Fiz 5.18.05

Spontaneous. Pop culture. Curiosity

Get a room

OK. I've found two rings, a battery, a cassette tape, a jewel case, two keys, a memorandum, a power cord, and one "strange small box." I'm trapped in the Crimson Room, and I'm not getting out until I find all the items I need to unlock the door. On top of that, I'm nursing a nasty hangover that's left me feeling "thirst of the throat." And there's no water in sight.

Toshimitsu Takagi made Crimson Room in 2004. It's a Flash-powered videogame you can play for free on the internet by visiting the Japanese web designer's site, You can trap yourself in some of Takagi's other rooms while you're there (he's made Botanical Room, Blue Chamber, Viridian Room, etc...). Or, if you know Japanese, you can learn all about Takagi.

Unlike most videogames, escaping rooms requires very little hand-eye coordination beyond the ability to point and click a mouse. You simply scan a room by clicking, searching for items that might help you escape.

The rooms aren't exactly pulse-pounding, which is why we love them. Besides, there simply aren't enough games out there that play upon your feelings of dread and claustrophobia. Ruffling blinds and checking under pillows for clues might sound lame. But it won't take you long in any room to fall into the same strange zenstate we have.

Takagi's not the only one to have made virtual rooms for you to get stuck in, even if his seem to be the best at combining creativity with fluid gameplay and vivid graphics. There are others. Many others. And even more forums (like for people to offer clues, links to new rooms, or just to nerd out over the phenomenon.

--- Chad Oliveiri

What went wrong?

Bands. They're volatile affairs, essentially doomed from the beginning. Yet every week papers like this one are full of ads from bands seeking musicians --- and visa versa --- with more delusion, hubris, misdirected enthusiasm, and eager desperation than the horniest of personals.

And when you read between the lines, you can see just what went wrong. Here's a list of phrases ripped directly from assorted band want ads. We offer our translations in italics.

• Must be willing to compromise. Must be willing to agree with the singer.

• Seeking vocalist with range. Last singer was tone deaf and sounded like Fozzie.

• Seeking humble and creative individual. Last guitar player thought he was Clapton.

• Professional appearance and attitude a plus. Tired of the former bass player's flannel shirts and unwillingness to bathe.

• Players will have full freedom of expression. As long as it coincides with the singer's.

• Backing vocals a plus. Don't even think about singing lead.

• Own equipment a plus. We don't share.

• Own transportation a plus. We're not picking your ass up. Or: We all need rides.

• Own rehearsal space a plus. We got kicked out of mom's basement so we're coming over... and we're moving in.

• Band members will share in CD proceeds. Last guy was canned because he didn't think his cut was fair.

• No girlfriends, no wives. Last guy's old lady suggested a cover tune.

• No drugs, no booze. Last keyboard player shattered the junkie mystique.

• Send picture. Last singer was a gargoyle. We may want to get in your pants.

--- Frank De Blase