So much ham. So much guilt about not eating so much ham. I’ll be honest: I am not a ham lover. I’ll eat some if it comes to that, and I’ll slather it with mustard, but seriously, it seems to me like thick felt that’s been boiled in salt water for a month. Oh it’s tender, I’ll give it that, but it needs mustard to be interesting. Simple man that I am, I prefer the bacon iterations of swine, which is basically ham that’s been blasted with a flame thrower.

At Target the other day I wandered through the post-Easter sales aisle; a huge amount of discounted candy. I wonder if we’re buying less sugar-nodules for our youth. Lots of malted milk balls, which are superior in every way to jelly beans, and always make you think “why don’t I eat more of these? Right, right, I’m a grown-up. I should be eating fine dark 67% cocoa slabs from Perugia or something.” If scientists tomorrow said that a plague had wiped out jellybeans - say, Sucrified Bean Smut - we’d be sad, but then we’d think of all the times we tasted one of those Gourmet Jellybeans that was Bubblegum Flavor and said “yes, this provides a fleeting simulacrum of the advertised flavor,” and then thought I suppose I this one’s root beer. Eh.

But malted milk balls are different. They crunch; they release malty goodness; they have a certain lightness to them. The world would be lesser for their absence.

This horror was available at a discounted price. TAKE A BUNCH OF FLAVOR WORDS AND PUT THEM TOGETHER:


Texted the picture to Daughter, who responded simply “no”

Oh come on I said, lime fudge!

not something that should exist

Yet it does. Or did. Based on the heaps of remaindered Peeps, I suspect it will not again. We have all learned a lesson. The market for Lime Fudge Peeps is less than you might have suspected.

Ah, but imagine a solid malted-milk Peep. Would it still be a Peep? Would the calcified interior consistency make it unPeepish? I think about these things, which is probably why I have to nap every day. The strain of being a public intellectual is just too much sometimes.

Okay! Time for some game theory, as they say. This is going to go deep and dorky, so please note in the comments the point at which you gave up. If you are not interested in games in the least, there's a nice old town waiting for you to explore, right here.

The Kweepa Point, as I call it. I'll try to make this interesting for a general audience: think of it as a tour of a genre of art you might not know or care about, but would like to know a few things so you can BS someone at a party.

I get much of my information about games from Penny Arcade comics; I never, ever play any of the things they talk about, but at least I know what’s momentarily popular. What multi-million $ project resulted in online moans and ossified opinions. They mentioned a game called Everything, the point of which is to be Anything, I guess. Went looking for a review:

Everything uses very simple movement animations, such as having creatures roll instead of walking.

That’s one way of putting it.

Somehow I think this detracts from the immersive quality of the game.

I’m about ready to play Obduction, a game from the creators of Myst - despite my troubled personal relationship with the company. (Which is entirely one-sided, btw.) Aside from the whole book thing, which was long ago and faraway, there’s the fact that I just didn’t enjoy the Myst sequel, and didn’t play the one after that. Was there one after that? (Gah: there were three)

It’s the puzzles.

I can’t stand puzzles that require more than a few minutes’ thought to solve. In the Myst sequel you had to flip a switch and then go trudge somewhere else to see if it had worked. It hadn’t. There were marbles involved somehow, I think. I hit the kweepa point early, after switching CDs to ride a train somewhere, and nothing takes you out of the flow of a game like dismounting a CD, opening the drawer, putting another one in, waiting for it to spin up, and so on. It’s like seeing a movie that occasionally stops so the house lights can come up and an usher can vacuum the aisles.

My big fear? I’m no longer interested in games.

Perhaps the standard set by the last one I played is so high, in my mind, that anything else can’t match it. I’d go back to Columbia in “Bioshock Infinite” in a heartbeat, hoping again it could be a good place.

Even if it wasn’t, it’s so rich and fascinating, so compelling and appalling. I’ve played some of the arcade-style expansion packs (not the sequels set in Rapture) and they’re not the same, because there’s no Elizabeth. There’s no grudging path to redemption, no sense of one’s self as having done something horribly wrong that needs righting.

That’s the thing that has always hooked me in a game: who am I, here? Am I good? Am I moral? If not, do I wish to be?

Well, I’m going to download it now and play it. So the next thing you read will be first impressions - not because you care about a game review, but perhaps because you care what this incredible medium can offer.


Oh God why did I buy this

You start in the woods, by a lake. It’s lovely.


There’s a voice-over talking about how we need to tell our stories, about the night when the lights came down, how we all looked in wonder, etc. The voice actor can best be described as “that aunt with the car whose rear is covered with angry bumperstickers about war and ecology.”

Then a light comes down and opens up and produces a dazzling effect that dazzles you so much your 18-month old computer stutters to the rate of one frame per second. I transported myself to a magical realm called the SETTINGS MENU to see if I had all the sliders to the right; nope. Medium all the way.

Well, you pop up in a dusty red-rock area with a pathway that leads you to a device that shows a grainy, jumpy hologram of Josef the Mayor of this town. He makes cryptic statements about how you’ll like it here and you’ll find it easy to adjust once you get used to whatever happened to you. Stroll into town, passing train tracks EVERYWHERE with switches; these can be manipulated to change the tracks so a train goes this way instead of that way. You don’t know if you should change them now, or wait. You keep going.

The Old West Town, of course, is deserted.

Something Horrible Has Happened? Maybe?Ya think? The sky is all wrong; it’s purple and alien. Everything is boarded up, but there are signs of fresh habitation. You go from place to place, trying doors; all locked, and as we know from every other game, there’s no breaking a locked door. You visit several locations that appear to have some inscrutable purpose; there might be a switch, but it does nothing. One big airplane propeller lifts a door up or down. You can’t get around it or under it or over it.

