Brandon's Journal

Yesterday, I did some running around. One of my stops was the local mall. This mall has been dying for the past ten or fifteen years. I’ve seen it go from a thriving marketplace to a dusty, unkempt collection of stores. A few years back, a Dave and Busters moved in and many people thought this would save the mall. Instead the pre-existing stores moved into the empty spots near the Dave and Busters and no real growth was observed.

Over the years the mall location has been marked to become an Ikea, a Drive Shack, and even apartments. I think now it’s slated to be some sort of commercial mix use whenever they get around to tearing it all down.

Last year, I really thought we’d get one more good Christmas out of the mall, but many stores started closing before the holiday season. When the always busy Chick-fil-a closed, I knew my local mall’s days were numbered.

Then the pandemic hit and well... that handful of stores that were hanging on are mostly gone now or in the process of liquidating. It’s a little sad to walk around there. The mall was built when I was five or six years old and over the years I’ve spent a lot of time in there. Whenever I think of childhood malls, this is the mall that comes to mind, and now it’s a ghost town.

The one store I still frequented was FYE, which is in the process of liquidating. I bought a massive bag full of DVDs and blu-rays yesterday and I made sure to take some time to look around and soak in what I was seeing. This is the end of the only DVD store in town. This is the end of my childhood mall.

#100DaysToOffload 59/100

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon a book called Stand Firm: Resisting the Self-Improvement Craze by Svend Brinkmann, a psychology professor at the University of Aalborg in Sweden. He wrote this book as a sort of anti self-help book which is ironic because it guides you in life the way a self-help book would. This irony is not lost on the author as he embraces it as the best way to get across the information he's proposed.

I felt like the book brought up some great points as it interweaved Stoic philosophy in with common sense. I was reviewing some of the quotes I highlighted and I figured I'd share them here.


Many people, unfortunately, buy into the idea that they can ‘do anything’ (an idea foisted on the young in particular), so self-flagellation is a perfectly understandable reaction when their efforts prove inadequate. If you can do anything, then it must be your fault if success proves elusive in work or love (for Freud, ‘lieben und arbeiten’ were the two most significant existential arenas). Little wonder, then, that nowadays so many hanker after a psychiatric diagnosis to explain away perceived personal inadequacies.

I'm guilty of this. I feel like society tells us that the world is ours for the taking and we should be able to achieve all our dreams unless we are lazy. I've definitely beaten up on myself because I wasn't successful in certain areas of my life.


I contend that in order to learn to survive in an accelerating culture – to stand firm – we should look to classical Stoic philosophy for inspiration, especially its emphases on self control, peace of mind, dignity, sense of duty and reflection on the finite nature of life. These virtues engender a deeper sense of fulfilment than the superficial focus on permanent development and transformation.

I've attempted several times to dive into Stoic philosophy but I haven't come across a great primer for the topic. I've tried several websites and books, but most of the time the authors come across as pretentious and opposite of the humble nature of Stoicism (at least as I have interpreted it).


I use aspects of Stoicism to respond to some of the challenges of modern life:

Where positive visualization is preached nowadays (think of all the things you want to achieve!), the Stoics recommend negative visualization (what would happen if you lost what you have?)

I usually think pretty dark and tend to look at the bad things. I wouldn't say that I practice negative visualization though.

Where you are now encouraged to think in terms of constant opportunities, the Stoics recommend that you acknowledge and rejoice in your limitations.

I love this and I know when I've wrapped my head around this concept in the past, I've found bits of peace.

Where you are now expected to give free rein to your feelings at all times, the Stoics recommend that you learn self-discipline and sometimes suppress your feelings.

This is a new topic for me and something I've been investigating within myself. I've been so obsessed with being “authentic” in my life and recently I've been reading up on how that isn't necessarily the best way to live.

Where death is now considered taboo, the Stoics recommend contemplating your own mortality on a daily basis, in order to nurture gratitude for the life you are living.

Love this and I try my best to do this within reason. In the past, I've struggled with being a little to obsessed with thinking about death and worrying about how to maximize my time.


Only by delving ever deeper inside yourself, and ending up trapped in a vacuous circle that will ultimately leave you completely numb. Philip Cushman once posited that the depression epidemic in the West is explained by the fact that if you look inwards long enough – if you dwell on how you feel, and use therapy to find yourself – then depression will descend the moment you realize that there is, in fact, nothing there.

Damn. This could explain some of my feelings of unsettledness as of late. This hit pretty close to home.


Similarly, the humanization of the workplace – as well as the introduction of self-management by groups, the delegation of responsibility and personal development via work – has led to what the sociologist Richard Sennett dubbed ‘corrosion of character’ (the individual no longer has a firm foundation on which to stand), to an epidemic of stress and to a dehumanizing breakdown in interpersonal loyalty and solidarity.

I can relate.


The philosopher Charles Taylor analyzed how what he called the ethics of authenticity (i.e. that life is about being true to yourself) could result in new forms of dependence, in which people who are unsure of their identity need all sorts of self-help guides.

What causes uncertainty about identity and leads to a risk of dependency?

Taylor says that it’s because we have begun to worship the self in a way that seals us off from everything outside us: history, nature, society and anything else that originates from external sources. In the previous chapter, I called this the religion of the self. If we rule out the validity of external sources, we are left with only ourselves on which to base the definition of the self. This is at best trivial, and at worst makes it impossible to understand our duties and what is important in life.

#100DaysToOffload 58/100

I haven’t wrote much lately. I’ve wanted to, but I haven’t had much to say.

Things have been rough the past few weeks and I’ve been working on dealing with some issues along with managing my own mental health. I promised myself this blog would not turn into one of those “cries for attention” sort of experiments, so what little writing and venting I have done, I’ve done privately, where I feel that sort of thing is best done.

What follows are just a collection of random thoughts and commentary of things going on.

The Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2 demo comes out Friday. I’m super excited to see a proper HD version of Tony Hawk exist.


I’ve struggled sleeping the last few weeks but on Friday, all that changed. Two events occurred that evening that I think led to my sleeping better.

  1. I had a good discussion with my significant other.
  2. I watched a horror movie.

I wish I could say for sure it was the discussion, but I really think the horror movie had something to do with it. I’m not sure if it’s because I dove back into one of my passions or just experienced the anxiety relief that comes with horror films, but I slept good and have every day since.


I’ve realized that I have to take things off the table in order for me to feel better a lot of the time. Sometimes that as simple as saying, “I just can’t talk about this stuff right now.” I believe the low grade anxiety that’s going on for everyone just compounds with regular anxiety and I struggle with that.


I watched the first episode of Lower Decks. It was okay, but nothing great. If it wasn’t Star Trek branded I’m sure I wouldn’t continue to watch, but it is, so I will. It’s a very easy twenty minutes of comfort television, at least so far.


I’ve been reading quite a bit. I’ve finished up He Crashed Me So I Crashed Him Back by Mark Bechtel a week and a half ago, then read Stand Firm by Svend Brinkmann, and now I’m almost finished with Shock Value by Jason Zinoman.


The prices of run of the mill DVDs and blu-rays are going up as physical media winds down and I'm assuming people are buying more because of all the streaming wars mess. I'm slowly trying to build up my collection without breaking the bank.


I have no idea what this movie is about but damn if this poster doesn't make me want to see it.

(I actually DuckDuckGoed this after typing up this blog and discovered the plot is about Wild Bill Hickock and Crazy Horse teaming up to take down a fabled white buffalo. Now I GOTTA SEE IT)

#100DaysToOffload 57/100 #Reflection

Earlier this week, I spent seven hours in a room with someone who was blasting angry, alpha male podcasts. You know, the type of podcasts that tell you to walk in front of people and not beside them so you can show your dominance. To the person's credit, he had a door closed, but in this tiny closet of a room, he also had a box fan on high. So, the sound of voices carried well throughout his room and into the lobby portion of the room where I work. So, for seven hours I listened to grown men with questionable backgrounds scream, shame, and tell you how to live your life. Needless to say, my head was killing me when it was all said and done.

In fact, the headache that it gave me lasted so long I ended up not going into work the next day. I stayed home with the TV and Spotify turned off and I cleaned and relaxed in silence. The assault on my senses the day before had overwhelmed me and I craved the silence.

I find myself craving silence more and more. I don't listen to Spotify on the way to work some days and I stopped listening to podcasts a couple years ago. I realized that when I listened to podcasts, I wasn't relaxed. It was just too much talking going on in a world where people don't know when to shut up. Again, I say assault on my senses, because that's the way it truly feels to me. It's like my brain has reached a limit on how much intake it can take on any single day.

I feel this way not just on audible noises, but the written word as well. I believe this why I've been so intentional about weeding out the trash that I read on a daily basis. I try to avoid the rumors, skip over the “What if's” and avoid anything that doesn't truly bring substance into my life. I just don't think we are wired to absorb this much information on a daily basis.

Again, I reference back to a blog post I made a few weeks ago about being Disconnected and I wonder if I need to scale back even more.

#100DaysToOffload 56/100 #Reflection

Sometime in 2000, I purchased my first DVD player: an Apex 600A. I was attracted to this particular model because it had a secret menu that allowed you to unlock the region coding and disable Macrovision.

This allowed you to watch international DVDs and record them to VHS. I'm not sure why I thought I needed this feature at the time, but the DVD player was reasonably priced at $189.99 and the idea of having this forbidden feature really pushed me over the edge. I wasn't working yet, so I saved up money from my birthday and Christmas and did some odd jobs to make enough cash to cover (at the time) my most expensive purchase ever.

With my Apex 600A ordered, that left me with the need for something to watch on it. I browsed online forums and websites looking for a great deal on a DVD since I didn't have much money to spend left over. I took me a couple of days, but I finally found a copy of Highlander on DVD for $7.99. This was an incredible deal when the average DVD was priced somewhere between $25 and $40. This particular copy was discounted so greatly because the front artwork had been slashed with a box cutter and the box was damaged.

I got my DVD player a few days later and then I had to wait a few more days for the DVD to come, but once it did I was in heaven. I watched Highlander over and over and I began working at Blockbuster a month or so later, which provided me with the funds to start growing my collection. I discovered used CD stores that usually had tiny DVD sections and I'd raid these on almost a daily basis. I got huge into following DVD news at DVDTalk.com and I spent a lot of time researching the best DVDs. Movies like Se7en, Fight Club, The Mummy and anything by Kevin Smith were all highly regarded due to their special features. This is what made DVDs unique compared to traditional VHS tapes. They not only contained the movie, but sometimes behind the scenes features, scripts, trailers, and commentary tracks.

I would rarely purchase a DVD that wasn't choked full of special features and the first thing I did when I got home with a new DVD was to watch all the special features (if I had already seen the movie before). That could take anywhere from fifteen minutes to two hours and afterwards I'd watch the movie and then over the next several days watch any and all commentary tracks. I'd take my time to appreciate every single element to the DVD and it wasn't unusual for me to watch the movie and/or commentary track several times over.

My collection grew from a single DVD into hundreds. At my peak I had around 700 DVDs. This number may have been higher, but that was the highest I ever counted it. My movie collection was my pride and joy. I displayed it on two massive movie racks and family and friends would stop by to “rent” on occasion which made me feel great, since my family was the type that didn't believe in owning movies.

My movie collection was my everything until I began to struggle with room. I decided I needed to get rid of some of the boxes and reduce my collection to discs only to save space. I also traded and sold off a large part of my collection in the midst of downsizing. Once I began dismantling my collection it lost a part of its charm and my passion cooled off too.

I'd still buy cheap DVDs here and there, but gone were the days of truly appreciating the movie and everything on the disc. I didn't have the time I once had and I didn't take the time to invest in my collection the way I once did. Rarely did I watch the special features and sometimes I didn't even watch the movie.

It blows my mind to think it's been twenty years since I bought my little Apex DVD player. I've owned so many other DVD players over the years and my collection has expanded and contracted several times over. Right now, I have about a dozen movies in their boxes and a small collection of discs in a binder.

Recently, I began collecting VHS tapes and during the process I purchased a handful of DVDs. Its not unusual for me to go into a Goodwill a buy a few since they are normally priced at $0.69 a disc. I look at it as a renting situation for me. I watch the movie and if I don't like it, I just turn it back into Goodwill. But after looking over at my small DVD and VHS collection, I realize that I miss it. I don't miss a massive wall of movies that I don't care about, but I miss the hunt and the collecting. I miss not having to guess whether or not a movie I want to watch is streaming. I miss special features, commentary tracks, and cover art.

I'm going to spend a little more time increasing my movie collection. I think it'll bring me some joy and we could all use a little more joy in our lives. I'm going to make an effort to appreciate and enjoy the discs that I buy and hopefully re-spark that passion I had so long ago.

Note: I did get use out of the region free capability of my DVD player. After watching Shaun of the Dead in theaters in 2004, I discovered that it was already available on DVD in the UK. I went to Amazon.uk and ordered a copy which came about a week later.

#100DaysToOffload 55/100 #Movies

It's time, once again, to clean up my bookmarks. I thought I'd share some interesting links that I've run across and maybe don't want to lose but also don't feel the need to have saved in my browser.

Lemmy – This is an open source federated take on reddit. It has potential and I'll be watching this and visiting every now and again.

Sijmen's List of Text Only Websites – This page is great. It's a list of websites that are text only (and some that are near text only. I think we need more text only websites on the web.

Bear Blog, Midnight, Listed.to – These are three blogging platforms that take privacy serious. Right now, I don't see much of a need for me to have an account for any of these, but I love that there are alternatives popping up. I also love that all three sites have a Discovery feed of some sort so I can read browse posts similar to Read.Write.as.

Bundyology – I ran across this Married with Children fan site a few weeks back and fell in love with it. It was created in 1997 and last updated in 2015, but pretty much anything you'd want to know about Married with Children can be found on this site. I love the simple HTML design and am so glad its still online.

WeatherDaddy – I grew up getting my weather news from The Weather Channel back when it all it did was report on the weather. WeatherDaddy uses the classic fonts and graphics from the 90's Weather Channel and presents them in an easy to use website. I've used this as my main source of weather information for several years until the site mysteriously went down late last year. I was shocked to stumble back upon it and see that it was up and running.

The Movie Database – I have spent countless hours on IMDB over the years. It's one of my “go-to” sites and I hate how Amazon is slowly ruining it. I wanted to find an alternative outside of the Amazon/Google world and that brought me to TMDb. So far, I'm loving it and it looks so much better on mobile.

#100DaysToOffload 54/100 #Links

In a year like this, there is a lot to complain about. There is also a lot to worry about. I spent way more time than I'd like stressing about these invisible forces and I like to stop myself every now and again and think about the good things I'm looking for to. So, here is a list:

Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2

I gushed about my excitement a few months back and its only grown as we've gotten closer to the release. One month from today, the Warehouse level demo is slated to be released and I'm thrilled about revisiting the Warehouse in this latest version. (Also included in my excitement is the documentary Prtending I'm a Superman.)


SRX Racing

Growing up, my favorite NASCAR driver was Tony Stewart. He's been retired for several years now and my love of NASCAR has dwindled even further. Well, earlier this week, Tony Stewart announced that he was teaming up with Ray Evernham to create a spiritual successor to the old IROC (International Race of Champions) series.

The series is slated to race on short tracks with veterans and champions from all over racing in completely equal cars with random crew chiefs. It's about as even as a playing field as you can get and should make for a fantastic show. I also love that the races are scheduled to take place in under two hours!


Star Trek Lower Decks

Out of all the Star Trek spin-offs this is the one I've been least excited about, but it looks like a fun little show. I'm excited to see how it turns out.


DIRT 5

Recently, I was thinking about the video games I played and the franchises I never miss. Some guys I know buy Call of Duty yearly or Madden, but I'm not like that. At least I thought I wasn't. Then I realized that I tend to buy the new DIRT game every time its released. I wouldn't say it's my favorite franchise, but it's a game I usually get my money out of so I'm looking forward to the latest in the franchise.


FIA World RallyCross

Next month, the World Rallycross begins it's season and I'm excited! Recently, I've been catching up on all the action I missed last season and I'm pumped!


I'm sure there are some other things I'm excited about but aren't coming to mind right now. I guess I'll save them for another post!

#100DaysToOffload 54/100 #ThingsImExcitedAbout

This morning, I took a glance at my RSS feeds and ran across a short quote by a gentleman named Terence McKenna. I'd never heard of Mr. McKenna before, but the quote really struck a chord with me. I re-read it a couple of times before doing a little research on the author.

The cost of sanity in this society is a certain level of alienation.

Wow... yea, so that quote hits home. I don't think I could have ever arranged those words in such a manner, but I definitely agree with the author. And the more I step away from the world the more sane I seem to feel.

So, who was Terence McKenna? Well, he's the type of person I'd normally never listen to. His beliefs are the total opposite of most of mine. He was a huge supporter of psychedelic drugs and was even a champion of the Mayan 2012 end of the world theory. He seemed to be looking for a little sanity in an insane world in a way that I would never go about, but judging by his thoughts about the world I have a feeling he and I are/were both looking for answers to the same question.

I don't have a grand dissection of this quote or even much more to say on it, other than I felt like sharing it because sometimes it can be a little lonely feeling like you are outside the asylum looking in.

The full quote can be read below:

The reason we feel alienated is because the society is infantile, trivial, and stupid. So the cost of sanity in this society is a certain level of alienation. I grapple with this because I’m a parent. And I think anybody who has children, you come to this realization, you know—what’ll it be? Alienated, cynical intellectual? Or slack-jawed, half-wit consumer of the horseshit being handed down from on high? There is not much choice in there, you see. And we all want our children to be well adjusted; unfortunately, there’s nothing to be well adjusted to!

#100DaysToOffload 53/100

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

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