Thursday, March 7, 2013


I am 8000 days old now

So here is some lists.

Usually when I do "list-spam" sorta posts like this I include a lot of lists or a lot of items per list but this time I am doing neither. Instead I will include short write ups that say basically nothing. Worst of all worlds!

Top 8 Websites

8. Smogon (launched 2004)
This is a competitive Pokemon site. I've never been too active there but I love to lurk. These guys are more hardcore into Pokemon than most places are hardcore into anything, and unlike, say, Smashboards, most of the really quality analysis (and argument!) are right out in the public. Want to read a 4000 word essay on the merits of including Salamence in a given metagame ruleset? Want to read a 8000 word rebuttal? Go here.

7. TASVideos (launched 2003)
Same deal with TASVideos: these guys know their stuff. For many popular games, there's hundreds and hundreds of threads with just indepth analysis and discovery. You can read the history of breaking Ocarina of Time down from 4+ hours to under 20 minutes. History coming ALIVE!

6. GameFAQs (launched 1995)
And for every other game, there's GameFAQs. The amount of research put into the content on this site is staggering. The idea of (albeit poorly archived) discussions of games going back to the 90s is amazing, and many of these communities stay active for years after most discussion on the game dries up.

5. reddit (launched 2005)
reddit is a horrible site in many ways but was designed in such a way that cancerous material can be dissected. The user created- and moderated-subreddit system is glorious in that it facilitates /r/spikes when /r/magictcg gets too spammy, it facilitates /r/truegaming when /r/gaming gets too dumb, and it facilitates /r/comeonandslam when someone has the greatest idea ever known to man.

4. (launched 2007)
There is simply no better way to discover music today. In fact, I'd almost call this the best content discovery site on the internet today, largely by the virtue of also being able to actually get at the content, not just discover it. It really is an Alice in Wonderland sorta thing. If you like music and you want more music that you'll probably like, the rabbit hole is basically infinite.

3. YouTube (launched 2005)
This is the sort of thing that early internet pioneers were too scared to even dream of. I'd quote some figure about how many hours of content are uploaded per second but by the time I did it would be hilariously out of date. You can watch anything here.
2. outsider (launched 2006)
This is a dumb forum that spun off of another dumb forum and now it refuses to die and I refuse to leave.
1. 4chan (launched 2003)
This is basically the same as previous, but with more activity.

Top 8 Video Games
8. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (1995)
I replayed this a bit ago and I realized it is straight up the best platformer I've ever played. It's so nontraditional and yet everything makes so much sense with it. It's complex without ever feeling complicated. And, most importantly, absolutely everything is just a whole lot of fun.
7. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
There's really nothing more that can be said about this game, it's OoT! It's probably the best loved game in history at this point. It's almost 15 years later and parts of it still never fall short of absolute awe.
6. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (2000)
This is a stranger beast than the previous game and I think people have yet to give it it's proper due. Yeah, it has some genius design and the gameplay is some of the most thrilling and varied in a Zelda game, but what really makes it so memorable for me is the atmosphere. The dread of Termania is simply unmatched in the medium - never has a video game produced such a haunting aesthetic.
5. In the Groove 2 (r21 - 2006)
This is a game where you stomp on arrows in rhythm to a song. The important thing to note is that you can add your own songs in this one. That's huge. This is the game I play most frequently these days and I don't expect that to change anytime soon.
4. Mother 3 (2006)
People might crucify me for saying this, but I always thought of Mother 3 as being a lot like a Wes Anderson film. Warm, funny, heartrated, all that good stuff. And the soundtrack! And the lovely visuals! And even the gameplay is a lot of fun, as strategy becomes interesting without being headachy and the combo system keeping you involved. I dunno what the Wes Anderson analogy does there though.
3. Tetris (1984)
Here I'm obviously not talking just about the Soviet-era PC original but a mixture of some later versions - Tetris Party Deluxe for the DS, Nullpomino, Cultris II and TGM 3 probably being my "desert island" Tetris selection at the moment. This is a perfect game. Playing it is the endlessly-engrossing process of discovering perfection in yourself.
2. Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001)
More than even a game, Melee is a real fundamental part of who I am as a person today. Seriously, 90% of the people I interact with on a daily basis these days have come into my life in some part due to this game. And I still play the game itself, of course. I'm not sure if that will ever end.
1. Project M (2.5b - 2013)
But, if it will, it will probably be because of this. Melee 2 is really what this is. Already I find it more fun than Melee just by the virtue of MORE CHARACTERS. Do you know how exciting it is to have this game you absolutely love for over a decade, and then, BOOM, there's MORE CHARACTERS? I can't even come up with an analogy for how exciting it is. Oh and plus the whole idea of it being fan made and fan supported and indefinitely updating etc etc.

Top 8 Films

8. Rushmore by Wes Anderson (1998)
There's gonna be a whole lot of Wes Anderson on this list. This one is good because there's a lot of Bill Murray, and the jokes are all funny, and there's a sense of like... culmination in chaos that I love in comedy movies. Surprisingly screwball at times, which is what keeps it so fun.
7. The Royal Tenenbaums by Wes Anderson (2001)
This is more depressing/haunting etc but still a whole lot of good laughs. The "Needle in the Hay" scene stands for me as one of the most emotionally devastating things I've ever seen in film; I'm sure anyone who has seen the movie will know what I'm talking about, and will never ever forget it.
6. Smultronstället by Ingmar Bergman (1957)
One of Bergman's more lighthearted and happy films. It has a heart like no other. It is nostalgic and beautiful and thoughtful and smart, but more than anything, there is just such a warm kindness to it that will stay with you forever.
5. 8 1/2 by Federico Fellini (1963)
8 1/2 is amazing because it is among the most artistic films I have ever seen and yet it's one of the most fun and spectacular times you can have watching a movie. It tackles hefty subjects and themes with a charming irreverence. There's a sympathy you get with the whole cast and the way you get caught up in the tempo... it's practically Joycean!
4. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb by Stanley Kubrick (1963)
Dr. Strangelove has everything I look for in a comedy, and many things I look for in more serious genres too.  I love the way scenes situate themselves right on the line between hilarious absurdity and often sobering poignancy. They situate themselves on that line and straight up Tony Hawk Pro Skater grind it.
3. Persona by Ingmar Bergman (1966)
What can be said about this movie? Like... many books worth of stuff. Bergman is an amazing director and this is him going gloves-off all out sorta thing. The result is spectacular and haunting. Something that lingers implacable in your head, daring you to revisit it.
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick (1968)
Do you ever think about the absolute awe and wonder that the film goers of the 1890s must have felt? The pictures were coming alive! Filmgoers of the 1960s had the same experience when they saw this. And even now, a decade after the titular year, you can look here to get a pure, unadulterated rush of the future coming on. This probably has the most gracefully aged special effects ever. The cinematography is like... dimensionally unprecedented. And the plot is mysterious, thought-provoking, even vaguely sacred. It has everything and more.
1. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou by Wes Anderson (2004)
This has to be number one, though. Aside from like... childhood endurance marathons of The Land Before Time etc this is definitely the film I've seen the most times. It has become so familiar that it's become a comfort almost totally abstracted from the content of the film.

Top 8 TV Shows
8. Trailer Park Boys (2001-2008)
Yeah, the last season was sorta rocky, and the movies haven't been all that great (except the first one that predates the series - everyone should check that out, by the way) but this show has produced a hell of a lot of good stuff. Probably the show with the "zaniest" premise that's still produced some of the most well-rounded, sympathetic characters on television.
7. Extras (2005-2007)
Hands down some of the most funny TV you'll ever see. The biggest innovation in celebrity guest appearances since The Simpsons. Yeah sure it's more bitter than The Office, but it still had a heart. The ending of the Christmas special is one of the most brutal condemning of popular culture I've ever seen. As more of an indifferent cultural nihilist, it didn't really inspire me to revolution or anything, but dang.
6. Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-)
Basically you take Seinfeld and get a lot more freedom in every sense and remove all the cast besides Costanza. Curb has plumbed the depths of human interaction like no other. And, true to the Seinfeld principle of "no hugging, no learning", there's no dead time here. Just cringing and laughing.
5. Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! (2007-2010)
I don't think any TV show has ever made me laugh harder than this. Some people give a compromised response of "it's hit and miss, some skits I like, some I don't", but forget that, this is just killer stuff from beginning to end. How amazing is it that a comedy show can run for 5 seasons and still be so unpredictable? How can you see an episode probably a dozen times and still get that pure surprise so essential to the best of comedy? Awesome!
4. The Wire (2002-2008)
This is the only "serious business" show on the list. I'm not really into dramatic TV in general. Breaking Bad is "too intense" for me. I like comforting and funny things. And yet I include this, because it feels wrong not to include something that is just so far and away the actual best TV show I've ever seen. This is probably the most straight-up praised piece of art in the last decade so I really don't need to restate anything. It deserves to be seen.
3. The Office (2001-2003)
I had a period in my life around 13-14 when I first got access to high speed internet and basically my whole understanding of art was just revolutionized. There wasn't a medium or genre that I didn't completely reevaluate during that first piracy rampage. The Office, which I likely pulled off some sort of "best TV shows" list, or maybe my dad recommended it or something, changed the way I think about humor/tragedy dynamics just as much as Vonnegut and Heller had at around the same time. Watching Tim pine over Dawn, at this, such an angsty stage of my life, was sincerely life changing.
2. Seinfeld (1989-1998)
This is, for me, THE sitcom. This is what all sitcoms aspire to and ape and etc. It had no unnecessary plot or emotions or premise. It was just comedic situations - what a concept! Endlessly rewatchable and so fundamental to our cultural understanding of comedy that it really cannot be skipped.
1. The Simpsons (1989-)
All that is true for The Simpsons, too, but it had something Seinfeld didn't - a heart. Ah, that's so cliche, painfully sentimental, yeah, so let's think about something people are apt to overlook: The Simpsons also provided, and this is a guarantee I can make, more laughs per episode in its "golden age" than basically any other comedy in the history of TV. It was just absolutely on point. Like when you think of The Simpsons you think about the ground it broke or general character tropes or something but try remembering specific jokes. Assuming you're some sort of fan (and who isn't, really), dozens and dozens will probably spring to mind with little provocation. The show was just super, super dense with funny things. I don't know how they did it.

Top 8 Anime

8. Sora no Woto (2010)
This is your military moeblobs, K-On! in the army sorta thing, right? Oh and SPOILER ALERT - it gets pretty intense near the end, with actual war and such after a dozen or so episodes about dicking around. The soundtrack is great and the characters are wonderful and all that stuff. It's an exceptional slice of life just for all that, yeah, but what makes it so memorable for me is the atmosphere of it. It was so subtly developed but became so rich anyways. Season 2 when?!??! (never...)
7. YuruYuri (2011-2012)
On the surface this really isn't different from a million other slice of life comedies about four girls doing nothing. Its big innovations were like... more nonstandard plot lines, less subtle yuri pandering and more humor about the despair of the characters? Nothing earth-shattering, and it was all just to facilitate the sort of pleasant and comforting feeling of watching a show like this. So why do I like it? The characters are moe, the soundtrack is fun, the animation is great... the same reason I like those million other shows, but even more.
6. Bakemonogatari (2009-)
Here of course I include Nisemonogatari and Nekomonogatari Kuro, and, hopefully, the animations of all the other volumes that Shaft has promised (probably fruitfully) to make (why didn't Kyoani make that promise with Haruhi?). The monogataris are great for their combination of stunning action, clever humor and and an endlessly compelling feeling of an envelope being pushed in a very engrossing direction. It's basically a harem show with the best protagonist ever, one of the most difficult "best girl" debates I've ever engaged in, and some actually serious and philosophically interesting issues.
5. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2006-2010)
A lot of that is true for Haruhi, too. Haruhi was an absolute revolution for me when I first saw it. It was the show that introduced moe to me. It suckered me in with its philosophy and science fiction! I was so weak... But what made a man out of me was the summer of Endless Eight. Watching the streams week to week, the sense of triumph when the loop was finally broken... it was a revolution yet again. Never before or since has something appealed to me in such a complex way in so many metalevels. And let's not even get into the movie!
4. Nichijou (2011)
Nichijou has a whole lot going for it. To start with, it's just about the funniest show, anime or otherwise, I've ever seen. This is a strong claim given my love for sitcoms evident in the previous TV list. But what really makes Nichijou great is all there in the title - the everyday life thing worked best when it wasn't like, ironic meta-discourse over something whacky, but in the segments like Love Like, or This Is What an Animal is Like, or those wonderful little between-scene shots of storefronts or traffic lights... And it also had the showdown atop the airship and the greatest chase scene animated outside of Redline!
3. Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-)
Evangelion is what anime was to me after it stopped being Dragon Ball Z. I leave the airdate unfinished because I subscribe to the (mostly validated) cult of believers in the like, grand unified canon of the show and the movies and the manga etc. And yeah how amazing is it that this show, coming up on it's 20th anniversary, still has such a mysterious and compelling overall plot? Well One Piece probably will too when it's that old but eh whatever. Evangelion is great anime, everyone knows that, etc, etc.
2. Hidamari Sketch (2007-)
Hidamari Sketch is a miracle of the universe. If you have ever felt sad, frustrated, lonely or mad, you can watch this show and you will feel better. This show is proof of... love.
1. Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011)

Madoka is THE miracle of the universe. Over those 12 episodes it went from an interesting Faustian sorta thing to the best magical girl show I'd seen to the best show I'd seen to one of the most emotionally moving things I'd ever seen ever. There are certain parts of the ending that will give me some of the most deep and legitimate chills of anything ever no matter what context I see them in.

Top 8 Manga

8. Berserk by Kentaro Miura (1990-)
Berserk has had probably more downs than ups in the last few years, most people would agree to that, sure, but after over 20 years the whole of the series is holding up amazingly well. And that Miura art! I go back and read the first chapter of the Fantasia arc again and again just to look at those drawings.
7. Girl Friends by Milk Morinaga (2006-2010)
In my mind this is the definitive yuri series. Yeah, it isn't perfect, the pacing's kinda wonky at times and the ending feels rushed, but it has great characters, lots of good laughs, and, the most important thing, the full exploration of a yuri relationship from their first interaction to full bloom, so to speak. Wonderful.
6. Saikyou Densetsu Kurosawa by Nobuyuki Fukumoto (2003-2006)
This is the epic struggle of humanity, of what it means to be an actual human being! I was going to include Kaiji or Akagi just for the sheer content and psychological depth, but Kurosawa's raw humanity is even better. Dostoyevsky would be proud! If you've ever felt like you could just be a better person in some sort of unspecific way, you probably just ought to try being more like Kurosawa.
5. Phoenix by Osamu Tezuka (1967-1988)
This is probably the greatest masterpiece of manga, tragically unfinished (oh, how often have I thought about what the ending might have been!) but still so substantial and complete. It covers a full spectrum between the hardest of sci fi and period drama with the mastery that only the God of Manga could provide.
4. Lone Wolf and Cub by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima (1970-1976)
The term epic was for awhile so thrown around that saying "the term epic is thrown around a lot these days" itself was becoming so thrown around that it... etc. But for all of that: this is a samurai epic. Perhaps the samurai epic. It is an amazing story, flawlessly told, and oh man, the ending, I will simply never forget that.
3. Yotsuba&! by Kiyohiko Azuma (2003-)
I like things that make me happy with a sort of... omnipotent, insurmountable efficiency. I simply cannot be unhappy while reading Yotsuba. It is just too powerful. I just wish the updates were like... way, way more frequent. Oh well.
2. Oyasumi Punpun by Inio Asano (2007-)
This is just the opposite. I simply cannot be happy while reading Punpun. The despair this series has evoked in me over the years... sheesh. I don't think I could handle it all at once. And there's still three more volumes! How could it get worse? Asano will find a way...
1. One Piece by Eiichiro Oda (1997-)

One Piece has this sort of all-powerful manipulation of feelings, too, but in many different directions over its 700 chapters and counting run. I've laughed and cried as hard as anything, but more than that is the indomitable, inspiring sense of ADVENTURE!

Top 8 Books

8. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1869)

Prince Myshkin is just about the best character that can ever be created in literature. He's admirable and you want to aspire to him without just blindly aping him. He's wise and amicable but flawed and naive. Not until Alyosha and perhaps never since have I felt such an appeal to a character. And oh man, the depth of philosophy explored here! The anecdote about the man being led to his execution, kissing the crucifix, it will haunt me forever.

7. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
This was the first "adult" book I ever read and it stuck with me to this day. It's hilarious, with the sort of episodic build up to chaos that I love in comedy. It also has that great juxtaposition of bleakness and madcapness, and oh man, I love any novel that really sets up like, a community sort of feeling with a lot of characters you really like. I liked everyone in this book! Even Milo! Maybe not Aarfy.

6. Dubliners by James Joyce (1914)

Every story in here has the sort of poignancy and insight that most writers would gladly aspire to for their entire career. And then there's The Dead, probably just the best short story ever written by anyone's opinion. Is that too much? Nah. Not for Joyce. There's uh gonna be more Joyce on this list, by the way, obviously. 

5. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (1996)

Infinite Jest has everything I was praising Catch-22 for except also way more. The sort of alternately funny/heartbreaking/provocative analysis that Catch-22 gave war dfw attempts to give everything from Quebec nationalism to addiction to tennis. It deserves far more than the reputation of "that really long book".
4. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (1916)
I feel like with this Joyce worked through a lot of personal things that will take the foreground of any attempt to write fiction, which is good. What's amazing is that he did it while still delivering something so beautifully flowing and yet intricately structured, so rich in ideas while still feeling very simple in its elegance. This novel still holds in my mind many of my definitive ideas about scholarly pursuits, religion, art, nationalism, etc, but Joyce always inspires ideas, never just spouts sermons.

3. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1880)
Some Vonnegut character in I think Slaughterhouse 5 says that all of humanity was contained in The Brothers Karamazov. It was the first time I had heard of it, and when I actually read it I found that not only was that true, but that there were dimensions of humanity that I had never previously considered or recognized. This and Cancer Ward (which just missed this list) were the first two Russian novels I had read and oh man, oh man.

2. Ulysses by James Joyce (1922)
This + Finnegans Wake (which someday I hope to understand enough to include in such a list) to me represent the greatest artistic achievement of human history. YEAH NO HYPERBOLE. Anyways I spent like three hours yesterday obsessing over the idea that, if Finnegans Wake is the dream of Leopold Bloom, that the scene in Nausicaa with Gerty is remembered by him in his dream as the incident at Phoenix Park. This is still an unformed idea and I need to draw up some sort of schema that relates the two. Dedalus being Shem/Shaun makes a lot of sense, though? My point though is that even after 90+ years, this book can still feel so fertile for thoughts, for inspiration.

1. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (1973)
It was only recently that I realized or decided or whatever that I liked GR better. Ulysses I can turn to anytime I want to think hard about books but Gravity's Rainbow I can turn to anytime at all. The comedy comes faster and easier and so does the beauty. It's complex enough to warrant serious thematic analysis but the real compelling things for me come from the unsolvable mysteries, the Kirghiz Lights, etc. Books that make me think about the books are great, but I like stuff that just makes me think, period.

