Monday, 22 August 2016

Movie Review: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)

There few experiences more baffling in enjoying movies than coming across a movie which is incredibly flawed, but that you love regardless. It's exactly how I feel about the absolutely brilliant, but fundamentally hamstrung Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, and it seems like a lot of people have been feeling this about Suicide Squad as well. Recently, I rewatched another film which I felt was brilliant but flawed, the 2006 slasher film All the Boys Love Mandy Lane... and dammit, I just cannot stop thinking about it. The film is way deeper than it might appear at first glance, or even more than pretty much any slasher film I can think of for that matter, and yet it feels like the film was totally passed over and in need of a revisiting.

Good God that is a gorgeous poster, largely thanks to the equally-gorgeous Amber Heard. Fantastic tagline too, this poster basically single-handedly sold me on the film years ago when I first saw it.

Oh, and be warned - I'm going to attempt to dig deep into this film's themes, so expect spoilers galore. Got it? Good.


Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Will Metal Gear "Survive" Without Kojima?

I'll be honest, I've been lazy about updating the blog lately. I've got about a half dozen posts half-written, but nothing managed to push through and materialize... until now. What could have possibly pushed me out of my lethargy? Trump? Some theoretical voting structure? Theology?
Nope, Konami and Metal Gear of course.


To open the year 2016, I wrote up a series of lengthy posts reviewing each of the main series games in the Metal Gear franchise. I spent a solid month and a half doing my "research" for those articles, so you know that this franchise means quite a lot to me. However, with series creator Hideo Kojima leaving Konami and the series on rocky terms, I've basically come to terms with the idea that the series is effectively dead. As exciting as another Kojima Metal Gear could be, I'm totally fine with 25 years of absolutely rock solid games which are amongst the absolute best in the industry. I'm willing to let the series go, for there to be a concrete end.


Naturally, Konami doesn't see it that way and are ready to milk the franchise until it's a decayed husk. We've already seen the Fox Engine used to "remake" the series' best game, Snake Eater, into a freaking Pachinko machine, and now Konami has revealed their first original console entry: Metal Gear Survive... and it's not doing much to get me back on board.




First of all, the premise sounds like it was thought up by someone who didn't understand Metal Gear, just thought it was weird, and then ratcheted that weirdness up significantly. The basic idea is that you're a soldier of Militaire Sans Frontieres who, when Mother Base is destroyed in Ground Zeroes, gets sucked into a freaking portal and now has to fight crystal zombies to get home in 4-player survival co-op. What the feth...?


Well first of all, it has to be said that this is a ballsy as hell move, because I'm pretty sure no one wanted Metal Gear Solid: Operation Raccoon City. As much as some people want to dismiss the portals and zombies in this game as being "typical Metal Gear", I can't really get on board that. Sure, there were portals in The Phantom Pain, but they were always a silly gameplay mechanic which was clearly intended to be more of a bit of player convenience rather than something which is meant to be canon, in-game technology. There's a lot of tongue-in-cheek stuff in Metal Gear, so it can be hard to parse exactly what is real or not, but the portals never struck me for even a second as a thing which is real in its world. Plus, these elements were always on the edges of the game, not the central conceit of the game. Sure, we had to fight "zombie-like" enemies during a handful of boss battles in The Phantom Pain, but I can't imagine a whole game with them. Again, it feels like someone saw these weird elements in other games in the series and thought that they were central to the experience, rather than in-jokes on the fringes.


I can't help but feel like Konami is just chasing trends with the entire concept of the game. Open world 4 player co-op is clearly a "desired feature" these days, with games like Ghost Recon: Wildlands really pushing that as "the future" (although Wildlands actually looks like it will be very fun). Furthermore, zombie enemies and survival elements are the game's other 2 big features, which are 2 of the most oversaturated buzzwords in all of gaming these days. What about this game is supposed to be selling it to me? Aside from the bonkers premise, this game just looks generic and boring, with its only potential selling point being the Metal Gear name.


Making the game even less interesting for someone like me, is there going to be any sort of story to this? And even if there is, is it going to transcend the usual, generic video game zombie survival tropes? Metal Gear is renowned for their rich (and usually insane) stories. Even The Phantom Pain, which was arguably the weakest narrative in the main series, had some pretty fascinating themes at its core - enough so that I somehow managed to spend more time dissecting it than I did for any other game in the franchise. Based on what we see here (4 nameless nobodies killing zombies), I have a hard time picturing anything other than the most shallow story. It's not exactly the incredible Ground Zeroes reveal trailer, now is it?




I'm not pissed off about this game - like I said in the intro, the Metal Gear franchise is dead as far as I'm concerned, and with the very clear split between pre- and post-Kojima exit, this game is hardly going to ruin its legacy. It doesn't even look terrible, but there's absolutely nothing about this trailer that gets me excited in the slightest. Konami is just doing a poor job of trying to win us back after the shit they dragged their fans through. If they want to win us back, this wasn't the way to do it. Do you know how they could get us back in good graces? Well first of all, finish Chapter 51 of The Phantom Pain and then release it as free DLC. It was already partially completed, so that is not going to be a ton of work, actually finishing the game will boost its legacy and earn you some major goodwill. Then, to ratchet up the workload a bit, take that Snake Eater pachinko machine and actually announce that you're remaking the game in the Fox Engine for consoles. This gives you a template to work off of and, if you can pull it off, prove that you can make a solid Metal Gear game without Kojima's oversight. After that, maybe do an original set-story. Hell, Survive might even work at that point if you've earned enough goodwill to do your own thing. After that, if you've proven that Metal Gear is in good hands, then you could probably get away with Metal Gear Solid 6 and beyond.


That's really the crux of the issue with Survive though - we straight up do not trust Konami to deliver a worthy experience. The game looks generic already, but I can't trust that Konami won't screw it up fundamentally either. You can certainly continue Metal Gear without Kojima, but Konami is going to have to earn our goodwill through blood, sweat and many, many tears.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Video Game Review: Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 - Venus (2016)

This happens to be my 200th post on I Choose to Stand, and I've put together something special... After all the shit-talking I've done about Dead or Alive Xtreme 3, I thought that it was pretty unfair of me to just dismiss it off-hand. As a result, I picked up a copy of the PS Vita version (like hell I was going to get caught playing this on my TV) and set about writing this review. Is it as bad as I had predicted? Read on to find out...

Note that the game is very careful to highlight that you can use the touch controls to manually jiggle the girls' boobs. Stay classy Tecmo, stay classy...

DOAX3 is a... umm... well, it's pretty hard to place it within a genre really. The most succinct way to describe it is that it's a minigame collection based around a voyeuristic appreciation of sexiness, with some very basic happiness-management and dating sim elements layered over it. The first thing that really struck me about DOAX3 was just how similar it felt to previous DOAX games - I had previously played a little Dead or Alive: Paradise, but even that cursory glance was enough to notice that DOAX3 has basically the exact same menu-based user interface and layout. Hell, even the locations are the basically the same, and the thumbnails look very similar too (the Sports Shop in particular looked almost identical to me). The game is also clearly carrying over a number of art assets from Dead or Alive 5: Last Round - the characters themselves appear to be updated, but the swimsuits and even some of the environments have been very clearly shared between the two releases (and the bulk of the "new" swimsuits are just palette-swaps).

