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25Jul2007 1825: Tidings of Great Sorrow!

...I bring them to you! Guiter Hero: Rocks the 80s is the worst Guitar Hero. I will cushion this blow up front; Guitar Hero has always been awesome so it's not really that this is a bad game. It is

I will explain. Once upon a time, a team of developers called Harmonix (famous for their music/rhythm games) partnered with game-controller maker Red Octane (famous for controllers) to make Guitar Hero. This exploded beyond anybody's expectations into a mega-million franchise because of the care and attention they both put into their half of the design. Guitar Hero 2 was even bigger and pushed both companies into a very uncomfortable spotlight.

Here is where Rocks the 80s went wrong. Red Octane and Harmonix had talked a big game about expansion packs and downloadable songs leading up to the release of GH2. In July, before Guitar Hero 2 was released, Red Octane -- and the Guitar Hero brand name -- were bought by Activision. In September MTV Networks bought Harmonix, but work on GH80s was already underway. And thus, the tragedy.

GH80s is sloppy, even for an expansion pack. Half of the characters from GH2 are gone, and the ones remaining have only one outfit. The guitars are unchanged, right down to the bonus guitars. There are half the songs but the game is still full price. And, while I'm too young to fully speak to the quality of the tracklist, I must communicate this most egregious slight upon our rocking. GH2 introduced a few tracks lifted directly from the band. This was considered a great coup, as the cover band version can be...uneven *coughKillingInTheNamecough*. But one should NEVER pursue a master track if it has a radio-style fade out at the end!! In GH80s, there are two! The song is winding up, you're playing, and then suddenly the music starts to disappear and you're still playing notes, and after an arbitrary point the notes stop but the music still fades out a little. The Warrior would be one of the most fun tracks, but for the horrible lasting impression.

The whole presentation is apathetic, a testament to two companies no longer interested in working with each other. Red Octane/Activision is busy with Guitar Hero 3 (a tracklist I am very interested in), and Harmonix is competing with their own Rock Band, and between them they will have all of my monies. But for now, GH80s is definitely not worth the $50 they're extorting charging. That's why I took advantage of Best Buy's free gift card online deal, which through the magic of in-store pickup was essentially paying me $15 for the convenience of reserving my copy, a copy that was already $10 cheaper than everywhere else.

Glad that's off my chest.

Let's talk about music that doesn't cost $50 for a moment. [Ceci Bastida - Ya Me Voy] is another data point in the theory that pop music has sucked everywhere since 1997. DELETED. [Carol Riddick - I Don't Wanna] brings us some R&B smooth flow hook...groove...things. I guess it might stack your deck if you like R&B, but for me DELETED. [Gallows - Black Heart Queen] injects some much-needed rock into the lineup and isn't so bad. This is one of those songs I would expect to find buried halfway down a Guitar Hero bonus track list, one that I play every couple of months and go "Yeah, that's pretty good." And we have come full circle.

22Jul2007 1136: Potter's End

As expected, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows covered a ridiculous amount of territory to wrap everything up. It puts me in mind of the first Transformers movie, in fact, with the speed at which everything happens to everybody at once. What's more interesting is that I received a PDF file of the book a week early from an Internet friend...and it turns out this book is completely false. Could be a plant, could be some skilled fanfic. I have an entire other Deathly Hallows to read!

I went to the midnight kick-off event, flush with tales of previous years' scarf parties and readings and charged atmosphere...and what I got was a line. I was assured that every other gathering was well within fire code and fit inside the building, but if there's one idea that motivates a group of fans it is The Last One. So the first 250 early birds got to party inside the building, while my friends and I stood outside in line. And then! The line wasn't even necessary, as those of us with reserve bracelets got to leave the line and go buy our books first anyway. Ridiculous.

There were a few costumes in evidence in the line, and more once I got inside, but -- ladies, please. There were no small number who had dyed their hair pink to look like Nymphadora Tonks, but Nymphadora Tonks can look like anybody. I don't see the point.

