Contents

Caty and Cara's Page

Our Computers

Snapshots with Text

Essays for Fun

Ken Burch's Tales

Ken's Neocron Tales

More Neocron Tales

Secret Wars

Tales of the Walker Clan

Our Cast

Why Kevin Doesn't Dance

Writing of Mine That Doesn't Totally Suck

Stuff dl Thinks Is Cool

The Old, Old Grandma Story

The Final Battle

James' Photos

James Meyer's Birds:

Introduction

Photos 1 through 25

Photos 26 through 50

Photos 51 through 75

Photos 76 through 100

Reading

a book cover

Playing



alChandler's Halls



Serving dozens since 1999!


Upgrading the office

That's my new office chair. My old one was comfortable but was also falling apart. This one is supposed to be better for my back, is somewhat less comfortable, more expensive then the old one and I can't sit cross legged on it, at least not for very long. But I'm 64 and I'm under the impression that an ergonomic chair is an unmitigated good thing, at least as far as my back is concerned.

I'm also replacing my old modem/router combo with a separate modem and router. The old combo had to be reset once a month and recently that's increased to once, and sometimes twice, a day. It's gotten to the point where Rolf and I can't play Ghost Recon because my net keeps cutting out. In a day or two the new equipment will be installed. But for right now I have net access so I'm posting this while I have the chance.

August 5,2020


Mervyn Peake

I just finished Mervyn Peakeís Vast Alchemies a biography of Peake by G. Peter Winnington, a guy who has devoted his life to writing about Peake and his work. As such, it was a scholarly book and not very entertaining but I knew surprisingly little about Peake and found the book fascinating.

Mervyn Peake died at 57 of dementia with Lewy bodies and he also had to deal with Parkinson's, so his last 12 years were not good ones. But thanks to Winnington I now know the general outline of his life and I was surprised to learn of one similarity he had with Tolkien. One of Peake's impulses behind the Gormenghast books was to create his own world with its own rules. He didn't take it as far as Tolkien, no invented languages and no appendices with thousands of years of history; but Gormenghast and the world outside of it was every bit his universe as much as Middle-earth was Tolkien's.

I've mentioned before that Neil Gaiman was helming a television adaptation of the Gormenghast books over at Showtime. The project was announced last year and since then there's been no word on its progress. I suspect that's largely due to Covid 19. After Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Lord of the Rings it almost seems selfish to want an adaptation of the Gormenghast books but goddammit I want one. Yeah, I know the BBC did an adaptation of the first two books in 2000. It got mixed reviews and I never bothered to watch it. I suspect the universe will withhold Gaiman's Gormenghast until I do.

August 5,2020


Blade Runner Blues in the Rain

When you're living in a dystopian cyberpunk future, what better soundtrack then eight hours of Blade Runner Blues with ambient rain.

July 31,2020


Mythos

Amazon thought I'd like to buy Stephen Fry's book Mythos a retelling of Greek myths for adults. And I just might want to read that but I've spent a lot of money on books over the last couple of weeks and I'm not sure I can justify another purchase. Not to worry, Amazon knows I looked at it and will nag me about the book from time to time.

I'm interested in Fry's take on the myths but I have a fair working knowledge of them. I'm afraid that my reading is rather top heavy with Brits from the 19th and early 20th century and those guys assumed you had a working knowledge of Greek literature, Roman literature and the Bible, King James if you please. A lot of them spoke Latin and some of them spoke Latin and Greek, ancient Greek that is. You'll read passages were character one brings out an old scroll written in Greeks and character two says something like, "I'm sorry, I don't have any Greek." At that point character one reads the thing and overlooks character two's lack of Greek because they're best buds.

I'm sure there are still folks who consider you uneducated unless you can speak Latin, just as there are people who insist you're not really driving unless you're driving a stick. In both cases you can ignore 'em.

