I guess I'm a sucker for computer game nostalgia. I've been picking up Apple ][ disk images(some from classicgaming.com, but others off BearShare)of games I used to play, and even some Coleco ones. Most of them the novelty value wears off after a while--it didn't take me long to finish all three levels of Hard Hat Mack, to get bored of The Bilestoad, or to get frustrated with Dino Eggs. (I cracked the Bilestoad level-password scheme years ago, and probably still have it somewhere.) A lot of Apple games just don't seem to have the balance right; they have too high a level of randomness. I kept getting creamed by pirates in Taipan. Wizardry is always fun for a little while, but boring after a while. (I died instantly the time I tried Wizardry IV, the Return of Werdna one.) But I did complete Pirate Apventure, one of those text adventure games; I know there's another apventure around somewhere, which I never completed. I never got very far in Advent either.
But anyway, last night I played Odyssey again for the first time in years. That was one I found on BearShare. I played that a lot, and it had the added bonus of being a Basic program, so the source code was right there. In one of those low-memory system tricks, they didn't include code to initialize all the variables; what they did was initialize them once and then save a binary copy of the variable buffer, which they then reloaded. Pretty nifty.
In Odyssey, you are basically a group of men wandering around on this island, trying to recruit more men and get enough Quadroons to buy a ship and leave it. You also have to get a bunch of various types of items, like armor and weapons to defend yourself and various kinds of gear to help you surmount obstacles on the island and later. It took me a long time to get past this stage, but once you do that, you get to sail to other islands trying to get an Orb. This part can be very frustrating, when the wind is against you, or your last set of sails is destroyed by pterodactyls, or(most frustrating of all)the fog rolls in and doesn't leave for twenty minutes. If you get to the other islands, you can go into a cavern adventure trying to find the Orb and keep from getting killed by Frenzies. (You can dig tunnels with shovels, I think...) You can also run into a triton-like creature in the ocean whose name I forget, who will tell you the location of a sunken Orb if you give him the right gift. Once you have the Orb, you go to the final island, where you have to surmount various obstacles which rely on you having the right set of equipment, and then you win the game.
It's got primitive graphics, little storyline, and is at the mercy of randomness, but I played it last night and it's still pretty fun.
I also found copies of all the Leisure-Suit Larry games; we'll see how they held up.
There's pigeony-looking birds on my windowsill right now, checking out the territory. Well, at least they're not flying into the windows and leaving birdprints on them anymore. (I'm not kidding; you can still see them.)
My advice to anyone who's in a band and is not the lead singer is, never let them name it after themselves. If possible, don't even let them put their name in there anywhere. I mean, "Sade" and "PJ Harvey" are supposedly bands, but I bet you there's nothing the band can do to stop them recording solo under the same name.
But then, lead singers almost always go solo. As someone once said, Mick Jagger records solo and it still sounds sort of like the Rolling Stones because he can find a guitarist who sounds like Keith Richards. But Keith Richards records solo, can he find a vocalist who sounds like Mick Jagger? So he's forced to adopt a different sound. Also, lead vocalists are often lyricists, and the lyrics are often considered more important the music(which, as I might have said, is a point of view I don't agree with), so the lead singer should be able to make do without the rest of the band.
Still working on my study on sexual composition of bands. I don't think it's a particularly controversial statement that the vast majority of bands is still all-male. There's a very tiny number of all-female, which usually trumpet the fact so it's hard to miss them. And there's quite a few with one female vocalist and the rest of the band all male. At some point I'll have at least a partial version up on my web page, so people can comment on it. (So far the search engines don't seem to have found my new pages yet, which probably explains why emails about my song title duplication list, now my #1 source of email from strangers, has died off recently. Well, I did submit it to a few engines yesterday...)
I have a sort of collection of music guides, or at least "rock" music guides. It's such a vague term, but what else is there that would include, say, Leonard Cohen, They Might Be Giants, the Stone Roses, Christine Lavin, REM, ABBA, and InXS? It verges into "pop" and "alternative", I know, but since I go to both sides I want something that covers the middle.
I enjoyed reading The Spin Alternative Record Guide, but I heartily disagree with most of it that I've tried. I just don't get the appeal of punk, so practically anything punk-derived is lost on me--Hüsker Dü, no-wave, lo-fi, L7, or what-have-you. I like melody, I don't like noise, and that's all there is to it. And a lot of the weirder stuff I'm not so keen on either--Henry Cow, for instance, or Can. Ween I like, and of course TMBG; I like Shriekback a lot better than what I've heard of Gang of Four(though I've never found "Entertainment!"); "Rattle & Hum" is one of my favourite U2 albums, and "Fables of The Reconstruction" one of my favourite REM.
My biggest problem with them is probably the fact that a lot of their POV is based on neophilia--liking something because it's different. I've seen what this leads to--a band coming out with their first album which is lauded and praised for being something new and unique, and then their second album being panned for sounding the same as their first. (This happens with movies too--witness the swiftly-passing vogues for David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino.) Me, I don't take this point of view. If I like the music, it's because I like the music, not because it's groundbreaking. If one band comes out with a sound I like, and fifteen other bands all start to copy it, then I might like all sixteen of them. That's just the way I am.
I might have mentioned my enjoyment of and near-total disagreement with Robert Christgau. What I really like my music guides for are factual and historical details about the bands, and maybe a vague idea as to what they might sound like. But what I really want, sometime, is a review book(or website, would work better)where there was the factual information, and then several people reviewed the band and the album. They would have to have varying tastes, so you could pick which one you were most likely to agree with. I seem to recall hearing that Playboy reviews albums like that, where each of their reviewers at least gets to rate each album reviewed by anybody in that issue. I mean, even people who are intimately familiar with a given band's oeuvre are not necessarily going to agree on which albums are better, and the album that an aficionado considers a piece of dreck, someone else might like while being unable to stand the rest of their catalogue.
Some of you may have noticed that I haven't been doing as many of my mini-album-reviews lately in my blog. That's true, I haven't. I don't always feel moved to write them. This is why I would never make a professional reviewer, because after a while I begin to feel like I don't have any idea what to write that doesn't sound totally generic. Like I've said before, I'm not that good at dancing about architecture.
But just to appease you: so far today, InXS's "Shabooh Shoobah", which I barely noticed, as well as most of Icehouse's "Primitive Man", ditto(apart from the two singles, "Hey Little Girl" and "Great Southern Land"). Then James's "Seven", which is growing on me(notable song this listen: "Sound"); I really need to pick up "Laid" sometime and check out more of their catalogue. Now I'm onto Clannad's "Macalla"(what are they doing these days, I wonder?), which I seem to recall mostly liking, though none of it is particularly outstanding.
And speaking of Kofi Annan, he also sort of popped up a few months ago in Cerebus(well, Paul "Coffee" Annan, to be precise). There's an interesting comic book for you. It's gone through a lot in its 270-odd issues, from epic fantasy satire to political humour to feminism-bashing to eloquent defenses of misogyny to tributes to Oscar Wilde, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway. It's getting near the 300-issue mark, when Dave Sim says the series will be complete, and Cerebus is moving into a state of acceptance and possibly even Enlightenment amid being tormented by the Three Wise Guys(who look a lot like Stooges to me). It's pretty much the only comic I read right now. I do like the Hernandez brothers' Love & Rockets when it comes out, which is irregularly, and while I have been following the adventures of Tim Hunter(from The Books of Magic, etc.), my interest is starting to fall off.
I used to read tons of comics, mostly Marvel, and I still enjoy the classic X-Men stuff. I stopped buying it(and most other comics)in the Mutant Massacre days, but I've started picking up some of those issues anyway, deciding that the decline was not as sudden as I remembered. I still think that the Marvel world was going through too many upheavals, and was generally losing coherence, but maybe it was the whole "Secret Wars II" thing and the periodic crossover frenzy that that inspired that really annoyed me.
I really wasn't a big superhero comic fan as much as I was a SF/fantasy comic fan. I loved Silver Surfer(once he got off Earth) and Dr. Strange(which led me to buy The Defenders as well), the Micronauts(especially the New Voyages, which were amazing), even Star Wars and Rom Spaceknight. And after I moved out of my Marvel phase, I still read Silver Surfer, but thanks be to Troy Lessoway(sp?), who introduced me to Watchmen and Grimjack, and also, indirectly, to Cerebus. Grimjack was a wonderful book as well, science fiction and fantasy intermingling in every issue, as well as a bit of hard-boiled detective/mercenary. Then there was Dreadstar, an SF outing from Jim Starlin that was a bit predictable at times, but still fun. (I still am not quite sure why, when I liked Silver Surfer under Steve Englehart, and Dreadstar under Starlin, Silver Surfer under Starlin should have sucked so badly. But it did.) And of course Sandman was fantastic as well.
But yeah, I'm not as much into comics these days. I'm more into story than art, so that leaves out whole levels of appreciation for me sometimes. And I just can't get into the superhero comics these days, or all the endless tie-ins. In the end, it's another thing where there's probably lots of stuff I would like, but I can't be bothered to find it all. Books & music still reign supreme.
We would've been leaving tomorrow early for Grande Prairie, but that's when the tech rehearsal is, so I kinda have to be there for that. And these things always run late. Oh, well, that's theatre for you.
Recent library CD listens: Last night I listened to Andrea Koziol's "Mission: Bliss"; she's another Canadian chanteuse, who for some reason I was expecting to be more like Chantal Kreviazuk(maybe it's the Slavic-sounding surnames...). She was mostly a little more subdued, thought she did have a few uptempo tracks. I put it on my "to-buy" list, since it sounded okay and I would probably get into it more with repeated listens. Today I tried Giant Sand's "Chore of Enchantment", and was mostly unimpressed--either too low-key or too harsh--and Latin Playboys(apparently an alter ego for Los Lobos)' self-titled album, which was okay but a bit murky and hard to pick out individual songs. I'm about to try "Knitting On The Roof", a "Fiddler On..." tribute album--sounded bizarre enough to be worth a try. (Negativland doing "Tevye's Dream" and The Residents doing "Matchmaker" should be weird...Jill Sobule may do a really good "Sunrise, Sunset", which is possibly my favourite song from the show....)
Reading volume three of the Legends anthology, of short novels by various fantasy authors. Mostly got it for the Robert Jordan one, "New Spring", but I did enjoy the Ursula Le Guin one, "Dragonfly", too. (Even if the ending was a little bit she's-done-this-before...) Still got a Tad Williams and a Terry Pratchett one left. I recently read Thomas Harris's Red Dragon, the first Hannibal Lecter one, which I hear they are currently filming. It was pretty good, even though the killer was the strongest-delineated character in the book. The investigator, Will Graham, wasn't quite a cipher but pretty close.
Listening to the actual "Knitting On The Roof", it's a bit disappointing. I guess the problem is that it's a record label thing, with "Knitting Factory" recording artists participating. Few of them are vocal, and so you get a lot of instrumental versions, and instrumentalists being what they are, many of them are practically unrecognizable. The Residents' "Matchmaker" sounded like they took a few liberties with the lyrics, but that was okay. The Jill Sobule song was extremely low-key, which was disappointing; Come's version of "Do You Love Me?" was done as a low-quality telephone conversation. Oh, well, I've got the original soundtrack, or the Captain Tractor version of "If I Were A Rich Man", at least.