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Frankie Goes to Hollywood: The Commodore 64 game
06:34 am


Commodore 64
Frankie Goes To Hollywood

Frankie Goes to Hollywood video game
In 1984, Frankie Goes to Hollywood was a very big deal. Americans, inclined to write off the weirdly self-important and prurient dance-pop act as a one-hit wonder, may not be aware of just how big they were. Their 1984 singles “Relax” and “Two Tribes” respectively clock in as the #6 and #21 best-selling singles in UK recording history. They were never going to last, but at their peak, nobody in the landscape sounded like Frankie.

A year after those two mega-hits happened, Ocean Software Ltd published a Denton Designs game called Frankie Goes to Hollywood for the Commodore 64. Judging as best I can from a detailed YouTube simulation of gameplay, it looks like a pretty good game for what it is—and also kind of ridiculous too (it wouldn’t be a Frankie game if it weren’t a little ridiculous). 
Frankie the computer game
In the game, you play a monochromatic (often blue) homunculus whose task it is to fulfill the four life aspects of game, pleasure, war, love, and faith. These are represented by four corresponding icons: a pair of spermatozoa, a bullet (to me it never doesn’t look like a condom—this is clearer in the picture below), a heart, and a cross. You start at 0% and as you make your way through the various levels, “Frankie” rewards you with “pleasure units” and you eventually make it to 100% and win the game. Seriously, the gameplay repeatedly informs you with messages like “Frankie give you 2500 more pleasure units - you have 47200 and you’re 55% a real person.” Just think: if you achieve all four life aspects you can become a fully realized human being—just like Holly Johnson!

Actually, it’s high time I quoted from the manual:

You begin this extraordinary experience devoid of personality, an amorphous shape in the land of the mundane. Behind the facade of flying ducks and kitchen sinks however lies a giant web of drama and intrigue spun within the pleasuredome. Scruntinise! Investigate! Probe! Objects you take for granted may be your passport to success; clues can be discovered everywhere. In this game of games you will need the skills of Arcade King, Adventurer, Super Sleuth, Mastermind and more. Frankie say Relax. Use the Power of Zap to build the equation (4 icons at bottom right corner are (left to right) Pleasure, War, Love,and Faith) to its peak when, if you respond brilliantly, you may enter the heart of the Pleasure Dome

It’s all a little silly, and couldn’t be more pretentious in a stilted 1980s way, but, as I mentioned earlier, the game was surprisingly forward-thinking for the day. For one thing, the game is pleasingly non-linear; you definitely have goals to achieve and so forth, but basically you can wander around and do what you want to do, to some extent. The game seems to have been admirably short on roadmaps to explain what you were supposed to do.

Furthermore, the various stages of the game were quite varied and diverting, as far as I can tell. In the first stage you have to solve a murder, there’s an odd stage in which you are superimposed on Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel (only with a cheeky devil replacing God) and you have to dodge the arrows emanating from a squadron of cherubim. For reasons that aren’t explained, in the “Raid over Merseyside” stage you have to defend Liverpool (Frankie were from Liverpool, doncha know?) from some kind of WWII air blitz, and later on, in “Talking Heads” (I think), you engage in a weird Pong-like battle between Reagan and ... maybe Chernenko? The final stages of the game occur in some kind of anomic computer laboratory vaguely reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey or perhaps the original Tron.
The concept of the game is strong, as is the writing. Here is a sampling of some of the more memorable messages that pop up during the game:

“The jacket will free you from pain”
“You now have a herring”
“20 flowers make a bunch”
“The killer is a Taurean”
“You now have a bag of money”
“Mr Dull has always voted Tory”
“Joe Public hates to part with a penny”
“You now have a thirsty cat”
“Ms Bland adores a hot beef curry”
“The killer is an atheist”

Frankie’s music is the only element that is conspicuously lacking throughout, although predictably, the big reward for achieving full 100% humanity is a tinny rendition of “Two Tribes.”

