Saturday, March 17, 2012

Of social commentary and the love of the game.

I have just finished the 3rd installment in the Mass Effect series of action-RPGs. For the non-gaming folk among you, it would not really give any cause for celebration, reflection or concern. It is, after all, merely a videogame, no? Where you control non-real things on a screen with non-real emotions, and non-real settings, in a non-real universe.

Be surprised then, at the following revelation : I find my perceptions and ethical leanings, have been irrevocably, if subtly, altered.

I have always felt that in order to fully understand what is required to gain enough critical mass for pan-human salvation, there are certain sacrifices that need to be made, and that not everyone could, or should, be carried forward through to the perceived utopia that we aim to create in the next level of our continued existence. It is erroneous of me, to even conceive of this notion. Why? Because if we do not attempt to save everyone, regardless of their own inclinations, then we cut out the very core of enlightened humanism. That is the shift in a nutshell. Empirically, it seems to not be much. Lest that sort of deviation be underplayed, to illustrate its importance you can draw a parallel with planetary orbits. Shift the Earth's direction by just half a degree, and we'd all be dead in decades. I have indeed set upon a new path.

It is startling, most of all to me, that such alterations of my core thought processes can occur due to a videogame, after all. Even one which I have more emotional investment in than any other game I have ever had the privilege of experiencing. Whilst I have been at the forefront of the school of thought that prescribes to the idea of gaming being as legitimate an artform as film or music, even I find the scale of the shift in my moral code breathtakingly invigorating.

I must admit, the twin thrusts of attempting to explain just how much has changed within my head, and the impact that the game itself has had on my heart, is probably too much for one post to cover. There will be more in the future, that shall spill forth across these pages. Or not.

After all, it's only a videogame.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

And.. I'm back.

After another hiatus which can only be explained by a combination of lethargy, work stress and the crippling lack of time that plagues those of us with questionable motivational powers, I am indeed back.

Sort of. Maybe.

Stick around, if you feel so inclined :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Of shitty internet & new beginnings.

The internet has not been cooperative over the past few days. I've missed various writing deadlines for articles that I had wished to put up here for everyone's perusal. They have all disappeared into the Internet heaven known as connection-goddamnint-timeout. So this will have to do for now.

Site news first. There is no Red-Eyed Devil episode this week as Manchester United did not play any matches. We had the unedifying site of Wayne Rooney doing his best to remind us all that he still has a darkside that isn't as easily hidden as Palpatine's,regardless of the positive result which saw England qualify for a major international tournament. R-E-D Ep 3 will be up on Monday, with analysis and opinions on the Liverpool-Manchester United tie. I have been cautioned against calling it a derby, by a Scouser who happens to be a head taller than me. Even though he speaks less English than I do.

There was no Xplitshock column last week as I was travelling, and there will be a delay for this week's column due to news that I will be disseminating shortly. Xplitshock Ep 2 will be up next week, on either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Now, on to the more important issues of the day. First of all, it is a great pleasure for me to actually say what I'm about to say : I have been offered the opportunity to be the latest member of Lucideas Creative! I got the call on Monday, with Melissa's smile actually being communicated through SMS before I actually heard it in her voice on the phone. And it was the start of a quite astonishing week.

Never mind the actual work that I had to rush to be able to take up my new responsibilities at Lucideas. Never mind the extra hours being put into planning the big move from hometown to megacity. Never mind the extra headaches and financial outlay required to make this all happen.

As the day of departure nears, I am swamped with feelings of elation and sorrow. Of excitement and trepidation. Of joy and sadness.This is it, you know? I'm leaving. For real. No more dress rehearsals for the job interviews. No more guarantee of being able to come back to the hometown when the money runs out. The time has come for the next chapter, the next act.

My chest seems to want to burst simultaneously with both pride and panic. Will I be a success? Will I be a complete and utter failure? All pertinent, yet irrelevant questions. Because they don't offer the ultimate measure upon which this adventure, this journey, will be judged. Each time you undertake an endeavour that requires a commitment beyond what you had ever done before, do not judge the merits of such outings on such a tangible and arbitrary manner.

Because all I really need to know, is this : Will I be able to find myself?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Music Review - ATB : Distant Earth


This article first appeared here :

 ATB - Addicted to Bass, or All-new Tech Beats?


The DJ World's left-field man is back.

This is certainly a departure from Andre Tanneberger's previous efforts. Let's get that out of the way first.

The German DJ, widely considered to be one of the best in the world having been ranked at number 11 by DJ Magazine for the past 3 years, is best known for hits such as his debut 9p.m(Till I come) and trance anthems such as Ecstasy. However, those that are looking for similar musical stylings from this album, his latest album since 2009's Future Memories, will be left disappointed.

Persevere though, and the listening experience becomes a pleasurable one, if slightly jarring along the way.

ATB - Distant Earth (Minimix HD)

ATB's Latest Album preview


Disc 1

Let's get loud.

Disc 1 sounds as though it is intended to be a blend of trance and house, with tracks seemingly covering the penumbra between these two genres. Is it chillout? Is it dance? That seems to be a question of personal interpretation, although it has to be said that there are elements of both in almost all tracks.

Whilst this writer does indeed recognise the peaks and troughs of typical trance music (4/4 timings, 130bpm, characteristic 'drops' / climaxes), these sorts of musical staples are used sparingly throughout, and only seem very obvious on songs with a wider spectrum of sound, such as Apollo Road, All I Need is You, and Move On. Apollo Road (a colllaboration with Dash Berlin) deserves a special mention however, as it is the only song on the entire album that bears any relation to ATB's previous trance anthems, with its grandeur-filled climaxes, consistent beat, and beautifully laid out arrangements of various electronica instruments. 

Truth be told, there is a lot of variety on this part of the album, and in some places, it flows extremely well, with most tracks obviously related to a thematic sound that ATB has seemingly put together. However, there are tracks that seemingly do not fit in at all with the overall musical theme of the 1st disc. The biggest offender is clearly This is Your Life, with Fuldner failing to impress with his pseudo rap, followed by poor vocal work by JanSoon and a lack of polish from ATB himself on the rather risible Gold

Standout tracks? Apart from the afore-mentioned Apollo Road, nods go to Twisted Love featuring Christina Soto,  as well as HeartBeat with Amurai and Melissa Loretta. Both Melissa and Christina recall the beauty of the vocal stylings by Tiff Lacey on Ecstasy (2004), yet have their own unique sound.

Disc 2

Let's get comfy.

Disc 2 is far more consistently paced compared to Disc 1. Unfortunately for most people, it will be paced far too slowly. The bpm is a lot lower, there is no track that anyone could conceivably dance to. It is, for lack of a better word, a Chillout session on a disc. It is this slower pace that undoubtedly helps it along.

How so? Because musical flow is far more pronounced on Disc 2 than Disc 1, with no tracks really standing out as party poopers. And it is on this Disc that ATB really shines. You will find some of the most beautifully emotive electronica music ever made on this part of the album, with standouts being Vice-Versa (with Armin Van Buuren), Magnetic Girl and Moments in Peace.

credit :
A nod has to be thrown in the direction of the rather delightful Moving Backwards, featuring Kate Louise Smith. It is not the best song on the album, but it is one that this writer keeps on coming back to. Simple lyrics with a simple yet elegant electronic arrangement are indicative of ATB's talent for massaging beauty out of what most laymen consider random beats and beeps. 

The titular track Distant Earth is another triumph of simplicity and elegance. However, the disc is not without missteps. Trinity, whilst a beautiful track in itself, sounds more like an orchestral composition than a thematically linked song with the rest of the Disc. City of Hope hopes to achieve the same levels of elegance and simplicity as other tracks, but falls short due to what seems to be formulaic and filler-style arrangements. Strenwanderer never seems to make any sort of momentum whatsoever, with the diminished sound coming off as banal.

Disc 2 is clearly meant as an excuse to whack up the hifi system and just bathe in the sounds of a clearly relaxed and matured ATB. It has some of his most brilliant work yet.

So should you?

Is ATB worth your time?

Undoubtedly, he is. This isn't the bombastic trance fest that could conceivably be expected by someone who has grown up listening to ATB's Ecstasy (still his biggest hit to date), but it is an accomplished effort that warrants space on your music shelf. Even if you are not an electronica fan.
Yes, there are missteps and jarring additions that do not belong on this album's musical canvas, but they are not dealbreakers. From the soaring efforts of Apollo Road to the studied miasma of Magnetic Girl, it is a triumph of brilliance and clearly shows the work of a settled, confident artiste at the top of his game.

This article first appeared here :

Of traveled souls and weary flight.

The new XplitShock column was supposed to be put up today, but I've had to delay it as I'm still on the road and traveling. For that, I apologise.

