Thursday, February 28, 2008

Some Uptight Right Wing Political Homicide

I know it’s unlike me, but I feel the need to address the current presidential candidates. And by “presidential candidates” I of course mean democratic presidential candidates, as I subscribe to the prediction that the democratic candidate who gets the party nomination will be the president. Then again, I could just be thinking that because the Democrats are the most outspoken during this campaign, but I do believe Americans are looking for someone who’ll promise change, as opposed to someone who promises 100 more years in Iraq.
A friend of mine brought up a good point with me the other day- Americans focus too little on a presidential candidate’s plans and views on issues, and too much on their personality. I certainly feel that this is a flaw of mine, though a somewhat justified one. In my eyes, a candidate who can’t win the trust of the people through personality probably doesn’t have the charisma for smooth foreign diplomacy. This is my problem with Clinton. In the last debate she had with Obama, Clinton seemed to be on the brink of losing control. While Obama sat back and coolly dealt with the questions (almost accusations) Clinton threw at him, Clinton seemed like she was ready to start yelling. Once again, I hate for factors like that to be the deciding factor, but Obama and Clinton have both admitted that most of their ideals are at least 95% the same. Nitpicky stuff like this is becoming the choice between the two candidates. After all, can we afford to have someone as aggressive as Clinton negotiating with our enemies? One thing I have to give her is that she is the antithesis of wishy-washy. I feel secure that the beliefs she advocates will not be gimmicks for election, but will be what she enforces if elected to office.
Having put her down, I also must admit that I’ve had a lack of faith in Obama’s credibility from the get-go. He has bred an army of millions of followers (most under 30 years of age, from my limited observation), people I like to refer to as “Obama Zombies”, people who seem so wrapped up in his optimistic projections of unity that they’ve lost sight of its unrealistic nature. In all her frenzy and mockery, Clinton had a good point in the last debate, a point which embodied all of my Obama doubts, the accusation that Obama is full of stories of a wonderful world that we’ll all live in if he’s elected, and all of our problems will go away. This is how it’s been since the beginning. Months ago I asked one of the “Obama Zombies” I know what his policy was, and I was subjected to a day dream-esque story of unity, and how the parties will be at peace finally, and stated how amazing it was that a black man was in this position, and how that will promote unity in and of itself. I don’t know about you, but I will not vote for a man just because his racial diversity will look like progress. When I pushed the question of his policies, my local Zombie responded that he was sure I could find them online. That didn’t raise my confidence in Zombie credibility.
However, someone brought up a good point with me today- The idea that the media may be portraying only the “unrealistic hope” side of Obama, and only the stern, competitive side of Clinton. Seeing as I’ve been working on that disinformation paper, it seemed a valid possibility to me. But after reviewing the policies of both candidates, I returned to my original conclusion, which is that these two candidates are just too similar, and so the only real competition the media has to go on is their different personalities. If this is true, then isn’t there something wrong with our two-party political system? The whole idea of democracy is to give people a choice, right? What choice is there in two candidates who are self-admittedly almost the same figure? Yes, it’s true, we also have the republican candidates, but the two parties really only ever guarantee a choice between two extremes- conservative and liberal. Maybe the Testify music video got it right. Maybe this is why so few Americans actually exercise their right to vote.
Okay, so referencing a Rage video probably takes down my credibility a bit, but whatever. And speaking of that video, what’s up with Nader these days? When I was very young, I had a sort of na├»ve respect for the man. He knows he can’t win, and yet he keeps trying, if only to make a statement about the two party system, a statement I agree with. When 2000 rolled around, I saw him as doing the respectable, optimistic thing he always did, and accidentally finding himself in a huge mess. I’m ashamed to say I actually felt badly for him. This time around, I’d like to think that he’s still just running to uphold the ideal of more than two parties, but I can’t help but agree with people that he’s just trying to stir things up. Really Nader, maybe it’s time to call it quits.
All of this said, I think that if I could vote, right now my eyes would be set on Obama. Like I said, I’m not sold on Clinton’s diplomatic charisma, and honestly, I would like to see us out of Iraq in a year.
In other political news, I’m guessing my re-election to student government will not go well. I’ve always had a bad rep with my fellow members of student government, but now I think they’re really getting pissed. You see, because I’m always busy with theater rehearsals, I haven’t been able to make it to any of the 15 or so major meetings we’ve had this year. The only meeting I ever went to was on a night when rehearsal was uncharacteristically late,a nd even then I could only stay for 10 minutes or so. I spent those ten minutes reading essays a faculty member had asked us to read- Arguments by girls that boys put too much pressure on them to be physically perfect and stereotypically girly. While it’s all well and good to ask males in general to be cooler people, it’s not very realistic to think it will work, as I told the council. I went on to explain how the cycle of girls being pressured was perpetuated by girls who conformed to the pressures in the first place. As opposed to asking for things to change, girls should take charge and be who they want to be, and it’s their own fault if they don’t.
Seeing as most of the council were girls, that didn’t go over so well, and for many of them that was their one exposure to me as a class officer. While I won’t be so daring again, I hold to my opinion. I guess it’s time I cranked up my political charisma to win back the hearts of my council mates.

-OSK

Have you ever actually met someone who admits to liking Larry the Cable Guy? How does he ever get enough money to support himself?

Because I Said I Would

Gumdrops are nice. There’s something wonderful about gooey cancer covered in cancer sprinkled with cancer. Okay, I made a cancer joke today and it didn’t go over so well with anyone. Ignore that thing I said about cancer.
The most beautiful thing about gum drops, in my opinion, is the return to them. Though we (mainly I) take them in massive quantities, they really are meant to be savored, as they are a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, my comrade Koops and I have gone without these sacred cancer gems (damnit!) for a couple of months now, as we have been too overrun with school commitments to enjoy life in the least. However, by some miracle we found the time to enjoy them today. And let me just say, the first bite after 2 months of abstinence is divine. In fact, the only reason I’m blogging about this is because the first words out of my mouth after eating my first one were “blog-worthy!”, which in retrospect was pretty dorky.

Yes, I’m aware that my blogging this week has taken a turn for the crudely shallow. Maybe tomorrow I’ll blog about pondering God. Nah, maybe Battlestar…No, maybe both…

-OSK

Haha I got the thumbs up on that history paper. Who woulda thought?

Monday, February 25, 2008

STOP LAUGHING

It seems that entertainment has become a hunt for comedy, which seems a shame to me. Comedy is a great tool for lightening the mood of a serious story, but too often comic relief becomes the focus of what should be a serious production. Not the focus of the writer; if the writer wants to write a comedy, by all means they should. But audiences most often take the serious and ignore it, searching only for comic relief.
This is, in a way, an attack on the high school theater scene. I love to act, sure, but I don’t always like the way the audience reacts to our productions. Take my spring one-act from last year as an example, F.J. Hartland’s “Auto-Erotic Misadventure”. In the spirit of our spring one act plays, the show had sexual themes, as the title blatantly suggests. However (and surprisingly), it was easily the most serious and dramatic of all of the one acts. I do not mean to suggest that it was a better play for this reason than the others, but it did not elicit the response it would have in a higher level of production. Sure, there were funny parts, but overall it was a drama, and though it was met with high praise, it was dominantly met with inapropraite giggles. But we can chalk that one up to an audience with a high school maturity, right?
Wrong. The truth is, this hunt for humor exists on even higher levels. Let’s take, for an example, a specific show I’ve been watching (on Sundays at 10 ‘o clock on AMC, because of course you wouldn’t know that). It is what is classified as a “dark comedy”, a genre title which I believe epitomizes all which is wrong with this hunt for humor. Dark comedies are, essentially tragedies. There rarely is any outstanding humor in them (but then again neither is there really any in most sitcoms either), but to recognize that your show is a hardcore drama is to condemn it to cancellation, especially in its early years. After all, the only channel that makes blatant claims of drama is TNT, and who the hell watches that? No, this specific show is not a comedy. Rather, it is clever in its writing, which apparently is enough justification for “comedy” classification. I heartily chuckle while watching it once, maybe twice in each hour episode, but it is still gripping. So why classify it as a “dark comedy”? Are all audiences really so addictively fixated on laughs that every performance ever must be some freak mutation of comedy, even the completely depressing?

Oh, and as far as “Auto-Erotic” goes, apparently it offended some faculty members so much that there is going to be extra supervision of our one acts this year. Needless to say, I’m pissed. The last thing I want to be cast in is your run-of-the-mill one act: a campy, horny sex comedy, but ours last year was smart and thought-provoking, and people saying differently must be taking it at crude face value.

-OSK

FCFTSOFC

These stupid abbreviations have to stop.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

My Twin and Me


No, I’m not referring to Tom Morello. That beauty right there is my FC Twin, the system illegally developed long ago (though Nintendo doesn’t give a shit now anyways) to play both NES and SNES games. Okay, that one’s not actually mine, I just googled a photograph of one. I didn’t really want to go to all the trouble of borrowing a digital camera, photographing my system, figuring out how to upload it, etc. But mostly I just don’t want to because my childhood has been scarred by a family who has an obsession with photographing anything, and so I won’t let myself get a camera. Like alchoholism, it may be a genetic thing.
You may ask me why I bought an FC Twin when I have a Wii. After all, the Wii has internet connectivity which allows you to buy old games from the NES and SNES, and you can even play them with a classic controller, plus the whole package comes out cheaper than the FC Twin. Well, the truth is, that hadn’t occurred to me. But somehow I don’t regret it. It’s going to feel awesomely old school to being using authentic cartridges, struggling with controllers whose chords are annoyingly short, and I get great pleasure out of hitting the switch which shifts between 8-bit and 16-bit. That, and I’m hoping that it will all be worth something some day. Yes, I’m aware it looks tacky (and it weighs about as much as an empty cardboard box), but I’m going classic all the way. Let’s just hope all the hype about Super Mario Bros. 3 is true.
Also, I think I’m going to sell a bunch of my N64 games. Don’t fear, readers, these will only be the crappy ones you’ve never played because I never let you because they disappointed me so years ago. Also, the Wii sorta makes having a GameCube pointless. Don’t worry, Sarge’s Heroes is here to stay.

-OSK

Let it be known that talking to strangers is a good thing, and works flawlessly. Stupid lying parents.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Cooler version of Myself (MYSELF!)

