Author Archives: Friends of P

The Remains of the Day (1989)

Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of Day is a well-crafted and completely compelling novel. Who knew a story from the viewpoint of an English butler/house manager could be so enthralling. The title takes place in 1953 as said butler recalls his past life, work, family, and dignity. While The Remains of the Day is thought provoking it can feel a bit tedious, as a butler’s history is wont to do. However, I did laugh often and found myself unable to put the book down. I don’t often find books that everyone should read but this is one of them.

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Haruki Murakami and not going for the hat trick

I don’t recommend reading Murakami books in a row. I went from Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (2014) to Norwegian Wood (2000). These works are the opposite of uplifting and motivational. They delve into the darkest corners of mental illness and isolation. While they can be pretty sad they are well written works that take you on a journey of discovery and coming of age. Other reviewers hate Murakami, calling him a one trick pony and detesting his use of sexual description and scenes. It’s a work of fiction and he is creating a world that behaves like ours (usually). I would not stoop to call any of it unnecessary or distasteful– because it isn’t real. These are concepts in which he engages us and drives us to think and consider. Plus they make up a small percentage of the actual story. Perhaps people like having their mind in the gutters continually, so to speak. At any rate, I’m re-reading Cannery Row as a jump start into something completely different and less depressing.

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XboxOne: the beginning

Eight years after the Xbox 360 debut we now have next-gen consoles. Though my gaming tale began long ago on the dusty shores of Barstow, CA. At the time I was five or so and my family picked up the original NES brand-new with Duck Hunt and Super Mario Bros. What encouraged them to pick up the system, I’m not sure, and should probably ask them sometime. At any rate, this console fueled my brothers’ and my addiction to gaming. Thereafter we on to enjoy additional machines: SNES, Sega, N64, Dreamcast (for Street Fighter 3rd Strike), PS1 & 2, Gameboy (multiple iterations), PCs/Macs, etc. We toiled with friends on their: Sega Saturns, Sega CDs, Gamegears & TurboGrafx, Jaguar 64s, etc. Any new console was exciting in and of itself.

In college my gaming definitely dwindled. Though I did own an Xbox as did many of my friends. We Halo’d and Rainbow Six’d over beers. We even managed a Street Fighter Puzzle Fighter Arcade cabinet and spent many a late night fighting it out. Grad school brought me back into the gaming fold with the Xbox 360 and Halo 3.

Today marks day five of the latest and greatest Xbox. So far I’ve plugged away a good 15+ hours into Dead Rising 3 and enjoyed football games passed-through the system. The TV system allows one to easily check up on a live-game and jump back into the football game should things get interesting. The Skype system via Kinect is also novel, though not as intimate as using a tablet or mobile device. Viewers get more living room than person and the angles can be odd. My favorite XboxOne features to this point are:

  • Voice command to record gaming clips
  • Ability to edit & upload the clips to the Internet/Web
  • Snapping TV to the side of a video-game in progress
  • The clarity of VOIP
  • How damn fast the machine is to load a game, respond to commands, etc.
  • #1 feature: the new controller

I seriously love the new controller. The layout is smart and the re-sizing clean. The thumb sticks grip and provide smooth movement. Hopefully the sticks break in just a bit more for faster strafing, etc. Overall the controller is light-weight with the heavier points evenly distributed for balance. I am all the more engaged for it.

Lastly, Dead Rising 3 just might be my game of the year. I have not played the uber-story and drama driven Last of Us. Nor have I played Bioshock and the latest GTA. Dead Rising speaks to me. Filled with campiness, gore, b-movie story-lines, and fun- DR3 is not trying to be a shiny gem with lovable characters, clever origin stories, or celestial greater-than-thou heroes/events. DR 3 as my instant classic makes sense, considering my first video-game involved an Italian-American plumber whose, “objective is to race through the Mushroom Kingdom, survive the main antagonist Bowser′s forces and save Princess Toadstool.” [wikipedia]

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Fallout New Vegas (2010)

It can be hard to review a game three years after the fact (and my game Q is bearing down on me). Especially since it is part of a franchise that released the Fallout 3 and Skyrim. However, New Vegas is by a different developer (Obsidian) than the aforementioned (Bethesda).

New Vegas is a bit too sparse for my liking, miles of nothing, and interactions that overwhelmingly feel empty. The first town you find yourself, Goodsprings, starts off just right, helping you build a sense of trust and empathy for a people beaten by the politics and atmosphere of gangs and mob rule. Soon after though you find yourself alone wandering the desert justifying your existence. Once things get going, you manage to build up quests, get into the main story, visit Vegas, interact positively and negatively with various settlements, etc.

At any rate, I think I am about 1/3 or half way through and the objectives all feel kind of the same. Maybe I am not giving it a fair shake, exploring enough, or being engaged but I can only invest so many hours before I realize that I’m not getting the same kick out of it as other RPGs (Dead Island for example is half as complex but twice as fun). The battle system is OK but with this type of game it is more about bringing down a meter of HP versus location and timing and with stealth and a sniper rifle: my dudette has been unstoppable.  As new places and things (mutants, ghouls, etc.) become uncovered I stand unimpressed. The main element keeping me going is Rex, a loyal cyber-dog that recently had a brain transplant with the Legion’s fiercest fighting bitch, Lupa. My robotic dog is the best story-line so far. That and putting an end to Benny, leading up to this sweet piece.
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Superman (2013)

The first 30 minutes or so really took my by surprise: it was pure sci-fi in media res and all that. I could easily rant, like the rest of the net, that Superman doesn’t live up to the comic book and isn’t even a comic movie. Yet, what it lacks in the funny strip department it makes up for in action and zany alien encounters; but then loses in flat acting, redeemed only by Costner and Crowe. I guess this is the Superman people want, a Dark Knight version filled with somber-tones, anger, genocide, murder, etc. Obviously Superman is not Batman, thus the latest movie misses out on what could have been something fun. Reflecting back on the 1978 version, it was better, and the sequel hosted Richard Pryor (though the movie stinks). Adjusted for inflation the predecessor films did make more dinero too. I really wish I had more to say about Superman, sadly it lacked substance and managed to feel contrived.

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The Great Gatsby (2013)

Gotta say that The Great Gatsby was good but not great. Visually stunning yes, zany and wild sure, but it drops the ball in portraying Gatsby as he should be: calm, cool, and mysterious. Rather we get an angry mobster who loses control. I don’t recommend reading the book prior to seeing the movie, if you’re anything like me you’ll just keep tugging at strings and poking holes in things until there’s nothing left. For example, Jordan Baker is nearly non-existent as a character and T.J. Ecklberg is given completely different lines and portrayal. Small things certainly, but added with the misshapen Jay Gatsby and the story starts to lose what makes the book so compelling to begin with. Plus Fitzgerald really condemns the lifestyle of the uber-rich, while it is alluring and magnificent, it makes for shitty people and shitty culture. So all those “Gatsby Parties” people keep having don’t get it. Gatsby didn’t even attend his parties or even enjoy them. They were a means to an end. An end that turned up sour as hell.  /endrant

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Iron Man 3 (2013)

Iron Man 3 had its moments and plenty of laughs. And if you’re in the mood for a Die Hard/Lethal Weapon type comic-movie this is the one for you. Yet the movie does offer forced feeling and relationships, sadly uses “crazy vets” as villains (thanks for the stereotype), and misses a chance at employing Sir Ben Kingsley in a meaningful manner. I can’t say much for character development or the plot, but in summation: that action- oooh boy that action.

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