Weekend Recap: Noodling Around

MUSIC:  If we’re judging the new album’s progress solely by how much I’m uploading to my Google Drive folder every week, then obviously I’ve slowed down rather considerably since February.  But I’m still working / thinking / contemplating / scribbling down lyrics whenever they pop into my head, nearly every day.

My beta listeners might disagree with my analysis, but as of right now, out of the 20-odd demos I’ve uploaded, I’ve narrowed my attentions down to 10 of them.  One of those 10 is a brand-new thing I recorded the other night, which I was tempted to upload and share immediately after I bounced it to mp3, even though I probably shouldn’t.  I really like it, but I also am fully aware that it’s a nearly 5-minute-long guitar noodle, similar to the looping stuff I was doing about 15 years ago; and if it were to actually make the cut and appear on the album, I’d be doing some drastic edits in order make it a bit less self-indulgent.   (Ironically, this is why I’m tempted to post the original version in all its noodle-tastic glory, given that it’s almost certainly not remaining in its current form.)

I’ve also reached the inevitable crippling self-doubt phase, which is what happens when I listen to these demos too many times and end up either (a) hating them or (b) getting too attached to their rough-draft imperfections and wanting to keep them as is.  That second part is also why it’s hard to make second drafts out of these things sometimes; even though it’s a relatively minor thing to simply cut/paste sections over a few measures to insert some extra time for a verse or whatever, I’ve gotten so used to how these things already sound that even though the adjustment makes the song better, I don’t like it as much.

I might need to take some time away from the demos and simply listen to this stuff in my head for a while.

I also might go ahead and post this new thing anyway, or at least a little snippet of it.


BOOKS:  I realize I haven’t talked about what I’m reading in a while; I’ve been slowly going through David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet for the last few weeks; last night I started Part 3.  I was always apprehensive about starting it (which is why it’s been in my backlog for as long as it’s been), given that I’m not particularly drawn towards historical fiction, especially in an era that I have absolutely no prior knowledge of (in this book’s case, the Dutch/Japanese trade of the very late 1700s).  But Mitchell is still a hell of a writer, and I suspect that his reasons for setting this book in this very specific period and place will make sense, and in any event it’s very cool to see characters from his other books show up in this one.


FILM:  I don’t usually talk about movies in this blog, if only because I simply don’t have the time to consume film the way I used to.  But I did want to take a few minutes to talk about Interstellar, which the wife and I finally saw over the weekend.  I’ve been a devout Christopher Nolan fan ever since Memento exploded my brain – that’s one of the few films I’ve bothered to see in a theater twice – and I’ve enjoyed everything he’s made ever since, despite their varied flaws.  (My biggest problem with Inception, besides the fact that it gave me a panic attack when I saw it in the theater, is that there’s no character development in any line of dialogue; everything’s flat and expository and it’s a credit to his actors that you feel anything at all towards them; a similar line of attack could be levied towards the Batman films, too.)  In any case, I’d heard mixed things towards “Interstellar” but I knew I had to see it for myself anyway, and so I did, and I absolutely loved it.  It’s not without its flaws (though I wouldn’t dream of taking issue with its science; it’s out of my depth anyway, and whether or not it’s 100% scientifically accurate is somewhat besides the point, I think) and I saw certain twists coming, but I still gasped at their reveal, and I can’t help but admit that Matthew McConaughey (an actor I’m not terribly fond of) was really, really, really good.

Side note:  in the wake of the Marvin Gaye/Robin Thicke lawsuit and the troubling precedent it could set, I can’t help but think that Philip Glass could sue the pants off of Hans Zimmer for essentially ripping off Glass’s soundtrack for Koyaanisqatsi.  Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the “Interstellar” soundtrack immensely; it just sounded somewhat familiar to me, and then I listened to it on Spotify and realized why.


GAMES:  Lots to talk about.

1.  I finished The Order: 1886.  I stand by my earlier faint praise, though now that it’s all over I can see why people would be disappointed:

  • The game’s premise is still very intriguing – the Knights of the Round Table are quasi-immortal knights currently engaged in a war with vampires – but nothing particularly interesting is done with that premise.
  • For all the game’s cinematic aspirations, it doesn’t stick the landing at all.
  • Any game, film or book that contains a scene between adversaries that has a variation of the line “We’re not so different, you and I” is now getting docked a full point in my arbitrary and non-existent rating system.
  • The combat system never really evolves.  You mostly fight human soldiers, usually head on although there are some stealth sequences here and there; maybe three or four times you fight some beasties, who have a much different attack pattern; and then I think there are two “boss” fights against these monsters which are mostly QTE-enhanced.  I don’t hate QTEs as much as most people, but I don’t necessarily like them all that much either; I don’t mind them here, but that’s also because they don’t pop up all that often.  (That said, the very last shot in the game has a QTE prompt in the dead center of the screen, which robs the moment of whatever gravitas it was aiming for.)
  • The “hidden collectible” aspect of the game is dumb and underdeveloped and a waste of time.

But:  it is absolutely gorgeous, and it’s relatively bug-free (which is very impressive in today’s AAA space), and I think a sequel could be something truly special, if it’s done right.

2.  During this weekend’s 2K sale on Steam, I ended up buying both Civilization Beyond Earth and Sid Meier’s Starships.  I keep forgetting that I need to be in certain moods in order to really get into Civ games, and I was not in those moods this weekend.

3.  On a whim, I decided to get back into Shadow of Mordor, which I’d put aside a few months back.  Decided to start over, from the very beginning, to remember how to play it properly.  Lo and behold, I’m enjoying it about a thousand times more than I did the first time; I don’t know what happened to my brain between then and now, but something about it finally clicked, and now I’m really enjoying it.  I’m also much better at it this time around, for whatever reason; the first time I was getting my ass kicked left and right, but in this second go-round I’m holding my own much better.

4.  My almost-2-year-old son is infatuated with the Lego Movie – and given that I enjoy it as well, I don’t mind him watching it over and over again.  So I decided that this would be as good a time as any to replay the game again, if only so that he could control Emmet directly.  The game is still buggy as hell, but whatever – if Henry wants Emmet to jump, Emmet jumps, and he gets quite a kick out of it.  (Also, my dog Lily is an expert-level photobomber.)

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