Month: August 2012

I had to give up on the Vergecast

Sometime last year a bunch of people from Engadget, a consumer technology blog, left that to start a competitor, The Verge.  The reasons for that are unclear, but if I make any conjecture about it, someone from there will be eager to tell me that my guesses are wrong, insult me for guessing, but not bother to state the reason for the split up.

Although I was perfectly happy with Engadget, I decided to give the Verge a try for a while.  I have to say, in the end, I just don’t like them.  Especially their weekly podcast.

A recent, glaring example of the podcast’s awfulness, from their August 9, 2012 installment, took place shortly after Nilay began talking about what had recently happened to Mat Honan.  At that point the host, Joshua Topolosky, interrupted him with this valuable insight: “Wait a second, hold on, I-I-I don’t think that’s exactly how it worked.  I think how it worked is … I think what happened here is … I think it has … I think what how this worked … that.”  Nilay then attempted to continue the story only to be interrupted a second later with more of Joshua’s babbling: “No I think he started, I actually think he started … we should really know the sequence but,” and then, with Nilay’s help, they finally started to piece together the sequence of events which Nilay had already been prepared to describe.

During the recent Apple vs. Samsung trial the Vergecast had a series of special episodes to discuss all the gory details and developments.  The stated purpose of this was so that they wouldn’t have to take up too much time on the regular podcast discussing the case.  Well, that didn’t stop them from discussing the case for 30 minutes (out of a one hour podcast) on their August 16 episode, even though a special on the case had been done the day before.  Joshua Topolsky just felt it that necessary to retread the material for his own sake.  This was especially disappointing because the OnLive meltdown started that day but was apparently not newsworthy to The Vergecast (again, in favor of material they’d already covered.)

You’ll notice a common element between these two complaints: Joshua Topolosky. The host is just plain bad at what he does. Looking back, he had a bad habit of interrupting people to contribute nothing back in his Engadget days, too.  What could be the cause of this?  I think it’s just a need to be the center of attention.  He can’t stand not being the one whose voice is mostly clearly heard, regardless of what it’s saying.  Even when he’s not babbling nonsense, he’s coherently stating bullshit like “you need to lie to tell to the truth.”  Maybe this is a defining characteristic of the Verge in general, after all, one of the editors–tired of only writing stories about technology and instead wanting to write about himself–has sworn off the Internet for a year (which is laughably counter-productive for a technology podcast.)

I suppose this is nothing entirely unique.  After all, people seem to prefer to buy personalities rather than product these days. So The Verge represents a new(ish) wave of reporting where the reporters want themselves to be the focus, and not what they have to say.

I generally don’t listen to music.

With a thumb up like that, it must be good!

Over the years I’ve learned not to discuss music with people.  Apparently I don’t listen to the right things, and as a result conversations always end up with me being ridiculed or shunned for my likes.  At some point I learned to deny listening to music and profess a love for conservative podcasts.  But, the truth is that I still do listen to music.  And, thanks primarily to Amazon’s dirt cheap prices for MP3 download, quite a bit of my recent acquisitions were legally obtained.  Now that I have a temporary job, which doesn’t require a lot of interaction with people, I’ve actually gotten to listen to most of what I’ve added to my library this year.  So what have my ears been enjoying (or not) of late?  Glad you asked!  Here they are (in roughly listening order), items in bold are the ones I particularly enjoyed:

  1. Making Mirrors, GOTYE
  2. The Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd
  3. Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just for You, Joe Pesci
  4. Chapter VII Hope & Sorrow, Sevendust
  5. Ugly, Screaming Females
  6. Sorry, White Lung
  7. Oh Land, Oh Land (the EP had all the best songs)
  8. Welcome Reality, Nero
  9. Iron Sky Soundtrack, Laibach
  10. Record of Lodoss War Original Soundtrack, Kaze No Orchestra
  11. The Neverending Story Soundtrack, Klaus Doldinger & Giorgio Moroder
  12. The Dark Saga, Iced Earth
  13. One Life Stand, Hot Chip
  14. Secret Companion, Freezepop
  15. All Over the World, Electric Light Orchestra
  16. Demo, Contortionist
  17. Butterfly Boucher, Butterfly Boucher
  18. The Sun, The Bravery
  19. The Moon, The Bravery
  20. Nocturne, The Human Abstract
  21. Celebration Rock, Japandroids
  22. Chronicles, Rush
  23. I’m Sorry, Neighborhood
  24. Crazy for You, Best Coast
  25. The Breakfast Club Soundtrack, Various
  26. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure Soundtrack, Various 
  27. BrĂ¼tal Legend Soundtrack, Various
  28. The Fear is Excruciating But Therein Lies the Answer, Red Sparowes
  29. Spectrum of the Sky, Break of Reality
  30. Where the Wild Things Are Soundtrack, Karen ) & the Kids
  31. Killer Kuts, Robin Beanland & Greame Norgate
  32. Stay With Me, Michael Lington
  33. Barking Dogs Don’t Get Pet, Gimme’ My Moon Back
  34. Mortal Kombat More Kombat, Various
  35. Exits & All the Rest, Girl in a Coma
  36. 5150, Van Halen
  37. Synthetica, Metric

A-hur, a-hur … FURRIES!

Ailin Biker Girl by Jesonite

Last week the 2D platform/action game, Dust: An Elysian Tail, came out.  By most accounts it’s a very good game.  Sadly, I don’t have an XBOX 360 so I won’t get to play it.

One particularly annoying aspect of the game coverage, however, was various writers’ insistence on deriding the title as being “furry.”  The reviewers have resorted to simply making the reference in place of having anything funny or insightful to add to their review; it’s shorthand for not bothering to have a punchline. The reviewer for Eurogamer was so at a loss for having anything to say that he wrote “furries,” a one-word sentence, as the opening for his trite review.  Destructoid’s Jim Sterling, gave a relatively even-handed review however even he felt the need to address the “furriness” of the title (although his focus was on how gamers should try to look past that, as though it was something that needed to be looked past.)  Nonetheless, writers’ apparent need to mention furries in relation to the game has done a good enough job of poisoning the public’s perception of the title. I’ve actually been unfortunate enough to see one of my Facebook friends wonder aloud in a status update whether he should dare to try Elysian because while the 2D gameplay appealed to him he found the furriness too off-putting.

So I asked him why this game should be any more potentially objectionable than games from when we were younger; Battletoads, Donkey Kong Country, Sonic the Hedgehog, Starfox, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The question went over his head; he’d apparently never realized that “furry” is hardly a new concept.

Maybe in the past it lacked a proper name.  Disney movies tended to include “talking animals” of varying levels of humanness (Fox & the Hound vs Robin Hood … hey that brings up a mess of other furry NES games like Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers and DuckTales) but there wasn’t an all-encompassing umbrella by which to refer to them (aside from the too scientific-sounding “anthropomorphic.”)  Maybe it’s this disconnect  in most peoples’ minds that leads to this bizarre double-standard where anything old and “furry” can’t be “furry” because “furry” only refers to objectionable things that started with the Internet. Also, thanks to people using “furry” as just a punchline, people can’t distinguish between the perfectly acceptable aspects of “furry” and the more questionable ones.  This is unfortunate, as now a well-made game that happens to have anthropomorphic characters in it–which again is nothing new or objectionable to anyone who can remember further back than a handful of years–will be dismissed by numerous potential customers because the reviewers and others who wrote about the game decided to misrepresent it.

In the mood to complain.

1. I mostly use Firefox.  I have Chrome installed on my computer as well.  The homepage is set to go to my Google Reader account so I can see what exciting news awaits me.  Unfortunately the damn thing always seems to struggle to load the page when I open Chrome.  I usually just have to direct to some other page after a half minute because Chrome, piece of shit that it is, couldn’t manage to open Reader.  One would imagine Google’s products and services would be better integrated.

2. iTunes has inexplicably decided to cease transferring album art to my iPhone.  I’ve no idea what has caused this, which is very disappointing considering all the effort I’ve put into cultivating my music library with the correct metadata and album art, but at least I know I’m not alone in this problem. One would imagine that Apple’s products and services would be better integrated.

Supposedly one of the fixes for this problem is sync via wifi, but I just can’t get that to work. I can use my iPhone to act as a remote to iTunes and access the library via sharing, but for some reason the damn thing won’t recognize it to sync.  “It just works” my ass.

3. I just beat Assassin’s Creed 2, which was a big hit back in 2009. One of the benefits of having been unemployed was that I finally got to whittle down that embarrassingly large backlog of video games.  I have to say, though, that I didn’t care for AssCreed2.  I simply don’t have a mind for stealthiness; almost every attempt at cooly dispatching a target without being noticed ended in a melee between me and a roomful of guards.  Part of the problem was the game’s controls, which I never got a hang of.  Sometimes pressing X (I played on the PS3) would send you spryly climbing a wall and other times you’d bound off that wall right into your pursuers.  Sometimes pressing O would make you drop down the lower level or leap off the wall altogether.  Often in the heat of a chase I’d find the controls were the least predictable.  But then my own clumsiness didn’t help, either.  On more than one occasion an attempt at taking down a guard or two by surprise would be botched because my dagger was surprisingly unequipped.  Or one time I tried to toss a smoke bomb and dispatch some enemies under cover, but forgot to un-equip the smoke bomb which resulted in me tossing more smoke bombs on the ground when I should have been making stabby.  Since the game almost always came down to brawling, it also didn’t help that combat was either boring or infuriatingly difficult to manage.  Against most guards it was simply a matter of parrying and then countering attacks.  Against others, mostly those with axes and polearms, parrying wasn’t an option and every attempt I made at sidestepping didn’t work, either.

I will say, though, that I found the mythology of the game interesting.  I’d rather just read a book or two about how all this turns out.

Or the Wikipedia entry.

RACCOONS IN THE NEWS: Adding Insult to Injury

In Pennsylvania a raccoon was run over by a road painting crew, getting painted over in the process.  Since the crews needed to go back out to clean up the mess and then will need to go back out to correct the gaps in the paint job the accident caused, I guess this little critter got the last laugh.

In other news, a hydroelectric power plant on Raccoon Mountain–which I took a tour of back in 2005–near Chattanooga, TN, has been shut down.  It’s due to cracked rotors or something.  I dunno’.  I was just happy to see Raccoon Mountain in the news.