Thursday, February 28, 2013

Music Video of the Week: Fitz and the Tantrums - Moneygrabber

I'm either late to the party or ahead of the curve with this one.  I first heard "Moneygrabber" at my student union, and I thought: "Huh, the union plays Hall and Oates songs?"  I grooved to it a little bit then I moved on, but eventually I heard it one too many time and it got stuck in my head.  About a month ago I spent like, a half-hour online trying to find out what Hall and Oates song it actually was, but failed miserably.   Finally it came on one day and I just Shazam'd it (lovely program by the way) only to find it wasn't Hall and Oates at all, just a boy/girl dual vocalist and their band, where the guy sounds remarkably like Daryl Hall and the music sounds like it was teleported out of the hands of an MTV VJ from the 80's and onto post-2010 airwaves.   Anyway, enough of my written fellatio--here's the track:

I'll be following this group from now on, no question.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Battle Rap Wednesday: Pat Stay vs. Hollohan

Mad late to the party.  Shut up.  It's STILL an amazing, ridiculous battle. 

But fuck if these two are actually friends after this battle.  There's no damn way.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Music Video of the Week: DFD - 24KTOWN

Dumbfoundead keeps progressing as an artist, I swear.   That second verse keeps playing in my head as some of the realest words I've ever heard.

"Don't be offended when my phone goes to voice mail; the flight attendant asked me to turn it off--that's real."  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Battle Rap Wednesdays: Pat Stay vs. Math Hoffa

This was up later than I wanted, but I'm still on time.  Pat Stay is still hilarious, but Math Hoffa actually did decent, which surprised me.  I've noticed he's gotten more famous since he got his cute little end of the round gimmick though.  Fans are easily led along, for some reason.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Music Video of the Week: Childish Gambino - L.E.S.

This random collection of people hanging out in New York might just be the most coherent music video Gambino's ever had.  Which is good, since L.E.S. is probably my favorite song off CAMP in terms of emotional resonance.  (That Power in terms of lyrical ability.)

Whoo!!! Valentine's Day is OVER!

Seriously, V-D annoys the crap outta me.  Not because of the lovey-dovey stuff of people in relationships--no, because of all the bitter single people.  And it gets so tiresome.  Here's just SOME of the bullshit I hear every Valentine's Day, and why it's a bunch of nonsense.

Happy Singles' Awareness Day! : Originally I thought this was kinda cute.  But the older I get the more it just sounds like the loneliest shit ever.  It's not Singles Awareness Day, it is a day for COUPLES.  No one is singling you out specifically and going, "Hey!  You're single?!  You should just go home and kill yourself."     Can you keep your sad, emo, "Oh God nobody loves me" shit to yourself for 24 measly hours and just let the couples enjoy themselves?   It'll be okay, I promise. 

Valentine's Day Is Just A Holiday Made Up By Corporations To... : Shut up shut up shut up.  Seriously, shut the fuck up.  Spend 02/14 looking up conspiracy vids on YouTube or something.  Valentine's Day is what you make of it.   You don't HAVE to give corporations a dime--that's subjective reality, and it can be changed.  If you want, you and your girlfriend (or boyfriend) can curl up and watch a movie at home for free.  Romance has never *had* to be pricey.

I'm Glad I'm Single Because... : Stop.  Only the select few people who are asexual are "glad" to be single.  If this is the lie you need to tell yourself to get out of the bed in the morning, so be it.  But please don't repeat it out loud, in my vicinity or on social media if I follow you.  I don't like perpetuating illusions people have about themselves, and you'll hate me for being blunt about it.

I Need Time To Work On Myself: This one's a bit different.  On the one side, I can see it: A lot of people just aren't READY for relationships.  They aren't emotionally available, they may still be stuck on an ex and starting a new relationship would be unfair to whoever that person is.   But when you start saying things like my money isn't right or I'm not where I want to be in life, that's when I bang my head against the wall.  Because that's not how love SHOULD work.

I know that in this materialistic, stuff-driven culture of ours, some of us tend to believe that if we cannot offer our partners the world that we don't deserve love.  Again, that's not how love works.  All of us, every decent human being on this Earth deserves someone in their life that makes them happy, and vice-versa.  And not through gifts or expensive trips or dates--just by being there with them, and weathering the storm of life by their side.

Now I'm not saying that if you're actually okay with being unemployed, living in a shitty apartment, and you're not in college or doing anything at all to attempt to better your standing that you need to be in a relationship.  No bitch, go find a fucking job or go back to school, and do better at life in general.  But that's not for your girlfriend, or your boyfriend.  It's for YOU.  

Love happens when it happens.  Giving the excuse that you have this or that going on in your life is worthless.  There's always going to be this or that going on in your life--would you turn down the person of your dreams because you don't think you're ready?  If you and that person are really made for each other, then they will see your hard work and love you all the more for it.  They won't (or at least they shouldn't) look down on you because you're working your way to the top--at least you're working.   You don't turn your back on someone who might suddenly hit it big one day after paying their dues--good men and good women see potential in others and are attracted to that.

But, I digress.  My point is, I'm worn out with the whining.  I'm 25 now, and we're coming up on the...fourth year since I broke up with my last girlfriend?  I bled out every ounce of bitterness ages ago, and somewhere between ages 22 and 24 I stopped worrying about being alone on Valentine's Day.    Its not that I "enjoy" being alone--I hate it.  I would love to have a lady that I cared about, who cared about me, to curl up with and just watch movies and anime and play video games and have stupid conversations that really, really don't matter with.  I would love to "push chocolate covered roses" or, "depending on [her] culture...a chicken".  But that's not where I am right now.  No amount of grousing is going to change that, so right now I'm just going to be happy for all the people who are in a better place right now.  And I wish all of you, a (belated) Happy Valentine's Day.  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Infinite Replays: Kingdoms of Amalur

And welcome to Jumping in Headfirst's newest column, Infinite Replays; a column dedicated to my final thoughts on the (very few) games I've both played and beaten.  For our first edition we're starting with a game I spent quite a bit of time with in 2012, Kingdoms of Amaluar: Reckoning.  After a ridiculous amount of hours, I finally finished this game.

That terrible screen is of my television the day I hit the finish point, the day before I started school again this year.  It's far shy of their "over 200 hours" claim, but Kingdoms of Amalur represents something vital at this point in my life as a gamer.

The truth is, I was slowly falling out of love with gaming.  It's true, one of the first things I did with my college loan money (aside from pay off bills) was buy a PS3, but I barely ever used it.  I bought Star Ocean 4 and Final Fantasy XIII but XIII sucked and I never really bothered to play SO4.  I bought MvC3 but that's about the time I learned fighting games aren't my friend (though I'm giving Injustice a chance because it's DC and I bought Soul Calibur V and likes that), and while there were periodically other games that came along in 2010 and 2011 there was always one reason or another I didn't much care for them.

Kingdoms of Amalur was the first time in YEARS I was genuinely excited for a game to be released.  It was a fantasy game that didn't delve into a boring realm of dark and depressing (seriously, what's the point?) for its graphics, and it offered a vast world full of quests and the chance to really save the world.  I knew from the first video I saw, which detailed all the various guilds you could join in Amalur, that I would love the game, despite it being written and designed by people I couldn't say I was a fan of.

After learning about the game's existence in November 2011, the wait for the actual release was longer than I could have dreamed.  I found myself re-watching the videos the company had uploaded, visiting their website and reading the detailed Histories of the races and the world itself, even registering on their forums and becoming apart of their short-lived community.

Finally, the demo came out a scant few weeks before the game itself was scheduled to be released.  Though many found problems with the game (either in terms of programming glitches or undelivered promises), I was addicted--it was a very short demo (timed for 30 minutes) but I played it at least three times, trying to solve all of the different quests that this trial game offered.  On the day the game actually released, I was ecstatic and rushed to GameStop to pick up my pre-order copy.  I took it home and spent several hours playing--learning the battle system, completing quests, getting a real feel for the world of Amalur itself.  I only stopped that first night because I had class the next day.

