Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs

Becoming a "Mac Guy" has been one of the happier accidents of my life so far.

I had used them in childhood - memories of playing Oregon Trail, first on an Apple IIe and later on some of the earliest Power Macs, are vivid - but when our family finally got a computer it was a hand-me-down, and it ran MS-DOS. I familiarized myself with the operating system (and later, Windows) and in high school and into college I adopted the popular dissenting viewpoint regarding the Mac question: Macs were expensive, and they were weird, and only stupid idiots used them.

Fast forward to the summer of 2007, and I've just landed my first job in IT, albeit as a part-time student worker. Higher education being what it is, Macs were in abundance, and despite barely knowing the first thing about them (I didn't figure out how to install programs for weeks. Weeks.) I now had to work with them if I wanted my ten bucks an hour. And I needed that ten bucks an hour.

Over the next four years I amassed much knowledge of Macs, almost entirely through trial and error and vigorous, frequent Googling. This newfound expertise was instrumental in getting me a new job over this past summer. I can say without hyperbole that I owe a debt of gratitude to Apple for my current employment and the perks thereof, and to my profession I owe much of the experience and expertise I employ daily in writing about technology. That's the happy accident.

And that's just professionally. Even when I'm not working, I can't get by without my MacBook Air's low weight and high battery life. I depend on my iPhone all day long. I'm using Apple products for much of the time that I'm awake, and whatever you think about them or the company that makes them, they've had a visible and beneficial impact on our day-to-day lives. It's hard to deny the innovations they've made and the trends they've set, even if (perhaps especially if) you're a Windows die-hard or an Android fandroid.

No one person is responsible for any of these inventions: behind each of them is a dedicated and talented team of engineers; designers; programmers; marketers; laborers. But Steve Jobs, perhaps more than any working CEO today, contributed incalculably to the products his company makes. His fingerprints are all over every single one of them.

He died today, and that's really, truly a shame. Continue...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

After the Jump: Late Night Jimmies


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Three Years of Utter Misery: A Charge Shot!!! Retrospective

It is with a heavy heart that Charge Shot!!! passes from my life. To think that was so short a three years ago that Andrew, Craig, and Rob asked me to join them on this little adventure of theirs. I was honored, of course, but confused. You see, as some of you may remember, in the turbulent era of Charge Shot!!!'s ascendancy, this was a strictly video game blog. Strange as that may seem now, considering how much "new millennium culture blog" has come to mean to me (with all its lack of meaning), we once had so narrow a mission. But that's the blog the Founding Fathers wanted to write, and hell if I would turn down such an laurel as being chosen to contribute.

But you see, I didn't really like video games anymore. Sure, I played Mario Kart and Smash Bros. even more than the average college student, but I hadn't put up the funds for a new game in years. I didn't even own a seventh generation system in my own right. I didn't feel like I had a right to spew my thoughts on these things at all. But hey, I liked to write, and my senior comps were almost done (mine were on the evolution of knightly roles in medieval literature and history) so why not take the excuse to hang out online with my nerdy friends?

What had started as a somewhat awkward social obligation blossomed into a hobby, and later into a genuine passion. And I couldn't do any less than thank the readers, editors, and fellow writers for the experience.


Oh Hey…I Almost Didn’t See You There

wavegoodbyeIn November 2008, three bored friends, recent college graduates, started a blog. As Andrew said Thursday, it was born out of both shambling careers and a desire for communication. We plugged away at our gaming blog, starting a few features, aborting a few others, until we felt the need to expand.

So we expanded. Widened the aperture of our discussion to include entertainment, technology and, most importantly, food crimes. Of course, this required fresh blood and renewed vigor, so we enlisted some good friends to bolster our ranks. They’ve served us well.

I wrote a lot for this site. Two years of Audiosurf Radio. A dozen or so entries. Countless op-eds on gaming, television, music, theatre. Reviews on everything from a book about bike-riding by David Byrne to a B-list fantasy game about turning into a dragon (copy provided by the publisher for review purposes). It wasn’t all gold, but it wasn’t all crap either. And I’ll take that.

