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Wintry_Flutist Blog

A heart attack, baby

The day after the biggest news of the decade hit the front pages around the world, I thought Michael Jackson's death would quickly be old news, specially given the Internet standards... Nothing could last long after such massive overload. But this is the biggest news of the decade and Michael Jackson is the biggest pop artist of the past century. Unlike Michael, the news hasn't died, and it will last long, like Michael's memory.

That's quite good, cause though I've waited a bit not to post in the heat of emotions, it's still hot. On the other hand, this might feel like - who am I lying to? This is just another little piece of the Michael Jackson craze. But here goes a little story on how I came to enjoy his music, and specially why.

I was born twenty years ago, in 1989, during the Bad era. But even though the Michael mania had reached worldwide proportions years before, my constant changes of addresses with my parents and their more conservative tastes prevented me for even realizing there was a 30 years old man (can you believe it? That full grown man still looked like a teen back then) owning the pop universe. Michael Jackson still had 20 years to live. Or should I say, to endure. After Bad, his life was going to change - and so would his music.

The earliest memory I have of Michael Jackson? Some images of the Ghosts video and his constant appearances on TV because of hanging his third child over the window and later because of the child abuse trials. That's kind of funny, I'm not sure if those images of Ghosts in my head are from its release. That's 1997, and it coincides with another memory of mine, the kids from my clas.s arguing whether Michael did rock or pop (he did both, after all, though a lot more of the latter), so that may be it. And then there were the trials, so that's 2005 and by friggin 2005 and my sixteen years I still did not know what was the big deal about him. I knew he was supposed to be insanely famous, and supposed to have been black.

What I do perfectly remember is what my maths teacher said to his (and therefore my) clas.s in 2005 or 2006, when some of his students were laughing at the composers (like Mozart or Bach) he mentioned in his many off topic dissertations:

"Look, people have been listening to Mozart for three hundred years now. Do you think people will be listening to Michael Jackson in three hundred years?"

Back then, I was already deep in my flute studies, I didn't play anything pop at all, so I couldn't agree more, and that summed my feelings on MJ up pretty well.

Jackson was acquitted and faded out. He still had four years to live.

My life went on, and now it's December 2007. A friend, spending his holidays in Paris shows me Elite Beat Agents. Because of this game, our hot topic is music. For some reason he insisted I checked Michael Jackson, specially his Billie Jean performances. Why not? So, I checked it. It was electrifying indeed. Unique dancing. Loads of s.tyle. I couldn't stop checking all Billie Jean renditions he performed. But it felt like, you know, my new fad. I would eventually tire off of it.

I decided, however, to check the lyrics I couldn't catch by listening to it.

"She says I am the one..."

Your average love pop song, I thought. Only enhanced by the performer.

"But the kid is not my son..."

My jaw literally dropped. I'm not kidding here. It did drop, it dropped big time, and for one second I was in absolute haze. That song, that very song I had been listening for days, the song the audience was going crazy for, the song that young man was singing with such passion, was it really talking about such a serious matter?

I. Was. Sold. Pop was, as far as I knew, an easy, mainstream, shallow genre. But that was deep. The man who wrote that had to be at least that much profound. To date, I believe Jackson's strongest ability are his writing skills, above dancing, composing and singing. Given how he dances, composes and sings, that means a lot.

Faced with some concerns of my own, I forgot about Jackson for a while. Until I met a guy, who would become a great friend, and who was obsessed by the King of Pop, early 2009, this very year. Right when Jackson was getting ready to announce his next tour. He had five months to live.

And I would jump back into his universe. Not limited to Billie Jean and the Thriller era this time. I listened to everything I could, watched all there was to watch, read all that was available... I couldn't stop it, I had to find an answer to the enigma Michael Jackson was. And then came March 2009 and the new shows were officially announced. I was aware Michael was way past his prime and obviously didn't expect a new Thriller - but to witness a new development in his career was exciting nonetheless. I never planned to attend the tour, but to know the artist you are fascinated for is an active one has a totally different feel to it and it refreshed my search for that answer: what's Michael Jackson from the inside? How can a person like him even happen?

June 25th 2009, I was bored and decided to check a movie. There was that Notorious B.I.G. one. I only knew his stage name, so I thought it might be nice to have some insight on him. It was a great movie for a newbie like me and I was really moved by the ending and the images of his funeral. I asked myself:

"If such a young rapper, with such a short career and development, could trigger that much reaction, I wonder what will happen the day Michael Jackson dies..."

As that thought crossed and frightened my mind, Michael Jackson only had a few more thousand heartbeats to go, and I had my answer that same night. As a matter of fact, I couldn't sleep because of the worse storm I've seen ever since I left Brazil. I was fully awake when I received a text message on my cellphone, telling me the immortal Michael Jackson had died.

The Blood on the Dancefloor album second track, Morphine, had called for it:

"A heart attack, baby!"

That seems ages ago. But it doesn't seem that long since Michael Joseph Jackson invented - he didn't reinvent anything - pop. Or when he sang with his brothers with crystal clear voice.

Jackson invented pop and invented it so well no one has done significant pop ever since. I don't know much about pop aesthetics, but any meaningful music has got depth, sincerity, magic. All of those died with Michael Jackson, as pop music became an industry. Today, I am not so sure people won't listen to his music in three hundred years.

With Michael's death, we lose our chance to witness what could have been the biggest comeback ever. But my mother, who isn't really a fan of Michael Jackson, but knows her share about him, had a nice thing to say about it: Michael Jackson has done everything he could. Instead of mourning what his broken health took away from us, we should celebrate what his fight against it has provided: nothing less than Bad, Dangerous, HIStory, Blood on the Dancefloor, Invincible. All of that instead of This is it, yes, I take that deal. Thank you Michael for not giving up halfway through, where so many wouldn't be able to take it.

Why didn't he give up when all the trouble in his life started? Well, because of one belief:

"If you enter this world knowing you are loved and you leave this world knowing the same, then everything that happens in between can be dealt with."

- Michael Joseph Jackson

And he sure knew he was loved. For he knew that, I'm at peace.

Mega Man X6 - The game that made me hardcore

This generation, we know what's the hot topic. Hardcore vs. Casual, aka World War III. I see people left and right, claiming to be hardcore and deserving special treatment or something, but today I come to talk about real hardcore. Real. Serious business. Real hardcore.

People have been trying to define hardcore, apparently they will sleep better at night if they manage to do it, but I have new words to suggest. You know, there are games which are just right. You can play through it with no super challenge, but no yawns either. Then, we have challenging games. A bit further we enter the unforgiving games category- so challenging, they will require all your attention and h4x skillz, but will instigate you to do your best. Next, we have frustrating games. The kind of game that makes you throw your controller around at Mach 3. And finally, we have downright bad games. This is the uttermost level of hardcoreness you will find, and Mega Man X6 fits the description wonderfully.

I have yet to fully realize the ordeal MMX6 was. Even more astonishing, is the fact I forced myself to beat that sin of a game 100% complete. I really, really don't know where to start. But let's start. The level design is an insult. It has a poor excuse to be random, and whatever you get, it's ridiculously insane. Hordes of maniacly scripted enemies, misplaced platforms (yes, you'll HAVE to kill yourself until they appear in a proper place), sadistic traps... The armors are jokes. Until you find the Shadow Armor (guess what, the last thing you can do) AND the proper add ons to make it worth it, you'll just want not to use one, because they actually DOWNGRADE Mega Man. Bosses are a bigger joke. I wish I could spend a whole paragraph for each boss, but I'll limit myself to special mentions: Blaze Heatnix, Infinity Mijinion, Shield Sheldon, High Max, Nightmare Zero, I'm going after your designers.

Seriously. There should be an eleventh commandment forbidding such games, specially Mega Man X6. Not because they're hard, not because they're bad. They destroy the gamer self esteem. It's just ridiculous. The very moment I stepped in the first stage, my jaw didn't drop, it flew away. I should have stopped playing and forgotten about it, but no. There was something evil in this game. I ignored the difficulty level. I ignored the frustration. I ignored the constant b!tchslapes and devilish laughs MMX6 meteorstomped at me. I just played the biggest joke of a game ever to insult my senses, until Capcom directed me a polite "Thank you for playing". I polished my skills until speed run and insane improvisation levels. I didn't care about challenge at all, I didn't care about fun anymore. I was just a cold, dead, indifferent gamer reacting flawlessly to everything on screen.

I was hardcore.

So I made this CAKE.

And I'm gonna give you the recipe so you can MAKE it too and EAT it. Seriously go for it.

First, little story. I had this room mate, well not exactly room mate since each of us three here has his own room, anyway he was mega crazy - the fun kind of crazy. Literary guy and stuff. So, he wrote this recipe down. That was like almost one year ago. Now he's somewhere bewteen French Guiana and Brazil (no kidding) and I find this recipe with all the crazy original puns he usually writes, funny stuff. And I make it - I know it's good, he had made this CAKE once long time ago.

