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Text and Violence by liquidcross is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Fifteen years gone

As of today, liquidcross.com has been online for fifteen years, and I’m still not quite sure what to do with it. I know blogs are rapidly dying, but what else would this place be good for? Anyway, I’m too lazy to sum up my site’s history again, so just read the ten-year anniversary post if you’re so inclined. Nothing much has changed since then, anyway (save for a theme change at the end of 2012), but I figured I’d still mark the occasion.

Cross & Company

Hey kids, it’s time for another dumb story from decades ago! Listen, chief, I can’t think of anything else to write about lately. So sit down and shut up.

Way back in the dark days of high school, the audio/visual department ran a program where students could have their own “radio” shows; that’s in quotes because they weren’t actually broadcast. Instead, they were piped through the school’s intercom system, and classrooms could choose to tune in if they so chose, usually during study halls and such. This was usually used in study halls and the like. The shows were ridiculously censored and controlled by the A/V staff, and the rules thereof were seemingly arbitrary. (More on that later.) Regardless, I thought it might be fun to start a show with one of my friends, and it was an easy excuse to listen to heavy metal on the clock.

The show ended up being dubbed Cross & Company; I did not come up with the name, my cohost did. It was pretty typical radio fare; we’d introduce ourselves, talk for a bit, then play music with a bit more random chit-chat in between. Nothing special, and since we were playing hard rock and metal, I’d assume our listener base was pretty low. (To the best of my knowledge, no statistics were ever kept for any of the shows, so we would’ve had no way of knowing even if we wanted to.) One of my buddies was my cohost for the first few weeks, but then his schedule changed, so another friend of mine took his place.

Aside from pumping Overkill and Megadeth songs into classrooms, we’d often joke around on the air, playing TV show and movie samples or bits of music we didn’t like, only to cut it off to immediately make fun it or play something else. These lame attempts at comedy actually led to problems more than the music itself. One day, we had just finished playing some metal tune, then queued up some cheesy R&B song. So my cohost did an impression of Beavis saying “Heh heh heh, yeah, this sucks!”

Holy shit, that practically brought down the wrath of God upon us. The head of the A/V department quite literally ran into the studio and cut our mics, and immediately threw out my cohost, permanently banning him from ever returning to the program. Why? Because the word “sucks” was considered profanity…but of course we were never told that. I, on the other hand, got thoroughly chewed out. I naturally protested, as I had no idea what my cohost was going to say; it’s not like we had a goddamned script! I should point out that the A/V department head had a reputation among the student body for being a dick. Don’t confuse that with “strict,” as many of us are wont to do when recalling past interactions with school staff. This guy just gave off an asshole vibe, and his cronies weren’t much better.

After he gave my cohost the boot, the department head was annoying during the rest of my time with the program, insinuating that we were on thin ice, despite our abiding by the nebulous rules to the letter; yet another friend had stepped into the cohost role after his predecessor’s unceremonious removal. I couldn’t run the show myself! It was obvious that we were being judged by our musical tastes. (Story of my life, man.) Not only was metal out of favor with the general population, but of course it was despised by authority figures, as it always has been and always will be. If the department head was looking for an excuse to get rid of us, but all he really had to do was just wait. Eventually, we no longer had the time to devote to the show, as our other extracurricular activities took precedence. It was much more pleasant and productive to hang around the performing arts wing or study hall than deal with that bureaucratic nonsense.

Cross & Company went off the “air” with no fanfare, and to be honest, it was a relief. The A/V department’s “radio” program itself was quietly canceled within a year, anyway, but I can’t claim any credit for that; it was likely because other students were also fed up with the same nonsense from the powers-that-be — I can only imagine the horrors the hip-hop fans had to go through — and once there were no more hosts, there was no more program. Simple as that.

I did record one or two shows to tape just for kicks, but I must’ve misplaced it at some point. Not that I could post it now, anyway; since we played full songs, I’m sure it would be considered copyright infringement to dump ’em on the Internet. Besides, I’m sure that the talk portions were absolutely horrible and embarrassing, and thus I’d have to burn the tape at the stake.

So that was my brief career in “broadcasting.” It would’ve been fun to see it progress further, but it was an interesting experience, to say the least. In retrospect, the whole thing sounds like an episode of a crappy teen TV comedy; even the title of the show could fit! “Tune in for the next wacky episode of Cross & Company, Wednesday night on the Disney Channel.” Ugh.

Sacrifice to the Bacon God

Or, “Holy shit, I recorded an industrial metal demo twenty years ago and forgot all about it!”

Yep, during my senior year of high school, I actually wrote four terrible songs and put them to tape. All of a sudden, I was reminded of this when I saw the word “neuron” somewhere. For whatever reason, it just sparked a long-forgotten memory (no pun intended). This has been happening a lot lately, but at least it’s grist for the blog mill!

