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29Apr2009 1800: Fracture

Let's talk about Heroes for a moment. I'm done. This entire season looks like it was the product of two rival teams of writers, a nation-wide game of Red Rover as each team tried to recruit all the heroes to either good or evil. Each team got two to three episodes to have their fun, then the other team got a chance to undo all that work and swing things wildly their way.

Good: "Okay, we'll take Elle and Sylar."

Evil: "Pssht, we're taking Sylar back, killing Elle, and taking Nathan!"

Good: "Well we're taking Sylar and Nathan back again and adding a sassy teen sidekick for Sylar who pretends to be bad but is really good at heart."

Evil: "We pick Sylar again and we're going to make him President of the United States. Also we taze Mohinder for 2d6 damage."

Good: "So do we."

But this week! I kept watching because I was curious what kind of train wreck could finish such a distinguished season. And now I know, and I am never coming back. On top of the usual effects-budget complaints -- highlighted by yet another fight between Sylar and Peter that we don't see -- on top of the series of anticlimaxes as the government strike force is defeated, we end the show with quite possibly the singlest stupidest plan I have ever seen. It was a shit plan, easily recognized by its quite obviously being a shit plan. The Nielsen damage has already been done, but I will spoil it here anyway: Nathan has his throat cut by Sylar and totally dies, but Matt Parkman uses his mind-juju to brainwipe Sylar into being Nathan through shapeshifting. None of the other goodguys have much of a problem with this ethically and temporally dubious plan and are convinced it is the only course of action in a debate lasting somewhere south of four minutes.

For a writing team intent on ripping off every single X-Men plot at once, they should know how this ends. But do they know that we know?

There, glad that's off my chest. Let's talk about Fracture. Somewhere in the early 2000s game companies realized that after inventing a gun that shot actual black holes, there was very little left for the shooter genre. Enter Red Faction, with a gimmick of completely deformable terrain. You could dig tunnels and build mountains in real-time during gunplay. Later Red Factions scaled it back to just destroyable buildings, but Fracture spends a lot of tutorial space explaining all the different ways it plays with dirt. Dirt goes up, dirt goes down, dirt goes's totally a gimmick game and probably not very good over the long haul. So why bother? Because this week's it's $10 at Best Buy. $10 is easy to part with, and squishing dudes with sudden terrible tectonics is definitely worth $10.

[Laura Pausini - Primavera Anticipada] is this week's video, and yet another Spanish entry. But where [Calle 13 - Electro Movimiento] brought the awesome, this video brings the overwrought visual metaphor. As far as I can tell the song and the video and the metaphor are about how Laura Pausini is going to get her big break by doing a duet with James Blunt. Normally this kind of meta layer cake would get me interested, but the song did absolutely nothing to distinguish itself.

[Zoe - Nada] dresses up like Pyramid Head and does some New Wave crooning over atypically subdued synths. They run out of (Spanish) lyrics around three minutes in, but the song takes a gentle slope downwards to five and a half. I'm finding it hard to recommend this one either, but you can do a lot worse for free music.

Case in point: [Phillip LaRue - Chasing the Daylight]. It's Christian, and not in a pleasant "let's get married" way but in a "I don't know that skeptics have ever been as happy as me" way. I never understood the need to surround yourself in god-themed merchandise at all hours. Yeah I was raised Catholic, but I also had dinosaur bedsheets and ska music and Star Wars toys. If I had to align my every purchase to a single genre I'd have gone mad years ago. And for those madmen, there's Phillip LaRue.

24Apr2009 2045: Schwing

oh god I am so hard for this game

22Apr2009 1900: Music

Of course as soon as I post that I try the combination of "turning off Shopping Cart" and then "restarting iTunes". So now I can get the music, although I'm going to miss that cart.

Good thing too, or I wouldn't be able to tell you all that [Taxi Amarillo - Si, Te Amo], [Group Therapy - If You Ever Hear Me], and [Sarah Reeves - Come Save] are all terrible. They are boring-by-numbers exemplars of pop, rap, and Christian, respectively. Group Therapy gets a special mention for being a whopping 5:21 long, which is a long time to listen to a guy complain about the current state of rap OH THE IRONY.

[Manchester Orchestra - I've Got Friends] promised Bjorktastic good times with the preview image but it is lies. The pictured woman (and her pleasingly large glasses) do not actually sing the song. The band sounds more like Fuel or Coheed and does a passable job at a "rocking sad song". And this is a rare instance where the video would probably be better without the song backing it.

22Apr2009 1800: Stream of Doofishness

Hey, you know that True Blood show? That was pretty good, right? Well I saw this pretty good deal on Amazon for the source material and I fairly jumped on it. It came down to either that or a Dollhouse pre-order, so you know in what esteem I hold True Blood.

So far book 1 has been like getting kicked in the nuts repeatedly, if my testicles could understand grammar. I didn't know that the series was written as a stream-of-consciousness Sookie prose jam. Even so, who thinks like this:

My grandmother's great pleasures were reading Danielle Steele, watching her soap operas (which she called her "stories") and attending meetings of the myriad clubs she'd belonged to all her adult life, it seemed.

Aside from my Oxford comma hangups: it seemed? Just tacked on there at the end? Sookie, you're a fucking mind reader, you should know. But there's all sorts of stuff like that all over the beginning. Once it settled down and Sookie started dealing with concrete plot developments it got more palatable, but I had to drag myself through fifty pages of disjointed conversations and scattered parentheticals.

Also I just picked up the new Dresden book from the library, so Sookie can go screw for the rest of the week.

[Empire of the Sun - Walking on a Dream] has a classy Star-Warsish album cover and an 80s synth-pop sound. What it doesn't have is any sort of interesting content. It gets the job done if you're really hard up for 80s pop, but then again there's an entire decade of that to choose from. Empire of the Sun is just barely more of the same.

And that is all the reviews you get, until iTunes decides it's going to cooperate again. I've already tried deleting the mobile apps, I can't remove any items from my cart OR view my account info without getting the same error 5002.

15Apr2009 1800: Crank

Oh hell yes! It's time for Crank 2, baby! My fingers are crossed for yet more ridiculously improbable action and drug use.

I'm nearing the end of a Dresden re-reading marathon. That TV adaptation never had a chance, relying on it did on crap scripts and almost no magic. It seared my flesh to watch such a thing, and even Syfy didn't want it around.

Let's do these reviews quick so I can go sit on the patio and drink beer and wish I had remembered to pick up something grillable.

This is one of those songs that are like those other songs that talk about boys who like a certain type of girl. If that sentence doesn't get on your nerves with its vagueness you may be able to tolerate [Jessica Harp - Boy Like Me]. Also: it's country.

[Grupo Rush - Jasmine] is some sort of Latin boy band. You can see right there on the album cover: there's a tough one, a gay one, a tough one, and an obviously-photoshopped-hat one. They are singing about a girl, and despite the language barrier I'm fairly confident any of us could have written suitable lyrics for this kind of bargain-basement song.

[Ida Maria - I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked] has the right idea. Appear on the album topless and write a song about getting a guy naked. It doesn't hurt that her voice is reminiscent of that one Pretenders song I know from Guitar Hero. It does hurt that there aren't that many words to the song, and the guitar work doesn't really pick up the slack. She's content to shout out the refrain over a man-chorus for much of the song.

[Cage the Elephant - Ain't No Rest for the Wicked] comes very close to something I'd want to listen to. It's a sorta-spoken-word minimalist rock/blues thing, but the refrain is constructed almost entirely of cliché. It's actually kind of impressive. And I suppose it did finally make me look up the HTML entity for é. Nah, let's delete it.

8Apr2009 1900: All Hail Stalinator

So the high concept behind Stalin Versus the Martians is a thing of beauty. B-movies? In my video games? It's more likely than you think. And then the release date is April 20th, which is never a coincidence. And then they come out with this uncompromisingly bizarre trailer. There is only one conclusion: their entire development team is Communist. Indulging in a little Jamaican Trotsky, if you catch me.

This is a gift from one of my cousins. You're welcome.

Yesterday was iTunes liberation day, so if you think 30 cents is worth not having to burn the tracks to CD and re-rip them, you might as well upgrade. I'm sure the hoopla around this "upgrade" has caused some furor at the store, as their selection of free tracks is rather lacking. There might be more freebies, especially a Spanish track, but they're not sorted into the simple "Free on iTunes" section. Also, is it the Day of the Dead or something? We've got a bone theme going on:

[Band of Skulls - I Know What I Am] can't fool me. They're the White Stripes wearing a flimsy Scooby Doo disguise. Lo-fi stomping feedbacking rock 'n' roll. Dig it.

Do you want to see three white boys in black body stockings jamming out in a box filled with fake snow? The video for [Friendly Fires - Skeleton Boy] delivers this and a pretty accurate representation of what pop sounded like in 1984.

1Apr2009 2000: Fools

Another Internet Unusability Day is upon us, when everybody from every culture holds hands and sings off-key songs of contempt for what is right and proper. Bitter? No. I am not at all bitter that this is likely fake.

My eight-year-old self is shaking with desire for this product, back in the wilds of 1989, and the poor yutz doesn't know why.

Sadly, on this day of evil Internets, work has also slowed down. Tectonically slow. Our programmers debugged too greedily and too deep, and awoke the Banalrog. The helpdesk phone line, once bane of my existence, is eerily quiet. All the applications are doing what they're supposed to, and have been for nearly two weeks. No new development has stepped up to take its place. It's unnerving.

Which is all just a dramatic lead-in to GeoDefense. It don't know why it took so long for somebody to rip off Geometry Wars' visuals for a tower defense game, and goddamn if it doesn't eat battery, but it's enough to get me through the tough times.

I was watching Hellboy 2 while typing this up, and I don't think I liked it. It was visually arresting, and Ra knows I like me some humans vs faerie drama, but the whole thing was bogged down by the script. The dialogue was technically correct, but the delivery and timing felt like everybody learned English as their third language.

iTunes gets in on the April Fools bullshit with [John Cage - 4'33"], movement one. Yeah. We only get 1:46 of the 4:33.

I really do try to listen through all the songs I download, but [Angel Taylor - Make Me Believe] overcame me in the very first verse. Just... her rhymes! They burn my ears, the way she hammers on them. This is yet another pop song about getting dumped and wanting to get back together blah blah. And if you're going to use robotic voice modulation, you could have the guts to turn the dial all the way to robot.

[V Factory - Love Struck] snuck up on me. With other album covers vying for my attention (see below) I missed all the warning signs of a boy band. Plus my heart belongs to Varsity Fan Club.

Why hello, [CuCu Diamantes - Mas Fuerte], aren't you a skinny little skank? Your song is pretty good, a sultry Latin jazz, but I can't tell where the couch ends and your poultry pauldron begins. I'm keeping you, but I may have to delete your album cover.

[Peter Bjorn and John - Nothing to Worry About] is this week's video, and...excuse me, it just started. Okay, done. Huh. The song is one of those weird hip-hop experiments like Gorillaz. I don't care for it much. But the video is a day in the life of The Pompadour. No, not a pompadour. The Pompadour. It follows him through his struggles with the seedy underculture of Japanese breakin' gangs. It's...huh.