Saturday, September 03, 2016

Victor's Ultimate Birthday "Meh"-ga Mix '16

Summer's coming to an end, the days are getting shorter, the kids are going back to school. Soon all the leaves will start dying. Then winter will descend upon us, as unrelenting and inevitable as our own mortality.

So why not burn this fucker down with the ass end of birthday mix haul from back in May (remember way back when summer was starting and the world was full of hope and promise).

The dark side of the Mega Mix with 7 songs that I decided where not quite bangers, plus a bonus shit track to fit the minimum (fun fact: possibly my least favorite song to top the Billboard charts).

Happy Labor Day Weekend All!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Victor's Ultimate Mega Mix '16

"Better late than never" has always been a prominent philosophy in my life. Sure, your paper's gonna get docked half a grade but hey, what are you gonna do, take the zero?

Just when you thought the yearly Mega Mix was done, just another youthful affectation from my twenties that failed to make it all the way up through my thirties; here it comes hobbling in three months late.

While I am only now getting around to posting it, I did finalize the list about a month ago so I do wonder if it is no longer accurate. There is always the chance that my tastes have totally changed since then. A surprising amount of stuff can happen in a month after all.

While I don't think my fondness for novelty story songs have waned much in the past month, you'll have to treat the below 14 tracks as more of a snapshot from a younger, less world wise, early 32 Victor as opposed to the elder mid early 32 Victor. Though, frankly for those who know me I don't think there will be that many surprises.

Let us journey back to early summer:

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Yesterday was the worst day of my life

Note: Kind of weird posting it on here, but I needed some long form medium to spill my guts on.

My father died. I can't believe I just wrote that. I can't believe it is true.

He suffered a heart attack early Saturday morning. He was attempting to play some golf, an activity he never had time for all the years he worked. He was trying to enjoy a newfound freedom of semi-retirement: actual weekends off.

He soon felt ill and was taken to a hospital. By the time I arrived they were rushing him to another hospital to try emergency surgery. They told me it was a seriously blocked artery.  I followed with my mom. He never woke up.

I originally had plans on visiting him that day: catch up, run some errands together, grill some BBQ. I now found myself planning his funeral.

I get it, life isn’t supposed to be fair. But did it have to drive that point home with such brutal emphasis?

To lose him on a random Saturday morning like is about as jarring and as nonsensical as if he was shot by a stray sniper bullet.

My father had no history of heart trouble or cancer or anything else. He rarely got sick. And when he did get sick he would apparently will himself to get better if only because so many people relied on him. He was the youngest sibling in a family of the hardiest, sturdiest, dogged group of workhorses imaginable (unfortunately I take more from my mother’s more mortal side of the family) and they have all now outlived him.

What’s so cruel and unjust about this whole thing was the timing of it all. He had worked himself ragged his whole life: growing up in post war Korea into punishing poverty without a father since age 9, coming to America and working nearly every day to run his own business, taking what little free time he had to make sure his kids had everything they needed to have a better life.

Few had ever deserved a break like my father. He was finally going to take it easy. He finally had time to properly work on the lawn. He finally had time to remodel the house. He finally had time to travel with my mom. He was finally going to take a leisurely well-earned victory lap enjoying the fruits of his labor with the company of the family he dedicated his whole life supporting.

He was our foundation, he was our core, he was our rock. And now he is gone and it is devastating.

It's unrealistic for me to tell you that you should always let their parents know how much they love them. That will devalue it. But just try to get one moment where you tell them how much they mean to you so it is confirmed and in the books.

That’s all I really wanted say, the rest is just a random, rambling list of observations and memories I wrote out last night because I couldn’t sleep. I’m sure the language and grammar and disjointedness reflect that:

