Elysian Fields

Musings, rants, critiques, social commentary, hilarity, conversations about the word poo, and other nonsensical anecdotes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

For those about to rock...

I'm a gamer; and I love my Xbox 360. It is more than just a passive hobby. It is a passion, a labour of love. I love playing games...I love reading about games...I love watching people play games. One of my favorites is a relatively new genre to the arena - the rhythm game. The most widely known of these are the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises. Until this past October, it was relatively easy to know which of the competing juggernauts to suggest to people - if you tended to play by yourself (oh, quit your infantile giggling), you wanted Guitar Hero; if you wanted a more social experience by adding your friends to your Rock God(dess) fantasy, then you definitely chose Rock Band. But with the advent of Guitar Hero: World Tour, the field of battle have been evened...in general terms. For those who are scratching their heads wondering what I am talking about, I'm going to talk to you as I would to a clueless parent who knew only that their child wanted the "game with the plastic guitar."

Rock Band is a game where you can play with 3 other people as a virtual band - one is the singer, one is the drummer, and the remaining two play guitar and bass. In the days of old, Guitar Hero let you play as a guitarist; now, however, Guitar Hero: World Tour lets you play with a band just like Rock Band. If you know anything about the Internet, you are aware that it essentially is the world's largest soapbox. So the RB and GH:WT forums are ablaze, each proclaiming that their respective love is better than the other. So I got to thinking...as one who has experience with both franchises, is one better than the other? For the common person who thinks that an Xbox 360 might be some fancy skateboarding maneuver, what's the freakin' difference?

I haven't gotten to play
GH:WT yet. But just from looking at the list of features (remember, I like to read about games), each game offers different draws. So I wondered, as many of my gamer geek compatriots have spoken aloud about, wouldn't it be great if a game existed that took the best of both games and put them into one?!? I started thinking - if I had the opportunity to create such a game, what would I put in it? This post is the introduction to that answer. I hope to explain what I think are the best features to include in this imaginary mutt of potential gaming greatness.

Monday, March 17, 2008

WCGI 2008

Ah yes...here it is, another March. And with March comes the Madness. What I believe to be the greatest sports competition in human history is going to begin soon. Now don’t think I make this claim simply because I am a huge fan of college basketball; I’m not. I think March Madness is incredible simply because it is really anyone’s game - now of course there are favorites, but let’s look at how things ultimately come down. A good team has a bad day? They’re done, finished, no second chances. It is one of the only times the underdogs really have a chance to become the unsung champions. This event, a massive 64-team single elimination tournament, is the very heart of what Queen’s "We Are The Champions" is all about!

Almost 2 years ago, Nikki and I met Lisa and Andy. It was love at first hanging out; these 2 are our best friends. And they shared something with us that, eventually, we hope to share with the rest of the world: WCGI. Those 4 letters stand for Who Could Get It. Arguably inspired by the insanity of the NCAA tournament, WCGI is a fantasy. Instead of real college teams, each person participating choses a list of celebrities who could...well...get it. It is a fantasy list of celebrities you want to hook up and do somewhere that is the complete antithesis of the backseat of a Volkswagon (read: someplace uncomfortable). Of course there are caveats and what not; however, as I stated before, we are trying to make this into something that others can enjoy with their friends, and hell, maybe total strangers! That is why I am not going to divulge the rules - fret not, faithful fantasizers, we do not intend to charge for this service. We simply want to make a version that everyone can enjoy. But nevermind all of that - this blog is to make you aware of the winners! Each of the winners’ pictures were chosen by the person who selected them; the pictures of the runners-up were selected by my delicate eye for the essence of the individual. I’m good like that.

We will start with Andy - his final choice came down to an epic battle that all of us have waged when devouring an Oreo; do we choose the cookie or the cream? Given my personal proclivities when it comes to the sandwich cookie, I certainly cannot fault Andy for his choice: he chose the cream. So here, ladies and gentlemen (especially the gentlemen), is the winner of WCGI 2008 for Andy: the deliciously, lickable Scarlett Johansson.
I’m quite sure plenty of the guys in the audience recognize Ms. Johansson. The cookie that she bested? In a surprise, she beat out an unexpected contender - the 2-time baby mama of the ex-Mr. Britney Spears, Shar Jackson.
Yes indeed - either way, to this reporter, the appetite would have been satiated.

