Blast http://blastmagazine.com A magazine for the discerning broke American Thu, 21 May 2015 14:13:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Empires: High Energy, Fine-tuned http://blastmagazine.com/2015/05/21/empires-high-energy-fine-tuned/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/05/21/empires-high-energy-fine-tuned/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 11:48:54 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97226 The best way to examine the talent of Empires is to discuss their growth in both sound and process. This group has been building their success steadily over the past few years, and now, a few months after the release of their most recent LP, Orphan, the Chicago-based band joined Geographer on their tour this […]

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The best way to examine the talent of Empires is to discuss their growth in both sound and process. This group has been building their success steadily over the past few years, and now, a few months after the release of their most recent LP, Orphan, the Chicago-based band joined Geographer on their tour this month. Speaking with the group’s drummer, Mike Robinson, it was easy to see that the team put a lot of value in maintaining the quality of their music without muddling the sound.

This group is so energetic they don’t need to lean too heavily on bells and whistles. In fact, there appears to be more focus on removing what doesn’t need to be present than on adding more to any given track. During the recording of Orphan, Jon Congleton, the producer, “wouldn’t let us think about things too much,” said Robinson. The focus was more on pulling from the band members’ instincts to create great music without adding in too much outside noise.

Speaking of Congleton, this was Empires’ first time working with an outside producer.

“It was definitely a learning process, but everyone clicked with him, so it was easy,” said Robinon.

When comparing this new record to their previous, Garage Hymns, it’s easy to pick out the differences in production. A pop element manifests itself in the chorus of many songs on this new album, including songs like “Honeyblood”  and the title track, “Orphan”. Each track is layered with sound that fully envelops the listener.

With this album, Empires really took their music to another level. While they certainly put more emphasis on their work in the studio, they still maintained their base-level rock and roll sound. It’s a great example of how a band can develop and change without losing what defined them in the beginning. The energy of the album, while still apparent, is slightly more restrained than their previous record. During the process of creating the album, some songs underwent a lot more production than previous endeavors.

In the end, though, the finished product reflected the effort put into the album.

Now that their path has brought them to a tour, Empires has the opportunity to showcase their evolution alongside fellow indie rock band Geographer.

“As openers, we get the opportunity to play for a lot of new faces.”

Although it differs between members, Robinson admits that his favorite songs to perform are “Hostage” and “Glow,” the second of which “we don’t do too often. It depends on the set and the crowd that night.”

Check out the full interview with Mike Robinson for more on the band:

Blast: Thanks for taking the time to talk about Empires. To start, I have to ask: what were your major takeaways from your new album, Orphan?

Robinson: This was our first time working with an outside producer. Everything just seemed to work with him, so it was an easy transition. The entire process was a learning experience, and it was entirely different from previous records. He approached the production with an old-school demeanor, and wouldn’t let us think too much about what we were doing.

Blast: What made Empires decide to go with an outside producer for this record?

Robinson: It really just felt right. We all enjoyed some of his previous records. This was a great opportunity and somehow everything worked itself out. Everyone had a great time, and he was a great fit for us.

Blast: Which songs from Orphan changed the most during production?

Robinson: The amount of change varied from song to song. “Glow” changed a lot from what we had in the beginning. It took a bit to figure out what did and what didn’t need to be in the song. Other songs didn’t need as much change.

Blast: What’s the best part of performing?

Robinson: As openers, we get the opportunity to play for a lot of new faces and seeing new crowds.

Blast: What are your favorite songs to perform?

Robinson: That changes a lot. Lately my favorite has been “Hostage.” I like “Glow” a lot too. We don’t perform it too often; it really depends on the energy of the crowd. The favorites vary between team members too.

Blast: Is there currently anything you’re really looking forward to?

Robinson: We’re just starting our tour now with Geographer and we’re looking forward to playing with them. In addition, we’re working on some new songs, and we’re definitely looking forward to playing some festivals this summer. Those always bring a lot of cool bands and new fans. We’ll also probably be touring throughout the summer and into fall.

Be sure to check out Empires at http://weareempires.com, or connect through social media at https://www.facebook.com/weareempires and https://twitter.com/weareempires

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Tyrone Wells: the Blast Interview http://blastmagazine.com/2015/05/21/tyrone-wells-the-blast-interview/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/05/21/tyrone-wells-the-blast-interview/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 11:03:35 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97223 Fresh off his Roll with It Tour, singer/songwriter Tyrone Wells sat down with Blast’s Madeline Knutson to talk about the recent addition to his family, his positive lyrics, and his strong connection with his fans. Originating from Spokane, Washington, Wells has released eleven albums over the past thirteen years, with songs from those albums featured […]

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Fresh off his Roll with It Tour, singer/songwriter Tyrone Wells sat down with Blast’s Madeline Knutson to talk about the recent addition to his family, his positive lyrics, and his strong connection with his fans. Originating from Spokane, Washington, Wells has released eleven albums over the past thirteen years, with songs from those albums featured over 50 times in film and television shows.

Blast: Your family recently grew with the birth of your second daughter. How has being a father changed you as a musician and a person?

Wells: Before I was a dad, I could be more single-minded about my profession. The things that took most of my attention were my relationship with my wife and my profession. I could throw myself fully at those two aspects of my life. When you have kids, you want to give more of your time and yourself to them. I have had to realign my order of what’s important to me. The cool thing is, when you have kids, it gives your career even more meaning. You’re not just trying to make a lot of money or get famous. You now are providing for your family and focusing on sending your kids to college one day. There is a lot more meaning behind the work that I’m doing. It definitely has changed my perspective, but in a very good way.

Blast: Your music focuses on staying positive and persevering through the tough times. Have you always been an optimistic person and where does that strength come from?

Wells: My music is pretty optimistic. From time to time, I will write a more depressing song and sometimes those will never see the light of day. I think it is human for all of us to feel down and sad from time to time. I try my best to be optimistic and hopeful for my listeners because I feel like a lot of what is out there in the art world is heavy and not always uplifting and I want to add more positivity. In regards to where my strength comes from, I think that’s two-fold. I’m a preacher’s kid, so I heard messages of hope growing up and I think that my family is hopeful and optimistic. Also, taking that faith that they taught me as my own instilled a sense of hope in me. I believe that there is more to this life than just walking a difficult path. Life can be hard but there is this hope in me and this trust in me that there is a lot of meaning in life and in the end, we are reunited with the one that made us. There is a lot of hope in my heart because of that.

Blast: While your other albums have been more acoustic and focused on a softer sound, your recent release, “Roll With It” seems to be more upbeat. Was that your intention or did that just naturally happen as the album was being put together?

Wells: Part of that change came from me working with other people. I love to collaborate with other writers and some of the guys that I wrote with tend to lean towards a more upbeat sound. I also wanted to write a more upbeat record, not just positive, but literally faster with more up-tempo songs. Also, my daughter played a part in the new sound. I love seeing her react to stuff and watching her jump around and dance. It’s funny because that was probably, without me knowing it, a big reason for the faster songs. In retrospect, I recognize that I wanted to see a reaction from my three year old daughter. Certain songs wouldn’t interest her or she would want to listen to Coldplay instead. When I played her song that she wanted to listen to over and over, I felt like I had found that sound I wanted.

Blast: You are very fan friendly and always greet everyone after your shows. Did that come from you going to concerts growing up and meeting musicians you liked or is it more based in your desire to have a personal connection with your fans?

Wells: I think it’s probably the latter. I feel a lot of gratitude to the people who come and pay money to hear me play and buy my music. I literally feel gratitude because they are helping me to survive and thrive as an artist. I never get it when artists are, like, too cool for their fans. I just really don’t understand that because I think it’s a horrible way to be. I’m so grateful for anybody who is going to support what I do. I understand when it gets to a certain level for some artists where it is overwhelming or fans are not being respectful to the artist. But for me, at my level as a singer-songwriter, I can say hi to everyone that is willing to wait around after a show. That is intentional because I am grateful for their support.

Blast: One thing I really enjoy about your concerts is the stories you tell before some of your songs. It really adds another level of connection between you and the fans. What is your best story about a moment you’ve had on this tour?

Wells: On this tour, we are playing a game called “what are the odds” with each other. You choose a task and then one of us (usually it’s the sound guy Logan) will say to Kevin, who he usually picks on, “What are the odds that you will do this task?” Kevin will give him the odds, like 1 in 20, and then they both count down from 3. If they both say the same number, Kevin has to do the task. One night, we were in Austin after a show on the tour. Austin on the weekends is just madness because they shut down the whole downtown and there are college students roaming around everywhere. It’s packed wall to wall people. There are a lot of guys out selling roses to all of the couples walking around. So, Logan asks Kevin, “What are the odds that you buy a rose for some girl and give it to her tonight?” They counted down and both said the same number, so Kevin bought a rose and mustered up the courage to give it to this girl. As she walks away, Logan asks, “What are the odds you go and take the rose back?” Kevin said 1 in 20, they counted down, and unbelievably, they both said the same number. Kevin had to go find the girl and take the rose away from her. He tried but she wouldn’t give it back, so he had to buy it off of her. Logan even has a friend with a tattoo on his butt of Sara Bareilles lyrics because he lost one time. I just basically give really high odds so the likelihood of me doing anything is pretty slim.

Blast: You’ve been successful for a while now, from being on tour across the country to having your songs on a variety of television shows. Was there ever a moment when you thought that this wasn’t the right path for you?

Wells: This is what I dreamed of doing since high school. In college, I was in a band and that’s when I really had the true belief that I could do this. There were a lot of lean years where I was barely making any money, but I always believed that I would be able to do it. I think you have to be single minded and think that there are no safety nets in order to succeed in a career in the arts. You have to just throw yourself wholeheartedly at it to make it a living. I think there are times of doubt that I have had to face, but only for a split second. I would always talk myself out of it and keep that faith.

Blast: You have a lot of good advice in your songs that listeners can really take to heart. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received and the best piece of advice you have for an aspiring musician?

