I almost posted my annual list of games today. But you know what? Rockstar released still another patch for Red Dead Redemption 2 and it's possible that by the time Steam gets the game next month it will be playable, so I decided to hold off. If I'm known for nothing else, I'm known for my optimism.
November 19, 2019
Alan Moore's Birthday
That's Alan Moore, he turned 63 today. Moore wrote Watchman, From Hell, V for Vendetta, Jerusalem and he created John Constantine. He tells the story of how he met Constantine in real life:
"One interesting anecdote that I should point out is that one day, I was in Westminster in London -- this was after we had introduced the character -- and I was sitting in a sandwich bar. All of a sudden, up the stairs came John Constantine. He was wearing the trenchcoat, a short cut -- he looked -- no, he didn't even look exactly like Sting. He looked exactly like John Constantine. He looked at me, stared me straight in the eyes, smiled, nodded almost conspiratorially, and then just walked off around the corner to the other part of the snack bar. I sat there and thought, should I go around that corner and see if he is really there, or should I just eat my sandwich and leave? I opted for the latter; I thought it was the safest. I'm not making any claims to anything. I'm just saying that it happened. Strange little story."
If anyone in our universe could meet Constantine in a pub in London it's Alan Moore.
November 18, 2019
The Snyder Cut
A bit of history first, if you please. Zack Snyder directed a reboot of the Superman movie franchise. It was called Man of Steel and it made $468 million world wide. That was considered a disappointment. I saw it and didn't care for Snyder's take on Mr. Kent. Snyder went on to direct Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It made $873.6, that too was a disappointment. And that brings us to Justice League. Zack Snyder directed it but before he could finish his daughter died. Snyder turned over the reins to Joss Whedon who finished the movie. He also lightened the tone of the movie, injecting a little humor here and there. Justice League was another box office disappointment, grossing $657.9 worldwide. After that DC and Warners scrapped the idea of an overall arc for their movies, instead concentrating on stand alone films like Joker and Wonder Woman.
A lot of people loved Snyder's darker take on superheroes and when you love something the natural impulse is to try to share it with the world. Some of those people think that the reason Justice League underperformed had nothing to do with a dislike of Snyder's vision for Superman and the gang, it's because Snyder's vision for the League was altered by Whedon. They want Snyder's original cut of Justice League released. Recently Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck called on Warners to release the Snyder cut.
I don't know if Snyder's version of the movie is finished enough to make a release viable. But while the release of the Snyder cut of Justice League would please his many fans, I don't think Snyder's original version would win any converts to his vision of the DC univese.
Having said all that, I love this scene in Man of Steel in which Superman reminds Zod that you don't threaten a person's mother.
Star Wars was never a thing for me, my pulpy space franchise was always Star Trek. I loved Trek, I liked Star Wars. That's why when the prequel trilogy came out I was able to dismiss it with nary a tear. I saved my outrage for Star Trek Voyager.
Tonight I watched the first episode of The Mandalorian on Disney+ and for the first time in ages I'm interested, really interested in Star Wars. Mandalorians are a warrior race but unlike Klingons they can keep their mouths shut. The Mandalorian in question is a bounty hunter, he gives off a Clint Eastwood vibe and the show is a space western, a genre I haven't seen since Firefly. The next episode drops this Friday and I'm eager to see it. I've never associated the word eager with the Star Wars franchise before. In short, Disney+ earned its $6.99 tonight.
November 13, 2019
alChandler's Rules for Ads
I pay for four news sites and allow ads on three of them. My rationale is that while the New York Times gets my digital subscription money, it needs ad revenue as well. The paper's ads are annoying, as most ads are, but not obnoxious. And that's pretty much my rule, I'll turn off my ad blocker on your site if your site is valuable to me and if you don't pull shit like 15 second full screen ads before I can access your content.
Occasionally I'll follow a link to a site that gives me the Opps! It looks like you're using an ad blocker. Please whitelist us to continue. At that point I go somewhere else. Turning off my ad blocker on your site isn't a right, it's a privilege I grant after I've checked your site out. And by the way, if I go to a site and it wants me to log into Facebook or Google before I can continue, fuck you, I don't care if you're giving away bacon dipped in cocaine, I'm leaving.
I'm stern but fair.
November 12, 2019
The Course of Empire
I'm not a visual person but I liked Thomas Coles's series of paintings, The Course of Empire. Five paintings that chart the course of a city from its origin to its fall. I had all five paintings and used them for wallpaper back in the day but they haven't been on my drive for quite some time. Today I remedied that situation and the first painting in the series, The Savage State is doing duty as my current wallpaper.
If you're even remotely interested in the series you can read the article in Wikipedia. By the way, while reading about the paintings I learned that Cole got the idea for the sequence from Byron's poem, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. I never read that and should get around to it one day.
