Wednesday, 30 December 2015

IC2S Playlist Update 30/12/2015

Good news - the Metal Gear retrospective is 100% complete and ready to go in the new year! I'll be posting the first part on the 1st of January, and then a new post every second day thereafter, so be sure to tune in! It has been a lot of fun to go through the whole series and write up these analyses, so I hope you find them enlightening and enjoyable as well!


First up this week is "Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen" by Santana from the album Abraxas. There's a good chance that you've heard this song before, as it is a classic (plus it was in Guitar Hero III). There isn't really much of a story behind me picking this song, I just really like it, it's a great example of a guitar-driven song and a good demonstration of the oddly "spiritual" quality to Santana's music.


Secondly we have "My Allegiance" by ILIA from their EP Reborn. Back when Weathered Steel was still in business, they used to play ILIA all of the time... which was annoying, because they are distinctly not a metal band. It isn't that their music is bad by any means, but when you have an upbeat Christian rock song sandwiched between 2 angry death metal songs, it makes them feel very out of place. However, "My Allegiance" was their only song that felt like it might have a place on Weathered Steel, in part due to the bridge where lead singer Suzy Martinez just suddenly starts roaring for a couple verses. It's unexpected considering how low-key most of their music is, but it's a cool, passionate moment which puts the punctuation mark on an already-enjoyable song, cementing it as something special to me.

However, I recently bought Reborn and discovered that there's a "radio edit" version of "My Allegiance". As someone who enjoys heavy music, I knew exactly what this meant - a "screamless" version. Lo and behold, that is exactly what the "radio edit" is, an otherwise identical version of the song, if not for the screams being replaced with watered-down, regular singing. It's a really disappointing difference to me, which just deflates the song in my opinion. I enjoy when an artist is willing to scream in a song as it often gives them a further degree of passion to express themselves with. Furthermore, I have a sneaking suspicion that ILIA felt like they had to water the song down in order to get "My Allegiance" played on Christian "rock" radio... with heavy quotation marks around the "rock" bit. Christian rock tends to be musically neutered in comparison to real rock, which probably goes some way to explaining why it has such an awful reputation. I wouldn't be surprised if ILIA agrees - after all, they did make the "official" release the one containing the screams.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

IC2S Playlist Update 23/12/2015

We're going for a Christmas theme this week on the playlist (for obvious reasons, I would hope). Considering that this is a year-round playlist though, I'm going to be using the idea of a "Christmas song" fairly loosely in order to make my selections not feel very strange when you're listening in late August.

HONOURABLE MENTION: This being the year we lost Christopher Lee, I think now is the best time to check out his metal Christmas carols. If you're on Spotify, they have all of them there and they're pretty enjoyable... in a rather cheesy way. Considering this is Christopher Lee we're talking about, I think that's the most appropriate way for it to be.


First up this week we have "Christmas at the Zoo" by the Flaming Lips from their album Clouds Taste Metallic. At first glance, this song seems to be a pretty typical (presumably coked-up) Flaming Lips song. Setting free talking animals at the zoo on Christmas eve? Umm, okay... That was more or less my feelings about the song until I started to think that it might be an allegory. That line of thinking led me to think that perhaps the song is about US foreign policy (seriously). I might be way off-base with this interpretation, but the idea has made me like this song quite a bit. Basically, the singer's desire to free the animals is meant to represent America's "democratizing" efforts. Conversely, the zoo animals represent the nations which America's attentions are drawn towards. While democracy may be a thing that they ultimately desire, they need to acquire it on their own terms or it's never going to work out. I doubt that this is the actual intent of The Flaming Lips when they wrote this song, but I have found "The New Criticism" method of literary interpretation to be very useful in many circumstances, as it is not about authourial intent, but rather what the text says to the reader - which, when it comes down to it, is arguably the most important consideration, right?


Secondly, we have "Old City Bar" by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra from their album Christmas Eve and Other Stories. There's no other Christmas album that I have listened to more this year, and "Old City Bar" has quickly become a favourite for its great story. To put it simply, this song (and the album as a whole) are about how people do good at Christmas, but this season does not have to end if we continue to do good all year round. "Old City Bar" is a very Christ-like song in my personal opinion. It slowly tells the tale of a bunch of social outcasts spending their Christmas Eve in the titular old city bar. The song then details how the seemingly cold-hearted bartender's life is changed, as well as the person he helps and the lives of those around him who witness his actions, through one good deed. It's a very heart-warming song and one which is a great year-round as far as I'm concerned.

Monday, 21 December 2015

So... What's the Point?

There's a recurring argument which seems to occur within my family every couple months. Most recently it was triggered by Rajon Rondo's anti-gay comments to a gay referee in an NBA game and his two subsequent non-apologies. On one side, the argument was being made that Rondo was being an asshole, but how was this different than player ribbing one another by making comments about their mothers/sisters? There was also the free speech argument being tossed around (even though this is a case where an employee is being punished by his employer because of a positive image that they want to project, not an opinion in the public forum). One particular party was also arguing that people are just too "soft" these days, love to complain about stupid bullshit and need to grow thicker skin (this party, for the record, is only 22 bloody years old). These comments did get me thinking though - when we SJW-types stand up and make a fuss about something, are we just doing so because we're a bunch of cry babies? Are we doing anything productive? When I write about womens' representation in pop culture, what am I actually trying to achieve? To put it as simply as possible: what's the point?

Well let's make one thing clear - for all of my feminist criticism, I don't think that any one example of objectification is going to be the tipping point where someone becomes a misogynist. However, I'm not sure if that's an excuse to go entirely the other way - in one of his videos, TotalBiscuit says that he doesn't believe that video games cause real-life violence, so it would be hypocritical of him to believe that video games can cause misogyny. In my mind, this is not an equivalent analogy. Violence is something which our society looks down upon, whereas (if you're a feminist at least) negative attitudes towards women are still quite prevalent - just look at a few of the things I have written here for some examples in "liberal" Hollywood. As a result, it would seem to me that examples of sexism are not the problem, but rather the social perceptions which they help to foster. Actually, Robert Evans put out a very interesting article on the mindsets of mass shooters while I was writing this post which helps illustrate the difference between causation and cultural perception.



Wednesday, 16 December 2015

IC2S Playlist Update 16/12/2015


First up this week is the famous title track from "American Pie" by Don McLean (no, not the 90s teen sex comedy). This is another one of those selections that everyone knows and loves, and for good reason - it's fantastic and a cultural milestone. A lot of people have been stuck listening to the shorter radio edit, but for the IC2S Playlist I chose the full-length version, because it is simply better, full-stop. Definitely one of the better known "long songs" out there, and a good case for why songs should be allowed to go over 4 minutes more often.


Secondly, we have "Healing Subconsciously" by Volbeat from their debut album, The Strength / The Sound / The Songs. It's kind of hard to believe that it's now been over 2 years since I became a fan of Volbeat. The Strength / The Sound / The Songs is definitely my least-favourite album of theirs, but "Healing subconsciously" is one of the more hypnotic tunes in their catalogue. Volbeat's lead singer, Michael Poulsen, has a really weird way of singing in which I can't even tell what the hell he's saying 95% of the time, but it still sounds amazing. Seriously, listen to the song and then check out these lyrics: I caught maybe a third of that, tops.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

IC2S Playlist Update 09/12/2015

I just want to put in a post-script to the SJW posts before we get into the playlist for this week. I feel like I might have come across as arguing with a "no true Scotsman" fallacy in regards to what SJWs want/don't want. This would be especially hypocritical considering that I have written in the past that we should own up for the misdeeds of individuals in our group. I do condemn the bad things done by SJW-types and hopefully I got that across well enough in the two articles. It is also worth reiterating that "SJW" is not a term that the people it's referring to have any control over. As a result, the "purest" forms of SJW (small minority who maybe actually do try to censor media and get games banned) get conflated with all stripes of social justice types as the term becomes more and more meaningless. Hopefully this makes things a little clearer, since it's a rather annoyingly complicated situation.


First up this week is "Hurt" by Johnny Cash from the album American IV: The Man Comes Around. Within a day or two of me putting up "The Man Comes Around" on the playlist, I instantly regretted my "6 weeks" rule and wanted to include this song. It is absolutely fantastic, and one of the few songs that I know which is extremely highly regarded by everyone familiar with it. It is also just a really strange fit too - a Nine Inch Nails song covered by a 70 year old country and gospel singer? It works though, and brilliantly at that. Check it out and be sure to listen through all of American IV: it's a fantastic album.


Secondly, we have "You'll Be In My Heart" by Phil Collins from the Tarzan soundtrack. I'll admit, a pop hit is a bit of a weird choice for the IC2S Playlist, but we're going with it. This came up in my MP3 player the other day when I put it on shuffle and it hit me with a wave of nostalgia. Ever since it came out, I have regarded Tarzan as my favourite Disney animated film. I watched it again a few years ago and it made me want to cry. Between the childhood nostaglia and the fact that it was resonating with me at a formulative time (I was in school and had moved out from home), it is just a really powerful film. I don't know what it is about apes, but between this, King Kong and Planet of the Apes, many of my favourite movies have them involved in a major capacity. I've always loved this song as well, it was one of my favourite songs as a kid before I stumbled across hard rock music. I hope that its inclusion on the playlist awakens some nostalgia and good feelings in you as well.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

SJWs Part 2: Xtreme Beach Volleyball

Depending on how much attention you pay to gaming news, you might have heard about the latest controversy to engulf SJWs. Koei-Tecmo's refusal to release Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 outside of Asia has created a torrent of ill-will, the ferocity of which is hard to fathom. So how about those SJWs, amiright? Taking away our erotic volleyball matches and cartoonish breast physics! Well... the I think that the truth is far more complicated than the prevailing voices in this controversy would have you believe.

First off, I need to make one thing clear: unlike most people on either side of this controversy, I am actually a fan of the Dead or Alive games. I bought 3 different DOA games in the past couple years. I have actually played one of the Xtreme spin-offs. I follow Tecmo's Facebook page, meaning that I actually got to see the progression of this controversy. I also have been mulling over a blog post about how the DOA franchise actually has some very positive and progressive elements about it for the better part of a year now. Hell, I even thought the DOA movie was a hell of a lot of fun. If there's someone qualified to comment not only on this controversy but also on the DOA games themselves, then I think I'd certainly fit the bill as a reasonably educated party.

Hitomi is my fav! <3 I also really like Momiji and Ayane though, probably because I got into the series through Ninja Gaiden.

With that in mind, let's look at how this controversy game about. From its very announcement, it was obvious that Koei-Tecmo was targeting the Asian market with DOAX3. They had a character poll to determine which girls would make the cut, and it was only open to Asian voters. Furthermore, while they did leave some possibility of a western release, they iterated during its reveal and all subsequent marketing that the game was going to release in Asian territories only. There was certainly some complaining and disappointment among people interested in the franchise (not to mention a petition to drum up interest in a Western release), but it was fairly muted and there was an assumption that these fans would just import it or create a Japanese PSN account to play it.

So what were SJW-types saying during all of this? Honestly, very little. When the game was announced, there was the expected head-shaking and "oh look, another one of these games are coming out", but that's more or less where the media coverage began and ended. There were no calls to ban the game or anything like that. This was not another Hatred-level controversy - people just didn't care.

Monday, 7 December 2015

SJWs Part 1: Warriors, Come Out to Plaaaaay!

The amount of hate out there for SJWs at the moment is insane. I haven't seen this much vitriol directed at a social group since around 2010 when "hipster hate" was just beginning to hit its stride. The backlash against SJWs has been playing out quite visibly lately, which has made me feel a need to put out a more comprehensive post on it than I have in the past. I had originally intended to put up one big piece on the current situation, but it ended up being really sprawling and incoherent, which has prompted me to split this into two parts. In this part, I'm going to try to unpack some of the issues people have against SJWs, while also pointing out some of my own criticisms about both sides of the divide. If you're reading this on the publication date then be sure to come back in a couple days for my response to one of the current controversies that SJWs have been dragged into and some conclusions on the matter.

The cynical viewpoint... about half of these were cherry-picked from less-important titles and a couple of them are actually player customizable. It is emblematic of a the wider problem though when you consider that these are just game heroes from around 2005-2010.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

IC2S Playlist Update 02/12/2015

Good news: the Metal Gear retrospective is proceeding very smoothly. I have only 4 games left to go in the series to play and review (although one of those 4 is Ground Zeroes, which should take only a fraction of the time that the others will). As a result, I figure that the retrospective series should likely be finished and ready to go by the start of the new year. I'm getting really excited for this, I have put in a ton of work on each of these entries and hope that people enjoy them!


First up this week is "Jesus of Suburbia" by Greenday from their landmark album American Idiot. Back when I was starting high school, American Idiot made Greenday HUGE amongst my peers. As a result, I got bombarded with their music, which turned me against them out of sheer annoyance. However, the one song that I couldn't help but love was the song which has gone on to be recognized as arguably the best from the album: "Jesus of Suburbia". It was a bit of a formative song for me, back when my taste in music was just starting to move beyond "what my parents listen to". It helped set my love for really long songs, especially ones which evolve quite a bit over the course of the song. As someone who grew up in a rather dogmatic household, this was also one of my first "transgressive" songs. After all, in my mind at the time, this was a "taboo" song due to its references to drugs, swearing and that it seemed to be belittling Jesus. Also, y'know, it's just a really great song.


Secondly this week we have "Whore" by In This Moment from their album Blood. I have been getting into In This Moment recently, which has stemmed from two sources. First of all, Metal Rock Radio plays a fair bit of their music. Secondly, Maria Brink appears on "Criminal Conversations" from P.O.D.'s The Awakening, which can make a strong case for being the best song on the whole record. These two sources have made me really start to like the band. For one thing, a female-fronted hard rock/metal band is really unusual outside of symphonic metal, which already makes them stand out. Supplementing this is the fact that Maria Brink has a really distinctive singing style. In a way, it kind of makes me think of a heavy-metal version of Caro Emerald - she has a very great singing voice which she can use to effect to make herself sound extremely sultry... before immediately breaking out into a scream. "Whore" demonstrates these dimensions quite well and just makes for a very enjoyable song.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

The Christian Jihad

I have been kind of withholding a post on the Planned Parenthood shooting because I have been waiting for more details on the shooter's ideology to be confirmed. However, I read a pretty great article this morning about the theology of Christian terrorism which has prompted me to make a response. I want to make it clear though that I cannot confirm the motivations of Robert Dear and, as a result, cannot be certain that it was a terrorist act. As a result, I will try to keep this in general terms, speaking on the social structures surrounding this event and the responses that it has evoked.


Luckily, it seems that the vast majority of people seem to condemn the actions of Robert Dear, even those who would identify as "pro-life". However, in certain right-wing circles of the US, the response has been disturbingly muted. For example, most of the GOP Candidates have been avoiding giving an opinion on the shooting, or have deflected the blame. You could make the argument that they haven't commented because we can't confirm whether it actually was a motivated terrorist attack yet or just a crazy guy committing a mass shooting at random. However, this is clearly a weak argument, as a lack of facts wouldn't have stopped them from immediately commenting on a more "convenient" event, such as the Paris massacre, which fits into their message. Put simply, I have little doubt that the GOP Candidates would condemn this shooting in a heartbeat, but the bullshit of American partisanship is forcing them from being seen as defending Planned Parenthood, because there is a sizable contingent of their voter base which is sympathetic to Robert Dear.

