Friday, February 27, 2004

Don' Mess Wit' Da Jesus

There's a lot of talk about Anti-Semitism from people after seeing The Passion of the Christ, and it's no joke. There's a guy selling crosses, nails, et cetera in the lobby of the theater I usually go to. I couldn't believe it, either, I know.

After seeing this movie, I walk over to the guy and go, "Say, could I have a Star of David? Do you have any of those?" and he looks like I just hit him in the fuckin' head with a brick. So he asks why I'd want such a thing, and I said, "Well, see, Jesus was Jewish, and I went in as an atheist, and now I see that Jesus was a pretty cool guy, so I want to join whatever religion he was in," my rationale being it would make me cool with God by association; like being in Cub Scouts with the son of the richest guy in town.

After continuing this line of discussion for about another sixty seconds, it's pretty clear that he doesn't have any non-Christian religious items and he's already launched into his tactic of trying to convert me to Christianity, and I'm like, "Good luck with that, seeing how the son of God Himself was only able to get me to Judaism." After this comment, I turn around, and there's the lynch mob. Their apparent leader drawls to me, "Ah hear ya don't like Jayzus." After interpreting that, I responded that I think he was a really good guy, and we can learn a lot from his example, and he was Jewish.

Well, they didn't much like hearing that one, so I was forcibly removed from the lobby by a group of robe-wearing fundamentalists, who I think were recovering Krishnas.

All because I wanted to be more like Jesus.

AIM: therbmcc71

Thursday, February 12, 2004

The Geek Continues His Tirade

So tomorrow I'm going to see about borrowing a couple of CD's worth of Final Fantasy music videos from one of the girls at school. I'm completely and utterly addicted to this stuff, and more than a little bit inspired. And I forgot my damn Final Fantasy X disc at my friend's house, so I'm not trying to rip it with that possibly-nifty program I downloaded yesterday.

In any case, I found a nice place that has about the same number of Final Fantasy music videos as are hosted through Fileplanet, and the quality's at least equal to that at Fileplanet, but they don't have any of the videos from the previous post (which, I say again, are damn cool). But, people like Justin don't much care for registering anyplace for the privilege of downloading, so I guess he's out those three videos. Also, Fileplanet's got ridiculously backed-up servers, resulting in thirty-minute waits around midnight (I think it was up to around sixty when I looked earlier), so that's a downside to it, too.

So, while I was looking around, I found a place, Void Media, that has all manner of cool Final Fantasy stuff, including of course a pretty damn robust Music Videos section. Now, again, you're not going to find Clocks there, but there's a totally awesome one (guaranteed to rock your fucking house) that uses the song 'All I Want' by the Offspring (or is it just plain Offspring? anyway...). It's like twenty-four megs, around two minutes in length and is an absolutely brilliant piece of editing. Today's very-honorable mention goes to a hundred and ten meg file called Ice Queen or something, and it's the only Final Fantasy X/X-2 video that I've seen that holds court with the FF8 videos I've been referencing in these posts.

So, hit those direct-links to the download site, and then poke around the Music Videos section for yourself and see if you can find something you like. If you don't have access to broadband, you're pretty well screwed like I generally am. Only reason I've had this much time to play on my friend's cable modem is because he just got a new PS2 game and isn't playing Massively Multiplayer games ten hours a day.

As a side-note, if you want to see some of the highlights of Final Fantasy cutscenes as they originally were (without popular music backing them up), you can hit the Full Motion Video section on Void-Central, and check those out. I just watched the three endscenes from Final Fantasy 8, and I think it'd probably be a lot more compelling and sensical if I'd actually seen any of the others. Oh well, it's still really damn good CGI, just in the sense of how much care was put into subtle facial expressions. It's funny that I was thinking, "These computer-generated characters are better at expressing emotion than most actors in Hollywood."

