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‘MANOS: The Hands of Fate’—the video game!
01:53 pm



Pop culture is so strange. Things catch on and end up in places that couldn’t have been foreseen at the time of creation or release. Think of Ed Wood’s career, gleefully cherished by film buffs, then turned into an object of derision in movies like It Came From Hollywood but THEN transformed into an occasion for authentic poignancy by Tim Burton.

Or consider MANOS: The Hands of Fate, a schlocky occult/horror movie from 1966 that hardly made any waves when it came out (it failed to recoup its $19,000 budget).
It was directed by Harold P. Warren, an insurance and fertilizer salesman from El Paso, Texas. He starred in it as well. It played only at the Capri Theater in El Paso and a few drive-ins in West Texas and New Mexico.

In the movie, a vacationing family loses their way on a road trip and ends up trapped at a lodge in which a polygamous pagan cult has taken up residence. It’s worth reading Wikipedia’s account of the movie’s demerits: “The film is infamous for its technical deficiencies, especially its significant editing and continuity flaws; its soundtrack and visuals not being synchronized; tedious pacing; abysmal acting; and several scenes that are seemingly inexplicable or disconnected from the overall plot, such as a couple making out in a car or The Master’s wives breaking out in catfights.”

In 1993 Mystery Science Theater 3000 ran an episode about MANOS, and it’s become one of their most popular episodes: On this vote taken on a MST3K message board, the episode in which the gang riffs on MANOS clocked in as the second-best MST3K episode of all time, behind only the deliriously funny Space Mutiny episode.

In 2012 FreakZone Games released a Nintendo-ish adaptation of the game—it’s in the familiar Mario Bros. style and uses set pieces from the movie. It’s not every schlocky horror movie that gets transformed into a video game FIFTY years later, but if you get lucky, even weird things like that can happen. This year saw the release of MANOS: The Hands of Fate—Director’s Cut, an improved version of the game with cut screens—you can buy it here.
Here’s some gameplay from the 2012 version:

The full movie of MANOS: The Hands of Fate:

And the MST3K treatment of MANOS:

via Kill Screen

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Dallas Cowboys merchandise by feminist conceptual artist Jenny Holzer
12:09 pm



“BOREDOM MAKES YOU DO CRAZY THINGS” cap, originally $19.99, now $10
The craziest things happen and then you find out about them years later. Like how Jenny Holzer has done artwork for the Dallas Cowboys.

Yes. Jenny Holzer—the conceptual artist whose work consists entirely of cryptic slogans—works for the Dallas Cowboys. The relationship started several years ago but I only learned about it through an article published yesterday by Hyperallergic.

When the Dallas Cowboys moved into its expensive new stadium, called AT&T Stadium, for the 2009-2010 season, the Cowboys’ owner put on display a lot of splashy and expensive artworks by some grade-A artistic talents, including Trenton Doyle Hancock, Teresita Fernández, and Mel Bochner. One of the artists in the group was Jenny Holzer; she had adapted her Truisms series for the stadium’s massive new video screen, reputedly the fourth-largest in the world.

Jenny Holzer, “For Cowboys” (2012). Photo: Jean-Sébastien Stehli
Some site-specific art in a big football stadium is one thing, but having your work be available for sale as officially licensed Dallas Cowboys merchandise at the Dallas Cowboys online store is quite another. The Holzer items consist of four shirts and two caps, but there may have been others. A search on Google Images turned up a “RAISE BOYS AND GIRLS THE SAME WAY” model that appears to be out of stock.

Since the 1980s, Holzer has been one of the more successful cross-over successes in terms of authentically confrontational art (whose work is also cool and reserved as fuck). Her canny deployment of koan-like, or if you prefer, fortune-cookie-ish messages in public settings, often scrolling LED displays or T-shirts, has a way of bringing uncompromisingly leftist ideas (insofar as there’s an agenda at all) into the everyday lives of Americans. For her part, as an artist probably should, Holzer rejects the label of feminist, but her work speaks for itself—especially when the work is saying things like “MOTHERS SHOULDN’T MAKE TOO MANY SACRIFICES” or “RAISE BOYS AND GIRLS THE SAME WAY,” the latter of which, interestingly, was one of the slogans she chose for her Cowboys clothing.

Holzer’s Cowboys apparel is decidedly more confrontational and provocative than Mel Bochner’s over-eager “Win!” shirts, also available in the Cowboys’ online store.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pretty badass. If you’re an artist and you can choose between putting art in MoMA and putting art in the sightlines of regular sports fans who don’t give art much or any thought, it can’t be close, to a true provocateur.


“PUSH YOURSELF TO THE LIMIT AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE” T-shirt, originally $27.99, now $15

“EXPIRING FOR LOVE IS BEAUTIFUL BUT STUPID” T-shirt, originally $24.99, now $10

“A SENSE OF TIMING IS THE MARK OF GENIUS” T-shirt, originally $27.99, now $15

“WORDS TEND TO BE INADEQUATE” cap, originally $19.99, now $10


via Internet Magic.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Ennuigi’: Nintendo for pretentious existentialists
02:29 pm



English-speakers might say “existential despair,” among a number of different terms. Germans refer to Weltschmerz. As is often the case, the French have the perfect term to represent a somewhat intellectualized world-weariness that positively cries out for a pack of Gitanes. The term is ennui, and it’s so useful that we’ve incorporated it into our language. Using a French term gives the depression that extra bit of useless panache.

A game designer named Josh Millard has created the perfect Nintendo-style game to match that mood—it is called Ennuigi, and in it you can “spend some time with a depressed, laconic Luigi as he chain smokes and wanders through a crumbling Mushroom Kingdom, ruminating on ontology, ethics, family, identity, and the mistakes he and his brother have made.”

Did I mention you can play it? Yes. You can play it.

Here is the complete list of controls:

left/right: walk around
up: ruminate
down: smoke

That’s right. You can walk left or right, but jumping? Jumping is not consistent with ennui!


Ennuigi in mid-rumination
Here’s Millard’s fuller description of the game:

This is a shot at a collection of ideas I had a few years ago, about looking critically at the universe of Super Mario Bros. in light of the total lack of explicit narrative in the original game in particular.  Who are these strange men?  What motivates them?  By what right do they wreak the havoc they do on this strange place?  What do they feel about where they are and what they’re doing?

And so, this is one lens through which to look at all that, with Luigi, the second brother, the also-ran, as a complicit onlooker, wandering now through some fractured, rotting liminal place in this strange world, reflecting on it all in scattered fragments.

The slow, tinny music is a perfect complement to this dreary, Beckettian video game.

via Internet Magic

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Sexism,’ a disturbingly accurate board game from 1971
11:02 am



Sexism board game - 1971
Sexism. A board game from 1971
Sexism was a board game, conceived back in 1971 by Carolyn Houger, a resident of Seattle, Washington. With the creation of Sexism, Houger hoped to “bring out the humor in the Women’s Liberation movement.” The idea for the game came to Houger after her four-year-old daughter returned home after playing the card game “Old Maid” with her friends and made the statement, “wouldn’t it be terrible to be an old maid?

According to the folks over at Board Game Geek, the goal of Sexism is to move from the “doll house,” to the White House (flash-forward 44 years and we’re still waiting, but I digress). The first player to move into the White House, wins. Sexism is compelling on so many levels it’s difficult to know where to start. Just take this game board square from Sexism called “Abortionist.” The square itself depicts a pregnant woman and a clothing hanger(!) with the following game instructions if you land on it:


The bill didn’t pass.

Go to the Maternity Ward

Laundry Service and Part-time You Know What!

Sexism encourages players to play as their opposite gender as it is known to produce “hilarious role-playing situations.” So, if you win as a “woman” the game will instruct the other players that, “You are now a person, and must be treated as such for 24 hours. Non-winners may be treated as usual.” If you play as a “man,” you are greeted by a cartoon of a large thumb pushing a woman down with the following message: “Congratulations, you’ve won — or have you?” Wow.
White House or Playboy Club game squares from Sexism
Decisions, decisions. White House or Playboy Club game squares from Sexism

When it comes to the cards that you might draw while playing Sexism,  playing as a woman you might draw a card that says “Go back two steps because you’re a woman. You’d just as well get used to this.” Whereas a man might draw a card that makes this incredible statement:

I staunchly defend motherhood, God and country. I’m against giving more money to ADC (Aid to Dependent Children) for each child. I’m against abortions. I’m against women earning as much as men. I’m against paying taxes for free child care centers. Go ahead three steps.

In an interview with Houger from 1972, she said that her intention wasn’t to create an “anti-male” game. In addition to enlightening folks to Women’s Lib, Houger had high hopes that the game would start a dialog about sexism, as well as help people understand that both men and women should be treated as “people.” Houger also said she wanted to highlight the fact that women can also be sexist, by “reinforcing sexism” with their actions or attitudes, especially when it comes to assigning gender-specific roles - a point that she makes rather directly on many of Sexism’s game squares.

More on Sexism after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
A board game based on ‘The Shining’ actually exists! Download it for FREE!
09:21 am



The Shining boardgame, 1998
The Shining, the boardgame. 1998
Yes, you heard me right. A board game based on Stanley Kubrick’s mind-fucking film The Shining actually exists!
The Shining board game counters and pieces (front and back images)
The Shining board game counters and pieces (front and back images)
The two-player game was created back in 1998 along with assistance from Stephen King. Which makes this an extra cool find as King (as you probably know) wrote the 1977 novel on which the film is based. The prolific author even acted as the games very first tester. Best of all? You can download the game FOR FREE and put it together yourself.
The Shining board game pieces
The Shining board game pieces
The Shining boardgame gameplay with Jack Torrance and snowmobile
The Shining board game gameplay with Jack Torrance and snowmobile
As far as gameplay is concerned, it all starts with the news of the approaching winter storm, which in turn enables the ghosts that inhabit the Overlook Hotel to get to work scaring the shit out of The Torrances’. One player gets to be the Torrance family, while the other player is the House (or the Overlook Hotel). According to a detailed review of the game via a Stephen King fan site, The Torrance family members are able to “engage in mental attacks on the ghosts” and there are even “implements of destruction” available to use such as a snowmobile, an ax in the garage (because, of course), a mallet, and a knife in the Overlook’s kitchen. Aparently the game isn’t a long, drawn out affair and can be completed in a relatively short period of time. The only gripe that I read about was that if players do not monitor the Overlook’s boiler pressure closely enough, the entire hotel gets blown to kingdom come.
The Shining board game map one
The Shining board game map one
The Shining boardgame layout
The Shining board game map two
If this sounds like a good time to you (and it should because all work and no play will make you a very dull boy), you can download the game here.

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Cold War dollhouses from the Socialist paradise of East Germany
12:20 pm



The Flickr user diepuppenstubensammlerin (the name means “the dollhouse collector”) has a remarkably wide-ranging and detailed series of galleries documenting dollhouses from Germany, with many of the sets pictured dating from the 1950s through the 1970s. The set pictured here came from a company called VEB Grünhainichen, if I understand correctly, and it was in East Germany, in fact on the border to what was then called Czechoslovakia.

The notion of children playing with dollhouses that have this kitschy wallpaper and kitchen tiles or tasteful/chintzy furniture of indubitably modern design. All you need is a Trabant driving by outside or the tones of the Klaus Renft Combo emanating from the hi-fi system and the picture is complete.

This all ties in vaguely with something we covered a couple of years ago, “Ostalgie,” which might be translated as “Eastalgia,” a coinage that refers to nostalgia for the old German Democratic Republic, or the DDR as it is known in German.

Helpfully, diepuppenstubensammlerin supplies a little explanation as to what we’re looking at:

VEB Holzspielwarenfabrik Grünhainichen
Die Fabrik wurde 1952 in Grünhainichen, damals DDR, als Volkseigener Betrieb durch die Verstaatlichung der Großhandelsfirma Cuno & Otto Dressel gegründet. Sie produzierte hochwertiges Holzspielzeug auf einem künstlerisch anspruchsvollen Niveau. 1966 wurde die Fabrik im Zuge der totalen Verstaatlichung aller Betriebe mit anderen Fabriken zu dem Kombinat VEB VERO zusammengeschlossen.”

Which basically means, the factory made wooden toys in Grünhainichen in the German Democratic Republic. The factory was founded in 1952 as the state-owned version of the company that had been known as Cuno & Otto Dressel. The factory produced high-quality wooden toys of a high artistic quality. In 1966, as part of the total nationalization of all businesses, the factory was combined with other factories to create the VEB VERO company.

If nothing else, acquring these dollhouses would enable children to stage their own versions of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul or any number of Rainer Werner Fassbinder classics. (Yes, Fassbinder mostly worked in West Germany, but the aesthetic of these toys fits either way…..)

Click on any image for a larger view.


More dollhouses after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Video game update scrambles race and penis length for avatars with hilarious results (NSFW)
03:59 pm



Rust is a survival video game for PC/Mac/Linux in which players have to do their best to cobble together the most rudimentary kind of life after an extreme bug-out bag scenario. Quoting the promotional text for the game, “The only aim here is to survive. To do this you will need to overcome struggles such as hunger, thirst and cold. Build a fire. Build a shelter. Kill animals for meat. Protect yourself from other players. Create alliances with other players and together form a town. Whatever it takes to survive.”

In initial versions of the game, every character was white, but in March the game developers introduced a broader racial palette in an update—the tricky thing being that race is randomly assigned to avatars based on a randomized agorithm based on the player’s Steam ID—and can never be changed again. On a blog post, lead developer on the game Garry Newman explained, “Everyone now has a pseudo unique skin tone and face. Just like in real life, you are who you are – you can’t change your skin colour or your face. It’s actually tied to your steamid.”

It’s a risky strategy when you consider that if a white supremacist broheim ends up having to play the game with a black guy as his on-screen surrogate, he might well just stop playing altogether. Of course, the gamble is that people’s desire to enjoy the game trumps their seldom-examined racial biases.

As Kotaku commented, “Multiplayer survival game Rust ... randomly generates players’ physical characteristics for them, imitating the screaming chaos of biology rather than letting players choose. It then ties that selection to players’ Steam ID (as opposed to a single session or server) so they can’t game the system. You work with what you’ve got. Earlier this year, the development team added skin tone to the mix, prompting some controversy and even in-game racism.”

Now this week Rust developers have added a fascinating new quirk—randomized penis length. Just as with skin color, penis length is a randomly generated outcome based on the Steam ID. On reddit an mp4 file was posted demonstrating some of the variance in physical build, both for the avatars’ full bodies and for their penises. It’s one of the funnier things I’ve seen lately—here’s a taste:

Forcing players to deal with their god-given (new) race or penis size is the kind of immersive mindfuck only video games can deliver. It may have been noticed that all of the avatars mentioned so far in Rust are male. The developers recently let it be known that they are “investigating a female model.” To their credit they are pushing for the opposite side of the female body type spectrum as Tomb Raider: “We really don’t want to make the female model unrealistic in the sense of her being aesthetically idealised. In the same way that our male models aren’t perfect specimens of the male body, neither should the female be. No huge boobs nor four-inch waists here.”

Indeed, in our all-too-familiar world in which women are objectified by default, it’s refreshing to see women’s bodies depicted in a realistic way—and to see men get the exact same kind of treatment.

Here’s a depiction of the Rust female bodies in development:

via Kill Screen

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Wonderful chess set recreates the London skyline
10:40 am



An elegant and modern chess set has been created by London designers Ian Flood and Chris Prosser, with pieces crafted to represent the architecture of their home city.

In our London set Pawns are terraced houses, Big Ben is the Rook, with the London Eye playing the Knight. The Gherkin is cast as the Bishop, and the Shard lends its elegance and might to the role of the Queen. No other building than Canary Wharf would be better suited to play the King, and this piece stands at four and a half inches tall.


As you’ll see in the photos, the set is quite a stunner, and I wonder, where has this concept been? Given the symbolic value cities put on buildings, it seems like such a natural idea, but for the most part, niche chess sets currently seem to be marketed largely at geek culture—there are Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, LOTR, and Doctor Who sets. And Monopoly knockoffs that appeal to regional vanity by representing cities other than Atlantic City, NJ do quite well, so it’s sort of strange that the notion hasn’t been applied to chess. (That said, Monopoly is kind of way out of control with the licensed editions—Who’s buying the Seinfeld Monopoly board? WHO?)

This could be taken so far it’s ridiculous—what about sets that reflect sports rivalries? Manchester vs Liverpool? Pittsburgh vs Cleveland? (I’m envisioning a Cleveland set with crumbling, foreclosed houses for pawns, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for bishops, Dennis Kucinich for knights, so what if he’s not a building…) Per an article on If It’s Hip It’s Here, Prosser and Flood have New York and Paris sets in the works. If you like what you see here and would like a set of your city, the pair offer customization.


More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Brilliant fold-out ‘chutes and ladders’ cover for XTC’s ‘Making Plans for Nigel’ single
02:25 pm



In 1979 XTC released their third album, Drums and Wires, which featured what would prove to be their second-most successful single, the Colin Moulding-penned “Making Plans for Nigel” (“Senses Working Overtime,” which came out three years later, charted slightly better). The content of the song sketched a familiar tale of a couple desirous that their son Nigel pursue a “future in a British steel” over any individualistic ambitions Nigel may have carved out for himself. The title phrase is so creepy that the song succeeds on little more than sarcastic repetitions of phrases like “Nigel is happy in his work.”

The first 20,000 pressings of the single came in a very special and very ambitious cover that folded out into a fully playable gameboard of Chutes and Ladders (or Snakes and Ladders, if you prefer) with the gameplay adapted to details of Nigel’s miserable life. Ingeniously, the gameboard was reproduced twice, one to be played by Nigel and the other to be played by his parents. The details of the game flesh out the narrative of Nigel with the purchase of a scooter, job interviews, a holiday in Spain, and an engagement to “a very nice girl,” to the point that it becomes something more like a short-story or an hour-long TV drama.

According to the back cover, the illustrations were by Steve Shotter and the sleeve by Cooke Key. I take that to mean that Key did the general concept and execution of the cover.

Here’s the full game board, cobbled together using separate scans of the different game areas—the different parts aren’t aligned perfectly, but they still read fine and you can still play the game successfully. Click on the image for a larger view.

The game was advertised in the September 6-19, 1979 issue of Smash Hits:

... and the October 4 issue featured a little item in which Andy Partridge explained the rules of the game (click for a larger view) under the title “Making Rules for Nigel”:

Here are the rules of the game written out, complete with additional information on Nigel and his overbearing parents.

Use two markers such as stones, pennies, buttons, etc. Decide who is to be Nigel and who is to be his parents.
If you have no dice use the spinner with a match through the centre.
The highest throw starts first. You then proceed along the course until you land on either a picture space, or an up or down space.
To finish the game you must land on 70 exactly. If you overthrow, you must go backwards by the remainder of numbers from 70.

5 parents insist you spend your pocket money on a suit for Sundays. Back 3 spaces (yawn).
9 You sell Dad’s old bike without him being told. Bit of money for the pictures. Have another throw (ting ting).
16 Parents phone up for job in bank and Dad drives you to the interview. No escaping. Miss a turn (zzzzz).
24 Your girlfriend offers to take you on holiday to Spain for a week. She’ll pay for everything. Move on 4 spaces (olé).
30 Mum and Dad decorate your room one day while you’re out. Mum rips up all your pop posters. Go back to 22.
39 Dad asks your advice on something (about time they listened to you - a good sign). Go on 2 spaces.
44 Big argument with parents. They refuse to keep you anymore, unless you accept the job they’ve found for you in the steel factory. Go back to 36 (swear).
56 Parents decide to go on holiday to Butlins without you (great eh!). Go on 4 spaces.
63 You fall in love with a girl who expects nothing of you other than to be yourself (how nice). Throw again.
66 You get in a real low mood and you need money to repair your scooter. The factory gates seem to loom nearer (gloom). Go back to 50.

5 Nigel spends his pocket money on a scooter. Back 3 spaces (vroom).
9 You find cigarettes in Nigel’s coat. You confiscate them (chuckle). Have another throw.
16 Nigel ill on day of job interview. He doesn’t particularly want to go anyway (drat!). Miss a turn.
24 A friend of the wife’s says she can get Nigel a job in her factory (respectable like). Move on 4 spaces.
30 Nigel brings home weird hippy girl for tea (too far out for the boy). Go back to 22.
39 You spot Nigel parting his hair (a good sign). Go on 2 spaces.
44 Big argument with Nigel. He refuses to accept the job you’ve found for him in the steel factory. Back to 26 (cuss).
56 Nigel agrees to take a Saturday job in a supermarket. Go on 4 spaces (stack stack).
63 Nigel announces his engagement to a very nice girl, who makes him take a nightshift job to save for their mortgage (poor Nigel). Throw again.
66 Wake up to find a note from Nigel. “Dear Mum and Dad, I’ve gone to sea. No factories for me (gasp).” Go back to 50.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Hip Priest: The Fall’s Mark E. Smith used to do tarot card readings for drugs
03:59 pm



The other day I was in the Rock Hall’s Library and Archives at the Tommy LiPuma Center for Creative Arts on Cuyahoga Community College’s Metropolitan Campus in Cleveland, Ohio, and I came across a book I’d been hunting for a while, that being a volume on lead singer of the Fall, Renegade: The Lives and Tales of Mark E. Smith, which turns out to be an odd little tome, a kind of catch-all of writings by Smith himself. It was this last point I only understood when I held the book in my hand; I had thought it was a reported book but in fact it’s all written by Mark E. Smith. 

One of the chapters has the remarkable title of “The Fool, The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Lovers, The Chariot, Strength, The Hermit, The Wheel of Fortune, Justice, The Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon, The Sun, Judgement, The World and Eric the Ferret.” The title kind of gives away the fact that it’s about tarot, which it turns out Mark E. Smith has more than the usual interest in.

Here are a couple of key passages. I have to say I only half-believe Smith on this stuff—it’s a little hard to picture sports cars turning up at his flat all the time for readings—the whole thing is a fascinating brew of ego, half-baked erudition, superstition, and self-serving logic, a scammer’s mindset if you will:

I used to do tarot readings as well. I went through a phase of reading books on the occult. I was fascinated by it. I still believe that things leave vibrations. America, for instance; I’ve visited all these old Civil War sites and the atmosphere is incredible. You can almost reach out and feel it.

.…After a bit, when the drugs prevailed, it got ridiculous. I got more interested in the Philip K. Dick Time Out of Joint angle—the way certain pieces of writing have a power all to themselves, almost as if they can prophesize things. But I still did the readings. Kay had a lot of hippy mates, housewives with a bit of money, really, who were always seeking out people to read for them. And I had a natural talent for it. I’ve always been able to read people. My mam’s a bit like that. I never used to charge a lot, but now you can earn a fortune. When I was really skint in 2000, I thought to myself, I should be doing that again. You can earn £40 an hour.

When people did a tarot with me they’d walk away wth their life changed. But you can’t fuck around with those things too much. You’re dealing with a force. When it goes wrong you’re not being a vessel.


I did the readings for a year or two. But people started coming back too much. I had to tell them to stop. You get to the point where people can’t function without it—once a week turns into twice a week. They were driving up in their sports cars outside the flat, asking if they should go with this nice man they’d just met. A lot of fellas used to take advantage of that. Telling them they need more tarot—and that the tarot says you need sex with me.

One of the rules of the tarot is that you shouldn’t really take a lot of money for it, like psychics. It’s not good. So I’d take presents, a nice leather jacket. You’d go round to dope dealers and they’d give you two ounces of dope per reading.

Can you imagine visiting, say, Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland and running into Mark E. Smith?

Most interesting, perhaps, is that as recently as 2000, after like 20 studio albums on his resume, Smith was “skint” enough to consider taking the practice up again.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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