Culture Consumption: November 2023

Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, television, and games.


“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.”

Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus enters into the magical world of a circus unlike any other. It’s a beautiful place that feels like entering into a kind of monochrome fairyland, with each and every exhibit dressed in black and white. And indeed, the circus is more magical than it seems — because it lies at the center of a magical competition in which two students of magic are pitted against each other in a years-long competition. The story beautiful weaves through time and explores multiple character perspectives to provide a wonderful

Poetry as Spellcasting, written and edited by Tamiko Beyer, Destiny Hemphill, and Lisbeth White is a beautiful collection of essays and poetry about the ways in which poetry connects to and reflects the sacred, spiritual, and magical — and the ways the author use the act of writing poetry as a sacred practice, a form of healing, a method for connecting with ancestors and community, and a path toward building a better future. In addition to the essays and poetry, the book includes prompts and suggestions to delving into poetry while staying grounded and connected to spirit.

In the essay “Articulating the Undercurrent,” Dominique Matti writes:

“I learned that it was possible to feel what one could not otherwise know. And that I could transmit feeling where rational explanation failed, by using poetry like a lyre — plucking invisible energetic strings. I discovered that where no one would cry for me, my poetry could conjure easy tears. And when my spirit could not represent itself in mundane gesture, it could rise up and shout in verse.”

In “Text of Bliss,” Kenji C. Lui writes:

“There is a time and place for the poetry of comfort and contentment, the poem that pleases aesthetically even if the subject is difficult. Beyond that, I think my poetry goal is to break something. Not in the sense of something broken in my interior, a confession and healing, but instead a methodical attempt to

break certain aspects of

this world.

. . . to bring to a crisis [their] relation with language.

In “Poetry as Prayer,” Hyejung Kook writes:

“Rilke says, ‘Every angel is terrifying.’ But what if you are the angel? What if the power you are afraid to call upon and know is your own power? Consider the possibility that the outward address of poetry as prayer was actually an inner invocation, a tapping into our own divine and enlightened self.”

Books Finished This Month:
1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
2. Beetle and the Hollowbones by Aliza Layne
3. Poetry as Spellcasting: Poems, Essays, and Prompts for Manifesting Liberation and Reclaiming Power written and edited by Tamiko Beyer, Destiny Hemphill, and Lisbeth White

Total Books for the Year: 38

Still in Progress at the End of the Month: The Haunting of Alejandra by V. Castro, Professional Techniques in Video Game Writing, edited by Wendy Despain, and Wandering Games by Melissa Kagen


Regina King is phenomenal as Angela Abar (codename Sister Night) in Watchmen.
Regina King is phenomenal as Angela Abar (codename Sister Night) in Watchmen.

When I started watching the Watchmen back in July, I was captivated by the way the story had been adapted — providing a sequel to the film and expanding on the world to more deeply explore the social and cultural themes from Alan Moore’s comic. I binged through eight of episodes all at once and then stopped, devastated by turn of events and wanting a break before

If I had realized at the time that there was only one episode left, I would not have taken as long of a break as I did.

Anyway, the final episode, “See How They Fly,” wraps things up beautifully — simultaneously wrapping up the plot with the villain well and truly destroyed, while also providing a satisfying and emotional conclusion to Angela’s personal story.


My month is games has been a bit all over the place, with me bouncing between difference games at whim — so much so that I haven’t really played more than a few hours in any of them and I am now in a position of having too many games to try to complete at once (since I’ve got other games in flux, as well). So, I’m really hoping I can finish off a couple of these off before I find anything else shiny to start playing.

In the early part of the month, I kicked things off with Dishonored (from Arkane Studios) and Yakuza: Like a Dragon (from Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio) just days apart from each other, and I was quite enjoying exploring the tonal differences between the two games.

Gameplay of Dishonored, showing a man looking down between grates to see a man attacked by rats

Dishonored begins with betrayal. Royal Protector Corvo Attano returns to his Empress — only for a plot to unfold in which he is framed for her murder and the kidnapping of the young princess. Arrested and placed in prison, he makes his escape with the help of a mysterious society — and the game continues from there, with the goal being to take revenge and stop the conspirators, while also rescuing the princes.

Set in a Victorian-esque and vaguely steampunk-y world, Dishonored is gritty and dark. This is a city of drastic inequalities, untrustworthy characters, and plagues of rates that are spreading an uncontrollable disease — so, it absolutely falls into my aesthetic.

At first, I started the game recklessly, killing guards randomly every time my stealth failed and just leaping right into the hordes of rats. It was all fun and games until I reached the end of the level and realized that I was being measured by my chaos level, which would result in more rats and more people hating me. And since I lean towards being a goody two shoes in games, I immediately replayed the first level and am obsessing over not killing anyone (or as few people as possible) in my playthrough. As a result, I’m moving much slower than I would otherwise.

computer art of a man in a dapper red suite
Yakuza: Like a Dragon 

By comparison, Like a Dragon is a game of chaotic joy, full of bright colors, wacky humor, and gameplay that delves into the silly at times. The game centers on Ichiban Kasuga, a good-hearted, but low-ranking member of the Arakawa Family, a Yakuza gang. Ichiban is so loyal to his family that he’s willing to spend 18 years in prison for them — only to be released and discover that he has been betrayed by his former boss.

During much of the game, Inchiban wanders through the  Yokohama district of Isezaki Ijincho, Japan, a vibrant city sector with neon lights and little shops and lots of places to eat. One of the delights is wandering around discovering what kinds of things that you can get into — for example, one of the shops is an arcade that allows the player to dive into classic arcade games via Ichiban — and I’ve heard there are tons of other mini-games throughout the game.

Walking around, Ichiban inevitably runs into enemy gangsters and thugs who want to start problems, which draws the player into turn-based combat, echoing the character’s love of games. The combat (thus far) is light and fun, and sometimes you get to see a bonus move, where Ichiban picks up an object — like a whole-ass bicycle or a newspaper box or a trash can — and just wallops his enemy with it.

It’s great fun, and I’m looking forward to getting into more of it.

Alan Wake. (Source: Remedy.)

A couple of days ago, I got drawn in by Alan Wake (developed by Remedy Entertainment), a game I’ve been wanting to play ever since I heard about the sequel. Since my completionism prefers me to finish things in order, I decided to jump in — and now I’m totally digging a third game.

Famous horror author Alan Wake is drawn into a nightmarish reality, in which his wife has mysteriously disappeared and people are possessed by shadows becoming monstrous. The only way to beat them is to use a flashlight to break apart the shadows (which runs out of batteries) and then shooting them (which runs out of bullets). It’s a mechanic that I’m not at all used to yet, and I might dip the difficulty down to easy, just so that I can relax into the experience more.

For me, the experience of the game has been genuinely frightening. My heart rate is up while I play, and I’m rather jumpy — which is fun.

From a writing perspective, I find the voice over narration interesting. It lends Alan an authorial voice — which makes sense, as he’s an author — and makes the experience of playing the game slightly book-like, as though I am walking the character through a story that has already been written, especially since the events are described in past tense. This is in contract to the constant present-ness of playing the game and being constantly on edge about something coming out of the dark to kill you.

While visiting family in Idaho, my eight-year-old nephew you introduced me to Fortnite (Epic Games). He helped me set up my character and he showed me the ropes. We even won a few rounds, and my nephew informed me, “You’re not bad for a default,” which I suppose I’m to take as a compliment.

While I enjoyed my time with it, I don’t think Fortnite is something that I’ll pursue on my own. If my nephew or a friend wants to play, I’ll gladly hop on with them, but that’s about it.

I have also started loosely replaying Pentiment, with the intention of grabbing some screenshots for an essay I’m writing. My intention is to whisk through the game quickly, but the story is so compelling that I find myself relaxing into it

I continue to make no progress in Getting Over It. I may almost be to the point of putting it down permanently.

That’s it for me! What are you reading? Watching? Loving right now?

One Reply to “Culture Consumption: November 2023”

Comments are closed.