fistful of quarters

Joshua Bearman’s article The perfect game (2008) since years slumbers on my HDD—luckily it’s still available online for everybody. Testimony to the amazing zen-like perfect-flow achievable in high-end arcade gaming. Additionally there are two magnificent documentaries on the subject: ‘The King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters’ (Gordon 2007) and ‘Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade’ (Ruchti 2007). Here are the trailers and what filmcritic‘s Anthony Burch has to say on the two documentaries:
the king of kong

Put this one at the top of your “Must Watch Now” list. Like, right now. Beyond functioning as an entertaining if somewhat shallow look into the world of professional retro gamers, The King of Kong tells a downright spectacular story about the rivalry between hot sauce baron Billy Mitchell and science teacher Steve Wiebe as they struggle for ownership of the highest Donkey Kong score ever.
    As Mitchell waxes poetic about World War I and Wiebe’s wife bemoans her status as the “Queen of Donkey Kong,” we’re presented with a straightforward but remarkably effective and well paced good-versus-evil tale. Not to denigrate the other movies on this list, but The King of Kong is enjoyable because it’s a documentary that doesn’t feel like one; it’s got the heroes and villains and character arcs and conflict of a “real” Hollywood movie, only all the players are much more funny-looking.

chasing ghosts

But when it comes to video game docs, King of Kong is a little too Hollywood. Enter Chasing Ghosts, which unpretentiously explores the history and personalities behind the Twin Galaxies organization that tracks video game world records of all varieties. Many of the same people to appear in King of Kong show up here as well, albeit in a much different context: Where King of Kong often asked us to laugh at the fact that a bunch of middle-aged guys would still be interested in playing perfect games of Pac Man, Chasing Ghosts is legitimately interested in the arcade game culture that exploded in the ’80s and died two decades later. Ultimately, the movie is equal parts love letter and eulogy to a time when quarters and 8-bit enemies and really, really awkward hairstyles were the pinnacle of pop culture.

BEARMAN, JOSHUA. 2008. The perfect game: Five years with the master of Pac-Man. Harper’s Magazine July 2008: 65-73.
GORDON, SETH. 2007. The king of kong: A fistful of quarters [documentary film]. Los Angeles: LargeLab.
RUCHTI, LINCOLN. 2007. Chasing ghosts: Beyond the arcade [documentary film]. Glenham: Men at Work Pictures.

only in india

A car lock in India
Only in India is a fairly new blog ‘on funny photos collected in India, sent to me by email or clicked while travelling. Stuff you only get to see in India really… or possible elsewhere too :)’ It’s not at all about technology only, like e.g. afrigadget or street use, but then again technical improvisations and contraptions creep up, like the car lock above.


beyond the game

Beyond the Game‘ is the motto of the World Cyber Games and also the intended title of the documentary film by filmmaker Jos de Putter. The film is set in the world of incredibly popular cyber games and portrays several top players from very different cultures in the run-up to the coming world Championships in October 2008 in Seattle, which will also be the climax of the film.
    Protagonists are an Asian and a European player, known in the cyber world as Sky and Grubby. Sky is 19, comes from China and is world champion in the game Warcraft. Grubby is 20, comes from Holland and is the former Warcraft world champion. The two players avoid each other as much as possible during the year, so that their encounter at the world championships can rightly be called a “clash of the titans”.

DE PUTTER, JOS. 2008. Beyond the game [documentary film]. Amsterdam: Dieptescherpte.

who are they?

zeph’s pop culture quiz #23
Who are they?
It’s noir-time at zeph’s pop culture quiz … the two menacing silhouettes sporting fedoras—who are they? It so happens that the answer to the question at the same time is the title of the movie in question.
    Just leave a comment with your educated guess—you can ask for additional hints, too. [Leaving a comment is easy; just click the ‘Leave a comment’ at the end of the post and fill in the form. If it’s the first time you post a comment, it will be held for moderation. But I am constantly checking, and once I’ve approved a comment, your next ones won’t be held, but published immediately by the system.]

UPDATE and solution (10 April 2012):
Number 23 was not yet five hours old and ryoku already got it completely right: Max (William Conrad, on the left) and Al (Charles McGraw), The Killers (Siodmak 1946) they are! Here they are a minute later, having entered Henry’s Diner, at the counter—now Al is on the left:
Early scene in 'The Killers' (Siodmak 1946)
Siodmak’s ‘The Killers’ is an absolute noir classic featuring non-linear storytelling. The first 20 minutes are a faithful adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s short story of the same name (1927). The movie was Burt Lancaster’s screen debut and Ava Gardner’s first notable role, which made her career take off.

HEMINGWAY, ERNEST MILLER. 1927. The killers. Scribner’s Magazine 81(3): 227-233.
SIODMAK, ROBERT. 1946. The killers [motion picture]. New York: Universal Pictures.

ambiguity, oscillation, disorder

Online life is usually held to present particular problems for ethnography as it is hidden and ambiguous, and boundaries are not clear. However, ethnography and online daily life are similar procedures in which people go about constructing ‘culture’ to make sense of others and interact with a degree of predictability. Ethnographers can learn about culture and society by learning how people themselves go about understanding and making those processes. We further, do not have to expect that the reality we describe will be completely ordered, even though the simplifications of constructing ‘culture’ might make this seem inevitable. Disorder can be socially important.

MARSHALL, JONATHAN PAUL. 2010. Ambiguity, oscillation and disorder: Online ethnography and the making of culture. Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Journal 2(3). Electronic Document. Available online:

iron sky

Dieselpunk æsthetics and ambience galore, plus a wealth of online-scenes humour. Iron Sky (Vuorensola 2012) premiered at the Berlinale in February, now it has come to the cinemas—at least in Finland and Germany. Absolute must-see. Till then, have more at

VUORENSOLA, TIMO. 2012. Iron sky [motion picture]. Helsinki: Buena Vista International Finland.