Sunday, August 29, 2010

A music post.

Hi! So, over on The Twitter earlier, I mentioned, as I always do, that Amazon is having a sale on MP3s. A whole buncha albums for $5 each. Why do I do this? Is it because Amazon pays me a royalty fee when I pimp there site? Why, no, it's not! I get Jonathan Shit (that's the formal version) for doing it! Really, I just do it because I love music, I love deals on music, and I love sharing those deals with you, The People.

So Amazon has a deal every single day. It's called the Amazon Deal of the Day. They're so clever over there, with the naming and stuff. I guess that's why they got so big. Anyway, today's(Sunday's) daily deal is a group named Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. I don't know shit about them, other than they look like one of them new breed of faux hippies that seem to be spreading over the indie scene like a bad case of dandruff. Not that I have a problem with hippies. Of course I don't. I live in Berkeley. I'm something of a stealth hippie myself, if you must know the truth. Anyway, I'm not going to buy the record, because it doesn't sound that interesting to me, even though, after watching a YouTube video by them, I've determined that the brunette female singer is totally adorable. But that's something that wouldn't really come through on my iPod, so fuggit. The point is, if you were the type who liked that band, the album is only $2.99. That is ridiculously cheap for an entire album. That's cheaper than they were when I was buying them in the 1970s, back when there were real hippies. So this is why I go to that site every day. Because of deals like this. If you like music, and you like music deals, you should go there too. Here's the link:

Okay, so. In addition to the daily deals, Amazon also has monthly $5 deals. And this month they have 1,000 of them. Ay caramba. That's a lot of deals. I think we can all agree on that. A lot of them are just total no brainers if you don't own them already (like Radiohead's "OK Computer") so I'm not even gonna bother recommending those ones. You certainly don't need me to tell you that you should own OK Computer for $5, do you? Wait--I don't even want to know.

Here's some other no-brainers from that list, okay? Let's just pretend I didn't even bring them up, because I'm assuming you know this already:

Jimmy Hendrix's Band of Gypsys
Belle and Sebastian's If You're Feeling Sinister
Outkast's Stankonia
Air's Moon Safari

You could argue a whole bunch more out of that 1000 belong in the no-brainer category, I suppose. Or you could remove, say, Belle and Sebastian if you don't like twee stuff. Which is fine with me. This is a democracy after all. These are just suggestions.

Anyway, what I really wanted to do was just suggest a few that you may not know or otherwise find. The alt/indie rock and hiphop and electronica is all stuff that you hepcats are all familiar with anyway. I'm late-to-the-party on half that stuff anyway all the time, because I'm old that way. (But okay, get the Black Keys' Rubber Factory and Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest if you don't own 'em yet!)

So here's stuff that an old dude wants to recommend that you may not know. I swear by all of these. And if you buy them and they suck to you? Well, I guess you're out that money, which pretty much sucks for you. That's what you get for listening to the recommendations of a guy you don't even know! HA-ha!

Little Feat's Feats Don't Fail Me Now - Classic 1974 blues/funk/rock from an awesome white-boy blues/funk/rock band, led by Lowell George, who just absolutely killed on the slide guitar, and a rhythm section as tight as The Meters. If you like stuff like early Ry Cooder, you can't go wrong here.

Buzzcock's Singles Going Steady Essential, killer 1979 collection of singles from one of the great first English punk bands. Listening through a 21st century filter, it practically sounds like pop, it's all so catchy. So it's hard to remember that at the time this would have been impossible to hear on the radio because it was considered too "raw." And even though it's a compilations, every song is so damn perfect, and it's all sequenced so well, that it's considered by many to be one of the best punk rock albums ever. Including me.

John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman
Coltrane at his most luscious and romantic and accessible, accompanied by the beautiful baritone voice of Hartman. Some may find it "corny," but, if so, I suggest you unsnark yourself from the age of irony and just listen. Coltrane's solos are masterpieces of understatement and control and emotion. When my wife and I got married, this was the first record we played at the wedding. It's music as love, love as music.

Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers Moanin' It's hard to recommend jazz, mostly because most people don't like it, are unfamiliar with it, or don't know where to start. This is one of those great "starter jazz" albums, but that doesn't make it any less awesome than it is. Smoky, smooth jazz from 1958, Moanin' is quintessential "hard bop," the kind of jazz most people tend to think jazz is, and I'd contend that if you don't like this, you're probably never gonna get jazz at all (which is okay). The title track alone makes the whole damn record worth it--especially Lee Morgan's trumpet solo, which, when I first heard it, convinced me to put down the trumpet forever. And if you don't know what else to do when trying to listen to this record, hang on to Art Blakey's drumming, which drives this whole thing along with amazing force. (There's actually a bunch of great jazz on this list. Others I'd recommend: Grant Green's Idle Moments, Coltrane's The Ultimate Blue Train, Cannonball Adderley's Something Else, Lee Morgan's The Sidewinder.)

Rodrigo Y Gabriela's 11:11 You will not believe that this is just two acoustic guitars. Well, okay, minor exaggeration. You will believe it, you'll just be amazed and delighted that two acoustic guitars can kick this much ass. If you told me a year ago that one of my favorite records of the year would turn out to be from a Mexican flamenco duo, I would have coughed politely and then quietly taken leave of you. Now I try to push this one on everyone who will listen. Catchy, joyous, and technically mind-blowing.

So...that's it. And shit, what the hell do I know? Half my friends know more about music than me. I just make up this stuff as I go along. And I'm still learning and exploring too, and always will be, because music is one of the things I live for, that inspires me and informs everything I do.

Here's hoping some of this stuff does the same for you. Happy listening!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

PAX Brodeo Reunion Canceled. Children (and Jeff) Weep.

Hey guys. Just a semi-quick update for those who follow me but aren't hip to The Twitter: What the headline says. Sadly, we've had to cancel the GFW Radio Reunion panel that was to take place on Saturday night at the PAX expo in Seattle next week. And I promise that no one is more heartbroken over it than those of us in the group.

Unfortunately, it couldn't be helped. We tried. Oh boy did we try. There was an email thread that went on and on with lots of suggestions and sidebars and whining and cajoling. But the sad fact was that no amount of talk was going to change what had, unexpectedly, happened just two days ago: Two key members (and, hey, we're ALL key) of the Brodeo were suddenly not going to be able to attend the conference. For work reasons. Actually, I'm fudging the truth a little. One of them we knew about already. But that we knew months ago, and had a contingency for. So, at that point, the show was still going on. But when the second one dropped the other day, that effectively killed the panel. (And I'm not naming names because it really doesn't matter. It's just internal drama, but we're all still cool with one another. It was just one of those things, and I'd rather no one be the "bad guy." )

We contemplated doing it without those who couldn't attend. We contemplated getting substitutes. But this was my stance, and I was the first one to openly say, "I think we should cancel": My stance was that without all of us there, it's not a "reunion." One maybe, but not two. At that point, it was just going to be a gimped, compromised version of us, because it was the combination of personalities that made it what it was. And I didn't feel like substitutes would work either, because, again, it's a chemistry thing. And it didn't seem like that's what folks who would be standing in line would be thrilled to see. As I said to one of the Brodeo dudes in a private email, I said it would be like this: "Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together and welcome to the stage Emerson, Lake, and Bernstein!" I decided it would be better to bite the bullet and wait until we could do it RIGHT, with all of us there. We never compromised ourselves when we did the podcast itself. I didn't want to start now.

So, there it is. To those of you who were looking forward to it, and/or who included this in your reasons for attending, you have my sincere apology. It just couldn't be helped. I do promise you we will do this again, hopefully at an upcoming PAX. And of course I'm still going to PAX, still appearing on the other panels mentioned one post down, and am probably going to drop in on a couple others I've now been invited to crash.

Really just a blip of a bummer in the grand scheme of things. Somehow I think we'll all manage to carry on and have a great PAX anyway. (And if you see me, you're required to say hello, ALRIGHT?)

Here's to a Brodeo Reunion 2011! Keep Hope Alive!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My PAX Prime Schedule!

Okay, so, I'm posting this as much for myself as for anyone reads this. I don't want you think I have such a big head as to think my schedule is of grand interest to humanity at large. But in case you did want to stalk me, consider this a handy reference guide! You're welcome!

I'm appearing on three panels at the convention, which I'll list below. One is the second annual Brodeo reunion, and if you think you are looking forward to it, I'll take your enthusiasm and quadruple it. Cuz I lurv those guys and I miss talking with them. As was the case a year ago, this'll basically be the first time we're all back in the same room again talking. So whatever happens, I think we'll just be happy to be in each other's company again. The other two panels are somewhat related to my now-defunct EA jobs. One is about the whole "game publisher representative" thing that I tried and failed to do--but that others on the panel are doing a fine job of. So I will be there representing the What Not To Do point of view, I suppose. :) Good times. The third panel is with folks who switched from the journalism to development side, and that one should be lots of fun. It won't be a dish-dealing kinda thing, because, as I've already said, I'm not really interested in doing that, but it will be fun to relate some of the lessons I learned while in the Sims group.

More important than my dumb panels, however, is the show itself. Because PAX (both West and East coasts) is now my favorite convention to attend. Why? Because of you: The People. It is three days with the nicest, most enthusiastic horde of nerds you could ever hope to assemble. Being in that convention is like being Home. The one thing that everyone always comments on every PAX is just how dang *friendly* everyone is, despite the long lines and the fact that everything is packed to the gills. There's just a shared sense of camaraderie and belonging there, so much so that everyone takes the logistics and long waits in stride---usually with a Nintendo DS in hand.

This year, I'm looking forward to taking advantage of my newfound freedom to do what I usually never get to do: Walk around the show floor with impunity and play games. Yay! I have no official "work" agenda now other than to show up for my panels, leaving all the rest of the time wide open for me to dork around. And dork around I shall.

So, ya know, if you see me and recognize me, come say hi. I don't bite. MOST OF THE TIME.

Anyhoo, here's the schedule of my appearances, cut and pasted straight from the official PAX website!

Saturday, 8:00 PM - 9:00 PM, Serpent Theatre
Twittering for the Man: Social Media & Game Publishers

Community managers have long been an asset to game developers -- but spokesgeeks for publishers? That's a fairly new one. Some of the biggest publishers are building direct lines of communication to their biggest fans and harshest critics, so GamePro’s editor-in-chief John Davison will ask some of the most well-known architects -- Microsoft's Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb, Activision's Dan "OneOfSwords" Amrich, EA's Jeff "Greenspeak" Green, and Sony's Jeff "JeffPS" Rubenstein -- to explain their unusual roles, carefully balanced between the fans and The Man. How much freedom do they have under a corporate umbrella? How much are they making it up as they go along? And how come none of them seem to do their jobs the same way? Their answers will Twitter your Facebook off. Or something.

Panelists include: Larry Hryb [Director of Programming for Xbox Live, Microsoft], Dan Amrich [Social Media Manager, Activision], Jeff Rubenstein [Social Media Manager, SCEA], Jeff Green [Editor-in-Chief,, Electronic Arts], John Davison [Editor-in-Chief, GamePro]

Saturday, 9:00 PM - 10:00 PM, Unicorn Theatre
CGW/GFW Radio "The Brodeo" Reunion #2

CGW/GFW Radio "The Brodeo" Reunion #2: Even Eli Knows What That Means At PAX '09, Jeff Green (EA), Shawn Elliott (Irrational Games), Ryan Scott (GameSpy/Geekbox), Sean Molloy (former CGW/GFW editor) and Robert Ashley ( assembled to relive the podcast glory days of CGW/GFW Radio "The Brodeo" in a rollicking (and often hilarious) panel that discussed the demise of Games for Windows: The Official Magazine, how they "stumbled" into writing for a magazine, why some articles never saw the light of day, personal anecdotes of PR gone very wrong, and diapered anime fans. Come see what dark corners of the Internet they explore this year!

Panelists include: Robert Ashley [], Sean Molloy Ryan Scott [GameSpy/], Shawn Elliott [Irrational Games], Jeff Green [EIC]

Sunday, 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM, Serpent Theatre
Rookie Years: Stories from First Projects

How did you get that gig and what happens after you've landed your dream job? Julian Murdoch (Gamer's with Job's podcast) uncovers the stories of four new developers and their first projects. Developers including Jeff Green (Electronic Arts) and David Heron (Hothead) reveal their shared experiences, misconceptions, successes and failures. Audience questions will be answered.

Panelists include: David Heron [Game Designer, Hothead Games], Julian Murdoch [Founder, Gamer's with Jobs], Jeff Green [Electronic Arts]

Hope to see ya there!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Where I'm At

Well, first, I'm sorry it took *this* to get me back to my personal blog after a horrific 3-month absence. However, now that you know, maybe you'll understand *why* there's been a horrific 3-month absence. Because a cloud has been hanging over me for a long time. And it was seriously stifling both my creative instincts as well as my desire to empty my head in a public forum, as I am wont to do. I mean, if I can't speak openly and honestly on this page, then, what's the point? So I've been hibernating.

Anyway, yeah, if you don't follow Twitter--and, hey, I don't blame you, the thing is evil and should die--I've left EA. The details of the hows and whys and wherefores are mostly better left unsaid, for all sorts of reasons. But to get the one thing out of the way that everyone wants to know---did he quit or was he fired---the answer is: Kind of neither. The folks who run the website wanted to change directions. That direction didn't include the creation of original content. So my job description was changed. And since what I do best (well, other than play games, eat pizza, and lay on the couch and do nothing) is create content, it clearly was no longer the best fit for me. So I'm out.

But, again, who did what when and in what order is not necessarily important, and I've left with warm feelings and high regards for a great many of the people at EA that I've been lucky enough to work with. That place is just freaking loaded with talent and big brains at all levels of the company. Definitely some of the smartest and most creative people I've ever met or worked with. And I wish them all nothing but the best.

What I was trying to do at EA was something I truly believed in, and which I think companies are going to continue to do and get better at as this nascent "social media" thing progresses. My pal Dan Amrich over at Activision is already doing a better job than I was able to do, and I think as other companies get on board with the idea of More Transparency and Better Ways to Communicate With Their Audience, we'll see further cool developments and ideas. I had all sorts of bigger plans for ways to entertain from within the rubric of EA, and, hey, maybe those will still happen further down the line. I think I was probably pushing a little too hard for something that wasn't quite ready to happen yet.

So, to use a phrase I absolutely loathe: It is what it is. I'm not gonna slag on EA because they did what makes the best business sense for them right now, and, ya know, that's what it is: A business. And I had to do what's right for me because I am what I am: A doofus.

As for my next move, there's been lots of speculation, and lots of folks thinking I'm holding back on some kind of announcement, but the more mundane truth is that I actually don't fully know yet. I have at least one big pending possibility that I am in love with, and possibly one other after that. In the short run, I have one neat thing happening, which is that I've contracted to help write a (nonfiction) book in the next few months. And beyond that, I've been talking with all of your favorite game websites and magazines and already have more articles assigned than I can handle, and will probably be late on. Just like the old days! Yay! And I'll be doing a big round of podcasts, just to reconnect with that side of me--though if folks are expecting a big round of hate from me on my old employer, I'm going to disappoint. I'd rather just talk about fun stuff and happy stuff and the future.

I'm also going to use this bit of "down time" to do all those things that are hard to do when one is working full time at a big company. Such as: Spend more time with my wife/kid before school starts again. Get back into all my writing projects, which includes both this blog and my Cudgel of Xanthor novel, which is anxiously awaiting its first revision. Get my fat ass up and exercise more. Finish all these games I have sitting around. Spend time with friends again, who I have neglected for far too long.

Like I said when I left Ziff Davis, change is hard. And I'm really bad at it. (Thus my 17 years at Ziff.) Two years was far too little time at EA, and I'm filled with regret that I couldn't really get done what I wanted to do there. But maybe some other time. Because, like I said, I still like them a lot, and would pick up that mission again when we were all ready. In the meantime, all I can really do is look forward, push ahead, and strive for more. I have all sorts of things I still want to accomplish with my life and my talents. And I guess now is as good a time as any to get to it.