November 10, 2019
Void Bastards is what an old fart like me would call a roguelike. Rogue was originally developed for mainframe computers in 1980 and the idea was to replicate Dungeons and Dragons. By today's standards it was primitive.
I never played Rogue but I did play Nethack. It was inspired by Rogue, released in 1987, had a bit more bells and whistles and most importantly, it would run on a Tandy 1000 EX. This is Nethack.
Roguelikes tend to be punishingly difficult. After all, Rogue was developed by programmers for programmers back when computers were room sized behemoths. And if you couldn't keep up you fell by the wayside. I remember in the early 90s someone asked on USENET where they could find the Doom demo. The response was classic:
You can find it at ftp.wuarchive.edu. And if you don't know how to ftp, learn.
Games like Nethack were developed by people who thought that way. Nethack made no concessions to the player.
We who are about to die salute you.
I played a little Nethack when I was bored but never really took to it. There are still a lot of fans for old school roguelikes and occasionally I've dabbled in them, but never for long, and that leads to Void Bastards.
Void Bastards was developed by a few of the people who worked on Bioshock. It's a roguelike with actual graphics. It's also very hard, that's why I'm playing on this difficulty level:
I'm not proud.
And here's what it looks like, sort of. Like all games in this genre, it randomizes things. I did not expect to enter a dark, radiation soaked ship but that's what I got and that's what you'll see.
Ages ago Ken came over and was shocked to find me playing Windows Solitaire. I did and still do but I think Void Bastards may take its place. By the way, I discovered that Steam will sell you Nethack for $6.00. Far be it from me to discourage honest capitalism but you can find Nethack for free right here. I haven't played Nethack in years and it's not my thing but it is a part of the history of computer gaming. If you're into PC gaming you might want to take it out for a spin, at least once.
November 10, 2019
I'm using this picture of Guangzhou, China as my wallpaper at the moment. I think Guangzhou can hold its own against any number of fictional cyberpunk cities. Of course cyberpunk implies a certain dystopian element, a certain grunge that the Guangzhou picture doesn't have. For that, my personal opinion is that this picture of Paris really does the job.
November 7, 2019
Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption was released today, you can buy it directly from Rockstar or the Epic Store. I decided to hold off until next month when it will turn up on Steam and it looks like I made the right decision. Rockstar's own game loader isn't working very well:
The game crashes to desktop randomly, a lot of players aren't getting any sound and folks are getting activation errors. In short the game's launch is starting to remind me of the disastrous launch of Batman: Arkham Knight back in 2015. I think my decision to wait a bit before I bought the game was a good one.
November 5, 2019
I tried three new network programs this September, Evil, Stumptown and Emergence. The first show, Evil is very good. It follows a team of three people who investigate reported cases of demonic possession and miracles for the Catholic Church. I stopped watching it because I didn't like the direction it was heading but I can't deny its quality.
I'm still watching Stumptown and enjoying it, that one's about a veteran with PTSD, gambling debts and no job who decides to become a private investigator. It's not striving for a high reality factor and I can respect that. One critic compared it to The Rockford Files and having seen The Rockford Files when it was on network television I can say that the show does give off a Jim Rockford vibe.
And that leaves Emergence. Allison Tolman plays Jo Evans, a small town police chief. She lives with her father and daughter and while she's divorced she has a fairly good relationship with her ex. In the first episode a plane crashes and Evans finds a child named Piper at the crash site. Piper has no memory and Evans, instead of dropping her off at the hospital and calling child services, takes Piper into her home. And she continues to give Piper shelter even after it's established that she has telekinetic powers that probably brought down the plane and did flip over an SUV, killing the two people inside. Oh yeah, the child is wanted by Richard Kindred, CEO of Augur Industries, your standard evil tech firm. Kindred wants Piper because he developed her, she's an artificial being of some kind. That's been confirmed by Emily, an ex employee of Auger.
At any rate, I came the the conclusion that Evans had been making some poor decisions, beyond the one to take in a telekinetic child that can destroy your house and your family if she ever feels remotely threatened. When another character, an investigative reporter, was shot and wounded by a guy driving a van, Evans discovered that the van was registered to Auger Industries. So she drives to New York City, arrests Kindred for attempted murder and by the time she gets back to her station with Kindred the town prosecutor is there. The prosecutor tells Evans that she has no case and she has to cut a pissed off Kindred loose.
And that's when I bailed on the show. I'm all for tech conspiracy, hell I love Mr. Robot, but Emergence doesn't hang together. And it's too bad, aside from Allison Tolman, who does the best she can to sell her character, the show has Clancy Brown as her father. I've loved his voice ever since he voiced Lex Luthor in the old DC cartoons back in the 90s.
November 5, 2019
Since The Outer Wilds has only been out for a week or two and the video below, not to mention the post, contain spoilers, i suppose I should put in some space to give you time to bail. Or is it bale?
At seven in the morning I defeated that pile of junk you see in the beginning of the video. It used to be a giant robot called RAM and he's The Outer Worlds' boss. He actually wasn't that tough and if he was the only thing the game through at us then Nyota, Ellie and John would have made short work of him but as the battle goes on Mark 2 combat drones are released and it took me three hours to finally figure out a combination of weapons and strategy to deal with RAM and the drones (hmm, nice name for a band). The good news was that once RAM was destroyed the combat drones lost power and we could go on to rescue Professor Phineas Welles. By the way, the woman I kill in the office is Sophia Akande, Adjutant to the Chairman of the Board. I consider her evil and Welles as good but some players go the other way and help Akande to stop Welles. However you want to play the game, it's all good.
It's too early to post my annual list of games but so far I've played 14 games and completed 6 of them. Not great but not too bad. The next game I'm going to try is Red Dead Redemption 2. It actually comes out tomorrow but I always take a little break after completing one game before I start a new one. Also, all things being equal, I'd like to purchase it on Steam, not because Gabe needs the money but because Steam has a few features that other internet storefronts lack. So I plan to wait until December for the game to become available on Steam. Unless I don't and scoff it up from Epic.
November 4, 2019
A Master of Timing and Coordination
The rickety pipes spew scalding steam at regular intervals and it requires split second timing and good reflexes to get by them. I have neither but I managed to get to the other end of the corridor reasonably intact. By the way, 29 hours into the game and I'm still playing on normal, haven't dropped it to easy even once. Not that the game is Dark Souls but I haven't been able to make that claim in some time. Nice to see that the old man still has a little gumption left.
November 3, 2019
The Eye of Sauron
In my younger years I was rather dismissive of Peter Jackson's portrayal of Sauron as a disembodied eye hanging out on the top of Barad-dűr. Years later I still have a few problems but I'm not ready to dismiss it out of hand anymore.
First of all, Sauron was a Maia, an angelic spirit. Among other powers that came with that was the ability to change shape. Sauron's body was closer to a suit of clothes then a mortal habitation for his spirit. So if he really wanted too he could look like a flaming eyeball. And in Lothlórien when Frodo looks into the Mirror of Galadriel he sees this:
But suddenly the mirror went altogether dark, as dark as if a hole had opened in the world of sight, and Frodo looked into emptiness. In the black abyss there appeared a single eye that slowly grew, until it filled nearly the whole mirror. So terrible was it that Frodo stood rooted, unable to cry out or to withdraw his gaze. The eye was rimmed with fire, but itself glazed, yellow as a cat's, watchful and intent, and the black slit of its pupil opened on a pit, a window into nothing.
Then the Eye began to rove, searching this way and that; and Frodo knew with certainty and horror that among the many things that it sought he himself was one. But he also knew that it could not see him - not yet, not unless he willed it. The Ring that hung upon its chain about his neck grew heavy, heavier than a great stone, and his head was dragged downwards. The Mirror seemed to be growing hot and curls of steam were rising from the water. He was slipping forward..."
I did, and still do interpret this as a mental image of Sauron's will rather then a snapshot of what was going on in Sauron's throne room. But the one time that any of the characters gets to see Sauron, it's as an eye.
Later on Frodo and Gollum have this to say about Sauron:
'That would be Minas Ithil that Isildur the son of Elendil built,' said Frodo, 'It was Isildur who cut off the finger of the Enemy.'
'Yes, He has only four on the Black Hand, but they are enough,' said Gollum shuddering.
Gollum should know, Sauron questioned him in person.
Tolkien, in one of his letters, describes Sauron like this:
Sauron should be thought of as very terrible. The form he took was that f a man of more then human stature, but not gigantic.
And finally, as Frodo and Sam make their way up Mount Doom the air clears a bit and Frodo can see Barad-dűr in the distance:
Far off the shadows of Sauron hung; but torn by some gust of wind out of the world, or else moved by some great disquiet within, the mantling clouds swirled, and for a moment drew aside; and then he saw, rising black, blacker and darker than the vast shades amid which it stood, the cruel pinnacles and iron crown of the topmost tower of Barad-dűr. One moment only it stared out, but as from some great window immeasurably high there stabbed northward a flame of red, the flicker of a piercing Eye; and then the shadows were furled again and the terrible vision was removed. The Eye was not turned to them: it was gazing north to where the Captains of the West stood at bay, and thither all its malice was now bent, as the Power moved to strike its deadly blow; but Frodo at that dreadful glimpse fell as one stricken mortally. His hand sought the chain about his neck.
So was he turning into an eye or just discarding his physical form for a bit, the better to use his will and the palantír? One poster on Reddit suggested that he just liked mood lighting in his office.
Sauron managed to cobble a body together in TA 1050 when he occupied Dol Guldur. About the same time the five Wizards arrived in Middle-earth to rally the people of Middle-earth against him. But that's another story.
By the way, I notice I go on a Tolkien binge during the holiday season. Dear me.
November 2, 2019
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