July 30, 2020


Ghost Recon Wildlands

I'm on the right, Rolf is on the left and we're standing in front of a plane we stole. Not to worry we're Americans, the good guys out to kill us a bunch of Bolivian drug lords. Or something like that, I'm not really sure who the bad guys are but that uncertainty adds verisimilitude to the game. And in case you're wondering it was Rolf flying the plane. I've driven cars and ships in games but planes are beyond me, it was the flying sequence that defeated me one third of the way through Far Cry 5.

At any rate Ghost Recon Wildlands is our next adventure.

July 29, 2020


First Contact Mission

July 25, 2020


Mervyn Peake

In my youth that is forgotten my twin literary idols were J. R. R. Tolkien and Mervyn Peake. Peak wrote the Gormenghast books, never intended to be a trilogy, and while I know a lot about Tolkien I don't know too much about Peake. Today Amazon sent me email about a biography of Peak, Mervyn Peake's Vast Alchemies: The Definitive Illustrated Biography by G. Peter Winnington. I'd been aware of the books for a few years now but I was holding out for the biography that Michael Moorcock was supposed to be writing. But it's been ages since I heard anything about that so I ordered Winninton's book, the first physical book I've bought this year. I also just treated myself to his illustrated version of Alice in Wonderland so that makes two physical books this year.

Peake is not nearly as well known as Tolkien and I think that's a shame. Neil Gaiman is bringing the Gormenghast books so Showtime, eventually, and perhaps that will change things, perhaps not. When people think of fantasy today they think of Gandalf or Tyrion Lannister and both are wonderful characters. But it's a bit of a culture shock when you're asked to go from them to Abiatha Swelter, chief chef of Gormenghast Castle.

Still there are witers like Jeff VanderMeer, China Miťville and old Michael Moorcock who are popular (in my circles anyway) and owe a debt to Peake. So Peake's day may be coming.

July 24, 2020


4K Movies from Mars

July 23, 2020


Trophies

from the 80s to about the early 00s, whenever I finished a game I'd put something on the wall as a trophy Sometimes it was a map, sometimes something from the manual and later on it was a picture from the game's jewel case. That stopped once I started getting my games from Steam. The last physical game I bought was Skyrim on 11/18/11, I bought it on disc because the box came with a beautiful map that reminded me of the stuff publishers included with game back in the day.

But Rolf had a map of Rivellon, the world of Divinity Original Sin 2 made for me. It's now up on the wall underneath a copy of Caty's diploma.

July 21, 2020


Coffee!

The other day my Keurig died. The first thing I did was buy tea bags, the second thing I did was head to Kohl's and buy a coffee maker. I decided against another Keurig because I'm aware that those pods are bad for the environment. I ended up with a Cuisinart 12 Cup DCC_1100 Coffee Maker. The selling point was that it had a setting for 1 to 4 cups. I like coffee but in the morning two cups is about my limit.

Today I took it out of the box, set the time and took the filters and the scoop that came with it out of the carafe. I had to go to the internet to figure out how to take the lid off the carafe. Tomorrow I go to the store to pick up coffee and more filters, then I'll try to make coffee. My last drip coffee maker was a Mr. Coffee, that was in the early 90s. Coffee makers have gotten a lot more complicated since then. On the plus side, if I have to get up very early to do something I can set the thing to brew a pot of coffee the same time my alarm goes off. And after all, I once installed a video card in Kosh by myself so I'm guessing I can figure this coffee maker out.

July 18, 2020


Henry Cavill

I never really took to Henry Cavill's Superman, although I thought he nailed it as Geralt of Rivia. But you know what? I just watched the video of Cavill building his new PC and after seeing that all I can say is that if Mr. Cavill felt it necessary to kill General Zod, that's good enough for me.

But seriously, I wish I could do that. Unfortunately I lack the hand/eye coordination, not to mention the patience.

