Thursday, August 30, 2012

Celebrity Spotlight: Shoko Nakagawa

I've always been a fan of Japan's rich, unique culture. As one of the oldest civilizations, and one of the farthest from our Western shores, every aspect from their quirky mythology to their day-to-day lives is fascinating to me. I'll admit, my interest was initially sparked by exposure to anime/manga, but I'm hesitant to place myself in the camp with "otaku", if only because I see my interest as more anthropological in nature.

That being said, when I discovered pop idol Shoko Nakagawa, I was really just... taken aback.

She's the 27-year old daughter of 80's actor/musician Katsuhiko Nakagawa, and best known as being the host of PokéMon Sunday. Shoko Nakagawa, or Shokotan as she is sometimes known, is about as big an ootaku (a huge fan of anime/manga) as you can find; she is an avid cosplayer, talented illustrator, voice actor, and singer. She runs a blog that's hit over a million views and loves interacting with her sizable fanbase.

Shokotan is talented in many respects, to be sure, but the real love she gets from her fans stems from them identifying with her as an otaku/cosplayer.

But her multitude of talents are not the only things that garner interest in Ms. Nakagawa. She's also really... well, weird. She owns around ten cats and has said she enjoys "tasting" them and occasionally posts photos to her blog showing her doing just that:
Don't worry, she's only smelling her cat's anus in that last one. #thingsyoudontexpecttosay
Every year in Japan, summer is ushered in by the buzzing of cicadas and as children flock outdoors to enjoy the warm weather, some of them with net in hand to catch said critters, and yet another bug-related tradition has popped up in recent years. Shoko Nakagawa, like clockwork, will go out and collect cicada skins and arrange them in her hair and on her face. For real.

You didn't need to sleep tonight anyway, right?
I don't get the impression she does this stuff to get attention, after all, she already gets plenty for her many talents and pop-icon status. It seems more like she just gives absolutely no fucks and does as she pleases; in one interview she even stated:
I just want to leave proof of my life in my blog, and I just want to be as free as possible. Sometimes I'm too free, and my manager will get mad at me. 

I've got to admit, despite the flood of NOPE that overcomes me when I see those photos with the cicada skins, I admire this lady. She's turned her fandom into a career, and an impressive one to boot. Plus, you can't argue with that level of "don't give a fuck-titude ".

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph

E3 2012 started up yesterday, and while I'm avoiding regurgitating all the same highlights you can read on hundreds of other blogs, one thing that stood out was the trailer for Disney's newest Pixar jam, Wreck-It Ralph, about a video game villain who gets sick of being the bad guy, and starts game-hopping to find a place where he can be a hero.

With the voice talents of John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Sarah Silverman and more, the bar is already set pretty high.

The problem with this kind of movie is that it's really unlikely it won't go one of two ways:
  1. It'll be targeted at your more general audience of "family gamer" types, and resulting in sweaty gamer outrage being splattered all over the internet.
  2. It'll be so chock-full of obscure nods that hardly anyone will get it, and it'll flop.

Hopefully Disney finds a happy medium and we wind up with a nice Roger Rabbit for the video game industry, and not another Cool World fiasco.

**EDIT: To be clear, it was shown DURING E3, but not at Disney's panel.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Gamer Fuel: DewRito Cupcakes

In the first of this new series on Geeky/Gamer eats, I'll be attempting to recreate the gametastic Dorito/Mt. Dew cupcakes sold at 4Rivers Smokehouse in Orlando, Fl.

I scoured the internet but couldn't find anyone who had duplicated the recipe, but I did find this Mt. Dew cupcake recipe from The Geeky Hostess, which I worked from as a base.

In an interview with John Rivers, owner of the aforementioned 4Rivers Smokehouse, Mr. Rivers advised in making one's own soda-flavored cakes, the use of a soda reduction was key.

Lovely ingredients!

Making a soda reduction takes quite a bit longer than I realized. You'll wanna use at least two or three times the amount you want to end up with, about 3 cups. Start by bringing your soda to a nice rolling boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1-2 hours until it becomes a syrup.

