#249: The First Con

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My first comic con, technically, was in 2012, when I was a part of Anime Club at Quinnipiac and I helped out with QuinniCon, the semi-annual Quinnipiac-centered convention. We had all kinds of artists, shops, panels, activities, tournaments, and more going on throughout the day, and I remember getting some classic Super Smash Bros. Melee time in against complete strangers. Melee isn’t my preferred Smash title, but at the time it’s the one I knew best. I also remember picking up House Stark-themed shot glasses. They were tinted blueish, and I remember using them as a freshman in college because I was introduced to Game of Thrones that year by one of my good friends. That’s when that whole journey began, but that’s a story for another blog post. Perhaps the next one.

My second con was Connecticon, though, and I have fond memories of going there with my friend Bryan for the first time and being amazed at the sheer size of everything. It would pale in comparison to Anime NYC, but that took three years for me to get there and I wouldn’t want to compare the two experiences in the first place.

The reason I’m mentioning all of these cons is because recently I visited Connecticon with two people who haven’t been to it before: Alex and Bella. Alex has been to cons in the past, but this was Bella’s first true convention. As a fellow nerd, it was about time she got the chance to visit one of these. I wish we had the chance to spend more time there, but we got done what needed to be done and picked up some sweet loot in the process. Alex and I grabbed a Persona 5 poster, a Cowboy Bebop poster, and a Joker Funko Pop.

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#246: The Mask

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Do you find that sometimes you wear a mask around certain people? Do you conceal your true self when around others? Are there people you simply cannot let loose around, for whatever reason, be they your boss, your parents, or what have you? That’s what I’d like to discuss today.

As I write this, the instrumental version of “Beneath the Mask” is playing in the background, filling up my brain with ideas for what to write about on here. It’s a beautiful song, and I recommend it as some good studying or writing music. It also plays on my new PS4 theme background, thanks to the $2 I spent on it. It serves as good inspiration music for my writing.

As a student, I learned that being honest about yourself invites ridicule from others, and that the only way to avoid being ridiculed is to completely hide all uniqueness from yourself, to blend in with the background as much as possible so as to become invisible to those judgmental eyes. That’s why I sometimes have a difficult time expressing my true feelings to others. When it comes down to it, we’re taught the virtues of honesty, but not the vices. We’re lead to believe that integrity, honor, honesty, and other positive values are inherently just, but not how to handle ourselves when those values are questioned and put to task. As a young, impressionable kid, it’s easier to relinquish them and accept defeat.

Being behind a mask means being fake, to some degree; you’re not disclosing your face, where others can see how you feel based on your body language and expressions. You’re concealing that which you have learned to conceal for your own safety and security. I no longer live behind a mask like I did way back when, but occasionally I slip into my old teenage habits because of those days.

#245: The Maker, Part 2

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But let’s switch topics to something a bit more in-the-news: Mario Maker 2, a game that recently released for the Nintendo Switch. This is what I originally wanted to write about, before I was distracted by the Bionicles and LEGOs discussion.

Mario Maker 2 is an otherwise fantastic game with some glaring flaws in its online multiplayer design. Though I didn’t spend much time playing that particular mode, I did enjoy the other modes quite a lot. Being able to play endless level challenges, over and over, with similarly endless replayability thanks to its user-generated level system. You pick a difficulty mode, such as Normal, Easy, Expert, or Super Expert, and the game throws user-generated levels at you to complete. I’ve been spending a lot of time on the Normal mode, as I’m not skilled enough to get past level 6 or so without running out of lives, usually. Some of these levels are tricky, and I’m used to using my intuition as a gamer to figure out what’s coming next in a level. When it comes to user-generated levels from people all over the world, there’s no way of knowing what to expect and what a specific person is thinking when they created a particular level. They’re more unpredictable, basically.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the level editor, too. I created one level that requires you to use the cape from Super Mario World to traverse some deadly flame traps and cannonballs. And then I created and published a second level, with a bit more seriousness to it, that featured loads and loads of cannonball traps and a rising tide underneath the character. I felt especially proud of that second one because it used a few new features offered just in Mario Maker 2, such as the rising tide and the music blocks.

#244: The Maker, Part 1

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Another two part blog post! Recently, I’ve had fewer ideas but more to say about those ideas, so instead of dragging myself through lots of ideas at once, I figured this is a more appropriate way of publishing consistent blogs.

