A New Thing

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So my staycation in Skyrim has ended.  Ended a while ago, actually.

I’ve got a writeup of the adventure, though it won’t be available here on RoccoDeMaro.com.

Instead, it’ll be part of GameTrailers.com’s shiny new Side Mission, where I’ll be a regular contributor alongside gaming luminaries Michael McWhertor, Daniel Kayser, Daniel Kayser’s hair and a slew of other very talented people from the world of gaming.

This new gig is a departure from work in professional sports, obviously, and one I’m pretty exited about.  I’ll be helping to build something from the ground up, lend it a voice and, hopefully, be a meaningful part of its success.  It’s those elements of creation that’ve always interested me the most about working in media and they’re in abundance at MTV’s Side Mission.

So yeah.  That’s the new gig.

Now, we’re bound to have some teething issues as we get the site up and rolling, but we’ve got some really cool plans for the site and I hope you’ll give us the honor of becoming part of your daily web browsing routine.

As for this website:

I still plan on posting here, but as you can see by the lack of action over the last month my immediate priority has shifted to getting a better feel for this new industry I’ve thrown myself into.

Being a life-long gamer is one thing; possessing a mastery of the subject matter is quite another.

I’ll be competing with extremely talented people that have been in this space for years, even decades.  It’s a daunting task, but one I’m anxious to face head-on as I try to broaden my skill set and generally experience as much as I can with the time I’ve been given.

So please excuse the re-allocation of free time that necessarily has to take place as I get a better feel for the world of interactive entertainment.

 

p.s.  Despite all the catching up I need to do in the world of gaming, I can’t seem to stop following Pittsburgh sports.  It’s like a palsy at this point.  So fear not, I’ll still be posting/tweeting/facebooking about The Steelers, Pens and, of course, the Battlin’ Buccos, who, in my estimation, should be shopping the hell out of Hanrahan if only to see what’s out there if they were to sell at such a high valuation.

 

SQL, 11.10.11, Penn State Scandal

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I remain a proud Penn Stater.

I hope the same goes for the countless Penn State grads who, like me, feel sickened by the men responsible for the reported abuse and subsequent cover up.

Make no mistake–the actions of Jerry Sandusky, the administration, Joe Paterno, Mike McQueary and anyone else involved in the scandal range from revolting to wildly irresponsible.  That Paterno, specifically, failed so completely on a moral level is still difficult to grasp.

But the actions of those very few men have nothing to do with my education, my experiences in St. College, or the friends I’ve made in that beautiful slice of country.

To let Sandusky’s perversion rob me of the pride I feel for my education would be to give his sickness even more reach.  So I’m not going to do it.  Similarly, I’m not about to let Paterno’s weakness or Curley’s greed or Spanier’s irresponsibility affect how I feel about the years I spent learning, growing and experiencing life in what has to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

I have a great affinity for St. College, Pennsylvania and I always will.

We Are.

 

Now, Some Quality Links…

 

–Ever wondered what a 90-foot wave looks like?  Wonder no more!!  That this maniac actually surfs the thing is gnarly to the max.  It’s also a new world record.

 

 

–Aging seems to be the next great frontier of pharmaceuticals.

Could the effects of aging be delayed or even prevented simply by clearing the body of old cells? Scientists report in Nature that they were able to do just that in a study of mice.

It is the first study to show that when “senescent” cells, those that have gotten old and stopped dividing, build up, they can promote aging in nearby tissues, contributing to such age-related conditions as cataracts, skin wrinkling and muscle loss. Senescent cells are few in number, but their effects may be wide-ranging.

Normally, these old cells are cleared by the body, but the process becomes less efficient with age. So researchers at the Mayo Clinic used a drug to target only senescent cells and force them to self-destruct, in a group of mice that were genetically engineered to age rapidly.

In mice that were treated throughout their lifetimes, researchers said they saw a remarkable delay in the development of cataracts, muscle wasting and the type of fat loss that, in humans, causes skin wrinkling. Another group of mice was treated in older age, after cataracts had already set in. The drug didn’t reverse the age-related changes that had already occurred, but it prevented further decline.

