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After a bit of a gaming drought, I've been playing Divinity: Original Sin for a bit. In fact, before I enter Silverglen, I really should get that werewolf rogue in my party. Not permanently but just long enough so she'll be available if I need her. Then this month the Doom remake is going to be released and on May 19 the final Fallout 4 expansion arrives. It's about 20 hours long and is set in a fishing village off the coast of Maine. Not a bad lineup.

May 5, 2016

The Fifth Head of Cerberus

After all that about epic poetry I'm breaking down and reading some Gene Wolfe. So here's the skinny, in The Book of the New Sun we learn that a black hole has been placed in the Sun and is slowly devouring its mass causing Urth to become increasingly uninhabitable. The thing may have been placed there by one of the relatives of Typhoon, the last monarch of Urth, or it may have been placed there by the Hierogrammates, a noble race engineered by the humans from the last cycle of the universe. Either way the Hierogrammates have an interest in the humans of this cycle but they also believe in a concept known as the conservation of justice. Humanity's expansion through the galaxy cause incomparable pain and so if they're going to intervene and save the ancient Urth, that intervention will be accompanied by suffering.

After the Book of the New Sun Wolfe wrote a trilogy called The Book of the Short Sun. Typhoon had dispatched a generational ship called Whorl to a system fairly close to Urth. There are two inhabitable planets there orbiting a common point. The colonists, who weren't too enthused about leaving Whorl, call the planets Blue and Green. And I'm not reading that. I'm reading a collection of three novellas called The Fifth Head of Cerberus. It may or may not be set in the universe of the New Sun. It was published in 1972 and is set much closer to our time. Urth is still referred to as Earth, and has all the cool tech. The double planets of Sainte Anne and Sainte Croix were settled by by French colonists about 300 years before the events of the novellas. Sainte Anne was originally inhabited by shape shifters who were at a very primitive level of tech, think stone hand axes, when humans arrived and exterminated them. And if that's the way humans expanded into the nearer stars, it might go a long way towards explaining why the Hierogrammates, as payment for their own creation, are willing to save Urth but only after a period of penance.

Of course Wolfe hadn't written The Book of the New Sun in 1972, or even conceived it and he's been quiet about the connection, if any, between Blue and Green in the far future and Sainte Anne and Sainte Croix in the not so far future. But Wolfe is a Catholic writer who takes things like sin and penance seriously so at the very least some of the themes from the early books found their way into the later ones. And in typical Wolfe fashion there are mysteries, starting with Veil's Hypothesis. Dr. Veil theorized that the original inhabitants of Sainte Anne weren't killed at all. They managed to kill the earliest colonists, took their identities and became so human they forgot they had ever been anything else. So there.

May 2, 2016

Unfinished Business

That big fiery lump to the left, is (are?) the Twins Joined by Fire, the last boss in Cyseal that I hadn't defeated solo. I defeated all the other bosses plus the twins in the big punch out with Braccus Rex, but I was having problems with the Twins in their own area so I put off that confrontation for a few days. It's kind of a strange design, the Twins were killed but they're still there in the fiery death pit by the Cyseal exit. Braccus made some off hand remark that his people were beyond death but what it boils down to is that the game kind of expects you to take out the bosses individually before you deal with Braccus. At any rate that marks the last major plot point I had to ding in Cyseal, I'm now clear to go into the next area.

I'm now 34 hours into the game and I suspect it's time to make a little icon over in the playing section.

April 30, 2016

Book Tales

One of the reasons my best beloved Ballantine Adult Fantasy series was able to bring so much forgotten stuff into print was that almost all the works released under the imprint were in the public domain. Case in point, in 1972 the series published an anthology of stories called Discoveries in Fantasy.

Among the stories in the book was The Poet of Panopolis by Richard Garnett. It was set in the 5th century and was about a poet named Nonnus. At a time when people were abandoning the many gods for the one God, Nonnus writes a 48 book epic poem about Bacchus called The Dionysiaca. Apollo is so moved by this that he comes down to offer Nonnus gifts from the gods, but when he arrives in Panopolis he discovers that Nonnus is to be made a bishop and has left off completing his epic poem in favor of a poetic paraphrase of The Gospel of John, hilarity ensues.

Many years later I discovered that Garnett wasn't making this up, there really was a Nonnus of Panopolis, he really wrote the two works mentioned in the story and The Dionysiacawas in print as part of the Loeb Classical Library. They published the W. H. D. Rouse prose translation, the only English translation, in three volumes costing $27.50 each. And sorry kids, fuck you ereading bastards, it's print or nothing.

