Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Monday, January 24, 2011
Friday, January 21, 2011
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Last night, America watched as the once glorious hit show American Idol Season 10 premiered…or at least some of America watched. Ratings this season dropped by a considerable 13% from last year. What do they expect? With Paula gone, Simon kept the show hanging on by a thread. Now, he has moved on to greener pastures (working on The X-Factor, also on Fox).
Now, we have our “amazing” new judges, Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez, entertaining us with their classic empathetic and frozen deer-in-the-headlights looks. What more could America want? No real forms of constructive criticism, just not knowing what to do. I was excited about this season, thinking they have an opportunity to recreate this show, make it better, but everything just seems same old, same old.
Yes, American Idol possessed the top ratings with 27% of the televisions in the metropolitan area tuned in. By milking this show, they are depriving viewers of possible new shows that have more potential. They’ve filled Glee’s spot for now, and I know I have been so focused on this premiere that I’m not really sure what else is out there right now. So the question remains, is it right not to keep American Idol alive just because America once loved it, or is it time to pull the plug?
Megan is a student at Austin College. She loves music and watching movies. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on twitter, megelizabeth10.
|Image courtesy Mondo-Pixel|
The study was done over a two year period, with reported symptoms of video game addiction being: Increases in anxiety and depression, drops in grades, increased impulsive behavior. Also, "addicted" children had bad social skills. Wait a minute. Impulsive? Bad social skills? Procrastination and an unwillingness to do chores? That sounds like my childhood. Growing up with A.D.D., video games were my bread and butter. Still are, except my social skills are better (I hope). These children don't have these problems because they play video games, they more likely play video games because they have these problems. If that. Correlation does not equal causation. I'm not the only one who's having a problem with this. Mark Griffiths, director of the International Gaming Research Unit has voiced his concerns, too. "Video games have displaced television"
This is just another tirade done by closed-minded people like Jack Thompson. The study has already been called into question for its viability, and it's unlikely that it will have any long term effects. Video games are still working to becoming a fully accepted media form, and I'm thankful that we live in a time where things like this don't result in the sort of overreactions experienced in the 80's and 90's. Even though these sorts of things aren't too threatening, that doesn't mean we should just take them laying down. We should speak out against bullshit like this, and make sure that things like this don't go without rebuttal.
I once met a foreign exchange student from Germany whose parents sent him to America just so he could realize how good he had it back home. Study abroad opportunities are a chance to abate all the false pretenses that visitors often come along with. But it is possible that we as Americans earn t
Incoming Republican House representatives are scheming to cut funding and stringently oversee the EPA, specifically to prevent them from regulating carbon emissions. Desperate to do something about climate change, the EPA recently declared carbon dioxide a danger to human health and thus within their jurisdiction to regulate under the Clean Air Act of 1970. In contrast, Congress spent the past two years trying to work out a national cap-and-trade policy... and failed.
What Representative Issa of California and his colleagues are trying to do is abusive, bullshit politicking, and it only serves to further ostracize the United States from the rest of the world. Developed countries are expected to take action. While we continue to step backwards, the European Union now has a mandatory carbon emissions cap-and-trade policy, based off a pilot program in the UK, that will significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of Europe.
Regulating the emissions of fossil-fuel based power plants and petroleum refineries-- whether through a carbon emission cap-and-trade market or a bureaucratic mess-- is a necessary step forward for the United States. A step that will boost both our international credibility and our holding in the market for cleaner and more efficient energy technologies.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
This week, the world's newest beloved American Idol judge, Jennifer Lopez, graced us with her "amazing" new single on the air of Ryan Seacrest's radio show. Too bad this catchy tune "On the Floor" sounds an awful lot like Kat DeLuna's track "Party O'Clock." Both tracks were produced by music mogul RedOne, sounding similar in both melody and harmony. And go figure, the lyrics sound similar as well, making this song seem like an easy quick hit. While Kat DeLuna gushes about how much she loves Jennifer Lopez and claims flattery in the fact that "it's cool when artists like J.Lo are inspired by her musical sound and style," how can we trust Jennifer to give this season's American Idol contestants proper critiquing when she clearly isn't producing anything even close to her own?
|Image from Joystiq|
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Monday, January 17, 2011
"I have this dream that I could be an Emergency Food Fixer Guy (that's the official title). Imagine me in a lab coat or trench coat full of spices. If someone's cooking a nice meal for a date or something and it's too spicy or salty or just doesn't seem right, for a low, flat rate of -- you know, whatever-- I could come over and fix their food and save the day."
