My First Computer Game: “ANAGOGIA”!

The only way out is through.

After several mid-pandemic years of gradual development, my first computer game, “ANAGOGIA,” is now available on itch.io! To be specific, it’s a work of interactive fiction–a “choose your own adventure” hyperlink story, essentially. It’s a little bit horror, a little bit fantasy, there’s the occasional entity, and as for who or what “Anagogia” is… well, you’ll have to journey through to find out.

In addition to the text, all of the illustrations are mine, culled from a decade-plus of photographs tweaked to fit the tale’s bleak, isolated mood. I have a particular fascination with abandoned places and “liminal spaces” (which are experiencing a bit of a surge in popularity, I believe), and I really enjoyed having an opportunity to stitch all of these quiet asides over the years into a coherent (if not surreal) canvas.

This was my first time using Twine, so things don’t get too complicated–you can’t die or lose, and there’s no complex puzzles to take notes for. It’s more about… exploration, and uncertainty. I was inspired by visual and thematic elements of a real hodgepodge of games–MYST, Silent Hill, and the Dark Souls series, primarily.

You can download for free if you like, but donations are appreciated! And who knows, there just may be some DLC or a new interactive story altogether in the future…

New Anthology Contribution: “The Many Lives of Devon Reeves”

What’s in a name?

The time has come for another anthology of short, spooky fiction from “The Terragenesis Collective”! That’d be me and some other fine folks in the online creative writing community who previously released It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…, in which my story “Repocalypse” appears (also on YouTube!). This second collection, The Many Lives of Devon Reeves, moves from a classic phrase as a binding theme to one simple similarity: Every tale has a character named “Devon Reeves.” Who–or what–is this individual? Any commonalities may be mere coincidence, or they may mean something greater… check it out here on Smashwords and decide for yourself.

My contribution this time is “A Thing Forgotten,” in which a wayward young man remembers a picture book from his childhood that no one else seems to… and perhaps they ought not to. It’s something of a spoiler, but since I’m really happy with how this turned out, check out the illustration from the talented horror painter Jenyce Garay (@JenyceGArt):

New Experimental Horror Story: “The Heavenway Files”

Long time no post! Admittedly, as I get busier with work and focusing on YouTube and Instagram content, this blog has grown dusty. Is there even a place for a WordPress in this age of short, swift tweets ‘n TikToks?

Seems there’s hope for the former, at least! Spurred by the “#CursedFootage” challenge started by Eduardo Valdés-Hevia, a splendid horror artist I follow, I decided to use the ten themed days to explore an idea I’ve had for a while–and mixed-(social) media “found footage” proved to be the perfect format. It’s best if you go in cold, but in short, it combines my fascinations with modern conspiracy theories, creepypasta, and uncanny/liminal architecture.

If the above picture intrigues you, read the rest below… and remember: this is all fiction, and yet are you sure that dent in the back of your closet was always there?

The terms of the challenge.

My Top Stuff of 2021!

Time may be an illusion, but when it comes to the end of December, listicles are a cold, hard fact. In keeping with my annual diet of movies, music, videogames, and– a tad shamefully–not that many books or TV shows, here’s my Top Stuff in each medium that (typically) released within the last 365 days. I always say “Top Stuff” because I’m sure there’s even better ones I haven’t seen/played/whatever, and I’d never dare presume that my personal interests represent some objective, or even subjective, metric by which you should judge your own preferences. This is just some art I thought was cool as I kept on truckin’ in 2021–and if you did too, then that’s cool too!

FILMS

5. Nobody

When pop culture historians look back on the late 2010s, John Wick will stand as a lodestar for cinema. Vengeful popcorn flicks had existed before, of course, but the tip of the still-flourishing Keanussance brought a vibrancy—a commitment to coherent and well-choreographed, not just violent, action—that the genre largely lacked post-Matrix. The stage set, Wick’s director David Leitch then teamed up with the brains behind the hyperactive first-person shooter movie Hardcore Henry for a film with a similar story, yet founded on a critically different question: what if the guy kinda looked like a weenie? That’s no disrespect on Bob Odenkirk’s name, though, for while the actor is old enough to be my father, he plays both sides of the coin with aplomb: a meek pencil-pusher one moment, and a long-dormant hitter putting the heads of Russian thugs through walls the next. Owing, I suspect, to it being a common cramped location, there’s a lot of scuffles on public transportation in action movies—even 2021 gave us another in Shang-Chi—but the bus brawl here ranks among the best, most deliciously brutal fight scenes in recent history. And the R-rated Home Alone climax, complete with Doc Brown packing heat? An all-timer. Fingers crossed that Odenkirk’s health scare earlier this year doesn’t keep him from safely stepping back in for a sequel—I pity the next crook who absconds with that kitty-cat bracelet!

4. Dune

2021’s Dune excels because of what it is, but also what it isn’t—the shadow of David Lynch’s Dune (1984) looms large over any subsequent adaptations, if not on its merits then as a reminder of the perils of trying to cram all of Frank Herbert’s bizarre, politically charged novel into one film. Thankfully, then, director Denis Villeneuve didn’t try; as coy as the marketing may have played things, this is “Part One,” and the third act unquestionably sags because of it. By that same token, though, the sights and sounds of this world are given room to stretch out—and what a blessing, because both are utterly captivating. The sets, costumes, and effects work are detailed and convincing, and Hans Zimmer’s score—while as blaring and dialogue-unfriendly as ever—aptly channels the formidable scope of these alien planets and their rulers’ ambitions. Inevitably, there’s exposition dumps, but the dialogue scarcely feels forced, and I rarely got lost in the world-building or globetrotting. And, of course, dat cast: from Timothée Chalamet to Jason Momoa to Rebecca Ferguson, there’s smokeshows here for every age and gender! Zendaya stans were understandably irked by her borderline cameo, but given that 2une got greenlit in the middle of opening weekend, I’m confident Villeneuve and company will do the continuing story of the Fremen justice. After all, the Spice must flow!

3. F9: The Fast Saga

Fast & Furious is a superhero franchise. Once I became aware of that, consciously or not, I stopped seeing the movies as meathead-meets-gearhead Michael Bay runoff and started… well, seeing them, period. Part soap opera, part Mission: Impossible, and part Talladega Nights, the Fast series has morphed over my lifetime into a ridiculous yet unironically entertaining staple of the megaplex, and nowhere more so than this, its ninth mainline installment. The absurdities pile higher than ever: Vin Diesel and John Cena play blood brothers, a character we saw die in a fiery crash inexplicably teleports to a building across the street, and falling upwards of three stories is apparently fine so long as you land on something with a steering wheel. But in turn, we get cars swinging on ropes, cars getting flipped by supermagnets, cars going to mf’ing outer space—just utter nonsense I would’ve come up with while racing Hot Wheels around my bedroom floor as a child, but starring Helen Mirren and costing more than the GDP of some nations to produce. What it all comes down to, though, is really straightforward: family. And you know what? I’ll be there with my own for Fast 10 on opening night.

2. Malignant

When questioned on my seemingly inconsistent taste in media, whether by myself or others, I’ve come to answer with a blunt philosophy: I like stupid shit, so long as it’s also awesome. Few men in Hollywood have their finger on that pulse like James Wan, who—after more or less inventing an entire subgenre with Saw and proving his action chops in Furious 7 and Aquaman—returned home in 2021 for the world’s first neo-giallo body horror martial arts slasher. That description, in itself, is arguably a spoiler, but believe me when I say that nothing can still prepare you for what goes down in the final minutes of this thing. Suffice it to say that, after an hour or two of getting immersed in the moody lighting, cheesy dialogue, visceral kills, and a wicked Pixies cover, I went from clutching my armrest to internally hooting and hollering like a WrestleMania spectator. When everyone loves or loathes a movie, it’s unifying but stultifying—because what’s even left to discuss? But when, as with Malignant, reviews were split between “that was the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen” and “GOAT,” I know now—as I did the moment I left my screening— that it’s a picture I’ll be talking and thinking about for years to come… always there, in the back of my mind.

  1. The Green Knight

What makes a myth, a story that can endure for generations? For my money, on the silver screen, it’s spectacle: the clang of swords, the spark of a flame, the sight of someone or something massive looming in the distance, and a hero in the foreground who’s willing and able to brave it all to accomplish their quest. Modern blockbusters deliver such thrills in spades, but lest we forget: in a sense, Arthurian legends walked so that everyone from Tarzan to Iron Man could run, swing, and fly. Drawing from an epic poem older than my own country by centuries, The Green Knight may take some liberties to entertain a contemporary audience, yet at its core is a haunting, slow-boil tragedy far from any of the family-friendly Disney adventures that clog theaters. Our protagonist’s fate is sealed in the first act, and for all intents and purposes, his is a pilgrimage to doom. En route, the cavalcade of characters he encounters keep the proceedings varied, as does director David Lowery’s arresting eye for color and creeping dread, from the yellow of Sir Gawain’s cloak to the orange fog which suffuses the air as a vulpine companion suddenly reveals it can speak. There’s magic, bloodshed, sex, ghosts, and giants. It’s sad, frightening, monumental, and it has not one but two Alicia Vikanders. Dev Patel has a beard. What more can you ask for in an epic tale?

VIDEOGAMES

5. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

Would they learn their lesson? This was the question looming over Marvel videogames—at least, those published by Square-Enix—after the glitchy, glorified gacha machine that was Marvel’s Avengers proved the second-biggest gaming letdown of 2020 (Cyberpunk 2077 takes the heavy crown, of course). I was pleased to learn, however, that they had, and the once-omnipresent curse of The Superhero Videogame returned to its slumber once more. I haven’t beaten it yet, so it’s low on the list as a matter of principle, but Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy earns top marks across the board: the graphics look great and the design of its alien worlds is wildly creative; the combat is satisfyingly chaotic yet intuitive (though my PS4, in its autumn years, sometimes struggles to keep up); and the soundtrack is chock full of 80s bangers—God only knows what these licensing rights cost, but it was worth every flarkin’ penny. The titular ensemble is wonderfully written and acted, too—the MCU casting leaves big shoes to fill, but the amount of funny, context-specific dialogue is remarkable. There’s some jank, sure (I’ve had to reload a save more than once after one of the score of audiovisual cues overlapping at any given moment got stuck on-screen), the Telltale-ish dialogue choice system feels half-baked, and Rocket is way more of an asshole than even Bradley Cooper played him for no good reason. Also, does the rest of the squad really have to get on my case every time I gently veer off a sub-Uncharted linear level route for a moderate cache of upgrade points? Still, it’s a minor miracle for a AAA single-player game with minimal microtransactions to release in the ‘20s—here’s hoping future cape games take note!

4. Unpacking

I like a good loud, violent shooter, but I’m not above a humble point ‘n’ click narrative jaunt when the mood strikes me. Case in point: This year’s Unpacking, a “zen puzzle game” which simulates a common yet comforting ritual: taking stuff out of boxes and putting it on shelves when you move into a new place. In so doing, across a handful of locations spanning a decade, you slowly piece together… not a story, per se, but rather a young life. Photos of a friend once held high on the wall go into a drawer; an iPod weathers with age before being relegated to the ubiquitous box ‘o cables; videogames advance with the generations, from a chunky little Game Boy to an Xbox 360. Along the way, the cozy, colorful isometric graphics and pleasant soundtrack make even the humblest bathroom look like somewhere you’d just want to curl up and relax. That art style in particular does so much with so little—who knew I could recognize, say, a DVD of Ghost World or Up from a chunk of pixels smaller than my thumbnail? It’s not long, it’s not particularly challenging, and it implicitly casts you in the role of a character way outside my usual range (a Jewish lesbian illustrator, I think?). Now more than ever, though, the serenity of new beginnings is something we could all enjoy—just cut the tape with your Stanley knife (so that’s what those are called) and get to Unpacking.

3. WarioWare: Get it Together!

After years of glorified tech demos and greatest-hits collections, WarioWare returned in earnest! This time, instead of capitalizing on a control gimmick (see, e.g., Touched, Twisted, Smooth Moves), the greedy garlic-chomper’s latest meta-game outing went back to the drawing board for a radical tweak: playing not as “yourself,” but rather as Wario’s many beleaguered friends and employees, sucked into their own work product by some malicious malware. This seemingly basic change opens up all kinds of possibilities, for the split-second solution which each microgame inherently demands becomes that much more daunting when you’re switching between not only settings but also entire control schemes! The lack of the bonus “toys” which have been a tradition in the series is a shame, but in their place, we get a bevvy of diverse multiplayer outings, as well as a challenge system and shamefully addictive postgame “Prezzies” to level up characters and unlock bonus content. Among the quick, on-the-go games which flourish on Nintendo Switch, Get it Together! is well worth your time.

2. Psychonauts 2

If, like me, you do yourself a favor and don’t read Tim Schafer’s Twitter, you’ve probably been looking forward to Psychonauts 2 since the first one debuted sixteen years ago. But unlike many gaming sequels long-damned to development hell, Double Fine didn’t miss a beat: the graphics are cleaner, and the combat takes a cue from modern action-RPGs, but the delightful Burton-adjacent art style and creepy, clever levels stuffed with collectibles are all back just as you remember them. Too often, latter-day platformers dine on ‘member berries instead of advancing the subgenre (looking at you, Yooka-Laylee), but Psychonauts 2 adds a plethora of diverse new characters and psychic abilities, as well as a surprisingly robust open world full of side missions. After this long between entries (plus or minus the canonical but slight VR trip In the Rhombus of Ruin), it may be too much to ask for a threequel already, but there’s precious few franchises willing to get this zany and unapologetically fun!