For a laugh, I decided to check The Blaze's responses to the shooting, as I expected them to have the most publicly toxic responses and to provide me with a window to the mindset of the militant American evangelical crowd. I was actually happily surprised to see no outright sympathy for him, but there was (predictably) a ton of deflection of blame from the right. One particular article caught my eye though, by IC2S veteran Matt Walsh, which claims that "Abortionists and Planned Parenthood shooter are just two sides of the same coin". Now, thankfully Walsh actually states in the article that he does not approve of the methods that Dear used against Planned Parenthood, he also states unequivocally that he feels no need to publicly condemn it either. He also makes the incredibly bizarre assertion that "the Planned Parenthood shooting only proves that Planned Parenthood is evil". I find these points to be equal parts strange and extremely callous. Presumably, Walsh feels that this shooting is a case of a murderer murdering mass murderers. Within Walsh's conservative, "eye for an eye" morality, this makes Dear's actions difficult to condemn... which is the whole problem.


Look, you don't have to be a left-winger to condemn the Planned Parenthood shooting which, in all honesty, looks likely to be a case of domestic, Christian terrorism. You don't have to be right-wing, or even "pro-life", to oppose abortion either. However, partisanship and tribalism has soured our morality and taken away our humanity when we can't even acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, terrorism is something that we can commit as well. If it turns out that Robert Dear was indeed motivated by Christian anti-abortion rhetoric*, then this is pretty clearly a case of a Christian committing an act of terrorism not unlike the Islamic terrorists we have been condemning and killing for so long.

This brings me to the heart of the matter - if you kill innocent people in order to bring about an ideological end, you're a terrorist. If you support Robert Dear then you're on the same level as those who support Al Queda or the Islamic State. The only difference between the two comes down to ideology. If you support the Planned Parenthood shooting but cry out for us to keep Syrian refugees out of the country because they might be terrorists, then brother I would suggest that you remove the plank from your own eye. I pray that we may learn how to come to understand and reconcile with our enemies and become a culture in which such acts of violence can be rightfully condemned without fear of oppression.

*Even if he was insane, this rhetoric still matters, as it would be what influenced him in the first place. I'm not entirely convinced that it should shoulder the blame per se, but they should at least acknowledge that maybe their messages were a part of the problem.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

IC2S Playlist Update 25/11/2015


First up this week we have "Kashmir" by Led Zepplin from their album Physical Graffiti. I know that you know this song. Everyone knows this song. It's just so damn good and the usage of middle-eastern-style sounds was just inspired... and there's not much more I can say than that. I didn't intend for this entry to be so lazy, but it's occurring to me while I'm writing this that there really isn't much that I can add to the conversation on Led Zepplin or "Kashmir" which hasn't already been said. As a result, I will say "enjoy!" and move on to the next entry.


Secondly we have "Long Live the Party" by Andrew W.K., from his album The Wolf. Over the past couple weeks, I've been really getting into this album and have been listening to it almost every day. As much as I like I Get Wet, The Wolf is just a more interesting album in almost every department. The songs do skew towards Andrew W.K.'s reputation as the "god of the party", but there are also some which show his current status as a "positivity activist" of sorts, such as "Never Let Down", "The End of Our Lives" or "I Love Music". Apparently telling stories about positivity is what his whole radio show on The Blaze is about which, considering the rest of The Blaze's raw sewage output, is rather strange and just baffles me on how Andrew W.K. managed to secure it.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Circular Logic (aka, Let's Blame the Feminists for Gaming Sexism)

So recently my morning started off in fantastic fashion as one of my friends on Facebook shared a forum post by Merlynn132 which blamed feminists for the issues with female representation in video games (click on the picture for the full-sized image):


Now admittedly, I actually found this guy's points to be quite interesting at first glance and there may actually be some kernels of wisdom in here. However, the more I thought about the points that he was actually making, the more I realized that his argument is fundamentally flawed and falls apart under just a little scrutiny. So you know what time it is then, good reader: it's time for yet another I Choose to Stand feminism post!

One big disclaimer before we move on though. I get the distinct feeling that Merlyn132 is directing some of these criticism specifically towards Anita Sarkeesian, but unfortunately its context has been removed to make it "shareable". Admittedly, I haven't looked into Sarkeesian's criticisms myself, although I have found some of her examples to be at least somewhat suspect. If this post is intended to be a direct response to specific criticisms that Sarkeesian has made, then that's fair enough (I would still disagree with its ultimate conclusion, but I could at least get behind some of its points). However, the tone and body of the post is written in such a way that it ends up being directed at feminism in general, which makes it fair game for a general response as far as I'm concerned. The lack of overall context for the post is unfortunate, so be sure to keep that in mind as the reality of the original post may somehow be shifted if we could see the whole conversation it was a part of.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

IC2S Playlist Update 18/11/2015

If you've been reading the blog for a long time (hi Matt!), then you might find it sort of conspicuous that I haven't written anything on the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday. The simple truth is that I have tried on a couple occasions, but everything I've come up with just feels hollow in the face of the enormity of that evil. It also doesn't help that the story has still been unfolding and, while we seem to have a decent grasp on what happened now, it's hard to say what the repercussions of this attack may be. I might write up something eventually, but at the moment I can't say for certain.


First up this week we have "Whip It" by Love and Death, from their album Between Here & Lost. This is actually a cover of a song by DEVO, which I hadn't actually listened to before picking this for the playlist. It's... wow, it's such an enormous difference that I'm having a hard time articulating it properly. The DEVO version is a really fast, silly, goofy-sounding 80s pop track, whereas Love and Death's version is a very heavy, crunchy, serious and slower-tempo track. It makes me wonder how the heck Love and Death got the inspiration to cover this song, because it's just so far removed from the original version.


Secondly, we have the title-track "Nostradamus" by Judas Priest. Last week I was going on about how I was (finally) starting to get into Iron Maiden, but still wasn't a big Judas Priest fan. However, I am a big fan of this song, which just so happened to play on Metal Rock Radio when I was thinking about how underwhelming I found Judas Priest to be. This is just the sort of metal that I love: dark, epic and lengthy. It sounds more like an Iron Maiden, Mastodon or old-school Metallica song rather than what I'm used to hearing from Judas Priest, but maybe I'm just not familiar enough with their discography yet.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

IC2S Playlist Update 11/11/2015

It's Remembrance Day here in Canada, and if you haven't read my Quick Fix related to it yet, then you might find it interesting. Naturally, it's going to be a sombre and respectful day around here though, especially since I have family in the Canadian Forces.

On a more positive note though, I'm making quite a bit of progress on the Metal Gear retrospective. I've completed 4 games in the franchise thus far and have their retrospectives all written up and ready to go, with a 5th game maybe an hour away from completion and the writing portion should take an evening to put together. It has been pretty fun thus far and I'm glad that I decided to take the plunge, because I doubt I would have gotten to experience the MSX Metal Gear games without it. It's also giving me a better appreciation for the series, but I'll leave any formal analysis for the retrospectives themselves. It's going to be pretty great and I'm putting quite a lot of work into this, so I hope that you guys enjoy when it's finally ready to go.


First up this week, we have "The Sneaking Chair" by My Heart to Fear from their album Algorithm. Back when Weathered Steel was still on the air, this song just dominated their Top 40 playlist. Most songs only last a week or 2 before disappearing entirely, but "The Sneaking Chair" must have been the #1 song for at least a month. It's a pretty great song, I've been meaning to put it in the playlist for a really long time. In fact, the last time I put a My Heart to Fear song in the playlist ("4th Dimension Opera House", way back in May), I had originally intended to use "The Sneaking Chair" but made a last minute switch. On an unrelated note, I have no idea how My Heart to Fear comes up with their song titles, some of them are just all over the place. Some will be really straightforward ("Wish You Were Here", "Angst", etc) and then others are... well, "The Sneaking Chair".


