I have one book left to read in the Reading Challenge. It’s the 50th book, and the electronic version has been on hold since before the 49th book. The Libby by Overdrive app tells me I have approximately three weeks until my copy is available.
Then, yesterday, I saw that a physical copy of the book is on the shelves at the Central Library.
I checked the availability once more, right before I walked over to the library at lunch today. (In case you didn’t know, today’s “Randomness” photo was taken while waiting for the elevator in the library.) I returned Loud in the House of Myself. Then I went to look for the book I wanted.
I know from experience that I’m able to walk from my office to the library, drop off a book, pick one up from the fiction shelves, check it out, and walk back to my office during my half-hour lunch break – and not be late getting back. Today was my first attempt at finding a book in the Books Spiral during my lunch break.
The Books Spiral is one of the most awesome features of our awesome Central Library. I rarely make use of it because I rarely read non-fiction books.
The Books Spiral is four levels of books. A gently sloped path connects all four levels in a continuous spiral. Dewy Decimal numbers decorate the floor at each bookshelf. You can walk the entire Dewy Decimal System from 000 to the 900s, and back again, if you want. (If you’re in a hurry, there are stairs in the middle of the spiral.)
Here’s a video from aplustarchitecture that shows the Books Spiral better than I’ve described it:
I took a couple of escalators up to the Books Spiral, and followed the numbers to my book. But my book wasn’t there.
I double-checked the call number I’d written down. I looked up and down the shelves to see if it had been mis-shelved. The book just wasn’t there. Maybe someone was reading it inside the library.
There wasn’t enough time to ask for help.
I walked back to my office. I made it back with plenty of time to spare. I put the physical version (which the library still listed as being on the shelf) on hold, but kept my hold on the electronic version. As soon as the physical version is “In Transit”, I’ll cancel my hold on the electronic version. Or, if the electronic version comes in early, I’ll cancel my hold on the physical copy. Or, if the electronic version comes in while the physical copy is “In Transit”, I’ll return the electronic version and pick up the physical copy.
It’s not a new book, and I haven’t heard about it in the news lately, so I’m puzzled by the demand for it.
I rode a 1 bus up 3rd Avenue this evening. The driver was being extra cautious about slowing down through the overhead switches. He was being so cautious that he was probably going less than one mile per hour through each switch. There were times I thought we were going to coast to a stop right in the middle of a dead spot in the wires and get stuck. Caution is good, but too much caution isn’t. We made it to Pike Street without getting stuck – but I missed the 47 that OneBusAway was leaving in 7 minutes, back on Columbia Street, and had to wait for the next one.
“Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl“, by Stacy Pershall, was published in 2011.
The first sentence is: “The first tattoo I ever saw was on my uncle’s middle finger.”
Stacy Pershall grew up in the small town of Prairie Grove, Arkansas (population 1,000). She was obsessed with death from an early age, wondering what her mother would do if she was dead, and wondering what she would do if her mother died.
Stacy became withdrawn. She frequently chanted to herself. She was bullied by the popular kids in school. Stacy knew she needed help, but there weren’t any psychiatrists in Prairie Grove. There were plenty of churches, however, so Stacy became a Baptist (because it had the best youth group), and had faith that Jesus would save her.
When Stacy turned 14, she became a little more popular. She was crowned Miss Clothespin, and she began dating a cool punk-rock boy. When he commented on her eating habits, and on her weight, that’s all it took for Stacy to become anorexic. When he dumped her, she became bulimic.
She went from 140 pounds to 107 pounds. Her goal was to reach 98 pounds. With an extreme focus on food, lots of liquids, and weight-reduction pills, she reached her goal. Life was perfect. “…except for the fact that I was always cold, always sick, always grouchy, barely speaking to my parents, had no friends, and still lived in Prairie Grove, things seemed pretty much perfect. Like I said: just as long as nothing was more important than food. This is how anorexia can save you. This is also how it can kill you. This is where living and dying become the same thing.”
At 16, Stacy was 5 feet, 6 inches tall, and weighed 98 pounds. Her parents sent her to a pediatrician, who referred her to a psychologist named Dr. Thornton, who saw patients in an Episcopal church. (Names have been changed in this memoir.) Dr. Thornton encouraged Stacy to put herself “in harm’s way” – to take risks, and experience failure. He insisted that she go to a six-week liberal arts camp run by Bill Clinton, and she went.
