Friday, September 17, 2021

Book Report: "Grant"


GrantGrant by Ron Chernow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wish Ron Chernow had enough time and energy to write biographies of every significant historical figure. With a storyteller's flair and a historian's conscience, he sifts through mountains of research and conflicting narratives to suss out the closest thing imaginable to the true story.

His gift is one of empathy. He inhabits and takes in the world in the way that he imagines his subjects might have, probing the records and media accounts to synthesize the feelings and inner mental workings of the time.

In the same superb way he deconstructed Lincoln, Washington and Hamilton, he takes on the stoic icon Grant, transforming him from a poker-faced general and president into a man teeming with insecurities and inner demons. Chernow takes a hard look at his alcoholism, which Grant shielded with intense ferocity.

Orchestrating the myriad forces that Grant navigated as he floated to the upper echelons of Guilded Age celebrity, Chernow explores the complicated relationships Grant had with the likes of Sherman, Twain and Garfield, making the giants of history seem as familiar as drinking buddies.

Throughout the exquisite prose, Grant emerges as a figure of tender ambition, deep care of his family, as well as humanity as a whole, and his careful stewardship of the legacy he built. It wouldn't surprise me if Grant -- for all his flaws and gullability -- was Chernow's favorite subject of all to date.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2021

"NBA 2K22" Review

There is no true offseason when it comes to the life of a pro basketball player. "NBA 2K22" embraces the lifestyle aspects of the league 

A more robust MyPlayer mode is more story-oriented and RPG-like than in years' past, emerging you into the rhythms, challenges and benefits that come with the pro baller livelihood. 

Unlike in previous years, your first choice as a high school phenom is whether to commit to college or avoid that route in favor of trying out for the G League. Either way, your endgame is to become a lottery pick and get those endorsement deals rolling in. The selfish aspect could influence your play style in showcase games as you prep for your future.

On-court action has been tweaked to allow for a less arcadey feel. The camera seems to be closer to the action, providing an immediate feel that seems closer to instant replay than broadcast perspective. Changes to the stamina formula force you to be stingy with your fast breaks and flashy moves, which can lead to diminishing returns if you overuse them.

Both MYPlayer and MyTeam modes are beset with long-game rewards that require a measure of grinding, but both are more rewarding than the instant gratification aspect of years' past.

Continuing the trend of previous editions of the game, there is an ever-increasing emphasis on microtransactions for consumables, including in-game boosts and cosmetics. While options abound to tweak your style and look without shelling out extra money, the temptation to fork out dough to cut out the grind is everpresent. That's par for the course in the modern sports landscape, though. At least failing to play in the money-hungry metagame won't reduce the thrills you get on the court.

Once you're ready to embrace the next NBA season, "NBA 2K22" will sate all the needs that aren't fulfilled by highlights or fantasy leagues. A silk-smooth anf flashy product much like its cover athlete, Luca Donkic, it's a comprehensive package that fuels your hoop dreams.

Publisher provided review code.

PHIL ON FILM: Movies Leaving Netflix in October 2021

 For the full story, click here.

Monday, September 06, 2021

"DariusBurst: Another Chronicle EX+" Review

Side-scrolling space shooters were made for the Switch, and Taito has been crafting some of the best in the bunch for decades. 

While "DariusBurst: Another Chronicle EX+" may not add much to the recipe, the bones of what have long made games of this ilk so addictive remains in place.

The goal is to replicate a credit-chomping arcade experience, and "DariusBurst" accomplishes that to a harrowing degree. The difficulty level ramps up quickly then continues to pour on the pain, challenging you to hone your skillset as you power through the bullet hell. 

The array of power-ups and upgrades is satisfying, injecting momentum-shifting jolts into the flow of the game that can jolt you out of certain death.

The feeling of constantly skating by in a mix of luck and skill is intoxicating, challenging you to overcome your near-misses and celebrate your fleeting successes.

While there may not be much new in the offing for series veterans, there is plenty to enjoy for even the most devoted fans. The 1980s and 90s continue to live on on the Switch.

Publisher provided review code.