Search This Blog

Friday, January 27, 2017

Plankeye -- Strange Exchange


When I am done with this review series (2019?), I'd like to write an entry titled, "The Most Underrated Christian Rock Albums of the Last 20 Years." I'd mention Brave Saint Saturn's little-heard 2003 space-rock concept album The Light of Things Hoped For. I'd list Newsboys' (who are essentially now a dance-pop band) greatly misunderstood and much ignored 1999 album of 70's/80's rock, Love Liberty Disco. I'd also add Plankeye's 2001 experimental-indie-rock album, Strange Exchange.
Plankeye are known for an energetic, punk-influenced alternative sound, particularly from their mid-90's work, when they were fronted by Scott Silletta. Silletta (along with the band's original drummer) left in the late 90's, before the remaining members recorded 1999's Relocation. That album featured the surprise hit "Goodbye," and then people just kind of forgot Plankeye existed. Sadly, in the modern age, many people have forgotten that many of the great 80's and 90's Christian Rock bands existed. However, Plankeye did contribute one full-length album of new material to the 21st century. That album, their last of original material, is Strange Exchange. For this endeavor, Plankeye's two remaining members, guitarist/vocalist Eric Balmer and bassist/vocalist Luis Garcia enlisted second guitarist, Kevin Poush, and drummer, Louie Ruiz. Then they got to work.
Honestly, before the release of Strange Exchange, I had kind of forgotten about Plankeye, myself. My conception of the band involved Silletta on vocals and Bill Clinton in office--this was a new millennium, and Plankeye existed in the old one. Then, one night in 2001, while calling in to the radio station where I would soon DJ, I won a pre-release copy of Plankeye's new album. As I mentioned, I wasn't even aware of Plankeye's continued existence, but as I was always ready for a new musical experience, I went to the cooperating store, flashed my ID, and got my CD. What came out of my car speakers several minutes later didn't sound like the Plankeye I remembered.
This sounded like the experimental college rock I listened to in my latter years of high school. More complex guitar lines, more varied effects on the guitars. Poetic lyrics. A rhythm section that valued space. A wide spectrum of emotion. A song that neared the ten minute mark and another one that hit six minutes. This wasn't the Plankeye of old. This was something entirely new.
This was something the Christian market was not and has possibly never been ready for. It's not hard to look at the secular market, and find popular rock bands who at some point went in the studio and just experimented, not caring about previous work or fan expectations, then came out with an excellent, non-definable piece of work. Radiohead did it just a year before Strange Exchange was released. The Beatles did it more than 30 years before. But a band in the Christian Rock market? It hadn't ever really happened. In 2001, though, Plankeye did it.
Strange Exchange is an incredible display of artistic and emotional expression. Co-frontmen Balmer and Garcia show little regard for the past, kicking things off with an upbeat, yet lyrically aggressive number, as Balmer assures, "This is the last piece of me you'll own." The band then dive into two deep, yet up-tempo meditations on life on Earth before unleashing the six-minute guitar storm, "Let Me Be Near You." This is then followed by an under two-minute acoustic song, a daring move, yet one that gives Strange Exchange an unpredictable dynamic range full of color, like the colors crashing into one another on the album cover. The next four songs continue to explore inventive guitar textures and rhythms. Garcia has always been an inventive bassist, and it's fun to pick out his clever lines throughout the album. Ruiz, as a drummer, brings an entirely new rhythmic feel to the band, his style more laid back and fill-reliant than that of punk-influenced former drummer, Adam Ferry. Through these penultimate four tracks, Plankeye builds to a more desperate emotional place, with Balmer intoning by track nine, "The Way of the Earth," "I don't want to live like this anymore/Just for the heartbeats that you feel/ Can't restrain what you think is real/ Takes just a moment then pretend/ The rest of your life you'll be faking it." This all builds to Strange Exchange's haunting, epic, eight-minute closer, "Untitled," a song of such staggering emotional weight and beauty, it is a crime that only a few thousand people have heard it. Indeed, if a popular rock band in the secular market had released this song in 2001, it would have been a cover-story on magazines. Instead, "Untitled" is relegated to languish at the end of its should be classic album, which sits in bargain bins and sells for one penny on Amazon.
"This is the night/of my daughter's last rites," sings Garcia in his throaty tenor, "And we are below/crushed by the waters of love." The lyrics for this song have never been released, and many in the latter half of the song are washed out by walls and walls of ghostly, wailing guitar lines, Garcia's own Earth-moving bass-line, and Ruiz's drum rolls. When the instruments take over halfway in, it is as if they have been handed over to spectral beings, as this kind of power can surely not have been wielded by humans. The emotional catharsis, the movement from life to death to ascendence has reduced me to tears numerous times, and I hope that, wherever they might be today, the four guys who recorded it can be secure in the fact that the people who actually have heard it were deeply moved.
Join us.

