Friday, September 28, 2007

METAL!


I am currently trying to find an interesting photo to photoshop and put at the top of the page. It really surprised me how much difference a picture makes then again I feel like an idiot for being that surprised.

Example: The photograph is from the Battle of Verdun - one the worst battles of World War I. It makes this look like a Death Metal fan site.

I think I'll keep looking.

DCSka.com

I was looking around for the Stubborn All Stars website and stumbled across a link for www.dcska.com. Now if you know me you'll know that I spent a good three years ('96-'99) hitting an absurd number of ska shows in the DC area. What really kicks ass - besides the fact that there are still plenty of shows ranging up and down the East Coast - is the collection of old flyers. I knew I kept all those random flyers and boxes of crap for a reason.

Austin doesn't have a ska scene at all so it makes me really happy to see things are still happening.

Django (1966) dir. Sergio Corbucci

Years and years ago when I first moved to Texas I spent a lot of time digging through the weird, the kind of obscure, the completely sideways, and stuff no one had seen in years. I came across a bootleg of a bootleg of a VHS of a Spaghetti Western that had a familiar sounding title Django. The Stubborn All Stars' Open Season - one of my all time favorite albums - was fronted by one King Django. Hmmm...of course I snatched it up and threw it on my stack of rentals.

I threw it in and recognized a couple of samples on Open Season and got about half way through. I don't remember watching all of it or why I stopped watching it but something tells me it had something to do with beer.

After Amanda's interest in Westerns became more serious we saw a documentary about Spaghetti Westerns. One of the movies that was talked about was Django. After an attempt to netflix it - it was unavailable on DVD for quite some time - it was put on the backburner. Well, Django finally was released on DVD and arrived in the mail and we watched it last night.

If you haven't seen it and have some interest in Spaghetti Westerns or old school movies that influenced the directors of today then you should probably make an effort to see Django. The DVD looks pretty good - not perfect but much better than the bootleg I tried to watch nearly a decade ago. The sound is only 2 channel stereo and a bit muddy but it's not a big deal if you watch it in Italian with subtitles. The best bit of the DVD is how vibrant and surreal the colors are. Most of the movie is dirt and mud and grey but what color there is is disturbingly rich. The score is still awesome - somehow I ended up owning most of the score over several different compilations of Spaghetti Western music. Franco Nero - Django - is a great bastard anti-hero with these spooky frosted blue eyes that remind me of Henry Fonda's in Once Upon a Time in the West.

It was difficult to take Django seriously in the least. It's not a bad movie - it's just a mid 60s Spaghetti Western and not everyone could be Sergio Leone. What sets Django apart are the ideas - i.e. Django dragging a coffin behind him through most of the movie - and the level of violence. People who are jumping up and down about violence in entertainment in today's society should take a look at Django: a body count of 182, castigation, cold blooded murder, hot blooded murder, and not only an ear cut off but then fed to the victim. Granted the effects are garish red paint crude and people just fall down and twitch when shot but still - it's the thought that counts.

I'm glad I finally got to see Django complete and on DVD but I don't really need to see it again or spend a bundle to see it at the Alamo.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Halo 3. Insert clever quip here.