Stir stir stir

When done, mix 1/2 cup of your syrup reduction, and two eggs into your white or lemon cake mix (I used lemon for mine).

Throw that bad mama jama into your cupcake cups, filling to 1/3 full.

Bake at 350 for the time specified on your mix box (about 20 minutes) or until a toothpick/skewer inserted into the middle of cakes comes out clean.

For an extra kick of flavor, you can top each hot cupcake with a light drizzle of reserved syrup, creating a nice glaze.

While those babies cool, go ahead and start on your icing. You can either use a store-bought icing and add a tablespoon of Mt. Dew syrup and a squeeze each of lemon and lime, or you can go the from-scratch route, as I did.

Mix up your butter until it's nice and fluffy(ish), then add your lemon, lime, and Mt. Dew. Mix 'er up again, and start adding your powdered sugar a cup at a time until you get to the consistency you want.

When your cupcakes are nice and cool, top each one with icing and then just roll the edges in your Doritos.

(NOTE: You'll wanna do this right before serving, as the Doritos chips on your cupcakes will go stale rather quickly)

All in all, I'd say the flavor is... unique. I'm not in love with the icing recipe, as it had a very strong powdered sugar taste. The cake was good, and as noted the Doritos need to be added shortly before you're actually planning on eating them. :)

Happy noming!

Wonderful photography by HylianxPrincess of our sister-blog (literally) Ctrl Alt Petite.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Reflection on the Nature of Comedy

I saw an ad for The Comedy Awards, which apparently began last year. Almost immediately, it struck me as really odd to have a big cable TV (it's a Comedy Central jam) awards show for comedians. Like it's contradictory to the very nature of comedy.

Historically, comedians have always been the kind of people you don't want to keep on display out in the daylight. You'd go and see them late at night, in an ill-lit, smokey club, and the whole scene had an amazing underground element to it. Comedians, just as brilliant and creative as any other artist, were regarded as less worthy of being recognized for the unique genius they possess. But that's okay. They fed on that. They were the underground, the drug-addled, alcoholics reflecting openly all the stuff everyone does in private, saying the dick lines it's in our nature as human beings to think, but socially unacceptable for us to say.

It was amazing, brilliant, and really filled a very specific void in our collective subconscious.

The entire comedy sub-culture seems to have been slowly creeping it's way into the mainstream since the 90's when open-mic nights started disappearing, and it's watering down the entire experience. Then there was another leap in the early 2000's when Dane Cook and Blue Collar Comedy Tour gained popularity, and now we've got this award show.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say every funny person, or even every professional comedian is some kind of a train-wreck of a human being. Although most of them will.

I have the pleasure of being friends with someone who has experience on the stand-up circuit, and one of the first things he said to me when I approached the subject was "most comedians have a very dark side". He continued, saying:
...My best friends that are comedians and that are actually good, have experienced so much more in life than most would. They are literally down for anything, any drug, any situation. They don't say no to anything, because regardless you can get a story or an experience out of it. Some of the stories that I've heard just bs'ing after a show, is 10x funnier than bits they do in their acts. You can't make that mainstream.
In all honesty, I'm not sure I could write a more accurate conclusion than that final line:

You can't make that mainstream.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Still Alive

So I have been CRAZY busy the past few months and I do actually intend to re-visit you lovely reader(s) very soon! Here's what I've been up to:

  • Had some paintings on display at an art show
  • Zip-lined over alligators
  • Went skydiving!
  • Worked on a couple of commissions
  • Lots and LOTS of work and study time
  • Ponies

And here's what's on the docket for some upcoming posts!

  • Spoiler-free Cabin in the Woods review
  • Mt. Dew/Dorito Cupcakes! The ultimate in gamer chow condensed into one culinary confection. Featuring food photography by CTRL ALT Petite.
  • New post in my series on internet memes

Stay tuned, and happy geeking!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Q: Aren't You Too Old for PokéMon?

