Most of Fup feels like a comedic short story. Like more profane Charles Portis or less absurd George Saunders. Maybe the sort of thing John Kennedy O’Toole might have written if he’d been alive to keep writing. But Fup stands apart for where Jim Dodge goes with his humor. He’s writing to amuse, to be sure. But he’s also writing to bring you someplace philosophical, perhaps even spiritual, but without any of the weight of philosophy or spirituality. It’s ultimately a tangle of homespun wisdom that lapses into folklore. The punchline isn’t really a punchline. It just might be a parable.
The Charterstone box is a nearly perfect expression of the experience of playing. It’s mostly blank. An empty sky. There’s nothing there. It’s unpainted. A canvas. Or rather, it doesn’t even exist yet. Not a void that has swallowed stuff, but an immaculate space waiting for your contribution. Oh, look, there’s a little patch of artwork on one side. A tiny zeppelin hovers over some crates. There are two quaint and assuming buildings behind it. This is how your game of Charterstone will begin. Twelve games later… Well, I’ll get to that in a sec.
There have been some terrible years in the modern age. 1939 can’t have been much fun. 1973 must have been a real bummer. 2001 was a sobering experience. But 2017 stands alone. It might be the worst year the world has yet seen.
In real life, my experience with fishing began and pretty much ended when I was a kid young enough to be scared by a fish. Which is a perfectly healthy thing to be scared of. When you impale fish on a hook and drag them out of the water, where they frantically thrash and flop their slimy wet bodies and prickly fins, eyes and mouths agape, it’s a horror show. As a kid, I wasn’t sure whether the fish was dying or attacking, but whichever the case, I wanted no part of it. Fish belong in water. “Fish out of water” is an idiom for a reason.
(This review was written for one of my Patreon review requests. If you’d like to compel me to watch and write about movies like this, please check out my Patreon campaign.)
I have no business telling the guys who invented the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles what they did wrong, but I’m going to do it anyway. Hey, comic book guys from the 80s, when you invent a team of superheroes, the superheroes should be different from each other. For instance, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Avengers, the Incredibles, or the Justice League. A team of superheroes shouldn’t be four copies of the same thing. Even Charlie’s Angels always have at least one non-blonde. But the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are four of the same hero. That’s not how heroes work. That’s how bad guys work. Bad guys are all indistinct copies of each other. Heros should be the opposite as sure as white hats are the opposite of black hats. Heroes should represent individuality while bad guys represent conformist masses.
But these four turtles have to wear colored bandanas so you can tell them apart. There’s the orange one, the red one, the blue one, and the purple one. Even the color scheme is a big fail for leaving out a primary color in favor of two secondary colors. I eventually noticed that each turtle uses a different weapon. The red guy uses two sais, the blue guy uses katanas, the orange guy uses nunchucks, and the purple guy uses a staff. For me, watching the 1990 movie for the first time, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle is just a color and a weapon.
(This review was written for one of my Patreon review requests. Since Prey has been out for a while, I wrote specifically for people who have finished the game. It contains spoilers. Lots of spoilers.)
When F. Scott Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American lives, he wasn’t talking about second chances. A guy who writes Great Gatsby obviously believes in second chances. He was instead talking about the traditional structure of a three-act story. The first act sets up the conflict, the second act develops how the characters will deal with the conflict, and the third act is the climax in which everything is resolved. Fitzgerald was deriding Americans for skipping past the important second act in which the characters develop. Americans, he implied, go straight for the payoff.
Prey, a solid entry in the tradition of Bioshock, is the opposite of American lives. It is almost all second act. Continue reading →
The greatest arms race of all time has nothing to do with superpowers and nuclear weapons, or even anything man-made. It is instead a natural process that has played out around the world over literally millions of years. Sometimes with actual arms. Literal arms. You know, the things that stick out of your shoulders that were once flippers. Continue reading →
You know how sometimes you think it would be cool to be back in school? Just learning about neat things, sampling a broad array of subjects, getting back to the classics of art, the fundamentals of science and mathematics, the greatest hits of history? Spending entire days just getting smarter? That would be cool, right?
But hold on a second. Continue reading →
I can go on at length about the difference between reviewers and critics. Seriously, don’t get me started. Suffice to say, one of them makes a worthwhile contribution. The other is just kind of there to little effect, hardly more than another number stirred into an aggregate. I know which one I hope to be, but I also have enough healthy self-doubt to suspect which one I usually am.
So Review is particularly relevant to me as a mean-spirited jeer at the futility of evaluating experiences in isolation instead of actually experiencing them in context. This Comedy Central series just wrapped a third and supposedly final season earlier this year. But is it any good?
It is a dark and stormy night. You wake up among a pile of bodies in the bottom of an open pit. You have no memory of who you are or how you got here.
You have a ring of keys. You have a Zippo lighter.
You find a gun. It’s loaded. A woman throws a rope down to you.
The woman is gone. There is a house in the distance with the lights on. You hear people talking inside.
GO TO HOUSE
You are at the house. The front door is unlocked.
From watching The Sandbaggers, I have come to appreciate two things. The first is Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. Matthew Holness and Richard Ayoade’s ode to bad British genre TV from the 70s is hilarious even if you don’t know bad British genre TV from the 70s. What else would it be with Holness, Ayoade, the incomparable Matt Berry, and the even more incomparable Alice Lowe? But now that I’ve seen Sandbaggers, which has the same style, tone, and production values that Darkplace lovingly mocked, I get the joke even better. So this is what it was like to watch TV in the UK!
But then there’s the second thing I’ve come to appreciate. Continue reading →
I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t this. I thought the first season would feel like a complete experience from A to B to Z. But just as I think it’s wrapping everything up, it instead resets everything. It goes from A to B to A-point-one. The situation has not changed substantially. Some of the characters’ lives have certainly changed, but the overall situation might as well be a reset to the beginning of the season. Continue reading →
“This is me, yo, right here.”
The epigraphs in The Wire are a great way to call attention to a moment without, well, calling attention to it. I read it, it goes out of my head as I’m watching, and then when the line pops up, I go, “Oh yeah!” This episode’s epigraph suggests Wallace felt his return was inevitable. It implies a certain fatalism. But he made the choice to come back. He made the choice to ask to get back into “the game”. He made the choice to demur when D’Angelo nudged him to follow through with his earlier plans to go back to school. When he says the line in the epigraph, it’s basically a credo. Even an epitaph. Continue reading →
Hey, The Wire, I’m cool with some ambiguity about the characters I like. So McNulty’s an asshole, D’Angelo’s morally crippled, Bubs is a junkie, Prez is incompetent in the field, Daniels is supposedly “dirty”, and Omar is a cold-blooded murderer. All that’s cool. I can work with that. But once I’ve decided I don’t like characters, stop making me like them. Continue reading →
Goddammit. Continue reading →