Thanks to reader Ossian Sunesson for calling my attention to this game.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Have some shitfaced Halloween fun with the ‘Dark Shadows’ drinking game
02:20 pm


Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows board game
If you’re skipping the Halloween parties this year, preferring instead to stay home and drunkenly hand out candy to trick-or-treaters, might I suggest a classic board game to liven up your night? Get your spooky self over to eBay and purchase one the the two varieties of Dark Shadows board games! (By the way, don’t you think a kid’s board game based off of a horror soap opera would cause some pearl-clutching nowadays? How G-rated has childhood become?)

I say combine game-play with a show marathon. Dark Shadows is the best thing to watch in a social setting. It’s streaming on Netflix, so the soap opera format allows the audience to drift in and out or pick episodes at random. And of course all the episodes were shot live and low budget, so despite the high quality of the acting, there’s a ton of line-flubs and technical mistakes. In addition to the actual game, you can start making up your own rules along with the show. For example, every time you see a microphone in the shot, take a drink! Every time a piece of scenery collapses, take a drink!

Just remember folks, every game is a drinking game if you’re inventive!
Dark Shadows board game
board game


Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Astronomia: Beautiful 184-year-old card game
11:53 am



It’s surprising that someone at U.S. Games Systems hasn’t reissued the obscure Astronomia card deck, an astronomically themed Victorian Georgian card game published in 1829. Surely someone should have turned it into a Tarot deck or children’s educational video or board game by now. Zazzle sells clocks, iPhone covers, Nook decals, handtowels, notebook covers, and other items featuring the Luna card image, but not the actual cards. Mostly intact decks cost thousands of dollars, but curious as I am, I don’t want to learn how to play the game that badly.


The George Glazer Gallery describes an available $2400 deck:

A highly sought-after astronomically based card game, Astronomia, with beautiful illustrations by Henry Courbould, was created by F.G. Moon in 1829. Deck of educational astronomy cards pertaining to the solar system. Zodiac constellations, planets, the sun, comets, and asteroids are decoratively and scientifically rendered in shades of black and white as if the night sky were being viewed through a draped window flanked by pillars.

Bonhams Auctioneers described a similar lot in a catalog listing, which sold for $903 two years ago:

An attractive and scarce pack of cards on an astronomical theme. The pack is divided into the four seasons: Summer (pink, Autumn (yellow), Winter (white) and Spring (blue). The zodiacal sign cards of or a greater value than the other cards. The suits are made up as follows: Spring- Aries, Luna, Jupiter, Saturn, Herschel, Tellus, Venus, Mars, Mercury, Pallas, Juno, Ceres, Vesta. The remaining suits are composed in the same way, except for the first two cards: Summer: Cancer, The Sun; Autumn: Libra, The Comet; Winter: Capricorn, The Orbits.

More scans of the cards can be seen here.

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
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Big in Germany: ‘Farming Simulator’ is the David Hasselhoff of computer games
02:22 pm


Farming Simulator
Grand Theft Auto 5

Landwirtschafts-Simulator 2013
Ned Donovan over at The Kernel informs me of something of which I was not aware: there’s a computer game that’s a massive blockbuster in Germany but in no other major market, and it’s a game that sounds to the rest of the world as dull as dirt—literally. The game is Farming Simulator 2013 (or Landwirtschafts-Simulator 2013, as it’s called in Germany). It and its previous versions are mainstays on the top ten list in Germany, whereas in the UK, the country that manufactures it, it’s more likely to be found at rank 243.

Farming Simulator is the David Hasselhoff of the computer game industry.

The Kernel piece is titled “How Germans Do Escapism,” and it’s a worthwhile subject to ponder. Donovan points out that many of the people who enjoy the game are farmers themselves, and even ferrets out this fabulous quotation from “I am fulfilling my childhood dream.” The kicker, of course, is that the man who offered up that explanation is himself a farmer.

Farming Simulator is made by UK computer game company Excalibur Publishing, which also publishes—I’m not making any of this up—Chemical Spillage Simulation, Airport Ground Crew Simulation, Road Construction Simulator, Camping Manager, Stone Quarry Simulator, and Underground Mining Simulator.
Grand Theft Auto Farming
In America we favor GTA 5 and Call of Duty and Red Dead Redemption, violent adventures in which the player is encouraged to “act out.” Donovan points out that Call of Duty in particular is notably unpopular in Germany. Remember, we often make fun of the Germans for being so martial. Maybe we need to rethink our assumptions here.

