Author Archives: admin

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Usually I hear the cover before the original

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Reboots are common – everywhere and every medium. It’s like content makers have run out of original ideas and glibly remake things that have already been done. Closely related to the reboot is the superfluous sequel, titled that way because there are too many of them – like the Saw movies, or because it is made so long after the original that it is no longer relevant – like season four of Arrested Development on Netflix.

The most cognizable example of reboots are movies – Superman is the one that comes to my mind. If asked, people who grew up in the seventies would recall the 1978 movie by Richard Donner. Millennials would think of Batman v. Superman. People from my generation, which is in between, may remember either, or if they watch as many movies as me, may initially consider the 2006 Superman movie that starred a bald Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor. Anyone that has seen more than one will have their favorite.

Not often considered are reboots in music, otherwise known, usually, as covers, though sometimes musical sequels are created – like Metallica’s Unforgiven, which had two songs with the same name that followed it. Cover bands are sometimes seen as lazy or lacking in talent, but this isn’t always the case. Dolly Parton wrote ‘I Will Always Love You’ to underscore her decision to have a solo career. The song was tremendously successful, but is better known as being performed by Whitney Houston and used in the Kevin Costner movie, The Bodyguard. Houston’s version is one of the most successful singles of all time.

While reboots can be annoying, they also tend to create interest in characters and ideas. For me, this is because, after I see or hear one, I need to experience the rest – I want to know where my favorite media came from as well as where it is going. When I heard NOFX’s version of Starry Night and read that it was a cover, only then did I listen to the Don McLean original. As soon as I learned that there was a 1990 remake (and later a 2006 one) of the movie Night of the Living Dead, I had to watch them to see how the story might be retold with different effects as well as a different social and political climate. After seeing the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I watched the 1956 original and looked for differences.

In 2003, I went to ‘Punk Fest’ at the Worcester Palladium. Punk Fest was a line up of several local and regional punk and related bands. I don’t remember a lot of the show, but I remember one lead singer saying that he wanted to thank bands like Good Charlotte, which most of the audience booed at because they did not think of Good Charlotte as respectable. The singer shushed the crowd and explained that Good Charlotte, which appealed to kids that didn’t know real punk bands, were often the gateway for those kids to find more substantial things to listen to – they would want to know the genesis of pop-punk bands like Good Charlotte. This would lead them to bands like Rancid, The Clash, and The Sex Pistols.

What that lead singer said really rang true for me. Hearing a cover song, seeing a sequel, or listening to a catchy band that lacks substance is like hearing a reference that I don’t quite get, but I want too. Whether intentionally or subconsciously, I think a lot of people are like this.

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My media apogee

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I think my consumption of media peaked when I was in college and constantly downloading. I could just think of something, type it in nearly correctly, and own it. Some things, I would just download for the hell of it – perhaps I would listen to that discography and perhaps not. Maybe I would just listen to the early stuff – the good stuff.

It became easy to find my musical center and the types of movies that I loved. Were it not for downloading, I would probably be convinced that Blink-182 is the epitome of punk rock and that Minor Threat was a band made famous by Sublime. My favorite movie would be the most recent sci-fi action blockbuster with Bruce Willis – not that its not still that way.

Downloading allowed me to experience music and movies that I could not afford. My downloads were not displacing sales that the record and movies executives lost money on – if not for P2P programs, I just would not have purchased as much as I really wanted to experience.

College was also the period when I had the most free time, which could be spent listening to music and watching movies. I viewed and listened obsessively, the same movies would be watched over and over and albums would be listened to on repeat. My recall of trivial pop culture is now unmatched.

Downloading allowed me to experience culture in a time just before the explosion of Youtube, Spotify, Netflix, and other streaming services. I would have been a different person without it. I think that many people who read this would explain things similarly.

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Musical Cultural Relevance is Cyclical

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Today is a big day. We have a new president elect, Donald J Trump. The Donald’s ability to prevail in this election got me thinking while I was at the gym earlier listening to Elvis Costello. I was playing the song “Oliver’s Army”, which is about a man named Oliver Lyttelton, who was Winston Churchill’s President of the Board of Trade – a cabinet position in the United Kingdom in charge of, among other things, employment. Inasmuch as history repeats itself, songs written to highlight historic events inevitably become relevant as those events are repeated.

