Saturday, June 27, 2009

SHOUT 2009: Return of the Light

So last night was SHOUT 2009: Return of the Light.

Shout is a worship concert our Church organized, well I really should say our Church Youth (4him) and the Worship team organized. In simple terms the concert was well… AMAZING.

So we had three “bands” performing. Two of which were our Church Worship team, and one was a special team from Thailand called the Leviticans. The Leviticans is a worship team that my friend Caleb plays Bass for, he managed to get his band to come and play for us, which rocked.

So… basically, there were a TON of people. I thought there would be more but I think that we had just about the right number of people. A lot of (boring, or too old to be jumping, or they couldn’t take the noise) people did sit in the back but the (standing/jumping/dancing) crowd in the front did a very good job of jumping about and having lots of fun.

The first band didn’t sound that good and they probably had a good number of reasons why. First off, the power went off and we went to generator, which probably messed up the speakers a good bit. Second off I heard that the monitors went off and that probably messed everyone up. Still, the bass and the drums sounded great for most of the performance.

The second band was the Leviticans, and they were AMAZING. Everyone else had vocal issues (because the mics weren’t loud enough) but Chris (their vocalist) has a very loud voice and he managed to sound pretty good throughout his performance. The band was also very good. I heard them play one song on Friday and I wasn’t too impressed with their drummer (who didn’t seem to build up properly) but he was amazing during the concert. Their lead guitarist did an amazing job IMO and had a pretty cool solo (as always, I love guitar soloing, shame he only had one). The crowd was really wild during their entire performance. We had a train going through, some people (like me :D) were headbanging and EVERYONE was jumping up and do during the choruses, if not the entire performance. I think the best song was their ending song (because the “encore”) “Solution” which was AMAZING.

Last performance was also not that bad. Max did vocals and he has a nice voice. His only problem is he needs to learn to control it more and not sing off his throat. He’s getting better, but by the last song (Paint this Town Red???? Chorus was “we’re gonna paint this town red with the Blood of Jesus) his voice sounded pretty… well screechy and bad. The crowd didn’t have that much energy by that last performance because well… we were all really tired! Still, we had a train and during the last song, “One Way” any energy the crowd had left was used up.

I had an amazing time there. I think the entire thing was a testament to how good God is. It took us three years to organize the event and a lot of things went wrong, both during and before the concert, still, the entire thing went off well. All the bands played as good as they could and besides the first band, which sounded pretty band, everyone did great.

All I can really say is I can’t wait for SHOUT 2010! And that hopefully it will happen before I leave! :D

Also personally, I think with this concert each year should be bigger. First time it was kinda just thrown together by a few key people. We had like 4 bands and it lasted FOREVER. To me I remember it feeling more like a somewhat louder worship session than a proper concert.

However, it took us three years to organize a second one. I think our major problem this time was money, because we had to pay for our speakers and our budge was actually really small. However, we did get everything together and managed to get all the money we needed, which was awesome.

I think our next goal for SHOUT should be to rent a Hall or proper place where the concert can take place so that we can have better acoustics, because, no matter how you work it, our church has just plain bad acoustics. Eventually I do think it would be great if a big band from the US like Switchfoot, Kutless or Leeland (actually it would be EPIC if Leeland could come and give us a proper full on concert!) could come and give us a performance. Matt mentioned it would be weird our church band performing with them but I think, if our Church band could open for them that would work perfectly. That and actually I think our church has some very talented performers. They might not be as technically proficient or as good song-writers, but they have the anointing of God to worship and that’s all they need!

And… I’m rambling. Chemistry beckons… I’ll write more later.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

GBA games

Recently I’ve been replaying some GBA games that I never won on a GBA emulator I got from Jacob. The two games in question are Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, both of which are very highly recommended Japanese RPGs.

Final Fantasy is fun, though its gotten somewhat boring now. The battles are all very similar and after a time training your characters gets a bit boring. Still, I’ve played the game so many times… and its quite fun so I did enjoy it for the week or so I played it.

Now I’m playing Fire Emblem, which just so happens to be one of my favorite Japanese RPGs of all time. I’ve played three games in the series and all of them are amazing. These games all work as turn-based RPGs where you lead a small band of warriors through various maps fighting lots of other games. The amazing thing about these games is a very simple, very logical game feature: if a unit dies he is DEAD. As in, no resueraction, no KOs; dead is dead. If that sounds harsh, then you’re right: it is a harsh rule that makes you actually care for your units.

On top of this you’ll often find yourself with rather weak units, but units that you NEED to use to make them strong so you can have strong units later on. This means you’ll have to put them on the front line, but in such a way that they don’t die.

Add to the fact that you have weapon triangles, magic triangles, special weapons that destroy other weapons, and most of the games don’t allow you to save in the middle of battles (well… they do, but once you access the save it deletes itself), it all makes for a very challenging tactical experience.

Anyways… so I’m gonna probably play a level now… see if I can finish it this time without losing my thief.

NOTAE BENE: I say Japanese RPG several times. What I mean by this is that I find most Japanese RPGs are rather different from their western counterparts, such as that they should be in a different subgenre of RPGs. If you want more information on RPGs you should wiki it or something.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I wish I was good at titles...

Before you read any further, read the following article:

Now that you’ve read that, I’m going to comment.

What’s my initial reaction? They’re still missing the point. Quote from the article:

“[Nicholas Sarkozy] expressed his strong distaste for the head-to-toe Islamic veil, calling it not a sign of religion but a sign of subservience.”

Sadly, this “head-to-toe Islamic veil”, goes hand-in-hand with much of Islamic doctrine and teaching. Yes, it is a sign of subservience. Yes, it is in fact a sign of subservience that the Koran and many Muslims want. I don’t see the Burka as anything other than one of the many methods Satan has invented to oppress the crowning jewel of God’s creation.

That being said, the fact of the matter is that the Burka goes hand-in-hand with much of Islam, and you cannot force someone to without the Burka without infringing on their freedom of religion. It’s like asking some of my friends to wear a Bikini while swimming or that Amish can’t wear their Colonial Era clothing, doing so would go against their beliefs and I don’t think anyone would dare to force them to do so.

This article, to me, shows how people have failed to realize that religions are not just beliefs and religious acts; they are living, breathing things that infect people at every level. When someone adheres to a brand of Islam (I say brand because there are various sects and groups, like there are in Christianity) they agree with beliefs of that sect, and should act upon those beliefs. The belief that one should pray five times a day means that if you truly believe that you WILL pray five times a day. The belief that women should wear a Burka means that you will do your best to make your female relatives and the women around you wear Burkas. Both of these things stem from Islam and to forbid either is a breach of Freedom of Religion.

Despite all this: that much of Islam and many other religions have creeds and laws that go directly against what God teaches in the Bible, as far as I can tell, Freedom of Religion remains a powerful and important right. The United States’ Constitution has Freedom of Religion in it and I belief that this right remains one of mankind’s most important rights. However, I struggle with the fact that I see much injustice in the religions around me. What some people have done in the name of their religion (and atheism counts as a religion, by the way) disturbs me in ways beyond belief. So the question I pose, constantly is this: Where do we draw the line? When do we say, “live and let live?” and “No! You can’t do that!”? How to we respect one’s religion when we know that doing so means accepting, to quote Monty Python, the violence (or injustice) inherent in the system?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Summer Update

So its summer... I've been on holiday for a couple weeks now. I have some school in the morning but its only a little bit of work. I took the SAT and I'll get my grades for that and the rest of my grades for all my classes should have come in by now. I'm generally pretty pleased. An A in English and Math (my two best subjects... don't ask how, but I do good in Algebra. I'm also very good in English. :))

Major updates in the past few days:

I played most of HL2. I might finish it again, I might not. It's an awesome game with a lot of fun parts. I loved, loved, loved escaping from City 17 in my little airspeeder boat thing. VERY fun. Valve really did an amazing job with this game.

I played enough of Half Life (the original) to understand why it was such a good game. Its not your typical FPS in the sense that you shoot everything that moves with really cool guns (read: Halo, Gears of War, Call of Duty) but it instead focuses on figuring out puzzles. You do fight monsters and bad-guys but they are not at all the focus of the game. This of course makes it rather different from Half Life 2. Still it seems to be an amazing game in its own right.

Also, IceFrog released the latest version of DotA (6.60) a few days back. I played with it for a few hours on Friday and wow... its a big upgrade. First off, a bunch of changes to heroes in some minor things like stat changes which I never pay attention to (I'm not good enough or concerned enough to notice an extra 1 str to my favorite hero or whatever). Then there were the bug fixes and the new heroes. There are now two new heroes: Tauren Chieftain and Troll Batrider. Both look cool, Tauren, as a Str. Hero sounds fun.

Most important though were three things: they rebuilt razor, and changed the organization of both the Heroes and the items. Razor is now very different with some weird spells that seem pretty cool. I personally loved razor as his old self: boring, simple and very deadly. Still, he seems to be slightly better and perhaps less boring and more balanced. That's always a good thing.

The tavern and item redesign? At first, everyone hated it, but I instantly saw the reasoning to the new organization and realized exactly why IceFrog did it. After reading the changelog my reasoning was confirmed. He reorganized everything to make it newb-friendly. Now the defensive items are together. The orbs are together. The early game items are together. It makes sense instead of having a bunch of random items in the new item shop and then everythign else sorta placed willie nillie. Also he added the talisman of evasion. I need to check if this thing stacks (I assume it won't) but 25% evasion sounds... amazing. Really, really amazing. Expensive, yes, but still amazing.

hmm... Oh, I got an new album: Twilight of the Thunder God by Amon Amarth. The band is a swedish Melodic Death Metal (read: Death Metal but with more melody and generally less crazy/heavy stuff). Its the first time I've listened to an album with nothing but "extreme" vocals (in this case the semi-understanable growls of whoever their vocalist is) without pause. This of course means I LOVE the album.

The band itself is a Swedish band (IIRC) that gets lyrical inspiration from Vikings and Norse mythology. So stuff like Thor, Ragnorok, etc are common themes in their music. Their name is a mountain in Mordor from LOTR. The music is all very good. Just enough melody to keep me interested and very good stuff in general.

Played a good bit of Far Cry 2. I'm now pretty good at it, though the repetative quests got pretty boring. I might finish it, but I'm not too interested in it anymore. I will say this is the first game where I've used a sniper rifle a lot though. That is no mean feat since I generally prefer shotguns and SMGs (close range action FTW). Still, this is a game that seems to reward stealth range and avoiding enemies (or engaging them from a distance) so the sniper seemed to fit.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Far Cry 2

So I started playing Far Cry 2 yesterday.

It’s a fun game, low on plot (which is good… few FPS games are able to give their players a really good story to follow) and high on action and stealth. So far only a few things bother me:

1. How hard it is to figure out WHO is shooting me and how many of them there are. I sneak into a village and get shot at, but can’t tell from where, and if there are two, three, or ten of these bad guys. ARGH!

2. Not enough stealthly stuff. This is obviously a game that rewards stealth and the like, yet I find it hard to tell if I’m about to be seen, or my enemy is going to ignore me. Crysis had a “stealth meter” of sorts, I’d like one of those in this game.

3. THE GUN! IT DOES NOTHING! Well, not really… but the fact that it took FOUR shots to the chest/head (all of which hit, btw) to down a guy a medium range is STUPID. This is on easy too (I died 5 times on medium… argh!).

These are all somewhat annoying, but I can live with them. I just need to remember to be very careful and shoot lots. Anyways… other than those things the game is rather fun. I’m trekking around a war-torn African nation killing soldiers and doing jobs for both sides in an attempt to find the location of “the Jackal” a notorious arms dealer who is arming both sides. Of course, I need to KILL the jackal, because I’m a good guy. ;)

The game seems to do a decent job of pretending to be realistic. The currency is rough diamonds… you need to use stealth… car get wrecked and brushfires start easily. Its open ended so you have lots of different options for completing missions. From sniping everyone to sneaking in and stealth-killing (read: use machete) the guards. Or a mixture of both. OR like me you could attempt to use stealth, fail, get angry run around crazy hiding and shooting and hiding and shooting and using a health pack to stay alive. This method seems to be working great though.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Metal and Summer

Hmm… I feel obligated to explain something.

The coolest thing, in my mind, about metal, is the amazing amount of variety you can find. From the technically masterful works of Dream Theater (even if the band looks like a bunch of hippies :D) to the amazing melodies of Nightwish to the piercing screams of Black Metal to the guttural roars of Death Metal.

On top of sounds, we have lyrical themes… from serious stuff like the meaning of life (or other such philosophy) to well… crap. By crap I mean anything from Alexander the Great to Fatal Tragedies like murder to well… pirates and LotR. :D

Now, I’ve talked to various people who say they like metal (and in the case of at least one, I know he IS a metal fan… the other, I’m not so sure) and they don’t always seem to like the fact that some bands (Alestorm, a pirate metal band, or DragonForce, a “cheese” metal band as I call ‘em) give metal a bad name. Now, while I realize these bands aren’t exactly serious or anything, I respect them as musicians. Neither DragonForce nor Alestorm are musical geniuses and I’ll be the first to admit this, but they can play their instruments (to a degree; I have conflicting reports on DragonForce from THEY SUCK AND ARE CHEATERS! To they’re okay, to they’ve gotten better, and they did use to suck).

My question to people who say these bands give metal a band name is why? Or how do they do so? Yes, they sing about “souls shining onward” and “Captain Morgan's Revenge” but to any arguments about that being geeky or cheesy I have a few words for you: Iron Maiden.

Iron Maiden song titles: “the number of the beast”, “two minutes to midnight”, “the loneliness of the long distance runner”, “Out of the Silent Planet,”, “The thin line between love and hate”… need I say more? If Iron Maiden, one of the most respected and well known Metal bands in existence (before I was a metal band I knew of about 2 metal bands: Iron Maiden and Metallica, so I’d say they’re pretty well known and pretty well respected) can sing about fantasy, science fiction and history, then Alestorm can sing all the drinking songs they want!

Now, I’m not saying that metal should not be serious. Serious lyrics are good. But, every so often you need some humor in your life. That’s why I listen to bands like Alestorm, Sabaton and DragonForce. They don’t take their lyrics completely serious but they’re good fun. There is a place for humor in all genres of music, I just wish I could hear more pop bands taking their lyrics a bit less seriously.

Now… a personal update. Its summer… and this summer I have a very simple, very important, goal: do not get bored.

How will I accomplish this goal? Video games, books, movies and friends. I bought the “half-life 2 collection” (thank you pirated games. :D) yesterday and I made my way through City 17, to the canals then to Black Mesa East and now I’ve just exited Ravenholm (darnit… that level is both creepy and awesome). I forgot how amazing HL2 is… in my mind it’s the greatest FPS game for single player value at least, that has been released in a while. Of course, I haven’t played Far Cry 2 yet (I will though) and I don’t really count Fallout 3 as a FPS… it’s a hybrid RPG FPS type game.