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ANDRE: Which days of Bumbershoot did you attend?

CLAIRE:  I only attended Sunday because it was the only day that seemed interesting to me.

ANDRE: What shows did you see?

CLAIRE:  I saw fun. Ra Ra Riot, and Death Cab for Cutie

ANDRE: What did you think of the shows?

CLAIRE:  Some were my favorite bands, one was one of my sister’s favorite bands when she was my age, and then one was my friend’s favorite, so it all three of us seeing our favorite bands together.

ANDRE: What did you think of the Ra Ra Riot performance?

CLAIRE:  I’m not saying it was bad! It just wasn’t my kind of music. It didn’t ‘zing.’ I’m more of a person who goes to cultural songs.

ANDRE: Why did you start spinning?

CLAIRE:  At first I told my sister I wanted to get closer but she said I couldn’t because it could have been dangerous and we couldn’t really stick together, so we just went to the back and she was just pointing out how most of the people were just standing stiff. My sister, my friend, and I started spinning because I just thought that’s what should happen at concerts like these. When you’re on the floor, you shouldn’t just stand.”

ANDRE: Do you spin for fun a lot?

CLAIRE:  I used to a lot when I was younger, but then it started freaking out my dog. So now I only do it at school with my friends, but I have a gift for not getting sick after a spin or two.

ANDRE: When did you first become aware that the audience was cheering for you?

CLAIRE:  My sister told me that the audience was actually cheering for me. I thought they were just cheering at some part of the song that they liked. When I realized they were cheering for me, it was a little embarrassing. I wanted to keep spinning, but I didn’t want them to think I was just doing it for the audience rather than because I enjoyed it.

ANDRE: Tell me what your interaction with security

CLAIRE:  Well I couldn’t exactly hear him but he said you’d have to go sit down. I acted like I was happen he told me to because I felt dizzy, but in my head I was like “Oh my god! What? Nooo!” Hopefully I did a good job covering up my feelings.

ANDRE: Why did they react the way they did? Both at the beginning and later?

CLAIRE:  I don’t fully understand that myself. I’m just kind of glad that they did it because everyone relaxed and started dancing. I don’t really know what they were thinking, because I didn’t see it from their point of view, but I’m pretty sure I would cheer for a little girl who was dancing. I’d get mad at the guard because she’d just be doing what she wants to do, which is dance. And what’s wrong with that?

ANDRE: How did you feel when the entire audience got up and started spinning?

CLAIRE: I felt slightly excited and I wanted to go back to dancing because, “Screw you guards! You can’t tell me what to do! I’m allowed to dance!” That’s what concerts are for.

ANDRE: How did you feel the whole thing affected the performance?

CLAIRE:  The main thing that kept going through my mind was that I hoped I wasn’t offending the band. People were posting things like, “Oh Ra Ra Riot was performing? I didn’t notice. I was watching #SpinGirl.” I hoped I didn’t offend them in any sort of way. I was thinking about it the entire time. It was going through my mind nonstop.

ANDRE: How did you feel when people asked for your picture?

CLAIRE:  I was like, “So this is what it feels like to be known.” I was kind of nervous because I didn’t know what to do and went along with them and said, “Sure!” It’s not like they aren’t allowed to have my picture, but it was kind of weird having people want it.

ANDRE: Are you aware that a lot of people have been posting about you on the internet and Twitter and such?

CLAIRE:  Yeah! Yeah! My friend told me, “This might go viral” and I was like, “Please… I don’t want that to happen,” but then this guy told me, “You know you’re on Twitter?” and I was like, “Great! It’s gone viral!”

ANDRE: Has anything interesting happened afterwards because of what happened?

CLAIRE:  Only a few people who asked me or got my picture know my real name, but a few kids at school who went to the show stopped me and were like, “You’re Spin Girl!”

ANDRE: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

CLAIRE:  There’s a story about a guy who was just dancing and the entire audience was just looking at him like, “what are you doing?” And then other people joined him and the audience starts to think, “Hmmm they’re doing it. There’s a crowd. Maybe I want to do it too because it looks fun!” The thing is, you kind of need a leader to get things started, but you also need those secondary people who are also very important in having that thing go on and on.

ANDRE: I asked a fan of yours what he’d say to you if he could have a word. He said he’d tell you to be happy and keep on spinning. I’d just like to say the same and thank you for giving me your time.

CLAIRE:  You’re welcome! And if you bump into him, tell him I will.

Ra Ra Riot had a competing act at their Sunday performance at the Bumbershoot music festival. Claire Sheehan, 11, now known as the “Spin Girl,” found herself the center of attention for over 15,000 in attendance when she rapidly spun in circles at the back of the dance floor.

Over the course of Ra Ra Riot’s performance, Sheehan danced with her arms out, facing the floor, and spinning like a helicopter.

Sheehan, who is just finishing her first week of middle school, explained, “Most of the people were just standing stiff. My sister, my friend, and I started spinning because I just thought that’s what should happen at concerts like these. When you’re on the floor, you shouldn’t just stand.”

Before long, the audience was cheering in periodic bursts that rivaled the cheers directed at the on-stage performance.

“I thought they were just cheering at some part of the song that they liked. When I realized they were cheering for me, it was a little embarrassing. I wanted to keep spinning, but I didn’t want them to think I was just doing it for the audience rather than because I enjoyed it,” Sheehan added.

As she gained attention, the cheers grew louder and her spinning was joined by the spinning of others around her almost virally, until a member of the event security asked her to stop. “That was embarrassing,” commented Sheehan.

The sideshow was far from over though. Throughout the rest of the performance, audience members would spin and be met with more cheers. When Ra Ra Riot finished their act and left the stage, the audience began chanting, “Spin girl! Spin girl!” in succession, demanding an unorthodox encore. All around, attendees were patting her on the back, taking her picture, and clapping for her.

Image

“You don’t usually get the entire audience chanting for you. The next day, people recognized my big sister as ‘spin girl’s sister.’ It’s kind of weird!” she said.

Her celebrity status is confirmed on Twitter. Check out #spingirl to see what people think.

Though her antics seemed innocent enough, attention was clearly diverted from Ra Ra Riot, who played on showing no indication that they knew of the simultaneous second act.

“I think it probably took away from Ra Ra Riot a bit, because people were focusing on her, but me and my friends had never seen them before and everyone seemed to really enjoy their show, so I don’t think it hurt them too much,” said Todd, an audience member of the show who came to Bumbershoot from Michigan.

Any fault of that nature goes to the audience, and though they paid for Ra Ra Riot to entertain them, granting them full attention is a sign of respect.

“The main thing that kept going through my mind was that I hoped I wasn’t offending the band,” Sheehan said, pointing out that some posts on Twitter playfully named her the performance of the evening.

Spin Girl became a rebel hero when security put an end to her spinning. The reaction of the audience was audible over the concert, including increased cheers for the girl, and boos at the members of security.

As they spoke to the girl, fans on the floor spun behind security personnel’s backs, while nearly half the audience, in what seemed like an act of non-violent protest, stood up and spun in place.

“I think what got everyone was that it didn’t seem necessary. She wasn’t hurting anyone. It looked like ‘the man’ was trying to keep her down and everyone wanted to keep the spirit of Spin Girl alive,” said Todd.

The event was staffed by Staff Pro who claims that their action was done out of safety concerns, explaining that, “The young girl was observed engaging in conduct that caused a potential danger to herself and others. Staff Pro strives to make sure that events are properly managed so that every guest is able to enjoy them in a safe and comfortable environment.”

It’s hard to pinpoint what made her so popular that night. Peculiarly absent from the event program, it’s safe to say she wasn’t the reason people paid money and waited for hours in line to get into the Key Arena. Perhaps it was just adulation of a young girl expressing and entertaining herself in a very outwardly carefree way.

“She was doing what made her happy. Everyone has their thing, whether it’s nodding their heads or tapping their toes. Everyone wanted her to be happy, because everyone wants to be happy themselves, and we all see ourselves in Spin Girl,” Todd explained.

VIDEO OF THE SPINNING WAVE: http://instagram.com/p/dyJ9QxQQCv/#

Whatever the reason, it’s undeniable that the events livened up the show. Where audience members once sat or stood, they now danced and spun. Before Death Cab took the stage, several human waves made it all the way around the arena, with people adding a spin as they stood. “You kind of need a leader to get things started,” Sheehan said. When asked what he’d say to Spin Girl if he had a chance to talk to her, Todd said conclusively, “I’d tell her to keep on spinning.”

Xbox Live Arcade is best known for bringing hit indie games like Braid, Limbo, and Bastion into the world. All of these games have simple gameplay-mechanics, coupled with fantastically tight design, and excellent presentation, and while it was not released to the fanfare of these titles, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet really stands among them.

Box Art

Like many of its XBLA brethren, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is a 2D side scroller, though instead of a head stomping, jumpy little guy determined to get from left to right, you zoom around in a little flying saucer, able to equip one tool or weapon at a time. Everything is out to kill you or block your way, and the game is largely about exploration and gathering new abilities to unlock new areas in the manner of Super Metroid or Zelda: A Link to the Past.

Main player character

The little ship you zoom around in

Controls are tight and intuitive, making it easy to use all the weapons and tools you eventually acquire. All equipment is controlled with the right analogue stick, which can be problematic when you must be precise, but overall it’s not a huge problem. The camera is completely controlled automatically, and in this case, works beautifully. There’s a diverse set of enemies, which will keep you on your toes, and while some portions of the game are unforgivingly difficult, there is a generous set of save spots, which double as healing sanctuaries to keep you from getting too frustrated. Levels are punctuated with challenging and truly memorable boss fights, something modern games have largely forgotten. These bosses fit each level’s theme and give you a well-deserved sense of accomplishment on completion before allowing you to move on to the next section.

Boss

Bosses have interesting and terrifying designs and will leave an impression.

 

An exploration-based game is no fun if the world you must explore is boring, and fortunately the game does not disappoint. Unlike many other 2D indie side-scrollers (Lone Survivor, Super Meat Boy), Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet ditches the intentionally retro aesthetic in favor of an almost graphic novel style. The game has six distinct sections, each with its own distinct visual-style. Settings vary from damp, swampy caves, to an otherworldly underwater section, to a messy clockwork area, and plenty more. Otherworldly is the best word to describe the colorful artwork, which is truly imaginative and drop-dead gorgeous.

Many of the levels have an underwater feel, but some levels actually take place underwater.

Many of the levels have an underwater feel, but some levels actually take place underwater.

Make no mistake, visually, this is one of the best games I’ve ever played. In terms of its aesthetic, the only disappointment is perhaps the soundtrack, which features an excellent theme song and is otherwise mostly uninteresting. While it’s never bad, it fails to be the positive contributor that the soundtracks of Braid and Bastion were.

Perhaps the game’s biggest shortcoming is its level design, which leaves many areas locked until you get better equipment. This wouldn’t be a big issue if there was a better network of shortcuts, but I found myself backtracking quite a bit to get to locked areas. Additionally, there’s essentially no plot, which isn’t a bad thing (Limbo showed a minimalist plot can be tremendously successful), but also doesn’t win the game any additional points.

The Verdict

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet puts you into a world that manages to be both dark, but colorful, eerie, and beautiful, and ultimately a delight to explore. I’ve been asked how it compares to Limbo, and I think it has Limbo beat in many ways. While Limbo really set a mood, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet does so as well, but with more fun core gameplay, more variation in the aesthetics, and fewer frustrating roadblocks. Regardless of which game you prefer, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is a great game to pick up on XBLA for 800 Microsoft Points (~$10 USD), despite its minor issues and relatively short length.

Rating:

Presentation: 93% – Points deducted for uninteresting soundtrack and lack of plot

Gameplay: 95% – Points deducted for minor frustrating portions, excessive backtracking, and difficultly using robotic arm

Extra Credit: +1% – This game includes concept art, a multiplayer mode, and manages to be both unique and throwback.

Total: 95%

Google has famously cooked up April Fools hijinks for many years. They range from fun Google Doodles, to humorous (and fake) product videos, and any other manner of zany fun they can come up with. Before midnight had even hit the West Cost, my Facebook feed was brimming with posts about Google’s new “Gmail Blue,” a revolutionary update to the popular Gmail service.

The video, framed as a serious product announcement, is comprised of members of the Gmail Blue team talking about how amazing Gmail Blue will be. They use a lot of flowery meaningless phrases like, “moonshot thinking” to build hype for the product which ultimately is simply making everything in Gmail blue including the font, buttons, and logo. The humor is derived from the straightfaced delivery of such a ridiculous idea.

Many may see this video, think it is funny, and think very little else of it, but those who are a little more in the know may notice some fun poking at the expense of Microsoft. The most obvious hint is the name of the video, “Introducing Gmail Blue.” Sound similar to the codename of a forthcoming update to a popular operating system? I could have considered it a superficial detail or a coincidence until I watched more.

The next line that jumped out at me was, “We experimented with a lot of different colors. We tried orange, brown – brown was a disaster. We tried yellow.” Who could forget when Microsoft entered the market of personal media players with the Zune, available in multiple colors including, you guessed it, brown. The brown Zune became the butt of many-a-joke including one by the talented John Hodgman (“PC” from Apple’s “Get a Mac” ad campaign) at the 2007 WWDC where he, doing a comical impersonation of Steve Jobs, claimed he was resigning because of Microsoft’s, iPod killer, “the Zune. It’s brown!”

The final nail in the coffin comes at the very end of the video when Carl Branch, the alleged lead engineer of the project concludes, “I think the first thought that’s gonna come to the end user’s mind, is ‘I can’t believe I waited this long for this,’” which is perhaps a jab at Microsoft’s slowness to update Windows 8 and address the complaints the fledgling operating system has faced.

Some have suggested that this is perhaps a jab at Facebook, which liberally uses blue throughout its website, but I think much more evidence suggests this is targeted at Windows Blue. I had similar feelings towards the 2011 Google April Fool’s joke, “Gmail Motion,” which seemed to playfully point out the impracticality of the Kinect motion sensor.

The question at the end of the day is whether or not Gmail Blue is funny, and while the little jabs at Microsoft are not baseless, I don’t find the video to be particularly clever or humorous. Many people love Google’s April Fools jokes, but some of them feel a bit forced, as if Google feels that they must come up with good April Fools jokes every year, but hasn’t had true inspiration since they changed their homepage to read “Topeka”.

Three skeptical Seattle magazine employees investigate a classified ad in which an eccentric man seeks a partner to travel through time with him. Together they embark on a journey that is one part hilarious, one part believing, and all parts touching. If you’re rolling your eyes at this premise, then you are a cynic like me who believes that most movies that are so outwardly quirky are probably also schmaltzy and even pretentious. While Safety Not Guaranteed dances right on that line between offbeat innovation (see Little Miss Sunshine), and too indie for its own good, it ultimately comes out an enjoyable watch that had the potential to be a lot better.

The first thing I noticed when watching this film was that the main character, Darius, was basically the geeky, shy, introverted guy’s wet dream. She’s beautiful but not socially outgoing. She’s smart but underappreciated. And best of all, she makes Star Wars jokes. It’s not a bad thing, as she is likeable and, for the most part, believable, but I couldn’t help but feel that the writers were a little lazy in writing her this way. It’d be like if it was Spongebob’s birthday and you bought him a Krabby Patty. Unimaginative, lacking in nutrients, but he’ll definitely appreciate it. Come to think of it, I think she might have been taken directly from New Girl, which would be appropriate considering it also starts Jake Johnson.

