Race Music, or I Miss That Guy

28 12 2016

The Grand Theft Auto games are a lot of fun, but for my money, one of the most enjoyable parts of the 3D outings was the ability (sadly absent in some of the later titles, at least on the Xbox 360) to create your own music playlists. Several of my friends and I would craft our own lists, always keeping things prior to the year portrayed in the game in question, and the results were pure gold. We’d share what we came up with, and as the lists usually didn’t have a whole lot of overlap, we’d end up introduced to or reminded of tons of great music.

Microsoft released Forza Horizon 3 not long ago, and it was the first title to make use of the Xbox One’s new background music feature, which allows music to be served up as game background by any app that’s configured to do so. Around the same time, I read this post over at Slacktivist (love me some Slacktivist), which reminded me of the utterly ridiculous term (and furor over) “race music” back in the early days of rock ‘n roll. Those two things (combined with the fact that I love both variants of the Forza series, the heavy simulation of Forza Motorsport and the open-world “let’s see how far I can fling this Fiat” wackiness of the Horizon games) made me bound and determined to create a playlist for FH3 and name it (of course) “Race Music.”

Over the holiday, I finally did just that. I’ve been listening to it while working, and I don’t want to boast or anything, but it’s downright superb.

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Leslie Jones, or I Got Questions ‘Bout Your Life If You’re So Ready to Kill

25 08 2016

I have a couple of questions for the people attacking Leslie Jones. Read the rest of this entry »





Verizon’s Dumb Ad, or You Too Can Be a Goat

19 07 2014

One of the biggest annoyances of getting most of my first-run television via Hulu is the ads. Where each ad break used to have one, maybe two ads, it’s now common to have to sit through five. This would be annoying enough on its own, but it’s made worse by the repetition. On normal television, it’s rare to see the same five ads in each and every ad break (or at least it used to be – I haven’t watched normal television in a long time). With Hulu, you get the same ads, over and over and over. What might have been a minor annoyance quickly escalates with repetition, and I’ve become extremely nit-picky about ad production. In a lot of cases, I’m noticing really minor and occasionally amusing things, like the fact that the Geico pig routinely uses touchscreens with the hard part of his hoof – touchscreens wouldn’t register a tap without skin contact. It’s rare that I’m genuinely bothered by anything other than the advertiser’s assumption that I’m an idiot, but Verizon managed to pull it off with their most recent ad.

It starts off innocently (and even amusingly) enough – a guy emerges from an ice-fishing hole and hands a lamb to two bewildered fishermen. He’s a hero! He rescued the nonsensically trapped lamb from the frigid waters! This sets up the ad’s central conceit, that Verizon’s wireless service will allow you to be a hero (though a wireless phone probably wouldn’t be much use while rescuing a submerged sheep). Our protagonist then uses his phone to (slightly creepily) assist a woman stuck in the rain. Then things go all wrong. Continuing the hyperbolic nonsense angle of the sheep rescue, we find the protagonist coming to the aid of a space shuttle experiencing a temperature spike. He floats alongside the shuttle and sees a problem with its heat shielding, which he is implied to be able to fix thanks to Verizon.

This is dumb for lots of reasons, of course, but what makes it genuinely offensive is the fact that the shuttle Columbia and her seven person crew were lost in 2003 due to a damaged heat shield. It’s in really poor taste to posit a wacky opportunity for smartphone based heroism that uses the same problem that killed seven astronauts. The setup alone is bad enough, but joking that some idiot with a smartphone and a crescent wrench could have fixed it takes it even farther. After the Columbia was lost, subsequent shuttle missions required careful observation of their heat shields while in orbit in order to prevent failure on reentry. On at least one mission, potentially dangerous damage was discovered and the decision had to be made whether to attempt reentry. If only they’d had some idiot with a smartphone and a crescent wrench!





I Regret Spending that $4, or the End of the Game

21 08 2013

So I started reading Ender’s Game last night. Actually, I started reading it the night before last, but didn’t get far. I’ll get to that in a moment. The movie is coming out soon, and the book has always shown up on “science fiction you absolutely must read or you’re a worthless poseur” lists. A lot of people whose opinions I trust implicitly have great things to say about it, and it was one of those books that was always around when I was growing up, one of the ones I always meant to read but never did. Of course, over the years, its author, Orson Scott Card, has made a name for himself as a writer of science fiction and as a font of questionable political speech in equal measure. His work was the basis for a recent video game, Shadow Complex, that was apparently quite good. It’s of the “Metroidvania” type, which I tend to like quite a lot, but it was made in cooperation with Card, and I didn’t want to send any money his way in light of his opposition to same-sex marriage rights. So I never played it. Now, though, the Ender’s Game trailers are running (and looking pretty good), and they set me to thinking about that book I never read. I asked the holders of those implicitly trusted opinions if it was worth reading, and they said it was. They know my politics, and they even agree with me on many – maybe even most – points, so I asked if it was still worth reading given Card’s recent history. There was no question – it’s still worth it. So I bought the Kindle version for something like $4, and I started to read. Read the rest of this entry »





The Robotech/Macross Legal Mess, or KickHirer

15 03 2013

I read an interesting (to me) article over at Kotaku this morning – http://kotaku.com/macross/. For those that don’t know, I am a *huge* fan of Robotech. Robotech is the combination and partial rewriting of three previously unrelated Japanese series, the most popular of which is Macross. Fans of Macross paint Robotech as something like sacrilege at worst, Swedeing at best (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Be_Kind_Rewind), and they utterly despise Harmony Gold, the company that created Robotech. The Kotaku article gives a brief overview of the legal wrangling that has earned Harmony Gold this ire – in short, they’ve asserted their right to keep anything and everything Macross-related out of pretty much any territory outside Japan, despite the fact that the legal situation seems to clearly indicate they don’t have that right in the first place. Again, short version – three Japanese companies worked together to create Macross. One provided the story, one provided the money, and one did the animation. Harmony Gold secured rights from the animation company, which had the rights only to the animation they produced. They’ve done nothing as far as the continuation of Macross is concerned, and Japanese courts held that they have no rights to anything beyond the one they worked on. Since Harmony Gold had a deal with them, they can’t assert rights over anything beyond the original Macross product, yet they regularly do just that and quash any importation of all Macross-related material. Thing is, neither of the other two companies, the ones who have every right to the use and dissemination of Macross-related stuff, have lifted a finger to try to change this situation. I have no idea why this is the case, but it seems like they’ve got a legal slam-dunk – Harmony Gold simply doesn’t have a leg to stand on. So why haven’t they? Based on that, yes, Harmony Gold deserves some grief, maybe even a lot, for their heavy-handed and essentially unsupportable tactics, but why aren’t the Macross fans yelling at Big West and Studio Nue? Maybe they are and I just haven’t heard it. I’ve got my own set of problems with Harmony Gold – mostly about their complete mishandling of the Robotech property and their unwillingness to continue it in any meaningful and high-quality way – but they’re not the only problem in this mess. They need to just go ahead and hire me. I’ll set things to right. They can keep Tommy Yune, he seems like a nice enough guy. He’ll just have to report to me. Fire Kevin McKeever, simply because I disagree vehemently with his politics, and you’ve got to fire somebody. Robotech could be the next Battlestar Galactica, under my sure and masterful guiding hand, and nothing would quiet the Macross purists (I can’t stand those guys!) like an unassailable Robotech product that goes far beyond the original inspiration to stand as its own work. Hear that, Harmony Gold? Give me a job. Give me THE job. Is there a KickStarter for forcing companies to hire people? There should be…





Confluence of Technology, or the Everynerd

11 01 2013

I was using Radio Controlled, the not-quite-kosher bootleg Pandora client for Windows Phone a moment ago. It’s a great little client, though as it’s one guy’s labor of love and isn’t officially sanctioned by Pandora in any way, it has its quirks. In this case, it was happily playing songs, but had sort of forgotten what it was actually playing. The vocals sounded familiar to me, so I looked at its song list, and it thought it was “A Letter from an Occupant,” by The New Pornographers. No, that was the first song it played. I scrolled through the list, and it was complete up to “Ooh La La” by The Faces, which was the song that had played just prior to the one in question. So I fired up Bing Music Search and let the phone listen to itself to figure out what was playing. After doing so, I realized I could have just hit the volume rocker, which would bring up the currently playing thing regardless of Radio Controlled’s confusion. Oh, well. The song in question was “The Start of Something” by Voxtrot, but that’s neither here nor there.

It was followed up by Michael Cera and Ellen Page covering The Moldy Peaches’ “Anyone Else But You” from Juno. It got me thinking about how hating Michael Cera seems to have become kind of the end thing of late, which seems weird to me. He’s never anything other than awkwardly affable. Then again, that could be the problem right there. Still, I respond to that awkward affability, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. That got me thinking that he’s played kind of a dreamt-of hero’s journey throughout his various roles. We start with George Michael Bluth, painfully adolescent, bewildered by his attraction to girls, completely hapless. We move along to Juno, where he’s still bewildered and spun around, and falls into a romantic relationship by being in the right place, at the right time, with just the right level of boredom. Finally, we reach Scott Pilgrim, who is kind of the dream of nerds – he’s creative, he’s quirky, he gets the girl through active effort instead of passive luck, and he walks off into the sunset still quirky, still kind of awkward, but feeling pretty good about himself. And he wins several fights, which I think most nerds dream of doing, deep in their secret hearts, even if they consider themselves principled pacifists. He ends up representing the stages of nerd life, and as so many of us have gone through those stages. We can empathize with the growth stages and pine for the “Scott gained the power of self-respect!” That said, it may well be painful to see how the years have treated George Michael Bluth…





Remake/Remodel, or the Triumph of Dumb-Dumbs

15 06 2009

Let’s talk about a science fiction series from lots of years back. A big, sweeping space opera tracing its lineage indirectly, yet unmistakeably back to Star Wars. A story of the crew of a massive battleship forced to flee their home, pursued across space by a relentless, emotionless enemy bent on their destruction. It is a tale of daring fighter pilots up against incredible odds, ekeing out improbable victories by the skin of their teeth. It is about the lives they lead between battles. It is, as much as I hate to admit it, often plagued by hefty helpings of cheese. And it is perhaps not what you think it is.

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