  • My dad never wore a nice pair of shoes, he bought the cheapest brands from Walmart or wherever and wore them into the ground.
  • My dad was decent. He was the most decent man I ever knew. He was almost decent to a fault.
  • He always gave a 100% at everything he was tasked with. Even something as simple as sweeping the floor. He would sweep with full dedication. When work had to be done, did it, no questions asked, no complaints, never a moment of slack effort.
  • He lived for his family. He had no time for hobbies or personal interests, he had to work hard so we could live a better life. He never wanted anything but to give back to his family. He was impossible to buy presents for.
  • It would have to be at gunpoint if he was ever going to accept money from his children.
  • I was really looking forward to seeing him slow down, to finally have the time to take up a hobby. He tried to hide it but I could see that he was fascinated with RC aircrafts and now RC drones; I was finally going to nail him down with a present. 
  • He yelled a lot and wasn't the most open with his feelings but you knew everything he did was from a place of love. He had a kind soul.
  • As someone who grew up without enough to eat, he would be overly preoccupied with his children eating enough. He would never finish his meal and would always give us his food.
  • Like his shoes he wore his clothes until they failed. Most of his daily wardrobe were either worn, had holes, or permanent stains from work. He lived through the charity of whatever my mother would buy for him.
  • If I had a quarter of his work ethic, I might be a millionaire.
  • His hands were rough and weathered. I once wrote a monologue for a college speech class about his coarse hands, worn down by work and how my hands were so pristine by comparison.
  • His feet smelled, because he was on them all day.
  • He was incapable of sleeping in late.
  • He helped me move into my new apartment; the last time he visited it he actually complimented me on how nice a job I did in setting it up and then threw in how it could have room for one more occupant (never missed an opportunity to push the marriage issue on me).
  • Whenever my sister caused trouble, he defended her more than anyone. I think he saw a lot of himself in her.
  • He fixed things: cars, the house, appliances, anything you gave him. His countless tools are littered throughout the house.
  • He was cynical and pessimistic about a lot of things in life. He was wary of my mother’s church friends and he believed anyone in NYC with an out of state license plate was cheating to get insurance discounts. But when it came to his kids he had boundless optimism. When I was worried about getting accepted into NYU, he literally offered to bet me money that I would get in.
  • He wore caps a lot, some still have his smell.
  • He was the greatest driver I ever knew. He learned to drive in the Korean Army. He drove everything from 18 wheelers to forklifts to the family minivan. He could parallel park on a dime; one shot no hesitation.
  • He drove me through a blizzard to Albany at 5 in the morning to get me sworn into the bar.
  • He helped me install my air conditioner every year.
  • To my friends he was always Mr. Lee. He intimidated all my friends.
  • And now I will never see him again.
  • He was supposed to pick me up from the light rail station after his golf game. Knowing him he was probably concerned about that even when he was headed to the hospital.
  • I was supposed to see him Friday night and I moved it to Saturday morning. I would have seen him like an extra few hours tops, but what I wouldn't give to have that time back. It’s best not to dwell on such thoughts.
  • I will miss:
    • Our trips to Costco which would always involve us window shopping the big screen TVs, the purchase of a rotisserie chicken on top of anything else, and hot dogs and soda afterwards.
    • Our trips to my apartment, driving down 1-9 talking about world events and complaining about traffic.
    • Our early morning Sunday trips to my grandmother’s grave. We were the only ones who visited it regularly. It was our joint ritual of grief. He was always so concerned about the state of the grass on it, tirelessly worked to have it better taken care of by the staff. We would say our peace and go home. He will be buried in the plot next to her. I now realize I’ll have to make that trip alone to visit both of them and it hurts.
  • I was the designated flashlight holder when he was fixing things, he would yell at me for not following his view.
  • He barely drank. The only time he ever drank at home was when I came over.
  • He would drink the worst coffee and at any temperature.
  • I can’t recall the last time I hugged him.
  • He taught himself to use the computer just so he could watch Korean TV on the Internet. When I got home I saw his computer was still on and queued to a video.
  • When I picked up his car from the golf course, he had managed to neatly place his bag inside the trunk and the seat was down to where he reclined to wait for the ambulance. It took me a second to get it together.
  • There was always a language barrier between us so I never got to have a deep conversation with him and vice versa. This is the curse of immigrant children.
  • He would get angry but would always feel bad about it.
  • The one thing in the world that consistently made me cry would be if I ever thought that I was letting him down. That's when the waterworks would start.
  • Didn't care for church, not sure if he believed it. He had lived a hard enough life to be skeptical.
  • Every time I prayed at night I would pray for my parents to be healthy and happy; I can't understand why this would be the response.
  • He was my dad and he was my hero. Really he was.
  • He hated filling out paperwork and was eternally grateful when I did the monthly bills.
  • He actually felt sorry for me that I was working so hard at my job. What a joke.
  • He would only brag about his children. He would show my game show clips to anyone who was (or not) interested.
  • Said singing and dancing were his greatest deficiencies.
  • Yelled at me for talking at the dinner table.
  • Was proud that I knew so many facts.
  • Always felt bad that he was never around enough growing up, thought he let us down a little. You never did Dad, you never did.
  • Always wondered if there was something more he could do.
  • Great worker but unlucky at times in business. At least twice in his life he had to close a store and start all over again. If there was ever evidence against the idea that hard work alone would lead to success it was him. 
  • Really pushed me to become a lawyer. I am willing to forgive him for that, his heart was in the right place, he just wanted me to make good money and have a secure job.
  • He once told me he would be a wonderful grandfather and how awesome he was with children; when I jokingly told him how I don't recall playing with him much growing up - He told me he was too busy but he always wanted to.
  • He was the guy who hooked up the video game systems.
  • Any bit of practical sense in me is from him.
  • He would have been a great engineer if he ever had the opportunity to go to college.
  • He loved his mama. I loved my grandma. We bonded over that.
  • Kept giving me tons of PBA cards even when I didn't drive anymore.
  • I will always associate Korean curse words from him.
  • His stockpile of Commerce and TD Bank pens will last the next generation and beyond.
  • I inherited his ability to sweat but not much of his ability to earn a sweat.
  • He once knocked down a house of cards I spent hours making when I was 10 and I got blindingly mad at him. The next morning I woke up and I found that he had reassembled it before he left for work at like 5 in the morning. I was still mad so I knocked it down.
  • He used to drive trucks at 3 in the morning.
  • I can't believe he is gone.
  • What the fuck happened?
  • He was relentless on getting me to marry. It was terrible, but in keeping with his character he only pushed it because the idea that such a catch like me would be single was due to me rejecting everyone I met.
  • He won't be there for my sister at her wedding.
  • He would fall asleep in the living room. He would snore if he was really tired.
  • He liked fishing. He always wanted to see Alaska.
  • We once had a long conversation about driving that big highway in Key West
  • There are only 2 people I know for sure in the world that love me without reservations and I just lost one.
  • Whenever I helped him with a computer problem or reading a document that he didn’t quite understand he would thank me and tell me “what will I do without you?” Now I ask myself what will I do without him?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Wrestling With History

I think we all had a nice laugh this week following the absurd story of the small upstate New York village of Whitesboro and their vote over changing their probably racist, definitely ridiculous town seal; which depending on who you you ask depicts a friendly wrestling match between town founder Hugh White and a native Oneida Indian or a white guy strangling an Indian. 

Given the name of the town to go along with the seal, I kind of see it as good news that the town overwhelmingly voted to keep their controversial seal; lest we lose this real life version of Pawnee, Indiana (as a brief aside: I've been rewatching the final season of "Parks and Recreation" on Netflix recently and was reminded of just how frustratingly saccharine the show got by the end. By the last episode every character ends up falling in love, finds their true calling in life, and literally lives out all their dreams. It can be considered almost reactionary in their underlying theme that everyone has to get married to truly be happy. The only way it could have further driven home that point would have been for the finale to show the relationship wary outcast early series Mark Brendanawicz slowly dying destitute and alone in an alley because he never did marry is true love. I could write a whole other blog post about this, but I probably won't).

Anyhow, whenever I hear the phrase "white guy wrestling an Indian" of course my mind goes directly to the 1994 mid-card level feud between between proud native american wrestler Tatanka ("Buffalo!") and evil tax collector Irwin R Shyster aka IRS (get it?). In my memories this was a much bigger, longer, and far less petty feud than I later found out it was. 

As a kid I just thought IRS was going after Tatanka because he was a bad guy and bad guys arbitrarily go after good guys like Tatanka solely on the fact that they are good and not bad. However in reality the whole reason IRS was going after Tatanka was that he claimed Tatanka owed gift taxes on a ceremonial headdress that was given to him by Chief Jay Strongbow, an older retired Native American themed wrestler. This is why I love wrestling. 

As an adult who graduated from law school and technically passed a tax law class, I now notice that Tatanka received the gift in early 1994 and would have had until April of 1995 to pay the tax, not April of 1994 as IRS was demanding. Also, there might have been separate tax issues related to him being a Native American and whether he lives on a reservation or not. I'll have to check with my wrestling accountant. 

Spoiler alert, due to no one really caring, the feud fizzled out after a couple of months without even a proper blow-off match on TV.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Victor's Ultimate Birthday "Meh"-ga Mix '15

It's been a week since the 2015 edition of the Mega Mix dropped so as tradition dictates, here come the misses. As I write this post up during the waning hours of a delightful three day weekend, I find the timing to be utterly appropriate. We had our highs, we had our fun but now it's time to experience the other side of the coin.

