T3 38: Top 10 GameCube Games

Does the Wii U have what it takes to be a success? Something that can compare well to the Wii’s legacy? The Dreamcast was a generational half-step, and look what happened there. On the other hand, the Xbox 360 got a year’s head start on this generation and turned that into a steady lead. If we use the Nintendo 3DS as an example, which isn’t quite fair, it’s hard to be optimistic. That was another piece of hardware designed to follow in the footsteps of an unlikely success story by tacking on one new trendy feature. But the 3DS is also a handheld, and the handheld console market might be disappearing, anyway. So instead of doomsaying, let’s instead look at the light side of Nintendo’s last failure, the GameCube. We liked it, it had a handle.

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C.A.T: Harvest

Neil Young – Harvest (1972)

What better time to remember Harvest than on the day after Neil Young’s birthday? Harvest was initially intended to be Neil’s first country album. In preparation, Neil put together a talented backing band dubbed “The Stray Gators” that consisted of such pros as; pedal steel guitarist Ben Keith, former James Brown bassist Tim Drummond, drummer Kenny Buttrey, and legendary multi-instrumentalist/film score composer Jack Nitzsche (also co-producer). All the pieces were there for a great country album and yet Harvest became so much more. How else do you explain the inclusion of the London Symphony Orchestra? I don’t know about you but when I hear the name “London Symphony Orchestra” I don’t tend to think country.

Songs like “Are You Ready for the Country” and “Harvest” reflect Neil’s country-themed vision, but for the most part Harvest is an album that reflects all sides of Neil. I mentioned the London Symphony Orchestra and they’re in full swing on theatrical cuts like “There’s a World” and “A Man Needs a Maid”. “Old Man” calls back to the bittersweet tales of Neil’s previous album After the Goldrush. Perhaps most affecting is Neil’s heartbreaking “The Needle and the Damage done” a live tribute to deceased Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten. Harvest captures a wide range of styles and more importantly emotions.

Reportedly, Neil recorded Harvest while in terrible pain after a severe back injury. I guess you could say recording Harvest was “Back breaking hard work?” Ha! Nonetheless, Neil managed to overcome the pain and not only write some of his best material but some of his most successful. A big chart hit, Harvest also contained Neil’s only number one single “Heart of Gold”. If there’s one song Neil will be remembered for it might as well be that one. You don’t get much more iconic than that opening harmonica riff set against Neil’s always expressive acoustic guitar.

Harvest is another one of those albums that followed a great album and thus asks the question “Which one is better?” Honestly, I can’t decide ,but I’m glad that’s my only quandary when it comes to these albums.

Favorite Tracks: “Heart of Gold”, “The Needle and the Damage Done”, “Old Man”

I Guess I’m All About Windows Now

I wasn’t sold on smartphones until the iPhone came out. Even then, I waited a full year, until the rise of the app store and the release of the iPhone 3G, to ditch my RAZR and step into the new world. I loved it. My iPhone 3G was an amazing device, and while I was initially impressed with things like visual voicemail and having a real web browser, the real fun came as the app store really took off. I felt like I never had an excuse to be bored again, so amazing this device was. And then two years passed and I sold it to my friend on the cheap so I could get an iPhone 4.

I lined up to get an iPhone 4 on launch day, back before we knew about the weird antenna problems and that the white version wouldn’t be available for like six months. I didn’t even tell anybody about my plan, which made for an exciting moment when I had to get my dad’s consent to upgrade (since we’re on a family plan). That 7 a.m. call was pretty terrifying, since if no one had answered, all of it would have been a waste. Fortunately, he picked up, I got the phone, and I have used it every day for the past two and a half years. It’s a great little computer.

With most tech, the best advice on buying is “wait until you need it.” Yes, that new MacBook may be a lot better than your old one, but do you need it? Of course, my definition of need is a bit skewed compared to the average person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in this rule. Phones are an exception to this rule, though. Most providers give you an opportunity to upgrade after a certain amount of time, and I say take it. If it’s something you’re going to use everyday, and in an industry with so much innovation, treat yourself. My iPhone 4 will still be here, as a testing ground for iOS apps and as my MP3 player of choice.

So I began trying to decide what phone to get. The obvious first choice is the iPhone 5, but there was also the Samsung Galaxy S III, an Android phone, and the Nokia Lumia 920, the flagship Windows Phone 8 cell. I look at the iPhone 5, and I’m just not that excited. What has changed in the two iterations between my iPhone and the new one? Well, there’s Siri now, but I don’t understand why I would ever use that. And the iPhone 5 is longer, it looks like it got stretched out. On the software side, iOS is basically the same as it’s always been, except the Maps app is apparently way worse (don’t really use it myself). Apple’s products are so popular and industry-standard, I feel like they are afraid to do anything new and exciting. Now the iPhone is the safe bet, the easy choice. The boring choice.

On the other hand, the Lumia 920. Nokia, always a great phone manufacturer, has been struggling in recent years. They made a big bet on the Lumia 920 and Windows Phone 8, the stakes are actually high. With Android and iOS dominating the smartphone market, Microsoft is desperate to carve out a share for themselves and this Windows Phone 8 is the harbinger of that movement. As someone who cares about UI, I’ve always been a big fan of Microsoft’s Modern (formerly Metro) style, and I think it is way more exciting and intuitive than iOS.

I’ve been using Windows 8 since the weekend it came out, and I don’t get why so many people are complaining about it. Most people claim to have a problem with the Start Screen, but find it fine as a neat Start Menu replacement. I spend most of my time on the desktop, which feels a lot like Windows 8, maybe a little better. There certainly are problems, like weird redundancies and inconsistencies between the two environments, and ultimately it feels like a half measure between a brand new approach to Windows and a desire not to alienate anyone. But at least it feels new. I got Mac OS X Mountain Lion when it came out and at this point I’ve forgotten what it changed. Yet everyone loves Mountain Lion and hates Windows 8.

Well, I’m tired of this new Apple that’s afraid to change anything. While Microsoft is out here changing everything, Apple is introducing an iPad that’s slightly smaller than the real iPad and slightly bigger than an iPod Touch. I’m going to go with Microsoft on this one. Now, sure I admit that this is me being a crazy person. And if anyone asked me what smartphone to get, I’d tell them to get the iPhone 5. I’m pretty sure the iPhone 5 is the best phone in the world right now.

But I’m going with something that gets me excited about my phone again. I preordered the Lumia 920 last week and my shipment got delayed, it’s supposed to show up tomorrow. I’m pumped, can’t wait for the weekend to be over. It’s something wholly new, and it sounds like it’s one hell of a phone, too. I hope I like it, cause I’m going to be stuck with it for a while. And if I don’t, at least I’ll have another post to write. And I can’t wait for how excited I’ll be to upgrade to an iPhone 6 in two years.

Now if you’re asking why I didn’t pick the Galaxy S III, well… I don’t like Android. For no reason.



I was going to try to fit bone into the headline somehow…but with our recent conversations about 007 and his genitalia, but I thought this was more appropriate. Or inappropriate. That’s what you call diverse writing.

This was the first movie I’ve ever seen in a theater by myself. Well I wasn’t really by myself. I was surrounded by 200 elderly people hacking up their lung butter every time Bond was trying to make sexy lady moves. I couldn’t help but thing maybe that was why he wasn’t getting very lucky this time around.

Anyway, Skyfall is all about Bond and how he’s losing a step, becoming “old balls” if you will. After a near-death experience, Bond isn’t quite what he once was. He’s on edge, jittery. He’s lost his marksmanship, he’s lost as step physically and we find out that his upbringing was less than ideal, leading to some mommy/daddy issues.

Thankfully this is all just in time for homosexually-charged Javier Bardem to get a list of all the MI6 agents and starts pickin’ em off one by one. As if Bond didn’t have enough shit on his plate, he’s gotta deal with this now. At this point in the movie he’d only gotten laid once.

So basically I felt that two over-arching themes “pop, pop”ed out to me in this installment. The first was the old, “I’m getting too old for this shit” shit. I really had a hard time buying into this, since it seems like the series was rebooted to have Daniel Craig portray a younger Bond. We’re only three movies in for heaven sake and he’s already too old for this shit? I wonder at what point in the Roger Moore was getting to old for the shit. Maybe he never did. Although in Craig’s defense, the toughest thing Moore ever did on-screen was…look handsome? Nah, probably the clown thing.

The second theme I saw…well it’s hard to put a finger on. The film was basically trying to tell us what the James Bond franchise is all about. I watched the 60 Minutes interview with Craig the other day, and they asked him why the movies weren’t as campy and fun. He basically said that they had to earn that right. They literally leveled the franchise, because Die Another Day was so bad, that they had to start from scratch.

You can see in this movie, they slowly are starting to add the themes back in. Tastefully I might add. We have Q, but he doesn’t give him that much cool stuff, he’s merely introduced. We see a couple of one liners. While not the greatest, they still made me feel fuzzy. I smiled and felt apart of the movie as a Bond fan. There’s some other great moments that harken back to the days of Connery, but I won’t spoil too much.

Lastly, the thing that made this movie great was they reminded us that no one in Bond is irreplaceable. The reason the franchise has been able to survive for this long is because although actors may come and go, characters, positions, themes…all the reasons we keep coming back for more are still there. Bond is still Bond, and while Daniel Craig isn’t my favorite 007, he’s growing on me fast. At least he’s not emotionally stunted George Lazenby.

T3 37: Top 10 James Bond Songs

McCartney. Paul McCartney. He gets a lot of credit for his lyrics, but I’ve got to say “this ever changing world in which we live in” is not one of his gems. “In which we live in”? Come on, you can do better. I bring this up because this week we’re talking about the very best James Bond theme songs. And, since this is the longest-running film franchise of all time, there are a lot of them. So don’t let me waste any more of your time. Go, go!

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Business As Usual

Titus Andronicus – Local Business

For a bunch of self-loathing schlubs from Jersey, Titus Andronicus sure created something ambitious with their last album, The Monitor.  At the time, I didn’t feel like I’d ever heard any band that had managed to take punk rock and turn it into something as sprawling and epic as that album, and for that it quickly became one of my favorite albums in recent memory.  Still, considering the kind of scruffy garage-punk aesthetic that Titus Andronicus have always embodied, I kind of figured that they wouldn’t ever stand a chance of creating something nearly as satisfying.  So did Local Business prove me right?  Well, yeah, but that doesn’t mean that these guys still haven’t turned out a solid album full of songs that rock hard while still trying to make sense of being young, drunk, and angry.

I guess being on the road as much as Titus Andronicus was in support of their last album took a toll on a lot of the members, since pretty much the whole T.A. lineup on Local Business is made-up of newcomers apart from drummer Eric Harm and lead singer/songwriter Patrick Sickles.  And that’s fine, since Sickles really seems to be the guiding force of the band.  The album opens with the comically world-weary lines “I think by now we’ve established everything is inherintly worthless / And there’s nothing in the universe with any kind of objective purpose”.  And it’s those kind of lyrics that remind me why I love both Patrick Sickles’ heady existential lyrics as well as the “fuck the world” mentality of this band as a whole.

On our recent podcast about concept albums, Sean talked about how he always felt a little worn out by the second half of The Monitor because of the longer, less-rocking songs.  That’s kind of how I feel about Local Business, since the first three songs serve as an exhilariting suite of balls-out rockers, but the back half contains some longer tracks like “In a Small Body” and “Tried To Quite Smoking” that are fine, but don’t really feel as captivating or immediate as this band’s best work.  Still, it’s an album that has more than it’s share of exciting moments, and sees these punks continuing to fight the good fight as long as the enemy is everywhere.

Favorite Tracks: “Ecce Homo”, “Still Life With Hot Deuce On A Hot Platter”, “In A Big City”

Gentle Ben

Ben Gibbard – Former Lives

People like Death Cab for Cutie right? They’re hip with the kids. They even had a song in one of those Twilights I’ve heard so much about. Then why is it that frontman Ben Gibbard’s debut solo album was so quickly forgotten? Maybe people just didn’t know. I certainly didn’t see much publicity for Former Lives before it was released. In that case, consider this one for the diehard Death Cab fans. As one of those presumably “hip” fans I can gladly say that Former Lives is everything I could want in a Ben Gibbard solo album.

Those looking for a departure from the settled sound of Death Cab have come to the wrong place. Ben Gibbard’s solo material is more or less interchangeable with the material he writes for Death Cab. The only slight difference is Former Lives more stripped down approach. Former Lives is populated primarily by acoustic driven songs and a stronger pop sensibility. It’s exactly what you’d expect from Gibbard and your overall opinion will most likely be shaped by how much you like his schoolboy softness (poor choice of words) going in.

With Gibbard still in the wake of his divorce to Zooey “New Girl” Deschanel you can’t help but wonder if these songs about love and loss reflect that relationship. Putting that into consideration adds some dimension and makes the overall tone a little bittersweet. I’d like to add that as a Pacific Northwesterner I support Team Ben and will until I die a violent caramel macchiato-soaked death.

For anyone who found the last Death Cab too experimental this should be more to your liking. Songs like; “Dream Song”, “A Hard One to Know” or “Teardrop Window” should give you just the amount of optimistic pop pep you need. “Bigger Than Love” might be a pleasant surprise with a complimentary vocal performance from guest vocalist Aimee Mann. Not to be forgotten is “Duncan, Where Have You Gone?” a soothing ballad that calls back to Beach Boy Dennis Wilson’s 1970 song “Forever”.

Some tweens may like Death Cab but when it comes to Ben Gibbard’s solo career I feel like I’m the intended audience. I’m an indifferent twentysomething from the Pacific Northwest. Former Lives is more or less the ideal soundtrack for a guy like me. Most will see it as a footnote in Death Cab’s career but I’m on the other end of the spectrum. Former Lives is a tender display of Gibbard’s sophisticated pop sensibilities that shouldn’t be ignored.

Favorite Tracks: “Bigger Than Love”, “Duncan, Where Have You Gone?”, “Dream Song”