Tags: nostalgia


in which a juvenile delinquent becomes a hero

High school peeps: Does it surprise anyone that Victor Lin became a U.S. Marine?

Dude, the clown-with-a-heart-of-gold personality, the mischeviousness, the love of approval, the parkour, the Counter-Strike obsession, the weird stunts during P.E.--Vic was virtually born for the job. (The shooting people part aside.) The international upbringing apparently is no longer an issue--I mean, he has a huge tattoo of the flag raising at Iwo Jima across his back; there's no doubting that he has embraced his new American heritage.

I just at Facebook pictures of his 2008 tour of duty in Iraq, and he makes war look almost fun.

Unlike, you know, this.

(Yes, that is authentic Iraq War footage.)

God bless you, Vic. I may not support the politics behind the war, but as a friend, an NEHSer, and a New Yorker I support the risks you've taken and the sacrifices you've made to make sure the terrorists stay on the other side of the pond. All the teachers, administrators, and Experimental Department disciplinarians who thought you would never amount to anything can suck my dick.

if only

So who here's excited about the Dreamcast 2 announcement? I know I am! Man, it's about time we got a new 2.5D Sonic game. Or a sequel to Jet Set Radio, for that matter. I wish they'd stop cranking out all these Panzer Dragoon games, though. It's not like we don't already have eleventy billion bullet hell RPGs. Keep your fingers crossed for a new Shining Force!

I'm beginning to regret getting an Apple iPlay. I hate to say it, but what they say about American game consoles is true--it's like that whole X-Box fiasco all over again. I'm all for innovation in the games industry, but after six experimental Nomura Heroes games, Psychonauts 3, River City Ransom Online, and Live A Live 4, it's like they won't publish anything but weird shit. (King's Quest XVI was great, but come on, someone please let that franchise die already. And I haven't had a chance to play it yet, but word on the street is that Grim Fandango 3 is the weakest in the series.) I don't remember the last time I've played a good sandbox game or RTS, and there hasn't been a good first-person shooter since Duke Nukem Forever. All the good first-person shooters these days are for the Wii...

Been playing lots of Phantasy Earth. Man, that franchise is unstoppable. It's even starting to cut into my Mother Online schedule. Would pick up that DS remake of StarTropics 3, too, but between the job, the writing gig, and the girlfriend all I have time to play these days is Billiards de Chocobo. Good thing the dot-com boom is still going strong.

Man, I am so glad the the Gaming Intelligence Agency is still around. Folks said it was on its way out ten years ago, but I guess there's always a niche for us RPG, strategy, and rhythm game fans. (The few! The proud!)

how to tug at a twentysomething gamer's heartstrings

Show this.

Is it wrong that I feel so moved by this video? I mean, it's just a bunch of really faithful spritework set to a not particularly impressive synth medley, but man, I grew up playing these games. All of these games. Even the Romancing SaGa series, which wasn't even released in America. And the SNES SimCity port, which made up for its reduced depth with an abundance of charm.

It's a bit of a cheap shot that this video references some of the most emotional scenes in 1990s Japanese RPG history--the Gigyas battle in Earthbound, Celes's leap of faith, the search for Crono--and very, very heavily emphasizes endings and final boss battles. But damn it, it works. If you've never played these games you might just see crazy animated crossover fic, but if you played through most of them and these moments spoke to you like they did to me, this movie may bring a tear to your eye out of sheer sentimentality. If this is a cheap nostalgia trap I am falling for it hook, line, and sinker. Aeris's fate in Final Fantasy VII? The drama hasn't aged well--after all these years, it's become little more than a punchline. But I will never forget how the Sprite's final sacrifice in Secret of Mana made me grieve. For a video game character. (I was embarrassed even then.)

The part where the Chrono Trigger cast jumps into the Epoch and travels back to the year their game came out--in a style that evokes Toriyama's beautifully drawn FMV for the PlayStation rerelease--is a nice touch.
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    Chrono Trigger Arranged: The Brink Of Time - Schala's Theme
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segata sanshiro!!


IT'S 1998








Sega hardware division, thanks for the memories and rest in peace.

(I have the vague feeling I posted some of these years ago, but what the hell.)

to the munchmobile!