My sarcastic synopsis at the beginning is actually a fairly complete summary of the plot. Besides a few character-building moments of dialogue around campfires, in cramped hotel rooms, or in beds, the plot mostly revolves around Darius getting to know Kenneth, an incredibly strange and paranoid man who thinks he can build a time machine and take them both back to the year 2001. While the plot isn’t complicated, dripping with political intrigue, or brimming with bold twists, it serves to facilitate the film’s excellent dialogue and, which for me was the high point of the movie.

Characters speak in a way that might remind you of real conversations you’ve had, and you actually can feel the friendship building between the relatively small cast of characters. The dialogue lets you really get to know each one, and I genuinely liked all the characters (well except crazy Kenneth) and found them to be incredibly believable.

Around now you might be wondering why I didn’t absolutely love this movie and declare it perfect. If I had to choose one reason it would be Kenneth, the crazy time-traveler the plot revolves around. At first glance, he’s just one brain cell away from completely bonkers, but as you might have guessed, we get to learn about his past and unique perspective on life, and we begin to question if he’s crazy just because he’s different. The problem is that the answer to this question is a resounding “yes”. I won’t spoil all the details of the ending, but the short version is we get the super sweet bubble gum ending where he’s not crazy, just misunderstood, and we’re all supposed to go “awwww…” If this doesn’t sound disappointing to you then I can recommend Safety Not Guaranteed without hesitation, but I had hoped for a little more from a movie that’s best feature was its believability and relatability.

At the end of the day, it’s hard to point to specific flaws in Safety Not Guaranteed. The truth is, the things that bothered me about it were pretty important to the film, and I can’t really think of another way to end it. Without the ending they had, I can only imagine anticlimax. That said, it doesn’t really absolve the movie from its easy-way-out, and I would have preferred something a little more down-to-earth. Ultimately, I did quite enjoy watching it, and I suspect most people, especially those that love cute love stories, to enjoy it even more than I did.

There is a saying among existentialists that goes, “There are no adventures,” which attempts to argue that, despite the human tendency to dissect their lives into chapters, life is actually a single story that is constantly building off of itself. No single event can properly be explained without the context of all that came before, and every event will forever be a part of all that comes after.

It’s a morbid thought, but I cannot pretend it didn’t cross my mind. I’m looking at the largest remaining neighbor of Old Rotterdam and realizing how little stood after the bombings. I try to shut it out but a small voice says, “What happened to the city is sadder than all the people that died.” What am I, a serial killer? And yet, I can’t help but think about how much more eternal a city can be when compared to the brief lives of people. Though most who died in the war would probably be dead today anyway, the city may have still stood. Despite all my travels to old towns, beautiful scenes, and places of great history, I feel humbled in a way I never have before. Perhaps one cannot fully be humbled by the eternity of time until he sees something that so distinctly exists in two times.

The relativity of time is something most commonly discussed in physics classes, but is better understood when in company that exists in time relatively. Despite the day and year being the same for every member of the trip, I was among 27 people at different times in their life. As I look to the last year of my undergraduate college experience, I think of all that came before, and what lies ahead, and seeing the many different paths my company has chosen for themselves only makes the questions harder to answer. As I see the contentedness each has with his or her own life, I consider that there is no right answer.

Nostalgia is inevitable when faced with uncertainty of the future. As time goes on, the entropy of life only increases and there is a great temptation to cling to what came before. But like a city flattened by war, some things cannot be rebuilt and regained. Even that which is not violently destroyed slowly becomes dust. It would be enough to make one despair, but Rotterdam stands today tall, beautiful, and full of people thrilled to be alive. And so we learn not to forget the past, but to acknowledge it as a part of what we are as we forge ahead. We preserve what we can, construct new buildings that look like the old ones right next to towers like the world has never seen before, and try not to worry that people will look at the skyline and decide it looks weird.

Really memorable female characters are hard to come by. Hollywood seems to think that to make a female character strong, she has to wear tight leather or know kung fu. Ironically, these sorts of characteristics often detract from the strength of that character. After all, if I was an expert of highly stylized hand-to-hand combat I could probably slay a vampire too. Likewise, if I was skinny and beautiful (more so than I already am) I could probably seduce the equally shallow and uninteresting guy characters. Let us then take a moment to examine some genuinely fantastic female characters and talk about what makes them so great.

