What Went Wrong with the Wii U

2011

Nintendo: We call it… the Wii U!

Third Party Developers: It’s an add-on for the Wii?

Nintendo: No! It’s a brand new console! The system that revolves around YOU!

TPDs: That’s the tagline for the Xbox 360 but… sure. So what does it do?

Nintendo: Well it’s got this tablet controller…

TPDs: Uh huh.

Nintendo: …which is a fully functioning touch screen combined with a full-featured traditional controller.

TPDs: So it’s a portable console. Like a Gameboy?

Nintendo: No. I mean, yes, you can play entire games on it but the actual console needs to be turned on and in range.

TPDs: So it’s… wait what?

Nintendo: The Gamepad is made for unique and exciting second-screen experiences! For example, hide and seek. One player, holding the Gamepad, is the hider, and the other players – the seekers – are using regular Wiimotes and playing on the TV in split screen.

TPDs: …

Nintendo: Or it can just display maps and inventory or whatever…

TPDs: OK so what kind of processor-

Nintendo: Of course that’s just two possibilities! We’re confident creative, ambitious developers like yourselves will come up with tons of clever ways to use this thing and make gaming experiences nobody’s ever seen before!

TPDs: Well we find that most of our customers just want to play first person shooters and RPGs with a regular controller. Can it do that?

Nintendo: Yeah, totally! It can play your boring old Skyrims and Calls of Duty (no offense), they’ll just be a little, you know, maybe not so graphically… awesome…

TPDs: What do you mean?

Nintendo: Well the Wii U Gamepad is just so amazing it uses quite a bit of processing power just to run it so the games themselves are – purely graphics-wise – about Wii level…

TPDs: Yikes. This comes out next year?

Nintendo: Let’s not get hung up on the specs here guys. The important thing is we’ve created the golden opportunity for you guys to really dig deep and stretch those creative muscles we KNOW you’ve been dying to use! We can’t wait to see what kind of quirky, innovative ideas you come up with to take advantage of our new controller which is also its own independent touch screen!

TPDs: Um… yeah us too… for sure. Tell you what, we’ll have some talks about what we can make for this… thing. And we’ll call YOU.

Nintendo: Like Wii U! Good one, guys!

TPDs: sigh… Jesus.

On Booking Faces

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On the eve of the 2016 presidential election, as results were pouring in and peoples’ moods were becoming more and more agitated, I decided I’d finally had enough. I went to my computer, wrote a quick status update, and logged out. Then I logged out on my phone, and on my work computer. I use a long randomly generated password which is written down somewhere, so temptation couldn’t easily break my resolve. I quit Facebook.

Ok, not really. I quit for about 10 days1.

But in that mere 10 days I learned a lot about myself and about my relationship with social media. I didn’t really expect that. I took a break because the election quagmire was spiking my anxiety, and I didn’t think it was healthy for me to be too exposed to peoples’ opinions and knee-jerk reactions at such a turbulent time. I just needed a break from overreactions and panic and anger and misinformation and cruelty. I needed to realign my perspective.

And it worked. While being away from Facebook didn’t make me feel any more positively or less horrified at the election results, it went a long way towards leveling out my emotional response in the days that followed. But that wasn’t the biggest impact… 

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Green Day – Revolution Radio Review

revolution-radio

It’s about a month old at this point, and therefore ancient internet history, so this post will have limited appeal. But as the resident stalwart Green Day fan around these parts I really feel the need to get some words published about this album. I’ll be honest, it’s more of a catharsis/venting thing for me than a straightforward music review. That’s because it’s this album – the twelfth2 full length studio album – that marks the point Green Day started sucking in earnest.

Allow me to explain that, before we get to the review. So, maybe it goes without saying that among punk rock fans, Green Day has always kind of been a pariah. It’s a tension that I’ve dealt with for over 15 years. And even to those who once considered themselves fans, there have been a few points at which people have declared that they “lost it”. Maybe it was the commercially disappointing Warning, or the quasi-American Idiot sequel 21st Century Breakdown, or the overstuffed, underwhelming Uno, Dos, Tré triple album. But to me, Warning is their greatest album ever, 21st Century Breakdown is a worthy follow up to American Idiot (which is undeniably a masterpiece), and the trilogy, well… The trilogy was indeed overstuffed with mediocre tracks, but also dotted with a few great ones. It was a failure of ambition and overconfidence, which is at least admirable if not especially rewarding.

But Revolution Radio is another story… The failure of this album is a new kind of failure for Green Day: failure to be true to themselves. 

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On Pokemon GO and Momentary Obsessions

Let’s go back in time to 1994. You’re 11 years old, the Phoenix Suns are the hottest basketball team around2, Nintendo and Sega are battling it out for home video gaming dominance, punk rock is just becoming mainstream (but you don’t know what punk rock really is, because you’re 11), and little cardboard discs called Pogs are the currency of choice on the playground.

