One of the books that I’m particularly glad to have acquired several months ago is titled ‘The Atlas of Legendary Places’ by Jennifer Westwood and James Harpur. It was published in 1989, and I bought it at a used books store (Book Lovers in North Vancouver). It’s rare for me to shop for new books because new books, or simply books that got published since the 21st century began, are very often poorly written and illustrated. The quality of books, like the quality of almost everything else in the West, began to seriously get worse after the 20th century came to an end. I do, however, go to Indigo Books and Music at times and look at what’s available. One of the new books that I bought several months ago is titled ‘An Illustrated History of 151 Video Games: A Detailed Guide to the Most Important Games’ by Simon Parkin. According to the author, it’s “a chronological history describing important games, but it’s also a celebration of 151 games, holding up each example as a wonderful marriage of art, design and coding waiting to be played, enjoyed and experienced again.” Like other modern books, it’s not really that well written. It even contains some grammar errors. But I like how the book is structured, I like the author’s choices, and I like that it features plenty of information and pictures. It’s one of my favorite books in my collection. The book doesn’t only include information about the 151 chosen games. It also includes information about video game consoles and it goes over the history of video games. One book that I bought recently is titled ‘The Ultimate Playstation Games Collection: The 100 Greatest Games from Alien Isolation to Yakuzo’ by Dan Peel. This book’s intro page mentions that “Sony’s PlayStation revolutionised the videogame industry. It wasn’t the first home console, but it brought gaming to the masses in a way few other systems at the time managed to do. Now, more than 25 years after its initial release there are over 10,000 games spanning Sony’s home and handheld consoles, and PlayStation leads the way in console exclusives. With so many experiences and genres to choose from, it can be daunting. But fear not! We’ve compiled 100 unmissable titles that no PlayStation fan’s library should be without.” I think that this new book is now my favorite book about video games. In addition to the list of 100 games, the book features articles from Retro Gamer, EDGE, and GamesRadar. Retro Gamer, in particular, is a magazine that I read frequently. Anyway, when it comes to ‘The Atlas of Legendary Places’, the book features a list of, and information about, some legendary and inspiring places around the world. I had been to two of the places on the list, which are the Alhambra in Spain and the Nile in Egypt. The Red Square, for example, is another one of the places that I had been to, but it’s not mentioned in the book. The main reason why I bought this book is because it features beautiful photographs and illustrations. Since this book was published in the 20th century, the writing is excellent and often inspired. Reading about the Alhambra in this book not only reminded me of the time when I had seen this palace and walked through it. It also reminded me of the time when I read ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ more than a decade ago. This work is one of the most memorable and enjoyable classics that I’ve read. Having read it, I understand why it’s such a popular book. Let’s not forget that it influenced classics like Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and Alexander Korda’s The Thief of Bagdad (1940). While I’m on this subject, I can mention that I recently came across some quotes that I like by Averroes (Ibn Rushd), whose works are yet another great product of the Islamic Golden Age. Averroes didn’t live in the Abbasid Caliphate, but he still had some interesting things to say. One quote of his is, “Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hate, and hate leads to violence. This is the equation.” Anyway, the first chapter of ‘The Atlas of Legendary Places’, which is about the Eternal Realms, opens with the following introduction. “According to the Book of Genesis, God created the Garden of Eden, a lush idyllic place where plants and fruit-bearing trees abounded and the first man and woman lived in harmony with animals and birds. Such visions of an earthly paradise, places of wonder and delight, can be found in the myths of other cultures. The Greek philosopher Plato was the first to describe the island of Atlantis, where the inhabitants enjoyed a Golden Age existence of luxury and ease. In the same tradition is Avalon, an island of myth and magic, where enchantresses healed the wounds of those who came to them.” Another book that I bought at the same time and in the same store is titled ‘Art of the Western World: From Ancient Greece to Post Modernism’ by Bruce Cole and Adelheid Gealt. It was published in 1989 too, and it’s in good condition. In addition to featuring many beautiful photographs, the book is organized well. Before I bought it, I already had several very good books about art. A few of them are gifts from my mother. I will probably review them in future posts. Well, my mother doesn’t only gift me with books from time to time. She also provides me with health advice from time to time because she reads a lot about how to avoid health problems. For example, for about a year already, she has been telling me that eating burned food and consuming liquids that are kept in plastic bottles or plastic containers can cause cancer. So, it’s best to avoid drinking liquids out of plastic bottles, heating food in plastic containers, and keeping liquids in plastic containers because chemicals from plastics end up in food and liquids and then in the body if consumed. Moreover, cancer becomes more of a threat to people when they reach their mid-thirties. Anyway, when I was a student in elementary school and in high school, I took art classes. Therefore, I have an interest in art. There are some things that I’ve noticed about Western art after reading about it and looking at it. Western art has some characteristics that the arts of some other cultures don’t have. For example, there are differences between Western art and Russian art. Western art very often features female nudity and depictions of horror or death. These characteristics are present not only in Western art but also in Western cinema. But cinema can be regarded as an art form, I suppose. These characteristics are not present in Russian art, for example. Russian literature too is different from Western literature in some ways. Western books and comics very often feature incredible individuals and heroes. For example, Arthur Conan Doyle wrote novels about an incredible detective (Sherlock Holmes). Ian Fleming wrote novels about an incredible secret service agent (James Bond). Stan Lee wrote comic books about incredible heroes (superheroes like Spider-Man and Iron Man). Russian literature, on the other hand, rarely features incredible individuals and heroes.
Two games that I recently finished playing are Final Fantasy X (2001) and God of War (2018). Playing and completing Final Fantasy X this time was my second time doing this. I guess that I don’t really need to shower this game with praise because it’s one of the best-selling video games ever and it’s acknowledged as one of the best video games ever. After playing games like Dark Souls and Dark Souls II not that long ago, playing Final Fantasy X was a breeze and a piece of cake for me. Grinding for experience in Dark Souls is a tedious, lengthy, and sometimes challenging process. But, in Final Fantasy X, on the few occasions when I decided to grind for experience in order to have an easier time in battles, I spent at most only about an hour on doing this. Perhaps the biggest thing that makes Final Fantasy X a joy to play is its intriguing story. Yoshinori Kitase’s direction was clearly very good. In addition, there’s a memorable cast of characters, beautiful graphics and designs, a fitting and memorable music score by Nobuo Uematsu, and, of course, there’s voice acting, which isn’t as bad as some people say it is. I’d say that the voice acting in this game is mostly decent. By the way, the cover for the PS2 release of this game is one of the best video game covers in existence. So, playing Final Fantasy X again, almost a decade after I played it for the first time, was a soothing experience. God of War was also a breeze to play after playing Dark Souls. I was surprised by how quickly I was able to finish playing it. I think that it took me 20 to 30 hours to complete God of War, and I tried to complete every side mission that became available (I even defeated the valkyries). God of War is the first PS4 game that I’ve completed so far. Playing this game is a lot like playing Resident Evil 4 because it too has an over-the-shoulder camera. Well, I did play it on the easiest difficulty setting because I play video games mostly for the story and not for the challenge. God of War has already been acknowledged as a modern video game classic. So, I don’t need to spend time on praising it. The graphics are obviously superb. The music score is effective, just like the music in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, though not particularly memorable. I would have preferred to play God of War on my laptop instead of on my PlayStation 4, which actually emits a considerable amount of heat when it’s turned on, but my laptop isn’t powerful enough to run a game like God of War smoothly. As impressive as God of War is, I don’t find it to be quite as memorable as the first two God of War games for the PlayStation 2. I haven’t yet played God of War III. God of War is also not quite as memorable for me as Dead Space, which too has an over-the-shoulder free camera. I like the Dead Space trilogy a lot. I had an excellent time playing the Dead Space games on my laptop in the second half of 2021. I like these games as much as, or even more than, the first three Resident Evil games for the PS1. I played the Resident Evil games at the beginning of 2021 on one of my PSP handhelds, having bought them before the PlayStation Store on the PS3 was shut down. When the Resident Evil games were released in the 1990s, they were sort of considered to be blockbuster games. Well, now they can even be played on something like a smartphone or on an inexpensive handheld. The music scores for the Resident Evil games are fantastic, and I have them in my music collection. Resident Evil 2 is probably the most memorable one out of these games because it’s longer, more polished, and more ambitious than the first game. Both Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2 have a haunting atmosphere, but almost every aspect of these games can be praised. Well, in Resident Evil 2, there’s even a boss battle against a giant crocodile in a sewer. As for the films that I’ve