East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Favourite video games of the decade

From the point of view of a casual player with too short an attention span to play all the way through games, and applies to most of the below.

1. Guitar Hero III
The series is good for musicianship, though who knows if it'll be good for music in the long run? Song choices have been pretty lame compared to Rock Band, and anything that prolongs the prog revival is a mixed blessing. What these games do, though, is to lower the barriers to participatory enjoyment to something achievable for people like me who lack hand-eye co-ordination. I can now hear guitar tracks (and not just for songs I've played) in a way I couldn't before. That said, the reason that no. 3 is the classic so far (Beatles Rock Band has the setlist to be the definitive play-along game, but I haven't played it yet) is because it takes single-player as far as it can go, which basically means it's really fucking hard. I am no longer confident that I will pass "Raining Blood" on Hard (forget Expert) at some point in my life, but it could happen.
2. Grand Theft Auto III
We're still waiting for some genius robot to make sandbox narrative something other than a mixed metaphor. No human has yet improved on this.
3. Super Mario Galaxy
Everything you ever wanted to know about gravity but were afraid you'd get beaned with an apple for asking. Coming: Super Mario Relativity!
4. Pac-Man Championship Edition
Toss-up as to whether Ms. Pac-Man or this is the sweetest Pac-game. If you're pressed for time, though, it's probably this.
5. Kingdom of Loathing
The sharpest writing, line-for-line, and just below the maximum tolerance for Monty Python references. Pretty cleverly structured, too.
6. Portal
7. The Sims
8. Wii Sports
9. Sid Meier's Pirates!
10. Desktop Tower Defense 1.5

And I also liked:
No More Heroes
Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix
Rock Band 2
Burnout: Revenge
The demo for World of Goo
Wii Fit
Fancy Pants Adventure: World 2

The demo for Plants vs Zombies, even though you only get to play for an hour
And why not Cursor*10, which is immensely enjoyable for several minutes

2009 favourites:
Street Fighter IV
Plants vs. Zombies demo
Braid demo

And special mention to Lose/Lose, the best game I'll never play

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Best of the decade: Mos Def

He didn't miss my acting top 25 by much; combine this with being a decade top 10 rapper and he's one of the few genuine monsters of multimedia in this era of specialisation. I still need to acquire True Magic, which Geffen tried to sneak on to the market without anyone noticing. But before that came the harsh words and sounds of The New Danger, refusing the potent accessibility of his verses for Kanye about American life (and later, the role of drunk and hot girls therein). Aided by Dr. Know and Living Colour's best rhythm section, "Ghetto Rock" sounds like it's opening up a whole new genre. And after that came the eclecticism of The Ecstatic, attempting to reconcile his identity as black and Muslim with his US passport. He succeeds, of course: if he could live "Life in Marvelous Times" in Bed-Stuy '82, he can do so now.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Movie stars of the decade, #24-#21

24. Michelle Williams
Upon emerging from teen stardom, no one would've begrudged her if she had taken the Kirsten Dunst route and charmed big money pictures as the love interest. But from The Station Agent to Brokeback Mountain to Wendy and Lucy, she's made a habit of choosing intriguing roles, and she keeps getting better. partial SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER When Wendy finally finds Lucy, from the moment they make contact you *know* what's going to happen, and I give Williams the majority of the credit for this.
Pro wrestling equivalent: Trish Stratus.

23. Michael Caine
Just talked about him. PWE that will horrify two sets of nationalists: Fit Finlay.

22. Peter O'Toole
Never the busiest guy, in the first half of the decade it seemed he had nearly dried up: he had a neat cameo in Bright Young Things but was reduced to jobbing to Brad Pitt in Troy. Then came Venus, in which he sacrificed any physical (Anton) ego he may have still had, but clung stubbornly to his remaining shreds of dignity. Admirable, but we'll remember him as Lawrence.
PWE: Blue Panther.

21. Viola Davis
They've loved her on Broadway for some time, but meatiest screen role she's been cast in is the goddamn maid in Far from Heaven. More typical are two-minute parts like "mother in hospital" in World Trade Center -- yet she managed to make that movie deep for one scene. She didn't get much more time in Doubt, but it was time enough to give Meryl Streep the schooling of her life. Davis got her Oscar nomination, so you'd think things were looking up for her, right? And yet, even as she was campaigning, she couldn't get her name on the poster of the Tyler Perry picture she was in. Coming in 2010 are roles supporting Julia Roberts and Tom Cruise. Schooling them would be funny, but only up to a point.
PWE: Daisuke Ikeda.


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Richard Price, Lush Life

The grilling of the anti-hero murder suspect at the beginning of the book is fun, but the street crim kids aren't as well drawn as the gentrifiers and the cops. Price isn't mean enough to his teen delinquents, while he might be too mean to his grown-up ones. Nobody hates hipsters more than ex-hipsters, and Price has been there. The mystery is cleared up for us long before the victim's funeral turns into an orgy of point-scoring. When somebody actually wants to mourn, the attention-grabbers turn on the self-loathing. If you don't have anyone else's attention, you might as well have your own.


A poet: Juliana Spahr

"poem written after September 11, 2001": Two tricks: the old scale 'em up, scale 'em down, and the old length-of-line is length-of-breath. And you know what, she combines them into something absolutely 21st century, about collectivity and how it relates to geography, at a specific historical moment and always.
As everyone with lungs breathes the space between the hands and the space around the hands and the space of the room and the space of the building that surrounds the room and the space of the neighborhoods nearby and the space of the cities and the space of the regions and the space of the cities and the space of the regions and the space of the nations and the space of the continents and islands and the space of the oceans and the space of the troposphere and the space of the stratosphere and the space of the mesosphere in and out. [mp3]

"Gentle Now, Don't Add to Heartache": This one shows us how much language contributes to our shared experience. And how language isn't enough if we destroy the things the words describe.
I replaced what I knew of the stream with Lifestream Total Cholesterol Test Packets, with Snuggle Emerald Stream Fabric Softener Dryer Sheets, with Tisserand Aromatherapy Aroma-Stream Cartridges, with Filter Stream Dust Tamer, and Streamzap PC Remote Control, Acid Stream Launcher, and Viral Data Stream.
I didn't even say goodbye elephant ear, mountain madtorn, butterfly, harelip sucker, white catspaw, rabbitsfoot, monkeyface, speckled chub, wartyback, ebonyshell, pirate perch, ohio pigtoe, clubshell.

"The Incinerator": Illustrates that poetry is a way of thinking, but you knew that. It's what she thinks that matters, and you'd better believe she has thoughts worth hearing about class and race and gender and herself.
As I write this other stories keep popping up and I keep abandoning them: wanting to talk about class, I kept talking only about gender.
As I write this other stories keep popping up and I keep abandoning them: when I sat down to write this piece I began by writing about myself using a series of statements that I stole from working class memoirs by US women and then memoirs by women from the global south.
As I write this other stories keep popping up and I keep abandoning them: the categories were not equal: working class US women and then just any woman from the global south, as if these categories had any relationship between them.


Monday, November 02, 2009

Hit count: Couldn't get no worse

Brad Paisley, "Welcome to the Future"

The anti-"Born in the U.S.A.". Springsteen tells of dead cities; Paisley is tickled that he can play Pac-Man on an iPhone. One mourns losing family in Vietnam; the other glorifies family who fought in the Second World War. One observes the arrival of mass incarceration, and knows that's it's only going to get worse; the other thinks things are going to be dandy now that we have a black president. So why, then, is "Welcome to the Future" almost, if not quite, as great a song as "Born in the U.S.A."? One of my core beliefs is that rock and roll is, with many exceptions, better when it's joyous than when it's miserable. But optimism has to be justifiable, and it's been a while since a belief that macro-scale things were looking up was distinguishable from delusion. No one has made optimism seem as reasonable as Paisley does here since the time when kids could be born to run -- the time when there was somewhere to run to. Even those who don't believe that Our Barack will deliver us from our sins have got to admit that now, yeah, maybe we can start cleaning up the messes we've made in years and decades past. It's our time. Now make something out of it.

(another take for all you anti-capitalists)

Pitbull, "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)"

The won't-go-away songs of 2009: "Boom Boom Pow" (masterpiece), "Poker Face" (held up for a shockingly long time), "Love Story" (great but enough already), "Halo" (has faded into innocuousness, not unpleasantly), "Use Somebody" (ten months on the radio is too many by nine-and-a-half), "I'm Yours" (please, no more, for the love of Hall and Oates). And this, the only one to significantly benefit from over six months of saturating the airwaves, at least as much as it's only now I've decided it's a pretty good song. Couldn't get over the played "Street Player" sample at first, but the beat eventually got to me -- as Manu Chao knows, a ping is as good a hook as any. Six months have not revealed to me whether the woman in question looks "like King Kong", or if her ass looks like King Kong, or if her ass looks like King Kong's ass, or, for completeness, she looks like King Kong's ass. What I can state with some certainty is that she has a large posterior, and that all concerned parties are pleased about this.