The lovely Lisa also had an unexpected contender make it to the finals - sadly, however, the underdog did not get his day in the sun. But he fought bravely and valiantly against scores of would-be heartthrobs to earn his place in the finals. So I present - the runner-up for Lisa: Clive Owen.
He does look mighty cool in that picture. Just to assist - in case you didn’t notice, all of the winners have rather LARGE pictures, while the runners-up tend to be a bit smaller. Even in the realm of fantasy size can ultimately matter. Who defeated the man who drew Excaliber to conquer Camelot? I present the victor - Jason Statham.
He’s a manly man, and he has an accent too. My best wishes to Lisa and Mr. Statham on their evening(s) of imagined debauchery.

It seems that for each of us, there was a dark horse candidate that made it to the finals. However, now with Nikki, we actually have one who ultimately took home the prize. The unexpected winner of Nikki’s WCGI 2008: Bruce Willis.
When you see whom Bruce bested, you will understand how he was clearly not the favored winner of the match. Ladies, get the proper absorbent material for Mr. Naked Bongos himself - 2008’s runner-up and last year’s winner, Matthew McConaughey.
Yep...can’t say I saw that one coming.

Lastly, there are my winner and runner-up, which have been the source of both griping and questioning. First, the runner-up - to me it was a no-brainer of sorts and she didn’t really face all that much competition on her way to the finals. I present the nowhere near Ugly America Ferrera.
Now back to that griping I mentioned earlier. Such colorful phases as "How the fuck did she even make it that far?!?" have peppered liberally my selection as she defeated some serious hotties, including last year’s winner, Rosario Dawson. She even bested another finalist from last year, Monica Bellucci. But in the end, I chose whom I wanted...and I wanted Rosario’s co-star from Death Proof, stuntwoman Zoe Bell.
Zoe has been the stunt double for Uma Thurman (who was in this year’s competition) in Kill Bill and Lucy Lawless (a challenger in last year’s WCGI) in Xena: Warrior Princess. Some persons have even alleged that I had been influenced by recent repeat viewings of Death Proof; I do not at all deny that I may have been influenced. Either way, Zoe is who I wanted and ultimately whom I chose.

In an aside...I will admit that I am subject to influence. While I am drawn to America just being adorably herself, had I known of her photoshoot in the UK edition of Marie Claire, I have to confess that the pendulum of my celebrity fantasy lust may have swung differently. See for yourself and decide - until next time...

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Book of Nine Balls Ch. 4: 2+2=5?

We now return you to our regularly scheduled bitching and moaning...

In the last chapter, our hero...you know what? If you forgot, just take a moment to reread it. Not that these chapters correlate or anything. Take your time; I'll wait... *gets up and goes to get a drink and some chips...munch, munch, munch* Now, onto chapter 4.

* While I am doing pretty well ripping apart the fabric of music reviews, I might as well stick with what I appear to have a natural talent for. Here is another quote from a review in Rolling Stone for Mary J. Blige's The Breakthrough:

"Blige's new disc...doesn't deliver everything its title suggests, but it'll do until a real breakthrough comes along..."

Keep that quote in mind...trust me, it'll be important later. Got it? Okay - now, the magazine uses the commonplace 5-star rating system. Of course, a rating of 5 stars is considered the pinnacle of musical genius and potency. A measly 1 star means that even your pets wouldn't take a steaming dump on it for fear that they will contract whatever grotesquely suck ass affliction the music and/or musicians suffer from to earn a single star. Yeah, yeah, the star may have a golden color, but it sucks, okay? I've, on rare occasions, taken dumps that color, but I'm not parading THAT around like I'm the king of the goddamn forest, now am I? So take your teeny tiny little golden colored star, the electroplated turd of acknowledgement that it is, and go back to whatever primordial pool of vomit your cells evolved and took shape from. At least, that's my interpretation of what a 1-star rating means; I fully understand if your perspective is different. "To each their own" works for me (note to music critics who stumble across this - see how using a quote or descriptive language can actually apply to what the writer is talking about? That's a freebie; I'm gonna charge you for the next one *winks mockingly while making the requisite camera shudder sound with his mouth*).

To be fair to the critics, they are only following the current trend. I don't believe many of them want to write that way about music. As someone who loves music deeply and passionately, I feel that writing that way about something that I love, as I am guessing the critics do (deep down I want to believe they still love music), distances me from it...almost like I am using bigger words and more adjectives to cover up how I really feel. It is the difference between saying "That dress is stunning; it really accentuates your curvateous figure" and "Nice dress; I so wanna bang you like a drum" (Shay, I can hear you laughing - that one was for you...nice shoes, by the way *wink*). I think the former is a much more articulate way of expressing the same sentiment as the latter, but that does not make it more effective for the audience. But I am not getting to the point of this bullet - I sometimes get hung up on the past. I like closure. Call me a bitch if you want, but I like conclusion.

Now, do you remember the quote about Mary's CD? No? What the hell do you mean, "No?" I asked you to remember a quote from a music review...not Bernoulli's fucking equation! Stop sitting there feeling as stupid as you're looking! Go reread it; I'll wait. *gulps down his drink, angrily banging the glass down and muttering to himself* Finished? *sighs, visibly annoyed* Finish then... Done now? Good - with a quote like that, what do you think the star rating would be? Me? I think the album would either be 2.5 or 3 stars. Yeah, obviously the album did better than 3 stars or else I wouldn't be writing this. It got 4. I'm not saying that the CD doesn't deserve the 4 stars it received, but I think that the review should reflect the overall rating. In reading many of these reviews, I get the impression that the person writing the review is not the same person looking to hand out gold colored stars. Please do not think that I am picking on Rolling Stone; I see similar inconsistencies with Entertainment Weekly, although I think they are less obvious. The miniature free version of Filter I read seems to have a good handle on being consistent between the details of the review and the overall impression of the rating (coincidentally, I think Filter's percentile system is horrible - there is such a thing as being too scientific). I have decided to use elements from various sources for my reviews: I like EW's letter grade system the most, but I am taking the concept of listing standout tracks from RS. I might just list my favorite track. The format is still volatile. I just think that if you are going to say a CD is a 4-star offering to the public, you should reinforce that notion with positive language. Or at least let the person writing the review give the final rating. You know...whichever one works for you.
Oh it ain't over yet...

Friday, March 03, 2006

Station Identification

We interrupt the ongoing saga of The Book of Nine Balls to offer a brief intermission. I would like to thank you (all 2 or 3 of you) who have taken time of your days to visit the Elysian Fields. It means a lot to me that people would read my lunatic ramblings. As I sat in Staten Island the other week (I personally refer to Staten Island as the Isle of the Damned), I was listening to music while watching a contractor fill a rather large abyss in the ground. The CD was Dirt by Alice in Chains. Suddenly...as if addressing an audience...I spoke aloud my thoughts on how Dirt was actually a better album than Facelift. I then pulled out a piece of paper and a writing instrument and began to compose a list of sophomore albums that were better than their predecessors. And this list...I now offer to you. Now to let you know the rules I used in creating this. First, I dealt with full LPs - EPs, specialty albums (i.e. Christmas, other language, reissues of unreleased works, etc.), and the like were not considered. Actually, that is about the only rule. So on to the list...and please, feel free to share your thoughts or maybe any ones you think that I may have missed...

Dirt - Alice in Chains
The Low End Theory - A Tribe Called Quest
The Score - The Fugees
Tragic Kingdom - No Doubt
A Rush of Blood to the Head - Coldplay
The Return of the Space Cowboy - Jamiroquai
Resurrection - Common Sense
Queen of the Meadow - Elysian Fields
Light and Magic - Ladytron
De La Soul is Dead - De La Soul
Watermark - Enya
ATLiens - OutKast
Nevermind - Nirvana
Cherry Pie - Warrant
Discovery - Daft Punk
Dare Iz a Darkside - Redman
A Strangely Isolated Place - Ulrich Schnauss
The Infamous - Mobb Deep
Stripped - Christina Aguilera
My Life - Mary J. Blige
Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds, Vol. 2 - Jill Scott
The Slim Shady LP - Eminem
Wikked Lil' Grrls - Esthero
Bridging the Gap - Black Eyed Peas
By All Means Necessary - Boogie Down Productions

So that is what I was able to come up with...what do you think?

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Book of Nine Balls Ch. 3: Prodigal Prose

In the previous installment: Our hero faced another blow of frustration as he faced the gruesome reality of underachievement. His nemesis, the Industry, has left him wanting - their paltry offerings fall short of reaching a fair distance for the investment of time. Even in the face of their trechery, the hero moves onto his next quest...
* You may have noticed by this time from my ramblings, if not this one then perhaps from one of my previous exercises in brilliant, topical social commentary, that I have a particular writing style. I can be eloquent, yet engaging...clever, yet consummate...tangential, yet topical. I wish I could say the same for any number of music critics. I have been reading a fair amount of publications about the current music environment, specifically Rolling Stone. Firstly, I read because...well, it's free; Nikki had some points that she had to spend on magazine subscriptions. A lot of unnecessary exposition later...we get the magazine now. Secondly, I have felt disconnected from my ex (that being music - we are kinda in a complicated place lately) so this has allowed me to she what she's been up to without directly dealing with her shit unless I decide to. And I must confess, I have found Rolling Stone to be both interesting and informative, until... *bows head, placing his thumb and index finger on either side of his nose as he shakes his head slowly in negation* I read the reviews.

I understand that the music audience is a collection of intelligent, artistic personalities. I also understand that many journalists are stronger writers than the general public. BUT, what is the point of using language that is not...well...useful? I can appreciate the use of metaphor, simile, and other comparative, descriptive devices, but there are limits of applicability. Half of the time, I have no clue what the hell the critic is talking about; even more often, I forget that they are trying - no, let me clarify trying - to describe an album. Not quite sure what I mean? Let me give you an example: I read a review recently of Over the Years and Through the Woods, the latest album from Queens of the Stone Age that had this exact quote...
"...fourteen songs...that jam together sunbaked psychedelia, winding metal riffs and elegantly wasted vocals."
Let us take a moment to reflect upon this... *takes a sip of his libation, leans back in his comfortable reclining chair, crosses his right leg perpendicular to his left, and strokes his shaggy chin, pondering...meditating...* Let me start off by saying that I do consider myself to be a learned man, a member of the academic community. Hence, I know what words mean; if I do not, and sometimes I do not - I know where to go in order to familiarize myself with new vocabulary. Additionally, I understand the creative process and its results - the clever, deliberate pairing of words, subtext, sarcasm, paradox...I see that you understand this. Ignoring what I believe is a typographical error (the printed review has "psychedelia" as opposed to "psychedelica"), I must be honest with all of you - I have no fucking idea what this person is trying to convey. I feel as clueless reading this sentence as I do reading Toni Morrison (I do not have anything against Ms. Morrison - I just don't understand a damn thing the woman is writing about). Let me translate this as I read it: The songs combine a laid-back, carefree vibe; strong guitar elements that are loud, powerful, and intense with fluctuations in tone; and concise, grateful lyrical content that is unnecessary and pointless. Did anyone else come up with this? *looks around the room, searching for someone else who got "B" for number 16* Now that we have collectively decided what the sentence means in less "flowery" terms, now we must devise how these words apply. You know what...my rant here is getting lengthy, so much so that I may have to split this into multiple installments like Kill Bill. Let's cut to the finale...those words mean nothing to me when I am trying to decide if I am interested in an album. Admittedly it is more descriptive than saying "it's loud and fast and hard but in a gentle way." However, that doesn't mean that it's describing the album in question. Simply...it doesn't apply; the words need to fit the situation. I am all for eloquence, but let's be realistic. I have listened to Queens of the Stone Age before; never ONCE did I think "sunbaked psychedelica." Shit - I have never thought laid-back when listening to QotSA. I think...oh, I don't know...metal: hard, cold, strong, heavy, imposing - words that reflect characteristics of, like, M-E-T-A-L. So that is what I would tell you if I were writing the review or just telling you about it. But obviously I lack the artistic vision to be able to express the subtle nuance of symphonic guitar composition, rife with cathartic rhythmic percussion. But maybe it's just me.
Still going...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Book of Nine Balls Ch. 2: Premature Muzaculation