Matty Kime, vegan chef and emergency food fixer guy, is a resident of Memphis, Tennessee. He dreams of someday winning Survivor, bikes regularly, and consumes more garlic and kombucha than you do. For this feature, he graciously agreed to answer some questions I had about veganism: from his own personal experience and reasoning to whether veganism is a healthy or affordable diet.
A: I went to The School of Natural Cookery in Boulder, Colorado. I took a 4 month course specializing in how to make Vegan food. The program was a little different in that it geared me towards becoming a personal chef: it focused on teaching you how to match various flavors and spices to cook with rather than focusing on recipes.
Q: Why did you decide to go there?
A: I was thinking about going to culinary school after high school. I looked into the Culinary Institute of America and Johnson and Wales, however I decided I wanted to take some time off. I became vegan in the meantime and figured that I should follow that in my kind of schooling.
Q: Do you feel like what you learned at the School of Natural Cookery positively influenced any other aspects of your life?
A: Well, I’ve always been interested in cooking. I’m glad I went. Being vegan made me cook whole meals more often and more creatively. My school experience helped me get my foot in the door, and I guess you could say it helped build the foundation for how I cook now and gave me a certain level of confidence.
Q: So how long were you a vegan, and how much of that time would you say ate unhealthily?
A: I was a vegan for 9 years; I would say that I ate unhealthily for the first year and maybe the last year of that. And I guess I eat kind of unhealthily now.
For a long time I kept a really balanced diet. I didn’t drink caffeine or eat any junk food at all. I cut out some other things as well. I didn’t start being a vegan for health reasons, but my reasoning shifted that way over time. Over time I started losing sight of my first reasons, such as the environment, or meat industry – the reasons that are bigger than me.
Q: So why do you think you’re not a vegan now?
A: Pretty much out of laziness.
The first meat I had in nine years was at a farm where I was living for an internship—one of our objectives was to only eat food that grew within 100 miles of us. One day, we caught some ducks from the edge of the property and prepared them for dinner that night. I decided that I wanted to take a full part of the experience, including eating the meat.
But when a friend told me that certain Doritos are vegan, that was the true source of my downfall. I started getting a lot more lax after that. I’m currently re-evaluating what’s healthy for me, and hopefully choosing a diet that’s less harmful to me and more conscious of the infrastructures and industries involved. Between chickens sometimes eating other chickens and the amount of methane being released into the atmosphere because things are done on such a large scale, there’s nothing good or healthy or positive about the meat industry.
Q: So what do you think about genetic modification as the next step in the industrialization of food? Like how they’re trying to genetically modify salmon to speed up their growth, or create genetically modified but otherwise organic food (according to a January 2011 Popular Science article)?
A: When people talk about how it’s needed to feed the masses, it’s just an excuse really. It’s all about making it more available for cheaper; trying to turn a profit, and picking systemic solutions over sustainable practices.
But that’s been going on for a while. Like how green peppers are just red peppers picked early-- that’s why they’re usually a bit cheaper. It makes for more immediate food and money.
Did you know that square watermelons are really popular in Japan? They’re genetically modified to adjust to the space they’re in and grown in glass boxes.
Q: And do you think that being a vegan is affordable? Especially to do so healthily?
A: You know, some people think you can’t get enough protein as a vegan. I think that some meat has pretty poor proteins (for example, pork). The most important protein combination I know of is legume (such as beans or lentils) and grain; they compliment each other very well. And that’s very cheap! The problem is a lot of vegetarians and vegans don’t know how to be healthy and end up eating mostly chips and fries.
My ideal super-food meal is quinoa, garbanzo beans or lentils, and seaweed or some kind of green that’s high in nutrients like kale or broccoli; maybe with other vegetables and garlic.
(cheap trick: if you buy bulk and mark your quinoa as millet when you buy it at Whole Foods, it’s a lot cheaper and they probably won’t notice)
Q: Hey thanks a lot, Matty. Is there anything else you’d like to say while you’re still on your soap box?
A: If you eat fresh garlic and ginger every day, you’ll never get sick.
(But your friends might tell you that you smell bad.)
Nathan Barnatt, better known in the gaming community as Keith Apicary, is a force to be reckoned with. A gamer actor hybrid, similar to James Rolfe (The Angry Video Nerd), Keith plays on all of our nostalgia for gaming days gone by. Keith Apicary is a 28 year old man who lives with his mother and sister. According to Nathan, Keith is a man "who probably stopped growing mentally at the age of 14 when he was having the most fun, playing Genesis." Every week, through his documentary Talking Classics, Keith gives us a glimpse into what it's like to be astoundingly good at video games, unless he's at a convention, then all hell breaks loose. Nathan's brand of nerdcore humor in combination with his pratfalling abilities have made a strong fanbase and caught the attention of networks, a Keith Apicary pilot has been made, and hopefully will be picked up by a network soon.
I recently had the opportunity to have an interview via Skype with Nathan. I don't have the time or effort to transcribe the entire hour and a half interview, however here are some highlights.
Maxon Foster: What are you playing right now? What's on your now playing list?
Nathan Barnatt: Starwars: The Force Unleashed, Just Cause 2, I really like Geometry Wars, Trials HD, Uncharted 1 and 2. Those are the current gen games that I'm playing a lot these days.
MF: When Keith is at E3, the VGA awards, or Comic-Con, he sometimes has sort of a negative reaction towards the people he meets. He treated some people disdainfully at the VGA's, but it was sort of warranted. He made a good point with the idea of "If you're not here for video games, then what are you here for." Was that done for comedic effect, or was Keith trying to make a point? A little of both?
NB: A little of both. Normally when I go to conventions I'm in a good mood... but when I went to [the VGA's] I was in a bit of a bad mood, and I got irritated because there were all these phoney-baloney people dressed up, and I was like "This is video games, they're for playing on the couch." ... Video games should be more low-key... I looked out at all these people and I thought "You don't know video games. I bet I could ask you some really basic questions, and you wouldn't get them." ...Why do the people on the red carpet have barely anything to do with video games?... It's unrelatable. I asked them questions about video games, and if they didn't know, I didn't want to talk to them anymore. I felt bad afterwards for being kind of mean, but people were kind of into it because it was just for me to do that.
MF: Your fans know that the genesis was your first console. When did you first get it? What was gaming like for you as a kid?
NB: We got our Genesis for Christmas, the summer after it came out. Before I had one, I thought it was something for rich people. I remembered going to my friend's house, and they had a Genesis and an electric stove. I didn't have those things so I was like, wow, these people are rich. When we got the Genesis, my mom had an egg timer and she would set it to 15 minutes, and every time it went off either me or my brothers had to pass the controller off. Our Genesis came with Sonic, and we bought a game called Road Rash. We played Road Rash the most.
MF: There are a lot of very specific references that Keith makes to some parts of gaming that some people might not pick up on. How do you feel about your viewers not always getting the jokes that you make?
NB: There's a lot of nostalgia in Keith's character, and a lot of the jokes come from playing games with my brothers. There are some viewers who might not get the jokes, but hopefully they'll look the references up. I know that when I watch James Rolfe's show that there are some things like glitches I don't get, and I have to look them up. It makes it all the more rewarding.
MF: You do a lot of pratfalling and physical comedy as Keith. When did you first start doing that? Were you classically trained, or is it a hobby?
NB: I've never been classically trained, I'm just good at it. Maybe I'm not good at it, but I like doing it and I keep doing it. I've always been physical. My dad build us a tree fort, so we were always playing around. I'm a skateboarder, and when I was 13 I taught myself to do backflips. ... I didn't really start utilizing my physical abilities until I was around 21. It's really been paying off. Cirque Du Solei has actually hired me to be the clown in their upcoming Michael Jackson show.
The full interview will soon be available on YouTube.
Nathan Barnatt's Talking Classics can be found on his youtube channel.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Hitting the scene with their unique sound, nothing quite compares to Unfathom, a Dallas native band. The band is made up of Brandon McInnis (vocals), Derek Troxtell (guitar), Lisa Chou (synth), Nick Troxtell (bass), and Stephanie Thornton (drums).
Starting it all, Brandon and Derek spent much of their time in an Austin College practice room turned recording studio in Craig Hall. Talking about the twists and turns that led from classical music to J-pop to their current alternative/rock sound, I sat down for an interview with Brandon McInnis (via Skype) and cousins Nick and Derek Troxtell.
How did Unfathom form?
Brandon: It actually all started with J-pop. I was a Japanese major at Austin College and studied abroad for a semester. My host mom told me I should I try writing Japanese music so I did. When I came back to Sherman, I got a job at Circuit City fixing computers. That’s where I met Derek. It was just us to begin with. We started out playing like at AC Lunar Festival. We actually ended up touring in Japan.
Derek: That’s when we brought in Lisa, and we had a different drummer at that time.
Brandon: But about Japan, to make a long story short-we were white. There’s no way it would have worked out so we switched to rock.
What was touring in Japan like?
Brandon: It was lots of fun but stressful. We self-managed that tour. We learned that it is definitely important to outsource some responsibilities. As a performer, it’s hard to find balance when you’re managing yourself.
Derek: We would have to set-up and then still have energy for the crowd.
Brandon (laughs): Derek do you remember Timmy?
Derek (laughs): Oh yeah! So Timmy was this kid in Japan who would run on stage to bring me a different guitar while we were performing. This one time, some girl threw a lead bra at the stage while he was running on and totally took out Timmy!
Brandon: It was hilarious!
Derek: But yeah, we lost Timmy’s help after that.
What is your favorite thing about performing?
Nick: There are so many different aspects to it.
Brandon: Yeah definitely. I would say it’s the rush. Everything just evaporates and it’s awesome. It’s you and the stage and your fans.
Nick: Like at Edgefest, as we got ready to perform, there was a huge rush of people on either side.
Who are some of your influences?
Brandon: I would definitely say Paramore.
Nick: My main influence is definitely Rush.
Derek: One thing that’s very interesting about us is we all have very different musical backgrounds. Brandon was into classical music.
Brandon: Yeah, I sang opera for six years.
Derek: Yeah, we all have all these different tastes ranging from jazz to The Birthday Massacre.
How much do you practice?
Brandon (laughs): Oh, you know, we’ll go for with no food or water for four or five days, just music.
Derek: We practice every Sunday for four or five hours.
Do you have any gigs coming up?
Brandon: We planning on playing at The Door in Dallas. Right now, we’re focusing on a full CD.
Derek: It should be releasing this year if everything goes smoothly, very soon.
After I finished my interview questions, we just talked for a little bit. Brandon told me about how he and Derek turned one of the old practice rooms in Craig Hall into a small recording studio. They actually calked the acoustic panels.
“He would record the vocals, and I played to that,” Derek said.
Brandon said that Derek has been a really good friend to him.
“There were times when all-nighters were pulled in that practice room. I would get really frustrated working,” Brandon said. “Derek would say, ‘It’s okay, you can do it,’ or, ‘SUCK IT UP!’ depending on what was appropriate to the situation.”
Friday, January 14, 2011
Tommy Moe's Winter Skiing and Snowboarding Extreme (SNES)
|Tommy Moe is ready to make a game that he doesn't star in!|
Why it sucks: There's no simultaneous play, the music is either non-existent or generic, and you don't really get a good sense of competition when you play. I can rarely enjoy this game unless I'm playing it with a friend.
How it gets good: The controls are tight, and when you start going of moguls, the games animation for jumping is fairly ridiculous. When playing 2 player and doing free-run mode, you find that free-run is actually a race to get all the way down the mountain while going through checkpoints (similar to games like the Cruis'n series). Eventually the game throws in situations like snowmobiles (which can be mercilessly plowed through) and full white outs which usually happen around the time that you have enough adrenaline in you to get upset by them. A true sense of competition can form as you watch your opponent who has learned from your mistakes go farther down the trail than you before hitting too many patches of ice or rocks and running out of time. And you have to love the day glow outfit that your character wears. How can you say no to 90's ski attire?