July 18, 2020


The Prisoner

In the 60s there was a British show called Danger Man (it was called Secret Agent in America). The show followed the adventures of John Drake, an agent for something called the British External Intelligence Agency. Remember, in the 60s Britain pretended that MI6 didn't exist. Eventually it went off the air but its star, Patrick McGoohan along with George Markstein created a show called The Prisoner that premiered in 1967 in Britain and in 1968 in America. It was about an unnamed secret agent who quits his job, is abducted and wakes up in the Village. The Village is a place where people with valuable information are sequestered. If they cooperate the can live out their lives there, if they don't the information is extracted, often in ways that leave them permanently brain damaged. The problem for the people who run the Village is that the secret agent, who may or may not be John Drake depending on who you're talking to, is to valuable to simply rape his mind. The Village wants him to work for them. And Drake's name (I'm in the he was John Drake camp myself) is taken from him. Everyone has a number assigned to them and Drake is dubbed Number 6.

I watched the first episode because it was a summer replacement for The Jackie Gleason Show. Dad didn't insist on much but he had to watch Jackie Gleason every Saturday. I don't know what he thought of The Prisoner but I know what I thought of it. When Number 6 first tries to escape he's intercepted by Rover.

And with that I was hooked. The Prisoner, along with Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings shaped my world view. But while I still watch shows set in the Trek universe and reread Tolkien every couple of year I haven't watch the 17 episodes of The Prisoner is over a decade. Go figure.

I decided to rewatch the series as a reward for finishing Divinity Original Sin 2. I started watching them on Amazon Prime but switched to my Blu-rays. I normally don't notice the difference between streaming and discs but the Blu-rays of The Prisoner are just beautiful.

Opposing Number 6 was Number 2. Number 2 is the supervisor of the Village. Number 2s come and go, each with their own ideas on how to break Number 6 without damaging him. While Number 2 runs the Village, he or she does it at the behest of of Number 1, unseen until the final episode, Fall Out.

For Markstein, The Prisoner was a spy show but for McGoohan it was an allegory of the struggle between the individual and society. As one of my favorite Number 2s put it:

Number Two: [about Number Six] He can make even the act of putting on his dressing gown appear as a gesture of defiance.
Number Two's Assistant: There are methods we haven't used yet, of course.
Number Two: I want him with a whole heart, body and soul.
Number Two's Assistant: He'll crack.
Number Two: Perhaps--one tiny piece at a time. I don't want a man of fragments. Fascinating.
Number Two's Assistant: He doesn't even bend a little.
Number Two: That's why he'll break. He only needs one small thing. If he will answer one simple question, the rest will follow: why did he resign?

And while the Village refuses to acknowledge the rights of the individual, Number 6 refuses to acknowledge any duty owed to society. And it's the Village that breaks, acknowledging that they can't coerce Number 6 into joining them. Instead the ask him to take a permanent leadership position.

Fall Out revealed which side (it was the Cold War you know) ran the Village, who Number 1 was and the real location of the Village. But it was flat out phantasmagorical, allegorical episode and fans in Britain who were expecting a finale more grounded in the real world were outraged. In fact McGoohan went into hiding for a while after the episode was broadcast.

Dear me, I have rambled on and rehashed things I've written before. However, if you feel like checking it out it's on Amazon Prime.

July 15, 2020


Victory

Rolf and I played Divinity Original Sin 2 for 107 hours and today we finally beat the game. While Rolf's victory took him 107 hours, mine took me 231 hours because I've been trying to beat the game, on and off since 2017. A long awaited victory indeed.

Rolf graciously let me ascend to godhood and after consulting with him I used my power to close the veil between dimensions that let the voidwoken into Rivellon. But it used up all the source, the stuff of magic, in Rivellon. Henceforth it will be a more peaceful place but perhaps a more boring one. Unfortunately that means I'm no longer a god. And so my life continues to spiral downwards.

