lovehate: Video Game Nostalgia

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by joysticks, twitching drooling elated, dragging themselves past the neon signs at dawn digging for their last two-bits, angelhanded gamers tapping for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of lights.

Ever since I was a young boy, I played the silver ball, but, to be honest, I spent most of my formative years playing video games. I regularly haunted arcades in and around my neighborhood, and often neighborhoods far afield, just in order to get some quality pixel exposure.

I remember tapping a fire button twenty times for every shot on Taito's Space Invaders because there could only be one shot in the air at once. Similarly being engrossed in the camp lodge arcade near Bancroft, Ontario with Space Zap's quad-directional firing pattern until my eyeballs dried over and someone played Queen of Spades by Styx on the jukebox in the background. Hours spent at Queenston Mall playing Galaxian until the Food City got Galaga. Then over to Pepsi Pinball when aliens turned to insects in Centipede and Millipede.

I remember finally being able to master the the thrust, spin, fire buttons of Asteroids at Queen's Bowling as vector graphics spilled across the screen, but really having my mind blown with Tempest's spinning geometry and the ability to paint the playfield with fire.

I remember the advent of the trackball and consumption by the Xs and Os of Atari Football at Eastgate Square, soon to be brought to apotheosis by Missile Command's patriotic defense of the cities as bombardments of pixellated gravity-drawn destruction rained down from overhead.

I remember sneaking to the downtown Casino arcade for the side-scrolling savior status scooping civilians in Defender, eggs in Joust, Scramble's labyrinth of fuel tanks and rockets filling me with Flash Gordon moments of space warrior invincibility, and Zaxxon's faux 3-D angles of doom.

I remember several doors down, at the Palace, strafing, guns blazing from room to room blasting robots in Berserk and Robotron while exercising a finesse with bow and arrow in Venture.

I remember Gorf.

I remember fearing for my life at the Blue Lagoon Lounge all to stand in line for a yellow circle that didn't fire anything, but ate dots and was pursued by ghosts that looked like the McDonald's Fry Goblins prompting an onslaught of maze progeny that followed with Ms., Baby and Super Pacman, Mousterap, Ladybug, Dig Dug, and Mr. Do.

I jumped through carpal tunnels in Frogger.

I achieved transcendental states leaping barrels with Mario before he became the brand.

I travelled through the ages of Time Pilot.

I threw down the Gauntlet and it threw back.

I lived with Tron for half a year at 7-11.

I rented and stood in roller skates for hours on end, not because I enjoyed roller skating, but because Roller World had one of the best game selections in the city.

You can keep your Halo, Diablo, and Grand Theft Auto. Stop waxing emphatic about Wii Fit, Guitar Hero, and Call of Duty. I don't care if I ever hear another word about God of War, Final Fantasy, The Sims, or World of Warcraft.

Give me a quarter, a joystick, a fire button to mash, and a place to enter A J M when I get high score.

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thinglets: indie internet radio

If you are an indie music fan in Canada and you don't listen to CBC Radio 3 - shame on you!

If you're not Canadian, and have been missing out, do yourself a favor and check it out. If you click on the New Music Canada link at the top, you can stream songs from thousands of bands and solo artists covering a range of styles.

Radio 3 restored my faith in new music. You can check out my faves by searching gollamalloo under User Playlists.

CBC Radio 3

p.s. The crazy looking animal in the pic is called a "Bucky".

lovehate: Proprietary Overload

I understand that not everything in the world can be "open source" or boast complete compatibility.  The staff in the idea bunkers buried deep under the Apple, Microsoft, Google, Sony and Sun Micro cities look at the same crap, a thousand different ways, day after day trying to find the one little way they can make the same widget better than it was before - better, stronger, faster. And each time they find the little tweak that they believe may give them a market advantage, if not, at least, buy them a little more time before being relegated to Tech. Support Supervisors, the company lawyers write up a patent registration.

I remember one of the baffling frustrations of my childhood was not being able to swap power cords from my Mattel Football to Merlin to Simon to Fabulous Fred. The voltages and milliamps and plug sizes were all different and one can simply not afford an endless supply of 9-volt batteries as a pre-teen.

Now remember, I get why, on may levels, this HAS to happen. I understand the economy demands some sort of intellectual property exist for companies to exist. That said, why the hell can't I get one USB cable that fits more than one cellphone and why won't my so-called "standard" 1/8 inch headphone jack (that I use on my Apple Nano) fit into the same phone?

Speaking of Apple, why do I need Firewire anyway when USB 2.0 works just fine for more stuff? I need Firewire because apparently a bunch of camcorder makers all got together and decided they liked the smaller form factor of the Firewire socket. Sure, Firewire was plenty faster than USB 1.0, but hasn't USB won the VHS/Beta war? I honestly don't even care which one is better - I just don't want to have to buy both!

