Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Commercialization of Christmas

There's always a lot of talk around Christmas about how the holiday has been commercialized, and how people are missing the true meaning of Christmas, and how people should have a stronger appreciation for the religious basis for the holiday. If that's important to you, that's fine. I don't have a problem with anyone's priorities on any subject, as long as it doesn't affect my day.

I'm not religious. Like, at all. And I like Christmas. Is it wrong for me to enjoy the "bastardization" of a holiday that I don't celebrate as it was originally designed? I don't think so; I certainly don't feel bad about it.

When I buy a video game for my sister, or mittens for my mom, or a poster for my brother, I don't feel like I'm disparaging anyone's religious beliefs. I'm not trying to spit in the face of anyone who has a different view on Christmas. I'm just trying to make them happy, and let them know that I care about them. Is it wrong to try to make people happy by spending money on them? We do it all the time:
  • Buying a beer for a buddy
  • Giving money to a charity
  • Paying for dinner on a date
From the other side, do I like getting stuff for Christmas? Yes. Obviously yes. I always like getting stuff. And part of it is the acquisition of new things, usually some kind of toy that I can enjoy. But another part of it is the understanding that these people who gave me gifts care about me.

And that's the other aspect of Christmas, the part that me and the pious can get together on. Christmas is a time to appreciate each other. It's a time when families come together, kids come home from college, people from out of town fly in to spend a few days with their cousins/siblings/parents/children. Commercialized or not, we all still recognize Christmas as a time of year to spend with the people who matter the most to us. And on Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day, we sit around a table with our family and closest friends. We break bread with the people who've shaped our lives, these people for whom we've expressed love, through words and actions and, yes, gifts.

Sounds pretty meaningful to me.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dead Rising 2 Review - Part One

As you may or may not remember, Dead Rising was my personal game of the year for 2009. I poured hours and hours of time into the game, beating it in six different ways, and it's actually snuck back into my rotation on occasion this summer.

Right up until August 31st. On August 31st, Xbox Live released a Dead Rising 2 prequel game for 400 Microsoft points ($5.00), called Dead Rising 2: Case Zero. To an average gamer, I don't know what they would think of the game. But to me, a big fan of the original game and someone who was jacked for the sequel, I thought the prequel game was a lot of fun. To me, it accomplished everything that Capcom could've wanted:
  • It gave players an opportunity to preview the new game in a method that was more interesting than a simple gameplay demo.
  • It offered a preview of the new features of the game, specifically the crafting system where you use duct tape to combine two items into awesome weapons, like the paddlesaw or boomstick.
  • It bridged some of the plot gap between the original and its sequel, and helped to develop the two new main characters.
  • It gave players the chance to get a jump start on the real game, allowing them to carry over a couple levels and some cash from the prequel.
  • It generated buzz for the actual game, and brought in money.
Of course, the game had its limitations. It only allowed you to get to level 5, and only had a handful of create-able items. But it offered plenty of zombie-killing ferocity, especially once you find the moose-head (hint: it's in the hunting shack on the wall...okay, not really a hint, it's the answer, but whatever, go get it).

Part 2 of my Dead Rising 2 review will discuss the actual, full-sized game. And I have no idea when I'll post it, so don't ask.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Poetry?

I've never really understood poetry.

I don't mean to say that I don't understand what poetry is; I think I've at least got a grasp on that. I mean that I don't understand what's appealing about poetry over regular writing. What's the advantage of communicating using less forthright means? How does it serve anyone to try to convey your message using innuendo and metaphors, when actual discussion is more complete and easier for the average person to understand?

Let me qualify my standpoint here for a moment. There is poetry out there that isn't bad. There's poetry that, while still more vague than regular conversation, has its own value, by eliciting an emotional response, or offering a general starting point, rather than trying to actually make a point. But these pieces of poetry are few and far between, and aren't the poetry you encounter from day to day.

That poetry is written by some boner friend of yours who thinks he's complex. Or by some girl who thinks her poetry tells you how she's got all these layers. Or, overwhelmingly, by a random internet person, full of doubt and angst, like the rest of us, but "able" to express themselves through twitchy, broken phrases.

So who is it that actually likes all this poetry that's out there?

I ask that question, but I know the answer. I haven't met a single person who likes poetry that doesn't also write their own poetry. And they get their poetry-writing skills reinforced by other people who like poetry and write their own poetry. It's like there's some kind of quietly understood agreement that if you appreciate my poetry, I'll appreciate yours, and we can both seem profound.

It's a clever little way to seem like an artist, which we all want to be (me included). We'd all like to be able to create something that outlives us, some work that people look at/listen to/read and say, "What an amazing piece of work." Poets just seem to have figured out how to accomplish that, without having to actually, you know, be talented.

Top 500 Songs - Dave Matthews Band

This was always going to be the hardest of my band lists, because I like so many of DMB's songs, and have liked them so differently over...