When she returned from camp, Stacy applied, and was accepted, to a university in London.
She had a fun, reckless time in London. She also had her first manic episode in London.
Stacy returned to Arkansas, and went to college. She found that neither Jesus, Dr. Thornton, writing stories, nor a boyfriend, were enough to save her from mania and depression. So she became a theater major.
After a suicide attempt, Stacy was hospitalized, where she was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. She was discharged because she had no health insurance. So she moved to Cincinnati.
At a sliding-scale clinic in Cincinnati, Stacy was diagnosed as bipolar, and prescribed a different medication ever time she returned.
“In 1995, at the age of twenty-four, I married a man ten years my senior.” Their marriage lasted six years. She continued her education, but decided that she loved theater but hated actors, so she studied to be a playwright.
Stacy earned a Master’s Degree from UC College of Arts, not in theater, but in their “new media” program. She accepted a teaching job in New York City. She became one of the early camgirls – broadcasting her unfiltered life, 24 hours per day, to the internet. She became an early blogger on LiveJournal. She was fired from her job because of things she’d written on LiveJournal.
When Stacy attempted suicide in 2001, it was broadcast live on the internet. A viewer called 911. Then Stacy had to deal with the resulting media attention.
On September 10, 2001, Stacy got her first big, visible tattoo. The next day, airplanes crashed into the World Trade Towers.
Eventually, Stacy Pershall found treatment that worked. She went on to write her memoir.
Loud in the House of Myself is a wonderful book about an unpleasant subject. It’s written with openness, frankness, and perception, with dashes of dry humor thrown it.
Stacy Pershall has nothing good to say about a healthcare system based on for-profit insurance.
Each chapter of this book begins with a little anecdote about tattoos. The first tattoo she ever saw. The first tattoo Stacy got. The stories of her various tattoos. She tells how people often misinterpret other people’s tattoos. She describes the tattoo she got to honor Dr. Philip Thornton.
I can’t say I enjoyed reading this book – it is rather grim. But I will say that this is a good book.
Why I chose this book:
I am convinced that someone at the King County Library System is following the Popsugar Reading Challenge. Very often, the suggested reading lists published on KCLS’s Facebook page line up with the Reading Challenge categories. One such reading list was named “Books about mental health”.
I wasn’t too enthusiastic about reading a book from this category, and I admit that I chose Loud in the House of Myself from KCLS’s reading list mainly because it’s less than 250 pages long.
Phillip and I went to the Salmon Homecoming at Waterfront Park today. We ended up being tourists in our own city.
On our way to the First Hill Streetcar, we stopped into Rocket Fizz. There was a candy we’d discovered in a mystery bag we bought there, that we both especially liked, and wanted to buy more. Unfortunately, neither one of us could remember the name of this candy. Fortunately, I knew that would happen, so I’d taken a photograph of it. While Phillip was trying to describe it to the cashier, I pulled out my phone and showed her the photo. She showed us where to find the candy.
We bought two bags of this candy, and a box of chocolate Pocky. It was probably the smallest purchase we’d ever make at Rocket Fizz.
We got to the streetcar stop, and learned that we had a 19 minute wait for the next streetcar. So we took light rail instead – a faster, but less scenic, option. We were in no hurry, but why wait 19 minutes when Capitol Hill Station is right there?
While we were waiting for the free Waterfront Shuttle, outside of King Street Station, we saw the First Hill Streetcar go by.
The Waterfront Shuttle was far more full than empty. I was happy to see that. It’s great to see such a great new service well used.
The shuttle took us right to Pier 57, next to Waterfront Park.
Salmon Homecoming was fun. It was a festival of local Native American arts and culture.
Phillip and I browsed through Pier 57, and went into Pirates Plunder, just like a couple of tourists. (Have I ever mentioned that Phillip is really into pirates?)
We had lunch at Red Robin, at Pier 55. Then we walked over to Pier 54, and browsed through Ye Olde Curiosity Shop.
The trip to the waterfront had been Phillip’s suggestion. Over lunch, Phillip suggested that we take the Waterfront Shuttle up to Pike Place Market, and I agreed.