So I spent $82.50 only to discover that Rouse didn't think much of Nonnus and his flowery, decadent language. Homer was writing at his poems at the beginning of an era, Nonnus wrote his poem at the very end of the same era. You'd be surprised at the stylistic differences that creep in after 1200 years.

The other thing was that Loeb Classical Library editions are really small with tiny print (We make the print unreadably small and pass the savings on to you!). So, with all of that in mind, you can probably see where this is going. Yep, last night I picked up the recently released Kindle edition for $2.99.

Last year about this time I tackled a really long epic poem, The Ramayana. Now that Nonnus is in a readable (to my eyes anyway) format The Dionysiaca might be this years project.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, the 5th century AD or CE (take your pick, I alternate myself) was a really interesting time. One of the dates given for the Fall of the Roman Empire is September 4, 476 when Emperor Romulus Augustulus abdicated and General Odoacer wrote the eastern emperor, Zeno, that there really was no need for a western emperor, you're really in charge of everything and I'm just your humble servant. As for Nonnus, he wrote his stuff in the early 5th century or late 4th century. Panopolis was Eastern Empire and sometime in the 380s Emperor Theodosius the Great banned the old pagan religion for good. So while Nonnus almost certainly wasn't up for a bishopric, turning away from a long as epic poem about the god of wine and dashing off a poetic version of John probably made a lot of good sense. Besides, paganism wasn't coming back the Western Empire was doomed and in the east the policies of Justinian nearly finished the Eastern Empire. It hung on until 1453 but long before that it had nothing to do with the Empire of Augustus.

Things change after all.

April 29, 2016


The Doom beta didn't go well. The main complaint was that the multiplay borrowed too much from modern shooters. People were hoping for the simplicity of the original game in an updated visual package.

I don't know how the single player game will go but given the complaints about multiplay I'm not going to preorder. And hell, since it took me over 20 years to finish the original game, it's not like I'm under any time pressure. And besides, I have one last boss to fight in Cyseal before I'll feel comfortable about moving on.

But I'm not going to tackle him, or more precisely them, until the weekend when I can have a beer. In one week I've played 34 hours of Divinity: Original Sin and it's time for a three day rest. And that leads me to Doom 3 another game that I never finished.

Doom 3 was published in 2004 and it's definitely showing its age. Which is why it's nice that Clear_strelok made a mod that updates the look of the game to something a tad more modern. It's still an old game and it has all of Doom 3's flaws (open locker, look inside, turn away, zombie jumps out of locker) but it looks as nice as it's ever going to get. And it might be a good way of getting into a Doom mood, just in case the solo game is good.

If Doom 3 isn't in your Steam library I can't honestly recommend picking it up, there's a reason I never finished it after all. But if it is in your library, you might want to pick up Doom 3 Redux From the Mod DB. And I know, I've gotten spoiled by the Steam Workshop too, but the Doom 3 Redux mod is way over the limit so if you're interested in it you'll have to install it by hand. At least he gives you a nice readme file to tell you where to unzip the files to.

April 27, 2016

The Fall of Braccus Rex

Braccus Rex is the big bad of the first section of Divinity: Original Sin and I remember, vaguely, that it took many tries to kill him back in 2014. This time I defeated him on my second try.

On my first try my party marched into the guy's lab. Braccus Rex gives a speech about what a badass he is and summons three other bosses, the Ghoul-That-Guards-The-Lighthouse, The Twins-By-Fire-Joined, and Diederik the Baron of Bones. Boom! I'm dead.

On the second try I send in my other fighter, Madora. She lasts just long enough to kill the Ghoul and do a little damage to the Twins-By-Fire-Joined and then dies. At that point I have Jahan send in a summoned spider and my three surviving party members hide to the side of the door. The spider is noticed by the Twins-By-Fire-Joined, who come and investigate. The Twins notice my party outside the door, attack it and are killed. Then, Diederik comes to find out what happened to the Twins can figure out the rest. When Braccus Rex finally arrives I have Jahan cast rainstorm. Braccus Rex is big on fire magic and in a storm he's just a big guy with an axe. He's killed, Elliot resurrects Madora and gives her his big, thanks for taking one for the team, this will reflect well on your employee evaluation speech.

So that's what I did today.