Let's compare these two videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkJzXLL4890
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2WQtc8f6_Y

Can you spot the connection? The first video is of a live Rage Against the Machine performance at the Tibetan Freedom concert in 1999. The second video is a clip from the Season six episode of Star Trek Voyager, "The Good Shepard". Still can't spot the similarity? Well, here it is: The awesome guy on guitar in the Rage video (Tom Morello) is crewman Mitchell in the Voyager clip.
Now, Tom Morello is without a doubt one of the most innovative guitar players of our time, using factors such as the whammy bar, so called wawa peddle, and feedback (among other tools, such as rubbing an Allen wrench up and down the neck of his guitar to create the unique riff in "People of the Sun") to make his guitar sound like anything but a guitar. So undoubtedly, he's already awesome in my book, plus he belongs to a kickass band. He's also on my list (as is his guitar, though in a seperate position). I honestly didn't think he could get any more points in my book, but I was wrong. While belonging to a supremely successful band (thus not requiring the monetary gain), he settled for an extremely minor role on Star Trek Voyager, simply because he is such a huge Star Trek fan.
This gives evidence to my theory that all of my seemingly random interests are somehow connected, that somehow they all fit into a demographic. After all, let's not forget that there are legions (yes, legions) of shy readers exactly like me who read this blog but never comment.
And let's not overlook the fact that Morello was wearing a Cubs hat in the Rage video, and that most youtube rage videos are posted by a guy named nintendoplayer and a guy who has a paper mario avatar. I am anything but individual. Tom Morello is my god.

-OSK

"I'm so high, and you're so tall!"
-Random girl whom I hope not to meet the acquiantance of again.

Monday, February 18, 2008

In A Camera, Darkly

It’s all over now, and surprisingly, I’m sad. Somehow I actually have fond memories of this musical, even though it was a stressful mess which destroyed my school grades (previously the best I’ve ever had). Most of this I can attribute to my good friend fake nostalgia. Theater productions have a way of eliciting fake nostalgia, as I end up spending so much time working on them that it’s hard not to form some sort of connection with the production. The weird thing is that the theater group remains not really my clique, so I don’t have too much of a reason to miss it.
What’s really been eating at me is the fact that I’ll never act with any of the seniors again. Every high school student knows that Graduation is a beautiful and tragic thing. It’s one of the blatant major changes in life, an inevitability that everyone is mostly excited for, but a bit remorseful about as well. The theater seniors are ridiculously cool as a whole, and I’m not sure how I feel about continuing on without them. Like it or not, my classmates and I have to lead the theater team next year, and that’s frightening.
But I’m also going to miss them as people. I’m not necessarily great friends with any of them (like I said, it’s never really become my clique), but I can never help my wondering. After one of the musical performances, a senior from last year approached me in congratulation, but I felt that it was more than a formality. She complimented me on my performance, and then went on to genuinely express how much she enjoys watching me act, something she had told me last year as well. I don’t consider myself a crap actor, but I don’t consider myself particularly outstanding either, and once again I was left to wonder why she enjoyed my performance so much. I am left to speculate that it is because, over the course of the year we acted alongside each other (a year in which we often shared the stage but never any character interaction) she was able to watch me grow from a fetus of an actor into a fledgling. And that’s why Graduation is a tragedy for those left behind- Not really friends at all last year, I believe she and I could be very good friends today. I guess this relates back to my pot about all the people you could know if circumstances were different- I can’t help but wonder what my life would be like in a different situation.
As far as judging my own acting goes, I have discovered that watching yourself act is an unforgivable sin. Yes, I am a high school actor, and yes, that does mean expectations are low, but I cannot express enough how disappointed I was when I saw the DVD of one of our rehearsals.
You see, when I’m on stage I feel convincing, in character, and not at all OSK. But what I saw on the DVD was the awkward, blocky, unexpressive OSK of the real world struggling to be something he wasn’t. I can only suspect that this is because when I watch myself I see something which others do not- I see OSK’s motives behind the character’s motives and actions. I see myself trying to be the character instead of being ready to believe that I am the character. I am unable to suspend reality as an audience can.
At least that’s my hope. I know decent people would never say anything bad about my acting, but still, I’d like to think that I’ve had enough positive feedback from my roles that I’m more believable to an audience than to myself. Even so, I’m going to be drilling a lot of scenes in my off-time to get my self esteem up. Moral of the story- Watching yourself act is officially the eighth Deadly Sin.
On an unrelated note, the game creators for 1980s systems were complete perverts. A bunch of the friend group (myself included) spent the night hanging with a guy for whom I have no blogosphere alias, a guy who had pretty much every game known to man on his Xbox. And not just Xbox games, everything you could possibly name from the original Atari, NES, all the way through N64. He even had a few games no one’s ever heard of. Custer’s Revenge, for example, is a game for the Atari 2600 which, as the title suggests, allows the historic General Custer to enact his wrath upon the Indian people. The gameplay consists of moving a naked Custer (with blatant rope-like genetalia) across the screen, avoiding the arrows of the Indian attacks. If you reach the right side of the screen, there is a large-breasted naked Indian woman bound to a pole whom you violate, all in 8-bit. The best part is that one of the people playing managed to get a high score of 69. I’m not even going to get into Beat ‘Em and Eat ‘Em. Check that one out yourself. Let’s just say it’s a good thing that games are actually filtered these days.

-OSK

How did that giant scorpion get on that train?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

LeVar Burton Told Me To

You may be able to tell by my recent summary of the Vietnam War conspiracy that I’m not exactly doing so great with education right now. The truth is, this musical has really taken away from my studies. Usually I wouldn’t mind this, as I suspect theater will have a much larger on my influence than the majority of my academic subjects, but I do feel guilty about not getting work in, especially when it piles up. As if the guilt weren’t enough, I’m now getting crap from teachers. One in particular says he “feels abused” because he thinks I’ve been using the show as an excuse to not do his class’ work. The worst part about this is that most teachers have a dillusion that if they say they’re cutting you slack, it means they’re cutting you slack. This means that I’ve been getting a lot of “I know I’ve been cutting you a lot of slack, but…” when in actuality I’ve gotten guilt trips and tongue lashings all week.
Now that the show is actually at the performance stage, it’s not nearly as stressful as it was. The first performance was a lot of fun, and we’ve all generally cooled down. However, it’s hard to forget the nervous misery of anxiety from the last week. Between stressful rehearsals and being berated by teachers, I feel that I need to do some things that will remind me that life is actually a lot of fun sometimes.
I am not what you would call a productive member of society. I have barely any work ethic, and my mind is of a rigid structure, always trying to resist absorbing new knowledge. This makes school work a bitch. My theory for how I got this way is by nurture. After all, I’ve got a pretty sharp mind when it comes to creativity, and I used to be a pretty smart kid in other academic aspects back in my middle school days. This leads me to believe that I have a lot of buried/lost potential. I likely fried this potential by beginning a cycle when I was very young which continues, to a degree, today: My gluttony. As a child I fed myself absurd amounts of video games and television while other children were likely reading books and actually trying to understand their math homework, whereas I just learned enough math to barely slide by. All of the aforementioned bad choices (save for maybe the television obsession) I continue to make today. But when I say “bad choices”, I mean from an academic standpoint. Basically, my habits are frowned upon by pretty much everyone. However, I’m not so sure I regret them. After all, I don’t do any of this mindless crap instead of my work, I just allow them to lull me into a mental coma when I’ve got free time.
The misconception that most adults hold is that, because I enjoy spending free time that way, and because I’m not the best student, they assume I slack instead of doing work. Usually I’d brush this off as them being judgmental jerks, but during Hell week it’s a little too…dick-like.
I don’t mean to make it sound like a moron, I’m just a bit stressed out since we just ahd a 2-hour talk about colleges. It terrified me because all of the advice we were given seemed to work on the assumption that we were all brilliant, a claim which I can’t quite make.
Still, I do regret not stretching my brain in the last couple of years. Frankly, after Hell Week, I need something to restore my faith in humanity (the Brotherhood of Man). First off, I haven’t seen a play in about a year. In my hierarchy of happiest places to be, at a good (modern) play is third, after at a concert and at a baseball game. I’m really desperate to see a play from the outside once again. Believe me, the view’s a bit narrow from backstage.
Secondly, I’m going to read a book. What with school commitments usually taking up about 10 hours of every day, I never have the time to read, and even lost the desire for a while. English class, however, has reawakened me. In a weird way, I’m actually enjoying Gatsby. 3 chapters in and I don’t quite see the point of it yet, but it’s easy to read, and mildly interesting. After all of the other stuff we’ve read, I assumed reading was always painful, but now I remember. So, my two steps to slight enlightenment are 1. See a (modern) play, and 2. Read an interesting book.
Now if I could only find the time.

-OSK

I love Dispatch, but who the hell is Pete Francis?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Better than 'Nam

Everybody hates term papers. This is an universal truth. However. There are levels to which your term paper can be burdensome and suck. There’s the usual- You have a valid topic with plenty of information, and writing the paper is just annoying and requires effort you don’t want to spend. But then there’s my kind of term paper. You see, I’m fool enough to want to be different. I could’ve picked a topic which had plenty of information, like the Cold War or something World War II related. But no, I picked Vietnam. Given, Vietnam was a pretty big deal and has a lot of books written about it. But, being the daring (idiotic) student I am, I had to research disinformation during Vietnam.
We all know it happened. It’s sort of an accepted truth that everyone takes for granted, but I can’t find any source that gives me constant examples. Sure, you’ve got the Pentagon Papers. I thought that would be my saving grace, but unfortunately I forgot that the Pentagon Papers are 7,000 pages long. And believe it or not, it’s not 7,000 pages of juicy Vietnam disinformation tactics.
But I’ll stop bitching. What I really want to do is share with you all my startling findings of Vietnam disinformation. Once I dug deep enough, there is actually an astonishing amount of hidden meaning behind all of the government’s actions at the time. So without further ado, let me tell you what really happened in Vietnam:

August 4th, 1964. Two American Destroyers tread Vietnamese water in the Gulf of Tonkin in an attempt to survey the happenings of the Vietnamese conflict. The story goes that Vietnamese torpedo ships confronted the US Destroyers and attacked. The Destroyers escaped in a narrow escape.
Indeed, that was the story Lyndon Johnson told the American public. However, CIA agent Victor Marchetti would later retire and publish the truth in his essay to the Revisionist Conference, “Propoganda and Disinformation: How the CIA Manufactures History” ( http://www.vho.org/GB/Journals/JHR/9/3/Marchetti305-320.html). In the essay, he explains how the Gulf of Tonkin incident involved no actual battle at all. Vietnamese torpedoes never did fire upon the US vessels. The men aboard the Destroyers though that there may have been attack attempts, but there was no damage to the ship, and no one saw any fire. So why did Lyndon Johnson report an attack to the American people?
The report came from the captain of one of the American Destroyers, Kid Sticklan. According to his engineer, Stricklan had a discussion with Johnson in which Johnson “heavily suggested” that Stricklan tell Congress that he had seen torpedo fire. Stricklan did so, and Johnson received his “blank check” from Congress, essentially, his permission slip to enter Vietnam.
So why was Johnson so eager to enter Vietnam? In the Pentagon Papers, it is clearly documented that, long before, the Gulf of Tonkin, Johnson had been looking for a window of opportunity to enter Vietnam. In an entry to the Pentagon Papers, Johnson states that their entrance into Vietnam is on a “contingency basis”. Meaning he was looking for the right moment.
So why enter Vietnam? Well, apparently Stricklan wasn’t just the captain of the Destroyer. He was also a Russian spy. In the document “Stricklan is a Commy”, it is revealed that Johnson was actually the puppet of the U.S.S.R. The Russian dictator of the time, Joseph Stalin II, was actually behind a brilliant scam.
Enter the computer geniuses. Just decades after the computer’s inception into the world’s culture, the U.S.S.R. was already developing brainwashing computer technology. Stalin, having obtained an exclusive copy of page 128 from his Japanese brethren, finally knew where to find the one man he had been searching for all of his life.
As the US marched on Vietnam (according to Stalin’s wishes, unbeknownst to them), Stalin readied his cartridge.
5 years into Vietnam, and Stalin had completed the Banjo Kazooie portion. As the American public began to lose enthusiasm in the fight, Stalin ordered Johnson to report false body counts to the people to increase morale. He then proceeded to stage two: getting the ice key, and slamming the Banjo Tooie cartridge into the N64. He now had approximately a minute and a half before his N64 exploded. He raced to the ice vault to find a hologram of Luigi saying “Help me, Banjo Kazooie, you’re my only hope.”
Stalin’s N64 exploded from the shards of cartridge jammed into it, and he was fatally maimed on April 30, 1975. His death broke the hypnotic hold he had on American president Gerald Ford. Ford immediately realized what had happened and pulled out of Vietnam. After all, why else would we have possibly stayed so long?
Alas, Luigi may still be alive…somewhere in Vietnam.
Stalin’s copy of page 128 was never recovered from the explosion.

I think this is a definite 100%.

Seriously, I’m gonna get shot someday.

-OSK

Hey reader…you’re ugly.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Not What The Doctor Ordered

Whose idea was this?

http://gateworld.net/news/2008/02/robert_picardo_joins_iatlantisi_.shtml

I’ll admit, I’m a Stargate fan. I don’t talk about it much, because it’s a bit of a social stigma, even among Science Fiction fans. Stargate does not get the respect which Star Trek, Star Wars, and Battlestar Galactica do (and neither does it really deserve it). Being a Gatehead is sorta like being an outcast from the outcasts.
And I like all that mainstream outcast stuff, most of it (maybe not “Wars”) more than I do Gate. But I have to admit that I enjoy Gate a lot. I enjoy the irreverent, almost campy humor. I’m okay with overlooking the fact that most of the characters are flat and only created to glorify the round ones. I’ll be honest, one of the things I like about Gate that I always felt was missing from Trek was a sense of realism. That seems weird, since most of Gate consists of jumping the shark. But I mean it feels like a more hands-on experience. The characters are less bound by their perfect moral codes and more willing to fight for what they instinctually believe. Besides, P-90 fire is a bit more satisfying than energy weaponry. Don’t get me wrong though, Trek pwns Gate any day.
But for a show that constantly jumps the shark and sells out for gimmick value, this Woolsey thing is almost too real. First of all, why would you ever get rid of Weir? She was an awesome character! Carter sure didn’t pull the ratings up when she took charge of the Atlantis expedition, and now she leaving too. The expedition leaders are just getting more and more ridiculous. I mean, Woolsey? Picardo’s a great actor, Voyager showed us that, but Woolsey is not exactly cut out for a leadership role.
On the bright side, it should make for some good plots, what with the expedition being led by a complete dumbass. I mean, who knows what kind of dumb shit Woolsey will get Atlantis into? He’ll probably try to make peace with the Wraith or some crap like that.
On the one hand, the Trekkie inside of me finds this hilariously awesome. I mean, every show has to tank eventually, and if this is the way Atlantis is going to go, it’s quite amusing. However, I am left to wonder whether a show can be salvaged from all of this. Honestly, I haven’t been watching Season Four. This isn’t because I don’t want to, but because I don’t have the time on Friday nights to sit down and watch it, then rewatch it and then chat about it on the forums, and then rewatch it again the next morning. And really, what other way is there to watch Stargate? No, I think I’ll just get the Season Four Box Set when it comes out and watch the whole thing straight.
So who knows, maybe it’ll be good. Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve rocked it. But c’mon, Picardo’s no Picard.

-OSK

Tally-ho…

Friday, February 08, 2008

Sean Mims' Musical Offenses

“Mims once again gives fans a glimpse of talent. Something that gives you hope…Mims delivers a solid debut.”
-Jason Fleurant
“…the 26-year-old Manhattan MC adopts Jay-Z’s staccato flow…His seamless shift from pimp tales to reflective narratives…versatility”
-Henry Adaso
“a catchy little thing with a cool …beat and some goofy charm…the beats keep things moving…Kick back and enjoy it.”
-Christian Hoard

It seems to me that it was far from right for the reviewers of “Nobody’s Smiling”, “About.com”, and “Rolling Stone” to deliver opinions on Mim’s music without having heard some of it. It would have been much more Hot to keep silent and let those homies talk who have heard Mims.
Mims’ art has some defects. In one place in “Like This”, and in the restricted space of two thirds of a song, Mims has scored 114 offenses against musical art out of a possible 115.
There are nineteen rules governing musical art in the domain of hip hop- some say twenty-two. In “Like This” Mims violated eighteen of them. These eighteen require:

1. That a song shall go somewhere and change somewhow. But “Like This” goes nowhere and changes like a stubborn teenager.
2. They require that all vocalists in a song shall be alive, except in the case of absent ones, and that always the listener should be able to tell the absent ones from the others. But this detail has often been overlooked in “Like This”.
3. They require that the vocalists in a song, both absent and present, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there. But this detail has also been overlooked in the “Like This” song.
4. They require that when the vocalists in a song deal in lyrics, the lyrics should sound pleasing, and being lyrics such as human beings would be likely to enjoy, and have a discoverable (if not intelligent) meanings, also a discoverable beat, and a show of talent, and remain in the neighborhood of the slightly audibly titillating, and be worthwhile to the listener, and help out the genre, and stop when the lyricist cannot think of anything more to say. But this requirement has been ignored from the beginning of the “Like This” song to the end of it.
5. They require that when the lyricist describes himself in the manner he does, the lyrics and musical quality shall justify said description. But this law gets little or no attention in the “Like This” song.
6. They require that when a vocalist raps of his superiority and talent in the beginning of a song, that he not prove himself wrong by the end of it.
7. They require that the MC shall make the listener feel at least a slight interest in the song and in its build. But the content of “Like This” is so bland that the listener wishes he could drown the song altogether.
8. They require that the quality of the song be so clearly defined from the start that the listener can tell exactly how it will turn out. And actually, Mims doesn’t violate this. The beginning sucks, and so does the rest.

Mims’ gift in the way of flow was not a rich endowment; but such as it was he liked to torture us by working it, he was somehow pleased with the effects, and indeed he did some quite sweet things with it. In his little box of unoriginal pop-crap devices he kept one or zero braindead devices, tricks, flat beats for his stale rhymes and uninteresting mixes to disguise each other with, and was never so happy as when he was working these terrible concoctions and seeing them go. One was to have a terrible beat tread in the footsteps of awful vocals which were too repetitive to not hypnotize the masses, thus covering up the terrible beat’s existence. The repetition is like being hypnotized with Rage, except you’re being hypnotized with suck rather than awesome. Another device that he pulled out of his box pretty frequently was the guest vocalist. His trick was to bring talent into a song which he had sucked it from, but unfortunately his guest vocalists had none themselves.
Mim’s is certainly not a master in the construction of lyrics. Insufficient talent defeated him here as it did in so many other enterprises. He even failed to notice that the flows which suck 15 tracks an album must suck the 16th time, too. But no, he thought it could be good.
Mim’s flow sense was singularly dull. When a person ahs a poor ear for music, he will flat and sharp right along without knowing it. Mims had the smarts to know this, but unfortunately thought his forte would be in the world of the monotone. He keeps near the monotone, but unfortunately tries for rhymes now and again.
A work of music? It has no invention, no appeal, nothing at all aesthetically pleasing; it has no pop-likeness, no thrill, no stir, just a painful drawling, analogous to being dragged through a garden full of pirhana plants.
Counting these defects out, what is left is Art. I think we must all admit that.
-OSK

Pastiche that, literary world. Pastiche that.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Video Game Review: Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)


