le coup d’oeil de génie

Finished the Michael Korda tome on Ike. I still need to excerpt quotes, but love that his favorite painter was J.M.W. Turner. He “owned” a watercolor of Culzean Castle (by Turner) that hung in his bedroom and that he donated to the National Trust for Scotland shortly before his death.

(1) What happens if Greece can’t pay its debts? (The Guardian)

(2) A crazy European storm: The six days that might change the world. (POLITICO)

(3) Government employees — the true 1 percent

(4) Reckoning for the Fed (The Hill)

l’air du temps

(4) Love love love

Weekend 335.0

“…the fate of two great nations seems to be determined by some god-damned things called LSTs and LCIs.”

– Winston Churchill

Weekend 334.0

“Like always sticks to like. If you live an abandoned sort of life, only abandoned people will attach themselves to you. Start living a good life, and you’ll see how many companions surround you.”

– St. Augustine

A Gen Xers Top 20 Video Game List

Super Pac-Man Get out that David Bowie record and grab a can of Jolt Cola because it’s time to rank my Top 20 all-time favorite video games.

The rankings are based on qualities like story, playability, cultural influence, immersion, creativeness, and a happiness quotient roughly calculated using memories/age * 1.023MHz * (1 KB/1980).

This is for my friend Milton and anyone who knows (and those who don’t) that video games are a fount of creativity.

(1) Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (IIe) – The game included a cloth map and ankh amulet and required adventurers to meditate at shrines, collect artifacts, and “understand and exercise the Eight Virtues” on their path to becoming an Avatar. I played most of the titles in this series, but Quest of the Avatar receives an almost perfect score against my fancy criteria for it’s groundbreaking gameplay, inventiveness, storytelling, and lasting influence.

It was published by Origin and developed by Richard Garriott, an industry pioneer who’s currently working on Shroud of the Avatar.

I kind of wandered around the gaming universe after Ultima IV trying to find a title so immersive. It wasn’t until The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Kingdom Hearts that I discovered something comparable.

Bonus: You could import your Avatar into Ultima V. The games also included two books- The History of Britannia and The Book of Mystic Wisdom. Skara Brae is referenced on Playmobil365.com on 7.6.2014 #187.

(2) 2400 A.D. (IIe) – Join the rebels and fight the Tzorg! Set on Nova Athens in 2400 A.D. this dystopia had robots, subways, slidewalk systems, hand blasters, and supercomputers! I am still mesmerized by this gem from Chuck Bueche (Chuckles to Ultima fans). I replayed it a couple of years ago and it’s still fun. It missed being #1 in my Top 20 by 1000 bytes.

Bonus: It shipped with tiny metal robots. I wonder if E. Cline played this game?

(3) Kingdom Hearts (PS2) – Sora, Riku, and Kairi meet Mickey, Donald, and Goofy. The pop-cultural influence of Disney and Square Enix are undeniable, and this series has inspired maquettes, gachapon, books, and user-made artwork. Every detail of this game was perfect…from the opening chords of Simple and Clean…to the selection of summoned characters and lands. I replayed the ending a half-dozen times just to watch the credits.

Bonus: Flying over London to fight the Phantom. It’s like this.

(4) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) – The SNES was my first console, and after watching my brother and neighbors play The Legend of Zelda on the NES, this was the ideal foray into the Zelda universe. What I love about Zelda is its reverence for storytelling, detail, continuity and tradition.

(5) SimCity (Mac) – It makes the top five based on playability. I wonder how many future city planners it inspired?

Bonus: A couple of years ago on a trip to Austin I found a SimCity card game at King’s Hobby Shop.

(6) MicroLeague Baseball (IIe) – It’s the only sports title in the list. I used to print the lineup and box score on a dot-matrix printer with perforated paper. I was amazed the first time the game was delayed by rain. I get a little weepy whenever I hear the sound of a dot-matrix printer.

(7) AOE III (PC) – I would play as General Sir William Howe, protecting the colony, whilst routing the French, negotiating peace with the Germans, and expanding the Empire. I have hours of HAPPY memories playing with my brother on our LAN. I can still hear him yelling, “I need more peasants. I NEED more peasants.”

Bonus: The Art of Empires adorns my bookshelf.

(8) RollerCoaster Tycoon (PC) – A lifelong obsession with creating my own version of Walt Disney World finally realized! The best description of the joy I felt playing RollerCoaster Tycoon is on pages 75-76 of Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World.

(9) Pirates (IIe) – The first of two titles from Sid Meier in my Top 20. Before the release of this classic, my pirate adventures were limited to the Audio-Animatrons in Pirates of the Caribbean at Walt Disney World, my Playmobil pirate ship, and The Goonies (1985) and Walter Matthau in Pirates (1986).

(10) The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS) – Every happy memory from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was unleashed when I launched the game for the first time and heard that familiar music, but it turned into a torrent when I fought a Moldorm again in the Tower of Hera. The ability to merge, and its impact on the gameplay and storyline, is demonstrative of the subtle genius that threads this franchise. Majora’s Mask in Link’s House was a nice nod to the Zelda canon.

Bonus: The mural in Hyrule Castle is conceptually similar to the one in Ultima IX.

(11) Railroad Tycoon (Mac) – Capitalists of the world unite! This is the second title from Sid Meier in my Top 20. I didn’t need all those economics courses in college because everything I needed to know about interest rates, commodities, pricing strategies, bonds, back panics, and stock markets I learned in this game.

(12) Futurama (PS2) – Bite my shiny metal a**. This was a clever title for one of the best science fiction cartoon series ever created. It was part Space Quest III by Sierra and part 2400 A.D. by Origin.

Bonus: Futurama was an exhibit designed by Norman Bel Geddes for the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

(13) Crimson Skies (PC) – Um. Dirigibles and airplanes in an alternate 1930s universe.

(14) Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d you steal our garbage?!! (3DS) – Bytes of endorphins Ooo from this title. The overview and gameplay were reminiscent of Zelda, the deluxe version shipped with Ultima-like goodies, and the characters and colors scratch your brain in funny places.

(15) Wings of Fury (IIe) – This is one of the few arcade style games in the list. I used to don a leather flight helmet and goggles while playing (if you were at volunteer at NYCC in 2011 you would have received proof). It was set in the Pacific during WWII and required a great deal of dexterity to land your F6F Hellcat on the deck of the USS Wasp.

(16) Robotech: Battlecry (PS2) – I was introduced to Robotech in the 80s but had to wait more than 15 years to pilot a veritech fighter! It was worth the wait (even if the fate of Jack Archer, like Xion, made for a somber ending).

(17) President Elect (IIe) – You could use it today to predict the winner of Kang versus Kodos in 2016.

(18) Warcraft: Orcs & Humans/Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness/Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos (Mac OS & PC) – I am not a BAD Dad.; I am not Clara from The Guild.

(19) Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (DS) – The Dustflier was such a pesky secret boss, but so satisfying to defeat. The storyline with Roxas and Xion was a potent and emotional arc. The graphics in Birth by Sleep and Dream Drop Distance were incredible, but the story of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days trumps them.

(20) Earth Orbit Stations (IIe) – NASA’s Space Shuttle program was the source of great national pride in the 80s and this space station management simulation allowed future engineers, project managers, astronauts, physicists, and astronomers to dream big.

Honorable Mentions
Dark Cloud 2
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (3DS)
Locomotion (PC)
Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep (PSP)
Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny (IIe)
Ultima VI: The False Prophet (SNES)
1602 A.D. (PC)
Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel
Astrosmash® (Intellivision)
Autoduel (IIe)
Space Quest III
A-Train (Mac)

Weekend 333.0 (Planetesimals)

Steve Ross was at the center of two great documentaries- Atari: Game Over and Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos. The subject matter of both documentaries (video games and soccer) remain a BIG part of my life.

(1) How to dig up a landfill

(2) Steven Spielberg to Direct Sci-Fi Film ‘Ready Player One’

It’s kind of ironic too that Spielberg, a player in Atari: Game Over, is going to direct Ready Player One.

Weekend 332.0

(1) Eminent domain on steroids? New bill threatens cities, towns (Fairfield Citizen)

(2) How Bad Religion Has Bequeathed Us ‘An Anxious Age’ (The Federalist)

Weekend 331.0

“To be an acorn is to have a taste for being an oak tree.”
– Thomas Merton

Weekend 330.0 (Spring????)

(1) Bike-share programs to tour great cities (USA Today)

(2) Jessie Burton: A Week in the Life of the Novelist (WSJ)

Weekend 329.0

Sunset Boulevard (1949)

GILLIS: May I say you smell real special.

BETTY: It must be my new shampoo.

GILLIS: That’s no shampoo. It’s more like a pile of freshly laundered handkerchiefs, like a brand new automobile. How old are you anyway?

BETTY: Twenty-two.

GILLIS: That’s it – there’s nothing like being twenty-two. Now may I suggest that if we’re ever to finish this story you keep at least two feet away from me…Now back to the typewriter.

Four Roses

My favorite bourbon mentioned in a movie [French Connection II] with my favorite actor [Gene Hackman].

I’d like a…Four Roses,
straight up, and water on the side.


Four Roses, straight up,
and water on the side.

Not sure why, but the movie made me think of this post from Michael Auslin on the SNL 40th Anniversary special.

I didn’t expect to get so nostalgic. The beautiful photomontage set to music showed the cast in their prime, including the first cast sitting in Central Park before becoming famous. That was particularly poignant, full of such hope and in retrospect, such achievement ahead. But seeing how poorly Chevy Chase and Paul Simon have aged, Steve Martin with granddad spectacles as King Tut, even a middle-aged Adam Sandler and David Spade, was another undeniable reminder of time’s march. Maybe because I see them forever young on the videos, I expect them to have remained that way.

Weekend 328.0

(1) In Japan, Dog Owners Feel Abandoned as Sony Stops Supporting ‘Aibo’ (WSJ)

(2) Playing House (Metropolis)

Were you dazzled by the same constellation?

(1) Coffee: Words from a Grad Student/Addict

Weekend 327.0 (2015 Winter Retreat)

St. Joseph's Abbey (2015)CliffsNotes provided by “Let’s Be Still” from The Head and the Heart (see related).