(There are currently three Waterfront Shuttles in Seattle. One goes to King Street Station, one goes to Pike Place Market, and the third goes to the Space Needle. They’re all free to ride. It’s an experiment that keeps expanding.)
It was standing room only on the Pike Place Market shuttle. Phillip struck up a nice conversation with some of the actual tourists. We made one stop, at the Sheraton Hotel, up on 6th Avenue, before circling back to Pike Place Market.
Phillip and I wandered around Pike Place Market, just like a couple of tourists.
We wondered how many of the people lined up to see the original Starbucks actually know what they’re going to see. Do they know it’s just another Starbucks, and not a museum or a history tour or something? If they do know, it would be fun for them to say they’d been, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
I was asked twice to take people’s photos in front of the city skyline.
Phillip bought a bag of nuts from a vendor. We wandered into Golden Age Comics, not really looking for anything, and we both ended up buying gaming dice. I bought a set of d6s in a wild yellow with red splash patterns. It’s not my standard color type, but I liked the look very much. I also bought a mixed set of dice in a brown/silver pattern that looks rather metallic. (That’s my standard color type.) Phillip bought a mixed set in a color we both call Orange Crush.
Phillip wanted to go to Target, to look at Halloween stuff. (Have I ever mentioned that Phillip is really into Halloween?) We ended up buying six Lego Minifigs, six pairs of underwear, and a bag of skulls. The underwear was not for the Minifigs.
(It’s not that today was all about what Phillip wanted to do. It’s just that he had really great ideas today.)
After Target, we walked up to Fourth Avenue. OneBusAway told us we had a 23 minute wait for a 47, so we rode a 49 home instead.
We’re both exhausted.
It was a wonderful day.
I wrote yesterday’s post in a rush. I just threw down some thoughts before heading off to work. I don’t think it’s a dilemma anymore.
I played the “Bonus Episode” of Life is Strange: Before the Storm last night. It’s a short, self-contained mini-game that takes place during one morning in the lives of 13-year-old Max Caulfield and slightly older Chloe Price, playing the pirate game they played when Max was 8. It’s the morning that everything changes for Chloe. You play the game as Max.
I’m now caught up on the entire Life is Strange stories. Here are my random thoughts and observations on this wonderful experience. I’m going to refer to Life is Strange, Life is Strange: Before the Storm, and last night’s bonus episode as three separate, but connected, stories and games.
Life is Strange is a story told in reverse. Life is Strange takes place after Chloe has lost Rachel, and when she’s reunited with Max. Before the Storm comes next, and takes place after Chloe has lost Max, and when she meets Rachel. Before the Storm ends with a bonus episode which circles back to before the beginning, just before Chloe loses both her father and Max.
I used to be confused about what year Chloe’s dad died in that car accident – how it fit into the timeline. The bonus episode cleared that up.
Max’s superpower is manipulating time. Chloe’s superpower appears to be immunity from vandalism laws. The next time I play Before the Storm, I’m going to ignore the bonus graffiti opportunities. It’s kind of stupid.
All three stories are character driven. It’s the characters that attract me to this game, and the reason I’m willing to overlook it when scenes are illogical. (Still: How, exactly, did Chloe get to the Firewalk concert?)
Chloe Price is a more interesting protagonist than Max Caulfield. In both Life is Strange and Before the Storm, the protagonist is actually following someone else’s quest. Chloe seems more in control of her situation, however. She makes more of a life arc than Max did.
David, the stepfather, is a good man who tries to do the right thing, but often goes at it in the wrong way. Frank, the drug dealer, is a good man, despite the persona he’s created.
In the bonus episode, Max tells us that she’s spent so many nights at the Prices’ house that Chloe’s parents gave Max a toothbrush to leave in the bathroom. It’s interesting that we never meet Max’s parents. From what we know of them through text messages and letters, they’re loving, supportive parents. I wonder how many nights, if any, Chloe spent at the Caulfields’ house.
The “Big Choice” at the end of Before the Storm is more complex, and therefore more interesting, than the one at the end of Life is Strange.
Life is Strange begins with a storm, and the discovery of Max’s superpower. Before the Storm features a production of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a play involving a storm and Prospero’s magic.
