25 November, 2009

Monster

Every day I wake up around the time that the local rock station, which wakes me up, plays what is called a "deep cut", by request. It's basically a classic song that doesn't get much radio play - either because it was never popular as a single, or because its popularity has waned over the years. Needless to say, the deep cuts are far more interesting than the other 99% of the material the corporate radio stations (this one the same as all the others) play.

Some days I'm awake enough to consciously register what song is played, other days I'm not. Today I was, and the song played was Steppenwolf's epic three-part Monster/Suicide/America. It's a great song, one that I've put on a Collection in the past, though I don't hear it often. It also runs on for a good nine minutes or so - it doesn't feel overlong, but that's surely a good enough reason not to give it regular radio play.

So I listened closely (more than usual anyway) to the lyrics as the song played today, and I couldn't help remarking at how poignant they are. And you hear this about old media from time to time, but it's really true that the song is every bit as relevant today as it was back when it was written, right around the turn of the seventies. I think it just might be one of the best political songs I know of. It certainly paints a fantastic portrait of America. I remember Quinn in the Morning used to use the chorus from the third part of the song to open his radio show every day, years ago, but the song has much more value than just that novelty, I assure you.

Burning Photos

I know it's old news by now (over a year old), but every once in awhile I think about the photos I lost at Burning Man when my camera disappeared in the throng of people circling the smoldering ruins of the Man, after I had stripped off everything to join the festivities. As amazing an experience as Burning Man was, losing that camera is an unfortunate scar on the event. Not that I blame Burning Man for it, though. It was just a sad twist of fate.

But the photos I took there were once in a lifetime (unless I ever have the opportunity to go back). Not only was it Burning Man, which is a completely unique event, but it was also in the middle of the desert. When am I gonna find myself in the middle of the desert again? What a location. And furthermore, it was one of the few places I know of where you can roam naked through crowds of people, without hardly attracting a second glance, taking pictures as you go.

Speaking of which. I remember taking a few pictures out in front of Center Camp. I set up my camera beside my bike (you should have seen the contraption I built by combining my sun umbrella with the bike, and my attempt to anchor it enough to prevent the whole damn thing from blowing away in the wind), then went and stood center frame, with the camp behind me not too far in the distance, and the regular passage of people to either side of the path I was on. I remember some guy biking between me and the camera during one of my attempts, and I'm pretty sure he ruined the shot. Not his fault, I know, just a funny and somewhat frustrating coincidence.

I also took some great shots in the middle of a dust-storm, with me just far enough away from the camera to be partially though not wholly obscured by the dust. The dust in those storms was like a granular fog. I also remember getting some cool pictures of a dust devil that roamed through the city - I was at a perfect vantage point to get the perspective of it against the city, from just inside the border of the central circle of the playa.

Other shots I'll miss are the ones I took out on the deep playa, both during the day and during the night. During day, I took some great 'walking on the moon' type shots, including one with me in a despairing pose, which I already had a title planned for. I don't remember specifically what it was going to be, but it involved a cynical reference to friends/companions/guidance from others, that sort of thing. The idea being that some people say that everybody has somebody, when in truth there are some who are truly alone.

At night, I took some amazing shots. I don't know that they'd turn out that great, given the perspectives involved, but they'd be an awe-inducing reminder of the view from the trash fence deep playa at night. The city glowing and pulsing almost beyond the limit of hearing, spread out flat along the horizon at a wide angle, but squished vertically onto the surface of the earth, with an immense stretch of darkness above and below. Or, I might have tried to take shots of the stars, which were absolutely gorgeous from all the way out there. I don't know if that camera I had then was up to the task, but the stars were gorgeous regardless. You could see the Milky Way clearly. Too damn romantic a place to scope out without a date, but then again, it really makes you feel small and alone in the universe.

Even if I couldn't get the camera, or more importantly, the photos back, I still can't help being curious as to what happened to it. Was it tossed into the fire? Did it otherwise find its way into the fire (e.g., kicked unintentionally)? Was it picked up by someone? And if so, what was done with it? Was it tossed out? Was it 'refurbished'? Were my photos just deleted, just like that? Or are they still out there, somewhere, waiting to be rediscovered by historical anthropologists thousands of years from now? And what was with that one guy who emailed me after the festival, in response to my Lost & Found inquiry, who claimed to have my camera, but never responded to me after that? I never did get my camera back... What was it all for?

Questions of a thousand dreams...

22 November, 2009

In Memory of Elizabeth Reed



Or 'Liz Reed', for short, has always been one of my favorite Allman Brothers songs (along with the more rocking Whipping Post, and others), ever since my first listen to At Fillmore East. What I like about Liz Reed, beside the fact that it's an instrumental both beautiful and powerful, is that the song is very well organized, with solo sections set out for the various band members, in true jam band fashion. The song opens up with some beautiful melodies (accompanied by the band's trademark harmonies), before diving into a set of solos. Guitarist Dickey Betts, who penned the song, takes the first solo, followed by Gregg Allman on the organ, which leads into Duane Allman's furious solo, followed by a short drum break, and then the song concludes with a reprise of the main melody. As expected, the song often stretches out in live format to truly epic proportions. But even in its relatively concise form as recorded in the studio, clocking in at around just seven minutes, it's still a compelling track.

Thanks to a video link via Stickman, I've taught myself the main portions of the song. I'm gonna look into trying to learn one or both of the guitar solos (a man can dream), but even without them, it's still immensely fun to play. Now, about the rest of my band...

19 November, 2009

I Want To Believe

Because the phantom reader whom you, unknown reader, never hear from isn't satisfied in letting me rest...


The X-Files: I Want To Believe


Now, if you told me that it's been a decade since I stopped watching The X-Files, I'd actually be inclined to believe you (whether I want to or not). Come to think of it, the first X-Files movie was released (according to IMDb) in 1998. WAIT, IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE? I was a high school freshman in 1998. O_O

Anyway.

I wanted to see this, the second X-Files movie when it came out a summer or two ago, but it spent like a week in theaters (curse you, theaters), so no go. But I just watched it. And it was pretty good. Whatever you might say about the premise, I wasn't expecting it to be classic X-Files, just on account of the time lapse alone. But, I thought it was a successful homage to classic X-Files. As a movie, it didn't have the kick and the epicness (nor the aliens) of the first X-Files movie, but I enjoyed it. And it felt like a good finale to the franchise (regardless of whether or not it will be).

Mulder and Scully have moved on - together, but on. Neither of them work at the FBI any longer. Scully has pursued her dream of being a doctor - a real doctor - and Mulder has secluded himself like a hermit in a remote house in snowy...West Virginia? Or somewhere. His work room is pasted with news clippings and actually looks pretty much like his office at the FBI looked (complete with the iconic poster). Also, he's apparently wanted by the FBI for his crackpot theories. Or something.

Well, just when you thought you were out, the FBI has a way of pulling you back in. And yes, certain themes in this movie, while they may or may not have been overtly meant as such, they did have a vague Milleniumistic flavor. It seems that in this movie, Mulder and Scully, who have finally gotten together (and I do mean together), face many of the problems Frank Black and his wife faced - the dilemma of "retirement", in Mulder's case, and whether he can truly ever escape the demons that led him into the field, and whether or not the two of them can keep the darkness that their previous lives repeatedly confronted them with at bay. Et cetera.

So, the FBI wants Mulder back (and they can only get to him through Scully) for help in one specific case, where they have a psychic (who also happens to be a priest and a convicted child molester - on top of whether or not to believe his abilities, there is the question of *should* we believe his visions, considering his character, and where are the visions coming from - the attic, or the basement, so to speak?) helping them track down a fellow FBI agent gone missing. Eventually, it all leads to a black market organ trade/stem cell research group operating incognito on abducted (and thus quite unwilling) human subjects.

So there's a lot going on, and there's a lot of interpersonal dynamics between Mulder and Scully, and though they may not have the pizzazz of their younger selves in the same roles, they are actually quite interesting to see, in a sort of "ten years later" capacity. You don't get to see that with all of your favorite characters. And there are enough nods to classic X-Files fans, also. Mulder's introductory speech is classic Fox Mulder, and though he shaves later, I think, while different, the beard look actually suited him. And his sister does come up briefly as a topic of concern. Scully is still battling with her religious devotion, and its conflict with her skepticism. And another classic character makes a triumphant (if brief) return (and no, I'm sorry, but it's not Krycek...).

I don't think there's a whole lot of point in continuing to ramble on, so I'll stop there. I'll still need to watch the rest of the TV series at some point, as it is the best [English] television show I've ever watched; though I kind of lost interest around that point that Mulder dropped off the cast list. But I had other things going on in my life at that time as well. At any rate, this movie was a satisfactory coda to the series.

18 November, 2009

Pathologic - Contents


As my blog has become flooded with Pathologic entries over the past month and a half, I figured it might be worthwhile to write up a little contents page to put those entries in order. Easier for you (and me) to find them, and easier for random passersby to make sense of them.

My Pathologic experience all started here. I went through each of the three scenarios - first the Bachelor, then the Haruspicus, and finally the Devotress - writing my thoughts down as I went along. Obviously, my ability playing and understanding the game increases throughout, from beginning to end - so expect 'adaptation' type entries early on (particularly throughout the Bachelor's scenario), and 'mastery' type entries later on (such as in the Devotress' scenario). There are certain entries that can or do stand alone, outside of a specific scenario (either in part or in whole), which I'll list here:

Getting to Know the Town - written during the Bachelor scenario, explains the basic layout of the town, and its inhabitants, as I understood it at the time.

The Rat Race - written during the Haruspicus' scenario, describing the rat race 'mini-game' introduced in that scenario.

Infection - discusses infection, the various forms it comes in, and how to deal with it, from the perspective of having beaten the game once (thus knowing most of the tricks).

Linguistic - brief discussion of the game's text and translation, and introduction to the Character Quips entries, which exhibit interesting (both humorous and insightful) quotations from all of the important characters: Part 1 (Utopians), Part 2 (Children), Part 3 (Criminals). May contain plot spoilers (it was written after completing the Bachelor and Haruspicus scenarios, but before starting on the Devotress).

The Juvenile Market - written early in the Devotress' scenario, discusses the mechanics of trading with the kids in town.

Lingering Questions - internal debate concerning general questions about the source of infection, Simon's importance, and other plot spoiling goodness, written a few days into the Devotress' scenario (and pulling on lots of information uncovered in the other two scenarios).

A Staggering Reveal - examination of the "staggering reveal" uncovered in the climax to the excellent three-part RPS review of Pathologic.

Another Note On Infection - more talk of infection, and strategies for dealing with it, written towards the end of the Devotress' scenario (with only one minor Klara-specific spoiler in the first paragraph).

Vanity - Some leftover screencaps and a few beautiful textures ripped from the game. Completely spoiler-free!

Setting the Mood - the last(?) Pathologic entry I've written (not counting this one), consisting of my best screencaps accompanied by my favorite quotes from the game. If you're reading ahead before clicking through to any of these entries (like they taught you to do in school :p), I recommend checking out this entry before any of the others. Then again, there's a little bit of clever juxtaposition in some of the words and images that only seasoned players may pick up. ;)

Now then, onto the player journals (a few of the above listed entries will repeat):

Scenario: The Bachelor

First Impressions
Warming Up
Quarantine
Progress
Trial By Fire
Getting to Know the Town
Jailbreak
Witch Hunt
Sacrifice
The Inquisitor Arrives
The Apiary Opens
The Army Arrives
The Tower
Slow Day
Day 11
Endgame:
The Final Decision
Betrayal


Scenario: The Haruspicus

Take Two
Unraveling the Mystery
Heritage
Brand
Of Life And Death
Of Beasts And Men
Intrigue
Into The Abattoir
The Rat Race
The Veins of Suok
Occupation
Signal Fires
Udurg
Map Quest (Long Distance Runaround)
Endgame:
Revelation
Shattering the Fourth Wall


Scenario: The Devotress

Messenger
Spirit of Rebellious Order
Detour: The Juvenile Market
Seeds of Caravan
Robbers and Bandits
Sacrament of Rubin
Angel of Death
Retribution
Town: Interiors
Town: The Head
Simon
Adherents
Another Note On Infection
Endgame:
Last Decision on Town


That's it. Enjoy!

(Okay, here's an Easter Egg - check out these cool conceptual drawings of the three healers!)

Pathologic - Setting the Mood

"Who never made follies is not so wise as it seems to him."
(Vlad Olgimskiy, Jr.)


"Actually, we are not powerless - we are weak-willed."
(Artemiy Burakh)


"My tongue is my enemy.
A well-thought game comes before."
(Gryph)


"Sometimes a person is as hardly similar to himself as to others."
(Eve Yahn)


"While reason aspires to one goal,
the heart imperceptibly strives for another."
(Julia Luricheva)


"It is impossible neither to stare at the sun,
nor at the death - who said it?"
(Alexander Saburov)


"It's easier to show wisdom in someone other's affairs,
than in your own."
(Victor Kain)


"The best way to be deceived,
is to consider yourself more artful than others."
(Victor Kain)


"Tell me what you want - and I shall tell you who you are."
(George Kain)


"The world is ruled by destiny and whim."
(General Block)


"Have you met sinister people in circus suits?"
(Anna Angel)


"People are more likely to slander themselves,
than be silent about themselves."
(Mark Immortal)


"The supreme valor is to make in loneliness the things that people usually dare to do only in the presence of many witnesses."
(Stanislav Rubin)


"Self interest plays any role - even a role of unselfishness."
(Vlad Olgimskiy, Jr.)


"Hardness is not an attribute of the true force."
(Elder Oyun)


"Folk wisdom says: beat in a bush, God will give out the guilty one."
(Alexander Saburov)


"It's hard to believe in things that lay outside our outlook."
(Victoria Olgimskiy, Jr.)


"The dream is a second supper."
(Laska)


"It is easier to operate people
than to prevent them from operating us."
(Vlad Olgimskiy, Jr.)


"The main thing is not to have time to think.
This...is a ticket to paradise."
(Petr Stamatin)


"The truth is not so beneficial as harmful, it appears."
(Daniel Dankovskiy)


"We easily forget our mistakes when they're known only to us."
(Petr Stamatin)


"Happy people are incorrigible. Destiny does not punish them for their sins, and they consequently think themselves innocent."
(Vlad Olgimskiy)


"There will be leisure when I am dead."
(Gryph)

17 November, 2009

Pathologic - Vanity

Pathologic is sometimes slagged for its outdated graphics, even while being praised for the effective use of those outdated graphics in constructing the town's atmosphere. It's true that I was turned off by the graphics initially - especially when they apply to people in the game - but after a month and a half of immersion in the town, I don't even notice the awkwardness. Instead, I find myself constantly admiring the scenery in the game. It's practically impossible for me to go from point A to point B without visually framing a dozen shots, and actually taking the best of those. I didn't take any screenshots during my first scenario, partly because I didn't know how to (I ultimately resorted to the fail-safe printscreen method), and partly because I was too absorbed in trying to survive to have any time to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. And yet, since starting to take screencaps, I've managed, now that I'm finished with the game, to take nearly 450 shots - the best of which have been posted in my journals here on this blog. I'll probably put them on a screensaver for a few months. ;D

What follows is not the best of the best of my shots (hm, maybe that would be worth compiling?), but just a handful of shots I took and liked enough to share, but wasn't able to fit into the flow of my journals (because I didn't want to overload the entries with images).









And, for good measure, here are a couple really nice textures I ripped from the game, which appear in the form of paintings on the walls of various people's homes.







That last one is probably my favorite.

Pathologic - Last Decision on Town

*Endgame Spoilers*


I went out Powder-hunting again late last night, and was very pleased to find one. Thus, on the twelfth day, I was able to get the Bachelor and the Haruspicus both in the Cathedral, though I ignored their arguments. I also had one last chance to speak to my adherents. And the General asked me to leave the town with him after the final decision is made. He wants to parade me across the country, healing the sick and stopping war all over.


On the other hand, Rubin explained to me what life could be like in the town, always at the ready to fight the plague if ever it resurfaces. Alexander went on at length, describing how to rule the town after he's gone, how to maintain the meat trade without attracting too much attention from the outside world. The Elder confirmed to me that his grandfather was a bull, and thus believes his blood line ought to be eliminated anyway. I have to admit I didn't learn as much about Lara or Julia as I was hoping to in this scenario. Ospina, while submitting to her fate, admitted that she was jealous of my position - she's the type who would get a kick out of going door to door, deciding who gets to live and who gets to die...


As expected, the Authorities invited me to chat with them again inside the dream inside the Polyhedron. The little girl seemed afraid to catch the disease from me, despite the plague being part of their game. The boy told me his favorite character was the brutish Elder, and that the girl's favorite was Lara. I discovered whose funeral it was that led to the creation of this game ("plague", not "Pathologic" - or is it?) - it was their grandfather's. Kind of mundane, but then again, it puts everything in perspective, and gives the whole sordid tale a really frightening relatability.


The Founders (a.k.a the Developer) then invited me to a chat in the Theatre, also as expected. I can't pretend to have understood everything they related to me... I mean, when they speak like this:

"It was a trick much more cunning than split mind. It was a trick of choosing my own destiny. Such a logic-time casus. The Mebius train of events. Reserve variant. It seems to have worked."

But from what I picked up, it became more or less apparent that my sister was an illusion all along, that I really was the disease - in a sense - and that my lie was actually the part about being a miracle maker. But my inability to tell a lie is what birthed me - me, not my sister, was the result of the lie. I - the plague? - believed I could work wonders, and so an alternate version of me was created, and I carried out my mission. I redeemed myself, by transforming from indiscriminate killer to compassionate healer. And I broke from the decree of Law. My sister/me helped me to understand this in the Cathedral during the final council.


And so it ends.

16 November, 2009

Pathologic - Another Note On Infection


*Spoilers*

Having reached the penultimate day of the scenario, I've managed thus far to find as many as 5 doses of Powder, though I haven't gotten any Panacea. Anticipating, from experience in past scenarios, the need to heal six of my rivals' adherents on the final day to get them into the Cathedral and allow for choosing their alternate endings (which is not required, but for completion's sake...), I decided it would be fruitful to try to find one more Powder. I was searching for my sister in the infected districts, when I remembered that the one other non-quest-related source for Powder (in addition to trading with the little girls), was in the drawers of infected houses (well, I had found at least one Powder in this manner before). So I went on a (unfortunately unsuccessful) hunt.


I didn't find a Powder, but I did learn something (though it doesn't surprise me). Protective clothing and immunity boosters are more useful than I've given them credit for. For obvious reasons. I had overlooked them due to the belief that, to utilize a metaphor, the only truly safe sex is abstinence. If wearing protective clothing and popping immunity strengthening pills could only do so much to prevent infection, the best method of keeping healthy is not to plow through the disease with your fingers crossed, but to avoid, avoid, avoid.

Different types of clothing offer different levels of isolation from infection, and the better isolators are of course more expensive. The best of the best are actually extremely expensive - these would be the army supplies that arrive with the General late in the game. But after the first few days, money (or supplies for that matter) has been no problem in this scenario (or run-through - not sure how much is due to the scenario and how much is due to my constantly improving proficiency at surviving in this town), so I've had the chance to take more risks and burn coin on a nice jacket or boots, for example.


And it helps. But here's where the real difference comes in. Your immunity tends to stick around 50% naturally. You can boost it up to 100%, or infect yourself and watch it drop to 0%, but around 50% is its natural level. At 50% it can only provide so much protection from infection, but at 100%, in combination with heavy protective clothing, you can actually walk through a cloud of infection and not get infected. Your immunity will drop a bit, but you'll stay healthy. Of course, it only works so many times before your immunity gets too low and then you'll get infected. But that's what the immunity boosters are for.

So before stepping into an infected house (or zone, though it's difficult to evade infection much moreso in the cramped houses), put on your protective clothing, and pop a pill or two. The best immunity boosters are the Delta tablets, which are rare, but they pump your immunity up to 100% with practically no health risk at all. Or use one of the concocted Twyrine brews - their effectiveness, which you can read on the label, varies. A good +93% immunity -3% health will work wonders. Just, depending on what you use, watch your health, and exhaustion, which can be negatively affected by medication.


And here's one last tip. You have a lantern which you can light up at any time, and you can find lantern oil at the clothing shops, and scattered throughout town (in drawers and such). I never considered it very useful, as there wasn't really any place in the game that was so dark (to my eyes) that it became necessary. But it does get pretty dark in some of the infected houses (it varies), and with the furniture strewn about, and the infection on your tail, a little extra light can go a long way. Remember it the next time you find yourself in a dark, diseased corner. ;)