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Other Pursuits, October 2022

BEIN’ SPOOKED, END OF STORY.
Nah jk I probably did some other stuff too, like quit Twitter; lemme have a rummage.

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Playin

Final Fantasy XIV:

Yes, that’s right, I’m back on the hard stuff after eight clean months. I’m as disappointed in me as you are! With the Pumpkin Cookie emotes, and the not understanding how casting lots for loot at the end of a dungeon works! It’s just such a great game, and the player community is so helpful and welcoming, although I do find myself frustrated a bit that PC players with their fancy “key-boards” can be like “Hey on this next one let me draw the aggro so you can all DPS from outside the AOE; Esuna for the debuffs, buffs for me, watch out for minions, and we’ve got this! *dance* *finger guns* *mime paddling a canoe* *standing backflip* Also let me know if you want to join my FC, our Linkshell is super chill! ❤️❤️❤️🍔🍔🍔” and in that time I’ll be able to either do the Greeting emote or, if I’m putting my soul to hazard and trying to use the virtual keyboard, type ‘clarf’.
One of the strongest arguments I can make in its favor is that I’ve been playing for at least the 60 hours you’d expect from a AAA game across several months of my human life, and I’m still in the free bit, not even having finished A Realm Reborn, the first of the two main scenarios included in the trial. Partly of course that’s just good marketing–once I finish A Realm Reborn and Heavensward I’ll have no qualms at all about shelling out for a subscription and Complete Edition download that’ll shake out to about $20 each for Stormblood, Shadowbringers, and Endwalker–but generally speaking you can just play the game for free and have access to a shocking amount of stuff. It’s good enough and generous enough and has enough longevity that I’m seriously considering getting a Steam Deck just to have the option to play it while we’re watching TV or whatever; I actually managed to get it running on my Vita through the PS4 Link, but dawgs I have been spoiled by the Switch because the Vita is so smol. You can adjust the UI sizes and whatnot and for leveling and raids and similar it would work just fine, but it’s not a viable long-term-play prospect.
Ultimately I don’t think I will, though; the Switch has been a revelation in getting longer games played, but no one would suggest that you’re really engaged with NieR: Automata if you’re playing it on a 7-inch screen while watching Bob’s Burgers, and FFXIV is a game that really warrants actually investing your active attention in. Also Sunday is the only day my wife and I have off together, and lately they’ve been her playing Picross her on her 3DS and me playing FFXIV on the TV; those days and memories are precious to me, and I don’t want to rush through them or make them feel commonplace by turning my half of them into an everyday thing. FFXIV tastes just great ladled out a few hours per week, and I intend to keep chomping away at it for a long time.


Persona 5 Royal:

COOL-CAT SOUNDTRACK AND CURMUDGEONLY COFFEE-DAD ARE BACK BAYBEEEEEE
I would have to imagine that most people who have an interest in huge, slow JRPGs where you build friendships with people and then do crimes with them while collecting monsters that represent aspects of the human psyche would’ve snagged P5 in its original form, as I did back in the day, but maybe it was too expensive, or maybe you were too young for it, or maybe you didn’t like video games yet. Whatever the reason, this is one of the most JRPG-ass JRPGs you could possibly play, and if you’re at all intrigued by what you may have seen regarding jazz-tune mod-fashion heists with monsters, this is WELL worth your time and interest.
P5R finally just dropped on the dang Switch, as we ALWAYS KNEW IT WOULD (and as its sequel confusingly did several years ago), and I’m so glad I waited for it because boy HOWDY is this thing just a treat on handheld, and the added quality-of-life improvements make it MILES better than its original incarnation, which already rightfully won many GOTY awards in its time. Guns reload between battles now! You can see a Persona’s nature when you’re negotiating with it! Morgana gets off your fuckin’ back about wanting to read a bit of an evening! It’s just better and more fun to play in every respect, and I haven’t even hit any of the new story-stuff or new characters because the pacing is so fantastic but slow compared to what we’ve come to expect from games. A+, unqualified success.
There’s only one thing I don’t like about Persona as a franchise, and it shows up in every title in the series: bounded time-management, where every in-game day has only so many time-slots, and doing things–exploring dungeons, building social bonds with your teammates, reading or training to increase your stats, etc.–consumes those time-slots, and you will always have more options and things you want to do than you have time to do them. Just like real life! I get why it’s a good mechanic, and it does accurately reflect the regimented nature of high school life, it just stresses me out and fills me with executive dysfunction. Interestingly my favorite game, Night In The Woods, does the exact same goddamn thing but I didn’t even notice the first time I played it, because it doesn’t put the mechanism on-screen to loom over and mock you; of course much of P5R is deadline-based and arranging your priorities is crucial, and NITW is the exact opposite, there’s no pressure because the main character has dropped out of college and is quite literally, as they say, kicking around on a piece of ground in her hometown, waiting for someone or something to show her the way.


