As noted: minor Bleats for the rest of the Holiday Smear. There will usually be something, but I feel like taking a vacation. Tomorrow I'll have the first installment of a series of old toy ads. Post-Christmas, I don't know. I don't know! I don't know what sort of art should go on the top of the page! Same for the week after New Year's! Usually I have the next week laid out and ready to roll in advance, but the upcoming fortnight is graphically baffling. There's nothing that really says "the shank of the week following New Year's Day."

I look forward to 2014. I hate odd-numbered years. Just looking at "2013" for the last 50 weeks made my teeth hurt.

Oh, yes, this. As I said yesterday: It's not the same old version. I rewrote it and added a new ending that spins the story around a little. Click HERE and off you go.


Wednesday is turning into Restaurant Night with Daughter. Last week we went to St. Paul in the miserable dark to a decommissioned church where she auditioned for a role in a movie, then ate Smashburgers at Smashburger. Tonight we went to an active, thriving church for the last Advent service - now rebranded as “Early Christmas”; her Confirmation class had to attend, and I tagged along. The choir, as ever, was excellent; they did a finger-popping proto-doo-wop version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”. Everyone had to sing “Away in a Manger,” even though that’s a tune for the 3-year-olds. Can’t sing “Silent Night” without thinking of Maurice Chevalier’s talk-sing version, even though ze heavy Fronsh acgen almost tips it into Clouseau territory.

He also did Zhahlly Ol San Neecolas, which is charning.

Johnny wanz a pear of skets, Mahry wanz a slay, Nelly wanz a peek-tur book, yallo blue an red, yes! Once you’ve heard some other Chevalier, you pick up the ticks and tricks he brought to other songs, but it’s still sweet.



If this bores you, skip to the bottom where you'll find the link to this week's Restaurant update.

This will be of interest to no one but gamers, and they will probably know this already. But: Steam was selling Duke Nukem Forever for $5, which is a slight decrease from its original price of $60. The game was in the works fro 14 years or so. The original, released in the heady days of 1st-person shooters, was reviled by some because the character could go to a strip club where blocky girls in bikinis danced. It was as erotic as watching Lego in a drier. The titular character was a pastiche of action-hero cliches; the environments were much more interactive, and it was ACTION PACKED. A sequel was promised, and they went right to work to make the most amazing game ever! And we waited. And waited. And lost interest . . . until a trailer came out, and it looked great, and we thought “any day now,” and then the company would announce they were starting from scratch with a new engine, and everyone would forget about it.

Finally it staggers to the marketplace, and the reactions are two-fold: boys who insist that hey, Duke’s supposed to be a sexist jerk, that’s his charm! No, kids, and adults who found the tone appalling and depressing, the main character a heartless sociopath whose idea of wit is quoting movies from 1993, and the game play thick, jerky, unsatisfying, clunky, and puzzle-oriented, as if people who’d waited almost a decade and a half for the sequel had been saying “Boy, I hope in this one Duke gets shrunk down to the size of a GI Joe action figure and has to use hamburger buns to get across a hot grill.”

As most reviews have noted, with sadness more than anger, the game begins at a urinal, just to indicate the developer’s view of the audience. You can fish out objects from the toilets, if you wish. You move to some sort of locker room where there are dead football players, except for one, who’s cheerfully describing some sort of play he’s written on a whiteboard. You cannot get past him until you write something on the whiteboard, too.

You’re Duke Nukem, and you can’t shove a guy out of your way. You have to scrawl on a whiteboard. The controls are so bad you can’t hit ESC to stop; you scribble until you’ve scribbled enough, for WHATEVER REASON, and then you’re allowed to go play the game. Oh! There’s an alien invasion and you have to go on the football field and fire rockets at a big monster until it falls down. So the game starts with a boss level: just great. What a clever twist on the genre, where you start out with a small weapon, acclimate yourself to the situation, and gradually amplify the action. It’s like watching Titanic, and the movie consists of Jack and Rose playing tic-tac-toe, then running up to the aft deck and jumping off as the ship sinks. Top that!

SIXTY DOLLARS. Oh, but there are in-game treats, like a working pinball machine. Yes, the earth is being invaded, aliens have cut power to your HQ, but there’s always time to play pinball.

Most of the human characters look like they’ve been shot full of Botox, buffed with carnuba wax and stuffed with foam.

Why did I buy it? Memories. Misty watercolor memories, not just of DOOM or Duke, but Hexen, which was a clever and atmospheric game where you entered many mystical places and hit two-headed lizard-orcs on the head with a magic axe. When I finally experience fully-immersive 3D holographic action games, it will not be as compelling as sitting in a dark room playing the second level of DOOM, in the warehouse with the flickering lights. The former: “It’s incredible, but I know it’s not real.” The latter: “It’s not real, but I know it’s incredible.”

Makes me wonder if the necessary advance in gaming will be some chemical additive that strips away your self-awareness of the game as a manufactured environment, but it would also have to suppress the fear and panic that would consume the player immediately.

Somewhere on an old machine are files for a Roller Coaster Tycoon theme park I spent six months building in idle hours. Almost worth it to get a cheap Wintel box to see them again. You could get down on the level of the theme park’s patrons, walk around, see the place from ground level - just the sort of world-building I love to do, and have never been able to reproduce. If I’d won the lottery I would have commissioned the creation of a game that allowed you to build towns, populate them, customize every detail, and go anywhere. The AI would be good enough so your neighbor in the house next door would be working on his own version of the game, and you could see what sort of town he’d made all on his own.


So: that's it.Restaurats below, and Tumblr with old Xmas ads in the afternoon. See you around.

Hint: the T down there by the Twitter logo is the Tumblr. GO THERE! It has stuff.











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