The song lyrics talk about how people looking for work can always go into the army and kill others. ‘Oliver’s Army’ was therefore a pejorative referring to the militarization of the non-working populace and glibly refers to these people killing “white nigger[s]” as part of a “professional career”. Notwithstanding any political affiliations, I think that we can agree that this song was relevant for its time period. It was initially released in 1979 and was aired during the first day of broadcast on MTV in 1981.

In 1993, the British group Blur covered “Oliver’s Army”. You might remember Blur as the English band that most Americans were aligned against in favor of Oasis because of a legendary feud between them. However, Blur was known for being patriotic, and their cover of Costello’s anti-war song was reinterpreted by a new generation that was watching revelations of the Iran-Contra fiasco. One of the central characters to Iran-Contra was Oliver North, and so ‘Oliver’s Army’ referred to him in 1993.

Now that Mr. Trump has won the presidency, the song seems relevant once more even though there is no longer anyone actually named Oliver. While I was at the gym this morning, I really started to consider the lyrics. As this song is reinterpreted by new generations, what’s interesting is that the younger people listening may have no idea what references the original Costello song was making – who is Winston Churchill?

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Legendary Unicorns

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Throughout my life, I have had many collections – pogs, Magic cards, baseball cards, comics, etc. With all of these collections, certain sets or items in these sets are rarer than others. Often, words are applied to describe this rarity, like common, uncommon, rare, and legendary. On one end of the spectrum are the common ones, which is self descriptive, and on the other is legendary, which is the rarest of the rare.

Recently, my girlfriend got into LuLaRoe – literally and figuratively. When I asked her about this brand, she explained how it worked, and I was reminded of my collections. LuLaRoe markets its clothing items at certain levels of rarity. While I have not seen terms like common or rare applied with this fashion brand, I have seen the word “unicorn” used to describe the rarest clothes that are offered.

I thought this was incredibly interesting – a clothing line that is encouraging people to buy based on a belief that one item is rarer than another or that “unicorn” clothing items may never be spotted (hence the name), and therefore must be purchased immediately if noticed.

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Real world resources in video games

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A lot of us play video games – some more than others. With the explosion of smart phones in the last decade, many games have been created to bring the experience to phone users that were not game players. Facebook and other social networks also realized the value in incorporating video games so that casual computer users could be converted into gamers.

Around the same time, video games introduced the micro pay – a device for the player to pay actual money in exchange for in-game resources. Suddenly, the casual gamers were able to keep up with the die hard gamers simply by spending a bit of money. You might take 2 hours of game play to earn the virtual gold necessary to upgrade your avatar, but I can do the same thing by paying a dollar. Inasmuch as Zynga quickly became a monolithic company in the video game world, it is clear that many people are willing to pay the money rather than spend the time.

Many games that incorporate micro pays are free to initially download. These games are usually heavily advertised as being “free”, though when you have installed it and started to play, you learn that progress is more quickly made if you pay money in the game. Sometimes the pace of these games is painfully slow unless the player is willing to remit at least some real world money for in-game resources.

During approximately the same time period, other video games (the more traditional kind) underwent a shift comparable to the introduction of the micro pay. Fifteen years ago, most traditional games made for consoles like X-Box Playstation 2 were things that were purchased with no further charges to the end user. Over time, the game makers introduced downloadable content (DLC). At first, DLC was free, but this changed quickly, though some companies continue to release it without charge. Now, the traditional games playable on consoles and computers cost an initial up front amount (usually around $60) and have DLC for several dollars per download.

By my understanding, from the inception of the video game until about 2007, games were either free or had a certain cost paid when you went to a store to purchase them. Over time, these two types merged so that many games have an up front cost followed by delayed costs in the form of either DLC or micro pays (or both). While there continue to be free games and fixed-price games, the hybrid type allows end users to use actual money as an in-game currency to develop their characters or play the game more to their liking.

If I was not so profoundly stricken by the apparent increase in cost of gaming in the last several years, I would be more excited about the propagation of micro pays and DLC. I think one of the next logical steps for these games will be the conversion of the in-game resources back to real world cash. Imagine if the ore harvested in Command and Conquer could be deposited in the form of dollars to your bank account. To some degree this already exists: in many games where rare items can be acquired those items can be sold on sites like eBay. So if you have a legendary ax of smiting in a game where items can be traded, you can often find a buyer for that item that is willing to pay real money for you to meet them in the virtual world and give them the item.

