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August 2021 Retrospective

This is going to be a relatively short retrospective because unfortunately August was a pretty stale month. As new cases of COVID-19 continued to rise, the Ontario government metaphorically shrugged their shoulders and essentially admitted they don't know what to do next. There are no plans to ease current restrictions but at the same time perhaps something needs to be done to get these new cases under control. I will admit that I don't know what should be done. But I would hope that my government has more information than I and can pick some sort of goal to work towards. With school starting next week their hands are probably going to be forced sooner rather that later.

So while I wanted for the Ontario government to do something, I basically sat inside and played video games, watched TV, and read books for the entire month.

The Good

Visited family and friends

OK so I didn't sit inside for the entire month. While I didn't go out to any restaurants or attractions, I did visit family and friends a handful of times.

I always thought I was more of an introverted person. But after spending 3-4 hours sitting down and shooting the shit with real people again, I grossly underestimated how much of an extrovert I am. It is a shame that I am probably never going to be able to go back into an office and work in person with colleagues again. I can only hope that wherever I end up buying a home, it is in a friendly neighbourhood like I had for my childhood.

Chess

I played 192 games of rapid chess in August. I won 94, lost 87, and drew 11. I started the month with a rating of 1100 and ended with a rating of 1154.

You would think that I would be happy about my play but it is quite the opposite. I only seem to win because I am playing the same openings and get opponents into traps that I know how to execute. But if I lose, I lose in absolutely gut wrenching fashion. When playing a faceless player over the Internet it is incredibly easy for me to lose my temper and imagine that they are cheating in some manner. I know that is a horrible attitude to have. But when I lose for the tenth time because I hung my rook on move 7 to a bishop or queen, it apparently is easier to get angry than introspective.

I'm actually debating if I want to make a goal for September to not play any chess unless it is in person. Everyone who I know that plays chess is way better than me but I want to believe that even losing to them in person would be fun because I could at least ask them for help. We could analyse the game and they could point out what they were thinking and I could learn. So even though it is still extremely likely I will hang my rook to a bishop in real life, it would be less brutal because I can at least look over the board and see that this person is not cackling maniacally at me. Not like those faceless opponents on the Internet.

Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami

Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami is a bonkers peek behind the curtain of the drug smuggling scene in the 1980s and 90s. I have watched dozens of TV shows or movies that deal with smuggling/dealing illegal drugs in America. Everything from Narcos to Bad Boys II to Scarface to Breaking Bad to Sicario. But all of those examples have one thing in common. The people dealing the drugs are always portrayed as evil, depraved sociopaths who will do anything to survive. It is nearly impossible to empathize with them in any way.

Now don't get me wrong, the drug kingpins in Cocaine Cowboys are complete lunatics who definitely murdered people. But the way this documentary puts their boisterous lifestyle front and centre you almost start to like them. Probably similar to the way people enjoy watching a reality TV show like the Jersey Shore. Everyone on screen are douchebags that you would never want to hang out with in real-life. But when you literally have the pilots of drug smuggling planes jokingly explain how doing cocaine off the dashboard helped them focus, you can't help but laugh and become enamoured.

I highly recommend everyone give at least the first episode of Cocaine Cowboys a shot. I imagine that the vast majority who do will finish the entire series.

Untold: Malice at the Palace

It has been almost 17 years since "The Malice at the Palace". I remember watching the highlights on SportsCenter and not being able to comprehend how the fans could behave that poorly. Even after watching Netflix's Untold: Malice at the Palace the reasoning still basically boils down to alcohol plus stupidity equals violence.

What I enjoyed most about this documentary was actually hearing from the players. I thought back to all the reporting from 2004 and realized that I never really once heard from them. This was before social media where the only way you'd hear from an athlete was if they got in front of a microphone and a heavily edited clip of what they said appeared on SportsCenter. So while it may be 17 years too late, I'm glad that they finally got to speak their peace because what they had to say was very illuminating.

Ronny Chieng: Asian Comedian Destroys America!

I finally got around to watching Ronny Chieng's Netflix Special: Asian Comedian Destroys America! and I cannot recommend it enough. It was absolutely hysterical!

Honourable Mentions

Twelve Minutes

Twelve Minutes feels like a throwback to the point-and-click adventure games of the 80s and 90s. The interesting twist is that you're stuck in a time loop that (surprise, surprise) lasts twelve minutes. More often than not thought the loop resets because of some other event, usually your death.

For the first hour or two, Twelve Minutes is a really engaging game. The plethora of choices you have and the knowledge you carry over from loop to loop always left me with something new I wanted to try. But around the two hour mark I found myself repeating a lot of the same actions just to see if I could get something new to happen. There was one particular set of actions that I repeated for nearly 45 minutes trying to get something new to occur and having no luck. There were many moments where I just wanted to throw the controller away in anger and shut off the game. But each time I did persevere and I managed to get to the end credits.

The writing was solid and the premise was engaging but I know that the gameplay I just described is going to rub a lot of people the wrong way. Not everyone is going to have the patience to waste so much time trying things that really have no benefit. I think if this game had some ability to control the time loop, like you could rewind two minutes and try something else it would be a much more enjoyable game.

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin

I promised to give Monster Hunter Stories 2 another shot and I am I glad I did. Just like the mainline Monster Hunter games, you don't really get hooked until you are a couple hours in when you've got a better understanding of the combat and have taken down a couple of the bigger monsters. Monster Hunter Stories 2 is still a very simple game compared to regular Monster Hunter titles but something about my lizard brain just wants to keep killing monsters and making new weapons and armor. I can't stop.

The biggest negative of the game is how long it takes you to get into battles. They have an "open world" which you are running around in but you're essentially just running between battles. I probably spend 1/3 of my time in the game just running around this world when I would rather but killing or crafting.

I know Capcom is never going to do this but Monster Hunter Stories would probably work best as a mobile game where you select a region to explore and then have to fight through a series of battles to complete a run. It's already on the Switch so there really is no reason why my iPhone couldn't easily replicate the combat mechanics.

The Bad

Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time

It pains me to think of how much time I've spent trying to understand Neon Genesis Evangelion over the last 25 years.

I have easily watched the entire anime at least separate three times. I own the complete manga. I watched the first Rebuild of Evangelion film when it came out over a decade ago! So of course I had to watch the fourth (and hopefully final) film, Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time, when it was released this month.

All I want to say is that I wish I could go back and time and make it so I never watched Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Netflix's Lupin

The first two and a half episodes of Lupin were fantastic. Yes there were some substantial plot holes but they were easy enough to ignore because the premise of the gentleman thief in modern times was engaging. Then the fourth episode happened and things went off the fucking rails. I tweeted about it at the time:

https://twitter.com/statuses/1429272493148319753

Basically every major event in the series boils down to "thank god three weeks ago the protagonist did that thing and then the bad guy responded to it exactly like no regular human being would". Ugh just writing this is angering up the blood. Don't watch Lupin!

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September Goals

#MonthlyRetrospective

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