Saturday, January 30, 2010

Inferno, Re-imagined

Today I stumbled across this article in the NYT about a new video game called "Dante's Inferno." It's going to be released in February. In this re-imagining, Dante is no longer the passive poet making his way through Hell with Virgil's guidance. Instead, they've turned him into a muscular, scythe wielding knight just back from the Crusades to find that his beloved Beatrice has been murdered. Our old friend Scratch grabs Beatrice's soul and spirits her off to Hell. The rest is pretty much as you might imagine: Super Crusader Knight takes on hordes of demons, etc. as he battles his way through the nine (9) circles of Hell.

Apparently, a book of Dante's Inferno has been released in conjunction with the game. Same words, same classic poem but with a mega-buffed Dante on the cover. See pic below:


I especially love the "Translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow" there on the lower left side and the "16-page full-color insert and special introduction from the game's executive producer." What could the game's executive producer say about this classic poem that a scholar can't?

A look at the website and the trailer for the animated movie shows Dante running, jumping, and slicing and dicing his way through the nine circles. Yes, they are coming out with an animated movie in conjunction with the release of the game. Sounds like a DVD to be sold along with the game itself.

This whole thing is pretty funny, but I have to say the official website does have a section where they give a time line of Dante's life, the Divine Comedy, and its tremendous influence. I wonder if this game will inspire teenage boys to seek out the original Inferno. They will find that it is not an easy read and that the real Dante is not an action hero. Speaking of which the company is releasing a Dante action figure:

In the game, Dante's weapons include his massive scythe and the holy powers of the cross given to him by Beatrice. Dante is told that he must not only find Beatrice to save her but also confront his own sins and find his own salvation. I wonder about the religious components in such a game, and what effect they have during game play. Probably no effect at all.

In spite of my initial curiosity I'll have to content myself with not playing this game since I don't own any of the gaming platforms. They should do a game of the Odyssey next, if they haven't already. Odysseus was not only a warrior but had a "cunning intelligence" and the Odyssey is a great adventure ripe for this kind of weird treatment.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Waiting For A Simple Twist Of Fate

"It's been a dry spell."

"Yes, it has been. I don't know what to do about it. I don't feel like I'm turning into an empty husk, but I can't seem to get things going both here on this blog and in my private life. I feel sullen for some reason," I say. I'm waving my hands around trying to make a point.

There's a light rain as Mr. Gryphon and I walk along a waterfront dock. The night is heavy. The smell of the sea, the rancid smell of gutted fish fill the air. It's empty here, no sailors. The warm humidity and gentle rain thickens the atmosphere.

"It's been a long time Miss Turtle," he says with a sigh. We are not the same now, not after my last story "FailSafe." We've grown ever closer.

"I was going to wait until after I finished putting up the story but I've missed you and needed to have a chat," I say. I hear the strumming of a guitar, very comforting. We walk slowly past a young man wearing a linen button down shirt that sticks to his skin, a worn out hat, and threadbare trousers. Mr. Gryphon stops to drop a dollar into his money jar. The young man barely nods at him.

"You've made good progress on your novel," he says, standing up straight. He knows it's not the best thing to say now. I grit my teeth but only for a moment.

"Yes, I have. And that's all good. So many things I want to do but how do I decide what to do?" We are approaching the tired lights of the arcade after walking past a motel with bright neon signs. A few people, all grayed out by the rain and humidity, scuttle past us. They stare at Mr. Gryphon.

"Why am I so sullen lately? It's like I'm pouting over something," I push my hair back from my face, an old, constant habit. A young couple walks by, giggling. They hold hands and bump into each other as they walk along the sidewalk.

"You're good at pouting," is his only reply. I grit my teeth again but don't say anything. The worn out arcade is upon us now. It's a small place, two or three rooms. The lights from the games flash. A few people play, the lines on their bodies brought into sharp relief by the bright lights. Sounds of ringing bells, computerized beeping, snatches of sampled music, giggling, and talking float out of the entrance. I nod in the direction of the arcade. Mr. Gryphon shakes his head.

"Not in the mood for pinball?" He doesn't reply. "You know, you're becoming just like my bosses. I bring up things and make suggestions in email and they don't bother to reply."

"I'm not in the mood for pinball," he says, enunciating clearly. He opens his golden wings just a little, fluffing them as we walk away but he does not extend his claws. I keep looking at him but he does not look back.

"You're not being very friendly," I say. We are in a pull-push state. He's feeling closed off and I'm feeling, well, sullen.

"Your bosses are all engineers," he says, by way of explanation.

"I wish you'd open up a little, just a little," I blurt out. We're a block past the arcade and the rain has stopped. All around us is the drip-drip of water. Mr. Gryphon looks at me at last, his yellow eyes burning brightly. He says nothing but I've finally figured out what's going on with me. I take a deep breath feeling the sting of embarrassment.

"That's better, Miss Turtle. Much better," he says, nodding.

"Piss off," I say. I push up the sleeves of my shirt. The humidity is getting to me, sweat is running down my back in a trickle.

He smiles. We pass some sailors. Mr. Gryphon nods at them. We wait at the next block for the light to change. We hear the faraway sounds of a saxophone playing and I can see the gate ahead of us. A young man is coming in our direction. He has a parrot on his shoulder.

I nod at the young man when he gets closer to us. His parrot squawks a "Hello!" at Mr. Gryphon. He passes us by and I look back, watching him as he walks towards the docks.

"Think he'll find what he's looking for?" I ask.

"Most certainly."

I look at Mr. Gryphon, surprised. "You've become something of an optimist," I say.

"Yes, it's true, Miss Turtle. This is your world after all." I don't ask him to elaborate. We keep walking towards the gate. The rain has started up again.

FailSafe: Sorry For The Hold Up

For those of you following my strange personal story FailSafe, I wanted to apologize for not putting up more chapters. I've somehow lost a chapter or two somewhere between writing here at home and at my writing group. The chapter I finally found is incomplete and so needs to be re-written. I'll try to get that done this weekend and post a few more chapters.

Thanks for reading and I appreciate you all coming here.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Green Fairy

Among the new things I tried over this New Year's weekend was absinthe AKA the green fairy. Absinthe is a distilled spirit with a very high alcohol content (between 45%-75% ABV). Having been banned for most of the 20th century here in the U.S., I've been wanting to try it since the ban was lifted in 2007. The spirit was banned because it was thought to cause madness and hallucinations but the only real danger is from the high alcohol content.

I ordered the drink during our New Year's Eve celebration at the Girl and the Fig restaurant in Sonoma on the Square. They served the drink with 1 part absinthe to 3 parts water in a small pitcher. They provided me with a glass, a special slotted absinthe spoon, and the all important sugar cube. You pour the drink very slowly over the sugar cube, letting it dribble into the glass. This is the traditional "French Method." The resulting liquid is soft green and cloudy (known as the "louche"). This little ritual felt very exotic when everyone else at the table was drinking champagne and cocktails.

Absinthe has flavors of anise, fennel, and star anise which means it tastes and smells like ultra powerful black liquorice with menthol at first. I thought the drink would be super sweet like a liquor, but the sugar cube seems to smooth and mellow out the flavor rather than add any sweetness. I sipped it slowly while eating croque monsieur. Over time, absinthe mellows considerably and I enjoyed having it with my meal. I was surprised I enjoyed it so much since I can't stand the taste of black liquorice.

I did get a buzz on but eating a good dinner kept things from getting out of control. It was a strange buzz. I didn't actually feel all that drunk but I was definitely not sober. Another side effect of absinthe is it completely screwed up my taste buds. For the rest of the evening and all the next day and night everything I drank tasted awful. Eating was no problem but we stopped at a winery on the way to a sparkling wine/champagne party and I couldn't really pull any flavors from the wine. I seemed more aware of the textures than anything else. When we got to the party I couldn't drink any sparkling wine/champagne. All of it tasted TERRIBLE. Our hostess opened a magnum later that evening, and everyone assured me it was really good but it tasted harsh and bitter. Oh well.

I had been concerned about being able to taste properly because the next day I could still taste anise. It was almost like garlic coming out of your pores the next day. Very interesting. Now I know never to drink absinthe during a wine tasting weekend.