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June Newsletter (2023)

I wanted to reach out and let everyone know how we're doing, since we've been in Chicago for 10 months now and things have finally settled down enough to write a real update about how things stand at the moment.

A little background: We were living in Texas when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022. In theory this decision should not have affected me personally; I'm not pregnant or trying to get pregnant, I'm medically infertile, and I'm a stone's throw away from menopause. But doctors and pharmacies in affected states (like Texas) have been forced to stop prescribing critical pain medications because those medications *could* be used in a home-abortion, and the doctors and pharmacists involved *could* face serious jail time and loss of license for being accessories, even unknowingly. There have been several news stories over this which I won't link here, but the pain medication stoppage has affected many chronic pain patients, even ones who don't have the medical capability to get pregnant.

Most of you know that I have had a lifelong struggle with scoliosis and chronic back pain. I've had two spinal fusion surgeries, both of which have made my situation worse, and I haven't known a pain-free day since I was a child. I require a cane in order to walk and I spend most of my days resting in bed. I'm lucky to have a work-from-home job that allows me to have flexible hours and which has medical insurance so I can see pain doctors and they can prescribe mitigating medications in order to improve my quality of life. I will be on opioid medication until I die, and I am very grateful that these medications exist in order to let me live, laugh, and love.

WELL. That was a long way to say that I need those medications in order to function, and suddenly I couldn't get them in Texas anymore. We had to quickly scramble to get to a blue state where abortion wasn't illegal, and therefore my pain medications weren't restricted as possible abortion-vectors. We ended up moving in August to Chicago and it has been an adventure. We have a beautiful house that has flooded with sewage once already (it shouldn't happen again, though!) and have learned this week that it needs a new roof, whoops! So there have been some ups and downs, but we're happily working through them all. The cats are ecstatic and love their new window view, and Kissmate is starting school at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) in the fall. We're considered "the Cat House" on our block and in the mornings when children walk to school we can hear them calling up "hi kitties!" as they walk by. It's adorable.

What is most exciting, though, is that I have a new pain doctor. He's... Well, you wouldn't LIKE him, probably, haha. He's very brusque and blunt and not easy to talk to. If you've ever seen the television show HOUSE M.D., he's a lot like that guy. But he's very passionate about pain mitigation. He's furious at how badly he feels my back situation and overall pain management has been "butchered" up to this point, and it's nice to find a doctor who actually cares about my situation and isn't just checking a box to get me in and out of the office. But he's limited in how much he can prescribe me, because of the whole War on Opioids that is going on right now (sigh) and that's been a source of fear and concern for me--how will I live if my medications get restricted or cut off?

Because of these ongoing threats to prescribed pain relief, he's been talking to me about non-prescription alternatives for my situation. There's a procedure he does called a "medial branch block" where he's able to poke needles into my back and locate the spinal nerves which report pain to the brain. You see, MY nerves are highly agitated all the time because of the metal that was screwed into my spine during my surgeries, so the nerves are ALWAYS reporting painpainpain to the brain, even though there's nothing I can do to "calm" the situation down--I can't just reach in and take the metal out. So my doctor wants to turn those nerves OFF for a while. He pokes around to find the nerves, then numbs them for a few days in order to test that he has the right culprits. When we're sure which nerves are the problem, he can actually BURN the nerves for a few months. The burning lasts anywhere from 6 to 18 months, and during that time the nerves can't report pain to the brain. Once the nerves have repaired themselves from the burning, you have to go back in and do it again. So the good news is that it isn't permanent (if something goes wrong) but the bad news is that it isn't permanent (if everything goes right).

This isn't an easy process, which is probably why my Texas pain doctor never pushed me to try it. (If I could just stick with my pain medication forever, I would.) There are four numbing appointments to test that he has the right nerves, and these appointments are AGONY. I have been through some interesting pain spikes in my lifetime, and these numbing appointments take the cake! He has to poke a bunch of spinal nerves with a needle over and over and ask, "Does THIS hurt? Does THIS hurt?" until we find the nerve that makes me scream. Fun!! Then the actual burning appointment has to be done TWICE because medical insurance is ridiculous and wants to force me to be sedated and opened up TWICE so that they can separate the Left Side and the Right Side as two different treatments they can try to deny. FUN.

BUT. I am sitting here typing this after my third test and... I don't feel any back pain. My nerves are still screaming at me because it takes them about 24 hours to calm down after they've been needled, but the constant regular back pain that I've felt for as long as I can remember... is just gone. And it's been consistently like this for the tests we've had so far: I have one day of agony because my nerves are all jiggled up and angry, and then I get to experience this pleasant heavenly numbness that I can't describe as anything but the absence of pain. After the first test I actually cried four days after the procedure when the pain came back, because it was just so NICE to live without pain for the first time ever. Once I finish all these tests and can do the full nerve-burn procedure, I should be able to feel that numbness for MONTHS instead of days. I cannot WAIT.

My burning procedures are scheduled for the last week of July and the first week of August, almost a full year since we moved here. I won't be Superman after this, to be clear. My back doesn't feel pain when these nerves are numbed, but I still get tired and my spine feels "heavy" if I start to overdo my limits, and then I have to rest. I'll still need to walk with a cane, and I'll still need to park in my handicap parking spot. (I am getting a handicapped state ID card today! Dealing with the Chicago DMV has been a dream! It's so efficient and polite that I feel like I'm in another reality! It's like THE GOOD PLACE, if you've seen that show!) But I'll be able to live without constant pain, and I can't tell you how exciting that is. I'm so hopeful and happy, and I never even knew this procedure existed. What a miracle this has been!

I know this has been A Lot, but it was important to me that I catch everyone up on my medical situation now that I have some solid Good News to share. I hope everyone is doing well and I'm sending my love.

Open Thread: June Berry Moon

There are a lot of names for the monthly moons. As a Wiccan practitioner, my favorite name for the June full moon is the Berry Moon. What's yours?

Open Threads are for socializing and sharing! What have you been reading / writing / listening / playing / watching lately? Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about.

Live-Read: A Libertarian Walks Into A Bear

[Content Note: Animal Cruelty, Animal Injury and Death, Animal Attacks, Libertarians, Awful Hitler References]

A Libertarian Walks Into A Bear

I have begun reading the book by the guy who wrote the article about the town of Libertarians who were being attacked by bears and it is *surreal*. If you haven't read the article about the Libertarians and the bears and the woman feeding them piles of donuts everyday, it is an absolute must-read. I'll wait.

[The Town That Went Feral]

Film Corner: Sherlock Holmeses (Holmsi?)

