12/24/2010

Nothing Saying Christmas More Than Furries Playing Super Mario Kart

by Matthew Hawkins

First of all, Merry Christmas everyone! Hope everyone’s enjoying the holiday, with loved ones ideally.

Right now it’s Xmas Eve and tomorrow morning I’ll heading out to Queens, over to Dave & Raina‘s, to drive out to Babylon, Long Island and to join the rest of my surrogate family in the holiday festivities. And since I’ve already had my fair share of Christmas NiGHTS, figured what the hell; why not an update?

And I know I’ve been kicking each entry off with the same basic sentiment, but man… these have been strange days. I’ll do a proper recap at the end of the year, though as most folks know by now that most of this summer saw me struggling to find a decent paycheck, then all of a sudden come the end of summer time, it finally happened.

Well, wouldn’t you know, all these freelance opportunities all of a sudden came out of the woodwork, and the situation was further complicated due to the fact that I started to become super involved in Babycastles affairs (as a good deal of the past couple of posts have illustrated). To the point that I actually had to turn down a good chunk of the offers, which would have been unheard of just a few short weeks prior.

As they say, it’s either feast or famine. And long story short, I am no longer a copywriter for an Orthodox Jewish video game accessory distributor in Williamsburg. No need to get into the dirty details, other than to say that the timing could not be worse, it being the holiday season and all. So all of a sudden I’ve been kicking myself for passing on all those gigs that I brushed off (and in one case gave a shot but ending up flaking off). Not that I could have foreseen the future and all…

Long story short, I’ve been jobless and poor in the past, even during the holidays, but it’s never been more aggravating as now for a number of reasons. Oh, also, for all you editors/project managers/all around movers & shakers, I’m available! My contact info is all over this site, but again, it’s matt at fort90 dot com.

Okay, enough whining. A ton’s been going down, and all I’ve really discussed have been the Babycastles parts. So here’s basically what’s been happening otherwise…

- As noted a few updates ago, I saw Pee-Wee Herman on Broadway!

And it was pretty much the most amazing thing ever. Seriously. I implore every diehard Pee-Wee fan out there… and I know there’s plenty reading this… to do whatever you can to witness this most magical of reenactments of one’s youth on the Broadway stage. It’s essentially an updated version of the original Los Angeles stage production from the early 80s, which is what basically got him his first bit of attention, including the eyes of movie executives that would green-lit Big Adventure, along with various elements from his subsequent CBS kids show. Added into the mix are a few minor elements from the aforementioned movie, and surprisingly enough, various contemporary elements, including a vague acknowledgement of his 1991 arrest for masturbating in public, which as we all know is what basically killed his career.

I’m not even going to bother describing the production in any real detail, other than to say it’s the Pee Wee that you loved growing up, in the living flesh, along with how the show’s exactly what you’d hope for in a live production of Playhouse from top to bottom, and is thusly absolutely brilliant in every which way. Though I guess it’s also worth mentioning that, with the exception of the original Cowboy Curtis and King of Cartoons, the original cast is back! Yes, that includes Miss Yvonne and Jambi the Genie! If you love Pee-Wee, FIND A WAY TO SEE THIS SHOW!!!

- The following weekend was the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival. Any local cartoonists can tell you what a hotbed of controversy the event was, and since it does me little good to broadcast my own two cents of the event, nor the dirty laundry that I’m privy too, especially so much after the fact, I’ll simply state that as one can already tell, wasn’t a fan of the show either. Yet I still went, since it meant my only chance to hang with Ryan, who was in town for the partial gathering of the Electric Ant Zine crew, though mostly work (which is top secret!).

Unfortunately, got to hang and bang with the guy a grand total of two minutes, and that was a real bummer. Though on the plus side, myself and Katie ended up spending the entire evening with Brandon instead, whom we ran into at the show! Afterewards, we took him to a fave Japanese eatery of ours and escorted him to the afterparty…

Which in itself was pretty… yeesh. The one thing I kept hearing from my friends was “Gee, when did indie comics become such a hipster-ish affair?” Anyhow, here I am with Ryan, right before his pals dragged off to check out Barcade, which they insisted on visiting. lulz. Here’s myself and Ryan, looking all demonic and shit..

Unfortunately, there weren’t too many folks at the shindig that the gf and I knew, other than the aforementioned pals, plus Syed and his lady friend. Which meant we were bored still and ended up checking out the possessions of the folks who lived there (it was a loft party… which was HUGE and therefore able to accommodate a ton of bodies). Here’s Katie holding up a tape of Get A Life, demonstrating that the hosts had impeccable taste in television!

And here’s Hilary, who showed up maybe five minutes before Katie and I decided to throw in the towel. I’m drinking this orange beer, the party’s sponsor, and gotta say, as far as free beer goes it was actually pretty damn decent…

- Back to the show, it was basically as lame as one might have expected. Though it wasn’t a total washout; got to meet Anna Koyama, who gave me a copy of the ultra fab LEPOS Bible…

It’s basically all about this long-lost side-scroller from the mid 90s, one that’s reminiscent of Metal Slug. Sorry to ruin the joke, but the game doesn’t actually exist, but the documentation certainly makes one feel otherwise. I wish I could have been for the launch event, seems like a real hoot!

… There’s even “footage” of the game!

- I also got to meet Johnny Ryan, easily one of my all-time favorite cartoonists, same with Katie. He?s also a big fan of hers as well, so I mostly just played the role of the bumbling boyfriend. Though there really is no cool way of telling someone that they really liked that one comic of theirs, where they made Iron Man shit in his own suit, or at least I came to discover first-hand.

On a related note, Katie recently ordered a limited edition print from Johnny, that we recently hung in our bedroom. It’s of the Lasagnanomicon…

- Back to the topic of showing out of towners around, Katie recently took me to a bubble tea shop that she stumbled across while hanging out with Adam when he was here for HEAVENLY SYMPHONY. All over the joint are Super Mario related items, like on the counter…

And above everyone’s seats…

I in turn was able to introduce Katie the splendors of this quiet looking coffee shop, in-between where Chinatown and Little Italy fight for dominance. The key feature is the place is where the toilets are located, in a scary part of the downstairs, which I affectionately like to call the “Silent Hill bathroom”. Unfortunately pictures do it little justice…

Later that afternoon, which involved lots of walking around SoHo, we swung by Kid Robot and found Rodney‘s PJ Berri, from PaRappa naturally, and Sweet Bancha, his girlfriend I guess?

Oh, and this here is totally not related to video games the least bit, just something I found while passing by some random gallery…

And another one from Chinatown…

… Some context for you non-New Yorkers; recently the city began to award restaurants letter grades, based upon cleanliness and the such. And the law states that you have to display whatever the final score is on the outside window. Virtually every place you pass by has an A up front; either it’s super easy to ace the test or those who haven’t decide its best not to embarrass themselves (given the abundance of positive scores, I’m betting on the former). I’ve seen maybe B ever, and here we have a C, bold and proud as the day. But hey, it’s Chinatown, so I guess this is hardly a shocker. Moving on!

- Back to out of town peeps, another pal that recently swung by NYC was Mike McWhertor! Here he is at Gawker shindig that I was invited to; unfortunately, even with a party going on, poor dude still had a posting schedule to maintain…

… And here we have Stephen Totilo, but the key feature of the photograph is the large wall of monitors towards the back…

… Get this; it shows every single post from all of Gawker’s various blogs that has been published in the past few hours, and how many folks are reading something at that precise moment, in real time! Totally nuts. Needless to say, there’s a good deal of pressure to make sure that as many folks are reading your stuff as possible, and at all times. I have no idea how Mike and Steve do it; so glad I don’t have that kind of pressure to deal with!

I should also mention how Steve would not let me leave unless I gave Bejeweled 3 a try (he had just filed a review for Kotaku earlier that afternoon and was thoroughly addicted). Guess what? The game is indeed awesome. Though I’m waiting or the iPhone version, thank you very much.

And here’s the following Saturday night, at Dave Mauro‘s place, where a gathering was going on. I brought Mike along with me, and here he is playing a classic Cave shmup while Dave & Joe go at it in Street Fighter 4…

… Across the living room we had Luke from Anamanaguchi striking a post as Peter tries to create a Xbox avatar of the dude…

- Back to Brandon, his stay in NYC was somewhat wacky due to the fact that he had to oversee the final weekend of IGF judging. And I was one of the lucky ones chosen to evaluate a bunch of titles submitted for the festival. Since all my scores have long been submitted (though I’m still working on the student portion at the moment), may as well mention that by far my favorite game was Record Tripping…

… I’ll pass with the explanation once again and instead simply direct any interested parties to here to play for themselves!

- Around this time, something totally incredible arrived in the mail!

… Anyone else out there nab a copy? It was pretty much a necessity for my DVD collection; aside from being a diehard Tim & Eric fanatic, I don’t have cable and therefore couldn’t catch the special when it originally ran at the top of the month. One thing worth noting is how you can easily tell how cheaply produced a DVD is by the stink of plastic inside. Had Cinco quality written all over it!

- This also showed up…

… Sorry if some other gaming blog has beaten me to the punch. Though (and I say this only because it’s a fact and one that I’m not thrilled with) mostl folks could give a rat’s ass about Earth Defense Force, which sucks, cuz the game is pretty rad. And as for this particular attempt at publicity, well, misrepresenting a game’s esthetics and needlessly tapping into taps does work often or not unfortunately.

- Oh, so Katie and I caught Tron Legacy on opening night. Sorry, but we loved it. Obviously I’m biased since I’m a diehard fan of the original. The thing that gets me about all the haters is how they don’t seem to realize that us Tron devotees are well aware of how the first Tron was not exactly perfect and were ultimately expecting little different with the sequel. Re: part one, you don’t have to be a genius to realize that there’s a serious issue when, even among its most ardent supports, everyone fast forwards twenty minutes in. Sure it would have been nice to get a thoroughly thought-provoking plot and completely coherent dialogue, sure, but that’s not what Tron is all about. It’s about the sights and sounds of being inside a computer, and I simply hoped for a two hour-long orgasm resulting from the audio and visual splendors, which is exactly what I got.

As for complaints that the new hotness looks too far removed from the original, it’s somewhat valid, yet also not. I personally am glad that the creators decided to go for a different look and feel. After-all, lightning never strikes twice and trying to re-hash and update the original’s aesthetic, which is akin to avant garde cinema from the Eastern European block circa the 50s as I like say, would have been retarded. I’m actually happy that the original light cycle makes an appearance under the new set of rule’s visual style. As for the music, I personally loved Daft Punk’s soundtrack. Okay, it’s not as ground breaking as Wendy Carlos’s, and is far less electronic/far more cinematic than expected, but I was never expecting another Homework or Discovery either, as everyone was expecting or something. As is, it’s fits the film like a glove and is an excellent listen after the fact, especially while doing work (as Hilary is more than happy to agree with).

It’s funny how the original had too much story, whereas the sequel has a bit too much, but that’s always the case with part twos. Clearly the best part is the whole Flynn versus his digital doppelganger, which thankfully is handled quite well. As for the young, virtual self looking not quite right, well, since he’s supposed to be digital, it can be completely excused, if not for the fact that he also appears in the real world at the very beginning. Oh well. On another positive note, it’s absolutely oozing with cute and totally hiding in the corner references to the original, and I suppose it’s also worth mentioning how it was the absolute greatest 3D flick I’ve ever seen. And I personally hate that noise, though it totally makes sense for Tron.

Why am I even breaking the film down? Either you were already interested and have already watched it, or are simply not interested. Though I will say that absolute best part is how it inspired Katie to get a cut similar to the hottie in the flick, Quorra…

Though the end result has her looking more like Fuuka from Persona 3…

Hey, no complaints here!

- Time for one last look at what just showed up in the mailbox. Something I’ve been waiting for a very long time; Shooting Gameside Volume 1, fresh from the printers from Japan, a digest-sized magazine/reference compendium that’s all about shumps!

That’s Hilary going through the pages and holding it for the camera, btw. Was nice enough to play the part of hand model (which is where most of this entry was actually written last night, during a booze fueled work and anime pow-wow) since the binding is ultra tight and I didn’t want to bust the spine. Mostly cuz this particular copy is actually a Christmas present for a pal! Anyhow, as you can see, it featured a heavy dose of in-depth, behind the scenes look at various shmups on the market today, along with a rundown of classic titles for the Famicom, PC Engine, and the like. It’s by no means comprehensive… guess that’s for Volume 2, which I hope there will be. Perhaps to coincide with the XBLA re-release of Radiant Silvergun? Here’s hope Thunder Force 4 manages to make a triumphant return as well… or at the very least a nice feature in the next issue.

You can nab your copy at National Console Support.

- Guess now might be a good enough time to wrap things up, but one last thing: I’ve already mentioned my New York City cable access Tumblr, and am hoping that most folks here will be following it via whatever means, either via Google Reader or the Tumblr Dashboard. So I’m not gonna spam this blog about that one too often, though my latest batch of screenshots from earlier today is somewhat relevant to these neck of the woods…

… Anyway, happy holidays!

  • http://samehat.blogspot.com ryan

    Oh nice, great to see that pic of us! I was super-shell shocked at the time from a long day of varying temperatures and random encounters. I echo your sentiments, was very bummed we didnt get any time to hang out properly! I blame college buddies, zine contributor obligations, and most of all.. those damn Canadians! :B

    I know it’s a bit of a ways away (and a pricey flight) but if you come out for IGF i will take you to my favorite korean restaurant in a converted garage right next to the ocean and through down some soju and shit-talk with you. hope it works out!
    //ryan

  • S.youth

    You wouldn’t happen to remember the tea shop do you?
    I’m always looking to go to new places to compare delicious taro tea.

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