Last New Jersey-related entry before I go to bed:

I first started reading the news when I was pretty young. I don't remember how young--six or seven probably--but at some point my parents noticed I was taking an interest in the issues of Newsweek and National Geographic my dad sometimes left lying around, and, perhaps unaware that they were letting loose a horrifying daily compendium of sex and violence and man's inhumanity to man on a first grader, subscribed to the New Jersey Star-Ledger just for me. I read it every day after school. At a time when most kids were just beginning to discover their place in their school communities I took an active interest in my place in the world. At first it was just the comics page, and photos from some of the inserts--one of my most vivid early memories is a picture of a grim-faced U.S. Marine in desert camo, staring over a burning oil field from a helicopter during what I would later learn was the first Gulf War--but as my vocabulary and my reading comprehension increased, soon I was reading recipes and TV reviews and Dear Abby columns and the rest of the lifestyle section. I didn't have any interest in the War on Drugs or or tax hikes or Medicare reform, in part because I didn't have the slightest bit of context necessary to understand those things. But I knew just enough to understand articles on charities that teach theater to orphans, and interviews with people who train dogs to help blind old ladies cross the street. And as I learned more about my neighborhood and my place in it, I took a special interest in the local news--pieces on boat-building classes for kids going to high school along the shore, new fire trucks for the fire department, ballooning competitions to benefit the elderly. At that age, my world was exactly that big. I didn't know anything about drugs or taxes or international relations aside from what I read on the front page, but I did know that if I read in the paper that my favorite bagel shop had been robbed last week, that the next time I go there I should secretly tip the guy at the counter an extra ten cents. It was my first sense of context for the world outside, a world that most Asian-American parents keep out by carefully wrapping their children in swathes of insularity, in the vain hope that someday their little ones will fall out of love with their adoptive country and return to their true homeland.

As I grew older, and learned more about what it really meant to be a citizen and an American, the news served as a useful early warning system. As in, oh, that's what drugs are, that's why people get angry before elections, that's why the police are always arresting people who have drugs. I got a feel for the previous generation's zeitgeist. I learned why people hated Milli Vanilli, I begged my parents to vote for Bill Clinton, I was furious at my classmates for being so racist about the O.J. Simpson trial. I read reviews of pizzerias thirty miles out of town, where I would likely never go, and recommended them to friends. I memorized sex advice before I even knew what sex was.

It wasn't until many years later that I truly came to realize how much a gift the Star-Ledger had been. Not just because I can reminisce with people in their mid-thirties about things I should by all rights be far too young to know about, like the drug wars that left Trenton a city of graffiti and bulletproof glass, or the Colecovision game console, or early morning DJs for radio stations that stopped airing years ago. Not just because all those op-eds shaped my early writing style, and led me to write vociferous high school polemics about school politics in a country where children were not expected to have a voice (which in turn brought me to Oberlin). Not just because, after a nearly two-decade absence, I feel completely at home out here, less than two hours by NJ Transit from the town where I was born.

It was a gift, and one I took for granted, because the Star-Ledger was so damn good. I can't vouch for the accuracy of its reporting or the integrity of its journalists, never having stayed long enough in New Jersey to experience much news firsthand, but the quality of the writing is and has long been comparable to that of big-city newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post. Most of the front-page national and international news is the same as anywhere else--seems like the only folks who write big news copy these days are AFP, the Associated Press, and Reuters--but the op-eds, the local news, and the fluff sections are fantastic. Honestly, as much as I love the New York Times, if I had grown up with the Times instead of the Star-Ledger I never would have stuck with it long enough to develop a genuine interest in becoming part of the world community. The Star-Ledger knows just how to be provincial but not gossipy, sophisticated but not snobby, worldly but not cynical. I never realized just how amazing it was until I bought a new issue on a recent visit to Edison and realized it is actually as good as I remembered.

Take the Munchmobile, for example, which has run for over 12 years now (I was there when it started!) and is one of my favorite summer-exclusive Sunday columns. Basically the Star-Ledger staff bought a used hot dog truck (complete with enormous faux hot dog on top) and a couple times every summer their food reviewers, ticking down a long list of reader-submitted recommendations, will get into it and road-trip all across the state trying to find out who truly has the best hot dog or pizza or falafel or whatever in New Jersey. Never foie gras, lobster, or filet mignon--only junk food! Predating Food Network reality shows with a similar premise by almost a decade, the result is a pleasing and useful survey of cheap eats, written in a brilliant self-mockingly pretentious style, and free publicity for a lot of local restaurants. It is, by far, the most New Jersey thing any newspaper has ever done--and it's still going on. Peter Genovese writes it now, and they've added a blog and video sections--it's still fantastic. Note especially this blog entry from a recent excursion, for which the first photo is of a smiling, attractive lass named Natalie Batos-Vacca (seven syllables!) holding up a gigantic rack of ribs at a grandmotherly-looking, out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere place called the Walpack Inn. (A later photo depicts a woman named Angie Tsoi-Lenoff.) If that isn't New Jersey, I don't know what is.

If I had a car, I would eat at a different "Rated Best X in New Jersey!!" every week, and the Munchmobile would be my guide.

what faerie trickery is this?

Irish Power Rangers! Just as cheesy as actual tokusatsu!

The dialogue is clunky. The CG is worse. The team is a warrior, a rogue, a ranger, and a cleric. The power suits are color-coded enchanted suits of armor, there's a new toy tie-in almost every episode, and the Megazord is a dragon. THIS IS AWESOME.

Some fanboy has recorded the entire series on YouTube, which you can watch here. Joy!

(also, "WHAT FAERIE TRICKERY IS THIS?" is the new "wtf")

who are the super mario brothers?

Clip from a 1988 episode of Inside Edition, featuring the new video game craze from Japan, Super Mario Bros.! Features the amusingly humble 1988 Nintendo of America headquarters, Howard Phillips in a bow tie, the Nintendo game tips telephone hotline, and a startlingly pleasant Bill O'Reilly. (How did this nice young newscaster grow up to become the scowling lunatic we know and love today?)

It just occurred to me that some of you had not yet been born when this episode first aired. I feel old.

but not as old as Bill O'Reilly

Relatedly, here's one in a series of wonderfully postmodern short films starring Zangief, the ultra-stereotypical Soviet wrestler from Street Fighter II. This isn't the first time Internet filmmakers born in the 1980s have used Street Fighter II characters to reflect upon their own loss of innocence (and the absurdity of the fictional heroes of their youth), but this one stands out in that it succeeds in being both sad and genuinely funny.

Also: uncomfortable movie plot summaries. "Star Wars: A New Hope: Religious extremist terrorists destroy government installation, killing thousands. "

heralds of the post-oberpocalypse

For those of you who didn't go to Oberlin, or are too young to remember, blues-rock trio Adult Situations was one of those Oberlin student bands with so strong a following that it never managed to stay dead. You know the story--they pack the Cat at their final show, they graduate to tearful farewells, they go on their separate ways, they start lives and careers--and one year later they're all back in Oberlin playing at the Cat for One Last Gig. And, a couple years later, another Last Gig. And then in New York, or Seattle or Portland or San Francisco, another Last Gig for their alumni homies, just for old times' sake. And so on. The Bucketkickers, the alumni of the Obertones, Huzzah for the Shopkeep--it seems like no matter how dead the band is, no matter who leaves, no matter how vehemently the frontman insists that, for real this time, this is their last show, ever, sooner or later they'll all be hanging out together with their instruments at Oberlin, reminiscing over good times, and boom--someone'll book 'em for one last gig. To put this phenomenon in perspective, Adult Situations's absolutely sublime post-graduation reunion show was the first performance I ever saw at the Cat, back in freshman year--a watershed moment in my lonely, rapturous relationship with live music. That was in 2004. Today, in 2009, Adult Situations--not having played as a band in two years, with one of its members living in Indonesia--got together again, booked a tiny venue in the Lower East Side called Arlene's Grocery, and what the hell. One last gig. For old times' sake.

Of all the bands this could have happened to, it couldn't have happened to a better band. I mean no offense to other kickass Oberlin bands like the Bucketkickers, who, despite their name and the departure of half the band, have repeatedly failed to kick the bucket--but when most of these bands get together it's a nostalgia trip more than anything else. It's clear they haven't practiced together in ages, they forget the words to their own songs, anyone who's never heard them before has no idea who they are--but who cares? The spirit and spectacle of the performance are what counts, and it's always a fun show, if never as magical or intense or ass-kickingly facefuck raaaar as you remembered. (As with all bands, there's an inescapable weariness to playing their signature set for the eleventy billionth time.) Two things set Adult Situations apart, though. First, they managed to stay together and perform for a while in New York after they graduated--fuck, they even opened for Fall Out Boy once, if the rumors are to be believed--allowing them to grow their music and establish an identity outside of the school. Second: they're Connies. And that, really, matters more than anything else. Long before Oberlin became a notorious hippie school it was recognized as one of the best music conservatories in the country. These guys are part of that heritage, that legacy of phenomenal musicianship, and it shows--you can hear it in their composition, in their lyrics, in their improvisations and delivery--even in that crazy experimental shit they do like the almost imperceptibly low bwaaaowaaaow Asher gets by tapping his hand against the side of his electric bass and cranking up the distortion. They're not just a bunch of talented kids fucking around with instruments and having a good time. They're professionals. These guys, in their time apart, have been practicing. A lot. And holy fuck does it show.