This isn't a live-watch, but a recommendation: we've been using a free trial of Brit Box on Amazon Prime to watch The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett as Sherlock and it's wonderful. Brett was born to play the great detective. And they ramp up the love between Watson and Holmes! These men are married the way Crowley and Aziraphale in Good Omens were married. (Watson's wife doesn't even exist in this version!) And the stories are the real published ones and done very very well. I highly recommend marathon-ing the series on a Brit Box free trial.

We also very much enjoyed the 2002 Hound of the Baskervilles with Richard Roxburgh as Sherlock Holmes, aka Moriarty in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen aka Dracula in Van Helsing. The sudden and very intense awareness that the actor playing Mycroft in the Jeremy Brett Holmes series is Charles Gray from Rocky Horror Picture Show as in "It's just a jump to the left" scholar-guy with lots of books and binders telling us a cautionary tale about Brad and Janet. He has apparently also been Blofeld in a Bond movie.

May Newsletter (2023)

I feel a need to apologize in advance for being inactive on here for the past week or so. I've been somewhat ill (something to do with sinuses and dust in the state?) and it hasn't left a lot of time for posting or live-watching or just writing in general. I've spent the last 18 hours or so asleep and plan to return to that state again shortly. I'm only awake at the moment because I woke Kissmate up by thrashing about and saying something about being "lord of death and pain", and he decided that it was time for another round of my pain pills, washed down with raisin toast. He is very good to me and I love him so much.

However. NEWS:

1) CATS. Cheddar has decided to let us pet him. He has taken head-strokes and nose-strokes from me, and chin-scritches and chest-scritches from Kissmate. This was very new and accomplished with a hefty salmon-puree bribe.

2) REWARDS. We have finally finished cleaning up from the flood! This means I can get to my postage stamps and the little printer that prints mailing labels. And THAT means I can start sending out patreon rewards again!! I plan to start messaging everyone in batches to double-check your mailing address (since it's entirely possible everyone has moved) so please check your patreon messages. I'm very excited about this and I appreciate everyone's amazing patience.

3) MOVIES. Tubi, which is one of those "free television and movies, but with ads" has some new offerings which may be of interest to folks here:
- Pacific Rim
- V series (I remember this being fun in a really weird way)
- Columbo
- Kubo and the Two Strings
- Men in Black 1-3
- Animorphs series (haven't seen this, but aligns with some of y'all's interests)
- Pandorum (goblins in spaaaaace!)
- The Monkey King 1 & 2 (I love these live-action adaptations)
- The Monkey King Reborn (an excellent animated Monkey King)
- Knight of Shadows (extremely good)
- Overlord anime series

We've been watching Yu-Gi-Oh abridged on YouTube (hilarious!) and Overlord. As far as Overlord goes, I loved Season 1 very much as it was wholesome and sad and poignant and touching and scary and deeply satisfying. Season 2 took a sharp turn into "why aren't people using their words" and "I don't like villainous heroes and this is reminding me why" so we're taking a bit of a break before we dive back in for Season 3. I admit I would prefer to be writing than to be watching television, but it's getting increasingly hard for me to compose while lying in bed, because there's been some new shooting pains in my arms when I try to do that. My pain doctor is going to try some treatments with me that will, I think, burn the nerves into behaving. I'm a little nervous but at the same time very much looking forward to that.

I hope to be posting for for you all very soon. Sending you love. ♥

4. SOCIAL MEDIA. Oh! I completely forgot to mention: I have joined Mastodon now. Here is my account. It looks a little bare, I know; I haven't been able to really sit up and flesh the profile out with words and pictures. I'm going to try to resume doing live-watches and live-reads there, since I think a lot of people miss those. And I'll of course cross-pose everything to patreon, so you don't need to worry that you'll miss a thing!

ChatGPT & Transgender Fairy Tales

I have a personal interest in computer-generated outputs and have been hearing a lot about ChatGPT, including concerns about how it replicates human gender biases and why that is not great! (Dr. Damien Williams has a good thread on Mastodon Social about how ChatGPT assumes that "doctor" means male and "nurse" means female, and how these known human gender biases should not be replicated.) I created an account in order to be able to chat with ChatGPT and asked it to create "transgender fairy tales" for me.

Why? Well, obviously I have an interest in transgender fairy tales! Moreover, we have a wealth of public domain fairy tales to learn from (indeed, *most* fairy tales are public domain!) so I felt this was a relatively safe use of AI learning and would not be ripping off living artists in the way that many *art*-generating programs do. I was performing the request as a test only (i.e., not planning to publish the material as my own work), and wanted to see how something largely programmed by cis people, on examples made by cis people, for the enjoyment of cis people would interpret my request.

Here are the results, but the short version is that ChatGPT could use some work in this area.



I asked ChatGPT for a transgender fairy tale, then provided some feedback of my concerns. (ChatGPT was very polite in response to my feedback and certainly said the right things in response.) I waited a week for the feedback to (potentially) be incorporated into the system. The reason for this pause is that the system states that a human staff reviews human inputs and takes feedback on board, but it's unclear how long this process is. It's also unclear to me whether the chatbot itself is capable of "learning" directly from the user. So this was the best I could do in terms of "waiting" for the chatbot to learn. I then asked ChatGPT for 5 more transgender fairy tales, for a total of 6. (One with feedback, five without.)

These tales are labeled Tests #1-#6 in chronological order of request.

Goddess of Trans Men

[Mild but possibly necessary content notes: Talking about transness as a function of change rather than an "always knew" narrative (which are of course totally valid!), wild and rambling speculation on ancient Greek culture and literature, toxic masculinity and narratives about women as deceivers]

This isn't so much a post as it is an extended advertisement for you all to join my new obsession which is EPIC: THE MUSICAL, a new musical about Odysseus. When this came into my orbit I was a little skeptical because I was afraid that the musical might cover up a lot of the more complicated and difficult parts of the Odyssey but I've listened to the material that's been released so far (it's an ongoing project) and I'm really impressed and love it very much. Note that it does go the route wherein Odysseus kills Hector's infant son (rather than Pyrrhus doing the killing, which is the alternate version we have depending on which Illiad you're reading) so there's a major trigger warning for that in the first song.

"Warrior of the Mind" is a song from Athena's perspective where she's counseling Odysseus not to let down his guard; the war may be over, but they're not home safe yet and he needs to stay on his toes. And the Genius annotations on the lyrics are really helpful, especially if you're like me and haven't read The Odyssey in ten years or so. There's a line about how, with Odysseus' help, "then they'll see" and the annotations talk about how the Greeks (who were far from a cultural monolith) were really culturally torn on the question of what qualities make for the "best" warrior.

This is basically why we have TWO gods of war for them: you have the beefcake one (Ares) who tries to be the best by just... putting in the work. He never skips leg day, he masters all the weapons, he goes to all the battles, and when it's war day (and for him, EVERY day is war day) he stands on the front lines and screams with the best of them and runs into the enemy and he OWNS by virtue of just being badass. And he favors whichever side has the strongest warrior, because that's how war *works*: the strongest guy wins. Right?

Then you have Athena who, sure, is competent in battle because if you want to win a war you DO ultimately need to be able to swing a sword or spear as needed, but she's not the best because she's the best swords-swinger; she's the best because she's the best strategist. She uses her brain and she embraces the concept of battle maneuvers. She considers a good strategy *better* than having the strongest beefcakes on her side, and to a lot of Greeks that's... wrong? even borderline cheating? To a lot of Odysseus' contemporaries *within the context of his own story*, he was considered dishonorable and kind of a cheater because he used "tricks" rather than superior force and "honorable" man-to-man combat. So you have this musical where Athena sings about her hopes that his story will make them see she's right.

I'm telling all this to Kissmate because I'm a big nerd who loves gushing about ancient Greek stuff, and I end up on a tangent that this might well be partly WHY Athena is a woman. Because women were historically considered (by toxic Western men; I can't really speak for other cultures here) to be the "sly" gender, the "clever" class who gets her way not by brute force but by clever manipulation of the brutes around her. You don't complain because at the end of the day she (Athena) gets you home alive, but there's a sense of aloof mystery there: Athena, the virgin woman, is untouchable and unknowable. You can sit down and have a beer with Ares, but you don't become "best friends" with Athena (in the song Odysseus enthuses about this possibility and she coolly and with careful distance pushes him back a step with "We'll see where it ends". Beautiful.)

Because everything always comes back to gender in our house, lol, I started thinking that, oh man, the ancient Greeks might well have *loved* the idea of Athena as a trans men and goddess of trans men. Because you could have this person who "started" life as a woman, collected all of women's sly secrets and clever ways of thinking, but then transitions to a warrior (traditionally male!) and used all that forbidden knowledge to proceed to kick all the ass. And there are, of course, so many stories waiting to be written about Achilles to almost-kind-of did *exactly that* in the sense that he was disguised as a woman and placed among King Lycomedes' daughters in order to protect him because his mother didn't want him to go off to war. At which point Odyssues (Athena's chosen!) showed up to recruit Achilles, who then went off to be one of the best warriors among the Greeks. (Even though he did end up dying in battle, there was a prophesy that the Greeks could ONLY win the war against Troy if Achilles came with!)

And, of course, this isn't necessarily a totally great narrative in the sense that it's still shaped by toxic masculinity and the idea of women as both deceivers and fundamentally different from men! But still I do like imagining how earlier societies might have explained modern trans people, rather than just assuming (as the Evangelicals like to do) that they would've just shunned us completely.

Self-Promotion: GoodReads Reviews

I think some of you have mentioned reading and enjoying Cinder The Fireplace Boy. If you have, could you consider taking a moment to positively review the book on GoodReads? I hate to ask, as I know everyone is so busy and everything asks you for a review these days, but it's always a little saddening to me to see my work brought down by this sort of thing (below). Thank you so much in advance!! ❤

Narnia: Much Ado About Nothing

[Narnia Content Note: Mention of Alcoholism & Gun Violence]

Narnia Recap: Digory and Polly returned home, but brought Queen Jadis with them. Now the children have managed to take the Queen, their Uncle, and an innocent Cabby (and his horse) into the Wood Between Worlds.

The Magician's Nephew, Chapter 8: The Fight At The Lamp-Post

It's been a while since my last post, so I'm going to quote the opening of that prior post because I feel it works well as a summation of what has come before: When we last left Narnia, the Empress Jadis was taxi-surfing through the streets of London after having burgled a jewelry store. She has returned to Digory's house not because it is considered a safe haven to Andrew or a source of escape to Jadis but merely through narrative chance. Digory has been considering whether he should do something protagonisty, while Jadis has introduced herself to the crowd. Lewis wants to take Jadis down a peg or three, so the crowd is about to react unkindly.

That pretty much sums up the last post. The crowd is rude to Jadis, she whips the cab-horse up into a frenzy because her character keeps careening between stately self-control and wild unfocused fury, and the children teleport themselves, and the Queen, and their Uncle, and the Cabby, and the cab-horse into the Wood Between the Worlds.

   As soon as the Witch saw that she was once more in the wood she turned pale and bent down till her face touched the mane of the horse. You could see she felt deadly sick. Uncle Andrew was shivering. But Strawberry, the horse, shook his head, gave a cheerful whinny, and seemed to feel better. He became quiet for the first time since Digory had seen him. His ears, which had been laid flat back on his skull, came into their proper position, and the fire went out of his eyes.
   “That’s right, old boy,” said the Cabby, slapping Strawberry’s neck. “That’s better. Take it easy.”
   Strawberry did the most natural thing in the world. Being very thirsty (and no wonder) he walked slowly across to the nearest pool and stepped into it to have a drink. Digory was still holding the Witch’s heel and Polly was holding Digory’s hand. One of the Cabby’s hands was on Strawberry; and Uncle Andrew, still very shaky, had just grabbed on the Cabby’s other hand.
   “Quick,” said Polly, with a look at Digory. “Greens!”

There are a few things here to note, some of which don't make much sense. The most obvious detail is that in addition to the Witch being helpless in this Wood, Uncle Andrew seems also to be affected adversely. Are they afflicted because they are evil or because they both practice the wrong sort of magic? Meanwhile, the cab-horse--which we will hereafter call Strawberry--seems to be invigorated. That would appear to be a natural opposite of how Jadis and Andrew are feeling, until we remember that previously the Wood made Polly and Digory feel sleepy. None of the "good" people (Polly, Digory, Strawberry, and the Cabby) seem sleepy now, and it's unclear why not. Is it because their adrenaline is more kicked up than Polly's was when Uncle Andrew kidnapped her and sent her here? We do not know.

The second thing to note is that Polly and Digory are very keen to pop into another world. I find this confusing! In their previous visit, they had the presence of mind to move slowly and with sensible clarity: they made sure to mark the pool which led back to Earth, for example. Yet they do not pause here to check that those markings still exist. They just hop into the first pool anyone touches, which is strange. In the Wood, the Witch is helpless; yet they know that when she was brought to Earth, she immediately reinvigorated and regained a portion of her power. (Not all of it, as she was not able to blast their aunt with magic, but she did possess dangerous physical strength.) Why not just leave her to rot in the Wood, and possibly Uncle Andrew too? The only answer appears to be "because plot" but that's far from adequate, especially when numerous plot points up to this point have *also* been implausible coincidences (like Jadis ending up in front of Digory's house whilst he speculated whether or not he should Do Something).

  So the horse never got his drink. Instead, the whole party found themselves sinking into darkness. Strawberry neighed; Uncle Andrew whimpered. Digory said, “That was a bit of luck.”
  There was a short pause. Then Polly said, “Oughtn’t we to be nearly there now?”
  “We do seem to be somewhere,” said Digory. “At least I’m standing on something solid.”
  “Why, so am I, now that I come to think of it,” said Polly. “But why’s it so dark? I say, do you think we got into the wrong Pool?”
  “Perhaps this is Charn,” said Digory. “Only we’ve got back in the middle of the night.”
  “This is not Charn,” came the Witch’s voice. “This is an empty world. This is Nothing.”

Okay, so, apparently the children thought they were going into the Charn pool? And their plan was to return Jadis to the world she came from? That's not a terrible plan, but it was already noted long ago that the pools are so thick on the ground that without a marking there is no way to tell one from the other. The children were wise to mark the Earth pool but did *not* mark the Charn pool, and there's no reason to believe Strawberry was trying to drink from the Charn one. (We will soon find that he was not, and later we will learn that the Charn pool is now a dry grassy depression with no water because that's what happens to dead worlds.) If the plan was to return the Witch to her home world, that was very badly planned out. Furthermore, they know that the Witch is physically and magically powerful in her world, and she knows how to hitchhike on the rings. So how, exactly, were they planning to take her to Charn and leave her there against her will? Once again, it seems much wiser and safer to just leave her to rot in the Wood. Push her off the horse and just go home!

  And really it was uncommonly like Nothing. There were no stars. It was so dark that they couldn’t see one another at all and it made no difference whether you kept your eyes shut or opened. Under their feet there was a cool, flat something which might have been earth, and was certainly not grass or wood. The air was cold and dry and there was no wind.
  “My doom has come upon me,” said the Witch in a voice of horrible calmness.
  “Oh don’t say that,” babbled Uncle Andrew. “My dear young lady, pray don’t say such things. It can’t be as bad as that. Ah—Cabman—my good man—you don’t happen to have a flask about you? A drop of spirits is just what I need.”

The Cabby does not have any alcohol about him, but instead suggests that they all sing a "harvest thanksgiving hymn" in order to keep their spirits up while they wait for rescue or death in this dark place. (He thinks they've fallen down a dig-site for a new London Underground metro station which... I don't know where to start with that. He's supposed to be a homey down-to-earth figure in this fantastical world, but he *saw* the Wood Between Worlds? but sometimes people forget the Wood after leaving? but...so...anyway.)

Meanwhile, Uncle Andrew draws Digory off into the darkness and asks/tells him to put on his ring so the two of them can go home. Jadis overhears and vaguely threatens him, while Digory tells him off for even considering that he might abandon Polly and the Cabby here. Jadis is present and hears this, so just... hold onto that fact, okay? It will be important several chapters from now. I'm just going to quote the relevant bit so we can all be on the same page as to what Digory said and what Jadis heard.

  But the Witch had very good ears. “Fool!” came her voice and she leaped off the horse. “Have you forgotten that I can hear men’s thoughts? Let go the boy. If you attempt treachery I will take such vengeance upon you as never was heard of in all worlds from the beginning.”
  “And,” added Digory, “if you think I’m such a mean pig as to go off and leave Polly—and the Cabby—and the horse—in a place like this, you’re well mistaken.”
  “You are a very naughty and impertinent little boy,” said Uncle Andrew.
  “Hush!” said the Cabby. They all listened.

Alright, gentlethems, here is the part you've all been waiting for: the Genesis of Narnia.

  In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide from what direction it was coming. Sometimes it seemed to come from all directions at once. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them. Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself. There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it. The horse seemed to like it too; he gave the sort of whinny a horse would give if, after years of being a cab-horse, it found itself back in the old field where it had played as a foal, and saw someone whom it remembered and loved coming across the field to bring it a lump of sugar.
  “Gawd!” said the Cabby. “Ain’t it lovely?”

This is a little random, but fuckit, it's my blog and I can do what I want. I am going to strongly recommend you go to YouTube and search for "Geoff Castellucci" of VoicePlay fame. He has the deeeeeeepest voice and it's really the only voice I can at the moment imagine pulling off this fantastical feat: the voice is so beautiful you could weep to hear it sing, but there's no tune to the singing. How? Through the magic of Geoff! Obviously it's going to turn out to be Aslan, but let me have this for a moment longer.

  Then two wonders happened at the same moment. One was that the voice was suddenly joined by other voices; more voices than you could possibly count. They were in harmony with it, but far higher up the scale: cold, tingling, silvery voices. The second wonder was that the blackness overhead, all at once, was blazing with stars. They didn’t come out gently one by one, as they do on a summer evening. One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light leaped out—single stars, constellations, and planets, brighter and bigger than any in our world. There were no clouds. The new stars and the new voices began at exactly the same time. If you had seen and heard it, as Digory did, you would have felt quite certain that it was the stars themselves which were singing, and that it was the First Voice, the deep one, which had made them appear and made them sing.

This is a Biblical reference to Job 38:7, which says that at the dawn of creation "the morning stars sang together". Every so often an astrophysicist will point out the extremely cool fact that all stars produce acoustic waves that are too low-frequency for human ears to hear but which can be picked up by telescopes and reconstructed with instruments to make eerie "music" from the vibrations. Then some Christians will get really excited and use this as "evidence" that the Bible was right about the singing stars and how could primitive peoples have known that without divine inspiration and therefore the Bible is fact, et cetera, whilst carefully not engaging with the fact that (a) stars can't really sing in a goddamn vacuum that doesn't carry sound ("In space, no one can hear you sing.") and (b) the "sound" from the stars had to be thoroughly manipulated in order to turn it into anything resembling music. Not quite as described in Job. I don't know, I guess I get my hair in a twist about this because the idea of stars singing at their creation is so poetic and beautiful, and it feels like something truly lovely is lost when someone tries to jam that poetry into Realism and insist that it's factual fact. Like trying to mathematically prove that a rose by any other name would, in a survey of 9 out of 10 respondents, smell just as sweet. Anyway.

