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Confessions of an Addict

I’m a good person. I really am. But sometimes good people get caught up in bad things. I wish I didn’t have to admit to y’all that I’m an addict, but everyone has their vices, right? No?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t addicted. Or rather, I don’t want to remember a time. Everything seems brighter now, my days go by quicker, there are times when I’m even excited to get up in the morning. But it’s for all the wrong reasons, unfortunately.

I’m not going to apologize for my mistakes…I don’t regret anything I’ve done. I’m not in denial…I’m addicted to GemCraft. All three chapters. Sick.

If you have never played GemCraft, I don’t recommend you start unless you’re willing to risk your free time and your social life for at least a few weeks. The original game was released in Summer ’08, and then a prequel was released in Spring of ’09 (GemCraft Chapter 0: Gem of Eternity). I played through both voraciously and multiple times, until a sequel came out just last February (GemCraft Labyrinth), while I was working on my college thesis, I might add. I’ve been keeping track of another sequel in the works…apparently it’ll be released within the next few months. I’m awaiting it with both excited anticipation and dread. The new game is likely to be even more in-depth than the last one, which means that no one will be seeing me for a few months, and my Gemcraft addiction will only get worse…

Gemcraft

Looks like harmless fun, right?

GemCraft is a tower defense game where you play as a wizard defending your tower from these little buggy monsters. You use awesome and powerful colored gems placed in turrets along a path to shoot them with magical energy. Ooooh. Gems can be combined into wicked combinations. As you kill more monsters, you gain experience to upgrade your skills.

Remember how before I said you shouldn’t play GemCraft? I actually meant you totally should. It’s the best flash game of them all. I’m not even afraid of being called a nerd. There’s even a mobile version of the game for your iPhone/Pad/Pod, but it might take a little more convincing for me to shell out the $3.00 for it. And do I really need to have GemCraft with me at all times?

Yes. The answer is a most definite yes.

Pic courtesy of http://ultimatewalkthrough.blogspot.com/

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Hipville, USA

All my life, I’ve lived within two hours of New York City, but I have only been there four times. I’m kind of ashamed to admit it, and I feel like there’s no excuse for not getting up there more often. I know plenty of people who love Broadway, people who go to New York for the shopping, people who visit Times Square to see the ball drop every year, people who went to college there, people who got jobs there after college. Not me. I don’t want to be a homebody, but it’s just so easy.

Last Friday, I ventured to Brooklyn for the first time to see a concert. Williamsburg , Brooklyn, in fact (hipster capital of the USA). I always try to see my favorite bands play live, so when I heard that Parts & Labor were playing their 10 year anniversary/FINAL SHOW, I had to go.

I usually regret going to shows. Too much standing and crappy opening bands with loooong sets usually ruin it for me. Add to that driving more than two hours from Philly to New York and then needing to drive back afterwards, and paying more than $30 in tolls, and you have a pretty unfavorable concoction.

I wish I could say I had a more pleasant experience. It wasn’t all bad though. We left Philly around 4:30 and got into NYC past 7, pulled up to the venue, and heard some music in the building we were parked next to. Rolling down the windows, we found it was, in fact, Parts & Labor practicing their set…playing my favorite song even! Really cool! When the doors finally opened, it was announced that the tickets were sold out. I got mine online! Super cool. The venue (285 Kent Ave.) was awesome. I’ve always liked shows that took place in warehouse-y type spaces. The stage was decorated with the patchwork of colored squares that Parts & Labor are known for using, and from the ceiling hung a collage of debris (mostly “We Buy Houses” signs and the like) shaped into stalactites. Megacool.

But the show didn’t start til after 9. Lame. The two opening bands (Oneida and Neptune) took FOREVER to set up. I like Oneida, but live, they just played long, noisy and completely unnecessary drones. Would have been fine if we were sitting, and not standing there, packed in like sardines. So we went out to the car instead, and came back in a half an hour, feeling pretty refreshed. When Parts & Labor did finally go on, it was close to midnight, and it looked like they had every intention of playing all night. This is what I came to see.

There was an awesome energy in that band. Despite the late hour, everyone was really pumped. The opening song, “Fractured Skies,” was exactly what I wanted. There was a champagne toast from the band. The bottle was passed around the audience. There was a sweet horn section. Everything was perfect.

I desperately wish I had seen them play Philly last spring, because unfortunately, we only had the energy to stay for less than half of the set. It was after 1 AM and there was still a two hour drive ahead of us, not to mention a quick pit-stop for food. Plus, I had been feeling a bit sick all night. Sure there were things that could have made this show better, but I don’t regret going.

Question: Do Brooklyn shows always run til 2 or 3 in the AM? I know New York is the city that never sleeps, but really? While taking a stroll around outside looking for an ATM about 8:30 or so, it seemed like there were two or three shows on every block, each with a cluster of hipsters standing outside, smoking. Do they have jobs that require them to wake up early? Weren’t they sleepy? My boyfriend and I had put on our finest hipsterwear to be there, but I’m still not sure I could fit in.

On the way home, I almost fell asleep on the New Jersey Turnpike and killed us all. But I got to see (most of) Parts & Labor’s final show, so at least I would have died happy.

A Pre-Dinner Movie

I went through a period during my early teenage years where I wanted to see every strange, foreign or indie film that Blockbuster had to offer. This was  before the days of Netflix, Wikipedia and IMDb, and I would be my parents to drive me 15 minutes to the nearest movie rental place every Friday and Saturday. This is when I discovered the films of Jim Jamusch and the Coen Brothers and Jeunet and Caro. And this is when I became a movie nerd. It doesn’t take much to get hooked.

Jan Svankmajer is one of those really strange, really obscure filmmakers that I just happened to come across that year. I acquired a copy of his version of the classic Faust story on VHS (remember those??). Svankmajer’s Fausthowever, included a blend of live actors, marionettes, and claymation. I haven’t actually seen the movie since then, but I can vaguely remember some human-on-marionette romance that creeped 13 year-old me out big time. The details of the movie are a little hazy, because it was almost 10 years ago that I watched it, but I do know it inspired me to seek out some of Svankmajer’s other works. Many of his short films are available on YouTube, and a lot of them are perfectly bite-sized for afternoon watching. Yes, they’re weird. Really weird. But also really cool. I mean, claymation and stop motion take so much time and patience. After watching a few of his films, you can see that Svankmajer is a dedicated man at the very least. I also happen to think he is a talented artist and master storyteller.

The Svankmajer film I’m going to recommend, though, is only 17 minutes long. It’s called Food. Split into three parts (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, of course), Food is really three separate stories that will make you anything but hungry. The Lunch segment (watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wa0xHiMYjSE) is really my favorite. In it, two diners, a wealthy man and a hobo, cannot get the attention of the waiter, so they proceed to eat EVERYTHING around them. The end is a great piece of social commentary.

Jan Svankmajer

Hungry?

Nothing is quite what it seems in Svankmajer’s movies, and his use of sound is really the most fantastic part. The squishes, squelches and squeaks, along with the visuals, just might turn your stomach. But really, they’re worth watching, and they’re even better to show people.

Picture courtesy of http://www.eatmedaily.com/

I Like Cats, But…

I’m not a fan of anime. There’s always something weird and vaguely sexual about it that just creeps me out. I just don’t understand the appeal, or why it has so many rabid American fans. It’s a vast generalization, I know, and it really is a cultural thing that I don’t quite understand. However, I don’t discriminate, and I really do try to keep an open mind. Sometimes certain things break stereotypes. I didn’t  want to miss them. And that’s how I discovered the films of Studio Ghibli. Y’all might have heard of the movie Spirited Away (it won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature of 2002), or Kiki’s Delivery  Service (they used to show that one on Cartoon Network).

These are fantastic films, most of them directed by the master, Hayao Miyazaki. I’ve been a fan since I first saw Spirited Away in 2002. We even watched a Studio Ghibli film in one of my college film classes. In my teacher’s opinion, it was right up there with Citizen Kane. They’re each classics in their own way, blending the perfect amount of fantasy and societal commentary, while appealing to all ages. This weekend, I got to see The Ghibli film The Cat Returns.

Hayao Miyazaki

Tell me honestly you wouldn't want to be a cat

I like cats. A lot. I watched The Cat Returns with my cats (and my brother). I was wrapped in a red blanket adorned with sweater-wearing cats while watching.  I laughed at all the cat-themed jokes. And when the main character, a girl named Haru, got partially turned into a cat, it didn’t even creep me out. That would normally creep me out majorly. I desperately want to go to the cat kingdom. If anyone knows the way there, please let me know.

Plus, the movie had an all-star voice cast: Anne Hathaway, Tim Curry, Peter Boyle, Andy Richter…great stuff! This movie gets all four paws up. It was fun, short, sweet, and all those good things. See it if you’re a cat fan, or a Studio Ghibli fan, or an anime fan, or a movie fan. Don’t turn your nose up at it because it’s anime. Ghibli films tend to transcend stereotypes. Just go ahead and see any movie the Miyazaki has been involved with. You won’t be sorry.

