Video Games

Music, 2011

I’ve never been as fascinated by the persona of an artist like I have become by Lana Del Rey within the last twenty four hours. And I’m not alone. People on the internet seem to love talking about her, both building her up and tearing her down. She’s generating that amount discussion for two very good reasons. First and formost her breakout song, “Video Games”, hits a sweet spot between quality and wide appeal, not to mention an earnestness and originality, that I can’t imagine any human being taking issue with. And it possesses all of those things in abundance, making it frighteningly addictive. Secondly, she wears the identity of Americana, something everyone seems to either see themselves reflected in or otherwise have strong opinions about, simultaneously as a scar and a badge.
The song itself is a black hole, and couldn’t have been planned better as such. Its rich atmosphere draws you in while its serene tranquility keeps you there and its originality and sexual allure keep you interested. To me, the song is full of love and compassion, strength and optimism, which are at odds with its lyrics about misguided devotion in the face of a relationship that has some barriers within it. I suppose I wouldn’t disagree with anyone for finding it morose or fragile. Its impact manages to completely overpower lyrics that seem like they should come across as nieve, and instead renders them stark. (“I say you’re the bestest/ Lean in for a big kiss/ Put his favorite perfume on.”) But its sincerity is the mortar that holds it all together. The song certainly uses a sexy, appealing and, most damnably, well established aesthetic as shorthand to get the listener on board, but it doesn’t appear do so for the purposes of being popular. It’s genuine. Can you really argue that someone made something that sounds like this in an effort toward mainstream success? (Side note: If we had to put up with hearing Rolling in the Deep four thousand and thirty eight times on the radio to get to have this, it was totally worth it.) When was the last time you heard something so original and bare in the mainstream? This song owes its appeal to being a perfect storm.
It’s a storm that extends to the persona of its singer. The song itself is already potent enough, but one look at Del Rey and you are totally disarmed.
She’s a redneck-chic, elegant white-hot nightmare of Americana, bordering on surreal. Her affluent physical beauty and glamorous hairstyle didactically clash with her pressed nails, bling and down home attire, all neatly separated by her look’s real centerpiece, her face. I don’t know if Lana Del Rey has had cosmetic surgery and I don’t care to know, because regardless she very much has the look of someone who has and that’s producing some very telling responses from people. This literally bold-faced statement of superficiality feels at odds with the deep emotion of “Video Games”, and watching her sing it can feel incongruous. In fact, it seems to be making a lot of people uncomfortable, challenging their perceptions of what someone who looks like Del Rey is supposed to be like. People don’t like being called judgmental assholes, so the mere sight of her seems to be enough to make viewers defensive and angry. So if you’re someone who has decided to not only hate Walmart but the people who shop there, you’re going to have a hard time watching “Video Games” come out of Lana Del Rey. But that incongruity serves to only feed the storm. What seems like it should only tarnish the poignant beauty of “Video Games” instead heightens it. The whole thing is not too different from Susan Boyle or Ted Williams, two other cases of the internet thrusting fame upon surprising incongruity.
It all comes together so neatly, people are right to be skeptical about her origins. Is “Lana Del Rey” (real name Elizabeth Grant) the concoction of record company executives? It all seems to work too well to be true. Even her missteps, such as the parts of the “Video Games” music video where she films herself as someone would photograph themselves on MySpace in 2003, contribute to her being greater than the sum of her parts. Could it all be real? Perfect storms don’t just happen. (Except when they do.) In the end, I don’t really care. Artists are never real people to me. What’s the difference, really, to me, between “Bruce Willis” and his character in Die Hard, John McClane? I’ll never know what either of them are really like. We’ll never hang out. They’re both fictions. That’s one of the things I really love about The Venture Brothers, they hold David Bowie and Iggy Pop in the same regard as Batman and Johnny Quest. Which, really, they are. So what do I care about the difference between Elizabeth Grant and Lana Del Rey? You’re not being made a patsy by believing in Lana Del Rey, because you’ve never known the truth about a single artist. Accept that, and accept her. See how well you can handle it by watching her first, and so far only, television appearance on Jools Holland (another suspiciously good choice on her part):
I’ll tell you one thing; If record company executives came up with the character of Lana Del Rey, I don’t care. Because that would mean they’re fucking creative geniuses. This shit is solid.
Looking toward the future, this is not sustainable. I’m guessing that with the release of more music, the landscape of Del Rey’s sound and emotions will diversify, diluting all the didacticisms I outline above. The more we see of her as a human being, the more mundane she’ll become. But right now, in this moment in time, this is absolute perfection.


colin’s thesis= no posts for a while.
instead, go to Toothpaste For and laugh your ass off

B Movies

The almighty Bruce Campbell has a theory that I used to find merely cute, but the more I look around the more I realize that it’s actually true. I’m not going to look up what interview it was in, but it was fairly recent. He said something along the lines of “A-Movies have become B-Movies”.
At first I thought that this was merely a heartwarming thought for the king of the B Movie, but then I read a very strange piece of news today… the movie Stealth that came out last summer (my friends and I referred to it as “Crazy Plane”) cost 135 million dollars to make.

Are you fucking serious? For anyone who doesn’t know: Stealth is about a plane with very advanced AI that goes nuts and starts killing people. It starred Academy Award winning actor Jamie Foxx (following closely in the footsteps of the incorrigible Halle Berry). Does a movie plot get any more B then that? And look at these movies… Herbie: Fully Loaded… War of the Worlds… Zathura?

IMDB trivia for Stealth: “500 gallons of gasoline were used for the explosion in the Alaska airfield sequence. NASA had to be notified of it in advance because it was so big.”

Adventure games (Day of the Tentacle)

Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers

I never really thought it would happen, but I actually play a lot of video games these days. And as far as I know, I am the only person who plays video games for the artistic merit, and not the technological. The video game industry seems to be in this creative rut where people only play the newest prettiest games, and anything that came out more than year ago pretty much doesn’t exist. Honestly, apply this way of thinking to any other art form (movies, books, music). It’s absolutely ludicrous. The video game industry is even more disgusting than Hollywood.

Sam and Max Hit the Road

What games do I play? Well, the only stuff that I’ve ever really liked isSpace Quest, stuff by Doug TenNapel (Earthworm Jim, Neverhood), and early LucasArts stuff (mostly by Tim Schafer). What do all of these things have in common? They are all adventure games, a long dead genre of video game. This seemed to be the only place in the industry where anyone was interested in telling a story, or really being artistic in any way.

Halo is not very artistic, it is functional. The level design doesn’t have any theme or idea behind it, as demonstrated by things like doorways that are three stories off the ground that lead to nowhere. And plain boring walls. And nondescript machines in the middle of a hallway that just happen to make excellent cover. These games have no personality or ideas behind them, but can be fun to play. Find one boring, non-beautiful, uncreative inch in the game Psycohnauts. You’ll be there for a while.


I won my first eBay auction the other day and won Day of the Tentacle, an early game by Tim Schafer. Exactly as expected, this was a great game. It was really funny, really well designed (both in that the backgrounds were great, and I enjoyed solving all of the puzzles), and I cared about what was going on. The game is a sequel to ManiacMansion, a pretty good game that pretty much started the adventure game genre. Day of the Tentacle took what little story and characterization was in Maniac Mansion and went wild with it. Basically Dr. Fred’ pet tentacle drinks some toxic waste and grows arms, enabling him to hatch a scheme that will allow him to take over the world. You play as three different characters: Bernard the geek, Hoagie the metal roadie, and Laverne the tweaked out med student. Dr. Fred sends you back in time to yesterday to stop the tentacle from drinking the sludge. But of course, there is a mix-up. Bernard stays in the present, Hoagie goes two hundred years in the past (and meets over the top versions of Alexander Hamilton and Ben Franklin), and Laverne goes to a tentacle dominated dystopian future. You have to work all three characters in conjunction in order to solve the many many puzzles in the game.


The art is pretty good, but it’s just wacky and cartoony. Pretty standard animated sprites, and fun house mirror type backgrounds. Not bad by any means, but it doesn’t really make a comment on anything either, other than the humorous nature of the world the game is set in. The writing and characterization is the real highlight of this game. All the characters are distinct and specific, and their personalities of the source of most of the humor in the game. The thought of actual characters in a game is a pretty foreign concept to most games.

I’ve seen Day of the Tentacle is regarded by at least a few people as the best adventure game of all time, but it’s not. It is very high up on the list, but it is not very heavy in concept. It is however really fun to play, and very funny.

Pretty much, this industry is going to have to start making games that are actually good (like this one) if they don’t want to get caught in the rut that comic books and animation did and be considered a “lesser” form of expression forever. But I’m pretty sure that the video game companies are making too much money to consider changing their strategies, so I don’t really see this happening. Never has the formative years of a new form of expression been so dismal.
Writing: 8 Graphics: 8 Gameplay: 9 Number of puzzles I had to use the walkthrough for (stupid fucking cat): 3 Overall: 8

Double Fine (Tim Schafer’s video game production company)
Telltale Games (Ex-Lucasarts employees)

Kevin Smith

You know, I was young once. The world was so full of promise. I had never gotten into a fight with a girlfriend, worried about money, or received any major injuries. And you know what one of the best parts was? Kevin Smith movies were so fucking good. Since then I’ve had year and a half long fights with girls, constantly been out of money, and had fifteen stitches in my face. And you know what the worst part is? Kevin Smith movies are the most unbelievable garbage this
side of Paul W.S. Anderson. What happened?


I’ven’t (two abbreviations in a row! Triple bonus points! Awesome!) devoted much thought to Kevin Smith the last few years, but my head turned when he announced his new “back to his roots” sequel to Clerks. He made all kind of claims about it being a low budget old school return to form. Including this (taken directly from his website 2/12/05):


“This isn’t gonna be a star-studded affair. The biggest names in the cast are gonna be Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, and Jason Mewes.”


And then this comes (9/20/05):


“Rosario Dawson will star in the twin bill “Killshot” and “Passion of the Clerks” for the Weinstein Co.”


That’s right. Men in Black 2, Alexander, Josie and the Pussycats Rosario Dawson. I’m not saying she’s a bad actress, she’s great (KIDS, 25th Hour). But she is, alas, a big big star. Smith lets the ball drop as early as the casting stage. I really wanted to give him one more chance, but man…

He’s also making all kinds of asshole claims about it being the “funniest thing he’s ever written” and “really poignant”. I remember him saying all that stuff about Jersey Girl before it came out too.

Imagine being the guy who played Dante in Clerks 1 and getting that phone call:
“So… guy who played Dante… how would you feel about… Clerks 2?”
“Didn’t you say you were never going to make another Jay and Silent Bob movie again? Is this because of Jersey Girl? Are you an asshole?”
“I will answer your questions in order: Yes. No, I even said it wasn’t on my website. So that’s definately true. Why would I go out of my way to say something that wasn’t true? And yes.”
“No, I won’t tarnish that wonderful movie for everyone who enjoyed it!”
“I am prepared to offer you a million billion dollars.”

And every bit about Clerks 2 on the website is self deprecating to the point of embarrassment. We all know people who do this. You can only make the same joke so many times before it’s just… not a joke anymore. “Train Wreck!” in big letters all over the website.


And I skimmed the forums quick to see if anyone had actually pointed this out, and it was nothing but pages and pages of “she’s a great actress!” and “she’s so hot in Sin City!”


Wow. I could actually go on, but I’m ashamed of myself for caring so much, and am going to stop it here.


“Heh heh. You fucked up! Now I’m going to go write about it in my internet blog!”