Look what just came in the mail this week! Another Metal Earth model to try (because at this point with two Dinos down I’m basically a pro right?). Speaking of I know I am supposed to post the triceratops next but I couldn’t resist building this one right away. Don’t worry though, the triceratops is finished, I just haven’t gotten around to putting the pictures with words and writing the article yet. I do see the irony in that is exactly what I’m doing right now but let’s just forget about all of that for today. The crown prince of Asgard waits for no one!
Just kidding he is going to patiently wait to be assembled
I’m going to be honest, when I first brought the model out of the box, I was thinking to myself that compared to my last two this was going to be a breeze. The pieces are all big, and there aren’t that many of them, so I figured I would be able to knock him out in 30 minutes or so. 30 minutes later, I had built a very sleek and shiny looking arm and torso. The pieces came together nicely, and the instructions were clear, which was nice, however there were WAY more contact points than I had encountered on the dinosaurs. I would say for these pieces there were an average of 6 parts that needed to be connected, when on most of the dinosaur pieces there were about 2. Luckily, they were cut well and folded well so although they had to be lined up precisely to get all the contacts to fit, I never had any problem getting them to come together.
One of the reasons this was so easy was because of the way the metal is colored. It’s subtle, but makes it so much easier to identify which pieces go where and how they line up properly. That was probably my biggest concern after doing the previous non-colored models, that the pigments on the Legends models would make them look too much like a toy. But the more that I worked with them the more that I appreciated that you could definitely still tell that they were made out of metal and not out of plastic.
Out of the entire build, the only part that really gave me any trouble was the head itself. I had a hard time securing the wings of the helm to the right point on the face, especially because once they were on, it became increasingly difficult to maneuver the head to secure it to the neck section. At one point I knocked one of the wings off and was then faced with the fun task of undoing all of the pieces I had put together so that I could get it back on. Normally this would just be inconvenient, but with the way that the Metal Earth models are constructed, you only have two or three mistakes that you can make before the piece itself is going to break and you are going to be reaching for the superglue. Thankfully, that didn’t happen to me this time, but I could easily see a couple places that it could have, and probably would have if this had been my first build.
I’m thankful the wings are there though because without them it looks like he is wearing a pot on his head
Once the head was on, the rest was smooth sailing. The finished product is sleek and fun to look at. I have other Avengers lined up for the near future as well. One word of caution for any parents that are looking at this and thinking they are a good idea for a small child: you are probably going to have to build it for them. I would agree with the 14+ age recommendation on the box. But it’s fun to build models together anyways so maybe this could be a good bonding experience. As for myself, Thor now stands guard with the friendly neighborhood Dinos.
See, I told you I finished the Triceratops
If you want to try out your own Thor or one of the other Avengers you can find them at www.metalearth.com. Please feel free to share your creations as well!
The GGR family officially has a new mascot; our new Pinto hedgehog Holly. She is 3 months old, and is way more fun than I would have imagined a tiny little bush-bacon could be. I decided to get her as a kind of pick me up after Harvey and so far that has been a complete success, both for myself and for Amy. I am used to having very labor/attention intensive pets, whether it is the dogs or the various aquariums I have had over the last 5 years. My only frame of reference for a hedgehog was the blue and incredibly fast kind created by Sega, and a girl I dated in high school who had one, but she let it wander around her house all the time so we could rarely find it. So we set off on this new pet adventure shortly after Thanksgiving not really knowing what to expect.
We should have expected a lot of cuteness
We found a breeder in north Houston and did our research. Did you know that hedgehogs are actual pigs? Tiny little pricklepigs. I always thought they were rodents. We bought her a 2 story habitat, with the top part housing her bed, food and water, and the bottom part full of wood shavings that she can crawl around in.
It’s an easy way to keep her from getting shavings or droppings in her food and water while still being able to have the ability to burrow and scrounge around like she would in the wild. So far I would say she spends about 60% of her time down in the bottom either running on her wheel (she freaking loves that thing) or looking for the dried meal worms we hide down there for her to find.
Example, she loves finding those worms. They are like hedgehog crack.
We also have a heater down there for her, which she likes to sleep next to when it is cold, however as it warms up she is spending more and more time up in her dino bed. Speaking of, I’m sure you already know by now but I love dinosaurs, and the fact that I found a small mammal bed designed to look like a dinosaur (or an alligator if you wanna go that way, but don’t, because why would you do that?)
