Monthly Archives: February 2009

The crappiest golden age: video games

It really is time to ask how NES, donkey kong, and blocky Mario work as an aesthetic. This essay on the fake video game from The Wrestler makes it seem like the a craft the world is on he verge of disappearing.

Hume noted that one of the bigger challenges faced when creating Wrestle Jam was limiting her character sprites designs to the reduced palette of 8-bit hardware. “Recreating yesterdays game with today’s technology was hard,” Hume recalled, saying that early Wrestle Jam designs were aesthetically inappropriate, “a modern style version of an 80s game,” designs that had to be throttled back to match antiquated hardware. That even meant dumbing down the programming.

“To get that exact look and feel encompassing everything we knew an 80s wrestling game to be, meaning the awkwardly timed reactions to punches and kicks to the generally stupid AI,” Furino said.

nes gawkerMomus’s take on them in 1999 is very appealing: that they’re the closest modern society has gotten to cute pictograms of the ineffable.

When, on either side of the globe, the aliens emerged from their craft clutching Space Invaders machines, there were two different reactions. In Akihabara passers by, many of them clutching 128-bit Dreamcast consoles under their arms, started laughing at a bunch of funny looking country cousins trying to offload yesterday’s game systems. But in Paris, where there has always been a humane and tolerant attitude to noble savages of all kinds, there was some real anthropological interest, not to mention a wry appreciation of the kitsch factor. This trendily retro technology appealed to the artists, DJs and graffiti kids of Bastille, Ivry, Pigalle and Montmartre, who saw the Space Invaders consoles as something charmingly vintage, ripe for recontextualisation. Instead of playing these antiquated games, clearly fit only for some Museum of Jurassic Technology, one posse of Info Decos on the Rue Keller thought it would be funny to recast them as some sort of techno-ethnic, pseudo-primitive craft. With painstaking care, working under cover of darkness, they glued images of the cute descending alien craft tile by tile to the walls of Paris. Like idiotic chickens dropping little eggs instead of bombs, ceramic Space Invaders started appearing on street corners all over Bastille and Le Marais, next to the liberation slogans of displaced third world peoples, graffitti spray tags and street signs.

The great thing about video games is that people in their 30s can imagine what it was like for the Normans to think that the Bayeux tapestry was as realistic as things could possibly get.


Young Revolutionary Artists Are Asleep at the Wheel

Can the ages in this news report be right?

A London artist who created a huge inflatable sculpture that killed two women after it broke its moorings and flew across a park has been found guilty of breaking health and safety rules.

Claire Furmedge, 38, from Chester-le-Street, County Durham, and Elizabeth Collings, 68, from Seaham, died when they fell from the artwork “Dreamspace” in July 2006.

At Newcastle Crown Court on Tuesday the creator of the artwork Maurice Agis, 77, of Bow, east London, was convicted of one charge of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Gramps! C’mon! Leave the outrages to the 38-year-old with an artistic revolution to foment, don’t kill her with your balloon of death!

Guess the author

From the Guardian:

“[Slumdog Millionaire] piles impossibility on impossibility,” he said in a lecture at Emory University in Atlanta, raising questions over how the characters end up at the Taj Mahal, 1,000 miles from where they were in the previous scene, and how they manage to get their hands on a gun in India.

Hint: it’s the author that made a big postmodernist show of misplacing Gandhi’s death in his most famous novel. Lesson: you can fuck with history to brighten your narrative. But leave geography and gun laws alone. Let’s write off this voyage while we’re at it.

You’re a poet–Poet-laureate,

Does anyone care who replaces Andrew Motion as Britain’s next laureate? I do! Even Kipling said, “that poets shouldn’t be paid servants of the state.” But then what was Kipling doing coming up with inscriptions for war memorials? The way Britain conceives of its laureate is faintly ridiculous, but it has its advantages.

1. Nearly all writers, artists and poets are treated by the British press as celebrities, qua celebrities. Like the Archbishop of Canterbury, the press covers whatever the poet laureate says. It’s the last vestige of respect left in the news for pure aesthetic values. (eg. “Children should be taught the Bible throughout their education because it is an ‘essential piece of cultural luggage‘ without which they will struggle to fully understand literature, according to the poet laureate, Andrew Motion.”)

2. The laureate might be a part of the court and have to gratingly flatter royalty. But that’s better than being in the academy, where the top posts involve flattering professors by repeating their idees recus.

3. We need to get much better at occasional poems. If Elizabeth Alexander had more practice by trying to come up with things to say about Prince William’s 21st birthday, maybe she’d have come up with something better than this pap for a moment of actual world-historical significance. If Wendy Cope doesn’t feel comfortable doing it, that’s fine. But don’t ban the position on her account! It would be good to get the laureate reading poems at more government functions, or adding them as introductions to government reports.

4. Historical continuity. Knocking the laureate is as revered a tradition as appointing one. Wendy Cope joins Byron. Andrew Motion joins Southey.

Great prose of our time

From Matrix Health Group:

Everyday thousands of students across the country use backpacks. Although considered almost indispensable, backpacks can be an unidentified source of health issues for people with or without a bleeding disorder

The Fine Art of Bomb Detonation

From Foreign Policy:
So what you are saying is that part of this ordnance disposal can actually just be detonating the bomb?

Sidney Alford: That’s right. Now, I think a more civilized method does not have the simple elegance of one hell of a bang — which is cheap and easy and does not require great skill. More sophisticated is the use of an explosive charge, which you hope will disrupt the bomb in one way or another but will not cause it to detonate.

There are two basic ways of doing this [latter task]. One is that you can fire what is called a “linear cutting charge” very close to the bomb. This cuts the bomb by producing what is effectively a blade of exceedingly fast-moving copper. Copper is a high-density material, and if you hit a large enough area of a bomb with material of sufficiently large velocity and density, the poor old bomb will detonate. So, this is a sophisticated way of causing a crude result. On a good day, it will split the bomb open and it may not even ignite the explosive. Then you have a bomb that you can burn out. This is one reason, no doubt, why the U.N. team has requested flares.

Looking through Alford’s occasional column, I’m swearing off using bombing as shorthand for an unsubtle solution for some time.

Uh oh

Andrew Sullivan writes:

It’s been a month; and if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Obama, it’s that he’s already thinking in terms of four years.

Didn’t Bush’s defenders say the great thing about him is that he was thinking in terms of 30 years, 40 years, 50 years?