Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bibliophile: Yesterday is Here Again

"A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.” --William Styron
Note: I went to make this week's Bibliophile, when I realized I never got around to posting *last* week's Bibliophile. Which, in turn, was a Bibliophile that I had never finished for the week before that. Punctuality is hard. But it makes the title I originally intended even more apropos, so it all comes out in the wash.

This week, Bibliophile is on the road once more, with a short discussion of some new books at Brock University. Brock U has a lovely new book list, conveniently sorted by call number. And we will plunge its depths. After the break.
(I'll level with you--this is actually last week's Bibliophile. I started it, but there just weren't enough hours in the day, or at least that particular day, to bring it to the end. But today, I'm stuck at home. I forgot to refill my inhaler prescription, so any activity as strenuous as leaving the house is probably beyond my ability. So we've got plenty of time to wrap things up here.)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Planescape Papers: Crossing the Rubikon Pt 1

As I said in my previous post, I'm going to spend an indeterminate amount of time on this blog blathering on about Planescape: Torment, the Interplay game from 1999 that I've devoted a disproportionate amount of my life to. I think I'm going to limit posts to 500ish words, just to be mindful of the labor involved. Last time, I talked about what made it so different from other CRPGs at the time, that it focused on story and dialogue and minimized combat. So, naturally, a perfect place to take the discussion is a section that does the opposite. Join me at the Rubikon, ladies, gentlemen, and aspiring thief/fighter dual classes, after the break.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Quotations: Quod Erat DEATH-onstratum


One of the things you learn in Planescape: Torment is that the person you used to be before losing your memory wasn't necessarily a nice person.

Later Days.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Planescape Papers: Neo-liberalism and Art of Conversation

My postings have decreased at a point where my dissertation research has also been slowed, and the suggested correlation is the 1999 computer RPG, Planescape: Torment.  I'm currently working on the chapter on 1990s games, with the general theory that this is the period where "realistic graphics" became a driving force with videogames, as a result of the technological increase that made such graphics possible. Torment is the counter-case; arguably, it also strives for realism, but less through graphics*, and more through copious walls of text providing mood, background, and other bits of information. It's set in the Dungeons & Dragons universe, or rather, set in Planescape, which is the multiverse containing the Dungeons & Dragons universe, so there's a pretty damn big well of information to draw from. I love Torment. (Read that in both senses of the word.) I love its plot, its characters, its world. It's one of my favorite games, and I wouldn't change it for the world. But right now, it's killing me. It's a long game to begin with, and when you're stopping every few seconds to take notes on this conversation or that description, it takes oh so much longer. And an added problem is that I'm in such a rush to get through it, I'm not doing much beyond taking notes. I haven't let myself stop and analyze very much, which is really the point of the exercise.

Well, fine. I've got a blog to populate with content; I've got two notebooks full of notes; I've got a game that's STILL only 2/3rds done. Ladies, gentlemen, assorted undead immortals, welcome to the Planescape Papers. Today's topic: neo-liberalism and the PS:T overview, after the break.

*Planescape: Torment has some beautiful graphics, actually, in terms of its background design especially, but they're largely non-interactive, and not really the main event, so to speak.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Things I Wrote Elsewhere

This is a week old by now, but if you haven't checked it out, please feel free to do so:

The unofficial theme of First Person Scholar this month is "editorial perspectives," and this piece is my attempt to justify why a publication about videogames should do a book review every three weeks. And it touches on some of my larger ethos regarding scholarship in general. To any of the blog's regular readers (if I still have regular readers) who check it out, I've got a question: do you find it any different in tone than what I do here? Just curious.

Later Days.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Book Triad: Brandon Mull's Beyonder Trilogy

The usual preamble and excuses for a book triad apply: I've fallen rather thoroughly off my nonfiction wagon, which is nothing new, but this time around, I also fell behind on my Goodreads reviews. It gets more complicated to find the reviews at that point, because the date added and the date finished reading get buried in the overall pile. But it so happens that I now have a stack of reviews ready for posting, and a promise to post more fresh off the digital presses, and so... ladies, gentlemen, other parties interested in the fine art of reading, I give you The Book Triad.
This one's a little different; I read an entire trilogy one after the other, and did a single review, so I'll just post that, with a bit of post-credit commentary at the end.  It'll be a fond trip down memory lane to the ramble-ridden book reviews of yore. So:
A review of

Brandon Mull's Beyonder Trilogy: A World Without Heroes, Seeds of Rebellion, and Chasing the Prophecy

After the break.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Quotations: If A Baron Falls in the Forest, and No One Hears Him...

And so, from Prince Sanchez' laconic exclamations and a detailed account by the gentleman in black, Cosimo succeeded in reconstructing the story of this colony living on plane trees. They were Spanish nobles who had rebelled against King Charles III about certain contested feudal privileges, and been exiled with their families as a result. On reaching Olivabassa, they had been forbidden to continue their journey. Those parts, in fact, on account of an ancient treaty with His Catholic Majesty, could neither give hospitality nor even allow passages to persons exiled from Spain. The situation of those noble families was a difficult one to cope with, but the magistrates of Olivabassa, who wanted to avoid any trouble with foreign chancelleries, but also had no aversion to these rich foreigners, came to an understanding with them. The letter of their treaty laid down that no exiles were to 'touch the soil' of their territory; they only had to be up on trees, and all was in order. So the exiles had climbed up there for some months, putting their trust in the mild climate, the hoped-for arrival of a decree of amnesty from Charles III, and Divine Providence. They were well supplied with Spanish doubloons and bought many supplies, thus giving trade to the town. To draw up the dishes they had installed a system of pulleys. And on other trees they had set up canopies under which they slept. In fact they had settled themselves very comfortably, or rather, the people of Olivabassa had settled them well, as it was to their advantage. The exiles, for their part, never moved a finger the whole day long."
--The Baron in the Trees, Italo Calvino.

The Baron in the Trees is an odd book; it does what it says on the tin, in that it's about a young boy who goes to live in the trees after a fight with his father. And stays there. And eventually becomes baron, and rules over his people, all without ever setting foot on ground again. It doesn't have the metanarrative or structural complexity that I've come to expect from Calvino; rather, it's closer to the sort of thing Borges or Gabriel Garcia Marcez might write. That is, there's a dreamy yet matter-of-fact sort of innocence to the whole thing.

Sorry for the long blog silence. It's been a busy few weeks: conferences, defenses, and a lot of playing through Planescape: Torment for the dissertation. I think it's going to be the last game I go through at such length--unless you're writing a book on nothing but that game, this level of thoroughness is nice, but not really warranted, given the desired results is a dozen or two pages of analysis.   Expect more blogging in the next few days.

Later Days.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Bibliophilia: Gothic Animals at University of King's College

 “There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.”
― Bertrand Russell

The University of Waterloo seems to have retreated back into hiatus, so the Canadian Grand Tour continues, with the University of King's College in Halifax. The library is part of a group of Nova Scotia libraries, but as far as I can tell, that collection is distinct from Acadia's, Cape Breton's, and Dalhousie's, so I guess we haven't looked at it before. There's no new books page, so I'll limit the location to King's College, set it to books published in 2013, and see what comes up, after the break. As always, a bold H indicates that the book is in the UW holdings.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Do You Believe in Magic?

I played a game of Magic: The Gathering today. My ex-roommate's boyfriend has been trying to get me to give it a try for a while, so I agreed. (Buried lede: I made an outside of work friend. Take that, kindergarten "doesn't play well with others" assessment.)  If, like me, you're not familiar with the basic mechanic of the game, it goes something like this: (details after the break)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Friday Quotations: Romance Options

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Kind of makes the clothes-on sex of Dragon Age look a little tame, doesn't it?

Later Days.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

156 Thoughts about The Last of Us

So a friend of mine decided to be kinder to me than I deserved, and lent me his copy of The Last of Us, the Naughty Dog developed Sony released PS 3 exclusive zombie apocalypse game, to play until he returns from camping next Thursday. I started on Saturday, and finished it today. And I kept a running set of notes on the game as I went. It's partly critical, and partly a first reaction to events as they unfold. Spoilers abound.

156 Thoughts about The Last of Us, after the break.