15 February 2011

My 100 Things List Blares Its Air Horn, Rolls On

I was trying to write something this morning, but couldn't get anything going, so I decided to change my pants, see if that might shake anything loose. Change your pants, change the way you look at the world. At least that's what I always say.

The days seem to pass so quickly and painlessly right now that I often wonder where they're going. I wake up in the mornings, drink coffee--one cup, black as a Castlevanian sky--spend a not-unpleasant hour or two at my desk either fooling with crossword puzzles or trying to write something coherent, and occasionally changing pants.

Then I walk to the studio, passing through what have to be Vancouver's least-desirable neighborhoods just east of Gastown where scenes of wrack and ruin occur on a 24-hour basis. True story: Once, while taking a cab to the office, I spotted a woman walking along Hastings Street who was wearing no pants. When you find yourself walking along Hastings without pants, or underpants, or shoes, something has gone wrong for you and your day. The train has clearly left the tracks at some point.

Another true story: Once, while walking along Cordova on my way to work, I spotted what appeared to be a drug deal happening. (I've seen every episode of The Wire, so I know a drug deal when I see one; thank you David Simon.) One of the participants paused, mid-deal, lowered his hoodie, looked at me and said--no kidding--"Hey, Reviews on the Run, I love that show!"

I picked up the pace and hustled away from the guy and his crime-in-progress, while saying what I almost always say when people recognize me: "Thanks for watching!"

Once I arrive at the studio, I usually have a couple of quick meetings with the show's producer, Rob Koval, while stripping down to my underwear before getting into my suit. It's a bit strange how comfortable Vic and I have become with undressing around one another and other people. Colleagues roam in and out, delivering mail and scripts and games, etc. and I'm standing there in my old, moth-eaten Fruit of the Looms (I can't seem to throw out old underwear for some inexplicable reason). Whatever self-consciousness I might have felt when we first started changing into suits at the office has packed its bags, moved to a nearby town, and left no forwarding address.

Then we shoot the studio portion of the show for a few hours, goofing around with our steady-camera guy and the producer. Then more meetings. Then lunch. Then we shoot the outdoor portions/reviews segments in some picturesque and inevitably rain-soaked location around downtown Vancouver. Then I try to get in a quick gym visit in the late afternoon, eat a decent meal--it's not easy to cook for one, though I manage--pay attention to the cats for 10-15 minutes. Then I game for an hour or two (or three, depending on how good said game is), maybe watch an episode of Dexter or Breaking Bad or something of quality. Then I read for awhile. And that's it. Boom, day over.

Mondays morph into Fridays at an almost alarming rate. Of course, there is some variation on occasion. Last week, for example, we carpooled to the Nintendo offices here in Vancouver and spent an hour fooling with the 3DS. In the last week alone, I've seen the following movies: The King's Speech, I Am Number Four, Cedar Rapids, Beastly, Unknown, and Drive Angry 3-D. Vic and I also find time to make regular appearances on other TV shows like this one.

There's always some place to be, something to do, something to consume. And next week, we fly down to San Francisco for the annual Game Developers Conference at the Moscone Center. That means airports, hotels, and more on the road-style surreal moments.

If I'm feeling a bit more chipper than I have lately, credit my on-going 100 Things That I Just Love project. Or maybe it's the pair of pants I changed into at the start of this post. Either way, here are some more things that I just love.

69. Miller's Crossing. The Coen Brothers best movie by a long shot.
68. Women, by Charles Bukowski. You will never read anything funnier or more offensive, or more unapologetically raw than this book.
67. Ham On Rye, by Charles Bukowski. A painful coming-of-age story. Makes for a great companion piece with This Boy's Life.
66. Born Into This, a terrific film by John Dullaghan about Bukowski. [And that brings us to the end of the Charles Bukowski section of the list. I promise.]
65. "My Life Is Sweet," by Simon Joyner. Seven minutes and 16 seconds of pure amazing.
64. Moon, Duncan Jones's excellent sci-fi film. I only saw this once--in a theater last year--but I can still recall the entire film, moment for moment. Now that's power.
63. Judd Apatow's The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which had the soothing effect of making me feel a whole lot better about my life.
62. The $8.95 Indian buffet at the Jackson Diner on 74th Street in Queens. (Take the F or the E train to Roosevelt Avenue. If you're in midtown Manhattan, you can be there in less than 15 minutes. It's worth the trip, trust me. Go. Go now.) (And if it's too busy, try the Taj Mahal, which is only a few doors down, and lacks the decor of the Jackson Diner, but the food is as-good, if not better.) (Also: Farts are guaranteed.)
61. 2004's Ninja Gaiden, from Team Ninja, for the Xbox. It's seven years old, which is about 4,152 in videogame years, but it still stands tall as one of the best action games I have ever played. Even as I type this, I want to go play it.
60. Hoop Dreams, Steve James's great 1994 documentary about a pair of Chicago area basketball prospects, is, like all great documentaries, about far more than that.

