You ever have one of those weeks where you keep thinking that you have stuff to talk about, but then you start writing it down and none of it seems particularly interesting or important? That’s where I was last week. That’s sorta where I still am this week, but the day job is slow at the moment and I need to look busy. So here we go.
I started reading “The Phantom Tollbooth” to my almost-five-year-old (!) son last week. It’s one of my all-time favorite books, and it’s one of the two books that I’d been looking forward to reading to him pretty much since he was born – every once in a while he’ll ask me to read “The Monster At The End Of This Book”, but Grover doesn’t mean the same thing to him as it did to me. In any event, we made it through a chapter and a half before he started losing interest, and rather than force it on him, I figure it’s probably best if we put it to the side, and then he can get back to it when he’s ready.
Speaking of books, I’ve been on a tear of late. The last book I’d mentioned in these pages was Nick Harkaway’s “Gnomon”. Since then, I finally finished Zachary Mason’s “Void Star” (interesting premise, though the writing is almost too flowery and obtuse), Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History” (which is as magnificent as everyone says, and which I vastly preferred over “The Goldfinch”), and now I’m catching up on some early George Saunders work – “In Persuasion Nation”, which is brilliant, and “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline”, which is equally brilliant. I’d never particularly cared for short stories one way or the other – I generally always preferred getting sucked into a very very long novel rather than a short vignette – but what he does with the form is nothing short of revelatory. And quite frankly, he’s a lot more sci-fi than most people tend to acknowledge – a lot of his stories read like Black Mirror episodes if they were allowed to be absurd, rather than just purely filled with technological dread.
I think I’d mentioned a few weeks back that the wife and I were determined to get back into our respective creative gears this year. For me, this feels a bit more daunting than it should, because my laptop is running on fumes at this point and buying a new computer is just too goddamned much for me right now, what with credit card debt and the mortgage and car payments and day care and etc. And yet, if I ever hope to make any money from making music, I need a new computer. I did end up buying a new input box, but I’m so afraid of it not working that I haven’t yet attempted to hook it up.
It wasn’t always this way, of course. Back in high school, I was writing music all day; I still have a notebook filled with at least 200+ songs with charts and lyrics and melodies and arrangements and such. But I never recorded them, beyond sitting in front of a boombox and recording a sketch to show the band. Eventually I bought a four-track, and that was also just used for sketches (and indeed I never had the proper means to mix them down, and so I ended up sending the mixes through my guitar amp and recording them with a hand-held dictaphone). And so on and so forth. The point being, I never needed to have professional equipment at home because there was always a band I could send this stuff to, and if we liked a song well enough to record it we’d just go into a studio and record it properly. Now, of course, I don’t have a band, and I don’t have the money to pay for a studio (or to hire the musicians necessary to play this stuff), and so if I’m going to release this stuff I need to do it myself. And so I need a new computer. Anybody have a spare $2000 they’re not using so I can get an iMac?
If you’re looking for a good time on your mobile phone, you could do a lot worse than The Room: Old Sins. The story is as obtuse is ever, but that’s hardly the point; this is the best game in the entire series, bar none, and it’s a pleasure to play through from start to finish.
Lastly: I started playing Monster Hunter World this weekend, like most of the gaming world. It’s my first foray into the franchise, and my understanding is that it’s the most accessible. I can’t speak to that; I’m just coming to it as a newbie and hoping it makes sense. Actually, let me rephrase that – I’m coming to it pretending I’m Geralt from the Witcher franchise, to the point where that’s what my character looks like. I need to get out of that habit, of course, because the combat in Monster Hunter bears little to no relation to The Witcher, and that’s why I feel like I’m almost about to die quite often.
In any event, I finished the first 3 missions and am now at the point where I can explore without a time limit or without any particular objectives, and I think this is where I can see the game becoming quite awesome.
That being said, the game makes some puzzling design choices; the one that drives me the most insane is that you can’t truly pause the game. While it’s true that this doesn’t always matter – like when you’re in the starting hub, or if you simply decline to press “A” during a cutscene – it most certainly matters if you’re in the middle of a quest. My game-playing time is in the evening, after my son goes to bed, and I’m in the basement, two floors below him; if he needs something and my wife isn’t available – or if my dog needs something – or if I need a bathroom break or a snack – I’ve gotta put the controller down and deal with it, and not being able to pause means that meta-Geralt is most likely going to die. Not being able to pause is a source of needless anxiety and I don’t know how to get around it. (This is also why I never stuck with the Destiny franchise.)