Tuesday, March 27, 2007

ratatat concert: mildy disappointing

so, I just got back from seeing Ratatat play up in NE Portland at the Wonder Ballroom. And my impressions? I like the band's music quite a bit, but the live performance did nothing for me.

Here's the thing: pumping through iTunes on my computer, Ratatat's audio aesthetic - NES meets alternative/punk rock - is awesome. The music itself is very good and the two guys who form the band are obviously good musicians.

However, good musicians does not a good live show make, and though this has to do a fair bit with what I feel makes a good live show, I felt no drama and was not really that compelled to move by the music. I certainly was probably alone, as the fairly crowded ballroom definitely got some good pogo action in a couple times, but thinking long and hard about this at the show, I've figured a couple things out.

It wasn't rock enough to be a good rock show, and not electronic enough to be a cool club DJ-style dance party. While that middle ground works for just one-to-one listening, or even parties or something, it doesn't work well as a live performance. Without the drama and bombast of a lead singer, songs aren't very well differentiated and there's little to grasp onto as a fan at a live show; the only thing you could get out of it is punk-style catharsis, but that's a stretch here.

However, as an electronic band, they're not techno-y enough to really stand on their own and make you want to dance. So within the already awkward world of indie music, you have an even odder band performing, and things just don't go so well.

This is not to say the band is not worth listening to; quite the contrary. It just means that you're not going to get a life-changing live show.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

that was fun while it lasted

After such good play in the last two games, Malik played well again but ran into foul trouble against the Gators. Photo: Christin Palazzolo, Daily Emerald

I saw two things after Oregon's season-ending loss to the defending national champion Florida Gators today:

I saw a team, under pressure for the first time in a long time, just have an off day and miss far too many shots and making mistakes. What was Tajuan, 2 for 12? If he even hits two more of those to go 33% then it's a different ballgame. How about the fouls? Sometimes the refs are whistle happy; good, very experienced and top-level teams can play through it; I guess the Ducks couldn't today.

I also saw a team without that experience - only Zahn had ever been to the NCAA tournament before this year, and he was a redshirt freshman at the time - finally earn their stripes in the past couple of weeks and especially today. The pain in the eyes of Maarty Leunen and Malik Hairston - see Malik above - was not the pain of a team who was just happy to be there; it's the pain of a team that thought it had a legitimate chance to continue on and take home the big gong.

That appetite will be with Maarty, Bryce, Malik and, yes, Champ as they try and set out for a senior year to remember next year. It will be with Tajuan Porter, who always takes adversity as a fuel to drive him, simply because he doesn't want to be remembered as a flop in his biggest game. He'll need every ounce of that because he *is* the biggest question mark next year: can he handle all the responsibilities that were split between himself and Aaron Brooks this past season? Can he lead a team *and* be a leading scorer? Can he calm his mercurial streak for shooting?

So many questions, so much potential still, and so much pain in the team for coming up just a few steps short. I think this will be a team to watch next year. We certainly won't sneak up on anybody this time around, but I think the seniors next season can handle that pressure.

Monday, March 19, 2007

chips on shoulders and history

First thing's first: the Ducks take their two games in slightly more-dramatic-than-necessary style in Spokane, and march on to meet UNLV (quoth Billups, "RUNNIN' REBS KEEP RUNNIN'") in the Sweetness that is Sixteen.

so there's the nuts and bolts. Two issues to tackle, though, and both deal with my neurotic fandom of the Ducks (and, really, sports in general).

you know, I'm amazed he can jump so high with his teammates on his back. AB rising up in Spokane. Photo: John Givot, Daily Emerald

when it comes to sports analysis, there is only one real rule I try and take seriously: Less is more. Hyper overanalysis of trends and history can only produce so many positive results. You can’t take historic trends too seriously, because those are not the teams on the field right now and I’d wager many of those players don’t give a crap about who did what 14 years ago. Rivalries are one thing - banking on Team A losing to Team B because they’ve lost on the road to Team A 14 of the last 16 meetings, including seven in a row, is asinine. I try and avoid it at all costs.

At the same time, though, as a sports fan I have a healthy streak of militant superstition.

imagine how torn I am seeing a post like this, which is from sports blog Just Call Me Juice and was blogrolled this morning by Deadspin. Click through and find the similarities shocking.

how the hell am I supposed to reconcile that? History repeats, yes, but the Ducks don’t have the major size and assured lock-down defense Florida had (and still has); however, the signs are there…but for the Ducks to get to the Final Four the Gators would have to lose, either to Butler or Oregon in an Elite Eight matchup.

If anything can save my sanity, it's this:

Don't believe the hype...OR the Pac-10.

Digger, Pat Forde, and most any other mother fucker with a suit and an ESPN paycheck has pulled against us against Winthrop and now against those Runnin' Rebs. minus Andy Katz, who loves him some Oregon basketball for one reason or another, but still: how is it that only one guy (who might or might not be a homer) is taking the HIGH seed in this game? Since when did a higher seed get so disrespected?

Fuck, I tried to not do that but did you SEE WHAT I JUST DID THERE? Yeah, evoking ghosts of last season. Re-insert some above paragraphs on mind-fucks and fandom as you will.

However, here's the crazy thing: I don't care that the talking heads don't like what we're doing, because you know what? The Ducks *need* that pressure, or otherwise they'll become like my lazy, pot-smoking roommate: enough talent to do whatever he damn well pleases, but no motivation. Right or wrong, the Ducks' motivation comes from being underdogs, and I'll be damned how a team that was at one time No. 7 in all the land can be regarded as an underdog against a Mountain West powerhouse, but hey, if that's what gets a W on Friday, that's what matters.

now back to what apparently really matters: digging myself so far into Japanese studying I'm dreaming of kanji radicals in my sleep.

Friday, March 16, 2007

from the "why didn't somebody do this earlier?" files...

The USPS is about to dress up 400 of their mail boxes around the US as R2D2s from Star Wars to celebrate SW's 30th anniversary, and something else they're revealing on March 28.

I honestly don't know what took them so long. The mailboxes are dead ringers for everyone's favorite droid, and they don't look too weird - I mean, they stand out, but they're not garish dressed up like this. Its good advertising and something I thought was really clever.

I found all this out by seeing the above in the wild, so to speak, today on campus. Pretty funny and cool. hell, Bryn likes it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

creativity in gaming: thoughts and discussion

Here's a theory: though it is young, the video game industry has blossomed quicker than other entertainment sectors because it has coincidentally and surreptitiously grown up alongside some of the greatest technological advances of our time. However, this has necessitated that the young industry take a long look at itself - have a mid-life crisis, as it were, and shake things up - sooner than those other industries. However, when all is said and done, the video game industry will be vital and relevant to mass media in twenty years because it encompasses under one medium aspects from many other more traditional forms of media.

the video game industry is far ahead of the growth curve than that of its most easily identified cousins, the music and movie industries - most of this is down to technology aiding it ahead, but at the same time it has grown alongside many technical advances, namely the Internet. This is why it will be more relevant sooner - as the old fuddy-duddy traditional forms of media try and figure out how to wedge their square-shaped medium in the round hole of the Internet, the gaming culture that grew up alongside Al Gore's greatest contribution to society and is integrally tied into it will gain a foothold.

the reason it will keep that foothold: interactivity and bringing in aspects from many other forms of media. As gaming expands, I think that some great writers will (as they once moved from writing plays to movies to television) begin to pen some great stories and create grandiose worlds (as if enough don't already exist in gaming!). Directors who once would have made TV shows or films will bring their creative minds and, instead of relying on cameramen and now CGI designers, will work hand-in-hand with programmers, coders and 3D artists. And, lastly, musicians will continue to create great sweeping soundtracks, though with the proliferation of streaming content into games (think live, changeable billboards within games sooner rather than later, and build upon the idea), its very possible that radio stations within games such as the Grand Theft Auto series could become at the least updated, but possibly even real-time in the future. With the expansion of MySpace as the independent musician’s best friend, maybe some of those artists will get plucked and have their songs transported from Murdoch’s space for friends directly onto Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network and into new games?

And those are just ideas I came up with off the top of my head. Think about when people are given time to mold their thoughts.

The video game industry is poised to become the leader: an interactive medium which brings in aspects from everywhere else, including that crazy Internet. What will hold it back? Becoming stale and same too soon.

another GTA? shoot me now.

is the video game industry old enough to stagnate? I sometimes get the sense that I have grown up alongside the industry - ok, minus the very early Atari days - and because that inevitably brings up questions as to how old *I* am I shy away from it...but age is important, because one would assume only a well-aged industry can slip into repetitiveness and need a jolt of energy.

Thankfully, two things have happened that have already started to provide that boot into gaming’s rear end: Nintendo’s commitment to creativity, and the development of an independent scene. I’ll deal with the latter at a later time, but let’s talk Big N right now.


Nintendo was the sameness creator for two “gaming generations” – generally defined within the culture as delineated by system generations; the current, Xbox 360/PS3/Wii landscape is thought of as the seventh generation, with the first generation including gaming dating up until 1985 when Nintendo’s seminal Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was released in the United States a year after its successful Japanese launch. Growing up, parents co-opted the word “Nintendo” to mean video games, just as one would make a Xerox, blow their nose with a Kleenex or drink a Coke – it was the main evocative brand. Some argue the PlayStation brand is that now, but it’s become a big enough industry where the catch-all is not going to last much longer; it’s not NEARLY like it was in the early ‘90s in any case.

G-man totally works for Sony

Then something happened. Sony jumped into gaming, a few crucial breaks went their way and, much like when the TV series 60 Minutes began to collect large audiences and make money in the late ‘70s (altering the course of contemporary TV news to become more profit-driven), the romantic days are gone and in come the business suits. Nintendo tried with their Nintendo 64 system to retain the ways that had done so well in the past, but that was not a huge success; they tried to slightly alter the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 formula with the GameCube, but that was a commercial flop too.

However, both systems included critical successes that featured the traits Nintendo has always been known for: innovation, tradition, and the highest-quality production values in the industry all living together and making games that are fun. With their DS handheld, Nintendo made a bold attempt to simplify gaming and make a system based on innovation.

Guess which system is now the top seller week-in and week-out in Japan, and has sold tens of millions of units worldwide in its almost-three-year history. Yup, the DS.

yes, yes it does

Who knew games about cooking, surgery, and being an attorney – all utilizing innovative input methods, including touch screens and a microphone – would be such a hit? Apparently Nintendo.

They went the same direction with their Wii console, which has a controller that is fully motion-sensing, allowing the paradigm of game design to completely break open. Where before in a golf game one would pull a control stick back and release to simulate a golf swing, here you actually swing. The DS’successful Trauma Center game series was ported, and the player is a surgeon, using tools to cut and operate on screen. Famous Nintendo series The Legend of Zelda had the newest game launch on the console, and the controls were adapted for the new possibilities opened up.

Sony’s PLAYSTATION 3 launched at the same time; guess which one sits on store shelves, and which is sold out minutes after it gets in stock? Yup, the Wii.

Nintendo has clearly proven there is a market for innovation and simplistic fun inside the game industry. Too many people in recent years have focused on high-end graphics and complex gameplay mechanics; while many games with both are very good, Nintendo’s Wii and DS have proven you don’t necessarily need both to produce a game that is fun. Sure, there are stinkers on the DS and Wii too; they’re clearly not golden gifts from the Gods, created perfectly as he would want them to be (no, Nintendo fanboy, Miyamoto is not God incarnate), but human, albeit an above-average, extremely talented human.

its now known as the Wii, but Nintendo's system was originally called the Revolution...and it truly is one

But they have proven that an industry which threatens into a stagnant spiral of shooters, sports games, and hopping on bandwagons of gameplay design (if I see another game described as a GTA clone I’ll break somebody) does have room for innovation for innovation’s sake, for games as fun primarily and epic secondarily. Graphics are nice, 60-hour plus RPGs are fun, but sometimes you just need a quick break, and something innovative and fun that is high quality fits the bill.

Then again, considering the all-encompassing nature of gaming, maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised.

America falling behind in yet another category

Romenesko on Poynter highlighted an article that states that the Society for News Design did not award a North American newspaper with one of this year's four design awards. Not only no North American, but apparently no English-language papers either, though the four were from Europe (papers from Estonia; Madrid, Spain; Frankfurt, Germany; and Copenhagen, Denmark were awarded, and can be seen here).

so what's the issue? Is this something to be worried about? Maybe; maybe not.

It is worrying that two countries with huge newspaper industries - the US and UK - couldn't muster a winner between them. But this may, as the SND's Scott Goldman says, may be due to the industry's climate right now:

"You see a different attitude toward newspapering in other parts in the world. And I think that must have to do with them not dealing with the bottom line issue as much as American newspapers are. Most American papers are cutting at all costs and then sitting back and wondering why advertisers and the readers aren't coming. There is not yet even one leading newspaper chain willing to say that if we put our resources into building a better newspaper, making something that you can't miss, that is irreplaceable every day, then the readers will come and the advertisers will come."

I definitely see that angle to the story, and it's a reason I don't want to work for a newspaper...one of the many. But at the same time, this is just a 'first'; Goldman also points out that one of the winners two years ago was the Hartford Courant and the previous year featured the San Jose Mercury News.

It's a blip on the radar, but it is something to think seriously about.

Monday, March 12, 2007

eye of the tiger, cutting down the nets

can't stop the rock

Bryce Taylor must have woken up Saturday morning in LA, looked in the mirror and said: it's time. He must have had the steely eyed determination and the "O" logo in his eye, just like they edit in for the pre-game videos for Duck football games on the jumbotron - except that was REAL.

because I have never seen such an unconscious performance in a basketball game, both by a team AND by a single player.

Bryce did not miss a shot Saturday afternoon. Think about that: go outside and take ten shots at a basketball hoop and see how many you miss; add in the pressure situation BT was in - conference title game? check - and, oh yeah, defense...for those that don't know, shooting 50% in a game is ridiculous, so not missing?

quoth NBA Jam: He's On FIRE!

It must be the shoes, then. So it is decided.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

vignette #1: wait, wait, what...why do you need *that*?

If you continue driving down Franklin, past Market of Choice, I5 and a small, depressing stretch of busted-down pawn shoppes and a really dilapidated air conditioning company. An aside: they get some of their equipment from the company my dad works for; I worked there this past summer in the warehouse, and some of my ever-rotating duties included preparing equipment going down to places as far away as Eugene, including this company. I wondered where they were on Franklin Blvd; I never imagined it was the crappy part.

anyways, continuing on, cross over the bridge (and the homeless) and you enter into the slightly less-depressing city hall district of beautiful Springfield. I think this may be the only place on earth where one can stand outside a church and see a strip club kitty-corner on the next block, but I digress...

one thing stands out, and it happens to stand tall in the Springfield police parking lot. Yes, the Springfield Police have...a SWAT-team van.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
springfield police ain't nothin' ta fuck wit

and I only have one question: why? is it really that hard to bust up meth-heads? are they worried about a Dead Rising-esque Gateway mall riot (oh god, the money I'd pay to see that...). I just couldn't get my head around it, and found it hilarious when I saw it.

comfortably numb

inspired by something written by Todd Zuniga, I have a very interesting question to ask of gamers (including myself): when playing games where you pick who to play with - sports games, racing games and fighting games specifically - how comfortable is too comfortable?

and, even more important, is something missing from the gaming experience by not playing with different teams?

once I get MLB 2K7, I'll see you most every day, Ichiro

For sports gamers specifically, playing games allows us to do that which we want to do most: act out the drama of our favorite sports teams and players. Of course if I play an NCAA basketball or football game I'd want to play as my school, the Oregon Ducks; I go see games at the stadiums and arenas represented in the games, and I have an emotional investment in the team doing well. I want to see the Ducks do well in real life, and I can cathartically act that out through gaming.

It's an aspect of rabid fandom, yes, but it's also a comfort level. This is where fighting games come into the equation - in the Soul Calibur series, with my experience, there are characters I like better that suit my skills and style better, so I play a lot with them.

So the whole question is: am I missing anything by focusing my gaming play narrowly through specific teams/characters when choice is present, or am I simply seeing that game experience through a "lens"?

My opinion is the latter. Especially in sports games, one plays most every other team in the league throughout the season - home and away. This is just how sports go. So what I believe is that I'm taking a travel with NBA 2K7 or Winning Eleven or MLB 2K7, seen through the lens of my favorite team. And you know what? even if it is slightly limiting, it's a very comforting numbness.

Monday, March 5, 2007

learning to fly

you ever see that credit card ad, where it has people and everything going "Someday..." and has this puppy awkwardly skating through a kitchen, with graphic text going "Someday, a back lawn"?

yeah, cute puppy, right? Focus on the puppy, keep that puppy in mind, for that puppy is fully representative of the Portland Trail Blazers.

"you may be 'so fresh,' but you're not 'so fresh comma so clean clean"

its obvious I have a deep love of my hometown team; I believe the technical term is "homer." Regardless, if this were the Portland, Maine Trail Blazers we'd be up near the top of the Leastern Conference, Zach Randolph would be an All-Star, and Brandon R.O.Y. would already have had his coronation as R.O.Y. The East is weak, and that teams like Boston and the Knicks get press coverage is due to location and history as opposed to talent.

the history might be debatable (this is where Clyde the Glide, Arvydas Sabonis, 'Sheed, etc. all drop down and remind you about the 20-plus year playoff stretch, AS IF YOU FORGOT), but the West Coast Snubs are not. If this team was in a bigger media market, it'd be all over the press; as it is, we're stuck in above-average mediocrity, not doing well enough to warrant "Cinderella Story" press coverage, not doing poorly enough to slip into the ping-pong ball mire. Without the Toronto Raptor-esque playoff run (wholly due to the weak division they play in), the Blazers are the quiet before the storm; they are the silence before the storm.

They will probably be the Jazz two years from now, except young and without Jerry Sloan.

spraying passes like a spanish steve nash

the mix of talented youngsters (three out of five starters are in their first or second years in the Association), good team chemistry multiplied by being good human beings (Mike Barrett's blog has mentioned them joking that they're "Choir boys" on the team plane) and a town that will eat both up means the West should look out next year. Let's break down some positions here:

-Jarrett Jack: I've got to admit, it's getting better; it's getting better all the time.
-Brandon Roy: R.O.Y. ain't nothing to fuck with.
-Ime Udoka: Perfect glue guy and 6th man next year.
-LaMarcus Aldridge: I already have two alternate last-names for him: Awesome and All-Star. He's certainly going to be that.
-Zach Randolph: ...is this good without playing defense. Yikes.
-Sergio Rodriguez: Once he gets more confidence in his shot, and gets fully on the same page as the team, will be AWESOME. Keep in mind he's 9 months younger than *me* and playing in the NBA.
-Two-headed white center: Needs to be more consistent and less injured.
-Darius: Needs to go away, now.

So, really, all we're looking at is getting more production out of the walking wounded and figuring out how big the tab is going to be to get Miles out of town. Everything else is on the up-and-up.

I think I can deal with that.

I don't know if the league can, yet, though.

I usually hate to parrot PR/marketing campaigns, but hell, the 'Zers have a good line up on their web site right now: Right coach, right team, right direction. Of course it's the right time to be a season ticket holder; sunshine, rainbows, and fucking Rip City coming back. It's a fresh morning.

women go crazy for a sharp-dressed man

[bill simmons]you could go into war with a man like that leading you.[/simmons]

Sunday, March 4, 2007

think globally, read globally?

Poynter's Romenesko blog pointed towards LA Times readership's reactions towards the paper's portrayal in an episode of PBS' "Frontline." here's the LA Times article.

The interesting aspect to this is the response - generally "we don't want a more local, LA-centric focus for the Times" - comes in direct clash to what I hear in my international journalism class. We've spent the better part of a term discussing the dying art of the foreign correspondent in the class, with the general theme being that the American news-focus is shifting inwards (and also towards celebrities and stuff that, quite frankly, should not be anywhere near the front page).

but is it what the papers' managers and owners want, or is it truly what the readers want?

I think this LA Times piece - though only five responses deep - is representative of a bigger picture, and with a global economy comes a global news world and a need for global news.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

ah, the wonders of modern science

and now, for your weekend moment of zen:

gotta love the one-handed technique.

while I'm here, peep the new 1up post that has all the ambiance and atmosphere of somebody's first AA meeting. remember, kids, the first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem...

ah, screw it, I'm gonna watch the above video again.