–Encouraging news for you and me; Tremendous news for Mickey, Minnie, Mighty, Jerry and Fievel.

 

Careful of that honey you’re buying at the grocery store.

Why does it matter where your honey comes from? An earlier Food Safety News investigation found that at least a third of all the honey consumed in the United States was likely smuggled from China and could be tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals.

Foreign honey also puts a squeeze on American beekeepers, who have been lobbying for years for an enforceable national standard to prevent foreign honey from flooding the market.

–Beware:  Links in the quote box may not open a new tab.

 

–I’ll be going on vacation over the next couple weeks.

Mrs. DeMaro and I very much enjoy travelling and we’ve been planning this trip for about a year now.  We’re very excited.

It’s cool, too, because thus year’s trip won’t cost nearly as much as last year’s trip to Hawaii.  In fact, we’ve booked the whole thing for about $65.

So fair warning–there’s going to be a break in posts here on the site until we return.

if you need me I’ll be in Northern Tamriel, in a place called Skyrim.

 

 

 

The Frontier of Hockey Analytics

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Taken at face value it’s a simple question:  What makes a hockey defenseman valuable?

Think about that for a second.

Is it skating ability?  Passing prowess?  What about the quality of his shot?

How much does point total matter?  More would seem to be better, but ‘defensive defensemen’ are valuable, too.

Should body checks or physicality factor into value?  What about shot-blocking skills?  The ability to draw penalties is always a plus and so are skills on special teams.

Now for another, much harder question:

How would you go about quantifying all those things plus the things I didn’t mention into a single, easy to understand number for each individual player while adjusting for each player’s quality of competition AND quality of teammates while also factoring in hockey’s heaping portion of luck-based events that happen on every shift in every game?

I’m not sure about you, but I just had a panic attack.

Timo Seppa has not, apparently, and that’s good news as he leads a group of men tasked with the seemingly impossible–bringing statistical order to something inherently chaotic, namely the game of hockey.

And believe it or not, they’ve come up with something.

It’s called ‘GVT’ (Goals Versus Threshold), and it attempts to bring the idea of “Replacement Level” to hockey analytics, much in the same way ‘VORP’ (Value Over Replacement Player) did in baseball.

“Replacement Level”, by the way, is defined as the level of performance a team can expect when trying to replace a player at minimal cost.

From “Hockey Prospectus 2011”, somewhat paraphrased:

“Replacement Level’, in other words, describes the value of players that get called up when a player is injured.  In the NHL, 13th forwards or seventh defensemen are considered replacement level, as are good AHL players.  A replacement level team would get outscored by 1.5 goals per game on average, or 123 goals over the course of a season.

Now, GVT in action:

Sidney Crosby posted a 30.0 GVT in 2009-2010, his most recent full season, putting him among the league leaders.  So he was worth 30 goals over and above what a “replacement level” player would contribute if were brought in to take Crosby’s place on the roster, most likely from the minor leagues or via the dregs of free agency.

You’re probably wondering why Crosby was only worth 30.0 GVT in ’09-’10 when he scored 51 goals that season.  Me too.

More explanation from Hockey Prospectus’ Tom Awad, creator of GVT:

Offensive GVT is extremely straightforward: it measures a player’s contribution to scoring goals.  Offensive GVT is based on goals and assists scored above what a replacement-level player would have done with the same ice time.  That last part is key; players who play more games or get more ice time, especially power play ice time, are expected to score more, and should not get credit for inflated scoring totals.  GVT also assumes that goals and assists are not of equal value, and assigns a weight of 1.5 to goals relative to assists.

This produces offensive GVT numbers that don’t exactly match point totals. Sidney Crosby, despite missing half of last season and consequently finishing outside the top 30 scorers, finished ninth in offensive GVT, which indicates how much more impressive and valuable his 66-point performance in 41 games was as compared to, for example, Mike Ribeiro’s 71 points in 82 games. Crosby’s offensive GVT was 15.0 while Ribeiro’s was 9.3.