" "I don't know how I'm going to feed myself."R. J. BOLLARD, a freshman at the University of Washington, who said he had 73 cents left after buying the video game Halo 3."
-NY Times 09-26-07
- thanks to Amanda for this.
I never played Halo before yesterday. Once upon a time I looked down my nose at anything XBOX related - I was a PS2 man. Months ago - when the Halo hype machine started up I wasn't particularly interested. About a month ago I saw the ads I pasted earlier - scroll down. It is quite possible that they are the best ads I have ever seen or more accurately I don't know if I've ever been swayed so heavily by advertising before. Sure I want a Cracked Pepper Ranch Grilled Chicken Sandwich after seeing the commercial for it, a Guiness would taste good after I see the truck, but these are just feelings of "Gee, wouldn't that be tasty." These Halo ads instilled in me the feeling that something bad was going to happen if I didn't buy it. So completely by accident I found myself purchasing it in the store. After playing about four hours of it I have to say that it's a decent game. It's a good game but I'm not 100% sold on it.
The good:
  • The game is intense and satisfyingly difficult after a string of not so difficult games. I like the fact that I am constantly burning through ammo and actually fighting for an advantage instead of just mowing things down.
  • The enemy AI is profanity inducing mean.
  • The music is better than your average combat game - it doesn't overwhelm the sound effects nor does it drone until it's unnoticeable. It's an excellent score and I haven't heard any repetition yet. It's a bit more bass/drum heavy than brassy action. If I see a copy of it somewhere I'll pick it up.
  • I look forward to playing this game when I get home. Some games I want to play simply because well, it's something to play but Halo 3 I'm excited to play. I want to see what happens.
The not so good:
  • The graphics look great though at times the glare is a bit much. During the first mission set in the jungle the glare and mist and foliage made it kind of difficult to see much of anything - granted I hate jungle/swamp missions in any game.
  • There are certain times when the graphics look plastic. This wouldn't be noticeable if the rest of the game didn't look so good.
  • Coming off of GRAW2 the controls are a bit...rubbery. I don't know if they are supposed to be that way - if it's in character with heavy action and jumping around and fast and furious style. There's no real way to take cover without hiding completely and there have been several times I was gunned down because I was stuck on something while trying to retreat. I think that's just a problem I have with FPS.
  • The voices of the alien Grunts are fuckin' stupid. Seriously, they sound like fourteen year old mouthbreathers. The big scary aliens sound bad ass - as they should - but the Grunts sound terrible.
  • I hope there are some big ass battles coming up. I was led to believe that there were gonna be big ass battles.

When it comes down to it Halo 3 is an enjoyable experience and I am kind of looking forward to playing online...kind of.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2

Dear Ubisoft,

I love the games you make. They are the bestest in the whole wide world next to Eidos and Rockstar.

xoxo,
Joshua



Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 is a pretty awesome squad/high-tech combat game set in a near future where the uber-ass kicking Ghost Squad have to stop terrorists in Mexico from fuckin' shit up with nukes. Of course all knowledge of the operation will be denied.

I played a Ghost Recon or two (?) for the PS2 and they were pretty good shooters but I wasn't hooked. Back in March a bunch of us went down to the convention center and checked out the gaming offshoot of SXSW. I saw GRAW2 being played by the Frag Dolls on a big ol' fancy TV. Needless to say it looked awesome.

I've been trying to rent a copy for quite some time and was lucky enough to snag a copy a few days ago. I'm having a good time though the difficulty does seem easy on normal or at least was pretty easy until I got to this level last night and got hosed.

I like how easy it is to control the other squad members or various support vehicles. Toggle between them using left and right on the D-Pad and then up or down to issue orders. Even better, the squad doesn't need constant handholding - they take cover when they need to, hit what they shoot at, and pretty much act like AI should. I haven't had anyone get stuck on a wall - cough like in SOCOM cough - or had to run back in order to keep someone from running around in circles. The only mistakes that have happened have been mine - i.e. tossing a grenade and bouncing it off a telephone pole back into the area the squad is taking cover. Whoops!

The graphics have spooked me out a few times with their realism. You have the option of playing GRAW2 as an FPS but the 3rd Person is an over the shoulder "you are there" cameraman angle. I really like the 3rd Person but at times when the lighting, angle, and action are just right it looks like something off the news. Combined with great sound effects, responsive and simple controls, intelligent AI, GRAW2 is one hell of a combat game.

On the downside it's short and the music gets a little "dun dun dun" now and then but that's not a big deal with the "Turn Action Music Off" option. Not quite Stranglehold short and I'm not finished yet but I get the impression that there's not much left to the game - another mission or two. While there is one long mission of urban combat I look forward to playing again I don't know if the game has that much replay value. We shall see.

I suggest picking up GRAW2 if you're looking for some intense squad action. Final review pending.

Friday, September 21, 2007

"I don't care where I die just as long as it ain't here."

Friday once again folks and it seems like the outside is nicer than being inside at work. Granted it's in the mid 90s what with it being only September here in Austin. Fall doesn't usually kick until November around here. Sure it sounds nice but it'd be nicer if I didn't sweat my ass off year round.

