Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dust it off, shine it up

Well, hello there. It's been quite a while - two full months. Sorry, I've been busy — between Duck football season, Rock Band and learning kanji I've had no time to write, which is a shame, because it's something I enjoy doing.

Now, though, I've found something that needs to be shared: I hate videos like this.

There was a whole thread at the GTX back in late 2004 and early 2005 that basically made me buy a PlayStation 2 and pre-order Gran Turismo 4. What was that thread? Photo mode screenshots uploaded. And not just any old photo mode shots, these were made by guys who knew what the F-stops and other settings mean on a real camera.

So, basically, they were the hottest looking thing evar.

Now you're giving me this? A speeding Japanese bullet train with a one-way ticket to the uncanny valley, down to the driver pulling on his helmet? (which looked accurate as, invariably, the guy's probably just 5'3", as all good racers are insanely short or are Boris Said.) How is my mind supposed to take seeing something like that?

The problem's not that the game is pretty. Oh no. It's just that I know where this all leads. Overspending on new hardware; a three-month fling with the game that ends up being not nearly as engaging as hoped; a distasteful breakup that brings up the same old complaints from the previous four games. Lack of good AI, questionable steering and handling feel, lack of customization, ABS on everything, broken single-player treadmill...etc., etc. I know all the problems, but when faced with a teaser trailer like that I get weak.

At least I can take solace in the fact that, knowing Polyphony Digital, if it comes out in 2008 it'll be in time for me to buy the Japanese PS3 version *in* Japan. That'd be kinda cool.

Monday, October 8, 2007

the more things change

It's rather appropriate to talk about things coming full circle when I've got a head full of simple astronomy (thanks, UO for making me take basic science classes to fulfill graduation requirements!) and about half of what's been talked about the last two days involves mass and how things go around in orbits.

This time last fall, I was living with the decision to follow my Portland Trail Blazers and the Association - especially through the scope of places like Deadspin and that ever-wonderful hall of justice, Free Darko. This time last year I was living off Oklahoma win hangovers while reading FD previews of The Lig, and figuring out how to pronounce LaMarcus Aldridge. I was still grasping for hold in something new.

Now? Now, I'm trying to get out of learning mode and into the role of a sensei. I know my team inside and out; nothing is new and fresh, it's sorta played out. The rush of finding out about FD and reading a back-log of Shoals is replaced with the dull throb of a drip of material. There's no novelty factor.

But I've dealt with that before - it's just a different manifestation of a need to grasp onto a storyline in order to pay attention. I lost track of the Mariners when their season went down in flames; there was no story. Last season for me, the story was finding out about everything; this year, it's seeing how the Blazers improve, if any superstars will move (MARION WATCH WEEK THREE: ALL CLEAR ON THE WESTERN FRONT), how the Nuggets will do with a full season together, THE CELTICS, how Gil does, etc. This is, as the Masters of the Klondike always say, a league of stars and stars have stories to tell.

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Meanwhile, I'm still trying to avoid going out and buying needless, overpriced but infinitely cool basketball-style ware. Seriously - look at that jacket. I think one of my roommates has the original thing circa Goodwill. Meanwhile, just to fully finish off my FD love, I think I might have to go get a 'SWAG' t-shirt from the FD Outlet. Swag at a hundred and climbin', baby.

Meanwhile, the Ducks moved up five spots without even playing. WTF. Keep on keepin' on, guys. Don't stop to smell the Roses just yet.

Monday, September 17, 2007

joy and sadness


Saturday reminded me of all that was good about college football and, by extension, sports in general. A scorching late-summer day, tens of thousands of fans wearing their school's colors (including those brave souls who dare tread on OUR HALLOWED GROUND in enemy hues), beers and burgers at the tailgate, the student section always standing and leading the noise factor, and - best of all - the home team, your team, blowing out their opponent.

The Ducks made a big push to earn even more recognition with their 52-21 blowout of Fresno State last Saturday. The same Fresno State team that took Texas A&M to the wall in three overtimes the previous week folded over like a house of cards in a hurricane against the Ducks. Even more impressive was the defense - not necessarily for the stats, but for their swarming, attacking style to pressure the line of scrimmage, harass the Bulldogs' quarterback, and shut down the run game. This was an almost-perfect game, and hopefully the team won't sit back on their laurels and pat themselves on the back too hard.


A true rallying and auto racing legend died Sunday. Scottish-born rally racer Colin McRae passed away in a helicopter accident near his home in Scotland.

McRae - and his young son - both passed away too young (McRae himself was just 39 and still racing on occasion - his long World Rally Championship career had afforded him such a luxury as choosing what he wanted to do with his time). He was a licensed helicopter pilot and behind the sticks for the crash.

This was not the first crash in McRae's life - in fact, his nickname while still competing in rally racing was "McCrash." While this had a negative connotation, it also was given with reverence - YouTube clips abound showing McRae rolling his rally racer, kicking it back into gear and continuing to drive its nuts off. A few clips even include when he continued on a stage with just three wheels through the stage, where he could get the car fixed at the end.

Rally racing in general is hardcore - you have to be very talented and very brave to hurtle a four-wheel-drive car down narrow forest roads, sideways - and McRae was legendary for taking that stance even further. While some fans derided him for breaking machinery, those same people (and plenty of others) are heralding him for the dedication he showed in his driving style to press that hard, that close to the edge of adhesion.

Part of my auto racing viewing diet during middle and high school was WRC coverage on Speedvision (now Speed Channel), when Finland's Tommi Makkinen and Colin McRae were two juggernauts fighting for rallying supremacy. Makkinen in the Mitsubishi usually had the upper hand, but McRae was spectacular - seemingly in the lead or out of the rally. All, or nothing.

Racers like that seem to be fewer and fewer. Ayrton Senna was a god in that sense - he seemed to have super-sensory ability at judging that line. McRae may not have had as much ability as Senna, but by hell did he have more talent than most. Though he was moving more and more into the periphery of rallying and auto racing, he didn't deserve to pass on so early in life. He will be truly missed by racing fans and his family and friends.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Man, Greg Oden, why you gotta do a thing?

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Nooooooooooooooooooo. No, no, no, dear god why. Between the Mariners imploding, and Oden’s knee, man, I’m one bad Ducks loss from needing 24-hour suicide watch.

Promise. The excitement of the new “big three,” Aldridge, Roy, and Oden, lasted just three months before it hit its first bump. Well, maybe the opposite of a bump, as it involves the lack of cartilage more than anything else, and I don’t know if that’d categorize as a “bump” or a “dip.” I’ll check up on that.

