Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Lindsey Stirling Album Review – Subsidize Me

Guest column written by Ge– I’m not kidding anybody this time?  So be it, then.  I have done this dark deed, whatever it is.

If the old adage rings truly that music is medicine for the soul, then Lindsey Stirling’s art must be a banquet; so indescribably beautiful are the silken sounds that spring from her violin, so life-endowing and invigorating the songs that she draws from her spirit.  America staggers now under the pressure of many health crises, from an aggravatingly slow implementation of universal health care to an epidemic of food insecurity to a multitude of unforeseeable diseases contingent on accelerating climate change.  While Lindsey’s efficacy at reversing the last armageddon scenario is questionable, the joy and hope which her music and glowing character bring to most everybody who meets her are a more surefire remedy for the first two ills than any yet proposed.  With such tour-de-force bursts of individuality and emotion under the lovely lady’s belt as Elements, Shadows, and Crystallize, it’s no small cause for wonder why the U.S. government has thus far overlooked the viability of her label as an answer for all the country’s economic, moral, social, and strictly intangible woes.  If Congress won’t make the tough changes necessary to cultivate their districts’ cultural well-being, then the people will have to change Congress one vote at a time, stopping only once the indispensable entertainment created by Lindsey Stirling and enshrined in the U.N. bill of human rights is rendered available to all citizens regardless of their economic background.

My recommendation – nay, my entreaty – is this: in order to promote the physical health of America as a whole and to alleviate the well-known hunger afflictions of the dubiously wealthiest, officially second fattest nation in the world, the Department of Agriculture should unilaterally extend the henceforth assumed civil right of aural enrichment to cover the music of sensational violinist Lindsey Stirling.  All managers of large businesses employing 50 workers or more will be held responsible under full force of the law for insuring their associates with health packages that include CDs of Lindsey’s first and second albums along with the film/video-game score collection she really ought to get cracking on.  Contractors, freelancers, and other self-employed enemies of true Labor will have to acquire these records of their own initiative and will face a constitutional fine of $100 if they refuse to comply with the individual mandate to experience the most aesthetically beautiful music offered from the modern, techno-age.

I can already anticipate a number of your objections to this modest proposal, the first being that the government has no legal jurisprudence to dictate how anybody saves or expends his finances once he obtains them.  This sounds reasonable at first glance, but then we can see it plainly refuted by prior violations.  State and federal governments already force people to buy a lot of things with their private property that they don’t even need, including public school tuition, car liability insurance, unemployment subsidies, birth cancellation pills, prenatal care, a Social Insecurity “trust”, electric vehicles and their “fuel”, solar panels, Sesame Street, Planned Unparenthood, TSA perverts, and the list goes on forever.  Since we know for a fact that governments never ever violate their own constitutions, we can logically extrapolate that there’s no legal harm whatsoever in forcing the people to buy yet another product they may or may not want with their own money.

Incidentally, the constitutional ramifications of making this small request appear but secondary in importance when one broods over the consequences of not approving this legislation.  Unlike all of aforementioned affluences, Lindsey Stirling’s music is not a diversion but a necessity of human life, without which the soul will starve for lack of sustenance.  You may protest that this is nonsensical because Miss Stirling didn’t even have a significant presence on the musical scene until 2-3 years ago and people had survived adequately enough for thousands or millions of years without her music; you may say that this is just my personal opinion with no scientific proof to back it up, but in a relativistic society, that too would just be your opinion, and who is to judge that your personal opinion is any better than mine?  My opinion at least is motivated by a righteous, humane concern for your own greater security and happiness, lending it thusly a purity of purpose not unique to your selfish logical reasoning.

You may say that the maxim about music and the soul is nothing more than an abstract, pretty-sounding metaphor, while hunger in the United States is a solid, literal reality in need of a literal solution, but this neglects the fundamental truth that all politics consists of inventing unreal solutions and unreal crises, e.g. Bush driving the economy into a figurative ditch with a figurative car while figuratively putting two wars on a figurative credit card, or Bush figuratively taking Obama to eat at a figurative diner and leaving him with a figurative tab, or Obama figuratively “asking” the wealthiest of Americans to figuratively “give” a little more, or Obama promising figurative “universal” health insurance in response to a figurative “broken health care system”, or Obama promising to figuratively take action against the Syrian government by figuratively shooting across the bow or giving a figurative pinprick, or Obama promising to figuratively draw a figurative red line upon the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, or Biden swearing that Osama Bin Laden is figuratively dead and General Motors is figuratively alive (an oath of which he subsequently said, “It’s a metaphor, a metaphor for our foreign… and domestic economic policy”), or Biden swearing that the Republicans are going to put figurative slaves back in figurative chains, or large segments of the right and left alike swearing that illegal immigrants are figuratively Americans in every figurative way except on real, material paper.  The only real aspect of most governmental programs is the money that the state forcefully pilfers from our wallets in order to finance them, and even that is more or less fake, having no constant value due to hyper-inflation and the worthlessness of paper currency.  That Lindsey’s music is only a metaphorical antidote to America’s metaphorical hunger pains is all the more qualification for subsidizing it at the federal level and keeping a consistent track record of fixing imaginary problems with imaginary cures.

