Category: ramblings

The First Few Hours: High Maintenance, Far Cry 5

I don’t have a lot of time today but I did want to put down some thoughts before they vanished from my brain entirely.

1. High Maintenance.

My brother told me about this show over the weekend, and so last night after we put our kid to bed we ended up watching a few episodes.  (I should add that, on his recommendation, we started with Season 2, Episode 1, rather than starting from the very beginning – the show itself is non-linear and episodic and somewhat Black Mirror-ish in that it’s got a mostly different cast in every episode.)  (I should also add that the aforementioned Season 2 opener is fucking incredible and is what got us hooked on watching the rest of it from the beginning; I should also add that even for an HBO show it contains a rather startling amount of sexual content – it makes Game of Thrones look like Sesame Street.)

Anyway, some thoughts.  On the one hand:  it’s a brilliant idea.  The show is basically a series of short stories about the lives of New Yorkers who have nothing to do with each other except that they have the same weed dealer.  Often the “weed guy” is barely in the episode at all – indeed, one particularly moving vignette takes place entirely through the POV of a dog.  It’s a funny show but it’s not necessarily “stoner humor”; instead, the thing I love about it is that it lingers in those ambient and transient moments that occur between other moments, which is the sort of thing that a stoner might find interesting.  It certainly captures those weird 10-15 minutes of hang-out time between the dealer’s arrival and departure.  And if nothing else, it’s the first show I’ve seen since moving out to the suburbs that’s made me miss living in New York City, because it captures the rhythms of city life more accurately than anything else I’ve seen.

On the other hand:  one can’t help but notice that the weed guy is white, and you’re almost never, ever, EVER worried about him getting arrested.  I’ve only seen a handful of episodes, so maybe this gets brought up at some point.  I’m not saying the show ignores race – indeed, the show has a wildly diverse cast from episode to episode in terms of the weed guy’s clientele, and many scenes are filmed in other, native languages with English subtitles, and the accompanying culutural rhythms are presented realistically.  But it’s the sort of thing that, in this current cultural moment, is very hard to ignore.

2. Far Cry 5.

I don’t know how to write about Far Cry 5.  I’ve only dabbled with it for a few hours, so I don’t yet have a full sense of where the game is going.  But it certainly feels like a Far Cry game – well, let me rephrase that.  It feels like an extension of 3 and 4, and that leads me to ask an obvious question:  what is a Far Cry game supposed to feel like?

I can’t pretend to answer that question fairly, because of the 6 and a half Far Cry games that have been released (the half being Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon), I’ve only actually seen the credits roll for one of them (that being Far Cry 4).  I’ve played maybe an hour of the first one and even less of the second; I understand that quite a few critics love Far Cry 2, and if nothing else they call it one of the most avant-garde AAA first-person shooters ever made, but I’ve only seen a tiny sliver of it, and that was at least 3 apartments ago.   I got somewhere near the end of Far Cry 3, but then the shooting at Sandy Hook happened and the act of firing a gun made me feel sick to my stomach, and FC3’s bloodlust felt particularly brutal in that context.  I’ve seen maybe the first half of Primal, which is certainly an interesting experiment, though mechanically it doesn’t necessarily do anything that the other games haven’t already done.

That said, I’ve played enough of 5 to recognize its rhythms.  You meet the game’s villain in the beginning – as you do in 3 and 4 – and then you make a violent escape and eventually take him down by reclaiming the land for the native citizenry.   This time around, of course, the action takes place not in some far-flung tropical island or Himalayan plataeu, but rather in rural Montana; your villain is a cult leader, and you – a lowly police deputy – find yourself forced to take him down in order to escape (since, for some reason, you have no cell phone service and can’t call backup).

Far Cry 5 could be a really interesting bit of social commentary, if it had any courage.  If you say the word “cult”, chances are you’ll think of David Koresh and Waco, Texas – or you might think of Heaven’s Gate, or Jonestown.  If you consider the idea of a gun-crazy group of militiamen who abhor the federal government, you might recall the Bundy family, who took over that wildlife preserve just a few years ago, basically daring the feds to come in shooting.  If you think of armed citizens, you might be tempted to think of any of the dozens of mass shootings that have taken place in the last 6 months.  If you think of the idea of a policeman forced to shoot their fellow Americans, you might be reminded of any of the hundreds of unarmed black Americans that have been killed by police in the last few years.

Far Cry 5 addresses literally none of these things.  It exists in an entirely self-contained universe that, while taking place in the modern United States, has literally nothing to do with the country that we currently live in.  It feels, instead, like a videogame; you shoot the same 3 or 4 grizzled rednecks who are heavily armed but also run in straight lines.  You perform silly side missions for the locals after you liberate their towns from the cult (one early mission I’ve stumbled across requires me to harvest bull testicles for an upcoming town fair).  The most interesting parts of the game (as in 3 and 4 and Primal) are the hidden caches, which usually involve some sort of light environmental puzzle solving.

As a game, it’s fun enough; it’s certainly gorgeous on the X, and the gunplay is solid and you’re never at a loss for things to do.  But as a bit of social commentary – which you can’t help but feel like it should be, considering the subject matter – it comes up wildly short.  One can’t help but wonder what this game would be like if, say, Rockstar had made it.  (Well, I suppose one could just play GTA V in first-person mode and find out.)

Ambient Humanity

My son turns 5 on Saturday, and that is ridiculous.  There’s no way he’s already 5 years old.

Have you ever fallen in love with a song so much it made you cry?  It happens to me all the time.  And it happened to him this weekend.  He fell hard for this song from the end credits in the Captain Underpants movie – and yes, that is a weird thing to fall in love with, but far be it for me to deprive him of a cathartic response to art; the heart wants what it wants.  We listened to it in the car on the way to swim class, and when I went to get him out of the car I noticed that he was sniffly and sad, and I asked him what was wrong, and he said “Daddy I love you”, and that the song made him “happy sad”, and he said he loved me again and he gave me a big hug and dried his eyes on my shoulder, and my heart melted all over the parking lot of the West Essex YMCA.


We have our basement back!  And it only took 2 weeks!  The longest and most stressful 2 weeks of our lives as homeowners, but still!  I can’t begin to explain how relieved I am to have everything back up and running again.

Of course, there are still some things that need to be replaced.  My computer desk(s) got kinda fucked up during the renovation, and my computers are still busted (though not due to the flooding), and so on and so on.  But the point is, you can hang out down there again.   Which means I’ll have more stuff to write about here.


I’ve been feeling more and more like it’s time for me to finally pull the plug on Facebook, even though it’s really, really difficult to suddenly cut myself off from pretty much everyone I know.  (And my family would kill me if I suddenly deprived them of photos of my kid.)  I’ve sorta had it in the back of my mind that I’m gonna keep my account right up until I finish this stupid album, and I can get the word out, and then after that’s run its course I’ll shut my account down and spend more time over here.

And it’s gonna be a while until this album gets finished.  So there’s no real timetable just yet.

In any event, I came across this Kottke post that resonated pretty heavily with me – not just because I used to be a die-hard Livejournal user, but because even after all these years I’ve never felt quite as part of a community as I did over there.  There’s no question that WordPress is a better platform for creating stuff, but it’s awfully tough to foster friendships and connections here.  Facebook (for me, at least) was never about meeting new people, it was only ever about reconnecting with people I’d lost touch with.  Twitter (for me) is almost entirely about reading what other people have to say, because anything I write there barely ripples the water’s endless surface.

AOL IM 4eva, is what I’m saying.

Anyway, the post inside that Kottke thing is here, and it’s great, and this pull-quote is hitting me exactly where I live.

It is psychological gravity, not technical inertia, however, that is the greater force against the open web. Human beings are social animals and centralized social media like Twitter and Facebook provide a powerful sense of ambient humanity—the feeling that “others are here”—that is often missing when one writes on one’s own site. Facebook has a whole team of Ph.D.s in social psychology finding ways to increase that feeling of ambient humanity and thus increase your usage of their service.


So:  Far Cry 5 comes out this week; my rental copy of Ni No Kuni 2 should be arriving today; I’m continuing to move along in QUBE 2, which is a Portal-esque first-person puzzler that breaks my brain in interesting and very satisfying ways; and there’s some other indie puzzlers that I’d like to get back to, when I have time, which I don’t.  But now that the basement’s back, I can at least make the attempt.

After The Flood

So:  what usually happens when I decide to start writing here is that I’ll have a few free minutes, I’ll start gathering my thoughts and start typing, and then BLAM – huge project arrives in my inbox.  (Or, as another example:  as I typed this last sentence, my boss showed up.)  Last week, I got sidetracked by something else entirely:  a huge storm, a power outage, a flooded basement.

The good news is that we only had about an inch and a half of water, which means that all my instruments and all my gaming stuff avoided getting damaged.  But we lost 3 carpets, a lot of my son’s toys, a whole bunch of luggage that was stored in a utility closet, our Christmas tree, a fair amount of my wife’s tools from her reiki practice, and some other stuff – honestly, the last few days have been something of a blur.

And so now we are going to be several thousand dollars in the hole in terms of renovation and repair.  We were able to find a floor repair service (thanks to our amazing neighbors) and so we’ve had a gigantic dehumidifier and several industrial-grade fans going non-stop since Friday; we have a contractor coming this evening to survey the basement and see about getting the walls/insulation replaced.

My wife and I are exhausted and stressed out, but I gotta say:  the kid is handling it like a champ.


You know what’s been nice, though?  It’s been nice to be away from the internet, and the news cycle, and all that shit.  I desperately needed to unplug, and if it takes an act of God to get me unplugged, then so be it.


Anyway, as you might imagine, leisure time has been non-existent of late.  The basement is off limits, so my wife and I are back to sharing the living room TV.  I’ve been too frazzled to enjoy what I’m reading, and I’ve not had any opportunity to listen to music.  During the power outage, I was actually using my Switch as a shitty flashlight because my iPhone was running out of juice.

That said, I’ve been using the Switch more and more, and I’m suddenly wanting it to get all the indie ports that used to show up on the Vita.  Indeed, I’ve been starting to compile a list of stuff I’d like to see:

  • XCOM / XCOM 2 / Invisible Inc.
  • Mark of the Ninja
  • Fez
  • Something – anything – from Rockstar.  (And yes, I know about L.A. Noire, but that doesn’t quite count.)  Ideally, and I know this is never happening, I’d love to see a port of GTA 4, but with the control scheme of GTA 5
  • The 2.5D Assassin’s Creed games
  • the Oddworld New & Tasty remake
  • Sid Meier’s Pirates, or a port of the console-based Civ Rev game (not the iPhone version)

I also heard about the original Crackdown getting enhanced for Xbox One X; unfortunately my 4K TV is in the basement – and while it was well above the water line I haven’t had a chance to plug it in, so I’m just hoping it still works – but in any event, I can’t really see it in all its 4K HDR glory, but I did find my disc and gave it a quick spin, and yeah – that game is still kinda awesome.

It is awesome in the same way that Burnout Paradise HD is awesome – and yes, of course I bought the remake, and because (for some reason that I’ve since forgotten) I’m a member of EA Access, I was able to play it last night.  Those games are both awesome because you can totally forget about the main path and just tool around looking for hidden stuff, and whether you’re picking up ability orbs or crashing through barriers, there’s a visceral rush that few other games have ever managed to achieve.

(Certain other elements of Burnout Paradise have not aged well, of course:  DJ Atomica can fuck right off.  But they have added some new songs to the soundtrack, including LCD Soundsystem’s “Us v Them” which is one of my favorite songs of all time.)

And in the meantime, I’m still finding myself tooling around in Assassin’s Creed Origins, because that game continues to feel right in my hands in a way that other, better games don’t – not even The Witcher 3.  It doesn’t hurt that even after finishing the main campaign and sinking more than 60 hours into it, there’s still a ton of stuff to do, and a ton of question marks to uncover, and etc.  That game continues to surprise and impress.

Anhedonia, revisited

Hold on just a minute.  Did I really not write anything here during the month of February?

(checks blog)

Goddamn.  I don’t quite know how that happened, but it happened, and so there it is.

I have noticed lately that I have been getting more and more frustrated with my relationship to the internet, and as such I’ll periodically pop in on Facebook or whatever just to say that I’m taking a break, and the break lasts for about 45 minutes, and instead of feeling frustration, I feel shame.  Whereas here, I kinda just… disappear?  I don’t announce anything, it just sorta happens, and surprisingly enough I don’t feel shame when I realize I’ve been away.  This is my private little corner of the internet and if I don’t get around to writing anything, well, that’s on me.

The first paragraph of my last entry (on January 29!) was this:

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 guess that’s been the order of things here.  Work has been just busy enough to keep me from gathering my thoughts, and when I do gather my thoughts they don’t appear to be particularly noteworthy.

I suppose some catch-up is in order, and hopefully that’ll help shake off the dust and get me back into some sort of a regular writing habit.


In that same entry from the end of January, I’d written how I was experiencing some technical difficulties with respect to my musical endeavors – namely, that my 8-year-old MacBook is falling apart, and my old input device wasn’t being recognized.  I ended up buying a replacement input device, but I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t taken it out of the box yet.  Why?  Well, for the same reason that I’m often reluctant to go to a doctor if something’s wrong; I don’t want to be told that a toothache is actually a brain tumor.  In this case, if my new device works, I can at least try to continue making music.  But if I hook it up and it’s still busted, then that means I have to drop nearly 2G on a new computer.  Which is a tough pill to swallow.  Which is why nothing’s happened, music-wise, in over a month.  I completely missed the RPM Challenge this year.


Books:  In that aforementioned last post, I was finishing up a mini-George Saunders marathon.  Since then, I’ve read:

  • The Immortalists, which is a current front-runner for Book of the Year;
  • The Sky Is Yours, which I enjoyed, though not as much as I’d hoped;
  • The Infinite Future, which should’ve been right up my alley but was a little too wrapped up in its own poetry to bother tying any of its plot threads together;
  • The Woman in the Window, the latest Gone-Girl-esque thriller of the moment, which turned out to be better than I’d anticipated;
  • The Gone World, which houses an intriguing time-travelling premise but is buried under its own weighty prose;
  • Rock n’ Roll Lies: Ten Stories, a charming little collection that just happens to be written by a new friend of mine that lives in my town; and
  • Red Sparrow, which I gave up on after maybe getting a third of the way through; it’s atrocious and has turned me off from the rest of the trilogy and the movie and everything else.  Ugh.

Currently re-reading The Way of Kings, so that I can then re-read Book 2, so that I can finally read volumes 2.5 and 3.


Games:  I’ve been playing a whole bunch of nothing, which is frustrating, because I did just buy a new sound bar to accompany my glorious new TV.  I’ve been listening to music more than I’ve been playing, basically.  And that’s great!  I like listening to music, especially on good speakers at reasonable volumes!  But by and large I’ll go down to the basement, look at all the stuff I have, and realize I’m not interested in any of it.  I’m kinda hoping Far Cry 5 will shake me out of my stupor, though I’m not necessarily counting on it.  If I have to wait until Red Dead Redemption 2 in order to get my mojo back, well, that’ll make things easier on my wallet, at the very least.


Wouldn’t you know it, I just got busy again.  TO BE CONTINUED?

 

bloggin’

So this New Yorker article popped up in my Twitter feed and got me thinking about “the end of blogs”, although my perspective is much different than the essay’s author.  Her piece is about the failure of the blog (specifically The Hairpin and The Awl) to generate self-sustaining revenue, and as such, it is becoming more and more difficult for the most interesting writing on the internet to find a place to live.

Whereas I’ve never blogged for money, or exposure, or really for any other reason than I enjoyed keeping a diary, and was amused by the idea of making it public.  And LiveJournal was just getting underway right when I started feeling this way, and so since 2001 I’ve been blogging in one form or another.   I left LJ in 2009, moved to blogger for a little bit, and I’ve had 2 or 3 blogs here at WordPress, each with a different focus.  This one has become my default, though, and so it’s here where I’ve decided to post this.

I’ve never been under any illusions that my writing was worth anything.  I’ve said this before in other places but it bears repeating here:  I have something of a Salieri complex – I imagine myself a better writer than I know myself to be.  This used to bother me a great deal, but now I just accept it as fact, and in the meantime I try to get better when I can.  The beauty of blogging, though, was that it was never about how good you were as a writer; I was naturally drawn to good writers but I was more inclined to read about people with similar interests, similar senses of humor, similar points of reference, and who could write honestly about what they thought about.  I made friends through LJ, real friends, and it wasn’t bullshit; I still love those people, and even if our LJ community is gone, we’re still in each other’s social media bubbles, such as they are.

I guess the point is that the word “blog” means something much different to me than it does to other professional writers, and our purposes were never aligned, and yet the feel of a blog is still something necessary and vital.  For me, I find that the writing on the internet that I most enjoy has a personal feel to it, where it might be rough around the edges but it feels authentic because it’s not bullshit.  Its driving force is honesty, not cleverness.  I’ve always been envious of people who can be clever while also being honest, and lord knows I’ve tried to do that, too, though I’ve never been particularly successful at it.

In any event, this is going to be a more traditional blog entry for me, rather than what I usually post here.  Feel free to skip; or, alternately, feel free to keep reading.


I also felt compelled to write about blogging because the tweet directly following the New Yorker link was one of these personal list-type things – in fact, these were the sorts of things that I used to call “memes”, rather than whatever they are today.  I ‘m gonna do this one, here, because why not.  It’s been a while since I took any personal inventory out here in public, and the afternoon is a bit slow.

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1.  I have two Twitter handles, as it happens, but the primary one is @couchshouts, which I’d started in an attempt to boost this blog’s visibility (and also to keep my personal twitter feed and my videogame feed separate).  I’m sure the name explains itself.

2. Who inspires me?  Hmm.  This is a tricky one.  I guess the context matters; I have musical inspirations, writing inspirations, general “being a better person” inspirations.  I don’t honestly know if I can answer this one at this particular moment in time.  I could’ve answered it in college in about 10 seconds, but my life and my perspective have changed so radically since then that I can barely recognize my college-age self.  If I’m honest with myself, though, and ask myself who inspires me to be a better person?  Well, that’s my wife and my son.

3.  Do I care what others think about me?  Not nearly as much as I used to, because I’m not trying to impress anybody.

4.  What am I most looking forward to?  This one’s actually pretty easy – I can’t wait to see who my son turns into as he gets older.  He’s a super-sweet almost-5-year-old boy, but who he’s going to be at 8, 11, 14, 18… I can’t wait.  Even though I never want him to grow up.

5.  One life rule that I follow:  I alluded to this in the intro, and it’s something I’ve said a lot here and elsewhere, and it’s something that my high school English teacher said somewhat off-handedly, perhaps not realizing that he was about to drop a seismic charge on me:  it is better to be honest than clever.

6.  My dream job:  I would’ve loved to have been able to pay my bills through music.  And if I were me, now, but 25 years younger, I would’ve wanted to at least try to break into game journalism (especially since I could live on a shit salary back then).  I don’t have a dream job now; I just need something stable and secure and something I don’t need to take home with me when I leave.

7.  Which fictional character do I wish I could meet?  Hmm.  When I was younger I had developed a fierce crush on Becky Thatcher from the Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer books, but it’s not like I would’ve known what to say or do with her.  Nowadays I suppose I’d be very interested in having an elegant luncheon with the titular character of “A Gentleman in Moscow.”

8. As a child, I wanted to be an actor.  I got lucky in that regard; I knew I wanted to act, and I was good enough at the time to get good enough parts to make me think that I could actually do it as a real job, and I got into college to study it, and then, of course, I gave up on it.

9.  If I were a cartoon character… I never watched enough cartoons to have a good answer.

10.  What skill would I like to master?  I wish I could draw.  Like, at all.  The best late-night stoned doodling I ever did was still just stick figures.

11.  In what situation would I feel most out of place?  Well, you’re talking to someone who still struggles mightily with social anxiety – who still takes half an Ativan just to leave the house in the morning – so you might say that I feel out of place every time I leave my house.

12.  An artist that I really like but rarely admit to liking?  Well, if you look at my answer to #3, I don’t really care what other people think.  My first answer would be Genesis, but I think I’ve talked about them a lot.  Can I say that there are a few songs on Pete Yorn’s first album that I still, to this day, adore tremendously?

13.  What gets me fired up?  There are several ways to interpret the context of this question.  Politically, my #1 hot-button issue is gun control.  But if I need to get super-excited about something in a hurry – like if I’m about to perform on stage – I’ll take a shot of ice-cold Jagermeister (don’t judge me).

14.  I am not a part of any fandoms that I’m aware of.  I am a 42 year old man.  I like what I like and I don’t need to commune with other people over that stuff the way that I used to.  If I really need to talk about something, chances are pretty good I’ll talk about it here.

15.  What do I do to get rid of stress?  Well… I play video games and listen to music and read books and also I smoke pot, often.

16.  The idea of this question is what caused me to have a very, very bad mushroom experience in college, and it’s why I have a hard time watching “Groundhog Day”.  But if I were to get stuck in a loop and relive one day over and over again, and I was able to not be freaked out, I’d pick a day early in my relationship with my wife, back when we were carefree and could sleep in and would spend whole days at a movie theater sneaking into other screenings and then having a lovely dinner.  Or, alternately, I’d pick a day from one of my childhood summers at a music camp in Maine, which were some of the best days I ever had.

17.  How quickly do I jump to conclusions about people?  Almost immediately.

18.  If I were a doll, what accessories would I be sold with?  A Kindle, a game controller, and a guitar.

19.  What have I done in my life that’s given me the most satisfaction?  The easy answer would be that I’ve married my best friend and we’ve had a wonderful kid together, but the more truthful answer is that I’ve done a ton of work to make myself a better person to better appreciate my relationships with my wife and kid, because for the longest time I was trapped by anxiety and bad stomachs and insecurity and everything else, and I’m not like that (that much) anymore.

20.  The worst thing to put in a pinata would have to be soiled diapers.

21.  The biggest waste of money I’ve ever seen is literally everything that Donald Trump has ever been a part of.

22.  A common misconception that I hate hearing repeated as fact is that Donald Trump cares about anything beyond himself.

23.  The best place to go to meet awesome people?  You’re asking the wrong person, dude.

24.  What food do I crave the most?  Well, let me tell you – I had to go on a gluten-free diet a few years ago and so even though the GF industry has taken great strides in recent years, I am sad that I will never get to experience a real NYC bagel ever again.

25.  I don’t care enough about TV to re-watch anything with any interest, although my wife and I do occasionally call up certain episodes of “Arrested Development” just because they’re so goddamned funny.

26.  Among my friends, what am I best known for?  I have literally no idea what my friends think of me, if they think of me at all.  I don’t mean that in a self-pitying way; I just mean that I have absolutely no idea what they think of me.

27.  Who of my friends is most like me?  Hmm.  Well, my wife is nothing like me but I’m positive that we can communicate telepathically; we finish each other’s sentences all the goddamned time – hell, we start each other’s sentences because we think the same way.

28.  The most traumatizing moment of my life?  Toss-up between my parents getting divorced, my aforementioned bad trip experience, and the breakup I had in early 2000 before I started dating my wife.

29.  The best lesson I’ve learned from a work of fiction?  Don’t eat mold.

30.  Something I’ll never do again?  Any drug harder than pot, that’s for sure.


I don’t watch Twitch streams and I don’t really listen to podcasts, but I had an idea for a Twitch stream wherein I’d play some sort of game that didn’t require sound, and then I’d put on my favorite songs from that week’s Spotify Discovery playlist and talk about why each song feels necessary.  But apparently this is an awful idea, already done to death by a billion obnoxious bros, and so I’m not gonna.


At some point I’ve gotta talk about the Aziz Ansari stuff, because of all the horror stories that have emerged since Harvey Weinstein, the Aziz story is the one that I recognize.  I don’t know that I was ever that forward with girls that I used to be with, but I know I was more forward than I should’ve been, most certainly ignoring signals that couldn’t have been more obvious, and I still feel disgusted with myself all these years later for not acknowledging them and backing off.  I owe a lot of people apologies for that.  (I have apologized to some of them over the years, and some of them have forgiven me, and some of them have used my apology as the basis for a stand-up routine literally a year after I originally emailed it, and it is what it is.)  My son and I will talk about this stuff as he gets older, and I will do my absolute best to make sure he doesn’t act the same way.  I’d like to think that he sees my relationship with his mom as a good place to start from; that’s all I can hope for, at any rate.

Further Adventures in Adulting

1. Hey, so, we bought a new car over the weekend.  I feel like I’m finally an Adult.  Yes, we have a child; yes, we bought a house.  But now we bought a new car, from a dealership, by ourselves.  I’m so terrified it’s going to break!  It’s not going to break.  BUT WHAT IF IT DOES?

Anyway, yeah, that happened.  And I know this is a cliche, but still – that new car smell is no joke.  There’s something kinda awesome about that smell.  It… smells like victory.

101-Apocalypse-Now-quotes

2.  Because we bought a new car, I had to take a personal day yesterday and get our parking stickers sorted out, and also deal with some pet/vet stuff.  And in between all that, I finally got a chance to watch Blade Runner 2049.  My short version:  it is a beautifully shot film, and even with its slow pace it’s still more engaging than the original film (which, I’m sad to say, is a film that I respect more than I enjoy).  But it’s also a bit problematic with how it shows women (they are either robot love slaves, ball-busting bitches, or trapped in literal cages), and quite frankly I never need to see Jared Leto in anything ever again.

3.  Speaking of problematic media, we also finally watched the first episode of the new season of Black Mirror last night – the USS Callister episode.  I have a weird uncomfortable relationship with that series, specifically because of Season 1’s “The Entire History of You”, which affected me in an unexpectedly deep and emotionally unsettling way, especially as I was in the process of re-reading my college diaries at the time for an unrelated creative project.  (If you’re familiar with the episode, you might understand why a sudden influx of forgotten memories might be emotionally traumatic.)  In any event, this new episode was quite good – the twist was genuinely unexpected and the ending was, unusually for this series, quite satisfying.  I’m not 100% sure I’m going to watch the remaining episodes, because there’s only so much technological dread I can handle at any given point, but still – it was nice to be pleasantly diverted for a little while.

4. So I finished Nick Harkaway’s “Gnomon”, and even if it didn’t quite stick the landing, it’s an excellent read; he’s a marvelous writer and this is a very smart book.  Now up – a 2nd attempt at reading Zachary Mason’s “Void Star”, which from the book’s description is right up my alley, but in practice is a bit difficult to follow.  I’m kinda just padding for time – what I really want to read is the new Brandon Sanderson volume in the Stormlight Archive, but I feel like I need to re-read the first 2 books and then the mini-story that connects them to this new one, and as much as I like reading big books, knowing that I’ve got at least 2500 pages in front of me before I start reading anything new is a bit daunting.

5.  Game-wise, I’m still in this weird limbo of having this fancy new TV but nothing new to play on it.  I’d been putting Forza 7 through its paces, and that’s a fun game in limited doses – and since the last game I’d played in earnest was probably Forza 3 or 4, it’s kind of a neat deja-vu effect to revisit the same courses in radically improved fidelity.  Likewise, I saw that Forza Horizon 3 got its own Xbox One X Enhanced patch yesterday, and that game is definitely more up my alley.  The graphical enhancements are nothing to sneeze at, either; it looks utterly amazing.  Beyond that, I’m kinda half-heartedly going through my backlog, not feeling particularly attached to anything.  (Indeed, I keep forgetting that I have a ton of shit to play on the Switch.)  The next big AAA release that I have my eyes on is Far Cry 5, which is still a ways off.

That’s what I’ve got, folks.  Hope you’re well.

Fire and Fury, blah blah blah

I’m not so sure I’m gonna bother finishing “Fire and Fury”.  It’s not telling me anything that I didn’t already know; it’s just further confirming that the White House is stacked with dangerously incompetent fools, none of whom actually expected to be there in the first place.  It’s also a pretty trashy read, and Wolff’s writing is pretty terrible.  This is an actual sentence/paragraph from Chapter 5, entitled “Jarvanka”:

“On Friday, February 3, at breakfast at the Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown, an epicenter of the swamp, Ivanka Trump, flustered, came down the stairs and entered the dining room, talking loudly on her cell phone…”

There has to be a less ridiculous way of writing that sentence, right?  And he does this ALL OVER THE GODDAMNED PLACE.  There are also a bunch of little typos and errors that may or may not be due to the conversion from page to e-book – who knows how these things work – and that may very well be because the publisher decided to rush this thing out the door.

In any event; it’s not breaking news that our President is a fucking lunatic.  It’s just disconcerting that we now have 400 pages full of receipts.  That being said, I’d like to think that this is what makes him finally collapse.  The Russia story is far more important, but among Trump supporters nobody cares, and until Mueller comes out with what he’s got, it’s all breathless speculation (regardless of how many hundred-threaded tweets Seth Abramson churns out).  On the other hand, Trump being a lying sack of shit who loathes everything about this job and who will backtrack on all of his promises to his supporters?  That might actually carry some weight.


My wife and I have made a concerted effort to be more creative this year; or, rather, to allow ourselves some creative time during the daylight hours on Sunday.  She works from 10-12 in her office; I work from 2-4 in the recording studio.  I took my opportunity to blow the dust off of my MacBook and make sure that my stuff still works… and, um, it doesn’t.  To be fair, my MacBook is nearly 8 years old at this point; it’s amazing the thing still turns on.  But it’s not recognizing my input device, which means I can’t use MIDI, which is a big deal.

