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Will Wright on the Future of Gaming

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I'm going to start off-topic here, but did you know that you can buy magazine subscriptions on Ebay? And if you're looking for a mass-market magazine (The New Yorker, Cosmo, Spin, whatever), they're really, really cheap.

Anyway, I bought a year subscription to Wired for $3, and it ain't much of a magazine. Once in a while there's something interesting, but not too often. That said, though, there's a fascinating piece by Will Wright, the designer of SimCity, the Sims and many other games, about the future of gaming.

Games are evolving to entertain, educate, and engage us individually. These personalized games will reflect who we are and what we enjoy, much as our choice of cooks and music does now. They will allow us to express ourselves, meet others, and create things that we can only dimly imagine. They will enable us to share and combine these creations, to build vast playgrounds. And more than ever, games will be a visible, external amplification of the human imagination.

Great stuff.

Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society

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At some hazy point in Europe's past, the objective truth didn't matter as much as it does today. Really rich folks collected (real and fake) religious artifacts, objects of art, biological marvels, and anything else you can imagine into wunderkammer, or cabinets of wonder.

The contents of these cabinets and other related marvels, like the cat piano above, are celebrated at the Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society. This mystery-enshrouded blog celebrates the life and ideas of one of the great collectors and creators of oddities, Athanasius Kircher.

What's most wonderful to me is the way that these objects are so profoundly liminal... they refuse to be classified as "real" or "fake." It's an idea that's deeply related to The New Sincerity.

That's what I was thinking about when I did an interview on this Sound broadcast with Ricky Jay, the brilliant magician and historian. For a while, Jay did radio commentaries about this sort of stuff, like this one about a genius pig. I tried to get them for The Sound, but he wouldn't go for it.

See also: The Museum of Jurassic Technology

Watch Comedy Central tonight.

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Tonight, half-hour specials from two of the best comics in the business, Arj Barker and Todd Barry, will be premiering. Arj is the most magnetic performer I've ever seen on the standup stage, and he uses that magnetism to draw you into a weird alternate world. Todd is a master joke writer whose sly, dry delivery makes every punchline pop.

Two stories:

Last time I saw Arj Barker perform, I talked to him after the show, and told him how much I'd love to have him on The Sound of Young America. Turns out, he had already been on The Sound of Young America, and I'd forgotten. Moral of the story: I am a jackass.

Last time I saw Todd Barry, I was driving him to his hotel for SF Sketchfest. At the time, I drove a 65 Dart, which had no seatbelts in the back, where he was sitting. He was absolutely horrified, and expressed his horror by berating me and my "deathtrap" car for the next 20 minutes. Moral of the story: just let Todd Barry take a cab.

You can see some clips of them performing here on the CC Presents page. Arj has been blogging on behalf of the Comedy Central Insider from Australia or something. The shows air at 9 and 9:30 tonight.

Todd Barry on The Sound of Young America (realaudio)

We're legendary in Maine.

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I know what you're thinking... I listen to The Sound of Young America, but I lose sleep ever night wondering if the Portland Press-Herald of Portland, Maine thinks my favorite show is "Worth Checking Out."

Well, they do, apparently.

Rufus Thomas: Hero of The New Sincerity

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Rufus Thomas was a legendary Memphis DJ, who became even more legendary through his novelty-soul recordings for Stax Records. His daughter, Carla Thomas, recorded Stax first hit side, and he contributed many of his own. He often performed in short pants, and sang comic dance numbers which were both funny and truly danceable. He passed a few years ago, but he remains a great hero of The New Sincerity.

Learn more about Rufus and download his tune "Chicken Scratch" over at the Stepfather of Soul.

Heat Vision & Jack

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For some of you, this may be old hat, as it's been circulating in bootleg form for some years. But for those of you who have not seen it, it will be a revelation. This pilot, for a show called "Heat Vision & Jack," stars a pre-fame Owen Wilson & Jack Black, and was directed by a pre-annoying Ben Stiller.

Jack Black plays a super-smart astronaut on the run from Ron Silver (who plays himself), riding his talking motorcycle (played by Wilson). One of the most conceptually audacious comedy shows I've ever seen, and effectively executed, too. FOX passed (understandably, I'd say, given how ridiculous the whole thing is), but it lives on to entertain us all.

(For those of you for whom this video doesn't show up in your reader, click through to the web version).

