Category Archives: writings

MAGFest XI

On the first weekend of the year, I surrounded myself with thousands of sweaty nerds at MAGfest XI. I should have done a write-up about MAG much sooner than this, as my first time attending came just 15 days after the inaugural post of Protozoic, back in late 2004.

BIT BRIGADE
Bit Brigade, which plays rock renditions of video games while one of the band members plays completely through the game. Above they’re finishing up Contra. Photo by “GlamGoreMuffin”
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Interview – Jennifer Juniper Stratford, director of The Multinauts

Back when I was living in NJ working a string of bad temp jobs, my roommate and I made it a habit to go through Comcast On Demand on a ritualistic basis and watch all the Something Weird videos, any music video we’d not heard of, all the Misty Mundae movies, and anything we’d deemed appropriately obscure. During this time, I swear we watched Dungeon Majesty. If we didn’t, my roommate and I watched it somehow, somewhere. And when we did, it was our equivalent of seeing the light. Part cable access camp (before Tim and Eric were names), part geek-chic and 100% brilliant, we both knew whoever was behind it was living the dream we’d always wanted to live.

Fast forward to present and my discovery of said genius, the video artist/photographer Jennifer Juniper Stratford. Much like Dungeon Majesty, I stumbled across her latest work The Multinauts but this time on the internet. If Dungeon Majesty was a 100% brilliant, this was a 120%. Incredibly ambitious the current two shows of The Multinauts run approximately 20 minutes each in length. Both shows boast an impressive array of visual effects, including model-making, 2D animation, various analog and optical techniques created by Stratford.

If The Multinauts only fired the visual neurons with pleasure, it would be enough. But The Multinauts is much more. It is funny, strange, unclassifiable, art-house Tom Baker era Doctor Who crossed with the Unearthed Arcana. To boot, The Multinauts features the music of Ariel Pink, Geneva Jacuzzi and has cameos of like-minded artist Leslie Hall.

I conducted the following interview with Stratford where she talks about The Multinauts and her other work as an artist.

Could you talk a little about the things that influenced The Multinauts?

On the surface level, The Multinauts is influenced by Dr Who (specifically Doctors 4-6), Max Headroom 20 Minutes into the Future, and Star Trek the Next Generation. In RPG terms it tips its hat to Dungeons and Dragons, Gamma World, Star Frontiers, and my beloved Shadowrun. The use of the Multiverse is inspired by Michael Moorcock. The script is written by Christine Adolph, Riley Swift, and myself (Centari, Xanthor, and Gigs ) and we would constantly refer to all these references with our deepest affection and then would add our personal touches to the characters.

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For now we see through a glass, darkly – Part 3

“A Taste of Madness!”

From the first moment I saw the splash page I was hooked. And then the story. To sum up, Super-Skrull and Skragg try to drive Mar-Vell nuts by appearing as his defeated, dead enemies. Of course, Captain Marvel (with the aid of his alter-ego, eternal sidekick Rick Jones) beat the baddies at their own game. But this only sets the stage for what was to follow – the high water mark of Captain Marvel.

Ronan

(As a side note, I love Cap’s expletives. “By the Code of the Kree! By Hala! By the Great Pama!”)

Continue reading For now we see through a glass, darkly – Part 3

Dwarf Fortress

There are games that are considered complete and final upon shipping but, in this internet age, I’ve largely been drawn to games of another classification, ones in a state of perpetual development. I go in, completely unrealistically, seeing games like this not so much for how they are, but for how they could be with enough time and the right development. Like a battered lover, a glutton for punishment, I keep returning to games of this type after being disappointed so many times before. My best example of this is Infantry, which met many of my expectations but fulfilled almost none of my dreams. I could spin similar tales of games like Graal and EUO. Wesnoth happens to be the only real success story, but something about Dwarf Fortress make it seem like it really will deliver.

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For now we see through a glass, darkly (Part I)

Back in the halcyon days of yore of my misspent youth when life was simple (see IRON CURTAIN), one of the few haunts where I sought solace from the dreaded linked list, relational database, homogeneous diff-e-Qs (as opposed to heterogeneous diff-e-Qs which are currently lobbying for heterogeneous diff-e-Q marriage) was The Closet of Comics. I also was known to frequent licensed shebeens but that’s another story for another time.

The Closet of Comics was a nondescript little store located in the basement of a building next to a major shebeen on Route 1. Which is probably how I discovered it. I had been out of the comic-reading business since roughly the age of fourteen. By then the callipygian assets of Linda Guadanole had captured my imagination. Anyway in I walked and I was greeted by the proprietor and his large black Lab-mix dog Rhoda. I took a look around and my eyes fell upon the cover of a comic that brought it all back. The Life of Captain Marvel. I mean that’s it. Right there. All in one little package. All the wonder, excitement, and joy of comics came rushing back in an instant.

Captain Marvel

Continue reading For now we see through a glass, darkly (Part I)

Falco’s Greatest Hits

Falco's Greatest Hits

Parental Advisory – This review was written at 2:55 AM. And while the album was being listened to after sitting on the shelf for two months.

A) Classic 80’s techno pop backed by incomprehensible German lyrics.

Examples – Amadeus – I always thought he was singing “Rock me I’m a danish” – as in pastry.

“Der Komissar” – I had an advantage on this one. I had the 45 and copied it on cassette when the record first came out. Later that year, I was living with Guido who, like me, is Italian and German, but being from Europe, spoke both languages, as well as English (ok, close enough on English). He said the lyrics were, “Don’t look over your shoulder, the commissioner is sneaking along the street.” Somehow I think something got altered in translation.