To enumerate all the advantages of making Lindsey Stirling coverage compulsory would be impossible to do within a single post, but if our elected officials were to adopt this proposal, America would immediately experience both an economic and a cultural boon.  On one hand it would exert a immense counter-force to a debilitating rut of nihilism and objectification that federal oligarchs have long endorsed and worked to entrench in the youth of America.  Instead of beguiling impressionable young girls into admiring executive office-sponsored sluts like Beyonce “bow down, b_____s / driver, roll up the partition” Knowles or Sandra “women need federal support to afford all the sex they have in college” Fluke, the inner class would be promoting a woman who exemplifies feminine grace, self-respect, independence, charity, and inner beauty.  On the flip side, adolescent boys would learn to honor women for all these same traits and would see them as more than soulless blobs of flesh waiting to be ravaged.

Having granted a rabble of unelected Atheist and Feminist judges the authority to run all our educational institutions with little effective input or oversight by the people who pay for these centers, we have gradually seen our children sucked into and destroyed by gangs and promiscuous lifestyles.  Rather than perpetuating this societal and religious travesty, administrators should replace their stance of defeatist complicity in wrongdoing with a proactive push for the good, true, and beautiful.  Instead of feeding a vicious cycle of spiritual emptiness by doling out condoms and morning-after pills in public schools, let us strive to relieve teenagers’ passions through the wondrous catharsis of neo-classical music, to inspire their minds with lyrical harmony and instill in them a new appreciation for all that which is truly important in life.

Subsidizing Lindsey will also rejuvenate a musical industry suffering from long-running fatigue brought about by an excess of Katy Perry singles and Katy Perry-soundalikes.  If radio D.J.s and mainstream artists were forcedly exposed to the daring sound conceived solely by Miss Stirling and a little divine inspiration, then perhaps they’d finally recognize the sheer depth and diversity of the musicverse, a sweeping landscape of artistic vision and craftsmanship, utterly indiscernible from the stagnation of Dark Horse, Talk Dirty, The Monster, Story Of My Life, Team, Say Something, Pompeii, Drunk In Love, the First Things First I’m a Realist song, All Of Me-original, All Of Me-hack radio-edit, and basically all of the All Of Me’s except the one that’s actually good.  This sudden revelation of a world beyond the ten aforementioned songs will presage a revolution in composition and style that will bolster economic activity, expand consumer choice, and facilitate fairness towards singers and instrumentalists who’ve never yet had the opportunity to express themselves in an industry dominated by money and corporations.

The future of this country’s metaphorical health teeters metaphorically on a narrow plank, and if the government fails to act now in ensuring free metaphorical medicine for all, then surely we’ve reached the point of no return.  Like a glass ballerina precariously balanced on a broken record player, the nation spins around and around with no end in sight, until the laws of gravity bring it crashing to a messy and inevitable demise.  How much easier it is to catch the ballerina before she falls than to sweep up the shards of her broken shell.

Now, with all that said, I don’t really care much for Shatter Me, having listened to all fifteen tracks once and skimmed through the disk a second time.  Naturally, I tried at first to write a bunch of words delineating at length all the reasons why I don’t like the album, but then I forced myself to stop and consider exactly what I was hoping to accomplish with those words, and the answer was: absolutely nothing.  Even worse than the recognition that I was wasting words without an apparent purpose was the horrific epiphany that I was once again being an unbelievably mean guy to a genuinely sweet girl, exhibiting the exact opposite of that gentlemanly conduct which is my calling.  I was acting, quite simply, like a jerk, no differently than a bitter and insecure schoolyard bully, and not in the metaphorical sense that congressmen use to refer to anybody who disagrees with them.  Not wishing to be the kind of mean guy who builds himself up by hurting nice girls, I felt just as disgusted at myself after writing that aimless filth as I had felt after leaving a ‘real school’ a couple years back and abruptly realizing how hostile and discourteous and unbrotherly I had been to many of my female peers.  I was so mean at times that Taylor Swift could have written a song about me and put it on the radio, which would probably only intensify my already stunning meanness.

