Archive for July, 2005

G-Man Meets G.W.

We all know Bush but some may not be familiar with the nameless “G-Man,” the grayest of characters in the videogame Half-Life. In the game, you never know if he’s a co-conspirator or seeing to your demise, though his tone and demeanor would lead one to conclude the latter. Either way, he’s always there — hovering in the background, pulling the strings.

What, then, are we to make of a poster that juxtaposes his image with our president’s? Are they suggesting a replacement for Karl Rove? The G-Man could certainly best even Rove in the string pulling department. Considering this is an ad for G4’s annual videogames poll, though, perhaps we’re expected to pick the biggest villain of the two. Or…err…the greatest savior?

Whatever their intentions, G4 should at least be applauded for having a bit of risky fun. Considering the stupidity surrounding the videogame industry these days, we’ll take what we can get.

For more G-Man, see Randall Glass’ clever redo of a certain famous court scene in A Few Good G-Men

photo via jellisvga

Railing

Everyone knows the NYC subway ain’t in the best shape, but generally you can ignore the fact — the thing runs damn well most days. Every once in a while, though, one too many mishaps happen and you’ve got to stop and laugh…or cry.

Take Tuesday: I’m headed downtown on a 1 train and pull into 72nd street station. When the doors open, smoke wafts in. A conductor comes on the intercom and matter-of-factly says: “This is 72nd street. There is a fire on the tracks. Watch your step exiting the train.” Folks getting off the train stumble into the smoke and disappear. Those who remain on the train momentarily look around at each other and then return to what they were doing. “Stand clear of the closing doors.” We’re off.

Stop. Dive into the smoke or stay on board the flamethrower, whatever. Next station. Peace. I suppose this kind of “smoke condition” has become commonplace on the 123?

Take Saturday: After visit to the can’t-recommend-it-enough Barcade in Brooklyn, we hop on the L line. We pull into Union Square, the doors open and the train sits there for a while. This is enough to make me nervous, but I take faith in the fact that the computer voice keeps saying “this is a Brooklyn-bound L train; the next stop is 6th Avenue.” Being in Union Square, the statement doesn’t make complete sense (coming into Manhattan, the L stops at 1st Ave, 3rd, Union Square, 6th, and then 8th) but, hey, the displays all say 6th is next, too.

Faith entirely misplaced. 6th wasn’t next. In fact, the conductor decided to run a mini-express route that skipped 3rd and deposited me and a good number of similarly irate passengers back at 1st. Freaking fantastic! An announcement would have been nice, eh? Needless to say, the cabs in the vicinity of 1st and 14th did brisk business that night.

Ah, well. It’s hard to stay mad at the subway long. No other system in the US gets you to as many far-flung (or close by) places, has as many dedicated express lines, or stays open all night every night. But it wouldn’t be any fun if it was all roses, now would it?

For more on the subway’s proud history, see nycsubway.org. For more on its impending doom, read Derailed. And don’t miss Travis’ fantastic subway photos at Express Train.

image grabbed from mta.info

Being Black in Hazzard County

Something remarkable happens in the trailer for the summer comedy The Dukes of Hazzard. Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds) offers a bunch of white inmates in a deep south lockup (including protagonists Bo and Luke) a crisp $100 bill to “knock out” the sole black inmate, they do it instantly, and we’re expected to laugh. Seriously.

Sure, plenty of context is missing — it is a trailer after all. But, that’s also the point: this is a snippet of the film that the creators think audiences will find funny by itself. That’s unfortunate because, regardless of intentions, the scene conjures an awful history.

It would be bad enough to see such an attack in your random stupid summer comedy, but in a film from a TV series steeped in racially charged imagery — where, for instance, the confederate flag is featured so prominently as a symbol of the good guys (on the roof of the venerable General Lee) — this scene has particularly disturbing resonance. They should have known better.

Rumor has it that the confederate flag’s appearance in the movie was the subject of significant debate among the film’s creators and its presence will prompt a fair bit of mockery of those who sport it. That’s probably better than removing it from the film and pretending it was never in the original show. It would be nice, though, if the appearance of this kind of troubling imagery in popular culture were met with something a bit deeper than laughter.

For more, watch Dukes of Hazzard trailer and see John Sims’ work attempting to understand and neutralize the confederate flag’s impact.

Summertime Rolls

Brooklyn got a Japanese jolt Friday as the positive energy powered Happyfunsmile blew up grungy-intimate Pete’s Candy Store. Their set mixed it up well, taking the audience on a trip from traditional Okinawan folk songs to saccharine sweet ballads to dance-yourself-silly Okinawan pop. Sparkling stuff. Summer ain’t right without a soundtrack and there it was.

Highlights include the pinch-yourself-it’s-too-good Fukko Bushi that put Brian up front, a fantastic power ballad late in the set that featured all three singers, and pretty much any downtempo song showcasing Miho’s amazing voice. Backing band Bill, Ryan, and Wynn were tight and it was clear everyone on stage was having as much fun as the audience. (Plus, they looked hot doing it thanks to Nam.) Goosebumps, people — the good kind. Taste it!

And speaking of goosebump music, a bunch of fantastic albums just hit my headphones all at once. I guess summer does that. Here are some of the best:

  • Lost and Safe by The Books – a stunning combination of acoustic instruments, haunting vocals, and sampled “found sound”. Nick and Paul have been refining their style since 2002 and this album straight nails it. One wicked track among many: Be Good to Them Always
  • Pushin’ On by Quantic Soul Orchestra – Will goes for a second acoustic party record after his 2004 electronic knockout Mishaps Happening and succeeds nicely with an album that would make James Brown proud. OWTAM: Pushin’ On
  • Vaudeville Villain by Viktor Vaughn – one from the archives, this 2003 release from Vaughn aka MF Doom aka Daniel Dumile is required listening for anyone who appreciates his later work. Each track goes in an unexpected head-bobbing direction and the lyrics never stop throwing new ideas at you. OWTAM: Never Dead
  • Time Will Make You Mine by Shrine for the Black Madonna – another from the archives, Shrine’s fiery blend of Bad Brains rawness with Robyn Hitchcock style vocals and jazz chops leaves you praying for a full-length follow-up to this 2002 EP. OWTAM: Runners

Great sounds and warm weather can’t help but make you smile. Oh, oh, oh summertime rolls.

image grabbed from happyfunsmile.com




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