‘What has this yutz been up to?’

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Hey there! It’s been a while.

I was actually a bit surprised to come back and see my last post was Aug. 9. It had felt even longer than that, but a recent e-mail showed me it was time to get back into gear and push some text:

Just a short note to say that I have appreciated your writing (you are bookmarked in my favourites), but I am getting a bit tired of seeing a bear’s behind every time I check your page.  I do realise that you also write elsewhere (and have checked out your gaming articles as my family is big on gaming), but was wondering if you could maybe do a short ‘I’m really busy living my life’ kind of blog to just get the bear off the top.

How could I deny such a simple request? And in case you haven’t noticed, the “bear bottom” commercials are all but non-existent anymore and I don’t want to be the last one foisting that image upon innocent people.

So, why have I not written here for a few months? It’s really not an airtight excuse, but the truth is I’ve been concentrating more on my video games writing, and for an astounding reason.

In August, I decided I should try testing the waters more for a potential career in games journalism. I began to submit work not only to the awesome LeftStickRight, but also a unique open community called Bitmob. I was thrilled to see some of my pieces get feature on Bitmob’s front page, and toward the end of August I saddled up to meet the LeftStickRight boss and other writer to cover FanExpo Canada.

On the way up, at a rest stop, I grabbed a burger and checked my e-mail. There I found a new message from Susan Arendt, senior editor at an online magazine called The Escapist. She had seen my Bitmob submissions, enjoyed them, and thought I should write some stuff for their publication. At that point my brain was carpet bombed my various reasons for elation:

1. Prominent members of the gaming/technology community were actually reading my stuff.

2. They want me to try writing more stuff for more people to read.

3. Apparently, they’d even consider paying me to do it.

Freelance writing has always been one of those ideas wisping through the back of my mind, but I never considered myself a viable candidate. I just never thought I was the sort of “type” editors would be looking for. But now I had someone literally suggesting I try it for them and the feeling that I could somehow make it into this industry became too tangible not to attempt.

So after an incredibly fun time at FanExpo where I took a number of photos  depicting the deaths of Ian Yuan at the hands of cosplayers, I came home and tried my hand. I learned there were no instant assignments; you had to submit short pitches based around various topics and if one caught their eye, they’d order a full-blown article. Luckily, one of the three initial pitches I’ve made was chosen–on silly weaponry in video games–and I went straight to work.

After submitting my draft, I quickly learned The Escapist edits more thoroughly than my newspaper ever has. I received it back with multiple requests and suggestions. What worried me most was Arendt telling me I was trying to be “too cute” at several points. I went back to work, mustering up the confidence that I could produce something better, and she was much happier the second time around. That’s when I realized that she had been right: I was trying to be too cute. In my earnestness in such a new situation, I was trying to fall back on my oldest style of writing, trying to be Dave Barry instead of letting the voice I’ve developed over time be at the forefront. And then I realized that I actually had my writing edited by a prominent member of the gaming/technology community and I gave a little squee. Writers can be weird like that.

The whole process for the piece took around a couple weeks, but it’s been a blast. It will appear in The Escapist this Tuesday, and I’ve been counting the days with much anticipation. Ideally, I’ll gain more exposure and maybe even the attention of people who’d like to give me a full-time gig. At the worst, I’ll be shipped out of the publication’s forums on a rail, but I’ll still make more writing that one piece than I would for a full week of work at the newspaper.

Whatever happens, I really, really hope I get the chance to do it again. But that’s my main reason for not writing: my head has mostly been occupied by this opportunity. I’m hoping that after this all comes to its climax, I’ll be a little more balanced because I don’t want to give this blog up entirely.

Think I managed to bury that bear? If not, then hopefully this picture of a red panda licking a grape can provide some much-needed balance:



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With a Great Hat Comes Great Responsibility

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I once thought I knew how to properly use a hat — after that time in kindergarten I tried to wear one on my kneecap, I accepted the constructive criticism of my teacher and have never looked back.

Nintendo, however, is not one to accept the norm and has sent me a hat to blow one’s mind; a hat that pushes the envelope of headgear-as-we-know-it so extremely that it needs its own instruction manual!

OK, so it’s really just a normal-looking hat, but I’m not lying about the instructions.

Several months back, the Club Nintendo program set to reward faithful Nintendo purchasers with a choice of exclusive products. Being the dorky Nintendo-phernalia collector that I am, I went with the authentic-looking Mario cap. It’s one of the best-known icons of the gaming world; right up there with the Master Sword, Master Chief’s helmet and the dateless Saturday night.

The hat arrived just a week before Halloween, giving some the opportunity to complete costumes of their favorite plumber or, with all due respect, Zombie Captain Lou Albano (rest in peace, Captain). It’s honestly a more nicely-made product than I expected; sturdy, relatively symmetrical and with a stretchable band in the back to fit most heads, as my model will show:

Kirby

I told you I was dorky.

Yet as my mind already began to fill with the adventures of me and my Mario hat, I spotted a slip of paper at the bottom of the shipping box. I picked it up, expecting one of those “Enjoy your way cool new hat and don’t forget Mario’s next games!” pitches that PR interns use to blow their noses while crying themselves to sleep at night, but I was somewhat surprised to instead find an “instruction manual.”

MarioHatInst

Obviously, this is going a bit overboard. For one thing, of course this hat is not for practical use. It’s for use in saving the Mushroom Kingdom and/or galaxy! Everyone knows Mario wears an entirely different hat when performing actual mundane plumbing duties (and a pair of ill-fitting jeans that garner him a Teen rating whenever he’s squatting beneath a sink). There is also positively no need to warn people not to expose the hat to direct sunlight, as anyone who may actually attempt to employ the hat for practical uses has only heard of such a thing in fearfully whispered legends.

The color loss warning makes it sound as though the hat bleeds like a pair of hemophiliac hedgehogs in a pinball machine, but I have so far had no problems. For those wondering, it has not made Kirby look like a pink bullseye when viewed from above.

The rest of the instructions border just a bit on the creepy side: Do not handle the hat roughly. Do not keep the hat near a heat source. Do not leave the hat unattended if it becomes wet. If it weren’t for the mandatory MADE IN CHINA at the bottom, I almost fear we’d see “Do not feed the hat after midnight.” too.

Also, the plastic wrapping that was shipped with the hat may cause “accidents.” I have driven a stake through it and buried it upside-down in my backyard, just to be safe.

On a serious note, I appreciate how Nintendo chose to cater more toward the collector than issuing a cheaper, wearable novelty, and I can understand how they feel a sheet of guidelines would be necessary for those who might want to just toss it to little Billy or strap it to Mittens to make a “Meow-io” LOLcat. If everything goes well and not too many complaints and/or deaths are registered, we might see even better replicas next year.

Boswer: The Flamethrower? The kids would love that one.

Two for me, one for you… eventually

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Signs of the impending holiday season have started to arrive. I woke up this morning and peered out my Western New York lair to spot minuscule snow flecks drifting through the air. These are the scouts Mother Nature sends for intel on where to drop the bomb on us each year.

It appears sales have gotten fired up as well, with both Toys (backward Russian R) Us and Amazon holding “buy 2, get the 3rd free” video game events until Oct. 17. I’m sure there may be some “buy 2 wonderfully-carved-yet-kind-of-creepy faceless wooden angels, get the 3rd free” sale going on somewhere, but it’s the game sales that get picked up in my channels.

“Oh, what a fantastic opportunity to save some money purchasing three gifts for my friends!” you may be thinking. What a saint you are, by which I mean you’re a filthy liar. These were never designed to be “let’s buy three games for someone else” deals; they’re “let’s buy one or two games for myself with the added bonus of a free game I can give to a friend, after I tell him it just oddly didn’t arrive shrink-wrapped for some reason and that oh crap, I didn’t realize there was no disc in there either until you just opened the case and I guess someone must’ve stolen it in the mail—yeah, that’s it—and no we can’t play my console right now because it’s, um… it’s broken unless you excuse yourself to the bathroom or something so I can get the disc I forgot to place back in the case out of it without you looking” deals.

All right, so that may be such an extreme case of selfishness that you likely wouldn’t have any friends to give stuff to, anyway, but for all the yuletide torture Christmas shopping brings upon the standard soul, it’s awfully tempting to score something for yourself in the process. If you actually go out into the real world on Black Friday, that temptation often involves items like a new spleen to replace the one the lady in the ill-fitting Tweety Bird shirt and crocs ruptured after running you over lengthwise with a shopping cart.

So if you want to dip into the bargain bins a bit and pull out something for yourself, I’m not going to say anything. Whatever gets you through the holiday season to the actual holiday is all right in my book. Just remember, though, that the more things you buy for yourself, the more likely someone’s going to get you that exact same thing—and Tweety Bird Croc Lady occupies the return lines on Dec. 26, too.

Startup

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Welcome to Latshaw Loses It, a blog where I, Tim Latshaw, intend to get back into writing as fun and hopefully provide something worthy for others to read in the process.

I’ve grown up always writing for amusement in at least some regard. Many examples of the kind of stuff I’m talking about can be found on myDeviantART page. I picked up journalism in college and have gone on to become a reporter and editor, but over time I feel my outside writing effort has faded some as I’ve concentrated more on the style of my profession; hence this blog.

I intend to use this blog to post regular writing of various types, from small stories to satire of current events to possibly even some simple musings on my personal life. We’ll see how it goes, and maybe I can keep it categorized.

By the way, I also enjoy writing video game reviews and related items for UGTV.ca. If you enjoy such stuff, you can often find my work there.