March 30, 2010
We gamers are a sensitive type. Deep down inside, we all love the gimmicky products that are ever present in our industry of choice, but we need to be the first to call out bullshit marketing ploys when we get the faintest whiff. But it's a very hard line to walk, because in the American capitalist society, even genuine attempts at pushing an industry forward are also thinly veiled attempts at becoming the "next big thing" in video games.
After I started playing my DS, I was eager to pick up some games that made use of all of it's features. Unfortunately I picked up Yoshi Touch & Go, which simply wet my appetite for the future of touchscreens and dual screens and microphones. My skeptical mind was convinced that this game showed what could really become of the future of handheld gaming, and I was excited.
It has been five years now since I was overwhelmed with the possibilities of the DS. Where do I stand? Well, I'm playing through Final Fantasy 4 at the moment, and I hope to pick up Chrono Trigger after that. In case you aren't aware, the use of any DS-specific functionalities in those two games is minimal at best. Now, I'm not saying that that proves the DS was a gimmick, it just leaves me confused.
March 29, 2010
This week's videos are more eccentric than normal, which is to say, they are extremely very double zany. Some good music, some nonsense, and a the premiere of VH1's Mr. Sprinkles on Cerebral Pop. You'll likely get the whole eight-episode series here, so keep up! (Thanks to Alex for contributing some blurbs.)
Enter Mr. Sprinkles, a Seussian character in the real world. As short as the episodes are, you may get attached the characters unexpectedly.
Paper Chase is a band that I am excited to get to know. Here's Alex: A live rendition of a song from one of my favorite bands that I am glad I was there to witness. Paper Chase chose to completely remove large instrumental parts of the song You Will Never Take Me Alive and instead beat on metal pipes. Every member had a pipe or two and John Congleton sang and played guitar over top. It sounded amazing.
I love this. I love Dadaism when there's noticeable effort and artistry in it, and here is a great example of that. I couldn't imagine crafting this myself (the video editor also apparently composed the music!), and that's why I appreciate it. Seriously, what?
Alex: The best part about Atom and his Package, was that he was always right. About everything. Here's a live video of him doing a set for some festival in 08. Guess you can't really call it a reunion if it's only one guy. Why don't we use the Metric system?
Lost is my favorite show on television. So maybe I'm biased about this video...hmm... nope, this is hilarious. I hear Edward Hill (the singer) was actually famous for this weirdness.
March 25, 2010
Jason Reitman's Thank You For Smoking is almost too old to lend to the definition of the new pop culture.
You know what? No it isn't. It's a perfect example of Generation-Y storytelling.
Main character Nick Naylor is a somehow partially lovable asshole who, despite his role as spokesman for a research institute that proves again and again that the supposed damage caused by smoking is equivocal, teaches his son and the audience a lot about his industry and how to win in a seemingly beatable position like his.
This movie has lent itself nicely to my current internal debate (of which I have many) about the purpose and efficacy of fiction literature. It seems like entertainment in the same vein as video games, but since I'm already deep into the latter hobby, I almost feel like I have no reason to commit to reading fiction. When I read, I want to learn real things. So I read books by Richard Dawkins and Al Gore.
I would love to know what the fuss surrounding certain works of fiction is about, but I'm not totally sold on committing the time to get into other worlds in books because, like I said, being a gamer not only allows me to experience the game, but gives me conversation ammunition with my gamer friends.
But having the character Nick Naylor is, I am convinced, a great way to introduce viewers to the real-life asshole debater. These people who want not to debate in order to answer important questions, but to win debates and feel smart or strong. Naylor's job is so distinctive and strange that it provides a perfect example of someone who is better off leaving betterment of the human race out of his mind and focusing on how to twist others' words to indirectly win petty arguments.
And his attachment to his kid and sense of humor help attract viewers to him in order to learn about him and thus learn about pop culture.
(Alas, if I only had the time to discuss Rob Lowe's character as the overreaching japanophile. He's my favorite character in the movie.)
I guess the novel's author Christopher Buckley is who I should really be thanking, but Jason Reitman is currently hip, and I can't deny that the story was easier to digest in movie form.
I'll have to wait and see if Up In The Air has the same positive effect on me, but given it's Oscar nominations, it is a significant film if nothing else.
March 22, 2010
During my adolescent years, I regarded books as something that "got in the way of video games." As I matured, I realized my folly and began devouring as many books as I possibly could. This is not a review, but merely my thoughts and musings whilst reading books in general.
In case you skipped over, or just barely skimmed my blurb (it's not very long!), I haven't been an avid reader for very long. I'm discovering new authors all the time, and am very open to suggestions of any type of book you'd like to recommend I read.
