Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Feels like winter in NYC

It feels like winter in New York, in the good way. I’ve enjoyed a weekend of doing nothing but sitting in the heated apartment, and going out for groceries. I like the first time it gets cold here, when you can pass the restaurants and smell the food and enjoy the slight amount of quiet you get when more people are inside. The only thing better is when there’s a huge snow and the city shuts down, and you can walk around with this giant blanket of white absorbing all of the sound. Of course, in a day it all turns to black and grey sludge, and in a few weeks I will be bitching about the sheer cold outside, but it’s nice when it first starts.

I’m already in a weird Christmas mood, although I don’t really celebrate the holiday that much anymore. I mean, I still exchange gifts, but I don’t celebrate the birth of Christ, and I don’t believe in Santa. I don’t place any importance on the familial aspect of the holiday anymore, since I don’t usually go home for it; that’s sort of a sticking point for me. I grew up with the centralized holiday at the maternal grandparents’ place in Chicago, with tons and tons of people and excellent food, time to play with all of my cousins, and the whole tradition, the routine of piling up in the car and getting on the Indiana toll road and heading to the big city. That pretty much ended when my grandmother died, which was when I was in college, also complicating things. There are still various family get-togethers, but very decentralized and not as noteworthy. The people are still important, and I’m not slagging that, but there is no tradition. And if it’s not about the myth of Jesus or the myth of Santa or the myth of the dreidel (or whatever), then there has to be something to replace that.

I think the same feeling of Christmas happiness, or whatever you want to call it, is somehow encapsulated by being inside in the warm when it’s cold out, and having an overabundance of food in the fridge. That isn’t entirely a complete holiday for me, but yesterday I bought way too much food, and cooked dinner at home, and baked cookies, and kept my ass on the couch all day, and it was pretty decent.

One outing I made yesterday was to Game Stop to buy two new titles for the PS2: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Socom Navy SEALs. Here are first impressions on both.

I’ll start with the Navy SEALs game first. It was a real bitch to find this, and I think my used copy cost $55. The introduction is PHENOMENAL! A very cool movie showing frogmen swimming in water, attack helicopters, insertion teams, the whole nine yards. It was all meticulously rendered, with water effects better than any I’d ever seen. In general, this game is about a half-step ahead of Medal of Honor: Frontline, although MOH:FL probably has a higher volume of detailed items, while SOCOM has more night missions and stuff, which makes it easier for them. But in general, the game has some great looking graphics, and the sound is integrated well.

One of the very cool things about the game is that it comes with a Logitech headset that plugs into the USB port of your Playstation 2. Most adventure games have on-screen hints on what to do, i.e. “destroy the radio to escape” popping up in a little window or whatever. But in this, someone tells you these things via radio in the headset! It’s a weird effect, because stuff is blowing up around you or whatever, and you hear someone saying “Delta team, advance to their position – over” or whatever. Very cool! The other, even more fucked-up part is, the game has voice recognition! There is a push-to-talk button on the controller, and you can issue commands to you other SEAL team members just by saying them! A menu appears on screen to help you, and the comamnds are in person-verb-object format. So, for example, you can say “team deploy frag” and everyone will throw frag grenades at the target. The recognition works well, and there is no complicated training or anything. It’s incredible!

Overall, the game is great, but very complicated and difficult. It’s not a thing where you go in, shoot a bunch of dudes, and then you are at the next level. It involved a LOT of strategy, hiding in shadows, taking out people from behind, and so on. So I haven’t played it much, but it’s cool. It also supports online gaming, so I’m going to have to get the ethernet adapter and try it out.

The other game I got is Vice City, the followup to Grand Theft Auto 3. It’s sort of a prequel, happening in the 80s in a Miami Vice-like environment. The coolest part of this is that when you get in a car, you can change channels and listen to the radio, just like in GTA3. But now, there are a lot of 80s channels, and one of them is similar to the old K-ROCK, but called VROCK, and it has nothing but old 80s metal. So it’s pretty cool to be listening to Megadeth – Peace Sells… or Slayer – Reign in Blood while driving a stolen sports car and killing cops. There are way more cars, people, weapons, details, and everything else, too much to describe. I spent hours last night and thismorning driving around, stealing stuff, going on rampages. It’s absolutely great.

Not a lot else. I’ve been working on this short story about Bloomington, one of many I hope to get into a book. It’s going slow, but it’s going. I think I will be able to write more as winter progresses. It’s much easier to cocoon up to the computer when it’s too cold to wander around outside. Also the jerkoffs that sit in front of my building tend not to do that when it’s twenty outside, plus windchill.

Okay, I just poured a quart of sulfuric acid down my bathtub drain, and I think I need to either flush it out with some water, or get some kind of gas mask.