“Vienna Calling” – See A.

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HOLY BAT-TOON!

Batman

There’s a not-so-new cartoon gracing the glass teat on Cartoon Network. “Batman: The Brave and The Bold” is based on the old comic book of the same name. The Caped Crusader teams up with a different hero from the DC universe each week to fight for the forces of goodness and niceness. The tone is a lot lighter than the Batman animated series of the 90’s and the Justice League ‘toons of the early 21st but it doesn’t venture into jackassery. The teaser features Batman and another hero in an unrelated takedown of a villain before the main adventure. The heroes and villains are generally depicted in their Golden / Silver Age representations. You won’t see any of the biggies (no Superman here folks) which I find refreshing. The guest good guys and baddies have included Green Arrow, Plastic Man, Etrigan, Adam Strange, Kammandi, the Golden Age Flash, Gentleman Ghost, Scarecrow, Black Manta, Gorilla Grodd, and Babyface. The only drawback is the Blue Beetle who makes several appearances in the role of “teenage sidekick.” The animation is good, the stories clever, and Batman’s wit is dry as a martini. Check your local listings.

WHY I WON’T SEE THE WOLVERINE MOVIE (AND OTHER RANDOM RANTS)

X-Men 2 stunk.

X-Men 3 stunk on ice.

And I HATE prequels. The legacy of George Lucas and Jar Jar Binks lives on.

Another piece of ammo is the merchandising campaign. One piece of brummagem junk that is being pushed on kids (at $14.99 to $23.99 a pop) is the Wolverine Electronic Battle Claw (wow!). For your hard earned bucks your kid only gets ONE claw. What kid is going to want to be a one-clawed Wolverine?

Bob Dylan’s new album, “Together Through Life” is out. Bob, (or Robert to your mother), you’re a great songwriter but you’ve never been any great shakes as a singer. This album reaffirms that fact.

Lastly, but not least, the series finale of Battlestar Galactica – major disappointment. In my humble opinion the series jumped the shark early in the third season and after the “Planet of the Apes” – style ending of the first half of the fourth season I stopped watching. So I missed the second half of season four except for the series ending. I didn’t miss much. And the finale had more WTF moments than Cylon models. Let’s see, Col. Tigh’s wife was the 12th Cylon, the Colonials go “back to nature”, Baltar walks off scot-free, Starbuck is an angel, and that’s just the beginning of the jackassery.

This has been a public service announcement.

Dragonball: Evolution, I’m siding with creationists on this one…

Like many other adults by chronological age only, I would really like to see a live action version of this:

But, when I heard that 20th Century Fox Studios was going to try, I didn’t have high expectations. I thought maybe it would suck and yet would still be kind of entertaining.

I was wrong. It sucked and it wasn’t even entertaining.

Continue reading Dragonball: Evolution, I’m siding with creationists on this one…

WATCHMEN: There must be some kind of way out of here

Watchmen

Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message.” If that’s true, in the case of Watchmen the message should be, “stick to your medium.” Because if you haven’t read the book, don’t waste your time. If you’re reading this I’m not going to belabor the backstories of the graphic novel and the movie directed by Zack Snyder. In the event of an emergency the oxygen masks will deploy from the overhead compartments. And Awaaay We Go!

First the good. The visual effects are probably the best literal translation of the comic book panel since the “ZOK!” superimposed over the fight scenes in the 1966 Batman TV series.

Second the bad. The acting is atrocious. Defendant number one, Malin Akerman. I’ve seen particleboard with more emotive ability. There is a scene of coitus superherois between Akerman and Owl Man (Patrick Wilson) in the Owlmobile that I think is the sole reason Akerman was hired. And Wilson displays all the depth and range of paint drying. Mathew Goode, the anti-hero hero is right up there with gypsum board. The rest of the cast is burdened by makeup that they cannot overcome with their limited abilities (acting, not superhero).

Next the ugly. The absolutely gratuitous, pointless violence with compound fractures and blood squirting captured in glorious slow-mo close-ups a la The Matrix to inspire the next generation of Gary Ridgeways whose parents are too lazy or too damn dumb to know that an R rated movie like this is inappropriate for kids under 18. (It really should have been rated NC-17, not R). And did we REALLY have to see multiple shots of Dr. Manhattan’s MIRV?

Now the blasphemous. They changed the ending – and it was better!

Finally the point. Watchmen was a originally drawn and written as a graphic novel and is a master of that medium known as “panel art” to the Upper West Side (Dr.) Manhattan crowd and “comic book” to the Great Unwashed. While individual scenes and sequences may have been translated literally (or as best as possible) to the moving image, it is simply impossible to take an art form which is a stationary medium and translate ALL of it literally to the moving screen without the result resembling Rorshach’s ever-changing blobular mask. – in other words a confused, incoherent mess.

The bottom line. Contrary to the fanboys, film students, and critics, Watchmen is NOT another Battleship Potemkin (let alone Star Wars). However it is NOT League of Extraordinary Gentlemen either. It is an interesting failure. Should you spend your hard earned $7.50? Only if you can see it in a theater with five other people like I did. Wait for the dvd. The theatrical version, not the “special director’s nine millionth edit” release they are planning. Cuz crap with a cherry on top is still crap. But it’s not TOTAL diarrhea. Confused? So am I. Said the joker to the thief.