Monday, August 29, 2016

Links: Old Time Radio Researchers Group Library

WUFT's "Theatre of the Mind" was one of my favorite radio shows in college. For two hours, host Bill Sabis played classics from the golden age of old time radio - lurid horror ("Sus-pennnse!"), classic sci-fi ("X minus one... Fire!"), mystery ("Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar"). He turned every Sunday night into a time machine to the golden age of old time radio; it was a sad day when the show ended its 25-year run.

That's why I was delighted to find the Old Time Radio Researchers Group Library, an incredible repository of thousands of radio dramas from that bygone era, often collecting series that are not available from any other source. Downloading shows (including famous ones like "The Shadow") is completely free, although there is a 10 GB monthly limit to keep bandwidth costs down. If you have any interest at all in classic radio drama, you need to check out the OTRR Library.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Music: Resistor

It's been a dark and stormy summer here at Shangrila Towers, and Lera Lynn's latest album, "Resistor," makes for an appropriate soundtrack. "Resistor" is, in part, a defiant indie statement (Lynn and longtime producer Josh Grange recorded it in the shadow of Music Row, a literal Big Machine), but it's mostly full of the kind of atmospheric singer-songwriter tracks you just don't find on mainstream radio these days. You can practically smell the faded cigarettes and cheap beer when you listen to the single "Drive":

Things get a bit more muddled in some of the album's later tracks - they're lush and well-crafted, to be sure, but sometimes the songs get so melancholy they border on self-parody. On the whole, though, "Resistor" is one of my favorite releases of the year, and well worth a listen - best enjoyed while cruising in a muscle car on a dark backcountry highway...

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Sports: Kim Rhode

The shooting sports have rarely had a champion like Kim Rhode. After overcoming a change from trap to skeet forced by the IOC, and health issues stemming from giving birth to her son, she's now gunning for an Olympic medal in her sixth straight Summer Games. That's something that no one, in any sport, has ever done before:

It's impressive enough being able to shoot down 60 mph clays on demand, but Kim Rhode also shoots down gun control questions from reporters; she's become a personable defender of the Second Amendment, especially with respect to California's draconian gun laws. As a mother, Olympic gold medalist, and lifelong shooter, I can't imagine a better spokesperson for the cause.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Tech: Rise of the Tomb Raider review

A few years ago, Crystal Dynamics rebooted the "Tomb Raider" video game series to critical acclaim and good (but not great) sales numbers. Still, revising an iconic character is always risky, so I gave the reboot high marks back in 2013, even if some of the story and gameplay decisions fell flat.

The second game in the reboot series, "Rise of the Tomb Raider," was released late last year for the Xbox One/PC and is hitting the PS4 in October, so it's as good a time as any to review it. In this one, Lara travels to Siberia in search of a magical McGuffin sought by her late father. Unfortunately, Lara's not alone; a mysterious paramilitary organization called Trinity is also after the artifact, and they'll kill anyone in their way.


Open World - The Lara Croft version of Siberia is riddled with entertaining environments. You'll scamper through old Soviet mining shafts, Byzantine monuments, and precarious mountain faces, all of which hide plenty of optional tombs and side areas that will test your platform and puzzle skills. It's a proper Tomb Raider experience, and one of the few games where I've felt the need to track down optional content after I completed the story.

Excellent Graphics - On a reasonably powerful PC (GeForce GTX 970, Core i7-4790 @ 3.6 GHz), "Rise of the Tomb Raider" looks fantastic. The set piece reveals are predictably jaw-dropping, but I was really impressed by the ambient fire and weather effects; Lara is near a fire or being hit by a blizzard 90% of the time in this game, and it always looked believable.


More of the Same - If you played the 2013 reboot, you've seen most of the tricks that this game has. Prince of Persia/Uncharted style climbing, stealthy bow-and-arrow'll feel pretty familiar. There are some new skills, craftable items, and mechanics, but by and large, this is the same stuff.

Stagnant Combat - The game's default enemies, Trinity soldiers, are pretty aggressive and smart, but they're pretty much all you fight, aside from the odd wolf. Whatever happened to T. Rexes and snowmobile riders?

Rating: 87/100

P.S. - I am not sure how they got Karen O to do an ending theme, but it's absolutely perfect for the game: