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24Feb2010 1800: Perpetual Annexation

Borderlands is at it again, with the surprise revelation that their latest expansion was not coming at some nebulous juncture of "later" and "the PC version is delayed". Nay, that content is dropping tomorrow, the seers at Gearbox determined to prevent my game group from ever playing another game ever. It's like they pointed their crystal balls at our outing last night, saw we spent ten minutes firing various guns at a wall and verbally shrugging to each other, and decided to open the bomb bay doors.

Borderlands isn't what one would call a deep game, but for a group that meets once a week to shoot shit it has more than filled our metaphorical cups since October. We are discovering new content even now; "do you want to see a hole in the world," one of us will say. "We found a route with seven chests and a spot where the ants never end," says another. And even now, months into our play, we are shocked at the existence of Arenas. For some reason we had never thought to even look at these small deathmatch maps. They're all behind doors in the game world, doors marked with large neon signs even, but as they are separate from the normal quest lines we just never bothered. Mistake! Free for all, pitting each class against another? Team deathmatch, splitting up the people who can turn invisible? Everybody gang up on the guy who can shoot through shields? This is at least another two weeks of play, after we finish up with General Knoxx.

Consider that we all bought a digital copy of Left 4 Dead 2 back at that game's release, pre-order even, and they might as well still be in the digital shrink-wrap.

[Killamu - Melodia de Semba] invokes the magnificent Demolition Man on its album art, but the music is some sort of Eurobeat-"world music" hybrid that offended every part of me. If you wanted to film a nightclub scene in South Africa, this is what you would dub in.

[Carla Morrison - Esta Soledad] is the second iTunes single to bear that name, and is good in different ways. This is a single vocalist singing something echoy over a single guitar that is not always in synch. In form it reminded me of [Nancy Sinatra - Bang Bang] or something from Bat for Lashes.

You can guess what [Josh Thompson - Beer on the Table] is like, even before the video shoves heavy construction equipment and twangy guitar in your face. He sings all about the things he likes to buy with his weekly paycheck, including beer, but doesn't mention a savings account once. This is the problem, people.

[Dommin - My Heart, Your Hands] is like getting Twilighted in the face with a claw hammer. Or like spilling hot coffee in your ears at a Hot Topic. The band goes for a combination of Tears for Fears and Stain'd, and there is no joy in the execution of it. "Hilariously overwrought", those are the words I was looking for.

As a soul-crushing addendum to my open letter below:

  1. Clicking a button that turns itself into a number smashes the stack.
  2. You cannot compile "Me = 1350", as Me is a protected interface.
  3. You cannot assign a number to a form other than Me, either. This generates a compile error. Why are Forms so special? It's almost as if VB6 is checking their types somehow.

19Feb2010 1830: Implicit Conversions

An open letter to Visual Basic 6:

I know you're not a strongly typed language. I've come to terms with that fact. It assists with the versioning of our code at work, when one year's assembly (don't ask) can be replaced with another, and all the previously typed references changed to Object. I understand that.

But you, VB6, you do have type checking. You complain when parameters don't match what I'm passing; you complain when I try to put Objects into Strings. You have this wonderful facility at your fingertips but you don't know how to use it. You know when I'm doing something wrong; if only you could tell me. Talk to me, VB6.

For a totally made up example, why would you allow a programmer to assign an integer to a UI button? Why, when you know that I've created a Button, that it is of type Button, that it displays in the designer as a button, why would you then allow the following to compile?

Me.btnButton = 1350

That doesn't make sense, VB6. I'm trying to help us get through us, but you have to meet me halfway. It's a typo; it's a cut and paste error; it doesn't matter, you just need to realize that buttons aren't equivalent to fucking numbers. Okay? Very simple concept. Throw a compile error. Throw a runtime error if you really must. Just...just...

Jesus Christ.

17Feb2010 1745: Tracktile Immersion

I don't know that I'd go as far as to call Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks my favorite Zelda of all time -- Ocarina is situated in a time and place that will be nearly impossible to best -- but it is probably the second. It certainly beats the last DS Zelda, and I loved the hell out of that one.

The big gimmick for this one is that the staple helper-fairy is replaced with the disembodied spirit of Zelda herself, which is awesome for both Zelda in-jokes and the fact that she can start possessing the bodies of enemies. They also cut down the number of dungeon items to six, which all interact wonderfully together, and the puzzles are better for it. There were actually a couple parts in this game where I was stumped, which hasn't happened in a Zelda game since The Adventure of Link. It's definitely not the usual "arrow in eyeball" crap that's been propping up the series for so long. The central dungeon takes those puzzles and then adds in the team moves with possessed badguys, carrying right through to the very last boss.

And what a boss! Ocarina capped its gameplay perfectly by showing Link spear Ganon through the forehead with the Master Sword. That is actually improved upon in this game: when you stab the final Ganon-like boss in the head, the game makes you scratch like hell to force the sword deeper in. And you have to maintain this until Zelda runs up and helps you shove it deeper. Illustrated spoileriffically in this video, it was an intense way to finish the game.

Fraggin' Shyamalan, I was just starting to feel good about the upcoming Airbender movie and then you go and pull this shit. For reference, this is the proper Appa. How can the sky bison inspire the airbender arrow tattoos if they don't have the arrow markings? Shyamalan, you are a tool. Do not ruin this for me.

[ChocQuibTown - De Donde Vengo Yo] is one of those reggae-tinged rap songs that I have never liked. You know that one verse in every modern rap song where one of the backup guys comes in with a reggaesque breakdown? It's a whole song of that. Four and a half minutes lasts a long time here.

[Mariah Carey - Up Out My Face] is a known quantity. Mariah found a formula that worked early in her career and there's no reason to shake it up here. But speaking of terrible verses by backup singers, this song "features" Nicki Minaj doing that reggae-tinged thing I was talking about. And then they spend the last minute doing a marching-band reprise of the already-annoying chorus.

[Jets Overhead - Heading for Nowhere] saves the day. It didn't take a whole lot to save today, and "not a lot" is exactly what they bring to the table. This is rock in the quiet verse/chorale refrain vein, with fuzzy guitars that sound like Muse and a lead singer that sounds like Bryan Adams. I mean, doesn't he? That's what he reminds me of.

[Easton Corbin - A Little More Country Than That] should be ringing your alarm bells. I had always hoped that after the success of [Big & Rich - Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy] that more gangsta rap would seep into the country oeuvre. It never happened, but this song is lyrically similar to those songs where guys brag about how crunk they are. (Set up hillbilly scenario) => (compare yourself favorably to the scenario) through the entire thing. The only thing that can be said in its favor is that it's shorter than all the other songs this week.

10Feb2010 1930: Sweet Sweet Apocalypse

I'm still slowly making my way through Mass Effect 2, more slowly than I should if I'm seriously serious about avoiding spoilers. The game told me yesterday that I have enough scientific gewgaws to make the leap to the final mission, and I told the game to fuck right off because I haven't even recruited my last two crewmembers yet. I am not leaving any stone (or yeoman) unturned.

North Dakota is set for another world-ending flood if the snow total is to be believed. Sure, that article is all like "March was so wet last year, what are the odds of that happening again?" But I know better. I know you don't taunt the Red River. In-Forum you have doomed us all!

[Broken Bells - The High Road] opens with some default MIDI patches, but leaves them behind quickly in favor of some laid-back pop-funk. It' It's the exact midpoint between N'Sync and Portishead. It grew on me through the song, so I think it'll just barely stay. Makes a weird first impression.

[Land of Talk - It's Okay] is Sarah McLachlan in disguise. The video itself is a black and white animation about some hair-heavy knight errant, matched for no real reason against slow Lilith Fair material. I like the song but I really don't see that the video adds anything to it. In fact, Apple's usual habit of making the videos quieter actually detracts from the utility of the download.

[The Soft Pack - C'Mon] doesn't have much to say, but they're going to say it very fast while rocking out and then ask you to come on. Musically adequate, but doesn't go anywhere in its brief two minutes.

[Ana Isabelle & Angel Lopez - A Puro Dolor] sounds very much like what I imagine American Idol sounds like, but in Spanish. Two very good singers have a diva duet and wank their way up and down some scales in a slow love(?) song. The chorus swells appropriately, there's a key change for the last third, and basically the entire thing could have been scored by robots.

But this week, none of the singles really matter. What you should be listening to is Jesus H Christ and the Four Hornsmen of the any means necessary. It's Cyndi Lauper fronting Chicago with lyrics by Allan Sherman. They only have one official video and it's merely okay, but the lyrics are where it's at. Pandora introduced me all of two days ago, and every song I listen to has me cracking up by the end. For example, the band's deep sympathy for a new widower in "Do Me":

I know it's bad
I am a crass opportunist
But I don't wanna wait
If I hesitate
You're gonna fall for the girl
Who's there soonest.

03Feb2010 1845: Preempted

I'm stuck at work right now, so this will have to be quick. I know all (both) of you are all broken up about not having iTunes reviews ready to go. Well I gave them a quick scan last night and the electronica one is the only song that might have a chance of sticking around. This is based solely on the album art and given genres, but it feels right.

You know what doesn't feel right? The way that this story about nanoscale "liquid glass" is hitting all the blogs at once. The first I've heard of it, but it's already in use in places in the UK and is about to be sold in supermarkets? And it can coat anything and keep anything clean for years? Sounds like a scam to me. I've heard about nanoscale bumpy materials that keep bacteria from growing just by preventing them from getting out of their nano-valley, but a sprayable siloxide coating? Preposterous! And also: SCIENCE!!

And check out this 1994 interview with Steve Jobs. Not for any Apple-fellating purpose, but for the hilarious text of a world pre-object-oriented-programming. Where objects were the next big thing that would save computing and open it up to the business world. I have to admit they're right: businesses are now ass-deep in custom applications that all try to talk to each other.