Tag: Music (page 1 of 3)

Not The Same

While finding my groove with the new gig, and making plans to return more prominently to the Internet, I’ve been reconnecting with some of the music of my younger years. I’ve always loved Dave Grohl and his bands, especially the Foo Fighters — hence the pin I wear on my overcoat, right next to my Safety Pin and under “America Is Not The World.” Partnering with an audiophile and general music wyzard has brought Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Nirvana, and Audioslave back into my life in a big way (also, you know, Seattle), and has introduced me to Big Wreck. Assembling a station on Pandora — which you can listen to here — has also reminded me of one of the seminal yet forgotten bands of my youth: Days of the New.

At the time, I was a bit less fully self-aware, and Days of the New was good stuff, but not quite in the same vein as Creed or Evanescence. While bands of that ilk have faded as my tastes and perceptions have grown and expanded, Days of the New comes back and strikes resonating chords. The vocals of Travis Meeks sit very comfortably in my range, which is always a plus, But the lyrics are what hitting those strings within me. There’s something simplistic about it, something raw and real, unfettered by artifice or hyperbole.

One song that keeps coming up is “Not The Same“, and… well, duh.

If you know me at all, if you’ve been paying attention, it should be obvious that I’m not the same. Sure, at this time last year I was trying to be more self-aware, more constructive, more this version of myself, but there was a piece missing. I wasn’t motivated to do it solely for my own good. I was doing it, if I’m honest, for the benefit of others.

Oddly enough, it was the behavior of others that made this clear, and I once again had to change.

There’s some sentiment out there that talks about not changing who you are. Songs have been written about it. About not letting the world or other people change you. And there’s some truth to that. However, if I hadn’t taken it upon myself to change myself, I would not be where I am now. And, as a direct result of these efforts, I am not the same.

Two years ago I was blinded by various distractions, misconceptions, perceptions, and unacknowledged fears and issues. That left me open to be blindsided by drama and truths that had to be addressed. It kept me from being honest.

Last year I was broken, trying to put myself back together, and overly reliant on others to help me do it. That left me open to be exploited and, subsequently, discarded; to be tossed about with my hands off of the wheel until the shifting winds and waves threw me out to sink or swim, with little in terms of a lifeline in sight. It kept me from acknowledging and cultivating my own strength and worth.

This year? This year, I am not the same.

And anybody who thinks I am is a fucking idiot.

I was asked the other day who I’m writing this sort of thing for. If I’m directing this rhetoric at individuals in particular, in some misguided hope I can change others. The truth is, if someone sees this, and as a result sees me differently, that’s great! I won’t deny that I maintain a glimmer of hope that being this vocal and this open and this persistent in telling my side of the story can put in stark relief the selfish wants and callous gaslighting of others.

But when you get right down to it, I’m telling my story because I’m sick and tired of holding my tongue when it comes to driving my own narrative. I’m taking the pen back from others who’ve held it. Around this time last year, I put out some kind of weak-ass bullshit about “hey, it’s okay if you need to see me as a villain, that’s fine, if it helps you heal I’m all for it” and so on and so forth.

Fuck that.

I’m not the same. I refuse to let myself fall back into those old patterns, those useless ways of thinking. And if some trifling, myopic people want to try and write me into a corner where that is all I do, it’s in my best interest as a human being capable of change and worthy of love and respect to snatch the pen from their hands and say “No. You do not get to dehumanize me in this way. Look to your own life and the ways you can make it better without making the lives around you worse.”

It isn’t easy. I still struggle with things. I can have a learned behavior kick in as a reaction to a situation that’s no longer relevant, or as a habit that I need to change. And while the results of such things are not okay, the fact that I want to change these things is okay. It’s better than okay. It’s what defines someone who is doing their utmost to act like a gorram adult.

I’m not the same.

Thank every single star in the sky for that.

Tuesdays are for telling my story.

Seriously, fuck off with your weak-ass bullshit, you bunch of trifling-ass bitches.

What VVVVVV’s Music Says

Courtesy Souleye

One of the best things about indy platformer VVVVVV is its infectious chiptune music. It compliments the story of gravity-flipping Captain Veridian’s quest to rescue his crew from the 8-bit perils of the mysterious other dimension. Souleye, the composer, brilliantly uses the tools available in a minimal environment as much as the game itself does, building mood and driving the actions of the player without extraneous bombast. But more than underscoring the action, PPPPPP (the soundtrack) carries messages all its own, illustrated by the game and reaching beyond the screen into one’s life.

This sort of thing could simply be a case of me reading into things more deeply than I should, but it’s nonetheless interesting to me that this music worming into my ears has more to it than rhythms to which one taps the action button.

Pushing Onwards

As much as bits of this iconic tune of VVVVVV are borrowed from other themes, the message it conveys is clear in its title. As this music plays, the Captain is learning the ropes of the levels, flipping from floors to ceilings and back again, often running afoul of the hundreds of spikes littered throughout the corridors. Thanks to the checkpoints, however, Veridian is never stopped for long, unless you as the player pull the plug.

In other words, the only thing stopping you from pushing onwards is you.

Considering this is the first tune we hear in VVVVVV following the accident that strands Veridian and his crew, it has to immediately set the mood, as we don’t have voice acting or deep sound effect design. More than just creating atmosphere, however, Pushing Onwards gets us into the groove. It dares us to live up to its soars, to defy its lows, to overcome the obstacles before us and go further than we have before. Who couldn’t use a little bit of that sort of motivation in their daily lives?

Potential for Anything

The tools that produce this tune may be the same as those used throughout the game, but Potential for Anything moves at a slightly different pace, a more lyrical lilt than the straightforward grooviness of Pushing Onwards. It’s a bit more mysterious, a little esoteric. Like Pushing Onwards, the reasons are there in its title.

In the context of the game, it’s difficult to say what to expect as the player moves Captain Veridian from one screen to the next. It could be a straighforward dodge-the-spikes setup, or a wrinkle could be thrown in with disappearing platforms, or the word LIES may get in our way. It’s clear that Terry Cavanaugh saw this dimension as one full of potential, and he used it to create just about anything he could to present us with new mind-bending challenges. But again, I feel the music transcends its origins.

The fantasy bookstopper novel, the hand-drawn masterpiece, the epic hero on a harrowing quest – they all begin with a blank page. The same pulpy construct used to generate TPS reports, account audits and letters of termination also yeild escapes to our dearest fantasies or exploration of our darkest fears. A blank page holds, quite literally, a potential for anything.

These are just two examples from this surprisingly deep soundtrack, and both tracks are audible in the free demo of VVVVVV available on Kongregate & Steam. Check out the game, listen to the music, and make up your own mind.

Overclocked

If you’re unfamiliar with OverClocked ReMix, you should do something about that. The concept is simple: take your favorite video game music, remix or rework it into a different genre or with different music, and post it on the site. The results are many and varied, as you can see here:

Chrono Trigger: Schala’s Theme

Final Fantasy VI: Locke’s Theme

Mega Man 2: Dr. Wily Stage 1

The Legend of Zelda – A Link To The Past: Dark World

IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! The Emperor’s New Groove

Logo courtesy Netflix.  No logos were harmed in the creation of this banner.

[audio:http://www.blueinkalchemy.com/uploads/emperorsnewgroove.mp3]

Originality, even when it’s forced, is a rare and wonderful thing these days. Sometimes it comes about due to the constraints of budget or equipment. Sometimes the expectations or demands of a client or superior change. However it happens, if a production can manage to recover, even if it goes in an entirely new direction, the result is usually at least interesting, if not decent. The Emperor’s New Groove is more than decent, being an atypical Disney movie and, in my humble opinion, one of their most fun.

Courtesy Disney

The story is set in an ambiguously ancient Mezzo-American empire, whose current head honcho, Kuzco, is something of a spoiled selfish jerk. The teenaged tyrant is looking to build his new summer home (complete with water slide) on the hilltop currently occupied by a small peasant village. His plans distract him from the machinations of his ancient witch of an advisor, Yzma, who conspires with her large and somewhat ADHD-afflicted handyman Kronk to poison Kuzco and usurp his empire. Unfortunately for Yzma, Kronk grabs the wrong vial and instead of dying, Kuzco is turned into a llama. The polymorphed potentate is dumped on a cart belonging to Pacha, leader of the village scheduled for destruction. In order to get back to his palace and regain his throne, Kuzco needs to work with Pacha, who will only help the emperor if he agrees to build ‘Kuzcotopia’ somewhere else. Hilarity ensues.

Originally, this was going to be a far more typical Disney musical, called Kingdom of the Sun. They had a Prince & the Pauper storyline, Sting was lined up to do the songs, everything was going swimmingly. The production began to suffer, however, when the team tried to find ways to make the story more original. Test screenings didn’t go well, and the two directors assigned to the project by Michael Eisner ended up working on two different films, with one leaning towards drama while the other aimed for comedy. When the more drama-minded director left the production, Eisner threatened to shut down the production entirely. While the animators were assigned to a Fantasia sequence, the writers and remaining director gave the film a serious overhaul. The result was The Emperor’s New Groove.

Courtesy Disney
Think of the jaguars as very angry investors. But what the hell do they know?

Opting for an entirely comedic experience, the movie plays a lot more like something out of Warner Brothers than Disney. There’s no romance save the relationship between Pacha and his very pregnant wife, all but one of the in-movie songs were cut (which made Sting very upset), and the typical Disney cute animal very spitefully tries to get Kuzco eaten by a pack of hungry jaguars. A particularly Looney Tunes moment is in the third act when Yzma and Kronk are in a dark room, and all we can see are their eyes in an entirely black space. You’ll know what I mean when you see it.

One of the most brilliant decisions made was to cast David Spade as Kuzco. His performances in the various comedies he’s been a part of over the last decade or so have been somewhat hit and miss. Emperor’s New Groove is the former. Spade is very good at being a shallow jerkass, and channeling that into the shallow-as-a-thimble Kuzco is a stroke of genius. The small ensemble cast is, in fact, effective on all sides. John Goodman’s Pacha is very charming and endearing, Patrick Warburton launched a great voice acting career due to his turn as Kronk, and Yzma wouldn’t be anywhere near as enjoyable or the jokes to which she’s subjected as funny if her voice wasn’t coming out of former Catwoman Eartha Kitt.

Courtesy Disney
One might even say she was “purrfect” for the role.

Combining this great voice work with some of Disney’s finer hand-drawn animations and quite a few lampshades being hung on the typical fare from the studio creates a very funny movie that still manages to be endearing in places. We see an actual friendship develop, the characters are memorable, the story moves a great clip and none of the jokes overstay their welcomes. In terms of both comedy and animation, this movie does everything it needs to do right not just right but very well.

Even if you don’t have kids, I’m willing to bet you’ll find The Emperor’s New Groove an amusing and refreshingly quirky romp from Disney’s animation studio. It fits well in just about any Netflix queue, whether you’re a fan of comedies in general or need a change of pace. It’s always interesting to see, over the course of a narrative, a complete jerkass grow and change into… well, a slightly more tolerable jerk. Which is part of the reason Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, in my opinion, works as well as it does.

…What? You haven’t seen that yet, either? Why are you still sitting there?

Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

Celebrate Relentlessness

They suck hard.

This is going to be another one of those posts that’s as much a reminder to myself as it is to anybody else. During my abortive attempt to catch this morning’s train, my iShuffle offered up a song I haven’t heard in a while – KMFDM’s “Megalomaniac.” Even more so now than years ago when I first heard it, there’s a bit in the lyrics that seems to speak directly to me:

In the age of super-boredom
Rape & mediocrity
Celebtrate relentlessness
Menace to society

It’s difficult for me to think of anything more relentless than an idea, especially in the creative mind. The flashes of inspiration that prompt the creation of a work or series of works often extends beyond the original framer of the idea into all sort of permutations. The idea of being out of control, even in a creative sense, is very frightening for some people.

Yet the idea does not go away. A creative mind can struggle to ignore it or put it behind them as they do something responsible, but it’s there. It sits. It waits. And every so often, it rattles its cage. It won’t be ignored for long. It’s relentless.

It’s an admirable sort of relentlessness, in my opinion. The idea doesn’t give up. We shouldn’t, either.

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