goals and whatnot

My wife and I were hanging out the other day, and she asked me what I’d hope to accomplish for myself in 2020. I thought about it for a while, and it occurred to me that the mere act of having to think about what I’d like to accomplish next year meant that I didn’t have a clear goal already in mind. Which felt unusual.

I did come up with an answer, eventually, which was this: I would like to have some sort of reckoning with myself and figure out what exactly I’m doing, creatively speaking. Like I said above, having to think about what I’d like to accomplish is odd, because for the last several years the answer has been the same – I want to finish this album I’ve been working on. Even if it just means taking the 4-5 songs that are almost done and putting out an EP, rather than a full-length album, I still want to get this stuff off of my hard drive and into other people’s ears.

I’m not sure why I stopped, unless it’s just that I can’t trust myself to keep myself motivated. When I was in bands, I had my band mates there to kick me in the ass – indeed, we kicked each other’s asses all the time. Working with other people meant that we could each pick up each other’s slack. We could fix problems that the others couldn’t see/hear. We could support each other when we felt directionless. And if nothing else, we could just plug in and turn up and see what happened.

It’s harder to do music by myself, which I also understand is ironic if only because the downside of working with collaborators is the loss of total creative control. If I know how I want everything to sound, it’s easier and faster to do it myself. It’s just that, these days at least, I don’t know what I want to sound like. I could finish the 4-5 songs that are pretty much ready to go, but I couldn’t tell you if they accurately reflect what I sound like right now. I don’t even know what I sound like right now. I know what artists I listen to that sound like what I’d like to sound like (Tycho immediately comes to mind), but I also know that I listen to tons of different things and all that stuff is quite literally all over the map – my Spotify Discovery algorithm is still pretty good at guessing what’s going to hit my brain the right way, but how it gets from Japanese prog/punk to indie songwriter to Zappa circa 1973 is far beyond me.

I’d thought about doing NaNoWriMo this year, because writing prose is easier than writing lyrics and I’m less inclined to beat myself up during the process and I thought that maybe the simple act of throwing thousands of words out of my head into some sort of coherent order might help me figure out some lyrics; but the thing about NaNo (for me, at least) is that I need to get myself prepared, and I didn’t even really consider the idea of doing NaNo until November had already started. And the last time I tried doing NaNo, I nearly gave myself a nervous breakdown.

So, maybe I’ll try doing the RPM challenge again in February? I can give myself a head start and re-record the songs that are still works in progress in the interim? I can try to settle into some sort of evening routine?

I don’t know. But I need to do something. At the very least, I need to do just enough to be able to go get my taxes done next year and not feel like a fraud by declaring myself to still being a musician.

in the idle hours

Well, I haven’t lost WordPress access just yet, so… here we go.

I started this post last week, but couldn’t finish it because of work stuff.  I was gonna work on it yesterday, but yesterday was awful and I felt silly for bothering with this sort of post.  Today, however, I am doing my best to engage in self-care and so I’m gonna take a cue from kottke.org and do a little rundown of all the various media I’ve taken in lately.

Ann Leckie, Imperial Radch Trilogy.  This has been on my to-read list forever, and now I’m finally getting around to reading it, and it is just as good as I’d hoped it would be.  And let me tell you, when the world is falling to shit and you can barely keep it together, there’s nothing quite like knowing you’ve got a good book to wrap yourself in.  It’s a security blanket for the soul.

Stephen King, The Bill Hodges Trilogy (Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, End of Watch).  I’m gonna give this a solid B.  It’s not top-shelf King, but it’s crime fiction rather than supernatural horror (at least the first two books are, anyway), and he does a pretty good job of keeping the pages turning.  That said, the main three protagonists are utterly forgettable, and while the villains are compelling and memorable, they’re also rather stupid, which deflates a lot of the tension; you’re never worried about the ending.  And as noted above, the first two books are grounded in the real world while the third book goes off into a telekenetic/mind-control thing, which creates a weird paradox; on the one hand, it’s probably the best book in the series because it’s the one that is closest to King’s strengths; on the other, it totally upends the very grounded reality of the first two books.

The Matrix.  I don’t know what it is, but I feel like everywhere I look, people are talking about The Matrix again.  And pretty much everything the wife and I have watched together recently has reminded us in some way of the first Matrix movie, and so we decided to just re-watch it.  And you know what?  It still holds up, for the most part.  Yeah, some of the dialogue is hokey, and the love story simply doesn’t play, and the visuals are a bit dated (if only because they’ve been copied to death).  But every single shot in the film is iconic, and the film itself is so radically ambitious, and it’s still as entertaining as it ever was.  I’m philosophically opposed to reboots, but if the Wachowskis wanted to re-make this film with current technology, I’d be OK with it.

The Matrix Reloaded.  You know, if you edit out the stupid cheesy bullshit, this is a pretty kick-ass film.  It’s not nearly as unwatchable as I remember it being.  Though I’ll always fast-forward through the end-of-the-world disco sex party, because that is just straight-up ridiculous.  And yeah, the scene with the Architect is a bit too wordy for its own good, even if the ideas discussed are interesting.

Math Rock.  I am a huge music nerd, and every once in a while I fall off the deep end into a heavy-duty obsession with old-school prog rock.  (When my son was born, this changed slightly and I became OBSESSED with live Frank Zappa from 1972-73.)  Now, it seems, Spotify has decided that I’m due for some modern math rock, and, once again, Spotify is correct.  In particular, I’ve been listening to a shit-ton of a band called Feed Me Jack, who I think I just read are no longer together, which is a bummer; in any event, they made a rather sizable amount of music in a very short amount of time, and it’s all really good.  And here is another playlist of some of the better stuff I’ve found via the Discovery playlist:


By the way, my Spotify Time Capsule is HILARIOUS.  I got a little inebriated the other night and considered live-blogging my reactions to this mix, if only because I haven’t heard some of these songs in 20+ years and the me of 2017 is so completely different than the me that listened to these songs over and over and over again when they were new.  I could give you 500 words on my reaction to hearing “Right Here Right Now” alone.

As for games… eh.  I’ve got a huge backlog and there’s a bunch of stuff coming out soon and yet every time I sit down to play, I’m totally unable to relax and stay involved.  Maybe I need a break.

I’m considering signing up for NaNoWriMo this year, because I need to get my brain’s writing gears moving again, and if I’m ever going to finish the lyrics for this album I should probably just get in the habit of stringing a whole bunch of words together anyway.  A couple years ago I had a great idea for a book, and I even took some writing classes to flesh some of it out… I still really like my first chapter, even if the rest of the story fell apart on me.  And then I was going to write a memoir-ish thing about my college/band years, and I could probably fictionalize that enough to keep myself from having another nervous breakdown like I did the last time I tried it.  So even if I’m not writing here as much – and I’m gonna be trying to reduce the amount of time I spend on FB and Twitter and such – I will do my darnedest to keep the words happening somewhere.

I hope you’re well.  We’re gonna get through this, somehow.

Failure, And Moving On

I turn 39 on Monday.  And as such, I’m feeling particularly reflective and ruminative today, with all the attendant melancholy that such navel-gazing generally brings.

This is probably as good a time as any to mention that I failed this year’s NaNoWriMo, and it was a pretty spectacular failure – I think I topped out at just under 7,000 words.  What started as a memoir-ish chronicle of a person I used to know ended up with a deep dive into my college journal and an inadvertent re-opening of a lot of old wounds that I thought I’d closed, and so I’m in this weird paralytic state where I can’t finish the project because I desperately want to reach out to people that I’ve lost, all the while knowing that some of those people probably don’t want anything to do with me.

I was emailing with an old friend yesterday about this:

I get hung up on a lot of stuff in my past, which sucks, because aside from [one specific thing that I’m redacting for purposes of this public blog] I’m very much in love with my present.  But the thing is, I still recognize a lot of my darker moments in my journal, and that’s the part that’s disconcerting, because it would appear that I haven’t changed nearly as much as I think I have.

So anyway, there’s that.

On the gaming front, this weekend is primarily focused on progressing through Dragon Age Inquisition, and I suspect that’ll be the case until I’m done with it.  If I need a break, I’ll go back to Assassin’s Creed Unity, because (a) I hate myself and (b) I’m almost done with the campaign.

On the TV front – and yes, every once a while I watch TV – the wife and I watched the first two episodes of Black Mirror on Netflix last night, and holy shit that show is incredible.  The Brits know how to make really good TV, people, that’s the lesson to be learned here.

I finished reading Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven last night; I liked it, but it was the third post-apocalyptic novel I’d read in a row, and so as such I was probably a little burned out on the subject matter.  I’ve since started Thomas Ligotti’s Teatro Grottesco, which is really creepy and unnerving and good.  I came across his name the other day in a piece about True Detective and plagiarism; I haven’t watched the show but I’d obviously heard a lot about it, and Ligotti’s work is cited quite often as a direct influence on the show.  So I figured, hey, why not.

I’m not necessarily done with this just yet, but I figure I might as well start putting it out – here’s my Favorite Songs of 2014 playlist.

[spotify https://play.spotify.com/user/jervonyc/playlist/1qUgxbGW7oZehDejNwFsUk]

In Which A Whole Bunch of Navel-Gazing Ensues

1.  My rental copy of Assassin’s Creed Unity has not yet arrived – it might come tonight, it might come tomorrow – and yet considering the spectacular number of glitches and game-crashing bugs that are dominating my Twitter feed, I’m not sure I want to start it until the first wave of patches arrive (and that those patches don’t further break the game).  And by that point, when enough patches have come out so that the game is in a playable state, I could very well be knee-deep in Dragon Age Inquisition and might not want to bother.  The larger problem is that the code isn’t the only thing that appears to be half-baked; Assassin’s Creed games have always been tough nuts to crack from a narrative point of view, and I keep hearing that Unity’s story is bland, boring and nonsensically enigmatic, the way it’s always been.  No amount of patching can fix a busted story.  Do I want to spend 40+ hours of my life wrestling with something this problematic?  I mean, I’ve played pretty much every AC game there is (except the Vita game and Rogue) but I haven’t been afraid to leave them unfinished (i.e., Revelations, AC3).

Furthermore, regarding Ubisoft’s actions with respect to Unity’s release – specifically, the bizarre 12-hour post-release review embargo – well, it smacks of bullshit and corporate shenanigans, a desperate flailing to reduce the number of cancelled pre-orders once the word got out that Unity was straight-up broken.  And considering how the pre-release hype failed to live up to the post-release reality of Watch Dogs, I can’t help but feel very nervous about Far Cry 4.

2.  And speaking of broken stuff, I must admit that I’ve stalled a bit on my NaNo project.  Honestly?  The subject matter started sending me into a very inward-facing, navel-gazing spiral of depression – which was exacerbated by re-reading my college diary – and so I’ve been mired in this weird melancholic funk of nostalgia and regret for the last week (which itself has been exacerbated by a nasty cold that my family has been passing around to each other for the last month or so, as well as some day-job-related stress that I can’t talk about here).  Indeed, this morning I listened to the first half of Marc Maron’s WTF interview with Allie Brosh (of Hyperbole and a Half fame) and what I heard hit me square in the face.  I go through these depressive cycles every once in a while, and they’re a real pain in the ass; I get apathetic, and then I get mad at myself for being apathetic, and then I get mad that I’d rather get mad at myself than stop being apathetic, and so on and so forth.  So, yeah – writing about one of my college friends and collaborators has turned into something a bit uglier.  That doesn’t mean I intend to give up on it, though; it means that I need to approach it in a different way.

3.  Switching back over to games: I beg your forgiveness for all the Xbox One bashing I’ve done this year.  I’ve been playing Sunset Overdrive and Forza Horizon 2 just about every night since I bought the damned thing, and I’ve become rather enamored with it.  So much so that I haven’t decided which platform to play Dragon Age on; frankly, I’m waiting for the Digital Foundry people to get their hands on it (especially once the PS4 patch is in place that supposedly fixes a lot of what was broken during the review period).  Because unless the PS4 version is noticeably and markedly better-looking and performing, I might just stick with the XB1 – even though I have a $15 credit on the PSN store.

