I don't usually like posting ads, but Superbrothers Sword and Sworcery EP seems to be a wonderful piece of work. Movement in pixel art is always an issue -- do you go with old-school grid snapping or anachronistic smoothness? -- and this game seems it has a new grip on how to handle this problem. Not only that, but this is some of the most original pixel art I've seen. Take a look, for instance, at that gorgeous and yet almost completely abstracted deer at 0:30.
Hopefully I'll either have an iOS device sometime in the future or the game will come out for PC, as it looks like it will be a great game. Plus, Capy (make sure to scroll all the way down) are involved, and their game Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes is my absolute favorite Nintendo DS game.
I've never actually seen West Side Story, but I've loved this song ever since a sociology professor played it for a 101 class I was taking. Mainly, I'm fond of the genuinely ambiguous stance it takes on "social ills" ca. 1957 and the failure of institutions -- legal, mental, social -- to either diagnose the root of a problem or constructively deal with it. These kids live their lives as full as they can, having been repeatedly failed by the system and marinated in pure vice from day one. What you're hearing is the ideological roots of punk rock.
Co. Music Timeline
I listen to NPR all day at work, and the constant mentions of Scott Walker being a terrible person have been getting me down. So in what may very well be a futile attempt to rescue the name from the clutches of son-of-a-bitchdom, here are some choice songs from the man who was born Noel Scott Engel, and rechristened himself as the one -- the only! -- Scott Walker.
I still remember being stagefront in Southpaw, waiting A Silver Mt. Zion's first U.S. show to begin. It was 2005 and after a few of the ear/mid-2000s indie hits (hey, remember the Unicorns?) they put on Scott 3. "It's Raining Today" began and I'd never heard anything like that before. Or since.
I have been absolutely obsessed with Law and Order: Criminal Intent. One night, a few weeks ago, my girlfriend suggested we watch some actual television -- most of our viewing is via Hulu or Netflix -- and we caught an episode of Criminal Intent. I was hooked immediately. While I'm fond of mysteries and crime fiction, I never got into the franchise before. What got me was that unlike vanilla Law and Order, CI doesn't feature the courtroom scenes which, in my opinion , detract from the pace of the plot. SVU, meanwhile, isn't really an option as I actively avoid reading/watching anything involving rape and sex crimes. But this show hit all the right notes.
Detective Robert Goren's character is what really got me involved. His investigative and interrogation styles are a perfect sweet spot between old-school, Holmsian detection and aggressive Chandlerian interrogation. Goren sees patterns, makes deductive connections, and uses all those other detective skills I feel has been lost in modern mystery dramas -- replaced, at least in part, by unrealistic technology. When faced with an individual, he unbalances, annoys and lies to them in order to get them to slip up, to tear a hole in their own cover story. He also regularly violates the rules which former-cop P.I.s in noir fiction usually attribute to making them leave the force and go into business for themselves. Goren comes off almost as a family-friendly, less sociopathic prelude of Hammett's Continental Op.
Anyway, this post isn't going to be about gushing over Criminal Intent. Rather, it's about set design minutia, a topic which I've previously revealed to be an interest. For instance, in Season 1, Episode 2: "Art", there's the blink-and-you'll-miss-it Crass poster (for some reason disguised as one for a band called "Pocket.") Appropriately enough, it's on an art student's dorm-room wall.:
Next, in Season 2, Episode 22: "Zoonotic", a man appears wearing a Vash the Stampede shirt, from the anime series Trigun. These sorts of shirts, although worn much looser and untucked, were rather popular around this time this episode was filmed. It was always strange seeing kids walk around school wearing shirts with characters from anime they've never watched and video games they've never played. The knock-off ones were even better, featuring near approximations -- just near enough to be uninfringing -- of said characters. (As an aside, the actor on the righthand side is James Urbaniak who, among other roles voices Dr. Venture on The Venture Bros.):
Finally, from Season 4, Episode 12: "Collective", is a Bruce Timm framed painting (?) of Two-Face, as he appeared in Batman: The Animated Series. The scene takes place in, from what I could tell, is an actual collectibles store, so it may not have been a conscious choice to put the object there. However, the brief shot was intentional, so I can only imagine it was a momentary thumbs-up to Timm:
This is all I could find in the first few seasons, or at least all that really stuck out at me. I went through Netflix's entire Instant Watch CI archive, so once I get my hands on some more, I may follow this up.