And may I say that Newton was in the office with me as I was fighting for my life, he gave me a lot of moral support.

April 26, 2016

Whiterun and Cyseal

In Divinity: Original Sin you start off in Cyseal, a city with problems only you can solve. Your initial encounters are with enemies who are at about your level. You can wander into areas with enemies too powerful for you do deal with but those areas are outside the city's gates and the guards will warn you if they think you're not high enough to survive. In Divinity: Original Sin the idea is that by the time you encounter someone like Pontius Pirate you'll be able to defeat him.

In Skyrim you play an opening sequence, then you end up in Whiterun. Once again, you'll encounter enemies at your level. But Skyrim is an open world game and just to drive home the point the devs put a giant about 100 yards outside of Whiterun. Now giants aren't aggressive and they'll leave you alone unless you get too close to them or their mammoths. And because they're not aggressive I made the mistake of thinking that maybe the giant near Whiterun was someone I could talk to. He didn't react until I actually entered his encampment, then he killed me instantly. The devs were making a point here, just because you can go to those big spooky ruins in the distance, doesn't mean you should go there.

Both approaches are valid but Divinity: Original Sin's approach is a bit closer to the way a dungeon master would do things. If there's a balrog in the mines and the party is level 3 then you either have the mines barricaded in some way or have a powerful NPC, maybe a wizard, in the party to take on the balrog.

Meanwhile, I have a two quests to finish up, one in Cyseal and one in the haunted lighthouse. Then I'm calling it a day, gaming wise.

April 25, 2016

Boss Fights

Over the last two days I've had three bosses to deal with, the Source Abomination on Saturday and Pontius Pirate and a Source Nightmare today. And yeah, I know, Pontius Pirate.

I had to pull some major cheese with the Source Abomination, leading him up to a trapped room and teleporting him inside. He was too big to get out and eventually he triggered the trap and that's what killed him.

Pontius was fairly easy but the Source Nightmare was hard. I had to pick up a spell that allowed me to summon a spider minion. The spider did a lot of damage to the Nightmare and the odd turned to ever so slightly in my favor. Poor Janet didn't make it but I do have a supply of resurrect scrolls so that was only a temporary inconvenience.

So that's where I'm at with Divinity: Original Sin. So far I'm enjoying myself but I'm not fond of the high concentration of puzzles in this game. You know, when I was a kid my dad gave me a book of puzzles written by a guy named Sam Loyd. I always had problems with math, with combining things I already learned to solve new types of problems. Maybe he thought Loyd's puzzles would be a way to strengthen whatever part of the brain controls that kind of thinking. It didn't work and I never got very far in the book. And, to be honest, without the net I would not be 26 hours into this game.

But I do have the net and I am 26 hours in and I just killed a Source Nightmare that killed not one but two dragons before it faced me and I did it with a mild hangover from the weekend. Elliot and Janet are badasses.

April 25, 2016

Just Another Precise Surgical Victory

But seriously, there's an orc shaman in that pile who kept devastating me, I had to take him out first. Unfortunately the other guys would get in the way and he'd rain fire, murder and havoc on me. Once he was out of the way, Grulbarg the Fearsome, some kind of super orc, wasn't overwhelmingly hard to take down.

April 24, 2016

Diederik, Baron of Bones

The rather thin plot of Divinity: Original Sin involves the murder of Councilor Jake. Elliot and Janet were dispatched to Cyseal to find the guilty party. Once there they got roped into the larger problem of why orcs and humans are besieging the place and why there's an undead plague. There's no real logic involved, it's like picking out inconsistencies in an episode of Castle. But I did find out that the undead thing has some pretty heavy hitters behind it when I stumbled across Diederik, Baron of Bones and his significant other, Lady Anna. Anna was human but Diederick was a really big skeleton. Aside from them there were two undead mages, two skeleton archers and a pink blob that played the bagpipes.

I died several times and had to search online for strategy, not being overly strategic, but eventually I won. The trick was to send my archer and mage in first to take out Diederik's two mages. Once they were down the rest, even Diedrick, were manageable.

I remember almost nothing about the plot from my last play through but Anna and Diedrick were kvetching about their boss, Braccus Rex so I'm guessing he's the big boss. More then guessing, I remember the fight with him and it was a pain in the ass. On the other hand I took out the Baron of Bones just now at level six so maybe it won't be so bad this time.

April 23, 2016

Dark Souls 3

I'm never going to play this game, not only is it punishingly difficult, it's unplayable without a controller. But damn, listening Shawn Andrich talk about that world makes me wish I could use a controller well enough to navigate in it and do some exploring.

April 22, 2016

The Escort Mission

It went surprisingly well. We got the archeologist safely to Cyseal, Madora made it to level five, in fact the only person unhappy was the lieutenant. She sent the archeologist to study the burial mounds outside the city in hopes of finding a way to stop the undead plague. Instead she got 10 dead soldiers and my party was the only reason the archeologist made it back to town at all. But we can't all be happy.

April 21, 2016


Intel is laying off 12,000 people and Vox has an article on where Intel went wrong. In 2005 Intel had a lock on Windows based computers and had just cut a deal with Steve Jobs to supply chips for Macs too. Jobs tried to get Intel to make chips for a new phone thingy Apple was developing. Intel politely begged off because they'd have to eat a bunch of r&d costs and the market just wasn't there.

And today the mobile market is bigger then the PC market and Intel is laying off 11% of its work force.

April 21, 2016

The Isometric View

I'm not sure where this came from, but I was thinking about isometric RPGs. Recently the only isometric RPGs I've been playing have been action oriented. Games like Grim Dawn, Diablo 3, and The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing. I played a lot of Dragon Age: Inquisition and I just checked, it's not isometric although there's a mod that will change it to isometric, that's really important to some people.

I think I read, somewhere that the isometric view for RPGs is still used because it reminds people of tabletop gaming. It sounds too good to be true. I suspect so many games were played from that perspective because of the limitations of technology. The first RPG I played from a first person view was Ultima Underworld the Stygian Abyss in 1992. It actually was released a few months before Wolfenstein 3D and the world was a lot more interactive:

You know, while I'm rambling, a team is working on a modern version of that game called Underworld Acendant. It's the only game I ever Kickstarted. I've no idea how far along they are but in February they hired Warren Spector. Spector worked on the original game, he also did System Shock. Polygon, as of last year, speculated that the game would arrive at the end of this year. That would be a nice surprise but I suspect sometime in 2107 is more realistic.

You know, it's a shame to admit it but I started drifting away from isometric RPGs because at a certain point they started getting too damn hard for me. If you came to computer role playing games from a table top background you expected to die a lot. Some people would come to D&D session with back up characters pre-rolled. Hell, that's one of the reasons I'm playing Divinity: Original Sin and not Pillars of Eternity. At least with D:OS I know I can get past act 1 because I did that back in 2014. I'm old and my gaming mojo is not what it once was.

At this point I'm tempted to play a little but it's after three in the morning and next up is an escort mission. I think I can pull it off, I've killed a lot of the undead, but escort missions are always annoying and should never be done before bedtime.

April 21, 2016

Divinity: Original Sin

Enhanced edition if you really want to know.

I got this game in 2014, played it and lost interest somewhere in the middle and for the life of me I'm not sure why. Yeah, it was slow in parts but I've played and finished slower. Last year they released an enhanced edition. It replaced the original version on Steam and if you had that in your library the new version was free. I played that for about an hour then moved on. And now it's 2016, I put the game back on Kosh and Steam tells me I've put 10 hours into it.

It could be because the two characters I'm running aren't alChandler and Weeping Flame. Those two are my surrogates. Instead I'm running Eliot and Janet, the two leaders of th Physical Kids in The Magicians. If you only watch the show then you need to know that they renamed Janet to Margo but essentially they're the same character. And it's kind of liberating to play as these guys.

Quick example, Elliot and Janet are source hunters. The source is this ancient vein of magic that turns anyone who tries to use it batshit crazy. Source hunters aren't an official branch of the government, they're more like Pinkertons. At a certain point E and J discover two frightened legionnaires cowering behind a tree. On the way there they saw a bunch of dead legionnaires, the two living soldiers are all that's left of an expedition to a lighthouse that's a center of supernatural activity. Everyone on the mission were volunteers because their lieutenant said that any survivors got to go home.

Now, in 2014 alChandler and Weeping Flame ripped the soldiers a new asshole, secured the lighthouse, went back to their camp and dimed them out to their lieutenant. Eliot and Janet told the survivors they'd take care of things and agreed to tell the lieutenant that it was her brave, surviving soldiers who secured the lighthouse. Because really, the two poor legionnaires were recruited straight out of Cannon Fodder High. So the soldiers get sent home, the lieutenant feels pleased as hell that her soldiers are such badasses and the other troops think I'm great.

The other thing is that the game seems a lot easier, and before you ask, I'm playing on easy. I was in 2014 too but the early section kicked my ass back then. I'm doing a lot better. Either they rebalanced the game or my party is better. Last go round I was running with three tanks and a mage. This time Eliot and Madora, another source hunter we met on the road, are the tanks. Janet is a ranger with archery skills and we have a gloomy guy called Jahan who's a mage.

Or maybe I'm just more into it this time.

At any rate, the game is old school role playing and that's what I want right now, apparently.

By the way, Everyone's Gone to the Rapture was just to buggy to play. The Chinese Room, who made the PS4 version for Sony, said they had nothing to do with the PC version, they don't even have access to the code anymore and if you have any problems Sony will have to take care of them. I'm not holding my breath.

April 20, 2016

Wolfenstein and Others

I reached the final boss, tried it once, died and bowed out gracefully. These days I'm not going to kill myself on something that's out of my league, especially when the boss is compared to one of the bosses in Dark Souls. I got 13 hours for my $20 and I'm content.

Funny thing about Dark Souls. If you follow gaming you know there's a new release in the series. It's getting great reviews and it's selling well. On PC alone it's sold more then 500,000 copies. The devs never even wanted to port the first game in the series to PC. That one I actually bought. I knew that the devs didn't bother to change the control scheme and it was just about unplayable on a PC without a controller. So I went out and bought one, just to give it a try. I logged four hours before I gave it up.

Wolfenstein was designed for a mouse and keyboard so the only excuse for not completing it is that I never completed Wolfenstein: The New Order. I wasn't good enough to defeat that boss either. And the only reason I'm being this philosophical over a game that gave me an enjoyable 13 hours is an article in PC Gamer called We Need to Stop Talking About How Difficult Dark Souls Is.

If there’s anything we need to ‘git gud’ at, it’s treating Dark Souls as something more than a vessel for primping tough guy video game egos worldwide. The Dark Souls community isn’t hung up on the series’ notorious difficulty, even if Bandai Namco’s marketing won’t let them forget how damn hard the games are. Leading up to and following Dark Souls 3’s release, it’s likely you’ve read a comment or tweet glorifying the inclusive ‘git gud’ mentality, but none compare to the commercial directed by Eli Roth, an animated montage of torturous dark fantasy nonsense that fails to say anything other than 'this shit is dark, y’awl,' or the meme pastiche merchandise splattered with quotes and in-jokes that only serve to portray Dark Souls 3 as something of a secret club that you just wouldn’t understand, casual.

I’m not surprised to see so many players discouraged by this perspective. It’s an inclusive, reductive way to categorize the game. Yes, the games are hard, they’re cryptic, and not easy to get into, but the difficulty is just one component of what makes each Dark Souls game so cohesive and intriguing, a buttress for the feeling of embarking on a long journey. And along the way, death turns into an excuse for playful experimentation, and the unpredictable drama of online interactions set the stage for stories that no other medium can.

And that probably put me right off the mood to try the final boss more then once. I don't find death in a game an excuse for playful interactions, I find it frustrating. And, having tried gaming on Kosh with a controller once, I'm not going to repeat the attempt. It they make a Dark Souls IV and it's optimized for mouse and keyboard, let me know, maybe I'll be in the mood for playful experimentation, I'm not today.

More gaming stuff, If you're still with me. I never ended up playing the Doom beta because the two multiplayer modes were teamed base. It's just as well since the buzz on Steam is overwhelmingly negative. There's a lot of, "Oh well I'm only interested in the solo game," posts on the boards. But when the multiplayer game gets a huge negative response, I'm inclined to wait for the reviews before I buy the game. The Doom franchise ain't what it used to be.

Finally, I encountered this piece of bullshit today. It's written by Alex St. John who helped create DirectX for Microsoft and it's called Game Developers Must Avoid the ‘Wage-slave’ Attitude. In essence, you should be grateful that you get to "push a mouse around" for a living:

There’s no amount of money that anybody can pay people with a wage-slave attitude to let it go and put themselves completely into a great game. There’s nothing that can compensate people “fairly” for the sacrifices that great art requires. It’s art. You need to get an actual job producing productivity software if you want to be paid “fairly” and go home at 5 p.m. Anybody good enough to get hired to write games can get paid more to work on something else. If working on a game for 80 hours a week for months at a time seems “strenuous” to you … practice more until you’re better at it. Making games is not a job, pushing a mouse is not a hardship, it’s the most amazing opportunity you can possibly get paid to pursue … start believing it, and you’ll discover that you are even better at it.

Don’t be in the game industry if you can’t love all 80 hours/week of it — you’re taking a job from somebody who would really value it.

If you'll allow me to vent for a bit, what a compete, total and irredeemable asshole.

There now, I feel much better. The next game up is Everybody's Gone to the Rapture by Chinese Room, the folks who did Dear Esther.

April 17, 2016

PSA: Quicktime

Apple, and for that matter the federal government, are advising people to uninstall Quicktime as soon as possible. Apple is no longer going to support the program and will no longer patch vulnerabilities that crop up, as they tend to do.

And if you have Quicktime files that you absolutely have to run, VLC works just fine.

April 17, 2016

Steve Jobs

I watched the movie Steve Jobs over the weekend and I loved it. The movie failed, making $34.4 million on a $30 million budget. And that $30 million just represents production costs, not other stuff like advertising. And, much as I enjoyed the movie, it kinda deserved to fail.

The movie focuses on the back stage drama behind three product launches, the Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT in 1988 and the iMac in 1998. Let's look at Aaron Sorkin's take on the NeXT. In the movie the Steve Jobs knows that the NeXT is going to be a failure. What he's counting on is that Apple will need the machines OS and if they want that they'll have to take him back.

And indeed, in 1996 Apple paid $429 million for NeXT's OS and Jobs was taken back as a consultant and given 1.5 million Apple shares. It looked like movie Steve was right.

Except that's not what went down. After Jobs resigned from Apple, and yes, it was a resignation, the Macintosh did well for a bit. It found its niche in desktop publishing. But it was always an expensive machine and when Microsoft finally released a stable, useful version of Windows, Windows 3.1 in 1992, consumers could have a lot of the Mac's benefits on a reasonably priced machine. That and Sculley's decision to put a lot of the company's money into the Newton led to Apple's decline.

Handheld device not responding.

Eventually we'd all have PDAs but the technology wasn't there in 1993. Meanwhile, Jobs was taking the NeXT very, very seriously. The thing cost $10,000 and only 50,000 were sold but it was a damned important machine, Tim Berners-Lee created the first web browser and the first web server was hosted on a NeXT. The machines were overpriced but nothing else could do what they did. In 1993 NeXT gave up on the hardware side and became a software company. NeXT's software, WebObjects, is still used as the backend of the iTunes Store, which explains a lot.

I'm sure that in 1988 Jobs wanted Sculley to fail but he had no reasonable expectation that he would, so no, he planning to use the NeXT as a Trojan horse to get him back to Apple. And the whole movie is full of stuff like that.

The Alan Turing movie got a lot of shit for historical inaccuracies and Turing died in 1954. Jobs died in 2011 so there are one or two people left alive who remember the guy. And it's not as if you have to make up things to show that he was a bastard, he was an absolute piece of shit a lot of the time and you can just cherry pick events from Walter Isaacson's biography of the man to show that side of him. You really don't have to make things up like the NeXT things, or the arguments with Woz before each demo, or the fraudulent Macintosh demo or...well you get the drift.

Yep, at this point Jobs is enough of a public figure so that Steve Jobs protected. And Sorkin described the movie as, "a painting not a photograph." And that's cool, nobody wants to get sued after all.

According Sorkin, Andy Hertzfeld, who was played in the movie by Michael Stuhlbarg, said about the film, "This is unbelievable. None of that happened but it’s all true." So if you're cool with that, it's a wonderful movie.

April 17, 2016

Ghost in the Shell

That's Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi, a human with an enhanced cybernetic body. The Major is a character in Ghost in the Shell a manga series that was made into an anime that many believe has never been surpassed. Paramount Pictures is turning the anime into a live action film and they've tapped Rupert Sanders, whose first and only other film is Snow White and the Huntsman, to direct.

In the original manga, the Major was a cyborg/human hybrid and she was Japanese. In the anime she was the consciousness of a Japanese woman in cyborg body, but yeah, I suppose her makers could have said, "fuck it," and put Kusanagi's consciousness in the Scarlett Johansson model because it was Friday and they wanted to knock off early. I'm not really an aficionado of the genre but I know enough to realize the mere idea of doing a live action version of Ghost in the Shell rubs people the wrong way. Look at it like this, Mamoru Oshii could hypothetically be tapped to do an anime version of 2001: A Space Odyssey but I would be in the category of people scratching their heads and asking, "Why?"

