It’s perhaps a cliché to describe a book as unlike anything you’ve ever read; it suggests a laziness on the part of the reviewer. But in the example of Max Porter’s Grief Is The Thing With Feathers I’m genuinely struggling to find an adequate point of comparison through which to describe it. Part prose and part poetry, this text tells the simple story of a family after the matriarch dies. This incident is explored through three first person perspectives: the ‘Dad’ who lost his wife; the ‘Boys’ who lost their mother; and a giant ‘Crow’ who has come to help them mourn.
Both sides of the Atlantic we love a sex scandal involving a politician or public figure; after all, the Keith Vaz cocaine fuelled prostitute bender seemed to run for weeks in the British red-tops. But when the figure involved is named Weiner? Well that’s comedy gold so potent it almost doesn’t seem real. It’s a Two Ronnies sketch somehow come to life. It instantly becomes the most important news story at the time and thus demands to be documented.
This is the astonishing real story that Weiner attempts to document. Well to be more accurate it picks up after the scandal: Anthony Weiner, a rising star in the Democrat Party and 7 time congressman, who had to resign in disgrace following a sexting scandal in 2011. This documentary starts in 2013, with Weiner himself inviting the filmmakers into his life because he “doesn’t want to just be a punchline.” He’s running to be mayor of New York City and is co-opting the film as propaganda for both his political career as well as his personal image – he wants to be something more than the bloke with the funny name who sent explicit photos to several women.
This has given me an interesting idea: In this post, I will be discussing exactly why I hold these games in such high regard through a discussion of their narratives as I remember them. I’ll then go play through the collection, as comprehensive as I can, and then return to these ideas and see whether these three games are as brilliant as I remember or whether I was just looking back through rose tinted goggles.
[obviously, spoilers for the entire series after this point]
World of Warcraft: Legion is the first WoW expansion released in my adult, working life. As a result I haven’t found as much time as I would like to protect Azeroth from the demon invasion; it’s stressful having two actual jobs instead of just “alchemy” and “herbalism”. But even from my brief time with the new content it’s apparent to me that Blizzard has finally learned how to correctly market and create content that engages with the nostalgia inherent in its decade old game.
The previous expansion, World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor, is an example of a failed attempt to engage with nostalgia. Set before the events of WoW, this expansion forces the player to go back in time to fight the original, demon-powered Orcish horde. Originally planned to coincide with the release of the film, the intention was for film audiences to witness the birth of the Horde, and then enter the game to stop it. But the film wasn’t released at the same time – it was moved to not coincide with the box office juggernaut that is Star Wars. When Warcraft: The Beginning was eventually released, it didn’t really match up narratively with Warlords of Draenor in any way: sure Gul’Dan is the main antagonist in both, but the main protagonists in the game – Grom Hellscream, Maaraad, and Yrel – either have no dialogue or don’t appear at all in the film. As a result Warlords of Draenor was a hackneyed expansion built around a multi-media experiment that never actually came to fruition. It is easily the worst expansion Blizzard has released.
But Blizzard has learnt from this mistake, and since then their marketing machine has become much more nuanced and refined. For the past year or so Blizzard have been referencing one thing across film, Hearthstone and WoW itself: Karazhan.
To call American Football influential is something of an understatement. Without them, the vast majority of bands I talk about on this blog simply wouldn’t exist, at least in the same form. There’d be: no Modern Baseball; no Front Bottoms; no Knuckle Puck; no Brand New; no La Dispute etc. The list is virtually endless, as few albums have shaped alternative music (more specifically pop-punk, emo and post-hardcore) like American Football did.
This is why I am painfully excited for their sophomore self-titled album to be released, only seventeen years late, this October.
Although I very much maintain this blog for my own purposes and for the sheer pleasure of writing, there are a few people who do regularly interact with my blog and my work – so I wanted to write a quick update about how the content might change short term.
I was sort of struggling maintaining content anyway because navigating graduate life isn’t necessarily easy. But a dislocated thumb (incident involving a ketchup packet) has currently resulted in the temporary loss of my right hand. I’m not writing for sympathy or anything like that – this has been a very long time coming tbh – but I just wanted to make regular readers aware that content will perhaps change short-term as a result.
I’m typing this one handed and it’s taking a surprisingly long time. As a result, content may become slightly irregular again simply because it’s taking me much longer to write things at the moment. The type of media being engaged with will likely change in the short term, as I’m finding it very hard to hold a mouse or a controller and thus play my usual sort of video games. I’m playing a lot Hearthstone again instead (can’t stop, won’t stop) so I might write something about that. But I digress – for at least a couple weeks I will primarily be writing about literature and the film industry, with maybe another love letter to early 2000s emo music somewhere along the line.
I would however quite like to turn this slightly annoying situation into something more positive. Do you have a book, film or television series you’d like to see me write about? Any podcasts you think I might enjoy? Or has anyone got an accessible games they can recommend me? Please help me find a way to spend my free time now that I’m sans a hand.
With the first competitive season of Overwatch coming to a close, I thought it was high time I returned to my initial thoughts of the game. One of the major concerns in the media at release was whether an online-only game was worth paying full retail price for – could something without single player depth truly provide meaningful entertainment for consumers?
In my opinion yes, I’m still enjoying Overwatch just as much as I did in my first game in the beta. I had to take a little break from the game due to the frustrations of SoloQ in a team game (more a little later) but have returned to a game that still holds a surprising amount of delight. The novelty still hasn’t worn off for me: The gun play is tight, balanced around proactive and reactive abilities; the maps are bright, colourful and distinct; and all of the characters are charming in their own way. Every map starts with the characters chatting to each other, telling jokes or referencing stories, and it’s hard not to fall a little bit in love with that. Strangely, most of my frustrations about playing solo seem to have gone away on my return. I don’t know that’s because I’m in a higher MMR bracket, or the changes Blizzard made to the “team tips” but the vast majority of the games I play have a balanced team! No longer am I resigned to only playing Lucio, and as a result I’m starting to understand much more of the game from an offensive point of view.
In our modern society there’s a desire towards wanderlust so strong that it borders on an existential crisis. This is certainly true for me; I’m motivated entirely by the opportunity to see the world and the desire to “start over” somewhere new. But satiating this urge to explore is easier said than done given that I’m a recent graduate, not fully out of the poor-student lifestyle, with moderate mobility issues. Essentially I’d love to expand my horizons beyond SE London, but neither my wallet or my knees are particular partial to this at the moment.
Because of this, I’ve followed No Man Sky fairly closely since it was announced a few years ago. Here was a game built around a literal galaxy, with 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 (18 quintillion) planets to explore. A shared world filled with wonders and lifeforms that will potentially never be seen by any human eyes, and no frame narrative other than “why don’t you go see it?” As I previously alluded too, I am mildly disabled. Gaming provides an excellent form of escapism when my mobility is limited. The desire to explore is almost satiated by open world games like Skyrim or Fallout: New Vegas, but here exploration is a side activity to the narrative. No Man’s Sky instantly defined itself as different as the only thing to do is explore. Was this a way to combat my wanderlust from the comfort of my own home?
Maus is one of those rare works that fully encompasses its medium. There is a constant tension between the narrative Spiegelman tells and the artwork he uses to tell it; as such, this graphic novel is one of the most effective and powerful Holocaust narratives I’ve ever read.
The barbarity of the Holocaust is almost incomprehensible. The systematic murder of Jewish people happened on so large a scale that the true horror can be hard process. In other words, it’s easy to reduce a genocide down to a figure, a historical fact, because it’s difficult to approach from an emotional stand point. Maus, like other powerful Holocaust narratives, circumvents this by telling a deeply subjective and personal story. This graphic novel is autobiographical, following Spiegelman as he interviews his father about his experiences as a Polish Jew during World War 2. The parts of the comic set in the 1940s are appropriately dark, particularly the latter half of the novel set in Auschwitz. Very rarely does the novel approach the grand, historical narrative of the war; it only ever follows Vladek Spiegelman through all the horrors he himself faced. Whilst it might be hard to understand the scale of this genocide, it’s easier to empathise with the Jewish prisoner who was responsible for removing the bodies from the “showers” at a death camp.