i’m starting to try to learn french again, but I find it very daunting. How do you learn a language? I keep thinking when I was younger, singing the ABCs and counting to 100 over and over and over again until they just stuck ingrained on my brain, and I didn’t even think about it when I wanted to recite those songs. I tried that with french once, counting to 100 repeatedly until I became comfortable with the numbers, and i’m thinking, “crap, i’m 5 again.”
I love Bloc Party. They’re one of the few bands that, somehow, I haven’t gotten simply lost interest in at some point (looking at you Green Day). Even with the bands constant changes and uncertainties (are they even a band anymore?) I still get excited whenever I learn some update about the band.
Which is why i’m thrilled about this new bit of news, even if I shouldn’t be so thrilled. First the good bits: The band has some new songs, and they’re going on tour. They recorded a new full length album, and I’m predicting that they’ll go on a US tour pretty soon. The sketchy bits: They replaced a few members of the band, Matt Tong and Gordon Moakes have left, replaced by Louise Bartle and Justin Harris on the respective instruments.
Right now they’re only touring UK and Europe, but keep an eye out regardless.
Amsterdam, Paradiso (November 27)
Koln, Live Music Hall (28)
Berlin, Astra Kulturhaus (29)
Paris, Alhambra (December 1)
Brussels, Cirque Royal (2)
Manchester, Albert Hall (3)
London, St John At Hackney (4)
A couple weeks (months?) ago I was inspired by Casey Neistat to work on a daily blog. Casey has his daily vlog which he seems to do a good job at actually posting daily vlogs. It seems that he records a ton of video content, and, at some point, finds the time to dedicate a few hours to edit them all together. And he does this daily!
It makes me struggle to think about how he’s able to maintain patience, focus, and dedication. I wonder if editing video is as natural to him as brushing his teeth; it’s not simply a job, it’s an extension of his regular activities required in order to live, like breathing. If that is the case, then I am severely jealous.
I decided that I want to replicate that kind of work ethic and maintain a daily blog. And, of course, the very day that I decided to maintain a daily blog, and I opened a word document, to type down some words, I lost focus within an hour, and walked away. I haven’t posted anything on my blog since.
Will I do that tonight? I watched a vlog of Casey as he and a dude skateboarded through an airport and eventually walked around the VMAs, because, you know, they’re celebrities, kind of. Throughout the airport, Casey made a bunch of peculiar editing decisions, as well as peculiar angles for his shots. It made me wonder how he got the shots he did, and why he edited them the way he did. He held the camera in his hand as he walked to the check in desk, and then it cut to a distance shot of him and his buddy at the same desk, presumably still checking in, and then right back to the camera in his hand. It made me wonder, did he deliberately halt the check in process so he could run ten feet away to put his camera on the floor as it recorded them? And then stop the conversation again so he could get the camera and move it to another spot on the floor that simply reverses the shot?
It blew me away how much effort and energy he puts into those videos. And I started thnking again about my daily blog. I should maintain a daily blog. Even if it is only a couple hundred words at a time.
This post is a completely shallow, terribly edited post, but it is a post nonetheless. The last time I decided to post daily, didn’t post, and my blog went ignored more months. Though, to be fair, I seem only only update once every couple of months anyway. Let’s see if I can keep this blog going again? Probably not.
And now for a song that I came across today:
The old The Woods was a small taproom located in SODO, tucked away in a nice little nook within a rather large warehouse complex that stretches for about two blocks across. It was a quaint little space with a few tables inside and out, and could comfortably fit about 50 people, maybe. It was a perfect hangout for small groups of friends, though that didn’t stop large groups from successfully packing themselves in.
The rather larger cranny next door was a warehouse that the team was using to build a new taproom, one that would accommodate a kitchen, a game room, a larger patio, and dining. They seemed to be working on that taproom for weeks, and I always had the impression that they had a long way to go before they were ready to open to the public. But lo and behold, this new taproom was a passion project for them, and they worked hard to get that place up and running, and after six months, it got there.
The Woods is located right around the corner from the office where I work(ed), practically on the same property, so over other Friday (and sometimes Thursday [Tuesdays typically too (They’re unfortunately closed on Mondays)]) to hang out after work and wait for traffic to die down. One particular Wednesday I decided to head over to et a better idea of their new space. Was it going to be a newer bar? Is it going to be a proper restaurant? What’s the idea? What’s the plan? So I somehow managed to invite everyone I work with and took two precious minutes out of our day to walk over and check the place out. As it turned out, they had already opened their new taproom – kind of.