This was a feeling I hadn't had in at least three years--losing one's self for hours at a time to the pleasures of a video game.  Of wanting to spend as much time playing it as possible.  It was a feeling I had been acclimated with since 5th grade, after my mother bought me a Playstation for Christmas along with Tales of Destiny, Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, Final Fantasy VII, and Suikoden.  A feeling that didn't fade in the slightest when I played through Final Fantasies VII and Tactics, or Thousand Arms, or Star Ocean 3, or even Marvel: Ultimate Alliance.  But somewhere along the way in my early twenties I started to lose it, and even wondered if I would ever get it back, until this game came along.

As far as games go, it's not perfect.  There's no shortage of people on the internet who will call it bad, or say it has a stupid title or whatever.   And while I love it, I know it has it's flaws.  For one, you level much too fast.  One of the main reasons I stopped playing (the screenshot above is of a game that is as complete as I care to make it) is that I hit level 40 around 110-120 hours in, and I spent the next 30-40 playing as a character who would experience zero growth.  Considering one of the main points of an RPG is to gain levels, this became intolerable over time.

For another, the loot system is pretty awful.  It's tiered, but the tiers are meaningless and there are wasted concepts in them: for instance, the idea of Set Armors.  Set Armors were pieces of armor that belonged to a set because they had some sort of lore that told you more about Amalur's history.   They would give you bonuses that stacked as you found more of them.  Trouble is, there's no specific way to find them.  And finding one piece does not set you on a course of finding the rest, so you end up with a ton of mismatched pieces, making the entire concept pointless.

Also, because of some very silly design choices made by some of the higher-ups, you can complete everything in the game in one go.  Some people tried to support this, but to me it seemed to ruin the immersion factor.  Nostariel (my character) became the master thief, the master magician, and the master warrior of the Faelands.  Certainly she was a bad-ass, but there's a limit to everything and she was basically a god.  They explained it in-game well enough that it made sense, but I just wasn't a fan of the fact that I could do that.

Lastly, there was something...missing.  I cannot say I know what it was, because I haven't the faintest idea.  There was just something about the game--largely in the way it told the story with almost a complete lack of cutscenes so the characters always had this lifelessness to them that kept you from fully immersing yourself into the story.  It did not help that the main character had no voice, so even the star of the show felt flat.

Still, in spite of all these flaws the game was a gem in my eyes.  I complain about the immersion factor, but on some levels it completely delivered in that area.  One of the first things I noticed about the game was that the story did not seem to be so much about the main character, but about the world of Amalur itself.   I picked up on this from day one, with the clip above.  It even starts with "the world of Amalur", because that is the most important character.  Powerful the Fateless One may be, but he/she eventually dies, which is why the game's site's most prolific section was the History portion.    I knew (or believed, at least) there would be plenty more stories from this game's universe, and I looked forward to all of them, eager to learn more about the story of this world.  The game itself seemed eager to please in that way too.  Characters you met for some quests in one part of the game would be brought up elsewhere.  You could become embroiled in the mining families' war in Detyre (the game's desert area), and you could find out what happened to the warring elven families of the Caeled Coast.  The quests were occasionally fetch-quests, but they did an amazing job weaving them together to make you feel like you were truly interacting with the gameworld.

Also, the game makes you feel like a complete BAD-ASS.  From Reckoning Mode's ridiculous kills to the powerful weaponry they give you, Amalur went out of its way to make you feel like a demigod that was capable of destroying any and everything that got in your path, something that went a long way to my continued playing after I hit the max level.

Lastly, the world itself is beautiful.  The Faelands are DRENCHED in magic, so you can often see it flitting about in fields and in the cities.   I had really looked forward to seeing if the rest of Amalur was like that, but unfortunately we all know how that ended.