Recordings don't do them justice, honestly. They're too intense for conventional recording equipment. I'm serious. Opera singers have a voice that breaks glass; frontman Nick Messitte has a voice that breaks amps. Halfway through the show the amp started buzzing because the sound guy grossly underestimated how much juice was going to be coming through that mic (why does Nick need a mic at all?). Not entirely the sound guy's fault--it happened at the Cat, too, back in 2004, and it happens on all of the shitty old mp3 recordings that served as the soundtrack to my Oberlin education. The dude is intense. There's a power to his wailing, neurotic, deliberately off-key delivery that puts some of the punk rockers I've seen to shame--which might seem incongruous among the elaborate blues picking and country-western distortion tricks he does on his axe. But it works. Joined by the crooning harmonies and drum-shattering rhythms of vocalist/drummer Ian Pollock, and the magical flying fingers of bassist Asher Rapkin, the resulting music is a veritable force of nature. It's a distinctive blend of styles--youthful and energetic and incomparably intense, and yet somehow retains more than enough of the soul and depth of its jazz roots. No four-chord vocals or cookie-cutter bass lines, oh no. This is advanced music. And it's crazy and emotionally brutal and will rock your toenails clean off. (Their Oberlin-era magnum opus "Piano Etude," a musical narrative about a Con guitarist taking piano for a music theory class, is particularly nerve-shaking. No small feat, considering that it's basically a song about how much Nick sucks at piano.)

That's one thing I love about this band--they make the kind of music that you can just close your eyes and get lost in. It's not the kind of music you'd want to listen to alone--but you could. The harmonies just come out and slug you at some resonant frequency, and all of a sudden you're moving at seventy miles an hour. It pries open the little bottle in your soul where you keep all the angry things and sucks them right out. You feel almost like what it must have felt to be the Gerasene demoniac having his one thousand demons torn from his soul, driven into pigs, and blasted into the sea by the sheer force of awesome. Not even in the cheap way an emo or punk band would do it--it's not all raw emotion--but in this intricate, delicately winding channel with occasional exploding floodgates. I didn't even notice until tonight that most of their songs--including the ones I've already been listening to ad nauseam since 2004--were about alienation, loneliness, and social awkwardness. It's a blessing, in retrospect, that so early in my Oberlin experience I could experience that raw poetic lyricism as a prelude to all that was to come. I thought that it wouldn't be the same, this time; teenagers tend to prefer more emotional stuff and my tastes have definitely already begun to mellow out--but, if anything, their frenetic, anarchic style and lost, frustrated lyrics (not to mention the liberal smattering of New York references from their post-Oberlin material) makes their music even more relevant to me than it was five years ago. It was a real privilege to hear them again.

children of the nations

This began as a comment on cougarfang's journal, but I think it's worth making into its own entry. She asked what, specifically, made NEHS Bilingual Department students like her and me different from kids of our cohort who attended local schools in Taiwan. This is part of my answer.

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and even old new york was once new amsterdam

It's really hard to write about a TMBG live show--not to mention almost pointless. For over a quarter century (!!) they've been an institution of silly rock. Seeing them live has been a rite of passage for three generations of teenage geek rockers, each of whom claim the band as their own. Their eclectic, catchy tunes have spawned multiple new genres of pop music, are on permanent rotation at high school and summer camp dances, and have become an emblem of hipster heritage; every rock 'n' roll fan born between 1980 and 1994 has at least one fond memory with a TMBG song as its soundtrack. Hell, even Faye from the uber-hipster webcomic Questionable Content, who generally only wears ironic original T-shirts, was wearing a TMBG shirt in the flashback in which her father committed suicide in the mid-90s. You guys grew up with this band, and know more about them than I do--there's little point in telling you about them.

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