In Chapter 1: The Arctic Monkeys inspired deep introspection of the English language, and our hero laments a prior era when the melodious sound of the planet challenged his own stamina. And our hero continues with the next chapter in his tale...
* And speaking of A.D.D., what is the deal with CDs that are 30 minutes long? They want me to rush out to the store on Tuesday morning, breathless and excited, and grab my copy of TRL's latest darling pretty band with catchy, albeit socially irrelevant hooks (oooooohh, they're pretty...but SOOOOOO edgy!) that is waiting on the shelf for me, not a speck of dust to have sullied its cellophane wrapper...clinging seductively to its slender form like Lindsay Lohan's jeans contorting to Beyonce's bootyliciousness. I then saunter up to the cashier, covetously, as I hand over my hard-earned $14.58; I dash out of the store and peel away the plastic with my lips and fingertips, removing the most visual barrier that separates me from my seductive mistress. Slowly...erotically...deliciously. *shudders and exhales slowly* If the plastic wrapping is the allegorical equivalent to low-rise jeans and a retro ringer baby T, then that slender sticky band of adhesive is the matching Vicki S. bra and thong set, in burgundy *yum...*, that teases my senses by being slightly visible, causing my eyes to fixate lecherously, when the light and angle are right. With the confidence and smooth skill of a husky Thomas Crown, I peel away the last inhibition keeping me from an interlude that is best kept to amuse myself in the late, lonely hours of my vivid imagination. I'm in my own palace of joy - I do not bother at this point with paying heed to the minutiae. Slipping it in, nervously, I confess - suddenly dizzy; a blur of motion as we spin like a vortex of excitement and liberated passion. Each successive round, one after the next after the next - I'd swear time accelerates exponentially with each successive aural stimulation. To quote Tori Amos, "...with these little earthquakes..." the world moves in hypersonic velocity, finalizing into one singular, pulsating, omnipotent, ballistic frozen moment of... *a gasp...followed by smoldering anger, gradual in force, foolishly believing the mask of confusion deceives all* ...disappointment. I ask the question men have dreaded for eons, if not longer, "...Is that it?" A 30-minute tryst? That's it...this is what I have spent my hard-earned money on? Not to mention the couple of hours of OT wasted to get that hard-earned money. They must think that I like waking up at 6am to trek out to Staten Island - have YOU ever had the joy of sitting on the BQE waiting as you literally feel your life force seeping out of your pores?

All I get for all the flirting, the suggestion...is a mere pittance of pleasure - over before it has begun. Where are the CDs to ravish my mind, body, and soul for an hour? Some... *blushing* ...even a little longer. *sighs* I want something a bit more substantial than a 30-minute tease of music. I want to be transported to places I have never seen or thought existed. I want to feel my sternum rattle with bass that brazenly challenges my own heartbeat for dominion of my body. For anywhere from $10-$18, you have got to last longer than 30 minutes. I want to feel like I am getting something for my money...other than ripped off.
But alas...our hero shall press on in search of that which he seeks...

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Book of Nine Balls Ch. 1: Cold Monkeys & A.D.D.

I did some thinking the other day. Yeah...I'm prone to doing that from time to time, especially when I am bored and developing a serious buzz from gasoline fumes (one day, I'll explain that one to you - let's just say that some would consider that a perk of the job. And for the record, those same people are probably mere brain cells away from earning the nickname "Rain Man"). And, crafted in my own special fashion, the thoughts appear random to the untrained eye; but since I have been trained in secret ritualistic monasteries in uncharted realms of this planet, I have the perception and vision to see beyond the surface of supposed coincidences. The fact that I thought them up helps, I will admit, however.
* While listening to the Arctic Monkeys, I had an unusual thought: based solely on my knowledge of the English language, its form, its structure, and the meanings of several word units, both individual and combined, am I alone in concluding that the word antarctic seems as though it should mean the opposite of arctic?
* Speaking of music...I'd like to share something with you. I have unearthed an interesting phenomenon that appears to be permeating the music scene. I must confess...this scares me, although I do not know why. Nevertheless...songs are ending. No really - what happened to songs that just faded out? Every song now seems to just come to a stop. Does the band think that it is doing us a favor? By just ending the song, do they feel that they are freeing us to indulge in some other activity that we have wanted to do and would have done if that damn song didn't get in the way? "Hey man, sorry for holding you up; we'll just cut this song off so you can get back to folding the laundry. Thanks for listening. Buy the album! *silence* *more silence* Umm, dude...sorry to bother you again, but can you tell us somewhere to eat around here?" I miss the "Livin' on a Prayer" fade outs. It gave me hope that we really were halfway there. And as a heterosexual male, I will confess to you right now...I would have taken Jon's hand cause we would have made it; I swear. That's just it...the emotional impact would have been stunted if Bon Jovi had just decided to end the song. Don't misunderstand - some songs are actually enhanced by the cessation; I consider Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" to be a shining example. I just have been noticing that almost all of the modern songs, even the ones clogging the toilet we call radio, just end. No echoing refrains or lingering hooks. I have a theory - I think it is the fault of A.D.D. Maybe the musicians think that people don't have the attention span for songs that fade out. Maybe they're right.
Believe me, this is just the beginning...