The Blackwell Epiphany on PC (9/10)

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The fifth and final Blackwell game continues in the series’ tradition of thoughtful and interesting adventures that are light on the puzzles and big on character interactions. Technically, the games have come a long way. The graphics are top-notch and the voice acting is much improved. The games still are running on the freeware AGS (Adventure Game Studio) platform, which has its limitations. But, for the most part, these last few games in the series have been on par with the Lucasarts games of old.

Whereas previous games in the series offered small glimpses into actual New York stories and characters, this game focuses more on the fantastic. Most of the series’ lingering questions get answered, although sometimes you have to make sure to pay close attention to all the dialogue to pick up on the details (I have a tendency to get a little overzealous with my clicking). I felt most of the puzzles were fair with the exception of one where for some reason combining coffee and a rag makes you jump farther? Oh, post-spoiler spoiler alert.

The ending is satisfying and let me be the one-billionth reviewer to describe it “bittersweet.” By the climax, my entire family was crowded around the screen wanting to know what was going to happen next. The series has shown to be very entertaining to watch even for my pre-teen daughter (Although, be warned that the commentary contains some salty language’save that until the kids are in bed).

Wadjeteye has proven to be a top-notch developer and, since finishing Blackwell, I went on a bought up most of the other games in their catalog. More pointing and clicking to come.

Coatings by Wire - CD (8/10)

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Coatings compiles outtakes and alternate mixes of songs from The Ideal Copy and A Bell Is a Cup… with a few Manscape outtakes. For the most part these mixes aren’t drastically different than the originals. My copy includes an extra disc that contains an excellent seventeen minute version of “Ambitious.”

Manscape by Wire - CD (7/10)

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The final record of their mid-eighties incarnation has Wire drifting even closer to New Order territory. It’s taken me a while, but I think of have come to accept this release. It is certainly their weakest LP and a couple of songs like “Torch It” border on the unlistenable, but there are a couple of gems here. Most noteworthy are “Morning Bell,” “Children of Groceries,” and “You Hung Your Lights In The Trees/A Craftsman’s Touch.” You have to look towards Colin Newman’s solo electronica albums to guess how Wire might have evolved had they not taken a break at this point in their career.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss (6/10)

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Well, this isn’t the next Kingkiller book, but, fortunately, I wasn’t expecting that. The author himself goes to great length to basically apologize for the book in the introduction and again at the end. I get it. It’s something different. In any event, here we have the story of Auri, the girl who lives in the tunnels under the school. She’s a bit looney. The book reads like a manual on obsessive compulsive disorder as she goes about making sure objects are appropriate for the spaces she puts them. Wow, sounds like an awesome idea for a story, right? Sigh. Anyhow, the writing itself is colorful and does a good job drawing the portrait of Auri’s eccentricities, but it’s not exactly a page-turner. I get that he’s writing about a broken mind, but what do flowery lines like “It was hunkered down and sullen, like a forgotten kiln.” even mean?

And Why Are You Telling Us This?

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So, here we are post mid-term Republican take-over of the legislature. As one might expect, my Facebook feed been awash with bitter and angry lefty losers (Although it hasn’t been quite as bad as I expected. I guess the election outcome was not much of a shock). Posts range from the typical “I don’t know anyone who would have voted for these monsters” to expected sour-grapes cries of cheating, etc. Fortunately, there were none of the usual calls to violence and injury as I have seen in the past:

Something came across my feed this morning that had me thinking, and when I start thinking it’s usually a good idea fore me to log off of Facebook and take to my blog where my rants won’t lose me friends (and won’t be read by anybody). A friend of mine linked to an article about the CEO of ULINE and how he was the a big-time contributor to conservative candidates and causes across the state. He is, as the headline put it, “The Koch of conservative politics in Illinois.”

As an aside, What’s with the left and their continual need for boogeymen when advocating for their causes? These days Koch brothers are the anti-christ du jour. Had this article come out ten years ago it would reference Haliburton. Ten years before that, maybe Mark Furhman? I guess there exists a sort of transitive property in politics that makes any problem more dire simply by association. And before you cry partisan foul, I realize that Republicans can do this to… I remember ACORN… but I feel it is much more rampant on the left.

Anyhow, back to the matter at hand. This friend linked the article then proclaimed that, of course, he will no longer will buy anything from ULINE again. Now, I am all for using the pocketbook to express a political position. You think GMOs are bad, by all means buy your organic small-batch artisinal what-nots to your heart’s content. But I don’t quite understand what the end-game is here, especially since he felt fit to announce this to world via social media.

Let’s just say everyone sees his post and decides never to satisfy their cardboard shipping needs at ULINE ever again. ULINE closes shop and all the workers, drivers and office drones there, regardless of their political convictions, are out of a job (something like 2000+ employees). I don’t think that’s the result anyone wants. Ok, if that’s not what we’re after, let’s say the CEO is starting to feel the economic pressure of the boycott. Then what’s he supposed to do, abandon his political convictions in favor of yours? That seems rather narcissistic. Why should everyone agree with you? As the old cliche goes, do you think you have a monopoly on the truth? Here in Chicago, if I only patronized the businesses of people I agreed with I would go hungry real fast (grocers are a secret Marxist cabal from what I hear).

I think what really burns me here is that the boycott is being called not because of the way the company runs its business, rather it’s to punish one man over his political beliefs, and, in the process, punish tons of people who are just living their lives. Can’t we just accept that people have different views? Don’t be a fool, buy from the company that offers you the best product at the best price and use whatever money you saved to fund your pet political cause and don’t let petty politics run your life.

How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness by Russ Roberts (8/10)

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In this book Roberts (of EconTalk fame) takes Adam Smith’s other major work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, and makes it understandable in a modern context. There isn’t much economics here. Rather, Smith’s work is essentially an Eighteenth Century self-help book that lays out theories as to why, as self-interested beings, people behave in altruistic and moral ways. At the core is the premise that we all desire to be “loved and lovely” and if we can achieve that we will find happiness. I don’t know if this book has changed my life, but I think I may return to it again for inspiration in the future.

Dead Space: Downfall (5/10)

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The creators of the Dead Space series must be really proud of the little story they came up with because it feels like they have retold it like four times now. This animated film depicts the events in the Ishamura just after the marker was taken. It’s filled with cliches ripped straight out of every post-Aliens sci-fi action movie and features a completely annoying and unlikable lead character. She spends the whole movie mad at everybody and acting stupid. The drawing style also looks like a modern Scooby Doo episode. Yuck.