Ballz 3D (SNES)
What it is: Ballz 3D is a 3D fighting game filled with crass humor and awkwardness. You play as any of 8 characters made up of, you guessed it, balls. The storyline consists of you beating the shit out of everyone else so that you can earn colored belts (which increase your strength) and eventually fight The Jester.
Why it sucks: This game is bad for many, many reasons, one of which is that the intro to the game sounds incredibly suggestive. At one point it literally sounds like someone is saying "RA-RA-RAPE." See for yourself. Intro aside, the games controls are awkward due to being set on a 3D plane. Any fighting game that requires a jump button is sure to be awkward. The music is generic, none of the songs (except the chilling intro) stick in your mind. If you don't have a sense of humor, the game is really terrible.
How it gets good: If you DO have a sense of humor, this game can be fairly entertaining. Any game where a ballerina has a move that consists of kicking all the male characters in the groin (which does in fact put them into stun) is worthwhile. The karate master cuts limbs off. Try fighting with one leg. The billboards in the background shot random things that are mildly entertaining (RIGHT IN THE SNACKIES). The game's goofiness factor is off the charts. As a fighting game, aside from having to have a jump button, the game is decent. It's not a direct knock-off of any other fighting game, and features distinct characters with distinct movesets. The superhero flies and has hurricane breath. The body builder's fatality consists of him giving you the bum's rush and accidentally slamming your head into the ground. INTO. The cast also features a monkey, a rhinocerous-man-thing, and a clown (who pelvic thrusts on the select screen.) The ball aesthetic is taken advantage of, and frequently characters will temporary transform into something else, example: Bruiser the bodybuilder can transform into a tornado. If the tornado fails to connect, when he reforms, he'll be scrambled and in a unique state where he can't attack and can only hop on one foot. The game is awkward, and it knows it. Still can't get over that intro, though...
Last Action Hero (SNES)
What it is: A movie game made to go hand in hand with The Last Action Hero, this game succeeded in being as big of a flop as the movie it was made after.
Why it sucks: Terrible hit collisions, two attack types (punch and kick), a useless crouch, a useless jump, and wave after wave of generic enemies.
How it gets good: When the character you play as crouches, it looks like he's doing a sweet air guitar. Don't believe me? Check it out.
(Yes, I did make this video myself...)
Fighting Street (TurboGrafx-16)
What it is: The only port of the original Street Fighter arcade game, Fighting Street was only released on the TurboGrafx-16 FOR GOOD REASON
Why it sucks: You can only choose one character, Ryu. When a second player appears, they play as Ken (who at this point in the series WAS RYU). You get all the shotokan moves of Street Fighter fame, the Shoryuken, the Hadoken, and the Tatsumaki Senpukyaku. One problem though, THE MOVES ARE INCREDIBLY HARD TO PULL OFF. The game functions on two buttons, one for kick and one for punch. As a result, the strength of the attack is determined by how long the button is pressed. This makes things incredibly sloppy.
How it gets good: Those hard to pull off moves? When they do connect, dear God it is sweet. Combine the fact that you're playing the original Street Fighter with the cheesey win/lose quotes, along with muffled audio, this game can be at lease mildly entertaining. Don't play the 1 Player mode, though.
(Heads up, the volume on this vid is wonky.)
Double Dungeons (TurboGrafx-16)
Why it sucks: The game only has about 4 audio tracks, one of which you'll be hearing over, and over, and over, and over again. That in combination with the graphics can make this game a big headache. The maze that you're in never changes, it's the same grey walls again and again. The battle system consists of pressing the same button repeatedly until whatever you're fighting dies.
How it gets good: It's called Double Dungeon because believe it or not, it's a 2-player-simultaneous game. It's rather difficult to do, but you can find your friend in the dungeon, and even fight him. Taking on the boss with your friend can be pretty rewarding, although it doesn't add much to the battle. While the repetitive maze can be a bit dumb, the idea of needing to cartograph your surroundings is kind of cool. The missions have hilarious typos and sometimes refuse to make sense. In one mission "prolog" I was told that I was to save a girl who had been captured by a demon. When I then fought and killed a snowman, the "epilog" said, "Congratulations, you have killed the snowman and rescued the girl." Wtf? And while the music can get repetitive, the intro has undeniable 90's charm (unfortunately I couldn't find the intro music online anywhere.)
Thursday, January 13, 2011
"Who Let the Dogs Out?" blasts through the radio and listeners always become excited. We love these hits that play on repeat through our brains. However, about a day later of singing these tunes to ourselves, and we find that we are not so in love anymore.
Many people become victims of earworms everyday. An earworm is the portion of a song that gets stuck on repeat in our head. Professor James Kellaris from the University of Cincinnati College of Business Administration conducted an extensive study on earworms.
"A cognitive itch is a kind of metaphor that explains how these songs get stuck in our head," Kellaris says. "The only way to scratch a cognitive itch is to repeat the offending melody in our minds."
Some of these offending melodies are songs we know all too well:
1. Other. Everyone has his or her worst earworm.
In my case, it was "Hey, Soul Sister." Last year, my brother became really obsessed with this song and it played constantly in our car. Every member of my family was caught singing it at one point or another. What makes this song an earworm is its repetitive chorus and upbeat sounding music.
2. Chili's "Baby Back Ribs" Jingle
One we all recognize, this one planted itself in our minds because of the repetition of the chorus, "Baby back, baby back, baby back ribs." This jingle does not stand alone. The freecreditreport.com guy wormed his way into our hearts...and minds playing several songs that I still find myself singing a year after I first heard him.
3. "Who Let the Dogs Out"
Although I never deciphered all of the words, this song blasted at every roller skating party I ever went to as a child. It's so upbeat it's difficult not to find yourself singing it days later after hearing it. It is even featured on the first Just Dance game for Wii.
4. "We Will Rock You"
There is no denying this song is an earworm. Because of the constant "stomp-stomp-clap" that can be heard in the stands at pretty much any sporting event you attend, it is impossible not to find yourself singing along.
5. Kit-Kat Candy-Bar Jingle
"Gimme a Break" from this song! The Kit-Kat candy-bar jingle has been varied in so many ways now. No matter what though, the chorus finds its way consistently into my head.
The important thing to know is that you are not alone in your struggles with earworms. It's something that almost all of us experience. My personal advice would be to be aware of how much you are listening to a song and try to expose yourself to music you really enjoy, that way you can experience a pleasant earworm.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
What Makes Us Who We Are by Digital Self
Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue... by Digital Self
Get it here.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
|The 3DS in all its glory. |
(Note the two cameras for 3D photo taking)
The initial game line up appears to be made up of remakes of games that are already in existence. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and Super Street Fighter 4 are all launch titles. While this is balanced out with a new Kingdom Hearts game and a new Kid Icarus title, it's a little unfortunate that the hype is about making games already in existence into 3D.
The 3D function itself has also been a concern, as Nintendo has mentioned that a sweet spot is needed to view the game properly, with developers going so far as to say that the 3DS is best played on a table, kind of nerfing the whole portability aspect. Don't expect the images to pop out of the screen, the 3DS is providing 3D without glasses, not miracles. The 3D effect is more like looking into a diorama or through a window. As the slider is adjusted, the depth increases. The sweet spot is real, however, 3D is not the only thing the 3DS has to offer, although it's the name of the fucking system. Nintendo is releasing a more powerful handheld, I don't really care about whether or not I can always see something in 3D. I'm looking forward to more content, longer games, more music. I'm looking forward to the hardware providing more opportunities. 3D is cool and all, but it's just a gimmick.
3D functionality aside, the 3DS is having a few stumbling blocks that don't seem to be acceptable.
Overall, the 3DS looks like it will do what Nintendo always does, mess up the status quo in a way that irritates everyone else. It's good to have a maverick, as things stay interesting. While it seems that the 3DS will be a proper successor to Nintendo's handheld market, I can't really say for sure until I hold one in my hands, hopefully in March.