Babycastles Takes Manhattan

Babycastles Takes Manhattan (photo)

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It’s been almost two months since the minds behind Babycastles inaugurated their residency just a few blocks from Grand Central Station. The space comes courtesy of Chashama, an organization that sets up artists in empty real-estate locations like retail storefronts or office spaces. Previously, Babycastles lived at the Silent Barn music venue in Rudgewood, Queens. You didn’t need a password but their space at Silent Barn felt like a video game speakeasy. Finding yourself at the nondescript metal door and going down to the basement illuminated by screenlight meant you now belonged to a secret society of people privy to a bubbling, fertile cultural movement.

11292010_Babycastles_Manhattan_3a.jpgStill, the bigger, splashier Midtown East locale required a change in approach, both in terms of what the show and how they show it. Syed Salahuddin, one of the founders of Babycastles, offered that “we could do whatever the f**k we wanted at Silent Barn. That crowd was more acclimated to trying out new things, even if they didn’t play video games.” He continued with the observation that “here [at Chashama, we need to have things that are more palatable. We want to be people’s introduction to indie games.”

The latest exhibition–curated by Independent Games Festival chairman Brandon Boyer–featured the biggest names yet, with indie success stories “Super Meat Boy,” “Continuity” and “Enviro-Bear 2000” playable in custom-made cabinets. Saturday night saw a closing party for the exhibition, with musical performances by chiptune artists Starscream, Neil Voss and Knife City. Salahuddin says that openings have been great, but ordinary weekdays have been a mixed bag: “Midtown is an alien world for us and it’s a little difficult to get people from Brooklyn to come out.”

However, they have managed to draw a curious cubicle-dweller crowd: “People wander in during their lunch breaks, because nothing cool or cultural happens in this part of the city. They’ve been super-appreciative.” So has Chashama, who have extended the Babycastles residency through to the end of January. The pace of exhibitions has doubled in the new space, up to two showcases a month. A January show will feature the work of Eddo Stern, who helped curate Fantastic Arcade at the 2010 Fantastic Fest and is also known for “Tekken Torture Tournament.”

Speaking of upcoming exhibitions, Eric Zimmerman and Nathalie Pozzi have also created “Flatlands,” a new site-specific work for the space that Zimmerman described as a “conversational” game about aesthetic discourse. The pair plan to re-work the feel of the venue a little bit as Pozzi described the look of the non-digital game as more somber interspersed with bursts of color. Zimmerman didn’t get in specifics but said that playing “Flatlands” involves old-school board games from the 1980s and that which board you choose will in itself be a move.

11292010_Babycastles_Manhattan_6a.jpgAsked why Babycastles’ Manhattan space is important, Zimmerman answered by noting, “As digital games enter the cultural pantheon alongside literature, film and other media, it’s important to create context for their distribution and experience beyond a box on a shelf or a slot on a Xbox Live Arcade release schedule. There has to be a curated kind of space and Babycastles is both a symptom and a cause of the rise of indie games.”

Brandon Boyer agrees, adding hat Babycastles is part of a larger movement happening in many cities. “Toronto has its Torontron and Seattle, Austin are trying to set up similar things. Places like this take everything back to the 1980s, when there still were communal spaces for playing games together,” he says.

The IGF chairman chose these seven games because he knew they would show well “in a noisy space with drunk people.” “Super Meat Boy” and “Continuity” are already playable in the wild, but Boyer also included highly anticipated games that aren’t out yet like “Monaco” and “Tuning.”

Rumors of a New Year’s Eve party ran through the room on Saturday night and Salahuddin wouldn’t say if such a thing was in the works. I asked him if he and his partners would consider another run in Manhattan once this residency ended, but he answered that “After this, we go to sleep and die.”


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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.


IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines


The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.


Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.


A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.


Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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