  1. Resident Evil: Village

In 2017, licking its wounds after the bloated mess that was Resident Evil 6, Capcom had a lot to prove to survival horror fans. Inspired by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hideo Kojima’s ill-fated P.T. in equal measure, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard met those expectations and then some, literally bringing a new perspective to the series and remembering to actually include some fear alongside all the gross monsters and explosions. A follow-up was inevitable, and while I felt vindicated to learn that leaks about the eighth entry being called “Village” were accurate, nothing could’ve prepared me for how frightening, crazy, and exciting this game would be. Werewolves, living dolls, a giant fish-man, cyborg zombies which may or may not violate intellectual property rights… and, yes, a certifiably scarousing vampiress with a least a foot on most of the NBA all torment you at one point or another. But unlike most other modern horror, where your only options are to run, hide, and/or read a journal about how this is all a metaphor for repressed trauma, you’ve got shotguns, grenade launchers, sniper rifles, and a morbidly obese nobleman who’ll sell you ammo for all of them. Throughout it all, the RE Engine coats this grotesque Gothic world in a photorealistic patina that makes the prior generation of consoles sing (or shriek, as the case may be). If “badass camp” is the tone Resident Evil wants to strike going forward, consider me a happy camper indeed, and ready for whatever the shocking conclusion here promises for RE9!

Honorable Mention: The Pathless

So The Pathless actually came out in 2020, but I first played it this year and, to my knowledge, it was marketed predominantly as a PS5 game—and really, who even has one of those? I can see how the game would take advantage of the next gen’s daunting processing power: the entire world is one big, loading screen-free map, gated only by passages which are out of reach ’til you beat a given boss. However, it runs just fine on PS4 as well, and what a joy that it does, because The Pathless provides a setting that I relish wherever it arises: a vast, quiet, mysterious world to just run through and make sense of. From crumbling temples adorned with carvings of giant beasts to scattered puzzles which reward a little block-pushing or clever jumping with a power-up, the game is unapologetically inspired by Breath of the Wild and, in turn, Shadow of the Colossus. Yet moment-to-moment play actually evokes—of all things—Marvel’s Spider-Man: Your protagonist, a veiled warrior with an eagle by her side, gains bursts of speed from firing arrows at omnipresent, floating glyphs, and so most traversal is accomplished by taking auto-aim at the nearest doodad to sprint across fields and valleys in search of your next friend or foe. It’s beautiful, strange, and invigorating all in one—just what I seek out all art for.

ALBUMS

5. Sinner Get Ready, Lingua Ignota

When women want to make a name for themselves in music, it can feel like the industry presents them with two doors: innocent naif or objectified doll. Lingua Ignota, aka Kristin Hayter, elected for Door Number Three: apocalyptic medieval priestess. Or at least, that’s the vibe one gets from a scroll through her discography, replete with track titles like “If the Poison Won’t Take You My Dogs Will” or “God Gave Me No Name (No Thing Can Hide from My Flame).” On this, her second LP, Hayter screams, mourns, and calls for bloodshed over an ominous organ, dire strings, and guitars which crash with the force of an angry demon, along with a whole orchestra of other unnerving instrumentation. More than any heavy metal, this is music to perform human sacrifice to—and yet it’s undeniably technically impressive and, in its own noisy, cataclysmic way, self-affirming! If you want girl-power rock that’s less tsundere and more sundering, Mistress Ignota demands your supplication.

4. The Atlas Underground Fire, Tom Morello

That Rage Against the Machine largely tapped out post-9/11 is arguably one of the biggest missed opportunities in music history, but guitarist Tom Morello never rested on his laurels: following the rise and fall of Audioslave, the man’s been cranking out consistent solo albums and side projects for almost two decades. In 2018, taking a page from Slash and other virtuoso contemporaries, Morello released The Atlas Underground, a collection of collabs that applied his gnarly, propulsive sound to artists ranging from Knife Party to Vic Mensa. 2021 saw the release of two spiritual successors, The Atlas Underground Fire and The Atlas Underground Flood, each with their own collage of diverse features (and unintentionally funny, Pokémon-esque album art). It’s the former of these LPs that won me over the most, though: the cover of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” with Bruce Springsteen fits both men’s styles like a studded leather glove, “Let’s Get This Party Started” gets Bring Me the Horizon on this list for the third year in a row, and “Naraka,” with its almost hymnal verses and Mike Posner (of all people) talking about killing cops, fascinates me more every time I hear it. The Machine may still need plenty of raging against, but Tom’s got it covered!

3. What it Means to Fall Apart, Mayday Parade

After 15-odd years in the saddle, one couldn’t be blamed for questioning whether the Florida quintet can still wax emo with the best of ‘em. To be sure, Mayday Parade largely leans away from their more complex, bombastic inclinations on this latest full-length, but their wistful lyrics and singalong hooks are as strong as ever. “Kids of Summer” kicks things off with a rousing ode to reckless youth, while “One for the Rocks and One for the Scary” is prime MP, starting off plaintive and sparse before erupting into an all-cylinders ode to fragile love (“we can do everything, we’ll start right here in this room… just don’t take off too soon”). Things admittedly peter out in the latter half: “Bad at Love” is so boilerplate that I thought it was a OneRepublic cover at first, and filler track “Heaven” feels named after the exact opposite afterlife, running a tired pun into the ground over a triphop beat for two-and-a-half minutes. On balance, though, the boys continue to age more gracefully than many of their peers, and still have me catching feelings as much as when I first heard “Jamie All Over” post-high school. The real oversight, though? No song named after a Calvin & Hobbes quote!

2. Kingdom II, Arcade High

The 80’s homage is a crowded subgenre these days; it’s all too easy to paste some rudimentary electronic riffs over kick drums, slap a neon palm tree on the cover, and call it a day. But Arcade High continues to outrun the competition with a mix of vocal and instrumental tunes targeted like a light gun at Millennial-era videogame vibes. The duo hearken back to fuzzy chiptunes (“Glow”), deliver a nod to Dark Souls (“DGYK,” feat. Jei-Laya), and even remix the title opener of 2016’s original Kingdom for some nostalgia of their own (“Welcome Back”). Not every track’s a hit—“Slay” is a perfect example of a song that’s catchy but not memorable, a repetitive and off-brand slab of dance-rock that had me wishing it’d perform as advertised by the first minute. But on the whole, making a trilogy of this “series” would be fine by me!

1. The Rearview Mirror EP, The Midnight & The Magik*Magik Orchestra

I turned 30 this year. I didn’t accomplish everything I once said that I would, by now—some of that’s on me, some isn’t. But when I inevitably reflected on my past with greater frequency in 2021, this was how the tranquil “now,” the wistful “then,” and the aching “maybe somebody” sounded in my soul. Veering away from 80’s throwbacks, L.A. duo The Midnight reimagine five of their top tunes with a wholly unprecedented vibe: out with the saxophones and synthwave, in with violins and piano. The transplant, however, breathes beautiful new life into their songwriting: As cool as tracks like “Endless Summer” and “Memories” felt before, they nearly bring a tear to the eye now—and when I saw the group live in downtown Tacoma in November, to celebrate my birthday, the latter’s lines never felt truer: “Summer days are growing colder… we’ll know better when we’re older.”

Honorable Mention: Heartwork (Deluxe), The Used

Heartwork made my last Top Stuff list, so I won’t dive into its primary tracklist much here, except to reiterate that it’s marvelous to see a group I’d written off as screamo has-beens turn around and drop one of my favorite albums of 2020. As is the style of late, however, they re-released it a year later with another entire record’s worth of cuts! But these are no mere B-sides—each tune could’ve readily been on Heartwork 1.0, continuing its themes of both literary references (“The Brothers Karamazov,” “Blood Meridian”) and love gone very, very bad, all while killing it with their chorus game (belting out “nobody hates me like you do / you’ve got that perfect misery” has no right to feel as good as “Mi Medicina, Mi Heroína” makes it). Wherever the band goes next, I’m now confident that time Used won’t be wasted!

SINGLES

5. “Fruit Roll Ups,” Waterparks

Waterparks is (are?) a lot of things: artists, self-aware industry critics, a boy band that also makes songs with names like “I Miss Having Sex But at Least I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore.” In that spirit, this year’s coyly titled Greatest Hits was—like 2019’s FANDOM—a bit too scattershot and longwinded to crack my top five. However, this track in particular really did a number on me; let’s just say that a ballad by a shut-in who likes junk food and horror movies, and “bought some really sick lights, if you want to come over,” hit close to home. The modern wave of electronica and hip-hop-tinged emo wasn’t around when I was a teen, but had it been, you can bet I’d have been sharing memes of lines like “If you want to see me acting so desperately, all you gotta do is stop texting me” left and right on my socials!

