Taking My Viewing to South Beach: Miami Vice With New Eyes

Taking My Viewing to South Beach: Miami Vice With New Eyes

There has been a massive Miami Vice shaped hole in my cultural knowledge. This was not and is not a conscious decision on my part. My father, I recall, watched the show during its run. He wasn’t a devoted follower of the series, but I can distinctly recall snippets of episodes and that iconic opening from my childhood wanderings down the hall to our living room. One in particular, an episode with Sheena Easton, is in my mind’s eye. It’s nothing seared in my memory or anything like that, but the memory of watching that one episode is there.  Maybe it’s because I always confused (and still confuse) Sheena Easton with Sheila E, even though they’re nothing alike. Sheila E, as it turns out, is way cooler than Sheena Easton, but she was never on Miami Vice. But I never revisited the show to see what the big deal was as I have with so many others. It’s not that I dislike cop shows or crime dramas; I’m not particularly drawn to them, mind you, but I enjoy enough of them that Miami Vice doesn’t repel me or anything. The show just never did it for me. As a kid, it was like watching people my dad’s age try to be cool. My dad is cool, but he wasn’t so cool in 1985 to eight year old Ian; the thought of watching guys my dad’s age wearing suit jackets with t-shirts while living on boats in Miami to New Wave soundtracks just didn’t appeal to me much at the time. Grody to the max. As an adult, the whole thing...
Game Chef Review #4 – Beacon of Hope by Shari Corey

Game Chef Review #4 – Beacon of Hope by Shari Corey

My last game review due for Game Chef, Shari Corey’s Beacon of Hope, is a nice little bit of awesome which combines the End of the World, Navaho myth, time travel, and Lady Blackbird. Given my fondness for John Harper’s tightly designed wondergame, it’s no surprise that I find Beacon of Hope’s mechanics enticing – what really grabbed me, though, were the slight changes made to the system to steer it toward one-shot play – namely the addition of an endgame mechanic leading to a showdown with the PC’s nemesis, Coyote the Trickster. It’s 2012 (yeah, I know the calendar says 2012, I’m talking about in-game) and the world is about to end, just like the Mayans said it would. Following Native American folklore, the Chosen are being gathered at a focal point called the Beacon of Light to be ushered into the next world. But there’s a hitch –  Coyote has sabotaged the Beacon of Hope as a means to test whether humanity is worth of passing into the next world. Grandmother Spider enlists the aid of six people to help fix the beacon: a reporter, a hippie, a businessman, a supernatural investigator, a tribal elder, and a veteran soldier. The task isn’t as simple as you’d think – the group has to travel through time to undo damage caused by Coyote in each time period. Once they’ve done so, a final confrontation with Coyote occurs to determine the fate of humankind. If the PC’s win, humanity passes into the Fourth World. If they fail? Well, let’s just say you won’t have to worry about the interest rate...
DVD Review: The King and the Clown

DVD Review: The King and the Clown

The King and the Clown bears a strong resemblance to the Hong Kong movie Farewell, My Concubine. Both feature a pair of performers, one of whom always plays female roles. Each of the more feminine men is gay and in love with his partner. In both films the performers are threatened with destruction by powers far beyond their control. But in Concubine the menace is the Communist government’s Cultural Revolution; in Clown it is a traumatized, maddened king. Gong-gil and Jang-saeng are 15th-century street performers. Gong-gil’s feminine beauty dictates that he plays women’s roles, and the troupe’s manager often pimps him out to rich audience members. This infuriates Jang-saeng. Eventually things come to a head; in the resulting confrontation the manager is killed. Gong-gil and Jang-saeng flee to Seoul, where they join up with other street performers and create a new troupe. The ruler of Korea is the cruel, tyrannical Yeonsan, and when the troupe puts on a play mocking him and his favorite consort, Nok-su, they find themselves swiftly arrested. Jang-saeng manages to get the troupe an audience with the king; if their skit makes him laugh, he reasons, then they’ll be allowed to live. It works, and the performers become King Yeonsan’s personal entertainers, put up in the palace itself. Yeonsan is especially interested in Gong-gil, and often calls him to his chambers, to the dismay of Jang-saeng. But Yeonsan seems almost as enamored the troupe’s art as he is in Gong-gil; instead of buggering him silly, as one (well, I, because my mind is filthy) might expect, instead he asks Gong-gil to teach him the art...
DVD Review: Ju-on (The Grudge)

DVD Review: Ju-on (The Grudge)

POP! Goes the Dead Kid I’ve seen nearly all the famous Asian horror films. And by ‘famous’, I mean the ones that Hollywood tried to remake: The Eye, The Ring, A Tale of Two Sisters, Pulse, Dark Water. There was just one I’d missed: Ju-on, aka The Grudge. That’s been rectified. The movie begins, as all good movies do, with a murder. More than one murder, actually. We don’t know who or why, but you do know where- so it’s hardly a surprise when Social Welfare Office volunteer Rika shows up on the doorway of the House’o’Murders to check up on the joint’s inhabitant, a really old lady who has let the place go to hell. Like all the idiots in Pulse, when Rika finds a door that’s sealed shut with packing tape, she just has to open it. She finds a cat. Oh, and a little dead ghost kid. The film then jumps to some unspecified time (but the same bat-location), when the old lady’s son and daughter-in-law are complaining to each other about the mess and ruckus the old lady’s making at night. The daughter-in-law, Kazumi, finally seems to get a clue when little-dead-ghost-kid handprints show up on the doors, and a random cat appears in the house. The son (who has a truly wretched haircut) comes home from work to find his wife all comatose with terror, just before she becomes an ex-parrot. Then Kazumi’s sister comes over for dinner, barges in without knocking, and is promptly treated to the son acting fucking crazy. He kicks her out. Then we get the sister’s POV- she’s called...
February Review Blitz: The Crazed

February Review Blitz: The Crazed

Ha Jin is one of those writers; the guy you love or hate. You’ll find his stories, all set in Communist China, to be either utterly fascinating or completely boring. I’d already read Waiting and War Trash when I started The Crazed; based on my experience, I’d have to say The Crazed is not a good Jin novel to start out with, but if you’re already familiar with his work, it’s thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking. Jian Wan is a graduate student of classical literature at a small Chinese university in the 1980’s. His teacher/advisor, Mr. Yang, has been felled by a stroke, and the Communist party official in charge of his department has decreed that Jian is to sit with his teacher every afternoon, because there are only enough nurses at the hospital to look after Mr. Yang at night. Jian doesn’t mind, at first- Mr. Yang is not only a beloved and respected teacher, but also Jian’s future father-in-law. But Mr. Yang’s stroke has completely changed the strict but encouraging teacher. Much of the time he is utterly loony tunes, his brain sometimes in the present but more often in the past, reliving his life: from his ravings and snatches of relived conversation, Jian learns of Mr. Yang’s life as an intellectual, a father and a husband. During the Cultural Revolution he was humiliated, beaten and eventually sent to a labor camp; since then, he’s become a respected scholar of poetry. But his ranting shows Jian that Mr. Yang is not content with his lot, with his career, with what’s become of his country. Jian learns of marital...
February Review Blitz: Nightmare Inspector

February Review Blitz: Nightmare Inspector

Nightmare Inspector wants to be The Twilight Zone so badly that it hurts. It also wants to be Pet Shop of Horrors. It’s a noble effort and it’s an entertaining little series, but it’s simply not as good as what it aspires to be. The setting is the Silver Star Teahouse in pre-WWII Japan, in the 1920’s (the setting might be confusing to some, but one story mentions the Great Kanto Earthquake as happening a few years previous, so there you are). The proprietors of the teahouse are a young woman named Mizuki, and the baku (a spirit that devours dreams) named Hiruko. Baku are traditionally depicted as looking like tapirs, but this one looks like a regular guy- well, as regular as any manga character looks. After all, if he was a tapir he couldn’t be dressed in a ridiculous ensemble dripping with buckles, right? The Teahouse for some reason serves mainly coffee, but no one comes there for hot beverages anyway, so whatever. They come to see Hiruko, to ask him if he can help them get rid of their nightmares. He usually does, and the only payment he asks is to eat the nightmare afterwards, so it’s a pretty sweet deal. Each chapter is a story revolving around a new customer, and with few exceptions the stories are only a chapter long. In volume 1, the clients include a servant who dreams of his mistress’ death, a man so obsessed with a popular actress that he can’t bear seeing her character die in her latest movie, a girl who’s sick of her daily routine, and a...