Readin’

New Teeth: Stories,
By Simon Rich

Some podcast or other recommended this to me and as soon as I started it my brain was immediately paralyzed by laughter. Every story in this collection is related in some way to growth, whether it’s a pirate and his first mate maturing enough to co-parent a wee stowaway-girl, or a laserdisc player coming to accept that its time has come to an end despite its ability to play Backdraft with only three breaks for disc flips and switches, or a two-year-old hard-boiled detective growing out of his world-weariness to help his one-year-old sister of a dame despite his misgivings about her:

“Her past was murky,” Rich writes. “The detective had heard that she came from the hospital. But there was also a rumor she’d once lived inside Mommy’s tummy. It didn’t add up. Still, a job was a job.”

Some stories are longer, some are more somber and thoughtful, but all are hilarious and well worth your time.


The Stand: Complete And Uncut,
By Stephen King

I’m reading this to my wife every night at bedtime, as a kind of catharsis for the past few years; it’s long and much of it has aged very poorly because it was originally written in the 70’s and this extended version was revised and updated to take place in 1990, so there’s this weird mishmash of sensibilities and a lot of it clangs. That said, of the many criticisms one could reasonably level against King, dude knows how to tell a story, and once you burn off the crust and garbage and skip the entire goddamn part about The Kid, it’s a great story told very well and we’re enjoying it a lot. It’s taking a long time to get through because it’s a thousand friggin’ pages, but so far it’s been worth the ride for the discussion to be had regarding trauma alone.


Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America,
by Jon Mooallem

Jon’s the man; you may recall his article on the failed plan to transplant the hippopotamus to the United States that I cited in my article on the war that gave birth to America’s cheese caves. His thoroughness and skill as a journalist is equaled only by how goddamn readable his work is, and I knew I’d have to snag this after I heard him perform a bit of it out loud with accompaniment by Black Prairie on this episode of 99% Invisible. As most good things are, it’s about a lot of things: how every subsequent generation inherits a world with less wilderness and fewer animals (both in diversity and sheer number), how humankind is obsessed with animals but in the hyperrealism-sense of being obsessed with Disneyland instead of actual medieval castles, and about chasing Martha Stewart across the Churchill tundra. Parts of it are bummers, and I would argue that it’s appropriate to be bummed by many of the simple facts in it regarding what we’ve done to the world and the creatures we share it with, but it’s ultimately hopeful and provides many reasons for optimism, mainly involving people who dedicate their lives to getting rare birds named Beer Can to mate with special devices they wear on their heads. If you’re intrigued but unconvinced, I would say listen to that 99PI I linked to above and if you like what you hear, you’ll like what you read; for my part, I plan to read absolutely everything else he’s written after this.


Watchin’

Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet Of Curiosities

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Yes, thank you, it is Very Good, go watch it. It’s like Beatles week on American Idol; I don’t have anything to say that someone else hasn’t already said better.


The Last Man On Earth

Much like The Stand above, we’re consuming this as a kind of low-grade therapy, and it’s much more palatable emotionally because it is delightful. The humor is exactly my brand of wordplay-centric nonsense, the tone is relentlessly optimistic, and the characters undergo actual growth and development, which I think actually contributed to its downfall; the main character is deliberately written and portrayed as a self-centered, amoral chud in the first season because in-world he’s been completely alone for two years, and narratively because he needs somewhere to start in order to progress, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking “Oh this is just what this show is” and declining to continue. But as it aged, it not only stayed hilarious and shockingly smart but gentled and sweetened into one of the most wholesome shows we’ve ever watched that also manages to touch a great deal on the trauma and nature of found-family that would naturally result from a band of survivors trying to figure out how the hell to live in a new world together.


So that’s me this month, or at least what I can get done before it ends tonight. What about you all? Where have you found both hope at world’s end and giant fucking rats where you (and Masson) least expect them? What have you been reading, and was it as hard for you to not list My Hero Academia, Vol. 1 as it was for me because I already talk too much about comics? What have you been playing to simulate having social connections, which I just realized both of those games are largely designed to do?

And now we’re gonna go take the step-grandkids trick-or-treating! Everybody be safe, be good to yourselves, be good to each other, wear your goddamned masks for spooky AND safety reasons, and I’ll see you on the other side. Good spookums to all, and to all a good fright!

–The Bageler


In the time of the 1917 war
Molasses sittin’ on the Boston shore

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