Archives

All posts for the month April, 2012

Go Straight!

Published April 5, 2012 by jcrosland

Image

Above: Yuzo Koshiro in the studio, date unknown

Yuzo Koshiro is one of many men responsible for making video game music more than just a sequence of beeps and blips. This article explains his importance to me, a long-time gamer and lover of (good) video game music.

Born in December 12, 1967, Hino, Tokyo, Koshiro is widely regarded as “one of the most influential innovators in chiptune music and video game sound design. He’s produced music in multiple genres, including electronic music (dance, Eurobeat, house, jungle, techno, trance), hip hop, jazz, classical/orchestra, and synth rock” (taken from Wikipedia).

In an article by Nintendo Power, the Japanese musician was quoted as being “arguably the greatest game-music composer of the 16-bit age…[he[ created some of the most memorable game music of the late ’80s and early ’90s.”

Famous titles which include his special brand of “progressive, catchy, techno-style compositions” are Nihon Falcom’s Dragon Slayer and the Ys series, and Sega’s The Revenge of Shinobi and Streets of Rage series. Koshiro’s compositions were “far more advanced than what players were used to…[this] set a “new high watermark for what music in games could sound like.”

Koshiro’s influence extends beyond the video game music industry. Artists such as Ikonika, Frentel, Janet Jackson, and Darkstar have credited the musician with inspiring them to created works of a similar kind. Even electronica and dubstep producers cite Koshiro as having influenced them in some way.

Here is a complete list of Koshiro’s video game music credits in alphabetical order:

Other projects include Merregnon (both volumes)Ten Plants; the Street Fighter Tribute Album (for an M. Bison stage remix), and FM Sound Module Maniax.

And here are a few samples of Koshiro’s work:

Advertisements

The Working Girls

Published April 5, 2012 by jcrosland

When you hear the term “businesswoman,” what comes to mind? Power suits? Shoulder pads? Impeccably dressed women with velvet voices and iron hearts?

This was especially true of women in the late 80s, when the feminist movement gained national prominence. An empowered woman is a liberated woman, free from the conformist and restrictive model of the stay-at-home mother and wife. She demands respect and equality in both the workplace and in society.

Image

Above: Melanie Griffith in Working Girl (1988). Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

Such is the case of 36-year-old comedian Chelsea Handler. Her talk show Chelsea Lately on Comcast’s E! Network has gradually shown a spike in viewership. In June 2011, she surpassed Conan O’Brien’s program in terms of popularity.

There is more to Handler than meets the eye. She is also a businesswoman. According to CNN Money, “In 2009, Handler co-founded Borderline Amazing Productions with Tom Brunelle, the head-writer of Handler’s late-night show. Since then, the company has gone on to produce four shows–Chelsea Lately, After Lately, Big Loud Lisa, and Are You There…Chelsea? on NBC.”

A fifth show is in the works with That ’70s Show creator Marc Brazill, rumored to be a mix-up of Wonder Years and aspects of Handler’s own life. Additionally, the comedian “recently sold a movie to The Weinstein Company, which Borderline Amazing will be producing.”

Celebrity-dom and the business world are commonly entwined. However, what sets Handler apart from her famous peers is that she is both the face and the brain behind Borderline Amazing.

“For the first three years, I was in every morning office…I never missed anything because you want to get that flow going, you want everyone to know at what level you expect things to be turned in. When you’re putting your product out there with your own name on it, you want it to be very Chelsea-specific. You really have to be involved in every aspect, in every credit.”

Image

Above: Chelsea Handler

Control in the business aspect of celebrity-dom is important. However, Handler notes that “power, obviously, can be a dangerous word. It’s about being really savvy, about making smart decisions, and about making original decisions.”

Handler wields her power in a fair manner, promoting people in her company that would otherwise be overlooked by a different manager. She champions the “underdog” and gives such individuals opportunities that, under different circumstances, would not have been available to them.

Constantly looking forward, Handler is steering Borderline Amazing as the company develops a multiplatform contract deal with Comcast. The comedian is in the process of developing “a more serious, mindful program. I have an opportunity to bring my viewers to the next level; as I’m growing up, I want to take everyone with me.” She owns a publishing imprint, Borderline Amazing/A Chelsea Handler Book.

Handler finds it important for her power to be acknowledged and taken seriously by major networks. However, she does not ride the coat-tails of her celebrity status. For example, when asked in an interview about Fortune’s Most Powerful Women in Business list, Handler replied, “Being on any list where people are recognizing your impact on your specialty is always great. But I don’t think you can go through life or your career with that sole intent. It’s not like I get some big hard-on from these lists.”

Here are a few of my favorite things…

Published April 3, 2012 by jcrosland

=^.^=

#1 “Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty, Little Ball of Fur…”


I love cats.

Cats are a mainstay of my life. Furry, adorable, and sometimes ferocious, cats bring joy to my heart. Growing up, my first pet was a grey domestic short-hair called Gray (post-mortem). We were like sisters. Wherever I went, she followed. I fondly recall memories of tossing around paper balls while Gray scrambled after them.

Never get in the way of a running cat, least you lose your feet.

After my feline companion passed in 2000, I never thought I could love again (cat-wise). My second foray into the land of whiskers and catnip was a disaster; thy name was Starburst.

Starburst was nothing like Gray. Whereas Gray was affectionate, Starburst was distant. While Gray loved to be rubbed and petted, Starburst preferred to be alone and aloof. After a few months of dealing her, my family decided that Starburst was NOT the cat for us.

Everything changed one cloudy September afternoon in 2011. I had received a text from my mother. In it was enclosed a picture. Upon viewing it, I was instantly torn. My eyes were fixated on the darling calico kitty. What struck me as most strange was her face.

Half-black, half-brown, split straight down the middle.

I hemmed and I hawed. I considered my then-current circumstance. It was my last year at Niagara University. I lived in a dorm hall. Would I have time to properly socialize with and care for a cat?

It turned out that I had all the time in the world. And so I said “yes.”

Life hasn’t been the same since Sybil came into my life.  My mother has dubbed her my “sister.” In many ways is Sybil similar to me. It’s almost frightening how much we–a cat and a human–have in common. Both of us love affection; we live for peace and quiet; we are curious and nosy when it suits us; and we both love to block the furnace vent.

The weekends are brighter, the days are not as long. I can go home with a smile on my face because of one very special kitty. =O.O=

"Cloudbusting," anyone?

#2 Blue Skies Are Coming


There’s something about a blue sky that puts a smile on my face. Maybe it’s the sharp hue that delights the eye. Or perhaps it’s the whispy clouds that dot the oh-so celestial dome like strands of cotton.

*stops gazing long enough to type some more*

And although I learned waaaaaay back in the day that this awe-inspiring sight is the product of chemical reactions (don’t ask me which ones), that knowledge does not deter me from looking up every once in a while and gawk.  When I was a child, I used to think that, if you stared hard enough, you could see angels standing on the clouds. That belief has long-since died (and so has my faith in Christianity), but it made me realize just how awesome the natural world can be. After all, just because I couldn’t see an angel doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

Then again, I feel the same way about aliens. But…that’s another story for another day.

 

"What's a floppy disk?"

#3 The Best-Selling PC to Date (Until the iPad 2 Came Along and Ruined Everything)

Okay. So I have a thing for the 80s. The music, the fashion, the television programming–everything about the decade excites me in a way that’s border-line obsessive. Back then, American culture thrived in terms of originality and progress. There was an overwhelming sense of hope and prosperity. The future looked so bright and shiny. Anything seemed possible.

What really strikes me as interesting is 80s electronics. All of the fancy, new-fangled gadgets that we depend on so much today (i.e. cell phone, laptop, and iPod) are derived from technological advances used in the 80s.

Consider the Commodore 64. Known affectionately as “the breadbox” among certain PC communities, the C64 is best-known for its SID chip. The SID chip, or “Sound Interface Device” chip, is responsible for the extensive use of music and sounds in both PC and console video games today. The SID chip gave games like The Last Ninja and Nemesis the Warlock polyphonic flavor and atmosphere that the breadbox’s monochrome-hued and crude sound chip companions could not.

So without further ado, check out these awesome SID chip tunes:

Nemesis The Warlock

The Last Ninja

Skate or Die

Dominator

 

"Whip it good!"

#4 No, no, no, no…! ARGHHH! Stoopid Medusa Head

Ahh, Castlevania. A true NES-era diamond. And by diamond, I don’t necessarily mean it’s bright and shiny.

Don’t get me wrong. Back in 1987, Castlevania was something special. It was a brilliantly-designed platformer with a saturated 30s horror flick theme, awesome music, pretty graphics, and level after level chock-full of undead baddies.

However, Castlevania is also known (and criticized) for its difficulty. I’m talking about quantum-level hard (kudos to you, Mom). So hard that you’ll scream, rant, foam at the mouth, and call God a slew of ungodly names. I tried playing the game once. After five minutes of getting my butt slaughtered by relentless waves of zombies, ill-timed steps, and sluggish controls, I surrendered. I couldn’t do it.

*scurries back to the realm of Final Fantasy and Phantasy Star*

Here’s a hilarious, highly-informative video explaining the differences between Castlevania I and Castlevania II.

CAUTION: PROFANITY AND JOKES YOU MAY NOT UNDERSTAND

Sequelitis–Castlevania 1 vs. Castlevanina 2

 

bOInG ZoOm dAkoTA!

#5 Mr. sATuRn SaYS hElLo!

This lovable, pink…thing…is the mascot of the SNES cult classic, EarthBound. Found of psychedelic coffee and Dakota (don’t ask), Mr. Saturns reside in the appropriately-named Saturn Valley. They speak in a strange, child-like pattern, complete with a special font used only by them in the game.

Here’s a sample:

Translator needed.

Their hot springs possess rejuvenation powers. And their coffee…well, I’m pretty convinced what Ness and co. drink is laced with LSD. This video suggests likewise:

Soothing, isn’t it? Later on, the Mr. Saturns help the Chosen Four build a Mr. Saturn-shaped time machine to go back into the past, and stop the evil alien Giygas from taking over Earth.

BoTToMS uP!