Saturday, December 31, 2005

List mania 2005: Gaming

Again in no particular order.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Even larger environments with even more sub-games and distractions, this proved to be about the biggest game in 2005 for me. Many hours were spent playing and idling about. I also re-discovered my bitter-sweet, love-hate relationship with GTA in general with the horrendous crashing problems culminating in me taking out my aggression at my Xbox slightly too hard and thereby needing to replace the DVD-drive.

Penny-Arcade vs. Jack Thompson
Practically the whole gaming world blasted Thompson earlier this year when he offered to give ten-thousand dollars to charity if someone made a videogame according to his specification, but when someone actually made it as a modification for GTA he retracted the offer. The whole gaming community then watched in awe of Penny-Arcade's humongous testicles as they went on to donate the sum in his name anyway.

Nintendo DS
Going from "what the heck is that?" to "wow, that game looks really cool!", Nintendo seems to have really re-bounded in the eyes of many gamers. In a time when many are tired of titles like First-Person Shooter 6: The Return of the Sequel and the technological dick-measuring contest between Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo steps up and reveals first the Nintendo DS with its touch-screen input and follows that up with the unveiling of the Revolution controller. Many have said this is a return to form for Nintendo and vocally gives them their support. Let's see how many puts their money where their mouth is when the Revolution launches late next year.

And this years non-event for me:
Xbox 360
In one word: meh.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Nintendo DS GET!

I finally got my Nintedo DS yesterday, and first impressions are very good. I like how it folds together since the screens run a smaller risk of getting scratched then. The first thing I looked at was PictoChat, the chat/doodle application in every NDS. It was a pleasant surprise that you can write hiragana & katakana in the chat even on models sold outside of Japan. I originally thought that one might be able to practice stroke orders with it, but after having tried it I don't think the resolution is high enough for the more complicated kanji. Since I don't know of anyone else with a DS I haven't had a chance to try to chat wirelessly.

I also got a game for it this Christmas, Kirby's Power Paintbrush, so I could also try out how the stylus worked in-game. Perhaps it was partly nostalgia (I was a big fan of the Kirby game on the NES), but as soon as I drew the first stroke in the tutorial mode I just started grinning like a little boy. I really felt like I was 12 again, or however old I was at that time.

It's pretty strange, but about two years ago, when I first heard of the Nintendo DS, with it's two screens, one of them a touch-screen, I was really scepticle about it. In my mind I was thinking of the Virtual Boy (heck, who wasn't?), but with time a number of titles appeared that all got good reviews and looked incredibly interesting. I would like to mention two factors that were important in turning me round to actually get one: Edge Magazine and Penny-Arcade. From Edge I got the proper reviews and also reviews of Japanese DS titles, I think that with my growing interest in Japanese this was one of the deciding things. From Penny-Arcade I could read a first-hand account from a sceptical early adopter that gradually started to see it's benefits. In fact, Penny-Arcade recently posted a retrospective of sorts in regards to this. I can't say "I told you so", because what he's describing is roughly how I feel, except I wasn't there to support it in the beginning.Publish

Monday, December 26, 2005

List mania 2005: Music

Inspired by Sho, in no particular order, some of the albums that have piqued my interest this year.

Boards of Canada - The Campfire Headphase
After the strange, though still OK, Geogaddi, I was a bit hesitant about this album. After reading that it was a return to form for BoC, I was less hesitant. It's a really nice album even though it only has one track that really stands out for me.

globe - globe2
As my favourite band, this was a certain buy. Another return, or perhaps rounding another corner; reaching a new level, perhaps. On this album globe moves away from the trance-oriented style of the last couple of albums and focus more on rock/pop.

Ketsumeishi - Ketsunopolis 4
I got slightly interested in Ketsumeishi after hearing an older song, "Natsu no omoide", but this, their most recent album, is also quite nice and hops into the list.

Orange Range - Natural
In a short time, I've become something of a fan of OR. Ever since hearing the catchy tune of "Ishin Denshin" I have been captivated by the simple, memorable melodies of their easily accessible hybrid songs (is it pop, rock, hip-hip or rap? A little of all). Their latest album continues on the same formula, and has me hooked.


There are also a couple of ones that were likeable, but not quite there:
Bennie K - Japana-rhythm
I liked their Synchronicity, but Japana-rhythm has just completely failed with capturing my interest. Perhaps it's that it's too similar to the previous one, just more of everything: more repetition of choruses, more handclaps... But nothing much that sounds 'new' to me.

m-flo - Beat Space Nine
Just like with Bennie K, I really liked their previous album Astromantic, but Beat Space Nine feels somehow lacking to me. Despite an appearance by Lisa on "Tripod Baby", where they do manage to re-capture the sound of the old m-flo (except for part of the song that sounds like it was just jammed in there), this album just doesn't pull me along in the same way as Astromantic.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

What to do with your music?

I've been thinking lately about music, more specifically about the music that I would make myself.

I often just sit down and play around, recording what small pieces of chords and/or melodies that I come across that I like. It's not really "composing" per se, but it isn't playing someone else's composition either. But I could easily see myself taking the best pieces of what I've recorded and expanding a bit on them, trying to work them up to something that could be called, without too much stretching of the word's definition, full tracks.

The problem comes when trying to decide what I want to do then, when I have the tracks made and recorded. What's the second step? A record company? No, I've read far too many accounts of how bands get ripped off by traditional record companies, left penniless and without ownership of their own music anymore. I've heard far too much to buy the rock'n'roll-star dream that gets most record company contracts signed.

Alternatives? Put it up on the web, either uploading it somewhere myself (searching reveals a load of options, Google video, YouTube), or perhaps submit it to Magnatune and hope people hear it.

The second problem is that most people listen just to what's on the charts, meaning artists signed on big record labels. Looking around at comments from artists, and knowing from personal experience, it takes a lot for people to actually go out on the web and actively search for new and unknown music. Too much for most. I have myself been guilty of that laziness, knowing that there is lots of good music out there, but instead sticking to the bands I know, all signed with big record companies.

Of course, I'm probably thinking too much ahead. I should probably focus on trying to first make something.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

「楽引辞典 DS」を注文しました!


Means I've ordered the Rakuhiki Jiten electronic dictionary-software for Nintendo DS. Now all I need is a Nintendo DS...I'll try to write up some impressions after I've had the chance to get to grips with it, but seeing as the interface is all in Japanese it could take a while.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Japanese done for this year

Calligraphy test today, and I can't believe I forgot what the katakana "ra" looked like!

バカ…

Oh well, at least I got the stroke order for one of the unfamiliar kanji right. I was looking at it, trying to remember what we had learned about stroke orders, trying writing it, but then I had a gut feeling that it was wrong, so I changed it. I just looked it up (in the wwwjdic multi-radical search) and my gut was right!

The middle stroke going straight down comes second.

And after the test I took the opportunity to practice a bit on one of the schools pianos. It's not very often that I get teh chance to use a real piano, so I thought I'd get a bit of experience with the real thing. Since it's so close to Christmas it seems most of the students that are usually there have gotten their vacation already, so not many people were there that I could embarass myself infront of/disturb ;)

Japanese starts again sometime in January. Let's hope I can get that damn history essay written. (Need to remind myself often of that.)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Tests

Yesterday we had the big Japanese test, and today we went through it a bit to see what the answers were supposed to be. I also noticed some more mistakes that I had made (like writing 番 without strokes 2 & 3). The part of the kanji test where you should write the kanji that corresponded to the given hiragana kicked my ass. I had answers for less than half, and one of them I know now was wrong (the previously mentioned 番 in 電話番号). I think that I have enough points from the other sections to pass, but I guess you should never say never.

Tomorrow is the calligraphy test, which is shorter and supposedly easier. I think the most difficult part will be remebering the order that the hiragana is placed in the kana-table. Luckily I have a simple word to remember it by: Akasaatana-hamayawan. Ok, maybe not so easy...

And after that it's the end of this season! Just the 10-page history essay to write over Christmas then.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Nobel - literature: Harold Pinter

Below: "I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it."
I just got to watch Harold Pinter doing his Nobel speech, and even though he might have gotten a bit zealous, he said some things that really needed to be said. In the lecture he also recited a speech that he would write for Bush had he been his speech-writer...
God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it.
In any case, if you haven't seen/heard/read it already, you can do so at the Nobel Prize website, where it's available both in text and video.

Too Damn Late (starring Garageband) - Part 2

So, after spending yet another evening with Garageband (trying to make a track so you wouldn't spontaneously vomit when you heard it) it is now 03:46. And I had planned to study for next Wednesdays Japanese-test today... :(

とにかく, this song is supposed to have more of a hip-hop/r'n'b feeling. Unfortunately, I can't do hip-hop/r'n'b, so it doesn't sound too good. But at least the title is decided, "Booty Call". I'll just have to write some lyrics around that theme now. Wish me luck, I'm going to need it since I don't actually know anything about booty calls.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The ones that got away

This is my bookshelf. (It's pretty ugly, but that's not the point. The wallpaper behind it is also pretty ugly, but that's not the point either.)

Besides being my contribution to the Internet literary dick-measuring competition, I have another reason to post the picture: I would like to talk about some of the books I have, but haven't read yet.

Death is a lonely business by Ray Bradbury. I started reading this, but was quickly put off by it. It seems as if the author is trying to write a Stephen King-novel, only the problem is that he isn't any Stephen King. The premise is blurry at best, with the main character trying to chase someone, or perhaps something, down. What that thing is isn't clear yet, but at the pace it's going I'm not sure I'll stick around to see what it is.

The Corrections (Swedish edition) by Jonathan Franzen. I read this in English around the time it came out, and it's a really great book. I found the Swedish edition on sale so I bought it on an impulse. Now if I could only find time to read it.

Stuff by William Shakespeare. I have two books, Hamlet and a huge "Complete Works of" kind of book, both bought at a time when I was optimistic enough to think I'd be able to get through them. The collection book I found also on a discount for just a few euros, so I thought "what the heck, might as well get it". (Incidentally, I also got War and Peace for a similar price at the same time, you can imagine that the plastic bag I got to carry them in was close to breaking.)

Hothouse by Brian Aldiss. I had heard about Brian Aldiss being a good sci-fi author (him having written the short-story that the movie A.I. is based on and all), so when I found a book by him at a used books-sale at the local library I picked it up. It was pretty fascinating, but it just didn't hook me to read the entire book at the time. Perhaps I'll get back to it at some point.

Traitor for a cause by George Markstein. To be honest, it's such a long time since I stopped reading this book that I don't remember anything particular of it...

Berättelser om natten by Peter Høeg. I knew of Peter Høeg from having read The Woman and the Ape, so I picked bought this used from the library when they had it for sale. Haven't read it yet, though.

Hazard (Swedish edition) by Mario Puzo. I don't know if the English title is the same, but anyway... I used to be a big Mario Puzo-fan when I was younger. Or perhaps not Puzo directly, but more interested in the mafia thing as a whole. I also read a book dealing with the chase and capture of real-life mafia boss John Gotti. I think I've read all of the Godfather books seen all the movies based on them. Though the interest has died off a bit, you can still see traces of it in my current fascination with the yakuza movies by Takeshi Kitano.

The Cat Who Walks Through Walls by Robert A. Heinlein. Another one I picked up used. Haven't even read one page of it yet, just got it because it had an interesting title and I needed another book for the "4 books for 1 euro" deal.

River of Death (Swedish edition) by Alistair Maclean. Another used book I got from the library. I had heard of Alistair Maclean before, so I thought I'd pick it up and see how it was (but looking at the Amazon customer reviews, it doesn't seem to be too good).

Down Among the Dead Men (Swedish edition) by Micheal Hartland. Another one I got to even out the numbers. Have no idea what it's about.

Det långa avskedet by Jurij Trifonov (English translit.: Yuri Trifonov). I don't know what the title is in English. I also got this used (see a pattern?) just after having come off War and Peace, and I thought I'd try not to become one of those who just reads only one Russian novel and then thinks that's enough.

Crime and Punishment (Swedish edition) by Fjodor Dostojevskij (I imagine the English translit. is somewhat different). I borrowed this from my sister for about the same reason as above. And that there had recently been a mini-series on TV based on it that I couldn't be bothered to watch, so I thought I'd just read the book instead. Currently I have read half of it, being on quite a long break from it... But reading it is pretty difficult, simply because I seem to easily fall into the mind of Raskolnikov, so with all the hardship and tension he feels I also get put into a bit of the same torment. Whenever I'm actually reading it, it feels like I can't put it down because I want to know what comes next, but after every session I feel sort of drained...

Jag minns att jag drömde by Bo Carpelan. For those who don't know, Bo Carpelan is one of the most prominent Finnish-Swedish writers, so I figured I'd better read something by him.

Less than one (Swedish edition) by Joseph Brodsky. This is the last one on the list. Haven't read anything in it, but looking at Amazon it seems to be a collection of essays.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Too Damn Late (starring Garageband)

I really thought I'd be able to start normalizing my sleeping-patterns, but then my brother starts building something in Garageband, one of the easiest, most creative and most time-wasting things there are on the Mac. The simplicity combined with the power makes for an absolutely addictive experience, you Windows-users should be thankful you can't use it. It eats you up whole.

So, it's now 3 AM, with my brother originally starting the thing at 7:40 PM. Last change on that file is at 8:30 PM, which is when I took over, saving the changes I made to a new file. I just now got off it. Dangerous.

On the plus side, the tune came out sort of nice. It's sort of a dance-tune with a good beat to it. My brother found a cool bass-sample in the GB loop library that I fixed up a bit for my own purposes. The song actually turned out in a way that it could take on some vocals too. Maybe I should contact our cousin, who we have sort of decided should be the singer for the band... Wonder if she still remembers our verbal contract ;)