And you remember the jingles used to go

The lights had been on in the stuffy bedroom for about an hour, and the temperature was way past ninety degrees. Phane (pronounced Fan-ny) and Yoga (pronounced Yo-ga) fiddled with the 16mm camera, readjusted the lighting, pulled a tape measure to my nose, fiddled with the camera again, put a yellow gel on one fresnel lamp, and tweaked the lighting again.

Sweat poured off my nose as I lay crumpled in the bedsheets. Marin, playing my love interest, said, “Can we get a tissue for John?” Marin swabbed off my forehead and powdered my nose with a compact.

“Okay, we’re ready,” said Phane. “Action.”

Grope-kiss-grab-roll- “And cut. That was very good.”

“Are you sure?” I asked. “That was two seconds of film. You don’t need a second take?”

“No,” said Phane. “Let’s move on.”

Yoga readjusted the cels and spun some knobs on the camera. He removed the gel from another fresnel and checked light levels again. I took off my socks.

“Look ashamed,” said Phane. “Look down and look ashamed.”

I looked down and looked ashamed. “Cut,” said Phane. “Perfect. Let’s move on.”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “I didn’t feel very ashamed there.”

“No, it was perfect,” said Phane. “Would you like some pizza?”

The actors ate pizza and talked. “My first time doing a love scene,” said Marin.

I toasted her. “I’m honored.”

“How do you think the film will turn out?”

I looked down and looked ashamed.

We just got a letter, we just got a letter

Today’s reader mail is from Henry, from Pennsylvania. Henry’s a fundamentalist Christian who has downloaded the music we arranged and recorded for All The Way Home. He writes:

Hello,   You people SICKEN me.  You are nothing but
some CALIFORNIA scumbags who THINK they understand where
the bluegrass scene came frome.

Don't get me's not about "butcher holler". 
Hard times is hard times.  But THEATER TRUOUPES are NOT
allowed.  YOU SUCK.    No matter how you do, you will

We're not cartoons, dude.    We're everywhere. "country
folks" is anybody who isn't yuppie/hippie SCUM.  Everybody
who actually works, lives, believes, and DOES REAL
LIFE.    We HATE you, friends.     You are WORTHLESS. 
From the fake-ass "jonbenet scandal", you're NOTHING.  
You're pretentious suburban TRASH, pretending to a
heritage you wouldn't be worthy of being THROWN OUT OF.   

It's not where your FROM, friend, it's what you VALUE:   
REALITY,     HOME,     FRIENDS (chosen for reasons OTHER
than conformity and "clique")      VALUES   HUMANITY      
LOVE      SO you can BITE me, friends.    You are nothing
other than poseurs, and worthy only of LAUGHINGLY VIOLENT
put-downs!     SCREW OFF, JERKS!      PS...  The women
who played NUNS in NUNSENSE in our local THEATER TROUPE,
did NOT ask for admitance to the local CATHOLIC
COMMUNITY.    comprendez vouz, scuzzbags???? Ps.     BLOW

There’s a camera rolling on her back, on her back

Got an e-mail from my agent. “A friend of mine needs help. He’s directing a short. Film, not DV, should be good for your portfolio. He’s looking to cast the part of the Lover. Are you available for a Sunday shoot?”

She sent me the script, such as it is. Let’s see… Lover has a stone-cut face, a bright smile and is broad shouldered… Wife and her new lover move to the bedroom… Lover kisses the wife on her lips… Lover takes off his t-shirt and is unzipping his pant…

Hello? “In actuality, there’s no nudity and very little physical contact,” my agent said. Well.

Help! I’m being stereotyped as a sex god!

You need a man who’s got finesse

I took the other half of the blue pill and watched My Wife Is an Actress, naturally enough, with my wife. At the end of act one, she said “I’m a bit sleepy,” and yawned.

“Off to bed with us,” I said, trying to sound masterful.

So it was about ninety minutes from the time I took the pill to the time we went to bed.

Boy howdy, let me tell you what a difference those ninety minutes were.

You know those plastic tubes that refrigerated cookie dough comes in? They’re called chubs. Think chub. Think chub with an evil self-purpose, a diabolical chub, a chub what am chub.

Oy vey. I’m recovering from the bruises.

I’d like a million of you over myself

The majority of the roundeyes at Tokyo Game Show this year were the ones performing on the trade-show stages, dancing for the benefit of Japanese game publishers. It wasn’t always this way. Four years ago, when the US game industry was on less lean times, there were more white faces here. I’m guessing all us gaijin are saving our money up for GDC in 2004.

Four years ago, TGS was a collection of well-lit, stodgy kiosks with a few demo dollies populating the show floor. In the past four years, Tokyo Game Show has decided to become E3, and so this year it was a deafening roar of subwoofers and light displays and two-story papier-mache models and hundreds of pushed-up chickies in microskirts. This environment, while highly entertaining to a straight white guy, is possibly the very least conducive environment imaginable for understanding the quality of a bunch of games. I had ninety minutes where I wasn’t in meetings. So the handful of game notes I present here are my best guesses at how these games will actually play, but don’t take them as gospel. I was distracted.

There was an unusual number of beat-em-up games on the show floor. (Think Golden Axe in 3D.) Koei seemed to be attracting a lot of show-floor attention with Shin-sangokumusuo 3. Square Enix showed Drag-on Dragoon, which had a less pretty beat-em-up mode and a very pretty dragon flight mode.

