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25May2011 1800: L.A. Noire

Oh shit have I really never written about L.A. Noire here? This will get you up to speed. Basically some Australian crazies put L.A. Confidential and Chinatown into a box, shook it, and seven years later L.A. Noire popped out. You can play this game in black and white! That's all I've done so far: I installed the (three!) discs to my XBox, booted it up, and switched to black-and-white mode in the opening cutscene. Save, quit, anticipate.

One-room movietime continued with Devil this past Saturday. It's far enough away from Shyamalan's influence to let the actors do some decent acting, but he still wrote the story so it's still a bunch of stereotypes dealing with a preposterous situation. A cut above Syfy Original and leagues beyond what Shammy's done lately, and yet it's still not good.

Today's offering is Rope, which I'm hoping is an ideal lead-in to beginning L.A. Noire.

One thing I'm still trying to get a handle on is Amazon's propensity for putting up old songs for free. iTunes would have new songs/albums from old artists, and sometimes it'd even convince me that the songs were old, but Amazon will literally dig into the past. I'm pretty sure that Queen doesn't have a new album coming out, but [Queen - Seven Seas of Rhye] is still free. Do you want a free Queen song? Because this sounds exactly like their hits, except it's not famous.

I had to listen to it twice to be sure, but [Point Juncture Wa - Snakey Says] sounds most like Camera Obscura to me. It's a species of female indie pop that weaves lethargic happiness into every chord; PJ Wa could be singing about how awesome Hitler was and we'd all absently bob our heads and sing along.

[Chad Vangaalen - Sara] sounds like an Iron and Wine production -- which is to say, "minimal" -- but instead of a soft cuddly voice he sounds more like The Shins. So if you've been waiting for the lead singer of The Shins to pick up an acoustic guitar and conquer the need more caffeine.

18May2011 1930: Man in the Box

Portal 2: catch it! Who am I kidding, I'm a month late to that party already. Everybody who wants to play it has played it twice. So today on Monty's Behind the Curve, Portal 2 is still awesome.

One-room movietime is going well. The Disappearance of Alice Creed had maybe two or three rooms, but it also started with ten minutes of silence to let the tension build. Lots of movies could take a cue from that Jumper I'm looking at you. It's a pretty good crime caper for only having three people involved. I just finished up Buried, which is The Ryan Reynolds Show as much as Moon was The Sam Rockwell Show. So far it's been the truest to the one-room-movie theme, delivering 100%...I'm not sure you can have fewer rooms than there were in this movie. Even 12 Angry Men -- the real one -- had a denouement.

Amazon's ever-shifting recommendation sidebars did not deign to show me a Daily Free Song, but their Top Free Songs has once again rolled over completely. Top three as of the time I downloaded:

With the ambiguous album cover and song title, I was deathly afraid [Ellie Goulding - Guns and Horses] was country. But holy crap! Is this the chick from Catatonia? Wiki says no, but it sounds a lot like her; the accent, the warbling, and the way her voice breaks. The song itself is some high-energy pop that I am really digging. It doesn't seem to be about guns or horses, but it also doesn't give me time to dwell on the Pop Formula being employed. That's right, even the two-verse-bridge-final-chorus that I harp on so often didn't raise my hackles. Highest (pop) praise I can give.

[The Church - Under the Milky Way] is apparently from 1988. It seems that The Church were Australian The Smiths. If you could follow that sentence, you know if you want this song. Did I mention it's free?

I thought I already had a song by Yellowcard, but I was thinking of Yellow Sloth Chicken Broth. Y'know, just to keep on with the incidental X-Files theme I have going here. Anyway, [Yellowcard - Hang You Up] is the weakest of the tracks this week, a midtempo guitar pop song about girl troubles. It has nothing to recommend it -- not offensive in any way, but a lack of identity that makes it look bad in comparison to the other two winners.

11May2011 1930: Pie in the Sky

Week Two of the Amazon Cloud Player Experiment is going well. So well, in fact, that other companies are already desperate to lure me away. I'm also getting an interesting cross-section of my music. Part of that is using a new shuffle algorithm after so many years on iTunes devices; part of it is the lack of star ratings. Songs that got nixed years ago in a fit of pique are getting a second lease on life. Most of the time my reaction is "Oh hey, where has this song been?" Once my reaction was "Crap, I accidentally uploaded that two-hour Rifftrax." And once my reaction was a violent case of ear rash.

In fact, the only thing I'm really missing is the Free Single of the Week dealie. Last week didn't feel right without any reviews of terrible music. Looking at the "Top Free Songs" on Amazon, there has been almost complete turnover from last week. So let's try this Amazon style: today's Free Track and the #1 Free Track of the Week. And I can even link them direct without worrying about iTunes bolshevik.

The daily deal is [Christopher Cross - Doctor Faith]. I can't decide if this guy is banking on his name recognition or trying to fight it, but either way this song did not make me jump jump. This is the easiest of easy listening, a song that doesn't even need a Kenny G cover to wuss it up.

Weekly #1 is [Liam Finn & Eliza Jane - Honest Face] is a straightforward kind of indie pop. Liam's voice is fine, but the musical accompaniment is the harshest kind of guitar and synth noise. Not reverb or poor sampling, but notes ratcheted up into the upper limits of human hearing. And then, inexplicably, the track contains thirty seconds of silence at the end. Perhaps the music actually did pass beyond the human range. If Liam had just had some normal acoustic guitar or piano behind him this song would have been plenty alright.

See? That wasn't so bad. Well, the music was bad, but that just means I can look down the throats of these gift horses as well as any from Apple.

My Netflix queue has finally reached the "movies in a single room" portion, stacked with winners like Fermat's Room, Buried, Devil, and Rear Window. I don't even remember why I did this.

04May2011 1600: In The Office

So. Here I am. The new job is apparently in full effect, even though I have no workstation yet. It's all been "research" into things like Lightweight Java Games Library (enabler of Minecraft!), Unity (enabler of...uh...WolfQuest!), and Cthulhu save me the Unreal Development Kit. It looks like for once in my life the game-ness of a project is going to overrule the code-ness of a project. Unity is the frontrunner in that respect, as there are many gamelike things you can do for very little effort.

All this internetting doesn't really distract me from the reality of the office, which is that I'm the only person sitting in this giant room for about 80% of my workday. The other 20% is spent not talking to the only other person in the room. Something something something makes Monty a dull boy.

This week I took a leap of faith and switched over from iTunes to Amazon Cloud Player. It's certainly not for the features: I'm losing star ratings, the checkbox "never play me", dynamically-updating playlists, and videos. I'm gaining the ability to play my library from anywhere with a net connection, sure. But my main reason for switching is solidarity against the music industry. Anything I can do to pit two corporations against each other instead of against me is a good thing. The fallacy being that neither of them would have enough resources to do both.

First impression of Cloud Player has been good, though. It took about a day to upload all my music, but since then it's been flawless playback. Their shuffle algorithm is pretty good too, with a minimum of repeats even across multiple computers in the same day. Buying new songs has been a little weird, with three overlapping scenarios:

  1. Download the songs to your computer, then upload to the Cloud Drive. This uses up space in the cloud, but you get the mp3s locally as well to play offline.
  2. Save the songs to Cloud Drive. This doesn't count against your cloud space, and in fact if you buy a full album it bumps your free 5GB up to a free 20GB. Doing this repeatedly, you could build up ridiculous numbers like 50GB of songs in your 20GB drive. No offline copy, but...
  3. Save the songs to Cloud Drive and download the mp3s automatically. This gets you the offline copy, the free cloud storage, the bump up to 20GB, downside?

You may ask yourself, "Self" (you would say) "what is the difference between choices (a) and (c)?" Well, me, I don't know, but you better damn well go for (c). I think it all comes down to whether or not Amazon can guaran-damn-tee that you bought your copy of the music legitimately. Just having the album in your order history apparently isn't enough.

So that's where we're at. Ten years ago I was using the Internet to download music illegally, directly from some other guy's computer to my computer; now I'm using the Internet to pay a corporation to move some bits from one of their hard drives to another of their hard drives. This activity is fascinating, but only because I never lived in a thin-client/mainframe era.

Now is a good time to jump on the Cloud Player, as May is another one of Amazon's "put the whole goddamn site on sale" months. Over 1600 albums at the $5 pricepoint, and I'm sure that number fluctuates daily as yoga trance albums rotate in and out.

I don't know what this is going to do to my Free Single reviews. Amazon also offers free music and highlights a new one every day, but I don't imagine their $0 best"selling" charts change all that much from week to week.