Was this photograph viral marketing? I’m not permitted to confirm or deny that possibility, enjoy this place-holder content to tide you over!
I should explain what those mysterious new Spectacularly Average Let’s Play videos I keep pinning to the top of my Twitter profile are, and why I’ve decided selling out my long-held principles against capitulating to the YouTube Machine is a good idea despite social media telling me that it’s not the wisest (or healthiest) career move you can make in 2018. See, my twin brother Jonathan and I have had our differences over the years, you’d expect us both to collaborate on the reg like Vlogbrothers John and Hank Green, but for a long stretch of our twenty-eight years on this planet this hasn’t happened very often. Way back when I’d graduated high school, my twin brother left home to seek his fortune far away from being “Jacob’s brother” and find his own distinct adult identity. In case you’re not aware, having your adolescence defined by your high-functioning autistic sibling kinda sucks, and I don’t blame him for studying interstate so he could get away from that for a while. I referred to him in vague terms as “my twin brother” in previous articles to prevent my online persona damaging his credibility, embarrassing him with the utter nonsense I post here, he’s taken umbrage with my wizard-chic aesthetic and he’s a bit Han Solo to my Luke Skywalker when it comes to spiritual matters. I apologise for the radio silence at Pagemaster General for the past six months, in March 2018, I was told I’d be holding my black cat Gidget in my arms as she was put to sleep. This was not pleasant, however to mitigate the sudden bereavement of my familiar, I travelled up to Queensland to see the 35MM projected screening of Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards at GOMA’s Two Minutes to Midnight: Nuclear Cinema exhibit with my fellow autistic BFF Rhys and our mutual mate Drew Wharton. The very last piece I posted before I disappeared dealt with Wizards, I’d be stupid not to seize this unrepeatable opportunity to see Wizards in an Australian theatre given how connected my Ralph Bakshi fandom is with my online personal brand, this film screening was a matter of great importance which took precedence over everything else on the docket. Quick update on The Enchanting Existential Dread Of Aussie Theme Parks: I’ve mentioned that the black metal funerary mood of this e-book is due to unfortunate circumstances which befell me whilst I was editing it, on June 17th my maternal grandmother passed away, I’ll attend their memorial service very soon which delays my productivity further. I also had a much easier to laugh at demise to grieve than my dead pet or grandparent this year, it’s not as devastating as the former losses, yet its impact is significant enough that I couldn’t surpass my mind’s creative paralysis without addressing what happened behind the scenes since we last spoke. I speak of course, of my photography career’s untimely death: I’m pretty good at my basic shot composition using somebody’s iPhone at a wedding or birthday event, but other than that I’m not someone you’d hire to document Harry and Meghan’s royal matrimony for a tabloid like New Idea or Woman’s Day. I couldn’t command my own cat to co-operate for me when photographing her, Gidget wasn’t a very memetic animal, and I understood as soon as I adopted my non-blep performing familiar that she’d never be an internet sensation like Lil BUB or Curious Zelda. I gave Gidget a forever home regardless of her profitability, cradle to the grave, it’s frustrating that decent photos I can remember her by had a surreptitious paparazzo vibe:
RIP Gidget, 2001-2018. I don’t have many photos of her that weren’t blurry, because she never sat still whenever I whipped out the camera.
The photography major I took at Sydney College of the Arts hasn’t really led me towards a concrete career path, I always hated using DSLR cameras because I’ve struggled to attach the lenses to my Nikon in time to capture worthwhile photographs, and when I was tasked with developing analogue film my teachers shut me inside a dark wooden box which may or may not be still haunted by the restless ghosts of Rozelle’s Callan Park Asylum for the Insane. My Standard Maths innumeracy meant apertures eluded me, my eyes glazed over whenever I had to figure out f-stops, and I didn’t get much use out of my D7000 which was sitting dormant in garage moving boxes so I tried to fetch it from there to lend my brother the device for his holiday in Hobart. My clumsiness interfered, I’d almost made it out of the garage, only to stumble and drop the camera bag onto the floor – rendering an ordinary lens which shipped in the box useless because it wouldn’t connect to its body anymore. I felt too incompetent to utilise my 21st Birthday present my teachers told me was required for my classes, my FujiFilm FinePix 51500 on which I’d taken some of my favourite photos I’d ever done wasn’t professional enough for Stills Gallery submission guidelines, now an expensive tool meant to aid me in pursuing the half-baked future I’d imagined for myself collided with destiny. I’m glad my SCA Bachelor of Visual Arts degree hanging on the wall says Media Arts instead of Photomedia, or else I’d feel like a complete academic fraud for displaying that fancy piece of paper in my bedroom. Oh, and it gets better, the night my lens broke… Jonathan decided the best way to cheer me up after my dreams just shattered was to throw my D.C. Lau translation Penguin Classics Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu at me like it’s a stupid pamphlet promoting a local politician in my vicinity. Fantastic idea: toss the Bible of your brother’s religion, which he bought from the National Portrait Gallery of Australia gift shop and is the first Tao Te Ching paperback he ever owned down the filthy crevasse of his second-hand mattress Dad purchased from St. Vincent De Paul. Cue The Last Jedi memes:
Applying inane memes to real life situations is a HECS debt well spent.
Mario Is Missing (2010) – I shot this the year my brother left for Griffith University up in Queensland, a plastic Luigi alone in the grass says it all.
On the internet, aiming at nothing (2010) – I shot this on our marble table, constructing an entire digital realm out of the canvas where my Dad cooked dinner for us every night, and a Yotsuba&! action figure.
The Failbringer (2010) – this Anonymous cosplayer brought his stereo with him into Anime At Abbotsford, blasting Never Gonna Give You Up.
The New Anti-IKEA Showroom (2011) – JB Hi-Fi bags strewn across the floor, empty mugs stacked on BILLY shelves, I guess the joke is IKEA catalogues don’t depict the reality of depressive single men?
Stray Dog Of Sydney (2012) – here’s a good monochromatic doggo.
One argument and existential crisis later, my brother and I were on speaking terms again, thus we began talking about this newfangled YouTube channel idea he had cooking in the background whilst he was working at various jobs earning money to fund his side-hustle. I am self-aware enough to notice how in a lot of cases, starting a game streaming channel is often the last refuge of the underemployed burnout, Tatsuhiko Takimoto’s Welcome To The NHK exposed this fact with barbed satirical wit as Satou and his partner in crime Yamazaki conspire to rise above hikikomori-dom by coding eroge games. Unlike a lot of men whose naive ambitions for Game Grumps or Markiplier level e-fame tend to get squashed by the sacrifice required to pursue this get-rich-quick-scheme – Jonathan already registered his domain name and yesterday I picked up his business cards from the post office. When he bought catering for his crew at Ribs & Burgers, I knew he took this job with a seriousness certain other online web-productions lacked, I’ve seen Jonathan’s short silent vampire film Enthralled projected at Chauvel Cinema where we both saw Hobo With A Shotgun together. The previous occasion where we’d collaborated in a meaningful way was on an animated parody of wartime propaganda cartoons called A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum – which I made before #GamerGate worsened the climate I graduated amongst in 2014, when our attitude towards internet message boards curdled beyond repair. Even in 2010, On the internet, aiming at nothing depicted the unofficial mascot of 4chan (Yotsuba) corrupted into an angry spiteful demon aiming her impotent water pistol at a blank white void. It was an image inspired by Takashi Murakami’s Superflat pop-art movement, where the plastic anime characters of Japan revealed their sinister underbellies onto canvas for a deeper analysis of its post-war reconstruction. Tatsuhiko Takimoto didn’t just influence my writing, for five years I attempted to live as he did, like a hikikomori surrounded by trash so I could understand his process. The New Anti-IKEA Showroom is one of those photographs I loved taking but never explained the purpose of with an actual artist’s statement anybody could read, for all my poor mother knew I was turning into a hoarder for no reason with a set of bongos rusting away in the corner (a subtle nod to The Beat Generation). The Great Gatsby is often misread by young business school bros as a pean to partying rather than Fitzgerald’s disillusionment with the Jazz Age as a whole, however my experiment in how long I could justify binge-watching anime in my sweatpants like the author of Welcome To The NHK before it stops being avant-garde and starts getting sad is at least as laudable as Mike Parr burying himself underground. Stray Dog Of Sydney is one of the last snapshots I took at that address, a tribute to Japanese street photographer Daido Moriyama, whose documentary Stray Dog Of Tokyo I’d seen and alongside Bill Cunningham New York which I’d watched with my mother in cinemas rekindled my passion for photography when it was in danger of being snuffed out. I felt suffocated by my phoning-it-in academic writing which distracted from my literary writing I wanted to be doing, my brain data-dumped all this art theory which would’ve fascinated me if I wasn’t being graded just so it would not implode. Or I thought I had data-dumped it, because watching PBS’ The Art Assignment on YouTube is enough to jog my synapses for me to remember very basic tenets of postmodernism, as rudimentary as one’s undergraduate slurry of ideologies can be – it’s better than knowing nothing. I came from a background where I tried to illustrate my unreadable fantasy novel, and failed in fully-illustrating it but somehow succeeded in actually writing the manuscript, which is probably even more important to writing an unreadable fantasy novel than trying to draw pictures of elves. The gulf between what I had in my head and what I’ve ended up making with A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum is unsatisfactory, yet if you look at the end product, even though the image of hands coming through the screen to comfort somebody at a computer seems like a rough storyboard at best… other scenes like the “troll menace” bouncing around inside a humanoid shape to point out how such evil lurks inside us all communicated what I was trying to say. It’s why I’ll always respect Ralph Bakshi for directing the films he wants with his socio-political commentary intact, even if some are super-flawed like Cool World, nobody else could do Heavy Traffic justice.
I still get a chuckle out of the immortal line “CRIKEY! MY FEELINGS!”.
My reluctance to embrace the YouTube Machine should be obvious from a cursory glance at my artistic body of work, which expresses my skepticism towards current social media platforms and dying message boards in an alarming amount of my creative output. You’re probably asking me: “Why Jake? Why now? Spectacularly Average poses a nigh-irreversible threat to your serene pre-YouTube lifestyle where you don’t have to know or care about VidCon drama!” – and the only answer I can give is that I’m doing it for the same reason I woke up early on a cold winter morning so Jonathan could go shoot his vampire movie at the haunted campus where I used to attend my classes. We drove in our rented van full of heavy lighting equipment and sound engineer gadgets, I felt included in my twin brother’s directorial adventure, Spectacularly Average is another stepping stone for his media career. Meanwhile, I disappear for six months editing my massive e-book project about Australian theme parks, and don’t have any content to promote for an audience fed up with lack of results. All of a sudden, Jonathan emerges from his prolonged absence and makes me an offer I dare not refuse, but the catch is I have to mould myself into the sort of fun person who’s easy to work with on set and can’t rant too much about metal bands for the sake of his audio recording. Like the proverbial car drive to my spooky alma mater neither he nor I expected we’d ever set foot near again, we went back to our roots and decided to conquer a PlayStation game which plagued us since childhood: Crash Bandicoot. Jonathan and I first encountered this… software at our friend David Harris’ house, and the less said about our brutal introduction to Crash Bandicoot, the better. Controllers were thrown at the screen, but not by us, hence the game was banned from Dave’s house and we resorted to raiding his older brother’s Super Nintendo cartridges for entertainment. Twenty years later, we’ve overcome our youthful impatience with Crash Bandicoot‘s tank controls and we’re willing to engage it on its own terms rather than giving up, rage-quitting and blaming the maligned programmers for making it too hard for us like we would’ve done upon its release in 1997. Josh Starita’s sense of humour meshes well with my comedic despair, it’s always enjoyable to watch Jean-Claude Van Damme or Jet Li action movies with him when he comes over to record the show, we’re working on streaming other games that aren’t Crash Bandicoot but for now we’re focused towards finishing it before we jumped ship to another franchise. I’ve collected some of our favourite Spectacularly Average clips we’ve worked on with Josh and Jonathan, so you can enjoy the N-Sanity of it all, we’re eight episodes deeper and counting:
First episode of our Crash Bandicoot playthrough, the debut of many Slayer references as we demand our ideal Let’s Player resemble the Big Four’s tattooed guitarist Kerry King, or at least a sad Gollumy wretch.
The most controversial episode of the bunch, where the hip-hop sub-genre of Steal Yo Girl is analysed, Chris Brown’s continued success is condemned, and I responded with #YaNasty to Josh Starita’s ruining I Believe I Can Fly by R. Kelly. NSFW, I didn’t drop any N-bombs here.
In which I argue that eating dogs is “almost cannibalism” because they’re man’s best friend, Jonathan conquers Hog Wild for us, Josh dunks on Dragonforce’s repetitive power metal lyrics for a second.
In which we at Spectacularly Average opine about the origin of “the boys” in linguistic terminology, I pay homage to the McElroy Brothers. and Josh deconstructs the kayfabe artifice of podcasting dynamics.
The infamous Lou Reed/Metallica/Bob Dylan/Slayer cluster rant with a detour into Blink 182 territory, I also confuse Onion articles about Tony Hawk for real journalism, Jonathan hated editing this tangent episode.
I take control of the gameplay here, and I provide such wisdom as “hope gets in the way of success”, singing Weird Al lyrics for Astro Boy‘s theme song whilst jonathan almost earned himself the gem.
This is the Jurassic World tangent episode, where I played Crash Bandicoot, I’m told I sound like Andrew Dice Clay whenever I die.
In which we diss Josh’s ebonics and Byron Bay’s own (Iggy Azalea), pass the salt, and rank early 2000s music acts to decide who is truly “the voice of a generation”: Britney Spears… or Christina Aguilera?
Jonathan’s audition tape for the rebooted Good Game on ABC, where he reviewed the Super Nintendo Classic Edition, i insisted he keep the Dhalsim “YOU LOSE!” sound-byte in his edit and stand by my decision.