As I type this, I'm sitting on an uncomfortable and barely padded bench in Miri airport, counting down the hours to my flight back home to Kuching. (For the record, it's scheduled for 9.05pm, 3 hours from now. Oh joy). I barely got to see anything of interest in Labuan, due to my own tiredness and the sheer tedium of having to sit through a regional sales meeting. It seemed a nice enough place, and I might pop back over in the future.

My thoughts for the day have centered on two things : future job opportunities, and what to do if I do get one. The question of money is not the main thing, although that is obviously part of the motivation in finding gainful employment. I find myself wondering how, if at all, I'm going to grow. This is all moot, however, should I not find meaningful employment in the fantastically hectic settings of Kuala Lumpur. The yearning for answers to these queries serves to indicate, more than anything else, my intense desire to make something for myself. At least, that's what I believe it to be.

Traveling like this though, with the lonely solitary nights in hotel rooms and the isolationist feel of being on your own, is probably something I won't miss too much regarding my current position of employment. Flying around all the time, being a supposed jetsetter, has its perks. You're part of the jetset, right? But all that solitude.. Sometimes, it just gets too much. Missing loved ones, your kid, your family and friends. It's a special kind of courage that is required to truly make the most of such a situation. To keep on boarding that plane that takes you away from all that you value most and love.

I just want to stay at home with my daughter and play hide-n-seek till I run out of energy. Which will be long before she runs out of hers.

As it is, I'm grateful at least, for this sort of experience. Suffering depravity amplifies the simple mercies that life affords us. Whether it be waking up to the cries of your children making a mess of breakfast, or the oddly comforting sound of your siblings arguing with your parents. I know that my future employment choices will mean that these mercies will be taken from me. I understand the concept of the price that I will be paying in order to find myself. What I probably do not understand yet, is the depth of the price that will have to be paid for that to happen.

Then again, the cost of merely staying in a comfort zone and coasting along in life.. It does not bear thinking about.

The sun has set here in Miri. I consider it a poignant coincidence, as I ponder the sunset of one phase of my life, and the potential dawn of another. The brilliance of such happenings mirror the fantastical parallels that accompany our journey through the different chapters of our existence. In a week when the world's most famous tech company mourned and celebrated the end of an era and the emergence of a new one, I eagerly await the birth of another.

My own.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

End of an Era - RIP Steve Jobs, 1955 - 2011

I am currently on a business trip to Labuan, and it was with a sense of deep sadness that as I checked into my room and switched on CNN, I was greeted with the announcement of the death of former Apple CEO and Apple Chairman, Steve Jobs.

I am not a huge fan of Apple products. Maybe in the future I will provide an insight into that stance, and why I have an issue with their technological vision. As for the man though, he is undoubtedly one of the greatest technology CEOs that has ever lived. Better eulogies have been written all over the internet for the man, and I will not attempt one myself until I feel ready to fully expand on the ideas that he has inspired in me.

So rest in peace, Steve. Your genius will not be forgotten.

image :

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Of queried labels and finite time.

What a day it's been. I've been in KL for two days now, taking in the sights and sounds, and getting down and dirty with why I came here in the first place.

Job interviews.

I had a very interesting one today. One that combined my appalling propensity to talk too much, with my equally dreadful habit of talking too quickly when even slightly nervous.

The company in question is called Lucideas, and is a marketing communications company located in KL. I had been spectacularly nervous before this, because I had never done any campaign planning or presentations as part of any interview process. The jitters before said interview were some of the worst I had ever experienced. Having been in debate tournament finals before, I can safely say which one is scarier! (Hint - not the debating)

However, the late afternoon interview soon became an early evening chat, and I found myself comfortable and openly engaged by the wonderful people that had taken time out to speak to me. My hat is doffed in the direction of Zac for being a good sport, and especially to Melissa, who offered much warmth and encouragement as I underwent the interview process.

I loved the vibe at the office, and I seemed to find it very easy to get along with the personnel that I met. They have a very different work culture at Lucideas, compared to where I had been to before. It is a place that I sincerely wish to be a part of. My fervent hope is that they consider me good enough to become part of the family there. It helps that an old friend, whom I haven't seen in YEARS, actually works there (talk about coincidences and cue the singing for *It's a small world after all*).

I am not getting ahead of myself, however. There are still some obstacles in the way. Major obstacles, as it is.

At the very least though, for one day, I can feel happy that I was welcomed with open arms at Lucideas. Hopefully I'll be back.