September 2008


Politics September 22nd, 2008 by Danny Mc Guire

According to data on the National Taxpayers Union Foundation website the top 1% of wage earners in the USA pay about 39.89% of the income taxes collected (I'm using 2006 numbers). These folks have an Adjusted Gross Income of $388,806 or more. The bottom 50% of wage earners who do pay income taxes account just under 3% of the income taxes collected.

I don't know about you but I think I could live very well on $388,806. In fact, that amount is equal to more than four times my annual gross income. If I made $388,806 this year I could keep my present lifestyle intact and not work for the next few years without a single worry about money.

It is important to remember that some wealthy folks do not pay income tax at all. These folks pay Capital Gains taxes instead. Yes, those "amazing" CEOs who say they want a salary of $1 per year while raking in millions on stock options are moving their executive compensation away from the (higher) income tax rate to the (lower) capital gains rate.

Imagine if you will a world where the top 1% are forced to pay an even larger portion of their earned income in taxes. Do you think they will pay more without complaint? We have already seen corporations move their offices off-shore to circumvent corporate taxes so why not individuals?

Unlike the rest of us the top 1% people can easily afford to take a year off or even drop their salary to $1 and work out a stock option pay plan. Those of us who make under $100K per year can survive a few months without an income but not much longer.

So, think for a moment. What would happen if the top 1% decided to "go on strike" against paying income taxes? How would we make up for that 40% in taxes that is not being collected?

Games September 21st, 2008 by HMTKSteve
Wii Music

Wii Musicâ„¢
Format: Wiiâ„¢
Launch Date: 10/20/08
ESRB: E (Everyone)
Game Type: Music
Accessories: Wii Remoteâ„¢, Nunchukâ„¢, Wii Balance Boardâ„¢
Players: 1-4
Developer: Nintendo

Create a musical masterpiece with up to four players. Anyone can play the huge selection of instruments in Wii Music with simple motions-like strumming and drumming.

  • It's easy to play improv jams. Musicians in your band jam by simply playing their instruments to the beat of a song or by improvising to their heart's content. Play faster. Play slower. Skip a beat, or throw in 10 more. No matter what you do, Wii Music automatically transforms your improv stylings into great music. There are no mistakes-just playing for the pure joy of playing.
  • Wii controls immerse you in the music. You can play most of the 60-plus instruments in Wii Music using simple motions with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk controllers. Strum to play guitar, banjo and sitar. Drum to play jazz drums, congas and marching drums. Hammer away to play piano, vibraphone and marimba. Unlike most music games, Wii Music doesn't make you use complex buttons. You only need to imitate playing the instrument.
  • Wii Music offers virtually endless ways to make music. You choose the song and instruments and decide whether to blaze through a rock take on classical songs, put a jazzy spin on folk tunes or transform Nintendo classics like the Super Mario Bros.® theme into Latin-flavored numbers. The song list is only a takeoff point-it's how you improvise with the songs that matters.
  • Send your band-jam recordings to Wii Friends who have Wii Music. They'll see your Miiâ„¢ band members, your players' improv styles and your instrument selections. They can watch your recordings, or play over parts of your song, then send their modified recording back to you. Improv jams can be sent back and forth over WiiConnect24 and changed again and again.

Beyond the Jam:
Wii Music includes many other modes besides the main band jams, including several musical games and an enhanced video playback mode for recorded jams.

  • Play it again: Use the playback mode to see your jam recordings brought to life with dramatic camera angles.
  • Pick up the baton: Command an orchestra in the conducting game where you'll wave the Wii Remote controller like a conductor's baton to lead a Mii orchestra through orchestrated music. Make them play quickly, slowly, strongly or gently.
  • Ring a bell? Play a handbells game where you'll swing your Wii Remote and Nunchuk controllers to play your two handbells as part of a larger ensemble. Everyone on the team has a job to do: Play one of your notes only when the tune demands it.
  • An ear for music: Take a tone quiz that tests your musical ear by giving you challenges, like putting note-playing Miis in order from lowest to highest pitch.
  • Bang the drum: Play a virtual drum set in the drumming mode, the one mode in Wii Music that also uses the Wii Balance Board accessory (sold with Wii Fitâ„¢). You'll use the Wii Remote and Nunchuk controllers as drumsticks, and place both feet on the Wii Balance Board-which work as virtual pedals for the bass drum and hi-hat cymbal.

Analysis

I've watched a video of the Miis performing music but I have yet to see any video of the players playing the game. I know this is not a Rock Band game but the inclusion of the Wii Balance Board as a controller option is very intriguing.

I will reserve judgement on this one until i have actually played it.

Gameplay Photographs

Wii Music
Wii Music
Wii Music
Wii Music
Wii Music
Wii Music

Click on the images for larger pictures

video games September 3rd, 2008 by Josh L.

INTRODUCTION
The moment Soul Calibur 4 arrived at my doorstep, I knew that I was going to be tough on the game. Even whilst tearing away the shrink-wrap and removing the security whosamawhatchies, memories of Christmas morning '03 dominated my thoughts. I knew that the game had some real hurdles ahead of it, bars set high by its predecessor a couple of games previous. It'd take a lot to shatter my rose-tinted glasses, to disarm the ticking nostalgia timebomb within me.
First of all, before we move on, I'd like to have you know that the game requires a system update if you want to play it at all, which of course requires being connected to the interbutts. Now, I know that the great thing about the 360 isn't beating the games, it's showing everyone online that I did. But despite that, I've yet to shell out for the overpriced wireless adapter (over my dead body lol) and I've not been willing to connect my bedroom Xbox to the router in the kitchen with a 75 foot ethernet cord. I really think that requiring a downloadable system update is arrogant as it ignores those like me who aren't connected. It'd be nice if the disc came with the update as well as the game, like some Wii titles do. Oh wait, there's probably not enough free space on that DVD, my bad.

NEXT GEN GRAFFIX
Playing Soul Calibur 4, the most glaring graphical element is without a doubt glare itself. Interestingly, it appears as if all character models, their garments (except for metal armor), and surfaces had at one point during development been coated with generous amounts of spray-on wood lacquer and about a half gallon of orange glo for good measure, as if it were all just one big subliminal Billy Mays product placement extravaganza. A warm, soft, luminous halo surrounds the parameter of each and every fighter, from Kilik to Ivy, their carnauba-wax visages vibrant in full albedo.

FIGHTAN

Despite my blatant nostalgia for SC2, I honestly haven't played the game in quite some time (thus the extent of my nostalgia, as nostalgia levels vary directly in accordance to how long it's been since one's last play session). The last time I fired up the ol' Gamecube was a couple of weeks ago for a little Metroid Prime (listening to Phendrana Drifts BG music as I type this). At first, I helped myself to some BUTAN MASHAN, which really left a sour taste in my mouth. After a little practice mode and more than just a quick glance at the command list, I started to feel the magic in my fingertips once again. I immediately set off for the Tower of Lost Souls and commenced HACKAN and SLASHAN my way up towards the top.

Controls--

=>: D-pad or left stick, press direction quickly.

->: D-pad or left stick, hold direction.

A: X button

B: Y button

K: B button

G: A button

Besides my confusion regarding the fact that 'A' is not 'A' at all but rather 'G', and that 'X' is 'A' and that 'Y' is 'B' and 'B' is 'K', I learned again to love combos, and the satisfaction of pulling special moves off with aplomb. I just wish that the 360 control pad had a... better? No, not just better, a USABLE control pad. Where the control pad may not be integral to the likes of Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit, I would like to at least have a functional d-pad for some of the moves that are highly reliant on the successful execution of precise directional commands, a task that I have never felt the contemporary toggle stick has ever been particularly adept at. Also, it's really awkward pressing buttons like 'B' & 'X' at the same time (or would that be 'K' + 'A'?)

CUSTOMIZAN

Alright, I admit it-- what's really got me hooked on this game is the character creation system. Just like how I spent more time with Rockband discerning between the Ziggy Stardust 'do or the Ziggy Marley dreads, so too have I been fiddling with perfecting my Hatsune Miku lookalike for way, way too long. My main motivation to even think of ascending the Tower of Lost Souls is really just to try and see if I can't unlock a longer set of pigtails.

CHARACTERS

Typical of the Soul Calibur franchise, the game is host to a plethora of veteran characters and newcomers alike, all with slightly updated versions of their own signature get-ups as well as one alternate outfit, one of my favorites being Talim's (my personal favorite fighter) new and somewhat feline-themed costume. Each fighter has their own unique attire, or near lack thereof-- I'm looking at you, Ivy. The latter has been one of my gripes since SC3, really. Though I admit that I've never played the aforementioned title, the screenshots speak for themselves. I've been growing increasingly wary of the franchise becoming one big exaggerated T&A fest... really, while I must say that a little fanservice is a good thing (and sure pushes units when it comes right down to the bottom line, that being checkout on Amazon.com or the Gamestop counter top) there's a certain line that, once crossed, strips a game of being Christmas morning fare. Astaroth shouting "SCREAM FOR ME" while a green-haired maid in glorified lingerie responds with "U... uah... huh... uh... n-n-nooo!" is not really something that I want on the downstairs telly while my brothers and little sister sit next to me and my parents stand by sipping egg nog. Honestly though, I do realize that the game IS rated 'T' for teen, but once again my nostalgia is getting the best of me. Just wanna give you a heads up.

The wonderful thing about SC4 that SC3 didn't have going for it, as I have said before, is the character creation system. How does this solve my dilemma as described above? Well, in character creation mode, it is possible to liberate Ivy of all corded leather strips and, if you are so inclined, dress her like she's right out of Pride and Prejudice. Conversely, you can also strip her right down to her (probably less revealing) skivvies and just leave it at that. Yes, this is the full-fledged DOA beach volleyball fighter we've all been waiting for.

YODA

Since I've got the Xbox 360 version of the game, I get to rock everybody's favorite diminutive, verdant Jedi Master. I'll be honest here, the Star Wars tie-in this time around just doesn't feel right to me; but for Darth's apprentice, who for a new kid on the block has, in my mind, usurped all other male fighters so far as sheer bad-arsery is concerned. But back to Yoda, he just feels incredibly out of place, especially when playing the story mode. Yoda is on Dagobah, feels a disturbance in the force, and wants to one-up the Empire-- so he just up and jumps through some sort of dimensional portal to the Soul Calibur universe where he fights little girls with glorified batons for the possession of a magical sword-- all before the Empire does the same. It just feels silly. But, in the end, it's fun to pit Yoda against Yoshimitsu and make fun of the whole thing with some good friends.

STORY MODE

I won't 'ruin' anything, though the 'story' of 'story mode' may hardly be called that IMO. Trudge through a few (story mode is very short) consecutive brawls until you reach the ultimate BAMF of the game and defeat him in record time. That's about it. The dialog (ugh) rarely makes much sense, and whatever connections the characters have to each other are very loosely embellished upon, though there's a whole lot of extras like the 'Chain of Souls" that elaborates on all this, though I don't bother with it. Honestly, if you're playing just about any modern fighting game... you probably aren't doing so to read a novel. Still, though, why are Nightmare and Tira paired with each other?!? Just one of many strange alliances. Whatever, I just opt for Arcade mode.

VERDICT

Soul Calibur IV is a great game; I like it for the character creation, but you may like it for the fighting. It's worth a try, that's for certain. (more…)


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