But Firewire/USB doesn't even begin to approach the Memory Card debacle. It's not enough to just have one or two types, but every device I buy is open to a litany of options that ALL DO THE SAME THING! Is it CompactFlash Type 1 or 2 (and is there Microdrive or Wi-fi in there)? Is it Memory Stick  or Memory Stick PRO or Memory Stick Duo or PRO Duo or positive sickening-sounding DRM-laden MagicGate (thanks Sony, you heartless bastard purveyors of proprietary nonsense)? How about the MMC Multimedia Card in Regular, Reduced and Mobile? Maybe it's SD (Secure Digital) in regular, Mini or Micro. Of course it could be SmartMedia or an xD Picture Card (type H or type M), but by this point I'm sharpening a Sony PencilCam and getting ready to stick it in my eye.

When I'm buying my new portable audio device, does it play mp3, aac, wma, ogg, flac, shn, monkey or real? Does my new portable video player decode DivX, XviD, H264, mov, mp4, mp2, vob, wmv, and flv? When I decompress downloaded music for my player, is it zip, pkzip, lz, rar, 7z, iso, bin, tar? And is the album cover image within the folder a bmp, jpg, gif, png, tiff, ai, eps, cdr, or pdf? Of course, in a software universe, everything can be converted, but it would be nice if I didn't have search through virus-bloated warez to execute such a transformation that didn't involve command-line structure with seventeen switching variables.

Enough already! Everyone's taken their little slice of the pie and the Double R Diner is closed. I'm going to watch some Flash streaming of the Olympics... wait, what the hell is Silverlight?

Proprietary overload - HATE it.


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thinglets: Elliott Smith

While I don't mind Elliott Smith, I love this critical rip of one of his CDs even more:

"Elliott Smith is known best as a purveyor of sad-bastard music, a reputation he established right away on his gorgeously downbeat 1994 solo debut Roman Candle. But Smith also had a slyly humorous side, which he exhibits on the closing instrumental "Kiwi Maddog 20/20," a languid surf-y tune that wouldn't be out of place playing over the credits of a Quentin Tarantino film. Which means "Kiwi Maddog 20/20" is totally out of place on a collection of depressing folk-pop songs, though after 30 minutes with Smith's quiet tales of desperation it's practically a lifeline."

lovehate: Acting and the Science Fiction Film

Let me preface this love hate. There are some great reasons to have and use special effects in science fiction films and television, be they make-up, sound, camera angles or computer-generated objects, backgrounds and characters. I enjoy seeing spaceships, phasors, impossible landscapes and situations as much as the next viewer. What I often regret, however, is the over-reliance on these visual and aural tricks of the trade to the point where they distract what should still be the prime mover of film and television: acting.

The blame can be easily spread around. While The Matrix received almost religious status among its eager audience, and I'll be first to admit it's an enjoyable sci-fi romp if not a thespian tour de force, the performances of Keanu Reeves and his fellow cast members were wooden at best. That said, who is to blame: Reeves, the Wachowski brothers, or the combined vision that placed all of the actors in environments where the effect became more important than the performance. While it's easy to name an actor for a bad performance, most of the time not enough blame is placed on a director for allowing it to get past the questionable take. In this case, I'm sure the prevailing vision of the Brothers on this film was more about creating an awe-inspiring world and letting it drown out the less than inspiring performances.

I don't mean to pick on The Matrix or poor Keanu, but science fiction seems plagued with characters that are intentionally "stoic" (for lack of a better phrase) and the conspiracy theorist in me is convinced that it's far easier for a director to allow an actor to play emotionless monosyllabic heroes. Story gets told through atmosphere and set more than acting performance. While this model has provided for some spectacular films, am I just nit-picking in thinking that the best of both worlds is possible?

The dependence on visual effects cannot help but adversely impact an actor's performance. Actors are used to reacting to other people and physical sets, but when a director asks them to pretend an alien or robot is ten feet away by holding up a ball on a stick, and, oh, by the way, you're standing in a radioactive war zone that is currently being represented by a green screen and... Action!

It is for this reason that many accomplished actors (and by accomplished, I'd rather think revered as opposed to prolific) are loathe to accept roles in science fiction films unless trying to re-establish a career. Maybe part of this comes from the fact that even when an established director makes a science fiction film, they are not necessarily familiar with the genre. I would imagine, through common sense more than any practical experience, that in so much as some A-list actors will clamor to work with a Scorcese, Spielberg, Coppola, Soderbergh, the Coen Brothers or even Woody Allen, the opposite must be true for directors who do not come with such noteriety. Which actor would be breaking down doors to work with a relatively unheralded Irvin Kershner, even though his direction provided for IMDB's #1 science fiction film and #9 film of all-time: The Empire Strikes Back.

I can watch almost any sci-fi, good or bad, because my expected level of suspension of disbelief is always so high that I can tolerate any deficiencies in acting that often slides under it. This, however, seems the prominent reason that the genre seems devalued by critics and award academies alike.

While I could never say that I hate the genre, I do hate that (but for a few shining examples) some of the greatest sci-fi stories ever told include some brutal performances by actors and "cut and print" choices by directors.

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thinglets: word association poetry game


1) Either by one or two words, but as little as a syllable, create a common idiomatic usage, expression or cultural link (pop or otherwise) from one set to the next.

2) Do not take more than one turn in a row.

The poem starts like this...

Blue moon river runs through it sucks to be you can't touch this love has taken its toll bridge ____________