Friday, January 31, 2014

Gravity's Rainbow

(Originally posted Summer of 2007)

After much deliberation I bought a copy of Gravity's Rainbow and started to read it. Although I love literature, I haven't read a book for a long time (well, except for Self-Made Man, which I recommend - but that's not really literature). Too busy. So I may be too busy to read this impenetrable thousand page behemoth which is why I deliberated so long in buying it. I don't like buying books and not reading them. Which is why I never bought Ulysses and never will. Blechh..


The book centers around Germany's V-2 Rocket Bomb. The V-2 rocket became an archetype of 50's science fiction completely divorced from its wartime origins. Now with that characteristic shape come visions of peaceful and optimistic earthlings spreading their utopian peace across the universe in cold-war era movies and short stories. Even so, I'm excited to delve into it.

Speaking of rockets, Rebekka and I took the kids out to the park the other day to launch one. We found a ready-to-fly Estes model rocket at Target for $17 and I decided to drag my family along to visit my childhood. My last experience as a child with a model rocket was watching my carefully constructed and painted (black!) space shuttle burst into flames before my eyes as I tried to hide my tears from my father. That was painful enough to discourage any return to the practice of model rocketry until last week.

We launched the rocket four times. I expected my son to love it and he did. What surprised me was how much Rebekka and my two girls enjoyed it. On the fourth and final flight we lost the rocket. We spent about an hour looking for it, but never found it. That's ok though, because as Gabby (my 6-year old) said, "it went into real space!"

After we returned, Gabby asked me if anyone had ever been to Mars.
"No, but we've sent robots up there and we have a lot of pictures.", I said.
"So when are people going to go up there?", she asked.
"Oh, in maybe fifteen or twenty years."
"I want to be that person!", she said with a huge grin.

(Image: A Tintin Comic: Destination Moon.  I have a French version of this book from a summer I spent in Belgium.)

I Was An Atomic Mutant

(Originally posted 2006)

I bought this PC game a few years ago at a Wal-Mart in Lee's Summit, Missouri for $3. The gameplay is repetitive and the in-game graphics are unimpressive - but it hooks me. It's a ValuSoft title developed on a shoe-string. A single developer is credited for the engine. Its redeeming strength is that its atmosphere totally captures the 50's and 60's era sci-fi and monster movies it imitates.

Thematically the game resembles Destroy All Humans! and Destroy All Humans! 2, which are far better games but don't quite nail the atmosphere of old sci-fi flicks like this does. The Destroy All Humans! are too self aware to fully capture those movies. Another game with a similar feel is Godzilla: Save the Earth which, while clearly much more polished, scores one point below Atomic Mutant on Metacritic (64 vs. 63). And I Was An Atomic Mutant scores a full thirteen points above our own vastly ambitious but ultimately underwheming Superman Returns.

So what does this mean? It would be irresponsible to draw any conclusions from this example, but it is interesting.