There’s only one rule in Calvinball, and that rule is that you never play it the same way twice. Otherwise, you make it up as you go. You change the rules as you see fit, and arguably, if you care to find a game in the gamelessness of it, it’s a game of one-upmanship where invented rules defeat rules that defeat other rules. It is a chimera. A slippery eel. It is the search for order swiftly dissolving into the delight of anarchy and entropy.
You might have to make up a song. Or recite a poem. Maybe you go slow-motion, or turn invisible, or whirl about until you’re dizzy.
And once again it occurs to me: this is where we are.
Do the days feel like slow-motion?
Have I gone invisible?
Why am I dizzy? Am I dizzy? I’m dizzy.
We’re all touching the Opposite Pole. We’re all in the Song Zone. We’re all jumping about until we find the Bonus Box. There are no rules but the rule of impermanence. The score is Q to 12.
Calvin and Hobbes and quarantine - Chuck Wendig
Overall I've been fine when it comes to the lockdown. I'm very comfortable with my own company (as I joked to a friend recently "I'm built for solitude") and I'm one of those lucky ones that has a lot of experience of working from home. My routine hasn't changed too much.
That being said, it does start to have an effect when you know that you can't go out, and I really miss things like hanging out in a pub with friends, going to gigs, and visiting the cinema.
So here are some things that are helping me cope when the "dark teatime of the soul" comes knocking. They might be useful for you too.
I love music. I'm not great at making it, but I devour other people's ravenously.
My iTunes library contains nearly 30,000 songs at last count (over 80 days continuous listening, number nerds).
With a library that big it's easy to forget what's in there, and find comfort in the same old things. I've created some iTunes playlist that I leave playing through the day to help me deep dive into the collection.
One randomly plays things that I haven't listened to in over 6 months.
If I'm feeling in an organisational mood I have one that randomly plays songs I haven't rated yet, and another that plays anything I've rated 3 stars or below. It's always good to re-evaluate old assumptions.
These lists, combined with some Alfred shortcuts to rate things quickly via keyboard shortcuts mean I can feel like I'm achieving.
And If I just fancy dancing around the house like a loon, I have one that randomly plays tracks I've "loved".
As well as the weekly ritual of Cinema Under The Stairs CUTSFLIX screenings, I've been trying to work my way through some lists on Letterboxd. Truly, if you're stuck for things to watch, dive into a random list on Letterboxd, they're great.
I'm a very casual gamer, and I get frustrated easily, so I have an embarrassingly long list of unfinished games. However, with nowhere to go I've been picking some of those old favourites back up, and discovering some new ones.
My tastes run to the puzzle and sneak-around genres, I've never got on with multi-player or FPS shooters, so your milage might vary, but here are some I've been enjoying recently (on Xbox, but most should be cross-platform):
- Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order - A single player Star Wars game, this was a no-brainer for me, and I loved it.
- Torchlight - pretty standard dungeon crawler, but its a lot of fun and very satisfying.
- Outer Wilds - an open world mystery about a solar system trapped in an endless time loop. I won't say more than that because I wouldn't want to spoil it, but it's lovely.
- Portal and Portal 2 - I must be on my 7th or 8th play through by now.
- The Witness - I love this game, but it frustrates the hell out of me and I've recently hit a wall of comprehension.
- Untitled Goose Game - Honk.
- Donut County - If you like Untitled Goose Game, then this might be for you.
- Astroneer - Explore planets, build things, fall down holes.
I would be getting involved with the whole Animal Crossing thing, but trying to track down a Switch has proven impossible.
I set myself a challenge at the beginning of the year to read 40 books (I managed 38 last year). Thanks to the lockdown I've nearly finished 20 already, which is pretty easy when you're rereading "The Watch" and "Technology" arcs from Discworld.
I've started gardening. I find it equally frustrating and rewarding. I'm not sure what I'm doing (my Mum has the green fingers in the family), but things are growing. Some of them are even things I want to grow.
I do yoga now.
I'm not sure who I am any more.
More seriously, since an injury last year, jogging is completely out of the question, and the lingering effects of that injury mean that I haven't been walking as much as I used to. I was looking around for something low impact that I could do at home, and Down Dog made their app free for March and April, so I gave it a go.
I'm really getting into it. Like the gardening, I'm not really sure what I'm doing, but the app has lots of introductory levels to get you going, and I haven't injured myself yet. A half hour session first thing sets me up for the day.
(Although it was super weird a few days ago when the app started playing a piece from Nick Cave & Warren Ellis' soundtrack for The Road as a background track.)