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.