Robert Wm. Gomez's

Strictly Instrumental Vol. 4 by Various Artists (7/10)

Format: 
CD

A collection of 50s and 60s rock and roll instrumentals from Buffalo Bop. At times a little bit Link Wray and other times a little bit surfy with a some piano-banging rock and roll thrown in the mix as well.

Discrimination and Disparities by Thomas Sowell (7/10)

Sowell is always an interesting read. However, I find that he can be a bit repetitive in his points from book to book—I get it, minimum wage laws are dumb. Yet, despite his persistence, nobody appears to be listening (it's no surprise that in interviews he is quite pessimistic about the future). But for all his repetition, there are always a few nuggets of novel insights in each of his essays. My favorite from this book is his observation that demographic statistics seem to ignore average ages of various statistical groupings.

Excalibur (6/10)

I'm not quite sure why this movie was so popular when it came out. I remember hearing that they watched it in an English class in my high school even though there was a bit of nudity in it (was there a PG rated cut I'm forgetting about?). It's pretty corny and almost sounds like the actor's voices were dubbed. There's a bit of Zardoz lingering here, but not enough to make it fun to watch. It's like all the budget went into polishing the armor. All that said, I feel like this one might improve with repeated viewings. For now, meh.

Deadlight: Director's Cut on PC (7/10)

Deadlight!

This one was a freebie from GOG.com of which I knew nothing about before playing it. Turns out, it is a 2.5-D platformer—meaning, it's a 3-D rendered game but you only move in the standard two dimensions of a classic platformer. I'm not a huge fan of platform games, I'm not very good at them. Thankfully this one is slow-paced, not too twitchy and yet, it's not quite a puzzle platformer either. There is just enough action and thinking to keep an old-timer like myself interested for a few hours.

Dishonored on PC (8/10)

Dishonored Stealth Kill

A while back I gave this game a spin during a Steam free weekend and ended up setting it aside I guess because I couldn't quite grok the stealth mechanics. On this second go around I've realized that it's all about using your magic skills for just about every encounter. In fact, by the end of the game the player is well-nigh invincible will his arsenal of teleportation, mind control and time dilation. I'm too old to be wasting my time mastering a video game, so I welcome it when games feel like they get a little easier as I go along.

The Raft by Robert Trumbull (8/10)

The harrowing true life account of three airmen who are adrift in a rubber raft for thirty-four days following an emergency landing in the Pacific Ocean. It's written a blunt, mid-century pulp style very much befitting a Reader's Digest book of the month from back in the 1940s (which it was). Short and to the point. Spoiler alert: includes details of their bowel movements on the twelfth day. For a much better and detailed lost at sea tale I would highly recommend Steve Callahan's Adrift.

The Gulag Archipelago (Vol. I & II) by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn (7/10)

This massive book has been sitting on my shelf taunting me for twenty-plus years. Ages ago it was recommended to me (by my art professor, Richard Long) as essential reading in the canon of conservative thought. It was only after having read some lesser (in page length) works about the Russian prison system—mainly, The Darkness at Noon and To Build a Castle—and having watched the excellent satirical T.V. series Comrade Detective, that I have mustered the energy to tackle this.

Spelunky on PC (4/10)

Spelunky will bore you

Games journalists (I can't believe that's really a thing) seem to love this game, I thought it was tiresome. Every game a new world is generated that you're supposed to jump around looking for treasure, secrets and rare upgrades. If you die, that's it. Permadeath. A game for shut-ins and the insane. So, why didn't I like it? My problem is that I don't find you basic platform-game mechanics all that interesting and, without a narrative hook, I lose interest fast. Believe me, I tried to like this one but no thanks. Sayonara, uninstalled-ed!

No Holds Barred by Barry Devlin (6/10)

No Holds Barred by Barry DevlinThe ridiculous plot of this pulp trash novel is as follows: disgraced big city reporter winds up in small town; proves his investigative reporting skills in the local paper; is hired by rich media baron to do press for his corrupt political campaign...

Eye of the Beholder on Ms-DOS (7/10)

Big ol' space squid gonna get you! Eye of the Beholder, Screenshot

Eye of the Beholder is a real-time RPG dungeon crawl that borrows heavily from the mechanics of Dungeon Master. It's a completely mouse-driven experience in which the objects in the environment can all be used, picked up or thrown with a click. Combat is also real-time and is generally just a mad scramble backwards as you click your various party members' weapon hands and hope for "good rolls".

While the fights are frantic and fun, the real meat of the game-play is exploration, mapping, and puzzle solving. I went through a dozen sheets of graph paper drawing out each floor knowing full-well I could just grab the maps from the Web (the GOG.com version even includes a complete hint book). As tedious as it might sound to modern gamers, the act of plotting out the layout is oddly satisfying. I wish it could be done in-game à la Etrian Odyssey, but, if it's any consolation, I now have 11 floors worth of half-erased, taped together graph paper maps that are suitable for framing. Perfect for any lair!