So you were really hoping to wrap up your weekend reading five thousand words about a movie you haven’t seen and literally can’t watch anywhere online even if you pay for it, right?
If you are one of the six people who signed up for said tinyletter then I am sorry I never sent a second emission from it; I might still use it someday. (The same goes for my neglected dreamwidth account.) But I feel like I’ve got a little writing momentum here on NFD and I’d like to keep that up for a minute. So here’s a plug for an incomprehensibly deep dive into video games that I didn’t even really like that much when they were the only ones I had!
There are a lot of white dudes who like to talk about old nerd media in videos on the Internet, but mostly what they do is offer their own opinions, at best seasoned with a little intro lifted from Wikipedia. I find it hard to spend minutes of my one precious life absorbing those opinions. I have too many opinions already. What I value, instead, is the dudes who can explain and explore something I don’t understand in a way that makes me feel like I do understand it (although I very much still don’t).
This is why I subscribe to a channel with the mildly concering name of Displaced Gamers, which is not about gamers or being displaced. It’s a series of exegeses on the assembly code that composes old video games, mostly NES games, and the startling things that tiny changes in that code can bring about. I myself could not read assembly code if my life were at stake, but the channel creator’s steady, patient narration helps me feel like I can almost follow along in real time. I’m thinking in particular of these most recent two videos, about how and why one can glitch into unplanned memory areas in Super Mario Bros to find the apocryphal Minus World…
… And then discovering 256 completely new Minus Worlds in the Super Mario All-Stars iteration of the game, using only three Game Genie Codes. (!)
It’s that last bit that really gets me. I had a Game Genie for our Super Nintendo when I was young, and I made heavy use of it, which is to say that I never got to be good at video games. I never had a solid grasp on the device’s methods of operation or how to explore a game’s code with it. I was not, as noted above, an ardent Mario fan (I preferred Mario Kart and the RPG spinoffs) though I respect the ground the games broke and their own interesting design constraints. But this particular video essayist earns my attention not only because he’s doing original research in the history of software—a field which, I will keep shouting forever, is ahistorical to the ongoing detriment of the entire world—but because he keeps at the work until he can fit his proof of concept into the “you can do this with your own Game Genie” constraint. That’s powerful Brendan-bait.
types of websites that exist anymore:
– algorithmic feed of whatever makes the rat keep pushing the lever
– we hope you enjoyed your 3 free articles
– ENABLE NOTIFICATIONS? SHARE LOCATION?? GET NEWSLETTER???
– labor of love by an actual person, last updated 2009
— Cliff Jerrison 🌻 (@pervocracy) March 12, 2021
I think about this tweet a lot, even though I don’t actually read twitter anymore. It has achieved what I believe user @BAKKOOONN has called “barium dye” status, inescapable in any segment of the internet’s digestive tract—in part because it so succinctly captures the ache inherent in our cultural surrender to platforms that do not care for us. This paragraph should make it clear that I myself do not find it easy to escape the reach of those platforms. But it has never been easier to carve out your own platform, either.
For that reason I would like to point out some labors of love that have been updated in 2022. I link to my favorites all the time: Leonard and Sumana and Lucy and Rachel are indefatigable. I will enthuse at anyone about longtime stalwarts Derek Guy and Tom Murphy and Audrey Watters and their respective fields of expertise if given the slightest opportunity, and I hope Molly White never runs out of dry schadenfreude, even if her current beat (I hope) fades from the headlines. Jenny is a great and terribly clever friend whose archives I still have to go back and savor. Adam Cadre seems never to have flagged on updates for the last two decades. David Bordwell has been giving away just masterful levels of accessible, expansive teaching on film for even longer than that!
Blogspot, never my favorite platform, has begun to acquire a certain old-timey charm to me, via its placid refusal to become a redesigned algorithmic nightmare (for now!). I’ve been following Peter Gainsford for years, interested in his Classical-era mythbusting even when I am far from understanding its academic context. Kerry Callen has a unique style and sense of humor that recalls the days when lots more comics artists kept delightful sketchblogs. I wish I could remember how I stumbled across Dan of the Salty Throne; not only does reading his posts feel like stepping into an idea stream just as the flash flood barrels down upon you, but his blogroll also helped me realize where all the RPG hobby writers went when Google Plus died. I put five more URLs into my RSS reader yesterday, and I look forward to following them toward more.
There are sites still marching onward that are almost suspiciously me-shaped, too, perhaps because I was shaped by them. If you ever want to learn how to undertake the arcane rituals of BlogNomic, let me know, I’m currently an active mentor. Cyberdelia seems like I made it up for my own amusement (but I didn’t!). And just today, I made a tiny update to my ancient tilde.club page, and I’m not even the only one!
I thought about including my Patreon subscriptions, and some of my favorite podcasts, and my favorite email newsletters—okay, well, I am going to link to Sophie’s newsletter because Sophie is wonderful and her latest letter arrived in my inbox as I was writing this. But I think I will save those for other entries. I just want to remind myself that Cliff Jerrison and despair can be disproven. Not all love’s labors are lost.
But Caroline Siede’s retrospective analysis of romantic comedy as a film genre just wrapped up, after a hundred reviews, and I think they are all worth reading if you can manage three quarters of your browser being occluded by ads. Even when I have drawn different conclusions from Siede I have found her work exemplary, and have in fact used her work as an example when thinking about how to structure longer writing about movies. I can recommend in particular her highlighting of gems like Saving Face (2004), The Big Sick (2017), Brown Sugar (2002), and of course, the movie that guaranteed I would one day fall for a Chicago brunette.
I get pretty excited when someone whose creative work I have long admired puts out a nice long essay, these days, because I am—and I cannot emphasize this enough—forty. Jeremy Penner, who has been the kind of historian who actively makes more history ever since I came to know him, dropped a bombshell of such an essay into my Old Reader just this week.
“Quite frankly, nobody who wasn’t an absolute fanatical follower of webcomics discourse 20 years ago has any idea what the fuck this means.”
But I am just such a one, and this filled some gaps in my understanding of the little sphere wherein I came of age. I value this kind of clear and well-founded writing so much. It’s the counterpoint to the Wesley Aptekar-Cassels quote I posted earlier today: archives may succumb, but archivists keep fighting.
I realized with mild startlement, this morning, that I’ve been using a Google Reader replacement called The Old Reader for over eight years—longer than I actually ever used Google Reader. One of the widely loved features of GR was its quiet, useful social function, allowing you to follow your friends and see what they wanted to surface and recommend. The idea of a social network that just unobtrusively shows you the things you want to see, in order, seems like a quaint and nostalgic dream these days.
I never actually made much use of the social feature—I just wanted a reader that persisted between computers—but today (after eight years!) I’ve realized that The Old Reader lets you follow people too, and I’m curious about trying it. Do you use it, dear Four People Who Read This Blog And Possibly A Lost Search Crawler Robot? I’m xorphus there and I’d be happy to connect.
If it’s ever unclear where my fascination with the tools of creative constraint came from, this process overview video about my uncle John Andrew Dixon’s collage work en plein air should provide a strong clue.
I’ve been a fan of Magnolia Porter Siddell for a long time. Today she posted the last page of Monster Pulse, making it one of the only webcomics I have ever seen tell a cohesive, consistent, and conclusively satisfying story via the steady mechanism of Monday-Wednesday-Friday updates over the course of years. Ten years! That’s an extraordinary achievement, even apart from the sheer wonder and grace of her storytelling, and I think it’s one of the great success stories of the medium in the 2010s. Porter Siddell pursued evolution and risk in her art, stayed true to her inspirations while exploring far beyond their boundaries, and never let her readers down. I can’t wait to buy the print editions all over again. Re-read Monster Pulse!
Hi, we’re alive and fine. My privilege is as evident as ever, as my daily routine of isolation with Kat resembles what Maria called “an extended snow day,” mostly but not entirely without snow. I hurt for the sick and grieving; I worry for the essential and vulnerable; I watch Bon Appetit and experiment with vegan baking; I do my internet job and I watch out my window and wait. Here are some things that have held my interest in the last little while.
- As mentioned in asides, I read too much about menswear online and off these days. My favorite habit is to bargain-hunt for clothes from Japan on eBay, prance around the living room in them to aggravate Kat, and then secret them away so I can buy more. But the emergent result is that I’ve learned a lot about things I might have disdained ten years ago. I don’t have any special interest in James Bond, for instance, but Matt Spaiser’s blog about the tailoring of the films has taught me a ton about men’s fashion in the last sixty years. His post on how Cary Grant’s suit in North by Northwest (1959) went on to influence Bond’s costuming is a great example of the dry clarity of his writing.
- It seems like I’ve never written about Porpentine Charity Heartscape here before, which is strange, as her work has loomed large in my view and admiration for… seven years? Eight? Her work in writing and game design blends the sweet, the filthy, the transgender and transhuman, the pure and the skin-crawlingly cute in a way I find singular in every sense. If that sentence doesn’t hint at some content warnings, then I hope this one does. But that boundary is very much worth braving if you are so emotionally equipped. Her recent story “Dirty Wi-Fi” on Strange Horizons is a good introduction to her prose and perspective.
Despite my limited dabbling in microelectronics, I can’t follow many of the technical specifics in this review of process and call for aid on a final, perfect Super Nintendo emulator. But the SNES was a system that still informs my design and aesthetic sensibilities, twenty-seven years later, and I respect the author’s work very much. The most striking quote to me:
“I can tell you why this is important to me: it’s my life’s work, and I don’t want to have to say I came this close to finishing without getting the last piece of it right. I’m getting older, and I won’t be around forever. I want this final piece solved.”
What an extraordinary thing it seems, to me, to know what your life’s work is. I hope one day I do.