Civ V: My Favourite Sink Time

I have a terrible habit with video games of restarting half way through. I haven’t finished the main story line in Skyrim due to wanting to create a new character. Similarly, whenever I play Sid Meyer’s Civilization V I find myself starting a fresh game after an hour of playing. As soon as my capital city begins to approach glory my mind drifts to all the other empires I could be ruling and I’ve exited to the main menu to find a new great leader to role play.

My desire to want to be all available Civilizations means that after playing for five years I have only recently finished a game. Completing a game was partly hampered by my laptop’s processing limitations, which was solved by Steam offering a less intensive touch screen option. However, the technical barrier was far less of an inhibitor than my itch to restart. After defeating both problems I have finally succeeded at all victory conditions and am able to recommend CivV as one of my favourite games.

The appeal of CivV is largely in the level of choice available. You’re offered over twenty Civilizations to choose from, allowing you to pick your favourite current or historical faction. You can resurrect The Vikings or Bablyon and continue their journey into the modern world, defying the ruling of time. Most current countries are available as well. America can be made a scientific beacon for the world again and Trump doesn’t have to be President.

In order to win a game there are several options. Naturally, war is an option for those who want to rule the world with a sword or a nuclear bomb. You can be Genghis Khan and trample cities under a Monglian war horde but it affects the happiness of your population and is a large economic drain. If you’re like myself then and war isn’t always the way then you can win through Diplomacy, Culture or Science instead.

Ultimately, CivV is a unique offering among Turn Based Strategy games. There are a myriad of intriguing mechanics to be considered such as Religion, Tourism and voting in the United Nations. Civ has given me some of my fondest gaming memories and hardest won victories. It’s not every day you that you can launch India to the moon as President Ghandi or be voted Leader of the World whilst role playing the King of Sweden.

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Last Exit to Brooklyn

In 1967 Last Exit to Brooklyn was trialed for obscenity by a UK court for its graphic content and depictions of cruelty. The jury consisted solely of men because Selby Jr’s narration of prostitution, homosexuality, violence and drug taking was deemed potentially embarrassing to women. After deliberating on the novel’s content the trial concluded it unfit for public consumption and prohibited sale and publication. Fortunately, this verdict was reconsidered, only to be overturned the following year.

Last Exit to Brooklyn is still a challenging book to read. Selby Jr treated his characters with the contempt they treat each other. Every person in the novel is dragged along by their base desire for sex, violence or securing a chemical high, often leading to their demise in a pool of their own blood.
Overall, it is a brilliant but uncomfortable book to read. The character’s lives are fast and you’re pulled through the pages by the sentences missing full stops and chapters lacking paragraphs. The foregoing of traditional punctuation lends a unique style, as if a friend is telling you graphic gossip at a bar.

Two years of Goodreads

I first joined Goodreads in September 2015 and have been using it on & (mostly) off ever since. In the last eight or nine months my activity on the book review site has accelerated. Before opening the first page I immediately update my “book shelf” and after final sentence I award the author my stars. My visits to Goodreads have probably increased due to ‘Reading Challenge” function. This feature allows the user to set a reading goal for the end of the year, so that whenever you complete and update your latest favourite you’re also reaching a goal.

For this year’s reading challenge I set myself an attainable target of 45 books. Now we are roughly half way through the year and I’ve managed a respectable 27 titles (60% apparently). This pile of books has been bolstered this year by being able to update eBooks from my kindle devices. Opening up my Goodreads to electronic texts has been helpful in finding new books as well. Sometimes, one of the worst aspects of being a heavy reader is that you simply run out of books, or rather you can’t see the wood for the trees. Perhaps a more subtitle metaphor for this stage in the paper’s production would be ‘not seeing the pages for the books’? Whichever allusion you choose, it’s handy to have a community of people, across several platforms with varied reading interests that mirror and inspire your own.

The other function I’ve recently discovered (I shall exorbitantly name) is multi-platform reviewing. This allows me to share my recent Goodread reviews on my WordPress blog. Sharing the reviews onto my blog is something I am excited about because it enable me to join two areas of my writing experience together. Now that the reading challenge is slowly rolling downhill towards the goal I intend to focus more intently on the reviews and hope you enjoy them.

Happy Reading

Stockholm still surprises me

Today marks the anniversary of the first time I got on a plane and left the little island known as England. My first journey to another country was for a second date at the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest. Fast forward twelve months and I’ve flown to Sweden over a dozen times because the second date transfigured into relationship. As usual I step off the plane knowing exactly when the Flybussanar arrives; I’m aware the time it takes to grab a filter coffee from 7/11; how I jump from the coach, take the tube and always laugh at the stop called Aspudden. The routine is now scarily familiar but is the central reason why Stockholm feels like my second home.

On Saturday afternoon we wandered into central Stockholm for food supplies. On the way I detoured into the city library to get a smell of old books but was distracted by the road completely lined with people. There was a commentator with a crackled microphone whose every third word I understood. He was commentating the KTH Royal Institute of Technology’s student’s parade. I soon learned that every three years the scientific minds carnival the streets with a procession of floats. The whole city seemed to turn out for an exhibit of adapted cars and dancing. It lasted about an hour and when the last vehicle passed a trail of the public followed the music into the distance.

My last visit demonstrated an important lesson. It taught that cities are large with a plethora of people living within its boundaries. The lives of these people interact, collide and change. In each 24hour cycle a multitude of new events occur, making every day different. No matter how familiar you are with your roads there’s always another to wander or maybe a parade will stumble across yours. I’m excited for the new possibilites the city has to offer. I’ll sleuth our some more of your secrets Stockholm when I see you in three weeks.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

If you’re among the two people who read my previous post you’ll know how nine-year-old me failed to become The Hero of Time. My inadequacy in completing my first Zelda game has haunted me ever since. At night my sleep is disturbed by my conceding of the Kingdom of Hyrule to Ganondorf. The failure repeated itself in several of the games and every incarnation of Link I played ultimately lost. In Majora’s Mask I couldn’t prevent the moon from plummeting into Clock Town and in a Link to the Past I gave up at the first dungeon. However, just as the Zelda games keep reincarnating the hero for fresh adversity, so I continued to pick up my sword and console to face the varying Avatars of Ganon. There’s an anecdote that stipulates that a room of monkeys with a typewriter will eventually write up the works of Shakespeare. This claim is accurate because after trying my sixth attempt at Zelda I finally succeeded in defeating the darkness. I became the saviour of Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

Some may argue that this is an easy game and a true Hero is the one who can dispel the tide of Evil on a television, not on the dual screens of the Nintendo 3DS. Others may postulate that it is cheating to use an online walk-through and to rage quit when defeated in order to preserve hired weapons rather than wasting Rupees on purchasing items again. To these combatants I respond that I am the Hero of both Hyrule and Lorule with no defeats. To save two kingdoms from despair any means must be taken.

A Link Between Worlds is a classic Zelda title, relying on the usual tropes and story I have come to expect and adore. As Link I save the Princess, obtain a decent enough sword to cut up bad guys and defend the triforce. The map is reminiscent of a Link to the past and it isn’t an offence in saying Nintendo has built on old work. The unique mechanic of this game is the ability to merge into walls by become a painting. This technique allows you to walk between Hyrule and Lorule, accessing areas that cannot be reached in one plane alone. Jumping between the parallels is a unique feature that adds an interesting facet to the game and a new complexity to dungeon puzzles.

With the newly mastered ability I imbued the master Sword with ore and defeated the recent aspect of Ganon and his androgynous benefactor Yuga. As the title credits detailed victory my chin raised in pride. After fifteen years and countless defeats I had finally grown into the Hero of Hyrule. With new pride I may return to the past, be awoken by Navi and rectify the mistakes of childhood.

 

The Defeated Hero of Time

I have been the Hero of Time for fifteen years. In all the time I’ve been defending Hyrule I’ve been cursed: cursed to never complete a game. My hex began with my first console. For Christmas 2002 I was gifted with a Nintendo64, a copy of Mario Cart and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Mario Kart was easy to play, simply accelerate and dodge the shells. Zelda, on the other hand, proved to be a challenge to great for a nine year old.

The first hours of game play were easy enough. I was awoken by Navi, bought a shield, obtained my sword and delved into the internal dungeon of The Great Deku Tree. After banishing Gohma I mourned the passing of The Great Deku Tree and snaked my way around Hyrule Castle, before Princess Zelda sent me on my Quest up Death Mountain. It went so well I could have recorded the first few hours as a decent walk-through. Next I bombed open the entrance to Dodongo’s Cavern and with my shield raised I soldiered inside. At this point my Mother wanted a turn at being The Hero of Time. Hesitantly, I passed her the yellow controller, only to watch her push the joystick forward and Link straight into lava.

Declaring it was a child’s game she passed the controller back and went along with her day not knowing my Deku Shield was now cinders. I tried to continue along the Dungeon with my Hylian Shield but it was too strong to defeat the Deku Scrubs. Instead of returning their projectiles, the overly effective shield demolished the attacks and prevented further journey into Dodongo’s Cavern. Defeated I trudged back out of the second dungeon and went in search of a new Deku Shield.

Even now I am hindered by my lack of instinctual direction. For the nine year old player this was even worse. Hard as I tried I couldn’t return to Korkiri Village and purchase the essential item. I traveled the map for days, braving the skeletons the plagued the plains at night. In the end I gave up on my dream of retrieving the Goron Ruby and left my the console to gather dust.

Liverpool for Easter

Liverpool was awarded the honour of European Capital of Culture in 2008. After spending 72hours in the city it is easy to observe how it achieved the title. Within the Easter break I managed to entertain myself with four museums, a couple of galleries and too much food. Surprisingly, a full weekend can be enjoyed without enduring a single Beatles song or a tour of Anfield. Wandering around the city there are whispers of an epic nightlife. I couldn’t advise you on wisdom within these rumours because I am old, slightly beige and prefer to spend my evening watching La La Land in the hotel. Instead, I’ll explore some of the day time highlights of Liverpool.

After arriving in central station the easiest area to explore is the Culture Quarter. Here you can find the theatre, World Museum, Walker Art Gallery and Central Library. If you can navigate your way around the parents with prams the World Museum contains five floors of exhibits. The displays range from the depths of the ocean in the Aquarium towards the reaches of the solar system in the Planetarium. In between you can explore a plethora of civilsations stretching across history and geography. By simply turning a corner you’ve strolled across the countries of Africa, into the golden relics of the Mayan Empire, and before lunch time arrived in Tibet.

Occasionally the crowds can make the Museum overwhelming because the attraction is exceptionally popular with families during school holidays. After hauling your luggage through the herd you can be slightly exasperated. To cure this I’d take a trip next door to central library. I’d suggest making your way up all the floors towards the roof terrace. Here you can take a moment to breathe and view the city from above. The calm of walking among the books towards the city-scape view is the ideal way to restore your peace before adventuring forward.

After the vertical walking of the World Museum and Central Library it’s probably time for lunch. As with all cities, Liverpool isn’t short of great places to eat. For lunch I’d advise a trip to Bold Street. Here you can find most of the world’s cuisines and a few unique eateries as well. Deciding on a restaurant will depend on what you’re hungry for but I’d suggest independent tea shop and bar LEAF. This cafe is also an occasional performance space and has always been busy whenever I have visited either for a pot of tea or brunch. Starting at breakfast you can enjoy a traditional Full English or vegetarian, pescatarian and vegan variations. Food continues throughout the day with Mezze style sharing platters and Mediterranean inspired salads and meat dishes. This can all be accompanied with tea (available to purchase for home) or something stronger.

After lunch, when the day is hopefully warmer, would be the best time to visit the Albert Dock. Braving the wind are several antique sailing vessels you can board in between your wander around the water. The dock is home to several attractions which include the famous Beatles Museum and the Liverpool Tate. The Tate’s currently has an exhibit joining the work of Tracy Emin and William Blake. As an ex-literature student and art enthusiast I was in my nerd epoch. Seeing Emin’s My Bed up close is a confidence enhancer about the cleanliness  of your own home. Emin’s work that focuses on grounded human subjects (such as impressionist paintings of the naked female form) provide a satisfying contrast to Blake’s idealised paintings of Christian mythology.

If the galleries aren’t your scene then the Museum of Slavery/Maritime Museum is a peculiar three floor combination museum. They advertise themselves as separate buildings but are more akin to individual exhibits within the same space. As you traverse each floor a feeling of melancholia develops as you delve into the depths of the city’s connection to tragedy. Being heavily involved with the Titanic and her infamous sinking the second floor highlights the devastation the ship’s destruction had on Liverpool’s population. Many workers and relatives of the city embarked on the Titanic’s maiden and became victims of the disaster.

The third floor explores the slave trade and importantly acknowledges Liverpool’s involvement in the atrocity as a port city. Although we all know the abuses of history this exhibit serves as a reminder to revisit the horrors of our history, learn again of the awful acts and how they have shaped as well as still impact modern, industrial societies. You are sobered as you exit the exhibits and truly entrenched in the glory and falls of Liverpool.

As a city of culture Liverpool is encumbered with places to enjoy your evening meal. The choices are numerous and even boast a Michelin star restaurant. If overly fine dining isn’t within your price range or style then I’d opt for something simpler. Lunya is a tapas bar and deli where you can enjoy the catatonia delicacies sold to grocery customers alongside a brimming table of small dishes. There’s something for everyone (even the vegans) served by delightful Spanish waiters. I’d recommend the deep fried goats cheese and everything else on the menu.

After a fill of good food, sea air and intense images in the galleries and museums it’s understandable if you don’t want to chase down a bar. You’re more than welcome to do like me and room service a bottle of wine, watch Hollywood’s latest attempt at a musical and get a good night’s sleep before journeying into the city again tomorrow.