So let’s turn back the clock once more. I was on a big industrial metal kick at the time, and like any other high school kid with an extreme interest in metal, of course I wanted to write and record my own songs. Who needed talent or skill?

Somehow, I came up with “Neuron” as the name for the band/project/whatever. It was always going to be a band of one, as I idolized Trent Reznor…and I knew no one else was interested in this shit. While I did not own a guitar, drums, or proper recording equipment, I did have a computer and a tape deck with a line-in jack. I sat down and played around with various samples in Scream Tracker, slowly putting together some boring riffs and drumbeats and cobbling them into approximations of songs.

I had the band name, but the demo tape needed a name, too. During study hall one day, our school’s lone death metal fan was headbanging to something on his Walkman, grunting lyrics like “sacrifice to the pagan god,” but to the rest of us it sounded like “sacrifice to the bacon god.” We all thought that was hilarious, and I decided to put it to good use. And thus, the Neuron demo had its title: Sacrifice to the Bacon God.

After getting all of the instruments programmed, vocals were next. I couldn’t sing for shit, and my burgeoning interest in Fear Factory naturally led me to use a more extreme style instead. So, I laid down some Cookie Monster vocals with a crappy tape recorder microphone plugged into the computer. My memory’s a bit foggy here, in that I honestly don’t remember if I was able to correctly mix the vocal tracks with the other instruments before copying the songs to tape. Our family’s basic Windows 3.1 computer was not known for its recording and mixing capabilities. It’s possible that Sacrifice ended up as an instrumental demo (make that instrumetal).

At any rate, the demo was done. Sacrifice contained the title track plus “Shoot Your Dad, Beat Your Mom” and two other songs whose names escape me. They all featured ridiculous exploitation lyrics, and were obviously not meant to be taken seriously. Lighten up, Francis.

Now I just had to package the damned thing. The actual “product” was just a Memorex or similar tape with the name scribbled on it with a marker, as you might expect. For the case, I wanted to make a custom sleeve. I vaguely recall Sacrifice‘s cover art, which I made with MS Paint and a dot matrix printer. High tech! Anyway, I whipped up a fanged logo like just about every other metal band on the planet — thanks, Metallica — and I’m pretty sure the Sacrifice title was written in the Impact font, decades before Internet memes and deathcore bands ruined it forever. There was also some sort of symbol between the logo and title, but I forget what it was; it might’ve been the chaos symbol. In contrast to most other metal demos, the sleeve was actually black text on a white background, rather than the other way around. Why? Because printing a large dark area on a dot matrix printer looks like shit. Basically, the cover looked something like this:

At the end of the day, only two copies of the Neuron demo were recorded to tape: my own, and one that I gave to this punk rock kid from my public speaking class and his girlfriend. (They honestly requested it, but they may have been just patronizing me.) No one else wanted it, but I guess that was too be expected, as it wasn’t a punk or alternative demo. I lost my own tape at some point, and the original Scream Tracker files are long since gone, too (even though I played around with the program through 1997).

While writing this post, I dug around my old boxes of tapes and other old stuff from that era on the slim chance that the Neuron demo might’ve been among them, but no dice. To be honest, even if I did find it, I doubt I’d post it for public consumption. Make no mistake, the Neuron demo was godawful, and I knew that even then. I just wanted to see if I could do it! Even if the vocal mixing didn’t work (I wish I could remember!), I suppose it’s still notable that I managed to crank out a demo, something that escaped me in my later musical endeavors. By then, nervousness and a proper understanding of my lack of skills prevented that.

But at least the bacon god received his sacrifice.

In living Game Boy Color

Once more, I’ve run out of ideas. So I’m just going to babble for a bit about the Game Boy Color, I suppose.

You already know I was a huge fan of the original Game Boy, but you might be surprised to know that I sold mine off after the spring semester in 1997, as I wasn’t playing it as much anymore (I never brought it to college with me) and I was in sore need of cash (my summer job hadn’t started yet). Of course, this was a foolhardy move, but I wasn’t too smart back then. At least I wisely kept all of my old games! Anyway, I played other video games in the meantime, including finally getting my hands on my own NES, but my fondness for the handheld platform eventually led me to seek a replacement. The Game Boy Pocket was around, but the newfangled Color model sounded far more interesting.

I purchased a GBC early in 1999; a teal one, since that was the least obnoxious color. (I wish they’d kept a classic gray option, or even black like the Game Boy Pocket, but maybe those weren’t “extreme” enough for Nintendo’s “Play It Loud” campaign.) I think I used some leftover money earned during winter break to buy it. Like most folks when they buy a new console, whenever I managed to scrounge up enough money for a new game, I’d often impulse buy. And as you might expect, I bought plenty of crap along with the good stuff. Borrowing friends’ games wasn’t really an option; the only other person I knew back then who owned a Game Boy of any type was my college roommate, who had also bought a Color around the same time that I did. As such, our lending pool was miniscule.

