My complete lack of ability to tell time has extended itself into the macro range. I have absolutely no idea how long the weather was nice before it hit a blistering 93 today. It seems to be summer again, and there's at least one reason I don't particularly mind. I've been listening to Milwaukee's Jaill and enjoying the hell out of them. They're throwback, twangy garage/surf-rock; Jesus and Mary Chain meets Dick Dale and every 90s band I pulled out of St. Mark's Sounds 88c bin during my teenage years.
As you can tell their image is…annoyingly ironic. This seems to be a manifestations of the the numerous and self-inflicted faults of bands who adopt an overt stoner image – Jaill's album, for instance, is called “That's How We Burn” and every third song has a reference to getting high. Generally, a group will be genuinely good in any number of enjoyable ways and there's just inevitably going to be something about them meriting a facepalm. Another example is the name of worthwhile sludge metal band Bongzilla. I mean, seriously? Bongzilla?
Anyway, it lacks a video, but here's a much better track by Jaill called “Everyone's Hip”:
After nine splendid years of headaches, sore throats and money thrown toward my own demise, I've decided to Stop Smoking. Period. I spent the entire day on campus wearing a nicotine patch and it has been considerably less harsh than I thought it would be. I've “quit” twice before. The first time was a January several years back; it was a month-long group challenge of resolve, inspired by needing a month of recuperation from a December spent in the guise of Hedonismbot. The second time was just a few months ago when I stopped smoking for a week due to being more sick than I had ever been sick before. I was fine, honestly, until I had to actually leave the house and go to school, where I found myself surrounded by the vice. I gave in before the withdrawal tics turned me into a someone's Modern Dance thesis project.
...and now I'm done. Fin. Kaput. I swear that I will not turn into an evangelist and will still be as fervently pro-smoker's rights as I have ever been. I leave you with a small excerpt from David Sedaris' quitting essay “Letting Go” and one of the more bizarre Disney shorts I found while researching for this post on MetaFilter.
It’s one thing to give up smoking, and another to become a former smoker. That’s what I would be the moment I left the bar, and so I lingered awhile, looking at my garish disposable lighter and the crudded-up aluminum ashtray. When I eventually got up to leave, Hugh pointed out that I had five cigarettes left in my pack.
“Are you just going to leave them there on the table?”
I answered with a line I’d got years ago from a German woman. Her name was Tini Haffmans, and though she often apologized for the state of her English, I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any better. When it came to verb conjugation, she was beyond reproach, but every so often she’d get a word wrong. The effect was not a loss of meaning but a heightening of it. I once asked if her neighbor smoked, and she thought for a moment before saying, “Karl has . . . finished with his smoking.”
She meant, of course, that he had quit, but I much preferred her mistaken version. “Finished” made it sound as if he’d been allotted a certain number of cigarettes, three hundred thousand, say, delivered at the time of his birth. If he’d started a year later or smoked more slowly, he might still be at it, but, as it stood, he had worked his way to the last one, and then moved on with his life. This, I thought, was how I would look at it. Yes, there were five more Kool Milds in that particular pack, and twenty-six cartons stashed away at home, but those were extra—an accounting error. In terms of my smoking, I had just finished with it.
A new GROW game, entitled GROW Valley, came out a few days ago. The GROW series is the main puzzle attraction on EYEZMAZE, a Japanese Flash puzzle site run by a single individual who may go under the name “ON” (at least that's the name under which all the blog entries are penned.) If you're not familiar with the GROW series, prepare to entranced by these lovely and devilish puzzles.
The GROW games, of which there are a number, all have a single thing in common: an empty world and things to “plant” on it. You're given a choice between a number of elements: physical shapes and abstract concepts, that you plant in the world to flower. Each piece interacts with all the other pieces, and they grow up each turn, together. There are as many turns as pieces, and you can only place each piece once. It may seem random at the start, but you get to learn how pieces combine, at first by sheer trial and error, and get an idea of how many stages each one has until it is maxed out. The image at the top is a game of GROW Valley that is four turns into seven; I've blurred out which I have used so as not to spoil the fun.
Enjoy, and don't get too frustrated. Because you will get frustrated. I still have not beaten the original GROW, and only conquered the others by means of spoilers. GROW Valley is the first one I have beaten entirely on my own. I'll leave the solution to the puzzle in the comments section of this post, disguised for mouseover. Have fun!
Last night I went to see Winter's Bone, Debra Granik's second feature and adapted from a “country noir” novel by Daniel Woodrell. The plot is simple enough: lifelong Ozark meth cook Jessup Dolly put the family home up on bond and then jumped bail. Now it's up to his seventeen-year-old daughter Ree – the sole caretaker of her young siblings and their near-catatonic mother – to track him down; or, as she puts it: “I'm huntin' for Jessup.” The film is set in the impoverished and crystal meth-diseased Missouri backwoods. The cars are ancient, food comes from the land, everyone's takes care of at least a family of animals, and a miasma of sheer violence hangs in the air whenever a conversation starts. Considering that crank is as established in the culture as hunting, that's no surprise. The only genuinely sympathetic adult character in the film is Ree's uncle Teardrop (Deadwood's John Hawkes,) who snorts a key on-screen at least three separate times. Meanwhile, consider, for a moment, how hard a man must be to go around calling himself “Teardrop” in such a male-oriented culture that Ree gets asked if there's no man in her life who could do for her what she's set out to do on her own.
Co. the official movie site
The film follows the standard routine of a noir: a steely character goes about meeting shady – and occasionally, ruthlessly important – individuals, stirring up what shouldn't be stirred by asking all the wrong questions, getting beat up, all while trying to a very certain and very foul endgame. The only difference is that instead of an introspective middle-aged drunk like Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, it's Ree Dolly, who despite her age and experience could probably stare down a black bear if things came down to it. Her entire attitude toward her unimaginable situation is summed up in a single scene where, beaten within an inch of her life, she's dragged into a barn full of the cold-eyed, lip-licking, decaying high rollers of the local meth trade. Ordering them to kill her, if they're gonna, she learns her death has “already been set,” and if there's anything else she wants. Replying in the most indignant and impatient tone a battered teenager can muster, she spits out “well, you can help me. Anyone thought of that?”
Co. the official movie site
Having grown up a city-boy, I can't think of any other film I've seen that creates a world so utterly strange as Ree Dolly's Missouri. Everything about the film just stinks of real, even though the characters, with a few exceptions, are static and the pacing is deliberate. The social culture, where one hand bloodies your nose while the other holds your hand on the way toward salvation, is foreign and yet so fully developed that suspension of disbelief was barely even necessary. Check out the trailer below, and see the film if you can.
Inspired by a comment CJ left yesterday, I recalled the first time I had ever seen a video game in a television show. It was an episode of one of my favorite childhood sitcoms (or at least the one which was on most frequently) Charles in Charge - the 1984 pilot, in fact. The scene I remember involved Douglas Pebroke futzing away at a Vectrex. I originally thought it was a non-functioning prop, like most arcade cabinets you see in sitcoms. This was due, at least in part, to the Vectrex being claimed by the crash of '83, and well overshadowed by the NES by the time I moved to the States. Thanks to the swarms upon swarms of retrogaming geeks on the Internet, sworn to preserving every offhanded mention of their favorite consoles, someone actually posted the scene to YouTube. Thanks to the depth of knowledge and keen eye of a YouTube commenter (a phrase which will never be uttered sans irony again,) we know that the game is Minestorm:
I took just enough Computer Science classes to appreciate this audio representation of sort algorithms:
A few years ago, I went through a time when I listened to The Carnegie Hall Concert and Let the Buyer Beware every time I put on headphones. Below is one of my favorite of his routines; conveniently, it's one of the ones that has held up the best, language-wise. For most of his other work, it take some effort to get past 1950s hipster slang, the media references (speaking of which: this is George Macready,) and his unstoppable delivery, but it is all worth it. Sometimes, the full weight of the humor can come in a single word. There's a part I love, from the middle of a routine, in a conversation between him and some midwestern Jews: “You from New York?” “Yes.” “Are you Jewish?” “Yes.” “What are you doing in a place like this?” “I'm passing.”
If you get a chance (and have Netflix,) The Lenny Bruce Performance Film – a full set from 1966 – is available on Instant Watch. Like I said, it has a bit of a learning curve, especially considering the mediocre fidelity of the recording, but it is amazing performance. Moreover, as he goes into the absurdity of his multiple obscenity convictions, it becomes an time capsule and oral history of 1960s stage culture. That being said, here's a somewhat lighter bit:
I've had a New Yorker subscription for nearly a decade now and the single best humor writer I have read is Simon Rich. He has all the qualities of an author I would generally despise, for both aesthetic and personal reasons: preciousness, McSweeney's-style absurdity with double the wordcount, an age within two years of my own. And yet, even without looking at the byline, his pieces crack me up like no one else's in the magazine. Here is an excerpt from "Hey, Look", a log of imagined eavesdropping:
“Hey, look, that kid is reading ‘Howl,’ by Allen Ginsberg.”
“Wow. He must be some kind of rebel genius.”
“I’m impressed by the fact that he isn’t trying to call attention to himself.”
“Yeah, he’s just sitting silently in the corner, flipping the pages and nodding, with total comprehension.”
“It’s amazing. He’s so absorbed in his book that he isn’t even aware that a party is going on around him, with dancing and fun.”
“Why aren’t any girls going over and talking to him?”
“I guess they’re probably a little intimidated by his brilliance.”
“Well, who wouldn’t be?”
“I’m sure the girls will talk to him soon.”
“It’s only a matter of time.”
If your formative years were anything like my own, that should sound embarrassingly familiar. Here is the rest of his work for the New Yorker:
Every summer, the Evo2K tournament wows me with footage of people playing fighting games much better than I ever could. In high school and early college, 2D fighting games were my niche genre. Emulation got to the point where even the latest 2D fighter (Garou: Mark of the Wolves was the last game I remember obsessing over) could be easily played on my out-of-date computer. Eventually, I got bored, though. My mother, watching me play King of Fighters '99, once asked me how I knew all the moves I was doing. Somehow, "I memorized them," did not sound nearly as absurd to me as it clearly did to her.
My favorites of the genre have always been Capcom's CPS-2-based fighters. Crisp colors and fantastic animation and, of course, plenty of licensed and well-taken-care-of Marvel IP. So, I was delightfully surprised when this year's Evo2K had a tournament featuring the unreleased Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Taking after Street Fighter 4, it's done away with hand-drawn sprites and replaced them with cel-shaded 3D. I think it's a good choice; the times have nearly passed 2D fighters in general, and the apex of 2D graphics was hit about a decade ago. So, here's the footage. It's almost enough to make me want a next-gen console.
I haven't been listening to a lot of new music lately. A number of my favorite new music blogs have been shut down, and I haven't really been up to looking for more. One of my last finds, though, was amazing. Pixeltank is a project of Alan Young, about whom other information is scant. All I know is that this is the best studioless electronica I have encountered since Marumari's Wolves' Hollow. His Missile Commander album is a cross between drum and bass, chiptune and old Casio beats merged seamlessly. It's definitely hobbyist music – this guy is probably not playing shows and trying to get himself signed – but it's some of the best hobbyist music I've heard yet.
You can download the entire album over at his bandcamp site.