If they made one big enough this would be my new bed
The one thing I wasn’t prepared for though, after all of our research and reading, was how much personality and expression Holly would have. I have grown up my whole life with dogs, so the idea of an expressive pet is something you would think I would be used to. The tail wagging, the barking, the yipping, even how they walk means you can tell at any given moment how your dog is feeling. With a hedgehog, I assumed all of that would be out the window and I would have to just do my best to figure out what she was feeling in a given time. Looking back now this is almost laughable. There is the obvious, if she is really pissed off she will ball up and point her spines at you (another fun fact I learned YESTERDAY is that hedgehogs have spines, not quills). So that is a pretty blatant fuck off. When she is happy, she will have her spines down and will be visibly relaxed, and that is where the cuteness factor is cranked up to 11. But there are so many variations in between. She will hiss when she is annoyed. She will pull down her face spines and give you the most pissed off grumpy face imaginable. When she is completely content, especially if you are feeding her, she will almost visibly smile. She can be playful and she can be mischievous.
Overall, we got her as a fun little project to help pick us up after the hurricane, but she has quickly endeared herself to everyone in our family. Pretty much the first thing that people ask when they come over these days are “can we see Holly?” She is quickly becoming the most popular member of our family, which is saying something considering how popular Amy is. No jealousy yet though. Side note- guys and gals, if you are single and looking for a way to meet people, get a hedgehog. I have never picked up more interest online or in person that when people see a cute hedgehog face poking out of your pocket, and this is coming from someone who was going through my early 20’s with a golden retriever puppy. My Instagram followers basically doubled the first time I tagged her in a post. I also realize how millennial and attention whorish that sentence just sounded and kind of hate myself right now but facts are facts. Holly’s got that star power.
That’s all I have for today, I’m sure there will be plenty of pictures of her popping up around here as time goes on. We also have our Instagram and Twitter scrollers as sidebars on here. Thanks for reading, next up we are going to have our first bullet journal progress update. I’ve gotten a ton of good feedback on that post and am looking forward to showing how that is impacting our lives. Have a great west of the week my geeks!
Sorry it has been a bit longer than I had intended since the last update, I have been hit by the flu that is kicking butt around the country and have been laid up since Sunday trying to get over it. Good news though, it looks like I am on the mend and will be back to work/normal functionality tomorrow. Other good news, before I was consumed by the plague, I was able to completely finish the first of my 4 new Metal Earth dinosaur models: the Stegosaurus. If you remember this is the one I mentioned was driving me crazy when I did the bullet journal post (I have an update on that coming in the near future as well).
Before I go any further, please if you are reading this and you are one of those people who makes models all the time and have totally made better ones because the Metal Earth ones are so easy and bla bla bla, cool. I hear you. I do not have a ton of experience building these and there was definitely a learning curve involved and if hearing about my struggles is going to annoy you then please just skip this one. BUT if you feel like sharing some of your own experiences or any helpful advice in the comments please feel free, or if you have any pictures of your newest endeavor please drop them in the comments, I would appreciate seeing what some of the more skilled geeks are doing out there. Especially if you have made any of the Star Wars sets, because those look absolutely sick.
Now I guess it’s time to get back to my experience. When I talked about it last, I mentioned how much trouble I was having putting the model together because I could not get some of the tabs to big properly, regardless of what tool I tried to use. I actually went so far as to buy a $40 set of model building tools (Amy was not thrilled, but really I needed better model tools for my Warhammer figurines anyways so I’m going to go ahead and say they were not bought just for the dinos). Well, spoiler alert, I was having trouble with the small interior tabs because I had (stupidly) skimmed over a critical part of the directions and did not realize that those specific tabs I was struggling with were meant to be twisted instead of bent. This was something that took Amy all of 3 minutes to discover when she heard about my struggle and will now be my great shame for the rest of my model building career. Once I got that sorted, things kind of moved in fits and spurts. Some times things would be very intuitive and we would be making steady progress, only to hit some snag or find one piece that would just not work like it was supposed to in the instructions. But before I get into that I guess I should start at the beginning.
This is my Metal Earth laser cut 3d modelling kit
These are the very tiny and breakable pieces of said modeling kit. Emphasis on breakable.
This is a sample of the instructions that come to help you build your Stegosaurus. These are the fine line between your model looking like a sexy, sleek, shiny, metal dino or a mutated primordial monster. Read them. Love them.
Look at all of those shiny, straight, thin, delicate pieces just waiting do be made into something beautiful. Fun fact, although you can use scissors to remove them from the frame, the instructions recommend that you carefully bend them back and forth until the little holder pieces snap so you don’t get weird hanging edges that look ugly. Also fun fact, they aren’t kidding when they say carefully, and if you don’t bend in exactly the right place it will be the actual body part that snaps, not the holder piece. It took Amy and I about 3 pieces to realize this error. But hey that’s what superglue is for right? It took about 45 minutes to get all of the pieces out of the frame and ready to be put together into our masterpiece. The pieces range in size from “wow that’s small” to “holy hell how am I supposed to pick this up it’s too small”. They are also surprisingly detailed and fun to look at.
Example of “wow that’s small” pieces next to their friends “holy hell how am I supposed to pick that up it’s too small”. Tweezers in the background for size reference.
Once you get the pieces out (provided that you read the instructions properly) putting them together isn’t that hard in the early stages. As long as you have places to grip with your tweezers, and a decent amount of patience it all comes together pretty well. The instructions are clear, and as the parts start coming together they look really cool.
There was one small problem with the instructions though, and unfortunately I forgot to take a picture for reference. But if you look at the photo above, you can see those neck bones that are bent away from the head about 30 degrees back towards the ribs. That is how the model looks in the pictures on the cover. That is how real stegosaurus neck bones are shaped according to all of the pictures I found online. The instructions however, say to bend the neck bones 30 degrees forwards towards the head. Now I would normally say to defer to the instructions, but… the picture on the front of the box, and all of the pictures on the website clearly show them bent the other direction. So this hung Amy and I up for awhile as we went back and forth on which one we thought was right, in the end we went for the bones bent back towards the ribs because it looked better. If I made the wrong call here then I’m sorry model, for turning you into a derposaurus. But I blame bad info. That was the only issue with the instructions though, other than that they were quite clear and easy to use as a guide. This got us through the next 2 hours or so, up until we were nearing about 80% completion on the entire thing. The pieces were easy to bend, fairly easy to work with, and we started to feel some real confidence building. Unfortunately, shortly after this point, right when things started looking really good, we started hitting some real snags.
This shiny calm before the storm…
If you look at that last picture, you may notice that as more pieces start getting added the places that you can grip and grab a section start to shrink. This becomes a real issue when it comes time to do things like put two big sections together. Not only that, but once you can actually get them to fit together properly, in order to bend the little tabs you have to put some torque on the frame itself which was then leading to bending in other places that bending should not have been occurring. I am sure this is just where experience with this type of model comes into play, but because this was our first one we were having absolute fits for the last 45 minutes of build time. These issues also meant that the further out a piece was from the center, the less secure it was overall. We would be working on one leg, trying to maneuver it into place and delicately grab a tab, only for the one we had just secured to fall off, which would then lead to some of the most beautiful and creative cursing I have heard come out of Amy’s mouth in quite some time. It all came to a head in the final dramatic moment, when we had finally completed the model and sat back to bask in our awesomesness, only to have the head fall off and clatter to the floor. We put it back on only to have a piece of leg fall off. Call us cheaters but it eventually because so frustrating that we just said “screw it gimme the superglue” and now our Stegosaurus is SECURE. Seriously I am pretty sure he could take a bomb impact at this point. So the job got done but I kind of got that feeling like when you would beat a a difficult game but had to use a cheat code to get the job done.
Overall, I would say that the finished product was definitely worth the pain it was to build. I love dinosaurs, and I love having a metal model of one on my desk at work. It was a fun new experience, and I am certainly going to build the other 3 in the coming weeks. I think now that I have learned from some mistakes on this one the others should come together easier right? I would certainly recommend these to anyone who is a dinosaur or model enthusiast, although I would make sure that you have some very good tools for picking up and maneuvering small things. Also patience is critical. Maybe have some whiskey on hand. That’s something I am DEFINITELY going to have at the ready for the next one (which is saying something because I am pretty sure I am building that one at work), a few pieces every day. I’ll be sure to post the pictures of the others as they come together, and again if anyone reading this has experience in these or any other cool models that you want to show off please feel free to do so in the comments. Monday I will have another post up about the new hedgehog and towards the end of next week I will update progress on the bullet journal. Have a good weekend all!
The finished product. Be amazed… or at least mildly amused.
Well here we are! Week 2 of 2018 and already a new project has fallen on my lap. This one is coming courtesy of Amy, who spent a good part of the end of the year going a little stir crazy looking for some type of new craft to do. After a few dozen hours on Pinterest she started talking to me about this thing they call a Bullet Journal. To be honest, at the beginning I was mostly just humoring her and looking at all of the pictures of these beautifully laid out and artfully designed pages in these journals and thinking I don’t have the time or the energy to put into something like that, but I was glad she found something new and artsy to sink her teeth into.
That’s usually how these things go, at which point she will spend the next week or so making some badass, beautiful thing while I kind of sit back and watch and at the end just get completely blown away by her talent level. It’s something we’ve done on repeat dozens of times at this point, but this time it was different. She kept asking me about it, and trying to get me to look at videos and pictures and kept trying to get me excited about making one for myself. As someone who has kept journals before and who always encourages others to write, I could see why SHE was excited about the prospect of starting one, but I wasn’t understanding why she was pushing me so hard to do so as well. Finally, after some serious side eye and various grumblings, she convinced me to watch a youtube video about it to show me what made the bullet journal so different from a normal personal journal. Fast forward about 10 minutes later and I was sold.
I have mentioned before about how I have a few goals for 2018, and the bullet journal has jumped to the top of the list. I see it not only as a goal in itself, but also as a gateway through which all of the other goals will flow. It is something that I have gotten pretty excited about over the last few days, especially since I see it being such an easy way to keep track of other benchmarks such as workout days, writing days, etc. as well as a way to cater to my obsessive need to keep a schedule. Granted, one of the reasons I warmed up to it so quickly was the fact that I could design one that was more functional than beautiful, so mine is not going to look anything like Amy’s. But that’s part of the Bullet Journal’s biggest draw: it is a reflection of the author and what their priorities are. Case in point, here is how we are both designing our Future Log sections.
I have never seen a better visual representation of our relationship in my life. Seriously, can you tell which one of us is the talented one and which one of us won the relationship lottery? Anyways, obviously our journals are going to end up looking vastly different as the months go by, and even more so if we continue doing these down the road in the future. But even if that’s the case I think that they will help both of us in the exact ways we want them to. I’m especially looking forward to the habit tracker I put in mine last night.
I know I look like a slacker now, but hopefully I’m gonna fill this bitch up with colors
My plan going forward is to keep everyone up to date with how the bullet journal is coming along, and if it is having the impact on my day to day life that I hope it will. I will probably judge based on if it is helping me achieve my other goals that I am tracking, how much I actually use it day to day, and if it becomes tedious to try to maintain on a consistent basis. As of right now I am going on day 2 and have opened it a surprising number of times to add things for the upcoming month. I’ll probably wait for another week or so before giving another update to give the just-started-a-journal- enthusiasm to wear off and see where we are at. In the meantime I have another little mini project I have started this week: a laser-cut sheet metal dinosaur skeleton replica that has so far kicked my ass every time I have tried to mess with it. So look forward to hearing more on that saga in the coming days (I’m currently convinced it would be easier to find and build an actual dinosaur skeleton than get this bastard put together correctly). In the meantime I hope everyone else is having a good start to 2018, if you have ever looked into a Bullet Journal or any other journal like it please let me know any tips or advice you would have for a first timer in the comments. I would love to get some feedback!
The Steam Winter Sale. Pride of the PC master race and devourer of free time. It is something that I am acutely familiar with, however since I have always been a console fanboy my whole life I had always been sitting on the wayside while my friends filled up their libraries with the past years most popular games at stupidly reduced prices. No more I told myself! Not this year! I have finally bought a PC setup capable of living up to the hype and I have been loving the hell out of it for the last 365 (Playstation will always have my heart though). So in between the holday events and family gatherings, I found myself with a couple of days free time before I needed to go back to work, and decided this was the perfect opportunity to dive in headfirst and really fill out my current steam collection.
I won’t go all the way into what I bought, because I plan on writing some more posts as I make my way through, but suffice to say, it was almost immoral how much fun I was having taking advantage of the sale. What I will say is one game that I purchased on a whim was the newest Doom. I still don’t completely know why I purchased it. First Person shooters have never been my thing, and the nostalgia factor wasn’t there because the only Doom I had ever played was Doom 3 back when I was in high school. The only thing I really remember about it was that I never finished it (which is pretty normal for me when it comes to shooters) but I remember that I certainly wasn’t impressed. Not to say that it was a bad game, I genuinely don’t think I got far enough into it to make an opinion like that, but I just know that there was nothing about it that stood out to me as special or engaging. I also grew up in a strict no violent video games household, which meant that Doom and Doom 2 were basically figments of my imagination. I did remember when doom launched last year though. I remember seeing the videos and being blown away by the pace and the violence of it all. Looked like a wonderfully bloody spectacle and the reviews were pretty kind, so it was added to my “maybe one day” list, and then kind of forgot about it. Enter the STEAM WINTER SALE. It was the last thing that I grabbed before wrapping up for the night, and I decided it would be the first thing I tried out in the morning.
I’ll be honest, when I first started playing, I expected to switch to something else within the first hour or so. That’s usually what happens when I have a few too many games and too much time on my hand, I basically start jumping from game to game every hour or so until I either run out of time or Amy comes to make me do stuff. So that’s what I fully expected to happen when I started playing Doom. 16 hours later (there was a short sleep break in there somewhere) I had finally defeated the armies of hell and saved Mars, although I’m not really sure why Mars was worth saving in the first place. But that’s beside the point. The point is once I started playing I was completely sucked into the frantic and fast combat to the point that I cannot remember ever enjoying another shooter this much.
I can tell what specifically it was that pulled me into the game so hard so fast. There was the fact that movement and jumping were so important to not getting killed. The fact that I always had enough ammo to keep shooting, but not enough that I was able to rely on a single weapon or even two or three primary weapons the whole time. The fact that the enemies were varied enough that I had to memorize and adapt depending on who was in front of me. There was so much to enjoy. Especially because my style when it comes to shooters was typically to be as tactical as possible. To find the most accurate semi automatic weapon and hang back, keeping enemies in front of me and at a distance while I pop off as many headshots as possible. Doom basically shit all over that from the beginning. You stop moving, you are dead. You try to take time to aim precisely, or specialize in just one type of gun? Also dead. It immediately forced me out of my comfort zone and made me play in a way that I enjoyed. I am sure if you are familiar with Doom or Quake or any of the other shooters in the genre, none of this is news to you, but for me it was a refreshing way to play.
Outside of the gameplay itself, one thing that stood out to me was the outstanding difficulty curve that meant for the first 40% of the game, I didn’t die once, but as I got farther and farther in, even though my skills were continuously improving, I started dying with more and more frequency. Although this would always leave to much cursing and gnashing of teeth, overall there was never a point when I felt the game was unfair or stacked in a way that meant I was SUPPOSED to die in a section. I could easily see how someone who was better at the games than I was, or even someone that made better decisions up until that point would have been able to breeze through. Aside from all of these details though, the one thing that stuck to me was that the game just got more fun the more the game began to stack enemies against you. I was never able to fall into a specific pattern meaning I was constantly improvising what I was doing on the fly, even if I played through the same section multiple times. It was fast, it was just difficult enough, and it was fucking FUN. The fun part being the main thing.
It isn’t often these days that a game can come out and genuinely surprise me. I know how annoying that sounds, and I don’t mean it as an ego thing. Really it’s just as I have gotten older and spent more and more time playing games, you generally get to know developers, or genres, or types that mean after a few minutes you start finding familiarity within the first few minutes of a game. That’s not always a bad thing. But I still miss that feeling of holy shit this game is going to be different. I remember the first time I played Ape Escape with a dual shock controller. The art style was similar to Spyro the Dragon, I had become pretty familiar with platforming RPG’s in general, but as soon as I plugged in the controller and discovered the possibilities of a second joystick. Your first 20 minutes into Dark Souls, when you face off against the asylum demon in the bleak landscape and realize that this is going to be something different. It is going to be a completely new experience. That’s what I felt when I played Doom this weekend. I have since moved on to the next one on my list, but I think Doom is going to have around for awhile. Maybe another playthrough on the hardest difficulty is in my future. Either way Doom was the standout hit of my Christmas season, and it’s all thanks to that glorious Steam Winter Sale.
It’s been awhile since I have posted anything new. Truth be told as much as I want to I am not even sure that I have much to say right now. 2017 has been a bitch to people the world over, and I have certainly been no exception. For those that don’t know my wife and I live in Houston and unfortunately were victims in the Harvey floods. Our house flooded and we have relocated with relatives for the time being. Slightly before that, GeekGoneRogue.com was a victim of a hack and much of the material that we had put together in 2017 was lost. Such to say, between these two things I have not had much of a desire to write anything new lately, and if I am being completely honest I was slacking a bit prior to these events anyways. But, they sound like pretty good excuses so we are gonna ride with that.
So here’s to a better 2018! It can only go up from here right? I know today is technically the 2nd, but I give myself at least a week to really hone in my plans and resolutions for the upcoming year. This year I want to write more. I say that every year, and every year I do a little better but I have not been able to see it through to the end. I don’t think that’s going to happen this time. That’s not to say I will post every day, or even that I won’t have a lapse or two here or there, but I don’t think I am going to stop. I have made quite a few changes personally in the last 4 months and so far they have all stuck. So that’s it going forward. Keep up with the blog, and finish the book. Losing more weight would probably be resolution number 3. Since August I have been able to drop 35 lbs, and I have hopes for another 35 in the upcoming year. This is the one resolution that I think is going to be the easiest of the three, mostly because I have been able to really start to enjoy running and working out. They have become an important part of my daily routine and because of that it no longer actually feels so much like work to exercise. I never would have believed it 6 months ago. As a matter of fact, I used to fucking hate when people I knew that had worked out their whole lives used to tell me how easy or enjoyable exercising was. Surprise, surprise: they were at least partially right. I can still name about a dozen things that are technically more fun to do on a daily basis, but when combined with how good it feels to lose weight, and how well I sleep at night, I’ve officially been won over to team exercise. Time to get the t-shirt (Large this time instead of XL).
That’s all I have for you tonight. Starting tomorrow I will be back in full geek form, talking about a couple of games that really stuck out to me last year, as well as how happily surprised I was to pick up Doom this weekend as part of the winter steam sale. I played through the campaign in what felt like 12 hours straight and had a blast doing it. We will also look forward at some of the games and movies coming out this year that I can’t wait to play, and all the other normal GGR stuff. In the meantime, I hope everyone else is having a smooth start to the new year. I appreciate the readers who keep up with this blog, I promise it will be better this year!
After four years of anticipation and hype, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has finally been released and I wasted no time before wasting all my time on it. All things must change or die out, and Zelda is no different, so before I definitively say whether or not this game is worth the price tag, let’s take a look at what’s new in this iteration.Continue reading “Breath of the Wild – It’s finally here!”→
Hipsters have a history of doing some pretty nutty stuff, like opening restaurants that only serve milk and cereal (google it). But when I told my girlfriend their latest trend was buying cassette tapes, she straight up told me: “I don’t believe you”. I don’t blame her either. No one seems to remember cassettes fondly. A clerk at Waterloo Records told me it was the new trend among hipsters and teenagers to save money. I didn’t think about it at the time. If you told me hipsters were skipping around all day as a fast way to get high, I’d probably believe it. Maybe I shouldn’t just write someone off as crazy. After all, I’ve made the non-obvious choice before: I drive a manual instead of an automatic, I drink craft beer instead of bud-whatever, I listen to Fall Out Boy instead of moving on from high school. Each time I did it for a reason. Maybe the hipsters had a point? There was only one way to find out. I busted out the last audio cassette I bought.
Ugh, it’s not even the good one. At least it has NSync and Baby Spice. I wonder if I can get better one…
Not happening! Still, I oughta give this a real shot with a tape that didn’t spend a full decade melting in my parents’ attic. I ran off to Half Price Books and looked for something I would know from my post-cassette days. I ended up finding George Strait’s Greatest Hits and “Southern Accents” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Two albums for two bucks isn’t a bad price. I won’t get into economics but I will say something inferior and outdated is usually pretty cheap. So far the clerk’s story was holding up. I went to check out.
Clerk: “George Strait! Nice choice.”
Me: “Thanks. Hey, do a lot of people buy cassettes here?”
Clerk: “No. I’ve been here two years and you’re the first.”
Hm. Still, the woman at Waterloo Records was right about the cost. I headed off to Waterloo to see what they had. The first thing I noticed is that Waterloo had NEW tapes, not just used ones. I checked the back of a Blink-182 case and it was marked 2015; it was a reprint. Also, unlike the tapes at Half Price, this one ran 15 dollars. Is that really the cheaper option? I checked the same album on CD: $7.50. It literally cost twice as much! That’s the opposite of cheaper!
Okay, this is a hipster thing, right? I should pick up a hipster album. Luckily, Waterloo Records is the filthy layer of rookie hipsters in Austin. Their competitors Breakaway Records and Piranha Records are fine places to find wide selections and knowledgeable staff but Waterloo is where you can go to find a table full of local Austin hipster band cassette tapes. And that table is where I found this gem:
Don’t let the number of tacks fool you. The songs are so short, this tape actually has two albums on it. Don’t let the price fool you. The band is so bad, this tape is actually worthless. I went to check out.
Me: “Do y’all sell cassette players?”
Clerk: “Nah, they don’t really make them anymore.”
You don’t say.
Clerk: “You’ll have to go to a Goodwill or something. But if you’re interested, you can have this. It’s a new band from around here. Oh, and this one too. They’re pretty good. These cassettes are great for local bands just getting off the ground.”
He handed me two tapes, one of which was actually a promotional cassingle. For those of you who don’t know: a cassingle is a tape with only one song on each side.
My cassette deck was long dead and no one I knew had one, so I checked out three separate Goodwill stores before I finally found one. (Well, the second one had a Hello Kitty alarm clock but that wasn’t gonna happen.) I took it home and opened my mind to something new. And apparently, something broken. I took it back and found another one. The rewind didn’t work but I knew just what to do!
I popped George Strait in first. The first most glaring problem with cassettes came out immediately: the quality is terrible. Later on I did some research into cassettes online and found a weirdly large number of people rallying for cassettes. A common argument supporting cassettes is that there actually are high quality tapes out there. This is technically true but very misleading. Anything you buy with music already put on it is low quality because the high quality ones run 15 to 30 dollars EACH. Even then, you need a high quality cassette player that will run you into the hundreds of dollars. Most cassettes you can buy are poor quality and chances are any cassette deck you find will be poor quality too. The Tom Petty album did sound a little better. The first one was probably damaged by the previous owner; a common problem with cassettes.
Next, I turned to the hipster bands. They were all terrible Austin Punk bands. Terrible. Punk is bad by itself but under-produced hipster punk is just garbage. The man at Waterloo said that local bands use tapes to record and distribute. A quick check online shows that you cassettes cost about 5 times the price of CDs so that idea is DOA, not to mention the longer write time per unit.
It’s downright asinine to use cassette tapes for recording. You can buy specialized equipment that lets you simultaneously write to the left and right stereo tracks of both the A and B sides but you limit yourself to four tracks for mono or two tracks for stereo and you get next to no mastering options. Digital recording software is far cheaper and much higher quality. Just look at Grimes. She does pretty much all of her writing, recording and production with just Apple Garageband.
The last thing I could think of is the timbre, the unique sound. Cassette music sounds muddled, like all the instruments are playing over each other. One reason I prefer high quality digital and vinyl records is that the high quality lets me clearly hear all of the instruments and even the tiny imperfections, like Dave Grohl’s fingers sliding against the strings when he shifts along the fretboard. Maybe hipsters don’t want that. Maybe they want a medium that hides minor things like their bands’ lack of talent.
No, this also didn’t make sense, either. If a band was going for that effect, they would alter the production. The Black Keys* couldn’t afford quality recording equipment so they steered into the skid by cranking up their fuzz pedal and creating a style out of lo-fi. They sound great on any medium and are the greatest band to premiere after 2000.
That was it. I was stuck. Every reason seemed legit from a distance but failed after a moment of scrutiny. Cassettes seemed to lose every round to CDs, vinyl and most of all: digital. They only really beat out 8-Tracks. Except cassingles, which are worse than 8-Tracks.
I was ready to let go when a miracle happened. A friend of mine invited me to hang out with him and a friend of his in downtown Austin. This guy was from out of town and wanted to be a tourist for the evening, so we were going to meet at Waterloo Records, which I learned at that moment is a tourist spot. We browsed the store for a while and when it was time to go, the tourist actually bought a cassette tape. Some band I’d never heard of. This was my chance to learn first hand!
Me: “So, why by this on cassette instead of CD or vinyl?”
Tourist: “Oh, I’m not going to listen to this. I already have it on CD and vinyl.”
It wasn’t so much what he said as it was how he said it. Of course he wasn’t going to listen to it! At first, I was shocked but then the answer struck me. You see, I had made the assumption that music was for listening. This man bought the album more as a decoration, like a poster. It all came together. There was no inherent quality to cassettes that hipsters are after, it’s just that the cassettes are not the same. That’s why there is so little nostalgic music but so much niche music on new cassettes. Once you buy it, you’re in, you’re cool. But whether you buy cassettes to be part of the hipster club or buy them to just not be in the mainstream, you’re buying cassettes for other people.
People can debate the merits of CDs or vinyl or wav files but at least the reasons are all for the music. Cassettes only carry the justifications not relating to music. As an alternative to cassettes, I suggest this: Buy your music for yourself. You wouldn’t buy a steak to show off that you eat steak then not eat it. Get the cut you want, then eat your steak. ∎
Oh, and to the hipsters: Next time you want to use an outdated technology to distinguish yourself, I recommend film cameras. They’re a huge pain and no one’s gonna follow you. Not even me.
*Special thank-you to Geek Gone Rogue contributor Amy for introducing me to this band.
Hello out there GeekGoneRogue faithful! Today we are going to be taking our first look at the newly released Dreadnought Beta. This was a game that has kind of flown under the radar for me, I remember when it was first announced, however since then I had not followed it’s development or release all that closely. That was until this past weekend when I was given a Beta key by Stephen, one of our other writers. “It’s basically Mechwarrior but in space,” was the way that he described it to me. Well that was all it took, because you all know that I love the shit out of some Mechwarrior. Sure enough, as soon as I started playing I got that old school, team deathmatch Mechwarrior feel, and I haven’t stopped playing it since. It’s a solid first showing for the game, and it already has me chomping at the bit for more. With the perfect mix of measured, calculated combat and heavy hitting ships, it’s a game that should appeal to the sci-fi fans everywhere.
My time with Dreadnought began as all of these games do: with the tutorial. Since it is in closed Beta stage at the moment, there are very few bells and whistles. You are a nondescript pilot learning how to fly a ship to a couple of random points on the screen. The first thing that struck me about these ships are the sheer mass they carry when they are moving. Don’t expect to be zipping through the skies all Wing Commander style, because graceful these ships are not. However, it’s actually a refreshing change of pace from many modern shooters out there today. Even in the smallest ships, you move slow. You have to be calculated and direct about where you want to go, because once you start heading that direction it’s going to be a bitch to try to go anywhere else. It takes some getting used to at first, but once you get the hang of it you start to appreciate the way you feel flying these behemoths. It’s called Dreadnought for a reason you know?
Floats like a walrus, stings like a tomahawk missile
Once you figure out how to go from point A to point B, you get to start shooting. Each ship comes with 2 main weapons that you are able to toggle between on the fly. One is typically a long range, more precise shot with the other being an up close damage dealer. Truth be told I find myself relying on the longer range shot about 90% of the time. Other than that you begin to learn how to fire your “special ability” weapons. These are typically some type of missile or torpedo, along with a couple of defensive weapons such as anti-ballistic weapons. You are also introduced to your resource management for the game, which ends up being one of the most critical aspects of playing Dreadnought. Throughout the course of your matches, you find yourself switching between boosting your thrust, weapons, or shield in order to survive. You can only boost one at a time, and your energy reserves drain fast, which means you are constantly having to toggle them on and off depending on the situation unfolding before you. It’s not exactly a new premise in a flight combat game but it’s well done and adds another level of strategy to combat. Soon enough, you find yourself in a space battle with some pirates who conveniently attack you head on while your squad mates beef you up enough that you don’t just get your ass handed to you. Typical tutorial fare. Once you make it through that fight you are on your own. Hand holding is over, time to throw yourself into some true PVP.
My first foray into combat was quick and boy was it painful. The one thing that they don’t really touch on during the tutorial is the fact that even though you feel like you are flying a giant tank, everyone else is too, and if you don’t cover your ass you get killed. Quickly. So after a first round of being nothing other than a team liability, I decided to try a more conservative approach to my fighting. I decided to pay more attention to the way the landscapes were laid out and wouldn’t you know it? Shooting lanes! Shortcuts! Ways to sneak around and flank your enemy! It’s like they thought things out or something… You get to learn the ships pretty quickly, you have your typical tank-esque Dreadnoughts and Destroyers, with plenty of armor and the firepower to match. There are also Corvettes whose job is to zip around and wreak havoc as best they can while trying not to get blasted out of the sky. These are the bane of the support ships, also known as the Tactical Cruisers. They are the healers of the fleet, able to repair and support the bigger ships around them, and they even have some decent firepower to boot. Last but not least would be the Artillery Cruisers, aka the snipers. They float around on the outside of the battle blasting away with their long range rail cannons. They can totally fuck up your day, unless you are right next to them. At that point it’s lights out, as they have basically no armor. Each class is familiar enough that if you play other arena games you should be able to almost immediately find something that fits your playstyle.
The fights are smooth, and they are tactical. After playing Overwatch almost nonstop for the last month, the transition was jarring at first, however after a few matches I found it to be a refreshing change of pace from the at times hectic melee that many shooters tend to be these days. The terrain varies from full on space battles, to fights in a ruined city, or in a frozen mountain range. Nothing too mind blowing, but they suit their purpose. Again, it is just a beta, I’m sure that when the full game launches there will be plenty more places in which to blow one another up.
When not in combat, the interface is basically a cut and dry clone of other games in the genre, such as Mechwarrior online. You can use the in game currency to purchase ships, weapons, unlock skills, or buy cosmetics upgrades.You can also use your own hard earned cash to spring for Greybox points which basically special currency to get more bang for your buck. Again, pretty standard. So far I have been able to rely on the in game currency for any and all purchases as it comes at a pretty decent rate. As I play the game more I may end up springing for some but for now I am enjoying the grinding process too much to even consider it. Increasing my pilot rank is the priority as most of the games best ships and weapons are locked behind higher ranks.
Overall, Dreadnought is just plain fun. It may not appeal to some of the twitch shooter fans out there, but for anyone looking to try something new, I can say that this is a game worth looking into. The combat feels good, the ships are fun to fly, and the battles are fun to look at. There is still a long way to go to flesh out some sort of a story but the developers seem to be taking the time and putting in the attention to detail to come up with something pretty great. Is it going to be a genre defying grand slam the likes of Modern Warfare? Probably not. But for those who are looking for something new with some of that old-school Mechwarrior flair, this is probably the game for you. Look for me if you decide to take the plunge! I’ll be in a destroyer.
Well here is one of the most disappointing things that anyone is going to read today. As if the Olympic host country wasn’t already enough of a shit-show (which it most certainly is), today during one of the Olympic torch carrying ceremonies a female jaguar named Juma was shot and killed after escaping from her handlers. First question, what the actual fuck? How do you let the jaguar loose, and why the hell was it even there in the first place? And just to be clear, I am not one of those PETA loving no-animal-should-be-put-on-display-ever dudes. I am just genuinely perplexed at what kind of aesthetically pleasing goal they were shooting for by chaining a jaguar between two guards and taking a picture with it near the torch. Seriously, look at the picture. It looks like someone photoshopped an Olympic torch carrier into a picture of soldiers after they captured some village destroying predator.
Whatever image they were going for here, I don’t think this was it
Now, instead of a doofy picture, Brazil is dealing with yet another Olympic headline showing just how completely inept they are at pulling off an event like this in their country. Pollution, environmental damage, and ZIKA aren’t enough, now they have to add oh and we also shot one of out pet Jaguars to the mix. And on top of it all, again I have to say, how did you let the giant predator animal loose? How does that happen? Oh, also the whole thing was illegal according to the Amazonas government. Not that legality is exactly a hard and fast rule these days when it comes to the Olympics but I guess that’s still relevant. All I know is August can’t get here soon enough, at this point the sooner these Olympics are out of Rio the better. In the meantime if you are in Brazil and are on anything more than two legs consider taking a vacation, I hear Costa Rica is nice.