July 2007


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Somewhere in that blackness is Spoon playing at the Capitol Hill Block Party in Seattle on Saturday the 28th. I attended with the lovely and talented Ms. Sizzle Says. (Whom, as you can see in the accompanying photo, is like three feet shorter than I am.) It was an all-day event, but I wasn’t really familiar with any of the other bands. We caught a bit of John Vanderslice, who was… fine and OK and whatever. Spoon!

Ms. Sizzle is a fan of Against Me!, the band that preceded Spoon. They were also OK. They sure did shout enthusiastically. It was your basic angry punk music, sounding like a less Irish Dropkick Murphys. (Which isn’t a criticism; both bands shout a lot.) There were a lot of political messages buried in the mix a bit, ones which the crowd surfing furries (don’t ask) surely grokked.

The crowd got pretty big for Spoon, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. They rolled through a nearly 90-minute set, mixing in most of the tunes from their current CD “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga” with some of the “greatest hits” from the past (“Everything Hits at Once, ” “The Fitted Shirt,” “Take a Walk,” “Me and the Bean,” “The Way We Get By,” and a killer version of “Jonathon Fisk“).

They were tight but not boringly polished. They had a lot of energy, and Britt Daniel was in fine voice. (And here’s a random Spoon/gaming fact: Daniel used to work for Origin Systems in their sound FX department. ) Spoon just sounds cool.

In other news, The Simpsons Movie. It’s worth seeing more for all the throwaway gags in the periphery, which is generally true of all great Simpsons episodes. My favorite line? The always quotable Ralph Wiggum, upon seeing a naked Bart Simpson riding through the streets of Springfield after a dare from Homer: “I like men.”

Awesome.

I got my ass kicked tonight—twice, even—at Wii Sports boxing by a non-gamer. Total ass-whomping. (First fight, first round knockup; second, I made it to the third round.)

I did beat her at tennis, though I’m not sure that restored any of my guy points. I mean, tennis? Please.

No, this isn’t about The Tick.

At the risk of this becoming, “Steve’s Music Blog,” I just picked up tickets to see these guys in a couple of weeks. This isn’t my favorite track off their new CD, “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga,” but all of their songs just sound… cool. I just dig Britt Daniel’s voice for some reason.

This is where I was last night. It was an evening full of happy sounds and confetti flying all about the room. (This video really takes off around the 3-minute mark.) It was… inspiring.

(Note: I didn’t shoot the video or anything.)

Plop Plop, Fizz Fizz… My new employer is in the news today, so I figure I might as well spill the beans. I’m working as an entry-level associate junior producer-like guy at Redmond’s own Gas Powered Games, makers of fine family entertainment like Dungeon Siege, Supreme Commander, and the just-announced today Space Siege.

I am not, however, working on any of those games or franchises or series’ or sequels. Or anything else rumored or announced. In fact, nothing I’m working on actually exists. And if it/they did, I couldn’t tell anyone. Yet. Assuming there was even something I could tell anyone. Which there isn’t.

So what am I doing? Chris Taylor basically throws things at me all day, and I say, “Yes sir, thank you sir.” And then I feed him dried fruit from Whole Foods.

(Actually, we had a meeting in his office one day, and he had ungodly amounts of dried fruit and nuts… it was quite the spread. By the end, we did reach one consensus: The non-organic mango was better than the organic variety. And people wonder why games are always delayed….)

There’s something hotwired into the male strand of DNA that makes us like to blow shit up, and to see shit blown up. Since we spend the fourth of July celebrating the birth of our fine nation by blowing shit up, I figured it made sense to see Transformers, a movie made by a director (Michael Bay) who likes to blow shit up and based on a toy that is designed for boys who want to pretend to blow shit up.

SealBayI suppose I should confess that, as with most treasured geek things, Transformers means nothing to me. I’m a wee-bit too old to have played with the toys or cared about the cartoon; I’ve never even seen the show before, though I know the tagline “More Than Meets the Eye” from commercials. I know that some people my own age watched the cartoon but dudes, that was college… why weren’t you all getting all angsty watching The Seventh Seal. Philistines.

But I wanted to see big robots doing battle and that’s what I got. What I didn’t expect was a John Hughes 80s movie grafted onto it, but the humor actually made it more bearable. The film looks amazing, and the digital compositing is terrific. The robots really blend into the environments. But the fact everyone was goofing off around them made it all one extended joke, which thank god it was. I mean, it’s a movie based on a toy. And as Pirates of the Caribbean—the first, non-crappy one—proved, you can take the worst premise and turn it into humorous fluff.

(Some of the goofs on IMDB are awesome. People take this shit too seriously.)

Which isn’t to say Transformers is as good as Pirates of the Caribbean. There’s no central, “WTF” performance like Johnny Depp, though it appears John Turturro gave it his best effort. (He’s horrible.) And Anthony Anderson, who proved himself with his killer role on The Shield, reverts back to screaming all the time for humor. But Shia LaBeouf is a star, the generic girlfriend was hot, the plot was funny, and lots of shit blew up. It’s a good time for the entire family, assuming you’re OK with an extended masturbation joke. (Where’s Long Duk Dong to bring it all home for the Hughes fan?)

It would make a good double header with Live Free or Die Hard, which I saw over the weekend. If anything, Die Hard 4 is an even more over-the-top action film. And it’s less Michael Bay-esque, which is to say it’s not edited and shot solely for over caffeinated 11-year olds. The worst thing about it is that it’s turned John McClane—so memorably vulnerable in the first movie, particularly when it came to his foot problems—into generic action superhero man.

But it’s even more balls-out action than Transformers. It’s basically an extended sequence of action scenes with little bits tying them all together. While everything it’s all well and good, the last one involving the world’s most mobile fighter jet pegs the stupid meter at 11. And I can’t hate on Justin Long too much for his “I’m playing a teenager in this movie even though I’m nearly 30″ role, despite those horrible “I’m a Mac” ads. I signed an agreement to let CGM be used in a movie he was in called Accepted, though I’ve never looked closely enough at the movie to see if it actually appears anywhere in the final movie.

I paid $3 for this today.

Buzz Cola

It’s not quite as cool as this, though… (more…)