Now, recipe. It's an APPLE CRUMBLE. You'll need:

- TONS OF APPLES

- SUGAR

- FLOUR

- BUTTER

- CINNAMON



OK, what happens now? First comes the part that tests your patience. You gotta peel and slice the apples, at least five juicy red shiny apples. The more juicy, redder and shinier, the easier it will be. Slice them in little cubes, not too little, though. Then mix them with as much sugar and cinnamon (powder, don't be fooled by the pic) you feel like.

Now, the part that tests your h4x skillz. So for the dough/paste whatever you call it, you gotta mix the flour, melted butter and sugar. Most recipes will say something like 100g of butter, 100g of sugar, 150g of flour, like the one my mate left, but this is FAIL. Seriously, you'll need almost the DOUBLE. You can add cinnamon to the mix if you feel like.

So, at some point it may get hard to mix so use your HANDS, way easier and way more fun. So, now, first put the apples in a prepared pan. Next with your bare hands you gotta pick the dough and apply it on the sliced sugar'd cinnamon'd apples, smashing it with your manly sheer raw brute force until it covers the whole surface. Seriously, apply strength here, so the apples underneath really become one single unit.

LAST, oven for 30 minutes (hope you pre-heated it first), or until the dough gets crunchy.

EAT.

For more readable recipe:

- 5-6 sliced apples
+ some sugar
+ some cinnamon

For the dough:

- 150-200g of melted butter
- 150-200g of sugar
- 250-300g of flour
+ some cinnamon

Cover the sliced apples with the dough and put it in the oven for 30mn. Done.

WALL-E = 1/3 Win + 2/3 Oh noes

Gotta hate living in France. I had to wait until July 30th for WALL·E and August 13th for The Dark Knight... Oh well, at least we get the next James Bond earlier, October 31st. Anyway, I've finally managed to watch WALL·E and here I come to share impressions!

I haven't mentioned The Dark Knight and Quantum of Solace for no reason. 007 is there to make you jealous (unless you live in UK, France or Sweden) and relieve my anger for waiting so much for The Dark Knight. And The Dark Knight is the actual starting point of this blog post, so let's get moving and stop those fillers:

Very well. I recently read a pretty good article published in the Brazilian newspaper 'Jornal do Brasil' about this whole comics movies trend. You know, since the first Spider-Man, a new era began. An era in which comics licensed movies want to be taken seriously. After all, not only Spider-Man proved it was worth it (I'm talking revenues $$$), but it also inspired many producers and directors to create new movies living up to our beloved heroes' reputation. With those new standards, our demands increased, and we've learnt to expect maturity and depth whenever a new Marvel or DC movie is announced.

The point of the article is that just as we've learnt to expect quality from those movies, producers learnt to deliver as well. Everyone is used to the new established standards, and so no one dares taking a step further, as the first Spider-Man did. No one will ever contest The Dark Knight qualities - it may very well be the best this trend has delivered so far - but did it change anything? Along its fair share of "true cinema", The Dark Knight also features just as much, if not more, mindless entertainment. Even though the Joker character could have been the star of the darkest, grittiest and most psychological drama, it didn't prevent the producers from including everything a less demanding spectator would expect.

Will someday comics movies make a step further and explore the challenges of more cerebral, character driven movies? I don't know, so for now, I want to compare all I said to, that's right, WALL·E. Finally on topic!

The comics movies trend has probably been the most visible for some time now. I wonder what unlicensed movies besides the Pirates of the Caribbean ones enjoyed as much success ($$$). But there is another trend still going on, and for some reason it doesn't generate as much buzz. I mean the "mature animations" one.

I can't really tell when it started; I guess there wasn't a true starting point like Spider-Man was for the comics movies. It was more like a progression, but I recall the first time I felt like the trend was set was when The Incredibles released. Pretty much every review mentioned how The Incredibles was part of the new kind of animated movies which would please all ages by broaching themes that wouldn't really be perceived by the primary target audience, the kiddos, but would resonate with mommy and daddy.

Anyway, you know the big picture. It has been quite sometime animated movies aren't just for kids anymore. From more daring humour to deeper themes along the traditional colorful and vibrant presentation, now everyone has something to look forward in animated motion pictures. We know what to expect, producers know what to deliver. Perfect, ain't it?

Yup, you know what comes next: isn't it time for a step further? Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but one thing is sure, it's never time for a hesitant, stumbling half-step. And WALL·E, no matter how much I love it - and I do love it a lot - has much from a hesitant half step. It shares a lot with The Dark Knight in which, in its genre, it exceeds expectations, announcing changes, but never actually achieving them.

I wonder if WALL·E was actually marketed, because I never heard of it until very soon before release. Maybe it's because I'm in France, and you saw how nasty cinema can be here, but still. Anyway, I eventually saw a WALL·E poster, which left me wondering quite a lot. I saw PIXAR written on it, and Disney too. But I didn't saw jumping colorful characters on it. The protagonist didn't seem ready for endless peripeties, but quite sad and unsatisfied, actually. All in that deep, space empty blue. Hey, that could very well be the animated movie I was waiting for, the "step further"! Now beware, it's raining spoilers.

WALL·E kicks off gorgeously and unfolds magnificently. It was easily the lite version of 2001: A Space Odyssey, an easy comparison given the lack of dialogues. The refined presentation and the nostalgic mood construction, the simple yet rich values representation, the subtle character development, the way live action and dialogue married the animation... everything was, yes I'm gonna say it, perfect. Dazzling. It was true cinema. Oh, don't think of it as an elitist expression. It means the folks at Pixar weren't committed to a target audience or their own fantasies, but to the art of cinema itself. They were focusing on achieving a stand alone work, committed to nothing but itself, that would eventually find its own fanbase.

Then, WALL·E and EVE kick off to space. I guess the change of scenery from the never ending trash city was kinda refreshing, but I raised an eyebrow nonetheless. When the AXIOM appeared in sight, I raised my second eyebrow, even though I should have expected it since the AXIOM was given quite some screen time at the beginning. If I had a third eyebrow, it would have jumped right off from my forehead when I saw actual humans, loads and loads of them, populating the aforementioned space ship.

That's when PIXAR's commitment ended, favouring the "rules" of the animated movies trend over "true cinema". WALL·E had to please all kind of audiences, just like its predecessors, and it had been time something was done for the kiddos. So you'll see robots of all funny kinds spreading mayhem in the AXIOM, some ubber stealth action through trash conduits, obese people ownage by amassing them in a corner and an epic final battle against a steering wheel. Quite a change from the poetic beginning! Oh, I didn't miss the quality moments, like WALL·E and EVE's space dance, the very intelligent references made throughout the action and the beautiful ending; but from the very moment WALL·E stepped into the ship, the movie ceased from being an accomplished work of art to be just the latest PIXAR animation. A heck of an animation, but the producers hesitated, stumbled, and the feasible step further was stopped halfway through.

Unfortunately, it wasn't this time. When the first dialogue lines in a movie are the most meaningful and charming...

WALL·E: "Wall·E."
EVE: "Eve."
WALL·E: "Eva."
EVE: "Wall·E."

...but ends with "pizza-plant", you gotta facepalm, in a sad way. With a smile, though, a very deserved smile.

Make me feel it again!

I was kinda supposed to have written this long ago, right after I read a certain chapter of a popular manga, so I could be writing it amidst the striking emotions I was under. But I am glad I'm doing it now, reloaded with my usual rhetoric. Make an effort and read through til the end: you may not have experienced exactly the same, but I'm sure you were, at least once, asking to feel it again!

How to start, though? I guess it should be from the very beginning: one day, I decided to read the Naruto manga. I had to check why it reached such international multimedia impact. I wasn't very optimistic, the few anime episodes I watched being, well, lame. So, I headed to onemanga.com, and started reading it. After a few chapters, I was hooked. And I still had almost 400 chapters to go.

And so, I read on. As I read on, I was pleased to see a rich universe shaping up. It's a very nice feeling. To my surprise, it was solid work, and you couldn't help but fall in love with the many characters. Page after page, getting closer to the latest chapters, I had the impression Naruto's author Masashi Kishimoto was actually going to accomplish something. And by something, I mean something. Unfortunately, as I got to the second half, the manga went quite tasteless. I won't give the details (as in spoilers), but it was a shame, since it was building up to be full of win.

Still, I had to keep reading. It's not like it was totally worthless and, all in all, I had to know what would happen next. And I reached chapter 382. That is the OMFGBBQ chapter 382. If you read Naruto, you know OMFGBBQ is actually not enough for chapter 382.

Hm, but if you don't read Naruto, you may be wondering "what the hell is this Wintry_Flutist talking about? What is OMFGBBQ about what?". Well, I can't spoil it - maybe someday, just like me, you'll check Naruto. But a major character dies. And not just he died for good - there's no wish granting Dragon Balls in Naruto -, but it was beautiful. The kind of happy sadness you don't feel everyday. I just couldn't believe such pages were written. I don't want to boast, but I've read Racine, Mann, Nietzsche, Perec, Rousseau... but friggin chapter 382 of Naruto skyrocketed through it and got a special place in my heart.

I wondered when was the last time I was so happily sad. It was also reading a manga, this time Dragon Ball. There is that sequence very close to the end, when Goku is making his last Genki Dama and characters that hadn't been seen since the beginning of Dragon Ball show up to help. That was some obvious fan service and quite an easy way to play with the reader's emotions, but hell, it works wonderfully. It had that nice warm feeling needed for a perfect ending. However, that was it. Once I've read it, it was read, and no matter how many times I read it again, the feeling isn't the same. When was I going to feel it again?

A few years later, and that's a few weeks ago, I would read Naruto's chapter 382 and feel it again. But now, it was read and it was felt. It was totally worth it though, I'd recommend Naruto (the manga, please, do it right and ignore the anime) despite its downhill failure after a few arcs just because of that goddamn chapter. I wish I had spent more words trying to describe this sensation, but that's beyond the point, because now, I'm left wondering:

When will I feel that again?

Congratz! Your game has been movie'd!

There are many things that, no matter from how far I see them coming, do not fail to leave me with an uncomfortable dizziness through the stomach. And the last time it happened, it was uncomfortable enough to make me start this blog.

It all started April 1st 2008. Pretty much the most uninspired April 1st in gaming press. Still, one site made an effort and published a nicely made Zelda movie trailer, with all kind of hints it was a fake, from the blatant cheesiness to the peculiar release date. It was bound to generate a bit more buzz than most other attempts of teh funnay!1 from other websites and magazines. And so it happened.

I had seen worse, but I hadn't seen it in a while. There was a small boom of topics, filled with astonishing posts. I don't mean the ones from people who actually believed the trailer was real, but the comments like "OMG that would be soooo cool if true" or "Zelda totally deserves a movie, there's so much that could be done". Average gamers, and even some above average, have proven to be my personal daily source of WTFness, but comments like that, well that's just death by overdose.

If you don't get the whole picture yet, the question here is why do gamers want so much their games to be ported to the big screen? I could go as far as saying it is insulting, but fear not! I actually know the answer!

First of all, they want it because a movie based on a game makes it "official" that the game is actually that masterful. "So masterful, it deserves a movie". Ohhh! I'm feeling it, the thrill of exposing something so many feel, but never put in better words than "OMG that would be soooo cool if true". But let's go further: this kind of thinking is only a symptom of a deeper issue.

So, apparently, there are games that deserve movies. Zelda, Metal Gear, Metroid, Halo, you name it. But did you ever hear someone say "This movie totally deserves a game, there's so much that could be done". No, you didn't. What? You remember this friend of yours saying a 300 or Matrix game would be cool? Hm, I think you missed the key word: deserves.

There! We hit the core of this matter! Here, I could start a huge thesis on why games are still far from reaching the appeal of movies, both as an art and as mere entertainment. But I'll put it in the fewest words I can, and you will most likely be able to figure it all by yourself.

Nowadays, multimedia franchises are more and more common, and for the most part I'm fine with that. But by saying a game has reached such quality it deserves a movie, one is implying in many ways that movies are superior to games. As if making a movie was the natural "next step" for a successful video game franchise. On the other hand, your friend who wanted a Matrix game just wanted some of the Matrix feeling and coolness in his everyday beat 'em up. He never meant the movie deserves a game as an "upgrade".

But does the gamer who wants so much a movie based on his beloved game franchise really believe the movie would be better than the games, as the word "deserves" subtly suggests? Does he think he will have more fun watching the movie than playing the game? Absolutely not. The thing is, somewhere deep in him - or her, for that matter - he knows that he can only share his love for a game with a limited number of people. But with a movie, many people who didn't even know the franchise existed may experience it, just like him, even if only in a lower degree.

When he says the game deserves a movie, he actually wants to say that the game deserves to be known and appreciated by more people.

That is why we'll never hear something like "this movie deserves a game" or even "this book deserves a theater play": every media besides video games has already reached an expanded audience, centuries ago for some, and can rely on itself to reach a maximum number of consumers. That is also why we hate when a movie messes up a successful game franchise: it's betraying our will to share our love for it.

And then I ask: why are some people, mostly among hardcore gamers - a crude word for passionate gamers, afraid of expanding the gaming audience? This is how games should be reaching more people.