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.

Please follow and like us:

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.

Please follow and like us:

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.

Please follow and like us:

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.

Please follow and like us:

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!

Please follow and like us:

The Rebuttal: Context 101

It’s that time again – another round of The Rebuttal! I’ve had lots of content to pick through, but since I don’t want every installment of The Rebuttal to be about me making fun of the same men’s rights activist, we’re going to shake it up just a little bit. In honour of #OscarsSoWhite, I present this little gem:

Hoo boy, I’ve got a few thoughts on this one. First of all, this feels like the sort of thing a white 16-year-old just starting to wrestle with the concepts of privilege and the disadvantaged might put together and then deeply regret in a few years when they start to get a better idea of how the world works. It’s pretty emblematic of the mid-90s-to-late-2000s liberal ideal of “colour blindness”, where us white, middle-class folks decided that racism was finally over and we can start focusing on other things. Naturally, the last few years have demonstrated very visibly that this was simply a wishful fantasy and that racism (and sexism for that matter) is still ingrained deeply within society at an institutional level, and until that is addressed, things won’t get much better.

For my own part, growing up I thought that Nazis and literal racists were a thing of the past*. However, in just the last week I have encountered and sparred with an honest-to-God white supremacist. I have already documented some encounters with a self-described “humanist” with some decidedly toxic views on women, gays, trans-people and minorities. I see all sorts of modern misogyny and racism on We Hunted the Mammoth on a daily basis. Hell, one could make the very realistic argument that a white supremacist is the frontrunner for the Republican party this year. The progressive backlash has gotten louder and more visible in the last few years, and so now more than ever we need to identify it and try to treat this ideological cancer before it can gain any sort of social traction.

The other thing that’s making me think that the person who made this is only around 16-years-old is because their examples are pretty freaking weak. I know they’re attempting to establish a double-standard, but I don’t see either of the given examples as being particularly sexist or racist. Maybe that’s just me, but that just highlights one of the major issues with this image: both a lack of context, and a lack of understanding of context.

First of all, “you boys/girls are stupid” is not a sexist statement in itself, but the context is going to be really important if you want to make the argument that it is. Like, what caused the statement? Is it a blanket statement regarding the person’s sex/race? Was their shitty opinion based on prejudice? Or are they just saying that they think that this particular individual is stupid based on some prior experiences? It’s basically impossible to pass a judgement of sexism/racism on this situation without some real context.

Secondly, the authour has a severe lack of understanding of context. Let’s just assume that the example statements did have a sexist/racist intent. In such a case then it is important to point out the prejudice in the person’s statement because they’re being much more than just a “big ol’ meanie”. If they’re being a racist/sexist prick, then there is some sort of underlying prejudice which is causing them to formulate a negative, dehumanizing picture of people, and one which needs to be identified, addressed and eliminated from society. It’s almost like the authour doesn’t realize that this is the case, as if they think that racism/sexism is just a synonym for being mean which only applies to certain people.

Don’t get me wrong though – being nice to everyone is ideal. I hope that at some point we can actually reach this state. However, the issue is that there are ingrained prejudices which make this obviously-ideal philosophy untenable in practice. Furthermore, much like humanism, egalitarianism, free speech and #GamerGate, this sort of ideal is co-opted by racists, sexists, homophobes and various other unsavoury groups which pollute the term and destroy any sort of attempt at using it as an actual platform for positive social change. It’s a great individual philosophy to internalize and pass on to others, but the authour has to realize that you’re targeting the wrong people – don’t target the people pointing out inequalities, target the assholes in society who make things worse for all of us.

*This in spite of the fact that in one of my earliest years in school, a black kid had joined our class. When my mom asked me what I thought of him, I snarkily and defiantly declared “I don’t like blacks.” I was probably 6 or 7 years old and had never encountered a non-white person before. Suffice to say, the smack that I received from my mother was well-deserved, and it’s easily one of my most shameful memories. However, it has been a source of some pondering for me – what caused me to be such a racist prick of a kid? I think it was down to “he’s different, and I don’t like things that are different”, which makes me kind of concerned for all the people who grew up around me in a town which has been called “the whitest town in all of Ontario”.

Please follow and like us:

IC2S Playlist Update 24/02/2016

Seeing how we’re just under 1 month away from the IC2S Playlist’s first anniversary, I think I’m going to switch up the format of the update since they’re basically the same boring stuff every week and, as a result, it can be pretty challenging to actually come up with anything meaningful to say. I’m going to try out a little more of an informal, blog-like structure which might actually be interesting to somebody to read, whether they’re actually going to listen to the playlist or not.

So the Dairy Queen recently reopened for the season here in my home town, which prompted a couple co-workers and I to play a visit on our lunch break. One of the co-workers was trying to annoy the other and asked me to put on some of my “weird” music (read: not country or pop). She wanted me to put on some Brian “Head” Welch which would have been pretty funny for me, but I knew that that probably be too much, so I figured I’d go for something a little more low-key… and by that I mean Andrew W.K., because I am horrible at gauging an audience when it comes to music…

Anyway, that’s how I discovered that some people apparently consider Andrew W.K. to be “screamo” music just because he yells on I Get Wet and The Wolf (never mind that his music is about partying and positivity, not angst and pessimism). I know that music taste is super-subjective, but I find it kind of incredible that someone around my age can be so musically-sheltered that they find Andrew-freaking-W.K. too extreme-sounding (let alone that he’s on the listener-friendly end of my musical spectrum, far away from Impending Doom or Book of Black Earth). Then again, they probably think I’m crazy for not listening to country music, so what do I know?

In honour of this, enjoy some more of my “weird screamo” music, in the form of “Burn” (In This Moment, Blood) and “Through the Fire and the Flames” (DragonForce, Inhuman Rampage). I get the feeling that, if you listen to the playlist already, then these should be basically lullabies compared to some of the stuff I’ve put on there.

Please follow and like us:

IC2S Playlist Update 17/02/2016

First up this week is “The Riddle” by Five For Fighting from the album Two Lights. There’s a responsible driving PSA which plays on Metal Rock Radio all the time featuring Five For Fighting’s lead singer, John Ondrasik. They play this song in the background of the PSA, and I recently started to want to hear the whole song. This led me on a hunt through most of Five For Fighting’s discography trying to find the song. It took me quite a while to find “The Riddle”, but it led me to the realization that I rather like Five For Fighting. Obviously I’m a person who skews more towards heavy music, but every once in a while I just feel like settling into something soft and hopeful. “The Riddle” is one of those songs which really fits that bill, it’s very optimistic and cheerful.

…and then on the other end of the spectrum, we have “I See Demons” by Book of Black Earth from their album The Cold Testament. I came across this band as a total fluke while searching for Iron Maiden’s awesome new album, The Book of Souls. While typing into the search bar, suddenly Spotify recommended Book of Black Earth. I was instantly intrigued, checked them out and was pretty impressed by what I heard. This experience underscores a couple lessons for me. First of all, free-listening music platforms, such as Spotify, have a ton of potential to introduce you to totally new music which you never would have come across via more conventional means (eg, the radio only plays a handful of genres and even internet radio doesn’t branch too much). This seems to work for producers as well, because I actually went and purchased a copy of The Cold Testament to show my support. The second lesson I learned was that, despite some opinions to the contrary, cover art is still super important in the digital age. I mean seriously, look at the cover for The Cold Testament. It’s freaking epic. As soon as I saw it I thought “this must be a really cool metal band” and was not disappointed.

Please follow and like us:

IC2S Playlist Update 10/02/2016

First up this week is “Killing Strangers” by Marilyn Manson from his newest album THE PALE EMPEROR. Basically the only reason I picked this song was because I had a pretty epic movie night double-feature with a friend with weekend which consisted of John Wick and Mad Max: Fury Road (probably my 2 favourite action movies of the past 7 years) back-to-back. As you can expect, it was an awesome night, but “Killing Strangers” was really sticking in my mind afterwards due to its main drum/bass rhythm.

This also got me thinking about my history with Marilyn Manson as an artist. As a kid growing up in an evangelical household, my only exposure to Manson was stories about how messed up he apparently was. For example, I heard that he took out a rib so that he could suck his own dick, and that he apparently tore up a puppy on stage once. As a result, I was under the impression that he was a satanist and that his music was vile, despite never having actually heard more than snippets of it. Of course, now that I’m older and wiser, I now realize that his strange persona and reputation was all tried and tested “shock rocker” marketing tactics, already perfected long before by Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper. Despite that, his shtick seems less cynical to me and more artistically genuine, as he put forth an interestingly androgynous look and his songs tend to have some impactful messages behind them. Having heard more of his music now, I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fan, but I have enjoyed most of what I have heard.

Secondly we have “Raining Blood” by Slayer from their album Reign in Blood. Slayer’s one of those essential metal bands which I find myself in the unfortunate position of not really liking all that much. Back in university I was really getting into Metallica and figured I’d expand further into thrash metal via Slayer. However, I soon found that I didn’t really care for their music all that much, with their faux-blasphemous style not endearing them to me all that much either. I probably need to give them another chance, but as it stands their only song I really enjoy is by far their most popular track, “Raining Blood”. This song used to be the bane of my existence in Guitar Hero III, which people seemed to always overlook in favour of the (admittedly brutal) “Through the Fire and the Flames” (which will probably be a future playlist pick).

Please follow and like us:

IC2S Playlist Update 03/02/2016

We have a couple updates this week before we get into the playlist selections. First of all, Countless Thousands’ Kickstarter is live and already funded. However, it got there through (at this point) only 36 backers, which is a crime considering how good this band is as far as I’m concerned. Check out their Kickstarter page, if only to read through it – a lot of love has obviously gone into crafting this campaign, and it shows because it is absolutely hilarious from start to finish.

Secondly, we’re getting awfully close to a year of the IC2S Playlist now – we’re now 11 weeks away from our 1 year anniversary, at which point I’m going to be making updates far more infrequent. We’re also over the 7 hour point now, although I imagine I can get it over 9 or 10 by the time we hit the end (I’ve been eyeing a pair of 18 minute songs for a while now).

Anyway, onto this week’s first selection, “Screwtape” by Living Sacrifice from the album Ghost Thief. I really enjoy the slow start to this song, it contrasts really well with Bruce Fitzhugh’s thunderous vocals. If I’m being honest, I have no idea what this song is about, but it sounds really cool and has some great musicianship on display… and there’s not much else to say but that. Enjoy it.

Next up we have “New Year’s Day ” by U2 from their album, War. The fact that I didn’t use this song to kick off 2016 was a major missed opportunity on my part. My favourite U2 song has changed many times over the years, but lately it seems to have settled on this track from War. For many years, I had only heard the radio edit version, which cuts out a good minute and a half of great guitar work and reduces “New Year’s Day” to a good, but unspectacular, song as far as I’m concerned. However, the full album version is just so much better, providing me with yet another reason why radio stations (particularly pop radio stations) suck.

Please follow and like us:

The Rebuttal: #MinifigLivesMatter

Oh looky, it’s time for another installment of The Rebuttal. What sort of dumbassery made its way into my Facebook feed this week? A friend of mine (we’ll call him Johnny) has an MRA/egalitarian friend, who made a ridiculous post this weekend. Johnny passed this post on to another friend of mine (we’ll call him Atlas), who then passed it on to me, knowing I’d enjoy it. Check it out:

Hoo boy… I’m not even going to bother going into his spurious claim that SJWs have “ruined” video games, STEM fields and have somehow destroyed every tech company… actually, wait, what the feth? Where the hell did he get that idea from? I assume that’s some sort of MRA talking-point, but for those of us not drinking the same Kool-Aid, the idea that SJWs are destroying tech companies sounds absolutely ridiculous. I didn’t really look into this very comprehensively, in part because it sounds like utter garbage, but the only site that I could find that was pushing this view was a damn pickup artist’s blog. Considering that I was searching for “women destroying tech companies”, you think that there would have been more results about women actually destroying the tech industry (in fact, most results showed how the tech industry is destroying itself via ridiculously long work hours… and by not hiring more women).

Anyway, getting back on track, I hadn’t heard any sort of SJW-types complaining about lack of diversity in LEGO, so I was curious if this was yet another case where a handful of complaints are conflated into a whole movement’s viewpoints. As a result, I came across this article which explains that LEGO decided to release their first wheelchair-bound minifig in an effort for more diversity. That is a fantastic move on LEGO’s part which has made many kids very happy, and has generally gotten a very positive reception. How can you possibly see this as a bad thing?

Let’s be charitable though. The original post alludes to Johnny’s friend not knowing the details of the situation, but just being annoyed by SJWs ruining everything. We all make those sorts of declarations without the full story. I mean, he’s not going to seriously advocate giving children with disabilities the middle finger, right…? Well, I wasn’t expecting this, but Atlas decided to sent Johnny the news article, which prompted Johnny to grill his friend for being overly-dramatic. His friend, unfortunately, doubled-down on his comments:

Sigh… First of all, he is relying heavily on the slippery slope logical fallacy* to try to make this seem like such a bad thing, but even then he’s on thin ice. So what if LEGO makes armless, trans (ooh, potential transphobia, nice!) or wolfkin minifigs? How is that going to “ruin” LEGO? Furthermore, it’s not like people can’t make armless, trans or even freaking literal werewolf LEGO characters already, so I’m not so sure that they’d even bother to acknowledge them. Either way though, this is the whole reason why LEGO is so amazing to begin with – it’s a blank slate which promotes creativity. Giving a paraplegic child an avatar with which to live out his fantasies as a hero with a disability is both empowering and absolutely awesome. LEGO is all about giving people the ability to live out their fantasy worlds, and I say the more people we can bring in under that umbrella, the better.

As usual, the real issue is that Johnny’s friend is deep in an ideological framework and the world is completely filtered through that lens (which is made worse by the fact that he subscribes to news sources which fuel this world view). He thinks that SJW-types have ruined all forms of entertainment (they simply haven’t, full-stop), or that “not being a prick” is not only self-censorship, but a truly henious thing. For an idea of why he thinks this, it’s worth mentioning that he is also seriously under the delusion that the disadvantaged have leveraged their status and supplanted white men as the real power within society.

Oh, and by the way, Johnny’s friend considers himself to be an “egalitarian”… which should more-or-less put to bed the argument that “feminists should try being more egalitarian!” Egalitarianism as a movement has been co-opted by MRAs and various other hateful organizations which have become deluded enough to believe that they have become the truly disadvantaged group within society. From that particular mindset, this is a reasonable view, but to anyone else… well, egalitarianism my ass. To all those who are stuck in such a mindset, I can only hope that you can one day you acquire the ability to take a step back and maybe admit that you were wrong.

To finish up, I’ve been ignoring the Taken reference this whole time because it is just your typical Internet tough guy, dick-wagging bullshit. Oh, you’re going to troll and debunk all of us SJW-types with your “egalitarian” knowledge? Well there’s only one thing I can say to that…

Good luck.

Somehow I think it’s going to work out better for me than it did for Marco from Tropoja though.

*Normally I hate throwing around accusations of logical fallacies when arguing with someone as they are often used the way “check your privilege” is, as a tactic to shut down an opponents’ argument without actually having to address it. However, in our one previous confrontation, Johnny’s friend was slinging logical fallacy accusations at me, so I figure that he more or less has it coming. Not to mention that his logical fallacy accusations were very strenuous (eg, he claimed that saying that I thought that most feminists would agree with me on something was a “No True Scotsman” claim, which it clearly is not, as I didn’t say “those who disagree with me are not true feminists”… and then he claimed that Reddit MRAs are not true MRAs and tried to explain that such a view was not a No True Scotsman fallacy… yeah).

Please follow and like us:

IC2S Playlist Update 27/01/2016

First up this week is “Fickle” by Countless Thousands, yet another song from their debut album We’re Just Really Excited to Be Here. I really enjoy this song because it’s just so enthusiastic, but that’s not the only reason I chose it for this week’s playlist entry – Countless Thousands are also launching their first Kickstarter campaign this week! As you can probably tell, I really love their music and am definitely going to be backing this one as soon as I can. I will post a link to the campaign on the blog sometime after it goes live (probably at the start of next week’s playlist update).

Secondly, we have “The Sound of Failure / It’s Dark… Is It Always This Dark??” by The Flaming Lips from their album At War With the Mystics. The Flaming Lips have a real talent for making really unorthodox songs sound awesome, and “The Sound of Failure” is one of my favourites. It’s also one of their longer songs, which naturally draws me towards it a little more. It’s also one of their more depressing songs – The Flaming Lips tend to be rather quirky and optimistic, but At War With the Mystics was definitely more of a depressing album (eg, “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song”, “Mr. Ambulence Driver”, “Vein of Stars”, etc).

…and with that, the IC2S Playlist now has over 7 hours of music! Wow, it’s hard to believe that I’ve managed to take it that long in less than a year, but that’s how it is. I have no idea if anyone other than myself has actually listened to it, but either way I enjoy throwing it on shuffle at work every once in a while.

Please follow and like us:

#OscarsSoWhite: Why We Need to Learn to Pick Our Battles

If you’ve read even a couple of my posts on this blog, then you’re probably aware that I’m a staunchly left-leaning “SJW”-type person. However, with that in mind, I am absolutely sick of the “#OscarsSoWhite” controversy which has been dominating the news cycle for the last week. Initially I was fine with it – it is certainly odd that we haven’t had a non-white acting nominee in 2 straight years now, which is a situation which is certainly ripe for discussion. However, my problem is that the prevailing discussion soon turned towards the Academy itself being racist by not choosing any black actors, which is really straining things as far as I’m concerned. Thankfully, Mark Gollom posted this very good article on CBC which covers all of the things I have been pointing out since this story first broke. In light of this, I think it’s finally time for me to throw in my hat as well on this story.

First of all, it has to be said that the real “objective” importance of the Oscars is ridiculously overstated. It is certainly the most visible stage for film appraisal, but not winning or getting nominated is only really important for the financial incentives and exposure it provides. The “best” movies or actors in a given year is an incredibly subjective question, and I’m certain that the average moviegoer’s list would look absolutely nothing like what the Academy comes up with most years. The fact that Mad Max: Fury Road made the shortlist this year is nothing short of a minor miracle, as it doesn’t fit the “Oscar-bait” mold which most nominees must adhere to in order to stand a chance.

Furthermore, many deserving actors get snubbed every year and it always causes some kind of backlash. Will Smith and Michael B Jordan didn’t really have a lot of buzz going their way, especially in comparison to the actors who did make the extremely-limited slate. Furthermore, Idris Elba was never going to get nominated, and that is down to film-making politics – Beasts of No Nation is breaking the “established rules” of film distribution, so like TRON‘s visual effects snub, it was never going to be recognized by the Academy. Compared to last year, these aren’t shocking at all, unlike the lack of major recognition for Selma, which left me absolutely flabbergasted, especially considering that it had some of the most positive buzz going into the awards (not to mention that most of the Oscar-bait from that year totally floundered).

#OscarsSoWhite activists need to start looking at the bigger picture if they want to solve this issue. They can start by directing their criticisms at Hollywood’s movie studios, which is where I would argue this whole Oscars racism issue stems from. Think about it – we have a severe lack of non-white actors because Hollywood studios think that there will be financial repercussions if they cast a minority in any major roles. This isn’t some sort of conspiracy, it’s just an attitude which has created some major inequality throughout the entire industry. At this point, it’s so obvious that it is basically a no-brainer. From not casting black actors in lead roles because “foreign people are racist and it’ll affect our bottom-line”, to the disgustingly frequent practice of white-washing characters because studios refuse to finance a movie without a bankable cast. Furthermore, it is believed that Selma was overlooked, not because of Academy racism and favouritism, but because of a lack of promotion:

Selma’s studio, Paramount, had mailed free DVD screeners to Oscar voters — but not to guild voters. Which raises the possibility that, with Selma having opened so late in the season, maybe not enough voters have seen it yet.”

This is just another look behind the curtain at the subjective nature of the Oscars. How the heck did Paramount not think that Selma was a legitimate Best Picture contender?

The final big issue here is that Will Smith and Michael B Jordan’s “snubbed” performances are in the Best Actor category, which is widely regarded as being one of the most competitive categories in the entire awards ceremony. Due to traditional wisdom in Hollywood favouring male leads, there are basically always going to be tons of Best Actor candidates. Furthermore, with Hollywood preferring white male leads in general, we end up with less bankable non-white actors, meaning that it’s significantly harder for an actor to get to the status of being competitive enough to actually stand a chance of getting a Best Actor nomination. In general, this sort of systemic favouritism of white males not only screws minorities throughout their entire careers, but it also is a prime factor for why women have a harder time making it in Hollywood as well.

In general, I think that #OscarsSoWhite is on the right track – there is certainly some very obvious cases of systemic racism within the film industry. However, by directing their efforts at the Academy, activists are missing out on the real root of the problem. We need to see studios and agents more willing to take risks on non-white actors, more diverse screenplays and casting, and more of a concerted effort to actually tell the stories of other people. Furthermore, we as the public need to continue to support films which do try to take these sorts of risks – Hollywood might finally be starting to understand, but it is going to take a very long time before a strong stable of talent is fostered instead of getting passed over.

Unfortunately, due to the current public discourse, all people are going to remember of this incident was that black people were playing the “race card” again to try to get ahead, even though there were legitimate issues to discuss. This is why I’m always telling us SJW-types to “pick your battles” intelligently, because the causes that we choose to fight for are arguably just as important as the actual messages in terms of public perception. If we want more people to sympathize with our causes, then they need to realize that what we’re saying is correct, rather than give them some dumbed-down talking point that any troglodite can disprove.

Please follow and like us:

Retrospective: Metal Gear Afterthoughts & Greatest Moments

AFTERTHOUGHTS
This has been quite a journey that we have embarked on. It literally took me months to complete all of the games in the franchise and, at times, felt like I had taken on a second job, but it was definitely a worthwhile experience which has given me a new appreciation of the franchise. Seeing how the gameplay has evolved and gotten more complex was very interesting, and actually improved the original Metal Gear Solid in quite a few ways for me (especially the key cards and backtracking which I found annoying in my first playthrough, but which are refreshing compared to previous games in the franchise). I also got to experience a few games that I had wanted to play but never actually got around to – namely, Metal Gear, Solid Snake and Rising.

It was also interesting to get a better look at the Metal Gear story. The franchise is notorious for having a supposedly “incomprehensible” story, but I have always found this to be a ridiculous assertion. The series’ overarching narrative is certainly extremely complex, convoluted and doesn’t make a lot of sense at times, but it isn’t all that hard to follow in each game. Also, considering that the overarching story was made up from game-to-game, it’s nothing short of a minor miracle that the story is as satisfying and reasonably coherent as it is, especially with the numerous retcons which have occurred in each new installment.

If I have time at some point in the future, I might also do a bonus review for the two Metal Gear Ac!d games, as they were both very fun and unique experiences. Other than those two games, Ghost Babel for the Game Boy Advance and Portable Ops Plus for the PSP are both ripe for a potential bonus retrospective… hell, maybe even Snake’s Revenge for the NES as well if I’m feeling extremely masochistic. We’ll see if any of these entries actually happen (I’m long overdue for an entry for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes for that franchise’s retrospective series), but perhaps one day. I’ll try not to say “Kept you waiting, huh?” though.

10 GREATEST MOMENTS IN THE METAL GEAR FRANCHISE
Here are, in my opinion, the 10 greatest moments in the entire franchise. They could be cutscenes, or gameplay twists or even epic boss battles: what matters is that they’re very memorable and/or extremely key to the overarching narrative.

Honourable mentions: Sniper Wolf’s death scene in Metal Gear Solid and the Raiden switcheroo in Sons of Liberty.

10) “I just don’t fear death.” (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)

For all my complaining about Raiden in Guns of the Patriots, this fight scene alone made his inclusion worthwhile. The sequence is well set-up: throughout Act II, Raiden is hinted as having a major return and our heroes get into severe peril. Then, when Raiden shows up, we’re not sure what’s going to happen – there’s something different about him, but can he really deal with that many Gekkos? As we soon discover though, he definitely can as we get treated to the most purely entertaining sequences in the entire franchise. The escalation is just fantastic too as suddenly Raiden is not only contending with Gekkos, but the immortal beast Vamp as well. The choreography and direction of the fight are the real highlights – it doesn’t serve a lot of story purpose, but it is extremely entertaining and memorable, to the point where an entire game was made and sold based on this exact sequence. Now that is impressive.

9) Gustava is Killed By Gray Fox (Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake)

Some people might prefer the fist fight with Gray Fox in the land mine field or Solid Snake’s confrontation with Big Boss, but to me there is no bigger story moment in Solid Snake than the death of Gustava. Despite the game’s extremely limited storytelling abilities and her short screentime, Gustava was an instantly-likable character. Her death on the rope bridge marks a major shift in the game’s narrative, as Gray Fox and Dr. Madnar both betray us and the game’s best character dies in our arms, regretting that politics kept her from being with the man she loved. Tragically, we later discover that that man was Gray Fox himself, who unwittingly killed his one true love. This causes Gray Fox’s own death to be somewhat hopeful, and his subsequent forced resurrection to be an even more horrific form of torture.

8) Shining Lights, Even in Death (Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain)

Even if The Phantom Pain is lacking in its narrative, it’s undeniable that this mission is incredibly powerful, and is a skillful weaving of narrative and gameplay mechanics to produce a truly emotional moment. As Venom Snake makes his way through the horrors in the quarantine zone, you might come across soldiers that you recognize – you recruited everyone here, they have all fallen sick, and you need to do something to rescue them. However, it soon becomes apparent that there is no cure and, worse, if something isn’t done, then an epidemic could get unleashed on the world. As a result, you are forced to gun down each and every one of your men. Most of them don’t fight back. Some call you a monster. Some of them beg you to do it, as they salute and hum the Peace Walker theme. Even when you think that you found one survivor, the hope is short lived as they are infected in mere moments. By the end of it all, you know that all of these men and women are dead because of you – by your own hand, because you brought them to Mother Base and in your service.

The subsequent cutscene just makes things even more powerful. Keifer Sutherland justifies his casting with a very emotional and tragic performance as Venom Snake tries to come to terms with his actions, culminating with a fantastic little monologue:

“I won’t scatter your sorrow to the heartless sea. I will always be with you. Plant your roots in me. I won’t see you end as ashes. You’re all diamonds.”

Furthermore, the ending of the game makes this sequence even more of a tragedy – you caused these men to die, but the only reason you were put into this position was because the person that you idolized was using you as an unwitting decoy in order to keep themselves safe. If Venom becomes evil between The Phantom Pain and the original Metal Gear, you can bet that this was a major contributing factor.

7) REX vs RAY (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)

Of all the pure fan service moments in Guns of the Patriots, the Metal Gear battle between REX and RAY is probably the most wildly enjoyable. It serves basically no story purpose (in fact, one could argue that it is ultimately detrimental to the game’s narrative in a few ways), but damn is it ever incredibly entertaining. I don’t think anyone ever expected to be able to pilot their own Metal Gear in one of these games, let alone use one to battle another Metal Gear. It’s a very fun, empowering and awe-inspiring sequence which is so purely entertaining that it’s easy to ignore how inherently silly it is.

6) “This Is Good, Isn’t It?” (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)

Big Boss is still alive. This is a rather insane reveal to work into the epilogue of Guns of the Patriots, but considering that the franchise has expanded to be the overarching stories of Big Boss and Solid Snake, it is even more appropriate to give him the proper send-off in retrospect. While this scene goes on just a little bit too long, it manages to end the franchise in an incredibly satisfying and conclusive way – The Patriots are gone for good, Big Boss finally comes to understand The Boss’s will, Big Boss and Solid Snake are able to reconcile as father and son, and Solid Snake regains his will to live and see out the last days of his life in peace. This is capped off with Big Boss’s final words to Snake as he smokes his last cigar: “This is good, isn’t it?”

5) “You Like Castlevania, don’t you?” (Metal Gear Solid)

I had considered not including this moment at all, but on further retrospection it occurred to me that this was really one of the formative moments in the franchise. For many gamers, having Psycho Mantis tear down the fourth wall and perform his parlour tricks was a massive shock. Suddenly this wasn’t just a normal video game, and Psycho Mantis wasn’t just a normal video game boss. The sheer amount of outside-of-the-box thinking required to both design and defeat Psycho Mantis makes the fight incredibly entertaining. While it has lost some of its lustre due to cultural familiarity eroding away the surprise of it all, it remains a very enjoyable experience to this day.

4) “I NEED SCISSORS! 61!” (Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty)

The Raiden switcheroo is the usual talking point when it comes to Sons of Liberty, but I recall fondly that Raiden’s naked romp through Arsenal Gear is the game’s real, truly important twist. Everyone knows about the Raiden switcheroo by now, but I imagine that there are still tons of people who will be playing Sons of Liberty and then be completely baffled as Raiden runs around naked, as the Colonel constantly calls Raiden with strange messages and as ninjas start appearing out of nowhere. And how many players put down their controllers in frustration when “Fission Mailed” showed up, before realizing that the game fooled them? Sons of Liberty really starts to jump off the deep end here, and does so in spectacularly, memorably absurd fashion.

