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Showing posts from June, 2017

Why I Love R. Kelly

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"Homie lover friend is what I'm lookin for
Someone who can relate to what I have in store
She can kick back with the homies
Playin spades, gettin paid
That down to earth girl from around the way
We will be together for all times
I need a homie lover friend that will always be mine."

R. Kelly is the most important R&B artist of the last twenty years. The list goes James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Prince, R. Kelly. He has had an immeasurable impact on two generations of artists from titans of the genre from Aaliyah to The Weeknd. That his impact is ignored by so many outside of R&B has far more to do with genre snobbery and quietly powerful racism than it has to do with the unproven allegations of underage sex. Much like Michael Jackson, regardless of whether these allegations are true or not, Kelly remains a king of the genre. His music is, in spite of a couple of exceptions, about love, God and dancing.

There is actually remarkably little material t…

Why I Love Michael Jackson

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"Tell me what has become of my life
I have a wife and two children who love me
I am the victim of police brutality, now
I'm tired of bein' the victim of hate
You're rapin' me of my pride oh, for God's sake
I look to heaven to fulfill its prophecy
Set me free."

Michael Jackson was my first musical love. When I was a little human, I looked up to MJ. He was the coolest human being to ever do it. I remember throwing my hat in France as a kid, like Michael did. I remember staging an elaborate musical performance for my Granny and Granddad of Smooth Criminal. I have had many musical obsessions: Brian Wilson, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan and Prince. NONE of them were as transformative or as powerful as Michael.

(A note on his supposed cases of child abuse: I don't believe a word. This is not my putting my head in the sand. This is my assessing the situation and taking the facts as they come. I don't believe the testimony of those who said he was a pervert. I believe t…

Why I Love James Taylor

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"I remember Richard Nixon back in '74
And the final scene at the White House door
And the staff lined up to say good-bye,
Tiny tear in his shifty little eye,
He said, "nobody knows me, nobody understands.
These little people were good to me,
Oh I'm gonna shake some hands." Somebody line 'em up, line 'em all up,
Line 'em up, line 'em all up.
Somebody line 'em up, line 'em all up,
Line 'em up, line 'em all up."
I got into James Taylor through my mother and father. They loved him for many years. They loved me for many years. They loved each other for many years. These three loves met in the middle. Music you hear when you're a child sticks with you forever. Music binds you to your family and gives you a common language with which to interpret the world. My mother and father met in UCD, in Dublin. They were together for many years and had two children. My brother came first, then old Muggins here was born. We were both …

Why I Love David Lynch

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I got into David Lynch through my brother and his long time friend. I started slow. I watched Mulholland Drive, didn't really get it and went to bed slightly annoyed that it had so successfully bamboozled me. This admittedly wasn't that hard. I have never been all that sharp at anything, let alone dissecting the work of an artist of the highest quality. I did however make a mental note to try harder next time.

This came in the shape of Twin Peaks, the recently revived, long thought dead TV show of the early 1990s. This I found easier. The descent into pure nightmare logic was not so sudden or so all encompassing. Still, there was an undercurrent that constantly sought to make its way out of the dream world and into our stodgy, soggy toast and corn flakes workaday reality. People talked backwards and spoke in cryptic, winding lines. An ominous shape flew behind the curtains, protecting the darkest secrets. Here I learned about BOB and MIKE and The Man From Another Place. Laura…

Why I Love Bioshock Infinite Part Four: Redemption

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"One man goes into the waters of baptism. A different man comes out, born again. But who is that man who lies submerged? Perhaps that swimmer is both sinner and saint, until he is revealed unto the eyes of man."

Everything comes around. The villain you were chasing is you. You are the reason for this evil. This is a pretty provocative thing for a video game to close with. You would be hard-pressed to find another example in AAA development. This is the storytelling cousin of Gone Home and Firewatch, not the latest Call of Duty tat. Even an otherwise worthy title like Mass Effect 3 got cold feet when that game's original (and superior) ending received irksome noise from the internet's most mentally deficient quarters. In Bioshock Infinite, you have an ending that actually means something and is not there to pat the player on the back for doing so well at playing the game. We will get to that meaning in good time. First we will explore the game's final act and …

Why I Love Bayley

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Bayley is the best pure babyface since John Cena and Hulk Hogan. She has an uncanny ability to inspire hope in her fans. She is as natural and talented as anyone. She is truly special. When I was at my sickest, I had no hope for the future. Watching Bayley perform with Sasha Banks not only gave me the best wrestling experience of my life, but made me feel that there was a future for me.

Wrestling at its best is as potent, transformative and inspiring as any other artform or media. Don't believe the snobs. This is not low down trash for plebs. This is all of the hopes and fears in life expressed in gorgeous physical synchronicity. I am a feminist, I hope, so I don't say this with a condescending dog riding a bicycle attitude. I have never been prouder of any wrestler than I am of Bayley. She has, along with the great Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks, transformed women's wrestling. These incredible talents have taken something that was denigrated beyond belief …

Why I Love Bioshock Infinite Part Three: Hall of Whores and Down in Finkton

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Bioshock Infinite was criticized quite severely for being so violent. Even Ken Levine's video game buddy Cliff Bleszinski called the game out for what he felt was gratuitous violence. As I have already discussed, this is a hollow claim as the game's violence is essential for the story it is telling. This is seen most obviously in the Hall of Heroes section. As you fight your way toward the First Lady airship, you encounter a former military colleague of Booker DeWitt's, Cornelius Slate. You both fought at Wounded Knee and share a common history.

"My men and I are doomed, doomed as noble Custer was at Little Big Horn. But we shall not yield to Comstock and his tin soldiers. But my scout has seen him...Booker DeWitt is coming here, to the Hall! DeWitt...we called him the White Injun of Wounded Knee, for all the grisly trophies he claimed. A man such as he...might just grant us the peace we seek."

This entire section is the heart of what the game has to say abou…

Why I Love Tangled Up In Blue

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"Early one morning the sun was shining
He was laying in bed
Wondering if she'd changed at all
If her hair was still red.
Her folks they said that their lives together sure was gonna be rough
They never did like Mama's homemade dress
Poppa's bank book wasn't big enough.
And he was standing on the side of the road
Rain piling on his shoes
Heading out for the old east coast
Radio blasting the news
Straight on through
Tangled Up In Blue.

She was married when they first met
To a man four times her age.
He left her penniless, in the state of regret
It was time to bust out of the cage.
And they drove that car as far as they could
Abandoned it out west.
Splitting up on a dark sad night
Both agreeing that it was best.
She turned around to look at him
As he was walking away.
Saying I wish I could tell you all the things
That I never learned how to say.
He said "That's alright baby, I love you too.
But we were Tangled Up In Blue."

He had a steady job and a pre…

Why I Love Fleet Foxes

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"My brother, where do you intend to go tonight?
I heard that you missed your connecting flight,
To the Blue Ridge Mountains, over near Tennessee You're ever welcome with me any time you like,
Let's drive to the country side,
Leave behind some green-eyed look-a-likes,
So no one gets worried, no
So no one gets worried, no. But, Sean, don't get callous,
I'm sure it'll be fine
I love you, I love you,
Oh brother of mine."
I first heard Fleet Foxes in the snow. Ireland was going through one of the worst winters in recent history and everything was covered white. I had been recommended their debut by several friends who felt it was perfectly suited for me. They were right. There is such heart and feeling in the music they make. They have reverence for the natural world. They have the harmonies of the Beach Boys crossed with the low down, gritty stomp of The Band. And that voice! Robin Pecknold is on a very short list of my favourite vocalists.

I remember liste…

Why I Love Bioshock Infinite Part Two: Will The Circle Be Unbroken

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"Are you ready to have your past erased? Are you ready to have your sins cleansed? Are you ready to be born again?" As I already mentioned in Part One, redemption is a major theme in Bioshock Infinite. This is first seen the very opening of the game when you are encouraged to wash away your sins. As he does many times through the game, Booker laughs at the possibility of redeeming oneself through religion. "Good luck with that, pal," he sardonically offers. 

I have mentioned that Bioshock Infinite offers the players a chance at redemption but I have not explained how that happens, so let me expand. Infinite is the story of Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth. It is not, as the original Bioshock was, a story designed specifically to comment on video games as an artform. (That doesn't mean that it has nothing to say about video games, as we shall soon see.) It is also not something that wants to get to the heart of the many issues it covers, namely racism, civil war or …