Saturday, July 24, 2010

Corganwatch: The Bodily Remains Such a Bore

Character relations are defined under crisis, which is why Corganwatch will be avoiding the requisite chastisement of the anemic royal for slamming fans for being "stuck in 1993" (because apparently it's fine to dwell on 1996, when you erroneously believe your fate became irreparably soured, but heaven forbid people should dwell on the time you did your best thing).

No, with Lanky McThumbington having suffered an unexplained onstage collapse, which he's gamely shrugging off in the name of giving fans what they will take and damn well like want for the remainder of his tour, Corganwatch's best wishes are with the singer. May he either get well soon, or undergo an L Ron Hubbard-esque out-of-body experience in which all the world's knowledge is revealed to him and he becomes one with the divine (which, contrary to some evidence, obviously hasn't happened yet, because someone who was one with the divine would know that Billy Corgan needs to hire a producer).

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tom's New York: Empire, State of Mind

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The central metaphor of New York City is also the most cliched, obvious "you are now in New York" visual cue. New York is a city in which everything is sculpted from light, and in which light itself becomes visual language for human effort and prosperity and liberty; which is to say, if you want to imagine New York, imagine a proud, beautiful human, with rays of luminous promise streaming from her very noggin.

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At midnight, downtown Manhattan is lit up damn near bright as day with neon and glowing LCDs and moving billboards, the crowds so dense it might as well be midday anywhere else. Times Square becomes the glowing center of the world, pulling life into its orbit like an anti-black hole. It's hard not to feel a little uneasy when the very light by which you see is paid for and delivered by huge mindshare-devouring multinational conglomerates, but hello, there's a reason they call it Times Square: it's because it's Times fucking Square.

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In the daytime, New York becomes a monument to commerce and capitalism and 1920s pluck and luck and gumption and all those things that we enlightened folks know to be gilded promises, but damn if it doesn't nearly carry it off. Just as the rays of Liberty are mirrored in the Chrysler building's art-deco crown, so every towering shard of commerce and promise lining Park Avenue reflects every other, the light refracting and mingling until the effect is that of walking through a swimming soup of luminosity.

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While Rockefeller Center's ridiculously overblown gold-everything can be processed only by its presence in 30 Rock's title sequence, placing the whole experience solidly in unreality (pity the poor folks who had to try and factor it into empirically existent phenomena!), directly underground lies a terrible cavern of ebon marble and light-sucking art-deco black majesty, like strolling through Ayn Rand's memory palace. Twenty minutes north is the 5th Avenue parkside, whose huge brownstone monoliths anchor Manhattan outside time itself.


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When you destroy a part of New York City, light spouts from the wound, and when you bandage the gash up, New Yorkers, unable to stand in the shadow of the severed digit, develop split, twin shadows. The cretinous assholes who attacked New York city nine years ago died not realizing that, by hitting America where she keeps her New York, they weren't even making the right kind of point. America may contain its share of bigots or Eloi or bloated Orwellian drones, and certainly New York can't be without them, but the message of New York is only everything that is right about the American doctrine. To attack America on the basis of New York is like dissing rock music on the basis of Gimme Shelter, or saying poetry sucks because The Waste Land is too monumental. It's assaulting what you see as a fatally flawed entity based only on its most transcendentally correct elements. What a bunch of morons.

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On Summer evenings, the sun slots perfectly into Manhattan's east-west groove, a thick syrup of golden light washing across the island before the neon takes over, fire escapes and entranceways becoming prisms and zoetropes, windows glinting, colors all set alight, a little sacred play of light to end the day. Is there a word that's the opposite of "lyrical"? May I perhaps nominate the name for this phenomenon, "Manhattanhenge"? A rare miss for the usually sparkling Neil deGrasse Tyson, who coined the term. Anyhow, to walk Central park or Chinatown or the East Village during this time is to know deeply and surely everything that is right about living in the Urban West, which is a fine way to build up an appetite for dinner.

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After two weeks in New York - riding the subway to the wrong stop and emerging into air thick with sweet eastern spices and Mosque chants from tinny speakers, failing to decipher Cyrillic street signs in Little Russia (which is much more like The Living Daylights than Grand Theft Auto IV lets on), enjoying New York's New York pizza for its surprising lack of superiority to anywhere else's New York pizza - it's impossible not to remember that a thick layer of New York's gleaming patina comes at the cost of harsh mistreatment of vagrants and disenfranchised minorities and hardline enforcement of some fairly unsavory policies. It's spectacle, like a Broadway show or a dodgy comedy club or the M&Ms store; and the bit-players are compensated harshly for their fleeting traffic. Being in New York is hard work, and all the harder for the people without anything to do. The play and the venue aren't the same thing, of course, but this is why New York's so great, even at its worst: not only is it the world's grandest theater, but it puts on a hell of a show.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

In Which Our Hero Has A Lot Of Suggestions.

Two new articles of mine are up at GR this week: one where I strip-mine gaming history, Sheeda-like, to propose old games I want to play in 3d; and one where I propose genres that games should do more of, apparently forgetting that the final third of Metal Gear Solid 2 exists (can you blame me?).

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Corganwatch: Strumming My Pain With His Fingers

Billy Corgan and I have both been to LA, so Billy Corgan and I both know that LA is some rough stuff. When I went to LA, I tried to walk to Hollywood but took a wrong turn and ended up on Slauson. Which is basically like how when Billy Corgan went to LA, he tried to play a game with the audience but found that the people in LA are not telepathic with him so they don't know when he's decided the game is over.



While Corgan's attempts at levity are applauded, his audience's inability to discern between strained jocularity and passive-aggressive irritation (which is pretty inexcusable, being as this is an audience that has paid money to see Billy Corgan) earned them an early end to the evening. The mob's refusal to silently contemplate the spectacle of a bald man teaching himself the ukulele before their very eyes, followed with their half-hearted attempts to salvage Corgan's dignity by sparing his cover of Love is the Sweetest Thing the mortified silence it was so quickly earning, surely qualifies as the worst response to an impending tragedy in the entire history of the Viper Room.

By leaving the stage early, Billy Corgan missed the evening's highlight: a tragic soul yelling after him, "We never left you, Billy!"

Corgan, a long-time pro-wrestling fan, at last has his own "It's still real to me, dammit!" And not a moment too soon.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Tom's New Zealand: The Despicable Mr Bennett

To achieve the look of Joe Bennett, an actor spends three hours receiving a custom face-mask designed by monster-master Tom Savini.
"I watched the USA play Ghana. It was wonderful, partly because of the intensity of feeling, partly because of the Ghanaian names but mainly because the USA lost. Some of the Americans wept. That alone was worth getting up for."
- Joe Bennett is a popular Christchurch columnist, printed twice daily in the city's Press newspaper. His fans (a set which incudes all people in Christchurch, and some of the uglier dogs as well) are known to buy three copies of every issue of the paper in which he appears, lest they read the first and second copies so many times that their eyes literally suck up all the ink off the page. This scientific implausibility is just one of the myriad subjects of which Bennett's readers remain gloriously ignorant because he has not told them about it yet. With a tone as superciliously condescending toward absolutely everything on the planet, surely he must know all about it and be fixing to write about it one of these days!