Thursday, July 26, 2007

Videogames... really.

Most nerds who were alive during the eighties would be aware of the notion of audio cassette tapes being used for the purposes of data storage. An odd concept perhaps, but at the time we all just went along with it. Fisher Price even developed a video camera, the PXL-2000 (more commonly known as Pixelvision), that recorded video to such cassettes and was famously used by video artist / filmmaker Sadie Benning in the production of her works. What I wasn't aware of was the application of VHS tapes for similar purposes. Stranger still, toy maker Hasbro sunk $20 million (US) into the development and production of a videogame system code-named NEMO (which stood for Never Ever [or Even, depending on who you ask] Mention Outside) that ran off specially designed VHS tapes. The system apparently worked by encoding multiple audio and video tracks on to the tape that could be accessed in any order necessary. Interesting perhaps, but possibly limited in what could actually be achieved by the format. The inherent nature of the system also meant that the games were extremely costly to produce, with productions costing millions, which was unheard of at the time.

The combination of this, it's potential $299 (US) price tag, and the dominant Nintendo Entertainment System, which retailed at $100 (US) and was infinitely cheaper to produce titles for, seemed to be enough to sink the system before its release in 1989. There's an article from Gamespy here about why the NEMO was a terrible idea and why we're better off without it if you're keen. Or you can go back to playing Night Trap; the choice is yours really.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Current adventures in pop music: The absolute finest pop song Jens Lekman has ever written.

I like Jens Lekman a whole bunch. I would even go so far as to say he is one of my top five in my top ten of Swedish people. He makes great pop songs that traverse the whole canon of twee-ism; misanthropy, lost love, found love, unrequited love, love that turns psycho, and misanthropy about all of the above. He has a new song that's about none of these, it's about bingo (amongst other things), and Jens believes it's the absolute finest song he's ever written:

On Swedish Radio it's on E-rotation. The lowest rotation. Which only further convinces me of what a genius I am. I'd like to change my opinion from what I said in the previous post to call it not "one of the finest...", but the absolute finest popsong I've ever written. Fuck Black Cab. Fuck Mapleleaves. In ten years this will be a true classic.

See, I don't just make this stuff up. These are certainly strong words, and what's more he may just be right. I mean, who can argue with a man who gave birth to the lyric She said it was all make believe / But I thought she said maple leaves. Genius. You can stream Friday Night At The Drive-In Bingo from here (here, being Service, his Swedish label), and order the vinyl for 7 Euros while you're at it. That's a Euro per inch, that's a bargain in any Scandinavain language.

[06.08.07 - According to the Service website, the vinyl is 6 Euros. I'm not going to correct the main text though, as that would require deleting the joke about paying a Euro per inch and I honestly don't think I can do any better than that. But in the interests of ethical blogging, I feel it's important you know that I know I made a mistake.]

[04.01.08 - I moved the sentence "
See, I don't just make this stuff up" from the end of the paragraph before the quote to the beginning of the paragraph after it. I also took it out of brackets for grammatical correctness and such. I'm sure you don't need to know this, but transperancy is always nice.]

Condiment-induced distress.

Once upon a time, the brand Asia at Home used to offer a Thai Chilli Jam stir-fry sauce. It was amazing. It was sweet, but had sufficient bite in it to remind you that you hadn't confused the order of your meal; you were definitely in savoury town here. It was all so very simple; chicken, an onion, a red and a green capsicum, a couple of cashew nuts if you felt fancy, and the sauce... done. Now, I'm very much aware that stir-fry sauces of this ilk are technically cheating, but then short of you growing the chillies yourself, and harvesting the sugar cane while you're at it, I would dare say that even the greatest cullinary masters amongst us have been guilty of skipping a few steps from time to time. This is all irrelevant though. The point is the sauce is gone, and I want to know what happened to it.

It's not as if the concept of the chilli jam stir-fry has gone out of fashion. Most Thai restaurants offer it, you can even get beef with it if you want to go all out. This hasn't stopped Asia at Home from deciding that Australians don't need chilli jam, covertly removing it from supermarket shelves and replacing it with single serve packets of "Thai Sweet Chilli". I'm sorry, but that's just not going to cut it. I can get sweet chilli anywhere; chilli jam I've discovered is somewhat more difficult to come across. Asia at Home, you had a market on Australian laziness. You had it all cornered to yourself, with no one even attempting to move in on your turf, and you gave it away like a Red Hot Chilli Pepper. So I denounce thee Asia at Home; I don't want any sunday markets preserves or other supermarket jams as substitutes, I want the real deal. So onwards I quest, in search of newer, better Thai Chilli Jam experiences. And I will find it, even if I have to turn to the internets to do it. But if you decide to bring back your version Asia at Home, you know there's always a place for you here. I won't ask any questions, or pry into the whys of the disappearance; but the damage is done now, and I just don't know if things can be as they were.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Performance evidence.

Shannon O'Neill has posted some photos from the Sydney leg of the Liquid Architecture festival on his flickr page, including some of myself in various stages of silliness. I also have some pictures I took from the opening night extravaganza, which I'll one day get around to uploading, but these will do nicely in the meantime. Thanks Shannon!

Flashy design that means nothing gets you everywhere.

scribble_flyer01 scribble_flyer02

Someone purely in the name of frivolity has decided to put on a gig at Chalkhorse gallery in Surry Hills. It only costs $5, which is a fairly cheap way to spend a Saturday evening. I haven't heard of most of the lineup, but I have seen Moonmilk play a couple of times before so I imagine the evening will be filled with music of the loud, improvised, drone variety. Have fun if you go won't you. I have to work, so I'll have to give it a miss. I do like the flyer though for some reason, so I figure it's no harm to pass the details on to the masses.


Intense Nest presents:

Knitted Abyss

Saturday 21st July 2007

Chalkhorse Gallery
56 Cooper Street
Surry Hills

"I got the child edition and the adult edition, just to check that there are no differences in the text."


Before you ask, no, three copies of Jo Rowling's newest licence to print money aren't enough, but thanks for asking. I at one stage had four copies in fact, but posted one to a relative whilst on my way home with the goods. I know it's a big deal and all, with various news outlets claiming queues of people lining up at book stores from thousands into the billions, but I somehow figured I wouldn't have to sell vital organs or endure Playstation 3-launch-style wrath in order to get a copy. But then I wasn't silly enough to preorder the thing either; those poor souls are probably still in queue. It has been weird (though I guess not unexpected) to see how avidly people have dived into the book since its lauch at 9:01 this morning; as I made my way home after making my purchases, there were many excited individuals clutching specially made tote bags, if not the book itself. Some seemed to be unable to contain themselves, sitting on the edges of footpaths to begin reading, resigning themselves to not move for fear of finding out how it all ends from someone else. This catatonic, ritual-like state extends to my housemate and a friend of hers, who are both sitting on the couch opposite me ploughing through the tome as I write this.

This is the challenge that now awaits me. I'm still only up to ...The Goblet of Fire, the fourth book in the series. Somehow, amidst all the excitement about I'm going to try and not find anything about what happens. I don't like my chances either. Still, I manged to get through almost two years after The Sixth Sense was released in cinemas without finding out how that ended... only to guess the twist within the first half an hour when I finally watched it. I'm hoping this won't be quite that anti-climactic.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

"my headphones : they saved my life"


While we're on the topic on banalities, I went out and bought new headphones earlier today and they're freaking amazing. And it only cost me $29.95. Think about it; completely amazing only costs twenty nine dollars and ninety five cents, who would've thought it? Well, compared to the $5 wires that emitted noise that I used before these, pretty much anything would be wouldn't it? And google agrees with me; according to some random website I pulled up whilst pursuing my various options for aural enlightenment, cheap headphones can damage your hearing. Sure, there was absolutely nothing offered to back this up, but I'm more than happy to go along for the ride in the name of idle consumerist ideals. The important thing is that I've reclaimed the soundtrack to my life, and my inner sanctum is all the better for it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Culture is finished.


This is a finished book. May not look like it, but I assure you it is. I've been reading this copy of The Culture Club by Craig Schuftan on and off over the last four months, and while I have no idea why it's taken me this long to finish it, I'm quite glad that I finally have. Don't get me wrong, it's very good, particularly in a "beginner's guide to how everything is connected to everything" kind of way, and has led to a number of new pursuits including a minor fascination with existentialism's connection to pinball. More on that another time.

I've even managed to finish another book in the week since completing this, A History of Violence by John Wagner and Vince Locke. Admittedly it was a graphic novel, but that still counts right? I mean, it is a novel after all. It's all gearing up to a complete onslaught of the final four Harry Potter books before various people I know succeed in revealing all the major plot points to me. I'm tired of being behind the times people. And I don't want to hear anything from anyone about how Harry Potter is intellectual dross. Face it, if you cared that much about such things you wouldn't have ended up here in the first place would you?


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Current adventures in pop music: "Don't make me hold your hand through the whole boring summer..."

Since first discovering them via their single Cry in 1998, I've been a very large fan of The Mavis's. I like to look at that particular era of my adolesence as the point where I began to realise that there may be interesting music on stations other than 2Day FM. At the same time, Cry was still very much pop enough that I still felt like I had a connection to my past as a someone with a more than mild appreciation for Roxette. Over the years I've somehow managed to acquire a number of their singles from the period between their second album Pink Pills [released in 1998] and their dispanding in 2001, but somehow never managed to buy any of their albums. Whilst sifting through a $10 rack in a music store in Newtown a few weeks ago I managed to come across a copy of their final album Rapture, which caused somewhat of a joygasm on my part. Aside from the fact that most of The Mavis's catalogue is difficult to come across in the first place [I'm pretty sure that most of, if not all of it has been deleted], Rapture is particularly notorious because it played a small role in the band's dispanding.

[At this point I'd like to note there may be some errors in my account of events, but while I can't back up anything here with specific examples, I'm pretty sure this is how things happened.]

Scheduled to be released in 2001, Rapture was preceded by two singles, Coming Home and Happiness [which was launched as backing track to a Coca Cola commercial, and would later be used in a series of promotions for Hyundai]. The Mavis's label, White [an imprint of Mushroom records] collapsed just before the album's release [This may have had something to do with the buyout of Mushroom records by Lachlan Murdoch's label Festival, thus becomming Festival Mushroom Records, or FMR, but I honestly can't remember exactly]. With the album pushed in to bureaucratic limbo and possibly never seeing a release, frustration (amongst other things most likely) led to the band calling it a day. A slapped together best-of called Throwing Little Stones was released soon after the split, and contained five tracks from Rapture. Protesting from fans saw the album given a proper release in 2002, though the cover art still states the original 2001 date.

So now you know. Despite being around for about ten years, it was the period between the release of Pink Pills and their split in 2001 in which they burned brightest, but never really succeeded in ascending to the outer reaches of the pop statosphere. More Daniel Kowalski than Kieren Perkins, so to speak. Following the break up, various members of the band emerged in other outfits [such as co-vocalist Becky Thomas's current outfit Beki and The Bullets], but pretty much all existence of The Mavis's has been relegated to second hand music stores and ebay. But that's where the social networking comes in. Some good soul has started a myspace page in honour of The Mavis's, and in true fashion it's badly laid out and not great to look at. But then maybe it's better that way. The page also links to video of Cry and Naughty Boy posted on you tube [and if you dig hard enough, you can even find Matt and Becky Thomas backing up Paul McDermott on a version of Lou Reed's Perfect Day (like how everything connects... I sure do) recorded for the first episode of the short lived Good News Weekend], along with two tracks from Pink Pills, a demo, and a version of Burt Bacharach's Walk On By, recorded for the all-Australian tribute album To Hal and Bacharach.

To channel Molly Meldrum for a moment [and believe me only a moment], do yourself a favour and allow yourself the opportunity to stream Cry through your speakers. You can't tell me it's a bad thing [there are about three people I can think of off the top of my head who may try and tell me it is... so they don't count]. In this humble little fanboy's opinion, your life will quite simply be better for it.

Current adventures in pop music: You're going to reap just what you sow... and you may not like what that is.

Aside from some interesting choices in hair and spectacle fashion [you may have realised I notice these things], Lou Reed is a pretty cool guy. Heck, I'll go so far as to say it's a given. If nothing else, he's earned his place amongst the list of rock stars who somehow managed to live through 70's. However, he does like to test the friendship it seems.

In 1997 Reed approved the use of his song Perfect Day for use in a campaign by the BBC to promote the diversity of their music programming across their various radio and television stations. This took shape in the form of a cover of said track with various musicans and performers being enlisted to perform various segments, with Lou opening and closing the number . Apparently it was quite successful, so much so that a single was released, which hit the number one spot in the UK for two weeks. The proceeds of the single were donated to the BBC charity event Children In Need [possibly in line with Reed's belief that the BBC requested to use the song for charity purposes, as opposed to self promotion].

As tends to be the case, my interest lies with the video. Originally designed to be screened in cinemas and on television, the clip became a music video in its own right due to the popularity of the advertisement. While the wikipedia article on Perfect Day contains the full list of who appears, the little details one may notice if they take the chance can provide minutes of amusements. Should you choose to look, you will find:
  1. Lou Reed wearing a leather jacket that doesn't quite fit him.
  2. Bono, circa U2's album Pop along with the well trimmed haircut that came with it, looking immensly soulful.
  3. David Bowie in a white room, in a white suit, looking thin [get it, get it?] and experimenting with designer earings.
  4. Boyzone playing the "we're what the kids are in to" card.
  5. Opera singers performing the lines "I'm glad I spent it with you" and "You just keep me hanging on" with the intent of re-contextualising them to a level of contemporary relevance, but just looking humourously juxtaposed.
  6. Huey from the Fun Lovin' Criminals being only trusted with two words, and being unable to contain the urge to stick the word "Yeah" on the end.
  7. Brett Anderson from Suede doing what he once knew how to do really well and look sleazy, as opposed to just desperate.
  8. Tom Jones putting in way too much effort. This might not seem like much of an oddity, but you kind of have to see it to get the true scope of it.
Use this list as merely a starting point. If the weather turns grey on you one dreary afternoon, formulate your own compilation of cynicism to pass the time. Much amusement to be had, I promise. The weird thing of it all is that somehow through all this the song is somehow strangely compelling, as big a car crash as it is. I'm going to credit Reed with this more than anything else, though maybe on some level it's because it reaffirms my theory that the 90's were worse than the 80's. I can't prove this of course; you're just going to have to go with me on that one.