So. January of 2017. What a nice month. For me, it’s the beginning of a pretty major turn in my life after dropping out of college and finding new ways to put my life together. For the rest of the world, it seems the beginning of an age in which 2016 (the most horrible year) is just a prelude. I can’t seem to go online nowadays without hearing of unrest and unscrupulous governments and war. Reading my twitter feed is like watching the world crashing down in slow, panicked, motion.
There’s a lot I’ve been hearing, and a lot that I want to say, but, uhh, I just don’t think I’ve enough words to put them down yet. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the eye of a storm—nothing seems to touch me directly, but damned if I can’t feel for what’s been going on everywhere else.
So here’s an alternative: what I’ve been reading, playing, and doing this beginning of the year.
The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change by Al Gore
AKA, Al Gore’s musing on the state of the world and where it’s going. Al Gore, former vice president, environmentalist, I tend to take as one of the good ones, and his musings are thoughtful and on point. It’s hard to summarize this incredible book, since it seems to, on top of being 500 pages thick, be able to tackle nearly every facet of our modern life. It’s also willing to look back on ancient history and using that the look to the future. The way history is meant to be.
Being released on 2013, there’s plenty of its insights whose predictions we can already see today. There’s a part that warns of privacy usage and the ubiquity of smartphones and the internet, and the whole time I’ve just been shaking my head at how quickly the technology moves.
Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver
A reread. I first read it when I was, what, thirteen? Fourteen? It was a long time ago, and I was so much less of an adult then. It’s kind of nice to see it with different eyes. I like reading my old books, playing my old games, seeing my old taste. The good ones are always those that can bee seen with an older, more mature eyes, and still be acknowledged as, well, a good one.
Kingsolver was my favourite author in middle school, and her closeness to latin and native America, her care for the land, and inclination towards family must’ve shaped how I think about them. Her purple, but heartfelt, prose probably also influences more of my writing that I care to admit.
Animal Dreams isn’t her best work, but I remember taking it to a theme park when I was on holiday with my family, and I pull it out to read every single spare seconds I have. It’s about a desperate, self-conscious young woman with a medical degree, and her hometown in arid, Mexican-influenced, close-knitted Grace, Arizona. Reading it again, I realise it has plenty of adult romance, but the idea just flew over my head when I was younger.
Proses by Franz Kafka
A direct-from-German Indonesian translation of Kafka’s Der Prozess, also known as The Trial in English. Despite having some big names running as its editor, I honestly find it a clumsy and barely readable translation, which is a grand shame.
I’m not sure if it’s a feature of the original, or of German literature in general, but it has nearly no paragraph break at all. Five people talk at a time, and there wouldn’t be a break between every voice. It gets kind of hard to tell who is speaking what, on top of the descriptions and thought process. Paragraphing aside, I think there’s a lot of sentences that could be streamlined better in Indonesian; without which they sound almost like word-for-word translation. That’s never a good idea if you want your work to be readable.
A grand shame. But I’ll see about giving it a proper go (as in force myself into it) sometime.
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow
Here’s the thing with Cory Doctorow’s novels: I tend to heftily dislike its characters, or how he presents them, but if I like the ideas enough I still enjoy reading them. I like For the Win, but have so much problems with it. I can barely read Pirate Cinema, even back in my YA books days.I guess I just don’t fit in well with his works.
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom has one of the more interesting, insightful, settings in science fiction I’ve read, which is good, because otherwise I don’t think I’ll plunge my head into it. The characters don’t really interest me, and the story so far is a bland salad. We’ll see how it goes.
The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Been sitting on this for so long, I should really get around to finishing it. I’m reading the version off Project Gutenberg, and wow, it is not a very good translation. Still, it’s readable and after a while I get used to it. The funny thing about it, when I actually understands what’s going on, I greatly enjoy it.
The characters are definitely not examples of virtues but—this coming from someone who loves The Great Gatsby—I still love them anyway. These aristocratic Russians are all so alien, it takes some effort to frame their society, but once I go it up, they fit right into place. Prince Mushkin (Myskin? Myshsken? Even the translation isn’t consistent) is a lovely gentleman. Natasha Phillipovna is an interesting enigma.
That’s a lot more things to say about books than I expected.
Dark Souls by From Software
Been having this game recommended to me from all over the place. I like difficult games, I like world-building, and Dark Soul has pretty much my a e s t h e t i c. It’s about time.
It took a while to get my controller in place (its mouse control is horrifying), and afterwards I needed a while to get used to the camera controls (press right analog to aim? What?). But after I got it, I could really feel why people praise this series so.
Am only at the beginning dungeons so far. I fell to my death so many times, but at least they’re amusing. I keep dying too, yeah. This is the first time I’m playing a Souls game. Who wouldn’t on their first gameplay?
Stellaris by Paradox Games
I got this game a while ago, and have been playing it on and off and back. My gameplay is a lot more streamlined now, since I already know most of what’s going on and how to do things and what those numbers in those screens even mean. My despotic empire of collective three-headed mollusc thing will not be pushed around by those materialistic mammals at my borders. Cut me off from the rest of the galaxy, would you? Ha, you’ll feel my weapons yet.
Except. I’m still kind of busy with religious cult and pirates popping up near my empire, and the work for new colony worlds is taking its toll. Not to mention I have to satisfy my people’s thirst for knowledge about these void clouds and space whales. So maybe I’ll let you live a bit longer, you mammal bastards. I’ll get you eventually.
Shadowrun: Hong Kong by Harebrained Schemes
Playing the free bonus campaign Shadows of Hong Kong and ha, I love being overpowered. Best part of this extra campaign is the bits of Indonesia thrown into it. There’s this western decker who spent most of his life in Surabaya. His favourite food is durian. Durian is nice! There’s Captain Jomo, a pirate who sings word-for-word Aku Seorang Kapitan in the open seas and I spent a good time laughing with tears of joy at it (thank you, Harebrained). There’s a heavily fortified ship cum headquarter called The Benteng, and I’m dead I’m just dead. I love this.
There was a time when some parts of me scoff at the idea of minority representations in fictions. “I live my whole life digesting western culture, where everything is foreign. How hard can it be?” But then this. I feel so happy. I understand now.
Technically, I’m unemployed. I’m still studying to get back into college next semester (aiming to major in international relations, but I’m still open for others). I’d prefer to be called freelancer, though. Sounds less like a loser. Sounds like I have a hold on my life (I don’t, but eh, we fake it until we make it, right?).
I’m writing stories with more structure this time. Managed to get a 7k words story done, but it’ll be a while before I can post it for the public. Am also working for a part of a visual novel, which I got paid for. I got some ideas for some more thoughtful essays than a blog post. Might have to wait for those. And I’ve some reviews in my backlog and I really ought to get around to finishing.
I’ve also been tinkering with programming again. Web development, mostly, but also some side things. Nothing concrete yet, but we’ll see.
So. No. No I have no idea what I’m doing with my life. But for the first time in about a year, I don’t feel like I’ve made a big mistake. Take it slow, see where it’s going to take me.