I spent the weekend at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, MA. It was a great weekend and I now find myself in a transitional space somewhere between Compline and the Superbowl. It was a retreat rich in metaphors too, at one point, requiring the aid and assistance of a monk, priest, and a retreatent to free my car from a snow drift.

It was very also very cold in Spencer, but this meant the rare opportunity for us (eight retreatents) to be shepherded through the cloisters to the Abbey Church for the Liturgy of the Hours.

I took two books from my own library as sustenance. The first was God and the New Haven Railway by George Dennis O’Brien and the second was When God Says No by Daniel Lanahan. I finished the former, but didn’t get a chance to re-read the latter.

I also play my own version of library roulette at the Abbey bookstore and “found” a wonderful little title by Jean-Pierre de Caussade called Abandonment to Divine Providence. This is a beautiful book and it’s gift unloosed in the first pages:

“At first I suffered greatly under a load of business worries, which of course are wholly at variance to my love of silence and solitude. But God came to my aid and gave me the grace to stay quite uninvolved in all these affairs. My spirit stays free. I am not plagued by many visitors, because I myself pay visits only when duty and sheer necessity make them essential. My fellow Jesuits, who know my feelings, finish their business with me as soon as possible. They are well aware that it is not pride or misanthropy which make me shun society, so not one of them objects to my behavior and some of them even appear edified by it.”

My notes from the weekend are still mostly indecipherable and private, however, there are a couple of quotes from my reading material worth transcribing. The first couple are from George Dennis O’Brien:

“Humankind is not free to do even small, unspectacular things, but it is wholly free to give value both to what can and cannot be done with ten fingers and a sharp pencil. Humans have a story to play in which the principal motif is freedom and dignity. Nothing has meaning for humanity except as it is set into that story. Any human limitation from death to drowsiness waits for humanity to assign it a value. In my pursuit of fame or sainthood, I will decide whether sleep is a blessed relief or a bothersome bore. Is it not the fact of sleep that plays in the human story, it is the value. Thus, in sovereign freedom, humanity can turn aside from death, deity, or taxes and claim they play no meaningful role in the story. They occur, but they reveal nothing about the meaning of my life, which is devoted to my craft and sullen art.”

“In the natural end of death and the historical circumstance of abandonment, Jesus refuses to accept these events as definitive of the meaning of his life. Jesus triumphs over nature and history by that refusal. In this interpretation Jesus is an exemplar – perhaps even a unique exemplar – of the spiritual triumph of humankind over the lordship of nature and history. We are all called to a similar moral heroism.”

“The scientist transcending his untenured assistant professorship into the world of eternal truth, proof, and rational argument; the Stoic emperor or slave seeking a tranquil mind as the empire collapses; the Epicurean gardener walled into a quietude of nature while the great world wages without; the playboy/playgirl abandoning the cares of office in the timeless moment of erotic bliss―all these good folk, if they adopt their escape mechanism as the meaning of human life, have decided that mere humanity either cannot or ought not be saved. What is shocking about the Bible is that it suggests a salvation for humankind while its deity chooses human history.”

“If one chooses neither to retreat from the world nor to spruce it up to better standards, what is the alternative? What would it mean to “affirm the world”? One might imagine an attitude of quietude and acceptance. It would have to be a special sort of acceptance, however, not the quietude of despair.”

“To play in this game we must accept a set of theological rules. In this game we are necessarily involved with godliness. The name of the game is “Make a Life.” Act, re-collect, and reposition acts so that at the end life has been more than a tourist’s itinerary. Winning the game is being somebody. Losing is refusing to be somebody or faking it. For humans, being some-body seems to require being a definite or “restricted” somebody. We play this game in the valley.”

The last two are from Jean-Pierre de Caussade:

“Consider your life, and you will see that it consists of countless trifling actions. Yet God is quite satisfied with them, for doing them as they should be done is the part we have to play in our striving for perfection.”

“For, to him, everything is the same, equally useful or equally useless. Without him everything is nothing, and with him nothing is everything. We may meditate, indulge in contemplation, pray aloud, practice interior silence, live an active life or one withdrawn from the world, and though they may all be valuable, there is nothing better for us than to do what God wants at any particular moment. We must regard everything else with complete indifference and as something worth nothing at all. As we see only God in everything, we must take or leave all things according to his will, so that we neither live, nor develop, nor hope except as he ordains, and never try to use things which have neither power nor worth except through him.”

I endeavor now to untangle my notes and compare them to the ones made before my silence and solitude with the monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer.

The Head and the Heart – Let’s Be Still

Weekend 326.0 (Is this the real deal?)

***Update: The storm was kind of a bust and ridiculously over-hyped (shocker)***

We’re expecting a little snow here in New England so I biked to the diner for breakfast and by the beach expecting limited “obstruction-free” cycling opportunities over the next couple of days.

Some musical accompaniment for various blizzard activities:

(1) Geronimo

(2) Change The World

Weekend 325.0

(1) Look At Life: Living with Cars 1964 (YouTube)