Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sony quoting Henry V? wtf?

Sony just took something really cool and bastardized it. The current PS3 ad (featuring Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, MGS4, and Little Big Planet, and placed above via YouTube) has a voiceover of the famous speech from Shakespeare's Henry V in the background.

I...I don't quite know what to make of it. It's an awesome speech - I loved it when I was in a performance of that play in high school - and I don't quite know whether to appreciate the reference, or feel ashamed that Sony's taken something I know well and bastardized it.

More tomorrow on the Pile of Shame. There's some headway, but not a lot, sadly.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Finals are here

The Finals are here.

The Celtics have had NBA Finals expectations on their shoulders all year, and are now a game away from the title.

The NBA got its wish - not just the two best teams in the regular season, the No. 1 seeds in the Eastern and Western Conferences meeting in the finals, but the league's two most storied franchises - the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics - meeting for the first time since 1987. Not since Bird, McHale and Parrish faced Magic, Worthy and the rest of the Showtime Lakers in the Boston Garden and the Forum in L.A. have these two met, and you always knew if they met up this season it would be wash of white-noise and hype leading to the games.

Two things are keeping this series from being great right now: One, the Lakers self-detonating when it counts the most (aside from their Game Three win back home in L.A., which they even almost choked away in the fourth quarter) and two, disgraced former referee Tim Donaghy has raised his ugly head and the NBA is now fighting a PR nightmare.

It's almost only fitting that as the NBA gets its dream finals, accusations are coming in that there might be somebody behind the scenes pulling strings. Donaghy has apparently accused the NBA of influencing the referees, who in turn are supposed to influence the outcomes of playoff series - to try and improve ratings, it would seem. The crux of some of this is around the Kings-Lakers Western Conference Finals in 2002, in which the Lakers won game six to take it to a seventh game, which they won en route to the title.

NBA fans have been cynical about referees in the past, and many have conspiracy theories regarding the NBA front office that should earn them honorary tinfoil hats. Frozen envelopes, make-up calls after non-calls in games, doctored playoff series, refs in on it...all of it sounds too familiar, and where there's smoke there's eventually fire.

I just hope this doesn't completely cripple the league. That would be a shame.


The world's best player, Man United's Cristiano Ronaldo, tries to lead his Portuguese national side to glory

The Finals are here. After a year and a half of qualifying matches, the European Championships - aka Euro 2008 - are upon us. A week gone, three teams have qualified after winning their first two matches, the first few uninspiring matches have given way to some scintillating soccer, and pre-tournament conceptions on the favorites have already been changed.

The Dutch are flying high and Portugal is strong, whereas the Germans have slipped up and Italy - current defending world champions - are in danger of going out at the first hurdle.

I've been watching the matches every morning, and I'm actually enjoying ESPN's coverage - shocking, I know. They're putting a real effort into improving their coverage, going as far as to hire Scottish commentator Andy Gray onto their team, as well as showing three games a day (one is repeated) and doing a studio show every night. They didn't even put this much effort into their World Cup coverage two years ago.

So far, for me, the Dutch have been the story of the tournament. With no in-camp squabbles, it looks like the Oranje are finally united. Their defense isn't outstanding, but with one of the best keepers in the world - Edwin van der Sar - marshaling the back line, they're organized, and they're incredibly dangerous on the break. They've scored 7 goals in two games - against the World Cup winners (3-0 over Italy) and runners up (4-1 over France).

Watching both these finals is an exercise in drama. I wish the NBA Finals didn't have two days between games, and I wish the Germans can get through their group to the knockout rounds of the Euros. I wish I was there, too - maybe I could pretend I'm Dutch for a few days.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Of frustration and fake plastic instruments

Sometimes you just have to accept your failures and move on with life.

For as much as I've played, become good at, had fun with and all-around enjoyed the "Instrument Protagonist" genre of video games - Guitar Hero 1 and 2 and Rock Band - I've never actually finished one of them on Expert. And, despite having just one song left right now in Rock Band on expert guitar, I'm no closer than I have been before.