But I do have one caveat: is the author alive or dead?
One of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, pictured above, is no longer amongst the living. But I didn't know that until I had read two of his books. So, what's the big deal, you're probably asking yourself.
For some reason, if I know an author has already passed, I view their work in a different way. When I began reading Vonnegut, which happens to be within the last couple of months, I wholeheartedly believed that he was alive and well, if a bit matured and elderly. Still, after reading the first book I ever read by him, Cat's Cradle (which I plan to discuss at length in a future post), I was enchanted with his writing style and brilliant, sarcastic voice.
And after reading a second book by him, TimeQuake, I felt like I'd grown to know him much better as a human being, and since I felt all chummy with my new author friend, sincerely wanted to drop him a line, asking him a few questions.
Imagine my surprise when a quick internet search turned up "Kurt Vonnegut passed away in April 2007." I was heartbroken. All of my questions, if he would've taken the time to answer them, mattered very little, if at all.
Then I began pondering his work in a different way. Now that I had the information that Vonnegut was no longer with us, I viewed certain parts of his book differently. Almost sadly.
Perhaps I should've realized that sooner, but again, it matters very little now. I guess all I'm saying is, if I know an author is dead, I read his work, thinking, Oh, this poor guy is dead.
I know, it's weird, but I can't help it.
In the famous words of Vonnegut: So it goes.
This guy has a lot of brothers that look like him and are exactly as talented as him playing cello. It's a good thing they're all Zelda fans. I pictured young Link running around the inside of Kakariko Village's windmill, the camera freaking out in the circular enclosed space. What a great memory.
Featured in AdultSwim's Robot Unicorn Attack flash game (which rules), Erasure's "Always" is as hilarious as it is catchy. You might watch this video to completion for irony's sake, while on the inside you're wondering why in the heck you actually enjoy the song. If that's you, you're like me. It's OK. Embrace the cheesiness.
I found a She & Him story on npr.org while searching for SXSW 2010 music. And with that sentence, my theme is nearly ruined. Sure, She & Him has performed at SXSW before, but, not being acquainted with Zooey Deschanel the musician, I look at this as a Hollywoodish, rather than Indie-ish, performance. But enough with meaningless excuses. I really posted this to get a comment from Alex.
Kacica is the greatest band I discovered during the year I lived in Japan. In their audience for the first time about a year ago, I was nonplussed by their second song. Since then, I haven't gotten tired of their second LP Mosaic. They performed this song that night, as well, the lead singer's choreography included. I hope I get to promote this band further in the future.
I don't know how I missed this video. Cerebral Pop supports Animal Collective, so we offer you a video as kooky as much of the band's music. Now, I might not share this opinion with anyone, but this video isn't just weird; it's badass. No? I love watching DJ groups perform live, bouncing to their own beats, almost-but-not-totally serious about their image. At any rate, it's an exciting video for a great, great song.
March 19, 2010
I've become sort of fascinated with the current digital world and it's long lasting effects. Most recently I've been thinking about how it changes the way with interact with each other.
There was a time when a human being could easily recognize when someone was being hyperbolic and joking around with them. You could easily decipher whether someone was just playfully poking at you to have fun, or actually angry with you.
And this isn't just limited to verbal cues or body language. A human being used to be able to able to convey in written form that they were just being playful. I think something is being lost though. Not people's abilities to express a joke in words, but people's abilities to recognize it without a fucking emoticon or lol afterwards.
I'm taking a stand. I don't care if I'm the last person on the planet still holding out, I will never slap an lol, or winking/tongue sticking out emoticon at the end of everything I say in an attempt to make sure people understand that I am telling a joke. YOU ARE KILLING HUMOR, PEOPLE!
Imagine a stand-up comedian, on stage, delivering a perfectly dry joke. It is a very dark joke. People aren't sure if they should laugh at first, until the comedian sticks his tongue out and gives a big wink. Now the comedy club is alright with letting out a big, hearty, laugh. "He was just joking about wanting his mother-in-law to die! It's alright! It's a joke! He doesn't actually want her to die! We can all laugh now!"
Good lord. If you want that world, you should probably just sit down to watch Two and a Half Men, shotgun in hand, and shoot yourself in the face. It's the best way for you to go. You'll go out watching something that you think is the funniest thing ever, and when we show up to clean-up the remains, we'll see what's on the TV and immediately realize it was for the best.
March 18, 2010
Since way before modern man has walked the earth we and our ancestors have been creating waste. Whether it be food waste or stone tools or computer monitors, we humans have always been throwing stuff away. Well what about if some of the techno-trash we get rid of was to be quickly fossilized?