4. “I MISS 2003,” As It Is

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. The Iraq War. Kill Bill, Vol. I. The Challenger explosion. 2003 was like any year, full of ups in downs. But as of January 1, 2022, there’ll be no children who were alive for it, and one thing those 365 days irrefutably had in abundance was a certain, special kind of youthful music: capital-P Pop Punk. Nearly twenty years hence, As It Is has struggled to find its place in what remains of that community, settling of late on an MCR-lite doom ‘n’ gloom aesthetic that I must confess doesn’t do it for me. However, on “I Miss 2003,” the quartet funnel this dreariness into a longing for the early Aughts that’s achingly potent to me and my fellow Millennials. Like a Hot Topic T.S. Eliot, the band stuffs the lyrics here with references to a dozen different emo mainstays, from Paramore to Good Charlotte, turning mashed-up lines like “tell me that you’re alright, cuz I’m not okay” into a veritable sonic time machine. As It Is are British, so call them phonies if you want for reminiscing about Americana, but I myself have always felt like an outsider to the scene—heck, I didn’t even really start listening to anything beyond my parents’ CD collection until about 2009. Since then, though, there’s always been a place in my heart for the rebellious, lovesick energy of this subgenre. “Now life is boring, let’s write a story where we never grow up…”

3. “Meant for Misery,” Settle Your Scores

While As It Is wallowed, for better or worse, in the salad days of pop punk, Ohio outfit Settle Your Scores charged forth like it hasn’t aged a day. To be sure, the band’s not opposed to hindsight—they themselves have a song called “1999”—but they blew the doors open on this year’s Retrofit with this snotty earworm about a universal sentiment: feeling like the world sucks and you just can’t catch a break. Really, hasn’t 2021 all made us feel like we’re “in the eye of the shitstorm”?

2. “Rise, Nianasha (Cut the Cord),” Coheed & Cambria

Coheed & Cambria has continued to surprise me, going from a group I respected more than enjoyed (can’t knock that sci-fi prog-rock hustle) to one whose every single enters heavy rotation on release day. 2021 brought two of them, the first being “Shoulders,” which nearly made this list with its rip-roaring riffs and classic tale of a damaged relationship (“maybe we weren’t made for each other, and I’m just the one you can keep around”). However, this second one edged it out, not just because it’s catchier by a hair but because it explores a dynamic that’s novel to me in pop, at least outside Cat Stevens or “Cat’s in the Cradle”: father-to-son love. “Call me, and I’ll be there when you need your great destroyer,” the speaker assures his boy—a Dad of the Year line if I’ve ever heard one! Given the maddening ambiguity of this space rock-opera to date, I’m fully prepared for Vaxis II (the presumptive next LP) to never satisfyingly piece this paternal saga together, but I’ll be singing along either way.

  1. “The Last Picture Show (Lost Outrider Remix),” Arcade High

It’s a 2021 remix of a 2019 song, that was in the style of a 1980s song, named after a 1970s movie set in the 1950s. If there’s a more potent Matryoshka doll of nostalgia on the market right now, I haven’t seen it. Maybe it’s just having changed both my job and my city earlier this year, but something about the reflective lyrics—of Anytown melancholy and the promise of a better tomorrow—cut deep to my core, no matter how many times I hit “repeat.” Whether it’s escaping a bad day or rushing towards the promise of a good one, that same hope is still there when I hit the road, whether by foot or by car, and miles to go before I sleep: “They can’t catch me… I’m already gone.”

Now go have a Happy New Year! Masks aside, I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling ’22. If nothing else, Elden Ring isn’t going to play itself!

New Short Story: “Repocalypse” (And More!)

Four dark and stormy nights, to be precise!

So my output for at least the last year has chiefly been YouTube content, but I still do write short fiction from time to time. Case in point, I recently contributed to an anthology of scifi/fantasy stories, now available in a variety of formats on Smashwords! It’s a themed assemblage of four tales by four authors, under our umbrella of “The Terragenesis Collective,” which all start with or otherwise incorporate the line “it was a dark and stormy night.” Our goal was to prove that this tired old phrase is still ripe with unique potential, if properly employed–and I feel we succeeded! My contribution, the opener, is called “Repocalypse“; it’s a time loop story, but one unlike any I bet you’ve seen before. In any event, it was a joy and a privilege to collaborate on this collection, and I look forward it to being only the first of many!

