June 2005

06/24/2005

Gone Fishin’

by Matthew Hawkins

So yeah, as I said before, I’m pretty burnt out. Scratch that, make it totally burnt out.

I am so friggin’ tired and exhausted (and thusly grumpy as hell) that I need a vacation, which thank God I’m finally getting; I’m taking all next week off from SVA. Plus, with the exception of a few that I already commited to, I’m also giving various freelance jobs and side projects a rest as well.

So what’s the plan for next week? Aside from catching the rest of the Asian Film Fest, going to Coney Island for the first time all year (for the Mermaid Parade), and celebrating the 4th, I’m doing absolutely nothing except sleep and play video games (I don’t know which two days it will be, but there’s definitely going to be a solid 48 hours somewhere dedicated to holing myself in my bedroom for non-stop game playing, with only sleep and bathroom breaks, plus time to cook hot dogs on the grill).

Though I still can’t ignore the fact that I’ll have an even bigger mountain of things to waiting for me afterwards. If was suggested as a joke not too long ago by Jason that I get an intern, to help with the more menial tasks (like transposing interviews that I’ve done, or just spell and grammar check my journal entires) and it was brought up again, but this time I’m seriously considering it. And the funny thing is that I already know two folks who’s already interested!

Though I’m certain that I can’t offer college credit, which is gonna be a deal breaker for sure…

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06/23/2005

The New Godzilla Flick: Movie Of The Year

by Matthew Hawkins

So I’ve been seeing lots of movies lately, thanks to the Subway Cinema Asian Film Fest…

SURVIVE STYLE 5+

This film from Japan has five different groups of folks, each with their own story, intersecting and converging throughout: a man who can’t seem to kill a silent (and indestructible) woman, three young burglars that have to deal with burgeoning homosexuality, an ad executive whose genius goes unrecognized, a hardworking loving family man who takes his family to a popular hypnotist that turns him into a chicken right before he is killed by a pair of assassins and is then permanently stuck as a bird, and finally the two aforementioned killers, one of which is Vinnie Jones, British soccer hooligan/actor extraordinaire who goes around jabbing people with tiny dagger from a black purse that has a skull and crossbones and is completely covered in glitter. But of course, its much more than just all that.

Like all new wave Japanese flicks, the story is absurd, yet grounded, the editing and pacing is light and fast, yet never overwhelming, the characters are characters, but still entirely relatable and sympathetic, the soundtrack has plenty of Japanese punk and wacky sound effects, and while the things drag a tiny bit near the end, the film never outstays its welcome and you just feel really good in the end.

Its really one of those films that you instantly know is awesome, but you’ll have to see six more times to truly understand why.

THE LATE BLOOMER

Wow…. trust the Japanese to make a movie about a drunken, angry handicapped guy that goes around killing folks cuz he can’t get laid and make it boring as fuck. And yet, even though I really didn’t enjoy myself (and I know MK felt the same exact way), I’m still really glad I saw it (and MK feels the say way too).

It’s challenging to say the least; to watch a guy with cerebal palsy go nuts because he hates the world for an hour and a half is a real job and a half, but the director knew this and made it his job to make the view feel so uncomfortable at times to get his intended messages across. At first I was really bothered by the fact that the main character kills off such an interesting and like-able friend of his early on, but I guess that was part of the whole point.

Adding to the effect is the fact that it was shot on video, then transferred to film, and then made into black & white. Plus it’s obvious that the director is Chris Cunningham fan. I also have to add that the music was fucking insane, and very awesome, which is this experimental hybrid of noise and chiptunes. Plus the last shot in the film might be one of the most satisfying moment in a movie, at least for me personally, that I’ve seen in a very longtime.

GODZILLA FINAL WARS

I mean this with total seriousness and sincerity when I say Godzilla Final Wars is one of the greatest things ever. The film’s producers have claimed that this will be the last Godzilla film ever, and I must say, it will be nearly impossible to top it.

Even though I’ve been a huge Godzilla fan since all my life, even I have to admit that 99% of the films are not that great; they’re almost all rather dull and rather unsatisfying. This one completely fixes all that.

Real quick story: when the festival was announced, I was literally checking the Subway Cinema every fifteen minutes to ensure that I would have Godzilla tickets. When the chance finally arrived, I got two, one for me and the other for Jason, who’s easily the biggest diehard G-fan that I know off. Later when MK said she wanted to go, I was afraid the movie was all sold out and it was. But when thankfully, the nice folks at Subway Cinema was awesome enough to provide me with a complimentary ticket! I guess they saw that I had spent over $130 on the festival and figured I was worth. But yeah, thanks! MK loved the movies just as much as Jason, and she’s a total novice when it comes Godizlla; it was that good.

I could write a whole thesis on the brilliance of the film, but instead, here’s a list of why the movie rocked so goddamn much…

- Total non-stop action. Seriously, the fighting, the destruction, the kung fu… it just wouldn’t end, and it never once got old.
- Then there’s Godzilla himself (or is it a she? I forget), who was in top form, doing what he does best, beating the tar out of other monsters, about 11 in total, including some of this all time greatest foes. Plus there’s mind controlling aliens!.
- The American Godzilla makes an appearance as well. Whereas Godzilla and the rest are all in good old fashioned, giant rubber suits, the way God intended, Godzilla USA is the only one to be in CGI (of a shitty quality, on purpose of course). And just to see his ass getting handed to him by the real deal was in itself worth the price of admission.
- You know how in every Godzilla flick, the human story is just an annoying time filler. Not this one; I was actually entertained and interested in what the people were doing!!!
- Speaking of the people, the highlight was easily Don “The Predator” Frye. I guess it helps that Jason and especially myself are huge fans of his Mixed Martial Arts work, but the guy was just awesome in film. He wasn’t in it for just five minutes, he was easily one of the stars, with great one-liners and a super cool huge hat.
- Plus the human (well alien really) bad guy was also totally awesome. Just the right mix of pure evil and camp. And the hint of Billy Zane certainly didn’t hurt either.
- One of the very best moves that Toho, the folks behind Godzilla series, did was getting Ryuhei Kitamura, who’s super hot right now in Japan, to helm the movie. He’s like the perfect combination of Ang Lee and Sam Raimi, so just think of the fighting from Crouching Tiger, plus the wackiness of Evil Dead, plus rubber monsters and you have this movie. Plus like all Kitamura flicks, there plenty of wanna-be Matrix fighting and action, but easily outdoes it inspiration.
- Final Wars is meant to be a homage to all the classic films, so almost every element, but especially the story, is like bits and pieces from the ten best Godzilla films all tightly compressed into one. Those who are new to Godzilla will easily enjoy themselves, but the hardcore types will wet their pants to every little loving detail.
- The music was awesome, and again a tribute to the classic flicks, with a 70′s butt rock soundtrack, courtesy of Keith Emerson (formerly of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer). Though there was also a super hot techno remix of the original Godzilla theme.
- Fuck, even the beginning title sequence kicked ass! Thanks to the genius of Kyle Cooper; Toho really went all out this time around.
- All that, and Mothera, and Godzilla’s kid. Nuff said.

… But yeah, see this movie the first chance you get.

BATMAN BEGINS

I took a break from the Asian Film Fest to finally catch the new Batman last night. And while the first Tim Burton flick will always be a sentimental favorite, there’s no denying that this new one is the best big screen Batman adaptation ever. Its finally nice to see the pissed off, totally mental at times Batman in a movie; I still say that Michael Keaton’s cool demeanor was extremely effective, but Christian Bale totally dialed in the character.

Speaking of, just damn near everything was top-notch, but it was the superb cast that really made the movie, especially Michael Caine’s rendition of Alfred. And Gary Oldman as Gordan is the very definition of brilliant casting.
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I’ve been so busy this past week that I haven’t had the chance to surf the web and see what’s going on in games. But Nintendo was in town a few days ago, so I got to try out their new offerings…

- The first thing I picked up was the Game Boy Micro, and I gotta admit, it was not as hard to handle as I thought. The new screen is super crisp and nice, but that’s entirely due to it being so small, which was not that difficult to play with. And while the system is still playable with only a tad bit of discomfort, its still uncomfortable nonetheless, and I have fairly small hands for a guy.

- Finally got the chance to play the new Zelda game. It played awesomely, as expected, but sorry, I’m still not a fan of the art style. Don’t get me wrong, its very pretty…. and rather generic. I really hopes it sells a billion copies so all those bitching about the Wind Waker look can finally shut the fuck up.

Anyway, I played the one demo level that was featured at E3, where you’re riding horseback and fending off baddies, and it sure as hell was more enjoyable than sailing around in a boat.

- So I finally got to play Meteos, and I’m afraid what everyone has been saying is true: if you actually try and play the game, its pretty hard, but if you just wildly scratch the screen you’ll do really well. And Dave laughed when I told him the game was originally inspired by the show 24.

