Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Great Library: String Theory

When people think of libraries they do not automatically think of nerds.  A youth that spent all their time in a library instead of outside playing would possibly draw the stigma, but that is not the type of person that one would expect to encounter when going to a library.  The initial and automatic association with a library is “books” and not people.  However, when people start to think about different genres of books – especially with fantasy, adventure, and science fiction – the association with nerds begins to creep in. 

Libraries are also not usually associated with comic books, and certainly not with the digital comics available on the internet that are known as web comics.  Nerds, on the other hand, often would be – perhaps with the later more than the former.  Here at Nerd Up, we’re not making a distinction between different forms of literature, and they’ll all be found within The Great Library.  It’s not like we’re in Alexandria, and we certainly hope that the Romans don’t have cause to burn us down, accident or not.

In this excursion into The Great Library we will be taking a first look at a science-fiction themed web comic titled String Theory.  Written and illustrated by the pseudonymous Dirk Grundy, String Theory is a character-driven story set in a dystopian alternate future timeline.  The comic was started in 2009, and features a mostly-weekly release schedule.  Since this is an independent project that is not funded by outside sources, there is no official release timeframe; however, if one of you billionaire entrepreneurs out there reading this wants to financially back the project, Mr. Grundy might be willing to negotiate a release schedule and project budget with you.  The primary focus of the story is Dr. Herville Schtein, a brilliant physicist with a few personal problems who may or may not be on the path to becoming an evil super villain.  Everybody makes mistakes sometimes, right?  In this alternate future, the events of the Cuban missile crisis went differently and history has taken an alternate path for the United States of America.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Expansion Of Scope

While contemplating future topics of discussion for Nerd Up, I realized that when I made the original post outlining areas of discussion for the blog I had neglected to create topical divisions for several types of discussions.  For instance, there is no place to talk about books, comics, stories, and other types of literature.  Also, there is no place to talk about games themselves. 

And while the discussions on specific albums, movies, recipes, and novels fit nicely within their respective divisions, there is no space to place current news about various topics such as an album release or a movie trailer.  In order to remedy these oversights, we will introduce the following divisions:

The Great Library – Discussion of books, comics, and stories.
The Gaming Den – Video game, board game, and tabletop game discussion.
The Time Capsule – News and announcements relevant to “current” events.

I did mention in the original post that the listing of topics was preliminary, precisely because I knew that I was likely to forget something.  Since this has not yet changed, I will maintain that these listed divisions of topics are still preliminary.  If you can think of anything else that needs to be added, please let me know in the comments below.

And now back to our regularly scheduled ramblings.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Listening Chamber: MegaDriver - Push Start Button (Round One) (2003)

Most VGM cover bands tend to focus on games that were well known, or on games from systems that were more popular when development for the system still occurred.  Where games from the 8-bit or 16-bit consoles are concerned, the focus in VGM covers has tended to be oriented towards consoles produced by Nintendo, with the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System receiving more attention than their contemporary competitors.  However, those systems were not the only popular consoles of their day, and they are not the only systems with games that have had VGM covers made.

Sega’s Mega Drive (known as the Genesis in North American markets) led the gaming market for a time while Nintendo transitioned from the 8-bit NES to the 16-bit SNES, in part due to their advertising campaigns which claimed that “Sega does what Nintendon’t” and included the fictitious “blast processing” term.  “Welcome to the next level” indeed.  And while Wii all know that Sega is no longer in the console making business and Nintendo is still around, there is no denying that Sega certainly had their time on top.  Thus, it should not be surprising that there are VGM cover bands focused on covering songs from Mega Drive games, and we’ll be looking at just such a group in this discussion in The Listening Chamber. 

The band is MegaDriver, and the album is Push Start Button (Round One), self-released in 2003.  MegaDriver is based out of São Paulo, Brazil, and they play heavy metal renditions of music from video games on various consoles, with an emphasis towards games from the Sega Mega Drive.  The group currently consists of two guitar players, a bass player, a drummer, and a vocalist, although they did not have a vocalist at the time that Push Start Button (Round One) was created.  Of special note is that the lead guitar player, Nino MegaDriver, plays tracks on two special custom guitars.  One guitar has been made out of a Mega Drive console, and the other is made in the shape of Sonic the Hedgehog’s head.

MegaDriver - Push Start Button (Round One) (2003)

Push Start Button (Round One) contains 11 tracks – all 11 of which are VGM covers – and runs for roughly 30:53.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Listening Chamber: The Black Mages - The Black Mages (2003)

Video game music cover bands are usually made up of fans of video games, and it’s probably safe to say that they’re also composed of fans of video game music in general.  There are also orchestral covers of video game music made by groups of musicians who aren’t necessarily invested in video games at all.  But what about VGM cover bands comprised of VGM creators?  In this discussion in the Listening Chamber, we’ll look at just such a group.

The band is The Black Mages, and the album is the self-titled The Black Mages from 2003.  The Black Mages were originally comprised of three members, all of whom were video game music composers for Square Enix: Nobuo Uematsu, Kenichiro Fukui, and Tsuyoshi Sekito.  They performed instrumental rock covers of songs from the Final Fantasy series of games.  On The Black Mages, the group consisted of Uematsu and Fukui on keyboards and Sekito on guitar.

Eventually the group expanded to six members, and they released two additional albums before dissolving in 2010 after several members, including Uematsu, were no longer working for Square Enix.  The group never toured, but rather played several concerts to promote sales of their albums.  They were limited to playing covers of music from games owned by Square Enix since the company owned the band, so there were not covers of songs from any other companies released under The Black Mages name

The Black Mages - The Black Mages (2003)

The Black Mages contains 10 tracks, all of which are battle themes composed by Nobuo Uematsu that are present in games in the Final Fantasy series, and has a run-time of 51:23.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Lecture Hall - Physics - Beginner - Introduction

When I decided to start writing this blog, one of the goals I set was to try and communicate my understanding of various topics ranging from games and music to science and technology in a manner that anyone could understand.  In my previous career working in Information Technology, I frequently had to explain technical issues to people who lacked a technical background.  When I returned to college a few years ago to study Physics, I again found myself trying to explain various mathematics-intensive scientific topics to individuals who did not have much of a background in mathematics.  While explaining a select bit of particle physics to my wife, I decided that it would be worthwhile to try and create written explanations of scientific topics that did not rely on mathematics to define the processes.  After all, in vocabulary and grammar classes as children, we’re taught that you shouldn’t use a word to define itself.  And since mathematical explanations of a physical system are a form of defining the system using a circular definition, a solely mathematical explanation is against the rules.  -5, recursive definition.

Thus the idea for The Lecture Hall was born.  Originally I wanted to attempt to describe all aspects of Physics without using any mathematics or – at worst – minimal mathematical concepts only where it was necessary.  After thinking for some time on exactly how I might go about achieving this goal, I decided that it might be beyond my skills, so I revised my plans a bit.  The new plan calls for a series of discussions on various topics within the realm of Physics with a bare minimum of mathematical explanations that will serve to inform people on what the topics of discussion are, show how the topics relate to other topics, give some understandable and observable examples of the topics, and set the framework for a more advanced understanding of these and related topics to be discussed at a later point in time.

The Lecture Hall
Welcome to the Lecture Hall