Local Musicians Record Album of Iconic Video Game Music

If you play video games, know someone who plays video games or have just heard about video games, you’re probably familiar with Capcom’s Mega Man. This series of games for PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Gameboy, Super Nintendo and of course the original Nintendo Entertainment System have produced a universe of side-scrolling, platforming imagery that is almost as iconic as that of Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog. 
In the original series (1987-1993), you blast your way through a future that has been filled with violent robots by your nemesis, Dr. Wily. It’s only a matter of time before Wily and his army control the world and you are armed with only a “mega buster” (a  small cannon screwed into your arm) to stop them. The fate of the world is on your blue, pixelated shoulders.
Mega Man jumping
Throughout the gameplay you're spurred on by upbeat 8-bit synthesizer music, which is another of the iconic elements of the Mega Man series and has recently inspired a group of local musicians to rearrange it for live performances. 
The band, called simply Mega Man, features James Woodard on bass, Eric Sandoval on drums, Ian McIntosh on guitar and Joseph Caceres on synthesizer. Mega Man formed to play a Halloween covers night and had planned to leave it at that. But offers to play other shows and positive response to the music on the Web has kept the project alive and they are now in the process of recording an album of the songs. 
They chose songs from the six original Mega Man games for Nintendo, which tested the musicians’ abilities in unusual ways.
“The songs are easy because they were written with only three-note polyphony,” Caceres explains (which in English means that the game’s 8-bit technology only supports three notes to be played at once), “but the composers compensated by making everything really fast, so the challenge is to play everything accurately.”
The band members admit they are all “nerds” about games and retro technology, and these interests show through clearly on their plans for the recording. They wanted to do a faithful 8-bit recording of their versions, but lack the hardware. They’ve settled instead for what they think is the next best option: a 16-track reel-to-reel. 
After the tracks are mixed, the album will be a cassette-only release, packaged inside old NES cartridges, which Woodard discovered are the perfect size for holding tapes. The album will be released in early February. 

Mega Man performing at Game Stop

Despite all of the effort and creativity the members are investing in the project, they do not see Mega Man ever eclipsing the work they do with their other bands.
“Mega Man is just for fun, we don’t have to work very hard,” Woodard says, “and any money we might make from it will go to our other bands.”
There are at least fifty different games in the Mega Man series, with hundreds of original songs featured on their soundtracks. Theoretically, San Antonio's Mega Man could revamp its setlist several times a year and still have material for decades' worth of performances. But regarding Mega Man’s hopes for the future, Woodard states simply, “we just don't want to get sued by Capcom.”
For any questions about Mega Man, contact James Woodard.

Contributed by: Michael Swellander


Lecture to Highlight American Efforts to Preserve Egyptian History

Egypt holds a special place in the imaginations of most Americans. From Brendan Fraser’s kitschy adventures in the Mummy trilogy to the iconic pyramid on the back of the dollar bill, imagery from the Old Kingdom period (2650-2134 BCE), nicknamed “The Age of Pyramids,” has been present in American art and culture since their beginnings.

Egypt also plays an important political role as a controversial American ally in the Middle East. In 2009, President Obama chose Cairo as the site of his address to the Muslim world, which garnered much criticism by implying the White House’s support of the autocratic President Hosni Mubarak.

Among the organizations fostering good scholarly relations between Egypt and the United States is the non-profit American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE), the American office of which is located in San Antonio. Dr. Gerry Scott, director of ARCE, will present a lecture tomorrow at the San Antonio Museum of Art introducing the Center’s activities, titled “The American Research Center in Egypt: American Contributions to Preserving Egypt’s Ancient Past.”

Dr. Gerry Scott.

ARCE was founded in 1948 and since then has established a reputation in the academic community for supporting modern Egyptology through securing visas for visiting scholars, awarding generous fellowships to graduate students and leading conservation work for ancient Egyptian monuments.

“I think the audience will be most excited about our conservation work,” says Dr. Scott, referring to the stunning changes restoration teams have made to sites that date back millennia. In 2009, for example, the Center brought Italian painting conservators to the Khonsu Temple at Karnak to retouch some of the temple’s many wall paintings that had severely faded. The work of these conservators, which included cleaning and repainting the walls, renewed the vibrancy of the wall paintings and helps ensure future study of them.

Khonsu Temple wall painting before conservation work. Photo by Kathleen Scott.

Khonsu Temple wall painting after conseration work. Photo by Owen Murray.

“The work of American scholars in Egypt and the pairing of them with their Egyptian counterparts helps foster positive relations between the two nations,” believes Dr. Scott. Professional cooperation often leads to cultural understanding, and Dr. Scott’s lecture will show how the cultural work of ARCE is playing an important role in such efforts.

The lecture will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a reception to follow. Tickets are $5 for nonmembers of ARCE or SAMA and will go on sale an hour before doors open.

Also, consider donating to ARCE to ensure their cultural work continues.

Contributed by: Michael Swellander.


Local Authors Talk Tamales, Community, History

What do comadres (godmothers) and hearty tamales have to do with civilization? Come explore this question tomorrow evening at Tres Rebecas downtown, where authors Carmen Tafolla and Ellen Riojas Clark will be signing copies of their book Tamales, Comadres and the Meaning of Civilization (Wings Press 2010). Tafolla and Clark wrote and collected from other writers and public leaders stories, recipes and artwork responding to the tamale’s 7000-year history in the region and the women who have made them. The event begins at 6 p.m.

Proceeds from the event will go to the non-profit organization Hispanas Unidas, which implements a teen pregnancy and teen delinquency prevention program for girls ages 8-14 in San Antonio.

A good book and a good cause: hope to see you there!


Comedy Exploring the World of Gay Conversion Therapy Has San Antonio Premiere

Straight: A Conversion Comedy examines the world of conversion therapy, a treatment intended to “cure” men and women of their homosexuality. The play will have its San Antonio premiere December 2 with the AtticRep Theatre Company at Trinity University.

Photo by Tim Summers, courtesy of The Stranger

Written and performed by David Schmader, columnist for Seattle’s The Stranger and a native Texan, the show blends journalism with elements of stand-up, resulting in a performance that balances smart comedy with serious cultural criticism.

Schmader derived the characters and stories in Straight from research he conducted in Seattle and in Texas. For this research Schmader went undercover, booking sessions with a conversion therapist and attending support groups for ex-gays. He also read many publications by Exodus International, “the largest information and referral ministry in the world addressing homosexual issues.”

Because he was unsure which tone would dominate the play, Schmader did not subtitle Straight “a conversion comedy” until he had already been performing it for several years. He recognized in time, however, that the play was a comedy, partly because communicating the play’s cultural criticism depended on humor to keep his audience entertained.

“The best way to get cultural criticism onstage without boring everyone is to make it funny,” writes Schmader in a recent email.

According to Schmader, comedy also seems to arise naturally in a project covering such a fraught subject, which involves many characters, gay and straight, making assumptions about each other, “and watching people learn their assumptions are poop,” he explains, “is inherently funny.”

Schmader and Straight’s San Antonio director, Andy Thornton, have spent the past few weeks fine-tuning the script and blocking for Thursday’s show at the AtticRep space. Working together has been a joy, because besides seeing eye to eye artistically, the two have been friends for over 20 years.

“We’ve literally exchanged mixtapes since I was 18,” says Schmader, “so he understands what I’m aiming for as well as anyone on earth who’s not me.”

Straight: A Conversion Comedy runs from December 2 through 19. Tickets are available online at the AtticRep website.

Contributed by: Michael Swellander, public relations intern for Texas Public Radio.