Friday, December 23, 2011

Do We Want Ditsy Female Hostesses on Video Game TV?

G4TV has essentially been gamers’ only resort for gaming-related programming for nine years now. As far as I can remember, it flew in the face of the corny and overly enthusiastic direction of GamePro TV and the more game show-emphasis of Nick Arcade that predate me.

Even in the early days of G4TV, the station had a vast array of very compelling content, with the late-night trailer reel of Cinematech, the incredible documentary series Icons, Judgment Day with the charismatic Tommy Tallarico and Victor Lucas, X-Play with its brutally-honest reviewing style, and the very informative, but not-so-in-your-face Screen Savers.

All the programming then looked to gamers with a certain degree of reverence and dignity. It was conceived with the understanding that the viewers are “nerds”, “geeks”, or technology enthusiasts in general, that they have habits that the normal human being does not, and that that difference was acceptable in society.

But perhaps that was not enough. Or, the hardcore gamers that viewed G4TV were not numerous enough to produce numbers that would sustain G4 in its current state. Then by 2006, according to Variety magazine, “G4 is evolving into a lifestyle channel, peppered with videogame culture, as opposed to wall-to-wall games." And this was evident, as this shift coincided with G4’s new logo, as well as a whole host of different non-gaming programs, which personally disappointed me. I can recall turning on G4 time and time again, hoping that I just might tune in at the time when something at least vaguely tech related was being aired.

Perusing can reveal the swath of shows that marred G4 for many. These started out with minor changes, but then G4 must have noticed a spike in ratings, and amped up the emphasis on non-gaming programs. These included meat-head shows like Ninja Warrior and Cops at first, but it all went downhill from there and progressively became more and more meat-headed in nature to include “shows” like The International Sexy Ladies Show, Cheaters, Web Soup, It's Effin' Science, That's Tough, Whacked Out Videos, and Wired for Sex.

The station was clearly pandering for viewers and this was to the detriment of their programming and their audience’s respect. Who are they trying to appeal to? Jocks? Bros? Brojocks? Douchebags? It seems the latter is true anyway.

They tried to appeal to too many personalities at once, that is for certain. Maybe this is the result of “jocks” vastly outnumbering “nerds” in society, and thus, an inevitability of mainstream entertainment culture to wholly engulf niche entertainment culture. Or even “nerds” increasingly using the internet as a resource to view content, whereas “jocks”, or at least their similarly shallow adult selves to continue to prefer entertainment on television. All of this is speculation, however, as I’m grossly generalizing “jock” and “nerd” culture, and ignoring any potential interaction or cross-pollination that may occur.

The internet is an important point though, as it appears television programming is a relic that is no longer revered in as high esteem as internet-driven forms of entertainment. I do not doubt that a considerable portion of G4TV’s viewership was lost due to the internet, which in part explains the channel’s current web presence.

So after all this involved self-discourse, I find myself right where I started with my title, “Do We Want Ditsy Female Hostesses on Video Game TV?” I got the idea for this title from watching Attack of the Show, the more in-your-face successor to the much beloved Screen Savers. With the rolling cast of Maxim models, and otherwise meathead heart-throbs, going in and out of AOTS, do we, or for that matter, did we ever come to watch G4TV as what was supposed to be a video game-centric channel to watch generally unintelligent and completely ignorant “babes” deliver news and issue completely anecdotal reviews on technology?

Let me answer that one for you, probably not. G4TV was popular because it was the only channel available that solely focused on video games and the industry. Now, we as gamers have virtually no where to go should we want to watch video game-related programming, unless we are willing to remain beholden to the station’s limited show spots like X-Play, and AOTS to an extent (although the bro-mentality has leaked into AOTS to an extent as well).

Do Candace Bailey, Sara Underwood, Kristin Adams, Olivia Munn, or Layla Kayleigh really have a passion for games? The prospect of this being true seems doubtful. It appears as if they were brought aboard for no other purpose than for their eye-candy value. This, along with the numerous other decisions like to increase the number and length of commercial breaks lost me as a regular viewer. I don’t see why Sarah Lane and Morgan Webb were not enough, and I doubt that they are the only truly tech-savvy female hosts that aren’t an eyesore to look at.

G4TV, why did you drop so many excellent shows, and add so many horrible ones?! There already exists a place for shows like that, and it’s called Spike TV!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Is the “Death of the PC” a Real Question Anymore?

It seems like it was just yesterday that the life of the PC as a viable gaming platform was being challenged. This was all the way back in summer, when all we heard were of rampant studio closings in which piracy was cited as a primary cause of lost sales. But gamers fought with their keyboards, arguing on message boards that they ordinarily would not purchase the given game regardless, even though we know through the numbers of pirated games that it was getting to the point where fans of a series would pirate even their most beloved titles.

Since then all that has been forgotten. All it took was for the consoles to gradually dilapidate in terms of graphical fidelity to the point at which PCs have once again become the preferred system of choice thanks to custom optimizing as well as the constantly evolving nature of the machine.

Now, rather than hearing about another Midway or THQ studio shutting down due to piracy, we hear of how much “better” Battlefield 3 is on PC, or that Skyrim on PC is “the way to go.” It stands to reason that until the next generation of consoles are released, the PC will remain the dominant way to play.

The PC has always had many things going for it, like the mouse and keyboard set up, its overall inexpensiveness, being able to mod at one’s will, free-to-play games, more indie games, Steam, a more mature multiplayer community, LAN gaming, being able to alt+tab out of a game to multi-task, not to mention that the PC makes a hell of a better Word Document machine than does an Xbox 360, and yet the 360 can’t even do half the things the PC can! So why even shell out upwards of $400 for the Xbox 1080 coming in 2013? Kinect 2.0? I think not.

With a PC, you can, for much less, progressively modify it to your specific needs and have a much better, and much more economical experience. (Thanks to Steam’s regular deals and free-to-play games, not piracy, you goon!)

I don’t believe the PC as a gaming platform is being put to question any longer, and for good reason.

Long live the PC!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Infinity Blade II: The Definitive Handheld Game

Infinity Blade II for the iOS platform is a deceivingly hardcore game. From the onset, you are presented with an easy, straight path that makes you wonder what all the fuss is about and why Infinity Blade II costs $6.99. But after completing this, numerous other paths are unlocked, making Infinity Blade II a whole lot more expansive. It doesn’t hurt as well that the enemies at each juncture are constantly being rearranged or new ones are being thrown into the mix.

The gameplay at first seems to be run-of-the-mill hack n’ slash style combat, but after spending some time experimenting with the three different weapon types (sword and shield, heavy, and dual swords), the game’s quality amongst the massive heaps of garbage that grace Apple’s App Store truly reveals itself.

Infinity Blade II has an interesting carrot-stick balance, one that favors the carrot for which may turn off the hardest of “core” gamers. Incentives such as experience points, leveling up, gold, the prospect of new and exciting weapons are things likely to keep players coming back when on the go. The game has many reasons for gamers to continue playing even after they’ve exhausted the purported five hours of playtime available.

Its single player increases in difficulty as your character becomes stronger, you find gold bags scattered around the gorgeous Unreal Engine-powered landscapes, which can be used to purchase new weapons, armor, helmets, shields, and rings. Equipped items can be leveled up and augmented, leading to both experience and strength, defense, health, or magic bonuses. Infinity Blade II, along with being a surprisingly robust action game is also a loot-whoring game, which can provide for a surprisingly exciting gaming experience on-the-go. Fights are short and to the point, and cutscenes between one area and the next can be sped up in case you’re in a hurry.

I played Infinity Blade II on my standard iPhone 4, and it is noticeable it was intended for the iPhone 4S. The occasional hiccup has the possibility of being either slight enough to not terribly reduce framerate, or severe enough to give you the sense that you didn’t get a fair fight and can turn the tides in your enemy’s favor due to your delay in commands. All of which leads to massive frustration, and let me tell you, this game does reach a point at which it becomes very challenging (if you’re reading this, and thought it wasn’t sufficiently hard, try playing with heavy weapons only!). But Infinity Blade II is one to reward you for your persistence, and becomes only more gratifying by getting past its issues.

The block-buster app makes an attempt at providing a story to tie together the chain of enemies, but really, it boils down to generic dialogue unfittingly voiced by what are actually some genuinely menacing enemies. The story, suffice to say, is not Infinity Blade II’s calling card, nor is it the reason anyone will pick it up.

Infinity Blade II combines even more fluid combat that was present in the first game, Gears of War-quality graphics in the palm of your hands, Shadow of the Colossus-level of epic boss fights, with on-the-go gaming practicality. I dare say it is one of the most satisfying and engaging games on iOs to date. Once you play Infinity Blade II for the first time, you will be coming back for more, I assure you.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Love the Beast: Pure Awe

Eric Bana's personal documentary/film, Love the Beast is a spectacular argument why cars represent much more than means of transportation. Bana's car a Ford Falcon XB means the world to him. He has had it since the age of 15, and has worked on it with friends for years. It meant a fireplace to his friends, it was a way to socialize, to make friends, to hang out, a discussion point, a place to keep away from drugs and alcohol, and to fuel a passion to last a lifetime. Bana has paired up with Dr. Phil, Jeremy Clarkson, and Jay Leno to help console Bana's love affair with his Falcon. Bana appears at times confused as to how he should act about his crash when speaking to the luminaries.

The film is a great example why cars have souls. They make mistakes, and behave differently than other car names, and thus, they can form bonds.

The film has an uncanny ability to provoke unintentional smiling, sympathy, and outbursts of emotion. Bana participates with his friend, Tony, in the Targa of Tasmania. Tony serves as Eric's navigator, and both, despite being rather amateurish, do quite well. Bana had participated in the Targa years earlier, and had famously claimed he would come every year henceforth. Suffice to say, Bana did not live up to this promise, yet was going to make the 2009 Targa Tasmania his last with his newly rebuilt Falcon. It was his dream to do this with his dream car.

Bana is making great progress through the Targa, but along the line, unfortunately collides with a tree. After the traumatic event, Bana says "This is not what I had in mind", as he stands, without a scratch on him, in absolute shock as to what just took place.

Bana is at a crossroads as to whether or not he should repair what was once his dream car. As he returns to the place that initially race-prepped the Falcon, he notes that he feels even worse examining the damage than he did when the crash happened.

There is rather implicit disclosure to end the film, with white text on a black background that reads, "Bana plans to rebuild his Beast".

The film overall was highly enjoyable, and had done stunning job showing audience members the bond between a man and a machine. The beginning, in fact was perhaps the most enjoyable where Bana accurately details the feeling of track driving, as scenes of him and his racing yellow Porsche 911 scream through apexes. Bana truly understands what it means to be a driver, as his natural skill is evident even through his heel-toeing technique as was involved in the Targa.

I highly recommend Love the Beast as an absolute mad car fanatic.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Racing Dreams: Play with My Heartstrings

Racing Dreams emphasizes three young karting drivers who strive to become national karting champions. The film emphasizes Josh Hobson (12), Annabeth Barnes (11), and Brandon Warren (13) for which Warren is placed in the senior devision, and the other two are in the junior division. Racing Dreams covertly conveys feelings that can only be attempted to be explained through words. For example, when Annabeth is sitting in her new stock car, anticipating to start it up for the first time, or when Brandon dresses in a military uniform, I couldn't help but feel pity for what an extraordinary driver Brandon could have become, yet unfortunately grew up with an alcoholic father and was underprivileged as a result, and there is nothing he can do about it.

Racing Dreams is an unbelievable film-style documentary of the lives of karting drivers and how much commitment it takes in order to be one. Annabeth claimed she found little time to 'be one of the other girls' because of racing, yet she said it was wholly worth the time away from friends in order to pursue driving as a potential profession down the line.

Josh Hobson was a known quantity; he won nearly every race, and was calm, cool, and likely has the best opportunity out of the other two drivers to make it in NASCAR later on. He was also the most forward-thinking, the most precocious, and appeared the best bet among sponsors.

Annabeth Barnes was also precocious, wasn't the absolute best driver yet finished fifth consistently, and for better or for worse, received recognition for being the only girl karting.

