Not On My Wish List


When I was working at Kmart for those few wonderful weeks, there was this co-worker that also happened to be a guitar player and as such, never passed up an opportunity to talk garbage about the whole Rock Band/Guitar Hero genre of video games. As a matter of fact, I recall us getting into a heated debate with me defending the games as a means for those of us without the talent or wherewithal to “play a guitar.”

Look, you can play a guitar. I’m happy for you. But there are tons of people out there that, for whatever reason, just can’t grasp the concept. These games are for them, not people like you. It’s not for real–it’s a game. Do you think NASCAR drivers are as pissed as you are about driving games? Or [insert your favorite professional sport] players despise the fact that gamers are living vicariously though these games? Hell no. So let us at least have that and if I can say so, you must not be a very good guitar player if you’re working at Kmart.

The guy shut up and quite honestly, I think I broke his brain because he was quite silent after this little incident and remained so until my last day of work. I didn’t regret telling him these things because I felt he had it coming. He seemed to be quite arrogant (imagine that: an arrogant musician!) about the whole thing and he just needed to be set in place–by a guy about 20 years his senior.

But upon seeing the latest addition to the Rock Band franchise, I’m beginning to see his point.

As you might recall on this April Fool’s post from 2008, I accurately predicted the eventual materialization of the Rock Band keytar:

Rock Band’s mature fans will appreciate the Rock Band Wireless Keytar, an exciting addition that will introduce the synth-pop and electronic genres to the game, with music from bands such as Depeche Mode and Devo planned for downloadable content.

I also mention my plans to sue Harmonix and Microsoft (for entirely different reasons) in this post but that’s neither here nor there…for now.

So let’s get into my reasons as to why I won’t be buying Rock Band 3. When I first saw the gameplay with the keytar I thought it was pretty cool and was a must-have. Then as I watched more and more videos for the thing, I realized that I have a Casio keyboard sitting in my bedroom which never gets used. But when I do bring it out, I’m the kind of person that can listen to a song a few times and easily play it back after a few tries. No, it won’t be as complex as the original version but the melody will be there and you’ll know what it is. Sheet music? What’s that? Yes, I’m “one of those people” as my wife says.

Did I mention any song, not a limited list of songs offered in the game or ones that may or may not be available for download? It’s doubtful that the Marketplace will ever produce anything that I would want to see and honestly, I would rather sit in a quiet room with a regular keyboard and figure out how to play the synths from this song* rather than clack on a goofy 24-key keytar and pretend to be Ray Manzarek or some lame/forgotten group.

And let’s face it: Manzarek played keys and bass at the same time.

That’s one aspect of it. Then there’s the cost of the thing which, at the time of this post, is a ridiculous $129 for the (required) keytar bundle.

As if I wasn’t already turned off by the concept, they have to offer it a price point that is a little over the top. Hell, my full Rock Band 2 bundle was only $20 more than that when it came out and when you consider that a decent, starter stand-alone keyboard can be had for the same price as the RB3 bundle, I’d go with the option that might just spawn a little more creativity, has 88 keys and won’t be collecting dust a month down the road because of its limited use.

No, Rock Band 3, you won’t be part of my collection any time soon. Sorry.

But while I’m here I want to mention one more thing that I’m sure Harmonix will rip off from me and run with. Now that the franchise has a practical full set of instruments offering a “complete band” experience, where do they go from here?

Add a new drum set but not just any drum set: a replica Simmons SDS-8 drum set. They were all the rage back in the ’80s and were played by Phil Collins, Prince drummer Bobby Rivkin, and whoever the fuck played drums for Spandau Ballet.

Then, as if that’s not enough, make an entire game dedicated to ’80s music: A Flock of Seagulls, the aforementioned Spandau Ballet and Prince, and even throw in some Morris Day and The Time for good measure (Jerome not included). It’ll be fun on a bun!

Come on, Harmonix, it’s the only natural progression you’ve got left. You’ve pushed the genre about as far as you can possibly could and very little will make it much better than this.

So to my former co-worker I’m pleased to say that I know where you’re coming from. As for Harmonix, just remember: I accept PayPal.

UPDATE: Wow, I mention suing Harmonix and all of a sudden they are up for sale. So much for my big payday…

*I say this song because I did do that one night
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I’m Suing Microsoft and Harmonix


hqdefault Way back in March 2008, I wrote an April Fool’s entry about potential Rock Band add-ons. In case you need to have your mind refreshed (or didn’t even know about it in the first place), here’s the link.

Thinking it was just a lame blog entry that would get absolutely no attention, I just let it simmer and wrote a follow-up the next day explaining how bad I thought it was. Turns out that years later, that post is still one of my blog’s most popular entries:

One year later, Microsoft launched their idea of an April Fool’s joke: Alpine Legend, a game which shows gamers playing yodeling and dancing around like fools:

It would have been really funny—if I hadn’t written about it first in 2008:

Harmonix also plans polka yodeling, allowing previously reluctant individuals languishing for oddball octaves lively, spirited dancing all year-round.

Huh. Imagine that. The mind boggles.

Then comes news that Rock Band 3 will be purportedly gaining a keytar, as reported in this Endadget article and teased in the Green Day: Rock Band demo:

gamrockband3teaser580

Let’s go back to that April Fool’s entry, shall we?

Rock Band’s mature fans will appreciate the Rock Band Wireless Keytar, an exciting addition that will introduce the synth-pop and electronic genres to the game, with music from bands such as Depeche Mode and Devo planned for downloadable content.

Either I’m the Nostradamus of video games or somebody’s been reading that blog post and getting ideas.

So what do you think this’ll get me? A couple of million? A toaster and a few broken baseball bats and a ticket to a minor league game?

I think it’s time to get Larry H. Parker on the horn–no foolin’.

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Life, Interrupted


Ah, blogging. I remember it well. Hopefully, I can get back on track here and return to my old self after the month I’ve had.

Where do I begin? Let’s start here.

Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, my mom was living with us here in our home from late December up until about a week ago and as a result, our lives were pretty much put on hold during that time. We just couldn’t live the way we normally do and, although it was my own mom, it was as if there was an outsider looking at us with each and every little thing we did. Blogging definitely took a hit as well since I felt my creativity was not where it should have been.

The problems, however, didn’t end there and before we knew it, Ann and I were verbally taking shots at each other. We had never done that in all of our years of marriage—17 this June—and we knew exactly why we were now. And then, about a week ago, Mom told us she made arrangements to live with a friend of hers.

Before she left, she told me that I hated her, and that I was “mean” and “evil.”

Okay, those who read my blog probably wouldn’t doubt the mean and evil aspects of my persona but all kidding aside, I didn’t give those comments much credence. All any of us did—myself and my cousins—was try and help Mom and in the end, we were all turned down. As a result, it’s sort of hard not to get “mean” or “evil” when you’re unemployed, you’re feeding an extra person who practically had to be begged to help contribute to the food and rising utility costs, did nothing to help herself find a place to live even though you found a place for $312 a month, and you’re having panic attacks because of all this.

All of these things did a number on our family dynamic which will take some time to repair. I haven’t heard from Mom or my brother since then and I’m not quite sure if I will. It’s up to them if they wish to get in touch with me.

Ah, what else? Oh, I know. Remember that fantastic Dell computer I was so patiently waiting for? Can you guess what I’m going to say next?

Yeah, you’re right: it took a dump after less than a month of use. Not that I’m all that surprised about such a thing because my father-in-law’s old Dell was also an unreliable piece of shit that was slow out of the box. So just the other day I went ahead and did a fresh install of Windows 7 and as of this post *knock on wood* it’s running smoothly. Fortunately, I had everything already backed up on the external drive so I didn’t lose a thing, but I had to re-install my most oft-used programs which aren’t much, but still a pain.

In the evenings I’ve been spending a lot of time on Forza Motorsport 3 (see current header), either playing or creating graphics for my cars (or to sell for virtual dollars), just to keep my sanity in place during that crazy month. It turns out that if you spend more time creating vinyl groups than playing the damn game, you can get pretty good at it. To see a gallery of my stuff, it’s up over at Flickr. No, it’s probably not the most elaborate stuff you’ll see but considering it was all made from scratch and with an Xbox controller, this failed Advertising Design major is damn proud of it.

And speaking of geeky things, now that I have webcam, I signed up for Skype. Because all of those long distance calls I make were starting to add up. Yeah…

Is there more? Why yes, there is. I am also coaching/managing a t-ball team this Spring with my own son on said team. I’ve been in constant contact with my Team Parents, making Excel charts for lineups, etc. so I’ve been busy there. Our first practice was cancelled due to our recent unusually wet weather and our next one on Wednesday is also in jeopardy for the same reason. So our first game is on February 27th and I’ve yet to meet my team or have a practice with them. Not good, so I just hope it clears up real soon.

If there is an upside to any of this bad weather—and I’m sure my friend Preston would beg to differ—is that it dumps tons of fluffy white stuff in our local mountains. So we headed up there one weekend just to get out of the house, and we had a good time:

snowfight

You can see a Flip Video of me sledding on Flickr (because embedding it here isn’t quite working).

Evergreen Cafe in Wrightwood We ate at the Evergreen Cafe (see left) and I gotta tell you, the food and service were absolutely incredible. In fact, I had to ask the waitress if the bill was right once we decided to leave.

The cost for all three of us was less than $23. This is when you know you’re not in the big city anymore. That, and the friendly service, the homemade bread used for toast, the owner going to each and every table to see if everything was okay.

That’s what it’s all about, and that’s why we need a Wrightwood escape every now and then. It was just an incredible day all the way around. Not to mention that I found a several 45s for 50 cents each in one of the local shops: “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “I Melt With You” by Modern English and The Jacksons 5’s “I’ll Be There”.

Okay, so I’ve caught up on everything, I think. Hope it wasn’t too boring or whatnot. And hey, since we got our taxes done and have a little cash to spend, I’ll be out all this weekend beginning late Friday and through late Monday so I’ll try to get at least another post in. We’re taking Anthony to LEGOLAND* and the SeaLife Aquarium for an early birthday present…even though someone else’s birthday is actually on Sunday…*cough*cough*…

* LEGOLAND and LEGO are actually copyrighted as ALL CAPS. Check it out—they’ll never (officially) be lowercase in print or Web. The things you learn when you write for a magazine…

More Major Awards!


Many posts ago, I mentioned how I had been rewarded for correcting a certain billboard flub.

Well, today the FedEx man showed up with another surprise for me. And being that I had no idea what it was, I decided to shoot a video of the unboxing for all the world to see. What could it be? A bowling alley, perhaps?

Wonder no more! Here’s the video:

Holy shit, he is a real, carbon-based life form and not just some key-clacking blogger! Who knew? But hey, how about that prize? Pretty nice, eh?

It turns out that this was a long-forgotten prize for winning a contest at a certain training Web site. Seriously, I had taken and passed those quizzes so long ago that I had completely forgotten about my reward. So yeah, cool stuff.

But in addition to this, last week I was also awarded the download code for an exclusive cool Xbox VIP hoodie for my Xbox LIVE avatar, seen here (along with Ann’s avatar):

Only 5,000 were awarded. Bow to its magnificence.

And if that’s not enough, the mailman showed up today with my fourth $25 GameStop gift card of the year! This would have came in handy yesterday when I bought Anthony his Christmas present…but now I can buy myself something.

Does the free shit end there? Hell no, I say! When I went to the Los Angeles Auto Show a few weeks back I signed up to test-drive a new Ford vehicle and get a $50 Visa gift card. So last week I went to my not-so-local Ford dealership where I have purchased 5 vehicles and spoke to the salesman that sold me all of them. He gladly signed the voucher and then I went home, registered online, printed out the receipt and now am just waiting for the gift card to arrive. (During my visit I also informed my favorite salesman of the vehicle I may be in the market for once my current lease is up in a year–either a used Explorer or an Escape Hybrid.)

But that wasn’t Ford’s only generous offering at the car show. If you went to all of their displays and had your booklet stamped, you got a $5 Best Buy gift card! No, it’s not much but it’s definitely better than that Mazda2 Energy Drink–which I also took home from the show but have yet to try. Because, as you know, I don’t drink that shit.

Oh, and I also got a $10 certificate from Sport Chalet as their way of telling me “thank you” for being a loyal customer throughout 2009.

So the free stuff keeps on coming. Bring it on!

On the Cheap, Part Deux


Several posts ago, I was practically bragging about how I was getting a bunch of stuff for nothing or practically nothing. Well, I thought I’d take a moment to update you on all of this.

Lips (MSRP): $49.99
My cost (with Points and tax): $10.83
Savings: $39.16

Bad planning on Microsoft’s part has prevented me from taking advantage of this offer.

You see, Lips was listed on their ExpertZone site as one of the Rewards (with 500 Points and $10 + tax), so I went ahead and ordered it, thinking I would have some cool wireless mics in time for The Beatles: Rock Band release and get a game to boot.

About a week after placing my order, I checked its status on the Web site and I was dumbfounded when I learned that—at that very moment—my order was cancelled. I sent an e-mail explaining my situation and was told that Lips had since been discontinued and no longer being offered, so my order was cancelled. It was a good thing I was told about this ahead of time.

No, wait, I wasn’t. Because of this snafu, not only were my 500 Points credited but I was also awarded an additional 500 Points to use as I please. Good, but not exactly what I wanted. And no, I wasn’t charged for the order, either.

Office 2007 Standard Edition (MSRP): $399.95 (full version)
My cost: $0
Savings: $399.95

Where Microsoft failed on Lips, the made up for on Office 2007! I got my copy a few days ago:

office-2007

The Beatles: Rock Band (MSRP, game only): $59.99
My cost (after two $25 GameStop gift cards from e-Rewards): $10 + tax
Savings: $50

After completing a series of surveys, they pretty much stopped coming in. My balance was stuck just below the $50 level required for the GameStop gift card and I was getting worried. Then they started to arrive in my inbox and after taking a few surveys I finally got to $50, where I immediately redeemed them for the $25 gift card.

The question then became, would it arrive on time? The e-mail said it could take up to 30 days, or 9/28/09—that would never do. I never had a problem with the gift cards arriving late in the past so I was hoping this would be the case once again.

And so it was. This arrived today:

gamestop-giftcard-redo

I then ran a few errands and then stopped by GameStop. The Beatles: Rock Band has been paid for and will be in my hot little hands tomorrow! (And if they had a midnight release time, I’d be there for it!)

But wait, there’s more! In addition to all of this, I took more quizzes at the ExpertZone site and was able to buy a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate for $10, so I saved about $200 there.

So I lost out on one offer and gained another. I’d say that’s not too bad!


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