3) Old Snake vs Liquid Ocelot (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)

As the final clash between the series’ main hero and its arch villain, the battle between Old Snake and Liquid Ocelot has a lot to live up to. Thankfully, it is one of the most distinctive boss battles in the entire franchise, as the two foes brutally pummel one another into submission. By the end, there isn’t even any dignity to the affair – it’s just two tired, old men beating one another to death for little purpose. It’s an incredibly sad and sobering affair which gets drawn out for quite some time, allowing us a chance to take in all of the trials we have been through with these characters.

2) “We Are Not Tools of the Government…” (Metal Gear Solid)

The death of Gray Fox in Metal Gear Solid is one of those major formative moments in a character’s development which can be clearly seen in subsequent games in the franchise. Throughout his life, Solid Snake is used as a tool by those above him, and he constantly fights back against this perception until he is able to achieve it. This moment is also called-back to by Solid Snake as a key part of Sons of Liberty‘s theme of “memes”, as he passes this idea on to Raiden, who internalizes the idea himself. In fact, within the universe of the game, this is likely a meme that was passed on to Gray Fox from Big Boss himself.

All of this in addition to being a very major moment in Metal Gear Solid itself, as Gray Fox sacrifices his life to save Solid Snake and give him the opportunity to destroy Metal Gear REX. In doing so, he demonstrates his friendship with Snake, and tries to atone for his lifetime of sins.

“We’re not tools of the government, or anyone else. Fighting was the only thing… the only thing I was good at. But… at least I always fought for what I believed in.”

1) The Ladder (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)

…just kidding.

1) “She Was a Real Hero. She Was a True Patriot.” (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)

The entire ending sequence of Snake Eater is by far the greatest moment in the entire franchise as far as I’m concerned. The showdown between Naked Snake and The Boss is already tragic, with the final trigger pull being a particularly heart-wrenching moment as the player musters up the fortitude to end The Boss’s life. That said, this all really comes into its own in the final series of cutscenes when Naked Snake discovers the truth of The Boss’s “defection”. Her defection was in fact a ploy to get close to Colonel Volgin and steal The Philosopher’s Legacy for the US government. However, The Boss soon realizes that in order to complete the mission and save the world, she will have to not only sacrifice her own life, but be remembered in history with disgrace. Considering that she has spent her entire life in service of her country, including giving up her only child and executing her lover, this is a despicable fate to befall such a noble woman. This revelation plants the seeds from which the rest of the conflicts in the franchise will grow, as her few disciples make misguided attempts to live up to her legacy.

“Snake, listen to me. She didn’t betray the United States. No, far from it. She was a hero who died for her country. She carried out her mission knowing full well what was going to happen. Self-sacrifice… because that was her duty. […] Out of duty, she turned her back on her own comrades. A lesser woman would have been crushed by such a burden. The taint of disgrace will follow her to her grave. Future generations will revile her: In America, as a despicable traitor with no sense of honor; and in Russia, as a monster who unleashed a nuclear catastrophe. She will go down in official history as a war criminal, and no one will ever understand her… that was her final mission. And like a true soldier, she saw it through the end. […] Snake, history will never know what she did. No one will ever learn the truth. Her story, her debriefing… will endure only in your heart. Everything she did, she did for her country. She sacrificed her life and her honor for her native land. She was a real hero. She was a true patriot.”

PERSONAL RANKINGS
1) Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater – 10/10
2) Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – 9.5/10
3) Metal Gear Solid – 9.5/10 (Literally the only reason that I have put this below The Phantom Pain is because it is a far less expansive and replayable experience, although for its time Metal Gear Solid was a SIGNIFICANTLY more important game.)
4) Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots – 9/10
5) Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty – 8.5/10
6) Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake – 8.5/10
7) Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker – 8/10
8) Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes – 7.5/10
9) Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance – 7/10
10) Metal Gear – 7/10
11) Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops – 6/10

Please follow and like us: