Helloooo everybody! In this episode of Geekery and Wine: The Stanley Parable, Plantaze Snagorski Vranachs, and A Journey to Nerdopolis.
So grab your lanyard and laminated con badge and for gosh sakes listen to the disembodied narrator’s voice as we plunge into another episode of Geekery and Wine!
The Geek Side -- The Stanley Parable
This installment is a lovely throwback for me. As I’ve said in earlier episodes, first-person shooters have always been my favorite computer game genre. I mean I think I could say that I started with Doom or even Wolfenstein 3D but that wouldn’t tell the whole story, because actually what started my love of this genre with was Tunnels of Doom.
Yep, that Grand Old Warhorse, the Texas Instruments TI 99-4A was my first computer and Tunnels of Doom did have you traversing hallways in fabulous 3D! They weren’t great hallways…but still. There were dragons…that looked largely like big seahorses with side-wings…but they were cool. It was 1982, man.
But back to The Stanley Parable. This game itself is a mod of the Half-Life 2 engine, so I was already expecting great things. And it is first-person, yes. But a shooter? Hardly.
You are an office worker named Stanley. I mean, who doesn’t want to be one of those in a computer game, right? This is what we all dream of when we game. Ninjas and superheroes are soooo last week!
And as you begin to traverse your day as an average office drone everything is narrated by a V.O.G. or Voice of God narrator. And right away…you’re thinking, but that means I have to do what he’s saying right?
Nope. When you diverge from his narrations, he changes the narrative to backwardly justify what he has already said. It is wonderfully silly.
Another thing that I absolutely love about this game is that it is short!
Don’t get me wrong, I loves me some of games with grand scope; where after 60 hours there are still amazing adventures to be had and achievements to unlock. But, I’m not the same person I was twenty years ago or even ten years ago. There are kids and a wife that all have STUFF to do and that means I can’t hide away for 60+ hours of uninterrupted computer gaming.
Therefore, I have a deep and abiding appreciation for a game that hops in there entertains me and then gives me the feeling of a fulfilling narrative.
Perhaps my best comparison would be other visual media. I LOVE a good TV series that takes its time exploring elements of the characters that I can binge or even stretch out my enjoyment of said universe. Take Gilmore Girls the series that ran on the WB and CW from 2000 to 2007 and was revived on Netflix in 2016. Loved it! But I also have a big love for a film that can create a universe, tell a yarn and then be done. I have no idea why but the film Event Horizon is hopping into my mind, for some reason. Now what a romantic comedy TV series centering on a mother/daughter relationship and an outer space Cthulhu story of cosmic horror have in common is anyone’s guess!
But…get in, entertain and get out is what The Stanley Parable does in a wacky, WTF is happening kind of way.
It also took what was, at the time, a method of adventure that was clichéd and overly relied on its tropes. When you took up the mantle of the character (behind their eyes) you took for granted that your life would be an action film! In The Stanley Parable, this expectation is subverted with an existential dread you need to grapple with.
A computer game that actually causes you to think about your life. I think there should be a primal scream here!
What follows is a section that might be a bit spoilerish. So, proceed with caution.
As the protagonist, Stanley, you begin to see that there may be more going on in your dreary office than what you had originally thought. The office you are in is deserted by design! Which I think is absolutely clever. Considering this was released in 2013 and making convincing animated costars was difficult, to say the least.
Here is an interesting tidbit…I was recently online doing a bit of research about The Stanley Parable for this episode and found out that the game is going to be re-released in an Ultimate Edition that will also be available on consoles.
And even though I am not usually one to re-buy something I have already had the experience of…
Wait, wait, wait…we are a geek nation of reboots and sequels, prequels and…probably equals, too.
Nevermind, I TOTALLY am someone who rebuys the experience I have already had and enjoyed.
Right, I will probably see what The Stanley Parable: The Ultimate Edition will be like on Xbox. And if it is like the current incarnation, which features mind control, mythical significant others and long walks into the sunshine and uneasy peace of mind, I think it will totally be worth it.
The Wine Side – Plantaze Snagorski Vranachs
I would love to say there was some deep abiding spiritual reason for the wine I chose for this episode. But honestly, I just like the weird! So when I was looking for a wine to talk about I originally started looking for interesting Israeli wines and found many of them to be Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon and I glanced to the right on the shelf and found Plantaze Snagorski Vranachs.