Wells: A good piece of advice that I have always heard is to play to your strengths. I think it’s easy to compare yourself to other people in life and want to be someone else. It’s important to look at what you are good at and be about those things, rather than worrying about what everyone else is doing. That’s applicable for everybody. People need to take a sober look at reality and think about what they excel in and play to those talents. A piece of advice I would have for an aspiring musician would be that the most important thing you can have, over talent and connections, is work ethic. You have to work hard and be comfortable in your craft and do whatever it takes to get there. For example, Andy Grammer used to play on 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, CA on the street for a year or two. That was him becoming a true musician and I think that is so cool. It is all about work. The people who are the most successful are the ones who work the hardest.

Be sure to follow Tyrone Wells on Twitter at @TyroneWells and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tyronewellsmusic. You can also check out his website at www.tyronewells.com.

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Technologically Advanced Flip Flops! http://blastmagazine.com/2015/05/18/technologically-advanced-flip-flops/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/05/18/technologically-advanced-flip-flops/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 17:13:02 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97212 Running across the pool deck to stop the five year old from jumping in fully clothed for the 8th time today – no problem, no slipping, and still styling.  RHEA’s fancy flip flops. Booting it across the gravel driveway before your daughter wipes out on her skateboard ramp?  Fear not superhero mama, RHEA has your back with […]

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Running across the pool deck to stop the five year old from jumping in fully clothed for the 8th time today – no problem, no slipping, and still styling.  RHEA’s fancy flip flops.

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Booting it across the gravel driveway before your daughter wipes out on her skateboard ramp?  Fear not superhero mama, RHEA has your back with their patented micro channel treads.  Cool to look at and even more cool knowing you won’t wipeout wearing these.

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RHEA was founded by Cornell students who were slipping and sliding all over Ithaca New York – have you been there?  It is really cold, wet and slippery up there!  Microtread Griptech soles are what make RHEA flip flops so unbelievably fantastic – you cannot slip on these.  RHEA is named after the Greek Goddess of Comfort, and they are cute too!  The scientific technology that is built into the soles and treads are what make them fancy, not to mention the rainbow assortment of sole colors options.

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Brilliant yellow, gorgeous black and gold, spumoni green, patent white, single or double strap – whatever outfit you are trying to compliment RHEA flip flops have it.  The really great thing about buying a pair of RHEA flip flops right now is that you are supporting this start-up AND saving some money!  The shoes are available exclusively on Kickstarter.com.  Go shop and stop wiping out!

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5 Tips on Choosing a Man’s Wedding Band http://blastmagazine.com/2015/05/14/5-tips-on-choosing-a-mans-wedding-band/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/05/14/5-tips-on-choosing-a-mans-wedding-band/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 11:17:04 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97194 Everyone knows the old saying, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” With the engagement ring industry raking in millions of dollars each year, chances are this is probably a true statement. I mean, sure you have those women that care more about the love they share than the size of the diamond. However, for the […]

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Everyone knows the old saying, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” With the engagement ring industry raking in millions of dollars each year, chances are this is probably a true statement. I mean, sure you have those women that care more about the love they share than the size of the diamond. However, for the most part, women are obsessed – the bigger the better. So as I browse through wedding blogs and articles, I find that most of them discuss finding the best engagement and/or wedding ring for your bride to be, but don’t the women also have to purchase a wedding band for their groom?

Of course we do, and while men probably aren’t as obsessed with huge diamonds as we girls are, women should still do the best they can to choose a wedding band that will put a smile on their guy’s face. After all… they’re essentially going to be wearing this piece of jewelry for a lifetime. Who wants to look at a ring they don’t particularly care for?

After having the worst time trying to find a ring for my husband, (I mean literally a challenging time) I decided it would be a great idea to give the ladies some suggestions on how to pick out a wedding band that will make him feel special.

  • Just Ask Him– Now the guys have it a bit harder than we do. In most cases, an engagement ring is something that’s supposed to be a surprise. Therefore they have to try and figure out the best type of ring to get their gal without telling her the secret. (Though we all leave hints after about a year of dating the guy.) Ladies on the other hand, don’t have to keep a secret. They already know they’re getting married, so why not just ask. I know I wish I had done that. Trying to sneak and look at his ring size and figure out all that other stuff without him knowing was a challenge in and of itself. Especially when you consider men are a bit more upfront and not as difficult as women. So after your engagement, ask your guy what type of ring they want. You can even make a day of it and take him to a few jewelry stores to try on some for size.
  • Choose a Ring that Matches His Personality– So if you would rather your future husband’s wedding band be a surprise, then you’re going to need to do a bit of digging to figure out what style your guy might be interested in. Sometimes, going with his personality can help in making the selection process a bit smoother. Is your guy often flashy? If so he might enjoy something with a few diamonds and cuts in it to show off. Is your guy more of the basic, laid back type? If so, he might not mind a simplistic band. If he presently wears jewelry then you can get a wedding band that will match his other pieces.
  • Make Sure You Get the Right Size– It is not a good idea to guess your future husband’s ring size, because chances are you’ll get it wrong. There is nothing worse than exchanging rings and his doesn’t fit. The best way to figure out his ring size would be to check out rings he already has, or again, you can ask. Since the wedding is in the future, even asking him his ring size won’t spoil the surprise of what type of ring you’re going to choose.
  • Consider the Metal Type– While women typically want gold, white gold, or platinum, there are a lot of different metal choices out there to choose from. In fact, frontjewelers.net has a jewelry education section that talks about the types of gold you can choose from. This includes newer trends such as black gold. When selecting metals, you may want to find out if your guy has especially sensitive skin as some metals might cause them to break out.
  • Consider the Costs– There’s this crazy rule out there for wedding ring purchases that states you need to spend at least three months worth of income on a ring. However, financial experts also suggest that you save three month’s worth of income for emergencies… Why start your marriage off in debt? Trust me, the wedding is going to cost you an arm and a leg as it is. I say, don’t be cheap but don’t go overboard. Spend what you can afford to pay for in cash, or only finance for a few months. Any time you’re spending more than your monthly bills on a ring, I think you’ve gone too far.

Well ladies, the rest is going to be up to you. Choosing a ring for your husband to be is probably nothing compared to what our guys go through when choosing an engagement ring for us (Thank Heavens). That being said, I believe that they deserve our best. We should do a bit of research and really put forth an effort to get him a ring that not only matches his personality and style, but something that he can enjoy looking at on the daily basis. So happy shopping and congratulations on the upcoming nuptials.

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Blast is Looking for Editors http://blastmagazine.com/2015/05/13/blast-is-looking-for-editors/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/05/13/blast-is-looking-for-editors/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 15:12:02 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97201 Do you love entertainment, writing and news? Have you ever dreamed of being an editor at a published magazine? Now is your chance to get involved! Blast Magazine is looking for editors. We have two open positions to fill: Video Game Editor and Lifestyle Editor. Our ideal candidate has a strong command of language and […]

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Do you love entertainment, writing and news? Have you ever dreamed of being an editor at a published magazine? Now is your chance to get involved! Blast Magazine is looking for editors. We have two open positions to fill: Video Game Editor and Lifestyle Editor. Our ideal candidate has a strong command of language and an interest in the topics they’re editing.

The Video Game Editor will be in charge of editing and formatting all content in our Video Game section, and will also help network and acquire new writers and idea for the section. We’re looking for someone who can keep frequent, high-quality video game content on the site at all times.

The Lifestyle Editor will do the same for our Lifestyle, Science and Tech and Enterprise sections. The Lifestyle Editor especially will have the opportunity to shape and define the focus of the sections, and will also have editing and networking responsibilities like the Video Game Editor. We expect the two positions to be about equal in commitment and workload.

Both positions are unpaid but offer great writing and journalism experience, and are also pretty fun!

Please submit all applications to oliver.g@blastmagazine.com. Please include the following:

-Why you’d like to be an editor for Blast.

-A list of your relevant journalism, editing, or writing experience/coursework. If you have none, tell us what you’d like to learn!

-Any written clips you have. If you don’t have much writing/editing experience or any published clips, send over classwork or write something now! We just want to make sure you understand what works in an article.

Additionally, we are always accepting applications for writers. Our writers have more room for creativity and flexibility at Blast than at most publications. We accept writers with all levels of experience, from amateur television fans to Journalism school graduates.If you are interested in becoming a writer or columnist for us, send over an email. Just include what you’d like to write about and we’ll go from there.

 

We hope to hear from you! Best of luck.

________________

Georgeanne Oliver

Site Editor

Blast Magazine

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Splatoon Global Stress Test Demo Review http://blastmagazine.com/2015/05/12/splatoon-global-stress-test-demo-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/05/12/splatoon-global-stress-test-demo-review/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 21:08:01 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97196 As I played “Splatoon” this weekend,  I found myself yelling at the stupidity of my teammates. Why would they all teleport to me when it’s the rest of the map that needs attention? I sat in my chair, flustered, as the clock counted down and the map was covered with little of our team’s pink ink. We […]

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As I played “Splatoon” this weekend,  I found myself yelling at the stupidity of my teammates. Why would they all teleport to me when it’s the rest of the map that needs attention? I sat in my chair, flustered, as the clock counted down and the map was covered with little of our team’s pink ink. We were going to lose, and I couldn’t stand it. Then, I wondered – why am I getting so worked up over something I didn’t even buy yet?

Nintendo gave the public a small taste of “Splatoon” this weekend with a global stress test – an online demo to test Nintendo’s servers for the game. Across the world, players got three hour-long chances to try out “Splatoon” on their personal Wii U’s. I managed to dedicate two sessions to the game, but I wish I had made the third.

“Splatoon” revealed itself as a very bright, colorful, and strategic game that could appeal to players of all ages. While the demo features little customization in the way of weapons (with only four load-outs available), it makes a welcome gesture by allowing the player to choose their gender, race and eye color. Customization will be more available when the game is released, but Nintendo has already shown that they’re serious about appealing to as many demographics as possible. “Splatoon” has been marketed heavily online, and it feels like Nintendo intends to make “Splatoon” one of its key pillars in propping up the Wii U user base.

When the demo is booted up, “Splatoon” makes the player go through a tutorial. Here, Nintendo chose to start off the player with the Wii U GamePad’s gyro sensor control scheme. The gyro sensor feels clumsy at first. I gave it a chance in multiplayer matches, and it revealed itself as a superior option to the dual-stick control scheme that most third-person shooters use. With it, the player can swivel the camera quickly and precisely, while the dual-stick option was relatively slow. I found myself going back to the dual-stick method because it was more comfortable, but I’m confident that players will pick up the gyro control scheme if they’re serious about winning.

