The Atari Generation

Videogames have been part of my life for as long as I can remember.

I have vague, distinct memories of my family opening this beauty when I was very young. And even some memories of playing it later after discovering the box in the basement. The console coleco_telstar-ranger_boxactually has more colors than the video display, which was only black and white. If I remember correctly, the shooting game was just a white block (or two!) bouncing around the screen and the other game was a version of pong (but you could play versions like handball or squash.) As the precursor for things to come, it was pretty fun.

Later, as we grew older, we got the grand-daddy of them all, the Atari 2600. Everyone wanted it and we had it. It was amazing. Suddenly, we were like Lisa & Bart when they got a pool. The game Combat came with the unit and we slowly and surely accumulated other Atari2600games. Missile Command and Asteroids were two of my favorites. One the great things about having game cartridges (and paper books/comicbooks) is that kids, like prisoners,  quickly learn to create their own systems of barter. Asteroids was worth two other games and I used that value like a cudgel. Sadly, you cannot trade apps.

My parents, ever trendy, were divorced in the 70s so my mother worked two jobs to support her three ungrateful children. (well, “ungrateful” at the time.. we’re grateful now.) And I don’t know how she managed it, but she came home one day with the greatest gift you could have given a kid in that decade.. the PacMan game. With two siblings, and tons of friends we swiftly learned to share and that the best players keep playing until defeated. Until we amended that rule so that even winners were capped at three games in a row.

Meanwhile, as all this gaming was going on, I was learning to program in the most basic way possible. My school (good ole I.S. 25!) suddenly had a computer room filled with the computery looking computers: the TRS-80! trs80iiWhile my grades weren’t good enough to get me into a regular class, there was a wonderful teacher (whose name, decades later, eludes me) who came into school early to open the Computer Room and allowed us to fiddle around for an hour or two. I grabbed a book or two from the library and taught myself Basic. I even programmed a text-only role-playing game (multiple choice adventures!!) set in our school which I saved onto audio cassette. TAPE CASSETTE!! Oh, I wanted to be computer programmer so bad, but my math grades weren’t good enough and that was that. I like to think I would have been a game designer but that didn’t exist at that time.

Then, suddenly, it’s decades later (the early 90s) and I’m working in the computer industry and I still stink at math. But then I’m in Marketing so who cares? It’s the Amiga computer and it could have revolutionized the entire playing field but the no one really understood it… Amiga500_systemit really was ahead of its time. Astounding graphics and capabilities. You could add text to video, green screen, create 3D objects and more but at this time there just weren’t enough consumer+ level users to support it. It’s a damn shame. Even today there aren’t programs that matched some that I had back then… Hell, the Disney Animator Studio for the Amiga was amazing and there was something called FantaGraphics that allowed you to set a number of frames (like 1 -1000) and draw Frame 1 and then draw Frame 1000 and it would render the inbetween. It was amazing. Sigh. There are no more Amigas. The company I worked for in Champaign, IL had layoffs and I was gone. So, after hanging around down there for a bit I eventually moved up to Chicago for improv.

Improv so consumed my life that I didn’t really play videogames at home. I mean, I would f66a1773c3ebe3358bd465994e9f383b_1Moccasionally go to place near Navy Pier and play BattleTech. I was pretty good too. You could play up to 10 people at a time and there was no story it was just kill or be killed in your giant robot. You could use the simple set up or for more control, use the complex set up where you had to use all 100 buttons and levers. That place was awesome. They went belly up but I think there are BattleTech pods at Dave & Busters now.

A few years ago, I bought a used XBOX 360 from a friend. They included a few games which I liked, but didn’t love. I didn’t really play it that much untilllllllll… Red Dead Redemption RDR-Standoff-Guide-2came out. It’s a western and you play as an ex-outlaw forced by the government to hunt down your old gang. It is one of the best westerns I have ever watched, much less played. It was amazing. While the game itself won several Best Of awards, it’s the online play that I find fascinating. You can freeroam the entire map of the world getting into random scrapes like a Man with No Name or you can engage in these 10 minute brawls with people from around the world. It’s the latter that appeals to me the most. I’ve been playing for so long and gotten so good that I have a “posse” of people I know online. We team up and beat the hell out of the n00bs in these showdowns. I treat these shootouts like I would in real life.. I don’t run around alot, I mostly hide behind a door or bar and pop up with a shot gun and murderize people. I don’t do it new re-spawn sites, but people get furious. It’s hilarious. I play usually once a day for at least 30 minutes. For the past three years. So, it’s been a while. After being away for month, my first game back was amazing. 30 kills, 1 death. I got this message: IMG_2455

which was nice because I usually get voice messages in high-pitched voices threatening to kill me in real and asking why I am such a bitch.

If you have an XBOX, let’s play! I’m “Jace1776” which most of the kids online pronounce as “Jace One Thousand Seven Seven Six.”

And now you’re up to date on my video game history.

Now what should I get? The XBOX One or the Playstation 4? I have no idea.

The one electronic game that I really wanted when I was kid that I never got was 2XL the Talking (Quizzing!) Robot. When I Googled it, it turns out it was a fancy 8track player. Oh well.

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The Christmas Gnome

Ah, the iO Holiday Party.

For as long as I can remember, it’s always been crowded chaos. With free food, free drinks and a “Nasty Santa” (the gift giving game where you can steal each other’s presents) for all IMG_2515the teams it gets pretty crazy pretty fast. Maybe my memory is off, but as I recall it has always been too many people in one room, but with fun and friends.

Some random memories:

– one year Brian Jack gave out CDs of Christmas music he made himself on GarageBand and then refused to play anything else on the speakers

– someone put a gift of a large amount of, uh, herbal “glaucoma medicine” under the tree and people kept stealing it from each other all night (no limits!) but the stealers kept vanishing and the amount traded was smaller and smaller

– Amber Tillett took photos for months and then cut and pasted improvisers faces on the “models” in a super-graphic porn magazine. It’s hilarious. It came back for years and years but it’s gone now.. no one knows where it is or who has it. Which brings us to….

 

I don’t rightly remember who brought it (I think it might have been Sammy Tamimi), but one year someone gifted a lawn gnome. For some reason it became very popular and everyone DB556802fought over it. And then again, the next year.. the Christmas Gnome returned! This went on for years! Finally, it became this tradition for the Gnome to return and to guarantee that it would return, Charna gave it’s possessor immunity from being cut from the team roster! The Christmas Gnome was an Immunity Idol! That just made it more precious!

As you might expect it was fiercely fought over (ah, Christmas)… and then, like all unique items, it disappeared. Someone had it and was still cut! So, they took the Gnome with them (and, I think, the Improv Porn Magazine… I think the two items were combined for some time. I’m not sure, to be honest.)

So, we’ve been without our Christmas Gnome for a few years. The darkest timeline, indeed.

This year, mixed into the gift exchange was this guy. IMG_2534

I loved it and instantly wanted to have it. When I had the chance I stole it. I crossed my fingers because in the past I have never left with the gift I actually wanted (one year I actually “won” a half empty bottle of Wolfschmidt Vodka.) But, I made it! So, next year, 2014, in the new iO building, the new Christmas Gnome will this good sir. I give you the Christmas Knome!

 

I’m looking forward to seeing you there!

 

 

Yours Truly, holding Sir Knome, and posing with the delightful Linda Orr.

Yours Truly, holding Sir Knome, and posing with the delightful Linda Orr.

 

2013- the End.

And that’s pretty much a wrap for 2013!

That was fast, eh?

We wrapped up one year’s worth of SATURDAY/saturday. That was a great, fun project with exciting, fun people.

the inevitable Harlem Shake sketch

the inevitable Harlem Shake sketch

Whirled News Tonight celebrated ten years of non-stop shows. For a year, we did Fridays and Saturdays so, it’s really like 11 years.

Returned to Australia for a second time and it was very fun and educational.

iO is officially moving to a giant, new building and I could not be more excited.

 

The new building has, quite honestly, reinvigorated me. I’m excited to see what changes this will bring to iO and improv at large, and to me, personally. Creating new shows, helping to maintain and improve current shows.. it is a dream come true. It’s been fascinating to watch and help iO to grow.

Almost two decades ago, I marvelled that the Del Close Theater was vacant on a Thursday; no show, no classes. I asked Charna about it and she said I could put up a show there. So I did. “The Superhero Society of America Presents Crisis on Improv Earth” was the first show I did at iO. Then “Dinner for Six.” Then “Jedi! A Musical Tour de Force.” To date, I have created or performed in almost 40 separate shows (not counting sitting in or Harold teams.)

I’m very lucky to have been involved at iO at just the right time and now again, I am with iO at exactly the right time.

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I’m making some, let’s not call them resolutions, but tiny changes to my operating systems in order to better my life.

– work out. In general. Not like obsessive, but once in a while lift something.

– go to a beach every few months. The joy I felt just sitting in the sun, feeling the sand and ocean beneath my feet, why was it such a rare occassion? There are plenty of beaches- GO TO THEM.

– write more.

– have more lunches with friends I don’t regularly see.

– have a tea.

 

So, that’s 2013!

Come on, 2014!!

 

Australia 2: The Improvisation of Chin

That is a terrible title. Here are some photos from my month-long trip to Australia! I hope that you enjoy them. Click on each to embiggen them and let me know if you have any questions!

Bondi Beach, the Intensive Show at The Hive, the old time Dr.s' light, sharks at the aquarium, the Star Casino Poker room

Bondi Beach, the Intensive Show at The Hive, the old time Dr.s’ light, sharks at the aquarium, the Star Casino Poker room

IMG_2372

bad selfie, Intensive class at the Chippendale Hotel, class at Melbourne, class with Improv Conspiracy, class at The Rocks

bad selfie, Intensive class at the Chippendale Hotel, class at Melbourne, class with Improv Conspiracy, class at The Rocks

Pyrmont view, the Opera House, The Bridge, Holme Building at Sydney Uni., Melbourne Tram

Pyrmont view, the Opera House, The Bridge, Holme Building at Sydney Uni., Melbourne Tram

me, Norbert & Katherine, view from my room, The Rocks, Sydney Uni grad presents, Chippendale Hotel

me, Norbert & Katherine, view from my room, The Rocks, Sydney Uni grad presents, Chippendale Hotel

the Intensive Class, some Opera House, the Common Room with Adrian, Cindy, Richard, Melbourne friends Tim, Amy, Jason

the Intensive Class, some Opera House, the Common Room with Adrian, Cindy, Richard, Melbourne friends Tim, Amy, Jason

ramen, kangaroo, fancy ramen, kangaroo, Malaysian noodles with chicken, My Pie display

ramen, kangaroo, fancy ramen, kangaroo, Malaysian noodles with chicken, My Pie display