As a great author once said, it’s only the end of the world again…

Vloggin’ In for 2021

So I’ve done some writing this year (new sci-fi short story hopefully to debut soon!), but if it wasn’t evident, I’ve been having a good deal more fun lately practicing video production and longish-form media critique with YouTube movie reviews! I like to hit a balance between “classic” riff review and more modern, thoughtful analysis; if that sounds like your thing, please consider tossing a like ‘n’ subscribe my way! Here’s what’s come out this year from my theatrical visits:

Wonder Woman 1984 — It looks great, but that’s about it!

Chaos Walking — Kinda just a lot of noise!

Nobody — A heck of a lot of violent action fun!

Godzilla vs. Kong — A familiar but fun return of two classic kaiju!

A Quiet Place Part II — Pretty good, now we just need to see the third act!

F9: The Fast Saga — It’s dumb, it’s loud, I love it.

My Top Stuff of 2020!

So it’s been a bad year, but one nevertheless full of good stuff if, like me, you tend to enjoy looking at a screen more than out a window! So without further ado…

GAMES

5) Hades: Supergiant Games did the impossible: with their house blend of lush isometric visuals, memorable music, and ASMR-tier VAs, they got me to play a roguelike for more than 10 minutes. Can’t say I’ll ever beat it, but props all the same!

4) Visage: The horror community mourned the passing of “P.T.”, but one diligent dev succeeded in realizing its vision. Visage has some rough edges, but in a year where we’re all stuck inside, its photorealistic depiction of domesticity gone surreal scared me like nothing else.

3) Ghost of Tsushima: Ubisoft set the pace for last decade’s open-world action games, but Assassin’s Creed walked so this could run. Satisfying combat, a stealth system that actually matters, and the most gorgeous visuals ever for the subgenre combine to make essential playing.

2) DOOM Eternal: Marauders suck. With that out of the way, ripping and tearing reached legendary heights this year as the franchise doubled down on its 2016 revival with more items, more environments, more lore, and more gore. Multiplayer and DLC are just icing on the cake!

1) Final Fantasy VII Remake: FF7R has stellar graphics, soaring music, and slick combat… but is it a remake or a sequel? The question seems odd, but it’s at the (crisis) core of the game, and it made me both love this and want to play the original–that’s never happened.

Honorable Mention: The Last of Us Part II: TLOU2 is the best-looking game I’ve ever seen, with simple yet addictive gameplay and an epic plot. It deserved a story which wasn’t so willfully cruel, and creative leads without such contempt for their characters, staff, and audience.

FILM

 

5) Unhinged: I’m a simple man; I see a violent movie starring an Oscar winner playing a dangerous lunatic, I give a thumbs-up. In any other year this wouldn’t make the cut, but with theaters barren since March, this thriller was just what I needed.

4) Relic: When a loved one succumbs to dementia, it can feel like their world is falling apart right along with you. Drawing from Hereditary and The Taking of Deborah Logan, this Australian film puts grief before horror–until an insane final act collapses the two into one.

3) The Invisible Man: With movie monsters, seeing less can be scarier–but what if you see *nothing*? Director Leigh Whannell proves the adage still holds, as this reimagining of the Universal creature feature is tense like no other. Just mind your step around the plot holes…

2) TENET: “Don’t try to understand it; feel it,” a character tells The Protagonist (yes, that’s his name) in Christopher Nolan’s latest multimillion-dollar head trip. Sage advice; as a story TENET flounders, but as a twisty James Bond homage, it’s a hell of a good time.

1) Becky: This is a movie where a teenage girl brutally murders a bunch of skinheads led by Kevin James. It’s basically an R-rated Home Alone with an awesome score. What else do I need to say?

Honorable Mention: Murder Death Koreatown: 20 years after The Blair Witch Project, I didn’t think it was possible for found-footage to seem real again, but between prerelease viral marketing on 4chan and the uniquely unsettling cameraman character, this flick left me seriously spooked!

SINGLES

 

5) “Darkness,” Eminem: Leave it to Shady to spit an extended metaphor comparing the Mandalay Bay shooter to an anxious rapper, but the result is still both a haunting examination of inner torment and a crucial condemnation of gun violence.

 

4) “Your Man,” Joji: Less is more–especially when “less” is a music video of a dancing alien. The closing track from Joji’s Nectar LP doesn’t even crack 3 minutes, but its simple, earnest refrain feels both funky and sweet over a pulsing electronic beat. “Have you ever loved? Would you go again?”

3) “A Good Song Never Dies,” Saint Motel: There’s an odd subgenre of music on YouTube: songs from bands no one’s heard of with millions of views. Some are good and some are meh, but some–with a boppin’ beat, ’60s spy thriller riff, and slinky verses–are friggin’ awesome.

2) “The Plan,” Travis Scott: The theme to Chris Nolan’s polarizing TENET is far from Zimmer theatrics, but this synthy rap track fits the film’s mood like an inverted glove while also delivering nods to its plot (“move in reverse on my turf / I draw the line and cross it first”; “close the opera / hear the red and blue outside, I think our options up”).

1) “Jessie’s Girl 2,” Coheed & Cambria feat. Rick Springfield: God knows who thought we needed a darkly comic sequel to “Jessie’s Girl” after 40 years, but they were right. C&C nail the storytelling, and man that chorus–who hasn’t wanted to scream “I don’t love you no more” over an ex or a relationship gone wrong?

ALBUMS

 

5) RTJ4, Run The Jewels: Breathless, merciless hip-hop with some killer (no pun intended) beats, gnarly hooks, and all-too-relevant lyricism. Take note, Eminem–it wasn’t just about the puns and the pace this year.

4) POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR, Bring Me The Horizon: Great alt-metal with nods to both gaming (tracks inspired by Parasite Eve and Death Stranding; production by DOOM composer Mick Gordon) and COVID (“The sky is falling, it’s fucking boring / I’m going braindead, isolated”). Looking forward to the foretold next entries in this series!

3) After Hours, The Weeknd: Forget the Grammys, this thing slaps; synthwave is an inspired addition to The Weeknd’s sound, and it manages to work as both night-drive and slow-jam music.

2) Heartwork, The Used: After hopping from protest rock with Revolution to the tearfully bland The Canyon, the boys took notes from Linkin Park and BMTH for a return to their roots with sixteen bleak but infectious tracks. Seriously, how can you not dig “Cathedral Bell”?

1) folklore, Taylor Swift: I regret nothing. In a year marked by many with loneliness and quietude, there was something comforting in hearing our top pop star drop the raucous bad-girl act and get back to some lowkey acoustic work. “Yeah, I knew everything when I was young…”

Honorable mention: Tickets to My Downfall, Machine Gun Kelly. I know, I know, but yours truly cut his musical teeth on pop punk, so I’m easy to please with a catchy chorus and a snotty delivery, artificiality be damned. Someone has to get songs with guitar charting!

Vloggin In’ #11: “Fatman” (2020)

To celebrate the holiday season, I took advantage of 2020’s charitable VOD selection and saw the new Mel Gibson-as-Santa movie “Fatman”! Is it worth rockin’ around the Christmas tree about, or does this action flick deserve a lump of coal in its stocking? Tune in and find out!

I Tube, YouTube, We All Tube

So, it’s been a time since I’ve been on here! Not sure who still follows, but thank you for sticking around if you do, and a fine hello if this is your first time checking in. Long story short, COVID and some associated professional change-ups haven’t made me the creative powerhouse behind the pen that I thought I’d be this year, hence the lack of writerly updates since May.

However, in the meantime, I’ve doubled down on learning how to do video editing and production instead–and I’m really enjoying the more tangible results. In particular, I’ve put out some more film reviews, as well as semiregular uploads of horror game streams from my Twitch! I also did a short film with my brother as intro for the latter, which I’m rather proud of.

Here’s some highlights — please Like, Share, and Subscribe if you can! It’s just a hobby for now, but I really enjoy having more folks see my stuff:

My comedic-meets-analytical review of this summer’s polarizing blockbuster “TENET”!
A minute-longish film merging the creepy and the geeky to introduce my stream vids!
A short highlight vid of one such stream, of a truly weird underwater horror game!

And there’s plenty more on my channel after you click through! I’m always working on getting that much better each time with the technical aspects of content creation, and I hope to put out some all-new videos soon doing full reviews/riffs on old films with an insightful spin. As always, in the meantime, be sure to check me out on Twitter and Twitch as well–streams are 7pm PST on Sundays!

My Cat’s Poem

Greetings from quarantine! Wish I had more new to post since March, but COVID-19 hasn’t been the creative motivator I initially expected. All I can offer in the meantime is something my lovely she-cat Snowfall (whom I don’t believe I’ve mentioned outside of Twitter before) wrote the other month… or so one must assume. 😉

cat poem