Posts tagged “local”

Bit Brigade in concert

January 16th, 2018

A few friends and I saw an awesome show last week: Bit Brigade. Their gimmick is that they have a video game player onstage speedrunning an NES game with the music muted, while the band plays a live rock version of the soundtrack.

We saw them do Batman, Castlevania, and DuckTales last year, and it was a fun show. This time, they did The Legend of Zelda, which was an interesting choice for a couple of reasons. First, because the game is much longer than the others. The game typically takes days or weeks to play through, and while of course I would expect a speedrun to cut that time down significantly, I was curious to see by how much. A lot of open-ended adventure games can be completed quickly by expert players by skipping certain levels or items, but I remembered that Zelda wouldn’t even allow the player to enter the final stage without having beaten all the previous ones. I assume there are a bunch of Zelda speedruns out there, but I intentionally avoided watching any so I could be surprised during the show.

Link and Ganon

The second reason is that the game doesn’t actually have that much different music in it. Besides the title screen and ending credits, the only major pieces of music are the main overworld theme, the dungeon theme (which is used for the first eight of the game’s nine dungeon levels), and the final dungeon theme (which is different than the one used for the preceding levels). That music is great, especially the main theme, but wouldn’t it get repetitive after a while?

The answer to the first question is that the game can be completed in about 45 minutes. That’s about how long the speedrunner took to complete the game. He obviously knew the game inside and out, and didn’t exactly take his time, but he did indeed play through every level in the game, albeit sometimes out of the intended order. It was impressive.

The most interesting thing about the show was the band’s approach to solving the second problem: In a departure from the original game, they played a different song for each dungeon, and for each venture into the overworld. The beginning of the game was accompanied by the traditional Zelda overworld main theme, and the first dungeon by its usual music, but subsequent selections were culled from the next three Zelda games (for the NES, Super NES, and Game Boy), and were thematically appropriate. I especially enjoyed their performance of “Tal Tal Heights” from Link’s Awakening during one overworld sequence, and A Link to the Past’s “Dark Golden Land” and “Hyrule Castle” during the overworld and a dungeon level, respectively. You can view (and listen to!) the entire playlist on Bit Brigade’s Bandcamp page.

It was a really fun show with impressive gaming, outstanding music, and a generally fun atmosphere. There was also an opening performance by a silly local band named Shark Attack!!, which was also enjoyable.

I recommend seeing Bit Brigade live if you get the chance.

The Super NES Classic Edition midnight release

September 29th, 2017

Today marks the release of the Super NES Classic Edition. I’ve been excited about the console, and determined to get my hands on one on release day, but have had trouble determining just how hard they’d be to come by. Nintendo has announced that they’re manufacturing them in greater numbers than last year’s extremely scarce NES Classic, and I called a few local stores, none of whom seemed to be expected anyone to line up or camp out overnight or anything. But there was a lot of hype surrounding the release and I’d seen a fair amount of chatter online about people camping out early for one.

My local Wal-mart is open 24 hours, and told me when I called earlier this week that they would begin selling the SNES Classic at midnight. I would have considered going there straight after work yesterday, but my company’s kickball team was playing in the league finals. (We won!) So I headed to Wal-mart straight from the kickball field and ended up arriving at about 10 o’clock to find myself 24th in line. (I would find out later that the first person in line had arrived at 6 o’clock, about the same time I’d have shown up had I come straight from work.) I asked the one of the employees manning the electronics department how many consoles they had available, and he couldn’t give me an exact number but assured me I had arrived in time to get one. Two more people showed up within minutes of my arrival, whereupon an employee started counting the number of people in line and suggested that all of the store’s available consoles were accounted for. He still didn’t seem certain about the exact number, but told us there were “about 25.” Two more people arrived together and got in line, though at this point the new arrivals were becoming anxious about the store actually having sufficient stock for them to get one.

I and a few others in line had been keeping an eye on BrickSeek to monitor store inventory. Most Wal-marts in the area were listed as having 20–30 SNES Classics in stock, but strangely this Wal-mart did not appear in BrickSeek’s listing at all. People started speculating about how the consoles were shipped to stores, and how that would affect the available quantity. Someone said that they arrived from the distributor in boxes of four, so “about 25” probably meant that there were 24 or 28 available. But someone else thought it was boxes of six, which meant 24 or 30. But BrickSeek showed some local stores has having an odd number of consoles in stock, so maybe the shipping configuration wasn’t really a factor. Basically, no one knew what that status was and there was a lot of confusion about availability, especially among those around my position as the 24th in line.

People continued to line up throughout the night; by the time midnight rolled around, there were at least 50, and probably 60 or 70 people in line. Even without an exact count I assumed most would go home disappointed. I think employees should have started turning people away long before that point, but those in the electronics department had disappeared, presumably to load the SNES Classic consoles onto a cart and prepare them for sale.

When the employees reappeared with a cart of the consoles, they had been stacked neatly such that it was easy to count how many there were: 28. A sign on the cart was unequivocal: “one per customer.” People around me in line started frantically counting again to make sure they knew exactly where they stood. There was even a police officer on hand to keep order, which never became an issue—everyone was polite, friendly, and well-behaved. Only a small number of people abandoned the line even after it became clear that there were far fewer consoles available than people who wanted them. I left the store immediately after purchasing mine, so I don’t know how things went down after they were sold out.

Super NES Classic Edition consoles ready for sale

Obviously I’m happy to have gotten my hands on the SNES Classic, but it’s disappointing that Wal-mart didn’t manage the release better. I would not have been happy to be one of those who waited in line only to be turned away at the last minute (and I was closer to being in that position than I’d have liked). Apparently other stores like Best Buy and Target use a ticketing system that takes the guesswork out of these large-scale releases. A few of the people in line behind me were vocally displeased that Wal-mart didn’t have a similar system in place.

Still, it was actually a fun experience and I enjoyed talking with the people in line around me. There was a group of college-age kids in front of me who were very friendly. Right behind me was a pleasant man who even left the line while we held his spot to get some folding chairs from another area of the store so a few of us could sit while we waited. And behind him was a mother with her two children who was excited to play the games she remembered from her youth and share them with her own children—I was especially glad to see that she was able to get one.

Super NES Classic Edition

Because it was nearly 1 o’clock in the morning by the time I got home with my purchase, I went straight to bed and have not actually played it as of this writing. But I’m looking forward to spending time playing some great games this weekend.

Seat Belts Save Lives

December 2nd, 2009

This past Saturday, after having spent Thanksgiving with her family, Mona Hines was driving to her Baton Rouge apartment to pack up her belongings in preparation for an upcoming move. In the van with Hines were her sister, Stacey, and thirteen relatives of theirs, all of them children between six months and fourteen years of age.

As Hines was driving west on Interstate 10, the front driver’s side tire blew out. The van hit a truck, crossed the median, flipped several times, and finally came to rest upright in the eastbound lanes. Hines died immediately. All thirteen children, none of whom was wearing a seat belt, were thrown from the van. Four of them died before they could be treated by paramedics. A sixth victim, another of the children, died from her injuries Monday at Baton Rouge’s Our Lady of the Lake Hospital.

It goes without saying that this was a horrific tragedy. I don’t even want to think about what it must feel like to bury six family members at the same time.

Edward Barnes III

Most regrettable is the fact that this suffering could have been largely avoided. Simply wearing seat belts would have prevented the children from being ejected from the vehicle. Of course, that would have been difficult, since the thirteen of them were crammed into an area of the van designed to carry six. Obviously, the adults exercised extremely poor judgment by putting the children in a very risky situation.

Not everyone sees it that way, however. An article about the accident on drew reader comments that included the following:

  • “Sealtbelts can be good and they can work against you sometimes and have you trapped in a vehicle.”
  • “they have a lot of recall on seat belts if they were safe why call back”
  • “Seatbelts…are not foolproof and even sometimes more harmful. So it’s really not fair to characterize this acciedent as avoidable. Tires blow out, it happens. And in light of the fact that a woman who WAS wearing a seatbelt was still killed, there is absolutely no way to predict whether or not seatbelts would have saved anymore lives.”
  • “…the article states that the driver WAS wearing a seatbelt…however, she still died. When it is time to go, not a seatbelt or anything will stop you from going.”

I think these remarks represent a very dangerous attitude. I concede that the blowout itself was probably unavoidable, but most of the injuries and fatalities were the result not of the accident itself, but of having thirteen children tossed out of a moving vehicle onto the pavement. Yes, people have died in traffic accidents while wearing seat belts; a seat belt is not a magical force field that completely protects its wearer from all harm. Nevertheless, it does make it much likely that the wearer will survive an otherwise fatal accident, and that he’ll suffer less extensive injuries than he otherwise would have. According to James Madison University, “motorists are 25 times are more likely to be killed or seriously injured when they are ‘thrown clear’ than when remain inside their vehicle.” And since most of the victims in this case were children, it’s especially relevant to note that “of every 100 children who die in motor vehicle crashes at least 80 would survive if they were properly secured in an approved child safety seat or safety belts.” Of the five children that died as a result of Saturday’s crash, we can expect at least four of them to have survived, had they been wearing seat belts.

Craig Williams

I understand and appreciate that, in situation like this, it’s natural to attempt to rationalize the attendant suffering. But posturing that wearing a seat belt “doesn’t matter” or that basic, everyday safety precautions are futile because everyone has a predestined “time to go” is just asking for something like this to happen again. It’s difficult to step back from a tragedy of this magnitude and assess it calmly and rationally, but I think it’s important to do exactly that, so that no one else has to suffer this kind of nightmare.

Please, always wear a seat belt.

I extend my condolences to the victims and their families.

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