It’s one more random than 10!
I got a text from my youngest brother, Snake Anthony, this week. “I’m about to platinum Skyrim. Fuck my life.”
Skyrim is the videogame/digital heroin that has gripped once upstanding men such as my brother. It has gripped me, too. In fact I haven’t played in two days and I’m feeling slightly twitchy, like I need my dungeon crawling fix.
The platinum part refers to the diabolical practice of granting achievements in videogames. When the Xbox 360 came out, it introduced the practice of giving the player points for accomplishing certain objectives in games. Some are easy, like score a touchdown in Madden. Some are hard, like score a 99-yard touchdown in Madden. Each game has a fixed number of achievements you can get. Each one also has a little name, often cutesy or punny. For instance, if you get 20 headshots in a first-person shooter, you get a 50-point “Dude, That Was My Skull!” award. (Note: not a real achievement, but should be.)
I thought this was the dumbest thing ever when I first heard about it. What do you get with achievements? Nothing, save bragging rights from other nerds. Not only can you not use achievements to do something useful, like get laid, the act of getting them will take the place of doing something useful, like making yourself more attractive by not holding a controller in your hand and screaming “Munch on those nuts, little squirrel!” to the 12-year-old you’re playing in Call of Duty.
But then I got a 360 and got my first achievement. When you get one, it makes a little noise and pops up. Sometimes achievements are secret, and you don’t even know that jumping on the princess’s head to make her sneeze out mushrooms that turn to gold coins was actually rewarded. I was looked like a bass in a fishing game (which nets you a five-point "You Da Gorton’s Man" achievement).
The Playstation 3 took this one step further by handing out little bronze, silver, gold, and platinum trophies. You get a platinum trophy for a game when you achieve all the others. Now when confronted with the gnawing accusation that you were wasting your life playing games, you could open a virtual trophy case and say, “Oh, really? Who’s laughing now, dad? Oh, and can I live here for another six months?”
As a fellow Skyrim player, I have seen the list of achievements. Getting the mystic platinum trophy is not something one acquires easily. Dare I say it would take less time to take a ring of power to Mordor and catch a ride home from a giant eagle, with time for a stop in Rivendell for a three-day bender with a pair of wood nymphs and a dwarf of undetermined gender. But how long exactly?
A couple days later, I had my answer. “Platinum. Done. Fack. 120 hours.”
That’s a lot of work to feel both secretly proud and very publicly ashamed. You could watch the entire series of The Wire twice in that time. They should at least give people like my brother a t-shirt that says, “I platinumined Skyrim” on the front and “Who wants to fucking touch me?” on the back. Either that or total consciousness on your deathbed. A little something, you know, for the effort.
1) “Long Distance Runaround,” Yes. I really hope that Newt Gingrich stays in the race. The GOP nomination process will become as boring and limp as a Mormon key party the minute Romney gets the nod (which is inevitable), and Ron Paul is like most SNL skits, a great premise that becomes repetitious and tiresome after the first 30 seconds. Santorum will only become interesting if he gets caught speading Santorum of the couch of some Nevada bathhouse. The race needs Newt, because while the prospect of a Gingrich administration is both ridiculous and appalling, watching him delude himself into thinking he’ll be president is fascinating. Of course, that would require him keeping a vow.
2) “Cult of Personality,” Living Color. Nice follow up, iTunes. You are becoming more genius by the day. This is easily in my top five of favorite guitar solos of all time. I think this was in Guitar Hero III and it the solo was such a blur of colors is was like going through the Star Gate in 2001. (Side note: freakiest goddamned "music" ever in a movie.) The Vernon Reid of plastic toy guitars I am not. Note: Live performance from Arsenio! God bless the Internet.
3) “Standing in the Shower…Thinking,” Jane’s Addiction. I wish I could work in the shower all day long, because there is no better place I think. It would require solving quite a few problems: hot water, environmental waste, electrocution, and modesty issues when videoconferencing, to name a few. But I could probably write my novel in a month if I could find a way to do it in the shower. And, from the TMI file, The Lovely Becky hates getting ready when I am in the shower because I take scalding showers, which steams up the bathroom and makes things like makeup application difficult (for her, I have no problems putting my makeup on). Take a water temperature needed to repel a group of Normans storming your castle walls and lower it by 3-5 degrees and that's what I like. If there is water in hell I may wind up feeling both refreshed and productive.
4) “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love,” Van Halen. It is appalling that they have gotten back together. It’s bad enough to Mick Jagger shaking his moneymaker, but the idea of old David Lee Roth talking about reaching down between his legs and easing the seat back is unappealing when his car seat probably has one of those beaded back rests to help his sciatica. And God help the first five rows if he breaks out the chaps.
5) “Pandy Fackler,” Ween. I don’t get them and honestly I don’t want to. I was sort of fascinated by Ween for a bit because they were so goddamned weird that I made the mistake of thinking they must be good. But sometimes weird is just weird, and they give off too much of a creepy uncle vibe. Yeah, he can play the shit out of his guitar and he’s really smart, but you don’t want to get stuck with him waiting for the isolated upstairs bathroom at your aunt’s house. I do, however, love that some hipster ad agency guy thought it would be a swell idea to hire them to write a jungle for Pizza Hut (their best song because it’s their shortest).
6) “I’m Eighteen,” Alice Cooper. I was too stupid and horny to be confused at 18. I knew I was going to college and that I wanted to have sex. Even when my medical study plans evaporated after my first chemistry midterm, I still knew I was going to get a degree and that I still wanted to have sex (with drinking standing by as a helper monkey/platonic friend if the latter didn’t work out). There was always another class/test/paper/party/bar/visit from TLB to keep me focused and/or content. Even in my 20s, I was just happy to be working and living in New York and then Chicago. No, my version would be called, “I’m Thirsty-Six,” and go I’m looking at these reports while sittin’ in my cube/the boss is calling me and IT’s blocked YouTube/I’m getting’ pounded and I’m all out of lube/I’m thirty-six and I don’t like it! Of course, now I get to work at home wearing whatever combination of sweats/jeans/hot pants I desire and can crank Alice Cooper when it shows up, so I’m good.
7) “Blister in the Sun,” Violent Femmes. Now here’s some Friday music. Funny college anecdote: My dorm roommate and I used to play this album a lot. We were going down to the mailboxes and he was humming this song. There was one other guy getting his mail, and as the three of us retrieved our letters and were leaving, we heard this guy starting to him “Blister in the Sun.” That’s some old school earworming, before you could just slap a YouTube thingy on The Facebook. I always think of that whenever I hear this song now. Unrelated: EPIC MULLET IN THE VIDEO. There is so much party in the back of the bassists hair I feel like I need a rehab stint at Supercuts just from looking at it.
8) “Destination Ursa Major,” Superdrag. A lost gem from the 1990s. Major labels have killed many a good band, but I have tended to enjoy indie power pop bands that got to take their songwriting talents to big studios. As much as I love this crackle and hiss of early Guided by Voices, I am a big fan of the stomp that they achieved on their two major releases.
9) “Go With the Flow,” Queens of the Stone Age. I got a whole new appreciation for drummers when I tried to play this on Rock Band. The first time I played this, I was winded, and this was even before I was in my current post-parent creampuff state, back in my Branimal salad days. It’s three minutes, and I thought I can do anything for three minutes (insert TLB joke here). But I couldn’t keep up and had to stop. How does Neil Peart do this shit for three hours? Alas, I can’t play it now because I done broke my Rock Band drum pedal, and there appears to a shortage of replacements—spare pedals are selling for $90 online by guys who are all about the money instead of the music, man! The invisible hand of the free market once again punching me in the nuts.
10) “You Know I’m No Good,” Amy Winehouse. I love the Tanqueray couplet she pulls off. It’s too bad she died, because regardless of how fucked up she was, she was talented and I think she could have made some great music about getting back from the edge of the abyss. At the same time, because my brain knows it’s no good, when someone like Amy Winehouse dies, I imagine Abe Vigoda sitting back in his easy chair and marking another vertical line in a notebook that tallies how many people he’s outlived. You want the secret to immortality? Find out what he eats and make a pill out of it.
11) “Portions for Foxes,” Rilo Kiley. It’s interesting to get a woman’s perspective on things. Jenny Lewis sings that “the talking leads to touching, and the touching leads to sex, and then there is no mystery left.” Whereas if a guy was singing this, he’d sing “the talkin’ leads to touchin’, and the touchin’ leads to sex, and…what do you mean and, that’s it, that’s the trick.” We apparently have differing opinions on what constitutes the prestige.
Seriously, though, how are men in charge? I think women could walk around with a little pen like they use in Men in Black, only instead of flashing some kind of amnesia light, it flashes boobs. Some guy is blathering on about his fantasy team or how he’s going to squeeze an extra five horsepower out of the Mustang or how feminism has been the undoing of America and, boom-boom. When he comes back to reality and asks what happened, you tell him he was just about to take the garbage out or cook dinner for the kids or withdraw from the race. Problem solved. You're welcome, women of America.
Have a great weekend.