Friday Afternoon’s All Right for Turning to Page 42

Nostalgia not just for childhood literature but to things I’ve already linked to.

I’ve already linked to Aaron Reed’s 50 Years of Text Games project in a previous post, but I feel like I misrepresented it somewhat. For instance, the scope is broader than I mentioned: it doesn’t just include the Infocom-style computer text adventure games, but “a history of digital games without graphics.”

That includes stuff I hadn’t realized, like the fact that The Oregon Trail started as a text-only game written in BASIC, released the year I was born! And it also includes a story of the creation of The Cave of Time, the first Choose Your Own Adventure book. That’s full of interesting details I hadn’t known before, such as the fact that the CYOA games and contemporary computer games were developed in parallel, instead of one idea influencing the other. Also, that the format predated The Cave of Time and the disappointingly litigious CYOA brand.

The series is turning out to be more interesting than I’d first expected it to be, and I’ve gone from “I’ll have to check that out sometime” to “Am I actually going to have to subscribe to something on substack?” after reading just a couple of entries.

It also reminds me of why I first wanted to get into computer programming. I was about 10 or 11 years old, I was at my friend Jason’s house, and his family had recently gotten a Commodore VIC-20, the first “home computer” I’d ever seen. I was just amazed that you could type something and it would show up on a TV screen. They started to show me how it played games as well, and while I can’t remember what game they chose, I do remember that it started by asking you to type in player names. His sister typed in “ASSWIPE (JASON)”, which resulted in 10 or 15 minutes of the computer happily calling him an asswipe. I thought it was the most brilliant thing I’d ever seen.

The spark of inspiration took hold of me that day, and I vowed to commit my life to exploring the profound potential of interactive entertainment.

Feels Like the First Haim

My entry in the Haim fan club and a near-fifty-year-old’s lament of the Tik Tok generation.

I want to start by saying I don’t feel the least bit guilty about this post’s title, considering that the band themselves were promoting last year’s tour with a version of Daft Punk’s “One More Haim.”

I was proud of myself for not letting this turn into a Dirty Projectors fan blog, but then Haim snuck in on the Seth Meyers show dressed as vampire brides, and the next thing I knew, I was a fan. It’s kind of the same trap I fell into with Neko Case: I had no idea they were funny! With Haim, on top of the title of their third album, there’s their Twitter and Instagram accounts. They make it clear that while they take the music part seriously, everything that comes with fame and self-promotion is really just an excuse for them to wear nice clothes and have fun.

Granted, most people who know me will know that I’ve always had the spirit of a twenty-something Los Angeles millennial Jewish woman, trapped in the body of a big hairy, nerdy WASP. But even if you don’t have an affinity for it like I do, they’re doing a hell of a job of selling a lifestyle: being a young, successful woman in LA. They keep getting Paul Thomas Anderson to direct their videos of them walking around the city, taking their clothes off, racing each other through the Forum parking lot, wandering through car washes, or having a make-up-related breakdown while complaining that you don’t understand me, and it just seems like even at its grimiest and most suburban sprawling, the city would be a fascinating place to live in.

Continue reading “Feels Like the First Haim”

Tuesday Tune Two-Fer: Early 2000s Mix Tape

Today’s two tunes appeared on 99.9% of my playlists in the 2000s

Remember the early 2000s, which were just a few years ago and not 20, so shut your lying mouth? Instead of all these uninspired present-day bands who insist on making “new music,” back then, they dug up under-appreciated albums from the 60s and 70s and did electronic remix version compilations. They were crazy about that stuff, and we liked it that way.

One was called The Now Sound Redesigned, a bunch of remixes of songs by The Free Design. The Free Design have an album called Kites Are Fun and they seem to me as if they were inspired by The Association, but wanted a sound that wasn’t so intense and edgy. “I Found Love” is by far my favorite track from that project. Putting the original men’s vocals weaving in and out of Sarah Shannon’s more prominent lead vocals is the perfect move, elevating the original from something slight and treacly to something genuinely pretty.

Another was “Batucada” by Towa Tei & Bebel Gilberto. (It had already been out a few years before I discovered it). Hearing this song brings back memories of driving around the Bay Area listening to Pizzicato Five, Fantastic Plastic Machine, the Samba de Amigo and Jet Set Radio soundtracks, and imagining living in a swinging future bachelor pad that overlooked the megalopolis of Rio de Tokyo.

Monday Afternoon’s All Right for Suckin’ on Chili Dogs

Catching up on internetting

Just because I missed last Friday’s link post doesn’t mean I can’t try and catch up on Monday!

Tom McGovern’s reinterpretation of “Jack and Diane” is how the song was meant to be heard.

I like that Hasbro’s making high-concept, detailed toys for Ghostbusters fans, but it seems like an odd choice to recast Peter Venkman with the national disgrace Ted Cruz.

Not that anyone asked, but the reason I was looking at the Hasbro site was because they’ve announced a new toy figure based on the old Star Wars comic character Jaxxon the space rabbit. Nerds tend to take their fandoms way too seriously, and it’s good to remember every once in a while how much of it is inherently silly.

Last month, there was a retrospective of the Zork adventure game, by Aaron Reed as part of his 50 Years of Text Games series. As somebody who’s always loved the history, packaging, and stories surrounding these games — but has never much enjoyed playing the games themselves — I’m looking forward to reading the whole series.

Semi-New Song Sunday: Quakers

Quakers is a sprawling hip-hop sampler, and the samples are my favorite part

A decade old but new to me: Quakers, with “Fitta Happier.” The project is three producers, including one of the guys from Portishead, with a rotating line-up of MCs. The track uses samples from a marching band medley of Radiohead songs.

I’ve never cared much for Portishead or Radiohead, and I only tend to like the most pop/rock-oriented hip hop, but this track is fantastic. It’s from the first album from 2012, which is full of some amazing samples.

They released a sequel last November, but so far it hasn’t grabbed me like the first one. “Test My Patience” isn’t bad, though.

Edited to add: If you’re curious, here’s the marching band performance that’s sampled in “Fitta Happier,” from the 2006 Pride of Arizona. (If you’re as impatient as I am, it starts around 6:00).

EV Pondering

I’m still comparison-shopping EVs, and I’ve got some questions.

I’ve been “researching” (read: watching YouTube videos about) electric vehicles for several weeks now, and a lot of the same ideas keep recurring: tips to speed up fast-charging time, maximizing battery life, maximizing range, etc. But never having owned an EV or spent a long time looking into them, there are a few things I can’t figure out.

I’ve had an entirely too charitable impression of car reviewers
One thing I’ve learned from watching lots of car reviews is that car reviewers mostly suck. There are obvious exceptions, but as someone who’s never been particularly interested in cars, I’ve always just assumed that reviewers are well familiar with all the myriad details about cars that are lost on me. But I’ve been surprised by how many reviews get the basic details wrong, ignore aspects of the car that are obviously specific to a review situation, or go on about aspects of the car that are irrelevant to drivers that aren’t reviewers. Is it all Top Gear‘s fault?

What’s the deal with the front trunk?
Speaking of terrible reviews: what the hell is this garbage review of the ID.4? The reviewer was biased against the car from the start, but that’s okay because I was biased against the review for being from a Gawker site. (Yes, I know that Gawker Media doesn’t exist anymore, but the taint is inescapable). What’s odd to me, though, is that this isn’t the only review I’ve seen to waste so much time talking about the lack of a front trunk.

It’s an absurd complaint. The closest I’ve seen to a reasonable explanation is that it’s convenient to keep the charging cable in there, but I’m not buying it. Is this supposed to be a real complaint?

How do Elon Musk’s fanboys justify a proprietary super charger network?
I’ve been in the SF Bay Area enough to see a depressing number of men go glassy-eyed and speak in reverent tones about how Musk’s visionary work is going to save our fragile planet. I’ve been so eager to get into a situation of no longer talking to them, that I never got to ask them the obvious question: how do they justify making the super charger network proprietary and exclusive to Tesla owners? Obviously, the ubiquity of the network is a selling point for the cars, but wouldn’t it be best for everyone to encourage more EV purchases in the US, while at the same time charging non-Tesla drivers for the convenience?

Are crossover SUVs really as popular as people keep saying?
The thing I found most surprising when I started comparing cars: there are almost no affordable options for 200+ mile range in a sedan, coupe, or hatchback. As far as I can tell, there’s just the Chevy Bolt or the Tesla Model 3. I understand that bigger batteries give better range, but I’m stunned that more manufacturers haven’t gone the ID.3 route, and that Volkswagen hasn’t made the ID.3 available in the US. The explanation was “Americans want SUVs.” I can’t tell if that’s a real thing or just a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Tuesday Tune Two-Fer: In Search of Lost Fountains

YOU CAN’T MISS DISNEY WORLD IF YOU KEEP IT IN YOUR HEART ALWAYS

There are many books that I’ve never read and will never read, but still like to make easy references to in order to sound more literate, the same way that lazy TV writers reference A Christmas Carol around December, and traitors to the United States reference 1984. One of those is Remembrances of Things Past, which I only discovered today is more often translated as In Search of Lost Time.

And the one thing about that work that everyone knows is the part about vivid involuntary memory conjured by eating a piece of cake. Maybe I should stop pseudo-referencing Proust and instead update it to something I have actually seen, and compare it to the end of Ratatouille?

Anyway, the older I get, the easier it is to narrow down my favorite place on the entire planet Earth: the area stretching from Crescent Lake to the center of Future World in Epcot.

When I want to go back there mentally, there are two pieces of music that never fail to deliver. One is “Linwood Road” by Billy Joe Walker, Jr. This was (is?) part of the background music loop playing just outside of the Yacht & Beach Club. Hearing it now, I can actually feel that muggy heat of central Florida in late spring, not yet hot enough to be oppressive, because it’s early morning and because you can still feel the perpetual cold of constant air conditioning. I can actually taste the blueberry muffin I had from the lobby just about every morning, which like a lot of stuff at Disney, is good but nowhere near as good as you were imagining. I can hear the kids screaming in the pool and feel the calm of knowing that they’re not my responsibility. And I can see the Friendship Boat coming from the BoardWalk, on its way to take people to MGM Studios.

The other is, not surprisingly, the music from Epcot’s Future World/Innoventions area. It’s funny that this is so easy to find online these days, since I can remember a few years when I was desperate to be able to listen to it outside the parks. I ended up getting a copy from some anonymous person from a small Disney music-obsessive message board, who had access to the original tracks, and it felt dangerous and illicit, like meeting Deep Throat in a parking garage.

Hearing it now puts me right outside the Mouse Gear store, sitting and watching the fountain that used to be at the center of Future World. (And smoking, but I don’t miss that part). Or leaving for the monorail right after it’s gotten dark, and the fiber-optic patterns in the concrete have started to light up.

I think part of the reason I can’t get too upset about all the changes in the works at Epcot is that I’ve got even more vivid memories of that place than I do of apartments I’ve lived in.

Semi-New Song Sunday: Aaron Frazer

Even the most faithful recreations of “vintage” music can add something new

The video to Aaron Frazer’s “Bad News” is remarkable: a fascinating dance performance around a section of Brooklyn, set to a song that’s such a faithful recreation of 70s R&B that you’d wonder if the dance was the entire point, not the music. Which I think is a bold move for a singer making his solo debut.

As I understand it, Frazer was drummer and occasional singer with Durand Jones & The Indications, a band that Jones started with three of his classmates. I keep seeing that band’s music, as well as Frazer’s solo album, described as “vintage” and “nostalgic,” which can come across as a tactful way of saying “looking backwards without adding anything new.”

And since I’ve never been a particularly big fan of R&B or soul, it does kind of blend into the background for me — I like it quite a bit, but I need some kind of hook to make me genuinely interested. Here, there’s an undercurrent of activism and social consciousness; it’s not accidental that it calls back to the music of the Civil Rights movement. It’s a reminder that music can be more than just escapist and commercial, but an agent of change.

The bigger hook for me with Frazer’s music, though, is the variety of arrangements. I first heard of him yesterday courtesy of a live performance of five songs for KEXP, which makes every one 10 times more interesting than the album versions I’ve heard so far.

Honestly, as soon as I saw a young man sit down with an acoustic guitar and start singing in a high falsetto, I was reminded of James in one of the greatest scenes in Twin Peaks. But the string quartet, and the earnestness of it, won me over quickly. The second track seems to lean even harder into the Twin Peaks vibe, with a clean-cut guy singing at a mic in what seems to be an annex of the Roadhouse. But with each song, they change up the instrumentation a bit and show a different side of the music.

It all calls back to R&B and soul from around 1960 to 1977 or so — I’m not musically literate enough to pinpoint it better than that — but instead of feeling like just a slavish recreation, it feels more like a celebration. I started out skeptical, but over the course of five songs I became a fan.

Friday Night’s All Right for Binge-Watching

I haven’t been watching Tiny Secret Whispers on the streaming services, but I almost feel like I don’t need to after seeing Seth Meyers’s fantastic recaps on Late Night. His check-ins with Delgado, Packer, and the twins is my favorite recurring segment on the show.

I also saw a couple of trailers this week that look pretty interesting and/or genre-bending:

  • Kevin Can Fuck Himself starring Annie Murphy in what seems to be a combination sitcom/black comedy about revenge murder. Is it a series? A TV movie? No idea, but it looks interesting and is on AMC.
  • Made for Love will be on HBO Max and star Cristin Milioti, who has been in a ton of really cool stuff, but whom I will always think of as Your Mother. Highlights of this trailer are of course Ray Romano reciting “Crazy in Love” but especially “I thought those were metaphors!”

Tuesday Tune Two-Fer: Simmer Down Now

SpectreCollie.com, your soft rock FM in the AM

Last night, we decided to forgo my usual white noise and try Apple Music’s playlist for so-called “Peaceful Sleep.” Apparently, I fell asleep eventually, but it was a battle. I’ve never been able to sleep with music playing, partly because a part of my brain is always waiting for the next bar to finish. Maybe too many years in band trained me to pay super-close attention to music, so I don’t miss my cue.

But there is some music that can calm my brain, like the two tunes for today. First is Angelika Suspended, which was from a short side project by Poi Dog Pondering. I first heard this in college and it’s still one of my favorite pieces of music.

Next is Super Triangle by the Go! Team. It already made me think of 1970s educational animation even before they made that excellent video. It’s very calming to have nostalgia for a time when all I had to worry about was when 3-2-1 Contact was going to be on.