And that's sort of how I feel about Paramount's live action movie, and I'm being nice. So why go out of their way to piss off fans of the original work? I know we're not a particularly racially enlightened society but does the studio think that Americans are so bigoted that we would boycott the movie if a Japanese cyborg was played by a Japanese woman? And if you must have Johansson, why set the damn thing in Niihama, Niihama Prefecture, Japan at all? Throw in the towel and set in it Chicago.

And maybe it will be. And maybe it will even be watchable. My attitude is, like the chaps debating who has to go to Scrooge's funeral, "I don't mind going if a lunch is provided." But that's probably not the level of support the studio is hoping for.

April 15, 2016

Not Everyone Likes Kipling

Katharine Trendacosta doesn't and makes no bones about it in her essay about The Jungle Book on io9. She also doesn't like Kim, no word yet on Puck of Pook's Hill and Captains Courageous. Personally, I like The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book and read them more then once. Kim was slower going but I have a better opinion of it them Trendacosta does.

At any rate I'm sure "Reminder: Rudyard Kipling Was a Racist Fuck and The Jungle Book Is Imperialist Garbage - io9" would make one hell of a quote for an ad for the movie.

April 14, 2016


In The Magicians, book version, the character Penny is described as a guy with a moony face, a dyed mohawk and lots of tattoos. I hadn't reread the trilogy for a bit and when I saw the show on SyFy this was their version of Penny:

Now Arjun Gupta is the only version of Penny I can imagine, sort of like the way it is with George Smiley. I read the books and had an image of the short, pudgy version John le Carré described. But after seeing the television version, this guy is the only one I can see as Smiley:

So I'm afraid that I'm just going to have to ignore Grossman's version of Penny in favor of Gupta's portrayal. It happens sometimes.

April 14, 2016

The Magicians

Ever read The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis? I read the first book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as an adult. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie are kids, shipped from London to professor Digory Kirke's house during the Blitz. While exploring they go through Kirke's wardrobe and end up in the magic land of Narnia, currently in a permanent winter because of the White Witch. But the kids, aided by Aslan the lion, defeat the Witch and end up ruling Narnia for 15 years. Then they go back through the wardrobe and are kids again. No time has passed at the professor's house.

Now, I read Lewis before, there are some of his books that I liked so I figured Narnia would be a natural for me and I bought the whole series. I barely got through The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and never read the others. I don't know if I would have liked it at the age of, say, ten. Probably but I think it's just as well that I found The Hobbit at that age instead of Narnia.

Last night I watched the final episode of The Magicians a television series based on Lev Grossman's book and that inspired me to reread Grossman's trilogy. Quentin Coldwater is a social maladjusted young man who loves the Fillory novels written by Christopher Plover. In the books the five Chatwin children travel to Fillory and have adventures and Coldwater obsesses over the books, although he's aware of their weaknesses:

And it was true, there was a strong whiff of the English nursery about them, and he felt secretly embarrassed by the Cozy Horse, an enormous, affectionate equine creature who trots around Fillory by night on velvet hooves and whose back is so broad you can sleep on it.

My memories of the first Narnia book are pretty hazy but this is spot on.

Quentin is an unhappy fellow who discovers that magic is real and he has a talent for it. But the lift he gets from that is only temporary. He discovers that Fillory is real but even that doesn't cure his unhappiness. Indeed, he comes to the realization that external thing aren't going to do it for him. I don't know how I would have reacted to this book in my 20s and 30s when I was depressed. But it wasn't written until 2009. By then I was in my 50s and reasonably happy.

By the way, the Narnia books are intensely disliked in some circles. Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials books are an atheist response to the heavy handed Christian overtones in the Narnia books. There was a movie made of the first book, The Golden Compass but the studio insisted on stripping out the atheist elements for the movie. So the plot didn't make too much sense and the movie bombed. The BBC is adapting The Golden Compass for television and will probably do a better job then New Line Cinema did.

And all of this reminds me that I have Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno on my Kindle. One of these days I should force myself to take a stab at reading it. Actually it's split into two books and Carroll's moralizing makes Narnia look like it was written by Hunter Thompson. But I like the Alice books and The Hunting of the Snark and feel I should at least attempt reading them.

April 13, 2016

Rudi Jäger Is Dead

Rudi Jäger was the guy who tortured Wesley, my fellow agent to death. Then he started on me. I broke free, beat the shit out of him then killed his dog as Jäger himself slunk away, the way Nazis tend to do. So it shouldn't come as a big surprise that Jäger shows up at the halfway point in Wolfenstein for a boss fight. Jäger looked a little like a modern day version of the boss at the end of Wolfenstein 3d.

In the end I used a bit of cheese to beat him. If you get close enough to the guy he can't use his guns and he has no melee attacks, but he won't back away either. So once I had disabled the electronic shield things on his shoulders, I closed with him and kept shooting him at point blank range. Not one of those honorable Klingon fights but a victory none the less.

And now I'm in the second half of the game. The "navigate through Castle Wolfenstein" bit took up most of the first half so I can't complain about that, I was hoping to spend some time in the place for nostalgia's sake. And in the last 24 hours I survived two hard parts of the game. Yesterday I made it through the fight at the sky car station and today I took down Rudi. Time for a rest and catching up on last night's The Magicians.

April 12, 2016

Batman v Superman

Scott Snyder was planning to release a three hour extended edition of Batman v Superman later in the year on Blu-ray. But it may be coming to theaters first. The rumor is that Warner Bros. is concerned that Batman v Superman won't break $1 billion. I've heard that it will probably make $900 million, giving the studio a $270 million profit. That's less then Man of Steel made and a little light to hang a franchise on. But the extended edition might push the movie past the billion mark.

The next movie in the DC universe will be Suicide Squad. That one is about a group of jailed super villains who get picked for a suicide mission. Think The Dirty Dozen but with people like Deadshot and Killer Croc instead of Joseph Wladislaw and Robert Jefferson.

I'm not sure if I'm going to see that one, it depends on what the reviews are like. I do know that I've no interest in sitting through a longer version of Batman v Superman.

April 12, 2016


You know, Republicans and Democrats aren't mentioned in the Constitution. For that matter in the unamended document the election of the president is a pretty convoluted process:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

No direct election of the president, sorry folks. And that's why it surprises me when Sanders and Trump supporters piss and moan about the way their respective parties choose delegates to their nominating conventions. Hell, in New Jersey I can't even vote in the primary election without declaring a party affiliation. And yeah, the rules are designed to give the party leadership a great deal of say in who the nominee is. That's why Clinton can lose primary after primary and still lead Sanders in delegates. There are 719 super delegates and Clinton has 477 in her pocket. And the whole idea of super delegates was designed to prevent someone like Sanders from capturing the nomination.

As far as Trump goes, his folks are bitching because he could come tho the convention with the most delegates, not have enough for a first ballot win and end up losing the nominations. Republicans activists weren't bitching back in 2000 when Bush lost the popular vote but captured 271 electoral votes to Gore's 266 and became president. And that shit was in the Constitution. As far as that document is concerned, the Republicans and Democrats have the same standing as the Knights of Columbus.

There's never a fucking political science major around when you need one.

April 11, 2016

Entering Castle Wolfenstein

You know, I haven't spent a lot of time in Castle Wolfenstein since 1992, that's when Id released Castle Wolfenstein, one of the earliest first person shooters. I did play Beyond Castle Wolfenstein in 1984 but that game was, you know, beyond the castle, it was set in Hitler's bunker in Berlin. Return to Castle Wolfenstein did have a sequence set in Castle Wolfenstein but it was at the beginning of the game and you left it fairly quickly.

And that's why I took the screenshot. Return to Castle Wolfenstein was released in 2001 so I haven't been to the place in 15 years. Looks like they fixed it up, gave it some class.

April 10, 2016

Guns N' Hoses

When I first saw this poster I somehow missed all the boxing stuff and just fixated on Guns verses Hoses, thinking, "That's gonna be an awesome fight. Short as hell but awesome."

April 10, 2016

Wolfenstein Video

You can't tell me that a Wolfenstein video comes as a surprise. Note that I one shotted the guards but the dog took me three tries. I couldn't be prouder.

April 9, 2016


All I ask is a ludicrously sized gun, Nazis in futuristic armor and a star to steer by.

April 9, 2016

Self Pitying Bastard, Isn't He?

April 9, 2016

Too Dark

I'm not sure I want to see the scene Zack Snyder considers too dark.

April 8, 2016