Wednesday, 30 March 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 30/03/2016


So, we're going totally random this week. I have often wondered if rates of university education are going to nosedive in the next generation. The reasons I wonder this are many:
  1. Between my parents' generation and my own, universities (and, in a related fashion, governments) have become increasingly more and more structurally-neoliberal. This has resulted in more business-like universities, which have had their tuition shoot up at a rate higher than that of inflation and has resulted in various cost-cutting measures. For example, most of the "professors" who I was taught by were actually "contract instructors" and doctorate students, which are obviously significantly cheaper to employ. The main thing to take away here though is that university is more expensive now than it was even 20 years ago, even when compensating for inflation. Unless there's some sort of government action, it is likely that profit-minded universities will be even more comparatively-expensive by the next generation. Which brings me to my next point...
  2. There is a constantly expanding wage gap and shrinking middle-class in Canada and the US. When taking into account the expectation that tuition costs will likely be even more expensive for the next generation, and the likelihood that there will be a smaller portion of the population capable of paying their way into higher education, it would seem likely to me that university enrolment is likely to become more of an "elite" status thing. Of course, the remaining middle-class and even some hard-working lower-class individuals could try to afford it and even take out loans, but that brings me to arguably my most important thought...
  3. For my parents' generation, you could conceivably go to university, take whatever the hell you want and then have a job waiting for you when you were done. However, the reality these days is that you're probably not going to find any sort of job opportunity as soon as you're done school. Naively, I just kind of thought that if I got a degree, it'd give me a good edge in the job market. However, as I got into my 4th year, I realized that there are a lot of people out there in the job market with degrees, and if you really want to stand out then you're going to need a college diploma as well, and at least a few years of experience in your field. I feel that our parents and our generation are slowly building up the realization that university is no longer the safe bet that it once was in terms of landing work, and worse, it could land you in crippling debt for years afterwards. Naturally, school is not just about what sort of work you get out of it (I for one know that my university experience helped me mature significantly and made me into a much better person than I was going in), but I think that our generation is likely going to have a much more sour tone towards post-secondary education, which could result in advising our children away from it unless they really need it.
On a related subject, I also wonder if the rising prices of tuition, and inflation rates in general, might have something to do with the ease at which one can acquire credit these days. Now I'm not an economist by any means, so take this with a grain of salt, but these things I have been wondering. After all, if everyone had to buy a car with the money that they had on hand and saved, their prices theoretically would be significantly lower (as would the labour costs and various other steps involved with them). Naturally, the actual cost of manufacturing the object has to be taken into account, but I have a hard time believing that credit hasn't played a major role in the current cost of living and the sky-high costs of housing in many areas. Plus I wouldn't be surprised if it was a factor in the growing wage gaps, since creditors are always going to get paid one way or another.


Anyway... fitting with the random subject matter this week, I picked a couple songs I'm into at the moment just for the hell of it. First up is "Jerry Was a Racecar Driver" by Primus, and "Devour" by Shinedown. Not really bands (or even songs) that I listen to all that often, but I was feeling it this week so I hope you enjoy.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Rebuttal: Easter Special + DOAX3 I-Told-You-So

Happy Easter everyone! Unlike Christmas, Easter seems to be that holiday which Christian conservatives don't seem to shove the "true meaning" of into our faces incessantly, for whatever reason. Of course, to pick up the slack, the neo-pagans have to get their word in:


Sigh... I know there's a common conception that religious people are anti-intellectual and can't accept facts, but it can be easy to forget that if you're going to be pushing for paganism or atheism, then you have to do a quick Snopes check first. Beyond that, I think every Christian who celebrates Easter goes "why the hell do we symbolize this celebration with eggs and rabbits?", it's not like they thought that there was an actual religious significance to it.

There's a similar vein running with that long-debunked nonsense that the gospels are ripped off from the mythology of Horus (or Mithras, or various other pagan gods depending on who is telling the tale this time). That is, of course, the problem with the Internet and the spreading of disinformation. If you've never watched CGP Grey's "This Video Will Make You Angry", then I would definitely recommend it as it explains the psychology of Internet communities and outrage culture extremely effectively.

The mention of Constantine was also rather interesting in that meme, as neo-pagans seem to have a really odd fixation on him:


Perhaps neo-pagans are salty about Constantine effectively ushering in the end of the biggest pagan empire? Do they wish that the modern world's religious demographics were overwhelmingly pagan (after all, no Christianity also means that Islam would be non-existent or wildly different, effectively eliminating 2/3 of the current world's religious allegiance)? Do they long for a day where the social conservatives are harping on about "In gods we trust!" and marginalizing those weird monotheistic Christian people which are popular amongst filthy hippies? I can't help but feel that this line of thinking would be rather... vindictive and petty.


On a completely different topic, I put out a pair of posts a few months ago responding to the idiotic Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 "controversy" drummed up by people who freak out whenever someone says "SJW" (hmm... on second thought, this ties into "This Video Will Make You Angry" perfectly... seriously, watch it). Well the game is finally out and PlayAsia's ploy seems to have worked well, as they're raking in the cash importing copies of the game overseas to silly dumbasses who still think that us SJWs will give a shit.

As you might remember, my biggest criticism during the "controversy" was not so much that the game was sexist, but that the game was going to be a steaming pile of crap:
I can guarantee you that DOAX3 is not worth your outrage. I seriously question how many of these angry people have actually played a DOAX game, because they are utter shit. For a laugh, I tried out Dead or Alive Paradise, and it was absolutely wretched. If all you wanted to do is oogle girls in bikinis, you should realize that that is barely a feature in the game. Most of what you do is boring menu-based busywork until you decide to play a minigame for about 30 seconds. It has more in common with dating games than you would expect. Now obviously there is a certain niche market for that kind of game, which is fine, but I doubt that they're the ones doing the bulk of the complaining here. The extremely creepy tone and general pervy-ness are just a veneer over a husk of a game which very quickly goes sour. [...]
Well the reviews are in and from what I have read, DOAX3 is actually even more threadbare than previous entries in the franchise, having removed multiplayer, some of the mini-games and not making any real improvements on the stuff that stayed in (including apparent lag input on the pool hopping which existed in previous DOAX games, which rendered that activity practically unplayable). Of course, the graphics and physics have been praised, as they should be since that's obviously where all the effort went. Reviews have been arguably somewhat harsh (although some are ridiculously easy on the game), but the overall feeling seems to be that, at best, the game is incredibly niche. I'm extremely curious to see how many of the people who were whining during the controversy will pick this up, play for about 15 minutes and then go "wait, that's it?!" Considering that the people who complain about SJWs in gaming are also typically the "real true hardcore gamer" crowd, I can't see them getting much joy out of DOAX3.


Oh and if that wasn't enough, the game is actually even more cynically exploitative than even I was expecting:
Koei-Tecmo have demonstrated through DOA5:LR that DOAX3 is going to be packed full of many of the corporate practices that gamers have been rallying against for years now. If your favourite part of the old DOAX games was unlocking all the skimpy bikinis then prepare to be disappointed - DOAX3 is going to be a DLC factory. [...] Oh, and all of those characters who failed to make the cut for the game, including such main characters as Tina Armstrong and Lei Fang? They'll almost certainly be added in as DLC in the future as well.
While bikini DLC is still up in the air (at present there is only 1 in the store, but it seems like a 100% certainty that more will be added shortly) and upcoming DLC characters have been teased, I was not expecting Koei-Tecmo to introduce freaking microtransactions to the game. Apparently the game becomes a tedious grindfest as you do the same shallow mini-games over and over again to try to unlock anything worthwhile... unless you decide to spend real-world money (in a game which is already a full-priced release mind you), ranging from $6 to a whopping $190!!!! Just... why? You guys know that Youtube and Rule34 are things right? You don't need to buy this game to experience it, and Koei Tecmo certainly doesn't deserve to succeed with this game. As for you Team Ninja... can we just get Ninja Gaiden 4, please? At least make it better than Ninja Gaiden 3 and Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, and I'll be happy.

We get what we deserve, I guess. Sigh.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 23/03/2016

Whenever I go on long periods where the blog is only updated with Playlist updates (like it is right now), I feel kind of bad. I've been quite busy lately though, juggling an increased workload due to taking on a new position and getting into exam time with an online course for my job. Even my leisure time is squeezing out writing opportunities as I had to paint up a couple dozen models in anticipation for a Warhammer 40,000 tournament, plus find time to play Rainbow Six Siege and Fire Emblem Fates. Blogging has just been a fairly low priority for me at the moment unfortunately, even though I've got about a half dozen things I wouldn't mind writing about.


First of all is someone that I haven't bothered to write about yet... making me pretty much the only person with a blog who hasn't. That'd be Donald Trump in case you were still wondering. I never would have predicted that Trump would be a lock-in for the Republican leadership nomination, although I still think that the odds that he will win the presidency are close to impossible. However, I was thinking about Trump the other day and the ways that he has been identifying with his significant voter base. Aside from the obviously prickish white supremacists, sexists and assorted other crazies who simply like Trump's more unsavory aspects, the bulk of Trump's support seems to stem from his anti-establishment rhetoric. Basically, if the political system seems broken, then get an outlier to change it - kind of the opposite approach to the "if it ain't broke" axiom. Unfortunately, this is a pretty enormous gamble by the public, placing the leadership of a world superpower in the hands of an untested and ideologically-unpleasant individual just because they feel that they lack representation in the current system*.

These thoughts have brought me back to the opinion article I penned during the Canadian election, that politics are a game, that the voter is being exploited and therefore we should have voter education for eligibility. Few "democracies" have a game more tried and tested than the American political system, so it's little wonder that the Republican party has essentially imploded in such a manner as the voters turn on the establishment which has consistently shown contempt for their opinions. That said, considering that people have turn to Trump (whose own statements can legitimately and justly compare him to Hitler's politics without any of the political bullshit that usually follows that sort of comparison), you have to question the merits of a system like this. I mean on the one hand, sure this is what "the people" seem to want, but that doesn't always mean that it's the "right" approach to take, especially in the long term. I'm very hesitant to say that I support a oligarchical system, but every time I look at democracy lately it just pushes me further and further in that direction.

Then again, I have an extremely morbid curiosity to see what a Trump Presidency would look like, so it'll be interesting to see if he can continue to pull off his upsets at every turn. At least it's not my country which will have to deal with it. USA! USA!


On a related topic, this morning I had a rather irritating conversation with my father. He was watching the Stingray Music Channel and a song by "Average White Band" came on, which prompted him to say "oh, you couldn't name a band that anymore, everything has to be politically correct." I said "eh, I figure you could get away with that without too much fuss." He replied "you couldn't name them 'Average Black Band', everything has to be politically correct." Again, I said "I don't figure that would cause much fuss," to which he once again replied "everything these days has to be politically correct". Attempting to argue with my father can be exasperating at times, but that's besides the point** - is there anything "politically incorrect" about just mentioning race? As usual around these parts, it's all about the context of course. If they called themselves "Average Black Band" and then made a bunch of songs about how stupid/awful black people are, then sure they're definitely deserving of some scorn. However, it seems like these days there are more complaints about political correctness as an idea than there are actual cases of legitimately overzealous political correctness. In fact, from my experience (and that of my friends as well), those harping the anti-political correctness agenda the most just seem to be just assholes who are annoyed that they get called out for being homophobic/racist/etc. This seems to be coming to a head with Trump as well, as I know my father has said that the one thing he likes about Trump is that he's not politically correct... as if that is something which should qualify someone for the presidency.

Of course, there will always be someone complaining about any sort of opinion - and not just from "those butthurt SJW-types". If you get a massive group of people telling you to stop being an asshole though, then maybe at least give them a moment's consideration to see if there might be something to what they're saying. Think about what as you check out this week's picks, "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vidda" by Iron Butterfly and "December Flower" by Sleeping Romance.

(EDIT) Oh hey looked, Cracked sums me up perfectly once again!

*That said, I'll take Trump over Cruz any day.
**In fact, after looking up "Average White Band", plus "politically correct" and "offensive", I found absolutely zero hits on the first pages of people complaining about the name.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 16/03/2016


I'm absolutely loving Jim Sterling's new podcast, the Spinoff Doctors, where Jim Sterling and Conrad Zimmerman skewer video game movies. The most recent entry was for the 2007 Hitman film, which was disappointingly terrible. However, in the process of watching it I started thinking "man, this feels like a Skip Woods movie..." For the uninitiated, Skip Woods is a screenwriter responsible for some notoriously bad films, such as X-Men Origins: Wolverine and A Good Day to Die Hard. In addition to those 2 turds, I have also seen one of his "smaller" efforts, Sabotage, which was pretty much nonsense.

Anyway, as soon as the credits started rolling on Hitman, I checked the credits and it turns out that I had forgotten that this was indeed one of Skip Woods' earlier screenwriting duties. I've seen 4 of Skip Woods' movies now and they have been universally wretched, but the man himself has some very interesting elements which make me want to write about him. I might see about writing up a little analysis post about Skip Woods here sometime in the near future. After all, when you have to ask whether a major Hollywood screenwriter is even a real person, you know that there's something up.


