Sunday, September 16, 2018

Event Review //
Retro World Expo 2018

09/08/18 //
Connecticut Convention Center // //

On Saturday, September 8th, 2018 Raised by Gypsies brought its gonzo journalism style to Retro World Expo in Hartford, CT.    My main plan was to follow Quentin around and try to experience the event through the eyes of a six year old while also taking in what I could on my level at the same time.   The event started at 10 am so of course we left around that time and didn't get in to get in line until about 10:30.   Shout out to the event person who gave me a confused look when I told him I was on the press list and he sent me to the Early Bird line because, hey, it was the shortest line and it got us in.

Outside the event but inside the building we saw a car themed around Jurassic Park which seemed to be the perfect way to start this off.   When I first read about RWX my first thoughts were "Video games!" but the more I read about it the more I realized it was so much more and I figured that out once we got inside and started walking around as well.   For months, I had promised I would buy Quentin plush toys of Mario and Luigi but we had to wait until RWX because I was sure we would find them there.   This turned out to be true and it was actually the first thing Quentin found.

At first I wasn't sure whether or not to make such a purchase right away because I even asked Quentin if he was okay with carrying them around the entire time, to which he said yes, but the seller was nice enough to give us a bag so they spent some time in there and other items we collected throughout the day made their way into the bag as well.  I did not really come prepared in that sense, but I did see people carrying around reusable bags and I have a bunch so I really thought that was a missed opportunity by me but something to put in my file for remembering for next time and just future events such as this in general.

Whenever there was a consule set up on a table with a controller set up for free play I noticed that Quentin would stop and play regardless of what the game was.  I did enjoy that sort of free spirit vibe he has of "See a video game, play it" as opposed to the thought of "I don't really care about that character so I won't play" or something.   There were quite a few things to do as well if you didn't want to spend money, but we ended up spending money, the second time being on this bead art that Quentin wanted because the characters he immediately saw were of Mario and Luigi.

Now, not only was this table giving away free Table Top pies, we were also told that the money spent on Mario and Luigi would go to help autism so that made feel even better about buying them.   They were also put on laynards, so Quentin then wore them throughout the rest of the day.   A booth was giving out these little plushies which are actually finger puppets for free with their business card so Quentin got one of those from a fish bowl when he was mesmerized by the jellyfish.   (Stopping to see the jellyfish became a routine every time we passed them)

One of my favorite parts of RWX was that it had a wide variety of items showcased that didn't just apply to video games.   There was art- whether you wanted a sketch, a print or one these really cool 3D shadow boxes of retro video games that we saw.   There was a booth set up based solely around Japanese culture and they had a lot of Pokemon stuff, while others had comic books and such related toys.   It was fun because at one point Quentin sat under a table and played with a toy of Yoda while I was digging through this box of random loose action figures which went from 1990's Marvel characters to wrestlers to some figures I couldn't even place, which is not something I can say a lot.

My theory about doing everything was not "Should we do this?" but rather "Let me ask Quentin if he wants to and then we will".   There were three special guests related to Mortal Kombat - Richard Divizio (Kano), Daniel Pesina (Johnny Cage) and Anthony Marquez (Kung Lao) - and I had this thought that if they would pose for a group photo with Quentin I would totally pay for it, rather than having three photos with each of them.   When I asked I was told yes and how much it would be and that was not a problem, though I must also admit I asked Quentin first if he wanted to and since he said yes that was why we did it.

I remember one of them (But I don't remember which one) asking who exactly the photo was going to be with- because it could have been any combination of Quentin and I- but when I said just Quentin they seemed more into it as well because some things are just more fun when you do them for the kids.   I'm not just saying this to say this- because I never feel like I need to do that- but Quentin has this way about not really smiling in pictures and also he tends to look off to the side.   This photo actually somehow became one of the single best photos he has ever taken and I couldn't be more proud of it.

Following Quentin we next made our way to a booth which had a game based around magnets.    The thing about this which really struck me was how much Quentin was into it.   He had picked up controllers and spent maybe five or ten minutes playing a video game and then moving on to the next one, but with these magnets we were there for a good half hour or so, both talking with the creator and playing the game itself.   At one point, I gave him my email address and it felt like "Ok, we've got the jist of this game and will be moving on now", but no, Quentin wanted to finish the game that we were playing before we left.

I will likely spread this more (maybe on a weekly basis even) but there is a Kickstarter up for it and even if you don't seem interested in the game (Though I admit it was a lot of fun to play, somewhat simple to learn the rules and it's small enough that you can take it with you anywhere) you should keep in mind that if you have kids, grandkids or know people with kids in general, this would make a great experience for them because if you gift it to them and then they go and play with their friends at school it will certainly catch on.   I know I'm going to try and get several for Christmas presents for kids I know.

We approached an area dedicated to table top games, mainly Dungeons and Dragons, and as Quentin was impressed by the various dice they had for sale a woman approached and asked us if we were into D&D but I told her no, Quentin just loved dice.   It's funny how now though Quentin loves dice and hopefully one day it can lead to him being more involved in games (like D&D) which he can use those dice in.    I don't know if I believe in gateway drugs, but I certainly believe in gateway games.

As we headed back around the other side of the convention we found Bob Backlund by himself so we stopped to talk with him.   We met Mr. Backlund a year and a half or two years ago at the Meriden Library where I purchased his book but was too ashamed to tell him when I talked with him this time that I haven't read it yet.   He had these really cool cardboard posters that made me feel like the days before everything was digital and I knew I needed one of them to grace my walls.   As I kind of suspected though, Mr. Backlund existed only on a cash basis so I had to find an ATM because of the $40 cash I had brought with me I was down to $10.

Mr. Backlund was nice enough to find an event staff member for us to then point us in the direction of an ATM.   We came back and there were a few people in line but we waited and got the poster signed, which was $20 but will pretty much stay on my walls forever so I feel as if that (and seeing Mr. Backlund again) is something you truly cannot put a price on.   I also should note I bought a Blu Ray for myself of the movie "Orgy of the Dead" and it was one of the only things I actually bought for myself.

At a table where you could sign up for a video game tournament, we were to approach them only because they had this small Mario set in front of some other things and Quentin wanted to point it out to me.   Quentin spent some time playing a Mario arcade game before he sat down at a table top deal (like they used to have in diners) to play Pong.   At first, we were just kind of watching but people around us started moving so the guy playing told Quentin to step on up so Quentin did.   To me, that was a really cool moment, seeing Quentin partake in something such as that.

Our final stop at RWX was to get a mystery box which Quentin had asked for at one point but because of the size of it I said we wouldn't get until the end so we weren't carrying it around the entire time.  Inside the mystery box was a custom made pillow for Game of Thrones, which I don't watch but is cool because the grey theme to it matches my couch, a plush Ms. Pac-Man, a light up 8bit Street Fighter Akuma, a plush Hoopa, a Destiny puzzle, a Spider-Man blind bag (Which turned out to be Doc Ock), a starter set for Magic The Gathering and a Mega Man air freshener.   I think we made more than our money back and Quentin was happy with everything we got.   Hopefully, he will use the cards to get into Magic one day.

Because I forgot about it until just now, it's also worth noting that I signed up for an email list and received a free copy of Old School Gamer magazine which came with a poster and was well worth the time and emails I have since received.   I wish I could've given everyone my email address but perhaps next year I will.   One thing I learned for people who attend with a "business" (whether you're an artist or just selling games, etc.) is that Quentin picked up business cards because he liked that Mario was on them.   So design special business cards for such events as this that children will grab and you'll likely gain more interest.

Going down the escalator on our way out some woman going up was staring at me.  I assumed it was because of the mass of merchandise we were carrying- Quentin with his Mario and Luigi plushies and giant mystery box (Which is great just for the box itself as well) and me with my bag full of stuff and Bob Backlund signed poster.   But the woman ended up saying "I know you, right?"  I said "Umm, I don't know.  Maybe?"   "You're Steve Wood, right?"   Seems telling her I am in fact *not* Steve Wood was a fitting way as any to end this day and journey.

Post: A week after Retro World Expo, I was talking with Quentin about it and he said he wanted to go again but he meant he wanted to go within the next few weeks.   I had to explain to him that it's only once a year but that we could definitely go back next year.

Cassette Review //
"Sustain / Sustain"

$5 //
Edition of 50 // //

Loud uplifting hue tones come blasting through.   This rings on in somewhat of waves but mostly it's just this solid glare.   It almost becomes a mantra at some point.    As it drowns out the next song begins with a slow rattling build.   There is a sense of urgency to this as it develops.   In some ways it does feel like a news story in the way that the television would be discussing "More details as they come in".    It glows even more as it reaches its end.   A softer yet somehow darker sound comes in next.   There are whirrs and other sounds breached within the static and it makes for something which could overall be considered eerie but yet is right on that cusp of being from space.

Notes come through now in a FNL way and the whooshes feel like cars passing by on a highway.   There is a desolate feeling to this, one where someone will begin speaking into a tape recorder soon about life and all of its ups and downs but mostly downs.  You know how people do that- when they start by saying something like "Life is full of ups and downs" and then they don't really mention a lot of the good points.  I feel like such a talk here would drift off into that nature more than being even.   Much louder ringing guitar chords come through now and it really feels as if we have embarked upon a new chapter.

A sense of pride now as this feels like the soundtrack to an independent movie but also with that ambient/post rock overall vibe as well.   One of the most valuable characteristics of the music of cinchel is that it can feel like drone on the surface but carry so much more meaning with it underneath that.    Then it begins to feel as if it is breaking down, as it all comes crashing down just as easily as it felt like we were floating along without a care in the world.    As it grows and rattles a little bit that hum brings not only that song but the side to an end. 

That glow returns to take over the flip side.   As this song goes on it only seems to grow with power.    There is at least one static screech and then it keeps its pace steady.    This maintains its sense of being one of the most consistent and uplifting drone pieces you shall ever hear.    It takes on this majestical side and then begins to sound as if the tape itself is failing in and out but I do believe it is just the transmission through the music.   This has been one long piece so far on Side B but it has been definitely worth listening to since it is both calming and exciting at the same time.

Cassette Review //
Kamyar Arsani & Benjamin Schurr
"Voices in the Dark"
(BLIGHT. Records)

$7 // //

A loud sense of percussion fills this first track with hypnotizing vocals and some sort of drone is hiding behind this as well.   This is very intense, the steel drum banging seems to set the tone where it could be tribal, but the singing and ringing behind it all makes me feel like we're watching something really serious happen or being put under a trance.     This kind of mellows out and then turns into a slower, building drone.   The vocals come in just as powerful as before and this has a haunted sense to it, and I don't just say that because of the title-- I really feel like you should play this one at night or at least in the dark somehow for full effect.

As the ringing blares through now and those steel drums persist, I've not heard anything quite like this before.   It seemingly breaks down into three elements, which on their own are impressive enough, but when forged together it's something that feels like a lot to experience all at once.   If you could isolate each element and really examine it I think you'd find a lot going on you couldn't hear as easily when these forces combine but at the same time, I think that's what makes them all so much stronger together and this is just something which commands to be heard.    If you walk by an open door with this sound coming out, you're going to stop and go inside.

On the flip side the percussion mixes with the vocals to really have much more of this chanting vibe to it which makes it feel much more tribal overall.    The vocals just seem to be pleading, begging almost, in the way which they are delivered and the passion put into it all is quite clear.    This is not something which you go to hear and experience in the sense that it is fun or to be taken lightly- it is deeply intense and I'd imagine if seen performed live would be a life changing experience as well. 

It winds down to slow, solo banging of the drums but then picks back up with a drum roll and then bells come tolling in.   If I had to compare this with something- and that's if I'm being forced because it is not easy for me to do so- I would put this with something close to Dead Western and the Dracula musical Jason Segal's character was writing in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall", both of which are amazing in their own ways, so to have those influences as being perhaps the only ones I can place here just makes this all that much better.   

I'm something like 87% certain you have not heard anything like this cassette before.   I'm 100% certain you will not hear anything quite like this ever again because even more songs by the same artists involved would have to be different.  Hearing this for the first time also has that experience where it won't feel the same when you hear more at a future time but it will still be one of the single most powerful forces you will ever experience in your lifetime.   This isn't so much music as it is just downright spiritual.   It is a movement.

Movie Review //
The Gore Gore Girls
(MVD Entertainment Group)

$34.95 // //

Back in the early 2000's I was on a quest to find the worst movies ever made.  To go with the MST3K theme, I found out about H.G. Lewis, as I feel most people who go down that rabbithole of "b-movies" tend to do.   This is not my first time viewing "The Gore Gore Girls" and I've seen quite a few movies by H.G. Lewis, but this is a nice piece of film history to be released on Blu-Ray.   I sometimes feel like movies get lost- they don't make it to DVD or they do and then now they don't make it to Blu-Ray and so words can't express how happy I am that "The Gore Gore Girls" is on Blu-Ray because it's one of the most essential b-movies I can think of and I've seen a lot of those types of movies in my life.

This plot revolves around women who are essentially strippers (or Go-Go Girls, get it?) and they one by one begin to slowly start getting murdered.   My favorite part of this movie has always been when one of the strippers realizes that the two or three women who were previously killed in a similar manner were her friends (fellow strippers) and she seems completely unaffected for it, whereas I'm thinking "Um, you should be scared though, right?"  Well, that and the butt mutilation scene.   I always found that to be particularly well done.

When watching b-movies one of the aspects of them I found so fascinating (and still do) is how they're made.   I've always felt like scary movies can't really be scary when you can look at the blood and think it resembles ketchup more than blood itself.   So when you see what are supposed to be body parts or guts and you can clearly identify them as something else-- I like seeing things that way.   I really like figuring out how things are made in general, but with movies, yeah, I love studying the effects in them and the movies of H.G. Lewis are a great place to do just that.  (Maybe also because at one point I wanted to make a film myself, but who knows)

If you're interested in filmmaking you should be finding out all that you can about H.G. Lewis and in that respect this Blu-Ray is great just for the extras.   Even if you've seen "The Gore Gore Girls" a thousand times before and own the DVD or whatever, you need to buy this Blu-Ray because of the special features.   The movie has audio commentary with H.G. Lewis himself and there is just a ton of other insight included about the making of the movie and just excellent filmmaking tips in general.    Also, there is a bonus H.G. Lewis movie included called "This Stuff'll Kill Ya!" and this just makes it all that much more perfect as these films seem to be best served as double features.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Music Review //
The Rabbitts
"Tall Pines & Tangled Vines" //

Music has that quality where it can make you feel emotions.   Sometimes, even if you're not angry you can put on an angry sounding song so that you can get energized.   Or maybe if you are angry putting on an angry album will help you work through that anger.  With the music of The Rabbitts, the general feeling I get from this is happiness.   It's a strange thing because I don't think people spend enough time being happy to realize it can get just as pumped as the angry songs and also help you work through the hard times.

While this can mainly be described as acoustic folk rock there are other levels to this.   On the surface it can sound like The Forecast (Who you may or may not remember) but maybe for those who listen to the radio it's a little bit closer to Of Monsters and Men, even though I don't listen to them other than the "hits" I hear here and there.   With a harmonica in place it can feel like Tom Petty or Neil Young but I just keep thinking of this as sounding like some great duo of the past.   Since I can't put my finger on which duo though (I think of She & Him and Johhny Cash & June Carter, which are both slightly accurate) I can only say that The Rabbitts have crafted a musical sound all their own.

What's interesting about this as well is that there are two members of The Rabbitts- Odhran and Lucy- and they share vocal duties throughout the songs.   When you listen to music with two vocalists they tend to either sing together (harmonize) or take turns.   With The Rabbitts though, the vocals seem to follow no real pattern from song to song, The Rabbitts once again making their own rules.   While they can trade off singing turns, sometimes it feels like they're singing in rounds and other times they sing together.   Sometimes though, when they're singing different things but at the same time is when I seem to like it most of all.

Going back to the idea of happiness with this album, there is a line in the song "Wild" which has stuck with me for some reason and it says that: "Happiness is only real when shared".   I never really thought about it before, but it has this philosophical sense to it where you have to imagine that you aren't really happy- you don't really know- unless you tell someone else.  I have very few people in my life, so I spend a lot of time by myself, but I at least tell one or two people, you know, "Oh yeah, I'm going to go home and watch this movie by myself" and that kind of confirms my happiness to them and to me.

At the same time I think that line stuck with me because it makes sense on two other somewhat related levels.   Firstly, it has that idea that if you're happy sometimes something as simple as smiling at someone can make them feel better, you know, you should share your happiness in that way-- pay it forward.    But perhaps the greatest meaning to it, which even I, the lonest of the loners will admit here and now in this review, is that, yes, happiness is only real when you are with someone else.   It could be friendship, family, whatever, but the people in our lives (Even if it's under five) are what makes the world go round.

"Swallows" is about rain and that feels fitting to me since it's been raining here a lot lately.   We've gone from 90 and hot to 60 and raining.   At times this reminds me of childrens music and not in a bad way.  It's something I'd play for a child because it's not something they'd be offended by, but it also just has that upbeat quality to it where you want your baby to be smiling and laughing.   But, it isn't like "childrens music" in the sense that I'd compare it with artists who are actually filed under that genre.   

On #MusicVideoMonday I shared a video for "Luna Lupe", which I would take to be the lead single off this album, and as such when that song comes around in that country/folk type of way, it makes you feel like you're home.   You know, it's not something everyone knows or gets to experience but when you are grown and move out of your parents house but then go back there, you know where the bathroom is, for example, without having to ask.   If you've heard "Luna Lupe" (and you should have by now) then "Tall Pines & Tangled Vines" will have that same instinctive happiness built into you. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Cassette Review //
Moon Balloon
"Country Songs"
(Wet Dream Records)

£5 //
Edition of 50 // //

While I really enjoy the name Moon Balloon (perhaps too much) I feel that the title of this one- "Country Songs"- can be misleading.  I like to think of it being more about songs representing a country rather than what people think of as "country music".   Mainly, it's important to note the confusion and say that this doesn't sound like Garth Brooks or whoever.    In fact, the first song "Times Have Changed" has a classic rock n roll sound to it like the James Gang.   It's higher pitched (more treble than bass) and has some funky riffs in it as well.   There is also just this absolute killer guitar solo.

"Time" is the second song and it closes out the first side as this is a total of four songs and two per side.    This song is slower like a dance number (maybe a little "Stairway to Heaven") but the tone of it all seems to also grow a little bit darker.   Clanky guitars take us through chords where I'm not sure if this is closer to something out of the era of The Beatles or perhaps a Rob Zombie movie.   I don't know why, but those soundtracks always have stuck with me and a certain era of classic rock for some reason (fairly unlike White Zombie in its sound)

On the flip side we open with guitar notes which remind me of Blink 182 for some reason and then the rock takes on a different feel.   There is a sense of almost country to this, but it feels more like... I don't want to say folk or Americana, but it just has this certain sound to it that is somewhere between Lucero and John Denver, but could easily have elements of some other artists in it depending upon your influences (I'd say CCR and/or John Cougar Mellencamp are up there)

Slower, acoustic guitars start the final track as if it is either a Beatles song or "Freebird".     There is just this soothing, psych rock sound to this song and that feels like the ideal way for this one to sort of just leave you in the dust.    At the end of the EP, if this was a concert, I'd just like to imagine the lights going black and when they quickly come back up a moment later the band has disappeared, out as quickly as they came in but leaving an everlasting impact behind.   

Music Review //
"Dry Your Tears" // // //

"Dry Your Tears" has this cool, kind of slick vibe to it which reminds me of what little I know about Tracy Chapman.   Musically, it also has that style of the Elle King song "Ex's & Oh's" or some sort of modern swing type music.   I heard this song recently within a television show or movie that I had to Google search to find out what it was and I don't remember anything else about it to go back now for reference but it has that secret spy sort of vibe to it-- that's my best way to describe it.   It just reminds me of a woman with a lot of tattoos and a certain style, like a pinup model-- not quite Amy Winehouse, not quite Marilyn Monroe, but somewhere in between.

The video for this song has a dark feel to it, which seems to fit the song nicely, and it features a girl running carelessly through a field, stepping into and getting her foot caught in a bear trap.    It appears as if LeeSun is singing to the girl, as her mother would have told her to dry her tears at probably around the same age.    The video continues as the lyrics do, which is fun because this particular song seems to tell a story with each verse.  It's this combination of telling a story from the past, teaching an important lesson and then just being a song as well which makes this all that vital to experience not just in audio but in the video as well.

For the first verse, LeeSun sings about her mother teaching her a lesson but then for the second verse it's about school and her teacher.   What you will notice in the video is that this young girl, as she goes into the second verse and is at school, still carries the bear trap on her foot from the first verse earlier in the video.   This is so important to me because people don't ever seem to realize or give enough credit to the fact that we never really get over our pain-- we never really rid ourselves of it; we carry it with us for the rest of our lives and just learn to live with it.   Most importantly though, that pain isn't always as easy to see as a bear trap, so I do enjoy this visual a great deal.   

One of the most important lines in this song- I believe- is "The pain will end / You will come through with new found strength".   Too often in life (and we all need to remember this, perhaps me most of all) we go through thinking and really only focusing on the bad times.   We think every time we're down that is where we will always stay.   For me, this song is something that I've kind of imbedded into my brain and wish more people would too because I've learned in life that you can't stay down forever.

And more importantly, perhaps, than knowing things will eventually get better is knowing that your hard times, your suffering, is for a reason.   If you went through the world without any pain, without knowing real trouble, for say, twenty years even by the time something bad did happen (And just as we cannot be sad all the time, we cannot be happy all the time either) I don't know how easy it would be to process it for someone.   Going through life's troubles makes you tougher, it builds character and sometimes when it feels like you hit bottom you just have to remember there is no place left to go but up.