  There was soon light enough for them to see one another’s faces. The Cabby and the two children had open mouths and shining eyes; they were drinking in the sound, and they looked as if it reminded them of something. Uncle Andrew’s mouth was open too, but not open with joy. He looked more as if his chin had simply dropped away from the rest of his face. His shoulders were stooped and his knees shook. He was not liking the Voice. If he could have got away from it by creeping into a rat’s hole, he would have done so. But the Witch looked as if, in a way, she understood the music better than any of them. Her mouth was shut, her lips were pressed together, and her fists were clenched. Ever since the song began she had felt that this whole world was filled with a Magic different from hers and stronger. She hated it. She would have smashed that whole world, or all worlds, to pieces, if it would only stop the singing. The horse stood with its ears well forward, and twitching. Every now and then it snorted and stamped the ground. It no longer looked like a tired old cab-horse; you could now well believe that its father had been in battles.

Battles, Lewis? Really? I remain deeply frustrated that he has to bring everything good back to the martial arts. His father can't have been a proud race-horse or a mighty farm-horse or a wild stallion on the plains; he has to have been in battles, the most manly of arts.

  The eastern sky changed from white to pink and from pink to gold. The Voice rose and rose, till all the air was shaking with it. And just as it swelled to the mightiest and most glorious sound it had yet produced, the sun arose.
  Digory had never seen such a sun. The sun above the ruins of Charn had looked older than ours: this looked younger. You could imagine that it laughed for joy as it came up. And as its beams shot across the land the travelers could see for the first time what sort of place they were in. It was a valley through which a broad, swift river wound its way, flowing eastward toward the sun. Southward there were mountains, northward there were lower hills. But it was a valley of mere earth, rock and water; there was not a tree, not a bush, not a blade of grass to be seen. The earth was of many colors; they were fresh, hot and vivid. They made you feel excited; until you saw the Singer himself, and then you forgot everything else.
  It was a Lion. Huge, shaggy, and bright, it stood facing the risen sun. Its mouth was wide open in song and it was about three hundred yards away.

I will give Lewis this: the actual creation parts are pretty. In the next chapter we'll get to the creation of the animals, which is extremely fun, but this part is good too. The vivid image of a young laughing sun is a delight. Jadis and Uncle Andrew are horrified at the sight of the Lion, with Jadis wanting to "fly at once" back to the Wood and Andrew wishing he had a gun to shoot the lion. Andrew tries to collect both the children and their rings, intending to leave Jadis behind. Jadis lunges for the children but Digory is faster and... sort of takes Polly hostage. Lewis probably didn't intend for me to laugh at this, but it reminds me of that scene in Blazing Saddles when the sheriff takes himself hostage. [Content Note: N-word, Racism]Link is here, at 2:30.[/]

  “Oh, it’s rings, is it?” cried Jadis. She would have had her hands in Digory’s pocket before you could say knife, but Digory grabbed Polly and shouted out:
  “Take care. If either of you come half an inch nearer, we two will vanish and you’ll be left here for good. Yes: I have a ring in my pocket that will take Polly and me home. And look! My hand is just ready. So keep your distance. I’m sorry about you” (he looked at the Cabby) “and about the horse, but I can’t help that. As for you two” (he looked at Uncle Andrew and the Queen) “you’re both magicians, so you ought to enjoy living together.”

Let the record show that Digory is, at least, sorry about the Cabby and Strawberry. The Cabby, however, either does not care what is happening right now or is so lost that he can't follow the action; it's genuinely unclear which.

  “‘Old your noise, everyone,” said the Cabby. “I want to listen to the moosic.”
  For the song had now changed.

And thus we get another of Lewis' baffling chapter breaks in the middle of an ongoing scene wherein nothing has yet been resolved. Chapter 8 is dead, long live Chapter 9.

Film Corner: Why I Want Queer Disney Princesses

Every so often someone goes semi-viral with a take that I will try to summarize as: "Disney doesn't care about you. Stop asking them for queer characters and representation. Support indie authors/creators instead."

Look. I'm a queer indie author and creator. I would absolutely love for everyone to support me and read my work. (I think it's really good! But I'm biased!) But I also strongly support asking Disney--I would even go so far as to say I support badgering and bullying Disney--into giving us queer main characters, queer princesses, and real queer representation that isn't just a minor side character being briefly in the vicinity of another character who might share their gender and GASP the "first" gay Disney character since the last "first" one.

Why? Why do I want queer characters included in soulless corporate media that only cares about us if they can get our money?

Well, for one, I do occasionally like to watch a nice flashy animated movie and I would like to see someone like me in those movies someday. We haven't had a queer Disney princess, nor a trans one, nor one that deals with a visible physical disability. (Unless you count Quasimodo as a Disney Princess and I kind of *do*, but his movie unfortunately has some...other issues.) It is possible to BOTH "support indie creators" AND want to see yourself in expensive flashy heavily-marketed soulless corporate media. Consuming the occasional Disney movie doesn't mean that I suddenly don't have time, or won't make the effort, to watch other things.

But secondly, and honestly more importantly to me: I don't ask Disney for queer representation for myself. I do it for all the folks who need queer representation and don't even realize it. I was a queer child who needed to be told that trans people exist, that gay people exist, that queer people exist, and that we're normal and wholesome and just fine as we are. I needed my parents to be shown queer representation in popular mainstream movies, so they could come around to recognizing that "queer" doesn't mean "child predator" or "inveterate sinner" but instead it just means that some people are a little different from them and it's fine.

We know--we have studies to show this--that repeated contact with realistic fictional representation of marginalized identities reduces overall social bigotry against the people being represented. The normal wholesome fictional character replaces the scary bogeyman that people have built up in their minds. You simply cannot continue to insist to yourself and your children that all (for example) queer women are seductive sirens luring good women away from their husbands when a bright cheery Rapunzel is on-screen shyly falling in love with another girl. What's more is that bigots *know* this and it's why they're so insistent that Disney not become inclusive--they want to teach their children to hate queer people and they know that will be impossible if someone popular like Elsa is queer. Kids can't hate Elsa.

In short: support indie creators, yes, please. But please can we stop the rhetoric that only a brainwashed fool would want representation from evil soulless corporate media? We are allowed to consume junk food alongside our organic artisanal fare, and we're allowed to want representation for all the baby queers out there who still don't even have a word for what they are.

Review: Honey, I Joined a Cult (Steam)

Honey, I Joined A Cult is an adorable game that I don't quite know whether or not to recommend. The in-game artwork and sprites are very cute, and the writing is funny and gets a reliable smile from me every time. The premise of the game is that you are a charlatan cult leader with an aesthetic straight out of the 1970s. Your goal is to cultivate a core group of cult "members" (i.e., free laborers) and "followers" (visitors who are milked for money by paying to use fraudulent "therapy" rooms) while you can live out the easy life as a fake spiritual leader. If you happen to establish World Peace or summon a Great Old One in the process of all this, well, whoop-si-doodle.

The dark humor and cartoony graphics combine well if you're into that sort of thing (and I am). But the game suffers from a common problem that plagues many sims: once you have a good routine down, you're just grinding resources until you earn enough to cash in for an ending. My last game clocked a total of 14 hours, but I had most of the "therapy rooms" built at around 5 hours, and the remaining 9 hours was just letting the game run on autopilot in the background until I racked up enough resources to win the game. There are options to grind for upgrades to the therapy rooms, but they aren't very excited and just boil down to either "more decorations" or "more earned money" for each room. So a large portion of the game felt a bit of a slog, and I'm not seized with a desire to replay another cult flavor (the current options are Peace & Love, Aliens, and Darkness) because I can tell not much will be different in terms of core gameplay.

I will say, the game author(s) seem very much aware of this problem, but I don't really like the solutions they're trying out to combat the issue. For example, every so often protesters will show up to picket your cult and you have to figure out which cultists are best to send out to talk them down. The problem is, the entire premise of the game is that you (the cult leader) see all your followers as interchangeable dupes, so it's a bit off-message to suddenly have to pour over which one appeals best to Logic and which one values Emotion in order to vibe best with the picketers. Another attempt to jazz up the game can be seen with random events that happen during missions; the problem with these is that I hate doing missions and the funny random events didn't really make them feel any less of a hated obligation.

If I could make a wishlist for the game, I think it would be:

- Give me a bigger compound to build in. Some of my members want private bedrooms, but there's no room for anything but big barracks-style housing and a huge privacy-free bathroom where everyone does their business out in the open. Maybe we could upgrade to a bigger compound over time, as that would give me something to do with this pile of money that I sleep on every night.

- The "decor" category is huge and unwieldy to scroll through. It needs sub-categories for things like statues, tables, novelties, etc. They also start to feel pointless when all they do is increase the "status" of a room. Can you implement some kind of stat-boost for specific items in specific rooms: "important documents" speed up research, while the "teapot" speeds up cooking in the kitchen? Etc. Speaking of, give me fewer things that take up precious floor space and more things that I can hang on walls, please!

- I cannot give a 5-star sermon to save my life. Adjust the requirements for this to be less unforgiving, please? Speaking of unreasonable standards: 100,000 Influence points for a Steam Achievement is insane. Did you mean 10,000? Because I spent 14 hours on my last play-through and got 26,000 Influence by the end. I didn't want to sink another 42 hours into that save file just to snag the achievement, you know?

- The therapy rooms are interesting, but I want more of them! It feels very limiting that we only end up with half a dozen types of rooms. I wanted more rooms and (possibly) to have to choose which sorts of rooms my cult would specialize in. Picking my cult flavor only gave me one new room (the Maypole Dance room, which was admittedly VERY COOL, nice Wicker Man!) whereas I wanted so much more. There's so many flavors of 1970s chicanery to choose from--magnets, spoon bending, psychic card decks, blurry photographs, faith healing, and so forth--and it just feels very disappointing to be limited to maggot baths and yoga mats.

- The writing in the random events is extremely strong and I enjoy them very much. I would perhaps expand that concept to occur outside the missions as well. Police could show up to tour the compound and the player's answers could affect whether your political Heat goes up or down. Family members could visit the cult members and that could affect Influence or Public Relations.

- Speaking of public relations, I want to be able to throw events at the compound, even if it's just a text box on the Mission screen. I kept expecting the PR missions to evolve from more than just radio appearances. Admittedly I didn't do very many of those because they kept increasing my Heat for no good reason and Heat is hard enough to manage as is. I would balance that a little better; going on a radio show or throwing a charity event or hosting a gerbil-adoption day shouldn't increase political heat like that!

- [Trigger Warning: Sexual Coercion] I was not planning to use the "Free Love" room at all and was a little annoyed to find that it was mandatory in order to receive the Peace & Love finale. It might seem silly that I'm cool with playing a game about exploiting free labor from victims of religious abuse, yet I draw the line at sexual coercion but I do. The room is a cool game mechanic (letting cult members share positive traits and stats after "learning" from each other...in bed) but I would *strongly* recommend implementing a statistical possibility wherein the chosen pair refuse to use the room because they're Just Not That Into Each Other; this would make me feel like they have a *choice* in the matter and are actively consenting when they do use the room. I have similar feelings about the incense room, for that matter.

Anyway, I have rambled enough and this is getting long. I enjoyed the game a lot, but I enjoy the IDEA of the game more than the implementation right now, if that makes sense. I hope that future implementations feature a little more variety and a little less slog.

Review: Oxygen Not Included (Steam)

This is the best game I've ever hated. This adorable and highly addictive game is for people who feel that nuclear physics aren't challenging enough. Even on easy/casual mode (and thank god there's an easy mode), this is the most challenging resource management game I've ever played--and not for the wrong reasons, as is so often the case with these sorts of games. The artificial intelligence for your sims is surprisingly well-implemented, the ability to prioritize tasking on the fly is flawless, and you don't have to micromanage your sims just to get them to eat and sleep as needed. The "every three days" respawn point that awards you a new person or "care package" of needed stuff is highly addictive and pings my ADHD brain juuuust right.

That said, holy cow this game is HARD. You need oxygen? You'll install an algae terranium to turn carbon dioxide (which your sims keep selfishly exhaling) into oxygen. But they produce polluted water, which means you need to invent electric wiring, manual hamster-wheel generators, and a water sieve to turn that polluted water back into clean drinkable water. Which you need because your crops (and algae) keep drinking all your water. But those generators are heating the colony air over time (so much running, so much exercise!) which raises the ambient temperature in your gardens, which means your plants won't grow. Time to either starve to death or invent a complex system of hydrogen-based cooling and air ducts to cool the place down. Whoops, you're out of clean water because your crops were thirsty while you were inventing all that!

Seriously, this is the most realistic space-building sim I've ever played. It's adorable and addictive and I am *very bad* at it. I hate it so much, lol, but I highly recommend it for people who are, well, smarter than I am. I'm going back to lurk in the dark ages with my medieval sims who never ask me to invent anything higher than the Iron Age.

Review: Unpacking (Steam)

I reaaaally wanted to like this game. Unpacking stuff in a low-stress environment is exactly the kind of thing my brain likes to do to relax, so this seemed like the perfect game to unwind. Also, I'd heard that the game had a nice story to follow as well, so that sounded like a lovely cup of tea. But. This game is so stressful, and I don't even know where to start unpacking (ha) my problems with it.

One: the rooms you're unpacking stuff into *aren't empty*. You have to try to jam the heroine's stuff in around other people's things. So it's not a beautiful clean slate that you paint with belongings, but more like a messy jumble of someone else's things that you have to work around and hope they don't mind. Some items are even locked in place and can't be moved! I was actually surprised by how much stress this triggered, and I wanted to call a house meeting to discuss the toilet paper situation.

Two: many of the items are tiny, blurred, or otherwise unclear what they are or where they go. I would have preferred the interface have a label and location for what something is when you pick it up. Turns out the game has Strong Opinions on where you can store certain things. Can I put the tiny guitar in my bedroom under the bed? NO. It must go in the living room. Often it's hard to tell where something goes because you can't tell what it is. I had to google how to get past the first level because a cute little purple notebook was actually a *diary* and I had to put that in a secret drawer rather than on the shelf with the other notebooks. I'd foolishly gone and filled the drawer with erasers and rulers and scissors, but those are supposed to go on TOP of the desk, which is how I know that the devs don't have cats.

I quit when I moved back into my childhood room and I was supposed to know that one of the photos wasn't supposed to go on the corkboard with all the other photos but was instead supposed to go in a cabinet where the heroine won't see it (unless she...opens the cabinet??). I was supposed to realize that the tiny photo was of a romantic ex because there was a tiny thumbtack through his tiny face, and I was supposed to guess that instead of "throwing it in the trash" or "storing it in a file folder" that the right answer was to lay it face-up on a cabinet shelf where it will be seen every time the she opens the cabinet. Intuitive!

Three: The story. There isn't one, not really. We're supposed to construct a story ourselves based on wild assumptions regarding the things our heroine owns--it's like walking into a stranger's house and trying to construct a Sherlockian narrative over why they own what they do and then calling that a "story".

Whilst consulting google to figure out what to do with the previously-mentioned photo, I was startled to realize that I was supposed to assume that our room occupant is a world traveler because she collects tiny Eiffel Tower and Leaning Tower of Pisa figurines. WHAT?? I had just assumed that she liked those places! Maybe she collects the figurines because she *can't* afford to travel (if you can't see the real thing, you can at least see the replica) or maybe her dad travels for work and brings back souvenirs for her. I used to have an impressive collection of shot glasses from around the world for that very reason; it doesn't mean I've ever left the country!

We're apparently supposed to chart the "changed interests" of the main character based on which belongings she keeps and which she trims out of her life over time, but having just lost a lot of personal items of my own to a basement flood, I am too aware of how many factors other than "loss of interest" can cause a beloved stuffie or photo to leave one's life. It's strange and frustrating to feel like I'm supposed to access the story through a series of unintuitive logic leaps. Maybe the heroine kept the pink pig stuffie and trimmed the other animals because she loved that one best, or maybe the others were destroyed in a flood, or the thumbtack ex threw out her things, or maybe one of her roommates accidentally stole the stuffies during a move out when they packed them by mistake. Sherlockian analysis is a myth, as Sir Terry Pratchett demonstrated far better than I ever could:

"Samuel Vimes dreamed about Clues. He had a jaundiced view of Clues. He instinctively distrusted them. They got in the way. And he distrusted the kind of person who'd take one look at another man and say in a lordly voice to his companion, "Ah, my dear sir, I can tell you nothing except that he is a left-handed stonemason who has spent some years in the merchant navy and has recently fallen on hard times," and then unroll a lot of supercilious commentary about calluses and stance and the state of a man's boots, when exactly the same comments could apply to a man who was wearing his old clothes because he'd been doing a spot of home bricklaying for a new barbecue pit, and had been tattooed once when he was drunk and seventeen and in fact got seasick on a wet pavement. What arrogance! What an insult to the rich and chaotic variety of the human experience!" --Terry Pratchett, Feet of Clay

Review: Unavowed (Steam)

I often find it easier to write negative reviews than praise-y ones, I think because a negative review is something I can make into a list to clinically go through point-by-point whereas my praise skills are, uh, less polished and frequently just amount to me pointing at something good and going "omg omg you need to experience this omg it's so good". But today I want to tell you about Unavowed by Wadjet Eye Games on Steam which I found by watching my favorite YouTube streamer (SuperGreatFriend).

Unavowed is what every modern adventure game should be from here on out, just in terms of game mechanics. (My opinion, of course! Ymmv!) You don't have to cycle through cursor options like Look/Talk/Walk/Handle; you point at something and the cursor changes automatically based on how you would normally interact with the item. It's so easy and convenient and I love it. Pick-up items are few and far between (and almost always stand out well from the environment) and they disappear from your inventory between chapters, so you don't have to do the adventure game dance of rubbing the screwdriver from Chapter 1 on every item in Chapter 9 hoping that the plot will unlock. In fact, most of the puzzles are solved by talking to people with new information you've uncovered since the last time you talked to them. I love it.

Story-wise, the game is very dark. A year ago, your character was possessed by a demon and went on a very disturbing killing spree... as well as doing a few other horrible things that don't quite make sense but which caused harm to innocents in the city. A group of community-minded magical creatures who call themselves the Unavowed have tracked you down, exorcised the evil spirit, and now you've joined them as they try to undo all the harm your demon did. You're able to help them with your wits and your fleeting memories (or really more like unwanted visions) of what the demon did whilst in your body.

If you don't mind the dark themes (and I watch CSI and Law & Order for fun, so I mean) then there's a really deep and emotional game under the hood about identity and redemption and morality and choices. Each chapter culminates in a complicated moral decision about a magical creature run amok in New York, and your companions are thoughtful and gentle in their advice to you. For example: A muse has lost her supernatural powers and absolutely does *not* want them back, but your demon imbued those powers into a guy who seems genuinely nice and likable BUT he's using his new muse powers recklessly and getting people killed. Do you (a) insist that the original muse take her powers back, even though it will make her miserable, (b) extend trust to the old man that he'll try to do better going forward, or (c) make it so that *nobody* holds the power of the muse, which could have rippling repercussions on artists in the future? Each situation is thoughtfully engineered so that there's no obvious "right" answer, and your companions wrestle with the ethics of the situation without "blaming" you if you choose differently--everyone recognizes that this stuff is complicated!

Representation-wise, too, I really love this game. One of the characters is a Brown woman of color whose magic comes from her Jinn father (and her fighting prowess was taught from her pirate mother). The white man in your group is a long-lived mage who misses his family who for their own protection thinks he is dead; he's the definition of Team Dad and I love him. Your ghost-whisperer is a beautiful Black man paired with a ten-year-old spirit guide named KayKay who is a DELIGHT; he wrestles with problems with addiction that is exacerbated by the strain of having to help people through their death trauma day after painful day. A cop joins your group and, yeah, she sees the cops in a positive light after being raised in a "cop family", but the game itself has a LOT of critical things to say about the police and their tactics. There's a lot of beautiful diversity here and I love it so much. You find yourself talking to the characters because you *want* to know them better.

All in all, I am just very thrilled with this gentle and loving game which takes the darkest parts of the crime genre and asks, sincerely and without judgment, how to make the world a better place.

Review: Project Hospital (Steam)

I really wanted to play this game! But the in-game windows showing patient and doctor data can't be resized and are too big to fit on my 15" laptop screen. If I adjust the game aspect ratio so that the whole window can fit on the screen, the text is too small to read and the buttons are too tiny to click. I will note that they mention this on the store page: "Recommended display: 24“ with 1920 x 1080 resolution" and I just didn't see. So it was my fault for buying and trying this on a 15" laptop. I was really looking forward to this game, so I hope that in the future they include the ability to resize text and buttons.

Review: Planetbase (Steam)

I have sunk so many hours into this game and I want to like it so much, but it is so frustrating. The first 20 minutes of each colony are far too fragile and it just...doesn't make sense!? You didn't bring any extra oxygen with you, so if your colonists can't build an oxygen maker (and power- and water-extractors to run it) then they will immediately die in a day. You brought no water with you either, so you'd better also prioritize a cafeteria with water fountains. And you didn't bring nearly enough metal with you, so you'd better build a mine asap. Once all that is up and running, your 1-2 workers will run around in a panic while your medics and engineers stand around and sniff their own farts. They won't help, you see, because they only do specialized jobs that you don't have buildings for yet. ARGH. Why can't I bring more workers or more resources to start? Yes, it's a challenge but it feels totally artificial for a game that doesn't have some kind of disaster backstory (am I fleeing from Darth Vader? who knows!) so it just feels like beating my head against a wall.

If you can get past the first 20 minutes, then it's basically autopilot from there. You can build almost all of the buildings available in the first hour of play and after that you're just keeping an eye on things while they zip along at 4x speed. There's no way to upgrade buildings or build vertically; you just have to sprawl outward. There's almost no luxuries for your little people, so you don't really come to care about them. It feels like this needs more content, somehow? Luxury lodgings and vertical buildings, maybe. Something to make your colony seem successful. As it is, the only difference between a starting colony of 10 and a city of 300 is how much space you're taking up: everyone still sleeps in bunk bed dorms located a single hallway away from their day job location.

Review: Yes Your Grace (Steam)

This is a fun inventory balancing game; it reminds me of the old Castles II game I used to play as a kid, and scratches the kingdom management itch that the Reigns card games just weren't quite scratching for me. The pixel art is charming and lovely, and the game is difficult without being impossible, so you feel a real sense of achievement when you manage to win.

That said, it should be noted that there's an overarching plot that you have very limited control over. Several times your options as King are basically "Yes/Yes, but". Especially early on, you are crowbared into several decisions that I simply would not have made, and it was particularly frustrating when the plot came back around to chide me for those "choices" that I didn't want to make in the first place. And in the last third of the game you're basically locked into whether you want to be nice to the invaders or nasty to them; the game even *says* at several points that you need to be 100% Nice or 100% Nasty in order to get help from 1 of the 2 available nobles you're courting for help. Not a lot of wiggle room for role-playing.

[Spoiler Note / Trigger Warning: Domestic Violence] To elaborate on how little guidance you have on the plot: Early on, you have no choice but to marry your 13 year old daughter off to a young prince who will then go on to beat her and ultimately burn her at the stake as a witch. You have zero option to help or save her; you can't even *try*. This is the story the devs wanted to tell and I respect that, but as a survivor of domestic violence it was really brutal to witness *bruises* on my daughter and have literally zero option as the king to do anything about it. I would REALLY like a DLC option (for which I would pay!) that gives you the chance to launch a rescue mission with one or more of your agents. It just feels railroad-y that this terrible tragedy must happen so we can all be sad over it. Sigh.

Those issues aside, I enjoyed this game. But I don't think it has any replayability value whatsoever after you've made it to the ending in one piece. You're basically on a single plot-rail the entire time, so the only "choices" you really get to make is how to manage your gold and food supplies. While that affects whether the plot goes well or not, it doesn't really unlock new content, if that makes sense.

Review: Kingdom Two Crows (Steam)

I feel like I'm missing something amidst these glowing reviews. Here was my experience with the game: there's no tutorial, no text, no interaction with anyone at all. Fine, I can dig a silent kingdom management game. Characters cut down trees and harvest grains, but you have no investment in their progress because the ONLY resource you have to manage is gold. You pick up gold. You walk around. You find a spot that the gods have preordained to be a house or a mill or a tower or whatever (you don't get to decide!) and you chuck gold at it so your peasants will build it. The building generates gold and you pick it up and carry it around chucking it at new things to build.

How much gold do you have at any given time? You don't know; there's just a picture of an empty/full purse to give you a vague idea of your resources. If you get too much gold, it spills over into the water and is lost, so spend spend spend! No point in saving up for an expensive resource! At night, little purple ninjas try to steal your crown which will "kill" you but there doesn't really seem to be any penalty for that. Your silent workers keep on plugging, gold keeps pouring in, and your fingers get sore pressing the side-scroll button and wishing your horse wasn't a purebred snail.

Several people mentioned they play this game as a brainless timekiller in class? That's the only way I can see getting any enjoyment out of this game.

Review: Project Zomboid (Steam)

I thought this would be a fun zombie-survival-meets-the-SIMS game where you break into houses and loot them for canned corn and expired water bottles. The minute I left the starting house I was swarmed by an entire football stadium of zombies. Go back into the house to recollect my wits and they instantly break the door down because apparently my contractor used balsa wood for our front door. My only weapon is a toilet plunger. This suburban neighborhood was apparently inhabited at a ratio of 50 people per house. This...is not fun. Add to all this that it took several google searches and an hour of tinkering with the settings just to get the resolution to a decent size where we could read the menu options. Very "early access" at this time. But if all this sounds fun to you, then go nuts and enjoy!

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