Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Classic 8-bit Video Games and Post-Modern Kids

I recently got my wife to assent to letting the kids play some videogames at home - I have a bunch of games for myself, but she wanted to let them get fully proficient at reading first. I tend to agree, but I also want to play games with them! Our 7-year old, the oldest, is reading chapter books on his own, so he's good to go, but the other two are still 5 and 3 and it seems like a long time to wait. I'm waiting for the day when I can use them as an excuse to buy a Wii or a DS.

So the way I got my wife to agree was with two arguments. One, I said I'd only let them play classic, nonviolent games from the mesozoic era, like Pacman and Super Mario Bros. Two, this was during the LA fires and we were stuck inside all day because of the smoke in the air. My foot is firmly in the door now.

The great thing is, the kids love these classic games! I'm sure they'd love any games at all, but I think it's cool for them to get some exposure to the fundamentals - in the games that defined game genres, and experiencing that same kind of pixel-fueled rush that I did.

What I realized after playing "Vigilante 8" a long time ago with my oldest kid (he was sick), was that things that seemed intuitive to me in games were not at all intuitive to him. For example, a power-up: I explained to him that in order to repair his car, he needed to pick up a wrench. He said "pick up?" I said you need to drive through it. (The wrench is floating in the air, rotating slowly.) He didn't understand what I meant at all. I needed to explain that when you drive "through" that particular object, you "pick it up."

That's when I thought to myself, how do I know this stuff? Games have always had power-ups, right? Wrong. Pacman taught me how to pick up a power-up. The big dot makes you big! The little dots give you points.

So how do kids today learn about videogame conventions without playing simple, classic arcade games? I guess they figure it out somehow. But I think my kids will have some fun and gain some appreciation for how awesome games are today by playing the classics of yesteryear. Maybe they'll even prefer them.

(I should mention this as a disclaimer: my dad turned me on to the Marx Bros, WC Fields, old cars, bluegrass music, fishing and countless other things that most kids my age didn't know about. I think this is a good strategy, although it may lead to disappointment in the latest piece of crap from Disney or whatever.)

The Republicans say "War On!"

My 7-year old brought this home from school recently. It's his idea for a band name and logo. I think it's pretty damn cool! I mean, I'd buy that album! The California state flag is a nice touch too, very DKs.

Funny though, this was making me think about the decisions I impose on my kids' information intake. We're pretty conservative when it comes to TV, movies and videogames, but we certainly don't hide the newspaper. They ask us what we're talking about, and we tell them. And when it comes to pop culture, I try to turn my kids on to the stuff I like, because I don't want to be subjected to Barney, The Wiggles, or endless Disney tie-ins. My kids listen to the Ramones, The Clash, The Who, Led Zeppelin, A Tribe Called Quest, and other good music.

And you know what? If this is the result, I feel completely vindicated.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Simulated Sex Act on a Microphone

Ok, be an electronic musician. Be experimental. Be controversial. But for God's sake, have some self-respect! This person better have one hell of a follow-up act. Seriously, I'd like to see if this would get the same level of attention if it was a dude. News flash to all you art school students - guys like to watch girls do that. And yes, there are a lot of guys at experimental electronic music events. But that don't make it right!

Weekend is Coming

Take a moment and watch the first few minutes of one of my all-time favorite films, Jean-Luc Godard's "Weekend". Bad-ass O.G. filmmaking on display, step - get a late pass!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Stanley Mouse Hot Rod T-Shirts

A long time ago a friend of mine gave me a vintage t-shirt catalog from Stanley Mouse's Mouse Studios. Mouse was a contemporary and a rival of Big Daddy Roth, and his artwork is just fantastic. I've never seen this stuff anywhere else, so I thought I'd scan it and put some up to share. If you know anything about it, please drop me a note or leave a comment, or post links in places where people who appreciate this kind of thing might see it. I think this catalog is a pretty rare item.

Here's the first few scans - I will put up more soon.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It's a Dog's Life

This time-lapse video of a dog's day is just awesome. Anyone who tells you that humans have it better is just smoking crack. How do dogs stay in shape, anyway?


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Little Kid Works the Crowd Into a Frenzy

You have to love this - some toddler in a Phillies jacket gets a crowd of Philadelphia fans to cheer by raising his arms. His mom is cueing him by saying "How big is Will?" Go Will! A future career as a team mascot awaits you.

I Broke My Elbow

I don't know what it is about me and skateboarding, but I cannot seem to fall without seriously injuring myself. I've been skating a lot lately with my kids, but deliberately not trying anything that's too much of a stretch. And I hadn't had any real falls in a long time. Just getting my flow on at the local skatepark.

So I'm starting to feel like I'm getting my mojo back, and I recently bought a small miniramp I found on craigslist so the kids and I can skate in the backyard... and then I go and do this. It happened at the skatepark, so I was on concrete, and I just hit a pebble and went down while I was rolling backwards. I landed on my arm and I immediately knew I had done something bad to it. I thought it was my wrist initially, because I've injured that wrist before. But then my elbow swelled up as the day went on.

I went to urgent care that afternoon to get an x-ray, and as soon as I saw it I spotted a small fracture on what I now know is the "radial head." The radius is the bone in the top half of your forearm if you are giving the thumbs-up sign. The radial head is the elbow end of that bone. It's easy to break it by throwing out a forearm to catch yourself, although in this case I'm pretty sure I landed on it from the side with my body weight. Either way, it's cracked.

The orthopedist told me to keep it in a sling and avoid using it, and it will heal by itself. I'm going back in a week for another x-ray to make sure everything is lined up correctly.

I just have to say, this sucks. I guess I'm lucky it wasn't worse, but I'm a righty and it's hard not to use your right hand for anything strenuous. I can't go skateboarding for 6-8 weeks, and so I can't use the miniramp which I had only skated about 3 times since I bought it. I can't pick up the kids, or anything heavy. I can't play guitar. And mostly I just feel foolish having to wear this sling around and do everything with my left hand. Dang it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Yacht Rock Episode 11: Footloose

I was extremely pleased to find that they made a new episode of my favorite web show, "Yacht Rock" - bringing the grand total to 11 episodes. If you haven't seen this show, go back and watch from the beginning. The creators really captured the zeitgeist of late 70s smooth rock in a low-budget comedy with an extremely high mustache quotient.

In this episode, Kenny Loggins continues his domination of movie soundtracks in the 80s, and Jimmy Buffet and Kevin Bacon make their first appearance. This one does not go quietly into the good night, either!

Yacht Rock - The Entire Series

Lasagna Cat vs. Final Fantasy

Check out this awesome art mashup of Garfield and Final Fantasy, courtesy of Lasagna Cat. My tongue is hanging out like Odie's now.

More Lasagna Cat

Nathan Barley

This is a hilarious BBC show about a new media bullshit artist and the journalist he both idolizes and disgusts. Set in England in a neighborhood filled with self-satisfied "idiots," it's a nonstop barrage of inventive technology trends and fashion fads. Even words like "stupid" and "futile" have been coopted as compliments. If you've ever worked in a new media startup, you will find the hipster trend frenzy familiar, and you'll appreciate the struggle between sanity and stupidity. Warning: you might be here awhile, this is a full-length TV show with 6 episodes.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Taking 'Analog' to a whole new level

This is just indescribably awesome - an entire band's equipment made out of wood.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Super Mario Bros. 2 Theme a la Django

Adrian Holovaty plays the theme from Super Mario Bros. 2 (level 1) in the style of legendary gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. This is fantastic - the theme from SMB2 is the best in the entire series, in my opinion. It's just so damn cheerful. And Django was the Eddie Van Halen of his day, if you don't know his stuff go check it out.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Daruma (I Think It Means Weird in Japanese) Game

This addictive little flash game is based on a traditional japanese game that's kind of like Jenga but with a hammer. It's really frustrating, since every time you screw up you have to go back to the beginning - but I've been playing some old arcade games lately and it's the same thing! I guess I was remembering them through rose-colored glasses, but if I was pumping quarters into those games today I'd be pissed! Sometimes I get about 15 seconds of playing time for my quarter. It's like BOOM BOOM BOOM GAME OVER. Anyway, check out this game and knock some blocks off, it's fresh.

Daruma Game (Thanks, IndieGames)

World's Smallest Skateable Miniramp?

This is classic - some dude built a mini mini mini ramp in his dorm room at school. His roommates probably want to kill him, but it looks pretty fun!