Notice the qualifier, “Offensive” in front of GVT in the excerpt.  This is where the burgeoning metric runs into some clarity issues, as it’s broken down to Offensive, Defensive, Goaltending and Shootout GVT, with Defensive GVT being the least credible at this point.

“It’s the stickiest one,” Seppa said.  “We’re working on it.  The point of it is to measure a defender’s ability to limit shots, which is key to preventing goals.”

It seems our initial questions regarding defensemen may be tougher than we realized, even for the experts.

Teething issues with GVT aside, Seppa’s right on that last count–perhaps the most important single finding in hockey performance analysis has been grasping the value of shooting the puck.

But that’s another issue for another time.

For now, a closing note from Timo:

“It’s hard to wrap your head around all the moving parts of this sport, but that’s both the challenge and the promise of sabermetrics in hockey.  We’re making progress.  It’s not where it needs to be, but we’re getting there.”

 

The Future of Gaming

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Today’s post will be one of the simplest in the brief history of this blog, as it amounts to a single (albeit it, awesome) video.

In the video you’ll see, in essence, the future of gaming.

I’m not sure when this future will arrive for the majority of us, as the super-rich would seem to be the only viable customers at this point.  But after British TV’s ‘The Gadget Show’ set the precedent with this build, I can only imagine the genie is mostly, if not completely, out of the bottle.

The vid is about 17 minutes long, so get comfy.

–Also of note:  A h/t to life-long friend and Rook Station aficionado Kevin for the link.–

 

 

SQL, 11.3.11

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I’ve got lots going on these days, so please pardon the lack of personal input in today’s post.  Going link-heavy, starting with…

 

Hints of new physics at the LHC.

Preliminary findings from CERN’s Large Hadron Collider may have uncovered experimental evidence for physics beyond the Standard Model. Data from the CMS experiment is showing significant excesses of particles known as leptons being created in triplets, a result that could be interpreted as evidence for a theory called supersymmetry.

–Beware:  Links in the quote box may not open a new tab.

 

Mass species loss stunts evolution for millions of years.

During that time, the carbon cycle — the flow of life’s essential element through all Earth’s systems — oscillated wildly, a period known as a “chaotic carbon interval.” And rather than rebounding and steadily filling suddenly open niches, as might be expected, life appears to have entered a boom-and-bust cycle. Species flourished and collapsed, over and over, a planet-level version of the jellyfish bloom-and-bust cycles now seen in overfished oceans.

One seemingly plausible explanation is ongoing Permian-Triassic volcanic activity, which could have decimated new species as they arose. However, carbon chaos continued for millions of years after volcanoes cooled. A newer explanation, favored by Whiteside, draws from the work of ecological theorists who say that, at planetary scales as well as local, complexity generates resilience.

Applied to mass extinctions, this idea is somewhat radical — but in a coral reef or rainforest, or even a computer network, it’s an accepted notion. Just as distributed systems are more secure than a handful of mainframes, ecosystems composed of many interlocking and sometimes redundant species are especially sturdy. Because they’re stable, they in turn nourish life’s diversification over evolutionary time. It’s a biological catch-22: A richness of life requires stability to develop, but stability requires a richness of life.

–Beware:  Links in the quote box may not open a new tab.

 

Teen violence linked to pop.

High-school students in inner-city Boston who consumed more than five cans of non-diet, fizzy soft drinks every week were between 9% and 15% likelier to engage in an aggressive act compared with counterparts who drank less.

“What we found was that there was a strong relationship between how many soft drinks that these inner-city kids consumed and how violent they were, not only in violence against peers but also violence in dating relationships, against siblings,” said David Hemenway, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

“It was shocking to us when we saw how clear the relationship was,” he said in an interview.

But he stressed that only further work would confirm – or disprove – the key question whether higher consumption of sweet sodas caused violent behaviour.

–Beware:  Correlation does not = causation.

 

Spielberg defends worst scene in terrible movie (Indiana Jones 4).

“I have no idea what I was thinking.  The movie was crap and the refrigerator scene was terrible, bordering on insulting.”

–Beware:  Spielberg didn’t actually say that, but he should have.

 

Apple patent uses 3-D gestures to control iPad.

Forget relying solely on touch to control your Apple device. On future iPads, you may be able to control your tablet from across the room using 3-D gestures, such as a swirl or swipe of the hand.

As suggested by a newly uncovered Apple patent, you would be able to manipulate and control graphical elements on your display, such as icons, media files, text and images. The gestures themselves could take many forms: geometric shapes (e.g., a half-circle or square), symbols (like a check mark or question mark), the letters of the alphabet, and other sorts of predetermined patterns.

One interesting application the patent highlights is video annotation and editing via a gesture-based toolbar. The toolbar would provide pre-set options for beginners, but would also allow more advanced users to customize their own gestures.

–Beware:  Links in the quote box may not open a new tab.

 

–Behold!  The World’s First Spherical Flying Machine!!

 

 

My city is more ridiculous than your city.

 

How they come up with the story in the ‘Uncharted’ Series.

Their goal at the start of each game’s production is to “try to come up with these set-piece moments that aren’t just for show,” Hennig said. “In many ways, they become the signature pieces of the game.”

Those segments also take the longest to plan and build, which is why they need to be conceived as early in the process as possible.

After determining a game’s centerpieces, Naughty Dog’s brass then choose where the story will take place. They ask themselves, “Where can we go that’s physically different?” Hennig said. Previous games have sent the protagonist, Nathan Drake, to uncharted territories that include jungles and snowy tundras. For “Uncharted 3,” the Drake character will explore sand dunes.

–Beware:  This story is a pretty neat glimpse into Naughty Dog’s creative process.

 

–A follow up to a post a few weeks back…you were warned!!  Peanut butter prices are skyrocketing.

 

Five common logical fallacies that make you more wrong than you think.

Why basic logic isn’t taught from primary school is a mystery I’ll never understand.  Why not train our kids to think critically from a very young age?  Why hasn’t this happened yet?

SQL, 11.1.11 – On Happiness and The Golden Rule

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I’d like to start today’s post with a note on happiness, which seems to dovetail nicely with this (previously linked) study on the positive effects of optimism.

The participants, who were between the ages of 52 and 79 when the study began, were divided into three groups according to how happy and positive they felt. Although the groups differed slightly on some measures (such as age, wealth, and smoking), they were comparable in terms of ethnic makeup, education, employment status, and overall health.

Five years later, 7% of people in the least happy group had died, compared with just 4% in the happiest group and 5% in the middle group.

When the researchers controlled for age, depression, chronic diseases, health behaviors (such as exercise and alcohol consumption), and socioeconomic factors, they found that the happiest and medium-happy people were 35% and 20% less likely to have died, respectively, than their gloomier counterparts.

These findings are kind of amazing.  The takeaway here is even more important–by simply being happy and thinking positively, you can live a longer and, as a matter of course in this case, a happier life.

I would extend these lines of logic by adding this simple bit from my own life, a realization I had years ago while sitting in an Eastern Philosophy class at Penn State, knee deep in the Bhagavad Gita:  Don’t put hate out there.

In other words, live by The Golden Rule.

I’m not talking about the more recent Christian interpretation of the Golden Rule, which has us ‘doing to others as we would have them do unto us‘.  No no no.  I don’t like that one.  It demands too much, this positive form of the Golden Rule.  If we really embraced this idea, we’d be out there all day, doing the good stuff for others we would want done for us.  It’s just not practical from a literal point of view.

The original, for my money, is much less demanding, giving it better chance of being widely adopted and, ultimately, affecting more positive change.  It also has the benefit of being much more established throughout history, having appeared in virtually every mainstream religion going back over 4,000 years.

It’s always a form of this:

 

‘Do NOT do to others that which you would NOT like done to yourself.’

 

Yeah.  That’s the one, the so-called negative form of the Golden Rule.

 

Confucius:  ”Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”

Ancient Greece: ”Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others.”

Ancient Egypt: ”That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another.”

Buddhism:  ”Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.”

Hinduism:  ”One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Other behavior is due to selfish desires.”

Islam:  “The most righteous person is the one who consents for other people what he consents for himself, and who dislikes for them what he dislikes for himself.”

Jainism:  ”Just as pain is not agreeable to you, it is so with others. Knowing this principle of equality treat other with respect and compassion.”

Judaism:  ”That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”

 

This very basic idea–’Don’t mess with others’–might be the earliest example of crowdsourcing in human history.  That so many different religions from different parts of the world understood this notion to be important both from an individual and a cultural point of view speaks to the fundamental success of the idea.

Coupled with the recent findings on optimism and happiness, we’ve got a pretty solid roadmap for a happy, healthy existence while we’re here on the paradise that is Planet Earth.

 

SQL, 10.29.11

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I’ve been working a lot over the past few weeks on the ol’ job hunt.  Hopefully those efforts will bear fruit in the coming weeks.

And speaking of fruit, my efforts in finding work haven’t afforded me much time to do any gaming, but what little time I’ve had has gone into re-playing a delightful PS2 title called ‘Odin Sphere‘.

It comes from two of my favorite Japanese game developers–Vanillaware, makers of Muramasa: The Demon Blade and Atlus, makers of the excellent Persona series (Atlus localized & published ‘Odin Sphere’),

‘Odin Sphere’ is mostly a hack & slash with some light RPG elements.  It also features a great deal of…gardening.

When you’re on the field of battle you plant various seeds that grow into different stat-building edibles, like fruit, herbs and sheep.

Yes, sheep.

The sheep grow from a plant and are, according to the game, just as delicious (or more so) than traditionally raised sheep.

This is obviously a very Japanese game.  It’s also a very pretty game that wrings just about as much as possible out of the PS2 hardware…sometimes too much, as the game is vulnerable to frame-rate issues when the action on screen gets too busy.

The story is typically ridiculous, though the voice acting is solid, if uneven.

When it came out in 2007, ‘Odin Sphere’ generated a score of 83 on Metacritic.  I’d rate it in that general range, as the game can be fun and addictive, but the game design borders on repetitive.  The technical issues with frame-rate also knock it down a peg or two.  But the art and animations found within ‘Odin Sphere’ are some of the best of the PS2 generation, and as such, I’m recommending the game as a low-cost alternative to the Uncharted’sSkyrim’s, Zelda’s and Modern Warfare’s of the world, if the upcoming AAA titles threaten to do a little too much damage to your bank account.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some sheep to plant.

 

SQL, 10.27.11

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Right to the links this morning…

 

–As revealed in Steve Jobs’ biography, Apple seems to have figured out how to bring their world-leading design and tech savvy to television.

A $100 Billion Revenue Opportunity for Apple. For Apple, we believe theSmart TV market represents a significant new revenue opportunity for thecompany, while bringing Apple into a consumer’s living room and providing thedigital hub in a home. DisplaySearch estimates the LCD TV market willgenerate $100 billion in revenue this year and reach $102 billion in 2012,however, we expect Apple to charge a healthy premium. We believe a productcould hit the market in the coming quarters, opening up a new growthcategory for Apple and driving sales of existing products that play into theApple digital ecosystem

–Ticonderoga Securities

Here’s a fun reader on what a potential iTV could do.

 

–More on AAPL here, as iCloud is getting a greenish hue to it.

Apple’s less-than-stellar environmental record raises the possibility that the solar plant is part of a greenwashing campaign aimed at blunting criticism from the environmental movement. But the size of the lot Apple has been permitted to make over hints at a substantial renewable energy installation. If Apple develops the whole site, the solar farm could generate 25 to 35 megawatts of power, depending on the solar technology used, said Shiao.

–It’s about time Apple did some good with their reported $80 billion in cash.

 

–Speaking of going green, can I interest you in a building with lungs?

Armstrong works on the cutting edge of “synthetic biology,” a relatively new science devoted to the manufacture of life-like matter from synthesized chemicals, and is something of an evangelist for the discipline.

–The image in the story reminds me of some works depicting the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

–I really enjoyed this piece of global strategy from Wired.com’s Spencer Ackerman.  The story deals with China’s reported desire for military bases in Pakistan.

On the surface, this would seem to work against American interests, but…

But if the Chinese really are headed to tribal Pakistan, then — as Chris Partlow once said to Marlo Stanfield on The Wire — this is one of those good problems.

This Central Asian preoccupation — 10 years of war that has cost the U.S. hundreds of billions — has redounded decisively to China’s advantage. The U.S. funded its central Asian wars not buy raising taxes, but by borrowing money from China, and it’s only now turning to the problem of how to reduce its crippling debt. Meanwhile, China, the world’s second largest economy, is ever more assertive in the Pacific, and is modernizing its military with its first stealth jet and anti-ship missile. (Although the U.S. is way more militarily powerful.)

Think about it. The Chinese entangle themselves in a region where the U.S. found itself exhausted in an inconclusive effort. Since it’s China’s backyard, the domestic and internal military pressures to keepfighting there will likely be great. China can batter the residual terrorist presence in tribal Pakistan — its brutal Army will kill U.S. enemies as well as its own, if history is any indication — and also experience the pleasures of dealing with Islamabad, selling it weapons, and being responsible for Pakistani security. Surely Beijing will enjoy an intransigent ally that rejects its advice while keeping its money. And if China really wants a larger role in global affairs, tribal Pakistan is the most advantageous place for the U.S. to pass the baton.

–That’s some Spider-Man shit right there.  (While that quote has little to do with this story, I’ve been itching to quote Marlo, and that’s his best quote, in my humble).

 

Madon

Italy’s lower house of parliament was briefly suspended Wednesday after a brawl broke out among lawmakers debating proposed pension reforms.

–Italians haven’t been good at government for about 2,000 years, give or take.

 

 

SQL, 10.25.11

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I’ve just finished reading ‘Y The Last Man‘.  It’s a comic book series from about ten years ago from Vertigo.

I’ll not give a proper review, as it’s just the second comic I’ve ever read (with ‘Watchmen’ being the first).  But I’ll say this–I enjoyed it as much as any book I’ve read since college and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

The best comp I can come up with is modern-day ‘Catch-22′, though obviously I’m doing ‘Y’ a disservice comparing it to such a literary heavyweight.  The ending especially reminded me of Heller’s masterwork, as Yorick and Yossarian…well…I don’t want to be a spoiler.  But it was hard not to think of my old pal from Catch-22 after closing the back cover.

It’s a funny, moving, questioning work with an awesome premise and a cast of well-realized characters.

It gets the official Rocco DeMaro Seal of Approval.

 

–Following another fun day of Tuesday hoops, here’s a little a lot of physics on how to learn the ultimate jumpshot.  Caution, equations ahead.

 

–Staying with Sport, I found this inside look at a baseball trade altogether interesting.

Astros: 10:30 a.m. Wade text message – Do you have interest in Michael Bourn?

Braves: Wren text message – A little.

–What is a wren?  A bird.  When isn’t it?  When it is.

 

–We opened today’s post with a few words on a really good book.  Here are some recommendations from Wired.com on some more, tailored especially for the geeks among us.  I’ve read two on the list.  Regrettably, the First Edition D & D guide is not one of them.

 

–Ending with a pair of military snafus regarding aircraft:  The military still isn’t sure how their drones became infected with a virus; Our fancy F-22′s have been grounded…again.

Considering the Raptor’s ongoing safety woes and continuing delays, cost overruns, maintenance woesand production cuts in the F-35 stealth fighter program, the Pentagon’s next-generation air arsenal is looking more and more like history’s most expensive hangar decoration. With many of the latest fighters unflyable, old-school F-15s and F-16s dating from the 1980s could be forced to hold the line for years to come.

Some estimates have the F-22 costing $350 million per plane.  Yeah.

 

PJ20

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I remember myself in the early-mid 90′s–a little wild, a little angry, a little unsure of myself.  And after watching PJ20, I think the same can be said of Pearl Jam.

Cameron Crowe’s long-awaited Pearl Jam documentary, PJ20, aired on PBS last night, as part of their ‘American Masters’ series.  It was predictably tremendous.

I’m left with strong feelings of nostalgia, as Pearl Jam was a large part of my high school and college life.  ”Ten” came out when I was in eighth grade and went bonkers on the charts during my freshman year of high school.

I have especially vivid memories of my old childhood pal Rob Rossi basically re-enacting the ‘Jeremy’ video during a sleepover at his house for all of us that were staying over.

“Vs.” dropped in 1993 to much acclaim and I still maintain it’s PJ’s most complete effort, start to finish.

In the documentary last night, it was revealed that Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament were largely the creative forces behind the music on “Ten”, while Eddie Vedder’s creative will really took hold during “Vitalogy”.  It seems, then, that the transition of power might’ve occurred sometime during the making of “Vs.”, and I think it shows, as it’s the band’s most balanced, most polished effort, in my opinion.

That the band was on top of the world at the time comes through loud and clear in the sound, and for that reason “Vs.” might also be the band’s most interesting moment in time, culturally speaking.

“Vitalogy” is the disc that played me through my last years of youth–my junior and senior years of high school.  The frantic energy of many of the tracks set against the beautiful, reflective melodies of a few others seemed to perfectly capture the wild emotional swings of me in my age 16-17 seasons.

I guess that’s why I’m most nostalgic about “Vitalogy”–though “Ten” was more powerful and “Vs.” more polished, “Vitalogy” represents, for me, my last days of youth.

God, do I miss youth.

“No Code” was widely panned when it came out in 1996 but, as a collegiate freshman, I was hearing none of it.  It was more Pearl Jam, dammit, and that’s all that mattered.  I was away from home at the time, chasing a girl.  Experimenting with freedom.  And the experimentation on the album resonated.

I recently went back and listened to No Code and while it’s not quite as approachable as the first three albums, I remain impressed.

They began the process of reinventing themselves while staying true to themselves, which might seem antithetical, but it’s exactly what every 18-year old does when he or she starts college, as I was.

From there every album reminds me of a girl.  ”No Code” = Dara Sharapan.  ”Yield” = Erica Holberg.  ”Binaural” & “Riot Act” = Mrs. DeMaro.

Getting back to PJ20, I guess my favorite takeaway from the film was seeing the band as they were just starting up.  For instance, upon getting Eddie’s demo tape following the death of Andy Wood (frontman for ‘Mother Love Bone’), Stone, Jeff and Mike flew Vedder in from San Diego.  Five (!) days later ,they were playing ‘Alive’ at shows, the song complete and just as we know it now.

Five days.

There’s so much more from the late 80′s / early 90′s Seattle music scene in PJ20 that I’m not sure you can rightfully call yourself a music fan if you don’t take the time to see it–Kurt Cobain on his relationship with Vedder, Cobain and Vedder slow dancing to Eric Clapton’s ‘Tears in Heaven’ at an MTV awards show, Vedder in a bra on loan from Darcy from the Smashing Pumpkins, Chris Cornell and his many good works via Pearl Jam, Vedder and the entire Seattle music scene…it’s a compendium of 90′s music, really, and given the nature of musical influence, it tells us a great deal about music’s popular culture in the years since.

If you missed it the first time around, PJ20 re-airs October 24 at 3:00 am on PBS.  Do not miss it.

 

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