Let's see. In Guitar Hero 1, I couldn't get past "Cowboys from Hell" or "Bark at the Moon." Guitar Hero 2, hit the brick wall at "Psychobilly Freakout" and just got stuck. And in Rock Band? The 9-minute-plus Southern rock epic "Green Grass and High Tides Forever."


I threw myself, fitfully, against "Bark at the Moon" for at least two hours before giving up - in one stint, mind you, I've tried it other times as well of course - and I'm doing much the same with GGaHT. The painfully frustrating thing with BatM was that I got to as far as 97% or 98% before failing. Nothing but frustration there.

I'm stuck at 72% or so on GGaHT, which is acknowledged as a sticking point in the song. There's another one at 84% and one in the 90s, I believe. Great. I have that to look forward to.

That's why it's on the Pile of Shame. I'm still working on upping my drumming skill, too - I just bought rubber silencing pads for my drums today, they work great. I'm working on high-level hard songs and starting up expert, but it's the expert guitar play-through that has me frustrated as hell.

At least Rock Band is insanely fun. At least it isn't unfairly frustrating, or the victim of bad game design - that's not the problem. I must stare into the abyss and see if it blinks back.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sights through sounds

Death Cab For Cutie, The Roots, Atmosphere, Blue Scholars, the Rolling Stones, Nine Inch Nails, Daft Punk, Justice...what do all these bands have in common? New additions to my library recently. My taste in music is nothing if not eclectic, though it usually falls squarely along an indie rock/hip-hop binary, with a skew toward my native Pacific Northwest. I like to think that what all this stuff has in common is being good music; trying to understand any more behind it would be stupid.

Death Cab's new disc is rather good. I certainly like it, at least, making it a worthwhile purchase. My reaction, after listening through it five or six times, is that it starts out really well (so long as you're not overly creeped out by "I will possess your heart," the lead single off the disc that weighs in with a four-minute plus intro on the album), hits a real high note with "Cath..", falls off a bit, but recovers by the end of the disc. For some reason I like "Grapevine Fires." On the way to the Death Cab/Decemberists show in Bend last weekend, Nick thought it was an interesting song about wildfires (it sounds so happy, contrasting with the content), but that just immediately made me think of Bad Religion's "Los Angeles is Burning," a good song about SoCal in flames. It'd be good in Rock Band.

I don't think you could get more diametrically opposed to Death Cab as you could with The Roots. Their new disc is really good, and brings an immediate, brutal sound, but I think I'll get used to it. I'd forgotten how in-your-face Game Theory was until listening to it again with my dad on a road trip a few weeks ago; the first few listens to Rising Down are just like that. Then again, I would love it, because I'm a backpacking fanboy in the biggest way.

I'm swinging back into hip-hop, though. Right now Blue Scholars' new album is halfway through its first play, and I really, really like it; good soulful loops, much, MUCH improved rhyming by Geologic. I loved their disc from a couple years ago (fanboy moment: got my copy at Sasquatch two years ago, and they signed it for me, eep!) and this is spectacular on first listen. I have to love hip-hop like this from the Northwest, it's just a shame Seattle has a much bigger scene than Portland.

Atmosphere and the Rhymesayers artists are also in the queue to listen to more. I've listened to "Simply Leakage" far too much recently; time to find the proper albums. I'm working on that right now, actually.

Trent Reznor deserves some fucking love right now, but I'll save that for another post at another time. Needless to say, I need to listen to The Slip more because it's a free album from Trent that isn't five years after his previous recording. All of those things together are astounding to NIN fans like me, that much is certain.

Gaming thoughts tomorrow, and as a prelude, I think I'm going to work on that post while grinding through an RPG. I'm thinking of playing two right now that are on my Pile or should-play-again pile, but I'm just trying to decide which it should be...