Thursday, December 11, 2014

Wrapping Up 2013

It feels like ages ago that I did my Favorite Albums of 2012 (and I guess it was a couple years ago.) I'm now a year behind, so to get caught up I made a quick little video of me babbling on for way too long, discussing my favorite albums of 2013.

Why a video? I guess because it allowed me to insert some sound snippets, so you could actually hear the music instead of just reading about it.  Sort of like my original concept for Chrontendo as a video series.  The thing goes on way too long, since unlike Chrontendo, I simply let the camera roll and started blathering with pretty much zero planning ahead  of time. Also, the sound is kinda bad, partially due to the echo, and some heavy handed use of noise removal. The camera picked up quite a few background hums from the fridge and so on. Since the Video Nasty series also involved filmed opening sequences, I'll get a clip mic at some point.

For those who don't want to watch the video but are curious, here's the list:

Deafheaven, Sunbather
Mebbe my favorite record of the year? Dunno. It's kind of hard to pin down what genre of of music this is. Black metal bent dragged kicking and screaming into shoegaze?

Run the Jewels, s/t
Two of my favorite records of 2012 were those from Killer Mike and El-P. Now they made a record together?

Anjo Gabriel, Lucifer Rising

Super-obscure stuff here. Sort of alternate soundtrack to the Kenneth Anger film, done in a giddily psychedelic style.

Gorguts, Colored Sands
Surprisingly great reunion album from the famous Canadian 'technical' metal band.

Chelsea Wolfe, Pain is Beauty
Local girl makes good with a couple great gothy singer-songwriter LPs, then splits town and releases more high-profile stuff like this.

Russian Circles, Memorial
Wolfe also turns up on the new album from these latter day post-metal  bigshots.

Botanist, IV: Mandragora
This one-man weirdo-metal project from the Bay Area percussionist Otrebor is finally starting to get some aboveground acclaim.

Earl Sweatshirt, Doris
Earl's earlier mixtape was probably the most interesting release from the whole Odd Future Wolf Gang crew. He disappeared for a year or two before suddenly re-emerging with Doris, his official debut.

Kavinsky, Outrun
Highly entertaining and beautifully packaged disc of 80s infused synth music from this French electronic musician and associate of Daft Punk. One song ended up in the movie Drive.

The Lion's Daughter and Indian Blanket, Black Sea
Sort of an underground collaboration between a metal band and a folk band, both from Missouri. More people oughta hear this record.

Julia Holter, Loud City Song
A great collection of artsy tunes from this Los Angeles singer-songwriter.

Fuck Buttons, Slow Focus
First record in four years from this noisy British electronic duo. Somehow a couple of their songs were used in the 2012 Olympic ceremony.

Atlantean Kodex, The White Goddess
Fantastic piece of epic-sounding fantasy metal from this German band. I hope these guys aren't neo-nazis or anything, because this record seems to be a concept album with a pan-European, pagan theme.

Oranssi Pazuzu, Valonielu
Great piece of Finnish psychedelic black metal (as Encyclopaedia Metallum categorizes them). I could use more psychedelic black metal in my life.

Rob, Maniac (Original Soundtrack)
No one liked the remake of Joe Spinelli's grimy slasher movie, but damn, the soundtrack was sweet. Robert Coudert is yet another French musician with ties to Daft Punk.

Janelle Monae, The Electric Lady
Not quite a ear-opening as Monae's previous record, The ArchAndroid, but her mix of soul, hip-hop, rock and electronica remains just as spectacular as ever.

Earthless, From the Ages
The newest LP from the reigning kings of California stoner rock.

John Wizards, s/t
First LP from this South African band. People have said they sound a bit like Vampire Weekend, only good.

Chvrches, The Bones of What You Beleive
Ultra slick debut album from this Scottish popsters. The Scottish have always been good at making cheery pop music.

Oneohtrix Point Never, R Plus Seven
Another good record from this prolific electronic musician.

I also pointed out a few select reissues, including the ultra-rare psyche classic, Dark's Round the Edges; the latest in the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series; and Light in the Attic's 3 LP set of private press new age music, called I am the Center.

There you have it folks. Please feel free to tell me how tragically mistaken my choices are. Hopefully sometime after Chronsega 8, I'll do something similar for my favorite records for 2014.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Few Decisions Made

Hey everyone. I'm been putting some thought into how to handle the new series on YouTube, and almost everyone seems to be in agreement that it would be best to use a separate channel.  This is certainly not a bad idea, since not everyone who is into Chrontendo would want to see the movie stuff, and vice versa. Honestly if it weren't for the non-family friendly nature of the series, I don't think it would be a problem. I know people watch Chrontendo at work and so on, so I'll probably end up spinning this off onto a separate Dr. Sparkle channel. I'm not sure if YT allows the same "user" to have multiple channels.