Some week in review notes/reviews/assorted goodness:

  • Watched A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2006) Dir. Dito Montiel last night. It had been one of those movies that had been shuffled up and down the netflix queue for quite sometime. I rented it because I couldn't think of anything I wanted to watch at the video store. It's an autobiographical movie about Dito - a kid living in Queens in the mid-80s. His life goes to shit and he leaves for California. Twenty years later his father is dying and he goes home to take him to the hospital. Robert Downey Jr. plays the adult Dito and does a hell of a job. The rest of cast is solid solid solid: Dianne Wiest, Chazz Palmenteri, Rosario Dawson, and a bunch of top notch young actors. The movie is really well edited - cutting smoothly between the past and the present. For what could have been an over blown melodramatic tear jerker I think this movie avoided that with the strength of its cast. Worth picking up if you don't feel like sitting and watching something insipid.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Letter to Axl Rose from his editor

Notes on "Sweet Child O' Mine,"
as Delivered to Axl Rose by His Editor.

- - - -

Hi, Axl,

Just got your manuscript and demo for the song "Sweet Child O' (sic) Mine." I think we need to talk. As your editor, I am responsible for making your songs as cogent as possible, for helping them reach the high editorial standards your public has come to expect. With this one, I am certainly earning my keep. After several attempts to reach you by phone, I am sending along my notes. Please make appropriate fixes as soon as possible, at which point I can send them to copyediting and proofreading in time for your upcoming studio session.

She's got a smile that, it seems to me—Why equivocate? You weaken your point by framing this as a mere personal observation instead of a fact.

Reminds me of childhood memories—Redundant. You either have a memory or you're reminded of something. You're not reminded of a memory. Heavy-metal fans won't stand for such writing, my friend.

Where everything was as fresh as a bright blue sky—I asked around the office and no one is sure a blue sky is "fresh." You could have a blue sky at the end of a long, sweaty day and there would be nothing fresh about it. And she reminds you of a time when things were fresh? Fond reminiscences of freshness are no foundation for love. Fix.

Now and then when I see her face it takes me away to that special place—Again, you're weakening your own argument. Why does the sight of her face transport you only periodically? And is it just her smile or her entire face that does this to you? Because you've already said both. Consistency, Axl!

And if I stared too long, I'd probably break down and cry—Why would you do that? Because you miss the freshness you described earlier? I think the whole "fresh" thing is really tripping you up. Also, crying? Wimpy.

OK, on to the second verse.

She's got eyes of the bluest skies—See, this is just getting worse. Now her eyes are made of sky? Nice imagery, but you just got done saying her smile reminded you of memories of sky. Is this verse actually supposed to be a second draft of the first verse? Am I just confused on formatting? Help!

As if they thought of rain—Axl, eyes can't think of rain. And even if they could, which they can't, why would bluest skies think of rain? Perhaps less imagery of thinking eyes made of sky and more direct exploration of your feelings?

I hate to look into those eyes and see an ounce of pain—Well, hell. I guess in your special Axl World anything is possible. Eyes can be made of sky, ponder the weather, and exhibit pain in amounts that can be weighed.

Her hair reminds me of a warm safe place where as a child I'd hide—Delete. Fix. Do something. You'd hide in a place that reminded you of hair? Never show me such phrases again.

And pray for the thunder and the rain to quietly pass me by—Whew. OK, listen to me now: Thunder can't quietly do anything. It's thunder. And, more importantly, do you really want to come across as a wuss who's constantly on the verge of weeping and skittering into hair caves to escape from rain? Is this a song about love or climatic anxiety? You need to work these things out.

Finally, Axl, I think we might have had a misunderstanding regarding my previous notes. When I wrote in colored pencil "Where do we go now?" I wasn't offering that as a lyric. I was simply observing that, in narrative terms, the song needed to progress in some way. You love the girl, she's helping you work through some issues, whatever. So where do we go now? But instead of providing a satisfactory conclusion, you simply took my note and repeated it over and over again before ultimately just stating the title of the song. This is unacceptable. Don't ask us, the listeners, where we go. That's up to you as the writer! Tell us where we go now!

Again, let's try to fix these things soon and get "Sweet Child of Mine" ("My Sweet Child"?) into your fans' hands as quickly as possible. Because, frankly, if it should ever hit the street in its current form, the song would be a colossal failure.

Talk soon!

Your Editor

- - - -

I just couldn't resist!
Love, demimonde

* Taken from McSweenys.net

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

K*Ville Pilot

I didn't really have any kind of expectations for this show. I've never been to New Orleans and really didn't have any plans to before or after Katrina. I've put it on my list of places to go when I find out I only have a short time to live along with Vegas. I did have hopes for Anthony Anderson who has been great in the roles I've seen him in - Key in Hustle & Flow, the Burger Shack guy in Harold & Kumar, Brown in The Departed, and a million bit TV parts. Putting him in the main role was a good choice. His weary yet undefeated NOPD Marlin Boulet is a great character - one I would expect to see in a movie or from a novel.

The first pilot managed to draw me in with Anderson's acting, plenty of sweaty action, and just the right amount of macho melodrama. I look forward to seeing what the creators do with this show and if it can make it more than a season or two.

Upcoming game releases.

There are a wicked reta'd'ed hella bunch of games coming out this fall. Here's a couple of trailers and teasers that you might dig. I sure as hell do.





This game has everything that sells a game for me. I guess it'll do until someone gets off their ass and makes Freedom Fighters 2.



And here are two of the best commercials I have ever seen:









I was never part of the Halo fanclub. In fact I have never played any of the series. I was - and to a certain extent still am - a die hard PS2 fan. These two commercials have sunk their claws into me though. I'm gonna pick up Halo 2 to see what the fuss is about and get up to speed.

I will freely admit that the upcoming Kane & West is a little more my style than Halo:





And finally there's the game that has Amanda jumping up and down with glee:



Monday, September 17, 2007

Bow before your new god! Cablor!

We got cable on Saturday. I'm not sure why. The sales rep called with a deal and before I knew it I had called back and said yes. So...cable...yeah. We don't have HBO or Skinemax or anything exciting but we do have DVR and that's pretty nifty. Here are my impressions so far:

  • MTV still sucks...except for MTV Tres.
  • Channels just repeat programming like in the old days. In case you missed today's episode of Two Coreys don't worry because we're showing it seven more times today.
  • The Iraq War has replaced WWII. WWII is on hiatus until further notice.
  • There's a shitload of football on TV.
  • Baseball still kicks ass. In fact it kicks more ass because I can watch a bunch of games at once or nonstop.
  • G4 should have more stuff about games and fewer episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • A&E went right down the shitter - I was looking forward to some dull British miniseries.
  • BBC America is okay. If you get the opportunity to see Torchwood - a show by the producers of Doctor Who about a government group that tracks and captures aliens. I saw the pilot and the first episode and enjoyed them. It's actually a sort of violent and dark show so it's got that going for it.
  • I have heard many things about Giada De Laurentiis. I would like to know more.

That's it in a nutshell for now. More news to follow.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday...why am I at work again?

Looks like the weather outside is fairly pleasant...I guess. If I crane my neck and look around the corner and up the stairs I can see some sunlight. Hope that you guys are going to flee work early. I wish I could. Then I could ride my bike. Yes, I'm riding a bike. Not hardcore but something to get out of the house and possibly not be such a fat ass.

  • I rented a copy of Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy and have to say that it is fun as hell and makes me enjoy Star Wars again. Personally I've narrowed my love of the movies down to The Empire Strikes Back but the LEGO series has been a great deal of fun. This second installment focuses on Episodes IV-VI and covers all the bases. I've only played through the beginning of Episode IV and only have one complaint - I got stuck dying over and over again sliding down a ramp into a swamp and had to restart. I have to admit that despite the fact that this comes across as a kids game there is a marked bit of challenge and puzzly exploration. After completeing a piece of story you can revisit the level in "Free Play" with whatever characters you like. Since each character type has different skills you can access different parts of the level and unlock secrets and goodies. Switching between characters is amazingly simple - walk up to the character you want and tap Y or if in Free Play cycle through the characters using your bumpers. The controls are smooth and relatively straightforward even for the most casual gamers. What this game comes down to is: do you like LEGOs? Do you like Star Wars? Then you'll like this game.
  • I realize that I said some harsh things about the Yankees yesterday. I thought about why I hate them and realized that if they were a movie character they'd be the rich asshole from a John Hughes movie with a popped collar pastel Polo shirt named Chazzer or Blaine. They would just solve their problems with money or their Daddy's money. Us poor kids would get picked on and laughed at by them and their tennis playing Barbie girls. What it really comes down to is I would much rather support a team that has to battle and scrape and still kind of sucks but damn it they pull off some excellent plays. I don't support a team that seems to run on the "best that money can buy" theory. In any case, Fuck the Yankees.
  • We're taking the plunge and getting cable this weekend. I'm sure I'll have something to say about it after about a week or so. I've always been creeped out by the idea of paying for television so we shall see what happens.

