Neon Genesis Evangelion

A lot of Evangelion references have been cropping up in my Twitter feed lately, and I (initially) wasn’t sure why. Well, it’s because Netflix just added it, and that’s kind of a big deal, because it hasn’t been (legally) available in the US since 2009 or thereabouts. I have the series on DVD, and finished watching it in 2003. (It originally came out, in Japan, in 1995.) I’ve occasionally thought about doing a re-watch, but have never gotten around to it. Nor have I gotten around to buying and/or watching any of the follow-up movies.

Maybe I should re-watch it on Netflix now. I just read a few of the recent articles about it, and I’m kind of curious what I’d think about it, at this point in my life. Would it make more sense? Less sense? Would it seem smarter? Dumber? Prescient? Outdated? I don’t know.

Here are some links to a few of the more interesting or useful articles I found:

  • Polygon has an article on the right way to watch the series. (In a nutshell: watch the original series. Don’t try to start with the movies.)
  • Quartz has an article that’s mostly about how the series resonates today: “Neon Genesis Evangelion is a classic 1995 Japanese animated series that takes place in a future that is already our past, the year 2015. Yet it has never been more relevant.”
  • The New Yorker has a short article that talks a bit about the theme of the man/machine relationship in Evangelion. (If you told me in 2003 that someday I’d be reading a serious article about Evangelion in the New Yorker, I would not have believed you.)
  • The Verge has an article calling Evangelion the “perfect story for this moment in history.” It talks a bit about the theme of “the Hedgehog’s Dilemma” and ties it to our current social/political climate. It’s a pretty smart take on the show, I think.
  • Finally, Polygon has a really great long article by Aaron Stewart-Ahn that goes into the history of the show, specifically in relation to Hideaki Anno’s “lifelong struggles with depression and alienation.” This one is definitely worth reading.

I have so much other stuff on my “want to watch” list that it probably doesn’t make sense for me to re-watch Evangelion right now, but I’m really tempted. I’ve been in the kind of mood lately where watching something like Eva might be either a very good or very bad idea. I’m not sure.

Xbox follow-up

Now that I’ve had my Xbox for a few weeks, I thought I should post a follow-up. I’m mostly using it to play Bejeweled, to be honest. I played Mass Effect for about a half-hour, and haven’t gotten back to it. Ditto for Stardew Valley. I want to get back to both of those, but right now, War and Peace is more of a draw for me. It helps that I can read War and Peace outside, or at work, or on the train. It’s been nice out the last few weekends, so I’ve been sitting outside on Division Street and reading a lot. (Can’t do that with an Xbox.) I’m about 25% of the way through War and Peace.

It’s funny, if you look at a site like How Long To Beat, a lot of modern video games take about as long to complete as it takes to read War and Peace. (According to my Kindle, it’s maybe a 40-50 hour book.) I won’t look down on or argue with anyone who chooses to play the Mass Effect trilogy over reading War and Peace, but I think I’ve turned into more of a War and Peace kind of guy as I’ve gotten older.

And since E3 is done, maybe I should take a moment to review the Xbox news out of that show.

  • Everybody continues to push into subscriptions, including Microsoft, with the new Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, for $15/month. I guess that’s great if you play a ton of games, but it’s definitely not for me.
  • The next gen Xbox looks interesting, and should be out near the end of 2020. Given that I seem to gravitate towards games like Bejeweled and Stardew Valley, that don’t exactly push the current gen hardware, I’m not likely to jump on the next gen bandwagon any time soon.
  • I’m glad to see that the next gen Xbox will continue to support backwards compatibility with older games, from the original Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. The headline in the linked article says “Microsoft ends Xbox backward compatibility,”  but that’s a little misleading. The article itself says that “Microsoft is winding down new additions to its Xbox backward compatibility catalog,” and “Microsoft is now committing to get every Xbox One game running on Scarlett, alongside games from all four generations of Xbox.” So that should be cool, and a good reason to (eventually) buy a next gen Xbox.

On a somewhat related topic, I enjoyed this article on the “slow death of the strategy guide”. It’s an excerpt from this book, which is currently just $3.82 for the Kindle version, so might be worth picking up. I’ve got strategy guides for a bunch of games, including several that I never got around to playing. Some of them are pretty cool, with lots of art and screenshots. Some people consider using strategy guides as cheating, but I always found that they added to my enjoyment of a game, making it easier for me to keep track of where I was, how the game worked, and whether or not I was on the right track. Generally, they helped me manage the more annoying stuff without getting in the way of the fun stuff. Since most games don’t even come with an instruction manual anymore, I wish more of them had good official (or unofficial) hard-copy strategy guides available. But I guess there’s not much of a market for that anymore.

no more iTunes and too much Main St music

Somebody thought it would be a good idea to start playing music here on Main St again, for the summer, and again it’s gone horribly wrong. Well, maybe not horribly wrong, but I woke up to bad jazz coming in through my window at 4 AM this morning, so pretty wrong. I stayed in bed until about 4:30, when the switch from bad jazz to yacht rock occurred, at which point I gave up and got out of bed. So now I’ve got an extra hour or so to kill before I have to go to work, so I might as well do some blogging.

I’ve been running across a lot of articles this week about the end of iTunes. Some of them are quite overblown and even misleading. Here’s one that isn’t. Key line: “For the most part, the end of iTunes seems to be an end in name only: key features will be retained in the Music app.” (And iTunes for Windows is sticking around for now too.) Here’s a FAQ-style article from CNET that’s also fairly useful and not misleading.

There are a lot of think pieces out there that are mostly following the same narrative. Here’s one from The Verge. The general structure of most of these goes through the rise of iPods, ripping CDs, pirating music through Napster, and buying 99¢ songs through iTunes, then the decline of that model and the rise of streaming music. I can’t argue with any of that, though I’m still not that keen on switching over to a $10/month streaming service.

Depending on how usable the new Apple Music app actually is, I may need to go back to my search for a good alternative music management system. Back in 2017, I had an issue that prompted me to look around. I tried Swinsian on my Mac and MediaMonkey on my PC, but wasn’t happy enough with either of them to stick with them. The issue I had with iTunes eventually got fixed, so I stuck with iTunes.

I’m actually getting a lot of my music these days from podcasts and streaming radio. I’m listening to Monday Graveyard and Future Astronauts regularly, and enjoying both. (And supporting both on Patreon, though for only a buck a month.) And right at this moment, I’m listening to some nice stuff on NTS. (The description of the show I’m listening to right now starts with “Exploring long-form structures and expressive micro-tuning systems…”, so yeah, it’s that kind of music! It’s these guys, apparently.)

I occasionally consider signing up for a streaming music service, though I still can’t talk myself into it. Amazon Music Unlimited would probably be the cheapest, at $8/month for Prime members. (I’m wondering about that price now though, since the page linked above currently shows two “Try It” buttons, one of which says $7.99/month under it, while the other says $9.99/month. And I saw an even higher price in a popup in the iOS app yesterday. So I don’t know what’s going on there.) Anyway, my taste is weird enough right now that I’m probably better off sticking with oddball podcasts, streaming radio stations, and an occasional Bandcamp purchase.

Well, it’s around 6:45 AM now, so it’s still a bit too early to go to work. Maybe I should go for a walk.


War and Peace

I started reading War and Peace this month, as a group read for the Great American Read Goodreads group I’m in. I’ve also been running the group for the last month or two, since the original moderator took a break. So I’ve done a bit of internet research on the book, in preparation for reading it, and so I could share it with the group. So I might as well also share it here, and mark the point where I started reading. Then, assuming I finish, I can write another blog post at the end.

I’ve allocated two months for reading it (June and July), which is probably a bit optimistic. But that’s more about not tying up the Goodreads group for three or four months on one book than it is about how long it takes to read War and Peace. I imagine we’ll start a new group read in August, but I expect I’ll still be working on War and Peace through to Labor Day, at least.

I’m reading this Kindle version, which was free when I bought it, but now seems to be 99¢. It includes an excerpt from a book called Give War And Peace A Chance, which might be worth reading also. The translation is by Aylmer and Louise Maude, done in the 1920’s, I think. Comparing it to bits of other translations that I’ve looked at, I think it may be the most accessible to a casual American reader. And it’s apparently in the public domain, since it’s the version available at Project Gutenberg.

When I get into something like this, I often overdo the research, and sometimes go into a weird mode where I also start buying related stuff. In this case, I’ve also bought the BBC radio dramatization of the book from 2014 and the BBC TV miniseries, from 2016, both from Apple/iTunes. I thought that seeing/hearing the characters might help me keep them straight. I’ve started listening to the radio version, and it’s pretty good. The TV mini-series inspired a few good articles at The Guardian, such as this 10 things you need to know article and this could you read War and Peace in a week bit.

Hardware in, hardware out

OK, here’s one more Xbox follow-up post (previous). The vertical stand was delivered on Memorial Day. I was kind of surprised about that, since (1) it’s a holiday, and (2) all the streets around my apartment are closed off on Memorial Day for the big bike race. But, somehow, the Amazon delivery guy found somewhere to park, then schlepped a box full of packages down Main Street. He hit my apartment building right as I was about to go out and wander around a little. If he’d shown up five minutes later, I would have missed him. (It’s possible someone would have let him into the building though, since one of my neighbors was hanging out right in front of the building watching the race.) So, again, it would have been more convenient for everyone if Amazon just used the USPS, but it’s fine.

I promised myself several years ago that I wouldn’t bring in any new tech without getting rid of an equivalent amount of old tech. So I took some time today to get rid of a bunch of stuff. There’s a monthly electronics recycling drop-off for my county, in Hillsborough, so I went over there today with a bunch of stuff. I got rid of:

  • an old HP desktop PC (with the drives removed),
  • an old Toshiba HD-DVD player,
  • a very old VCR,
  • my Dad’s old Sony CD changer,
  • my old MacBook (with the drive removed),
  • an old Apple TV,
  • an old Roku box,
  • an old Samsung tablet,
  • and my old Automatic adapter.

So I guess I’m officially giving up on a few things, like ever watching a VHS video tape or an HD-DVD again. I think I really need to purge my CD collection soon too. I have way too many CDs, and they’re not organized really well. Honestly, I have a lot of stuff to purge, but I’ll save that for another post.

Back to the Xbox: After saying that I wasn’t going to sign up for any subscription services, I went ahead and signed up for a year of EA Access. It’s only $30. I will probably go in and turn off recurring billing on it, to force myself to make a decision about it in a year, rather than letting it auto-renew. I downloaded Mass Effect and Bejeweled 3, but that’s it so far.

Honestly, I’ve been playing Bejeweled more than anything else. I think I first played Bejeweled on my Toshiba e310, which would have been in 2002 or thereabouts. (I could be wrong; it might have been on one of my Palm units. Either way, I remember it being grayscale, and playing with a stylus.) It seems kind of silly to use an Xbox One for something that ran fine on a handheld in 2002, but, hey, I like playing it.

I’ve also started playing Stardew Valley. That’s interesting so far, but I’m not convinced it’s as great as a bunch of people seem to think. I may need to give it some time to grow on me.

I’ve also committed myself to reading War and Peace this summer, so that may cut into my video gaming a bit. Either way, I should have more than enough stuff to keep me busy this summer.