- I got to watch the Dance Dance Revolution Mario game in action. I think I might have been the only in my Nick Mag crew that dug the music, though I’m a sucker for old school Nintendo tunes, so no big surprise there. But the game really does have “jump the shark” written all over it. Plus, the DDR games all feature totally psychedelic stuff happening in the background, while this one just has Mario gettin’ jiggy with it. Eh…

- Yet Mario Baseball still looks pretty awesome. And the Mario soccer game that I played was not that bad.

- Tried out Kirby Canvas Curse, which everyone has been gushing about, and I just couldn’t get into it. And again, this is why the best thing about the DS is also one of the biggest negatives: some games you just can’t pick and play, you have to really know what to do beforehand and learn it, and I just couldn’t figure out what to do.

- Unfortunately, Animal Crossing DS was not on hand…

- But thankfully, Nintendogs was, and I can say with confidence after playing it that I now have to get a DS.

…. But like I said, I haven’t really been keeping up with things for the last few days, so I’m totally out of the loop. Though between some things late last night, I did come across a site that shows you how to set up Super Mario question blocks in your neighborhood.

Also, during dinner before Batman, MK gave me a Mario pixel bottle cap which came out a while ago in Japan, from a store she came across while getting a haircut. So I had her take me to it and I got another, once plus Mario pixel magnet for the fridge at home, and another Mario stage scene. The store is JP-Gift, and is on St. Marks, between 1rst Ave and Ave. Its a small little shop, but they have lots of cool stuff; be sure to check it out if you’re in NYC.

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06/17/2005

Days Of Futures Past

by Matthew Hawkins

- Now that MoCCA has passed, with the result being a new mountain of comics to keep me busy for the next several weeks (in addition to all the stuff MK had already lent me, plus a couple of books from previous shows that I never got around to reading), my mind is now on films.

The summer movie season for me is officially in effect, via the Subway Cinema Asian Film Festival, which kicks off tonight with Survive Style +5. Then later in the weekend I’m gonna try and catch Batman Begins if possible; I’ve been hot and cold about it since day one, but as a long time Batman fan, I have to see it. Though its gonna take more than it being just not directed by Joel Schumacher for me to fall in love it with (sorta how like Episode 3 fans have been far too forgiving just because it’s not as bad as the first two new episodes).

- On Wednesday I caught Howl’s Moving Castle, the latest Miyazaki flick, and as much as I really wanted to like the film, I just couldn’t. The animation was stunning, no surprise there, but the story made zero sense, and everything, though especially the characters, were all just a colossal mess. I was totally into the movie up until the 50% mark, but things just went all screwy. At first I was fine with that, and even found the confusion enjoyable (which is a common trait in most Studio Ghibli films actually), but near the end I just couldn’t make heads or tails of what was going on, or why characters were doing what they were doing. Hell, there was one aspect, which I guess I could go into later but won’t right now since its a major plot-point, was distinctly un-Miyazaki like.

And the bottom line is if you have a story driven by characters who are afflicted by, in this case, a curse, which drives their motives and actions, and in a very specific manner, but then it all gets dropped, then I’m sorry, I’m going to not only feel disappointed, but even insulted a tad bit.
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- If you head over to Gamasutra, you’ll (finally) find my interview with Eric Zimmerman. Its a good read for anyone interested in the state of game degsin, game academia, and New York dev scene, straight from one of the key figures himself.

Also, not sure how long its been on the newstands, but the current (July) issue of Tips & Tricks has my photos from the Nintendo World Store can be in the Collector’s Closet.

- On a side note, I was at the store the other day and they do not sell component cables for the GameCube as I had been led to believe (son a bitch). I just got component hook-ups for the PS2 and everyone was right, it looks incredible. I’ll probably get Xbox cables later this afternoon.

I got the PS2 cables yesterday at Circuit City, and while strolling through the game section while not looking for anything in particular, I came across… and immediately snatched… Space Raiders, a game which I have to assume almost no body knows about. Its a fun next-gen rendition of Space Invaders by the folks who created it actually. Plus its apparently super rare so I guess I could make a handsome profit from it if I ever tire of the game.

And real quick, I finally played God of War earlier this week as well, and everyone was right about that game was well; its fucking incredible! Though if its as hard as everyone says, I’m worried…

- But the real big video game news this week, at least for me, is that a new Genesis game is coming out soon. Seriously. It’s called Beggar Prince and its an old Taiwanese RPG that’s being translated by the folks from the homebrew scene (the folks behind Super Fighter actually), and its even going to be released on a 4MB cart!

Truth be told, I’m not that big a RPG guy, but hey, it’s a new game for the Sega-fucking-Genesis.

Also, here’s a site that features all the various ways that people have played around with the Sega logo in the beginning of Genesis games. Plus check out this video which pays tribute to Sega.

- Meanwhile, Sega has just introduced a new community site called Sega Link in Japan. It’s basically a social network hub that allows members to play simple parlor games and a few PC ports of Genesis, Saturn, and Dreamcast games.

Something like this is what Nintendo might (or certainly should) adopt in the near future, like for the Revolution. Afterall, Nintendo has had communities, or “clubs”, for years in Japan; when you buy games you get points towards some cool stuff like toys, shirts, and even special edition controllers, games, and consoles (like the very first Famicom edition GBA was). This kind of stuff is just perfect for Nintendo’s fans in America, who have been wanting something like Japan’s Mario Club or the Sega Link for years. I too have been registering Nintendo games forever for “nothing in return”…

Also on a semi-related note, many are hoping that Sega’s Genesis catalogue might also make it onto the Revolution as well. That would be indeed awesome.

- It’s been revealed that the new Sonic collection for the GameCube will have additional unlockable games. Streets of Rage has been confirmed I think, due the connection with the name (the series is called by the much cooler Bare Knuckles in Japan) and some other Mega Drive/Genesis game called Bonanza Brothers, which I’ve never played.

All I care about is Knuckles Chaotix making the package, and that’s it.

- Oh, and in case you haven’t heard, emulation on PSPs running firmware v1.5 is now possible. Most are having a ball playing old SNES games on the Sony portable. Its funny how the best thing to play on the PSP, if you do the work, is Zelda.

- Meanwhile Nintendo is also trying to give the whole multimedia thing a go with the Play-Yan, which allows the GBA and DS play movies and mp3s via a flash card. Last week Gamespot posted play test of the thing, and here ‘s a video from IGN of the unique humming bird/ guy with bathtub user interface (plus you’ll get to some really weird Japanese DS commercial in action).

- Something else DS related: I forget if I’ve talked about it before (I’ve been meaning to, but I always get sidetracked), but there’s a game in Japan that’s suppose to test our your brain (it’s literally called “Brain Testing” or something very similar) via complex math and logic puzzles. Well, I’ve managed to come across a video. People assure me that its a lot of fun to play; don’t bother trying to watch it unless you were a fan of those education vids that try to explain algebra via motion graphics.

- Back to Sony, though not exactly game related, check out this amazing tech demo. Funny how it’s called the “Sony Revolution”, though I’m not sure if that’s the official name or anything. I could easily see something like this for the… say…. PS4? Maybe PS5 actually.

- The other big game news is that the insert credit forums is dead. Earlier in the week, everyone got an email from a hacker who informed us that the message board was hacked and destroyed (plus how he fucked our moms or something). Since everything single bit was wiped out, even the archives, things must start anew, so I guess the next iteration of the forums is currently being constructed as I type this.

Well this was obviously bad news; I know the place has a really bad rep and all, but I rather enjoyed it and found the ic forums to be a fun, and even on occasion, an intellectually stimulating alternative to places like the GAF and YayHooray. Though truth be told, and I know I’m doing the same clich?d, tired bit that every other ic veteran tends to say, but the place was getting a bit stale near the end, mainly due to inane in-fighting among certain diehard members. Though that’s not the only reason why I won’t be rushing to register when it goes live once more…
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Basically, I have a problem, and that is I’m becoming seriously burnt out. I’ve been so busy for so long, and have so many responsibilities, that its killing my enthusiasm and energy level, no matter what the task at hand. And this really sucks cuz I have some pretty potentially awesome projects going on right now, some of which I’ve worked very hard to get into motion in the first place. Plus I’ve become super flakey at following up on stuff and keeping contact with friends and associates. So to those of you who are upset that I’ve been late with something or that I just haven’t written or called back, I publicly apologize (though I’m certain that it affects almost no body who reads this site, but whateva).

And to deal with the stress and the malaise, I’ve developed another problem. And this is a pretty sad admission, though perhaps its not all that surprising, but I am in fact an internet addict. I spend way too much time online surfing, looking for “wacky sites” (which includes videos of people in awkard/hummilating/painful situations. foreign commericals, and robots fighting, plus pics of girls… yes I have a girlfriend, but I’m still a guy, and at least I admit it), but mostly going to message boards. I do it at work and I do it at home, even though I have so many other more important things to do at both ends. Its actually quite disgusting (and doing very little good for my health might I add), though its not so bad that it prevents me from doing work, but the fact that being online is a major component both helps and hurts.