2001 BEC
1. This Is 4:12
2. The Meaning of It All 4:29
3. Chemicals and Sleep 4:15
4. Let Me Be Near You 5:59
5. My Wife 1:43
6. By Design 4:27
7. Remind 4:34
8. Bring It Down 3:44
9 The Way of the Earth 4:10
10. [Untitled Track] 8:00

Plankeye -- The One and Only


Man, I'm out of gas after those last two reviews. Let's be brief with this one.
Plankeye's Commonwealth is a classic album,  which sold a ton of copies, but a certain segment of the band's fanbase didn't appreciate its more somber tone. Plankeye responded to those fans with The One and Only, a lighter, sunnier album, featuring a more upbeat sound.
The One and Only's first half is brilliantly done, energetic rock. The opener, "Someday," shows the songwriting growth found on Commonwealth was not a fluke, with its opening harmonica line forever searing itself into the listener's memory. "How Much I Don't Know" features a bridge instrumental that blink-182 subsequently ripped off in essentially every song they recorded between 1997-2001 (and I say this as someone who likes blink-182). "Playground" shifts and changes a surprising amount of times before its excellent, gong-aided climax, and all in 2.5 minutes.
At the end of its first half, The One and Only, is easily staking its claim as both the best and the most fun and entertaining album Plankeye ever released. Then the sixth track, "One or the Other," a sluggish ballad, grinds things to a halt. Commonwealth's slower songs, and even this album's third track, "Fall Down," proved that a gentler Plankeye song can still keep the momentum going. "One or the Other" doesn't. It's five minutes of the air going out of the room.
While the next four tracks try to get things...back on track, they aren't quite to the level of the opening salvo. So in the end, The One and Only is a good, fun album, but it doesn't quite achieve the greatness its first half promises.
After The One and Only, Plankeye splintered, yet did not end. You can see a tension here between the band's "pop-punk" side, and its more indie, alternative stylings (recording three albums in three years probably didn't help the stress!). The "pop-punk" side, singer/guitarist, Scott Silletta formed a short-lived new band in that style called Fanmail (while the drummer left to pursue ministry). Guitarist, Eric Balmer, and bassist, Louis Garcia, continued on under the Plankeye name, and recorded two more full-length albums. The first, Relocation, features "Goodbye," perhaps the band's biggest hit, though the album itself didn't really do much for me, and I've never purchased it. The second, though...I'll get to that.

1997 BEC
1. Someday 2:31
2. How Much I Don't Know 3:19
3. Fall Down 3:11
4. Playground 2:36
5. It's Been So Very Long 2:59
6. One or the Other 5:09
7. Landmarks 2:40
8. Let's Try Again Tomorrow 3:31
9. Compromise 3:15
10. Sterling (runtime includes silence and hidden track) 16:52

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Plankeye -- Commonwealth


On the same youth trip I referenced in the previous review, I took an ill-fated canoe ride with Jessica, the younger sister of my cousin, Rhett. Jessica is a few years older than me, and has consistently been my "cool cousin," and the one who introduces me to what is cool, just as Rhett has introduced me to awesome music. Without the two of them, I'm not sure I'd have been writing these reviews for the last five years.
Jessica currently lives in Hollywood (I REALLY need to make a travelogue about my visit to her last year), and she works in the film industry, but back in the summer of 1996, she had to slug it out at the same scary Alabama backwoods youth camp that I did. At some point at that miserable hell, we decided to take a canoe onto the camp lake to get away from the camp's local ruffians. Little did we know they could paddle just as well as they could date their cousins. They must have seen our peaceful, non-romantic cousin canoe trip, and outraged at this platonic aberration of their cousin-loving culture, decided to lay out some Alabama justice...because they paddled out to our canoe and flipped it over. Thankfully, they only wanted to ruin our fun, not kill us, because they quickly paddled away, leaving us to swim our wrecked canoe back to shore. On the swim back, Jessica released her distaste for the camp and the state of Alabama with an epic rant that for some reason included the line, "...and I don't care what anyone says, I love the new Plankeye."
I am suddenly realizing that as much as I want to talk about Plankeye, I REALLY want to talk about this awful camp I went to in Alabama. Apparently, my distaste for that state started even before they stole our football coach, and turned my favorite sport into a boring "process." But I digress...let's talk about Plankeye.
Jessica made that Plankeye comment because Commonwealth, the band's second release for Tooth & Nail Records, is a bit of a departure from the band's previous work.  The band's earlier music was marked by more of a raw, punk edge. It could also be extremely unfocused and immature. Commonwealth is instead a mature, focused offering of extremely well-written songs, and a landmark  album in Christian Rock. It sounds as good today as it did when whoever "anyone" was told Jessica it wasn't as good as Plankeye's older stuff.
In the summer of 1996, mainstream Christian rock bands were finding some success in the secular mainstream: DC Talk with "Jesus Freak," Jars of Clay with "Flood," and even Newsboys with their Take Me to Your Leader album. However, true "alternative" music, more authentically rock music by non-major label Christian bands, hadn't left much of a major sales mark. I don't mean to say that the three above-mentioned bands aren't authentic (especially in regard to Jars of Clay), but their work as a whole would never be considered that of alternative rock bands. Unfortunately, though, no Christian alternative rock band had produced an album up to that point that was worthy of selling a ton of copies. Anyone who'd heard Plankeye's previous work certainly wouldn't have pegged them as the band to break out...
Then came Commonwealth.  Here is an album that doesn't lack musical grit (the guitars are as distorted as ever), but that takes the band's earlier unfocused energy, and uses it at the service of one cohesive sound. Vocalist, Scott Silletta, has stopped attempting to ape other 90's vocalists like Eddie Vedder, and now confidently sings in his own unique voice--it's a great rock voice, and one of the most iconic in Christian Rock. Silletta's guitar interplay with second (or first, I guess) guitarist, Eric Balmer, is also great.
Truthfully, though, it's the songwriting that sets Commonwealth apart. Every song is memorable, and the hooks are great without ever being cloying. Every song is unique among its brethren, too--you could never accuse any of them of sounding too much alike.
Really, Commonwealth features some serious classics that deserve far more recognition today, powered by the honest emotion the band is able to infuse into each track. The lyrics, music, and vocals are able to convey feelings of hardship and weariness, but there's also a certain optimism and empathy that I think was completely unique to this band, particularly on Commonwealth. Unique enough, in fact, to help this album sell more than 500,000 copies.
I know it is ironic to write such a scattered, all-over-the-place review for an album that is the opposite, but I have so many memories attached to this music, and its nice to go back and hear that the warm feelings I have for it are deserved. I hope that Christian kids of the future have as equally talented bands to call their own...
but everything sucks now, so they probably won't.
I mean, listen to how iconic this song is! It sounds like it always existed!

1996 Tooth & Nail Records
1. Whisper to Me 2:50
2. B.C. 2:31
3. Push Me Down (Veiled) 5:19
4. Struck by the Chord 4:31
5. Placement 2:42
6. Commonwealth 4:15
7. He 3:47
8. Bicycle 4:08
9. Beautiful 4:05
10. Who Loves You More? 4:22

Monday, January 23, 2017

Plankeye -- Spark


Headed to Youth Camp, from Baton Rouge to the rural hills near Anniston, Alabama, the summer of 1996. About to start high school. Riding with the guys. My cousin Rhett pops in a mix-CD. This song plays:

The van then breaks into an impromptu mosh pit, and I end up two seats forward. Awesome. When we get back to Baton Rouge a week later, I ask Rhett, my music guru, what band created that awesome song.
Actually, I am skipping a very eventful week, that I can only sum up with this quick past-tense tidbit: I bunked next to one of my best friends, Simpson Borens. The two guys above us were brothers from some hill-town near the campsite. One of the brothers wore the same shirt everyday: it featured a Confederate flag, backed by lightning bolts. Shirt-boy loved to ask Simpson if he found the shirt offensive. Simpson is not white. I have never been back to Anniston, Alabama.
Anyway, once we get back to a place where people at least have the decency to hide their racism, I ask Rhett about the song, and he tells me it's "Open House," by Plankeye. I immediately check out this "Plankeye."
Turns out the song, "Open House," is found on Plankeye's 1995 album Spark, their first album of new material for Tooth & Nail Records, after T&N re-released the band's indie debut, Spill. Spill is a very raw and unpolished album, too unpolished for me, and it's one of two Plankeye LP's I won't be reviewing here. Rhett let me borrow Spark, and I burned it to a cassette tape. One time I was listening to it in the car with my cousin on the other side of the family, Amber, and she said it sounded like Goo Goo Dolls. Goo Goo Dolls are my least favorite band of all-time, solely due to the facts that the song "Iris," was the most played song of 1998 to the point that if I ever hear it again, I may kill someone, and also because of the guitarist's stupid pink hair. Anyway, after that comment, I didn't listen to Spark again for a while, but that is also due to the fact that of all the Plankeye albums I own (four out of six), Spark is by far my least favorite.
Listening to it now, it's more clear why. The punk energy of "Open House" and closer, "So Far from Home," are still refreshing. However, the rest of Spark doesn't really sound like that. Wait, should I back up again and explain who Planeye is? Nah, full speed ahead!
Spark finds a young rock band trying to figure out just who Plankeye is, and a vocalist who is also trying to figure himself out as a singer, as well. Spark's best moments are the high energy ones I've previously mentioned. There are other moments the band finds gold, too. The Jeff Buckley-esque trippy bridge of "Boy," is certainly a winner. However, too much of Spark drags. There's a grunge aspect to some of the songs that just doesn't hold attention. Unfortunately, the vocalist, Scott Silletta, tries to channel Pearl Jam frontman, Eddie Vedder, in these moments, and it just feels like posing. However, at other moments, particularly in the more amped-up tracks, he sounds like he is forging his own identity, and it works. Oh yeah, and if you are a Gen X-er and attended any alternative rock shows in the 90's, particularly any at a coffee house, this album features a moment that will surely make you cringe: the moment when the guitarist laboriously switches his electric out for an acoustic, and the drummer slides over from his kit to a djembe. Thankfully, after this album, Plankeye would never do that again.
I hate slagging on the work of a band I really like, especially when people are so quick to forget their contributions to the musical landscape. Fortunately, there's a lot more to Plankeye's discography than Spark.

1995 Tooth & Nail Records
1. It's a Perfect Day Jerome 3:04
2. Open House 3:24
3. Three Fold Chord 3:27
4. Drive 3:00
5. Boy 4:16
6. Tonight 2:47
7. Wings to Fly 4:38
8. Let Me Go 3:39
9. Questions 5:58
10. Dichotomy 3:30
11. So Far from Home 3:43

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I Just Reviewed Earthbound!

As I am fresh from another stint of having absolutely no Internet access, here's a review of the classic SNES RPG, Earthbound. Playing through Earthbound recently was akin to a spiritual experience.
You can read the review either here, or here, though I am more partial to the first link.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Nicsperiment's 1/10/17 Blockbuster Movie Marathon Reviews, featuring Batman v Superman, The Legend of Tarzan, Suicide Squad, and Jason Bourne

Last year, after Thanksgiving, I figured I should just take a day off of work to watch movies all day. Yesterday, I did the same thing. I was going to only watch three, but I threw on a late edition, giving me nine hours to watch four movies. But will these four critical piƱatas all rain down Werther's Originals, or sweet, sweet candy?

*     *     *
I start the day at 5 am, helping my wife off to work and my son off to school. I make a big bowl of Frosted Flakes, and toss in Batman vs Superman, a movie I've been avoiding since its release...but curiosity finally got the better of me.
I see as I review this that the title of the film is actually Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I know they are trying to presage the upcoming Justice League film, but what a stupid title.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 
The recent Zach Snyder Superman reboot took America's most golly gee superhero and tossed him into a gray, joyless, overlong slog. Also, it severely miscast the leads, making for a charisma-free Superman and a Lois Lane who seems like she'd rather knit him a sweater than get in his cape (and before that, I would have guessed Amy Adams could have chemistry with a chain-link fence). Instead of trying to inject some of Marvel's carefree joy into their films, DC seems to be going all in on the grimmest tone possible here. Again, for Batman v Superman, the casting is hit and miss. Jesse Eisenberg's highly irritating Lex Luthor seems like a troll on the audience--an awful choice (and I like the kid). Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is good—strong and otherworldly, just like she should be. Ben Afleck as Batman is surprisingly not bad, but not at all written well. In fact, this is a big dumb movie, and it is big and dumb because the script is terrible, going from one needless scene to the next like my dog chases butterflies she is never ever going to catch. The writing is so contrived, stupidly ponderous (especially when it tries to incorporate religion!), convoluted and badly structured, when what it is getting at—Lex Luthor tricking and coercing Batman and Superman to fight each other--could have been accomplished easily, in half the time, just like this sentence could have. Instead, this simple story is barely comprehensible, even when it has 2.5 hours to breathe, and it still feels hyper-rushed and overstuffed. How can you spend this much money so incompetently? Plenty of inept action films lack geography in their action scenes, and this film certainly does, but it also lacks geography in general...and logic...and humanity. I'm not saying all of this as some incensed fan of Superman and Batman, and here they're only unlikable mopes, anyway. I'm saying all of this as a person who doesn't like bad movies. This movie is really damned bad. I give Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice a 2/10.
The review aggregate website, Rotten Tomatoes, gives Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice a 27%. Right on, Rotten Tomatoes.

A family friend got us one of those little electronic popcorn poppers department stores had for sale this past Christmas. I was initially skeptical of his gift, but now that I've used it a dozen times in the past two weeks, call me a believer. I set up a towel on the floor so that I could pop batches into my bowl as I watched these that I would not have to get up...ever.

The Legend of Tarzan
In the 1980's, Hollywood loved Africa. Unfortunately, Hollywood is all about trends, and when they got tired of that, they just moved onto the next thing. Same thing with music: in the 80's, Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel did their best work under the influence of Africa. Africa, however, is not a trend, but an actual place full of actual, beautiful humans (and a few really ugly ones, too—and I don't mean aesthetically). The return to this location after a long absence is welcome. Even though this Tarzan movie is a basic rescue film, with mid-level CGI and a “tired of us yet” cast, including Christopher Waltz as the villain and Margot Robbie as the damsel-in-distress (no matter how many times the film tries to tell you she's not one, though at least, for once, she's not objectified), it's shot well, and the story is coherent, unlike that travesty I just watched before this. A coherent film can set up its conflict in less than 90-minutes, and this one does it in 15. The Legend of Tarzan also does a good job explaining Tarzan's origin and who he is now without making the film into an origin story. It's a Tarzan story, but you can enjoy it whether you're a fan, know anything beforehand about Tarzan, or think Tarzan is a weird name that you've never heard before. I enjoyed it, even if it is just an inconsequential bit of fun. It's also kind of strange to just get a random Tarzan film when Tarzan hasn't been around for a while. Actually, now that I think about it, it makes sense: chiseled male lead who hardly wears a shirt...female lead who always keeps her's on...focus on romance storyline between the two...actual character development (Samuel L Jackson is somehow in this movie, too, and he has a solid arc)...shot at the end that shows how the romantic leads finally do decide to try again at that thing that didn't go so well the last time... and a gentle pace? This is one of those based-on-an-old-property date-movie action films! Like Zorro in the 90's! I didn't know they made these anymore! I should have watched this one with my wife. I give The Legend of Tarzan a 6/10.
Rotten Tomatoes gives The Legend of Tarzan a 36%. Maybe, after the video game demo Batman v Superman, I just appreciated watching an actual movie.

Running just barely on schedule, I make easy mac and pop open a can of pringles and a Mountain Dew while Suicide Squad's Blu Ray loads.

Suicide Squad
Man, I'm starting to think that DC hates their own properties. First Man of Steel makes Batman Begins look like Citizen Kane. Then DC decides, for some reason, to just hand their whole thing off to the guy who made Man of Steel. Then that guy made the unbelievably bad Batman v Superman. Then they took an easy grand slam idea of putting all of their B-villains together for a quirky, fast, and fun adventure, cast it perfectly, and then they hired David Ayer to make this steaming pile of crap. I'll give Suicide Squad this: at least it's actually fun at points. Suicide Squad goes for that “introduce a bunch of characters to popular songs, then keep introducing scenes the same way” vibe (think Forest Gump). That carries it for a little while, but then the plot falls apart, the scenes themselves aren't as good as they should be, characters get scattered cool moments together when they should be getting them the whole time, and then the ending goes into slo-motion for a killing object flying toward the bad guy for seemingly 20-minutes. This movie could have been a cult classic for the ages, full of style and memorable scenes. Instead, the only thing that sticks from this film is the super cool, trippy neon color-swirl artwork from the posters (and opening logo and credits). Oh, yeah, and the complete Margot Robbie hypersexualization picks right back up. Tarzan let her keep her clothes on (even her love-scene and the aftermath with Tarzan just shows some tasteful shoulder), but in Suicide Squad, it's a crop-top and panties for her for the majority of the film. Maybe it's Martin Scorsese's fault. I give Suicide Squad a 4/10.
Rotten Tomatoes gives Suicide Squad a 26%. Keep aiming high, DC!

I make more popcorn, lock up the dog because she's acting weird, and throw on my final movie, with just enough time left on the clock.

Jason Bourne
Out of all four films, the one I was least looking forward to was Jason Bourne. It just looked like a quick re-hash cash-in by filmmakers and a studio who needed money. The Bourne trilogy ended satisfactorily nearly a decade ago—why continue his story? Plus, a reboot from a few years ago failed. Plus, the reviews seemed mediocre, and the film had zero buzz...but then I actually watched it. 
Holy crap! If you like the other three Bourne movies, you have to watch this one (NOTE: THE JEREMY RENNER ONE DOESN'T COUNT! nooffensejeremyrener). It's got a closing car chase that just might be the best of the entire series (which is saying a lot), a destruction derby for the ages. The closing fight, and the film's other action sequences are great, as well. As for plot, Jason Bourne tries to incorporate current cultural events, and even though it's still a general “old white dudes at the CIA are evil” storyline, it cracks along nicely enough, and never gets in the way. Bourne, now grizzled and wearing down, gets a little more character background, stuff splodes, and Paul Greengrass shows how, with great editing, quick cuts can actually be used to show the grace of motion. After Mad Max: Fury Road in 2015, I thought we'd be in for more awesome action films with real stunts; visceral films that didn't have to lean on CGI. Instead, films like the three above this one(particularly the first and third), where nothing is real, and nothing feels like it has any weight or substance, have filled the cineplexes. Jason Bourne reminds me that this franchise (along with, surprisingly, the Fast and the Furious franchise) has been keeping practical stunts alive in the CGI wilderness. A real police SWAT car smashing through five dozen real cars, or a CGI Superman smashing through five dozen CGI cars? I'll take the real thing every time. I give jason Bourne an 8/10.
Jason Bourne only got 56% on Rotten Tomatoes. Reading over a few negative reviews, it doesn't look like any of those reviewers actually watched the film--they get simple plot points incorrect, and neglect to mention any of the standout scenes. Film criticism is all a crock, except for on The Nicsperiment, of course. Also, 56% is the highest Rotten Tomatoes aggregate review of any of the movies I watched today. HOLY CRAP, MOVIES SUCK NOW!!!

BONUS OBSERVATION: In recent years, I've been very saddened by the lack of memorable music scores in action films. Outside of Star Wars, few have had any memorable cues of which to speak. Not one Marvel film score outside of the first couple of X-Men has even registered. Fury Road again got my hopes up for iconic music making a return to film. With these four films, Tarzan and Suicide Squad feature pretty forgettable orchestrations. However, I have to go against the grain and say that I love Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL(of Mad Max)'s Superman theme. It has received a lot of flack for paling in the face of John Williams' legendary Superman music from the 70's (and I love that music!), but I like that they tried to do something different. Their ambient, minimalist, yet powerful theme stirs my emotions, even though nothing that's actually on the screen is making an impact. Also, John Powell's Bourne music is as resonant as ever, even ten years since the last one. It still gets my blood pumping. Or maybe that's the eight pounds of popcorn I just ate. Good day.

Monday, January 09, 2017

My First Review of the Year Is for a 24-Year Old PC Game

The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Serrated Scalpel changed the way I perceive life and interact with my environment. It isn't the greatest game of all time or anything, but it is a good game, and the first of its kind I experienced, during those strange couple of years in life before puberty.
Also, I think it's a pretty funny piece of criticism.

Here's a link to the review.

Happy second week of the New Year!

Thursday, January 05, 2017

The State of Blogging 2017: What Happened to Blogging?

As The Nicsperiment enters its FOURTEENTH year of blogging COUGH*with a two-year inactive streak during '06-'08*COUGH, I'm left to wonder: what happened to everybody else? Is textually blogging dying as a format? Just among my peer group? Is everyone fleeing to a different blogging arena?
My sister-in-law has a blog-tracker on the bottom of her now apparently defunct blog. It shows the name of the roughly 25 or so blogs she follows, the most recent post for each respective blog, and how long it has been since each of those posts have been published. Outside of The Nicsperiment, only one of those 25 or so blogs has been updated in the past month. Outside of The Nicsperiment, only five of those 25 or so blogs have been updated in the past year. Half of them haven't been updated in the last half-decade.
What is going on?
Why aren't these people blogging anymore? What kind of outlet do they now have for the things they were blogging about? Were they just blogging because their friends were doing it? Was there a collective, "Well, if you're not doing this anymore than neither am I?"
I took my decade-ago two-year leave of absence because I thought being in a committed relationship meant that I couldn't do anything I liked anymore, including playing video games or watching any movies my wife wasn't into. Even my wife thinks that was a really stupid thing for me to do. In late 2008, I slowly incorporated blogging back into my life, and found it invaluable to my sanity. Any time I've had a break from blogging since, I've found that I have also been struggling mentally.
Blogging is my outlet, a designed introvert's outlet if ever there was one. Even if I'm mainly reviewing music and video games and not discussing my personal life all that much, I am still exercising my emotions. Has everyone else just found a better way of doing that? Maybe they just film themselves talking on youtube now, but if that's the case, sorry guys, but I am not going to watch videos of you talking on youtube.
I have noticed that my readership has stayed steady as long as I blog consistently. If I don't, the page view counts eventually go down. I don't know how many of these views are Russian spybots, but for Russian spybots to be that invested in my blog, it has to have at least some Internet real-estate value.
Anyway, with all that said, I've reached a point where I realize if I set yearly goals for The Nicsperiment in terms of content, I generally don't reach them, which leads to discouragement. My only plan is to keep working steadily through my "Every Album I Own" series, review each video game I complete on my side-blogs, and post other mostly media-related content when I am moved to. Hopefully, I will get some travelogues in there, as I feel that is where I have done my best work. I'd love to somehow compile all of those into one physical volume one day, even if it is only for my own enjoyment. Actually, that may be the secret to continuous blogging. If you are blogging for your own benefit, simply to speak without caring about being heard, you will surely blog consistently. If you only care about reader response, you may struggle to blog when that readership isn't what you want it to be. Or something.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: While I was proofreading this post, my wife, who had no idea I was writing this, texted me to notify that she is ending her six-year absence of blogging, by beginning an all new blog. When I told her the irony of what I was currently doing and asked her opinion on the issue, she simply said, "They just do all that stuff on Facebook now." Awesome.)
Happy 2017. Here is a picture of all of my son's Nintendo Amiibos. When he realized that anyone anywhere in the world with unblocked Internet access can view The Nicsperiment, he asked me to post this picture with the caption, "Boy with the most Amiibos in the world." I told him that mostly grownups read The Nicsperiment, and that they may not know what an Amiibo is, but in the spirit of a true blogger, he insisted.
Boy with the most Amiibos in the world.