Subterranean Fallout Shelter Blues

1. Remember last week, when I was excited about getting new glasses and we weren’t living in a constant state of anxiety wondering if our President was gonna livetweet about Crooked Hillary in an attempt to distract us from the coming nuclear apocalypse with North Korea?  Well, my new specs still haven’t shown up, and at this point I’m actually kinda hoping everything goes to shit so that I don’t have to pay off my credit card debt.

Seriously, though, now might be a good time to reach out and say hello to people you haven’t talked to in a while.  Even if we aren’t about to die in a blaze of hellfire, you should touch base with people you might’ve lost contact with.  I’ve been trying to get back into lyric writing, and it occurs to me that an idea I’ve been toying with for years – songs as letters I never got around to sending – might be the key to finishing this goddamned thing sooner rather than later.

2. I’m not as up on current TV as everyone else, but I am happy to report that the wife and I were able to finish the new Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later thing.  And we loved the shit out of it.  It is weird and random and breaks the 4th wall all over the place and Chris Meloni is fucking AMAZING.

3. I’d love to be writing about Tacoma right now, but I appear to be one of the people affected by a nasty bug in which I can’t get past the “Press A to Start” screen.  So instead I’ll offer some very brief first impressions of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, which I can load properly.  I am intrigued by it, certainly; I’m a fan of Ninja Theory’s previous work and would give them the benefit of the doubt anyway, and at first glance the game’s presentation is outstanding – both visually and aurally.  The idea of exploring psychosis and mental illness through gameplay is novel, to be sure, and while I’m still only in the game’s opening hour I’ve already seen some subtle yet mind-bending things.  Tonight I hope to get to it while wearing headphones.

4. Hey, whaddya know, Spotify is now available on Xbox One, and it’s about goddamned time.  Now I can feel a little less sad about continuing to play Clicker Heroes, because I no longer have to play it in silence.

5. Kotaku says there is no longer a best time to play a video game, and I agree with most of the points in that link even if my primary concern (Fear of Missing Out / Fear of Being Out of the Loop on Twitter) is still valid.  In any event, ever since I finished Watch Dogs 2 I’ve been in an open-world state of mind, and I’ve been revisiting some older open-world games just to stay with that vibe.  GTA V continues to be the best open world I’ve ever seen, even as the story continues to be repellent and repugnant; Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate continues to be my 2nd or 3rd favorite game in the franchise (while also being a useful refresher for the upcoming Origins) and I’m also finally getting around to giving Mafia III more of a real look.  That game is pretty good, even if all the controls feel backwards.

6. I’ve also had a strange pull towards revisiting Headlander, of all things; I wrote about it briefly last year and while I haven’t gotten far enough to encounter those boss fights, I am still loving the hell out of that game.

7.  I finished Patti Smith’s “M Train”, although I should admit that I kinda skimmed through the back half, as it mostly seemed to be the same as the first half.  I’m happy to read about a real person’s idle hours, watching detective shows and drinking coffee and taking naps, but there wasn’t much more to it than that, and even though her prose remained gorgeous it just lingered on and and on and on, like a very slowly deflating balloon.  Not sure I would recommend it to anyone that isn’t a die-hard Patti Smith fan, though if you’ve got a library card you could do worse than read the first third of it or so.

Moody in Manhattan

Serious, heavy-duty case of the Mondays going on here.  I came this close to taking a mental health day, except my son was also having a serious heavy-duty case of the Mondays, and if I can’t set a good example for him, then what am I even doing being a parent?  So here I am, twitchy and over-caffeinated, just trying to make it through the day, one endless hour at a time.

I have a bunch of random, scattered thoughts littering my head this morning, so, look out:

1. I don’t know what else to say about 45 other than I’m exhausted and feeling like I’m approaching some sort of breaking point, where I’m going to have to forcibly remove myself from the news in order to maintain some sort of equilibrium.  This quote from Josh Marshall says it a bit better:

The terror attack in London is not Donald Trump’s fault of course. But his response to it is hard to fathom even for him… Actually, I wouldn’t say it’s hard to fathom. It’s not even surprising. We’ve known and seen this withering deficit of shame and grace before when he tweeted out “appreciate the congrats” in response to the Orlando club massacre last year. I’m not even sure what the word is or if there is one. But the one I am struggling to find is the experience of not being remotely surprised by the President’s action and yet marveling that the expected action – or transgression in this case – has managed to find a new depth of awfulness to penetrate and explore.

Emphasis added.  I spent most of my therapy session this weekend trying to get this stuff off my chest.  A lot of my anxiety issues in my 20s and 30s – back when I was actively avoiding therapy and medication – were because I felt out of control, or that things were happening to me that I was unable to control, or simply that if I couldn’t exert some form of control over what was happening to me, then I was doomed.  I’ve gotten a lot better in the last few years with this; if things are out of my control, then I am (for the most part) able to accept that, and I can instead try to step back and be objective about whatever it is that’s bothering me and take stock of what I can control, and then deal with the rest when it finally happens.  The thing with Trump, though, is that it would appear that nobody can control the nonsense that flies out of his mouth or fingers, and his insanity will have a very real and tangible effect on my life and of my child’s life.  Every day it gets worse and worse and it feels like the worst kind of nightmare.  I do try my best to keep it together, and if nothing else I indulge in every form of self-care I can think of.  But as I said above, it’s exhausting.  I don’t know how this circus can continue.

2. You know what’s good?  Music is good.  I haven’t written about music in a while.  I haven’t written any music in a while, either, but that’s a different story.

I’ve been listening to music a lot lately – or, rather, I’ve been listening to music with great intensity lately.  The new remix of Sgt. Pepper?  Holy shit, it’s incredible.  (And I say this mostly through listening via Spotify on my shitty work headphones.)  If it’s not too much to ask, I’d very much love it if all of the pre-Abbey Road albums could get the same sort of 3-dimensional stereo support that this Sgt. Pepper album got, because it’s amazing.

Sgt. Pepper isn’t my favorite Beatles record – that distinction gets tossed around between Abbey Road, Revolver and The White Album, and I must confess that Magical Mystery Tour is up there, too – but there’s also a mythic quality to Sgt. Pepper that those other albums simply don’t have.  When I think of my favorite Beatles songs, I tend to gloss over the Sgt. Pepper album just because they all feel connected in a way that the rest of their catalog doesn’t.  But goddamn, this remix makes it feel vital in a way that it simply never has before.  “Getting Better”, in particular, is staggering to behold – I don’t think I’d ever appreciated just how magnificent the arrangement of that song is.  One can start to see, now, how mind-blowing Sgt. Pepper must have sounded when it was first released.

Another album that is also blowing my mind, in a completely different way, is Elder’s “Reflections of a Floating World.”  I’d never heard of these guys before last week, and I acknowledge that they’re a bit more on the heavy stoner-metal side of things than what I normally listen to, but whatever – it’s awesome.  Listen to “The Falling Veil”, if nothing else.

3. E3 2017 is next week and I am surprisingly apathetic about it.  This may simply be because I expect that most of what will be announced will be stuff that isn’t coming out until 2018 at the earliest.  Indeed, a lot of the most exciting-sounding stuff from last year’s E3 was for games that still haven’t come out yet.  I may or may not live-tweet the press conferences; I’m not really sure I have the energy to sit through everything.  I don’t even really know what it is that I’d like to hear, beyond a reasonable price for Project Scorpio (and that Scorpio will improve performance to existing Xbox One games the way that the PS4 Pro does for PS4 games).  That’s really all I’m hoping for.  I’d like PSVR to get some new stuff, too, though I’m not necessarily holding my breath.

OK, it’s lunch time.

distracted and dismayed

Yes, it’s been a while.  No, I’m not dead.

