Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best of 2009: Song

I think one of the big selling points about 2010 is that 2009 will be looked back upon as terrible. It happens every 10 years (1979, 1989, 1999), but secretly everyone knows that the '9 years actually rock. I can list tons of examples... but people have shoddy memories and can't remember what they ate for breakfast.

Julian Casablancas: "River of Brakelights"
Julian's voice may sound Dylan-scraggly, but he sure does know his way around a synth. His solo effort is basically Strokes without the live instruments, and I chose "Brakelights" over the single ("11th Dimension") because it seemed more enduring. (Oddly, both songs contain lyrics about sports, hate and robots.) I could listen to the second bridge for hours.

Phoenix: "1901"
"1901" is a really catchy and French-y breakout single from a 10-year-old band. Only bad thing about the tune is the sell-out factor (the Cadillac commercial). Plus, the word "phoenix" strikes me as the most stereotypical word in the rock dictionary. Otherwise, lovely.

Marilyn Manson: "15"
Although universally panned, High End of Low is actually a great addition to the Manson catalog. It is chock-full of inspiration--his girlfriend dumped him and he reunited with counterpart Twiggy in the same breath. Nobody dumps Manson! "15" is a point-blank song about an unnamed assailant, and it's really sinister ("Not letting you live won't satisfy me").

Hot Leg: "Cocktails"
Justin Hawkins has been out of the limelight for some time, but since the Darkness he has been writing lots of songs for other bands and... Adam Lambert. Hot Leg is his new group, and it's basically a step up from a hair metal cover band. But their music sounds modern. A guitar, bass and drum solo in the same song, sweet woman! This is maybe the best song ever about mixed drinks, which is a perfect song for a bar.

Sonic Youth: "Malibu Gas Station"
I thought that The Eternal was kind of a dud, but there are still some absolute gems from this old band. "Malibu Gas Station" features an actually listenable Kim Gordon lyricising about southern California "white trash celebrity" (at least that's what I think). The guitar melodies are a little metal and a little rockabilly.

More Best of the Year 2009 ...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Best of 2009: Music video

Lenny Kravitz

Director: Keith Schofield
I just discovered the catalog of Schofield oddball videos this year. His "Heaven Can Wait" vid is definitely screwy, but this one is sleek. I am amazed no one has done this before (maybe they have): make a music video just like the end credits of a movie, but keep it a part of the film.

Empire of the Sun
Director: Josh Logue
Sometimes three props are all you need. But it must be a cool chair with a bull and a raptor statue. One other necessity, however: look like Bowie.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Best music videos of the decade (Honorable mentions)

"Video Phone" (Extended Mix) (2009) 
Beyonce with Lady Gaga
Director: Hype Williams
It was a tad too late in the year to put them up against the Chosen 15, but I had to give these ladies a shout-out. Beyonce has become a video minimalist while Gaga has gone the other way--Hype Williams melds the two the only way he can: awesomely. Hype even left some of the bluescreen hoods in the video! Chicks, guns and chewing gum; please don't leave us in 2010!

 "3's and 7's" (2007)
Queens of the Stone Age
Director: Paul Minor
QotSA definitely understand the importance of 21st century video making. There is one particular shot near the end of this one--it only lasts a second--but it's a view from a shotgun, blasting a fleeing victim. It may sound morbid that I like it, but it perfectly captures what grindhouse/exploitation films were all about. Really authentic.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Best music videos of the decade (5 - 1)

The Darkness
Director: Alex Smith
Best use of a sausage as a microphone in history.... Just watch it and enjoy the spaceship tomfoolery.

"Dashboard" (2006)
Modest Mouse
Directors: Mathew Cullen and Grady Hall
All of Modest Mouse's videos are worth watching. "Dashboard"'s video is the least surreal (subjectively) and most story-driven, but what a great ride. A fisherman tells a dive bar about a hyperbolic fish tale, all with some great elektro-fantasy CGI and island shots [that totally remind me of Tim Burton's Chocolate Factory remake]. It's a bit Moby-Dick and a bit that Daggermouth episode of Family Guy. The moral: always watch out for the old fisherman that gives you the wink.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Best music videos of the decade (10 - 6)

"Whale Song" (2009)
Modest Mouse
Director: Nando Costa
If I had to pick a hall-of-famer from America for their video achievements in 2000s, it would be Modest Mouse. This one is about drawing no less, and this contraption thingy lets Isaac Brock go on a mind trip, extrapolating visions from the paper. Neither gravity nor snails prevent the band from rocking in this waking dream. And, when used right, projectile intestines and ejected organs are a perfect touch.

"Invincible" (2007)
Director: Jonnie Ross
Oftentimes great videos have stale follow-ups (usually because the previous had an overblown budget). The previous wow factor isn't there most of the time, but Muse nearly equals "Knights of Cydonia". The It's A Small World After All ride may be a tad cliche here, but the CGI-laden climax is really cool. I don't know what the message here is, but time travelers are definitely good alien killers.

The White Stripes
Director: Michel Gondry
There's a sizable chance you've never heard of this song or video. In the are-they-siblings-or-lovers era, nothing can come close to fitting the Jack and Meg White public personae. It's amazingly simple and yet something only seen regularly in Disney World's Haunted Mansion... I don't know why this projector effect isn't used more. This is just one of the few Michel Gondry musings that made the White Stripes a household name.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Best music videos of the decade (15 - 11)

Missy Elliott with Ciara and Fatman Scoop
Director: Dave Meyers
We start off with Missy's 2005 contribution to the video pantheon. If anything defines a good R&B video, it's dance moves, weird cameos and other sillyness. "Lose Control" is just perfect for a high school pep squad... kinda like Gwen Stefani tracks but with a little less cheerleading and a fat guy... and Tommy Lee.

Director: Phil Harder
Mix up some September 11th airport paranoia with crayon-y special effects, and you've got Prince's most political track ever. Yes, that is the Whale Rider girl; and no, I don't know what the "5:5" means on Prince's forehead. Undoubtedly the best Prince video in the last 10 years. But, it barely beat out "Black Sweat"...

