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If God Exists, Why is there so Much Evil in the World

Most people who have taken an introductory philosophy course in college have probably been asked to consider the question of theodicy: "If God exists, how can He allow so much evil in the world?" As an undergrad, I have only enrolled in one philosophy course, but it was Ethics. In that class, we essentially learned that all morality is relative, and that there is really no true definition of what is good or evil. Interesting; I wonder if the same folks who ask the question of theodicy also hold to this concept of morality. If so, how in the world can they even ask it in the first place? Perhaps the question would have to be refrained: "If there is a God, why does He allow so many amoral, random events that can be considered immoral by specific cultures?" Wait a second, where's the juiciness in that rendition? There's nothing in it to prick anyone's mind, though the original version of the question contradicts what good postmodernist evolutionists say about morality. Well, that's a common flaw with that worldview, clearly. But let's move on and break down the theodicy question, shall we?

Question: "If God exists, why does He allow so much evil?"

- Obviously, the question itself is one constructed to debunk the notion of God. Ironically, the question projects its own view of God. The God presented in the question is one who supposedly cannot allow evil of any kind, and if He does, then He is a terrible God. Therefore, such a God cannot exist. Who says? Well...um...atheists, agnostics, and deists say so, I suppose. Basically, the creation of the question seems to go as follows:

  1. We presuppose that God does not exist
  2. For evidence we use the idea of evil in the world for proof
  3. Though we presuppose that God does not exist, we will construct our own view of God and tear it down
  4. The God in question is one who cannot allow evil...because we say so
  5. Yet evil exists, so he cannot be real...because we say so
  6. Thus, anyone who believes in God, regardless of any legitimate reasons they may have, is irrational...because we say so.

But let's be real here. In the Western context, what unbelievers really mean when they say God in the question is "The Christian God of the Bible." Still, their bringing up God in the question does not retract from the fact that they are conveying a misrepresentation of God. Bad atheists! Bad! Seriously, it's about as bad as me asking, "Why are atheists the most hateful, baby-eating people on the planet if their worldview is so much more peaceful?" In that question I have defined atheism on my own terms, which includes their behaviors and personalities. Fair?

If the question is attempting to present the Biblical view of God, then it must be rephrased. Instead of using my own words, I'll post a video of Dr. Voddie Baucham explaining how every person should approach this question:

So, if you ask a Christian the theodicy question, he or she should respond with a likewise answer that Dr. Baucham provides. The Bible says "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Jesus said, "For out of the heart of man come evil thoughts--murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander" (Matthew 15:19). If God must deal with evil, that means he must deal with you. Because you, reader, are a human, and each human has sinned and offended God (and people) in such a way that demands the utmost punishment and condemnation.

God is good, though. You slander God with the very breath that he puts into your lungs, and you curse him with the lips that he formed. But one day, you will die, and you will face God and answer to Him for your sins (Hebrews 9:27). God has provided a way of escape, however. What is it?

Jesus prophesied to his disciples: "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life" (Luke 9:22).

Jesus fulfilled the prophecy when He died on the cross. Hanging on the cross, Christ declared... "Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit" (John 19:30).

Eternal life is found in repenting of your evil sins, asking forgiveness, and believing in Christ: "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on them" (John 3:36).

But your life must demonstrate a changed soul, for your lifestyle will begin to conform to doing things that pleases God, though it's a lifelong struggle: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Becoming a Christian will have its consequences, however. You'll be considered "backwards," "narrow-minded," and you will be going against the grain of your culture. In the end, though, God is worthy of your worship and surrender to Him, for He is glorious, and you are a sinner without hope aside from trusting in Christ's glorious sacrifice.

- Daniel C. (The_Deepblue)

Top 50 Songs from 2010-2014

Although certainly not my favorite decade of music at its halfway point, the 2010s has changed my perspective on the art. Well, in terms of pop anyways. The lines between indie and mainstream are blurred, and for the better. There are artists on this list that I never thought I'd enjoy, but they have dished out some songs that have as much creative power as any great indie-pop musician.

The second half of this list is in an upper echelon for music this decade, in my opinion. While I consider every song on here great, the top twenty-five rank among my favorites ever. That number one song on here especially does so much for me.

Here's my rateyourmusic account, where you can view my list with cool album art pictures!

