Lazy Luddite Log

29.9.11

Milkbar Fetish

I have a thing for milk bars. These corner stores that are ubiquitous in residential areas of Victoria sate both my desire for the comforting and familiar and my sense of curiosity. Referencing them has even helped me define my attachment to suburbia. In this post I assert how I must always live within walking distance of a milk bar.

The comforting and familiar part of my attachment makes sense. They have existed all my life. They have common characteristics - a small shop with a residence above it for the family that run it which sits in the backstreets of a neighbourhood rather than on major intersections as the more recent development of the petrol-selling convenience store does. They are there to provide one with things one needs - the milk and bread. Of more significance however - they provide pleasures in the form of crisps and soft drinks and ice cream. Indeed in my childhood it was usual for a milkbar to sport a big plastic imitation ice cream cone over its entrance. In childhood those things enticed me to come inside for lovely vanilla goodness.

However there is curiosity too. These shops are all distinct. They have unique characteristics deriving from changing eras of architecture and the different practices of those who operate them. A franchise fast food restaurant will always have a look consistent with its brand and that look is regularly updated. In contrast the advertising and fixtures in a milk bar show a layering of history. Yes there is the latest packaging for some products but away there on the wall is an old faded poster from last century. Could you go a Chicko Roll?

Still if I had to prioritize my needs then I would rank comfort and familiarity over curiosity. The familiar faces of those operating my local milkbars (I get two depending on whether I am walking to the bus or to my creek) are some of the few local faces I know at all in this era of anonymous living. While I lived interstate for 12 months (now itself 18 months or more ago) I would visit this neighbourhood and be asked why I was so scarce by a local milk bar operator. It is nice to be remembered by a smiling face.

And how could I forget the practical aspects of my interest in milk bars - an excuse to go for a walk and get my iced coffee fix! Sunshine, exercise, fat, sugar and stimulant all rolled into one experience.

Cross-posted here.

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12.9.11

Village Of Solitar

For a self-professed nerd some are surprised by my lack of interest in computer games. This is an extension of my lack of interest in many games whatever the media. Many are too abstract or strategic or just too bloody combative for my liking. However there have been exceptions and in this post I will describe my all-time favourite arcade game. I was on a bus passing Forest Hill Shopping Centre recently and it reminded me of a past visit there and the last time I played the most immersive game ever - the fabulous and whimsical Prop Cycle!

Prop Cycle was introduced by Namco in 1996 and they stuck one in the then games arcade at Monash Uni in the late 90s. The hardware demanded attention by looking like the lovechild of an arcade game machine and an exercise bike. The user could sit on it and pedal to determine speed. One could steer in three dimensions. One even could feel wind blown in ones face courtesy of some fans set into the machine. Amazing!

Then there was the game itself. The story concept was charmingly quirky. Your village of Solitar has magically been sent into the sky and is suspended there by glowing spheres of energy which need to be destroyed for Solitar to safely waft back to land. In order to do this you have to ride a winged propeller-driven bicycle round to pop all those spheres but to do that you must develop your skills of riding and popping! Most of the game therefore involves you riding round your pretty three-dimensional homeland popping hot air balloons!

A bunch of us in Korner became fixated with this game and fed it much coin. We also devised a strategy for completing the three missions which would allow us to then complete the final mission of saving Solitar. Rather than take the three missions in order of course difficulty we chose them in reverse order. The thing we had noticed was that each successive scene (whatever order taken) would have a larger number of balloons so we were averaging the difficulty by starting the more complex mission with fewer balloons to pop! Genius!

This is possibly the most immersive game I have ever played given that ones whole body was involved in the process of riding a winged bike round an imaginary three dimensional world. It also necessitated exercise - anyone who completed the game would find themselves puffing and panting by the end. It was also refreshingly non-violent in an era in which the dominant arcade games were Mortal Kombat and the like.

Anyway here are some screen captures of Prop Cycle in action. Watching this I suddenly remember all the twists and turns necessary to get to all those balloons! Pop those balloons! Yippee!

Cross-posted here

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