I, along with just about all of my friends, became thoroughly obsessed with collecting Pogs. They sold them at the grocery store, the comic book store, and even the ice cream truck. I got my first taste at an indoor swap meet, where I bought 10 Pogs and a 1/4″ thick plastic slammer that didn’t really do anything. After that I was buying them every time I could scrape together a couple dollars, the slammers increased in thickness and weight and I invested in a two foot tall cylinder to hold it all. Collecting them was an addiction. Playing the game? Not so much. 

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The Root of All Evil

Click these! 2

There really is a “root of all evil”, you know. It’s not money, despite what the Bible says. It’s also not greed, or fear, or hate, or ambition. It’s self-centeredness. Virtually every act of evil, and every evil thought, from the little mundane daily evils like road rage and petty theft all the way up to things like racism, murder and acts of terrorism have their origins in self-centered thinking. There are a couple very rare, very specific exceptions to this (insanity for one), but I invite you to think on the forms of evil you’ve either committed or witnessed. The specific motivations can be broad, complicated, and varied, but the absolute reduction of it all comes down to one simple circumstance: considering one’s own needs and desires over those of others. The opposite of empathy.

Here’s why I bring this up… 

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Five Things Nobody Told Me About the Aging Process

Decades worth of stand up comedians have taught me a few things about getting older. You get fat. Your hair migrates from the top of your head to your back to your ass. That grunting noise you make when you stand up. I’m only 32 – hardly on my way to the grave yet – but already I feel like there are things happening to me as part of the aging process that no one warned me about.

5) You become reverse Wolverine

Wolverine from X-Men’s signature power is for superficial wounds to heal completely in a matter of seconds (also, retractable claws for some reason). It’s a well known fact that a person’s ability to heal from injuries is greatest in youth, and that process slows down as you age. But as I’ve gotten older, I’m shocked at how many petty injuries just seem to take FOREVER to heal – and here’s the kicker – some don’t seem to heal at all.

A couple months ago I hurt my shoulder doing bench presses the wrong way. I pull muscles at the gym all the time; I figured I’d lay off the heavy lifting for a couple weeks and everything would be fine and dandy. Next time I got on the bench, the pain was still there. And it’s still there today, and I’ve had to completely abandon certain exercises because of it. I haven’t been to a doctor but I wouldn’t be surprised if surgery is needed to fix it.

When exactly did my body’s healing process turn off “heal all injuries” mode? And how come little scrapes on my arms that scab over take several weeks to totally heal instead of the couple of days I remember?

4) Night time is sleepy time only

This one isn’t necessarily biological, and it’s also sort of a no-brainer, but I’m mentioning it because it’s something I didn’t expect to happen to me this early. My ability to stay awake into the wee hours of the morning and sleep in till the afternoon is pretty much completely shot.

It’s all work’s fault. As most people gain more work experience they tend to wind up in jobs that have consistent, predictable daytime schedules instead of the erratic, later shifts of retail and food service jobs. After a few years of working a 9-5 (which is, in reality, more often an 8-5 or 7-4 kind of thing), your body adapts to that sleeping schedule and the two weekend days aren’t enough to alter it. So no matter what you do to compensate, your body’s internal wiring is doing everything in its power to make your eyelids start to get heavy around 9 or 10pm, and you can bet you’re gonna be waking up roughly around when your alarm clock is normally set, even if you managed to stay up late into the night.

This does not bode well for partying. Alcohol acts like an industrial sedative to me as it is; when I have to contend with a sleep clock that’s been honed to my work schedule for the last 10 years, I’m fighting an uphill battle.

3) Your skin gets weird

It’s bullshit that you have to spend so many of your most vulnerable, insecure years battling with crappy skin. But once you pass adolescence, and the acne thing is mostly under control (although never entirely), it should be smooth sailing right?

Wrong! You get to experience all new skin adventures! Have freckly skin? Get ready to develop new, larger skin spots out of nowhere. Oily skin? Hope you’re stocked up on lotion because it’ll fluctuate between oily and painfully dry as the seasons change! And why are there now purple rings around my eyes?

And there’s more. Skin cancer. Random dry spots. Random red spots. Cysts that spring up out of nowhere and never go away. It’s like your skin is rejecting your body. At this rate I wouldn’t be surprised if I start to look like Immortan Joe at the beginning of Mad Max Fury Road.

2) Your face changes

I always thought it was funny in movies when a character was portrayed as a child and as a young adult, they’d use two actors who shared almost no resemblance, and we all accepted it because we assume our looks change drastically from youth to adulthood. But look at Jake Lloyd, who played 10 year old Anakin Skywalker in Episode 1, today. He looks… pretty much like a big version of that kid, not like Hayden Christiansen. Yet, if an adult character is to age another 15 or 20 years, the approach is usually to use the same actor and add a couple of gray streaks in the hair and a wrinkle or two.

But the reality is, the way your real face changes in adulthood is nearly as drastic as how it changes in youth (excepting the Tom Cruises of the world). I liked my face at 20. I went through life confident that the face cameras and other people saw was the same as the one I saw in the mirror. Today, that’s not as true. When I look in the mirror I see the face I’m used to, but for some reason when I see photographs, I notice all the changes. The jawline seen from the front is no longer angular, but a smooth arc from ear to chin to ear. The eye sockets are sunken. The forehead protrudes. My face overall is just longer than I remember.

This isn’t a body dysmorphia thing. I don’t think I’m the Elephant Man or anything. But I used to think that once I was fully grown the general structure of my face was pretty much set, and all that would change was the skin and hair on top. Imagine the surprise!

1) Time becomes your enemy

This is the one I really wish somebody had warned me about. Perhaps someone did, and I didn’t listen, or forgot. But for every year you age, your own perception of time speeds up. This is likely a combination of being more busy in general the older you get (time tends to fly when you’re busy), having fewer novel experiences, and simply getting used to the length of hours, days, and years. Knowing the reason it happens doesn’t make it any less terrifying.

The thing that usually reminds me of this eternal terror is when I start considering how long ago the pop cultural landmarks I remember happened. I saw The Dark Knight in theaters 8 years ago. It’s been 13 years since The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King swept the Oscars, which I watched live. Green Day’s American Idiot, an album I remember driving myself to the store to purchase at midnight, like it happened 5 or 6 years ago, was actually 12 years ago now. On that note, it’s been longer from that album to today than it was from Dookie, which came out when I was in 6th grade, to American Idiot. Horror.

And that’s not even taking into account personal events. Vacations, relationships, jobs, successes, tragedies… things that feel as if they couldn’t be more than a handful of years ago, turn out to be much farther in the past than you realized. I’ve literally gone through old photos on my computer and assumed that the date stamp was somehow wrong, because how could that be?

And the thing is, you still remember when a year felt like a long period of time. So when another Christmas or Halloween rolls around, and you feel like you just got done with the previous one, you think back to a time when the wait for the holidays felt interminable2, and it was that much sweeter and more satisfying when they got there. I don’t need to tell anybody how much I love Halloween, but in the past couple of years it’s started to feel startling when signs of it start appearing. To me, it feels like I just shoved the boxes into the attic, and now I’m pulling them back down.

I could go on, but this is already depressing enough, and everyone older than me that’s reading this is probably getting angry by now. To bring it back to a positive note, time may feel like your enemy as you get older, but you don’t have to give in to that enemy. It’s a battle you fight every moment that you’re conscious. The way to win that battle is not to race towards the end of your life, as we’re all tempted to do. We’re always focused on getting to the next thing. The next end of your work shift, the next weekend, the next vacation, the next party, the next promotion. We fixate so much on racing to the next carrot dangling in front of us that before we know it, we’re officially elderly. And you’ll look back on age 32 and it will feel less like 40 years ago and more like 10.

Appreciate the mere significance of being alive, being conscious, and being generally comfortable and safe, if you’re fortunate enough for that to be your reality. Every hour you spend resenting your station is an hour you’ll really wish you had back some day. professional essay writing services uk

A Few Words About the New Ghostbusters

Watch this trailer first, if you haven’t seen it! And click these little numbers!2

It’s not even weird anymore, the way our current culture picks apart entertainment. Every bit of pre-production news, casting rumor, casting announcement, leaked set photo, official press photo, teaser trailer, teaser for the trailer, and marketing nugget gets dissected, discussed, and analyzed to death, and opinions and judgments inevitably follow. In some ways, a movie’s legacy is cured and set well before the thing is even finished.

It wasn’t my intention to jump into that mess, though tempted I have been to do as much in the past. But people will ask me what I think of the new Ghostbusters now that the first trailer has hit. So here let it be known, my reaction. 

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Sportsball

I’m consistently amazed by the things that can become momentarily fashionable on the internet. Most recently – and this was, of course, brought to my attention due to “the game” yesterday – an ANTI-anti-sports sentiment has begun to develop on the internet, possibly kickstarted by this cartoon:

Sportsball

I have no problem admitting that I laughed at this the first time I saw it, even though it feels like it’s directed at me. Maybe because it’s directed at me. The last thing I want to do is take this too seriously, but now that there’s a groundswell of support revolving around the “let people enjoy things” line, I feel like I should probably clear some things up about myself, about people who aren’t into spectator sports, and about how we really interact with a sports-obsessed society.

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Durant’s Never Closes Review

Full disclosure: I am personally invested in this film, in a way. I have followed its production history since a friend of mine let me know he was facilitating the primary filming location, and quite accidentally I connected another friend of mine to the filmmakers in a producer role. In light of this my intent is to write the most impartial review of which I am capable.

durants never closes

Phoenix natives and adopted natives alike ought to be familiar with Durant’s restaurant on Central Avenue. It’s an old school, Rat Pack-influenced steakhouse where you enter via the back door, through the kitchen, into a dining and bar area soaked in red leather, dim lighting, and brown liquor. There’s an old-fashioned masculinity to the place that exudes its own special charm. All long-term Phoenix residents owe it to themselves to experience Durant’s at least once.

Maybe you already know this. And maybe you even know a little bit about its history. The founder’s mysterious past, and alleged mob connections, the restaurant’s reputation as a meeting spot for various unseemly characters and their unseemly plots, and the possible connection to the high-profile murder of an investigative reporter in the 70’s. Whatever your familiarity going in, this film is not at all concerned with getting you up to speed. In fact, it couldn’t be bothered to convey any concrete information about the history of Durant’s at all. Instead, its focus is squarely on Jack Durant himself. The man, the myth, etc.

As such, it’s best to go into Durant’s Never Closes with the appropriate expectations in place. On the surface, this is a Goodfellas for the city of Phoenix. But underneath, it’s something entirely different and unexpected. Largely plotless, the events of the film are not just linear, they’re impressionistic. The majority of the film takes place at some undefined point in the late 70’s, inside Durant’s itself, at old Jack’s favorite spot at the bar. Legend has it, Durant designed the acoustics of the bar area specifically so that while guests would have a hard time hearing the conversations in adjacent booths, one could easily eavesdrop on anyone in the place from one specific spot at the bar. Jack’s spot, naturally. So there he sits, sipping beer, listening in, chatting with the regulars, and occasionally flying into fits of violent rage when provoked.

The only times the movie ever leaves the restaurant is during the many Scorcese-esque flashback sequences that don’t so much tell the story about Durant’s life, but fill in various textures of his character. Interludes address details like his beloved English bulldogs, his history with various ex-wives, and in one particularly abstract sequence, his inspiration to conquer the Phoenix dining scene. These sequences range from brief comedy bits to long musings on relationships and character.

As Jack Durant, Tom Sizemore is mesmerizing. Truly. I don’t use that “movie critic” word lightly. He sinks into this character 100%, and never seems like he’s phoning it in. His rage, his ambition, his vulnerability, and his sorrow are all equally believable. Honestly, with a lesser performance at its center this film would have fallen apart. If his IMDb page is any indication Sizemore has been spreading himself pretty thin lately, accepting all manner of typecast “tough guy” roles, and it would be a shame if this performance were overlooked because of it. In fact, the acting all around is solid. Jon Gries of Napoleon Dynamite fame brings a lot of energy and humor to his small role as a fallen baseball star, and as Durant’s “one who got away”, Michelle Stafford lends the film a great deal of its emotional heft. Peter Bogdonovich meanwhile, sort of sleepwalks through his minor role, which is more or less a glorified cameo, but it’s nice to have some old Hollywood around.

Ultimately, Durant’s Never Closes is a film of, I’ll say specific appeal. The decision to leave the history vague in favor of looking deep inside Durant himself puts the spotlight on Sizemore’s performance. The non-linear, abstract approach to a figure virtually unknown outside of Arizona means I have a hard time seeing national audiences embracing the film. How damning that criticism is depends on the feelings of the folks who made it. The director, Travis Mills has been open about his intent to grow Phoenix’s own cinema scene. I know the movie is getting a limited theatrical run in Albuquerque New Mexico after its Phoenix run. I’m interested to see how it plays outside the valley.

Durant’s Never Closes is playing now through the 28th at Harkins Shea 14 theater.

Making a Murderer Out-Serialed Serial

brendan-dassey

You know you’ve made it when the internet starts using your creation as click bait. Such is the case with Making a Murderer, or “What America Did on its Christmas Break”. Seems everybody with a Netflix account became addicted to, and outraged by, this true crime tale. The partly unsolved murder, the characters with their own secrets and agendas, the details of the crime that just don’t add up no matter how hard you try, and the agonizing lack of closure at the end. Where have we heard this before?

Last year, the first season of the Serial podcast was our Making a Murderer. We listened along week by week (per Serial’s own slogan), absorbing all the details, acting as little armchair detectives coming up with theories and conclusions while the story played out. The season ended, we all moved on with our lives, and Making a Murderer took that baton and ran it to the next level – video. The extraordinary luck and persistence of the documentarians meant we got to see most things play out right for our very eyes, instead of relying largely on anecdotal accounts and Sarah Koenig’s (admittedly delightful) narration. It’s the Serial of 2015.

Except for one thing: Serial’s 2nd season is currently playing out as we speak. As of this writing, it’s about halfway through. And nobody seems to be talking about it. Did Making a Murderer steal Serial’s thunder? 

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