Tag Archives: writing

Infinite, Round Table – Vol.1

Hey kids

In my continued effort to bring valuable work to this blog while juggling my other responsibilities, I failed to produce a full entry this week. I’m about half way through my first draft and it looks like it is going to work out, but due to the complexity of the topic, its going to take me a few more days to get to a draft I’m comfortable publishing. I take what I post on here very seriously and would not want to rush a piece to make a deadline that isn’t there. I can promise that this piece will be something very special and unique, and I hope the wait is worth it. That said,  I had an idea at the beginning of this that didn’t quite work because literally no one was reading it (sometimes logic escapes me), but I believe we have the readership (and the quality of readership) to start posing questions to you.

So, here’s topic #1:

When adapting an existing story, should the adaptation’s reverence to the source material have a direct relationship to the current popularity and relevance of the work?

Vinny’s Thoughts:

I believe that it is fair to modify less popular and/or relevant narratives more radically than those that have maintained their place. Many characters who previously had little importance have been saved through that method. However, those are rare cases and do not make up the majority of  adaptations. There is rarely a valid reason to adapt anything that is not relevant in the first place. Additionally, I am often disturbed by Hollywood’s penchant for praising a story, buying the rights to make a feature film of it and then telling a totally different story in the film.  Aside from the task of reinvigorating a dying property, which typically is more of a business decision anyway, the question really should be whether something is worth adapting in the first place.

Okay, your turn.

-Vinny

Vinny’s Unrelated Video of the week

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Announcements, Comic Book, Film, Round Table, Television

Learn By Fragging

Online gaming can make you a less self-centered douche!

Since Vinny and I began this little ‘project’, all of my posts have dealt with my observations and feelings on music – i.e. what I like, what I don’t; where I think popular music is going, and so on. That’s all well and good, but a comment on my last post (Paul Picks Up The Pieces) reminded me that I’ve got plenty more to say about our multifaceted 21st century culture. As such, I will stick with something I know – something cozy and close to my heart: the endless killing fields of multiplayer online gaming.

Some of my earliest and happiest memories are of squeezing the trigger on a plastic light gun, vainly attempting to kill ducks flying across the small screen in my bedroom. My hand/eye coordination in those days was pretty atrocious, so when I actually took one of the quacking bastards out it was cause for celebration. For the time, it was a blast, but the limitation was how solitary my joy was.

The problem: single player games rewarded you with an ending and games with a 2-4 person multiplayer mode usually had you competing against the other players for a high score. Plus, it didn’t extend farther than one room and one television screen. Mario and Luigi could take turns doing ‘shrooms and making passes at the princess, or if you were cool enough to have friends, you could get a 4-player game of Goldeneye going in your living room. You’d play a few rounds, make fun of the dorky kid who constantly blew himself up with the rocket launcher, then have to stop playing because Mom asked you to explain why Jimmy was in the corner crying. (Who the hell invited him anyway?) When it was game over, you compared scores, and that was it.

Now, a couple decades later, games have skyrocketed in terms of content and complexity, but there’s still one ultimate goal that developers strive to give the player: the feeling of validation one gets after a job well done. That can be accompanied by the gnawing pain of defeat when one’s performance wasn’t up to par – but then, what would games teach us if we always won?

The big difference in 21st century gaming is that a game’s “ending” or getting the best score are no longer the primary points of validation. They’re still part of it, but the most important focus of modern gaming is that feeling you get after capturing the last flag with your squad of 12 through the use of combined arms and superior teamwork. Games have always been goal oriented, but now instead of the Doom one-man-army approach, there’s the Day Of Defeat U.S. Army approach. Gaming is no longer just an escape. If you play from the right perspective, it can be an exercise in humanity.

For simplicity’s sake (and because I have the most experience with them), I’ll only discuss online FPS-type (First Person Shooter) games. To be clear, I will say that many single-player shooters should absolutely be praised for their ability to tell stories, create suspense, and just be fun, but replaying the same campaign over and over will never be as fun as playing on a server full of human players with human advantages and human flaws.

For instance, Half-Life 2 was an excellent piece of gaming and storytelling. HL2: Deathmatch is the multiplayer component of the game, and while it has the expected fragfest-type game play, none of them hold a candle to Counter-Strike’s objective based play, or Day Of Defeat’s territorial tug of war.

I suppose a counter argument might be that circle-strafing a few newbs and racking up kills is a fun way to blow off some steam, but I can’t see how that feeling could last for very long. It’s just point-click, point-click, and repeat. Is it therapeutic? Maybe. But is it mentally satisfying? No.

Where is the tactical depth? Where is the communication? Where’s the suspense of trying to desperately defend the last flag and turn the game around? Racking up kills just doesn’t hold up against a game where relying on your teammates is the path to victory (though playing with a good team and losing anyway is rewarding in a certain way, too.)

I see it every time I log onto a DoD server: one person is the machine gunner, suppressing the enemy team, another is a rifleman picking off targets from long-range, while a third is assaulting a position and capping a flag. Now and then there’s the guy who runs off by himself, trying to be a hero, but his inability to be a team player puts everyone but the enemy at a disadvantage.

Okay, so maybe you’re still wondering what the hell I’m getting at. Yes, I prefer online FPS games where cooperation is paramount to success. But, there is actually an underlying social/cultural importance. (What? Games are culturally relevant?!)

Co-op online gaming is challenging a generation of people to work with players they don’t know and wouldn’t necessarily associate with in pursuit of a common goal. Sure, the goal may be artificial, but the underlying lesson is that “pwning” (while sometimes fun) is much less important than having the ability to effectively think, communicate and work with other people.

