Category Archives: wxpn

That’s Really Trippin’, Man

Thinking outside the box. That’s where some of the cooler videogames of our age are coming from I think. Not so much fighting or blowing stuff up, or even trying to do puzzles, but more like dig the visuals, man. Much like coming down off a alcohol or drug-induced party high and watching “Teletubbies” on PBS at four in the morning, that’s what some of these games are like.

One such game is called Flower, created by Thatgamecompany, not as a game per se, but more as a work of art. It shows. You are a flower petal floating in the wind, controlled by the movement of the game controller. Set to beautiful calming music, the petal floats across gorgeous landscapes through your direction. This is a fantastically visual game, what little game there is to it. I could watch for hours, as it is relaxing.

And then there’s Eufloria from Valve Corporation, also known as Steam, the folks that brought you Portal. They call it a ‘real-time strategy videogame,’ whatever that means. With backing music that sounds like it was lifted from WXPN’s “Star’s End,” you are a space seed in the future, and you have to make your way to another asteroid to grow into a tree, from which more seeds will come, just like nature, ya know? It’s even more frustrating than Flower.

My days of post-party diversion are long over, so I guess these are not the games for me. But they sure are pretty, or at least Flower is, but I’m sure will put most folks to sleep…

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The Price of Satellite Radio

I love my satellite radio. I love it so much that I rarely listen to terrestrial radio any more. Maybe some WXPN and maybe some NJ 101.5 FM, but let’s face it, my favorite terrestrial programs like Coast to Coast AM and some of the NPR stuff are all on satellite now. Not much reason to turn on the old fashioned radio any more.

Just got a notice from XM (yeah, they merged with Sirius, but they’ll always be XM to me) that my subscription rates are going up. The reasons cited are as follows:

”Music royalty rights were established by the U.S. Congress as part of the Copyright Act. This Act requires payment of copyright music royalties to recording artists, musicians and recording companies who hold copyrights in sound recordings.

“These royalties have recently increased dramatically, principally as a result of a decision made by the Copyright Royalty Board, which is designated by the Library of Congress to set royalty rates for sound recordings. Beginning on July 29, 2009, a “U.S. Music Royalty Fee” of $1.98/month* for primary subscriptions and $.97/month* for multi-receiver subscriptions will be effective upon your next renewal. This fee will be used directly to offset increased payments from XM to the recording industry.”

Now really, that’s fine. As a writer, I’m not someone who’s ever going to begrudge anyone royalties, that’s just how things work, and furthermore should work. I don’t have a real problem with the price hike, as long as my favorite stuff remains on the XM. What irked me was what I found when I went to the XM website and took a survey.

The survey was about my listening preferences, but seemed to mention little of what I actually listen to on XM. I stopped finding Howard Stern funny some time before he left terrestrial radio, so that’s not for me. I can count on one hand the number of times in three years I’ve listened to any of the nearly hundred sports channels, and Oprah barely amuses me even when she’s on TV. The big guns don’t interest me.

Most of what I listen to is talk radio. I’m addicted to Coast to Coast AM, which while occupying nearly eleven hours of programming per day, was not mentioned by the survey. Opie and Anthony get a brief mention, probably because they bitch on air about Sirius’ prejudice mercilessly. But nowhere did I see other things I listen to faithfully like the old time radio shows on Radio Classics and the wonderful audiobook variety at Book Radio. All there was in the survey was the rather vague description of ‘talk entertainment.’ That covers a lot of ground, and a lot of stuff I really don’t like. How can this survey really tell them anything?

The XM world has been getting smaller and smaller since the Sirius merge – mostly because it was more of a takeover than a merge. The mega-powered Sirius, with the ratings powerhouse (apparently) Stern behind it appeared to change everything on the XM dial as if they and they alone were calling the shots. We lost truly entertaining music stations in favor of the inferior Sirius versions of them.

My point is that for the price increase, how about some verification we’ll keep the programming we enjoy? How about it, XM? Sorry, I mean, how about it, Sirius?

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Land of the Lost

Land of the Lost ~ ”Marshall, Will and Holly, on a routine expedition, met the greatest earthquake ever known…”

And so began the opening of one of the more innovative series ever to grace Saturday mornings. Created by Sid and Marty Krofft, notorious for Saturday morning kids fare that seemed to be acid-induced like “H.R. Pufnstuf,” “Lidsville” and “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters,” “Land of the Lost” was different.

The series, in the first two seasons at least (we will not speak of the Uncle Jack episodes), featured a solid science fiction premise, which is no wonder with folks like David Gerrold, Larry Niven, Ben Bova, D.C. Fontana, Norman Spinrad, Theodore Sturgeon and Walter Koenig involved in its production.

The premise involved a family on a camping vacation dropped into a place outside of time and space, structured by dimensional portals that controlled every aspect of the world, which was populated by dinosaurs, cave people called Pakuni (the writers even created a 200-word language for them) and hissing lizard-like inhabitants called Sleestak. The world had a very precise internal continuity and logic, and the well-written stories (despite the drinking game that can be had every time someone yells the kids’ names or Dad touches one of them) more than made up for the sometimes less-than-adequate special effects. This was the 1970s after all.

The show is held in high regard by many, including comedian Will Ferrell, who coincidentally played a character named Federal Wildlife Marshal Willenholly in Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Now, in this 2009 feature film version of “Land of the Lost,” he gets to play the real thing.

Now, I’ve never been a fan of Ferrell’s comedy, either on “Saturday Night Live” or in film (although I did like his semi-serious turns in Winter Passing and Stranger than Fiction), so I was a bit distressed when I heard he would be starring in this obviously comedic take on the classic scifi series. It should also be noted, and not forgotten, he also had a hand in another TV remake for the big screen – the better-off-forgotten Bewitched.

The preview was at the dreaded Cherry Hill AMC Loews, where it was sponsored by at least four media outlets. WXPN (the only terrestrial radio station in town worth listening to any more) gave us the passes but they weren’t there. Glenn Kalina, now doing mornings for 97.5 Now, has looked better, and seemed so thrilled doing the pre-show trivia and giveaways. Maybe a bit more caffeine, Glenn.

Vittoria from the ‘CW Crew’ had considerably more energy, as did the nameless dude from WMMR. And props to him too for telling people to turn their damned cellphones off. I also had issue with one of his trivia questions. He asked what MMR stood for and took the answer ‘Means More Rock’ – but really, isn’t the answer ‘Metro Media Radio’?

The film begins (and ends) with the Matt Lauer bit that we’ve all seen in the previews, and thus starts the pattern of every other typical Will Ferrell slob comedy. All my hopes from seeing interviews from Sid and Marty Krofft that this was “a respectable, serious take” on their property are dashed pretty quickly on. When pee-pee and poo-poo jokes are given more screen time than the actual plot or character development, the truth is pretty much splashed on the wall.

There are a couple funny bits, I’ll admit it. Chaka is a hoot, and a far cry from the innocent ape-child of the TV series. And Leonard Nimoy doing his best George Takei impersonation while voicing the Zarn is hilarious. What hurts most is that this could have been a serious adaptation. The effects are here, and so are all the elements. It’s all here. Fans of the show can see all the trademarks of the show – Pylons, Sleestak, the Library of Skulls, the Pakuni language, Grumpy, Alice, the Altrusian moths, even Holly’s Dopey speech. It’s all here.

Anna Friel, of “Pushing Daisies,” using her real accent for once is fun, as is Danny McBride of HBO’s “Eastbound & Down.” And I really liked the revamping of the Sleestak, nice updated design. This film is similar to “Smallville” when compared to its source material, the old Superboy comic books. Some of the names and situations are the same – but it’s completely different.

This was an okay movie for free, and funny and fun occasionally. Will Ferrell fans will love it, unfortunately I’m not one of them.

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