Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tarot Catalog Number One

It occurred to me recently that I have now created enough Tarot, Lenormand, Oracle and novelty decks -- not to mention the books -- to fill a small a catalog... and so just to prove it to myself, I called up some old skills from my advertising days, went ahead and made one. 

It's kind of fun. It's 14 pages long, and the Kind of Amazing thing is that I've put out so much much stuff in the years I've been doing this that there wasn't enough room to include it all! Still, all the decks are there in one place, and that's the main thing. 

It's a PDF document (naturally), and you can get your free copy by clicking right here, or on the graphic above. I hope you like it!


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Just Because

This morning I got up, fed the kitties, then sat down here at the computer and made a painting of my Little Hunny pussyquat. It seemed like the thing to do at the time. Well -- that, and, I want to learn painting in Photoshop so that I can make painted tarot designs maybe eventually one day. I have comics and book projects that I want to work on too, and this all relies on learning to work with Photoshop in a completely new way. I have some fantastic tools for the creation of digital art, it's time that I started becoming more comfortable with them.

I liked my painting of Hunny well enough that this afternoon I decided to make it into a kind of vintage fruit can label. Here it is:

... and I liked that well enough that I decided to put it on a tee shirt. Well, why not? You can get one here: http://www.redbubble.com/people/ducksoupdotme/works/24103877-hunny-vintage-style-fruit-can-label?asc=u

As I noted in an earlier post, it's never been easier to publish things or produce goods and put them Out There. The problem is publishng things and producing goods that people actually want. Whether or not anyone out there would actually want a crudely painted picture of my cat turned into a fruit label on a tee shirt (or anything else you can get it on) is what they call, Another Question Entirely. 

-- Thorn.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Paperback Reader

Over the month of October I actually read a couple of old paperbacks from out of the piles of unread books floating around my house. The titles aren’t so much important as the simple fact that I’m reading again, and that they were mass-market paperbacks.

I guess the “mass-market paperback” isn’t exactly, completely dead… but it’s dead enough and it’s been that way long enough that the books actually felt small and strange in my hands, and looked small and strange to my eye. Over the past twenty-odd years we’ve grown so used to the “trade” -sized paperback that it’s become the new standard, and made the Old Standard feel odd to us.

The books themselves… well, they were fun and light October reading. The best was an early-70s survey of horror movies made up to that time, Horror in The Cinema, by Ivan Butler — an ex-actor who himself played in the British stage production of Dracula in the 1920s and ‘30s. 

This was a book that I’d read before, many years ago, when it was first published. I made the mistake of lending it to a high school chum (he wasn’t even that good of a friend) and never saw it again. Thanks to ABEBooks, I was able to replace it just last month, and reading and seeing it again was a particular delight. It came as somewhat of a surprise that I remembered whole swaths of it by heart. With this book, Butler didn’t just encourage my interest in the genre, but actually shaped my moral viewpoint of the cinema as a whole. Unlike many other volumes written later about Horror Movies, this one approaches the genre with a high level of standards and a contempt for unnecessary gore, violence and depravity that is today refreshing. 

Butler has been criticized for getting certain details wrong in his descriptions of the specific movies — but it’s important to note that when the book was written there was no such thing as video on demand, Blu-Ray or DVD disks, and even VHS was just a gleam in some inventor’s eye. In 1972, movies still had a very brief shelf life. When they left the theater, many disappeared seemingly forever. You waited patiently (or not) for a TV or museum showing, and considered yourself lucky if you go it. Repeat viewings are a luxury of the modern age, folks. In 1972 and earlier, you had maybe one change to see a film, and if you wrote about it later, you wrote strictly from memory. To criticize someone of that era for getting a few minor details wrong is nothing short of churlish, especially considering the deliberate tricks that films oftentimes play on us. 

(On a side note: fourteen-year-old boys of the modern era are now just a few clicks away from pornographic images of the most extreme sort. In 1972, when I was 14, the very chaste images of Fay Wray and other starlets appearing in Butler’s book were enough to inspire all sorts of lascivious thoughts and activity… again chaste by today’s standards!)

The other Octoberish title I read last month was The Frankenstein Wheel, by a “Paul Freeman” — probably a pseudonym for a better-known writer. This, too, had ties to my youth. It appeared at the local drugstore at approximately the same time as the Butler book, and was part of Popular Library’s “Frankenstein Horror Series” of the time.

The mass-market paperback was the actual descendant of and replacement for what were called Pulp Magazines back in the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s; and in 1972 there were still paperback houses that took the association seriously! Popular Library’s Frankenstein Horror Series was as delightfully pulpish as paperbacks ever got, I think, and I was fortunate enough to actually be there when it was happening. The novels are frothy and written in purple prose and are full of monsters. In literary terms, they are very, very close to the kind of Monster Horror Thriller movie that Universal produced so well from the ‘30s to the ‘50s. The Frankenstein Wheel was the only only book in the series that actually had anything to do with Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, and one of four in the series that eluded me at the time. I finally got a copy a couple of years ago, from an online source.

It is a straightforward sequel to Mary Shelley’s novel, and if its literary worth is practically nil, in story terms it is one of the worthier sequels among the many Frankenstein knock-offs churned out by lesser writers than She. From my point of view, however, the literary worth of the thing is hardly the point. The Frankenstein Wheel was something New To Me that emerged from the fog of a particular moment in my personal history. For you and others like you, it would probably mean nothing. For me — it was like being fourteen years old again.

— Thorn.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

After The Fall

-- illustration from Tinker's Damn Tarot, ™and © 2016 Duck Soup Productions.

Of course there are lots of things I could write about here on the blog; but I haven’t had the heart. Why add to the noise? In 2016, hard news is virtually nonexistent, while punditism and blogs dominate the airwaves and the interwebs. In that kind of an atmosphere, anything I type carries as much weight as anything anyone else types. It may be democratic with a small ‘d,’ but it’s more noisy than useful. 

Of the election, the only thing I’ll do here is re-iterate something that I wrote on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, and that is: I can't believe that 59 million Americans are all Haters — although the Democrats in their desperation to blame anyone and everyone except themselves for their loss have chosen to brand them as such.

It’s much more likely that the Average Person who voted for Trump watches a lot of reality TV and is a big fan of The Apprentice. Trump won simply because he was the biggest Celebrity in the race.

I’m old enough to remember The Beatles taking over America. For as long as I’ve been alive, America has Completely 100 percent Enamored with Celebrity. Just look at your supermarket newsstands — I don’t even know who 99 percent of those people are who get their faces on the supermarket tabloids, but other people seem to, and someone is buying those rags. 

If Donald Trump has been successful in any business, it's been the business of self-promotion. It's my belief that most of the people who voted for him did so out of Blind Celebrity Worship, the same as what got another ridiculously under-qualified Republican elected a few decades back. “I seen him on the tee-vee!” — it’s as simple as that.

It’s how Ahnolt got to be Der Gubernator, after all. 


I’ve always liked trying New Music and more often than not feel rewarded when I do. But the music business of today is like the Wild West when compared to that time, almost forgotten now, when Record Companies actually held all the power and a handful of powerful recording business executives were the Supreme Arbiters of Taste. 

It’s a lot easier — really almost unbelievably easier — for bands and musicians to get their music out there now, out where people can hear it; the irony may be that while it’s not nearly as hard to get onto the playing field as it used to be, it’s ever so much harder than it ever was to get noticed and heard, because that playing field is more crowded and noisier than it ever was.

Maybe in coming weeks I’ll write about some of the pleasant discoveries that have found their way into my ears recently; but for now it needs to be said that not all the stuff on that level playing field actually deserves to be there.

I won’t mention the name of the band I sampled last night because I’m not feeling vengeful towards them, and after all, who died and made me the supreme arbiter of taste? Also, it was on the strength of their name that I picked them out of the crowd; and I’d hate to tarnish their namesake with the awful sounds that came out of my speakers last night. But it was one of those things … all I needed to hear was a few bars to know that this particular bit of caterwauling was Not For Me.

It’s what happened next that I want to tell you about. Having sent the offending mp3 files straight to the recycling bin, I hopped online to read about the band, and there discovered that Wikipedia referred to their music as “nostalgic.”

I thought: ’Nostalgic’? Nostalgic of what? 

I supposed, on thinking about it, that the sound was a little bit late ‘nineties, early ‘naughties. But here’s the thing: in order to feel nostalgic about something, it has to have been gone for a little while. 

Am I now so old, have I lived long enough that some strange people out there are feeling nostalgic for the late nineties? — a period which happened like a week and a half ago and which is better off forgotten anyhow? I suppose if someone was born in the very early ’90s they might actually be old enough to feel a little bit wistful for that dismal time period, but frankly if you’re that young you’ve no right to be tossing words like ’nostalgia’ around like confetti. 

If you are under the age of about thirty, you do not get to decide what’s nostalgic, period — because you’ve only been alive for about five minutes, and you were born into a Science Fiction world where words like ‘nostalgic’ must of necessity be applied to a time before you were born.

— Thorn

Friday, September 23, 2016

A Vist to The Farm, by Jean Solé

Here's something I haven't done before. I hope that you will like it.

Once in a while, a trip through the DuckHaus bookshelves turns up something wonderful that I had forgotten all about. The rediscovery always brings a fresh sense of delight, because it's at once familiar and new, like meeting an old friend that you haven't thought of in years.

For a brief period in the late 1970's, it was possible -- thanks in large part to Heavy Metal magazine and the The National Lampoon, for Americans to get a taste of what foreign comics artists were up to. This was how I discovered the work of Jean Solé. I was immediately taken with his comics, and yet today I own only two examples of his work, notably his book Animaleries, which seems to be still in print, at least in France.

Although he is still active, amazingly I could not find out much about him on the internet, and less in English; most frustratingly, he does not even seem to have a website.

The story you're about to read was my first exposure to his work... and I was so happy to "re-discover" it again today. Quite beyond the pleasures of his style, his ideas are so big and clever and literary and magical. I hope you agree. It was originally presented in this country in the book The National  Lampoon presents French Comics (The Kind Men Like).

Obviously, I do not hold the copyright to this material. It is offered in the spirit of an enthusiastic fan wishing to share something that he loves. I will take this post down in the unlikely event that the author ever finds it, and in finding it objects to its use. In the meantime, if anyone can present more links to examples of his work, please send them via the email link in the sidebar.

You can click on each page to enlarge it. Enjoy!


-- Frede

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

1984 is Now


Yup, Orwell was right, that's exactly what they've made of the world and the pill that they have convinced millions to swallow. That's the world-view that will only deepen its hold if either of the major-party candidates win. That's the world they started shaping from the moment Ronald Reagan took office, and the world they codified on Sept. 11, 2001. 

A long, long time ago, then-President Jimmy Carter addressed the nation and announced with some pride that the nation was At Peace.

I was still quite young and my political worldview was both unformed and uninformed. I’m not proud of my reaction to President Carter’s address. I mentally sneered. I thought, “Big Deal.” 

I thought this, because I was complacent in Peace. The Vietnam war was over, but still fresh in people’s minds. I believed that we had entered a post-war era where Peace was the new normal, where everyone had had enough of killing. I believed that this was not so much an accomplishment of President Carter’s, but a place that we had arrived at, a belief that we all shared, earned in blood.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized how wrong I was. Carter was justified in his “pride of peace” — a peace he maintained despite pressure from all sides, and especially from above, from the one percent, to launch a major war in the Middle East. I believe that this is why he was a one-term president: he angered the one percent, stood in the way of bringing about their worldview, and so they got rid of him and installed Ronald Reagan, who by all accounts was nothing more or less than a ventriloquist dummy. 

Carter’s Presidency was derided in the public mind, so that it would never happen again. But we were all wrong, all of us. Carter was the last Great President this nation had, and perhaps (although history has yet to form an opinion around President Obama) the last Great President this country will ever have. 

As long as the one percent is choosing our candidates for us and rigging the process (which they have done brilliantly in this election cycle), we will be locked into the Orwellian worldview that now has us in its taloned grip. 

Me -- I'm so fucking sick of war. This war, that war, any war, and who profits by it? Ask yourself that and you will have damn near all the answers. As the poets once said, the way to fight war is not with more war. But that's what we've got, and that's what we'll have until the majority of people start to get as sick of this crap as I am.

— Frede

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Deck That Almost Was

For a few days this past week, my latest Tarot deck, Tinker’s Damn Tarot, was out of print and unavailable in Tarot size. I made the announcement and took it off sale completely.

Now it’s back. Why? And why declare it out of print in the first place?

I’ve been in negotiations with a printing company in Shaghai, China, to create a fancy new edition of the deck that would have retailed at less than half the price of the current edition. The reason I took the current edition off-sale is simply because I didn’t want anyone paying the higher price when a less expensive edition would be coming along in a matter of weeks.

But that’s not going to happen now, and I am forced to return the First Edition back to sale. Of all the decks I’ve done, it’s close to being my favorite, and I don’t want it to unavailable.

What happened is simply this: I was quoted a price on 1,000 copies of the deck. I signed a contract based on that quotation and turned it in… and the very next morning the sales rep emailed me to say, “Oh by the way, the price is not what we quoted you, but actually $1,200 more than that.”

Twelve hundred bucks. That’s not a minor change in the terms! And it put the cost of production well out of my reach unless I run another Kickstarter campaign… which I do not want to do at this time. 

I wrote them back to say, “Uhhh, no it isn’t. The price is what we agreed on, or the deal is off.”

That was more than 24 hours ago, and I’ve heard nothing back from then since, so I’m calling it a day this project.

About the only good thing to come of all this is that I did a bunch of work on the new edition creating a box design — and a Little White Booklet of instructions. I hate for all that work to go to waste — and so now I’m offering a PDF version of the Tinker’s Damn Little White Booklet (with keywords and definitions for each card, plus a couple of tarot “spreads”) as a Free Download for anyone buying the deck. And if you’ve bought the deck already, just email me here (or use the sidebar link), and I’ll provide you with a Download Link for your copy. Everyone, retroactively, gets a Little White Booklet! 

Judging from the number of people who have asked me to clarify various card meanings, I’m guessing that will be a welcome addition. Well… as they say in the biz, it’s an ill wind that blows no good, yes?

— Frede.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Whisper in the Air

And just like that, just like a switch was thrown, there’s Fall in the air. Just a hint; just enough to let you know it’s coming.

It’s my favorite kind of weather: mid to upper seventies, low humidity, and a firm but gentle breeze off the northwest. Just enough to let you know that another summer is winding down, another year more than half gone.

It’s the kind of weather that makes you comfortable after a stretch of hot days, that forces a sigh out of your body. It’s both a gift and a warning. Breathe deep now, and enjoy this moment of peace, for winter is not far away, life is short, and few are the moments when you do not have to be mindful of your place within it.

— Frede.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Always Something

--Hellboy © Mike Mignola and Dark Horse Comics

I’m going to be writing a longer article about this for the second issue of my irregular “bookazine” The Sanctum, but I wanted to make quick note of it here on the blog: in the second issue of Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy makes a rare guest appearance,  although he doesn’t participate in any of the story’s main action. In fact, his only role in the plot is to reassure a young B.P.R.D. rookie that everything will be all right in the end:

“Calm down,” he says to the young man. “Of course there’s trouble, but stop worrying about Abe.”

To me, this sums up everything that’s finest about the series, and everything that comics do best. In the Hellboy Universe, “It’s Always Something.” There’s always some monster that wants to eat you, some spirit from beyond the grave that wants to devour your whole world. Just when you think you’re done with it, some other Horrible Thing comes along to growl and snarl at you.

Hellboy’s words to the young agent are typical of his character. In the face of some new Monster that’s ten times larger than the one he just had a hard time beating, a typical Hellboy reaction is a resigned “Oh, crap.”

This is what comics are for: to remind us that every time we turn around, every day, every issue, some damn monster or super-villain is going to come lumbering along to make trouble for you. Oh, crap — here comes another one. It never stops until you die (and in Hellboy’s case, it didn’t even stop then). 

That’s what life is: Always One More Thing.

How you face it is what makes you. Do you come unglued, fall apart? Or do you cock your fist and say to your problems, “Look, you. I’ve had about enough of this crap. Lie down. And STAY down!” — POW!

Of course they don’t stay down, or if they do, just wait for the bigger one to come along in its wake. 

Life is endless Trouble. Hellboy — and the other great heroes of the comics — exist to say to us, “Calm down. Of course there’s trouble. But stop worrying. Just take care of it and move on to the next thing.”

— Frede

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Lesser Evil Voting is Destroying America

This is my first, last, and only statement on the subject. There will be no further political posts after this one. Typing it as simply as I can: I will vote for Dr. Jill Stein this fall, and not all the League of Shamers goose-stepping behind Hillary Clinton while the country goes over the cliff will make me change my mind.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Never Say Maybe If You Can Possibly Help It

Exactly why it’s taken me this long for me, an avowed fan of the series, to watch the rogue James Bond film Never Say Never Again is anyone’s guess. It’s just a fact. Let’s say it’s “because… reasons!” — and let it go at that.

What we have here is actually a creditable Bond movie, delivering on all the things that we’ve come to expect from the series — with some interesting caveats that ultimately drag it down. 

One of the biggest of these is the whole reason for the movie’s existence. Ian Fleming foolishly collaborated with another writer, Kevin McClory, on the plot of his novel, Thunderball; and then failed to properly cover the legal issues inherent in that collaboration, with the result that after many years of litigation, McClory ended up with separate movie rights to the story. And that’s the thing about Never Say Never Again: try valiantly as the filmmakers did, you can not escape the fact that it’s a remake of Thunderball. There are simply too many characters, scenes and plot elements that they have in common. One wonders why, having secured the right to make the movie, they didn’t just dump the plot and come up with something new. Instead, Irwin Kirshner & Co simply scrape fresh frosting over the old cake. Perhaps those unfamiliar with the recipe are fooled; the rest of us know that we’re getting leftovers. 

Beyond that — of course not being an “official” Bond picture, director Kirschner had no recourse to any of the usual Bond “schtick” — the gun-barrel openings, the visual trademarks, the striking musical montage credits sequences. What’s sad is that they didn’t even make an effort to come up with some kind of schtick of their own to take its place. It’s strange, but we miss this stuff… it gives the official films that extra little bit of sizzle.

Never Say Never Again just kind of sits there on the plate in that regard… and the music does not help. Michel Legrand is an admirable composer, but he would never make my short list to score a Bond movie; it’s just not his thing. To my ear, George Martin gave us one of the best Bond movie scores with Live and Let Die; here, Legrand gives us one of the worst… and don’t even get me started about the title song. Ick. Getting through that is the biggest obstacle to enjoying the picture.

There’s a loopy video game sequence that has not aged well at all, followed immediately by — egad — a dance number that stops the picture in its tracks, and not in a good way. This is where the pinking shears should have been put to good use. The picture is long enough without those two sequences, and would have been better off without them.

All of which makes it sound as if I hated it — I did not. There are many fine action setpieces, including a jaw-dropping sequence in which Bond is pursued through a shipwreck by a real (and very large) shark. And although Barbara Carrera never really wound my clock before, I found her to be really outstanding in this as Fatima Blush, the most interesting of several villains. She’s having a gas on this picture, and it shows. Klaus Maria Brandauer plays Largo against the conventions of Bond villains, to strong effect. The locations — always an important element in any Bond — are suitably exotic and visually striking. More than that, Kirschner is a strong technical director, and the picture holds together in ways that some of the official Bonds — I’m especially thinking Moonraker  and A View to a Kill — do not.

But I suppose they still wouldn’t have had a movie if they hadn’t been able to secure Sean Connery to reprise as Bond. I don’t like Connery, not as an actor nor as a man, but there’s no denying that his presence here says “JAMES BOND” in bold face type and capital letters. He is the reason for the movie’s title after all; and in the way of his brutish Bond, Connery is here not just for the money, but for the opportunity to kick sand into Cubby Broccoli’s face.

— Frede.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016



-- a clinking, clattering collection of caliginous cards ... a true occult deck from the Steam Age! This is no Waite-Smith or Thoth clone. Every effort has been made to re-imagine the symbolism to create a completely unique yet easily readable vintage-style Tarot.

Choose from two sizes and 6 alternate card backs at no extra charge.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Library of American Comics

Over the past few years, I've tried at least a time or two to extoll the virtues of The Library of American Comics (and have always had a link to their site in my sidebar). Dean Mullaney, my friend Bruce Canwell and their tiny crew of support people have been keeping the best classic newspaper comics alive for years now, and they keep on growing. If you like comics at all, walking into a room lined with shelves full of their books is like reaching Nirvana. If you've never heard of them, here's a very short new video to give you the barest sense of what they are about. Watch it -- and then head on over to their site: http://libraryofamericancomics.com. You won't regret it: and once you hold one of their tabloid-sized hardcovers in your hands, you won't believe how gorgeous they are. In fact, I'm behind on where I want to be with their books, and need to order up a few myself. 

Thanks to the blog largely written by Mr. Canwell, the site is a wealth of information and entertainment, too. Go there now!

-- Freder

Art as The Mean Kid At the End of The Block

If we judge Art by how it makes you feel, then there’s no question that some Art plays the same role as the big Bully on the block, kicking you around and hurting your feelings for its own amusement.

As the title suggests, La Vie En Rose is a biopic about the French singer Edith Piaf — The Little Sparrow, the tiny woman with the big, tremulous voice whose music made strong men weep. The film is well made, and successful at immersing the viewer in her Times and Places. But somewhere along the way, you begin to realize that the singer is not actually a very interesting person — certainly not nearly as interesting as the Times and Places that she was living in. She had her talent, which was undeniable; she had a certain fragility, which was attractive; she was loyal to so-called “friends” who deserved nothing in the way of loyalty; but she seems not to have been the brightest bulb in the socket, nor the most engaging of personalities, to put it mildly. La Vie En Rose is very much like meeting a person you once idolized, only to find that they were no different from the next-door neighbor that you dislike intensely.

It’s true that just because a person has an enormous talent for something doesn’t make them a successful person, and Piaf fits that bill with room to spare. For considerably more than two hours, we watch her abuse alcohol, abuse morphine, abuse cars, and abuse the people around her; and then we watch her die. 

Marion Cotillard, who really looks nothing like Piaf, takes a wild joyride in the part: if it didn’t feel so genuine, it would be miles over the top. She’s particularly successful in evoking the woman’s physical degeneration: Piaf died at age 47 from the effects of Too Much Life. 

The movie glosses over the years of World War II, so much so that we’re not even aware of the war having happened. This was an important time in Piaf’s career: she appears to have gotten along famously with the Nazis occupying France and was tried as a collaborator after the fact. None of this is touched upon. The movie is far more interested in her fragility, and it’s the fragility that it hammers home with relentless sledgehammer strokes. Even as The Sparrow, with enormous effort, pulls herself together for one final, triumphant appearance, the spectre of Death looms over her with all the subtlety of an approaching Sherman Tank. When all’s said and done, La Vie En Rose is a portrait of beauty that’s fleet, effort that futile, life that is empty and full of regret. It’s an exceedingly depressing venture that will stay with you for days.


In the world of computer and video games, Bioshock Infinite stands virtually alone as Genuine Art, as one of a sparse handful of works in this relatively young media-form that aspires to be Art, and in aspiring achieves the goal. Its nearest competition is its own progenitor, Bioshock, which I’ve already written about here on the blog. 

That game placed the genre of the first-person shooter within the context of a socio-political argument, wrapped in a dazzling 1930’s Art Deco atmosphere. It was virtually an essay on how Ayn Rand objectivism is almost literally designed to fail. As the title suggests, Bioshock Infinite aspires to take everything farther and higher, and to show us the dark side of the Great American Conceit. But if Edith Piaf had too much heart and very few brains, Bioshock Infinite has enough brain to pass as a Physics Symposium, and no heart at all. 

We find ourselves immersed in “Columbia” — an idealized American dream-city of the twenties, all Manifest Destiny and Righteous Good, literally an Edwardian-era Disneyland floating in the clouds; but as we investigate in the early parts of the game, we uncover the nasty truth that its vision of Equality and Justice applies only if one is White and Christian. However, Infinite doesn’t stop there. Over the course of many hours of gameplay, a resistance movement swells to take over the city and reverse its fortunes; and we learn painfully that violence begets violence, and that what replaces a despotic government may be just as bad as what it’s replacing. Wounds that are old and run deep will out in the end: and Bioshock Infinite offers no solutions or easy outs in the gigantic question of how to build a society that works for all of the people who live in it.

It’s a hefty dose of message for a computer game, and in the end Bioshock Infinite stumbles and falls under its own weight. It’s more than a little bit disingenuous to present the message that violence begets violence in the context of a first-person shooter, where by definition the only way for a player to advance through the story is to gun down everyone in sight. You get the sense that the game makers are congratulating themselves on their own cleverness; and it doesn’t stop there.

As the title implies, Bioshock Infinite is not content to tell one story: it unfolds, quite literally, across an infinite number of parallel universes, with a potentially infinite number of outcomes that all boil down to one thing: that the character you are playing needs to be taken back in time and drowned in a Baptismal pool in order to prevent the events in the game from happening.

To re-use a phrase I stole from my best friend and have used again and again, if it were a book you’d throw it across the room in frustration. I stopped caring what happened at the moment that we passed through the first “tear” in reality: because the story that I was invested in suddenly ceased to exist. You enter a different story at that point — and then another and another, and with each “shift” Bioshock Infinite loses weight. All the heart that it has invested into its two main characters goes straight out the window, and suddenly the game becomes an exercise in intellectual masturbation.

As a game, as a shooter, Bioshock Infinite is no less disheartening. There is something infinitely depressing about all of its stunning vintage Americana and the way that it’s been subverted to bludgeon you into a state of insensebility. The first time that you’re attacked by George Washington or Ben Franklin it’s an amusing bit with a touch of sour; the nine hundredth time that it happens, it’s just sad and exhausting. As a game, more than any other shooter that I’ve played, and despite the most beautiful art direction in the business, Bioshock is ultimately a dismal assault on the senses.

Unlike a hundred others of its type, Bioshock is Art. In a sense, it’s great art. But it’s Art of a savage sort, the art of Thuggery: eager to impress you, and just as eager to beat you up and laugh at your incomprehension and misery.

— Freder

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Poor Old George

He’s been gone for days at a time, many times before now; but this time it’s been longer and it feels different somehow. I am afraid that my last remaining outside feral cat, old Georgie, is gone for good.

He was not of the Old House or part of that history. Of the two remaining outdoorsy, feral cats that I somehow managed to successfully transplant here in town, only Tiger Whitestockings really took to it and settled in here at her new home. She even attracted a new boyfriend who hung around her most times: and that was George.

At first, George and I did not get on all that well. At least part of the reason that he hung around was for the good food I was giving to Tiger Whitestockings. I didn’t mind him eating it, but still and all I had to chase him away at mealtimes because I wanted Tiger Whitestockings to get her fill, and I knew that wouldn’t happen if he came up to the plate. George was a champion eater. He wouldn’t have left Tiger Whitestockings anything, which says something about males in their feral state.

So when Tiger Whitestockings disappeared after three years’ time, George and I were not exactly on chummy terms. I stopped putting out any kind of fresh food; still and all I had a lot of leftovers from my inside guys and I continued to put that stuff out. I knew George would Hoover it up, and he did. 

And I harbored no ill will towards him: the only reason I chased him had been for Tiger Whitestockings’ sake. With her gone, there was no reason why George and I could not be friends. 

It too some doing, some coaxing, and some patience, but in the end my superhero Mutant Power, which is the same thing as my Native American name, which is “Makes Friends With Animals,” won out. George and I became fast friends. It seemed to me that he started coming as much for the petting and the attention as for the food. Within reasonable limitations, he even let me pick him up and scratch his tummy. 

I really got to like George. He’d come in the morning for breakfast, then hang out and sun himself on my deck for the day, and then after dinner he’s wander off to whatever sheltering place he called home. I never learned where that was, except that it wasn’t anywhere on my property.

He was an Old Warrior who had seen better days. But he was too stupid to give up fighting, and over time the fights took bigger tolls on his condition. No more would he get healed up from one bad fight but then he’d show up on my doorstep dazed and blinking and covered in fresh, deep scratches. 

He stayed with me for two summers and at least two winters. During the summers he would lose a lot of weight, and then during the winter he’d bulk up to twice the size. Last year, before the snow began to fly, I tried to bring him inside. I used my entry hall / laundry room as a test stage. He would have had every comfort, but he couldn’t stand it — being indoors drove him buggy right away, and the truth is that he was such a grumbly, fighty guy that I worried how he would interact with my inside quats. 

It often happens that feral cats disappear in the Spring. My theory is they have had to struggle to survive through winter, then Spring comes and they start to feel strong again, they start to feel their oats again, and they want to look around and do some things that they haven’t been able to do all winter… and so they wander off and they never come back. 

The last I saw George was days and days ago. He was marching off in a direction that I had never seen him head before, down through the neighbor’s property towards the river. I thought this rather a bad idea for him at the time, as I am sure there are wild animals down there. But he was already too far away, and anyhow he was never the sort of quat to take advice from humans, he was his own Quat and there would be no stopping him from having his own way.

And I fear now that he picked one fight too many, and with the wrong sort of animal. It’s been more than a week, and that’s never happened before. George would definitely have wanted a good meal by now, and would have been back by now, if he could. 

This marks the first time in something like thirty years that I have not had any outside quats that relied on me to think about them. At one point, out at the Old House, we had in excess of thirty of them. Now all done. Another milestone going by. There’ve been too many milestones lately.

I’m still putting the food out every day. Sometimes the neighbor quats come and clean it up, sometimes not. When they don’t, I just chuck the remains out into the middle of my driveway. It’s always gone by morning. 

— Frede.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Don't Leave Home Without Them!

Do you ever get stuck in a conversation,
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Fear not!

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