I'm thinking of having a cloth map of Rivellon made from a jpg of a map of Rivellon. It's been ages since I put up a trophy but after 231 hours I think I'm entitled.

And after a short break our next game will be Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint. I got it for free which was a big factor in my decision to vote for that title.

July 13, 2020


Now We Are 20

A group shot as our party heads into the end game. In front is alChandler, in the back starting at the left are Ifan ben-Mezd, the Red Prince, and Cole the Wise. No, I don't know why elvish armor looks that way but I can tell you that it works.

July 12, 2020


I Owe Newton an Apology

Last month Newton started obsessing about the dust bunnies under my stove, pulling them out and staring at the space under there, sometimes for hours. Or so i thought. Today when I woke up there was a dead mouse in the corridor outside my bedroom. That's what he was obsessing about, and to think I made fun of him. Never again buddy.

July 12, 2020


A Word About Radagast the Brown

I've written about Radagast the Brown before so this post is sort of a retread. I can't help it, as a kid I thought that if I was one of the istari, I would have been Radagast.

And so a word about my buddy Radagast. He makes just one appearance in The Lord of the Rings. In the books after Gandalf drops the bad news about the Ring to Frodo, Frodo decides to whip up a cover story to explain his upcoming absence from Bag End and leave the Shire in September. Gandalf agrees with the plan and decides to scout the road ahead. When Gandalf gets close to Bree he finds a grumpy Radagast the Brown camped by the side of the road. Radagast tells Gandalf that he was looking for him and that all he knew was that he was staying in a wild region with the uncouth name of Shire. Unlike the movie version the book version was a bit of a stick in the mud.

Radagast goes on to say that the NazgŻl have crossed the river and are also seeking the Shire. Also, Saruman wants to see Gandalf. Gandalf agrees to go to Orthanc but asks Radagast to use his birds to gather news and send a messenger to him at there. Radagast agrees, rides off and then things go down like they did in the movie. But Radagast was an honest guy, would never have betrayed Gandalf knowingly and so he sent his messenger to Orthanc, one of the great eagles.

Which makes Radagast look kind of dumb, honest but dumb. Saruman says of him:

'Radagast the Brown!' laughed Saruman, and he no longer concealed his scorn. 'Radagast the Bird-tamer! Radagast the Simple! Radagast the Fool! Yet he had just the wit to play the part that I set him. For you have come, and that was all the purpose of my message. And here you will stay, Gandalf the Grey, and rest from journeys. For I am Saruman the Wise, Saruman Ring-maker, Saruman of Many Colours!'

But Iím not so sure that Radagasr was a fool, after all the eagles were described as proud birds. If I was sending a messenger to Gandalf at Orthanc I might send a raven or a starling but not one of the great eagles, the eagles were heavy duty players in their own right. Iím just speculating here but I suspect that after thinking it over, Radagast began to smell something wrong about his errand and so sent a bird capable of rescuing Gandalf should he need rescuing.

Later on, after his council, Elrond sends out riders to find out the lay of the land. They get as far south as Rhosgobel, Radagast wasnít there. This has lead some people to speculate that Saruman had Radagast killed for his part in saving Gandalf. But thereís another explanation for Radagastís absence, I expect that before he went home to his eyrie in the Misty Mountains, the eagle gave Radagast a heads up that Saruman was a traitor and that Rhosgobel wasnít a safe place any more. So Radagast booked.

Tolkien speculated that Radagast fell, abandoning his mission to rally people against Sauron to concentrate on birds and beasts. But that his fault was not as grievous as Sarumanís and he might have been allowed to return to Valinor. And in fact, Radagast had been added to the mission at the request of Yavanna, the vala who watched over nature, and he did indeed do that. So while Radagast might have have abandoned the charge that ManwŽ laid on him, he kept faith with Yavanna.

At any rate my head canon is that Radagast was allowed to go home but he probably put it off for as long as he could, having fallen in love with his own little slice of Middle-earth.

July 11, 2020