The control scheme was very important for the game because of the number of movement options a player had during a match. Maneuvering between squid and human form is incredibly important in order to secure kills and navigate the map. At the same time, the player has to be able to control the camera. A common tactic is to go in to squid form, jump out and transform into a human, throw a grenade or shoot a player, and go back into squid form. It will be interesting to see, once the game is released, how precisely players will be able to switch between these forms.

The squid and human forms help inform the strategy of “Splatoon”, and specifically the Turf War mode. Instead of a death match-style game mode, the demo features a territorial control mode, where the objective is to have the most ink on the map by the time the 3-minute timer runs out. This mode encourages a player to move as fast as possible throughout the map, and the squid form does just that. The form also allows the player to move around stealthily – it’s difficult for opponents to see players in squid form, so the form presents an amazing option to get away from a firefight.

“Splatoon” also encourages fast movement through global teleportation. The game map is featured on the Wii U GamePad, and with it players can press another player’s icon to teleport to them at any point. This is a high-risk and high-reward maneuver, and it increases the strategic depth of “Splatoon” significantly. Players are completely vulnerable when they teleport, but teleportation helps secure key parts of the map if the team works together well.

If only the team could talk to each other, then they could work together well. Nintendo is eschewing voice chat in “Splatoon”, and I feel the game will suffer as a result. While I doubt other players would have enjoyed my expletive-ridden speech in the middle of a match, the option for voice chat is still an important one when it comes to online team games. “Splatoon” may suffer in replay-ability if strategy suffers as well.

“Splatoon” still maintained itself as an incredibly fun game throughout the stress test, despite its minor flaws. It’s not obvious if any weapons are imbalanced or not, though the highlight of my time was when I was on a team with four splat rollers that completely demolished the other team. It is obvious, however, that the two maps that were playable (Saltspray Rig and Walleye Warehouse), as well as the four weapons that were available, are all very solid and fun. I’m looking forward to the full release at the end of May.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron – Movie Review http://blastmagazine.com/2015/05/04/avengers-age-of-ultron-movie-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/05/04/avengers-age-of-ultron-movie-review/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 13:35:52 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97186 Avengers: Age of Ultron - Movie Review2.0Overall ScoreThe following review contains mild spoilers for “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” The newest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe may take its name from the robotic super-villain, but Ultron is by far the worst part of the film. In fact, the titular robot manages to overshadows the story’s […]

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Avengers: Age of Ultron - Movie Review
2.0Overall Score

The following review contains mild spoilers for “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

The newest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe may take its name from the robotic super-villain, but Ultron is by far the worst part of the film. In fact, the titular robot manages to overshadows the story’s better elements with its poor character arc and simplistic motives.  Ultron is set up as a mirror of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), a man who is unable to work effectively with his teammates because of his own ego-maniacal tendencies. The conflicts between individual team members in the Avengers take center stage in “Age of Ultron”, while Ultron itself takes the backseat as an undeveloped villain who exists solely to move the plot along. Ultron’s origin story consists of a laboratory montage, technobabble (that borders on “CSI: Miami”-level parody), and an overly-long party scene that ends with Ultron monologuing about the imperfections of the human race. Ultron’s personality reflects an evil Stark and nothing else, while his intentions to cleanse the world of humans are never really fleshed out beyond humans being, well, imperfect. Whedon almost certainly realizes how weak Ultron is as a villain, but a plot device is needed to bring the infinity stones to light, and the big bad seems to be a necessary evil. However, Ultron never accomplishes much, and as a villain, he’s boring.

Boring is not something a Marvel movie should ever be. It can be schlock without much thought in its plot, but fan service, fight scenes, and special effects typically elevate Marvel movies enough so that even the worst of them are entertaining. Unfortunately, the majority of “Age of Ultron” is a slog because of Ultron. Only in brief, personal moments, where characters are developed (especially Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner, and Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, played by franchise newcomers Aaron-Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen) and during the last third or so, when the Avengers are united by a new hero, is the movie at all redeemed. “Age of Ultron” gives a lot of time to developing the Avengers’ characters, but there should have been even more time dedicated to fleshing them out. The film starts with a bang (a long fight scene) and has many more, but with each long fight there is less personal time for the characters themselves. Shaky cam also makes an appearance throughout the movie, bringing the fight scenes down quite a few notches in quality. Product placement abounds in a jarring way – listen for the Skype notification sound near the end of the film and revel in how much it kills the mood.

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” is more about the Avengers and how they interact with each other, through love and hate, than it is about Ultron itself. The film really does shine when it focuses on these more compact, individual stories, even when the execution of these sub-plots is clumsy. It’s unfortunate that everything else reduces the film to something watchable, but not enjoyable.

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Three Reasons to Buy a BMW http://blastmagazine.com/2015/05/01/three-reasons-to-buy-a-bmw/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/05/01/three-reasons-to-buy-a-bmw/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 14:07:41 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97182 BMW has built their cars to reflect a sort of utilitarian vehicle, cars that have different conceptual elements that all work together to create a tantalizing effect. All these different aspects are thrown together to make a truly amazing automobile experience. Over the years, they have put beauty, speed, handling, practicality, and safety to the […]

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BMW has built their cars to reflect a sort of utilitarian vehicle, cars that have different conceptual elements that all work together to create a tantalizing effect. All these different aspects are thrown together to make a truly amazing automobile experience. Over the years, they have put beauty, speed, handling, practicality, and safety to the test in various models, and have been able to combine these aspects to make some truly remarkable cars.

BMW has been building cars since 1928, and have been quite a successful brand name ever since. This is due to their profound ability to look at their consumers through a scope to determine what they want.

Let’s look at some of the products of BMW ingenuity.

  1. M1

In 1978, BMW found that the world of supercars was growing wildly popular. They knew that they needed to create something for the BMW fans that would satiate their appetites for a supercar. Thus, BMW teamed up with Lamborghini to create the legendary BMW M1. This car was the culmination of beauty, speed, and handling and was built to be a true driver’s car. The twin-cam 6-cylinder engine pushed out 273hp. This may not sound like a lot to our ears today, but BMW made a turbocharged version that cranked out a whopping 850hp! Now that is supercar power.

  1. Z3

With the noticeable popularity of new Japanese roadsters, BMW knew that they needed to produce something that would fulfill a real driver’s need for speed, but also give them a better driving experience than their Japanese competitors could offer. Being an extremely popular car, the Mazda Miata was taking the world by storm.

BMW responded to that by creating the highly regarded BMW Z3. This little roadster has been revered as one of the best looking roadsters to ever be produced. When production was announced in 1996, 15,000 Z3s were purchased even before they had been released for sale! This awesome roadster grew such popularity that BMW even designed different versions of it to fit the desires of all sorts of drivers. Because of that, BMW performance parts fly off the shelf and into the hands of Z Series owners across the world, who aspire to build their cars just like the race versions they see at the track.

  1. X5

Understanding that BMW’s consumer base was reaching far beyond the aspiring racer, they decided to construct a new vehicle which would combine drivability, luxury, and practicality all into one. The result was BMW’s first SUV. The X5 was met with rave reviews, and a huge success rate. Built on the same basis as the Land Rovers of the time, BMW was able to offer the same quality that the people were used to. They added to this a family-convenient vehicle. This car is still produced today, and has even kicked off a full line of X Series SUVs for people to choose from.

If you look back on BMW’s track record with their consumers, there aren’t too many spaces in time that you will find BMW at the short end of the stick. They have maintained such a good name for one reason and one reason only: BMW coincides with quality. They always have and always will. That’s why people will never stop buying this amazing manufacturer’s vehicles.

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Primal Carnage: Extinction Review http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/30/primal-carnage-extinction-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/30/primal-carnage-extinction-review/#comments Thu, 30 Apr 2015 15:23:13 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97164 Primal Carnage: Extinction ReviewSoundsVisualsStoryGameplayLasting Appeal2.8Overall ScoreReader Rating: (2 Votes)Photo credit: Circle 5 Studios, Pub Games, and gamespot.com It’s rare that games emerge from early access without being a first-person survival game where you gather resources and fight zombies, and with recent trends it’s even rarer for a game to come along and be about dinosaurs. […]

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Primal Carnage: Extinction Review
Sounds
Visuals
Story
Gameplay
Lasting Appeal
2.8Overall Score
Reader Rating: (2 Votes)

Photo credit: Circle 5 Studios, Pub Games, and gamespot.com

It’s rare that games emerge from early access without being a first-person survival game where you gather resources and fight zombies, and with recent trends it’s even rarer for a game to come along and be about dinosaurs. With the dinosaur games having, well, gone the way of the dinosaur in the early-to-mid 2000s, it’s an incredibly pleasant surprise to see a developer making a game that doesn’t fall into the cookie cutter formulas a lot of indie devs follow. So, we have “Primal Carnage: Extinction” by Circle 5 Studios and the question stands: Is it any good?

 

“Primal Carnage: Extinction” is a revamping of the arena fighting game, drawing clear inspiration for “Team Fortress 2″ while throwing away the equal teams. As opposed to “Team Fortress 2″, which plays more like a game of chess where players only have the option to use tools identical to the other team, “Primal Carnage: Extinction” has a main game mode that pits two vastly different sides against each other: humans vs. dinosaurs. As with “TF2″, you play on a red or blue team with a diverse team of fighters. In the most commonly played mode, “Team Deathmatch”, it’s a showdown between dinosaurs and humans for which teams can rack up the most points within the match duration. “FreeRoam”, where there’s no win condition, and “Roleplaying” servers are also among the highest populated servers. “Get to the Chopper” is a game mode where humans must capture points before getting to an escape helicopter, reminiscent of the Mercy Hospital from “Left 4 Dead”, where instead of regular enemies there are only special varieties. Then there’s “Dino Deathmatch”, where two teams of dinosaurs face off.

