Archive for March, 2010

CANABALT is the best thing about the iPhone

As of beginning this article I was sitting in a doctors office waiting room. I drove my sister there because she is I’ll. I was there for a little over an hour or so.

I surfed the net, listened to music, and played a whole bunch of the best game on the iPhone: Canabalt.

The main reason that Canabalt is the best game on the entire platform is the effortless nature in that you can begin to play. It is a fundamentally simple game that can last for a few seconds or a few minutes.Waiting for the bus? Canabalt. On Break at your job? Canabalt. Sitting around for a few minutes with nothing better to do? Canabalt.

It’s instantly engrossing, even in the smallest chunks.

Canabalt has the same main objective that almost every other game has; avoid death. Simple as that. Well slightly less simple. You’re a guy, inside a building, and something is chasing you. You’re trying to escape whatever it is, some sort of alien or robotic menace you can infer from the “War of The Worlds” tripod-esque things moving around in the background and the occasional ship that flies overhead shaking the screen.

So you run. To the right. Automatically. So the game is about running, but since the guy who you control runs automatically it’s really about what you cause him to do. JUMP. As you jump you enable him to avoid death and keep running, and he speeds up.

You tap the screen anywhere and he jumps, how long you hold the tap for controls how long he jumps, it’s simple and elegant.

Zoomed in picture of Canabalt's style

As you’re running you have to jump to avoid various crates and boxes that cause you to stumble and slow down. If you slow down too much you die, cause you can’t get over the gaps in the rooftops, but if you go too fast you die because you jump too far, and the game becomes faster than you can react. The game quickly becomes a balancing act, as you try to keep the perfect death preventing momentum.

The thing with Canabalt though, is no matter how well you are doing, you will die. Every single game ends in the same way, with the death of your small black and white guy. You can die within the first five seconds of the game even if you don’t do anything he will just tumble out of the starting building to his death. You can hit a wall, fall onto a collapsing building, or even be turned into a fine mist of former person by hitting an alien rocket. It’s inevitable, and it’s why it has been said that the game is not about neither running nor jumping, but dying. It happens every time you play.

Game Over Man, Game Over

This screen shows up the instant you die, you see how far you’ve run and a brief, few words reflecting upon your death. With those few words as your only comfort, your only options are to exit the game or “Tap to retry your daring escape”. The retry message is a small glimmer of false hope. You never escape, and that is something that you have to come to terms with. You tap the screen and are immediately thrust right back into the same world of terror as before. You don’t win, all you do is play the few moments of this man’s terrified life, it kinda reminds me of “Groundhog Day” if Bill Murray were to die all the time.

The achievement is all in living just a bit longer. It’s addicting. It’s a distillation of the basic tenant of most games, continue living via player input. It feels pure.

The game has a soundtrack consisting of a total of two audio tracks “RUN” and “Daring Escape”. Each fluctuates between ominous and fast paced, giving the game’s soundtrack the perfect tone.

The sound effects are the real important part of the presentation. They’re minimal to be sure, but wear some decent headphones it’s great, the first screen of the game states “For Maximum Awesome, Headphones Recommended”. You hear the little mans footsteps as he runs, and you hear him grunt and gasp when he makes impossible jumps, and you hear windows shatter, and buildings crumble with a threatening amount of bass. It all goes to add an even greater sense of urgency to the game, it make you care just that small bit more, makes it that much more important that he survive for just that much longer.

A fun way to play though is to turn the music off entirely. You lose some of the distraction and can better focus purely on his footsteps and the world crumbling around you. Without the music the stakes seem greater. The sound of the building you start in shaking tells your brain one thing, MOVE. It’s less about the excitement of action gameplay, and more about the focus of survival. I feel if they could gave you the option to play with a backing track entirely composed of the noises of your city’s downfall, it’d be even cooler.

Canabalt is one of the best games of all time. It is the short sad story of a man who dies, and the struggle of the human spirit against the inevitable. You will die, that’s a fact, and the amount of game you get out of Canabalt is directly proportional to your willingness and need to survive, if even for only one terrified second longer.

I linked to the games original website back up at the beginning, and here is the official current site, where you can play the free version of the game right in your web browser.

The game sells for 2.99 and is the best app you can download from iTunes.

Vertigo, Outland, Clash of The Titans, and Tombstone

Alrighty so I’ve watched a few movies this past week.

VERTIGO

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 film Vertigo is generally considered one of his best films, and an out and out classic. I honestly didn’t care for it all that much. It’s kinda boring and in the past 52 years the plot has been reworked, and redone in so many other movies that it didn’t really surprise me.

So I can see why people in 1958 would have been like “Gee Wilikers! That movie was soooo mysterious and surprising.” But as someone who has has seen all sort of different thrillers and mysteries, the whole plot is pretty lame. I know that it isn’t fair to judge a work based on the works that have come after and improved upon its formula, but honestly Vertigo has been done better. I personally liked Brian De Palma’s Body Double, cause it’s essentially an amalgamation of Vertigo and Rear Window, coupled with tons of 1980s crazy.

The best thing I can say about the movie is that you can see some of the marks it has made on the mystery thriller genre. Audience misdirection without any real clues, and a big twist and, a murder plot, it’s got the makings of a modern thriller, just nothing resembling good pacing or more than two remotely suspenseful scenes. Also Jimmy Stewart kinda annoys me.

OUTLAND

Outland is a space western/space cop movie starring Sean Connery. I know for a lot of people that’s enough to make them want to see it, but honestly I don’t really like Mr. Connery, I just get the vibe that he’s kinda an ass. But as I try to separate movie characters from the actors themselves, I have to say I enjoyed Outland.

Connery is the new marshal in space town, and he’s a no nonsense sort of guy. When space miners start offing themselves and goin’ crazy, he decides to get to the bottom of the space mystery, and ends up finding a space drug ring. It’s up to him to stop the space criminals and their crazy space drugs.

So yeah the movie has aged decently cause it doesn’t try to wow us with the future technology circa the early 80’s, so while some parts are dated, like how in the future computers will have black screens with only green type on them, most of it holds up alright. Honestly if the thought of Sean Connery acting angry and gunning down space thugs with a shotgun sounds good to you, you’ll probably like the movie.

CLASH OF THE TITANS

I’m gonna start this off by saying, that while I’m not a fan of remakes, I hope they at least keep remaking movies like this; movies that have have aged poorly and are kinda lame.

There I’ve said it, Clash of The Titans is pretty lame. I’m someone who can forgive bad movies, I can ignore bad special effects, a lot of bad acting, shitty plot, and a lot of other problems if a movie is fun, but Clash of the Titans is not very fun.

The problems start early, the plot is kick-started when the main guy, Perseus,  is a baby. He and his mom are thrown into the ocean, in a coffin, and Zeus gets pissed. We get some scenes of the gods bickering, and then Zeus is like, “Hey the hero of the movie is my son, and I’m Zeus I can do whatever I want.” So he destroys the whole city of the dude who tried to kill Percy.

The Guy We Have To Pay Attention To For Two Hours

Then we get some nice PG nudity and a montage of Perseus growing up, which consists of a shot or two of him jumping on a horse, so like by the time Pegasus shows up we know that he is good at riding horses. Honestly that’s the extent of the character development we get for the main guy in the movie. It’s unfortunate cause Perseus grows up to be Harry Hamlin, and actor with a total of one facial expression, which is seen below.

He magically gets placed into the main plot by one of the goddesses hanging around Mt. Olympus, and meets some old poet dude, who essentially is the exposition for the whole story, all the time. Then he get some magic weapons and armor from the gods.

He gets a magical sword that can cuts stuff really well, a helmet that makes him invisible, and a shield that’s really shiny, that the face of Zeus appears upon and tells him that he should keep it close by cause it’ll save his life someday.

SO OF COURSE THE FIRST THING HE DOES IS RUN OFF WITHOUT IT.

That’s when I stopped giving a crap about Perseus.

The movie continues along with Perseus being a creepy princess stalker guy, a shitty hero, and then he fights some stop motion animation monsters that vary in quality depending on the shot.

Some of the stop motion stuff is decent and some of it is pretty terrible.

Eventually there’s a two headed wolf that’s kinda cool, and a freaking robot owl that makes R2-D2 noises and tries to be comic relief. The owl is called Bubo and is probably the best thing about the movie. He manages to pretty much save the day, and honestly in most movies I would want this sort of tiny annoying side character to die, in Clash of the Titans, he’s welcome relief from all the Harry Hamlin.

It's Like If ROBOCOP Were An Owl

There’s a fight against a semi-cool Medusa, and some great sideboob from the princess, and then The Kraken shows up.

Honestly maybe if I had seen this movie as a child I’d have some nostalgia love for it, but as it stands it has not even remotely stood the test of time. I’d rather watch Jason and The Argonauts for my Greek mythology and stop motion fix. Also, there’s not at any point in the film, titans that do anything that resembles clashing.

TOMBSTONE

Honestly If you like westerns, character actors, mustaches, and Val Kilmer being awesome, you’ll like Tombstone.

Val Kilmer is like a cowboy version Jack Sparrow, to put it in a more modern perspective, he steals every scene he’s in, and pretty much chews scenery. He’s great. Practically everyone else in the movie is recognizable actor, and most of them sport awesome mustaches. Kurt Russell, Bill Paxton, Sam Elliot, Powers Boothe, Michael Biehn and a ton of other guys you’ve seen before are hanging out being angry cowboys and stuff. Kurt Russell never really seems like he’s Wyatt Earp, but plays Kurt Russell with a mustache and a cowboy hat quite well.

The pic pretty much illustrates how awesome the facial hair in this movie is (From Total Film)

Pretty Much Shows Why Tombstone Is Pretty Cool (From Total Film)

Can You Dig It?

The Two Reasons Why "Predators" Is Gonna Be Fucking Sweet

So yeah the new trailer for PREDATORS showed up online today, it looks pretty cool.

Here’s an embed.

OK. So Fine, there’s some bad dudes and a chick stuck on a predator hunting planet, sounds pretty cool, Danny Tejo is there, which is sweet, and then I guess the predators try to kill them. They’ll probably be cliches and I’m pretty sure parts of it will be stupid, but I don’t care, cause I love the Predator, and Predator 2.

Fuck AVP.

Also Fuck AVP 2

So Reason #1 why Predators stands a pretty decent chance of being awesome:

LARRY FISHBURNE!

FUCK YEAH! Does he look angry/constipated or what!?!

REASON NUMBER 2: The Predator has a fucking Mount.

I rest my case.

The Two Reasons Why “Predators” Is Gonna Be Fucking Sweet

So yeah the new trailer for PREDATORS showed up online today, it looks pretty cool.

Here’s an embed.

OK. So Fine, there’s some bad dudes and a chick stuck on a predator hunting planet, sounds pretty cool, Danny Tejo is there, which is sweet, and then I guess the predators try to kill them. They’ll probably be cliches and I’m pretty sure parts of it will be stupid, but I don’t care, cause I love the Predator, and Predator 2.

Fuck AVP.

Also Fuck AVP 2

So Reason #1 why Predators stands a pretty decent chance of being awesome:

LARRY FISHBURNE!

FUCK YEAH! Does he look angry/constipated or what!?!

REASON NUMBER 2: The Predator has a fucking Mount.

I rest my case.

Salem's Lot or Hey You Remember Back When Stephen King Was Great

So I hadn’t read anything in a while till a few weeks ago when at about one o’clock in the morning one night I decided to finally read The Giver. Great book, and it’s easy to see why a ton of people have to read it in middle school. It’s young adult dystopian novel that’s really well put together, with some great thematic and dramatic revelations. It’s an easy read that comes recommended.

But after that I decided to continue the theme of reading books that I’ve been meaning to read for years and chose ‘Salem’s Lot. It has always been one of his more famous novels, and as an avid King read for a good portion of my life I’d always wanted to read it. I’ve had it sitting on my bookshelf for about three years now; so even after putting in the effort of purchasing the book, Id never managed to get around to reading it.

Having finished it yesterday, I have to say that it’s easy to see why it is one of his most famous works; it’s pretty straightforward and pretty great.

It’s the first time that King uses a full small town as his cast of characters, making the reading feel like a behind the scenes presence at times in all the little dramas of small town life. The whole thing starts off slow, with plenty of buildup. So by the time the vampire stuff really starts in around page 200 you’ve got a decent investment in the main characters, and an idea of where most of the secondary characters stand. So even though some characters are mentioned  briefly and then brought back later on, you still get the feeling that they’re all in the middle of the shit that’s going down.

I think that King said it quite well when he said that ‘Salem’s Lot has more in common with Invasion of the Body Snatchers than Dracula. Cause the book overall is just as much about the entire town succumbing to the vampire menace as it is the characters themselves. You see early signs of King’s habit of using small Maine towns as characters of their own. It’s just as chilling to watch ‘Salems Lot the town shrivel and die helplessly as it is to read the terror of the characters.

To give credit where credit is due, King’s work has at times been some of the most frightening stuff I’ve ever read. I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything that terrified me the way Pet Semetary did; and I remember at one point while reading The Shinning when i was twelve, I had to turn on all the lights on in the house before I could fall asleep.

