Living the Good Life, Episode 1: April 1, 2016

As mentioned in this entry, I’ve been living pretty darn well ever since handing in my dissertation’s rough draft. My daily routine now pretty much consists of a nice, long, restful sleep, waking up to a nice breakfast, enjoying myself with whatever sparks my fancy–playing videogames, watching movies or anime, driving around, whatever-for the rest of the day, then coming down for dinner (after I had lunch outside at a restaurant or at home) for something good, and then spending the rest of the night until I go to bed playing more videogames, watching more anime, or more often reading–or working on timing some anime for some friends of mine. So yeah, I have it pretty damn good.

To get down to the specifics, here’s what I’ve been occupying myself with for the past weeks in the same format I did at the beginning of my last dissertation-related entry!

WATCHAN: Blade Runner! I got the 5 disc ultimate collector’s Blu-ray edition, which also came with an artbook, a little figurine, and other little bonuses like that.

Definitely a good purchase, I rather liked watching all the different versions of the movie and the special features like interviews, etc. were great! The movie itself, of course, was one of the best of the 80s. Some quick thoughts on random aspects of it:

1: Kinda ironic how at the end they say everything is entirely fictitious and no resemblance is meant to actual people–except for Budweiser,  Atari, etc. 😄

2: Holy shit, Detective Gaff was played by Edward Olmos, Commander Adama from Battlestar Galactica! I guess I never realized it because I identify Olmos so strongly with the grey-haired Adama, while his hair was dyed totally black as Gaff. Damn…

3: Finally, concerning the movie’s biggest question: I ultimately think Deckard was a human. I was brought to this conclusion by watching some of the interviews in the special features Blu-Ray of my set. People mentioned that Harrison Ford, as Deckard, took a solid beating in all of his confrontations with the Replicants, and that makes me think he was just a true-blue human underdog. If he was a Replicant, wouldn’t he have been able to stand up to the other Replicants better? Now, you could argue that he was a more primitive Replicant, or one not endowed with the same physical powers that a combat model like Batty was, but why would the police/Tyrell send an inferior Replicant to hunt down their top of the line models? So that’s why I think Deckard is human.

PLAYAN: Mordheim: City of the Damned. It’s a pretty good ‘roguelike’ strategy game (permadeath, you can lose permanently, etc.) but IMO it could be a lot better. The maps get very repetitive after a while (though the “campaign” missions are a solid challenge), and character customization is *very* limited, though perhaps I’d been spoiled by XCOM. You can’t change skin color, facial features, etc. for your characters, you can only change the color of their clothing and sometimes different hats, beards, hairstyles, and shirts, and some other minor clothing details. No voice changing, and what choices you do have tend to be pretty limited. In XCOM you have tons of hats and clothing choices, but in Mordheim, you have maybe a dozen different models for each body part at most.

I also wish there was a class changing system or something like that. You can choose different skills for your guys, and of course give them different weapons (which you can enchant), but that’s as far as it goes. As it stands, there’s very little variety in the composition of your warband after you’ve unlocked the “impressive” character option (impressive units are big ones like ogres, mutants, etc). I hear they’re released a couple new heroes as DLC, but without a good class changing system it has little appeal to me. I guess I’m one of those Tactics Ogre/Fire Emblem fans who absolutely love changing classes 😄
A few other annoyances: The repetitiveness of the maps makes it much harder to navigate; it’s difficult to tell where your soldiers are when everything looks the same (and most of the enemies too, for that matter). The game allows you to set beacons around that show up as giant pillars of light, but those aren’t very effective as landmarks because they’re thin and often hard to see, they’re not very bright. Also, the game isn’t panel-based, when you want to move a character around a circle shows up surrounding them and you can use the WASD keys to move freely. This sounds cool, but it can be very annoying when you’re trying to interact with objects; you have to be standing right on top of the area right in front of a chest or something to look at it, and it’s annoying trying to get your unit in *exactly* the right place to look at it. With panels or hexes, it’s much easier to tell when a soldier is next to something.

Finally, there doesn’t seem to be a roster or anything like that for your warband, where you can keep track of how many of your soldiers have died. I liked that in XCOM, where they have a list of all the soldiers you’ve lost and how each died, but such a feature seems absent in Mordheim. Ah well :p

Still, Mordheim‘s kept me occupied for a solid week, so I’d say it was a solid purchase, all things considered. If the team had more resources and time with which to create a more involved character customization and progression system, that’d be mighty cool ;D

 


 

READAN: The XCOM 2 novelization. I’ll try to avoid spoilers here, but suffice it to say I agreed with most of the amazon.com reviews. I thought it was only “okay.” The writing wasn’t exceptional, nor were the characters particularly memorable, but there were some nice action scenes with enemies from the game, so that was good. It’s not really a novelization of the game itself, mind you, but a description of the events leading up to the game. I’m not sad I bought it–I wanna support the XCOM developers–but I wouldn’t have paid full price for it if I didn’t.

I’m also reading Ira Berlin’s The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations. I like it, but sometimes the writing can get a little turgid. Some of the paragraphs in the beginning I found a little lengthy and hard to parse, though other parts of the book, particularly his explanations of de-industrialization, were very concise and easy to understand. Overall, really, his writing was reasonably good aside from a few early sections.

As an overview of African-American history including the very important fourth great migration (The first was the Middle Passage, the second was the movement of slaves across the interior of the U.S, the third the internal immigration of Southerners to the North during/after WWI, the fourth is the immigration of people from Africa of their own free will to America in the second half of the 20th century and ongoing), Berlin’s book is quite solid and I would recommend it as an introductory text to African-American history. However, I do have a few interpretative criticisms—though they’re pretty minor.

Berlin claims that the ‘fourth migration’ (involving African immigrants) is part of the larger current of African-American history. However, he also notes that the Africans themselves don’t necessarily consider themselves African-Americans, nor do the African-Americans consider the African arrivals African-Americans; he demonstrates this throughout the book with news articles, etc. illustrating arguments and occasionally conflict between native and immigrant African communities. It’s a something of a tension he doesn’t really resolve. He kind of brings it up in the very last paragraph of the epilogue, but not in any concerted way. How would Africans themselves—the ones who said the Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t part of “their” history, using an anecdote from the beginning—react to being included under the banner of the Fourth Migration? It would have been nice if he’d got insight from an African or Caribbean immigrant directly addressing this question—and I’m sure someone from that community has—rather than the brief note at the end of the book referring back to the “African immigrants discuss the Proclamation” anecdote.

Some more odd things I noticed made me a little suspicious of how he framed black history as a “series of migrations” as well. In chapter 3, his discussion of the second migration (black slaves in America being sold around among the states), he includes the aftermath of emancipation as a part of it. While yeah, obviously, you’ll want a comprehensive American history text to include what happened after the Civil War, categorizing the migrations of newly freedmen as part of the Second Migration, which was amongst the enslaved, struck me as a little strange. Similarly, in chapter 4, on page 154 Berlin states that “contemporaries called the massive exodus of black people from the South the great migration; in fact it was only the beginning of a third passage. it began with World War I and concluded in the decades following the end of World War II.” However, I had always heard that the migration of blacks to the North following World War I was called the first great migration and the migration north following World War II was called the second great migration. Again, I can understand why he’d jettison that schema in favor of one that included the Middle Passage and internal slave trade, but those were still separate events—and grow even more separate when you get to blacks moving back South later on. So it seems to me that while Berlin is correct to characterize migration as an important part of black life, setting it up as “Four Great Migrations” might be lumping in a whole lot of smaller but still distinct migrations into each other. ;o

Finally, on pages 190 to 191, Berlin doesn’t really mention the role of Anti-Nazism in justifying racial egalitarianism following WWII. As I recall, direct repudiation of Nazi racial theories was an important weapon civil rights activists had in their arsenal, but Berlin didn’t mention that at all. That’s no biggie, though, since in a general overview as opposed to a really indepth monograph (The whole book is only about 250 pages, not counting footnotes), that’s a more specific detail it’s understandable to glide over if you’re pressed for space.

So yeah, good reading this week overall. 😀

WRITAN: A long post pwning some Confederate apologia I’m pretty damn proud of, all things considered. Check it out:

https://www.reddit.com/r/badhistory/comments/4cnuz9/not_all_it_was_faithfully_cracked_up_to_be_a/

TIMAN: Dragonar 14! Yes, my friends, I’m back in the anime translation groove–admittedly, I just help, the real translators are my friends Gorgewall and Starseeker! Check it out here:

https://msubsreleases.wordpress.com/2016/03/29/metal-armor-dragonar-14-a-new-start/

And that should do it for this week. See ya next Friday, for the next installment of living the best life!

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2 comments

  1. Hammershlag · · Reply

    About time I return to commenting on your posts. I’d’ve done so sooner, but life hasn’t given me enough time to read such detailed writings.

    Glad to hear you’re enjoying life, and I hope everything regarding your dissertation goes well.

    I read what you wrote on Reddit, and while I completely agree with you, a large part of me has a hard time believing people like Potter – who claim to be pious men yet bear so much hate – exist. I consider myself religious; I read the scriptures and regularly attend services, but I cherry pick the parts about lovingkindness, peace and acceptance, not hate, violence and oppression, and I don’t take the stories at face-value. Frankly I can’t understand how any civilized human claiming to be religious could possibly do the opposite.

    1. Thanks for the comment, friend. I’m not sure Potter is “hateful” so much as he is entirely misguided, self-deluded, and foolish. As I mention in my conclusion, this sort of ‘Lost Cause” nonsense in regards to the Confederacy has a great deal of traction in many places, and often and lamentably latches itself into people who aren’t overtly hateful or malicious. :/

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