I actually never thought about the influence that Twin Peaks had on Life is Strange, until the game pointed it out to me. The license plate on someone’s truck (I forget whose) is something like TWNPKS. There’s a bit of graffiti in the bathroom of the Two Whales Diner that says “Fire walk with me.” Firewalk is the name of the band the Chloe goes to see. I wonder if this is why the French creators of Life is Strange set their story in the Pacific Northwest.
All three games involve making choices. In Before the Storm, Chloe finds herself in a D&D tabletop game, making choices for the character she’s playing. Later, she finds herself in a production of The Tempest, playing a character. In the bonus episode, Max finds a choose-your-own-adventure book that she and Chloe wrote together when they were younger. (I didn’t try it, but it looks like you can actually play their book.)
There’s a scene outside of the diner, where Max strikes up a conversation with a truck driver. At first, the trucker is complaining about the lack of work in the area. Then, he’s complaining about the elitist kids in Blackwell, doing homework instead of getting a real job. Now that I’ve played Before the Storm, I can picture Chloe in that conversation, responding with, “Yeah? And how’s your ‘real job’ been working out for you?”
I don’t remember if we’re ever told why Max’s family went to Seattle (a job, probably), but, wow, they picked the worst possible time to leave Arcadia Bay. Couldn’t they have waited a couple of hours, and give Max and Chloe some closure?
I think it’s interesting that the Price family has a photo of Seattle hanging in their hallway, even before Max moves away.
Life is Strange tells us what happened to Rachel. Earlier, I’d been curious if Before the Storm would also tell us. The answer is both yes and no. There is a brief scene, but unless you’ve played Life is Strange, you probably wouldn’t understand what’s happening.
There are several incidences of foreshadowing in the bonus episode. It’s very well written.
In a couple of weeks, Episode 1 of Life is Strange 2 will be released. It’s going to involve new characters, and a new story. The story of Max, Chloe, and Rachel is over.
(9/17/18: I don’t usually go back and edit old blog posts, except to fix typos, but I made an exception with this post. That second paragraph seemed to say – at least to me – that Max and Chloe are the same age. Chloe is a year older than Max, give or take a month or two.)
I finished Life is Strange: Before the Storm last night. I feel like I’ve finished a very good, very sad, very moving story. I overlooked little plot errors along the way – little things that didn’t quite make sense – because I was busy enjoying the story so much.
Then I got to a scene (a scene in someone’s office) that I can’t make sense of, no matter how I try to justify it in my head. I don’t mean that I didn’t understand it. I mean that I understand it perfectly well, but the logic of its actions and its lack of consequence just make no sense at all. It still bothers me this morning.
Is it possible to love a story and still accept that it’s deeply flawed?
The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster, was first published in 1961. The copy I downloaded from the library was illustrated by Jules Feiffer.
The first sentence is: “There was once a boy named Milo who didn’t know what to do with himself – not just sometimes, but always.”
Milo is bored. Wherever he is, he wants to be somewhere else.He’s bored at school. He’s bored at home. His room is filled with books he’s never read, toys he’s rarely played with, and a small electric car he hadn’t driven in months (or maybe years).
Milo notices a package in his room that he’s never seen before. There’s a blue envelope attached that says: “TO MILO, WHO HAS PLENTY OF TIME.”
Inside the package is an easily-assembled turnpike tollbooth “for those who have never traveled to lands beyond”. Included with the tollbooth are three precautionary signs “to be used in a precautionary fashion”, assorted coins to be used for paying tolls, a map, and a book of strict rules and traffic regulations.
The tollbooth comes with a money back guarantee.
Milo assembles the tollbooth, picks a destination at random from the map (some place called “Dictionopolis”), gets in his little electric car, pays the toll, and takes off.
Milo first finds himself in a place named Expectations, where he meets the Whether Man (who determines whether there will be weather). The Whether Man is there to hurry people along, and to move them beyond Expectations.
Milo gets stuck briefly in the Doldrums, a place where thinking is illegal. He meets a watchdog (a dog with an alarm clock in the middle of his body) named Tock. Milo and Tock rescue each other from the Doldrums, and become best friends.
Along the way, they meet the Humbug, an egotistical insect, who joins Milo and Tock on their travels.
Milo, Tock, and the Humbug travel together to Dictionopolis, a large port city where words are bought and sold in the Word Market, and are also imported and exported by traders on the Sea of Knowledge. Words grow on trees in Dictionopolis, but you must pick your words carefully.
They meet fascinating characters, such as Faintly Macabre, the Not-So-Wicked Which; King Azaz the Unabridged, king of Dictionopolis; and Shrift, a short police officer.
There are two capitol cities in the Kingdom of Wisdom: Dictionopolis, the kingdom of words, ruled by King Azaz, and Digitopolis, the kingdom of numbers, ruled by Azaz’s brother, the Mathematician. Disputes between the kingdoms used to be arbitrated by the princesses Rhyme and Reason. Rhyme and Reason have been banished to the castle in the sky, however, and are held prisoner by the demons of Ignorance.
King Azaz sends Milo, Tock, and the Humbug on a dangerous mission across the Kingdom of Wisdom to rescue Rhyme and Reason, and restore peace between Dictionopolis and Digitopolis.
After many adventures, including an island named Conclusions (which you can get to only by jumping to it), they arrive in Digitopolis, where they meet the Mathematician, who feeds them subtraction stew – which you eat only when you’re not hungry, and makes you hungrier as you eat it. In Digitopolis, Milo meets .58, who comes from an average family with 2.58 children. .58 has two siblings.
When, at last, they meet Rhyme and Reason, Milo learns the importance of learning, and the many traps that can prevent you from gaining wisdom.
The Phantom Tollbooth is an allegory, all right.
I enjoyed the wordplay and puns that fill this book.
The Phantom Tollbooth was obviously influenced by both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz books – a little too much, I felt. I don’t like reading books that constantly remind me of something else.
This is a classic work of literature, according to all the authors in the bonus section of the book I borrowed. I liked it, but it didn’t thrill me.
Why I chose this book:
When I looked at the many lists of allegorical books, I was surprised by all the books I’d already read – 1984, Animal Farm, Of Mice and Men, and so on.
I found only one list that included The Phantom Tollbooth, which surprised me, since, from the description, it seemed like such an obvious allegory. I’d heard of the book, but had never read it. So, I chose it for this Category.
I am somewhere in the second episode of Life is Strange: Before the Storm, and I am loving it. Like Life is Strange before it, this game is like reading a novel, with elements of a “choose your own adventure” mixed in, to make it play like a computer game. And, like reading a good novel, it’s tough for me to set Life is Strange: Before the Storm down for long.
I don’t understand how games get written, but Life is Strange and Before the Storm were developed by two different companies, but both were produced by the same company. They look and feel like they were done by the same people.
So far, there are some wonderfully unexpected moments in Before the Storm, like when you, playing Chloe, find yourself playing a D&D tabletop game, or when you’re up on stage, acting in a performance of The Tempest, with little time to memorize your lines. There are also some “oh, come on” moments. (Why didn’t the school have Chloe arrested for trashing the bathroom? Why didn’t anyone see if Victoria’s all right after she collapsed?) It’s not perfect.
Life is Strange begins with Maxine “Max” Caulfield witnessing a massive tornado-like storm heading toward a small coastal town. Just as the storm destroys the lighthouse that Max is standing next to, Max finds herself in the middle of Mr. Jefferson’s photography class. The dream (or whatever it was) upsets Max so much that as soon as class is over, she heads down the hall to wash her face in the bathroom. Along the way, Max sees several missing person posters about a girl named Rachel Amber.
While in the bathroom, Max overhears two people – a guy and a girl – enter and begin arguing. The guy pulls out a gun and kills the girl. That’s when Max discovers that she somehow has the power to rewind time. She uses this power to save the girl’s life.
Later, Max learns that the girl she saved is Chloe Price.
Max and Chloe grew up together in the small coastal town of Arcadia Bay, Oregon. They were best friends. When Max was 13, her parents moved to Seattle, Washington, taking Max with them. Five years went by, and Max and Chloe lost contact with each other. Then, at age 18, Max was accepted into Blackwell Academy, in Arcadia Bay, to study photography with the famous Mark Jefferson. Max has moved back to Arcadia Bay.
