“Smoke” A Film Adapted From The Bestseller VOLT by Alan Heathcock

“Smoke” is a short film, which was adapted from Alan Heathcock’s bestseller VOLT, which is a collection of short stories. It was hailed as the best book released in 2011. Alan Heathcock is also a full time professor at Boise State University in Boise, Idaho. You can watch the film in Vimeo here.
When reflecting on the short story, “Smoke,” Heathcock shared, “It started when I was 9 years old and my grandfather told me a story.” Heathcock’s grandfather told him a haunting story that stuck with him for many years after. His grandfather worked as a foreman driving the Oklahoma oil fields. One day, his truck came nose to nose with another on a narrow, impassable stretch of road. He told the other guy he had to put his car in reverse and back out. The guy refused, so he grabbed a tire iron and hit that man “until he went back from where he came,” Heathcock says.

“I thought about that story for a long, long time. If you hit someone with a tire iron, you’re that close to altering your life, the lives of your children and grandchildren, how you understand yourself,” Heathcock says.

That became the inspiration for “Smoke,” which tells a twisted imagining of the rest of the story that goes on an epic mythological bent.

Heathcock can add executive producer to his already decorated resume, which includes bestselling author and Boise State University professor. He provided oversight to Boise directors/producers Cody Gittings and Stephen Heleker, who approached Heathcock about bringing his short story to the big screen. The result of those efforts was Wednesday night’s SVFF premiere of Smoke, featuring two must-see performances from Joel Nagle and Amadeus Serafini and some beautiful Idaho backdrops.

In “Smoke,” Serafini plays Vernon, a teenager on the verge of manhood whose father (played by Joel Nagle) forces him to help him dispose of the body of a man the dad murdered in a fit of rage. Vernon struggles to keep his emotional footing by talking with an imaginary “Roy Rogers” (Boise actor Nick Garcia). The film also features Idaho Shakespeare Festival company actress Jodi Dominick.

When Boise filmmakers Stephen Heleker and Cody Gittings read Alan Heathcock’s “Volt,” a story collection about the denizens of a fictional town, they were struck by the story “Smoke.” It’s a tale about a young man whose father forces him to help him dispose of the body of a man he murdered in a fit of rage.

“It was so beautifully contained, with just a few characters and locations, but the scope of it encompassed these huge moral questions and ideas,” Heleker says. “It was perfect for a short film.”

They approached Heathcock, who was immediately signed on. They collaborated on the screenplay with Heathcock, co-directed the film and — in 2014 — shot for a week and a day at various locations in Idaho with a cast of actors from Los Angeles and Boise.

The moody literary film made its world premiere at the Sun Valley Film Festival and screened at Filmfort at Boise’s Treefort Music Fest a few weeks later.

Now the public can see “Smoke” for free online here via

“We just wanted to get it out there for people to see,” Heathcock says — especially because Amadeus Serafini, one of the stars of “Smoke,” is now starring as Kieran Wilcox in MTV’s “Scream the TV Series.”

“He’s got a lot of fans now who will want to see it,” Heathcock says.

Putting it out there for free — rather than look for a distributor or go the on-demand route — felt like the right thing to do for the community that sprang up around the project, Heleker says.

“We had so many friends and family who backed the film, it didn’t feel right to turn around and say, ‘OK, now, pay to watch it,” he says.

Gittings and Heleker, both 28, met in the honors college at Boise State, where Heathcock taught at the time. Gittings lived across the hall from Heleker’s twin brother, Marcus, who also is a filmmaker. Gittings and Stephen Heleker worked on several shorts together before “Smoke.” It was the biggest thing any of them had done.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst Review

The 2008 Mirror’s Edge was widely embraced by gamers pulled in by the first person view point of Faith, a medium build “hot” Asian woman voiced by Jules de Jongh.  The fast pace and stunning graphics helped users overlook the somewhat limited freedom of movement.  This year’s sequel, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, seems to be creating a polarizing reaction.  Players who were pulled in by the character and the storyline were disappointed that the new storyline is thin and that there was a missed opportunity to flesh out the characters bringing in some depth.  They found the game less than engaging.

Players who craved more of the action with its jumps, twists and turns were more than satisfied.  The battles are still a little clunky and more frequent, but increased freedom of movement more than compensated.  The main character had a bit of a transformation looking more edgy and streetwise with a smaller physique and shorter hair style.  The voice actress for Faith Connors was also replace with Faye Kingslee taking on the task.  Although her voice was a bit thin in the trailer, in the actual game, Kingslee was able to nail it

Running is supposed to release endorphins that make people happy, but Faith Connors and her friends don’t seem to take any joy in being off-the-grid mailmen in the city of Glass’ Big Brother-ruled future. Literally everyone in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is sullen at best or angry at worst, and without a shred of humor or levity it becomes a huge downer. Fun fact: you won’t see a single smile in this entire eight to 10-hour story campaign (more if you fill it out with sidequests) until Faith finally cracks a grin in the post-credits scene. Some people feel the character development is nonexistent, and worse, everyone – including Faith herself – is completely unlikable.

Her physical transformation indicates that this will be a more dramatic version.  I was quickly immersed in her world.  I appreciated not being distracted by side plots that would have perhaps developed more sides of Faith’s character.

Faith’s own backstory is revealed when you experience the moment where Faith begins her rise from a carefree runner to the hero the city needs. Playing in first person allows players to feel her fluid movement, combat and power. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is a classic example of form over substance. Pleasant, acrobatic sprint over futuristic roofs is often slowed down and distracted by focus on combat or hidden items. Basic gameplay and running in the City of Glass is still more than worthwhile though – there’s no better courier than Faith.  EA needs to take the plunge and allow the game to veer from traditional game play that requires battles to keep our attention.

Movement in Catalyst still feels as fresh and empowering as it did in 2008, with our viewpoint firmly fixed through Faith’s eyes for every jump, slide, wall run, and skill roll (save for the occasional finishing move that pulls the camera out to third-person). That perspective makes the simple act of running a thrill, just like in the original. The crunch of gravel or the squeak of a glass floor under Faith’s feet, the heavy breaths she draws as she runs faster and longer – it’s quickens my pulse to  practically to string moves together successfully as I move from one area of Glass to another across its rooftops. The grappling hook I picked up partway through the campaign helped sell the idea that Faith could traverse a city like you can tie your shoes. Perhaps no other game utilizes the LB/L1 button more than Catalyst – it’s your jump button that leads into momentum jumps, mid-air attacks, and zip lines – but it felt perfectly natural as I ran and jumped around Glass.

Unlike the original Mirror’s Edge, Catalyst’s version of the gleaming white city of Glass is an open world, and it offers a couple of advantages. First, it lets you challenge yourself to put together epic-length, perfect runs that span the entire city.

Fans of the original Mirror’s Edge favorite element was the built-in tool that let you easily create your own time trials.  In Mirror’s Edge Catalyst you can really enjoy putting it to the test in this freeform city. Your time trials automatically show up as optional events in your friends’ games.  Through side quests you can guild up your XP so you can unlock more traversal moves, combat abilities, or Faith’s gear.  Other missions like Secret Messenger Bag retrievals are small parkour challenges that are intriguing by themselves. Checkpoints are liberal and reload times are relatively quick, so you can take risks and experiment without losing much ground.




A Review of the New Release Paragon by Epic Games

Paragon, a third-person multiplayer online battle arena from Epic Games, places you in the battle with constant threat of danger at every turn.  Paragon combines third-individual control with profound key decision-making. Paragon is organized so that each player can contend and win while never spending cash.

“We want to allow people to have meaningful involvement with their characters,” according to executive producer John Wasilczyk. “That means rewarding the experience and time you spend with Paragon. The unifying factor is that we want to make sure we make time feel valuable.” New legends are added to the continually growing list at regular intervals, giving the player more decisions and new powers. Aptitude matters – where you point, when you assault, and how you move. Bases are located at opposite ends of the symmetrical map. Players have to defeat the enemy team and destroy the core in their base.

Paragon places you in direct control of the activity in a completely 3D world. Cards give legends special forces and abilities on the front line. Construct your gathering by playing, and make decks that lead your group to triumph. Since cards influence power in in the game, they must be earned by playing the diversion. Intense new characters join the conflict, changing the fight with unique capacities and ultimates. Be the first to ace them in battle, make pulverizing decks, and lead your group to domination. Each card contains one of two capacities.  

First is a detached capacity, for example, a harm multiplier.  

Second is a dynamic capacity, for example, a mending elixir, all of which can be prepared amid matches. Each card additionally has a specific expense all by itself – from 1 to 10 – which take away from your general asset pool to prepare cards, maximizing at a general aggregate of 60. This allows each player to continue to individualize their player’s abilities.

While the game is intense, it would be nice to have some sort of rankings, so that each player can be teamed with others of the same ability.  Owning the super pack for advanced difficulty would be great, but the skins are not intriguing, so most players may want to level up the legends to get the card packs.

Although the graphics are amazing, the sound is less than epic.  The soundtrack should create tension and heart racing anticipation.  A more ambitious and creative vibe would really support the visual impact of Paragon.

In Paragon, Epic Games (Gears of War, Unreal Tournament) made an combination of styles and conceptions that is a balance of strikingly delightful and energetic visuals. Keeping in mind it continues to have a hefty portion of the natural components of League of Legends, Dota, and Heroes of the Storm, Paragon is very similar to more up-to-date games like SMITE and Gigantic, with quick paced gameplay that puts you nearer to the activity. Be that as it may, it stays consistent with its roots as a MOBA with everything from 5v5 matches, flunkies, paths, towers, centers, and the reiteration of particular saints to look over. It’s all here.

In any case, during the time spent making this unusual, well-crafted venture, Epic plans to guarantee that every aspect of what makes Paragon unique stays in place. This isn’t a MOBA with third-individual shooter gameplay, or a third-individual shooter with MOBA targets – neither one of the genres is weakened here. Paragon is a half breed approach that not just holds the personality of every style of diversion, however frees them in their solitary magnificence.





America, America by Elia Kazan

The movie America, America was adapted by Elia Kazan from his novel of the same name.  A 163 minute ode to his Greek uncle who immigrated to the United States from the Anatolian Mountains the movie begins with a dark screen and a voice over explaining that the Greeks had moved to the Anatolian mountains and lived with the Armenians.

When it opens to the main character Stavros Topouzoglou and his Armenian friend/mentor Vartan getting ice from the mountain to take to the village in 1898, the viewer is immediately drawn into the story.  Vartan is telling Stavros it is time to immigrate to America before it is too late foreshadowing the imminent change in their fortunes.

Segue to a meeting of the Turkish council that rules over the Greeks and Armenians.  The council is portrayed as very normal men, which makes their decisions more startling.  The governor reads a note from the Ottoman ruler that some Armenians had bombed a bank in a Turkish city. The governors are to punish the Armenians in a way of their choosing.

When Stavros and Vartan return to the village, the Greeks are hurrying to their homes and the Armenians are being moved to the church.  Refusing to show fear, Stavros goes to the bar, therefore, he is not rounded up and sent to the church.  Detained by his Greek mother who forces him to return home, Stavros crawls out a window to rejoin Vartan.  They make the decision to leave the bar to head to America, but as they leave, they hear the Armenian people in the church and watch as the Turkish soldiers set the church on fire.  Vartan attacks a soldier and some young people who were also missed in the roundup, tear open one of the doors and many of the Armenians escape.  Vartan has been killed.  This portrayal of the persecution of the Armenian people by the Turkish government on film was unprecedented and could be the first example of the human rights movies of the seventies.  The film was shot on location in Turkey until officials decided that the film could reflect badly on Turkey.  When Kazan moved the production to Greece, cans of film were confiscated.  Fortunately, the labels on the cans had been switched so those portions of the film were saved.

Stavros runs to his grandmother who still lives in the caves in the Anatolian Mountains to ask for money to go to America.  She curses him for being a sheep like his father and sends him on a way, but she does give him a knife.  As he leaves her cave, he commits an act of generosity that will later have great ramifications  He sees a man who has been walking long enough to have worn out his shoes. Stavros gives him his shoes and walks home shoeless.

Stathis Glallelis was cast for the part of Stavros.  Kazan went to Greece to run auditions.  Glallelis auditioned but as he was a newcomer he was turned down.  Kazan returned to the United States.  When Glallelis spent all his money to follow Kazan to the U.S., Kazan decided he embodied the spirit of Stavros.  He later regretted this choice.  Glallelis did not have the emotional range necessary to play Stavros.  He was unable to create the empathy necessary to pull the audience into his struggle making some of his actions seem more self-serving than determined.

The protagonist Stevros’s long journey to  America, begins when his father decides to entrust him with all their belongings and send him to his uncle in Constantinople in Instanbul.  His father appears to be trying to shock him into responsibility.

His mother cries for the goods she knows he will lose, not returning his hug before he leaves, foreshadowing his poor decisions that will result in the loss of all their goods before the week is out.

Once away from home he is quickly befriended, conned,  and then manipulated out of all his possessions by a gregarious Turk, whom he finally ends up killing in self-defense. The rest of the movie focuses on Stavros making his big plans come true, so his father will be proud of him.  He works at hard labor for 9 months to earn 7 of the 110 pounds he needs to take the boat to America by carrying extremely heavy items on his back, only to have it stolen by his first prostitute arranged by his longshoremen friend–thus continuing his poor choice of friends.

To make it up to Stavros, the longshoreman takes him to an anarchist meeting which is disrupted with gunfire and everyone, except Stravos is killed.  Taken for dead, Stavros is carted out of town. Fortunately, he falls out of the cart before being thrown over the cliff with the corpses.

Realizing he can’t work hard enough to make his passage, he turns to his uncle to arrange for a marriage to a “plain” girl with a wealthy father planning to leave her with her dowry as soon as they are married.

Finally, shamed by his developing feelings for her, he leaves before the wedding   He has found a wealthy benefactor who will take him to America, if he spends time with her on the voyage when her husband sleeps.

When they reach America, the deception is discovered, and he is to be sent back.  The young man who wore his shoes was also on the ship as an indentured shoe shine boy.  Although guaranteed a job in America, the young man has become very ill, perhaps with tuberculosis. When he sees Stavros’s despair at being so close to America just to be sent back,  the young man sets his shoes on the deck and jumps off the side of the ship.  Stravos is able to use his identity to make it to New York City.

The movie closes with his father opening an envelope containing $50.00 given to him by his mistress, then cutting away to a final picture of the victorious Stavros as a elated shoe shine boy.

The story was moving and solid, but Glallegis was not able to portray the conflicting emotions of the main character.  Through close up after close up, he looks exactly the same.  The portions of the script where he is allowed to smile happily, he is transformed.  Angst, torment, pensiveness, regret were beyond him.

The film won critical acclaim winning an Academy Award for Best Picture, but it must have been for intent, not delivery. The movie itself was heavily criticized on all fronts, except for its intent.  Filming this story was difficult for the director for many reasons.  He had obtained permission to film in Turkey, but when the government realized that it documented the massacre, they made the film crew and actors leave the country.  Kazan hid the shot film in new film canisters when the crossed the border, which was fortuitous because the film in the labeled cans were confiscated.



Citizen Kane by Orsen Welles

Twenty-five year old Orsen Wells co-wrote, produced, directed and performed in what has been called the greatest movie ever, Citizen Kane.  From the opening moments when a broken gate, perching monkeys and an abandoned golf course frame a desolate mausoleum on the hill, to the dying man’s whispered words “rosebud” there is a feeling of slow decay, which is immediately contrasted with the staccato cadence of the newsreel which draws the audience through the life of Charles Foster Kane. The newsreel calls Kane the Kubla Kahn of Florida living in Xanadu the modern version of Kubla Kahn’s palace.

The show was controversial as was most of Orsen Welles budding career.  In 1936,at the age of 20, Welles and his friend and co-writer John Houseman set Shakespeare’s Macbeth in Haiti featuring all African American actors.  In 1937 clashing with their current performing group, they formed the Mercury Theater, named for the American Mercury, a magazine featuring many of the important writers of the time.  They were immediately successful in Broadway and then radio, performing the famous “War of the Worlds” in 1938.  Citizen Kane was his first movie, but it was almost banned before it was shown.

The story centers around Charles Foster Kane, a wealthy eccentric newspaper mogul who abandons his principals and is left friendless.  William Randolf Hurst a newspaper magnate took over the San Francisco Examiner from his father.  He is credited with beginning yellow journalism which is using sensational news which may or may not be true to sell newspapers.  He eventually owned over 30 newspapers and later added magazines.  He engaged lawyers to try and stop the film and refused to let any of his newspapers comment on it.  There are striking similarities between Hurst and Kane.  Hurst used his influence to draw the United States into a war with Spain in 1898, as it was intimated did Kane.  Kane ran for Governor and lost.  Hurst ran for mayor and governor of New York.

After the newsreel at the beginning of the story, the audience knows the details about Kane’s life, but before the reel is released the editor wants more.  He wants to know the real Kane.  He sends a reporter out to find out the meaning of the last words, “Rosebud.”  Through interviews and flashbacks, the viewer is taken back through Kane’s life beginning with a snowy day when his mother who was given a gold mine that was considered abandoned but was a producer, sends him, a eightish-year old boy to live in the city to be raised by the bank.  There is a hint at the father’s brutishness, but no explanation or warning was given to Kane. The movie skips to Kane as a young man ready to enter the business world.  He has millions of dollars and many companies due to the apparent brilliance and honesty of his legal guardian, but refuses to man them.  Instead he takes over a small failing business and takes aim at the large corrupt corporations and government entities around him by building it into a powerful entity.  He signs a pact of social conscience which his friend tucks away for a time when Kane may need a reminder.

In his determination to beat the circulation of the Chronicle, he hires the entire state of the Chronicle and then leaves town abandoning the paper, signaling the end of his idealism. When he returns from Europe, the newspaper staff was greats them with an enthusiasm he would have heartily embraced before he left two years before.  They had purchased a very large sterling silver cup with sentimental inscriptions.  However, he brushed through the office, handed a wedding announcement to one of the staff, grabbed the cup and went back to his wife waiting in a chauffeured carriage.  Becoming heady with his own power he runs for governor.  When he is exposed for spending time with a young woman, he loses the election and his first wife and son.  By the end of the movie he has burned through two wives and is alone in Xanadu the marble mausoleum he created for his second wife. From an open sharing personality to the overbearing puppet master that forced his second wife to perform a series of operas opening her to criticism and derision, the movie is a descent from socialistic ideas to capitalistic despotism.

In the original review in the New York Times it is stated that only Charlie Chaplin equals Welles when he wrote, directed and produced “The Great Dictator.”


2001: Space Odyssey Revisited

I first watched 2001: Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick in the theaters when I was twelve.  I don’t think anyone could really visualize what landing on the moon would look like, although Kennedy promised we would have a moon landing before 1970.  We called it the “race to the moon.”  We were determined to beat the Russians.  The nations focus was on the construction of a space program that could produce a rocket capable of getting us to the moon first.

Most of us were infatuated with the idea of other civilizations.  We read Robert Heinlein and fantasized about outposts in space.  After reading Ray Bradbury, we would imagine what it would be like to colonize new worlds.  To us kids, it seemed like the transition into a time with space travel would be like a portal in which everything we knew would suddenly become futuristic.

For the adults, the scientific discoveries that would lead to space travel generated feelings of apprehension as shown in The Brave New World and 1984.  Advancements in artificial intelligence were met with guarded optimism as in the Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov published in 1953.

Space Odyssey was the first movie to put a realistic face on not only space travel, but an adaptive computer system that mimicked the mind.  Of course, George Jetson had been talking to his computer since 1962 in the popular futuristic cartoon, The Jetsons.  While the computer in Space Odyssey may have been a man and he was concerned with the welfare of the crew as is in the Jetsons, Kubrick must have watched the episode where the computers revolt after the mainframe computer takes offense at comments from the humans.

Scorsese noted the audacity and vision that Kubrick demonstrated when he segues from the time of early man to space travel when he throws the bone club into the air.  He also observes that Kubrick’s linking of the computer and camera was the dawn of modern film making.

This film is a first in so many area.  The first major film to have a computer that becomes a sentient life form.  The first to create a metaphoric presence as the alien life force. The first to show realistic space travel through the merging of front screen technology.

Kubrick was so successful that many feel he also faked the first moon landing.  The similarities between the 2001: Space Odyssey and the still and video shots of the actual moon landing as thought provoking at their least.  Of course, many in the government of the time felt that H.G. Wells was privy to top secret reports because of the similarities between the weapons in War of the Worlds and the atomic bomb.  For Kubrick being accused of recreating a moon landing because his show was so realistic is high praise.