Secondly we have "Blood Brothers" by Iron Maiden from the album Brave New World. It had always been a bit of a secret shame for me that I considered myself a through-and-through metalhead, but wasn't really into some of the genre heavy weights, such as Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. However, since Weathered Steel shut down I have switched my Internet radio over to Metal Rock Radio, which plays the metal classics and modern metal all the time, and has been getting me quite into Iron Maiden. "Blood Brothers" might be my favourite thus far, it's just a really badass song that makes you want to sing along. As someone who likes Sabaton and Disturbed, you can probably tell that this sort of "comradery"/battle song really appeals to me and is making me want to have an "Iron Maiden week" where I just fire up Spotify and blow through their entire discography to find all their gems.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Quick Fix: Advances in Poppy-Wearing Technology

So Remembrance Day is coming up here in Canada, that transitional period between Halloween and the Christmas blitz where we honour our veterans. There's one little squabble which seems to flare up more and more in the past few years though, and that's in regards to the "proper" way to wear your poppy. If you aren't familiar with Remembrance Day traditions, basically you give a donation and receive a poppy in exchange (not a real poppy though, obviously) which you pin onto your clothing to show your respect for the veterans. However, the pin which is used for the poppies is notoriously problematic and causes quite a few painful jabs every year, which prompts some people to replace the default pin with something more secure and without the exposed pin, such as a "butterfly clutch".

In fact you will notice that the style of pin used with the poppy isn't even offered from this custom pin website. The long pin is the closest analogue, but even then it is far more secure and safe than the traditional poppy pin.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

IC2S Playlist Update 04/11/2015


First up this week is "November Rain" by Guns N' Roses from Use Your Illusion I. For years, I considered this my all-time favourite song. While it has since been dethroned by "(*Fin)" by Anberlin (which, even then, was my 2nd favourite), I still really like it and Guns N' Roses. If I had to guess, I'd imagine that my cooling attitude towards the song has to do with moving past teenage angst, so a breakup song like this is less appealing than a more thoughtful/theological/philosophical song like "(*Fin)".

Naturally I decided to pick this song since it is the first week of November. I used to have a tradition on Facebook where I'd post a line from the song every day until the end of the month, at which point I'd post the song's epic music video. It's really too bad that Axl Rose is such a crazy asshole - it'd be great to get the original lineup back.


Secondly, we have "Down the Rabbit Hole" by Sovereign Council from their first album, New Reign. This is probably their best song from their debut album, although due to lineup changes, they aren't able to play it anymore without a guest guitarist (since the song requires 2 lead guitars. This was disappointing, but it really reminded me just how good this song was and how much I wanted to hear it.

By the way, this entry how puts us to 56 songs and just short of 5 hours of music! That's a pretty big accomplishment as far as I'm concerned, but it does make me wonder how long I'm going to keep the playlist going. I'm currently thinking that I'd like to keep it on a weekly update schedule at least until the playlist's 1 year anniversary, but after that we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

IC2S Playlist Update 28/10/2015


First up this week is "God Is Dead?" by Black Sabbath from their latest album 13. I wrote a short article about this song almost 2 years ago*, claiming that the song was in fact the opposite of the anti-religious song that it appears to be on the superficial level. I still hold fast to this interpretation of course, and it has caused the song to endear on me ever since its release. I hadn't heard it in quite some time though, until a couple weeks ago when my internet radio station of choice put it on and reignited by love for this song.

Also, I just love how the song sounds. The dark, religious imagery is very effective, and the song has an unmistakable twinge of menace throughout it. It's just a great example of modern metal and proof that Black Sabbath still have talent and relevance even after a career spanning four decades.


Secondly, we have "Normandy" by Project 86 from their album Rival Factions. Rival Factions was a really strange album for Project 86. From what I understand, there seemed to be lots of frustration within the band about their musical direction - some of them wanted to branch out their sound, and I imagine that there was frustration over the control exercised by frontman Andrew Schwab. The band's drummer ultimately left prior to Rival Factions' recording, while the other bandmates (except for Schwab) would all leave as well by the time that the next album was complete. These frustrations are clearly the primary driving force behind Rival Factions, as the title points out. The album has a really diverse sound: they'll use their traditional post-hardcore sound for a couple songs, then they'll break into metalcore, then a straight-up rock song. The resulting album isn't entirely cohesive and has an extremely short runtime of just over 30 minutes, which makes it probably my least-favourite Project 86 album**... I mean, I still enjoy it, but it's a bit of a blemish on Project 86's otherwise extremely consistent discography.

Anyway, "Normandy" is probably the song which most directly addresses the background struggles of Rival Factions. In high school, right as I was getting into Project 86, I was actually going to do a presentation on this song for a class where we were supposed to interpret a poem or song. It's probably a good thing that I never did this presentation (I got my wisdom teeth taken out the day I was supposed to present so I got off scot-free), because even now I still have a fuzzy idea of what it all means. The song seems to very cryptically use the metaphor of a head-on collision to represent the opposing wills of individuals leading to a severing of ties.

*Side note: two freaking years ago? Where has the time gone?!?
**The only other album of theirs that I think is rather weak and might actually be my least-favourite now is their latest release, Knives to the Future. The album is pretty well-done I'll admit, but very few of the songs stand out and I can't help but be disappointed that their hardcore sound has been toned down significantly. Again - still a good album, but I just found it a tad disappointing and not the same high bar that Project 86 usually hits for me.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

IC2S Playlist Update 21/10/2015


Unlike recent weeks, I don't really have a theme tying the songs together this week. We're going to start out with "Nuclear" by Mike Oldfield from Man on the Rocks. I've been listening to the Metal Gear Solid V soundtrack for a couple weeks now and it's making me really dig this song. It was a good selection for the game, as its apocalyptic imagery fits the games' themes perfectly.

Speaking of Metal Gear, the preparation for the big retrospective is underway. I've been writing up a review for The Phantom Pain and have blazed through Portable Ops in the past week. I'm currently working through Peace Walker and then we'll see where it goes after that. I'm planning on sticking to canon entries only (including Portable Ops of course and Rising as well), but if I'm not sick of the whole series after all of this then I might do a couple entries for the Ac!d games because I remember enjoying both of them quite a bit. So... yeah. That's what my life looks like for the next couple months. It's gonna be a mammoth undertaking, but it'll be very fun and hopefully will give me a better appreciation for this franchise I enjoy so much.


Anyway, secondly we have "Hearts Alive" by Mastodon from Leviathan. I was really debating between this and arguably their most popular song, "Blood and Thunder", but "Hearts Alive" won out in the end. For one thing, if you're familiar with the playlist then you're probably aware that I'm a big fan of good, long songs. "Hearts Alive" definitely fits that bill at over 13 minutes in length. Mastodon has such a classical style to their metal, that it always shocks me that they are a post-2000s band, as they sound like nothing else that I've heard from their era. Like, when they put out their debut album, nu-metal was probably the most commercially-successful force in metal. Maybe I just haven't explored the genre well enough yet, but I have always found Mastodon to sound very regressive, but in a very intentional, intelligent and good way.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Review Misuse

Critical reviews are an endless source of discussion in popular culture. On the one hand, they offer a useful tool to sort through content and get a general idea of whether the product will appeal to you. On the other hand though, people often bristle at review scores and find themselves in a sharp divide between critical opinion and public perception. TotalBiscuit recently put out a pretty good video highlighting the disconnect between reviewers and the general public after the latest debacle regarding review scores of the Mad Max video game. In case you don't feel like watching/listening to a 40 minute video, TotalBiscuit basically says that reviewers and the public have differing opinions on what constitutes value, that the public tends to value familiarity over innovation and that the public puts too much stock into review scores rather than the content of reviews themselves. While I liked the video, I think that TotalBiscuit waffled a little too much and didn't really dig hard enough into the issues at hand for my tastes.


First off, I will agree 100% that people (particularly video gamers in my experience) put way too much emphasis into review scores. This is generally where the most ridiculous controversies spring from, such as the numerous occasions where reviewers have received death threats for giving games a glowing 9/10 review. This is due in part to some members of the gaming media's really poorly skewed scoring system, which has messed with gamers' expectations of what score a game should receive. I can't be the only one who has noticed that many video game reviewers tend to score games very "softly", giving almost every major release an 8 or a 9, with one or two huge releases typically getting 10s. For many gamers, this has created the expectation that games scoring lower than a 8 are unacceptable, even though the scale itself has been incredibly devalued and uninformative (and even then, they have a hard time accepting an 8 for a hyped, triple-A release).

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

IC2S Playlist Update 14/10/2015

EDIT: I've been working on a little update for the blog, going through past, current and upcoming posts to tag them with their subject matter. If you're interested in what I'm talking about in any blog post, click one of the labels at the bottom of the post and it'll link you to all of my posts on the subject! Considering that I'm often calling back to previous topics, this should hopefully be quite handy for everyone, myself included!


So it looks like we're going for an anti-war theme this week (or at the very least, songs which explore the human cost of war). This wasn't entirly intentional, but as soon as I made my selections the theme clicked and I quite like how it all worked out. First up this week, we have "One" by Metallica from their album ...And Justice For All. I decided to pick this song this week after a particularly epic air-drumming session that spontaneously commenced when this song came on the radio at the end of a late-night road trip. Like many people, I first got exposed to this song by Guitar Hero 3, and it really ignited a love for early Metallica music. "One" is just a natural fit for me - as you might have noticed from some of my earlier selections, I really love longer songs with a slow build-up which supports the epic musicianship/lyrics later and just makes them stronger overall. "One" is pretty much a text-book example of this.

I also like the story that the song tells: losing all of your senses but only being able to feel pain seems like it would indeed be the very definition of hell on earth. For the longest time I thought that the song was based on a real person, but thankfully not. It seems to be based on an anti-war novel and film called Johnny Got His Gun (or, at the very least, was based on the same concept).


Secondly, we have "The Price of a Mile" by Sabaton from the album The Art of War. The Art of War is, in my opinion, the first good Sabaton album, and "The Price of a Mile" is a good example of why. I'd argue that it's one of their all-time best songs and stretches their usual formula of singing about great historical victories, this time singing about a horrific, senseless waste of life. It is especially resonant for me as a Canadian, since we are all brought up being told about the thousands of Canadian soldiers who died in the Battle of Passchendaele to win a few measly miles which were soon lost again. It's a really sombre, and yet bad ass, song which really hammers home the meaningless nature that war can take on, and questions the costs that are associated with victory at all costs.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

IC2S Playlist Update 07/10/2015

So I've got a bit of an ambitious undertaking that I have been formulating over the course of the last couple weeks. I beat the main story in Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain just in time for the release of Metal Gear Online, and have been sketching out the beginnings of a review. However, I don't just want to review The Phantom Pain: I want to do the retrospective to top all retrospectives and write up a comprehensive series review. Obviously this could take months to do (and that's assuming that I do manage to make it through), so I'll have to make up my mind on whether to write it all and then release or to put it out in chunks as I finish them. I'll have more details soon as I get the project underway, so stay tuned!


Anyway, kicking off the playlist this week, we have "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum. I chose this song for little reason other than because I really like it. It's extremely catchy and goes to show that people will listen to gospel music if you make it sound awesome (ahem, take a hint from that Casting Crowns). I also find it really interesting that it is seen as a really big gospel hit, and I can imagine that there are some people would say that it's a "sign of the times" that songs like this don't become radio hits anymore. However, this song is not really all that it appears to be - theologically, it's kind of heretical at times when Greenbaum declares that he's "Never been a sinner I never sinned". This is in part due to the fact that Greenbaum was essentially making fun of how shitty gospel music is (and also explains why the lyrics are so simple).


Next up, we have "Get Back" by David Unger. Of all DUM's "parody" songs, "Get Back" is definitely my favourite. For one thing, it has an amazing music video (of the kid torturing the bad guys in Home Alone). As soon as it begins you're hooked, as the music is very catchy (is that a keyboard in guitar mode...?) and David Unger has a really great voice.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

IC2S Playlist Update 30/09/2015

It's apocalypse-mania this week on the playlist. While last week's selections were loosely/unintentionally-themed, this week it's entirely intentional. We're checking out a couple songs about the end of the world, because... well, I love depressing music and it doesn't get much more depressing than this! Cheekiness aside, while I have written in the past many times about my distaste for the so-called "Biblical prophecies" concerning the end of the world, it is nevertheless a fascinating subject and steeped in some great imagery... perfect ingredients for a moody song.


First up this week we have "The Great Fear" by Impending Doom from their album There Will Be Violence (note that someone on Spotify screwed up and labelled it as "Walking Through Fire" - this is incorrect; each song has been shifted down 1 position, with the opening song being replaced by the closer). I know that there are some Impending Doom fans who think that the band's first 2 albums were their best, but I couldn't disagree more - they were basically unlistenable in my opinion. There Will Be Violence really marked the point where they evolved their sound and (let's be honest) watered it down just enough to make it sound really appealing to more people. And I don't mean that in a Dead Space 3-style "mass appeal" way - I mean that there is a handful of people who are interested in listening to loud, chaotic noise while what sounds like pig grunts are overlaid over it. However, more people will be interested if you reign in the music somewhat and replace the pig grunts with death growls and screams. Sure, a few people are going to be disappointed, but it's hard to argue when the results are so strong and accessible to more people.

Anyway, while "The Great Fear" is yet another Christian metal song about the Rapture/Tribulation, it is a pretty great one. Impending Doom has a really great talent for creating catchy hooks in their songs which make you want to scream along. "The Great Fear" has many of these moments, particularly in the chorus and basically the entire latter-half of the song.


Secondly, I don't think I'm overstating things by calling Johnny Cash's "The Man Comes Around" from American IV: The Man Comes Around a modern classic. I imagine a lot of people first experienced it in the fantastic opening credits of Zach Snyder's Dawn of the Dead, but my aunt was actually the one who introduced me to it. I have a hard time saying that I'm a big fan of Johnny Cash because, honestly, a lot of his music really sucks. However, I'm as big a fan as anyone of a really good Johnny Cash song, and "The Man Comes Around" is definitely one of them.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

IC2S Playlist Update 23/09/2015

(Whoops, published this a day early!)


First up this week, we have "Alive" by XXI, from their debut album Inside Out. If you're a regular reader of the blog*, then you'll know that I've been following the rather tragic transition of A Feast for Kings to their current status as XXI. The Hell on Earth EP was fantastic, and their tribute to fallen singer Eric Gentry was fantastic, so I was hoping for great things with Inside Out. Unfortunately, the final product has left me a little underwhelmed. Now, to be fair, I have only listened to it twice now, and normally it takes me a few listen-throughs to really form a solid opinion on an album, but I do feel that I'm already getting a good grip on it. Overall, Inside Out is a technically proficient album, but it fails to live up to the promise that the band members set with their debut EP. Part of the reason for this is that very few of the songs really stand out ("Alive" and "Say It Again" being the two best imho) - most sound like typical teen angst/Christian hard rock and don't seem to go beyond the basics of this sound. It also kind of stings that they toned down their sound slightly, but this isn't a major complaint - they could have swapped to rhythmic bongo dance music for all I care as long as the music was good. This feeling was made even worse when I went right back to Hell on Earth immediately after finishing the album, and the difference in quality between the two products was night and day. I don't regret purchasing Inside Out by any means (it is a decent album after all), but I can't help but be disappointed that XXI seems to have taken a musical step down following the "Memories" single. Hopefully they learn from this and step back up for their sophomore effort.


Secondly, we have "American Dream" by Casting Crowns from their self-titled debut album. I would argue that, for their first 3 albums at least, Casting Crowns was one of the best bands to ever out of the contemporary Christian music (CCM) market. While they did their standard CCM duties and put out some really heartfelt, quality worship music, they also had a strong desire to call out the church and society where they saw things were problematic (hell, their first two songs on their very first album call out the church for not doing its duties, and they have a whole album dedicated to the inaction and judgmentalism of Christians). "American Dream" is a good examplar of this, and is actually subtle enough that a non-Christian could actually conceivably enjoy it.

However, by the time they released their fourth album, Until the Whole World Hears, something had gone amiss. Did they get too much power and influence within the evangelical church? Did they feel like they couldn't bite the hands which fed them anymore? Did they end up in bed with American right-wing social politics? Did they believe that they had to neuter themselves to sell more records? Whatever the case, their music began to sound more generic and toned down, while also being far less critical (not that they were breaking ground anyway, but they were proficient and clearly sincere before). Until the Whole World Hears is basically just a generic CCM/worship album with only a couple good songs and no critical asides to show that they actually care about the health of the church. Their fifth album, Come to the Well is a little better, but it actually does do some milder social critiquing at least. However, it also has a distinctly, uncomfortably American-political vibe to it at times which makes me wonder what the nature of their criticism is coming from - issues within the church itself, or perceived political issues that require a religious voting bloc? Their most recent album, Thrive, is arguably their weakest effort yet, with generic, toothless worship music and a lack of conviction.**

Anyway, I guess that's the theme for this week: disappointment, squandering of talent, failing to grasp your potential, etc. I hadn't really intended for this to be the case, but it's what we've gotten. So... uh... enjoy the music.

*And if you are then, holy shit, make a comment below because I'm under the impression that no one reads this thing...

**I actually had a bit of an increasingly depressing day because of this. I decided to listen to Casting Crowns' discography from start to finish to ensure that my recollection of their music was accurate. If anything, post-The Altar and the Door Casting Crowns was actually worse than I remember. Their music just gets so much worse as you go on and shows a really pronounced difference between their good-bad split... especially with the incredibly dull Thrive thrown into the mix (I had not listened to it before this), which makes the weakest bits of The Altar and the Door sound absolutely inspired.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Shirking Responsibility

The spark for this post came to me a while ago, back when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was in the news with its recommendations to ensure that Canadians were aware of the awful legacies of the residential school system. However, as soon as they mentioned that the church was involved with the cultural genocide and abuse which occurred at these schools, my parents' gut reaction was to blurt out that it was only the Catholic church which was responsible for this.


Setting aside the popular perception that it was only the Catholic church involved*, this reaction bothers me for a number of reasons. First of all, I don't think it's being honest - do they really give a shit about the supposed (and in this case incorrect) "facts" of the matter? If I told them that their comprehension of the facts was incorrect, would it cause them to feel real shame for the church's involvement in the residential schooling system? Somehow I don't think so, I think that the blame will get shifted in another direction ("oh, well our church and our family aren't even close to a residential school!").

This brings me to the second reason why their statement irritated me. If they aren't really interested in the facts of the situation, then I believe that this attitude is merely a knee-jerk reaction to shift blame. After all, if we believe that the Catholics bear all of the responsibility for residential schools, then it is easy for us to say that they're the ones who should do something about it. Consequently, this means that we end up not having to do anything - we don't have to change our worldview, we don't have to change our attitudes towards people, and hell, we don't have to make any restitutions to help out people who have been getting screwed over for generations.


Let's get theoretical though for a moment - let's pretend for a moment that it was just the Catholics who were involved with residential schools. If this were the case, then our response still shouldn't change. In spite of what some more fundamentalist Christians might think, Catholics are just as legitimate ambassadors of Jesus as the rest of us. As far as most people outside of the church are concerned, the differences between Catholics and Protestants are minuscule. How do you think it looks for them if we, as Christians, say "residential schools were bad and all, but we weren't responsible, it was those other Christians who you should be mad at"?

If nothing else, we should accept the responsibility rather than trying to squirm out of it by shifting the blame. Ideally, we should seek to repair the situation as well, even if we do not necessarily believe that we bear any real responsibility to do so - especially since we are always so quick to declare ourselves the "moral" center of the country which is keeping it from slipping into evil. If we become people known for helping others and being a positive force in society, then we won't need to try to point out that it was "someone else" who was responsible for committing evil - people will realize that they are not representative of the Christians that they know.


I can remember myself saying less than 10 years ago that I didn't feel bad for aboriginal peoples who complained about losing their land, because it happened hundreds of years ago and they should all be over it by now. I am ashamed of the ignorance my past-self. However, I was completely ignorant of the repercussions that the actions of our ancestors had. I was unlearned enough to understand that aboriginal people aren't concerned about the evils of the past, they are concerned about inequalities which affect them today as a result of the echoes from the past. Similarly, people don't understand why people still complain about slavery, racism or the Confederate flag, but this is because they don't understand how their effects continue to echo into the present and have resulted in massive levels of inequality for African-Americans (not to mention that basically every problem in Africa can be traced back to the evils of colonialism).

If you don't take anything else from this post, then at least take this message to heart: next time you hear someone railing about some form of injustice, listen to what they have to say. You don't necessarily have to agree with them, but give them some respect. Then, instead of passing off the responsibility to someone else, ask how you can help and come to common ground.

*And it's not like the Protestant Churches are all that united anyway. If they wanted to continue shifting blame they could say "Oh, well it was just the Catholics, Anglicans, United Church, Congressionalists, Presbyterians and Methodists. It wasn't the Pentacostals though so why should we take the blame?", or "Those were Methodists, were are Free Methodists so it doesn't count!"

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

IC2S Playlist Update 16/09/2015


First up this week is the title track "American Capitalist" by Five Finger Death Punch. I chose this song for a couple reasons. First, because FFDP just released a new album recently. Secondly, I quite like the song (although I would have picked "The Bleeding" if that had been available on Spotify). Thirdly, and more importantly, because FFDP are such a disappointingly awful band. I didn't realize just how prevalent this assessment was until very recently, but I have been so disappointed by their music for a while now. On paper, they seem to be my sort of band - really heavy, angry, pump-up and anthemic metal. However, in practice, they tend to be absolutely awful. This comes down almost entirely to their lyrics, which typically consist of stringing together profanities and threatening to commit violence, all in an attempt to sound "tough". I mean, this can work at times (I do like Disturbed quite a bit after all). Unfortunately, FFDP go so far overboard with their lyrics that they read like some kind of self-parody. They come across as less "tough guy you don't want to mess with" and more like "whiney little bitch".

That said, when they grow the hell up, they can be pretty enjoyable. Their best songs tend to be their ballads or their radio-friendly tunes... but basically everything else is unlistenable. American Capitalist is about the only album of theirs that I can listen to from start to finish, but even it has some moments that I have to grit my teeth through.

FFDP: you have a lot of talent. You have some pretty good songs in your catalogue. You're a band that I want to like, but please attempt some maturity. Stop telling us how much you hate everything, how you're going to kill people, or how you're going to abuse your girlfriend - you think this makes you tough, but it makes you sound like thou dost protesteth too much.


Uhh... anyway, after that little rant, we have a palate cleanser in the form of "Washed By Blood" by Brian "Head" Welch from his album Save Me From Myself. I think I have said in the past that I really like Brian "Head" Welch and am fascinated by his life story. I also think that Save Me From Myself is the best album ever made by a member of Korn. The album loosely chronicles Welch's rough upbringing, his drug-fueled life, his salvation and then some struggles he encountered within the church. "Washed By Blood" is the culmination of all of these struggles and marks the promise of salvation.

That said, I think that the album, and "Washed By Blood" in particular, does have one Achilles heel: the lyrics. Yeah, I guess I'm touching on a theme this week. Welch was never really a song writer in Korn, but following his conversion he felt like God was speaking to him to write music. Well, if God did write the lyrics to these songs, then he can be pretty corny at times to say the last. That said, I think that the heartfelt nature of Welch's lyrics and singing offsets this negative, so the album comes out on top in the end. I'd definitely recommend giving it a listen-through if you find this song interesting.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Prime Ministorial Deathmatch: Part Two

Again, because I can see some people taking this piece about politicians battling each other to the death way too seriously, I'm going to reiterate that this is intended to be a cheeky satirical piece.

So, in order to run the actual battle-to-the-death part of this article, I unfortunately couldn't get ahold of the real life contenders so I had to turn to the deathmatch simulator, Super Smash Bros, using the game's Mii Fighter feature to create the combatants and letting them duke it out as 3 CPU fighters. I'll be using the Punch Out!! stage for the match to minimize the environmental effects and to represent them duking it out in the political arena. For match rules, I'm going with a 3 stock limit to scale back the randomness a little bit. I had intended to put in Items, but I think I accidentally turned them off during the fight.


Smash Bros has three archetypes to choose your fighter from. Stephen Harper is a gunner for a couple obvious reasons. First of all, as a Conservative he has helped repeal some national gun control laws, so it seems like a natural fit. Secondly, if he is truly a robot, then having weapons built into his limbs is a reasonable extrapolation. I also gave him some high-power weaponry, such as a grenade launcher and rockets since he's more willing to exercise military might on an international scale than his rivals. As for his outfit, I outfitted him in the cowboy gear, of course. He's a good all-round fighter, but I emphasized his defence over attack slightly. Since he's clearly the most dangerous fighter of the lot, I gave him a CPU level of 8.


For Mulcair, I chose the brawler archetype of course. His attacks are basically all short-ranged, head-on attacks, meaning he has to get in your face and tear you apart with his bare hands. I emphasized his attack power at the expense of his defence and made his attacks slow in general. This represents his duality - he's patient, but a pit bull. If he can land an attack, then he'll do severe damage to whoever ends up on the other end of it. If he closes the gap and times his attacks right then Muclair can be a force to be reckoned with. Mulcair has potential but isn't quite at the level of Harper himself yet, so I'm setting his CPU level to 7.


Since Trudeau is A New Hope for the Liberals, I made him a sword fighter. Fitting with this theme, I gave him Jedi-like attacks, such as an attack called "hero's strike" and a reversal slash which launches projectiles back at his opponents (like Trudeau turning his opponents' attacks into platform features). Due to his youthful vitality and swift rise to prominence, I made him a very fast attacker, although his lack of experience and less-than-imposing posture make his attack power pretty low. I think he's definitely the dark horse of this battle, and so I have set his CPU level to 5 accordingly - he can still pull off a win, but it's going to be tough and he's going to have to make use of his speed and be opportunistic to emerge victorious.

If you want to watch the fight in its entirely, you can do so here (sorry for the low quality, I wish you could save replays to Youtube on 3DS). If not, here's a quick highlights reel:

Harper and Muclair go at it with each other almost exclusively in the first couple minutes. Trudeau, true to life, basically refuses to join with Muclair, and as a result he and Harper damage each other quite severely while taking a few pot shots at Trudeau every once in a while. In fact, Trudeau barely gets any hits in in the first couple minutes, and spends most of this time dancing around the others while getting nailed every once in a while. Without any support and with his emphasis on attack over defence, Mulcair takes heavy damage early on, losing his first life long before his rivals to a well-placed shot from Harper. With the first blood drawn, Mulcair and Trudeau both go after Harper, but the embattled champion fights them both off effortlessly as they come at him one at a time. Mulcair then gets a cheeky upper cut in on Trudeau, sending him flying into the air and taking Trudeau's first life in the process. Soon after, all three candidates get into a chaotic tussle, which sees Harper finding an opening on Muclair and sending him off the map for Muclair's second lost life. Muclair then misses a huge opportunity to take out Harper, who just stands in front of him for a split second. Harper takes advantage of this opening and punishes Mulcair for his laxity. The three then scrap with each other for a good thirty seconds before a heavily-damaged Harper knocks out Trudeau for a second time. Muclair and Trudeau, realizing their mortal peril, both gang up on Harper, but he gets some really good hits in on Muclair before the NDP leader finally lands a heavy smash attack, taking Harper's first life. Unfortunately, at this point Muclair is too badly damaged and doesn't stand a chance against the comparatively fresh Harper. Muclair goes down first, and Trudeau quickly finds himself completely outmatched, going down to Harper very quickly.

The winner: reigning champion Steven Harper!


Thanks for reading! Hopefully you're following the real election and discerning who deserves your vote come this October. And if not... then for the love of God don't vote!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

IC2S Playlist Update 09/09/2015

So it's been a week since Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain dropped, and holy shit is it ever amazing. I have been savouring it thus far - I'm only about 1/5 of the way through (just captured Emmerich... not a spoiler, it was in the trailers), but it has been an incredible experience. The freedom to approach situations and the ways that every system interconnects is just jaw dropping. Becoming skilled enough to sneak into a base and achieve your objectives undetected is very gratifying. My only real complaint thus far is a pretty obvious one - Quiet looks absolutely ridiculous. Like... embarrassingly so. It's obviously not a major issue, but I can't wait until I can actually unlock the XOF uniform for her so that I can actually play the damn game when there are other people present without having to explain what the hell I am playing.


First up this week is "Prom Song" by Countless Thousands from their album We're Just Really Excited To Be Here. I have been listening to this song a lot lately and I'd argue that it might be the most realistic song that I have ever heard about prom. The song starts out really sentimental, like it might be the sort of thing that a hired band might actually sing during a prom dance. However, as it goes on, it becomes increasingly bitter and angry... which, in my experience, sums up prom perfectly. Maybe I just don't know enough people, but basically everyone in my social circles had a shitty prom. My best friend got dumped 3 days before prom, but had to take her there anyway. One of my younger brothers got ditched halfway through the prom by his date. One of my other friends almost got arrested when people thought he was going to stab somebody (an event which also irrevocably split my group of friends from that point forth - hooray for prom...). As for myself, I couldn't get the person I liked at the time to go with me so I just said to hell with it and skipped it. So yeah, it has always been a pretty shitty time of year all round. Beyond all that, I think when we look back at prom, most of us realize that it was a waste of time and money, and that we don't really care for or miss a lot of the people we left behind, or that those people that we thought we were close with turned on us. "Prom Song" covers that range of truth very succinctly.


Secondly, we have something a little different: "Runaway" by Kanye West (featuring Pusha T) from his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I had never really listened to Kanye West before I heard this song - I was, of course, well aware of his douche bag reputation in the media, but I had also heard that he was a musical genius in spite of all that. After hearing this song on the Cracked podcast a couple weeks ago, I can say that I am a believer now. "Runaway" is clearly a meticulously crafted song which bucks popular music trends and actually tries to tackle serious topics, while remaining eminently listen-able. I looked up the reception of the song out of curiosity, and saw that most people were tying it to Kanye's (at the time) new-found fall from the public grace as an apology. While that may be a valid interpretation, I think that the song is arguably more important as a message against men who blame all of their own faults on women, who they view as little more than objects of self-gratification. It's a pretty perfect fit for this blog and playlist as a result, and I just can't stop listening to it.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Prime Ministorial Deathmatch: Part One

Note: I would hope that it goes without saying, but just in case, everything in this post is meant to be taken a satire.

As I mentioned in my last post, it's election period here in Canada. If you live here, then by now you have no doubt been bombarded with campaign rhetoric, attack ads and are no doubt sick of it already. However, I am well aware of what the real question on all of your minds is: which of these potential prime ministers would emerge victorious in a no-holds-barred death match? Luckily you have me, a self-accredited expert on theoretical gladiator showdowns, to help solve this question! So without further ado, let's check up on our candidates...


Name: Stephen "Dream Crusher" Harper
Age: 56
Party: Conservatives
Fighting Style: Patient, Dirty
Notes: Current national champion, possibly a robot

First up is the current reigning champion, Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Notorious for being a bit of a boring and unemotional prime minister, Stephen Harper is simply hyper-aware of his image and branding. As a result, he has displayed basically no weakness through his career as a prime-minister-by-day, death-battler-by-night. However, the same cannot be said for his support staff, which have plagued Harper's reign with scandal after scandal. Thus far, Harper himself has always come through with clean hands, but this shows a few aspects of his personality in battle: he has poor choice in friends and so is basically going to be fighting solo and he is devious enough to set up fall guys to make himself appear flawless.

Harper's career has demonstrated that, no matter how bad the situation looks for him, he should never be counted out. In 2008, when it appeared that the Conservatives would be defeated by a Liberal-NDP coalition government, Harper managed to prorogue parliament to prevent this from happening. This also shows that he likes to play the long game: as a result of the prorogation, the Liberals and NDP began to squabble and the opposition was soon fractured, putting Harper into an even stronger position. He has also destroyed opponent after opponent from the Liberal party, annihilating Paul Martin, Stephan Dion and Michael Ignatief with little effort, which goes so way to showing how dangerous a death battler Harper is. Oh, and all of this in spite of his support staff's scandals which were occurring at the time.

Of the three combatants, Harper is the only with any experience as a champion, and he knows exactly what it takes to stay on top. Despite one of his opponents being both a politician AND a lawyer, Harper is definitely the dirtiest fighter of our three combatants, hurling verbal attacks at his opponents long before the campaign even started and retaining power through underhanded means. As we've seen though, this is his way of prodding his opponents to seek out weakness. Harper is more of a turtling combatant who usually waits until his opponents destroy each other before going on the offensive. As soon as he sniffs out a weakness he'll attack mercilessly. However, he also is a solo fighter: he can't rely on his support staff at all because they constantly undermine him, so expect no help from this quarter. Oh and also, if those accusations about him being a robot are true, then that will no doubt be a boon in the arena.


Name: Thomas "Raging Bull" Mulcair
Age: 60
Party: New Democratic Party
Fighting Style: Aggressive
Notes: Epic beard powers

Secondly, we have the official opposition leader, Thomas Mulcair. With his barrel chest, epic beard and “explosive, spittle-specked rages”, Thomas Mulcair comes across as the most physically imposing deathmatch candidate - and this is also in spite of being the oldest as well. From what I have found, he also seems to have the most "humble" origin of the three candidates, being born into a huge middle-class family and having to work construction to pay his way through law school. While there's some conjecture involved to figure out how the other candidates will overcome their opponents, Mulcair's clear physical superiority should mean that he can always just overpower them. He has also been described as a "pit bull" in politics - a descriptor which I can only assume also applies to his jaw strength (or perhaps they think he's a very lovely family companion who would never hurt anyone).

Mulcair was the spearpoint in the current NDP take-over of Quebec, which was the main reason why the NDP has managed to become the official opposition in the last few years. More impressively, Mulcair managed to do so by usurping a riding which was considered a Liberal party stronghold. This descriptor of him taking down a Liberal stronghold against all odds suggests to me that Muclair is basically Solid Snake. However, Mulcair happens to be a bit of a wildcard. While he is the leader of the NDP, he achieved this position after the death of Jack Layton shortly following the last election. He has had quite a successful political career thus far and has demonstrated confident leadership in his short time in the federal spotlight, which sets him up as a far better bet than Justin Trudeau, but still has yet to prove himself in the more competitive arena against Stephen Harper. On the other hand, the death of Jack Layton means that Muclair will want to avenge his mentor, giving him some powerful motivation.

Despite his temperament and being relatively untested at such a high level, Muclair's leadership over the last few years has assuaged some doubt about whether he can truly make it to the top. He is poised to be a real challenger to the current reigning champion, and there's little he'd love more than to slay his opponents with his bare hands. If there's one thing that Mulcair has demonstrated, it's that if you punch a brick wall and it hasn't broken, then you just haven't punched it enough yet.


Name: Justin Trudeau
Age: 43
Party: Liberals
Fighting Style: Unpredictable
Notes: Youthful enthusiasm, not beyond using performance enhancers

Lastly, we have the political rock star, Justin Trudeau. After nearly a decade of being destroyed by Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, the Liberals looked for a chosen one. Sooth-sayers whispered of a prophecy of a young man who would lead their party to glory once again. They thought back to the "good old days", when they were political gods led by the divisive Pierre Trudeau. But then, lo and behold! A man came to them and soon people were promising a Second Coming. Party leadership bowed down to advance the one they had decided was their prophesied hero, the Son of Trudeau.

The Liberals have a lot riding on Justin Trudeau. While he is their most popular leader in the court of public opinion in quite some time, he is still a major darkhorse in the political arena... and not to mention the deathmatch arena. His primary competitor during the Liberal leadership race was Marc Garneau - a freaking astronaut who would very likely defeat both Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair in a deathmatch by himself. However, Justin Trudeau is more of a wildcard. At 43, he is the youngest candidate by a very wide margin, which gives him a slight advantage for vitality, but also hurts him in terms of his limited experience. He is also a teacher by profession and an art student, which unfortunately doesn't really help when you're battling for your life in a blood-stained pit (unless he picked up some great survival tips from The Hunger Games).

Despite his seemingly weak credentials though, Justin Trudeau has proven that he can take a blow. Stephen Harper has been slinging accusations of incompetence at Justin Trudeau since before the election campaign began, and Trudeau has shrugged them off with class. This suggests that Trudeau is level-headed and more intelligent than we give him credit for. It also demonstrates that our current reigning champion is most afraid of Trudeau, which is an interesting power assessment. Harper has also tried to bring him down by letting the public know that Trudeau smoked pot in the past, but Trudeau shrugged this one off with ease. In fact, his public opinion actually went up after this came to light. This shows that Trudeau is the realistic "people's fighter", who doesn't concern himself with the dirty world of political battles. Plus it also demonstrates to me that Trudeau isn't beyond using performance enhancing drugs to his advantage, like a super-powered Tony Montana.

If nothing else, Trudeau is an unpredictable element which will shake up the deathmatch significantly. He could be a dark horse victory, or he could fizzle out very quickly. Harper seems to be gunning for him most of all, which puts his chances in jeopardy, but Trudeau has also gone on record saying that he won't cooperate with Mulcair, which makes things even more difficult for him. Furthermore, he is also likely going to focus his attention on bringing down Mulcair, which could give Harper the chance to take them both out. Trudeau is definitely the unpredictable element in this battle - the Brad Wong or Dampierre of the match, if you will.


So now that you're familiar with the combatants, be sure to tune in for Part 2 early next week when I pit them against one another in a no-holds-barred fight to the death! Who will claim the real prize this election period, the elusive title of deathmatch champion of Canada? Only one can claim the crown!