I walked over to get in line to wait ten minutes to grab a pint of my favorite IPA. When I tried to hand over my credit card, the bartender waved me off. “It’s on us brother,” and then walked away. I thought it was a joke, or maybe he was being especially nice to me. Though I didn’t understand why. I would consider myself an ok customer, but I’m not their best customer. But I took the three pints, took them back to my table, sat them down, and discovered that I had stupidly forgotten to order a drink for our new girl in the office. So my coworker and her got up to get back into line. (They didn’t pay for their drinks either.) That’s when I looked at the stack of stapled papers that I had grabbed from the bar along with my drinks.
As it turned out, I had accidentally walked into their VIP/Media preview night. They had an open bar, and there was a food truck right outside that I learned hours later were handing out free food. A taste of things to come, for the food truck was from Bread and Circus, who will be handling their kitchen in the near future (as of this writing, the kitchen is still in the works.) I got a chance to try out their sandwich and their burger, both of which remain true to the Northwest standard, which is fresh, local food, that’s full of flavor but doesn’t weigh you down.
At some point, Joel VandenBrink, the owner and founder, jumped on the bar to deliver a toast, thanking and congratulating everyone for their hard work and dedication to making the new taproom a reality. “This is the tasting room we’ve been dreaming of,” he said. He delivered his toast with a cool swagger to him, speaking lowly and slowly, yet there seemed to be a hint of humility, a certain shyness to his delivery.
The new The Woods is certainly a marvel to be seen. It is more than doubled in size to 2,800 square feet with a separate dining area that can also be used for private parties, and there is a game area, complete with a pool table, foosball, and shuffleboard. The bar itself is awe-inspiring. It’s meticulous in its design. The first thing I noticed about it is it’s symmetry, approaching the bar was almost like approaching an alter to pay respects.
Speaking of design, everything in the new taproom has an extremely unique design that’s unlike anything seen in any other bar. That’s not an accident. Everything in the new taproom is custom made, from the tables, the lamps hanging from the ceiling, the bar, and even the shuffleboard. The steel all came from Bloch Steel, a nearby company. The team at Two Beers Brewing carried all the steel and all the wood over to the new taproom and created everything by hand. There were many long days, I would assume. To commemorate their hard work, they created a new beer to honor them: “Blood Sweat and Beer.” I like to think I’m being funny when I tell people that it’s not actually made with sweat and blood, though I’m not sure their laughs are one hundred percent authentic. Perhaps they’re humoring me, but I do appreciate the courtesy giggles.
“Literally, twenty four hours ago we didn’t have power, or even a door,” Joel later said. “I’m in awe of this. We just wanted to create a space for people to come hang out after a hard day at work, to just be comfortable, wait for traffic to die down, and have a pint or two.”
Ah yes, I understand that sentiment perfectly.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is the best game out there right now, assuming you loved the first Hotline Miami, and assuming it was also the only game you’ve ever played. Here, you’re playing the familiar styish top down, twitchy, hard as brass balls, shooting, stabbing, baseball batting, blood and guts and gore and tears and sadness and trippy techno beats psychotic drug frenzy game that we all know and love, like mothers milk, all filtered through a fuzzy, neon-lights aesthetic with a touch of 80’s nostalgia. If you loved all those things from the first Hotline Miami, and ONLY those things, then Hotline Miami 2 the best game you can play. Otherwise, it’s just kind of “meh.”
The gameplay is virtually unchanged, albeit a few twists. It plays tighter and smoother than ever, rarely any frame rate drop. Even during the most frantic moments of the game, I was able to maintain perfect control, and change directions with a quick change of the wrist, like it was second nature.
The music is incredible as always, but it feels like it has a different focus this time. It’s an integral part of the overall game experience, and the composers certainly have a great deal of confidence on display, but the music doesn’t speak to me as distinctly “Hotline Miami.”The first Hotline Miami hasn’t been around very long, but already the music tends to pull me into a state of nostalgia. I get a similar sense when I hear the theme to Back To The Future – I just KNOW this music was created specifically for this thing. Hotline Miami 2 feels like the music was composed for a club soundtrack, and they went all out to create the heaviest sound they could possibly come up with, (which, for the most part, they succeed) and then see how it fits in with the game. There’s a level which features a track called “Hotline Miami Theme,” and while it certainly sounds incredible, it feels like it could be replaced with any other track with a slightly epic and heroic flavor. The music’s good, they’re just not as memorable to me. Though there’s still that moment at the end of the level, after you’ve spent so much time infuriatingly trying to clear out the level, and once you finally do, the music disappears, replaced with a low, tense, ambient tone, and you, the player, can’t help but observe all the death, and you start to think how disturbing the game really is.
