Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fun on Four Wheels

Since test-driving a Porsche Boxter S on a beautiful spring day in 2001, I've been counting my pennies and waiting for the day when I was willing to spend $55K just for fun. Not quite there, yet! But, the 2007 Boxters are tempting (0 - 60 in 5.2 seconds, top speed 169 mph):

Still, for about a tenth of the price (0 to 60 in 4.0 seconds, top speed 130 mph) I have:

Or, for a fifth of the price (0 to 60 in 2.56 seconds, top speed 177 mph), could have:

And, even with both bikes, there's room in the garage for a car with room for five -- how about the 2007 BMW 335i Twin Turbo (0 to 60 in 5.3 seconds, top speed 150 mph)?

Monday, September 25, 2006


The weather was nice today -- OK, really nice -- 75 degrees, low humidity, and sunny. But, what the heck!? 35 mph felt like 25, 55 felt like 35, and 75 felt like 50 (or would have, if I'd been that fast). And, ranging from 8,000 to 11,000 RPM, acceleration still seemed "slow."

I have a theory....

On Saturday, I watched Faster. It wasn't the first time, I'd watched it the weekend before, and held onto the DVD (before returning to NetFlix today). Something about the music, the filming, the history, the rivalry, the bikes... and the speed. I had to do it again; watching high-sides frame by frame to see where it all went wrong. Ouch. And the music...

Whatever Happened To My Rock 'n' Roll
by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Spoken: 1...2...3...4!

You want a part of me
You want the whole thing
You want to feel something more than I could ever bring
You want it badly
You want it tangled
I want to feel something more than I was strangled

I fell in love with the sweet sensation
I gave my heart to a simple chord
I gave my soul to a new religion
Whatever happened to you?
Whatever happened to our rock'n'roll?
Whatever happened to my rock'n'roll?

She wants it hallow
She wants it tainted
She wants to feel something more than she was naked
You want to hide away
You're scared to touch it
I want to feel something more than I care to take

I fell in love with the sweet sensation
I gave my heart to a simple chord
I gave my soul to a new religion
Whatever happened to you?
Whatever happened to our rock'n'roll?
Whatever happened to my rock'n'roll?

She wants your image
She wants your kiss
She wants to get inside your head and tell it like it is
You want it badly
You want it so completele
I want to feel something more cos I can't f***in' breathe

I fell in love with the sweet sensation
I gave my heart to a simple chord
I gave my soul to a new religion
Whatever happened to you?
Whatever happened to our rock'n'roll?
Whatever happened to my rock'n'roll?

In my Motorcycle Diary a while back, I wondered if anyone has written about "rider's high" -- the answer in this song is "yes!" And, while "I fell in love with the sweet sensation" could have a lot of interpretations, all bikers will agree on what this is all about. Harley riders may have first coined the phrase, but motorcyclists of all sorts have adopted it... "if I had to explain it, you wouldn't understand." This sensation is part of the reason why.

So, my theory is that watching MotoGP racers at 200 mph, blowing through turns at 120 mph+, over and over again, reset my expectations for what "fast" is.

Your theories welcome....

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Top 10 ...err... 11 Game Soundtracks

I picked up The Command & Conquer Collection the other day, in part, because I remember the soundtrack from Red Alert as one of the great soundtracks of all time; the driving rock/military combination of a few of the tracks perfectly set the mood for one of the great RTS experiences that kicked the genre into high gear.

It's been said over and over again that the aural experience is as important to games as the visual and gameplay experiences. I totally agree. Some of my favorite games also have some of my favorite soundtracks. Is it that great games are produced by teams that also recognize the value of producing great soundtracks, or is that great soundtracks make great games? Maybe both?

So, without further ado... my top 11 game soundtracks:

11: Halo
Hardcore Halo fans will probably hate me for only putting this at #10 (or 11), but for me, the music beyond the opening sequence isn't memorable enough to drive the rating for this one to the top. If the entire game had the impact of the score for opening sequence, it'd be #1.

10: Quake II
For the same reason I loved the Red Alert soundtrack, the Quake II audio tracks bring the FPS battle with the Strogg to life with angry guitars and a driving electronica beat. Ripping the CD and listening to the "Operation Overlord" track, I'm reminded of the Rage Against the Machine's "Wake Up" from The Matrix soundtrack.

9: Lemmings
The music technology of the era wasn't quite up to CD standards, and not all the pieces were original, but they brought the lemmings' personalities to life -- and gave the game a personality. This one is a classic with a per-level score that is pure Lemmings, and earns it a place at #9.

8: Project Gotham Racing
Aside from being the place where I first saw the Mini Cooper (and many other cars I never knew existed), this is where I was introduced to the Chemical Brothers' Galaxy Bounce, and the Doves Catch the Sun; two of a slew of songs that set the tone (no pun intended) for this awesome title for the Xbox.

7: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
I remember a summer day, driving through Miami in my Ferrari, switching radio stations and listening to classic hits from the 80s from Roxy Music, Foreigner, Judas Priest, Cutting Crew, Toto, Jan Hammer, Mr. Mister, and many more. Miami and the Ferrari were simulated by my laptop, but the summer weather was real, and the songs were so perfectly matched to the experience that it was like stepping back in time.

6: Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine
LucasArts does it again in 2001! Best use of scripted music sequences in a game. The implementation of the soundtrack plays like a movie, with the interactivity of a game. Some of the "ah ha!" sequences are simply breathtaking. With John Williams' inspired orchestration from the Indiana Jones movies as the starting point, this one was already well on the path to success, and the implementation resulted in one of the first truly successful "realtime movies."

5: Warcraft II

Just say "Warcraft II" to any fan, and it's either the awesome voices ("Ready to work!" or "Zug zug!") or the music that will immediately come to mind. Warcraft II would have been a great game with no music at all - but with this soundtrack, it is one of the best ever.

4: Command & Conquer: Red Alert
Taking the gameplay born in Dune II to the next level, Westwood put together Command & Conquer: Red Alert. And, once again the score completed the game. Check out CnC Series, Hell March at the bottom of as a great example. One of my favorite moments during the game awards ceremony at the Computer Game Developers Conference in 1996 was watching the gameplay footage from Red Alert - the gameplay, the visuals, and the soundtrack!

3: Jedi Knight
Although the soundtrack owes much to the movies, it's the way the pieces are integrated with the game that really resonates perfectly with this title. Each track is perfectly selected to match -- or set? -- the mood of the environment. In 1977 (or shortly thereafter) I dreamed of being able to play a computer game that captured the feel of the movie - Jedi Knight succeeded spectacularly, in large part, because the music completed the experience. Released in 1997, this is another game I'd call a "realtime movie" -- you're in control every step of the way, but it feels like you're watching...err...playing a movie. But, is it any surprise, given their heretage, that LucasArts Entertainment would be one of the first companies to successfully repeat this gameplay experience?

2: Unreal

In my original 9/12 post, I left Unreal off the list. Driving home last night, one of the Unreal tracks on my iPod played, reminding me that I'd missed one of the most important games on my list. This is a game that is perfectly three parts - visual experience (best environments and characters of it's time, gameplay experience (FPS all the way, with great mix of story, combat and exploration), and aural experience: full 3D sound effects to create a truly immersive environment -- and a music soundtrack that was second to only one.

1: Outlaws
And, yet another from the LucasArts folks - a FPS western / sleeper hit released in 1997. I ignored the reviews, and passed it by on store shelves, but was fortunate to eventually pick it up for free as part of a bundle included in a SoundBlaster Audigy(?) sample the Creative Labs guys sent us. I loved the story, the gameplay, and the levels - and even came to appreciate the art style - but the thing that totally nailed the game for me was the spectacular The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly-inspired soundtrack by Clint Bajakian. I loved it so much that after playing the game for several weeks I headed to Best Buy to pick up a boxed copy of the game. Brilliant!

So, there you have it.... what's your Top 10 ...err... 11 List?