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 … ]

What’s Going On In Alley Oop? Did the Apollo astronauts meet an alien on the Moon? June – September 2021


No. Alley Oop and crew observed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin going through a mysterious door in the Sea of Tranquility. It turned out to be the bathroom. The Apollo 11 crew did not find the Moon Alien, Frodd. Alley Oop, Ooola, and Doc Wonmug met him later.

So this should catch you up on Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the start of September 2021. If any news about the strip breaks out, or if you’re reading this after about December 2021, there may be a more useful essay at this link. If there isn’t, well, we live in complicated times.

Alley Oop.

20 June – 4 September 2021.

This story almost exactly fit my publishing cycle. It started a week before my last Alley Oop update, with the gang going back to 1969 to watch the Apollo 11 moon landing. They start with understandable celebrity-creeping behavior. Pretending to be NASA workers. Messing around in training facilities. Then it escalates to following Apollo 11 all the way through the landing.

In front of a Saturn V rocket signed 'Apollo 11B', Doc Wonmug says, 'Guys, I think I found our ticket to the Moon!' Ooola: 'Doc, this sign says 'for display use only. Not for space travel'.' Wonmug: 'I'm sure we can make it work. I am a scientist, after all. I have a brand-new roll of duct tape.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 6th of July, 2021. Sure, you may sneer at using a display prop as a rocket. But almost exactly this idea appears in renowned science fiction author Stephen Baxter’s 1997 novel Titan. In it, the Saturn V Structural Test Article — used in the 60s to develop processes for handling the actual rockets — is refitted and launched into space as part of sending a space shuttle to Saturn’s moon Titan. And do we call Baxter’s Titan bad? Yes. It was appalling in its badness. It was a novel I finished because if I threw it across the bus someone else might have picked it up and read it, and I could not inflict that on an innocent stranger. The comic strip, though? That’s cool.

So Our Heroes watch Apollo 11’s moonwalk. This in a strip that ran the 21st of July, a timing miss I’m sure keeps Lemon and Sayers from getting a decent night’s sleep. After solving the mystery of the door, Our Heroes walk over to the far side of the Moon, where it happens also to be dark. There they discover a bored-looking alien playing at a computer.

Doc Wonmug, to Frodd, who's at a video game console on the Moon; 'So, you've been here on the back of the Moon, controlling all life on earth for billions of years? Why?' Frodd: 'Every kid from my world has to do a planetary simulation to graduate. It's like part of our school.' Ooola: 'And you lucked out and got Earth?' Frodd: 'Ha! No. I pushed my teacher's hafktq into a aabaao and got in big trouble. Earth is my punishment.' Alley Oop: 'Yep. Same thing happened to me one time.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 5th of August, 2021. So, folks who played SimEarth on the Mac back in the 90s. Remember there was an easter egg, a little thing where you typed in ‘JOKE’ and got this weird little Dadaist message? Right. So, anyone remember what it was exactly? I can’t find the joke for the Mac port listed in web sites listing video game easter eggs. There’s emulators to play SimEarth, but it’s the PC version, where the joke is it shows an image of the Earth in a giant frying pan, next to some space bacon and eggs, and labels it ‘Pan-Gaia’. I could swear that on the Mac SimEarth, the easter egg joke was something like “How many Glenn Campbells does it take to screw in a light bulb?” (Hit OK, and get the answer) “Two.” But I can’t find any evidence anyone else has this memory at all. Do I have a weirdly detailed false memory?

Frodd’s playing Earth as a “kind of a video game”, for a school project. Frodd starts to defend his Earth-playing skills, but has to come home for dinner, and takes Our Heroes with them. Frodd’s mother sees the humans and grounds Frodd, for “a Froddulon Millennium”, which is something like a billion earth-years.

So Our Heroes escape, Alley Oop along the way swiping some kind of necklace from somewhere. Turns out the thing makes Our Heroes invisible, which is good for getting them away from alarmed Froddians. They get to Frodd’s spacefaring bubble, which turns out to be able to get them anywhere instantly. They return to the Moon, planning to resume the Earth that Frodd left paused. Turns out Frodd’s there. He passed his school project, with a C-.

Ooola: 'I think we're invisible!' Doc Wonmug: 'I don't know about that. I can see you.' Alley Oop: 'Let me try something.' The invisible Alley Oop approaches a Froddian: 'Excuse me, may I ask you a question?' Froddian; 'Who said that?! Oh, no! The inquisitive ghosts are back! Everyone run for cover!' Alley Oop: 'Hmph. I was just going to ask how this necklace worked.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 19th of August, 2021. While it is jumping for a silly punch line, the Froddian’s declaration that “the inquisitive ghosts are back” works for me. I don’t know why it works and others don’t. Maybe because it suggests other stories, relying on the idea the world has more stuff in it than we could get to see.

They talk Frodd out of shutting down this Earth simulation, and even snag a nice moustache toggle for Alley Oop. With a pretty successful week, then, they head home. It’s too early to say what the next story will be, although Doc Wonmug has gone back to prehistoric Moo with them.

I admit some dissatisfaction with the story. A little bit from not caring for the reality-is-a-video-game premise. It’s something a certain streak of nerd loves without learning enough philosophy to know what issues it’s not addressing. But most of us enjoy pop culture items that raise issues it doesn’t address. Besides, if it address an issue well then it stops being a pop culture thing and becomes culture. I’m also a bit dissatisfied that Alley Oop, Ooola, and Doc Wonmug don’t have much to do. For most of the story, they’re just present. Note how little I had to break down what Alley Oop did, versus what Oola did, versus what Wonmug did.

Doc Wonmug: 'Frodd, please don't shut down Earth. There are so many great things about it.' Alley Oop: 'And many terrible things.' Frodd: 'I don't know, guys. Another Froddian left her Earth running, and she got in big trouble.' Wonmug: 'Wait, there's *another* Earth?' Frodd: 'In *this* galaxy? There are thousands. ... Aw, did you think you were special? That's so cute.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 30th of August, 2021. The notion of thousands of Earths is the sort of thing I mean, raising issues the comic strip isn’t dealing with. But those are essentially the issues raised by the multiverse idea — and the changeable-timeline idea — that’s been part of the Lemon and Sayers run on Alley Oop anyway, so it’s not a new issue.

My bigger dissatisfaction is that, in the strip’s focus on having a punch line and a plot development every day, we get some conflicts. I don’t want to call them continuity errors. For one, there’s very little that can’t be harmonized. But we get things like Frodd starting the 40,000-light-year journey to Froddulon A (the 9th of August) by altering Our Heroes’ source code so they won’t age. Later on, when we get back to the Moon (the 2nd of September) Our Heroes just miss some aliens hoping to find someone to bestow immortality on. There’s no contradiction here. But it feels sloppy to do this joke twice in one story. Frodd first explains he’s simulating Earth to get on the high score table (4th of August). The next day he explains it’s an unwanted school project (5th of August). Frodd gets grounded for a millennium (the 12th of August); he’s on the Moon later that day (the 27th of August).

More like a continuity error is Frodd needing to alter Our Heroes’ source code to not age. But we see (the 21st and 23rd of August) that Frodd’s space bubble can travel instantly. We can rationalize that, yes. (And it would wreck the story’s pace if Our Heroes’ escape took 40,000 years.) Puttering around at NASA Alley Oop discovers an Alien Alley Oop (28th of June). But their little launch causes NASA to think they’ve discovered aliens (14th of July). Again, anyone trying could reconcile this. And if an artist has a better idea for an ongoing project they should use the better one. But this feels to me more like they use every idea, which can’t always work.

Alley Oop, kneeling down at some rocks: 'Ooola, Doc, you have to come see this!' Ooola; 'Alley, if it's another rock that looks like someone famous, I think I'll pass.' Doc Wonmug: 'Yes, we do have rocks on Earth, you know.' Alley Oop, to a trio of mouse astronauts in a tiny lunar module: 'It was really nice meeting you. Congrats on being the first Earth creatures to reach the moon.' The tiny lunar module lifts off, and Wonmug asks, 'What was *that*?' Alley Oop: 'Oh, just a rock that looks like Dolly Parton.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 24th of July, 2021. As with the Inquisitive Ghosts, this throwaway joke works for me. Part of it may be that it’s about expanding the world, albeit in a way that makes human-mouse interactions in the strip somehow worse than they are in reality. But also that it’s a basically nice joke, Alley Oop having a nice time with new friends, which is easier to take than the cynical or mean jokes.

And the drive for a punch line every day has good sides too. For example, on the 24th of July, Alley chats with the mouse astronauts who beat Armstrong and Aldrin to the moon. It’s a scene I liked.

Next Week!

It’s been one week longer in arriving than usual, but I look at Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the final time. Did Spider-Man save Albuquerque from destruction at the hands of an alien war machine using nothing more than Rocket Raccoon and the secret alien war machine’s commander? The only person I knew in Albuquerque moved away years ago, so I have no way of knowing. Sorry!

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 … ]

In My Defense I Never Said the Song Was Bad, I Just Disagree With the Universality of Its Asserted Premise


Me, in 1984: Oh, Tears for Fears, you fools. I have not the slightest desire to rule the world! It would be no end of fussy petty decision-making. Every day would just be all this reading of data and projections and calculations to try and meet some goal it might not be possible to prove was met.

Me, from 1985 onward: [ Spends all his spare time playing ever-more-elaborate simulation and management games, apart from the time he spends thinking up even more ridiculous and fiddly management games. Earlier this year I had the idea for a game where you’re the Chief Financial Officer for a corporation big enough to need elaborate cash-management, such as by deciding how much to raise by stock issues, how much by bond issues, how much by commercial paper, how much by letters of credit, and so on. ]

60s Popeye: Popeye Revere, a title that makes me remember the cartoon wrong


A confession to a cultural blind spot: I’ve never actually read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem about Paul Revere. I know chunks of it, mostly because of cartoons quoting it, sometimes at what seems to be great length. This is one of those cartoons. Thanks to it, I feel like I know enough of the original I don’t have to know the original. There are a bunch of movies I know I’ll never watch either because SCTV gave me the essentials. That’s right, Humoresque, I don’t care if you’re showing in TCM or not! So there!

This is another Jack Kinney-produced cartoon. The story’s by Noel Tucker and the animation director Ken Hultgren. Here’s 1960’s Popeye Revere.

Some of these cartoons I remember nothing about. Some are seared into my memory. This was one I thought was seared in, largely by Popeye adapting Longfellow’s words. Who could forget about the chance “to hear// of the midnight ride of Popeye Revere”? Me, apparently, since that’s not what Popeye says. It’s Poopdeck Revere, everywhere except in the title of the cartoon. Why did the cartoon not have the correct name? What were you afraid of, Jack Kinney?

Which gets at my other question: why is Poopdeck Pappy in this? Were they worried it would confuse viewers to have Popeye-Narrator and Popeye-Revere both talking? In other tell-Swee’Pea-a-story cartoons Popeye gets cast as the male hero. Real Popeye does more narration this time than usual, yes. I think he says “to every Middlesex village and farm” at least eighteen times over the course of two minutes.

I’m not opposed to Poopdeck, mind. He’s a fun character. He can take the little-stinker roles Popeye evolved out of. But it’s not like Paul Revere is a little-stinker character. So why this choice?

Animation frame showing Poopdeck Pappy (dressed as Paul Revere) leaping handily over a barrel rolling toward him.
200 points!

The big addition to Longfellow’s poem, I assume, is Brutus as a Tory trying to stop Poopdeck’s ride. Brutus throwing barrels at Poopdeck, which he leaps over, reminded me “wasn’t there something about Donkey Kong starting out as a Popeye video game?” It’s more complicated than that but, yeah, the path to Donkey Kong included an attempted Popeye license. This is probably coincidence, though. The molasses, or as they spell it molassas, does give the cartoon a punch line.

There’s not much standing out in the animation here. There is one neat little effect, as Poopdeck rides and calls to every middlesex village and farm. As he turns side to side his figure grows larger and smaller. It’s a nice addition of life to a basic cycle.

Animation frame showing Poopdeck Pappy (dressed as Paul Revere) partly behind the barrel rolling toward him. His hand might be in front of the barrel; the animation cels are ambiguously placed. In any case it's too late for him to jump over the barrel, except by virtue of an animation error.
OK this looks bad but you actually want it, because it times-in a collision-detection glitch that gives you a frame clipping in your GPU that Metroids your gigablorpz. I don’t know how video game speedrunning works.

Swee’Pea seems to have an attitude about hearing all this stuff regarding Poopdeck Revere. At one point he holds up a sign, ‘PURE CORN’, for the audience. It seems like a cheap thrill, and an insincere one. (It’s your cartoon, after all. If you don’t like it, why didn’t you make a better one?) But then remember the opening of the tell-me-a-story frame. Swee’Pea asked if Paul Revere’s ride really went like that in the poem. And Popeye goes ahead and basically re-reads the poem, just with slight recasting. I understand Swee’Pea feeling caught in this fix.

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.

My Extremely Rare Idea For A Video Game People Might Want To Play


Okay, so how about Oregon Trail, only for finding the Northwest Passage? Like, you pick an era of exploration, and what kind of ship and what sorts of crew, and how much you want to invest in stocks to search overland and over ice? And you make decisions about what currents to follow and when to keep poking into a bay and when to give up a path as probably useless? And trying to figure out which is just an estuary and which is a major river and where portages would be useful? Also so that you don’t go in knowing that there’s no finding one you have to go searching the shore of a procedurally generated Canada?

Yes, a good idea, sure. But mostly I say this because I want to get the concept of the “procedurally generated Canada” out there. Isn’t that a great notion? Sure. Just imagine a world where Montreal isn’t an inevitability but must instead come about by a lucky result on a random number generator. What about a Prince Edward Island tucked right in the middle of Baffin Bay? Ooh, there must be the chance there’d be, like, four Albertas, one right after the other, surrounding Labrador like it was ganging up on Saint Pierre and Miquelon? And wouldn’t it be something if the Saint Lawrence River led directly to — let’s say something hilarious here — Edmonton or maybe Churchill? A Toronto that’s balanced on top of Vancouver? And underneath a second Vancouver? Yes, this is a thing we should have. You’re very welcome.

While Waiting At Rite-Aid For Fifteen Minutes After The Flu Shot


They used to have a TV set here, didn’t they? Little thing here in the seating area outside the vaccination room. I remember they were always showing that afternoon chat show. You know. Four Women Excited That Bradley Cooper Will Be Stopping By Later. He’s never with the four women excited. He’s always supposed to be on a later segment, or maybe later this week, or maybe next week. No idea why they’d take out the TV set. People would watch that. Maybe Bradley Cooper finally stopped by and they’re retooling the show. Four Women Excited That Idris Elba Will Be Stopping By Later would have to be at least as popular, I’d think. No reason to take the set out.

Boy even for a free “health magazine” that’s all advertisements for prescription drugs this “health magazine” has a lot of advertisements for prescription drugs. Great set of tips for people buying sunglasses in October. I guess four sentences is enough for people doing that. We’re just going to have a hazy cloudy cover through to about April anyway and nobody sells cloudglasses worth anything these days.

Got to be something else here. Wonder what the Wi-Fi password is. ‘riteaid’? … no. ‘RiteAid’? … no. ‘Rite_Aid’? … no. They say there’s Wi-Fi in the store, why don’t they tell us what … it can’t be ‘password’, can it? While it can be, it is not. Good to have that sorted out.

Well, I can wander around some. If I collapse in the store they’ll send someone around to smoosh a mop against me. Hey, one of those Classic Video Game units-in-one thingies. Those are tempting. What do they have for the Atari? Oh, Tank. Tank II. SuperTank. Color SuperTank. Hm. Why don’t they ever have the god-awful games like E.T. or Superman? I bet they’re way less totally unplayable now that I have motor control and can read the eight-page instruction book. I’m in practice from all those grand strategy games. They have, like, an eighty-page instruction book that explains you can start a trade with another nation by clicking on the ‘diplomacy’ tab and clicking the ‘start trade’ button. They never explain whether putting a pile of rare earth metals on your side means you’re offering a pile of rare earth metals or whether you’re asking for them. So there’s never any guessing why your deal is getting rejected, until you give up even trying. Oh, Pong II. Hey, I remember that time at that boring con the only thing to do was play with this thing in the video game room. There was that whole baseball game where I never had any idea whether I was batting or pitching. And I drew a crowd of appreciative watchers, none of whom could tell either. We had similar results with the football game. And the guy who owned it asked if I wanted to take it home and I didn’t realize he was trying to give it away. It was easier playing games as a kid. You just argued with your siblings over whose turn it was, and punched. Didn’t even need the game.

“Now Better Crunch! Easier To Bite!” That’s a heck of a claim there, pack of granola bars. I bet they did it a chintzy way. I bet they nerfed the granola bars’s mouth-evasion AI. That’ll be convenient in some ways, I guess. I’ve had enough granola bars leap away from my lips and into my forehead, my left kneecap, into the mantle clock, over to the squirrel feeder. Too many light snacks have been ruined by my needing to disguise my mouth behind something that doesn’t trigger the granola bar’s fears. Maybe a picture of John Harvey Kellogg. Maybe a TV showing Four Women Excited That Chris Pratt Will Be Stopping By Later.

Ah, the local alt-weekly, that’s something. So … OK, why is the City of Lansing holding a tender to buy Harley-Davidsons? The city dates to 1847. It’s too old for this sort of midlife crisis. Oh, good, Dave still has his Reasonable Lawn-Mowing service going. Far better than those people who charge, like, four hundred thousand dollars and mow the lawn by beating it with an unchewable granola bar.

Maybe the password is “RiteAid” followed by whatever the store number is.

OK, what time is it? I should be able to leave in … thirteen minutes.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose a point just to see what all the noise up there was about. (It was an accident. They didn’t know their subwoofer was turned all the way up.)

134

Dirty Words At Work


A friend was talking about some Spider-Man video game he’d played as a kid. There was a screen where you could enter cheat codes. If you entered something that wasn’t a cheat code, mostly, the game just ignored it. But if you entered a cuss word or something else dirty or sexual or racist or something Spider-Man would come out and whap your entry. So the game turned into one of testing out every possible word to see what would be objectionable. It’s possible there was no actual Spider-Man game and kids were just entertained trying to figure out what wasn’t allowed as a cheat-code word.

It’s got me realizing that someone had the job of making a list of all the words deserving of a Spider-whapping. Maybe not at the game maker’s, maybe they grabbed the list from some industry-standard list. But that just moves the list-making. Somebody had the job of compiling a list of all the words kids might reasonably enter into a game and that they shouldn’t be doing. And I bet it wasn’t just one person either, because who knows every sexist or homophobic or racist term out there? You need to pool experiences to get something close to full coverage. There had to be meetings of people working out this list of offensive terms. And somebody deciding whether a word really was a common and offensive enough term to include in the list.

And then they had to do all this without breaking the rules about appropriate office discussion or creating a hostile work environment. And that’s got me boggled. It almost seems easier to just not let people cheat on their Spider-Man games.

(I’m kidding. I know tech companies don’t have any rules about appropriate office discussions and require the work environments to be hostile. But imagine if it were another way! How would they get things done?)

Oh, *Honestly*, Grand Strategy Games


From the tutorial for March of the Eagles, a variant on Europa Universalis III that skips Ancient Rome and is all about the Napoleonic Wars, which I picked up because it was really cheap and why not?

It's a tutorial, and yet a box that says what you're doing is obscured by other boxes. Wild stuff, huh? Yeah, this was totally not a phoned-in daily entry.
I’m not sure what idea it is I’m even picking here, although I had clicked on “Naval Movement Ideas”, so I imagine it’s some national- and era-appropriate idea for the Royal Navy, like maybe having ships that move or something. Still, at least it has a nice reassuring ! to fill right margin.

So I expect the box there with the ‘OK’ button is supposed to be double-checking you really want to do this (which is pick a National Idea that gives you some benefits). But it’s hidden by the List of Ideas, which can’t be minimized or closed, and it can’t be brought in front of the List Of Ideas, and, oh, I don’t know. I guess that’s a picture of a guy with a bandage around his head on the top bar there, with a 0.88 underneath it, and not a water balloon being filled from a tap.

If you need me I’ll be over in Roller Coaster Tycoon III Platinum.

Why Grand Strategy Games Take Seven Freaking Years To Learn How To Play


From about the second tutorial screen to Europa Universalis: Rome, a grand strategy game variant I bought when it was on sale and only just got around to now that I got the mothership game done one time. And depending on how wide a screen you’re looking at this on it might be hard to see what I’m pointing to, so you might want to click on the image until it’s big enough you can read the text easily.

A panel tries to explain the menu bar items. There's four items in a vertical list, and they're connected to the horizontally-arranged items by thin white lines, most of which intersect each other. And the lines don't end at the correct points on the menu bar. Three of them point to *other* menu bar items not matching what's described in text.
I’m sure the interface won’t be any harder to understand than the ancient Roman calendar, in which you might specify that today was, say, the 22nd of June by declaring it was the “tenth day to the kalends of July”, or how you’d say that the 12th was the “first day to the ides of June”, because the ides are the 13th in most months and the 15th in a couple of months. And sometimes they’d just throw in an extra month between the 24th and 25th of February because what the heck, why not, and I’m not even making that up.

And I am just awestruck by the multiple levels of failure involved with this screen. I would like to know how they overlooked a few ways to make this even better, such as:

  • Make the text dark grey on a slightly less dark grey background, possibly one with a lot of very dark grey cross-hatching.
  • When you pause or unpause the game, have it shriek.
  • Make the images less directly representative, like, instead of a pile of coins for the treasury and money use a pile of salt, represented by a bottle of soy sauce, which can be quite high in salt; or perhaps represent research with a plain footlong hot dog.
  • Set the screen to occasionally strobe, and in the midst of the strobing effect, have the computer grab some manner of blunt instrument and poke you in the ribs with it, then punch you.

So in summary, I would like to note that when one of the trilithons making up Stonehenge fell in 1797, a report in the Kentish Gazette placed blame for the fall on the burrowing of rabbits undermining the wonder. (Pages 39-40). Thank you.

Why Grand Strategy Games Are Thrilling


I have a deep love of grand strategy video games. Let me explain the genre. You know Sid Meier’s Civilization, possibly from the guys who spent 1993 through 1998 sitting continuously at the computer mumbling weird things about taking on the Ruso-Aztec alliance? It’s what that grew into. Civilization is still around, but it’s not nearly complicated enough a game for me. I prefer the Europa Universalis line of games, by which I mean, last week I just finished my first-ever complete game of Europa Universalis 3, a game I bought in Like 2009 and hadn’t yet understood. I did win.

Anyway. I was playing China, and along about the early 18th century came this exciting bit of pop-up news:

Spread of Discoveries: We have learned about CONNECTICUT. We must find a way to exploit this knowledge.
This is noteworthy because my China didn’t have the naval explorers to go poking around the world. Apparently someone just came up to the Imperial Mapmaker and said, “Hey, you wanna know something the rest of the world hasn’t been letting you in on? Oh, you’re going to love it. This is finally going to make sense out of those weird rumors you’ve heard about New Haven and Saybrook and fill in that gap to the west of Woonsocket!” … … I’m kidding, of course. Why would the Ming court have heard about Woonsocket, Rhode Island, at that stage in history? But, hey, access to Danbury, that’s something!

And I just haven’t stopped giggling about the potential wonders that alternate-history 1722 China hopes to find now that they’ve got an “in” with Connecticut.

In other stuff, my mathematics blog gave me reason to talk about comic strips yesterday. Also, Apparently Frank Page’s comic strip Bob The Squirrel has observed some problems similar to mine.

My Computer’s Turn


So it was in the news lately that they’ve made a computer that can beat people while playing Go. Not just anyone, I mean. Any computer can beat me playing Go, because I’m just not very good at it. My best Go move is to claim that I’m someone else until the opposing player goes off looking for the “real” Joseph Nebus.

But now they’ve got it so the computer can play Go better than even professional Go players can. That’s taken a while to get here. I remember when we finally got computers that could play chess better than any humans. I guess there must’ve been a time computers were no good at checkers or backgammon or whatever, but you never hear about that. I know I go out of my way to avoid hearing about backgammon.

I’m glad we’re getting computers that can play games, though. I’ve got some video games I’ve never been able to make sense of. I’m thinking here of Supreme Ruler: Cold War, which is this incredibly complicated and detailed grand strategy game where you can play any country in the world from 1949. There’s no useful manual, and the wiki describing how to play it is about four pages, all referring to broken-link images. It’s barely possible to work out what you can do with the game. I’ll be glad to turn it over to a computer and not have to slog through trying to make it do anything on purpose anymore.

Obviously we’re nowhere near the time when computers can play all our games for us. But at least now we don’t have to play Go anymore. Dad, I’m sorry for all the Go players I’ve sent in your direction over the years. Apparently it won’t happen again, though.

Dug It


I got to looking up the early-80s video game Dig Dug, which taught me how to better my enemies by wielding a bicycle pump at them, which has never worked for me. I’ve never got past the third board in the game, and a bicycle pump has done even worse at fending off my enemies in real life. But StrategyWiki delighted me by not just being able to tell me the names all the things in it, and revealing that among the “bonus vegetables” that pop up if you do far better than I have ever done are eggplants, pineapples, garlic, Galaxian, and green peppers, is that Dig Dug himself has a proper name and it isn’t “Mr Dug”.

Apparently his proper name is Taizo Hori, and he’s the father of “Mr Driller”, famed star of the Mr Driller series of video games that I never heard of before this. I don’t know why Mr Driller changed his family name. Maybe Taizo’s wife kept her maiden name, or they didn’t marry at all. Maybe Mr Driller wanted to get away from having a name that’s a Japanese pun, which it turns out his dad’s name is. “Horitai zo” apparently means “I want to dig”, although I’m not sure changing your name from “I Want To Dig” to “Mr Digger” isn’t just a lateral move, like going from “Mr Shepherd” to “Mr Fellow With A Keen Interest In Organizing Groups Of Sheep”. Obviously there are parts of the psychology of the Dig Dug universe that I don’t adequately understand.

It also turns out there’s backstory to Dig Dug that explains Taizo is digging around his own vegetable patch, which is why vegetables turn up, and it’s being invaded by those critters which is why he’s trying to blow them up, and now I kind of want to look up an explanation for how the Burger Time universe came to be, but I’m also afraid of finding out. I’ve almost gotten to the third board in that.

Also, garlic is a vegetable? I guess I can accept it as a vegetable. I suppose I didn’t have a clear notion of what it was, besides one of those things that comes chopped up in a bottle and that I put too much of on my burger. All right, so it’s a vegetable, then.

As Ever, Y’know, The Heck?


I am all but certain there was a time in my life when I could look at a sign and not feel helpless before the questions it posed, but now, I realize I can’t even look around one of those sad little minor arcades tucked in the far back section of the Cedar Point amusement park without noticing something like this “Guide To Coin-Operated Video Games”, and the description of game content. Particularly, there’s this pair at the bottom:

Language Mild: Contains commonly used four-letter words, presumably of the milder variety.
A guide to coin-operated video games posted at one of the minor arcades in the western-themed area of Cedar Point. And isn’t it charming they don’t just say “cuss words” instead?

LANGUAGE
MILD
Contains commonly used four-letter words.
LANGUAGE
STRONG
Contains strong four-letter expletives.

What do they mean by “commonly used four-letter words”? Since it’s “mild” language that suggests they mean words such as “word” and “four” and “used” and “mild” and maybe even “blue”, “them”, “malt”, “thaw”, “ever”, “pear”, or the mildest of all mild words, “chat”, a word so mild it only becomes enraging because anyone asking for a “chat” with you is transparently trying to manage you to becoming angry at someone other than them, the person you should be angry at.

And by pinning down the red-zone warning words to “strong four-letter expletives” they seem to be ruling out all cases where you take a popular strong expletive and turn it, say, into an adjective or adverbial form, or maybe where you insert it into the middle of some other word like “absolutely”. But also if they mean this then how do they qualify the phrase “h-e-double-toothpicks”, which is nineteen letters but so mild that you can say it anywhere that hasn’t been ravaged by controversy over the toothpick industry? These are all questions I feel I cannot answer.

Five Nights At Game Informer


Maybe you’ve heard about Five Nights At Freddy’s. I’m dimly aware of it myself. It’s a new horror game that’s based on everyone’s inherent love of being freaked out by Chuck-E-Cheeses, and apparently it’s sufficiently horrifying that my love has had nightmares about the game without ever having played it, inspired just by reading an article about how it isn’t a real horror game because all it does is scare you a lot. (I feel like I didn’t understand the thesis quite right.)

Anyway. This month’s Game Informer magazine just arrived, and it’s titled “The Horror Issue”, featuring your classic cover of Black Thing With A Couple Less Black But Still Pretty Dark Spots In It That I Guess Is The Monster From Aliens in it. Naturally we checked to see if they had anything about Five Nights At Freddy’s.

They don’t. Apparently, Game Informer‘s Horror Issue went to press just in time to miss this year’s big striking horror game that people can’t stop talking about. That’s got to be the Game Informer‘s editors’ worst nightmare, hasn’t it?

So, well played, Five Nights company, well played.

From The Technology Centers That Brought You Towels


I don’t want to alarm anyone but I have seen on the labels of a towel at a Holiday Inn the notice that it was part of the Holiday Inn Bath Collection, Patent Pending. There’s at minimum two things to wonder about in that fact. The first is that the Holiday Inn corporation believes it has somehow made an advancement in the technology of towels sufficient to be considered for a patent. The other is that apparently I am content to read the towel labels at a Holiday Inn. I have no excuse for this behavior. I’m sorry to have to make you all aware of it.

What would a towel technological innovation even be, though? I’m trying to picture it as I understand all technological developments by picturing how it would be explained in a little pop-up window in Sid Meier’s Civilization II, and it seems like towels have to fit in somewhere after “Mysticism” but before “Robotics”. But then we in the real world already have robots and Holiday Inn is putting forth more towel developments. So it’s not a perfect understanding, I guess, but it’s what I have.

Whatever happened to Coleco


A big part in the history of any business is when it figures to diversity, because that’s where everything gets really screwed up. The case example of this is Coleco, which started out making stuff for doing things with leather, and concluded that to be really successful it needed shoe-makers to be able to be able to install in-ground swimming pools, always a sign of moving upscale in the neighborhood. But to be able to support the new in-ground pool ventures it had to move into making video games so that people would have blinky, button-y things to occupy themselves with while beside the pool. This forced the company into the line of making computer hardware since without the hardware the video games were just, in those days, illegally copied discs accompanied by magazined that insisted you needed to know BASIC for some reason. This forced another diversification as Coleco needed its employees to be properly outfitted for clean-room operations, and to be properly outfitted they needed sharp shoes. This forced them right back into the business of making tools for leather workers. The company vanished in a recursive loop in 1987 and was never heard from again.

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