I previously described tool-assisted speedruns in this post. To summarize, this breed of speedrunners use special emulation tools which alter the speed of the game; anything from slowing the game down to play it frame-by-frame to rewinding a live game is possible -- the latter mechanic has been adapted into games like Prince of Persia and Braid. Combining these abilities with glitches let the user create a speedrun far faster than any human being playing the game in real-time.
These speedrun is not recorded as a video, but rather a series of button presses timed to the game. These recording can be used to replicate the speedrun on any computer with an emulator capable of reading it. Now, an Instructables member named pjgat has taken speedruns into the real world. Using an Arduino board wired into the controller, the speedrun's button presses are sent directly into the NES hardware. The game is in no way modified; there's just a robot at the wheel.
As you can see by the comments, there is some talk about this being a hoax. Most of the weirdness can be attribute to faulty collision detection -- it is, in fact, a game from 1985, a commenter helpfully points out -- but I'm still not sure why the NES boots so fast. So here is the video:
...and a Super Mario Bros. 3 which is slightly faster than the one mentioned in the previous post:
I've always wondered how something like this could work, and thankfully the internet, or, more specifically, a video artist named Anthony Discenza, has provided. You're watching three Charlton Heston films -- Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green and Omega Man (recently remade as I Am Legend) -- alternated every tenth of a second, while the soundtracks are layered on top of one another. While I'd have to read an artist's statement to figure out the actual meaning of the piece, I enjoy it alone as a cacophonous video tech exercise.
My longtime friend Robyn Hasty (a.k.a. street artist Imminent Disaster) currently has a Kickstarter going for her upcoming project Homeland. Listen/watch her explain it in the video below, and consider contributing a few bucks if you'd like to help make it possible:
Official poster co. Mr. Gable's Reality
If you've been to a video store or browsed Netflix randomly, you've probably been exposed to films by The Asylum. They're responsible for such modern classics as Transmorphers, Sunday School Musical and the upcoming Almighty Thor. Basically, their entire company depends on grandma not paying attention to which DVD she just picked up.
However, this isn't about The Asylum. This is about a dude named Lewis Schoenbrun taking the concept far beyond the pale. Here is The Amazing Bulk:
CJ says that it is "beyond snark" because "everything is directly as the director envisioned." And, well, I wholeheartedly agree. The plot progresses from a crime procedural to blowing up the moon and the stilted dialogue ("Barney the purple dinosaur") throws this film into the artistic territory of 1990s FMV games. Something like 1995's never-released Duelin' Firemen:
Anyway, here is a minute's worth of footage from Bulk. As far as I can tell from the acting, everyone participating in this movie is having a whole lot of fun.
I don't understand how cameras work very well, so I can't tell you exactly what is happening. However, there's a very good explanation here. Me? I just appreciate the hell out of the visuals.
Co. Bohemian Cinema
In honor of this Hallmark Holiday, here is something really genuine. It's my favorite scene from Woody Allen's Stardust Memories, which is otherwise a difficult undertaking if you're not really into his films and film in general. Everything about Stardust is utterly overbearing: the constant assault of Felliniesque faces, the towering images, and one of his least likeable protagonists this side of Deconstructing Harry.
...and then there's this scene.
Co. Club Nintendo
One of the first motion controllers was Brøderbund's U-Force. Resembling a laptop (or oversides Nintendo DS) when open, it meant for you to swing your hands over its sensors in order to control the game. Like the Power Glove, it also came with a number of preset configurations. It also came with a physical plugin resembling a pilot's yoke; as far as I can tell, it didn't add any element of physical control. Rather, it was only meant to put your hands in the proper position to control flying games and let you press buttons instead of relying on the sensors. I could be wrong, of course. Like most people, I have never actually seen one of these.
The U-Force was almost universally derided. This is an unsurprising fact; mass-produced IR sensors in the late-80s could not accurately capture even the minimal requirements of the NES controller. However, after putting out a loluforce article, Kotaku was informed of Joe McKenna, a man who has made it his (successful) mission to master the U-Force. Check out his playthrough of the first level of Super Mario Bros. 3 and Flash Man's stage from Mega Man 2. The hand-wiggling to move Mario's tail is great: