shoes, and my father’s fedora which he had purchased shortly after Raiders of the Lost Ark hit theaters (and had sat in his closet ever since). Louis arrived wearing a gray trenchcoat with a matching hat and his face painted white like a skeleton’s. Neither one of us looked like the Blues Brothers. I looked like a fat version of Panama Jack. Louis looked like a thinner and deader version of me.

After meeting up, the two of us rode our motorcycles (in costume) to a nearby neighborhood. (Another sign that you are too old to be trick-or-treating: you don’t want anyone you know to see you.) We parked our motorcycles at the end of a dead end street, put our hats on, and walked up to the first house.

I can’t remember which one of us actually said it, but by the time we had reached the third house the situation had become so embarrassing that we aborted the mission. We made our way back to our motorcycles, rode them to Mazzio’s Pizza, and ordered dinner. After eating pizza in those terrible costumes I stopped by Walmart and bought myself a mixed bag of candy.

Next year, Mason and I are going to tackle decorating the house. We’ll make some real plans and do some real decoarting. Maybe we’ll even dress up as the Blues Brothers.

Halloween snuck up on me this year. I truly love Halloween, from the traditions all the way to the decorations.

It’s really not Halloween until I start drinking out of this cup.

One thing we did last week for Halloween was go to Krispy Kreme and get some Ghostbusters-themed donuts.

Morgan and I ran into the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man there. It was very scary.

At 9:30 p.m. on the night before Halloween, Morgan told us she needed a “Lorax” t-shirt for school on Friday. Susan dug out a t-shirt and I got out the paints and I whipped this up in about an hour. Between the shirt and a pipe cleaner mustache, she was satisfied.

For Halloween, Morgan dressed up as a zombie, Mason dressed up as an FBI Agent, and Susan dressed up as a vampire. (I dressed up as Dad.) The newspaper said that trick-or-treating begins at 6 p.m., but the sun was still up then and no other kids were outside. We headed back to the house and started again around 6:45 p.m. and by then houses had their porch lights on and were handing out candy.

It was cold last night. According to our car, it was 52 degrees when we started trick-or-treating at 6:45 p.m., and when we got home around 9:30 p.m. it was 42 degrees. Because we took the kids around we left a bowl of candy on the front porch and set up Hallowindow again before we left.

Here is a short video of Hallowindow in action. I recorded this from the front yard using my phone. I documented my Hallowindow setup last year, and used the exact same configuration this year.

The kids walked the streets for about an hour before we piled in the car to stop by a few family houses. Like always the kids made out like bandits. Mason seemed largely disinterested in his candy haul this year (he’s already tried to give it all away to Morgan a couple of times) so this might be his last year to trick-or-treat. Morgan on the other hand was still sitting in the living room floor counting and sorting her bounty into piles when I fell asleep in the recliner.

Another thing I did this year for Halloween was watched and reviewed a bunch of Halloween movies. I started with the letter A and made it all the way through T. Here is a list of all the movies I watched and reviewed this month:

Alligator (1980)
Black Christmas (1974)
Child’s Play (1988)
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Evil Dead (2013)
Flesh Eaters from Outer Space (2005)
Ghoulies (1984)
Horrors of the Black Museum (1959)
Idle Hands (1999)
Jack Frost (1997)
Kottentail (2007)
Little Girl Who Lived Down The Lane, The (1976)
My Bloody Valentine (1981)
Nightmares (1983)
Omen, The (1976)
Poltergeist (1982)
Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)
Ricky 6 (2000)
Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The (1974)

If you click on this link you can find all of them. They were all also placed in the WordPress category MOVIES, so you can see them all there as well.

I ran out of time before I ran out of movies. The ones I didn’t get to were Unlucky Charms, VHS, WNUF, Xtro, Yellowbrickroad, and Zombie Cheerleading Camp. I still want to watch WNUF, but the others will probably wait until next year. For now, the blog returns to non-Halloween posts.

I hope everyone had a safe and happy Halloween this year!

The first time I saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was at a friend’s birthday party. I was in ninth or tenth grade. There were girls at the party so when the movie started only half of my attention was on the film. By the time the movie ended, 100% of my attention was on the film. I don’t even remember who else was at the party. But I sure remember that film.

A common theme from this month’s list of films has been that supernatural films don’t scare me as much as realistic ones. There’s nothing supernatural about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and yet it’s the worst kind of evil I can think of — people hurting other people for no reason. Revenge, no matter how brutal or violent, I can understand: that’s hurting someone else for a reason. But in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, there’s no rhyme or reason or motive to the brutality. There’s just a family of deranged maniacs who simply attack people when the opportunity arises.

And one of them has a chainsaw.

Opportunity arises in this film with a van load of teenagers who happen to pick up the wrong hitchhiker. I wouldn’t be surprised if this film single-handedly had an effect on hitchhiking. Our teens end up stopping at the wrong gas station and end up at the wrong house and pretty soon they start ending up on the wrong side of a chainsaw. I think one of the scariest things about this film is how few choices lie between us and a horrible death on any given day.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a gruesome, timeless classic. There’s a reason it became the archetype for these types of films. Many of the tropes still appearing in horror films today can be traced back to this very film. Classic, classic, classic.

And still scary as hell.

(This review is a part of my month-long October 2014 A-Z Horror Reviews.)

Have you ever taken a bite of terrible food and immediately turned to the person next to you and said, “Here, try this!” Have you ever seen a disgusting video on the internet only to show it to someone else just to see their reaction? This, I suspect, is the reason people are still talking about Sleepaway Camp today.

Thanks to the success of Friday the 13th, like several other slasher films of the 1980s, Sleepaway Camp takes place at a summer camp. After her father and brother are killed, young Angela goes to live with her Aunt Martha and cousin Ricky. Ricky and Angela go off to summer camp together, which seems like a good idea until Angela begins getting picked on and people begin dying. Is sweet, innocent Angela the killer? Is it her over protective cousin Ricky? Or is it someone else?

All of this is difficult to focus on because there’s so many other creepy things going on. And I don’t mean creepy like spiders crawling on people, I mean creepy like camp counselors who continually make remarks about which thirteen-year-old campers they want to have sex with. And then there are the death scenes, which sound disturbing (one involves a beehive; another, a curling iron) but are so bizarre that it’s hard not to laugh at them.

Yes, every part of this movie is bizarre. And then there’s the ending, which is so bizarre that it makes the rest of the movie… I don’t want to say “seem normal,” but it’s so earth-shattering bizarre that no one will be talking about the beehive or curling iron scenes afterwards. It’s so jarring that I guarantee you will rewind however you are watching the film and watch it again. It wouldn’t surprise me back in 1983 to hear of people marching right back into the theater to watch the film a second time. Like Sixth Sense, this film is entirely different upon a second viewing.

When this movie was pitched, I can imagine the studio asking “what sets your movie apart from all the other slasher films?” and then the producer shows him the last page of the script and they all say, “yup, that’ll do it!”

If you’re ever up for watching a messed up movie, come on over and we’ll watch Sleepaway Camp. I can’t wait to see your reaction.

(This review is a part of my month-long October 2014 A-Z Horror Reviews.)

On June 16, 1984, Ricky Kasso murdered Gary Lauwers over a $50 drug debt in the woods outside Long Island, New York. Ricky Kasso was a self-proclaimed Satan worshiper, a fan of heavy metal music, a drug addict, and schizophrenic. Kasso was arrested for the murder less than a month later on July 5th, and hung himself in his jail cell two days after that.

Several books and films have documented Kasso’s case. Ricky 6 (also known as Ricky Six and Say You Love Satan) is unique in that it’s a film “based on a true story.” Only the names have been changed (yeah, right). In this film Ricky Kasso becomes Ricky Cowen (aka Ricky Six), while his real life partner-in-crime Jimmy Troiano becomes Tommy and Gary Lauwers’ name is inexplicably changed to Tweasel.

Director Peter Filardi’s biggest challenge with Ricky 6 was making the character Ricky remotely likable. He does this in a number of ways; one, by picking a somewhat attractive actor (Vincent Kartheiser, better known as Pete Campbell from television’s Mad Men).

In a rare case of making the fictionalized version of a news story less (instead of more) violent, Filardi also toned down a number of the facts from the case. In the film, Ricky stabs Tweasel and shouts “Say you love Satan!” In real life, Kasso’s victim was tortured to “three or four hours,” according to witnesses. Also in real life, Kasso shoved rocks down his victim’s throat and carved his eyeballs out with a knife.

Despite leaving out some of the more violent details, the film loosely parallel’s Kasso’s real life. Both stories show a troubled teen’s life spiraling out of control as he falls into heavy drug use (lots of mescaline and PCP-laced joints) combined with schizophrenia (hearing voices). Although Kasso was originally arrested wearing an AC/DC shirt and some press at the time mentioned the “heavy metal” angle, it’s not presented strongly in the film. Instead what we see is a fall from grace (and sanity) by a kid with some definite mental and chemical issues. We see Ricky go from a kid on the football team to a kid who dabbles in Satanism to a kid strung out on dope to a murderer to a kid who hangs himself in his own jail cell in under two hours. Forget those ABC after school specials; let your kid watch this and he’ll “just say no” on his or her own.

After making a brief visit to a few film festivals, Ricky 6 was shelved and never released. Some online sources say that the Columbine shootings played a part in that; others report that the film’s owner is now in prison himself (I could not verify this). Ten years ago this is the type of movie that, without distribution, would have dropped off the face of the earth. Fortunately for anyone interested you can watch the entire movie on Youtube.

I don’t know that I would watch Ricky 6 again or that I would even classify it as a horror movie. If you want to really be scared, read David St. Clair’s non-fiction account of the murders, Say You Love Satan. It’s a hell of a lot scarier than any fiction film.

(This review is a part of my month-long October 2014 A-Z Horror Reviews.)

While in Denver last week, the O’Haras and the Martins went on a gold panning adventure in the Phoenix Gold Mine located in Idaho Springs, Colorado.

The day began by feeding chipmunks at the entrance of the mine. Pans of seeds were provided. If you don’t like chipmunks crawling on you, don’t pick up a pan of seed. They are not shy.

After a brief set of instructions, we were turned loose to go gold panning in the creek that runs down from the mountain. Jeff’s family had their own panning bowls while Susan and the kids used the metal pie plates provided by the mine. Susan wasted no time in scooping up some of the creek’s dirt and sifting through it.

The creek definitely contains gold, just not enough for the owners to mine (they’ve moved on to the next mountain). If you’re patient and lucky enough, you’ll start to find little gold flakes down in the bottom of your pan. Talon (Jeff’s son) found a few flakes in his first pan’s worth of pay dirt.

For a couple of hours, everybody panned away. Mason ended up finding a nugget roughly the size of a BB. Morgan found a few flakes but lost interest fairly quickly. Susan brought home a jug full of dirt and has been sorting through it at the dinner table, looking for more gold.