Amoeblog

Hispanic Heritage Month - Latinos in American Cinema

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 26, 2009 01:51pm | Post a Comment

Aside from a brief fetish for Latin Lovers in the silent era, roles for Hispanics and Latinos in American silent film were few, far between and generally quite minor. In the sound era, images of Hispanics and Latinos in Hollywood began to increase in number, although Latino characters were at first usually portrayed by non-Latinos in brownface whilst real Latinos were frequently used as all-purpose ethnic types.

 
          Ramon Novarro and Lupe Velez (as Navaho) in Laughing Boy                                Leo Carrillo and Duncan Renaldo

1930s-
In the first decade of sound, there weren't many roles for Hispanics or Latinos aside from in popular, long-running series like Zorro, The Cisco Kid and The Mexican Spitfire series, the latter a vehicle for Lupe Velez. Pedro Armendáriz mostly starred in Mexican films; when cast in American ones, he invariably had to exaggerate his accent sufficiently. Throughout the '30s and the following decade, Arizona-born Chris Pin-Martin appeared in almost eighty films, invariably as a heavily-accented, broken English-speaking Mexican in small roles and as sidekicks, like Pancho in the Cisco Kid movies and as Gordito in the Zorro series. The Zorro franchise, begun in the 20s, continued to be popular throughout the era. The Cisco Kid series dated back to the teens. In them, unlike with Zorro, Hispanic actors like Leo Carrillo, Duncan Ronaldo and Cesar Romero were usually cast in the lead. Hispanic actress Rita Hayworth (born Margarita Cansino) was initially billed as Rita Cansino in a series of unrelated B-movies. In them, she usually played a variation on the fiery Mexican maiden in need of an honorable Anglo's protection and love.

Continue reading...

>Examine text adventure - Ask will Generation Text revive the popularity of text-based adventures?

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 6, 2009 02:37pm | Post a Comment

Like silent films, old time radio, male grooming and slide shows, the text-based game is a largely dead art form. Like the other examples, it's uniquely enjoyable and was snuffed out by its flashier, less imaginative offspring in the pursuit of realism and technology. (Don't get me wrong, I think GUIs are la mamá de Tarzán and I even crossed the security line at Xerox PARC on a nerd's tour of historic Silicon Valley to drink from the fountain where the Xerox Alto was born back in 1973.) But the quiet pleasures of text games are enjoyable in their own right and with a whole generation almost incapable of communicating through any means except texting, the text game seems ripe for a comeback.

 

Instead of using graphics, text-based games use prose to tell the story. Players type specific commands to such as "go north" to play. A lot of the fun (and frustration) comes from having to type them precisely. For example, if you type "omg go north lol!!!," the computer will reply, "You used the word north in a way I don't understand." It may be frustrating at first to not punctuate every command with "lol," but once you get the hang of it, you'll find text games can be highly addictive. Besides, frustration puts hair on your chest.


The fact that there are no pictures can make physically creating a map with a pencil and paper neccessary. It also requires using your imagination and problem solving that you may not be accustomed to. Text games can be very challenging and sometimes you may want to type an expletive. If you do, the programmers have in nearly all cases thought of that and you might get a response like, "Not right now. I'm tired."

  

The earliest text games were created for mainframe computers in the 1960s, allowing multiple users to play online. Adventure was the first widely-played MUD (or multi-user dungeon) and set the standard for text games that followed. Over the years, text games were continually modified and ultimately many of them ended up being ported to personal computers. I, for one, greatly enjoyed The Sumer Game, and most of all, Oregon Trail, on our family's Apple ][e... and Zork on the TRS-80.

 

Here's a by-no-means-complete list of some of the more significant text games which debuted on mainframes:

BBX (1961), The Sumer Game (1969), Highnoon (1970), Basbal, Oregon Trail and Star Trek (all 1971), Hunt the Wumpus and Star Trek (both 1972), dnd and Dungeon (both 1975), Colossal Cave Adventure (1976), Empire, Mystery Mansion, Oubliette and Zork (all 1977), Acheton and Decwar (both 1978), Avatar Battlestar, Brand X, HAUNT, Martian Adventure and New Adventure (all 1979), Hexarin, Kingdom of Hamil, Monsters of Murdac, Quondam and Rogue (all 1980), LORD (1981), FisK (1982), Avn, Castle and Dunnet (all 1985), Fylfeet (1986), Crobe, MIST, Nidus and Quest of the Sangraal (all 1987), Spysnatcher (1989), and Rise to Glory (1997)

  

When personal computers began appearing in homes around the turn of the '80s, programmers like Scott & Alexis Adams, Don Daglow, Jonathan Partington, Jon Thackray and others began professionally making text-based games for the new market. Anyone that was familiar with programming languages could make their own with relative ease. I wrote my own, Voyage to Zeus, based on the bizarre imagination of my younger cousin, Carly. What I wouldn't do to have a copy of that! Big companies like Adventure International, Infocom, Synapse Software (who referred to text games as "electronic novels"), Melbourne House/Beam Software, Angelsoft, Topologika and Spectral Associates spun what had once been an amateur hobby for a few nerds into commercial gold. In 1982, games with graphics became popular, but as this partial list suggests, popular text games continued into the '90s.



Adventureland, Pirate Adventure
(1978), Voodoo Castle (1980), C.I.A. Adventure, Eamon and Mission Impossible (all 1980), The Count, Ghost Town, Madness and the Minotaur, Mystery Fun House, Pyramid of Doom, Saigon: The Final Days and Strange Odyssey (all 1981), Deadline, The Golden Voyage, The Hobbit, Savage Island and Starcross (1982), Enchanter, Forbidden Quest, Infidel, Suspended - A Cryogenic Nightmare, The Witness and The Wizard of Akyrz (all 1983),  Cutthroats, High Stakes, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Mindwheel, Seastalker, Sorcerer and Zyll (all 1984), A Mind Forever Voyaging, Brimstone, Essex, Hampstead, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, A Mind Forever Voyaging, Spellbreaker and Wishbringer (all 1985), Breakers, Mindwheel and Terromolinos (all 1986), Philosopher's Quest (1987), Amnesia, Braminar, Dodgy Geezers, Jacaranda Jim, The Lurking Horror, Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It, Sherlock: The Riddle of the Crown Jewels and Stationfall (all 1987), Dr. Dumont's Wild P.A.R.T.I. (1988), Arthur - The Quest for Excalibur, The Hound of Shadow, James Clavell's Shōgun and Journey (all 1989), Humbug (1990), Danger! Adventurer at Work! (1991), and Spy Snatcher (1992)

 

For many younger people today, the thought of life without a constant flow of text messaging is, if not unimaginable, incredibly stressful. Though it, like the text game, goes back to the mid-'60s, text messaging didn't really explode until the peak of BBS use in the late '80s/early '90s. In the early and mid-90s, I killed a lot of time (partly because it was dial-up) on ISCABBS and even made friends whom I'm still in contact with regularly today -- as unlikely as that sounds. My brother, meanwhile, was often using IRC to do the same.

 

Not coincidentally, as peer-to-peer communication through personal computers grew more common, conversely, text games became less so. Cell phones weren't really an issue at first, as they were still primarily used to make telephone calls. Although the first phones with SMS appeared in Finland in 1993, when I got my Motorola StarTac in 1997, it (like most cell phones) was bulky clamshells with external antennae and a simple diplay of phone number. Not to mention, they were so large that I carried mine in a pleather holster attached to my belt.



Nowadays cell phones are more like tricorders than conventional phones and there are many days (weeks?) where mine's phone function goes unused. As I walk the streets of Los Angeles, I routinely have to dodge hunchbacked textlemmings blindly stumbling around, no doubt in most cases merely making inconsequential small talk or sexting their friends. But what to do when your friends are busy, or their phone is dead, or your continued coordination of multiple Stove Top Stuffing meals has left you hungry for something new? Why not, just for lolz, run a terminal emulator and play a text game on your phone? You'll be glad you did. And check out the computer game section at Amoeba. We've been known to feature some pretty classic antiques at low, low prices. Though to play them may require tracking down a floppy disk drive, text games are doorways to whole 'nother worlds and therefore worth the effort.

One final note, should this whole "text-based games on cell phones" thing take off-- under no circumstances attempt to play them whilst driving. Just look what happens when a group of chavvers get wrapped up in a game of Eamon!


Become a fan of Eric's Blog on Facebook!

Asteroids in animation, games, movies & television

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 30, 2009 04:26pm | Post a Comment
Asteroids have capitivated the imagination ever since rocks first looked into the heavens and asked, "Are we alone?" The entertainment industry has shown asteroid fields to be a place to hone your space navigation skills and target shooting and rogue asteroids as hell-bent on destroying humankind. As far as threats go, to me the gigantic, silent, soulless killing machines arouse a similar fear to that inspired by sharks. And now, as announced in the Hollywood Reporter earlier this month, Universal has acquired the rights to the classic Atari game and plans on adapting it into film. Matt Lopez (Race to Witch Mountain and Bedtime Stories) pitched the idea and found himself at the center of a bidding war between four studios. From Wing Commander and Double Dragon to House of the Dead and Hitman, films adapted from video games are generally quite good.


Although the chart above shows the existence of many real life asteroids, the entertainment industry almost always portrays fictional or just un-named space rocks.
 
ASTEROIDS IN COMPUTER & VIDEO GAMES

     
Final Fantasy IV   

The aformentioned Asteroids is the best known example of a game focusing on asteroids. Descent, The Dig, Final Fantasy IV, Homeworld, Millenium 2.2 and The Orion Conspiracy all feature un-named or fictional asteroids to various degrees.

ASTEROIDS IN ANIMATION

   

Danny Phantom's "Phantom Planet,Futurama's "Love & Rocket," and the anime Metal Armor Dragonar (Kikō Senki Doragunā) have all got some asteroids in 'em too.

ASTEROIDS ON TELEVISION


           

In "The Wandering Asteroid" espisode of Space Patrol, the crew must destroy an asteroid on a collision course. On Star Trek's "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky," a group of aliens live on a spacecraft disguised as an asteroid. On Buck Rogers's “The Golden Man,” in the name of accuracy one of the crew at least points out the dense field is the densest he's seen. Red Dwarf features several references to asteroid mines, which are also mentioned on Battlestar Galactica's “Scar.” Although often described as a documentary, the BBC's depiction of a near catastrophe by the Pegasus spacecraft in Space Odyssey - Voyage To The Planets never actually happened. Stargate SG-1’s “Failsafe” features the common "Asteroid on a collision course" theme.  
 
ASTEROIDS IN MOVIES


             

In 2001 - A Space Odyssey, realistic asteroids are seen as Discovery One approaches Jupiter. The Green Slime, also from 1968, was slightly more fanciful. Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back followed Atari's depiction of asteroids as densely flying in all directions, randomly exploding and providing navigational challenges for space pilots. In Revenge of the Sith, Luke and Leia are born on an asteroid colony. In 1979, Ronald Neame had a go at the fadingly popular disaster genre with Meteor, which was about an asteroid, despite the title. Though nearly universally reviled, it was practically remade by the campily enjoyable Deep Impact and the truly inept, J.J. Abrams-penned Armageddon. A year earlier, Starship Troopers had featured aliens wiping out Buenos Aires with an asteroid weapon.


REAL ASTEROIDS IN FICTION

Although un-named, un-specified or otherwise imagined asteroids appear far more often on the screen than their real counterparts, the real-deal-asteroid-fields have nonetheless made appearances here and there.

Ceres, a dwarf planet located within the asteroid belt, is the subject of a separate blog.

 

Pallas was the second asteroid to be discovered, in 1802, by a German. It's named after Pallas Athena. One of the largest asteroids in the belt, it may contain 7% of its total mass. In “The Shrinking Spaceman” episode of Space Patrol (1962), there is a sonar beam transmitter located there.

asteroid 1997

Eros
was discovered in 1898 and was the first Near Earth Asteroid discovered. It's believed to be even more massive than the impactor that created the Chicxulub Crater in the Yucatán that wiped out the dinosaurs and led to the evolution of the Voth (as seen on Star Trek - Voyager). Eros was featured in the 1997 TV movie Asteroid.

   

Juno is named after Juno, "the one unique," the wife of Jupiter. It was originally considered a planet but is too small, although it may contain 1% of the entire mass of the asteroid belt. In Mobile Suit Gundam, it's relocated to Earth's orbit and renamed Luna².
 

Hygiea is named after the goddess of cleanliness, health and sanitation in the Greek religion. It's the fourth largest object in the asteroid belt and was discovered in 1849 by an Italian. It has thus far provided the setting of no known films, games, TV shows, &c. Hopefully it'll show up in Asteroids.

Become a fan of Eric's Blog on Facebook!

The Moon missions and the children of Major Tom -- the end of the space age and the music that followed

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 20, 2009 03:58pm | Post a Comment

It's the 40th anniversary of the first manned moon landing, and looking back at that achievement it's obvious that one of the many repercussions was evinced in the music of the era. In addition to the space rock of bands like Pink Floyd and Hawkwind and sci-fi minded funk acts like Funkadelic, the glam rock scene, which exploded around the same time, is one of the most obvious manifestations. For a couple of years, glam rock was massively popular in several countries and it spawned hordes of mylar-and-make-up-wearing rockers singing about extraterrestrial love and lonely planet boys. On December 7, 1972, the Apollo 17 was the last manned mission to the moon and the space age, shortly after, seems to have drawn quietly to a close. Glam rock seemed to fizzle shortly afterward, but maybe it just went underground, seeking out new frontiers in a different set of clothes.



First, in 1973, David Bowie retired his extraterrestrial Ziggy Stardust and released Aladdin Sane. Although hardly a radical departure, it was famously hyped as "Ziggy goes to America" and represented Bowie's efforts to move in a new direction. Then, in early 1974, glam rock's creator Marc Bolan announced that "Glam rock is dead." His February release, Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow - A Creamed Cage in August, was described by its creator as "cosmic soul." Bowie described his next direction as "plastic soul" shortly afterward. Glam's two most important stars seemed committed to moving on in spirit, if perhaps overstating the change in their music.



At the peak of glam's popularity, a slew of teen idols flooded the charts with a highly commercial T Rex-inspired version of glam, largely courtesy of RAK Records and Bell Records. By stripping away most of artistic and thematic pretensions of earlier glam, these acts made a glam racket that was recognizable in sound but more oriented toward teen idolatry than the sci-fi decadence and often distinguished as glitter rock.

 

Anyone that dared affect arty, theatrical or androgynous trappings was doomed to critical derision and/or commercial disinterest. Two who did (and were martyred in the press for it) were Cockney Rebel and Jobriath & the Creatures of the Street. Having both released their first records in 1973, they were unfairly criticized as mere glam-rock-come-latelies attempting to fill the void left by Bowie. In many ways, they were the vanguard of a new crop of glam rockers who were undoubtedly inspired by The Dame but in no way mere clones and traded many of his sci-fi aspects for the decadent sophistication associated with Roxy Music (and Bowie). Several would find a measure of popularity (though in no cases approaching the heights of TRextasy) but more remained underground, with their hype usually surpassing their sales.

In fact, many probably would reject the notion that they were glam at all, as their brand of hard-pop drew from progressive rock, soul, disco and a variety of other genres. But what unites the artists of this so-called second wave of glam is the retention of the early glam spirit that left them at odds with the corduroy/beardy/chevy van/whiskey-chugging aesthetics that marked most rock of the era.

 

1973 Cockney Rebel - The Human Menagerie, Jobriath - Jobriath






    brett smiley breathlessly brett    another pretty face 21st century rock  Skyhooks Living in the 70's
 
1974 Cockney Rebel - The Psychmodo, Sailor - Sailor, Jobriath - Creatures of the Street, Brett Smiley - Breathlessly Brett, Paul Williams - The Phantom of the Paradise, Another Pretty Face - 21st Century Rock, Zolar X - "Space Age Love" b/w "Energize Me," Skyhooks - Living in the 70's








 


Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel Best Years of Our Lives   Alastair Riddell Space Waltz    Richard O'brien Rocky Horror Picture Show Soundtrack    Skyhook Ego is not a dirty word  

1975 Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel The Best Years of Our Lives, Sailor - Trouble, Alastair Riddell - Space Waltz, David Werner - Whizz Kid, Richard O'Brien - Rocky Horror Picture Show, Tiger Lily - "Monkey Jive" b/w "Ain't Misbehavin'," Skyhooks - Ego is Not a Dirty Word, Jet - Jet








Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel Timeless Flight     doctors of madness late night movies  doctors of madness figures of emancipation      john miles rebel    

1976 Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel - Timeless Flight and Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel - Love's A Prima Donna, Sailor - Third Step, Doctors of Madness - Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms, Doctors of Madness - Figments of Emancipation, David Werner - Imagination Quota, Roderick Falconer - New Nation, John Miles - Rebel, Supernaut - Supernaut, Skyhooks - Straight in a Gay World

With the so-called punk explosion, the always hyperbolic British music press got Khmer Rouge style and declared it year zero. Glam continued to exist underground and many more fine albums were released, however critically ignored they were, although most of the bands began to transform into something new, in some cases influencing the punk and new wave that were supposed to be reactions against glam. As Horace wrote, "Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus."




sailor checkpoint  roderick falconer victory in rock city  metro   


1977
Sailor - Checkpoint, Roderick Falconer - Victory in Rock City, Max Lazer - "Saints of Rock n' Roll" b/w "Street Queen," Metro - Metro, Jon Miles - Stranger in the City




doctors of madness sons of survivalJapan Adolescent Sex 1978 Japan Obscure Alternatives 1978
John Miles ZaragonSupernaut the Nauts

1978
 Sailor - Hideaway, Doctors of Madness - Sons of Survival, Japan - Adolescent Sex and Obscure Alternatives, Jon Miles - Zaragon, Supernaut - The Nauts, Skyhooks - Guilty Until Proven Insane





David Werner  Flashman    John Miles Mmph

1979
 David Werner - David Werner, Flashman - Flashman, Metro - New Love, Jon Miles - Mmph

       

1980 Sailor - Dressed for Drowning, Cuddly Toys - Guillotine Theatre, Metro - Future Imperfect, Jon Miles - Sympathy, Skyhooks - Hot for the Orient, Coby and Iris Recht with Roger S. Clinton - The Apple Soundtrack






1982
Cuddly Toys - Trials & Losses

The second wave of glam and glam-influenced pop/rock was always malleable but many bands' artistic evolution paralleled the shifting directions of the still active and relevant glam pioneers, Roxy Music and Bowie, incorporating new influences and inspiring many of the new wave/punk/post-punk/goth/urban void and especially the new romantics that followed. For example, Siouxsie and the Banshees covered Roxy Music, Sparks and T Rex, Bauhaus covered T Rex and David Bowie, The Damned played on Marc Bolan's program and the Adverts mingled with Doctors of Madness. Without glam, we probably never would've had bands as wide-ranging as ABC, Adam Ant, The Cure, Duran Duran, Hanoi Rocks, Japan, Joy Division, Klaus Nomi, Magazine, Nina Hagen, Tubeway Army or a host of others. Of course, in the '80s, there probably wouldn't have been anything like glam metal, which helped promote big hair and subsequently contributed to global warming, so it's not all good.

Become a fan of Eric's Blog on Facebook!

P.S. Here's a video for the unreleased Jobriath track, "Little Dreamer," put together by his half-brother.

...and a Jobriath cover by Def Leppard, just because these artists did mean something to later generations.



"Sea Song" by Robert Wyatt

Posted by Miss Ess, July 16, 2009 06:04pm | Post a Comment

The song that's freaking me out the most these days is "Sea Song" by Robert Wyatt. Its chords and progressions have lumbered along slowly inside of me and utterly taken over my brain. They are unrelentingly existing in there, like waves crashing over and over...

"Sea Song"'s moodiness conjures a dark, star filled night, and sitting by the stormy sea. The otherworldly production and vocals carry the studio version of what could be a rather simple tune into the sublime, and as it unfolds the song sounds as though it is its own creature entirely, unhurriedly lifting out of the ocean, just as the lyrics suggest.

I think it's a perfect song. Please listen to this fairly different live version of "Sea Song" as performed by Wyatt and Friends live in 1974. It's super rockin'. Then, if you don't have Rock Bottom yet, grab it and hear the studio version, which is the best. And if you wanna get really nerdy about it, there's also this fabulous solo performance of "Sea Song" that is highly enjoyable.



BACK  <<  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  >>  NEXT