Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Catching up on DVDs this weekend, becuase there’s a big stack of movies we haven’t gotten around to seeing.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Catching up on DVDs this weekend, becuase there’s a big stack of movies we haven’t gotten around to seeing.
(Originally posted on FB)
I recently found myself at a bit of a loose end, games wise. I’d been playing a lot of Star Wars: The Old Republic, levelling through six of the eight available class storylines, and wanting to take a short break from it. I was kind of itching for a sprawling Bioware/Bethesda style RPG, and debating doing another playthrough of Dragon Age or Fallout, when I came across “Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen” unplayed in my steam library. I don’t remember when I bought it, but it was probably deeply discounted during one of their sales.
The game was originally released for consoles in 2013, and later ported to the PC. It seems to have a fairly enthusiastic following, as I found from looking about online. And I had too look online, becuase otherwise I’d have no idea what was going on with it.
After a few hours of play, I have to say I can’t recall the last time I played a game so aggressively uninterested in giving me information about itself. The basic mechanics of the game are reasonably straightforward, which is good since it just drops you right in without much fanfare. The prologue has you playing a character who isn’t your avatar, but doesn’t explain much. You eventually pick up NPC party members, but the game is pretty mum on how you should evaluate these characters to join your party, and none of them are real characters in any sense, they’re just automatons. (Literally, in game. They’re called “pawns”, and they’re presented as soulless minions who only exist to serve your need.)
The user interface makes it hard to find anything, and there’s no way to tell if an area or a foe are appropriate to your level, short of charging in and seeing if you get your butt handed back to you. Conversations with NPCs are stilted, between the frankly awful voice-acting and the fact that you never actually respond to anything said to you. They react to you as *if* you said something, but it’s not like there was dialogue to choose that shapes the responses. They just say something, and you hit enter, and they say something else.
A friend I trust tells me the story is ultimately worth it, but I’m afraid that it’s just not engaging me. I might give it another try later, but I think for now I’m going to set it aside.
Reading is something I used to do constantly. And then somewhere, I stopped making the time for it, and have been determined in recent years to make an effort to make it my default habit again. To that end, last year I decided to try and track the books I read, and periodically discuss them.
Unfortunately, after just one post, in January, I fell behind on writing about the books, and then in May I got very busy and ended up both not reading as much as I’d planned and also stopped tracking the books. After which, I never picked up logging again.
So I’ve reconstructed what I can from my memory, but my memory being what it is, I can’t be sure what I’ve missed. So that puts my total at 48. That includes quite a few comic book collections. 1
The following highlights are taken from a series of prompts from my friend Jessica F. Hebert.2
First book of 2017: “Winter’s Tale” by Mark Helpin
This is my favourite novel, and an annual re-read. This would mark the 30th or so time I’ve read it, and it was magical as always. I was once asked, after listing it as my favourite novel, what it was about, and I summed it thusly:
“It’s a story about love. It’s a story about the love of passion, the love of seasons, the love of family, and the love of place. It’s a story about justice, and transcendence, and redemption. It’s a story about seeking, and wanting, and needing. It’s a story about what changes, and what never changes, and the bridge between the two. It’s a story about magic, and reality, and about the wall of clouds that separate one from the other and then weave them together as tightly as the threads in a tapestry.
But more than anything, it’s the story of a city, and the story of a girl, and the story of a man, and the story of a horse.”
Last book of 2017: “The Design Of Everyday Things” by Donald A Norman
This is a classic text that dissects the elements of design that factor into every single thing we touch and interact with, and the psychology behind how that design works, or in many cases, entirely fails to work. I’ve heard of this book for years, but never got around to reading it, and when i came across a reference to it I ordered it on a whim. Terrific read.3
Book I couldn’t shut up about: “A Colony In A Nation” by Chris Hayes
This is the book I’ve most recommended over the course of the year. It’s an examination of race relations in the US, and I think it’s very much worth the time to sit and digest it. Chris Hayes is one of the smarter people working in journalism right now, and I’ve been a big fan of his work since back when he was still writing for The Nation.