Finally, Brandon Warren was the most rebellious of the three thanks in no small part to his absent father, although due to his grandparents, with whom he lives he has a strong foundation. Brandon had ambitions to 'join the Marine Corps in order to whoop his father'. Towards the end of the film, it is revealed that due to financial issues, Brandon can no longer pursue competitive driving, but is pursuing his high school's ROTC program. On his sleeve, it said "U.S. Army", despite what he had said earlier.

Racing Dreams is a mixed bag, it alternates heartstring to heartstring as rapidly as the karts would pass one another. It is certainly an emotion-filled film despite the average movie-watchers' perceptions of racing à la Taladega Nights.

Friday, September 9, 2011

In Transit

For my entire life it seems, I have been in transit. From my transfer to a different school in fourth grade to my transfer to another school in sophomore year of high school. I seem to get bored rather easily. Currently, I am studying at Marquette University and while I have had a brilliant time meeting many new people, I find myself again, rather bored.

I can't tell if it's that I desire to be elsewhere, and that Milwaukee is too similar to my home in Illinois. Nor am I sure if it is in fact that I am not adequately challenged by my courses this semester. Or even if the student body, being the drinking school, and me being the antithesis of a drinker has a culture of providing 'buffer time' in which students may have sufficient time to alleviate any alcohol from their systems. Or is it even the constant image of a well-worn, mossy Ivy-League school building somewhere in Massachusetts in the back of my mind and that my sister will likely attend that school, and I may never even see such a thing. Is it envy? After all, I seem to have followed my sister, despite me being older, to a College Prep school in the city. Do I simply need to make a greater splash in the community in order to not feel so detached? Right now, I feel rather a part of the community, and maybe I need to give the school more time. Is it the cityscape Milwaukee provides that is again, too similar to my high school Chicago backdrop? Or am I overly adventurous, should there be such a thing? Do I like to be the different person, "the transfer". Do I like to meet people with difficulty? Do I like to not be ahead as I feel now? Do I feel uncomfortable when I feel "ahead" of the curve? Do I truly want to transfer again?! My intent with going to Marquette was that I was going to attend this, and no other school for four years! Should I rough it (because the social atmosphere is unrivaled) and take more challenging classes, maybe graduate early through summer classes, and take grad school at one of those historic, charming, and mossy Boston universities? Should I truly abandon my newfound friends so early by taking summer courses?

What should I do? I know for now, I will challenge to finish my assignments with yet more quality, contribute to the school newspaper, study abroad in Germany this summer, and maybe for another semester sometime down the line, join a fraternity, and achieve a higher GPA than was ever possible for me at high school what with all the commuting, sports, and excessive homework assignments.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Beloit Mindset List

Beloit College makes an annual list that takes into account all of the events surrounding incoming college freshmen births. The conductors are virtually oblivious to the current goings on and new interests in our lives today (which would be helpful because they are very central in shaping our decisions).

Take a look for yourself.

If you are my age, you may either agree with the two gentlemen, or be offended as I am for the sheer number of assumptions made regarding my generation. Then again, nearly anything said about my generation, I may very well take offense no matter how accurate or jarringly true. Many times I arrogantly fight the truth so as to avoid embarrassment and unscrupulousness at all costs.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The State of Books and Faces

Facebook for me has perhaps the most uncanny draw for me to return over nearly any other website. Begrudgingly, I came back to the social media site after a long hiatus during the Lenten season to, yet again, share my opinions and goings-on of my life via comments, photos, "likes", and most of all, status updates. There may be nothing else on all of the internet more self-indulgent or inviting of such behavior as those darn statuses.

The love-hate relationship between statuses and me begins whenever I see a "friend" of mine receiving "likes" or comments in which the jealousy flame is lit. Then I will perform a miserably sub-par attempt at garnering virtual popularity, and as if the beginning of this sentence wasn't obvious enough to indicate my fate, I fail every time. I think this stems from (1.) my reputation as someone relatively few people truly know, or (2.) most likely me trying too hard to be funny, charismatic, or poignant in my own way. No matter what though, my statuses fall flat. No one comments on them, or likes them. No one even gives a pity like for my broken ego all thanks to this service.

And at the same time, I question why it is that I care so deeply about what people think of me, or even what it is that forces me to interpret their actions, or lack thereof in a disparaging light. I think it's because I treat it like it's a game. And it's certainly one I cannot possibly succeed at.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Twittery Behavior

The internet and all of its interworkings, as cliché as that is to say, promotes shorter and shorter attention spans than ever before. Deceivingly, it seems for better that the internet encourages a thirst for knowledge, but for many, such information is often quickly forgotten minutes after research. This is due to the seeming infallible accessibility and reliability users take for granted whenever surfing the internet.

Users exemplify their "thirst" in their keeping of constant tabs on the every whereabouts and actions of their friends via Facebook, their favorite celebrities via Twitter, and news via Yahoo, AOL, NewYorkTimes, CNN, or any given trustworthy online publication.

Along with promoting a thirst for knowledge, the internet unfortunately also promotes the disposability of knowledge, and thus, the compelling, riveting life stories published in novels. An entire sector of the internet's users' brains is shut off due to disuse. True intelligence, rather than dexterity is becoming less common, nigh less fashionable. It is becoming mockable to explain oneself or his or her actions with any degree of wit. I believe this reality is intertwined with society's long-standing obsession with all forms of hedonism or pleasure, and thus, satisfaction with the state of things constantly being "good enough" over intently pursuing the betterment of circumstances. Look at the economy. Many liken it to a "pit", or a "ditch". Both connote an inescapable state; a desperation. When in actuality, a little optimism, hope, and effort go a long way, and can render such "pits" or "ditches" a thing of the past.

Apologies for the abstractness and perhaps overwroughtness of my writing, I concede them.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Raving Good Time!

After much deliberation, my long-anticipated high school graduation party has been completed. Today, (or, well yesterday at this point) marks the date I had planned for the party a week and half in advance. And it happened to fall on a Wednesday, as opposed to a Friday or Saturday for the simple fact that I wake up early on Saturdays for work, so Fridays are out of the question, and all the rooms for every Saturday in seemingly all of summer is booked. After checking to see the availability of the rooms week by week via text messages to my parents during the slog of work proved fruitless for weekend dates, I decided it to be advantageous for a weekday party.

So it was settled. The DJ was prepared for that Wednesday, as was I. Immediately after discovering the confirmed date, I did my damnedest to get the word out through Facebook, which proved somewhat troublesome with people's snide comments on the event wall and unreliable promises whether they would come or not. Also, with the party placed inconveniently when people have work the next day, are tired from their day of work, or are out of town due to summer break, I lost a number of potential party guests.

With that in mind, time passed, and anticipation grew, as did the Facebook wall comments and the number of guests claiming they'd go. Drug and alcohol-related jokes were thrown around on the wall carelessly, as if their parents or future employers had no idea what "a" Facebook is. There were questions asking if ecstasy would be served, if people should bring their syringes, etc. The joking got old, and my event description got serious to the point where I gave ample warning to the consumption or bringing of alcohol into the party, and cited that if such instances should occur, my family's business would get sued in the midst of the already grim financial situation we find ourselves.

To be continued...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Notes on a Scandal (2006) Film Review

One of the most compelling films I've seen in a good long while is Notes on a Scandal. Starring Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench and Andrew Simpson, Notes involves good friends, Blanchett and Dench in a miserable downward spiral of trust issues, gossip, and frequent spurts of anger. As Blanchett, a new art teacher at Saint George's, reveals her intimate affair with 15-year-old Simpson, Dench becomes increasingly intrigued by how similar the two women are, despite their age disparity.

Dench's character actually reminded me of myself in that she was rather reserved with her true thoughts, and such thoughts were in no way lacking in their critical and descriptive qualities to the nearest ioda. Her story telling is in the form of a diary, just as mine usually is, albeit much more private given that it is featured on this public blog. But those sentiments are rife with unbridled impressions, untempered by the minds of others, and when brought outside the the original author's mind, they may be perceived ridiculous.

Notes on a Scandal is a highly enjoyable film that deserves your absolute attention for its entire hour and a half span. It brilliantly executes each scenario, making you think, 'oh dear, how much worse could this situation possibly get?!' Yet, inevitably, at every undulation of Notes' skillfully crafted plot, the condition of our characters' lives only worsen.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wealth: A Subjective Term

Since the month of July, I have been tasked with balancing two part-time jobs, hobbies, family time, and any me time I could get a hold of. By then, I got a second job, one at Bill Jacobs Land Rover of Hinsdale. As a porter who is the essential backbone to any car dealership, I work with a bunch of Mexicans. And I have no reason to have anything against this, or any other ethnic group for that matter. But this group of guys in particular stick next to me as if they were a swarm of moths to an incandescent light as I regale the tales of my family's "endless" (or so they think) wealth. And this disturbs me.

I think nothing of the prospect of my father owning multiple hotels and a restaurant, as I never have. This simply has been my upbringing. But to some, it is a fairy tale from which enormous jealously stems. I say that my house has four central air-conditioning units, my parents both drive Mercedes, and I drive a BMW, they all "ooh" and "ah" at my decadent lifestyle. I do my best to proclaim that numerous other people have a great deal of more wealth than my own family, and that my "luxuries" mean nothing in this day and age with people's home theater systems, swimming pools, basketball and tennis courts, fountains effacing their driveways and what have you.

I have attempted rather meekly for them to sympathize with me. I reason that I have never received an allowance, that I do chores for little to no money in return, that my house is not in fact equipped with a home theater system or any of the other aforementioned marks of wealth. I have never sought a cushy job from my father's business, and instead have desired to be independent so as to not have to get involved in the troublesome family (feud of a) company and want to be paid fairly apart from my family, and to get a sense of the real world. No such sympathy has been returned despite my earnest efforts of understanding their own modest living and financial conditions.

I am intensely tired of having to talk of my family's "extravagant" living conditions. We have no [especially] fancy or fast cars, no wonderfully expensive utilities around our house, and for that matter, haven't even finished paying off our house.

I cannot count the number of times I have been asked how much money my father makes, nor the number of times I have shook my head and ignored the question. My family is just like any other family, we have financial responsibilities, enormous taxes to pay, education to fund, and currently are in an even more sizable amount of debt to take care of and thus, don't have great loads of money for leisure to spend.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Car Show Premiere: Off To a Good Start!

The Car Show goes to show that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I say this as the US version of Top Gear has already been tried, and by the looks if it, isn't coming back (I argue this is for better because of the hosts' lack of chemistry and humor that is expected with anything with "Top Gear" in the title).

Yet what separates The Car Show from a cheap Top Gear knock-off is the variety and uniqueness of the show's segments. There was a game show, a segment about the 24 Hours of Lemons in Reno, Nevada, an interview with Jimmie Johnson, a segment called "0-60" in which the hosts have 60 seconds to talk about the given car or issue, a ride in a Rolls-Royce Ghost at Pebble Beach, and a race between an aircraft and a Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Never for the duration of the show was there a moment of dead air while in-studio, convincing me of the hosts' awkwardness as was the case for Top Gear USA on multiple occasions.

The Car Show is a perfect argument for why there is no need for an American version of Top Gear. Rather than being an unfunny carbon copy of the impossible to recreate recipe that is the UK version of Top Gear, The Car Show is genuinely funny in its own right and I believe will have far more longevity than a show with an Italian guy, a southerner and a drifter all trying to be funny, and all failing miserably at the same time.

Albeit Dan Neil is the tastemaker, gentlemanly type à la, Richard Hammond, Adam Carolla is the spearhead of the show, and is the funniest as Jeremy Clarkson, only Carolla's much less as appropriate with his sense of humor as Man Show enthusiasts can attest. And unlike any of Top Gear's regional offshoots in Russia, Australia, or the USA, The Car Show features four hosts, creating a strange middle ground for any James May comparisons. The most oddball of the four hosts is easily John Salley. Firstly, given that he was a professional basketball player, he seems to in few ways warrant the title of 'most credible automobile commentators in the nation' as Carolla introduced his co-hosts. Sure, he may admire the way cars sound and look, but he was very ill-advised for whenever he made a criticism. He may own a Lamborghini, Porsche, Ferrari, or what have you, but those were not earned for his professional driving prowess, or his auto journalism for that matter. His only real involvement in cars is casual ownership and admiration. But if that's what it takes to be a show host, why not make me one? I actually know what a differential does, what a coilover consists of, my first word was "car", I digress.

The Car Show is in many ways the same as Top Gear as it features in-car reviews of cars with astronomical pricetags that are useful for little more than entertainment, although they're entertaining nonetheless.

My only complaint is the cinematography. Top
Gear USA, while having frankly boring presenters, had some of the most impressive shots of cars I have ever seen before, including the the original Top
Gear, with its postmodern camera filters. On it's own though, the car shots are professional and don't make you notice there's any room for improvement.

Ultimately, it's a good thing Carolla never hopped aboard the Top Gear USA train, and instead made a show of his own to allow himself more free reign to create something that stands apart from the rest of the new generation of YouTube and commercial-based Top Gear copycats. And it's going to be Carolla to have the last laugh, not Foust.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Driving Axiom 2.0

A driver does not drive with his or her ego. A driver anticipates and plays out any potential accident that may unfold before him or her and acts preemptively to reduce their chances of harm. A driver drives with two hands on the steering wheel at all times. A driver accelerates, decelerates, and steers with smoothness as if his or her grandmother was sitting in the passenger's seat.

Driving Axiom

A driver who considers him or herself skilled is not in fact skilled. A driver such as this is only skilled insofar as that he or she can operate his or her vehicle at a high rate of speed in a straight line, and not much else. This driver very likely knows next to nothing about the numerous dynamics that go into a car operating at high speeds; weight transfer, contact patches, center of gravity, and centrifugal force. None of this is taught at drivers ed, and requires an above average level of interest and passion for driving rather than a casual admiration most public road drivers have.

A truly skilled driver is one who never assumes his or her skill or for unrealistic handling capabilities of his or her given car, and thus always drives within his or her skill set, and never above it.

That's right. Italics. Mmmm...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 Fabulous Site!

For ages, was clunky, slow, inefficient, not user-friendly, then those witty and skillful Germans kept at it and worked and worked and worked until their site did. Now, they are home to 5 million tracks and a great place for artists and upcoming producers to showcase their music! Try it, it's sweeping the music industry!

Hello, Jehovah

It seems having Jehovah's Witnesses appear at your door is as much of a rite of passage as serving jury duty. Well today, for the first time, that happened to me. And unlike the bulk of people these brave souls encounter, I am not a God-hating Atheist, rather, a God-loving Catholic. And only for a second was it that I thought the two elderly women were Jehovah's Witnesses before I realized they were two normal, oxygen-breathing, red-blooded homosapians. After I realized their normal-ity, I thought, 'They couldn't possibly be Jehovah's Witnesses. Especially considering the ridiculous stories I've heard of them.' So, for the duration of the awkward rapport I had with the younger of the two old ladies, I didn't think twice. Then my dog comes out, and thankfully, they become distracted, and only want to ask questions about 'Lucy, the puggle, or pug-beagle-mix, who is 6-years-old'. This convinced me even more of the oxygen-breathing, red-blood possessing likelihood of Jehovah's Witnesses. Nothing un-normal here.

Then I'm handed a pamphlet. In this pamphlet is a seemingly normal doctrine that uses the Bible as its basis, providing evidence for the 'goodness of the Earth and Heaven'. And then, the final paragraph tells me for sure, saying, 'But Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe this'. I become furious and proceed to rip up the pamphlet and later, rather sadistically, send it to the shredder like I would a speeding ticket.

Plank: Way Played Out

The "Plank", or posing in front of a camera in face-down position is at this point, way played out. It began with a simple photo from more popular people, and has now clearly outgrown its popularity, and has now spread to the outcasts, rendering this act unpalatable.

It always was stupid, and I would never do it, but now it's stupid and outdated.

Find something new. Later hipsters.

Burr Ridge Car Show: Kinda Sucked

This past Saturday, June 18th in the pointless Burr Ridge Mall in, you guessed it, Burr Ridge, a car show was held. With pompous hot rods, a handful of Ferraris, one Porsche, an interesting AMG Mercedes saloon, and egos more than big enough to fill up the space, the Burr Ridge Car Show was very unimpressive. I was expecting exotic European cars, like the ones you can see on any given day cruising around Hinsdale, but I suppose there's a different, BETTER, car culture there.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Too Many Memes to Count

From Katy Perry's new song, Last Friday Night, there are memes that hint at Rebecca Black's single, Friday, nerds, d-bags, etc.

Freshman, Freshman, Freshman!

About this time in Summer 2010, when I was going into my senior year, I had planned to be "wilder". By "wilder", I mean more enthusiastic, more friendly, more energetic, and exuberant, and excited and virtually anything else that implies energetic and extroverted joy. For the most part, I succeeded. But this time around, going into my freshman year at Marquette University, I plan to be yet "wilder". I have a world of impressions to make, and I don't intend to do poorly. I hope to be more extroverted and conversational than I ever could have imagined. Never will I indulge on speaking about myself; and I will always ask about the person I am speaking to.

It won't be a big deal if I'm not best friends with my roommate. I will sit at lunch with whomever I am compelled to, I will be myself in every way possible, and won't be afraid to say what I think or feel. And most importantly, I will have fun.

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Song!

Hip Salsa by FlammenHund

What My Senior Synthesis Paper Looked Like

Michael Lenoch
Mr. McLarty.
Religion 4
May 13, 2011

Saint Ignatius College Prep has likely been my most enjoyable form of education I have experienced throughout my life. SICP was founded on the moral principles promoted by Saint Ignatius of Loyola himself, and with the ideals praise, reverence, and service to God and others in mind. I have exemplified these moral highs have in a multitude of ways.

For example, I have been open to growth as I have participated in more clubs this year, attended senior Kairos, spoke to, and became friends with more people than in past years, deliberately enrolled myself in courses I knew would be challenging, yet would pay off in the long run, and decided to become more extroverted, pushing the boundaries of my "comfort zone", as it were. By my own accord, this "comfort zone" has been intentionally violated many times in hopes to result in growth and further maturity.