In a World...hang on, I can do that better.
“In a world”…there we go.
In a world of Merlots, cabernet sauvignons, zinfandels, etc I was drawn to a varietal that I don’t think I would be able to pronounce without looking up a few things on YouTube!
This wine comes from Montenegro in the Balkans. I chose it mostly because it reminds me of a friend I haven’t spoken to in a long time. My friend Zack. He and his wife moved to Bosnia and taught at some of the schools used by diplomats kids overseas and then moved to China and adopted a son. Well, as is often the case when people live a long ways away…we drifted. And his new son became endlessly fascinating to him and I don’t blame him. I was a little jealous. For a long time, he was that trusted intellectual confidante that you talk about the deep weighty issues with. And I miss him. I still see him on Facebook doing things with his family but I miss the really long emails, the conversations we used to have together. It’s always hard moving on, and in a lot of ways, I guess I just don’t want to. So I found this wine that is probably grown 163 miles from where he USED to live.
Long sigh tinged with ennui….
In other geek news, it’s also a three-hour drive from where the wine was made to where The Red Viper met his end at the hands of The Mountain in Game of Thrones, at least where it was filmed in the series, anyhow!
Weird coincidence…The strangest thing happened to me as I went down to the basement to look at the bottle. I found it actually WAS from 2013…is there some vast intelligence that knew this? Is there some all-powerful narrator who is guiding my actions while writing this blog? Would it be amazing it if it actually WAS Kevan Brighting!!! The dude who narrated The Stanley Parable!!!! Wait…that was the last section.
We should probably take a hard left turn and talk about how I experience my wine.
This is not an easily answered question. It’s a bit more nuanced. And this is true of most wines I drink.
The first 5-ounce pour may be a bit much for me especially the big Barolos or cabs – all I can taste is the alcohol or maybe the Big Pucker of a particularly sour note.
The second 5-ounce pour I’m getting used to the flavors and finding nuances.
But the third…it doesn’t usually taste very good, the wine begins to lose something, I think my taste buds are starting to get anesthetized and it’s not as pleasurable to me as it was when I started.
Vranachs, tastes very green to me. There is something akin to a slight bitterness one might taste in a banana that wasn’t quite as yellow as it should be. Think the tart taste of a cranberry but with the finish of an olive. So, just like its name Vranach is different from the other wines I came across. Those finishing notes hang with the wine into the second glass, too.
BT Dubbs, A complete bottle of wine is about 5, five-ounce glasses.
If I ever were to sit down and finish a bottle over the course of an evening it would have to be something like a Chateauneuf du Pape…while watching a lot of something on TV and snacking a bunch.
Vranach is not that wine, though.
Also very importantly is how a wine is on the second day!
And I mean without any pumping out of air or sealing and whatnot. Some wines will lose all of their zazz on the second day whereas others actually melooow of just flat-out improve!
Vranach stays very consistent. On the second day, it is very like the wine I had the day before. Which for me means it is a nice weekday wine that can be enjoyed over the course of several dinners.
I bought Plantaze Snagorski Vranachs for $11.99 at New Hampshire Wine and Liquor Outlet but you can find it online at potomacwines.com for $7.99….ugh, gimme a break! Ah, but wait...it seems they don’t ship to Massachusetts. Well, fine.
Audio goodness -- A Journey to Nerdopolis or How I did San Diego Comic-con
Well, this was going to be different. To be very frank I was petrified to put myself out there. Reading someone else’s work is easy…emotionally. I would connect with the piece and perform it, but ultimately it’s not mine. I could always say of a bad review, “Welp, it was the author’s writing the listener had a problem with, not me. On some websites, the review is even broken down by performance, story and overall rating.
Another concern is that after a creative piece is out in the world…it is a permanent statement of the author. At least that is how it is perceived. And there was no sense that it would be listened to within the context of the other writing and work I’d done. What about when my ideas on any subject progress and change? What then!!!??
Ugh, why did I include the DATE? Why did I let Scott (my cover artist) put the date on the cover? Fine, fine, fine…why did I instruct him to put the date on the cover because that’s what I said in the audiobook?
All of these things ping-ponged around my brain as I decided whether or not now was the time to actually narrate a piece of my own writing.
On one hand, I can absolutely attest to and support the opinion that very few authors are able to read their own work well.
There are exceptions of course. The great and good Neil Gaiman comes to mind. But most of the time it can be pretty dreadful. You are asking someone to do a one-person show, play all the characters and do so with little-to-no acting training. That’s not particularly fair.
Are there some naturals? Of course—the aforementioned Neil Gaiman is one. Anne Lammot’s reading her book Bird by Bird is another. But mostly it’s painful and one can feel either the desire to do good that is not coupled with the much-needed skill set, or the straight-up dread the author has for performing (“someone made me do this, but I don’t wanna” ). Neither is something you want to spend a great deal of time with in your ears.
Here’s why. As an author, you are looking at how the machine works. Are the plot points coming together in a way that makes sense? Are all of the characters arcing in a way that makes the reader care about them? Yet as an actor, I have but a single job: render the character that is currently front and center honestly and when the next character comes into scene do it again and keep doing it until you get to the part of the text that says, “The End.” I mean there are funny voices, oodles of things regarding working with microphones and on and on…but truth in performance is at the core.
What if the Chekov’s gun in act one is still unused in act three? Not my problem!
What if my conflict with a minor character is still unresolved by the end of the book? Someone else’s job.
I liken this to The Race Car Driver and The Mechanic. Can mechanics be good race car drivers? Sure. But these are radically different skill sets and each is focusing on different things while using them.
Now…after I narrated my piece, I listened to it with a theatre director’s critical ear. But with my own work I wonder if I am not more subdued than another narrator might be because I am so familiar with it? Am I still able to bring across the “The Illusion of the first time”—that theatrical notion that this is the first time these events have spontaneously taken place?
But here is another thought. I was at that point in my career where I hadn’t nurtured any relationships with publishers. No one was going to lay a high-value property in my lap with only 10 or so titles under my belt. So, I had to take advantage of the unique access to the author that is…me.
So, I was hired by me to read me. And if I owned the rights to the song I Am My Own Grandpa, I’d play it here!
I spoke a little about the difficulties in writing A Journey to Nerdopolis actually in the text. It was this if I’m being intellectually honest, and how could I not be with YOU dear listener, it is really hard for me to write about the first instance of an amazing experience in isolation, because, it is, usually in repeating the experience, that I find out what my opinion is. Nerdopolis was actually written about my 2nd visit to Comic-Con International.
“Hang on! Even with wine, is this the case?” YES, absolutely!
I didn’t intentionally have a vertical tasting in the last episode! I had a vertical tasting because when I went back to get more…THE VINTAGE HAD CHANGED! As an aside to the aside, I probably won’t be doing a tasting of a $500 bottle of wine from 1972 because I really, really want to write about PONG for that very reason!
I decided to check out exactly what it might take to have a wine from 1972. And I found a 1972 Chateau Saint Georges Bordeaux for $142.64 at Sodivin.com. So that’s all it would cost me to talk about PONG? Wait…they don’t ship to Massachusetts. If I still lived in Colorado they would, though.
Drat! End Side-quest! As well as the aside to the aside…of the original aside.
So, now I wonder, as I contemplate this work both its print and audio form. Am I tiring of the comic con scene? The original title was A Journey to Nerdopolis: or How I Did San-Diego Comic Con 2013. 2013? And then the audio came out in 2014. The Kindle single came out in 2018 and I ‘m talking about the experience of it a year later. I’ve attended countless conventions in the intervening time.
Or, is the con scene becoming tiresome in general? That can’t be. The big conventions still grow and sell out every year. It must be me.
When I found theatre teacher conventions tiring in the middle of my teaching career, it was time to become an instructor at those same conventions. I’d heard what my mentors had to say many times and now knew I had to help others get where I was now. And I can’t help but feel that this is where I’m at, not only as a pop culture fan, but as a narrator, too.
I think I need to add to the conversation.
Find A Journey to Nerdopolis: or How I Did San-Diego Comic-Con and all of my audiobooks at lastwordaudio.com; they’re also available at audible.com, iTunes and Amazon Digital Download.
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I tweet @colbyelliott and you can also find Last Word Audio on Facebook.
Next Time on Geekery and Wine:
A Wolf Among Us
Monte Antico Toscana
And Sly Flourish’s The Lazy Dungeon Master
So Until Then
My dear, dear friends…