Directors: Sean Gilligan and Sarah-Jane Woulahan
Silverchair quietly made some spectacular vids in the last decade. At least 3 are in the Top 50 for me, and "Across the Night" is their best. In a time where the band was on an indefinite touring hiatus and the future was dim, this managed to keep the band alive through airwaves. I didn't even realize it was in grayscale until a second viewing. It took me about 20 views to realize that was Guy Pearce, too.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Best music videos of the decade (2000-2009)

A decade ends. Ten years of joy (blogging), grief (politics), and mostly apathy (YouTube). To commemorate the death of the 2Ks, I am covering the best fifteen music videos to grace the planet since December 31, 1999. Narrowing it down to 15 was hard--a test of will. There are no Kanye or Weezer videos; no "Trapped in the Closet". This is serious time. This is a top 15 list... Get inspired, learn and enjoy!


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Great bands should stay dead

It always bothers me when a band reunion is announced, because it is almost always for money. Yes, some people need that income again after a long dry spell, but the price of integrity is too steep. I understand some of these bands rekindle friendships and hug; but why in front of the limelight again? Have they grown up at all? Don't they have mansions where they can do this privately? They're like drug addicts falling into old patterns.

I wracked my brain to think of legendary groups that never took payola for a massive tour and a crummy comeback album. It is a dramatically short list, albeit incomplete. I also started making lists of big groups that were way better off (historically) by ending. Just some food for thought...

Groups that have remained broken up:
  1. The Beatles
  2. Nirvana
  3. The Doors
  4. Creedence Clearwater Revival
  5. Soundgarden*
*As of Jan 1, 2010, Soundgarden is fricking reuniting!

Bands that promised they would never reunite, but did:
  1. Led Zeppelin
  2. The Who
  3. The Grateful Dead
  4. Van Halen (Roth)
  5. Eagles
  6. The Smashing Pumpkins
Other bands that should have stayed dead:
  1. Blind Melon
  2. Alice in Chains
  3. Stone Temple Pilots
  4. Queen
  5. INXS
  6. Any band like Styx, Foreigner or Journey
Now, to see if there is any correlation on length of time broken up with length of time reunited.

    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    Random observations (November)

    • The Simpsons Halloween #20 was just as satisfying as the first Treehouse of Horror back in 1990.
    • So they're coming out with a Guitar Hero predecessor, Band Hero... The next incarnation will be called Band Band (my catchy idea). 
    • Just finished Fargo Rock City, and really enjoyed lots of it, especially the Guns N' Roses lore.
    • It's official: everyone I have ever met likes Arrested Development. I hope the movie sees the light of day.
    • They made a remake of the "V" show. I guarantee reports of reptilian race aliens will skyrocket on the Jeff Rense Program. The show will probably tank.
    • Thumbs down for MTV playing movies that have nothing to do with music (or the Real World).
    • Olivia Wilde is Maxim's #1 Hottie of 2009. It's some kind of adult magazine or something... don't know for sure.
    • Whoopi Goldberg is so cool. I don't need a link to prove it.
    • Project 1999 rocks!

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009

    Random Observations (October), What I Read, & Updates

    • I have been planning for years to wear the Thriller jacket and pants for Halloween. Now, eBay had to go and quadruple the demand and sale price. Now I've got to construct a puppet for a David Liebe Hart costume!
    • Rotten Tomatoes (see link) is absolutely the worst film/critic website out there. Trust me, it's the nadir of the internet: a place where fanboys constantly patrol for someone to say that the Dark Knight is just an action film.
    • Am I the only person who thinks Foo Fighters are overrated?
    • A Boondock Saints sequel is coming out, with a dumb subtitle (All Saints Day). Whoever thinks the Boondock Saints 1 is a great film is really sheltered.
    • LSU needs to change their ugly football helmet logos. It's 2009!
    • Do I think this is a good idea? Yes, yes I do:

    Music columns I read religiously
    Site updates
    • I have been working on a new labeling/keyword system to let the old (good) articles still be readily accessible (and not buried). It's a tag cloud now on the upper-right. Check it outz.
    • There may be an upcoming split into two blogs to make stuff easier to find.
    • FeedBurner and Twitter are now linked to here.
    • A shop has opened up in the hills of Somewhere, USA.
    • A special Music Videos 2000-2009 article will be published in the near future!
    Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

    Thursday, August 13, 2009

    I somehow willed this idea into existence...

    How could I have predicted this? A movie about Legos...

    Remind me to never propose awful ideas in posts again. Don't get me wrong here: I love Legos. I plan to organize my collection when I visit my parents, and it is going to take all day. I guarantee I have more Legos than you and your friends combined. I used to take my Legos outside and walk around my neighborhood with them, like they were action figures. But, I know they are just toys, and there is no way a movie could make me feel like a kid again.

    Friday, August 7, 2009

    Rock 'n Roll Research: Where does my music originate?

    I have always been fascinated by band origins and how they are founded. For instance, most everyone knows the Beatles are from the Liverpool area. Aerosmith is from Boston but Steven Tyler met Joe Perry in New Hampshire, and the band Boston is really from Boston. But the band Berlin is from Los Angeles; Beirut from New Mexico. This kind of thing intrigues me. Music is complex and stupid.

    I combined this with a personal inquiry: what country produces the most rock music that I normally listen to? Like, when I flip on a radio or take a look at my MP3's, would I most likely to listen to an American band, or what? So, I made a spreadsheet.

    Ground rules:
    1. Must be rock bands from the post-Beatles era.
    2. Must be notable artists.
    3. No overlapping bands and side projects (Yardbirds, Cream, Derek and the Dominos are all treated as one, because of the Eric Clapton [UK] connection).
    4. No multinational bands (no Talking Heads, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Garbage)

    I made a list of 100 groups (which is harder than it sounds) and categorized them by country of origin. For instance, Radiohead would count as 1 credit for the UK. I found something interesting:

    For an American kid, there is a 43% chance I would be listening to music from the United Kingdom. This influence is surprising, considering the USA has almost always had 3x the population (and by logic, 3x the opportunity for successful music acts).

    Raw data:

    Perhaps my next research project will be a thesis on why the coda of "Jungleland" is perfect for a driving scene in a film.

    Thursday, July 30, 2009

    The Advanced Theory of Rock: Who is Advanced?

    Advanced Theory is an idea about musicians we like and the choices they make that we hate. It is very hard to explain, much like quantum physics. The following is a (chat log) discussion (between me and old friend Eddie Tomayko) and introduction to the concept. It should be noted that I was drunk, but lucid.

    (11:37:50 PM) maximumsp: [Billy] corgan has become... i dont know what
    (11:38:03 PM) maximumsp: something to loathe?
    (11:38:29 PM) maximumsp: have you heard of Advanced Theory?
    (11:38:45 PM) lemon031: i wouldnt say that but he's fallen into that hole a lot of once huge artists do... where they think they can collaborate with whoever and put out gold when in fact it's just shit
    (11:38:50 PM) lemon031: no
    (11:39:20 PM) maximumsp: Advanced Theory is perplexing... it basically states that any artist who does something terrible is advanced to a higher level
    (11:39:34 PM) maximumsp: i dont understand Lou Reed to this day, but he is Advanced.
    (11:39:42 PM) maximumsp: so is Val Kilmer, according to the theorists
    (11:39:55 PM) maximumsp: i shouldnt have used the word 'any'
    (11:40:06 PM) lemon031: lol
    (11:40:22 PM) lemon031: so let me think of someone who qualifies
    (11:40:25 PM) lemon031: hmm
    (11:40:46 PM) lemon031: bruce campbell?
    (11:40:53 PM) maximumsp: someone who does something disappointing or uncharacteristic
    (11:41:01 PM) maximumsp: i would have to think about Bruce...
    (11:41:03 PM) lemon031: i guess he doesnt count
    (11:41:11 PM) lemon031: bc it was meant as farce
    (11:41:27 PM) lemon031: how about isiah thomas post playing days
    (11:41:39 PM) maximumsp: dont know enough about him anymore
    (11:42:04 PM) lemon031: just a comically terribad coach/gm of the knicks
    (11:42:22 PM) maximumsp: trying to remember what i read
    (11:42:54 PM) maximumsp: trying to pick a sports star that fits the theory
    (11:43:17 PM) lemon031: manny
    (11:43:19 PM) maximumsp: i would say Shaq, but i dunno sports arent my forte
    (11:43:24 PM) maximumsp: holy shit youre right
    (11:43:25 PM) maximumsp: MAN RAM
    (11:43:30 PM) lemon031: lol
    (11:43:36 PM) maximumsp: fucking noble
    (11:43:37 PM) lemon031: nah shaq doesnt fit
    (11:44:17 PM) lemon031: im trying to think of a political example
    (11:44:21 PM) maximumsp: Bob Dylan selling out for a Victoria's Secret commerical = ADVANCED
    (11:44:33 PM) lemon031: lol def
    (11:44:33 PM) maximumsp:

    (11:46:06 PM) lemon031: politics has to be sarah barracuda
    (11:46:18 PM) maximumsp: hmm maybe
    (11:46:24 PM) lemon031: who else can quit their job and be about to get rich as shit
    (11:46:39 PM) maximumsp: i think one of the rules is that you have to have an un-ironic mullet at some point... so that discounts her
    (11:46:51 PM) lemon031: hahaha
    (11:47:21 PM) lemon031: well look at her hairdos back from her early sportscaster days. looks like "the real housewives of 1983 new jersey"
    (11:47:40 PM) maximumsp: i gotta write this shit down
    (11:47:56 PM) lemon031: haha
    (11:48:12 PM) lemon031: newt gingrich
    (11:48:14 PM) maximumsp: i wish i had my book here so i could read passages
    (11:48:20 PM) maximumsp: i dunno about Newt
    (11:48:28 PM) lemon031: no hear me out
    (11:48:49 PM) lemon031: heads up the contract with america, hammers clinton for fucking monica lewinsky
    (11:48:59 PM) lemon031: ends up he's cheating on like his 3rd wife
    (11:49:15 PM) lemon031: ends up near the head of the party today
    (11:49:24 PM) lemon031: could say the same about rush limbaugh too
    (11:49:54 PM) maximumsp: i dunno what Rush did that was advanced
    (11:50:07 PM) maximumsp: painkillers?
    (11:50:15 PM) lemon031: railed on drug users for being weak minded forever and then turns out he's a pillhead
    (11:50:22 PM) lemon031: now he's bigger (pun intended) than ever
    (11:50:55 PM) maximumsp: there's also something called OVERT in the theory, that means something hypocritical is done that isnt advanced
    (11:51:08 PM) maximumsp: so Rush is overt, because he is TRYING to be advanced

    Monday, July 27, 2009

    Thief Gold on a modern system

    [Taking a break from music videos for a short, short time.]

    I hate how gaming companies try to resolve problems via an online forum or messageboard. Posts get deprecated so easily, and sifting through the replies is a chore. Isn't the internet supposed to make life easier?

    Thief: the Dark Project is one of the best first-person shooter ideas ever. It's innovative and epic. One of the best things is that there are no guns. Ingenious.

    However, this ten-year-old game is feeling the effects of the Computer Age, and my copy takes a little fixing on my system.

    Part A: Installing Thief

    Speaking of deprecated... computer game installers are notorious for becoming obsolete approximately 10 seconds after they ship. DirectX (aka Direct3D) is making leaps and bounds, and leaving all the old stuff drowning in the wake of incompatibility. Thief Gold is one of those casualties. If you obtain the older discs for this game, here is how to play them on a newer computer system.

    The fix:
    1. In Windows, open the Run application (shortcut is Windows Key + R).
    2. Type in x:\setup -lgntforce
    3. Click OK
    4. Install Thief without problems.

    Part B: Playing Thief without freezes

    Intel's Hyperthreading technology chewed this game and its sequel to bits. There is a quick, non-permanent fix (which gets tedious), and there is a long-term resolution to playing Thief Gold on a Pentium.

    The (short-term) fix:

    1. Open Task Manager (for later).
    2. Run the Thief executable (THIEF.EXE).
    3. Immediately Alt+Tab (or Window key) out of the game.
    4. Find THIEF.EXE under the Processes tab in Task Manager.
    5. Right-click on the Image Name and choose "Set Affinity".
    6. Un-check one of the CPU's and click OK.
    7. Alt-Tab back into the game and play.
    8. Repeat every time the game is run.

    The (long-term) fix:
    I just ordered Thief II. I can't wait to tackle its problems!



    Tuesday, July 21, 2009

    Faith No More -- a music video retrospective

    Because this San Fransisco band just recently announced reformation (and performed live), I decided to quickly cover Faith No More's best three videos in one quick shot. We have, of course "Epic"; and then the lesser known "Everything's Ruined" and "Last Cup of Sorrow" from their career's prime and twilight, respectively.

    In 1990, Faith No More's "Epic" put them on the rock 'n roll map. The band seemed poised to overcome the "hair metal hangover" with an innovative rap-rock design--they might have been the Nirvana of the 1990s, if grunge hadn't come around (I'm not placing blame at all).

    Dir: Ralph Ziman
    The video is simply a sound stage performance with a rain machine, intermixed with kooky visuals and special effects. Mike Patton's head explodes, Jim Martin's guitar is struck by lightning, a piano is blown to bits... pretty cool. I am obligated to write about the fish (or Bjork's fish, whatever), that provoked outrage for its flopping footage. Silly.

    Dir: Kevin Kerslake
    More interesting is the video for "Everything's Ruined". It's one of those stock footage montage clips that are so common. But this one is so odd that it's worth noting. This one pits the band against the green screen, fighting and swimming with the clips. It's fun to watch them in their element.

    Thursday, June 25, 2009

    Michael Jackson died today

    I found out about Michael Jackson's death at about 6:10 PM Central Time today. An old friend called me, and I was shocked. I read the quick online blurb about MJ being rushed to the hospital after a cardiac arrest incident, and turned off my computer earlier in the afternoon.

    Almost exactly a year ago, I was having a discussion on the legacy of the man, and how he would be remembered. A French acquaintance (and the only person who had an opinion at the table on the subject that day), said that the best thing for Michael would be to die. I disliked the guy, but I think he was right. At this moment, I don't know how to feel. Maybe it was for the best long term, but who is going to handle the estate, the kids? I have two days off, and I don't know if I should mourn the loss with an onslaught of his loud music or film.

    Snicker all you want, but this is a man who brought much more happiness to the world than most ever will. Think about the uncounted millions in charity. The word altruism comes to mind. For any man who casts a great shadow, there will always be a bit of darkness. He had a crazy life, but so did Elvis or any of the Beatles. Who knows what went down behind closed doors with those legends, and nowadays who cares?

    I also heard on the radio about a month ago that Lou Ferrigno was MJ's personal trainer. Jackson wanted to get some stamina back before the 50-date tour, and he was probably
    getting some bad advice from Lou. I hold him partially responsible.

    I don't know what else to say... I feel like ordering every piece of medium Michael Jackson ever released, before it gets repackaged and strewn with death-art.
    Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

    Friday, June 12, 2009

    This is the part where I bash Transformers

    [Taking a break from music videos for a short, short time.]

    I just rented Transformers, and feel I implored to comment on it before the sequel comes out. For a start, I am repulsed by this film. I mean, I liked Transformers when I was a kid. I liked them because they were brilliantly designed by some Japanese engineer who probably barely made minimum wage. I mean making solid pieces of plastic turn from one shape into something like a handgun just blows my mind. I can't do something like that. That takes brains. Michael Bay does not have brains. This film franchise is a half-baked idea. It's like making a live-action Lego movie. Or worse, a live-action G.I. Joe movie (zing!)

    Shia LeBouf. I bet you can't pronounce the name. I don't know who likes this guy other than Steve Spielberg. My friends all think he is a prick. He played a part in ruining Indiana Jones 4, and for that he must be banished from Hollywood credibility. Does anyone else cringe when you see these guys staking all of their credibility on this kid?

    OK men: Megan Fox = wildly overrated. Yes, she may be a "bad girl" with tattoos and have made pro-lesbian comments, but get real. It's a joke. Look at her. She's not that elegant. The ability to wear a metric ton of makeup on your face does not make you gorgeous. Yes, her brunette hair and complexion are marvelous, but bodies like that are not that uncommon. If you don't see someone on the street with a figure like that at least once a week, you need to move out of the sticks.

    And what about the supporting actors. A fat black guy hacker? Give me a break, Mike Bay! A blond with an Australian accent that would even make Aussies wonder where she was from? Grr. And can Jon Voight only play politicians now? I swear he plays the President (or close to it) in like 8 recent films. You could remove any of these characters and still have the same exact plot.

    Let's talk about the CGI. The visual team went out of their way to give Optimus Prime (and the other bots) a working mouth and lips. To me, this is totally wrong and unnecessary. I thought the ninja mask/shield thing was cool when I was a kid, and I still do now. I do not need to see a robot's lips move to know he's a character in the movie.

    I'll stop there. Now 1987's Masters of the Universe... THAT was a REAL cartoon-to-live-action movie. Feel the Dolph Lundgren love!!!! Screw the G.I. Joe film, too. I pre-ordain it to be godawful.

    Tuesday, June 9, 2009

    Quake and Quake II on a modern system

    [Taking a break from music videos for a short, short time.]

    I may go into how awesome Quake 1 is someday, I want to address a common problem with newer video cards and graphics chipsets: GLQuake won't work!

    The fix:
    1. Delete (or rename or move) opengl32.dll from the Quake directory.
    2. Play!
    Some great console commands for GLQuake are:
    • r_wateralpha .8 will make the water slightly transparent
    • r_mirroralpha .8 will make slipgates kinda transparent
    • +mlook will make the mouse work better

    Also, I wanted to recommend FitzQuake as a good engine for today's needs. So is JoeQuake (gives Quake 3 looks to stuff), but I don't think it's being developed. They're nice and bright (cough, cough IDGamma). Another useful article is here.

    Speaking of brightness, what about Quake II? Sure, it wasn't that spectacular of a sequel. It was a departure alright. But, with modern systems the game may be too dark. Here's what you do:
    1. Access the configuration file at \%Quake2%\baseq2\config.cfg
    2. Look for gl_modulate and change the number to 2.5
    3. Look for gl_shadows and change the number to 0
    4. Save and play!
    If you are doing some testing in-game (ad hoc) in console (~ key), make sure to type: "disconnect" to apply the changes.

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009

    Green Day -- a music video retrospective (Pt. 2)

    The dust is nearly settled from 21st Century Breakdown. Many people have written about it, critics and die-hards alike. I'm going to avoid that quagmire for the most part, and talk about the past. I feel like the pre-American Idiot days are a kind of "Act I" for the trio. They're more concept and metaphors now, and less... angry.

    In the 2000s, GD embarked on a handful of side projects. Some of 21st Century Breakdown sounds a tad like The Network (circa 2003). Some of it may be a cousin to Foxboro Hot Tubs. But, in the past the Green Day stuck with simple lyrics and catchy hooks. I'm finishing with three more quality releases from Billie, Mike and Tre.

    Dir: Mark Kohr

    This is one of those cyclical, watch-three-times-to-get-everything vids. Somewhat of a weak single from the band, but the artistic merit of the visual side definitely jibes.

    Dir: Francis Lawrence

    Another great concept that only a group like Green Day could pull off without people scoffing. Really hilarious how many anti-common sense nuggets they fit into this 3-minute clip. From staring directly into the sun, to eating raw chicken to taking candy from a earring-wearing creepy stranger... you would think they would have reached the bottom of the barrel, but the fooleries keep coming.

    "Jesus of Suburbia"
    Dir: Samuel Bayer

    "Jesus" is a great track, and an integral piece to the Idiot rock opera. Clocking in at over 9 minutes, it is for sure this punk act's longest video. And, the actors in this video just seem so genuine. The band is barely in this one, which is somewhat of a departure. It's as if the St. Jimmy saga actually happened to these kids. Enjoy the three-act-long song!


    Friday, May 15, 2009

    Green Day -- a music video retrospective (Pt. 1)

    Young persons may not remember the Green Day days before American Idiot. 1994's Dookie was an absolute pop-punk masterpiece (the word "punk" is used in a liberal sense here). It sold over 15 million, and spawned some pretty rad trends. The followup album (Insomniac) was just as good. And so was the next (Nimrod). This year's 21st Century Breakdown is poised to be another notch in the band's belt (they've kept the goth/emo/whatever-this-decade-calls-it look). Sometimes a history lesson can show you just how good a band was, is, and will be--and here we go.

    "Basket Case"
    Dir: Mark Kohr

    This is the song and the video that launched the San Fran trio into the rock heavens. Anyone else remember when MTV used to countdown the 100 best videos of the year on New Year's Eve? I doubt they still do it anymore (or they only play clips or something lame), but this was the video of the year in '94. I almost lost my mind when I first saw Tre Cool on those duct taped drums just killing it. Mark Kohr kinda became the de facto GD director after this, probably from this one's massive success.

    "Walking Contradiction"
    Dir: Roman Coppola

    Oh, these lovable scamps. Walking around like the Mr. Magoo with no cares in the universe. Maybe the best part (apart from the cop car flying through the air and hitting a traffic light) is Tre Cool's smirk when he finds some money right under the precariously lifting piano. A nice little two minute anthem from Insomniac.

    "Nice Guys Finish Last"
    Dir: Evan Bernard

    Straight out of an NFL Films daydream! The basic plot is the band wants to perform a concert, much like executing a drive to the end zone. Two great moments are when Tre Cool mouths "Hi, Mom!" into the camera like a primetime rookie, and when Billie Joe checks his setlist like he's a QB. Just brilliant ideas here.



    Tuesday, May 12, 2009

    Random observations (May)

    • I just finished reading The Stand (Uncut). Pretty ironic that the swine flu is going around just when I decide to read it. Last Stephen King book I'll ever spend weeks on.
    • RIP GeoCities. That's where I got my start, you know. /SunsetStrip/Palms/. I won't bore you with the rest.
    • I'm just starting to use Fraps and take video shots of my games. It's much easier than I thought. So is Windows Movie Maker (which Windows 7 doesn't have at all). Expect some YouTube action soon!
    • Sonic Youth's new album is good. Not super good.
    • I'm pissed off I found out about Firefox's dirty little secret (GoogleUpdate.exe). I can't get rid of it. And, PS: Mozilla, fix your memory leaks faster!
    • I'm addicted to Legends of Zork. I guess it's because my EQEmu/Project EQ account won't login with my bandwidth.
    • Trent Reznor is engaged to be wed. This blows my mind, like Bob Dylan having a dozen kids. I thought these guys were troubled artists...
    • The Simpsons is 20 years old!
    • Next music video retrospective is on Green Day. Dig it (soon).

    Wednesday, April 1, 2009

    Business Hugs (III)


    Wednesday, March 18, 2009

    EverQuest, WoW and Gaming Addiction (Part 3 of 3)

    Part one and part two.

    Friendship & Guilds
    When I played EQ, I already had a friend-base. I had several in-game buddies, but none I would call or email regularly (shout-out to Sutton, Dita, Josefa, Jaxxem, Genka, Damastas, Daymondd and Aegies!) When I started playing World of Warcraft in 2004, it was different. All of my current real-life friends weren't gamers. Soonafter, voicechat (TeamSpeak then Ventrilo) became a part of the game for group raiding, so that intimate act made me closer than I will ever be to any EQ player.

    However, EverQuest was still a very social and populated game. I knew a person who had an EQ monthly account just so they could chat. So, both games can be equally addictive for their chatting aspects.

    Mithaniel Marr was a great great server. I had no idea when I joined the realm, and would have regretted picking another server. For one, all my college buddies were on it, and secondly, we had Afterlife Guild. You may have heard of the legendary Thott (Aftathott) or Hobben the Strategist. This guild was badass, and set the bar for past and present gaming clans. It was even said that Verant/Sony had an open dialog with the guild, to suggest harder and more compelling end-game content...

    There were a few other hardcore guilds on the server, but nothing really touched the daily raiding regimen and DKP system (which they invented) of Afterlife until further expansions (the guild eventually transplanted to WoW). Near the end of my experience, I was able to join Deadly Virtues, which at the time was fairly uber. I once saw a member and was in awe of their spectacular armor, so I kept camping their forums until they wanted a rogue. It was fun, but it was kind of like a job. I had friends to help me out with all sorts of wishlist quests that were too hard for the average party. It was my first taste of real raiding (dragons, Ring War, Luclin) until I joined my first (and only) guild on WoW. Unfortunately, I left EQ only 3 months after I joined that guild.

    The Council of the Dedicated may be the oldest active WoW guild on Garona realm. I joined only a month into the game launch, and I never left. At the time, they weren't thinking about raids, and in fact it was a family guild. The guild master's 9-year-old son befriended me and his dad recruited me for casual play. About a year or so later, the guild was booming and we started thinking seriously about "keying up" and hitting the 40-man raid areas like Molten Core. We formed an alliance with and started working our way towards the big leagues. Cowbell Open Raid was a huge success in 2006, and it eventually got us the numbers to go on our own. It was a great time to be in CotD. We even managed to have a guild convention in Minnesota (where most people were). I took off a week from work and flew up there. It was a blast, and the first time I met people from a virtual world. We went to Hooters.

    Now Blizzard completely trumps SOE when it comes to rewarding their players. I can only remember a few GM Events (as they called them) on EverQuest. One was a week of Halloween spawns in East Karana, which after the fact I was obsessed with (some spectre dropped the best agility ring or earring ever). The sky also turned blood-red in several zones. I think also in Karana there were plague events where bugs would fly around, but I don't recall. It was a gigantic zone. Rathe Mountains had some stuff going on, too.

    Occasionally you would ceremonies in town with a ton of decked-out GM's (who had unlimited power, unlike Guides in WoW). And sometimes there would be a wedding (you could get an admin to tie the knot for you). Does anyone remember the time they added a feature to where you could be a random mob? Yes, they actually let you for a short time run around as a cool monster! I do remember logging on as a goblin once and running around. I ran to the nearest player to try and freak him out... I think I died. Someone also told me they spawned as a godlike dragon, but I dunno about that. Now for the big section...

    There was a certain survival instinct that came with EQ. It was like you were a caveman and everything was out to eat you. You did what you needed to survive, even if it meant trampling others in the way.

    One stupid thing was distance aggro. EverQuest players learned to avoid this fairly quickly, but I saw this shit happen all the time in WoW. If you're an EQ player, you know how to hug a wall like a champ. World of Warcraft players are clueless about proximity aggro, for the most part. This is because it wasn't as bad as EQ. In EverQuest, aggroing a mob when a party was regenerating mana was a guaranteed death. Most everyone in the game could know exactly how many feet away a mob was, and avoid it. I loved being a rogue because stealth was such a safety net. But, I couldn't avoid everything...

    Before Leeroy Jenkins became a household name through WoW, EverQuest was the innovator for "mob trains". It was a natural thing: When a party became overwhelmed, they jumped ship and headed for the safety of a zone-line, carting behind them sometimes 50 enemies. Because the mobs in EQ never broke off from their pursuit, it was usually a memorable experience if you saw "/ooc TRAIN" and lived. And, any player from the Kunark era knows about trains in Sebilis and Karnor's Castle. Monks could feign death and avoid this, but for all the other classes it was a common threat.

    Corpse runs

    A corpse run on EverQuest was... ridiculous. From a World of Warcraft perspective, pretend that you died in some lava. In WoW, you're a ghost in a nearby graveyard. You run to the general area of your former body, and simply click "Resurrect" and run away without dealing with the lava. Now, here's EQ: you spawn at a bind point, not a graveyard (usually several, several zones away), you run with minimal health, naked (no items) to where you think your corpse may be and start looking. You realize it is in the lava, and you have to /loot the corpse just like a dead mob. You figure you can use the /corpse command to drag it out of the lava. It barely works (sometimes you were totally fucked), and now you must loot all of your armor and bags and coins. Did I mention you lost a ton of experience, and probably lost your level? So, you must now find a resurrect-casting player to gain back some of that experience, or you're hosed. Next time, remember to die in a good spot...

    Probably the most memorable corpse run occurred in a 2 AM Chardok raid. It was in Warslik's Woods, and my home bind point was far away. Our whole late-night dungeon raid died about 2 hours into the zone, which had by then fully respawned. Therefore, we're all naked and can't handle a single mob. Eventually the raid leader called in a necromancer to "casket rez" the whole raid at the entrance. It was so late, and I remember getting up the next morning and barely staying awake.

    Dying was a big, big deal in EQ. Not only did you lose valuable experience, and had to run back and get the corpse, but players had to re-equip and re-learn their spells, all while regenerating mana and HP. Mind you, there are no hearthstones to speak of! It was so easy to die in that game.

    Hmm, I could play it right now...

    The Final Solution: Quitting EQ and WoW
    I quit EverQuest cold turkey. My college workload was too much, and I decided that the upcoming expansion (Planes of Power) was going to suck the life out of me. To realize this is the first step to recovery.

    I did this liquidating my platinum pieces (pp) and posting 130,000 pp on PlayerAuctions. There weren't really gold farmers on EQ, and money was slow to collect. World of Warcraft players wipe their butts with gold in comparison. Virtual money was an emerging market, and still lucrative for the regular player. The auction didn't last long, and I soon had a buyer who PayPal'ed me the cash. Believe it or not, I sold the money for $500.00! Today, that amount is going for less than $15.00.

    I disbanded from my guild on the day that PoP released. I gave away my username/password to an in-game friend. I had little gear, but my bank account in-game was full. To this day, I don't know what came of little Amalgamax. I was told a few years ago that the person who took it over kind of abused the name, and I told my friends it wasn't my doing. I tried to not let it bother me. If you are thinking of giving away your account, beware... there may be some guilt.

    I quit WoW differently. I moved to another country, and I knew the internet access and time-change was going to kill my experience. I gave all my remaining funds to my guild's bank, and gave the account over to a coworker at the time. He did the right thing by changing the character name and moving him to another realm. To my knowledge, he still plays and hopefully he is putting my gear to good use. I still miss it.

    Well, I hope my blathering and rambling provided an ounce of insight into MMO addiction. EverQuest is over 10 years old, and I just downloaded EverQuest Titanium Edition to try and play offline (using EQEmulator). I am excited that it may work, and for free.

    I would love to hear (and link to) several other EverQuest memories and great stories. So, shoot me an email (or write a comment below).

    External Links
    Remarkably, someone wrote a tune about Link Deaths, trains, corpse runs, downtime:

    Check Wikipedia's References for lots of interesting reads!

    Friday, March 13, 2009

    Covers are just tacky and lazy

    Cover versions of popular music is typically the lowest form of art. I say this because it is usually unoriginal and done for the wrong things (money). Basing your whole act on another band, well, is just tacky and lazy. No real artist thinks cover bands are cool.

    I think this realization came to me when I bought the Godzilla 1998 soundtrack and listened to the opening track, for the first and last time. It was David Bowie's "Heroes", performed by the Wallflowers. I was an absolute replica, with maybe some better production quality. It was pointless. Why would you do such a thing?

    One time there was a street carnival downtown, and I had to work. A good friend coaxed me to shut the store down and we walked over to see a band. They were middle-aged, and looked like they had more than one Lynyrd Skynyrd shirt in their closet. And for some unknown reason, they began to play Radiohead's "Creep". It was terrible, because they didn't do the amp-distortion-check-sound before the chorus, which makes the song. Ironically, I had a copy of The Bends in my pocket while I watched them.

    That also reminds me of a junior high talent show. A band played Blur's "Song 2", and they also messed up the best part of the song (the "woo-hoo"). The singer did the opposite of what was required, and sang the part in a deep, sarcastic voice. But, I have to give them credit for being 14 and playing in front of all their peers at grade 9.

    I mean even classical conducters and orchestras are to blame here. They are playing 200-year-old songs. They are cover bands. Sometimes they are called tribute bands, and sometimes they are all-female versions of AC/DC. And don't get me started on jazz and blues. These are genres solely dedicated to simply covering old songs.

    But there is some light at the end of the dark, musty cave here. So, it's time to talk about unique covers. You know, the ones that are so distinctive they garner respect and admiration (there are only like, three).

    "Blinded by the Light" is a great, great song. Manfred Mann's rendition hit #1 on the Hot 100 in 1977, and unlike the original Bruce Springsteen version, this one was catchy as hell. My father, a vehement supporter of the Boss, always mentions how Manfred sounds like he is saying "douche" instead of "deuce" in the chorus. But, who knows what he's really singing about. The guitar effects give this version a groove that is hard to prove it isn't an original.

    "Mr Tambourine Man" as performed by William Shatner is definitely outsider music. You probably haven't heard it unless you received The Transformed Man as a gag gift. I truly wonder if Bob Dylan has ever heard Shatner utterly screaming the last line from this 1968 art experiment.

    Marilyn Manson's cover of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" is probably the best cover ever. Don't laugh. It is totally different from the original 1983 electronic standard, which is hard to think of without red hair and a synth beat. Manson totally reinvented the wheel here. The guitar and way the lyrics are sung are just... original. The band could have dropped the lyrics and wrote their own for a decent song.

    Also, Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower" is better than the original

    I dare you to suggest better covers. Don't even mention those goddamned string tribute albums. And if you are thinking right now that Johnny Cash's "Hurt" is the best cover, I want to spit on you.

    Friday, March 6, 2009

    Life Regarding Australia (Part 2 of 137)

    When I got to Townsville, I took a cab. I was sans-luggage (read about the flights in a separate piece), and I wanted to go to sleep. I was booked at the "Sugar Shaker", the name of the Holiday Inn right in the central business district.

    It is bright as hell and hot when I hail a cab, and I try to chat with the driver, but he's not really interested and neither am I. He takes me on a 5 minute drive around Castle Hill to the CBD. I hand him a red $20 bill and tell him to keep the change. He looks at me oddly and just takes the money somewhat disgusted. I could tell I did something wrong, but I walk into the hotel lobby and forget about it until later. I need a shower.

    The girl helping me with at the desk is cute as hell. She has dark straight hair put up and a flawless complexion. I don't remember our conversation but I think everything is OK with the room. It's on the sixth floor.

    I get into the room and think I should call someone. I pick up the phone and hear weird static, like the line is fried. But, this is Australia. This is a normal dial tone. I hang up. I use the bathroom and want to flush. There are two buttons on the top of the comode. This is normal. I hit the wrong one, and water continues to flow for minutes. I finally hit the right one and all is well. I shower and shave.

    I turn on the TV and wait about 20 seconds for it to power-up. I watch music videos for a few hours, because my sleep patterns are screwed up. This channel (I found) plays music videos every Saturday morning. And, good ones. It's Saturday morning and I haven't slept yet. Eventually I sleep.

    I wake up when I hear a lightning strike (one of the only ones heard in Australia). It's dark outside and I look at the lights to try and figure out my bearings. I haven't left the hotel yet. It's raining from what I can tell. Tomorrow is for exploration.


    Friday, February 27, 2009

    EverQuest, WoW and Gaming Addiction (Part 2 of 3)

    Part 1 is here.

    Not to sound like a broken record, but everything in EverQuest was so manual. From a perspective of World of Warcraft, EQ is like DOS command line and WoW is Mac OS GUI. This can be best exemplified by the questing system and other anecdotes.

    To do any kind of questing (even for a small piece of equipment), you have to chat with an NPC. Picture yourself "hailing" a bot named Conium Darkblade and gleaning information out of him like he was a real person. So you're reading all this babble and looking for [words with brackets around them] to figure out how to type a response to Mr. Darkblade. Then, you type the matching words and... nothing happens. You realize you misspelled "the" and re-type the whole thing to finally get to more babble and more [word searching]. It was ridiculous and not fun. But that's not all...

    Now picture yourself finally finding the quest piece that you need to turn in to Conium Darkblade (to complete the quest and receive your rewards). Imagine grabbing the quest item from inventory and clicking on the NPC to open trade. Then, when you press the Trade button, nothing happens...... The NPC just ate your item. Well, tough luck. Time to start all over again. No time to think about why, just keep playing for 8 more hours.

    Which brings me to in-game bugs, exploits and patches. EverQuest was taken down a lot for hotfixes. It was (and still is) rife with bugs and glitches. "You pay to be the bug tester." I remember hearing people losing their characters after a teleportation went totally wrong. Falling through the world was commonplace. Practically every week you had to download updates from Verant and stare at a progress bar. And, some of the servers had different patch problems than others. All the modern MMO's have learned from this, and really haven't topped the EQ clusterfuck of patches breaking more stuff. Blizzard and Warcraft are an absolute joy compared to the quality of SOE.

    Epic Quests
    The first EQ expansion (Kunark) added epic weapons (also known as particle weapons, because they glowed and sometimes had cool graphics like translucent leaves emanating from them). The rogue's was called the Ragebringer (pictured). All class epics had a "proc" (process) that would trigger something to help defeat or prevent defeat from an enemy. Like the priest's epic (Water Sprinkler) could resurrect a player without any mana cost.

    One part of my epic quest was in a place called the Plane of Hate. You had to steal a book from a table, and then give that book to a questgiver. Most people brought dozens of people to raid the area and kill everything, but as a rogue I decided to do it solo. I wasn't playing when my character got the book. I was at work, and over the phone I told my friends how to sneak to the book. By the will of the gods, they somehow avoided disaster and got out of there. I never went back to PoH.

    I was extremely scared when I was near the end of my epic quest that I would lose everything and have to start over. The multiple zone, many NPC quest chain involved lots of work, and in the end trading with a high-level mob in a log cabin full of enemies. I was an excellent sneak, but failure was a fact of life for EverQuest. The quest triggers all worked, and I won the Ragebringer.

    Items and loot
    EverQuest had lots of cool little items that really didn't help you kill enemies, but were just awesome to have. One of those was the Mask of Deception. One of the cool things about EQ player (unless you were on the short end of the stick) is that races like Barbarians and Erudites could see differently. Some could see in the dark better. The Mask changed your race to Dark Elf for 29 minutes. As a bonus, sometimes you could infiltrate an "evil" city as a dark elf instead of a good race. There were other racial masks (including the Holy Grail of the Guise of the Coercer that was impossible to get), and there were other novelty items. I used to carry around Tuuak's Fishing Pole (that did nothing) in one hand and a real fishing rod in the other, because it looked uber to dual-wield them in town.

    Ninja looting
    Ninja looting was rampant throughout the game. If a decent item dropped for a group of 6 players, the first player who looted the corpse could easily just take it instead of being honest. There was no safety net, there was no automatic dice roll. The only punishment for a ninja looter was social blacklisting and possibly a short ban from the game by a GM. But too many got away with it. I cannot tell you how many times someone looted a group item and then went "LD" (link dead), to never return. I'll admit, I once or twice went LD because I didn't want to be in a dumb group or had to leave the computer, but I never ninja'd.

    Being anonymous
    That brings me to another WoW vs. EQ comparison: anonymity. In EverQuest, a simple "/anonymous" command could make your level, race and location unsearchable. In essence, you could be alone in peace and quiet. With Blizzard, there is no such thing. How many WoW healers out there would kill for this feature on their downtime? And to boot, everyone can see your WoW gear online... It's a privacy issue, and Blizzard needs to think about protecting individuals from other individuals. I mean, you are paying to play a fantasy game, where you are already mostly anonymous. There is no PATRIOT Act in the online world...

    One of the cool undertones about the game was factions. This concept of "good standing" with a group of people was not a new concept. To gain access to some areas, you had to gain a reputation with the monsters or people in a certain zone. So, if you wanted to walk through an ogre town, you had to kill their enemies (lots of them), in essence.

    I remember killing goblins in the Nurga/Droga area for a solid 2 or 3 weeks. Their sworn enemy are the Sarnaks, and the Brood of Di'Zok faction was what I was after. There was a certain (epic) quest for a dungeon key that required running all over. And, in pure EverQuest fashion, one of the quest givers was in the middle of a remote dungeon. To be able to walk through to him, you needed good standing with the Brood. As a rogue, you would think I could just sneak in and waltz out, or maybe use an invisibility potion. Well, the mobs wouldn't be fooled. I could have also just brought a group with me, but it was an unpopular zone. I had no idea why I wanted the key, probably for bragging rights. I never finished the final quest piece, either...

    That dungeon key quest was just a sliver of what the Kunark continent offered. I absolutely loved the art and the zones there. It was just so jungle crazy, and death was stalking you everywhere. Think of anything that was scary, and it was there.

    The first real zone for any newbie was the Lake of Ill Omen. To access the Lake zone, you had to leave the city outpost and run like hell to the zone line. There were giant spider women that you had to outrun to reach the area. If you made it, you were home free because it was a busy, and well-inhabited zone.

    In the LOIO, /OOC chat was ridiculous. Because it was level 20-30, it was a proving ground that eventually divides the serious gamers from the tools. And, the chat reflected the absurd and the argumentative features of the internet. Whether it be "/ooc ding 23!" or "/ooc 23 ranger LFG" or "/ooc hepl", it was just major spammage. But the main pull of the area was the experience. The sarnaks there were abundant and fairly easy. There were dozens of camping spots for groups.

    I know another Kunark zone that would bring a smile to any seasoned veteran's face: The Overthere. Like LOIO, it had its charm because it was just... odd. It was a huge open field were each "pull" (term for luring mobs to a party) was unique. At any time you could be killing a sarnak, a cockatrice, a golem, a rhinoceros, a sabertooth tiger, a scorpikis or walking cactus. And the experience was good enough to stay there for an entire ten levels. But, one of the charming aspects that kept you on your toes (much like the Fire Swamp), was the Dragoons. If you were a good race, you had to keep an eye out for these guys. Every hour or so, they would patrol the whole zone. If you were close enough to aggro General V'Deer, you had at least 5 Goons whipping your whole group's ass in a matter of seconds. And a corpse run was never fun... TO BE CONTINUED!

    [There is still more, including death and beating your addiction....]

    PART 3 is here.

    Movies watched in 2020

    Here's my annual list. I beat 2019 by about 60 . I stopped tracking TV series, too. The only films I saw in theaters were: Star Wars IX,...