MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 12 of 16)


A mysterious portal connects young protagonist Carrie’s Canadian hometown to the world of 90s computer-animated cartoon Reboot. Series villain Megabyte, who’s a vampire in Canada, bites Carrie. Back in the digital world, she becomes half-erased. As Carrie is not just the protagonist but also our author, which might prevent the story from ever finishing. But series hero Bob thinks he can rescue her, if series villain Megabyte keeps to a deal whose terms I don’t think I understand …

And that’s about where we are in Carrie L—‘s fan fiction “Breaking the Barriers”. Also in my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction treatment of it. The entire MiSTing should be available at this link and if it’s not, something will be, I’m sure.

I don’t think there are any riffs that need explanation this time. Somehow the Peter Potamus and the Skeksis references became less obscure than they were in 2003. In the host segment the game that Tom and Crow try distracting Joel and Gypsy with is a mish-mash of old-school games. The twisty maze of passages, or maze of twisty passages, references the 70s game Colossal Cave Adventure. The Vogons and the aspirin are, of course, from the interactive-fiction version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. That’s a game I sometimes got as far as the second room in. The ampersand was the character used to represent an enemy in … I want to say Rogue? I forget if there were a specific reference for the treasure room (Adventure?) and the chair by someone’s side. Hacking a game to turn off sprite collisions would let you get through a round without touching the bad thing killing your guy. But that could keep you from killing the badnasty jumpjumps, too.

I know it’s a bad idea to fall in love with your own writing. But the host sketch here, oh, I love it. I feel like it’s one of the times I captured the voice of the actual show. Crow’s unmotivated wanderings off-camera are there to give the stagehands time to put the stick in or take it out of his hands. I like host sketches that plausibly read like ones they might have been able to record. I also feel like I had a weakness for writing Joel sketches that end with a group hug but I don’t know if the statistics bear out that I wrote more of those than the average MiSTer did.


> * * * * * * * *
> * *
>
> Part Twenty-Four

CROW: I hope we get up to part 28, ’cause that’s a perfect number.

>
> Bob stood silently at the entrance to Dot’s Diner, Carrie
> lying limply in his arms.

TOM: They should just revert to the last saved copy.

> He looked up at the sign, and turned to
> Megabyte. "You have to be patient." Bob told him.

JOEL: I thought Carrie was the patient?

> "This is the only
> way we can return her to normal." Megabyte smiled slyly. "Don’t you
> trust me, Guardian?"

CROW: So if they pushed her back through the portal she’d be a translucent Canadian vampire.

TOM: That could get her a four-year run on UPN.

CROW: You’re right, we’ve got to stop her!

> He asked sarcastically. Bob frowned, and turned,
> pushing the door open. The place was almost deserted.

JOEL: Must be after the dinner rush — see, ’cause it’s … deserted…

> The only
> people there were Enzo and a rather frazzled looking Dot.

CROW: Yakko and Wakko have gone too far!

> As Bob
> entered, Enzo looked up. "Bob!!" he shouted jumping down from his
> stool. He was about to tackle Bob

TOM: Enzo’s veering dangerously close to Scrappy Doo territory.

> when he saw the half-erased sprite
> in his arms. Then his face turned fearful as he saw Megabyte
> following behind.

CROW: This is a weird parade.

> Bob carfully placed Carrie on the counter and Dot
> looked at her in shock.

JOEL: Hey, dead girl *off* the table.

> "What happened?" she asked, "Magnetic
> erasure? Like last time?"

TOM: [ As Carrie ] Last time?

JOEL: [ As Bob ] She was an ADSR waveform, she meant nothing to me.

> Bob shook his head. "It’s a long story,
> right now we need to help her.

CROW: Megabyte zapped her. Hey, that’s not so long.

> What she needs is pure energy." Dot
> nodded.

JOEL: If they download a Jolt ad I’m leaving.

> She didn’t even bother to ask Cecil,

TOM: She’s not getting The Straight Dope?

> she jumped down off her
> stool, and went to get it herself.

CROW: Let’s see… Pure Ivory Soap, pure baking soda, pure vanilla extract, pure table salt, pure baking powder, pure karo syrup, pure … this is harder than I thought.

>
> Bob looked down at Carrie, gently brushing her hair away from
> her face.

TOM: You know, Bob, this could be the chance for some upgrades…

> Enzo came and stood beside him. He looked up at Bob. "Is
> Carrie going to be okay?" he asked, worriedly. Bob smiled down at
> him, hiding his own fear.

JOEL: She has to be, or else one of the Skeksis has to die too.

> "She’s going to be fine." Enzo turned to
> Megabyte, gathering his nerve.

CROW: Aw, he’s gonna ask Megabyte out on a date!

> "You did this, didn’t you?" he asked
> bravely.

TOM: This is how you start an awkward conversation.

> Megabyte looked at him, then chuckled richly. "Of course."
> he rumbled, "Who else could do someting like that?"

JOEL: Taking a wild guess, L. Frank Baum in one of the lesser Oz books.

> Enzo bit his lip,
> struggling to fight back his tears. "How dare you!" he shouted,

TOM: [ As Megabyte ] Yeah? How I *double* dare you!

> shocking both Bob and Dot, who had returned with an energy shake.

JOEL: So now she’s got tea and no tea at once, right?

> "She’s my friend!!"

CROW: She is?

JOEL: Remember that earlier scene where she talked to him?

CROW: Oh, right, that’s friendship.

> Enzo stood right in front of Megabyte, to angry
> to be afraid of the imposing virus.

TOM: Enzo is going to have to try Peter Potamus’s patent-pending Hippo Hurricane Holler.

> He looked up at him defiantly,
> "You can’t do that!!"

JOEL: On television!

> Megabyte simply stared down at him, as Enzo’s
> eyes flooded with tears. "I won’t let you."

TOM: Never gonna let you go, I’m gonna hold you in my arms forever…

> He turned and ran out of
> the Diner. "Enzo!!" Dot wailed as she watched her little brother whip
> out his zip-board and zoom away.

CROW: So how is Enzo keeping Megabyte from hurting Carrie?

>
> Bob watched as Dot sat down on a stool, obviously drained by
> what had been happening.

TOM: Take two double A’s and call me in the morning.

> Suddenly, Carrie moved slightly, and her
> eyes began to flutter open.

JOEL: Maybe Enzo was thinking of somebody else.

> Bob stood near her, as she opened her
> eyes slightly. Dot looked up as Carrie tried to lift her hand towards
> Bob.

TOM: Hey, how come her arms get to work?

> He smiled and took it, holding it gently. "How are you
> feeling?" He asked her. Carrie smiled weakly. "Not too bad."

CROW: A touch small-Endian.

> she
> whispered. Bob reached out and touched her cheek. "You gave me quite
> a scare back there." he said.

JOEL: Stop telling people you see snakes everywhere. They’re scary.

> Carrie sat up with Bob’s help, and she
> swung her legs over the side of the counter. Dot frowned.

TOM: I hope she didn’t bleed electrons all over the menus.

> Why was
> Bob acting like this toward Carrie? What had happened back there? She
> stood up with the intention of asking Bob exactly those questions.

CROW: But first, this word from our subplot.

>
> After he had fled from the Diner, Enzo had gone to Old Man
> Pearson’s Data Dump.

JOEL: Sounds like the setting for a Scooby-Doo video game.

> He knew that he could find something, or
> someone, that could help him get even with Megabyte. He had never felt
> so determined.

TOM: It’s called an "off" switch.

> All he knew was that Carrie was one of the only
> sprites older than him that had treated him as an equal, not some
> little kid.

CROW: He’s a little too impressed by a girl who talks to him.

> Now she was hurt, and he wanted to seek vengance on the
> one who had done that to her.

TOM: And he’ll do it by wielding an old e-mail bulletin of the cafeteria’s menu at Megabyte!

> He smiled slightly. *I like that.*

CROW: It’s silly. Heheheheheheh…

> he
> thought. *The daring and brave Guardian Enzo seeks help to have his
> vengance on the viral evil of his system.*

TOM: Hey, isn’t that giving in to the Dark Side?

JOEL: Bad Enzo. No Dark Side. Bad Enzo.

> His imagination continued
> to whirl as he approached Sector 1001.

CROW: That’s Sector 1001 spelled backwards.

> He stopped infront of Old Man
> Pearson’s trailer. "Frisket!!" he called, "Frisket!!"

JOEL: Frisket? I hardly even *know* it…

> He jumped down
> off his zip-board and began to search for his pet.

TOM: Try looking under CBM.

[ JOEL picks up TOM; they and CROW leave. ]

[ 1.. 2.. 3.. 4.. 5.. 6.. ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. The Monopoly game continues; about half the tiles have houses and hotels on them. TOM stands in front of the desk and, below desk top, has a rope tied around his hand. TOM’s token is in jail. JOEL, standing next to GYPSY, finishes moving MAGIC VOICE’s token onto an empty square. ]

CROW: Oh, I don’t believe it.

JOEL: [ Rolling dice ] Magic Voice lucks out again.

MAGIC VOICE: No need to sulk, Crow. Elvis edition never lets me down.

[ JOEL moves his piece ahead, to a square with one house on it. ]

JOEL: OK, that’s my second free landing on one of your squares. I get one more.

CROW: Yeah, yeah, all right. Just roll.

[ JOEL rolls; he moves CROW’s token onto one with a hotel. ]

JOEL: All right, Crow, that takes you to the Yankees edition, mine, hotel, you owe me 700 dollars.

CROW: Oh, gosh, well … uh … I think I’m a little short on cash…

JOEL: We can work it out. Now, what say I get two more free passes on your squares —

GYPSY: Ah-hem.

JOEL: — Right, yeah, I get one and Gypsy gets one of mine.

MAGIC VOICE: Hey!

JOEL: Right. I’ll need three, I owe Gypsy two of them, and then she passes one to Magic Voice.

TOM: Crow?

CROW: Yes, now.

TOM: [ Turning to face CAMBOT, and sliding to the side so the rope he holds goes slack ] WARNING! DANGER! INCOMING GAME!

GYPSY: What?

TOM: [ Continuing to warn ] INCOMING GAME! INCOMING GAME!

CROW: [ Sidling away, as a large cardboard box wrapped in aluminum foil drops over JOEL and GYPSY ] You’re going to have to defend us, guys, before this zone gets de-rezzed!

JOEL: [ As he is covered ] Guys, this isn’t going to —

CROW: It’s too late! You’re in a maze of twisty passages and the Vogon constructor ships are … uh … and there’s an aspirin in your pocket and everything!

GYPSY: [ Also covered ] I thought it was a twisty maze of passages?

[ CROW slides off-camera ]

TOM: Yeah, and you have to get to the treasure room fast.

JOEL: We’re just going to turn off sprite collisions, you know.


[ CROW, with a stick in his hand, slides back and taps the hotel off his token’s square; he swats TOM’s token out of jail quickly and slides back off screen. ]

TOM: Uh … um … that’s fine, you advance a level … and there’s a chair over by your side and what do you want to do?

[ A beat; GYPSY and JOEL stay silent ]

TOM: There’s a nasty-looking ampersand chasing after you too.

[ CROW, without his stick, slides back on screen. ]

CROW: And… I … I think they’ve beaten the user, then, right?

TOM: Oh, definitely … guys? You can come out now.

[ A beat. ]

CROW: Joel? Gypsy?

TOM: Magic Voice? Are you in there?

CROW: Just lift the box off…

TOM: Uh… game’s over. You can reboot.

[ CROW and TOM look at each other. ]

CROW: Give it a tug.


[ TOM turns around, pulling his rope. The box lifts, revealing JOEL kissing GYPSY’s cheek. ]

CROW, TOM: Gah!

JOEL: [ Noticing them ] Oh, hi there.

TOM: Well — what — what are you doing?

GYPSY: Gotcha!

JOEL: You were trying to cheat!

TOM: No! No, no, no —

MAGIC VOICE: Crow moved the pieces.

[ CROW growls. ]

JOEL: Guys, you can’t put Magic Voice in a box. She’s like Springtime, or children’s laughter, or green. You should know better.

CROW, TOM: We’re sorry.

GYPSY: That’s gonna cost you two free turns, Crow.

JOEL: Each.

CROW: Grr… aahhh…

TOM: I recommend surrender.

CROW: [ Angrily ] I’ll take it.

MAGIC VOICE: Commercial sign in five seconds.

JOEL: Now what did we learn here?

GYPSY: Don’t use "Reboot" to cheat in board games.

JOEL: Exactly. Give me a hug, guys. We’ll be right back.


[ JOEL hugs GYPSY and CROW as COMMERCIAL SIGN flashes. JOEL taps TOM’s head, and then COMMERCIAL SIGN. ]

[ COMMERCIAL BREAK ]

[ to continue … ]

MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 11 of 16)


I hope that you’re still enjoying this MiSTing of Carrie L—‘s Reboot fan fiction “Breaking the Barriers”. I’ve enjoyed looking back at this Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction I wrote around 2003. You should be able to read the entire MiSTing at this link.

In the story so far Carrie has discovered a portal between small-town Ontario and the digital world of Reboot. Fortunately she lives in small-town Ontario and has a great time meeting the show’s heroes. Unfortunately the show’s villains emerge into small-town Ontario and threaten Melonville’s mall. She with the help of series hero Bob is able to get Megabyte back into the computer, but the digital virus Symble is getting into the action, and maybe even the mall.

If I wrote this today I wouldn’t use the leadoff joke about “can we go?” “No”. I feel the jokes about being stuck watching the source material work in the context of the actual show. Joel/Mike/Jonah and the bots are trapped watching. But, here? It’s harder to disbelieve that I chose to spend my time reading this, and that I must enjoy it enough to continue reading it. Plus it might give my readers ideas.

Houghton is a small town in Michigan’s upper peninsula, at the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula, which pokes out into Lake Superior. I used to know someone who went to school there. That said the last actual Radio Shack I saw in Michigan was around 2016 in Suttons Bay, a tiny town off the Grand Traverse Bay in the lower peninsula, and I think they were having a going-out-of-business sale.

I no longer remember the meaning of the “Thinkit” reference. Enik was the “good” Sleestak from the original, 1970s, Land of the Lost series. Yes, I know, he was actually one of the Altrusian forebears of the Sleestak propelled by a time-portal accident into (for him) a post apocalyptic future he hoped he could escape and somehow prevent, but it’s important not to add unenlightening complications when you explain something.

The Compute!’s Gazette thing about undoing the ‘NEW’ command. ‘NEW’ was the command you typed in to erase whatever program was in your Commodore’s memory. But it didn’t really erase your program. It just put zeroes at the start of the program’s memory, the code for ‘end of program’. If you started typing a new program, that would replace what used to be there. But if you didn’t? If you used the ‘POKE’ command you could change those zeroes back to a sensible start of your program, and undo this ‘erasure’. Learning this kind of thing is what I did in the 1980s instead of having fun.

You can tell this is my sort of humor writing because no successful writer would leave in a joke about tariff rates within the British Commonwealth.


>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *
>

JOEL: That’s actually a very funny joke, but only on Hollerith cards.

> Part Twenty-Two

CROW: The house is busted. Can we leave?

TOM: No.

>
> Bob stood silently, watching the computer screen for any sign
> that Symble had succeded.

CROW: The smiley face isn’t sign enough?

> He had teamed up with him in the hopes that
> Symble would be trustworthy enough to keep helping him.

JOEL: That’s probably wiser than teaming up with Phong, Dot, and Enzo.

> He had heard
> rumours about a sprite and a virus initializing a child, but he had
> passed it off as fanciful speculation.

TOM: Mixed dating? Unthinkable!

> When Symble told him he was a
> hybrid, he had remembered all those rumours and whispered stories.

CROW: But after he met Symble’s lovely parents Sarek and Amanda, he underestood.

> Suddenly, Carrie’s computer began to beep,tearing him from his
> thoughts. Bob looked over at Megabyte. "That should mean that
> Glitch was successful."

TOM: Or that she’s wanted on Yahoo Messenger. I’m not sure.

> he told him, "This should take you to
> Mainframe. I’ll follow after."

CROW: [ As Bob, snickering ] Right behind. Yup. Just head on in…

JOEL: Doctor *Robotnik* wouldn’t fall for a stunt like *this*.

> Megabyte looked down at Bob. "I
> trust you wouldn’t try to doublecross me."

TOM: Even though he’ll never get as good a chance again ever.

> He rumbled, suspitiously.
> "I can’t." Bob said. "I don’t belong here either."

CROW: I’m not even supposed to be here today.

>
> Bob turned and walked over to Carrie. "I’m going to go after
> Megabyte

JOEL: [ As Carrie ] But he’s right here.

TOM: [ As Bob ] No, I mean I’m going in after him.

> so I can keep my end of the bargain." Bob said,

CROW: The bargain was he’ll let Megabyte go.

> "You’ll be
> okay. Won’t you?" Carrie nodded. "I know about vampires."

JOEL: How?

> she
> assured him. "He didn’t do enough damage to seriously hurt me.

CROW: She can replicate spare parts and be back to operational in just a couple star dates.

> But I
> want to go with you!!" Bob shook his head. "I don’t want you to be in
> any danger." He whispered, "You’ll be safer here."

TOM: Besides, I don’t want to tell your parents about the vampire thing.

> He turned to see
> Megabyte being pulled into the computer screen.

JOEL: It’s a good thing Carrie has a wide screen monitor. Can you picture them all squeezing into a Macintosh SE?

> Carrie forced herself
> to sit up.
>
> "I’m going with you." She told Bob, then pulled herself up
> onto her shaky legs. She lost her balance, and started to fall.

JOEL: Looks like she picked the wrong week to start roller skating everywhere.

> Bob
> caught her, and Carrie wrapped her arms around him, startled by her
> inability to stand.

TOM: [ As Bob ] Carrie, uh, me leaving is more effective if I go.

> "Be careful!" Bob said. Carrie looked up into
> his eyes as he supported her weight.

CROW: Meanwhile Megabyte’s had enough computer time to conquer the mainframe ten times over.

> She hated not being able to
> recover quickly, but yet, she loved being held by Bob.

JOEL: Like she was the entire walk back from the mall.

> She smiled at
> him sheepishly, and he returned it with his killer smile. Carrie’s
> imagination began to fly. She had hoped for this moment for so long!
> To be held by Bob was a dream come true!!

TOM: To hold Bob here while Megabyte conquers his home computer and all he holds dear!

> She continued to stare into
> his eyes, hoping he would sweep her off her feet, like he did in her
> dreams.

[ ALL hum theme from ‘Romeo and Juliet’ ]

> Instead, he picked her up and put her back on the couch.
> "You just stay here."

JOEL: Or I’ll turn this computer around and take you right … oh, you’re home.

> he said, softly brushing her cheek. "I’ll be
> seeing ya!" And he dove through Carrie’s computer screen.

TOM: Wait, they should’ve swapped e-mail addresses.

>
> Carrie wasn’t about to be left behind. She got to her feet
> again, and dove towards her computer before her legs could give out.

CROW: Unfortunately, only her head and torso made it through before the portal closed again.

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *

JOEL: It’s an ergonomically designed light saber.

>
> Part Twenty-Three

TOM: Skidoo!

>
> Symble stood warily as this virus approached him. He didn’t
> like the way she was looking at him.

JOEL: He’s creeped out by that popping out the eye and waving it around.

> It made him feel like a peice of
> hardware on sale in the shops lining Picadilly Circuits.

CROW: Picadilly? I hardly even know a … wait.
[ JOEL puts a hand on CROW’s shoulder. ]

TOM: Since this story was written Picadilly Circuits has become a Radio Shack in Houghton, Michigan.

> "Who are
> you?" he asked. The virus smiled, revealing sharp teeth.

TOM: Martha Ray, Denture Wearer.

> Symble
> stepped back cautiously. "You needn’t fear me yet." Hexadecimal said.
> "I am Hexadecimal,

JOEL: Thinkit will be so glad to know.

> and I control Lost Angles, for now." She stepped
> closer, and Symble hissed warningly, baring his fangs.

CROW: Wouldn’t it be funny if his teeth fell out right now?

TOM: The vampire fangs would be scarier if he didn’t have the kooky googley eye glasses and Groucho nose too.

> "I may be half
> virus, but don’t provoke me.

TOM: Unless his other half is Neville Chamberlain.

> I will erase anyone who threatens me.
> Virus or Sprite." Hexadecimal giggled.

CROW: Hey, they’re chattering vampire teeth!

> It was a rather unpleasant
> sound, and it made Symble all the more uncomfotable around this virus.

JOEL: He should change his laugh sound to that charming ting noise.

> He was getting very close to the portal now, and he could feel the
> energy radiating from it.

TOM: [ As Bela Lugosi ] PULL the STRINGS!

> "Come now." Hexadecimal said. "You’re new
> around here, and I want to know who you are."
>

CROW: Why not check his web site?

JOEL: There’s spiders in it.

> Suddenly, someone stepped out of the portal. He was a virus
> once again, and he prefered it that way.

TOM: We now join our plot already in progress.

> He looked over to find the
> virus that had sent him through the portal in the first place standing
> in front of Hexadecimal.

JOEL: Enik?

> This virus was poised defensively, and he
> could tell that Hex found this rather amusing.

CROW: It is … oh, you kind of have to be here.

> Megabyte extended his
> claws.

TOM: I bet it’s a real bad day when that happens by accident.

> Virus or no virus, this newcomer had meddled in business other
> than his own, and he would pay dearly. Before Megabyte could do
> anything, he was hit from behind.

JOEL: Uh … woops … I meant to say, ‘Fore’ …

> He was thrown to the ground, and he
> could feel someone standing on his back. "Attack my partner?

TOM: Please!

> I don’t
> think so." Bob looked down at Megabyte, and then stepped off him.

CROW: This way Megabyte can escape and wreak havoc again.

> "I
> agreed to get you here, but I’m still not going to let you hurt anyone
> ." Megabyte stood up, and casually brushed himself off.

TOM: Oh, he’s doing his classic "Little Tramp" routine.

> Symble
> turned and looked at Bob. "So, you’ve returned." He said. "I guess
> this means the next move is mine."

CROW: They’re playing checkers by e-mail.

>
> He turned toward the portal, fully extending his blades.

JOEL: And he’s embarassed because today he only put on the cheese slicers.

> Before he could reach it, someone came diving through it.

TOM: Uh-oh … we could be looking at a Carrie-ka-bob.

> Symble
> caught the figure, and looked into the face. It was Carrie. She was
> unconcious and partially erased.

CROW: Fortunately, Bob read the article in Compute!’s Gazette about how to undo the ‘NEW’ command.

> Symble turned to Bob as he ran
> forward. "Oh no!" Bob said, "I told her not to follow me!"

TOM: Maybe this was pure coincidence.

> He took
> Carrie from Symble and picked her up. She was very weak. Her energy
> had been almost completly drained.

JOEL: The Pizza Hut didn’t save her life after all?

> She was even becoming transparent.

CROW: Aw, that’s just because her skin’s the Chroma-Key color.