59. Friday Night Lights TV series, in its entirety.
58. "The Pine Barrens" episode from season 3 of The Sopranos.
57. Lynda Barry's entire body of work. There's a reason Matt Groening perpetually refers to her as "Funk Queen of the Galaxy." Read her books and you'll understand why.
56. 2007's BioShock. Old time-y music playing in a life size underwater fish tank = Pure magic.
55. Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings, in its entirety. Think the third movie was too long? Fuck you. I spent the duration of it all sobbing like a baby into my (empty) bag of popcorn.
54. 1991's The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES era).
53. Eating a hot dog in New York's Central Park next to the ice skating rink while snow is falling. Note: These are the only conditions under which I will agree to actually consume a hot dog.
52. "33," the best episode in the Battlestar Galactica series.
51. Warren Zevon's "Tenderness on the Block" from the 1978 album Lawyers, Guns and Money.
50. Waking up in the early morning, before anyone else is awake, and sitting at my desk in the dark with coffee, and realizing that the entire day is before me, and that something good might happen.

49. "Brownsville Girl," by Bob Dylan (from Knocked Out Loaded). All 13 glorious minutes of it.
48. Step Brothers. Adam McKay's best film so far.
47. "College," from season one of The Sopranos.
46. The great true crime documentary produced by HBO: Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills.
45. The terrific follow-up to Paradise Lost, Paradise Lost 2: Revelations. See both movies this weekend. (They're available on DVD.) Trust me, your head will be blown clean off.
44. Undeclared, Judd Apatow's short-lived follow up to Freaks and Geeks. 17 short, sweet episodes of glory. Yes, it died an early death. Yes, it's on DVD.
43. The Godfather trilogy, in its entirety. (Yes, I don't mind number three.)
42. The Office, BBC version, in its entirety.
41. David Garza's great song, "Disco Ball World," which my friend John Galvin claims should be included on every mix disc ever made. (He is correct.) (As usual.)
40. Rome. The HBO show. In its entirety.

[Here are the first and second sections of the 100 list, in case you missed them the first time around. I'll post the final portion ASAP. Stay tuned, wonderful people.]

04 February 2011

100 Things That I Just Love So Much Pt. 2

The overall mood here at the The Jones Report offices (current number of employees: three, counting the two cats WHO ARE USELESS BY THE WAY) has improved remarkably since I touched the bottom of the proverbial pool in January. For readers who expressed their concern over my dark mood, 1. thank you, that's very sweet of you, and 2. dark moods are a part of life--well, my life, anyway--and I don't necessarily fear them, or loathe them entirely. They are what they are, nothing more.

But I do firmly believe that when you are in a dark place, down at the bottom of the old pool, it's your responsibility to figure out how to get back to the surface.

So, when the Global Game Jam organizers asked me to come out and talk to the Game Jam participants last week at the British Columbia Institute of Technology on either Friday night or Sunday night (my choice), I responded by saying: "Hey, Game Jam Organizers, let me completely blow your minds AND COME OUT BOTH NIGHTS."

It turned out to be a terrific idea, too. A bunch of people were split into teams, then challenged to make a game, or some semblance of a game, in 48 hours. There were many high points, as well as many fine people to converse with. The sole low point came during my "talk" on Friday evening. I took the microphone, not realizing that the event's organizers expected me to expertly expound on a topic. Instead, what I did was ramble on like I'd recently endured a severe head trauma, with my only strategy being this: the less I had to say, the louder I'd go ahead and say it.

Finally, looking out over a room full of Game Jammers anxious to start coding and "jamming" and doing what Game Jammers do, I said, in the loudest voice possible: "OK, SO WHO HERE WATCHES THE SHOW?" Referring, of course, to Reviews on the Run, the show that I host with Victor, and which airs on CityTV across Canada at least 97 times a day.

It's the dead of winter here in British Columbia, with temperatures hovering around the 0 degrees celsius, so it is far too cold for crickets to be alive this time of year. But in that moment, looking out across that vast, suddenly silent room of people, I'd swear I heard one. Or two.

Chirp. Chirp.

Apparently, no one watches the show, or, if they do watch it, they were not willing to admit to it in a public forum.

The opportunity to listen to a man speak IN A LOUD VOICE on nothing in particular for 10 or possibly even 11 minutes was probably not the dual lightning bolts of energy and personality--shazam, energy! shazam, personality!--that the Game Jam's organizers were looking for to launch the event. (Colin, my camera man for the evening informed me afterward that it did seem as if I was "grasping around" during my loud speech-talk. He actually used the word "grasping around," which makes me think now that I delivered the oratorial equivalent of someone spending 10-11 minutes searching for a lost contact lens.)

Anyway, the Game Jam was a ball. And the "jammers" made some incredibly cool stuff in the 48 hour time frame. This game, called Dino Fling, was my favorite. Did they make that in 48 hours from scratch? ANSWER: THEY DID.

But the rain returned to metro Vancouver this morning, and it appears to be dropping anchor in the city for the foreseeable future. Which brings me back to my 100-Things project.

To re-cap: A few weeks back, while feeling particularly low, I started an endeavor I'm calling the 100 Things That I Just Love So Much project. (You can read the first installment here.)

And so, it continues.

90. Resident Evil 4 - Shinji Mikami's 2005 masterpiece. I've finished it at least five times.
89. "Game of Pricks" by Guided By Voices; possibly the most exhilarating 1:33 of music ever.
88. Jesus's Son - Denis Johnson's short story collection
87. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters - Seth Gordon's terrific documentary
86. A medium-rare filet and a Pilsner at Keens Steak House on 36th Street in Manhattan. Sit at the bar at around three in the afternoon. The universe will suddenly make sense in this moment.
85. Eastbound and Down on DVD - Watch the show, then watch the 13:05 extra titled "All The Times Someone Fucked Up." You will be happy. Very, very happy.
84. The NY Times Crossword puzzle (Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays only) (I'm not sharp enough to handle the rest of the week.)
83. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot. If you memorize only one poem in your life, make it this one.
82. Super Nintendo - circa 1991
81. David Simon's The Wire, in its entirety.

80. The Quitter by Harvey Pekar.
79. My DVD box set of the original Star Wars trilogy, signed by George, that says, "Scott, Find a way to tell your story."
78. American Movie - Chris Smith's superb 1999 documentary about one man's quest to make a horror movie.
77. Track 14, titled "Peanut Brittle" off the Paul F. Tompkins album, Impersonal. You. Will. Laugh. Trust me.
76. Hearing Jenny Lewis sing the word "fuck." Examples: "A Better Son/Daughter" by Rilo Kiley/Jenny Lewis; "Spectacular Views" by Rilo Kiley/Jenny Lewis. Seriously, hearing her say "fuck" can turn a whole day around.
75. Shadow of Rome (PS2) - Motohide Eschiro's effort is one of the best games no one has ever played. So, you know, sad face.
74. Fieldrunners for the iPhone. So long, downtime! Hardly knew you!
73. "The Pugilist At Rest" by Thom Jones. I re-read this short story at least once a year.
72. Any album by the now deceased comedian Mitch Hedberg.
71. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. One of maybe five books that I've read compulsively in my life.
70. 1999's The Matrix by the Wachowski Brothers. Only referring to the original here. The sequels were horse shit. Confession, the ending of this movie, when Neo realizes his potential, this moment of personal reckoning, always makes my eyes a little moist.

[I'll keep posting in the coming days. And if you've got your own 100 TIJL lists, I'd be interested in seeing them. Link to them in the comments below.]