Having said that there is one masterful sequence in the book that for me genuinely left me freaked out and uncomfortable for a while. It’s just a sequence in which one character hears a bump on the second floor of his home, and though frightened tells the woman he’s with to continue talking to him as he slowly ascends his stairs. As a reader you know what’s going to be at the top, and the character knows it too, so the entire sequence is just a great little passage of tension building that manages to be borderline perfect.

Through much of the book the idea of the vampires plays out not as a bunch of monsters, but as a sort of unstoppable, subversive force, which enables them to actually be frightening. Because seriously vampires are mostly played out, have been for a while, and it takes some skilled handiwork to make them menacing in any manner beyond “OMG MONSTERS”. It’s the feeling of powerlessness to stop the inevitable that King brings to the main characters and the reader, that creates most of the terror, and it works.

Unfortunately like a lot of King’s novels he doesn’t totally nail the ending, it seems slightly easier than it should have for the characters, but it doesn’t ruin the book at all, it’s just kinda “Really that’s the big finale?”. The coda pretty much makes up for it  though as it’s kinda badass; and as a seasoned King reader I was just grateful that he didn’t pull a really stupid “good magical forces save the day through plot convenience” like he does a couple times in his later works, Needful Things and The Dark Half being the worst offenders in my opinion.

Honestly if you’ve never read Stephen King, or only read a few of his more famous works, the I’d recommend Salem’s Lot as a good King Starter novel. It’s creepy and shows a pretty good example of his writing, before the King Universe became as intertwined as it did in the later years.

It’s about vampires who are actually bloodthirsty and frightening instead of the ones that are effeminate and sparkle, and these days that’s always a plus.

Salem’s Lot or Hey You Remember Back When Stephen King Was Great

So I hadn’t read anything in a while till a few weeks ago when at about one o’clock in the morning one night I decided to finally read The Giver. Great book, and it’s easy to see why a ton of people have to read it in middle school. It’s young adult dystopian novel that’s really well put together, with some great thematic and dramatic revelations. It’s an easy read that comes recommended.

But after that I decided to continue the theme of reading books that I’ve been meaning to read for years and chose ‘Salem’s Lot. It has always been one of his more famous novels, and as an avid King read for a good portion of my life I’d always wanted to read it. I’ve had it sitting on my bookshelf for about three years now; so even after putting in the effort of purchasing the book, Id never managed to get around to reading it.

Having finished it yesterday, I have to say that it’s easy to see why it is one of his most famous works; it’s pretty straightforward and pretty great.

It’s the first time that King uses a full small town as his cast of characters, making the reading feel like a behind the scenes presence at times in all the little dramas of small town life. The whole thing starts off slow, with plenty of buildup. So by the time the vampire stuff really starts in around page 200 you’ve got a decent investment in the main characters, and an idea of where most of the secondary characters stand. So even though some characters are mentioned  briefly and then brought back later on, you still get the feeling that they’re all in the middle of the shit that’s going down.

I think that King said it quite well when he said that ‘Salem’s Lot has more in common with Invasion of the Body Snatchers than Dracula. Cause the book overall is just as much about the entire town succumbing to the vampire menace as it is the characters themselves. You see early signs of King’s habit of using small Maine towns as characters of their own. It’s just as chilling to watch ‘Salems Lot the town shrivel and die helplessly as it is to read the terror of the characters.

To give credit where credit is due, King’s work has at times been some of the most frightening stuff I’ve ever read. I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything that terrified me the way Pet Semetary did; and I remember at one point while reading The Shinning when i was twelve, I had to turn on all the lights on in the house before I could fall asleep.

Having said that there is one masterful sequence in the book that for me genuinely left me freaked out and uncomfortable for a while. It’s just a sequence in which one character hears a bump on the second floor of his home, and though frightened tells the woman he’s with to continue talking to him as he slowly ascends his stairs. As a reader you know what’s going to be at the top, and the character knows it too, so the entire sequence is just a great little passage of tension building that manages to be borderline perfect.

Through much of the book the idea of the vampires plays out not as a bunch of monsters, but as a sort of unstoppable, subversive force, which enables them to actually be frightening. Because seriously vampires are mostly played out, have been for a while, and it takes some skilled handiwork to make them menacing in any manner beyond “OMG MONSTERS”. It’s the feeling of powerlessness to stop the inevitable that King brings to the main characters and the reader, that creates most of the terror, and it works.

Unfortunately like a lot of King’s novels he doesn’t totally nail the ending, it seems slightly easier than it should have for the characters, but it doesn’t ruin the book at all, it’s just kinda “Really that’s the big finale?”. The coda pretty much makes up for it  though as it’s kinda badass; and as a seasoned King reader I was just grateful that he didn’t pull a really stupid “good magical forces save the day through plot convenience” like he does a couple times in his later works, Needful Things and The Dark Half being the worst offenders in my opinion.

Honestly if you’ve never read Stephen King, or only read a few of his more famous works, the I’d recommend Salem’s Lot as a good King Starter novel. It’s creepy and shows a pretty good example of his writing, before the King Universe became as intertwined as it did in the later years.

It’s about vampires who are actually bloodthirsty and frightening instead of the ones that are effeminate and sparkle, and these days that’s always a plus.

Lightning Bolt – Wonderful Rainbow – the best album from 2003 that I purchased in 2009

God I don’t even know where to begin here.

I’m not 100% sure where on the internet I heard of them, but I was in a music purchasing mood around that time. I decided that this band in pure concept sound loud enough, crazy enough, to warrant a blind buy; and they had some pitchfork cred too. (What pitchfork cred counts for I’m not really sure, but hey)

I had about a month earlier purchased a CD from a band called Harry Pussy. It is sometimes hard to quantify their sonic output as music as it sounds like the tortured screaming of some insane person trying to kill an instrument for the most part. You don’t so much listen to their music, but endure it. I felt that just for the simple fact that they created and album of what has sometimes been called Anti-music, something that amounts vaguely to ear-rape, I should pay 9.99 to own it. It’s something special.

From there I moved to the more musical parts of the noise rock genre. Somewhere in my stumbling through various musical recommendations I came across Lightning Bolt. I read of insane live shows with ear splitting volume levels, musical freakouts, and saw the fact that the vocals are delivered from a microphone that the drummer wears taped inside of a ski mask. They sounded insane, and the fact that they’re just a Bass & Drum duo made them even more enticing.

I generally like minimalism.

Lightning Bolt is not about minimalism.

Lightning Bolt is about about pure sonic force and density.

The album begins with Hello Morning, a 55 second string of strange bass noises and drum beats that evokes waking up, assuming you’re a bass, waking up, on cocaine.

It promptly explodes into Assassins. A song that shows the core of the bands sound. Dense, chugging noises that builds, shifts, flails, swarms, and erupts. There’s vocals in the background, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call them lyrics, as they’re pretty much just crazy noises made from inside the drummer. The effect of the music is immediate, and it’s hard to believe that it’s just two dudes putting for such power.

Dracula Mountain, a song so awesome that even MUSE has done a cover. The main riff is first sung before the song evolves into a series of bass riffs and freak outs.

Two Towers, the fourth track, is a marathon of intensity.

On Fire, is a song full of time changes, and even has parts that could be considered mellow. In other words, it’s awesome.

Crown of Storms is my favorite song from the whole album, has noises that could almost be described as actual lyrics, and has a rhythm that is essential a crazy tapping solo that changes back and forth into a sluggish riff. It’s amazing. There’s a ton of melody here, and that’s what put Lightning Bolt in a class above most of their peers.

Then there’s Longstockings, which starts off as easily the most melodic portion of the whole album, with nice sounds and drumming that doesn’t sound crazy. But it devolves into one of the albums weirdest freakouts, full of sounds that don’t even sound identifiable as coming from a bass.

Wonderful Rainbow, is a breather song that allows you to catch you breath, right before 30,000 Monkeys shows up sounding like multiple guitar solos jam packed into one time frame. One of the noisiest songs on the album.

The album closer Duel in the Deep starts with long bass twangs that crescendos into a sort of tribal sounding beat that sounds like it’s being played in the ocean. It continues until it dies in a slow dissolve of shrill high pitched feedback, it’s like the cool down after a workout.

The album is amazing and I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who is looking for relief from all the dreck on the radio, or think metal has gotten too stale. This is music made for blasting with the windows down and for getting dirty looks from old people while you drive by in parking lots. This is music for those of us who know that it takes more than just chops to sound good, it takes innovation and the willingness to try new things.  If you like rock and don’t need silly lyrical theatrics getting in the way of the sound you crave.

Wonderful Rainbow is a monument of sound, and whether you like it or not you cannot deny that it has power.

Lightning Bolt - Wonderful Rainbow

I’d recommend just buying the album cause it’s great, but if you click the link below you’ll go to a download page.

GIVE IT A LISTEN