Most devastating book: “Crash Override” by Zoe Quinn
In many ways, GamerGate was the canary in the coal mine of our national discourse that warned us all that something very ugly was not just brewing but bubbling over. Quinn’s account of her experience as the original target of the harassment campaign is chilling to read, and it made me angry all over again at the entire fiasco. It does include some constructive thoughts towards the end, where Quinn details the activism she’s been working on to help others who have been targeted, and some suggestions towards making the Internet a better, safer place for everyone.
Book my friends all liked that I finally read and…didn’t: No entry.
The only book I read that I’d had hanging around my to-do list for ages was “Ready Player One”, by Earnest Cline, but I quite liked it. While it does have some problematic elements, it’s a popcorn book, and I consumed it as such.
Book my friends didn’t like that I finally read and…did: “Aftermath” by Chuck Wendig
The Aftermath trilogy was one of the first major Star Wars novels to come out after Disney announced they were rebranding the old Expanded Universe as “Legends” and that all future Star Wars novels and comics would be considered part of the “canon” of the Star Wars universe.4 And the response to them was largely negative, so I didn’t really drop everything I was doing to read them. But while on a cruise to Alaska this summer, I found a copy of the first book in the trilogy in the ships library, and lacking for something breezy and fun to read, I took it back to my room and started on it. And quite honestly, I enjoyed them thoroughly. The first book is a bit slow to start, and Wendig’s present-tense prose style takes some getting used to. 5 But the characters are wonderful, and there’s some terrific stories there filling out what was going on immediately after the destruction of the Second Death Star.
From here, I went on to read several more recent Star Wars novels, all of which I’ve enjoyed, and a couple of which6 were superb.
Most read author: Ryan North and Erica Henderson
North and Henderson are the writer and artist responsible for the Marvel comic “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl”, of which I read five volumes all in a row while spending a lovely weekend of isolation and natural splendor at Lake Crescent. I am an unabashed fan of Squirrel Girl, who never fails to delight me.
Best surprise: “Tove Jansson: Work and Love” by Tuula Karjalainen
I’ve been a fan of Tove Jansson’s Moomin books since I was a child, and I first read “The Adventures of Moominpapa”.7 They are books I continually return to and reread, and the whimsy and magic of those stories are something I always want to make room for in my life. But despite this, I really didn’t know a lot about Jansson herself, and when I saw a notice of this biography, I ordered it. It was a tremendous read, and I learned a lot about an author I already greatly admired.
Works I’m Looking Forward to in 2018:
I haven’t really looked ahead to see what’s on the horizon. On the comics front, I’m greatly looking forward to the first collection Gail Simone and Cat Stagg’s “Crosswind”, which is coming out in March. And I have the short story collection “Star Wars: From A Certain Point of View” sitting on the top of my to-read pile, waiting for me to finish what I’m currently reading, which is “Mad Men: Carousel”, which is a series of critical essays by Matt Zoller Seitz about the TV series “Mad Men” that I’ve been meaning to get around to since it came out.
In any event, I’m looking to keep better track this year, and to make more periodic updates like I planned to do last year. Onward and upward.
I’m only including collected paperbacks of comics, because honestly that’s the only way I buy them anymore. ↩
Upon whose Facebook post this entry was originally a comment upon. ↩
I was reading “The Holy Or The Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of ‘Hallelujah'”, but I didn’t finish it until today, so it goes on the 2018 list. ↩
I have some extended thoughts on this subject that are the subject of a future essay I’m writing. Watch this space. ↩
I admit I normally hate this particular technique, but honestly, by midway through the first book I’d stopped noticing it entirely. ↩
“Phasma” by Delilah S. Dawson and “Thrawn” by Timothy Zahn ↩
A few years ago, I recorded a substantial portion of an audiobook of this novel, as a gift to one of my girlfriends at the time, who was also a huge Jansson fan. I never finished it, but I keep meaning to ↩
The 30 Day music challenge was a great success, and I wand to thank everyone who participated in the threads for each day’s challenge. Just to wrap it up, There’s a couple of links I want to share.