18Jul2007 1826: Potter Fore and Aft

I am about to state fact: the new Potter movie is far superior to the old Potter movie. It is only a minor disappointment that CG of Harry flying still doesn't look realistic, but flying is kept to a minimum. Goblet of Fire had trouble covering everything in the book, and left the impression of an addled half-finished script. It was decent, of course, but it didn't flow at all smoothly. Order of the Phoenix cuts out huge sweeping ranges of the book, but it does so with none of the frayed edges I half-remember from Goblet. Quidditch? Gone. Sirius' brooding alone at headquarters? Gone. Rita Skeeter and the whole Lovegood-tabloid plot? Gone. This leaves a relatively tight central narrative of "Dolores Umbridge screws up Hogwart's. Harry battles Death Eaters." Character-building and background are excised, but they are done so cleanly. The only downside is that cutting the tabloid means less of the fantastic Luna Lovegood.

The next Potter comes out Saturday at midnight, and as it's my final chance to witness the insanity firsthand I will attend the local Barnes & Noble hullabaloo. I anticipate scarves.

Before I announce the judgement of this week's free iTunes tracks, I must first prepare myself for the Internet shockwave that Morgion will cause in his haste to download...okay. The first track is [Kronos Quartet - Tenebrae: Second Movement]. Wait, Morgion! This is nothing like their various work on movie soundtracks that you have so enjoyed. This is some sort of concept album about salt water, so the track is floaty and incoherent with very little beat. There's none of the tense driving beat that seemed to be their signature; this is other people's music. I think. Maybe they're branching out. DELETED.

[Pastilla - A Marte] sounds like somebody turned on VH1's I Love the 80s and hit the ESP button on the remote. I've heard this guitar before, but was it The Cars or Flock of Seagulls?

[Colbie Caillat - Bubbly] had a scary album cover at first glance. A well-tanned and smooth-skinned chick in a tank top, apparently moaning slightly to the camera's right? Bubbly? I feared I was in for vocoders and backup dancers and teen-love lyrics. Then I noticed the corner of an acoustic guitar in the corner and I knew it was going to be okay. The rhymes kinda made me cringe, and the entire song sounds vaguely familiar. I am convinced I have heard this voice under another name.

12Jul2007 1843: Edmond

Sorry I'm late. Work ended late and crappy yesterday, and then I went to hang out at the girlfriend's and watch a movie that I didn't figure out was about Che Guevera until two minutes before the ending. In between, and really in every spare moment since Sunday, has been devoted to Edmond.

Edmond, say hi.

Hm, he doesn't like you. Kitty!

Free iTunes is on a roll now. Their Single of the Week, [Joell Ortiz - 125 Pt 3. (Connections)] is exactly what I expected from the album cover, which is to say ghetto rap in the style of DELETED. But the other two free tracks are quite good in their own ways. [Fionn Regan - Put a Penny in the Slot] is nearly-spoken folk that puts me in mind of somebody trying to emulate Bob Dylan and ending up somewhere halfway decent. I can't quite make out what putting a penny in the slot does, something about artificial light? Artifical heart? You need a new doctor if your pacemaker requires tokens.

[Capitan Melao - Estelar] is in impenetrable Southron language but sounds like Bree Sharp or maybe early Sheryl Crow. I'd say four stars.

04Jul2007 1325: Transformers

I have been waiting for a decent Transformers movie for most of my life. It may only have around 60% on Rotten Tomatoes, but if you're of my generation you could bump that up to 75% easily, and if you've seen the first Transformers movie you can bump that up again to 85% just in contrast. There is absolutely nothing to complain about as regards the giant robots fighting and knocking shit over, unless you are absolutely married to the G1 Optimus Prime. No, everything wrong with the movie can be traced to Michael Bay himself: supremely annoying bit characters, hackneyed dialogue, and lingering slow-motion closeups of people disembarking helicopters and surveying devastation. This is not a new thing. In fact, I applaud Bernie Mac for not being in most of the movie. He is surprisingly the least irritating side character.

Aside from the magic of Transformers, there was a very unhelpful preview of an untitled monster movie by JJ Abrams, which it turns out is... an untitled monster movie by JJ Abrams. Fantastic.

Free music this week is a pretty good bunch. [Los Rabanes - Ella Se Mueve Cruel] sounds like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, so if you're starved for classic ska you should pick this up and cradle it close to your chest. [Ruthie Foster - Heal Yourself] also hearkens to a classic sound, that of Motown. It starts with some forced rhymes but as a whole is a successful jazzy number. [Die Mannequin - Autumn Cannibalist] has a very silly name. The discordant female vocals may not be everybody's cuppa but I like it.