Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Life During Wartime, July 25, 2006

Fun times, and some fresh CanCon karma. This'll be my second-last show; I'm taking off for a while before coming back into a new slot sometime in 6-8 weeks. Tuesday is just not the day I ought to be doing this thing, and it never has been. I'll be covering other shows, though, so there will still be playlists if you care. Life During Wartime is 3-5 pm on Tuesdays on CJSR, for one final week.

Rocket From the Crypt -- Ditch Digger
The Stranglers -- Waltzinblack
Conrad -- Endings 1st
Camera Obscura -- If Looks Could Kill
Grandaddy -- Rear View Mirror
Maps of the Night Sky -- We Were Young
Lake Holiday -- Press Record Then Play
The Slow Break -- Cowboy Crucifixion
Nirvana -- Marijuana
Creatures of the Golden Dawn -- The Face
Interpol -- Slow Hands
The Birthday Party -- Wild World
Black Flag -- My War
Yo la Tengo -- Tom Courtenay
Guided By Voices -- Sister I Need Wine
Kat Burns & Forest City Lovers -- Scared of Time
Beck -- Forcefield
Wood Pigeon -- Hymn for Two Walks
Ladyhawk -- Long 'Til
Pipo Fiasco -- Miss America
Sonic Youth -- Jams Run Free
The Frauds -- The Church of Seduction and the Republic of Business
Nice Cat -- Bottoms Up
D.Rangers -- Watching Her Dance
Mayor Matt Allen -- Bartender

PS -- Yo la Tengo, GBV, Beck, Sonic Youth, Rocket From the Crypt, Black Flag...? Yes. What's your question?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Ninja Guidin'

Sometimes I imagine going back in time and giving my younger self (a real piece of work, that kid) a little limited preview of his future life. Like most kids I was pretty mopey, and hearing something like this would have gone a long way:

“Hey, cheer up, punk… through most of your twenties and into your thirties, you’re going to be making a big part of your living writing about videogames! Also, check out these graphics!”
Of course, I don’t tell him all the details of how depressing that cool-sounding life actually is; the nerd-ass little punk will figure that out for himself soon enough. All I need to do is keep him dreaming, gaming and away from acquiring legitimate skills so that he’ll grow up to be me and thus actualize my primary time-stream. Or something. I don’t know how all that shit works; I just keep an eye on my party pictures, and when I see myself starting to fade from the photos I hop in the deLorean.

As much as I enjoy making myself feel good about my life by viewing it through callow teenaged eyes, every now and then I feel things flowing the other way as my more-or-less adult tastes retroactively justify youthful inaction. I’m talking about a cure for the syndrome known as Gamer’s Guilt: that weird, empty ache that lingers as a result of unfinished games. Thanks to the internet’s overstuffed tubes, I can see the ending to pretty much any game I might have played and put down; I can get closure.

Like, fucking Rygar? Man, I’m glad I didn’t finish that shit – a door opens, you get to watch a bird (maybe a dove?) hovering forever, and that’s it. Wizards & Warriors is the same way: “Thou hath rescued the princess. Thy search hath ended. 100,000 points.” Weak. I can see that, appreciate it, and totally forgive my younger self for not bothering to grind his way though the insane impossibility of Rygar, the sword-twiddling tedium of W&W. Somehow, with the canny instincts of the suburban teen, he knew that shit just wasn’t worth it.

Ninja Gaiden, on the other hand… now there’s a Nintendo ending I would have loved to have earned in the day, paid for with blisters and cathode burns rather than broadband bills. First, a dying-dad scene; heart-wrenching, yet brief and manly. Then, a wicked disintegrating evil castle, all earthquakes and crumbling towers and explosions and shit… it looks like it’s going to all come down but it sort of ends up half-disintegrated, and into the silence comes the haunting strains of the immortal Love Theme From Ninja Gaiden. Then, betrayal! Sequel setup! Creepy love! A sunrise!

Just beautiful, what those 80s Japanese dudes – the “Art Works” are credited to Runmaru, Parco, Uma, Naga, Wild Tagou and Niwakamaru; I love NES credit names – could do with eight bits and some false parallax. The forced economy of the tech specs meant that a game artist who wanted to end a piece with something more satisfying than “100,000 POINTS” had only elegance as an option. I could spend an entire workday poking around the ‘net, watching endings and cutscenes from that era…

… and so, I did. That’s your rat-race of the Year 2006, kid: getting out of bed around ten, making a pot of coffee, going back to bed to read your morning news on a computer you wouldn’t fucking believe, then maybe taking a quick nap before devoting the afternoon to professional nerdism. And did I mention your computer also plays every NES, Atari and Intellivision game ever made? And that it’s also a constant wellspring of crystal-fresh pornography?

Keep it real, kid, and keep on not killing yourself; the future’s totally rad.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Life During Wartime, July 18, 2006

Arrive last minute? You're rushing to be ready, scrambling for tracks. Arrive an hour early? You're rushing to be ready, scrambling for tracks. This is seat-of-the-pants Guessing Radio at its tops-and-tails finest (give or take), and it's Tuesdays 3-5 on CJSR.

Bauhaus -- Telegram Sam
Glaciers -- Kidney Stone
I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness -- Better Strangers
The Creeping Nobodies -- Sense of Belonging
Feist -- Open Season
David Bowie -- I Have Not Been to Oxford Town
Tortoise & Bonnie "Prince" Billy -- Love Is Love
Starlight Mints -- Seventeen Devils
Cracker -- I Need Better Friends
The Ohsees -- Island Raiders
Oakley Hall -- Having Fun Again
The Nymphets -- If I Wake Up Tomorrow
The MC5 -- The American Ruse
Pointed Sticks -- It's OK
the Leather Uppers -- My Baby
Pixies -- Velouria
Juana Molina -- la Verdad
Camera Obscura -- Teenager
Tom Verlaine -- Shingaling
The Von Zippers -- Freedom A430
The Smalls -- Alvarez
Nina Simone -- Little Girl Blue (Postal Service remix)
Iggy Pop -- Nightclubbing

Thursday, July 13, 2006

07-11-2006 – Latenight on another Ave

A warmish night… a little light rain here and there, so gentle even a scraggly exhaust-fed roadside aspen provides a circle of dryness in which to perch on a parking block and wait for a bus. A pleasant enough post-midnight for me, passing time re-re-re-rereading Zelazny’s Creatures of Light and Darkness in the orange sodium glow… but not everybody seems to be enjoying the evening so well.

Shiverers and arm-scratchers, glowerers and mutterers… swaggering dudes and pre-exhausted hookers, antsy tracksuiters, little old Chinese ladies (what errands are they on, so late?) and worried student types hustling home with sensible ponytails and their housekeys between their knuckles – 107th Avenue by streetlight. My new neighbourhood.

For the first time since I first hauled my crappy Ikea desk and my Dungeons & Dragons manuals out of my parents’ house – not counting the time I hauled all that shit back in shameful unemployment – I’m living outside of the Whyte/campus patch. It’s great; not only is it much more peaceful – I’ll take the enthusiastic fellow who makes goat noises at the nearby group home over the Whyte Ave WhoooBots any night – but it’s… homier. You know? More honest. Around here, we keep our mall shit safely locked away inside the stout brick walls of Kingsway; the streets belong to independent proprietors, the Moms n’ Pops of two dozen nations.

It’s a bit lonely relative to life off Whyte – the few extra blocks of northerly commute plus the psychological witch-barrier of the river discourage casual visits – but I seem to be getting more done. As fun as it was, the time I spent basically running a hoser drop-in centre really made the whole work-from-home-be-your-own-boss lifestyle hard to swing; deadlines or no deadlines, how can you say “No” to a buddy smiling on your doorstep with a six-pack and a pinner?

Now, though, the party means something; it’s something I have to make happen, rather than something that just happens as a matter of course like seasons or utility disconnection notices. A place like the Black Dog becomes a destination rather than an extension of my living room (or bedroom), and drinking there is an outing I can feel fresh and happy about, rather than the rote wrist-raising it had become.

Jezz… listen to this shit -- a move to the fuckin’ north side constitutes for me a system-clearing break from liquor and dope. Weird? Nah… Whyte’s just a different kind of ghetto, and a couple of decades ago it was a so-called “bad neighbourhood” as well. I wonder if the same forms will flow around here. Will I look back to see myself as part of a gentrification wave, the downmarket edge, arts/hipster/consumerist culture chasing cheap rents…? Or – and, come on, why put a fine point on this – is this district simply too non-white for the twiddly knicknackery and soulless “funkiness” of modern Whyte to take hold?

Man, let’s hope so; like I said, there’s a perfectly good mall right over there that’s full to fire capacity with all that shit. Right now, I just want to enjoy summertime in a new neighbourhood. My schedule of exploration has been dragged back a little by workload and budget; what I need to do is make a weekend of it, three days and nights of mental mapmaking. The food scene alone around here is the work of weeks of dining, every block of the a mystery box of secrets awaiting discovery…

But that’s another day… another day. It’s night now, and 107th is showing its other face, a face of desperation, fatigue, thread-hanging humanity – I’m waiting here because my friend would rather not walk the two blocks to my place alone, and that’s understandable. The rain’s falling harder; the drug dealers have to mutter a bit louder to make their pitches heard. The shirtless guy in flip-flops paces and frets, a steady fount of under-breath curses. The girl on the corner hugs her underdressed self and wonders if I have a cigarette. The light is orange and ugly over sidewalk cracks and trashdrifts.
Where’s that goddamned bus?

Friday, July 07, 2006

An invitation

The Garagecade: Super Dodge Ball

Coming home from a long summertime trudge around the city, I find my upstairs neighbour shirtless and soaking wet in a folding chair, the sparkling comb of the backyard lawn sprinkler oscillating over him, his lady and his buddy.

“Grab a beer! Grab a chair! Get under the sprinkler!”

I kind of didn’t want to. The sun was far off its midday peak, and even at the hottest of hot times I’m not one to enjoy intermittent soakings. But there was something frighteningly insistent in his manner – I knew there was no way I could get away with slinking into the cool, dry downstairs; we have precious few house rules, and NO PARTY-POOPING tops that tiny list. Dutifully, I retrieved a beer and feigned comfort in the least-sprinkled area I could find.

“The fuckin’ arcade at the bus station sucks!” he informed me as icy water washed over us. Just the day before, he was telling me how bus stations had the best pinball tables and videogame cabinets; I guess he’d done some disappointing downtown recon that afternoon. “Fuckin’ Stargate pinball, and it didn’t even fuckin’ work! Everything else was fuckin’ Big Buck Hunter or whatever! Fuckin’ bullshit!

I’d seen him like this before – sunshine, liquor and low blood-sugar working madness together. The glucose-stabilizing salmon steaks looked a long way in the future; he needed to get up and get focused. Also, the shadow of the house was falling over us, and something needed to be done to get him off this sadistic sprinkler kick or the four of us’d all be turning blue with beers in our hands.

“Dude,” I said, “what do you care about the bus station? You’ve got almost the best videogame in the world right there in the garage. Why don’t we plug in Super Dodge Ball?”

“Yeah… yeah…” he muttered, his energy fading; “That’s what it’s there for…”

“You want me to start the babeque?” his girl asked, gently; we were all in this together.

“Yeah… yeah… Gotta get the salmon on…” He wobbled up out of his sodden lawnchair, fumbled the sprinkler off and disappeared into the house. Mission accomplished – with all the ‘80s style arcade dodgeball action we could stand lying ahead.

The pleasures of a home arcade can’t be overstated. There’s just something so totally rad about having an cabinet or two of your very own, something that touches the essence of what it is to be a game nerd. The arcades are long dead and gone; besides the random Galagas and Ms. Pac-Mans scattered in bowling alleys, pizza parlors and Laundromats, collectors’ home galleries are the last remnant of the old days… and the truant schoolkid in everyone still gets a naughty cheater’s thrill flicking the wire for scores of quarterless credits.

This particular three-unit garage arcade isn’t really set up yet – I fear my neighbour’s dreams of some kind of manly man’s lounging lodge are some ways off – but buddy and I managed to shove enough camping equipment out of the way to get Super Dodge Ball up and running. Super Mario Bros. and Top Gunner we’ll leave for another day; Technos’ 1987 masterpiece of volleyball violence is the star of this show.

Barefoot, sunstroked, stoned and giddy we manned the cabinet, starting out awkward but building quickly to that level where the game becomes what it is: the spirit of gym-class viciousness, re-imagined as an international professional sport, projected into videogame reality. Swearing, screaming, button-mashing, controller-slamming, laughing power of pure play. Massacres and routs alternating with narrow at-the-whistle victories decided by a single perfect spike.The distractions of hoser-arcade play – cigarette smoke stinging the eyes, unlocked coin-slot door banging the knees, miscellaneous garage debris potentially painful underfoot – only made things better.

Eventually my neighbour, revivified and de-drunkened by food and fluids, joined us in the garagecade. By the time we’d gone through countless rounds-robin of dodgeballing it was after midnight; I went happily to bed with my first honest case of Gamer’s Wrist in months. You can play Super Dodge Ball – shit, you can play any game ever made – via computer emulation, but you know it’ll never be as good as beating the shit out of three hundred pounds of particleboard and circuitry. The only thing lacking was a sweaty old burnout with a beer belly and a change belt threatening to ban us for whaling on the machine.

He wasn’t missed. Much.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Life During Wartime, July 4

You miss a bus, you hit the booth with ten minutes to air, you realize you've forgotten your discs back at HQ... and yet, somehow, you come out alive. And, yes... Life During Wartime is still Tuesdays 3-5pm, still on-air (and on-line) on CJSR.

Black Angels -- Black Grease
John Cephas & Phil Wiggins -- Staggerlee
Graham Lindsey -- No Way Out But Down
Royal City -- Count the Days
Palace Music -- Cat's Blues
Peter Mansbridge & the CBCs -- Tilsonburg
Carla Bozulich -- Baby, That's the Creeps
Albatross Note -- Na Na Na
Sonic Youth -- Sleepin' Around
Robert Pollard -- Psychic Pilot Clocks Out
Oakley Hall -- Living in Sin in the USA
OX -- North Country Girl
Mr. Pine -- Soregh and Murn
Kid Koala -- The Emperor's Main Course
Feist -- Lonely Lonely (Frisbee'd mix)
Pere Ubu -- Wheelhouse
Awesome Color -- Grown
The Husbands -- Running Scared
Guitar Wolf -- Ufo ロマンティクス
The Minus 5 -- Sputnik 57
The Aquaknaughts -- Vacuum the Ghost
Aimee Mann -- 4th of July
Manda & the Marbles -- Simple Things
The Jesus and Mary Chain -- Darklands