I have no desire to travel. I do not understand it. Spending time away from the regular environs belongs to the privileged classes. On average, most Canadians have two weeks off each year. The fortunate ones have more. Packing house and departing for brief tours of multiple countries seems daunting, wasteful and exhausting. Think also of the driving vacation. I have time off, so let’s spend 23 hours in the car. Yes! Drinking on the beach outlasts its thrill in a few hours. Time off for me is best spent through the distractions of fellowship here in Winnipeg.
It is not my intention to stop folks travelling for recreation; rather, I prefer to consider why you feel you must. Are you edified by travel? Have the dozens of churches, museums and war memorials you’ve seen made you a more complete person? Do you have an advantage over those of us who chose not to or cannot travel? Are you more enlightened? Are you better people?
So maybe travellers are escaping Winnipeg weather. Why does the weather affect you so much that you believe you have to escape it? This is your home. It is cold and cool in Manitoba for the majority of the year. If you can’t stand it, wouldn’t it be better to seek a more favourable climate as a permanent solution? There are warmer places in Canada. Think about it.
With few exceptions, listening to those who have returned from their vacation is like listening to someone read their grocery shopping list. This where you went, you saw these things and did these other things. You had a terrific time and, of course, it was a deal (inexpensive). The travellers have consumed the sights, sounds and smells of their chosen destination and their audience (those who did not go) is left with what remains. Consider if there were any benefits to the place you visited aside from the dollars that were expended. Aside from cash, what was the value-add for the local culture?
I understand that there are a variety of motivations for travel. There are those who do so for more noble purposes. Perhaps they have skills and talents they can share with others. Maybe they can assist those in need by doing something constructive. Make a contribution that does not emphasize or re-affirm the disparity that exists between the traveller’s home country and the destination. However, I am uncertain how that could be achieved. Is there subversive travel?
Vice Magazine (Vice.com) has created some travel documentaries that I find compelling. However, they are not immune to criticism or some of the deeper issues of the gaze. These folks (they are usually middle-class and educated) travel to destinations to reveal the bizarre, the fringes, the margins of the cultures visited. Hamilton Morris searches the world in search of mind-altering substances and uses himself as the subject. There have been presentations of psychotropic truffles, hallucinogenic frogs, and various stimulating brews. Vice is not afraid to visit where the bourgeois has rarely gone. Vice sought out some locals in a certain area of Colombia that have sex with donkeys; others have visited Muslim transgendered folks in Indonesia. Another correspondent went to China to visit a village built primarily for dwarves and a paying audience. Thomas Morton went to Peru over a recent Christmas to engage in a fist fight with a stranger as this is a local tradition. Now, these are trips one could remember throughout a lifetime.
It is not my intent to use this forum as an ad for an “underground” eZine but rather to think about a new direction. This kind of travel is more appealing to me. It is much more compelling than 20 minutes of video from a hotel in Jamaica or the Epcot Centre.
Time to book a flight, I think.
As religious zealots across the globe joyously exchange vitriolic and murder, and others retreat into prayer and related practices, and, enrolment in fundamentalist sects increases dramatically, I consider porn.
Porn, with the help of the internet (recall, it is an evil place) is a multi-billion dollar industry. The general public (if not us, then who?) is ravenously consuming these athletic, fleshy, decidedly proctologic, representations of the sex-act. Sales of sex tools and paraphernalia continue to rise (male metaphor, sorry). Market penetration has new meaning. Access and exposure is just a two clicks away.
For me, at least, desensitization and the consumer mentality have made viewing traditional porn categories a temporary affair. The gaze is hungry but it has nowhere else to go. We have exhausted its possibilities. However, every time I entertain that thought, the bar of depravity is raised yet another notch. I have to look. That’s just me, I suppose.
If you’re unsettled by this direction, please be at ease as I exclude the sexual representations which normally violate the Criminal Code of Canada. Coprophagia, water sports, livestock appreciation, torture porn; these categories multiply and reveal. Cell division is slow compared to this fruitful breeding ground.
Consuming pornography has a ritualistic religious element to it. Like the cave wall, the monitor is an altar of sorts. It is the locus of our gaze where we witness the mysterious. Ambient lighting is dimmed and we are washed in the glow of our screens. It is a baptism of sorts. We are supplicants to the image or representation of the real. Open the conduit and let it all through. I have a primal need. Satisfy me.
So we move into a blending of the real and imagined. Unsettling but maybe that is how we have always been. After all, Plato/Socrates was worried about the blurring of boundaries and categories. He wanted to stop this movement and did so by asking the “What is?” question. In his day truths became falsehoods and falsehoods became truths. Damn Sophists! Plato/Socrates sought definitions and distinctions. However I do not believe this play has ever left. Maybe it just took a backseat. Today, it has moved into prominence.
The West (America) is simultaneously Puritanical and Pornographic. Recall that the Puritans claimed ownership of the land that was already inhabited; a land which eventually gave birth to the porn industry. But it is far more than that. The religious has become pornographic and its dangers are clearly evident as it spreads. The pornographic, as described briefly above has become religious. Consuming porn is a regular activity, like church attendance, perhaps, except it is usually done in the privacy of one’s chambers. As the discussions and debate surrounding pornography and religion rage on, there are new legions of state approved god-intoxicated warriors running rampant and waging war. Preachers, mullahs, clerics and their acolytes rage against abortion, sexual orientation, equal rights and opportunity, foreign policy, economics, art and aesthetics. See? The political, too, is religious. Now, that’s porn.
Back to the cave I go.
Winnipeg has its charms, no doubt. The Forks on a beautiful day,
Assiniboine Park for a Picnic or a day trip to Bird’s Hill for some
nature; just to name a few. The thing about the ‘Peg is that if you
stray too far from some well established paths you can incur serious mental and/or physical trauma. Some thrive on this challenge...some seek danger to feel alive...these are the adrenaline junkies that fuel sports like base jumping or croc wrestling. For you thrill seekers out there, in Winnipeg, we have our own specialized types of Extreme Sports:
- Beer... RUN!: Get yourself a 24 of Beer. Get this from the Sherbrook Inn beer vendor just off Westminster . Type of beer: Standard works well, but to really garner attention make it Bud. With the 24 in tow, hang just outside the doors. Wait for 1 hour.
- Window Licking: Get on a downtown bus in winter. See those windows? All steamy, sweaty and gross. Lick it. If you don’t require immediate medical attention you win!
- Bike Bait: Ride a bike on Winnipeg Streets. Good luck not getting swiped, scratched, dented, swore at, pot holed or thrown from your bike.
- Bug Bites: Yes... we all know there are bugs aplenty in Winnipeg, but try this modified Bug Sport for some real annoying buzzing in your ears! Go into Wolseley armed with a back pack of deet products.
Raid, Outdoor Woodsman, whatever...the strong stuff. Border line illegal deet content. Walk down Ruby and spray the shit. Just spray it in the area. Give it minutes and the lynch party will arrive.
- The Long Walk: Go for a nice long walk on the River Pathway, all the way from Omands Creek to the old pump house. Wear your Sunday best. After 10 pm. Bring protection. Various forms.
And the super extreme sport for Spring 2014....
Tupac’s Revenge: Go to the front of the Millenium library. Loudly
announce that Tupac sucked ass and anyone who likes him sucks equal ass.
Prepare for the beat down!
So...you want to reveal to your girlfriend, boyfriend or significant other, that you game. Go easy friend. The perceptions of gaming can still hold an air of geekness that can limit your opportunity to get some real play. Follow these steps to ease your mate into the world of co-op, partnertastic gaming. These steps take the assumption that your partner knows little, if anything about the greatness of gaming...
Step 1: Place an Ikea catalogue, Music Mag, Mc D's coupon book...whatever stokes your partners fancy, onto the actual gaming system. This will ease their transition to acknowledging the existence of the mass of game-on hardware that exists within your living environment. Their joy at snagging the mag (latest edition of course) will overwhelm the shocking reality of revealing the game system lounging underneath. This reward-shock tactic will ease them into acceptance.
Step 2: Be sure the system is tip-top clean. Any reason to be disgusted by it will be utilized by an unsure partner to reinforce their doubts about it. People generally dislike fondling filthy things. An option would be to give the system a light spray with rose oil or some other fragrant scent that appeals to them. This will lure them to want to make contact with the game system.
Step 3: Start them out with a real funnsy. You know...Something like, You Don't Know Jack(one NOT 2) or Guitar Hero or some highly rated speciality game that may mirror a hobby or passion of theirs. Don't be dumping the Halo's, Disgaea's or Portals on them too early. These types of hard-core games can have a long term detrimental effect on your (Gender here please)friends mind. First Impressions are huge and if they are exposed to the hardcore too early, they will reinforce the cliches in their mind that all games are violent and masturbatory teenage fantasies manifest (which they are, but not wholly). Ease them into gaming, make them feel the fun. Most people like fun...most.
Step 4: Make the event a super-fun experience. Maybe feed them some Gin, black-cherry soda pop, purple stuff...whatever they like bestest . Make it into a pleasant experience for both of you. This will leave the good first-impression that will stay with them. Throw some romance into the mix. If playing a Wii or a more active game like Rock Band, be sure to give them the 'ole bump rub. You know the move....you gently bump up against yer partner and make a smooth transition to a rub on their side, back, shoulder, arm....where ever. All this bonding while they be gaming will make them want to game-on more.
You must be consistent in the fun-factor, and hold off on dragging them through hardcore games. A partner watching you try to level up to 9999, will become bored. Bored=no play for you! Your (?)friend loves attention...I guarantee this, and if you are focused on a game while not paying mind to them, the whole gaming experience will be rejected by them. Show them the good time gaming together can be, and they will want to share that with you on a regular basis.
I believe you can follow these steps to gaming bliss, but like I mentioned...be aware that you may release a gaming oni. They may take to the whole game-on ness like a louse to a hippie. You may be opening up a Pandora's Box, so try to instill in their mind the game fun through co operative play. This will steer them away from becoming a game junkie. If they do become an addict, there is only one joystick in the pad that will get any play. You've been warned.
Joystick 'n' Hand
DONKEY KONG: Table-Top Mini
I had the table top Donkey Kong. No...not the cocktail table 2-player one, I had alittle plastic box one that was like a mini-arcade machine. It was god-awful ugly (looking something like a cheap "futuristic" toy from a Happy Meal cross-bred with a two-bit carnival shtick at Christmas) and was more annoying than fun to play, but it filled a table-top niche in 80's culture and accomplished the onslaught of Donkey Kong that became a legend in the gaming industry.
Using the term "I had" implies I can claim ownership to it, but this I cannot. I had it on extended borrow and then donated it to a new mini-gamer along with other trinket hand-me-downs. This little (yet durable!) gaming system killed many an hour in my childhood and I feel obligated to extol the virtues of this Coleco-made piece of gameness. While anything i write would undoubtedly be a gloss up of this early gen crap creation, but isn't that the beauty of hind-sight...everything shines a bit differently.
My buddy had been given this game by his older bro who had gotten it at a staff x-mas party circs 1982. Games at this time were the stuff of kid. Teen-agers and young adults were not playing the "nerd" tinged computer gaming phenomenon. The industry was targeted to children, and became the next great baby-sitter. With this said, my buddy's bro decided to re-gift for the younger one of the family. When he eventually brought it over (and this in itself was amazing!....I mean...a video game you game put in a backpack!? Wow!) I was in awe of the power of the game. When he did the big reveal, I was instantly enamoured by the art on the sides. It looked great! The Big D was trotting his stuff and posing for the crowds. I loved the bright blue casing and the garish red color used. It was flashy and yelled "tech". I couldn't wait to play! And then i did...i was shocked, frustrated and saddened. I expected more. It is true that anything would have come second to what my expectations were, but this was not really fun. It blipped and burped its way through a gauntlet of piercing purple lights and deafening screeches of compu-grind. As time went on, we'll say 2 years or so, and the Donkey Kong fad faded, I had somehow acquired the Mini-Kong game through some underhanded comic trades. It was a bit beat up and marked up and scratched up, but it worked. The screen still blazed its piercing neon glows into the retinas as they had a few post-x-masses ago. It was at this point that I had the opportunity to really give the game a try and ride that learning curve. What ended up happening was a real appreciation for this money-grab hunk of Kong-Whoreness. Yeah it was repetitive, annoying and seizure inducing, but it contains the same fundamentals of the arcade game; its addicting. Running up the girders to save your lass is rewarding and exhilarating. At the time, this was the great gaming challenge that all aspiring arcade-knights quested to prevail over. Kong ruled, and the excitement he brought was in the vanguard of the gaming revolution.
In premise, this game is Donkey Kong. Score is involved, climbing and timing are key and Mario does the occasional slow-mo glitch jump. While not identical to the arcade game, it does share the spirit of the mighty Kong original even if it is watered down to the point of drowning. You play as a pre-cocaine(pre-super fame) Mario in a never ending circuit of running, climbing and jumping to the top of the screen, all the while avoiding barrels and other Kong obstacles. Everyone knows the game, its Donkey Kong, but this version is on the cheap and the limited technologies of calculator displays, light brights and bit-bursts of glitch sound combine to create a serviceable, if primitive Donkey Kong experience.
The wonderment that made this arcade in a box possible was the screen type employed, the Vacuum Fluorescent Display. That's the fancy way of describing a cheap monitor. The screen itself is akin to a stencil... It has all the frames of the games cut out and the whole deal is back lit to reveal the specific still as "movement" occurs. The choppy motion has its own charms and patterns that become the game-on experience here, it starts to feel right once you become accustomed to the feel of the mini-joystick and your eyes adjust to the strain. The graphic details here are sparse and the challenge increases by the speed rising. Everything is here...the hammer, flaming barrels and the ole' heave ho! thing that Kong does to thrust the barrels at you. The tweaks and blings of the sound chip are painful yet surprisingly accurate to the original, which ain't saying much for the original. The high and low tweaks when Mario walks is the pinnacle of infuriating but it eventually takes on a hypnotic "low-brow" sensation through repeated plays. The body of the game was solid plastic and could be used as a hammer in a pinch. I have personally seen this product smashed, thrown, curbed and dropped many times and it somehow lives on. Praise be to the gaming gods for plastic...where would we all be without dense plastic forms...I shudder to think! The game is a semi-satisfying time waster. You run up the frame, jump a few barrels and get to the platform with the damsel on it. Done. Next stage, same as the first, the cut-out screen eternal. But it continues on...now there are flaming barrels and the speed has been upped a notch. This proceeds until the speed is too much for itself and the little Coleco game system crashes. Once you find the repetition in the game flow, it can be almost enjoyable to grab a high score in this game. Almost...the simple presentation and limited variations condemn this game to more down-time than game-on time, yet our options were limited in the day and we forced ourselves to like it. Regardless, this gutsy little game had its own unique charms in a time of arcade parlours and pop-game icons like pac-man and Q-Bert...and unsurprisingly, based on his longevity, Mario really hasn't changed...ever. This early cash in was a brick in the foundation of the ultra-franchise that built a localized Japanese company into an international mega brand.
I eventually gave the game; with many other toys I had broken up with, to my cousin. I know he played it for a while because I heard it brought up for few years after that, but the whereabouts of the Bright Blue Kong Machine is a mystery. A flea market or maybe an attic next-door. Most likely it hibernates in a land fill somewhere...impervious to decay with its exo-shell of moulded plastic. Even if it does reside in a dump, I assure you...if you slam 4 C batteries into this bad-boy, it'll work. Game-On!
Joystick 'n' Hand
Many artists have attempted to document the horrors and perversities inherent in human nature yet few have achieved the intensity and conflict between sensuous detail and suffocating physicality as the artist Hans Bellmer. Looking upon his photographs and drawings that fetishized and revealed extreme personal desires, one is mutually repulsed, disturbed and enthralled by their dark beauty. His subjective work has endured harsh criticism, called everything from obscene, perverted and pornographic. The fact remains that the work of Hans Bellmer is technically profound and thematically disturbing, reaching into dark recesses that most viewers would rather avoid. His combination of skill and twisted representation has endured his work into the history of alternative artistic chroniclers. Both erotic and horrific, his art stands as some of the bravest expressions to come from the inner mind of an artist.
Born in Katowice, Poland in 1902; Bellmer began his artistic career in Berlin under the tutorship of George Grosz. Grosz himself specialized in social commentary that never shied away from representing the people as visually disgusting and viscerally ill. The common view that these two artists shared of representing humanity as grotesqueries, was unwelcome is late 30’s Germany. The Nazi’s had their own idea of what was acceptable as art and Bellmer was labeled a degenerate. Bellmer did have some admirers at the time, the Surrealists that worked and played in gay Paris loved his work. The deformed torsos and sexually confrontational work harkened to the Surrealists, whose own work dealt with psychology. With a massive series of disturbing photographs of life-sized handmade dolls (poupees), Bellmer fled to France. He was detained in a detention camp by the French authorities until 1940. Destitute before making his way to France, he was even more impoverished as he shuffled out of prison. Disowned by his homeland and treated as a war criminal in France, his career seemed dead. Encouragingly, Bellmer was hired by the French erotic writer, George Bataille, to create prints for the book, Historire de l’oeil . Bellmer’s images of decaying, diseased bodies and entwined limbs lent themselves well to Batailles’ writings. This relationship was extremely fruitful for both, and Bellmer continued producing prints for numerous editions of books including, De Sade’s Petit Traite de Morale. Empty stomach behind him, Bellmer created numerous photographs and prints that showcased his disturbing bend towards physicality and eroticism.
Bellmer died in Paris in 1972, respected by a few, unknown to most. While his subject matter upset and disgusted the timid; history has embraced Bellmer as a visionary of horrific images and deeply personal eroticism. His work has been gaining respect and tomes detailing his work are trickling into popular culture. A unique talent, Bellmer’s work confronts the viewer head-on, making some observers very uncomfortable, but those that can stomach it are entranced by the skill and bravery displayed.
One of Bellmer’s drawing for Batailles’ Story of the Eye 1950, showcases his obsessive sense of detail, and his penchant for the disturbing. With disdain for organized religion and a depiction of swine and sex, this work stands as one of his more accessible pieces. The translucent body of the “takee” displays Bellmer’s obsession with the visceral insides of life. Indicative of much of his work, this view through the skin presents itself as sickly fleshy in some of his more extreme works. A skull stares blankly, while being anally humiliated by a pig-headed sodomizer. Standing on the pig’s shoulder’s, with ankles that expose muscle and sinew, a woman “christens” the act with golden illumination. Bellmer’s flowing line work contrasts the necrophilia, warm showers and prickly fuckers to create a work of disturbing beauty. This piece stands as a primer to the more extreme of his work and just scratches the surface of the depravity and artistic insanity that he treats the brave to.
Hans Bellmer’s work resonates in the under currents of subculture and has influenced the likes of H.R. Giger and Chris Marrs. Books detailing the twisted visions of this artist are few but The Anatomy of Anxiety by Sue Taylor covers his photos and prints remarkably, while taking a psychoanalytical approach to his work. Uncover his art in Surrealist anthologies and on the net, a strange visionary worth discovering and well worth the hunt. You may even realize that you’re not the only one that is intrigued by diseased zombie-like nymphs awoken from the hidden recesses of your subconscious.
River City Ransom. Part brawler, part RPG. This game worked (and works...) on so many levels it occupies its own specialized genre. The story concerns young Alex. A resident of River City with good intentions and love in his heart. When the troublesome sounding "Slick" decides to abduct the love of Alex's life, you know there is gonna be hell to pay. Alex goes on a frenzied mission to cause pain, learn new skills and explore River City to liberate his damsel in distress, Cyndi. Alex does have friends to assist him on this noble mission. His equally rage filled bud, Ryan, can join the fray and contribute to the rescue of Cyndi, ensuring Alex can some day get some. When two players game-on you can do combo moves which are exciting to pull off and cause destruction to the gang members that attempt to deny Alex his heroic quest. The game is simple enough indeed, but along the journey you will encounter shops, secret bookstores and floppish bosses and sub-bosses that are in need of retribution. The mission can be lengthy if one decides to explore River City from top to bottom and acquire all the skills offered by books and products that must be purchased. Money is received after one of the many gang members is beat down and sent to the "other" plane. Some baddies give more money than others and bosses really give up the goods. The gangs that await our heroes are legion and the titles vary from the "Squids" to the "Frat Boys". All gangs are not equal. Some are far more aggressive than others, while some will flee from your presence. Learning the gang dynamics is a crucial part of playing the game. Following the action like buzz on a fly, is the banter in text form on the bottom of the screen. Enemies can taunt you, drop hints or even scream in pain as they meet their maker. Constantly ticking away on the lower screen and usually humorous, the dialogue is an important part of the game as well. Scattered throughout River City are Shop areas where no fighting occurs. It is filled with peaceful city folk that only wish you the best and want your money. Doorways lead to a variety of shops from Bookstores to Desert Cafes. All items add to the players stats in varying degrees. Some items increase agility, speed, strength, to name a few; while other shops sell items that give Alex(or Ryan) new skills. The learned skill of Dragon Feet is always a pleasure to greet charging gang members with, and it is a must to pick up these tricks to combat the increasingly tough opponents that come your way. All these layers combine with little touches like naming your character , password saving, interacting with the inhabitants of the city and using any items lying around as weapons, giving River City Ransom a broad and deep foundation to play on. You can even pick up a dazed enemy and use him as a weapon. The humour of the story and the complete wackiness of the entire game give it personality and flavour that separate it from anything else out there.
The look and feel of River City Ransom may ring some bells. Developed by Technos, this is the same team behind Super Dodge Ball, the original Double Dragon and the old school arcade fighting game Karate Champ. Their uncanny ability to meld violence and humour are real standouts in the industry and give anything they develop a distinct Technos identity. River City Ransom was released in North America in 1990, and while not taking the gaming world by storm, it has achieved a strong cult status and is respected internationally. The blend of outrageous fighting and ability building make this game multifaceted and garner it quite a broad fan base. A GameBoy version was released, minus the Technos crew. Developed by Million and released by Atlus, this updated version got favourable reviews and may be of interest to former River City dwellers. The original has been re-released on the Wii through the Virtual Console and is highly recommended to anyone able to access it. The story is silly, the moves ridiculous and the characters are mental. That said, it is a perfect distraction and an oddly complex beat-em 'up that works. Tight control, simple yet effective NES sounds and clean, crisp graphics combine to create a pleasurable gaming experience.
My urban explorer friend and I played River City Ransom non-stop in the Summer of 1990(the late charges must have been in the triple digits...) and it has left such an impression that every so often the adventures of Alex jump into my mind like an Acro Circus spin. Anyone mentions a gang, I think of the Generic Dudes instantly. I see an older metal garbage can, I envision Ryan smashing a Frat Boy in the melon. A great game stays with you for a long time. An amazing game stays with you forever. I am sure I can use the brain cells designated with River City Ransom info for something else, but why would I. In my youth I spent a summer in River City and love to go back every so often in my mind to that wacky place, with a giggle and a smile and a fond memory of gaming on in the past.
Joystick 'n' Hand
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