As for concerns of the account getting shut down for various reasons: I don't think this will be a huge issue. In terms of copyright, I know YT will shut down accounts if they get multiple takedown requests from rights holders. But plain-old content match notices are pretty uneventful.  I dunno if you've noticed, but 99% of my videos' content is copyrighted material. I usually just acknowledge them and then ignore them. The Chrontendo account is still in perfectly good standing with YouTube. For most people, content matches only become a problem if they have their channel monetized.

If any of you have uploaded your own videos on Youtube, you'll know that content matches tend to be weird, random bullshit. There isn't a correlation between the copyrightedness of your content and the odds of giving a content match. Music seems to get hit more than video. Sometimes I have no idea why a content match was triggered. So content matches are clearly bogus. At least one episode of Chrontendo isn't viewable in some countries because of a match on some completely obscure Japanese game. Yet I never get matches on any well known games.

In terms of violence, nudity, etc in the videos being a problem.  Well.... kids, it's time for some real talk. (spins chair around and sits down with arms crossed on chair back.) I don't know if you guys dig too deep into the dark recesses of YT, but... there is plenty of sex to see there. You should have no problems finding graphic nudity on YT if that is what you are looking for. Or even if you're not. One fellow told me that after their child was born, they went looking for breastfeeding tips on YouTube and instead found tons of vids that are pretty blatantly aimed at dudes with a breastfeeding fetish. At this point, softcore porn is a sizable YT genre. These aren't obscure vids; some of them rack up millions of views. Heck, if you want to see Cannibal Holocaust, you can watch the whole damn thing on YT:

Anyhoo, I've got a bit of work to do before the debut episode is ready. It might come out around the same time as Chronsega 9. To answer one specific question about which films will be covered: there are three categories of so-called Nasties.  The core 39 Nasties being the ones that ended up on the final DPP list of prosecuted films. Forest of Fear/Toxic Zombies was one of these 39 "true" Nasties. Additionally, there were films that were on the list for a while but were eventually dropped. And finally, there is the DPP Section 3 list: films that could be seized from shops under the less serious Section 3 provision. There are some pretty mainstream films on the Section 3 list, including Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Thing, etc.  Just to give us a wider pool to choose from, I'll select films from all three. Some pretty obscure, interesting films found their way onto the Section 3 list, so I can't ignore that.

Lastly, I've been told I forgot to upload an MKV version of Chrontendo 48. Whoops.  I've rendered one and am uploading it now.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Dr. Sparkle Sidequest

My Goodness! It's a top secret preview of my new project, only available to those who read the blogs or check the Twitter account! So this is a soft launch, sort of a pilot episode of this new series, not viewable on Youtube without the link.

This thing doesn't even technically have a title yet. Uh, if you have any clever suggestions let me know.  This is a film-related video series, focusing specifically on a bizarre phenomenon that's always fascinated me, the "Video Nasties." I have a filmed intro in this video where I give some explanation as to what exactly a video nasty is. In short, there was a moral panic in the UK during the early 80s over imported horror films on VHS tape. This lead to a number of video tapes being straight-out banned. Much of the outrage over these so-called video nasties was fueled by sensationalistic tabloids.

In most cases, police would simply raid video stores, seizing tapes that looked morally objectionable. Eventually an official list of seizable video titles was compiled; the videos on this list comprise the filmic corpus known as the 'video nasties'; films that were so violent and revolting it was illegal to sell them. They range from well-known horror/sleaze classics such as Lucio Fulci's Zombie or Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust to completely obscure stuff like the movie covered in this episode. It's a fascinating list of films, and I'm sure we'll make some great discoveries working through them.

The format is this: each episode I examine another film on the list, sort of at random (but not really). I plan each episode to be around 15-20 minutes in length. This pilot has a long introduction from me, so it runs a bit over. There are a few potential problems with this series. One: most of these films are copyrighted and this could lead to requests for their removal. And, Two: the content on these could fall afoul of YouTube's content standards. Supposedly you aren't allowed to show too much crazy stuff on YouTube (though there's plenty of it to be found if you look.) Anything that gets pulled from YouTube should be able to exist on Archive. Consider this episode to be test run for the series.

Here's the video:

If you have any thoughts, comments, suggestions, etc, please let me know.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

About Damn Time

Update:  Chrontendo Episode 48 is now up on Archive. Despite Youtube now having 60 fps capabilities, downloading the Archive version is still the way to get the best looking form of Chrontendo.

Your eyes do not deceive you. There is, in fact, a new episode of Chrontendo available for your viewing pleasure. If it's any consolation, this episode is absurdly long. Longer than Chronsega 8. A little over an hour and 50 minutes.  This is mostly due to the 1989 arcade roundup, which is a good 50 minutes or so by itself.

The exciting news is that Youtube is now supporting  60 FPS videos in the 720p and 1080p formats. At the moment, this option is only available in Chrome, and, apparently the Nightly version of Firefox.  If you click on the gear to choose your desired resolution and see a "60FPS" next to 720p, then you know your browser supports it. Episode 48 may be found on Youtube here.

A downloadable 60 FPS version will be available on in the near future.

1989 was a banner year for coin-op games. It was the year beat-em-ups took over arcades. We'd already had Double Dragon, a massive hit a couple years prior. But '89 saw the release of Golden Axe, TMNT, Final Fight, and so on.  It wouldn't be long before Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat created a fighting game mania that swept beat-em-ups into the dustbin of history, but for 2-3 glorious years beat-em-ups were the kings of the arcade.

The glory days of beat-em-ups

Aside from beat-em-ups, we have a number of interesting shoot-em-ups, most notably Zero Wing and XMultiply. Also, puzzle games, such as Klax, Atari's polygonal 3D sci-fi racer, Stun Runner, Capcom's peerless action game, Strider, and many others.

As for the Famicom/NES, the results are a little less promising. Episode 48 covers the tail end of August 1989 and most of September. There were a lot of US only games in September, so we cover half this time and will pick up the rest in Episode 49.  At this time, there were really no US companies developig NES games, so instead we get treated with stuff from the UK (Rare and Zippo) and Australia (Beam Software.)

In terms of notable games, we mostly have two Japanese-developed ports of successful US computer games: Kemco's Uninvited and Pony Canyon's Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar. Uninvited the third and final of the three Icom Simulation games released for the system. LIke Shadowgate, it is noted for its colorful, unfair, and frequent deaths.

Ultima IV: Quest for the Avatar was once a serious contender for "greatest RPG ever made." Today it feels like one of the better old school RPGS: better than Wizardry but still sort of tedious. The gimmick here is that instead of just killing everyone, you need to morally improve your character. This is mostly done by killing lots of monsters, but also by giving gold coins to beggars you meet in town.  Pony Canyon's port gives it a Dragon Quest inspired makeover.

On the flip side of the coin, we have a few US-only pieces of crap.  Hi-Tech's Hollywood Squares (developed by Rare) and LJN's Sesame Street ABC (from Rare associates Zippo Games.) Both are quickly knocked off pieces of crap that are best ignored, though Sesame Street is actually a little brazen in just how little content it gives you: a mere two minigames.

To reach the deepest depths of horrible game design we must turn to Beam's Bad Street Brawler. A port of a computer game released under several names, including (the Lou Reed inspired?) Street Hassle, BSB is game design at it's laziest. A tediously repetitive single-plane beat-em-up, BSB almost cruises by just on it's weirdness. Aside from the fact that the protagonist looks completely different in-game than he does  on the title screen and the between-level illustrations, BSB has trench coat clad flashers giving you powerups, and gorillas attacking you with bananas. Character designs have been radically altered from the computer version; what was originally a little old lady throwing a purse at you is now a very short circus strongman throwing dumbbells at you. Unfortunately, all this wackiness can't distract from the sheer monotony and frustration of the game.

The rest:

American Dream

Japanese game design at its wackiest.  Another game in Coconut's Pachio-kun series, American Dream dispenses with pachinko entirely and instead gives you an pseudo-RPG where you conquer New York by playing slot machines. (gambling tip: slot machines are for old ladies and scrubs. Don't play slots.) American Dream finds itself in the unfortunate category of games that are both apeshit crazy and boring as hell. Hardcore Gaming 101 covered this one a few years ago.

Gekitou Pro Wrestling!!/Tecmo Wrestling

Tecmo had some very popular sports series, such as Tecmo Bowl, but their wrestling game never took off.  Its most notable feature is the announcer doing nonstop commentary.

Marusa no Onna

A high quality Capcom adventure game, based on the popular Juzo Itami movie, A Taxing Woman. Capcom would release another Itami related game later in 1989.

 Idol Hakkenden

Also a high quality adventure game, developed by Natsume. This is another game based on the novel  Nansō Satomi Hakkenden, though the samurai of the novels have been replaced with young singing 'idols.'

Chuuka Taisen 

This the third time we've encountered this Chinese themed shoot-em-up. It's still not very good.


A sort-of port of Data East's arcade game. Totally unremarkable, but the ZX Spectrum version was one of the best selling games on that system, for reasons understood only by the British.

Jordan Vs Bird: One on One

Milton Bradley hired Rare to port the EA computer game to the NES. Inferior sequel to the much loved One On One, with Micheal Jordan swapped in for Dr J.

Ochin ni Toshi Puzzle Tonjan!?

Oddball puzzle game mixing Sokoban, mahjong tiles and pigs.

Racer Mini Yonku: Japan Cup

Not even a real racing game. Konami and Tamiya bring you this game about racing little electric toy cars.

Tanigawa Koji no Shogi Shinan III

The final game we'll see to bear the name of the famed shogi master Tanigawa Koji.

Next up: I'll be unveiling a couple miscellaneous vids, unrelated to gaming. Then it's onto the new Chronsega.