пʼятниця, 19 січня 2018 р.

Bil Sabab Power Hour: Harry Nilsson - Coconut

I've decided to write about this song because i kept hearing snippets of it from various street musicians throughout the day: i was going to work - 1; going to lunch - 2; heard on the radio while sitting in the office - 3; heard once more while going home -4.

I thought i just needed to get it out of my system.

"Coconut" is a song by american singer-songwriter extraordinaire Harry Nilsson. It was released in 1972 on an album "Nilsson Schmilsson". It is notorious for being extremely popular and incredibly annoying - everybody knows this song because it is so stupid and funny and cute and it is was also featured seemingly everywhere (for example, rather non-sequitir appearance at end credits of "Reservoir Dogs"). Curiously it is almost completely misunderstood despite being outstandingly bafflingly straightforward. I think one of the reasons for it is that the surface is too attractive to get pass through it.

Harry Nilsson was one of the most inventive musician of his age. He could make a song out of anything. "Coconut" is fine example of his songwriting skills. It is a nothing song that is turned sublime but the sheer force of skill. 

субота, 13 січня 2018 р.

MFT: SaidSo.Me

There is something majestic in minimalist writing platforms. They don't have the flashiness and panache of the hydra-like corporate suites but instead they offer different kind of freedom of expression. There are no audience waiting for the show with their tangled set of demands, no code of conduct. You only able to let the thought out into the unknown. And that is so liberating in so many ways. You don't need to think about anything but what you want to express. And then it just goes away. It is a puff of sigh into vast opaque and asinine void - stuck as a cloud frozen endlessly falling down like a rock. 

SaidSo.Me is a minimalist writing platform. Basically - it is nothing more but a place where you can leave the text with an option of sharing through Twitter and Facebook or whatever you want. Nice and simple. And also anonymous because personalities don't mean a thing. You can't search for anything on the platform. You can't penetrate it with search engines. You need to keep the link for the text or it will be lost and that probably will not be a great loss. If the post lays dormant for a while - it may be actually be erased. I really like that "may be" - it is very playful. 

SaidSo.Me is a throwback to the early days of the web with its rather frustrating communicative and technical limitations. It evokes loneliness and futility. You can scream but you are actually in space and no one can hear it. It is stupid. It is "Edvard Munch - The Scream: The App". I really like it that way. 

There is also another way of looking at SaidSo.Me. It is a kind of digital postcards or letters. They can bring far greater level of intimacy to correspondence and that might result in a substantially different kind of development of the relationship. Simply because it feels different from the mundane and morose e-mails. 

пʼятниця, 12 січня 2018 р.

MFT: Superman 64 speedrun

This is a video of a speedrun of a game "Superman 64" developed by Titus Software. It was released in 1999 on the heels of success of "Superman: The Animated Series". It is bizarre thing to watch.

Here is why.

Video games are tricky things. They are ultimate form of vanitas - you apply your skills and spend your time in order to reach to the very end of the game (100% finish is preferable) and then you feel good for a moment or so and that is it. You may learn a lesson of sorts but it is up to you. And as for vanitas - video games are extremely hard to do. Not only from a conceptual point of view - it is simply hard to pull off technically. Too many things to think-through, too many things to lay out, too many moving parts. It is gruelling and ultimately punishing to say the least. And the fact that it is multi-billion industry doesn't make it easier.

It makes it stranger. Case in point - Titus Software's "Superman 64".

This game is infamous for its bizarrely unplayable state. It wasn't made that way because of lack of skill. It wasn't intended to be a piece of infuriating, frustrating, annoying, irritating conceptual art. It happened that way because of pressure from the publishers. As you already know - it is a licensed game based on a DC Comics character Superman. Why it is so notorious? The thing with licensed content is that often license holder don't really know what kind of product they want. And that results in frustrating start-stops all of a sudden, making changes on the fly, last minute tweaks, backtracking and other extremities that slowly but surely turn the whole thing into a mess. And if combine it with the developers who plan things they are not really able to realize - you get something really special. In the worst way possible.

"Superman 64" manages to combine visual ugliness with mechanic inaneness. What kind of game it is? Japanese call it "kusoge" - "so bad it is actually quite funny".

"Superman 64" is based upon aesthetics of "Superman: The Animated Series". Its story revolves around Superman's gal Lois Lane, Superman's pal Jimmy Olsen and Professor Hamilton the Science Guy being kidnapped by evil bald definitely Pinhead Lex Luthor. As if it wasn't hard enough - he put them into virtual recreation of Metropolis. Superman came to rescue and got into the trap and so he forced to "play the game". Which is "flying through the maze of rings around the city", then walking around and punching shadow-like pew-pew figures many-many times, then flying through rings again. If you think about it - flying stages are classic Luthor messing with Superman circa early 60s. But empirically flying stages are "Battletoads" level of psychological abuse. It can seriously deteriorate your mental state in a matter of minutes. In the future it will be recognized as a form of torture. It also looks good on paper. If you think why Superman couldn't just break the game by sheer force of his powers - he was affected by kryptonite fog. In a virtual reality (it is actually an excuse for very limited drawing distance of the games engine). Along the way Superman manages to fight Metallo, Darkseid (really) and even Brainiac. And then he saves his friends and Luthor escapes because of course he does. Player get congrats and that's it.

Originally it was supposed to be an open world game where Superman what do his thing but then the suits came in and everything escalated to excrement tornado. The game fell victim of ambitions and lack of focus. Publishers and developers were never on the same page and that caused a lot of perturbations and refurbishing on the fly. That is what happened with "Superman 64". 

You can't really play it - you endure it. You can't even motivate yourself to move on from level to level. It annoys you to the point you simply abandon it. But there are some die hards who just don't give because reasons. Believe it or not - there is a man who actually had beaten this game. Even more so - he performed a speedrun of sorts on it. His nickname is headstrong1290. 

This undeniably significant even happened at Awesome Games Done Quickly event. This is probably the best way to experience this game.

середа, 10 січня 2018 р.

MFT: TXT.fyi platform

More often than not modern applications offer too much besides what they are centred around. This results in watering down of the initial concept, overall frustration and subsequent abandonment of the service. It is painfully obvious within the realm of publishing platforms. They offer so many beautiful things bundled with the possibility of posting whatever you want that the whole "writing and publishing" thing takes a backseat in favor of discreet charms of social buttons which promise "exposure" but mostly for those lucky ones who will catch it up in the endless current of newsfeeds.

That's why something like TXT.fyi feels like a breath of fresh air. It is a minimalist publishing platform made by Rob Beschizza of Boing Boing. With its help you can type whatever you want and then post it instantly. And that is it. It is stripped down to barest bones - there is simply a text box and a publish button. No accounts, no comments, no backtracking editing. You don't even know what else is on the platform. There are also some simple hypertext layouts tricks to make thing a bit nicer but that's it.

After hitting "publish" you get a result and you need to save the link because otherwise it will be lost forever (drama cue) - because there is a script that prevents the link from being indexed by search engines and subsequently showing up in search results. The only thing you can do on TXT.fyi is write and have no second thoughts about anyone's reaction. You just let it go into the wilderness. The very notion of this futile vanity is inspiring. There are no overbearing qualms of gratification, no marmot belching, no choking on the keywords, no playing catch-up with the trends. You are on your own. Just like Thoreau...

It is easy to interpret TXT.fyi is a reaction to overexposure and noisiness of social media and various publishing platforms. They really offer too much and they indeed are way too intrusive into our information perception habits and preferences while offering not much in return aside from abstract "exposure". But eschewing the entire concept sharing might seem counter-productive at first. Why would you want to publish something if you are unable to share it with anybody? But then comes the realization - that kind of "sharing" is not really sharing at all - it is more akin to throwing a stone into the river. There is splash but then things come back to normal. It is true that main purpose of publishing platforms is to provide opportunities to be heard. But nowadays they provide only an illusion of exposure. There is too much information and your contribution to the discourse is often lost and barely noticed.

In case of TXT.fyi you only option is to share your work with somebody manually - by yourself. That kind of pass around is far appreciated and bring far more respectful attention than a simple roll-through. 

And that's why i like it...

понеділок, 8 січня 2018 р.

My Favorite Things: Mark Kermode's "love" of Michael Bay and "Transformers"

This glorious song of pure unexpurgated horror is performed by British film critic Mark Kermode with a little help of his friends - skiffle band Dodge Brothers. It is all about Michael Bay and his then-upcoming fourth entry in the "Transformers" franchise.

There are only a few things in life that can bring you a smile no matter what. Mark Kermode's attitude towards Michael Bay and his signature brand of film-making as represented by Transformers franchise is one of them. Mister Kermode can't stand Mister Bay. He hates his guts. He is disgusted with its obnoxious demeanor. He is appalled by the fact that such kind of film-making is in demand. And he likes to tell everyone about his disdain in great detail. His diatribes against Bay are masterclasses of verbal takedowns with extreme prejudice. Seriously - you can learn a lot how to bury something so deep into the ground it will fall into the Earth's molten core.

Just listen to this soundbite from his review of "Pain and Gain": "Werner Herzog could look at pain and gain and actually be scared". Pure bliss.

But Mark's not only all talk. He can also delightfully show how painful it is. His vignettes dedicated to certain news connected with Michael Bay and Transformers are also something to behold. In them Mark is not afraid to fool around in order to prove his point.

For example - here is his reaction video for "Revenge of The Fallen". It is something that can be described as "wordless review". First we get a clip from the film which is all death and destruction and then it segues into Kermode's reaction which in short can be described as "SMASHING HEAD AGAINST THE WALL LONG AND HARD". Metallic sounds come out clanging. Once, twice, three times, four times. He smashes his head against some metal constructions, the wall, against the magazine with a transformer on it, against handrails. Then he takes a distance and runs straight to the wall. After uneventful collision he gets up and goes away while the screen fades to while with a shimmering high-pitched drone.

The short was continued when "Dark of the Moon" was released. It starts off with Mark coming to the camera and taking his glasses on. He then proceeds to smash his head against the camera and the screen itself.

It is sad.

Or here is his reaction to the announcement that Michael Bay will direct Transformers 4. Unlike previous video which pure impressionist tone poem - this one is embedded with narrative. Mark gets up in the morningm makes himself a cup of tea, sits down at the table, open his laptop and sees the disturbing news - Michael Bay will direct another Transformers movie. The news take Mark off-guard. He is shocked. He covers his face with a palm and trembles filled with existential horror as if he just experienced some Eldritch abomination in his stomach. And then he starts smashing his head against the laptop - seemingly to the eternity since the video cuts off.

неділя, 7 січня 2018 р.

Found Poem Time!

Few days ago i was writing a post about Mel Bochner's "Blah Blah Blah" paintings while struggling not to mention Iggy Pop and Kesha (it is imaginary struggle made up exclusively for this post). And while doing the research i was checking the dictionaries for some fancy descriptions of the phrase. That's where i have stumbled upon this little thing. I felt piercing lightning strike coming through my brows - it was kinda like carpet bombing moment of clarity - i have found something.

This is a screenshot from a Cambridge English Dictionary page for the word "Blah". There is a section titled "Linguistics: sounds used as interjections" and there goes said collection of words. It is throwaway "look also" section that generates next to none interest for uninitiated. After all - you don't surf dictionaries like that for nothing. But if you do - then you might go into hiding for some time because killing time is a violent crime.

As it is - the list is just another standard selection, nothing really special - but the juxtaposition makes it work. The way the lines are broken turns it into a poem in a lettrist vein. Just read it:
achoo  bam  boohoo  cor
duh  er  eww  hah
oops  ow  phooey
shush  tsk  tut  uh
uh-oh  uh-uh  whoops
yada yada yada  zzz

субота, 30 грудня 2017 р.

Bil Sabab Power Hour: Screamin' Jay Hawkins - I am the Cool

This blog was created to keep notion of awesome things like this.

"I am the Cool" is the song by the blues extraordinaire Screamin' Jay Hawkins. It was released in 1994 on an album "Somethin's funny goin' on". In its core it is boisterous braggadocio covered in old time blues stomp. Ol' Screamin' Jay keeps on talking about how cool he is. It is corny, it is cheesy, it is unbelievably tongue in cheek but it is also surprisingly earnest and curiously sincere. Because of that song makes puzzling impression. On its own it is no good but Screamin' Jay Hawkins means what he says and that makes the song tick. I guess it is what is called "magick".

Lyrical content of the song is astoundingly bizarre in its "on the nose" drooling. You need to understand where Screamin' Jay Hawkins was in the early 90's. He was a "has-been" "one-hit-wonder" BOO blues man in a vein of Slim Gaillard. His gimmick was macabre Universal Horror-styled theatrics and lots and lots of drama in vocal performance. He was over the top. He had one smash hit in 1956 - "I put a spell on you" and a couple of other great tunes like "Constipation blues" and "Frenzy". But he never managed to make a mark and floundered here and there for decades,  inspiring musicians and playing catch-up. In the 90s he reemerged as a elder statesman of bizarre and started recording again. This time he was embracing his gimmick and turnining it up to eleven.

Stylistically "I am the Cool" is a mishmash of later career Robert Palmer (addicted to love, simply irrestieable, didn't mean to turn you on, etc), overly exaggerated lyricism of Prince, braindead thunderstruck Morrissey and every conceivable gangsta rap cliche as seen by Kool Keith (the song will be just fine tinted in g-funk vibes). The more you think about this combination the more you like it. It is twisted: turned inside out, upside down and then backwards. It is Stone Cold Steve Austin Theme song if he was Chilly McFreeze.

Bil Sabab Power Hour: Harry Nilsson - Coconut

I've decided to write about this song because i kept hearing snippets of it from various street musicians throughout the day: i was goin...