Some part of my brain has still been fretting about the quality of my writing, which is just counterproductive. So screw it. Here’s a roundup.
Am Reading: Death of a Hornet by Robert Finch
I picked this up at Bart’s Books in Ojai (the world’s largest outdoor bookstore!) mostly because I was delighted to find a piece of home so far away. I also listen to Robert Finch’s Cape Cod Notebook on our local NPR station and have enjoyed his take on the details of life on this strange little spit of land.
Look, it’s no secret that I’m ambivalent about living on the cape. In the high and low seasons, I tend to dread it — it’s either extremely crowded or devastatingly empty, and I guess I don’t like either state. But then fall and spring come along — fall mellow and long, spring subtle and slow — and I’m reluctantly charmed all over again.
This book shares that effect, making me like our little world down here a little bit more than I normally would in July.
Now it rains, whipping and thumping on the roof, an earnest drumming and splattering, a real Cape Cod “tempest” that tests the snugness of our hiding places, mine and the crickets. Just before I fall asleep I still hear their calls through the rain and wind, dampened at last, but not silenced. Nothing will do that but the frost.
Am Doing: Daily woods
I walk the same woods every day, which means I’m more and more in tune with the changes summer brings. The late June flowers have shed their petals and the green is deepening. I like recognizing trees by their leaves. I like watching the dragonflies dart. I dislike the deer flies buzzing and biting, but it is deep summer. I let Baxter swim every night and daydream on the sand.
Am Playing: Bioshock Infinte
I picked up Bioshock Infinite immediately following Bioshock 2, having a vague notion that muscle memory would serve me well. Well, they are very different games. I suppose you could have played Bioshock the way you play Infinite — relying on cover, aiming, etc — but I found it clunky in the original games. After all, in order to use a plasmid you’d have to hit the key command to exit aim, and for someone uncoordinated in panic, it just didn’t work well.
I loved Infinite. I played 90% of it this weekend in a day and a half, because a) I enjoyed almost every fight and b) I really wanted to see the end of the story. I also picked up Episode 1 of Burial at Sea as soon as I finished, desperate for more.
Infinite starts with a rainy rowboat ride (powered by a couple of bickering brits) to a lighthouse in the middle of the ocean. The bickering brits hand over a box with a couple of essential items (a key, a gun, a picture) and then row off merrily, leaving Booker to his own devices on the steps of the lighthouse. Hmm, I thought, this lighthouse SURE LOOKS FAMILIAR (although, of course, there is no Bathysphere to Rapture in this one, since you are going to the clouds).
Nothing about the opening minutes of the game fills me with confidence for a world free of nutjobs. For one thing, there are these needlepoint signs on the wall. For another, the lighthouse keeper has met a rather unfortunate demise…
and, Booker’s an unsavory protagonist (it doesn’t help that in the loading screens you can see that he’s a Pinkerton detective — those were tough men who were responsible for some pretty horrific union busting during labor strikes). He talks like something out of a 1920s detective mystery, too — emotionless and rough edged.
Sidenote: speaking of unfortunate demise, it sure looks like the town on the shores of this lighthouse is completely on fire. Worrying!
Naturally our strange little hero here has no problem sitting in a chair at the top of a lighthouse where someone’s been murdered. Video game characters have the same decision making process as horror movie characters, which appears to be “…” I wasn’t even surprised to find the chair locked Booker in and our seat turn into a rocket shop TO THE CLOUDS. Because this is Bioshock logic.
It’s alright, though — look at how beautiful Columbia is! Just look at it.
Booker doesn’t seem too alarmed at being transported to the skies, but I am. The entrance terminal for Columbia is a temple filled with references to being led to a new Eden, Lambs (which just throws me back to Bioshock 2 anyhow), and other such overtly religious symbols. I find this nearly as alarming as the whole rocket to the clouds thing, but Booker seems remarkably relaxed. Man’s seen a whole lot of the world to be so unfazed about all of this.
In order to enter Columbia proper, you have to be pure of heart. The preacher is operating under the the mindset of many deeply religious groups: no one is pure of heart until they are reborn by baptism. I guess I’m just glad that it’s a water baptism and not a baptism by fire, although the preacher rightly sense that Booker’s really just going through the motions here and thus needs an Extra-Strength baptism by near drowning. Ok.
Booker wakes up still spluttering and being loomed over by Jefferson with a gun. Ok, fine, it’s a scroll, but tell me you wouldn’t be alarmed to see Thomas Jefferson looming over you with ANYTHING. Despite his great credentials as a patriot, Jefferson was a bit of an ass (what with the whole ‘oh I hate slavery but I have hundreds of slaves but also I had children with one’). Looking around there’s also Washington with a sword and Benjamin Franklin with a key. American politics being what they are these days, I’m immediately distrustful of anyone with such a fetish for the original founders, especially those considered patriots, ESPECIALLY when they are being more or less defied. Look, Benjamin Franklin was a great, intelligent man and well worth studying, but he also was (or pretended to be) a womanizer, and also he married a 15 year old girl? And also had an illegitimate son? All of which may have been common at the time, but none of which help his sainthood, you know?
At any rate, here we are in Columbia! It’s the first time in a Bioshock game that I’ve been able to wander without people trying to kill me, so I send Booker around to eavesdrop on folks. Here in the garden of the church/entry terminal, some disciples are praying to the founders:
We worship the sword, so we might avenge you. We worship the raven, so we may cover the city with eyes. We worship the coffin, because it symbolizes the weight of our failure.
Yikes. Ok. I think I need a breather before Booker and I venture out into the wider world.