Wednesday, December 5, 2007

2007 FWC Blog Awards

Welcome to the 2007 FWC Blog Awards, where the categories are arbitrary and the decisions even moreso.

Without any further ado, let's begin, shall we?

Category: TV Series Most Stuck Up Its Own Arse

The Winner: 24

I started watching this show a couple of weeks ago when my wife's maid of honour brought season one over on DVD. We managed an entire episode and a half before we switched it off, shortly after Jack Bauer cut off the finger of a dead guy.

In its favour, the idea of a real-time show is good. The idea of multiple things going on at once is also good. Unfortunately, the way they did it was not. I'll buy a Sutherland in the main role, but way too much stuff happened that kept me from getting into the story. The multiple boxes on the screen? Nice idea if you only do it maybe once an episode, but every 5 minutes? Come on, this show has way too big a budget not to be more creative with this.

In all, the show came off to me like a version of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but with terrorism and US politics as the setting. The only really competent person in the entire show is the main character, and everyone else seems to be in constant danger because of their own stupid decisions and only Jack Bauer can save them all, but he can only do so much at once, even if you put him in all four boxes on the screen at the same time.

Please keep in mind that I'm not saying the show is without merit. If 24 didn't try so hard to be The Greatest Show Evar I think I'd have been able to get in on the ground floor. However, the flaws I mentioned plus a helping of self-importance and the constant adding of danger music when nothing ends up happening in a scene were just too off-putting for me.

Runner-up: Lost

Category: TV Series That I Didn't Expect To Like But Did

The Winner: Weeds

My wife and I started watching season one at around 7 or so in the evening a couple of months ago. 11 hours of episodes later that same night we went to bed.

It's hard to explain why in one sentence. It's not that Weeds is the most amazing show evar (see the efforts of 24 above). It's pretty straightforward about what it is, and that's nice. Weeds takes its time, but the story moves pretty quickly, if that makes sense. The characters are caricatures, but not to the point of distracting from the story. In all, it's entertaining because it's not too much of one thing. The actors, the story and even the theme song all grow on you, if that's not too close to a plant joke.

The show itself starts out about a widow (Mary-Louise Parker) in white Californian suburbia that starts selling marijuana to the rest of the nearby suburbanites. The idea is compelling enough to get you to start watching and then the good writing takes over. Watch 3 episodes (they're only a half hour each) and see if you don't find yourself watching through the rest of the season.

Category: Worst Fantasy Football League Owner, 2007

The "Winner": Me!

WARNING: This section is full of self-pitying rants. Feel free to skip to the next category if you don't want to see them, and you can't say you weren't warned otherwise.

To be honest, this wasn't even really close. I should have known better, but I decided that maybe the last 8 or so times I played fantasy football to all be coincidences.

My fantasy teams have two common themes, and those are underachievers and injuries. Well, I suppose finishing last is common as well, but I figured that kinda goes without sayign.

I have an impressive collection of careers I've ended during my fantasy football history, with highlights including (but not limited to):

Randall Cunningham: Drafted 1st overall, injured Q1 of game 1 (thanks, Bryce Paup)
Steve Young: Drafted Round 1 the year he started collecting concussions.

The list of underperformers is much longer if not more impressive, including Jerry Rice, Steve Smith, Ahman Green and so on.

2007 was special for me, as I managed injuries and near-suspensions and underperforming all at the same time, including the loss of the top 4 running backs I drafted to injury.

Here's the short list:Larry Johnson: Underperformed until he could manage an injury.Travis Henry: Did well for a few weeks, then injured a knee and failed a marijuana test. He won the appeal and is allowed to play, but can't because he's still injured.
Ronnie Brown: Did nothing until mid-season, then went on IR after two good games.
Marshawn Lynch: Injury after injury after injury.
LaMont Jordan: Played 2 good weeks, then a back injury ended his season.
Lee Evans: Played 2 good weeks, but only after I cut him and he was picked up by another team.
Drew Brees: Managed 3 good weeks this season, and wasn't starting on any of them.
Matt Schaub: Completing 75% of your passes and still being useless in a fantasy league takes genuine effort, I think. Then he separated his shoulder.
Matt Leinart: Underperformed AND went on IR.
Vince Young: Underperformed, traded, still underperformed.
Santonio Holmes: All the promise in the world, 2 good weeks on the field. The season is 14 weeks long.
Brandon Marshall: To see the guy break tackles in-game you'd think he's the next Jerry Rice. He still hasn't shown up on the stats sheet.

This also doesn't count the kickers and defenses that are enough reason on their own to make an alcoholic out of me.

In the true spirit of a Leafs fan, however, I'm sure I'll do better next year. (:

(head shake) Enough of the whining, however, and on to the next award.

Category: Cinematic surprise of 2007

The Winner: The Wife getting into horror flicks!

My wife is amazing at a great many things. Keeping her cool when watching a horror flick not among them. Not that she'd scream at the top of her lungs when something happened, but she seemed to shy away from them on principle, until this year, after she remembered that that she enjoyed really tense movies like Session 9 and decided that apart from the special-effects "gore because we can" kind of movies (your Saws and Hostels), she wanted to see if she had the stomach for some good classic horror movies. These included the original Friday the 13th, the original Exorcist, 1408 and a few others, and it turns out that she loved them. I'm very proud of her for this, because people tend to decide at an early age that they do or don't like horror movies and tend not to re-evaluate that stance afterward.

She jumps at the right moments and reacts the way people making these kind of movies hope you will. She also loves it, and I look forward to seeing some more classics with her soon.

Category: Crack of 2007

The Winner: Guitar Hero III

I've played a lot of games over the past year. I've played OCD tests like Rune Factory (which I finished without ever getting close to getting married in the game), Final Fantasy III (All the grinding you could ever want without learning how to weld) and Picross (still the best instant multiplayer game I've seen for the DS).

I'd played GHII at a friend's house enough to be able to beat YYZ on medium difficulty, and was pretty proud of that. Then GHIII showed up and I've made it to Hard difficulty.

To explain the jump from Medium to Hard difficulty, do you remember the scene in the movie Airplane where the sick kid starts convulsing and the nurse slaps him and then other people start joining in slapping him and the camera pans to the lineup up the aisle with people waiting their turn holding blunt objects and various weapons? If you start in on Hard difficulty immediately after the first time you beat the final boss fight in Medium you'll think that queue of people is lining up for you. It's that steep of a curve. Luckily I'm also a video game masochist in addition to susceptible to OCD-tests, so I've been in the Practice mode nearly as much as I've been playing the actual songs in order to get the the galloping triplets section in Knights of Cydonia or the brutal fingering in 3s and 7s.

It's also a game that just about everyone in our nerd circle of friends enjoys playing a lot. If it wasn't for the fact that staring at dots moving down the fret board makes your eyes tired after a while, there would probably be genuine fights over who gets to play next.

Releasing extra controllers for the Wii version so all the addicts can play multiplayer would also be nice, but I digress.

So, yeah, crack. If you pick it up, at least you can't say you haven't been warned.

Unmentioned Runners-Up: Lunar Knights, Brain Age 2

Category: Band I Like That Would Ruin My Credibility If I Recommended Them

The Winner: DragonForce

I have an inner 6-year-old.

This 6-year-old will laugh at every 3 Stooges Sketch. He has seriously considered buying a box set of Rocky movies (and has seen Rocky IV at least a half dozen times and had the final training montage music on cassette). He loved a very bad show that only ran for 2 seasons in the very early eighties called Automan. He cheered the Hoff in Knight Rider and wished he owned Kitt. He watched and cheered for Airwolf, he loved Beowulf and every Die Hard movie. He watched horrible shows like this one and this one and this one and loved every one of them. You get the picture.

By cheered, by the way, I mean literally stood up and cheered out loud.

In short, my inner 6-year-old is responsible for just about every embarrassing enjoyment in my life.

Dragonforce is a English rock band that wrote the song Through The Fire And Flames which is used as credit music after each difficulty level in Guitar Hero III.

The first time I heard this song my adult brain cringed and my inner 6-year-old exalted. This could not end well.

It is not good music. My adult brain gave some ground and hoped to stop where this was going by finding the discography and listening to it end-to-end.

First, the good. Dragonforce is a very high-energy band, and by that I don't mean they play faster than most, I mean they play ferret-on-a-double-espresso fast. The guitarist plays almost at the speed of Yngwie Malmsteen. Oh, just look him up.

They're an honest band. They're not going to make a dance remix of anything, they're not going anywhere near jazz that I can tell, and even both of their "slow" songs (they have 2 on 3 albums) are 150bpm. They play aggressive guitar rock and they're amazing musicians, talent-wise. How they'd play at the pace they do in a live concert for 3+ hours is beyond me. The thought of a Dragonforce mosh pit is enough of a deterrant that I am going to pass on going to their live shows to find out, even if they weren't all in Europe.

Finally, their sound is intentionally loud and for what it is, it sounds well balanced to my ear.

With all of that going for them, why are they in the Embarrassing category instead of Highly Recommended? Let's look at that now.

That song I told you about earlier? That's their sound, and it's their only one. If you listen to enough of their music, it all blurs into one song with arbitrary pauses to let the musicians go outside and set fire to things, I imagine. It's fine if you're using it as background music while you do work. On its own, however, if your band has as much variety as that of highland dancing arm movement, something is wrong.

Nearly every lyric is sung by all the vocalists at once, and they never vary the arrangement. It sounds stolen from Carry On My Wayward Son, now that I think about it. There may have been some solo singing in one song, but I might've been imagining it. Also, the drumming begins to sound more like galloping than drumming after a while.

Next, the song titles physically hurt me to read. It honestly sounds like a mix tape put together by the Crown Prince of EmoTown. Here's the track list for their latest album, just so you don't think I'm cherry-picking titles:

1 - Through The Fire and Flames
2 - Revolution Deathsquad
3 - Storming The Burning Fields
4 - Operation Ground and Pound
5 - Body Breakdown
6 - Cry For Eternity
7 - The Flame Of Youth
8 - Trail of Broken Hearts


Given their obvious skill at wordsmithery when it comes to song titles, I'm sure you can only imagine the quality of their lyric-writing. Even my inner 6-year-old doesn't get behind the lyrics, they're that bad. I won't risk my single-digit readership any further by actually typing out any of them, but please do take my word for it, they're....appropriate for the music and song titles.

And that's Dragonforce. If you like a balanced fast-paced guitar rock sound and can avoid reading the titles or paying attention to the lyrics or thinking about the lack of variety throughout, then my inner 6-year-old highly recommends them.

Well, there you have it, I'm officially out of rants for the time being. Shouldn't be out for long, though.