Monday, September 30, 2013

Waiting For Nintendo #3: What could possibly go wrong?

Today Nintendo said that tomorrow, Tuesday October 1st at 10:00 am my time, Nintendo will put up a Nintendo Direct to talk about Nintendo 3DS and Wii U games that are coming out later this year.

As of tomorrow, it'll be 11 days between then and the global release of Pokemon X&Y and the release of the Nintendo 2DS.  So, I guess we'll hear about both of them if history is any indicator.

Then we'll probably hear about Mario, and other games.  They have largely not shown very much of the games they're more than likely to show tomorrow morning.

So, do I have predictions?  Yes.

3DS/2DS:

  • Pokemon is an obvious one even tho we already had a Pokemon Direct. Hardware bundles, anyone?
  • Maybe a focus on the 2DS, however briefly.  Maybe we'll even get hardware bundles with Pokemon X & Y...
  • More than likely we'll hear about Mario Party Island Tour, the new Mario Party we have seen exactly NOTHING about since it was announced as just Mario Party for the Nintendo 3DS.

Wii U:

  • Maybe we'll see more of Wii Sports Club and when we'll see the other sports.
  • Maybe more Wii Fit U...
  • Definitely Mario 3D World which hasn't been seen since E3
  • Maybe DKC: Tropical Freeze
  • Maybe a surprise or two, I have like no idea

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Apple Approach is Sorely Needed For Loyalty Rewards Programs

I went on a walk earlier today, and I got inspired to write this post.  I've been a member of tons of loyalty rewards programs over the years, from local grocery stores to places like Best Buy and I am even a member of several frequent flyer miles programs.  All of them, frankly, have one thing in common: They stink.

But why do they stink?  That's where calm, reasoned analysis comes into play.

So, why do customer loyalty programs leave customers cold, even when customer satisfaction is so high?  There are three types of loyalty: Prior loyalty (that is, your loyalty to the brand before you joined their rewards program), Present loyalty (what you are loyal to now), and future loyalty (what you could be loyal to in the future and what many companies wish to incentivize).

Prior loyalty is really difficult to judge when you are signing up for a membership program.  Brick-&-mortar retail doesn't really have a major way to judge prior loyalty and even then it would be a bit of a privacy invasion.  We live in an age where e-commerce is the vastly preferred way to do much of our business.  The stores that wish to incentivize our loyalty to have a ton of information about us now, up to and including what we have bought from them, the monetary value therein, etc.  So why are we still concerned about preserving our privacy there?

Even worse, incentivizing present loyalty is quite difficult.  Ditto to future loyalty because you have no idea if your incentives will keep people loyal to your brand.

So, where does Apple drop in and shake things up?  As I explain this, I will call this loyalty reward program Apple Dollars for the remainder of this post.

So, Apple Dollars makes signup easy.  All you need is your Apple ID you already use with iTunes.  Essentially, if you have had an Apple ID since very nearly the inception of iTunes, you are already a member of Apple Dollars.  That deals with a large portion of the prior loyalty issue.

Then Apple Dollars makes present and future loyalty a piece of cake, because the more Apple Dollars you rack up in the simple signup process, the more Apple products you buy, the more Apple Dollars you rack up, etc.

So, why do I suggest Apple Dollars?  Because this will absolutely kickstart Apple's sales in crucial markets like higher education (where students have either no or very limited disposable income) and in emerging markets like China.

Apple Stores

Okay folks, problem to be solved time: I have some Apple gear that needs service and I would love to be able to go to an Apple Store without spending 4-12 hours in the car, round-trip.

My solution is this: Apple Stores that are specific to universities and colleges all across the US and maybe even the world that is within easy walking distance of campus for those students who don't want to drive there, and easy driving distance for those of us in the community who wish to go there.

My main target for this solution: Virginia Polytechnic University in Blacksburg, Virginia.  Known as simply Virginia Tech to many, it is an ACC school with thousands upon thousands upon thousands of students, faculty, staff, and community members who are also fans.  VT has one of the most beautiful campuses around.  The only problem?  The only places you can buy ANY Apple products at all are Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target, and any Apple Authorized Resellers that are in the area.  No Genius Bar for me.  No Genius Bar for anyone who lives in or around Blacksburg.  That, frankly, is depressing.

This solution can act in two fashions.  The first is an Apple Campus Store that is on the campus of Virginia Tech, or within very easy walking distance.  Blacksburg was one of the very first "Internet cities" in the entire country back in 1989/1990.  It is, therefore, quite shameful that Blacksburg doesn't have a single Apple Store yet.  The second is an Apple Store a little further away from campus in a shopping center of some description, which would be an easy drive for a lot of people, and so parking won't necessarily be a major factor.

The cool thing about this is you can go location scouting to these locations and figure out the best places for both types of Apple Store for these college-friendly locations!  So, along with the aforementioned Virginia Tech, I would like to suggest the following (incredibly scenic) places that I know of for Apple to go location scouting for this Apple Campus Store / Apple Store dual solution, and they can expand this as needed:

Western Carolina University / Cullowhee, NC
Brevard College / Brevard, NC
The University of North Carolina At Asheville / Asheville, NC
The University of South Carolina / Columbia, SC
Radford University / Radford, VA

Update: Two Apple Posts Incoming

Hey guys, I am going to be talking about Apple for the next 2 posts.  So, I suggest you just ignore what I put up for the next two posts.  I know a lot of you may or may not ignore my Nintendo posts, so... if you are not an Apple fan like I, please tune out now.

Friday, September 20, 2013

As The Steam/GOG Turns #12: FOTAQ! Finally!

Welcome back to As The Steam/GOG Turns, the continuing story of two competing digital distribution services that compete for everyone's attention.

This week's a bit of an interesting one folks.  It's sorta quiet on the Steam front if you don't count DLC, and GOG has been roaring to life of recent.

There is one dual release this week that I wish to talk about: Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller.  I mentioned this last week but it's now a full release on both Steam and GOG.  If you liked Gabriel Knight, you'll like this one because it's from Gabriel Knight mastermind Jane Jensen.

The Steam releases are pretty light this week, so I will just talk about a couple.  First I'll talk about a pre-purchase: Agarest: Generations of War.  Stategy RPG fans ought not to miss this one.

Next is Hot Wheels: World's Best Driver.  I wouldn't normally mention a game that is probably licensed tripe like this, but it's a lightweight week, folks.

And finally, because I love you horror game fans, 1953: KGB Unleashed.  This sounds really interesting, and if I wasn't a complete and total weenie I'd play it.

And finally the GOG releases.  First up, releasing JUST today for absolutely no money, is Flight of the Amazon Queen, or FOTAQ for short.  FOTAQ has been available in some format from the ScummVM website for free for some time now and it's finally in a format that you can just click-&-play like every GOG game is.  Two free releases to the GOG catalog in two weeks?! Madness!

Next is Privateer 2: The Darkening, a not-very-well-received game from the Wing Commander Privateer series.  We shall see if people buy it but I will wait till it's on-sale.

And finally this week we have Shadow Man, based on the comic of the same name.  Very dark, very gripping, if you like this sort of thing jump on it immediately.

So, that does it for this week.  And until next time, the Steam/GOG conflict ever turns...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

RIP Hiroshi Yamauchi, Visionary President of Nintendo Co. Ltd.

Today is a sad day for all of us Nintendo fans.  We lost the former president of Nintendo Co, Ltd., Hiroshi Yamauchi.  He reigned over Nintendo from 1949 (!!!) to 2003.  In that time, Yamauchi-san oversaw the transition of Nintendo from a playing card manufacturer to a toy manufacturer to an arcade game manufacturer and finally to the video gaming powerhouse that Nintendo is today.

It is Yamauchi-san that we must thank for his incredible gifts to the world: Mario. Luigi. The Legend of Zelda.  Donkey Kong.  Pikmin.  None of these incredible things would be possible without Yamauchi. There WOULD be no video games that people malign as driving people to violence if it wasn't for Hiroshi Yamauchi's incredible vision of a console called the Family Computer, or Famicom for short (it was called the Nintendo Entertainment System outside of Japan) where video game makers had to license their games for each system.

On a historical sidenote, at the time the Famicom was introduced in Japan, the Video Game Crash of 1983 happened.  It was largely due to the console manufacturers at that time (such as Atari) who just put any old video game they wanted to on these consoles and the sales just dropped through the floor because there was no such thing as quality control at that time.

The gaming systems that Yamauchi-san oversaw at least the launches for were: The Famicom (NES outside of Japan), Super Famicom (SNES outside of Japan), Nintendo 64, GameCube, Game & Watch, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance.  I included the handhelds here because nobody that I saw covering the death of Yamauchi-san today covered the fact that he oversaw the booming success of the Game Boy.

Yamauchi-san ought to be appreciated by all of us gamers.  I do not believe that all of us who are gamers today WOULD be gamers without the legendary Hiroshi Yamauchi helming the systems that many of us grew up with.  Thank you Yamauchi-san.  Rest well.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wrapping Up Nintendo, Special Edition: Wii Fit U & Wii Sports Club

Today Nintendo did a Nintendo Direct completely and totally out of left field.  We had NO warning, NO foreknowledge this was happening, and we had NO idea of what I am about to detail.

Today's Direct starts out with a hilarious segment from the Wii Fit Trainer as she shows you how to do the infamous "directly" arm motion.  (And a "my body is ready" joke too.)

The Direct was (mostly) all about the Wii Fit U game that is coming out soon.  The main selling point of Wii Fit U is the new Fit Meter.  Think the Pokewalker gadget from Pokemon HeartGold and Pokemon SoulSilver, except that it has a Wii U logo on it and it actually tracks a whole lot more than just your steps.  It calculates exercise intensity, measures changes in altitude (which helps track calorie burn going up and down stairs), and many many many other things.

Then they discuss the Fit Meter and how it is used in great detail, tracking a typical day of an employee of Nintendo Co. Ltd. in Kyoto with actual Fit Meter data.

And then... a bombshell was dropped.  While you COULD go ahead and buy a couple of the bundles (i.e. a Fit Meter bundle, etc.), if you already have a Wii Balance Board, you can actually get the game download for free from the Nintendo eShop come November 1, get a Fit Meter for $20, sync that Fit Meter up with the Wii U GamePad, and get the Wii Fit U game for absolutely no additional charge.  I would not be whatsoever surprised if this gets Wii U sales to go in a general upward direction because Wii Fit was an absolute sales phenomenon when it launched.  Bringing Wii Fit back to try and spur sales of the Wii U is a big deal.

The next thing they talked about is Wii Street U gaining Wii Balance Board compatibility.  Which is cool... I guess.

The final thing is... Wii Sports Club.  It's Wii Sports, the phenomenon that sold more Wiis than anything else in high definition with online (!!!!!) as well as Wii U-specific features like Miiverse coming out November 7th, AND it looks fabulous.  The game also has a very very interesting pricing model: $1.99 for all the available games for 24 hours called the Day Pass and $9.99 per sport, the Club Pass.  I know I'll at least buy Golf, Baseball, and Tennis outright when I do get my Wii U.

As far as my thoughts?  Thank you Nintendo.  The idea of a Wii U becoming a necessary fitness partner for me is now a major possibility that I am definitely going to seize upon.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Hyperkin: What's Coming and My Thoughts On What's Next

Today, I want to talk a bit about the retro gaming company, Hyperkin.  Yeah Hyperkin has their hands in modern console accessories to a degree, but their main focus is on retro gaming.  Whether that is old console gaming controllers and accessories, or amazingly cool retro systems like the Supaboy and the RetroN5, they have their hands in a lot of different pies.

So, why am I talking about Hyperkin today?  Well, I want to talk about Hyperkin today because they have come out with some incredible new stuff that will be coming out in the coming months.  They are putting out (no joke) a Pixel Art Controller that looks like a pixellated Super Nintendo controller that plugs into your PC or Mac to play emulated titles (and games that require a halfway good D-pad...) for a mere $20 later this month that Hyperkin has been pushing in the Walmart Get On The Shelf campaign, which is basically Walmart's version of Steam Greenlight, except with even more chaff that must be separated from the wheat.

In addition, the RetroN5 that plays NES, Famicom, Super Nintendo, Super Famicom, Sega Genesis, Sega MegaDrive, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance (whew!) cartridges over HDMI with some really cool new additional extras that were only the domain of emulators before this, and it's coming out for $99.99, with a tentative release date (at least according to Amazon.com) of October 31st.  If that's the case... I think I know how I'll be spending MY Halloween week.

So, after all of this craziness, what's next?  Nobody knows, really, but I want to give the guys at Hyperkin 8 suggestions of what they can do in the retro gaming space that will blow everybody's minds.

1) A universal lightgun that works with a ton of different systems (including PC for emulation purposes) and a ton of different games that works REGARDLESS of what kind of TV or other display you have.  Number 1, it's about time.  Number 2, this could be the way we all get to experience great light gun games like Area 51 and Duck Hunt all over again.

2) A retro console that emulates the N64.  Lots of people want this (especially if you look on Hyperkin's Facebook page), and if Hyperkin gets a license to do this from Nintendo, that could make things very interesting going forward for retro games consoles.

3) A retro console that does the impossible: Brings the Sega CD, the Sega Saturn, the Sega Dreamcast, the Playstation 1, the Turbo CD system, the PC Engine CD (the Japanese equivalent of the Turbo CD), and the Amiga CD32 together in one 90s-tastic CD console.  I'd certainly want to get one of these, as my space is really limited anymore.

4) A Dreamcast VGA adapter that doesn't cost the moon.  Please.  Especially for those (like myself) who are way late to the Dreamcast party.

5) A retro gaming-centric monitor.  It could be combined with not only the RetroN 5, but also the universal lightgun peripheral I mentioned above.  Has potential, certainly.

6) Another huge opportunity in the retro gaming space is to have Hyperkin create flash cartridges like the Everdrives of the world that can put the legally grey ROMs into products like the RetroN5 and have people be able to play them on their TV.  This is much, much more questionable, but if anyone can get those retro console games wrested from the vaults and available for purchase individually or in groups, it's Hyperkin.

7) More portable retro consoles.  I hope Hyperkin eventually gets the Sega license to do a portable Sega Genesis.  You can't possibly do worse than At:Games or even the venerable Sega Nomad...

8) Maybe even retro portable consoles get refabs and rereleases like the Game Boy, the Lynx, the Game Gear, etc.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

As The Steam/GOG Turns #11: The Better Late Than Never Edition, Featuring SuperFrog HD

Welcome back to As The Steam/GOG Turns, the continuing story of two competing digital distribution services that compete for everyone's attention.

Well, this last Music week was fun, wasn't it?  And now that Google+ sharing is now, thankfully, fixed, I am now going to finally be able to focus on my blogging and getting one post out every weekday, and one out every weekend day if I feel like it and/or I need to do a make-good like I have to do today.

So, on to the new releases for this week!  This week there are some really interesting new releases, and some I think I've covered before.  Some dual releases, and some that are exclusive to each as usual.

First, let's talk dual releases.  First up: Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is finally available for your PewdiePie-imitating glory enjoyment.

And the second and final dual release this week is Volgarr the Viking from Adult Swim.  Do you enjoy old games for their rock hard difficulty?  Do you find enjoyment out of games that eat you up for breakfast and that you can never really beat?  Well, Volgarr the Viking is just what the doctor ordered!  Basically, think a modern Ghosts 'N' Goblins, except that all deaths aren't the fault of the game, they're your fault.  Nice going.  $10 for the first week is pretty good in my opinion.

Now let's talk Steam-only releases.  Of course a LOT of things release on Steam, like DLC, Early Access games, software, etc., but I am only going to talk about full games this week.

First up is the full release (finally) of King of Fighters XIII: Steam Edition!  For anyone (like myself) who wants more fighters to come to PC, this is a major major deal.  The only problem is that people think that two year old console games coming to PC should cost no less than $30!  That, in my opinion, is too much dough, and that is going on my "I'll wait for the Winter Steam Sale unless I happen upon $60 to buy both this and Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition on Steam" list.

Next is the Steam release of something GOG users have enjoyed for awhile (and oddly enough Night Dive was responsible for this as well), the release of Wizardry 6, 7, and 8!  $20 for the whole trilogy of games on Steam, $16 on GOG.  If you are price-conscious, you know what to do.  And I can't wait to see Wizardry 1-5 be made available myself.

Next is Legend of Dungeon, a retro 8-bit style roguelike (there've been an absolute ton of these of recent) that is basically a roguelike with Legend of Zelda elements.  $10 isn't too bad for this, so if you want this, you know what to do.

And finally in the Steam-only releases this week is a retro classic reborn from the twisted, twisted minds of the venerable Team17, SuperFrog HD!  For those who don't know, SuperFrog was a very challenging platformer that was most famous amongst Amiga-heads (mainly because the Amiga version was heads and shoulders above everything else) that featured a simple prince who had been turned into a frog and would become SuperFrog with a brown bottle, I believe it was of Newcastle Brown Ale if I remember the original SuperFrog's "making-of" from Retro Gamer Magazine out in the UK properly.  Only a mere $10 for this one folks, a no-brainer for anyone who liked SuperFrog!

And now, the GOG-only releases for this week.  First up is a brand new game from the brilliant mind behind Gabriel Knight, Jane Jensen: Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller.  You play Erica Reed, a woman who solves crimes via cognition while at crime scenes.  This is the very first episodic game on GOG that hasn't had all the season's episodes available at the start, which beckons a brave new world.

Next is a legendary point-&-click game that hasn't ever been made available for digital purchase before now: Legend of Kyrandia, Book 1.  From the legendary Westwood Studios comes a forgotten gem that has never been made available... before now.  $6 gets you this one, and I think it's a winner.

The final GOG-only release this week (and the final release this week) is actually (gasp) a freebie!!  Stargunner from Apogee and 3D Realms is an old-school Gradius-style shmup.  If you like Gradius, you're more than likely going to like this.  Get it.  It's free of charge.  You have absolutely NO excuse, so get it into your GOG library NOW.

So, that does it for this week.  And until next time, the Steam/GOG conflict ever turns...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Mohu: What They've Done and What's Next

I have to say, I really enjoy Mohu's antenna designs.  I've never owned one myself, but I really love seeing their designs.  These designs were originally created for military applications, because Mohu is a division of Greenwave Scientific, one of the companies that have made antennas for the military, and they decided after they

Mohu's designs are low-profile without being insanely so, and their range is pretty good without having to fiddle with it once it is installed.  I have a terrible RadioShack antenna now that I have to continually fiddle with, and an antenna that I don't have to fiddle with looks very good to me at the moment.

Of course, they have a standard antenna, the Mohu Leaf, their amplified version, the Leaf Ultimate, and then they have one that works in your attic or outdoors called the Mohu Sky.  The Leaf has a 35 mile range, the Leaf Ultimate has a 50 mile range, and the Sky has a 60 mile range.  And that's just their antennas!   They also sell a separate amplifier called the Jolt, they sell an antenna stand for the Leaf so you can put it on the back of your HDTV (for those of you who mount your TVs on the wall), and several lengths of high performance coaxial cables (10 and 25 ft respectively).  So they've got a serious amount of cool stuff, right?

Yeah, but one majorly cool thing I almost forgot to tell you about is their TV For Free tool.  What you do is you go to their website, gomohu.com, and you type in either your zipcode or the address at which you would like to get free HDTV signals at and it will tell you not only the channels each of the Mohu antenna products will pick up, but also the channel name (i.e. ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS, etc.) and the callsign.  Some people (like myself, living out in the woods like a hermit) will have problematic terrain between them and their TV towers, but if you live in a relatively problem-free area you shouldn't have any problems picking up free HDTV signals where you are.

And they've been teasing something new on their Facebook and Twitter pages as well.  The images so far are, in order:
1) A stock photo of a hydropower dam.
2) A ring of ribbon.
3) The bottom half of a clam shell.

I have literally no idea what they are teasing.  I did send them a message and suggested a TV on PC solution in desperation because frankly, all of the ones out there right now either are garbage or they are unbelievably deprecated with nary a new update in years (*cough* Elgato's EyeTV software *cough*).

As far as what they are teasing, my guess is if it is another antenna, it'll be named after a natural occurrence because that is what they use as their nomenclature for their antenna products.  If it isn't?  Well, anything goes, because they always tend to be really good at shocking and surprising people.  But I think one niche that could be filled is having the cord-cutter equivalent of a "cable box".  Perhaps that's it, who knows.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Music Week: Pat Benatar

For the conclusion of Music Week, Pat Benatar is the perfect way to end off the week.  I love her voice, and she is one of the many amazing trailblazers for women in rock and roll.

I have to say though, it is kind of cool to listen to my iTunes library and realize that some of my all-time favorite artists are either women fronting a rock-&-roll group (like Heart), or women artists like Pat Benatar.

I'd heard Pat Benatar's material on the radio and enjoyed it, but it wasn't till either my freshman or sophomore year of high school that my English teacher, Mrs. Westmore, introduced me to some of her deeper cuts.  And I absolutely adored the ones I got to listen to like Sex as a Weapon, I Need A Lover (which was a John Cougar Mellancamp cover, oddly enough), and Heartbreaker.

And of course, I cannot get out without mentioning the song Love is a Battlefield, one of my all-time favorite songs from Pat Benatar, and also one of the stranger music videos.  I have to wonder how the video was made.  And I certainly do not think it was shot in New York City, where the video was set.  My theory is that it was shot in Cleveland, Ohio, a place where I have spent a lot of time over the years to see my stepmother's family (and where Neil Giraldo grew up, strangely enough).  The house Pat Benatar's character gets kicked out of is definitely in Cleveland architecturally, and I visited almost that exact house to visit my stepmom's sister practically every Christmas until she moved out to move closer to my stepmom's father's house so she could keep an eye on him as he gets older.

So, what are my favorites of Pat Benatar's catalog?  Love Is A Battlefield, We Belong, Invincible, Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Shadows of the Night, Heartbreaker, I Need A Lover (the aforementioned John Cougar Mellancamp cover), We Live For Love, Promises in the Dark, and Helter Skelter (a Beatles cover).  That could comprise a greatest hits compilation all on its own.  You're welcome, Pat Benatar.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Music Week: Mary Chapin Carpenter & Bonnie Tyler

I know that many of you are going "What?  Why?" with some of my choices for this week.  I have always, always, always been drawn to strong female artists, and Mary Chapin Carpenter and Bonnie Tyler (my two-for-one today) are no exceptions.

First I want to talk about Mary Chapin Carpenter.  I happen to love most of her songs, and was introduced to this woman's fabulous music at a time when I needed music desperately.  My entire world was crumbling around me, and this was right after my parents divorced.  Now, I know that it makes no sense, especially since people divorce all the time nowadays, but to a young child like I was at the time of my parents' divorce, I was disoriented, and had no clue what was going on, and wouldn't until I was much older.  In my opinion, children suffer the most in any divorce, no matter if the divorce is between two civilians or two celebrities, and I was no different.

Mary Chapin Carpenter's music came at a really difficult juncture and just washed over me and soothed me.  Some of my all-time favorites are Quittin' Time (from State of the Heart), Down At The Twist & Shout (from Shooting Straight in the Dark), the entirety of the album Come On Come On, and On With The Song (from The Calling).

I love MCC's music and while a lot of people thought she was crazy to turn away from country music, I think she's perfectly crazy for me.  Besides, she has taken a different tack in country music.  I still think of her as a country artist.  I have a very clear disdain for country songs that are just tacky, honky-tonk rip-roaring songs, and the subtlety of country music is something that Mary Chapin Carpenter embodies perfectly.  Subtlety is the king of country music in my opinion, and Mary Chapin Carpenter does this beautifully.

Now, for the other artist I am featuring: Bonnie Tyler.  She has a POWERFUL voice that makes my hair stand on end every time I hear a song of hers.  Some of my favorites of hers are: Total Eclipse of the Heart, Holding Out For A Hero, and her cover of Air Supply's Making Love out of Nothing At All.  And I just realized something as I typed this: All three of those songs were either written or co-written by Jim Steinman, the mastermind behind the Meat Loaf classic (and now M&Ms commercial breakout hit) I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That).  That's incredible.  Now I'll probably go find some of her... deeper cuts.

Music Week: Jimmy Buffett

Here's the thing: I'm a lifelong Parrothead (i.e. what Jimmy Buffett fans call themselves).  I went to Jimmy Buffett concerts before I was one year old (and somehow was one of the only things that didn't get soaked to the bone that night), and I have listened to just about every Jimmy Buffett song several times over (and know almost all the words).

So, I must say I appreciate how much Jimmy Buffett and the island sound he introduced to me as a young'un totally got into my soul.

And what are some of my favorite Jimmy Buffett songs?  Well, I'll put a few of them below but that only scratches the surface.

  • Tin Cup Chalice (from A1A): A song Jimmy wrote about seeing the sunset in Key West.  I truly do want to be there and see the sunset in Key West at least once in my lifetime.
  • Jamaica Mistaica (from Banana Wind): It's a song based on a real-life situation in Jamaica.  It also involves the U2 lead singer, Bono, and it was a very unfortunate misunderstanding, but Jimmy got a fabulous song out of it, so it's a win-win.
  • Barometer Soup (from Barometer Soup): I could have picked any of the songs from this album to feature here, but the title track from 1995's Barometer Soup is really, really good.
  • Surfing in a Hurricane (from Buffet Hotel): This outstanding track from what was largely a so-so album is one of those songs that you wish Jimmy had put out earlier in his career because it is just quintessentially Jimmy Buffett.
  • Banana Republics (from Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes): In real life, Jimmy Buffett and Steve Goodman (the guy who wrote this song) were really good friends before Steve left us back in 1984.  This is one of the top 5 songs Steve Goodman ever wrote, and this one is awesome.  Heck, they've even named a whole set of retail stores after this song title!
  • Havana Daydreamin' (from Havana Daydreamin'): The title track from Havana Daydreamin' is probably one of my all-time favorite songs, ever and featuring this song, while it is one of those songs everyone talks about constantly, it is really a good song and all the talk is justified.
  • Jolly Mon Sing (from Last Mango In Paris): I included this because I had the children's book he wrote with his daughter, Savannah Jane Buffett, called The Jolly Mon, as a child and I still know all the words to that song as a result.  I still do have it around someplace...
  • The Wino & I Know (from Living and Dying in 3/4 Time): One of the early classics is this song.  I love the fact that this talks about homelessness, which is still a problem, even now, but this one is just incredible.
  • Boomerang Love (from Off to See The Lizard): This is another one of my childhood favorites.  I cannot explain why I love this song so much... I guess it's a "boomerang, boomerang, boomerang love".
  • Stars on the Water (from One Particular Harbour): While this is a Rodney Crowell cover, I really like the nuances that Jimmy gives this particular song.  And while I could feature the title track on this one as well, I figured I'd give a lesser-known "deep track" the feature treatment from this album.
  • Come To The Moon (from Riddles in the Sand): Another "deep track" and while it is a science fiction-infused track, I wonder who it is from the perspective of.  He makes mentions of starships, but he doesn't make mention of any other Star Trek references.
  • MaƱana (from Son of a Son of a Sailor): One of my favorites because... well I can't explain it.
  • Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On (from Take The Weather With You): Another fair-to-middling album, another standout track.  This spoke to me deeply.  It wasn't just because of Hurricane Katrina, which had hit the previous year and had totally messed everything up.  It's the timing of when Hurricane Katrina hit for me that makes it super somber and makes me a lot more respectful and I dare not forget it: That was right about the time I had to go down to Florida for one last time to see my paternal grandmother before she died.  I still feel a sense of loss, even though I wasn't nearly as close to her as I was to my maternal grandmother (who had passed away a couple of years prior).  So, every time I hear that song I always sing along, and I remember to breathe in, breathe out, and move on.  No matter what happens, breathe in, breathe out, move on.
  • Boat Drinks (from Volcano): The only well-known song where Jimmy makes a blatant Star Trek reference: "I'd like to go where the pace of life's slow/Could you beam me somewhere Mr. Scott?/Any old place here on Earth or in space/You pick the century and I'll pick the spot".  I love that portion of that song very specifically.
  • He Went To Paris (from A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean): Jimmy hadn't really made a splash when he wrote this song for his third album but his third album, A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean, totally hit some kind of nerve and it is one of his stronger early albums.  I love this song because while there are some sad portions, it makes a point that life is worth living, because life is too short.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Music Week: Roxette

This Music Week thing is turning out to be really cool.  I am going to get to talk about the artists I enjoy and be able to showcase my appreciation for them.

Today I am going to talk about the one and only Roxette.  It's a Swedish pop rock duo consisting of Per Gessle (of Gyllene Tider, another Swedish pop group) and Marie Fredriksson that came into full prominence in the 1980s and has barely left since (though they were dormant for a little bit in the early 2000s because Marie was battling some really nasty health issues).

Now, here's the most interesting thing: They are practically an anomaly here in the US.  You typically don't know Roxette if I told you the artist, but if I mentioned songs like The Look, Listen To Your Heart, and It Must Have Been Love, you would go "Oh, okay!"  So, yeah, it's practically an anomaly here in the US.

So, what do I think?  And how did I hear of this wacky group in the first place?  First, I do want to give some background on this.  Here in the States, we used to have a boatload of places that sold actual music on something called a compact disc, or CD for short.  Now this was back in about 2000 or 2001.  I was in a Best Buy, and I think it was like right after Christmas because I specifically remember I had Best Buy money to spend at that point, and I always looked at the CDs.

I specifically remember having listened to Roxette songs before (I think I'd heard the three songs mentioned above), and I saw the Roxette Greatest Hits CD (subtitled Don't Bore Us, Just Get To The Chorus) CD.  Well, I obviously got it, played it to death, and loved every second of it.  So, the Roxette bug bit me right about the time I became a teenager, and while good music has always spoken to me, this just grabbed me and wouldn't let go for anything.  So yeah, I enjoyed them from the very first notes I heard.

This of course is one of my all-time favorite groups and I cannot overstate my appreciation enough.  I think their songs are, to use an 80s terminology that is totally out of date, RAD.  Even wilder, I have gotten to appreciate some of their deeper tracks such as "Wish I Could Fly" and "Almost Unreal". Almost Unreal has a weird, almost bizarre history to it.  It was originally written for Bette Midler's movie "Hocus Pocus", but the song wasn't used in that movie.  Then, a bit later, the infamous Super Mario Bros. movie came out and this song was on the soundtrack for that movie.  It's a fabulous song, but it is horribly out of place in the Super Mario Bros. movie unless you retcon Magikoopas into that dog of a picture.

One song that I really do appreciate is called "Stars".  It has a really nice techno beat to it, and it has a lot of really neat elements, such as a children's choir backing up Marie in places, and just every ounce of that song is just incredible.  (In fact I was expecting that to have a spot in the last Tron movie, it's that good and would fit in that well into the Tron universe.)  So, in conclusion, go find some of Roxette's music.  You won't regret it.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Music Week: Linda Ronstadt: An Appreciation

Today is September 9th.  It has apparently been dubbed by the Linda Ronstadt camp as Linda Ronstadt Appreciation Day.  It cannot come a moment too soon for my liking.

Why is this, you might ask?  Because almost no one could sing the absolute hell out of a Motown song like "Hurt So Bad" and make you totally feel it like Linda Ronstadt could.  She could sing "When I Grow Too Old To Dream" with Kermit the Frog one moment, and sing "Don't Know Much" with Aaron Neville the next and still have one of my all-time favorite singing voices.

My first exposure to Linda Ronstadt was on the album Cry Like A Rainstorm, Howl Like The Wind.  This was the album where she basically alternated duets with the aforementioned Aaron Neville and her own material.  I still get chills every time I hear the range of her talents on this album.

Then a few years later I heard Greatest Hits volume 1 with her early stuff.  I happen to be a huge fan of "Different Drum" because while this is an early Ronstadt classic, it was with the rather unfortunately short-lived Stone Poneys and probably would've been truly fabulous to hear as a Ronstadt solo track to see what she could've done with it with the people she surrounded herself with throughout her career.  I don't know if we'll ever find the answer to whether that could be done but hey, I'll be happy with Different Drum as-is.

Then I discovered her appearance on The Muppet Show, where she sang Blue Bayou (one of my favorites, and another song she just hits right outta the park and blows the original version by the late great Roy Orbison out of the water) and the aforementioned "When I Grow Too Old To Dream".  This version (and this song in particular) cemented my admiration of this woman's incredible talent.

But here's the thing: She doesn't make music anymore.  And apparently it came out a couple of weeks ago that she has Parkinson's Disease and cannot sing a note.  That, frankly, hurts.  I love what gifts she did give the world, and I wish Ms. Ronstadt all the best.  Parkinson's is a pain in the butt but I am appreciative of the gifts that you did give, Ms. Ronstadt.  And my sincere hope is, on Linda Ronstadt Appreciation Day, that you see so many people like myself showing their profound appreciation of your manifold gifts that you've given us over the years.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Update: Music Week is ALL THIS WEEK!

I have come to a decision.  Because this week is the Apple Event that Brightens Everyone's Day, I am terming this week to be Music Week.  I'll still do my normal wrapups as usual, but Music Week will be the predominant force this week.  It starts 11am EST Monday Morning (that's US East Coast time for those not in the know) with a post about Linda Ronstadt on what is being dubbed Linda Ronstadt Appreciation Day and will continue till Friday.  Same Bat time, same Bat channel.  I'll tag each one as it arrives in the title.

Friday, September 6, 2013

This Week On Steam/GOG # 10: Castle of Illusion and the Newest Night Dive Miracle

Welcome back to As The Steam/GOG Turns, the continuing story of two competing digital distribution services that compete for everyone's attention.

It's a light week for dual releases this week, folks.  Steam has some, and GOG has a biggie and an indie title in the wings.  First, we'll talk Steam.

The first release I'm featuring this week is Disney and SEGA's collaboration, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, the new 3D remake of the classic Sega Genesis / Mega Drive game.  I have, like, no experience with the original so I will cede to others who have to let me know if this is worth picking up.

Next is Total War: Rome II, the newest Total War game from SEGA.  This one apparently had its fair share of day one / launch week issues, so I'd recommend staying far away from this one until the issues are fixed (or it goes on steep Steam sale, one or the other).

The final release I'm featuring this week (and no I'm not featuring the horror game Outlast) is Paranautical Activity, a classic Doom-like FPS mashed up with modern-day roguelike elements.  It's in "Steam Early Access" now, so if you were interested before, this is the time.

And now on to GOG.com's releases this week.

We thought the next Night Dive Miracle would be available on Tuesday (given the level of the teasing by Night Dive themselves) but we got a game called Megabyte Punch instead.  It's a side-scrolling beat-em-up.  If you love these games, you buy it.  If not, there's always Baldur's Gate.

The newest Night Dive Miracle finally did surface on Thursday.  What is this game, you may ask?  The Harlan Ellison sci-fi horror classic point-&-clicker "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream".  They only want $5.99 for this one folks, guess Harlan Ellison stopped counting his royalty checks long enough to find out people wanted this one.  This one's a no-brainer at that price if you like sci-fi horror.  If you're like me however, and don't necessarily like sci-fi horror but have been curious about the game, I'd wait till it was on sale for 50% or more off list.

So, that does it for this week.  And until next time, the Steam/GOG conflict ever turns...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wrapping Up Nintendo #3: Holy Kanto Starters, Batman!

Oy vey. I get up early for a 20-minute presentation from Nintendo.  Nice going, you guys.

Anyways, let's get to all the nutty craziness wrought by the Pokemon Direct this morning.

First, Iwata-san was joined by two of his colleagues from The Pokemon Company and they talked about the history of the Pokemon franchise up until now.  That was a nice refresher course for me, and reminded me that I liked Ruby and Sapphire alot.

Then they talked connectivity and revealed something called Pokemon Bank, a brand new cloud-based Pokemon storage system that is FULLY COMPATIBLE with future titles (hmm... was that a subtle hint about Ruby and Sapphire remakes for 3DS?), but is going to cost an annual fee.  That's not too bad, I know a lot of Pokemon fans (myself included) would more than likely pay that annual fee to help Nintendo keep this up.

And then they talked about bringing Pokemon from Black, White, Black 2, and White 2 to the new one via a separate app, which is interesting to say the least.

And then they got into the game.  The initial starters for X & Y (Froakie, Fennekin, and Chespin) will be given to you by your friend, NOT the Pokemon Professor like in past games.  What the Pokemon Professor for the Kalos Region WILL give you starters-wise, however, are three starters that will sound familiar if you have played ANY previous Pokemon games: Charmander, Bulbasaur, or Squirtle.  Yes, the ORIGINAL Generation 1 starters will ALL be given to you in the game.  Even better?  Their final form (Charizard, Venusaur, and Blastoise) will ALL have Mega Evolutions. YEE HAA! That is going to make my choice of the Kanto starters almost too difficult.  Almost.

And then we got very little else in terms of details (as the presentation was a mere 20 minutes), except for new Pokemon X & Y 3DS XL units coming to North America and Europe... that won't be bundled with the games because they're coming out September 27th.  Say what?

Anyways that is the end of the wrapup, but before I go, I need to give you my thoughts on how this one was presented because they tried something a little bit different.  Unfortunately, I thought this one was terribly presented.  It really should have had subtitles on the video instead.  I didn't like the way this was presented at all and I would've rather had a Nintendo Direct with subtitles like the Animal Crossing Direct that Europe got but us Americans did not.  Nintendo, please try not to do this in the future.  It didn't play all that well with many of us English speakers.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Waiting For Apple #1: This should brighten everyone's day

...Which are the words from this Apple event invitation:



Well... the image is certainly colorful.  Certainly denotes that something Apple's releasing is going to have a ton of colors.  Could also denote some photography improvements in upcoming iPhones.  So, on to predictions!

iPhone:

  • iPhone 5S (continuing the S on the end of numbers of iPhone iterations for significant improvements in speed, etc.) seems extremely likely.
  • iPhone 5C (we WERE thinking the C in 5C stood for "Cheaper"... but now I think it stands for "Colors")
  • We'll more than likely see iOS 7 fully released on the iPhone at the very least.  I can NOT wait to see what is going to happen.  And I am very excited to get to play with iOS 7 in full very, very soon.

iPad:

  • iPad with Retina Display: It is certainly possible that Apple will throw in an iPad surprise announcement next week, but I think an October event seems more likely.
  • iPad mini: Same as above, but add a Retina display and drop the price to $299.  Apple needs it desperately.
  • iOS 7 on iPad: Unless a miracle happens, I don't foresee a iOS 7 simultaneous release on both iPhone and iPad.

Mac:

  • New Mac Pro: Always a possibility, but I cannot be certain that it'll happen next week as well.
  • New MacBook Pros with Retina Displays seem almost absurdly likely in time for the holiday buying season, but I don't foresee them talking about and/or releasing these next week either.
  • AirPort Express with 802.11ac support: Seems likely, and if the price is right I'll probably pick one up for the improved Net speeds on my possible upcoming Christmas gifts.
  • Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks: I hope they talk it up and release it same day because I want to be able to read iBooks and iBooks Author books on my Mac, but I do not believe this is very likely either.

Software and Other:

  • iWork for Mac and iOS is fairly likely to see a total revamp.  Thank God for that too, it's getting extremely long in the tooth. Of course, Microsoft keeps getting away with keeping Office nearly the same and selling a 'year' version for $200+ without ever coming up with iOS / Android versions, so who knows.
  • An Apple version of the Dick Tracy smartwatch, called "iWatch" by those in the press and/or rumor mill, seems likely but it may be October before we see that.
  • And we can't forget about Apple's take on TV.  I hope it comes or is at least previewed next week because September is the traditional Apple "Music / Media Event" month.
  • Finally, we have the venerable iPods.  My pure guess is that this will finally be the year we see the demise of the iPod Classic, and the other iPods as well.  They're barely even registering on Apple's radar, so I don't see Apple really doing much of anything.  Maybe keeping the iPod touch around at a $149 price point is a good idea but they might just thin the line to only having 1 iPod, or they can put any iPad at all at $199.  That would be super cool to see and would pretty much deemphasize the need for an iPod touch at all so maybe we will see that.  WHo knows, really.  These are just my predictions for next week.

Waiting For Apple #0: Intro

Yes, it's time for Waiting for Apple!!  Next week, September 10th, is what is currently slated as Apple's only event this fall, but my guess is there'll be another.  But, what do I know?  So, watch this space for another Waiting For Apple post with my predictions for next week.

Waiting for Nintendo #2: Gotta Catch 'Em All

POKEMON!  Ah, sweet memories of watching the Pokemon cartoon...

Anyways, sorry, I am talking about the upcoming Pokemon Direct tomorrow because... yeah... they are going to do a global Nintendo Direct tomorrow ALL about Pokemon X and Pokemon Y which will have lots of Pokemon X & Y news.  Thank heavens.

Now, what do I think is going to happen tomorrow?  Here's my top 5 most likely Pokemon announcements for tomorrow:

5) Information about a new Pokemon Wii U game along the lines of Colosseum!  I put this at number 5 because I don't think this is nearly as likely as the remainder.  The problem I see is, what will be compatible?  And are there 3DS Virtual Console releases that would be compatible with the game also?  Speaking of...

