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Des Moines Rock City

I just played Poison's "Talk Dirty To Me" 17 times in a row on Guitar Hero III. We got Legends of Rock for the Wii for Christmas and I think I have a problem. I mastered the easy setting right away and was so proud of myself. I'm now trying to master the hard setting. I skipped medium. I laughed at medium, actually. 'A virtuoso like me doesn't need medium,' I thought. And now I've just listened to a Bret Michaels impersonator 17 times in a row. It's sick, really.

Side note: A friend of mine hates the game because he thinks that it's time kids could be spending learning to play the real guitar. I get that; I really do. But I will defend myself by saying that I do know how to play the real guitar (not well, but that's beside the point).

Just last night, we went over to a friend's house to play Rock Band on the Playstation 3. Guess what? I'm a prodigy on the drums, too. At least on easy. I tried to move up to medium on one of my favorite songs (When You Were Young by the Killers) and I just bombed it. I mean, royally.

To make this a real post and not just "look at what a loser I am," let's talk about the story behind the game.

japan.JPGGuitar Hero was inspired by an arcade game that has been around since 1998 - GuitarFreaks. GuitarFreaks was (and is) especially popular in Japan. It can sync up with another arcade game called DrumMania so a "band" can be formed. The budget to bring Guitar Hero to life on a video console was a mere $1 million. The (relatively) small investment paid off, big time: as of September, the first Guitar Hero alone had sold 1.5 million copies.

Harmonix Music Systems, the company that developed the game, quickly realized what a smash hit they had on their hands and announced in April 2006 that Guitar Hero II would be hitting stores the following October. It was an even bigger hit - 3.1 million copies sold as of December 17.

So, hello, Guitar Hero III was a no-brainer. Aficionados may notice differences between III and the two preceding titles - that's because it wasn't made by the same company. Harmonix, the company that made the first two, was purchased by MTV. Development of the game moved to a company called Neversoft. Don't cry for Harmonix, though - they went to make Rock Band, which is doing extremely well in its own right. Considering that Rock Band just came out on November 20, it's pretty impressive that it has already sold almost 400,000 copies. It's rumored to be coming out for the Wii... I can only hope.

Now is the part where you make me feel better about my new obsession. Tell me about your Guitar Hero experiences. And if you are addicted, what songs do you rock the most on? What songs would you like to see on Guitar Hero IV? (You know there's going to be one.)

Now, if you'll excuse me, faux Bret Michaels is calling my name. Gotta go.

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
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Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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