Saturday, December 29, 2007

High- and low-tech video games

Had my second taste of the Nintendo Wii this weekend at my friend Geoff's house. The game I played, Smooth Moves, is a truly hilarious collection of "microgames" that last a few seconds each, literally. You're dropped into a random, often very droll situation and required to figure out what you have to do, and do it, within seconds. It might be one of the best video games for parties ever, since it makes you do funny things, like chop at the air with the controller, and the game is funny enough that anyone watching may be rendered helpless with laughter. (Microgame examples: "Shave," in which you have to shave a man's face in, like, two seconds; "Drop," in which you have to drop the controller -- but you might not figure that out in time; and, conversely, "Don't Drop It," which is depicted above and whose object should be pretty obvious.) Though I merely watched others play Super Mario Galaxy, I have to say, it's more or less like Super Mario Brothers on acid. Which in this case is a compliment.

In lower-tech video game news, I learned that dozens of games for Intellivision, the game console that came out the year I was born, can be purchased for PC or Mac use. Before I spend a whole $30 on a 60-game package, though, I wanted to download a few games to try out. The nostalgia rush was immediate. Though I'm warming up to systems like Xbox 360 (Portal, in The Orange Box, is wonderful, and though I probably wouldn't want to play it, BioShock is utterly fascinating), I still have a lot of love for (relatively) simple games like Arkanoid, and Intellivision offered an enormous number of fairly straightforward, nonetheless addictive games. A few minutes spent playing Shark! Shark! felt like a trip back in time to the mid-'80s, when I was a chubby little kid who loved little more than sitting in front of the television set in the living room and disappearing into all sorts of games -- which, at the time, seemed very sophisticated and satisfying. (One of my all-time favorites, Tron: Deadly Discs, isn't in the group I downloaded for free, but maybe I can get it in the package, should I decide to splurge on it.) Anyway, it seems apt that my discovery of Intellivision's enduring legacy and my first real Wii experience should occur so close together. It's almost as if the Intellivision gods are smiling on my tentative venture into the exciting world of games in which three dimensions exist and plots have second and third acts -- interactive movies, really.

Speaking of movies: The Warriors is freaking amazing, it's coming to the Grand Illusion fairly soon, and somebody needs to go with me to see it.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Reggae Radiohead, and a Christmas tree, for Chanukah

Who knew that the best thing I'd listen to all month would be a Toots and the Maytals cover of Radiohead's "Let Down," from OK Computer? I got the album, Radiodread, from the library; it's a collection of reggae and dub covers of the songs on OK Computer, and while Citizen Cope's rendition of "Karma Police" is predictably lackluster, Toots' "Let Down" is so good that, as I told Michael, who recommended the track, you kind of forget about the original and just surrender to the new wonderfulness of the cover. Taking a song as beautiful and sad as "Let Down" and finding a whole new kind of beauty in it is pretty great; Toots' voice is so sunny, and the arrangement so naturally reggae-ish, that it makes you appreciate the original even more in retrospect. But not while you're listening; it's all Toots until the song's over. Just lovely.

In other news, I went to Dunshee House Thursday night and picked up a lovely Christmas tree:

For the first time ever, I picked the first tree I saw. It was just perfect; I even surprised the lot attendant, who said: "You're making my job too easy!" Also bought a wreath and affixed it to our front door, and added a big red ribbon today. As if that weren't enough holiday cheer, I made stockings today with cheap, disappointing gold glitter glue and strung some lights in the front window. Not sure why I'm so determined to do Christmas up right this year. Maybe it's because I'll be in town, and thus around to appreciate my own handiwork. Maybe it's because last year I was out of town for nine days around Christmas and only had a small tree at home. And maybe, just maybe, it's some kind of weird, ahead-of-its-time paternal instinct kicking in, like I'm practicing for one day decorating the house for kids. Heaven help us.

Just to keep things somewhat balanced, I went to a very nice Chanukah party last night in the neighborhood, hosted by some friends of my friend Elana. Just a great time: latkes, singing, and a game of Apples to Apples, which is awesome, by the way, in case you haven't played it. I'm still miffed that my play of "Jack the Ripper" for "misunderstood" didn't win, but I guess you had to be there to know what the hell I'm even talking about. Good times, though.

Today I chatted with a prospective member of the writing workshop Elana and I are starting in January; it went very well. Tomorrow it's lunch with folks from my monthly Buddhist group, then a trip down to Burien to see another member of the group in a Christmas play. And then, if no one prevents me, I may somehow decorate my house for Christmas even more. Or maybe buy a menorah. That would probably be a good idea.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


A random rain poem, by Shel Silverstein:


I opened my eyes
And looked up at the rain,
And it dripped in my head
And flowed into my brain,
And all that I hear as I lie in my bed
Is the slishity-slosh of the rain in my head.

I step very softly,
I walk very slow,
I can't do a handstand--
I might overflow,
So pardon the wild crazy thing I just said--
I'm just not the same since there's rain in my head.

A rain mix, courtesy of iTunes:

1. "Early Morning Rain" -- Eva Cassidy
2. "Fire and Rain" -- James Taylor
3. "Why Does It Always Rain On Me?" -- Travis
4. "Rainfall" -- Apples in Stereo
5. "Rainy Day Women #12 & #35" -- Bob Dylan
6. "And It Rained All Night" -- Thom Yorke
7. "Rain Dogs" -- Tom Waits
8. "Beauty of the Rain" -- Dar Williams
9. "Raining in Baltimore" -- Counting Crows
10. "Red Rain" -- The White Stripes
11. "Rainy Day" -- Guster
12. "As the Rain" -- Jeb Loy Nichols
13. "Rain" -- Patty Griffin
14. "So. Central Rain" -- R.E.M.
15. "Only Happy When It Rains" -- Garbage
16. "Rain City" -- Turin Brakes
17. "The Rain Falls and the Sky Shudders" -- Moby
18. "Rainslicker" -- Josh Ritter
19. "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" -- Randy Newman

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Here's a random snow poem by Robert Frost (thanks, Google):


The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

And here's the playlist iTunes gave me when I used "snow" as a search term:

1. "Angel in the Snow" -- Elliott Smith
2. "Snow Camping" -- Laura Veirs
3. "Snow Lion" -- Readymade FC featuring Feist
4. "20 Years of Snow" -- Regina Spektor
5. "Snow on the Sahara" -- Anggun
6. "Snow" -- Loreena McKennitt
7. "Snow is Gone" -- Josh Ritter
8. "Snowflake Music" -- Mark Mothersbaugh