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29Sep2010 1900: Minerwocky

Beware the Minecraft! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! This game uses the Java Time API to convert my free evenings into...shit I don't know what but those hours are gone. If I could program something to convert time directly into castles I'd make a million dollars, too.

Our Tuesday night game group spent the entire evening, well past when we usually play, just digging holes in a mountain and hauling out phat ores. Does it sound like fun for four grown men (the fifth had connection issues) to spend four hours going "tink tink tink" with a virtual pickaxe on virtual dirt while avoiding virtual lava? Everything about Minecraft I try to put into words sounds totally stupid, but in the moment there's this tangible thrill of putting your tools to a hillside and making something.

Besides, now we have enough electrical "redstone" for me to make something truly idiotic and blinky.

Did anyone else think the Supernatural premiere had a few too many silly coincidences to get it all rolling? It reset the status quo harder than Stargate Universe... and I haven't seen that premiere yet so no spoilers.

[Joey Montana - Tus Ojos No Me Ven] is the worst of Justin Timberlake as much as Dick in a Box is the best of Justin Timberlake. It is also the anti-Minecraft in that time seemed to stretch out before me in a never-ending vista of squeezebox, each second become a hundred years of soulful Spanish vocals whispered to a 14-year-old girl over the radio.

[Guster - Do You Love Me] is the video, and a passably bizarre one at that. It's a video of the actual band, but in some sort of stop motion + stagehands + paint + CGI lyrics. The overall effect is unnerving, probably what all those horror movies with frame-dropping moist children are going for. The song is pretty good too, a mellow but upbeat rocker like what Oasis could have been if they were ever happy.

[The Doobie Brothers - Nobody] is from the Doobie Brothers! Are you excited yet? Well too bad, because it's more country then I ever remember them being. And not just in the way that lots of 70s rock sounds like modern country because country just caught up to forty years ago; no, the Doobie Brothers are actively moving towards a country sound. I don't know, maybe I'm just misremembering all those years of classic rock radio. But probably not.

[Cory Morrow - Second Chance] is actually straight-up country, and seems like born-again country to boot.

23Sep2010 2300: Colossus


Everybody buy this game.


22Sep2010 1745: Minecraft

Minecraft. Go buy it ($13.40 until the beta hits) and come back. I'll wait.

I'm totally jumping on the Minecraft bandwagon. I didn't look at it twice when VG Cats mentioned it, and repeated prompting by Raharu didn't convince me, but I finally had my oh no moment yesterday. It came at the midpoint of this video; crafting items depends not only on the ingredients on your workbench, but also the positioning. Two sticks and three stone could make a pick or an axe depending on how you lay the stones down in the crafting grid. It's also pretty damn intuitive -- you could spoil yourself with a recipe page, or you could just say "I want some stone steps" and put six rocks in the grid in a stair-step pattern.

The developer's server is getting hammered right now so you may not be able to buy it, but I was able to sneak through and install the game last night. I started carving a hole in the side of a hill and suddenly it was two hours later and my mighty cavern was busy melting sand into glass.

[Lost in the Trees - Walk Around the Lake] is an epic closing credits song for a Western movie that was never made. It begins with bombast and settles down into some smoother folk-country verses; it's the perfect counterpart to the animated "created by" credits segueing into the standard text scroll. I also got a minor Bat for Lashes vibe out of the first bit, but that was gone by the end.

[Javiera Mena - Hasta la Verdad] is a workmanlike 80s synth-pop song. It's not a big hit or a catchy melody, but the sort of thing that the record label would release as a third single off a well-selling album. It has all the drum machines and MIDI weirdness that I associate with the decade, and given the chance I'm sure I'd remember it as "that other song by Javiera Mena".

Oh hey, free Clapton? [Eric Clapton - Run Back to Your Side] must take the place of our usual weekly video, as it's normalized way below the volume of the other three songs this week. Eric's still got the juice to rock a guitar, but you've heard this sound before in better songs. I didn't care for the gospelly backing vocals.

It's so sad to hear that one half of 2 Live Crew is dead. [Group 1 Crew - Live It Up] is a strange new direction for the band: it's now electronic pop-rap. It's coldly calculated to get the maximum teenage booty on the dance floor, but it's not the sort of thing to keep around in your personal music library. And they don't have a single lyric about pussy!

15Sep2010 1830: Salvage Operations

As I type this I am attempting to salvage some absolutely vile crockpot chicken. I swear to Marduk that this was not the work of Food Satan, but rather some overly soothing recipes. "It's easy!" they all say. "Your legs should cook for 6-8 hours on Low, and veggies/flavorings go in the bottom!" So I chopped my carrots and layered them down, added a splash of apple cider -- tis the season for crockpot cider -- put down a four-pound package of chicken leg quarters over the whole deal and sprinkled some brown sugar on top. Sounds good, right? Or at least not totally disastrous?

When I got home from work I discovered that between the thin layer of cider and the chicken juices, the lowest layer of three quarters was now a fetid apple-chicken soup. The next layer resembled chicken but fell apart into soup when the tongs touched it. Only the very top, final quarter maintained integrity all the way to the plate...and it tasted horrible.

So now I've got two of the largest surviving pieces in the oven, where chicken belongs, and a large baggie of chickenish scraps in the fridge. These oven pieces already smell and look more like something edible, so hopes are high.

Speaking of high hopes, I'm once again in the middle of refinancing my mortgage. I attempted this a year or so ago, but got rejected at the eleventh hour because of missing insurance on the HOA. Now we very definitely have that insurance, and I very definitely want to save money. If you've been stalking me properly you know that I bought my condo at the height of what I hope future historians will call The Housing Bullshit. I bought well within my means and got the best rate that my first-time non-FHA youth could get, but now that it has all collapsed I can knock a full 3% off my rate and cut my 26 remaining years to 15. My finances are going to be bitching.

This just in: the chicken is just barely more palatable.

[Bostich + Fussible - I Count the Ways] is an odd bouncy pop song. It's not vocoded, it doesn't have a backing choir, and there's no reggae breakdown, but still: pop. It's like a theme song to a 1960s mod spy farce, a song meant to be accompanied by psychedlic animations of trenchcoat spooks running around the opening credits. And then the "o" in "count" irises open from the animation to show the first live-action scene, probably at an airport with a taxi pulling up to -- I'll stop now.

[Dondria vs Phatifffat - No More] is the pop disaster I was bracing for. Three fs, really? It's R&B garbage that I couldn't really focus on because THREE Fs. I look at my terminal window to type and fff is all I can see; I glance up to iTunes to try and comment on the album art and fff assaults me. Ifff you're hard up fffor more Destifffny's Child or TLFFFC-type music you migfffht like thifffs.

[The Gracious Few - Closer] begins with some moody synth organ like we're about to break into a Postal Service song any moment now, and then BAM it's Drist or something. And as those songs go, it's not bad until he starts screeching into the chorus. It's like he's screeching with all his heart but leaning way away from the microphone; suddenly he's all fervor and jumping around from down a long tunnel.

And that wasn't even the video. [Billy Currington - Pretty Good At Drinkin' Beer] may actually start jumping around in a tunnel...but from that title I doubt it. We open on a 35-year-old Napoleon Dynamite gearing up for a pool party, but getting slapped down by some random hulkamaniac. Napoldeon turns the tables on the hulkster at the pool party by displaying his amazing beer pong skills.


The music is just Billy listing all the things he's bad at and then stating that he's good at beer. I think this song has found its place on my dad's mostly-ironic Redneck playlist.

08Sep2010 1745: Sequels

Today on Monty's Behind the Curve: Crackdown 2 is shite. The concept of a superpowered badass jumping around a city wrecking shit is a great one, but Crackdown 2 suffers greatly from coming out after Prototype.

  1. Crackdown 2 levels up your character as you play; Prototype does too but allows you to choose which moves you get in which order.
  2. Crackdown 2 lets you jump really high and climb buildings by gripping ledges; Prototype lets you jump really high and climb buildings by fucking running right up the wall.
  3. Crackdown 2 lets you grab weapons from foes; Prototype lets you grab weapons from foes and features a superior lock-on.
  4. Crackdown 2 gives your character a glide move to extend jump distance; Prototype lets you glide farther and from a much lower height.
  5. Crackdown 2 lets you pilot a military helicopter; Prototype's helicopters have several different variants, all of which are more powerful than Crackdown's.
  6. Crackdown 2 has zombieish mutants; Prototype's zombieish mutants are far easier fodder at the lowest level and far more menacing foes at the higher level.
  7. Prototype's final cutscenes are kind of confusing (who exactly is Pariah? Anybody in the game? No?); Crackdown 2's final cutscenes are hella brief and hella lame.

I never played Crackdown 1, but I've heard that 2 is almost exactly like it. It sure feels like a game that has learned nothing from the past three years of games.

Also behind my curve today is No More Heroes 2. It makes some grand improvements over the first: the minigames are better, you don't need to grind money to get to the next fight, and the pre-boss levels have been shortened and streamlined almost to irrelevance. It also makes one terrible misstep: the boss characters have no personality. More properly, the bosses do have personality but you don't see any of it until the actual fight; the excellent silhouetted teasers from the first game are gone. You don't even know the name of any boss until after you defeat them. All the anticipation of meeting up with a "Harvey Moiseiwitsch Volodarskii" or "Bad Girl" is replaced with...nothing. The game also seemed easier this time around, nothing approached a Bad Girl level of difficulty (or song excellence). Not as big a disappointment as Crackdown 2, but still a step down from the first. If Suda51 could manage to bolt NMH2's boss-rush feel to NMH1's pre-fight preparations, we might finally have a breakthrough hit.

And through it all I can't stop thinking about Recettear.

[Wait. Think. Fast. - Si Es por Amor] wins a few points with me just for having punctuation in their name. It wins even more points for sounding like Rilo Kiley circa More Adventurous. There's a Moog in the background, simple guitar lines, female vocals, and basically you could slot this in right next to Love and War on the album. Very nice.

[Randy Rogers Band - Interstate] is strictly inferior to Interstate Love Song. That's okay, lots of songs are! The video portion is a typical concert/behind-the-scenes reel, the music is almost-inoffensive country, and the total package is tedious more than anything else.

[James - Crazy] wins the week for brevity. He also wins Most Shameless U2 Homage. It feels like the world is upside down right now -- probably thanks to Duke Nukem Forever -- but I actually liked the country song over this rock song.

That "feat." in the title of [Miguel - All I Want Is You (feat. J. Cole)] is like the headlight of an approaching train. All through [James - Crazy] I stared at it, wondering what kind of rap-team abomination was queueing to pour from my speakers. It turns out to be a midtempo R&B number, the kind usually delivered by upwards of four black men at once. In close harmony. Not nearly as bad as I'd feared, but not nearly as short as I'd like. And the "feat." delivers a rap breakdown in the middle, as expected.

03Sep2010 1345: Inconceivable

We're through the looking-glass here, people.

01Sep2010 1800: Capitalism Ho!

I finally got around to buying Starcraft 2, and yesterday the bold experiment of Dead Rising 2: Case Zero came out, and I still have to finish off No More Heroes 2 and Crackdown 2, but damn if I can't stop thinking about Recettear. I forget exactly why I was browsing around in Steam, but I checked the "special deals" and scrolled past all the goddamn trains to find...this. It's an item-shop simulator, a love child of Animal Crossing and Zelda. I don't even like it for the gameplay or haggling so much, it's because the translation in the demo is so spiffy. Capitalism ho! and thirty different ways to show assent; it's some damn good writing and some damn bad puns.

Puns are like 80s cool dudes in that the best ones are always totally bad.

Amazon is back to a reasonable 100 $5 albums for September, and further I don't see any that scream to be purchased by me. A brief respite from the relentless financial pounding they have given. If you're just looking for a good deal you should check out Enter the Vaselines, a 36-track behemoth that is now $30 off retail price.

[Luisa Maita - Lero-Lero] is quiet acoustic Latin nothings, nothings that nevertheless last about 17 hours. I ran through my feed reader twice in the time this took to play out. iTunes says it's only 4.75 minutes long, but it feels like a snippet of song looped 500 times. Actually yeah, it reminds me of something from Red Dead Redemption that's meant to play forever in the background of Mexican antics. It's not a bad song, but it does Yellow Submarine things to my time sense.

[Master Shortie - Bringing it Back] had me expecting the usual parties-and-bitches rap video, but instead there's a three minute love song to 80s hip-hop full of stolen 80s imagery. A good reminder why I don't listen to 80s rap. In ten years when people are waxing nostalgic for G-funk I will be totally on board.

[American Bang - Wild and Young] marries country vocals to radio-rock music, scoring a 2x multiplier on the Deletion Index. Imagine if you will the most generic woohoo-we're-teenagers song ever performed by a thirtysomething...then twang that sucka.

I was hoping that [Senator & the New Republic - Intermission] would prove to be a 30-second instrumental intermission from the middle of their album, but instead we get a mellow indie pop song that plays around with its time signature. Nothing earth-shattering here, but good enough to pack one last hyphen into the post.