Here’s what I think. I think Americans like dull games as much as the Germans do. Donovan goes out of his way to present these Excalibur games as being essentially identical to the office life many of its players endure in the daytime, but anyone who has ever gotten addicted to The Sims has surely wondered why it was so important to keep the Sims’ goddamn plants alive even as the actual plant in the actual living room slowly turns brown. Lots of “action” games rely on very repetitive actions, such as reloading weapons, looting corpses for ammo, and the like. I can vividly remember playing Red Dead Redemption and spending untold hours scampering all over Cholla Springs and Tall Trees in search of plants like Hummingbird Sage and Wild Feverfew.

Why? Whether it’s Tetris, Farming Simulator, or Call of Duty, it’s all about the oxytocin hit. We like piling up accomplishments, and we like leveling up, it’s good for one’s self-image. I don’t want to play Farming Simulator, but I can understand its soothing appeal.

For the curious, here’s 24 goddamn minutes of someone baling hay in Farming Simulator 2013 to a driving dubstep-ish soundtrack:

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ Commodore 64 computer game, 1985
09:13 am


Rocky Horror Picture Show

Rocky Horror Game splash screen
In 1985 CRL Group PLC (whoever that is) released a game for the Commodore 64 system based on the classic midnight movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Do you wish to be the “asshole” or the “slut”?
In the game, the player can play as Brad or Janet. It’s a bit difficult to follow, but the task seems to be to construct a machine that will counteract the effects of the Medusa Transducer, pieces of which (and keys to open various portals) are scattered all over the castle, in order to free your partner from stone and escape the castle before it blasts off for the planet Transsexual, in the galaxy of Transylvania. The castle’s freaky denizens attempt to block your progress by stealing your clothes and your inventory (but more interestingly, your clothes—your character spends big chunks of the game “starkers”). Riff-Raff has a deadly laser gun, and Eddie can run the player over with his motorcycle, and so on.
Naked Janet in the Rocky Horror castle
Janet in the Rocky Horror castle

Considering that six years had passed since the introduction of Adventure for the Atari 2600 system (in which the player runs around a series of rooms avoiding dragon and picking up keys etc.), the gameplay of The Rocky Horror Show Computer Game is disappointingly crude.

The presence of Richard O’Brien’s name in the title—the actual name of the game appears to be “Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show Computer Game”—certainly lends the proceedings a veneer of credibility, but the slight alteration in the title prompts the speculation that perhaps this game was not officially licensed? Or maybe they were playing with the fact that since this was not a movie version, it can’t be a “picture show”?

Here’s a brief video showing some of the dysfunctional gameplay, complete with Max Von Sydow soundalike commentary:

This video is longer and presents a more thorough exploration of successful gameplay—however, no amusing commentary:

via William Caxton Fan Club (a.k.a. John Darnielle’s Tumblr)

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Does ‘Dancing Outlaw’ Jesco White have a cameo in the new Grand Theft Auto?!?

Talk about your “dog whistle”! Is this hillbilly clog dancer Jesco White dancing up a storm in the new Grand Theft Auto game? Ha! Sure looks like it to me!

I wonder if that’s Mamie White and the rest of the hellraising White clan in the background?

One piece of advice to GTA players, Jesco will cut you if you try to serve him slimy, sloppy eggs!

With thanks to Julien Nitzberg, director of the must-see documentary The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (on Netflix)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Vidiot magazine’s bitingly satirical love advice to early 1980s nerds

Vidiot was a really cool project. In the early 1980’s, as video games moved from niche interest into legitimate subculture, the publishers of Creem had the cutting edge idea to start a really well-rounded gamer mag. In addition to more technical articles about the latest games, systems, and technology, Vidiot published topical personal essays by gamers, and covered video game history, in addition to a lot of general audiovisual topics. They reviewed movies and television that tended to appeal to the gamer crowd (think Monty Python, Tron, and Krull), and peppered each issue with relevant music articles, including an interesting review of a Beatles’ documentary from the perspective of a fan and AV enthusiast.

In an effort to appeal to the diverse interests of serious gamers as well as your average arcade rat, they used their Creem connections to get pictures of rock stars playing games. Everyone from Debbie Harry to Mick Ronson to Ted Nugent (they can’t all be winners) graced their pages, posing in front of their favorite consoles. Below you can see a picture of The New York Dolls’ David Johansen, who appeared in a retrospective article on pinball machines, the original arcade game.
David Johansen
Even though only five issues were published between September of 1982 and September of 1983, Vidiot was a really insightful look at an emerging generation of pre-Internet nerd culture. Nowadays, it could be argued that there’s really no such thing as an esoteric interest, since a quick Google search is all it takes to find peers. Back then? Probably harder to sniff out fellow enthusiasts.

Of course, this being a magazine primarily consumed by young, most likely nerdy dudes, there were also sexy pin-ups of girls playing Centipede. Vidiot was quite aware that its readership was not primarily comprised of “alpha” males, but instead of shying away from the topic, it cannily took the piss out of the virile macho man archetype with satire.
article photo
Check out that charming caption!
Below is the transcript from the hilarious article, “Arcade Macho: Pick Up or Shut Up.” The tone is angsty and snide, but the rejection of macho bullshit is a really intelligent, mature, feminist critique. Plus, who can’t relate to a little mockery of meatheads?

Ever got into a fight over a girl? Sure you have! As a red-blooded American guy, would you stoop to wimpdom by allowing some geek to steal your girl without a bloodletting fight? Of course not! Whether on the dance floor, football field, street or arcade we are fighting for but one thing: Women!

Women are the only motivational factor in a Man’s life. Next to videogaming, cars, whiskey, football, fishing, soldiering, hunting and sailing, that is. And, pray tell, if there were no women to show off to, then what’s the point?

Therefore you won’t want to set foot in an arcade without a few lessons in manly comportment of the videogaming kind. Obviously, the breed of woman you’ll find common in these garbage disposals for quarters play for keeps. And obviously, there ore other “men” who claim our sex as theirs. Despite their prowess at these interesting and undoubtedly manly games, many fit the definition of “wimp”—which is to be avoided at any cost, no matter how ridiculous. Would you do bottle with the L.A. Raiders in a punk rock hair-do (not cut) and a pocket calculator strapped to you imitation leather belt that holds up you spandex pants? Of course not! Take your pick: Manhood or wimpdom.

Read Sylvia Plath, Judith Krantz or W.H. Auden? Over Robert Mitchum’s dead body! Drink pina coladas? Seek the Duke’s stomach and burp it! Cry over a dead rock star? To quote Josie Cotton, “Johnny Are You Queer?” As far as Men are concerned. Charles Olson is a lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers, right?

Fact.- all women love the smell of success. The more money you’ve got—or the higher the score—the better. Wonder never again why you see ugly old men with ungodly beautiful, sexy, voluptuous women. The deck is stacked—and if you’re on the winning side, so are the women.

The only reason to go to the arcade, of course, is to meet girls. Can you honestly admit you enjoy spending every cent you’ve got at the arcade when, by applying a few rules of business horsesense, you can own your fave game for home use? No, you can’t. Say it loud, say it proud: Girls Are Great!!

All right, men, the first lesson commences… let’s discuss what Real Men Do Not Wear To Arcades . Real men do not wear:

1) Pink Lacoste shirts. If you’re a preppie, that’s entirely your own problem. Remember pink = Wimp. Any other color’s acceptable. But if you really want to be a sex symbol—and what Man doesn’t?—buy a VIDIOT t-shirt.

2) Designer jeans. Would John Wayne wear ‘em? Naw, the Duke’d don nuthin’ fancier than Levi’s. And his word’s law, right?

3) Top siders. Hey, you can’t even run in the damn things. Any sort of tennis, basketball, jogging, all-around athletic shoe is In, Converse All-Stars being the coolest. All boots are manly (except the kind that feature the bags-at-the-ankle look which is strictly new wave/punk rock jerk-like), and cowboy boots are obviously the best way to get your point across. Or up.

Before heading out for an afternoon of hopeful arcade fun, take a gander in front of the mirror. Any of your lunch still between your teeth? Scrub ‘em again, sailor. There’s nothing on earth that’ll turn off all the little women quicker than mungmouth. Take a quick whiff o’ the pits to make sure they’re just so. Also, remove any gold chains, punk rock t-shirts and scarves. They aren’t manly.

When entering the arcade, strut around the joint with your hands thrust deep m your pockets with an impervious scowl on your face. No, you don’t own the place, but remember the law of Supply and Demand: I demand that you supply me with as many women as I desire! You gotta let the girls know who’s boss, plain and direct.

Before playing your first round of, say, Robotron, you might want to buy a soft drink. How you drink the soda is far more important than what brand. Grasp the can firmly in the palm of your hand, fingers wrapped completely around it. Before taking the first swig, catch the eye of the hottest babe. As you lift the can to your lips (elbow bent 90°) propose a toast in her honor- Here’s lookin’ “at” you! Eyes locked in, throw your head back and empty half the contents down your gullet. Lowering the can, smile at her, then burp loudly. This is essential for your initial introduction. She’ll feel that inner glow of security knowing that a Real Man is present. Then…

Walk away. There’s plenty o’ fish in the video sea. Besides, it’ll be at least an hour before that girl will be coherent enough to start worshiping you . Always remember it’s your moral obligation as an American Man to hit on as many females as possible.

One popular method of picking up girls at the arcade is by zeroing in on a filly having difficulty on your favorite game. Stride over after she’s blown the game a few times and say “Havin’ a rough go at it, dollface? Lemme show ya the ropes.” Proceed to explain the intricacies and finer points of the game. Be polite but firm. After explaining, drop a token into the slot, and then “coach” her. After she triples her original score, you can bet it’ll be Suckface City from there on in!

Let’s reiterate a fact: good women are worth fighting for. If you spot some Elmo employing the aforementioned method, sidle up next to the non-couple, tap the jerk on the shoulder and say “Excuse me, cupcake, your mother says it’s time for your Ovaltine and beddie-bye!” The idea, manly reader, is to simply embarrass the worm enough so he’ll be forced to crawl back under the rock from whence he come. Use your lurid imagination Occasionally, however, the breezebrain will miss the point: stronger medicine must be administered. This doctor prescribes (delivered in the loudest voice possible): “When did they let YOU out of the TERMINAL HERPES WARD!?!” Once he’s on all fours, headed for the door, it’s a mere skate to the desired goal. It’s not really all that fair, but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

In some instances, you may even be able to play fair. Let’s assume there’s a lustful lovely gazing on some dope racking up points on a game you know you can stomp the snot out of him on. Walk over, tap Percy on the shoulder and challenge him to a duel, winner (nod toward the babe) take all . The girl will be flattered that two men are going to duel over her — it’s an old trick that works every time. The only trick here’s not only do you have to beat the sap, ya gotta beat him bad. Show what a worthless sleazebag he really is.

If you’re really smart, before even challenging the bozo, hip your buddies to what you’re gonna do. Tell them that after you demolish the sucker at the game, you want one guy to approach the Big Loser and say, “Let meeee be the first to kick you when you’re down: maybe you need a pair o’ granny glasses!” Have your second pal say, “Don’t worry — I hear they’re making a braille version of that game!” Your third and final friend should say something like, “Please don’t cry out here — go in the little girls’ room!” And you, the Cool Winner, should turn to your new prize and ask, “Wanna hop in my van and listen to the new Rush album?”

Guaranteed to work every time!!

gamer pin-up

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Don’t Stop Believin’: Yes, there truly was a Journey arcade game in 1983
10:45 am



I did not know that there was a Journey arcade and home game released by Bally Midway in 1983. There was! Created after the success of the band’s Escape and Frontiers albums, apparently the home game was a monumental flop, but the arcade game had a mild success throughout the US.

The object of the game was to reunite the band with their instruments—and honey-voiced Steve Perry with his microphone—whilst listening to a shitty 8-bit version of “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

The only known arcade in America that is still pimpin’ an operational Journey game is Extra Play, located in Ruston, Louisiana.

And if you’re like “OMG I MUST own one!” you can contact Chris Smith whose friend has a “Journey arcade for sale. It is in excellent condition, and fully functional. He is asking $1,000 or o.b.o. You can reach Chris at”



With thanks to El Fez!

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Blackwater video game: Go to North Africa, make good money and KILL PEOPLE!
04:57 pm

Stupid or Evil?


DM pal Syd Garon writes:

It’s real.

I haven’t been this excited about a corporate video game since “Kool-Aid Man.” I’m putting “West Virginia Mountain Topper”, “Exxon Tanker Pilot”, and “McDonalds Minimum Wage Simulator” and this on my wish list.

The Blackwater video game came out in 2011 and was a total flop. At the time, Blackwater founder Erik Prince, told that the Blackwater first-person shooter game aimed for fun, not controversy:

“It’s a game. This is not a training device. This is not a simulator. We’re not doing this to teach folks how to conduct military operations in an urban terrain. That’s not it at all. This is more along the lines of kids running around their neighborhood playing cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians.”

If their neighborhood happened to be in North Africa and their neighbors all warlords and drug kingpins…

The two top-voted YouTube comments are worthwhile.

civiccruiser117 wrote:

the difference between this and GTA is that GTA is massive parody of American pop culture. The cities, people, vehicles, are all parodies of their real life counterparts.
This travesty is encouraging REAL scumbags who like to kill REAL people for the fuck of it. I wish we had a GTA game that let you kill Blackwater assholes..

And HisEmptyHouse wrote:

It’s good to know if I commit terrible war crimes I can look forward to an official Kinect game based on my horrifying and inhuman actions.


Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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DIY gamer’s isolation tank is too disturbing to cruelly mock
06:46 am


crazed loners

Gamer Module
A Craigslist ad from the infamously post-industrial city of Youngstown, Ohio advertises a sad DIY gamer’s “Personal Gaming Module” for $2,500, with the following specs:

Personal Gaming Module. aka “The Box”
Weatherproof Camo Exterior
Solid construction.
Custom seating for one or two adults.
900 watts 5.1 Dolby Digital surround with fiber optic connections.
100 watt powered subwoofer.
HD LCD TV on adjustable Omnimount
XBox 360 with protective enclosure.
Rubber lined spill proof floor.
Black fleece inner wall lining.
A/C and Heat.
Steel casters for easy moving, around garage, driveway, etc.
Original Model available. One of a kind Military Theme.
Serious inquiries only.
$2500 delivered within 100 miles of Youngstown.

I want to rag on this thing as the nadir of a gormless gamer culture, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Maybe it’s the fact that I admire ambitious utopian projects, and this feels akin to one. It could be the opus of a dreamer, someone with tenacity and a resourceful mind.

Maybe it’s the solidarity I felt with gamers ever since that year of unemployment after college, spent doing virtually nothing but applying for jobs, accruing mass, and playing “Twilight Princess.”

Maybe the idea of sequestering technological entertainment in a creepy fallout shelter leaves me concerned for the socialization of its would-be inhabitants. The ”Custom seating for one or two adults“ feels like some sort of tragic Waiting for Godot optimism. And don’t even want to speculate on why they might need a “Rubber lined spill proof floor.”

Or maybe it’s the fact that it’s in Youngstown, Ohio—a city so depressing its latest survival technique (in addition to hydrofracking) is bulldozing its abandoned houses like the amputation of gangrenous limbs.

I don’t really know, but the thing leaves me with an uneasy melancholy, so I’m just going to hope that whoever ends up with this creation, this audiovisual womb, is soothed and entertained to the fullest extent.

Take it away, Boss.

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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