Aphex Twin’s Syro: What Else to Say?

Aphex Twin, for the few that may not know of him, is Richard D. James, one of the most revered electronic artists of all time. He’s built up an impressive library of aliases spanning different eras of music and styles since the 80’s, and cultivated a sort of cult of secrecy about him like: disdaining any interviews and giving flippant, cryptic answers for the few he humoured. His last full album was Druqs in 2001, and his last real released work, the Analord series, frankly did little to inspire me, as expansive as it may have been (~60 tracks over 11 EPs). Now the silence has been broken by Syro, and for an actual interview with him, that’s quite good, I’d suggest reading this, it’ll explain some important things from a first-hand source.

Now, Syro. It’s sort of like a little of the “same,” but in the best way possible. The tracks feel like they have a classical sort of influence to them; they feel old but it’s all brought in a fresh way. There’s almost pervasive 80’s synth feel flowing underneath many of the tracks, like you could expect to hear them in a Blade Runner-esque film. I say that in the best way possible. When acid or jungle beats get piled on top of them, juxtoposed by the strange, processed vocals of James, his sons, or his wife, it makes for a captivating combination. Sometimes the beats, melody, and voices are given such a texture that is just… satisfying. You feel you know some of the samples, yet without feeling trite. I swear I hear the Amen Break sample in several of the tracks, and it’s glorious. Many of the tracks shift from style to style, and because plenty are in the 5-6 minute range (with one being over 10 minutes), they have room enough to breathe and change in an unhurried way. Continue reading

Continuing The Bipedal Question: On the Other Thumb

A quick follow-up to the last post, is another peculiar anatomical anomaly that came to my attention a few years back, and I’ve yet to find a suitable outlet for. So here it is.

Catgirls. Anime catgirls. Everyone has an image of this classic anime cliche (more properly called called neko or nekomimi which just means ‘cat’ or ‘cat ears,’ respectively), so ubiquitous to the anime image, that you can never see a single piece of Japanese animation and know about it.

But stop and think about it for a second. What’s odd about it? What does, or doesn’t work? Continue reading

The Bipedal Bias: Why So Many Playable Humanoids?

Humans are a predictable bunch. Two arms, two legs, head atop the shoulders, front-facing eyes, opposable thumbs. Basic stuff. Same goes with most vertebrates. Us with a backbone to speak of will never have more than four limbs, excepting species with tails, but even then, it’s only so much of a “limb.” When you pull back even further, most creatures have what’s called bilateral symmetry. That is, you could draw a line somewhere down/across the middle of the body and both halves would be effectively equal. Again, that’s most creatures, excepting things like sponges, sea stars, amongst a few others. It all comes down to growth, evolution, and a bunch of factors I can’t adequately explain or understand.

Keeping this in mind, let us look to our own traditions of fantasy and fiction that begin to break some of these scientific limits: Centaurs, Pegasus (flying horses in general, “pegasuses” doesn’t work), dragons, fairies, etc. Or looking to horror, Lovecraftian shoggoths and Elder Things. The Hutts from Star Wars. The list is expansive and continues far from here, but I shan’t go on and make a list nobody needs to read. Continue reading

From Within/Without: A Non-Yo-Yoer at the World Yo-Yo Contest

In this world there are great number of societies and communities hidden far from the public eye. It’s sort of been a lifelong interest of mine to see into these esoteric circles, really, it was a large reason I became a journalist (or was trained as one, if nothing else). Seeing how different people live and work fascinates me, and one community I’ve become entangled with for around a decade is a great example of this. Yo-yoing. A few people who read this will likely be a part of this community, and even more so will at least know of my connection to it. Almost all of my friends in Europe are connected to this hobby/sport/lifestyle, or I’ve met people from people who are a part of it all.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the World Yo-Yo competition was in Prague. Over 1,100 people attended, all from an amazing assortment of countries. For three days, they played, practiced, and drank (when legally permitting, of course) as some kind of big festive family. I’ve never had the chance to see a “Worlds,” so this was a great chance to see what it was all like, perhaps one of the only times I’ll be able to in the near future (next one’s in Tokyo, sooooo). Most of my friends in Prague had a direct hand in planning, preparing, and promoting the event, so it was something much more than just a competition. Continue reading

Living in a Shade of Itself: Review of Half-Life 2 Mod “Grey”

A crowded bar bustling with the sounds of clinking glasses, and the murmur of a sea of voices. A jukebox blares out some nameless rock song no one is listening to. All sounds are muffled and muted through the thin walls of the bathroom where you’re washing your hands, when suddenly: silence. Absolute, screaming silence. Where did everyone go? Were you blacked out in the stall when they closed the bar? This is where Grey, the eponymous protagonist of the Half-Life 2: Episode 2 horror mod Grey begins.