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But still. Sam Bowie. Arvydas Sabonis. BILL WALTON. Greg Oden? Dear god, don’t tell me he’s the next Cursed Blazers Big Man. Don’t tell me there’s a curse, period, because I’m going crazy enough trying to remain calm.

I’m trying to invoke Jason Kidd, Amare Stoudemire, and Oden’s current teammate – Darius freaking Miles – trying to realize and say yes, you can come back from this with time and the right work ethic. Oden has the work ethic – now he just needs time. He just needs time. It was just a small part of the knee, and hey, there’s nothing else wrong! Nothing else. Nothing else. Nothing…

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Nooooooooooooooooo whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. I think I’m officially wailing over this right now, like some goddamned widow. My first reaction was a jaw drop; the next was just sheer sadness. Writers, like The Oregonian’s John Canzano and the ever-famous Bethlehem Shoals, are musing on the ‘why’ behind reactions like my own, and I think the answer is two-fold.

One, I’m sad as HELL I won’t have the chance to see him play. If he returns for next season, there’s a very good chance I’m in Japan for his rookie year, and that sucks. But the other facet is this humanizes the kid even more. Going through such adversity (especially with the way I’d imagine he’ll go through it) makes him a more sympathetic character, especially because he is apologizing for the injury! Remarkable.

So I’ll go dry out the tear-soaked Oden jersey I picked up earlier in the summer and relax. If Amare Stoudemire can come back strong, and Jason Kidd can put up ridiculous numbers (averaging a triple-double in the first round of last year’s playoffs? Nuts!) then I think a kid who can’t even drink, with a minor version of this injury and a great work ethic, will come out fine.

With some luck, we might all just get through this together.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

new ish: kanye west "graduation"

gotta love the art style for this disc

I wrote a while back about the mind-blowingly cool video for Kanye West's single from Graduation, "Stronger," which aesthetically rips off pays homage to the anime classic Akira and features a sample (and appearance from) French techno gods/robots Daft Punk. here's a link to the video.

Well, the whole disc dropped yesterday, and it is very, very good. Kanye's sound has changed up a bit on this disc - not only in the beats, where synths join into West's repertoire along with his patented sped-up soul loops, but also in the rhyming, with songs that blur the traditional verse-chorus-verse hip-hop structure and the usual number of lines (and quickness of their delivery) in the verses. This may not be new or even all that novel, but it makes the disc sound more interesting, and allows the listener to focus on the music as a whole, happily masking West's pitfalls on the mic.

Don't get me wrong - the man can turn a line or two. However, despite rapping about how he's in the top-5 MCs right now, five off the top of my head (Jay-z, NaS, Common, Talib Kweli, and Lil' Wayne - who appears on "Barry Bonds" on Graduation) rhyme circles around him. He's a great musician, but the next in the line from Rakim to Biggy to Jay-Z? Nope.

Don't let that get in the way of the fun, though. The lyrics go a bit more worldly and are a bit less personal than before, but West still works his way in plenty of times - not only on "Homecoming," his take on what Common did first many years ago with "I still love H.E.R." but also on "Big Brother," "Flashing Lights" and "Champion." The other fun new toy is the use of synthesizers to add to the layers of music and lend it a touch that must be making Daft Punk smile inside their robot helmets. It sounds like Kanye finally heard Discovery and went "that shit be ill," because on "Stronger" and especially "Flashing Lights" the disco/techno influence is heavy. Hand claps and synth bleeps punctuate the chorus, with faux-strings in the background of the beat coming to the forefront in the outro - AWESOME.

If Late Registration is his answer to a traditional Jay-Z album sonically, then this one sounds just like the album cover looks - bright, fun, explosive and full of color.

Give it a shot. While there may be fewer tracks that reach the heights of the last two albums, the whole album is high quality and sounds more mature and like it could have a longer lifespan than the previous two.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

a weekend of highlights

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stop! hammer time!

reason my weekend ruled #1: the Ducks showed up for some serious work last Saturday. I don't think I can say much more that the big sports outlets can say, but I'll add a few brief comments on the two most important areas of Oregon's game.

1. Dennis Dixon came back from playing baseball much of the summer ready to play some football. Maybe his zen-like dedication to a shitty batting average taught him that failure is acceptable? Maybe Chip Kelly's offense suits him better? Maybe he's off (or on) some medication? Maybe everything just clicked? Who knows. I'm watching for aligned stars or seventh signs. I don't care how it happened, but he looks like he's captured his form.

Now, if you can come back to me in November and I'm saying the same things, then we'll be in business. Week by week, he has to prove he can still do it - the problem last year was meltdowns mid-season.

2. The defensive line looked like it could stop somebody for once. "We eat today, coach!" tackle Jeremy Gibbs yelled during a pre-game taped part about defensive coordinator Aliotti, and boy, did they. We all knew the secondary was going to be good, and I felt the linebackers would mature well enough this year. The question is the line, and they looked, err, questionable during the Houston game.

Now, they look like they can put up a serviceable fight. And that's all we need to lock down a lot of teams. If they can keep teams to ~150 rushing yards total in a game, I'm happy.

Highlight #2: Dreamcast Day!

I don't know whether this counts as a highlight or a holiday (or both?), but yesterday was 9/9/07, which marks the eighth anniversary of the Sega Dreamcast's launch.

Why is this so important to me, you might ask? The Dreamcast was the turning point for me. This was where I matured as a gamer - before, I knew what a fighter was, now I was learning move sets for Soul Calibur and Street Fighter Alpha 3. I also started to take racing games a bit more seriously...though honestly, I look back at Sega Rally 2 and Sega GT and shake my head. Test Drive: Le Mans has held up well, though, and still warrants a good play-through, even though somehow I lost my main data save but still have an almost-complete Le Mans race...whatever.

I also matured in my knowledge of games, gaming culture, and the industry. It's no coincidence I started reading EGM in 1998; it's no coincidence that was around the point I stopped paying attention to what the EB geeks were saying at the mall. This was also the rise of the Internet; I remember IGN Dreamcast being a daily stop (back when IGN was still worth it) and lamenting EGM's lack of online presence. Oh, how little I knew about the future. Anyways. Messageboards and news sites on 56K were how I learned what gaming really was, in 2001 I signed up on a forum that I'm still a part of the community for, and I haven't turned back since.

I have the Dreamcast to thank for me being a true, hardcore gamer. Beyond the great games, beyond the innovation, it's left an indelible mark on my life - it made me hardcore. For that I will always remember Sega's little white console that could and it's rather nine-ful release date.

Friday, September 7, 2007

BioShock: Post-finishing thoughts and splitting hairs

It's no secret that BioShock has, in many minds, lived up to expectations and is considered a game of the year candidate in all circles. You know that a game is good when fans gripe about it getting a lowly 90% score from a website (Gamespot being the criminal in that one, if I remember properly). It's good enough to get almost the whole audience to say "YES!" when a fan asked if it was deserving the hype during the 1up Yours live podcast taping at PAX.

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Here, Big Daddy, Big Daddy...I still hear your footsteps in my nightmares.

Yes, we all know it is a brilliant game. But as much as I absolutely love it, it does have flaws. First off, there's not enough of it. Okay, I know that makes me the typical greedy gaming fan, but it's true - it seems like the ending came very quickly. I went from the GREAT BIG TWIST (involving meeting Rapture's maker) to the ending in about four hours, and I was hardly rushing; maybe I feel like there should be slightly more conflict before the ending comes? I don't know. I have no problem with how everything wrapped up, it just seems like it comes too quickly.

the other real problem I found on my play-through is, at least on normal difficulty, once you get close to being fully plasmid'd-up, normal enemies become almost too easy, and the brilliant combat slips to being something of a routine. So you're still whirling around, doing about fifteen different things at once between plasmids, and turrets, and security cameras, and then all the damn splicers...but the chaos and scariness has sapped away. Part of this was due to being focused on a few specific enemies in the storyline (fuck the main bad guy, HARD), but it also was because I felt my no-name avatar had gotten too powerful. Especially once combat and other boosting plasmid slots open up and you have about three bonuses to health in the physical side and a few for the wrench in the combat side, life becomes a lot easier. In one particular section in Fort Frolic, I was one-shotting a series of spider splicers and though it was fun, it wasn't as straight-out frightening as combat is near the beginning when ammo is scarcer and plasmids are weak.

let me address the next point, as already discussed by The Escapist's "Yahtzee" in his online video column: Yes, you never really hurt for ammo, and those Frito Bandito-looking ammo stations are nearly fucking useless. Most every kind of bullet can be found lying around in the world, and any others you need can be made at U-INVENT machines with the other plentiful invention pieces you pick up. The only real limit to ammo is that sometimes one weapon - in my case it always seemed to be the damn shotgun - is out for you, so that means locking and loading with others (often the machine gun - I was almost always full-up on that ammo).

This just means that you can and will put the money toward buying Eve hypos and first-aid kits and trying to stay full on those.

Ok, so the game has some gameplay balance flaws, the enemies aren't always terrifying, the Big Daddies begin to go down easily...and in some cases some of the grand, earth-shattering ideas about new combat aren't quite as earth-shattering as possible. I mean, the trap bolts are only an inconvenience and are neon "FUN STUFF HERE ONCE YOU GET THROUGH" signs in the game, and I never set out traps for my enemies (others might, your mileage may vary). So it isn't 100% completely and utterly raw, unrefined awesome; somebody added baking soda to the mix so you're not getting the pure shit.

Is that such a crime? Maybe I'm sounding like an apologist fanboy, but this is still easily the best game I've played this year, the best single-player action game I've played since Gears of War (at the least), and easily the best story-driven game to come out since Zelda last year. It does 9 things brilliantly but falters on the tenth, so to speak, and though I try to not get caught up in the hype bearing on the other side and being too much a negative Nancy does the game a disservice. It is sheerly, utterly brilliant, an amazing experience worthy of the cinema, but provided better as a video game. I'm so glad I went out and bought it and supported what turned out to be an incredibly worthy piece of entertainment and, daresay, art.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

PAX 07: Gamers set-up shop and launch a raid on downtown Seattle

At least the worst traffic jam I saw all weekend in Seattle was on Interstate 5 heading into the city Thursday evening. That was due mostly to construction choking the city’s main artery down to just two lanes for traffic; however, after my experiences with the previous Penny Arcade Expo location in Bellevue, traffic concerns were legitimate.

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Welcome to nerd nirvana - home for more than 37,000 gamers over the weekend of PAX

Thankfully, the wide-open corridors at the Washington State Convention Center on Pike street in downtown Seattle reflected the rest of the weekend: Great fun with tons of video gamers, and just enough space to be comfortable, enough choice to rarely be bored, and a great community of gamers, volunteers, artists and panelists to help continue lifting the expo toward becoming the top gaming destination in the United States.

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Yes, this was the line to get in Friday afternoon

PAX has quickly become Mecca for those who love video games and live in the United States. It’s everything E3 was – access to new games on a huge show floor, a great sense of community – without the unnecessary booth babes, the booming exhibits, and the glam excess that plagued the show up until its euthanasia last year. What the show is packed full of is enthusiasm and a love of games – from the gamers all the way to the exhibitors, the press covering the event, and, of course, Jerry and Mike, the creators of Penny Arcade.

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Freezepop rocked the fucking house on Friday night

This is my second time attending PAX; I went two years ago in 2005 (unfortunately not the Year of the Ball, but instead the year of mc chris. Sigh). The move to the downtown convention center was needed, in my estimation; even before the influx of fans for PAX 06, the Maydenbauer Center in Bellevue felt a bit cramped due to its design. Plus, the move symbolizes a move into the true big-time, from a suburb of Seattle right into the heart of downtown. Moving on up, as it were.

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Rock Band, my precious and favorite game at the show

The wide-open exhibit hall was home to many wonderful things – personal favorites included Virtua Fighter 5 at the Sega booth, drooling at the rarities inside the locked glass case at the Pink Godzilla booth, the free t-shirts after the gameplay demos of Mass Effect, and of course Rock Band. Oh, Rock Band. Myself and three of my friends (including Nick and Dan) went around the line four times on Friday afternoon like it was some sort of carnival ride and we were 10 all over again. Having actually played it (and seen how badass the song list is, including new additions), I can say: believe the hype. It will drop, and we will all be blessed by the sheer power of rock.

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Nick loves Rock Band and Parappa, can't you tell?

Highlights from the weekend not involving playing games include: the 1up Yours live taping (and meeting a few of the 1up staffers afterward); buying a DS Lite when I already had a ‘regular’ DS in my bag (worth it); sitting in a console freeplay room as Gabe from Penny Arcade was preparing to play a couple fourteen year-olds at Pokemon and they had no clue who he was; Freezepop and The OneUps playing live on Friday night and, specifically, hearing Freezepop end their set with “The Final Countdown”; the Phoenix Wright cosplayers:

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Phoenix Wright cosplayers: SERIOUS BUSINESS

If I’m still in the country next August, I’m going to PAX – period. It has become a must-attend event, especially because I’m a scant day’s drive away. Thanks again to Nick for putting up with me on the drive up and back and Tyler for hosting us – the weekend was far too much fun.

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Chilling out in one of the hallways of the Center

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1up Yours live taping

Thursday, August 30, 2007

college football season's ruthless return

I think ESPN has finally jumped the shark and landed in the deep end: they are doing 25 straight hours of on-the-air live coverage to celebrate the start to college football season.

yeah, I barely believe it either. on the one hand, it's absurd; but on the other? AWESOME.

college football has returned; it only seems right for what is sometimes an absurd sport that ESPN would go to absurd lengths. Then again, what else inspires as much passion, spirit, pride and vitriol as college football? In the United States, absolutely nothing, on a regular, nationwide basis; sure, Yankees-Red Sox, Dodgers-Giants, Spurs-Anyone in the NBA, etc., etc....but college football rivalries and passion aren't limited to certain areas; it's nationwide.

as a full-bore West Coast homer, I can say with certainty that, yes, we care just as much as the South does about college football; maybe we just don't go to the same extremes as they do, but the passion exists. Nothing else quite gets the Northwest in the same sort of lather, short of a Seahawks Super Bowl run.

And now it has returned. I still have a day of putting finishing touches on The Emerald's "GameDay" football supplementals, and I have a wedding to take care of this weekend...but dammit, college football is back, and if our satellite TV isn't upgraded in time, I'm going to get pissed....and possibly unhook the satellite, re-hook some bunny ears, and hope I get reception.

by the way, I'd be a bad Oregon fan if I didn't post this:

Best. Clip. EVAR.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

day late and a dollar short, vol. 3: shadow of the colossus

I know this has most likely been said before, on numerous websites, and in a much more timely manner, but here goes: Shadow of the Colossus is a flat-out moving experience that is, for the first time, bringing a moral quandary into my video gaming life.

meet our hero, colossus killer extraordinare

I know this game came out forever ago, I know everybody raved about it, but I do have a hard time pulling anything that isn't Guitar Hero or Winning Eleven out of my PS2, so grant me that. And I didn't want to do the game a disservice - I wanted to play this like one would pray at an altar, so it needed to be a special environment and a quiet, focused time.

for those that don't know, the game is an adventure-platformer that, in the strictest gaming terms, doesn't have levels, just massive, incredibly interesting and intricate boss fights. Cut scene, find the boss (including some adventuring on horseback across country and some light platforming to get to some of the bosses), figure out how to stab the boss' weak points, rinse, wash, repeat.

except the developers (who also made another art-house gamer favorite, Ico) do SO much more with the formula than that sounds. You play a warrior who is trying to revive his deceased princess and is listening to the voices at a holy shrine, who tell him to go slay colossus after colossus...presumably in order to revive her.

to kill, or not to kill, that is the question

herein lies the problem. This isn't going out to collect all seven tokens in order to revive her; you must actively slay these gigantic, screen-filling, peaceful colossi in order to make that Phoenix Down work on your girl. I'm three colossi in, and each has ended with my character climbing to the top of the colossus (who is rather eerily trying to shake you off the entire time; your character's grip meter is what makes this whole thing interesting, because you can't hold on forever) and stabbing it in a weak point atop its head.

I would do anything for love, but would I do that? Would you go toe-to-toe with a bear and stab it in its head? The bear is much smaller than the game's colossi, but you get the point I'm trying to make...

...especially when that sort of thought process is backed up by what happens to your character after each colossus dies: a guilt trip. Not only does the thing breathe its last in a wonderfully epic manner, a sort of series of black tentacles of the thing's soul reach out and take your body over, you see tunnel vision, get the option to save, and your character black-out returns to the main shrine, where a few shadows stand over his passed-out ass. Last time after I saved, it was three - the number of colossi I'd slain.

I was told after this game came out that my friend Peter went on a binge, played all the way through it in a day, and saved right at the last boss, trying to decide whether he wanted to go on or not. I don't remember if he finished off his save or not, but he had one of those moments where his conscience took over.

I absolutely love that a few games are doing this now. More need to. Shadow of the Colossus is so simple in terms of gameplay (though the colossi are all fun to figure out the "trick" to, and just as fun to actually battle); fighting the most recent one, I could feel my mind switch from itchy-finger gamer mode to "oh my god what am I doing" story mode. It hurt, and it was very engaging.

I like that sort of engaging.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Underrated albums No. 2: Daft Punk, Discovery

I promised, and now I deliver: not only another “forgotten album” post, but one on something that covers more than one aspect of my personality. This would happen to be….Daft Punk’s Discovery.

seriously, the more I think about it, the more I like the robot-style headwear that Daft Punk sports

This is about as perfect as a techno album can get; Discovery and the Chemical Brothers’ Dig Your Own Hole are absolute transcendent classics. It’s a great dancing album, it’s a great party album (throw on the opener, “One More Time,” and you’ll get the girls back alive in no time…though it does drag in the middle a bit), it kinda lacks when driving around because some of the songs rely on softer tones, but on headphones walking around, working out or doing homework this disc is brilliant. (Heh, Homework. Sorry, I amuse myself).

The pacing is almost perfect, and though only a few songs really stand out as singles, the others flow perfectly together and seem to speed up time in a way. Sure, the two noteworthy singles that are well known in the US – “One More Time” and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” – both really pop out of the album and make their presence known, but four of the deep cuts stand out well and the rest of the album is incredibly well done.

These four songs – “Digital Love,” “Superheroes,” “Something About Us,” and “Face to Face” – are just as key as the two singles. “Superheroes” is a wonderfully rising song, and “Face to Face” has a solid backbeat behind an interesting stuttering harmony and singing. But it’s “Digital Love” and “Something About Us” that stand out – as, fittingly enough, beautiful love songs. “Digital Love” is a lament that a love affair was only in the singer’s mind, rising to a roboticized guitar solo, and “Something About Us” is a beautiful little love poem.

Interstella 5555: epic, and full of blue people

Even better, this album isn’t just an album – some may know about the singles from the album being turned into anime music videos, but little do they know, the whole disc was turned into an anime movie called “Interstella 5555.” I haven’t seen it all the way through yet, but, yes, it weaves the music through the plot (ala The Wall, but not, err….fucked up) but with no dialogue and minimal sound effects. “I5555” features art design by Leiji Matsumoto, best known for his work on the seminal late ‘70s anime series “Space Battleship Yamato.”

I just recently found a "Sample Wednesday" by a website that provides a lot of the tracks sampled to make Daft Punk songs, and all the songs from Discovery are accounted for. I honestly can't believe Barry Manilow got sampled by Daft Punk, but there you go. (tip of the hat to palmsout.com)

now, excuse me while I go listen to "digital love" one more time (...that was unintentional, by the way).

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

goodbye, sweet prince

so, as I've documented elsewhere...my Xbox 360, it is dead, from the dangerous cirque du rouge virus. This happened almost two weeks ago, and after calling Microsoft support last Monday, swallowing a $140 charge, joyously celebrating last Thursday when it was announced that the warranty was extended by two years for problems like this, then waiting all weekend for an empty box...I finally got it today.

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it's just a box...

for your princely $140, Microsoft sends out an empty box with instructions (basically, "take out games, take off hard drive and faceplate, unplug and put it in here like *so*" and how not to be a fucktard about applying a UPS label) and shipping supplies to get it back to the repair center in Texas.

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I think I got it, but thanks for the instructional help, guys.

so. into the plastic baggie it went, on went the foam blocks, and once that got put in the box, out comes the supplied packing tape. Sharpie on the UPS label, add on the new label right on top, and my 360 will soon be going, going back back to Texas, Texas. As soon as I find a UPS store here.

Over-under: will I get my sweet, sweet, broken console back before the Penny Arcade Expo in late August? I don't know. I don't know, but I'm not completely keen on the under.

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goodbye, sweet prince.

A letter to the video game industry

Dear video game industry,

As they say on radio shows, "long-time listener, first-time caller." I've been a fan of yours from the sidelines for many years - since childhood, indeed - but haven't thought it necessary to write in to you like this until now.

The king is dead; long live the king

We all know that you think you did the right thing when E3 was killed off last year...and I think many of us on the outside looking in will agree, on paper at least, that it was the right move. However, in its wake (literally - that's a party this week held by a company - and figuratively), there's an enormous chasm.

You see, E3 had a certain....oh, pomp and circumstance? Yeah, pomp, circumstance, and a flash-flood of light, color, sound and fury that would overrun poor Los Angeles for a glorious week in early May every year. It was like christmas for my friends and I growing up; through high school, we'd check in multiple times daily to see what news had broken. Hell, last year, I watched the Nintendo keynote speech online! What progress, and what importance at the same time!

But now, this year, it lacks the bombast that comes along with booths stocked with game demos and bored 'models' or 'actresses' hired to cosplay for a day or two and take photos with mouthbreathers. Sure, the journalists probably will be able to do their jobs better without all the lights, glitz, and distractions (including the flocks of extra people who somehow ended up with credentials), and the parties will still be held, but it's not the same. Now you're just a conference being held in a hotel in L.A., and that's no fun if there's no yiffing around (check out the pictures. Yowza.)

Why is this important? Because only *now* is technology catching up to what was the most overbloated, slightly unnecessary show in entertainment. What once could only fill out a two-page spread exotically in EGM in a couple of months can now be broadcast 24/7 by somebody like G4, so that gamers truly get the idea they're there. Why kill off the greatest show on earth under those circumstances? It doesn't make complete sense.

Ah well. At least we've got our PAX. Plus, you guys never let us in to E3 (well, not legitimately, anyways).

P.S. the 'new' format is even scaring 1up staffers. Come on, that's gotta be worth some change. Think of the precious 1up staffers here!

One gaming fan

Monday, July 9, 2007

I think I'm ready for *this* 'Graduation'...

everybody has their own likes and dislikes. This is just the nature of the world. Let me break down a couple of my likes, aesthetically, here right now:

-Daft Punk's "Discovery" album (I think a post on that in the near future is due);
-Good, smart hip-hop;
-Japanese stuff, including (but not limited to) anime and 'cyberpunk' movies and TV shows.

well, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Kanye West's new single "Stronger"...which samples the French techno artists' "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger," is pretty well written, and....has a music video that is basically an homage to Akira.

yes, that's really Daft Punk. Yeah, they're kinda weird.

Yeah, that's a fastball right in my wheelhouse. I think I'll keep that Firefox tab open so I can watch it again tomorrow morning. That's the stuff.

I know my friend and Daily Emerald cohort Matt Sevits will hate me for it, but...I like Kanye West. Yeah, some of the shtick is played-out, and it definitely can be shtick-y...but when it's new, and hasn't gotten really stale, it's good. And fresh Kanye is always good.

even the single cover art is cool and Japanese

The question is: will this be a hit or a miss long-term? I'll probably want to buy it now; will I regret that decision once the song is off radio and MTV, and I stumble upon it in my iTunes library in two years?

It sounds like it could be worthwhile. The beat is, as always, very good, but the rhyming is a bit more mature. He's never going to be Jay-Z or Biggie; nobody will. And, granted, there are a couple songs on each album (more on Late Registration than College Dropout) that stand the test of time; Kanye seems to still be developing and maturing, which means he gets better with each album. Hopefully this album reflects that, and the single certainly sounds like it could be.


At the least, though, it's the first Hype Williams video I've enjoyed in a long while. Something about the video subconsciously "clicked" the first watch-through, then when I went to it again I had the "OH SHIT" light-bulb moment. Lights streaking off the cylces? The nurse coming into Tetsuo's Kanye's room, and him stumbling out with shrouds of bedsheet hanging off his head? YES. So very good. Too bad the katakana scrolling across the screen at times makes NO SENSE (except the soldiers' "GYAAA" when they get attacked near the end).

(and now I want to watch Akira...)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

around the horn, sports edition

so a sports-specific update: lots has been going on (and I've been writing about a good deal of it), so let's cover some bases and update some stories...

Mariners defying all odds, now just 3.5 games out

Or, "maybe I should ride the Mariners hard in columns some more." I wrote one hell of a worried column about the Mariners last week, and what happened after that? 8-game win streak (!), one of my two season wishes comes true and Hargrove resigns (!!)...and then they regress to form, get kicked in the balls twice in KC but JARED FREAKING WASHBURN shut out the Royals to get the last game of the series today.

This is where I raise my hands in futility, say "fuck it" and put my Mariners hat back on. You know, I'll take winning 9 out of 11 - including eight straight against two of the top teams in the AL, the BoSox and the Blue Jays - no matter how it happens. All I want for it is to keep happening.

Oregon explodes, Rip City is back

I believe I called this one. Okay, that's not exactly a call, as much as it is a written orgasm, but stick with me here.

The point is that not only do I as a person who's a Trail Blazers fan (not to mention a fan of my hometown - PDX 4 LYFE... or something like that) feel excitement from this, but I can sense it welling up and coming to a head in Portland. The city's opinion about the team has completely turned around in a two year span, and I simply can't believe it. Now I want to buy a Blazers jersey; now I'm proud to be a fan of the only pro sports franchise in the state.

I just can't wait for the ride to start in early November. Gotta get to a few games next year for sure.

Hello, goodbye

Just as I've welcomed one massively talented star onto one of my teams, another takes off searching for pastures new. Yep, Thierry Henry - one of my all-time favorite athletes and one-time captain of my soccer team, Arsenal - has taken off for Barcelona.

I harbor little ill will. He's done so much for the team, the team has done so much for him...it's just saddening is all. Maybe I'm the nostalgic type who wanted to see him finish his career as a Gunner, but hell, what else does he have to prove here? I don't know. I don't know.

It's like dealing with a bad break-up...you're never quite sure how to feel afterwards. I doubt, however, that if he were to return to Highbury Emirates Stadium next year in a Champions League match, he'd get the same reception as Ken Griffey, Jr. got in Seattle a few weeks ago.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

How the hipster communes with nature: The Sasquatch! Music Festival

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The view at Sasquatch - both on to the stage and of the surrounding Columbia River gorge - is best when it's shared. Photo by Doug Bonham

The one thing you must remember before going to any concert is your ticket. This is a rather simple rule to follow, and a vital part of the experience. As the night of Friday, May 25 inched toward the witching hour and my car hurtled down Interstate 90, cutting down the highway through the Cascade Mountains, it didn’t matter that I put myself and my friends an hour and a half behind schedule. I left my tickets for the sixth-annual Sasquatch! Music Festival back in my traveling companion Tyler’s Seattle apartment. The extra gas my car used stung my wallet, and the ignominy of the mistake stung my pride, but there was something greater to focus on: the two-day concert festival and a lineup of great bands under the wonderful, springtime Northwest weather.

After driving into the campgrounds of the Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Wash., approximately 150 miles east of Seattle, Tyler and I set up a tent, drank a beer in celebration of arriving and fell asleep, prepared for the festival’s arrival. It certainly is something to prepare for, between the epic scale of the amphitheater and the task of getting to it in the first place. After that long drive from Seattle into the campgrounds, one must walk a half hour down a dusty trail through rolling farmland, past the campgrounds of fellow concert-goers, and up into line to enter the amphitheater. Tread farther down an asphalt path that snakes past vendor booths and the “Wookie” side-stage, and one finally crests the hill of the deepest edge of the venue’s great grassy bowl and can take in a view that is as breathtaking as any of the performances held on its main stage.

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Welcome to the Sasquatch Festival: The running of the concert-goers after the gates open Saturday morning. Photo by Doug Bonham

This is fitting because the ample crowd – making the 20,000-spectator capacity amphitheater seem rather cozy all weekend long – isn’t just at the Sasqutach Festival to enjoy live music, they’ve come from all around to enjoy a spectacle: surviving a weekend without showering, imbibing in the campground, seeing a plethora of tattoos under the Northwest sun, and overpaying for amphitheater food is included along with the music.

The first Sasquatch Festival was in 2002, and since then it has grown into a large, multiple-day and multiple-stage concert festival. In 2006, the festival added a six-band set on the main stage Friday evening onto the full three stages worth of bands on Saturday and Sunday. The festival always features an eclectic lineup slant toward indie and alternative rock, singer-songwriter groups and alternative or underground hip-hop acts; the 2006 lineup reflected this, including such diverse headliners as Nine Inch Nails, the Flaming Lips, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, and Beck, to name but a few who graced the main stage. Though the scope drew back in for the 2007 festival, held over the Memorial Day weekend of May 26 and 27, the headlining acts – Bjork, the Arcade Fire, Interpol and the Beastie Boys – had just as much star power, and the side stage lineups held many quality smaller artists and local favorites.

Representative of the local music scene in the Northwest, many of the best local artists from Portland and Seattle traditionally earn side stage slots, and this year was no different. Seattle artists Minus The Bear, The Long Winters, Common Market, Tacoma’s Neko Case, and Portland groups the Dandy Warhols, Stars of Track and Field, the Helio Sequence and Viva Voce all performed at Sasquatch. For Anita Robinson, the lead singer and guitarist of Viva Voce, just being at the festival this year was a goal; performing was even better. “I’ve been wanting to go to Sasquatch, but it seems like we’ve always been on tour,” Robinson explains. “Plus, getting to play is really exciting.”

Viva Voce: Portland-based duo played a powerful set in the Saturday afternoon sun. Photo from vivavoce.com

Though Viva Voce – which includes Anita and her drummer, co-vocalist and husband Kevin Robinson – have recorded four albums since forming in 1998 and toured extensively, including to Europe, Robinson still represents her adopted hometown, which sparked interest in the festival. “I just know I wanted to be a part of it because it’s a northwest festival and we’re a northwest band, this is our home and we want to be a part of what’s happening,” Robinson says. “I think it’s cool the way it worked out, whoever put the lineup together has a real sense of what Portland bands and Seattle bands and national and international bands would work together.”

Work together they certainly do. Fans gather at the gate to enter the amphitheater early Saturday morning, with many people leaving the campgrounds by 10:30 a.m. to make the trek to the entrance, where security guards search bags for contraband, including full and opened water bottles or soda can or my friend Tyler’s cigarette pack. Though side diversions exist on the outskirts of the stages, including booths presented by Major League Baseball, local Seattle radio stations 107.7 The End and 90.3 KEXP, and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 video game console, concert-goer focus aims solely on the stages and the main stage in particular.

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Blackalicious rocked the house early on Sunday afternoon with their live set. Photo by Doug Bonham

With the most well known artists taking the stage throughout the day, a Sasquatch-goer could hypothetically get a great show solely by parking themselves on a blanket on the grassy bowl of the main stage, breaking only for brave trips to the portable toilets. Saturday main stage highlights include the party atmosphere of Ozomatli and Manu Chao, the folky indie rock of Citizen Cope and Neko Case, the rampant energy of The Arcade Fire, and the eclecticism of singer Bjork, whose trademark piercing voice struck like lighting around the amphitheatre. On Sunday, hip-hop group Blackalicious wowed the main stage crowd, early ‘80s hardcore pioneers Bad Brains followed them and alternated between lead singer H.R.’s solo-recording reggae tunes and the band’s trademark whirlwind punk rock. After Bad Brains, the Polyphonic Spree had their set cut short due to high winds.

The Sasquatch Festival is no stranger to bizarre weather – in 2006, Neko Case ended her set when a hailstorm of significant magnitude poured down for half an hour. That also delayed the day’s show for nearly two hours, and left many a concertgoer soaked to the bone; some returned to the campground to change, some bought merchandise to add a dry layer, while others reveled, including a group who sledded down the grassy bowl. The 2007 festival’s high winds did not leave anyone soaked to the bone, though it did cause Sabzi, the DJ for hip-hop duo Common Market who performed on the Yeti side stage at that time, to use abort using his turntables.