Well what we are left with are examples of floppy disks, ps2 controllers, cell phones (that look like one I once had), and other such devices. Christopher makes each one by hand with a mix of cement and other "secret ingredients" to make them really look and feel like fossils.
Being an anthropology major myself I find these to be pretty fascinating. It's almost like a glimpse into the future as to what our great great great great great ancestors may find. I like the hard drive one especially. Knowing that peoples' lives are stored on those things, it's cool to see it as a fossil with no way of extracting that info. Will future human societies know what the hard drive was? It's very possible since our history is so well recorded today. From what someone is eating for lunch to our most recent space flights.
These are apparently for sale. He gives a way to contact him on his website through email to purchase one. I think it would be cool to have a future fossil hanging on the wall. What would you want fossilized?
March 15, 2010
Viral video producers more creative than me have seen the connection between landmark American presidential elections that changed the history of our nation, and Pokémon. It's fair game, though, and a funny portrayal of the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the 2008 campaign.
Am I crazy? Am I insane for liking stuff like this? The Round-Up a few weeks ago featured an AMV of Super Mario World set to Coldplay's "The Scientist," and it was surprisingly affective. This video contains scenes of a (if I remember correctly) sad episode of Hey Arnold! about Arnold's past and his biological parents. The music is taken from another heart-breaking episode of Cowboy Bebop, if you're interested. (And you should be.) The zaniness of a kids show that necessarily revels in slapstick and lightheartedness made into an emotional music video works, dammit, and can only exist in this age of the internet.
This video is less about creating a mixture of two different things, unless you count the new addition of violins to Steve Vai's act. I'm glad to see he's still an incredible guitarist, and that he can somehow still write unique shred tunes after all these years. My obsession with his music is long bygone, but I can't help but appreciate him still.
This new video for "This Too Shall Pass" by OK Go has received quite a lot of press. Since it deserves the attention, I'm bringing it to Cerebral Pop. A Rube Goldberg machine this huge is impressive on its own, but its synchronization to the song is incredible.
I'll end with this live remake of the opening song from the Disney classic A Goofy Movie, "After Today." It's a good song that must remind people my age of what it was like growing up with Disney musicals in the 90s, right? Well, even if you're not familiar with this movie, just watch the original animation in the bottom corner for reference; this shit is dead on and great fun to watch. Why can't I be creative?!
March 12, 2010
Doing this post every week has made the Hollywood formula glaringly obvious to me. Not that I wasn't already aware, but posting it each week is sort of like shoving your nose into it. Do the studios actually sit down and talk about this kind of thing?
"Alright, when are we going to release She's Out of My League? March 5th?"
"No! They already have a romantic comedy that week."
"Hmm, how about March 12th?"
"Let's see. Green Zone is the action flick. Remember Me is the drama. Nope! No romcom. We've got our date."
With young action stars at an all-time low, Matt Damon has stepped up to fill the gap. I only saw the first Bourne movie, but it was worth the ticket price. I'd definitely be willing to guess that Green Zone is as well since it's by the same director.
She's Out of my League
I don't really have anything insightful to write here. Not that I ever do.
Our Family Wedding
What will you be seeing?
March 09, 2010
When the Wii was about to release, it was popular opinion amongst game journalists that not only will people who've never been gamers own one, but it will sit alongside the PS3/360 in hardcore gamer houses as well. While I'm pretty sure that's the case nowadays -- as it would explain the ridiculous Wii sales numbers -- it doesn't seem to be translating to the game's sales.
This generation of gaming has been drastically different from those of the past. The Xbox 360 is turning five years old in November -- an age that usually means the death of a video game console -- and a successor has yet to be even announced. The industry is finding new ways to remain profitable at a time when the economy is hurting and people aren't rushing to buy frivolous things like new game consoles.
This sort of thing is playing out in development houses as well. The exclusive title is almost non-existent. In the past, third party companies would frequently pick a system and develop only for that. Ever play a Final Fantasy or Mega Man game on your Sega Genesis? Nope, because Squaresoft and Capcom were dead set on sticking to Nintendo, and didn't shop their games around to other systems.
