“Spectres call it Citrus Blue, I call it the doorway to oblivion.”

by Matthew Edward Hawkins

In this post:
1. stuff over the weekend, mostly stomach aches, and wrestling, and parties, and chiptunes, oh my!
2. plus stuff that arrived in the mail
3. the greatest film that most of us will never have the pleasure of seeing, sadly
4. there’s a new comic con coming to town
5. and a video game mixtap

My, What A Small… Bear

This past weekend was another busy one! Had plans on Friday night of hitting Rocketship for the release party of Dave (Roman) and Raina’s X-Men: Misfits manga. Unfortunately, that never happened due to…

Now, even though I graduated from the School of Visual Arts with a degree in cartooning (quick aside: recently touched base with Mia, who just moved to the SVA dorms over the weekend, and when I remember that the degree she’s going for is the same exact one I nabbed exactly ten years ago, I start to feel rather old), I hardly consider myself a real-deal cartoonist, mostly since video games has obviously become my primary forte. But I still hang with plenty of folks who make them, plus I do have UNLUCKY under my list of credits. Though most important of all, I suffer from the one primary health related annoyance and ailment that so many others who draw funny books suffer from: irritable bowl movements.

Not to name any names, but let’s just say that the vast majority of cartoonists I know seem to suffer from it. The reasons are numerous, and perhaps obvious, since a cartoonist’s lifestyle is not usually known for it’s healthy attributes. Though the funny thing is, even the ones that lead an existence that is relatively devoid of crap food and filled with exercise, still suffer from it. Often or not, this attempt at well being is usually one of necessity, to counteract poor behavior in the past that has finally caught up. Also, there’s quite a few similarities between cartooning and being a writer in general; two immediate examples that comes to mind is how it’s just not very healthy just sitting there and hunched over a desk or drawing for long periods of time. Another example is all the stress that comes with the territory, primarily when it comes to wondering if and how one’s bills will be paid for that month.

Anyhow, that’s precisely why I was grounded for the evening. But since it was a Friday, I figured that at least it would afford me the chance to catch some wrestling, which I often don’t get to indulge in since I’m usually out and about that night. But there was a stupid baseball game going on instead, despite the fact that it was also raining that evening! Oh, speaking of, just started reading The Death of WCW, and as promised, it’s a fantastic read… provided if you’re into such stuff. Co-written by Bryan Alvarez, who runs the Figure Four empire. Hey, remember when I was their video game correspondent for all of one week? Unfortunately, any full-time commitment was passed in lieu of some 14 year old kid named Jeremy who was kept around because he was so hysterically atrocious on the air, since it translated to an unintentionally entertaining podcast. So honestly, no hard feelings.

During dinner with my friend Kim earlier in the week (this was the same night in which I made such an ass of myself while attempting to play Rock Band in front of a packed bar, as noted last time), she asked me what my literally equivalent of junk food was. For her, it was crappy teen fantasies, like Twilight and the like (no offense to fans of the series btw), and for me, it’s anything related to professional wrestling. Believe it or not, there is plenty written out there about the behind the scenes life trials and tribulations of dudes that get half naked in order to “grapple” each other in the middle of nowhere for $25 bucks a pop (sometimes less). Again, I’ll never understand why fellow cartoonists don’t dig wrestling, since most are simply Marvel dorks that simply went the extra step of donning spandex to fight evil (or good) instead of just leisurely spinning tales. But I could go on about this for way too long…

Because my digestive tract was okay the next day, I was out and about all Saturday night. Had not just one but TWO parties in Long Island City to attend, which among other things was totally convenient, at least the sound of it; didn’t realize till the day of that both locations were fairly spread apart from each other. First there was Josh’s BBQ bash at his apartment and then Jason Cipriano‘s birthday get-together at the new beer garden (I’ve yet to hit the original or old one in Astoria, pretty close by Hilary’s). Original plan was to hit the party where all the food was at first, to stuff my face, and then go to the one where all the booze was flowing, which by this point I’d be more than able to absorb the copious amounts of booze. Note: I’m well aware of the possibility that such a lifestyle might have something to do with my gastrointestinal woes. But since the MTA loves me so much, that plan was thrown out the window, so the beer garden had to be my first stop. But in the end, it all worked out and had a great time at both shindigs, with the primary highlight stemming from Josh’s, since I had no idea beforehand that he was pals with this one dude that I used to work alongside with back at Ubi Soft New York. The good old days were recounted, naturally. I was also happy to hear from both that my attempts at derailing the highly obnoxious and all around retarded Save Union Square Twitter feed had not gone unnoticed!