4.  And now switching back to books:  I’m trying to keep my good-book-reading streak alive, and so I’m still trying to figure out what to read next.  In addition to the list of 10 as-yet-unpurchased books I put up the other day (as well as the countless already-purchased-and-still-unread books on my Kindle), I’m now tremendously intrigued by Michel Faber, who I’d never heard of until yesterday, when I flipped through this week’s New Yorker and saw his newest book mentioned in their Briefly Noted section.  David Mitchell, writer of this year’s “Bone Clocks” (which is my personal Book of the Year and might end up in my all-time Top 10), calls Faber’s new book “his second masterpiece”, and so I had to find out what the first masterpiece was, which is “The Crimson Petal and the White”, which a few Facebook friends also raved about; and it turns out that he also wrote “Under the Skin”, which is also a movie I’ve been wanting to see all year.  So, then:  if you’ve got anything to say about him, please let me know.

Adventures in Excessive Hyperbole: Forza Horizon 2

Actually, before we get to Forza Horizon 2, there’s three things on my mind that I should get out of the way first:

1.  I’m currently at just under 7400 words for NaNoWriMo.  As I’d mentioned last week, the topic that I eventually wound my way towards is somewhat emotionally charged, and at this point I really don’t care about hitting 50,000 words; I’m mostly just heavily invested in figuring the thing out.  And it’s hard to carve out time to sit and write about stuff that keeps hitting me harder than I expect it to; it’s tough to come home from work and do that when I’m already exhausted, and it’s even more difficult to find time during the day to do it, when I’m expected to be professional and not, say, an emotional wreck (as was the case last Friday).

2.  I tried giving it the benefit of the doubt, but after wading through 2 1/2 missions of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, I realized I’d had enough.  Because I don’t care about, and totally suck at, the multiplayer side of things, I was only ever going to play their campaigns.  And the campaigns have always been a bit silly and convoluted and contrived (and I’m not even talking about “Press X to Pay Your Respects”, although that’s a perfect example of something silly and convoluted and contrived).  As far as CoD:AW goes, I appreciate that it’s going for this sci-fi not-quite-near-future vibe, giving me quasi-superpowers and such… but at the end of the day it still feels like it’s always felt, which is a very tightly scripted shoot-em-up gauntlet running through blandly pretty corridors.   I don’t play enough Call of Duty to have an already-intuitive grasp of the controls, which makes the campaign trickier than it should be; I try to melee someone and end up throwing a grenade.  There is clearly an audience for Call of Duty, and I might as well come to grips with the fact that I am clearly not it, and haven’t been it for quite a long time now.  (For the record: my 2014 shooter of the year is still Wolfenstein, and that means Far Cry 4 has a very high bar to meet.)

3.  I finished Patrick Rothfuss’ “The Slow Regard of Silent Things“, a slim side-story to the Kingkiller Chronicles.  As Rothfuss himself says, it’s not the book you should start with if you’re new to his work.  I enjoyed it; it’s a bit of an experiment for him, which he fully acknowledges in his afterword, and I think he succeeded rather well.  The book features no dialogue, and only one character, and it does not explain itself – and yet, at the book’s end, you know this character incredibly well, and you’re given a very interesting, very specific slice of the world of the larger two books that you’d never see otherwise, and it gives him an opportunity to be more playful with language than he usually gets.  I’d recommend it – but, again, only if you’ve read the first two books, and only if you’re aware that you’re not reading a “traditional” story.  To say any more would ruin the book’s magical, ethereal quality; that’s something you should experience as nakedly as possible.

Long-time readers of this site (the number of which can probably be counted on one hand) will know that I am prone to excessive use of hyperbole.  I make no apologies for this tic; it is what it is.  When I feel inclined to write about something, it’s most likely because I’m already fired up about it.

So take this with a grain of salt, if you must, but I think I’m ready to say something ridiculous:  I’m starting to think that Forza Horizon 2 very well might be my favorite driving game of all time.*  The only real thing it’s missing is some sort of crash/stunt mode, which is a feature so closely associated with Burnout that it would be damn near impossible to implement without being charged with plagiarism.

Actually, here’s three more minor knocks that keep it from being a perfect game:  (1) the game looks absolutely gorgeous, but it also suffers from pop-in from time to time and it can be somewhat distracting at times, especially when trees are popping up along the suggested driving line.  (2) I don’t give a shit about car culture, and while I appreciate that the “Horizon Festival” is as good a justification as any for why you’re doing what you’re doing, I don’t really need a narrative justification for driving anywhere, especially if it involves something as contrived as the Horizon Festival – though at least the main guy isn’t that annoying.  (3) But if you are going to go through the trouble of having a narrative justification for doing all this stuff, then why not let me create my own character?  True, you’re behind the wheel of a car for 99% of the game, but I’m there in that other 1%, and while I might be a white guy with brown hair, not everybody who plays this game is also a white guy with brown hair.

Those three knocks aside, I’m loving the hell out of it.  It’s everything I loved about the first game, but better and larger and more beautiful, and I genuinely feel bad that my gaming schedule is about to get crowded, because I’d be happy to keep playing this and only this for the next few months.

More to the point:  it’s a fantastic showcase for the Xbox One, and the more time I spend with the Xbox One, the more I really, really like it.  I took a few minutes during the weekend to load up Ubisoft’s The Crew beta on the PS4, and the PS4’s interface is so bland and dumb.  (Also, The Crew is bland and dumb, and I’m glad I saw the beta if only so that I know to take it off of my GameFly queue.)


* I’ve been thinking about what my Top 10 list of driving games might look like, and the list is tricky because while there’s no shortage of driving games out there, there’s only a few franchises that really moved me in any specific way:

  • I’m certainly a big fan of the Forza series in general – and I like it more than I ever liked any of the Gran Turismo games I played – but to be honest, Forza 1-4 all kinda bleed together for me; there’s not one particular title that stands out in my memory.  (As I only just bought my Xbox One last week, I have not yet played Forza 5, though considering the scuttlebutt that surrounded it, I’m not sure I ever will.)
  • Certainly I’d put both Burnout 3 and Burnout Paradise near the very top of the list.
  • I’m a big fan of both DiRT and DiRT 2 – the latter is the better looking of the two, but the former had the best replay system (which was inexplicably changed) and had some of the best UI in any driving game, ever.
  • I loved the first two Rallisport Challenge games on the original Xbox.
  • It’s a bit of a lost gem, but does anybody else remember Midtown Madness 3 on the original Xbox?  That game was awesome.  That was the first real experience I had with online free-roam driving, and to this day I still remember all sorts of silly stuff we used to do – like trying to jump as many trucks as we could fit onto the roofs of various buildings.
  • I was also especially fond of both Project Gotham Racing 2 and 3 (4 was the one where they introduced motorcycles, I think, and that’s also where it fell off the rails for me).
  • Split/Second was terrific and criminally overlooked…
  • I will always have a soft spot for OutRun
  • My loathing of The Offspring is the main reason why I try not to think about Crazy Taxi, even if the game itself is pretty great.
  • I always enjoyed the Midnight Club games, though I never stuck with them that long.
  • I’m conflicted about the Need for Speed franchise, because (a) the driving is fine, but the cutscenes and the “car culture” is just flat-out ridiculous, and (b) while I really enjoyed Criterion’s two Need for Speed titles, it also meant that we weren’t getting any more Burnout games, which is a supreme bummer.
  • Speaking of “flat-out”, I also have a weird soft spot for that first Flat-Out game, especially on PC, because the physics were completely insane.
  • Could I include Night Driver from the Atari 2600?
  • Or Pole Position?
  • Could I get away with not including any Mario Kart games, because I don’t give a shit about Mario Kart?  or Ridge Racer, for that matter?  or Wipeout, or F-Zero?  or F1 on the PC?

Am I missing any?  Feel free to call me an idiot in the comments.

The First Few Hours (for real): Xbox One, Sunset Overdrive, Forza Horizon 2

1.  Before I get into the topic at hand, a confession:  I haven’t written for NaNo in 2 days.  Nor am I sure I’m going to pick up where I left off, if in fact I do decide to keep going; the subject matter is a bit more emotionally loaded and intense than I’d thought.  If I’m going to successfully fictionalize it, I need to understand it first, and boy oh boy am I not emotionally prepared to do that at this present moment in time.

2.  And in keeping with things that make me feel depressed, I can’t help but notice that my writing just sucks these days.  Even just emails to friends, FB status updates, and twitter replies – they all feel like they’re coming out wrong.  I’m feeling very much like Salieri; I have a tremendous passion for writing, but I feel that I lack the natural ability to do it as well as I’d like.  I may very well end up taking more classes.

This is all to say that trying to write a novel about super-intense emotional stuff when I’m feeling like I can’t even write a simple declarative sentence that’s enjoyable to read is discouraging, and depressing, and ugh.

3.  It’s November, which means that it’s time to start getting to work on year-end Top 10 lists.  To that end, I’ve been making it a priority to listen to all the 2014 albums I’ve saved on Spotify that I’ve never actually got around to listening to.  I’ll be putting out a playlist of my favorite songs soon enough; but there are also some albums that I’m loving the hell out of that don’t necessarily have one stand-out song.  Case in point:  Adult Jazz, “Gist Is”, which is (to me) a beautiful, melodic mixture of the avant-garde songwriting structures of Dirty Projectors and the latent melancholy that dwells within certain Vampire Weekend songs.  I can see why some listeners might find it incredibly pretentious and off-putting, but it’s been hitting me really deep of late.  Another case in point: the new Deerhoof album, “La Isla Bonita”, which might be the best (and most accessible) album they’ve put out since “The Runners Four.”  Likewise, Run The Jewels 2 and Flying Lotus’ “You’re Dead” are both utterly amazing headtrips, and near-impossible to pick just one or two tracks that stand out from the rest.

4.  So:  when I got home last night, both Sunset Overdrive and Forza Horizon 2 had finished downloading.  I’m enjoying both of them, but it’s also entirely possible that my current weird, depressive mind-state is making it difficult for me to fully engage with either game.

I appreciate Sunset Overdrive’s over-the-top lunacy, it’s vibrant color palette, and that it’s breaking the fourth wall at every possible opportunity, just to show you that it’s not taking itself too seriously.  To that end, it’s also possible that being self-aware of how un-self-aware you are is also a form of overt self-awareness, and so the more bananas it tries to be, the more silly and toy-like it becomes.   It reminds me a great deal of Crackdown – it’s similarly graphically vibrant, non-linear, and you basically jump and soar and fly and blow shit up, but I don’t feel like I’m moving as quickly as I’d like (I suppose that’s something I’ll be leveling up at some point); it also reminds me a great deal of Sony’s Infamous games (especially the grinding and other traversal maneuvers), except that the traversal in Sunset Overdrive feels a bit more convoluted and non-intuitive – two button presses to grind, plus shooting?  I get the hang of it, but I don’t feel like I’ve mastered the controls as quickly as I should.

I’ve only dabbled with one or two events in Forza Horizon 2.  It’s astonishingly gorgeous – far better-looking than I expected – and I’m also really happy with how the Xbox One controller feels while driving.  The rumble is pleasingly intense, the buttons are well-placed, the triggers feel responsive; unlike in Sunset, I felt in control the entire time.  I may end up spending more time with this one, which is fine with me; I loved the first game, and this one looks like a bigger and better model.

As for the Xbox One itself?  I like it.  I like the system.  The dashboard is overwhelming at first but it does make sense, and it’s fun to engage with in ways that the PS4 isn’t.  My wife and I got rid of cable and we have a Roku3, so I don’t think I’ll be using the TV functionality all that much, but that’s fine.  I will still more than likely continue to use the PS4 as my primary console (especially as long as multi-platform releases continue to perform better on it), but I’m glad to be back in Xbox land, and I kinda forgot how much I liked earning Achievements.  (Sorry, Sony – trophies just aren’t the same.)

Weekend Recap: Words, Words, Words

1.  I am around 1700 words into my NaNoWriMo project.  I started with a blank page, put on some ambient drones to keep focused, and let my mind wander a bit until it found the story it wanted to tell.  The story is a bit of a surprise, actually, being that it’s decided it wants to be somewhat non-fictional.  For that reason alone, I’m pretty sure I’m never letting this thing see the light of day unless I change all the names and fudge some of the historical record, but I have to admit that it does feel good to talk about some of this stuff.  I’m not sure I’m going to get 50,000 words out of it – and honestly, most of the words I have written aren’t particularly good – but that’s neither here nor there at this point.  The primary reason that I’m doing this at all is to get in the habit of writing every day, without fear of an audience’s reaction, and I’ll worry about the end result when it’s finished.  To that end, I’m probably not going to write about my progress here, beyond word counts, which is just a way of keeping myself honest.  (And is there anything more insufferable than hearing someone talk about working on their novel?)

2.  I finished the Southern Reach trilogy at around 3am this morning, due to some Daylight Savings-related insomnia, plus a headcold.  I’m not sure that I enjoyed the latter two books as much as I did the first one; one gets the feeling that the first book came all at once, and then the next two were meant to fill in the backstory and to answer some of the first book’s many questions.  Still, they’re all quick, fun reads.  Now I’m re-reading The Stand, which is starting off very strong (and which I apparently remembered in more vivid detail than I’d thought).  Even though I don’t have any Ebola panic, it’s not hard to get sucked into the idea of an apocalyptic plague these days.

3.  I did it, I pulled the trigger; I bought an Xbox One.  And it might even be arriving today!  I was able to get the Sunset Overdrive bundle at the reduced price after all, which was a bit of a relief, and so now I hope my long-lost 360 friends can forgive my prolonged absence.

4.  I don’t know how I feel about Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare getting such positive reviews.  The last CoD game I played was (I think) Black Ops, of which the campaign remains unfinished and the multiplayer remains untouched.  That said, if my XBO friends are playing it, I might give it a quick look after all.

Taking the plunge

1.  So I just received the confirmation email that says I’ve officially signed up for NaNoWriMo, which is something I’ve been thinking about doing for years.  I don’t have any particular idea in mind, and November is also the busiest time of year in terms of AAA videogames, so who knows how this is going to work out, but that’s not even the point – if I can’t carve out an hour of writing time every day, then I have no business calling myself a writer.

I had an idea for a novel a few years ago, and I took a writing class to help develop and flesh it out, but I couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted to do with it, and it ended up withering on the vine.  I’m not sure I want to attempt to resurrect it for NaNo, either; I know myself all too well, and if I got frustrated with reviving it, I’d give up entirely.  I’m also staying away from Scrivener, even though I’m dying to use it; Scrivener seems to be a useful tool when you already have a plot and characters and scenes in mind, and it’s also useful if you already know how to use it without having to hunt and peck.  And I haven’t turned my Macbook on since I updated to Yosemite, so I have no idea if Scrivener is even working at the moment.  In any event, I’m determined to not let technical difficulties get in the way, so I’m keeping it simple and sticking to GoogleDocs on my home/work PCs.

I suppose there’s a part of me that’s annoyed that it takes something like NaNo for me to get off my ass, but there’s another part of me that’s well aware that this is why NaNo exists in the first place, and so I’m going to try not to beat myself up about it too much.

2.  I am now into the third and final book of the Southern Reach Trilogy, which I am enjoying quite a bit; it’s a very quick read, and makes for an entertaining come-down after the lofty heights of The Bone Clocks.  The second book (“Authority”) wasn’t quite as well-written or as absorbing as the first (“Annihilation”), but the third (“Acceptance”) is immediately gripping and seems to be on much firmer ground, which bodes well.

After I finish this one, I’m not quite sure what I’ll read next.  I still have a hefty backlog to get caught up on, for one thing, and I’m also considering giving the uncut version of The Stand a re-read after polling my Facebook friends on their preferred Stephen King novel – specifically asking between The Stand and It.  “It” was always my favorite, whereas “The Stand” never quite hooked me; I’m willing to give it another shot, though.

Hell, I might as well open up the floor here:

3.  I recently received a preview code for The Talos Principle, a first-person puzzle game from Croteam.  I’m about 2 hours into it so far; I’m enjoying it, despite some odd tonal dissonance and puzzle repetitiveness.  I’m not quite sure what I’m allowed to say about it – I don’t often receive preview codes – but I will say that it’s certainly a refreshing change of pace after the suffocating tension of Alien Isolation.

4.  I’m having trouble finding the Sunset Overdrive Xbox One bundle at the discounted price, but Amazon has already started accepting pre-orders at the new price for their Assassin’s Creed Unity bundle (which also includes ACIV at no extra charge).  I’ve already ordered the digital version of ACU for the PS4, but given that Ubisoft’s already made it very clear that they’re aiming for graphical parity between PS4 and XBO, I can’t help but wonder if I should cancel the PS4 pre-order and get this bundle instead.

5.  I’m not much of a drinker these days, but I’ve developed a fondness for spiced rum, which is quite nice for sipping during a cool autumn evening.  I’m not sure why I felt compelled to bring that up, but it’s too late now.

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