Picture courtesy of http://alualuna.wordpress.com/

A Little Romance

Ah, the post-holiday slumps…the buildup, the letdown, the feelings of emptiness and sometimes despair, and always the feeling of “ohgodwhydidieatsomuch.” It feels even more lame because Valentine’s day isn’t even a  real holiday. But now I’m here, day after Valentine’s , in my pajama’s, eating sad, boxed donuts and disciplining my boyfriend’s cat for spilling water everywhere (vigorous chin rubs are discipline, right? “DON’T PURR WHEN I’M YELLING AT YOU!”), and just generally feeling blah.

How else am I supposed to feel after having a fairly excellent Valentine’s Day? Neither of us had to work. There was chocolate, there was cheesecake, there was dinner. There were kisses, and cuddles, and hand-holding. There were love songs, and sappy sentiments, and gazing into each other’s eyes. And then there was the highlight. Spock’s Brain.

Star Trek TOS

The Vulcans can teach us a thing or two about romance.

Star Trek is ultimate romance. I can’t say I’m an expert, but there’s nothing quite as dreamy as watching the Starship Enterprise drift through space.  And for those of you who are fans of things that are so bad, they’re good, Spock’s Brain is the perfect episode for you (in fact, the whole Star Trek original series is for you). But in this episode in particular will make you groan. It has everything! A brainless and remote-controlled Spock? Check. REALLY dumb women? Check. The always-handsome Captain Kirk showing off his fist-fighting skills? Check. Medical drama? You got it! Not to mention a good old-fashioned punchline at the end. And the outfits! I guess miniskirts and go go boots make a comeback in the 23rd century. Take note of the future chic! And how all aliens can speak English! It’ll blow your mind!

I know Valentine’s Day is a whole year away, but guys, seriously. Woo your significant other with Star Trek. Because if we learn about the future from the past, then we’ll save a whole lot of time. Or something.

Picture courtesy of http://shockwavedarkside.typepad.com/

The Grandmother

I thought it would be a bad idea to watch David Lynch’s The Grandmother again. I first watched it in a short film class in college, and decided on that very day that it was the most frightening movie I had ever seen. The sound effects were chilling, the imagery was nightmarish. However, I also remembered it had inspired parts of the thesis project that I was working on that semester. And in the months since I’ve last watched it, The Grandmother has entered my mind on a fairly regular basis. So on Thursday I was discussing disturbing movie moments with my boyfriend. While he was justifying his claim that the ant/scorpion combat scene from Honey I Shrunk the Kids takes the cake, I could only think of The Grandmother. Getting home that night, I felt compelled to watch it, but it was dark and I was alone. I pushed it off for a few days, but finally got around to watching it again today.

The Short Films of David Lynch

Come here and give Grandma a kiss!

I will admit, I’m not very knowledgeable when it comes to David Lynch’s filmography. I’ve seen Eraserhead and a few episodes of Twin Peaks, and even a minute or two of Dune, but that’s the extent of my expertise. From what I learned, though, Lynch made The Grandmother while attending college in 1970. The film focuses on a boy and his abusive parents, and the loving grandmother he decides to grow from a whistling seed he finds in his attic. Darkness obscures weird things lurking about the boy’s house, and his animalistic parents can only make a strange barking sound (that’s what scared me the most about this film the first time around. The audio is really what makes this movie). The protagonist is the boy, born from a puddle of black bile during the ritualistic stop-motion mating dance of his parents in the opening scene of the film. The parents are young, drunk, self-absorbed, and negligent towards their son, who seems sweet, kind and caring, despite the fact that the film lacks any dialogue.

The limited color in the film makes everything seem a little more foreboding, to the point where even the joy that the boy and his freshly-grown grandmother share seems darkened. The grandmother, birthed from a giant plant, gives the boy what his parents do not, a safe-haven from the abuse. The real story here though, is about childhood escapism, and the power of love in overcoming horror.

After watching the film for the second time, I guess it was a little less frightening, but we’ll have to see how I feel when the lights go out tonight. Yeah, I’m a wuss. Even reading the description for Mulholland Drive gives me the heebie-jeebies. I mean, David Lynch seems like a nice enough guy, but I guess I just wouldn’t want him to cook me dinner.

Watch it here

Picture courtesy of http://www.dangerousminds.net