Who doesn't? Well, thanks to the magic of hundred-year-old technology, such parlot tricks -- I mean, spiritual reunions -- are available to the masess, this Saturday, for under a hundred bucks, less than the cost of wandering in the heat for a day at the Coachella Polo Grounds.
Interesting: Long before Gary Gygax, or Avalon Hill, the first recreational war game was published by H. G. Wells in a book called Little Wars, which carried the wry subtitle: A game for boys from twelve years of age to one hundred and fifty and for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys' games and books.
Wry, for obvious reaons, and also ironic, as Wells was a pacifist whose game was meant to demonstrate that after "three or four" tries the game would reveal "what a blundering thing Great War must be" -- Great War apparently being an operative culture concept before the Great War, and perhaps a telling note of historical inevitability. Wells imagined that Little Wars could, well, make wars little; that simulated combat could replace the real kind. But of course military people loved Wells' system, with its strategic rules and toys and little projectiles, and the world was less than a year away from the First World War.
Here is an image of Wells and some other dapper gentleman on their knees, struggling against the tide of their un-gentle time:
Much later: Marxist philosopher and film-maker Guy Debord, he of the lasting titles, spent the last two decades of his life convinced that his legacy would actually be about a war game called Kriegspiel. (Like its namesake, but less one "s.") Kriegspiel is a board-based conflict game between generic opponents -- Northern Territory and Souther Territory -- that, in DeBord's worlds is meant to encapsulate "the dialectic of all conflict."
It looks like this:
Apparently, the game is dense and difficult to play and never caught on, and there were only a few copies made with the nifty metal pieces. Recently, it was adapted into software but has attracted few players. That hasn't stopped these guys from making a weird, but compelling conceptual film based on Kriegspiel, called Class Wargames:
OK, so it's long. But then again it does promise to analyse "the modern conditions of neo-liberal capitalism and the methods required to transcend it" and "provide an insurrectionary manual for those struggling to build a truly human civilisation." Not bad for 27 minutes!
I wrote about Electroplankton a long time ago, but can't find the article! It was from the LA Weekly days, way back. Just thought of it, for no reason. Well, actually there was a reason. I was poking around the many nifty touchy music things on the iPhone/Pad (and /Pod, presumably), and noting that my favorite is still the stylus-based, simple, and elegant and melodic Elektroplanton on the Nintendo DS. A quick anthology:
Ah the architectural celebration of the sacramental nature of Nature! There's much more to the story than that, and it was a nice reminder of why, in fact, the familiar forms of that unfinished cathedral are so compelling (and not just the cliche of Visit Barcelona postcards).
And by the way: how have I never heard about The Global Mail, which, the ABOUT page tells me, is a non-profit international news outfit that seems to specialize in thoughtful, fairly lengthy, stories that are, with the site's slick, horizontal scrolling feature, well-presented to boot?
Looks like Vazzoo didn't become the next Groupon. I wonder why?
I do find this to be a moving tribute to the mirth of the infamously mulletted 7'2" Schintzius. Dude had some comic chops as an absurdist verite promotional goof. (He had been in front of the camera before: alongside Whoopi Goldberg, and Frank Langella (!), in the rightly forgotten basketball comedy, Eddie.
Curious to see Dwayne in action, I found this compilation, cobbled together by a guy with the YouTube handle Bagofbeef, and set to I Believe I Can Fly. It was posted three years ago, long before Schintzius died, but feels like a commemorative reel nonetheless. Like bagofbeef sensed it way back then, and knew some day people would want to see The Mullet twirl to the sound of R. Kelly.
Oh, and by the way, someone in the abortive Vazzoo empire thought to document their promotional strategy session where they cooked up Dwayne's gonzo approach.
OK so Madeon is this teenage french producer (named, with Continental distinguishment, Hugo Pierre Leclercq) who amazed the internet with a video of himself mixing 39 songs live on a Novation Launchpad, which is some kind of magical machine that sort of reminds me of the weird light up chess board covered withchuckles that Will, Marshall, and Holly would find inside the pylon so they could control the weather on Land of the Lost. Anyway, here's that. (Madeon, not Land of the Lost.)
The kid's a phenomenon. And rightly so. How can it be otherwise? Can this be downloaded? If not, why? Anyhow, next best thing, or maybe even the better thing, is this:
Such an unlikely (and shockingly limber) dance enthusiast, and one who should make a music video to every song that has ever been. Why all the fuss over B-Girl Bouillabaisse, again?
Said enthusiast is Nathan Barnatt, UCB regular and prolific YouTube auto-videographer. (As always, I'm late to the game, so this may only be news to me.) That led me to this, which is Barnatt, as the full character, Keith Apicary, a man who loves Sega Genesis as much as dancing, auditioning to be a dancer in a Kimberly Cole video:
Occassioned by their video game art exhibit. (He should probably have been inducted into some kind of historical hall fo fame for collecting recognizing and trying to preserve the tactile beauty of vintage newspapers long before Nicholson Baker, but this will have to do.)
Nice joke, like two weeks late right? That's about my timing. Mostly I just love this image. For obvious reasons. And because, upon closer inspection, one notices how E.T. is rendered expertly, near-perfectly even, while Michael Jackson looks just like a dude with a curl and a sweater. Or like a weird old lady dressed up like Michael Jackson. Anyhow, this little number got me all curious to talk to my good friend Google, who said, "Yes, of course, Michael Jackson loved the magic of E.T. Didn't you know that MJ recorded a narration of the E.T. Storybook? Which is where the source image for that etch-a-sketch came from?"
Aside from the fact that such a moniker sounds a little like an R&B cover band led by a Klansman, Wayne Cochran was the real deal:
And not just for his stunning, cotton-candy-like pompadour. (The enthusiastic Hound Blog describes it as: "Swept back and piled high, when it caught the spotlight it seemed to glow like a full moon over the ocean.") Cochran was a great performer; the dude has it, as can be seen from his appearance on the Jackie Gleason show:
Cochran, says the internet, began in rockabilly, moved to Macon Georgia, and then to soul music, alongside fellow Maconite, James Brown. Both loved and emulated Gorgeous George. (That's where James Brown got his cape.) Cochran emulated Brown as well, hit the Chitlin Circuit, never made it big, but always made an impression, hob-nobbing among the greats, including Elvis. Here's the White Knight with a lycanthropically-hirsuit Elvis:
Like Elvis, Cochran eased into a later-stage, embroidered-rococo-wardrobe phase in the 70s:
A man with that much charisma can only stay away from televangelism so long. By the eighties, the White Knight had taken his lively performance to the Abundant Life Christian Church in Margate. Today, he's in Miami, still leading the faithful. Which makes me want to go look him up next time I'm in the Sunshine State.
The Zombie Zeitgeist A full scale movement is on the lurch. But why the best zombie movie ever made a video game?
Believer interview with Mark Allen Digital artist and awesome gallerist Mark Allen talks about Tekken Torture Tournament and other projects where people were wired to machines and did strange things in public.
Believer interview with Marjane Satrapi Enlightening Q & A with the Persian cartoonist, memoirist, quick conversationalist in which she declares: “THE WORLD IS NOT ABOUT BATMAN AND ROBIN FIGHTING THE JOKER; THINGS ARE MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT.”
Yeti Researcher Yet another 100-page issue of the world's top academic journal devoted scholarship about the Yeti, Bigfoot, Sasqatch, and other mystery primates worldwide. For researchers and lay audiences alike, the latest YR features a history of Sasquatch sightings in southern California, an update on the wily orang pendek of Sumatra, and a new look into Teddy Roosevelt's obsession with bagging a Bigfoot. As Editor-in-Chief, I promise you won't be disappointed.
Panda PowerPoint! I guess I don't mind being "the entertainment" when it's at Mark Allen's second annual Holiday Fry-B-Que. Presented: preliminary findings from my ongoing research into the most charismatic megafauna of all: Giant Pandas.
McSweeny's Presents: The World, Explained | Dec 9, 2006 For those who missed it, there will be more. World, Explained is going strong! Money was raised, laughs were had, and for those paying attention, small amounts of useful information about things like the aurora borealis were transmitted. Plus: Michael Cera = lovably funny. And Nick Diamonds' renditions of Dumb Dog and Hanging Tough are still in my head. As is that horribly catchy Fresh Step jam.
Jest Fest at Skylight Books Somehow I wound up hosting the 10th anniversary jubilee for Infinite Jest at Skylight Books. Because who doesn't love a jubilee, right? Despite being delirious with Hepatitis A (that's the mild, non-lethal kind; I'm not at risk for Hep B since I always go the needle share and choose clean-looking prostitutes), I managed to not mis-pronounce anyone's name and make an erudite joke and poke gentle fun at Michael Silverblatt.
McSweeny's Presents: The World, Explained | June 10, 2006 Number Three! Last one was sold out so we moved to a slightly larger theater. Andy Richter hosted, and his opening exegesis of CSI: Miami warmed the people up right. Evany Thomas presented her very scientific findings on the Secret Language of Sleep; Starlee Kine bared her neuroses to the world (or at least the 300 people in the audience); Josh Davis showed video of his 135-lb self sumo wrestling a 550-lb opera singer from San Bernardino; and Davy Rothbart closed it out with some Found Magazine magic. Grant Lee Phillips, Sam Shelton and Zooey Deschanel provided the music punctuation! I can still hear their rendition of We Are the Champions.
McSweeny's Presents: The World, Explained | Feb 11, 2006 The second in our series of precision comedy and fact-based entertainment extravaganzas benefiting 826LA. Patton Oswalt was kind enough to host, and Jon Brion joined in on the piano and guitar as thematic accompaniment. Presenters included: David Rees, Michael Colton, John Hodgman (along with his hirsuit troubadour, Jonathan Coulton), and me. Plus: a fashion show of exciting multi-user garmentry.
Little Gray Book Lecture at Galapagos How to Observe President's Day. Jonathan Coulton's technical wizardry has made this entire show available online. The summary from PRX: Sarah Vowell, John Hodgman and Joshuah Bearman on Presidents' Day, along with a fifteen-piece marching band and a new song about all forty-three presidents. My contribution? Yes, from Yeti Researcher. Again. Actually that was the first one. So I have only five stories!
July 25: TJ to LA -- A Night McSweeney's Readings I was honored to be part of a strange triptych along with Salvador Plascencia and Josh Kun. Sponsored, somehow, by La Ciudad magazine, we all packed into Beyond Baroque with no air conditions. 150 people showed at 7 o'clock on a Friday evening, which we took as a good sign of something. Sal held up and anxiously discussed drawings from his novel, Josh delivered an essay on the Dr. Moreau of Tijuana, and my shtick (again) was Pac Man and metaphysics, this time with fun slides.
October 8th: Skylight Books w/Stephen Elliott Fun times were had by all. Someone in the audience actually mistook me for an expert on the psychology human character. We ate shrimp cocktail and drank cheap wine and laughed at Bush and celebrated the certainty of right besting wrong in American democracy. A lot of good that did.