Dr. XBOX: Or How I Learned to Stop Fanboy and Love the Controller

I am a PC gamer.

When I was a wee-D, my parents couldn't afford a Nintendo so my first taste of video gaming was Oregon Trail on a computer at school. I got to play games like Super Mario Bros and Contra at friends places, but at home I didn't have much beyond some Tiger Handheld LCD things. Eventually my mom got a computer from her work when they were getting new computers. So after years of seeing my friends game a home, I was finally able to do the same. It wasn't the best thing in the world, but I was determined to make due with what I had.

I was able to play games like Doom, Heretic (One of my favorite games to this day), Wolfenstein and Warcraft. The keyboard and mouse was my way to play. As soon as I could, I got a job so I could pay for upgrades to keep playing new games.

I never felt like I needed a console after getting a computer. After graduating high school, I went right into the Army, and with no bills and no debt I was able to use my modest income to build a new computer (and lots of alcohol). But even with all the awesome games I had on the computer, I would still look at the other side of the fence and look at all the really cool console games out there. I really wanted to play some fighting games, but the keyboard and mouse just didn't work well for that and most fighting games on the computer just never felt right compared to Tekken or the Mortal Kombat series. But, deep in my fanboy fanaticism, I wrote them off as causalities of the Platform Wars.

For years I touted my superior platform, specifically the keyboard and mouse interface over a controller. "You don't have the finesse of control in a FPS with a controller!!" I would smugly proclaim. "Lets see you play Everquest with a controller." I said with a smarmy tone. No argument, could convince me otherwise. And if fighting games came up I would just derail the debate to avoid my own doubt about my stance.

Then the day came when I just had to buy a console. I had no option, there was a game coming out that I really wanted to play, but it wasn't coming out on the computer. That game was Rock Band. Say what you will about fake plastic rock games, I love the escapism and more importantly, I got an Xbox 360, my first console. Now I wasn't just going to let that $300 sit there, I got other games, tried out the indie stuff and overall I have a really good time learning to use the controller and playing games that I can't get on the computer. Brutal Legend, Burnout, Costume Quest and others.

Now I even have an Xbox controller for my computer. After getting Assassins Creed on Steam, I found it very awkward to play with a keyboard and mouse, it just didn't feel right. So I got a controller and everything seemed to play much more fluidly. I had the same results with Darksiders and Batman: Arkham Asylum for PC. I still have trouble controlling FPS's with a controller, but I'm getting better and don't spend all my time looking straight up or down. And in the case of DCU Online, I actually utilize the keyboard, mouse and controller during the same session, using a weird combination of keyboard shortcuts, controller for movement and the mouse for menu/inventory (Yep, I'm a fool, but it works for me).

Overall, I really feel that I have grown as a gamer. Not only for withdrawing myself from the fanboy flame wars of "My system is better than yours!" but for expanding my horizons and learning something new that allows me to enjoy a fuller range of gaming. My platform of choice is still the PC, but I'm no longer averse to console gaming and welcome the larger selection and variety.

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Pillars of Metal – A Short Essay

 

Pillars of Metal – A Short Essay by Otto Schwarzmiller


If some one were to ask you “what is metal music?” how do you respond? Do you claim it to be the only right and true form of music on earth? Do you analyze the sounds and assign them into subgenres for them? Do you attempt to describe the culture of the metal scene? Or do you stammer on about how this band sucks and that band is good and underground is the only thing really worth listening to?

 

Well in thinking about this hypothetical question, I figure the only way to describe what metal is, is to have them listen to it. Just like any other genre of music, be it classical, country, jazz or hip hop, there is far more to it than what you hear coming out of a Hot Topic on a Saturday afternoon.

 

So where to start? Well I start with the band that opened the flood gates, Judas Priest. More specifically, 1980’s “British Steel.” Now this wasn’t the first metal album, or even the first from Judas Priest, but this is what gave us the idea of what metal is. The leather, the spikes, the riding crops and motor cycles, it just screams metal. Looking back, it’s amazing that most people didn’t realize that Rob Halford was in the closet as he was practically wearing the uniform of the gay man. But JP transformed that into the uniform of the mealhead for years to come. Breaking the Law, Living After Midnight, and Grinder, set great templates for others to model from in terms of song writing and execution. This was a visceral album, from that cover with the hand holding the razor blade, to the spike studded band members; it was edgy in a way that many bands had not yet gone in. And while not the heaviest or fastest album, even at the time, it was accessible in a way that metal had not been before.

 

Our tour of metal stays in Brittan for my next album. Where Judas Priest felt very street level, Iron Maiden felt bigger than life. And for me, “Number of the Beast” is the album that signifies it the most. On the surface it checks many metal boxes. Song about Satan, check. Fast song, check. Ballad, check. But the album has so much more thought in it than (what are now) the standard clichés. The cover with the first appearance of Eddie, the IM mascot, using the devil as a puppet while he in turn uses a man as a puppet, is not only a wicked poster, but also subtly says “We are bigger than the devil himself.” It is a lot for a band to proclaim on their sophomore album. While not a concept album, it has many closely tied themes. Humanity’s struggle with vices, war, freedom and life itself are all presented here, it just takes a little time to stop head banging and really listen to find. “Number of the Beast” gave metal a way to be thoughtful and grand without being obtuse or pretentious. It planted seeds in many a person’s head that would grow as they set out to make their own metal masterpieces.

 

One of those bands that took some serious notes while listening to the New Wave of Britsh Heavy Metal (NWBHM) was a little group from San Francisco named Metallica. By 1985 Metallica had 2 solid albums under their belt and they set out to create their 3. Master of Puppets would become on of the most influential records in heavy metal, and to many, the greatest heavy metal album of all time. From the explosive opening, Battery, through to the crushing finale of Damage Inc., MoP defines heavy metal. Heavy, fast, epic, punishing, technical, graceful, how many more adjectives can I use?

 

MoP works not only as a pinnacle, but also a gateway. This accessibility is derived from the progressive elements that tone down the abusive nature of this album and give it plenty of breathing room to express its sounds. A song like Orion is a respite near the end of the album, but it does not let up on the technical beauty that the album excels in. All in all, the album is something that everyone can appreciate in many aspects, and should not just be in collections of heavy metal fans, but everyone who enjoys music.

 

As the 80’s wore on and “Hair Metal” began to dominate popular music, there were still those keeping metal heavy hard and fast. Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax joined Metallica in producing career defining albums. The rise of Gun’s & Roses began. Extreme metal begat the birth of Death Metal and fostered a new underground.   Then the 80’s became the 90’s and Hair Metal died in the wake of Grunge and the alt rock scene. Metal took a big hit in both popularity and quality. But one band wasn’t taking any of that shit. Pantera had formed as a hair band in the 80’s but with the addition of Phil Anselmo they took on a much heavier vibe. Taking influences from hardcore, punk, speed metal and a good ol’ heaping pile of southern rock, Pantera set out to make their own mark with “groove metal.” And boy did they hit that mark with 1992’s Vulgar Display of Power. This was fast and heavy, but always maintains the ability to be perfectly head bangable. Vulgar took Pantera’s song writing and musical ability to the next level. It was also in direct contrast to the rising influence of the alt rock on the air waves. It can be seen as a defiant stance for metal in an otherwise fairly bleak time for the genre.

 

For me, Vulgar Display of Power is the best release from Pantera. As they released more albums, they seemed to lose that groove metal spark in the interest of faster and heavier and more disjointed approaches. Metal overall saw dark times in the 90’s with the Big 4 all having some of the lowest points creatively in their careers and only a few shining metal moments from other bands. The rise and fall of the Nu-Metal scene did help spark interest in metal in general during the early 00’s and helped a new group of metallers to get their blood wings. Then the –core and –emo bands finally brought new hungry young blood into the spot light. Metalcore, Deathcore, Screamo, post-nu-hard-revival-scream-core, the list goes on. And while my personal preference of this is on the lower side, it is undeniable that this new blood was needed. It brought new fans in and more importantly, it gave the old guard a swift kick in the ass.

 

The first band to really bring heavy metal back in a shining light (for me) was Machine Head with The Blackening in 2007. Never a band to repeat a previous album, MH had seen some great highs and some awful lows in their time. But coming out of a make or break situation proved they had the gravitas to create one of the all time best metal albums ever. The Blackening is a scathingly heavy album accomplished in just 7 tracks. It uses not only traditional inspiration of war, politics and religion but also bigotry, questions of life and death, and personal loss. Not only had Machine Head learned from past bands, but also their own experience. They crafted an epic that, while new, stands head to head with all the classics. It is a brutal assault, carried out with surgical precision and deserved of all acclaim.

 

There it is, the five albums that every metalhead should own and share with others. 30 years of metal that form the basis of just about everything we love in the genre. I hope this inspires you to check out one of these albums if you haven’t. Or if you have, I hope you go back and take a listen to them. Either way, we all win

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Forum Subject Titles

 I really hate this trend of typing half a sentence into the subject line of a new thread. It infuriates me to the point that I just do not want to read the post. Now, I have even had a couple e-mails sent to me with this format and that really bugs the shit out of me.

I get it, we are too busy here on the internet to spend the time to capitalize and try to use some grammar, but this is just too much.

Fuck you internet, fuck you.

/rant

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Making beer

For me, there is nothing quite like making beer. I have only done it a couple of times, but it really is something that I enjoy doing, and can see myself doing for a very long time to come. One part of the reason I love it so much is that I love beer to begin with. All the different styles, flavors and interpretations give it a depth that I have not experienced with many other things.
 
Another reason I like it is the connection to history it has. Beer is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages made, with nearly 5000 years of history behind it. From the Egyptians and Babylonians to the Germans and the Reinheitsgebot, and on to today's micro and homebrews, it really makes me feel connected. 

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The secert to a great Club Sandwich

 
                

                                                                                                                                                                                                                No one can deny the great-factor of a really good club sandwich. Be it basic with just lettuce, tomatoes, turkey and bacon, or decadent  by adding ham, cheese, cucumber, dressing and a fried egg, they are about the most delicious sandwiches one can have. But the thing that really holds it all together is the bacon. Now I know that it is cliche here on the internet to put bacon up as the end-all be-all of food, but in this sandwich, it really is the glue that holds it together, much the same way it can make or break a B.L.T.
 
The bacon must be cooked correctly to really bring out the rest of the club. It can not remain too gummy by not rendering enough fat out, but it can not be so crisp that it shatters on the palate. That perfect bacon crisp is the hardest part to achieve, and the most important. Nothing ruins an awesome club like un-rendered bacon fat. A properly cured bacon is also necessary. One that is not overly salty and brings with it a slight sweetness really goes well with the other meats and fixings in the sandwich. 
 
Well now I hope that I have instilled a little hunger in you to go out and experiment with this wonderful sandwich. Feel free to put up your favorite combination of club for others as well!
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PAX10!

Woohoo! Getting my PAX10 tickets! I had such a good time at the last 2 PAX's and I can't wait to get it on at this years. I didn't make PAX east, but since I am already in Seattle, I thought I could wait.
 
Any other PAXers out there?

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PAX'08

So i have my 3 day pass for PAX'08 and I'm super stoked! This will be my first time going to the event and I have no idea of what to do. Oh well, let the good times begin!

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