Okay. Other stuff I picked up on Fileplanet today: I got an Evangelion video that was put together fairly well to a Rob Zombie song. Having never seen Evangelion before, I was pretty impressed with it all and found the animation to be far more palatable than the Vampire Hunter D video I saw. Let me just say that D doesn't go with Radiohead all that well. But the highlight of the night was a Pokemon video done to a song called "Bitches" by Mindless Self Indulgence. The version I saw from Fileplanet was only 3 megs, but you can score the 20-meg version at Otaku Vengeance in the AMV's section; just don't forget to hit Next Page to get to the Pokemon video (direct link, but please check out Xianpower's website first). Trust me, "Bitches" is the best stress-reliever ever.

So, hopefully after you read this, you've had your house rocked and you've laughed your ass off at Pikachu. Whether you did or didn't, leave a comment, for the love of god. And, be honest; this is for posterity.

AIM: therbmcc71

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Is There A Geeks Anonymous?

Hi, my name is Umgawa, and I'm a geek. Like, a super-bad kind of hardcore geek. I just finished an hour-long conversation with one of my friends about why it is that Massively Multiplayer game just ain't my bag, that reason being that the players (the whole Massive number of them) are essentially built around the game, when I feel that games of that sort should be built around the players, and that the only means of rebellion against the people who run the games is by means of canceling their subscriptions. Anyway.

So, that's not why I'm a geek, though. See, while I was at lunch today between my classes, I was hanging around with the geeks in the cafeteria. You'll know us by looking for the crowd of people around the girl with the laptop, who seems to have tons upon tons of music videos on her computer, and we all seem to really know more about 1980's Japanese-import cartoons than any group collectively should. By the way, those music videos were all from Final Fantasy games. And they were good. Like really good. Like, "makes Umgawa jealous" kind of good. And that's bad.

So, what did I do? I actually wanted to watch these things up close and personal, so rather than stealing her laptop, I went over to my friend's house after school and started looking around good ol' fulfilling, and I found out something that really shocked me: In as much as I really dig Final Fantasy X and FFX-2, their music videos just aren't that great. Maybe that's just because I hate that whiny little turd, Tidus, but half of the videos were just using sources from places like Gamestop and such, which tend to watermark their stuff.

There was one good video from Final Fantasy IX (which I never played), and that one had a Linkin Park song going in the background. While I don't particularly like Linkin Park, the video worked. Or, maybe it was the fact that all of the Black Mages in FFIX look like Orko from He-Man. Linkin Park and Evanescence are very popular in the Anime Music Video community. Yes, I checked it out, there's actually a community of these people, in the internet sense of community. I mean, it's not like they're all living in Berkeley, which wouldn't really surprise me if they were.

And the videos from Final Fantasy VII aren't all that great, either. I mean, the game was really good-looking when it came out, but it didn't age well at all. So, here I am, downloading the videos at my friend's house, expecting to get all welled-up with sadness when Aeris dies, and then... nothing. The cutscenes from the game did absolutely nothing to me. I felt like I was watching Highlander 2, really trying to give a shit, but totally unable to. Ah well, at least there's Advent Children to look forward to, probably next year here in the States.

Yeah, the real goods are the videos for Final Fantasy VIII (which I also never played). The fact that I never played it is probably a good thing for me, because I have no idea how the story plays out, and the only character I recognized was Squall, because he's in Kingdom Hearts, which I've yet to go back to. So, basically, since I have no idea what's going on, I'm just looking at these videos as music videos, because there's no context to reference. Music videos on MTV are just like this, really. Sometimes they try to tell a coherent story, but the best ones really dispose of clarity for style and snappy editing.

So! If you've got broadband, or about... eight hours on a regular modem (for each video) in which you don't need to use your computer or phone line, take note, because these are the good ones:

* There's one that just came out today (yesterday, now that I type this) that's done to the song "Clocks" by Coldplay. The video quality is absolutely fantastic, and I like the song. And there are a couple of clips in it that just look charming as hell. After seeing Beauty and the Beast, I'm a sucker for ballroom scenes, what can I tell you? Anyway, get that one first, and that one's like fifty-five megabytes.

* And then there's one that uses a techno remix of Carl Orff's "O Fortuna," which is better known as, "That song from Excalibur" or from that scene in The Doors when Jim Morrison starts to dabble in witchcraft with that insane woman and then chase her around with his dick. Anyway, there's none of that in this video, although there are a couple of wicked-large swords being whirled about. Where the last video was gorgeous and featured a nice ballroom-dancing sequence, this one rocks the fucking house. I mean, this clip just astounded the hell out of me, in that there are people dancing exactly to the beat of the song in one sequence, and there's one part where a motorcycle flies toward the camera and cuts away right on-beat. This one clocks in at around forty megs, and you should grab that one here.

* Last one of the day is an Evanescence video, using the song "My Immortal" or something along those lines. Yes, I know that it's cliched and probably more than a bit trite to use an Evanescence song in one of these, but the video runs almost entirely counter to the last two and manages to pull some great video that wasn't featured in either of those. I'm not sure whether the guy really intended to contrast the downbeat song against the crazed world that's featured in the clips he put together, but it seems to work fairly well on that level. It's not edited nearly as well as the previous two videos I mentioned, but still holds its own over most of the stuff out there. Grab this one last, even if you're a big Evanescence fan. About fifty-five megs on that one.

So, having seen at least a dozen of these videos today, I'm tempted to give it a whirl. I hear there's a program out on the internet that allows you to rip the FMV from FFX on your PC DVD-ROM (is there a such thing as acronym-alliteration?), which would give a much higher quality on the video than most of the FFX videos I saw; of course, most of those were Windows Media files, which tend to artifact to shit. Basically, I'm bored, I have a copy of Adobe Premiere and no source to edit. Ooh, maybe I should rip a DVD and start making trailers or something. That could be fun.

I'm going to bed. I've got class in five hours. No, it won't be another week before I update again; I was just busy this whole damn week, not that I've noticed any cries for an update, since nobody but Lauren, Kristen and my brother ever leave comments. But I'll forgive you all if you just watch a couple of those videos, preferably in the order I gave them to you. Unless you want your fucking house rocked, whereas start with the second one.

AIM: therbmcc71

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Post-Superbowl Stress Disorder

I didn't sleep last night. After the Superbowl, I pretty much loaded up Deus Ex: Invisible War on my friend's Xbox and proceeded to play it until around seven in the morning. I probably would've beat the game, except I was spending way too much time saving my game and then screwing around to see what limits the game puts on things. For example, going on principle and killing the characters who you really think deserve to die generally is rewarded with a firefight that you are probably not going to live through. But, I have to say, I never once got caught blowing up coffee-shop employees and patrons with land-mines in that game.

My friend Davy, who I'd hyperlink, but I don't have his webpage anywhere, helped me out on the font-size thing, so now everything's quite a bit more legible. Actually, the font's a couple of pixels bigger than I wanted, but since I really don't feel like forcing a window size on you (though I might somewhere down the road), I had to go with this size. But it's a lot better than the absurdly large font it had before.

The Superbowl, the Superbowl... I'm not going to comment on the game, or even the halftime show, because it's all been said already everywhere else. The commercials were pretty fucking lame this year. And this isn't just because Child's Pay wasn't one of them, but the commercials as a whole were just... there seemed to be no rivalry. After all, major corporations like Coca-Cola and Miller Brewing were completely unrepresented, possibly due to exclusivity contracts between Pepsi and Budweiser and CBS or something. In the end, the commercials were often nearly as racy as the halftime show, which featured not only a boob, but quite a few scantily-clad women during Kid Rock's set. ... and then I still went back to the Surreal Life marathon on WB.

One notable marketing trend is Budweiser's return to the Clydesdale horses as a marketing device. Now, I don't know about you, but after seeing the commercial in which the candle blows up in a lady's face thanks to one of those Clydesdales... yeah, it's a really funny commercial, but it makes me glad to be a Miller Lite drinker, because from now on, I'm going to associate Budweiser beer with Clydesdale-farts.

That I've been associating it for years with horse-piss is beside the point.

AIM: therbmcc71

Sunday, February 01, 2004

This Was The Most Fucked-Up Night Ever

The following is a reprint of the running commentary from what easily ranks as the most bizarre Five Year Jacket show in my recollection. This is reprinted from my old website, which you may or may not remember. By the way, I am currently working on some way to make this absurdly large font smaller. It's just going to take some time to work through this CSS crap that I know next to nothing about.

A Letter From Tom:
Dated Friday, 13 September 2002

Help Me, I Am In Hell

Hell is better known as Fat Daddy'z in Seneca, which is only about ten miles southwest of Buttfucking Egypt. From the outside, one would swear the place was where they shot the "Rawhide scene" for The Blues Brothers. Inside, it's visually quite nice with the exception of the clientele. I am here to see the band, but I got here early and am therefore being subjected to the assault of an endless rotation of AC/DC and Sweet Home Alabama on the jukebox. I look at the clock on the wall and see that the band will not start playing for another ten minutes.

The Chinese have many Hells, or so Big Trouble In Little China would have me believe. This one is probably "The Hell of Drunken Bikers and Rednecks." It is possible that I died on the journey to a perfectly nice bar and just didn't make the cut to go through the pearly gates of Heaven and now I've ended up here for all eternity. I have three cigarettes and forty-eight cents left for all eternity, not even enough for a beer or another pack of smokes. This is Hell, whether I'm dead or not.

Five Year Jacket begins playing, and the establishment becomes several levels of magnitude less hellish, but a rather large man who resembles Bob from Fight Club has requested the band play "Brown-Eyed Girl." Bob... Bob had bitch-tits, and a mullet in this case. And a large orange tank-top which prominently displays his bitch-tits to anyone unfortunate enough to see him in profile. And, from the looks of the girl that he's dancing with, which proportionately resembles an orange and a toothpick, she probably doesn't have brown eyes, but probably also doesn't see the inherent oddity of requesting that particular song.

From the looks of this Redneck Heaven, perhaps a more appropriate song would have been "Janie's Got A Gun."

There's this giant inflatable Jim Beam bottle atop the requisite Playboy pinball machine, and I keep seeing myself floating across the ocean on it, Cast Away style. Wilson is already gone and, if I should die of exposure during the trip, I hope this letter finds you well.

There is a mullet-biker. I have checked the profiles at Mullets Galore, but none of them are he. This is Gypsy, or so his leather beret says. I mention him because he is standing directly in the middle of my sight-line and the band, and therefore he deserves nothing less than to be immortalized for his great talents, other than being able to down at least fifteen beers during the band's four-hour set and probably go home with the local transvestite. But we're not going to talk about that.

During the band's first break, Gypsy asks what kind of hog Jay (the bass player) likes to ride. I'm not certain whether Gypsy's asking about motorcycles or trying to confess his own attraction to Arnold from Green Acres.

But I digress. During that first set, Gypsy showed himself to be quite the air-guitar player. He first displayed a talent for this on Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Pride & Joy" and then on several songs afterward. He is quite the virtuoso, though he still has to put down his bottle to play the solos. The band begins playing another of their own songs, so one would think Gypsy would either stop or at least switch to rhythm guitar after picking up the chords. But no! He begins playing air drums!!! This fucker is talented! Where are the American Idol people?

I unfortunately notice, since he is standing exactly midway between myself and the band, which is no more than ten feet away, that Gypsy has a tendency to gyrate in such a way while playing any particular air-instrument that one would think that he table-dances down at the local tattoo-parlor on the nights when he's not out in the woods drinking moonshine and looking for river-rafters to fuck Deliverance-style.

When he turns around and faces the band, rather than playing along with them for the crowd, he appears as though he were masturbating, which probably is commonplace out here. He makes a beeline for the restroom, still playing air-guitar, and he now looks like he's doing the pee-pee dance.

This is so surreal. I feel like I've stepped into a Salvador Dali painting. It seems like "Persistence of Memory," because time is melting away particularly slowly while teenage girls who would've been prime models for Reuben gyrate on the dance floor. Me, I'm the model for Edvard Munch's "The Scream." I would escape, but I didn't drive here, so I'm clinging to the giant bottle of Beam for dear life. It's like being in in the scene from Trainspotting where Renton's locked in his room to detox.

It's almost like stepping into the greatest sociological find of the last hundred years, but at the same time it's like stepping in a huge pile of dog shit in your best pair of shoes. This is the Mecca of all redneck culture. Or, maybe it's a redneck subculture. Should the word 'culture' fall into play at all with these people? The signs on the wall are in English and the bartenders take American money, but the same could be said of any number of third-world countries with depressed or collapsed economies.

We're somewhere in the second set. The band starts playing "Stuck in the Middle." This is the call for all of the middle-aged housewives to come out and do a dance that vaguely resembles that of Mr. Blonde, but is probably more inspired by the exotic dancing these women had to do in order to pay for their GED night-schooling. A middle-aged man joins the two women on the dance floor. He does a move that resembles that of a shaman trying to conjure fire from an empty pit.

This is when I realize that I'm being subjected to music I really enjoy while horrific things are displayed to me in such a manner that I simply cannot look away. I realize that I am no longer in a Salvador Dali painting, but am now in A Clockwork Orange.

This town is proof that not all of America has heard that first cousins shouldn't breed.

This place is beginning to get ugly. I'm beginning to wonder where the chicken-wire is and when they're going to put it up, because it's only a matter of time before this place is going to devolve into a massive orgy of switchblades, hunting rifles and bandannas.

This place is proof that Darwin was so fucking wrong, because I am currently looking around at the Descent of Man back down into lesser hominids and other mammals without opposable thumbs. That's right, folks: Pack your bags, we're headed back to the ocean. Man's day on this planet is over. Gypsy is devolution in fast-forward, as he's already been reduced to primal grunts and screams and is walking around with his chest puffed out as though he were an alpha-male Silverback gorilla.

It seems as though the more attractive people (though precious few there are) are gravitating to the other attractive people while the less attractive people keep to their own kind; like high school cliques. However, I have never in my entire life seen in one place so many people who took a header off the top of the Ugly Tree and hit every branch on the way down as I do here.

The band is taking their final break of the night. Three Pink songs in a row on the jukebox, by the last of which the bartenders are on the bar dancing. Most of the men in the bar are paying attention. The band begins to play again and during the song "Cecilia" there is a middle-aged housewife dancing on the bar. Most of the men are simply trying to look away.

The band can't have much time left. As much as I love the music, I have just seen a barefoot and pregnant woman on the dance floor. I look around the bar for her ironing board, but it's probably outside, strapped to the roof of the family Vanagon.

Like nails scraped across a chalkboard, a girl sings a verse to Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" because Kevin either doesn't know the words or has had the good sense to forget them and move on to a good song. However, this girl doesn't see it that way and keeps the song going at the expense of the other patrons' hearing. She is wearing a shirt that reads: SEXY does not mean you have to have sex. Apparently, The Candle's Foundation finds sex to be purely optional because she's practically fucking some guy on the dance floor a couple of songs later. Her form of birth-control is more likely than not being on top, because gravity will prevent fertilization.

If any of the countries of the world feel the need to test a low-yield nuclear warhead, the intersection of Illinois Route 6 and Jackson Street in Seneca is about as good a place as you're going to find anywhere. However, please check with the members of Five Year Jacket before doing so, in order to be sure the band is not playing at the time of detonation.

The band plays well beyond its 1:30 cut-off because Pat has shown up. Again, it's a blessing and a curse because I love the music, but I'd like to get out of this place as soon as possible.

It's 2:00. I am about to get in the car for the drive home. I am afraid to sleep because I have this feeling that I'm going to wake up and I'll be back in Seneca and it'll only be 10:30. Once I put this letter in the mailbox, I will cling to the bottle of Beam and hope for the best.

May the wind always be at your back and the sun upon your face,
And may the wings of destiny carry you aloft to dance with the stars.

AIM: therbmcc71
1/31/04 – Live From a Five Year Jacket Show

Showed up at 10:30 at Charlie Fox’s. Couldn’t find the place, so I walked into a pizza place to ask for directions. Showed up halfway through “Sweet Jane” –Velvet Underground, not Cowboy Junkies. Got carded, walked around looking at trendy middle-aged Batavians. Fantastically drunken cue-ball-headed middle-aged bastard can’t keep up with the time-changes.

Second set notes: Middle-aged guy with a Nextel clipped to his hip is doing some combination of The Twist and grinding his wife in a sixteen square-foot “dance floor” to “Pale Blue.”

I’m sitting three feet from the left main-speaker. I will never hear again out of my right ear.

Kevin begins taking requests for haircut money, and a woman gives him $3.49; all of the money in her purse that doesn’t comprise of fifty-dollar bills. Meanwhile, Chad hasn’t had a haircut since April of last year. During the Beatles medley that ensues, Ron begins jumping, which is something that needs to be seen to be believed, not unlike Pete Townshend, but without the whole Windmill thing. My beer is empty, where is the waitress? She arrives at the end of Come Together, which ends up not being the end of the medley, as the band plays “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road.” Jay is fairly intoxicated at this point, with two hours left to play. This is apparent because he’s doing the pseudo-headbang thing in the groove of “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road.”

Ron and Matt split singing duties on a Loggins-Messina song, of which there is only one good one, and I realize that –arriving late or not- I should have bootlegged this show. Jay berates me after reading this for not noticing that he, too, was also singing on this song. They play what I think is a Johnny Cash song and two of the Five Year Jacket girls begin dancing, and the trendy Batavian wife of Nextel Guy can’t believe that these girls are monopolizing the dance floor wholeheartedly to a song that says, “Killed a man just to watch him die.” She looks horrified in the same kind of way a white suburban houswife would if you walked up to her and told her the joke about how to get Martha Stewart to scream twice.

The band then plays Nextel Wife’s request of “Like A Rolling Stone” –the Stones version, not Dylan- and now Nextel Guy is on the dance floor with his wife, their female friend and one of the Five Year Jacket girls. Kinky, to say the least. I think Nextel Guy once tried out for American Bandstand, but he’s a worse dancer than… oh, Christ, he’s doing the White Man Overbite. He’s that bad.

We go into “Head On” by Jesus And Mary Chain. These middle-aged bastards were my age when this came out and they’re totally lost. It’s not like the band’s playing the Pixies version off of Trompe Le Monde.

Take a trip to the Men’s Room. So terribly cold in there that the two beers in me actually retreat back into the bloodstream as soon as they would go into the Batavia sewer system.

Kevin starts playing “Just Like Heaven” (I've returned from the Men's Room) and I notice that the middle-agers are dancing again, no doubt re-living the fact that they were big into the Robert Smith goth-look of eighteen years ago.

The band starts playing “Cecilia” and this guy Rick, who we don’t know, but he’s wearing a propeller-headed beanie… anyway, Rick does the devil-horns at the beginning of a Simon And Fucking Garfunkel song. Propellerhead Rick, I notice, looks like a walking caution-sign, wearing a yellow shirt, black pants, some vest that looks like it’s sponsored by Mountain Dew and that beanie. But, instead of being a standard roadside caution sign, his very clearly implies, “Do NOT Fuck This Man.”

The band starts playing “Use Me Up” and no more than ten seconds later the dance floor is clear of Batavians. Fact: Middle-aged Batavians are uncomfortable with original rock music like Germans love David Hasselhoff. Nextel Wife dances briefly next to her chair just enough to Atkins off the carbs from her recently-drank Corona.

It’s about 12:45 and Five Year Jacket’s into their last set of the night. All the old people are gone, no doubt off to have some crazed drunken orgy with Propellerhead Rick, only to wake up tomorrow morning with bad memories of key-parties of yesteryear.

Basically, this sets a record for the desertion of townies from a bar, leaving only the displaced fans –for we are most certainly out of our element here- to listen to… well, whatever the hell the band wants to play. So, bring on the non-cover songs and let’s party.

Catch you all on the flipside, and if you live in the area, hope to see you at a show. I’ll even give you a copy of the Infamous Bootleg if you mention my website.

Number of Strings Broken: Two!
Memos Written to Kevin During The Show:
• “Please stop putting your hand in your pants.”
• “Please put your shirt back on. –The Girls.”

Postscript: Band plays last part of the set without shirts. … Holy shit, I just saw a boob! And, that’s a funny thing, because I’ve seen more breasts at Five Year Jacket shows in the last thirteen months than I’ve seen in the last five years. So, go ahead and ask me why I go to see this band all the time.

AIM: therbmcc71