Brandon's Journal

Yesterday, I decided I needed to get out of the house. I bought myself some lunch and then I visited a few stores and see what if I could find anything interesting. I scored some DVDs, VHS tapes, and managed to buy twelve video games for $25 at GameStop. I came home with several bags of goodies to enjoy and I didn't spend much money. It was a good day.

.

But there was a moment in my retail therapy that made me stop and second guess how I do things. I was standing inside Ollie's looking over their book selection when I discovered two books: X-Files Origins Agent of Chaos and X-Files Origins Devil's Advocate.

The back cover explained that the books were an exploration of Mulder and Scully before they joined The X-Files and sounded pretty interesting. The books were written back in 2017 and were priced at $2.99 a piece.

There was a time in my life when I would have just purchased the books but several years ago I stopped trusting my instincts and buying things blindly. I started reaching out to the masses for approval that I was making a good purchase. So, rarely do I buy something without doing a little research before hand by reading reviews.

In theory this is wise. We reach out to make sure we aren't being scammed. However, it's been proven over and over that reviews are not always honest. Fake reviews and comparison websites are abundant online. Reviews on Amazon are so biased there is an entire site dedicated to helping you filter out the fakes: FakeSpot.

Even when not being purchased or provided by a company, reviews are not unbiased. People love to jump in and bash something because other people are doing it.

If I use reviews to dictate everything I purchase, I would have missed out on a lot of my favorite things growing up. I had no idea that people didn't like Ghostbusters 2 until I got on the internet. I LOVE that movie.

Mac and Me is another movie that is considered a joke, but as a young kid I liked it more than ET. Same goes with The Monster Squad over The Goonies.

It's not just movies that I like that other people don't. It's video games, books, comics, and food. We all have our individual tastes and they aren't going to always line up with everyone else, so why do we doubt ourselves so much? Or more specifically, why do I doubt myself?

Is my fear of wasting money more important than going into something unbiased but hoping for the best? I mean, I understand doing your research when buying a car or a house, but did those three dollar books deserve for me to stop, pull up Amazon, and justify my purchase? Do I really lack confident in my purchasing decisions that I needed validation? Or was I simply trying not to waste six dollars on bad books?

I honestly don't know what to think. I didn't come to any grand conclusion, this was all just a simple observation of how the internet has become so intertwined in my own life that I do things without even thinking. It functions as almost a part of me and that is something I'm not all that fond of.

#100DaysToOffload 52/100

As the user, ultimately what I decide to engage with on the internet is up to me. Sure, I can try and blame it on algorithms, dopamine hits, and notifications, but the buck truly stops with me. If I'm not happy or I'm not enjoying the experience, then why do I continue?

I realize that a lot of my internet usage is habit. I visit the same sites I've visited for fifteen or twenty years. I follow sports and hobbies that I don't even truly care about anymore. I just keep one foot in the door by visiting these sites and staying relatively up to date.

When I start stripping away the habitual internet browsing, I'm not left with all that much. I don't have the endless scroll of social media and my reddit usage is almost non-existent these days, so the idea of being bombarded with stuff and then digging through to find something useful is pretty much lost on me. I guess, you could argue my RSS functions that way, but I don't follow too many blogs and I'm always pruning sites that don't offer anything useful or entertaining.

I think the problem I have is that I forgot the internet is a tool and instead I view it as an entertainment device. There is nothing wrong with owning a hacksaw, as long as you pull it out only when you need it and put it away when you don't need it. I think my issue is that I never put the internet away. It's always out, always there, and always being interacted with.

I spend a lot of time pining for the past, before everything was super connected and I had to walk over to a desktop, sit down, wait for it to boot up, log in, and then browse very slowly. The speed at which I took in information was incredibly slow and because of this I think it was more impactful. I didn't skim articles or rush to read what was next. Instead, I took my time on every page to really soak in the entire experience. I rarely do that now.

I wonder if I would be better off moving my laptop to an uncomfortable part of the house like the dining room table. I can't watch TV and use it so I'd be forced to use the computer for whatever I need and then go back into the living room should I want to watch TV or play video games. I wonder if shutting down my laptop after using it every time would a smart decision. Would that minute long boot up time be enough to dissuade me from using it for frivolous and silly small tasks? Would a few barriers be enough to make me only use the internet when it truly is important?