Last night we had dinner with my old bass player and his family, and I told him about my issues, and he told me that my MBox 3 is probably no longer supported – which means I can get a new input device for less than $300 and maybe that’ll solve the problem.  But I’m sure that I’m gonna need to drop a couple thousand on a new computer sooner rather than later, which is disconcerting.  I have no problem spending money, as you know, even when I don’t have any money to spend, but… this is a big deal.


To follow up on last week’s post, and as we are in the winter release lull, I’ve been going back through my Xbox One X library and replaying some older titles on my new fancy TV.  I am sad to say that not every title gets the “enhanced” goods, or even benefits from all the new horsepower.

Now, as noted in previous posts, I feel obligated to reiterate that there are a few of these “enhanced for Xbox One X” games that really do look astounding.  Wolfenstein 2Assassin’s Creed Origins and Rise of the Tomb Raider are among the best-looking games I’ve ever played on a Microsoft console, and given that I played them on both new and old hardware the differences are stark and profound.

But there’s other stuff in my library that I haven’t fully put through its paces.  I gave a quick look to both Titanfall 2 and Destiny 2 last night, and they both look quite good as well.  Perhaps not good enough that I’m going to play them again for any significant amount of time, but still.

I’ve also been running a race or two every night in Forza 7, and that game definitely looks great (though, curiously, not as good as Forza Horizon 3 did – the trees and foliage are quite obviously 2D sprites and it can be jarring if you look too closely at them).  That being said, I haven’t spent serious time with the mainline Forza games since maybe 3 or 4, so if nothing else it’s very interesting and revealing to revisit some of the tracks in 7 that I’d already run hundreds of times in those earlier games, but now in glorious 4K HDR; I get deja vu quite a lot.

But anyway, the point of this whole section here is that while some games do look quite stunning on the new hardware, not every game on the Xbox One X looks and performs better than it did on the vanilla X1.

Case in point:  my son has been really into Lego Batman 3 of late, and this in turn reminds me that I very much love the Arkham games.  So I’m sad to report that Batman Arkham Knight, otherwise known as the one with the endless Batmobile sections, looks like shit.  Now, to be fair, Arkham Knight is not an “enhanced for Xbox One X” title, but I was still hoping to see some sort of performance improvement.  Alas, it looks pretty goddamned terrible.  It’s got a stable frame rate, I suppose, but it’s jaggy as all hell – and maybe it’s my TV, but it arguably looks even worse than it did on the original Xbox One.

Another case in point: Recore, which actually is an “enhanced for Xbox One X” game.  I’d given it a cursory 10 minutes when I’d originally downloaded it last summer, and then promptly forgot about it.  I took it for a more sincere spin this weekend, and… well… it’s not necessarily a bad game, but it does feel very archaic in its design – it feels a lot like “Baby’s Very First Open-World Action RPG” in terms of, well, everything – and the graphical improvements aren’t all that noticeable.  I certainly wouldn’t point to it as a technological show-stopper.  But, of course, it’s not necessarily meant to be; it is what it is.  I could see myself spending some more time with it over the new few weeks; it’s pleasant and diverting enough, for the time being.

But also:  Resident Evil 7, another enhanced game, looks like absolute shit.  I’d rented it on PS4 last year and played the first few hours, and even on a vanilla PS4 on a regular TV it looked far better than this enhanced for Xbox One X version on a 4K HDR TV.

Basically:  if the patch to upgrade your “enhanced” game is under 1GB, it’s not gonna be all that noticeable.


I already have a gigantic book backlog, but given that it’s a new year, it’s time for The Millions Most Anticipated Books of 2018, and GODDAMN there’s a lot of stuff there that I need to read, like, immediately.  Off the top of my head, I need:

  • “Lost Empress”, by Sergio de la Pava;
  • “Grist Mill Road”, by Christopher J. Yates;
  • “The Afterlives”, by Thomas Pierce;
  • “The Immortalists”, by Chloe Benjamin;
  • “The Infinite Future”, by Tim Wirkus; and
  • “The Sky is Yours”, by Chandler Klang Smith.

And I should also point out that Nick Harkaway’s “Gnomon” is coming out this week, I think, which is a book I pre-ordered as soon as it was announced.  So what I’m saying is:  I’ve got stuff to do.