Couldn’t stay long for either party unfortunately since I also had a chiptunes show in Manhattan to catch, the latest Pulsewave, mostly to witness Dave (Mauro)’s LazyTown animated gifs that were going to be part of someone’s visuals. Once again, thanks MTA for making me just miss it. At least I got there in time to finally see Touchboy in the flesh, a guy I’d been dying to witness live for practically forever now, and who was pretty fantastic! I also was there to hear the big news: Blip Festival 09, New York City edition, was going down this upcoming December 17-20! Like many others, I had wondered if there would be one this year, considering how Blip Festival Europe had just taken place.

The show also provided me with the chance to pick up the just recently released Blip Festival 2008 live double CD

… Truth be told, haven’t had a chance to fully dig in yet, but thus far, it’s all kinds of awesome. I’ve said it time and time again that the only way to truly listen to chiptunes is live, so this is the truly the next best thing. Plus, since I missed most of this past year’s line-up, I’m finally able to play catch-up.

For a while I had assumed that there was going to be another DVD release; the first two Blips had concert movies produced from them, but have yet to check those out either. Mostly because I’ve been told to not be in any real rush, due to the questionable audio quality for at least one of the releases, which I’ve also been told is not the fault of the film’s producers, who are fine people, so I totally believe it… stuff like that just happens. But thus far, I can attest to jaw-dropping quality of the audio on the CDs. Well, at least the first one. I really love it when traditional instruments are mixed with Game Boy/NES/whatever chip sounds, but 99.99% of studio productions sound awkward at best. But at long last, I can finally listen to Graffiti Monsters and Anamanaguchi properly on my iPod!

Hey, guess what also finally showed up in my mail earlier that afternoon? My Persona 4 Teddie statue from National Console Support! And it’s…

… Much smaller than I expected. Oh well, still nifty nonetheless. And truth be told, given how overcrowded my collection of figures has been become, smaller is better.

I forget if I’ve mentioned KidSamurai before. Drozdal, just another one of the fine fellows who frequents the forums, gave me the heads up on them a while back, in response to my constant bitching about how the very best Uniqlo UTxJapan Game shirts were solely for Japan. It was thanks to them, I was finally able to get my hands on the totally fab Tekken tee earlier in the week…

… And the even awesomer Virtua Fighter design!

… I just hope they fit. As some folks might already know, there’s now zero consistency when it comes to Uniqlo’s shirt sizes, which has naturally led to quite a bit of frustration.

Back to the weekend: on Sunday I went out to Queens yet again, over to Hilary’s for… what else? More Zeta Gundam! But before that, we watched some YouTube videos, and that’s when I introduced to her (as well as Hilary’s twin sister, who was hanging out with us, mostly cuz we had just ordered pizza) to the trailer for a “fake” GI Joe movie, which simply blew Hilary away and had her sibling literally running out the door!

The Director Of “69 With A 14 Year-Old White Homey While Smoking Illy In The Back Of A Blue Transam”

The trailer for what is actually something called Canzo Empyrean was first discovered sometime last year. I forget where I saw it first, or who introduced me to it… I think it was Katie… but the clip was definitely one of my favorites, enough to make it onto my top ten list of YouTube videos for 08. Though looking back, I have no idea why it only ended up in the number three slot.

I recently watched it again, and this time, began to seriously pay attention. Doing so allowed me to finally notice a few things, like how that fight scene on top of the Brooklyn Bridge (which by itself is pretty insane) has the World Trade Center in the background. What the hell, how long exactly has this thing been around or in the making? Other aspects that I had taken for granted were also finally coming to light, like how those scenes at the television news studio were actually shot at a real news set. I had already been impressed by it’s scope, but after repeated viewings… I’m talking fifteen, twenty times a day, minimum… the brilliance and insanity and spectacle of it all started to sink in. I soon became obsessed with the video. Hard not to, thanks to its intense imagery, which is all at once mind-blowing, haunting, and dare I say even beautiful? Like the very best of fever dreams…

… I can’t say without actually seeing the whole thing, but it does appear to be the Lord of The Rings of underground movies. Soon I needed more information, and thus the search began. Katie was the first to stumble across the official website, which can be best described as something akin to Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle, except far more down and dirtier, with lots more drugs, guns, violence, and S&M. Meaning its also far more daring and entertaining.

The plot goes something like this: Canzo Empyrean takes place in a not so distant future in which society has been ravaged by the AIDS virus. Already off to a crazy start, eh? The entire nation is in shambles as millions are suffering, which is where the terrorist organization known as the Bruxsa comes in. Thanks to their miracle cure, it sweeps the country by instilling a new way of life that’s strongly rooted in hedonism, based primarily upon former porn star turned philosopher Shammi Morrone’s masterpiece, The Philosophy Of Hot Tub. Eventually America is renamed New Circassia and is ruled by Destro, along with his bride the Baroness (the first two of the GI Joe references).

BTW, here’s a video that helps to set up the world before Destro’s ascension, referred to as P.D. or the Pre-Dynasty era, entitled Bletting The Medlars. Careful, not entirely safe for work, as well as flat out disturbing.

Returning to the story at hand: while everyone in New Circassia is living “a life of pleasure without consequences” as Destro utters in the trailer, things are not nearly as pleasant for it’s neighbors up north, the desolate and frigid Specter City, whose denizens don’t have it nearly as good in comparison. So I guess Specter City is all of Canada? The key figure here is Zartan (our third and final GI Joe reference), who is a foe of Destro’s going way back. He shows up in New Circassia bearing a vile of something called Citrus Blue, which I believe is a drug of some sort. It’s supposed to be a gift, but is ultimately the key of destroying utopia and Destro’s Hot Tub Empire, as well as empowering his own people. This incident I believe is also called the Mastabah To Megiddo.

Some background information on Zartan: in the late 80′s he lived in Washington Heights (which some might recall is where my current digs are at as well) under the name Hokito Broschiti, later shortened to Huka Brasi. There he did a lot of drugs and released a two song album called Parlor Magic…

… One of the songs tells the tale of a promiscuous girl and her hijinks that goes down at the Washington Heights Community Center Pool, which ends with her murder by the hands of Huka Brasi himself at an abandoned dog kennel, next to a bodega. Twenty bucks says that this place is very much real (will try to find out myself later this afternoon). The song also revealed the address where him and his crew pushed crack, as a means to attract more customers, which is already pretty stupid, but when a girl with the same name as the one in the song ends up dead in real life, the police was able to easily zero in on the perpetrators. Huka Brasi/Zartan ends up escaping up to the north, whereas the rest of his band, the Brown Brown Mistys, were not as lucky and were all apprehended. In case anyone’s interested, here’s the music video for the other song on the album, called Brine Guava, which was the only thing that the police found when they raided his apartment and is highly recommended for all you Billy Idol fans out there.

And here’s yet another video featuring Zartan called Kinolingus Erectus. I’m just going to quote what’s said on the Canzo Empyrean website here: “Kinolingus Erectus takes us deep into the sacred Xicafen sector of the Spectre City, where Zartan relaxes in a desolate Parlor while imbibing frosted mason jars of fresh Citrus Blue. A lustfully luscious lady-Spectre offers him pleaser in the form of “icy yoni, stinky sacs.” As Zartan suckles her fetid carapace, Destro’s elite chainsaw troopers silently assemble outside the dank parlor, preparing for his assassination.”

Got all that?

The clip is preceded with a brief message from the director of all this madness, but I’ll get to him in just a second. Next we have Chupacabra and his Three Sons meet Brundibar, yet another mesmerizing set-piece from the movie, in which we catch up with Destro in his old neck of the woods, Transylvania, where he’s withdrawn from his kingdom to study Zartan’s gift, that aforementioned vile of Citrus Blue. Though being away from home has left him vulnerable to hostility, which Zartan decides to exploit by passing along a pack of Dreadnoks his way, who I guess are wild and crazy mercenary types in the movie’s world. I suppose it’s hardly a shock that I love how it becomes all video game-y near the end.

The amount of detail and backstory is hard to wrap one’s mind around (hence a good portion of the appeal), but I’m doing my very best to put together the puzzle. I simply love all the little details, most of which is totally unimportant to the plot (I think), yet helps to realize this most of bizarre of bizarro worlds. Like how Spectre City is a massive hellhole, which in turn makes it a rough and tumble place that European hip hop artists have begun to idolize, hence why they begin to adopt Spectre aliases and fashion sensibilities, who in turn have developed a strong fan base in Japan. If one tries to remember that Spectre City might possibly be Canada, the comedy quotient is instantly tripled! One can also easily lost an hour or two simply sifting around the website, which is oozing with crazy blocks of incomprehensible text, even crazier audio and visuals, plus a recipe for pudding believe it or not. Be sure to check out both Destro’s and Shammi Morrone’s extensive bios! You’ll discover that the latter once directed a porn film called 69 With A 14 Year-Old White Homey While Smoking Illy In The Back Of A Blue Transam, which was so controversial… mostly because it starred a First Lady… that he had to flee to the East, where he mastered the art of tantric sex that in turn lead to the writing of The Philosophy Of Hot Tub.

