Five Songs: Fleet Foxes, Tiamat, Dance for the Dying, Paradise Lost, Bastille

Way back in October I asked folks here, on Twitter, and on Facebook, to supply me with five songs they want me to listen to. I dutifully collected the lists and then ignored them for months. A couple of people kept asking me about it, and I even said at one point it wasn’t going to happen, but I’m in a better place now. So I picked one set of the songs and fired them up.

Our first set comes from my pal Eric, who I game with. Having seen Eric’s t-shirts and been to his house, I know he’s largely into what I’d call “Death Metal” though it probably has a more accurate name. I say that, though plenty of times when over there he’s had music going that I liked and wouldn’t call that.

Let’s see what Eric served up for my ears!

The first song is “Ragged Wood” by Fleet Foxes. I don’t think I know this song, though I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the band on NPR. This isn’t a bad song, but it’s a sound I’m kind of tired of, this earnest sort of banjoey Americana sound. I don’t know for sure but I’m gonna say there are at least five people in this band and at least seven beards. Most importantly, this is not the sort of thing I’d expect coming from Eric, so we’re off to a surprising start!

Song number two is “Vote For Love” by Tiamat. My first note for this song is “Xymox”, and you’ll have to get used to me comparing these songs to bands nobody but me even remembers anymore. It’s also not accurate, as it’s far less keyboardy than Xymox. I liked this one okay but honestly it just gets a little too goofy for me to really get into.

Number three is “El Monstro” by Dance for the Dying and Eric’s choice of video for this is a Rock Band performance with him on vocals. I gotta say, Eric’s singing voice is way different than I would ever have thought. Nice pipes there! This song was a lot of fun, and I could see me listening to it regularly. Also it would KILL me on Rock Band.

The fourth song is “Soul Courageous” by Paradise Lost, which I thought was great. Having been a big goth in college (not really) who dig Sisters of Mercy and Fields of the Nephilim (really), this totally took me back to those days, without just simply aping those bands. A lot of fun, this one!

And finally, there’s “Pompeii” by Bastille. Eric choose an acoustic version of the song for the video, which I thought was okay, but I suspected I’d like the original version more, so I checked it out. Sure enough, I liked it better as a big wide anthemic song, but if you knew that one first I can see where the stripped down version would have its charm. I originally liked how interestingly mixed the song was, but then I realized my headphones weren’t plugged in all the way, which was giving that effect.

Out of the five songs, I think Bastille’s is my favorite, and I’ll probably check out more from them. They have the sort of sound I’m gravitating towards these days (Last album I bought was from CHVRCHES), and I’d like to hear more.

Thanks, Eric, for providing this list and giving me a nice variety of stuff to listen to! I’m sorry it took me so long to get around to it!

Posted in Music | Tagged

Have I Ranted About Nerds Yet This Year? I Have? Oh Well.

Once again it’s time to tell the men of the Internet not to threaten to rape and murder people. You’d think that this only needs to be said a few times, if at all, but nope, the message still hasn’t gotten through.

What are men threatening rape over this time? A woman felt a comic book cover was executed poorly. In doing so, she also had the audacity to tell a man how breasts work, as if simply walking around with a pair of them gave her any kind of authority on the matter. Still, a woman spoke slightly negatively about some nerd thing and sure enough the rape comments followed.

Here’s an article on Comics Alliance about the whole idiotic mess. Surprising no one, I have a few things to say about this.

Here’s an excerpt from that article:

Unfortunately the comics discourse remains extremely dire in most spaces, particularly in the ineffectively moderated message boards of the Internet. In a comments thread nearly 600 posts long (as of this writing), Janelle’s innocuous piece inspired all manner of questions beyond the content of her article: suspicion as to her “true” motives, speculation about past professional and personal relationships, accusations of political agendas, and outright sexist hatred.

Really, that kind of crap is in the comment thread? Why? Why are we just leaving it to fester there? The article goes on to say that we all have to take responsibility in calling out behavior that furthers this, but the behavior of providing a space for misogynistic trolls to vent their spleens without anyone telling them to take it elsewhere, that we don’t need to call out. We already know not to read the comments anywhere, so why even have them? You can’t say you want to improve Internet discourse and also run an unmoderated anonymous comments section. The two are not compatible.

But since these are commercial sites, that discussion is moot. (The author of that post, in a tweet to someone else, said that if he owned CA, it wouldn’t have comments, but he doesn’t, so it does.) Despite the well-deserved reputation of comment sections they’re still considered mandatory on advertising-based sites, as they drive page views.

But the other, darker problem, is that when it comes to comics and videogames and such, these loathsome trolls aren’t invaders who’ve come in to spoil everyone’s fun; they’re the audience. They’re not there because they heard a woman was getting lippy and needed a talking to, they’re there because they’re the regular patrons. We don’t like these crude, sexist assholes, but we really need them to look at this gallery of Captain America toys so we get paid.

Here’s a current “Top Commenter” on that article:

Another “Top Commenter” is currently concerned about that perennial MRA bugbear, false rape accusations. I’m aware that “Top Commenter” probably means quantity more than quality but again, the comments section is apparently a welcoming home for these people, regardless of what the articles above them say. They certainly haven’t been made too uncomfortable to post this kind of garbage by the community.

An this is not just this site, or comics, this is the nerd world in general. At any moment there are several discussions over on BGG in which some white guy is worried about feminazis stealing his Precious Bodily Fluids. I don’t need to tell you about the videogame world. This happens so often in nerd-dom that it’s fair to ask if it’s an essential part of it.

So let’s bring this around to my usual stomping grounds: the problem is, when it comes to nerd audiences, you are expecting thoughtful behavior from an audience which is regularly encouraged not to think. Current nerd culture, despite what Wil Wheaton thinks, is not about intellectual curiosity, it is about mindless consumption. It’s “turn off your brain”, it’s “I liked it for what it was”, it’s “not as bad as I was expecting”, it’s “shut up and take my money”. It is specifically designed to avoid any kind of serious thought, and that goes double for one’s own actions. You cannot pander to that audience and then expect thoughtful reactions. As I’ve said before on this subject, you can’t regularly serve dog food and then wonder why all these dogs keep showing up.

And that’s not just on these discussion sites, that’s on creators and producers as well. As long as you keep offering a world in which young white straight men are the center of the universe, in which balloon-bodied women exist solely as eye candy (that occasionally kicks someone because “strong”), in which sarcastic nihilistic assholes are the heroes, then you can’t be shocked when these boneheads make up your audience. You keep giving loud and proud asshole creators like Frank Miller, Dave Sim, Orson Scott Card, and others regular work because they move units. Creators who have been accused of all sorts of misconduct get a bye if their books are well-liked (does anyone remember who the big name writer was a few months ago whose name came up?). Bonehead money spends just like any other.

Why do misogynistic trolls feel safe and comfortable in the nerd world? Because it’s built for them. They scream when a woman rolls her eyes at ridiculous tits because by god those ridiculous tits are FOR THEM and how dare anyone think to deny them the ridiculous tits that they have coming to them. If nerd companies honestly don’t want these assholes around they should have no problem alienating them and telling them to get lost, that they’re not wanted. They’ve certainly gotten a lot of practice doing that to everyone else.

Posted in Geek Stuff | Tagged

This is What Passes for Political Engagement in America

This is a friend of a friend, talking about that Nevada Rancher nonsense.

“It’s called Civil Disobedience, and it’s protected under the law.”

Posted in Argh! | Tagged ,

If a Game Doesn’t Let You Adjust Blade Tang on Swordsman Units, Is It Really a Civilization Game?

The game I have been playing lately on the iPad is Civilization Revolution. This is a big honkin’ deal for me.

Back in college, I gave the original Civilization computer game a spin, but I was terrible at it. Once I got more than three cities I had a hard time keeping track of them. I’d forget about a city and discover them centuries later, their houses overflowing with canoes because I’d never ordered them to make anything else. Simulations in general I have a tough time with, as there’s only so much micromanagement I can do before I feel like I should have a health plan and 401(k) with this. The last simulation game I was halfway competent at was SimCity 2000, and do you know how long ago it came out? Hint: the title is misleading.

So I grabbed Civ Rev on sale with some trepidation. The other day I decided to dig into it and discovered, hey, I can actually play this! It’s streamlined and dumbed down so I can handle it. I can even keep track of multiple cities, though sometimes I don’t know what I want a city to do so I have them work on something dumb until I need a different thing.

I played twice in a row and won pretty solidly, though I was playing on ickle babby level. After one more time on the easiest setting (to finally understand some of the controls), I plunged into toddler level. I noticed the increased difficulty right away (especially when the AI players decided to try and prevent my victory) but still won.For my next game I plan to jump up another difficulty level.

So far I’ve had two cultural victories, a technological victory, and an economic victory, so the next part may seem like an odd complaint, but it’s something that bugs me about civilization games in general (mostly board games). For too many designers, “civilization” means “history of warfare”. I get that war is a big part of history. But it’s not exclusive. Too many civ games are, essentially, The Great Wars of History and Also Some Grain and Monuments. If you’re a gamer who doesn’t get a stiff one when thinking about war, there are few “civilization” games to interest you.

Civ Rev mitigates this somewhat. As I say, I have so far won with non-military victories. It’s also cool that if your nation gets cultured or technologically advanced enough, other cities will join you without shedding any blood. It’s how my Aztecs ended up with Minsk and Munich. So that’s nice. Nevertheless, although there’s only a single “Library” or “Market” you construct, there are umpty-thrillion military units you can build, and many technological advances, despite having tons of other theoretical uses, do nothing except give you a better military unit. I really don’t care about the differences between horsemen, pikemen, and knights; they’re all “soldiers” to me.

As I say, I get that conflict is going to happen. But if I want to play a wargame, I’ll play a wargame. I don’t want to play a wargame.

But anyhow, Civ Rev is a delight to play on the iPad. The controls are pretty good, and it’s fairly easy to see what’s going on. Apparently other versions of the game have a “Civopedia” that goes into more detail about the technologies and such, but if the iPad version has that, I haven’t found it. It would be nice if the tech tree gave you a little more info instead of wee tiny icons. Part of the reason I’ve played so much on the kiddie level was that I was mostly familiarizing myself with the controls and figuring out how to do certain things. There’s a tutorial, but it’s super basic. A game takes about two hours, at least on the easy levels. There’s multiplayer, I guess, but I haven’t touched that yet.

Of course there are also some in-app-purchases. Some nation-specific military units (naturally) and wonders, plus other stuff. Every now and then a great person appears that they want you to buy. For four bucks I bought what was supposed to be all the stuff, but I guess it’s only some of all the stuff because there’s still stuff it wants me to get. It doesn’t matter because you can do just fine without those items.

I’m really excited about finally being able to play a game like this, and I can’t wait until I can be the one telling someone to hand over the secret of Navigation or face an ass-whupping.

Posted in Videogames | Tagged , ,

Justified Season 5 Wrap-Up (Spoilers Galore!)

Left to Right: Interesting character pointlessly killed, interesting character pointlessly killed, Boyd Crowder.

About halfway through this season of Justified I was thinking it was going to go down with season two as one of the best ever.

My prediction was as premature as it was incorrect.

In my defense, there was a lot to like. The running theme was that the stuff that had worked for the main characters up until this point was no longer working. Raylan was in a situation he couldn’t smirk or shoot his way out of, Boyd was dealing with people who had no time for his smooth talk, Ava found the limits of her toughness and her relationship with Boyd. The arrival of the Crowe clan stirred up the pot, adding some unpredictable and unimpressed elements that were far more dangerous and cunning than the usual shitkickers lurking in Harlan. They quickly got into everyone’s face and disrupted what little peace there was. More importantly, all the chicken were finally coming home to roost, as everyone’s past misdeeds were catching up to them. It really looked like an apocalyptic storm was going to descend.

The other running theme was that as central as Raylan and Boyd were to the show, they were essentially big fish in a generally small and stupid pond, and when operating outside of that pond they were far less capable. The Crowes, Picker, and the Cartel had potential to raise the stakes the way that the Detroit outfit never really seemed able to.

But then nothing of it stuck. The Crowes were whittled down by their own hands, in a way that wasn’t particularly interesting. Picker and the Cartel were quickly disposed of. Ava just gets out of prison. Even Art getting shot ended up being not that big of a deal. I don’t even remember where we left Dewey. None of it ended up making much of any difference, and none of it really paid off.

And I have yet to talk to anyone who enjoyed the momentum-sucking vacuum of the Ava storyline. I love Ava but man that was some boring, by-the-numbers prison junk that I don’t care about. And all for what? To set up a deal that Boyd should see through in two minutes?

This was a season in which Boyd pretends to be dead twice, as though that was ever going to work even once. Mary Steenburgen came in an shows a lot of potential, but mainly underlines the problem of why is Wynn Duffy wasting his time in Harlan, or others wasting their time with Wynn Duffy? Picker brought this up, but it doesn’t go anywhere, and then Steenburgen is interested in someone she barely knows orchestrating a bank robbery for her? Huh? After the absolute clusterfuck of the heroin deal that can be pinned straight on Boyd and the baggage he brings with him? Don’t these people know better people? Either Boyd is in over his head when not dealing with Harlan rubes or he’s not, but it can’t be both ways.

There too with Raylan. If his arrangement with Sammy Tonin was enough to make Art take a swing at him and want no more to do with him, how could Art in good conscience transfer him elsewhere? Why wouldn’t he want Raylan out of the service completely? Again, either Raylan is a troublemaker that poisons the cases he works on or he’s not, and Art wouldn’t just send a live grenade to another department.

And then, finally, NOW the Dept. of Justice wants to go after Boyd? How hard can that POSSIBLY be, considering all the loudmouths in Harlan he’s wronged? How can building a case against Boyd Crowder take thirteen episodes? The first five minutes of Season Six should be a cell door closing on Boyd and Vasquez shaking Raylan’s hand saying, “Whew! Just in time for lunch, my treat!”

On the one hand I’m glad that next season is Justified’s last, as I don’t want to see any show I like die before it ends. On the other, six may turn out to be one too many.

Posted in TV | Tagged

I Had That! #11: Beyond Earth: Man’s Contact With UFOs

Like any nerd growing up in the 70s I was fascinated by UFOs. The decade’s love for all things woo, coupled with books from Eric Von Däniken had resulted in a resurgence in the phenomenon, resulting in all kinds of books, movies, and TV shows. UFOs were everywhere, and I was all about them.

I probably got this book at The Book Exchange, a seedy used bookstore we used to frequent. (There was a copy of Crumb’s “Stoned Agin” poster hanging up in there which fascinated and perplexed me.) What probably drew me to this book more than some others was the center selection of black an white drawings and photos of UFOs and their inhabitants. I could and did pore over those images for hours.

I don’t remember actually reading the book all the way through, though I’m sure I must have. Mostly I remember reading parts of it over and over, especially the part about the alleged abduction of Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker. This story, which took place not too far from me, had it all, including space creatures that looked like this:

What kid wouldn’t want to know more about that thing?

What’s interesting was that although I was a scaredy-cat kid, this book didn’t really frighten me. I wanted to see a UFO, and couldn’t read about them enough.

In fact, later, in high school, the school library got a copy of The Encyclopedia of UFOs, which was fat-packed with pictures and stories. They shelved it as reference, non-circulating, so there was only one way to really look at it: get my friend to steal it from the library, which he did.

When did I get it? I imagine I picked it up around 1977 or 1978, when Close Encounters of the Third Kind really pumped up UFO interest, but I may have had it even earlier.

Do I still have it? Beyond Earth I no longer have. I still have that stolen copy of The Encyclopedia of UFOs and I hope the statute of limitations has run out on that.

Posted in Books | Tagged ,

This Delicious Week

Shared bookmarks for delicious user

Posted in Delicious

Dave Finally Watches: The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

I say “finally” watches because this has been in the theaters for a couple of weeks now (I was surprised that it hadn’t been shoved out to open up another screen for Captain Hobbit: The Hunger Transformer) and I hadn’t seen it. That’s unusual for a Wes Anderson joint, but we’ve been ill or busy so this was our first real opportunity.

I enjoyed it a bunch, though it’s a pretty slight movie. It’s more of a straight-up comedy than the more heavy-hitting Anderson movies are, but that’s fine. It’s got exactly what you’d expect from a Wes Anderson movie except there’s no Kinks on the soundtrack; not much new ground is tread here. That’s the problem, really. This is a perfectly fine movie, but Wes Anderson can make this movie in his sleep. After Moonrise Kingdom I was hoping we were seeing Anderson stretch himself out a bit, but this is a contraction.

It’s also maddening that, when you look at the poster above, which features 17 characters that work their way down to some that only have a handful of moments in the movie, only three of them are women, and of those three, only one has significant screen time, and even she does little except be someone’s girlfriend and be admired by someone else. Is it really that hard to write women into these movies? Then again, there are three women in this one movie. African-Americans are still 1 for 8 as far as entire Wes Anderson movies that have a single one in a somewhat important role.

But that, I suppose, is one of the unfortunate things you can expect to get in a Wes Anderson movie, along with the sets, the themes, the soundtrack, and many of the actors.

At any rate, this got me wondering about where I’d put The Grand Budapest Hotel as far as Anderson movies go. Here’s how I’d rate them.

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Rushmore (1998)
Bottle Rocket (1996)
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
The Life Aquatic (2004)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

That may seem harsh, second-worst, but keep in mind that I’m a pretty shameless Wes Anderson fanboy, and I’d rather see my least-favorite of his movies again than a lot of “top pick” movies from other folks.

There’s nothing not to like about the Grand Budapest Hotel, but there’s also not a lot there. It just sort of happens. And it also has the same problem that I feel Life Aquatic has, which is it feels like it started out as one thing but ended up as another, and amid all the wacky hijinks you can sort of see traces of the original thing there which seem more interesting and heartfelt than what ended up getting emphasized. The Hotel, the thing the movie is named for, doesn’t nearly have the presence or character that the movie seems to think it has. We see it at its apogee and perigee but no story is really told about it, despite some vestigial traces of that story that were left in. Likewise, the story of Zero is sort of seen, but again it got pushed aside for something else. It’s wrong to criticize a work for what you wish it was, but this movie constantly teases a movie that could have been and replaces it with an entertaining yet by-the-numbers, more shallow substitute.

It’s especially disappointing after Moonrise Kingdom, which hit its high notes so well that one forgets about a lot of the unnecessary silliness that accompanied them. With Grand Budapest Hotel, it’s the opposite effect: whatever strong moments it offers are drowned out by the too-easy goofs.

Posted in Movies | Tagged ,