If you had to live in the Roman Empire, you wanted to live between 96 and 180 AD. Sometime during that period a fellow named Apuleius wrote a novel called Metamorphoses. It's about a likeable guy called Lucius. Lucius has an insatiable curiosity and it gets him into trouble. He travels to Hypata on business and stays with Milo and his wife Pamphile. Long story short is that his curiosity get the better of him and after observing Pamphile turn herself into an owl, he fools around with her stuff and transforms himself into a donkey. Lucius spends the rest of the novel trying to turn back into a human.
The book is known these days as The Golden Ass and I first read it years ago in the translation by Robert Graves. In fact, I read the Graves translation twice. I'm now reading a new translation by Sarah Ruden.
Here's what Wikipedia has to say about the novel's style:
Apuleius' style is innovative, mannered, baroque and exuberant, a far cry from the more sedate Latinity familiar from the schoolroom.
I'm afraid that baroque and exuberant didn't really come across in Graves' translation, however it does in Ruden's version. It's so good that I'm thinking of buying her translation of The Confessions of Saint Augustine when it's released in June. Thinking, I hasten to add. If you're interested in Roman literature you have to deal with Augustine sooner or later. I'm interested, shit I'm reading fucking Apuleius, I just don't know if I'm that interested.
But for now I have her translation of The Golden Ass to munch on. By the way, The Golden Ass is the only complete Roman novel that's come down to us. We have that and chunks of Satyricon by Petronius. That's not to say that we don't have other Roman works, just not a lot of novels. But, hell, I'm going to show some gratitude, given the wreckage of the ancient world it's remarkable that we have what we have. And dammit, I'm going to take a risk here and preorder Augustine. Because I am nothing if not a risk taker.
April 29, 2017
I'm exaggerating but it was a little strange going from What Remains of Edith Finch back to Mass Effect Andromeda. It's a little like going from synchronised swimming to Roller Derby. They're both sports but still..
April 28, 2017
I'm a Shallow Person
You know, when I first saw Newton back at the animal shelter, his lopsided mustache annoyed the hell out of me. But he was young and very friendly and that outweighed any aesthetic considerations. I kinda like the stache now, gives him character.
April 28, 2017
Speaking of Games: Prey
On 5/5 Bethesda will be releasing Prey, a game I'm excited about. Today they released a demo for PS4 and Xbox One. They are not releasing a demo for the PC. Now, you may remember that last year I played Dishonored 2. That game was published by Bethesda and developed by Arkane Studios, just like Prey. I had no problems running it but a lot of people did. And as much as I want to get my hands on Prey. I'm still playing Mass Effect Andromeda and so I can afford to wait a little to see how things shake out.
You know, 2017 is shaping up to be a very good gaming year.
April 27, 2017
What Remains of Edith Finch
Edith Finch is the last surviving member of the Finch family. In the wake of her mother's death she goes back to the old family estate, shuttered since the death of her great grandmother. She's trying to explore her family's history. Odin Finch immigrated to America in the 30s, hoping to leave behind the bad luck that dogged his family in Norway. But it didn't work and her uncles, aunts and brothers all died young, except for Great Grandmom who made it to her 90s. Now Edith is trying to make sense of it all.
So she comes back to the estate, located on an island off the coast of Washington, makes her way into the house and explores the rooms that once housed her relatives. You see how each one of them died and, like Edith try to make sense of it all. And when described like that the game sounds pretty depressing, but it's not. Parts of it are sad but the game is never depressing. After all, the wonder is not that we have to die, it's that we ever got to live at all.
In 2013 I bought Gone Home, since then, I've made an effort to play an indie game now and then. What Remains of Edith Finch is not only a good indie game, it's the best game I've played since Witcher 3. It's also a game that most of my friends will never play. The game costs $20 and you'll get about four hours out of it, and the four hours factors in a replay. For the folks I know, it's simply not worth it.
