Hey everyone, so in addition to doing writing and other things, sometimes I write songs. I’ve been sitting on this one for a little while because it’s a little rough and it’s a song about emotions and shit, which is not what I normally do, but I figured “why not? I’m sure the internet will be forgiving.” So I’m putting it out there. Enjoy or don’t, either way is cool with me! Thanks byeeee
Hey, so I write for Cracked.com sometimes. Occasionally, I’ll come across an obscure story that doesn’t quite fit into a particular article I’m working on, but it will strike me as particularly interesting. Since stories like these often can’t be found anywhere but the shady recesses of the internet, I figured it would be worth it to take a few minutes to put the story out there where more people might be able to appreciate it.
M*A*S*H is well-known for spawning one of the most successful shows in TV history, but before it was beaming into your grandparents’ impossibly small and low-res TVs, it was a hugely successful and critically acclaimed war film. M*A*S*H the movie has pretty much everything censors and studio executives were afraid of at the time: excessive violence, subversive anti-war themes, nudity, and the first ever use of the word “fuck” in a studio film.
Keep in mind, M*A*S*H was released in 1970, only a couple years after the extremely shitty and conservative Hays Code was abandoned. Film studios and the newly created MPAA were still testing the waters as to what was “acceptable.” One thing that certainly was not acceptable at the time was characters dropping fuck-bombs, but M*A*S*H included one all the same.
But how did they get manage to get all that groundbreaking stuff in there, you ask?
Well, after the film got turned down by at least 15 directors, the studio got desperate and asked the relatively unknown TV director Robert Altman to look at the script. At the time, the studio was already dealing with three bloated, big-budget movies: Patton, Hello Dolly!, and Tora! Tora! Tora! All the executives seemed to be extremely busy with green-lighting any expensive movie with extreme punctuation they could find (exclamation marks ain’t free, ya know?), and Altman saw his chance to make the kind of fucked-up film he wanted to make.
Altman realized that if he stayed off the very busy movie executives’ radar, he could do whatever he pleased. He made sure to come in under-budget and stay off the studio lot so no eyebrows were raised, and then went hog wild. He started by basically throwing out the script and allowing actors to improvise their lines. Then he orchestrated some incredibly gory surgery scenes where blood was literally flying everywhere. Finally, he went back and edited the movie together in a completely unusual, un-linear fashion. All while making sure to include all the sex and nudity he wanted and a time where an actor improvised the word “fuck” in a piece of dialogue, just because he was told he wouldn’t be allowed to.
You don’t even want to know where this hand thing ends up.
The studio executives then sat down to watch the completed version of a movie they all but forgot about, and were understandably shocked. Monocles shattered in champagne glasses and top hats shot into the stratosphere. Outraged, they gave pages upon pages of notes and demanded multiple re-edits and re-shoots. But the filmmakers dug their heels in the ground and demanded that the studio first show a test audience the uncut film.
The studio eventually agreed when they realized the filmmakers wouldn’t budge. The screening was such a huge success that the paranoid studio executives thought Altman might have planted people in the audience to give a fake reaction. Realizing they had a crowd-pleaser on their hands, the studio executives allowed the film to be released unaltered, with all the fucks and titties the movie was meant to have.
M*A*S*H went on to win multiple awards and make the studio boatloads of money. Not to mention, paving the way for subsequent movies to include even more swearing, gore, and nudity. So next time you see one of those titty swear blood movies kids these days love, send Robert Altman a thank-you tweet for being a crafty motherfucker.
My Notes on Notes series of articles–believe it or not–were originally inspired by webshows centered around video games and media like Extra Credits and Errant Signal. Given the fantastic video game criticism and analysis that can be found online (not to mention unbelievably insightful film and TV criticism from the likes of Devin Faraci, Film Crit Hulk, and many others), I found myself frustrated I couldn’t find anything about music that engaged me and entertained me like these online sources did.
So I figured I’d have to do that bullshit where you are the change you see in the world or whatever, and I began writing. But in the back of my mind, I always hoped Notes on Notes could utilize the visual and audio elements that writing was lacking and become some kind of web video thing like the shows that inspired it.
Since I’m incredibly old now and only getting older, I figured now is as good of a time as any. So I wrote a theme song and I’m working on a script for the first ever Notes on Notes video thing. Now all I have to do is learn how to edit film. So yeah, some day this might be a thing.
I’ve talked about it many times before, but the way music uses sounds, notes, and pitches is no different than the way films, video games, or any other visual medium use imagery and color. Just like how we assign meaning to certain colors and images, we also assign emotions and meanings to certain sounds. For example, on a cultural level, red represents passion or violence, and a minor chord represents sadness. We have an implicit cultural understanding of certain sounds, and when they are all put together, they can form a certain feeling, progression, or narrative that ends up creating a satisfying listening experience.
Basically, whether anyone is aware of it or not, we all speak a musical language, where sentences, words, and alphabets exist as musical phrases, chords, and notes. I guess I’m mixing metaphors here. Let’s just say that instead of doing bad writing, what I’m trying to do is demonstrate that all forms of expression–from music to imagery to language–are not as different as we might think. It’s mostly just lousy writing though.
But it is also possible for composers and musicians to create their own musical languages in individual works. Richard Wagner was a composer that understood the idea of a musical language, and used it to his advantage when writing operas. He was one of the first people to popularize the idea of “leitmotif.” Basically, a leitmotif is a short musical phrase that is associated with a person, place, thing, or idea. Like, let’s say he had a leitmotif that represented a main character, then he had a leitmotif that represented…. uhh let’s say stabbing. If there was a scene where a guy got stabbed, he could put the two phrases together to better represent the emotion of the scene (is stabbing an emotion?). He used these leitmotifs to create operas that used musical phrases to drive the narrative and emotion of the opera forward, allowing him to create some of the genre’s most acclaimed works.
This idea has carried over to film scoring. Take for instance the iconic John Williams Star Wars theme music, which is often called “Luke’s Theme.” “Luke’s Theme,”(or parts of it, at least) is actually used throughout the film at many different points to underscore Luke’s emotional state. If he’s doing something heroic, then suddenly we hear the theme in familiar Star Wars fanfare. But when Luke is scared or uneasy? The theme is softer, and more subdued to reflect the tone of the scene and Luke’s emotions.
So, what does this have to do with video games? Well, an issue I’ve experienced with many modern titles (especially in more open-world, sandbox kinds of games or games that go for a cinematic feel) is that they often lack musical cues that can heighten the emotion and satisfaction of gameplay. Scripted sequences and cut-scenes often have cinematic scores that punctuate the moods of the scene to great effect. But when it comes to user-dictated gameplay, the only thing a player hears is ambient noise or possibly an extremely subdued score. The music very rarely reacts to the player’s actions, which leads to a less satisfying experience.
Game composers and designers could work together to create leitmotifs that are triggered at key moments, by key characters, or by picking up certain objects. Pick up a powerful new weapon? The game reacts with an empowering leitmotif layered into the soundtrack. Losing health? A suspenseful leitmotif could occur. By layering different themes on top of one another, a dynamic soundtrack could be done in a subtle but effective way. Suddenly, the soundtrack becomes just as interactive and reactive as the game itself. And more importantly: the music of the game underscores the emotions of the player.
I’m no game designer, mostly just a game appreciator, but given my very basic understanding of game programming, this could be implemented pretty easily. I mean, games already use certain checkpoints to cue music, so I don’t see why that concept couldn’t be expanded and used in other ways. Plus, it’s been done plenty of times before.
There are examples of where this idea has already been put to use to great effect. For example, the “Yoshi Theme” in Super Mario World that layers on top of the main theme of the level only heightens the “hell yeah, I just got Yoshi” feeling a player gets. Or the sudden leitmotif that plays when a character is spotted (and the getaway theme) in the Metal Gear Solid series is effective enough to trigger a Pavlovian response in gamers even when it is completely divorced from the gameplay experience.
Or I’m sure others could think of a million more examples. I know in Banjo-Kazooie, when you are higher up in certain areas, the level’s music becomes lighter and airier with wind sounds overlayed. Or when you are submerged underwater, the music sounds much more midrange-y, just like sounds do when you are actually submerged underwater. Not quite the same, but along the same lines.
It all shows what is possible in terms of giving video games more immersion and atmosphere through the use of dynamic and constantly changing music. More importantly, it gives the player’s actions more weight and consequence, something all games can benefit from. It’s just a shame that the examples I outlined earlier are all only specific instances, and there aren’t more games that allow player actions to dictate the musical score on a larger scale.
While plenty of examples exist, there still is endless potential for this idea to be discussed and developed, and for video game music to become a much more integral part of games as they grow as a storytelling medium. However, in order for this to happen, collaboration needs to occur between composers and game developers the way it does between visual designers and game developers. Meaning, the first step to making video game music better is to work on our communication regarding the extensive musical language we all implicitly understand, yet struggle to discuss.
But games are still a growing medium, and if people care enough, there’s still plenty of time to make music in games better.
In anticipation of The World’s End, the final final film in the “Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy,” I made this song. For anyone not in the know, this is a series of films that have been made by writer/director Edgar Wright, writer/actor Simon Pegg, and actor Nick Frost. Maybe you’ve heard of Shaun of the Dead?? Hmm?? What about Hot Fuzz? Anyway, I don’t have all day to sit around and explain this concept to you so just go ahead and click on the song if you wanna hear it! OK I can explain if you really want. It’s a series of 3 movies set in modern day England that all share certain themes as well as the British ice cream treat: the Cornetto. Thanks and goooood bye
The other day I decided to fire up the ole Nintendo 64 and try out that nostalgia thing I’ve heard so much about from the internet. I decided to play one of my old favorites: Rareware’s Perfect Dark, and I noticed a design choice that had been overlooked by myself–even after countless hours of gameplay–and seemingly by the internet as a whole.
For anyone that has played Perfect Dark, the “Farsight XR-20” gun is probably one of the first elements of the game that they remember when reminiscing. The Farsight is a piece of alien technology that allows the player to aim through walls and shoot enemies anywhere in the level for a one-hit kill. In single-player, it’s a powerful gun that’s a lot of fun to mess with. With a little practice in aiming, you can pick anyone off in the level from a safe point.
But in multi-player, it seems like it’s cheap as hell. It’s no fun to get immediately killed by some jerk on the other side of the map you can’t even see. I’m sure in many circles of friends, the Farsight was banned from multiplayer matches. But Rare may have accounted for this potential imbalance.
When aiming with the Farsight, the walls and floors suddenly change into these futuristic, psychedelic colors. It not only fits with the idea of the gun being alien technology that can see through walls, BUT–more importantly–it makes it very obvious when someone is aiming with the Farsight. Even the most scrupulous players who refuse to screen-look can’t ignore the bright flashing colors emanating from their opponent’s screen. With the knowledge that someone is trying to pick people off with the Farsight the other players have the chance to wiggle around and try and outrun their friend’s slow-moving cross-hairs. Thanks to this clever, out-of-the-box kind of idea, the split-screen element of the game can be key to a player’s survival.
It’s still up for debate whether or not the Farsight is overpowered, but this subtle, semi-4th-wall-breaking choice by Rare allows an extremely powerful single-player gun to transform into a manageable multi-player weapon without any actual changes to the gun itself. The balancing happens outside of the screen and in the player’s hands, which is pretty impressive.
I’d try and put some overarching theme here about game design and the importance of lateral thinking or something, but really, let’s be honest, I doubt many game design issues could be solved as simply and creatively as this one was. But if you make games or do anything creative at all, don’t let it stop you from trying next time you run into a problem! Give your crazy idea shot anyway. You never know what might end up working. In the meantime, let’s all remember things from the past. Back when things were simpler and we were carefree. Hey, what about Palm Pilots? Or Pogs? Sega Genesis. The Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Sorry, I’m still getting used to this nostalgia thing. I’ll keep at it. Thanks for reading goodbye.
HEY!!! Oops sorry didn’t mean to scare you online there, haha. Just wanted to get your attention and ask you to check out a new video on the web of me telling some terrible jokes on the stage. I think it went mostly well I guess. I had some fun and everyone shared a laugh and a touching moment where we all pictured a guy laying his jorts over a puddle and that’s something you can’t put a price on in my mind. So yeah give it a click if you are so inclickined. That’s not even a joke. Who cares. It’s my blog. Goodnight buddy.
I’m at it again!!! What a rascal I am. I’m always up to some funny trick and today is no different.
It’s a pretty long story, but here I go anyway. I’m a big fan of the Reality Show Show podcast, and they often have call-in shows. So one time I called in and they happened to be discussing the hit ABC diving show Splash, and how odd it was that each contestant had their own funk intro theme song. So I asked them if they wanted their own funk intro and they said yes, so here we are. Even more music about podcasts.
Oh but wait there’s even more music!! What am I NUTS?? Sometimes I think I might be haha just kidding. Anyway Comedy Bang! Bang! the TV show was doing a twitter contest where they were asking people to post their Comedy Fantasy. WELL I put my making-songs-about-podcasts skills to the test and made a quick little Instagram video about my comedy-related dream. It’s a little music number about a musical about podcasts so hey that is a very specific thing and they say specificity is an important thing in comedy so there you go. OK I guess I’ll stop typing now. Take a look. Thanks. I don’t know how to embed the video so just take a look by clicking if you please
With Pacific Rim coming out in a matter of days, director Guillermo del Toro and his long-time collaborator buddy Ron Perlman have been making the press rounds. Naturally, the question of Hellboy 3 has come up. The good news is they both want to do it, and the timing may be right as far as studios handing over the budget needed, especially if Pacific Rim ends up being the satisfying, successful blockbuster this summer desperately needs. Sorry, looking at you Man of Steel.
People aren’t just clamoring for Hellboy because they enjoyed the first two and they want more of the same. The Hellboy story still needs to be finished. Well, technically the story of Hellboy could go on endlessly, as it has roots in adventure serials, detective novels, and of course, comic books. All of which are more episodic in nature (more on this shit later). I’d gladly pay to see Ron Perlman and Doug Jones be supernatural buddy cops and fight new and interesting foes until the end of time, but Del Toro clearly has an ending for the series in mind. Each movie so far has foreshadowed a very clear finale for the movie: they have mentioned that Hellboy’s true destiny is to destroy the earth. A final movie in the trilogy could not only provide closure to the series, but it could give del Toro a chance to perfect the amazing mish-mash of genres that is Hellboy.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Hellboy films. Hellboy 2 has so much imagination, heart, and humor packed into it it’s astounding. But I was watching some Hellboy special features where Guillermo del Toro was explaining what first drew him to the character in the first place, and something he said stuck out to me. He said, “It’s like if an X-file was investigation X-files.”
Which got me thinking about an aspect of Hellboy we have yet to see. We haven’t gotten a great sense of him just doing his job–day-in and day-out. There are plenty of ways to show this, but it might be helpful to take a cue from classic detective and adventure movies. Like I said before, Hellboy at its core is just a great adventure/detective story. Think about the gold standard for all adventure movies: Indiana Jones. The opening of each film (except maybe Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I think?) has Indy on a mission searching for an item that is unrelated to the film’s main plot. The golden idol in Raiders of the Lost Ark, in Temple of Doom the ashes of an emperor, and in The Last Crusade young Indy is trying to retrieve the cross of Coronado. Sure, each opening segment introduces important characters and themes, but the point is, the unrelated openings show that Indy does this shit all the time, and he’s good as fuck at it. A detective/private eye movie does the same thing. Take one of the gold standards of that genre: Chinatown. The film starts with the main character, Jake, investigating a run-of-the-mill case. We see how he handles himself, how he conducts his work, and that he is clearly too skilled and overqualified for such a simple job. By the time the film’s main conflict is introduced, the audience is completely on board, and shares in Jake’s curiosity about a high-profile new case.
Starting a film like with the character already in the middle of a job is the equivalent of watching an episode in the middle of a season of the X-files, or reading a random issue of Hellboy. The story stands on its own, but we have an innate understanding that these characters are taking care of business regularly. That these characters and this world is rich with backstory and history. But films work differently. They must work as their own, full experience. Which is why a character as iconic as Indiana Jones still needs to have establishing moments 2 movies deep into his franchise. It strengthens the character, which in turn strengthens the plot.
That’s one thing I think that the Hellboy films have been without. The main conflict is introduced, and Hellboy must struggle against powerful foes to stop a bad thing from happening. Each monster he fights is an obstacle in his path blocking him from accomplishing this main goal. Now, in most films this wouldn’t be a problem, and unrelated plots would only distract from the movie’s main source of conflict. But to see Hellboy struggle to overcome impossible odds has less meaning because we as an audience don’t know what this Hellboy is capable of. Even if we are familiar with the comics or have seen the previous films. Hellboy 3 would be a great chance to see Hellboy and Abe Sapien show off their monster hunting skills to their fullest and really succeed at a task. The audience will understand how they handle things and do their job. Then, when the shit seriously hits the fan and Hellboy and his crew begin to falter, we’ll understand just how powerful this new enemy is.
At the heart of it, this may be just a case of “show, don’t tell.” We are told throughout the movie that Hellboy and the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense are always dealing with some kind of crazy monster, and Hellboy reacts to these terrifying creatures with a “eh, just another day at the office” kind of attitude, but we never really get a full sense of how things function before the film’s main conflict comes along and screws everything up. Hellboy’s job, and his attitude towards it could be developed through us seeing him tackle multiple cases throughout the film.
I think del Toro nailed one of the main reasons the whole concept of Hellboy is so fascinating with the “an X-file investigating X-files” line. The only problem is, each movie has only been one file. Hellboy 3 could be an opportunity to get a more in-depth look at what Hellboy’s job entails, and what his strengths and limits are by seeing him handle two or more cases in succession.
But the bottom line is, Guillermo del Toro clearly knows what he’s doing so I’m not really worried about Hellboy 3 and the future of the series. I’d just like to see more of Hellboy and Abe and the rest of his buds at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense being fleshed out as much as possible, and this may be a way to do it effectively.
The 6th season of Mad Men has had its share of mysteries. Fans have gone wild searching for clues that might help them find out what makes Bob Benson so damn chipper in the face of so much existential angst, or why Megan was purposely put in the same shirt as Manson family victim Sharon Tate. But one secret story-line evaded the internet’s watchful eye… until now.
In episode 8, entitled “The Crash,” the Draper home was invaded by a lady claiming to to be Bobby and Sally Draper’s grandma. While the shrewd Sally Draper knew something was fishy and alerted the authorities, poor, sweet, simple Bobby Draper was only confused. If this lady was black, and she was his grandma, does that make him black? This inner turmoil escaped his mouth in the form of a single line: “Are we negroes?”
But he never got his answer.
Of course you’re black, little Bobby! Now help a sister out and get me your mom’s jewelry.
While the overall issue of this home invader was solved on the show when the police apprehended her, Bobby’s confusion was never addressed. Did someone take the time to explain to him what was going on? Don surely didn’t. He was unconscious. It’s not unreasonable to think that the adults were so distraught they didn’t have the presence of mind to explain every small detail of what was going on to the perpetually bewildered Bobby Draper.
This conflict was subsequently dropped once Sally and Don became the focus of the following episodes and Bobby was off at summer camp, but the conflict still remained. What thoughts could be going through Bobby’s naive little brain while he was at camp, far away from an adult he could confide in? “Do I have to get new friends?” “Are we going to have to move to a different neighborhood?” “Should I get more involved in this whole Civil Rights business?”
Much like several other loose ends throughout the season, the last episode finally addressed Bobby’s dilemma. The final scene shows Don taking his children up to the dilapidated house that he grew up in on the rough side of town.
Sitting on the porch is a small black boy, staring at the family with the same bewilderment that was etched on Bobby’s face since his life crisis in Episode 8.
Don then proudly tells his kids, “This is where I grew up.”
Bobby’s face practically implodes. Look at that kid. He sees his father’s childhood home, and on the stoop is he could only assume to be a family member. Perhaps a black cousin or secret brother he never met until that day. In his mind, that solidifies it. The revelation is written all over his face. Don–forever the careless dad–has accidentally convinced his son that he is black.
Sally then gives her dad a look that some have considered to be a father-daughter moment of understanding. But look at her face. She’s not thinking “oh how nice, my dad is maybe a little more relatable than I thought!” She is thinking “ugh, dad, why do you have to go and confuse the poor kid like that? This is going to take years to straighten out.”
There is no telling how Bobby’s secret revelation will affect the final season next year. Will he carry this knowledge of his identity with him secretly like his father does? Will Don flip on the TV to see his son at a Civil Rights protest, fighting for the freedoms of his people? Will Bobby invent rap? Only time will tell. Whichever way the writers go, one thing is crystal clear: Bobby definitely thinks he’s black.