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Posts Tagged ‘2010’

Reading: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As the name suggests, sadness is an enduring theme of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. It’s about a girl named Rose who, just as she is turning nine years old, is suddenly able to taste in food the emotions of the person who prepared it. She makes the discovery upon eating the titular lemon cake, lovingly prepared by her mother, but so full of sadness and dissatisfaction that Rose can’t even pretend to enjoy it.

Many kids, it seemed, would find out that their parents were flawed, messed-up people later in life, and I didn’t appreciate getting to know it all so strong and early.

Food becomes a minefield, exposing Rose to the emotions everybody is trying to hide. The sadness of openly happy people, the rage of the quiet ones and, above all others, her mother’s desperate need for something to fulfil her. Rose learns early on that she can’t explain what is happening to her and finds solace in junk food, snacks and other heavily-processed items, where the human involvement is distant and minimal.

The story jumps around a little but progresses steadily forward in time, as Rose tries to avoid her ability and just exist with her family. Her mother flits from project to project until she finds something that can fill that emptiness within her, and fawns over Rose’s older brother, Joseph. Joseph is brilliant but can’t connect with people, shutting himself away physically and emotionally. Her father, a man who seemed to approach having a family as a life event to tick off his list, has no way to truly communicate with any of them.

The best way I can describe it is just that my father was a fairly focused man, a smart one with a core of simplicity who had ended up with three highly complicated people sharing the household with him: a wife who seemed raw with loneliness, a son whose gaze was so unsettling people had to shove cereal boxes at him to get a break, and a daughter who couldn’t even eat a regular school lunch without having to take a fifteen-minute walk to recover. Who were these people?

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is not a story about powers (there are large portions of the book where Rose’s ability is mostly irrelevant), not of some grand revelation about where the ability comes from or some fated event where everything comes together. Rose’s ability is a means for her to truly see people and to understand that everybody is hiding their real feelings, including herself, and ultimately to realise that knowing the truth doesn’t really enable her to do anything about it. People hide their true feelings even from themselves, and have to work things out in their own way, or they’ll never get help. That’s particularly sad.

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Gaming: Darksiders

Over the weekend I started and finished Darksiders on PC, which I picked up very cheaply in a previous Steam sale. It’s a good game, and like the demo suggested it sits somewhere between Zelda and God of War, being combat-heavy and sending you off to dungeons in search of items which help you navigate the world, the boss generally having a weakness to your newest item. The world feels like the creators know more about it than they’re revealing, that they do have some investment in their story and it’s not just dressing up the combat, and there’s a good visual style to a lot of it (especially the main characters), like they’ve been plucked out of a comic or cartoon but without being cel-shaded.

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Film – Quick Thoughts: Tron: Legacy

January 20, 2012 1 comment

Tron: Legacy
Tron: Legacy, directed by Joseph Kosinski
Written by: Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde
My rating: 4 of 5

I watched this on Blu-ray. It’s not a perfect film by any means, Garrett Hedlund being a bit bland beside Jeff Bridges and Olivia Wilde (who are both excellent) as he’s pretty much a generic hero in absent-father Kirk mode, Sam’s arc is much less interesting and more predictable than Flynn’s or Quorra’s, Encom’s CEO and the board in general are a cliché evil corporation and I’m not convinced Clu’s plan was a good as he or Flynn thought it was.

Those things aside though I really did enjoy it. The Tron style looks lovely with modern CGI and in HD, they really did a good job with it. They’ve built the setting up into a full-fledged sci-fi universe now, which possibly takes something away from the original version of the setting but really makes it an interesting place. They’ve updated everything nicely for modern audiences (the games and lightcycles), there are plenty of good action sequences and I liked the soundtrack.

Film – Quick Thoughts: The Expendables

January 11, 2012 1 comment

The Expendables
The Expendables, directed by Sylvester Stallone
Written by: Dave Callaham and Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and Eric Roberts
My rating: 3 of 5

My fifth film of 2012 was The Expendables on Blu-ray. The main draw is obviously the cast, a classic action star like Sylvester Stallone working alongside modern ones like Jet Li and Jason Statham, with Dolph Lundgren and Steve Austin in supporting roles. It’s the kind of film where Stallone is hanging out with his motorcycles when Mickey Rourke rides in, gives him a tattoo and sends him to meet with Bruce Willis, who offers a job to him or Arnold Schwarzenegger. Just having them all together, even briefly, makes the opening half hour lots of fun.

After that it becomes a fairly standard modern action movie and lots of the dialogue is pretty clunky, not just when it strays into difficult territory like the romance subplots but even just in the banter between the team. I enjoyed it but I don’t think it made the most of the cast it had.

Gaming: The Daily Creed 07: The brave (?) people of Rome

October 20, 2011 Leave a comment

The Daily Creed is a series of (mostly) bitesize posts about my ongoing playthrough of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, sequel to what is still currently my fourth favourite game of 2009. The first post is here.

It seems that every person in this picture is looking at Ezio and thinking, "Yeah, I could probably take him." Except perhaps for the guards.

As with Assassin’s Creed 2, money isn’t hard to come by in the sequel. The economy essentially breaks once you’ve bought a few businesses, with large payments appearing in banks every twenty minutes. While there are others ways to earn money – finding florins in chests, looting corpses and picking pockets – there’s really little need to do so.

There are other reasons to pick pockets though. One is that each time you do so it raises your notoriety, so passing through a busy street is a good way to quickly build it up and ensure guards will always be looking for a fight. The other is that you get to see just how the citizens of Rome react.

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Gaming: The Daily Creed 06: Pavlovian punching

October 19, 2011 Leave a comment

The Daily Creed is a series of (mostly) bitesize posts about my ongoing playthrough of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, sequel to what is still currently my fourth favourite game of 2009. The first post is here.

Forget the Templars or the Borgias, these guys are part of the true villainous faction of the series.

As I walk the streets in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood I find myself instinctively attacking any musician who walks into my path. Not killing them, because Ezio didn’t do that (and the game ‘kills’ you if you kill three civilians in a short amount of time), but grabbing them and beating them to the floor with a few punches, knees or headbutts. I didn’t even think about doing it, it was an automatic reaction to them and I didn’t quite know why.

Then I watched the following video:

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Gaming: The Daily Creed 05: Blame it on the Animus!

October 18, 2011 3 comments

The Daily Creed is a series of (mostly) bitesize posts about my ongoing playthrough of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, sequel to what is still currently my fourth favourite game of 2009. The first post is here.

That's right, it's all your fault!

The Assassin’s Creed series is supposed to be a reasonably realistic alternate history (sci-fi conspiracy and genetic memory nonsense aside, naturally). As I briefly covered yesterday there are plenty of moments in the Assassin’s Creed games that potentially undermine it, where Ezio’s world clearly isn’t a realistic one.

The game also has the perfect excuse to get around each one of these immersion-breakers though: It’s just a simulation!

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