Azula (Avatar: The Last Airbender) – Some of my favorite characters are those that are really on the edge of sanity. Many of the great villains are as intelligent as they are psychopathic (think Heath Ledger’s Joker). However, these kinds of characters have been predominantly male. For most of the series, the Fire Nation princess Azula is decisive, cunning, and ruthless. She is described by one of the men serving beneath her as “inspirational and terrifying at the same time”. She controls her allies and enemies with fear. It isn’t until the end of the last season that her sanity begins to slip and she takes after comic book super villains. It is then that we begin to see her brutality as a result of national indoctrination as well as deep seeded insecurity.

“Perhaps you should spend less time worrying about the tides, who have already made up their mind about killing you, and worry more about me, who’s still mulling it over.”

Margret “Margie” Gunderson (Fargo) – You wouldn’t necessarily expect a little pregnant lady with a Minnesota Nice accent would be on this list. That said, Margie shows off her incredible police smarts in pursuit of two criminals with a lot of blood on their hands. She is polite and sees the best in people, even though she is consistently dealing with the worst. She even gives a guy disposing of a body in a wood chipper a chance to come quietly before resorting to force. She shows considerable bravery and if I lived in a town like Fargo, I’d want her to be the sheriff.

“And for what? A little bit of money. There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’t you know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well, I just don’t understand it.”

Samus Aran (Metroid) – Calling Samus a great female character may seem like a bit of a cop out. She is not the most brilliant female character ever written, but the way she has been presented was. Donning a full suit of powered armor, and being a silent protagonist, most assumed that she was a man until the surprise revelation at the end of the first game, which admittedly was a classless striptease. Except in the abysmal Metroid Other M (which I’m conveniently ignoring), Samus has been mostly a blank slate. However, this doesn’t mean we know nothing about her. As a lone wolf and a bounty hunter, we know she is tough, independent, and stands apart from society. She has no qualms about journeying into the dark unknown and battling bizarre and dangerous aliens but shows compassion through her interactions with the baby Metroid.

“I completely eradicated them [the metroids] except for a larva, which, after hatching, followed me around like a confused child.”

Katherine “Kissin Kate” Barlow (Holes) – Though she is arguably only a minor character, Katherine Barlow’s sub-plot in Holes is one of the highlights of the novel. The richness of her story is really best described in the book (go figure) but in short, it is a compelling story of how a school teacher becomes a feared Western outlaw. She loves the right man for the right reasons, even though his race made a relationship illegal (in Texas 1860). When their relationship is discovered and he is executed, she takes her revenge by shooting the sheriff and becoming a feared outlaw, amassing serious loot. Her nickname comes from the signature kiss that she gives to every man she kills. However, her death shows us that in the end she’s still a softie and all the loot in the world won’t fill that big hole in her heart. Kate Barlow is a badass, but she’s a sweetheart at the same time. Her story is as tragic as it is believable and you understand how she became what she was. Even as an outlaw, you have to pity and admire her, making her a bit of an anti-hero.

Trout: “I ain’t gonna kill you. But when I’m through, you gonna wish you was dead.”

Kate: “I been wishin I was dead for a long time.”

Lady Eboshi (Princess Mononoke) – Moral ambiguity became a prevalent theme in arts and literature of the 20th century and it is still a present and mature topic today. Lady Eboshi is one of my favorite morally grey characters. She is the most obvious antagonist in Princess Mononoke. After all, she wants the head of the forest spirit, doesn’t mind burning down the forest, and she wants to rule the world. At the same time, she buys the contracts of brothel girls and gives them a good life in her city. She also bandages and cares for the lepers that are considered abominations by the rest of the world. Those who work for her and live in her city respect and adore her, while her enemies fear her. She is one of the deepest characters I’ve seen in anime (not that I’m well versed) and she still manages to be believable.

Gonza: “But, what about the men she [the wolf goddess] pushed over the cliff?”

Eboshi: “They’re dead. Let’s get the living home.”

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