Not So Fast Foward Futurama

It seems like every week there’s a new cartoon I’m supposed to be watching. Archer, Steven Universe, Rick and Morty, Bojack Horseman, Gravity Falls, Adventure Time, a bunch of other ones, and whatever the three new ones that were added to the list while you were reading this sentence. It’s way more than I can keep up with, and I don’t get whatever channels most of them are on anyway.

What I do get, though, is Netflix, and through that I’ve been watching Futurama. Not really re-watching, because when it first came on I saw a few episodes, but it didn’t really grab me. It wasn’t as non-stop as The Simpsons was at the time, and I didn’t watch much TV at that point anyway. By a few episodes into the first season I had stopped with it.

On this watching, I’m almost through season two. I’m not bingeing, just watching an episode while eating dinner usually. I’m really enjoying it. It’s a lot funnier than I thought back at the time. And I love the animation. There’s just something great about how everything moves in it.

So rest assured that while I may not be following Amazing Pig or World of Phlegm or whatever other cartoons are now must-see TV, in fifteen years or so I’ll catch up to them on my 3D Plasmotron Neurovisor while I swallow my food pill.

Posted in TV | Tagged ,

The Movies-to-Watch List: Blue Velvet (1986)

After watching Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me I was eager to check out Blue Velvet, the film considered to be Lynch’s masterpiece.

It is…holy cow. It is something else.

First, when looking for an image for the movie poster, I came across some with the tagline of “David Lynch’s erotic masterpiece” on it. I ain’t judging, but if any frame of this movie was erotic to you, you are a bad person. I’m sorry you are, but you are. Okay, maybe some of the shots of Laura Dern or Kyle’s butt but anything else? No. In fact, it’s amazing how Lynch got Isabella Rossellini to be so incredibly not sexy.

The theme of the seedy underbelly of the supposedly idyllic small town wasn’t new to Blue Velvet, and lord knows it’s been done to absolute death since then, but it’s still easy to see how this movie blew minds in 1986. Lynch doesn’t just give Lumberton a dark side, it gives it a Boschean hellscape that he absolutely revels in, and very few stable platforms to hang on to. It’s something that when a threat turns out to just be a jilted boyfriend wanting to beat the crap out of Jeffrey, that’s a relief. At least that’s a normal situation to deal with. Too bad it’s about to be interrupted.

That Jeffrey dives headfirst into this world (his initial plan is not one that looks bad in hindsight, it’s one that looks bad from the get-go, so it’s not like he “gets in over his head” so much as ties bricks to his feet and fires himself out of a cannon into the ocean) is unsettling enough, but instead of using Sandy as a way to find his way back, he tries to pull her in as well.

And then there’s Frank. A good, old-fashioned just plain horrific bad guy. No thorn in his paw, no tragic backstory, no humanizing tic, just a mean and evil guy. There’s nothing relatable there; he’s just a force of chaotic horror. Is it any wonder that only dudes like Brad Dourif are in his running crew? From the moment he enters all bets are off. It’s an amazing character.

And yet, the movie kind of can’t keep up with him. The final act is something of a letdown, where things just spin down in a kind of rote way. There’s this note that the placid calm at the end is fake, that these people and this community have been changed, but it kind of doesn’t take. It ends with a sort of confused shrug and “Frank, man! That guy!” I guess the idea is the artificialities we put on that enable Frank’s world to exist in the shadows, but it seems that Lynch, like Jeffrey, is more interested in selling that world than the normal or even pseudonormal world. Lynch is great at giving us surreal landscapes, but in this case there’s a need to balance it with the real world, and it falls down there.

Nevertheless, a unique movie experience. I’m glad I finally saw it.

Posted in Movies | Tagged

I Signed Up for a 5K!

This morning I ran 2.47 miles in 25 minutes. That’s pretty significant because shortly after my last update I hit a big slump. I’d run for 20 minutes twice but suddenly I could barely go 12. I got really frustrated and ended up going back to the beginning of week five to try to build up again. I don’t know if it was the weather, some illness, not being in a good mental space, or what. But I broke through it, did the 20 minutes again, then 22, and now, this morning, 25 minutes.

That puts me on track to do a 5K (3.1 miles) in about 32 minutes. So it’s time to put my money where my feet are and actually sign up for a 5K.

I’m entered in the Hot Chocolate Run in Northampton on December 6. It’s a run to benefit Safe Passage, a charity to help survivors of domestic abuse. I’m also trying to raise $125 in “sponsors” for my run (that’s the lowest amount, because I still don’t really feel like too much should hinge on my ability to jog for 3 miles).

If you’d like to donate, please click the image below. If I hit $125 I’ll do…something…haven’t figured it out yet. I’ll get back to you on that. Anyhow, thanks for all the encouragement you folks have been giving me!

Posted in Misc | Tagged

Les Pommes Sont Rouges et Je Suis Désolé

Hey everyone, it’s time for another mix CD! Most people can do these things without making a big production out of it or taking almost four years, but that’s not how it works around here. Instead I bring you number 32 in a series, Les Pommes Sont Rouges et Je Suis Désolé.

I was going to make this one last year, when I was trying to learn French in advance of our trip to Paris. The trip happened but the mix didn’t. Still, I held on to the title.

Not gonna lie, there’s a lot of dream pop on this one. Another contender for the title was “Washed Out, Including a Band Actually Named ‘Washed Out’.” I managed to break it up a little without messing up the flow.

Here’s the track listing:

The Mother We Share — CHVRCHES
Comeback Kid — Sleigh Bells
Ageless Beauty — Stars
Picture Perfect — Strawberry Whiplash
Pompeii — Bastille
Cholla — The Joy Formidable
No Fool Boletus — Anaxaton6
I Wanna Get Better — Bleachers
Red Eyes — The War on Drugs
Do You Have Romantic Courage? — Hallelujah the Hills
Fight Song — Eddie Japan
Philomena — The Decemberists
Wicked — Jennie Vee
Girls — Deep Sea Arcade
Feel it All Around — Washed Out
Myth — Beach House
Ammonia Tree — Shriekback
Great Equator — Zammuto
Little Fang — Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks
Stardust — Lena
Dance Apocalyptic — Janelle Monáe

There’s a mix here of old favorite bands, new favorite bands, singles I like, and guilty pleasures. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine which is which.

Give it a listen and see what you think!

(xspf player courtesy Lacy Morrow and Fabricio Zuardi.)

Posted in Music | Tagged

On the Table

Boardgames I played last week. After an extended period of just being not too interested in gaming, I think I’m back to really enjoying it again.

I’m no longer a slave to hype. I don’t pay attention to what games are hot, what games are getting buzz, Kickstarter, Gen Con, Essen, and so forth. Very little is an “auto-buy” for me. But there’s one major exception to this, and that’s Portal Games. A publisher in Poland, Portal Games is one of the few companies I pay close attention to, and will often grab their games based on the Portal name alone. They have put out some of my absolute favorites: The New Era, Neuroshima Hex, Imperial Settlers, and Theseus all are up there for me. Portal tends to put out games that are a little different from the usual, and appeal to my desire for fun and narrative. They debuted three games at Gen Con and if I’d gone there, I would have bought them all. One of these was Tides of Time, which I played on Thursday. We played Matt’s copy because mine is in a pre-order order along with the other two of Portal’s Gen Con releases, and a Neurosis Hex army. Like I said, I’m a Portal fanboy.

So how is it? It’s pretty neat. It’s Portal’s stab at a “microgame” which is a genre I’m growing tired of hearing about, but this one is a little different. It’s a drafting game with only 18 cards. We played twice and enjoyed it, though I’m not sure if this is one that will survive the long haul. I’ll still be happy to get my copy.

We then played Medina, a game I’ve had on my wish list forever. I played it ages ago, and remembered kind of liking it and thinking it was really nice-looking, but that’s it. I finally pulled the trigger on it. Medina is from 2001 and it definitely shows that it’s from the pre-Caylus school of boardgame design, in that instead of trying to do a thousand different things, it focuses on one idea and commits to it. You’re placing buildings to form palaces, with the intention of claiming the best-scoring palaces. That’s it. There are things which affect how much palaces are worth, but it’s still all about position, control, and a bit of luck pushing. It’s also super attractive. This second edition has a two-player variant that worked just as well as the full four-player version; in fact, it’s almost a little more interesting. Really glad I finally got this one.

For Sunday’s games I started out with Medina again, and then The Ancient World, a game I hadn’t heard of. It’s by Ryan Laukat, who did Eight Minute Empires (which I like) and Artifacts, Inc (which I backed on Kickstarter and am kind of eh on.) It’s a civ-lite sort of game where you’re improving your empire, increasing your military, growing your population, and battling titans, as you did in those days. I was quite taken by this, as it did a lot of things that were a bit novel and did them pretty well. There was some weird gaminess in the design; your workers are numbered 1-5 and on most spaces there are restrictions on what you can put there. Nevertheless, I liked it and would definitely play again.

Felix: the Cat in the Sack is a bidding and bluffing game that I’ve had for a while and have hardly played. I threw it in my crate and it actually hit the table. It’s okay, but there are dozens of these types of things floating around now. It can go.

Roll for the Galaxy is one of the biggest delights of the year. I was a little unsure about it at first, but it’s become a welcome regular. I’ve gotten a little better at finding a strategy and sticking to it, but I still am not a big winner here. Still, I enjoy playing it.

Finished out with Lords of Waterdeep with both Scoundrels of Skullport expansions. This is one that got a lot of play for a while and then I think we all got a little worn out on it. It was nice to crack it open again. It’s a great design that, again, sticks to the idea and doesn’t introduce a lot of unnecessary faff.

Posted in Boardgames | Tagged

I Played That! #28: Rogue (PC)

There was a time, before the Internet was public, when you could buy Rogue, and I bought it. That time was 1986. At that point I had my Tandy 1000 and very few games for it. I’d gone from the color and graphics of the Commodore 64 to monochrome EGA (or maybe even just CGA) and though it was technically a “better” computer, I was feeling the loss. Loss was a theme of 1986.

Along came Rogue, though. Marketed by Epyx, this took all the excitement of dungeon questing and distilled it down to its essence. You, in a maze-like dungeon, fighting monsters and gaining loot, trying to survive. I think everyone here knows the term “roguelike”; this was as roguelike as it got. The game had already bewitched college students on mainframes everywhere; now it was invading homes. I was enthralled by it.

At first. But here’s the thing about Rogue: it’s really goddamn hard. While it’s true that not knowing in advance what scrolls and potions do, or whether items are cursed, or if moving a certain boulder will trap you forever add to the mystery and excitement of the genre, they’re also incredibly frustrating to a new player. You have no guide, no hints, not much to go on, and you will die quickly and often. Over and over. Often having little idea what killed you, or any way to have prevented it. And that’s assuming you don’t just starve to death because maybe not enough food randomly dropped. Sometimes the stars will align and you’ll luck into drops that let you get further than ever before, at which point you’re slaughtered by monsters who have now leveled up way faster than you have. Oh well, that’s Rogue.

You eventually pick up on ways to extend your Hobbesian life, if only by another level or two, but the process is slow and punctuated by a thousand deaths. Your character will die many times, but so will your hope. If you’re me, who isn’t particularly good at games and doesn’t have a lot of patience, you will get tired of it long before you get better at it.

Though not completely. I would go through periodic resurgences of interest, in Rogue and in games that it inspired. I’ve briefly done the Hack thing several times, and tried a few others as well. Later on the PC I’d play Telengard (it’s possible I played this on the C64 as well; I don’t remember) which was practically the same thing only with a different interface. Today on the iPad and in the indie games market, “roguelike” and “procedural” are common buzzwords and hard to avoid. Just recently I purchased Rogue Legacy for the PS4, and I die a whole lot in it.

Like the Velvet Underground or The Stooges in music, Rogue influenced a lot of games I like more than the original, though I respect it. I still have the itch, but it seems that making these games easier is not a priority; the frustrating difficulty is, by now, seen as a feature that defines the genre, rather than a hindrance. Or maybe I’m just still terrible at them.

Posted in Videogames | Tagged

My Tweek on Twitter

What I did on Twitter, since the last one of these posts.


* You think that’s Lotrimin? Check out THIS Lotrimin.

* sorry not sorry

* would they make you leave your town?

* fortunately I stopped it after file #1073

* omg it’s so wrong and twisted

* I’m an end boss and I can’t make my weak spot not blink

* stellar RT

* you’ve backed worse

* this joke’s moment has come and gone but I’ll never pass up an opportunity for a chiffarobe joke


* A Bowie quandary

* i’m a riot

* RT of the time period

* I first did this joke when I was like 15

* it just seems like something the IT guy would say

* this is a REMarkable joke

* I think I’ve done this one before

* let’s close with: dog

Posted in Twitter | Tagged

Space Cabby by Rusty Shackles

Rusty Shackles doesn’t do commissions. What he does do are amazing retro-gaming-inspired pieces. Check out his Insert Quarter Bin and PalletteSwap prints at his site, which you can buy! (Rumor has it a gaming property especially beloved by me will be making an appearance at some point!) So if Rusty isn’t on the commish tip, how to explain the sweet-ass Rat Fink Space Cabby he drew me? Well, some say that if you perform a certain ritual on a certain night of the year involving certain metal albums and Hong Kong action movies, you can bind Rusty to do your will for a brief period of time. I am neither confirming nor denying this, but I will admit that I know his True Name.

Are YOU an artist who would like to draw Space Cabby for me? Please let me know!

Posted in Comics | Tagged ,