The Morality of Picking in a Consumer Society

Happy Monday, everybody. This is going to be an interesting week, as I’m in Flash training all of this week and will be fitting in writing as I can. It’s not that unusual; every year when the holidays roll around, writing becomes a lot more difficult because of the social schedule. Hey, at least I have a social schedule, right?

Anyway, I want to talk about something today that I don’t typically discuss. I may have mentioned before that I currently have about three jobs: I’m a technical writer, I’m a novelist, and I’m a picker. I want to talk about the last one today.

I get a lot of questions when I tell people that I do that. What’s a picker, they ask? The folks who have seen American Pickers have some idea of what I do, but I don’t think any two pickers use the same methods, so you’re only getting a piece of the puzzle watching that show (though I do enjoy it). Methods are typically based on the picker’s target. Those guys sell vintage stuff and antiques, so it makes sense for them to hit up people who have stored generations worth of stuff in barns and sheds. I specialize in vintage video games, video game ephemera, and software, and dabble in toys and video. As you can imagine, the approach of hitting up those guys with barns would be pretty damn useless, so I stick to thrift stores, garage sales, and yard sales. Thrift stores make up the bulk of my targets, though. Why? Well, that’s part of why I’m writing this entry in the first place.

For those of you who don’t know what a picker is, we basically find the things that other people might not value as much, pay a fair price, and then turn around and sell it to collectors. It can be a pretty profitable business, but it takes a decent amount of knowledge, preparation, and luck. Luck, especially; it’s sheer luck that you sometimes stumble across something that’s been knocked down to $5 but sells for $200 online (as with a printer that I recently discovered). There can also be some risk, as if that printer hadn’t worked, I would have eaten the cost. I could write a whole entry on the process, and might do so if there’s some interest. For now, I’m interested in looking at the morality of what I do. Continue reading

Coffin Hop Day 7: Five Great Horror Video Games #coffinhop

Welcome once again Coffin Hoppers! Thankfully Hurricane Sandy neither washed away nor blew us away (heh), and we still have power, so I’m back and ready to go for the last few days. I have a couple of fun posts left in me, and want to share them with you.

I mentioned a few days ago that, after writing, music is one of my great passions. Video games come a close second, though it took me years to figure out just why. The medium offers something that so few other artistic experiences afford: agency on the part of the viewer. True, sometimes that agency can be an illusion, but even then it draws the viewer/player deeper into the work itself. Games are still trying to find their identity as a medium, but there have been some sterling examples of where it could go in the future. This post is dedicated to those horror games that have found a voice.

I’m aware that some of you may not be gamers out there, so I’m going to be approaching this post from that angle, rather than solely appealing to the hardened gamers amongst us (you know who you are). I’d love to hear the viewpoints of core gamers, though: have I missed a great horror game that I should be experiencing? Please, let me know!

First, for core gamers, Amnesia and System Shock 2 just missed this list. Maybe next time. Now, my top five scary games:

5. Limbo (PC, Xbox 360, PS3). At first blush, Limbo does not seem like a scary game, and is certainly not in the same vein as the games below. It’s a 2D puzzle platformer, for starters – for you non-gamers, this means that you need to perform both well-timed jumps and must figure out certain environmental clues to avoid death and progress to the next section of the game.

Sometimes you just need to run like hell from a giant spider.

Limbo is an indie game, which means that it doesn’t have the cash or the horsepower to go toe-to-toe with the major releases below. It still manages to make this list by making up for its technical deficiencies with a charm and atmosphere that is difficult to surpass. The game also manages to tell a story without a bit of dialogue, spoken or written. As the story progresses, you learn that this is a dead boy on the very edge of hell, chasing after his sister, who may or may not be dead herself. The environment also tells of subplots, such as a place where the children have turned upon one another. The whole thing is a very spooky affair, and well worth your time and frustration with solving the puzzles. Continue reading

Swings and Roundabouts: Some Words about Persistence

The last week has been rather…interesting. I think I mentioned it previously, but my boss came to me one day last week, I believe it was Tuesday, with a very high-visibility, high-profile project with an incredibly short deadline. I burned my way through it and delivered what seems to be a high-quality document, but in the process I seem to have burned myself out a little on structured writing. That’s why you things have languished just a bit, and I considered dropping the blog for awhile. In the end, I’ve decided that I have to do what I’ve done during other fallow periods: push through. I’ve been knocked down, but I won’t let myself lie there, even if I feel drained and have had some stomach issues that may have been a bug, may have been stress-related.

What I really want to talk about here is persistence. Persistence is what gets you through writing another chapter when the only thing you want to do is hide in bed. Persistence is what makes you keep on writing blog entries, to keep on moving in the face of the world’s impressive amount of apathy. Persistence keeps you from falling into the trap of waiting for inspiration. I know it has for me. I’m not sure if it’s a bull-headed consistency or something else that drives me onward. I think it’s something that most writers need, though.  Continue reading