Character © Nintendo/Rare, Art © Sarah Hendricks

A: While it tends to be marketed to a younger demographic, there is actually a sizable group of PokéMon fans in the 20-something range. They are the individuals who began playing the games- or watching the show, or reading the comics- back in '95 when they were released, and simply continued to do so through the present. When a generation grows up with a franchise as a constant it becomes timeless, not unlike Mickey Mouse or Winnie the Pooh.

So no bitch, I am not too old for PokéMon.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tattoos & Video Game Culture

About 13 years ago, my best friend and I were playing through The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time together. It was the first game I ever really got into and played all the way through (although it certainly wouldn't be the last), and it was amazing. At 12 years old, when we first defeated Ganon, we were so excited we had accomplished such a feat (together, mind you) that we jumped up and down and hugged.

I've already done a post on how video games have influenced me (really gotta follow up on that), and one on today's tattoo culture. For good measure, let's combine the two for an exploration of the overflow of tattoos based on video games.

Many people (non-gamers, feh) find it difficult to understand the logic behind getting an image from a video game emblazoned in permanent ink on your body. "It's just a stupid game" is one common response, and there's always the classic "Er... that's... cool". Yep, way to not be obviously awkward.

But tattoos are just an outlet for our love. These games, these worlds, and characters... when you're enveloped in a game something incredible happens. You go on an adventure. You save a princess (unless you visit the wrong castle). It's akin to the thrill of getting sucked into a great book or movie. Only with video games you're capable of doing so interactively with a friend or family member, strengthening your bond as a result.

... Unless you're playing Mario Kart. Never play Mario Kart with someone you love.

Best of all, you don't even need to have played a game with someone to get in on that sweet, free-love action. Make one mention of it being "dangerous to go alone" or "all your base are belong to us" to the right person, and you are instant friends.

So, video games can bring people together in a very unique way. And with long-running series like Mortal Kombat, Pokémon, and everything Shigeru Miyamoto touches it's no surprise that, when someone grows up playing a game series, it can be as much a part of their life as anything else. It's what inspires people to go into the field in the first place.

Now- finally- let's check out some sweet ass video game inspired tats that you haven't had shoved down your throat all over the internet:

"I got Squirtle Squad Squirtle because I will forever be Pokémon faithful. He's my favorite little guy."
Power-ups from Mario 3

Bullet Bill

"Dead mans hand holding Nintendo Zapper."

Blood-Sin from Vagrant Story

My little sister and I got Legend of Zelda series brotats, here's hers and her story:

"I grew up watching my older sisters play Legend of Zelda all the time. I used to follow them everywhere and it always annoyed them, but when they were playing LoZ I could sit and watch and they wouldn't mind. Growing up, none of us really lost our love for the LoZ series and I feel like it will always be something my sisters and I can go back to. LoZ was also one of the first fantasy 'worlds' that I could get immersed in."

And mine, naturally with the most long-winded explanation c;  :

My Zelda tattoo (just an outline for now) is based on a sketch I did of the Wind Fish from The Legend of Zelda: Links Awakening. Obviously one of the main reasons I wanted a Zelda tattoo was because it had always meant a lot to myself and my sibling, and many friends along the way. I chose Links Awakening because it was always one of my favorites, one I played  countless times right through the end boss (I'm notorious for not quite finishing games. Like ever). I was also always attracted to the extra quirky characters and the existential undertones in the game.

Feel free to comment and share any pics or stories, I'm interested in the different perspectives people have on this subject.

Tats pictured belong to:
  • Squirtle belongs to Brittney
  • Mario power-ups, Bullet Bill, and Nintendo Zapper are Jason from Designs by Voorhees
  • Vagrant Story tat belongs to Sam
  • Zelda chest piece is my lovely little sister Olivia of sister blog Ctrl Alt Petite
  • Wind Fish is of course, yours truly.

Most of these, including my own, were done at Harris Ink right here in J-ville. Awesome atmosphere and awesome artists, check them out for your next ink.