Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Music Thoughts

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

Half-Life 2: Ravenholm and Father Gregori

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

Half Life 2

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

Camp 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

What Heaven Will be Like

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.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Okay, its official, I can tell after playing just 2 full games of HoN that I don't like it.


Not to mock HoN itself, but… there is no point in playing the game at this time. DotA does everything HoN does basically at the same level. And HoN's graphics Engine looks ugly.


I'd be more interesting in HoN if it simply updated Warcraft III's Engine and named all the items/heroes the same thing. But they didn't, and that makes the game confusing. Plus, LoL is a lot nicer about explaining all the powers and abilities of all the heroes. It has… a better interface. Not to mention an easier system for buying items.


So for right now, I'm sticking to LoL, thankyouverymuch. Maybe later on I'll try HoN again and see what it's like, but right now? No thanks.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Heroes of Newerth

So I played Heroes of Newerth today. It was… different than what I expected.


My initial reaction is that LoL is a much better game. But that's just because I'm used to LoL, I want to say.


However, I will say that Heroes of Newerth, while attempting to stay true to DotA has also brought one of DotA's worst problems: the items.


In DotA, if you do not know the build for your hero BEFORE the game begins, you're in big trouble. It's really difficult to play the game without knowing the build for your hero. REALLY difficult.


In LoL this is not the case. The game has a recommended build for every hero (which is nice. I generally find this build is good and gives the player an idea of what kind of item he or she wants for their hero if they find the need to change the build a little) and the items are nicely organized by what they do. Attack items are bunched together, critical strike items are bunched together, life items are bunched together, etc, etc. The system overlaps too, which is awesome.


HoN does NOT do the above, it appears. In short: this is a mistake. It's a huge mistake. Especially for someone who is a skilled DotA player but has no clue what the heck he is doing because its his first time in Heroes of Newerth. Seriously, the interface and the appearance of the entire set-up… confused me. I was… confused by how it appeared. And the colors weren't very vibrant… but that's stuff I expect to change as I continue to mess with the game.


It's a lot like DotA though, I'll give it that. Whether or not this is actually a bad thing I'm not sure. I'll admit that LoL, while in a lot of ways similar to DotA, it's actually a different game. HoN doesn't appear to try to be a different game at all. It appears to be DotA, but with better graphics.


However, I will say I do like LoL's more cartoony, and tongue-in-cheek style.


I'll try to get a game of HoN in tomorrow. I'll probably play the treant guy, since I know how he works…