Hope you guys have a good weekend. Gimme a call if anything interesting happens.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fuck the Yankees.

Over the last few months I've been working on my knowledge and burgeoning love of baseball. I have also been working on my hatred of the NY Yankees. It's not because I hate NYC because I don't. I grew up a few hours north of the City and have many fond memories of visits and assorted adventures. The Yankees however can suck a fart out of a dead donkey's ass.

Now they are bitching about how gamers enjoy beaning dickheads like A-Rod in a game. Here's the article from gamepolitics.com.

Goddamn Yankees.

Manhunt 2 to be released Halloween.

Further proof that the PS2 ain't dead - looks like the guys at Rockstar edited out some of the AO content so now it's rated M. I don't care what it's rated I'm buying it...even if it is a PS2 game. My poor PS2 hasn't gotten any love in months. I should pick up some games just to play on it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Turkey: The man, the myth, the left-overs.

We picked up a pretty good sized turkey breast from the store on Sunday. I've turned into a big fan of the Sunday dinner, then again I do find spending the better part of a day in the kitchen relaxing.

So I roasted the thing and it tasted pretty good. Y'know, tasted like turkey. Then shredded what meat was left on it and made some sammiches and lo it was good. Finally I tried to figure out what to with the last of the left-overs with some help from Amanda. I was going to make a quick stew - turkey, beans, onions, garlic, tomatoes, et al and Amanda was going to make cornbread. Then I figured why not just combine it all and bake the whole mess. Amanda figured we could cook the stuff and then pour the cornbread over it and bake it all into a "turkey cobbler". It worked pretty well and worked better the next day. All in all a successful use of food though the kale we ate with it on Sunday night was something I couldn't face on Monday.

Turkey Cobbler:

About a pound of cooked & shredded turkey.
A can of beans - drained - we used black but ranchero would work well.
A can of diced tomatoes - drained
An oranger Bell Pepper chopped.
Two shallots chopped.
Several whole pickled garlic cloves & a couple of tsp of jar juice.
Amanda's cornbread mix.
My magic spice mix.

Preheat oven to 400.

Sautee the shallots, garlic, and pepper until you think they are almost done. Remove from heat.
In a big baking dish or oven safe Pyrex mix the turkey, the tomatoes, the beans, and the sauteed stuff. Salt and pepper and spice mix to taste. Pour this into the baking dish and throw it in the oven to get warmed up.

Make Amanda's cornbread mix or if you aren't Amanda just use Jiffy mix - good, quick, cheap, and tasty. I'd say that two boxes should do the trick. Take your warmed mix of stuff out of the oven and pour the cornbread goop on the top. Throw it back in the oven. Bake until done - probably 20-30 minutes. Watch the news while you clean up the kitchen then take the turkey cobbler out of the oven. Poke the center of the cornbread with a toothpick - if the toothpick comes out dry you're done. If wet throw it back in the oven and bake some more. Repeat.

Remove from oven. Turn oven off. Let turkey cobbler cool...go have a smoke. Come back. Put in bowl. Shovel into mouth. Yay! All done! Hour to make, a minute to eat.

Stardust (2007)

Bart & I went to go see this last Friday with our old ladies. It was a pretty good date movie - it has Claire Danes in it for chrissakes. All in all it wasn't terrible and was relatively painless and forgettable. Not much of a review but it really wasn't much of a movie.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Stranglehold is okay and Turistas was better than it deserved to be.

Finally got sometime off to do chores and putter around the kitchen and watch some movies and get some gaming done. Down to brass tacks:

Stranglehold is pretty disappointing. It looks good, plays pretty well, has good music, etc, etc the game is just...boring. There's nothing wrong with the game but there's nothing outstanding either. The story is your run of the mill HK mumbo jumbo recycled double cross blah blah blah Russian mob, yadda yadda yadda, we've seen it before. The levels are well designed and fun to play - a.k.a. blast to pieces - and tearing through waves of hired goons is fun too for a little while. One of the problems is the levels are actually too short - by the time a level starts to get good it's over. Several times I said, "Oh, wait, what? That's the end of the level? Huh, guess I'll play the next one then. Is the dinosaur museum level next?"

Stranglehold is a perfect example of a game that does not remotely compare to its $60 price tag. I was even disappointed by spending $10 on a rental. I played for a couple of hours last night inbetween chores and making dinner and have the feeling that I've completed most of the game. I don't particularly feel like finishing it and will probably wait to polish of when I have nothing else to do.

On the other hand Turistas (2006) was a lot better than it had any right to be. I didn't enjoy Saw or Hostel or any of their sequels or knock-offs or straight-to-video clunkers that end up on the wall of a Blockbuster and I just lumped in Turistas with those junkers. We rented it because summer is horror time for us. For me summer and horror just go together but I don't want to see the bad stuff - i.e. the stuff Fangoria raves about. It's tough being a horror fan with a sense of taste. Sometimes though I just want to sit slack jawed and see attractive people get chopped into little pieces by some kind of baddie. So we rented Turistas with a sigh and a "Fuck it, how bad can it be?"

It's really more of a thriller than a horror movie and not graphically gruesome - okay there's some gory stuff but no close-ups of ragged stumps or blow torched eyes or severe decapitations. Oddly enough director John Stockwell of Into the Blue fame manages to take a cast of unknowns and slightly familiar faces like Desmond Askew and makes them generally likeable and smarter than your average horror victim. The whole production is solid - acting, effects, story, bad guys, cinematography, chicks in bikinis, etc, etc. . The only reason that I can come up with for this movie being as good as it is - well Turistas wasn't a Lions' Gate movie. If I see this at the supermarket for under $10 I'll be picking it up.

Friday, September 07, 2007

"Jedem das Seine."

Looks like I will have a Saturday off tomorrow. It will mean extra work on Sunday but hey a day off is a day off of work. Maybe watch some baseball. I miss baseball. Now for the recent rundown of events:

  • After staring at the X360 rental wall at the local Blockbuster I decided to pick up Saint's Row (08/06). It's - for all intents and purposes - a bastard child of GTA. Unlike every other game that tries to emulate the GTA series and fails miserably Saint's Row is actually fun and at times pretty exciting to play. More often than not it's the little gameplay touches Volition threw in that makes the game - i.e. when you customize a car it's added to your garage automatically no fuss no muss. If you then crash, ditch, or destroy the car it's no problem because the car has been saved in the garage. The weapon selection makes use of the radial system - press B to bring up the menu and the press the left andalog in the direction of the item you wish to select. It takes a little getting used to and can be a little frustrating in hot and heavy combat but I do like it. The missions are pretty standard but fun. I really like the use of friendly gang members - they shoot at what they are supposed to, pick up better weapons if available, and are generally pretty helpful. There are a bunch of other features that will be covered in an upcoming review.

More news to follow after this rush of work ceases...send help...

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Fully Holmes. Fully.

Thanks to www.gamepolitics.com for this one.

"Work will set you free."

Work. That's the long and short of it. Pretty much all I've been doing is getting up, going to work, coming home, trying to get a little gaming or a movie in and then going to bed. There should only be about another week of this...barring any major catastrophes.

Had to return Bioshock. I have to agree with all the press it is a pretty amazing game. I'm not sure if I'd call it the best game of '07 - there are a million potentially good games coming out this year - but I am looking forward to playing it again.

Amanda got a DS Lite for her birthday and since there are a couple of games I want to play on that system there might be some DS reviews coming up.

Nothing else to report at this time.

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