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Ovirew Blog

The Next Semester...

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Last night the realization hit me that we technically only have 1 1/2 weeks left in the first semester of college.

We had been talking about end-dates for a while, but I guess I hadn't realized how close everything was until just now. So literally I have 5 more classes, and then it's break-week, and then on to second semester. O.O;

I still have work to do for all of my classes between now and then. I have to put finishing touches on one project, I have to get some more information for another project and make progress on that... I have to study for a final test, I have to write up a short paper and upload it to a portfolio. ...And I need to finish 3 math lessons yet.

My fiancee is in a similar boat, though she has likely already written her portfolio paper and is behind on the math lessons. I think we will both make it through okay, but i'll need to make sure I'm on-task for all of this stuff going on. It won't be this cake-walk.

I got my schedule for the next semester. I'm excited about this semester, but also pretty nervous about it. In the first quarter we learned the basics, and had the same teacher for all of the classes, and my fiancee was in all of the classes. This time around we start learning more about the subject we are going to college for, I will likely have 2 or 3 entirely different teachers, and I have 2 classes with my fiancee and 2 classes with another classmate we befriended.

My schedule is different this time around. It will take a bit of getting used to. I no longer have Saturday classes, which is kind of nice - not gonna lie - though I still have classes on another morning since it's the only way I can stay full-time at work.

Tonight I will discuss the schedule changes at work. Hope that goes well.

My biggest concerns are how much more challenging things will get this quarter than last. And roadwork has started back up a lot on the highways and roads and everywhere, so I am wondering if that will impact things. Hopefully I won't have to contend with bad weather yet this quarter. And work is probably going to get busier as we near the Holidays.

This week I'm going to go to the State Fair, I'll spend more time with my woman, and try to get my other work finished in preparation for the new semester. I'll try not to think too much about it yet, but I will miss this semester.

~ Ovirew

Pre-Ordered, Game Outlook, Balancing Act

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Today I decided to pay off my pre-order:

Sunset Overdrive. I don't know what to say, the game just captivated me ever since I first heard about it however many odd months ago. It's a game I've been looking forward to, and probably the game I am most excited about at present. It represents refreshing, over-the-top, upbeat gaming.

This being the 'Day One Edition' of the game, it also features a few extras. You can dress up as Fizzie, there's a more powerful version of the Hi-Fi Gun, you get an impractical hammer weapon, and there's also a code that gets you a mutant-inspired costume and weapon.

To be honest though, I don't care if it's the Day One version, or just the regular game. Either way I'm looking forward to SO.

I'm not sure how much gaming I'll do over the 2 1/2 months between now and then, but I will be sure to make some time for Sunset Overdrive when it arrives.

I might not buy any other games this year. I have no idea. I don't want to say I won't, for certain, because then if I do I'll just look like a liar and an ass. But other games I'm interested in, which I may or may not buy through the end of 2014?:

I am still kind of interested in the downloadable title Super Time Force, but I remain on the fence about it since I have no idea whether Microsoft will just decide to add it to Games with Gold one of these months, given their recent additions. It's also difficult to make a decision about the game since it's $15, and has no demo.

At any rate, it looks like a better game than Crimson Dragon, and at least as good as Halo:Spartan Assault. So it's staying on my watch list. Might get it sometime, we'll see.

And of course, there's Dead Rising 3 out there. The game is now a bit cheaper, but $50 give or take is still quite a bit of mulah. I will probably wait the game out until it reaches a better bargain price.

I don't mean to sound like it's unreasonable for a game to cost $50 almost a year after launch. That's not too bad. But lots of other good games are starting to come out now, lots of high-profile games.

My thinking is that we will see some very decent deals on launch and launch window games come this Holiday Shopping Season.

I would like to get the Master Chief Collection this year, but if I can't then oh well. I'll toss it out there as a gift suggestion for my fiancee, but otherwise it's something that can wait.

By the time it comes out my current Gold subscription will be expired. Unless I renew it to keep playing PVZ, or something, I would be playing it solely for single-player. Of course, this would be a fantastic package of single-player content, alone.

But September... As we near September, and the final days of Summer, it quickly becomes time to start thinking about gift-shopping.

Juggling college and work has been a challenge for me the past few weeks. It wasn't so bad those first couple weeks of school, but as things went on it has become a bit more difficult. I worry about the two group projects I'm working on, and also the homework for one class which I am behind on. Maybe I will make it through this quarter, but what about the next?

The other war I'm fighting is the struggle to stop spending money with credit. It has turned into a real problem the past few weeks, as work and school have become more stressful. I keep wanting to buy snacks and sodas on breaks, which really adds up, and I got into a binge with fast food. It is hard to get things under control.

I might have to cut my losses and just do what I can to stay afloat in all aspects of my life right now. Rew is getting spread thin.

~ Ovirew

Gamescom, and Competition

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Lately Gamescom has been happening, kind of crept up out of nowhere this year. I feel like, in all honesty, the event wasn't as big this year as it was last year. Or maybe that's just the way it feels. After all, I didn't really follow the event these past few days like I did last year. Sony fans seem to be in agreement that they won this one. Maybe they did. I won't back down from my feelings that Microsoft delivered on a much better E3 than Sony did this year, but maybe Gamescom wasn't a strong showing for the XBox brand in 2014. That said, the fact remains that we already knew pretty much what to expect for the remainder of 2014, and that's what counts right now.

If possible, I'm hoping to pay off my pre-order for Sunset Overdrive next paycheck, just pay the whole thing off. I would like to make better use of my One by the new year, and after all it is the big game I've been looking forward to on the system. PVZ GW is fun, but SO is the main dish. It is what could truly define the beginning of this console gen for me.

I've also, slowly, began to give thought to buying a Kinect to enhance the One experience. I guess a lot of it is curiosity, wanting to know what this technology is capable of at present. How far has it come since the 360? Hopefully a ways. A lot of it also now stems from my interest in computers and college work. And seeing if this could make the whole XBox One experience more fun to navigate with.

I've become a bit more defensive about XBox as a brand recently. With Microsoft facing the problems its facing, potential bankruptcy, and the backlash from fans over the One that still persists... It faces a long uphill battle to regain momentum in the console war. I feel more passionate about the One than I did the PS4 just one year ago. I think maybe a part of that is because Microsoft is now the underdog, and now I have the opportunity to make my voice on the matter heard more, rather than being lost amongst the crowd of millions of people with a similar opinion. I think it also comes back to my firsthand disappointment with the PS4, and my longtime lean towards logic over style.

I guess some competitiveness has emerged from a friendly difference in opinions with a fellow classmate, who is a die-hard Apple supporter and Microsoft shunner. I think my classmate is very knowledgeable and raises good points about Macs and their architecture. I think there are a lot of benefits to the Apple way. However, I also see the benefits in the PC way. And I tend to still favor the PC hands-down. But maybe different people have different preferences, and there really is no 'best' anything. Maybe there isn't one ultimate computer or game system, but rather, many different takes on that concept.

Funnily, my last blog saw us at the start of August. We are now just about halfway through the month. Dang! I'm also fast-approaching the end of my first semester of college. I'm a little nervous about that.

~ Ovirew

Morning of Clusterfux

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Building on from yesterday's blog, I find myself in a much different place this morning. I am confused and baffled big-time.

While yesterday my main concern was figuring out how to manage my time wisely, today my main concern was whether I have been learning the correct things at all. And, just trying to comprehend what was being talked about.

Another teacher subbed for ours' this morning. His teaching style was very different. Our teacher usually takes the time to explain things and make sure we understand them. This other teacher blazes through problems and tells us the key to everything is taking notes and doing things over and over again until we get it. It was very frustrating. I do feel like I learned some things in class today, but I feel like my math skills are now very bad off.

I am more concerned than ever about whether I am getting behind my classmates, and I am not sure if I am a success or a failure already. This is pretty difficult to deal with after nearly two months of class. It doesn't seem fair to me that we've spent all of this time with one teacher, just to have another come along and do things his way, and confuse the hell out of us. Some students actually thought today was better than usual. My girlfriend and I felt like today went worse. But I realize all too well the importance of being prepared for anything, and of working with people you may not necessarily care for.

My hopes are that classes will revert back to normal following this morning, that it was just a one-time thing. But I'm aware that we are nearing the end of the quarter, and I'm concerned since I have no idea if I will be prepared for what the next classes will address. I think I am struggling now. It is not a good feeling. And now I can't stop thinking about the possibility that I may not graduate at my expected quarter, that I could fail along the way.

I am not sure if my instructor, the sub instructor, or myself are mostly to blame for this tough time I'm having. But juggling two group projects along with one really befuddling class, and then throwing today's experiences into the mix, makes me question if I have learned anything of value.

I don't know if I'm looking forward to college anymore...

~ Ovirew

Perspective and Balance

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Hello blog,

I had some things I wanted to talk a bit about really quick. I figure maybe it'll provide me with decent perspective, and help me organize my main thoughts. So here goes:

Well it is officially August 1st now. This past week has gone by quickly, but I guess it has told me some things about myself. Mainly, my usage of my finite amount of time on this Earth.

For weeks now I've concluded that it's getting tougher to balance school, work and daily life. It is, but we spent last week's class talking a bit about procrastination, and last night's class talking about time-management, and idk, maybe I can manage to make this work. But it still isn't easy. Earlier today I finished an assignment most people had finished in class yesterday, where we had to jot down an overview of things we did over the course of a week by the hour onto a chart. I estimated and guessed a lot, but still I feel like it gave me an overview of things I could improve in my weekly schedule.

I also have two group projects to work on now, instead of just one. The first project, we need to work on that one some more for certain, but this Saturday might be our first real chance to get anywhere with it. I'm a bit concerned over that one, primarily since my fiancee and I have limited opportunities to discuss things with that partner. The second project we started talking about yesterday, and we're working with two other people that we only have one class with. I am concerned about the second project, not so much because of progress - I feel like we are off to a very good start, but because I am worried that my partners have contributed more to this project than me already, within the first night of discussion. I need to come up with something interesting to add to the data, but maybe that will come in time as we work on it more.

I am also way behind on assignments for Saturday's class. I apparently haven't stepped things up enough for that class, and maybe I will need to forget about video games and most other distractions entirely this week. I will make an exception for Halt and Catch Fire though, since I do love that show and it is the season one finale.

Speaking of sitcoms, I'm considering skipping some of them this Fall. I know I had a thing with Big Bang Theory there for a while, but now the three main stars want to be paid $1 mil. per episode. Imo, they really don't deserve it - none of those stars really do. But come on, how much do Leonard and Penny even add to an episode of BBT anymore? Blah, once a sitcom reaches this level of greed, I guess I just get sickened by it all.

Apparently Microsoft is having some sort of issue with services on both the 360 and One. I haven't checked out the One in a few days, so I'm not sure what all that entails - hopefully the issues are resolved soon, though.

Anyway, getting back on topic, wrapping things up... Well, college is getting tougher. We are over halfway through the first quarter, and approaching the end. There is still a lot of work to do before that time comes. I do worry about it, and I hope I can stay in a positive mood and end these classes on a good note. Hopefully I won't have to retake any of them.

Work has been alright this past week, especially since the return of our old supervisor for now. But our boss is going to be out a lot for the time being, and I feel like I'm expected to step things up a bit. I will try, but I hope my superiors realize that I have no intentions of taking on a permanent leadership role if the need should arise.

I think the hardest thing to deal with right now is not knowing what others are thinking. If people don't like me, and are looking down upon me. I wonder this about classmates, coworkers, even my manager. Sometimes I wonder if my soon-to-be-mother-in-law has begun to dislike me. I feel like at least one classmate has grown disgusted with me and my fiancee, for some reason. I fear one of my coworkers may feel like I dislike them and tattle on them, though it's really just a bad coincidence that has carried on lately. I will try my best to stay on good terms and show there is no singling-out of anyone these next few nights.

I have no idea about any of it though, I guess it's just the perspective I have on things right now.

This week I need to be creative, and get some homework done. I'm not sure how people with busier schedules do what they do, but they do. My one classmate that is working on the project with us has an even busier schedule than I could imagine, and he is further ahead in those assignments than I am.

Maybe it'll also help to avoid Gamespot for a while...

~ Ovirew

Agitated Distraction

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Lately I've been moody, more so than usual. I don't know why, maybe the tag-team of work and college is starting to get to me a little bit. I have good days and bad days as usual, but I've grown sick of my workplace and the typical problems I have there. And college demands more of me, but lately I just want to find time to relax and de-stress.

I'll take some time to talk about recent episodes of some of my TV shows I follow:

I haven't seen the most recent episode (that will be for tomorrow night) of Halt and Catch Fire, but last week's eppy, 'The 214s', was probably my favorite episode of the show thus far.

The episode revolved around Cardiff Electronics getting locked down and put under investigation, and the pending Comdex computer event where the company hoped to show off their new Giant PC. Everyone is at odds for much of the episode, but Gordon manages to bring everyone back together after breaking into Cardiff and stealing the Giant, and planning to take it to Comdex to sell to interested buyers anyways.

There was so much I liked about this episode. For starters, just the fact that everyone was getting along by the end of it was nice. There was a lot going on in the episode, it was eventful. And there was something going on for pretty much every character. It was nice to see Gordon and Cameron talk for pretty much the first time as well. Even Joe's potential abandonment of his teammates was unexpected.

Of course I can remember from previews that this week's episode would show the group wasn't out of the woods, yet. Comdex has frozen Cardiff's place on the floor, and it seems like there will be a lot of work involved just to get the Giant into Comdex. I'm excited to catch up on the latest episode soon. After that, there is just one episode left in the season.

The latest episode of Steven Universe, which hasn't technically aired yet, has been making rounds for days now. In the episode Garnet merges with Amethyst to form Sugilite, their crystal fusion, so that they can destroy a bunch of sturdy pillars with brute force. During the transformation the two do a weird and provocative little dance, which was funny.

I guess I should start by mentioning the fact that everyone has been making a big deal about. Nikki Minaj *cringes* voices Sugilite. Not that you can really tell. Or maybe you can. But anyway, the episode was heavily promoted during all of this Comic-Con biz that's been going on for the past few days. (Comic-Con got lots of over-coverage this year, as our society becomes one of superheroes and zombies mainstream geekery...)

Sugilite really didn't look anything like I was expecting her to. I guess after Opal turned out to be really cool and pretty, one might expect similar results from the other fusions. But I can also appreciate the idea to show that each gem fusion is created for a specific purpose, and yields different and original results.

The rest of the episode had Steven trying to get people buffed up, and then Pearl fighting the crazed and destruction-happy Sugilite. I guess it wasn't a bad episode, but I walked away feeling like it was disappointing when you consider all of the build-up. The show hasn't had any new episodes air in some time, and I felt like I came off of the high of the first dozen-or-so episodes since I'd watched them. But the show is apparently back, so I will look forward to more new episodes.

Adventure Time has gone back to being pretty much like it was for the majority of last season, unfortunately: aimless. The latest episode was called "Thanks for the Crabapples, Giuseppe", and followed the Ice King and some of those other odd wizardy characters as they went on a road trip on a bus. Where did the bus come from? Who knows.

The bus stopped and picked up different people, and along the way also some silent old man named Giuseppe. Giuseppe has hardly any purpose in the episode initially, but when the bus breaks down and the ice king makes an ice road for it to glide along, he spots some crab apples and sends Giuseppe to get some for them.

After this Ice King reads a story Giuseppe wrote on some toilet paper, which is overly sappy and dramatic, and shows that there was more to the character than some old man. Later, when the bus becomes stuck in a swamp, Giuseppe reveals that he is a powerful wizard and raises the bus from the water. And then he fades away. The wizards get special rings, in honor of Giuseppe and his crab apples.

I guess what irritates me the most about Adventure Time anymore is that most of its episodes have no real beginning or end-point. There is usually just some silly idea, and no real resolution or reason. For the most part an episode of Steven Universe goes somewhere, and has a defined beginning and end to the episode. There is almost no structure to Adventure Time, and it seems like anymore it is some medium with which to explore different artsy-fartsy styles and satire.

Recently D&D saw the release of its 5th-edition starter set. I have never actually played D&D, and I do not own this set, but I am at least somewhat interested in the game these days. The 5th edition has a guide you can download for free, and also a starter set and some other goodies you can buy to help you get on your way.

A key piece of this 5th edition release is that D&D is going back to its basics. What this means is that most classes and races aren't really a part of the focus yet. There also isn't a whole lot of variety for new character miniatures yet, but maybe there will be ones I like in due time.

I came to discover that there is an 'official' Wizards of the Coast gnome player character mini for D&D, which came out a few years back. And he looks pretty cool. But he is a ranger, and I was kind of hoping for a wizard or something.

And the human swordmage also looks kinda cool. I guess of the more recent releases, they are two of the more interesting ones. But I guess the newer figures have a bit more detail, maybe.

If I hold out for a while, maybe they will release just the kind of character I'm looking for.

But then again, do I even want to play D&D? And can I even? Maybe it's just one of those fleeting thoughts I have, like so many others that I have had. It probably is. But still, it was cool to do some research and learn a bit more about D&D and its miniatures.

Hopefully I can stay in a positive mood today, and just get through the night for tomorrow. I have some things I could be accomplishing, but I just want to get away from stuff lately. Tomorrow might be a good opportunity for me to get some things done.

~ Ovirew

The Middle of Summer 2014

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For the most part we're now about halfway through Summer 2014. The Summer feels like it's been breezing by for me, and that's because this year has been different for me than the last. In 2013 I didn't work as late, and I didn't usually stay up as late as I often do now. And I also didn't have college to contend with. I guess I wonder which Summer has been truly the more eventful one. I'd like to think that 2014 has been a better year in general, though 2013 did have Breaking Bad going for it which was great. Maybe the years are going too fast for me anymore for me to even really consider each year separate from the last.

Last night in school we spent some time talking about the Internet, and just how difficult it is to separate fact and reliable sources from lies, opinion, bias, persuasion, and any other type of unreliable nonsense. Everyone knows you can't trust everything you read online, but dang, I don't think too many people realize just how much work you have to do to get fair and balanced facts.

Halt and Catch Fire has become pretty much my new favorite TV show on the air right now. I think this week's episode made that feeling official. It was great to see all of the characters getting along again, and there were many sub-stories going on all at once that wove together into one overarching plot nicely. With two episodes left for the season, it will be interesting to see how things wrap up. From the sounds of things, the finale will have something to do with the year 1984, the next year in the timeline of the series.

I've also has some thoughts about possibly subscribing to Netflix again, to catch up on some other shows I've been interested in. Most notably two of AMC's other shows, Hell on Wheels and Mad Men. I know, I've been talking about them both for ages now. But maybe after HACF's first season comes to a close, I'll want another show to follow. It'll be a while til next year's premiere of Better Call Saul. But then, there also IS Doctor Who to look forward to... I think I will try getting back into that again, now that the new Doctor is IN.

Tonight I'm downloading the Destiny beta, for the heckofit. I don't know how I'll feel about it, but it's free so why not give it a chance? I kind of wish I could be playing PVZ while I wait, though.

I've been thinking that I might try paying more money towards my bills each month, a little from each paycheck instead of every other one. I know it's easier said than done - usually we end up needing to use most of my paychecks for something or other. Money is so tricky. I hate it.

There's been a lot going on with Windows lately. Lots of layoffs, things being closed, etc. I'm not 100% sure where I stand on the issue anymore. I do hope Microsoft continues to support the XBox brand, and does right by it. But who knows where we will be a few years down the line. XBox might not always be synonymous with Microsoft. The world we live in is an unpredictable one, I suppose. Oh yeah, I gotta make sure I put some more money towards Sunset Overdrive again, sometime.

I've essentially been busy with homework and work this week. I haven't talked to my parents in a while, so maybe I'll attempt that in the morning.

~ Ovirew

General Update 7 - 15

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July is halfway over. Several weeks strong into Summer now, and I think this has become my fastest year since I moved to New York. My continued work schedule and sleep cycle have made it that way. I've been living a pretty irregular existence for over half a year now, and it is difficult sometimes, though I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the peace and quiet of long, late nights. Maybe I am officially a night owl now?

I didn't really mention it in my last blog, but a few days ago I officially celebrated 26 years of life on Earth. That was a lousy day, maybe that's why I didn't really want to talk about it, but it wasn't all bad. I always kind of use my birthday as a gauge for how much time is left in the year, and the Summer in particular. It will probably be Summer-like until late September, going by the recent trends. It actually could be later than that. And then, Fall will slowly work its way into our hearts.

School and Plants VS Zombies: Garden Warfare have been at the forefront of my mind lately. Also music, in particular some stuff that is more recent than most songs I tend to listen to. Last night I listened to some GNR Lies while I did homework, among other albums. It was nice, I wish there were more popular music nowadays that was this good. I've been debating going into school early today to have some more time to concentrate, and maybe even get a head-start on an assignment. I may do that still, though I won't get there as early as I originally imagined I would.

On PVZ GW I've been playing a lot of Gardens & Graveyards. It's kind of addictive because both teams are really giving it their best, either to defend the gardens or destroy them. You also usually walk away with a lot of in-game coins from the mode, which is great. I'm hoping to unlock some more goodies for the Peashooter, since I want to have an edge whenever I use one of my favorite characters.

I wish all of my classmates would take school seriously and be as altruistic about it as I am, but at the same time I wish I could learn more each day than I presently do. That's another reason why I want to spend more time at school - I need to absorb as much as I can, take advantage of the facilities. I count on Saturday classes to not get much better than they presently are, though...

~ Ovirew

General Thoughts about Music

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The way I remember music is odd. From the time I was a baby crawling around the house where I spent my first two years or so of life, I began to absorb music. That was back in 1988. There was always something going on with music then - on the radio, and on the television with MTV and VH1. My parents loved music, having grown up essentially with the birth of rock and roll music. My older sister and I inherited that love of rock music, and grew up through some respectfully interesting times for the medium.

I didn't get to experience all of the 80's like a lot of you did, but my sister was there for most of that. When I came along, I feel like we entered this sort of transitional period between the 80's and 90's. Music continued to change and evolve, but it was as though holdovers from the 80's stuck around as the 90's began to happen. I seem to remember Prince having a big presence, and also other pop and rock artists such as Madonna and Phil Collins. I remember my mom telling me I really liked Roxette when I was a baby.

By the time 1990 rolled around, music had mellowed a bit, as things transitioned. I think people wanted a break after the craziness of the 80's, they wanted calming sounds. Paula Abdul was popular for a while, and I remember hearing a lot of Richard Marx. Don Henley kept right on making hits. Phil Collins was still around. ...But the hair-bands like Def Leppard, Poison and Whitesnake started to vanish. And punk pretty much breathed its last breath. And then, something happened.

Rock music, rebooted. Sure, the wild 80's were over. But the heavy 90's kept rock relevant. I know not everyone will agree with me, but I think the 90's were really a great time for rock. Aerosmith made a bit of a comeback, Guns N' Roses headlined for quite some time, U2 kept making music, and many new rock bands came on the scene like the Stone Temple Pilots, Radiohead, and the Smashing Pumpkins. Rock came back with attitude, and came back with a renewed sense of style since the 80's.

As the late 90's passed, rock became less common. Music networks started switching back to pop, in a big way. That's when Britney Spears came on the scene, and Backstreet Boys. This, coupled with the increase in the popularity of rap and hip-hop in the 90's, made a huge dent in the rock scene. If you ask me, a big problem from the beginning was that rock never had its own 'place', rap never had its own 'place', pop never had its own 'place'. Country did have its own place. (Though nowadays, it has also been penetrated by pop that is on the fence.) It appears that, to some extent, rock music became smothered by other forms of music.

In the early 2000's, a decade or so ago, I remember I had trouble finding new rock music. Even then it could be hard to find. As it turned out, rock music was very much still around - I just didn't look hard enough, and I didn't notice a lot of it until years after the fact. I also spent a lot of that time catching up on music I had missed out on, discovering music from as far back as the 50's that I realized I liked. It's a practice that continues to this very day. Perhaps the simple fact of the matter is, you can't notice rock until after it has been around for a while, weaseling its way into your consciousness.

The 2000's had their fair share of good rock. Actually there was quite a bit of good rock being made then, it just became a lot harder to classify, as the descriptors of rock music became more specific. This is another problem plaguing rock music - there are so many damn different kinds now. There's some classified as pop-rock. Glam rock. Grunge rock. Psychadelic rock. Soft rock. Hard rock. Folk rock. Garage rock. Metal rock. Southern rock. Goth rock. Emo rock. Alternative rock. Punk rock... Whatever happened to just, "Rock"? Division hurts the greater purpose, it would seem. It also hurts things when you have people criticizing a kind of rock music they don't like, like grunge or pop rock. It's as futile as teammates on the same team beating the shit out of each other during a practice game.

Here we are in the 2010's, nearly halfway through... And I think it's gotten more hopeless than ever to find rock music. Of course I felt that way 10 years ago, but then realized there were artists like Incubus still making good music, and artists like the Velvet Revolver, and Radiohead was still around in full force, Breaking Benjamin had some good ones, and a lot of people liked the stuff Jack White was doing. There were lots of one-and-two-hit wonders over those years. Rock didn't die in the 2000's. Maybe it's not dead now? Maybe, I just have to find it again.

I've gone back into that mode where I discover good music that already exists. In some cases I find good music that I forgot all about over the years. Other times I'll discover a song I never knew existed, but it sounds great. In my case, I've been spending time listening to a lot of STP and Velvet Revolver lately. Guess I've been in a Scott Weiland mood again. But it's amazing how much good music both of those bands put out - the hits, as well as those lesser-known songs on full albums. I discovered some songs I didn't know of, and found one or two I'd heard before but never even realized it was by them. It makes things feel very full-circle.

Another reason why good rock music is hard to find, which an Internet article I read helped me realize, is that there are so many options out there nowadays with the Internet and ITunes, it's harder to become exposed to a band and their full album. On the one hand it enables people to hear more music from different artists, but on the other hand people don't have as much appreciation for the artists and their full bodies of work, and the themes and depth of their albums.

Music became very throw-away at one point, it became expendable. People are consumers, they constantly want new music to consume. So 'they' give us new music frequently, popular new music, and we make every new song that comes along popular for one hot minute before we get sick of it and move on to the next song. 10 years from now people probably won't be talking about many of the songs of today. 20 years from now, they probably won't even remember a lot of them. But, hopefully, people will still remember fantastic musicians who have endured since my parents' time.

It makes me feel a little better knowing that rock music didn't die off before I was born, back in my parents' heyday. A lot of people thought rock died in the early 70's, and then some again in the 80's.... And again in the 90's! And so on, so forth... Truth is, it didn't. And I'm sure rock will still be around in some form or another for many years to come.

If rock really did die, I'm not sure what I'd do. I'm not sure I'd really want to live in a world where there is no rock and roll. That would suck. And I don't think I'll ever understand people who grew up and never loved rock like I do. But maybe they can't understand why I'm not over the moon for country, or gaga for rap, or loopy for pop. We can't all like the same stuff I guess.

For now, I'll continue scoping out the gems of yesteryear. There's a ton of great music to be found in the past. But hopefully, there will be some in the future, too.


Hooked on: AMC's Halt and Catch Fire

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Some Background

Over the past couple of weeks I've slowly become wrapped up in AMC's latest TV series, Halt and Catch Fire. Set against the backdrop of the early 80's the show loosely follows the early personal computer revolution in Texas' Silicon Prairie, featuring the fictional chip-manufacturing company Cardiff Electronics.

The show's title is taken from an actual computer code. On older computers, "Halt and Catch Fire" was essentially a self-destruct phrase that would overload CPUs, causing them to overheat and become unusable.

Now 6 episodes strong, HACF is shaping up to be a show that I now look forward to watching each week. When I first saw commercials for the series I was interested, but it took me sitting and watching a few episodes to get into it. Adimittedly, that is probably not the show's fault - the subject matter is technical stuff, with not a lot of action, and the show does its best to keep things interesting with the characters and story.

The series focuses on three main characters: Joe, Gordon and Cameron. Through a series of escalating circumstances, the trio are put in charge of a project at Cardiff Electronics to create a computer that rivals the IBM PC. Facing difficult odds and many uphill battles, the team must constantly change and adapt their ideas in their quest to create something more than just a PC.

Joe: The man with the plan. Or lack thereof.

Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace, of Pushing Daisies fame) is considered to be the Visionary of the group. From the outset of the series, he was the one who orchestrated everything to kick-start the project, and he's good at talking to persuade and manipulate people. It's unclear just what Joe's ultimate motives are, but his history with IBM and his father has some connection to why he is so determined to rise above mediocrity in the industry.

Gordon takes a chance for something greater.

Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy, Argo) is the group's Engineer. He builds the computers, and knows the technical side of the industry better than the other characters. Despite his knowledge and experience, Gordon has, ironically, fallen into a bit of mediocrity in his life. He has difficulty balancing his work life with his family, and has trouble embracing newer methods that contradict years of work in his field. He is slowly learning to stand up for himself and think big.

Cameron is a mess, but her thinking is ahead of its time.

Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis, That Awkward Moment) is the Prodigy of the group, rounding out the team. Rebellious and closed-off, she drops out of college and starts working for Joe and Gordon to write software for Cardiff's new PC project. Her new ideas and short-temper make her a challenging addition to the formula of the cast, and the latest episode went so far as to compare her to the future of the field.

Cameron, Joe and Gordon discuss business for the first time together.

The Story So Far

(Warning: Contains some spoilers.)

Joe goes scouting at a college and is impressed when he meets Cameron, a young girl who not only knows a lot about computers, but also can think outside of the box about them. The two characters both seem to have troubled pasts, and bond over that and their interest in computers, and begin a complicated intimate relationship.

After this, Joe is hired on at Cardiff Electronics, due in part to his previous work experience at IBM. Within a short period of time of obtaining this new position, Joe reaches out to employee Gordon, who impressed him with his previous work in the field. Joe convinces Gordon to reverse-engineer a then-standard IBM processor with him, and after some hard work they walk away with a binder full of code for the IBM PC.

The trio unites at Cardiff, as IBM's lawyers come to check their stories.

The next day IBM finds out that Joe and Gordon have reverse-engineered their CPU, and everyone at Cardiff is up in arms over the news. They determine that the only way they can proceed is to actually enter the personal computer industry and compete with IBM, using a clean-room technique to build their own processor on-par with an IBM processor. IBM learns this because Joe told them about it, forcing Cardiff's hand to get them to do what he wants.

IBM's legal team shows up at Cardiff's doorstep and questions everyone involved, including a newly-hired Cameron who will be writing the new PC's BIOS program. Joe dodges questions about where he vanished to after leaving IBM, and tells them they have no legal recourse. Meanwhile, Gordon receives a promotion and his own office.

John isn't happy about being manipulated by Joe, but is a good sport about entering the PC biz.

Cardiff's CEO John Bosworth (Toby Huss, The Adventures of Pete & Pete) is already angry about being forced into the situation at his own company, and things get worse when he begins losing longtime clients and business-partners due to the circumstances. Furthermore, the company is forced to downsize and fire many of its employees to stay afloat for a while longer.

Cameron secretly lives in Cardiff's offices for a few nights while working on the BIOS, during which time she faces a lot of mental block and clashes with Joe and Gordon. A near catastrophe occurs when she loses all of her BIOS due to an electrical shortage, but this is revealed to be a ploy by Joe to teach Cameron to be more careful, and to get the company some press.

Joe projects a Steve Jobbs-esque personality around the office, to inspire his team.

Cardiff needs to do more than simply enter the PC game to compete with IBM, they need something new. Joe eventually finds inspiration for this new concept - a portable computer. Progress is made on its development, but the engineers run into problems with getting the motherboard to fit into a smaller case. Gordon's wife Donna (Kerry Bishe, Scrubs) provides some much-needed perspective by using both sides of the motherboard, but all of her work ultimately goes unappreciated.

Another bottleneck arises in finding material to use for the portable PC's monitor. Gordon goes through his father-in-law's connections with the Japanese to get cutting-edge screens for the computers, but nearly botches the deal by getting drunk and not letting Joe do all of the talking.

Cameron struggles with pressures and poor social skills, but her innovative thinking nabbed her a promotion.

Meanwhile Cameron returns from a vacation Joe sent her on to discover that Cardiff has hired on new employees to work on the operating system software. She doesn't get along well with her new boss, but befriends a pair of friendly geeks who sit near her. Cameron eventually determines that the workers who cheated while playing an adventure-style game she made would be better for the job than honest ones, and convinces Joe to fire her boss and many other workers, and put her in charge of the OS project. She becomes roommates with her geeky coworkers.

While working on the operating system, Cameron has an idea to make the OS user-friendly and 'talk' to the user. News of the idea alarms Gordon, who doesn't want to change things this far into the project, and doesn't want to lose more time when he already doesn't spend enough time with his family. At first Joe thinks Cardiff should ship the computer they've been working on, since it will be cheap and powerful like they wanted, but after spending time with Gordon's family during a storm comes to the conclusion that Cameron might be on to something.

Gordon is my favorite character, thanks in part to actor Scoot McNairy's grand performance.

Personal Opinions

One of the first things that made Halt and Catch Fire a difficult watch for me, was the liberties the show takes with history, and the way the show tries to spice things up and make everything more interesting for the sake of the show. There is certainly a lot of stuff done to make the show more appealing than it might have been if it were a direct account of some real company. But all in all, I'm happy to report it isn't that bad.

You know from the start that this show is a period drama. It's a TV show, of course not everything is fact. When you begin to look at HACF more like a show along the same lines of Mad Men, or really any other TV show starring fictional characters at different points of time (any show), it makes sense. And as a period drama this show works pretty decently. The atmosphere is that of a late 70's, early 80's vibe.

The subject matter of the show, to my knowledge, hasn't really been explored before in any other TV show, at least not as a main storyline. It's interesting because today computers are all around us, they're a major part of society today, and I think that makes this show all the more important. And even if we know how all of this already turned out, it is still interesting to look back and really get an idea of the sort of environment these places were like during the start of the PC revolution.

For a show about computers, there sure is a lot of sex and drama. But so far, now that I think about it, most of those scenes have made sense. I think mostly because Joe and Cameron have messy backgrounds and motives, and Gordon has some problems maintaining authority and respect in his life. The characters seemed pretty one-dimensional to me at first, but as more episodes air that is gradually remedied with more story and background.

A clear favorite character of mine from the start was Gordon, since I can relate to him personality-wise, and I also feel like a logical thinker with big dreams. I'm probably biased since I like the technical aspects of computers. But really I've grown to like something about all of the main characters, as well as some supporting characters like John and Donna.

Donna complements Gordon's quiet personality with a get-the-job-done mentality and ingenuity.

Speaking of Donna, one thing that bothers me is the progressive suggestion that her character is thinking of cheating on Gordon with her boss. Her character doesn't seem like the type, and indeed maybe this is just some thinly-veiled plot to distract us from another development. Perhaps she will be tempted into spilling the secrets of the Cardiff computer to her boss, since she didn't get enough credit for her ideas through her husband.

One thing that is both a blessing and a curse for the program is the pace at which things move. On the one hand it seems unrealistic because the characters manage to do these amazing feats over the course of one or two episodes, like crack an IBM processor or write an entirely new BIOS. On the other hand, it keeps things interesting and makes it so that each episode is essentially the characters dealing with a new problem during the course of development.

I thought to myself tonight that it would have been interesting if the show maybe started a little earlier than this, in the mid-70's or so. It seems like there would have been a lot of opportunity for good story there. But I am given the impression that we will learn more about the past through dialogue in the show. I don't think we will have flashback scenes in HACF, but I am okay with that since they never seem authentic enough in other shows anyways.

Halt and Catch Fire seems to be finding its groove, and if it keeps going in the direction it has been going in, then I think it could become must-see TV by the time season two rolls around.

Hopefully, it'll be a while til it ends!

...There is going to be a season two, right? I guess we'll have to wait and see. But I'm hoping Halt and Catch Fire can be the new sort of workplace period drama for AMC that Mad Men has been. And I think this show could potentially appeal to a lot of people if it turns out well.

Here's to hoping Halt and Catch Fire can make the dawn of the PC era cool and interesting again.

~ Ovirew