The Maker. Making things was a part of my childhood. I grew up with LEGOs, Kinects, Bionicles, the works. Whatever you can imagine, I probably tried creating at some point. My dad took it as an early sign that I would be an excellent contractor like him some day, but that didn’t necessarily turn out to be true. I can see why he would think that, though, considering I loved using my hands to build things as a kid. One would assume from that that I would also be interested in that as a future career. It just makes sense that way, and people did it for fun mostly. I remember building a massive Bionicle figure, I think it was Makuta/Teridax/whatever his name is, and it turned out to be one of my biggest accomplishments as a kid. Seeing that figure, and seeing that I had a part in actualizing it, felt amazing. Words couldn’t capture my enthusiasm and excitement. Bionicles truly had a great hold on my childhood creativity. I think they were one of the first times I was offered the opportunity to create something myself. Although directions were given to you, I’d go off the beaten path sometimes to create monster or figures that didn’t resemble the original creation at all.

Being creative isn’t an inherent trait, I think. You can be taught to be creative, and the best way is to model it after your own intuition. Sometimes small things have a large effect on your standing as an adult. I’m glad these toys had an effect on my life.

#243: The Group Chat, Part 2

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This one is coming in two parts!

Two of my friends on the chat are huge anime fans, for example, so I feel like I know a decent amount about Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure just from them, even though I’ve only ever watched the pilot episode with Alex in Boston one night.

The group chat started back in 2016 or 2017, when I was still on Twitter under a different account name. I had an account I used to follow people from hobbies I was a fan of, and I found a bunch of wrestling fans who shared similar interests online. We bonded over the wrestlers we liked, but most of all, we bonded over our shared connections and long-winded discussions about heated topics, such as booking, match results, and video games. There were lots of things to be angry about back when we watched the shows regularly, but also lots of great, memorable conversations involving people I’ve never met in person. These people are some of my greatest friends, and yet I don’t know when I’ll ever get the chance to see them. Does that really matter? Aren’t online interactions just as genuine and worthwhile as interactions in person? I’m not sure, but I’d like to think they are. A person you communicate with, by whatever means of communication are available, can still be a friend of yours. A pen pal from across the country is still a friend regardless of the fact that you may never meet them, either.

When I was in high school, I had a difficult time making friends, so to be able to have access to the internet meant having access to a world of online friendships, too. I knew people on the internet from World of Warcraft, the Rock Band forums, Last.fm, and more, and all of those people I owe so much to. I don’t know where I would be without them, so they definitely mean as much to me as any of my other friends do.

#242: The Group Chat, Part 1

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This one is coming in two parts! Here’s the first one, about a fantastic group chat I’m a part of.

While scrolling through Twitter, I discovered something worth writing about: the group chat I’ve had for so long, and all the wonderful people I’ve met because of it. I was playing Persona 5 earlier today when I remembered that I could share my experiences in the game with my friends who recommended I play it in the first place, years ago. I remember reading the group chat, also known as “Paige fam” or whatever other title it has on a given day. It usually changes with the season, but that’s one of the more endearing parts of the chat. I’m not going to mention any of the chat members’ names, as I haven’t told them that I’m writing about them and don’t want to spoil their privacy. But it’s a great group of about 9 people, all of whom I’ve spent a lot of time talking with. We’ve gone through stages of allowing more people into the chat, only to have them either spoil who’s in it to others or just not participate very often. Those people aren’t part of the chat any more. There was a time when the chat had 11 people in it, for example.

We’ve talked about and shared opinions on all kinds of topics, from Game of Thrones’s latest season (and its ultimate failure) along with football championship victories in Europe and earthquakes in New Zealand. The people in this chat span across countries; the diversity isn’t just in location, but in gender, ethnicity, and personality. It’s that kind of diversity that makes the chat so great, and so wonderful to come back after taking a few days off from looking at Twitter or social media. There’s always a fruitful, interesting conversation to look at afterwards.

#241: The Second Sleep

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I get up in the morning when Alex works 10-6, so that I can drive her to the train station on time. It’s a lot easier than having her walk the whole way there, and plus I get to see her rather than not. It’s a positive no matter how you look at it. This tradition began around February or March, give or take, after I started my new job but before I realized it was convenient for me to drive her, too. Now that it’s summer vacation, I have no excuse not to drive her, and I agree. It just works out well, as a way to get me up earlier without inducing too much grogginess. Nothing wrong with waking up at 8am, right? Right?

I still get some anxiety driving, especially after the most recent incident, but it’s worth it so I can drive her to her destination on time. I sometimes miss these days, especially when Alex returns to working 9-5 or 8-4 instead. Those shifts are much too early for me to drive her, so I sleep instead.

But when I get home from driving Alex, I sometimes go back to sleep. It’s my second sleep, you could say. I like waking up early, but sometimes it’s necessary to go back to bed after having a long, long evening playing video games on the couch. Being a teacher during summer vacation means that, after all. There’s nothing better than the feeling of going to bed a second time, waking up a second time, and feeling totally, completely refreshed all over again. Who doesn’t want that?

My second sleeps are reserved for the days when Alex works 10-6, but I revel in them. It’s another great bonus of her working those days, and even though it might seem the same as just sleeping the extra hours, it’s not.

#237: The Fireworks

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Today is July 4th, which means today is fireworks day. Fireworks all night long, across the city skyline and heard from our apartment regardless of distance. Fireworks blaring upward into the air, exploding in an instant or in bursts, and then descending quickly back to the earth, to pollute the streets with firework residue. Imagine being on the streets of Stamford watching the fireworks at 8pm, only to then be a sanitation worker the next day, forced by the city to clean up the endless parade of messiness on the ground. I would hate to be that person, but I can relate to them very much so.

When I was younger, my father loved the fourth of July. It was probably his favorite holiday. We used to have a large house together, with a large backyard where we invited pretty much everyone we knew to come over for a large party. Hot dogs, bounce castles, outdoor pool, radio music, tents and food and more. They were a lot of fun, and I got to hang out with my friends over the summer so that made it all worth it, but perhaps the biggest waste of all was my father’s incessant need to fill up the sky with fireworks. He bought thousands of dollars worth of fireworks every year, every fourth of July, just to impress his friends with how much money he was willing to throw away into the sky for big explosions. Imagine if he had saved that for our college educations instead? What if? Hmm.

It seems self-serving, but ultimately it was for us, too. We wanted the fireworks just as much as he did. It represented something special to us, a sort of familial tradition passed through time. It doesn’t happen any more, for obvious reasons, but when it did, it was special.

#230: The Summer

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It’s summer time. Time to party, have fun, and relax. I’ve already been able to enjoy my time to the fullest, having a few get-togethers with friends in North Haven and Stamford, and spending time with my girlfriend’s family, the in-laws. Being away from work for a bit is exciting and exhilarating, as there are so many opportunities for things to do that I wouldn’t normally be able to do. I’ve been able to rush through a lot of video games at once, playing as much as I can and exploring new worlds on the Playstation 4, while simultaneously enjoying the week off with Alex. She’s had the week off as well because she took conference time for a week, not even using her practically unlimited vacation time. So there’s tons of potential for more time off in the future for her, too.

For me, though, this vacation has been fun. I’ve had time to write, even though I haven’t been writing very much since the vacation began, and I plan on continuing my streak of blog posts throughout the months ahead. I would hate for it to slack off just because I’m lazy and unable to think of ideas. I’m sure I’ll be able to think of something, the ideas just might not be as interesting or as diverse as they would be while I’m still working for 10 months of the year. I definitely plan on continuing the blogs, regardless of what responsibilities I might have over the summer break.

Being alone during the day won’t be fun, once Alex moves into being a regular worker bee again. But I’m looking forward to hopefully starting to be more productive during my summer, and I’m looking forward to whatever that entails. Sometimes a kick in the butt like being alone for awhile is enough to push my motivation over the edge.

#229: The In-Laws

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Nothing wrong with meeting up with in-laws every once in awhile. In fact, it can be a fulfilling experience, contrary to common expectation, if you make the most of it. Currently, as I’m writing, I’m listening to my girlfriend’s mom discuss Great Lake’s Crossing and her other daughter’s job and boyfriend and everything else in mind, tax bases, mortgages, loans, future condos, attorneys, dogs, puppy mills, aquariums, job interviews. It’s all blending together in my head and none of it’s really sticking, but that’s normal when it comes to listening to people talk about things that don’t exactly pertain to my life. Having talkative in-laws means I don’t bear the responsibility of having to lead discussions when family events are coming along, and I’m happy to be the silent, awkward listener. Does anyone else feel like they end up reverting their usual obnoxiousness into silence when in-laws come around? Sometimes more powerful voices drown out other voices. It’s the ways of nature.

Normally, when people talk about in-laws, they talk with disdain or sadness or a combination of the two. I understand where they’re coming from, I really do, but it’s not always the case. I guess that’s my point from all of this. In-laws are nice to see, especially when you don’t see them for months and months and then they just show up out of the blue for a few days, upending your schedule and work and making everything hectic and different. You get used to it, though, especially when it becomes a frequent (but still random) occurrence. I like our conversations and I like being able to catch people up on things, after a long time away.

This is also one of the first blog posts I’m writing from home, after making it to summer break. I’ll write about that in another blog post after this one. Stay tuned!