Category Archives: Uncategorized

PCP: Freshmen

Monotony Monday #9 – Moronoic, Maybe Not

Kodak Black & 21 Savage: Freshmen Track Stars

The short of it: Once the backpack comes off, these two young stars have more to offer than their outlandish behavior and reputation.

Aight, I gotta start this off by saying I’m not a backpacker. Sure, maybe I used to be more on the side of suburban white kid rap (horrorcore and the spirituallyricalmiracle), but then I realized how much good music there was once you stopped reflexively hating on anything outside your box. I came to realize that artists like Hopsin are more of a failure of potential rather than a guidepost of good hip-hop. And I found out artists like Future can put out some of my favorite tracks and projects (Monster is Future’s greatest work, @ me son).

So the XXL Freshmen are always fun for me to see– I can get behind veterans of the scene sneaking in, and I’m interested in seeing what talent I didn’t know about made it in.

G Herbo, finally. Denzel Curry, Dave East, good for them. Desiigner, aw hell yeah, got a weird soft spot for him. Dicky probably deserves it for his honesty and virality. Yachty and Uzi Vert been shakin’ up the game, aight, and .Paak is blowing up.

That leaves Kodak and 21, two artists that have long left a bitter taste in my mouth. Kodak for his history of dumb crimes and violence, 21 for his overly deadpan expression and “issaknife” debacle.

Two songs cycled up on Pandora recently, and I begrudgingly started to warm up to these two.

Kodak’s feature with A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie (who I also don’t dig, partially because of the obtrusiveness of his name, partially out of loyalty to Boogie) got me. ABWDH’s melodies lured me in, and Kodak’s grizzled pronunciation sealed the deal.

Something about his tight lipped delivery worked with the production to even let me look past his terrible “I’m the shit, I’m fartin'” line to appreciate one of my favorite closers to a verse this year:

She call me daddy / But I ain’t her muh’fuckin’ father

Meanwhile, 21 Savage won me with his song “X” with Future. In the track, 21 says with a straight tone, no inflection or slowing

Hit her with no condom / had to make her eat a Plan B

whereas Childish Gambino has a similar line, and he offers this deep shame along with the admission:

“There any breakage in that Trojan?” / She see what she wanna see / So I make her take Plan B in front of me

Now, this isn’t a direct comparison between the two or some criticism about how hard or soft they seem. It’s a matter of approach– and 21’s is, well, savage. It’s flat, cold, straight. It’s a delivery that could be either completely untrained or terrifyingly trained.

 

PCP: Specter of Torment

Fun Fridayz #7 – Free For Fans

Shovel Knight – Specter of Torment: Ghastly Goodness

The short of it: While not as smooth as Shovel of Hope or Plague of Shadows, Specter of Torment continues the trend of successful shovelry. Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight easily claims the title of Greatest Kickstarter Game.

On its own, Shovel Knight has no right to be as good as it is. On its own, Plague of Shadows has no right to be as good as it is. On its own, Specter of Torment has no right to be as good as it is.

Yacht Club consistently nails its strengths, which is about as redundant as the phrase, “digging shovel.” The hub worlds are delights to explore and serve as both adventure relief and comic relief, their NPCs always offer great interaction, the music is always fresh as hell, and their character design is absolutely gorgeous.

Both DLCs so far have radically changed the gameplay of Shovel Knight by drastically altering the player’s mobility. Plague Knight’s explosive jumps and Specter Knight’s dashes and wall runs reinvigorate old levels and offer new takes on already fascinating levels. However, they create new levels of frustration as increased mobility usually comes with more difficult paths. Instead of Shovel Knight’s simple jump once or die, it compounds into jump explode jump wall hang jump or jump dash float wall run jump dash.

Basically, I’m bad at platforming and this game really made me think about that. Although the enemies and bosses (final boss being the frustrating exception) pose almost no challenge, I ended having to close my 3DS at a few pressure-filled platforming sections that ended up tripling my death count. The wall run mechanic occasionally felt more slippery than savvy, but that could just be me terrible.

Fortunately, Specter Knight’s combat abilities make up for that. His weapons are brutal, fun, and almost feel like cheating– but since they’re all a part of his boss fight, it’s totally fair.

Compound this combat with the interesting storytelling (the method is great, the story itself is the weakest of the three campaigns (which isn’t a criticism considering how damn good the other two are (especially Plague Knight))), I can dig Specter of Torment.

 

PCP: Two Best Friends Play Yakuza 4

Watching Wednesday #6 – Wallops and Weeaboos

Two Best Friends Play Yakuza 4: Yakkin’ Over Yakuzies

The short of it: This is one of my favorite playthroughs, period. It’s a great mix of the fantastic and frantic story of Yakuza 4 with the Best Friends’ humor and reactions. It’s easy to binge and easier to enjoy. 

Two Best Friends Play AKA Super Best Friends AKA TheSw1tcher isn’t to easy to dodge in discussions about top-tier Let’s Players. Their content is consistent in both timing and quality, with the contrasts between Matt and Pat often being the highlight of their videos. However, the Best Friends shine when they’re united in marveling at a game– either in admiration or anger. This playthrough is an example of the former.

Pat takes control of both the PC and the story, having already beaten the game. This turns out to be super helpful, since these games almost seem to pride themselves on the increasingly thin thread of sense that holds the story together.

Yakuza is unsurprisingly about the Japanese organized crime syndicate, though it’s less brutal criminal activity and more hyper dramatic and action filled soap opera. It’s about as gritty as Pat’s bald head.

It’s hard to nail down the peak of the series. Matt’s constant references to Face-Off resulting in Pat being both impressed and outraged. Pat’s joking attempts to disguise his previous save files. The constant pseudo twists and actual twists. The never ending hype fits over the sickest finishing moves.

I’m currently embroiled in their ongoing playthrough of Yakuza 0, the current gen prequel. It’s beautiful watching Pat’s first reactions to a seriesthat’s upping the absurdity for the fourth or fifth time in a row. More importantly, it reveals the true star of the series– the brilliant localization. Although I’m sure there’s valid arguments for literal translations, it’s just so much more satisfying seeing the absolutely fantastic translation, from the goofiest jokes to the most hear wrenching monologues.

Watching these two Canadians play through this absurdly Japanese game somehow provides this solid platform for enjoying this piece of art. They’ve gotten me to respect and admire the gall of the Yakuza series. Man, it’s gangsta.

PCP PSA

Unfortunately, I’m back from vacation. This means the week respite from my posts is over, so Pop Culture Please is back at noon. And then gone. Then back at noon, gone, back at noon.

Thrice weekly posts again is what I’m saying. Aight, cheers.

The shifting tides of internet support.

We’ve been looking at the recent Rolling Stone piece about an alleged gang-rape at the University of Virginia and the failures that came along with that piece. Failures from the editorial staff and especially the reporter have seriously damaged just about everyone involved in the story, from the supposed victim and perpetrators to the readers to other members of Rolling Stone’s staff.

It took about two weeks for Rolling Stone to issue a note to its readers (which was later quietly revised, something that seems unbelievably amateur compared to The Missourian’s policy of always mentioning the ways a story has been changed). My absolute favorite part of that note: “In the face of new information reported by the Washington Post and other news outlets,”.

They just have to straight up say, “In the face of better reporting by anyone but us.”

That’s amazing.

Of course, the note also comes with some less amusing bits– namely, “we made a judgment – the kind of judgment reporters and editors make every day.”

This is such a write-off of their massive failures; it’s not, “Oh, we messed up big time by failing to factcheck the most basic information like identities,” it’s, “Oh, we’re journalists, we made the call, this was a 50/50 shot of being fine.” I hope I’m not burning any possible bridges, but it’s just unbelievable that this was the best RS could come up with. They simplified their failures into a situation where they just picked the wrong side of the coin.

My disbelief and concern about possible future employment mean nothing compared to the outpour of internet rage.

After we looked at the piece again, I checked if there was a reddit thread about it. Sure enough, in /r/news, there was and it wasn’t pretty.

This is where the internet can be such a blindingly powerful vehicle of opinion– all dissent gets drowned out. Reddit comments become a wall made up of 3000 of the same opinion. People pointing out failures in hindsight and people on the “other side” coming out and agreeing with them.

Internet example: Event A happens, outrage sparked by supporters X and opponents Y. Supporters X fill the comments with harsh condemnations made up of massive blocks of text breaking down everything and sentence fragments expressing simple anger. Every so often, a commenter that declares themselves as a “total opponent Y 100%” but this situation is so outrageous that they had to say so.

Time after time, this wave happens. Eventually it’ll fade and we’ll forget and the internet will yell at the next thing.

But the lingering ripples aren’t as easily forgotten– the spread of reblogs and retweets have issued a solemn decree about unsubscribing and shunning Rolling Stone. The same wave that could’ve rained down on UVA and demanded names and probably blood is not washing over the news organization.

Will Rolling Stone survive the onslaught? Who knows. It’s just another example of how quickly we can drown in this ocean of voices. It’s important we remember that those we rally can just as easily rally against us– the reader has no loyalties and can have no sympathy. That’s not something that can be contested or changed. If we fail to fulfill our responsibility to the truth, then we need to accept that we loosed the dogs on ourselves. Notes that shift the blame or responsibility aren’t the answer. I don’t yet know what the actual response should be though. Here’s hoping I’ll never need it, but I’ve still gotta try to figure it out.

Boom Boom Pow.

Reading these two oil articles struck pretty close to home for me– I’m no stranger to the children of the oil boom. My hometown in southern Louisiana had the highest per capita ownership of Jaguars in the 90s due to an oil boom.

That tiny bit of experience is nothing compared to power of these two pieces. Both offer personal, fairly touching insights into the lives and economies of Texas. I’ll be simple.

CENTER FOR PUBLIC INSIGHT: It starts a lot better than Texas Monthly, opening with an anecdote that gives me a bit of anxiety. The first image is a melancholy woman who looks like she’s losing her lungs. Man, this piece hits hard. Every image is sobering– every human is frowning, every rig is burning with violent flames, every bit of land looks violated. Every pulled quote is terrifying. Hard lines from the government that threaten those opposed to developments as anti-Texas, an extremely insulting line considering the southern tradition of being full of pride for your home. “Help us before we die.” is a hell of a way to end a piece. I just can’t not feel unbelievably frustrated at the incompetency or carelessness that this piece quietly condemns. Of course, unlike Texas Monthly, there isn’t a hit of the benefits of the boom. I had no idea of the push it had in employment or anything. It comes off as a bit cold, drawing on victims to paint a picture of misery without really hitting the human element. Nebulizer treatments make for a good photo but they don’t clarify a whole lot in the technical sense. Sometimes, it seemed like this piece was approached with a mindset of slamming the industry and the government more than an investigation. It was framed by some specific suffering between graphs of big business’ mistakes. I prefer it to Texas Monthly, but it’s far from clear.

TEXAS MONTHLY: My initial reading of this piece had me fairly skeptical. The personal aspect was nowhere near as moving as that of the other articles; why would I care about some random writer for Texas Monthly? Eventually, the anecdotes of others satisfied the personal angle I was expecting. Despite that, the personal life of the writer made me skeptical of most of the piece. He seemed a little too familiar and connected with the developers and players, with little reference to the faceless corporations that get slammed in the other piece. The use of the first person dramatically change the focus of the story– it often felt more like a memoir of the niceties of old booms rather than a serious work of journalism. The approach was little off as well– even for a long piece, the possible cons didn’t surface until the last minute. Nearly every person in the story had a very personal stake in the prosperity. The sheriff even had a serious stake in the boom. It wasn’t until the last few pages that a few of the victims of the boom surfaced; even then, their appearances were tragic and brief. Photos focused on smiling faces and groups of suits, workers contentedly standing around or eating. The rigs were all dramatically lit, beautiful in mechanical sort of way. Some of the ads that ran alongside the piece were indistinguishable from the actual photos for it– rig workers laying in pipe could fit as a banks ad or the illustration for the piece.

Impact, Interest, Accuracy: What a Lead Needs

1. “Opus Development Co.’s proposal to build a six-story, 259-bed student apartment building on Locust Street between Seventh and Eighth streets downtown has created a civic drama that has unfolded over several months.”

This story comes out as seriously accurate; for a reader with just a vague idea of what the Opus deal is all about, this lead makes them comfortable with what they’re reading. The story itself doesn’t quite have a strong impact, so the lead can’t quite make it up in that department. There isn’t really anything lasting or human interest-y that could offer a kind of impact. It does create a bit of interest for me– the idea of a civic drama certainly gets my attention. The idea of a tiered, frustrating conflict over some simple construction seems a little odd.

Great on accuracy, almost non-existent for impact, good for interest.

2. “As he was lowering the flag to half-staff, a Boone County maintenance worker fell into the dome of the Boone County Courthouse and was trapped for nearly an hour and a half before Columbia firefighters were able to lower him to safety Thursday morning.”

I’ve got a few questions for this story– namely, how do you fall into a dome? Wouldn’t you roll off? It’s got my interest in terms of why the guy was trapped, but the accuracy is confusing me. Upon further review, I can see the little flat area/dip on the top of the dome. The story mentions that, “The man was trapped in a narrow area inside the dome on top of the courthouse,” but that doesn’t offer much more clarity. Inside the dome? Did he break through?

Admittedly, I’m pretty slow on the intake, but the question that drew me into the story was never quite answered. I never got a clear idea of what happened exactly. That’s just a small piece of this lead though. It does a fine job of putting the details out for the reader and aside from my misunderstanding of the dome, clarifies every detail of what happened. The impact is there too; the idea of falling and being trapped is terrifying and very easily sticks with the reader. He was rescued, so I’ve got the entire idea of the story without too much of the specifics.

Okay on accuracy, good on impact, good on interest.

3. “There’s a place this weekend where you can overcome your fear of snakes, taste insects and race cockroaches.”

This lead immediately makes the reader question what they just read. Eating bugs and racing roaches is hardly standard newsfare– what else is in this bizarre story? It obviously gets my interest and leaves a bit of an impact. The idea of tasting insects is hard to forget and something as weird as racing cockroaches is just as foreign an idea. I’m curious and want to find out why in the world things like this are happening. Although the article doesn’t expand on bug races, it covers the other two bits well enough to satisfy the readers attention.

Fine on accuracy, fine on impact, good on interest.

ONA14, Twitter and Hurricanes.

After watching the ONA 14 Conference via livestream today, a few things clicked for me. Wesley Lowery made a valid point about the dangers of things like Ferguson– journalists flock in a feeding frenzy of press in an attempt to grab the sexy scoop and then bolt. Once they’ve picked cleaned the bones of the shock of the event, they scatter, leaving the heart of the story intact and untouched. The panelists made mention of several other events that were shaped by the poor state of race relations-Jena 6 and Hurricane Katrina among them.

Both of these incidents struck a chord with me– they happened in my backyard, in my state. I felt the effects of Katrina, but not to the degree that those in New Orleans did. The same thing that happened there is happening in Ferguson. Reporters are parachuting into an area that they’re effectively clueless about to cover a specific incident. They’re looking at the creature while being blind to its habitat.

I tweeted about this, but I’ll expand on it here: once reporters flew in and made their soapbox speeches about the tragedies and brutalities, once they got footage of them wading in murky waters or being hit by tear gas, they dropped out. There’s nothing sexy about watching water recede or glass windows being replaced. Once the tear gas and water dissipate, the city is apparently dead. Once Anderson Cooper pulls a kid out of the water or Geraldo Rivera delivers his angry soliloquy, it’s over.

That being said, the national coverage is a good thing. It draws attention to the issues and needs of an area and pulls it into the national spotlight, where greater amounts of aid can be found. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t insulting or harmful.

This issue is unbelievably hard to think about. How can you avoid being a part of the story if you’re being treated just like the protesters? If you’re being threatened? If you’re risking yourself for the story?

I’ve got no ideas. This is a bit deeper than 300 words can express.

Business starts with a capital B for a reason.

Earlier today, it was announced that Microsoft had bought Mojang, developers of the critically-acclaimed game Minecraft, for “a smooth 2.5 BILLION dollars.” Billion with a giant capital B. It drew attention from every business paper, from WSJ to NYT. The unfortunate fact is that nearly all the reporting on this story is just a little too clunky. Readers that are unfamiliar with the concept of buying a video game developer will come off confused and angry that a deal like this is actually happening, especially for what looks like a blocky game for kids. However, the audience that does understand the concept of development studios and the value of an IP like Minecraft (which boasts anywhere from 16 to 50 million players across computer, console, and mobile gamers) will have already seen and read the announcement from Mojang themselves.

The deal itself is extremely interesting, and I’m not sure how to feel about the departure of the founders. Notch’s goodbye was especially troubling, where he focused more on losing this incredible burden than getting $1.8 billion.

The gaming world will definitely keep their eyes peeled for any unsavory changes to Minecraft. Only time will tell how well they can build on this massive purchase.