Thursday, 27 January 2011

Creative Commons Music: The Butcher's Ballroom

Well, It's been over a year since my last Creative Common's music review, so I figured I'd throw one up now, and what better one to review than an Album it's taken me almost eighteen months to listen to properly?

The Butcher's Ballroom By Sweden's Diablo Swing Orchestra has sat o at least two MP3 players I own over the past year, and it wasn't untl the last couple of days that I actually sat down and listened to it.

One question sprang immediately to my mind - "Why the hell havent I done this before?"

The Music that DSO brought to me blended a mix of swing, Jazz and Metal to give a fun folky mix that sounds like it would be completely at home on the soundtrack of a Horror movie. Actually, I take it back, this music is far too good for a Horror movie. It genuienly stands on its own as something unique and Eclectic - I@m not the biggest fan of Metal, but once I stopped and listened, Butcher's Ballroom gripped me by the eardrums and refused to let go.

There were, admittedly, some of the songs that caught my attention more than others - Infralove Didn't really tickle me all that much, but Was more than made up for by Balrog Boogie and Velvet Embracer. probably my favourite track though was Rag Doll Physics Which Blended two different Vocal styles into one brilliant whole.

The Band's Wikipedia Entry describes them as Avant-Garde Metal.

I find myself unable to argue with this description.

The Band's Site
Downlaod the Album on Jamendo

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Force India Take a Bold new step.

There has always been a fairly regimented path into a formula one racing seat. Traditionally, a Formula One Driver has come up through the proverbial 'Lower League' Single seater Formula. At the moment, those leagues run approximately as:

Formula Renault
Formula 3/World Series by Renault/Formula 2

as well as a wealth of other single seater series, like Formula Superleague, Formula Ford, Formula Nippon, and the American single seater series', Indycar Indy Lights etc. Theres never really been much crossover between the different driving series.

Whilst WRC and MotoGP champions Sebastian Loeb and Valentino Rossi have flirted with F1 tests, more often than not, those tests seemed like an indulgence rather than a genuine attempt to shift disciplines - even though Rossi set decently competitive times on his Ferrari test.

So, whilst other news sites are focusing on the fact that Paul Di Resta will be the third British driver on the grid, and that he's been the test Driver for Force India for the last year, I'm choosing to lookat something that I feel is a little bit more significant:

Force India just promoted a Touring Car driver to a potentialy Front-Running F1 seat. Lets face it, Force India have come on leaps and bounds over the last couple of years. They came within inches of claiming thier first win at Spa in 2009, and but of Tonio Liuzzi's somewhat rusty performances in 2010, would probably have convincingly beaten Williams to 6th place in the Constructors title.

But lets be honest, Touring Car championships - even one as Aero Focussed as DTM - is a very different style of driving to Formula One. Whilst Di Resta has a good pedigree of Single Seater racing, he hasn't race a Open-Wheeled car in anger for four years.

What he has been doing is overtaking, fighting for leads and getting door to door in the kind of close racing that only a touring car driver can. Di Resta won the DTM title this year, finishing five points above fellow Brit - and Mclaren test driver - Gary Paffet. These two drivers are back by Mercedes and are learning a kind of driving that GP2 and any other single seater series simply can't teach - as David Coulthard has proven in his own DTM foray and how Johnny Herbert proved in his BTCC debut last year.

GP2 drivers are, supposedly, the future of Formula One - yet the drivers coming through those lower formulae are not necessarily good enough for the big leagues. Hulkenburg, Hamilton, and Timo Glock have done well, But other drivers such as the GP2 front runner Romain Grosjean, Lucas Di Grassi, Nelson Piquet Jnr, Vitaly Petrov (His performance at Abu Dhabi aside) and Karun Chandok, all of whom showed promise in GP2 were barely recognisable in the top tier. Conversely, Kamui Kobayashi, who was at best an also-ran in GP2 has been probably the most exciting F1 driver of 2010.

So, when Paul Di Resta sits in that Force India car on the grid in Bahrain he isn't just representing The British or his team. he's representing a potential new route into Formula one. And lets face it - a touring car driver needs to know how to fight for a position so maybe we'll see a few more fights on the grid come 13th March.

But for now, take a look at what you've got waiting for you:

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Mass Effective...

I got Mass Effect 2 off my wife for christmas, and after having completed it on saturday night, I started thinking which one of the two games is actually better. Mass Effect is a truly great franchise - a sci-fi opera that is firmly building towards being one of Bioware's great acheivements.

I absolutely loved the first game. the combination of third person action and RPG spanning an entire universe was something that made me love the entire universe and it's characters. The whole series is also wonderfully ambiguous, with a firm way to play the way you want.

But which of the two games is actually better?

Well, the second game ups the action stakes. The tactical system is half arsed in the extreme, with the characters you direct to stay in a position rarely bothering to actually fucking stay there but they certainly fight well. Half the time I found myself hanging back in a support position, allowing the other two members of the party to move forward and assault the enemy. Ironically, when they were out of my control, they often tended to move better tactically and fight back enemies I hadn't even spotted yet.

In the first game, the characters tended to duck straight into cover, and just pop-up shoot at enemies. I suspect this was because of the ammo method in the first game -the weapons had infinite ammo, but tended to 'overheat', which robbed you of being able to fire for a few seconds. The tactics tended to be "pop up, short burst, short bust, overheat, duck back to cover" until you'd killed the enemies. You could use grenades to liven up the proceedings, but it was much slower paced.

In the second game, you can put a LOT more ammo down - but the ammo is limited. Rather than overheating, the guns have "Thermal Clip", that can only take so many shots before it has to be ejected. This makes the gunplay a lot more intense, and forces you to at least occasionally switch weapons. The further firepower supplied by the heavy weapons also gives you a lot more bang for your buck.

The first game used a traditional XP and Levelling RPG system, whereas the second game doles out the level points at regular intervals, forcing you think carefully about the powers and persk you choose. It works, but I did find myself missing the levelling up you get from occasional skirmishes.

On the other hand you didn't really get much incidental fighting outside of missions. Mass Effect was a lot more sprawling than it's sequel with the ability to take a wheeled vehicle - the Mako - down to a lot of the planets and roll around blowing the living shit out of stuff. Of course, one of my freinds pointed out that while Mass effect feels bigger and more open, most of the worlds are pretty much carbon copies of each other with texture changes. The illusion of freedom tended to fall apart whenever you actually went into a building, since they all had exactly the same layout with a few crates moved around. On top of that, the side missions did tend to go be essentially "Go here, shoot this."

Mass Effect 2 is a much tighter game. all of the missions have firm places within the universe and all have a plot that revolves around more than gunning down everything in a ten mile radius.

It's hard to compare the stories, since ME2's story is an extension of ME1's. But I have to say in Saren, the renegade Spectre, Mass Effect has a more compelling antagonist. Mass Effect 2 focus's far more on the wider story of Commander Shephard against the Collectors. You have the Harbringer, the voice of the Reapers - the series' overall megavillains - but other than that theres no-one to directly focus on as a villain.

So, which one is better?

Simple. The one where the refining of the formula finally pays off.

Mass effect 3.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Wow, That sucks.

So... Yeah.

Anyone who looks at my profile, two things for you:

1) what the hell is wrong with you, that make you look at my profile? Seriously?

2) the Anti-Cobra blog has vanished. it is gone, Kaput.

and that sucks. I set up that blog a couple of years ago to point out the shenanigans of the Cobra Group. It drew quite a bit of attention, but the time has come that I needed to send it bye bye. There are a few reasons for this, to be honest.

The first is that a good friend - and my darling, beloved wife pointed out that these days, employers have a tendency to google the name of potential employees. Given that I'm looking for a new job these days, so that I can look to move up north to be closer to my Wife's family, thats not somehing I need happening.

The second part is that... Well... I don't really care anymore.

I lost my Dad over the summer. It was very sudden, and very shocking. And frankly, after that I don't really care about the bullshit of a bunch of money-grubbing charlatans who think they're big shots in the world.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Greetings Programs!

So, what better way to start the new year than with an entry about a film I've been waiting for for twenty Goddamn years. So...

Tron. Tron tron tron.

What can you say about Tron, really? The original movie, in my opinion, was something special - even though it's very much a product of its time. The idea of being sucked into a computer, competing in games from the inside is one that has been revisited a few times since then.

I mean how many films has Tron arguably influenced, merely in plot terms? The Matrix, Gamer, Virtuosity... The idea of computers being more than glorified number-crunching machines is one that took a bit of getting used to.

Visually, Tron was revolutionary - the first true use of CGI ever used in computer. It's an outright tragedy that it was disqualifed from the special effects oscar category because the committee didn't consider CGI to be 'proper special effects.'

ET won instead, with a glorified puppet show. I hate that little bastard.

So, twenty-eight years later, Tron finally has a sequel. Tron: Legacy. So the beig question is, given that I am big fan of the original, did it's sequel live up to the expectations?

Well... Mostly. Visually, Legacy is the perfect sequel to Tron. The effects are updated, and its the first movie I've seen that didn't rely on 3D as a crutch rather than in integrated part of the movie.

And the Music, my God, the Music. Could anyone but Daft Punk really managed to do this movie. It's as close to perfect a movie score as I've ever heard.

The script... well, the script is no better than I expected. it was fun, but it feels like a setup. I can tell you that I was in no way surprised when I heard that the sequel was already in the works, as the whole of Legacy felt like it was building to that. The story is servicable as an introduction to the dynamics of the grid, but it's very slow in the middle when Sam finally meets up with his father on the outskirts of the computer world. The Initial burst of action on the games is excellent, and the finale is as good as anything I've ever seen. The acting is good, and the script does improve after the inevitable slow patch, but you can't help but feel that the writers could either have done a little bit more, or shortened the movie by about ten minutes.

But it's good. it's damn good. and if they can pull a sequel off, I'll be more than happy to go and see it.