I guess, my ultimate question is: would using the internet more like the way I used it in the 90's be a better fit for me?

#100DaysToOffload 51/100

Imagine this:

Not that long ago, you woke up to your alarm clock. No notifications, messages, or emails.

You went to the bathroom, showered, and drove to work.

Maybe, you listened to the news on the way to work or turned on the Weather Channel before you left. If you are a morning person, there is also a chance you went out into the drive way and picked up the newspaper. The amount of information and the number of opinions would have been exposed to was limited either way.

Once you got to work, you worked. You chatted with your co-workers and maybe called a significant other on your lunch break, but for around eight hours you were disconnected from your life. You were playing a role in someone else's play. You weren't answering texts regarding family drama or friends who are pissed off at their boss. You weren't reading comments about your favorite movie director being a piece of trash. You weren't looking at a feed of information curated by a company whose goal is to trick you into buying things. You just worked, ate, interacted with folks, and went home.

By the time you got home, a lot of the day's stressors had passed the fight or flight stage. Your significant other's problem with a co-worker were several hours old and a little less dramatic. Your own bad experience with a customer wasn't nearly as fresh and instead of unleashing onto your significant other, you were able to reign it in and explain how frustrating the situation was without an elevated heartrate.

In this not so distant past: the news, family drama, and injustices didn't play out in real time. There wasn't 24/7 coverage on your cell phone or computer. Most things were discussed once cooler heads had prevailed at a later date. You might tell your friend a week later about this bad interaction at work, but you didn't text him right away. You had time to digest and process the experience, not just react.

I feel like all we do is react these days. We are bombarded from the moment we get up with information/opinions and we just respond. We don't process. We give our knee jerk reactions via social media or texts, and I'm not sure the human brain works most efficiently that way. We react with fear or anger, because that's what kept us safe in our primal days, but those reactions doesn't serve nearly the same purpose in 2020.

#100DaysToOffload 50/100

I've tried writing this post three times now.

I always get hung up about five hundred words in. I feel like I'm defending myself like I did something wrong and so I start over.

Not this time.

Last Sunday, I decided to quit the internet. It wasn't one of those “Oh, I'm gonna go find myself in nature, build a tiny house, and find happiness” sort of deals, but it was more of a “I can't take this anymore. The information overload and negativity are just too much and I'm fucking done.”

I activated the Light Android Launcher from F-Droid, added my texts, e-reader app, and camera and blocked everything else. I put my laptop and Surface in a drawer and just said screw it.

All the work I've done to reduce the negativity by changing my browsing habits, using extensions to block comments, and removing myself from social media have helped, but its not perfect. I'm beginning to think the nuclear option may be a logical choice.

Not using the internet at home was relatively easy once I broke myself of the habit of reaching for my phone when I think of something. I use it a lot to manage my to-do lists as well as to answer questions such as: “who is that actress?” or “was that Brian Pillman Jr. I saw in the crowd on AEW?” After the second night of not looking up those random thoughts, I stopped reaching for my phone.

At work it was a bit harder, because I have a lot of downtime some days and I use that to catch up on blogs and browse reddit. I was able to substitute my normal internet usage with reading books which I felt was a better way to spend my time, but can be a bit tiresome. I was able to confirm that I do not have the attention span I once had.

I still used the internet sparingly. I paid bills, checked my email once a day, and I posted my movies blog post last week (it was pre-written the week before). Occasionally, a friend would send me a link of something to read, and I'd check it out, but that was about the extent of my internet usage.

Last night, I decided to hop back online and check a few things out. It didn't take long for that nauseating feeling that I was experiencing the week prior to come back. I don't want any part of that.

I've had a lot of time to think about the internet and the role it plays in my life last week. I have quite a few thoughts that I considered pouring out into one massive opus, but then decided against it. Instead, I think I'll just post a few small posts with my thoughts and ideas over the next several days. They won't be the most organized or well written posts, but it'll help me exercise these thoughts and hopefully redefine my relationship with the internet.

#100DaysToOffload 49/100

Back in 2017, I started keeping a list of the movies that I watched. I'm not sure why I did it, but I did. I think I was just curious about how many hours a year I spent watching movies.

I thought it'd be interesting for me to look back on the first half of 2020 and the movies that I watched along with the books that I've read.


Movies Watched

January The Proposal Inside Out Just Married Road Trip Jay and Silent Bob Reboot Road Trip Beer Pong Sex Tape

February Catfish Seven The Irishman Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol Zodiac The Foreigner

March Species The Power of the Glove Crawl Summer of 84 Body Bags Scream 2 Frozen 2 The Wind Hell or High Water Tombstone 1917 Star Wars Rise of the Skywalker The Beverly Hillbillies Midway

April Satanic Panic Ready or Not The Addams Family The Color of Space The Invisible Man Ma Rabid Kingpin Julie and Julia Zombieland 2 Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark The Big Lebowski When Jeff Tried to Save the World Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D Evolution The Green Hornet Annihilation Never Surrender The Phantom The X Files I Want to Believe

May Mars Attacks Godzilla: King of the Monsters Snowpiercer The Mist The Wrong Missy Miss Congeniality Hush Batman Begins The Dark Knight Believe The Vast of Night We Summon the Darkness

June Arrival Green Lantern In Search of the Last Action Heroes Rambo Last Blood Slumber Part Massacre 2 Ford v Ferrari Terminator: Dark Fate Triple Threat The Pretender The Debt Collectors Extraction Dragged Across Concrete Terror Train Final Exam Intruder The Searchers County Line Jerry Lewis: The Man Behind the Camera Dave Cherry Falls Piranha 3DD The Hunt You're Next

Thoughts: So far I've watched 82 movies this year. Of those 74 movies, 63 of the films I've never seen before. Looking over the list, my favorite movie of the year has been Ready or Not. That movie was an absolute blast to watch and it was totally unexpected. My least favorite movie was The Color of Space. I knew a wild Lovecraftian film starring Nicholas Cage would probably not be my cup of tea, but I watched it anyway. It's an impressive piece of filmmaking but just not my type of movie.


Books Read

Almost Interesting by David Spade Couplehood by Paul Reiser Born Standing Up by Steve Martin Waiting for the Punch: Words to Live by from the WTF Podcast by Marc Maron A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Read by William Rabkin Remo Went Down by Mike McCrary By Darkness Forged by Nathan Lowell The Wrestling Insomniac by Michael Labbe Old Man's War by John Scalzi Fight Club 3 by Chuck Palahniuk Consider This by Chuck Palahniuk The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner

Thoughts: I spent some time talking about reading on June 8th. I started off this year reading a ton and then it fell off pretty quickly. Since that blog post, I've read five books (and a graphic novel) which makes me feel like I'm back on track. So far my favorite book that I've read this year was By Darkness Forged by Nathan Lowell.

#100DaysToOffload 48/100 #Reading #Movies

I have a friend who texts me daily about his irritations with the world. Protests, COVID, sports, and politics are some of the topics we discuss. The conversations are always negative. It's always about what someone did stupid or why everything is going to Hell. Day in and day out I get these texts and I wonder why.

I recently began telling my friend to join me in the little bubble and avoid all that stuff. Get off Twitter I tell him. Stop engaging and enraging. I encourage him to realize his place in the world and try to find the happy moments. I tell him his texts, his tweets, and Instagram stories won't change anyone's mind.

He just ignores me.

A few hours later I get another text about how this country has turned weak.

Rarely do I disagree with my friend. I mirror his sentiment most of the time, but I just don't have an interest in mentally abusing myself. I've done everything I can over the past couple of years to reduce the amount of stress and chaos in my life and I have no interest in inviting it back in. That makes me wonder, why does anyone? Are we so starved for community and respect that we feel like its necessary to participate?

I realized my friend isn't going to change. He ignores me because if he listened he would have nothing to talk about. His life is empty and this is his hobby. He surfs the internet to find things to be pissed off about. Some people crochet or build puzzles, he just gets pissed off. It makes him feel important.

#100DaysToOffload 47/100

I finished two of Chuck Palahniuk's work in the past twelve hours. The first was Fight Club 3, the graphic novel sequel to Fight Club. The second was Consider This, a non-fiction writing guide and memoir. Both provided for an interesting experience, which is always the case when reading Chuck's work.

I became a fan of Mr. Palahniuk after watching and reading Fight Club around the year 2000. My enjoyment of Fight Club led me to read his other novels such as Choke, Invisible Monsters, and Survivor. I fell in love with his minimalist writing style and his ability to discuss the things that we'd rather not discuss. It wasn't shock writing for the sake of shock, but shock writing for the sake of asking why does this shock us?