No Man’s Sky Review

No Man’s Sky ventures in to a new frontier with a universe full of unique planets. It allows the player to “go where no man has gone before.” Unlike Captain Kirk, you will not be able to surround yourself with a crew of friends physically or virtually. This is a game meant to be played alone. Although the video game community is split on whether or not this game is an epic success or an epic failure, no one can contest a few key points.

First, the game does not contain all the elements promised in the pre-launch campaign—of course few games do.

Second, if you try to play the game is traditional manner trying to reach an objective, solve the puzzle, climb the levels, conquer the game and its opponents, you are setting yourself up for a frustrating few hours.

Third, using an algorithm to create limitless flora, fauna and biomes has broken a barrier that could be an evolutionary step in video game development.

No Man’s Sky allows users time for solitude and reflection while being engaged and entertained. Strategies are not for survival, but creation and exploration. Players build their own space ships for esthetics, rather than better weapons or more speed.

The game taps into the part of us that needs to carve a quiet place out of our day where we can retreat and no one else can follow. Playing No Man’s Sky reminds me of a friend of mine who rakes their Zen garden every day for 30 minutes. Or my grandfather who used to walk the perimeter of his farm every night after dinner. If you like to run or ride your bike for miles just because, you will love this game.

This is not a video game where there is a clear objective, like collecting items to save the princess, kill everyone on a level to reach the next one, navigate a battlefield to save your squad. If you move quickly through the game trying to reach new planets and doing a cursory check to see what lives there and what they look like, you will be very disappointed with this game.

If you enter the new universe as if it was your new home, and slowly absorb and name each element of the planet, you can embrace the wonder of the journey. Stand still and feel the pulse of your new world.

It is an unusual and contradictory game, one that asks very little of its players while simultaneously demanding a great deal. It’s a frustrating failure in many ways, technically unpolished and seemingly unfinished. It’s full of perplexing design decisions and half-realized ideas. It gets a few big things right and a hundred little things wrong. It draws you in with a promise of endless splendor, then swiftly reveals itself to be something much more ordinary.

No Man’s Sky is a fascinating game, in part because of its novel concept—to fly through near-infinite space, exploring a vast, uncharted universe on your way to its center—and in part because of its tangle of expectations, hype, and controversy.  Relaxing and flowing with the game, allowing the quiet creation and exploration can restore your peace of mind at the end of the day.

You won’t fit every resource into your inventory at first, so here are the most important things to collect in the first couple hours:

It is the most essential element in No Man’s Sky, able to recharge your mining tool and your life support — both of which can take any red-clad isotope, but seriously, only use carbon. Carbon’s also used when interacting with random alien encounters. So far, every planet we’ve gone to has had an abundance of carbon. When in doubt, shoot all the plants and trees. Keep some on you at all times.

The other isotopes (red elements): Plutonium and Thamium9
Both are essential for specific tasks — Plutonium recharges your ship’s launch thrusters, while Thamium9 recharges your pulse engine. Both are considered “rare” although it’s easy to spot plutonium (red crystals, same on every planet) and Thamium9 is ridiculously common once you’re in outer space (shoot any asteroid). Whenever you find these, it’s best to transfer most / all back to your ship immediately (hold down triangle when in your menu) to keep your exosuit’s inventory clean.

The oxides (yellow): Iron, Zinc, and Titanium
Iron is in every rock, and though it’s essential for early-game repair and crafting, its usefulness lessens after you leave the first planet. Zinc and Titanium, the rarer oxides, can also be used to recharge your hazard protection (although a cheaper solution is to run indoors or hop in your ship, if those are options). It’s always good to have a bit of zinc on you, if nothing else, and trust that there’ll be a nearby rock if you really need Iron.

Heridium and other silicates (blue)
Heridium is crucial when you’re preparing your hyper drive. It’s also perhaps the most annoying part of the tutorial, which asks you to walk far away from your ship in search of the element. Feel free to transfer additional Heridium to your ship as soon as you get it — you won’t often need it on hand.