4) Information about prior Pokemon games FINALLY hitting the Nintendo eShop!  Virtual Console for Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow, Silver/Gold/Crystal, possibly Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald (although I suspect they'll get their own eShop releases as a remake...), and then the eShop proper will finally carry DS games like the last few Pokemon games, even though I think they're pretty much the weakest of the entire lot.  I at least enjoyed the games prior to their DS incarnations, but all enjoyment of the Generation V Pokemon games that weren't remakes (Black, White, Black 2, and White 2) just evaporated for me.  So, because Pokemon X and Pokemon Y are coming out, AND because they look to be a much-needed kick in the pants for the Pokemon franchise, I am extremely excited for Pokemon X and Pokemon Y, but I am going to keep my expectations quite low.

3) More information about the Fairy type!  More specifically, we know the Fairy type exists, but we have no idea which ones of the current crop of 649 Pokemon are getting reclassed to the Fairy type, nor the Fairy Type's type weakness (because for balance purposes there HAS to be at least some type weakness, right?).  We already know that Sylveon is of the Fairy type, but in the E3 trailer we also saw Jigglypuff as a Fairy type (don't know if it'll be Normal / Fairy or just Fairy type at the moment), and we also saw Marill, a Water type now, as a Fairy type (Marill is more than likely a Fairy/Water dual type), and Gardevoir is also a Fairy type (more than likely a Grass/Fairy dual type).  Who else will get a Fairy typing or dual typing?  More than likely Clefairy is getting a Fairy type reclass at the very least, and probably Clefable, and more than likely we'll see Igglybuff, Cleffa, Clefable, and Wigglytuff as Fairy types as well.

2) More Pokemon receiving Mega Evolutions!  Mega Evolutions, in case you've been living under a rock, are new evolutions of both Pokemon without an evolution (like Dunsparce) and final evolutions of Pokemon (like Ampharos, which is getting a Mega Evolution already).  I can't wait to see more about Mega Evolutions, because this is already so cool.

1) More Pokemon X & Y hardware bundle news!  There's really been no news of the Pokemon X and Pokemon Y bundles yet, so that might be what we get tomorrow.  With the recent announcement of the Nintendo 2DS that will release the exact same day as Pokemon, I would be seriously surprised if Nintendo didn't totally take full advantage and came out with 2DS bundles for both Pokemon X and Pokemon Y (X being the blue 2DS bundle, and Y being the red 2DS bundle) for either $129.99 (and since Nintendo is adding same-priced hardware bundles like with the Wind Waker bundle, this would not be entirely unprecedented) or $149.99.  Plus they'll probably release a 3DS bundle AND a 3DS XL bundle.  This is going to get fun.

So, tomorrow we'll get another Wrapping Up Nintendo!  Fun, eh?  Watch this space!

I Have Seen The Future of Television...

... And it is livestreamed.  For free in most instances.  Over the Internet.

At the time I am writing this (to set it up for when this DOES post), I just finished watching something that has major implications for the future of television: The Comedy Central Roast of James Franco.  And no, I don't mean jokes that are more tasteless than mystery meat in your school cafeteria.  You expect that from a Comedy Central roast.  No, I am talking about how this portends great things for the future of television on the Internet.

What is this glorious future, you may ask?  Well, I am glad you asked.  I envision a future where I don't have browser plugins written by entities named Adobe that decide at extremely inopportune moments to die horribly.  I envision a future where Apple and Google are like Internet cable service providers that give EVERYONE a fair shake on cool things like WatchESPN, HBO Go, and television in general.  I envision a future that has iTunes (or Google Play if you're on Android) as the backbone for a glorious television viewing experience that allows for everyone, whether you have already cut the cable cord or not, to have exactly the same television viewing experience, on whatever devices you own, no questions asked.

The livestream of the Franco Roast was actually, surprisingly, largely stable for the amount of people that (probably) live streamed it.  And the ad experience DIDN'T suck for once!  I thought the ads they did choose were (largely) in good taste, and the fact that they didn't inundate you with really shifty products by screaming at you was also a nice change.  Yeah okay you have to cater to the Comedy Central target market, but they actually chose ads that were in mostly good taste, and they didn't offend my intelligence with all that many of them (which for them is an act of God in most ordinary circumstances).  I didn't find all that many of them to be all that FUNNY, but my sense of humor is... a tad bit more refined than the average sense of humor of Comedy Central's target market.  Kudos to Comedy Central for sticking the landing though.

So... if you saw the #FrancoRoast online, what did you think?  Was it as good as I thought it was as far as the future of television is concerned?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Internet fame: Fleeting as ever

Yes, I am going to talk about something that gained me some measure of Internet fame, as fleeting as it may be.

But before I do, I gotta explain how this crazy thing came to be.

I've spoken on this blog before about Night Dive Studios, the people who untangled the rights mess to System Shock 2, the precursor to the BioShock series of games, so that it was digitally rereleased earlier this year.  And since then, there hasn't been much of a peep from them.  But I follow them on Twitter and Facebook and they've been flaunting hints of the LucasArts games, and I asked them (back in June no less):
Is your constant discussion of LucasArts, both on here & Facebook, indicative of something that we will see the fruits of?
They replied:
We're hoping for it as much as everyone else, that's all we can say at the moment!
I wasn't expecting to be "Internet famous" for this, not in the slightest.  I didn't even think it'd get mentioned anywhere.

So, yesterday I went on the GOG forum as one does when one is horribly excited for an upcoming Night Dive reveal, and I saw a link to this article on the famed LucasArts fansite The International House of Mojo.  The International House of Mojo, for those of you who do not know, is a long-running LucasArts fansite that has been online since 1997, very nearly the dawn of the civilized Internet.  They got their name from the Voodoo Lady's business in the second Monkey Island game, subtitled LeChuck's Revenge.  They follow a lot of LucasArts happenings (which isn't a lot since Disney shut it down), along with the happenings of Telltale Games, Double Fine, and Autumn Moon Entertainment, all companies that were started by people who left LucasArts.

But to be mentioned on The International House of Mojo as a longtime LucasArts fan who loves the site and loves LucasArts games in general?  That is, to use some colorful language, my "holy shit" moment.  That was the moment I knew I'd "made it" in this whole Net thing somehow.  It might not get me a ton of cash, but man oh man I am so excited about this.  I'm not usually so verbose about stuff like this unless I am super excited.