 

The humans have access to a trapper, a pyro, a machine gunner (commando), a sniper/medic (scientist) and a tracker. The trapper has access to a net gun to capture and quickly kill dinosaurs, as well as disable larger dinosaur’s attacks or abilities to eat players. The pyro wields a molotov, a flare gun and a flamethrower and exists to do quick group damage, but it does a mediocre job. The commando wields a high ammo-capacity rifle with a grenade launcher and brings most of his damage from his grenade launcher. The rifle itself is rather unimpressive, though. The scientist brings a high-damage, slow-fire rate sniper rifle, a gun that saps dinosaurs stamina, and a med-kit that appears to do absolutely nothing. The final cast member of the human team is the path finder, a native American with a shotgun and a desert eagle because, “why not?” I guess.

 

Several of the classes have a tendency of being dead weight for their team and the play style tends to not be particularly engaging. The scientist brings a single-shot, slow-shooting, high-damage rifle that does a better job getting the attention of dinos than it does killing them. The feedback with the sniper in both zoomed and hip-fire situations has unsatisfying feedback and damage that leaves you wondering what her place in the team is. Hitting rounds from her tranquilizer gun never seems to drain raptor or T-Rex stamina enough to stop them from sprinting at you and jumping on you/swallowing you whole. The pyro’s role is as a damage over time with a weapon that can hit more than one dinosaur at once, so what’s the problem? Often times, no matter how much fire the pyro puts out, it never feels like enough to do the job without the help of a few teammates, and this is a team-based game, despite what the game wants you to think. More often than not, the pyro will find themselves out of ammunition, surrounded by flaming dinosaurs, and shortly after, dead. No class compares to the dead weight that is the commando, though. The pyro can at least make it a pain in the ass for dinosaurs to find him or get close without getting some damage and the medic can at least drain her target’s stamina. Without several teammates holding the commando’s hand at all times, the commando is only capable of wildly spraying bullets from his rifle at dinosaurs or shooting the most embarrassingly weak grenade I’ve ever used in a video game. He has no ways to escape, outwit, or fend off dinosaurs beyond his wimpy rifle and sad grenade launcher. He’s a sitting duck with clipped wings.

 

During the time I played “Primal Carnage: Extinction”, I found two of the human classes to be particularly engaging and fun. The Tracker has a shotgun, a flare, and a pistol to fend off dinosaurs and is a class that requires intense patience. The shotgun has an effective range of right in front of you, so you better be prepared to hold your fire until oncoming raptors/pterodactyls are about to slam right into you before you pull your trigger. If your timing is right, enemies will drop dead. If not, you will be the one dropping dead. Use of his flare to blind dinosaurs is invaluable, as it allows the Tracker to dodge dinosaurs with more ease while trying to finish them off. As a result, the Tracker is the only class that is well-equipped to handle the bigger dinosaurs on his own or multiple dinosaurs at once. The Trapper is by far the most satisfying aspect of this game with his secondary weapon alone: the net gun. The net gun offers the Trapper a one-shot, one-kill weapon with a slow reload time, though he is capable of shooting flyers out of the air, sealing shut the bigger dinos mouths, and pinning the small dinosaurs to the ground for an easy kill. Either class brings a level of adrenaline that I only wish the other three classes could bring along with them.

 

The dinosaurs get a tyrant, a predator, a flyer, a spitter, and a bruiser. The Tyrant capable of swallowing humans whole is either a Tyrannosaurus Rex that focuses on mobility and wields a tail swipe or a Spinosaurus that focuses on durability and has a pair of claws to swipe at humans. Predators can be either a Novaraptor, capable of pouncing on opponents or charging them and attacking with quick swipes, or an Oviraptor that focuses on mobility and using pheromones to track humans and pin them down. Flyers can be a Pteranodon, which is capable of picking up and dropping humans to their death, or a Tupandactylus that uses its thick skull to ram into humans. Spitters can be either a Dilophosaurus that blinds its targets with acid before closing in for the kill, or Cryolophosaurus that spits boiling acid. The bruiser can only be a Carnotaurus, which has a decent bite and swipe attack, but has the main feature of sprinting into humans and sending them flying into the air.

 

The dinosaurs are all equally good in their own right, so instead of focusing on any aspect in particular, it’d just be easier to point out what is not right about them. The Tyrants and the Bruiser are too strong, often require a whole team of humans to dedicate all of their firepower to them, only for them to often walk away and heal back up before returning. Spamming a jump is much too easy of an option for players using the small dinosaurs, as the stamina punishment is almost minuscule, removing the requirement for good play. That lack of necessity for good play is a common thing among most of the dinosaur classes, which is a great cause of frustration for players. The room for poor play and good performance is much greater for the dinosaurs than it is for the humans, which makes it difficult to understand why they thought it would be a good idea for equal teams of humans and dinosaurs to be fighting one another.

 

Out of the six hours of gameplay I’ve had in “Primal Carnage: Extinction”, I can count on one hand the number of times humans have won a deathmatch game. “Team Deathmatch” and “Free Mode” are really the only modes that are accessible in the game and that’s mostly a result of the community being incredibly small. “Dino Deathmatch” and “Get to the Chopper” go almost entirely unplayed, though with “Dino Deathmatch” it makes sense. Dinosaur vs dinosaur is painfully boring and often involves two players spinning around each other, mashing their right mouse button.

 

I had a thoroughly good time playing “Primal Carnage: Extinction” and, if it weren’t for the poor balancing, the low threshold for good performance with dinosaurs, and the overly punishing gameplay for humans where there are only two really viable classes (in my opinion, of course), I’d give this game a much higher score. As it stands, I would be a dishonest critic if I gave this game a high score only for liking certain aspects of it.

 

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5 Ways to Avoid Excessive Drinking http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/30/5-ways-to-avoid-excessive-drinking/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/30/5-ways-to-avoid-excessive-drinking/#comments Thu, 30 Apr 2015 15:00:34 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97174 Drinking has become a social norm in today’s society. It is common practice to have a drink while at dinner, hanging out in a club, celebrating at a party, or attending a social event. While there is nothing wrong with having a drink now and then, it is important to do so in moderation. Excessive […]

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Drinking has become a social norm in today’s society. It is common practice to have a drink while at dinner, hanging out in a club, celebrating at a party, or attending a social event. While there is nothing wrong with having a drink now and then, it is important to do so in moderation. Excessive drinking can lead to a multitude of issues that impact your health, relationships, and finances. Also, if you’re knocking back several drinks a few nights a week, this can increase your risk of developing alcoholism according to California luxury rehab center Chapters Capistrano.

You don’t have to stop drinking completely, but taking steps to cut back can have a positive impact on your health and wellbeing. There are many ways in which you can better control your drinking habits while still having a good time:

  1. Take time to enjoy your drink. Rather than quickly downing your drink and ordering another, make it last. Savor the taste and sip it. You could also order a smaller drink to start with so that you are already consuming less alcohol. Engage in conversation so you are keeping busy and your drink does not become your sole focus. While waiting for others to arrive, order water to drink and peruse the menu or check out your surroundings. Then order a drink once others get there.
  2. Always order a glass of water. This allows you to have something to alternate alcoholic beverages with and will give you something to drink that will actually quench your thirst. Alcohol tends to make you thirstier, so by drinking water as well, you can enjoy the taste of your beer, wine, or mixed drink, while also staying hydrated. Drinking a glass of water first will also make you feel fuller so that you are drinking less.
  3. Stay active. Distract yourself by talking to different people, dancing to the music, playing games, or doing other activities. When your hands are busy and your mind is engaged with other things, you can slow down your drinking. Keeping a glass of water or other non-alcoholic beverage in your hand also cuts back on mindless drinking of alcohol. You’ll have to put one down in order to pick up the other.
  4. Set a budget. Only bring a certain amount of money with you for drinks and know your limit. Plan your night accordingly so that you know that after say two drinks you are done. Maybe start off with a mixed drink at the beginning of the night and then switch to soda or water before ordering another alcoholic beverage later on.
  5. Know what a standard drink is. Where many people get themselves into trouble is when they’re pouring their own drinks. They overestimate what a standard drink is and while they say they’ve only had two beers, in reality it is more like three or four depending on the size of their glass.  A standard drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. A good rule of thumb for low-risk drinking habits is no more than three drinks per day and seven per week for women, and no more than four drinks per day and 14 per week for men. Exceeding these guidelines can put you at increased risk of developing alcoholism.

When you go out drinking, be smart and responsible about it. Know your limits and keep track of how much you have had. Avoid the competitive nature of seeing who can drink more and simply enjoy the good company. There are healthier ways of relieving stress and dealing with difficult situations than with alcohol. If you do notice that your drinking is getting out of hand and you are having trouble cutting back, seek treatment at a drug and alcohol rehab center to get yourself back on track.

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How Girl Crush Proved Me Wrong About Art http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/29/how-girl-crush-proved-me-wrong-about-art/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/29/how-girl-crush-proved-me-wrong-about-art/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 19:44:34 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97170 When Blast Magazine asked me to interview pop singer Girl Crush, my initial reaction was one of aloof confusion. At first glance, Girl Crush seemed to epitomize the exact opposite of what I considered to be “good music.” The rhinestones encrusted on her outfits blinded me. As I watched video after video on Girl Crush’s […]

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unnamedWhen Blast Magazine asked me to interview pop singer Girl Crush, my initial reaction was one of aloof confusion. At first glance, Girl Crush seemed to epitomize the exact opposite of what I considered to be “good music.” The rhinestones encrusted on her outfits blinded me.

As I watched video after video on Girl Crush’s YouTube channel, my dismay became increasingly tangible. All I could see in her videos was a garish blend of vivid colors and artifice. I wondered what kind of conversation I could have with Girl Crush, if I could have one at all; would we have anything in common?

However, I was overlooking two important concepts:

  1. What Girl Crush creates is art, and it’s negligent to separate art from the artist
  2. I was being a pretentious egghead whose prejudices against Girl Crush directly opposed my ideas of feminism

Girl Crush’s call was an immediate reality check. She started off by explaining the concepts for a few of her songs and their respective videos (“Bow On It,” “Call Me Trouble” and “Barbie Girl”), each of which I had grossly misinterpreted.

“Bow On It”, for example, is a song about embracing femininity, which I hadn’t realized when I listened to it for the first time.

“I wanted to create something that is silly and fun and not taking itself seriously, but also very feminine,” said Girl Crush. She went on to explain that she was able to involve many women with this project on multiple platforms, expressing a self-awareness that both surprised and impressed me.

“Call Me Trouble,” she said, is more about having silly fun.

“A lot of times as females, we’re told what appropriate behavior for a female is,” Girl Crush said. “It puts genders in certain boxes.” Call Me Trouble, she said, is really more about not feeling obligated to follow societal norms, a meaning that I didn’t pick up on when I watched it the first time.

Girl Crush’s third uploaded music video at the time was “Barbie Girl,” a cover of the song by Aqua.

“I love “Barbie Girl” so much,” Girl Crush said. “I don’t think there’s anything deep or meaningful about it.” During her description of the video, Girl Crush mentioned that she made sure diversity was present in this video; although it’s mostly just shots of Girl Crush lip synching, there are some scenes where the Kens she’s flanked by aren’t just white guys (many of the Kens, though, are still at least white-passing if not white).

A new producer that Girl Crush is working with has been guiding her in a different direction, though.

“’You’re really pretty, Girl Crush,’” Girl Crush paraphrased. “’If you make the songs a little bit ugly, they’re going to be interesting.’”

Her upcoming videos, under the direction of this producer, will still be “honest and organic,” but a little deeper than her previous work. While some of the influences listed on her Facebook page include “Madonna, Rhianna [sic], Lady Gaga, Nikki [sic] Minaj and Katy Perry,” this new music would incorporate a riskier, M.I.A.-esque feel.

“I never like things that are too normal,” Girl Crush said. “I like being challenged.”

One of Girl Crush’s other challenges is that of social media. The artist is particularly active on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. She was hesitant about using these tools when she initially joined the music industry, as she wasn’t particularly interested in technology and felt unnatural using it. Part of being a performer is having an active social media presence, though, and eventually Girl Crush grew eager to share content with fans, even posting descriptions of herself like “queen of goofy hot” and “fresh out of the shiniest, surliest toaster.”

“Those are all from other people,” she said, dispelling my thoughts that she was a self-described pop princess who could easily twilight as an SNL regular. “One person called me a gothic My Little Pony.”

In spite of that description, Girl Crush presents herself as a colorful person. She said she has always been interested in creative design, which contributes to the ostentatious outfits she wears both in her music videos and outside of them.

“Mom would always say, ‘school’s not a fashion show,’” Girl Crush said. “I’d say, ‘yeah it is,’ and wear these cockamamie outfits.”

Girl Crush attributes her creative spirit to her humble beginnings in Missouri, where she and her sisters would put on fashion shows at home and splash around in the local creek. Her upbringing in an area of Missouri that she described as having tense race relations is also responsible for the consideration Girl Crush gives to representation in her music videos; one of her favorite parts of Los Angeles, she says, is the diversity. Additionally, her relationships with her sisters have shaped her perspective on femininity. Girl Crush aspires not to compete with women but rather to build them up, through collaborations with other female artists, for instance.

After I spoke to Girl Crush, I realized how close-minded I had been to dismiss her work as shallow after watching her music videos. It’s evident that she doesn’t take herself too seriously; she frequently repeated during the interview that Girl Crush wasn’t created to be “self-serious”. I hadn’t seen the determination she put into embracing femininity and I hadn’t recognized the creative aspects of the art she was producing.

Talking to Girl Crush allowed me to realize the error of assuming that just because music isn’t alternative doesn’t mean it’s not art; Girl Crush exerts an enormous amount of creative energy into her music, videos and persona, and after hearing her speak both about that and her desire to uplift women I knew I had been wrong about her.

The perspective of an artist plays a large part in how their art is meant to be understood. While I wasn’t necessarily a fan of Girl Crush’s music without context, I respect what she’s going for and support her ideals.

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Interview: Marriages Get Seductive and Dangerous with “Salome” http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/27/interview-marriages-get-seductive-and-dangerous-with-salome/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/27/interview-marriages-get-seductive-and-dangerous-with-salome/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 15:37:20 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97158 Photo credit: Nick Fancher. Photo from consequenceofsound.com Labels are exhausting. What do you call a band that doesn’t crack jokes with the audience or swivel their hips? Normcore? Nu shoegaze? Geez. Why don’t we just stick with “actual musicians”? Folks who let their music speak for itself and remain unconcerned when the audience members all […]

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Photo credit: Nick Fancher. Photo from consequenceofsound.com

Labels are exhausting. What do you call a band that doesn’t crack jokes with the audience or swivel their hips? Normcore? Nu shoegaze? Geez. Why don’t we just stick with “actual musicians”? Folks who let their music speak for itself and remain unconcerned when the audience members all start checking their news feeds. Such is Marriages. The trio just released their first full-length album, “Salome”, ushering in a buoyant, ambitious era for the group; the three have a knack for pervasive, slow-burning rock compositions, always tinged with wrenching, unsettling themes.

“The EP was almost like a stream-of-conscious thing that we did,” said Greg Burns, the unit’s bassist. “We actually wrote the entire thing from start to end, without any pauses.”

Unfortunately, the process for recording the full-length was not so fortuitous. It spanned a year and half and in that period, the two original members apparently faced their share of personal demons and interpersonal hardships, lending a fiery honesty to their dissonant, intricate sound.

“It was like a cursed record or something. It was really hard to nail down,” recalled Burns.

Like the record, their live performance is understated. They are an act that doesn’t rely on flash and charisma. They climb into vulnerable, stirring places in their songwriting, opening their wounds on stage for all to see. It’s always palpable, and frankly mesmerizing.

“We generally like to ride the tension between things that are hopefully beautiful, but also awkward or uncomfortable,” said Burns.

The album first erupts with “The Liar,” a stew of Burns’ growling bass lines, some synth flourishes and singer Emma Ruth Rundle’s signature soaring vocals, leading the listener down the rabbit hole. Most evident is the prominence of the vocals on the album. On the EP, the Rundle’s quaking lyrics weren’t always decipherable. They blended into the mix, punctuating choruses. On the new record, her vocals are more classically mixed, clearer and more vibrant throughout. Perhaps that can be read as a commercial choice, but make no mistake, this album cuts its own path into the wilderness.

“We had Andrew Clinico, our full-time drummer, join the band for the second record. And he’s a really good guitar player, as well as drummer and very musical, so his voice is very present,” said Burns.

True enough, the drumming is far more driven and diverse in comparison to the EP. On “Southern Eyre” for example, Clinico’s performance is as exacting as it is intricate, weaving an unnerving atmosphere for Rundle to blend her vocals. Also evident on the album is a clear, distorted abandon. The trio craft crescendos as they have never before, big breakdowns like the chorus of the title track, both seductive and ominous.

The members of Marriages are honing their ability to slowly build songs that paint vivid panoramas of growth and anguish. The dark exploration is poignant and rewarding. It’s always reassuring to see artists push themselves, musically as well as thematically. Call what they do anything you like, as long as you listen.

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A Region in Need of Change: Macau’s Positives and Negatives http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/20/a-region-in-need-of-change-macaus-positives-and-negatives/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/20/a-region-in-need-of-change-macaus-positives-and-negatives/#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 13:07:34 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97148 Regardless of whether you are a fan of gambling or not, Macau is one of those destinations you have to visit. Known affectionately as the Las Vegas of the East, the Special Administrative Region of China is a cornucopia of sights, sounds, thrills and spills. However, for all its glitz and glamour, Macau has been […]

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Regardless of whether you are a fan of gambling or not, Macau is one of those destinations you have to visit. Known affectionately as the Las Vegas of the East, the Special Administrative Region of China is a cornucopia of sights, sounds, thrills and spills.

However, for all its glitz and glamour, Macau has been losing money over the last few months and now the region’s major casino and hotel operators are asking how they can reverse the current downswing. Although Macau still makes more money than Las Vegas, recent financial reports have shown a financial downturn of almost 20 per cent. In fact, according to recent projections, Macau’s gaming revenue is expected to fall by 21% in 2015, a decline that would reduce its takings to $34 billion which would be its lowest return since 2011.

This recent projection has been based on two key changes: a crackdown on illegal gambling and a potential cap on Chinese visitors. One of the reasons Macau has flourished over the last few years is its proximity to China and its status as a legal gambling destination. In mainland China, gambling is illegal and that has forced players to make the trip to Macau to ante-up in games such as roulette, blackjack and poker. However, a recent statement by China’s Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Alexis Tam Chon Weng, hinted that the government does not want to see any more than 21 million Chinese visitors a year (the number currently heading there) making the trip to Macau.

If a cap is introduced, that could seriously impact Macau’s profits as Chinese gamblers account for the majority of the region’s 31 million visitors. To counter a potential downturn, Macau’s entertainment venues must now focus on international tourism and that is forcing them question what the region does well and what things it needs to improve. Although we are not in the business of second guessing the experts, we wanted to give our take on some of Macau’s positives and negatives (like we recently did for Taiwan).

+ The Positives +

Despite being on a decline, Macau does a lot of things extremely well and we have decided to list two of them to show you why it can be a great place to visit.

A Fantastic Poker Scene

Day 207 - Poker Chips

Like Las Vegas, Macau was built on a foundation of gambling and that has allowed it to become one of the leading poker destinations in the world. One of the keys to a successful poker scene is a continuous flow of action and, thanks to Macau’s plethora of casino games, such as blackjack, roulette and pai gow, the poker tables are always stocked with well-bankrolled gamblers. Over the last few years, the Macau poker scene has boomed thanks to a new generation of Chinese poker enthusiasts.

Wanting a new way to spend their millions, these wealthy amateurs have travelled across the globe to the best poker tournaments and brought many of the game’s leading players back to Asia with them. Today, Macau has overtaken Las Vegas as the cash game capital of the world. It used to be the case the Bobby’s Room in the famous Bellagio, Las Vegas, was the place for high stakes poker. However, over the last few years the best players have made Macau their poker destination of choice. If there is one positive from the Asian entertainment resort in the last few years, the Macau poker and casino scene is it.

The Finest Restaurants in Asia


Attracting some of the richest gamblers in the world means you attract some of the most discerning palates in the world and to cater for its high-end consumers, Macau has put together a collection of exquisite restaurants. Designed to offer everything from Asian delicacies to Italian classics and modern gastronomic feasts, the restaurants of Macau are another reason it has become a hive of tourist activity in recent years.

Leading the way in terms of luxury dining is the Grand Lisboa’s Robuchon au Dôme. Catering to high rollers and described by the Wall Street Journal as one of the world’s “most beautiful” restaurants, Robuchon au Dôme is a hit for its views and its food. Sitting atop of the imposing Grand Lisboa Hotel, this restaurant’s panoramic views of Macau are almost as stunning as the three-Michelin-starred menu. Devised by Joel Robuchon, the venue offers a complete dining experience with French classics, such as a fricassee of girolle mushrooms in fregola and braised Iberico pork cheek with aborigine fondant, being treated with a modern twist. Also hitting a culinary high note in Macau and attracting tourists from around the globe is Portofino in the Wynn, The Tasting Room in the City of Dreams and Tim’s Kitchen in the Hotel Lisboa.

– The Negatives –

While the above positives are certainly something for Macau to be proud of, there are a number of things it is not doing well. Despite banking huge amounts of cash each year, the resort’s revenue stream could slowly dry up if it does not adjust its focus in certain areas.

Rumoured Criminal Connections

Crime Scene

One of the biggest problems Macau has encountered over the last few years, and this is something old Las Vegas used to suffer from, is its alleged links to criminal activity. So called “junkets” (companies which bring high rollers over from China to gamble in Macau) have received a bad rap in recent years because it has been suggested many do not operate legally. This culture of illegal junkets is something the government has been keen to stamp out. However, the negative press these operations have attracted has undoubtedly left a mark on Macau.

Today, despite there being harsh consequences for anyone found operating an illegal junket, there is an underlying suspicion that criminal endeavours still persist in the region. In Macau’s defense, people have often mischaracterised the gambling industry as one that is dominated by gangsters. But away from this stereotype, the region has been guilty of not doing enough to tackle these issues. While things are certainly getting better, Macau certainly has a way to go before it completely cleans up its act and establishes itself as a safe, lawful entertainment destination.

Too Much Love for the Wealthy

Engagement Ring Luxury Tax Monopoly

The other thing Macau does not do so well is low-end entertainment. When it comes to luxury and excess, Macau is a real winner. However, in terms of offering for people with smaller bankrolls, the major casinos are seriously lacking. While there is no problem with catering to rich tastes, it is important to offer a wider range of options for tourists who simply want to sample the high-life from the sidelines.

Instead of focusing on attracting as many rich Chinese travellers as possible, Macau should start to focus on a more general audience. For international travellers, Macau will be a once in a lifetime trip and they will not want that spoiled by having to pay hundreds of dollars for everything and anything. Although it is not wrong to have hotels that scream money, it is wise to remember that not all visitors are super rich. In fact, the majority of tourists will not be millionaires, so to exclude the region’s biggest demographic for the sake of an image is crazy.

In fact, when it comes to things Macau does not do well, it is this final point that sticks out the most. There is no doubt that the region’s hotels, casinos and restaurants are fantastic, but anyone who really wants to sample the best of Macau is going to have to pay for it. While this culture has worked up until now, falling profits mean a change of tact is needed. For Macau to continue thriving, it needs to continue doing the things it does well, but also work on creating more inclusive, rather than exclusive, vibe.

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Clouds of Sils Maria – Movie Review http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/17/clouds-of-sils-maria-movie-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/17/clouds-of-sils-maria-movie-review/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 11:00:27 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97117 A drama worth seeing

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sils

Clouds of Sils Maria

I warn you: you must be patient when viewing Clouds of Sils Maria. At the screening I attended, I noticed a few walk outs mid-way through. I attribute this not to the quality of material but to the current climate of Hollywood movies where action, surprising plot turns, and fast, snappy dialogue have conditioned too many American movie goers to be bored with anything less.

I say American movie goers because Clouds of Sils Maria has been very well received in Europe where it has won numerous awards, including a nomination for the Palmes d’Or at Cannes. The movie releases generally in the United States on April 17, and it will be interesting to see how it is viewed by American audiences as compared to Birdman, to which it bares striking similarities.

Like Birdman, Clouds of Sils Maria depicts an aging star taking on a controversial role. In the case of the latter, Juliette Binoche plays Maria Enders whose career was launched many years prior when she played a famous role in a play-turned-movie. The part was that of a young seductress who wraps an older woman around her finger. Now, around the age of 40, Maria is asked to play the older, lovelorn woman opposite an up-and-comer—much like herself once upon a time. Maria retreats to a refuge in the Alps called Sils Maria with her assistant Val (Kristin Stewart) to study for the part. The movie, like Birdman, is less about the on stage play (though in Clouds the play is more relevant) and more about the players. We see how they struggle with fame, family, and the unique pressures that slump the shoulders of creative artists.

This is where the similarities end, in my opinion. Even though directed by a Mexican, Birdman is very much an American movie (while Clouds is European), with a slew of Academy Awards to boot. Though I enjoyed it, Birdman’s mise en scene borders on gimmickry with the near continuous tracking shots throughout, as well as a magical realism that felt sporadically forced (as opposed to the Felliniesque style which always left no doubt as to how the master viewed the cinematic universe). In addition, Birdman’s soundtrack is obtrusive, never letting you forget it’s there (most literally near the conclusion).

By contrast, Clouds of Sils Maria is a quiet, patient movie that doesn’t have to make its point with shiny objects. This, from my perspective, is one of its strengths, though for some it can be a drag (and certainly for those who walked out half way through). Perhaps like a Russian novel, you have to force yourself to get through some parts, but this to me is a virtue rather than a weakness.

The framing, lighting, and sound in Clouds are seamless, which leaves the viewer free to concentrate on the stifled life of the world famous Maria who bounces from cars to hotels to hideaways. Clouds offers the viewer bleak, alpine beauty and subtly contrasts her sequestered life with the open spaces of the mountains. Birdman hits you over the head with the visual metaphor of winding, claustrophobic spaces that comprise the theater’s off-stage world.

Clouds is also careful not to plunge its lead into the cliché of the troubled, erratic prima dona. To be sure, Maria has her share of personal drama, but she handles it with grace and always seems to battle through. The craziness is reserved for her younger co-star, who is only now learning to deal with life in the spotlight—while Maria has matured and mellowed. That is, she doesn’t need to shoot her nose off or jump out a window –a la Birdman—to deal with success or failure. It’s not as exciting or jaw dropping, but ultimately it feels more natural and satisfying.

I don’t think Clouds will enjoy the same success that Birdman did, and that is perhaps a reflection of many things. But it does offer an interesting comparison between European and Hollywood filmmaking, not to mention marketing, demographics, and cultural expectations.

3 out of 4 stars

Directed by: Olivier Assayas

Starring: Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, and Chloe Grace Moretz

Rated: R

Running Time: 123 minutes

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Hearthstone Arrives on iPhone http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/14/hearthstone-released-for-iphone/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/14/hearthstone-released-for-iphone/#comments Tue, 14 Apr 2015 19:02:33 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97132 Blizzard’s famous online card game Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is now available for free on the App Store and an Android release is expected later today. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hearthstone-heroes-warcraft/id625257520?mt=8 Hearthstone is one of the top five most watched games on Twitch.tv. The game has received three expansions, with the third ongoing right now known as “Blackrock Mountain,” with […]

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Blizzard’s famous online card game Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is now available for free on the App Store and an Android release is expected later today.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hearthstone-heroes-warcraft/id625257520?mt=8

Hearthstone is one of the top five most watched games on Twitch.tv.

The game has received three expansions, with the third ongoing right now known as “Blackrock Mountain,” with a new wing being opened every Thursday until all five have been released.

Blackrock_Mountain_banner

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You think you’re a hardcore gamer? Here are 6 things you don’t know about Eve Online http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/14/you-think-youre-a-hardcore-gamer-here-are-6-things-you-dont-know-about-eve-online/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/14/you-think-youre-a-hardcore-gamer-here-are-6-things-you-dont-know-about-eve-online/#comments Tue, 14 Apr 2015 14:28:40 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97062 If you are a video gamer, you’ve probably heard of Eve Online. Eve is a game for a very specific type of player. It’s often referred to as a Microsoft Excel simulator, and its players are often called “Accountants in Space.” It’s a game about interstellar business and warfare, where mega corporations rule the star […]

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If you are a video gamer, you’ve probably heard of Eve Online.

Eve is a game for a very specific type of player. It’s often referred to as a Microsoft Excel simulator, and its players are often called “Accountants in Space.”

It’s a game about interstellar business and warfare, where mega corporations rule the star systems. Approximately 500,000 players share a single server that has been evolving over nearly 12 years and the landscape today is quite different from where it was in 2003 and that’s almost entirely due to players crafting the world. Over those years, players have loved and lost (money that is), alliances have been forged, wars have been waged, and amazing stories have been told.

You think you’re hardcore? Here are six things you don’t know about Eve Online:

1. Every ship has a very real value

Everything in Eve Online has its  own cost mixed between a flurry of variables: skillbook costs to fly the ships, manufacture time, ship modules, pilot implants, and of course the in game currency “Interstellar Kredit” or ISK. Eve Online’s relatively unique system allows players to buy “Pilot License Extensions” otherwise known as PLEX, which can be used to either renew their monthly subscription or be sold through the in game marketplace for ISK.

PLEX costs $19.99 for one, with the costliest purchase being 28 Plex for $489.86. Each ship has its own value, with the smallest of ships being worth a paltry amount, no more than one or two dollars, with the largest of ships, titans, which are said to be worth up to several thousand dollars. That’s all before man hours come into the equation. To give you an idea of how much money can be at stake in Eve, one of the largest battles which occurred last year is predicted to have brought in 11 Trillion ISK or roughly $300,000-$330,000 worth of real-money losses for two warring coalitions in the span of 21 hours.

2. “Bad Bobby” and the scam of the century

It’s astounding that the player’s username “Bad Bobby” didn’t raise any red flags in a game where the policy is Buyer Beware. Scamming is a perfectly legitimate way for players to help part unwitting players from their wallets. Bad Bobby began with a legitimate business model and a corporation to match. Bad Bobby, working alongside a group of directors ran an investment scheme that had a good reputation for always returning on player investments. This went on for years, the number of trustees increasing as the company that sold blueprints for Titans, the most valuable and powerful ship available, Titans4U developed a trustworthy reputation. In order to prevent any of the directors from simply grabbing the blueprints and running, the blueprints were only available by vote of the directors which ensured the safety of their trustees and their reputation. Bobby had plans to change this.

This entire plan hinged on the fact that Bobby did not have over 50 percent of the company’s shares and as a result he could not vote to unlock the blueprints without the consent of the other directors. Bobby initiated a vote to create more shares under the guise that they would be adding more trustees, which the other directors voted to pass, creating new shares. Bobby then picked up all of the new shares for himself, gaining over 50 percent of the total shares and kicked all of the other directors out of Titans4U before making off with all of the corporate assets.

Years of patience and a now irreparable reputation and we can only wonder, was it all worth it? Bobby has claimed to have sold all of the stolen assets for upwards of 850 billion ISK valued at roughly $45,000 USD.

3. The $24,000 miss click

Jan. 27, 2013 two of the largest alliances in Eve Online went to battle for hours, constantly resupplying their forces in what amounted to a 3,000-player brawl. The cause of this sudden battle? A miss click.

A titan pilot flying under the banner of the Clusterfuck Coalition (yes, one of the biggest alliances in the game) was looking to act as a bridge for other members of his alliance, which would allow them to warp to his ship’s location. The problem: He accidentally warped straight into a fleet of the HoneyBadger Coalition, heated rivals of CFC. The HBC immediately jumped on his Titan, bombarding it while both sides began to call in reinforcements. CFC, while grossly outnumbered should have cut their losses, but instead panicked and called in everything the CFC had to get him out of there.

As a result, HBC lost six Dreadnoughts, 11 Carriers, and one supercarrier, and things were far worse for the CFC. The Clusterfuck Coalition lost 44 dreadnoughts, 29 carriers, five super carriers, and three titans in the devastating defeat. The damages for this short battle wound up culminating to approximately 700 billion ISK or $24,000 when converted to the PLEX exchange rate. (The price of ISK to PLEX jumped greatly in the three years between Bad Bobby and the $24,000 missclick, hence the difference in real-world money.)

4. Always pay your bills on time

Imagine if the cost of not paying your rent in time was not getting an angry call from your landlord but a group of armed soldiers ready to forcibly remove you from your apartment and break everything you hold dear. That’s essentially what happened in the Bloodbath of B-R5RB, also known as one of the single most destructive battles in the history of gaming.

On the morning on Jan. 24, 2014, the NPC police force “CONCORD” went to B-R5RB to collect the rent that the corporation H A V O C owed, only to find that the person in charge of paying the bill had left his automatic payment unchecked. No payment meant no sovereignty for the system, and immediately the system was up for grabs. The opened up a hole in the territory owned by the coalition of N3 and Pandemic Legion which H A V O C was a member of, prompting an attack by rival coalition of CFC Alliance and Russian.

The two coalitions met head-on in B-R5RB and for a while the battle was looking favorable for N3/PL. In the midst of the battle, the initial Fleet Commander for the N3/PL coalition handed command over to another commander. N3/PL began to overestimate their success and shifted focus to the player coordinating the remaining Russian forces. That player was also known as Sort Dragon and happened to be one of the current members of the Council of Stellar Management, an elected council to represent the whole of the Eve Community to CCP, the makers of EVE Online. His ship, along with the assistance of the remaining Russian forces was able to weather the assault of the N3/PL coalition and take down a whopping five titans in exchange for Sort Dragon’s. CFC/RUS continued to press their new advantage and hammer away at N3/PL over the course of 12 hours before N3/PL called for a retreat, losing even more ships trapped in warp disruption bubbles that covered the battlefield preventing ships from warping to safety.

This battle became the single longest and most destructive battle in the history of the game and one of the most if not the most destructive battles in gaming history. In more than 21 hours, 7,548 players participated in the battle, which ranged from the B-R5RB system across the known game universe. A whopping 2,670 players fought at B-R5RB alone.

Prior to this battle the most titans lost in a single battle came in at 24 in a battle between O2O and Uemon. In the Bloodbath of B-R5RB there was a whopping 75 titans that were destroyed, 59 of which belonged to N3/PL. The total economic impact came in to 11 trillion ISK, which is equated to somewhere between $300,000 and $330,000 in real money.

To commemorate the battle, CCP has placed a memorial where the battle took place called Titanomachy. Now husks of titans float through space with a beacon that sits among the wreckage imploring players to stop for a moment and ponder their own impending deaths.

Titanomachy  by Peanut 3351 3 Titanomachy  by Peanut 3351 2 Titanomachy from Eveonline Titanomachy  by Peanut 3351 1 B-R5RB  by rooksandkings 2 B-R5RB  by rooksandkings 1

5. The player-base is older than other competitive online games

Age Distribution graph by CCP_QuantUnlike many other online games, Eve Online is a game that requires patience, plotting, and a good bit of elbow grease just to get started. Often referred to as graphical upgrade to Microsoft Excel, it’s no understatement that there is a lot of data being thrown at you at any given moment and you have to meaningfully interpret it and understand what that data means to yourself and those around you. It should be no surprise then that Eve Online is, on average, more appealing to an older demographic than many other major online games.

According to a video posted to the official Eve Online YouTube page, the average age of players is around 32 years old, which is stunning when compared to its competition. World of Warcraft comes in at around 28 years old, Guild Wars 2’s player base primarily being between the ages of 18-25, League of Legends players primarily being between 17 and 18 years old, and CS: GO players being on average 19 years old.

6. You have to make your own fun

One of the most divisive aspects of Eve is that the game is a three dimensional sandbox. In Eve you are responsible for your own fun, something most games don’t trust players with. This is a game oriented around player interaction in a single universe where every player has an equal chance to interact with one another. It’s your job to forge your fate and decide what type of player you want to be. You could spend your time hunting defenseless miners and run from bounty hunters, join a corporation and become part of a well-oiled (or rusty) machine, explore the cosmos in a smaller speedy ship, create your own corporation, or try and make the next Ponzi scheme. The universe is your oyster.


Corpse Collection by iamthelol1 (1)

Or if you’re feeling particularly sociopathic, you can collect the corpses of your enemies and create a Borg Cube out of them.

Enjoying EVE Online as a spectator sport is always an option and if you want to learn about the history, there is always A History of the Great Empires of Eve Online, a history book written about the players of Eve Online which was funded for $95,000 USD, coming in at 765 percent of its goal. The book will be released in May.

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Game of Thrones “The Wars to Come” – Review http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/12/game-of-thrones-the-wars-to-come-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/12/game-of-thrones-the-wars-to-come-review/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 03:06:47 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97126 Photo credit: tvequals.com and HBO There is nothing better than seeing the “Game of Thrones” premiere before everyone else you know. Absolutely nothing. I was given this life-changing opportunity by HBO, who hosted an premiere night earlier this month. Watching the premiere was a fun time, but the real treat was the week and a half […]

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Photo credit: tvequals.com and HBO

There is nothing better than seeing the “Game of Thrones” premiere before everyone else you know. Absolutely nothing. I was given this life-changing opportunity by HBO, who hosted an premiere night earlier this month. Watching the premiere was a fun time, but the real treat was the week and a half that followed, where I knew every sordid detail of the premiere and could quietly smirk while everyone else drove themselves mad over promotional photos and trailers.

It was really fun, guys. I’m a terrible person.

Now that the episode has premiered (and leaked online), I can share my thoughts with you. I loved the premiere. But what does that really mean? It’s very hard not to love a Game of Thrones premiere. When you have to wait so long between seasons, it’s somewhat nostalgic to reunite with the characters again after so long. The episode could have open with Cersei riding a unicycle through King’s Landing and I’d probably still think it was television brilliance.

Now that I’ve had some time to reflect on the premiere, I’m glad to say it holds up to my first impression. To recap:

King’s Landing:

We didn’t start out with Cersei on a unicycle, but we did start with her, at some point in her past, visiting a psychic, who told her that she will be queen and that a younger, more beautiful woman will replace her (presumably Margaery). The actress who played the bratty, sneering teenage Cersei in the scene is a spot-on mixture of adult Cersei and Joffrey. In present day, Cersei berated Jaime for his role in Tywin’s death, which she said he caused with stupidity. Seeing Tywin’s body with the buggy rock eyes they use for corpses in Westeros was weirder than seeing Joffrey’s was, since the buggy eyes looked almost natural on the whiny boy-king and not at all so on the dignified older man. The twins worried that their enemies will destroy them now that Tywin is gone, and I find it hard not to share their fears. Meanwhile, Margaery calmly walked in on Lorus having sexy times (because siblings on this show are contractually forbidden from normal, healthy relationships) and implied that Cersei might not be her future mother-in-law after all. Does she mean that Cersei will be out of the picture or that she’s having cold feet on the wedding? Questions. Also, that cousin that Cersei slept with in season one made a surprise come back and is super religious now. I’m not sure what’s going on there.

Starks

The Starks had a limited presence in the premiere. The most obvious omission of the night was Arya, who, despite being a fan favorite, made no appearance in the episode beyond the “Previously on Game of Thrones” intro. I can’t say for certain until I’ve seen the next few episodes, but I think this was a smart decision. With Arya leaving Westeros and starting a new story in a new world, I would rather they devote a large chunk of episode two or three to her than give her one confusing and shallow scene in the premiere.

That’s basically what Sansa got, which gave me just enough time for her new dark hair we saw at the end of last season to sink in.  My best guess is that her new brown-hair and demure clothing is an attempt to manipulate Littlefinger by appearing more like Catelyn. It’s not the look I would have gone for if I had her glorious mane of red hair, but it might keep her alive, so power to yah, Sansa.

Across the Narrow Sea

For the first time in the history of GoT, across the narrow sea didn’t just mean Daenerys! Tyrion and Varys made it through their journey on the boat, but after killing Tywen, Tyrion gave up on politics, Westeros, and life in general. Varys pushed back on his cynical word view, suggesting that the right ruler could make a better, less brutal world. “Good luck finding him,” Tyrion muttered. “Who said anything about him?” said Varys, and Tyrion agreed to go meet Daenerys in Meryn, with the stipulation that he could drink himself to death on the way there.

Speaking of Daenerys, she had multiple problems this episode and handled none of them well. Her people wanted her to reopen the fighting pits, but she wouldn’t consider it. When one of her subjects suggested she do so in the name of politics, she said, “I am not a politician. I’m a queen,” in the super badass but super dumb way only Khaleesi can master. Daario revealed to her that he grew up fighting in the pits and suggested she reconsider opening the pits. He also told her that a dragon queen with no dragons is no queen, inspiring her to visit the two she has locked up, but they tried to attack and she was forced to flee. Apparently they aren’t too pleased with their mother.

The Wall

While the episode, like usual, was divided between a large ensemble, the heart of the story was probably with Jon, who was tasked by Stannis with convincing Mance Rayder to swear loyalty to him. Stannis wanted a Wildling army, Jon wanted Rayder to live, and and Rayder just wanted to stick it to Stannis, so things got messy. Even though Jon warned Rayder that he’ll be burned alive if he doesn’t bend a knee to Stannis, and Rayder admitted that he really did not want to die like that, he was unwilling to budge and Melisandre smugly lit the fire around him. Jon stormed off, and at first it seemed that he was just going to go pout alone, but instead he grabbed his bow and, in front of and very much in defiance of Stannis, shot Rayder in the chest before the flames could reach him. Bad. Ass.

Did you love the GoT premiere? Are you as excited as I am for this season? Let us know!

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Preview: Catlateral Damage http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/09/preview-catlateral-damage/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/09/preview-catlateral-damage/#comments Thu, 09 Apr 2015 23:11:58 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97092 Have you ever had one of those days where you just need to cause as much mayhem as possible? Enter Catlateral Damage, a first person simulator where you play as an adorable kitty running around knocking down anything you can get your paws on. First made back in August of 2013 at 7 Day FPS […]

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Have you ever had one of those days where you just need to cause as much mayhem as possible? Enter Catlateral Damage, a first person simulator where you play as an adorable kitty running around knocking down anything you can get your paws on. First made back in August of 2013 at 7 Day FPS (7DFPS) Game Jam, the developer Chris Chung wanted to make a first-person game with a twist. Since he grew up with cats, a simulator where you play as a cat was a perfect choice. After successfully getting Greenlit on Steam, Catlateral Damage exceeded its Kickstarter goal, joined up with Fire Hose Games’ indie accelerator program, and is now in Early Access, but only to backers who backed at least $20 and those who purchased a code at their booth at PAX East 2015.

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One of the biggest problems with the simulator genre is that after a certain amount of time, players can get tired of the game, and move on to more exciting ventures. Does Catlateral Damage fall into this category? Not at all. There’s something so cathartic about jumping around a house, knocking down everything. There is always an item that is worth more points than regular items, and as well as a fun ‘knock all of these items down’ challenge underneath the remaining time. The time limit and score goal keeps the game fast-paced, and requires a good grasp of the controls in order to meet the goal within the time limit. The controls for the game are refreshingly simple, use the WASD keys to walk around, the spacebar to jump, move the mouse around to look around, and the mouse buttons to swat your paws. Another great freedom implemented is a field of view setting in the options. This makes the game seem more like it’s in 3D space, and can help players judge distance better than the default view. The game also has Xbox 360 controller support, which for a console player like me, is a welcome addition to jumbling my fingers on the keyboard. The one flaw that the controller has over keyboard control is the camera controls are very sluggish compared to using the mouse, which could be a problem if you need a few last second points to achieve the goal. Other than that one small problem, the controls are tight, and it really feels like you are the cat jumping and running around the level.

If the game was just jumping around and knocking objects down, it might be very boring after a few play sessions. Luckily, Catlateral Damage has a few tricks up its sleeve. One such trick is the upgrade system, where boxes containing orbs that up your movement speed, jumping ability, and swatting ability are dropped somewhere in the level. Upgrades are actually apparent the second you pick up the upgrade, which is a welcome and perhaps necessary mechanic, since the spawning of upgrades are random.  As well as random spawning upgrades, some other events include moon jump mode, high item values are now worth 10x the amount of points, randomizing the item value points, and the lights going out. These events only last 30 seconds and they add a little bit of variety and strategy to the game. Should you go for the new upgrade, or should you stay in the current room and knock the rest of these books down for the points? Its choices and events like these that make Catlateral Damage a unique game every time you open the game.

There are currently a few different levels to play in, from a house level, to a mewseum level, and a super markat level. By the way, this game is full of cat puns, if you couldn’t already tell. According to the dev blog, the next update will include different types of houses, such as modern and log cabin, and implementing different playable cats. One of the Kickstarter tiers was the chance to play as your cat, complete with fur color and name. Each cat will have different abilities, one may not jump as high as another, and another may be stronger and able to swat heavier items, little differences that add to the strategy of the game. Scattered throughout the levels are pictures of real life cats. These cats are the cats of some of the Kickstarter backers, and another one of the Kickstarter tiers is having a silly picture of your dog in the game, so the cat can knock it over, declaring cats’ superiority over dogs. These little touches personalize the game, adding to the charm of playing as a cat.

Since this game is in Early Access, it is a work in progress. Some things I’d like to see in the future would be more varied music, further polishing of both graphics and controls, and an achievement system with more cat puns. My ideal version of Catlateral Damage would be the New Nintendo 3DS, as this seems like the purr-fect game to play while on the go, but I am content with the current PC version.

As a cat lover, I am in love with this game. The controls are simple yet responsive, the concept is unique and fun, and with every update the game gets better and better. I can’t wait to play the final version of the game, and hopefully all the promised features will be ready at launch. If you want a game where you cause as much cat-tastrophe as you can, consider picking up Catlateral Damage.

Catlateral Damage is slated to release May 2015 on Steam for PC, Mac, and Linux systems.

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Coachella Mama http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/09/coachella-mama/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/09/coachella-mama/#comments Thu, 09 Apr 2015 19:04:02 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97100 Coachella Mama How To… The flight to Palm Springs was easy, the sun is gorgeous and we are totally walking in the Coachella Valley grasses, passing through the vendors, nodding absent mindedly to the bands currently on stage, and ROCKING the crop top under overalls with a fierce felt hat and ankle boots. Allow me […]

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Coachella Mama How To…

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The flight to Palm Springs was easy, the sun is gorgeous and we are totally walking in the Coachella Valley grasses, passing through the vendors, nodding absent mindedly to the bands currently on stage, and ROCKING the crop top under overalls with a fierce felt hat and ankle boots.

Allow me to point out the uncomfortable truth.  No one who is called Mommy, Mom, Mama or Mother should be found at Coachella in that outfit.  Unless you are a super model who’s body bounced back to the pre-pregnancy super freak form that caused your super modeldom.

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That doesn’t mean the Boho vibe is lost on us.  Heck no, paying for our children’s outfits is not our only role at the mall.  Coachella Mama can be achieved with just 5 items.  Prepare to hear the dreaded phrase “Can I borrow that?”.

  1. Overalls

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Get them and put a white t-shirt underneath, with slip on sneakers and a paisley scarf ties around your head.

MOTHERDenim “The Overall Dropout” $275

2. Flared Jeans

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All summer long with a pair of Haivianas and a gauzy tunic.  purrrrrrrr
MOTHERDenim “The Cruiser” $ 228

3.  Romper

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Not just for toddlers anymore, but same philosophy – what in the world is easier than a one piecer?  Slap on a jean jacket for cooler temps.

JOSA Tulum Daisy Romper $165

4.  Gladiator Sandals

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Not just for Spartacus anymore, this is THE shoe for Coachella and Coachella Mama.  Give yourself 5 extra minutes in the morning to get them done up, then stomp like a Roman all day long!

Zara Leather Gladiators (with a back zip!!) $ 159

5. Maxi Dress

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Big meal forgiving dresses all day long.  Sexy drawn in waist and decolletage detail makes this tunic style a crowd pleaser, you might even someone wanting your autograph!

JOSA Tulum Carmen Maxi $250

 

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To further your street cred, click here for the Coachella lineup.  Be sure to casually drop into your conversation while weekend carpooling to the soccer field, “Woah, can you believe Alison Wonderland is going on at the same time as your game?”
BoOm – Coachella Mama strikes again, in overalls no less!

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C Day http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/08/c-day/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/04/08/c-day/#comments Wed, 08 Apr 2015 13:19:55 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=97082 C as in Chanel.  The day is question is today, April 8th.  Today is the day that Chanel increases prices on it’s classic bags by 25% worldwide, decreases prices in China by 20%, initiates a leveling of merchandise to it’s customers and delivers a nod of “merci beaucoup” to Chanel’s established European clientele. Chanel’s boutiques […]

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C as in Chanel.  The day is question is today, April 8th.  Today is the day that Chanel increases prices on it’s classic bags by 25% worldwide, decreases prices in China by 20%, initiates a leveling of merchandise to it’s customers and delivers a nod of “merci beaucoup” to Chanel’s established European clientele.

Coco Chanel

Chanel’s boutiques in Paris enjoyed a two week business boom which created such a throng as 50 people deep line-ups across the city of light.  Indeed, what would Coco say to such behavior?

One sales lady at the rue de Montagne store said she had never seen such crowds but then again “had never experienced such a sale at Chanel.”  The ‘sale’ was announced by a March 17 Chanel press release and the luxury fashion shopping throngs embarked on planes from Saudi Arabia, Dubai, China, and the US.

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Why not enjoy the suddenly strong US dollar, the VAT return and the increased inventory and selection along with a stunning burgundy, a bowl of mussels and a crepe?  Currently the cost of a pair of Chanel patent leather ballet flats in the US is $780, Paris offers them for 400 euro, and the tax back as you leave Europe.  Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a little Spring time in Paris shopping?

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The items affected April 8th will be Chanel’s Boy bag, the the 11.12 and the 2.55.

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The buttery leather, rare skins and multitude of ribbon wrapped chain straps are just the beginning.

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Shoes, ready to wear and haute couture will all eventually be adjusted to offer a more level playing field for all the fans of the double C.

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