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I don’t want music I like to become popular

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I was listening to Faction a couple days ago. Faction is a satellite radio station that plays contemporary alternative “rock” music. That evening, there was an artist playing his own music along with some songs live. I loved it. I started thinking, “this is great” and “I can’t wait to show it to other people”.

Then I started thinking about how fun it is to play new music for other people who listen and like what they hear. It is utterly satisfying to hear people say “who is this” when they are listening to a new song that is being played for them for the first time. Certainly it’s more pleasurable than having that same friend hear a song on the radio and merely saying to that friend, “I heard this song a couple days ago – good right?”

I realized that a lot of music works this way; when I hear a new artist or song that I like more than a standard deviation above average, I want to show it to other people and paradoxically hope that the song does not become mainstream successful until I have had a reasonable opportunity to play it for my close friends. I understand that this is selfish, but I think it’s selfish for noble reasons.

Reason number one: If that song is overplayed on the radio, it quickly becomes something that cannot be listened to. There are only so many times that I can hear those songs by Imagine Dragons, or Grouplove, or Kings of Leon. I mean, they’re catchy, but as soon as I had heard them, everyone else had too. It has more of a profound impact on my friends when I play for them a song that is not mainstream successful and not likely to achieve mainstream success. If I can show a friend a song that is not otherwise easily uncovered, that friend is more appreciative than if I am able to show them a song a couple of days before the artist is uncovered as the next Justin Beiber.

Reason two: some of my fondest musical memories are of hearing new music for the first time – music that did not achieve mainstream success, if ever, for many years after I started listening. I remember beginning to listen to the Dropkick Murphys my freshman year of high school. At the time, I had almost no musical interests. There was music that I listened to, but not much. Then, my friend Marc told me that he thought I would like Dropkick Murphys, I got The Gang’s All Here, and I loved them. This was around 1999, when the Murphys were not well known to the general public. From there, I started getting into punk rock covers, The Clash (who the Dropkick Murphys covered), and other similar bands. Marc gave me one of the biggest jumping off points for music. Had the Murphys been on the radio at the time, or if they had uber success, I don’t think I would have considered this moment as profound as I do. I want my friends to think of me telling them about music in the same way that I think of Marc.

Reason number three, which is related to reason two: I remember what I was doing when Marc told me about the Dropkick Murphys. I was in gym class. I did not like gym in high school. My favorite part was socializing with friends that I had no other classes with, including Marc. I recall well that this class, where Marc exponentially increased the scope of my musical sensibilities, was a turning point for me. It is forever etched into my mind, as is Marc. There are few memories in any person’s life that is remembered in the way that I think of that class.

Like I said, I know my reasons are self-centered, but I also think my friends who hear the new music from me appreciate it. I think they feel the same sorts of things that I do about Marc. And when the music is not well known, it becomes like an inside joke between you and that friend. So that friend gets to pass along the joke to others and have the same sort of influence that Marc had on me. The new song or artist becomes a form of social currency.

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Category : Uncategorized

According to Wikipedia, Art is a diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts (artworks), expressing the author’s imaginative or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power.[1][2] In their most general form these activities include the production of works of art, the criticism of art, the study of the history of art, and the aesthetic dissemination of art.

I like to think of art very broadly, in such a way that almost anything can be considered art. I know that this is not the only way to think of it though, and I understand that some people think of art quite narrowly or at least in a more limited sense than I.

There are some that don’t believe the nineties’ performer Gigi Allin to have been an artist. Gigi, whose real name was Jesus Christ Allin, “played” music, was arrested many times, ate human feces on stage, and died an early death. You might read this, and especially if you already know of Allin, and disagree immediately with the contention that Gigi was not an artist. You would be thinking that, of course he was an artist, he recorded music. I would agree that he was an artist, not that his art was suited for me, but I point out that Chuck Klosterman, former columnist for Spin magazine and current author, does not believe Mr. Allin to have been an artist.

If you are like me and believe that almost anything COULD be art, drawing the line in the sand can be difficult. In December, 2015, Martin Skreli, the guy that jacked up the price of that AIDS drug, called his entire public persona a work of art and social experiment. This is an interesting contention.

If art is a human activity expressing the author’s skill, intended to be appreciated for its emotional power, then ostensibly, Mr. Skreli’s public persona is at least plausibly a work of art. Keep in mind that art often causes people who experience it to have visceral reactions.

Consider the possibility that Mr. Skreli is so committed to his art form he is willing to smirk in the face of Congress while giving testimony in an effort to make his craft more powerful. Perhaps his aim is to convince the general public of the depravity of big pharma and that he is willing to be the target of the public’s hatred. Maybe he is willing to be despised so long as he is able to call attention to the issue of exorbitant prescription prices.

I do not agree that Skreli is an artist. It is hard to deny similarities between Skreli and Gigi Allin; if Allin was an artist because he created music, maybe I’m in denial about Skreli, who marshaled much of America, including Congress, against him due to an emotionally powerful set of circumstances set into action by him.

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Stranger Things – A theory

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Like many of you, I binge watched the first season of Stranger Things. Hopefully this show does better than some of the other Netflix produced shows in its subsequent seasons (idk about you, but I did not like Bojack Horseman much after the first season, Orange is the New Black lost its edge after the season one ending, House of Cards got boring too).

Also like many of you, I looked for deeper meaning in the show after watching. SPOILER ALERT…

I read a couple of articles on the meaning of the demigorgon in Stranger Things – about how it is the negative side of Eleven. The same article’s reference to X-Men #134 meant to suggest that Eleven was much like the mutant Jean Gray, who had telekinetic abilities. While these theories are interesting, they don’t shed light on who that little girl with the tattoo on her arm is, or who the sheriff’s daughter (who died) was.

My theory is that the sheriff, who apparently moved to the small town of Stranger Things from a larger city after watching his daughter die from cancer, is the father of one of Eleven’s predecessors. I don’t have a whole lot to go on here, but the facts seem to add up. Early in the show, Chief Hopper talks about his daughter as if she is still alive, though an eavesdropper clarifies that she is not. We know that Brenner’s group is not above faking deaths and corpses.

Later, he reads articles on microfiche about women suing because Doctor Brenner took their children. When the chief is captured by the doctor’s cohorts, he confidently says how he knows “everything” about their research. After saying this, Brenner allows Hopper and Will’s mom, Joyce, to go through the portal and look for Will. Before going in, Hopper tells Joyce that she must not talk about ANYTHING as a condition of being allowed to search for her son. She implicitly agrees to this. Once Will is saved, however, what point is there for the chief and Joyce to stay silent? I mean, Brenner could have just killed Hopper and Joyce, but allowed them to save Will, who seems to have been infected while in the upside-down. We see in the last episode how he spits something into the sink and is transported to the upside-down.

This is a device that has been used in plenty of sci-fi stuff – the most memorable being Aliens, where Ripley discovers that people have been cryogenically frozen after being infected by xenomorphs. The men in charge of this infection know that this is the best way to smuggle the aliens to where they need to be.

At the end of the season, we see the chief mysteriously enter a car after a man in a suit opens the door for him and they drive off into the night immediately before we are informed of the passing of one month. Where did they go? Were they discussing the future of Brenner’s research? Maybe they were talking about how Will would be the next generation of the experiment that Eleven had furthered. This would explain Will visiting the upside-down in the last episode, as well as the fact that Hopper leaves a Tupperware of food and some shrink-wrapped waffles in a box in the woods.

UPDATE AS OF 8/28/16: First, I think that its possible the chief is not in on things – he is not a bad guy. I came to this conclusion after I noticed the second point that I wanted to update – he is quite similar to Terry Ives.

We are introduced to Ms. Ives in “Chapter Six: The Monster”, and she is described by her live-in sister as a willing participant in MKUltra-like tests; laying in sensory deprivation chambers after being dosed with psychedelics (LSD?) to expand her mind. The sister explains that Terry miscarried in her third trimester after (during?) these tests, but she does not claim to have first-hand knowledge of this. Ms. Ives’ sister goes on to tell Hopper and Joyce that Terry acts as if her daughter is still alive, and keeps a room for her – twelve years later.