> *I have to get help!* he thought. He pulled out his zip-board.
> Before he could get on it, Megabyte grabbed his arm. "Guardian." he
> said.

TOM: You said you’d call.

> "You still have your end of the bargain." Bob just looked at
> him. "I’ll keep my end." he told him.

JOEL: Look, it’s the fifth door on the right, just after the bathroom. Sheesh.

> "But first, I have to help
> Carrie." Megabyte frowned. "Only if I go with you." he rumbled,
> ominously.

TOM: Or what, he’s going to attack Bob and almost kill Carrie?

> Bob started to protest, then thought the better of it.
> "Alright." he said. "Let’s go."
>

TOM: Did they even need to *go* to Canada?

JOEL: With those scenes the story qualifies for better tariff rates in the Commonwealth.

TOM: Oh.

[ to continue … ]

MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 10 of 16)


Welcome to part 10 of my Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of Carrie L—‘s Reboot fanfic, “Breaking the Barriers”. You can read, and I hope enjoy, the whole story at this link. You can read, and I hope enjoy, all my MiSTings at this link.

A mysterious portal opened between our protagonist and author Carrie’s home and the world of Reboot. After journeying into the pioneering animated series, its characters went and pioneered right back into Carrie’s small Canadian hometown. Big series bad guy Megabyte, translated into the real world, turns out to be a vampire and to hang out at the mall. And what’s on at the food court but Carrie?

Back when I wrote this around 2002, that Google could give you results in any language or even “Elmer Fudd-ese” was a new and fresh and weird discovery. The Thundarr the Barbarian riff alludes to one episode where Ariel magically gigantifies some dimes so they can be shields. I have replaced one riff that I think was too easy to mis-read as sexist. And otherwise I’m not sure there are any other riffs that could benefit from explanation. So, failing that, please enjoy.


>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *
>

JOEL: Hadrian’s Wall, the early years.

> Part Twenty
>
> Carrie’s mind began to whirl. Nothing like this had ever
> happened to her before.

CROW: Except that one weekend she saw Yancy Street.

> She began to panick, kicking and fighting
> feebly against Megabyte’s iron grip. She could feel herself losing
> conciousness, when Megabyte suddenly pulled away and looked at Bob.

TOM: His venom turned her into Silver Age Lois Lane.

> "Now, Bob." he rumbled, " Your friend will not be harmed any further
> if you do as I asked."

JOEL: Hey, should Carrie and Bob have garlic breath that chases him off?

> Carrie hung limply in Megabyte’s arms. She
> tried desperately to speak or lift her head, but she had no energy.

CROW: Her neck deflated!

> She could see Bob out of the corner of her eye, and she watched in
> horror as he looked down at the ground, submissively. "Alright,
> Megabyte."

TOM: Megabyte is *this* close to crossing the line.

> He whispered. "I’ll bring you back, but you have to allow
> me to look after Carrie." Megabyte chuckled.

CROW: [ As Megabyte ] "Dilbert" was really funny today!

> "You are in no position
> to bargain, Guardian." Then he smiled, "But, I am not totally without
> mercy."

TOM: Aren’t you supposed to be?

> He held Carrie out for Bob to take. Carrie could feel Bob’s
> arms, and suddenly she was free of Megabyte’s grip.

CROW: [ As Megabyte ] Whoops — slipped!

>
> She felt safer in Bob’s arms, yet she was terrified at the
> same time.

JOEL: Megabyte doesn’t have a way of soothing people around him.

> Bob couldn’t let Megabyte into the Supercomputer!! He
> could conquer any system if he got into the Armory!

TOM: Within days the world could be flooded with spam and dopey online petitions.

> She struggled to
> force her body to move. She had to tell Bob not to do it!! Then she
> realized something.

JOEL: Turning into a vampire could be really cool.

> If Bob had Glitch, then the tear wasn’t a portal
> anymore.

CROW: That’s a sentence we’ve never seen before.

> How had Bob gotten through?

TOM: Maybe the tear was still a portal.

> Did he have someone helping
> him? Her mind was a jumble of questions as they entered her house and
> went down into the basement.

JOEL: [ As Carrie ] Why does Megabyte want my laundry?

> As they approached her computer,
> Carrie’s fear grew.

CROW: They might find her archive of naughty Animaniacs pictures!

> This meant that Bob really was going to allow
> Megabyte into the Supercomputer to save her. She had to stop him!!

TOM: They’re not saying a lot on this hike home.

JOEL: It’s that awkward silence where they were quiet too long to just start talking again.

>
> "Now, Bob. I want a portal to the Supercomputer’s Armory."
> Megabyte demanded.

CROW: [ As Bob, bargaining ] I know how to make Google’s translate-to-Elmer-Fudd your home page.

> Bob gently placed Carrie on her couch, brushing
> the hair off her forehead gently. "Don’t worry," Bob whispered to
> her. "I know what I’m doing."

TOM: First time for everything, huh?

> Carrie smiled weakly, "I don’t want you
> to let him through just to save me." She whispered hoarsely.

JOEL: But a promise is a promise…

> "Now,
> Guardian." Megabyte interrupted. Bob stood up and turned to Megabyte.
> "I’ll do it." Bob said,

TOM: But before I do, I want you to sing "You’re A Grand Old Flag." Two verses.

> "But you have to allow Carrie to stay behind,
> to make sure she’ll be okay."

CROW: [ As Bob ] Uhh… will you fall for that?

> Megabyte smiled. "Certainly," he said
> softly,

TOM: We wouldn’t want to keep his hostage around until after his demands are met.

> "We wouldn’t want her to suffer, would we?" Bob pulled Glitch
> from his pocket and opened it.

JOEL: Scotty, beam us up.

> He quickly pressed the ‘send recorded
> transmission’ button Glitch had provided.

TOM: He’s pirating free TV!

> Silently, Glitch sent the
> message to Bob’s accomplice waiting on the other side.
>

JOEL: Unfortunately, it’s mistaken for that Nigerian financial scam.

> * * * * * * * *
> * * *
>

CROW: It’s a road map of Shipshewana, Indiana.

> Part Twenty-One
>

TOM: This is the chapter Charles van Doren helped with.

> He stood silently, peering at the tear before him. *Why do I
> always do this?* he thought.

CROW: For the love of the game?

> *I have better things to do.* He
> crouched down, extending his right blade slightly, and started to draw
> in the dust on the ground.

JOEL: If Marvel Comics owned Marvin the Paranoid Android.

> He was just becoming interested in his
> doodles, when his Web-Echo Collector chirped softly.

CROW: He accidentally created Flash animation.

> Looking around
> quickly, Symble made sure there were no more viral binomes around.

TOM: He sent them all back to Newton for binomial expansion.

> He
> had dealt with the ones that had followed Megabyte quickly enough that
> they had no time to call for backup.

JOEL: And by ‘dealt with’ we mean ‘killed.’

> He pulled the small Collector
> from his belt and listened to the message from Bob.

TOM: [ As Collector ] Bob Bob bo bob, banana fana fo fob, mee mi mo mob —

CROW: Click! Bzzzzzzz…

> ‘Symble,’

JOEL: Shephard.

> his
> Collector said, ‘I need you to open a portal to the Chalo Omega
> System’s energy transport.

TOM: Wouldn’t it solve the problem to beam Megabyte to whatever company owns Amiga this week and let them go bankrupt?

> You have to be ready for Megabyte.’
>

CROW: How scared can we get of a villain who fits on one three and a half inch floppy?

> The transmission ended and Symble stood up. He walked toward
> the tear, and extended both blades.

JOEL: Oh, this scene’s just here for the symbolism.

> He stopped just in front of it,
> and closed his eyes in concentration.

TOM: Ohwaaaaa…

JOEL: Tagooooo…

CROW: Siammmmm…

> His breathing slowed and he
> lifted his blades toward the tear.

TOM: If those are conductive blades he could be setting himself up for a *nasty* shock.

> As they approached the sides, he
> opened his eyes again. They had become completely silver.

CROW: The sides, the blades, or his eyes? You make the call.

JOEL: Silver the color, or silver the metal?

> He looked
> forward unseeingly as his blades touched the sides of the tear. The
> energy began to course through his arms, and then his body,

CROW: Found the capacitor!

> yet he
> didn’t react in any way. He stood like that for a nano, then
> something incredible happened.

JOEL: He was hired as acting coach for "Enterprise."

> The tear flickered briefly, then
> became a silver sphere,

CROW: It’s a giant dime! Thundarr the Barbarian was looking for those!

> the same silver as Symble’s eyes had become.
> He stepped back and, blinking, his eyes returned to the usual black on
> red.

JOEL: This is a strange form of color-blindness to catch.

>
> Another person was looking on, quietly from the shadows.

CROW: Polonius!

> She
> had witnessed the whole scene with Megabyte and a sprite she had never
> seen before.

TOM: It’s Carrie’s mom, she’s reading the story!

> The Guardian had followed behind, after foolishly
> testing this new virus.

JOEL: These British newspapers are quirky.

> What she couldn’t figure out was why this
> virus had helped Bob follow her brother. Hexadecimal was glad to see
> him go.

CROW: Binary, octal, and sexagesimal were torn and undecided.

> Now she had all of Mainframe to herself. Yet, she felt
> compelled to simply sit and watch the virus as he guarded the portal.

TOM: It’s not the virus so much as it is the flying toasters.

> She found him intriguing, almost as though she knew him from
> somewhere.

JOEL: She saw him on an earlier episode of the show!

> What she found especially facinating was the fact that
> this virus could also form portals, but by using tear energy, rather
> than his own, as she did.

CROW: Never underestimate the power of a good cry.

> *I must meet this new one.* she thought,
> then stepped from the shadows.
>
> Symble’s ears turned as they picked up a sound behind him. He
> whirled and looked around warily. "Who is out there?"

CROW: Carrie hasn’t decided yet who to have in the story. Sorry.

> he asked the
> silence, "Show yourself!"

JOEL: At least do some funny shadow puppet tricks!

> He stood, poised on the balls of his feet,
> ready to pounce, when a very feminine virus stepped out from the
> shadows.

TOM: What makes a computer virus feminine?

CROW: When she holds your files you only pay 71 cents on the dollar ransom.

> "You don’t have to worry about me." she murmured,

JOEL: I worry for me, so you don’t have to!

> "I pose
> you no harm…yet." Symble watched as her mask changed to a
> suspitious one.

TOM: [ Laser noises ] Ptoo… ptoo ptoo…

> "But, what are you doing in my brother’s territory?"
> Symble looked at her, surprised. "Your….Brother?"

CROW: Luke?

[ to continue … ]

MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 9 of 16)


We’ve reached the halfway point in my current Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction. This is of Carrie L—‘s Reboot fan fiction, “Breaking the Barriers”. You can read the whole MiSTing here, and I hope you enjoy it. The mysterious portal that brought Carrie into the world of beloved animated series Reboot has returned, dropping her, Bob, Glitch, and the villain Megabyte in her Canadian hometown. And now — Megabyte has gone to the mall!

This was always one of my favorite MiSTings and the whole mall sequence is one of my favorite parts. I felt, at the time, like everything was landing well, and I still think so. The mall riffs have dated, but gloriously so. I couldn’t have written the jokes to be so late-90s/early-2000s if I’d tried. The host sketch to open this is also a weird delight. I kept up the conceit of playing out the Monopoly game while talking about other stuff. I think the Adam West jokes were from a first draft at a show-opener sketch that I could’t make work. But it served as a great introduction to Tom Servo’s thing. This sketch is packed with local riffs, and they’re based on Troy, New York, where I had just finished grad school. So the Latham Circle Diner, the 76 Diner, and the Chinese restaurant just south of it were real places. As the name suggests they were near, though not attached to, the Latham Circle Mall beloved in dead-mall … circles. Shalimar’s was this Pakistani-Indian restaurant in downtown Troy that I never ate at enough, but enjoyed each time I did, and am delighted to learn is still there. (Also the comic book shop across the street is still there, somehow.)

Kaya buns, meanwhile, are this kind of Malaysian/Singaporean treat, bread buns with sweet coconut jam filling. Also in the early 2000s Coke experimented with flavors like Lemon Coke, thus, the Durian Coke riff. Scooter Computer and Mister Chips (they’ve got the answers at their fingertips) was a set of public service advertisements ABC ran on Saturday mornings in the 80s trying to explain computers to kids. The “Kirsten to Bridge? Kirsten to Engineering?” riffs reference the legendary Stephen Ratliff Kids Crew/Marrissa Picard stories. I participated in the riffing on many of those. I’d like to share them, but I’m not sure if I ought without permission from the co-authors. At least the editor. (Where possible. Bill Livingston, one of the greatest MST3K fanfic writers of the era, died about a decade ago, for example.)

This segment closes on the riff “If Carrie had gone straight to the police, this would never have happened”. This was a line I put in pretty near every MiSTing I wrote for a long while. It was drawn from the Woody Woodpecker cartoon Bunco Busters, a cop show spoof, in which Woody keeps falling for Buzz Buzzard’s cons while the stern narrator tells us how this could have been avoided. Turns out I got the line wrong. The narrator says “If Woody had gone right to the police, this would never have happened.” The difference is tiny but it hurts me that I got it wrong. But it had been like fifteen years since I’d seen the cartoon, and it was basically impossible to watch videos online in 2002, even if Woody Woodpecker cartoons had been online. So I must live with a misquoted riff in, like, everything I wrote. Too bad.

Alex Trebek was from what is now Greater Sudbury, Ontario. This fact exhausts what I knew of the place in 2002 as well as what I know now.



[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. The Monopoly set is still on the desk, with the pieces pretty well moved around; a few houses are scattered around the board, including one on Free Parking. GYPSY, CROW, and JOEL are waiting. CROW seems deep in thought. ]

MAGIC VOICE: Why is it always the guy whose turn it is who goes missing?

GYPSY: Would you notice if somebody else left?

JOEL: OK, we give him another minute then go on.

[ TOM SERVO pops up. ]

JOEL: Hey, Magic Voice, can I buy the Peanuts edition from you?

MAGIC VOICE: But you can’t do anything with it.

JOEL: I know, but I like Peanuts.

MAGIC VOICE: Give me a turn to think it over.

JOEL: Fair enough. Hey, Crow, buddy, you awake?

CROW: [ As JOEL nudges him. ] Oh! Joel, do we really know that Ariel (Disney’s The Little Mermaid) and Adam West were different people?

JOEL: [ Taken aback ] Well, one was a cartoon, who could sing, and who was surrounded by colorful and zany characters.

GYPSY: And the other was a mermaid.

CROW: Yeah, but did we ever see them both at the *same* *time*? And if we did, did we know the ‘Adam West’ wasn’t a robot or Alfred in disguise?

JOEL: Uh … well …

[ As ALL ponder this, TOM jumps up. ]

TOM: Greetings!

JOEL: Ah, Tom, it’s your turn. [ He rolls the dice. ]

TOM: Please, do not be alarmed by my presence!

CROW: We’re not. We want to know if you’re buying the Disney edition.

TOM: Yes, I am Thomas Servo. I come to you from the “real world”! In it, you are all the beloved characters from a famous television show.

[ Two beats. ]

CROW: All right, Tom, and where are you going with —

TOM: I’m new to this world! Don’t fear me.

GYPSY: He’s not gonna buy the title.

JOEL: [ Giggling ] So would you like some of our un-real food?

TOM: Why, yes, please.

JOEL: OK. So what do we give a visitor to our reality?

CROW: Ten seconds to go or pass.

GYPSY: How about a RAM chip?

JOEL: Or a block of cheddar cheese?

TOM: White Castle burger would be nice.

CROW: Roll for Cambot, Joel.

[ CAMBOT quickly nods. JOEL rolls; he moves the piece. ]

JOEL: You know what I’d like, my first meal in a new dimension? A thick chocolate shake.

CROW: Fine, then. Kaya buns.

GYPSY: Hey, that’s my square. [ JOEL takes $80 from CAMBOT’s pile and gives it to GYPSY. ] Maybe we should take him to a restaurant?

JOEL: Old Country Buffet for somebody from another dimension?

TOM: I’d be fine with Popeye’s too.

CROW: Now, see, I’d say the Latham Circle Diner or Shalimar’s is more representative of our reality.

GYPSY: Or the 76 Diner, on Route 9.

JOEL: The Chinese buffet just south of there.

[ JOEL rolls, advances GYPSY’s token. ]

MAGIC VOICE: The one with the pizza slices? And the Philly cheesesteaks?

GYPSY: Yeah!

JOEL: That’s the one.

TOM: Yes, this will do nicely.

CROW: Ok, you going to drive, Joel?

JOEL: Yeah, let’s go.

[ JOEL starts to leave; GYPSY and CROW follow, leaving TOM alone. ]

GYPSY: Shotgun!

MAGIC VOICE: [ A moment behind GYPSY ] Shotgun!

CROW: [ Leaving camera ] Aw, you always get shotgun.

JOEL: [ Leaving camera, voice fading ] The rules are the rules. Hey, what’s with this Adam West/Little Mermaid thing?

GYPSY: [ Off-camera, fading ] Usually you think like that at the start of the day’s experiment.

CROW: [ off-camera, faint ] I don’t know, it just came up is all.

[ Several beats. ]

TOM: I don’t think I’m interacting with this reality well.

[ TOM looks around. ]

TOM: Hey, the Coca-Cola edition’s mine! Crow owes me!

[ MOVIE SIGN flashes ]

TOM: And now we’ve got movie sign too… JOEL!

[ 6.. 5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. 1.. ]

[ THEATER. TOM is by himself. ]

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *

TOM: It’s a very confused trail of ants.

>
> Part Eighteen

TOM: This was the original title of Part Twenty-Two.

>
> As Megabyte wandered through the crowd, he wondered if
> everything about him had changed.

TOM: You ever feel like the world’s Manhattan and you’re Greater Sudbury, Ontario?

> He certainly felt different. His
> normal viral impulses had given way to stronger and stranger ones.

TOM: He’s becoming a compulsive spender.

> For some reason, all these people surrounding him, seemed like prey.

TOM: Even his bunny books seem empty to him.

> Yet, they only talked to and interacted with each other. He could see
> no evidence that anyone looked upon him as a predator.

TOM: Maybe Canadians just don’t naturally distrust mall-walkers.

> And he also
> had this knowledge that he was now able to infect them, but not as a
> virus.

TOM: So interdimensional portals give you a lot of exposition?

> Unsure of these feelings, he simply continued to wander
> through the crowds.

TOM: And he’s attacked by a focus group that wants to know if he likes new Durian Coke.

>
> As Carrie and Bob ran into the crowd of people, they began
> looking for Megabyte.

TOM: He’ll be easy to spot, since he’s the only guy at the mall with a proper name.

> "Can you see him?" Carrie asked. "No." Bob
> said.

[ JOEL, CROW file in. JOEL cracks open a fortune cookie. ]

TOM: About *time*, guys.

JOEL: "Your friends are often surprised by your kindness."

TOM: That’s an ambiguous fortune.

CROW: It’s your cookie, Tom.

[ JOEL feeds the cookie pieces to TOM. ]

> "He’s no where in sight." "Maybe we should split up and look
> for him that way." Carrie said. Bob thought about that for a second.

JOEL: Scooby, Shaggy, and Velma can check the basement. We’ll check the attic.

> "O.K." he said, "But, I’m giving you Glitch’s extension peice. If you
> find him, call me through Glitch. Don’t confront him alone."

CROW: Yeah, that advice will last for seconds.

> Carrie
> blushed at his concern for her well being. "Thanks," she said, taking
> the extension. "I’ll be careful."

MAGIC VOICE: [ Startling JOEL, TOM, and CROW ] Fifteen seconds until Carrie is captured. Fifteen seconds.

JOEL: [ Recovering his composure ] I knew that.

TOM: Did *not*.

> Bob smiled shyly, then did
> something really unexpected. He stepped close to Carrie, and kissed
> her gently on the cheek. "I don’t want you to get hurt."

CROW: But it is, after all, Ape Law.

> He
> whispered, then turned and entered the crowd. Carrie just stood there
> for a moment, shocked and pleasantly surprised.

JOEL: [ As Carrie ] Boy, this couldn’t be any better, nothing could possibly happen to me now …

> *I’m glad Dot’s not
> here.* she thought, *Or I’d be in BIG trouble now.*

CROW: [ As Carrie ] I’m glad I started wearing high heels today. And this chic tight skirt, sure, I can’t run, but I look great!

> Smiling, she took
> off in the other direction to look for Megabyte.

TOM: [ As Carrie ] It’s going to be a nice easy shift, and good, ’cause it’s just two days until my retirement.

>
> As Bob ran swiftly through the crowd, his mind raced at an
> even greater speed.

JOEL: Did you know the fastest computer in the world is a PDP-11 that’s been dropped from a helicopter?

> *Where did that come from?* he wondered, *Why in
> the world would I kiss Carrie, and never Dot? Is she so different?*

TOM: [ As Bob ] Maybe it’s me. Maybe *I’m* Carrie, and she’s Dot. Does that make sense?

> His mind was a flurry of questions as he realized something. He
> didn’t even know what Megabyte looked like as a human.

CROW: D’oh!

TOM: Just because he’s the Guardian of Mainframe doesn’t mean he can handle a Kaybee Toys.

> Carrie hadn’t
> told him. *Well, no wonder,* he thought, *After what you did, how
> could she be thinking straight?*

JOEL: ‘Cause girls turn stupid when they kiss.

> Bob knew Carrie liked him. He
> turned, deciding to see if he could find her.

CROW: You left her ten seconds ago, how hard do you have to look?

> *Wait,* he thought, and
> pulled Glitch from his pocket. "Glitch," he said, "communication to
> extension."

JOEL: Kirsten to Bridge?

> Glitch beeped, then processed the request. After a
> couple of seconds, it beeped again, this time, puzzledly.

JOEL: Kirsten to Engineering?

> ‘Connection
> unsuccessful. No reply.’ Glitch displayed. Bob stared at the screen in
> shock.

CROW: Bob’s the kind of person who hangs up on the second ring.

> "Glitch, trace location of extension." Glitch displayed a
> small map with a blinking dot.

TOM: You’re here, and she’s got the traveller’s cheques there.

> Closing Glitch, Bob ran to the spot it
> had shown him. Looking around, Bob couldn’t see Carrie anywhere.

CROW: I bet he wishes he had traceroute up and running now.

> Then, he looked down at the ground. There was Glitch’s extension, and
> it was crushed.

JOEL: Absolutely heartbroken!

> The gravel on the ground showed signs of a struggle.

TOM: Yes, Carrie’s pager fought back brilliantly.

> *No!* Bob thought, then something else caught his eye. Picking it up,
> he realized what it was.

CROW: Shiny things are pretty!

> It was a broken necklace, bearing the name
> ‘Mouse’.

TOM: [ As Bob ] Somebody else had a "Mouse" necklace too!

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *
>

CROW: Couple more pieces and we can make a Lego axe.

> Part Nineteen
>
> Carrie struggled and fought against Megabyte, trying
> desperately to break free.

JOEL: She should trace a little green marker around his edge.

> "Now now," He rumbled, "You know that
> won’t do you any good."

TOM: You’d think this could attract the attention of the mall cops.

> Carrie continued to fight, hoping to loosen
> his grip enough that she could slip away. *If I can just get to Bob,
> or tell him about this somehow!!*

CROW: [ As Carrie ] Oh, why couldn’t I have been pulled into the world of Scooter Computer and Mister Chips?

> she thought, *He could get me out of
> here.* Megabyte dragged Carrie behind one of the generator trucks,
> and set her on the ground. "If you scream," Megabyte said,

TOM: You’ll be in SOOOOO much trouble…

> "Your
> punishment will be very severe." Carrie’s eyes widened as he spoke.

JOEL: He’s not a very good makeout artist.

> *Oh, God!!* she thought. Megabyte was no longer a virus, but he
> wasn’t human either.

TOM: Not to suggest that all Armani-wearing white guys are evil inhuman monsters out to destroy the world.

CROW: There are nearly two dozen guys who aren’t.

> He looked normal, except for one thing. He had
> fangs. *Just like a…Oh No!!* Carrie’s mind raced. Only one kind of
> creature had teeth like that, but they weren’t supposed to exist.

CROW: They’re not real, like Megabyte.

> They were myths!! *He’s a….a ….Vampire!!* Carrie’s mind screamed
> at her. She sat unmoving as Megabyte removed his hand from her mouth.

TOM: Oh, sheesh… now cut that out!

JOEL: I dunno, I could buy it when the computer pulled Carrie into "Reboot," but this is getting kind of out there.

> "Good." he said, standing up straight. Carrie looked up at him.
> "What do you want with me?" She asked him. He chuckled richly. "You
> are the bait to catch a Guardian." He said.

JOEL: You and this can of mealworms.

> "You are my ensurance
> that he will send me back to Mainframe."

TOM: You just *left* Mainframe.

> He thought silently for a
> few seconds, then smiled, evily. "Maybe even to the Supercomputer!"

CROW: Did he even have to *go* to the mall?

JOEL: His plan was to get out of Carrie’s bedroom, lose Carrie and Bob, wander around, find Carrie and Bob, and get to Carrie’s bedroom.

>
> Carrie pulled her knees up to her chest, and hugged them
> tightly. *What am I going to do?* she thought, *I can’t let this
> happen!*

TOM: Dare him to squeeze into a wireless networking card!

> She started to try and come up with a plan. If she could at
> least get him away from the Carnival, that would help.

CROW: What good luck — outside the Hudson’s Bay they just opened a new "World of Garlic and Silver Bullets"!

> She looked
> over at Megabyte. he was turned, looking at the Midway, expecting Bob
> from that direction.

TOM: We all expect Bob from one direction or another.

> *Maybe I can get away by going around the other
> way.* She straightened her legs, silently, then tried to stand up.

CROW: With her legs straightened that’s kind of tricky.

> "I wouldn’t try that if I were you." Megabyte said, not even turning.
> Carrie looked at him, surprised. *How did he know?* she wondered.

JOEL: He’s got eyes in the back of his head!

TOM: It’s not well known, but Megabyte *is* a Mom.

>
> Suddenly, Megabyte was hit in the chest by a flying brick.

CROW: Ignatz Mouse is *way* off base this time.

> He
> stumbled slightly as Bob came racing around the corner of the booth
> beside the truck. "Alright, Megabyte."

TOM: I’d give Carrie ten bucks to put Dig Dug here instead.

> He said, "This ends here!"
> Megabyte picked up the offending brick, and casually tossed it to the
> side. "Now, Bob."

JOEL: You could have hit someone with that. In fact, you did!

> He rumbled, "If you want your friend returned in
> one peice, I suggest you take me into the Supercomputer."

CROW: And, uh, any supplies of Krazy Glue you have would be appreciated.

> Reaching
> over, Megabyte caught Carrie before she could even attempt to run.
> Carrie turned to Megabyte.

TOM: [ As Carrie ] Oh, yeah, big strong guy, you can catch a girl who’s *sitting*.

> "I don’t care what you do!" She shouted at
> him. "I would rather have you kill me then see you get into the
> Supercomputer!!"

JOEL: [ As Bob ] Don’t look at me, I don’t know how you get into the Supercomputer from here.

> Megabyte smiled evily, and Carrie began to tremble
> with fear.

CROW: [ As Megabyte ] Run that first part by me again …

> "I don’t have to kill you," he said, "I have another
> ability I can use."

TOM: He can apply his extensive knowledge of Gilbert and Sullivan.

> Carrie’s eyes widened in fear as he once again
> clamped his hand over her mouth. He lifted her off the ground
> slightly, and pulled her head to the side.

JOEL: Bob’s got other things to do this scene.

> Smiling quickly at Bob, he
> opened his mouth, revealing his long fangs, then his head descended
> towards Carrie’s neck.

CROW: How does he know to do that?

> *Nooooo!!!* Carrie’s mind echoed Bob’s scream
> as she felt Megabyte’s fangs sink deeply into her skin.

JOEL: We’re veering dangerously close to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" territory now.

TOM: If Carrie had gone straight to the police, this would never have happened.

[ to continue … ]

MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 8 of 16)


And now we reach the halfway point in my Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of Carrie L—‘s Reboot fanfic “Breaking the Barriers”. The whole MiSTing of this work should be at this link.

The story so far: Carrie, our author, was messing around on the computer one day when she got zapped into cyberspace! Or at least into the world of Reboot. She goes with Bob to investigate a weird energy portal thingy and finds series villain Megabyte. Megabyte captures her, and Symble the cat virus shoves the two of them through the portal before she can break free.

The riff about Chuck Woolery after a mention of “greed” referenced a short-lived game show, Greed, that he hosted back when every network was trying to clone Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. The mention of “Valentina” refers to a series of novellas that Analog Science Fiction ran in the early 80s about some science types who accidentally created an artificial intelligence computer goddess. You know, like people did all the time back then. In hindsight, science fiction writers overestimated the capabilities of programming in PILOT. The stories got collected into a book that I remember as being a fast read.

The reference to Megabyte trying “to comprehend an Eckart” confuses me too. I think that it’s a typo and I meant “an Eckert”, as in Max Eckert’s various map projections. If it’s not that then I have no idea what it could mean. Crow’s riff about the fake note from Carrie’s parents strikes me as terribly mean, now, and I wouldn’t make it if I were writing this today. I say this acknowledging that it’s the sort of joke the show would make, at least in the 90s. (I can think of specific riffs, many delivered by Crow, built on the same premise.) Canadian 2-for-1 pizza was a Singapore pizza chain. I liked their pizza, but their gimmick — two pies for the price of one — meant they were selling too much pizza for me to get often. “Marlboro Day” reflects that I used to live in Marlboro and now and then they had Days.

I’ve edited this slightly, removing the name given to Carrie’s hometown, out of the concern for not unintentionally embarrassing her eighteen years later by naming what seems a pretty small place. This took out one riff, also, that was just the obvious riff to make about the place’s name anyway. I left in the bit where she named her best friend because I believe the character to be fictional.


> Part Sixteen
>
> As Carrie came to, she struggled to remember what had
> happened.

TOM: It’s kind of that way for us, too.

> She looked up to find her computer running and her chair
> tipped over on its side.

CROW: It must have been a very small, localized earthquake…

> *Now I remember!* She thought, standing up.

JOEL: It was stuffing *instead* of potatoes!

> *Was it only a dream?* She picked up the chair, then noticed that
> the top was scratched.

CROW: It must’ve itched something terrible.

> As she inspected the gouges, her throat
> tightened. Only one thing could account for marks like that.

JOEL: She’s got a cat!

> She
> turned slowly, hoping against hope that she wouldn’t find him there.
> She gasped and stepped back when she saw him. He had changed.

CROW: He was trying to make himself good enough for her.

> He was
> dressed elegantly, in an expensive looking Armani style suit.

TOM: Withholding antecedents doesn’t make the story more dramatic!

> His
> hair was like fire,

JOEL: And vice-versa.

> but his skin was pale.

CROW: Oh, yeah, computer science guys.

> He was powerfully built as
> he had been as a virus,

TOM: Only now he wasn’t that scared of Norton Disk Doctor.

> and his face looked like the envy of every
> male model. He had the classic GQ gentlemanly look,

CROW: This is not to suggest every man wearing an Armani suit is evil.

TOM: But they are.

> yet he still had
> a look of power and greed to him.

JOEL: President Chuck Woolery!

> Even unconcious, Carrie recognized
> him immediately.

CROW: I thought she woke up?

> *So, * she thought, *that’s what Megabyte looks like
> as a human.*

TOM: I wonder what other humanoid bodies he might have turned into.

> She had often wondered that, but now, she would rather
> not have had to find out.

CROW: If her parents walk in this is going to be *so* weird to explain.

>
> Suddenly, her computer began beeping strangely.

JOEL: Is that you, Valentina darling?

> She turned,
> and then she was struck by something. She fell, with a limp body
> sprawled across her.

TOM: I hope telemarketers never figure out this trick.

> She pushed out from under it, and gasped as she
> saw the face. "Oh my God!" she whispered. It was Bob. He had
> followed her through the portal.

CROW: You’ve got male!

> He was dressed in blue jeans, a grey
> T-shirt and had a jean shirt over top. His hair had become light
> brown shoulder length dreads and his skin was a deep tan.

JOEL: He’s in the real world and he can still fit in the Commodore 64 color set.

> "Bob!"
> Carrie said. "Wake up!" she shook him gently. "Please, wake up!"

CROW: Oh, now he’s just being difficult.

>
> He stirred, and Carrie smiled.

JOEL: Someday he’ll be able to mix his own hot cocoa.

> Bob sat up, holding his head in his
> hands. "Oh, man." he moaned.

TOM: He looks around and discovers *he’s* been pulled into the world of *his* favorite cartoon.

>
> Carrie got up and helped him to his feet. "Thank goodness
> you’re alright!" Carrie said. Bob looked up at her and smiled.

CROW: [ As Bob ] Actually, half of me is —

TOM: [ Sternly ] No.

> "Nothing can bring a Guardian down."

JOEL: That’s why he’s so bad in escalators.

> He said, then winced in pain.

TOM: Aw, he’s going to Shatner all over the place.

> "Oh, brother," he said, "Does my head ever hurt!" Carrie giggled,
> then turned and stiffened. "We’ve got a problem."

CROW: I hope it’s not a word problem.

TOM: Yeah, that stupid dancing paperclip is back.

> She told Bob. Bob
> looked at her, puzzled. "What?" He asked.

TOM: There’s like eight thousand words to go and the only thing going on is some flirting.

> Carrie pointed at the
> floor beside them. "What? There’s nothing there." Bob said. Carrie
> nodded.

CROW: Those two trains left Chicago!

> "Exactly." she whispered, "Megabyte’s gone!"

TOM: So he regained consciousnessness, figured out where he was, planned what to do, and snuck out under cover of day, all in about sixteen seconds.

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *
>

JOEL: [ Singing ] Well, she was …

> Part Seventeen

JOEL: [ Continuing ] — you know what I mean —

>
> Megabyte stood silently, surveying the land that spread before
> him.

TOM: Most people don’t know this, but Megabyte’s a top geologist.

> He had never seen anything like this. *Quite strange.*

CROW: Megabyte tries to comprehend an Eckart.

> he
> thought, as he inspected the horizon. Carrie’s hometown [ … ] was
> a small place, dominated by empty feilds, even though she lived in
> what was considered the heart of the town, closest to the small
> shopping mall.

TOM: It’s not so much a town as it is the setting *for* a town.

> Even from here, Megabyte could hear people and
> laughter. Turning, he headed toward the source of the noises.
>

CROW: That’s a pretty loud mall.

TOM: Both of Canada’s rowdy guys are there today.

> Carrie and Bob raced upstairs. "MOM!?!" Carrie shouted,

JOEL: Wait, that’s not his name, it was …

> "DAD!?!

JOEL: Yeah, that’s it … or, wait, was it …

> Anybody!?!"

JOEL: They’ll have to answer me now!

> She ran into the kitchen

JOEL: Oh, no sense waiting.

> to find a note on the
> table.

CROW: Dear Carrie: Saw you drawn into computer, couldn’t pass up chance, goodbye forever — hey, wait!

> *Dear Mouse, we decided to out to dinner, and when we couldn’t
> find you, we figured you’d gone to see Bob.

TOM: But you don’t know anyone named Bob, so we worried about you. We hope it’s just a phase.

> We’ll be back by nine
> o’clock. There’s leftover pizza in the fridge for you. Love Mom.*
> Carrie sighed. "Thank goodness!" she said.

CROW: She’s at that awkward age where she needs her parents, but is embarassed to be in the same fan fiction with them.

> She looked at Bob, and he
> gave her a puzzled look. "How did they know you’d end up in
> Mainframe?" Carrie giggled.

TOM: It was a lucky guess.

> "Not you, silly!" she said, "My best
> friend!

JOEL: Bob Bobbobbobovich.

> His name is Robert T. Gardien,

TOM: Famed for Crockett’s Victory Gardien.

> but everybody calls him Bob!"

CROW: I wonder what the ‘T’ stands for.

> Bob smiled "Bob T. _Gardien_?" he said, "And I just happen to be Bob
> the _Gaurdian_? No coincedence, right?"

TOM: Heh heh heh heh heh … I don’t get it.

> Carrie blushed. "If you’re
> ego gets any bigger," she teased, "you won’t fit in my house!"

JOEL: How’s he going to fit back in her computer?

> Then
> she grabbed his hand. "Come on!" she said, "We still have to find
> Megabyte!!"

TOM: He’s in the living room watching "The Raccoons."

>
> Before she left, she turned to the fridge. "Oh, just a sec."

JOEL: She needs to leave it a few instructions before she goes. [ As Carrie ] Ahem. Stay cool. There, that’ll do.

> she said, tugging the door open. "I’m hungry."

CROW: Forget saving the world! I want a Tim Horton’s doughnut!

> She pulled out a pizza
> box with the Pizza Hut symbol emblazened on it.

JOEL: Hey, product placement.

TOM: On second thought, let’s try starving to death.

> She put it on the
> table and opened it. "Yumm!" she said, "Full toppings! My fave!!"

JOEL: Toppings’ll make us sleepy.

> She pulled out a peice and took an enormous bite out of it. As she
> chewed enthusiastically, Bob looked down at the contents of the box.

CROW: That’s … not … pepperoni.

> "What’s that?" he asked. Carrie started to choke, swallowed hard,
> then started to laugh.

TOM: It’s funny ’cause it’s pizza.

> "You don’t know what a pizza is?" She asked
> him, surprised. "No." Bob said.

CROW: Think of it as a "Burger Time" gone horribly wrong.

> "Remember, you never had an energy
> shake, either."

JOEL: Shouldn’t she be eating Canadian 2-for-1 Pizza instead?

> Carrie blushed again. Then she offered her peice to
> him. "Wanna try some?" she asked.

TOM: How can a computer guy not live on pizza and Mountain Dew?

JOEL: He eats a lot of Thai.

> Bob took it gingerly, then, took a
> bite the same way Carrie had. She smiled as Bob closed his eyes in
> pleasure.

CROW: The warm and tender moment is interrupted only briefly by the screams of Megabyte’s victims.

> When he had swallowed it, he opened his eyes and looked
> into hers. "That’s delicious!!" He said, and Carrie giggled. "I knew
> you’d like it!" She said. She grabbed another peice, "Let’s go."

JOEL: And, hey — let’s be careful out there.

>
> As they entered her backyard, they could hear noises coming
> from the area of the mall. "Oh no!!" Carrie shouted,

TOM: Augustus has fallen into the gloop!

> "He must have
> gone over there! It’s the Carnival this weekend!!"

CROW: They’re just celebrating the idea of malls.

> She turned to
> Bob. "There’s got to be tons of kids over there!!"

JOEL: Cumulatively, anyway, sure.

> Bob put his hands
> on his hips, and looked over at the mall.

TOM: I’m Hans Christian Anderson!

> He could see the midway
> rides and could hear the people laughing and shouting.

CROW: It’s terrible! They’re celebrating Marlboro Day! And it’s not Marlboro!

> "Glitch," he
> said, raising his left arm, only to find nothing there. "Glitch!?!"

JOEL: Uh, more like minor blooper, thanks.

> Carrie turned to find Bob looking at her, worry etched into his face.
> "Where’s Glitch?" He said. Carrie looked at the empty spot above his
> left wrist.

CROW: Shouldn’t there be a hand there?

> "I don’t know." She said. "Wait! What’s in your pocket?"

TOM: Twenty-two cents, an unidentified key and three pieces of string.

> Bob reached into his pocket, and pulled out what looked like a tiny
> computer.

CROW: Awww…

TOM: Oh, it’s so cute at that age!

CROW: Bet it wants its mommy.

> It was grey and black with the word ‘Glitch’ inscribed on
> it in metallic blue. "Glitch?" Bob asked, and the little computer
> beeped almost cheerfully.

JOEL: I hope we get to see it grow up into an Artoo droid.

> "Well," Carrie said, "Now I know what
> Glitch looks like in my world, too."

TOM: Yup.

CROW: Sure do.

TOM: There’s no gainsaying the obvious.

> Bob smiled, and put Glitch back
> in his pocket. "O.K.," he said, taking Carrie’s hand, much to her
> delight. "Let’s go!" and they headed towards the mall.

JOEL: [ Picking up TOM ] Oh, let’s just go to Borders instead.

[ TOM, JOEL, and CROW exit. ]

[ COMMERCIAL BREAK ]

[ to continue … ]

MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 7 of 16)


I hope you’re all continuing to enjoy Reboot: Breaking the Barriers, written by Carrie L— long ago, and turned into Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction by me a little less long ago. This whole MiSTing should be gathered at this link for your convenient reading.

The story so far: Carrie has fallen through a weird portal into her computer and, more, the world of pioneering computer-animated cartoon Reboot. She’s met up with the heroes and they’re all getting along great. So all she needs is to get home again — and hey, there’s some kind of roaming tear in space puttering around the digital world. Might be worth checking out.

I lived in Singapore when I wrote this, which is why there’s references to Mos Burger (a hamburger place, with some neat rice-bun burgers that I miss). The reference to Guardian and Watsons is about a couple of pharmacy chains. Bennie the Ball is one of the supporting cats from Top Cat, a series I figured was consigned to obscurity by the early 2000s. The Retlaw Plant poisoned Mr Sulu in an episode of the original Star Trek cartoon that Walter Koenig wrote. (Get the name yet?)


>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *
>
> Part Fourteen
>

JOEL: See, and that’s just thirteen dots, for chapter fourteen.

CROW: That’s eleven dots.

JOEL: No, that was … wait …

> The structure they approached was stunning yet foreboding at
> the same time.

TOM: Sounds like the Registrar’s office.

> Carrie knew this place well, and her knowledge of
> it made her nervous and apprehensive. As they crossed the border,
> Carrie’s throat constricted.

CROW: Oh no! The "Mouse" bracelet is taking over!

> *Silicon Tor,*

JOEL: Younger brother of Gigan Tor.

TOM: Next-door neighbor to Phosphorus Tor.

> she thought, *The home of
> Megabyte.*

JOEL: All our servings come in three sizes, bit, byte, and megabyte.

> A shiver went through her as she thought of the things
> Megabyte would do to them if her caught them in his territory.

CROW: He might force them to watch his vacation slides.

> *I
> wonder if he can infect sprites?* she thought,

TOM: Sprite, Dr Pepper, Pepsi Twist…

> then turned away from
> such thoughts. It wouldn’t help to be negative now.

CROW: No negatives? Are you positive?

JOEL: Neither. She’s a Carrie bit.

>
> Carrie looked over at Bob. He was intently studying the map
> Glitch was displaying.

CROW: You Are Here … Ah, there’s the Mos Burger … Walden’s … Pet Safari … ah, pathway into other reality, right next to the As Seen On TV store.

> he stood Glitch down, then turned to Carrie.
> "It’s just ahead."

TOM: It’s the big tear-shaped thing.

> he whispered, then moved forward, turning into an
> alley.

JOEL: I can’t get enough of that "morph" trick.

> Carrie followed behind him. When she turned the corner, her
> eyes were bombarded by a bright light.

TOM: And long-lost relatives standing nearby…

> Shading her eyes, she took in
> a sight she was strangely happy to see.

CROW: It looks just like a puppy dog!

> The tear was now stationary
> and was as stable as a tear could really be.

TOM: And it will lead them back to the Alpha quadrant!

> It was impressive to see
> this form of energy up close for the first time.

CROW: Boy, it’s like we’re right here.

>
> "Glitch," Bob said, "Key direct portal to energy transport
> beam in the Chalo Omega system."

JOEL: Chalo Omega … didn’t he rule the Autobots before Optimus Prime?

> He aimed Glitch at the tear and it
> flew out. As it approached it, the tear transformed into a silvery
> sphere with Glitch attatched to the front.

TOM: [ As Glitch ] Yeee–aaaaaahhhh — JANE! STOP THIS CRAZY THING!

> On the other side, seen
> through Glitch was an orange beam of energy.

JOEL: They’ve tapped into the Orange Julius dimension!

> Bob looked over at
> Carrie. "This is the only place we could find that could bring you
> home."

TOM: You *do* live in a pumpkin, right?

> he told her. "Phong says that the computer attatched to the end
> of this beam should be yours."

CROW: It *should* be, but it’s too danged lazy.

>
> Carrie smiled. "Thank you." she said, "For everything."

JOEL: And, hey … call sometime, OK?

> Bob
> returned her smile, and offered her his hand. She took it gently,
> expecting to recieve a warm handshake.

CROW: You suppose if she downloaded some MP3’s right now then when she gets back she’ll never get them out of her head?

> Instead, she suddenly found
> herself in Bob’s arms.

JOEL: She was shrinking, and kind of liked it.

> She stiffly wrapped her arms around him,
> returning his friendly embrace.

TOM: He’s showing a lot of affection for not knowing who she is.

> Stepping back, he placed his hands on
> her shoulders. "Good luck." he whispered, his eyes shining.

CROW: Will she stay blue and digital when she gets back to Canada?

> "Don’t
> worry," Carrie said, "I’ll visit the next time my computer decides to
> swallow me whole."

TOM: Isn’t there a bandwidth issue in computers swallowing people?

> Bob smiled. "Well," he said, "I guess this is
> goodbye."

JOEL: I bet there’s a surprise coming right up.

>
> "Oh, not just yet."

CROW: You haven’t filled out your complimentary survey card.

> A deep, velvet voice intoned behind them.

TOM: They’re being attacked by melTorme.com!

> "I haven’t been introduced to your friend, Guardian."

JOEL: Or your rival, Watsons.

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *
>

CROW: See? It’s eleven dots.

JOEL: It’s a tough market for dots this year.

