Monday, March 29, 2010

PAX East 2010: My Magical Trip To Hogwarts

An image of a screen with a .jpg on it, that I'm reconstituting here to use as a .jpg!

A little over a month ago, when I was blasting my way through the Harry Potter series, I had a moment of absolute, pure unadulterated desire to just close my eyes and BE a student at Hogwarts. Studying spells, making potions, hanging with the Gryffindors students (naturally I'd be one of them), playing Quidditch, you know, the typical life of a young wizard. Then I'd open my eyes and I'd lament the boring, magic-less world I currently lived in. (Side note: A friend once revealed to me she doesn't enjoy fiction because she gets upset that it "can't be real," and thus has stopped reading it [as in, all not 100% plausible fiction] entirely. My jaw just DROPPED - I'd never felt more disconnected from another human being in my life before that moment)

Early on during my trip to PAX East 2010 in Boston, I had a funny little revelation: I was actually, in a way, on a little mini-trip to Hogwarts! Don't believe me? See for yourself:

It all started off with a train ride. A train that could be found on track 3...and well, exactly 3. (I know, I know, but bear with me)

You can't really tell by the picture, but only I can see this train!

When I arrived, there was a Great Feast! Several of them, in fact. Often times at the nearby food court in the mall connected to the convention center.

Dinner @ P.F. Chang's

The Joystiq Blueberry Muffin Tops breakfast

The Ancient Food Court that someone always had just enough seating for all of us! OOOoo000....

There were wizards and witches!
Hey bro, why not magic up a razor or something?

Emasculated by a bullet witch. Now my life is...complete?

And mystical beings abound!
Why oh why did I leave my enchanted bastard sword in the cave of elders?!
These two were the victims of a particularly powerful sexy curse.
What makes this horse magical? Well look how brightly he shines, so obviously late at night!

Of course, it wasn't all fun and games, there were important classes to attend, to educate the young minds of tomorrow for the world ahead of us.
Will Wheton's Keynote Address To Nerds Everywhere

This is not a picture of the "So you wanna work in the game industry?" panel,
but you'd never know that unless I just told you, which I did. Do'h.

And after classes were over, all eyes were turned to the competition that only a select few participants were allowed to play: The Omegathon! 16 teams of 2 eventually whittled down to a final round of 2 vs. 2:

And of course, it wouldn't be Hogwarts if there wasn't lots and LOTS of magic:

Look at the Magic!

And the deople, um doing magic!
So F-ing Magic(:The Gathering)-al!

What's that you say? I'm just grasping at straws, making loose associations with things I saw at PAX and connection them tangentially to things in JK Rowling's books? Fine, fine, you're right. Way to spoil my fun. But wait...there was this last thing I saw:

Whew. Saved once again by a chocking hazard warning.

That's right. I caught the mother f-ing GOLDEN SNITCH. Pretty easily too. But it was like, way too expensive so I put it back on the Barnes & Noble shelf where I found it.

There were some other things that happened at PAX too, that I suppose are non-Harry Potter related but probably still worth mentioning:

-My first night there I was (I think) hit on my a 45 year old gay man jacked up on coke who was absolutely entranced (likely in part due to the cocaine) by the gaming world. He came over to a table we were playing a card game at and just sat down at first, staring at us. Our conversation went something like this:

"Hey man, what's up? You play?"

"No man...Not. At. All. This is just...crazy to me, you know?"
"Heh...well actually, this is normal to us, it's why we're here. You here for the convention?"
"Yeah...well, no, it's for work, but I just saw you guys and I thought how crazy is this? You're just all sitting here...playing games, and it's like, you're all adults, you know? I haven't played games since I was a kid!"
"Yup. Well...that's what this thing is all about. All those people who grew up still playing games, we all get together and come here to play games..."
(here's where it gets, well, SO weird)
"But like, I'm 45 years old, and I'm GAY, and it's like, no one cares. It's SO weird!"
"Well, it's 2010..."
"This guys GETS it! Right here, I like this guy!"
"Uh, thanks." (he stares at me with a smile for about a minute)
"Do you do coke? Because I just came down here, did some coke, and was hanging out, but man, this is so weird..."
"Yeah, thanks for telling me that. That explains a lot of what just happened."

-We all fell in love with a board game called Munchkin that I had played before, but never as intensely as we played it there. This game, kind of a D&D lite played with a deck of cards, easily took up 1/4 of my time there.
Hour 2 of 4 into this game.

-Last year at PAX '09 I had the pleasure of meeting Kotaku writer Stephen Totilo and meeting and subsequently being interviewed by the creator of the gaming podcast "A Life Well Wasted" Robert Ashley. This past time I was lucky enough to meet with Justin McElroy and Ludwig Kietzmann, two of the three writers and podcasters for Joystiq. And Justin (who I emailed over a year ago about my year off from games and who ultimately wound up interviewing me for the site) actually recognized me and called out my name before I said anything to him, which I thought was awesome!
What a sexy bunch of gamers.

I also met up with Stephen Totilo again at the Kotaku after party, this time a much hungrier version of him. AND - in a funny, random moment, wound up in line for the Joystiq Blueberry Muffin Top breakfast right behind the LoadingReadyRun guys who organize the Desert Bus charity drive each year. What's crazy is that I was second in line right behind them, when they just so happened to be the previous/first act of the podcast I was in back in September. So I was literally second in line behind the guys I was virtually second in line behind a few months earlier. To quote a guy I once met: "So weird!"

-I got to meet up with Jon Huie, who runs the gaming website I write for. We even took some time to record a podcast together too - live and in person, like how those radio guys used to do things back in the days when radio existed!
One step backwards for technology, but two steps forward for friendship!

-I didn't see as much of PAX heads Gabe and Tycho as I did last year, and it's very easy to forget them a sea of so much else that's going on (they've said time and time again their goal is set things up and then step aside) but I did manage to catch the two of them drawing their webcomic together live on stage. It's funny - once upon I time, and I mean before the age of 10, I used to LOVE drawing and wanted nothing more than to be a cartoonist. That dream faded with no real regrets, but I definitely admire the passion and dedication these guys put into what is not apparently only 1/3 of their jobs. Actually, scratch that, I pretty much admire everything they do.

I could totally trace that!

At one point, at an audience member's request Gabe and Tycho switched places, and Gabe gave drawing a shot and drew what could only be described as the best drawing of his character ever:
We officially need a spin off comic.

-I actually didn't play many video games at PAX East, believe it not. PAX has become, at least for me, more of an excuse to be social around gamers than about picking up a controller at any given time. But one particular game I wound up WATCHING a ton of was Skate 3 - specifically a mode (Thrasher? Hall of Meat?) where you purposefully send your skater flying off a cliff and try to cause as much harm as humanly possible. Absolutely ridiculous, but enthralling and addictive. I find myself unable to look away at times.

-While I didn't play much at PAX East, I did at one point stop to play a Bioshock 2 multiplayer game at one point, against 5 other people, and I totally came out on top, having never played before! And the other players were totally competent looking, really!

Psst - hey guys, he doesn't have a job right now, let's give him something.

-Finally (and boy is this post getting long, huh?) some pictures and videos I like but don't have anything particularly exciting to say about them:

Some fantastic cosplaying from one of my favorite DS games of all time, The World Ends With You

These are the guys I spent most of the trip with - former coworkers/patrons of a really really sweet game job I used to have. RIP NYCLAN!

And finally, this.

Totally psyched for the next PAX (and the one after that),

Up Next...POST #100!!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Great Ideas I Defy The Internet To Shoot Down, Part One

Oh sweet sweet readily available pile of cash money, I hardly knew ye...

UPDATE - Well, consider this idea (at the least the shorter men's clothing store) SHOT DOWN. Wah wahhh. :(

As I sit here, at home in my jammies, now officially dealing with my second bout of unemployment in 2 years, I find myself pondering potential get rich quick schemes. But as I'm mostly short on those (and I can only buy so many lottery tickets), the next logical thought in my brain is brilliant, never before heard of business ideas, which I've had a few of over the years. One of my favorites is Matt Shafeek's Small N' Svelt Retail Outlet & Clothes Shrinking Shop*, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like.

As a shorter man, I've had my fair share of difficulty dealing with over-sized men's clothing at most retail stores. Most American clothing stores size men clothes in such a way that the smallest available size is apparently for man at least 6 inches taller than me (and I may be short, but I'm pretty sure there are a lot of men shorter than 5'10") And to top it off, there's PLENTY of "Big & Tall" men's clothing stores, but not a lot of options for men who fall on the other side of the scale. I used to just grin and bear it but I've become less and less ok with wearing many of the clothes that are clearly too long on me. Places like H&M are a tad better but I think still not enough.

I may or may not have mentioned this before (as I approach my 100th post (!), a new, recurring fear is that I am posting a repeat blog entry without even realizing it - oh fuck, have I said this before???), but never this fully fleshed out.

Anyways, my store has a two-pronged attack to cater to the lower-center-of-gravity market. One is the obvious: smaller clothes, but obviously all just as stylish as the ones you'd find in your Banana Republics, your Abercrombies, your Fitches. With lots of pockets, obviously. I will vet a wide variety of top-end fashion designers, who will all of course be begging to be a part of my new brand, all the while kicking themselves for not thinking of this idea sooner. The second prong, the real genius of my store/plan/ticket to cashville involves my soon to be patented clothes-shrinking technology. Like the Iron Man suit, only mostly dryer-based.

How did I get in this blog post, exactly?

I've seen evidence that this is possible on some level. Surely, like anything else, there's a science to it, right? Why can't a person, given enough time, and free access to a Laundry Palace full of small, medium, and large dryers figure out a way to shrink ANY article of clothing (assuming it's not, you know, Dry Clean Only) down to an exact, pre-determined size? Because if I could, internet, oh, how wonderful life would be!

I guess I'll stop my dreaming here and post that question to all of you out there right now: Is there a logical, scientific or otherwise practical reason why a person couldn't figure out a way to purposefully shrink down their clothes in a dryer, given the necessary resources? I'm dying to know, if just for curiosity's sake! And if it is possible, and you have $10,000 to spare, boy, have I got a pitch for you!

You'd like these 38/34s made into 32/30's? Let me just adjust the Drux Capacitor...

Haha, maybe that's what the new format for this blog will be: me pitching crazy brainstorming ideas that I DEFY anyone on the internet to shoot down (and/or steal my idea, which I'm fully aware I'm also inviting).


Currently Playing: Not too much at the moment, but I'm off to the first ever PAX East tomorrow, so I'm sure there will be plenty to report once I get back!

*For brevity's sake, I may change this to just: Shafeek's Small & Svelt Shrinkage Emporium. Catchier, right?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

My Signature Signature

At a restaurant recently a friend (now more of a 'frenemy') pointed out the fact that I had a lousy signature. And he was absolutely right! Since the age of about 10, or whenever I learned to write in script, my signature has been this, which is essentially my name in crappy 4th grade script:

Yup. All letters accounted for. A+ for consistency.

On a number of occasions during the time between then and now, I did realize that I didn't love my boring signature, but I came up with excuse that the letters in my name (specifically the 'M' and the 'S' didn't really lend itself to any super snazzy. If either my names started with an R or a Z...well, then I'd have no excuse but to show off, right?

Well, ever since that night I've begun to hate my old signature, and I've become painfully aware of just how often I deliver it to the world on a regular basis. Timesheet approvals! UPS deliver confirmations! The backs of new credit cards! The cycle (more of a persistent pattern, really) has to stop!

So I've started working on something new. I've been scribbling my work-in-progress signature on random sheets of paper like a school girl fawning over her new crush. I don't know that I've perfected it yet, but I think it's safe to say it's an improvement over what I had before:

But, but...who is this person? Maria Sharapova?!?!

Your signature is such a simple way to show off some personality, and I can't believe it's taken me this long to embrace that. I'm open to suggestions and submissions if you feel like sharing, plus I'd love to hear about anyone's own signature origin story.


Currently Playing: I spent an awful stormy Saturday night last night indoors finally conquering the bonus 9th world in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. The next to last stage (9-7) was BONKERS but so utterly satisfying once I finally collected all 3 big coins and beat the level. (Side note: man, these sections must sound incredibly silly to someone not at all into games, huh? I guess I can safely assume they simply don't read this part) I also spent the previous night enjoying some Tatsunoko vs Capcom with a close friend who also embraced my new obsession with Harry Potter, busting out the remaining three movies I hadn't seen (spot analysis: some decent entries overall, but I'll be a snob and say just go ahead and read the books). Finally, I dabbled in a ton of other demos and DLC last weekend, which I talked about on the latest amped gaming podcast, available for download here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

(Text) Adventures In Dating: Part 1*

Dating is hard. Some might go so far as to call it miserable. But sometimes, you just gotta laugh.

About two weeks ago (shame on me for taking this long to get this amazing story posted on the blog), I met a girl on my way to practice near Penn Station. She was crossing the street and I noticed she wasn't wearing any socks, which was unusual given the fact that February was one of the snowiest months we've had on record. In fact, there was snow on the ground at that very moment, and I found it funny that anyone would make such a decision. It also didn't hurt that she was very cute. So I decided to stop her on the street and ask her for an explanation for the lack of proper footwear. She laughed and said she had socks in her purse, and was in a hurry to get to some class/seminar she was late for. I walked with her for a block, I got her name (Padma) and her number and said goodbye, feeling kind of proud of myself for pulling that whole thing off.

Turn left, walk north, then proceed to ignore all red flags

Later that evening I decided to kick things off by texting her: "Hope you're keeping your feet warm" because that's cute, right? Which was confirmed via her "lol" minutes later. Then came a barrage of texts that individually would be fine, but collectively felt a little bit strange (foreshadowing!). Over the next 10 minutes, she asked:

"What do you do?"
"What kind of company is that?"

"Where is it?"
"What kind of shows do you perform?"
"How often are your shows?"
"Why did you approach me?"
"If you had 6 months to live, how would you choose to live out the rest of your life, and why?"

That last one wasn't real, though it probably would have led to more interesting conversation than we actually had. Towards the end I wrote back: "Whoa! You ask a lot of questions. Do me a favor, don't ever watch Lost!" to which she responded: "What's that?", which as you can imagine is a Class A Matt Shafeek Dealbreaker as far as awful things you can say to me to turn me off, next to: "Video games, those are like, for kids, right?" and "Was that supposed to be funny?". I mean seriously - I know not everyone has amazing taste in television, or knows proper usage of their spare time. I know not everyone watches Lost, and they don't all love it, but to never have even heard of it at this point, when it's currently in the middle of its SIXTH AND FINAL AMAZING SEASON? How is that possible? Again, things were definitely going a bit strangely, but against my better judgments, I decided to press on. (Did I mention she was super cute?)

I invited her to my improv show the next night, and she said she'd try to make it. I figured if she was in the audience, I'd have to tell my team to keep the references non-topical, and culturally irrelevant. She'd also probably not mind if there were tons of questions, typically an improv no-no.

So the show comes and goes, and she doesn't make an appearance, which was fine. I went out for a drink with my team, and while we were at the bar, I texted her: "You missed a fun show tonight!" because that's cute, right? The following is the exact text exchange we had, which may very well go down in history as one of my - no sorry - the greatest, in the history of text exchanges:

Her: "Sry...Kinda in some financial situation."

When I get this, I figure, weird, a little TMI really, but whatever. But then...

Her: "I need 500 for tomorrow"

Oh boy. Is she looking for an offer from me? I just met her! Lame! Sympathetically, I respond:

Me: "Wish I had that kind of money on hand. No friends, family to help out?"

Her: "No. Is there anything you can do for me?"

Surely this woman must have someone other than a guy she just met to help her out. A loving father, perhaps?

Her: "How much do you have. I really need it, even if I have to sleep with someone for it I will do it"

Oh. Ok. Wow. Yeah, I understand exactly what's going on now. You are a prostitute. A hooker. A lady of the evening. A woman about town. (I can go on and on) By 'picking you up' on the street, you must have thought we were entering some of sort of 'pre-cash exchange john/call girl foreplay'.

Her: "I have never been in this situation."

Mmm-hmm. Funny, neither have I!

I debated all kinds of hilarious responses to say to her, debating with my friends how low I could negotiate her down to [$25 for a blowie? $10 for some light foot play? An offer of $1000 to "meet me" on a dark corner in the middle of Bed-Stuy?], but ultimately decided to go with:

Me: "Sorry babe. I don't pay for it. Good luck with your situation."

And finally, the last of our glorious exchange, the button on this whole ridiculous conversation/relationship:

Her: "It's ok I'll call my dad"

Oh yeah! Hah, you know, that's probably a good back-up plan to LITERALLY WHORING YOURSELF OUT!!

I sure know how to pick 'em, huh? Next time I approach a girl on the street, I guess I'll just start off the conversation by saying: "Hey, I think you're sexy, but before this goes any further, I'm not paying for it, mm-kay?" Because that's...cute, right?

Well, you know what they say: You can't spell loneliness with L-O-L!


Everything's gonna be ok, Harry!

Currently Playing: Finished up Mass Effect 2, (anyone who's played and beaten it, feel free to listen to my spoiler-filled amped gaming podcast discussing my thoughts on it here) and I've been dabbling a bit in 'Splosion Man, and the new Resident Evil 5 DLC (I just can't seem to get away from it!). Other than that, I have been absolutely obsessed with the Harry Potter series as of late. The books, which, technically don't belong here, are fantastic, even for a man clearly way outside the target demo, and I thought it was worth mentioning. I don't think I've ever finished an 800+ page book in two weeks before...or possibly, ever at all! I'm on book six right now, and I anticipate being completely done with the series by month's end.

*I say 'Part 1' because I can already tell there's going to be a LOT more stories like these before all is said and done.