Co. Penny Arcade.
Q: Is it true you're really into Dungeons and Dragons?
VIN: No. I never play D&D. For some reason, they thought that I played D&D for 20 years. They thought that I spent years playing Barbarians, Witchunters, The Arcanum. They thought I played D&D back in the '70s when it's just the basic D&D set. They thought I continued to play D&D when it became Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. They thought I played D&D when there were only three books - the "Player's Handbook," the "Monster's Manual" and the "Dungeon Master's Guide." They thought I played D&D as it continued onto the Unearthed Arcanum, Oriental Adventures, Sea Adventures, Wilderness Adventures. THEY thought I played D&D at the time when "Deities and Demigods" was the brand new book. THEY thought I played D&D when I used to get up to a place called The Complete Strategist in New York.
Today is the 25th anniversary of Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. franchise. So let’s take a quick look at the Super Mario games we all know and love… like Mario Clash for the Virtual Boy. Can you remember that first time you took your Virtual Boy out of its box? The long Sunday afternoons you spent with that red doohickey strapped to your face? Playing it in the schoolyard while all your friends looked on? Taking it on those long family vacation drives? Yeah, those are the Mario memories I’m talking about.
And who can forget the classic Mario is Missing? That NES adventure every kid has nothing but the fondest memories of. I sure should’ve put more hours into studying than I did into this game, but how could I resist its charms?
Remember how sad you were when you found out that Super Mario’s Wacky Worlds got cancelled? That CD-i of yours (and don’t forget about your friends, that CD-i was as much a household staple as the microwave) sitting empty, robbed of anticipation for another amazing CD-i classic?
This blog post chronicles the trip of a few people to the The Museum of Soviet Arcade Games in Moscow. Of course, said museum is an arcade ca. 1990 in the basement of the Moscow State Technical University, but holy hell is this a nostalgia trip for me. The greatest discovery was that they took a few pictures of this:
Co. Dangerous Business.
That's my favorite and most-missed game, Morskoi Boi (Морской Бой, “Sea Battle”). It dates back to the 1970s, and is entirely electromechanical. There's no screen, no CPU, no graphics. You peer into a periscope visor onto a diorama of ships moving along the water The floor consists of tiles which light up, representing your torpedo as it approaches its target. If your aim is true, everything goes black except for a red explosion where the target used to stand.
The machine is a knock-off of Midway's Sea Raider, so here's a more deconstructed video of the mechanics:
Today is the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This is the entirety of my knowledge of the holiday. In fact, I had no idea it was today until I spent fifteen minutes outside of the Physics lecture hall before realizing that the building was empty and no one was going to show up. Not that I'm bitter.
Anyway, I might know next to nothing about Judaism, but I sure do like some of the newer klezmer acts on the music scene. Like Geoff Berner, whose Klezmer Mongrels will continue to be one of my favorite albums of all time. Here, however, is Whiskey Rabbi, the title track off one of his other albums:
And here's Daniel Kahn and the Painted Bird with “Yossel Ber,” a Yiddish song that I have been told dates back to the 1940s.
And, finally, the Russian group Nayekhovichi with “Borsht.” A trilingual (English, Yiddish, Russian) live version of this song, entitled “Borsht Revisited,” appears of Daniel Kahn's album Partisans & Parasites:
I love the idea of consumer entertainment technology being biological, rather than the played out half-man half-machine military uses. There are definite shades of Cronenberg ca. eXistenZ.
I recently finished watching, in a psychotic two-day spree, the entirety of Better Off Ted, a recently (and sadly) canceled ABC sitcom. I've been meaning to watch it for a while; Victor Fresno, the creator and executive producer, was also responsible for one of my all-time favorite sitcoms, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, and Ted clearly follows in a similar vein.
The office setting is the same, both Andy and Ted working in an enormous global corporation that makes, among other random consumer products, death-machines for the military. CJ has referred to it as a “cyberpunk office sitcom,” and the nature of the company certainly lends to that. One of my favorite lines comes from Phil, a research scientist, accusing his lab partner of using science for evil and reminding him that “we took an oath we would try to do that less.” Another line features a member of the hallowed upper-management jokingly stating that he's "going back to do more evil," in front of a very accurate lie detector, to no effect.
Instead of Andy's position as a schlubby technical manual writer with aspirations of being a writer, Ted is a capable, happy, attractive, middle manager (and single father!) perfectly content with his position as the head of a successful R&D department. This was a ballsy choice on behalf of Fresno – Ted clearly has his faults, but he's more of an ideal modern man than a remotely relatable character. Fortunately, that aspect isn't entirely forgotten and simply shuffled off onto his quirky-yet-not-annoyingly-so product tester Linda, who a both moral misgivings about working for a company which cryogenically freezes its employees and weaponizes pumpkins. She also has a obvious and vocal attraction to Ted, the nature of which creates the necessary Sam-and-Diane part of the show.
Mirroring Andy's Jessica, the cold, logical superior, Veronica, is played by Portia de Rossi, who has clearly devoted her acting career to humanizing (and sexualizing) otherwise unlikable female characters. The interaction between her and her team, no matter the moral or corporate conflicts, is that of genuine camaraderie, which was one of my favorite parts of Andy. Unlike The Office and disregarding mandates from upper management, it's the main characters against the world, and everyone looking out for one another.
The series' two breakout characters are Dr. Philip Myman (played by Jonathan Slavin, Andy's nearly-identical character Byron Togler) and Dr. Lem Hewitt, the scientists on Ted's R&D squad. They're socially maladjusted geniuses, and much of the comedy comes from their unique brand of brotherhood set against the diehard corporate culture. They deify both Ted and Veronica, while working hard to please the former and being abjectly terrified of the latter.
Both seasons are up on Netflix Instant Watch right now and may eventually come back to the Hulu page.
I'm at a loss as to how to introduce, explain or comment on this particular video. It's from Jackie Chan's 1993 film City Hunter. That's all I've got: