Friday, November 20, 2009

2 Cents To Play: Submitted Via Xbox Live

If you've been reading your friends Facebook updates or Tweets as of late, you may have noticed some were submitted "via Xbox Live." This is because the nations Xbox's got there biggest update since Micro$oft changed the menu interface. In this update, Xbox Live members can now use streamlined versions of Facebook, Twitter, and Last.FM (similar to Pandora) from their TV's.

I was skeptical about all this at first. Why would anyone use facebook on their Xbox when they can't chat, send private messages, write on peoples wall or play those stupid games? There are a couple of positives in this intergration. The first being you can view all your pictures in a slideshow on your TV which is awesome especially if you're rocking the flat panel. The other major benefit is you can now find your facebook friends who are also on Xbox Live which is great because very few xbox users can admit their friends list is compiled of all their real life friends.

Microsoft has also said users will be able to challenge their friends via facebook and post high scores. Being able to challenge my friend to shoot a 4 on the 5th at Spyglass in Tiger Woods has a lot of cool potential in a Jet Man sort of way.

Unfortunately I don't know if this will work to its fullest potential. I've already gotten some grief for updating my status on my Xbox. Im assuming gamers aren't going to "come out," so to speak, and admit they are avid online gamers. Are girls going to see this and be turned off by that cute kid from their class because he said put his thoughts on last nights "30 Rock" through their Xbox? I hope not as this update is intended to draw the casual social networking crowd to Microsoft's console but there will always be haters. We just have to keep our thumbs down.

- by Tyler Lyon
Xbox Live: Docholliday8706

Monday, November 16, 2009

Patriotic Partying (in the USA!)

It's a party in the USA!

The patriotic chorus blared through the speakers of literally every single bar I entered on a recent crawl across Iowa City’s finest drinking/dancing establishments—it was inescapable.

But the thing is, I didn’t want to escape it.

I froze in the midst of some serious Cabbage Patching the first time I heard it—since when does Miley Cyrus follow immediately after Akon’s “Sexy Bitch” on a DJ set?

My auditory confusion was settled as I became reassured by the lyrics.

“I put my hands up they’re playin’ song and I know it’s gonna be okay/noddin’ my head like yeah/movin’ my hips like yeah”

I’m an admitted music snob who regularly and unapologetically indulges in (worthy) Top 40 tracks. I love pop music—good pop music (See: Lady GaGa, Devo, Beyonce), though I articulately detest the majority of “musical” slime congesting our radio airwaves (See: Miley Cyrus, Jonas Brothers).


The first time I heard it I thought, “Well, I suppose this has the potential to fall into the mock-able realm of guilty pleasures” My receptive feelings became more justified the second time around, “I mean, this could definitely be ironic enough to be cool…” And then, in an ephiphanic moment, everything made sense. I put my hands up in the realization that, yea-a-a-a-aa-aaaah—it’s a party in the USA.

By the third or fourth play I was sold, “THIS SONG IS PURELY FUCKIN’ AWESOME!”

Any feelings of guilt melded into pure, unabashed pleasure after that magical night of patriotic partying.

As my newly enlightened life went on, I heard the song blasting from the balconies of frat bros' apartment complexes (more than once), pouring from the speakers at hipster house parties, and in Subway.

I discovered the nationally linking element of Miley Cyrus’ masterpiece: partying and America. If neither of those pastimes rings true, you’re definitely not American, you don’t belong here, and Jay Z hates you.

Check out the (epic) music vid featuring gigantic American flag, swing cage (?), and plenty of “hometown girls”!

-By Bri LaPelusa

Friday, November 13, 2009

2 Cents to Play: Call of Duty Controversy

****While we already had an excellent post on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, or as I affectionately call it "COD", it is set to be the biggest entertainment release ever.. There is a specific part of the game that warrants discussion. I'll let you know where the spoilers start.****

Like seemingly every other red-blooded American male, I stood in line to get the newest COD game. When I got home and booted up the campaign to see what the story offered. I was alerted with a message saying that some missions might be offensive and I had the option to skip them.

These types of parental guard are now common place in most "M" Rated (17 and up) games. Assassin's Creed gave gamers and their parents the option to turn of blood. The recent Brutal Legend demo (and I'm guessing the game) gave the option to do the same as well as bleep all F-words. As a 22 year-old I dismissed the menu. Bring it on. Then I ran into this little mission early into the game.

***Spoilers Begin Now BTW***

Anyone who's played the COD series knows each game is about immersion. Breaks between missions only exist to load the next level and any cut scene usually puts the player in someones shoes like in the mind blowing intro to the last game.

The "No Russian" mission in the latest COD game is the best example why violent games use to (and still do to some extent) garner so much controversy. It's all about engulfment - the player taking on the mentality of a character - that scared cable news pundits when the old Grand Theft Auto games came out. No one wants to think their kids have some taboo desire to be a criminal or terrorists but it's fine if they're Allied Soldiers or Athletes.

Game companies always point to their games rating and some of the aforementioned in game options. Popular Chains have now even begun to respect the ratings and the controversy has appeared to die down. However its just like getting booze, all you need is an older friend - sometimes a stranger will do.

If you want to try (and likely succeed) at beating the DI Video Game Guy on Xbox Live Ill be around: Docholliday8706

Playing Now: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony, NHL 10

Wish I Was Playing: Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect 2

-By Tyler Lyon

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


[before I begin this column, let me warn readers that this contains spoilers about the season three finale of AMC’s beloved show, Mad Men. If you haven’t seen the show, well, get with it, because it’s awesome.]

Oh Don Draper, you clever son of a bitch.

“You could fire us, and we could start our own agency!”

Jesus Christ. Who saw that coming? I know I didn’t. Don Draper again amazed me with his ability to not only surprise everyone, but not really care how much he hurts his friends/family/acquaintances.

The episode starts with Don getting STFU’d by Conrad Hilton, the owner and manager of Hilton Hotels (a multi-million dollar account for Sterling Cooper). I don’t know about others, but since the beginning of Don and Conrad’s relationship, I just *knew* something was going to go wrong. They got way too close, way too fast. Conrad was calling Don his “son” and Don was actually connecting to a human being! That never happens. So, naturally, it had to end sometime. And it did. And it set Don off — on a rampage.

Conrad tells Don that Sterling Cooper is being sold to some other company, which is why Conrad has to pull Hilton Hotels. This is the first Don heard, so he gets super pissed. That leads to their fallout not only in business, but as friends. But, something happens inside of Don at this moment. He recognizes that his life is no longer in control, and he wants to do something about it.

So the episode goes on, and he convinces all the big dogs at Sterling Cooper that they need to secede and create their own agency. And they do that. Honestly, I never thought I would be so enthralled with a show about middle aged men in advertising. The power and magic of television is amazing.

But now instead of continuing to blab about the episode, I want to ask you a question. Is this a good idea?

Immediately, I want to say yes. Now the core group from Sterling Cooper has complete control over all of their creative output. Naturally, you would thing the guys who built a powerhouse agency would know how to do it again, and this time do it better, right? But I don’t know. I think the main issue is Don.

The main catalyst for this new venture was his fallout with Conrad. Now, even though Don might be saying that he “wants to do something” with his life, I still think he’s being moody. Maybe I’m pessimistic, but I just don’t see Don changing his ways. As soon as next season starts, he’s going to want to do something else. Again, he’s using the people in his life, simply for what he wants.

Regardless of all those feelings though — it was pretty badass how the Americans totally screwed the British. Happy Veteran’s Day!

-Eric S.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

COD: Modern Warfare 2 Release

I thought I would never wait in line for a midnight release of anything. Many consumers fancy they wouldn't. But last night, the release of "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2", called my name.
Having heard just about every male around talk about how sweet the game is supposed to be for the past few weeks, I decided to go. Why not? The fact that so many people were interested in something completely foreign to me spiked my curiosity.
It was a cool, crisp night. The thermostat on my car said 53 degrees Farenheit, but it felt much colder with the unseasonably warm daytime temperatures Iowa City has been experiencing the last few days.
My tour around local venues hosting midnight release "parties" began at roughly 10:15 p.m. First stop: Gamers in the Old Capitol Town Center, 201 S. Clinton. About 25 young men sat, stood, or leaned against the exterior wall of the Old Capitol Mall; it was a typical scene of what I expected to see.
10:45 p.m.- Video Games Etc. on the Coralville Strip next to Hy-Vee. Much the same scene as what I had experienced at Gamers. However, some of these lads had been smart enough to bring lawn chairs. As I drove by, many of them smiled and waved.
Driving down the Coralville strip with its prematurely cheery Christmas lights blazing on the trees to either side of me, it was like the tunnel to heaven. The few businesses still open were fast-food joints and 24-hour stores, and small bars.
10:55 p.m.- I arrive at the Coral Ridge Mall. Unbeknownst to me, Game Stop inside of the mall is open for business. Following a couple of over-excited teenagers through the automatic doors, I spot the back of a 150-or-so person line outside of the store; They are waiting for pre-ordered copies of the game.
Two Great American Cookie employees sit at a table near the front of the line with boxes of free cookies for the multitude of anxious gamers.
"We didn't really plan on handing out free cookies," says Jessica Brierton, 20, a cheerful Kirkwood student. "But we saw people waiting in line at like 9 and offered the cookies."
The mood is generally upbeat, which can probably be attributed to the combination of free cookies and impending hours upon hours of XBox action.
"It's interesting how many people showed up so early," Brierton says. "And they seem to be really bonding about it. Everyone's in a good mood."
Right on cue, the merry mall security supervisor for the swing shift, David Sloan, walks up to grab a cookie.
"We are not so much here for security purposes," Sloan says. "The store just asked us to be here for crowd control. They weren't sure how many people were going to be here."
Sloan, whose shift normally goes from 3-11 p.m., is expecting to be there until at least 1:00 Tuesday morning. And who knows? It could be longer depending on the crowd.
But he loves his job and is proud of what he does. He does not consider himself a police officer, but more of a helping hand for mall patrons, with some of the public safety responsibilities that police do have.
"I like to think of the mall as a town within the town of Coralville," he says, standing a little taller.
11:15 p.m.- Best Buy outside the Coral Ridge Mall. About 40 people are waiting outside, but the line grows leaps and bounds every 10 minutes or so.
The mood is increasingly excited. Groups of game enthusiasts discuss everything from South Park to the perils of buying a Mac to how "fucking awesome!" Call of Duty is. Two college-aged gentlemen with jobs discuss their strategies for surviving the wait.
"Dude, I had like three Red Bulls at work today," says one.
I can't help but notice that the only passing vehicles on the visible stretch of highway in front of the mall are semis, yet the parking lot is nearly one-third full with cars. Groups of guys race into the parking lot.
"Nerds! You're all insane!" says one driver as he races by in his old red Toyota Camry, which he promptly parks and exits to make a mad dash into the mall.
Some of these guys know that they might be seen as just that for waiting hours outside a story to buy a video game, but they are willing to take that risk.
Twenty-year-old Andy McBride got to Best Buy at 8:00 for the midnight opening. He managed to claim the coveted front-of-the-line position.
"This game is the greatest sequel ever," he says of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. "I'm most excited for multiplayer."
McBride says that he spends about 20-hours a week on video games. "I probably sound like a huge nerd right now," he says. "[But] I hope to have the game beat by tonight."
11:55 p.m.- Best Buy's manager emerges from the double doors. The crowd is noticeably and increasingly roused. She explains the orderly procedure for claiming the game.
"There are 150 pre-ordered copies," she says. "This is the longest line I've ever seen, but there are about 570 copies to buy, so everyone will be helped."
The crowd buzzes. Sitters rise. The line contracts.
"MIDNIGHT!" Shouts one overly-enthusiastic buyer.
The doors open. Inside sits a table with all 5 editions of the new game, specialized Modern Warfare 2 controllers, Prestige edition night vision goggles, "Limited edition!" Xbox 360s, strategy guides, subscriptions for Xbox Live, universal gaming headsets.... And everyone's eating it up.
But the best part is the look of relief on the faces of those who have been anxiously awaiting this video game. It's as if they have that one thing they've been waiting for.
And now, energy drinks in hand, they will proceed to play through the night.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Deflowering the Rocky Horror Virgins

I will always always wonder what ever happened to Saturday night.
On Halloween at midnight, The Englert Theater showed the pop culture classic Rocky Horror Picture Show complete with tight leather, scantily clad sweet transvestites, and audience partic- (say it!) - pation.
As a "Rocky Horror Virgin", I was new to why such an awful movie with rambling plot lines has such a cult following. But regardless, I wanted to see what it was all about. Entering the theater, there was a certain energy that shifted from the drunken downtown streets into an exaggerated, loose-lipped, flagrant atmosphere of the lobby in The Englert Theater. I made it through the theater door, grabbed my prop bag, and receive the infamous "v" for virgin on my forehead.
Audience members' costumes varied among creative costumes such as peacocks and fortune tellers to emulating the costumed characters in the movie. Dr. Frankenfurter was reincarnated by tight, black corsets, and those mimicking the stylings of Rocky stripped down to a single pair of golden briefs.
As the time neared midnight, even organizers dressed in character clothing rounded up all of the "virgins" to the front of the stage for the ritual hazing. Packed closely with others, we were instructed to do pelvic thrusts; therefore, we lost our Rocky Horror Picture Show virginity. After this, we were allowed back to our seats for the movie to begin.
The infamous pair of blood red lips appeared on the screen and began a movie showing where I saw, felt, and screamed. I never thought I would be viewing a movie where it was okay, and even encouraged, to scream profanities at the movie screen. Not only this, but audience members also pelted pieces of stale toast and playing cards. The pelting had its risks for I was in seating close to the front and was hit by toast shrapnel. We were also given newspaper to cover our heads to fend off the rain that was pouring down in one of the scenes.
The movie, absent of all audience participation and heckling, is really quite terrible. At times I would neglect to shout or throw objects and actually pay attention to the movie. That was a bad idea.
But one thing is for sure - I will be doing the Time Warp agaaaiiiinnnn...

-Hanna Rosman

“Clears Eyes, Full Hearts. Can’t lose.”

The fall brings two of my favorite past times to the fore front: Football and the fall TV season. While many viewers are going to work at a northeast paper company, grabbing a pint at their favorite Philly bar, or singing infectious pop songs with their hip Spanish teacher a select few are putting on their shoulder pads to enjoy the drama under the Friday Night Lights and every night in between.

The reason I use the words “select few” is because the fourth season of the once hit show is back on DirectTV channel 101. Unfortunately for myself and all the others in Panther (or should I say Lion) nation, we don’t have the satellite service and are left in the dark until spring, when the season airs on NBC.

However, fans have no reason to complain; in fact they should rejoice and praise DirecTV for taking a chance on one of the best shows on TV. After a lackluster second season, there was no reason for either the satellite provider or NBC to pick up a third season. And while last season was strong and harkened back to season one – one of the best seasons of any show ever – DirecTV picked up not one but two more seasons!

Like many Friday Night fanatics I had to find an alternative means to see last Wednesday’s premiere and while I know this means I will be one less viewer come spring, my excitement consumed me as this last season lived up to my expectations ten-fold.

To state the obvious, Coach Eric Taylor is a stallion. Any self-respecting guy is lucky to grow up to be half the man he is. He takes anything that comes his way and meets it head on and is the perfect lead character to have in case a show needs to shake up its formula. The same can be said of Tami Taylor (Connie Britton). Her quick tongue and Coach’s stubborn will make for TV’s best couple. Period.

It’s a true testament the actors and the writing that a show is able to stay fresh for so long. Sure season two's infamous rape plotline went on longer than it should have but other than that, the show remains strong even with character’s graduating from Dillion High and this season is the best example of that.

While I don’t want to give anything away for those waiting for the NBC season, the lines in Dillion, Texas have been clearly drawn and I can’t wait to see where they lead.

-by Tyler Lyon