Odds & Ends

A few follow ups to recent posts (and, uh, not so recent posts) as well as some other buffoonery. Enjoy.
  • Infinite Summer has been suspended indefinitely. I only got about 400 pages into the book (and only wrote about the first hundred or so). It's hard to articulate why I never got into the book. It's extremely well written. Some of the subjects are interesting. It's not "hard" to read for me (at least, most of the time) in the way that, say, Gravity's Rainbow was... I just never found myself in the mood to pick up the book. And when I did, I almost immediately found my mind wandering. I wasn't bored, per say, but I found myself thinking about something else and having to refocus and reread the last paragraph. I guess I just don't like it. I have no idea what it's about... if I were having fun with it, that wouldn't be a problem, but I just couldn't connect. There are a ton of characters, but I never really understood or related with most of them. And the ones I did relate to or at least feel empathy for, well, they weren't around often. I don't particularly have any aversion to the amateur tennis world and indeed found that part of things mildly interesting. I really don't get the obsession with addiction and drugs though, and reading about that stuff is grating. There doesn't appear to be a plot. There are tons of things happening, I bet there is a sort of overarching story there, but ultimately, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to care about it when it resolves itself (or when it doesn't). The thought of reading 600 more pages to get there isn't really motivating me either. You know what it reminded me of? It reminded me of a Saturday Night Live episode. Every chapter is like a different skit. Sometimes there are recurring characters (or you see the same actors in different circumstances), there's an occasional laugh here or there, but for the most part, each chapter is an independent thing. There are thematic similarities and even some direct connections, but there are times when you read a 10 page character study on someone, then don't see him again in the next 300 pages (or for all I know, the rest of the book). In the end, I'm giving up on it. This is not something I do often. I can count the number of books I've given up on with one hand. There is a chance, however remote, that I'll get back on the horse someday, but that probably won't be anytime soon.
  • I think perhaps I was a little too hard on Valkyria Chronicles last week. It's not that anything I said was inaccurate, it's just that the combat - the actual part of the game you play - is really a lot of fun. Of course, everything outside of the actual gameplay is still annoying, but perhaps not as much as I made it out to be. I have a feeling that the inability to save games in the middle of a battle will be frustrating, but I just played 5 battles and only had to replay one of them (and that was ok because I was having fun probing the defenses and doing silly things with my people). I really hadn't gotten that far into the game when I wrote the last post, so I feel a little bad that I was so hard on it. It's certainly not a perfect game (it feels a lot like a PS2 game, and suffers from some of the same things that it shouldn't have to now that we have better technology on consoles), but it can be a lot of fun. One of the things I complained about was having to choose my full squad towards the beginning of the game without knowing what I would need, etc... It turns out that you only take a few people into battle anyway, and also that you can modify your squad at any time (and you kinda have to, because some of your people have traits that are or are not suited to the terrain in various levels). Of course, that makes me wonder why I have to limit my team in the first place, but I did find myself getting attached to certain characters and now have go-to folks in my squad. It will be sad if one of them ever dies... Anyway, I just wanted to say that I enjoyed the game a lot more upon revisiting it and am looking forward to playing more. I think I just picked it up when I wasn't in the mood for this type of game...
  • Flickchart is an interesting website. The main concept here is that instead of putting together a list of your top movies directly, you indirectly compile the list by picking between a series of choices between 2 movies. So for example, they put The Terminator up against X-Men Origins: Wolverine and make you choose (guess which one I chose!) There are, of course, a lot of flaws with the concept. The list that's emerged for me is probably only 30-40% accurate... And the grand majority of choices result in the better movie holding steady in the rankings. What's more, sometimes inferior movies creep into the top 10 and it's hard to unseat them because they don't come up to be rated very often, and when they do, they're against drastically inferior movies. You can narrow the pool of movies to choose from though, which helps a bit. In any case, it's a lot of fun, and I started to notice patterns or at least, types of choices that continually present themselves:
    • The Obvious Choice - Where one movie I love is placed against a movie I hate. This is surprisingly often. For example, this just came up: The Fugitive versus Transformers. Duh.
    • The Who Cares Choice - Where two movies I could care less about are presented. I usually just hold my nose and choose randomly. A good example of this just came up for me: Magnolia versus The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Both mediocre movies from great directors. I like both movies, but I'm not especially enthusiastic about either and they're a far cry from what their respective directors are capable of...
    • The Sophie's Choice - Where two movies I adore are placed against each other. I suck at picking favorites, so this usually tough.
    • The Fun Favorite versus Great Classic Choice - This one seems to happen quite often. A fun movie is ranked against a movie that is extremely well made and a classic, but also a bit of a downer. Which do you rate higher? What's the criteria here? I would usually prefer to watch the fun movie over the great movie... but does that make the great movie less great? For example, Aliens versus Citizen Kane. Kane is the more important movie and is probably a better made film in a number of ways. But I would rather watch Aliens for the 110th time than Citizen Kane for the 3rd or 4th. It doesn't help that the two movies could not be more different. That might be a different category (or perhaps a different name for this category).
    And so on. Right now, my favorite movie of all time is listed as The Terminator, followed by Casablanca. They're both a bit too high, but reasonably accurate. My number 3 movie is Predator, which I love, but which is also far too high on the list. Meanwhile, my true #1 film of all time, The Godfather, is languishing at #120 on the list. Someday, perhaps after rating a few million more times, the list will be more accurate. I do have to wonder how many ratings you'd have to give in this way in order to arrive at a reasonably accurate list.
  • I seem to be in something of a rut in terms of blog posting. This happens from time to time, but I do have some posts planned that will have a little more meat on them (and not consist of unordered lists of things, the way the grand majority of posts here have been lately). I don't know when they will happen though, as they require more time and effort than your average post (honestly, I don't know how some bloggers do it).
That's all for now...