Alas, I am finally ready to review the release which is Super Mario Galaxy. It’s a game for the Wii, which is now infamous for its new and somewhat innovative controller interface. I think I may have mentioned the game here once or twice. I read many reviews of the game before buying it. Usually I would be a puritan about not spoiling it, but I suspected that those who reviewed the game had not played much of it, and I was right. All of the reviews I’ve read were obviously written by people who rushed the first 60 stars of the game to fight the final Bowser, and then called it quits so they could get their review out quickly. After all, they’re getting paid for their reviews (probably), but I’m not. So yes, I may have taken a month to beat it, and yes, it’s been 3 months since it came out, but at least I’m not calling the game easy because the first 60 stars were easy (of course they are) and calling it quits. You get the whole picture.
The Super Mario games have always been an experience. Mario became immediately famous from his NES releases, games which set the stage or the side-scrolling genre. Back in the day, Nintendo would happily crank out mutiple Mario games (3 on the NES) to eager fans. These games, however, were not so much separate entities as they were the previous game continued in a supplement, similar to sequels in the Halo series, which don’t have too much more in creativity to add to their predecessors. Any idea reused enough times, however, is bound to get old, and Nintendo knew this. I can only imagine was it must have been like to pop your “Super Mario 64” cartridge into your brand new N64 for the first time. It must have been startling to see a 3D Mario emerge from a 3D pipe in front of a massive 3D castle in graphical rendering which was at the time magnificent. The 3D aspect literally added a new dimension to world exploration and enemy combat, and suddenly Mario games did not have to be completely linear. Indeed, “Super Mario 64” was the new life for not only Mario games, but platformers at large.
64 introduced the platformer structure which Mario and other games still utilize today. The game takes place in one large world, in which lie several smaller worlds. In each sub-world there are a number of units to collect (in the case of 64 and Galaxy, Power Stars), and a certain amount of units allows you access to more sub-worlds. Galaxy follows this, with a few twists.
As in 64, Galaxy has 15 real levels, except that instead of having 6 “episode” stars, it has 3 plus 2 comets and 1 or 2 secret stars. The real creativity, however, lies in the gravity concept of the game.
Having the game take place in space was a great call on the part of Nintendo. I’ll admit, I was originally worried that the game would be disappointingly disjointed. I feared that it would consist almost completely of “you’re on a small planet, solve a puzzle there, access a way to another small planet, repeat”. And for the first bit of the game it is like that. It was really a bad idea to put the Good Egg Galaxy first on the roster, if in the game at all, because it does not make a great first impression. Its successor, the Honeyhive Galaxy, however, does. Honyhive, like most of the levels in the game, consists of one massive planet which acts as a main terrain, around which many satellites orbit. This is a great blend of 64/Sunshine-esque exploration, with the added twist of planet to planet transport.
The question on everyone’s mind when Galaxy came out was whether the control interface was any good. After all, the whole Wii thing was a bit of a gamble on Nintendo’s part. Well believe me, Galaxy knows how to use and not abuse the Wii interface. The main move in the game is a simple shake of the WiiMote. In normal conditions this allows Mario to spin, attacking enemies and breaking obstacles. However, it also allows him to use transport stars and activate certain abilities of the various Mario upgrades. The Nunchuck acts as a simple joystick should, and the interface gets comfortable frighteningly quick.
Now you may be wondering what a comet is, but since you’ve all seen me play Galaxy, you’re probably not. I’ll explain anyway. Basically a comet star is one where you replay a star you’ve already beaten with a new challenge. The first type of these challenges is a speed run. Like the name suggests, you have to replay a previous star in a certain amount of time. While slightly worrisome, these comets never really gave me any trouble. In fact, they seemed to be a waste of a perfectly good one of my 120 stars to collect.
The second type of comet is a Cosmic Mario comet. Shadow Mario is back in this game, except this time he’s not Baby Bowser, he’s some natural phenomenon. This comet requires you to race Shadow Mario across a map Koopa the Quick/ Il Piantissimo style. Just as with the two aforementioned opponents, he’s not that difficult. There were maybe one or two Cosmic Mario races that we had to give more than two tries.
The third type of comet is the Daredevil. This is a bit more legit than the other comets. The Daredevil challenges you to replay a star, usually a boss, with only one bar of health. It’s true, you only get 3 in Galaxy, but for most bosses you are given an overshield which raises your health to 6. 6 to 1 is a big drop, believe me. And in case you’re slow, only having one life means you can’t ever get hit. Ever. Most Daredevil challenges are mercifully easy to devise a strategy for. Topmaniac in Battlerock, for example, is an easy kill once you figure out how to avoid his spinning blades and prevent his usually harmless minions from spinning you into the electric barrier. Any ease on some Daredevil challenges, however, is compensated for in others. The Koopa witch Kamella in the Deep Dark Galaxy is a prime example. Though we’ve faced her methods of combat several times by this point in the game, never have we had to deal with her in such a closed space. Beating her with 3 or 6 health, piece of cake. Not getting hit once? Good luck. On a side note, isn’t Kamella a Paper Mario character? What’s next, X-nauts is Super Mario Galaxy 2 (More on that later…)? Come to think of it, Galaxy’s plot is a lot like Paper Mario 1’s. A lot. Let’s see, what was the plot of PM1? Bowser pulls Peach’s castle up into space and Mario must follow them into space to save her. Yeah…real original, Nintendo. But where were we? Oh yes, Daredevil runs. Good luck on Bouldergeist, too. That one only took me an hour or so.
The last type of comet is the Fast Foe. This one only really happens with block enemies, and, as you may be able to guess, it involves your foes being must faster than usual. Like Cosmic Mario, these are initially daunting yet quickly overcome and generally disappointing. And then of course they’re Purple Comets, but I’ll get to those in a bit.
Anyone whose played Sunshine was a bit frightened by the prospect of Secret Stars in Galaxy. Of the mistakes Sunshine made, non-Mystery level secret stars were probably at the top of the list. If you’ll recall, one involved spraying a gold bird until it turned into a Shine, one involved spraying the sun for no apparent reason, and one involved spraying sand. It seemed like the creators of the game wanted to award you not so much for cleverness and exploration (as secret stars should be), but rather for doing random acts which made them feel you were getting use out of the FLUDD pack. Indeed, Sunshine seemed to specialize in throwing away Shines. Of the 120 in the game, 24 were gained by finding 240 blue coins scattered throughout, 4 were uncreative secret shines, and many were awarded for random cleaning around Delphino. Yet somehow Sunshine still managed to be an awesome game.
So how are Galaxy’s secret stars? Well, they’re involved, which is a good thing. You actually have to try to get them , and there are entire planets and complexes designed to house them. They are essentially their own episode stars, as they should be. Yet their fault is that they are too obvious. Too often are secret stars accessed by taking a different transport star off of a planet than usual or feeding a Hungry Luma, a creature who seems to scream “SECRET STAR!” whenever you see it. In this respect, Nintendo has taken secret stars from one extreme to the other, from impossibly random to glaringly obvious. Ideally, Secret Stars should be awarded for exploration. In Sunshine, a good Secret Shine in Noki Bay would have been one where you had to walk around the perimeter of the level, a place no one would expect to look, and find one of the water symbols on cliff wall. You would spray it and then access a chain aof mazes and puzzles leading to the Secret Shine. This is neither obvious nor is it the result of random experimentation, but rather exploration. That said, Galaxy has a few good secret stars among its many misses, including the cleverness of Gusty Garden and Dusty Dunes (Shifting Sand Land II).
The new Mario upgrades are also fairly questionable. Remember flying, metal head, and vanish cap Mario? Well, those upgrade ideas haven’t been lost on the writers. Just as there were FLUDD pack upgrades in Sunshine, so are there upgrades in Galaxy. But they’re really not all that great.
First, Fly Mario. I’m going to get this one out of the way immediately because it sucks. And do you know why it sucks? Because it’s so awesome. Yes, Mario can fly again, just as he once did in 64. This time his flying ability even comes with a badass black outfit and better controls. Gone are the days of not being able to gain altitude to save your life; now you can ascend, ascend, ascend to your heart’s content. One drawback is that you can’t pull off the sick dives you could in 64. You first use Fly Mario in the Gateway Galaxy to gather purple coins. This is the only time in the game it is necessary to use it, and the only other place you can use it is the Comet Observatory, where it does nothing. Way to not use a perfectly good upgrade. Lame.
Next, the Bee Suit. This is the first upgrade you use in the game, and arguably the best. The bee suit allows you to fly from place to place, and keeps being brought back throughout the game in creative ways.
Boo Mario: Almost as useless as Fly Mario, but less cool, so it’s not so much of a crime. They use it once or twice in the Ghostly Galaxy, where it seems okay. But then there is only one more necessary use of it in the game. Underused and pretty uncool.
Fire Mario. This one’s a throwback to classic Mario, with your spin move letting you throw fireballs to light torches and burn enemies. It’s fairly cool, but it’s also pretty much a one trick pony. Whatever, we’ll call it worth it for the nostalgic value.
Nostalgic value does not save the Rainbow Star, which has been brought back as Mario’s invincibility. Just like the Boo Mario, there is barely any use for it in the game, unless you want to kick ass, which, given, is always fulfilling.
Spring Mario is pretty cool though. It’s incorporated fairly well and often after it’s introduced, and bouncing around and launching yourself is pretty fun.
Ice Mario is probably the second best incorporated upgrade in the game, after the Bee Suit. Ice Mario has many beneficial qualities including the power to walk on (and even long jump between in some cases) water and lava. The creators were fairly good about bringing this one back again and again, and it’s pretty fun.
Alright, I must discuss the secrets of the game. If you have not gotten 120 stars, do not read the red text. Believe me, it’s not worth spoiling.


The 120 star reward in 64 was alright. Seeing Yoshi was pretty cool, and laughing at his poor rendering in comparison to Mario Kart 64 (released at the same time) was fun too. Plus we got that little pat on the back from Nintendo, which made us feel like less of a loser for spending all of our time on our couch instead of being productive…yeah.
Galaxy decided to step it up a notch. When you get all 120 stars, Rosalina (Your hot yet terribly annoying guide on this journey) asks you to go to the center of the universe again. Yes it’s true, you must fight Bowser and watch the ten minute video/credits again. Deal. After you go through this, you can play the game over as Luigi. And yes, I did, because I’m that cool.
Luigi doesn’t handle all that different from Mario. In fact, it’s pretty much the same game over again. Except this time you know all the tricks and can blaze through it a bit faster. Also, Luigi has an annoying habit of sliding about six feet after you stop moving the control stick. This makes Space Junk a bit more difficult. Cosmic Luigi races are also a bit more difficult than Cosmic Mario races.
After you beat the game with both bros, you open up the Grand Finale Galaxy. This part is a bit disappointing. You see, all you do there is grab 100 purple coins on your way to Peach’s castle. Then you talk to the mail toad and he sends a letter to your Wii which parallels the note at the end of 64 from the creators. In any case, the Grand Finale Galaxy is still cool because it gets you 121 stars, which just feels awesome.


I’ve been slowly coming to the sad realization that Super Mario 64 is not as awesome a game as I have thought for the last ten years. Frankly, it’s too easy. It’ll probably still be my favorite forever just because of the nostalgia, but Galaxy certainly has some innovation and difficulty on 64. Bottom line, buy/play this game at all costs, it’s great. It’s got a few setbacks and gimmicks, but overall it offers a new dimension which breathes new life into Mario. I just hope the rumors about Super Mario Galaxy 2 are true.

-OSK

Fun Fact: If you look at all of the letters highlighted by sparkles in "Super Mario Galaxy" on the game's front cover , they spell "U R MR GAY" Accident? Who knows?

DOUBLE COOKIE!

“Anyone who doesn’t believe in Faeries isn’t worth knowing.”

-T. Amos