While I would still consider Chuck Palahniuk my favorite author, I haven't thoroughly enjoyed any of his work in quite sometime. Actually, I haven't read the last three novels at all. I did read Fight Club 2, which like Fight Club 3, is a graphic novel sequel. I even met Chuck while he was touring and doing book signings for Fight Club 2. It was one of my favorite celebrity interactions and he seemed like a very nice guy.

I was thrilled to meet Chuck, but I was less thrilled about Fight Club 2. I think that Mr. Palahniuk realized he couldn't recapture the success of Fight Club so he just let his mind go insane with the characters. It created a disjointed, strange story that was brave but not very good. This is pretty much the same way I'd describe Fight Club 3. The artwork is fantastic and there are some great scenes, but overall the story falls flat as a cohesive unit. It doesn't feel like Fight Club, but more like erotic theological fan fiction written within the Fight Club universe.

I enjoyed Consider This. It was mentioned online to be similar to Stephen King's On Writing (which is an incredible book) and while I think King's book is better, I really enjoyed what Chuck had to say. The book alternates between chapters that are short memoirs and chapters that are tips of what Chuck would tell you if you were his writing student. He does a great job describing different techniques and strategies on how to write, what to write, why it doesn't matter, why it could matter, and everything in between. I highlighted more notes in this book than any other book I've ever read because it was chock full of incredible ideas.

Consider This is an easy read that took me less than twenty-four hours and I feel that it will help me as a writer. I have this dream of one day putting out some decent fiction and I hope some of what I read will help me accomplish that goal.

#100DaysToOffload 46/100 #Reading

Since my attempt to read more post made on June 8th, I've read three books. I recently discussed By Darkness Forged and now I want to discuss The Wrestling Insomniac and The Old Man's War.


The Wrestling Insomniac is a collection of posts taken from The Wrestling Insomniac website. The book was written by a friend of mine and is an excellent look into the forgotten and not often discussed moments in the history of professional wrestling. Topics such as the NWA invasion of the WWF, the matches that Bill Goldberg lost, and the history of the NWA title after its dissociation with WCW are all covered in this collection.

The stories are well written, quick to read, and offer the perfect balance of detail with narrative. I found the book to very well balanced and I began reading it one evening with the goal of reading it over the course of a week, but I ended up reading it all in one sitting. It's the type of stories that just suck you in and you can't wait till you get to the next chapter to see what other mind blowing information will hit you next.

The Wrestling Insomniac is a must read for fans of professional wrestling.


Old Man's War was written by John Scalzi, writer of Red Shirts. It is the first book in a series of six about a future where the elderly can choose to live longer if they join the military and go off to fight wars in distant galaxies. It's an interesting look at the scarcity of life and how knowledge and experience can be an advantage on the battlefield.

This title came up several times when I was trying to find a science fiction book to read. I wanted something that was not very long, but also not too complex. I didn't wasn't to escape in a world of confusion by taking on Dune or any other massive world building books, and Old Man's War seemed to fit what I was looking for. It begins on Earth (albeit in the future) but uses common sci-tropes and excellent descriptions to build the world around it. It's a world that is not too unlike our own and a world that almost seems like it could be a possibility. It's an easy read and I enjoyed my time with the characters. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to relate to a seventy-five year old man who is suddenly able to move like he was twenty, but the author did a great job of making the world believable and interesting.


I recommend both books and I'm glad to say I've knocked out three books in just over two weeks. It ends five month drought of not completing any books and it'll be interesting to see how many books I finish by the end of the year.

#Reading

Back in 2012, Disney bought Star Wars. The day the sale was announced I wrote a huge article about my mixed feelings. I was scared that Disney would run the series into the ground as they had recently done with their Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, but I was optimistic that bringing back the original cast and going into the Original Trilogy era would be amazing for the series. The Avengers had just come out and Disney didn’t screw that up, so I had high hopes that Star Wars would be treated equally as well.

Eight years later, I finally finished watching the final part of the Skywalker Saga, and I’m less of a Star Wars fan because of it.

It started off well enough with The Force Awakens, but then came The Last Jedi that well… I’ve wasted enough time and effort on that terrible film.

I had hopes that with the return of JJ Abrams, that Rise of the Skywalker would be amazing. It would right all the wrongs that The Last Jedi had committed and Disney would commit to telling a good coherent story. Boy was I wrong.

Listing off all that was wrong with Rise of the Skywalker would take some time. There was the rushed pacing, the too large of a script, the changed demeanors of the characters, the idiotic ending, and so forth, but if I can say anything that defines my thoughts about Rise of the Skywalker it was the fact that as I sat watching it, I thought to myself: I should be watching Battlestar Galactica.

I’m not sure why that popped into my head. I loved BSG when it came out but it didn’t end well and it’s not something I’d have a huge urge to rewatch, until now. But while watching Rise of the Skywalker I couldn’t help but think about how disrespectful Disney was to the viewers. They treated us like idiots. They gave us bad science fiction full of plotholes and expensive CGI and then handed it to us and said, “This is Star Wars, give us money” and we’re supposed to be okay with that.

Battlestar Galactica ushered in a more mature science fiction world (for better or worse) that was followed up by The Expanse a few years ago. Coherent storytelling was vital to gaining the respect of the viewers and they cashed in on it big time. With exception of the fanboys running The Mandolorian and the rebel director of Rogue One, Disney had done nothing but shovel outdated and quite frankly, bad stories set in the Star Wars universe and pretended like they were good.

I’ll ask you this, what was the plot of Solo? I know I don’t remember. I watched that entire movie with excitement and the only thing I remember is that quick cameo at the end. The movie sucked.

Rogue One is arguably the best Star Wars film ever made and I gotta give Disney props for that. I’d love to see the director’s cut, but the fact that they didn’t fill every inch of the screen with cutesy droids and animals and didn’t cater the story to sell toys has got to be some sort of miracle. I doubt we will ever see another film like that one from Disney.

Disney got lucky with The Mandalorian and we got a great series that has potential. One of the best things about Mando was all the surprises that now Disney is spoiling left and right. They’ve announced characters, guest stars, and returning stars, thus taking away all the surprises and excitement that was there for the first season. You’d think a company that big and that successful would know when to shut up and cash in on something good.

I know I’m getting older and my tastes are changing, but I believe that the handling of the Skywalker Saga over the past eight years has been horrific and it has definitely affected my fandom. Then again, I’m not the age group who buys toys, so I’m pretty sure Disney could care less. I just hate that they managed to screw up such an epic saga when they had all the power, talent, and money to make it amazing.

#100DaysToOffload 45/100 #Movies

This week, I purchased Elite Dangerous for the PlayStation 4. It's a game that has been on my radar for a couple of years now and that $14.99 price point was just too good to pass up. One of the reasons I didn't purchase it sooner is that it's not the type of game I typically play. It's way more complex and time consuming than the traditional quick pick up and play or narrative driven games I tend to enjoy.

Elite Dangerous is a space flight simulation that exists in a 1:1 scale simulation of the Milky Way Galaxy. That means it has 400 billion star systems to explore and at the current rate of exploration it'll take around 30,000 years to explore everything. Around 150,000 of the star systems are taken from real astronomical data.

The game is open ended MMO, but the galaxy can be explored off line as well. I like to do things at my own pace, so I'll be playing the game off-line at least for the foreseeable future.

Yesterday, I spent some time reading some tutorials for Elite Dangerous and various tips and tricks. I wanted to be somewhat prepared knowing that I was getting into something with a lot more depth than I'm used to. Its the type of game I'd probably prefer to play on PC, but I don't have a gaming rig. Luckily for me, the developers did a great job utilizing the PS4 controller.

Last night, I decided to play through part of the tutorial and begin my time with Elite Dangerous. I learned basic maneuvering, faster than light jumping, and combat. I also got some experience with the in-depth menus and I really liked what I saw. While slow, the tutorial did a great job of introducing me to the game and I'm glad I decided to stop where I did. I think until I get my bearings an hour or two here or there is probably the best way for me to approach this game.

I'm not sure what career I want to pursue in the game, but I'm thinking of just being a lonely space miner. I'm hoping the game can offer me some peace and quiet in a fun, interactive environment. Maybe down the road I'll look into some combat or even hopping online, but I think for now I just want to chill out and have this be a somewhat relaxing experience exploring the stars in real time.

#100DaysToOffload 44/100 #VideoGames

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