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  • Posts Tagged ‘amusement’

    Really Lame Videos: Unboxing and Vintage Fan Objectification


    2011 - 09.07

    First, a disclaimer: none of these videos are, at face value, funny or really all that entertaining. You could file these under “because we have nothing better to do”… which is exactly where it starts to get funny and/or entertaining. In any case, I’m setting the bar low here.

    I thought I’d try my hand at two video genres that I’ve never attempted before this weekend. The first is known as an unboxing, a raging trend that occupies some position in the zeitgeist between planking and twittering. The concept is pretty simple: you get something exciting in the mail, and then you film yourself spending as much time as possible opening it up and glorifying the contents, with the goal of arousing intolerable jealousy for whomever is watching. It helps if you have a very new or sought-after commodity to do this with. In my case I’m using the Vinyl soundtrack album for the previously reviewed iPad game “Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP”. You might say I’m delving into a sub-genre of unboxing because the item in question is something relatively obscure and nerdy. There will be a very specific subset of people who will think this is ultra-badass, and the vast majority of people will just not care, possibly at all. While this limits the potential audience, it also increases the chances of success for your ultimate goal in an unboxing video; illiciting an unbridled, disgraceful “That should SO be ME!” from the viewer. Without further adeiu:

    The second video descends even deeper into the obscure sub-genres of youtube loser-ism, which is partly what makes it so fascinating. I’m not sure what you’d call it, but let’s go with “vintage fan collection show-off videos”. Believe it or not, there are some established protocols for videos like this. Observe the example video:

    The formal rules are as follows:

    1. Have a rare, old fan that you scored from either eBay or a junk heap somewhere. Show nothing in the video except this fan, with the exception of other fans.
    2. Since this video is intended for fan collectors, and no other members of society, you must specify the fan maker, your estimate of when it was built (I failed!), and show the sticker on the bottom with the serial number, as if anyone, anywhere could possibly decipher some meaning from that.
    3. About halfway through the video you need to do something clumsy like accidentally drop your prized fan, and then drop some choice expletives so that the video is not suitable for work, children, or the sensitive of constitution.
    4. You should sound like you turned on the video camera with zero remote idea of what you were about to say, and also make some reference to living at your parents house. Try to sound bored, like you’ve been doing nothing of interest for the previous 6 hours before you started this recording.
    5. When it comes time to end the video, you need to say that it’s because you’re about to run out of videotape.

    Riding In An Ultralight Seaplane — WOW!


    2011 - 09.01

    So there we were, chillin on the SS Advanced Manoeuvres, drinking High Lifes and getting down with some funky jams, when off on the horizon this weird plane appears. I say to my buddies, Q: “is that a seaplane?” A: “why yes, it appears that it is.” The mystery plane comes in for a closer approach and yep, it’s a bright red seaplane with yella pontoons. Awesome! Then he comes in for yet another pass, this time REALLY close. After buzzing the boat, we watch this guy circle around the lake and ask “is he about to land that thing?” Spoiler alert: yes.

    We’re anchored in a shallow part of the lake where most pleasurecraft tend to congregate due to the nice sandy lakebottom, along with maybe 5 or 6 other boats. The red seaplane touches down not too far away and pulls up alongside another vessel not far from ours. After debating it for a little while, we decide to go over and talk to the guy.

    His name is Donny and we chat it up for maybe a good 10-20 minutes or so. He says the plane runs off of normal gasoline just like you’d get in any gas station, and tells a story about how he flew it all the way home from Florida once. That’s sort of extreme, considering that it probably qualifies as an ultralight aircraft, and I doubt the top speed is really all that fast. After a while, I can’t resist asking any longer; “so uhh… what would it take to get you to take me for a little spin on this baby? I can toss some gas money your way and I’ve got a sweet camera that can capture a video for youtube.”

    Answer: yeah sure, go grab your camera. I could always use some extra gas money.

    My buddy Cody rolls his eyes in some combination of astonishment and admonishment; “John… I can’t believe you.” All I can say is “aww man!”

    So I hustle back to home base and retrieve the gear, hop on this seaplane and shoot this video (be sure to hit the 1080p HD!:)

    Aww man is RIGHT.

    Earlier this year I flew in a single engine Cessna and it was definitely way cooler than a commercial jet. Being able to see forward really changes the experience. Single engine planes are really a whole different world compared to airline travel. Flying in this ultralight seaplane was like the next level of coolness beyond that–you can easily look down on either side of you. For someone afraid of heights, this thing would probably be terrifying. Me, I do have somewhat of a fear of heights, but when I’m strapped in tight, as on an amusement ride, it doesn’t bother me. The whole thing was over before I knew it, finishing with an exceedingly smooth landing. I thought that touching down on the lake would feel rough, but no, it was actually softer than a large jet landing.

    So yeah. That was really something else. I wasn’t paying too much attention to where the camera was pointed; pretty much just gawking at the world below and trying to take it all in. Donny and I both had headsets on, so we could chat while we were up there. Right after we took off, he’s like, “hey, do you mind if I put on some reggae while we fly?” And I was all, “oh man, this is the life.”

    A day to remember.

    Back Down South Again


    2011 - 08.23

    After about a week and a half of vacation in Wisconsin, I’m back in the Lone Star State again. It’s friggin hot here.

    I’ve got an overabundance of photos, videos, music, stories, etc to talk about, so we’ll get to all that soon. There may be a bit of a lull while I dig through it all and sort out the A-Sides from the B-Sides.

    You ate what?


    2011 - 07.15

    Proudly presenting, for the berry connoisseur who has tried them all: tayberries.

    Wait, what?

    Yes, that’s right,

    They’re very similar to raspberries, with a few subtle but important differences:

    -they’re not hollow inside.

    -the shape is a bit longer and skinnier

    -the flavor is similar to a raspberry, but more tart or sour maybe (but not in a bad way), and also a bit stronger.  Their taste is a bit more potent, although not dramatically so.

    For comparison, here is a bunch of raspberries (left) next to the tayberries (right).

    Basically it’s like a raspberry variant, which still has the seeds that get stuck in your teeth, but a bit more of an exotic twist in the taste.  I’d never once seen these in the grocery store before this weekend, and I will say that if I ever see them again, there’s a 100% chance that I’ll be buying more.  I loves me some berries, and these are a treat!  Interestingly, if you let the berries ripen in the fridge for a few days, they turn even darker and the flavor gets less piquant, also changing character a bit, with a hint of what tastes like grape in the over-ripe berry.  Wierd!

    And awesome!

    Analogue Fetishism, Stage One: GO TEAM VINYL


    2011 - 05.29

    So a couple weeks ago, I acquired something I’ve wanted for years, and have been waiting a long time to purchase: a turntable! It’s a Pro-Ject Debut III USB. This puppy is decidedly unassuming in appearance, but instead has got all the pizzaz where it counts: fidelity.

    There’s something great about playing records. Maybe it’s the nostalgia associated with the format that you used to play on your parents stereo as a little kid. Or the enjoyment of physically moving your music around, touching it, and having to place the tone arm on the vinyl, instead of clicking a mouse, or pressing a button. Vinyl is the most tactile medium of music playback, moreso even than it’s analog brethren the cassette tape. For these reasons I think it has an emotional appeal to it that makes other mediums seem… sterile by comparison.

    There’s something intellectually appealing about it as well; the waveforms reproduced by the speakers essentially come from a physical drawing on the record. There’s no sampling rate, there’s no digital to analog converter trying to smooth out a bar-graph of 1’s and 0’s to reproduce the original signal. Sure, you could make a successful arguement that with the sampling rates of common digital formats, the difference is imperceptible between a signal that is pure analog versus a signal that has been converted from A to D to A again. But still. It’s neat to know that the song you’re hearing is (at least for analog-recorded source material) EXACTLY the original waves.

    Another intellectual appeal to the format is that it requires your interaction. You can’t set up an eight-hour long playlist and then go do something else while the music plays. Often when an LP reaches the end of a side, I remember my friend Craig Bauman yelling from the kitchen to the partiers in the living room “GO TEAM VINYL!” to express his displeasure that no one had jumped up to flip the record yet.

    Vinyl also makes it tedious to skip tracks, or to jump around on an album. You put on a record, and you listen to it straight through. In this way it forces you to check out songs that might not have grabbed you on the first or even tenth listen. I’ve had an interesting experience with this idea on Orgone’s double LP “Killion Vaults” which I listened to for months in mp3 format, before this turntable arrived and I was able to play the vinyl copy. Now that I am forced to listen to the tracks in the intended order without skipping any, there’s totally several cuts that I had skipped over before that are starting to grow on me now!

    Last, vinyl is hip because it has its own sound. The tone-arm, the cartridge, the different masterings of vinyl recordings versus their compact disc brethren… all these things impart a unique flavor that isn’t present in the digital-only version.

    Reviews of records are forthcoming…..

    Contemplating the Essence of Collections


    2011 - 04.27

    Any time I lose an eBay auction I always wonder what the other guy’s maximum bid was.

    I have an old fan in my bedroom that I’ve owned since college and it’s been used… heavily.  It no longer oscillates and for a time, the rotation would rev up and slow down, like it was huffing and chuffing just to keep spinning.  Somehow it’s straightened itself out, but last week the front blade-guard fell off.  I could maybe repair it, but I already repaired it once a couple years back and honestly, I think this is maybe just a sign that it’s time for something new.

    Out in my garage, I’ve got an antique Westinghouse fan that I refurbished several years ago.  It’s a tank, and looks like it was built in the 1950s (that’s it on the left).  Accordingly it still runs excellent, but it is something of a safety hazard since you can stick your hand right through the grille.  So I dig stylish fans.  I’m not obsessive or a collector of them (yet?) but I appreciate the cool ones. (yuk yuk!)

    I get on eBay and sort through the junk piles until I find one that kind of excites me.  It’s made by this company called “Kuo Horng”, which turns up very few relevant search results if you google it.  One of the relevant results that does turn up, however, is a forum post on a fan collecting forum (ok, here we go!).  It’s a positively ridiculous thread, with some dude posting a mind-boggling amount of pictures of his VERY VERY VERY extensive fan collection.  Good grief!  When I realized how long the list went on, I literally burst out laughing.  Part of me thinks it’s really funny that someone would go to this length to collect all these fans.  Another part of me is like, damn… this is AWESOME!

    Enthusiasm is contagious and even without talking to these people, you can tell that they are all about this shit.  It’s cool just to check out their endless lists of obscure fans they collected with neat retro stylings.  Which brings me back to this fan I was interested in: it’s a Kuo Horng model KH-603 16″ oscillating desk fan (that’s it on the right).  I learned that the buttons used to select your speed are called “piano keys” when they are built in this style; just like… piano keys!  Neat!  I was a little put off by the price so I slept on it.  The next morning, I decided screw it, I love how this thing looks, I’m going to bid.  Usually I compulsively watch the end of eBay auctions, but for whatever reason, I snoozed on this one.  And I got outbid!  The nerve!  I was sort of surprised by my own reaction.  Turns out I really wanted that fan.  I clicked on the guy who won the auction and saw this:

    Pfft, it figures.  Every single auction he’s been involved in for the last several weeks concerns fans.  Outbid by a collector.  I guess that just means I have good taste.  Out of curiosity, I went digging around the web for more pictures of these fans and stumbled upon another set of pictures (by the same guy as above!) that showed the whole insane collection.  Just look at this, it’s absolute madness:

    And that’s only part of it.  Incidentally,  I think he’s got the fan I was bidding on–3rd one right of center.  And again, on one hand I have to laugh at the ridiculousness of this compulsive desire to collect every model, every color of … DESK FAN.  Then on the other hand, I look at my model railroading hobby and say, well, really, you’re not so different than this guy.  Admittedly, my collection of trains is not nearly a fraction as epic or outlandish as this gathering of fans, but given enough years, something tells me I will approach the same asymptote.

    But, just… damn!  LOOK at that.  I wonder how many of those have funny or perplexing stories about how he obtained them?  I wonder how he got into this hobby of fan-collecting in the first place?  I wonder if all his friends think he’s crazy or if he has like a core group of homies who come over every 2nd thursday of the month and they go back into this room and just cheeze the F out over this stuff**?  I wonder if he keeps this room a secret from people until they really get to know him?  It’s an obtuse behavior, sure, but really, I think lots of people have something similar to this that they “geek out” over.  More socially acceptable hobbies that approach or exceed this level of fanaticism would be pro sports, cars, MMOs, role playing, Otaku, quiltmaking, model trains, etc etc.  Just under the banner of “pro sports” alone, there’s probably thousands of flavors to choose from with an incomprehensible number of stats, names, and associated minutia to memorize.

    I find it fascinating that people get so deep into these seemingly random, tangential hobbies of collecting stuff like this.  And by ‘fascinating’, I mean ‘I secretly want to join their ranks.  maybe.’  I leave you with what we in the know call piano keys.  Feeling the lust?  Maybe you need a fan to cool you off. ;)

    *Addendum #1: If you dig the fans herein, make sure to check out my photo collage of the sweet vintage fan I ended up getting.

    **Addendum #2: My friend mister NineTenthsShavinPowda describes 100% perfectly what kind of conversation goes on in the secret fan collector lair: “Ha. I literally burst out loud picturing a bunch of fan-fans ‘cheezing’ out in this guys room. “OOHHHH damn niggaahh you got the 1977 Ultra Rare Prototype GE 13″ fan!” “Hell yeah bitches I esniped the fuck outta dat and then I modded it with the blades from the euro-only 1984 model to give it 12% more CFM, and added the silent basket from the 64 model to reduce the noise bro!” “SHIIIIITTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

    *** Addendum #3: Dead links removed.

    Primo Vino Art: Winery . . . X!


    2011 - 04.22

    Hot on the heels of the last entry in the Primo Vino Art series, which celebrates cool wine labels, I bring you this: X Winery

    Pairs well with SCIENCE.  And snarky, morbidly humourous artificial intelligence.

    It actually does pair well with science, what with an infinite number of potential riffs like “solve for x” or “plot x versus inebriation” and so forth.  I’ll just stop there.

    Indeed X does mark the spot, and this is a very pleasing cabernet blend.  Suprisingly smooth, yet not flavorless!  Usually it seems like those two qualities are mutually exclusive.  Perhaps they still are, but the bar graphs are fairly even here at least.  Drink up… you monster.

    Man, Snapple, thanks for ruining my bird fantasies. Wait, that came out wrong…


    2011 - 04.15

    As seen on the inside of a Snapple cap.

    Ever dream of being a bird?  Well you would hardly get to enjoy that glorious blue sky.  It’s kind of sad to think about!

    Well.  Maybe looking down would be the more enjoyable view anyway.  I’m just going to go with that.

    Radio Silence


    2011 - 03.28

    The transmission around here went dark for a while. I tend to do that after I write something I really like. As if the next thing has to somehow equal or better it, and the pressure is too much. Well, this post is plainly not going to be as cool as the previous one, so let’s just set the bar nice’n’low.

    However this doesn’t mean that nothing awesome has happened over the last week; the speakers are assembled and I’ve been adding/subtracting foam to try to find the optimal amount of stuffing. More detailed impressions to come…

    Also, something arrived in the mail last week which I’ve been waiting for since last October; two Milwaukee Road model train locomotives. Another first breaching of what will no doubt become a massive topic on the site–model railroading! I had a (semi?)glorious train layout while I lived in Chicago, but unfortunately it has resided inside many boxes since the move to Texas. As I get motivated to bring more pieces of it out and eventually start construction on Layout 2.0, expect to hear more about model trains in this space.

     

    Yardwork happened too. Much needed yardwork. And the accompanying post-yardwork hot tub dip. That part was good.

    And lastly, car repairs! YUCK. I think tonight will be a ‘drowning my sorrows in fine pizza and delicious wine’ night. Ugh. Mondays.

    Games I Like: Inside A Star-Filled Sky


    2011 - 03.11

    In a world of easily classifiable game genres, this one is legitimately hard to explain! I think the best analogy would be, “it’s like the movie Inception”. You’ll see what I mean:

    Basically you’re a little 8-bit dude inside a procedurally generated (aka mostly random) maze, with a pea-shooter. The objective is to get past your enemies and make it to the exit, which takes you up a level. You goal is to get to as high of a level as you can. You can’t die in this game. If you take too many hits, the screen zooms WAY in on your pixelated self, and you find yourself back in the previous level. This is somewhat of an opportunity because anytime you pick up power-ups, they don’t kick in until the next level. So whatever you get in level 19 will apply itself on level 20. This means that when you get kicked down one level, you can selectively choose new power-ups which will help you get past the next level that killed you last time.

    Okay, so this is where it STARTS to get crazy: any enemy or power-up you see, you can “go into”. For example if an enemy is shooting a wide scattershot that bounces off the walls, making it impossible to get past him, you put the mouse cursor over him and hit shift. The screen zooms WAY in on him, and now you are “inside” of the enemy. You run around and get power-ups that are weaker and more useless than what he had before. Once you’re satisfied, you find the exit, go back out, and now the enemy is easy to defeat because you gave him useless power-ups!

    You can also do this with power-ups (although in my experience they tend to be hard)… so if you see a level 1 heat-seeking power-up and you say to yourself, gee, I really wish that was a level 9 health boost, you can “go into” it, and change it. If you die while you’re “inside” something, you get kicked back a level. So say you were on level 15 and you went into a power-up and died there–now you’ll find yourself on level 14.

    And this is where it gets REALLY crazy: you can “go into” things which are “inside” of other things. Say you went inside of an enemy but you can’t find any weak power-ups to sabotage him. Just “go into” a strong power-up and make it weaker. Woah. Things are getting trippy.

    You can also go into yourself.

    Dude.

    Although doing this simply takes you back one level. And I’m not sure why you’d want to do that. If you keep going back far enough that the level number turns negative, you turn into a ghost. Hah! The higher you go in level number, the game gets more difficult (duh); and curiously, this applies to negative numbers too. I went down to -15, and at that point it was hard to actually win, taking you progressively deeper and deeper as you keep losing.

    At first I was scratching my head. Then I was laughing. And after 20 more minutes I was like, wow, this is actually kind of genius. The game itself is very simplistic, but the idea of what you’re doing is weird as hell.

    I can think of a lot more things I wish it could do: I wish I could go into the walls to make my own path, I wish I could “go into” the exit (although I don’t know what it would do… maybe skip a level if it were extra hard to win “inside” the exit), I wish I could disable the music which is also procedurally generated based on what’s around you, I wish I could zoom the perspective out to see a bit more of what’s around me, and I wish there were some kind of incentive to go into yourself. So forth.

    In the later levels you start encountering baddies who relentlessly chase you down from across the maze and take many hits to kill. This makes it a lot harder to sit still for long or be choosy about which power-ups you want to collect for the next level. It also makes it more stressful. I bounced back and forth between 23 and 24 for quite some time, and each time I started level 24 I had this feeling of dread because I knew the really fast pink monster was coming…

    When you keep bouncing back and forth between the levels sometimes they stay the same for a little while. But after 3-5 times they change, which means you might be getting overwhelmed by enemies in an unfamiliar place and drop back several levels in a row. On the website the designer says, “see how high you can get. I got to level 26.” 24 is the best I could do. Damn you, fast pink monster.

    You gotta see this game to believe it. And since it’s only $1.75 + a donation that you choose, so there’s really no reason not to. It’s an indie game made by one guy, so go support him. And get your mind bent!