Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Where has Sully been?

It's been a phenomenal few months, and Toronto has been exceedingly kind to me, providing me opportunities to enjoy great friends, a great job, and a good life in general.

That's not what Sully's blog was ever about, so I won't go into it until everything starts to fall to pieces and there's something of interest in there to you sadistic die-hards.

Updates have dried up here while I endeavour to somehow make money writing about videogames, and today I actually have something to show for this dearth of updates.

My first published piece on IGN.com - one of the websites that impressed upon me that I wanted to write about videogames in the first place.

The Evolution of Xbox Live Arcade

This has been a bucket-list item for years, so I'm hugely excited to see it finally happen (within about 3 months of trying, too!)

To follow the rest of my videogame writing updates, keep an eye on Sully.ie

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Reflections on a transatlantic move #1 - Making Friends

I moved to Toronto at the end of September, which has been a great experience so far, but since it's been almost two months since I posted about the motivations behind the move, I thought it'd be appropriate to follow up with some more introspection on how things are going.

Making Friends
It's incredibly easy to make friends when you're a foreign guy in a new city, especially if you have no friends. My friend-making skills are rusty - I've tended to ride the coattails of my childhood friends or girlfriends for the past few years, but now that I'm away from all friends and family, I need a support-network, and my efforts reflect that.

Some friends of mine were playing a few gigs in Toronto, which meant I had people to tag along to bars with for a few evenings. I'd walk up to people, introduce myself, and make chit-chat for a while. This approach can't fail, especially since many of the conversations with Canadians start with "You're from Ireland? That's so cool!" I've been the foreign guy in a few different cultures before - you never run out of things to talk about, because people are generally interested in hearing about the curiosities of their culture that they take for granted. Armed with a few humorous ice-breaking anecdotes of my first-impressions of Toronto, I got into plenty of fun conversations with people that led to valuable advice on finding places to live, work, or just things to experience.

One facet of psychology that's always stuck with me is that if you want people to like you, have them do you a favour - it seems counter-intuitive, but even if someone is telling you a load of information you already know, or offering to take you to a place you've already been, just go along with it.

From my first couple of nights out, I had a stock of phone numbers, twitter-handles and e-mail addresses to follow up on, and I realized that my friendship 'problem' was now a matter of quality control (granted, most of the consideration that went into deciding who to get in touch with was who is most likely to drug and rape me).

I was concerned that since I'm in a relationship, it'd cripple my appeal somewhat, and cut off certain 'shortcuts' that have worked in the past (to paraphrase a dear friend; I can't fuck my way into a social circle), but I've met some great people that I'm excited to call my friends - I'll delve into the 'reinvention' clichés in another post.

Being a teetotaller does not help one in making friends. Minds boggle at the thought of alcohol abstinence. Everybody wants or expects a quick, narrative explanation, and since I don't have one, they assume that I'm hiding something dark. Alcoholic? Religious-nut? Dryballs? My strategy is to hold off admitting to it as long as possible (depending on the circumstance, naturally), but I could tell that I was disappointing a lot of would-be friends by declining drinks, or passing shots off onto my coconspirators. The cooler people would say "that's awesome that you don't drink - want to go outside and get high?" I'm offered weed in Toronto about as often as I'm offered tea in Ireland, and I feel about as bad for not being interested in this social icebreaker.

I find that I've been hesitant - almost hostile - about engaging with the Irish community in Toronto, as if not having an entirely Canadian support-network constitutes a failure to emigrate 'properly', but every fellow expat has been awfully decent, with many going out of their way to offer some sagely wisdom to spare me weeks of figuring stuff out for myself. I'm pretty sure that as the weeks crawl by, and the need to get more stable work grows, I'll be pulled into the orbit of the Irish community proper. Which will be a good thing. One can never have enough people to not drink with.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Keith Barry and the Massive Os

Keith Barry is an Irish magician. That's about 90% of what I know about him. I caught his Irish TV show a few years ago, and it seemed that he was just aping Derren Brown's tricks and style, but without the charm. I didn't pay too much attention to him.

When he was hosting Ireland's version of Deal or No Deal, I had assumed that he had given up on the magicianing lark, but it seems that his star has continued to rise - his hypnotism shows have drawn major crowds and broken records in Ireland, and he even made a 4-part series for Discovery.

He's clearly doing something right, and I've great respect for magicians, but when I tuned in to his appearance on Limerick's Live 95FM to promote his tour, he just sounded like a perverted 13-year old boy, giddily bragging about how ladies were having "massive Os" on stage. In case you missed it, he said it again and again, each time more unnerving, an ill-fitting phrase-of-choice for a man in his thirties. Yes Keith, your potency is such that ladies can orgasm from your very suggestion, but please don't sound like such a potential-sex offender next time you're trying to lure in the bawdy blue-collar crowd.

I couldn't find a copy of the recording, but in the first interview I found on YouTube, he asserts that the camerawoman is 'waxed, not shaven' within the first minute. Classy, classy guy!

Anyhow, what really prompted this ad was catching a few minutes of 'Deception with Keith Barry' on Discovery. I noticed that the producers put as much effort into designing the title card as Keith does into creating his act. Keith sees what other magicians are doing that looks cool, and then claims it as his own.

So the producers are making his title screen - they take a picture of him standing in front of something with his arms crossed, slap some text over it, then click through the fonts until something looks decent, like 12-year old girls formatting a book report.

"'Cracked' looks cool. Good enough for you? Let's pillowfight!"

It bothers me when this is done, so to punish Keith Barry and the lack of effort, I made a graphic of the show that I wish I caught five minutes of:

Still not painting a proper picture? Okay - everyone knows and is sick of Comic Sans, right? This is how much effort they put in:

Alright, that's all for today. File this under 'General begrudgery of successful Irish people'.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Perfect Storm

A few weeks back, my Twitter account was successfully phished.

Since I have an image of myself as a person who does not enter passwords willy-nilly on spurious websites, cognitive-dissonance reduction has kicked in to assure me that I couldn't have not entered my password on that fateful day. I was at the mercy of the perfect storm.

Let me introduce all the moving parts in this sequence.

About a month ago, I moved to Toronto. Since I figured I'd need to stay connected to the internet, I sniffed out the cheapest smart-phone & plan possible to get me started. My friends were playing a music festival in town, so I let them crash with me for a few days. Since the place was small, sharing beds was inevitable. Since one of my guests is a total shutterbug, there were plenty of photographs taken at inappropriate times, and threats of ruined political-careers flying about.

A few nights into their trip, we were all dispersed within a single pub, mingling with the locals. My friends and I had been using Twitter to stay in touch while we were apart, so when I got a direct message alerting me to a 'funny picture' of me making its way online, I didn't suspect its veracity. I had seen some of the incriminating photos on his phone, so I clicked on the link to see what the damage was.

The phone I've been using is a piece of junk. It's an Acatel 980S, and it's plagued with a grotesque lack of memory, so it regularly flushes the browser-cache to keep things moving. It's not unusual to be logged out of a website I was just using, so when I clicked on the link from within my TweetDeck app and was presented with the Twitter login page, it didn't set off any alarm bells. I wasn't thinking too much about what I was doing, other than pretending to still be interested in the Canuck droning on about how cool Ireland was when he visited as a nipper.

I wasn't on the real Twitter site, and I didn't realize until I had entered my username and password (probably incorrectly, since the tiny screen makes the onscreen keyboard worthless) and hit submit. The error page wasn't quite right. Something was wrong. I went looking for my friend in the pub and asked him if he has sent me a picture. He had no idea what I was talking about. I had just done something incredibly stupid.

Serves me right for being such a rude prick.

From there on, it was actually quite tricky to change my password - I couldn't find the option on the Twitter mobile site, and the regular Twitter site kept redirecting me to the mobile version. Eventually I had to Google 'Twitter password change' to be brought to the page I wanted.

Lesson learned: pay more attention to links you click on. Fundamental of internet-security proven: having different passwords for different services is essential, and in this case I was quite relieved to think that the password I volunteered to the phishers wouldn't get them in anywhere other than my fairly unimportant Twitter profile.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Robocop 2 - Déjà Vu Revue

It's been years since I've seen Robocop 2. The only details I remembered from my childhood is a fight in an arcade, a terrible CG face, and that the main villain is a kid.

So, how did it hold up? Read on!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Random Thoughts From A Worldly Primate

This post is a blatant ripoff of the frighteningly insightful knowledge-bombs frequently dropped over at Apes In Elysium, which you should be reading instead of this piffle.

The only real-world use I have ever got out of the Irish language is impressing foreigners or talking about them. This is all I ever expect to get out of it. That so many of my peers are incapable of stringing a basic sentence together in Irish strengthens the notion I've held for years that we are pissing away millions of man-hours keeping a braindead language on life-support. This time and money could - and should! - be put to much better use elsewhere. Traditions be damned, keep a few experts trained up and leave it at that.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Oh... Canada

Note: This is a personal post. If you’re interested in reading about a white dude making post-hoc rationalisations about why he left his homeland, you might get some enjoyment out of the following.

Dear reader, I have joined the growing number of recent Irish-graduates who have emigrated fled from the homeland in search of greener pastures abroad. Eleven days ago I arrived in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with no job, no friends, and no idea of where I was going to live. The days that followed were a blitz of e-mails, phonecalls, apartment viewings, and disappointments. It was quite an adventure.

So when people ask me “Why Toronto?”, that’s the short, polite answer – it’s an adventure. I’ve been asked to elaborate a few times since I arrived, but my answer varies every time, so I’m sitting down now to try and tease out the motivations. Here are the first few to come to mind:

It’s closer to the USA 

This is such a stupid reason, but I’m awfully fond of that girlfriend of mine in the States.

I’d move there if I could, but for a dude with no ‘soft’ skills like mine, I’m not an attractive prospect for employers in the US of A, who must prove that the dirty foreigners they hire are so uniquely talented that they’re not stealing jobs from the natural-borns.

Taking time off to see the missus can be awkward when it requires a transatlantic flight, so hopefully moving to the same continent will facilitate some more face-time.

It’s not Ireland

That title might be needlessly broad. Specifically, it’s not Limerick, which is where I’ve been keeping busy for the past few years. Since my work didn’t feel like it was building towards something, I decided it was time to try something else.

With the ladyfriend committed to another 2 years of school and work in the States, it doesn’t seem like there’s a point in starting some new endeavour in Ireland, when the plan is to leave eventually anyhow.

Furthermore, living in Limerick feels post-apocalyptic. People are obsessed with the diminishing supply of jobs. Permanently angry inbred-tribes maraud around in horses and traps, pilfering as they wish from the remaining businesses while the local authorities shrug their shoulders in languid indifference.

Guilt for a privileged existence 

Life was too easy. I had plenty of disposable income (which I'll choose attribute to not-drinking, and not being grossly overpaid), good friends that were consistently great company, and a stereotypical Irish mother who would browbeat me into doing my laundry and cooking for me as often as possible, despite my efforts to live independently (paradoxically, she would then complain about how I never did these things for myself).

When I had settled into a routine of family, friends and work, the only things that would stand out from my day were the frustrations. It’s my hope that by scrapping the infrastructure I had in place, I’ll be happier with my lot in life. Allow me to elaborate on that one:

To be a Self-Made Man

I’m not terribly good at making friends. Not necessarily because of my odious personality, but because of a lack of willingness. The friends I had in college were the same friends I had in secondary school. As the social circle grew through the outreach of these childhood friends, I was along for the ride, but didn’t contribute to the friend-tally.

Part of this is because I’m not terribly sentimental (which is why it tears me up admitting to a fondness for another human being), and my self-esteem isn’t based on how many people come to my birthday parties. The friends I made on my college-course amounted to a mere handful of intellectually stimulating sons-a-bitches, and they were kept separate from my other group. When I went to Pittsburgh Billy-no-mates, I made a few dear friends that I still try to see as often as possible.

Of course, in college, there’s a structure in place that lends itself to meeting people. Wiping the slate clean and trying to build a support network in a foreign city is a whole new challenge, one that should get me excited about just one stranger asking me if I want to meet up again sometime.

On this note, I should note that I already felt a spike of elation when I secured a place to live starting in November, and the few successful social interactions I’ve had so far are all the more gratifying, since it feels like the foundations of a new support-network.

All the cool kids are doing it

It’s somewhat disingenuous of me to say that I’ve left all my friends behind, since they’ve been leaving me behind in growing numbers for the past few years; relocating to various parts of the world in gainful employment, or on a world-tour of the pubs and dives of planet Earth.

If they can do it, why can’t I? And if not now, when?

That’s all the introspection I’m going to allow for now. The tone of this is rather final, considering that I’m over here on a one-year work permit, but my current hope is that - whatever my relationship with Canada over the coming years - this is the beginning of the end of me calling Ireland home.

Don’t be surprised if this blog gets a little travelogue-y as I come to grips with my new city. I might also post some advice and resources for anyone about to follow in my footsteps, so that they can avoid all the social pitfalls I'll be hurling myself into over the coming weeks and months.