Calculate your chances...negative...negative...negative!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Clearance Rack Review: Parappa the Rapper PSP

This is a new thing I'm going to try to do every so often. Since I end up buying most of my games either used or on clearance, I'll probably be one of the last people to review them. So, with that, I bring you the Clearance Rack Review, an irregular column dedicated to reviewing games I've recently plucked from the clearance (or used) bin.

Game pundits often point to Final Fantasy VII as being the big system seller for the original PlayStation. Well, for me, the game that really sold me on Sony's original gray box was a cartoony game with a rapping dog called Parappa the Rapper. FFVII was pretty but basically more of the same in genre I really didn't care about. Parappa however, was new, novel and something that really couldn't have been done on the cartridge based, last generation systems.

The concept behind Parappa is simple. You are the titular hero of the game, a dog who must rap his way through six levels in order to win the affections of Sunny Funny, who is a flower. The way you rap is by pressing buttons on the controller in time with the music and a cursor on the screen. Sound familiar? As best I can tell, Parappa was the first game to combine the follow the leader concept behind Simon with music, thus creating the modern music game.

The story is weird but funny. Lots of personality is brought in by Rodney Greenblatt's artwork which forms the basis of the game. It's hard not to smile at the characters and things going on, even when you are doing poorly and things start getting really weird.

The songs, except for the final level, are memorable and easily the best in the series. The big problems is, there just aren't enough of them. Even back in 1997 when Parappa was first released, it was hardly packed with replay value. Today's gamer, more familiar with rhythm games, could probably finish Parappa under two hours after taking the shrink wrap off.

There are downloadable remixes (why they aren't already on the disc, I don't know) and an ad-hoc multiplayer mode that I haven't tired yet. Multiplayer would do a lot to give this game replay value and was the was the only way the sequel Um Jammer Lammy topped the original. Still, it might be tough to find someone else willing to play with you, as this game is starting to show it's age.

And speaking of Um Jammer Lammy, I can't think of any reason why that Parappa sequel wasn't included in this package. While it was a lesser game than Parappa, it was fun and would double the length of this very short game and lessen the sting for those who paid full retail.

Which brings me to my bottom line. I paid $15 for Parappa at Target. It took me a while to actually decide to buy it because I knew how short the game is and how little replay value there is. Nostalgia got the best of me that day. I still think the game is fun and worth playing, but I'm not sure how much is nostalgia (this game wrecked many a real band practices back in the day.) The additions are so minor, I think had this been a PSN download for $5 or so, it'd be a no-brainier. At half off, you really have to like it to buy it, but I'd only recommend paying full price to total music game addicts.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fair Use for Me, not for Thee.

According to the EFF, John McCain is getting a bunch of frivolous DMCA take down notices for YouTube videos from media corporations such as Fox and the Christian Broadcasting Company. A few weeks ago, the Obama camp was getting the same from NBC. The McCain campaign is claiming fair use, but the rights holders and YouTube don't seem to agree agree.

All politics aside, I'm glad to see the issue of fair use is finally starting to affect the people who could actually do something about it. I've long thought the terms of the DMCA are overreaching and useful concepts like fair use and public domain are being thrown by the wayside in the rush to give the big media corporations more and more rights.

The irony is double considering just this week Bush signed into law the PRO-IP bill creating an Intellectual Property Czar and increasing penalties for allegedly illegal use of intellectual property. According to a letter of decent from the Department of Justice the bill includes provisions whereby "taxpayer-supported Department lawyers would pursue lawsuits for copyright holders, with monetary recovery going to industry." Yet another instance of the federal government stepping in and not only granting more rights to the big media companies, but even taking a stake in insuring those rights by going after alleged infringement violators.

I wonder if the fact that both campaigns were hit with these things, when it seems like the news clips used were likely falling under fair use, might mean that whoever wins the election will take a look at the insanity of the DMCA and the way things are done currently. A dancing baby video with music playing in the background getting yanked might not be enough to get anyone to pay attention, but perhaps both sides losing videos in an election season might make these politicians see the importance of protecting fair use. Or, as soon as the election is over, this is all forgotten, big content lobbies for more legislation, which they get, and the cycle begins again in four years.

Yeah, I know which one I'd bet on.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Yuki Show Diary: 10/11/08 New Albany, IN

Again, I'm doing this after the fact, so bear with me.

We got asked to play this fest for the New Albanian Brewing Company. The whole situation was pretty sweet as we were paid in advance, they put us up at a hotel, fed us and the beer was free flowing. The only issue was getting there.

We'd thought we were playing at the brewery, but that turned out to not be the case. There was this Harvest Festival in downtown New Albany and we were playing kind of adjacent to that. Unfortunately, our contact didn't have a cell phone and the people at the brewery/restaurant weren't exactly the best with helping us out.

Actually, I lied when I said that was the only issue. We asked for backline as the largest vehicle we had was a Subaru, which we packed to capacity with gear and merch. Someone usually gets the short end of the stick on the backline and Saturday that was me. The kit was one drum and one cymbal stand shorter than what they said I'd have. The four piece kit, I can hang with, but I ended up playing with a high hat and one cymbal. The stand didn't even have a nylon sleeve on it, so I wasn't going to put my cymbal on there. Ended up using their cymbals, which were junk, but ended up being the least of my concern.

The biggest issue was, the heads on this kit were completely dished on both sides. Really, if I can just digress a moment, heads aren't that expensive, at least if you're not buying bass heads. When they get to the point were they are cratered like the moon and won't hold any tension anymore because they've been that stretched out, it's time to replace them. Flipping the drum over and doing the same thing to the resonant side head is not an acceptable substitute.

I tried to get as much as I could out of that set but, of course tuning was impossible as the heads were that shot. I ended up just cranking them down so I at least had some response, but half way through the set, they'd loosened back up. At least I was being miced so you could hear me as there's no way I'd have much volume with that pathetic setup.

Alright, so what about our set? Well, we played between a banjo playing one-man-band kind of thing and a band called Sativa Gumbo. Yeah. We went over better than I'd expected, and we played better than we had at the Mel the night before, but it really wasn't our audience. Still, by the time the flaming hoola hoop girls came on, we had a bit of a group at the stage.

Did I mention the flaming hoopers? They were supposed to do their thing before we played, but ended up not. We wanted to try to coordinate something with them, but didn't. Then, halfway through our set, we were told they were coming out. Sucks that we didn't have much notice (as there were better songs to do their thing to) and now the group that was up front watching us got pushed back as they roped off about 12 feet in front of the stage. Kind of buzz killed a bit, though we would have loved to work something out in advance with them. Maybe next time.

The show itself went well, with one exception. About halfway through, I had what I can only describe as a Stockdale VP debate moment. I knew what song was next, I obviously knew how to play it, but I just blanked out. I recovered, but it was really weird sitting there and feeling like I'd just forgotten why I was there. This is bothering me more than it probably should.

Checking out the next day, this kid with a chipped tooth and looking pretty rough asked me what I though of the Harvest Festival. I said I had a good time. He said there were too many fights. Looked to me like he hadn't won many of them. I'll take in to consideration his advise not to go to the skate park after dark.

We hit ear-X-tacy and this cool shop Ultra Pop! in Louisville on the round about way out of town. Ultra Pop! had this awesome Godzilla vinyl I really wanted, but I'm not quite readly to drop $175 on a toy. Yet.

Anyway, all in all a good time and I guess we're going back to play Louisville December 13th. Groovy.

EDIT: stumbled across a Flickr of photos from the show. Check it out here:

Monday, October 13, 2008

Yuki Show Diary: 10/10/08 Melody Inn

I'm writing this a few days after the fact, so forgive me if the memory is a little hazy. Anyway, we (meaning Yuki) played the late show at the Melody Inn with Red Light Driver and Small Arms Fire. RLD asked us to play, which was cool as I haven't heard them in a while. The show invitation gave us the motivation to get our CD done and all that, as we'd decided not to play a show until we had a CD to sell. Everything came together on the merch front, even though it was a little last minute. The CDs were ready and the shirts were down to the wire, but we got 'em. Groovy.

Alright. So I don't know for sure what happened on the promo front, but there was a good sized crowd for the show. We opened and ended up with a ton of people checking us out. Ended up selling a bunch of CDs and shirts and getting some really great feedback from people. Most often heard was the slightly backhanded compliment "I like this so much better than Svetlana." The intention was well meaning...

Our set went off alright. It's hard to get good sound on stage at the Mel and the vocals suffered a bit as a result. Jason was cranked up louder than usual, so we probably weren't balanced correctly for that anyway. Unfortunately Jarrin, our sound wizard, had a paying gig, so he was on the road and couldn't be around. The Mel is kind of hard to get good sound in anyway.

The other thing about playing the Mel is the set up and size of the stage. Somehow I managed to fit the full Vistalite kit on the stage but I think I was crowding everyone else out as a result. If you were wanting to check out the Vistas in all their glory and didn't show up Friday, you may have missed your chance. Don't think I'll be bringing all that mess out again. It's a drag to have that much gear to cart and set up and tear down.

Other than that, I dropped a stick (and recovered alright) and I knocked a rivet out of my sizzle cymbal. I don't think there was any other gear catastrophes, at least not for me, but I'll know for sure next time we practice. I'll be amazed if there was no other cymbal damage as I was really having to whack those suckers to keep up.

Oh yeah, we were videoed, but our volume completely overwhelmed the camcorder mic, rendering the footage pretty worthless. Boo.

EDIT: check out this rad photo gallery of the show from Charlie Clark at Nuvo!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Shameless Self Promotion: Yuki

Y'know, I don't think I've mentioned anything about my band because I'm the world's worst self-promoter. So, since I actually have good reason to, allow me to rectify that situation today.

We are Yuki and Yuki is a four piece shoegaze/dream pop/noise pop group from Indianapolis. Loud, pretty, tuneful, ethereal; I think we'll cop to any and all of those.

I've had many people ask me whatever happened to Svetlana? Well, the answer is Yuki. Yuki is pretty much a continuation of Svetlana. New songs, slightly poppier, one fewer member. That's about the difference.

So, I said I had a reason to bring the band up. Well, I have a couple. First off, we sent the EP off to get manufactured. That is really exciting as we've all put a lot of work into it and we're all pretty happy with it.

The second (and third) is that we have a pair of shows coming up. First up is a show October 10th at the Melody Inn with Red Light Driver and Small Arms Fire from NY. This is going to be our debut show and a CD release of sorts.

The following day, October 11th, we'll be playing the New Albanian Brewing Company's Fringe Fest 2008 in New Albany, IN. We're really looking forward to this one and, from what I hear, they're quite looking forward to us as well. Should be a pretty awesome time.

That's about all the band news I have at the moment. Please come out and say hi if you are in the area on the 10th or 11th. I'll have more info on the CDs and where outside the show you can buy them when I know for sure.

My Summer Ride: Part .5

Well, Fall is starting to fall, so I guess now is as good a time as any to focus on the last of my Summer rides. This time, it's my bike, which is another in a line of wonderful birthday presents from my equally wonderful wife.

See, I have an old Gary Fisher bike, which has served me very well, even in times when it was my only mode of transportation. However, Kristen bought a Electra Amsterdam Classic 3 (read about that here). After being introduced to the Electra line, I developed a very bad case of bike lust, specifically for the Rat Fink.


This bike is a Sting Ray styled chopper, except it's big enough for a 6'3" adult to ride without looking ridiculous. It's a heavy beast, especially compared to my Fisher, and the three speeds and coaster break don't quite equal performance. But, with the green metallic flake paint and Ed "Big Daddy" Roth inspired graphics this bike just oozes cool.


I so love this bike. In fact, the Fisher has been hanging from the garage ceiling since the Rat Fink arrived. Yeah, living in a neighborhood with a ton of hills probably makes this bike a little less practical, but you can't help feel really cool cruising with this one. Well worth the money, if you can find one.



PS: I changed some things around with the blog layout. Let me know if things get wonky in your browser.