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.

Weekend Recap: Dismantling the Patriarchy and Playing With Expensive Toys

Well, it took a little while, but I’ve finally caught the cold that’s been running around my house for the last week, and I’m very fortunate that I’m out of sick time and vacation time at my day job and also that my day job is now suddenly extremely busy with very time-sensitive stuff and the acceptable margin for error is even more nil than usual.  The timing couldn’t be better.


So I’ve been reading Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White, which is an absolutely gorgeously-written book about some rather unfortunate subject matter, given the recent news developments about how all men are trash.  I don’t mean to be flippant about that, by the way – men are fucking trash, and if there’s one good thing about the disastrous Trump presidency it’s that the patriarchy might finally come crumbling down, and good fucking riddance to it.

I don’t think my own actions have been as horrific as, say, Louis C.K., but that doesn’t necessarily get me off the hook; I was a shithead in my 20s, and I didn’t know that I was a shithead at the time, and it sucks.  Facebook has that little “memories” thing and it was almost exactly 3 years ago today that I went back and re-read my college diary and was simply aghast at how shitty a person I was, and the whole thing still makes me nauseous.  All I can do, now, is raise my son to be a better man than I used to be.  I’d like to think that I’m at least a halfway decent man now, and that’s really only because of a concerted and conscious effort and my eternally patient wife straight-up telling me when I’m unconsciously mansplaining or being a jerk.


As noted above, I’ve been kept away from writing here for a while.  I’ve been wanting to pop in here and write about, oh, I don’t know, my new Xbox One X and how my son and I have been playing Super Mario Odyssey together, which is really all I’ve ever wanted to do with him.  Let’s start with that, then, because it’s wonderful.

Henry loves Super Mario Odyssey.  We’ve been playing it in 2-player mode, where he’s Mario and I’m the hat, although he’ll hand me his controller when he needs help getting to a tricky place or when there’s a boss fight.  And more often than not he’s just happy to watch and show me where to go, and when we collect a moon he goes “YES!” and gives me a high-five, and it’s like, man, this is the best.  I’ve said it here a million times – I never had a Nintendo system in my house; I had an Atari 2600 when I was a little kid, and then my younger brother had a Sega Genesis, and so I’ve never had the Nintendo nostalgia that everyone else in the world has.  But seeing my kid go nuts over Mario is awesome.  I’m so happy to be able to share this experience with him.   (In fact, when I was getting him dressed this morning, he told me he had Mario dreams, and he couldn’t wait to play some more with me tonight.  Plans = made.)

As for the Xbox One X:  well, look.

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I don’t (yet) have a 4K TV, but I can tell you that the difference between the OG XB1 and this new XOX is night and day.  It’s much quieter, everything loads much faster (even the stuff that hasn’t received “enhanced patches” perform better – The Witcher 3 loads at least a full minute quicker than before, and it seems to perform much smoother too), and the stuff that has received updates is even more pronounced.  Wolfenstein 2 on XOX, in particular, makes the OG XB1 look last-gen.

I’ve been spending the most time with Assassin’s Creed Origins (heretofore AssOrgy), and yeah, that game looks really nice.  I’m still in the early going – I’m only level 15 or so, and I’ve just gotten to the Hippodrome – but it has a wonderful sense of pace to it.  Feels a lot like Witcher 3, actually, in all the right ways, and this game’s open-world structure seems to suit the nomadic player character quite well, in that it makes sense for him to be wandering around and picking up missions here and there, helping out where he can.  I’ve seen some chatter on Twitter that while people like AssOrgy, it’s not necessarily a great Assassin’s Creed game; I suppose that’s a fair assessment, given that the “assassination missions” feel a lot less scripted than they used to, but overall I really like the direction this game is moving in.  In fact, the only bits that I’m finding myself missing are the environmental puzzles, though supposedly that element starts to show up a bit later, once you reach Giza and the Pyramids.

I understand that there’s a fair bit of confusion as to who the Xbox One X is actually for.  I can tell you this:  it’s for me, the Xbox fanboy who has been disappointed by the performance of the Xbox One and wants a comparable experience to the PS4.  And who also has a little bit of extra cash (or doesn’t care about excess credit card debt).  Is it necessary?  No, probably not, but I don’t regret my purchase in the slightest.  It makes my existing library look and perform drastically better than it did, and so I’m all for it.  If you’re looking to take the plunge and upgrade, I would highly recommend buying an external hard drive and backing up your current Xbox One and moving all your games over to it first, as it makes setting up the X1X a twenty-minute breeze.  (For whatever it’s worth, this is the one I have, and I bought it because Major Nelson uses it too, and it was on sale at the time.)

the necessity of distraction

You ever take an allergy pill and then drink too much caffeine?  It’s all the physical symptoms of an anxiety attack but you’re also very zoned out and breathing very deeply.

Hi, welcome to my Wednesday afternoon.  My job is slow at the moment, and I have all this nervous energy that I need to expel.  So I’m gonna talk about all the crap I’ve bought of late that I haven’t had the time or inclination to enjoy.


Before I get started with some aimless rambling and babbling, I just want to thank everyone for their support this past week.  We did end up putting Lily to sleep on Saturday, and it was awful and gut-wrenching and sad, but hearing from everyone really did make a difference.  I am in the midst of another one of my love-hate spats with the internet and social media, but in this particular instance it was really nice to feel like all our friends around the world were giving us a much-needed hug.

I suppose I should also say that I’m fine, as far as the horrific event that took place in lower Manhattan yesterday afternoon.  Indeed, my office is so close to it that I could see the men in white hazmat suits milling around as I ran a quick errand this morning.  I was never in any danger (though I had been walking right there only a few hours prior), and I never had a chance to get anxious because by the time that the actual, real news was starting to come in, it was already over.  I suppose it might seem weird that I’m not really all that messed up about it, but, I mean, what am I gonna do?  I’m already a nervous wreck about the world in general.  I’m just glad it wasn’t worse.


I’ve been in a non-stop escapist fiction mood of late, reading lots of horror and thriller and mystery stuff, and I needed to switch things up just a bit.  So I’m now three chapters into The Crimson Petal and the White, and it is gorgeous in ways I haven’t yet even begun to parse.  I enjoyed Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things, and everyone on Goodreads who saw that I’d enjoyed it told me to immediately drop everything I was doing and start reading Crimson Petal; it’s been a few years, but here I am.


I am desperate to talk about Stranger Things 2, except that I haven’t finished it yet.  Assuming that the wife is amenable, we will watch the final 2 episodes tonight.  Yes, I am aware that a lot of people have very intense problems with Episode 7; I also just read a thing that the Duffer Brothers are aware of this but felt it necessary to fully tell the story they wanted to tell.  Given that I am fully on board with this season – even more than the first one, and I adored the first one – I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

I will say this, in the meantime – one of the things that I love about ST is how people actually cooperate with each other and believe each other and don’t act stupid for the purpose of plot contrivance.  It worked remarkably well in the first season and it’s working even better here.  Also – genius casting of Sean Astin and Paul Reiser.  (I noted on Twitter the other day that people who recognize Sean Astin from LotR and not The Goonies make me feel incredibly old, and then a friend reminded me that 16 years passed between the Goonies and LotR 1, and that 16 years have also passed since LotR1 and ST2, and holy shit I am old.)


In my dog-related grief, I accidentally did a thing and bought a Nintendo Switch, plus Zelda and Mario (and then Golf Story and also Stardew Valley).  So that’s happening.  I’ve been able to play maybe 15 minutes of Zelda, Mario and Golf, and they are all things I want to continue playing, so that’s nice.

I also have Assassin’s Creed Origins and Wolfenstein II burning a hole on my Xbox One’s external hard drive, and I’ve played just enough of both of them to know that I’d rather play them on my Xbox One X, which is supposedly arriving next week although I haven’t yet received any shipping information, which is unnerving.