If you recall early in the season, Hopper is searching for Will. A fellow searcher makes some small talk, to which Hopper replies by referring to his daughter up state. When Hopper walks away, an eavesdropper clarifies to the fellow searcher that Hopper’s daughter is dead. This behavior is strikingly similar to the behavior of Terry Ives, a documented subject of Brenner’s experiments who lost a daughter in the process. I think it is possible/probable that both Hopper and Ives lost children to Brenner’s quest for mind expansion, but that Hopper was more effectively duped into believing that his daughter actually died.

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Putting the ‘yes’ in nostalgic

Category : Uncategorized

Everyone loves Pokemon Go – except the people who vitriolically hate it. Those people are likely to say things about how lazy the augmented reality game players are, even though the game nearly literally forces people to get out and walk.

Pokemon Go is the second game from Niantic Labs. The first game, Ingress, was quite similar. Both are augmented reality games, meaning your smart phone is your gateway to the virtual world and lets you see things that are otherwise not visible. If you are/were a Star Trek fan, think of your phone in these games as a tricorder.

But Ingress was much more in depth than Pokemon Go. In Ingress, there were more ways to interact with the portals than there are to interact with Pokestops. The gameplay was also more complicated, with the ability to link portals; if you link three portals together and create a triangle, you get points proportional to the area of that triangle. Micropays were similar in Ingress as compared to PoGo.

The major difference is the license. Ingress did not depend on a pre-existing brand – Pokemon Go uses the hugely popular Pokemon brand. Frankly, I love Pokemon Go, and I think it has introduced casual gamers who never delved into anything more difficult than Candy Crust to a new type of video game. At the same time, it’s a bit of a shame that this more simplified version of Ingress is orders of magnitude more popular.

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Root, root, root, for the home base

Category : Uncategorized

Video games are huge. Most recently/notably is Pokemon Go, an augmented reality smartphone game using the license of the popular card game and tv show of the mid to late nineties. This game is so popular that it even transcends generations – when my girlfriend and I were walking around catching the in-game creatures at the Dover Public Library, a three-or-so year old girl walked up to us and asked what team we were on.

Being newbies to the game at the time, we replied that we were on the blue team – we did not know the team names then, only the colors. The little girl, however, clearly knew the names of each of the three teams. After asking us, she walked over to another couple that was playing, and asked them the same question.

“Team Valor”, this couple responded, and gave the child a high five. She was elated.

Since it happened, I have been thinking about this interaction. That little girl reminded me of myself at my first baseball game – the Redsox vs the Rangers (I think it was the Rangers). At that game and point in my life, I was obsessed with baseball. The home team, the Redsox were my favorite, though they did poorly at the time.

Conversations on the bus back then, throughout my childhood, and even now, were and are about favorite sports and sports teams. Now though, these same types of conversations are about video games as well.

What is your favorite game? Or, what console do you have? Or, what is your k/d ratio in Battlefield? People are relating to video games in the same way that they have traditionally related to sports, which I think is great. Games are more accessible than sports, at least with respect to participation.

Even better is the fact that, unlike sports, video games do not depend on regions or localities for their fans. There is no home team in video games. I may be on team Mystic along with people all over the world.

As long as we are discussing the similarities between sports and video games, we must look at those similarities with negative connotations – trash talkers. Just like the people who wear “Yankees suck!” on a t-shirt, there are people that badmouth certain games or consoles. Some might complain about Microsoft’s terrible attempt to make the hardware comprising the original X-Box, or may lament Sega’s absence from the hardware market after the Dreamcast, or (like me) might complain that Blizzard was too greedy in making Overwatch but that (also like me) the lemmings would shell out $60 for it on the day of its release anyways.

From LikelyConfusion

David Greene, Esq.

As a late tribute to #GeorgeRomero, I am watching #MonkeyShines and working on a brief

David Greene, Esq.
@likelyconfusion Google Home calls police during domestic violence incident. Man arrested... #telescreen

David Greene, Esq.

One warrant, 3 million calls eavesdropped

David Greene, Esq.

Congrats to @SimonTheTam of the band "The Slants" for protecting speech at SCOTUS - Redskins next... Slants opinion:

David Greene, Esq.
@likelyconfusion US rep Steve Scalise shot at baseball game