August 16, 2008

Guy Vs. Guy

Filed under: flickr,lunacy,music,weird — mhoye @ 4:41 pm

East From Spadina

Like alcoholism and pyromania, in moderation paranoia can be a lot of fun. So if you’re interested in making your commute just a little bit surreal or add a certain cold war East-Berlin-chic to your next get together, I have quite a treat for you.

Numbers Stations are shortwave radio stations that transmit seemingly-random sets of numbers, repeated in sequence, on some arbitrary schedule; they’re guaranteed not to mean anything to anyone except for the shadowy figure with the right one-time pad, for whom those numbers will magically become their next marching orders through the magic of crypto.

But since it’s shortwave, anyone with a shortwave radio can tune in, and the Conet Project has collected several CDs worth of transmissions from all over the world. And if you grew up reading John Le Carré these crackling synthesized tones and strange recitations will speak to you through a code that means nothing; they will make you think of dimly-lit meetings in the cold alleys of East Berlin, of dead drops, safe houses, microfilm and old men with old secrets.

The Conet Project isn’t selling the CDs anymore, but they’re all downloadable, so put it on shuffle and head to work, looking over your shoulder the entire time. That woman with the loose suit-jacket? She’s wired. That guy with the moustache? He’s an informant, guaranteed. Don’t look him in the eye. Those two guys on the train with you, who were were on the streetcar too?

They’re on to you, man. You’re blown.


July 9, 2008

My iPod Would Like To Ask You Some Questions

Filed under: digital,interfaces,music,toys — mhoye @ 12:25 pm

Are You A Hypnotist?
Are You The One?
Baby What You Want Me To Do
Can You Feel Me
How’s It Gonna End?
How Would You Know?
How Ya Want It?
What Do I Do Right?
What If I?
What Is Rock?
What Is The Light?
What Keeps Mankind Alive
What’s This
What’s This Luv
What’s The Deal
Where Are You Baby
Where Is My Mind
Who Do You Love?
Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses?
Who Stole The Show
Who The Fuck?
Why Are You Up?
Why Can’t This Be Love?
Why Can’t I Be You?
Why Do I Keep Counting
Why Don’t We Do It In The Road
Why Theory?
Will You Be My Girl?

June 25, 2008


Filed under: awesome,comics,future,music — mhoye @ 4:45 pm

I encourage you to listen to Tettix’ “Technology Crisis”‘ while you are reading Dresden Codak‘s Hob storyline, but even if you can’t do them simultaneously, they’re both worth doing.

June 18, 2008

The Song Of Time

Filed under: arcade,awesome,beauty,digital,life,music,toys — mhoye @ 11:26 pm

I’m told I get more like my Dad all the time, so let me tell you this story in the traditional manner of my family – through a bizarre, protracted, narrative spiral that, at length, slowly and anecdotally converges on the point. We have long understood in my family that ideas are dangerous, especially when they’re cornered; that they must be approached with caution, so they don’t panic and bolt. So this is actually about a recent video game, but I’m going to start off by telling you a funny story about a classic movie I saw in grade eight. Wait for it.

So let’s start with the love interest, a girl I have forgotten in every specific but name but who I still remember fondly for a few words she uttered twenty years ago. (Tara Ukrintz, if Google brings you to me: this actually happened, I swear.) I think, maybe, somehow, we were the only two people in our class who didn’t go on the year-end trip, wherever that went, for whatever reason. But our teacher at the time, Ken Blogg (same disclaimer as above, if you’re out there, though I remember you as looking like an oboeist, strangely) decided that we could, should, whatever, watch a movie instead of just sitting around.

The movie he picked for us was Casablanca. And oddly, until I sat down to write this, I never once wondered about that choice, any reasons he might have picked that film or how seeing it right at that moment might have influenced my life. I’m so far removed now it’s impossible to say, but if I think too long about it I can feel the unnamed things shackled in the dark corners of my mind stirring and rattling their chains. Lucky for all of you, I’m not some emo dishrag with a leather wristband and a myspace page, so we can just ignore that and go about the business of me telling you what happened at the end of the movie.

So it wraps up, hill of beans in this crazy world, round up the usual suspects, start of a beautiful friendship and so forth, and the teacher asks us what we thought of it, and Tara said, I swear, that it was a pretty good movie, “except that it was full of cliches.”

Even at that age and somehow right at that moment, even before I had any real idea what “things working out” meant, I knew things weren’t going to work out between me and Tara. It’s the earliest I can remember doing a double-take, though. “Yeah… wait, what?”. But what other response could there be, really, from kids that age? I was clever enough to recognize it as the root of the tree, sure. But once you’ve seen those tropes so thoroughly abused in so many other settings, it’s hard to recognize that the reason they’re everywhere now is because that one time, in that one now-classic work, they were so definitively great that everything that came afterwards owed a debt.

And watching it now, after I’ve lived a bit, travelled a bit and been in some relationships that got complicated, some that worked and some that didn’t, it’s a whole different movie, even though not a frame of it’s changed.

So, yeah, video games. And another thing where, as usual, I’m late to the party, but since one of the first links in the google search for “twilight princess homage” includes the phrase “i’m a pimp with the sword and shield”, it seems likely that what I have to say hasn’t been mentioned before. And, yes, I am here to day to tell you about The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

First of all, I’m an unabashed Legend of Zelda fan and something of a dork so, yes, I will tell you that Twilight Princess is a fantastic game. But the thing that I haven’t seen discussed at any length is the fact that it is also an homage to a lot of other fantastic games, probably more than I even realized playing it. There are times that the game switches gears completely and all of a sudden for a couple of minutes you’re playing a faithful rendition of a completely different game. There are hints of lost worlds in the scenery, echoes in the music that bring back the cavernous spaces or threatening claustrophobia of other games, whispering threats and hinting at glories that aren’t even real in the context of this particular fiction.

Very meta that at times the deja vu almost unbearable, a nonexistent world echoing with the memories of other nonexistent worlds. It is fantastically well done.

I thought that I’d take a moment to list the ones that jumped out at me; some of them are obvious, some of them might not be, but here you go. If I’ve missed any, you need to tell me in the comments.

  • Okami because, obviously.
  • Shadow Of The Colossus, hinted at in some of the washed out color schemes and decaying bridges and masonry in wide-open spaces (Look up at the bridge across Lake Hylia from the Tower, for example) and the way Link hangs with one hand, swaying before getting his grip, in a motion you will find immediately familiar.
  • The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past, obviously in the light and dark worlds, but much more quietly in a lot of other ways. The soldiers are dressed the same, for one example among many.
  • The Ocarina Of Time perhaps also obviously, but in too many ways to mention. Windwaker, too – the summit of Hyrule Castle is a smaller model of a castle that looks, in the final moments of the game, a lot like it did in the final moments of Windwaker.
  • The terrific Metroid Prime, in a couple of distressing ways. One is that you fight a boss very similar to Ridley late in the game, but possibly worse is the fact that a lot of the music (particularly in the desert) sounds like half of it was ripped straight from the Metroid Prime soundtrack. In the arena where you reassemble the twilight mirror it’s particularly severe. It wasn’t obvious for a long time why the claustrophobic, ancient-magic mood that saturated Metroid Prime was crawling up my spine until I realized that the background music sounded like a crossover of the Gerudo Desert music from Ocarina and the Electric-Monk-sounding mood music from Prime. I kept thinking, Jeebus, if Link and his boomerang get jumped by a bunch of Space Pirates, he’s going to get abused.
  • God, the minigames. It only occurred to me when I was two-thirds of the way through this that I should start writing these down, but just as an example at one point after you fight your way to the top of an icy mountain, you have to slide down it on a plank. And just like that, all of a sudden you’re playing a totally serviceable version of SSX for five minutes. And the game is full of stuff like this.

So that’s what brings us circling slowly in on our point here; I have no idea how a younger gamer might view this game – drop all that baggage, and what’s left over is a pretty good game with a bunch of wierd little sidequest things and some OK graphics, maybe? Some pretty good writing scattered around a lot of fetch-seven-of-these and recover-three-of-those, but the state of that art has moved on a bit, you know? Does it get a little long near the end? Maybe. But, God, pack all those memories, all that emotional investment back in, all those faint (and not-so-faint) echoes of great games you’ve played before, and the result is just about transcendent. It’s not a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s definitely the best of the Legend Of Zelda series and, particularly I would think for veteran gamers, it’s… hard to describe? It’s not the greatest video game of all time, but it might be the best video-game-playing experience of all time. And it only gets better, the more classic games you’ve played; I’ve never seen a game like it, and as far as I know, no other game has even attempted the sprawling, protracted homage to the field as a whole that has been so beautifully accomplished here.

I’m just lucky I’m old enough to appreciate it.

April 14, 2008

Regarding Sultry

Filed under: music,want — mhoye @ 9:06 pm

The Spores “Yum Yum” might be the sexiest song I’ve heard since Massive Attack’s “Dissolved Girl“. However, you may inform me of competing candidates in the comments.

October 12, 2007

Burst Mix Proposition

Filed under: digital,music — mhoye @ 10:10 am

Once upon a time there were “mix tapes”, and then there were CDs, and shortly after that nobody cared about that stuff anymore because you might as well be learning how to tan pelts, trap marmots or chip yourself a flint arrowhead. They were fun to make, though. If you were of the right age and the right young-geek frame of mind, juggling song lengths against thematic content, target audience and what were, by modern standards, ridiculous technical restrictions turned the whole thing into a fantastically nerdy exercise. Writing a love letter and solving the knapsack problem! What could be better?

Then, you (and by you, I mean “me”) grow up a bit, and maybe it dawns on you that doing the same thing with text instead of music would give you a document that read like a love letter and looked like a ransom note. But you have no shame, and press forward, because that’s just how you, and we’re still talking about me here, roll.

I’ve got a bunch of music here that I think you should hear, so I’ve started making short four-song compilations and mailing them to people. If you’re interested in hearing these love-letter/ransom-note things, comment or mail me and I’ll add you to the list.

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