Archive for August, 2021

VTubers

August 30, 2021

About five years ago, people were getting tired of webcams. Let me explain. For over a decade, people have been playing video games online and either recording or streaming them. People (including me) who watch these people watch because of the video game being played but also because of the personality on display. These streamers are one part gameplay footage showcase and one part vlog. The ones who do it live are in direct communication with a chat room full of fans who help guide conversation. The standard practice is for the streamer to put their webcam image near the bottom of the screen showing their gameplay.

A digital production company in Japan named Activ8 created Kizuna AI, a young anime girl who played video games for an audience. She was voice acted by veteran anime voice actress Nozumi Kasuga. AI would play video games, talk, and even curse when the game got too hard. The combination of a real person performing an animated character was not exactly new but technology had advanced well past tech demos. Her videos were not live but it was a start. AI became super popular and was even “hired” by Japan’s National Tourism Organization as a cultural ambassador.

The trend started to pick up momentum in Japan and people jumped on the bandwagon. Production collectives sprouted up to support these new streamers and their colorful characters. It feels like they were created based off of the idol system Japan already had in place where companies create characters and cast people in the roles. They are totally sponsored and protected by these larger companies. The popularity of these “Virtual YouTubers” expanded beyond YouTube and into Twitch, the main platform for live-streaming games. Japanese companies decided to use this new phenomenon for advertising.

In the United States, VTubers are more organic and homegrown. Lacking the power of larger companies, VTubers either create their own avatars or commission them. Lately, the practice has started to creep more into my viewing habits. While I thought Japanese and other Asian VTubers were cute, I do not speak their language. English-speaking VTubers weirded me out at first but I have come to really enjoy them. One of the artists I follow on Twitch (DeerBits) creates VTuber avatars for their friends and for commissions.

How it works is similar to the technology that brought us the “I’m Not a Cat” Lawyer. Basically, an artist creates pieces of an avatar and forms then into a humanoid shape. This can either be a 2D or 3D model. They them “rig” the model for animation sort of like a digital marionette. The avatar is then bound to the performer through a program that translates their movement into the movement of the avatar. When they speak, the mouth moves. When they move around, the avatar moves around. When they blink, the avatar blinks. It is really marvelous technology. I am interested to see where it goes in the US and beyond.

The Faceless

August 28, 2021
Photo Credit: @rn_murse on Twitter

Cat and Sparrow stood, barely hidden in a back alley. Cat was having a hard time keeping it together. Anxiety was clawing its way out of her and she had to fight to stay still. Meanwhile, Sparrow was standing as still as a statute, not a bead of sweat. The tall girl was very narrow but had long pretty pink hair. Cat always felt self-conscious about her own black hair which she kept extremely short. She tried to push such thoughts out of her head. They were on a mission. Besides, everybody else was walking around them without a care in the world. They were all smiling.

Of course, they were all smiling because that was their default setting. They were not actually present any more. As far as they could tell, something had invaded Earth two years earlier. Cat and Sparrow were part of the resistance, something that Cat had stumbled into completely by accident. As near as the resistance could tell, whatever was doing this was taking people and turning them into robots. Well, robots was not the correct term. They were still organic but nobody was home. The things that were no longer quite human walked around and remained productive but they were easy to spot. They just smiled way too much and had vacant stares. It was creepy. Otherwise, they looked untouched.

“Stay with me, Cat,” Sparrow said firmly in a whisper. “Stay present. We have a mission to complete.”

“Sorry,” Cat said with a slight nod. “I’m feeling very exposed out here.”

“If you don’t feel nervous in the field, you shouldn’t be in the field,” Sparrow said. “I wouldn’t have brought you with me if I didn’t think you were ready.”

“Why does everything still look the same as before the invasion?” Cat asked. “Like, why do they keep all of the signs illuminated? it seems pointless.”

“Well, it’s not exactly the same,” Sparrow said. “There are definitely little differences. Like that sign.” She pointed.

Cat looked where Sparrow as pointing. The sign read ‘You must wear a face’.

“That makes no sense,” Cat said.

“They haven’t quite mastered our language,” Sparrow said. “but I think it’s a reference to the facial recognition scanners.”

That had been part of several briefings before returning to the surface. The resistance had found and dismantled a few of these scanners for study. The most likely conclusion was that when citizens were taken, they were scanned and cataloged. The scanners in the wild would catch anybody who had yet to be cataloged and would sound the alarm. Reviewing this in her head did not make Cat any calmer.

“How safe are we out here?” Cat asked, her voice suddenly a little shaky.

“The lab rats whipped up these jammers for us and they are field-tested,” Sparrow said. “Visually, we are wearing our own lovely faces.” Cat turned away a little so she could blush at that. “Electronically, we present as drones already on file. We’re good. Though, we should probably limit our exposure out here to the mission and only the mission.”

Humanity’s resistance lived underground in isolated cells that communicated through dead drops and encrypted burst transmissions. They were structured so if one cell was taken, they would not be able to discover the others easily which would give the other cells time to scatter. They stole food and technology from the surface the best that they could. Luckily, they still had some engineers and scientists on their side. They were important for staying in front of the invaders’ efforts to hunt them. The countermeasures were holding for now. Their enclaves remained hidden for the time being.

“That makes sense,” Cat said. “We’re taking one of these brainwashed people to a safehouse for study, right? To see if their condition is reversible?”

“Yeah,” Sparrow said with determination and a faraway look. “I know the perfect person too.”

Media Update 8/26/21

August 26, 2021

Tango and Cash

I really wish I had seen this movie earlier. This is a classic 80s buddy cop movie starring two action stars at the top of their game. Top cops Ray Tango and Gabriel Cash are framed and must dodge their fellow cops as well as criminals to stop a conspiracy. Kurt Russell is really fun as the casual and loose Cash. Sylvester Stallone may have hit his peak with this one as the more straightlaced Tango. Jack Palance is great as a quirky and campy villain similar to the role he played in Batman. A very young Teri Hatcher was good as a snarky yet plucky young woman. There is the requisite appearance by Robert Z’Dar, an epic action movie villain. The movie’s strength is the snappy dialogue and fun tone even while things are getting very dark. The movie strikes just the right balance of action, drama, and comedy. I recommend this movie.

Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)

This is definitely a pretty mid-2000s movie. It is an ensemble crime movie. Officers at a decommissioned police precinct in New York are tasked with taking in prisoners from transport while they wait for the snow to blow over. Like the original, it depicts a siege with both cops and criminals forced to work together to surivive. The movie stars Ethan Hawke, a broken cop who is trying to figure things out. His co-star is the excellent Laurence Fishburne who has a great menace with a hint of humor. The rest of the ensemble is full of great character actors like John Leguizamo, Gabriel Burne, Drea de Matteo, Maria Bello, Ja Rule, Brian Dennehy, and Aisha Hinds. The movie seemed straightforward and then a lot of great twists and turns hit. I really recommend this movie.

The Crow: Wicked Prayer

This movie was fun but probably not entirely how the filmmakers thought it would be. This is the fourth movie in the franchise. It stars Edward Furlong as a reformed criminal who runs afoul of his old gang and must come back to put things right just as The Crows before him. The movie is heavily steeped in Native American mythos. The real draw of this movie is the total nutball villain played by David Boreanaz who has a great time mugging for the camera. Tara Reid is her usual so bad she’s good goofy self. They are accompanied by MMA fighter Tito Ortiz, martial artist Yuji Okumoto, and Marcus Chong. The movie is super goofy but also very fun. I recommend this movie.

Music of the Week:

Kizuna AI – AIAIAI (feat. Yasutaka Nakata)

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – That Life

The Correspondents – Fear & Delight

Heaty Beat – One Day

Mashup of the Week:

CJ Goldug – Gangstas on Parade

Weekly Update:
This week’s theme is “Resorting to Criminal Tactics”
I watched more Batwoman Season 2
I watched more Titans Season 1
I watched more Doom Patrol Season 2
I watched more The Flash Season 7
I watched a lot of YouTube and Twitch
I watched Untold: Malice at the Palace
I watched more Forensic Files

WILPW: Another Summer of Punk

August 23, 2021

Almost seven years ago, I wrote about CM Punk. I was going through a difficult time as a fan. My emotions were still raw from Phil Brooks walking out on pro-wrestling as I wrote that blog post a mere ten months after Punk left. I had struggled because Punk had been my favorite at the time and I felt like I resonated on a similar wavelength with the guy. He was a comic book geek, a pro-wrestling geek, and just seemed to be very creative. As I wrote before, a lot of things came to light when Brooks was ready to talk about it. It was clear to me that he had suffered from burnout and physical ailments that caused his love of pro-wrestling to die. I did not realize how hard I took that.

Shortly after I last posted on the subject, I found more out from Punk’s own words. He walked out for a lot of reasons. The first and foremost reason was his health. He was suffering from broken ribs, injured knees, and multiple concussions. This was before the WWE’s current concussion protocol which is allegedly better at protecting against this. Looking back you could definitely tell a lot of this from his performance near the end of his WWE run. He looked tired and broken down at the time. He was also feeling frustrated by the way his career was going. He felt like WWE was holding him back. He was having a crisis of faith caused by all of his frustrations with creative control of his character and not being compensated for his sacrifices.

Punk and his friend Colt Cabana were sued for Punk’s statements against the WWE on Colt’s podcast. They were cleared of all liability. The lawsuit caused a falling out between the two friends. At the same time, I felt like I was struggling to find my own love of pro-wrestling again. I discovered NXT, a breath of fresh air in the WWE product. I began to search for content from other companies. In 2015, I started watching Lucha Underground and I was in love again. I began to see clips from Mexico and Japan and the indies in the United States. Slowly, my love for the product came back.

When All Elite Wrestling premiered, I was excited. I was well-studied on the independents that birthed the company. I finally gave up on watching WWE when they failed to sever ties with Saudi Arabia, sheltered sexual abusers, and kept killing the careers of performers I loved. Meanwhile, AEW had its problems (mostly Chris Jericho for me) but it was creatively fulfilling for performers. The company truly embraced the three-ring circus element of good pro-wrestling. There is something for everyone. I am a big fan of the goofy weirdos but also the amazing technical skill. As my love of the business reignites, I need to write about this company (and MLW).

On Friday, August 20, 2021, a hole in my fandom heart was repaired when CM Punk returned to pro-wrestling in the middle of an All Elite Wrestling ring. They teased it for weeks, they hyped up their audience, and I tuned in to watch live for the first time in a long while. They wasted no time and Punk came out right away. There were tears in his eyes as he looked out and smiled and my own heart swelled watching him be happy. He had found his love again. I am excited to see where it goes but that moment was worth it. Pro-wrestling is a strange business and it has its ups and downs but sometimes there are very pure moments worth getting happy over.

Undead Reckoning Pt. 11

August 21, 2021

Clarity thought about that statement as they started down the stairs. “Very interesting,” she said. “I suppose if the stories are true and the gods were destroyed, all of that energy would have to go somewhere. There is no way to destroy energy like that and the Riders were at least semi-mortal and they could not absorb that much energy. What vessels are the gods in now? Maybe they have no vessels. Maybe that means they are more powerful than ever.”

Ana shrugged with a small, unbothered smile. “I have not given it much thought,” she said. “It is enough zat I have faith, no? I am more focused on doing good in the vorld.”

“Now that’s an attitude I can get behind,” Talbot said. “You’ve just got to leave the world better than you found it.” He could guess that Clarity’s intellectual curiosity was not satiated but then again how did she expect to test any theories when it came to deities from the beyond?

“Vat do you do for ze vorld, Talbot?” Ana asked with a curious smile. “How do you make it better?”

“I’m a carpenter,” Talbot said. “I share a shop with two partners back home.”

“A noble profession,” Ana said. “Vhat brings a carpenter all ze vay out here for zis endeavor?”

All three of them stopped outside of the dining room as Talbot turned toward Ana. He was not about to get into it with a complete stranger even if Ana was a woman of the cloth. His past was painful and he still did not know why he had discussed it with Clarity. Something about her inquisitive eyes, maybe.

“I wasn’t always a carpenter,” Talbot said. “I’ll leave it at that for now. Lord Blackrance wanted me to come out of retirement but we have a difference of opinion. I came to tell him no face to face.”

“I tried to change his mind,” Clarity said. “It didn’t take.” She shrugged and shot a mischievous smile at Talbot. The look irked him for a heartbeat.

Ana’s smile was more beatific and kind. “I respect that you are a man who has left violence behind,” she said. “A man of peace. However, peace is not alvays the answer.”

“It’s my answer,” Talbot said. “I’ve already lost enough to battle. I support the mission, of course, but I don’t have the heart to join in.”

“Perhaps your heart may yet change,” Ana said with a smile. “Only you can decide your path.”

“Maybe,” Talbot said. “Anything is possible but I just don’t see it. You’ll just have to take care of this without me.”

The door to the dining room burst open and Titus was standing there looking frustrated and a bit desperate. “Could you come in to eat?” he asked. “He’s getting impatient and I really don’t want to piss him off anymore.”

“Who?” Talbot asked. As soon as he asked he knew it was a stupid question. It had to be the Dragonborn from earlier.

“You’ll see,” Titus said. “Quickly, please.” He held open the door and the three all looked at each other and then entered the dining room. Seated at the head of the table was the giant Dragonborn who practically glared at them.

“Finally!” he yelled. “They said they would not serve the food until you came. Sit down.”

“Such manners!” Clarity said. “We were having a lively discussion. We apologize if we kept you and Mr. Mapleburrow waiting.” The four of them moved to seats around the table. Talbot made sure to sit closest to the angry dragon man. He was sure Clarity would disagree but he did not want either lady to be harmed if it came to a fight. He had a feeling it would not and that the Dragonborn was more bark than bite.

As they all sat down at the table, the Dragonborn slammed his fist on the table. “Food now!” Titus flinched a bit at the sound and Ana got very still. Neither Clarity nor Talbot reacted and Talbot fought the urge to roll his eyes. No need to rile the guy up any further. There was definitely movement in the kitchen.

“What do we call you, sir?” Clarity asked. “We haven’t been formally introduced yet.” Titus was not about to make any introductions in that moment. He was rattled.

“The name’s Rahj,” the Dragonborn said gruffly and when Clarity arched an eyebrow at him he looked remorseful for a moment. “Rahj Blackscale.”

Media Update 8/19/21

August 19, 2021

https://www.twitch.tv/onstamonsta/clip/KnottyPlacidGarlicItsBoshyTime-jDJm7F8DeTw6prUb

OnstaMonsta

I became aware of who Onsta is through her guest spots on other Twitch streams. However, I actually met Onsta briefly at MagFest when she handed me some of her art for free at a signing for Barry Kramer. The moment was extremely fleeting but I admired her art from the moment I first saw it. I was sold on her as a streamer when she told a story about her reaction to Disney movies as a kid. She was frustrated by all of the happy white people. Onsta does play games but she is an artist first and foremost. There are two main things that I love about her. One, she is so positive and so willing to go along with the joke. Two, she is incredibly chaotic and weird and I love that. Onsta streams regularly as a VTuber and is absolutely delightful. I recommend her stream.

https://www.twitch.tv/rinadecoro/clip/ExpensiveYawningMallardSmoocherZ-ZqVClfAcqO-C4GO

RinaDeCoro

I similarly got to know Rina through Barry Kramer’s streams. Rina was the Twitch staff member who hung around Barry’s streams before starting to stream herself. I got into her more when she became a VTuber. She is absolutely delightful and is very good at making video games fun even when she is frustrated. She has been playing through a lot of Mario games which she plays under the guise of Bowsette. She also plays a lot of games with her girlfriend Spoot at her side. The two of them have even played a lot of Minecraft together which leads to hilarious meltdowns. She is very knowledgeable about video game and online culture and that really shows in her streams. I recommend her stream.

Scary Game Squad

This is actually a show on the YouTube channel belonging to Jesse Cox. However, it is the part of his channel that I watch the most. As the name implies, these are videos where gameplay and commentary of horror games are on display. Jesse Cox, Alex Faciane, Jirard Khalil, and Michael Davis. They are a group of friends who decided to play horror games because they were too scary to play alone. They have gone through a lot of games together while being terrified and razzing each other. They each have different personalities that shine through. Jesse tends to laugh a lot. Alex likes to stir the pot. Jirard tries to reason through things and tries to help with any exploration or collection tasks (he is known as The Completionist). Davis is a scaredy cat but becomes The Alpha when he is playing as a character with weapons. They are really fun to watch and their commentary on the games is always fascinating. I recommend this show.

Music of the Week:

Octave Cat – Koji

Orchards – Leave Us Here, We’re Fine

Kabul Dreams – Butcher Of The City

Kaidi Tatham – Insight to All Minds

Mashup of the Week:

Lewis Wake – Hello, Give Me Toxic Love Baby

Weekly Update:
This week’s theme is “YouTube and Twitch”
I watched more Batwoman Season 2
I watched more Titans Season 1
I watched more Doom Patrol Season 2
I finished Nancy Drew Season 2
I watched more The Flash Season 7
I started watching Charmed (2019) Season 2
I watched a lot of YouTube and Twitch

Rolling Stone Top 100 Project Pt. 1

August 16, 2021

While I was listening to the radio, one of the morning DJs posed a question about the hosts’ pick for favorite Rolling Stones song. I thought about it and I thought it would be neat to name my number one song for various bands and musical acts. I was originally only going to do Rock but I stumbled on the top 100 Musical Artists list from Rolling Stone magazine so I decided to use that. There are technically two lists so I may jump between them a bit but the first 26 did not change between 2005 and 2011.

  1. The Beatles – Maxwell’s Silver Hammer

Yes, the Beatles had dozens of really good songs that I could have put here. However, when I was a preteen, I fell in love with Abbey Road and played it often as I walked home from school. While other songs may have more technical skill or more meaning, this is just the lads from Liverpool having a good time. The song also has a dark edge behind its jolly sound which definitely falls within the scope of my interests. There are a lot of clever rhymes that just sound really pleasing to my ear as well.

  1. Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues

A lot of Bob Dylan’s most popular songs are too slow and rambling for me. In contrast, this song has a frenetic energy as he rushes toward the finish line. The lyrics are interesting in that they can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. Dylan claimed that he was inspired by beat poets like Kerouac and Ginsberg. He was also inspired by the Woody Guthrie – Pete Seeger song “Taking It Easy” and Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business”. Thankfully, the music video has some of the lyrics on cue cards because Dylan never was big on diction. Still, he inspired a lot of musicians. https://www.youtube.com/embed/PpsUOOfb-vE

  1. Elvis Presley – Jailhouse Rock

Elvis had a ton of hits as well. I did not really care for his crooning ballads (although they melted many hearts back in the day) but when Elvis was rocking and rolling, I loved his music. I actually performed Elvis songs on stage once for a Church talent show (along with much more talented and not-having-a-panic-attack partners). I think that was when I started to appreciate Elvis more as a musician than the cartoon he was usually portrayed as. Jailhouse Rock just always felt like his hardest-hitting song. I also loved the lyrics as I could imagine the party he is describing.

  1. Rolling Stones – Paint it Black

Something about the haunting, calmer singing with a rocking instrumental really gets to me. Also, as a preteen and teen, I was a bit goth and was the kind of person that would always answer “black” when asked for my favorite color. What really cemented this song as my favorite is the video game Twisted Metal Black which used it as a theme song. When I was in the depths of my worst period of depression, songs like these felt good because I felt less alone.

  1. Chuck Berry – No Particular Place To Go

I was so tempted to put “My Ding a ling” here but I feel like this is my actual answer. The guitar is what really gets me in this one (although most of his songs had great guitar). I like the progression of the song where the music starts jubilant and excited but ends kind of angry. This befits the funny story that the lyrics tell of a bad date night. It was this song that I thought of when I first heard The Guess Who’s “Clap for the Wolfman”. Berry knew how to paint a picture and this song just feels so good.

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Atlantica Pt. 10

August 14, 2021

Aurora and Ariel rushed back toward the library. Ariel was worried for Belle for two reasons. One, Belle might have gotten skittish and opened another portal and she would be in some other world alone. Two, one or more of the Poor Unfortunate Souls might have slipped in and gone after the biggest source of magic in the palace. Aurora had left the troops to burn the body of the sea witch. Esmerelda and a few others were busy reacquainting the Unfortunates with reality again. Things were looking up in the kingdom and Ariel hoped that people were waking up below the waves as well. She needed her father to be ok and she needed him to restore order to Atlantica.


Belle and Tiana were pacing in the library. Belle had the incantation ready to open the portal and was trembling as she held onto the book. Tiana was clutching a frying pan as she tried to listen out. There was the sound of running footsteps in the hallway.

“Somebody’s coming!” Tiana whispered.

“Who is it?” Belle asked, her eyes wide. “Is it the invaders?”

“I’m not taking any chances,” Tiana said.

As somebody stepped into the room, Tiana swung the pan hard in a downward stroke. Thankfully, the blow glanced off of Aurora’s steel bracer as she reached up to block the shot. Aurora stood there with a smirk and Tiana looked embarrassed and dropped the pan.

“Sorry!” Tiana said. “I thought you might be one of them.”

“Don’t apologize,” Aurora said. “If I was one of them, you would have taken me out. You did the right thing.”

“What happened?” Belle asked. “Are we safe?”

“I think that the danger is past,” Ariel said. “Ursula the Sea Witch is dead again.”

“Let’s hope it sticks this time,” Tiana said.

“Agreed,” Aurora said. “So what now?”

“Now, we need to open up that portal and try to focus it towards somewhere we can solve this whole problem,” Ariel said. “We each have loved ones still out there. We have to get them back.”

“We’re still a bit shaky on directing the portal,” Belle said. “We can’t be completely sure where it will lead us.”

“That’s troubling,” Aurora said. “I don’t like that at all.”

“We just have to focus is all,” Ariel said.

“Focus on what?” Tiana asked.

“We need to focus on what might help us save our friends,” Belle said. “Magic seems to be largely a matter of willpower and emotion. After all of the preparations and the ingredients and the words, it comes down to thought more than anything.”

“So we focus on what?” Tiana asked again.

“I could be selfish and say ‘Prince Eric’,” Ariel said. “but I think we should focus on the heart of the matter. The source of all of this. Ursula was not working alone. Somebody organized this.”

“Let’s do it,” Aurora said. “The sooner we go, the sooner I get Phillip back.”

“And I get Naveen,” Tiana said.

“Adam,” Belle said. “Let’s do it.”

There was suddenly a crackling sound and a bright light followed by a rushing noise.

“What’s happening?” Aurora shouted over the noise. “I thought it involved more words and preparation.”

“That’s not us,” Belle shouted. “We didn’t do it.”

The rushing sound got louder and the light got brighter and all of them were forced to shut their eyes or be blinded. Then the sound stopped and there was dead silence. They all opened their eyes. There was a stunningly beautiful woman standing there in the middle of the library. Aurora started to draw her sword but the woman wiggled her fingers and the sword just was not there anymore.

“Who are you?” Ariel asked.

She ignored the question and looked at Belle. “I heard your thoughts and they pulled me here, young Belle,” the woman said. “You’re the one who broke my curse. The woman who tamed the Beast.”

“You!” Belle shouted, astonished.

“Me!” The woman yelled back and laughed. “They call me the Enchantress.”

Media Update 8/12/21

August 12, 2021

The Suicide Squad

The 2011 film was disappointing even though it could have been good. When James Gunn departed (was kicked out of) Marvel and was snapped up to Direct this, I was excited. Apparently, Warner Brothers made the correct choice and gave Gunn plenty of creative freedom and he churned out a really great movie. The movie is part sequel and part reboot of the franchise. Gunn purposefully picked a lot of relatively unknown or C-tier DC villains for the movie and worked closely with comic writer John Ostrander (one of the creators of the Deadpool). The cast is absolutely mind-blowing. Margot Robbie returns as Harley Quinn and they had the good sense to continue her throughline from Birds of Prey. Idris Elba is a great foundation for the movie as Bloodsport with a great world weary but humorous portrayal. John Cena continues to wow me as a comedic actor and a great physical presence. Viola Davis is once again magnetic as Amanda Waller. Daniela Melchior has been rightly praised as the heart of the movie. I cannot recommend this movie enough.

Snake Eyes

I really enjoyed the two GI Joe movies (The Rise of Cobra and Retaliation) as they felt like big dumb action movies with plenty of comedy. The first one was even directed by Stephen Sommers (The Mummy) and the second one was directed by John Chu (Crazy Rich Asians). This movie felt in the same vein as the other GI Joe movies but was even better. Henry Golding plays the lead and he has so much charisma that it is insane. He spends much of his time working with Andrew Koji who is great at being earnest and somewhat menacing. Haruka Abe plays a great nuanced character. The cast is really good and the story has a great slow burn story with brilliant action scenes. I really hope this movie leads to more GI Joe content because there is a lot of potential for stories to be mined from the franchise. I recommend this movie.

Doom: Annihilation

This was a pretty run of the mill action/science fantasy movie. As the movie itself points out, it is very much a ripoff of Alien but without the suspense and more action. A lot of relentless action. The gunplay is pretty neat but you are not given much chance to get to know any of the characters until well into the movie. Still, the movie does feel like a somewhat accurate adaptation of the world of Doom (but without Doomguy). The movie is interesting enough but not great. Amy Manson is the obvious standout of the film as the lead, a UAC marine leader. She is the most interesting character by far so it’s good that she is the lead. The rest of the characters are neat and have interesting stories but the movie does not dive very deeply into them or allow them to be too interesting. The monster design is pretty game accurate and interesting. I do not recommend this movie.

Music of the Week:

King Garbage – Piper

Joji – Run

Rekcahdam – I’m Better Than You

Snapped Ankles – Rhythm Is Our Business

Mashup of the Week:

There I Ruined It – Hey-Lo

Weekly Update:
This week’s theme is “Special Ops”
I watched a lot of Twitch and YouTube
I watched more Forensic Files
I watched more SGDQ 2021
I finished watching Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes
I watched Fear Street 1978
I started to watch Batwoman Season 2

Top 11 Britney Spears Tracks

August 9, 2021

For obvious reasons. #FreeBritney

  1. Baby One More Time

The single that started the sensation that is Britney Spears. While she had been in front of the camera as part of the Mickey Mouse Club, this was her first turn in the spotlight. She was part of a huge wave in the late 1990s of pop music and she was often lumped in with NSync and the Backstreet Boys. While this song earned her tons of fans, it also created a wave of detractors. I was one of them. As a metal, rock, and rap fan, I lashed out at pop music in general. I was wrong. I was a hater because I bought into a bogus culture war instead of just enjoying the music. This song is upbeat and catchy as hell.

  1. Crazy

This is the song where Britney started to develop her signature style and voice. She gave her voice a unique twang and sustain that definitely set her apart from her peers. This song also illustrates how powerful the instrumentals always were. The driving chords are impossible to miss but if you listen closer, you can hear a pretty funky bass guitar riff under everything. On top of that is the poppy drumbeat that keeps everything moving. Music purists would cast derision on the synthesized instruments but they were old hat by this point. Music is music.

  1. Oops!… I Did It Again

This song feels like an improved version of Spears’ debut single. It is regrettably kind of a jailbait anthem but it is still a really catchy song. It is also not like there aren’t plenty of rock songs about jailbait. Once again we’re blessed with a driving beat with a signature riff that hits really hard. This is right about the time that I noticed (even mired in negativity) that Britney could dance. Everybody noticed it. Britney was permeating the cultural landscape and definitely overexposing her. People were starting to overdose on Britney Spears after two short years. But that was not Britney’s fault. That was marketing’s fault.

  1. Circus

Coming off of her comeback album (more on that later), Britney wanted to go back to being lighter but she had tasted the dark side and now even her lighter songs had an edge to them. This song comes off as fierce and challenging. In this song, Britney is taking control of her sex life and daring guys to step up if they aren’t scared. She really pulls off a hook that sounds like she is in the center ring of a circus calling out to the crowd. There is a rising energy to the song that definitely gets me pumped.

  1. If You Seek Amy

This song is unhinged and definitely shows off Britney’s sense of humor that had only come out in glimpses before this. This is from the same album as Circus so it is very light with a dark undercurrent to it. The song is very sing-songy, reminiscent of childhood songs a bit. It obviously uses a very playful double entendre. It was at this point that Spears was doubling down on her obvious sexual reputation and the rumors flying around about her. Of all people, Britney was always aware of how she was seen and it feels like she tried to reclaim that.

  1. Till the World Ends (Remix) Ft. Ke$ha and Nicki Minaj

I was actually first attracted to this song because I was playing Portal 2 at the time and the instrumentation reminded me somewhat of the composed music in that game. This song was a bit of a revelation for me because I did not realize that pop songs could have such rich instrumentation. It also felt way trippier than what I was used to hearing from Britney or any other pop star. The original song was actually co-written by Ke$ha (another tortured artist) imagining that feeling when you hit that high of performing and you never want it to end. I prefer the remix because it not only has Britney’s excellent vocals but some great bits by Ke$ha and the excellent rapping of Minaj.

  1. Radar

Another from the Circus album, this song feels more hypnotic. The simple tones and the droning static-y noise back up some very measured and drawled lyrics. Britney almost uses two voices in this one. There is a higher-pitched voice she uses for the hook, saying the word “radar” until it almost loses meaning. The other voice is a more taunting voice as she sings the verses with determination. I love how all of it mixes together and kind of feels like ripples crisscrossing each other.

  1. Toxic

If you are not moved by the opening riffs of this song, I don’t know what to do with you. This song has a pulsating energy to it and speaks of the dangers of wanting somebody who is bad for you. This was released in a time when pop culture was turning against Britney Spears. Her one starring role in a movie had fallen through and she had become a joke. She appeared in the third Austin Powers movie just before this was released. Still, this song is really good and it is this high up on the list for a reason. This was right before Britney went away for a few years and was a great parting shot.

  1. Piece of Me

This was the comeback album that I was talking about earlier. It was called Blackout and it rocked the pop landscape and proved that Britney was far from done. It was more creative than anything she had done before. This song was Britney’s angry song lashing out at everybody who ridiculed her and drove her crazy in the media. It was written by two producers who felt for her and witnessed her torment firsthand. The song showed that Britney was not done fighting and wanted to let the world know what she thought of her treatment. This is the treatment that continues to this day and only recently has begun to change.

  1. Work B**ch

The latest song on this list and a hell of a contender. I argued in my head whether this was number 2 or number 1 for a while but I am satisfied with my decision. This is definitely a song I keep coming back to me. The song is probably her most hard-driving song and I love the almost acidic edge to the vocals. The guitar riff is so much fun. It does not hurt that the song feels like a shot at capitalism even if that is not the way it was intended.

  1. Womanizer

Another song from Blackout, this is the song that finally got through to me and convinced me to give pop music another chance. Better late than never. I actually heard it as a cover done by cartoonist Kris Straub when he and fellow cartoonist Scott Kurtz revealed that they unironically loved the song and the music video. (It is a really good music video). I finally had somebody that I admired who unashamedly liked something that was “not cool” to like. That sort of thing opened doorways inside of me that allowed me to be more accepting of music in general. I also feel like this is her best song to date for what it’s worth.


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