The Professional Gamer - May 22, 2017

Hi readers! This has been an interesting week for weather in Colorado. We are past our usual last frost date, but ended up with some significant snow on Thursday and temperatures in the mid- to low-30's. This gave me a great opportunity to watch a movie that has been on my list since it was released. I've also finished one book and am starting with another one. Let's talk about Kubo and the Two Strings.

The plot of the movie feels very much like an old myth or folktale. And although it seems to be inspired by those types of stories, I haven't heard that it is based on a single specific story. I'll point you to this article that has a clear, succinct summary of the plot. I'm going to change things up a bit and talk about the shortcomings of the film first. The biggest shortcoming is uneven and sometimes rushed storytelling. Also, for a story that ostensibly takes place in a mythical Japan, the casting is very white. Now, let's discuss how this film is successful. The character designs are spot on: iconic, strong silhouettes, and expressive features. I had to remind myself several times during the film that all of the animation was stop-motion. Technically speaking, this film is an amazing achievement: extremely fluid animation with complex fight scenes, fast moving actions, and some very intricate characters. The fluidity of the animation is more on par with computer based animation. However, the sense that the animation is composed of physical objects provides a critical level of grounding and realism to a story brimming with magic and monsters. 

As I stated earlier, the plot feels like a myth; it follows some of the major points of "The Hero's Journey". But, unlike many modern myths, Kubo includes significant bitter elements. People have lost memories and their sense of self, and only find themselves again too late. And there is death in this movie, but not for the villain. Kubo faces these deaths head-on; he refuses to deny them. He embraces the pain of life in order to hold on to his cherished memories, rather than give them up for a "perfect" life among the stars. And this theme is the critical part of Kubo, the part that helps is rise above much of past media that has targeted young people.

Next, let's talk about the book that I just finished: On the Grid, by Scott Huler. I've dicussed this book previously, and so I'll keep this update brief. The book provides a good primer on how services in our modern cities work. I feel like some of the topics could have been covered in more detail, but for a popular work, it covers the basics well. A good read if you'd like to learn a bit more about how the modern world works.

I've finished one book, and simply can't exist without something interesting sitting on my night stand. Therefore, I've replaced On the Grid with A People's History of the United States. I'm only a few chapters in at this point and still soundly in the colonial period, but am amazed at how the political concerns in America have changed very little in three centuries. I'll have some more discussion as I get further into it.

That's all for now. Have a great week and game on!