Backbone One

I haven’t been much of a mobile gamer since I left the Bay Area. No public transit means I’m either cycling or driving somewhere, so I don’t have my phone out. I still play a lot of games, they’re all just on my TV or computer.

This last year 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim dropped and I immediately knew it was for me. Part visual novel, part RTS, big robots, high school angst. But it’s exclusive to PlayStation 4. While I have a PS4, I’m not a big fan of using it. I prefer something on my computer or on my Switch so I can lay around the house chipping away at it. Resigning myself that I probably shouldn’t buy something I couldn’t play in an enjoyable way, I tried to push 13 Sentinels out of my mind. But then I saw this tweet from Patrick Klepek:

After discussing it with my wife, I sprinted to the Backbone website to order one of their controller. It arrived a few days later (weirdly, the company ships from a place near here) and I’ve enjoyed using it almost everyday since. My primary use has been streaming PS4 games, but I’ve also tried streaming PC games, Xbox One games, and Google Stadia’s new browser mode for iOS. It’s all worked fantastically well.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

The most surprising part is just how many iOS games support controllers right out of the box. I know that iOS 13 had come with better controller support and that had improved games to some extent, but I’d never dived this deep into. Some of my favorite games are on iOS with full controller support: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Fez, Doom, Marathon, Chrono Trigger, and others. So now I have a whole slew of portable games I’m enjoying plus the option to stream from more powerful devices.

The accessory’s hardware is impressive as well. The buttons feel great, including the two analog triggers and shoulder buttons. The analog sticks seem to have a great range and aren’t too tight or touchy, which is common with smaller sticks. The construction feels strong and comfortable. Really my only complaint is that you have to take your phone out of its case to use it. I like it so much I emailed Tim Cook and told him Apple should sell them in their stores.

January 27, 2021

I’m Alive In The World

Part of setting up this blog again was about trying to figure out a way to exist on social media in a way that made sense to me. I don’t trust that these applications are made in good faith and I believe they intentionally use manipulative UX paradigms to make disinformation and advertising appear as truthful as facts. The users are the product and making them feel engaged and informed is the service social media provides to their clients.

But that said, you really are left out of a lot. Deleting my Facebook effectively severed my connection to everyone. I even miss major family news; they write the post and forget to reach out to me about it separately. Petty stuff like anniversaries and birthdays go by without comment. Your friends will start referencing Twitter jokes you don’t understand. That’s a cost I can live with. Forcing direct conversations with friends and family has enriched those bonds.

However, it does suck to not be able to reply to people’s tweets or to give them likes. So, I came up with the idea for this blog. Spin up a Blot blog. And then set up a RSS feed to post it to my new handle @hrprmd. My posts will be primarily Blog posts, but I will use the account to reply to people. I’m also hoping this will keep down my feed reading as well, since I’ve found it’s really easy for tweets to mess with my mental health.

So that’s part of one of my goals with this thing. Just trying to be out there.

January 27, 2021

All My Friends Who Play Guitar

I remember I liked Starflyer 59 before I’d even heard them. All the teenagers I respected had their shirts and even the band’s name sounded cool. I knew they were a Tooth & Nail band like some of the other bands I’d been introduced to, like MxPx and Ninety Pound Wuss. So I assumed it’d be something along those lines, but I was pretty surprised by what they actually ended up being.

I’d never really heard anything like shoegaze before. In a small town and an evangelical bubble, you don’t really have many opportunities to encounter it. But it immediately resonated with me. The sounds were similar to the grunge and alternative I’d heard on the radio, but being used in a totally different sonic purpose. It was loud and powerful music, but not aggressive or biting. It felt like a nice chaser to the punk music I was already deeply into. So I immediately became deeply invested in their work and have followed them for years since, even after dropping out of the faith.

As the 90s ended, the band began to expand and move to more complex territory taking what they’d used in dream pop and shoegaze into indie rock. 2001’s Leave Here A Stranger has all the dripping reverb from their earlier work, but it’s paired with distant organs and singing saws. It’s deep and evocative, but approachable. Doesn’t hurt that it was produced by the lead singer from one of my favorite bands growing up, Daniel Amos. I love all their albums for different reasons, but Leave Here A Stranger is the easiest to recommend.

I was already driving by the time the album came out and it never left my car. I don’t even know if my friends liked it, I just played it all the time when we drove around (sorry if you didn’t). And it’s still a staple for long trips for me. It’s perfect highway music. It sounds like recycled air smells.

One of my favorite tropes is ending an album with a song you could roll movie credits over. It fits the way albums can work narratively and also reminds you that they’re wrapping things up that they need to clean the theater. Your Company is the perfect credits roll song, typing up the musical and lyrical themes of the album. After the album, can just see the album credits scrolling down the screen as you listen.

January 25, 2021

Accession

Since March I’ve been slowly rewatching Star Trek series, starting with The Next Generation and carrying over into Deep Space Nine. They’re interesting shows to watch within a few months and I’ve really enjoyed relearning this shows from my childhood and adolescence. Deep Space Nine in particular has given me a lot to think about. It’s a show about navigating the borders where Federation ideology don’t have clear answers, but doing the most good you can despite this.

Sisko is best Star Trek captain. Unlike the more full formed, idealistic Picard, Sisko is still learning about himself and about what he believes. Adrift in grief, Sisko finds a purpose trying to bring the Bajoran people into the United Federation of Planets. Each Sisko focused episode is about Sisko encountering a challenge and using it as an opportunity for personal growth.

In finding the wormhole, Sisko stumbles into a Bajoran prophecy and becomes an important religious figure for all of Bajor; The Emissary for the Prophets. Though his science driven Starfleet background bristles at the title, he accepts it as a means to achieve his goal of enlisting Bajor in the United Federation of Planets. Several episodes hinge on his dual role as both a Starfleet officer and the Emissary; both uninvolved in Bajor’s governance and deeply intertwined with Bajor’s spirituality. Sisko shrugs off the Emissary’s duties when possible, treating it more as a ceremonial role.

In season four’s episode Accession,” Sisko gives up the Emissary title when an ancient Bajoran poet is released from the wormhole, better fitting the literal interpretation of the Bajoran prophecy. But the new Emissary begins to use his position to enact regressive Bajoran beliefs, like a strict caste system. Sisko initially withdraws citing the Federation’s desire to stay out of Bajoran governance, though he laments that Bajor will not be admitted to the Federation if the caste system is implemented. As Bajoran society begins to unravel under the weight of 200 year old religious dogma, Sisko realizes that he does indeed have a place in Bajor’s spiritual life and fights to get back his role. When the aliens known as the Prophets declare that Sisko is the Emissary, Sisko returns to the station and gives a speech asking for a return to progressive, cultural growth, while also warmly embracing his spiritual duties.

If this were a modern TV show, this arc would have been a whole season of character growth instead of one episode of a syndicated TV show. The unfortunate reality of Star Trek’s format is that the episodes that are really rich and interesting are still just 45 minutes. Any future episodes can only make vague references to the events of any previous episode. But even so, I think episodes like Accession are what makes Deep Space Nine worth watching.

January 25, 2021

Thinking About Blue Thunder

I used to write a lot more than I do now. I maintained LiveJournals, DeadJournals, and even a Xanga at different times in my teens and twenties. Nothing amazing, but simple personal posts or thoughts on albums, movies, games, whatever. Most of it was bad. I think college kind of broke my habit by sending all my creative energy toward papers and projects. Nearly a decade since graduating, I’m going to try and get back into writing personally. So here’s this thing then.

January 24, 2021