I'm not being critical here. I think that games, as an art form, aren't taken as seriously as books and music. Gone Home, Firewatch, The Stanley Parable, The Beginner's Guide and What Remains of Edith Finch are all works of art by any measure that I know. But people who will pay $20 for a jazz CD will balk at $20 for a game. But hell, it's all good, these things take time.
Meanwhile, if you see What Remains of Edith Finch next year in a Steam sale, check it out.
April 27, 2017
Don’t Call Me a Millennial
He's an older millennial. And Jesse Singal who was born in 1983 believes there's a fundamental difference between older millennials, born between 1982 and 1988 and younger millennials born between 1989 and 2000. The defining events of the younger millennial generation were the crash of 2008 and the widespread adoption of smart phones. And indeed, I remember reading that any piece of technology you encounter before the age of 15 isn't technology at all, its just stuff.
April 26, 2017
One Thousand and One Nights
The first full translation of One Thousand and One Nights was done by Sir Richard Francis Burton. There had been earlier English translations but they had been edited to remove the bits about sex. Burton kept the sex in and, since he was living in the Victorian Age, issued it as a private edition for subscribers.
Burton's language has a certain charm but it gives the work an archaic air that wasn't in the original. Right now I'm dipping into a modern translation by Malcolm C. Lyons and Ursula Lyons. Whenever I'm between books, or simply need a palate cleanser, I read their version. In fact, I've bee doing that for years and at the moment I'm on the 610th night.
The Lyons' translation cost money and is well worth it to my way of thinking. But Burton's version is free. It's excentric but it has its own virtues:
Verily the works and words of those gone before us have become instances and examples to men of our modern day, that folk may view what admonishing chances befel other folk and may therefrom take warning; and that they may peruse the annals of antique peoples and all that hath betided them, and be thereby ruled and restrained:— Praise, therefore, be to Him who hath made the histories of the Past an admonition unto the Present! Now of such instances are the tales called “A Thousand Nights and a Night,” together with their far famed legends and wonders. Therein it is related (but Allah is All knowing of His hidden things and All ruling and All honoured and All giving and All gracious and All merciful that, in tide of yore and in time long gone before, there was a King of the Kings of the Banu Sásán in the Islands of India and China, a Lord of armies and guards and servants and dependents. He left only two sons, one in the prime of manhood and the other yet a youth, while both were Knights and Braves, albeit the elder was a doughtier horseman than the younger. So he succeeded to the empire; when he ruled the land and forded it over his lieges with justice so exemplary that he was beloved by all the peoples of his capital and of his kingdom. His name was King Shahryár, and he made his younger brother, Shah Zamán hight, King of Samarcand in Barbarian land.
That should be enough to let you know what you're in for if you decide to try Burton. Archaic, but if you can get through the King James Bible you can get though him. And if you're the type who likes reading the works and words of those gone before us you really should give the Nights a shot.
Later on today Borne: A Novel by Jeff VanderMeer arrives on my Kindle. You may remember me going on about his Southern Reach Trilogy a few years ago. His books are weird and strange and have depths to them that can swallow the unwary reader. They're very, very good.
April 25, 2017
In Which Kevin Learns a New Thing About His Back
Last month I bought a new printer. I was going to throw out the big box it came in but Newton had fallen in love with the thing so I kept it in my office. Newton used it as an observation post and for scratching. By the middle of April there were bits of cardboard everywhere but I didn't mind, when all is said and done Newton doesn't ask much of me.
But last night I discovered that Newton had clawed through the box in several places and was starting to shred the styrofoam packing that I failed to throw out before I gave the box to Newton. I'm reasonably sure that Newton wouldn't eat the stuff but it was sticking to his fur and I didn't want him swallowing it while grooming, so the box went in the trash and today I brought out the vacuum to clean up the shredded cardboard and styrofoam.
I don't vacuum, twice a month Edie comes in and does that for me, but I have used a vacuum cleaner in the distant past. So I hauled it out of the closet, cleaned up the office, straightened up and goddamn did my back hurt. Not, it's raining and my back doesn't like it hurt, it was more like I felt back in September when my vertebrae still hadn't healed.
And compression fractured never really heal completely. My fucked up vertebrae is at the very end of my spine and moving the vacuum cleaner around while leaning at a 45 degree angle agitated it. But the good news is now I have a legitimate excuse for not vacuuming.
I took Tramadol and that helped and I'll try to avoid vacuuming in the future. If I ever give Newton a big box again and it has styrofoam, I'll throw that shit out first. And now I think it's time for a cup of green tea and some Mass Effect.
April 22, 2017
The Continuing Adventures of Meredith Ryder
That thing in the distance is the corpse of an insane AI. Earlier in the game I encountered a heavily shielded Kett base. Last night I brought those shields down. Tonight I entered the base and found out that they were using captured Angara as slaves. I liberated the slaves, the Angara being allies and all, and discovered that the Kett were trying to enter a sealed chamber. I used explosives to enter the chamber and met an ancient, paranoid and suicidal AI. It started to use energy to kill one of the Angara and while there was no doubt the AI's knowledge would have been useful, I decided to destroy the AI rather then let an innocent person be killed. It was one of those instant judgment calls and I like to think that Captain Kirk would have done the same thing. Drack thinks I did the right thing anyway.
April 21, 2017
Better Cheating Through Technology
I've mentioned many times that I have no patience for puzzles in role playing games. In Mass Effect Andromeda Remnant Vaults, essentially dungeons, are guarded by consoles that need certain glyphs inputted, it's pretty much a sodoku puzzle. Fortunately for my sanity the net has screenshots of the solutions and I have a phone.
April 20, 2017
Today I played for the first time since last Wednesday. When I left off I was trying to shut down a Kett base that controlled a shield that was keeping us out of their other installation. I defeated most of the Kett but every time I tried to turn the shield controls off, another warrior would spawn. I'm not the quickest guy on the planet but eventually I figured out that the warriors would keep spawning until I ran to every control panel and turned them off. Once that was taken care of the base commander showed up and it was a classic boss fight. He had a thing orbiting him that generated a shield. You shot the orbiting thing until it temporarily lost power then you could chip away at the commander. It took about six rounds of that before we could kill him.
This fight also taught me that I can use combos even though I'm no overly coordinated. You fire one biotic power at an enemy and before it wears off you hit them with another. Combos do a lot of damage.
So that part of the fight is over but it looks like there's some mopping up to be outside the base. And then I'm assuming I we'll go to the other installation now that the shield is down. And after that I have to go to the Remnant structures and use them to warm the planet up, as well as looking for the tech that my companion Peebee wants. My dance card is still full as my parents would have put it.
I'm 25 hours into the game and sitting a bit easier in the saddle. It's a good feeling when you start to get a handle on a game.
April 20, 2017
New York 2140
Some science fiction attempts to show cultural and societal changes as well as technological change. I'm thinking of The Quantum Thief, Dune, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Neuromancer. Other works aren't interested in that sort of thing. Alien was a horror story set in space and Roddenberry described Star Trek as, "Wagon Train to the stars." Both approaches work.
So here's the deal, New York 2140 is very much a work like Alien or Star Trek. In fact, except for the setting, a New York City flooded by global warming, it could be set in the same universe as Bonfire of the Vanities. I'm almost half way through the book and I don't think I've ever seen a character take out a cell phone. Although I think the book is meant to be a cautionary tale about climate change, half way through it's a book about a real estate scam. I've nothing against that sort of thing but it's not quite what I signed up for.
In fact, if I weren't so far along I'd probably put it aside. But I'm half way through it so I'm going to stick it out.
Yesterday I was at Mrs. Silverman's place and Caty had some of her friends over as well. Donna asks for volunteers to take the trash out and being a helpful sort I get up and take the trash bag out of the trash compactor. Donna calls out, "You're going to let a 61 year old man take the trash out? Shame." At that point people rush up to take the bag out of my palsied hands.
