On The Air!

The rock of New Jersey

Wow! Rusted Hero was just on the radio! That’s right – at 11:30pm this night we were played by the great Lindsay Klein of 105.5 WDHA – the rock of New Jersey. I was, unfortunately, in the air, landing at La Guardia after my Dallas-Austin mini-vacation so I missed the playing of it live. Luckily, Stever was able to grab it. It truly is quite an awesome moment to hear your stuff on the air … lemme tell ya!

Next up, we’re going in and playing a couple of songs acoustically for WDHA on Tuesday the 28th. Don’t know when they’ll play it over the airwaves, but I’ll keep everyone informed (of course)!

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  • Shelby
    Friday, June 10th, 2011 at 21:11 | #1

    This is a large deal! Congratulations – how did this get arranged?

  • Friday, June 10th, 2011 at 21:31 | #2

    Working the connections. Drummer’s fiance’s coworker knew the DJ and got our CD into her hands. We’re already working on our next radio station, believe it or not!

Pause To Reflect

Dallas Mavericks: Western Conference Champions

Once again, I’m living through actual, real, honest-to-goodness magic at the moment. The Mavs are (amazingly/astoundingly/miraculously) in the NBA Finals again. And, just like 5 years ago, everything is happening so fast it’s still hard to fathom, let alone believe.

The stage is the same. The feelings of equal parts joy and anxiety are similar. The foe (crazily enough) is also the same in the Miami Heat. However, there are two very noticeable differences this time around.

Well, I have to admit that there didn’t seem to be any realistic chances we (I’ve been a fan of this team for 8 years now – and we’re talking hardcore fandom – so give me a break when I use the goddamn “we” bullshit) were going to make the finals this year. Three of the top 7 players in the league (according to my old evaluation methods at NBA Sim) successfully hijacked the league after conspiring to play together on the same team. This was absolutely unprecedented in the history of the sport and I felt the deafening destruction of the Mavericks’ championship aspirations before the season had even begun.

Then things got worse.

Savior-of-the-season, Roddy Beaubois, was injured in preseason and didn’t play until 3/4ths of the season was over. And then he was so out of game shape he stopped playing altogether! Next, Dirk went down for 9 games, sinking the Mavs’ excellent start. Finally, Caron Butler, the second-best player on the team suffered a season-ending injury right after Dirk went down. That, added to the fact that so many other teams (Spurs, Lakers, Chicago, Heat) started to look utterly dominant and I began to brace myself for finding victory in smaller, less-championshippy things.

The absolute lowest point of the year was right near the end. The Mavs and the odorous Lakers were tied in wins and vying for the second seed in the playoffs. I felt it was critical that the Mavs win since I believed the defending champion Lakers to be vastly superior and we’d need every advantage – including the home court advantage that came with the higher seed – we could clutch. Well, in that deciding game, the Mavs were defeated. No, humbled. No, demolished. It was a bloodbath. Mavericks were ejected, losing their cool, and I could see the writing on the wall. Other teams started to lick their lips and publicly hoped to face Dallas in the postseason. We’d make the playoffs, sure, but now it seemed a question as to WHO would get to kick our ass.

But then we started to win!

We won after the upstart Blazers made it a series with a miraculous Game 4 comeback. We won against the Lakers – sweeping them 4-0 in a beautifully brief series. We won against the heralded Thunder – who’s average age was 10 years younger than the old-in-the-tooth Mavs. Jason Kidd – aged 38 – played like he was 28. Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic couldn’t miss a 3-pointer. Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler provided some much-needed (and never-before-seen) athletic defense. Dirk was Dirk but was so much Dirk that the nation finally started paying attention.

Well, we won our second trip to the finals and now it’s up to us – the old team of “also-rans” and “never was” – to take down the usurpers and exorcise the ghosts of past playoff failures. This time, however, I’m not going into this one so brazen – not so sure of myself. Those two differences I mentioned earlier are keeping me grounded. I’m amazed we even got here in the first place and I know it’s way too early to celebrate – I’ve earned some valuable wisdom in those 5 years of losing. Can we succeed?

Quote Mark Cuban, owner of the Mavs, after winning the Western Conference Finals: “We ain’t done yet!”

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  • Shelby
    Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 at 16:01 | #1

    Let us pray. Oh Lord, give Stanus the strength to endure the unendurable, bear the unbearable and accept that Your will be done in Miami as it is in Dallas. Amen.

    Go Mavs !!!

The Art Of Crime

Niko Bellic

In the late 80’s and early 90’s there was a fierce war at school. Either you sided with the Sega Genesis or you threw your support behind Nintendo’s original console system and it’s successor, the Super Nintendo. Which side you were on determined who you could and who you couldn’t hang out with at school and lives were constantly lost on recess battlegrounds. Ok, not really, but the marketing at the time hyped up the rivalry to ridiculous proportions and I grew up a die-hard Nintendo man – scoffing at those who preferred Sega and even subscribing to Nintendo Power magazine (under the totally 90’s pseudonym, Radd Syckes).

However, when the Super Nintendo gave it’s last gasp in 1996, I felt slightly disoriented. The next generation console by Nintendo, the N64, didn’t wow me. The games seemed to be too “kiddie” for my maturing tastes and I absolutely detested the controllers. I felt like I couldn’t make the move over to Sega’s new console, the Saturn, either, because of the poor reception it was receiving. I was in video game limbo!

For the next few years I instead focused my efforts on studying and achieving academic success in high school (yeah right). Ok, maybe I just did other things besides buying new video games. But right around 1998, I ended up playing a friend’s completely new console system and was blown away. Out of the blue I was a convert to the Sony PlayStation and, as a result, soon became introduced to my two favorite video game franchises, Metal Gear Solid and Grand Theft Auto.

Well, due to my extremely long backlog of games to play, I recently just finished the latest GTA game (GTAIV) and let me confirm what everyone else has been saying about it (for 3 years now): the game is a masterpiece. You play as Niko Bellic – a Russian immigrant who has just landed in Brooklyn – who seeks to find fortune and redemption in the city. Unfortunately for him (but fortunate for you!), Bellic is an unsavory fellow who just has one elite skill he can ply as his trade: killing people. So, you begin to become well acquainted with the seedy underbelly of New York: drug smuggling for the Russian mob, bank robbing for old Irish gang holdouts, and even conducting assassinations for the New Jersey maffia.

New York City (or Liberty City as it’s called in game) is the perfect backdrop for a GTA game with it’s instantly recognizable landmarks, sprawling area, colorful and varied scenery between boroughs, and sea of interesting people (and their cars) to interact with. Sure, most of the game missions are either escape in a car under these circumstances or kill this person under these circumstances but the story is so great you never really notice and the small unique changes to each mission are good enough to not bore you.

Although I loved every minute of the full GTAIV game, I did make one big mistake. In each of the games (since at least GTAIII), you can achieve 100% – by doing every scripted thing in the game including completing all sidequests, collecting all gear, finding all the hidden items, etc. It’s a massive undertaking and one I’ve never felt the need to do – except for now. Well, I got damn close, but am still missing 1 (of the 200) pigeons and 5 (of the 50) unique jumps. Who knows where they are, but I’ve lost my patience in finding them so I’m moving on to my next video game.

Some little program called Metal Gear Solid 4! I love the PS3!

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The Incredible

Just some duded visiting Los Angeles

I’m a few days late on this due to being busy but I wanted to quickly check in. I want to admit here that I thought the Mavericks would win 1 game in their series against the Los Angeles Lakers and then their season would be over. I don’t know if I would be satisfied with that result, but I’d understand since the Lakers seemed to be the better team.

Oops … the Mavs punked the Lakers and swept them in 4 straight games! Holy shit! I’m not going to be too descriptive or interesting but I’d just like to register my enthusiasm here. Onto the Western Conference Finals!!!

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Poise And Presence

Old ballas

Nice to see my boys in blue win a damn playoffs series! Even though the Mavs were the second seed in the western conference, 4 out of the 5 Yahoo! experts picked their opponents, the Portland Trail Blazers, to win. And 6 of the 12 ESPN experts picked the Blazers, as well. What the hell, guys?

Well, fuck you! The Mavs move on to face … the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers. And though we’ll probably get our asses kicked, I’m happy to experience a series win again!

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The Holy Grail

My first (and only?) completed game

Photo © 2011 Stan Syckes

Holy living fuck – I found it!

Hold up, let’s first get some back story in here. While attending middle school in Texas, Steve and I discovered the wonderful world of ZZT – a computer program that allowed users to create their own, ASCII-graphic video games. Being huge gamers and creative people in general, we fell in love with the DOS-based program and had amassed close to 100 games between us just six years later.

However, mastering the programming language came with a huge learning curve and it took us many, many tries to finally get a handle on the code. I remember that my very first try at a game was about Spider-Man 2009 – a comic I was subscribing to at the time – but I didn’t get very far as I really didn’t know what I was doing at all. Then I went over to my friend, Jordan’s house for a birthday party and he showed us how he had cracked the ZZT code! It was a religious moment – I suddenly could do whatever I wanted in ZZT.

The next two games I made were quite possibly the only ones I ever completed from start to finish. One was called Jordan’s Quest (in honor of the man who taught me how ZZT worked) and the other was Batmonkey (some crappy Batman spoof that didn’t make any sense). Both were utterly forgettable games but since they were finished, I uploaded them to the ZZT community on AOL (yep, that’s how old this story is).

Anyway, skip to my junior year of high school. Steve, my dad and I were all sharing the same computer and space was a premium. At some point many of my old ZZT games were obliterated – lost to the ages of time – including both of these two, only-complete early ones. I was devastated but tried my hardest to find them – but all un-delete programs failed and then a decade-and-a-half long search went unfruitful. I had pretty much accepted that I was never going to ever play these games again.

… Until last week that is! For some reason, I decided to search for “batmonkey” again and actually found an old site from 1994 where someone had a ZIP file containing Jordan’s Quest, Batmonkey, and even an old game of Steve’s. And included was a BatmonkeyFAQ text document written by a 12-year old me that included my home address in Texas (thank god there weren’t many internet predators back then … geez)! I quickly downloaded the treasure along with a copy of ZZT and relived the summer of 1993!

Ugh, what a mess – they were godawful. In fact, there was even a game-ending bug in Batmonkey. But I was ecstatic for finally discovering them and getting another chance to play my childhood. Thank you internet for never deleting data!

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  • Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 at 15:54 | #1

    YOU subscribed to Spider-Man 2099? I know I had a subscription at one time – are you sure you’re not remembering wrong and just read mine?

  • Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 at 16:05 | #2

    Shit … I think you’re right. I had X-Men 2099 which was worse! Though my first game was about Spider-Man 2099 and I remember one screen was where you were supposed to answer the phone but I didn’t know how to get it to work so the smiley-face character just traveled down a drawn arm and touched the phone.

  • Shelby
    Sunday, May 1st, 2011 at 11:32 | #3

    Sorry for the late comment but WOW – what a great find. Back when we were living in Texas I was looking for ways to get you two involved in computer programming and all I could think of was Visual-Basic. It was pretty new (it came out in 1991)but expensive – yes you had to “buy” software back then – and I also had to find away to teach it to you and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to. Anyway, my plans went nowhere with the exception of sending you to “Computer Camp” in the summer of 1994 which I don’t think was much of a success either. But it didn’t matter because you guys found ZZT on AOL, learned it yourself, and the rest is history.

    Now – I want to see an online video of some smokin’ Bat Monkey action. Congratulations.

Surprise of the (Three) Decade(s)

Two thirty-year-olds getting the surprise of their lives

Photo © 2011 An Unnamed Air Force Officer

The first week in April, I traveled back down to Virginia to see some folks and catch a MLS game. Or so I thought!

I took off that Friday to avoid the weekend travel blues and split my time between Cassie’s parent’s house and Stever Manor. I got to see Cassie’s dad’s crazy, new movie room, ran on her 20-year old treadmill, played some acoustic guitars with Richard and Steve at a Guitar Center, ate a ton of shitty food, watched a handful of random 21 Jump Street episodes … basically, it was turning out to be a nice, lazy Northern Virginia weekend.

As usual, we also scrambled to put together a night where all of our friends would get together for a dinner and drinks in DC. By the start of Saturday night, the restaurant had been selected, the people had been primed, and Steve and I set off to Brandon’s for a ride into the city.

On our trip into DC, I got a call from Cassie who said she had arrived early to the restaurant to discover our reservations had been messed up. Basically, we now had an hour to kill so Brandon casually mentioned we could hang out and have a couple of drinks at his new, nearby office while biding our time. His passengers were Steve and I (are there two more laid back people when it comes to planning?) so of course we obliged.

Brandon “unlocked” the door, we stepped into the darkness and suddenly … surprise! The lights flipped on and high up on the balcony above us were all of our friends and family. It was such a shock that I feel like I just froze and had to wait several seconds to compute what was going on. It turns out Cassie went nuts and planned a secret, surprise birthday party for Steve and I … almost a full month after the real date (purposely, to throw of us off her trail). What followed was a lot of food (I had very little), a lot of booze (I had a lot), and ended up with a giant beer pong competition (I lost many, many times).

What can I say? It was was the perfect celebration. Turning 30 is a huge milestone and it was wonderful hitting that terribly, terribly high age amongst the people I love. A great night, thank you everyone!

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I’ve got a couple musical nuggets to share. First up is news about my guitar amplification (yes, your favorite subject). I’ve added two new amps since I did my great (to me, anyway) Amped! post, so here are the newest members of the family in that same, “interesting” presentation:

My ally is the force, and a powerful ally it is7. Jedi Tone
Marsh 2550 Replica
Date Acquired: August 2010
Method of Acquisition: Ordered from the company online
Date Divested: N/A
Method of Divestment: N/A
Time in Use: 7 months

I went to see Mark, a musician living in Brooklyn who offered his expertise on guitar tone to interested Craigslisters. It was only $50 for a couple of hours, and I was still clueless about guitar tone (yes, 15 years into my playing career) so I decided to take the chance. Long story short, it was a great experience and I learned a lot.

He directed me to a small, hand-wired amp shop called Marsh. Aside from the fact that this was supposed to be a nicer replica of the old Marshall amps Slash played on in Guns n’ Roses, I also discovered this great little YouTube clip demonstration. Beautiful tone! I was sold.

Well, I only found the bugger on the official Marsh website (and it was a bit pricey – more expensive than any of the other amps I’ve ever owned) but I decided to invest. And what a great decision! Sure, I didn’t have a cab, but I have already used this baby at a couple of Rusted Hero gigs and absolutely love it. I just plug in and play – no silly pedals needed!

Wall of sound8. The Monster
Marshall 4×12 1960A
Date Acquired: 3/25/2011
Method of Acquisition: Bought off craigslist
Date Divested: N/A
Method of Divestment: N/A
Time in Use: 1 week

For our latest gig (Bar East), Rusted Hero was finally playing in my stomping grounds, the Upper East Side. Unfortunately, our venue had nothing but a handful of microphones and some pieces of a drum kit. I was cool with amplification (see my Marsh amp description above), but I would also need to bring a speaker. The last time I had to provide both amp and cab, I borrowed one from our practice studio, Ultra Sound Studios. While it worked out great, it was an absolute nightmare transporting it (I had to convince a taxi driver, and then had to force it into the back seat). I wasn’t going through that hell again so I decided to find one for my very own.

There were several listed on craigslist for sale, but one specified being able to come and try it out. So, two weekends ago, I lugged my guitar to Greenpoint, found the seller’s practice space, and tried out the item … very quietly, as two of his bandmates were already in the studio recording. It was weird, but I needed a speaker and this one was in great condition. I paid him half, asked him to hold it for me, and promised to be back with Adrien’s car Friday.

Friday came around and Adrien and I pulled up, carted away the Marshall and that was it. I didn’t get a chance to actually play it at a full volume until right when I plugged in at our show Saturday night … but the girl sounded very alright! I couldn’t be happier with my current lineup of guitar-amp-cab. Sure, I need to spend an hour or two tweaking the tone knobs, but for now I’m very satisfied.

Oh, and that other bit of news I mentioned to discuss is about this gig. I think I’ll hold off on telling that story at a later date as there might even be crazier news!

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I’m Old

Mose recent photo of me

During my week of hell at work I went through another nightmare.

I turned 30.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to mark this milestone in the usual, drunken revelry that many of my peers would choose. Nay! I “celebrated” by taking a couple of hours off from working, sitting on the couch in my sweatpants, watching a Mavericks game and drinking beer. It was the best I could do with the time I had! Sure, it wasn’t the most memorable of evenings, but it could’ve been worse. In fact, there was a bit of a silver lining as I was so busy that I didn’t have time to reflect on the real weight of the occasion.

It’s not as if the day has any hard meaning to me, anyway. I tend to forget the birthdays and, instead, remember more of the year in general. This one’s got a nice, round number to it which brings a hint of closure even though I don’t think there’s going to be too much of a difference between my 30th and 29th years on the planet. But, as I was reading before hitting the hay one of these nights, I did sit and think about the fact that I’ve witnessed three decades of life and … it was a big deal.

All for about 10 seconds. And then I went back to reading my Batman and Superman comic book.

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The culprit

It’s been a bit of a nightmare week. First (and most) of all, I’ve been completely swamped at work. I’m working on an outrageous project – giant demands, super aggressive deadline, pushy client. What it meant for me was working until 3am (at the earliest) for a week straight (including weekends). I barely had time to sleep much less live so I became quite the zombie. I probably also became really surly … but something had to give and usually the first to go is my manners.

While that hell was going on, my beautiful [stanus.net] got hacked! I was so busy I actually had to be told by people that it was down. When I checked it out for myself I was pretty shocked: the homepage was now a creepy photo of some person gagged with arabic writing below. Looks like it was some sort of free the Middle East stuff and not threatening, but it creeped me the fuck out. I logged into my server to clean up the damage and found something even more insidious – the asshole had deleted every single one of my files!

Luckily, I keep back ups of all my web work (though this’ll remind me to start doing that more often) and I only lost a handful of images that I was able to replace pretty quickly. Still … what the fuck? What possible benefit did this guy have to hacking a site that has a readership of maybe 3? Weird. The craziness continues in my next post …

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