Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hide Your Children It's....Adam And Eve??

Mr. White
Well my favorite time of year is right around the corner so this last post for the week is dedicated to Halloween. Over the years I've been a number of strange things from a mummy made from torn bed sheets to Max Headrum. But I think that perhaps my shining moment was when I dressed up as a dead boyscout.

It's strange that on the one day of the year when we are given license to be a kid again and dress up as anything we want people will most often opt for the typical slutty witch/guy dressed as a beer can. I mean what says Halloween better than those two things right?

Instead of being creative like Mr. Black who recently fashioned his own costume based on the game Brutal Legend, people choose the less traditional approach ala the fags bellow.

Now I must admit (before Mr. Black points it out) that I have not always been creative myself. Last year I was Shaggy from Scooby Doo but that was more for my son and a lack of time than anything else. And I'm not saying you have to spend hours making your own costume because it's Halloween, it's supposed to be fun. However it wouldn't hurt to at least dress for the occasion. I can at least argue that Shaggy's profession is solving "spooky" mysteries that sometimes involve the classic monsters associated with Halloween right? Yeah OK so that's a stretch but you get my point. So I guess what I'm saying is that if you have to be a beer can then make it a scary beer that still doesn't work... I'll tell you what, if you can't think of anything to be this year then I'll make a list of all the scary things I can think of to get you started.

01. Joseph Smith (who's scarier than the founder of the Mormon church?)

02. An iligal alien. (Aliens are always good for a scare) Just learn how to say, "I've come for your job" in Spanish.

03. Steve Jobs (Anyone seen dressed as Steve Jobs must be shot on site, you have my permission).

04. This guy:

05. Or even a Jesus clown....fucks me up just thinking about it.

So before you walk out that door sunday night and head for your slut-fest keger, consider what I said and have a happy Halloween you fucking beer can you.

Mr. Black
I guess what I'm more disappointed about is that most people aren't anything remotely scary for Halloween anymore. Everyone is a Disney character or something even worse like these people:
Really? This is what Halloween has come to? What every happened to Zombies, the Wolfman, Dracula? Things with fangs, blood, and gore? Isn't that what Halloween is about? Dressing up as something scary, or at least in the remote vicinity? I know my Brutal Legend costume maybe not be monstrous in anyway, but there are demons, monsters, blood and fire in the game so I would consider that in the remote vicinity.

It seems to me that if Halloween was about the crap pictured then every Halloween tv channels would be playing crap like Van Wilder, Harold and Kumar, or Beerfest. And if you're the kind of person who thinks it's your only chance to dress up during the year, it's not. You can have a costume party anytime, so that's when you break out your Human Pizza costume, not on Halloween.

So if you dressed up like something like these two, fuck you. I hope your key for a dick gets caught in a bus door while you're waddling your drunk ass home and you get dragged about 100 feet or as long as it takes to scrape the retard out of you.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What Kind Of Sick Fucks Are We

Mr. White
If you ask Mr. Black what kind of movie recommendations I ask for he might tell you something like "Dark and fucked up". Unless of course I'm in need of something to watch with the wife in which case the answer would be "Rainbows and ice cream".

Lately I just prefer the disturbing over things like comedy or even action films. Films like Downloading Nancy about a woman who hires someone to kill her. Sounds like a pretty generic synopsis but it goes a little deeper than that and you get a movie about one incredible fucked up woman. I loved it.

But why are we as humans, who's basic needs in life requires well being to thrive, so drawn to blood and guts, destruction and not-so-happy-endings? Why do we seek to scare the shit out of ourselves? What is it about seeing the suffering of others that makes for a cozy evening on the couch?

Now I know that when we watch things that depict violence it's easy to partition our minds by acknowledging the fact that it's not real. But what is that special ingredient we find so tasty that we'd rather watch two people in a sex act involving blindfolds and mouse traps? Granted these things aren't for everyone (see Mormons) but for a large number of us it's downright delightful.

Perhaps I'm just out of my field here as I've only recently become so attracted to these themes so I may be best to consult an expert. So what's your take on this Mr. Black?

Mr. Black
I've covered some of this in a previous post, but I'll delve further. First of all, not everyone likes stuff that is dark or disturbing. I doubt it's the vast majority of society. For myself, it's kind of a psychological game of how far I can take myself. I like watching movies, playing games, or reading books that evoke emotion, but a variety of ones: happiness, sadness, fear, disgust. As to why I'm drawn to the darker things? I couldn't tell you, maybe it's something that I'm born with or the fact that my dad let me watch horror films at a very young age, so it's just something I'm accustomed to. I don't know.

I would argue however, that this in no way is a vicarious experience. Hell, I don't even want to kill pedestrians in Grand Theft Auto. While that is even further removed away from reality than something like a movie, with a game I'm the direct cause of my actions, while in a film or book I'm merely an observer. Fuck, I don't even kill bugs.

As for you Mr. White, it's probably a combination of my taste rubbing off on you or some weird emotional state you're in due to some sort of situation, or maybe you're just broadening your horizons. I for one know, it doesn't make someone sick to watch those things. Maybe if you're jerking off to're not doing that right Mr. White?

Anyway, it's just like anything else. Some people like romance, some people like horror, some people like drama. I just think "dark" is another genre that for some reason people can be drawn to, whether it's a morbid curiosity to see the darker side of creativity and possible truth that resides in society every day or just trying to evoke the entire emotional spectrum.

That'll be $150 Mr White. You can pay my receptionist on the way out.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review: Super Meat Boy

Mr. Black
Xbox Live Arcade has put indie game developers back on the map. Having a 10 million dollar budget for a game doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be good. In fact, it seems that the indie game developers are doing much more with very little cash and giving the big publishers a run for their money. Recently we've seen games like Limbo, Comic Jumper, Braid, and Shadow Complex set a precedence for what is possible on the Xbox Live Arcade platform as well as open up a market for people who want to develop games but not necessarily work with a team of 100+ people where their creative freedom is replaced by mainstream market statistics.

Super Meat Boy is another one of those great games that would never see the light of day or get good distribution if it wasn't for the indie game movement. I haven't finished the game, only completely two of the chapters, but I feel that I've delved into it enough to see what it has to offer in terms of gameplay.

The Rundown
The premise is simple and hails back to the 8-bit story lines of yore. You play Meat Boy who's girlfriend, Bandage Girl, get's kidnapped by the evil Dr. Fetus. You get thrown into a realm of eight chapters each housing 20 levels plus their dark level counterparts (twisted and harder versions), warp zones, and even "glitch" zones all to rescue your girl. So in all the game has 300+ levels so you'll be playing this one awhile.

The gameplay here is fairly straightforward. You can jump, launch of of walls, and have a variant speed jump. The control response is very tight so you never feel like you're being cheated by the mechanics. The levels are fast and frantic, it's all about speed and timing. You'll be launching off walls, avoiding giant buzz-saws, lava pits, spikes, and anything else you'd expect would turn you into a bloody pile of meat. Each level has it's own par time which you can try to attain to get an A+ rating which I'm sure aids in unlocking achievements. You also collect bandages along the way which help you unlock other characters (from other indie games such as Braid, Gish, and Castle Crashers) with different abilities all extending the gameplay and how you choose to approach each level.

Is it Worth Buying?
Without a doubt. It's on sale this month for 800 MS points, which is $10. After that it goes up to $15, but even then it's well worth the price. I've already put at least 4 hours into it and I've barely scratched the surface, so it probably holds more value than many full retail games you'll find at $60. The art direction is great and is very reminiscent of the old 8-bit and 16-bit games, but it doesn't merely copy, it is an homage, bringing graphical techniques not possible back then and also utilizing other modern gameplay elements.

Everything about this game is great. The music, the art, the gameplay. I can't remember the last time I've been so into a game and looking forward to the next chance I get to play it. The levels are short and sweet, so if you die it never feels to frustrating to having start over and you have unlimited lives so don't sweat it if you die 100 times to complete a particular level. Time trials, and a ton of meaningful unlockables will have you playing this for months to come.

Go buy it.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Nanowrimo: Rude Awakening

Mr. White
Well I thought that since I'm doing the who novel writing thing I would share some of my thoughts how it's going.

First off let me just say that this whole experience has obliterated any preconceived ideas I had about writing a book. I'm really good when It comes to developing ideas and believe me I have a vault of them to keep me going for years. But good ideas don't cut it, they don't fill in all the necessary details that get you from point A to point B. There's so much more to writing a novel then just coming up with interesting plots that I didn't even think about until I took this project on.

Character development is crucial for telling a good story. If you don't care about the characters then you don't have anything worth reading. This sounds like common sense but for some reason I didn't get that before. I always figured the key was finding a good story. Now I'm not saying that the plot doesn't matter but when weighed against everything else its almost an after thought.

Not only did I not focus enough on building an interesting main character but I failed to see other pieces of the puzzle that would move the story along. Things like motivation, pacing, and so on. It's one thing to come up with something and write a few pages about it but to actually stretch that idea out to fit an entire fifty thousand word novel is a monumental task to say the least.

Now I know the whole point about this project is to not over-think it. And that's another thing, holding back the criticism is for me one of the most challenging things to accomplish. Exercising restraint feels strange to me because I'm such a perfectionist that everything I do had to be just right. You almost have to not care about whether or not your story end up being crap. I guess at the end of the day it's all about the experience and what you take with you. I'm only on week two and have a long way to go but I'm hoping when it's all said and done I can at least walk away knowing I gave it my best shot.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Exposure: Clint Mansell

Mr. Black
If you don't know who this guy is, go buy some of his music now. In the last few years he has become my favorite film score composer. Why you ask? Well he can't be compared to anyone else really. Where old dudes like John Williams and James Horner are doing it old school theatrical style, Mansell augments the film rather than overshadowing it. His scores are probably the single best thing to come out of the film industry in years.

Specifically, he's more of a minimalist when it comes to music busting out his arsenal of cellos, piano, guitar, and even electronic bleeps to audibly shape the film. He's probably more similar to Trent Reznor in musical style than any of the forefathers of cinematic scoring. That's not to say he's incapable of creating booming, epic soundscapes, it's just that he's a much more forward-thinking and modern composer in my opinion. He exists in the negative space of film, intertwining the sounds with the visuals rather than overshadowing it as most composers do. Don't get my wrong, Williams, Horner, and even good old Poledouris (who's Conan OST ROCKS) are good and have their place, but Mansell is on the forefront of where musical scoring should be going.

After hearing his soundtracks for The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream, and his latest, Moon, other film scores almost seem cartoonish to me now. And as films continue blazing down the realism trail, his music is really the only kind that augments it. Moody, ambient, atmospheric. While Mansell has scored more mainstream films like Sahara, Trust the Man, and Smokin' Aces his true works of art lie in the smaller films: The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream, Moon, and The Wrestler.

I urge anyone out there who is a lover of music in general to support this guy, he is definitely a small minority in the population of film composers and there needs to be more like him.


Mr. White
What I really like about Mansell is his almost rock approach to film scoring. This is probably attributed to his days as lead singer and guitarest for the British band Pop Will Eat itself along with lending backup vocals on the 1999 Nine Inch Nails album The Fragile.

While I do enjoy the epic melodies of John Williams there's just something refreshing about Mansell that never gets old. He captures the epic quality well but in a different way. Rather than, as Mr. Black put it, overshadow, Mansell's music peaks it's head out then disappears into dark ambient delight. It builds and falls perfectly more like an extension of the films rather than a competing element. I'm very excited to see what he does on the new Darren Aronofsky film Black Swan.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nano Whato?

Mr. White
Well November 1st is fast approaching and once again aspiring writers everywhere will band together to do the unthinkable. Write a novel in only one month, yep that's 30 days.

National Novel Writing Month or Nanowrimo is the brainchild of Chris Baty who came up with the idea in 1999. The idea is simple, write a novel in thirty days to reach a word count of fifty thousand and without editing yourself.

Sounds ambitious right? Well I'm on week two of my own novel and I can tell you it's no IMFO post. Every night I reach my daily word count of 1,667 it's like a celebration and I can't believe another day is in the bag.

Now I know I shouldn't be writing yet but I've opted out of entering the contest. I decided I couldn't wait any longer and dove straight in. I can honestly say that for someone who has been talking about writing a novel for years now, this strict schedule has worked wonders for me.

It's hard to describe the emotions that go into this damn monster of a project. Some days I hate what I'm doing and others I love it. Some days I think "what the hell have I created"? and then others I say to myself "fuck it I don't care anymore". It's filled with the highs and lows of self defeat and momentary delusions of grandeur.

So far I have amassed a whopping 15,082 word count which is quite a feat for me. Will I hit the finish line with fifty thousand? I have no fucking clue. Will I come out of this a better writer? I hope so. But for now I'm hacking away every night in my bath robe...Oh yeah I forgot about that.

Chris Baty has also written a book to coincide with Nanowrimo called No plot? No problem. The book is basically an outline of all four weeks and what to expect each day. I'ts been very inspirational and full of great tips like coming up with a totem. Yeah, a totem. What you do is pick something like a hat or wig or anything you can wear to help you get in the mood. My totem is a grey bath robe or as Mr. Black likes to call it, my ghetto wizards robe. I gotta say it works and I wear it every night whether I'm hot or not.

And even our own resident Negative Nancy, Mr. Black is considering entering the contest November first. I hear he's thinking about doing an autobiography about his days as child sex slave in the North American Man/Boy Love Association.

So if you've always wanted to say you've written a novel the next time you find yourself at a drunken Christian 80s party, then head on over to Nanowrimo and sign up. I dare you.

Mr. Black
Yes, I entered the contest. I have jammed yet another venture into my bursting at the seams busy schedule. But that's the point. I read the book of which Mr. White speaks (weird, that was kind of Yoda-speak) and Baty not only encourages you, but gives you the tools to actually fit such a seemingly impossible task in, no matter your schedule.

As Mr. White states, the yearly contest begins November 1st, so I suggest you read the book now if you're interested, you can find it here. Mr. White has been diligently writing his own novel, that of which I've been reading as he goes. Be forewarned, don't criticize anything or he may lock you out of his Google doc, because well, that's how Mr. White is. You don't like my story? HAH! You're locked out! Na-nah-nah-nah!

Yes this is what I deal with sometimes.

In any case I'm trying to plan as little as possible with my story so as to let it write itself so to speak. Mr. White and I have tackled a novel-like project before entitled The Sleeper in which one of use writes a chapter or so, then the other takes over for his chapter. Rinse and repeat. We only knew the basic concept of the story and the character, but nothing of the plot. The interesting thing that happened is we would riff off of each other (where is this lingo coming from?!) which would keep us going, and driving the plot. We reached about 25,000 words and surprise surprise, it's been left on Mr. White's turn. Yes Mr. Procrastination himself. So as of now it's in limbo. Hopefully we can apply the Nanowrimo rules to The Sleeper someday and get the damn thing finished.

But that is another tale.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Movie Review: Blood Into Wine

Mr. Black
I don't like wine, I have no interest in wine and the only reason I even entertained the idea of watching this is because it features Maynard James Keenan of Tool. He rarely does any public interviews so I thought it might be interesting regardless of the fact that it's about his venture into the wine business.

The documentary opens with a very unique title sequence featuring a twangy soundtrack and subtle motion graphic treatments which slightly distort the environment. This all faithfully sets the stage for what is to come. If you have seen Maynard in any video interviews you'll notice that every nook and cranny of the film isn't without his signature personality. He's a guy that has a very subtle sense of humor and usually when he says anything it holds weight. Almost as though if something isn't worth saying he doesn't seem to think it should be said.

The film covers everything from why he decided to move to Arizona of all places and start a wine business, to a brief history of wine and wine making, to interviews with his peers and friends and what they think about the whole idea of a rock star wanting to move to the desert and make wine. Patton Oswalt and Mila Jovovich are just two of his friends that show up in the documentary; the scene with Oswalt being one of the most memorable. And of course, what would be a documentary involving Keenan without talking about his bands Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer? It wouldn't be, so if you're a fan of any of those bands I'm sure you'll get something out of this.

The story further progresses with mostly interviews including his wine-making mentor, Eric Glomski, the quirky historian of Jerome, Arizona, and even the editor of Wine Spectator magazine; who shows up with a giant wine glass housed in a metal briefcase nonetheless. The entrepreneurial and musical aspects of the film interested me, and even the wine-making process despite my initial disinterest. I guess in that regard I came away with more of a respect for the process than anything. I still don't see myself giving wine a second chance.

Apart from the interesting characters and locations you'll see in this documentary, one of the stand out features was the color treatment, editing, and cinematography. It doesn't look like any documentary I've ever seen so that in itself is another plus, albeit maybe not as apparent to the casual viewer. It does help drive the story and give you something interesting to look at even if you may be slightly bored with say, the history of Jerome, Arizona.

That said, I can easily recommend this film to anyone who likes wine, likes Tool, or even wants to see how documentaries should be done. It's a landmark for the medium of the documentary which is usually littered with handheld consumer cameras and bad editing. Even if you want to see how tough it is to start something up like your own business, you'll find something here. It definitely presents the reality of how difficult it is to get something up and running to how long it takes most ventures to begin being profitable.

And just like Keenan concludes his live shows with an unexpected thought-provoking, and possibly motivational micro-speech, he does the same here. And this just further enforces the notion that this documentary isn't just about a rock star's journey into the wine business.