When I picked up the GBC itself, I bought Shadowgate Classic along with it, which was most excellent. I actually enjoyed it more than the NES and PC versions! Later, I purchased Power Quest because I loved the art style and it featured robots beating each other to pieces. Unfortunately, the story mode was unnecessarily archaic crap; super-slow pacing, and a goddamned password save system. I just stuck with quick bouts against the computer; they were fun, but not worth the thirty bucks.

I tried to get my scifi RPG fix with Metal Walker, but I hit a wall about halfway through the game. If I remember correctly, I needed to do a lot of grinding to pass this stumbling block, but I could no longer access a suitable location in which to do so. I just dropped it and played something else instead. I even got NHL Blades of Steel ’99, thinking it would be as fun as the NES game. Nope, not by a long shot. (Fortunately my local Babbage’s had a very lenient return policy at the time.)

Soon my system became home to much better titles, like Warlocked (real-time strategy on the GBC!), and improved NES ports like Crystalis and Super Mario Bros. Deluxe. I also traded in my old copy of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening solely so I could get the enhanced DX version.

Likely the most important game I bought during this time was an RPG featuring a bunch of collectible monsters. I had wanted to see what all of this “Pokémon” hype was about, so I bought Pokémon Blue while my roommate purchased the Red version. We both loved the game, and it later proved incredibly useful during my summer job working at a day camp. Almost all of the kids there were playing Pokémon, and the game served as a bonding tool and a disciplinary one. (“If you stay out of trouble today, I’ll trade and battle Pokémon with you during lunch. If you don’t behave, no dice.”) Sounds silly, I know, but trust me, it was — if you’ll pardon the pun — super effective.

Unlike my earlier folly, I held on to the GBC until the end of its natural lifespan. I didn’t part with it until I acquired a Game Boy Advance on launch day. Since that played all of the old GBC games, and even enhanced a few (like the Legend of Zelda: Oracle duology), I traded in the ol’ teal workhorse.

Years later, I picked up a used GBC once I had replaced my GBA with the newer, backlit SP model…because I discovered Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble no longer worked properly with the platform. (GBA SP units had upside-down cartridge slots, which naturally reversed all of the accelerometer controls in the game.) No sense in owning a game if you can’t even play it, and by that point, GBCs were ridiculously cheap. I might have paid the princely sum of ten bucks for an “atomic purple” (ugh) variation. Eh, who cares.

Playing that GBC was a fun time, indeed, even if some of my games were junky. It rekindled my interest in handheld video games, and brought back many memories of those original Game Boy days. I still have that ugly purple GBC somewhere; I haven’t touched it in probably a decade, but I’ll keep it around just in case. Unlike many of my other hobbies, it doesn’t take up much space, and who knows…maybe when I’m in my fifties, I’ll want to play a few rounds of Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble again.

Crowd control

Lately, I’ve begun to have a problem with crowds. I don’t think anyone actually likes them, but in my case, they’re starting to make me feel mildly nervous and/or anxious. It’s not like I feel the need run screaming for the nearest exit, but I just don’t like being in a crowded area for more than a little while. It’s not claustrophia, either; I’ve been in packed elevators recently with no problem. I can also handle things if I’m on the move, like wandering through busy stores, casinos, or cities.

I started to notice this problem off an over the past few years when I’d attend mass gatherings like metal shows (more on that in a minute), conventions, and even Free Comic Book Day. Last year I thought it was just other stuff annoying me, but now I’m not so sure. That’s why I didn’t work at my local shop for FCBD this year. I dropped by for a bit later in the afternoon to see my friends, but that’s about all I could muster. Feeling nervous is a world of difference from rolling ones’ eyes at turbonerds.

This is immensely irritating to me, especially in the case of metal shows, which I thoroughly enjoy. Oddly, the issue here is a unique one, as I deal with some odd symptoms that don’t present themselves in other crowded situations. About an hour into a show, I start feeling itchy, and my guts start roiling. No nausea, thankfully, but still uncomfortable. This lasts until the show ends; once I’m outside, the feelings stop immediately. Couple that with my spinal and foot problems, which often flare up when I’m standing around for five to six hours, and you can understand my predicament. To be honest, the pain in my back and feet is much more annoying than the other stuff, but it’s still no fun when they’re all mixed together. When it gets to the point that my physical ailments are detracting and often overpowering my enjoyment of the show, I want to snap.

I’m sure some of you are screaming “Just get some help, you idiot!” at me right now, and don’t worry, I’m not against seeking medical assistance. I’m just not sure it’s that serious yet. For the time being, I can deal with it simply by not putting myself in crowded situations. I know I shouldn’t have to give up on things I enjoy, like seeing my favorite bands, but my other health issues are already taking care of that. (And those I have sought treatment for.)

I should be fine for the time being. Fear not, I won’t let something like this spiral out of control! In fact, just talking about it here has made me feel a bit better. Strange how that works, eh?