Square Enix also showed a very basic looking title called Kenshin Dragon Quest. The game itself was unremarkable except for the presence of a sword peripheral and receiver. There was a receiver at the base of the television that could detect the location and orientation of the plastic sword with respect to the receiver, and so people were waiting in line six deep to take a virtual swack at some poorly rendered enemies. The game system is self-contained; apparently the receiver contains a tiny bit of CPU horsepower, enough to render a few sprites. If this bit of kit comes ever comes to the US, it should be relatively inexpensive.

Without a lot of fanfare, Konami showed Firefighter F.D 18, a rethink of Sega’s old Saturn title, Burning Rangers. Konami has improved the smoke and fire particle systems quite a bit; they’re pretty and dramatic now. The controls are very easy to pick up. Games of this genre, in which you play a firefighter or an ambulance driver, really ought to sell better in the US than they do; Konami can probably get an E rating with it, and it’s a cool-looking game that parents might not object to.

NCsoft showed Lineage 2. Two words: Everquest. NCsoft clearly wants a piece of Sony’s online market and the presentation of this online PC game is pretty darn similar to Everquest. They used the Unreal engine and the characters and scenes were quite detailed. NCsoft put some marketing muscle behind Lineage 2 at the show and they took some care to make sure all the game text and help was in Japanese.

Surprisingly, the Sony EyeToy got a lukewarm reception on the show floor, possibly due to a bad two-level booth design that made it inconvenient to actually walk to the demo machines. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that US customers will snap this thing up when it hits US shores. The basic package includes a cheap USB camera and a pack of twelve party games, including the ever-popular Kung Fu. In Kung Fu, you smack down an onslaught of cartoonish bad guys, Jackie Chan style, by swinging your fists, legs, head, or any other objects you happen to have around your living room. The EyeToy peripheral reminds me strongly of Sega’s Samba de Amigo maracas controllers. Sega mistakenly made only 10,000 pairs of maracas for the US market, and rabid fans bought out all Sega’s stock within a few days after release. Let’s hope Sony has the sense to send over more EyeToys if they sell out.

I envision a future TGS where some publisher has the guts and finances to build a trade show booth entirely encased in a twelve-inch soundproof wall. Inside the wall, you can play the publisher’s video games in relative peace. Perhaps you wear headphones, and you experience the game in a situation roughly resembling a home-use scenario. To do such a thing would require a heroic quantity of confidence in a publisher’s products. Until then, it’s subwoofers and microskirts for the lot of you.

Swim the warm waters of sins of the flesh

Here is the trailer for the film entitled Absolute Pleasure, and here’s a backup server in case the first one goes down. This film, currently in post-production, documents the sex and angst behind the scenes of the production of The Rocky Horror Show in San Jose.

Right-click the link and select “Save as…” to save it to your hard drive. Warning! The trailer contains gratuitous flogging.

Absolute Pleasure is the only documentary that does not suck. More info here as it becomes available.

Update: Several of you are complaining because you can’t view the video. I’ve changed the video format to VCD-compliant MPEG1, a common video format. Here’s some more information on how to play MPEG1 videos.

I wanna publish zines and rage against the machine

The money wasn’t important. We were more interested in having it done in a sanitary office.

A beautiful Saturday at the Castro: well-bred people and well-bred dogs promenade underneath the warm sun and rainbow flags. We turned onto Market and entered a second-story shop called Cold Steel America. The skull of a gazelle glowered down on us from a yellow stucco wall. Amanda sat beneath a large Chinese dragon mask.

The quiet-voiced man behind the counter had a shaved head, with a tattoo of three cherries behind his left ear. He motioned Mandy into the back room, a small office with white tiles. I saw a ten-gallon jug labelled MadaCide-1 on a particle-board shelf. He took down a pair of forceps from the shelf and he put on thin white rubber gloves. As my wife lay down on the operating table, he whispered in my wife’s ear.

It was over in two minutes. “No worse than giving blood,” said my wife, displaying the new gold barbell pierced through her belly button.

She keeps clippings like her high school win at the science fair

Lexington Queen, Roppongi, five minutes to midnight. Aside from a couple dozen well-dressed natives, this pop-music palace is a ghost town with a jungle subwoofer beat. Two Japanese girls, bluejean miniskirts riding low on their hips, make a halfhearted attempt at grinding on the dance floor, but they sense the eyes of the T-shirt gaijin feeling them up from across the room, and they stop quickly and scutter back to their table.

One woman in particular catches my attention. She’s Nipponese, in tight leopard-print slacks, chain-smoking by herself in the corner. Every now and then she says a few words to herself. Then she stands, boogies for about two minutes with no one in particular, and sits down again, muttering and tossing her bleach-brown locks.

What the hell happened to the anorexic chickies in plastic bras and the smells of barf and whiskey? What happened to the action-movie supermodels whose snapshots adorn your walls? Time was you could cop a feel with a rock star on the dirty-dance floor, or collect a hit or two of cocaine by scraping the cigarette-burned vinyl seat cushions with your fingernails. Time was lesbians were swilling hundred-dollar bottles of vodka and sexing one another in your unsanitary toilets. Not so anymore, Lexington Queen. All the l33t kIdZ are somewhere else on Saturday night. You’ve gone — dare I say it — establishment?