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a book cover


alChandler's Halls

Serving dozens since 1999!

The Dream-Quest of Villett Boe

So then, Lovecraft's dream world stories were heavily influenced by the short stories of Lord Dunsany. Thing is, Lovecraft's cosmic angst keeps spilling over about every other page. It's a lot like if Quentin Tarantino decided to make a homage to Hannah and Her Sisters, there'd be a lot of rich white people at cocktail parties talking about motherfucking Ingmar Bergman. It's the same with the dream world stories. One minute he's describing an elegant city with jade fountains then BAM! he's ranting about Nyarlathotep the Crawling Chaos.

Kij Johnson loved The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath as a kid but as an adult going back to the book she realized that not only were there no female characters in that work, there were no women in Lovecraft's stories anywhere. He makes Tolkien look like a feminist. And so we have The Dream-Quest of Villett Boe in which a middle aged professor of mathematics at Ulthar's first, and only women's college goes on a quest to stop one of her students from doing something that could hurt the school. So far it's very good.

And by the way, it's unclear whether or not Loveccraft's works are in the public domain. The stuff he wrote before 1923 is but technically the later works are still under copyright. Except that it's not clear if anyone is holding the copyright. His collected works are available on the internet if you're interested in checking him out. Be warned there's some racist shit there. Also a lot of folks find his writing style pretty tough sledding. Lovecraft felt that literature peaked in the late 18th century. The guy had a lot of issues.

October 21, 2016

Lovecraft's Dreamworlds

In 1948 Arthur C. Clarke sent Lord Dunsany a copy of Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. Dunsany liked it and wrote back, "Thank you very much for the Arkham Sampler. I see Lovecraft borrowed my style, and I don't grudge it to him. Indeed, I am glad to be able to read his tales."

Lovecraft's early stories borrowed heavily from Dunsany, they were set in an alternate dimension that humans could access via dreaming. The culmination of his dream cycle was The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, a novella that he never tried to get published.

I'm rereading the dream stories and after that I'll finish with The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson. Johnson read Lovecraft's novella when she was 10 and loved it. Her book is a call back to Lovecraft's dreamworld from a writer well aware of Lovecraft's flaws.

And speaking of call backs, Christopher Tolkien is still publishing stuff from his father. The latest is Beren and Lúthien. Beren was a mortal man on the run from Morgoth, the first Dark Lord. Lúthien was the daughter of Thingol Greycloak, King of the Elves of Doriath and Melian the Maia. Just think angel when you read Maia and you've got the whole idea of the status of Lúthien's parents. Beren and Lúthien fall in love and Thingol, to get rid of Beren, tells him he can have his blessing if he'll come back with a Silmaril from Morgoth's crown. Beren is not impressed and delivers the single most badass line Tolkien ever wrote:

‘For little price do Elven-kings sell their daughters: for gems, and things made by craft. But if this be your will, Thingol, I will perform it. And when we meet again my hand shall hold a Silmaril from the Iron Crown; for you have not looked the last upon Beren son of Barahir.’

And to Thingol's horror, Lúthien slips away and joins her lover on his quest.

And while I've skipped some of the stuff Christopher Tolkien has published, I will be looking forward to this book when it arrives in 2017, 100 years after Tolkien started creating Middle-earth.

For a better idea of the story, here's an excellent summary of the tale.

October 19, 2016

More Dishonored

I started the third mission in Dishonored today when I suddenly realized that I wanted to replay the whole thing again. That's unusual for me, I never replay games. The thing is, Dishonored 2 comes out in three weeks and I didn't want to spoil it by overdosing on the first game. And so, with sadness in my heart, I uninstalled the game.

Dishonored is a unique beast. You can play it as a shooter if you wish but killing your enemies tilts the world into a more chaotic state. So I played it as a stealth game. When I did have to take down an enemy I made sure to do it nonleathally. And my reward was the good ending. Emily, the heir to the throne, was rescued and her reign was an era of peace and prosperity. If you finish the game in high chaos, Emily dies and plague destroys the city as you skulk away in the night.

It's an interesting mechanic. You can stealth your way through Deus Ex: Mankind Divided but there's no consequences to going in and killing everybody in the room. I'd be the last person to argue that all games should punish violence, but it's nice to have one game where indiscriminate killing produces blowback.

October 18, 2016


In 26 days Dishonored II arrives. That doesn't help me now, I want something to play. Pillars of Eternity was not too satisfying and while I enjoyed the Deus Ex DLC, it was pretty short. Tonight it occurred to me that I really hadn't played a pure stealth game for a bit. I tried for stealth in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided but Dishonored II will enforce it, at least for me. The more you kill the more enemies you'll face. Then I realized I haven't played a pure stealth game in a few years.