And now I have to log off, the home health aid is here with my dinner.
April 17, 2017
April 16, 2017
Things to Do
Now that Little Kosh is back up and running, when I get home I have to synch stuff like bookmarks and my passwords. I also have to see if I have an older version of SynWrite to
put on this. For some reason they've taken their spell checker out of the newer versions of their program. It looks like this summer I'll be directing some love the laptop's way. Meanwhile, any spelling errors are SynWrite's fault.
April 15, 2017
Although I kept the printer box around because Newton loved it, today I bought him a belated anniversary present, one of those track thing with a ball inside. Newton seems to like it.
And it looks like I'm not going to be able to finish my assault on the Kett base tonight. I have to get up early tomorrow so I can't stay up until sunrise. Still the Kett can wait until next week. Oh, by the way, 24 hours into the game and I haven't lowered the difficulty down from normal yet. So that's a good thing.
April 13, 2017
Fighting on Voeld
Through a convoluted series of events, I find myself on the ice planet of Voeld, aiding the Angara in their struggle against the Kett, the bad guys of Mass Effect Andromeda. The Kett have a base protected by a shield. The shield is controled from another base and that's the one Meredith, Peebee and Drack have been trying to get to. After fighting our way past several guard posts we've finally made it to that base and disabled its own shield. And since it's three in the morning I think I'll leave them there for the night. Tomorrow I'll make the final push.
April 13, 2017
Mass Effect Trek
Today I did some errands around the Nexus, then I took my ship, headed off into the blue and made first contact with an alien race. This game has its share of problems but damned if it isn't the best Star Trek game I ever played. I can forgive a lot for that.
April 11, 2017
This Isn't Creepy, Nope
And let the memes begin.
April 10, 2017
Blade Runner and Neuromancer
I posted that picture to Facebook today, as one tends to do. Here's a fun fact, when Blade Runner came out, William Gibson was writing Neuromancer. He decided to take a break and watch it. He left the theater horrified, scared that people would assume he copied Ridley Scott's look for his own book. As it turned out the aesthetics of Scott's movie and Gibson's book were rather different.
April 10, 2017
22nd Century Drop In
I use several pictures of London as wallpaper. This particular picture is of the City of London, a separate city in the middle of the rest of London, looking south west. Imagine if the New York City Financial District was its own separate city with its own government and that's what the City of London is to the rest of London.
London has an odd look to it. It's like a bit of the city from 2117 somehow time slipped back to 2017 and now everybody has to make the best of it.
April 9, 2017
How I think my office looks:
How it really looks:
April 9, 2017
Open World Games
In Torment: Tides of Numenera your character's goal is to find a way to defeat The Sorrow. Occasionally you'll aid someone but you're never allowed to stray to far from your ultimate purpose.
In Witcher 3 your goal at the beginning is to find out what happened to Ciri, a human woman that the Witchers raised. It's made very clear that your character, Geralt, looks on Ciri as a daughter and he'll move mountains to find her. But I'm afraid that's not what Geralt did when I was controlling him. I played the game for 178 hours and for at least 145 of them I was just exploring the wonderful world CD Projekt created. At one point I even took time out to help a lonely old woman find her frying pan.
Witcher 3 is an open world game and if the open world is sufficiently interesting, the temptation is to put the plot on the back burner while you go exploring. And that's what I did in Witcher 3, and Skyrim and Fallout 4 for that matter.
The point of all this is that Bioware's Dragon Age Inquisition and Mass Effect Andromeda are considered by many to be open world games. I'm not sure I completely agree with that designation but they are a lot bigger then some of Bioware's early RPGs. And for some who like Bioware's approach to role playing but who don't particularly like open world games, Mass Effect Andromeda is a little disorienting.
And that's cool, a lot of people don't like open world games. That being said, I like how Bioware handled the problem of players wandering away from the plot in Mass Effect Andromeda. Your character is the Pathfinder. When you go off on some kind of tangent you're not leaving the main quest, it's your job to go off on tangents. It's rather clever, actually.
I got 151 hours out of Dragon Age Inquisition. I don't know how long I'll be playing Mass Effect Andromeda but I'm already 14 hours into the game. Hell, there's a good chance I'll be playing this when Prey comes out next month, and that's a good thing.
April 9, 2017
Last Word on Mass Effect Andromeda
I'll still be talking about Meredith's adventures, this is just my last word on the state of the game.
If someone who never played role playing games asked me for a good title to try I would not recommend Mass Effect Andromeda. It simply doesn't have the polish I've come to expect in a $59.99 AAA game. However if someone who was into RPGs asked me if they should play Mass Effect Andromeda I'd give them a conditional yes, especially if they played and enjoyed Dragon Age Inquisition.
In my case, I waited a week before buying the game and 14 hours in I haven't regretted my purchase. So there you have it. The game, in my opinion, was released too early but it's not a Batman: Arkham Knight fuck up. Bioware is trying their best to correct the game's flaws and I'm having a good time.
Oh, one more thing, if you like RPGs but aren't necessarily a Bioware fan boy or girl, wait until you can pick the game up on sale. Of course since we're talking Electronic Arts here, you might never see it on sale.
April 8, 2017
Kevin Gets Productive
Over the last several months I've made some minor changes:
I signed up for Pandora, it's playing the Grateful Dead even as we speak.
I renewed my passport.
I canceled the DVD part of Netflix.
I bought a new printer.
And I bought a new router.
I rented a movie from Amazon.
I'm especially proud of the Amazon thing. I was getting DVDs from Netflix in the mail and sending them back without even taking them out of the mailing sleeve. Slowly alChandler tip toes into the 21st century.
April 8, 2017
Jesus Soldier, It's Ten in the Morning
This is another bug in Mass Effect Andromeda, or perhaps it just that discipline is rather lax at this settlement.
Update: A patch just went down. I entered the game just to make sure that drunk lady was still drunk. She was and that's cool, I'm startng to like her.
April 6, 2017
Meanwhile Back at the Nexus
While Meredith defeats the Kett, changes the environment of the planet and establishes a military outpost on Eos, back at the Nexus morale is falling.
For all my bitching, I'm having a pretty good time in the game.
Later on today a big patch arrives. We'll see if that makes things a tad smoother. I'll settle for the eyes looking less horrifying.
April 6, 2017
A Mass Effect Observation
Last night I was in the Remnant Vault on Eos. The deal was that Eos and other planets were supposed to be quite nice but when the ships of the Andromeda Initiative arrived, the worlds were inhospitable. In the case of Eos, the planet had a high level of radioactivity. Long story short I discovered that there were alien devices on the planet that the bad guys, the Kett, were interested in. I turned them on and they sent a signal to a vast underground complex called the Remnant Vault. Figuring out that the devices were some kind of environmental control tech gone bad, I went inside the vault to reset them.
So, I'm following an energy conduit and I come to a door that's locked. I spend 45 minutes trying to find a way around the door and eventually give up and go to a walkthrough. From the walkthrough I find that the locked door is a bug, it's supposed to be open. if you exit and reload a saved game it will probably be unlocked the next time you get to it. Problem solved.
I bring this up because the Remnant Vault wasn't some obscure little side quest, this was part of the game's main storyline, and the game shipped with this bug. And it shipped with the bad facial animations and the other things people are complaining about. I'm not privy to discussions between EA and Bioware but I'd bet a pension check that EA ordered the game released before Bioware thought it was ready.
EA bought Bioware and they can do whatever they want with their property. And I really enjoyed the Remnant Vault sequence, I felt the whole Star Trek/Forbidden Planet vibe. But I'm wondering if Bioware can weather the bad publicity that the poor state of Mass Effect Andromeda has generated. Still, everything comes to an end and I am enjoying myself.
April 5, 2017
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