Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Original GameBoy: Dyl's Greatest Hits



Everyone's got a favorite console from childhood. One that just makes 'em tingle with nostalgia, and mine's the Nintendo Game Boy. Christmas 1990. Never forget. As a self-contained hand held, It was my first console that felt like it was objectively mine,  and that was very appealing in an era when I still shared a bunk-bed, room and occasionally matching outfits (ugh) with my younger brother. Much like our smartphones today, a pocket sized conduit to all the world's information (read: pornography), my Game Boy was my own portal into Nintendo's world of pixelated delights and I could carry it around with me to distract and entertain myself during childhood's more mundane and unbearable bits....like church and school.

Nothing too profound here. Just a "greatest hits" discussion of my favorite games on that beloved grey brick with the tiny green screen and the purplish buttons.



Baseball
Baseball for Game Boy was literally just a Game Boy port of the original 1983 Nintendo Entertainment System version. Like its predecessor, it was also one of the system's launch titles and was used to promote the console. The Game Boy version of Baseball featured different music and that slick Nintendo trick of working Mario into the packaging to subtly suggest that he'd be featured in the game. (Spoiler! he's not.) A weird gripe: To bunt, you tap the B button with just enough force for the player to stick his bat out, and then just hold it out over the plate. I guess the developers  didn't bother to program an actual bunt command for the batter which seems kind of lazy given that they had a whole 'nother button to work with. Whatever. I have a real affection for baseball games that weren't made with any license from the MLBPA and have to use fictional teams (there's 2 here: the bears and the eagles) and players. It's thrilling to play as BILL and charge FRANK on the mound when he beans you in the head. 



Anyway, I'm shitting on this game a lot for how much I said I liked it. It's one of the first games I got and had that lauded "pick up and play" component to it. I didn't need to spend much time figuring it out or have an older cousin beat a boss for me because I already understood baseball. Plus it had really simple visuals. 

If I'm being honest, I really don't think the "barebones" style presented in Baseball really works nowadays. There's just a wealth of better baseball games for all these consoles (Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball being my personal fav and a really solid port of the SNES version). Still, it was one of the first games I got and I played the ever-loving fuck out of it.



Metroid II: The Return of Samus
Metroid II: The Return of Samus is an important, but sadly under-praised title in the Metroid canon. It builds on the claustrophobic cave words established in Metroid for the NES and got us consumers one title closer to the greatest GD game of all time, Super Metroid on the SNES a few years later. Whether intentionally or not, Metroid 2 invoked the same slow-burn feelings of dread and terror established in films like Alien (an aesthetic from which the developers admittedly pillaged) with an extremely limited palette of visuals. This is just another prime example of where a fantastic story will always transcend gazillion dollar sound and graphics...but that's retro gaming 101. 


Some of my personal favorite memories are burning through this game late at night, using only the incandescent glow of that gaudy and ridiculous Game Boy light to see what I was doing. Playing it as an adult invokes many of the same feelings, only now I realize how bonkers it is that this game essentially takes place in one single "room" and never feels restrictive. In terms of the Metroid (or "Metroid-vania") callings cards that have made the series consistently lauded, I recommend those curious to seek a Metroid 2 ROM and have at it. It more than holds up in modernity.




Donkey Kong
I'm not too sure what I actually expected of this game when it dropped. The box art looked cool enough, and I'd already had my brain blown wide open by the quasi-3d trappings of Donkey Kong Country on SNES but...a nostalgia re-boot of the OG classic arcade (Mario vs. Donkey Kong to rescue Pauline) was NOT what I wanted to play at the time.



 Of course, after that first 4 stages of the game, Donkey Kong reveals itself to be a very robust puzzle-platformer, one that wouldn't leave my Game Boy for months afterward. I think what works here is the deceptively simple level design, the controls (Mario can backflips and pick up items a'la Super Mario Bros 2) and its "challenging enough to keep me reaching, but not completely unbeatable" dynamic. With a whole fuckload of levels and puzzles (the commercial boldly proclaimed: "The beast is back...now with 100 levels of PAIN!"), Donkey Kong's replay value is unmatched and if I truly had to choose a Desert island game, this would most likely be it!




Donkey Kong Land 2
Donkey Kong Land 2 is the Game Boy port to what many Donkey Kong fans believe to be the best DK platformer in the series. While I'd recommend those interested in the title to check out the SNES version first, you really can't go wrong with the Game Boy version in a pinch. 



DKL2 holds the distinction of being my first "odd color" Game Boy game cartridge (it was yellow instead of the traditional dark grey) and the soundtrack is fantastic. I genuinely enjoy the title music. The game features 2 playable characters, with each having different strengths and weaknesses (Dixie's helicopter hair spin being the funnest dynamic), and the game boasts plenty of levels taylor made for speed running. I still play "Krazy Koaster" after a crappy day at the office! 




WWF Superstars 2
By the time I got this, I was familiar with most of the garden variety American wrestling games. Though I really liked WWF RAW for SNES, and truthfully played the shit out of any wrestling game I could fine, I don't think the genre (ugh) of wrestling games really came into its own until the advent of Playstation and N64 programming. 



The release of this game marked a strange and transitional time for WWF and the game's inclusion of some of the "new generation" personalities and dropping much of the 80's "old guard" make it a personal favorite for me. I loved playing as the Mountie and the Undertaker, because I was already sick of Hogan by this point. Had the game come out just a few years later it would have been the Bret/Shawn show. Superstars 2 features no finishing moves here and the sprites kinda suck. The games real strong point are its title music and the 8 bit recreations of the theme songs. I love Jakes "trust me" theme (AKA his John Carpenter theme) so much that in college I'd pine for the sounds, I finally made a manual recording of each theme on cassette and used it on many mixtapes for people. 

I could go on for hours on WCW/NWO Revenge or Fire Pro Wrestling, which bolstered and supplemented my interest in this most strange of businesses in the later 90's, but WWF Superstars 2 was my first real brush with it and I played it endlessly.




Pokémon Blue
Pokémon Blue was the last "regular" Game Boy game I had before graduating to the Game Boy Color, my birthday present in 1998. Everyone feels a certain "ownership" of the youth and cultural movements that happened in their day and the first American iteration of Pokémon wasn't any different for me.

I still remember where I was and what I was doing the first time I saw that debut commercial ("in the zone" on saturday morning, with Ken Griffey Jr) Pokémon was just one of those games that everyone played and it's a game of first for me.


  • It's the first game that merited me purchasing a strategy guide to beat it.
  • It's the first fame I effectively played with a game link cable 
  • It's the first game I ever lost a friend over (long story)
  • It's the first game I ever got caught in class playing (Mrs Clark's 6th Grade English class) and that was the point where I decided I needed a Game Boy Color because its smaller frame was harder to see from a distance. 


Pokémon may very well be the game that got me directly on the internet in 1998, plumbing primitive fan secrets over how to get mew and what happens when you catch Misingno.



I'm not sure what made Pokémon speak to me. Maybe it was the simple premise, the fact that it kind of encouraged and enabled hoarding and perfectionism or just that so many other people were into it at the same time...it was hard to avoid. Regardless, it was huge. I'd get into the card game later on and even some of the subsequent games (up to and including Pokémon Gold/Silver) but by then, other adolescent pursuits had taken hold.


Honorable Mention
The OG Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was a fantastic game for the OG Game Boy that I thoroughly enjoyed, but if I'm being honest played the DX version for Game Boy Color was slightly better because of some of the extra quests and color-based dynamics. Don't worry, those games will get their own post. 
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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Hesher's Delight -the Austin 3:16 Tee


To commemorate 3/16/16 (and by extension, the entire month of March 2016 being 3/16) here's a memory from 1997. The era is 5th grade, the place is Hardin County Kentucky. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. 

D***** was cool. Not "cool for 5th Grade" or "Cool in hindsight." Just cool. Effortless. He exuded that shit upon us, and we simpletons lapped it up, slack-jawed and barely cognizant. He put product in his hair before anyone I knew. He carried a harmonica in his back pocket. He said "fuck" with liquid panache, like a GD soldier, while we clambered around garden-variety vulgarity like idiot children. 

It wasn't just his presence at school either. He lived a life we all kinda wanted at that age. His folks were cool with graphic rock tees and stocked a fridge full of Stewart's soda. His brother worked a gig as a prison guard and could get us windbreakers from the detention center. His bedroom was a colorful emporium of kitsch and ephemera, hard rock, horror movies, pro wrestling. Nowadays we'd call him a little Hesher.

Now, as cool as D***** was (still is), 1997 was the dude's peak and my heart always goes a big mealy one for all things associated with it. The Marlins first World Series (my brother and I liked Gary Sheffield). The Montreal Screwjob. WCW's biggest (to that point) Starrcade. Hell, wrestling being right on the cusp of white hot levels of popularity. Perhaps no T-shirt better encapsulates that era than the Austin 3:16 tee.

Now, other scholars and pundits and idiots have examined the cultural impacts of said shirt/catchphrase/era so I won't bore you with how the infamous promo foreshadowed a new aesthetic and cultural direction in TV, skewered religious iconography and created a good 6-7 years of profitable wrestling storylines (look what I did lol!). What I know is D***** was my first friend to own the Austin 3:16 shirt and I'll forever associate it with him.


King of the Ring 1996: Doc Hendrix + the Rattlesnake
Like Steve Austin was to many ham n' eggers across the trailer courts, Danny was our folk hero. He talked back to teachers and crotch-chopped playground bullies. He wasn't a tough guy, but he wasn't scared of anyone either, be they figures of authority or simpleton classmates. Matt Dempster, the troglodyte who'd been held back twice and with bitter resentment and the body odor to match, was taking his third crack at state-mandated elementary school, tested D***** once though.

"That shirt is fake. Ain't no real Austin shirt," said Dempster one day at lunch, heehawing and pointing his fat finger at D*****'s chest. White lettering on black cotton. Attitude era. D***** yawns. "I ain't kiddin ya damn goob. That's fake. Ain't no WWF onnit that skull's not the right one." Picking through his appalachian gibberish, I took it to mean that D*****'s 3:16 shirt was in fact a bootleg copy, procured not from WWF official "shopzone" but likely one of the local county fairs. For normies, one can generally tell a bootleg of the era by the "quality" of the skull on the back of the shirt, official ones bearing a blue-tinged "icy" skull and bootleg's being plain white.


100% Pure

"Yeah it's bootleg," said D****, staring into Dempster's eyes. "I got it at the Heartland Festival." 

The news delighted Dempster, who went in to roast but was promptly cut off by D***** who'd thrown up his unopened can of yoo-hoo and yelled: "Aww hell son, I asked yer Mama what she thought of my damn T-shirt and she thought I looked sexy as all hell in this bootleg. WHAT?"

Matt stood still for a moment, kinda grinning but also kinda not. He fidgeted and then shook his head, pained by the words and doing his damndest to shake them off. "My parents split up you jackass. You can't talk about my Mom!" He shakes some more and collapses in a blubbering heap. He continues wailing. His voice a roiling panic, bears the unmistakable weight of tears. The roastee has been roasted. The Austin era has begun. 

There's no gloating though. D**** has already left. He knows the code and the unwritten score. 

Arrive. Raise Hell. Leave.

Happy 3/16 everyone!
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Friday, February 19, 2016

New York Fashion Week Inspiration Post


You Sweatpant...but why?

It's New York Fashion Week, that pointless time of year that we probably wouldn't even know about if it weren't for hashtags (LOL!). I'll be putting outfits together this week, but here's some inspiration posts to share around on your preferred social networks. 

Rock is Crock tour 2009 

3 Horsemen + Luger "The standard of excellence in the NWA is now the ultimate casual wear."
Team denim v. Team Stretchable cotton

A 5 Star Sweater

Q: Where dost one huckster store his gimmicks?
A: within thine gimmick bag (fanny pack)

Schuldiner does the "smoulder" while homeboy to the left apes "school shooter chic."


Boots n' Braces 

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Why Harley Flangan is My Actual Favorite Cro-Mag


I didn't expect to begin February 2016 with 2 people independently suggesting I check out a new Harley Flanagan record but brother (or sister), that's exactly how it shook out. Here's 5 reasons why, after listening to Cro-Mags 10 times in a row, Harley is my actual favorite Cro-Mag.


1. Cro-Mags is essentially a diss record.  No, not a "Dis" record, but we'll get to that in a minute. Harley's beefs are the stuff of legend, hilarity and an occasional headline news story and frankly that's what makes this record so interesting. Sure, it's petty and a little childish, and regardless of where you stand on his antics, you've got to admit the dude's been through a lot in the past 5 (10?) years. Great music rarely comes from a place of serenity and in this case, Harley's demons helped him make a kick-ass solo joint on some surprisingly contemporary source material.  

2. It's also Dis Record. Kinda. OK, like not full on Motö-Charge here, but close enough for my taste. Discharge comparisons aplenty, 12 songs in 24 minutes. Whatever it is, it's punk AF. Kinda makes you remember that amidst all the Myspace buffoonery and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the dude has been sniffin' around since punk's year zero. (or at least since you been swimmin in your Daddy's nuts...so to speak). Plus, I've read that the record is kind of a tribute to Lemmy, so there's that. 



3. Age of Quarrel. Yes, it's the consummate 'Mags record and the measuring stick by which all NYHC would be measured to come. If we're lumping in the entire Cro-Mags discog, side projects and all, Cro-Mags comes the closest to replicating that original sound. Aggressive punk metal blasts intercut with some guitar work I can only describe as "explosive." Like, you'd think Alpha and Omega or Near Death Experience might be a better pairing for a late-era Harley solo project, but it's not. Trust me. 




4. Beef (is for Pussies). If we're actually keeping a Cro-Mags tally, we'd likely surmise that the last decade has been way harder on Harley than it has on John Joseph. The latter has branded himself as the "sane" one, schilling vegan cookbooks, workouts and a biography that seems more than a little exaggerated (like all NYHC history). And while Harley certainly hasn't made things any easier on himself, he's not the one leading a semi-scab 'Mags lineup only playing songs off the first record...but writing new music. 



5. The Vocals. OK, so we all know that JJ's vocals are an inextricable topping on the Cro-Mags pizza. I also know that JJ has clowned on Harley's vocal performances in his book (how many times does Harley need to say "Oh yeahhh" on a record kinda stuff). I think Flangan sounds perfect here. Brutish. Angry. Bitter. The voice of a guy who's been battered senseless and keeps trundling forward despite the odds, and though it's never rivaled JJ's in terms of supremacy, I think it suits a 2016 record about 20 year old disputes just fine. 
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Friday, January 29, 2016

I Can Draw That: WWF's Scratch Logo and the Doodler's Mind


In November of 1997, The World Wrestling Federation changed their corporate logo to reflect the new "attitude" branding. They unveiled the new logo as part of their "try lacing my boots" campaign, reflecting the 90's obsession with "extremity," shock TV and a desperate attempt to secure a silver-bullet creative campaign to whoop their Atlanta-based rivals in the Monday Night ratings war.

Perhaps unknowingly, the company followed the oldest art-punk mantra: the best logos are those which can be reproduced with in any medium and with relative ease (i.e. a stick n' poke tattoo or spray painted beneath a freeway overpass.) Wrestling lore dictates that in one of those fabled writer's meetings between Vincent K. Mcmahon, Pat Patterson, and whichever creative cronies were on good terms with the Fed, someone hastily drew the logo on the side of a frosted beer mug with their finger. The rest is, as they say, history (or...fodder for a 10-part, marginally accurate docu-series on the WWE Network).



I shan't warble on the 90's wrestling boom or the famed Attitude Era. There's many before who've done it better. What I will say is the profound impact that scratch logo had on me as a 5th grader in suburban Kentucky. It was the first WWF logo I could accurate copy without a protractor and a knowledge of color theory and as much as I love that classic chrome logo, I just wasn't in possession of the artistic chops to make it a hand-drawn reality. Like punk, the proletariat genre that brought electrified rock n' roll to the disaffected masses of Thatcherite England and Reaganite America, so too did the Fed's new user-friendly insignia appeal to the lurid fancies of a budding adolescent hesher. "I can draw that," I thought. 

So I did. I drew that shit everywhere. On my desks and notebooks. On the bottom of my skateboard. In the dewey condensation of the family's Dodge Caravan. It was like a brand I could incorporate into myself. See "Attitude" was a concept I could get behind, even in the leafy expanses of a middle class existence, and this colorful world of pro wrestling promised a wealth of intellectual and creative fodder for my torrid mind. 



This scratch logo (and the programming behind it) promised a reckless abandonment of a stodgy, traditionalist past, rattling old-schoolers and conservative journalists to their gooey foundations. This "attitude" campaign leaped forward with the gleeful and irreverent spirit of one-upping the competition and car-crash entertainment and for all that negative press it got regarding its mysogyny and redneck ideologies...it all finally had a damn logo I could draw.
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Monday, December 28, 2015

(Not Very) New Lows




In 2009 I had this plan to do a blog where I just interviewed artists about hardcore shirts they'd illustrated. I did like 3 entries and then stopped keeping up with it, but anyway. Here's one of the interviews I did with Chris Morgado about the best New Lows shirts. Remember, this is from 2009 so some elements might not be accurate anymore. 

The Wrong Side is one of my favorite hardcore bands, and I was even more stoked to find out that the singer, Chris Morgado was into drawing so I hunted him down. He's the artist behind a number of cool hardcore shirts, many of them I had before I even knew that he'd done them. I've done a sweet interview with him that'll definitely appear in a future issue of Drug Dogs. Anyway, the following is a discussion on the New Lows shirt above in Morgado's own words.

"I kind of hate to do shirt designs. It's sort of awkward, like layout wise I find it awkward. I never know just how big I can go or anything, and so I end up feeling like I'm doing the same big image with band name over/under it thing over and over. I vastly prefer doing fliers and record art…fliers especially, fliers are my absolute favorite to do…it's just less stressful knowing "ok, this is the space I've got, this is what I can work with, now fill it". And most of the time people don't really know exactly what they want, like I get told "we want something like what you did for Mental so just come up with something like what you did for them", which isn't the worst thing to get told by any stretch of the imagination, but it's kind of more stressful because even though I can do that kind of thing standing on my head, I have to worry about copying what I already did without actually repeating what I already did."





"A skinhead with a chain by me is going to look like a skinhead with a chain by me…well, more like it'll look like a poor copy of a skin by Sean Taggart (laughs)… no matter how I draw it; it's pretty much just asking me to swap out the band name. If that's really want someone wants, great, I'll do it, but it's cooler if someone has an idea that I can work with, or if it's a band 
with a name or a vibe that I can latch on to."



"Like War Hungry, yeah those shirts look like they could just as easily be Mental shirts, but they're actually very specific to that band, I came up with those by just doodling around with the name “WAR HUNGRY” and the images that put in my head. I never would have come up with those designs for Mental, those designs just wouldn't exist."



"With New Lows, I've done four shirts, and it's been 50/50 as to P-boy knowing what he wants and me just coming up with something on my own. The Shining shirt was his idea, and the Minor Threat  rip off. He left the details pretty much up to me so far as how to execute them, but those were both his idea. The Albert Packer shirt and the octopus sex shirt were mine. It was kind of a last minute deal, they needed some shirts for Sound and Fury and P wanted something new but didn't have any ideas on tap. So I kind of just brainstormed, just like... inserting random California and ocean related words into Google, and eventually I ended up googling octopus and just started thinking, "hardcore design concepts have gotten pretty tame, hardcore in general is pretty tame now, I wonder if an octopus porn shirt would get any reaction". So I started googling Japanese octopus porn and printing out pics that I thought would make good reference. This was all done at work, naturally. So I had all these print outs and I just started sketching shit out and seeing what I could combine with what, and one of the pics was by this artist Toshio Saeki, in fact if you look at my actual drawing, it says "with a nod to Saeki" under my signature, that's how much of his idea I felt like I actually took. It was a guy fucking a girl who was an octopus below the waist. I thought it would make a good shirt if you stripped it down to just the guy and the girl, maybe not as nuts as doing one of the ones where the octopus is tentacle fucking a girl but probably easier to make work on the front of a shirt. But I didn't want to just have it be a tracing or an exact copy. I had just done a drawing of Death smoking a bong for this band that never paid me or used the design, so I had that on my desk. So I redrew it with Death in the place of the guy, and a few drafts later I was satisfied enough to do a nice little bit of old school cut and paste…I do pretty much everything old school cut and paste…I only use Photoshop for minor touch ups like removing a line here or there to get the band name on there."


"What I was thinking of with the layout was this Fugazi bootleg shirt a kid I knew in high school had that just had the band name over a black and white photo, though when I was doing the shirt I was remembering it as being underneath."

Check out Morgado's art and NEW LOWS.
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Thursday, December 24, 2015

KNIGHTS IN SATAN'S SERVICE


"Knights in Satan's Service," is an Urban Legend lovingly acknowledged in the film Detroit Rock City, and also by a few prominent religious leaders (for a discussion of mormonism and 70's rock, check my old blog). Most anyone with a few braincells to mash together knows this legend to be false, that Paul Stanley named the band KISS in tribute to the New York Dolls and though they used the para-military Schutzstaffel to get some heat (Jewish rock boys from NYC) methinks this was really all just an aesthetic decision. I'm of the mind that 4 letter/one syllable is the perfect aesthetic for a band name (RUSH, CROM, etc) which is why I'm so jazzed my friends have a band called "CRUD" right now. Anyway, don't get me wrong: a bunch of weirdos in kabuki makeup singing about, you know...rockin, probably freaked out some 70's parents, but no way was this band really in league with satan.

Dylan Chadwick is a rock writer who tweets and Instagrams at @drugdogs. He snuck out with a friend in 2001 to see KISS and Ted Nugent at the Kentucky State Fair where he saw the Nuge shoot his guitar with a bow and arrow. 
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