It is very hard to write about videogames while Donald Trump is still President.  Indeed, it is very hard to enjoy videogames while Donald Trump is President.  I sit in my basement every night, intending to release pent-up energy by committing digital murder, and instead I pause whatever game I’m attempting to play and continue refreshing Twitter, because HOLY SHIT HOW CAN THIS POSSIBLY GET ANY WORSE [refreshes Twitter] HOLY SHIT IT GOT WORSE.  This has been going on for the last two weeks.

Nor do I have anything exciting to talk about, as I’d hinted at in the opening of my last entry.  The very short and necessarily non-specific version of that little vaguebook thing is that an amazing opportunity fell in my lap, and I went for it, but it didn’t work out.  It was the correct decision by all parties involved, even if I’m still a bit disappointed.  And I also ended up catching a horrific cold because of it.  That’s that, basically.

I’m kinda playing Prey at the moment, and also Injustice 2 for some reason (I was home sick yesterday and saw it was getting amazing reviews).  Prey is something that needs a bit more focus on my part to properly discuss, and I don’t have it in me today to get there.  I am enjoying it, though I also feel like I’m terrible at it, even on the easiest difficulty setting.  It’s hard to play it and not be reminded of any of the Bioshock games, though I think I’m enjoying this a little bit more than those games if only because the world and the story and the gameplay actually sorta have something to do with each other.   Prey is a hard game to binge on, though; I inevitably get frustrated or stuck and feel compelled to turn it off before I start souring on it.

As far as books go, the last book I mentioned here was “A Gentleman In Moscow”, which was wonderful.  After that I read “Waking Gods“, the sequel to last year’s excellent “Sleeping Giants“; it’s not quite as good as the original, but I’m certainly curious as to where it’s going.  Then I read Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad”, which is as amazing as everyone said it would be.  I am currently (and very slowly) reading Jeff VanderMeer’s “Borne”, which is also quite good and I have absolutely no idea where it’s going, even as I’m about a third of the way into it.

All right, I think I have to call it now.  I have medicine-head and work is piling up and I need to refresh Twitter again.

Weekend recap: alternative facts

And so here we are, finally, the first Monday in Trump’s America.  We are expecting Nor’easter-ish conditions here in the NYC region, which seems fitting.

I don’t necessarily want to turn this blog into a political soapbox, but these are strange times, and like it or not, Trump’s current employment is going to affect us all one way or the other.  (I cannot and will not call him President.)  While I understand the impulse to say “Hey, man, leave politics out of it, you’re talking about games and music and books,” the truth of the matter is that Trump’s decisions are absolutely going to affect games and music and books.  Not just in terms of their subject matter, but – in more practical terms – they may very well affect our ability to purchase games and music and books.  Because unless you are a (white, male) billionaire, life is about to get more difficult, whether you like it or not.

And the thing is, Trump and his cronies are legitimately frightening, while also being incredibly ridiculous.  It is hard to take ridiculous things seriously, and yet we as a nation have to take them seriously, because otherwise the truly frightening fascistic shit will get lost in the shuffle.  So while we’re all enjoying a laugh at the insanity of Kellyanne Conway presenting “alternative facts” as a sublime bon mot, let’s not forget that it’s only been 72 hours and the Trump administration is already preparing to leave the United Nations, renegotiate NAFTA, and go into full-bore isolationist mode.  Oh, and that whole healthcare thing… that’s gonna fuck everybody up, too, including people who already have healthcare through their jobs.

In any event:  I despaired on Friday, but after seeing the enormity of the protests on Saturday, I am inspired and rejuvenated.


To that end, I spent last night replaying Wolfenstein: The New Order, because suddenly killing Nazis is cathartic again.  I wrote about this the last time I played it, and it’s still true.  Given that one of the highlights of this weekend was seeing alt-right neo-Nazi Richard Spencer get punched in the face, and then having that punch become a viral meme, I felt that it was my patriotic duty as an American to get my Nazi-killin’ skills in good shape.  I’m still a pacifist, I still hate guns, I still feel a little weird about the shooter genre, but I will alwaysalwaysalways have room in my heart to mow down some Nazis.

If I’m honest with myself, I should probably concede that I have not yet spent enough time with my PSVR to fully justify the expense of owning it.  And yet, my brother and his fiancee hung out with us over the weekend (they were escaping DC, as it were), and I got to blow their minds with that shark tank demo, and that in and of itself is justification enough.

I also dabbled in some other VR experiences; I gave Bound another look, and the difference between Bound in regular mode vs. VR is night and day.  It’s still a bit weird, but the visual experience is nothing short of breathtaking.  Similarly, I finally unlocked the fabled “Area X” mode in Rez Infinite, and all I can really say about that is wow.  Good lord.

I continue to screw around with my backlog, and I continue to find myself drawn towards replaying old favorites in lieu of playing new stuff.  I am having a very difficult time getting into Final Fantasy XV, and Dishonored 2 is also a bit of a struggle (although in that case it’s more that I’m just not very good at it, and while I want to be able to sneak around I end up having to kill everyone, and it becomes a bit of a drag).  I’m also having the same problem with Watch Dogs 2, actually, except I really don’t care about getting into gunfights, even though I feel like I should.

And yet I am more than happy to revisit The Witcher 3, and Rise of the Tomb Raider, and such.  Those games are still great, and given that time remains something of a limited resource, I’d rather spend my time enjoying what I’m doing than not.  It’s an indulgent attitude, I suppose, but these are strange and difficult times, and one has to find happiness where one can.

disconnection

I’m feeling a little disconnected lately, which might explain why I’ve been quiet here.

The biggest problem I mentioned in my last post – that of my almost-3-year-old son refusing to go to bed – is starting to wind down, so that’s something positive, at least.  Of course, my wife is sick, and the kid has a bit of a cough as well, and I’m very much feeling on the verge of catching something, too.  We’re all falling apart, is what I’m saying.

That said, I’m feeling guilty about whining.

I’m trying to tone down the amount of whining I do on social media, which is actually a bit easier than I expected, given that almost all forms of social media are driving me crazy right now and make me far less inclined to post than I normally would be.  Facebook keeps hiding posts from friends; Twitter is a garbage fire; Tumblr is filled with ads and every once in a while a random naked person will show up, unannounced and uncalled for, and so that’s off-limits.

I’m also starting to reach critical mass in terms of the upcoming election.  I’m disgusted and anxious and not at all prepared to move to Canada.


 

And, of course, I’m disconnected from the things I normally talk about here.

Book-wise, I’m re-reading Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, which I’d been thinking about recently (especially after reading Christopher Buckley’s The Relic Master), and which I felt obligated to pick up in light of Eco’s passing.  It’s one of my all-time favorite books, and yet I’m having trouble fully engaging with it this time around for some reason.

Music-wise, I’m still struggling with writing lyrics, and in the meantime I’m not listening to anything particularly inspiring.  On a related note, I have to say that my weekly Spotify Discovery playlists have been awfully lackluster this year; the ratio of hit/miss is way, way off, especially as compared to last year.

Games-wise… I’m a big pile of “meh”.  I’m very much intrigued by The Division, and I’m looking forward to playing it in co-op, but I’m also wary of it; the beta showed off a lot of high points as well as a lot of lows – the writing in particular is just awful, and a lot of the mission designs felt very familiar (i.e., the final encounter in the Subway Morgue is a very typical “hold your ground for an arbitrary length of time”, and I was tired of that kind of mission in Destiny).  I tried playing a little bit of Fallout 4 last night, given that it’s been patched up quite a bit of late, and… yeah, I still don’t give a shit about that game.  I’m inching along in my NG+ of Witcher 3, but the Hearts of Stone expansion is for level 61+, and I’m still only at 43 or so; that’s an awful lot of ground to make up, and as much as I love that game I’m not sure I have it in me to repeat it.  Later this week my rental copy of Far Cry Primal will arrive, and as I’ve been lukewarm on that franchise for the last few iterations, I’m not sure that I’ll be fully engaged with it – even if the Stone Age setting is novel.

So, yeah.  I’m scared of American politics, I’m culturally out of sorts, and I’m physically falling apart.  I hit the trifecta.

%d bloggers like this: