'Congratulations On Your Recent Death!'

A list of lists from our Heard Mentality blog's culture coverage

Remember the days when the Weekly devoted two pages to arts coverage? Me, too—but I don’t miss them too much. Our coverage remains as lively as ever on our Heard Mentality blog—technically our music blog, but also a repository for some of the better culture coverage in Southern California. (Not to mention our oh-so-cultural slideshows. Burlesque! Woo-hoo!) Our writers love video games and crafts—and interviewing themselves. Below are some of the things I learned this year.

NINE THINGS I LEARNED FROM READING PETER MAI’S VIDEO-GAME POSTS
• Video-game quotes can range from the Engrish to the existential.
Our resident video-game blogger seems to know everything that has ever happened in the annals of joysticks, stuff even this nerd didn’t know. In “‘Sorry, I’m Dead’: 30 Most Memorable Video Game Quotes” (Feb. 2), Mai demonstrates that he must’ve played every game ever issued for Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, N64—really, every gaming console ever—to create a list of phrases that occur at key points in games. Some are bad translations from the Japanese original (à la “All your base are belong to us” from Zero Wing), some honest bon mots (“It’s time to kick ass and chew bubble gum . . . and I’m all out of gum” from the Duke Nukem series), others iconic (everything ever stated in Super Mario Brothers), but for plain terrifying, try this one from Dracula, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night: “What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets.” Since when did Nietzsche return from the abyss and write code?

• People have dressed their dogs as game characters ranging from Pac-Man to Pokemon and a bunch of weird anime shit. My words do no justice to the pictures Mai found of four-legged critters living out their masters’ video-game obsessions. Of one dressed somehow as Pac-Man, Mai wrote, “This costume deserves an honorable mention for the tremendous amount of effort it took in order to make this dog look ridiculous. You have to hand it to poodles; they’re always on the receiving end of humiliating haircuts and dog clothes.”

• As Peter wrote, “Death is rarely a funny thing. Dying in the twisted world of video gaming, on the other hand, can often lead to hilarious results. The dreaded ‘Game Over’ screen has been an integral part of gaming since they were first made, and if your failure isn’t bad enough, some of the screens really like to rub it in your face that you suck at video games.” Among the quotes he listed: “It’s official: You suck” from Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and the self-explanatory “Congratulations on Your Recent Death! Thanks for playing Space Quest III. As usual, you’ve been a real hoot.”

• People can play the Super Mario Bros. theme song on everything from rulers to slapped female asses to—you have to see the video to believe this—lining up hundreds of bottles of wine filled to a certain capacity to emit a particular sound when hit, even by driving an RC car to hit said bottles and play the song in its entirety, note for note, split-second moment of silence to split-second moment of silence. Yeah.

• The creator of the Game Boy was originally a janitor for Nintendo. Gunpei Yokoi also created the classic series Metroid.

• Some video-game series will never be better than their original incarnations, no matter how much technology evolves. Take Pac-Man. Or Angry Birds.

• The film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World had a lot of video-game references. Like, a lot. Peter counted at least two dozen.

• Video games can predict the future. Take Smash TV, a game Peter mentions in a roundup of games set in a future we’ve already passed (like 2001: A Space Odyssey—did you ever see the black obelisk? I didn’t). Created in 1990 but set in 1999, it portrayed a dystopia much like the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie The Running Man, in which unwilling participants play in a gory televised game played before a bloodthirsty audience at home. Does that not describe The Biggest Loser?

• None of You Should’ve Bought the iPhone 4. Oops. . . .

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ONE THING I LEARNED FROM STEPH CALVERT’S GETTIN’ MADE POSTS
• That Etsy website sure is popular.
Now, I’m no crafter. But our resident craft blogger shows even the most clueless man that their chicas (and even a couple of guys) have put Orange County on the crafting map. The best thing I spotted in her posts: a two-toned knit pill with the words “Chill.” How damn Duchampian and cute!

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ONE THING I LEARNED FROM JOEL BEERS’ ORANGE CURTAINS POSTS
• Clowns are intellectual.
Joel has been our theater critic since almost Day One of this rag, and his postings on Heard Mentality maintain his dry wit. And he even appreciates clowns! “Consider the clown,” Joel wrote in a Sept. 9 post. “Though clowns, in some shape, have manifested in all kinds of ancient cultures—from Native American myths of the arch-trickster to the ithyphallic satyr choruses of 3rd-Century B.C. Greek drama—their image has taken quite the hit in the past 50 years.” Ithyphallic? I just thought clowns were serial killers.

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ONE THING I LEARNED FROM READING DAVE BARTON’S ART WHORE POSTS
• Dave is a good interviewer. And a good interview. You read Dave’s fluid art reviews twice a month on these pages, but he writes about Orange County’s art world more frequently via his series Art Whore. In September, he interviewed himself for reasons I still don’t understand, but it was a rare opportunity to see a critic explain himself without a censor. Now, a bit of Dave taking on Dave:

How do you tell good art from bad?

I know something’s special when it makes me look at the world differently or shows me something in plain sight that I never noticed. When that happens, there’s a physical moment, almost sexual,  where I can feel my heart beat faster, my eyes widen and my mind clear a bit. . . . My tastes lean toward the political and the button-pushing, so I like difficult work that’s the equivalent of impolite talk at the dinner table, but I also get completely lost (and even a tad teary-eyed) in the presence of beauty.

Define beauty.

Recent examples: Greg Louganis diving. The poetry of W.H. Auden. Geek goddess Olivia Munn. Basically anything that artist Elizabeth McGrath touches. The French film Give Me Your Hand. Phyllis Nagy’s play Disappeared. Post-mortem photography. Christopher Hitchens’ voice reading his book Hitch-22: A Memoir.

garellano@ocweekly.com

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