Released in 2012, the mod took an ambitious route of using many new models, animations, and textures than the standard Half-Life 2 library, and that much alone is worthy of some mention. It’s pretty well-polished, and the developers “Deppresick Team” certainly put good effort into their game. Unfortunately, it doesn’t all work.

It’s certainly a short game, so it’s not too much of a commitment to try and beat. The endgame stats told me I beat it in just over an hour, not including deaths or reloads, so if you have anywhere from 1-3 hours to kill one evening, you’re in luck. Continue reading

A Machine for Pigs, A Feast for the Mind

I’ll come out and say that I’m an avid fan of horror games. At times, it’s a position a little difficult to explain, as with any particular passion, but it’s just one of those things that’s like an onion: many-layered and often drives people to tears.

The genre had a bit of an identity crisis around the early 2000’s, when the last truly great titles came out, and since then, things have moved much more towards an action-y kind of deal. Creativity seemed to be lagging in a serious way, so most of the titles became either trashy, buggy messes or trite, tired rehashes of ideas a decade old.

In 2010, tiny developer Frictional Games released Amnesia: The Dark Descent, a game that just pushed just about all of the right buttons, ticked all the prerequisite boxes, and largely reinvigorated the survival horror genre. It was intense, wonderfully written, atmospheric, and terrifying. There are no guns, no weapons with which to defend yourself, so even the slightest hint of a creepy-crawler just forces you to bolt in the opposite direction, praying there will kindly be a cabinet to quietly soil yourself in until it passes. It wasn’t without flaws, but blah blah, that’s a different discussion for a different day. Continue reading

Un Paso Detras – A Barcelona Tale

So I recently thought of an interesting little situation that occurred during my stay in Barcelona. I know I haven’t written anything on it yet, so I’ll likely remedy that in the near future. However this incident is one mildly worthy of note.

I went traveling with a fellow “auxiliar” from my (now former) teaching program in Spain. Our first stop was Barcelona, for which I arrived in the beginning throes of a particularly ill-timed illness (it actually began on my birthday, but that’s a gripe for another time). Our hostel was actually quite pleasant, though a decent distance from the city center. It was extremely well-staffed with an assortment of young adults from quite a few different countries, so communication was never an issue, and being travelers themselves, knew exactly how to help at almost any given moment. I realize this almost sounds like a shameless plug for this place, but as I can’t even recall the name, I say the equal parts pandering and total ambivalence to recall level themselves out. Continue reading

Wine With a Roach

I arrived in Prague after a 12-hour train ride from Lugo, Spain to Barcelona. It was surprisingly pleasant, if you’d imagine such a thing, and it was made just so much better because I actually planned with some semblance of self-decency. I was not going to spend another night in an airport, as I have done for literally every trip since coming to Europe, but instead, getting a proper bed in a proper room in a proper hotel.

 

I don’t regret it for one moment. Continue reading

A Cry From Beyond and Another New Start

So I have been doing poorly in updating this. I will change that promptly.

I’ve now relocated to Prague, looking for employment and all of the rest that living abroad has to offer.

With that, I also have an actual computer to use, so getting material out will be quite a bit easier on my end.

So, with that, this is just a quick blurb and more posts will be coming shortly. Thanks for the patience.

Whose Voice is it, Anyway?: A Question of Dubbing

During my time here in Spain, I’ve come to see many aspects of the Spanish culture, or, well, at the very least Galician culture and Spanish TV. However, there is something I’ve always had some issue with that is rife on TV here, so now is a good enough excuse to discuss it. Dubbing. Technically dub localization, as general dubbing occurs in nearly every film, but I digress.

For six months I’ve sat at the same dinner table and seen a fair bit of Spanish TV, be it sports, movies, news programmes, game shows; whatever has just been on, really. One thing that I’ve noticed is the sheer lack of subtitles. Every movie I have seen has been dubbed over, almost every programme dubs voices of foreign athletes, actors, politicians, and whatever/ whomever else. There is occassionally some manner of subtitling, but it seems to be inconsistent at best. Not inconsistent as in inaccurate, but like a programme may subtitle a footballer’s comments one day, and then dub them the next.  Very curious, indeed.

Continue reading