I'm the Prince of Emo

I’m easily annoyed, so don’t read too much into what’s included on this list. I “finished” only one of these games, so feel free to dismiss my views by that criteria too.

Also to keep in mind: These aren’t the worst of the year by any measure as I don’t play nearly as many bad games as I used to. (Oddly enough, I miss the terrible, terrible games.)

I was tempted to put “Spore” on this list, but it wasn’t that annoying. Or interesting, for that matter. And I loved the Creature Creator too much to dismiss it outright.

So, here goes:
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http://blog.manic-pop-thrills.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/muzak.jpg

I think I spent more time in 2008 catching up to music I missed in 2007. I ended up with 11 recordings, but as with last year, cheesed-out and combined 2 of them into number 10.

I was actually surprised by how ambivalent I was toward a lot of the stuff I bought, and I think it has something to do with downloading everything from amazon.com’s MP3 store. I think you take purchases much more seriously when it’s a physical item; you just don’t connect as much to non-physical items. When you have to remove the CD from the case and place it in the CD player, it represents more of a commitment than just adding it to your iTunes library and having it randomly pop up during “shuffle” mode.

Anyway, on to the list. Here are the ground rules: I like three-minute pop songs, so this isn’t exactly comprehensive and varied. I like what I like, that is all. I’ve attached occasional videos and live performances, except for ones from Warner, which pulled all of its videos from YouTube. Fuckers.
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So, Bill Abner sent me an e-mail: “Update your blog ya old bastard.”

What’s he talking about? I last updated in, er, March. I would update my blog more frequently, but I’m very, very lazy.

Still, it’s that time of the year, where we express ourselves through the amazing power of the “end of year” list. So next week, I’ll be tossing up my “Best of 2008″ lists. For both of the fans of this blog, it’ll be glorious.

Moving into 2009, I may have to find time to talk about life, the universe, and everything. Or my involvement in this, which may involve me typing a bunch of stuff into documents which are then voice-acted by professionals, copied to a folder, listened to by disinterested people, and mocked by journalists.

It should be an appropriately weird year.

Just picked up the new, er, download of The Raconteurs “Consolers of the Lonely.” So far so good, after one pass through.

They recorded it two weeks ago, and here it is. Pretty cool.

First video:

Free Porn

Be Kind Rewind

“Be Kind Rewind” is a charming mess of a movie, but a mess nonetheless. It’s a typical story about how Jack Black’s magnetic urine—indie band name alert!—erases the entire inventory of VHS tapes in a small thrift store in Passaic, New Jersey, which forces Black and Mos Def to re-film every movie until the evil holders of copyright stomp out their creativity.

Director Michel Gondry is an inventive filmmaker and one of the most creative guys on the planet, but he needs a blacker soul like Charlie Kauffman to keeps his tendency toward icky whimsy in check. “Be Kind Rewind” feels like it’s mostly improvised, with Black doing his manic Jack Black thing, Mos Def mumbling a lot while trying to be a geek instead of a cool rapper, Danny Glover playing the Danny Glover character, and other people sort of coming and going. Its version of Passaic takes place in some sort of alternate universe, where there exists these kinds of perfectly quirky, idyllic neighborhoods full of contrived eccentric people who get along way too well. And it has a typical message about the evils of yuppies and condos and Starbucks.

Coming from a Hollywood movie that thanks companies like Apple in the credits, that rings a little hollow. Maybe if they replaced the ramshackle thrift store with an Apple store—all those poor people need iPods and Macbooks too!—everyone would be happy.

Ignoring the fact that they could probably re-purchase the entire stock of VHS movies for like $1, the re-filmed—or “Sweded,” as the movie calls them—movies are really funny. Gondry is known for his love of low-budget, analogue effects (see the extras on the “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” DVD), and some of the ways they re-create “Ghostbusters,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Rush Hour 2,” “The Lion King,” “Robocop,” “2001,” and others are incredibly cool and creative. I can’t wait to see the low-fi versions of them on BluRay.

(They missed out on an opportunity to Swede “Lethal Weapon,” though, with Black and Def doing Mel Gibson and Danny Glover… or maybe Danny Glover would do Danny Glover. Or better yet, he’d do Joe Pesci.)

Still, it’s hard to wrap your brain around how people recreating existing Hollywood blockbuster movies are an alternative to Hollywood blockbuster movies. But it makes it kind of a cousin to the other YouTube movie of the moment, “Cloverfield,” in that the YouTube generation is supposed to be making stuff and sharing it with others. The touching ending of “Be Kind Rewind”—where the neighborhood gets together to watch the first “original” film from the cast and neighborhood residents—is a stark contrast to the reality of showing original works. In the movie, everyone loves the amateurish creation; in the real world, someone posting something that lousy on YouTube would be savaged. Instead of supporting and rewarding originality—even if it’s kind of sucky—YouTubers are brutal. The criticism you get is just off-the-charts.

A friend of mine was doing a public access show in Vermont, and she edited together all sorts of things, created original segments using Barbie dolls and various other craziness, and started putting them up on YouTube to much derision. (And praise too, but I think the negativity took her by surprise.) People criticized her looks, complained about her being too old… it just got nasty.

Sensitivity to criticism and fear of sucking in public keeps me away from sharing most of the things I create, but my friend sticks with it because, as she says, you have to suck if you’re ever going to be good. And if there’s anything to take from “Be Kind Rewind,” it’s that if you’re going to suck, suck doing your own thing.

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If you like some of the movies/videos by/from Michel Gondry, this interview is worth reading.

He’d be one of my favorites only for his music videos (like “Fell in Love With a Girl” by the White Stripes, which you can see a documentary on its making right here), but he also direct Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which is in my Top 5 movies ever.

Anyway, I particularly liked this comment from the interview: “But sometimes they use the word “quirky” in the pejorative sense. I get frustrated, because they feel like I’m doing whatever I want, and there is no ground, and I don’t really care. They feel it’s cynical. But I don’t think I have any cynicism in me. And if I had some at some point… I hate cynicism. I wipe it from me. I don’t like cynical people. I don’t like cynical movies. Cynicism is very easy. You don’t have to justify it. You don’t have to fight for it.”

I totally agree with this. It’s so easy to be cynical, it’s what we lazily fall back to when posting on message boards or when discussing most “serious” things. It seems like everyone is in some contest to be more ironically detached than anyone else from the things that interest them. Like on a message board, someone will post how much they dig something and inevitably, some douchebag pops in to say how much he hates it. And then the conversation follows that path and much of the original joy is lost. It’s one of the reasons I rarely post to message boards anymore; I’m tired of arguing, of everyone trying to out-clever each other with one-liners, of “zings,” of having people pile-on because you dare hold an opinion counter to whatever’s currently in vogue with the hive mind.

Maybe I’m old or naive or an idiot, but I miss being able to be passionate in public about something without people pissing all over what I dig. Yeah, I could ignore them, but I’m kind of hoping all the cynical hipsters will realize that they’re the ones conforming now. Maybe positivity will replace it, and maybe that’s illustrated by the success of Juno, which doesn’t have a cynical bone in its pregnant body and has proved to be a huge hit. (And is now suffering some hipster backlash.)

As some people who followed the Computer Games Magazine saga are aware, we finished our May 2007 issue in the first week of March, sent it to the printers, and were then told it wouldn’t be printed and were all laid off. (And by “all of us,” it was mainly myself and our art guy at that point. Other people stayed around longer to shut things down.)

Anyway, our featured review that month was of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, the oh-so-controversial big MMO of early 2007. We had a tag-team, three-man review of the game, by myself, Tom Chick, and Kelly Wand.

I was rummaging through some files and found the text. I think it was a lot of fun to read. (It was especially fun to do; at least it was when Kelly wasn’t getting me killed.)

So, here it is (hah hah, Tom Chick gave it 4 stars):
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Cloverfield

Cloverfield is an an OK version of Godzilla, where the Japanese people are replaced by the most diverse collection of people assembled. We have generic 20-something hot guy, generic 20-something hot girl, generic 20-something hot girl 2, generic 20-something ethnic hot girl, and generic 20-something not-so hot but funny and endearingly goofy guy. There’s the 20-something athletic guy, the 20-something kind of athletic guy, the 20-something arty-looking but athletic and good looking guy…. These people probably exist in some alternate universe in Manhattan, but for the normal people of the world, this is an alien culture of attractiveness and perfect teeth. (There isn’t a single gap or yellowed bicuspid on display.)

The first 20 minutes are torturous. They’re literally watching someone’s home movie, which is as boring and mundane as the real thing. No one’s interesting, no one seems to have a brain, no one is particularly funny… it’s just, “Oh, Rob, you’re so cool.” “Oh, that girl is hot.” “They slept together.” “OMFG, NO WAY!” It’s like the movie version of The Real World or Laguna Beach, without the contrived drama.

And then the contrived drama shows up, in the form of a giant lizard thing that attacks Manhattan. (more…)

This was taken by a co-worker at the Redmond Town Center theater today. Someone really digs the Dungeon Siege movie:

In Duh Name Of Duh King

Our office went to see the “movie” on Friday, and it’s another triumph for “filmmaker” Uwe Boll. Highly recommended. See it twice. Buy the DVD.

Top 10Once again, we have ground rules: I like three-minute pop songs. So, this isn’t exactly comprehensive and varied. I like what I like, that is all.

So, here’s the list, with occasional videos and live performances:
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