Staff Picks: Misplaced testicles, sushi-cats, 90s video games, 'Virunga' and more | Rock Candy

Friday, March 13, 2015

Staff Picks: Misplaced testicles, sushi-cats, 90s video games, 'Virunga' and more

Posted By , , , , , and on Fri, Mar 13, 2015 at 3:24 PM

click to enlarge "Virunga"
  • "Virunga"

Arkansas Times Recommends is a weekly series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying this week.

The industrial lathe, remorseless fork lift, or jumbo-sized sausage grinder can be a harsh mistress, my friend. It's dangerous at work, and your Momma wasn't fooling when she said it's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye. With that in mind, I want to recommend ProPublica's interactive, online chart showing the maximum amount Workers' Comp will pay for an on-the-job loss of a bodily appendage in each state.

For example: In Arkansas, a single misplaced testicle is worth a maximum of $25,016. Meanwhile, the same ball is only worth $17,119 next door in Oklahoma. Take that, Oklahoma! Highest huevo price in the nation: Illinois, at a whopping $73,537. That's "one ballin' it in my new Corvette" money!

Data is beautiful, and this chart is fun to look at, in a gruesome sort of way. Verily, I say unto you: there but for the grace of God go all of us, missing a big toe and with $115,158 in our pockets. — David Koon

A gem discovered during my recent bed-bound bout with the flu was a documentary called "Virunga."  The story focuses on the park rangers at the Virunga National Park in eastern Congo. I’d be lying if I said I hadn't assumed I was about to watch another save-the-gorillas movie. And technically I was right. There was literally a moment where park rangers were protecting gorillas from violent rebel forces moving into the town. There were tanks. But "Virunga" is the greatly expanded view of the traditional nature-at-risk film. It is, as most good documentaries about struggle are, both inspiring and angering. Watch it on Netflix tonight. A big thanks to Matt White for the recommendation. — Bryan Moats

A few days ago at Savers I bought a book by Seymour Krim for $1.49. Krim was an essayist and a critic — a failed novelist, by his own account — who lived in New York and has been associated with the Beat Generation, the New Journalism and the Partisan Review crowd of the 1940s. I've been meaning to read more of his writing since I came across a depressing, hilarious, beautiful rant he wrote called "For My Brothers and Sisters in the Failure Business" in an anthology in college. The book I bought this week, his first collection of essays originally published in 1961, is called "Views of a Nearsighted Cannoner," and includes his radically personal takes on jazz, race, sexuality, suicide, the death of the novel and other topics. He's brutally, endearingly self-deprecating and his prose is experimental, alliterative, wild and hyper-neurotic. The book has a forward written by Norman Mailer, and it's worth quoting at length:

"He has the guts of New York, old Krim, and it is not so impossible that when the digital computer in the mind of new historians begins to tick over the psychic ash heaps and spiritual dumps of this insane, cruel, rapacious, avid, cancerous and alas — in the end — cowardly city, they will say if they have a sense of the past that yes, in the work of Seymour Krim lives one of the truest beats of how horrible, how jarring, how livid and how exciting was this city where the best of us burned and burned out without a war, a cause, an underground, or a passion for the blood."

Here is an anecdote that illustrates something about his perspective: Apparently, when Krim eventually committed suicide in the late `80s, he sent his nephew out to buy pills so that he might overdose. When he came back, he gave Krim the bill, and Krim was furious about the price. He said, “Why can’t we get a couple of dollars off if we’re buying so many?” — Will Stephenson

click to enlarge Nekozushi, or Cat Sushi
  • Nekozushi, or Cat Sushi
— Caitlin  Love

Video games have come so far from when I was a kid that when I sit on my porch and yell at the kids who come into my yard, I wonder how much better they can get. But in the rush for better graphics and online capabilities, a lot of older games get lost in the shuffle. Thus, I want to encourage you all to play a game that came out for the original PlayStation in the late 90s: Xenogears. This JRPG was overshadowed by the juggernaut that was Final Fantasy VII, but for sheer density and strangeness, Xenogears hasn't been matched even to this day. Basic story: Man searches for god only to find that god is a disgusting rage monster who wants to absorb all the humans on the planet because...well, it gets complicated. The obvious solution to this situation is to get inside huge robot suits and go fight him. In the meantime, you find love, learn about creation and punch a lot of stuff. It's the classic JRPG to end all JRPG's, and I still throw my old copy into my current gen PlayStation to relive the days of blurry sprites, random encounters, and the endless grind for loot and skills. A waste of time? Not with a storyline this insane. You can find copies at most used game stores, and of course you can find it on Amazon. — Michael Roberts

Learning a language is often the most difficult thing to do, but is also quite worthwhile. You open the door to communication with a larger group of people, their history and culture. That being said, finding a fun and interactive way to learn is important because it makes the process more enjoyable and increases the chances that you will retain what you have learned. I have been interested in learning Chinese for some time now and have yet to find a resource that was easy to comprehend and remember. The Chinese language has long been considered the most difficult major language to learn, largely on account of the vast number and complexity of its characters. How am I going to remember almost 3,000 characters? Well apparently you don’t have to. I was online the other day and saw an advertisement online for Chineasy.org and according to the website you only need to know around 200 basic characters to understand Chinese literature. “Chineasy’s goal is to allow people to learn to read Chinese easily by recognising characters through simple illustrations.” The Chineasy method breaks down thousands of Chinese characters into a few hundred base building blocks. When these building blocks are combined, they form compounds that can in turn be combined to create phrases. Through this method learners can quickly build a large vocabulary of characters with very little effort. I have not begun my study yet but I do believe I have found the course, I recommend that anyone who is interested in learning Chinese check this method out and tell me what you think! — Kaya Herron

Are you a Little Rock property tax payer? Did you get a letter about a refund of taxes paid in 2008 because of a technical question over a library tax millage? Do nothing. Unclaimed money will be used by the library to buy books, CDs and other stuff. If you owned a car then, you'll only be giving up five bucks or so. You might get $25 if you own a house worth $150,000. Every little bit helps, I know. But it's also true for the library. — Max Brantley

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