Friday, December 16, 2016

Ep. 48: Super Pink People

Grab a seat in the saloon with Josh and Emily and saddle up for wide-ranging discussions on tan lines, grandma music, motion controls, and stinking at games. Emily also corrects (and accepts the blame for) the Nitro '76 Incident of the previous episode, and Josh demonstrates the proper way to pronounce ***nostaglic***. Close out the episode with another visit to the philosophy corner before grabbing a kiss and heading back out into the overworld.

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This episode was made possible by:
Game Track Title Composer(s)
Final Fantasy XIV Ruby Sunrise (Costa Del Sol Theme) Nobuo Uematsu, Ryo Yamazaki, Naoshi Mizuta, Tsuyoshi Sekito, Masayoshi Soken
Silent Möbius Battle with Ghosts Masahiro Kajihara
Sonic Mania Mirage Saloon Zone Tee Lopes
Honkaku Mahjong Tetsuman Main Theme Syscom Sound Team
Axelay Unkai Taro Kudou
Interstate ‘76 Nitro Pack Vigilante Shuffle Arion Salazar

...and listeners like YOU.


  1. I am so pleased that you guys spent so much time talking with my suggested track playing in the background. I'm also glad that Emily thought it was so good. My taste in music (not just VGM but music in general) is so out of the norm that I used to be more hesitant to share what I like with others because I didn't want to risk criticism or embarrassment due to an experience I had as a freshman in high school. Now that I'm a weird dad with kids of my own, how much I care about what other people think of me has shrunken dramatically. I play what I like for my kids, and have fun talking about it and dancing with them. I'm so thankful to have VGMJB as an outlet to share part of myself.

    1. I am totally with you! I took great pride in passing certain things along to my children. I kept my Legos from my childhood, and passed them along as soon as I trusted my oldest to not eat them. He's now almost twelve, and wants to be a Lego engineer when he grows up.

      I also passed along my interests in the original Transformers, The Gummi Bears cartoon, Thunderbirds, Mysterious Cities of Gold, Pixar movies, all my old musical tastes, but especially VGM. And since three of my kids have made requests on the show, it seems to have rubbed off on them!

    2. Aw, Big Papi, we're glad you're sharing your tunes with us!

      I think most VGM fans remember the feeling of needing to hide the hobby. But no more! The enthusiasm and camaraderie is real here.

  2. The Mahjazz revolution has begun!

    To be clear, only some of the Mahjong tracks out there sound like 'grandma music' jazz as this selection does, but a LOT of the soundtracks are jazzy and smooth. I have so many to recommend!

    This was another episode full of nothing but winning tracks! The songs from Silent Mobius and Sonic Mania were both new to me, and I REALLY liked them both.

    1. All,
      Shanghai for the SMS is a very good gateway drug to Mahjong. I've heard Shanghai is somehow different from Majhong; I don't know if that's true, but you should check out the game. Very fun.

  3. Hey guys!
    You know, the show is getting a little monotonous.......monotonously awesome! I mean come on! Can't you guys do a crappy episode for once? Or even something lackluster, just to shake things up?

    Seriously though, the patrons came through with some major jammage, as per usual. Be careful: I had that Silent Möebius track stuck in my head for days after I heard it the first time on PTR. The X68000 has my favorite VGM sound: awesome FM with really good samples.

    But the mention of Silent Möebius brings to mind some very strong, specific memories. Let me nostalgize for you. It was summer vacation, just before high school, and my buddy Chris came back from his annual trip to his hometown of San Jose.

    That summer we independently discovered anime. My revelation came in the form of the 1991 Blockbuster Video standards: Black Magic M-66(like a 30-minute "Terminator" on steroids) and Appleseed(In which I learned the colloquial way to say "to the toilet". Years later, I would frantically regurgitate the phrase in a Japanese class, causing the teacher's cheeks to glow an almost neon pink hue).

    However, my anime epiphanies, although transformational, paled in comparison to what Chris brought back. The first night we hung out after his return, he produced a few poorly copied VHS cassettes, filled with non-subtitled, non-dubbed anime. One contained multiple episodes of some series called Mobile Suit Gundam, and the other......well, the other contained the original movie of Silent Möebius.

    The experience of watching a fundamentally new type of movie--expressed in unfamiliar visual language and cues, in an indecipherable tongue--cannot be accurately described. Why are the men and women so hard to tell apart? This massive creature that is chasing this woman, that can materialize through solid objects: is it an alien? Is it a demon? Why does that woman have a sword in this sci-fi movie? How is she effortlessly wielding it, given that it's 20 FEET LONG?

    These questions found their way deep into my(Illusion of) subconscious, but I did not ponder them at the time. During those rare events in which one encounters something so uniquely mind-altering, the only things one can do is to keep one's eyes wide open, observe, and hopefully record as much as is possible.

    My VGM niche in which I could consider myself an expert: Herzog Zwei. Just that. Granted, the only reason this may be the case is because Bryan and James from Pixelated Audio decided to have me on their show. But Genesis sci-fi games BEFORE distorted FM guitar became popular......that's my jam.

    In terms of the question of Sega versus Nintendo's game design philosophy, you might check out Retronauts for a lot of(Nintendo-centric) commentary on game design. Nintendo's philosophy has always been based around the experience of controlling character. A Nintendo game teaches you how to play as you go, and enjoyment is chiefly experienced through your interaction to the character. As you improve, so will your overall enjoyment and satisfaction of the game.

    By contrast, I've always felt that Sega's main goal is to create fun experiences. Nintendo fanboys deride the original Sonic as being shallow compared to Super Mario World. That may be true to a small degree, but it misses the point that Sonic is about experiencing the fun that comes through the exhilaration of speed.

    1. I get the nostalgia feels thinking about first discovering anime too. ^_^

      I watched Robotech when it aired in the US in the mid '80s and it was my favorite cartoon, but it wasn't until the early '90s that I realized it was part of a larger thing that came from Japan. I also figured this out thanks to a nearby Blockbuster Video that had an animation section separate from the kids and family movies. The first anime movie I rented was AKIRA (in Japanese w/ English subs) and was forever changed. My mind was blown by the opening motorcycle gang war scene. I had never seen cartoons deal with adult subject matter and violence. That one little rack of shelves in Blockbuster became my go-to spot after that. It wasn't just Japanese animation either. In addition to great Japanese films like Grave of the Fireflies, Battle Angel, and Wings of Honneamise, there were also amazing animated movies like Heavy Metal, Watership Down, Heavy Traffic, Jan Svankmajer's Alice, and a variety of early computer animated experimental films. This was my portal into a secret world of wonderfully weird cartoons.

      I loved that Blockbuster rack so much!

      It used to be really hard to find anime back in the early '90s. There was one video store in the mall that had a section for "japanimation", where I would buy all my favorites that I had rented from Blockbuster. There was also an independent/art film theater that would play foreign films that would sometimes show new anime movies. I saw Ghost in the Shell 1 & 2 on the big screen there, as well as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.

      Aaaaahh... ***nostalgia***

    2. EXACTLY. Yeah, I had similar experiences at Blockbuster and Hollywood Video; some my early faves were Kyuuketsuki Miyu, Mermaid's Scar, Robot Carnival, and of course, Akira. I saw it a little later, probably about halfway through freshman year in HS. But it was as mind-altering as watching Silent Möebius, which is significant since I saw it first in the Streamline Pictures English dub(complete with Leonardo/Liquid Snake voicing Kaneda). I don't believe I blinked once in the first hour of that film.

      I also saw Ghost in the Shell 2 in the theater, which remains one of my favorite films to this day on account of the great philosophical questions it raises. Batou's gun battle in the convenience store is one of the great moments in crime cinema.

      And of course they started showing Miyazaki films in mainstream theaters starting with Mononoke. I had received the Japanese version on VHS as a gift a year prior from a very good friend(of whom I've spoken a few times here). It was incredible to watch and attempt to decipher, then compile my questions and have her try to explain them to me. *sigh* nostalgia....

  4. I have a few questions and comments regarding the Illusion of consciousness. Firstly, why are we defining "experiencing the illusion of" consciousness as the high level of interactivity between parts? What is consciousness other than the awareness of one's own existence? We may each be conglomerations of trillions of cells, but we are cohesive, unique entities. Expressing our existence as a sum of granular parts and functions totally misses the forest for the trees.

    Does the internet have a will to live/perpetuate itself? Josh, you're talking about the internet's volition to perpetuate "consciousness" as powered(or populated?) by the content people transmit to each other....it seems you're defining the internet's identity as the collection of people's self-projections to other. How does that make the internet anything other than a tool? That's an awful lot of anthropomorphizing projected onto a complex tool/repository. I suppose if one's starting point is that none of us are truly conscious, then what you're saying follows--in that case, there is no anthropon to morph.

    The point where our perspectives differ most is that neither of you seem to acknowledge that complex living things have volition beyond self-preservation, humans far more than anything else. You're spending a sizable amount of time projecting onto our existences the blunt metaphor of the universe as a programmer and us as nothing more then open-source automatons. Are you literally attributing the copious amounts of time we pass in non-essential, leisurely distractions as genetic mutations? If the time we spend doing things completely unrelated to survival or passing on our DNA isn't evidence of volition(and even consciousness), then what in the world is?

    Also, human beings are not "programmed to be obsessed with information". Being obsessed with information is a modern imbalance perpetuated by a culture with too much leisure time and bound(by the ideals of our highest law) to the pursuit of happiness. Humans are predisposed to be concerned with pertinent information, and to filter out non-essential data.

    1. First, I don't understand how consciousness can even be an illusion. Consciousness is ultimately just direct experience. One needs to have consciousness to even experience an illusion. I think we may probably all be conflating consciousness with other fuzzy terms like self-awareness, volition, and intelligence. Even Descartes, who when trying to doubt everything he possibly could, was still left with the awareness of his own doubting and of his engagement in the doubting process, which is why he famously said "I cogito ergo sum" (I think, therefore I am).

      Consciousness is truly a tricky, if not impossible problem to explain. It's like a knife trying to cut the tip of its own blade. We know we can be unconscious (like when we sleep or pass out), but we can never experience unconsciousness. Also, we recognize consciousness in other entities by their similarity to our own manifestations of consciousness: they report similar mental states while still being able to report private internal experiences, they discriminate and categorize stimuli similar to how we do, and they can demonstrate some ability to coordinate behavior in response to new information. All of these things are the sequelae of consciousness though, not consciousness itself.

      We could theoretically design a robot to do all of those things, but this still doesn't prove the existence of consciousness. I could imagine creating a program that can define whether something is salty or not by cross-referencing the new test food against a database of all things humans have defined to be salty. It might be able to accurately identify whether any item is salty or not, but this is an entirely different skill than being able to taste it and know it is salty from conscious experience. However, to an outside observer who doesn't know how the program works, the program appears to "taste" things (I've always been fascinated by how impossible it is to describe salt to someone who has never consciously tasted anything salty).

      Anthropomorphosis is necessary because it is at the foundation of empathy. At the same time, I think we do too much reverse anthropomorphosis with machines. I guess you might call that cyberpomorphosis?? We have become too enamored with the idea of the brain as a computer. We tend to forget that the brain is actually quite different from a machine and that, when discussing neural networks and cognitive processing, the computer was only ever meant to be used as a metaphor to help us understand the complexity of the brain. We've confused the model with the real thing; the map with the territory. Ultimately, we never truly know if someone else is conscious, whether they be robot or human, because we only have our own conscious experience to go on. It always boils down to an educated guess.

    2. JT is right. I am discovering from making a podcast that I often use the wrong terminology to explain myself. I also keep trying to summarize entire books in five minutes, which I'm also not very good at!

      The idea I'm actually trying to put forth is the concept that your conscious "self" -- as in, the "one voice" or identity making all the decisions -- is not actually responsible for your actions at all; that instead it's a veneer put over your varied impulses, drives, instincts, and whathaveyou that fools you into thinking you're a pilot in control. So this is definitely more an examination of "free will" and "volition," as JT aptly put.

      This is part of a larger conversation about how much stuff your brain just actively makes up all the time, in terms of perception and so on. But again, I'm terrible at summing it all up. I wish I could remember the title of the book I read which explored a lot of this stuff! I'll get back to you if I dig it up.

      I'm not saying I all-in believe this, though. I just like thinking about ideas. Remember, this is podcast is all the dormroom conversations you never had! Things get all over the place in the philosophy corner.

  5. I think we're saying pretty much the same thing, although Descartes' assertion was kind of the open gateway to modern philosophy's shoehorning the multimensional, full-color reality we are objectively and subjectively experiencing, with the binary objectivism of machines.