One can even purchase Canzo Empyrean t-shirts, provided one is able to find the link; along the way, you’ll hear some legit crazy old street vendor telling jokes about parrots. Though I must say, I just picked one up, and have yet to get a confirmation email from PayPal, which is slightly strange and somewhat alarming.

Okay, I have no idea if anything I’ve outlined makes any like of sense, or more importantly, if any of it sounds remotely interesting. Time to move onto the director, Justin Fornal, otherwise known as Baron Ambrosia. His first real claim to fame is the creator of Underbelly, which later would become Bronx Flavor. The semi-popular video podcast/Bronx cable access program stars the Baron Ambrosia, a dude who can only be described as a Latino pimp crossed with Gary Oldman, as he seeks out bizarre and underground local cuisine, who also gets into all sorts of wacky adventures along the way. It’s actually lots of fun and definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re into ethnic eats.

There’s also some kind of Bronx-specific dating show that he’s apart of, but I have no solid info other than this trailer.

Here we have the first of only two interviews with Fornal that I’ve been able to track down. The author’s first taste of Baron Ambrosia was actually yet another personality of Fornal’s, Southpaw Sonny Dimples, who also seemed eccentric, yet still pretty happy go lucky and not at all crazy. I’m fairly certain the interview did had no idea that he’d be hearing about some wacky scene shot high atop the Brooklyn Bridge, for a movie that director would not divulge with the details. Though some important facts were revealed, such as how it had been in the works for about seven years, as well as how, much like the bridge scene, most shots were taken in completely off-limit locales in equally guerilla filmmaking fashion.

Over one year later, we have the second interview with Fornal, which offers some real insight into perhaps the greatest filmmaker of this modern era working today that absolutely no one knows about. The interview itself took place underground, in the New York City sewers, where Fornal detailed Canzo Empyrean’s world premier, as well as talked about his next film, which is a bio pic on the life and times of General Butt Naked. Plus he offered the interviewer raw meat to eat.

Back to the world premier, it took place in Liberia of all places. Why? The reasons are in the aforementioned interview, though you can see footage of the premiere here. It, like the film itself, is quite the head trip. From the YouTube’s page…

“Canzo Empyrean had its world premiere in Monrovia, Liberia on June 18, 2008. It was shown at approximately 20 small movie clubs. Movie clubs are basically village or neighborhood gathering places with a screen and DVD player that run off a generator. Canzo Empyrean is not a GI Joe fan film, it is a Destro and Zartan concept film. Destro is a Circassian nationalist and Zartan is a Chechen changeling. The second showing of Canzo took place beneath the Bronx, New York in a subterranean ball room June 17, 2009. The third and final showing has not yet been announced. The director has announced that following the showing the film will be destroyed. The only existing copies will be available for viewing in Monrovia, Port Au Prince, Grozny, and Mogadishu. Following the destruction of Canzo Empyrean the Chancellor aka Justin Fornal will return to Monrovia to start filming Butt Naked, a film about Warlord General Butt Naked. End transmission”

… When I first told Katie about Fornal’s plan about destroying the movie after it’s third and final “screening”, she simply laughed. But I dunno, I think this guy might serious.

The hardest part of putting all the pieces together has been sifting through all the inconsistencies and assorted bits of nonsense (or what appears to be nonsense, to be more precise). First, the quote from above cites a June 17, 2009 NYC screening date, which conflicts with every other source, which listed June 7, 2008. I’m already upset that I missed it’s one and only American viewing, but if it was actually far closer than originally thought, then I will simply cry. Then you have stuff such as this, and this, and this. I have no idea of what’s actually affiliated with the movie or what’s just the creation of fanatics. There’s also the meaning behind certain words and phrases; Fornal’s interviews have shed light on what “Canzo” exactly is, but there seems to be numerous meanings behind “Mastabah To Megiddo.”

At the end of the day, I just need to see this damn movie if I am to die happy or fulfilled. Which at this point seems like an impossible task. Unless I want to go to Monrovia or course. I’d love to track down the interviewer, since it would seem that he has a copy, but am no even able to find any contact info for that blog he writes for. Sure I could try to contact Fornal himself (God, I would LOVE to meet and hang out with that dude), but that seems almost too easy, if you know what I mean. As for the supposed destruction for such a wonderful work of art, perhaps it’s just another part of the enigma that Fornal has done such amazing job of constructing. Maybe once enough word of mouth buzz has been achieved, it’ll finally be dropped upon the masses. Or perhaps once all the statues of limitations are up, since much of the movie was filmed in illegal zones. In either case, I’m only doing my part for the cause to get the word out.

The Much Speculated And Talked About Brooklyn Comic Con Is Finally Here

Also via the forums over the weekend came word of an upcoming Brooklyn based comic con.

Now, ever since the debacle that was MoCCA Art Fest 09, local cartoonists been clamoring for an alternative. Hence why I ended up turning towards zine shows, and to great effect. It was at the last one, also held at The Brooklyn Lyceum, where I began to hear serious talk of a Brooklyn comic show. And I guess it’s finally here?

Initially, the idea sounded fairly inviting, mostly because the space turned out to be surprisingly decent. Truth be told, the Lyceum shared a few similarities with MoCCA’s space, in how it was similarly old and dusty, but the much smaller size gave it an air of intimacy, whereas the Armory’s vastness led to oppressiveness if that can be believed, akin to a large and ugly flea market. The vastly super AC certainly helped we all, and even though there wasn’t all that much natural sunlight, it still made a BIG difference. Plus, considering how myself, Katie, and Hilary were all passing on SPX, I figured this might be a nice little alternative, so I emailed the organizer for some information…

… Which arrived yesterday afternoon. And here are the rates:

“$200 for a six foot table, three chairs $250 for an eight foot table, four chairs
+$50 to be located along the perimeter with a wall display”

Yikes. It was then that I was once again reminded as to why the zine shows were such a success: the tables were comparatively dirt cheap. But seriously, fifty bucks for the right to hang sh*t on the walls? That’s a new one.

Spoke it over with the ladies, and we’re all in agreement that it’s perhaps best if we passed on this one, at least when it comes to exhibiting. Though we’ll certainly still be checking it out. But before I get lambasted for being overly negative (which again I find hilarious, because in this day an age, EVERYONE complains about EVERYTHING, I guess I must do it differently or something), for the record, I too want a viable alternative, but one that makes sense. One primary reason why MoCCA has become somewhat stagnant is the high price of entry that many beginners simply cannot afford. But even forgetting all that, making it so expensive right out of the game seems rather silly, especially when you consider how tiny this space is. And for those who have never been there, it’s very much on the small side.

I’m also curious how some of the other aspects will play out, such as the promised 8-bit gaming championship. Seems like a somewhat awkward fit, but hey… this is Brooklyn after-all. Those crazy kids.

The Video Game Mixtape

One last thing! I’m always happy to help get the word out on stuff that my friends are working on, and therefore wanted to pass along the latest blog entry from my pal Little Miss Gamer, one in which she has created a custom playlist for Tomb Raider.

Okay, first off, I’m a man’s man, though I primarily choose female characters in fighting games since, if I’m going to be staring at my characters ass for a good deal, let it be a woman’s. So you’d think I’d be all over Tomb Raider since that’s the king of staring at a girl’s ass: the video game. Yet I’ve never been able to deal with the tank like controls… which I understand has been fixed in recent entries, yes. Also, the music that Z has chosen to replace its soundtrack is not exactly my cup of tea… again, I’m a guy!

But she touches upon something that I’m a big fan of, or at least used to be, and that’s video game music. I’m one of those folks who believe the art of game audio died when the soundtrack was no longer being provided by the NES or Genesis sound chips, but by “real” instruments, starting with the Saturn and PSone. Never-mind that the audio being produced in games for those platforms also came from chips half the time, powerful enough at last to replicate actual instruments. But this shift in approach played well with games’ long rooted hopes and dreams to become something closer to movies, which the added benefit of polygons and extra storage via CDs also helped to reinforce. As a result, many soundtracks attempted to sound more cinematic, and as a result, excessively boring. My interest in the world of video game music took a heavy downturn as a result, and even worse was how some of the field?s brightest minds from before also lost their ways seemingly.

So the idea of selecting your own music for games is therefore a valid idea… depending on the game of course. If it’s general, orchestral crap like the stuff in God of Wars, I’m game. Though… and I hate to go there… but lots of titles from Japan, at least the ones I tend to play, don’t tend to suffer from this issue, since there seems to be an underlying similarity to the chip based soundtracks of old. Then again, I actually dig the Marvel vs. Capcom 2 soundtrack, so what the hell do I know.

… Though I am not at all interested in the official Marvel vs Capcom 2 Mixtape from Capcom. Sorry, stopped listening to rap in the mid 90s thanks to Puffy and all his nonsense.

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