Music, cats, and other things that make life worthwhile

Thoughts on Doom: Eternal

May 23, 2020 — Joe Brockmeier

Doom: Eternal is a pretty good name for a franchise that keeps getting ported, updated, and rebooted more than 25 years after it first launched. Though I don't do much gaming these days, the siren song of Doom was just too much for me and I caved and bought a PS4 and a copy of Doom: Eternal a few weeks ago and have been playing it off and on for about a week. Here's one old guy's take on the reboot so far, after completing several levels and maybe 15 hours of gameplay.

What makes a good game?

I play Doom for one reason, and one reason only: I want to power through levels and blow things up. Preferably really scary looking demons that go boom in interesting ways and that pose a challenge without making me repeat levels dozens of times to get past a boss or whatever, and without being more frustrating than my life in general. The point is to relax and blow off some steam.

At no point in my life have I been a super-serious gamer. Even in my 20s and 30s, I was a casual gamer looking to unwind for a few hours and then set the game aside until I had some spare time. Games that require a lot of commitment aren't what I'm looking for, really. Preferably a game would have a high replayability factor, too. Something that is as much fun to pick up for the 20th time as the first.

The original Doom and sequels pass this test. I have picked them up and played them time and again on various platforms (the iOS port was really not a great experience), and especially love just putting my Doom Guy in God mode and mowing down monsters left and right for an hour or two here and there.

Quake III Arena is my all-time favorite. It's simple, fast paced, was easy for me to pick up the controls and strategy, and rewards replays. I could play against bots on "The Longest Yard" and the other Tier 6 maps all day long and enjoy it.

Controls and power-ups

The number of controls you have to remember in Eternal is a bit silly. I'm used to having to memorize the movement controls, switching weapons, firing (of course) and a bit more. This one adds all kinds of fiddly power-ups and gee-gaws to weapons that you have to toggle between and a whole experience and leveling-up process that's just more like work than fun. My expectation is by the time the character is sufficiently powered up to be fun, the game will be pretty close to finished.

Ugh, jumping

Q3 notwithstanding, I actually hate games that require a lot of jumping. Platformers that have a lot of intricate jumping from this precarious bit to that precarious bit are tedious. Eternal is particularly bad about this because in some cases it's really not clear even where you're supposed to be jumping. After playing through a few of these it's become more obvious but initially it was really frustrating and not fun.

It's also really changed the nature of Doom to be more like other games, and it feels a bit generic. I mean, the stadard monsters are all represented, but it feels like they've been slotted into a pretty standard template that could be just about any game.

Graphics and story

It's pretty, I'll give the game team that much. The graphics in the game are really good. Contrary to the gaming industry's belief, though, I'm not actually clamoring for more pixels and polygons. I was perfectly happy with the state of the art graphics for Q3, and if the industry had never evolved any further I wouldn't have really cared. The old Doom games are perfectly fun even with the old creaky 90s bitmaps.

They do rely a bit heavily on repeated animations of glory kills or whatever. Fun the first time. Hilarious the first time my fiance watched me playing, but they get a bit repetitive and tedious after a few hours.

The storyline is ... confusing and not interesting. Why do games even need a storyline? I may be in the minority here, or maybe the game industry just isn't listening, but the fewer cutscenes and attempts to impose a narrative on a game the better. Really, if I want a story I'll read a book or comic, or listen to a podcast or watch a show or movie. Something something Hell Priests just feels like a third-rate death metal band premise.

Overall, I'm having an OK time playing Doom: Eternal and don't regret the purchase. But I'll probably end up having more fun playing older titles on the PS4 than this reboot. If anybody from Id or Bethesda are reading this, what I'd really love is an open world Doom that has high replayability (think early Grand Theft Auto titles without all the fussy missions) and simpler controls. No need to update the graphics engine or impose a storyline. Just Doom Guy and endless demons to mulch with the chainsaw.

Tags: games, doom, quake

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Remembering my father

January 28, 2020 — Joe Brockmeier

Ronald C. Brockmeier, my father, passed away on January 21, 2020 in Dorchester, Wisconsin. He was 79, and had spent about two and a half years suffering from vascular dementia and memory loss. He was preceded by his wife, Tina, who passed in July 2019.

It’s hard to write anything short of a novel about my father’s passing. How do you compress a life into a few paragraphs or pages? He was many things, and “easy to describe” wasn’t one of them.

Me and my dad, around 2011

Firstly, nobody used his given name, excepting Tina from time to time. I’d hear her over his shoulder while he was on the phone, “Ronald!” Usually when he was saying something inappropriate. This happened often. He was given to saying inappropriate things.

No, most people called him Ron, but for many years most people just called him Rotten. Rotten Ron was his nickname for pinstriping. It was one of many jobs he did over the years, and the one that he did the longest. He was driven to create, he wanted to paint designs and try new things.

So he taught himself how to pinstripe at a young age. The way he told it, someone asked if he could, so he said “yes,” bought the brushes and paint, and did it. And got paid. And kept doing it. Along the way he added sign painting and lettering, and got savvy about what to charge and how to drum up business. Had it not been for the advent of cheap vinyl signs and such in the late 80s, I suspect he’d have kept lettering and pinstriping as a job well into his 70s.

He had other jobs, as well. Or ways to make money, anyway. Before I was born, he hustled pool for money in addition to sign painting and pinstriping. Gambling, he taught me, was work. If there’s money on the table, it’s work, not fun. Nevertheless he enjoyed shooting pool and went back to it later in life, often going to the local bar to shoot pool for money. He usually won, at least to hear him tell it.


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A little Robyn Hitchcock

November 16, 2019 — Joe Brockmeier

Went to see Robyn Hitchcock Thursday night at The Arts Center in Carrboro. This was a solo acoustic show, joined for a few songs by Emma Swift. Before the show Emma was working the merch table and we bought a few t-shirts, she asked if we had any requests. My brain sort of short-circuited because it's super hard for me to single out one or two songs by Robyn as favorites. I finally asked for "A Skull, a Suitcase, and a Long Red Bottle of Wine," since it is one of my favorites and I know he doesn't do it live very often. (Though I've gotten to see him do it live three times now, so.) Was super-pleased he did play it towards the end of the set.

Here it is from his show at Rough Trade in NYC, back in 2017 when he did the entirety of Black Snake Diamond Role with Yo La Tengo.

If you prefer electric, here's Robyn & the Sadies doing a cover of Pink Floyd's "Astronomy Domine" and "Lucifer Sam."

Have a great Saturday!

Tags: robyn-hitchcock, live

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Nicky Skopelitis & Raoul Björkenheim: Revelator

November 12, 2019 — Joe Brockmeier

Bill Laswell has been a busy fellow lately, pushing out a lot of stuff on his label (I guess?) to Bandcamp that's been out for years or even decades but no longer in print. I'm really enjoying Revelator, a collaboration with Nicky Skopelitis and Raoul Björkenheim. I'd never heard of Raoul before, but I've picked up a couple of things by Skopelitis over the years and really enjoy his work.

This one is from 1998, but sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday. Some really lovely guitar work on this one, it flows really nicely. If you enjoy instrumental multi-genre jams, I would recommend checking this one out. It works as background music, but also rewards close listening.

Tags: skopelitis, music, instrumental

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The Checkmates: Do the Walk

November 09, 2019 — Joe Brockmeier

Once upon a time I thought I knew a lot about "oldies" music, but the more I delve into things the more I find that I've just barely scraped the surface. The good news about that is that there's just so much good stuff out there to be discovered, like this cut by The Checkmates, Ltd.

Clocks in at just a bit more than two minutes, give it a listen or two and you'll find yourself humming it later in the day. Released in 1966 on Capitol Records, B-side "Glad for You" which has a great chorus but sounds a bit underdeveloped.

Tags: music, obscure-music, vintage, soul

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Jah Wobble meets The Edge

November 09, 2019 — Joe Brockmeier

A few days ago I was reading through Jah Wobble's discography and noticed something I hadn't spotted before, an EP with Holger Czukay and U2's The Edge. This dates back to 1983, and I'm sort of surprised it didn't get more exposure given U2's popularity in the 80s.

On further inspection, it looks like one cut ("Hold on to Your Dreams," track 2 on the EP) made it to Jah Wobble's Redux: Anthology 1978-2015 but it's otherwise slipped into obscurity.

Listening to the tracks I found on YouTube, it's not bad but I'd never have spotted The Edge's playing on this one. I guess you can sort of detect The Edge's fingerprints on "Hold on to Your Dreams" late into the track, but it's more like he's trying to channel Nile Rogers. Or vice-versa. Vocals contributed by Marcella Allen, whom I've never heard of and Wikipedia and Google are of little help.

Apparently somebody in the props department was a fan, or thought that this is what a teen would like, because a poster pops up in the background of Ferris Bueller's bedroom.

Unless you're really, really into Wobble, The Edge, or Czukay this isn't really a must-have. It's not bad, but I doubt it's going to find its way into heavy rotation for me. But it's worth a few spins, and might grow on you.

Tags: music, obscure-music

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Get your top 40 on...

August 10, 2019 — Joe Brockmeier

If you're of a certain age, you probably spent some time listening to American Top 40 with Casey Kasem. While I'm not a big top 40 person—probably more like obscure 40, much of the time—Kasem's smooth delivery has a special place in my heart. And the top 40 from the 70s and 80s isn't so bad in retrospect, when you're not being blasted with it relentlessly.

A question on Ask Metafilter the other day mentioned that a bunch of the American Top 40 broadcasts are available on Archive.org. If you'd like to have a quick trip back in time, you can head over and search through the collection.


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Top 100 Albums (2016 Edition)

August 10, 2019 — Joe Brockmeier

In 2016 I decided I need a kick in the pants to do some more writing and blogging. So I decided to start by writing about my (at the time) favorite 100 albums. Are these the objectively best albums ever? No. No they are not. Well, some of them are. But these are the albums that were, at the time, my favorites out of thousands of albums I own and listen to.

If I were making the list today, it'd be different. I'd have Khruangbin on there, for sure. Leonard Cohen's final album, Kamasi Washington's The Epic. Aimee Mann's Mental Illness might have displaced one of her other albums. One of these days I might revisit the list and re-rank them, include new ones, bump a few off the list. My tastes have evolved in the past few years to include a lot more jazz/instrumental music, and I find myself listening to classic rock a little less.


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