New Material from the Replacements

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Pitchfork reports that alt-rock legends The Replacements are reconvening (well, to the extent they can, only three are alive) to record new material for an upcoming best-of on Rhino:

Color us fucking impressed: Original flannel gods the Replacements have
recorded their first new material since 1990. According to a press release from
Rhino Records, 3/4 of the original lineup (and the only surviving ones), Paul
Westerberg, Tommy Stinson, and Chris Mars, reconvened last December in
Minneapolis to record two new Westerberg-penned tunes, "Message to the Boys" and "Pool & Dive," for the upcoming Replacements compilation Don't You Know Who
I Think I Was?: The Best of the Replacements.

Link

Aspen Stories: Charlie Todd of Improv Everywhere

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Charlie Todd is the creator of Improv Everywhere, a group which performs astonishing, magical, and typically victimless street pranks. They've staged a faux U2 concert on a rooftop, ridden the subway without pants (more and more pantsless riders board a car, until eventually an IE member strolls through, selling pants), and offered boat tours of public fountains. Charlie was invited to Aspen to talk about IE, and here, we've invited him to talk about Aspen.

Had you been before?

Nope. This was my first trip to Colorado.

What did you expect it to be like?

Very cold and intimidating.

What surprised you about it when you got there?

It was much warmer than I had imagined. It was colder in NY the week before the festival. The altitude warnings are for real. I felt dizzy for a couple of days and held off on getting drunk until Thursday (I arrived on Monday). I delighted to discover how walkable the town is and how the whole festival was easy to manage.

What was the audience like for your shows?

I had two shows, both at the "Belly Up" venue. It's a rock club, but because it's in Aspen it's a real classy joint. No stickers on the bathroom walls. I don't really know how many were in attendance at the shows, but it was very full. 200 people maybe? I found it to be a warm, responsive audience, which was great. I guess it was a mix of locals and industry types. In addition to my stage shows, I did a few pranks around town which was a total blast. I documented the whole experience on my site, complete with photos and video.

What was the best social event you attended? Why?

The Upright Citizens Brigade rented a three-story condo with College Humor and 3 Arts. There were parties there every night, but the Friday night party was the best. Dave Chapelle made a cameo for literally thirty seconds. I guess that's how long it took him to decide it wasn't his scene. Anyway, the condo was awesome-- pool table, hot tub, steam room, ridiculous fan from the 70's. Oh, and a fridge full of beer and a freezer full of liquor. Besser himself was staying there and personally welcoming everyone into the house. Anthony King (Artistic Director of UCB NY) and Alex Sidtis (UCB NY Theatre Manager) were also staying there. Alex's job for the entire week at Aspen was to plan awesome parties at the UCB house and to generally promote all of the shows with UCB people in them (four stage shows + Aziz's standup).

What was the best show you saw that wasn't your own?

I fucking love Brian Finklestein's show. I'd seen it before in NY, and I was only able to see the last ten minutes of it in Aspen (running to it after one of my shows), but he managed to make me cry in those ten minutes. Such a beautiful, sad, and very hilarious show.

What was the strangest social interaction you had while there?

There was a local guy who showed up at all of the social events with his dog. He had trained the dog to stand on his arm. No one really knew what his deal was, but everyone called him "Dog Dude". I guess he's there every year. Anyway, at the UCB party his dog was walking around the kitchen and I figured out how to get it to stand on my arm. The dude saw me doing it and just said, "Go for it, man." So I walked around the party very drunk with this dog standing on my arm.

Would you reccomend it to others?

Absolutely. As a performer it was an amazing experience. They put you up in great hotel rooms and they take care of you the whole week. Tons of free food. Free transportation. Free parties with free drinks. Free access to shows. I'm not sure if I would reccomend it to someone not performing. Unless of course you're rich. If you're rich, definitely go!

Already been debriefed: Brent Weinbach, Sherry Sirof, Ryan Stout, Anthony Jeselnik

Also: "Odd Ends" with Charlie Todd on The Sound of Young America (MP3 Link)

Goldie Award Winner!

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Thanks to the readers of the Metro Santa Cruz, who voted me the Bronze award for "Best Radio Personality" in Santa Cruz in their annual readers' poll. This is the fourth Goldie we (that is, me or me & Jordan) have won in the past five years -- two gold and two bronze. Thanks, Santa Cruzians!

By the by, does anyone reading this listen on the radio? I'm genuinely interested. Post a comment or send me an email if you do.

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