If you’d like to read through all the entries again, in order of posting, you can do that by going to my website at this link:
I’ve also assembled all of my pics into a YouTube playlist, if you just want to listen to the songs as a mix.1 You can find the playlist here.
Now, of course, I have to stop being lazy and come up with other things to post here. But this was a good way to get back into the habit of daily posting, and while I may not update daily from here on out, I do want to try and be more regular. As always, anything I post in my main blog will be mirrored to Facebook, Dreamwidth, and Tumblr, and linked on Twitter2, so feel free to keep following me wherever it is you find it most convenient.
Thanks again for following along, and for commenting!
And here we come to the last song in the 30 day challenge, where we are asked to share a song that reminds us of ourselves. Of all the challenges, this was the easiest song by far to choose. I’ve always said that this was my theme song, and will certainly play over the opening credits of the TV series based on my life, were someone to undertake such a thing. Most people who know me1 can attest to this.
I loved the song when I first heard it, when it was a hit for Men at Work in 1983. But I really love the acoustic versions that Colin Hay performs these days, and there’s a number of really good performances of it floating around, including this one.
If you’ve ever wanted a peak inside my brain, this song will give you one. Here’s Colin Hay, with “Overkill”.
and certainly anyone who’s dated me ↩
We are nearing the end of our musical journey. Today, we are asked to share a song we remember from our childhood.
So many songs I could pick here. I got seriously into music young, and thanks to finding and acquiring my mother’s record collection at an early age, my musical taste has always skewed not just to the current but also to things that were released before I was born.
Still, I wanted to pick something that I remember from the radio, which is difficult because its not always easy for me to remember when exactly i picked something up. But I remember really liking this song, even if I am reasonably sure I didn’t entirely understand it. I just liked the sound of it, and the quality of that amazing voice. Here’s Gordon Lightfoot, with his 1974 hit “Sundown”
Today’s challenge invites us to share a song from an artist whose voice you love. One of my favourite singers growing up was Karen Carpenter. I had all the Carpenters albums, and listened to them endlessly. This is a challenge where the initial selection is easy, but which track to choose. As is often my wont, I’m going for a pretty deep album cut rather than one of the big hits everyone knows.
This song was originally written in 1937, and was a hit for Tommy Dorsey, and later for the Andrews Sisters. But Karen’s wistful, angelic alto and Richard’s sublime arrangement make this a standout track from their 1975 album Horizon. Here’s what I think is the definitive rendition of “I Can Dream, Can’t I?”
Today’s challenge invites us to share a song that breaks our heart. If I’d looked ahead on these challenges, I might have saved the Glen Campbell song I posted on Day 10 for “A Song That Makes You Sad” for this, and chosen a different sad song then. But since that’s under the bridge, here’s another song about heartbreak, and specifically about that moment in a long-term relationship when you realise things maybe aren’t going to work out in the end. I’m happy to say that it’s been a very long time since this song resonated strongly with me, but back when it did, it certainly was a time of tremendous heartache. Here’s Christine Lavin with “Katy Says Today Is The Best Day Of My Whole Entire Life”
Today’s challenge invites us to share a song that makes you want to fall in love. Love songs are, of course, about three quarters of the popular music canon, so one is hardly spoiled for choice. I’m choosing today to share this exquisite number from Bob Dylan’s 1997 album “Time Out Of Mind”. It’s been covered by many people, but I like the sparseness of the original. (I should really learn this one.) Here’s “To Make You Feel My Love”
Today’s challenge invites us to share a song we like by an artist no longer living. There are a lot of musical heroes I could choose from. I’ve earlier in this challenge already shined a spotlight on David Bowie and Prince, so here’s my favourite Warren Zevon song, “Accidentally Like A Martyr”
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