I have demonstrated academic competence through the numerous difficult courses I intentionally chose to enroll myself in for my final year at Saint Ignatius. However, more specifically, I have noticed a palpable difference in terms of my level of maturity when participating in in-class discussions. I am more apt to mention relevant evidence to support my position, and have truly honed my rhetorical skills. I can recall being a large-vocabulary-word-wielding sophomore who thought he could easily conquer any debate with ease simply on the basis of the size of his vocabulary. My American History class was instrumental in me realizing that this was in fact not the case. Due in part to the number of boys, and consequently, the few number of girls in that particular class, the classroom atmosphere could be likened to a frathouse. I would be scoffed at whenever I would attempt to make an unnecessarily long-winded and eloquent point. This lead me to conclude the briefer my point, the more concise my choice of words, the more likely it was my message would be listened to. I now sense my capacity to not say too little, nor say too much using an unnecessary level of vocabulary and sound overly pompous in the process.

I look back on my time spent at Saint Ignatius indiscriminate from my extra-curricular activities. I remember spending $1200 on a 1989 BMW 325is this past December, and look back on it without regrets. This car was more of learning experience than anything else. I worked on this car throughout much of the winter in my father’s cold, spare hangar, desperately relying on a torpedo heater for my livlihood. Throughout the project, I was giddy with excitement, contemplating the dream car it would soon be. During the winter months, I worked night and day in hopes of eventually achieving such a dream. I took the car apart until there was nothing left to the body other than its bare metal. In doing so, however, I came to realize that this Craigslist purchase wasn’t nearly what it had initially seemed. Rampant cases of rust were almost everywhere to be seen below the car’s now-removed fenders and interior carpeting. Rust holes the size of tennis balls graced the floorboards, while rust on the frame had already done its worst, spreading like cancer. My father and I took the car to a not-so-local, yet supposedly honest and reliable body shop in Palatine, IL, A & L Body. After arriving, one of the shop’s employees came to my father and me and told us that the cost of fully restoring the car would be $11,000, well over our budget, and for that matter, the price of the car itself! In the long run, we decided we would search for a new body for the car, as the engine, transmission, suspension, brakes, etc. are all in working order. As I said previously, I recount these memories without regret or dismay, or don’t think of the money that was perhaps “wasted”. Rather, I remember the lessons I learned. Money can be earned again, [although with considerable difficulty at my young age] but lessons are priceless. By dealing with all the turmoil involved in this project, I can at least say I know all the ins-and-outs of the BMW.

I have been religious by being committed to attend Mass regularly, by treating each person I come into contact with with the dignity and respect he or she deserves, and by donating sometimes new and unwanted or old and unused clothing. I have participated in innumerable debates with friends who claim they are Atheists and have defended the Catholic faith with everything I have learned over the past three years during my time at SICP. I have made my religion my own, as I pray nightly, and have learned to be in closer contact with God. I am not afraid to mention my horrible deeds to a priest for reconciliation. I will be sure to seek repentance for whatever I do, no matter how embarrassing, personal, or natural one may argue for it to be. I vow to never intentionally do anything wrong or destructive, but despite this, I am aware that I will never be perfect as Jesus was, and that I will sometimes falter. But I know that the difficulty of making mistakes and learning to forgive yourself and forgive others from petty and grave deeds alike is an all-encompassing aspect of the human condition, life and existence. I have remained vigilant to keep drug-, alcohol-, and sexual intercourse-free, as I intend to resist any and all temptations friends or acquaintances may present to me. I am fully aware that life can be enjoyed just as easily without the use of substances, and I believe that it is foolish for teens to think it is acceptable, by any means, to take drugs, drink alcohol, or have premarital sex simply so that it may aid in their pursuit to “enjoy life”.

Life is about the struggle it involves, the way of getting around Hedonistic pleasures in favor of serving God, others, and the environment above all things. If life is enjoyable and pleasurable all the time, and all that you continually seek and participate in is pleasure and enjoyment, what are you gaining? What are you learning? And you clearly aren’t learning from your mistakes if you are constantly pleasure-seeking, and are resistant to changing. You also fail to grasp the true, exuberant joys of life that only can come about after struggle or turmoil, the struggles that question your identity and core values. If you are afraid to put yourself up to that challenge without the beer and cigarettes at your side and be vulnerable, you are afraid to live.

I am loving through my commitment to serve others before myself. When driving, I allow people to change lanes in front of me, in the checkout lane, I allow others to go ahead of me. And while these may seem more quotidian examples, I try to make people feel special whenever I am in social contact with him or her. No matter my state of mind, my face will light up to greet someone; whether it's a friend, acquaintance, teacher, or as it happens, total stranger. I feel I am adequately loving in that I give people a sense of being through my greetings and conversations that always emphasize the other person over myself.

I am committed to justice through my devotion to follow Christ. Just as Christ was an egalitarian, I try to be as well. Despite race, gender, age, religion, origin, or any other sort of demographic quality that may, in some cases, be used to discriminate and ridicule others in arbitrary and cruel ways, I maintain that all of mankind's parts are equal. Each have certain strengths and weaknesses, although never should those weaknesses be explicitly exposed by another or an outside party in an attempt to ridicule or condemn. Rather, we should elevate the poor, and down-trodden to a level that matches with our own comfortable lifestyle that doesn't force us to constantly worry where our next meal will be from, or what maneuvers to pursue in order to avoid forms of discrimination.

In some cases, horrifyingly, it has become the status quo, or common practice to discriminate others or make assumptions based on demographic qualities. We must continually interrupt those perpetrators mid-sentence, and definitively tell him or her that such an act is wrong, not be hesitant to receive the flak in return, and be willing to unending stand up to the thousands of “bullies” found throughout the world. Because we must respect all life, and treat one another as we may treat God himself.

In God's name we pray, amen.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Random Musing: Drafting Women

Unless I am mistaken, (which I am quite often) why are women exempt from the draft in times of war?

Thankfully, we have not witnessed the need for a draft for some time now, but should it ever arise, I believe women should be included. After all, just as men, they have had the great privilege to live safely in the United States with a wealth of rights no where to be found in many other nations throughout the world. Also, at age 18, women, again like men, have the right to vote and conversely don't have the right to drink, and should therefore serve their country accordingly, like men.

It has been proven many times over in history that women are much more capable than serving as a seamstresses for military uniforms and equipment and fabricators of military implements as they were restricted during the World Wars.

Finally, if the U.S. intends to boast about its principles of equality, this is a step it should take, unless it has already been done so despite what the feminists have to say.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Thanks A Lot, Sis!

This morning, Friday, May 20th my sister was in a hurry, as she typically is. But without a ride today, she was in a particular hurry. And in this particular hurry, she proceeded to romp about the house looking and asking various family members for the keys to my car.

Initially, she went to my room expecting to get them right then and there. Yet, I was in the mood for some hardball. I lied when she asked, saying that they were in the drawer near where I put my shoes.

She scoured, ripping out each drawer in that room with vigor. And later went upstairs yelling at my mother. She came a second time, as I tossed them across the hallway before she could get there. Then she called me a "fucking asshole". For what purpose?! I thought I was being nicer than most brothers by giving them to her period. And she could have at least thanked me. Well now, I don't think I want her driving it ever again, so that was possibly her last chance.

As she was loading her things into the car, I walked up to her, asking "What was it that you said to me?" She replied, "Fine, punch me!" Adamantly, I said, "I'm not going to punch you!" She again said the expletive she once called me as I responded with, "You're not driving." She then threatened to key the sunroof of the car. I'm not sure what that would achieve though. She rarely is ever logical, even when she isn't in such a fit of rage. As she hopped in and turned on the car, I went to open the passenger door of the car to talk to her.

Then unexpectedly, she decides to floor it, backing the car up with its door open and me in its way into the trash bin, hurling me backwards. Further giving credence to stereotypes about women and driving, she shifts into drive as if to close the door.

Now, the scalp on the right side of my head is loose, making me worry, but more so making me wonder why I have such a maniacal sister.

I am in a mood more than ever to say horrible things about my sister, but with graduation right around the corner, I will decide against it.

What I said is purely factual, not exaggerated or hyperbolic whatsoever. I'm angry.

Now, I can't bear to think of the damage she has caused to the car; the inner door panel, the door hinge, and maybe even an outward dent! Oh the horror for my baby to face! My first car. This is a BMW, which is not German for Ford, Toyota, Chevrolet, nor "Beater". This was a car worth upwards of $30,000 when new. My sister is no doubt going to wreck my beloved when I'm gone. She's just that careless.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


In the midst of my search for a BMW E30 (1984-1991 BMW 3-Series) I encounter a hell of a lot of "seller-speak", or in other words, seller BS. Craigslist sellers, while they are for the most part either credible, or made up of ads generated by dealerships in a utilitarian attempt to get the word out about their cars, they have their share of equally bad ones.

Some sellers I have seen claimed their car was "rust-free", while piles and piles of that horrible bronze material graced a number of the car's panels.

A more common thing to see not only Craigslist sellers say is something along the lines of '...the car's in good condition, I just haven't had time to replace the engine fan belt", or the radiator, or the camshaft. The seller, right after saying this, will claim ''s an easy fix' just so they can unload their problems onto you in exchange for an amount of money they never deserved in the first place.

Be wary, fellow car-seeker for these two potential scams.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Ignatius Experience

I transferred into Saint Ignatius College Prep my sophomore year, and so as not to bore you with the details, I will describe what it is like to have finally [for the most part] finished senior year.

Relieving. The school reaches an all-time climax during your final week of school. Shenanigans have achieved a new standard, as "S-I-C-Penis" and "One-One" chants can be heard throughout the entire school. In addition to this, are the overwhelming number of final projects your teachers will assign you in the midst of not only AP exams, but also the stress associated with senior Prom. I had final projects due in all my six classes (which is a fair amount for the average senior), and as a result, didn't have the wherewithal to submit a photo for the Prom slideshow that was being showed around the venues in which Prom and Post-Prom took place, or to arrange for a pictures session at someone's house (thanks go to Maddie Greybar for her last-minute accommodation), or to set up our table for eating at Prom.

But now that that's all said and done with, why don't I expound on Prom itself? Prom was in many ways no different than the average Ignatius school dance. There was a dancefloor, a DJ, some tacky lights, teachers scouring our every move for the total four hours, and a wide slew of music. Now speaking of the music, it certainly did not at all lend itself to dancing. Starting with mainstream hits from Taio Cruz, Katy Perry, Usher, etc. gave the dance a light-hearted feel. Then all of a sudden, the DJ decided at seemingly an instant's notice to shift to through-going rap music.

Clearly the audience ate the music up, but what they didn't know is that music they perhaps weren't familiar with could be more conducive to more enjoyable dancing. Dance music, one of my favorite genres of music has many tracks that completely lack any vocals whatsoever. To me, this is not a bad thing whatsoever. Yet the crowd seemed more interested in reciting the lyrics to the numerous rap songs, rather than dancing to them. You can say rap isn't my cup of tea. The point is, I found it difficult to dance to a good number of the rap songs. While many of them have already-established dances associated with them like the 'Swag' song, or 'Dougie', there seemed to be little room for creativity in peoples' dancing.

For a lot of the more intense songs, people would more or less mosh, throwing their hands up at the sound of a thumping kick drum or "drop". To mingle more seamlessly, I found myself attempting to guess the next set of lyrics or remember the refrain so that I could sing along with the crowd.

I'm not going to provide much disclosure for this post, as all I want to say is that while Prom wasn't particularly bad, it wasn't exactly excellent either. It didn't blow me away, partly because the rap music got to me a little, and the dance didn't set itself apart from the typical Ignatius dances. The only distinction from this and the school dances is that for this people were actually dancing and there wasn't too much room, as there inevitably is in the gym, which is either for better or for worse.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Analyzing Myself: Facebook

The ever-intriguing social-network, Facebook is a topic that will seemingly always remain new and exciting to write about. It is a quite interesting experiment in sociology, tracking how people with spread information regarding their personal lives, entertainment interests, activities, etc. What's more is how otherwise normal people by day can be the world's most rampant and [either intentionally or not] most self-glorifying exhibitionists by night. In addition is this 'what happens on Facebook stays on Facebook' mentality that provokes people to rather rarely discuss their recent activities in person.

One problem I experienced with the site, and it may not have been explicitly the site's fault, but rather, the nature of my social circle and my interaction with it is that I unavoidably felt ignored. While others would be ranting a blue streak, I hopelessly would standby, unsure if such and such was expecting an immediate response from me. And whenever I would give in to the temptation of replying to a status or wall post, 9 out of 10 times would it be ignored, while the comments surrounding my own would receive comments praising user X's sense of humor, or user B's wit, all the while I began to assume a niche in which I would post strange, less conventional comments, statuses, and other contributions.

This hints at another issue in society that I believe was present before Facebook's existence, but now that Facebook is as popular as it is today, it is more pronounced. This is the collective egotism of mankind. Now that we all have our own mini-blogs, à la Twitter and Facebook, we are beginning to take this for granted and constantly expect more attention from our peers, acquaintances, friends, and family. But rarely do we fully deserve all of this attention. Most of the time, attention is rather unfairly earned using purely ruthless virtual means. People will post about a new relationship they're involved in, a film they've just seen, whatever it be, and cry to the outer heavens at the top of their lungs, saying, 'Look at me, look at me! I saw this movie, therefore, you should too! I'm so cool'. In other cases people don't know when to stop posting about something. Whether it's on every single friend's wall, or simply a constant stream of the same content, I soon become sick of the bickering.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Latest Track!: Depth + Breadth

Depth + Breadth by FlammenHund

Quick Clip on BMWCCA Windy City Autocross Clinic Account Change!

Ebert: The Disgruntled Old Man

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times has been reviewing films for over 30 years, and his reviews are invariably very critical.

Well, you probably say to yourself, 'He is a critic, so why should it matter that he's critical?' The issue with Ebert's style of reviewing film is that it's critical, and that's about it. It's not critical and praising, it's not critical and fanboy-ish, or enthusiastic, or passionate, or recommending, or positive in any way. No, his style is not any of these things but critical.

Ebert can't help but always look on the negative side of things. He never compliments films for what they may do well or inspire, and can never enjoy a mainstream film. Film to Ebert must be a progression of an art form. It cannot simply be fun, enjoyable, or spontaneous. It must push the boundaries of the art form that he so intently believes film is.

You know what? I size him up as a disgruntled old man. He's the jaded film critic who's lost his love for film. He's sick and tired of conventions, and nothing is ever good enough for him anymore. He doesn't adequately realize the size of his audience and influence of his opinion, and thus, has had people miss films they would otherwise have enjoyed because of his outright old man-ness.

There's a point at which his reviews go from critical to cynical. It makes me worry that he's on his way to depression. This guy needs to take a breather, and not be so downright hard on movies and rediscover the joys to be had when watching movies.

Take for example his recent Fast Five review that all but knocks it for being action-packed and not a noir film.

This quote is particularly disgusting, " all comes down to is a skillfully assembled 130 minutes at the movies, with actors capable of doing absurd things with straight faces, and action sequences that toy idly with the laws of physics. That can be amusing for some people, not so much for me...I missed [the] laughs, although I got a good one right at the end, when we were warned that the driving in the movie was done in a controlled environment by professionals, and we shouldn't try those stunts ourselves."

The man's ego is through the roof, as he clearly can't resist the temptation of flaunting it at every possible opportunity and acts as if he is the sole high-kingly-chancellor of all that is artistic and high-brow film.

I think at this point, he can't turn off his cynical switch.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Giving Up Facebook for Good

This past Lent, I decided I would try to be "cool", and give up Facebook for the next 40 some days to come.

I successfully resisted any and all temptations in the form of iPhone touch-notifications and emails to signify Facebook updates.

I did not look on Facebook once to get a scoop on so-and-so's Junior prom dress and so-and-so's latest embarrassing binge party with those tacky, red Solo cups. At first, I felt left out of the social scene, but by and by, I began to enjoy the metaphorical
"silence" of not hearing people parrot a given popstar's latest refrain, or megaphone totally useless and irrelevant thoughts and YouTube video links on each others' walls. This was nice for once. Finally, coming home after school meant I truly was coming home, without having to hear people's otherwise annoying rants, and not being jealous or caught up with a friend of mine's posting of a video on so-and-so's wall and not mine. Facebook is nit worth worrying about or dealing with.

I am glad I gave it up for Lent so that I could discover that my life is not only easier, but more enjoyable without it. I will use it very sparingly only so that I can arrange parties, keep people up-to-date on my car, and send private messages. No more of this profile picture business or needless drama and jealousy surrounding people posting on each others' walls and never my own.

Facebook all but made me feel social. Very few people ever took the time to private message or chat with me, and only a handful ever posted on my wall for the three years I have been a member.

By in large, goodbye Facebook. And wow, is that satisfying to say, that I am no longer a slave to the mass-market, mainstream obsession!

California: The Car Fan's Haven

Never have I witnessed a higher concentration of high performance and exclusive luxury cars in all my life as I have these past five days spent in the SF Bay area and SoCal. Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bentleys, Audis, BMW after BMW, Mercedes become commonplace and bourgeois, Aston Martins, Jaguars, high revs left and right along average city streets. E30s are nothing special, and 458 Italias are nothing new to see. It truly was where cars die and go to heaven. Oh, and the astounding roads, don't even get me started. 65 MPH speed limits are the norm, and legendary sweeping curves male up he bulk of the mountain paths. I could not believe my eyes half the time I was there.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Amateur Photos of Santa Monica Mall

After having dinner on top of the third floor of a Nordstrom's mall in Santa Monica at what was possibly the most gorgeous and hip restaurant interior, Sonoma's, my family and I walked throughout the equally, if not more gorgeous mall. The mall consisted of glassy features, slick and distinct architectural lines, and ambient lights; in other words, a utopia for me! Have a look at my way of showcasing such beauty, I insist!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

SF Bay Area

San Francisco is possibly one of the strangest places I've ever been to. It can't decide whether it wants to be young or old, sunny or dreary, poor or wealthy, a cool city, or a business-oriented industrial town. Homeless people sleep outside Bentley and Lamborghini dealers. The town is akin to Denver in that it appeals to younger demographics. And it is also very much catered to Asian-Americans with its many cultural restaurants, shops, and meditational activities that can be seen throughout the street corners. Most surprisingly is the few number of homosexuals I'be noticed, or at least the few number that explicitly reveal themselves.

Personally, I have a hard time making sense of this town, deciding whether it's more European, American, or even Asian.