Having a blog certainly makes my situation a bit worse, though I try my best to not spend too much time on it. Additionally, I try my very best to make it a worthwhile read and not whine about stupid shit like how depressed I am or drag dirty laundry into the public eye. And if I complain, I at least try to it a somewhat humorous fashion. But I still find them overall sorta dumb, and its both funny and sad when people take them too seriously. Hence why I rarely read any, even friends’; if I really wanted to know how they are doing, I’d rather ask them myself, and that’s the way it should be. And as I’ve stated before, the only real reason I do a blog is touch base with people that I personally don’t know. Plus it does a great job of attracting the attention of editors who have paying gigs.

So there you go, I somewhat have to be online a lot (what a ridiculous problem, huh?), which is one of the main parts of the problem. As careful as I am, such as not getting into stupid flamewars on fourms, I do occasionally find myself getting into the virtual dick waving contest of being the first to “discover” and introduce some wacky website for others. I mean, seriously, what’s the point? Am I that better a person for unearthing that strange video of Japanese woman doing aerobics with standing upright poodles? Okay, maybe poor example, but my point is that I’m becoming quite conscious of how much time I spend online and its not something to be proud of.

… Jesus Christ, I’ve written too much on such an inane subject; so is this my good-bye letter to updating this site and the internet in general? No, of course not, I’m not that stupid, or that strong either. Hell, I wish I could cut the internet cold turkey (just refer to reasons stated earlier). I’m just saying that I need a vacation, both from work and the internet, but since the latter isn’t that feasible, I’m going to at least try to cut back a bit. Hence why being free of just one forum, insert credit’s, is actually a blessing of sorts. I’ll definitely lurk there that’s for sure, but perhaps only that. I don’t know.

Maybe I should just cut down on message boards in general and just go back to what I do best: concentrating on finding stupid stuff created by furries.

- As for a vacation, where will I go? For a while I was thinking about going back home to Washington; my high school reunion is coming up next month.

The things is, I was not a popular kid in high school. I wasn’t a total loser or anything, I had a small group of close friends and was known (and generally liked) by various others social circles, but that’s pretty much it. Just another face in the crowd, more or less.

… Actually, I did assault this one kid in the middle of art class… he was a total tool that was giving a friend of mine a hard time, via the ol “nobody likes me, I’m a freak, so I’m going to make you feel super guilty for not dating me by pretending to be suicidal by forcing you to stay up all night on the phone with me” song and dance. Plus the guy plagiarized my artwork which promptly lead me to punch him in the face 13 times. I should know the exact number since it was all caught on digital video, which I used in a school project, and got an A! Did I mention that he had bow-leggism and was called “Crutch”? But anyway….

I moved to NYC right after high school to study cartooning, where I’ve been ever since. I went first back home about two years after heading east and was amazed by how everyone from school all of a sudden remembered who I was; seems word had spread about me going to “The Big Apple” But the bottom line was that most had not taken the initiative to pursue a higher education or follow what they wanted to do. Some went to community college or joined the Army, but most just stuck around getting high and working shitty 9 to 5 jobs, with the only goal in mind being to have enough cash to finance the next monster beer/pot party. So all of a sudden, I had become a celeb of sorts, and even the once popular folks who previous didn’t even know about me were asking me about NYC and the such. This would continue for the next few years. At first, it was a real ego booster; afterall, I was just a college student and still a no body really, yet I was getting all this attention. But after awhile, it began to get a bit sad and depressing, hearing these folks’ lives get worse and more wasteful. And now when I go back home, I avoid all the popular spots like bars and the like.

Which is why ten years later, I have zero interest in attending. Some suggest that it might be worth it for a good laugh, to see how far the popular folks really did fall, but that’s rather pointless in my eyes. Plus its ain’t worth the $400 I would have to spend on airfare, $60 on the reunion itself, and any extra costs associated with traveling. Though the biggest problem is that I don’t have a car, let alone a license, and would need folks to give me a lift, which would really make me feel as if I was back in high school. Anyway, I have my two good friends from back home that I stay in touch with, and that’s all that I need. Also, the one person that I would want to touch base with, Chicken Boy, is sadly dead.

- I was going to say that instead, I”ll just use the money on a variety of stuff, but then I realized that I technically already have, on a new TV, the Xbox, and a shitload of comics, games, and DVDs, so at least I know how to spend my vacation time.

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