Top 8 Albums

8. Feels by Animal Collective (2005)
AnCo really hit a sweet spot here between two types of experimentalism. They seem really comfortable on this album, they had nothing to prove and tons of great ideas. The variety here is really what makes it for me. This has some of their most frantic and fun stuff ("Grass"), some of the most lovely ("The Purple Bottle"), some of their most spacey ("Daffy Duck") and some of their most OH MY GOD HOW DOES MUSIC THIS GOOD GET MADE BY HUMANS?!??! ("Banshee Beat").

7. Finally We Are No One by múm (2002)
Probably the album I have fallen asleep the most to. For that alone I think it deserves some sort of placement. This album hits on a sort of aesthetic - it's like... whimsical and nostalgic, but with a underlying undeniable idea of it being fleeting, also sort of chaotic and innocent - I get it in things like Yume Nikki or Hidamari too. It's wonderful. I love the instrumentation and the vocals and the synth work, everything! And oh man, the final track, that is one of the most... just... indescribably good songs. Dang.

6. OK Computer by Radiohead (1997)
Before this I really didn't listen to much aside from like... dadrock. This completely changed my mind about what rock music was. I think that's probably true for a lot of people, though. Sometimes I think it's been so surpassed by HttT or In Rainbows or whatever that I ought not to include it, but then I hear the opening to Airbag again.

5. Laideronnette by Matryoshka (2012)
This was recent but it has shot right into my heart. This has most of the stuff I praised the mum album for but is like twenty times more dramatic. I am so, so, so excited about the future of this band. Seriously, listen to the start of "Noctambulist" and it's like, wow, this is mastery of emergent genres and all that. And then think about where they can go from there! Chills. Or something. Amazing.

4. 4 by Everything is Made in China (2006)
I talk about this every time I talk about this band but I think it bears repeating. This is a Russian band that sings in English. They make shoegazey postrocky sorta songs with strong piano parts and sentimental sort of lyrics that also hint at much larger themes. I found out about these guys when I was getting big into shoegaze, postrock, new sincerity, Russian literature and global politics (my "trying REALLY hard in high school to become cultured" phase). I thought I was dreaming. And when I listen to the album, even now, I feel like I'm dreaming. It's just so so good.

3. cLOUDDEAD by cLOUDDEAD (2001)
Most of the music on here has been like... more included because it's really beautiful in some way. Like, more for the sheer emotional reaction, versus some of my book choices which were more about the thematic implications and such. Well, this has both. Odd Nosdam's spacey dreamy "beats" snap the definition of the term and end up producing some of the flat out most interesting sounds I've heard in any genre. The rapping is just sonicly fascinating and always on point. But yeah what really sets this above is just how intriguing the lyrics are. What's going on here? Some sort of cohesive narrative, I'm sure, and a really good one it seems. Exploring the mysteries of it hasn't lost any allure in the years since I first heard this.

2. Ágætis byrjun by Sigur Rós (1999)

I think a lot of the times people - myself included - remember this album as more of a highlight reel: what comes to mind is "Staralfur", the title track, "Viorar...", "Olsen Olsen"... blame advertisers. It's more that those were just the ones that happen to get chosen. Literally any thirty seconds of this album would fuel a movie climax or artsy commercial or haunting end credits just just as well. It's all just ridiculously solid and varied and beautiful. Post rock has evolved in such a way that this now sounds almost like a parody of itself, like, so over the top beautiful that it's hard to take it seriously. So don't! It's really just the sort of thing that's too much to analyze or be cynical about, it defeats all of that. It's just amazing, it's just what it is. You have to just embrace it.

1. Kid A by Radiohead (2000)

I think as I've been going through and writing these descriptions they've been getting nonsensical or repetitive or something, I dunno, I'm not about to go fix them. Anyways this album here is what made me realize that art was something I wanted to get into, something I really enjoyed. And now I think it still stands as the clearest example in my mind of the power art can have on me. I can't give it any higher praise than that. I wish I could, but that will have to do.

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