Perhaps most egregiously, I also noticed that a very significant portion of the game's gravure videos are lifted from previous games in the franchise, reusing the exact same animations and even camera angles. I didn't do a comprehensive count, but when cross-referencing Hitomi's scenes in Dead or Alive: Paradise, I noticed that quite a few were reused wholesale, such as her riding on inflatable orca in the pool, her very cute improvised dance session, eating an ice cream cone and going for a bike ride. They also directly lifted Hitomi's Private Paradise scene from Dead or Alive 5: Ultimate's DLC. I'm sure there are more of Hitomi's scenes reused that I just haven't encountered in DOAX3 yet, and the fact that I've found this much recycling for just a single character is kind of a demonstration of how little effort seems to have gone into differentiating DOAX3 from previous games in the franchise. I don't want to accuse Team Ninja of being lazy, but the sheer amount of recycled content makes me feel like they basically just put in a minimal amount of effort on this release - hell, they couldn't even expand the cast past 9 girls, possibly because this would have required them to add in more items for the dating sim elements.

Controversially, DOAX3 also removed some features from previous DOAX games - in particular, the Marine Race (aka, Jet Skiing) and Water Slide have been removed entirely, presumably because the marina has been excised from the game (for no apparent reason other than lack of effort). The cast of characters is also kind of disappointing. Series mainstays, such as Christie, Tina and Lei Fang have been replaced with DLC characters from DOA5. I know that they put this up to a popular vote, but the fact that some of the main characters of the series have been excluded and have been replaced with people that we don't have any sort of story context for makes the game feel significantly less true to the DOA name (naturally, the two highest-voted new characters in the poll were the two biggest fetish bait - the lolita schoolgirl, Marie Rose, and the biggest tits and ass in the franchise, Honoka).



Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Voter Ignorance, Part 2

These are truly abundant times for us amateur political bloggers. Case in point: this article was originally conceived from Trump's reaction to the recent mass shooting in Orlando. I was skimming the news when I came across a very fitting quote regarding the situation that the US faces in the current election: "What Obama can't say is [that] the presumptive Republican nominee is an embarrassment to his own party, and the ultimate IQ test for the American electorate, come November." That alone was enough to trigger another round of speculation on the eligibility of the existing electorate... but then Brexit happened. Holy shit, if there was ever a time to make voter restrictions a public topic, this is the time.

Commenter #1: Maybe if there's segregation/zero integration, but by the second generation I think you'd see a high percentage of immigrant children assimilating into our culture.
Commenter #2: Good thing we came in and civilized the shit out of them!

In general, I don't believe that we should place important decisions in the hands of the uninformed (or misinformed) public, and Brexit was a clear example of how this can go spectacularly wrong. With the British pound being devalued to historic lows, the elderly swinging the vote in favour of their rose-tinted childhoods, and the realization that this referendum is not exactly going to bring about any immediate net gains (if any), it's little wonder that many "Leave" voters have changed sides and admitted they didn't know what they were voting for. In fact, a good portion of the "Leave" vote was just trying to "stick it to the man" rather than actually thinking about the impact that this will have on them - after all, they might be trying to screw over the "elites", but they'll weather any economic uncertainty far better than the average citizens who end up suffering from a devalued currency, shrinking job market and the scores of other issues that Brexit is going to bring about. It was also worth noting that "the Leave camp won support across a diverse subsection of voters, both politically and economically. The clearest factor seemed to be education: those with a university degree voted overwhelmingly to remain, while those without one did the opposite, according to the Guardian newspaper."

Saturday, 11 June 2016

In All Thy Sons Command

So it's looking very likely that the (English) Canadian national anthem is going to be changed to be "gender neutral", much to the consternation of seemingly everyone willing to put their opinions out there. For those unversed, the English variation of the Canadian national anthem goes as follows:
O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
The proposed bill, put forth by a Liberal party MP dying of ALS (presumably as his final wish to improve his country), wishes to change "in all thy sons command" to "in all of us command". As one could expect, this proposal has unleashed a shitstorm of fury from people calling the proposal a shame to every soldier who has died fighting under that anthem and that it's just the "political correctness police" forcing us to change over nothing. Naturally, the dishonouring veterans argument is a common tactic amongst so-called "patriots" in any sort of national debate like this, although it isn't particularly effective since the proposed changes are closer to the original lyrics (pre-1914) and "O Canada" didn't even become our official anthem until 1980 (with the only major non-peace-keeping operation since that point being the Afghan War). On the other side, we have people claiming that those who don't want the anthem changed are supporting sexism, which just reeks of attempting to shame people out of arguing with them*.


Saturday, 28 May 2016

Conjuring Your Perception

So recently I have been rocking out to "Termination" by Book of Black Earth on a pretty regular basis. I think my favourite part of the song though is the last minute or so, which closes with a rather intriguing sample from an interview panel featuring a Christian and a Satanist. As you would probably expect from this sort of setup, the Christian interviewee gets trounced in the debate:
Christian Dude: "To suggest that you can create your own reality, my goodness, that's what they did in Tiananmen Square. That's what they did in Germany in 1933. [...] These are examples of people who created their own reality."
Satanist Dude: "Everyone creates their own reality, the thing is, you speak for a consensus of reality that is acceptable. We speak for one which, at this point in history, is not acceptable."
Christian Dude: "Oh, so it's a question of who manipulates the media, who has the most money to put their reality forth? But would you pardon me for saying that I find the world where your ability to conjure your own reality that you perceive as being a very frightening world for people like me. Because you see, I am guided by some codified rules that tell me what is right and wrong. In your world, I'm not so sure I'd feel very safe."
Satanist Dude: "Well that's your problem. [...] In the Satanic world of the future, Christian churches will be allowed to continue, because they pose no threats to us. We don't need Christianity, Christianity needs us."*
The Christian interviewee's obliviousness to the fact that everyone is conjuring their own reality to at least some degree is just the first of many events that have occurred to me recently which have gotten me thinking about perception and reality. As the old saying goes, "seeing is believing", but it seems pretty clear that our perception is not necessarily truth. Maybe this is a pretty obvious statement when you really think about it, but it seems like many people just aren't confronted face-first with this idea, even though it plays a major role in much of human conflict (both on the large and small scale).


Monday, 2 May 2016

Vengeance Is Mine

So I finally got around to seeing The Revenant last night. I enjoyed it, maybe not quite as much as Birdman though (that said, it was clearly intended to be more of a crowd-pleaser than Alejandro G. Iñárritu's big Oscar winner). As I often do when I see an interesting film, I decided to Google it to see what sort of conversation was still on-going around it. The first entry on Google's news feed really caught my eye though: The Revenant Calls for Critical Christian Response.


Having just watched the film, I find the notion of Christian critics considering The Revenant to be a very good film for Christian audiences to be a baffling notion. It's about as pure an example of the revenge narrative as you can get, a concept which (while very popular amongst storytellers and audiences) is very much at odds with the Christian philosophy of radical enemy-love and "turning the other cheek". The article agrees with me on this response, and also lists 10 films which are typically considered very "Christian" within the popular critical consensus:

  1. The Matrix
  2. The Tree of Life
  3. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  4. American Beauty
  5. Fight Club
  6. The Lord of the Rings
  7. The Shawshank Redemption
  8. Magnolia
  9. Braveheart
  10. Saving Private Ryan
Now, aside from The Matrix, The Tree of Life and The Lord of the Rings, which are all bursting with Christian themes, many of these films seem like a stretch to me. I mean, The Shawshank Redemption is all about hope, but that's hardly a theme that really resonates with damn near everyone (hence why it has been IMDb's top rated film for close to a decade now). Saving Private Ryan is arguably a Christ metaphor if you twist it into a pretzel, but if for example I was asked to mark a paper based on this argument I'd have a hard time accepting the premise. And what the literal hell is Fight Club doing on this list? As much as I loved that film, it is far easier to argue that it is a Marxist film and/or satire of modern macho-masculinity than a Christian film. I have no idea where they even start that argument. I'm sure there are other films on there which are just as baffling (unfortunately, I haven't seen (enough of) American Beauty, Magnolia or Braveheart to comment on them, but I have a hard time seeing Braveheart in particular as being a Christian narrative.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 27/04/2016

In case you haven't been paying attention, we are now just past the IC2S Playlist's 1 year anniversary. At 9 1/2 hours and 104 songs long, I find it quite enjoyable to throw on shuffle when I'm at work. I'm going to continue to update it irregularly from here on, but I don't think I'll write up big update posts like this anymore, mainly because I felt like they spammed the blog with useless posts that people didn't care about, and the effort I put into writing them was taking up potential effort that could have been going towards the backlog of topics that I actually had some interest in writing about. That's more-or-less why I started making the playlist updates into more "regular" blog posts a couple months ago, but it'll be nice not to have weekly updates hanging over my head from here on out.


Anyway, we're gonna close out the year with 2 songs I wanted to add for months now. First is "Dear John Piper" by Showbread. I had been debating picking this song for a while because it's a very IC2S-type song (it's about the destructive theology of Calvinism/predestination... which, again, is totally something I'm into). I kind of wish that the whole song wasn't being yelled out, but after a few listens it works pretty well, and contrasts well with the furious preaching towards the latter-half of the song. I quite enjoy it, it's my kind of deliciously angry.

Secondly we have "Empire of the Clouds" by Iron Maiden, which closes us out with the longest song on the entire playlist. It's also worth pointing out that this epic was written and performed by a group of nearly 60 year old men, which is just insane for an 80s rock/metal band in this day and age. Very few artists can remain relevant for a decade, let alone the 35+ years that Iron Maiden has been rocking our faces (although they did start to slip into irrelevance through the 90s, releasing their 4 indisputably worst albums back-to-back, but have been putting out high quality stuff again since 2000). I mean, just think about how irrelevant The Rolling Stones have been for years, or even other bands with mini-comebacks like Aerosmith have long since slipped back into obscurity (even Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne to some degree). Even better, they seem to be edging back towards my preferred era of Iron Maiden, the Powerslave/Seventh Son of a Seventh Son sound with its heavy concepts, sweeping epics and technical virtuosity. I maintain that Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is my favourite Maiden album, and it's too bad that they ditched that sound in favour of the mediocrity they chased throughout the 90s. Now that we have The Book of Souls, who knows what limits Maiden still has within them?


Also, coincidentally, I have put together a small one-off playlist which just happened to coincide with this 1 year anniversary. Basically, I was listening to Sabaton's "The Rise of Evil" the other day, which got me wondering whether it could be considered part of a "musical trilogy". "The Rise of Evil" would be part 1, followed by "The Final Solution" as part 2 and then finishing with... well, I wasn't sure if they had a third song that could fit in well enough. The result of this is a playlist I titled "Sabaton - The Rise and Fall of Evil", which basically is a recounting of the history of Nazi Germany in WWII. I personally think that the compilation gels together very well and tells a rather compelling story: a madman rising to power, the Nazis' early victories, the Holocaust, the Allies uniting and turning the tide, and then the German people coming to grips with the evil they had been fighting in the name of for almost 6 years. I definitely recommend checking it out, either search it on Spotify or go to the IC2S Playlist sidebar and then click on my username.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Love the Sinner, Period.

I am 2 years late on this story, but my father told me about the Benham brothers, a real estate family-duo who had a reality TV show lined up with HGTV, but which was cancelled when it was revealed that one of the brothers was active in anti-LGBTQ protests. Someone had played a video about them at his Bible study, where he was saying they were pressured out of their TV deal by HGTV because they wouldn't compromise on their faith. This sounded rather suspicious and obviously one-sided to me (plus it's not like the world needed another shitty real estate reality TV show/60-minute home improvement commercial anyway), so I looked into it and it would seem that Right Wing Watch made some (arguably hyperbolic) statements about one of the brothers' views on homosexuality and the "gay agenda".


If you follow conservative evangelical circles, all the stuff they said is pretty much par for the course for that kind of worldview. This represented a rift between what was reported to me and what seems to have actually happened though - this was represented to me as the brothers being persecuted for being Christians and pressured to cave in to "The World", whereas it seems like the show was actually cancelled because of shitty public statements that one of the brothers had made. Is this religious persecution? I think it would be hard to argue that it isn't religious persecution in a sense, but do I feel sorry for him? Not really, because he's being persecuted for not being able to persecute others (and if you believe that the show was cancelled due to persecution over being a Christian, then you're basically saying that a core aspect of Christianity is the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people). If we simply looked at the brothers immediately after the HGTV cancellation then I'd be willing to potentially feel some sympathy for them, since they seemed to be just getting strung up for some statements made a few years earlier. However, that time is long past and they seem to be leveraging their persecution complex to get political attention. Naturally, they're from North Carolina and have been showing up in the news lately saying stupid bullshit which is further solidifying the accusations that, hey, maybe these guys just don't like gays.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 20/04/2016


So we're now just a week short of the playlist's 1 year anniversary, and the point where I'm probably going to stop updating it so regularly (or, at the very least, stop flooding the blog every week with Playlist updates that I doubt anyone actually cares about). The limited time is actually making it a little difficult to pick music, and I was actually going to pick some Impending Doom or Project 86... however, then Volbeat announced Seal the Deal & Let's Boogie and released "The Devil's Bleeding Crown". If the rest of the album is as good as this single, then we're going to be in for an absolute treat! Volbeat tends to be a bit of a singles-oriented band (similarly to Disturbed), meaning that this might be best of the best on the album, but I'm glad to hear that their sound seems to only be getting better. We'll have to see I guess when the album drops.

Going along with that, I also picked "Babylon the Murderer" by P.O.D., which is pretty much universally considered one of their best songs in recent years. I've always liked how P.O.D. has a very reggae-influenced sound, and this has to be one of their best examples of mixing it with their signature hard rock.


...Anyway, I'm going to make this a little shorter than normal just cuz what I originally was planning on writing about has ended up getting spun off into a whole post of its own that I'll put up later this week. Look forward to it!

Monday, 18 April 2016

Quick Fix: Meme-o Kylo Ren

This probably shouldn't be a super controversial statement, but I rather like Kylo Ren. In my mind, he's the Star Wars equivalent of John Maguire - a very confused kid who gets caught up with the wrong people because he never had any proper guidance and then, before he can really realize it, he's in a terrorist organization. This is a rather fascinating, timely and even untraditionally tragic characterization to give to a villain, one with plenty of amazing opportunity to either make him double-down on the villainy and become something truly monstrous or (and I'm hoping that this is what happens in Episode 8) have him begin to mature and realize that "holy shit, what am I doing with my life?" and attempt to make amends.


Naturally, with that sort of setup, the whole conversation about Kylo Ren has devolved into "emo", angsty, whiner kid. This wasn't the case immediately after release, but as soon as Emo Kylo Ren occurred, suddenly it was his defining character trait and people began harping on it. I'm gonna be honest, I've seen The Force Awakens four times now and I don't really get where this is coming from. He only ever angsts once in the whole film, and that's when he gets confronted by his father (who he doesn't particularly like). Oh, and he breaks stuff twice, but is that really enough for people to label him as "whiny"? If nothing else, he is considerably less whiny than Anakin was in the prequels, and infinitely less insufferable and more understandable even when he is angsting.

There's got to be some sort of word for this, where the public conversation ends up colouring the perception of a character. It's sort of like a cognitive version of Flanderization; Memefication might be the most accurate term for it at the moment. We saw the same sort of thing happen last year with Jurassic World, an incredibly flawed movie which people couldn't legitimately criticize without wasting all their time on Claire's heels. I didn't notice or give a shit about the heels while watching the film, they're really inconsequential and hardly that unusual in these sorts of silly action movies. However, that's what the conversation gravitated towards, so by God we're going to beat this meme into the ground.


This seems to be something that's only getting more prevalent due to the Internet allowing petty little complaints or skewed perceptions to echo throughout popular culture. That's not to say that it didn't exist before that though - arguably the absolute best example is Batman & Robin, since every time it gets brought up someone will go "oh yeah, that one is terrible, I mean they put nipples on Batman!", as if that alone is some sort of signifier for why the movie was awful (that's putting aside the actual problems of poor/overly-hammy performances, crass self-commercialization, bonkers directing, etc which make Batnipples look cute in comparison). Obviously this is not something super important in and of itself, but it is something worth paying attention to as you can perceptibly see how the conversation about a piece of media changes as the memes solidify.

...and to end on a completely unrelated topic, check out my badass Kylo Ren cosplay!

Ladies.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 13/04/2016

So I recently got laser eye surgery, and it has been quite the interesting experience. Previously, I was quite near-sighted and couldn't see more than a couple feet in front of me before the world started to turn into a blur. I was thinking about switching to contacts for quite a while, but then I did some number crunching and figured that laser eye surgery would be more cost effective in the long run. Plus there were all sorts of perks that go along with it, like being able to fit into masks for sports (hockey and paintball) and costumes (Kylo Ren FTW), not looking like an uber-dork when I go to see a 3D movie, the general convenience of not having to worry about wearing/maintaining glasses all the time, and the indisputable fact that I'm a goddamn sexual Tyrannosaurus without them. Plus I'd be lying if I said that finally being able to wear proper sunglasses wasn't a huge factor either.

Anyway, the procedure itself was not all that bad - it didn't hurt, although the stuff they do to line up the laser was really strange. The laser itself didn't hurt at all, but smelled like burning hair which was a sensation I'm unlikely to forget soon. Oh, and I couldn't stop thinking about Final Destination 5, which was making me laugh.

I'm still in the post-op recovery phase, although the worst of it is long over. It has really made a major difference for my sight, but I'm holding out a totally glowing review for the moment as one eye is visibly fuzzier than the other, I'm getting some starbursts at nighttime and I'm having some trouble focusing on very close objects (which sucks when one of your biggest hobbies is painting miniatures). However, I'm cautiously optimistic that these issues will clear up in the next few weeks (the focusing issue is already much improved compared to where it was a couple days ago), but until I see a major improvement I'm going to be a little hesitant to give a unconditional recommendation to go through the procedure. It has been pretty amazing thus far, but it's hard to give an accurate assessment when you're still in the middle of recovery.

Anyway, hopefully you found that interesting. This week's selections and "Antarctica" by Book of Black Earth and "Legion of Monsters" by Disturbed. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 06/04/2016


This week's selections have some moderately interesting stories behind them. First of all, Andrew W.K. is back in the news again after he officially registered his own political party, called... The Party Party. Because of course he did. Most people are thinking this is some sort of political stunt, but regular readers will already know that Andrew W.K. is one of the main personalities on The Blaze. Considering that he is insisting that The Party Party is legit, then odds are that he really is serious about bringing the party to America. I love this little quote he made about his political support, which I can only imagine must have been some of his Blaze collaborators:
"[Andrew W.K.] said that though he did reach out to people from the political sphere for input or collaboration, his offers were denied and they said he his effort was dangerous and a counterproductive distraction. 'We agreed to disagree and I didn't attempt to involve any formal political organizations further,' he said. 'To be honest, I just don't think they liked partying very much.'"
What else could I do in response to that but put "Party Hard" on this week's playlist?


Our second choice for this week is in celebration of the home video release of The Force Awakens. To commemorate the event, I have chosen DUM's "Come Away", their Star Wars-inspired love song. There really isn't much more reason behind it than that, aside from the fact that I haven't featured a DUM song in ages, and that that is one of their better releases. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 30/03/2016


So, we're going totally random this week. I have often wondered if rates of university education are going to nosedive in the next generation. The reasons I wonder this are many:
  1. Between my parents' generation and my own, universities (and, in a related fashion, governments) have become increasingly more and more structurally-neoliberal. This has resulted in more business-like universities, which have had their tuition shoot up at a rate higher than that of inflation and has resulted in various cost-cutting measures. For example, most of the "professors" who I was taught by were actually "contract instructors" and doctorate students, which are obviously significantly cheaper to employ. The main thing to take away here though is that university is more expensive now than it was even 20 years ago, even when compensating for inflation. Unless there's some sort of government action, it is likely that profit-minded universities will be even more comparatively-expensive by the next generation. Which brings me to my next point...
  2. There is a constantly expanding wage gap and shrinking middle-class in Canada and the US. When taking into account the expectation that tuition costs will likely be even more expensive for the next generation, and the likelihood that there will be a smaller portion of the population capable of paying their way into higher education, it would seem likely to me that university enrolment is likely to become more of an "elite" status thing. Of course, the remaining middle-class and even some hard-working lower-class individuals could try to afford it and even take out loans, but that brings me to arguably my most important thought...
  3. For my parents' generation, you could conceivably go to university, take whatever the hell you want and then have a job waiting for you when you were done. However, the reality these days is that you're probably not going to find any sort of job opportunity as soon as you're done school. Naively, I just kind of thought that if I got a degree, it'd give me a good edge in the job market. However, as I got into my 4th year, I realized that there are a lot of people out there in the job market with degrees, and if you really want to stand out then you're going to need a college diploma as well, and at least a few years of experience in your field. I feel that our parents and our generation are slowly building up the realization that university is no longer the safe bet that it once was in terms of landing work, and worse, it could land you in crippling debt for years afterwards. Naturally, school is not just about what sort of work you get out of it (I for one know that my university experience helped me mature significantly and made me into a much better person than I was going in), but I think that our generation is likely going to have a much more sour tone towards post-secondary education, which could result in advising our children away from it unless they really need it.
On a related subject, I also wonder if the rising prices of tuition, and inflation rates in general, might have something to do with the ease at which one can acquire credit these days. Now I'm not an economist by any means, so take this with a grain of salt, but these things I have been wondering. After all, if everyone had to buy a car with the money that they had on hand and saved, their prices theoretically would be significantly lower (as would the labour costs and various other steps involved with them). Naturally, the actual cost of manufacturing the object has to be taken into account, but I have a hard time believing that credit hasn't played a major role in the current cost of living and the sky-high costs of housing in many areas. Plus I wouldn't be surprised if it was a factor in the growing wage gaps, since creditors are always going to get paid one way or another.


Anyway... fitting with the random subject matter this week, I picked a couple songs I'm into at the moment just for the hell of it. First up is "Jerry Was a Racecar Driver" by Primus, and "Devour" by Shinedown. Not really bands (or even songs) that I listen to all that often, but I was feeling it this week so I hope you enjoy.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Rebuttal: Easter Special + DOAX3 I-Told-You-So

Happy Easter everyone! Unlike Christmas, Easter seems to be that holiday which Christian conservatives don't seem to shove the "true meaning" of into our faces incessantly, for whatever reason. Of course, to pick up the slack, the neo-pagans have to get their word in:


Sigh... I know there's a common conception that religious people are anti-intellectual and can't accept facts, but it can be easy to forget that if you're going to be pushing for paganism or atheism, then you have to do a quick Snopes check first. Beyond that, I think every Christian who celebrates Easter goes "why the hell do we symbolize this celebration with eggs and rabbits?", it's not like they thought that there was an actual religious significance to it.

There's a similar vein running with that long-debunked nonsense that the gospels are ripped off from the mythology of Horus (or Mithras, or various other pagan gods depending on who is telling the tale this time). That is, of course, the problem with the Internet and the spreading of disinformation. If you've never watched CGP Grey's "This Video Will Make You Angry", then I would definitely recommend it as it explains the psychology of Internet communities and outrage culture extremely effectively.

The mention of Constantine was also rather interesting in that meme, as neo-pagans seem to have a really odd fixation on him:


Perhaps neo-pagans are salty about Constantine effectively ushering in the end of the biggest pagan empire? Do they wish that the modern world's religious demographics were overwhelmingly pagan (after all, no Christianity also means that Islam would be non-existent or wildly different, effectively eliminating 2/3 of the current world's religious allegiance)? Do they long for a day where the social conservatives are harping on about "In gods we trust!" and marginalizing those weird monotheistic Christian people which are popular amongst filthy hippies? I can't help but feel that this line of thinking would be rather... vindictive and petty.


On a completely different topic, I put out a pair of posts a few months ago responding to the idiotic Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 "controversy" drummed up by people who freak out whenever someone says "SJW" (hmm... on second thought, this ties into "This Video Will Make You Angry" perfectly... seriously, watch it). Well the game is finally out and PlayAsia's ploy seems to have worked well, as they're raking in the cash importing copies of the game overseas to silly dumbasses who still think that us SJWs will give a shit.

As you might remember, my biggest criticism during the "controversy" was not so much that the game was sexist, but that the game was going to be a steaming pile of crap:
I can guarantee you that DOAX3 is not worth your outrage. I seriously question how many of these angry people have actually played a DOAX game, because they are utter shit. For a laugh, I tried out Dead or Alive Paradise, and it was absolutely wretched. If all you wanted to do is oogle girls in bikinis, you should realize that that is barely a feature in the game. Most of what you do is boring menu-based busywork until you decide to play a minigame for about 30 seconds. It has more in common with dating games than you would expect. Now obviously there is a certain niche market for that kind of game, which is fine, but I doubt that they're the ones doing the bulk of the complaining here. The extremely creepy tone and general pervy-ness are just a veneer over a husk of a game which very quickly goes sour. [...]
Well the reviews are in and from what I have read, DOAX3 is actually even more threadbare than previous entries in the franchise, having removed multiplayer, some of the mini-games and not making any real improvements on the stuff that stayed in (including apparent lag input on the pool hopping which existed in previous DOAX games, which rendered that activity practically unplayable). Of course, the graphics and physics have been praised, as they should be since that's obviously where all the effort went. Reviews have been arguably somewhat harsh (although some are ridiculously easy on the game), but the overall feeling seems to be that, at best, the game is incredibly niche. I'm extremely curious to see how many of the people who were whining during the controversy will pick this up, play for about 15 minutes and then go "wait, that's it?!" Considering that the people who complain about SJWs in gaming are also typically the "real true hardcore gamer" crowd, I can't see them getting much joy out of DOAX3.


Oh and if that wasn't enough, the game is actually even more cynically exploitative than even I was expecting:
Koei-Tecmo have demonstrated through DOA5:LR that DOAX3 is going to be packed full of many of the corporate practices that gamers have been rallying against for years now. If your favourite part of the old DOAX games was unlocking all the skimpy bikinis then prepare to be disappointed - DOAX3 is going to be a DLC factory. [...] Oh, and all of those characters who failed to make the cut for the game, including such main characters as Tina Armstrong and Lei Fang? They'll almost certainly be added in as DLC in the future as well.
While bikini DLC is still up in the air (at present there is only 1 in the store, but it seems like a 100% certainty that more will be added shortly) and upcoming DLC characters have been teased, I was not expecting Koei-Tecmo to introduce freaking microtransactions to the game. Apparently the game becomes a tedious grindfest as you do the same shallow mini-games over and over again to try to unlock anything worthwhile... unless you decide to spend real-world money (in a game which is already a full-priced release mind you), ranging from $6 to a whopping $190!!!! Just... why? You guys know that Youtube and Rule34 are things right? You don't need to buy this game to experience it, and Koei Tecmo certainly doesn't deserve to succeed with this game. As for you Team Ninja... can we just get Ninja Gaiden 4, please? At least make it better than Ninja Gaiden 3 and Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, and I'll be happy.

We get what we deserve, I guess. Sigh.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 23/03/2016

Whenever I go on long periods where the blog is only updated with Playlist updates (like it is right now), I feel kind of bad. I've been quite busy lately though, juggling an increased workload due to taking on a new position and getting into exam time with an online course for my job. Even my leisure time is squeezing out writing opportunities as I had to paint up a couple dozen models in anticipation for a Warhammer 40,000 tournament, plus find time to play Rainbow Six Siege and Fire Emblem Fates. Blogging has just been a fairly low priority for me at the moment unfortunately, even though I've got about a half dozen things I wouldn't mind writing about.


First of all is someone that I haven't bothered to write about yet... making me pretty much the only person with a blog who hasn't. That'd be Donald Trump in case you were still wondering. I never would have predicted that Trump would be a lock-in for the Republican leadership nomination, although I still think that the odds that he will win the presidency are close to impossible. However, I was thinking about Trump the other day and the ways that he has been identifying with his significant voter base. Aside from the obviously prickish white supremacists, sexists and assorted other crazies who simply like Trump's more unsavory aspects, the bulk of Trump's support seems to stem from his anti-establishment rhetoric. Basically, if the political system seems broken, then get an outlier to change it - kind of the opposite approach to the "if it ain't broke" axiom. Unfortunately, this is a pretty enormous gamble by the public, placing the leadership of a world superpower in the hands of an untested and ideologically-unpleasant individual just because they feel that they lack representation in the current system*.

These thoughts have brought me back to the opinion article I penned during the Canadian election, that politics are a game, that the voter is being exploited and therefore we should have voter education for eligibility. Few "democracies" have a game more tried and tested than the American political system, so it's little wonder that the Republican party has essentially imploded in such a manner as the voters turn on the establishment which has consistently shown contempt for their opinions. That said, considering that people have turn to Trump (whose own statements can legitimately and justly compare him to Hitler's politics without any of the political bullshit that usually follows that sort of comparison), you have to question the merits of a system like this. I mean on the one hand, sure this is what "the people" seem to want, but that doesn't always mean that it's the "right" approach to take, especially in the long term. I'm very hesitant to say that I support a oligarchical system, but every time I look at democracy lately it just pushes me further and further in that direction.

Then again, I have an extremely morbid curiosity to see what a Trump Presidency would look like, so it'll be interesting to see if he can continue to pull off his upsets at every turn. At least it's not my country which will have to deal with it. USA! USA!


On a related topic, this morning I had a rather irritating conversation with my father. He was watching the Stingray Music Channel and a song by "Average White Band" came on, which prompted him to say "oh, you couldn't name a band that anymore, everything has to be politically correct." I said "eh, I figure you could get away with that without too much fuss." He replied "you couldn't name them 'Average Black Band', everything has to be politically correct." Again, I said "I don't figure that would cause much fuss," to which he once again replied "everything these days has to be politically correct". Attempting to argue with my father can be exasperating at times, but that's besides the point** - is there anything "politically incorrect" about just mentioning race? As usual around these parts, it's all about the context of course. If they called themselves "Average Black Band" and then made a bunch of songs about how stupid/awful black people are, then sure they're definitely deserving of some scorn. However, it seems like these days there are more complaints about political correctness as an idea than there are actual cases of legitimately overzealous political correctness. In fact, from my experience (and that of my friends as well), those harping the anti-political correctness agenda the most just seem to be just assholes who are annoyed that they get called out for being homophobic/racist/etc. This seems to be coming to a head with Trump as well, as I know my father has said that the one thing he likes about Trump is that he's not politically correct... as if that is something which should qualify someone for the presidency.

Of course, there will always be someone complaining about any sort of opinion - and not just from "those butthurt SJW-types". If you get a massive group of people telling you to stop being an asshole though, then maybe at least give them a moment's consideration to see if there might be something to what they're saying. Think about what as you check out this week's picks, "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vidda" by Iron Butterfly and "December Flower" by Sleeping Romance.

(EDIT) Oh hey looked, Cracked sums me up perfectly once again!

*That said, I'll take Trump over Cruz any day.
**In fact, after looking up "Average White Band", plus "politically correct" and "offensive", I found absolutely zero hits on the first pages of people complaining about the name.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 16/03/2016


I'm absolutely loving Jim Sterling's new podcast, the Spinoff Doctors, where Jim Sterling and Conrad Zimmerman skewer video game movies. The most recent entry was for the 2007 Hitman film, which was disappointingly terrible. However, in the process of watching it I started thinking "man, this feels like a Skip Woods movie..." For the uninitiated, Skip Woods is a screenwriter responsible for some notoriously bad films, such as X-Men Origins: Wolverine and A Good Day to Die Hard. In addition to those 2 turds, I have also seen one of his "smaller" efforts, Sabotage, which was pretty much nonsense.

Anyway, as soon as the credits started rolling on Hitman, I checked the credits and it turns out that I had forgotten that this was indeed one of Skip Woods' earlier screenwriting duties. I've seen 4 of Skip Woods' movies now and they have been universally wretched, but the man himself has some very interesting elements which make me want to write about him. I might see about writing up a little analysis post about Skip Woods here sometime in the near future. After all, when you have to ask whether a major Hollywood screenwriter is even a real person, you know that there's something up.


Oh, and speaking of awful writers, first up this week is "The Wrong Side of Heaven" by Five Finger Death Punch. Now to be fair, this is definitely one of their better songs. It's not exceptionally well-written, but it is solid and far from the bro-metal misogyny, angst and whining which typically exemplifies FFDP's catalogue. My second pick this week shows how you can pull off angst effectively and without sounding like a spoiled brat, with "React / Regret" by A Feast for Kings. I am still holding out hope that XXI will go back to their metalcore roots after the tepid reception of their debut album Inside Out. It was an okay debut, but it was severely lacking the punch that their previous EP, Hell on Earth, provided in spades, and even lacked the power of the "Memories" single.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 09/03/2016


I've got to say, I have been looking forward to this playlist update for a while now. The reason for that is because I have REALLY gotten into Iron Maiden's discography now and have been listening to their music pretty much every day lately. In fact, narrowing down to just one song from them this week was hard enough. In the end though, I decided to settle on the title track from arguably my favourite Maiden album, "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son". This album just exemplifies what I love so much about Iron Maiden, the sweeping epics, the tackling of simple (but deep) themes and some absolutely killer guitar solos. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son seems to get overlooked in favour of more of the "classic" Maiden albums (Piece of Mind, Killers, The Number of the Beast, Powerslave, etc), but for my money it's criminally underrated. That said, it also demonstrates just how deep Iron Maiden's discography is. Seriously, if you aren't listening to them already, the damn well do it.


I also knew that I wanted to play some Showbread this week. I initially was going to go with "Dear John Piper", but with all the insanity going on in the States at the moment due to the nomination process, another song really jumped out at me. "I'm Afraid That I'm Me" might be Showbread's best song that encapsulates the political religiosity of American evangelicalism:

"Lately I have found frustration among the incongruence / a movement of peasants and pacifists drowning in patriotic affluence / I feel as though I should do something but I'm staggered by the ramifications / they've baptized the empire into the church and heralded its sanctification"

"'Blessed are the meek' succumbs to 'might makes right' / "turn the other cheek" succumbs to pre-emptive strike / "love your enemies" is fossilized beneath the frozen tundra / and 'blessed are the poor in spirit' is devoured by 'God bless America'.

You file the children into the classrooms, make them stand and say an oath / and when we ask 'should I love God or my country?' / you smile and tell us 'both.' / We've hidden the God we claim we serve and driven him beneath the floorboards / but I can still hear this still, small voice / and i can't take it anymore"

What else can I say? For all the political and religious commentary, it's clearly a very deserving song to add to the IC2S Playlist.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 02/03/2016


I saw The Witch in theatres this weekend, and it was a bit of a strange experience. On the one hand, it was really well shot and directed, turning the New England countryside into an incredibly dark and foreboding landscape. The horror elements also are very classically-styled, with long build-up and a tense score doing wonders to make the film's horror-moments very unsettling. There were also some great performances, even by some of the younger actors.

Oddly enough, it seems like the sort of film that you'd have the most appreciation for if you have at least a passing familiarity with early American colonial literature. I'm sure that any horror fan can appreciate much of the movie, but some of the stranger elements might not make a ton of sense if you don't at least understand Puritan beliefs and folklore (and the ending in particular). Stuff like cabals of witches in the woods, the devil taking form and hiding amongst us, the idea that God was an angry, vengeful monster looking for an excuse to damn you, witches kidnapping children and turning them into paste, the garrison mentality, etc - the film hews very closely to the folklore of the time, which is a very interesting idea, although it does weaken the narrative somewhat (again, particularly the ending). It's one of those movies that I wasn't sure what to think at first, but a couple days out I'm growing quite an appreciation for it.

On the entirely different side of the spectrum of quality though, the day after that I saw Street Fighter: The Movie for the first time. Similarly to Troll 2, it was so bad it was hilariously entertaining. I know it's kind of a cliche at this point to praise Raul Julia's performance as M Bison, but he was so deliciously campy and over-the-top. The film is objectively terrible, bloated with too many thinly-sketched characters and poorly-edited action scenes, but Julia manages to single-handedly make the film worth watching with his intentionally-hammy performance.


My selections for this week have basically nothing to do with any of that, aside from the fact that they continue my recent theme of songs which are extremely different from one another. On the one hand, we have the ethereal and subdued rock classic "Riders on the Storm" by The Doors, and on the other we have "Beyond the Grave" by Impending Doom, a death metal tune that compels you to scream along with it with your fist pumped.

Also, HOLY SHIT, HOLY SHIT, HOLY SHIT, Impending Doom finally updated their Spotify library, meaning that I can now use tracks from their 2 best albums, Baptized in Filth and Death Will Reign. Expect to see a lot more from them!

Monday, 29 February 2016

The Rebuttal: Context 101

It's that time again - another round of The Rebuttal! I've had lots of content to pick through, but since I don't want every installment of The Rebuttal to be about me making fun of the same men's rights activist, we're going to shake it up just a little bit. In honour of #OscarsSoWhite, I present this little gem:


Hoo boy, I've got a few thoughts on this one. First of all, this feels like the sort of thing a white 16-year-old just starting to wrestle with the concepts of privilege and the disadvantaged might put together and then deeply regret in a few years when they start to get a better idea of how the world works. It's pretty emblematic of the mid-90s-to-late-2000s liberal ideal of "colour blindness", where us white, middle-class folks decided that racism was finally over and we can start focusing on other things. Naturally, the last few years have demonstrated very visibly that this was simply a wishful fantasy and that racism (and sexism for that matter) is still ingrained deeply within society at an institutional level, and until that is addressed, things won't get much better.

For my own part, growing up I thought that Nazis and literal racists were a thing of the past*. However, in just the last week I have encountered and sparred with an honest-to-God white supremacist. I have already documented some encounters with a self-described "humanist" with some decidedly toxic views on women, gays, trans-people and minorities. I see all sorts of modern misogyny and racism on We Hunted the Mammoth on a daily basis. Hell, one could make the very realistic argument that a white supremacist is the frontrunner for the Republican party this year. The progressive backlash has gotten louder and more visible in the last few years, and so now more than ever we need to identify it and try to treat this ideological cancer before it can gain any sort of social traction.


The other thing that's making me think that the person who made this is only around 16-years-old is because their examples are pretty freaking weak. I know they're attempting to establish a double-standard, but I don't see either of the given examples as being particularly sexist or racist. Maybe that's just me, but that just highlights one of the major issues with this image: both a lack of context, and a lack of understanding of context.

First of all, "you boys/girls are stupid" is not a sexist statement in itself, but the context is going to be really important if you want to make the argument that it is. Like, what caused the statement? Is it a blanket statement regarding the person's sex/race? Was their shitty opinion based on prejudice? Or are they just saying that they think that this particular individual is stupid based on some prior experiences? It's basically impossible to pass a judgement of sexism/racism on this situation without some real context.

Secondly, the authour has a severe lack of understanding of context. Let's just assume that the example statements did have a sexist/racist intent. In such a case then it is important to point out the prejudice in the person's statement because they're being much more than just a "big ol' meanie". If they're being a racist/sexist prick, then there is some sort of underlying prejudice which is causing them to formulate a negative, dehumanizing picture of people, and one which needs to be identified, addressed and eliminated from society. It's almost like the authour doesn't realize that this is the case, as if they think that racism/sexism is just a synonym for being mean which only applies to certain people.


Don't get me wrong though - being nice to everyone is ideal. I hope that at some point we can actually reach this state. However, the issue is that there are ingrained prejudices which make this obviously-ideal philosophy untenable in practice. Furthermore, much like humanism, egalitarianism, free speech and #GamerGate, this sort of ideal is co-opted by racists, sexists, homophobes and various other unsavoury groups which pollute the term and destroy any sort of attempt at using it as an actual platform for positive social change. It's a great individual philosophy to internalize and pass on to others, but the authour has to realize that you're targeting the wrong people - don't target the people pointing out inequalities, target the assholes in society who make things worse for all of us.

*This in spite of the fact that in one of my earliest years in school, a black kid had joined our class. When my mom asked me what I thought of him, I snarkily and defiantly declared "I don't like blacks." I was probably 6 or 7 years old and had never encountered a non-white person before. Suffice to say, the smack that I received from my mother was well-deserved, and it's easily one of my most shameful memories. However, it has been a source of some pondering for me - what caused me to be such a racist prick of a kid? I think it was down to "he's different, and I don't like things that are different", which makes me kind of concerned for all the people who grew up around me in a town which has been called "the whitest town in all of Ontario".

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 24/02/2016


Seeing how we're just under 1 month away from the IC2S Playlist's first anniversary, I think I'm going to switch up the format of the update since they're basically the same boring stuff every week and, as a result, it can be pretty challenging to actually come up with anything meaningful to say. I'm going to try out a little more of an informal, blog-like structure which might actually be interesting to somebody to read, whether they're actually going to listen to the playlist or not.

So the Dairy Queen recently reopened for the season here in my home town, which prompted a couple co-workers and I to play a visit on our lunch break. One of the co-workers was trying to annoy the other and asked me to put on some of my "weird" music (read: not country or pop). She wanted me to put on some Brian "Head" Welch which would have been pretty funny for me, but I knew that that probably be too much, so I figured I'd go for something a little more low-key... and by that I mean Andrew W.K., because I am horrible at gauging an audience when it comes to music...

Anyway, that's how I discovered that some people apparently consider Andrew W.K. to be "screamo" music just because he yells on I Get Wet and The Wolf (never mind that his music is about partying and positivity, not angst and pessimism). I know that music taste is super-subjective, but I find it kind of incredible that someone around my age can be so musically-sheltered that they find Andrew-freaking-W.K. too extreme-sounding (let alone that he's on the listener-friendly end of my musical spectrum, far away from Impending Doom or Book of Black Earth). Then again, they probably think I'm crazy for not listening to country music, so what do I know?

In honour of this, enjoy some more of my "weird screamo" music, in the form of "Burn" (In This Moment, Blood) and "Through the Fire and the Flames" (DragonForce, Inhuman Rampage). I get the feeling that, if you listen to the playlist already, then these should be basically lullabies compared to some of the stuff I've put on there.


Wednesday, 17 February 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 17/02/2016


First up this week is "The Riddle" by Five For Fighting from the album Two Lights. There's a responsible driving PSA which plays on Metal Rock Radio all the time featuring Five For Fighting's lead singer, John Ondrasik. They play this song in the background of the PSA, and I recently started to want to hear the whole song. This led me on a hunt through most of Five For Fighting's discography trying to find the song. It took me quite a while to find "The Riddle", but it led me to the realization that I rather like Five For Fighting. Obviously I'm a person who skews more towards heavy music, but every once in a while I just feel like settling into something soft and hopeful. "The Riddle" is one of those songs which really fits that bill, it's very optimistic and cheerful.


...and then on the other end of the spectrum, we have "I See Demons" by Book of Black Earth from their album The Cold Testament. I came across this band as a total fluke while searching for Iron Maiden's awesome new album, The Book of Souls. While typing into the search bar, suddenly Spotify recommended Book of Black Earth. I was instantly intrigued, checked them out and was pretty impressed by what I heard. This experience underscores a couple lessons for me. First of all, free-listening music platforms, such as Spotify, have a ton of potential to introduce you to totally new music which you never would have come across via more conventional means (eg, the radio only plays a handful of genres and even internet radio doesn't branch too much). This seems to work for producers as well, because I actually went and purchased a copy of The Cold Testament to show my support. The second lesson I learned was that, despite some opinions to the contrary, cover art is still super important in the digital age. I mean seriously, look at the cover for The Cold Testament. It's freaking epic. As soon as I saw it I thought "this must be a really cool metal band" and was not disappointed.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 10/02/2016


First up this week is "Killing Strangers" by Marilyn Manson from his newest album THE PALE EMPEROR. Basically the only reason I picked this song was because I had a pretty epic movie night double-feature with a friend with weekend which consisted of John Wick and Mad Max: Fury Road (probably my 2 favourite action movies of the past 7 years) back-to-back. As you can expect, it was an awesome night, but "Killing Strangers" was really sticking in my mind afterwards due to its main drum/bass rhythm.

This also got me thinking about my history with Marilyn Manson as an artist. As a kid growing up in an evangelical household, my only exposure to Manson was stories about how messed up he apparently was. For example, I heard that he took out a rib so that he could suck his own dick, and that he apparently tore up a puppy on stage once. As a result, I was under the impression that he was a satanist and that his music was vile, despite never having actually heard more than snippets of it. Of course, now that I'm older and wiser, I now realize that his strange persona and reputation was all tried and tested "shock rocker" marketing tactics, already perfected long before by Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper. Despite that, his shtick seems less cynical to me and more artistically genuine, as he put forth an interestingly androgynous look and his songs tend to have some impactful messages behind them. Having heard more of his music now, I wouldn't exactly call myself a fan, but I have enjoyed most of what I have heard.


Secondly we have "Raining Blood" by Slayer from their album Reign in Blood. Slayer's one of those essential metal bands which I find myself in the unfortunate position of not really liking all that much. Back in university I was really getting into Metallica and figured I'd expand further into thrash metal via Slayer. However, I soon found that I didn't really care for their music all that much, with their faux-blasphemous style not endearing them to me all that much either. I probably need to give them another chance, but as it stands their only song I really enjoy is by far their most popular track, "Raining Blood". This song used to be the bane of my existence in Guitar Hero III, which people seemed to always overlook in favour of the (admittedly brutal) "Through the Fire and the Flames" (which will probably be a future playlist pick).

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 03/02/2016

We have a couple updates this week before we get into the playlist selections. First of all, Countless Thousands' Kickstarter is live and already funded. However, it got there through (at this point) only 36 backers, which is a crime considering how good this band is as far as I'm concerned. Check out their Kickstarter page, if only to read through it - a lot of love has obviously gone into crafting this campaign, and it shows because it is absolutely hilarious from start to finish.

Secondly, we're getting awfully close to a year of the IC2S Playlist now - we're now 11 weeks away from our 1 year anniversary, at which point I'm going to be making updates far more infrequent. We're also over the 7 hour point now, although I imagine I can get it over 9 or 10 by the time we hit the end (I've been eyeing a pair of 18 minute songs for a while now).


Anyway, onto this week's first selection, "Screwtape" by Living Sacrifice from the album Ghost Thief. I really enjoy the slow start to this song, it contrasts really well with Bruce Fitzhugh's thunderous vocals. If I'm being honest, I have no idea what this song is about, but it sounds really cool and has some great musicianship on display... and there's not much else to say but that. Enjoy it.


Next up we have "New Year's Day " by U2 from their album, War. The fact that I didn't use this song to kick off 2016 was a major missed opportunity on my part. My favourite U2 song has changed many times over the years, but lately it seems to have settled on this track from War. For many years, I had only heard the radio edit version, which cuts out a good minute and a half of great guitar work and reduces "New Year's Day" to a good, but unspectacular, song as far as I'm concerned. However, the full album version is just so much better, providing me with yet another reason why radio stations (particularly pop radio stations) suck.

Monday, 1 February 2016

The Rebuttal: #MinifigLivesMatter

Oh looky, it's time for another installment of The Rebuttal. What sort of dumbassery made its way into my Facebook feed this week? A friend of mine (we'll call him Johnny) has an MRA/egalitarian friend, who made a ridiculous post this weekend. Johnny passed this post on to another friend of mine (we'll call him Atlas), who then passed it on to me, knowing I'd enjoy it. Check it out:


Hoo boy... I'm not even going to bother going into his spurious claim that SJWs have "ruined" video games, STEM fields and have somehow destroyed every tech company... actually, wait, what the feth? Where the hell did he get that idea from? I assume that's some sort of MRA talking-point, but for those of us not drinking the same Kool-Aid, the idea that SJWs are destroying tech companies sounds absolutely ridiculous. I didn't really look into this very comprehensively, in part because it sounds like utter garbage, but the only site that I could find that was pushing this view was a damn pickup artist's blog. Considering that I was searching for "women destroying tech companies", you think that there would have been more results about women actually destroying the tech industry (in fact, most results showed how the tech industry is destroying itself via ridiculously long work hours... and by not hiring more women).


Anyway, getting back on track, I hadn't heard any sort of SJW-types complaining about lack of diversity in LEGO, so I was curious if this was yet another case where a handful of complaints are conflated into a whole movement's viewpoints. As a result, I came across this article which explains that LEGO decided to release their first wheelchair-bound minifig in an effort for more diversity. That is a fantastic move on LEGO's part which has made many kids very happy, and has generally gotten a very positive reception. How can you possibly see this as a bad thing?

Let's be charitable though. The original post alludes to Johnny's friend not knowing the details of the situation, but just being annoyed by SJWs ruining everything. We all make those sorts of declarations without the full story. I mean, he's not going to seriously advocate giving children with disabilities the middle finger, right...? Well, I wasn't expecting this, but Atlas decided to sent Johnny the news article, which prompted Johnny to grill his friend for being overly-dramatic. His friend, unfortunately, doubled-down on his comments:


Sigh... First of all, he is relying heavily on the slippery slope logical fallacy* to try to make this seem like such a bad thing, but even then he's on thin ice. So what if LEGO makes armless, trans (ooh, potential transphobia, nice!) or wolfkin minifigs? How is that going to "ruin" LEGO? Furthermore, it's not like people can't make armless, trans or even freaking literal werewolf LEGO characters already, so I'm not so sure that they'd even bother to acknowledge them. Either way though, this is the whole reason why LEGO is so amazing to begin with - it's a blank slate which promotes creativity. Giving a paraplegic child an avatar with which to live out his fantasies as a hero with a disability is both empowering and absolutely awesome. LEGO is all about giving people the ability to live out their fantasy worlds, and I say the more people we can bring in under that umbrella, the better.

As usual, the real issue is that Johnny's friend is deep in an ideological framework and the world is completely filtered through that lens (which is made worse by the fact that he subscribes to news sources which fuel this world view). He thinks that SJW-types have ruined all forms of entertainment (they simply haven't, full-stop), or that "not being a prick" is not only self-censorship, but a truly henious thing. For an idea of why he thinks this, it's worth mentioning that he is also seriously under the delusion that the disadvantaged have leveraged their status and supplanted white men as the real power within society.

Oh, and by the way, Johnny's friend considers himself to be an "egalitarian"... which should more-or-less put to bed the argument that "feminists should try being more egalitarian!" Egalitarianism as a movement has been co-opted by MRAs and various other hateful organizations which have become deluded enough to believe that they have become the truly disadvantaged group within society. From that particular mindset, this is a reasonable view, but to anyone else... well, egalitarianism my ass. To all those who are stuck in such a mindset, I can only hope that you can one day you acquire the ability to take a step back and maybe admit that you were wrong.


To finish up, I've been ignoring the Taken reference this whole time because it is just your typical Internet tough guy, dick-wagging bullshit. Oh, you're going to troll and debunk all of us SJW-types with your "egalitarian" knowledge? Well there's only one thing I can say to that...

Good luck.

Somehow I think it's going to work out better for me than it did for Marco from Tropoja though.

*Normally I hate throwing around accusations of logical fallacies when arguing with someone as they are often used the way "check your privilege" is, as a tactic to shut down an opponents' argument without actually having to address it. However, in our one previous confrontation, Johnny's friend was slinging logical fallacy accusations at me, so I figure that he more or less has it coming. Not to mention that his logical fallacy accusations were very strenuous (eg, he claimed that saying that I thought that most feminists would agree with me on something was a "No True Scotsman" claim, which it clearly is not, as I didn't say "those who disagree with me are not true feminists"... and then he claimed that Reddit MRAs are not true MRAs and tried to explain that such a view was not a No True Scotsman fallacy... yeah).