Hotline Miami 2 was originally conceived as an expansion, which I feel is the proper mentality to have when playing. The game certainly expands on the story, but it does so the same way that one adds gravy and sugar and growth hormones to expand the flavor of a perfectly good steak. At the core of the series, there’s Hotline Miami, the heart of the story. Hotline Miami 2 adds bells, whistles, and other such redundant decorations to make the story appear more epic and involved than it really needs to be. Though the guys at Dennation Games can’t necessarily be held at fault, they just wanted to use all the ideas for Hotline Miami that they couldn’t use the first time around. And that’s fine! Get it out of your system, I say.
Hotline Miami 2 is told through the focal point of 13 different campaigns; 13 different characters. The game behaves more like a short story collection, each story containing the same themes, it’s just unfortunate that it feels like this could have been handled better. With all the different characters, different motives, and different place in the game, I still found myself running through and frantically killing everyone I came across. It started to feel like the characters all bled together, and nothing was really different, and the story ceased to matter to me. Then again, that may have been the point all along…
No review is complete without a brief discussion of the Writer. There’s a character who seems to be a pacifist at heart, and this proves to be a very interesting twist on the gameplay and the themes. The character actively resists killing anyone, with few exceptions. He doesn’t use guns, only melee weapons, and when he attacks a bad guy, they simply fall down and hold whatever part of their body that was hit. That proved to be very effective, because with the character avoiding bloody violence, there’s a certain preservation for life, that makes the game all the more gruesome and tough to endure when there actually is gun fire and death occurs.
Hotline Miami 2 is a very enjoyable game and it tries very hard to do new things with the gameplay and the story. The game feel is spot on, and I certainly felt at ease when playing through the levels. It’s structure demands repeat play throughs in tandem with the first Hotline Miami, and it certainly deserves those extra play throughs, but it also takes some time to adjust to it’s ambition.
The other day Gamespot reported that From Software is putting in a new game plus mode and they’re currently having trouble beating it.
Initially, that sounds very exciting. Difficulty is an important factor those games, so carry the tradition over to what is called the spiritual successor of Dark Souls (And 2, I suppose) is only common sense.
However that excitement soon turns into concern. They’re having trouble beating their own game. So what? They said that Dark Souls 2 would be just as challenging
In a hands-on first impression, Ollie Barder from Forbes.com wrote that due to the slight change in combat focus than the game will actually be more challenging.
A different kind of challenge, that is. Bloodborne won’t allow players to block attacks. That would be a huge challenge for players who were more comfortable in Dark Souls donning heavy armor and shields and let people smack them around to no avail; It was easy to play passively.
At first, this new mechanic sounds right up my ally. I preferred to move quickly and dodge attacks. The fast paced combat drew me in and was much more exciting. However, there were times I still relied on my shield, knowing that blocking one attack would easily lead me to victory, even though those times were very few and far between.
Difficulty in the Dark Souls games is a funny thing. I remember when Demon’s Souls came out, I found it very tricky and difficult, but by the time the player gets to the end of the game, they’ll have spent so much time perfecting their techniques and maneuvers, and they’ll likely be decked out in all the best gear that the end content felt like child’s play. Heck, after finishing both Dark Souls 1 and 2, I revisited Demon’s Souls and played through the game solo almost the entire way. That game has become a major push-over after recent iterations.
Dark Soul’s 2 was a much different kind of difficulty. At face value, it’s hard to determine if it’s easier or harder than the first Dark Souls. On the one hand, enemies cease to respawn, creating a mentality that no matter how strong or weak the player is, they’ll eventually disappear, making the path to the boss virtually free of all resistance, in turn, decreasing the urgency to hold on to souls collected. On the other hand, the bosses are devastating monstrosities that border along the impossible to beat alone. My first play through, I didn’t beat a single boss without the help of friends. And then it hit me: Dark Souls 2 was much more geared towards cooperative multiplayer; Teamwork is required to finish the game. Even the competitive multiplayer felt almost nonexistent. It was all about bringing along friends to beat the ridiculous bosses at the end. The bosses in Souls 2’s DLC were especially exciting.
The feeling of accomplishment in the Souls games, I feel, is wildly understated. Yes, you feel accomplished, but walking throughout the world carries such a greater weight after progressing through to a certain point. You feel that you are a champion, and you are the best player in the game. At some point, when players get invaded by other players, they might gain a grin of excitement and say out loud, “Bring it on.”
Watching game-play footage of Bloodborne shows just how fast-paced the game will be, and it is indeed a much faster game. This is certainly the game that I will buy a PS4 for.
As a writer, I go through phases. There are times that I’ll sit down and spend hours on end working on something, and sit around about ten times longer not writing, only thinking of writing, and watching YouTube videos about it, and getting jealous and angry at my peers for producing something, only to eventually justifying my lack of productivity by convincing myself that writing is dumb and only naïve and delusional people do it, which isn’t necessarily wrong but <ahem>… So lately, I’ve been giving myself exercises hoping my writing will improve.
Full disclosure: I think I’m a terrible writer. However, I do believe that hard work pays off. I heard a quote recently by [some guy] that said, “hard work trumps talent any way.” That quote made me feel better.
I’ve been following game design a bit. Extra Credits has a great series where they talk about how to become a game designer. They’re targeted for the beginning designers whom they give bits of advice to. In almost every game design video they feature, they carry one common axiom: Think small, think simple.
For example: A designers first game should be nothing more than ten seconds of a character moving across the screen. Think of the very first level from Super Mario Bros. That could be the entire first game. That’s it. That’s all a designer should do for the first game. The second game, expand.
The more I thought about these design principles, I thought about how I could apply that axiom to my own writing: Think small, think simple.
So I gave myself an exercise. I went back to the very, very, VERY basics with writing. I decided use the most basic elements that make a story function as an actual story: A beginning, a middle, and an end, so set forth by Aristotle. I didn’t even think of the details in the story. I picked up a note book and wrote out some numbers, a 1, a 2, and 3, vertically, as if I was writing a list, and I filled them in. Two followed one, and three followed two. I was going for the simplest, most unsophisticated story possible. Here’s what I came up with:
- Guy goes to girls house.
- Girl hear’s a noise and gets scared.
- Guy investigates and it turns out to be a cat. Later they eat cake. And have sex.
And that’s my story: It begins, there’s a conflict, and later it’s resolved and there’s a happy ending. (Bam!) I condensed it all into a single page. I was not going for an epic story here. Although, this is also where some pretty cool things happen.
Anybody who’s taken an English course knows that stories are jam packed with themes, and other such literary techniques. Even creative writing classes pay very close attention to the techniques of the great literary figures, and then judging the student by those works. (Seriously, creative writing courses, stop expecting your beginning students to aspire to Hemmingway, and then punishing them for not, you fucking sadists.) And there are always some very obscure themes that students find in works, such as Joyce’s use of the color brown in “The Dead.” I can’t speak for others, but I remember as a creative writing student, trying to work on my own fiction, I became overwhelmed with the thoughts of trying to write my stories with all the necessary elements that “great” fiction consists of. I’m so caught up in trying to write allusions and themes that I can’t put many words down without giving up in a fit of anxiety.
But here’s the cool thing: After writing my page long story, I found that the themes presented themselves. Likewise, the characterization presented themselves. I didn’t have to plan it out at all.
Some of the themes I found were those of overcoming fear, improving one’s self to be the best they could become, and overcoming adversity. Even though it was so short and simple, those themes were present, it was a short and simple story, but like I said, they presented themselves.
Recently I tried this exercise again but applied it to a longer piece. This time I gave myself I gave myself a page for each part: A page for the beginning, a page for the middle, and a page for the end. The plot this time: A guy moves into his apartment, the guy goes to a bar to meet a girl, and finally he gets rejected and goes home feeling better about himself for trying.
Now, since this is a longer story, just a couple pages longer than a single page, it’s a bit more sophisticated, and there are more details to be drawn out, and more complex themes. Now, again, this is not a novel… But if only it was! I’m still working on it, since, like I said, I’m a terrible writer. But once it’s done, I’ll share it, and perhaps get more writers cred.
My next piece will be much longer than that. Maybe I’ll give myself about five pages per section; a longer beginning, a longer middle, and a longer end. But again, All the details that a beginning writer such as myself would be concerned about simply present themselves. All the writer needs to do is allow themselves to present the story as true to themselves as they can. Let their weirdness come out, or their shyness, or their anxiety, or their shallowness, or whatever it is about them. Don’t worry about being great, just worry about making the work speak for yourself.