Monday, December 31, 2012

Though it nearly took a miracle to get you to stay, it only took my little finger to blow you away

I just finished playing through Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, a DS game released by Capcom in 2010 and in the US in 2011. It's the brainchild of Shu Takumi, the guy behind the Ace Attorney series.

The idea is that you, alas, have died, and now you're a ghost with no memory of who you are or why you were killed. You have the ability to interact with the world by manipulating certain objects, and you can also, by inhabiting dead people's bodies, travel four minutes into the past and use your powers to prevent them from dying, generally in a Rube-Goldberg-ish fasion.

What unfolds is an intricate story of discovery that keeps you guessing right to the end, though not in a way that feels unfair or arbitrary. It's shot full of well-done humor--particularly involving an enthusiastic pomeranian whose life you save and who in turn helps you--and it's ultimately a very memorable and moving story about redemption and second chances. I think it's going to stay with me like few videogame stories have. Something this effective is, to put it mildly, a rarity in a videogame, and it's enhanced by the use of very unusual, stylized anime characters whose unique mannerisms and ways of moving are extremely well-animated. The gameplay is really nothing like that of Ace Attorney games, but if you like them, you'll surely like this too. I like them, and I think this is better than any of them. Nowadays, there's also an iOS version, so if you don't have a DS but do have an iphone or whatnot, you can still give it a try.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

I haven't been this happy since the end of World War II

It's hard for me to articulate what Leonard Cohen's music has meant to me over the years, and frankly, I'm not sure I really want to in a public forum like this.  Suffice it to say: a lot.  There was one year where I was listening to The Future pretty much 24/7.  When I had to do a layout project for a document design class I was taking as part of my MA program, I used its song lyrics.  Closest thing to a religious experience I've had, is that album.  It's interesting: Cohen is not a prolific artist; he's released only twelve studio albums in forty-plus years, and really, only five of those are great, if we're being generous.  But when he's good (and even when the albums themselves aren't great, there are sure to be at least a few great songs on them, unless they're Dear Heather) he's just SO good that he's been able to accrue a legendary reputation anyway.  I'm not going to say that he's my favorite musician ever, necessarily; that's a highly mutable distinction with so many different valences.  But he's certainly up there.
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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Surprising literary news

Holy shit, dude--the long-in-the-works, semi-legendary new novel by William H. Gass (who is currently eighty-eight years old, I note) actually has a cover an' a release date an' everything.

I don't know about you, but I'M inspired.  This may spur me on to finally tackle Gass's short fiction, which I haven't read to date for no very justifiable reason.

What's amazing to me is how quaint the particular literary moment that Gass is part of feels these days.  Don't get me wrong; I dig some Barth and Gaddis, but it's hard to deny that the only writer in this grouping who maintains a prominent spot in our literary landscape is Pynchon.  The others really have a strong feel of dusty academia about them, and this applies to no one more than Gass, always the most forebodingly ivory-tower-y of the bunch.  I'm totes going to read Middle C, but I must say, it is almost impossible for me to imagine a new Gass novel in this day and age being of the remotest interest to any non-academic.  However, I find the fact that he does not care about any of this and continues to follow his particular idiosyncratic muse in spite of everything to be inspiring.  Mebbe he'll churn out another one just for kicks, and publish it when he's one hundred four.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

John Crowley, The Deep (1975)

Okay, so now you're surely not wondering what ever happened to the notion that I was going to read Crowley's early novels, but I feel I owe it to you to clarify.  I definitely intend to return to Crowley one of these days, but here's the thing: I read this, his first novel.  And, er, it pains me to say it, but it was reeeeaaaally bad, and it sort of put me off the guy for the time being.  For the time being, dammit!  Little, Big remains one of the best novels ever.  Let's be clear about that.
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