Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Signatures and Reactivation

People take their email signatures way too seriously. O Georgia Tech student, do I really need to know your school, department, residence hall, and expected year of graduation every time I receive and email from you? O Georgia Tech Housing staff member, in addition to the aforementioned glut of information, do I really need to know about your affiliation to the Freshman Experience program, your area of work? In any case, do I need three phone numbers at which I can reach you whenever I want? The answer is no.

Imagine the following scenario. Your friend tells you about a fantastic new product he's discovered. He ensures that you'll really love it, and though you have doubts about how much your new hobby might end up costing you, you decide to give it a shot. (The first few times are free, anyway.) Almost immediately, you find yourself immersed in a bizarre subculture, complete with an idiosyncratic jargon/slang, a power structure and social hierarchy, and an economy almost as complex as that of an industrialized country.

And in the coming months, most of your peers and acquaintances complain that you're spending too much time on this hobby, and that it's affecting you in a bad way. Your personal resources are drained, but you honestly feel like it's worth spending what time and money you do. All through your day, you look forward to those few hours you can devote to this new cursus. It's become compulsive... addictive?

Sounding a bit like an after-school special or public service announcement? Warning about the dangers of drinking or drugs, perhaps? Add another item to that list: World of Warcraft.

"Hey, let's go get something to eat." "No, I can't, I'm on a raid."

There's been an expansion released that's poised to let even more people spend even more of their time in the World of Warcraft. And so let the reactivation of millions of idle accounts begin. To be clear, I of course respect WoW from a business standpoint. Eight million active accounts pre-expansion? That's a capitalist success story if ever I heard one. And while it's not nearly as overrated as Halo (which Jick from the Kingdom of Loathing correctly describes as "the single most overrated product ever"), is World of Warcraft that good? Hard for me to believe.

For all you WoW players out there, here's the question I pose. What makes World of Warcraft good? More specifically, what makes it uniquely worth your $15 per month and many hours per day that you undoubtedly pour into it?

Currently listening: "Sun" from Destination: Beautiful, Mae

Monday, January 15, 2007

So this is the...

...first anniversary of Isoceleria! (And you thought I was going to go for the Death Cab reference.) I'd like to commemorate by talking about music: the worst of 2006 and the hopeful best of 2007.

First, there were decent and good things happening in 2006 in music. The American releases of Rosenrot and Eye to the Telescope marked the best in old music that recently made it to the States; Light Grenades, Sam's Town, and Under the Iron Sea, three albums that I didn't necessarily like so much but that sort of grew on me as I listened to them more; the over-rated (but still appreciated) appearance of The Fray; and of course the (mostly) brilliance of The Crane Wife and Ganging Up on the Sun. Oh, and Lordi wins Eurovision, proving that guys playing hard rock in monster costumes are freaking awesome (as if we needed any proof). Now on to the not-so-decent parts.

Did we really need sexy to be brought back? Moreover, did we need it to be brought back by Justin Timberlake? I think there are about twenty words in this song, sixteen of which are a thinly veiled S&M fantasy. Timberlake was often praised as being having the best voice of whichever boy band he hailed from (because that's high praise). And this monstrosity of a song makes it so you can't understand what the hell he's saying anyway. This is one of the most vapid, hideous songs I've ever heard, and somehow it became one of the best-known and most widely played songs of the year.

I didn't really have anything against Nelly Furtado until that "Promiscuous" piece of crap appeared halfway through the year. Great. You're a ho. That means you have a good song?

The Black Eyed Peas need to be stopped. Now. What kind of a title is "My Humps" for a song? I know that "Let's Get it Started" was not from 2006, but people still play it in commercials and other high-visibility locations. And give me a legitimate definition of "phunk" as a verb, and I'll pay you five bucks. Interestingly, the one factor that might contribute the most to the Black Eyes Peas' downfall is Fergie's solo career. Ever heard the phrase "out of the frying pan, into the fire"? I don't know what's worse: "Don't Phunk with my Heart" or "Fergalicious." Why anyone would willingly submit himself/herself to listening to anything involving Fergie is completely beyond me.

Okay, so everybody knows how much all those other bands suck; here's a more controversial nomination. I think one of the worst "alternative rock" songs that received commercial publicity this year was "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" by Panic! at the Disco. The first time I heard this song, my initial reaction was something like "oh, wow! These guys sure know big words!" In the same way that Nelly Furtado's unabashed prostitutitude does not make her song good, Panic's cramming words like "rationality" into their chorus does not make their song good. To be fair, I've never seen Panic live, nor have I seen an interview with any of their musicians. But I have a funny feeling that Panic's vocabulary (and their unnecessarily long song titles) is an outgrowth of their arrogance; not the intentional grandiloquence of the Decemberists or my playful pass at elitism, but rather the egomania akin to Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.

The preponderance of rap on the singles charts need not be mentioned. The rap culture is so fleeting that artists popular now are not necessarily worth formulating an argument against because they'll be gone in a few years anyway.

So we're in pretty bad shape for the next year, right? Maybe not.

Singularity by Mae. Enough said. April 2007.

Coldplay has an album coming out in October. Popular opinion about X&Y was sharply divided; I rather liked it, but I know a whole lot of people who didn't. Hopefully the new one will be more universally seen as good.

Something Corporate is a band I believe to be vastly underrated. Jimmy Eat World is one that a lot of people recognize is good. Motion City Soundtrack is somewhere in the middle, not vastly popular but appreciated. And all three of bands are rumored to have something coming out this year. I'm looking forward to those.

And finally, if you're interested in pursuing this further (perhaps because your musical tastes are slightly off from mine) you can check a much more comprehensive list at

Currently listening: Transatlanticism, Death Cab for Cutie