All that’s to say I’m sorry for even starting in such an odious direction.  Rather than revisit that ugly stage of my life and risk needlessly upsetting someone very dear to my unrealistically thinking soul, I’ll just settle for saying that I much prefer Lindsey’s other, less electronic work to this.  If anyone is to take the heat for my disapproval, it ought to be the morons who produced, mixed, engineered, and programmed all the daisies out of her electric daisy violin, burying the strings under a barrage of tiring dubstep blares and editing effects.  Their worst transgression isn’t even related to the violin, but to the scrambled hit jobs they do on Lindsey’s occasional background singing in such tracks as Sun Skip.  “What a lovely, lovely voice” she has, and so distorted it is by the electronic bane of all lovely voices.

Maybe the album will grow on me as Lindsey releases more and more videos in association with it, whether or not they end up being laden with special effects like the last two.  You know how we’re supposed to think that humanity would be a whole lot smarter if men had no eyes and women had no ears?  It’s all bull, but I think it’s making more sense with each passing day.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Chelsea Clinton's Fetus Wishes It Won't Be Born

Article written by George Stefano Pallas.  Moral relativism, dehumanizing language, and genocidal tendencies  expressed by the author are his and the nonhuman fetus’ alone and do not necessarily reflect nor should be construed as those of the Author.

In a sweeping rebuttal to the predictions of many philosophy and religion professors, the greatest gift bestowed upon the world last Holy Week was not the promise of salvation embodied in Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, nor was it the release of a second single from seemingly single Lindsey Stirling’s upcoming album, but it actually turned out to be the joyful announcement that royal daughter Chelsea Clinton had become host to an organic life form developing in her uterus.  “Marc and I are very excited that we have our first child [sic] arriving later this year, and I certainly feel all the better — whether it’s a girl [sic] or a boy [sic] — that she [sic] or he [sic] will grow up in a world full of so many strong young female leaders, so thank you for inspiring me and thank you for inspiring future generations, including the one that we’ll be lucky enough to welcome into our family later this year,” Chelsea Clinton said last Thursday.  “I just hope that I will be as good a mom to my child [sic], and hopefully children [sic], as my mom was to me.”

Most greeted the news of Clinton’s impregnation with joy and adulation, congratulating her for so quickly finding such a humble and selfless bed partner; as ever, though, the public response wasn’t entirely hopeful, since the voices of hate couldn’t even once turn down an opportunity to muddy the conversation with their negativity.  Out of all the critics, the most surprising was the invading fetus itself, which appeared to vent displeasure with its own unfortunate existence in an emotional interview with gay Good Morning America celebrity Robin Roberts, portions of which were widely shared on social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.  The nonviable tissue mass lamented that its grandsires “had been two youthful, exceedingly attractive New Democrats driven together in coitus not out of a sincere reverence for their purely pragmatic marital bonds but out of severe political expediency… these were people who did not have access to the services that are so crucial that Planned Parenthood helps provide.”

“Had they lived in this modern, progressive age – where government forces employers to make indispensable health care, such as contraceptives, abortions, and makedown, available for free to all unionists, where the government graciously enables women to purchase these same medicinal products for as little as $100 a day or to pay an insignificant fee instead –, then they would not potentially be dealing with an unwanted and distracting grandspawn like me heading into another election, an election which will ultimately decide whether we continue forward on the path of human evolution or lose all the progress we’ve made towards attaining earthly paradise.”

Roberts commended the soulless burden for its selflessness and commitment to supporting Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign efforts, but inquired if its convictions didn’t run deeper than mere political allegiance, to which it stated bluntly, “Like, I literally wish I would never be born.  The anti-choice lobby pretends to be pro-life, but they only care for a fetus’ life when it’s inside the womb and dependent on the mother for survival.  Once the fetus is outside of the womb and still dependent on the mother for survival, they would heartlessly revoke all the food stamps, disability checks, SSI, unemployment benefits, and other resources that the mother needs to properly raise the fetus.”