Now, however, pretty much anything that isn't from a first or second party developer is spread out to every platform available. But one place this isn't happening is on Wii. Companies like EA are making Wii-specific prequels -- like Dead Space: Extraction -- to their franchises instead of porting over the original games. This is entirely because of the radically different control scheme and processing power. Yet, third parties aren't just releasing shitty versions of their big titles, they are thinking outside the box to make full use of the Wii.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, Dead Space: Extraction, Zack & Wiki, MadWorld, No More Heroes, Fragile Dreams, House of the Dead Overkill, Boom Blox, De Blob, Muramasa: The Demon Blade, A Boy and his Blob, etc. -- Coupled with all of Nintendo's releases -- Metroid: Other M, Mario Galaxy 1 & 2, Zelda, Punch-Out!, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Super Paper Mario, Wario Land: Shake It, etc. You're telling me that isn't a good enough line-up for the "hardcore" to jump on?
Wake up, people! Dead Space: Extraction sold something like 9,000 copies in the first month despite rave reviews nearly across the board. Just look at all of these 80-100 scores, and tell me that isn't a game that the hardcore gamer would want to play. You own the system already! Dust it off and start using it as the companion piece that game journalists once thought it could be. It has certainly held up it's end of the bargain, now it's our turn.
March 08, 2010
Internet friends are a funny thing. I talked in a previous post about how I hesitate to call them friends, because that seems sad when I've never met them in real life. But if they do anything cool -- or know someone who does something cool -- then I'm immediately telling people I know them as if we're best friends. Well guess what?! I know two of these people!
Chris's articles on Bitmob are always hilarious, even when he is making really though-provoking discussion of gaming as a whole. Plus, his Twitter account (CasualAlcoholic) is just as amusing. So it should be no surprise that he's funny in real life as well. Anybody that can work a Pokemon reference into a joke about barraging his girlfriend with tennis balls has forever won my heart.
I've never seen an episode of Tim and Eric, which this video is based entirely on. Therefore, the beginning part is confusing and weird to me. But then a sexy dance by my gay-internet love Jeff segues to some funny game renaming. I don't know about you, but I think if Nintendo had named it Triangle Hunt, it would have sold infinitely better.
EMBED-Epic Wheel Of Fortune Fail - Watch more free videos
You know when you're watching a game show and you think, "I could do better than that"? Well, a trained monkey could probably do better than these guys.
Professional Wrestling is one of the few jobs that you can show up this high and fit in almost perfectly. SNAP INTO A SLIM JIM!
My cockatiel was never this badass. It just hissed and bit at me. My favorite part of this video is when the owner tries to help the bird and the bird shuts him up.
March 05, 2010
Recently I've been wondering just exactly what I'm doing with services like Twitter. I broadcast each and every little stupid thought I have, and I'm starting to worry that my quirky sense of humor is killing my respectability as a writer. What does the world in which we can tweet our thoughts at any given moment, or post them as our Facebook status, mean for our futures?
I'd like to think that as the masses glom onto the trend, they will be more forgiving of people saying stupid things years before online when they are voting for our politicians, but you never know how things will play out. While I've been skeptical of just how much of myself I put out there lately, Nick Gates has always worried about that. His views on technology seem to be much more extreme then mine, so I though we could have an interesting conversation. Maybe I'm getting in way too deep and will be wearing a tinfoil hat by the end of this. We'll see.
March 04, 2010
The summer blockbuster season slowly approaches. Until the onslaught of big budgets and terrible scripts finally makes landfall, we've got these few tiny storms. I'm crossing my fingers that they are entertaining. Though, most of them are aimed toward kids. I really wish my kid was older so that I could go to movies with her and not look like the socially-stunted adult I really am. It felt weird to go see TMNT in the theater, BUT IT WAS THE NINJA TURTLES!
Alice in Wonderland
There was a time when I was excited for a Tim Burton movie no matter what it was. Now though, I've grown tired of the Burton remakes. It's rumored he's going to be redoing Sleeping Beauty next. STOP! Make another original movie! I enjoyed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Sweeney Todd, and I will probably enjoy Alice in Wonderland, but I would love to see him do something new again.
A solidly acted albeit cliche cop flick? Sure, that'd probably be an acceptable weekend time killer.
The Secret of Kells [NY Only]
What will you be seeing?
March 02, 2010
This is just the beginning. There was so much great music released in February, but March is looking just as amazing. Apart from already dated releases, like Jonsi Birgisson's (the singer of Sigur Ros) solo CD, and She & Him's second album, I'm curious to see where previously announced but yet to be dated albums will land.
Will Devo's first release in 20 years be listenable? Will the next Minus the Bear CD follow their current trend of being wonderful? Will I ever be able to shut up about The Paper Chase's Someday This Will All Be Yours Vol. 2? The answers to these questions and more will come in time. Oh... but the answer to that last one is no.
For now, enjoy February's spectacular line-up of music. Listen to Eluvium, The Album Leaf, Shearwater, and plenty more by just clicking that link right below this sentence.