  • 50. Carly Rae Jepsen - "Call Me Maybe"
  • 49. Jessie Ware - "Wildest Moments"
  • 48. Dirty Projectors - "Dance for You"
  • 47. The Chieftains - "When that Ship Comes In"
  • 46. Todd Terje "Inspector Norse"
  • 45. Panda Bear - "Mr Noah"
  • 44. Tune-Yards - "Bizness"
  • 43. Cass McCombs - "County Line"
  • 42. Delorean - "Real Love"
  • 41. Purity Ring - "Fineshrine"
  • -------------------------------------------------------------
  • 40. Animal Collective - "New Town Burnout"
  • 39. Daft Punk - "Contact"
  • 38. Sleigh Bells - "Crown on the Ground"
  • 37. Tame Impala - "Keep on Lying"
  • 36. Sleigh Bells - "Rill Rill"
  • 35. Bon Iver - "Minnesota, WI"
  • 34. Jai Paul - "BTSTU"
  • 33. James Blake - "The Wilhelm Scream"
  • 32. PJ Harvey - "The Last Living Rose"
  • 31. Solange - "Losing You"
  • -------------------------------------------------------------
  • 30. Beach House - "Walk in the Park"
  • 29. mewithoutYou - "Fox's Dream of the Log Flume"
  • 28. James Blake - "Unluck"
  • 27. Beyonce - "Best Thing I Never Had"
  • 26. Destroyer - "Blue Eyes"
  • 25. Justin Timberlake - "Mirrors"
  • 24. My Bloody Valentine - "new you"
  • 23. Chromatics - "The Page"
  • 22. Haim - "Forever"
  • 21. Grime - Crystal Ball
  • -------------------------------------------------------------
  • 20. Autre Ne Veut - "Play by Play"
  • 19. Disclosure - "White Noise (Featuring Aluna George)"
  • 18. Arcade Fire - "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)"
  • 17. Mahito Yokata, Koji Kondo, Ryo Nagamatsu - "Puzzle Plank Galaxy"
  • 16. The Knife - "Full of Fire"
  • 15. Vampire Weekend - "Hannah Hunt"
  • 14. Arcade Fire - "Afterlife"
  • 13. Fiona Apple - "Daredevil"
  • 12. Kanye West - "New Slaves"
  • 11. Beach House - "Silver Soul"
  • --------------------------------------------------------------
  • 10. Kanye West - "Runaway"
  • 09. Fiona Apple - "Werewolf"
  • 08. Grimes - Oblivion
  • 07. St. Vincent - "Cruel"
  • 06. Sufjan Stevens - "Impossible Soul"
  • 05. Kanye West - "Blood on the Leaves"
  • 04. Joanna Newsom - "Good Intentions Paving Company"
  • 03. Grimes - "Genesis"
  • 02. Kanye West - "Lost in the World"
  • 01. Sky Ferreira - "Everything is Embarrassing"

"Letting Go": Gravity Film Review

Boy, I love the new text-box with all of its spaciousness. And don't forget all of the awesome features such as being able to insert photos and italicize words that Gamespot didn't STRIP AWAY from us! Anyway, Gravity is an excellent film that I saw twice in 3D over the weekend. I don't consider myself a film aficionado, but I believe that my literature, music, and gaming hobbies have helped me to discern the type of quality I look for in entertainment. Below is my review of Gravity.

Gravity is a survival film that creates a sense of dread unlike any other. On Earth, when one is lost and alone, nature may prove as a means of survival. And if nature cannot provide salvation through nourishment or shelter, there is latitude and longitude that pinpoints an exact location for a rescuer to locate. The hopeful survivor must "weather the storm," endure the elements for a time. In this movie, the motif of time truly creates a tenseness; you know it's of the essence.

Time has implications in more ways than safely returning to Earth, however; this unwanted journey in space illuminates what is precious to us in the limited time that we have, and it does so without even showing a hint of those precious treasures. In a way, time is taken away here, and it creates a sense of longing for the ticking of the clock, a schedule of usual certainty.

Separated from the beat of everyday life, floating in a dark vastness, the characters come face to face with the inner pains that haunt the vast human soul, many unconsciously, others with blunt force. Cuaron's outer space is a beautiful, haunting place of self-discovery, inducing and a longing for a new start. In a big, endless drift, the small, complex, intricate human mind unearths the hidden darkness and light within the soul.

This film explores the human psyche in its simplicity. It's a gorgeous film, one that is brimming with emotion, and it succeeds by honing in on a very small cast. The script is not gimmick-filled, does not shamelessly attempt to tear-jerk, and is graceful in the message that it seeks to convey. Though there are few characters, the primary ones, played by Bullock and Clooney, will stick with you. The two aforementioned actors put in a phenomenal performance--great chemistry. Just as beautiful are the visuals. See it in 3D; it may be the closest you come to experiencing real space in your life, at least for some years.

It's hard to imagine where such space films could go next. This movie is groundbreaking, and it is difficult to imagine how any film it inspires can be original without trying to steal some of its magic. For now, Gravity not only does the job of providing a good space venturing movie, but it's a masterful psychological thriller.

A Spotty Site

Getting to know the new site is a bit dizzying, and there are some positives and negatives. First, where are my game ratings? Are they gone, Gamespot? If so, I really do not appreciate how you forced your users to shove past contributions into a cyber garbage bin. My ratings on here were my true ratings. Also, is the option to rate games entirely gone? Many of us do not have the time to write a review for every game we play or wish to give an opinion on, and rating games was a way to sum up our opinions through a number. And please do not say that numbers are futile and it is the text in a review, the persuasive argumentation and evidence, that matters. Yes, that matters, but Gamespot still has the rating system for a reason: it matters. Maybe this rant is for nothing. If someone can point me to the rating availability, I give you thanks.

As for the navigability of the new site, it is not necessarily bad, but it will take some getting used to. I really wish Gamespot would have taken some inspiration from Rateyourmusic.com as far as interaction with friends. Whenever I click on an album on that site, I see the average score of all my friends for that particular record. Furthermore, my friend's list is on one page, my account page, along with everything else including reviews, lists, etc. Right now, there seems to be a bit of a disconnect here between user friends. I now I am more of a lurker here, but I do read my user friends' blogs and keep up with them. I understand that I can click on "your friends" to see their latest contributions, but I believe that Gamespot could have done a little better with creating a better sense of connectedness in the community.

