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30Mar2011 1830: Enslaved and Airbender

Today on Monty's Behind the Curve, I finally saw The Last Airbender. It is everything a Shyamalan film could be, and nothing an Airbender film should have been. I want to travel back in time and shake myself for ever entertaining hope. I want to travel back in time for other reasons, but on the way I could stop over in 2009 and shake myself by the lapels. I never wear anything with lapels.

Airbender joins the growing list of "Movies I've Been Told I've Seen" among such luminaries as Catwoman and Transformers 2. My coping mechanism for these turns out to be getting blind drunk and not remembering a damn thing about them in the morning. It's worked out pretty well so far. It worked so well that I had to go back and skim over Airbender just to make sure that no, I hadn't passed out in the middle. It really was that poorly paced.

There's a Behind the Curve bonus today, as I sat down Sunday with my massive hangover and cranked out the rest of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. This game has quite a few admirable traits going for it. Chief among them: although it may eventually spawn a sequel it is not itself a franchise entry. Sad that I have to mention that, but we need to show the market that there's still room for an original story.

Enslaved is not completely an original story; it's somewhat based on the classic Chinese epic Journey to the West, which I am proud to say I know of through both a cartoon and a videogame. Because that is how the classics should be experienced. Anyway, the main character is named Monkey, has an extendo-staff, is seemingly infinitely strong, and can travel around on a hoverboard he calls "cloud". He also wears a "crown of constricting", in this reality a Slaver Headband, through which he is forced to assist the female character Tripitaka. It actually hews a lot closer to the legend than Dragonball did.

Even though he's a roid freak and was hijacked into the mission at hand, it's impressive to me that Monkey never comes across as a jerk. In an era where games focus on jerks or wiseasses, a central character that is merely gruff feels like controlling a Care Bear. There's never a moment where I felt like Monkey and Tripitaka (call her Trip) don't seem to care for each other; early on, Monkey warns Trip that he would rip her head off, but you can tell he's not going to literally do it. I just... I liked everybody in this game. They're marvelous characters.

You know what else is great? The game is post-apocalyptic, but not in the typical "everything is brown and dusty" way. It's not evident that nukes have scoured the planet, we weren't invaded by giant alien worms that poop rust, and even the requisite piles of debris are vibrant and covered in nature.

This is an apocalypse I can get behind.

And as often as it came up, there was never a time that Monkey's combat-concluding O face was not funny. It got me every time:

I'm laughing at that right now.

Ultimately you couldn't make a better sequel to Beyond Good and Evil if you were actually making a sequel to Beyond Good and Evil. Both are critical darlings that flopped commercially; both have wonderfully fleshed-out characters; both have magic-staff-focussed combat; both can be finished in a weekend; both are famous for bugs. My Beyond Good and Evil playthrough never broke, but on Enslaved's final boss I got hit with a laser and suddenly I couldn't swing my staff any more. If it wasn't for the counter-attack I'd upgraded, I would have had to throw the match. Issues can just be...random.

Five free songs this week, but again no video. [Chikita Violenta - Tired (Live)] is an iTunes exclusive live track, as proclaimed so boldly in every inch of the song info. There was nothing especially violent or bananal about the band, but it's a pretty good rock song. The volume is low but it keeps up an energy throughout. You can't mosh to it, but you bob your head and feel pretty all right.

Uh oh, it's a "feat" song. [Jamie Grace - Hold Me (feat. tobyMac)] pictures her holding an acoustic guitar so I wasn't too worried. Her portion, the female pop artist part, isn't that special but is decent for what pop is these days. Throw it in with Sara Bareilles and Colbie Caillat. But tobyMac needs to get the hell out; this kind of song absolutely does not need a reggae backing.

[Bibio - Take Off Your Shirt] is not going to convince anybody to undress. They're trying for a dance-rock kind of forward momentum, maybe intended to bridge Chikita Violenta and LCD Soundsystem, but it's not rock enough to get people jumping around and tearing off clothes and not dance enough to get ecstasy chicks to slither out of their tank tops.

[LCD Soundsystem - Drunk Girls (Holy Ghost Remix)] is LCD Soundsystem, and he is always welcome in very small doses. Unfortunately this is one of his meandering 7-minute epics, which is not a small dose.

[Mac Miller - On and On] gives a head-fake with the piano at the beginning -- I steeled myself for a soulful prettyboy piano pop ballad -- before exploding into a rap song instead. Neither are welcome here.

23Mar2011 1900: I Beg Your Pardon

First, as long as we're up here at the top of the post, please to be noting that I added an RSS link in the header. I don't know if I turned the RSS icon off in Chrome or if my RSS feed isn't auto-detected, but I realized over the weekend that I had no link to get the feed. Now I do.

Secondly, the Sunday page of 52 Yo Mama was really more of a half-comic, so I put the next page up early. Now my buffer is ruined! I predict disaster.

Thirdly, this is very important: if you harbor any nostalgia for childhood viewings of Howard the Duck, you should allow them to remain nostalgia. Under no circumstances should you attempt to view that movie again as an adult. I've brought a lot of shit movies to SciSat, but I don't think I've ever found myself apologizing for it. I apologize for Howard the Duck. If this post kindles any curiosity in anybody out there, I apologize in advance.

No videos this week, but four singles to be got. [Straight Line Stitch - Conversion] is marked with the "explicit" tag, but don't get your hopes up. These guys are the kind of wanky growly death metal that pisses people off in Rock Band, married to a refrain from the Evanescence playbook. The contrast is interesting but I can't stand Cookie Monster Metal.

[William Fitzsimmons - Beautiful Girl] is so far from Straight Line Stitch that the light bouncing off of SLS right now won't reach it for five years, except that no light escapes from SLS because they are so metal amirite? William Fitzsimmons is like what Jack Johnson would be if Jack Johnson had a single out this week.

[El Trono de Mexico - Te Voy a Amar] begins with a plaintive vocal/piano duet before kicking things into high gear. This is a gear beyond fifth and it is labeled "Latin polka". I would have fallen back on my standard and possibly-racist descriptor of "mariachi", except that the song uses more oompah and keyboards and features no trumpets.

[Art of Dying - Die Trying] is Stain'd in disguise. Or Stone Sour. Or any of that 2002ish age of slightly-hard rock in 6/8 time.

18Mar2011 1930: Castle

Caspirr is a cool dude and plays on my Minecraft server. Recently he had an extended stayover in the United States, away from his fiancée and work. What did he do with all that free time?

Built a sweet castle out of sand, that's what.

Okay so technically he had to use both sand and the not-affected-by-gravity Sandstone. But the material composition doesn't matter as much as the artistry on display. Check out those tiled floors!

And the portcullises! Portculli?

This place is seriously big.

On Tuesday night, he reminded us that he wouldn't be on until Saturday. It was time for him to drive back to Canada, and he'd be without Minecraft access until then. And then he logged off.

And left his mighty sandcastle completely undefended.

This is the appropriate response.

16Mar2011 1830: Waiting on the Future

There's no way I can top last week's Multimedia Event, especially with the dearth of content this week. Freaky Faron is out on Netflix streaming, but I'm certain I'm one of maybe five people that will ever remember it fondly. The new Thursday Next book is out, but it's not yet in my greedy little hands. The new Assassin's Creed DLC is out, but there's only so many ways to say "fantastic" to people who haven't played the series and it's not like this will convince you.

This leaves me in the unenviable position of relying on iTunes to save this post. [Gaelic Storm - Raised on Black and Tans] is Apple's concession to tomorrow's drinkanalia. It is also the most ridiculous parody of Irish stereotypes I've heard outside of Buck O Nine.

[Toy Selectah - Sonidero Compy (feat. DJ Blass)] has that reddest of red flags, "feat.". Sure enough, this is some kind of terrifying techno-reggae-rap, a monotonous trek through sonicscapes quantized and calculated to anger me.

[The Joy Formidable - Austere] is the video this week, but I don't think Joy Formidable wanted to make a video. Most of it is a white field with single body parts tapping out the tune; the chorus is accompanied by a screensaver. It's two full minutes until anything resembling the band appears. After the bridge they vanish again. But you know what? This video is silly but you should get the song anyway. It's basically Metric, and Metric is awesome.

[The Naked and Famous - Young Blood] sounds like some sort of 80s, but I can't quite put a name to it. Which probably means that it sounds like every female pop artist's filler from every album in the 80s. An amalgam of drum machine cranked to its slowest setting, dreamy vocals, and two bars of synth repeated through the whole song. Bah. Go listen to Ladyhawke instead.

09Mar2011 1830: Stereophonic Multimedia Event

Holy crap A Dance With Dragons
This is a My Little Pony named Twilight Sparkle.
She is either preparing to vanquish the evil Nightmare Moon
or having an orgasm. CHOOSE WISELY.

Oh man oh jeez it's almost here it's almost done holy crap

There is a game called SpaceChem on Steam and the Internets. There is a demo. You should all get this demo.

Looks like madness, doesn't it? That's two hours well spent, right there. Those graphs on the left side? That's proof that I beat the Internet at that level. My abstract widgets are efficient abstract widgets!

The game has you design a path for two robots to move through a factory. You also issue red and blue commands as they move through this path. The ultimate goal of each level is to carry atoms from the left side to the output on the right side, bonding or splitting them to form certain molecules. And then later on, chaining the individual screens to form an assembly line. I've heard there's even a boss battle. And because every level is scored against every other player who's ever played that level, I find myself obsessively shaving cycles off of my robot loops, clawing my way over the bell curve.

How can I top all that awesome? I can't. iTunes lets us down this week, starting with [Timothy Bloom - 'Til the End of Time (feat. V)]. This is a spare R&B song, leaning heavily towards Blues and away from Rhythm. It may even abut Gospel. It's not bad, certainly, but it's no A Dance With Dragons.

[Gustavo Galindo - Barco de Papel] is a generic-sounding pop-rock song, quiet verse + loud chorus. The only enjoyment I extracted from this tune was imagining it was about the pope's swashbuckling transportation. It's definitely no SpaceChem.

[Wye Oak - Holy Holy] closes us out this week -- there doesn't seem to be any free video. It's run-of-the-mill low-fidelity indie rock, quiet and monotonous electric guitar plinking away behind a wavery female voice. They decide to break out a few more notes in the refrain but don't really put any energy into it. It's okay, but it's no My Little Pony having an orgasm.

02Mar2011 1800: Side Jobs

I'd like to welcome my sister back to the blog. She had bookmarked the December 2010 archive page instead of the home page and wondered why I wasn't updating any more. To be fair, I had no idea she was updating either.

I was completely useless at work today; a simple typo stymied me for over four hours while my attention wandered all over my desk and monitors. I'm not sure I'll remember anything of the Netflix I watch tonight. I blame my exhaustion on the Harry Dresden short-story anthology Side Jobs. It's a must-read for Dresden fans -- I'm ashamed I got to it so late, but I was trying to combine its paperback version and the release of the next hardcover. Once Ghost Story was delayed to somewhere in the summer I broke down and got Side Jobs. I only had one story left to read last night..."only" the longest and newest story, which carried me way past my thought curfew. Overall it's a neat look at some of the supporting characters from the novels, even if the stories tend to rely on Harry almost getting laid.

We're starting off with a name brand this week: [R.E.M. - ÜBerlin] has a precious title but is pretty great REM. They're very good to iTunes in the singles they release.

The video this week is [Miranda Cosgrove - Dancing Crazy]. It is not at all based on this "dancing crazy", which is far superior and you should watch that link instead. This is teen pop and I don't know that she understands the definition of "raging". Is raging the new name for jumping up and down? In my day it was known as "jumping".

[Alexander - Truth] is kind of an apology for the Cosgrove. It's all mellow guitar and a dude whistling and indie vocals, like if Juno were set in the Wild West. That's...that's a great fucking idea! With True Grit putting a spotlight on westerns last year and Cowboys and Aliens going guanophrenic this year, the time is right for a twee western coming-of-age story.

[Lucinda Williams - Buttercup] takes us home this week with a guitar sound I thought went out in the mid-90s. Either Lucinda wants to be Sheryl Crow, or her producer wants Lucinda to be Sheryl Crow.