Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Also: I'm at a different point in my life, and this transition requires... yea... a new blog.
So yea... I'm gonna start a new blog, the link is: lordtoasty.blogspot.com I just posted my first post.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
First of all, Europe was a one trick pony, and honestly, that's rather disgraceful. Now, I admit its better being a good one-trick pony instead of a bad jack-of-all trades that SEA tried. But nonetheless, in the finals, they showed how bad their playstyle was against a solid, smart team. Sure, Twisted Fate is apparently a hugely powerful hero, but one ban should never shut your team down that badly.
Secondly, South East Asia (SEA) needs, needs, needs, to get better. They certainly redeemed themselves in the 3rd place match, beating China, but I was embarrassed by their play in the Round Robin and the Semi-Finals. They displayed the skills I would expect of a mid-ELO pub team. Something like the DotA teams they compete in Dhaka. My cafe in Dhaka has a darn good DotA team, arguably the best in Bangladesh, and that's awesome. But this WCG. SEA obviously did not have the skill to be playing at this level against the battle-hardened Western teams. That needs to change right away. SEA needs to get its act together and build some seriously skilled and talented teams.
Finally, I'm really proud of North America. Yes, I was rooting for SEA, but North America winning is almost as good. I think it says something that America was able to so quickly identify and shut-down SK Gaming (Europe). What I can't wait for now is ElementZ (of CLG, Team North America at WCG) to update his tier listing, which will no doubt be quite different, I think there will be some serious change ups.
All I can say is that its been a great experience, watching some of these League of Legend matches live. Its been embarrassing and awesome this weekend. I have confidence that South East Asia will get its act together over these next twelve months, and I hope they will bring with them a powerful and expert style of play. I'm happy that North America beat out the rest of the world in this tournament and I hope that CLG and the other high-tier American teams continue to put on a great show.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I just took a Quiz in American Grammar. First of all, the quiz was easy. Second of all, it stressed me like crazy. I think it doesn't help that I always think I'm average in a class, when I know that's not true in a lot of situations. But then people start talking about how “hard” the class is and I'm sitting kinda confused... yea... I didn't really study that much for this quiz. No, I didn't really read the chapters that the quiz was over (yes, I did read them, but not in depth. I saw one guy had highlighted stuff. I NEVER highlight).
I have a mid-term in this class on Monday, another Mid-term in another class this Friday. I'm freaked out about both, but I also know I'll do... fine. I remember when I took the SAT and the ACT, I was as stressed as hell, nervous, jittery, butterflies, EVERYTHING. Then I started the test, calmed down and did great. Yea, I don't like that, but it's apparently the way I do things.
In other news: I'm learning how to play tanks, proper, top tier tanks, in League of Legends. I like playing tanks. I think of my problems with a lot of heroes is that while a hero like say... Ashe or Trist is fun (everyone likes to play carries), they're rather hard to play really, really well. Ashe needs a massive farm to do anything. I mean, if you assume you get 20 gold from each creep wave, that's 120 gold a wave, you need to kill 20 waves straight before you can think about slowing your farm down. You need to farm either 200+ creeps in a thirty minute game, or get a LOT of hero kills.
On the other hand, if you play a hero like Shen, you don't need as much farm. Get a Omen, Merc treads and yea... you're good. Sure, supporty heroes in LoL are still more farm dependent than your standard DotA support but they aren't as farm dependent as carries. Additionally, farming is easier in LoL, so a tank can get good farm pretty easily.
So yea, I'm gonna save up for Shen, now that I have my Warwick runes all set, then I need to buy Amumu. Oh, and I also want to try Xin Zhao and Taric at some point. And Sona, most likely.
WCG Finals are this weekend. ^_^
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Anyways, this is my 4th week of “college life” at St. Edwards University. I moved into my dorm, attended Orientation, signed up for classes, and after several fun days of getting to know some people, began school.
As of yet, nothing has been too hard. Its been easier than I imagined, and I keep waiting for the hammer to drop and for me to start begging for mercy or something. Yesterday I actually got to the point where I didn't... have anything to do but play video games by 4PM, which has never been the case. I got one homework assignment... and yea... it wasn't very much work.
So I'm taking 5 classes: The Printed Page and the Silver Screen, which is a literature/Film class that is... passable. It gets away with having irksome subject matter by having a lot of discussion (its an honors class, they like discussion in such classes) and fun people to discuss with. My American Grammar class is interesting, we're doing lot of diagramming and stuff, which I'm finding fun (!) for the first time. Ms. Gaines, you failed, sadly, to teach me diagramming very well. Then I have College Algebra, for which I will take my first major test at 1PM, hopefully that goes well. Its math, I don't like math, whatever. Then I have my “Freshman Studies” classes which are Rhet and Comp 1 (English 101, boring) and Current Events and Political Controversies. Political Controversies basically is 200 people (yea, biggest class I'll ever have) get together in a room and our prof makes us discuss (in small groups and standing up and saying some stuff relevant to the topic at hand) various Controversial topics. I just did an assignment on the current military policy regard Homosexuals.
And that, that brings me to the main reason why I'm blogging right now. See, now, how to do say this...
the discussion question we had in class was: “Is Freedom to marry whom you wish an individual right, or does society have a legitimate interest in regulating marriage?”
So, basically, can I marry whoever I want, or do I have to follow the standards of my society? Immediately, I realized that of course society has a interest in regulating EVERYTHING, and that, furthermore, if a society is trying to make their society better (in their opinions) then I'd call that a legitimate interest. However, this brings me to a problem: what do I do about societies that have different values than me? To the point that these societies may openly practice or allow behavior I consider immoral and unbiblical? For instance, currently, in my States, in most “societies” in the United States, Gay Marriage is illegal. This is changing, in some places, and it may get to the point where Gay Marriage is legal all over America. As someone who believes Homosexuality is immoral, this makes me sad. I don't want homosexuals in my society, as people who can actually make laws and challenge the ideals and principles of my society because I believe that they, as homosexuals will have an unbiblical worldview and that unbiblical worldview will be reflected in their preferred laws and principles. Its the same reason I count a person's lifestyle, including religious beliefs, against them if they differ from my own in regards to political decision-making.
However, the thing is, while I'm against Homosexuality I don't exactly see the problem with Gay Marriage. Okay, I'll be honest and say if I had to vote for or against Gay Marriage I would probably vote against it just because... yea... homosexuality isn't my thing.
But this opens another can of worms. In the times of Jesus, Tax Collectors were corrupt thieves, yet Jesus loved them and counted some of them among his closest friends (Matthew). He didn't condemn the lot of them as men stealing from their brothers and cousins, as most of them did, he loved them. Jesus didn't stone the adulteress, he forgave her sins and told her to stop sinning. Jesus has a legitimate interest in punishing the sins of people, but he outright condemned a very select number of people, basically the Pharisees (he didn't like what some guys did to the Temple Outer Courts, and called them thieves/robbers, so I guess that counts too). However, the Jesus I get the picture of is a man who loved first, and then dealt out judgment later, much later, in fact.
At the same time, Society has a legitimate interest in protecting itself from views that directly conflict with its own. As a person committed to building a Biblical Society, I am have a legitimate interest in preventing the spread of homosexuality and don't think homosexual marriage should be legitimate. However, my problem is, again and again, how do we let people, sinful people, be sinners, make their own choices (as God himself did in the Garden of Eden) without endangering ourselves. When do we cross the line and say “This is wrong! This will damage our society!” When do we stop the people of Bangladesh from mistreating their women? When do we stop the druggies from destroying their bodies? How do we stop them? How a society thinks reflects how a society acts, and a society that allows gay marriage, apparently, has no problem with homosexuality. That's my problem. I'm opposed to homosexuality, but I can't... I can't bring myself to the point where I can honestly say with 100% certainty that we shouldn't give homosexuals the same legal rights (Which is really what this is about. Its not about forcing churches to marry people its about Homosexual couples getting the same healthcare benefits, etc, that heterosexual, married, couples get). I don't want these people to be making the laws of the nation, but in country like the United States, I have the choice to vote for who I want and hope they will do what they promised me (I can vote them out of office if they don't...).
I think things like drugs and homosexuality are harder to deal with than Abortion. Abortion is murder and it physically harms a person who has no say in their death. Homosexuality, directly, effects no one. What is dangerous about homosexuality is that when a society, as a general whole, accepts such behavior they become a sinful society. Sodom and Gomorrah didn't exactly have a happy ending, neither did any society that allow open homosexuality (I don't have the evidence to back it up, but I've been told, and I believe it, that every society that has openly allowed homosexual behavior has eventually crashed and burned horribly). As an American citizen, I'm obviously concerned that my nation might follow Sodom and Gamorrah and other such nations. I'm already convinced America will not be the nation it is today when my kids are my age, but that doesn't mean I can try to prevent that.
Such a declaration also brings up the interesting question that, as a TCK, should I really invest all my energy in America? But that's a question for another time...
