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5506  Media / The Soundroom / Concerts 07 on: December 30, 2007, 04:09:59 AM
I was at a punk show last night at the Jersey shore and the lineup was insane: Dead Tired, Killin' It, Lighten Up, Seasick, Sex Positions, The Degenerics, and The Ergs.  

The Degenerics are legendary in the NJ punk scene and it was like some kind of mystical awakening seeing/hearing them perform.  Super nice guys too and fantastic musicians; I think every punk fan should check out The Degenerics.  I was totally hyped to see them after reading Ronen Kauffman's book and they just left me in complete awe and shock.  This was the first time in a long time I enjoyed every band on the bill of a show, but seeing the Degenerics (especially after reading Ronen Kauffman's book) was THE exclamation point of my year.  

The Ergs were killer too; it was edgy punk with a pop sensibility. Their bassist is insanely good. Seasick and Sex Positions were intense punk/metal hybrid bands. I was upset that a fight broke out during SP's set and they had to cut it short (that was one of two fights this evening.) I was really digging their stuff. Dead Tired was some good '80s style hardcore. Lighten Up was a happy hardcore band.  I'm friends with a couple of the guys in Killin' It and though they're not the best band around, they have heart and it's good ol' slam happy punk rawk.

I got merch from almost all the bands. This was the first time in a long time I liked every band on the bill. I got a 7" Seasick LP for free for being one of the first 50 attendees. The guitarist of Sex Positions gave me a CD on the house, which was very nice of him. I bought a Degenerics CD and 7" LPs of Lighten Up, Killin' It, and The Ergs/Lemuria split LP. I didn't get anything from Dead Tired because their CD comes out in January.

I got merch, I got autographs, I moshed, I enjoyed good music and the company of friends. Definitely one of the best shows I've been to all year.
5507  Media / The Soundroom / Guilty pleasures... on: December 30, 2007, 03:47:39 AM
My biggest guilty pleasure song is easily Dream Theater's "You Not Me."  The song makes Dream Theater sound like N'SYNC.  Seriously, just listen to the chorus- it sounds like an N'SYNC song.  But despite the song being terrible and Desmond Child being a terrible songwriter (in my opinion), the song has an undeniable catchy quality to it.  After I listen to that, I'll always listen to "Under a Glass Moon" as an 'apology' of sorts.
5508  Media / The Soundroom / Top Five Albums of 2007 on: December 28, 2007, 07:08:28 PM
Quote from: "Dade"
Britney Spears - Blackout

You mean Britney actually records music?  I always thought she was like that trainwreck Paris Hilton, just famous for being famous without really doing anything.  :P

It's funny, I can't recall too many OMG AWESOME!!! albums from 2007.  The new Symph X album was awesome and proves why those Jersey boys are prog kings so that's an OMG AWESOME!!!!  One that's good but not OMG AWESOME!!! was Ghost Opera by Kamelot.  I've committed the sin of not listening to the new Devin (for shame!) but I'm certain it's OMG AWESOME!!!!!! simply because it's Devin.  The new Paradise Lost was good and the new Radiohead is notable for it's "pay anything, even nothing, to download the album."  

But all I remember are disappointments.  I think Dream Theater's on a downward spiral.  Train of Thought was okay, I hated Octavarium, and Systematic Chaos sounded more like Tool and Metallica than Dream Theater.  The one good thing about that album was that Myung's bass tone drastically improved from using a MusicMan Bongo over that Yamaha sig bass he used to have.  Another disappointment was Manticora's "The Black Circus Part II."  The first Black Circus album was brilliant and this one was, well, mediocre.

I think the most underrated album of 2007 was Nightwish's Dark Passion Play.  It was mostly regarded as suck since there's no Tarja, but I thought it was a darn good album.
5509  The Rest / General Discussions / POLITICS: I like Ron Paul on: December 28, 2007, 06:38:25 PM
My reasons for not being a fan of Ron Paul are the same as Damian's.  I agree that the Department of Education is messed up and corrupt, but completely getting rid of it is not a sensible answer in my mind.  But aspects I like about him echo Damian's sentiments as well, such as the aim of making America a more self-reliant nation.  

I guess my stance is that while Ron Paul is a good choice (especially considering some of the alternatives) he's not MY choice.  I'm a Bill Richardson supporter.  

One thing I do acknowledge that Ron Paul is at least encouraging some people to examine issues from viewpoints that they may not have otherwise thought to.  I don't think that is ever a bad thing.  I mean, the most notable people in history and our lives are those who challenged our minds and conventions.

ASIDE:  I'm a little disappointed in some of the candidates, though.  Obama is charismatic, but he's only a 1st term senator.  I'd want a president who's had a little more experience.  Clinton plays the gender card too much and is just too unlikeable to win the hearts (and votes) of the people.  As much as I loved Bill, I can't stand Hillary.  In debates and such, Kucinich comes off like a crazy person.  I know many of you here at RPGfan love Kucinich, but I'm not sure his public persona will win votes.  And other democratic candidates are mostly left in the dust, like Bill Richardson (who I support.)  

And others here have already mentioned the shortcomings of many republican candidates.  Huckabee and Romney scare me too and I question McCain's integrity.  

If Al Gore was running, he'd be the best candidate in my opinion.  I mean, he has experience from 2 terms as senator, 3 terms in the House of Representatives, 2 terms as Vice President, and if that don't beat all, he's even picked up an Academy Award and a Nobel Peace Prize. If that's not an impressive list of qualifications, I don't know what is.
5510  The Rest / General Discussions / Assassination in Pakistan on: December 28, 2007, 09:25:27 AM
There was shrapnel.  Whether it came from a suicide bomber or a gunshot has yet to be determined.  The majority of reports are saying suicide bomber though.  However, I think some reporters there said something about hearing gunshots too.  There are just so many question marks surrounding this event.  

Regardless, the fact remains that Bhutto was violently killed and her assassination will have some pretty heavy repercussions.

From what I understand, Bhutto was given a burial pretty much right away so no autopsy was done.  That's fishy to me.
5511  The Rest / General Discussions / Assassination in Pakistan on: December 27, 2007, 10:23:12 PM
I'll bet conspiracy theorists are having a field day with this, especially since Musharrif was never fond of Bhutto.  Cause of death is conflicting, some reports saying one thing and others saying another.  Pakistan's already a very volatile country and has been so for decades now.  This turn of events cannot be good.  In a perfect world, that region of the world should be able to deal with its own civil unrest "cleanly" but because the US has stakes in both India and Pakistan (who have been at each others' throats for decades), this could be the start of a political nightmare.
5512  Media / Single-Player RPGs / Tales of Vesperia on: December 26, 2007, 08:40:16 PM
Bottom line with any prolific RPG series: you get some gold, some meh, and some stinkers.  Okay?  The same could be said for Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Megami Tensei, what have you.  

We can piss, moan, and argue about the series all we like but it still exists, it's still doing what it's doing, and there have been recent announcements of new ones.  Love or hate the series and its installments all you want, but I still posit that North American gamers haven't gotten enough Tales games.  I heart the battle system.  

We'll just have to play the waiting game with Vesperia to see which rumors are true.  We'll have to wait to see whether or not Tales of Innocence will be published on the US DS.
5513  Media / Anime, TV, and Movies / Anime/Manga Journal on: December 26, 2007, 04:14:35 PM
I finished Madlax.  Fun series with over-the-top action, a twisty surreal plot, and incredible music.  I can definitely see why some Noir fans were disappointed with Madlax as the former is more realistic and the latter is more surrealistic and often unbelievable because of it.  I preferred Noir, but Madlax was a great ride.  Completely different animals.  Once I let go of my hangups and accepted that some "rules" are different in alternate realities, I was better able to accept that a "touchy feely" assassin like Madlax, who would be toast in our reality, survives in hers.    

One thing I like in both series is the endings.  Bee Train is good at making sure all loose ends are wrapped up and making endings that are satisfying and believable within the contexts of their respective worlds of course.  I've seen/read/heard too many stories where the writers could not write a good ending.  

I'll definitely be saving up for the El Cazador de la Bruja boxset when it comes out.
5514  The Rest / General Discussions / Merry Christmas on: December 25, 2007, 10:43:02 PM
What'd I get?  

A Garmin nuvi 350 GPS from my Dad (he had a ton of Amex reward points).

Madlax anime boxset and the book "New Brunswick, New Jersey, Goodbye: Bands, Dirty Basements and the Search For Self" by Ronen Kauffman from my Mom.  

Couple hundred bucks in cash.  

I've already watched 15 episodes of Madlax, gotten through the first couple of chapters in my book, and cleared out the mess of papers with directions to various places from my car's center console.

I'm happy.  I got items I really needed (GPS, cash) and the fun stuff I most wanted (anime, book.)
5515  Media / Anime, TV, and Movies / Anime/Manga Journal on: December 25, 2007, 10:24:08 PM
I'm now 15 episodes into Madlax and it's quite enjoyable (yeah, I spent Xmas day watching anime.)  I like Noir's cast better, but Madlax has a twistier and more surreal plot.  I'm starting to get a better bead on Madlax herself now.   There are still a few things I'm not quite buying, but perhaps as I go further...
5516  Media / Anime, TV, and Movies / Anime/Manga Journal on: December 25, 2007, 01:51:15 PM
I got the Madlax boxset as one of my Xmas gifts and I just watched the first 5 episodes.  It's difficult for me not to compare it to Noir for obvious reasons, but as for which one is better, it's like apples and oranges.  Both have similar threads, but are very different animals.  Noir is my favorite anime series, still is, but Madlax is good in its own way.  But Mireille is still the hottest anime female I've ever laid eyes on and that ain't gonna change.  