Tonight I put the original Dishonored back on Kosh and I just finished the first mission, the prison break. I got the ghost achievement for not being spotted and unlike my first playthough in 2012 I didn't have to kill anyone. I doubt I'll replay the whole thing but it's a good idea to get alChandler back into shape for some sneaking.

October 17, 2016

Time Displacement

Tomorrow I have to be ready at nine in the morning to deal with the guy who's going to clean out my dryer vent. For most folks nine is a reasonable time to do something like that. Not for me, to be up at nine means I'll have to set my alarm for seven, it also means my internal clock will be off for over a week.

It never used to be that way, I could bounce back pretty quickly from getting up early. But I'm old, my insomnia has grown worse and my biorhythms are pretty inflexible. So this week is pretty much a wash.

Currently it's 11:30 PM. You'd think I'd be in bed, knowing I have to be up at seven tomorrow, but it's not happening. Even if I took a Trazodone to sleep it wouldn't work this early. Hell, some nights it doesn't work at all. And so I kvetch my way through life.

October 16, 2016

A Gaming Confession

Not really a confession because I'm sure you've already figured it out for yourself, but every time I say I'm going back to a game to play it I'm pretty much bullshitting myself. In point of fact I probably won't be playing anything until Dishonored 2 arrives on 11/11. Because that's how we roll here at the halls.

October 15, 2016


This is Marie's cat, Tucker. I was showing her the Prisma app yesterday and we tarted him up a bit, but he really is a beautiful cat.

October 15, 2016


PC Gamer has an article about Thief, a game that is definitely one of my top five games. You know, 16 years later and this cut scene still makes me misty eyed.

October 13, 2016

Donald Trump

Trump's lawyers sent the NY Times a letter demanding they retract an article, "Two Women Say Donald Trump Touched Them Inappropriately" and remove it from their website. The Times' general counsel David McCraw sent a reply that, among other things said this:

The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one's reputation. Mr. Trump has bragged about his non-consensual sexual touching of women. He has bragged about intruding on beauty contestants in their dressing rooms. He acquiesced to a radio host's request to discuss Mr. Trump's own daughter as a "piece of ass." Multiple women not mentioned in our article have publicly come forward to report on Mr. Trump's unwanted advances. Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself.

So there.

October 13, 2016


Gore Vidal wrote series of historical novels about America called The Narratives of Empire. They trace America's rise as an imperial power from the days of the revolution to the beginning of the 21st century. Gore Vidal believed that America really was an imperial power and that our dominant position in the world was a bad thing. But he was a great writer and his books are great fun, especially Burr.

Burr's narrator is Charles Schuyler. In 1833 Aaron Burr was a partner in a New York City law firm and the fictional Charles Schuyler was his clerk. Schuyler was also working for a group that want to make sure that Vice-president Martin Van Buren doesn't succeed Andrew Jackson by digging up proof that Van Buren was Burr's illegitimate son. To do this he gets Burr talking about the past, telling him he wants to write a book about him. So the novel has a dual narrative, the politics of the 1830s and Burr's recollections of the founding of the republic.

Here's the thing, Washington was a pretty bad general, Jefferson was a hypocrite and Hamilton, at the very least, had the duplicity of a politician. Intellectually we all know (or should) that. But Burr reads as if Matt Taibbi had gone back in time to report about the events of the 1790s.

By the way, Hamilton fudged the reason for the duel. It had nothing to do with the presidential election of 1800. Instead, after Burr lost the New York gubernatorial election of 1804, it came to Burr's attention that a letter from Charles D. Cooper to Philip Schuyler had the claim that Hamilton had said that Burr was, "a dangerous man, and one who ought not be trusted with the reins of government", and Cooper went on to write that he knew of, "a still more despicable opinion which General Hamilton has expressed of Mr. Burr." And that was that. Burr demanded that Hamilton either explain himself or disavow Cooper's claims. Hamilton couldn't explain, couldn't disavow Cooper's claims if he wanted any kind of political career in the future. He couldn't even apologize to Burr because after all his public enmity, that too would end any political aspirations the former treasury secretary might have had.

The song's pretty cool, it's bullshit historically speaking but a good song. As a rule Broadway musicals are not considered primary sources. Nor is Vidal's book but I am enjoying rereading it.

October 13, 2016

Another Proud Gaming Moment

Got a little story to tell you, years ago I picked up Mafia II from a Steam sale. I played through a couple of missions, kinda/sorta learned to drive and was having a a fairly good time. Then there was a mission where I had to go undercover in a warehouse and load boxes onto trucks, or something like that anyway. That was it loading boxes. I gave up the game in disgust. Then a week or so later I'm talking to Ken, who also was playing the game. I mentioned the warehouse mission and asked him how he had the patience to get through it. He said, "Why didn't you press the skip button?"

Yes, I could have just pressed a button and gotten past the boring bit.

Never went back to that game. But I'm between games, I'm never ever going to play Amnesia and what the hell, I can always mess about in Mafia II for a little bit. That's the advantage of Steam, when I get pissed I can uninstall games but I can't just destroy them like I did with Neocron what, three, four times?

By the way, is it me or does Steam have an update every other day?

October 10, 2016

Post Debate

There are three types of folks backing Trump. One group is concerned about the loss of manufacturing jobs in this country and they believe that Trump is the only one who can turn that around. Then there are the people who can't abide Hillary Clinton under any circumstances. They may not be enamoured with Trump but they genuinely believe that Clinton is worse. Finally there are the white nationalists who want to take America back to the good old days of post Reconstruction. Together, they're the ones who gave Trump the nomination.

But they're not enough to get him into the White House. Trump needs a good chunk of the Independents to vote for him and that doesn't seem to be happening. Judging by the second debate he seems to be abandoning attempts to attract voters outside of his core constituency. Perhaps he believes that their numbers are bigger then pollsters estimate. The Trump camp has always maintained that there are a lot of people who are too frightened to publicly support him but who'll vote for him next month.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party is fucked.

There are a lot of Republican voters appalled by Trump. Those folks will either vote for Clinton, vote third party or just sit this election out. And any effort to reach out to those folks would of necessity piss off Trump's supporters. In fact, America hasn't seen a major party this divided since the Whig Party disintegrated in the 1850s. Out of the wreckage of the Whigs came the Republican Party. The Republicans could go the same way, splintering into a business oriented party and some kind of alt right racist coalition. And that would mean that the Democrats would have it their way, probably for the rest of my lifetime. Even if the Republicans stay together, the Democrats have a very good chance of capturing the Senate and it's conceivable that they could take the House too.

But enough of such nonsense.

October 10, 2016


A number of Trump supporters are excusing Trump's remarks to Billy Bush as locker room banter. Now, I haven't been in a locker room since high school so I'm not up on my banter but I'm reasonably sure that there's a difference between bragging about the number of women you've had sex with and bragging that your status as a celebrity allows you to get away with assaulting women. And yeah, that's what Trump was boasting about, his ability to "grab women by the pussy" and get away with it. And it's not like someone dug up a tape of the 17 year old Trump bullshitting with his friends, he was 59 when he said that.

All that being said, the video won't cost him too many working class votes. But there aren't enough working class voters to get him elected. So while it must be comforting to him that his followers are loyal they can't give him the White House by themselves.

I don't think I can steel myself to watch the debate tonight but I'll probably check Twitter to see how the candidates are doing.

October 9, 2016

Watching Out for Me

In July I hurt my back. Coincidentally July is also the month when Newton started hanging out on the arm of my office chair. It's not easy for him to pull off. While he's gained quite a bit of coordination, it's plainly hard for him to balance there. And yet he does it, watching what I do.

It's not easy to figure out a cat's motives but I like to think he noticed the changes in my behavior and decided he wanted to keep an eye on me. Friends do that kind of thing for each other.

October 9, 2016

Gaming Hangover

I put 66 hours into Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and its DLC. Next month I'll be playing Dishonored 2. Objectively it's been a very good year for me, gaming wise, But that doesn't change the fact that I want to play something right now. Such moods are dangerous, that's how I ended up with The Binding of Isaac in my Steam Library. Hell, I nearly spent $29 on Dragon's Dogma just now, then I looked at The Binding of Isaac again and the eight minutes of playtime I put into the game.

As I said, such moods are dangerous.

Part of the problem is that I still haven't bounced back from my all nighter with Deus Ex: System Rift. I'd normally sleep late for a day or two and bounce back. But this week I've had shit to do that required me to be up and about in the morning.

And the other half of the equation is that the physical therapy Dr. Woods sent me to had a negative effect on my back. John at Bacharach, who's normally gung ho on exercise, suggested that I might want to cancel my remaining sessions with him. And that's what I'm going to do tomorrow.

(alChandler stops typing and goes to Steam. He looks at Wasteland 2 for $39.99. But like Frodo, he masters the call of evil and closes out Steam and goes back to writing.)

It's only a month. Hell, maybe I'll level up one of my alts in WoW. Or, maybe, just maybe after playing SOMA in wuss mode I'm ready to take a real shot at Amnesia. Meanwhile it's one in the morning, I have to get up at eight and I'm not even remotely tired. And honestly, as problems go, having to wait a month for Dishonored 2 ranks pretty low in the general scheme of things.

(alChandler goes to Steam and starts downloading Amnesia. Then he decides to make toast.)

Update: Downloaded Amnesia. What the hell, Halloween is coming and all that.

October 7, 2016

Voice Recognition

Today I did something new. I took my phone out of my pocket and said, "OK Google, what is the weather?" Google replied, "In Galloway the current temperature is 62°." Thus I step cautiously into the future.

It actually took a bit longer then just taking out my phone and launching the weather app. But I concede that if I had something like Amazon Echo, it would be faster to just ask the thing about the weather. Still, I'm uncomfortable talking to my phone and would probably be uncomfortable talking to Alexa or Google Home. Most of it, I'm assuming, would evaporate if I used the thing on a regular basis. Most but not all.

You know, sometimes when I use OK Google the search engine gives me the results verbally, like she (have a hard time thinking of it as it) did tonight. And when it does talk I have a strong urge to say thank you. Occasionally I'll give in and say it out loud.

As far as the quality of Google's speech recognition, it's come a long way. I tried it on alChandler's Halls tonight. Google interpreted that as Al Chandler's Halls, but my page did turn up on the first page of results, so I have to give it a well done.

As a kid, whenever Captain Kirk would ask the ship's computer a question I felt that Kirk was always abrupt with the poor thing. Now I'm living in the world where I'll have to learn how to deal with the Enterprise's computer myself.

October 5, 2016

Outlast 2

Outlast 2 is billed as a first person survival horror game. I dislike survival horror but the demo will be on Steam until 11/1 so I'm leaving my comfort zone and downloading it. Change and growth are a part of life and all that happy horseshit.

October 4, 2016

Deus Ex: System Rift

When I played through Deus Ex: Mankind Divided one of the hardest missions was breaking into the Palisades Bank in Prague. The small expansion System Rift involved a mission to break into a server farm run by the bank. If you're good you can finish it in two hours. I finished it in eight but I finished it on normal difficulty and I got the Clean Sweep achievement for finishing it without killing anyone.

Currently I'm dicking around with a horror first person shooter called Unloved. It was originally a Doom 2 mod but is was rebuilt in the Unreal 4 engine. It's not great but it will keep me occupied until Dishonored 2 arrives in November. And I'll probably keep Deus Ex on my system just in case they release some more DLC.

If you're curious, I've played 17 games in 2016 and finished 11 of them. Of this year's batch, the most original was Superhot. The one that made me sad was Witcher 3: Blood and Wine because it's the last time I'll get a chance to play is Geralt, although at least I managed to give him a happy ending.

And next month I get a chance to play as my old buddy Corvo, the hero of the first Dishonored. But I can also play as Emily, the empress. They each have their own stealthy powers and I think they each have their own path through the game so there should be some replay value here.

But that's next month, for October alChandler is just kicking back and resting.

October 4, 2016

The Jungle Book

I'm not really that big on Kipling but I rather like The Jungle Book so tonight I checked out Jon Favreau's remake of the old Disney cartoon. It was pretty good and, as I suspected, Newton was fascinated by it.

Then came the scene where Shere Khan tries to kill Mowgli. Bagheera comes out of nowhere, growling and roaring as he fights the tiger. Newton freaked, ran out of the living room and wouldn't come back in.

I can't really fault him, I'm not very brave either.

September 30, 2016

The Roots of the Mountain

I've read a lot of William Morris. He's generally considered the godfather of modern fantasy. He was writing medieval romances and at first set them in the real world. House of the Wolfings told the story of brave German tribesmen resisting invading Romans. With The Wood Beyond the World he just started setting his fantasies in his own invented kingdoms. And thus the way was prepared for Game of Thrones.

The Roots of the Mountains is a sequel to House of the Wolfings. The German tribes are now living in small towns and trading with the cities of the plains. But they don't have coined money yet and they're still happily pagan. I've never read it before and I'm coming to it now because it's almost time for a Tolkien reread. Tolkien openly acknowledged being influenced by The Roots of the Mountains and that alone is enough to recommend it to me.

The hero of the book is called Face-of-god, because in the old days parents had high expectations for their kids. I've gotten to the part where the hero decides to leave his home town and seek adventures in the wild wood, because that's what heroes do.

And if you're into such things and have a Kindle or other dedicated ereader, you could do a lot worse then grab The Well at the World's End. If you hate it, you've lost nothing. But if you like it everything the old bastard wrote is available. Between Adelaide and Project Gutenberg you can download and read over 55,000 free books. There's a lot to be said for free shit.

September 29, 2016