It's probably a good thing right? For there to be light you need darkness? You can't have the sweet without the sour or something like that? I didn't see it, but I think that's the lesson of "Inside Out"? I mean, the message can't be that you can't let the joy part of your brain run your whole life right?

Half baked pseudo-philosophical questions aside, I do want to point out that it's kind of an honor to be chosen for the "Meh"-ga Mix. They'll be remembered years down the line over another generally pleasant but ultimately unnotable track. At the very least, they are interesting; and for me it's always better to be interesting than just plain fine.

One note about this year's mix. Since I only take two tracks per original mix given to me, plus just one track from the theme mix I got, I found myself with only seven tracks. Since 8tracks requires a minimum of eight tracks (imagine that?), I threw in Ray Stevens' chart topping 1974 hit "The Streak"; one of the my least favorite songs I can remember (which is odd since I usually love ridiculous songs from the 70s).

Roll the ugliness...


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Victor's Ultimate Mega Mix '15

Happy New Year everybody!

Seriously, I can't believe this is first post of the year on this once bustling blog. You know things are bad here when my ancient livejournal until now had more posts on the year (1 to 0). In my defense I've actually been crazy busy this year with getting a proper adult job and all, but I have to admit there's some laziness involved. There's always some laziness involved.

In any case, the old VSO is back, at least to belatedly celebrate my birthday.

Yes, it is indeed that time again when I shine the spotlight on the standout tracks that I've culled from my yearly birthday mixes. On the whole 31 was a slightly underwhelming haul, quantity-wise, not quality wise. The final tally was three official mixes plus a bonus theme mix. Hey we're all getting older and getting busier right? Plus, I am and most of my friend are now coming into our early 30s, which apparently is the time when we stop listening to new music and become our parents.

Given that depressing bit of news, I think it's more critical than ever that we continue to maintain healthy mix making habits well into our music taste calcifying thirties and beyond. It doesn't even have to be new music in the sense of contemporary music, any kind of exposure to music you haven't heard before is probably good for the soul.  It is only through the regular practice of pondering, seeking, and exploring new music to compile and gift to a friend do we keep that passion for novel music alive. We keep the fire burning as we burn our mixes.

Additionally, what's good for the mixer is just as good for the mixee. The time around my birthday is when I get exposed to most of the new music for the year. Seeing as how busy this year's been going it may well be the only time.

So thank you to all my friends who give me mixes and let me craft mixes with them. You keep me young (although not in any kind of physical sort of way, I'm still falling apart day by day).

Mixes away!

Oh and before you think I'm getting soft. The "misses" will be following shortly.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Choose From One Possible Ending

Note: I know this post is almost a month out of date, but it's all part of my goal to hit as many lingering post topics as I can this month. So start getting your Thanksgiving travel plans in order and pretend that you're in early November.

A big part of my childhood, and no doubt the childhoods of countless others, author R.A. Montgomery recently concluded his own adventure the other day. As anyone who knows me can attest, I was a massive fan of the Choose Your Own Adventure book series growing up. I would probably say that the series has a whole (of which I read clear over a 100 entries, the overwhelming bulk of the series) was the most influential piece of literature I ever read. They instilled in me an early love of reading and writing that continues to this day (despite how infrequent I update this blog). They where my first exposure to literary genres like science fictionwesternsmysteries, and metafiction (I could write a whole post alone about what a mind fuck"Hyperspace" was to an 9 year old). Plus they provided me an unflinching introduction to my own mortality. However most importantly the CYOA series, with their trademark second person narrative and ability to choose different story tangents, taught me to view the world with a different perspective; that everything didn't have to follow an ordered linear narrative, and that many things you thought were impossible or you never even considered could become reality if you would only make the effort to choose.

Considering how many of these books I've read, R.A. Montgomery and CYOA creator Edward Packard are from a pure numbers view the authors I have read the most in my life. I suppose that's the case with children's book series with many people; I'm sure if you were a hardcore Goosebumps or Fear Street reader growing up, you've read more books by R.L. Stine than any other author. It's just a matter of quantity. Still, it felt like kind of a big deal for me when I heard that one of the authors of whom I so prodigiously consumed their bibliography had passed. So I figured as a little tribute to one of the main architects of the CYOA series and of the game book genre itself, I'd try to recall my top 5 most memorable Montgomery books.

A word of warning, I haven't read any of these books in about two decades and childhood memories could sometimes be unreliable, so if you're some CYOA expert or a modern day kid who just read these books for the first time please forgive me if I get a detail or two wrong or I miss out on some important plot point:

5. House of Danger
If Edward Packard was the father of the CYOA series, then R.A. Montgomery was the weird uncle. Truth be told, going by total body of work Packard is my overall favorite CYOA author. However, while Packard cranked out solidly plotted, fun, interesting stories, his stories never went off the rails or took crazy risks (with the exception of a few standouts like the previously mentioned "Hyperspace"). His stories were usually based around standard genre narratives like solving a murder or searching for buried treasure or landing on an alien planet. Montgomery in contrast would have some of the most straight up bizarre setups, which sometimes would come at the cost of making a coherent or fair story . Case in point is "House of Danger". Just look at that dogeared cover and try to figure out what the hell is going on here. There's a sadistic Confederate general, crazed apes, murderous neanderthals, a runaway stagecoach, a modern home, and a cut rate Scooby Doo team. As I recall all these things do show up in this book. I believe the general idea was that you and your friends investigate a mysterious house that has rooms that lead to different times and dimensions. I also recall that this was a brutally difficult game book with very few non-death or generally successful endings; which was sort of a Montgomery trait.

4. Trouble On Planet Earth
It's like "House of Danger" but everything is set to 10. Instead of some mystery house on your block, you and your friend who kind of looks Paul from the Wonder Years meets Shock G get involved in a bunch of potential conspiracies that threaten the entire Earth. I know there were some plots that involved aliens and the Pyramids and often times you would end up abducted on a spaceship. The grotesque fat and his buddy Joe Biden were part of some other story line where they reveal themselves to be from some sort of secret Illuminati-type society with plans of world domination. I would also say that I can't recall ever getting a good ending in this mad fever dream of a book. This was Montgomery at his absolute craziest. It's not the best written CYOA adventure but it's one of the most unique.

3. Journey Under The Sea
R.A. Montgomery's first book, and the second book ever in the CYOA series, Journey Under The Sea is one of his most straight forward books (and possibly his best plotted). One of the great things about the early CYOA books were the high volume of endings they contained. With most long running series the writers just had more ideas early on. Some of the later CYOA books started to repeat stories and barely contained double digit endings. At a whopping 42 possible endings, this may be the most prodigious book in the series. The story was pretty straightforward, you are some underwater explorer searching for treasure and new underwater discoveries (think Bill Paxton in Titanic). I think the main victory story line involves finding the lost city of Atlantis. I recall you might also fall in love with a mermaid. Of course there are plenty of grim drowning deaths also waiting for you.

2. The Race Forever
Another fairly straightforward effort by Montgomery. The premise is you're a race car driver competing in two different marathon races in Africa. There's an off road race involving jeeps and a faster 24 hours of Le Mans style race with smaller race cars. The first decision you make is choosing which race to enter then which one of two cars; and assuming you're not gored to death by a rhino or your aren't immolated when your car bursts into flames you get to do the other race afterwards. In fact, you can technically put yourself in an infinite loop of races by always choosing the other race after finishing one (I always suspected that's why the title was called "The Race Forever"). Here's a spoiler: the car you choose totally determines if you win the race. In the jeep race pick the Toyota over the Land Rover and in the small car race I think it's the Saab over the Lotus. You're not guaranteed to win with those cars, but at least you won't be guaranteed to lose as is the case with the other cars.

1. Escape
One of my all time favorite CYOA books and probably my favorite Montgomery contribution. Escape takes place in a dystopian America sometime around the mid 21st century. The United States is split into three separate nations (kind of like the Hunger Games) and you are a member of a group of spies from the one democratic state who have to escape the hostile territory of the evil totalitarian state to warn your state of an imminent attack. This was most likely my first introduction to dystopian fiction and the idea of a book set ever so slightly in the future rather than a distant Buck Rogers rocket ship future. I remember the first page had an alternate map of the US split into three and the whole idea fascinated me. I recall plenty of action and surprises in this one and overall the book had a sense of suspense given the high stakes and dangerous situation. You never knew who to trust (potential spoiler, I believe the guy with the glasses in your party turns out to be a double agent) or which path to go as you tried to make your titular escape. Interesting note, this is one of the few CYOA books to have a sequel, the not as memorable "Beyond Escape". I think with a few tweaks this story could be modified into a successful modern teen dystopian trilogy.