Of styro-stuffing, set-building, and starting to feel like home

When we toured the house in Utah that we’ve wound up renting, the first glimpse of the basement – an area as big as the living room upstairs, but in a decidedly unfinished state without even so much as drywall in most places – there was talk of contractors coming and going for the first several weeks that we were there until the room was done.

Having come from a house that had, for several years, had bare concrete floors, I took one look and said we’d take it as-is. I saw exposed beams and rafters from which lights could be hung, places where a camera or two could be mounted, unfinished walls where I could put acoustic foam to make the space a better recording studio, and the floor was nothing new to me. I saw the studio that this space could be. Read More

Review: The Atomic Arcade

I looked up lots of things about the Salt Lake City area months before moving there: schools, housing prices, utility prices, jobs, restaurants, retro arcades.

Retro arcades? Well, yes. I’d think you would have to be completely new to the blog to know that Fayetteville, Arkansas’ own Arkadia Retrocade was quite rightly regarded by the entire family as “the happiest place on Earth”. Before or after the divorce, if we needed a stiff shot of undistilled happy, we headed up I-49 to Fayetteville to visit Arkadia’s vast collection of working vintage arcade video games, where you pay five bucks at the door and get a great big dose of happy.

Both of my boys have been weaned on the classics of the ’80s – Little C is a Q*Bert and Ms. Pac-Man fan, while E is a fan of more elaborate console quests like Super Mario and Legend Of Zelda. Finding a good family-friendly retro arcade along the lines of Arkadia on our new turf is seriously a top priority. I’ve heard a lot about Flynn’s Retrocade in Roy, Utah, but that’s further away from our current home base than Fayetteville was from Alma – it’s at least an hour’s drive north, closer to Ogden than to Salt Lake City. Much closer than that is The Atomic Arcade in Holladay, just slightly east from Salt Lake City. Online reviews were a muddled mix of positive and negative. My overall impression from a brief visit with my kids tended very much toward the negative. Read More

The Packening III: The Packening Continues

As is generally well known at this point, once my house was mine alone (and my kids), I started taking great strides – well, as many as I could afford on a tight budget – to make the place my own in a way it hadn’t been before. When I was married, there was a kind of clenched-teeth agreement (or at least it seemed that way to me) that, since I wasn’t going to suddenly become a different person and shed all of my interests and hobbies, those interests and hobbies were not to be visible beyond the confines of the room I was graciously granted as a sort of man cave. I never really worked out what was acceptable as decor in the rest of the house, because it quickly became a hoarder’s paradise. (And to be fair: we both contributed to that.) Once she was no longer in the house, I pretty much reversed that, not so much as an act of rebellion as an act of preserving my sanity in the early post-divorce days: once properly cleaned up, the house just seemed big and empty. A few lucky on-sale Hobby Lobby finds let me put my true colors on the walls.

Signs of the times

Signs of the Time Lords

When the Art Of Atari Poster Book came out, and I figured out Wal-Mart had frames all but ready-made for prints of that size for five bucks, well, things just kind of went from there.

Signs of Spacetime

Oh, and don’t forget the handful of arcade marquees that weren’t donated to Arkadia Retrocade.

Fantasy

How will all of this play out in Utah, where I’ll likely go from being a homeowner to a renter who’s forbidden to drive a nail into the wall? Believe it or not, there’s a solution in hand for this problem. I’ll cover that in a future post. Until then…all of my smaller wall hangings are ready to be hung on another wall.

Wall in a box

Work the room

That first time I went to Classic Gaming Expo was quite something. I had won, in a contest on the Digital Press forum, a pass to attend the alumni dinner held the night before the opening of the show proper. This event was a closed-doors event where the game designers, programmers and executives got to mingle and have a bite to eat and a few drinks without the pressure of the paying guests who’d be asking, the next day, “what was it like when…” questions that they probably get asked every year. Me, I was neither a game designer nor a programmer. I had, in fact, played Atari today, but I hadn’t worked there. I liked to think of myself as a historian and a game journalist at best, but definitely felt out of my depth. To my mind, this meant one thing: sit back, shut up, soak it all up and remember it. Listen, don’t interject. This ain’t your party, but you got in anyway, just relax and enjoy like you belong there. In short, it’s advice I’ve given to my kids as they grow up: it’s not all about you.

Well, that’s what I thought going in anyway. Some of the show’s honored guests graced us with their presence on the forums and we were already acquainted in an internet kind of way. I was almost immediately greeted by ex-Apple-and-Atari programmer Steve Woita, who is a bundle of almost-zen-like friendly in a Hawaiian shirt, and he immediately introduced me to Keith Robinson, president of Intellivision Productions. Keith and his cohorts – the “Blue Sky Rangers” – had been the original programmers for the Intellivision game console in the ’80s, and when Mattel Electronics dropped the video game business like the hot potato fad they thought it was, Keith bought the rights to the software, the hardware, and the name. It has to be pointed out what a unique situation this was: the Atari that releases games now is neither the Atari that Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney started in Ted’s guest room, nor is it the boom-years giant that it became after Warner Bros. bought it from Nolan. Modern Atari is an intellectual property holding company that scooped up the remains of 1980s Atari at fire-sale clearance prices. Same with the current holders of the Colecovision name and IP. These IP portfolios have changed hands many a time. Intellivision Productions, though? That was always the same bunch of people who had made the games in the first place. And at the center of that web, as its organizing force and its public face, was Keith Robinson.

Keith Robinson
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Everybody’s geekin’ for the weekend, part four: do it again!

Whoosh!In February, the fine folks at Oklahoma City’s Starbase Studios announced another of their open house events, during which all and/or sundry are invited to tour their exquisitely detailed replicas of the original Star Trek shooting sets, free of charge (though it’s hoped that visitors might be impressed enough to drop a few coins in the hat, donating to the upkeep of those sets so future fan-made productions can make use of them. My wife was pregnant with Little C when Little E and I tagged along with some friends to visit the sets last year, and that was before they had built sickbay and started work on a transporter room (!). There was no way she was going to miss out on this open house.

As the date got closer, Little E expressed disappointment that we weren’t going to repeat the entire trip with the Martins – i.e. Friday night at Arkadia Retrocade, and a visit to the Stafford Air & Space Museum in Weatherford, Oklahoma (almost an hour further west from OKC). Since he was so keen on doing it all again, we reserved a hotel room in Weatherford and decided to make it a whole geeky weekend getaway. (It should be pointed out that the timely arrival of a tax refund was pretty much the pivot point where we went from “go to OKC and back” to “make a whole weekend of it.”)

What follows is a ridiculous record – over 60 photos – of the geeky weekend in question. Ready to beam up and go to the moon?

OKC+WXford trip
Click on any photo below for the full-size version – I took “the good camera” this time and didn’t rely on my phone for much of the picture-taking this time around.

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