Unfortunately, right now there's no game I'm playing that I'm quite this into, but it's still nice to know I'm still capable of feeling what this game did for me at all. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The New 52, Corrected: Final Thoughts

I'm writing this ahead of time because I have been inspired.  By the time you read this, I will have finished The New 52, Corrected project and will have moved on to working on Alpha Squad.  You'll hear more about that later, I hope.  Right now I'm several days behind and kinda yelling at myself for spending more time with my friends than I have working on my craft.  My apologies for that. 
 I digress.  The point of New 52, Corrected (from henceforth known as N52C) was to jettison some of the ideas I feel haven't worked as well as either I (or DC in some cases) wanted.  A kind of "fantasy football" where I turned the clock back on the DC Universe to a time period where I was excited every week to read their comics. But on some level, maybe that's the problem: the idea of turning the clock back.  It's physically possible to do so, but in reality it does nothing: All you did was make a clock that can't tell time, which is basically just a shitty clock.  Metaphorically, this is somewhat what DC has done for itself.   Full of unnecessary costume changes and "EXTREME" characters, they've turned the clock back to the 90's in so many ways.  Though unfortunately it is *not* the 90's where comics like Starman, Chuck Dixon's Robin, Grant Morrison's JLA, and other amazing comics resided.

 In a way, N52C was my way of doing the same thing: I wanted to turn the clock back, just not as much.  I wanted to turn the clock back to the 2004-2009 era.  The era of plot-driven, "planned" comics.  Where both DC AND Marvel always had a vast plan that seemed to include any and every comic that didn't have either strong enough sales or a strong creative vision that the fans and editors alike didn't care to de-rail.  (And sometimes even those ended up involved.)  I enjoyed that era because everything seemed to be "going" somewhere, and I was always trying to figure out what the next big plan was for DC.  

But as I sit here, having just read a wonderful set of character biographies from the so-talented-I'm-actually-jealous Kieron Gillen for his new book Young Avengers, I wonder if I'm going about things the wrong way.  It's not 2004-2009 anymore.  And as I said, while you can physically turn a clock back, time hasn't actually returned to what you set it to, you just made a shitty clock.  And DC has attempted to go back to the 90's but in reality they've just made a lot of comics that simply don't touch base with people anymore.  It's a new time, and a new era.  As I sit here enjoying far more Marvel NOW comics than I do DC, I realize most of them don't have a giant plan (except Hickman's excellent Avengers/New Avengers books), they're just focusing on telling the best stories that can around the characters they have.   And that's what reality is now: strong, character-based stories.  Waid's Daredevil. Gillen's Iron Man. Fraction's Hawkeye.  Bucellato/Manapul's Flash.  (Look, I found a DC Comic like this!  Amazing!) These are the superhero comics that rival some of the much-lauded independent books that are on comic stands today. 

And DC, to some extent, is trying to move in that direction as well.  The problem is, there's no "voice" to so many of their comics.  They all read the same, and despite their universal relaunch over sixteen months ago, I know way too little about far too many of their characters.  There's no real excuse for this--you can say it's got to do with mass media branding or whatever, but the reality is Marvel has finished their first lap with the launch of Avengers and are working on their second this year with Iron Man 3, while DC acts like the gun just went off with Superman: Man of Steel.   Sure Warner Bros' owns DC, but Disney owns Marvel and in my opinion their comics have only gotten better.  No matter how you look at it, this is down to editorial leadership and fiat.  The writers aren't writing the stories, they're just fleshing out outlines that were created by higher-ups.  Instead of strong, character-based stories we get gimmicks like Zero Month and WTF Gatefold Covers.   (What's sad is DC did things like this not too long ago, but it worked out better then.   Origins and Omens was much cooler than Zero Month.)

I look forward to the day that the creative pendulum swings back in DC's favor, and they produce the strong storylines I know they are capable of, drawing me back into their entire universe.  I know I'm not the only person with the problem, and until then I can only offer this one bit of advice: Read what you like.