It’s a big environment, but everything is eventually a dead end.

Eventually I found someone who would talk to me: a little movie of a guy tucked behind a window in a door that wouldn’t open. IIRC, his first words were who the devil are you?, which is a nice callback to the interrogation you got when you met someone in Myst. That face, peering from the book: who are you? It was fascinating then, but now? The actor is doin’ the down-home cranky salt-of-the-earth ol’ desert guy routine, throwing in some furrin curse-words that tell you this isn’t Earth maybe, and he tells you to get the power goin’ so they can git out of here or something.

Okay. Mission. Wandered around. Arranged train tracks. Found the house I was supposed to go to; doors, or course, are locked. The windows are cracked open by I can’t push them up. Another crappy holographic message from an actress whose performance suggests “friends of the developers” says “we’re getting ready for a battle,” and she’s all down-home too.

Wandered around some more. Picked up some things. Climbed on a roof.

Everything I could manipulate moved, but did nothing that suggested anything larger. No sense of accomplishment; no sense that this influenced that over there. I’m supposed to turn the power on, but all I can do is switch train tracks.

Back up to Bioshock Infinite: brilliant beginning. You’re in a small boat as a passenger, taken through a lashing storm to a dock; you climb a lighthouse, with clues of a mystery strewn all around; you can open drawers and take money. At the top you get into an elevator, because there is no other course for you to take, and you’re shot into the sky to Columbia, where you wake in a beatific baptismal chapter. The place is populated, and has a culture, and when you are done with the ceremony you walk to the city where you meet people, explore the streets, interact with vendors, gain a power - it’s masterful work, at least a half-hour of game play that explains the world before it sets up the moment where you have to act, not just float. You inhabit the world by degrees, becoming comfortable in the new environment - right up to the moment where it all turns on you, and you’re the fugitive, the bad guy, the hunted.

This just makes me feel stupid. MY interest in the new environment is leached away quickly by frustration.

UPDATE: read some reviews; this just isn’t for me. It’s all puzzles. I was mistaken. I thought it was a story.

Remember that great book you read, where you had to do math every fourth page?

It's a page of people who do things and say things. This week we have a page of second-tier notables - by modern standards, I mean; they're not household names - from 1938.

Holy Crow.


Probably, what, $2.34 a month?



Olsen and Johnson, the Hellzapoppin' boys. Influential right up to the 60s - the mad comic black-out style with surreal and bizarre bits, non-sequitars, physical comedy. Hasn't aged well.

They would divorce later; wikipedia says their son committed suicide, and you suspect that was why.

He's buried next to Johnson.







It took me a while to remember why I chose this place; let's see if you can figure it out.


About 18,000 souls. The name?" In 1852 when the east/west railroad, the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad, was going to be built, Capt. Meedy Shields, who was the cousin of General John Tipton persuaded the surveyor, John Seymour, into putting it through his land, in return for which he named the town Seymour. All trains had to stop at a crossroad, making Seymour a bustling community."

Small Town America in all its angle-parking glory:

The ground floor of the corner building had a curious rehab; the windows and doors are so low it makes it look as if there's a secret floor between the first and second, where the trolls live.

Top to bottom, from past to recent:

Looks like a 50s / 60s tile job and then a late-60s / early-70s brick job. It was all brick-colored once, of course. Because it's made of bricks.

There's got to be a great story about the gap between these two.

The paint job isn't that bad, but I suspect it covers up polychromatic stone. The ground floor was probably all glass. Why this? Because they knew no better and thought they did.

Bench for rumination; tree for . . . tree's sake.


The awning looks like it wants to claw the customers in.

The glass blocks are regrettable. Wait a minute, that's what the copy said right here last week. Now it works nicely: a big shining sight at night, I'll bet.

"There's no third floor, sir. Will you be leaving town now? It would be good if you left town and asked no more questions."

The wood over the storefront on the right is probably not contemporaneous with the brick. That's my suspicion.

Bench probided for sitting by the tree while you are being downtown! Enjoy, citizen. Park your bike, read a paper! DON'T ASK ABOUT THE THIRD FLOOR THERE IS NO THIRD FLOOR Ahem. Sorry, sir. Perhaps you should leave town now.


Well . . . I'd put a few feet between the third-floor arch and the cornice, but that's just me. (And everyone else)

I was born in a small town. It had buildings like this, but they were different. That's the joy: they're all slightly different. The one on the right is a gloomy old piece of work, and I suspect it's painted. The windows over the ground floor are painted. Damned Satanists!

New bank, old bank.

The present doesn't even try.


That's what it said in this spot last week, too. There must be something magical about Building #9.

The Harding jewelry store: 1860.

People looked out of those windows when Lincoln was president.

The second-floor facade on the left looks painted on, no?

No it is a completely normal ordinary window

sir don't ask questions about the window, please move along

There's just a lot, and it's nicely saved. Too much paint, some might say, but if you're inclined to like that sort of thing then it's full of interesting views.


The Richards Block, I suspect had a different ground floor at first. The top looks like a customer-mincing machine.

If someone built that today, we'd find it crude and blunt and strange. Now it's historic! And also crude and blunt and strange, but it's still around and that's grand.

If I had to say: "HQ for a Secret Society that didn't quite care whether people were suspicious about the building."

Just look at that one, and look at it again, and figuure out what they were thinking . . . and what it might have looked like.

Here's the town; have a stroll and see what you can find. Sing some John Cougar Melancamp songs while you do so - this is his home town.

Look at this beaut. There's more.

Give Seymour my regards.

That'll do; enjoy some restaurant interiors, if you can. They're unfortunate.


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