So, in conclusion, I'm torn here. I want to be the man that Jesus was, the man that showed love towards everyone, even the worst of sinners (the women at the well? Talk about scandalous!). But I also want to be the man that Jesus was and be firm in my principles and not... not let Satan destroy the world. And so yea... how do I do that? Where do you draw the line between love and judgment? Between condemning sinners to the punishment that they deserve and loving them? Old Testament law called for the death of homosexuals and the death of adulterous persons, but Jesus forgave such people (well, adulterers, there is no mention of homosexuals in the Gospels, to my knowledge). Its... its a really, really interesting question.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
First of all… I wasn’t sure why I came to this place, and I still don’t have everything yet, but its been very successful for now. I think one thing to say is that, obviously, I’m in Transition and I have a feeling that not only this week here in Colorado, but also the next few weeks leading up to my first day of classes in Austin will be very important. Right now what I’d say is that last time I had something this significant happen to me was two years ago in Scotland while my parents did the LDC. That was an amazing time and that was an amazing event, so I’m excited to again be part of such an event.
Thinking about Scotland, I am actually reminded of that experience in a lot of ways, some of the dynamics were different, and I was there for different reasons, but I have to say that I am very happy that I’m here.
So, first of all, this Transition Seminar is for people like me, TCKs, who are now in the process of Transitioning from living in a culture that is not their passport culture into their passport culture. So, we set up the basics of “Who We are.” Fun stuff like how many languages we speak, how many countries we’ve gone too, how many times we’ve moved houses. This morning and this afternoon we discussed so more important stuff, starting with the basic of “What is a TCK?”
Now, I sorta had a definition of a TCK, but I think what happened for me this time was that my definition was expanded. TCKs are not only people who lived outside of their passport country’s culture, but are in fact, a separate culture themselves. TCKs are people who accept and identify with all cultures, but feel at home, truly at home and truly comfortable, in no culture, except of course the culture of other TCKs.
I think that’s probably one of the more awesome things that hit me today. Not only am I a TCK, but I am part of a nation of people like me. Now, not to say that I didn’t enjoy Bangladesh, or that I don’t expect my time in America to be, overall, a good thing, but it hit me that I now know where I can have an identity, where my culture resides. Sure, there may not be a specific country or city or town, but there is a group of people who are, no matter what their passport says, part of my culture.
Now, when I realized that, I gotta say something really did click in my brain. I think a lot of you know that I have and probably always will, struggle with rejection. Now, again, I don’t think I was ever, exactly, or particularly, rejected when I lived in Bangladesh, I don’t expect to be rejected in College exactly or particularly (it could happen, I don’t think it will), but I think when I realized what a TCK was, and how we are our own people group, our own culture, I realized that I have been accepted, and that I will be accepted within my own people group.
And this is the interesting thing, by passport I am American, and, I want that association, for better or for worse. I like the fact that I am, after a fashion, American, and that is a heritage that I want to take with me, but, I feel more comfortable saying I’m a TCK and seeking a peer group of TCKs rather than Americans. I would say the same of my heritage from India and Bangladesh, I like those countries and I want what I have from them, but I’m not Bangladeshi, I’m not Indian.
So… I’m a TCK, and I’m really, really excited about the thought of being a TCK and continuing to use that to my advantage.
Another thought that hit me today, both as I was talking with someone else here and also as I was listening to the teaching/session/hearing the voice of God, was several thoughts that went back to Scotland and some of the things people told me in Scotland.
I am, and I will be, a nation-builder. I think now, for the first time in a while I’m getting a picture of what that means. Also, I remember when Jan told me that I was called to be, after a fashion, a missionary to my own nation. However, I want to link that statement (links within links, ha) to a thought my dad once taught/shared. God, for whatever reason, has this fascination with the Nations going to the Nations. My parents were called from America to South Asia to serve God. They would have had an easier time working America, perhaps, but there is a spiritual dynamic and something magical about Nations leaving their Nation and going to other Nations. Now, think about this, as a TCK, I am not part of the Nation of America from a cultural perspective. So, to link this back to Jan’s words, I will be a missionary to my own country, but I still get that magical, that spiritual dynamic that happens when the Nations go to the Nations. Awesome.
Secondly, I realized something about nation building. One of the problems inherent with Nations going to the Nations is that each nation has their own way of doing things. Now, that doesn’t mean one is perhaps right or better. That is, of course, sometimes the case, but it’s not always. This was just a random thought that popped into my head, but, “Will I be a better nation builder because I am a TCK, a person of many nations?” And another one is, “how does, and who will, my own culture effect the way I build nations?”
So yea, that’s what I’ve been thinking about over these past two sessions. I’ll probably write more stuff later tonight or tomorrow. Expect a lot, because a lot is happening.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Now, Starcraft II has been in development for a LONG time. The original was released in 1998 and is recognized as one of the premier strategy games of our time, arguably the greatest, and for sure the longest lasting. With people still playing Starcraft VERY seriously it’s no wonder that a lot of people watched everything that Blizzard did with a lot of criticism.
Blizzard removed LAN, they divided the Single-player into 3 separate games, they require online-activation, the want you online the entire time you’re playing the game, the entire RealID fiasco, etc. Blizzard has had a lot of PR systems that have messed them up, but I think most people are being far too severe.
Starcraft II is amazing. Blizzard is still one of the best Video Game Studios in existence, and they’re still making amazing games. Yes, the game costs $60. Yes, it has online activation, yes you aren’t getting a Zerg or Protoss campaign (YET!) and yes, RealID was arguably the stupidest thing any video game company has ever envisioned, but beyond all of that, beyond all the PR mistakes and Nerd Rage Blizzard has encountered, I think that Blizzard has created a great video game that, assuming Multiplayer Balance, will have the staying power of Starcraft, Warcraft III and World of Warcraft. This is Blizzard people, and I think it’s a bit of a shame they’ve received all the criticism they have. Some of it is valid (RealID, and perhaps even no LAN) but some of it (3 games, Online Activation), I don’t think that’s an issue. Blizzard knows their market and their market is gonna be with how they dealt with everything.
And now, I’m gonna play Starcraft II.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
After Warwick, my next Phsyical Carry and my primary mid Solo is Ashe. Ashe is, honestly, the best easiest hero in the game. She is just so freaking good. Put in the mid, farm up your basic build (Regrowth into Philospher's, Swiftness, Vamp. Scepter), then work on Infinity Edge and Phantom Dancer. The super build is stack Bloodthirsters.
My secondary heroes are support: Kayle and Soraka. Soraka is almost always banned so once I start playing ranked (they raised the level requirements to 30... I'm not. Ugh) again I probably won't see much of her. Having said that, I really like Soraka and she is an epic support hero. Finally there is Kayle who I play hybrid DPS/Support Caster, Nashor's Tooth and Guinsoo's Rageblade.
I don't have a real team yet, but I know a few cool guys who have a pretty good idea of the metagame and how to build teams. We're not brilliant, but we're not horrible either. The main thing is they are nice and don't insult you, which is something that I value highly. There are so many idiots on the internet. -_-
On the music side, I've listened to Children 18:3's 2nd album and I've decided that it is really pretty good. At first I thought it was a bit too Mainstream in its sound, but now that I've listened to it quite a bit I think its a pretty solid Punk Rock album. Yes, it is more mainstream than their previous album, but its also a better album. The vocals are amazing, with strong punk sounds. Several of the songs scream, "MOSH TO THIS" and have all sorts of energy. As the previous album, they have witty and entertaining lyrics: its a great album.
And well, that's about all for now. Starcraft II comes out soon, so I'll probably start playing that and take a break from League of Legends. I can't wait for that, it'll be awesome. :D
Monday, July 5, 2010
One thing I have noticed, however is that DPS heroes are really, really strong in TT. Heroes like Mundo and Warwick, which are not near as good in 5v5, its interesting how that is. This is probably because Mundo has a lack of AoE, just lane control with his 1st spell, really.
Oh, and also I’ve been playing a decent bit of Left 4 Dead 2, which is really fun. I find that the campaign mode isn’t as fun as versus, but it’s still pretty good. The best thing is to get a semi-decent group together and play versus, but I enjoy playing randoms some. Mostly though, I just wait to see if friends get on and then run in and try to join a game.
Back to LoL… Season 1 should start anytime soon. Either this Wednesday or next Monday, hopefully the later as I’m gonna travel starting Thursday, and the more time I have sitting still in a house and not traveling in a car the more time I have to play LoL and see how I stack up to other players. I’m really excited about this, even if I’ll probably end up soloqueing most of Season 1 cuz I don’t have a team. I might get some team-queing with my GitP friends, but I find that unlikely.
The thing is… I don’t really know what my ELO, relative to the other LoL players is. I mean, obviously, I’m not an idiot. I know the basics of LoL, I play a few heroes like Warwick really well, I can also do decent as a Ashe (who I admit, is one of the easiest heroes in the game), Heimdeiger (or however you spell it), and Sivir. I haven’t tried some of the more tanky heroes like Alistair and Chogath, which is funny sicne I used to playa OT of tankers in DotA, but I seem to prefer damagers in LoL. I think the thing is, in DotA, I ended up playing to support the team, since we already had really strong mid solos, or damagers, so I played Support. Also, DotA’s support is more prominent, there are not support heroes in the same vein as heroes like Shadow Shaman or Crystal Maiden. First of all, there are not near as many stunners, sure you have lots of disables, but mostly slows, a few stuns, and some blinds, but mostly yes… its slows. Also, the light health heroes, the mages, tend to be damage heavy heroes: Ryze, Annie (who, come to think of it, is a kinda support hero in the vein of warlock in DotA), Karthus, Heim, these are damage heavy mages: Blasters. DotA… you don’t see those kind of heroes because nukers tend to level out in DotA. People play Lion not because of his damage (its nice, but not the main thing) but because he has 2 disables.
Anyways… so I went though the LoL list of “support” heroes, and yes, they are support heroes… but they are a very different kind of support hero. Several of them are tanks, and many others are some sort of strange hybrid damager/support or mage/support (like Zilean, who really should just be classified as LoL’s most annoying harasser/nuker/support/IHATEYOU hero).
So… I should probably stop rambling here. For a short life update I’m reading Shadowline by Glen Cook, and its pretty good, it’s one of his older books, but I really like it. Cook is a great author.
Friday, June 25, 2010
First of all, Advance Wars, it’s a really great game and I love it. The campaign mode is interesting and the skirmish mode is really fun, but I think my favorite thing is making crazy maps and playing them against AI. Its advance wars, so you capture towns and factories, build armies, and fight each other on Land, on the Sea, and in the Air. Great stuff. Of course the campaign plot is lame and has far too much heavy-handed morality about the good of humanity or whatever, but the battles are fun.
Disgaea is interesting. The plot, again, is crap. I mean its complete and total crap and I really wish that the Japanese were capable of actually making a RPG with a good plot. Golden Sun came close… and I hear the Final Fantasy has a few good ones, but I’ve yet to see one. However, the gameplay is solid. Basically, it’s a turn-based RPG, lead your squad against the enemy in good old Grid-based, turn based, RPG fashion. What makes it different, really, is the use of geo-thingies, I forget the name, which can alter battle by affecting certain squares and can be destroyed for extra damage. Another cool feature is the combo feature, where if your units are aligned correctly they’ll all get to attack for extra damage.
Anyways, that’s what I’ve been doing as far as Video games go these days. Today I finally got around to seeing Iron Man 2 in Theaters, and I loved it, I’d talk about it more, but I think most people have seen the movie by now. My next movies I really want to see are The Last Airbender (*cough*Avatar*cough*), Predators and maybe Salt, my sister really wants to see Salt, because it looks cool, but I’m not so sold.
And tonight we are going to Applebees, yah! :D
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
The Total War series greatest failure has always, always, always been its AI. Frankly the AI in Medieval Total War II and Rome Total War never really impressed me. Shogun Total War struck me as hard, but I was a little kid so I can’t really comment. Empire Total War has the same problem that previous total war games have: Bad AI.
Oh sure, the AI can be annoying. In fact the Mughals really did a good job harassing me on account of my weak navy. But once I got a strong navy they kinda… stopped doing that. The Mughals, in their existence, only attacked me once. In twenty years, something like 40+ turns, while I conquered province after province I a slow and steady advance, they only attacked once. I crushed their attack quickly. The real time battles are equally frustrating. It often seems no matter how badly I play I still win. Honestly I don’t mess around with the real time battles too much, but basically if I have about the same soldiers at the enemy, I win. Sure, I do think I beat the Mughals on account of my superior forces in terms of quality, and a well placed charge or flanking attack, but then I played some skirmishes with some various forces and every time I won easily. It wasn’t even difficult… the enemy advanced and I killed them with musket fire and flanking attacks. I don’t think I even played very good, I just kinda messed around.
Having said all this the game has an awesome campaign map. I think they should probably really focus on hammering out the AI, making it equal to games like Civ 4 (the AI is HARD to beat in the game). I don’t even need good real-time battle AI (it’s fun, but time consuming, especially since it’s so easy now to get huge armies). I just want to know what the Mughals did with all their money… I cannot imagine that in the early game I had more money than them, especially with their blockades. Yet they didn’t seem to build many soldiers and my 3 armies slowly conquered their entire empire without a single defeat. Seriously, I think I lost like… 3 battles, all naval, and only 1 against the Mughals (the others were pirates). It was really… really weird.
In other news, I have new speakers, M-3 Audio. Awesome things.
Monday, June 21, 2010
So first of all, the basics on Empire Total War. Empire Total War is the 5th game in the Total War Series and is by far the most complicated, though I personally think the combat of Medieval Total War II is better.
Empire Total starts in the year 1700 and goes on till about 1800ish, it’s the time of Napoleon and European Colonization, Gunpowder, Cannon and Steel. You get the picture. The game starts out with gunpowder pretty much entrenched as the primary weapon of infantry in Europe, but with Eastern Powers still relying on swords and pikes somewhat. Calvary are pretty much light cavalry for scouting, screening, and harassing, and Cannon, while still somewhat immobile and inaccurate, are very much have their place.
So the game starts out allowing you to pick several European Nations and then a few odder ones. Obviously nations like Spain, France, and England are pickable, but they also have some others that are less known such as the United Provinces (Netherlands), Russia, and Sweden. Non-European nations include the Ottoman Empire and the Marathas of India.
Medieval Total War II, the previous Total War game, while an improvement over Rome Total War in terms of adding more Religion features, a 3d map, and a very good family tree method however, does not boast of many of the feature of Empire Total War. First of all, Empire Total War is at truly a global game. Players can battle in Europe, India, North America, and even the coast of Africa and the East Indies. Furthermore, provinces no longer have every single factory and farm all in the capital, but spread out over the province. This allows for several things, including raiding actually being somewhat useful. Realistically, several small bands of fast moving units (cavalry?) can run over the map, hit a town, factory or plantation, do damage to it, making unusable for a turn or two, and depriving your opponent of valuable resources. Also, for the first time in the history of the Total War series, Naval Battles are actually playable! I have not fought many of these such battles, and have been told they are somewhat clunky and unrealistic, but they do actually have them, so that is saying something.
The biggest difference I think, from previous Total War games, is the government and how you run your empire. Previous games pretty much worked like an absolute monarchy, sometimes with the King given missions or advice or commands from powerful figures within the government (the Pope, the Senate, the Nobility, etc) but essentially the King/Emperor/the Player had absolute power. His family controlled the government and having a large number of various relatives of semi-competent city-management and army-commanding abilities generally was a good thing.
Empire Total War does provide for an absolute Monarchy for many of its nations, however, it also allows for more modern governments such as a constitutional monarchy or even (I think) a democracy or republic of sorts. Also, because many of these kinds of governments do not look kindly upon dynasty politicians, the family tree of the head of state really doesn’t matter. No one cares if you are royalty in a democracy! As a result, generals are no longer carefully raised and nurtured to have that natural killer instinct, but simply hired and promoted from the ranks or picked out from a list of promising candidates. All of this makes the game a rather different animal than previous Total War games, but I think in a good way.
Anyways, so my personal experience has been rather entertaining. Being the TCK I am I of course decided to play the Marathas of Southern India (who actually traditionally ruled the area of India I was born in) and proceed to conquer the horrible Mughals that oppress my Northern brothers! The Marathas are interesting in comparison to European Nations. Obviously Europeans have more use for Muskets and Cannon, and less for sword and spear, yet I am finding Maratha cavalry to be frighteningly powerful against lesser trained musket-men. A general frontal charge can leave them reeling, and a flanking attack will do wonders. My artillery is rather underpowered, as I’m still using 15th and 16th century era cannon, but that is primarily because I don’t really need them! Yet, that is.
My only real problem is my navy. Basically, you star with no good naval base and I’ve pretty much spent my time conquering the land based Mughals, however, this means that every so often the Mughals surprise me with a naval raid or blockade of my ports that does wonders for destroying my economy in the short term. Its nothing more than a setback and a rather annoying inconvenience, but if they Mughals actually were on the offensive on the land, it would be truly frustrating.
Anyways, my current plans are to finish conquering the Mughals, which will probably take some time, and then turn my eyes to the Ottomans and Persians. I think it would be hilarious if I managed to sail a fleet into say… Spain or better yet North America, but I’d like to have a bit of a more realistic approach to this game.
On another note, the US is awesome. I’ve been greatly enjoying some relaxing time with my family. Jet-lag is passable, but because I have nothing to do I force myself to stay up late so I have a better chance of sleeping in. Hopefully by the end of this week I’ll be all over jetlag and I’ll have no problems with sleeping late.
Quickie Edit: I apologize for not posting so much, I have a few more things I can probably post about and I'll try and get several updates up this week, we'll see how things go.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
First of all, lemme explain my random post last night. See, I really do appreciate good music, and I can understand why American Idol is popular, especially at the early stages (where its funny) and at the later stages (where its awesome). I think the show is really silly, after a fashion, and I find it interesting that despite have so many seasons only a few of the winners are actually really, really famous. What’s most interesting is how the show really proves that a good voice is a dime-a-dozen. Every finalist has lots of talent in terms of vocals.
But, see, the thing is, I think I feel really strongly that vocals, while important, really won’t sell your music 100%. Sure, in pop vocals are the most important thing and you really need a good vocalist, but there are other things to consider as well. I watched a Adam Lambert performance today (linked to me by an American Idol fan) and while Mr. Lambert himself may be a bit of a weirdo, he really is one of the best vocalists I’ve ever heard and he wipes the floor of most people, even the good vocalists. But here’s the thing… the music he had to back up was weak at best. The drums were nice, but boring, the bass was just… there… I mean it was the very definition of how to not do bass: play a boring beat and don’t even appear on stage. The coolest bassists in the world did amazing things on their bassists just like guitarists do amazing things on their guitars. Even mediocre bassists can make this up by writing cool lyrics or an awesome stage presence. Drums… I understand why drums tend to be really boring and basic, because really, the drums are just there to keep the beat. If the band is good, and they have lots of other rhythm instruments (guitar, bass, even the piano/keyboard) then the drummer can mix it up, and I’ve seen bands do a good job of combining “keep the beat” with tasteful drumming. I think Nightwish is a good example of this, listen to Planet Hell or Ghost Love Score. The drums in those songs (at least the intros) are awesome. Listen to Eva or While Her Lips are Still Red (technically not a Nightwish song, but whatever) and the drums in those… they just work perfectly. Basic, but perfect.
I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. The reason Pop bothers me isn’t because its mostly garbage, I mean, it is, usually, but I’m okay with that. 90% of everything is crap. There is plenty of bad metal out there, I admit it. What bothers me about Pop is that so much of it just relies on the vocalist, but to such an extent that the other musicians don’t get any credit. Amon Amarth is amazing both because Johann Hegg has an awesome voice and because the other four guys in the band help him to create really good music. Dio is a great vocalist, but he needed a good band to support him. I don’t think Dio would have done what he did without the help of the other musicians who supported him.
Thailand is still a mess, but it looks like it could be getting better. Let’s hope that the two parties can actually sit down and honestly try to work out their differences.
Zia called a Strike on the 27th of June here. I’ll be gone, but I really hope that this doesn’t start the “Hartal Culture” up again. Hartals help no one and are just an excuse for the thugs of Dhaka to go around and smash things up. Oh, and for the police to smash the thugs… ya! -_-
And, its official, North Korea did blow up the South Korean ship that sank a while back. Great… you know, it’d be nice if South Korea would just go ahead and invade, but they can’t do that, there are too many risks. First of all, North Korea has nukes, and even if they only have one rather weak one, its still a freaking nuke. One bomb = one city. That’s a lot of dead civilians. In theory, I suppose a combined task force of UN commandos could disable the nukes before they were launched, but that would take UN backing and the UN won’t do that because China is part of the UN and China doesn’t want a war. That’s another problem, actually, because China… is a factor. I’d like to think that should South Korea go ahead and invade, China won’t actually respond with direct military action, because China isn’t really that stupid. But that doesn’t mean they could still do a lot… and the US really isn’t in a position to fight China right now, Afghanistan and Iraq are already a mess. Oh well, I guess we’re just gonna have to hope that things can settle down.
In other news: I completed Physics today. No more Highschool Science Ever. :D
American Idol can keep their epic vocalists as long as I get my epic guitarists. Youngblood, Adrian Smith, Emppu, Buckethead, and a whole slew of others that blow my mind. You are amazing and I want more! :D
Monday, May 17, 2010
Their first album was really interesting actually, because it was a pure Goth-Metal album and I do see some really good talent. It’s Gothic, and I hate Gothic, but at least one of my friends says it sounds amazing with a proper sound-system. Their second album, Mother Earth, is a really dramatic departure from their first and is basically a Folky sorta album. Folk themes and it kinda sounds folky, but not entirely, without a doubt Mother Earth is Within Temptation’s best album.
The rest of their music… is all meh. There are a few jewels here and there, The Truth Beneath the Rose, Angels, Somewhere and Utopia, and a few others I guess. But really, most of their music is just boring. There is no energy to their music, no life, no passion, just really good sounding music. It doesn’t even strike me as particularly technical in the way that say, Dream Theater or other Progressive Rock and Metal does.
What’s even stranger is my brother found this concert of Within Temptation on Youtube and downloaded it (the pirate that he is… he has all sorts of strange video software). I watched a little of it and I was appalled.
See, when most bands perform on a big stage, that’s awesome. This gives everyone more space and you generally have a bigger budget for special effects like pyrotechnics and smoke machines, etc; if you play at night, you can even throw in awesome lighting. But this thing was horrible. First of all, the bassist and two guitarists look like clones. Okay, we get this is a female-fronted band and that Sharon is your front-woman and the heart of your music, but really… this is a METAL band right? A METAL band, where the lead guitarist is almost just as important, if not more important, than the vocalist? This is a Symphonic Band, right? So why is your keyboardist off in some obscure corner of the stage when you have a freaking huge stage? This is a band, not Sharon’s solo project, so why are the other six members of the band mostly confined to the rear area of the stage while Sharon sings up front. Finally, as a bit of a minor complaint: please, for the Love of all things Metal, GROW YOUR HAIR. I know this might sound absolutely stupid, but it’s really quite hard to call yourself a metal band when none of your guitarists (bassist included) can headbang properly. Demon Hunter, Live at Nashville, despite having a very Hardcore-Punk look, felt more metal than these guys. Jon Dunn HEADBANGS, and no matter what Don Clark did, he looked freaking awesome. Oh, and no jumping on stage. Jumping is cool, but it’s not metal. Don’t jump, headbang. So yes, again Within Temptation gets a thumbs down from me. I’ll give them another chance when they drop all their lame Goth influence.
Oh, and Ronnie James Dio died, so, if you haven’t already, go buy all his music and listen to it. No crying, cuz metal men don’t cry, but you man scream at the top of your lungs like a true Viking/celt/biker/klingon warrior.
Darn, now I want to know what a Viking/Celt/Biker/Klingon warrior would look like. A hairy Klingon with Woad tattoos driving a chopper… that could be scary.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
There is this Metalcore band called Bullet For My Valentine (BFMV) from Wales that is kinda, sorta popular… I guess. Anyways I heard of them and I finally got around to watching some of their music videos and live performances.
First thing I noticed: Despite what anyone tells you, they have emo influences. They may not be true emo, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have emo influences. Bullet for My Valentine is a emo name, they have at least one emo sorta love-song and furthermore, the screaming in that song is very emo. I admit, bands like Killswitch Engage have similar emo songs, but the difference is, somehow, Killswitch Engage pulls this off without sounding emo. Don’t ask how, they just do, it probably has someone to do with the vocal styles they employ.
Second of all, BFMV have weak clean vocals. Their lead vocalist messed up his voice a while back, but even before that he wasn’t anything special. The guy is also their rythmn guitarist, and while there is nothing wrong with doing that, I really think it’s a shame that the band didn’t realize they had bad clean vocals (and it seems the majority of their songs employs LOTS of clean vocals) and found someone who can you know… sing?
Finally, interestingly enough, BFMV has someone managed to combined a sorta Emo sound with… Thrash. Without a doubt, they are channeling a thrash sound and appearance in all the videos I watched. Their solos really reminded me of my Master of Puppets CD.
Now, here are my problems with BFMV: First of all, I realize many bands do not have good vocals, this does not bother me. What does bother me is that these guys, basically, have bad clean vocals. Ryan Clark, Demon Hunter’s lead vocalist, while no master without a doubt, puts these guys to shame with his clean vocals. Yes, they have brilliant guitarists, but in the world of heavy metal, I’ve noticed that every band has a brilliant lead guitarist: a good lead guitarist isn’t all you need in a bad. I mean, looking at it, even Alestorm’s vocals, which are really quite bad, are better, not because they are “better” but because they channel the right vibe. This guy was just bad…
Second of all, I’m no fan of thrash. That’s a personal thing, I’ll admit, and I won’t argue if you like thrash then there is still no way you’ll enjoy this band because they are horrible or something, because that’s not true, it’s quite possible you’ll still like them.
Finally, Bullet For My Valentine has to be the worst name I have ever heard for any band that plays any form of metal that is not Gothic. I mean yes, Killswitch Engage sounds kinda emo, but the meaning behind it isn’t emo at all. They said when they formed the band, it was like someone had taken the big master control switch and turned it from on to off, Killswitch Engage. Makes a lot of sense, eh? As I Lay Dying, I admit, is somewhat emo, but at least I don’t feel any emo vibes coming from their music. Seriously, why call yourself Bullet for my Valentine, and then claim you’re hard rock while playing a combination of emo-influenced Hardcore and Thrash Metal (someone said Thrashcore… that kinda works, if you assume the “core” refers to Hardcore).
Oh, and they can talk all they want about being “hard rock” but I’m sorry, anyone who goes to a METAL Festival like Wacken and uses the amount of screaming in the particular fashion they do cannot, in my book, be considered Hard Rock. Maybe not Metal, but surely not Hard Rock. Actually, that itself kinda bothers me. Make up all sorts of stupid names for your style of music (Marco called Nightwish Gothic Symphonic Power Metal, Alestorm refers to itself as True Scottish Pirate Metal), but at least be somewhat accurate. Saying, “We’re hard rock,” and then screaming your face off right before performing a face-melter right out of Metallica’s book is lying, don’t do that.
So yes, if you didn’t notice, I thought they kinda… were not that good. I guess I’ll have to stick to Demon Hunter, As I Lay Dying and Killswitch Engage for my good Metalcore.
And right now I’m listening to Eluveitie, because there is something amazing about the combination of Flutes and Death Metal. *nods*
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
See, I get a lot of video games at once, a lot of times. I find a video game, I like it, and I play it for a week, which isn’t much really since I don’t have a lot of free time. Then I play another game the next week, which I just got, then the same thing happens a third week. Its annoying, because I want to play all these different games, but I often don’t have the time to play all three, so I end up playing well… only one or maybe even none.
For instance, I got Zeus: Master of Olympus the same week my brother got Prince of Persia. I played both, now I’m playing neither. I admit I had already started to get bored of Zeus (it’s a good game, just good in smaller doses), but Prince of Persia… I could have played that for a good while.
What happened? I got Majesty II from Jacob. Its also an amazing game, I really loved Majesty and thought it was one of the most well thought-out and unique games to be released over the past few years. Majesty II, while not perfect, does a lot of new, cool things that I really like and keeps the formula pretty much the same.
I am not playing Majesty much right now. What happened? I found this amazing game called Battle for Wesnoth. What is Battle for Wesnoth? It’s a hex-grid, turn-based, fantasy, strategy game akin to a strange combination of Fire Emblem and Age of Empires or something.
See, like Fire Emblem, a unit that is gone is gone for good and that’s it. Units gain experience and can be carried over from level to level so you’re encouraged to keep units alive, level them up, and keep on powering your army through the game. But unlike Fire Emblem, you’re expected to lose units and its perfectly acceptable if you complete a level having lost a unit or two. So in that way its kinda like your standards strategy game where your units are expendable and the only thing important is a few key, powerful or important (like heroes) units.
Anyways, the game has a few pretty cool little features. I’m playing a campaign that gives me access to a variety of elven, mermen, and human (and probably other things later on) units. Elves move fast through the forest, have high defenses in the forest, and possess the ability to move fast through forests, also, most of their units can wield both a bow as well as a sword, often to almost equal results. Humans… humans don’t seem particularly amazing, probably balanced overall, but with access to high damaging mages. Orcs are really strong and have brute force (duh) and mermen fight good in the ocean… but bad everywhere else, they also have the ability to swim in deep water.
One of the cooler features the game has is a meaningful day-night cycle. Warcraft III had a day-night cycle but it didn’t seem amazingly important, but in this game it really is. See, certain units fight better at night than at day. Orcs, being chaotic, fight really well at night, gaining a +25% bonus to attacks (and defense… I think) at night, but a -25% during the day! Humans, being lawful, have the opposite. Elves, being neutral, receive no benefits but have no penalties (making the elves more versatile, not the usual “sting you with arrows, but bad at everything else” guys. Nope, elves have good swordsmen, good archers, decent healers, and decent cavalry).
Anyways, it’s a good, entertaining, Strategy/RPG game. Best of all? Its free. Legally, free, that is, not “Jacob gave me Majesty II on a USB and I didn’t ask any questions” free, no, legally-you-can-download-it-from-a-website-and-that’- what-you-are-supposed-to-do-free.
I’ll write more about both this and Majesty II at a later point, though I really should play Majesty II some more before I do that… haven’t gotten too far in the game.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Prince of Persia is the newest game in the Prince of Persia series. This one takes a break from the Sands of Time story and introduces a new prince and a new setting. Personally, I like this game a lot more than any of the others I played. I played Sands of Time and while I was never very good, I really like the setting and the style and tone of the game. It was a light, somewhat happy story about a young guy out to save the world. I got stuck and never returned to the game (I do that a lot, actually) but I really enjoyed what I remember of the game. My brother won it, so that kinda made up for me not doing so, I felt.
However, I did not like Warrior Within, the second game in the Sands of Time series. The game was, in short, too dark. It had the cool factor going for it, I admit. But, in hindsight, it wasn’t nearly as strong as Sands of Time. The third game in this series, Two Thrones, I never even played, but my brother did and he liked it enough. He said it was better than Warrior Within, but it still seemed to operate on the same premise and just didn’t really didn’t make me want to play it.
However, this new Prince of Persia is just up my alley. First of all, it’s a whole lot easier. Now, take that for what you will, but I personally prefer a game that’s a bit easier. One of my frustrations with older Prince of Persia games was the fact that you could die rather easily if you messed up badly enough and it relied on a checkpoint system versus a “save whenever” system. This new game has a “save whenever” system. There are other things that make the game easier, perhaps too easy, I admit, but I’m really happy the designers chose this method for the newest Prince of Persia.
Also, combat has been increased a hundred fold. Combos are now nice and easy to pull off and look properly cool. Instead of fighting multiple enemies at once and having to use a boring combination of mashing a dozen buttons to get a super attack, you fight one enemy at a time. Combos are also a lot simpler and make a lot more sense.
I haven’t played the game much, but it seems like a very solid game, and I hope more Prince of Persia games like it are released.
The other game I installed is called “Zeus: Master of Olympus.” A sequel, of sorts, to the game Caesar III, Zeus puts you in charge of an Ancient Greek city. The game features several large campaigns, mostly loosely based off Greek myths. The game has an awesome sense of humor and a very solid design at its root and makes for hours and hours of amazing gameplay.
Like other City Management games Zeus gives you the tools to construct a powerful city. The base of the game involves creating a powerful core city that can be expanded upon as the city grows. Build a small housing area, and then provide the houses with the essential services: food, water, security, health, etc. As more services are provided the houses will improve and demand more services such as culture, appeal, fleece, and olive oil. Improved houses pay more taxes and house more people, allowing you to further improve the city.
Anyways, while the game may sound really complicated, the designers have simplified it to allow players to quickly and easily manage their city. I think perhaps the most entertaining thing about the game is how carefully everything must balance in order to have a successful city.
One scenario I recently played requires me to create a colony for my primary city and then provide my primary city with tribute in the form of wine and lumber. I set up my basic city: farms for food, fountain, granary, agora (marketplace) and housing. However, I made a mistake and the worker shortage I had early game (not a problem, I thought because I would get more workers once my houses improved) meant my farms collapsed before harvest! This meant I had a food shortage for several game years and it took me some fancy doing to finally work through the food shortage, which lead to a labor shortage, which meant I couldn’t harvest lumber or tend my grapes, to finally win the level.
I think that is ultimately why I love Zeus. The game is a very simple, but solving the problems can really be hard. I move back to my old city and find I need 100 more workers (in a city of 2800 that’s really a small amount) but to do so I need to build more houses, which means a new agora, but this agora is too far away from my old granary and old warehouse that stores all my food, fleece and olive oil. So I build new ones. Then I run out of fleece, so I stop exporting fleece, but then I run out of money, so I stop importing wine, because I get enough in tribute, and slowly, slowly, I fix my cities infrastructure back to where it should be. Meanwhile I slowly build up to my current goal: summon Jason to slay the Talos and rid my city of the foul beast! (Doing so is not easy: Jason wants you to have quite the army! 2 companies of horsemen and 2 triremes, not to mention a LOT of food and some wine).
Anyways, I should get back to school now. Maybe if I work hard I’ll have time to play more Zeus! ^_^
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
I do listen to some Christian music, however. Despite my opinion that there is a severe dearth of Christian Artists showing true skill or talent, especially in the genres I prefer, they do exist. Two years ago, I invested in Demon Hunter, a Christian Metalcore band, and bought their (then) latest release, Storm the Gates of Hell. Demon Hunter’s music, at the time, struck me as hard, heavy, and aggressive, but in a good way. Since the day I first listened to Demon Hunter I’ve listened to heavier and harder music and I’ve sampled a good bit of music from nearly ever genre and subgenre metal has to offer. However, I’m still drawn to Demon Hunter for a lot of reasons.
I admit I’ve listened to bands that have more talent than Demon Hunter in terms of musical ability or prowess. However, Demon Hunter has improved as they have released albums. Listen to Demon Hunter’s very first album, or even Summer of Darkness, their big hit. Storm the Gates of Hell is miles above both, and while their third album did not receive a lot of praise from the fans, I believe, I think the album itself shows marked improvement.
But, for me, Demon Hunter’s musical ability never really mattered. Sure, I picked them up because they had a style I wanted to listen to and explore (Metal), but what hooked me wasn’t their musical talent, I could tell, when I compared it to other bands, they didn’t a whole lot. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they have talent, and especially now with Patrick Judge as a lead guitarist they strike me as a very solid band, but I still think other bands have shown more talent. What hooked me wasn’t their musical talent, but their amazing, amazing lyrics.
See while Amon Amarth might have better guitarists, and while Alexi Laiho has shown amazing talent in Children of Bodom, both bands do not have what I can call “good” lyrics. Amon Amarth writes fun lyrics, singing about Vikings and Viking Mythology and the Viking Lifestyle. That kind of stuff, it appeals to a lot of people and I think it works really well for a lot of music. Music does not require some serious or deep message to provide entertainment at all. However, one thing I will say is that good, solid, thought-provoking, lyrics really hit me as something not a lot of bands can pull off. Demon Hunter, however, always amazes me with their lyrics. Ryan Clark (Vocals) and Don Clark (former Guitarist) have written some amazing, amazing lyrics. I think I’ve written about some of them before, and I know that you’ve probably seen some of my status on facebook quoting those lyrics.
Ryan Clark’s tone and his underlying message appeals to me the most in their lyrics. Much of the Christian music scene today, centered around the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) movement, doesn’t share the same tone at all. CCM artists sing about this loving, happy, God who’s gonna heal you and help you and save you. Now, granted, all of that has basis in Biblical Scripture and we need messages of hope, love and encouragement in a hopeless, loveless, and discouraging world. I also know a lot of these artists have a very special and powerful spiritual anointing to make the music they make. When Leeland, a CCM band, came to my Church they shocked me with not only their musical talent (Leeland Mooring can SING) but also their anointing to minister to youth. I mean, I really didn’t like their latest album at the time, but I would go to one of their concerts in a second after hearing them play. That one performance reminded me that the CCM industry still has a lot of talent and a lot of anointed musicians.
But see, while Leeland and bands like them have their place, I feel what Ryan Clark and Demon Hunter choose to discuss in their music simply does not get the same amount of attention into today’s world. While most CCM encourages and uplifts through “happy songs” Demon Hunter hits you with anger and brutality. While those words might strike you as inherently bad, I don’t think so at all. See, Demon Hunter displays anger, but anger at how far we have let ourselves fall. When Jesus saw the state of the Temple of God, filled with thieves, robbers, and men only interested in making a fast buck, he got angry and physical and he drove them out. Demon Hunter says the same thing. They sing in an aggressive fashion because well, we have reasons to be aggressive. We have reasons to display our anger at what Satan has done. There is no reason we should not be angry at the state of the world today, there is no reason that we should not be angry at certain men and woman who have made the world a worse place.
Unlike CCM artists, Ryan Clark doesn’t say, “don’t worry, it’s gonna be alright. Jesus is gonna save you.” Ryan Clark says “The world is messed up. It’s filled with heathens, with hate, with intolerance. What are you going to do about it?” Now, both messages are 100% true. Jesus does make things better, Jesus is a happy, loving guy. But you know what? Sometimes its alright to be angry, to tell the world it’s gonna burn in hell if things don’t change. I’m listening to a Demon Hunter song right now, Tie This Around Your Neck, and the lyrics really strike me as something that needs to preached more. “And in this reign the heathens will say: . . . Tie this around your neck FOOL! . . . I’ve heard every empty line, every curse, ever word that you redefine . . . won’t lie in the grave I will reborn, they say: . . . This around your neck FOOL!” Now, the song is aggressive, the song is hard-hitting, but these lyrics hit me as something that really needs to be said. We’re Christians, and as Christians we will be mocked, with will face trials, they’ll tell us to “tie this around your neck, FOOL,” but end the end, we win. We aren’t dead, like them. The Bridge reminds us the fate of those unbelievers, and how each and every one of them will die “helpless and alone,” when the rest of us are dancing with Jesus.
This is the type of music that I really appreciate. On one hand, Ryan Clark seems like some angry, dark prophet of doom, but that’s not the real side. See through the style, see through the “all metal is angry” and yes, you’ll still see anger, but Biblical Anger. Yes, you will still see proclaimations of doom and judgement, but these are, for the most part, almost direct quotes from scripture. Ryan is clear in his belief and his faith: God will punish the unbeliever. “Broken is the way you came, and broken is the way you will leave when everything is paid for!” As the song Fiction Kingdom recites. These are people who have rejected God and live happily and joyfully in their hateful, sinful, venomous lives.
If you ask me, this kind of music, these kind of lyrics, pick up on an aspect of the Bible not enough Christians talk about. I don’t see a lot of people singing or talking about what happens to the unbeliever. We have all these songs encouraging people to get right with God, but how many of them talk about the people who don’t want to get right with God? The people who enjoy mocking God? The people who will die calling out to pagan Gods or unbiblical theology? These people are dangerous. Sure, they may not threaten us with physical harm, but they threaten our minds and our souls with their poisonous words and ideals.
See Ryan Clark recognizes as a Christian he has volunteered to fight in a very important war.
I know some people might not realize this, but there are powerful, powerful beings out there, physical and spiritual, who will stop at nothing to destroy God and his disciples. Ryan Clark knows this, and his music, since the beginning, serves as a call-to-arms of sorts. His music attacks the philosophies of the pagans and the unrepentant, in the bridge of the World is a Thorn, the title track to their latest album, Ryan screams:
“This is what you try to sell me?
Pull Your sickness from my throat
Let me breathe the truth
Let me breathe the truth!”
It's words like that that motivate me to push forward, sometimes. I can look outside my window and see injustice. I can read my email and read about injustice. Everyday my newspaper reports the injustices that happen in Bangladesh.
I live in one of the most corrupt countries in the world. I live in one of the world’s most unlivable cities. More than one third of the nation cannot read or write, and many of them do not possess the means to support themselves. Injustice. Everyday people in Bangladesh, let alone the world, suffer.
Yes, actions have consequences and yes, these people suffer because of the mistakes they and those around them make, but at the same time, these people have been kept in bondage by the Forces of Darkness.
Now, I think most Churches recognize Satan exists, and he plays some sort of role in opposing the Church, but I wonder, do people realize the level of activity of Satan and his servants? Do people realize the true powers of Hindu Priests? Of Buddhist Monks? Muslim Imams? Secular Humanist Philosophers? I can think of specific instances in my life when I have come under direct and very powerful demonic attack.
I think, in my experience, people don’t realize the amount of power the forces of darkness have. I don’t want to make Satan or his servants out to appear more powerful than they are, because God does, in the end, have absolute power, and I do admit many of the problems of our world stem from simple human sinful nature. But make no mistake that demons actively attack Christians on a regular basis.
Christians can do fine in their safe, happy lives, usually. Go to Church, put some money in the offering bag, listen to a nice sermon about being holy, go home, eat dinner with family and take a nap. That kind of life appeals to us: safe, content, simple, devoid of fear, darkness, or despair. But what happens when we go out of our safe, comfortable lives and move into something more dangerous? What happens when we find ourselves face-to-face with the stark, harsh, realities of life? Poverty, war, hate, violence, racism, corruption, what do we do about them? Do we lose our faith? Do we say, “God couldn’t let this happen!” Europe experience two World Wars and the deaths of millions of people to stop power hungry politicians and hate-mongering tyrants. One of the results of this war was Europe abandonment of its Christian Faith. Supposed Christians could not imagine God could unleash such devastation upon mankind.
People don’t know how to answer the Hard questions, they don’t know what to do when confronted with abject poverty, abject hatred, and abject corruption. They sit in their house and they despair, they lose their faith. A friend of mine told me a story about a man once. This man said he was originally a Christian, but a verse in the New Testament confused him. This verse said to “pray without ceasing.” He didn’t understand how he could pray without ceasing. What did the man do? The man became Muslim because Muslims are only required to pray 5 times a day. Now, this man was probably never a strong believer, and he is an extreme, I admit, but I think we can extrapolate something from his fate. If we don’t explain the Bible, if we don’t understand the Bible, if we are not firm in our faith, the enemy will rip that faith away from us.
Ryan Clark recognizes all of this, and that draws me to his music. Ryan takes the state of the world seriously. He recognizes what we need to do, he knows we need to take the fight to the enemy, preach in the streetcorners and tell the world about Jesus. We need to fight against the evils of this world and stop the devil right where he stands.
So now, the question I ask myself, and I ask everyone else is: what are we going to do? Are we going to sit here and do nothing while the forces of Hell, the Forces of Darkness, run rampant in our streets? Are we going to hate those who hate us? Are we going to be selfish and not share with those who have less? In the midst of this war, the most important war in the history of mankind, are we to sit idle as mere bystanders?
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am not. I’m not going to sit quiet while evil men and their demonic allies destroy people, families, cities or nations. Ryan says, “Stand beside us, die to fight us, Storm the gates of hell!” I think I’d like to join him. I think that storming the gates of hell sounds like a great idea and that not enough self-proclaimed Christians have fought long or hard enough to storm those gates.
Small Note: I decided to edit this one a little. It means I spent more work on the actual details instead of just writing something ideas down and throwing it out there. Hopefully you can tell.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I've discovered something about music.
The key to creating music that is good for headbanging is not having down-tuned guitars. Its have music that is meant to be headbanged to… :P
For instance, a lot of nightwish actually, doesn't make use of downtuned guitars, but, should I want to, I can easily headbang to it. But, then thing is, when I listen to lighter bands… say some Pop Punk or something, I don't really feel like headbanging. But I'm listening to my live version of "She is my Sin" and I'm hearing a song that can very easily be headbanged to… despite Emppu's distinct lack of low-end distortion. Awesome guitarwork, but it's more of a light "fuzz" sound versus the lower end sound that a lot of bands use.
Actually… its really intruiging how you can mess with sounds and still have headbang worthy music. For instance, I listened to what little Lamb of God I have yesterday (I'm still trying to decide if they're a band I should actually listen to, for some reason they give me a rather icky feeling), but, despite their lowend guitarwork, they are not a headbanging band. They're a moshing band (how do I know that even though I've never moshed? Go figure. That's the feeling I had though… having listened to music that is supposed to be "mosh music").
And to wrap this up, I have to end with saying that Children of Bodom's album Follow the Reaper is some of the most brilliant guitar and keyboard music I have heard in a long time. But Alexi Laiho really is a horrible vocalist. He's… just bad. This is funny, because I mean… he's a growler, and he uses a style of vocals that very few people like, yet, I know he's a bad vocalist. I mean, listen to In Flames or Amon Amarth and listen to their vocalists… they're better. Maybe Alexi is an amazing performer live, and I bet he is, but his vocals aren't something that would catch you.
Oh darn… that bring me to another point. I find it really funny how different types of music emphasis different parts of the music. A lot of pop music emphasizes the vocals of a particular artist (no matter how good those vocals may be *cough*), while metal-type music will focus on other stuff… like the guitars. I mean, take Children of Bodom, they have, like I said, a bad vocalist, but they make this up by having a very strong group of instrumentalists. Alexi Laiho is considered one of the premiere guitarists in the world, possibly the best alive, depending on your definition of "best". They're keyboardist is awesome, too. People listen to their music for the instrumentation, not the vocals or even the lyrics (which are also rather bad).
Anyways… I'll stop now.
Monday, March 22, 2010
You know, I get spam messages in my email, just like everyone. But what is so funny about these spam messages is… is the fact that they assume I play World of Warcraft. Which is really hilarious, cuz I don't.
And, since I'm being random… I now realize why I don't listen to Linkin Park anymore: they're not actually such an amazing band… instrumentally. Or, at least, their instrumentation is not my style.
I mean, actually, I have to say they are an alright band. The cream of the crop of Nu-metal, I will admit. They have some good songs, and their vocalists are talented men. I will say I think they had something really good with all their duets, and I think it's a real shame that so many bands only make use of their secondary vocalists as backing vocalists, and not have them do duets, at least in my experience.
However, I'm listening to their guitarwork and… it's really boring. I mean, I think it's alright, but it's boring. I listen to most bands, and I listen to the guitars and if you have boring guitars they you are doing something wrong, in my opinion. Now I will admit, I have only seen truly brilliant and powerful guitarwork amongst guitar oriented-metal (IE most of metal), but that is perhaps a result of just how guitar orientated metal is. I mean, in metal, while your vocalist is still gonna be important, you find the lead guitarist is just as important. Thomas Youngblood is just as important as Roy Khan in Kamelot. Demon Hunter, in my mind, improved a LOT when Ethan Luck left and they got (the more talented) Patrick Judge to replace him. It really made a difference.
Funny thing, though, I can listen to other, Rock, music and hear some good, interesting guitarwork, rarely in the vein of metal guitarwork, but still good and interesting nonetheless.
Maybe that was why Nu-metal never went anywhere… I mean, I don't like a lot of Metalcore, but I've heard some awesome guitar from metalcore bands. Underoath has good guitarists, even if they have one of the most horrible sounds I've ever heard. On the other hand, Linkin Park had some good songs, two talented vocalists, but bad guitarwork (and whiny emo lyrics, but that's never stopped anyone from becoming popular…). They made 2 good albums (by good I mean popular) and 1 bad one. Now they are kinda… stuck. I don't know what they're doing, if they're touring or whatever, but they are not really important musicians anymore.
And, actually, that's kinda funny to think of it. But big rock bands, like Linkin Park and Evanescence, that happens… both released two really popular albums, but they kinda messed up and just disappeared (okay, neither are gone, but they are kinda inactive. Though Amy Lee says Evanescence is, or will be, recording a new album). On the other hand you have more less known bands like Alestorm who are going strong… I guess it really does have to do with Volume… Alestorm NEEDs to keep on touring to make a living, while Amy Lee probably made a LOT of money in royalties alone.
And I am rambling… but its good fun. I like to ramble.
What is new in my life? Well, not a whole lot… I've been spending my days struggling through school. I think I'm pretty sick of math, physics, and latin now, which is a shame because they are good courses, I'm just sick of them and by this point, even if I got like all As it wouldn't change my grades that much. Okay, it'd change them a little, but not a lot. I'm enjoying my English class, but I have a feeling I'm going to not enjoy the books we're reading now so much. We read The Hobbit and it was a brilliant, masterful, piece of work. Now we're reading The Princess and the Goblin and it's less so. George MacDonald has created a really good story and some fun characters, but his worldbuilding is not up to snuff in comparison to Tolkien, at least in this book, our teacher reminded us that MacDonald did write other books.
I guess the bottom line is I like the story, and I like the themes, but I hate the style. It's a children's book, and to be honest, that ruins a lot of the wonders of fantasy for me. Maybe it's because of the times I live in, but too me, the best style of Fantasy is a good combination of dark and gritty and high and mighty, Steven Erikson's work is probably the best example: nitty-gritty characters in an epic, living, breathing world. I enjoy Tolkien almost purely because of his prose, Tolkien was, after all, a professor of Language, and he uses his vocabulary brilliantly. His world is also, to this day, one of the few complete fantasy worlds created by just one man. Sure, you have places like Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Azeroth, etc, but these worlds don't hit the depth and breadth (or at least quality) of Tolkien's worlds, plus many of them were built by several authors together.
I guess my primary issue is that the plot of The Princess and the Goblin is just… boring. It's not very exciting, I guess. Like I said, good characters, good ideas, good themes, but BAD style. I mean, the story is intriguing and I want to know what happens, but the prose, especially in the beginning of the book, is not my taste.
And that was a lot of different things… oh well… that's what's on my mind right now.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
So I read most of Red Scarf Girl, a story about a Chinese girl caught up in the Cultural Revolution today.
To be brief, this girl, who was very smart and talented, finds her life very difficult because of the social status of her grandfather, a man who died before she was born, and the choices her father made as a young man. She found out that despite her many accomplishments and talents she could not do everything she could wanted to in school because of the decisions her relatives made before she was ever born or aware.
The obvious result, of course, was she hated her family. She hated her grandfather, because he came from a rich background. She wished she could have been the grandchild of a famer or factory worker instead of a landlord, a horrible, evil, landlord.
I realized, when reading this story, how I'm so blessed to not hate my family and not be held back because of their decisions. Sure, there are some, small things, that I wish I could have done but couldn't because I live overseas. But on the whole, I've been blessed by them.
What struck me the most about Red Scarf Girl, though, was how the main character was ashamed of her family history. She was ashamed to be the granddaughter of a landlord, though she had no control over her upbringing. She could not make herself go against the will of her parents, because she loved them and knew they were being unjustly punished, yet because of this she was harassed and punished.
Now, I have to be honest, and say I don't have the background this girl has. My grandfather worked long hard hours to get to where he is today and my parents have sacrificed to help me as much as possible (maybe not a lot, but we do spend a LOT of money on things like internet for our school, plus my mom spends a lot of time and energy trying to teach us). I come from a respectable middle-class family, essentially, not the Upper Class she came from. Yes, her family was never really rich, due to events, but mine isn't either, at least by the standards of our country.
Anyways, the thing is, my family and my society has taught me not to be ashamed of my family history. My grandfather could very easily pretend he was never a poor boy when he grew up. He could eat different food, for instance, but he chooses not to. I know this sounds hilarious, but I see it so clearly in the food he eats. My grandfather loves Black Eyed Peas, he love's 'em. But Black Eyed Peas are poor man's food, my grandmother (His wife), never ate them as a child (she came from a more privileged background). Is he ashamed of his love of Black Eyed Peas? Every time I think of Black Eyed Peas I think of my grandfather and try to imagine him working hard all day long on the farm and not getting much to eat but a big plate of Black Eye Peas (I don't know how realistic this picture, but that's the picture I get).
My grandfather could stop eating Black Eyed Peas. He's "rich" enough to afford more expensive food (if they are still cheap, I don't know, honestly), but he still eats Black Eyed Peas every so often. He still loves them. My grandfather is not ashamed of his love of Black Eyed Peas and is not ashamed of the lifestyle that made him like them.
And you know what? I'm not ashamed of my upbringing either. I know I've been blessed, because of the blessings others have bestowed on me. I have the privilege of being able to go to a good University. I have the privilege of being a 4th generation Christian. I have the privilege of being a citizen of one of the most powerful countries in the world. I have the privilege of going to one of the world's greatest Churches everyday and I have the privilege of being instructed by some of the smarted people in the world (not just my teachers, by my parents and my spiritual leaders as well). If Someone tried to bring me down for my upbringing, I'd tell them to go to hell. I've been blessed, and maybe others haven't, but that's not my fault. You take what you're given in life. I have been blessed to be a blessing, and I have no intention of letting all the knowledge and heritage I have gained to go to waste. My grandfather worked hard so that his children and grandchildren could have a better life. I think that's why he's not ashamed of his upbringing, of the poverty he struggled with as a young man. I know what he came from and I know, from his first hand experience, that poverty is no fun. He told me once, that he never knew what love was until he met his wife. His family never loved him.
I don't want to be like his family. I don't want to be poor, bitter and hateful people. I don't want to be an alcoholic or addict of any kind. I don't want to be a person who doesn't love his children or family. I want to be a good person like my grandfather, or my father. I want to serve God and work hard to better this world. Because I know where I came from, I know where I need to go.
Don't be ashamed of your upbringing. Everyone's upbringing, no matter how horrible or privileged, can teach them wonderful things. I have been taught wonderful things, and I want to use those wonderful things for the good of God.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
I think the most brilliant character in Half-Life 2 is Father Gregori from Ravenholm. He's… hilarious. See the thing is, he talks in these insane innuendos. He's a "preacher" right? So he talks about spiritual stuff. But, he really means… like zombies and survival etc.
For instance, he tells you to get to the church, which is where the best exit from Ravenholm is. Now, the funny thing is, when you take a wrong turn he says, "You're on the wrong side of town, brother, did I not tell you to seek the church? Your salvation is there!" And I'm laughing. He's right, my salvation IS THERE, but what kind of salvation are we talking about? Escape from Ravenholm, or Christianity? :p
And then we get to the Church and he says, "tread carefully, this is hallowed ground." What he means is there are a TON of zombies in the place. A TON, but… its also the church graveyard, so of course it'd be hallowed ground.
Anyways… he's an awesome character, and the only thing that makes Ravenholm much fun for me. Personally, I prefer The levels where you fight more Combine and stuff. I dunno why… its just more entertaining. That, and I hate going through the mines… it's not that fun.
Having said that, Raveholm is the only place where I can think of that you use the Gravity Gun a lot, and really, actually, need to do so. You don't get a lot of ammo, you see. And, to be perfectly honest, there is nothing more fun than cutting a zombie in half with a big ole gear. Its super fun.
So I'm now running through the coast, and that's decent fun. Not my favorite level, really, but I do enjoy it. I remember HATING Nova Prospykt (spelling?) quite a bit, but I'll do my best to run through that level and make it to Anti-Citizen One. That's a fun little segment.
I really should play Episodes 1 and 2 again… I haven't played Episode 1 in ages… and Episode 2 is so much fun.
I'll say it again: Valve really is a quality studio. They know exactly how to create a good video game. They're just… really talented at creating a quality game with cool bits. I will say, looking at the level design of Half-Life 2 it does suffer from being a bit out of date. I can see the triggers in their programming
ng pretty easily, but it doesn't really matter, at the same time…
Saturday, March 13, 2010
So, for some reason watching The Matrix (awesome movie) inspired me to play Half-Life 2 again. I love Half-Life.
I think, the thing about Half-Life, what makes it such a great game isn't any one special thing. Half-Life, at first glance, appears a very standard FPS game: its linear, it has all the standard FPS weapons (Melee weapon, pistol, SMG, Shotgun RPG, end game super gun, etc) and there is nothing special about how combat works: point and shoot, accuracy being what you would expect from various guns (SMG has a high rate of fire but is inaccurate, Shotgun is close range, pistol is weak bust fast, decently accurate).
But the game is amazing. I swear, it's the best FPS game I've ever played. I think its really the level design. The game is just… so awesome. In Call of Duty you run from checkpoint to checkpoint shooting people. In Half-Life there are all sorts of different puzzles and events you have to work through. You fight Manhacks, zombies, Civil Protection, Helicopters, Walkers, etc. In Call of Duty you fight infantry and maybe tanks. It gets boring, really.
And its not just the enemies, it's the design of the levels. They way you move through locations like the Canals, City 17, etc, its just… really amazing. I'm in love with it.
Another thing that is rather fun is the vehicle sections. Route Canal, the Highway, and Episode 2 are AMAZING for their vehicle sections. It's just sooo much fun using the muscle car from Episode 2 and the hover craft from Route Canal. I love it.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Every year my church here in Bangladesh hosts "Kid's Camp" a weekend (Thursday PM to Saturday PM) out in Gazipur. We take however many kids (usually in the realm of 130-170) with us and we wear them out with games and activities as well as have lots of fun worshipping God! This year was the Twelfth annual Kid's Camp, it was also our biggest, with 168 kids.
First of all, I have to say that Camp is always an awesome event. God's Spirit has, to my knowledge, never failed to appear in an awesome and holy way. The kid's always have fun and always enjoy themselves and the counselors always wear themselves out trying to keep everything organized and awesome!
I want to start this by saying that this was my last camp for the foreseeable future. I leave Bangladesh in June and because Camp runs during the Academic Year the chances of me coming back are slim. I might manage to come back for a later one, but I find it unlikely; never say never though.
As far as Camps go, this one seemed to go pretty well. As usual, we had a few moments that were rather bad. Two kids left, for one reason or another, on the 2nd day (both got really sick, essentially), and we had to stop kids from fighting/being too rough several times.
Spiritually though, this camp, for me, was amazing. I think it's very interesting to look back and try and remember my previous camps, spiritually. I have very few memories of my first camp, I know Saion was my counselor and we did NOT win (I think we lost… actually), but that was about it. I have a few random memories of different things, and I have a lot of memories of the last three camps (the 10th, 11th and this one, the 12th camp). However, I know that as I have grown up and gotten older, my spirituality has increased. Its funny, because all my life people have told me that your age doesn't matter… yet you know what, I'd say I'd disagree. When I "gave my life to Jesus" I had no clue what that meant, essentially. I mean… I did it, and I meant it, but I didn't know what the details entailed. When I got baptized, I really didn't know why I did that… and honestly, I would have rather waited till I was like 13. I know there are some kids (I've met 'em) who were/are more spiritual than I was at a young age, but… it's just taken me several years to really press into God and learn about my faith.
So anyways, I think the one thing that I really need to mention is, I'm not sure where or when it happened, but… something clicked with God some time ago. Probably within the last 12 months. I've learned how to hear His voice properly, I think I can say. Again, maybe this is me, but it took me a while to figure that one out. But now, I've gotten it, and I can hear his voice very clearly when I want or need to. Also, I've really learned to worship God. This has been growing steadily since I started attending 4him four years ago, I'll admit, but something just really clicked both at the 4him Retreat and then at Camp. I've… come into my own I… I know how I worship God and I know what worshipping God means for me. I'm no longer copying what someone else has done (not to say doing so is bad, it's not), I'm doing what I want to do,
Another thing I think I have seen these past few months is a really confirmation of my spiritual Gifts, both directly from God and from my friends and leaders (mentors?). I understand what I'm supposed to do, spiritually, in a lot of ways, now its just down to a matter of practice and continuing to Grow. I'm not groping for something to do in worship or in Church, I know my place and I know how I can help the body of Christ, Spiritually.
I could go into some of the details of Camp, the little things that happened, but really, that was the most important thing right there: the conformation that I am, Spiritually, ready to move onto my next stage in life. Everyone I've talked to has said that University has a lot of cool stuff (obviously it also has a lot of bad stuff, but let's be positive) and I think I know that everything, in the long run, will be awesome. There will be hard things, there will be bad things, but I'm ready for it.
I think emotionally, I'm ready as well. I've talked to some of my friends here in Bangladesh, people I have shared a lot of time with these last four years in Bangladesh, and I know and I think that we all have recognized I will be going soon. We've said goodbye, one way or another. The real goodbye will come when I actually leave, but I'm glad to know my friends realize I'm going and, and I'm not coming back longterm.
I have to say that Bangladesh has been a wonderful place for me. I would not have lived anywhere else (okay, maybe India, but I'm not sure that's fair… I've been to India so much and I've lived there as well). I've made a lot of good friends here, some have left, some are still here. My Church has blessed me so much and, despite having some issues with it and certain people within the church, its been a positive experience. We're gonna have some issues with people, obviously, that's… life, you know?
So yes, Camp was amazing. I was so glad for it. Thank you everyone who made it possible!
Thursday, March 4, 2010
You know, a while ago my parent's company had its 50th anniversary celebration. It was good fun, ut I want to talk about something one of the speakers said:
"What will worship be like in heaven?" He asked. The guy went out discuss how worship in heaven will be totally crazy with everyone worshipping in awesome ways etc… but the thing, I'm not entirely sure if that's how worship in heaven will be like.
First off all I think the thing people tend to forget is that Heaven will be very different than Earth. Sure, it'll be Earth-like, but there are so many things on Earth that are a result of our fallen nature, NONE of this will be present in earth. Second of all, heaven is gonna be multicultural. We will have, literally, every single tribe, nation, people and possibly even language in heaven. All these people are gonna want to worship God in their own way, I suspect. People from the Medieval Ages worshipped with Gregorian Chants. People from the West now like a more Rock n' Roll style, generally. People from Bangladesh like using Bengali Folk Instruments. Each of these styles are rather different. So… how do we combine them? Or do we? Or what.
And I think that is where we mess up. In Heaven we will be constantly in the presence of the Living God. We will not longer be restricted in our access to Him. We're gonna be right next to the Lord ALL THE TIME. We're gonna know Him on a more intimate, more "real" level than most people do on Earth. That will affect the way we Worship, I think. Because our relationship with God will be greater, our worship will be, for lack of a better term, "purer." One of the things I often have a problem with is completely giving myself up in Worship. Just letting God speak to me and worshipping God how HE WANTS ME TOO, worshipping God at His level, not mine. This won't be a problem in Heaven, I suspect. I won't have to worry about feeling out of place or "strange" because of how I worship. I won't have to fight past the spiritual warfare to come into an intimate place with God. I won't have to find a nice, special corner where I can shut away the problems of this world. That changes the way we think of worship.
I suspect, in short, the worship we will experience in Heaven will be completely unlike everything and anything we see now on Earth. It will have similiarties, at some level, but it will be deeper, more sincere, more meaningful. Will there be music? Sure. What will it sound like? I don't know and I don't care. I like singing in English, I admit, and I like singing to Western Rock and Roll Instruments (Drum, Bass, Guitar, Keyboard) I also admit, but I don't NEED these. I can worship God without them, its just… not what I'm used to. (And this is another thing I suspect will not be a factor in heaven. The instruments, the forms of worship will not be as important as the worship itself).
In fact, I supect this is a major issue that Humans have when imagining heaven in general. They think of Heaven in human terms. In terms that fit with this world. They imagine a place with lots of tasty food and lots of messing around doing nothing. That is a mistake. We need to look at Heaven in Divine terms. We need to imagine a world (a city, in fact, since that's what its called in Revelation) filled with Believers, but minus all the sin. A world without sin? Can you imagine that? I can't, I'm afraid. It blows my mind to think of a world where people don't even THINK about sinning. A world where people never argue or fight or struggle against each other. A world TRUE perfect world. Everyone does their job with happiness. Everyone loves each other. Everyone… is perfect.
Keep that in mind: Heaven is perfect. In the truest sense of the word, that is. This isn't perfect in human terms, this is perfect according to God. That's a mindblowing concept if you ask me.