So. It's the late '80s / early '90s. What are people playing games on?
Friday, 24 June 2016
Thursday, 23 June 2016
So on April Fool's Day, 1993, Fox aired So It's Come to This: A Simpsons Clip Show (9F17) in their 4th season. In addition to numerous other gags, it included a montage sequence compiling a wide and varied selection of Homer Simpson's "D'oh" exclamations from the second and third season -- no fewer than 32 of them. At this liminal moment on the technological frontier, some genius digitized the audio track of the sequence, and it merrily circulated in a most postmodern fashion, bereft of any context or, indeed, meaning. For kicks, I assigned it as my family's Windows 3.11 shutdown sound -- slowing down the process considerably -- and for my troubles, I found the computer bedecked with a Printshop tractor feed dot matrix printer banner proclaiming my computer access temporarily revoked due to pranksterism.
Sami "PrOtoCol" Tammilehto of ACiD spent a little longer considering what was to be done before coming up with quite a more compelling application for these annoyed grunts. It was a painfully true cliche that audio samples from movies and TV were the tail that wagged the dog of lousy tracker music, like the medieval practice of masking the flavour of rotting food with inappropriate superdoses of strong spices, but their gratuitous overuse didn't necessarily apply 100% of the time... you can consider this track the virtuous 1 percent that broke through the cliche. The striking composition travels through several movements in a well-considered fashion, and would be compelling even in the absence of its raison d'etre (though that might make its closing drum roll somewhat perplexing.) The highest praise I can extend it is that it survives a detour through a tropical steel-drum mini-arrangement of Bobby McFerrin's 1988 mega-hit Don't Worry Be Happy. Because PrOtoCol was a fellow member (represent!) of ACiD (I, uh, should assume that everyone will appreciate the significance there: first major group of the PC underground artscene, first major ANSI art group, remained to a certain extent pre-eminent over everything that followed until the scene as a whole largely dried up by the end of the century) he also figured out a way to use silent samples to provide an animated textmode signature appear in the song's introduction when played in a music tracker program. Truly every aspect of this creation is polished precisely as far as it can be without running the risk of feeling baroque or ostentatious. I dare say people will still be enjoying the D'oh Boys Choir after they have long since forgotten ＳＩＭＰＳＯＮＷＡＶＥ. So now, without further ado, I present... the song!
And its sample messages:
--------------------------- homah simpson -and- da doh-boyz choir --------------------------- /c/ 8/1995 PrOtoCoL (ACiD) samples are borrowed from who knows. "don't worry, be happy" music by bobby mcferrin. all da rest by PrOtoCoL. play at risk to your own sanity. composed on screamtracker v3.21 by sami tammilehto. by the way, homer really says 32 consecutive "dohs" in the end. orders 1-12: homer's theme orders 13-19: homer sings the blues orders 20-25: homah & da boyz quartet orders 26-28: homer's 32-doh solo ___________________________ you may not be able to see the intro animation ░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░ ▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ███████████████████████████ ██▄ █▀▌ █▀▄ ▐▌ ;) █▐▌ █ ▐▌ ▐▌ ██▀ █ █ ▄ █ ▄ █ █ ▄▌█▐▌▄█▀▐▀▌█ ▄▌▌▀▌ █ ▄▄ █ █ ▐█ █ ▐▄▌▐█▀ ▐▄▌ ▀█▀ ░░░░░░ ░░░░░░░░░▒▒ ░░░░░░░░▒▒▒▒▓▓██ ░░░░▒▒▒▓▓██ ░▒▒▓▓██ █
Wednesday, 15 June 2016
This is not as bad as the time I put down my Philip Jose Gardner Riverworld novel in the back of the car, tooling around somewhere in rural southern Italy, and asked them what "orgasm" meant. But I digress. All I can say is that I always kept the alt.sex FAQ in my home directory after that to avoid any repeats of that awkward conversation!
in Telemate to keep a text editor on the go while the other half of the screen displayed my online session) but things can get really busy, fast! The piece credits itself as an adaptation of Riggs' album artwork for "Stranger In A Strange Land". Kingpin remarks: " I painted Eddie at the end of last year. I was working on my masterpiece in 1993 which was the inside sleeve from 7th Son of a 7th Son, the crystal ball Eddie. I had the ball done and the rest sketched out but I lost it when my PC broke. :(" -- a scene I believe The Necromancer attempted above.
And now, as a special bonus -- some C64 graphics!
So, what have we learned here? Well, one: METAL RULZ DOOD. And two: you don't need to have a mass movement in order to make something appear ubiquitous -- the lion's share of the art in this post (though this is just what was easy to find with queries; I'm certain there's quite a bit more of it burbling out there in the shadows) was created by just two artists over an intense, condensed period of time (turns out that perhaps 1992 was "peak Maiden.") Maybe Eddie the Head didn't have the staying power of a Spawn, but there's no way he was going to wind up just overlooked in the mix. BONUS! Antti kindly pointed out that there existed some body of further Iron Maiden fanart in the demoscene. And how! I don't have browser-viewable multimedia presentations of most of them for your accessible enjoyment, but here's one piece presented for your enjoyment in its fullness -- 1992's Amberstar by The Dream Team, also celebrating The Trooper:
And here for your further enjoyment is a selection of screenshots (thanks to Pouet.net!) from ... quite a few more Eddie-themed intros and demos from the C64, Amiga, and Atari ST, circa the late '80s-early '90s. Until I get caught up, full attribution of the files is indicated in their filenames.:
you can also find it on the cover of a ZX Spectrum shoot-'em-up, Bedlam!) (That was my own original research! I'm really enriching the corpus with all this, uhh, data.) Ed Hunter or Iron Maiden: Speed of Light from last year!
Congratulations, folks, in appreciation of your devotion and persistence to this niche subject, the long tail has delivered us an ANSI art coup de grace by Soul Assassin:
Monday, 13 June 2016
I'm guessing that I encountered the file shortly after being given a Sound Blaster Pro by my uncle -- perusing the previously waste-of-time "multimedia" file bases on local BBSes, there it was:
BART SIMPSON'S TONGUE IN A BLENDER by SLICK FLICK PRODUCTIONS.-This is an interesting demo. (FILE NAME: BARTBLND.ZIP/ND16).Yeah, it's the mid-'90s, heyday of Spike 'n Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation: sure, I'll spend an hour downloading that:
OK, truth in advertising! Delivers exactly what it promises. Dating to late November / early December 1990, one L. Tipton, presumably of Sick Flick Productions (which I can find no further trace of), made this animated loop of Bart Simpson with his tongue caught in an electric mixer, reproducing an event from some eight-ish months prior aired in The Simpsons episode "Life on the Fast Lane", season 1 episode 9, on March 18, 1990:
The animation itself is vestigial at best, boasting maybe a kingly sum of three frames, but between the hypnotic strobing of Bart's throbbing pupils and the increasingly desperate quality to his gargled shrieks of pain, the presentation sustains itself over its long runtime. (Imagining the recording session of the soundtrack always puts a smile on my face.) I'm guessing that the functionality of the programs are such that the visual loop would simply repeat until the audio cues were exhausted.
The file types used here are interesting (well, maybe to some): .VOC lost out to .WAV in the long run, and the .FLI animation format -- dominant enough that I formally learned to use it in my final year of high school (sadly, my "Fire in the Sky"-inspired term project is forever lost to the ages: in a nutshell, a sleeping schlub in bed (represented as a blanket with two ugly feet poking out the end) experiences, in a first person perspective, the approach of a UFO, his house's being bathed in a tractor beam, nearby trees (and then the planet Earth, and then the local star cluster) receding, a long, long drill being deployed for probing, then everything apparently returned to normal. Except that... his four-toed feet have been altered by the abductors and now boast a horrifying, inhuman total of five toes per foot. FIVE TOES!) -- was technically supported by the SAUCE computer art metadata injector application (which admittedly breaks many formats that it is claimed to support)... but I never encountered a single .FLI or .FLC in the wild in all my artpack explorations. A mega query on the Dark Domains DVD could perhaps put to rest once and for all the question of whether any artgroups ever released any animations in that format, but my guess is that the answer is "no".
This bit of memory fluff was stirred up sometime over the past few years by my being reminded of it after reading something on a demoparty results announcement -- suggesting, in my mind, that it was in some way a product of the demoscene -- which would easily make it fair game for this blog! (Given its kludgey and inefficient nature, I know that's hard to believe, but having once won a wild compo myself at Crash '97 by hitting people with foam covered PVP piping, I know that anything is possible.) But now that I have this myth of peculiar provenance in my head, I can't dig up a primary document to support it. Well, this tfile comes close, which lists it, but seems upon closer review to simply be a BBS' file section listing:
Without locating L. Tipton, we may never know the full truth behind this curious piece of MS-DOS multimedia (including the single most pressing matter: figuring out why the animation's tongue bends at precisely the opposite angle as Bart's tongue in the original cartoon. Why?!) But on the bright side: there's very little hanging in the balance.
THE EUROPEAN DEMO LIST
SPY, XSE, AND EURODEMO FREAKS
It is 1994. European Demos are getting popular. Techno, House, Rave music is getting popular. EMF & KLF are popular. European Demos, you ask? What are they? Let's put it this way....Computer graphic music videos. How bout dat. Well, what this is, is a listing of pretty cool European demos from the best from Europe and a few from our mainland (the few; although we'd like to see more from the U.S.A.)
Monday, 6 June 2016
Back in November I stumbled upon a page on the vast and endlessly-fascinating textfiles.com complex (which we have visited here before) that was just a big contextless glomming of piles and piles of PD (Public Domain) ANSI art -- converted to .PNG for easy browser viewing, largely dating back to before the format's adoption by underground elites circa 1992. (What Jason Scott's intention was for this page I cannot presume to speculate; however I have found it to be an endless font of inspiration!) It was jarring to see such a well-known and much-loved idiom used so extensively and to such (ahem) varying effect years before it popped... it was a feeling not entirely dissimilar to the creepy tingle an author experienced encountering proto-textmode art poring over microfiche transfers of 19th century newspapers.
This heap was in desperate need of some curation, so I have shaken it down in a few different ways and look forward to presenting you with a few groomed posts exploring different themes of ANSI artwork back in the TheDraw, 1200 baud, pre-artscene era. Otherwise put: What On Earth Did People Draw In ANSI Before Image Comics Were Invented? (In a nutshell: in 1992 seven artists on Marvel Comics' top-selling titles -- notably Todd McFarlane (Spider-Man), Jim Lee (X-Men), Rob Liefeld (X-Force), Marc Silvestri (Wolverine), Erik Larsen (The Amazing Spider-Man), and Jim Valentino (Guardians of the Galaxy) -- felt (likely very correctly) that they'd gotten a raw deal and could do better in an independent comic book house, one which enshrined Creator's Rights and had better royalty rates. In turn, they gave us Youngblood, The Savage Dragon, Spawn, WildC.A.T.s, Cyberforce, Shadowhawk, and Wetworks, and shortly thereafter titles such as The Maxx and Pitt. And anyone who has ever looked into an artpack has seen art from these particular comic books hundreds of times. From the very month they began publishing, Image's eye-candy characters immediately wiped the slate clean of virtually every other subject (barring Calvin and Hobbes) an ANSI-drawing kid might try to commit to pixels. Solely judging from the contents of artpacks, you might be forgiven for thinking that Marvel and DC had gone out of business at that point. Moving along!)
There are some formal innovations that simply hadn't occurred yet in these pieces: until the release of ACIDDraw in April of 1995 (which denizens of the Public Domain would never even have known about), TheDraw limited artists to a single screen of 80 columns by 25 rows (technically 50 were available in a rarely-used mode, but in practical terms this was never used.) They were big on block colours, weak on shading, weak on use of half-block characters, and rarely outlined. By and large, the aspiration seems to have been: "Can you tell what this is supposed to be?" rather than "Does it look good?" But then, small-scale ANSI art production was always difficult -- a different set of minimalist constraints than those the artscene ended up selecting to work around.
This art isn't simply different because of aesthetic sensibilities and the crudeness of available tools, however: it points to a radically different psychological profile of an ANSI-drawing computer user in 1990 from the disaffected "Lone Gunmen" skeptical cyberpunks we think of populating the mid-'90s digital underground: they loved their local sports teams and cheered for their country during the Olympics, read the funny pages in their daily newspapers, celebrated holidays gushingly, and were big boosters of the military (and strong detractors, in turn, of Saddam Hussein.) They're only recognizable as members of our geek tribe at all due to their fondness of Star Trek! The closest thing to an edge any of their tastes might hint at is an affinity for the (contemporary) works of Patrick Nagel. They were sentimental and disgustingly earnest, and felt excited to share primitive digital farts they'd made which a later artscene dood would have sooner died than have their name associated with. You'll see all these sides of them in time, but today we're examining their musical taste.
They didn't listen to techno, because that hadn't reached the mainstream yet; of the rock styles of the '80s, you see quite a bit more representation from the metal than the punk side of things... they don't acknowledge country music at all and their awareness of black music -- R'n'B and the emerging rap phenomenon -- is vestigial at best, nodding only to the contemporary titans simply too big to ignore. Basically, Homo Publicdomainicus, a Joe Six-Pack type, listened to top-40. Love it or leave it!
And like some obsessive fan before the days of instant gratification found in interest-shared online forums, they expressed their love in a fashion not dissimilar to smoke pit kids talismanically scrawling band logos on high school trapper-keepers and jean jackets in ballpoint pen and Sharpie marker or carving them into classroom desks with compass points. These icons and logos were potent magical glyphs broadcasting out to the world that you were not a bloated Eagles fan, you were hungry for the next new thing -- Mötley Crüe. Or Billy Joel. Or what have you. The folks online at this time spent their hard-earned dollars on a curious and expensive hobby, but apparently one that in no way slowed down or interfered with this overall practice of using band iconography to trawl for kindred spirits.
(NB: for purposes of this feature, I have also dipped into the first couple years of artscene artpack releases, as until the Image Comics scroller upheaval their development of the artform was merely evolutionary, not revolutionary. They were still making largely single-screen works in which band iconography figured prominently, and both of these would change drastically as underground ANSI art grew into its own style.)
Noel Gamboa does an excellent job rocking the stylish I.R.S. Records logo:The underground's take on the same subject has more of what could be described as "raw energy".) Chameleon GFX lives up to its name: parts of its logo assume the colour of its background. No, it was drawn, for reasons that may ultimately be known only to Chameleon, using flashing characters, resulting in a logo that was never 100% visible unless you employed the PD-unknown and not-then-invented-yet iCEcolour innovation. (A pain in the neck to capture accurately as .GIF animation. Can it be done? Sure. Is it worth the trouble? Not hardly!) Deeper meaning? Allegorical connection to the spearhead of the British Invasion? None that we can find! The positions of the musical note characters on the staff? Random and arbitrary! Is there a better logo we can use? Coming right up! a funny origin story for the album art!)
The PD artists, as we have seen, had no concern for their celebrated acts being on the right side of their "best before" date, so I'm wondering what it was that made the underground artists so much more keenly conscious of current trends. Of course, they may have just been younger -- we've all heard the hand-waving about how people stop listening to new music after the age of 30 -- and I like to think that their subculture's obsession with "freshness"... not in terms of novelty, but rather the way that warez were measured on a 0-3 days scale... may have played into things. The PD scene was a relishing of the status quo, loving the things you knew you loved, while the underground was much more an endless game of one-upmanship. They just needed to be conversant with "the new shit" simply in order to keep in the loop.the "gynoids" of Hajime Sorayama (VERY '80s) in a way that was presumably entirely unimaginable at the time of the phrase's minting. I have diverted the single most popular specimen aside for another post exclusively about him, but the one area where ANSI artists, especially the kids of the underground, made sure to celebrate artists who'd been active in the last decade was metal. PD aficionados of classic rock hunkered down and entrenched themselves in their golden eras of the '60s and '70s, but the kids were touting extreme and edgy acts that were current and vital phenomena at that moment. (A handful of them, at least; conspicuously absent in this list are "Monsters of Rock" tourmates Judas Priest, Twisted Sister, Queensrÿche, and ... where the hell is Metallica? Maybe the scenesters rejected them for selling out after their breakthrough success with "Enter Sandman" in 1991.) (Edited to add: ah, here.) the music video (in which a Commodore PET figures prominently!) or just a piece of inspired whimsey by the infuriatingly anonymous KT? Unclear. But it's a fair sight prettier than everything else here, so let's not complain! the original album artwork which, I see, also explains the skulls and ligatures discussed in the previous comment.) I don't think you're ever going to convincingly carve an M out of a 3x2 grid; any attempt will necessarily involve those nasty F9 characters and just look like one of those Es rotated. case in point) from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon then, for kicks, includes a complete track listing and a Dolby Sound logo. Curious how the outer bands of colour alternate between high and low intensity every half-row, but the desperate workaround to accommodate structural failings of the ANSI art medium, boldly presented as a creative choice instead, lends the composition some dynamism. Play a wrong note, then play it again louder like you meant it! not pictured: bondage babe crawling toward it on hands and knees. Maybe George Ramos Jr. wanted to keep his PD ANSI art PG as well... coming from an underground artscene perspective, it seems a baffling decision to deliberately omit cheesecake. (This guy would not have been allowed into Integrity!) Misplaced Ideal's album art, which was quite eye-opening!