seen lately, I can easily recommend X (1996). This film is one of a number of films that I own that had been distributed by Manga Entertainment in North America. The others include Angel Cop (1989), Appleseed (1988), Black Jack: The Movie (1996), Black Magic (1987), Bounty Dog (1994), Dangaioh (1987), Ankoku Shinwa (1990), Devilman (1987), Fist of the North Star (1986), The Guyver: Bio-Booster Armor (1989), Junk Boy (1987), Landlock (1996), Super Dimensional Fortress Macross II: Lovers Again (1992), Mad Bull 34 (1990), New Dominion Tank Police (1993), Orguss 02 (1993), Psychic Wars (1991), Rayearth (1997), Red Hawk: Weapon of Death (1995), Shadow Skill (1995), Street Fighter Alpha: The Animation (2000), Sword for Truth (1990), Tokyo Revelation (1995), Vampire Wars (1991), Violence Jack (1986), Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise (1987), and Ghost Sweeper Mikami (1994). When I acquired some of these releases after graduating from high school, I enjoyed watching them but I didn’t realize their value at that time. Now, some years later, I realize that the anime from the 1980s to the early-2000s should be cherished because it’s so much better and more original than the anime that began to be made in the mid-2000s. I have already gone over this observation of mine in an earlier post. If I take a film like X as an example, I can point out that its impressive hand-drawn animation alone makes it worth seeing and cherishing. It also makes modern anime look bland and amateurish in comparison. The film’s director, Rintaro, directed another film that I like a lot too, which is Metropolis (2001). The other films that I enjoyed watching very much this year are The Bodyguard (1992), A Damsel in Distress (1937), The Thing (1982), Firestarter (1984), The Transformers: The Movie (1986), Backfire (1988), Flashdance (1983), My Bodyguard (1980), Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), The General’s Daughter (1999), 10 Rillington Place (1971), Absence of Malice (1981), Sudden Impact (1983), The Phantom (1996), Tom Horn (1980), Sisters (1972), 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984), Creepshow (1982), In This Our Life (1942), Blink (1993), Heaven Help Us (1985), Black Bart (1948), Ordinary People (1980), Under Siege (1992), Tombstone (1993), Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), and The Road to Wellville (1994). As I’ve already pointed out in an earlier post, seeing almost any film from the 20th century is a pleasure for me. Modern films are bland and amateurish in comparison. However, not every theater-going experience was bad or forgettable for me this year. I was impressed by Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, for example. I’m not some Marvel fanboy. In fact, I don’t like to be a fan of anything. Therefore, I was honest when I reviewed Taika Waititi’s sloppy, even disastrous, Thor: Love and Thunder. But Wakanda Forever is another success for Marvel Studios. Seeing this film was the best experience that I had in a theater in a long time. When the film came to an end, I thought that it’s now my favorite film from Phase Four of the MCU. But, after thinking some more about this, I decided that Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness are on par with Wakanda Forever. Some people have claimed that Kevin Feige has been giving directors more creative freedom since Phase Four began. If this is indeed the case, I understand why the output of Phase Four was uneven when it comes to quality. Wakanda Forever has director Ryan Coogler’s style all over it. First of all, there aren’t many action scenes in the film because it seems to me that Coogler prefers to focus on character development. This doesn’t become a problem in the film because the performances of the actors (especially of Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Michael B. Jordan, and Tenoch Huerta) are good, the cinematography is good (for a modern film), the direction is good, and the music is good. Therefore, the scenes of people talking aren’t a snoozefest here. I cared about Shuri’s struggle more than I cared about T’Challa’s struggle in Black Panther (2018). It seems that Shuri intentionally puts on a suit that looks similar to N’Jadaka’s suit from Black Panther because she wants to get revenge. I do like the first Black Panther film, which contains more action scenes, but I like Wakanda Forever more because it’s directed better and because it’s more polished. Perhaps the reasons why this is the case are because the film has a bigger budget ($250 million) and because production and filming took longer. Or the reason could have been because Feige was more involved in making Wakanda Forever as good as possible. I think that the filmmakers and the actors wanted to make a fitting tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who died in 2020, but they also didn’t want the film to be a waterworks show. The country of Wakanda is a more believable place in Wakanda Forever than in Black Panther. Since Wakanda Forever is a Marvel Studios film, it might gross more than $1 billion by the end of its theatrical run. Its popularity also means that it has already gotten plenty of hate from the haters that hate its “woke” content and plenty of praise from the lovers that love the MCU. I’m neither a hater nor a lover of the MCU. I simply like it because it’s a good film and because it’s another fantastic addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.