So, next time you see a teammate shooting at Nazi’s, be a friend – give him some covering fire.

-Alex

5 Comments

Filed under Gaming, Uncategorized

Paul Picks Up The Pieces

And makes them rock.

It’s February! The time of year when temperatures drop to their most unbearable levels and we’re supposed to replace the warmth of our malfunctioning heaters with the warmth emanating from our hearts. What a bunch of delightful bull-crap. No, Valentine’s Day doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy, but I’ll tell you what does – pop songs rearranged and made into beautiful, much less simplistic, pieces of hard rock candy.

To reiterate a point I made a few weeks ago: modern pop music is dying a slow, painful death. The only cure would be a complete change in thought both on the part of the recording industry and musicians all at once. It isn’t going to happen, at least not in such a complete and obvious way. That said, not all pop music is necessarily bad when placed into the right hands. Obviously, this is something that runs on a case by case basis, and therefore I will once again be using examples familiar to me in order to get at the larger picture.

A couple years ago I discovered the guitarist Paul Gilbert during the last stop of the G3 Tour, and ever since he’s been the model I hold a whole host of other musicians up to. His technique, skill, range (with regards to his ability to successfully write and play music from varying genres), and his stage presence are in my mind unequaled. In the late 80’s, after his tenure with the metal band Racer X, he joined Mr. Big, a group who ran the line between pop, hard rock and hair metal. Well, let’s face facts – at the dawning of the 90’s that was popular music.

Their one relatively successful radio hit in the U.S. (they had a much larger following in Japan) was a song called “To Be With You” . It’s upbeat. It’s sweet. It’s a love song through and through. If the verses were shared, rather than dominated by frontman Eric Martin’s smooth (yet somehow raspy) set of pipes, the tune could easily fit into the Backstreet Boys library. A song like “To Be With You” would normally sicken me, but in my quest to explore the “essence of Gilbert”, I stumbled across something interesting.

I’m not entirely certain when the DVD was recorded, but sometime after his break from Mr. Big, Paul participated in a show called “Guitar Wars”, where he performed a very different version of the aforementioned song. The Van Halen inspired rendition is perhaps a bit ironic, as one will notice the opening riff is taken from “Ain’t Talkin About Love”, though the reason it resonates with me so well lies elsewhere. Here, have a listen:

Firstly, he begins the song in a minor key, which I think lends the tune a certain sense of desperation that just isn’t present in the original. That little added sense of danger turns the sickly sweetness of the original on its head. Paul throws in embellishments on the guitar from the very beginning, making the song sound thicker, and during the verses the chords are played in arpeggios rather than just strummed, which I think helps to change what was once a simple tune into something much more technically and artistically worthwhile.

Paul’s style of singing also throws away the fluff of the song’s previous incarnation. His voice is raw, which certainly fits better with hard rock, but it also adds to the atmosphere of the lyrics. Eric Martin’s vocals sound very confident, like the song’s subject female only needs a little pep talk to find her way into the arms of the right man – the way it’s sung sounds almost deceptive. Paul, on the other hand, first sounds as if he’s defending someone rather than giving a motivational speech, then with the chorus makes the longing and desire sound right. I wish I had better words for it, but the rawness of his voice makes the revealing words in the chorus sound more sincere.

To top it off, the accompanying harmony vocals of bassist Mike Szuter, and the fact that Paul manages to sing and solo at the same time make this version really dynamic. Though, if one is a fan of  Mr. Big’s version, Paul does throw in the original guitar break towards the end as a nice tip of the hat.

I suppose after looking at pop music through a rock filter, I’d have to say that in some cases there are songs that have actual potential. The song might need a hard rock makeover, but I cannot ignore the fact that it had its origins in the pop world. Of course, that still means that most of what’s out there is complete and utter garbage, but once in a while I’m surprised by what happens to catch my ear.

-Alex

5 Comments

Filed under Music, Uncategorized

The Empire Strikes…second?

[Insert “First blog post!” type exclamation here.]

Cue the applause. I’ve finally placed my own foot inside the warm, wet and slippery world of digital media. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration. I’ve been using what the Web 2.0 has to offer, to a certain degree, at least. I use RSS feeds to keep a steady stream of news filling my Firefox sidebar. I look up videos on YouTube to satiate desires for laughter, excitement, curiosity, musical fulfillment, etc. And now, at long last, I’m going to let the thoughts I have about things like news articles and YouTube videos, among other things, materialize onto a blog – this blog. Go figure.

Firstly, in response to what Vincent, my esteemed colleague, wrote in his post earlier today (and this is with the utmost sarcasm) – thank you, I am an upstanding gentleman. Secondly, I share in his discomfort with the term “blog”. The format itself isn’t all that new or unfamiliar, but it certainly does carry along with it certain negative connotations that I think we will attempt to avoid.

This isn’t a LiveJournal – we won’t be discussing who, within our personal circles, did or said what. We will not discuss personal feelings; feelings are for pussies, no offense intended. Of course, if personal feelings involve relevant subject matter – readers can expect that at some point I will gush over this guitar player or that.

That said, this is a place to criticize. This is a place where I can flex my writing muscles without fear, as Vinny put it, of constant submission and revision. That is something I can leave for my graduate writing workshop classes, where I’m allowed, and even encouraged to get high and mighty about craft, plot threads and stories about my drunken ex-roommates. Here, I can write some good old fashioned, in-your-face articles, posts, rants, criticisms, reviews – whatever you want to call them, for the sake of writing them. And if I’m lucky, you might even be entertained.

Tune in next time, when we begin the figurative pummeling (or perhaps praising) of something someone else likes.

~Alex

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized