Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins

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February 27, 2013 at 11:45am

Spotify Has Issues.

So I’ve been trying out Spotify for the past three months and decided that it’s not for me. Maybe I’ll change my mind in the future… who knows. They asked me why I’m quitting and here’s what I wrote:

I think that streaming generally devalues the music we listen to, and your payouts to artists are too low for me to continue with a straight face. Your system seems to want to alleviate the idea of piracy more than actually figuring out a way to properly compensate musicians, which ends up being a lesser of two evils rather than a solution to the problem. Because of that, I need to say goodbye.

The streaming model essentially boils down to you holding the music I want to listen to hostage. If I fall in love with an album in your catalog, I have to pay $10 each month for the ability to re-access that album sometime in the future. By design, this inherently devalues the music I’m listening to, because I know that when that month is up, I have nothing to show for it. When I get sick of playlists, I remove them from my list and they get lost in the nebulous ocean of your catalog, never to be heard from again, unless I somehow miraculously decide to search for it again. That is, of course, only if the band remains a part of the service.

I’d be more than happy to pay more per month if I knew you’d raise your payouts to a more respectful level. I find that I’m happier using Bandcamp (who actually values the artists) and actually knowing that I’m supporting the artists that make the music I love.

You probably think I’m crazy, of course. But that’s fine. Let me know when you’ve figured out how to pay musicians, then I’ll bite.

January 25, 2013 at 10:54am

Calm yo’ self. Goldmund is a beaut.

(Source: Spotify)

January 22, 2013 at 3:21pm

Dark Souls Can Lick My…

I picked up Dark Souls a few months back, and after reading King Seamus’s recent //write-up// about Far Cry 3 today, I figured that I would put some thoughts on *the most difficult game I’ve ever stuck with* to virtual paper. It’s not going to be nearly as in-depth as Seamus’s, but hopefully thoughtful none-the-less.

It’s the epitome of a love-hate relationship for me really, Dark Souls. On one hand, you tickle my unquenchable desire to gain more and more loot, making it seem that you’re helping me to progress further and further down your twisted path, while on the other, you pull the rug right out from under me, making me think that I’m ready for your almost impossible fights. I love the pain sometimes, I really do. At other times, however, I truly despise it and wish for a more reasonable way to conquer your  seemingly insurmountable difficulty.

I thought I knew what I was getting myself into… I really did. I revel in difficult challenges, as long as I see a reason for their completion. After about 50 hours spent in your world, however, I began failing to see the benefits of perishing over and over and over and over again at the hands of your puppets. Does the difficulty ramp up over time? Are the enemies supposed to be this hard?

You’ve taught me one thing, DS. It’s that I play a game to feel like I’m the man. That doesn’t mean it has to be easy, as I usually start games on the harder difficulty. But at least with “difficult” games like Binding of Isaac or FTL have a feeling of progression, a profound feeling of being better than when you started. You, on the other hand, envelope the player in helplessness, a feeling with a distinct lack of progression I crave from RPG/Adventure games.

Why do I say this? I mean, yes, you gave me weapons that do more damage, armor that helps protect against various problems infecting your world, but what’s the point when the enemies scale so dramatically between the different stages? Why must I manage so much CRAP to get through these levels? Why don’t you tell me anything about what I’m carrying around?

Toward the end (AKA the point I’ve given up on you at the moment) you had a certain air of Skyrim or Fallout about you. You said, “Keep playing me, you know you want more cryptically described items that ultimately don’t do anything useful anyway…” You said, “Don’t worry about direction, or the fact that my story is absolutely non-sensical and implicitly told through generally uninteresting characters.”

To this day, I still don’t know what I’m doing, why I’m trying to find Lord Gwyn, and who the firekeepers are (and why the HELL did you decide to take a rather strategic bonfire away from me?)

One thing that you did marvelously (for a while, anyway) was make backtracking fun again. Not since the early Metroids have I enjoyed unlocking one-way doors as much as I did with you. Not that the weapons/armor/items I had made any difference in unlocking the doors, but finding out where a new shortcut would lead filled me with some sort of depraved curiosity, and felt oddly fulfilling when getting back to a bon fire with them opened. Being over in Anor Londo at the moment has halted all of those feelings, however, where the Painted World of Ariarmis (or whatever you called it) continues to whoop my sorry ass (why is Priscilla in-freaking-visible???).

Instead of me figuring this stuff out myself, though, I just run back to the beautiful //DS wiki page//, my inner sanctuary for thinking I’ll be able to someday conquer you. But why? What’s the point of wanting someone to hold my hand at parts, when I should be able to figure it out myself.

Drake sword? Hell no, I would have never thought to stand under a bridge and shoot arrows at a death-dealing fire dragon for 5 minutes straight to get a sword that made the game generally bare-able for a good portion of it (until for some reason its power doesn’t scale with you). Why can’t my monster-murdering hero figure out how to drink a health potion and run at the same time? Why do I kick ass at certain places, only to have that same ass handed to me just one area later? Why am I trying to perform precise platforming jumps and dashes in ONE stage, while the rest of the game has nothing to do with those game mechanics??? I’M LOOKING AT YOU SEN’S FORTRESS. These are all questions that have answers that I don’t really care to hear, and ultimately add frustration to an otherwise generally interesting game.

God, that made it sound like I despise you. Well… I do, but in a good way. I loved playing at the times I felt that a certain tangible amount of progression was happening, but for now I’m putting you down. Pacing is just a bit too asinine for my liking, and I’m off to have a go at something a bit more story-driven and less explanatorily-challenged… the new Walking Dead perhaps?

January 11, 2013 at 9:56am

Bandcamp’s Fan Collections

Well, //this// is some awesome, motivating music news. I’ve been messing around with it for the past few weeks, but I guess yesterday they officially unveiled the project. Essentially, Bandcamp’s Fan Collections give the listeners accountability and notoriety - something that’s been sorely lacking in the digital realm until now.

In contrast to “frictionless sharing”, as the lovely folks over at Bandcamp put it, this is full on “friction-ful sharing”. The listeners that support the artists are celebrated and given a pedestal to stand on to have their thoughts on the records they’ve purchased known. These supporters are aggregated in a smart way, too - they tell you how many others have ‘added it to their collections’ (which essentially means that they’ve offered up their hard earned dollars for it).

There’s a lot to be said for those who actually support the lovely musicians providing this art. Even if it’s just a few bucks being thrown down on a ‘pay what you want’ basis, now listeners have virtual bragging rights to helping artists on their way to success.

These guys just can’t be stopped in making all the right moves. I applaud the designers of Bandcamp for remaining true to the values of what makes music great and staying on top of growing the relationships between artists and fans.

Oh, and of course, follow our collection //here//.

January 10, 2013 at 11:44am

The Silent Ballet Closed its Doors

I got in my car this morning, and on the way to work, I decided to start up a random playlist of Balmorhea. Clicking into the artist on my old school iPod classic, a world of memories rushed in while just watching the album art scroll across the screen. Balmorhea, River’s Arms, All is Wild, All is Silent, Constellations, and their most recent album Stranger, have become my go to music for any time that I’ve run out of new stuff to listen to.

Listening brought me back to another time. Even their newest album Stranger (released in 2012) reminds me of my time spent riding trains across the German countryside, and exploring the humble little neighborhoods on my evening runs, even though the only album I had heard at the time in 2007/2008 was River’s Arms. That’s the beauty of the band, their sound - sitting at an intersection between classical and contemporary, never fails to sound fresh, and remaining true to their sound a whole five full-lengths later.

As the drive continued, I tried to remember where I had come upon such a talented set of musicians. It surely wasn’t the myriad punk/ post punk /alt rock blogs that I had read back in the early 2000s. No, this band was cut from a different cloth. Why would it be featured in such a place?

As I was scrolling through my search of “Bal…” to which I was given Balmorhea up at the top, another few entries were returned. Buzz Ballads… nope, Neon Ballroom… nope, Silent Ballet. Yes. That was it. Why hadn’t I returned there? I used to read the reviews there all the time, and was a big fan of much of the music they posted there.

Being the good internet inhabitant I’ve always been, I made a quick visit over there this morning to find this. “TSB is Dead” it read in the window title… but how? Why did this happen? These folks had an amazing thing going on, but I never took the time to see what made them tick. I was far too busy trying to amass a bigger and bigger music collection.

Returning to the site to see that message… that sad statement about what it means to run a seemingly successful music review site (with over 4,000 reviews over a period of six years)… it just made me wonder. What the hell am I doing, starting up my own review site? Is this where I’m headed? I do this stuff with intentions of trying to make a living off of it someday. Why is it that what I perceived to be ‘making it’ is now just a figment of my memories?

I have no clue what I’m doing.