Here it begins. This is the first episode of my show ‘Old-Time Radio with Cadillac Jack’, of which this blog is a vital supplement. It’s a little rough (I did start recording at 8 in the morning) and so it doesn’t have the flow or consistently insightful comments (or quite the mix level) that I’ll be aiming for in later episodes, but it’s here nonetheless. I look forward to new episodes, and getting a little better every time.
The Terror of What We Can’t See, Can’t Know
“Now, from this peculiar sideway position of the whale’s eyes, it is plain that he can never see an object which is exactly ahead, no more than he can one exactly astern … This, of course, must wholly separate the impressions which each independent organ imparts. The whale, therefore, must see one distinct picture on this side, and another distinct picture on that side; while all between must be profound darkness and nothingness to him.”
from Moby Dick, “The Sperm Whale’s Head—Contrasted View Chapter”
I don’t really follow Twitter, but this is just such a neat idea that I had to point it out.
it makes your dreams come true
Quatsch: A coy combination of quirk (various cultural productions considered cute and fun despite their damaged, lame quality, à la not only the movie Napoleon Dynamite, but also the ‘Vote for Pedro’ T-shirt phenomenon it spawned), kitsch (ironically appreciated found art, such as pink lawn flamingos and velvet Elvis paintings), cheese (Wayne’s World and Chicken Soup for the Soul), camp (Susan Sontag described it as the cultural elite’s brilliant excuse to enjoy and love the low-brow), and cuteness.
Thanks to Sharon Steel for the definition
What a bevy of video game related news I’ve been looking at the last couple weeks! Now, I admit that I haven’t had the most time to be playing games or staying fully ensconced in the culture. College will do that to you. In fact, most of my connections to video games come either from Zero Punctuation (hilarious!), Kill Screen (brilliant!), and IGN video game reviews (not too shabby). But the spirit of it, the excitement behind grabbing a bunch of controllers and throwing one to each of your buddies, that has never left.
Which is why the timing couldn’t be better. Summer is fast approaching! Internships are falling fast from my hand, and though the prospect of going home sounds amazing (and surprisingly busy), I know I’ll have plenty of time to either read, write, or play video games. (Expect all three.) Anyway, it’s fortuitous because video games are finally getting the recognition they deserve as pieces of art. The Smithsonian (which already supported video games as art, by the way) will be opening an exhibit called “The Art of Video Games” in 2012, and it will feature a staggering 80 games, including five playable ones. Scanning through the list, I was personally delighted to see Fallout 3, Earthworm Jim, Heavy Rain, Okami, Sid Meier’s Pirates!, Portal, and, of course, Shadow of the Colossus, which I’ve written about earlier. Also good to note is that there are 5 Legend of Zelda games, and although the fact that Majora’s Mask wasn’t one of them made me immensely happy, the list isn’t perfect. The biggest omission I (didn’t) see was Sid Meier’s Civilization series, which easily should have been on the list. The system by which they chose the games, however, is more panoramic, and looks at how games have developed and changed over time and across platforms, rather than just picking out examples they thought “exemplary” of games as art. Which is a valiant goal: art forms need lineages, histories to build off of, conventions that can they be alluded to or subverted. So a good list, overall.
The Civilization Series, unfortunately snubbed from “The Art of Video Games.”
But that’s not all! Recently the National Endowment for the Arts has just announced that it has expanded its category of “the arts” to include not only video games, but machinama and internet media as well. The implications of this could be immense. The advantage of video games as an art form is that it is the most social of them all. (That’s right, most social.) Technology, though not perfect, has brought people together in ways never before dreamed, and video games have accompanied that social interaction every step of the way. There are intense, demanding games like World of Warcraft or Call of Duty, casual games like Warzone or even an online version of Settlers of Catan, and though they differ in magnitude, their goals are the same: to bring people together and have them share a common experience. Many forms of media are very closed, or very distanced. With movies, empathy and verisimilitude are powerful, but even if you’ve had the bejeezus scared out of you, you can grab your armrest and remind yourself you’re sitting in a theater with dozens of others. You can talk about the experience afterwards, but your discussions will be projected: “I would black out in pain if someone did that to me!” “Do you think you would have the willpower to destroy the ring?” “Oh man, I would not be able to live in society if that happened to me!”
With games, however, you’re directly implicated. If you’re playing a first person shooter, you’re responsible not only for your experience, but the experience of everyone playing with you. Will you be the stalwart hero soldier who never leaves his companions behind? The crafty sniper who darts from window to window, inspiring dread with but a single bullet? Or will you be the guy who dies every five seconds, calling into question (in parallel veins) the feasibility of reincarnation and the horrors of war, that so many young men have to die to simply secure a street, or, more aptly, capture a flag. The point being that games (some, anyway) place you in a completely different world, different context than you’re accustomed to, and then fill it with a group of people in your same circumstances. Then it steps back and says the rest is up to you. Create the world as you will. If that’s not art, I don’t know what it.
Because, at least to me, the debate about whether games are art or not is long over. Has been. Games are. Whether you’ve realized that or not, tough luck. I wish you the best with your perceptions of the world. This analogy isn’t perfect, and is (perhaps) seen as more contentious than the ‘video games aren’t art’ debate, but I liken people who fail to see video games as art (Roger Ebert comes to mind..) to people who fail to see gay marriage as marriage. These people misunderstand that both are already a part of the fundament that these ‘disbelievers’ are trying to push them from. I don’t want to get political here, and so I’ll stick to video games when I say that they are objects which not only can inspire things in people (whether they be dread, happiness, or melancholy) but also get them to see, and thus interact with, other things in their world differently. Art must not be put on a pedestal. It must not be hung in high class galleries and given outrageous prices to feed some narcissitic tendency. Art has a duty to challenge, to expand, to explore. Video games do that not only in terms of the stories, themes, concepts, and dilemmas they bring about, but also the direct interaction they give with the player, the implications of which are just being discovered.
Sites I got info from:
That’s Miss Brown to You!
(here’s another link in case the above one doesn’t work — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTnoIDRxEbc)
I think my favorite thing about this song is the personality Billie brings to the song—and this was recorded when she was 20! The song was written by Leo Robin, who also wrote the excellent “Thanks for the Memory”, a sweet and wistul Porter-esque love tune (my favorite lines of which are the understated, “you might have been a headache, but you never were a bore.” “Thanks, so much.”). But this recording of “Miss Brown to You” was backed by Teddy Wilson’s Orchestra, and featured an about-to-explode Benny Goodman on clarinet and a smooth Roy Eldridge on trumpet. Characteristic of many of Billie’s greatest songs (“These Foolish Things” and “Easy Living” in particular) the instruments have to find their groove before Billie will saunter into the song, which only makes the wait even more tantalizing.
But Billie! I’d perhaps be more shocked by the way she completely owns the song if it weren’t for the fact that she always did so, but this song especially is a treat. The way she ends the -own words (‘brown’, ‘down’, ‘town’) with a rousing shudder, foreshadows the strong sense of willful unhappiness she’ll bring to songs like “Gloomy Sunday” and “Strange Fruit.” Though this song certainly is lighter than either of those—and more playful too, with the way she both downplays the intention of the questions she asks (the opening lines, “Who do you think is comin’ to town”, isn’t a question because you’d be a fool not to know it was Emily Brown) and just casts off particularly emotive lines, ranging from the glum “my heaven is blue” to “I know her eyes will thrill ya.” It’s just delightful how she plays with the listener before letting us know that no, Emily Brown isn’t coming for you—she’s coming for me! Though she doesn’t completely close that door, making the fact that she even brought up Miss Emily Brown’s “lovable, hugable”-ness a sign that maybe there is a chance the listener and her could “get too familiar.”
And then the ending! After she finishes singing, giving a casual toss-off with “yes yes, mark it down”, it seems as if her sassy tone is going to keep you from Emil—Miss Brown forever. Which makes it all the more entertaining when the rest of the band joys in for the ebullient ending that is as satisfying as a well-placed exclamation mark. At this point, I don’t know where I stand with Miss Emily Brown, but that won’t stop me from wanting to hear Billie tantalize me a couple more times!