Chloe is angry with Max for not contacting her from Seattle, and for not telling her that she’d moved back to Arcadia Bay. Chloe is angry about a lot of things – about her father getting killed in a car accident, about getting expelled from Blackwell, and about her mother marrying a man who is the exact opposite of her father. Chloe’s stepfather, David, is an ex-military man and is now the security guard at Blackwell. David tries to control his wife, his stepdaughter, and the Blackwell students like he’s still in the military.
Chloe has changed a lot over the past five years. She’s edgier and more defiant. She’s become involved in the criminal underbelly of Arcadia Bay. Max, meanwhile, is the same socially awkward person she was at 13.
Chloe has been putting up missing person posters, looking for her friend, Rachel Amber. It’s never directly stated, but it gradually becomes clear that Chloe and Rachel had a romantic relationship. Max and Chloe renew their friendship and, with the help of Max’s new superpower, try to discover what happened to Rachel Amber.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm begins with 16-year-old Chloe Price trying to get into a private concert in the woods outside of Arcadia Bay. She succeeds in getting past the bouncer. Once inside, she gets involved in a fight with two guys. Chloe is rescued by a girl named Rachel Amber.
Chloe is a chemistry student at Blackwell Academy. She’s supported by a scholarship. Since her best friend, Max, moved to Seattle and has stopped contacting her, the closest thing to friends that Chloe has are two students she plays occasional D&D games with. Because of the anger she feels over the loss of her best friend, and the loss of her father, and her involvement with a local drug dealer, and the fact that her mother is dating an unemployed ex-military man named David, Chloe is close to failing all of her classes. Chloe has faced several disciplinary actions from school administrators.
Rachel Amber is a drama student at Blackwell Academy. She’s a model student, with good grades and no disciplinary actions. Her father is the town’s District Attorney.
Secretly, Rachel is a rebel at heart. She grew up in California, and hates Arcadia Bay. She’s looking for the first opportunity to leave Arcadia Bay, and she sees Chloe Price as that opportunity.
Rachel convinces Chloe to skip chemistry class. Then they skip school together. Chloe goes along with it, because she’s physically attracted to Rachel. Chloe’s unsure how to approach Rachel with these feelings. The idea of leaving Arcadia Bay with Rachel, and facing an uncertain future, frightens Chloe. And yet, she can’t bring herself to say no.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm, so far, follows the courtship of Chloe Price and Rachel Amber. Chloe, meanwhile, is getting deeper and deeper into the criminal network of Arcadia Bay.
Life is Strange is 5 episodes long. Before the Storm is 3 episodes long.
Looking at these games as if they were novels, I suppose it could be argued that Before the Storm is an unnecessary prequel. In Life is Strange, we never meet Rachel, and all we know about her is what Chloe is willing to share. We don’t know how Chloe got so involved with Frank, the drug dealer. All we know is that Chloe owes Frank money. Rachel is a mystery to be solved, and Frank adds difficulty to the quest. Before the Storm answers questions that perhaps didn’t need to be answered. Both games have strong, well-written, stories, full of complexity and subtlety, however, and I’m glad that Before the Storm was written.
In Life is Strange, we do find out what became of Rachel Amber. I’m curious how much Before the Storm will tell us about her disappearance. But, just like being in the middle of a good novel, I don’t want to story to end.
Both games involve decision making. Every choice that you, the game player, makes will have an effect on the future of the story. The choices are not always easy. Sometimes, the choices are morally difficult. Sometimes the effect is a minor change to the story, and sometimes the change is drastic. Sometimes the choice will involve criminal activity. Sometimes, it will be something as seemingly innocent as choosing which shirt Chloe will put on in the morning. But every choice will have an effect, and it might not be what you expect.
Unlike Life is Strange, Before the Storm has no magical element (so far). You can’t make a choice, see the consequence, and then rewind time and use the knowledge you’ve gained to make a better choice. You’re stuck with the choice you’ve made (unless you want to cheat and restart the game from the last save).
That scene in Life is Strange: Before the Storm, with Rachel and Chloe up on stage, sort of performing The Tempest, but actually flirting with each other, is one of the most beautifully written things I’ve seen in a computer game.