The review layouts are snazzy. It "borrows" IGN's layout somewhat, but it retains that beloved Gamespot look, perhaps with a hint of Giant Bomb. I really like the idea of Second Take reviews. No disrespect to the Gamespot editors, but this site has, to me, come off as arrogant in its opinion in the past. It has always seemed as if once a reviewer plasters a game with a certain score, the entire staff rallies around it with no differing of opinion. Not only that, Gamespot has traditionally believed that games can be criticized as objectively good or bad, and the reviews seem to reflect that line of thinking. Yes, the more scientific aspects of game design can be objectively criticized, and perhaps, to a small extent, the aesthetic qualities, but it really is a matter of opinion, and I am glad Gamespot finally "gets that." I was actually pleased to see Bioshock Infinite with a four out of ten (I rated it just below a nine) and Disney Infinity with an eight, because we are getting a more wholesome look into how various types of gamers react to these games. Critics have a tendency to come off as pretentious and self-praising of their opinions, and it is worse when no one else on "their level" seems to voice any kind of disagreement, so this new system is a good idea.

On the other hand, I still dislike the new rating system. I wish I would have rated some games like Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception before the switch. I feel that Uncharted 2 is not quite a ten, but rating it a nine would mean I put it on the same level as its successor, a superb game that only builds upon what Drake's second adventure accomplished. See my dilemma? That's my fault, however. I should have rated my point-five increment games before the switch. Oh wait, are ratings gone, though?

That's my good and bad on the new site after about thirty minutes of fiddling around.

P.S.: as I was about to submit this blog, I noticed that the options for decking out a blog entry is limited. This thing is barebones--not good. And man, what itty-bitty text windows!

Ridley: A Tribute to Nintendo's Greatest Villain

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The title of this blog is controversial enough, but I believe that the reasons I provide for making such a claim will prove to be valid.

The Dragon who never Dies

In the Metroid franchise, there is one vicious foe who refuses to accept defeat from bounty Hunter Samus Aran: Ridley. Sure, King Bowser of the Koopas always rises from defeat to annoy Mario and Peach, and Ganondorf, leader of the Gerudo people, is reborn every one hundred years, but the space dragon Ridley is the perfect medium of the undying enemy. Possessing a certain seriousness and dread, he returns as a modified version of himself, not a completely reborn entity. The lines of this concept are blurred in Other M, but except for Robot Ridley, this is the same monster. He is constantly modified by the Space Pirates, of whom he is chief. Obviously, his value to the planet conquering troupe is infinite, and his various incarnations are aesthetically awesome and make for some of the most thrilling fights in Nintendo's catalog.

A Silent Rivalry

Not only are the battles incredible, but the meetings between Samus and Ridley push away the fluff and monologues of the usual meeting between protagonists and antagonists. In Metroid: Zero Mission, the brilliant remake of the original Metroid, Samus suddenly turns around, hears a loud screech, looks up to see Ridley barreling down on her, seeking to kill. An epic battle ensues. In Metroid Prime, Ridley is seen slowly approaching from a great distance until he reaches his prey. Who can forget Ridley's first appearance in Super Metroid in which Ridley suddenly appears in the background with the baby Metroid in hand? Death is always a lurking foe in the Metroid franchise in the form of Ridley. One of the most chilling (excuse the pun) moments in Metroid Prime is when an underpowered Samus, under the protection of an ice cavern entrance, watches, first his looming shadow, and then Ridley himself, fly over the frozen tundra of the still Phendrana Drifts. Samus and Ridley never communicate to one another; it is not clear that the supremely intelligent dragon is capable of communicating with Samus, and this makes for a rivalry that is purely about fighting to the death, though Ridley never stays down.

Epic Battles


Ridley does often suffer defeat at the hands of Samus, however, and the fights are nothing short of astonishing, usually a highlight in each Metroid title. Ridley is rarely ever the final boss, but his unpredictability of appearance is a strong point of the villain. When he does appear, Ridley exhibits incredible swiftness and power in the air and on the ground. In Metroid: Other M, he grabs Samus and drags her across a wall before slamming her onto a platform. Inducing even more goosebumps is the battle in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption where Samus and Ridley are in freefall through a tunnel-like structure, and you, as Samus, find yourself above, underneath, and in Ridley's dragon-clawed grasp throughout the fight, trying to beat the foe before you crash at the bottom. Samus always overcomes, but as indicated by her reaction to Ridley in Other M, the dragon has taken an emotional toll on the bounty hunter.

Pure Evil

There is no denying the irksomeness of Bowser and the wickedness of Ganondorf, but Ridley has done more to harm Samus than Mario and Link have suffered from their enemies. Ridley murdered Samus's mother in the young girl's presence, and he has conquered many planets, ending countless lives in the process. As a protector of the galaxies, it can be rightly speculated that Ridley's sinister deeds, aside from killing her own kin, perpetually affect Samus psychologically. Ridley is a well-rounded, diverse character in that he is extremely intelligent, yet we never see him communicate, but kill and conquer. 

He's just better than Mother Brain, Okay?


I don't really take all of the tournaments and contests such as "Best Video Game Villain" (a feature on Gamespot) seriously, and it is the lack of recognition of excellent characters such as Ridley that make me feel this way. Gamespot featured Mother Brain as their villain for the Metroid series in the aforementioned contest. I understand how iconic and scheming Mother Brain is, but that enemy does not top Ridley, based on many reasons I have given thus far. This site is not the only one guilty of ignoring Ridley, however. In many "top" lists of the greatest gaming baddy, Ridley usually does not even get a mention. I would ask, what villain in the Metroid franchise, which is one of the best series in gaming history, has provided more thrills and unique battles in the heralded series? Who is the one constant rival to the Bounty Hunter from the first title to the most recent that has scarred her in the most dark ways? It's Ridley. I've actually seen Mario, Donkey Kong, and Mr. Resetti get featured on these silly villain lists over Ridley. So...without a good segway, here is the top five encounters with Ridley:

Top Five Ridley Encounters

05) Ridley Approaches from a Distance (Metroid Prime): Samus had seen Ridley up to this point in the game without serious conflict with him, but near this masterpiece's final moments, Ridley is seen approaching from afar through the skies of SR388, honing in on Samus, who stands on a circular platform. Samus battles until she burns the wings off of the beast, but he does not give up so easily, for he continues his attack on the ground. This is a classic, multi-faceted fight with Ridley.

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04) The Screech (Metroid: Zero Mission): Crossing a small bridge in Ridley's Lair, as Samus is casually running to a normal door, she hears a defeaning screech and turns around to see Ridley swooping down upon her. The battle takes place in a small area, and it is a simple fight, but the screams of the dragon and the small proximity make for a tense one.

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03) Ridley Appears from the Shadows (Super Metroid): The baby metroid is there in an encasement, and Samus walks toward it to pick it up. However, before she can grab it, it turns out that Ridley had been sitting there with his claw near the  glass container all along. Calmness suddenly turns into a desperate struggle for life. Ridley is good at producing this affect with great disruption.

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02) Ridley Surveys Phendrana Drifts (Metroid Prime): I know that this scene lasts only for a few seconds, but it is very impactful nonetheless. Samus is completely underpowered to fight Ridley at this point in the game, and as she enters the unexplored, eerie, silent tundra of Phendrana Drifts, she sees the dark looming shadow of Ridley flying past. The camera then pans up to Ridley as he disappears into the foggy background. This is a powerful moment.

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01) Free Fall Fight Vs. Meta Ridley (Metroid Prime 3: Corruption): Retro Studio's final game in the Metroid Prime trilogy is my least favorite (it's still awesome, though) of the three, but they did a phenomenal job with the Ridley fight in this one. In typical fashion that never gets old, Meta Ridley bursts through the roof and falls toward Samus, knocking her into a freefall down a long shaft. The music is that classic Ridley theme remixed to fit the modern era, and the battle itself is nothing short of epic, taking advantage of Wii's great motion controls and amplifying everything that makes a Ridley fight memorable: sudden, fast, frantic.

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The Last of Us (My Review)

Edit: I originally awarded this game a nine out of ten, but I am boosting it up, because it has had an affect on me like no game ever has in terms of its story and characters. Yes, everything else about the game is fantastic too, and I also address its flaws in my review.

Original post: Even in most games where the story is praised as an absolute highlight, I am usually left thinking, "Yeah that was nice." The Last of Us, however, completely broke new ground with me. The character development, interaction, and the climax in this tale are absolutely riveting, and it's one I'll never forget. The story is the best attribute of this game, but please understand that every other facet is also quite excellent, though there are a few noticeable flaws that keep me from awarding it with the highest score possible. Nonetheless, Naughty Dog has delivered yet another essential Playstation experience.

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Score: 9.5

Headline: The Last of Us is a supreme mixture of gritty action, cinematic beauty, and brilliant story-telling

Review: 

Bless the late Roger Ebert's heart. The famous film critic developed a somewhat sinister reputation among the gaming community when he said that video games are not art. Gamers and journalists alike still protest the accusation, usually doing so by posting screenshots of Shadow of the Colossus, Okami, Wind Waker and the like, writing captions underneath the said pictures similar to: "you can't tell us that this is not art!" What a folly! Art-styles are only a component of the work, not the all inclusive aspect that makes the entire concept a piece of art.

A good piece of game art involves superb craftsmanship and execution on all levels, and the Last of Us epitomizes that simple definition. This is not gaming's Citizen Kane (I do not even know what that means, because I have not seen Citizen Kane.) No, this is gaming's The Last of Us, and on the whole it is altogether lovely. Technical quibbles aside, The Last of Us is a supreme mixture of gritty action, cinematic beauty, and brilliant story-telling.

It has been done many times over. Think about the movies, television shows, and games you have watched or played over just the past year, and you will probably come up with several examples of stories in which humankind is desperately trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. But have you ever heard the story of Joel and Ellie? Joel, a scruffy Texan with a southwestern drawl, suffered much when the infection first began to spread. He has little to live for, but with the help of a female partner named Tess, he finds a way to survive.

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Tess and Joel, living in Boston, are betrayed by a man who sold all of their weapons, pivotal instruments of survival in this unforgiving, cruel world, to a group known as the Fireflies. The group's leader, Marlene, agrees to return the weapons if the two can transport a fourteen year old, red-headed girl named Ellie to the capital building in Boston. Ellie is no typical youngster; growing up in a post-apocalyptic, immoral wasteland, she exudes maturity and cusses like a grownup man. She is an adorable young lady, endearing in her resilience, a beacon of light in a world desolate of life with her uplifting humor, curiosity and appreciation for the minute joys that many have forgotten how to love. She is still a child, though, one who is not afraid to express her fears in scary moments involving the infected.

The infected are not zombies, per say, but carriers and victims of a deadly viral infection turned into monsters. The trip to the capital building turns into a rigorous trek across multiple states, and during that time I truly connected with these characters in a way I had never done before in a video game. Much of it has to do with the deep personalities of the main cast in this script; some are more likable than others, but each contribute in a significant way, not just to the progression of the plot, but also as a way of bringing out certain traits in other characters and revealing past secrets and hurts. This game presents and plays its themes like a trumpet, much like a good film or book would achieve.

As much as it is a storytelling telling masterpiece, it is a feat in the looks department also. For me, The Last of Us is the best looking video game I have seen up to this point. And I do have all of the Uncharted games, Heavy Rain, Halo 4, and Super Mario Galaxy 2 in my collection. It is impressive to say that I bonded and sympathized with Joel and Ellie because they expressed such emotion in their faces through the bad times and the worst of times.

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The cutscenes are absolutely gorgeous, and they would pass for a sharp three-dimensional animated film if consolidated into one motion picture. The dead cities with toppled buildings and busted homes are nothing new, but the attention to detail in the environment is astonishing. There are times in which Joel and Ellie find themselves in a different location--in the sewers, on the fringes of a forest--and in these places the beauty and ugliness always provide a good view. Not to be overlooked, the musical score is haunting, accompanying the look of, not just the present environment, but most importantly, the current mood in the story.

"Cool film review, Deepblue," you may say. "But what about the gameplay?" Mindless fanboys of other companies have trashed the Last of Us for its gameplay, and competent critics have criticized the mechanics and immersion-breaking moments as a major flaw. There are indeed a few issues that I will get into, but overall, the gameplay is excellent.

The Last of Us is an action title with a healthy dose of stealth and a tinge of survival horror. Joel can sneak around and use a "listen" ability which allows you to see the outlines of enemies through walls as they move around. Similar abilities have been used in the Batman Arkham games as well as in Dishonored, and it is just as useful here as it is there. Joel can grab and choke out his foes from behind, or hold them hostage for a period of time as a human shield.

The stealth is great for the most part, but there are areas in which executing a flawless or even decent stealth run of the foes are nearly impossible. The game emphasizes the choice between fighting, fleeing, and using stealth, the importance of reserving your resources. However, some spots are littered with so many enemies, hosting so few places for cover, that being seen is almost inevitable.

The immersion-breaking moments also occur during stealth sequences. Clickers are foes that cannot see, but hear. They use echolocation, like bats, to find their prey. Oddly, Joel's partners can move about roughly and talk quite loudly and the clickers never notice. In some instances, Joel can grab an enemy from behind, strangle him, and not be heard by an enemy facing in the opposite direction, standing literally three or so feet away. Perhaps they are hard of hearing, but this flaw does taint the experience somewhat. These occurrences are not very common in this twelve to fifteen hour adventure, but they happen enough to deem a noticeable flaw.

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En route to the next destination, Joel and Ellie encounter many blocked paths, so they have to find ways around. Often you will have to find something to step up on to climb onto a high ledge, a plank to place across a gap between buildings, or a ladder to place against a wall to climb to an unreachable spot. These sequences may be considered to be puzzles, but they require little to no thought, really. They are neither flaws or necessarily pluses to the overall experience; they are just there. A few set-pieces that shake things up a bit, however, and these sudden rifts in the pacing can be quite refreshing.

Fighting enemies is a lot of fun, but the gunplay is not for all. Joel is a shaky shooter, and he does not reload super-fast like his video game protagonist contemporaries. When he is shot, he feels it, as it knocks him to the ground. Changing weapons requires him to disengage from battle long enough to search his backpack for another gun, which only takes two to three seconds. Joel can also pick up a melee weapon such as a baseball bat or crowbar to smash some skulls. Surrounded by a horde of enemies, playing to the tune of the mechanics can be difficult and frustrating to some, but it is fair and adds a sense of realism. Joel can at least sprint like a spring chicken to get out of some binds, thankfully.

Keeping one's self out of a bind also requires preserving ammo. There were times where I was running low on the stuff, but I was never completely lacking. Searching abandoned buildings is vital, for they contain left-behind goods. Some of these goods can be utilized to craft weapons such as explosives, smoke-bombs, and used to make health kits. Pills allow you to upgrade Joel's overall health and hearing ability, among other attributes.

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Acquiring tool kits allows you to enhance the weapons you already carry, so long as you have the right number of cogs. The crafting and leveling-up systems inspire exploration along the linear paths. Just be sure to have a better eye than myself, because I felt that I did not collect enough pills and cogs to be as empowered as I could have been.

There is a multiplayer component, but I have not tried it yet. When I do, I will edit this review accordingly, but I know that it will not alter the score by a half point in either direction. This is first and foremost a single-player classic. It has been praised more for its storytelling and visuals above all else, but that is okay. The gameplay is not perfect, but it is still great; sneaking around and blasting away enemies is a lot of fun. It is just that I do not remember pausing throughout my day to think about what I experienced with any other game like I have with these characters. Have you ever cried during a movie? Have you ever put down a book after reading that final chapter, still dazed, desiring to walk somewhere alone and bask in what you had just absorbed? Have you ever experienced such with a video game?  It is possible, and The Last of Us may be the game that breaks that ice.

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Will Gamers Prove to Be Fickle?

Note: I wrote this blog a day or so after the Xbox One reveal but forgot to post it. Lucas's frontpage blog reminded me of it, and so I figured I'd post it since I took the time to write it up.

The new Xbox One reveal has many a gamer steamed over a console whose predecessor appealed to a large audience, both hardcore and casual alike. It's hard to say what the target audience for Microsoft's new system is, though some have argued it is the twenty-something male demographic, frat boys and the like. While many gamers are rightly upset over the bizarre implementations such as mandatory Kinect, imposing fees for playing used games, and requiring an internet connection (supposedly once per twenty-four hours), a chunk of those who are up-in-arms are those who expected a better software showcase during the event.

Some are so infuriated with the recent announcements that they have vowed to never purchase an Xbox One regardless of what Microsoft shows off at E3 or in the future. I expect those that make such bold statements to "uphold their values." It remains to be seen if many who denounced the new Xbox entirely will still resist when Microsoft dangles a nice juicy carrot in front of them. And with fifteen exclusives coming within a year to the platform, eight of which are new IPs, there is bound to be at least one carrot to intrigue each of us.

As for me, I am not sure if I will purchase the system in the future. With all of the preposterous "features" (some of which have not been detailed in how they will be enforced) that the new Xbox will contain, it's unlikely that I will. I am not ready to make a strong declarative statement just yet, but if the bad actually turns out to be as ugly as it sounds, it's a definite "no!" I am just wondering how fickle many in the gaming community will prove to be.

Will they say "okay" to David Orth's condescending "deal with it" statement after some shiny games are revealed? Will they proclaim, "you sure do!" to Phil Harrison saying, "we got you covered?" Or will they show Microsoft that, no matter how glorious the games look and will be, that they will not support a company who impose such restrictive rules on its customers. A lot of people have made their declararions, but the question is, "will they stick to it?" I know it's cliche, and it sounds like something Andy Griffith would tell Opey, but it's still true wisdom: "A man (or woman) is only worth his word."

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New Super Mario Bros. 2 Review

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I am once again proving myself to be a Super Marioholic. At least once per year, I pick out a handful of Super Mario titles to play through in succession. As of now the selections are: Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario 64, and New Super Mario Bros. 2 (I'm also playing through Paper Mario).

I completed New Super Mario Bros. 2 not long ago, unlocking all of the hidden stages, obtaining all of the star coins, moon coins. I have not collected *speaks in Dr. Evil voice* one million coins yet, but I plan on buying the DLC and racking up some gold ones in Coin Rush mode.

NSMB2 does little-aside from the gold coin fiasco-to differentiate itself from recent entries, but it is yet another fluid, colorful, and joyous romp. There are plenty of secrets, and finding them all presents a hearty challenge, and the golden theme of the game is easy on the eyes and is nicely implemented into the set-up of the stages. Below is my review of this solid 3DS platformer.

Headline: Nothing here will wow the Super Mario fan, but its finely-tuned, addictive gameplay will please platforming enthusiasts

Score: 8.0

Review: It's the type of adventure that Wario and Waluigi could only dream of embarking on: to scour the Mushroom Kingdom and other lands for coins, one million of them. There is the cumbersome task of rescuing Princess Peach from Bowser and his evil family members, however, and those two would devise some cheap scheme to get what they want with as few burdens as possible. So this must be a job for Mario. He has done it many times before, and he's as fast and nimble as ever, even though his weight stays at a hefty level. With all the Tanooki leaves scattered across the stages in New Super Mario Bros. 2, Mario will be doing more flying than running to keep his belly from further bulging.

Gold is the shiny element central in this installment of the legendary series. Gold coins used to mean something back in Mario's eight and sixteen-bit days, but as the Mario titles scaled down in difficulty and gave coins out more liberally, the value of the coin dropped even more. Not to say that this game does not pour out the coins, because it does. There is an official coin count at the bottom right of the bottom screen, chronicling your progress en route to collecting one million coins.

Mario can get richer by bopping into golden blocks, which fall on his head (he becomes a golden blockhead), and as he runs, coins stream out from its top. The fire flower, which enables Mario to shoot fireballs, returns, but so does a new, golden variation of that power-up. The gold-flower turns the plumber gold and gives him something of a Midas touch. With it, he can shoot large, golden fireballs that turn brown blocks into gold coins, and Mario is rewarded with golden coins when he uses it on baddies.

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Though collecting a million coins seems to be the primary goal of New Super Mario Bros. 2, this idea, aside from the marketing of the game and the huge amounts of coins in the stages, is not pushed to the forefront in the story or in any other way. Mario's story does not have to become complex or even change its basic foundation, but the gold coin gimmick is restricted to a number count on the bottom of the screen, and that's all. Earning the goods can be fun; a new mode called Coin Rush was implemented. In this mode you dash through previously completed stages (that are scaled down or made more linear), racking up as many gold ones as Mario's pockets can hold. It's a good way to get that money count up, but regardless of how one does it, reaching the million takes a lot of time and dedication.

I have completed every single stage in the game, including the secret worlds, and I have not cracked the one hundred-thousand mark yet. Granted, I have not put much time into coin rush, for now I am racking up all of the gold-star coins. I do not know what the payoff is, but from what I have heard, it is disappointing. So I still felt, having completed a bulk of everything this game has to offer, that I had enough experience under my belt to review it. And my final verdict is this: New Super Mario Bros. 2 is perhaps the most basic since the original on the NES, but that's okay, because the timeless formula that that game established still makes for a good time today.

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If you have played a two-dimensional Mario platformer before, you know what to expect here. Mario will jump and fly his way through the Mushroom Kingdom, the desert, the sky, and worlds of fire and ice. The Tanooki suit is a welcomed return, and unlike in Super Mario 3D Land, the power-up is very useful in New Super Mario Bros. 2. It's good for whacking bad guys with a tail-twirl, but it helps Mario to reach hidden areas up high or on the far sides of the screen. And there are a good number of secret places that unlock paths to hidden stages and even hidden worlds. Finding all of the secrets, including star coins (there are three in each stage), is no easy task. This aspect, aside from the frenzied coin mission, is probably the most challenging in the game, and even Super Mario vets will get stumped on how to gain access to every area on each world's map.

Much of the levels are pretty straightforward, but Nintendo does enough to keep the game's rhythm and pace from becoming boring. Some stages are water levels in which Mario swims from beginning to end. Others are those that scroll on their own and Mario must keep up, and there are dangerous Tower and Castle levels as well as those tricky Haunted Houses (also known as Ghost Houses). At the end of the Tower and Castle levels are bosses. Ranging from yawn-inducing easy to fun and nostalgic, few of the boss battles really give you a sense of accomplishment after winning. A few are recycled from past entries in the series, and the originals do not present much of a challenge. The final battle with Bowser was satisfying, but compared to other encounters with Mario's shelled nemesis, it was decent at best.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 looks and sounds excellent, but the problem is that the aesthetics have not evolved much from the other "New" games. The animation is certainly impressive; the backgrounds and character models are colorful and pretty, and these graphical pluses is a reason why I prefer this entry to its Nintendo DS predecessor, but there still is not enough diversity in its paint. Musically, the same can be said about the soundtrack. You'll hear the tried and true New Super Mario Bros. theme song quite a lot, but you will also become accustomed to and jaded by other themes. You just know what tune to expect whether Mario is swimming with the fishes or hopping over lakes of lava in a castle.

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Nothing here will surprise or wow the Super Mario fan, but there is more than enough finely-tuned, solid gameplay here to satisfy platforming enthusiasts. There could have been more diversity in the aesthetics, the coin idea is refreshing but perhaps too taxing on the perfectionist, and there is a lack of new power-ups. Nonetheless, this is a high-quality Super Mario that will get you hooked, and replaying those stages to find all of the goodies and unlock the secrets will prove to be a ton of fun worth your coins.

 

Favorite Lyrics of 2012

Favorite Lyrics of 2012

I bought and listened to nine or ten albums in 2012- not much, but there was a fair selection of fantastic songs and lyrics. You must listen to the actual songs to feel the anguish, anger, curiosity, love-sickness, and realization in these lyrics. So do that. I didn't list the song or album names from which these lyrics came, but I did list the artists. Lyrics are in alphabetical order by artists' names.

1) Lately, you wanna be in my heart
But where exactly is my heart and where does it start?

- Animal Collective


2) Every single night I endure the flight
Of little wings of white flame
Butterflies in my brain
These ideas of mine percolate the mind
Trickle down the spine
Swarm the belly, swelling to a blaze

That's where the pain comes in
Like a second skeleton
Trying to fit beneath the skin
I cant fit the feelings in

- Fiona Apple

3) My heart's made of parts of all that surrounds me
And that's why the devil just can't get around me

- Fiona Apple

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4) But you were such a super guy til the second you get a whiff of me
We are like a wishing well and a bolt of electricity
But we can still support each other
All we got to do is avoid each other
Nothing wrong when a song ends in the minor key

- Fiona Apple

5) Remember when we argued on the concept of regret?
You were an expert even then but not me, not yet
Now all you gotta do's remind me that we met
And there ya got me, that's how you got me, taught me to regret

- Fiona Apple

6) If you built yourself a myth
you'd know just what to give

What comes after this?
momentary bliss,
the consequence
of what you do to me

- Beach House

7) Like the pages of the book I'd never get to write
On the Eastside of the city
Where the ink is running dry

And if you love me like you say
take this book and burn the page
the rain will wash away the ashes
On the Eastside of my heart

- Chromatics

8) I'm gonna start combing my hair in a thousand ways
Maybe he will notice and maybe look my way

- Dirty Projectors

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9) I never walk about after dark
It's my point of view
That someone could break your neck
Coming up behind you, always coming, and you'd never have a clue

- Grimes

10) My heart
I never be
I never see
I never know

Oh heart
And then it falls
And then I fall
And then I know

- Grimes

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11) I don't know if I know
Though some with certainty insist no certainty exists
Well, I'm certain of this:
In the past fourteen years, there's only one girl I've kissed

- mewithoutYou

12) Get a little closer, let fold
Cut open my sternum, and pull
My little ribs around you
The rungs of me be under, under you

- Purity Ring

13) It feels like I only go backwards, baby
Every part of me says, 'Go ahead.'

- Tame Impala

14) Won't dance, not without you
Small steps, they don't lead to your heart
You keep me waiting in the dark

- Jessie Ware

Have we Really Missed Mega Man?

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Legendary Japanese company Capcom has been under much scrutiny from the gaming community as of late. Some of the criticism is against marketing strategies that have been part of the company's philosophy for many years (e.g., releasing the same game many times, adding a few extras with each rerelease); contempt has been directed toward the company for taking its beloved franchises and completely revamping them to the point of stripping away everything that made them so captivating in the first place (e.g., Resident Evil). Although its most recent blockbuster title, Resident Evil 6, is a seller, it is no secret that Capcom has been in the hot seat with many of its fans. A great multitude of once Capcom loyalists would seemingly be willing to forgive the mishaps under one condition: Megaman makes a comeback.

Highly anticipated releases in the series were cancelled, including a sequel in the cult classic spin-off series Megaman Legends and the intriguing 2.5D Megaman Universe. Just when it looked as if Megaman was going to star in a few titles that veered away from the predictable formula found in the Megaman platformers: the original series, X series, Zero series, etc, Capcom pulled the plug and seemingly acted as if one its most iconic characters never existed; Mega Man was not even a selectable character in Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 but was instead late downloadable content. Until the recently announced Mega Man X Street Fighter, the robot boy in blue had not seen his own game in two years, and his short death was greatly mourned, but should it have been?

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Megaman has starred in nearly one hundred and thirty games total, including five different games from 2006-2010. Two of those five games, Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10, were eight-bit entries in the main series that were lavished by fans with praise. The Mega Man series has seen a dizzying amount releases throughout its lifespan, enough to make Mario jealous, and yet admirers of the franchise were up in arms over the fact that they had not had a new Mega Man game for nearly two years. Their frustration is justified if it is for the reason that Capcom has stunted the series from potentially steering into a new and innovative direction. Capcom recently announced the intriguing Mega Man X Street Fighter, but fans should not be satisfied with just any game with Mega Man's name inserted into the title.

The trailer for the newly announced Mega Man X Street Fighter is not very telling, nor does it show us much new. It is an eight-bit game, and that's okay for good nostalgic purposes, but it made more sense when the original series made a real comeback with Mega Man 9. The original Mega Man series is so simplistic in style that Capcom can experiment with various forms of artistic design.

Actually, Capcom has (successfully) experimented in the past. Mega Man: Powered Up was very charming, visually, and reminiscing on the sixteen-bit glory days of two-dimensional gaming, Mega Man 7 was a good-looking game- a natural graphical progression of Mega Man's NES days. It begs the question: why aren't sixteen bit graphics considered for touching the Mega Man series with nostalgic paint? Keeping Mega Man in eight-bit land signifies staying in the past, and staying in the past means playing a predictable game.

Aesthetics, however, are secondary; it's the gameplay that counts, of course. "Eight new bosses, eight new weapons" boasts the new Mega Man X Street Fighter trailer. Sounds very familiar. I truly hope I am wrong, but from what I have seen, the "new" Mega Man looks awfully similar to the old ones, except for the fact that eight-bit Street Fighter characters are jumping around on the screen. Though Mega Man is a historic franchise, it never has been an elite series. Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Metal Gear Solid, Halo, and God of War are elite; they're in the upper class of gaming for being long running franchises that know how to maintain the fundamental design that made them excellent, yet they introduce just enough new, fresh elements that keep them not only relevant, but standard setters. Mega Man remains the same, and some fans not only accept it but claim that its sameness is part of what makes it great; and the monotony is politely labeled as "nostalgia."

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Mega Man has always been good and fun but never amazing and exciting, and it continues to lack innovation. Mega Man: Powered Up is the closest that the series has come, in recent years, to offering something different with its level editor and allowing you to play as boss characters. Mega Man Legends and its sequel were great stepping stones for the series in 3D gaming, but instead of potentially transforming the Legends spin-offs into something extraordinary, Capcom touted a new Legends for the Nintendo 3DS after many years, only to cancel the game.

So after the outcry from fans over the neglecting of Mega Man, Capcom gives us a cross between Mega Man and Street Fighter. It's no doubt an interesting concept, and I am sure it will be enjoyable. However, I cannot help but to wonder if Mega Man Legends 3 or Mega Man Universe would have been two titles to instill new life into a franchise that has always been and remains "merely" good. If Capcom were willing to take its time and put some real love and effort into making a stand-out Mega Man game, then I don't want to see the blue bomber yearly or even bi-yearly for that matter; he can stay in his capsule until he's ready for excellence.

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