Green elements
Okay so… this is a very long game, and maybe later on this will mean something else, but at this point all green-tinted elements and items only seem to exist for selling in the galactic market. And while sometimes the market favors one element over the other, given the sparseness of inventory slots, it may not be a bad idea to sell these often. Same as with the silicates, feel free to transfer to your ship as soon as you get it, to keep your exosuit inventory clean.

There’s good money to be made on the galactic market. Every system’s space station (and a few random terrestrial spots) provides a place to buy and sell items and upgrades. Prices vary based on each store (a helpful prompt tells you whether or not it’s in your favor). That’s one of the best ways to make money. But here’s an even better way: hold L2 to look at and analyze every creature you see. The galactic library is trying to chronicle everything in the universe, and it seems to have unlimited funds. Press option to open up your library, which lets you rename and upload everything you’ve found. Systems and planets give you the most credit, but you also get paid for discovering creatures and plants.

Ultimately, if you are a person who loves to build and create. If you loves to unwind by relaxing, then you will enjoy and appreciate this game.


Spirited Away

Spirited Away is a breathtaking animated film by Hayao Miyazaki.  Although it was produced by Walt Disney Productions, it has the beauty of a Japanese anime.  The movie is an allegory demonstrating how the need to accumulate possessions and greed can transform a kind, well-meaning person into a monster or pig.  In the movie, the main character, a young daughter named Chihiro helps the characters remove their excess, so they can return to their former selves.

Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki is a beautiful story of a family that stumbles upon an abandoned theme park that houses a bathhouse where spirits go to regenerate.  Chihiro and her parents are traveling to a new home.  Chihiro is filled with apprehension and anger over the move.  When her father takes an uncharted shortcut, they find themselves in front of a tunnel that leads into the empty park.

Lured in by a delicious smell, her parents enter a food booth and unable to resist, they begin to eat.  Chihiro is fearful of the booth and worried about its absent owner.  She wanders to a bridge and stops in front of a very large bath house.  A young man, Haku, stops her before she crosses the bridge and tells her to run away, but when she returns to the booth to warn her parents, they have been turned into pigs.

She runs away, but finds water now fills the area she and her parents had crossed.  She watches as a ferry brings spirits to shore.  As they touch the ground their bodies materialize.

Haku returns and directs her to the boiler room.  He tells her that she must get a job before morning or she cannot stay to rescue her parents.  By confronting the witch that rules the island and runs the bath house, Chihiro secures a job, but must give up her name and become Sen.

She is befriended by a house maid also.  At the heart of the tale seems to be the idea that greed creates a corruption of the spirit.  This is illustrated first by the parents who become pigs when they can not control their greed and eat the food without permission.  Because it is food prepared for the spirits, her parents are punished by being turned into pigs.  The second manifestation of greed is the slime monster.

Chihiro is forced to help the smelly filthy monster because she is the lowest servant.  When she is bathing him, she discovers a “thorn.”  When the thorn is extracted with the help of everyone in the bath house, it turns out to be piles of items, including a bicycle, that had been eaten by the spirit.  When the junk was extracted, the slime monster turned into a powerful, but gentle river spirit.

The third example of how greed can transform good to evil was No-face, the gentle spirit befriended by Chihiro.  When No-face discovers that money makes him important, he eats the greedy frog, and begins to embody his attitude.  He demands attention by giving out gold for services.  He becomes a monster and starts to eat people.  When he asks for Chihiro she leads him out of the bath house.  As he leaves, he spits out everyone he swallows and returns to the kind spirit he was originally.

Even the baby changes when he helps weave the thread for Chihiro while he was a rodent.  When he returned to his original shape, he is kind and thoughtful opposed to the selfish tyrant he was before the adventure. Chihiro’s metamorphis began when she gave up her fear, first to help her parents and then to help Haku.

Haku, a river spirit that manifests as a dragon and a boy, is saved when she reminds him of his real name.  This seems to imply that all the characters that embodied the idea of greed or excess forgot themselves, but when they turned away from excess and purged themselves, they found their true spirits again.

The main character Chihiro draws us into her story and each of the diverse monsters and spirits are so well portrayed, we feel for them during their transformations.  When sweet No Face turns into an evil monster, we miss his kind spirit and are glad to see it return.

This movie works on so many levels.  The imagery is mystical and yet very simple.  Each spirit and character is well-rounded.  The story is interesting on its own, but the allegorical element makes it very moving.