I also regularly contributed to our podcast – even taking on the hosting duties after Robert departed. One regret is not having the time or resources to properly market it. We always felt it had immense potential but never quite found the audience it deserved. Also…I’m still waiting on that digital soundboard.

To our readers: thank you so much. We did our best to scare you away with overly-navel-gazing manboy game talk. We tried harder to win you over with in-depth interviews with bright minds from the indie gaming scene. Then we invited our friends over to write some stuff our non-gamer friends might enjoy. Thank you for joining us, whenever you climbed aboard.

To friends of the site – developers, PR folk, etc. – thank you for your time and respect. Despite much self-deprecation, we always tried to take our endeavors seriously (especially if someone else’s time or product were on the line). Some of the site’s highlights included interviews of generous length and kind retweets and links from a variety of outlets. The Internet can be a scary place, and it’s comforting to find kind strangers out there.

And to the staff: it’s been a blast. I am proud of the work we did here and of the work that it has either allowed you to do or will drive you to do in the future. And I’m honored and grateful that you etched out time in your schedules to contribute to our project.

Seeing that it may be a bit of time before I have a platform to “properly” review something, let me pass judgment on a few things real quick:

- Louie, now in its second season, still rules.

- You’re an idiot if you’ve never watched Deadwood.

- I still can’t believe The Killing got me.

- Monday Night Combat is an amazing way to turn one hour of leisure time into four hours of leisure time.

- The Pale King is book of great ideas with some confusing passages and bizarre editing choices – which makes sense ‘cause Yo It Wasn’t Finished.

- I work in theatre, I teach theatre to kids and young adults, and I like theatre: but I’m not a huge fan of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

- is the shit.

- I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: go play Portal 2.

- The Kills. The Kills.

- And Ender’s Game is still my favorite, no matter what Orson Scott Card does.

So long and thanks for all the hits!


Friday, July 29, 2011

Thoughts of an Aspiring Music Snob:
Week 117 - Queen, and the Conclusion

Chris has been trying to compensate for his lack of musical knowledge by immersing himself in one new artist each week. At the end of the week, he would write up a brief summary of his opinions. You can read about the origin and parameters of this project here.

The final installment requires a bit of reflection. I'll try not to be too self-indulgent, but I am listening to Queen this week, so that might be difficult. 

It is with sadness and a tad bit of relief that I'm ending this written feature after nearly two years' worth of writing about new music (well, new to me, anyway). But it's also with not a small amount of pride; I've managed to go above and beyond the original point of this project, which was to teach myself a little bit about popular music. This is not to say that I'm a music snob yet, but I'm ready to advance to the next level. An "intermediate music snob" perhaps. 

When I started this project, it was to acquaint me with some of the bigger names in popular music and start to piece together its history. After 117 weeks and some change, the project has evolved to the point where I'm able to look into more niche genres and lesser-known acts, and start to connect the dots myself. I'd still hesitate to even begin to call myself an expert, but I realized when I could easily place Faust within the context of post-war German avant-garde music, or the Pretenders within the context of the post-punk era that gave way to 80s "alternative" rock, I was not really a neophyte any longer. 


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Art House in the Middle of the Street #0: The End's Not Near, It's Here

The end is here. The Earth is one continuous, blighted landscape. Fossil fuels are as distant a memory as the great prehistoric beasts from which they originated. The wastes are ruled by marauding psychopathic biker gangs. Either that or a somewhat minor culture blog is calling it quits. I can't quite remember.

Ending a feature mid-stream as I'm doing with Art House is a somewhat disappointing resolution. Then again, I really only proposed the thing so I could have an excuse to watch a Janus movie every week. And because I still own the box, I could ostensibly keep doing that. Chances are, though, that I probably won't.

Why not? With a few purely enjoyable exceptions (Hitchcock's The 39 Steps, Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast), the movies contained in "Essential Art House" aren't what you'd qualify as "easy watches." They can be agonizingly slow (Ozu's Floating Weeds) or terrifyingly sere (Ichikawa's Fires on the Plain).

All Good Things...

Dear readers: It is with mixed feelings that I announce to you that Charge Shot!!! will cease updating this Sunday after the posting of our 100th and final podcast.

The editors and writing staff came to this decision unanimously after lengthy discussion, though we didn't do so lightly. Increasingly busy schedules and waning interest in the unpaid, weekly grind made it a necessary choice, if not an easy one.

And now that the time comes, I find myself not knowing quite what to say. This site started when three bored college friends, frustrated by lack of career options and afraid of falling out of touch, decided to spend their free time writing about video games.

It ends nearly three years and more than two thousand posts later, having carved out a tiny corner of the internet for itself, and having done some things I'm pretty damn proud of: we've done some great interviews with indie game luminaries, we've gotten press passes and sent some people to conventions, and we've done some very good op-ed and news writing that could go toe-to-toe with anyone's, anywhere. I used it, to my benefit, in my last job interview. I've gained some of the unique tightrope-walking skills that come from evaluating and critiquing the work of my close friends, while also maintaining my friendships with those people. It hasn't caught fire and it barely makes enough ad money to pay for itself (and neither of those things were really the point), but it has been rewarding in completely unexpected ways.

To the writers who made it all happen: it has been my pleasure. To the readers, especially those who have stayed with us for most of this ride: thanks for stopping by. Continue...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Movie Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

I received this poster as a consolation prize for
having to sit through the 3D version of the film...
I've never followed Captain America, either through the 210 million copies of his comic books that have flown off newsstand shelves since his first appearance in 1941, or through the various movie serial and television adaptations that have popped up since then.  Until a week ago, pretty much my only exposure to Captain America in any type of media was that one episode of the X-Men animated television series* that shows a flashback of Wolverine fighting alongside the First Avenger himself back in the "Big War." (You'll of course remember that Wolverine is actually much older than he looks, and that his mutant healing power keeps him young and fresh... insert nerdy guffaw here.)

* Before I continue, let me just say that I'm so happy that episodes from this solid show are easily available online, without having to trudge through the various incomplete bootleg versions on the YouTubes. The above-linked episode is from the latter half of Season 5 where animation quality suffered  as they were rushing to complete their various storylines before the show ended. But many of the earlier episodes are extremely well done and deal with more advanced and deep themes than you'd expect from a typical Saturday morning cartoon. I'd wholeheartedly recommend it; several steps below Batman: The Animated Series, of course...

Thus when I saw Captain America: The First Avenger last Thursday at the Arclight Hollywood (but not in the Dome), I was able to approach the story fresh, with no preconceived notions instilled by pesky, more original versions of the story. I was able to put myself squarely and firmly in the hands of Paramount Pictures and director Joe Johnston's 21st Century interpretation of the character. And I must say, I was not disappointed.


Movie Review: Tekken: Blood Vengeance

Charge Shot!!!'s esteemed co-editor Craig and I made a man-date to see a dumb movie. The plan, originally, was to see Transformers: Dark Moon Rising (or whatever it's called). But it seemed the universe had other plans for us. Because yesterday, at 7:30pm, in selected movie theaters all across the nation a special, stupid, crazy, confounding film aired for one night only. Last night we happened upon Tekken: Blood Vengeance in 3D, and I don't know about Craig but I don't think I'll ever be the same.

Here's what I knew about the Tekken video game franchise before going to see the movie. 1. It was one of those serious fighting games. The kind where smashing buttons would only get you past the first round at an arcade. 2. There was some weird half-man, half-leopard guy you could play as. 3. There were bears. I went into the movie expecting to be somewhat confused. Luckily for me, the movie featuring characters from Tekken had very little to do with the video games! There wasn't even a Tekken Tournament!


Monday, July 25, 2011

Thoughts of an Aspiring Music Snob:
Week 116 - The Pretenders

Chris is trying to compensate for his lack of musical knowledge by immersing himself in one new artist each week. At the end of the week, he will write up a brief summary of his opinions. You can read about the origin and parameters of this project here.

"We're paying tribute to James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon," the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde announced upon the band's induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005, "without whom we wouldn't be here." Honeyman-Scott was the original guitarist for the group; Farnon the original bassist. Both met with tragic, early deaths because of drugs, which is probably why Hynde went on with the observation that, "on the other hand, without us, they might have been here, but that's the way it works in rock 'n' roll."

"That's the way it works in rock 'n' roll" is a sobering statement, especially in light of Amy Winehouse's premature death over this past weekend. The music industry has always had an unfortunate closeness with a drug-induced brand of hedonism that is often too easily laughed off. But the Pretenders (and Winehouse) show that fame and fortune often come at an unfortunate price. The vast waste of talent, the sheer fucking uselessness of these sorts of deaths, are both tragic and infuriating. 


Sunday, July 24, 2011

After the Jump: Staned

Subscribe to the podcast via the feed, find us in the iTunes store, or download the MP3 directly!


Sunday Reading: Mac OS X Lion Review

As you may or may not know, Apple released a new version of Mac OS X this week.

Doing an in-depth review is a bit outside of the scope of what we do here, but I wanted to make sure y'all knew what I thought, so if you've got time you should read the massive review of it that I helped write for Anandtech. A quote that sums it up:
"For those of you worried that Apple's "back to the Mac" marketing push would result in an OS X version that sacrifices functionality in favor of imported iOS features and reduced capability: those fears are, by and large, unfounded. The iOS-inspired functionality is mostly laid over top of a foundation that's more or less OS X as it has been since Leopard - a solid, mature and full-featured desktop operating system. 
That said, the usefulness of individual Lion features will likely come down to your individual needs and work patterns. Most should appreciate solid new features like Versions, the new Mail, and the much-needed enhancements to FileVault, but features like Launchpad and the UI overhauls of iCal and Address Book are of dubious benefit to users, and other heavily-promoted features like multitouch gestures and the Mac App Store are already available to Snow Leopard users. 
Even so, at $29, there is really no reason not to buy Lion..."
So go check it out! Continue...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saturday Morning TV: Baseball Friends

You know what I love more than home runs?


Friday, July 22, 2011

Spotify is Here!

Before last week, you might have heard rumors of Spotify, the music streaming service that has taken Europe by storm. For the past couple of years, Americans have had to make do with vague stories of the Promised Land - a realm beyond the ocean where you could legally stream any track...for free! For those of us stuck toiling away in the United States, it was hard not to greet these tales with a healthy dose of skepticism. Is Spotify really all that great, or is this another case of our cultural inferiority complex?

Last week saw the long awaited debut of Spotify in the United States, and now we Americans can judge for ourselves. It's currently invite-only, but it's relatively easy to garner an invite (I got one in thirty seconds after a quick Google search led me to a Spotify promotion on the Coca-Cola website). And it turns out that our European counterparts were not wrong, and Spotify has a lot of promise. If it really takes off, it could conceivably change the way we listen to music in the same way Netflix changed the way we watched movies. 


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Decade of Dreck #59: Modigliani

Charge Shot!!! is celebrating the end of the decade in the most masochistic way we know how - by watching and writing about the 100 worst movies of the last ten years as defined by film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Click here to see RT's complete list, click here for more about the Decade of Dreck project, and click here to see all of the movies we've done so far.

Ah, the starving artist: you are torn between your passion for your art and a world that doesn't understand your genius. Must you compromise your vision to stay afloat or will you die knowing you've changed the world? Nobody makes movies about the former, so if you please, you may begin hacking up blood due to Consumption at your leisure.

Yes, it's that very fact, nobody makes movies about sell-outs, everybody makes movies about crazy artists who upend their field, that doomed Modigliani from the start. Sure, it could be relatively easy to make a movie about the life of the Italian painter, he certainly has a decent enough life story, but why do it well when you can just do it? That might require something like giving some thought to it, having some talent, and scripting interesting characters we care about for reasons other than that their works hang in the MoMA!

Amadeo Mogigliani certainly deserves a fancy historical biopic as much as, if not more than, any other modern artist. It has all the elements that make the fancy historical biopic film interesting: doomed love, genius, a captivating setting, famous friends- it should be pretty simple to make a halfway decent one of these things, just take the formula for Frida and change the names and you've got it!

I jest of course, this was probably exactly what the people behind Modigliani did, and this was the crappy end result.