Come On, Let's Go.
12May/100

Gatekeepers of Mars

In 1931, under the auspices of author Edgar Rice Burroughs, Looney Tunes director Bob Clampett and Burrough's son John Coleman began work on an animated adaptation of Burroughs' John Carter of Mars series (soon to be a major Hollywood film in 2012.) Unfortunately, MGM's preference of Burrough's other original character, Tarzan, and the sheer oddity of the Mars stories canned the project. All that remains is a short segment of test footage.

11May/101

I Will Always Be Against (Pt. 2 of 2)

On May 9th 1991, 24-year-old poet and singer Yana Stanislavovna Dyagileva (Яна Станиславовна Дягилева,) known then to her friends and now publically as Yanka (Янка) left her Novosibirsk country home. On May 17th, Her body was by a fisher man found in the Inya River. The investigation revealed absolutely nothing with regard to the cause of death, but who knows how it was affected by her publicly anti-government sentiments and association with the underground Soviet punk scene (not to mention her marriage to Grazhdanskaya Oborona’s Yegor Letov.) Yanka was no stranger to retribution by the Soviet government.

Yanka’s albums were released posthumously, although a number of them were recorded. During her life time, she would play underground festivals and in very small, intimate shows called kvartirniks (Квартирник, “apartment gig.”) Fortunately, there is a very comprehensive tribute website. Unfortunately, for most of my readers, it is entirely in Russian. Here are dozens of photos taken of Yanka and Grazhdanskaya Oborona during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Here is a (legal) archive containing all her albums and recordings. I suggest starting with Prodano! (Продано!, Sold!)

Her lyrics were full of pain and injustice, both personal and to the country as a whole. As far as “punk” goes, she was more in line with Patti Smith – no overtly shocking image, but songs full of razorblade insights. In “Po Tramvaynim Rel'sam” (“По трамвайным рельсам,” “Down the Railroad Tracks,”) a song of prison/gulag escape, she sings: “We have to be able to, in two seconds, dive into the ground,/To stay and lay there when the gray cars go after us,/That drive away with them those who couldn't or wouldn't lay in the filth.” Here is her performing it live at the Cherepovets Rock-Acoustic festival in 1990, just a year before her death. A friend and I translated the lyrics here, albeit they retain nothing of the original poetry.

From the same concert, here is "Rizhskaya" (“Рижская,” a street in Moscow.) A few years ago I had written a MetaFilter post about Yanka and a very kind user has translated the lyrics.

He also translated the lyrics to "Ot Bolshogo Uma" (“От большого ума,” "From Being Too Smart.")

So that is the legacy left behind by Yanka. You can read more about her here and listen to more of her music, streaming, on her posthumous MySpace page. YouTube user Faustua has a number of videos of her and Grazhdanskaya Oborona both. Unfortunately, there are very few actively-written translations of her songs, but you can always throw the Russian lyrics into Google Translate (or ask me directly.) Enjoy!

10May/100

I Will Always Be Against (Pt. 1 of 2)


Photo co. nmm.ru

This is the Soviet Union's first punk rock band, Grazhdanskaya Oborona (Гражданская Оборона, Civil Defence) also known as GrOb (ГрОб, Coffin.) Most punk bands across the world had to dodge censors and obscenity fines while withstanding the the occasional token arrest. GrOb spent their time dodging the KGB and releasing illegal bootleg recordings. They survived well into the post-communist years, regularly releasing albums and becoming hugely popular (there are plenty of their stadium concert videos on YouTube.) Unfortunately, the lead singer and Soviet punk impresario Yegor Letov (Его́р Ле́тов) died in his sleep two years ago. Below is a video of their song “Ya Ne Veryu V Anarhiyu” (“Я не верю в анархию”, “I Don't Believe in Anarchy,”) taken during their still-illegal days in 1988. I've reproduced a translation of the lyrics as well, although they're slightly different than the video.

All that is not anarchy – that is fascism!
All that is not anarchy – that is fascism!
All that is not anarchy – that is fascism!
All that is not anarchy – that is fascism!

But you want to be the Fuhrer
He wants to be the Fuhrer
I want to be the Fuhrer
We all want to be the Fuhrer!

I don't believe in anarchy!
I don't believe in anarchy!
I don't believe in anarchy!
I don't believe in anarchy!

Who doesn't like the new order?
Who doesn't believe in the new order?
Who is not eager for the new order?
Who is building a new order?

I don't believe in anarchy!
I don't believe in anarchy!
I don't believe in anarchy!
I don't believe in anarchy!

7May/100

Nature, Red in Tooth and Claw


Photo co. There, I Fixed it

Now that I have a PC which does not choke on the simplest of Flash games, I made an account of Kongregate, the social casual Flash games website. It is pretty much a blast. Taking a page from the MMORPG playbook, they keep you interested by assigning several quasi-arbitrary achievements (e.g.: “kill X zombies,” “fly Y feet”) of varying difficulty to each game. Your profile also has a level, and there are all sorts of challenges, usually consisting of getting a number of specific achievements on a number of games (e.g.: “get every 'easy' medal from these games which debuted this month.) Flash games have, over the last few years, grown rather complex in scope and capability, and now contain just as many features as the “501 Shareware Games” CDs with which I grew up. Being able to save a game in progress is now a standard feature, and each game is graphically distinct from the rest, no longer having that default “Flash game” look from the 2000s. Here are two games I have been rather fond of recently:

Miami Shark and Sydney Shark

The concept here is simple enough. You are an invulnerable shark on a populated beachfront. You crush, kill and destroy everything from fish to boats to passing helicopters and jet planes. The action, utilizing the directional arrows and one key for “bite” is nice and button mash-y. There is also a fair bit of strategy in achieving chain combos, and timed jumps for pulling down aircraft. Mostly, though, it's just manic action where the only goal is a high score and no worries about losing.

Infectonator: World Dominator

Everyone loves a good zombie game. Usually, you play the lone survivor having to tough it out in a world where every shadow around every corner is the mindless spectre of death incarnate. Sometimes you get the play the zombie, taking down the bearers of those delicious, delicious brains. In Infectonator, you get to play the disease itself. Every level is an almost overhead view of a city. You infect an area with a mouseclick and watch the disease spread according to rules resembling those in Conway's Game of Life. The early levels are simple, with only a few dozen people in a town, while later on you will encounter towns of nothing but heavily armed individuals, and cities protected by super heroes. In the lab you can work on making the disease more spreadable and the zombies faster and hardier. There are a number of special zombies you eventually obtain, each with their own individual and upgradable power. Unlike the action-orientation of the previous game, Infectonator usually involves making several placement decisions and sitting back and watching the action go while collecting loot around the stage with the mouse cursor. As the game progresses you get more and more options, but there is never any direct control.

6May/100

Push Me Again

When the days get hard and the nights get short, you can always depend on a melange of televangelism and nu metal to make the bad go away. As an added bonus, it also looks like Mr. Hinn is fighting zombies.

5May/100

Suspenso!

Sometimes you just need to sit back and watch some fan-made comic book film trailers. Like Grayson, for instance. It's the story of Dick Grayson's re-donning of the Robin mantle after the death of Batman. The trailer is surprisingly well made, especially the acrobatics.

...and then there's Italian Spider Man. There is nothing I can say about this that won't ruin everything.

Apparently it has been made into a web series. So, uh, if you have greater inclination to watch it than I do, let me know what you think of it.

4May/100

It’s The Hardware That Got Small

After divesting myself of my Atari 2600, the next console in my life was the NES. Eight bits of joyous and unstoppably cruel gaming. That was almost twenty years ago and five years into the system's release date. And yet, new developments for the console are sprouting up more than ever. This retro-innovation is abetted by the growing chiptunes scene. Here's a couple of chiptune-related NES projects:

Neil Baldwin, a composer for NES games during the system's downward trajectory in the 90s, is actively working on the NTRQ, a tracker (sequencer) that runs on the NES. This is, potentially, a chiptune instrument which runs on the native hardware (it currently only exists in code/ROM form.) It may not be as expansive as the sequencers for PCs, it is fully-functional and even controlled via D-pad. Tracks are saved on an internal battery, like a Legend of Zelda save game. Below is a video of Baldwin playing 'live' with a loaded backing song. You can read all about the UI here.

Brief Aside: I am miserable at rhythm games. Have you ever watched someone practiced play Guitar Hero? How impressively flawless it looks? That is as good as I am bad. I flail at the thing like it's an electric eel. I lose all hand, eye and ear coordination. Plainly, I suck. That being said, I'm still excited over Kent Hansen and Andreas Pedersen's NES ROM-based D-Pad Hero. Using button, arrow and simultaneous button-arrow combinations, you thumb out one of the six included hit songs tolerably translated to the medium. The cover of Daft Punk's “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” is especially good.

3May/100

Showdown

A 1995 issue of The Wire, a British music rag, featured an article entitled Advice To Clever Children. It was an interview with avant garde composer and electronic music godfather Karlheinz Stockhausen regarding contemporary - ca. 1995 - electronic music. A number of the artists he critiqued replied in Advice From Clever Children, a followup segment, also included in the link.

"I heard the piece Aphex Twin of Richard James carefully: I think it would be very helpful if he listens to my work Song Of The Youth, which is electronic music, and a young boy's voice singing with himself. Because he would then immediately stop with all these post-African repetitions, and he would look for changing tempi and changing rhythms, and he would not allow to repeat any rhythm if it were varied to some extent and if it did not have a direction in its sequence of variations." - Karlheinz Stockhausen

"I've heard that song before; I like it. I didn't agree with him. I thought he should listen to a couple of tracks of mine: "Didgeridoo", then he'd stop making abstract, random patterns you can't dance to. Do you reckon he can dance?" - Richard D. James (a/k/a Aphex Twin)

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