One thing I will say is that the music in Madlax is a LOT better than the music in Noir, and that's not faint praise since I thought Noir had an exquisite soundtrack.  The opening song for Madlax is terrific.  

My opinions do far: Where Noir is more realistic, Madlax is more surreal what with those trippy sequences.  The main plot is somewhat weird, but engaging; I want to know what will happen next.  As far as characters go, I prefer Noir's characters hands down.  Madlax seems a sloppier more rookie assassin than Mireille.  Where Mireille was far more professional about her work and maintained strict boundaries with clients, Madlax seems too "touchy feely" for an assassin and lets herself get too close to clients.  This gives her character humanity, but I'm not totally buying it.  

Either way, Madlax is a fun series with good action.  In some ways it's more engaging than Noir because it's paced better so far and the main storyline is more present.  Noir never lost sight of the main storyline, but sometimes peripheral ones would take center stage.  

I am certainly a fan of Bee Train's "girls with guns" offerings and I look forward to El Cazador de la Bruja, which I hear is quite good.
5517  Media / Single-Player RPGs / Tales of Vesperia on: December 25, 2007, 10:19:58 AM
Haven't multiple development houses worked in a few Tales games.  I know Alfa System did Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology and a few others.  ToW:RM had a brilliant battle engine, but fell short in most other areas.
5518  The Rest / General Discussions / Study shows that parents may not realize their kids are fat on: December 24, 2007, 06:20:07 PM
The article itself is pretty lame, but the headline was a "WTF" headline.  Study Shows that Parents Cannot Tell that their Kids are Obese.  I mean, "WTF?"  How can not tell if your kid's overweight?  Do you wear rose-colored blindfolds in your house?  

Dude, it's like Augustus Gloop's parents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who let him eat tons of chocolate and say "oh it's all nourishment anyway.  He wouldn't eat it if he doesn't need it."  

Is this like "opposite anorexia" or something?  You know how no matter how gaunt an anorexic gets, she still perceives herself as fat.  No matter how fat the kid gets, the parent will still see a normal weight kid?  That kind of psychological delusion is frightening to me.  

5519  Media / Single-Player RPGs / Games of the Year on: December 24, 2007, 05:32:40 PM
I don't know... one could argue that 2007 was a good year for RPGs because there were more RPGs released in 2007 than in many years prior.  I could probably list 20 or more RPGs (Japanese and otherwise) off the top of my head that were released in 2007.  And since my knowledge is limited, there's probably been a LOT more.  So in terms of quantity, 2007 actually has been a good year for RPGs.  

I mean, I remember back in ye olden days when North American gaming markets barely got 1-3 RPGs a year, and even by today's standards 20+  and any I'm forgetting is more RPGs than usual for one year.  Of course by the law of statistics, not all of them can be winners.  In a classroom of 20 kids, not all 20 of them will get A's for the semester.

But I agree that among the Japanese RPGs released in 2007, most were pretty mediocre.  Though I must admit, Naruto: Path of the Ninja for DS was my pleasant surprise for 2007.  I expected that game to suck, but I was pleasantly surprised that it actually had above average storytelling by JRPG standards.

Neal's picks so far:
Disappointment of the year- Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner
Pleasant surprise of the year- Naruto: Path of the Ninja
5520  Media / Brush and Quill / What book....? on: December 24, 2007, 04:58:27 PM
I'm 2/3 of the way through Huw Lyan Thomas' "Better than Real" and though it's a fun if completely unremarkable read, I think this is one book that would translate very well into a screenplay.  I think a 2 hour movie could be made from this book that doesn't chop much out and will keep audiences entertained.  It's a cyberpunk novel, but it's uber-casual cyberpunk that any average joe could comprehend.  The hypothetical "Better than Real" movie is not going to be some academy award winning cinema, but it has what it takes to be an entertaining summer blockbuster.  

Sometimes I think the books that could translate well to movies are ones that book fans might find "casual" or even superficial.  Some of the books many of you folks are into are so packed with detail that any movie adaptation is bound to leave disappointment.  I mean, look at The Golden Compass movie.  Anyone who read the book will be disappointed with the choppiness of the whole thing (many crucial details were omitted or superficially glazed over) and anyone who did not read the book will be completely lost and all "WTF" about what's going on.

Some movies based on books have been quite good.  The Lord of the Rings trilogy was excellent.  I thought The Whale Rider was a great complement to the book; the book took the perspective of one character and the movie took the perspective of a different one so both work together as one comprehensive package.  The NeverEnding Story worked well, partially because the movie only covered the first half or so of the book- the Nothing story arc.  That was an intelligent move, because the post-Nothing part of the book was not as good.
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