The Cat and the Coup

This was a beautiful offering and an interesting way of encouraging engagement with historical events.

The graphics and interactions are symbolic.  I experienced this as more of an interactive text with an element of ‘game’ to make more of a connection than just reading/watching might.

The animation style is very friendly, for want of a better word – it feels real because it’s not trying to be realistic; it’s a collage in exactly the same way the story is a collage.  I love it when the medium of storytelling matching the storytelling.

The story itself was well out of my sphere of awareness, being not American, not Iranian, not British, and not born until the 80s, so I probably missed a lot more depressing references.  My main reaction to the actual content, historical and real, was “huh, well, typical” in relation to the US/Britain, with the game-structure/text-structure meaning any empathy I felt was for Mossadegh, knowing nothing else of his term of service than what the game showed.

This was in beta only; will be interested to see if the format develops into a more complex textual unwrapping of history.  It’s a very innovative format in any case.

 

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Station Eleven

I loved this so much.  It was such a pit-trap of making me feel nostalgic for the act of nostalgia itself, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

This is a post-apocalypse story that has absolutely nothing new about it — except that it maintains a shining love for human fallibility and fundamental decency.  I felt for everyone.  The empathy was glorious.  The interwoven stories were neither too much nor too little.

If I were to relate this to anything, it’d be the blend of nostalgia and future-tech and human inspiration in Pacific Rim.  I’ve read reviews about Pacific Rim being the Gen-Y’s approach to apocalypse.  The time has passed for wallowing in our inevitable deservedness to suffer horrific civilisation crushing ends.  We have amazing technology.  We have innovation.  We have people resource.  We form teams, we aren’t single white male heroes/failures in this alone.  Survival is worth the effort because people are worth the effort.

Much love.

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

I read a detailed synopsis of this short story some time before I was able to find a copy.  The synopsis piqued my interest; body horror, a very weird inverse of cosmic horror (where despite the pitiful insignificance of the humans they nevertheless hold the full sadistic attention of a creature of far greater intelligence and power), tortures directly related to previous individual strengths (that old sadistic Dante’s Inferno).

Strangely, reading this synopsis turned out to be a big mistake.  By the time I found a copy of the story and read it, I was disappointed in how short the short story was. The synopsis was actually longer. The dry, impartial tone of the synopsis – never trying to force an emotion — made me feel far more horror than the POV character’s monologue – which tried and sometimes missed in being as evocative.  The synopsis’ descriptions of the various tiers of rusting hell through which the characters descend was more descriptive and referential than the single segued paragraph used in the short story.  So very, very weird.

This whole experience left me thinking more about the potential of using non-fiction voices in fiction storytelling (like a synopsis) as an omniscient narrator who does not in any way attempt to impart an emotional reaction — all while leaving plenty of room for the reader’s brain to fill the gaps with their own, possibly more intense emotional reaction.  The premise is memorable, but once is the premise is subtracted from the writing, the writing itself is not memorable.

I wonder if a synopsis of a Stephen King novel would also be more interesting than the novel itself…

Those Happy Years / Anni Felici

This was a captivating view into Italian patriarchy and the horrendous shame struggle it perpetuates between men and women.  Towards the end I kept laughing – OMG this is exactly what Italian men are like, why do Italian men do this, look at her blackmailing away, I could not STAND to live in a relationship based on mutual disrespect, distrust and constant manipulation but apparently it is accepted as normal???, etc.

I started watching without much hope, because it looked like the film was going to follow the usual path of focusing on the dude’s struggles and tribulations without much meaning.  To my surprise, the film totally balanced itself between the father and mother’s story — or more appropriately, the husband and wife’s story, as the children are practically invisible to their lives until they either assert themselves, or become pawns in this endless power/emotional/blackmail style struggle by either the male or the female members of the family in trying to inflict shame on the opposite gender.  Even the grandparents get into it.  The whole framework results in this strange overreactive auto-defence mechanism on the part of the dad/husband where a compliment to his son is interpreted as a slight to him – an intensely defensive style of narcissism which feels enculturated rather than psychological.

The twist is the era – the 1970s – with feminism making movements into Italy, and the wife’s realisation of her own right to personhood.  The consequences of this does not necessarily make for a happier marriage, but it makes for happier individuals, and the eldest child (the narrator) acknowledges this with his verbal postscript.  It’s such a different take on the usual Italian farcial romances, I really enjoyed this.

 

Kittens

A link to the game: here.

This is somewhat amazing, but more amazing is the community outpour it’s generated. Surprising kitten civilizations etc which span over months, if not years, of simply letting this game run in the background with good harvesting tactics.

I was entertained for several hours. The initial efficiency curve is hard, then suddenly things begin to stabilise. But improving your efficiency (speed of mastering new things and becoming more than an agrarian fledgling civilisation) requires growing your population, which then increases risk of death and failure again — those kittens are hungry in winter. Another long 10-20 min struggle to stabilise again, then the pace begins to chafe; you spawn another kitten, and the struggle begins again.

What I found really fascinating about this is how this text based version of a civilisation development game recast the more graphical Civ and Sim games in a new light. I used to play those all the time without ever really being conscious of time or resource accrual – because it was turn based, not a literal counting down of seconds.

In the end my impatience and anxiety (everything has a counter!) made a bad combination for pushing through with this game much beyond the discovery and farming of unicorns, but it was definitely worth the memories.