Oh, and speaking of awful writers, first up this week is "The Wrong Side of Heaven" by Five Finger Death Punch. Now to be fair, this is definitely one of their better songs. It's not exceptionally well-written, but it is solid and far from the bro-metal misogyny, angst and whining which typically exemplifies FFDP's catalogue. My second pick this week shows how you can pull off angst effectively and without sounding like a spoiled brat, with "React / Regret" by A Feast for Kings. I am still holding out hope that XXI will go back to their metalcore roots after the tepid reception of their debut album Inside Out. It was an okay debut, but it was severely lacking the punch that their previous EP, Hell on Earth, provided in spades, and even lacked the power of the "Memories" single.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 09/03/2016


I've got to say, I have been looking forward to this playlist update for a while now. The reason for that is because I have REALLY gotten into Iron Maiden's discography now and have been listening to their music pretty much every day lately. In fact, narrowing down to just one song from them this week was hard enough. In the end though, I decided to settle on the title track from arguably my favourite Maiden album, "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son". This album just exemplifies what I love so much about Iron Maiden, the sweeping epics, the tackling of simple (but deep) themes and some absolutely killer guitar solos. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son seems to get overlooked in favour of more of the "classic" Maiden albums (Piece of Mind, Killers, The Number of the Beast, Powerslave, etc), but for my money it's criminally underrated. That said, it also demonstrates just how deep Iron Maiden's discography is. Seriously, if you aren't listening to them already, the damn well do it.


I also knew that I wanted to play some Showbread this week. I initially was going to go with "Dear John Piper", but with all the insanity going on in the States at the moment due to the nomination process, another song really jumped out at me. "I'm Afraid That I'm Me" might be Showbread's best song that encapsulates the political religiosity of American evangelicalism:

"Lately I have found frustration among the incongruence / a movement of peasants and pacifists drowning in patriotic affluence / I feel as though I should do something but I'm staggered by the ramifications / they've baptized the empire into the church and heralded its sanctification"

"'Blessed are the meek' succumbs to 'might makes right' / "turn the other cheek" succumbs to pre-emptive strike / "love your enemies" is fossilized beneath the frozen tundra / and 'blessed are the poor in spirit' is devoured by 'God bless America'.

You file the children into the classrooms, make them stand and say an oath / and when we ask 'should I love God or my country?' / you smile and tell us 'both.' / We've hidden the God we claim we serve and driven him beneath the floorboards / but I can still hear this still, small voice / and i can't take it anymore"

What else can I say? For all the political and religious commentary, it's clearly a very deserving song to add to the IC2S Playlist.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 02/03/2016


I saw The Witch in theatres this weekend, and it was a bit of a strange experience. On the one hand, it was really well shot and directed, turning the New England countryside into an incredibly dark and foreboding landscape. The horror elements also are very classically-styled, with long build-up and a tense score doing wonders to make the film's horror-moments very unsettling. There were also some great performances, even by some of the younger actors.

Oddly enough, it seems like the sort of film that you'd have the most appreciation for if you have at least a passing familiarity with early American colonial literature. I'm sure that any horror fan can appreciate much of the movie, but some of the stranger elements might not make a ton of sense if you don't at least understand Puritan beliefs and folklore (and the ending in particular). Stuff like cabals of witches in the woods, the devil taking form and hiding amongst us, the idea that God was an angry, vengeful monster looking for an excuse to damn you, witches kidnapping children and turning them into paste, the garrison mentality, etc - the film hews very closely to the folklore of the time, which is a very interesting idea, although it does weaken the narrative somewhat (again, particularly the ending). It's one of those movies that I wasn't sure what to think at first, but a couple days out I'm growing quite an appreciation for it.

On the entirely different side of the spectrum of quality though, the day after that I saw Street Fighter: The Movie for the first time. Similarly to Troll 2, it was so bad it was hilariously entertaining. I know it's kind of a cliche at this point to praise Raul Julia's performance as M Bison, but he was so deliciously campy and over-the-top. The film is objectively terrible, bloated with too many thinly-sketched characters and poorly-edited action scenes, but Julia manages to single-handedly make the film worth watching with his intentionally-hammy performance.


My selections for this week have basically nothing to do with any of that, aside from the fact that they continue my recent theme of songs which are extremely different from one another. On the one hand, we have the ethereal and subdued rock classic "Riders on the Storm" by The Doors, and on the other we have "Beyond the Grave" by Impending Doom, a death metal tune that compels you to scream along with it with your fist pumped.

Also, HOLY SHIT, HOLY SHIT, HOLY SHIT, Impending Doom finally updated their Spotify library, meaning that I can now use tracks from their 2 best albums, Baptized in Filth and Death Will Reign. Expect to see a lot more from them!