The Crushing Banality of Everyday Life

I should probably be reading a book or spending time with my kid.

Month: December, 2013

Favorite Rap Albums of the Year

My yearly list of favorite rap albums is up at RapReviews.  The albums are:

 

Danny Brown, “Old.” 

Chance the Rapper, “Acid Rap.” 

Juicy J, “Stay Trippy.” 

Ka, “Night’s Gambit.” 

Run the Jewels, “Run the Jewels.” 

Special Request, “Soul Music.” 

Earl Sweatshirt, “Doris.” 

TeeFlii “Annie RUO’Tay 2.” 

Tree, “Sunday School 2.” 

Zomby, “With Love.”

My Favorite Albums of the Year

Having a kid changed my listening habits this year. Most of the time I was listening to music with my daughter, often early in the morning. As a result, I listened to a lot of mellow music, old jazz, old Sabbath, and old soul. The other stuff was limited to my hour-long commute on Bart, which is incredibly noisy, with shitty headphones. Not a lot of room for subtlety or nuance. Here’s what I liked the most out of what came out this year. If I had to pick my favorite it would be the Colleen record. It is such a delicate, beautiful album and it made my 5 A.M. wake up times much more bearable. I would put it on, get a cup of coffee, and watch my daughter interact with the world in our living room while we waited for the sun to come up.

 

Cate Le Bon, Mug Museum.

Chance the Rapper, Acid Rap.

Colleen, The Weighing of the Heart.

The Field, Cupid’s Head

The Hunters S/T.

James Blake, Overgrown. J

Joanna Gruesome, Weird Sister

Ka, Night’s Gambit.

Low, The Invisible Way

Rhye, Woman

Run the Jewels

Savages, Silence Yourself

Special Request, Soul Music.

Superchunk, I Hate Music

Tee Flii Annie RUO’Tay 2

Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, We the Common

Tree, Sunday School 2

Zomby, With Love.

Favorite Songs of 2013

Favorite songs of 2013

Savages, “Husbands”

Wavves, “Demon to Lean On.”

Danny Brown, “Dope Song”

Tree, “Devotion.”

Chance the Rapper, “Everybody’s Something”

The Hunters, “Nosebleed”

Superchunk, “Staying Home”

Run the Jewels, “36 Inch Chain”

Daft Punk, “Get Lucky”

Laura Mvula, “That’s Alright”

Rhye, “Open”

Low, “Plastic Cup”

 

TeeFlii with Nipsy Hustle, “F*n in the Function”

Earl Sweatshirt, “Chum”

Colleen, “Geometria del Universo”

Cate Le Bon, “No God”

Juicy J, “Stop It”

Joanna Gruesome “Wussy Void”

Special Request, “Ride VIP”

Zomby, “Soliloquy”

L.A. Noire

I finally beat L.A. Noire, two years after I bought it and after getting 2/3 through it and losing my save game. It’s an amazing game and there was a lot I loved about it. I loved how it recreated 1940s Los Angeles, particularly in the interiors. I loved the story, which combined elements of Chinatown and L.A. Confidential. I loved how central returning G.I.s were to the story, and how the different characters were all woven together to form a larger story. I loved looking through homes for clues, not so much because it was super fun but because it gave me a chance to explore the carefully constructed world the designers had built.

I was less excited about the interrogation gameplay. I had a hard time figuring out the right answer, and often resorted to a walkthrough to guide me. The characters often had different tells, and it wasn’t always obvious who was lying and who wasn’t. Also, anytime you accused a character of lying they would say “you have no proof!” even though you had found proof in the room they were in minutes earlier. If you know you have damning evidence against you, why would you deny it or challenge the detective to prove it? 

I also disliked the fact that you never really got a chance to explore the world they built. You can theoretically go anywhere in the world, but in practice you are always going from one case to the next. The only side missions require you to be in a cop car, which makes the hidden cars sort of useless. What’s the point of finding cool old cars if driving them penalizes you with missed chances at side quests? 

I’m surprised that Rockstar never made an expansion on the L.A. Noire engine that was more GTA 1940s – one that took more advantage of the world they had already built for L.A. Noire. I would love a game where you got to find hidden jumps, help civilians, do wanted missions, and basically have a similar experience to Red Dead Redemption. 

 

The bottom line is that it is a great game, but one that misses some opportunities to be better. It is one of the few games I’ve actually finished, and that was just because I needed to see how the story ended.

Doris Review

I reviewed Earl Sweatshirt’s Doris on RapReviews a few weeks back. His delivery and the beats are too downbeat for me to get really excited about this, but he is an impressive lyricist and there are some good songs on this disc, including “Chum”:

 

Ms. Male

The latest in Anita Sarkeesian’s “Tropes Vs. Women” is up now at Feminist Frequency. She describes the Ms. Male character as:

A female version of an already established or default male character. Ms. Male Characters are defined primarily by their relationship to their male counterparts via their visual properties, their narrative connection or occasionally through promotional materials. 

Rather than do a lengthy dissection of the parts of her argument that I disagree with, I want to highlight the important take-away I got from the video: in video games, and much of media, male is the default. She gives the example of adding female birds to “Angry Birds,” which had the effect of making all the other characters male. All too often in media, women are defined by their gender and drawn to conform to gender stereotypes. The problem isn’t so much with having girly girls in games or TV or movies, but in the fact that almost all girls are girly girls, and very few female characters get to be defined by anything but their gender. Sarkeesian illustrates that point very well, and it was eye-opening for me.

As always, however, I had issues with the tone of the video and the overly academic approach to games criticism. There’s very little in the video that puts the gender stereotypes in context of other media of the time.

A someone who recently had a baby girl, I was put off by Sarkeesian’s outrage at pink being a signifier for femininity.

“Now just to be clear, there’s no inherent problem with the color pink, makeup, bows or high heels as design elements on their own. And of course people of all genders may choose to wear any of them from time to time in the real world and there is nothing necessarily wrong with that either (emphasis mine).”

Pink, lipstick, bows and heels are almost universally feminine. There are very, very few instances of masculine use of lipstick, bows, and heels (at least since the 19th century). If you go to a drag show, you see a whole lot of lipstick and heels. Most of the male-to-female transgendered people I know wear some combination of the above because they know it reads as female. It is either disingenuous or out of touch to act like lipstick and heels are not feminine identifiers. I get that many women don’t wear any combination of the above, and that there is an issue with women in media always being identified as extremely feminine, but to knock video games for using identifiers that are universally accepted to read female seems unfair.