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September 23, 2008 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-09-23

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 -8

Music transcends
at Lake Sebago

T
dolin w
apart fr
even a P
it. It co
slouche
the scra
stringe(
ment, h
and scr:
like the
on a cou
day-old
bandan
around
There's
the bact
tambou
ers. The
of thenc
backgro
of a win
trees. A
ting the
photo, h
hair lon
shaven.
look aw
Since
I'm nev'
again a
continu
The s
Maine a
erature
English
dents, 1
called V
O
of s
Sebago,
climbin;
poems a
no -ma
with an
before s
showers
least on
studied
Emily D
and Lou
We mad
jagged r
the Atla
played t
the free:
morning
But it
and I'm
We have
cell pho:
fuller w
don't ea
no fully
Arbor fo
might h
climb m
either. B
is there.
about it.
The o
to the El
in Ypsila
a show.]
smoky a
of liquor
with a C
old-scho
back ant
musical
enginee
by Explo
we wait
liners to
(accordi

Bathgat
MacInto

he first time I shaved my rather famous, which was some-
head and when I first thing I hadn't been aware of in
learned to play the man- Maine. To me, he was my mando-
ere only a couple of days lin teacher; to others, a face on the
om each other. There's Starbucks Pick of the Week card.
olaroid picture to prove While I was playing pool with
stains me, sitting and some friends who had also gone
d over to NELP, Chris came out to the
tched bar with a bunch of whiskey
d instru- shots, said he knew the bar-
air short tender and said we should do a
uffy toast. I ended up passing on the
bristles . shots, but we did a toast any-
sple- way, and then sat down with a
beard, IVLg'NEY pitcher of beer and started talk-
na tied ing about everything that had
my neck. POW happened since the end of June.
a piano in For him, tour schedules, new
k of the photo covered in jobs, new vinyl EPs not making
trines and avocado shak- it to print; for me, art history
re's the wooden paneling classes, my publishing jobs, not
abin I'm sitting in in the having enough time to play as
'und, and a blurry view much music as I'd like. We sat
dow framing hemlock in a group like this talking for
nd then there's Chris, sit- a while - me, Chris and some
re on the left side of the other NELP friends who steadily
olding his own mandolin, trickled into the bar - until we
g and shaggy, face clean- had formed a large group.
He looks intent, focused. I I knew everyone in our group
kward. - well; most of them had seen my
then I've decided A.) that personal writing, seen me naked,
er going to shave my head seen me in the kitchen up to my
nd B.) that I'm going to elbows in bacon grease. It was
e playing mandolin. intimate in this bar, strangely
napshot was taken in meaningful like a Christmas
t the New England Lit- family gathering before the fam-
Program, an immersive ily broke out the brandy and got
program with 40 stu- too tipsy. When Chris got on
2 staff, at a remote camp stage, he picked up his dobro and
Vohelo on the edge of Lake introduced himself modestly,
soft-spoken. He said he was from
Ypsilanti, introduced the band
n~e girl's tale and he rolled with the cat calls
from the audience as he began his
traying from first song of the evening.
While he played "Salt Year," he
urban life. looked me in the eyes, straight-
faced, singing about regret with
lines like "Now I lace my wine
with ginger." And when the
Maine. We learned by bass and the drums kicked in
g mountains, memorizing behind him, the subwoofers on
nd journaling. We had the speakers growled. The music
il or telephone contact shook my ribs. Some of us sat
yone, played instruments down on the floor right next to
upper, took very, very few the low stage, watching him as
- I tried to take one at he sang.
ce every five days - and The Elbow Room was a
Ralph Waldo Emerson, strangely holy experience, even
ickinson, Galway Kinnel with the smoke veils and the dark
ise Gluck, among others. lighting and the prevalence of
e 3 a.m. stir-frys, scaled G&Ts with red stir straws. I felt
ocks jutting towards at home, like we were back in
ntic, ate walnut butter, Maine living with one another,
he saw, dove naked into like Chris was only playing music
zing lake at 6:30 in the before supper as we waited for
g. and smelled the beginnings to
's several months later, the evening's shepherd's pie. But
back in Ann Arbor now. the smell of supper was replaced
showers in the city and with the smell of sweat and stale
ses, and heads are now beer; the Maine sunset's ambient
ith hair than before. I light by the hot blue-tinted stage
t as much now (there's lights.
-stocked kitchen in Ann This could have been a normal
r me, although Wohelo night of drinking and stumbling
ave had one), and I don't home, but because of one musi-
ountains every week cian who taught me my first man-
ut here is here, and there dolin tunes, it was different. The
There's nothingI can do evening's music wasn't so much
an experience, the bass-rhythm
ther night, though, I went background to some drunken
[bow Room, a small bar escapades, but it was something
anti, to watch Chris play important that had been passed
It was your typical fare: down to me by a scruffy-looking
tmosphere, three shelves guy with a microphone to his
, a pool table overhung mouth.
amel-brand lamp, some Music can be something that
ol arcade games in the connects people, makes families
d a small stage inside for out of a group of writers in the
performances. The sound wilderness, out of one mandolin
r played song selections player and a girl whose head had
sions from the Sky while been shaved a day ago on the edge
ed for the show's head- of Lake Sebago, Maine.

to

These are actually photo stills from "Tropic Thunder 2: Rise of Taj.

A few good explosions

NeN
ele
'em
ex
"M

w game combines general to Solano, both the gen-
eral and the tycoon try to kill you,
nments of shoot- but obviously fail as you jump
into Lake Maracaibo. Shortly
1-Up wrfare and afterward, you discover that
Solano and his general orches-
plosions aplenty trated a coup that overthrew the
Venezuelan government. And so
By JAMIE BLOCK begins your revenge mission: Kill
Daily Arts Writer Solano and anyone who stands in
your way.
ercenaries 2: World in "Mercenaries 2" is a shooter, so

Flames" is good for one thing:
blowing shit up.
Sure, there's a failed attempt
at a story, and a lot of people
shoot at each other, but none of
these elements even come close
to matching the explosions. As
one of the loading screens states,
"Remember, everything can be
destroyed."
The game is set in Venezuela
where you play as one of three
bad-ass mercenaries. The story
begins when a wealthy Venezu-
elan oil tycoon, named Solano,
hires you to retrieve a captured
general. After you return the

expect to do a
whole lot of it. **
Combatcontrols
are simple and Mercenaries
intuitive, mak- 2:World in
ing the game
easy enough Flames
for a novice X
to pick up but Xbox 360
still interesting ElectronicArts
enough for an
experienced virtual gunslinger.
There are several different guns,
providing endless ways to fill your
enemies with lead. Despite this,
shooting quickly becomes bor-
ing as most enemies don't stand

start playing, who were
ng to the poster), "Chris
e w/ Matt Jones and Greg
sh." My friend Chris was

Pow actually just got lost in the
Arb and thought she was at NELP.
Console her at poww@umich.edu.

a chance in gunfights no matter
which gun you use. The game's
most challenging and fun battles
involve tanks and gun-towers, each
of which are best dealt with using
good old-fashioned C4 explosives.
The graphic designers for
"Mercenaries 2" had a clear set
of priorities. Certain things are
beautifully rendered: the main
characters, the landscapes and,
most notably, the explosions. In
contrast, most soldiers appear
homogeneous and have unrealis-
tic facial features. Buildings have
no texture and are extremely
pixilated, especially up close. If
each of the three little pigs' hous-
es appeared in "Mercenaries 2,"
you couldn't tell them apart.
Vehicular manslaughter:
Vehicles are one of the most
enjoyable parts of the game, but
mostly because they operate so
unrealistically. If you enter a
vehicle with very little health,
and the vehicle is instantly
blown up, instead of dying, you
will probably gain health. When
you enter a vehicle belonging to a
faction, if you don't do anything
suspicious for a while, people
will think you belong to that
faction as long as you're in the
vehicle. Most of the time, this is
an innovative, sensible feature.
However, let's say Solano's men
are shooting you, and you hijack
one of their tanks in front of their
eyes, you can just sit in the tank
for a few seconds, and the sol-
diers will instantly forget what
they just saw. You can then use
the tank to blow up the forgetful
soldiers or anything else nearby.
Obviously, if you start exploding
the amnesiacs, they'll realize you
don't work for Solano ... at least
for a few seconds.
I shoot, therefore I,
wait, what?: Artificial intelli-
gence is always a tricky business,
and it got the best of "Mercenar-
ies 2." For example, you can walk
up behind an enemy soldier man-
ning the gun turret of a vehicle
and shoot him in the back. He'll
flinch a little, but otherwise
won't move except to fall to his
death when you finally put him
out of his poorly-programmed
misery. Even when soldiers' A.I.
is working correctly, there's no
shortage of flaws. Your enemies'
decisions to find and leave cover
seem to be completely unrelated

to your actions. Also, no matter
where you throw a grenade, your
enemies will not see it. However,
the game has introduced some
impressive concepts to the A.I.
If you shoot up a friendly fac-
tion's base, any survivors will
report your actions via walkie-
talkie and reinforcements will be
brought in. Also, enemies consid-
er the path you're running when
launching rockets, so expect to
be blown up a number of times.
We've heard it all
before: An angel dies every
time someone in "Mercenaries 2"
speaks. Voice acting is painfully
bad as well as notably disjointed
from the character's animations.
Most annoyingly, the developers
decided to have everyone speak,
but only gave each kind of char-
acter two or three phrases. The
contrived and irritating nature
of this is best seen when standing
next to a random civilian. Every
20 seconds or so he will echo his
phrase, which usually pertains to
how hot it is. This will continue
for all eternity or until you gouge
out your ear drums.
Who's the boom king?:
Even objects that don't explode
in real life canbe blown to smith-
ereens in "Mercenaries 2." If you
grenade a tree, for instance, it
will launch straight into the air
and the leaves will detach in a
fiery mess. Among the biggest
explosions are those caused by
nuclear strikes, complete with
a mushroom cloud and radia-
tion emission, which you call in
using your friendly jet pilot. But
because these are dropped from a
plane, they lack the element of, "I
caused this with-my own hands."
The most fun thing to do in the
whole game is blow up the giant
fuel drums using grenades. The
ensuing explosion is a beautiful
mix of golden oranges, fiery reds,
flying shrapnel and the death of
your enemies. The earth trem-
bles and bystanders shield their
eyes from the blinding flash. This
is destruction atits finest.
At best, "Mercenaries 2" is a
pyromaniac'splayground.Expect
to stray from the plot early and
often to see what there is to
destroy. If you do, you'll probably
have a lot of fun. If you want ah
engaging story with compelling
characters and exciting adven-
tures, you'd best look elsewhere.

ARTS IN BRIEF

Television
New CW dramedy
piggybacks on stale
and tired formula
"Privileged"
Tuesday at 9 p.m.
CW
With the colossal success of
"Gossip Girl," the CW has appar-
ently deemed it necessary to add to
its lineup yet another dramedy cen-
tering on rich youths with too much
time on their hands. And so "Privi-
leged" was born.
Megan Smith (Joanna Garcia,
"Reba") is an aspiring writer fresh
out of Yale with a certain pep best
described as "irritating to the point
of inciting violence." After being
fired from her job in New York,
Smith relocates to her hometown
of Palm Beach, Fla., a tutor of two

spoiled twins, Sage (Ashley New-
brough, "Degrassi: the Next Gen-
eration") and Rose (Lucy Hale, "The
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
2").
The superficial dialogue and
contrived storylines are enough to
kill any interest in "Privileged." If
that weren't enough, the producers
have decided to include a sound-
track composed mainly of Lily Allen
and other "carefree" songs which
only underscore the stupidity of the
show.
"Privileged" seems to be a vague-
ly cautionary tale about the wasted
existence that easy wealth can fos-
ter. But the show doesn't convey this
message well, because it spends too
much time glamorizing the glossy
allure of money and the status
accompanying it to give the show
any moral depth. This shouldn't be
much of a surprise, though. Bratty
teens get better ratings than soap-
box speech, and the CW knows that
better than anyone.
JOHN DAAVETTILA

0
9
9

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