> Part Fifteen
>
> Before she could react to what was happenng,

CROW: We took a break for a word from these sponsors.

> Carrie found
> herself being lifted off the ground by a grip of steel.

TOM: That’s *buns* of steel, thank you.

JOEL: Ew.

> She tried to
> scream,

CROW: That’s your standard response.

> but a large viral hand clamped over her mouth and spun her
> around.

TOM: Being twirled by salmonella … that’s no responsible way to live.

> Carrie looked up to find herself staring into the mesmerising
> red on green

CROW: Ho ho ho!

> eyes of Megabyte.

JOEL: [ As Megabyte ] Oh, I’m not *that* Mega … you’re too kind.

> "Really, Bob." Megabyte rumbled,

TOM: Bill Daly cracks down.

> "How
> rude." Carrie grabbed Megabyte’s arm and pulled at it futally.

CROW: [ As Carrie ] I hope I wasn’t out of line with that crack about the gorillas.

> All
> he did was laugh, amused by her terror.

JOEL: Megabyte needs more hobbies.

>
> "Let her go, Megabyte!" Bob shouted, aiming Glitch at him.
> Megabyte looked at him. "No, I don’t think so." he said.

TOM: They have the same fight every *week*. The marriage counselor is this close to giving up.

> "Now, you
> do as I ask,

JOEL: Not as I do.

> or your friend suffers an early erasure."

CROW: That’s a threat we haven’t heard before.

> He turned
> Carrie around so she was facing Bob,

TOM: He’s aiming her for Dish TV.

> then held his free hand above her
> threateningly.

CROW: Big bucks … no whammies …

> As his hand began to descend towards Carrie, Bob
> lowered his arm.

CROW: STOP!

> "Alright!" he said, "What do you want?" Megabyte
> chuckled richly. "Oh, it’s very minor."

JOEL: Forty-niner.

[ CROW looks at JOEL. ]

> he drawled, "I want what
> every virus wants from a Guardian, your keytool." Carrie’s eyes
> widened in fear.

TOM: See, that would’ve been my third guess.

> *No!* she thought, *Don’t give it to him!*

CROW: Spit on it first, then he’ll be too grossed out to take it.

> She
> started struggling and kicking,

TOM: [ As Curly ] Whum – WHUM wulluwullwull.

> trying to break free, or at least
> distract Megabyte long enough for Bob to get them out of there.

JOEL: Hey, look, a big distracting thing!

>
> As it turned out, she didn’t need to.

TOM: Megabyte suddenly remembered a big dental appointment.

> Suddenly, a large bolt
> of bright red energy slammed into Megabyte’s chest.

JOEL: A tip for young writers: Story stalled out? Get it going again with a random explosion.

> It threw him off
> balance long enough for a fast moving figure to get in front of him.

CROW: Speedy Gonzales, hooray!

> With a sudden swipe of a long, pale green blade protruding from it’s
> hand,

TOM: Oh, this better not be Wesley Snipes.

> the figure pushed Megabyte through the portal.
>
> Megabyte let go of Carrie’s mouth, but succeded in grabbing
> her arm.

CROW: Pop!

> With a scream of terror, Carrie reached out to Bob as she
> was pulled in after Megabyte.

TOM: Hey, isn’t this the cliffhanger from "Beast Wars"?

> "Nooo!" Bob shouted. Then he whirled
> to face the figure. "Look what you’ve done!"

JOEL: And all over the floor!

> he yelled. The figure
> moved suddenly

CROW: And a pirate ship appeared over the horizon.

> and Bob found himself suspended against the wall with
> the end of a large blade against his throat.

TOM: [ Sheepishly ] "I didn’t mean you *personally*"…

> "Look, Guardian," the
> figure breathed, "I just saved you from deletion.

JOEL: So hurry up and get to making that CD-ROM backup of yourself.

> Don’t force me do
> it myself." Bob looked down at this person.

CROW: You shouldn’t be looking down at people.

> He was wearing a grey
> outfit with gold trim and gloves. He had pale green skin with blue
> triangular markings.

TOM: So a Retlaw plant joined the Superfriends?

> His hair was white with two blue and red
> streaks, but the most stunning part about him was his face.

JOEL: Mister Potato-Head?

> His
> features were feline with black on red eyes.

TOM: Bennie the Ball — Cybercop!

> He had the same
> triangular markings on his cheeks.

CROW: His cheeks are not to be stood on.

> "I didn’t have to save you, now
> did I?"

JOEL: No, but it’s wise to save a little extra Bob in case of a rainy day.

> As he spoke, Bob noticed large fangs and pointed teeth.

TOM: Vampires!

> Only
> one kind of creature looked like that, a feline virus.

CROW: Kitty!

TOM: So ThunderCat Cheetara became a Microsoft Word macro?

>
> "Where did you come from?" Bob asked.

JOEL: Nowhere particular.

CROW: Man, I wish I was you.

> The virus dropped him.
> "That is not important." he said.

TOM: What is important is can’t you see what I’m trying to tell you, I *love* you?

> "Your friend is." Turning, he
> headed toward the shadows, retracting his blades into his wrists.

JOEL: [ Yelping in pain ] Gee-yow! That *hurts*! What was I *think*ing?

> "Wait!" Bob said, "What’s your name?" he asked.

TOM: If he’s Batman I’m gonna slap this story so hard —

CROW: Catman.

> The figure paused
> long enough to glance over his shoulder. "Symble."

TOM: I think it’s pretty complex.

> He said, then
> vanished into the shadows.

CROW: And *that’s* my only line.

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *
>

JOEL: Holding at eleven spots before liftoff.


[ To continue … ]

MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 6 of 16)


I hope you’ve been enjoying my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction-sharing here. I plan to keep it going a while yet, which you knew from the subject line there. Also surely known to you: this is a continuation of Carrie L—‘s Reboot fan fiction, “Breaking the Barriers”. You can read the whole MiSTing, as it’s posted, here. You can read all of my MiSTings here, if I remember to tag them right.

The story so far: protagonist Carrie has disappeared into the world of pioneering computer-animated series Reboot. She’s met the main heroes of the show for real now. And she and series star Bob survived the perils of a Game thanks to Carrie’s expert play. But will they survive Bob’s girlfriend Dot asking why they were in a Game together?

The riff about Paul Frees references the 1953 Tom and Jerry cartoon The Missing Mouse. The “last time I had a good cry” bit references an episode of Taxi for no good reason. This segment has another instance of the joke where in-text a character asks why don’t they ask something, and then I riff the character asking that. I love that joke structure, but I feel like I probably swiped it from Get Smart. This week’s cryptic eight-bit Commodore machine-language bit: FFD8 was the routine to save computer memory to a device, such as cassette tape or disk drive.


>
> Part Twelve

JOEL: All this time and we’re barely started.

>
> Carrie stood there patiently as Enzo began to ask her question
> after question.

TOM: He should wait for an answer.

> "You’re new around here, aren’t you? Where’d you come
> from? How do you know Bob? Huh, huh?"

CROW: Why does it rain? Why is the sky blue? Is Santa Claus real? Can I have a nickel? I want a bicycle. Why does —
[ JOEL puts a hand on CROW’s shoulder. ]

> Carrie smiled at Enzo’s
> enthusiasm,

TOM: [ As Carrie ] He’s cute. I’ll eat him last.

> and answered his first and last questions,

CROW: By Olaf Stapledon.

> carefully
> avoiding the other.

JOEL: She didn’t know why the sky was blue.

> "This is my first time in Mainframe." she told
> him, "I’ve never been here before."

CROW: But I already saved the star of the show. I’m ahead of schedule.

> She smiled down at his curious
> face. "Actually, I ended up here by accident. That’s how I met Bob.

JOEL: Ask your mother. She’ll tell you.

> I’d heard of him before, but I just met him this cycle."

CROW: We’re very close to our motorcycles.

>
> Dot looked over at Carrie, frowning in suspition.

JOEL: [ As Dot ] I don’t think she’s eight-bit.

> "So she
> says she a user," she said to Bob, who shrugged and nodded. "How do
> we know if she’s telling the truth?" She asked him.

JOEL: Hold a survey on your web site?

> "I’m not sure,"
> Bob said, "she seemed to know alot about us,

CROW: She knows stuff we don’t know about ourselves.

> maybe she knows things
> only the user could know?"

TOM: How would Dot know what those things are?

> Dot mulled that over for a nano, then
> smiled slightly. "Why don’t we ask her and find out."

CROW: [ As Dot ] Carrie, how would you ask us who you are?

> she said slyly,
> and they both turned to look at Carrie.

TOM: You ask her. I’m bitter.

>
> When Carrie was at home, she always wore a necklace that her
> mother had given to her that bore her nickname, also given to her by
> her mother.

CROW: It’s a very personal thing that hasn’t been mentioned until now.

JOEL: I bet it’ll give us a touching insight into her character.

> The name ‘Mouse’.

ALL: Ooooh.

> When she had been pulled into
> Mainframe, it had been reformatted

CROW: How much of its space was free now?

> into an almost choker style band
> with a gold charm bearing the same inscription.

JOEL: [ Reading ] Over hill, over dale, Carrie Mouse will never fail.

> Enzo’s eagle eyes had
> spotted it,

[ TOM screeches, like an eagle ]

> and he immeadiately began to ask her about it. "How come
> it says ‘Mouse’?

CROW: It’s so she doesn’t forget her favorite rodent.

> Do you know her? Are you her sister or cousin or
> something?

JOEL: Are you her twin from the future of the mirror universe?

> Are you really her in disguise?"

TOM: To look like human guys?

>
> Carrie reached up and touched the charm.

JOEL: [ Giggling, ticklish ]

> The thought of her
> mother suddenly made her very homesick,

TOM: The first week at college is the hardest.

> and her eyes began to burn
> with tears. She closed her eyes, holding back the tears that wanted
> to escape.

CROW: She shouldn’t do that, she’ll pop!

TOM: Remember what Paul Frees taught us. The white Mouse will not explode.

> She thought about home and her family, about how she may
> never see them again,

JOEL: She remembers her last words to Mom were, "Don’t worry, I won’t get pulled into the computer and into a TV show" …

> and finally the tears began to escape. Covering
> her face with her hands, Carrie fought for control.

CROW: Must… fulfill… prime directive…

> She didn’t want
> to worry Enzo. As she began to regain control,

TOM: Damage control … all systems non-responsive … whirrr whirrrrrrrr … beedooop.

> she felt a hand on her
> shoulder and looked up into Bob’s worried eyes. "Are you alright?" he
> asked. Carrie smiled through the last of her tears.

TOM: [ As Carrie ] You know when’s the last time I had a good cry?

JOEL: [ As Bob ] No… when?

TOM: [ As Carrie ] This morning.

> "Yeah," she
> whispered, "I was just thinking of home and my family.

CROW: And whether I left the VCR set.

> I really miss
> them, and I want to go home."

TOM: I’m tired and I want to go to bed.

> Dot came up beside her, "I’m sure we
> can try and get you home," she said,

JOEL: Can she be sent parcel post?

> "But we need to ask you some
> questions first." Carrie looked at her, puzzled. "Questions?" she
> asked, "About what?"

CROW: The quadratic formula.

> Dot looked at her, and then decided to just tell
> her. "I just need proof that you’re really a user, so I want to know
> everything you know about us.

JOEL: Because … Dot knows how to send users home?

> Let’s go to the Diner."

ALL: [ Singing ] Let’s all go to the diner … let’s all go to the diner … let’s all go to the diner … and have ourselves a snack!

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *
>
> Part Thirteen

CROW: Hey, that was only eleven dots. This can’t be part thirteen.

>
> The four of them sat together in the booth at Dot’s Diner.

TOM: [ Singing the ‘Seinfeld’ lick ] Beeow de dow dee dow

> Carrie’s little emotional episode had worried Bob, so he insisted on
> sitting beside her, much to Dot’s chagrin.

CROW: Bob’s got to sit either next to or across from her. Choose your poison.

> Carrie sat silently,
> staring at her folded hands

JOEL: Digital digits.

> on the table in front of her. Dot cleared
> her throat gently.

TOM: Uh, one of us has to order.

> "Carrie," she said, "We need you to tell us what
> you know about us."

JOEL: Use both sides of the paper if necessary.

> Carrie looked up, confused. "Why?" she
> whispered. Dot sighed quietly. "It’s the only way I know of finding
> proof that you’re a User."

CROW: Didn’t we just come from this scene?

> Carrie looked over at Bob, who flashed his
> killer smile,

JOEL: Aaah! Your smile — it’s … poi … son …

CROW: You did that already.

> and told her it was okay.

ALL: It’s OK.

>
> Carrie swallowed hard. This was exactly what she had wanted
> to avoid.

CROW: She’s got odd streaks of shyness.

> She didn’t want to reveal all her knowledge of Mainframe
> because she didn’t want to be looked upon as someone who encroached
> upon their privacy.

TOM: Oh, yeah, I can see how … huh?

> *Still,* she thought, *if it means getting home,
> I’ll tell them everything.*

JOEL: Begin with a comprehensive report about riboflavin.

> So taking a deep breath, Carrie began to
> tell them what she knew.
>
> Before she could really start, she was interrupted by a
> beeping.

CROW: Uh-oh. The plot’s getting in the way.

> Bob looked down at Glitch, then allowed the message through.

TOM: It’s from Star Fleet Command. It seems we have 139 star dates to kill the 26 invading Klingons before full-scale war breaks out. There are six star bases in our sector.

> The cube-shaped face of a one binome looked up from the circular
> viewscreen.

JOEL: For extra credit, see how many ways you can rearrange the words in that sentence and have it still make equal sense.

> He wore the distinct green helmet with visor of the
> CPU’s, alerting Carrie to the fact that this was important. "Excuse
> me, sir." the binome saluted,

JOEL: Hail Caesar.

> "Sorry to bother you,

TOM: But WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!

ALL: [ Screaming ]

> but we’ve just
> recieved reports of a roaming tear left by the last game."

CROW: It’s making us look less manly.

> Bob
> nodded. "I’ll be over in a nano."

TOM: Nano … Visitor?

> he said, getting to his feet.
> "Where’s it located?" he asked.

JOEL: It’s a direct portal from FFD8 to Ontario. It may be plot-related.

> The binome looked down at the
> organizer he held, then returned Bob’s gaze. "That’s the problem,
> sir."

CROW: It doesn’t exist. Look, we were lonely, okay?

> he reported, "It’s located near Silicon Tor."
>

TOM: [ As Tor Johnson ] Time for go to net!

JOEL: That’s the new district. The ancient one is Germanium Tor.

> "Silicon Tor?!" Enzo said, "Dude! Can I come? Can I, can I?
> Huh?"

CROW: Enzo’s this close to getting his mouth module deactivated.

> Dot shushed him. "No, Enzo." she said, "Bob can do this
> alone."

TOM: No sense us risking *our* necks.

> Bob looked over at her as Glitch closed, ending the
> transmission. "No, not alone." Carrie interrupted,

JOEL: There is one other.

> and all three
> whirled to face her. "I know about tears." she said,

CROW: I’ve been holding them back for years … but I really love them!

> "And that little
> ball of energy could be my ticket home."

JOEL: Enzo?

> She slid out of the booth,
> and stood in front of Bob. "I’m going with you."

TOM: [ As Bob ] I wasn’t going.

> she told him,
> determindly. "Besides, I’ve always wanted to see the Tor."

CROW: His one-man show is to die for.

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *


[ To continue … ]

MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 5 of 16)


The fifth part of my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction begins with a tag for commercials. This reflects a tradition, at least in people writing long-form MiSTings, to structure their stories the way the actual show was. Which, in those days, was divided into four pieces. The first piece had two host sketches to start and one to finish, and the rest in the theater. The second had nothing but theater time. The third piece had a host sketch to start and another to end. The last piece had mostly theater time, but a host sketch to conclude, plus credits.

I enjoyed, when I had the energy to write long pieces, respecting this structure. If I ever reorganize the Tale of Fatty Raccoon I’ll try to frame it with host sketches in that way.

This MiSTing is of Carrie L—‘s Reboot fan fiction, “Breaking the Barriers”. Again, while Carrie L— liked my work in around 2002 when it was published, that was a long while ago. And as the protagonist is a version of the author, I’m withholding the name so as to avoid unnecessary humiliation.

The story so far — you can find the whole thing at this link — has seen Carrie mysteriously journey into the world within the computer. She’s met up with the heroes of the pioneering computer-animation show Reboot. And now, with series-hero Bob, she faces one of the great perils of the series. The mysterious User of the Reboot computer has started to play a game. For the user, it’s a pastime. For those trapped within the game, it’s life or deletion.

I have no recollection at all what the “red card key” line refers to. I’m open to nominations for what it could possibly have meant. To help frame your answers please remember this was written, I believe, in late 2002 but certainly no later than 2003. Also while my interests have changed some in the past 18 years, I’ve always thought about things the same way I do now.


[ COMMERCIALS ]

[ THEATER. TOM, JOEL, and CROW file in. ]

> * * * * * * * *
> * *

CROW: This is the toughest piece to play in Tetris.

>
> Part Ten
>
> Dot and Enzo stood outside the game cube watching for a sign
> that Bob had won the game.

JOEL: [ As Dot ] They’re watching back at us!

> "Come on, Bob!" Enzo shouted, "Kick their
> bitmaps!!" Dot pulled out her organizer and called Phong.

TOM: Isn’t he busy helping A-tor?

> As his
> face appeared on the small screen, Dot asked him if he knew how things
> were going in the game.

JOEL: [ As Enzo ] The Babylonians just wiped out the Russians, and the Aztecs built Marco Polo’s Embassy so I’m redirecting my project to Leonardo da Vinci’s workshop … I think we can pull this out.

> "Bob is doing quite well, my child," Phong
> assured her, "they should be out soon."

CROW: Just like the last 68 times you asked.

> "Thanks Phong." Dot said, and
> left him to continue scanning the game. Looking up at the cube, she
> frowned. The cube had landed on an empty sector,

TOM: And the only starship in it was the Enterprise.

> yet Phong had said
> ‘they’, was that just a slip up, or did Bob have another sprite in
> there with him.

JOEL: That would imply Mainframe has more than eight people in it.

>
> ———————————————————————-
> ——————————-

CROW: This is gonna be a tough "Hangman."

>
> Meanwhile,

TOM: [ As the narrator from "Dangermouse" ] Look, is that all I’m going to have to say this episode?

> inside the game…..
>
> Carrie and Bob raced through the corridors. Bob looked down
> at Glitch. "Game Stats."

CROW: The Cubs lost.

> he ordered and Glitch whired to life. "How
> are we doing?" Carrie panted,

JOEL: We checked the game stats almost perfectly.

> as they continued to run down the hall.
> "We’re almost there," He said, "just down this hallway, to the right.

TOM: [ Snickering ] Swing the door wide open, don’t turn the light on!

> "Where’s The User?" she asked.

CROW: The one that isn’t you?

TOM: Yeah, hey, if this is Carrie’s computer then who’s on it?

> Bob pushed one of the buttons on
> Glitch, then laughed. "The User hasn’t even passed the third level
> yet!"

CROW: [ Snorting ] The schmuckle balls they let on computers these days.

JOEL: He’s trying to figure out how to get the red card key.

> He stopped running, and Carrie started to catch her breath.
> "The third level?" She gasped, "That’s five behind us!!" Bob nodded,
> and Carrie laughed.

TOM: Tournament Chutes and Ladders.

> "I guess we have no worries about it beating us
> there!" she giggled. "Let’s get into the chamber."

CROW: Won’t John McEnroe torment them, then?

> He turned towards
> the door, then stopped and faced Carrie again.

TOM: [ As Carrie ] Should we go kick sand in the user’s face some?

> He flashed her his
> killer smile, then grabbed her hand.

JOEL: Aack! Your smile — it’s — poi…son…

> He pushed the heavy door open,
> and they walked in together.
>
> The room sparkled and shone brightly. The walls of the
> chamber were made of the finest crystal in all colours.

TOM: *This* is where all that money invested in dot-coms went.

> Light was
> reflecting in all directions, the source was a beautifully ingraved
> gold box

JOEL: It’s where Grandmom keeps her sewing kit.

> set on a pedestal that appeared to be able to generate it’s
> own light.

CROW: It’s got Quentin Tarantino’s whole career in there.

> They walked toward it, marvelling in the splendor they
> were witnessing.

TOM: To sum up, it was way cool.

> Bob still hadn’t released Carrie’s hand, but she
> didn’t notice, or care for that matter, she quite enjoyed it.

TOM: She’s enjoying the sensation she’s not experiencing.

> They
> slowly approached the pedestal, staring in awe at this beautiful
> artifact.

CROW: [ As Carrie ] Ahem. The *Box*.

TOM: [ As Bob ] Right, right, sorry.

> "I guess that’s what we’re looking for." Carrie breathed,

JOEL: Now look for the little dot that says "You are here."

> afraid to speak in more than a whisper. "I guess so." Bob whispered,
> then he reached out to touch it.

JOEL: [ As the Wizard of Oz ] COME FORWARD, Cowardly Lion!

> "Wait!" Carrie said, grabbing his
> wrist.

TOM: No! Don’t touch it! It’s EEEEEvil!

> Bob looked at her, confused. "This is the biggest trick of
> all." She explained.

CROW: So remember which is your card.

> "When there’s more than one player, we have to
> touch the box at the same time or it releases the final trap.

TOM: It’s a little trap the game designer put in because he knew it’d be a plot point someday.

> I
> learned that the hard way a few times." Releasing his wrist, she
> smiled at him, then squeezed his other hand gently.

CROW: OK, let’s take a countdown, right? One, two, three …

> He returned her
> smile, and they reached out to the box at the same time.

TOM: I thought you were going to touch on three!

CROW: NO, I was going to count three and then say, "NOW!"

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * *
>
> Part Eleven

TOM: Now stepping out onto the high dive…

>
> The box was small, so when Carrie and Bob touched it, their
> hands overlapped gently.

JOEL: Oh, I think their rasters just interrupted the methods.

>
> "GAME OVER! GAME OVER!"

TOM: This is a bug hunt, man!

>
> Carrie closed her eyes as the game cube began to ascend into
> the sky.

JOEL: Cube-on, take me away!

> She could feel the bottom of the cube sweep over her,

CROW: OOh! You naughty, naughty cube.

> taking
> her game character with it.

TOM: That just means she changed clothes.

> As she opened her eyes, she looked at Bob
> and smiled.

JOEL: What would happen if they were dropped into a game of The Sims?

> As he returned her smile, they heard a sound behind them.

TOM: [ "Law and Order" type sting ] Dum-dummm!

> "Ahem."
>
> Bob and Carrie turned. There stood Dot and Enzo.

CROW: Enzo’s jealous ’cause Bob promised to kiss him next.

> Enzo looked
> as if his jaw was going to hit the ground and Dot looked like she was
> ready to delete someone.

JOEL: Let’s hope it’s Carson Daly.

