A 1963 British recording of a 1920s comedy sketch has become a New Year's Eve tradition in Germany and Denmark, and a cult favorite all over Europe. Entitled Dinner for One, it is the tale of a old dowager's birthday party with her four closest friends: Sir Toby, Admiral von Schneider, Mr. Pommeroy, and Mr. Winterbottom. Also present is her her long-suffering (or maybe not!) butler, James.
Image co. of AnalogueSat.
Happy New Year, friends.
A generation removed from the unplumbable depths that brought Ate My Balls to the nascent Internet, a phenomenon known as “The Fucking Short Version” popped up on YouTube a few years back. Thanks to the proliferation of digital media, cheap processors and user-friendly editing software, a certain damaged few took it upon themselves to edit movies down to occurrences of the word “fuck” within the shooting script. Here is a modest (and inherently spoiler-laden) example from the Coen Brothers classic The Big Lebowski. You can find more here:
Wonderful, isn't it? Like good old-fashioned moonshine, the entirety of the film is distilled into several minutes linked only by an almost arbitrary choice of a word. Of course, “fuck” isn't arbitrary. Lewis Black may claim his use of the word as punctuation, but it rings out, clear as a bell, every time. Maybe it is the fact that it is contextualized with a movie I've seen often enough to perform, maybe not. There is something to be said for driving a meme into pure absurdity, however. So here's every single swear word on the Sopranos (spoiler alert, once again,) in eighteen minutes:
Okay, had enough? Rinse your brain and ears out with something a little more family friendly from a more innocent time:
Due to a horrible transporter malfunction, my high school-self has taken over the blog. Luckily, his near-Herculean lazyness and Warren Ellis-caliber egomania means you only have to bear witness to this photograph and a sample of my (his? damn editorial gimmicks) music tastes circa 2000. "Enjoy"!
It is frustration central at the office this week. I’m tasked with an Important Project. My capability is summed up with an hour of yelling at a “malfunctioning” logon screen only to realize I’m supposed to login with admin/admin and not any of the half-dozen usernames and passwords I set up during the install. For the technically uninclined reader: neither the door nor trunk keys started the engine, and I missed the note saying the ones I needed were in the glove compartment.
This leaves me feeling a little like the following track which I found through Russian (or, at least Russian-speaking) web DJ Neuro Vincenzo. The specific mix was Turn Up - a compilation of neurofunk, my favorite type of drum’n’bass. Neurofunk is heavily tech-centered; the perfect soundtrack to a robot-oriented chase scene.
Here’s another sample: Black Sun Empire and Noisia’s “Lead Us,” full of delicious samples from the sci-fi neo-noir Dark City
Personally, I’d prefer to feel more like Mackintosh Braun’s “Good So Far.” They’re very, very chill – definitely influenced by Röyksopp – and, as I discovered, perfect rainy-day music. The beats are down enough to not clash with the mood, but optimistic enough to keep playing for reasons outside of laziness. The Sound, their first album, is available for streaming on last.fm.
...and so, another Christmas Eve descends upon us. For those of you unaware, being Jewish, I don't actually celebrate Christmas. Coming from a secular Jewish family, I don't actually celebrate Hanukkah, either. Growing up, we occasionally paid lip service to any number of Jewish traditions, but I don't think we ever made it past the third or fourth candle. What we celebrate is New Year's Eve.
Christmas, in the Soviet Union, was replaced by the New Year's Eve (Новый Год, lit.: “New Year”) celebration. The (secular) tradition is almost identical: we decorate a tree (Yolka/Ёлка,) eat a hearty meal, gifts are exchanged, and so on. After coming of age, we also get really wrecked. New Year's Eve is not just a holiday, but also the biggest party of the year. I remember digging through old family pictures and finding a few from a NYE party wherein my mother was roughly my age. She, my father, and some of their friends are sitting on a floor, my father playing his guitar. Everyone is absolutely shitfaced. My friends and I are the inheritors of this tradition and, well, let's just say that making plans for January 1st is practically unheard of.
Okay, I mentioned presents. Well, we Soviets did not have Saint Nicholas. Communism did not look fondly upon the opium of the masses (although not even Stalin himself could neither put down the Church, nor Judaism) but considering the depressive qualities of the Soviet winter, something had to be done. So instead of Saint Nick, we have Ded Moroz (Дед Мороз) - “Grandfather Frost.” Tagging along is his beautiful young daughter Snegurochka (Снегурочка) - “The Snow Maiden.” What surprises a lot of my American-born friends is Grandfather Frost's color palette; unlike in the states he comes in both red and blue varieties, both equally acceptable.
Image co. Voices from Russia.
So, that's how we do. I did mention gifts, though, and here is one for you all. It is David Sedaris' classic story of Christmas-based openmindedness, Six To Eight Black Men. (NB: The video portion isn't particularly relevant, so I'm leaving the windows tiny for ease of browsing.)
Do yourself a favor and go play some Canabalt. It’ll be the best single-button game you’ve played today. Maybe this week. Or, if you’re anything like me (riddled by NADD and fond of pixel art,) you’ll think it is the greatest single-button casual game ever made.
I found out about this little gem thanks to BoingBoing’s rundown of best indie/iPhone games of 2009. The premise is simple enough: scurry across the rooftops, avoiding loose furniture and busting through buildings via plate glass windows.
You have one button. It jumps. Hit it lightly and you do a little hop. Hit it harder and you perform a leap. The further you go without hitting an object, the faster your little guy zooms across buildings and the further your leaps become. There’s a number of different sorts of obstacles to avoid (I won’t spoil them for you,) and as you speed up, avoiding them becomes harder and harder.
There are several things I really, really enjoy about this game. First: the aesthetic. You might not notice it the first few times around, but the ambience is full of detailed pixel-art. Your character’s legs wiggle in the air during jumps – fall from a far enough height, and he hits the ground with a roll. Doves (white pigeons?) litter the buildings and gracefully fly away as you hop on their rooftop. Giant robots destroy the distant background and zoom overhead, shaking the stage. It is a huge amount of work for such a simple game. And “simple” is a fantastic thing: you die, hit Jump and you’re back to the beginning, running. The buildings and obstacles are randomly generated, as well, so there’s no memorization, only reflex. There’s no ending, either, which is a bonus in a game like this: you’re not chasing any sort of goal except a high score.
There’s an Emmy-winning 2001 episode of the Simpsons titled HOMЯ, which plays out as a parody of Flowers for Algernon (or the film based on it, Charly, the source of the backwards ‘R’.) The basic plot is that Homer, in need of money, signs up to be a guinea pig for a research facility. They discover a crayon jammed in his brain, courtesy of a childhood accident. Removing the crayon makes him super-intelligent, but alienates Homer from his friends. Toward the end, he demands the scientists replace the crayon:
Homer: Please, turn me back into the blissful boob I was.
Scientist: Sorry, we don't play god here.
Homer: Huh? You do nothing but play god! And I think your octo-parrot would agree with me.
Octo-Parrot: Awk! Polly shouldn't be!
Even better, here’s someone's tattoo of the little guy.
What does this have to do with hip-hop? Well, Lil Wayne apparently went to medical school, moved to an abandoned island and became Lil Dr. Moreau. His new album Rebirth reduces, ad absurdum, the whole “rock star” persona he’s been cultivating. It's not a straight hip-hop album like his fantastic Tha Carter III, instead he rap/sings over mediocre guitar riffs, in a variety of rock styles. I’ll admit, some of it is fun. On “American Star,” the opening track, he yells out “BRIDGE!” right before the bridge. His lyrics remain witty and biting, &c &c. It’s the albums closer, “The Price Is Wrong, that brought to mind the Octo-Parrot. The track is a bizarre mashup of hip-hop and angry teenage punk… I think. Take a listen:
I can only assume that someone carefully explained to Lil Wayne what punk rock sounded like and who its fans were, without actually playing any examples for him. Its punk-by-numbers, except there’s nothing but a bunch of overlapping blobs to fill in. Polly shouldn’t be.
Philip K. Dick would have turned eight-one this last Wednesday. I’ve previously written about him, within the scope of a Scanner Darkly, but for his birthday I’d like to claim the first miracle that will hopefully lead to his eventual beatification.
By way of the combined efforts of Hanson Robotics, the University of Memphis, and the University of Texas, Arlington, (along with the consultation of the Philip K. Dick Trust, PKD was returned to the land of the living. Well, sort of. In honor of his exploration of the meaning of human being-ness, he came back in the form of Phil the android. Certainly this man-machine would bomb the Voight-Kampff test about six seconds in, but considering it was a hunk of machinery, its bestowed abilities were impressive
The robot was fully autonomous. In other words, it operated without human intervention. it tracked people coming in and out of the room with face recognition software, and would greet faces that it knew. It listened to verbal input, used complex algorithms that incorporated LSA to generate a response, and would respond verbally using speech synthesis. - The Philip K. Dick Android Project
Now, in 2006, Phil was on his way to Mountain View for a private showing to the employees of Google. Now, Phil was clearly unwilling to be displayed in such a manner to the company who will, eventually, be able to bodily recreate you from your browser cache and email archives alone. In protest, Phil pulled off a vanishing act: first the body, and then the head.
Admittedly, this is a tragedy. Hundreds (if not thousands) of hours – along with $750,000 – were put into Phil’s meticulous research and construction. And, quite unfortunately, Hanson Robotics’ lawsuit was dismissed.
However, I have a feeling that on the day he is genuinely needed, on the day that the robot uprising is in full swing and mankind is on the brink of destruction, Phil will return to us and bring peace. Call it an inkling, but that android is out there, somewhere, learning, thinking, becoming more and more human by the day.
Picture courtesy of the PKD Android project blog.
I love traditional folk crossover acts. Now I’m sure we’ve all heard of the folk-metal monstrosity Finntroll, for instance -- so how about something from the other side of the spectrum?
What do you get when you throw a pinch of Ukranian folk music, a smattering of the Pet Shop Boys, Dame Edna and whatever the hell kind of techno that’s been passing for pop music in Europe for the last ten years into a remaindered Soviet meat grinder? An overwrought use of a terrible cliché. Oh, and this:
That’s Verka Serduchka (Вєрка Сердючка), second place winner of Eurovision 2007.
Conceived as a drag act by Andriy Danylko, Ukranian Parliament spoke out against her entry into Eurovision as, ahem, “grotesque and vulgar.” Really, guys? Come on. How could you not love her?
It’s like your trashy aunt turned out to be a flamboyantly gay man, won the lottery and started showing up at the club.
I make all my fashion choices via mail-order advertisements in Computer Gaming World ca. 1981
Super Bonus: Download the first 100 issues of CGW (1981-1992) here
Real posts return next week.