When A Happy Thing Falls

“But suppose the endlessly dead were to
wake in us some emblem:
they might point to the catkins hanging
from the empty hazel trees, or direct
us to the rain
descending on black earth in early
spring. —

And we, who always think of happiness
rising, would feel the emotion
that almost baffles us
when a happy thing falls.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies

Saturday, at the brewery tour at Four Bullets Brewery, they had, as is common at these sorts of things, a number of games, including the grand hipster pastime of Giant Jenga.

I always like to watch this and always try to photograph the moment when the pile of wooden blocks falls.

Giant Jenga requires careful planning.

Giant Jenga requires careful planning.

She was able to remove this piece.

She was able to remove this piece.

But if fell later as they tried to move another piece. Note the rare "suspended section" of blocks. I'm not sure of the physics of leaving a few behind for a handful of microseconds.

But if fell later as they tried to move another piece. Note the rare “suspended section” of blocks. I’m not sure of the physics of leaving a few behind for a handful of microseconds.

Some old images of falling Giant Jenga.

The end of a game of giant Jenga - Community Beer Company, Dallas, Texas

The end of a game of giant Jenga – Community Beer Company, Dallas, Texas

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Ready Player One

Old School Video game inspired graffiti, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Old School Video game inspired graffiti, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

I was looking through the READ (that’s as “red” not “reed”) folder on my Kindle and also in my Goodreads list at the books I’ve cranked through recently. After some thought I decided to give a bit of opinion on some of them… in case you might be interested (or interested in avoiding them).

Picking books to read is always a difficult and tricky proposition. I am not a particularly fast reader (especially now that my eyes and brain are getting old and worn out) so to commit to a novel is an investment of a good bit of precious time. That said, I do love the feeling of perusing a list on the Kindle or a shelf of paper and deciding which tome to dive into next.

One feature that is always attractive are those books that have a movie deal done. I always like the read the book first (the book is always better, isn’t it?) and that way, when the film is flickering there in the dark, I can go if I want to – rather than giving the pathetic excuse, “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to see that until I get a ’round2 reading the novel.” Sad.

But sometimes it leads me down a good path. If some Hollywood Icon is ready to plop down a few million dollars on a story… doesn’t that mean it might be good? Of course not, but it’s a nice thought.

So somehow I stumbled across a story about a book called Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and the fact that it is about to be filmed. I’m not now and have never been a gamer, but was looking for some lightish fiction – something fun and not too straining – and this one seemed to fit the bill. Plus, it was on sale.

And it was what it promised. A fast moving story – more than a little on the predictable side, but I did care about the characters… and that’s the important part.
I’m late to the party on this book, so bear with me – also, I don’t like to put spoilers in my reviews, so everything I write about will be obvious in the first few pages.

Ready Player One is set in a world that is similar to The Matrix. War and Pollution have pretty much destroyed the planet and the survivors spend most of their time in a virtual world, hooked up to a powerful computer network, living out artificial lives that are usually more pleasant and interesting than their real ones. It is different from The Matrix in that this is voluntary and everyone knows what is going on… though the border between real and virtual does get a little hazy now and then.

One unanswered question is that how much is the dystopian future caused by the presence of this virtual world – in other words… if everyone didn’t have this escape would they get off their butts and make the earth a better place to live?

Within this virtual world the founder of the network has created a fiendishly difficult game – a puzzle – a scavenger hunt – and the first person to solve the riddle through to the end will gain the most valuable prize imaginable – the complete ownership and control of the virtual system. He or she will become a living god.

The plot proceeds from this premise… pretty much in the way you think it does. My biggest complaint is the basic story – which is a classic teenaged fantasy fulfillment tale. I also wasn’t bowled over by the gaming elements of the story… it’s simply not my thing.

What I really did enjoy were the puzzle elements themselves. The game master was only a little younger than me and he based all the games, clues, and Easter Eggs in the virtual world on 1980’s pop culture trivia. A lot of fun and a lot of guilty memories for me.

So, if you are looking for a fun and exciting read, not too deep in philosophy or moral paradox, and steeped in Brat Pack Movie, New Age Music, and early computing trivia… then this is your man.

Now I’m ready for the film.

game2