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The Beastie Boys' Sunday night set divided opinions. Photo by Doug Bonham

Common Market was not the only good act to see on the side stages this year. The Beastie Boys, who closed the show from the main stage Sunday night, played an instrumental-heavy set on Saturday at the Wookie side stage to a packed audience. Dressed in sharp three-piece suits, sunglasses, and the wisdom that comes from their years of performing, they did not disappoint in either show – though some fans, including Tyler, grumbled about the song selection on the main-stage show. He ever-so eloquently stated walking to the campground that night, “People there were expecting old-school Beastie Boys, not instrumental masturbation.”

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The Slip performing on Saturday at Sasquatch. Photo by Doug Bonham

Boston’s The Slip performed early Saturday at the Wookie side stage as well. The three-piece band, formed by Andrew Barr on drums, his brother Brad on guitar, piano and vocals, and Mark Friedman on bass and guitar, ripped enthusiastically through their set, which featured many extended solos and trips into the realm of jamming. Andrew Barr always looks forward to the festival performance experience, and explains, “I think the biggest opportunity is to get out of that tunnel vision of touring (on your own).” Barr also looks forward to the social side of the festival for bands; finding out around a campfire or over a bottle of wine that musical peers have the same inspirations, Barr says, is a liberating experience. “That’s why we went on the road with My Morning Jacket,” he says. Robinson agrees, adding, “Usually there’s a lot of guys wearing shorts trying to bark at you and telling you to hurry up…It’s the kind of thing where you think and feel like you’ve survived something together. We’ve got some really good friends from shows like that.”

Shows like the Sasquatch Festival offer an experience for everyone – musicians and fans alike, through the good, bad and the ugly. Despite the high winds (as host and comedian Aziz Ansari implied the crowd to yell, “Fuck the wind!”), high food prices ($10 for a 24-ounce beer!), strange campground neighbors (Tyler remembers the drug-dealing ones next to us shouting one morning, “DO YOU REALIZE THERE ARE PEOPLE IN ALL THOSE TENTS?”), it all seems to be worthwhile on the long drive back from central Washington. Even if the heat burns you to a crisp, the bands kind of let you down, and you have work Tuesday morning, at least driving back home on Memorial Day, it is impossible to forget your tickets.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


He looks like a 40-year-old...he's dominated the college game WITH HIS OFF HAND...and he's younger than me...

(image from trailblazers.com/nba.com)



NOTHING can take this away from me right now. NOTHING.

Monday, May 14, 2007

can't we all get along?

Two logos, same school, very different meanings

There is a metaphorical and literal divide here at the University of Oregon between the academic and athletic sides. Divided by close to a mile's walk and a river, the main campus and the athletic department housed near Autzen Stadium epitomize an argument being made all across the United States in large colleges and universities: Are athletics more important than academics to a university? Should they take a precedent?

Yes and no. Yes, as athletic department budgets have skyrocketed (Oregon's budget has increased from $15 million in 1994 to more than $41 million this year), obviously the importance of top athletic departments (and, let's face it, that means the profit sports - football and men's basketball) are very important as marketing tools and ways to keep alumni involved. No, athletics are not more important than the studying being done on campus, but it is in my honest opinion as a college student that professors have FAR more important things to worry about distracting students than a football game during dead week.

It is indeed over games during "Dead Week" (specifically the weekend right before finals hosting the annual Civil War game against Oregon State, moved there due to a game being moved to Thursday night for television schedules) that the argument has returned to the spotlight on campus. And my view echoes that of many other students: this isn't the end of the world, as many professors have thought, and won't mean the end of academic credibility; let's face it, college students will find ways to distract themselves from studying for finals. Hell, it was my opinion freshman year that if I didn't have a Monday final or paper due, that was just one more day for partying - bonus!

And let's throw any argument of "retaining academic purity" (or anything along those lines) for
the student-athletes right out of the window; not only do they have much more academic help than the average student, for many of them they are athletes first and students second. This isn't to say that all of the players on the profit sports aren't here to get an education, just that the reality of college sports has shifted some priorities; not bad, not good, just different.

However, it is a worrying sign, especially here in Eugene. While there are signs that show that alumni who donate to athletics also donate to academics, the fact that it seems influence is being wielded by a select few is worrying. It's always worrying in any other facet of life, but in such a vulnerable time and place things could turn ugly soon.

I understand that it doesn't make professors look quite as good to their colleagues when the priorities seem to shift like this; however, the focus needs to be more on students - the ones who come here to get an education, and a very good education it is still - and the reality is that major athletic programs only add to college experience and can never take away. If a student can't get their act together around the Civil War game for finals week, they wouldn't be able to get their act together when left to their own devices to find a means of procrastination; the problem isn't the game, it's on the individual's priorities.

the frailty of youth

I just killed something in the prime of its youth earlier this afternoon: my sweet, sweet facial hair.

it's something I take for granted, my ability to grow facial hair. Give me a week and I've got a beard pretty well settled in; in five minutes or less, though, it can all be gone. I'm not going to lie, I've grown use to the ability to go through spurts of liking having facial hair and disliking it, letting it grow and shaving it on equally random whims.

the sad thing is, as if to counteract the awesomeness of this power, I am sadly going very bald at the ripe old age of 21. Remember Zinedine Zidane, the French soccer player who headbutted the Italian guy at the World Cup last summer? He famously has the same sort of hairstyle (big bald patch in the back, widow's peak up front) that I do. the only way it looks good is cut short, because otherwise it's a big shining "look at me, I'm bald!" beacon, glowing in self-consciousness.

right now, it's gone because I've gone very close for my hair on top of my head, and I disliked the "big goatee with almost bald = biker" look. so it's clean-shaven and almost bald for now. I'm sure my fun with facial hair will rarely end - I do quite like having a goatee, but not when it's this warm and my hair is this short. but knowing I have the power to construct awesome facial hair the likes of which many men could only dream to have is definitely a feather in my cap.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


Ayrton Senna da Silva, the great F1 driver who's death 13 years ago is still a major event in Formula 1 and European sports history. Photo from ayrton-senna.com

I remember it like it was yesterday. May 1, 1994, a sunny Sunday morning on the west coast of the United States, and my eight-year-old self preparing to watch the Formula 1 grand prix to be shown. I remember Ayrton Senna's on-board camera, a few laps in, showing the last fateful images from his car on the track. Such an innocuous-looking accident, though the speeds at which he lost control in the corner do lend themselves to the end result: the death of one of auto racing's greatest talents, greatest champions, and greatest sportsmen.

the other image after the race that sticks in my mind is the ABC World News that night showing the scene back in Senna's homeland of Brazil, where auto racing is second only to soccer and Senna is still regarded as one of their greatest sporting heroes.

The last image from Ayrton Senna's car before his accident and death. Photo from ayrton-senna.com

His car, after impact. It is believed Senna died at impact.

I only fully realized what his life and death meant as I grew into my teens and became a more knowledgeable fan of Formula 1 racing. This came around when his death hit it's 10th-year anniversary in 2004 and Speed Channel showed a special episode of their historic highlights series on the race weekend. This was a black weekend for racing: Not only did Senna pass away in the race, but fellow Brazilian Rubens Barrichello was lucky to only suffer a concussion in an accident in practice Friday, Austrian rookie Roland Ratzenberger was killed in qualifying, and a couple more horrible accidents in the race (including one at the start) made this an ultimate low point for Formula 1 and the world of racing.

To draw an American analogy, it's as if Michael Jordan had passed away from a heart attack on the court at Madison Square Garden during a game. That's how important and influential he was to the world of auto racing, and how important his death was to a large part of the world.

here's a tribute video (complete with slightly cheesy/slightly corny rendition of System of a Down's "Lonely Day" as the background music) to that weekend, showing the horrific accidents that mark the weekend. I still wonder how different the racing world would be if he hadn't passed away.

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Monday, April 30, 2007

Vastly Underrated Albums, vol. 1: Dangerdoom, "The Mouse and the Mask"

I've got a lot of music. Not as much as my sister, but still plenty - I believe iTunes can play for almost a month straight without repeating.

In a situation like that, stuff can fall through the cracks, get forgotten in the sands of time, and find its way out of the rotation. This is why I'm starting up this occasional series: to categorize, remember and promote albums that I find in my music library where I've completely forgotten about their greatness. We're not talking all-time greats, but underrated or forgotten.

The first of these is Dangerdoom's "The Mouse and the Mask," one interesting-as-hell situation and album. Producer Dangermouse (The Gray Album, Gorillaz - Demon Days, Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere) is on the boards, MF Doom (he of a thousand names and side projects, including MM FOOD - a rap box set all about food) is spitting in the mic, and such acts as Talib Kweli, Ghostface Killah and Cee-Lo Green (the other half of Gnarls Barkley) provide guest appearances, and Cartoon Network's Adult Swim shows provide the aesthetic idea.

While some of the songs are themed around shows ("A.T.H.F." should be the new theme song for that show, "Space Ho's" is probably my favorite on the whole disc), the definition of 'theme' is rather loose. Sometimes it's close to the show's theme, sometimes it's incredibly loose. Soundbites and guest appearances by cartoon character voices (namely Master Shake from ATHF) add character, but never irritate. Okay, after more than a few listens Shake's end-of-song skits get old, but it's never overbearing.

Plus, importantly, it never takes away from MF Doom - who has *far* too many skills - and doesn't limit Dangermouse's superb production skills. Doom is something of a nerdy rapper anyways (he and Del Tha Funkee Homosapien are too cool and diverse to be called "nerdcore" and lumped in with mc chris or MC Frontalot) so the topics aren't a stretch, and Dangermouse cooks up a ton of funky beats with what he's given. Mouse is one of a few people I can actually point to and say "I love this guy's production, and no matter who's singing or rapping I'll listen."

so, if you have this album too, dust it off and give it a spin; otherwise, acquire it in whatever way you usually acquire music and you won't be disappointed. Somewhat irreverent and offbeat rapping with some funky, solid beats is never a bad combination; cartoon aural aesthetic is always welcomed too. Combine that all and it's a good time.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

get your motor runnin'

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One day, my car will get onto the inside of Portland Int'l Raceway and see some action. Until then, it will wait with baited breath. Photo by Doug Bonham.

It's no secret at all that I love sports. And another fact for sports fans is that, oftentimes, what inspires a young man or woman to follow sports is a link from a parent - I'm partially a baseball fan because it came from my dad, just as my dad was a baseball fan because his dad was. For many Americans this comes for basketball, football, or baseball...not as often does it come up for auto racing.

There are two hobbies I've had for longer than I can literally remember: cars and auto racing, and video games. When I go to races now and see fathers with their little sons, who have great big earphones to protect their ears, I get both nostalgic and a little jealous - nostalgic, because I remember when that was me, and jealous because I wish I had that sweet ear protection back in the day; I just had ear plugs, which rarely worked (now, though, I go au natural. Ear plugs are for wusses).

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It was over 100 degrees, and a Saturday after a week of 100-degree days, but I still loved seeing the ALMS last year. Shame I was one of about 20 people there. Photo by Doug Bonham

As with many other aspects of my life, my relationship with auto racing rotates around an axis of love and hate. I love the American Le Mans Series and Champ Cars; I hate that they draw about as well as a Vanilla Ice cover band. I love following Formula 1 racing from around the world, but hate how much it costs: not only in even dreaming of traveling to a race, but in how much digital cable costs to receive the network that carries F1 in the US, SPEED Channel (strangely, it's on basic cable both on the Oregon coast and in the Columbia River Gorge; yes, both my grandparents have SPEED, while I don't. SHIT).

This means I turn into something of a junkie when it comes to watching actual racing on TV. I knew the Champ Car race was going to be on ESPN Sunday afternoon, but it started earlier than I thought it would; when my roommates (flipping between baseball, playoff basketball, and bad movies on TNT and Comedy Central) hit ESPN and the race, I went berserk. "LEAVE IT HERE" I almost screamed, foam spewing out and hitting the screen and my roommates.

of course they didn't understand. To them, and many of the uninitiated masses, auto racing is simple: how hard is it to drive a car around a track? Well, it's pretty damned difficult to do that for nearly two hours and do it quickly, but that's another argument. The aesthetics to watching racing are a bit more subtle; it's not as immediately rewarding, but watching a really good battle for position is as rewarding as anything else in sports. Much like with soccer, it's not the frequency of actual scoring (or passes) that matters, it's the build up: watching two drivers (or more sometimes) dicing for position before a decisive pass is attempted.

this is one of two legs upon which I stand and loathe NASCAR: passing is cheapened to the point where it is unrewarding and almost counter-productive to watch a full NASCAR race. The other leg is its horrible spread of commercialization; F1 handles their commercial side much better, while involving as many (if not more) blue-chip companies in the process. NASCAR is the carnival-caller mentality blown up ad naseum, which the NFL suffers from as well to a certain degree.

I still harbor dreams of doing some amateur SCCA autocrossing and light-caliber racing with my own car at a later date, but that's almost going to be another lifetime from now. Until then, though, I will follow auto racing with the eye of somebody mature enough to understand politics and savvy enough to understand the subtleties of the sport, while maintaining the wide-eyed youthful enthusiasm I've had ever since I first stepped foot at Portland International Raceway with my dad to see the Indy Cars.