“Under the guise of morality and upholding the inherent dignity and natural right to life of all human beings, the Republicans want to return us to the dark days of Ancient Greece and Rome, when partners were accorded no choice other than to leave their scrawny and unpromising male fetuses on hillsides, just because they didn’t trust the cruel and dispassionate patriarchs within the Senate to pay for all the food that went in the fetuses’ mouths and all the cloth wrappings that went around the fetuses’ bodies.”

“The truth is that pro-choice is pro-life; I just hope my biological carrier makes the right choice.  She’s already goofed in forgetting to take her birth control pills like a responsible grown-up, in erroneously referring to me as a ‘child’, and in trying to ascribe to me a particular gender, which we all know is completely relative and up to the individual’s determination, but at least she didn’t make the mistake of calling me a ‘baby’.  There may still be some hope for my not-future.”

Continuing on the subject of his biological ancestry, the fetus took a cue from prominent feminist and sex abuse activist Lena Dunham in regretting his grandparents’ self-imposed sentence of intellectually dishonest sexuality.  “It will actually be a huge disappointment for me,” it claimed, “when I come of age and realize that my grandparents weren’t physically attracted to each other.  If the Duggar family wasn’t already seizing all our natural resources and if this overpopulated planet could actually make room for one more parasitical pest like myself, then I wish that I could conceivably be descended from spouses who truly loved one another with all of their state-administered marriage contract pieces of paper – from inspirational, devoted partners like Jodie Foster and, and, uh, you know, the other girl.  Unfortunately, back when my grandparents tied the knot, the laws of Creation – or Nature, to be strictly correct – didn’t allow two loving, voluntary people of the same sex to pro-create offspring, and judging by today’s atmosphere of hate, it’s clear that we still have a lot of progress to make on reforming this immutable, scientific fact.”

In spite of its moving pleas to be safely and legally gotten rid of before it’s too late, the unborn thing doesn’t appear to be doing itself any favors, as Mrs. Clinton has only grown more attached to her infection the more it speaks its undeveloped, rudimentary excuse for a mind.  “Our little Ben Jossie has to be the most eloquent and thoughtful and reasonable baby [sic] I’ve ever listened to, and I can’t wait to welcome him [sic] or her [sic] into our dynasty.  I bet he’s going to play the sax too.  It’s gonna take a village to raise the next generation of voting citizens, and the village is looking brighter every day with such intelligent children [sic] as ours.”  Her husband Mark, on the other hand, was a little less comfortable with the idea that he had anatomically brought a talking fetus into being.  “I-I-I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” was his only comment for the press.

Unabridged quick hits courtesy of USA Today, America’s most circulated 30-page Tweet aggregator (emphasis added)

“Census Bureau projections that ethnic and racial minorities will outnumber whites in the United States by 2043 are proving to be a lure to new recruits.  Add the first African-American president and hard economic times, stir in a virulent brew of lies and fearmongering, and you’ve got a recipe for hatred.  The number of domestic hate groups rose from 602 in 2000 to 939 last year, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks such thingsthe haters are a danger to everyone – and to the ideals on which America was founded.” ~ Editorial

“For a product whose main appeal is supposed to be that it’s not a traditional cigarette, e-cigarette makers have sure taken a lot of pages from Big Tobacco’s playbook.  Which is not surprising.” ~ Another editorial

“Leaders at the National Rifle Association, who get paid handsomely for shilling for inaction and peddling fear, will be a force this fall.” ~ Former representative Gabrielle Giffords

War on women alert: One of the most forceful fighters against misogyny in the modern era is under attack… Despite being a supporter of abortion rights, an Atheist, and an advocate of gay and women’s rights, she is despised by many who claim to be defenders of women’s rights.” ~ Kirsten Powers, who writes weekly for USA Today

Tianna Gaines Turner can’t remember the last time she went to bed without worrying about how she would feed her three kids.” ~ Marisol Bello, anecdote and cliché chief at the news board

“In prime time – like when the court announced its ruling on the Affordable Care Act – its traffic is enormous.  Yet it [“Scotusblog”] can’t get credentials to cover the Supreme Court.  In fact, its efforts to do so are going in reverse.  Only in the never-never land they call Washington, D.C.” ~ Rem Rieder, resident Benghazi conspiracy theorist, credentialed credentialist, and run-on sentence coordinator at USA Today

“Snowden said he agreed to put the question to Putin because he believed he could be as revealing of Russia’s expansive electronic spying as he has been of U.S. abuses.  Snowden thinks too highly of himself. ‘Mr. Snowden has been accused of leaking classified information, and he faces felony charges… he should be returned to the United States as soon as possible, where he will be accorded full due process in our system,’ Kevin Lewis, the Department of Justice spokesperson, told me.” ~ Dewayne Wickham, who writes non-sequitur ad hominem attacks every Tuesday for USA Today

This catchy, encouraging pop, aimed directly at teenage girls and young women, is the kind of music Katy Perry would be making if she were still Katy Husdson and shooting for the Christian market.  2/4 stars.” ~ Brian Mansfield on the new Francesca Battistelli Writchurstory album

“The gray-haired, so-called leaders in their white shirts and ties should wake up and see what the date is.” ~ @StephenYursha, an advocate of non-gray-hair and non-white-apparel committed to securing free calendar rights for all Americans

“The Bible has far too much influence.  It’s ridiculous that politicians are able to use an ancient text to dictate modern life.” ~ @solitaryspook, an advocate of “modern life” and modern literature over ancient, primeval, barbaric texts which have somehow survived for thousands of years

“These devices are nothing but nicotine delivery systems.  Some people complaining about e-cigarette regulation remind me of children, kicking their feet and holding their breath because someone told them what to do.  Grow up!” ~ Mark Helmboldt, a proponent of respectful and logical discourse in politics

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

When You Don't Need Another Player To Sink Your Battleship

Everything about this poster is awkward.

The likenesses between Transformers, Halo, and Battleship-the movie are many, the differences hard to glean, but there is one key distinction between the first two franchises and the last film, whose infamously red box-office gross virtually dispelled all hopes at securing a future franchise: no matter the reputation they may inculcate among some circles for being insipid male fantasies, Transformers and Halo actually have intricately shaped universes and histories which have been developed and expanded over the decade(s) through many media.  Battleship is a strategy board-game from Hasbro which doesn’t even feature a basic plot, and as such it forced the filmmakers to imagine one of their own in order to prolong the run time from 10 minutes to 130.  This, along with the horrible acting, jerky cinematography, repetitive action, and art design ranging from uninspired to downright goofy, is the main source of Battleship-the movie’s troubles.  At its worst moments it comes across as a clichéd boy-meets-girl tale that awkwardly collided with an equally clichéd crowd-pleaser about the selfish lowlife who discovers a purpose and evolves into a higher being when he goes to war.  At the film’s best moments, sitting through Battleship-the movie appropriately feels (to pull another cliché myself) like watching a ‘friend’ so absorbed in a flashy video game that he won’t even pause to let you join him.

Taylor Kitsch, a Channing Tatum-lookalike whom you may recognize from Friday Night Lights, John Carter, and nothing else since that and Battleship-the movie*, plays a soulless slacker dude with long hair named Hopper.  One day he falls for a blond swimsuit model chick whilst hanging out in a bar, but all his adoration appears to be in vain because the script never calls for her to wear anything less than half a swimsuit on camera, a revelation which kind of defeats the only point to hiring a supermodel for a role instead of a proper actress.  Regardless of this, Hopper ignores his drinking bro’s wiser counsel and decides on a whim to waste his sole birthday wish on getting the attention of Brooklyn Decker Sam, which he succeeds in doing by a protracted sequence that involves messily breaking into a convenience store that closed minutes earlier and fleeing the scene with a chicken burrito in hand for his newly beloved.  Sprawled out on the cement from multiple taser shocks, he still manages to deliver it to her with one outstretched arm, and she can’t help but smile at his bravery, stupidity, or lawlessness – whatever it may be, this is what passes for humor in Battleship-the movie.

After zipping through a lot of needless exposition and an extended soccer game that serves to introduce us to Rihanna’s character, whose fictional name I don’t remember, the space alien vessels we’ve been waiting for finally emerge from the ocean depths after arriving to earth in a Transformers-like scene, and the onus is on now-Navy Lieutenant Hopper’s shoulders to fend off the invaders he himself awakened by touching the giant spire of unknown origin and chemical makeup (as one character explains, it’s not even on the periodic table of elements.  Woah!  Funny how that’s always the case in sci-fi movies.).  These aliens are certainly more benign than most others that have visited our planet, as their one completely unexplained directive is to destroy everything mechanical or manmade in sight, except for the hillside satellites, which are somehow really important to their war effort.  The only living organisms they see fit to exterminate are those operating mechanical technology, starting of course with the U.S. fleet.  Though the movie often feels like it’s based entirely on the water, it does in point of fact take several relieving detours to the tropical landscapes of Oahu, where the supermodel girlfriend and a real-life wounded warrior sidekick (a laudable tribute, if not a great casting pick) are hard-beset by heavily armored E.T.s, and eventually to the control room of Hopper’s ship, where he and his crewmates exchange blind shots with the enemy’s crafts by looking at a screen and calling out coordinates.  It’s just like the board game, see!  And it’s almost as exciting, at that.  Are the dots on the chart going to hit or miss a target?  Is the grid really a subtle metaphor for the movie itself?

Anyone who’s played Battleship-the game knows that the miss-to-hit ratio is usually on the miss-heavy side, and so it is with Battleship-the movie.  If there’s one hit in this overlong CGI fest, it would be the brief cut in the trailer where the giant metal ball of destruction barrels right underneath the military helicopter, seemingly to miss it completely, then unexpectedly whips out some kind of blade from its heart that neatly sever the chopper’s tail, bringing it to the ground in a fiery death.  This is probably the only shot in the film that lives up to the standards of cinematic staging which Michael Bay continues to set through the visually similar but much more dynamic Transformers series.  For all the flack that he receives from critics, Bay is incredibly good at directing the kind of movies he’s recognized for, and each one of his special effects-ridden explosion-fests offers just enough variety in action and setting to retain the audience’s interest throughout several hours of mostly non-stop mayhem.  Battleship-the movie, on the other hand, is more of a one-note affair; warships repeatedly shoot torpedoes at one another, warships intercept torpedoes with even more torpedoes, and warships blow up over and over again.  What few diversions the movie makes from this formula mostly consist of humans shooting the utterly idiotic-looking, goateed aliens while rattling off one-liners like:

“Do you think this could be some kind of super-secret Navy exercise?  Because if it is, they’ve gone way too far!”

“My dad said they’d come.  He said it his whole life.  He said we ain’t alone. He said one day, either we’d find them, or they’d find us…”

“We’re going to die!”
“We are going to die.  You’re going to die, I’m going to die, we’re all going to die…” (guess what comes next)

“Mahalo, mother- *boom*” (this gag is used twice for good measure)

Steve Jablonsky’s musical score sounds like a bunch of tracks rehashed from the work he did on Transformers, with a lot of Inception bwaaahs and electronic humming thrown in just to pass it off as an original recording.  AC/DC’s Thunderstruck eventually makes an appearance to break the monotony, but it’s far from sufficient to redeem the tedium of staying awake through the whole of this picture.  I don’t remember hearing a single violin on the soundtrack, nor can I point to many segments around the middle of the picture that didn’t look like they were mostly composed on a computer.

Too bad the whole movie isn’t like this.

It goes without saying that the U.S. Navy deserves a far better recruiting commercial than Battleship-the movie.  The really scary thought isn’t the prospect of watching American soldiers beat up comically ugly aliens in a Battleship sequel; given the movie’s $130M shortfall in domestic gross, that nightmare is fairly beyond the scope of possibility.  What’s really scary is the knowledge that these blokes will soon be butchering such literary and artistic masterpieces as Missile Command and Asteroids.  Is nothing sacred anymore in Hollywood?  Have we truly drained ourselves so thoroughly of originality and imagination that we must resort to robbing classic games for film concepts?  My battleship is sunk… now I’m going to see if I can pass the eleventh level of Missile Command.  My father’s generation’s Skyrim, but only ten times as difficult.

Grade rating: Much as the monster that’s under your bed, it unapologetically wards away the life-renewing rains of rational thought like an umbrella of stupidity.  Its visuals shine bright like a diamond but are wholly devoid of deeper substance, and you will be screaming for someone to please stop the music long before it’s over.  To stay through it all is an exercise in S&M, and it would be readily disposable even if it was the only movie (in the world).  So shut up and drive far away from any theater, rental store, or other hopeless place that distributes this drivel, this loud drunken disgrace of a good film gone bad, reloaded with chest-pumping, generically patriotic cheesiness and rated R for revolting.

All of which is to say, “C minus.”

* For accuracy’s sake I just fact-checked my sarcastic generalization and found that Kitsch did indeed play one of the non-surviving Navy Seals in Lone Survivor early this year, which was also directed by Peter Berg and actually made quite a bit of money for its budget, though I’ve yet to verify if it was any good.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spot the Error: Yahoo! Wheel Edition

Can you pinpoint all fifteen objective errors in these screenshots?  An answer key will be uploaded next week.

Hint: the middle article is about Scientology.

Answer Key
1. There's no such thing as a presidential phone call.  Phone calls are quite simply unelectable.
2. There's no such thing as an epic chat that involves Obama.
3. Making a phone call is the exact opposite of "reaching out to touch someone".
4. Lost ended four years ago.  Move onto something else already.
5. Scientology isn't a real religion.
6. Lamborghinis are machines, not living organisms.
7. There's no such thing as a fake-no-makeup look. There are only madeup and non-madeup looks.
8. Why would you even encourage female readers to waste time and money on "cheating" with a fake no-makeup look when they could use a much superior, real no-makeup look for free?
9. "Seemingly natural glows": what the heck does that even mean?
10. One of those photos has Miley Cyrus in it, the other has Lupita Nyongo, and neither has Lindsey Stirling.  Aaaaaaaa.
11. "We won't tell if you won't tell"… but you are telling me.
12. There is no "budget debate" currently ongoing.  Congress narrowly decided not to have a budget debate when it hiked the debt ceiling last February.
13. House Democrats don't have any food for thought.
14. This particular House Democrat wasn't even making a point on inflation.  To him, rapid inflation IS the whole point of effective government and a failure to increase spending at proportionally rapid rates is a failure by Congress to fulfill its most basic obligation to fiscally subjugate the country to the whims of foreign lenders.
15. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn't trending anywhere.  At all.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Elder Scrolls (Is) For Dummies

“Better with kinect sensor.”  Now there’s an oxymoron.

Twenty years of technical fine-tuning, at least three critically adored blockbusters, as staggering a breadth of world-building as any practiced by Tolkien, Jordan, or Jacques, and a particularly epic (violin cover of a) musical theme in the making, the role-playing high fantasy series called The Elder Scrolls remains one of more prestigious and celebrated labels in all of video gaming, and yesterday it left behind a heritage of massive single-player worlds in order to explore the online territory previously scoped out by lengthy and perennially updated MMOGs such as World of Warcraft or Guild Wars.  And yet for all my lamentable immersion in the realm of interactive storytelling, somehow I hadn’t even touched one of these scrolls until about two weeks ago, when I popped the fifth and latest title released thus far into the old Xbox 360 and cautiously steeled myself ravenously dove in to see whether all the hype was well founded.  Having played Skyrim for about five hours now and watched some friends play it for much longer periods, I can’t fathom for the life of Brian why it’s, you know, the most important thing that ever happened to video games since the Uncharted 3 Wal Mart/Target/Best buy demo, Batman Arkham Asylum, Bioshock, Half-Life 2, Halo: Combat Evolved, Myst, Doom, Zelda, Super Metroid, or Ms. Pac-Man if you want to go really far back.  Maybe Betheseda felt unduly handicapped by the mere 17 buttons they had to work with on the Xbox controller, maybe their chief story editor got eaten by a dragon in the middle of development, or maybe I erroneously expected that this would even slightly attain to the grandeur of that astonishingly beautiful Lindsey Stirling (music video) I watched a dozen or so times, but so far Skyrim doesn’t add up to anything more than the sum of its virtually harmless hordes of giant spiders, wolves, bears, R.O.U.S.s, walruses, and other non-threats.  None of its grotesquely animated characters are all that pleasing to look at, for one, which is an immediate albeit expectable letdown for me given my only past acquaintance with the game, but I’m sure these questions would still torment my mind even if I hadn’t taken a Cupid’s arrow in the knee.

* Why is that quote even funny?  Or the one about the sweetrolls?

* Why do I have to pause the game and toggle through a menu if I want to swap one utensil or incantation of destruction for another?  Why did the programmers reserve an entire button just for drawing and sheathing your weapon instead of for doing something truly practical, like substituting your longbow with a proper, close-quarters sword and shield when you’re on the brink of getting gutted?  Why didn’t the people behind this take some extremely basic pointers from Halo or Call or Duty or pretty much any other shooter, which all enable players to switch weapons with a single button press?

* Emendation: I just figured out how to assign two separate equipment groups using the left or right positions on the controller’s D-pad.  That’d be a great function if it worked the way it should in the course of battle, which it doesn’t.

* Speaking of weapons, why did the developers give you so many weapons to craft, loot, and show off while giving you hardly any opportunities to actually use them?  Why are there vast stretches of land in this game that have absolutely no monsters or bad guys to kill – only peaceful townsfolk whom you would feel guilty for randomly slaughtering out of unquenched bloodlust?  Most of the things you get to fight look like this:
Or this:

* Why isn’t there a proper jump attack or sprint jump ability?  I mean – get with the 21st century.  Gosh.

* Why do women comprise so large a percentile of the robbers, hostile soldiers, and other enemies who attack you?  Is this the designers’ inept way of suggesting that women are just as savage, strong, and kickbutt as men in their idealized fantasy universe?  What a flattering and ‘progressive’ image, Betheseda.

* Why did they incorporate feline and reptilian humanoids in a potentially serious fantasy universe?  Orces, elves, and dwarves I’m totally fine with, but where did they get the idea for these sorry jokes?  Was the art team watching Star Wars: Clone Wars with the primitive rabbit-headed tribespeople when they came up with this idea?

* How come none of the characters respond negatively when I rouse them from slumber?  Is there a reason why they all just sit up and stare blankly as if they weren’t at all busy beforehand?

* Why are there so many mundane, non-violent diversions like cooking and fishing and home decorating and sewing and potion brewing and forging and lumbering and mining in a video game that’s ostensibly about slaying dragons and striking into the wintry wilderness with sorcery and steel?  Why did the live-action and gameplay trailers emphasize the dragon-culling aspect if dragons only rarely materialize and most of the mighty dragonborn’s adventures actually consist of trading goods and dressing himself up different ways in the improbable event that a dragon does show to terrorize a village?

* Why are useless household items strewn all around the varied environments? Am I really supposed to pick up all those baskets, urns, brooms, and bottles of wine lying about in dungeons, towns, and palace halls alike?  What am I supposed to do with this junk anyway once I stuff it in my backpack?  Sell it to a merchant in return for more junk or extract its natural materials so that I can build junk of my own design?  Why do game designers instinctively equate realism to fun and deliberately structure their products to make unreal, fictional events look as realistic as possible to consumers who by and large couldn’t care less about cooking or weaving or basket-collecting in a game that allows them to indulge their long-bred, vengeful dreams of running a sword through a massive arachnid’s brain in slow-motion?

* On the subject of realism, why does the player avatar quickly run up against physical exhaustion at the beginning of the game whenever he tries to run across open ground for more than ten seconds but nevertheless possess the endurance and resilience to swim indefinitely across freezing-cold bodies of water without exhibiting a sign of fatigue, let alone succumbing to hypothermia and death?
I could doggie paddle out here for hours.

* Why do characters in this medieval world of Norse tradition so often slip from their thick accents and high English dialects into gratingly modern American refrains like “Jarl so-and-so is in way over his head”?

* How did the dragons that fly backwards ever make it past beta?  I haven’t seen them myself of course, as you have to wander around for much, much longer than five hours to find an unscripted dragon in Skyrim, but I’ve seen other people see them.  On the other hand, I can testify to witnessing goats swim underwater, giants slam people hundreds of feet into the air, and horses ride up nearly vertical cliff faces.
A blurry Bigfoot photo of the underwater goat.

* Most egregiously of all, why did the writers pour countless irredeemable hours into composing and dispersing hundreds of historical, mythical, poetical, and expository texts that no one with full-time, real-world employment can afford to read if they wouldn’t even bother themselves to observe the proper punctuation of “its”, which in this case would be no punctuation at all?

* Is that supposed to be a guitar, a harp, or a trident?

* And if the developers were really set on putting bards in the game, why did they go with losers like the guy above instead of choosing someone like this?

If you’ve got no obligations to a wife or girlfriend but feel comfortable burning two hundred hours of your life on a single, $20-40 video game, by all means read one of the aptly titled Elder Scrolls, since that’s mostly what you do in the game: read grammatically incorrect scrolls, read dialogue, and read the contents of your backpack.  I personally think a young man could devote his time to much richer endeavors than the study of long, exhaustively detailed papers about the dominion of Tamriel – noble, romantic endeavors like finding and settling down with a nice girl, or scholarly, societally beneficial endeavors like writing long, exhaustively detailed papers about the stupidities of studying even longer papers about the dominion of Tamriel.  Not that those are in any way exclusionary.

Fun rating: 5/10
$$$ rating: You could play this for the rest of your earthly life without ‘beating’ it, but you’d probably switch to Titanfall before that happened anyway.