> "Bob," she said, her anger tightly
> controlled, "Who is that?"

TOM: [ As Carrie ] It’s Bob.

JOEL: [ As Bob ] She means you, dear.

> Bob and Carrie looked at each other, then
> realized that they were still holding each others hands.

JOEL: Quick, pass them back to each other and put them back on.

> Carrie
> pulled her hands away, and stuck them behind her back. Bob smiled
> nervously, trying to lighten the subject.

TOM: So! Any questions?

> "Oh," he said, waving a
> hand at Carrie neutrally. "Dot, this is Carrie.

CROW: Add, this is carry. Clear?

> She’s…uh…she’s
> new to Mainframe." he stammered, "Carrie, this is Dot Matrix."

JOEL: Joan Rivers? Here?

>
> Carrie smiled at Dot, hoping to change her obvious first
> impression. "Hello."

TOM: She should try ‘READY.’

> Carrie said, "It’s a pleasure to finally meet
> you."

CROW: Aw, first dates are so awkward.

> Carrie’s mind raced. *Say something positive!* she thought.

JOEL: [ As Carrie ] Three minus five! D’oh!

> "Bob’s told me so much about you.

TOM: Just don’t ask Bob to tell you what.

> You’re Mainframe’s best
> entrepreneur, aren’t you?"

CROW: Shouldn’t that be info-preneur?

TOM: Not while we have a shred of dignity left in the world.

> Bob and Dot both looked at her surprised.
> "Well," Dot said, "I run a data diner in Baudway."

TOM: So let’s put on a show!

> Carrie smiled.
> *Good! I hit the right subject!*

JOEL: Talk *about* the other person’s interest, it can work!

>
> Carrie looked at Bob. "Oh yes," she said, "Bob told me about
> that. ‘Fastest food in Mainframe’!"

TOM: And he didn’t say a word about those five dead health inspec– [ Embarassed ] –tors.

> Dot smiled, obviously flattered
> by Carrie’s comments. "Why, thank you."

CROW: To show gratitude? To be polite?

JOEL: Huh?

> Dot said, then she frowned
> at Bob. "May I have a word with you?"

TOM: Only if it’s not "factotum."

> she asked him, "Please excuse
> us for a moment."

JOEL: You’re excused.

> she told Carrie and Enzo, and she pulled Bob off to
> the side.

TOM: [ As Dot ] I told you no-more-fanfic-writers!

> "Bob, why were you two in the game together?"

CROW: A big cube fell on them.

> Bob glanced
> over at Carrie, who was talking to an excited Enzo.

JOEL: Enzo’s easily excited.

> Taking a deep
> breath, Bob began to explain what had happened.

CROW: In the beginning, there was FORTRAN.

>
> * * * * * * * *

TOM: didididit didididit

> * *

TOM: didit.

CROW: A Muppet News Bulletin.


[ To continue … ]

MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 4 of 16)


And now the fourth part of my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction. This of Carrie L—‘s Reboot fanfic, ”Breaking The Barriers”. Again, this MiSTing was done with Carrie L—‘s approval, but as it is a self-insertion fan fiction, I want to obscure her name unless she communicates to me that she’s not embarrassed with a youthful presentation of her story-ready self.

The full MiSTing should be available at this link. So far in the story, Carrie was puttering around on her computer when she got mysteriously zapped to the world inside. She met up with Bob and Phong of the pioneering animated cartoon Reboot. Carrie’s reluctant to reveal her true origins, lest she sound daft. But otherwise it looks like everyone is happy and everything is fine and there’ll be no problems from here on out!

The host sketch at the end, Joel talking about the eight-bit computer era, is one of my first exercises in exploring my own nostalgia. It began as a rambling monologue, along the lines of Joel talking about the swinging 60s in the episode “Catalina Caper”, but a friend said it was too self-indulgent. I think it could have played well, but that depends on the performer. And it’s asking a lot of the reader to go through a wall of text and read it funny. Breaking it up into dialogue makes it much better. Easier to read and easier to read funny in your head. This even though (as I recall) I didn’t really change the lines or where they were placed. Just putting them in different character’s mouths changed how the scene played.

I still use “the computer had 16 colors, and three of them were grey” to talk about what computing in the 80s was like. “We may not have been there, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know all about it” is a line I don’t use much but appreciate for the attitude it captures.

There’s lines in there about all the big eight-bit computers but my experience was centered on the Commodore 64 so that’s where the jokes default. Also note how in 2002 when I wrote this I somehow couldn’t think of a more universal annoying computer experience than “there’s a lot of spam in that there e-mail thing, you know”.


>
> Part Eight
>

JOEL: We’re going to have every part except the one that completes the jigsaw puzzle.

> Since Phong wasn’t able to do much more for them,

TOM: He’s genial, but kind of helpless.

> and had
> responsibilities for running the Principle Office,

CROW: That’s where they get their ethics.

> Bob and Carrie
> headed back to his apartment to try and work out how to get Carrie
> home.

JOEL: Why doesn’t Carrie just try saying "Xyzzy" some?

> On the way there, Bob called Dot and told her to meet him at
> his apartment.

TOM: But in a wacky mixup they go to different Bob’s apartments!

> On the way there, Bob began to ask Carrie about her
> home. He was curious to know what it was like.

JOEL: [ As Bob ] So, do you have people where you come from?

TOM: [ As Carrie ] I don’t know… I never talked to one.

> As Carrie was
> describing her hometown, the sky suddenly darkened, and the sound of
> crackling static could be heard everywhere. "WARNING! INCOMING GAME!
> WARNING! INCOMING GAME!"

CROW: Red alert! It’s the Atari 2600 "E.T." cartridge!

JOEL: We’re surrounded! It’s "Superman" in the other direction!

>
> As the voice boomed through the sky, Bob cursed quietly under
> his breath. "Not now!!" He shouted, "Why now!?!"

TOM: Why not? You got someplace else to be?

> Carrie looked at
> him, fear etched into her delicate features. Bob looked over at her.
> *What am I going to do?* he thought, *I can’t let that game close
> without me, but I don’t want to endanger Carrie!*

JOEL: [ As Carrie ] Oh, all right, you go and *play* your little *game*, dear, I’ll wait up for *you*, I don’t have anything else to do.

> Bob saw the fear
> flash in Carrie’s eyes, then she smiled and the fear changed to
> burning fire. "What are you waiting for?"

CROW: I want to check the web site for cheat codes first.

> she asked, "We can’t let
> that game drop onto that empty sector, or it’ll be nullified for sure
> with no one to beat the User.

TOM: So get in there fast, before nobody’s at risk!

> You’re the one who knows the most about
> games,

CROW: You and Sid Meier.

> you’ve got to go." Bob marveled at her courage. "I’m not
> willing to risk your life!" He said.

TOM: Oh, just burn a copy of her to CD and don’t worry about it.

> Carrie shifted in her seat so
> that she was facing him squarely. "You don’t have a choice!" She
> shouted over the static, "The whole sector will get nullified if you
> don’t enter that Game!!"

JOEL: They should really just turn "disasters off" and maybe try auto-budgeting too.

CROW: There’s also the .% bond trick.

> Bob stared at her, then turned his car
> sharply. The engine in his 262 whined

TOM: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…ricky…

> as it strained to pick up
> speed. "Hang on!" Bob shouted, "This is gonna be close!!"
>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *

CROW: Made it in just under the chapter break.

>
> Part Nine
>
> Carrie opened her eyes slowly.

CROW: o/~ Ding o/~ Welcome to Carrie OS.

> She had tried to enter the
> game as fearlessly as Bob, but it had gotten the best of her and she
> had closed her eyes in fright.

TOM: She’s afraid of Q*Bert?

> As her eyes focused in the dim light,
> she began to recognize her surroundings. They were standing in a
> large cavern lit by a single flickering torch.

JOEL: She’s in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.

> "I know this game…"
> Bob started. "It’s Crystal Chambers."

TOM: That’s not a video game, that’s a porn starlet.

[ JOEL, CROW look at TOM. ]

CROW: I think it’s the one with the bear collecting gems.

> Carrie said, and Bob turned,
> surprised. "The idea is to be the first to get to the final chamber a
> retrive the artifact without releasing any of the traps."

CROW: Hey, it’s inhumane to keep traps all trapped up like that!

JOEL: Let the traps go!

> Bob just
> stared at her, and Carrie giggled. "Don’t look so shocked, I’ve
> played this game before.

TOM: And make sure you don’t get caught by the Wumpus.

> I know all the secrets."

JOEL: Boy, she’s just got the *best* luck.

> Feeling confident,
> she reached up and touched her icon twice gently. "ReBoot!"

TOM: Ribbit!

> She
> could feel a wave of energy sweep over her. When it was gone, she
> opened her eyes and turned to Bob. "ReBoot!"

CROW: C’mon, reboot, darned you! Aw… would you jiggle the thing?

>
> Bob was surrounded by a beam of fluorescent green energy.

JOEL: [ Electrocution noises ] Buzzuzzuzzuzuzzuzzuzzerzzzert!

> When the beam faded, Carrie’s eyes began to wander down along Bob’s
> well formatted body.

TOM: Unfortunately, she was Mac, he was MS-DOS… they could never get along.

> His blue uniform had morphed into a worn leather
> jacket over a white shirt with brown pants and hiking boots.

JOEL: It’s a digital Fonzie.

> He was
> equipped with a carrying bag and a long bullwhip. Sitting fashionably
> on the top of his head was a rather beat-up looking fedora.

CROW: This is a weird Dixon Hill episode.

> He turned
> to face Carrie, and her heart skipped a beat.

TOM: Null pointer error in class Heart method advance(int beat).

> In that outfit, he
> looked absolutely stunning!! She let her eyes trace his body once
> again, then carefully returned his gaze.

CROW, TOM: [ In unison ] "What is ‘kiss’?"

> "You look like Indiana
> Jones." Carrie remarked, placing her hand on her hip. "You don’t
> look so bad yourself." Bob smirked, but his real thoughts were very
> different.

TOM: [ As Bob ] Who’s this Deanna Jones I’m supposed to be in?

> Carrie was wearing short cutoff jeans with a baby blue
> midriff blouse tied in a knot. She had tall brown boots with a long
> jewelled dagger attached to the right one. She also had a large gun
> holsted around her waist.

JOEL: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Daisy Dukes.

>
> *Wow!* Bob thought, *She looks awesome! I wonder if she
> dresses like that at home?*

TOM: And he accidentally sends that to an IRC channel.

> Then he reached up and tilted the fedora
> slightly. "Well," he said,

CROW: The problems of two sprites don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy mixed-up world…

> "If we’re gonna win this game, we better
> get a move on."

JOEL: They’re stored on ROM page four. We can get any move we need.

> Reaching up, he removed the torch from its holder,
> and they moved forward together into the unknown.
>

TOM: Let’s get back to the real game.

JOEL: [ Picking up TOM ] Works for me.

[ ALL leave. ]

[ 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6.. ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. The Monopoly set is on the center of the
table; GYPSY, CROW, JOEL, and TOM are gathered around to play.
All their tokens are on "Go" — the game is about to start.
JOEL rolls the dice. ]

JOEL: OK, that’s a six, that puts Gypsy [ moving her piece ] on the
State Forests edition … you want to buy it?

GYPSY: Yeah.

TOM: [ As JOEL takes cash from GYPSY’s pile, and gives a title card ]
Joel, what is it with human fantasies about going into the
computer’s world?

CROW: Yeah, there’s Reboot, there’s Tron, there’s … um …

TOM: Uh …

[ An awkward pause. JOEL rolls the dice, and advances MAGIC VOICE’s token ]

JOEL: [ Not paying attention as TOM and CROW think of an example ] You want the Peanuts edition?

MAGIC VOICE: Yes, please.

GYPSY: I hope I get the Lionel Train edition.

CROW: There’s…

[ As JOEL takes cash from MAGIC VOICE’s pile and turns over a card ]

GYPSY: Automan.

CROW: [ Leaping on it ] Yeah! Automan!

TOM: Yeah, and … uh … well, just lots of stuff. What’s with it?

JOEL: [ Rolling ] Ooh, sorry, Tom, you got a four.

TOM: [ As JOEL moves his piece to "Income Tax" ] Aw, sheesh. Still.

JOEL: [ Taking 10 percent from TOM’s pile. ] In the 80s we suddenly
had computers going from the mysterious impersonal things sending
Johnny Carson comically misaddressed letters to these curious and
friendly things in every home.

CROW: [ As JOEL rolls, and moves CROW’s piece up seven. ] Ooh, chance.

JOEL: [ Taking a card. ] Advance to London Edition.

CROW: I’ll take it. So, what, people just jumped on the newest thing?

JOEL: [ Rolling, advancing his piece to GYPSY’s, and giving her some cash. ] Well, there were a lot of articles about how computers think differently from you and me … me, anyway. How everything’s binary, yes/no, on/off, how they could turn ninety degrees but not just a smidgen to the side … it fired the imagination, there was this alien worldview there for the price of an RF adaptor to hook your Color Computer up to the living room set.

TOM: And that’s an excuse to put Desi Arnaz Junior on TV?

JOEL: Hey, the eight-bit computing era was a great time.

CROW: Hold on now. We may not have been there, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know all about it.

TOM: Mostly it was people saying you could keep recipes on an Atari 800 and being deservedly ridiculed.

JOEL: The Micro Adventure book series gave us a world of international espionage with the fantasy of portable computers and secret messages given us in X-Men comics. A few far-thinkers worked out schemes where two programs would run at the same time but we never knew why we’d want to.

TOM: The computer had sixteen colors, and three of them were grey.

CROW: It was an achievement to have both text and a graphic on screen.

JOEL: Or it was HIRES2 mode.

GYPSY: They thought everybody would have to learn BASIC.

JOEL: We knew something about Wordstar.

TOM: Another point for us.

CROW: You had to *type in* programs, especially if you forgot your *tape* drive.

JOEL: [ Noddding, happily ] And there were rumors how if you used the modem just right you could get free phone calls, of if you had the right sound programs you didn’t need a modem, you could just hold the phone up to the TV set.

GYPSY: Couldn’t you lose your program by looking at the disk directory?

JOEL: Yeah, if you didn’t move the start of memory for the listing, like who didn’t know how to do that?

CROW: Radio Shack pushed comic books.

JOEL: The Microcomputer Kids told us Superman’s brain was exactly as powerful as a TRS-80 Model I.

TOM: That was the pre-Crisis Superman, right?

JOEL: Yeah.

CROW: Mmm… that’s probably fair.

JOEL: They also said someday in the future we’d read the Metropolis Daily Planet on the computer, and play chess with students thousands of miles away, and shop online or even send electronic mail messages.

TOM: Yeah, the Coleco Adam was a slice of the 21st century dropped on your desk.

JOEL: We knew how to swap out ROM and fix the ASC function bug even if we never used it, ever.

TOM: The only thing animated on a computer was that guy juggling checkered balls on Amiga screens.

JOEL: Yeah! They’d never imagine the movie Rocky and Bullwinkle, Scooby-Doo, or Stuart Little 2.

CROW: Your disk drive got faster if you blanked out the screen.

JOEL: A good seven percent faster! Try that on today’s hardware.

TOM: And it went out of alignment whenever anybody in the county sneezed.

JOEL: Mine never did. Except once.

GYPSY: Wasn’t there a save-with-replace bug?

JOEL: Yeah, but if you remember how the 4040 turned into the 1540 and then the 1541 and 1571 it was completely avoidable. A lot of the time.

TOM: 3-2-1 Contact magazine claimed you needed to know what "modem" stands for.

JOEL: That was Enter magazine. It only folded *into* 3-2-1 Contact.

CROW: They put membrane keyboards on computers!

JOEL: On the Mattel Aquarius. We didn’t buy it then either.

GYPSY: A sprite could have color or be big enough to see.

TOM: The only messaging was to whoever logged on the bulletin board system after you freed up the line.

JOEL: But they helped you change your cursor to the USS Discovery from "2001".

CROW: You never got an upgrade or a bug patch either.

JOEL: And the computer was ready the second you turned on the power.

TOM: They tried to sell people the Commodore 16.

JOEL: And then somehow we got GEOS, Omni bought out Compute!’s Gazette and in the blink of an eye it was all gone. Computers became an expensive way to play solitaire and get fifty unwanted e-mails a day. But for a little while there was magic, there was love, there was a dream that was … Camelot.

CROW: And it came with lines to change if you were typing it in to an Apple IIc.

MAGIC VOICE: Commercial sign in five seconds.

JOEL: It was a golden age.

TOM: The computers were slow, cranky, and awkward.

[ COMMERCIAL SIGN flashes ]

JOEL: They couldn’t have been better. We’ll be right back.

[ JOEL taps COMMERCIAL SIGN. ]

[ to continue … ]

MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 3 of 16)


Welcome back to my tour of old Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction. This piece from around 2003 is “Breaking the Barriers”, a Reboot fanfic by Carrie L—. Name truncated because the protagonist is a version of the author. While she was happy with my writing in 2003, I don’t know that this would not be horribly embarrassing eighteen years later.

The entirety of this MiSTing is, or should be, at this link. In the first part a mysterious computer thingy brought Carrie into the world of her computer. In the second part she got to meet Bob and Phong and other characters of the Reboot show she loves.

I come down surprisingly hard on the idea that Reboot is a popular show here. I don’t know; the joke seems quite petty. My recollection is that even at the time it was obvious Reboot would be a show people remembered and that would have influence, even if it wasn’t an Animaniacs-class success. One problem with the MiSTing habit is snarking mindlessly. Good snark, I suspect, needs to target sloppy or malicious thinking. “I like this cartoon” is neither sloppy nor malicious.


>
> Part Six
>
> Taking a deep breath,

TOM: Hey, give that back!

> Carrie sat up, but then looked down at
> the floor.

JOEL: The action here has the flow of a game of Arkanoid.

> "What I’m going to tell you is confidential," She
> whispered,

CROW: So I hope you’re just very confident.

> "and it’s going to sound like I’ve gone random.

TOM: But I’m really just sampling voice chip three.

> You have
> got to believe me, I could not just make this up."

ALL: MAKEUP!

[ JOEL pulls out a pillow, bops TOM, CROW. ]

> She looked up to
> find Bob and Phong watching her with rapt attention.

CROW: You got — you got something on — something on your — right —

> Licking her lips
> unconciously,

TOM: She’s going to have to get some CyberLip Balm if she keeps doing that.

> Carrie began to run through what she was going to say,
> in her mind.

JOEL: I probably shouldn’t talk too much about radiator fluids, it’s just too much of a diversion.

>
> "I come from a place called Earth."

CROW: [ As Bob ] You do? Do you know Peter?

> She said, "I am a human,
> not a sprite.

TOM: I am not a binary-coded-decimal number!

> Where I come from, you aren’t supposed to really
> exist."

JOEL: You’re just a metaphor for improved comprehension.

> she smiled a little at Bob’s startled reaction,

TOM: [ As Bob ] Yeah, well, where we come from *you* don’t exist, so double-dumb nyah on you!

> then kept
> going. "You see, where I am from, you are known only

CROW: To a select group of Cartoon Network junkies.

> as characters in
> a cartoon. Now I’m sure you’re wondering what a cartoon is,

JOEL: And why I’ve brought you here together.

> but I’ll
> have to explain that some other time."

TOM: Next time she’s freakishly pulled into the world of a cartoon?

> She raced through all the
> things she could say,

CROW: I bet there are some things she *could* say that she is *not* considering.

> and all the things she couldn’t say.

JOEL: Saying them would violate the Prime Directive.

> "This
> cartoon is called ‘ReBoot’, and it is very popular.

CROW: …mostly among people who ever bid more than thirty dollars on eBay for an SLP recording of the Transformers where Sea Spray meets the mermaid.

> You were
> wondering why I knew who you were, it’s because,

TOM: I’m assembling you into my Impossible Missions force.

> in this show, you are
> the main character.

CROW: Unless it’s that year you don’t appear at all.

> Anyone who’s even seen just part of the show
> knows who Bob is because you’re in every episode."

TOM: OK, OK, Bob’s the king of the world, OK? Good for you.

>
> It was then that Carrie realized that Phong had moved to his
> retrieval Vid- Window,

TOM: Which immediately crashes.

> and was skimming through the information there.

CROW: Huh … make money fast sending emails to pet kittens at home…

> "What are you looking for, Phong?" Bob asked, curiously.

JOEL: Phong? The fish is ready.

> Phong
> looked up at him, then at Carrie.

TOM: Sorry, I stumbled on the "Red Hot RS-232C Action" site by mistake.

> "I remembered hearing a story once
> before

JOEL: It was amusing. I liked it.

> about a species called ‘humans’, and I am looking to see if I
> can find a reference to them."

CROW: So far Google’s returned 2,038 billion sites, and a cute cartoon of a guy getting gumballs out of an ‘o’ in its logo.

> Phong began to race through the
> information, as Bob went over to see what he was looking at. "Ah,
> here it is." Phong said,

TOM: Search results found. Entries deleted. Have a nice day.

> "The term ‘human’ was once used by a visitor
> to another system, by the name of Jeff Bridges.

JOEL: A system named Jeff Bridges?

CROW: They’re so advanced they can get the behind-the-scenes documentary of "Tron."

> He claimed to come
> from Earth, just as you do." Phong looked up at Carrie, and she
> swallowed hard.

TOM: [ As Carrie ] I knew I shouldn’t have written all those tank programs!

>
> "That’s not the only way you know humans." She said, and
> Phong looked surprised.

CROW: Does taking the clown hat off help you recognize us?

> "And how else should we know of ‘humans’?" he
> asked.

JOEL: Have you tried our web site? http://www.humans.int/ ?

> Carrie looked down at her feet, and stayed silent, not sure
> how to tell them.

TOM: [ As Carrie ] Hey, when’d I get ruby slippers?

> She felt a hand on her shoulder, and looked up.

CROW: Why, thank you, Thing.

> She found herself looking into Bob’s eyes as he sat down next to her.
> "It’s O.K.," he said, quietly, "you can tell us." As he flashed her
> his killer smile, her fears and her heart, began to melt.

TOM: This is what happens when the cooling fan breaks.

CROW: They should’ve packed her on dry ice.

> "Well,"
> she whispered, "Not only am I human, but when I am home on Earth, I
> would be known to you as…."

JOEL: Darkwing Duck!

> She swallowed and looked at Bob for
> reassurance. When he smiled and placed his hand on her shoulder
> again,

CROW: They’re running out of hands there.

TOM: Shoulders too.

> she looked up at the ceiling and took a deep breath. "I am
> known to you as a ‘User’."

JOEL: I had no respect for individuals, just what I could make them do.

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * *

CROW: It’s a badly written square root sign.

>
> Part Seven
>
> Carrie sat silently as Phong and Bob stared at her in shock
> and disbelief.

TOM: [ As Phong ] Another one of *these*.

CROW: [ As Bob ] I tell ya, full moon, that’s when the crazies come out.

> She had known this was going to happen eventually, and
> she was sure that they would think she was random.

TOM: Why is telling them she’s a User going to make them like her more?

> Instead of smiling
> nicely and then quietly locking her away, Bob stood up. "I don’t know
> what to say." he whispered,

CROW: Perhaps I could use a Markov chain generator to create some generic poetry product for you.

> and then turned slightly, avoiding her
> gaze. Carrie clasped her hands together, and looked at him with
> pleading eyes. "I know how bad it sounds," she whispered, "but you’ve
> got to believe me.

TOM: Why?

> This is the truth, no matter how weird it sounds."
> She let her eyes trace his gorgeous profile, looking for any signs of
> belief, or slight acceptance.
>
> As she watched his face began to change, slowly.

JOEL: Uhoh. Morph programs. Trouble.

> Then he did
> something unexpected, he whirled around to face her, his face a mask
> of fierce concentration and withheld emotions.

TOM: Must… be… bland!

> "I can’t accept that
> you’re a User!" He almost shouted, "The User is threat to the sprites
> of Mainframe!"

CROW: This pretty accurately gets how computers feel about their users.

> He looked down at the floor, his hands clenched into
> fists at his sides, breathing hard with the exertion used to hold back
> his anger. Carrie sat back, surprised and shocked at the outburst.

TOM: [ As Carrie ] I just know they’re going to think I’m a Mary Sue…

> Her throat constricted, and she could feel tears begin to burn in her
> eyes. The last thing she had wanted to do was to upset Bob or anyone,
> and now she had done just that.

JOEL: Oh, *that’s* what she did. I forgot.

> She waited for him to storm away or
> hit something, she was sure he was mad at her.

TOM: [ As Bob ] I oughta interrupt your raster vectoring…

> "I just can’t accept
> that." he whispered, then looked up at her, his eyes glistening with
> tears of his own.

JOEL: Hey, there’s no crying in cyberspace!

> "I know you can’t be a User because you just don’t
> come across as one."

CROW: That sounds like a major dis, really.

>
> Carrie slid gracefully off the bio-bed, and walked forward.
> She stopped just in front of him, and looked up into his eyes.

TOM: Is she shrinking?

CROW: She’s conserving disk space.

> "I
> know you don’t believe me," she said, "but you’re going to have to. I
> can’t stay here, I have to return to Earth and my home."

JOEL: So she can get on the ‘net and sit there all week.

> Bob just
> looked at her for a while, but couldn’t say anything. "I know that
> you have the ability to get me back home." Carrie said,

CROW: Yeah, right after he gets the kid from Voyager, the Dungeons and Dragons kids, Samurai Jack, and Kidd Video back home.

TOM: I’m going to stick around until he gets the kid from Liddsville home, and that’s it.

> "I just hope
> you’re willing to believe me enough to do it." Bob looked away for a
> bit, deep in thought, then turned back to face her.

TOM: [ Harshly ] Abort, Retry… [ Softly ] Ignore?

> "I don’t know if
> I can," he sighed, " No Mainframer has ever been to the world of the
> User, so I don’t think there’s anyway you can get there."

JOEL: Well. Can you direct me to Max Headroom, then?

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *

TOM: That’s a signature so abstract nobody knows who it is.

[ To continue … ]

What’s Going On In Mark Trail? How did turning off the headlights help Mark Trail evade that car? May – July 2021


There’s a point in Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail’s current story where Mark Trail’s in a nighttime car chase. He tells the driver to turn off the headlights. This confuses the pursuers, Diana Daggers and Bee Sharp, but only for a few moments. I’m not sure why it’s supposed to work. I get the idea is to make the car as invisible as possible at night and go in a direction that Daggers and Sharp can’t see. But it’s not clear in the panels that there’s anywhere to go. They can’t have gone far off the road, after all, not in the couple seconds we see. This might be a problem of the limited time and space the strip has. In a movie, one good overhead shot of a complicated city street would address the question. I’m sorry not to have a more definite answer.

So this should bring you up to date on Mark Trail’s stories, as of late March 2021. If you’re reading this after about October 2021 there may be a more useful plot recap at this link. Thanks for considering me as a source for Mark Trail information.

Mark Trail.

2 May – 24 July 2021.

We had two story threads going, last time I checked in. Mark Trail was in Los Angeles as his odd charms landed him a music video cameo with rapper Reptiliannaire. Meanwhile Cherry Trail’s landscaping company was having trouble with the Sunny Soleil homeowners association. The plots have nothing to do with one another. So the strip’s done two weeks with Mark and then a week with Cherry. For sake of clarity I’ll re-separate the plot recaps, and start with Cherry’s.

Cherry Trail saw her big landscaping project, the roundabout near the Planet Pancake diner, had been demolished. Violet Cheshire, of the Sunny Soleil society, tore out all the “savage jungle brush” in favor of butterfly bushes. Butterfly bushes, I learn from this, attract butterflies but are not good for them. Butterflies like the plants, but the larva they lay on them can’t eat the leaves, which sucks for the next generation of larvae.

Narrator: 'Cherry and her brother Dirk have unleashed feral hogs onto the Sunny Soleil Society's butterfly bushes ... to eat them!' (The hogs chew down on the plants. A lot.) Chery: 'Dirk ... how do we ... make them stop?' Narrator: 'Cherry, they don't call it 'pigging out' for nothing.'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 2nd of July, 2021. Also, over the last couple months the narration box has rather stepped up. It’s providing exposition still, yes, but it’s been showing more flair, more personality. It’s not quite pre-snarking the strips for us, but it’s getting there. I enjoy this. Narration boxes have fallen out of favor in comic strips (and, it is my understanding, comic books) but they carry some expository loads well. Having that delivered with a smile? I like that. It’s a gentle reinforcement of the light tone for the story. Makes me feel that Rivera is getting the whole comic better balanced.

So she calls her brother Dirk Davis. He’s one of those I-hate-the-government recluses who knows how to wrangle a herd of feral hogs onto a truck bed and leave them off where they can devour a landscaped roundabout in minutes. You know, like that friend your younger brother still has from high school somehow. It’s an awesome scene of destruction that leaves Cherry ashamed of what she wrought.

Also awesomely destroyed: Violet Cheshire, trying to drown her sorrows in pancakes and syrup. Cherry tries to say something consoling. “I mean, sometimes a pack of eight feral hogs will happen to appear at a reserve of invasive butterfly bushes between 11:35 and 11:55 on a Friday night,” she offers. Violet suspects Cherry knows something about the destruction. And, in a moment that surprised me, Cherry owned up. I’d had thought she could bluff through it. But she’s feeling guilty and Violet’s feeling desperate. They agree to work together fixing this.


Now to Mark Trail’s story. He was hanging out with Reptiliannaire and the Herp Hacienda gang. They suggest he hit the sack early, like, before sundown even. Mark eavesdrops. The gang is reminding each other why they’re angry at “Cricket Bro” Rob Bettancourt. (Yes, this is people telling each other stuff they already know. But I absolutely believe in a group of people talking about how they were all screwed by the same ex-friend.) He’s the tech-millionaire-turned-cricket-protein-seller who hosted the party they just came from. Bettancourt had sponsored the Herp Hacienda and their reptile-rescue(?) sideline. This until they learned he was using spying on them. (I’m not clear whether he was spying on the group or on the reptiles themselves. I’m also not sure why he would bother. But there is a streak of tech guy that figures everybody not them should be under surveillance, so, fine.) And he impounded Aparna’s laptop. She’d been developing an app for testing air quality for animals. This so people would be better able to judge when to keep animals indoors for safer breathing.

Mark Trail: 'All my problems with Cricket Bro began when I broke his dad's magnifying glass.' [ Flashbacks ] 'I had to write an apology and do my dad's granola commercials to work off replacing that magnifier ... but the adults didn't seem to care he had used it to burn ants. That day I learned people love to protect nature, until it's time to protect their property.'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 11th of May, 2021. The clash between what people say their ideals are and what their revealed preferences are? This is absolutely a childhood trauma I believe for Mark Trail. And, for that matter, many people who care about the environment.

So this gives the heist a goal: get the laptop that has the impounded “Air For All” app code. I admit I don’t understand why Cricket Bro wants this suppressed, but accept it under the “tech millionaires are jerks” rule. I also don’t understand why Aparna didn’t have her own copy. I mean, they sell 256 GB Flash drives. But I’ll accept that as a “didn’t expect to need an off-site backup” case. I also don’t understand why she can’t rewrite it. Maybe it requires models that she no longer has access to. I grant that I would be much harder on these same plot points if they turned up in, say, Funky Winkerbean. But I feel justified in my anger at Funky Winkerbean. Rivera I’m willing still to suppose there are reasons for things not explained.

Mark Trail’s way into this heist idea. He’s got a history back to childhood of not liking Bettancourt. And he hasn’t stolen anything since those motorboats last plot. He’s overdue. At the party earlier Bettancourt offered Mark Trail “help” with his career. So Mark calls, feigning interest. Bettancourt’s got a great idea. How about some interaction between “Marky” Trail and his pop-science celebrity Professor “Killer” Bee Sharp?

Narrator: 'Meanwhile, the Herp Hacienda friends search for the prized laptop.' Aparna: 'Here's the development room!' Reptiliannaire: 'That's wild. They never changed the security codes after you left?' Aparna: 'Tech bros act lazy and call it a 'life hack'.' (Inside the room) Aparna: 'Start checking the laptop serial numbers! It's one of these.' Reptiliannaire: 'This might take a while. Can Mark buy us enough time?' Cut to the boxing. Narrator: 'The better question is can Mark's *face* buy them enough time?'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 17th of June, 2021. Now this strains plausibility some. If I know anything about tech bros they might well have changed the code (1793) to the other code they use (2684).

The plan: Mark Trail will talk to Bettancourt long enough to distract him while the Herp Hacienda guys steal the laptop. (Why would the laptop not have been wiped clean? Aparna is betting on the tech guys being too lazy to bother. I accept this; I understand if you do not.) How do the Herp Hacienda gang get into Bettancourt’s facility when only Mark Trail was invited? Professor Bee Sharp is enough of a celebrity that the gang can say they couldn’t pass up the chance to get to meet him. And the Professor is enough of a narcissist to buy that.

Bettancourt has an even better idea than talking about a Mark Trail/Bee Sharp interaction. Why not have them do something for real right now? He knows a director and everything, and here he is. Also, instead of, like, two pop-science guys enthusing over one another, why not have them punch each other? So that’s why it’s a sudden boxing match.

A boxing match is good and distracting, though, and Aparna and crew have time to find the laptop. When they take it out of the charging docks, it sets off an alarm, though. It’s a race against time to upload the source code to the Internet, which the upload wins.

Mark Trail: 'Aparna! Get out of here!' Aparna: 'Not till I face Cricket Bro! Remember me? You said my work was worthless before tossing me out!' Cricket Bro Rob Bettancourt: 'So? I say taht to everyone before I fire them!' Aparna, showing the laptop; 'If my work is so worthless, then you shouldn't mind if I upload the source code to the Internet.' Bettancourt: 'Wait, What? No!'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 24th of June, 2021. I agree with Aparna on the principle that if the company’s declared something is worthless, there’s nothing wrong in giving it away, on the same principle that when you throw something out anyone can just come and take it. I suppose the courts aren’t as open-minded about this. On the other hand, there’s an excellent chance the judge would have no idea what a source code is or how it could be stolen if it’s still right there on the laptop. I like Aparna’s dinosaur/lizard hoodie. I’m surprised she’s using plain old FTP instead of at least SFTP.

So now it’s about escaping. Bee Sharp’s manager, Diana Daggers, wants to catch Mark Trail on camera, “breaking and entering” the Cricket Bro tech labs. I don’t know why she thinks that’s important. I only have the knowledge of the law that you get from being on a student newspaper in the early 90s. But whatever laws Mark Trail did violate there, none of them were about breaking or entering. He came at the owner’s invitation. I also don’t get what’s important about getting him on camera fleeing. There were plenty of witnesses that he was there. They might even have video of him boxing with Bee Sharp. The thing to get him on is conspiring with people who stole company property. I don’t get where video of Mark Trail fleeing matters.

Daggers is angry about Mark Trail punching Bee Sharp, which, fair enough. But it was in a boxing match that Bee Sharp presumably agreed to.

Mark Trail, in the car: 'Rep, where are you taking us? That last run-in was way too close!' Reptiliannaire: 'We're going where all the cool cats in hybrids hang out on a weeknight! ... The farmers market!'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 16th of July, 2021. OK yes, if I were having someone stay with me a few days I’d want to show them to the farmers market in town. But you have to understand, the tuba museum diner closed years ago, we have to go with what we still have.

Daggers and Sharp, in a faster car, chase Trail and gang. This leads to the headlight trick mentioned at the start of this essay. Since they’re found the moment they move, Mark Trail thinks of a better plan. That’s camouflage. Where to hide a green hybrid in the city on a weeknight? … Well, the farmers market, that’s where. I laughed. It’s silly, but jabs close enough to me that I respect it. I understand if you do not. Sharp concedes that Mark Trail has escaped … but also that this is not over.

What is over, though, is the window for my plot recapping here. We’ll see how these stories resolve over the weeks ahead and I’ll recap them in about three months, if all goes well.

Sunday Animals Watch

A neat and understated bit about the animals here? Nearly all of them have had some appearance in the comic strip dailies. Not always the same week as their Sunday appearance. Like, the Burrowing owls were mentioned as being around Los Angeles International Airport. And one’s seen in the daily strip when Mark Trail arrived in Los Angeles. I like that.

  • Sabal palms, 2 May 2021. Imported into southern California and somehow not an ecological disaster, which is a nice change of pace.
  • Burrowing owls, 9 May 2021. Hanging around LAX, which is nice.
  • Coyotes, 16 May 2021. Yes, roadrunners are coming.
  • Native grasses, 23 May 2021. I’d love to have more native grasses on our lawn but I live in mid-Michigan so the ecologically correct thing is to be a marshland. This is hard to mow.
  • Peregrine falcons, 30 May 2021. I’m old enough to remember when it seemed inevitable they were going to go extinct so, uh, it’s possible for good things to happen in the environment.
  • Mountain lions, 6 June 2021. The Sunday panel isn’t just listing all 640 common names for these animals, but it’s close.
  • Muscovy ducks, 13 June 2021. OK, did not know they were invasive. That’s inconvenient.
  • Butterfly bushes, 20 June 2021. I never even heard of these before this story but now I know of a new kind of invasive plant to feel bad about.
  • Black-tailed jackrabbits, 27 June 2021. Featuring illustrations of jackrabbits standing upright, and you’ll want to see that because they look weird when they do.
  • Feral hogs, 4 July 2021. Mark Trail points out how the 80s were an ecological disaster, which yes, but it understates how much everything else was a disaster. The eight-bit computers were pretty great, though.
  • Grizzly bears, 11 July 2021. Mark Trail takes a moment to process his feelings about the California Grizzly’s extinction, which I’m guessing is him playing to stereotype? Amusing, though.
  • Roadrunners, 18 July 2021. Will say I was worried for the roadrunners along the roads during Mark Trail’s car chase.
  • Butterflies, 25 July 2021. Butterflies are free. What does that mean? It means you can have all of them you want.

Next Week!

Stolen watches! Messy, emotional backstory break-ups! Women scheming for the love and/or wallet of Dr Drew Cory! All this and quotes of dubious authenticity in Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth, to be reviewed in a week, if all goes well.

MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 2 of 16)


Welcome back to my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic treatment of Carrie L—‘s Reboot fanfic “Breaking The Barriers”. Everything posted from “Breaking the Barriers” should be at this link”. And all of my reposted MiSTings should be at this link, someday.

In the first part of this story, Carrie L—, Canadian author, admired how many things there were on the Internet. (Name partly redacted because this was a self-insertion fanfic and I don’t wish to force the author to be too easily embarrassed, if she would be.) Then came a mysterious error and she woke to discover she’s now one of those things. Join us now as she wakes to meet the cast of Reboot.

I don’t remember why I took on this MiSTing. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t only for the chance to toss in a bunch of old-time-even-then computer jokes. But it would be like me for that. Crow’s line about “Just go 4C E2 FC” is the machine language instructions for a Commodore 64 to reset the computer. There are a bunch of good dumb jokes I still like, such as Phong inquiring as to Carrie’s former appearance, or Joel’s energy shake. Hope you enjoy.

It was an article of Internet lore in the 90s that you could only get decaffeinated Mountain Dew in Canada. I don’t know whether that was true, or true in a shaded way, like, it only had less caffeine. But that’s what makes that line a correctly formed joke, which to a know-it-all like me is even better than a funny joke.


>
> Part Three

JOEL: The part of the third part will be known in this fanfic as the part of the third part.

>
> After a bit of confusion,

ALL: [ Muttering loudly to themselves, to the effect of "Where am I? Who are you? Where are we? What’s going on? Should we be doing something? ]

TOM: At some point she might want to ask how she got there.

> Carrie managed to calm down and was
> able to answer and ask questions normally.

CROW: [ As Carrie ] Oh, I dunno, what do you wanna do?

JOEL: [ As Bob ] I dunno. What do you wanna do?

> Looking up from the energy
> shake she had been given,

TOM: You’re sure I can’t get that supersized?

> Carrie found herself once again staring into
> those eyes.

JOEL: You have a liiiiiittle booger, right there.

>
> "You really are Bob, aren’t you?" she asked, sheepishly.
> "Last time I checked." he said, then he looked at her funny.

CROW: What was Mister Carlin telling you?

> "How do
> you know me?"

TOM: Let me count the ways.

> he asked, "I know you’re not from Mainframe." Looking
> back down at her energy shake,

JOEL: So she’s got no tea, right?

> Carrie tried to think of a good answer.

CROW: How would it be if I just spelled Mississippi?

> "Uh…well…you’re pretty well known where I come from."

TOM: In about the same way that Mister Spaceley is a leading industrialist back where she comes from.

> She said,
> then took a cautious sip of her shake.

JOEL: It was unlike any shake she had cautiously sipped before.

> It was as if she were drinking
> adrenaline or something.

TOM: MM-mmm. Endocrine solutions, just like Mom used to distill.

> Her whole body felt revitalized and her head
> started to clear. With a feeling of both surprise and pleasure, she
> started to gulp down the shake.

TOM: What the — no, get your head out of there! You’ll get stuck!

>
> "Whoa!" Bob said, "Be careful or you’re gonna choke!"

JOEL: Oh, and your face will freeze like that.

> Putting
> her drink down, Carrie smiled shyly. "I’ve never tasted, or felt,

CROW: Or deliberately bathed in…

> anything like that before!" she said. "You mean you’ve never had an
> energy shake?"

JOEL: I think an energy shake would go something… like this.
[ ALL stand up and start wiggling around. ]

> Bob asked, surprised. "No," Carrie whispered, "They
> don’t have these where I come from."

TOM: Yeah, they decaffeinate Mountain Dew too.

> She looked back up at Bob, and
> found him staring at her.

CROW: Sooner or later, one of them has to blink.

> "Just where do you come from anyway?" He
> asked.

TOM: Come from. Go to’s considered harmful.

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *

CROW: The barriers will never heal if you don’t stop picking at them.

>
> Part Four
>
> Carrie swallowed hard. How was she going to explain the fact
> that she was a user to Bob without him thinking

CROW: You could jingle your car keys and distract him.

> she was completely
> random?

JOEL: Don’t throw in an unpredictable series of digits?

> She glanced down at her feet,

TOM: [ As Carrie ] Wait a minute, *three*?

> thinking of something to say,
> when she realized that her shoes and clothes were all wrong.

CROW: They were *so* fifteen milliseconds ago.

> Instead
> of her usual blue jeans and high-top runners, she was wearing black
> leather pants

JOEL: And felt-tip socks.

> and knee-high black boots. Each boot had a symbol

CROW: And vice-versa.

> crested at the top under the knee, a black and white bisected circle,

JOEL: The mark of the standardized test!

> impaled by a black and white diamond. She stretched her arms out and
> began to examine the sleeves of her shirt.

TOM: Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!

CROW: But that trick *never* works!

> What had been a plain grey
> sweatshirt, was now a maroon bodysuit

CROW: Without that suit, she wouldn’t have a body at all.

> with chrome trim.

TOM: And huge fins and that Edsel horse-collar grille.

> Her hands,
> once the sun-kissed brown

JOEL: If the sun kissed me I’d probably get third degree burns.

> of a Native-Canadian, had instead become an
> aquamarine colour.

CROW: Of a Newfoundlander.

JOEL: Or one of Namor’s armies.

>
> With a starled gasp, she jumped off the couch and ran to the
> mirror on the other side of the room.

TOM: Bob keeps that mirror around so he can put on his makeup.

> The face that stared back at
> her bore the same aquamarine colour as her hands, and she now had
> metallic blue hair.

JOEL: I guess she’s going through her Blue Period.

TOM: She’s really got to *steel* herself for this look!

> Her lips were a deep turquoise

CROW: Two feet deep, in fact.

> and her eyes…
> fortunately, her eyes were still the same hazel that had always stared
> back at her.

CROW: She clashes with every conceivable color and style.

JOEL: Black, white, maroon, and turquoise. She’s become a CGA graphic.

> With a small shriek of disbelief, she turned to Bob who
> had come up beside her.

TOM: I hope he doesn’t frighten Miss Muffet away.

>
> "What’s wrong?" he asked, worried. "I don’t look the same!!"

CROW: Uh… wait… new haircut? Different dress?

> Carrie almost shouted. "What’s happened to me?" I…I…" She turned
> back to the mirror again,

TOM: [ As Carrie ] Oh, magic mirror, take me away from this all.

> and now noticed the same black and white
> bisected circle that was on her boots was also placed near her left
> collarbone.

JOEL: So her neck’s become a boot?

> Reaching up to touch it,

TOM: If that’s a hot spot, she’s going to be in a lot of trouble.

> she looked at Bob’s worried face
> in the mirror.

CROW: It looks like a mirror, but it’s actually a web camera serving over five thousand people a day.

> "This is all wrong!" she whispered, "I’m not a
> sprite!"

JOEL: You’d rather be a raster interrupt method?

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * *

TOM: There’s one now.

>
> Part Five

CROW: Part Five is alive!

>
> At Carrie’s shock and dismay at her appearence,

TOM: I like her appearance.

> and her
> insistance that she was not a sprite, Bob decided it would be a good
> idea to take her to see Phong.

TOM: It *was* a good idea…

ALL: At first.

> Upon arriving at the Principle Office,
> Phong took her to the Infirmary

CROW: Because they were on the Infirmaration Superhighway.

> to see if there was anything the
> scanners could pick up.

JOEL: Hey, those aren’t scanners, they’re just an alpha channel effect.

> As he ran the tests,

CROW: Carrie regretted not studying earlier.

> Phong began to ask
> Carrie questions.

JOEL: Live around here much?

TOM: If you were a natural-born human transported by freakish accident to the world inside the computer, how would you convince people you weren’t insane?

>
> "You say that you do not look as you are supposed to." Phong
> said, "May I inquire as to your former appearence?"

CROW: [ As Carrie ] Go right ahead.

TOM: [ As Phong ] What is your former appearance?

> Carrie stared up
> at the ceiling,

JOEL: [ As Carrie ] What the… there’s people dancing on it!

> and started to recount her human appearence to them,

TOM: [ As Phong ] So you were the most beautiful person we ever saw… and we’re drawn to your beautiful eyes, that are quiet pools of tranquility that still betray a deep secret and still penetrate our souls… any distinguishing features?

> being careful not to sound like she was crazy.

CROW: So she had to keep from honking.

> "Well, I had brown
> hair before,

JOEL: But not on my head!

> and my skin was a dark beige colour. My lips were not
> turquoise, more of a pink colour.

CROW: Carrie L—, for the new Color Trinitron.

> These aren’t even my clothes!" She
> sighed deeply,

TOM: Inhaling over four kilobytes of memory.

> and turned her head to look at Phong.

[ CROW makes a slow, squeaking, hinge-in-need-of-oil sound. ]

> "I know it
> sounds crazy," she said, "but you’ve gotta believe me.

TOM: [ As Phong ] Sure thing, Mister Napoleon.

> I don’t belong
> here, and I need to get back home."

CROW: She’s only been gone fifteen milliseconds and already her ISP’s disconnected her forty times.

> Bob looked over at her

JOEL: Good woman. Tasty.

> and gave
> her a look she didn’t quite understand.

TOM: He gives looks in Klingon.

> "I can try and get you home."

CROW: Just go ‘4C E2 FC’, ‘4C E2 FC’, ‘4C E2 FC’ while clicking your VIC-IIs together three times.

> he said, "The only thing is, I need to know where you’re from.

JOEL: And if you can pay half tolls.

> You
> still haven’t told me."

TOM: Why, it almost makes me not want to trust the person I’ve never met before and know almost nothing about.

> Carrie swallowed hard,

CROW: There goes another 24 k of the stack.

> and looked up into his
> eyes.

TOM: As a sprite, would you feel more comfortable if we put you into a Snoopy Versus The Red Baron game?

> "Um.. well…I…you see," she stammered. From the look on his
> face,

JOEL: And the banner ad running across his forehead…

> she decided then and there, that she was going to have to tell
> him the truth,

JOEL: [ As Carrie ] This isn’t as cool as I thought it would be.

> no matter what the conciquences.

CROW: Is that the Canadian spelling?

TOM: That’s the Canadian misspelling.

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *

JOEL: They haven’t gotten very far building that wall.


[ To continue … ]

MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 1 of 16)


I’d like to begin another Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic summoned from the murky depths of the late 90s here. It’s set in the Reboot universe. Reboot is a show I never watched regularly. This isn’t a mark against the show. I was just at a place in the 90s when I had stopped picking up many new shows. I’m pretty much still there.

Editorial notes: I’ve obscured the author’s name for this story, Breaking the Barriers. This is because the fanfic was a self-insertion piece, putting a version of the author in as protagonist. Carrie L— volunteered this fanfic to the Web Site Number Nine Dibs List, as I recall. (I apologize if I have remembered how I came to this piece wrong.) And did enjoy the MiSTing and thought I treated it, and her character, fairly. But that was twenty years ago, and people’s views of themselves and their creative works change.

So I grant someone might work out the identity of the author from the clues available. But I can at least make it a little harder to do. Should the author happen to have an opinion about this reprinting — including wanting it taken down — please contact me, in a screened comment if need be, and I’ll act accordingly.

When I wrote this instead of my thesis, back around 2002, I was unaware of Canobie Lake Park in Salem, New Hampshire. Nor did I know of Santa’s Village in Jefferson, New Hampshire. Nor of Story Land in Glen, New Hampshire. If I had been, the Stuff For New Hampshire sketch would have been very different, I assure you. As you maybe guessed, it was based on a road trip I took once. I think the address specified “Suite 12” because that was my apartment number at the time. Meanwhile, please take care to not cut yourself on the sharp edge of my joke about the many editions of Monopoly, which I believe were all ones I had seen on store shelves when this was written.


[ OPENING SEQUENCE ]

[ 1.. 2.. 3.. 4.. 5.. 6.. ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. CROW and TOM stand behind the desk; a science fair project-style folding board with a map of New Hampshire stands by CROW’s side. ]

CROW: Good evening. Tom Servo and I, Crow T. Robot, speak to you on behalf of one of the Republic’s most needy states. As becomes obvious on considering or trying to drive across the state, the horrible truth is:

TOM: New Hampshire doesn’t have enough stuff in it. There are the small antiques stores that infest every square mile of New England, plenty of places to get maple syrup, plus some gas stations that are out of gas and won’t let you use the rest rooms, and that’s about it.

CROW: Compared to such exciting and dynamic states as Massachusetts, home to the Professional Basketball Hall of Fame, the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and the Mount Greylock Expeditionary Force, loyal sons of New Hampshire can only look despairingly at their empty state.

TOM: Some naive people may assert New Hampshire is no worse off than nearby Vermont. Not so! Those in Vermont can partake of the benefits of being one of the four states to have been independent nations before joining the Union, such as the Hemmings Motor News (Full-Service) Gas Station, and the northernmost battle site of the U.S. Civil War.

CROW: [ Leadingly curious ] How’s that, Tom?

TOM: Yes, in 1864 Confederate soldiers descended from Canada to seize Saint Albans. They left three days later, taking with them some lovely antiques and fine maple syrup, and leaving Vermont with yet another piece of the rich tapestry of a history not shared by New Hampshire.

CROW: Others might argue states like Wisconsin deserve attention first. Not so! Oh, sure, Wisconsin has lots of empty space too, but its residents can enjoy cultural attractions like The House On The Rock, Tommy Bartlett’s Water Show, the actual filming locations of "The Giant Spider Invasion," and convenient access to Escanaba, Michigan.

TOM: But what have our poor New Hampshire…olo..gists got to look forward to, except catching a peek at Brattleboro, Vermont? That’s no future for the proud residents of an upstanding state, and it’s no future for New Hampshire either.

[ JOEL, carrying another sheet of cardboard, and GYPSY, enter, and listen aghast at what CROW and TOM are saying. ]

CROW: So if you’ve got any extra stuff — a museum, a potato chip collection, a cultural heritage, an Interstate, heck, a strip mall would do — please, donate it to the cause.

TOM: Send your extra stuff to:

[ CAMBOT puts the address on screen ]
Stuff for New Hampshire
1788 New Hampshire Boulevard, Suite 12
New Hampshireopolis, New Hampshire 01173
TOM: Thank you, won’t you?

JOEL: [ Startling, scaring TOM and CROW ] Thomas! Crow! I’m shocked at you both!

GYPSY: You knew we were going to do the — [ JOEL reveals his cardboard as a cutout of Nebraska ] — Stuff for Nebraska appeal!

JOEL: Yeah, guys, show a little consideration!

TOM: Uh, gosh, well, you know, we, uh …

CROW: [ As JOEL and GYPSY approach them ] Yeah, uh, we …

[ GYPSY pushes over their New Hampshire display ]

CROW, TOM: [ Dutifully ] We’re sorry.

MAGIC VOICE: Commercial sign in ten seconds.

JOEL: That’s more like it. And you two won’t ever do that again?

TOM: We didn’t say we *learned* anything, Joel, just that we’re sorry.

GYPSY: Get them!

[ TOM and CROW dash off to the sides of the screen as COMMERCIAL SIGN flashes. ]

JOEL: [ Giving chase, tapping COMMERCIAL SIGN ] We’ll be right back!

[ COMMERCIALS ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. CROW, JOEL, TOM, and GYPSY are tossing out cardboard cutouts of various states. JOEL holds a cutout of Indiana. ]

CROW: Indiana.

TOM: Farmer’s Market in Shipshewana.

GYPSY: [ As JOEL tosses out Indiana, picks up Colorado. ] Colorado.

CROW: Setting for "Mork and Mindy." [ JOEL tosses off Colorado, picks up Missouri. ]

GYPSY: Represented in both the Union and Confederate Congresses during the Civil War.

CROW: [ As JOEL tosses off Missouri, picks up Delaware. ] Actually has a land border with New Jersey.

JOEL: New Jersey, then?

TOM: The Turnpike’s Richard Stockton Service Plaza is named for the only signer to later repudiate the Declaration of Independence.

[ MADS SIGN flashes ]

JOEL: Oh, wait. Goober and the Ghost Chasers are calling.

[ JOEL taps MADS SIGN ]

[ DEEP 13. A steel girder is in the background, several feet off the ground; after a beat, DR. FORRESTER pokes his head into frame. ]

DR. F:Hello, Casper. Space Angels. Breakfast cereal: it’s not just for breakfast anymore, but it mostly is. Nevertheless, it offers our invention exchange for this week.

FRANK: [ Off-screen ] You noticed how the last Cheerios in the bowl stick together?

DR. F: Sure, we all have. And we realized the great potential if this adhesive power could be harnessed for non-grain applications.

FRANK: [ Off-screen ] So we went to work trying to reproduce Cheerio adhesion in a portable and easily applied liquid or gel form.

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. As above. ]

TOM: So you’ve got a demonstration for us?

[ DEEP 13. As above. ]

DR. F: Well …

[ DR. FORRESTER shuffles around, clumsily, revealing that across his back TV’s FRANK is stuck, at an odd angle, his back to DR. FORRESTER’s back, his arm twisted to fit behind DR. FORRESTER’s shoulders and head. ]

FRANK: We’re working the bugs out.

DR. F: [ Shuffling back around ] Your turn.

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. JOEL is at the desk, putting a large thimble over TOM’s dome. GYPSY has wheels and a racecar front on her head. CROW has a papier mache top hat on. On the desk is a Monopoly board and the associated clutter. ]

JOEL: Our invention this week begins with the provocative question: What do Singapore, Betty Boop, the original six pro hockey teams, and the dot-com industry have in common? One great theme.

TOM: All these nouns have all been turned into editions of the classic Parker Brothers board game, Monopoly.

GYPSY: Monopoly has dozens of licensed theme variations.

JOEL: From cities, to Marvel comics, to Major League Baseball.

CROW:So we unite them all with a hopefully soon-to-be-licensed variant:

[ JOEL holds the board up ]

JOEL: The Monopoly Edition edition of Monopoly!

TOM: Tired of Saint Charles Place? Try buying and building up the National Geographic Mountaineering Edition. That dowdy old green color block? Now it’s I Love Lucy, Star Trek, and The Simpsons.

CROW: Free Parking becomes the concept of landing on somebody else’s hotel without their noticing.

GYPSY: Those old railroads? Now they’re the Standard Edition set; the Monopoly set you lost when you were twelve; the set with two checkers, a pawn, and a piece from Sorry replacing missing tokens; and the set that’s hidden under the couch at Grandma’s.

JOEL: It’s an exciting new twist on a classic game, and one we hope will delight the world. What do you think, sirs?

[ DEEP 13. TV’s FRANK is facing forward now, DR. FORRESTER stuck turned away. ]

FRANK: Joel, I think you’re going to delight in this week’s experiment. For a change, it’s *fan fiction* where the author puts a version of herself into the story, and soon wins the hearts of all the show’s characters, heroes and villains alike.

[ They turn around again, showing DR. FORRESTER. ]

DR. F: Your target for tonight is… Reboot: Breaking the Barriers by Canada’s own Carrie L—.

[ They turn around again, showing TV’s FRANK. ]

FRANK: Good luck breaking on through to the other side!

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. GYPSY, CROW, JOEL, and TOM are beginning to play the Monopoly edition. ]

TOM: I wanna be the thimble.

JOEL: You are the thimble.

CROW: Are we gonna play where you get cash for landing on Free Parking?

GYPSY: No, we’re playing the basic rules.

TOM: Can we make investment trusts with the banker?

JOEL: No, it’s just the plain old rules.

CROW: Do we have to go around the board once before buying property?

GYPSY: No, we’re just playing the real —

[ MOVIE SIGN goes off ]

ALL: Aaaah! We got movie sign!

CROW: I wanna be the racecar!

[ 6.. 5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. 1.. ]

[ THEATER. ALL file in. ]

> Breaking the Barriers

CROW: Somebody get the Krazy Glue.

TOM: Or the Cheerios.

> By Carrie L—

>
> Blinking and rubbing her eyes,

TOM: An elderly Samantha Stevens tries to work her magic again.

> Carrie leaned back in her
> chair.

JOEL: If she leans too far she’ll fall in Yosemite Sam’s trap.

TOM: He’s going to get rid of her and make it look like an accident.

> She had been sitting in front of her computer for hours now.

CROW: Gina Smith, the early years.

> "Boy," she thought, "there sure is alot of things to look at on the
> ‘Net. I could be here forever!"

JOEL: "I could be here forever" — it’s foreshadowing! We never get foreshadowing!

> Reaching up, she rubbed the back of
> her neck,

TOM: I hope she’s not looking for the parachute release cord.

> trying to get rid of the kinks that were forming. Then,
> suddenly, her screen flashed a blue color

JOEL: I think she’s being visited by Jaga.

> and she got an "Error 2001"

TOM: A pretty routine odyssey.

> message. "Error 2001?" she said, "Fatal error,

CROW: They’re going to have to call off finding the monolith?

> system destabylizing,

JOEL: But feeling better about itself.

> auto-transport device activated?" she read aloud, "What the heck is an
> auto-transport device?"

TOM: Isn’t that when Amtrak takes you and your car down to Florida?

>
> Suddenly, the screen began to flash a bright white light

CROW: Oh, somebody’s poking random numbers into 53281 again.

> and
> she felt herself being lifted off her seat.

JOEL: I hope she drives the villains crazy, ’cause she’s a lunatic.

> She watched in horror and
> surprise as her feet began to pass through her screen into,

TOM: This is the technology that let Deep Space Nine appear in the tribbles episode.

> who knows
> what? With a scream of terror,

JOEL: Scream.

ALL: [ Halfheartedly ] Aaah.

> she was pulled into her computer and
> everything went black.

JOEL: You suppose this would’ve happend if Carrie had a surge protector?

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *

CROW: Hey, isn’t that one of the barriers there?

>
> Part Two
>
> Carrie felt groggy and her head was spinning as she came to.

CROW: Must be a loose socket somewhere.

> Gently, she began to open her eyes.

TOM: [ As Carrie ] Aw, mom, it’s not a school day…

> As they fluttered open, she could
> hear a voice announce that she was waking up.

JOEL: Please remain in the waking-up position until the fan fiction has come to a complete stop.

> As her eyes came into
> focus, she could see that she was in a room she had never seen before.

CROW: Oh, OK. Now I know exactly what it looks like.

> ‘What happened?’ she thought, then gasped as someone’s face appeared
> above hers.

TOM: [ Distorted ] Hi, I’m Leonard Maltin.

>
> She found herself staring

JOEL: Isn’t that a bit rude, Carrie?

> into the most gorgeous pair of brown
> eyes she had ever seen.

TOM: They were unlike any eyes she had ever seen before.

> She then realized that the face that housed
> the eyes bore blue skin and chrome hair.

CROW: Oh, great. Honey? We got Andorians.

> As her eyes began to travel
> down the face,

TOM: A little glue can keep them from slipping like that.

> she noticed that this figure was wearing a blue uniform
> with gold and silver trim.

JOEL: He’s painted like Jay Ramos’s house down the street.

> Suddenly, it registered, and she bolted
> upright, gasping in surprise and total disbelief.

CROW: [ As Carrie ] I’m on "Silverhawks"!

>
> "Oh man,oh man,oh man!" she whispered, "I must be dreaming! It
> can’t be you!! You can’t be him!

TOM: I’m not, but a lot of people say I look just like him.

> Can you?"

JOEL: *May* you.

> She looked into the eyes
> again and whispered, "Are you Bob?"

TOM: Newhart?

JOEL: Dylan?

CROW: –White?

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *

CROW: OK, a little string… we let it sit for a few hours, this barrier should be good as new again.

From when it seemed the world could change


Just thinking back to that time when Windows 95 was coming out. And there were Microsoft fans, for some reason, and there were Apple fans, for some reason. And there were Microsoft fans, for some reason, insisting the Windows 95 user interface of the recycling bin was infinitely better than the Mac’s trash bin. After all, you don’t throw away your disk; you recycle the bits on it ito something new. And Mac fans argued back that you don’t recycle a file, you throw it out, maybe and maybe not replacing it with something new.

Anyway, considering how heated this debate got you can understand how we assumed we had used history up and nothing much would ever happen again.

Statistics Saturday: The Most Insignificant Programming Languages


  1. Pig BASIC
  2. Visual Logo
  3. S’more
  4. ++C
  5. Fivetran 77
  6. Hypocard
  7. Pilot
  8. pfKey 128
  9. Slot Car Construction Kit
  10. RedC
  11. VRML
  12. Eddie Haskell
  13. Sea Leopard
  14. Hupmobile
  15. Zestar
  16. Language Sixteen
  17. Subscript
  18. Turbo TeX
  19. HORSE
  20. Retweet To Enter And Win
  21. geoForth
  22. Ultrafont+
  23. Ironic Pascal
  24. Object Oriented Ubbi Dubbi
  25. QuickClam 2.8

Reference: Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops?: The Lost Toys, Tastes, and Trends of the 70s and 80s, Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, Brian Bellmont.

Some further explorations of identity in the Plague Spring


So things are still a bit rough. I’m understating. On the roughness scale, which starts at 1 and goes up to “fell off the roof, scraped down the porch overhang, then plummeted into the crabapple bush”, things are averaging around “ … and then dropped into the wheelbarrow full of lava rocks heaped on the gravel driveway”. Still, this is a chance to try out a new identity, and be ready to unleash it on a changed and unsuspecting world. Forming a new identity is tough, but you can use some templates. It’s all right to try being the same person someone else is. Your attempt will be different from everyone else’s, and that makes your them a different them than their them is as you see it. Yeah, that sentence made me dizzy too. Best to move on. Here’s a few options to consider instead:

You could be the person who puts their lawn waste in collection bags from regional stores from other parts of the country. This is a good way to lightly bewilder the neighborhood. “This is Lansing, Michigan,” neighbors will say, if you live in Lansing, Michigan. “The nearest Price Chopper is in Syracuse! Are you driving seven and a half hours out of your way, crossing through Canada, to get these or do you have people mailing them to you?” They won’t ask you about it, but you’ll collect many excited looks from your neighbors.

You could be a person who can explain to me what exactly ‘var’ does in Javascript. I have to warn you, this is a tough one. Oh, for non-computer people: Javascript is what lets your web browser be slow, and make all the things on a page jump around until you give up reading it. It’s how web sites keep you from reading them anymore. Anyway, ‘var’ is this thing that sometimes you have to put in, except you don’t have to, so you don’t, and then sometimes it stops working, until you put it back in? I don’t know. I’ve had this explained to me like thirty times in the last twenty years and I still think it’s a prank whipped up by Javascript Master Command. Maybe it does something, but I don’t think it does, and anyway, I’m not going to remember why it does that.

You could become an immortal comic legend. This one is easy, in comparison. It just takes one step. Work out some kind of wordplay so that, after you’ve said your good joke, someone else can respond “… literally” and have that be a good joke too. I don’t have any idea what that would look like. But there was this paper in the Journal of Theoretical Joke Structures last month which said one can exist.

You could try being me. I recommend against it. Not that I can’t mostly put up with me. It’s that being me involves a lot of standing up from a comfortable enough chair, walking four feet, rubbing my hands, and deciding to sit back down again. It’s not much of a pastime. But when you consider what my knees are like it’s a lot of strain to no good purpose. Sometimes they make the noise your car makes when you have to replace that brake thing that’s $600 but if the mechanic can find some spares, only be $580. But, you know, I committed to being me, so who am I to say I was wrong to do that? Ask me when I’m staring at the ceiling at 5:30 am, tonight and every night.

You could be yourself, but two feet over to the left. This is attainable by just about everybody, unless their apartment is too small.

You could become a world-renowned puppeteer. You can even pick the world you want. They’re finding new ones all the time, so you can be renowned all over that world. How is anybody going to check on you? It’s not like they can get to the observatory any better than you can. You can even make up the world, and that’ll work with all your friends except the astronomers you know. And how many astronomers do you know? I mean well enough they feel like they should come to your parties but don’t? If you’re like me, and I still don’t recommend being me, you know four at most. You can get them to play along. Just agree to cover them for their new identities.

Anyway whoever you choose to be, good luck. Let me know how your knees work out.

A very little video game I remember from the 80s


You know something I got with some pack of cracked 80s video games? A Smurfs game. I’m not sure what genre it was. It was like a platformer, except that nothing happened. All that you had to do was not step on a dangerous spot. The thing was, the cracked version had this thing where you could turn off one or both of the sprites that made up Generic Smurf. One of those sprites was the upper half of his body, and the other the lower half. So if you turned off the lower half of his body, you wouldn’t ever hit the dangerous spots. You could just have the torso and arms and head of Generic Smurf floating over very many slightly different terrains, all while the tra-laaaaaa-lala-lala song plays over and over and over again, until you go mad.

Remembering the home computers of the 1980s


I wanted to share my experiences in home computing in the 1980s. I may not remember it quite right, but I remember it at all. You, I can’t trust to remember my experiences at all. I mean apart from my dad, who tells me he reads these things. But as I remember it, what he would remember is I disappeared into my room for up to 84 hours at a stretch. I’d emerge just because the groceries needed to be put away. And by putting them away myself I could put things in the freezer correctly, unlike everyone else.

Also I could get dibs on the microwave fried chicken. The microwave fried chicken was awful, understand. But it was convenient. Also the thighs would taste weird, which is not to say the same as good. But if I didn’t get away from the computer, someone else might eat that first. I don’t know whether my dad remembers this, but it’s got little to do with my computer experience. It would have looked the same to him if I spent all that time in my room re-reading the Star Trek comic book where the Excalbians went to Space War with the Organians because they were bored.

Big thing to remember is that how you got software was different. There were all these magazines that offered the promise of neat stuff, like, going around riding a dragon. And anyone could play this, if they just typed in six pages of three-column column text and didn’t get too much of it wrong. Then it turned out to be fun for maybe one-fourth the time you spent typing it in. Not everything was games, no. If you had a Commodore 64 you could type in programs that would let you use the graphics and the sound on the Commodore 64. It wouldn’t help you have anything to draw or … sound out. But if you ever thought of something, you were ready. Sometimes we would swap out the ROM version of the computer’s operating system for a RAM copy that was identical, except it didn’t throw a fit if you tried to find the ASCII value of an empty string. There were reasons this was important.

Still, games were great, because the only other software out there was spreadsheets and word processors. It still is, but now the spreadsheets and word processors are in a web browser so annoying ads can flash at you. But if you didn’t want to type in a game, you could get a professionally made game.

Compute! magazine issue #90 cover, showing a watercolor illustration of a kid riding on the shoulder of a large green wyvern, to advertise the text-adventure game The Hermit.
What rational person could resist getting this magazine and typing in the cover program? I mean, the chance to load, run, rename or delete IBM files at the touch of a key? Paradise! Fun fact: you could speed your Atari up to 30% just by tilting it backwards so as many electrons as possible were running downhill.

Thing to understand about computer games back then is that nobody ever bought them. You just … got them … somehow. Not really clear how, or who from. But they came on tape cassettes or on discs that a friend loaned you and that you copied, or that they copied and gave you. There were stores that claimed to sell software, yes. They had welcoming names like Professor Technofriend’s Software Empori-fun. Doesn’t matter. They never sold anything. The top-selling game of the 80s, Broderbund’s Karateka, saw sixteen copies sold in stores. There was never a game for the Amiga that sold. Game companies didn’t even try. They just gave the gold master disc to someone who knew this guy who worked(?) somewhere (??). He’d crack the copy protection and then make a kabillion copies with a fun message on the first screen. Every playground would have copies, although there was only one kid in school who had an Amiga. So that oversaturated the market.

The traded tapes, though, they’d have like 428 games on them. This seems like great value, what with them being free. The drawback is the games were mostly boring. There’d be, like, tic-tac-toe only it’s a grid of four rows and columns. Or Blackjack, except there’s no graphics or placing bets and you can’t do that thing where you split a hand when you’re dealt doubles. You’d just press space and watch numbers come up in a row until someone busted. In hindsight, I don’t know how it is I spent so much time on this. Oh, well, there was a Wheel of Fortune game that was great. It was even better after I memorized all six puzzles and could start solving puzzles after five letters. I typed it in from a magazine.

I know this all sounds ridiculous. But if it weren’t ridiculous we wouldn’t have done it. This is still true.

Around the house


So we’ve reached the point where I keep thinking that I see my love’s phone, poised on the edge of every single table, simultaneously. Sometimes on more than one edge of the table. I blame this on how every piece of consumer electronics we buy anymore is a hand-sized black rectangle. The next time we buy an external hard drive it will be absolutely anything that comes in pink and is a hexagon. It doesn’t even have to be a regular hexagon and it can be up to twelve inches on any one side. Hard drive makers, work on this.

On the Problem of Identity During the Plague Spring


The quarantine month has been a pretty tough time, as measured by how often we’ve had to go to the basement and berate cinder blocks. It’s a better coping mechanism than punching the cinder blocks was. The cinder blocks aren’t taking this personally. They know they’re there as support. Emotionally speaking, cinder blocks are bricks. I don’t say that cinder blocks are also literally bricks, because I’m afraid I’ll get in trouble with the brick enthusiast community. I don’t need someone explaining how something essential to bricks is incompatible with the nature of cinder blocks, because I would find that fascinating. I would read three different books, each at least 280 pages, on the history of bricks. I’m already enough of a caricature of myself. I do not need to become even more of that.

But this lands me on my point four times as well as I had expected just three sentences ago. Honest, I was lost. My point is: a lot of us are having a rough time now because we don’t have anything to do. There’s no hanging out at barcades. You can’t even go to the pet store and stare at the baby guinea pigs. A lot of people don’t have jobs. Those who do, have those jobs gone all weird. Two months ago you would spend all morning in a meeting to resolve what five minutes of e-mail would have. Today, you spend all morning in e-mail exchanges to resolve what five minutes of meeting would have.

All these things that we would do evaporated. So now we face the gap between the stuff we do, and who we are, and who we figure we want to be. That’s tough stuff. I remember who I wanted to be, growing up: the astronaut who draws Popeye. It’s been an adjustment, learning that the person I am doesn’t want to make the effort it takes to draw Popeye. Or to convince the people who hire astronauts that they need someone on staff who’ll draw Popeye too. That one’s on me. I keep applying for astronaut jobs, but at the interviews I never ask if they’re bringing a Popeye-drawer on board. I just take it for granted that if they don’t list it on their web site, they’re not going to, and I don’t even respond to their offers. I’m only messing up my own life like this.

How to handle the gap between what kept you busy and what your identity is? This involves serious quiet, letting all the thoughts imposed from other people — well-meaning or advertisers — wash out. Think seriously about what you are when at rest, and see what residue of life remains. Then realize this is a hecking lot of work and the results are terrible. You know how, on your body, you have this indestructible nostril hair that every booger in the world condenses around? Your personality is like that, only worse. It starts with that time you were six and teased that kid Christian across the street because his name rhymes with the imaginary word “Ristian”. And it’s accumulated like that since then. No, you’re better off finding a new store-bought identity and putting that on.

There’s so many to choose from! You could be the person who cruises social media, finding folks who are screaming at CSS for not being able to do what seems like a simple CSS thing, and reassuring them that the problem is that CSS is not actually good at CSS things yet, and never will be. (CSS is that computer thing where, for no good reason, sometimes all the stuff in your web browser is 50% off the edge of the screen to the right.)

You could be a background character in a Studio Ghibli film. In these times you’ll definitely want to be in one of the lower-stress movies. Take up some role where you look over bunches of vegetables, that kind of thing. You’ll have to act nonplussed when a bunch of kids run through on some lightly daft whimsical adventure to help the ghost wolf reconcile with its family or something. So remember to look up exactly what “nonplussed” means. You want to know how to react.

Or you could try being an astronaut who draws Popeye. The drawing Popeye part should be easy, but the real trick is getting up into space. To do that, you’ll want to practice jumping until you’re so good at it you jump into outer space. Go practice right now! (Note to the rest of you: if you’re hired as astronaut they provide the outer space for you. I just want to get my competition for the job out of the way.)

The exact choice isn’t important. What matters is that you realize who you are. Then we can see about fixing that.

Everything There Is To Say About Moving Keyboards


I remembered this thing where, like, a decade ago some company wanted to make computer keyboards that moved. Isn’t that a heck of a thing to remember? Why remember that? I have a decent memory. Yet it keeps remembering weird things. I have an advanced degree in mathematics and yet if you ask me the difference between a “covariant index” and a “contravariant index”? I have to set the wallpaper on fire and use the distraction to look it up. A covariant index is written as a subscript and the contravariant is a superscript. Or it’s the other way around. I keep writing it down wrong because I remember last time I had it wrong, but I forget whether I got it right in the end last time. But this keyboard nonsense? Now I remember this.

What I don’t remember is why they wanted a keyboard that moved. I’m going to guess it’s for ergonomics. Any time you have a system that makes something easy pointlessly hard it’s usually because of ergonomics. This makes ergonomics sound like it’s about being mean. But the point of ergonomics is to avoid doing stuff that’s useless and causes pain. And it turns out almost everything we do is useless stuff that causes pain. There’s maybe five things that we actually need to do. And one of them is winding the mantle clock for the week. This would be bad if you did it too much, but most people have to wind only one or two mantel clocks per week, if that, so it stops before it could hurt.

Keyboards would be a good thing to be made more ergonomic, though. Typing is a terrible thing to do to one’s hands. People who study hands — Handocrinologists — report a fifteen-minute typing session is about as stressful on your wrists as beating them with a metal-working hammer against an anvil and then sticking them in a pot of boiling grease, then typing for fourteen minutes. The only thing worse would be a seventeen-minute typing session. Doing less typing, this by having a keyboard slither away, would probably help. If this moving keyboard thing had caught on? Today we might not suffer from typist’s wrists, cerebral IRC, Livejournal-snapped hamstrings, Usenet lung, or CU-See-Me face deprivation syndrome.

I don’t know why this wandering keyboard didn’t turn into a thing. I can’t see any downside to a keyboard that, in the middle of your sentence, scoots over, knocking over your soda can and crumpling up a post-it note that’s incomprehensible but so obviously important you will never throw it out. Maybe it made people’s prose seasick or something.

Anyway I know this memory is like a decade ago because of how it was they thought keyboards were a problem. We would use keyboards for everything. Writing stuff. Reading. Playing video games. Sealing up the crack under the door. Cricket bats, for when you didn’t know there was a game today. Setting dads up for jokes about how does it fit in the lockboard. Swatting off cows that aren’t supposed to be in the dining room. Everything. Now that’s all changed.

Way back then we would joke about how Apple was going to make a computer that just had one button. And then they went and did it, and it turned out to be a phone, and it was the most popular thing ever. Later they took away the button. Oh, wait, now I get it. The keyboard’s just a picture on the screen. But the phone has this rumble motor. The phone can roll out of your hand. All right, so I guess the moving-keyboard company didn’t flop, Apple just took the idea.

So then what’s the future hold? Just a keyboard that shakes even more out of the way isn’t enough. “You can’t top pigs with pigs,” as Walt Disney said, making people wonder what question he was answering. No, it’s got to be a phone that takes more dramatic action. Maybe something that jabs spikes out. Maybe shooting a web to the corner of the ceiling and swinging out of the way. Maybe just being very ticklish, so the phone won’t stop giggling when you use it.

Well, what’s important is that the Handocrinologists are happy. Someone should be.

Everything there is to say about IP addresses


Each day over 36 people use the Internet. And yet how many of them know what it is? How it works? Where it comes from? What it’s doing? How it’s redressed in-between scenes so that in the first act it’s a starving artist’s kitchen while in the second it’s the luxury suite at a hotel? Still, let’s see which of these questions we can answer.

The Internet is, as designed, a high-capacity method of transmitting outrage. Essential to getting anything anywhere is the IP address. IP is an acronym; it stands for IP, but — you may want to make a note of this — a different IP than what we mean when we write IP. It is still typed the same, though, except in the dative case.

The purpose of an IP address was to be a unique way to identify the recipient of any particular Internet outrage. In the earliest days of computers this was done by identifying the person using the computer. But this was impractical, since back then, everyone used the names of the same minor Star Trek characters. Today, only three people know there even was a “Commander DeSalle” who was in more episodes than, like, Pavel Chekov somehow. The next step was trying to identify the computer using the person. But too many computers looked the same, especially back in the 90s when the computer makers got a really good deal on plastic the color of sweetened condensed milk you accidentally left open on the counter all month. We’ve since moved on to trying to identify the person and the computer together. This is done by timing how long it takes you to refuse web sites permission to send you notifications.

The IP address is how the Internet knows what to send to you. Consider this typical behavior. You put an OtterBox for your phone on your Amazon wish list, because the wrist strap broke off your old one. You’d just buy it yourself, but not having a wrist strap is a smaller hassle than your parents asking you to put at least one single thing on your wish list so they know what they won’t buy you for your birthday. Three weeks later, Amazon sends you an e-mail declaring they’ve found it would be a great idea if you bought an OtterBox. Sure, you think of the geniusnessocity of the mind that could create such a perfect needs-anticipation system. “Clearly,” you say, out loud, “the person behind this system deserves 130 billion dollars. Indeed, the person who could create that digital intelligence deserves all the billions of dollars.”

But this only works because it knows which of all the people on computers to send the e-mail to. Imagine if you got the suggestion to buy an OtterBox intended for somebody else who also wanted an OtterBox. Or what if the shopping suggestions were completely wrong? “We have a great deal for you: what if you bought a radial tire and the issue of Starlog about DeForest Kelly being on the War of the Worlds tv series from the 80s? Plus 1250 boxes of macaroni and cheese?” There would be no possible answer to give to that question. You would be stuck at home, all day, trying to find out, wait, there was a War of the Worlds series in the 80s? And it got kinda bonkers? But if there’s no way to get the information about this to you, then, where are you? Right back at home.

So how do you and your computer get this IP address? Eh, a lot of back-and-forth. Your computer goes asking others around it, “Do I look like a 12.440.593.56.210.315 to you?” And then the other computers go, “Oh, you’re underrating yourself. You’re easily a 56.337.404044.12.390 or maybe even more!” And then your computer answers, “Aw, golly. You’ll make me digitally blush, there’s no way I’m not a 8.266.712.8.775!” “Honey, stop with the false modesty. 18.9.2012.24.2007.48304 and if you don’t agree I’ll fight you.” Eventually they compromise on something. Of course, this is done at computer speeds, which is why it’s either instant or your computer just freezes up for three hours and eighteen minutes. And I’m translating what they say into colloquial terms. They would actually say “digi-blush”.

This all seems like a lot, and it is, which is why even brief exposure to the Internet leaves you so exhausted.

My Moneymaking Scheme based on the Rise in Streaming Services


So you know how there’s some new subscription streaming service every couple minutes now? (Look, there’s one just started up now!) Well, I’m going to start a streaming service providing a stream of subscription streaming services, or SSpSoSSS.

Of course, I am smart enough to know you never make money doing a thing. You make money by selling the tools for someone else to do a thing. So what I’m really selling is SSpSoSSS-as-a-service.

It’s looking good! SSpSoSSSaaS is already quite popular with developer snakes and among pool toys with slow leaks.

Because I Have Learned From The 90s


Yes, it’s annoying to have reached the point there’s not enough hard drive space. There’s an obvious hack. Nothing to do but put them on flash drives. I don’t like it, but that’s all right. I don’t have to like my contrivance, it just has to work. There’s the obvious choice what to offload, too: all those photographs from past years. They’re great, but I don’t need all of them all the time. It’s easy to put the pictures onto a flash drive. Two flash drives, since if I only have one copy of a thing I don’t have any copies the thing.

But. I’m not going to repeat the mistakes of the 90s where everything was scattered across Jaz drives and CD-ROMs with useless labels. I’m going to give these a nice clear description of purpose. They shall be My Image Storage Storace Contraption, and My Image Storage Contraption 2. At least as their full names, so I remember them. To fit on a flash drive label I’ll have to use the acronyms.

Oh, A Follow-Up Thought About Your New Web Browser


When you do make your brand-new web browser? You should definitely include an option where it only connects to the good Internet. The good Internet is the one where every web site is some slightly dotty fellow explaining the difference between Mergenthaler Linotypes and Ludlow Typographs. The author occasionally goes off on weirdly long, passionate rants, but they’re all about ligatures. And there are urgent updates, but they’re about the author having encountered some obscure Intertype experimental setup that was used by the New York Daily Mirror for like four months in 1924 and how this adjusts their rankings of All Typesetting Machines Ever, Best To Worst. Also the only images that move without your specific permission are animated gifs showing this web site under construction. This is demonstrated by a silhouetted featureless figure digging, I suppose for markup. Trust me, it’s the best way.

Why I Figure You Should Write Your Own Web Browser


It’s getting about time we should all write our own web browsers again. We’ve been through this before. There was a time in the 90s when anybody could write their own web browser, and they did. I know this sounds intimidating, but back then it was easy. All a web browser had to do was show HTML, which is just text with lots of ampersands. This is easy to produce.

A couple years later web browsers got Java. This required us to put a little grey box in the middle of the screen which read “Loading applet”, and then nothing would happen. About this time we added in Javascript. This required web browsers to include a little status bar at the bottom which reported “Javacript has encountered an error and crashed”. These were good times. The only thing a web browser really had to do was give us a way to turn off blinking text. Once blinking text was turned off everyone was happy, except for the inventor of blinking text, Haply “Hal” Blinken.

Anyway it was fun when everybody was writing a web browser, because we all had ideas about background images. I started out writing “very funny ideas”, and then decided “funny” wasn’t adding anything to the sentence. But then I left it as “we all had very ideas about background images”. This is true, but I couldn’t leave it like that or you’d think I made a mistake. But ask people. It was so. Anyway, we went from everybody having their own weird little web browser to everybody using Netscape or Internet Explorer and that was it. This winnowing-down process took about twelve days. Then we cut it down to just Internet Explorer. That took another eight years.

Like a decade ago this got changing again, and everybody started making new web browsers. This was fun because of the new innovation where web sites stopped showing you a menu bar. You could turn it back on, if you could find where the thing that used to be the menu bar went. But suddenly all kinds of companies were excited to stop showing things and maybe get themselves a brand. So if you wanted a web browser that wouldn’t tell you what web site you were looking at, but would have Garfield’s face watching you.

By then web browsers had to do more complicated stuff, like give you the option to turn off pop-up windows. The browser then warned you this might stop windows from popping up. Users agreed to accept this risk. This allowed every web site to ask you for permission to be the exception, which you denied, right before they opened a window anyway. Also around this time we got tabs. This solved the problem where we used to have 62 web browser windows open waiting to be read. Now we could have two web browser windows open, each with 86 tabs, some of them playing the Median Hits of 2007.

With all this potential we got like 800 new web browsers, which over the course of two weeks settled down to Firefox, Chrome, and Microsoft’s Thing You Use To Download Firefox Or Chrome. That’s been stable for about a decade now so I figure it’s time for a new explosion of web browser options. Last time the diversity of web browsers was fed by the need to remove menu bars and give people the option to turn off pop-up windows. Now we have many new things people can choose they don’t want to do.

For example, web sites now ask permission to send you notifications. You know, in case this oral history about the making of Barry Levinson’s Toys has a hot bit of news. (It would be embarrassing to be in the last 35 million of people on the planet to know the latest about the “Happy Workers” song.) So we could have an option to turn that off. There’s also those videos that start playing automatically, and don’t stop until you’ve scrolled the window so the video is hidden, which makes the video bubble up and float into the middle of the window. We need an option to turn that off, and also to bap the people responsible for that with some funny bludgeon-y thing. (You won’t see that part after “with” if I have a better idea before deadline.)

There are many ways we could set things up so they should be better but aren’t. Let’s get to work!

The Quick Start Setup Guide To Your New Laptop Computer Purchase Experience


Thank you so, so very much for your purchase of a 15-inch Abulnza Detranna 480q personal laptop computer. For any personal laptop computer really. We know there are many consumer electronic for you to purchase. This is one of them. (TIM: shouldn’t it be ‘consumer electronic options’ or ‘choices’ or something? Fix before sending copy to print.) Heck, we’re just amazed you’re buying a computer instead of a smart phone. But your new … we’re going to say PowerCom Asperia? … has many advantages over phone technologies. It can offer a world of convenience in long-form serious social media like LinkedIn or … Livejournal or … uh … Joombla? Snorlax? HorkPiks? Snorboldine? (TIM: delete any things that are not things.)

STOP! IF YOU DETECT A PROBLEM WITH THIS COMPUTER AND ONLY THIS COMPUTER DO NOT RETURN IT TO THE STORE! YOU WILL HURT THEIR FEELINGS AND PROBABLY NOT GET A WORKING COMPUTER. Instead restore the computer to its original packaging. Then leave this on the middle of a hastily cleared-off table and dial any 800 number that feels comfortable and supportive. Following this flee your home or office. (TIM: advise, know 888 and 877 numbers are things; are 866 numbers anything? Why not 899?) Leave the door open in case your coworkers or pets also need to escape. Flee to the woods, where you should then roll in a pile of loamy leaves, and climb into a tree to evade pursuers. Our representatives will be able to advise you on living off the land. You may distill rainwater, but not for drinking or washing.

Remove the computer safely from the box SAFELY WE SAID and wash the twigs from your hair. It is not necessary to repeatedly apply shampoo while washing, but it will feel like this should help. This will remind you how many things should work and somehow don’t quite. That done, set the computer on a level surface away from the shampoo bottle which you knocked over.

Inspect the computer for obvious damage, cracks, strips of transparent plastic adhered to featureless expanses of plastic, whimsical anecdotes (TIM: agreed in meeting this was ‘antidotes’ for the medical applications market), and giggling noises. Many computers of this model are ticklish and may be all wound up from the plastic foam packing peanuts. It is over-tired. Allow time for it to settle and for the peanuts to get lost inside your clothing.

Included in the package should be a power bric (TIM: again explain why not brick of power?), adaptable worldwide plugs, between four and six bluish-grey cables of miscellaneous lengths and widths that fit no sockets, between three and seven greyish-blue cables of miscellaneous lengths and widths that almost fit every socket, a complimentary keychain, and four bumper stickers. Put the bumper stickers in a secure place on the grounds they will someday be valuable. That day will be eight years from now when you are trying to get clutter out of the house, and you find these and think of this day, and how happy you were and innocent and optimistic the world seemed. Try not to find that horrifying now. Under no circumstances put these on any car’s bumpers. (TIM: why don’t cars have bumpers anymore? what happened? are we better off now that bumpers are behind us?) Over the coming year lose all the remaining cables, at your convenience. The keychain comes pre-lost for your convenience. (TIM: on reflection half all bumpers had to be behind us so disregard half of last note)

Fit the cylindrical end of the cord from the brick of power (TIM: thanks for fixing) and plug that into the power socket of the computer. Look outside to identify which continent you are on, and pick the power plug appropriate for that one. Plug that into the other socket of the brick of power and might (TIM: too much?) and the power socket that’s twenty percent less accessible than you thought. If the plug is of the wrong configuration try a different plug before you try a different continent.

Next press the power button. This you can identify as the button in the corner that’s the last button you try. Its icon is a light grey shape on a dark grey background unless we’ve swapped that again and it’s a dark grey shape under a light grey background. Wait several seconds and then press it again because you’re not sure you hit it soundly enough the first time. It did, so you have now turned the computer off.

This completes our Quick Start Setup Guide. Please now turn your attention to the computer’s setup screen. (TIM: write setup screen, remind people to do something about our HorkPiks presence.)

In Which I Explain Why I Have Embraced Night Mode On My Laptop


I’ve discovered it’s really nice to have the subtle change in lighting serve as a visual cue for when I can switch from saying “I don’t have to do these four simple little tasks that have been on my list for months now because there’s plenty of time left in the day to start them” to saying “It’s too late in the day for me to start any of these four simple little tasks that have been on my list for months now”. I would do this anyway, yes. But I like having the little difference in how white looks to make my excuse seem all the more technological and therefore correct.

A Quick Little Note To My Satellite Navigator Map Update Software


You … want to keep running in the background, Garmin Express application? In case I need a day-zero update on the roads? Really?

Look, I appreciate your hustle. Really. It’s just, like, you notice I’m only this week downloading a map from after 2014, right? I’m just saying, I’m pretty sure I can improvise around any problems until I specifically need you to update. Just, like, go to sleep about 2023 or so.

Statistics Saturday: 80s Computer Magazine Titles, So Far As You Know


  • Pet Finder (1978 – 84)
  • TI Times (from 1982, TImes)
  • CompuMonthly
  • Adam’s Friends
  • bits (1976-86; BITS2000 1986-93)
  • Mo/Demonstrator
  • Save**
  • DigiToday
  • P.O.W.E.R. (1981-84; P.O.W.E.R.plus 84-86)
  • CompuMonthly’s Apple IIGS Galleria
  • Lotus 1-2-3 Gazette
  • Transputer WorkLife
  • baud121
  • CHKin
  • SoftWhys
  • CompuPlus (1980-84; P.O.W.E.R.plus 84-86)
  • Maryland 8 Bit Computer User Group Quarterly (1982?-85?; disputed 87?, possibly M16CUG Quarterly 1989?-??)
  • TRS-81 (1979-81)
  • DigiTomorrow
  • ML Express

Omitted for clarity: Hires and STart which I thought I was making up but turned out to actually exist.