MonthJuly 2001

VH1 Nerds

Short Photo-centric update:

     Even though I guess I didn’t talk about it much on this site, I was totally obsessed with VH1’s ‘Bands on the Run.’ I taped every episode and even had an ‘End of Bands on the Run’ gathering of sorts. Bearing this in mind, it should come as no surprise that I went and saw Flickerstick live, and actually took some pretty good photos. Some examples:


     It was a fun show if only because I knew all the songs from T.V. That’s really kind of sad, now that I think about it. Also: Someone should condemn St. Andrew’s Hall in the summertime, because it is just ridiculous. Or alternately, they should install some sort of ventilation.

     Willy Wonka, ever the purveyor of odd candy ideas, seems to have recently decided that their ‘Nerds’ simply weren’t good enough on their own. This decision has resulted in the introduction of two products of questionable merit. The first: Nerds Gum balls. When I first saw these, the packaging was crinkled up in such a way that the ‘Gum’ part was hidden, so for a few seconds I thought Wonka had outdone even themselves in marketing a product called ‘Nerds Balls.’ Unfortunately, this was not the case.


     Turns out the whole gimmick is that the gumballs have Nerds inside, but not very many. This one had a grand total of six Nerds in the center, so I don’t know if that really justifies calling them ‘Nerds gum balls.’ The shell is all crunchy – just like the Nerds themselves, so the casual Nerds Gumball buyer probably wouldn’t even notice the presence of the nerds, which really sort of defeats the purpose of the product.

     Next up: Nerds Rope. I found this one at a gas station in Illinois back when The Recital did our weekend outing with RSB. This is a long, gummi-type string coated with Nerds.

     I really don’t know what to say about this, other than I ate the whole thing in one sitting and thought my teeth were going to fall out. Also I remember reading here that when Atom (of ‘and his package’ fame) first encountered this montrosity, he mistook the loopy ‘O’ for an ‘A,’ believing the product to be called ‘Nerds Rape,’ which is funny but also not.

     The funny part about these two products is that they’re easier to find than regular Nerds lately, which is totally lame. Totally. Other retarded Wonka products: Thrills and Xploder.

     I updated that arcade page, because I just know you were all chomping at the bit to discover what new alterations I might have made. Well quit chomping at the bit, please, because your wait is over.

     I will hopefully return soon with ridiculously photo-laden accounts of both a weekend trip with the Recital and my trek to Coney Island.

Baby Pac Man, etc

     Hey folks, this is a massive update, and for some reason, a lot of it is all video-game-core. Sorry about that. I tried to get it all out of the way at the beginning, so just sort of scroll down until it stops looking boring. If you reach the bottom before that happens, well then… crap.

     So I’m still putting a lot of effort in to remodeling this arcade cabinet that I bought for really no reason other than it keeps me occupied. In doing research for this I found some interesting stuff. Some of it is interesting because it is insane, and some of it is interesting because I am a huge dork. First, the part that is interesting because it is insane. I was looking for manuals for specific logic boards online (so I could get the schematic), and I found this. In case you had a life in high school and have no idea what to make of the text that the link leads to, it is a HUGE document dedicated to describing strategies to adopt while using ONE of the characters (Ken) in the game Street Fighter 2. A highlight:

     “Ken is the *most* versatile of the street fighters in the number of combos
that he is capable of performing. You may want to see the FAQ for a definition of a combo. It is imperative that you can buffer as well to pull off the most dangerous of the combos. If you have problems with these, remedy
it by reading the “Buffering and Combos Workbook” by Tom Cannon for a good look at how these can be done. One of Ken’s combos is covered in this guide as well.”

     Now the part that is interesting because I am a huge dork. I was trying to find out more information on the cabinet I bought, which at one time was a Super Pac Man cabinet, and I found this:

     I had never seen one of these before. Having seen one, I WANT one. Here is a description of what the deal is with Baby Pac Man:

     “One of the earliest (and only) pinball/video game hybrids, Baby Pac-Man put a new spin on the classic Pac-format. The stubby pinball field imbedded beneath a 13-inch video screen made this curious-looking machine a standout in any arcade, and the altered gameplay gave even hardened Pac-Man experts a brand-new challenge.

     The game began like any other Pac-variation. There was a small maze on the video screen, and using the joystick control, your job was to guide Baby Pac-Man through the maze, chomping power pellets and avoiding ghosts. But one difference was instantly clear: there were no energizers, those glowing little orbs that let you turn the tables on the ghostly foursome. Those had to be earned down below, on the pinball table.

     By escaping down one of the tunnels at the bottom of the screen, Baby Pac-Man entered the pinball world. Here, gameplay functioned like traditional pinball, keeping the ball in play with a pair of flippers. To earn energizers, you either had to hit the right buttons to spell “P-A-C-M-A-N” or hit the “Hoop Loop” at the top of the pinball field. Spelling “F-R-U-I-T-S” would advance the traditional Pac-Man fruit prize to its next highest level (worth more points), and spelling “T-U-N-N-E-L” increased Baby Pac’s speed when he passed through the side tunnels on the video maze.

     Unlike traditional pinball, however, Baby Pac-Man was very generous with the second chances. When the ball dropped past your flippers into the murky nothing below, all hope was not yet lost. Baby Pac-Man simply returned to the video screen, where the ghosts were waiting. But mercy came with a price. The tunnels back to pinball land were now closed, forcing Baby Pac either to finish the level or die trying. As a more pleasant alternative, you could return to the video screen without losing your escape tunnels by landing your pinball in a designated saucer.

     Every game of Baby Pac-Man began and ended on the video screen (it was the only place you could lose a life), keeping the hybrid offspring in touch with its Pac-roots. The creative design didn’t inspire too many imitators, and the pinball/video game wave turned out to be a tiny one, but this “bouncing bundle of joystick joy” was yet another landmark moment in the history of the arcade’s first true superstar.”

     So great. So now I have a new quest. To find a crapped out Baby Pac Man cabinet and make that my new project.

     Also, do you remember how everybody stopped making pinball machines a few years ago? Well they did – no one is currently manufacturing pinball machines – Star Wars Episode I was one of the last two (I forget what the very last one was). At any rate, the reason I bring that up is because it’s happening with regular video games, too. Industry giant Midway recently announced they were through with arcades. This sparked some discussion in the same places I was looking for parts, and some if it is actually kind of interesting. Some choice bits:

Point:

     “Let’s get to the *reason* arcades are like this now. When home consoles became almost as good as arcade units, people started staying home to play the same game. If an arcade game was popular, they would slam it out on a home console quickly, ruining the return on investment for the arcade, or operator, usually about the time the game hasn’t quite paid for itself yet.

     This is my #1 pet peeve of the industry. I agree that properly servicing games is a problem in many arcades. I have bought “classic”games from arcades that were not making any money and found out why. The controls were screwed up and the game was unplayable. Wanna know the reason why there are so many driving games & ticket spitters in arcades now? THEY MAKE MORE MONEY! A successful business can’t concentrate on the things that don’t make money. Any games that have an easy control that can be used on a game pad (no gun, no steering wheel, etc..) will be slammed out on a home system. You can’t really duplicate that in the home, so that’s why you see the games with complicated controls kept on site.

     If arcades got rid of all the games you want them to, they’d go broke. Redemption games (ticket spitters) are the biggest earners for arcades today. Sucks, but true. The truly unique games that don’t stay in arcades very long aren’t making enough money to stay on the floor. If every town that had an arcade had 50x the players like you, it could be different.”

Counterpoint:

     “The problem with this argument is this: Champions Arcade closed. They were doing everything ‘right’ according to you (lots of skee-ball machines and huge driving games), but they went broke and closed. I can’t know all the reasons, as I was merely a patron rather than an employee or manager, but when you consider it’s in a big mall near a high school, a mall mostly catering *to* those high school kids, turning the place into a Skeeball Paradise when the *only* games that were being played regularly were the SF sequels and pinball games (Gauntlet Legends was popular, too, but they took that out after two weeks) was the kiss of death.

     Actually, the old shoot-em-ups in the back were pretty popular, too,
but Raiden’s speakers had been squealing for months, and nobody bothered to fix it. Jojo’s Venture was being played, and they took it out. Power Stone was popular, and they took it out. Nobody at all played Zombie
Stalker, and they moved that game to the front, where it stayed until the place closed a year after they got it in.

     Now the nearest arcade to me is twenty minutes from me in the other
direction – i.e., if you start at the site of the former Champions, there are no arcades within twenty miles. They were the *only* arcade anywhere near that location, but they ignored what the patrons wanted for a Chuck E. Cheese atmosphere, and look where it got them… (Chuck E. Cheese as it exists *now*, of course – when they first opened, they used to be the best arcade of all)”

     Eric’s Trip has announced the dates for their reunion tour, and the tracklisting for the Live CD they’re pushing. I plan on going to the London show, but have a sneaking suspicion that it will sell out, as it’s closest to the states. So maybe Toronto.

     Ages ago I asked for nintendo tricks. I copied them all into a file and promptly forgot about them until now. Here they are, way late.

“Ah yes, I remember Nintendo. Blowing into the bottom of the game
cartridge a few times seemed to get ours to cooperate. You mean to tell
me modern video game systems don’t require this sort of finessing? It’s
been years since I’ve played any.” – Charlotte Makepeace

“I can’t really think of anything too extra-ordinary when it comes to NES
wizardry aside from the normal stuff: a) exhaling deeply into the bottom of
the cartridge and trying to fog-clean the malfunctions with human vapor. b)
pressing the cartridge into the system and massaging it back and forth
numerous times in hopes that it would “grasp” some kind of imaginary grooves
and work properly. (the number of massages & vapor blows kind of varied from
game to game.) Well, actually, I think I know what you mean about the
ritualism. My friend Ken used to really get into it when we were younger.
Like he’d wave cartridges around in the air, and use washclothes on the
bottoms of a lot of them. The copy of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
arcade game (or TMNT II) that he had was exceptionally temperamental.. and I
can recall him (on more than one occasion) “asking” the game if it wouldn’t
‘please work properly’. He’d start by gently caressing the game and speaking
to it in calm whispers and chides- and then move to a louder chastisement,
and then finally he’d tell the game off furiously. One time he got really
pissed (and after he gave the game *more* than what I thought was fair and
deserving reprimand) he threw it against the wall of the basement. We all
looked at each other completely shocked. Then Ken went over picked it up,
shook it off, sort of ‘apologized’ to it, blew into the bottom of it, did
the massage thing, and (with the help of the codes BABAupdownselectstart) we
were able to make it into the confines of the Technodrone, and ultimately
kick the shit out of the multiplying Shredders.” -Mustafa Banister

“Our basic Nintendo ritual was to blow on the chip of the cartridge or to
blow into the tray if things just weren’t working right. I’m sure there were others, but I can’t think of them right now.” – John Heisel

“My favorite way to make my Nintendo Entertainment System keep bringing those Battletoads to me was a fairly common practice I believe. First, it is necessary to jam the game cartridge all the way into the system, and then slowly wiggle it out to the very edge to where the cartridge will still fit, but barely. It worked everytime!! Unlike BLOWING into the cartridges which I believe does not much good.” – Nicole Stanczyk

“Trying endlessly to make my NES work is something I’ll never forget. I
remember coming home from school every day, and going through the ritual. It
was as follows:

  1. Get down on your knees and blow into the NES system until your face turns
    blood red.

  2. Blow into the bottom of the game cartridge until you’re on the verge of
    fainting.

  3. Insert cartridge into Nintendo, close Nintendo door, bang top of Nintendo
    with your hand until it finally starts working.

This usually worked. And it certainly taught me how to blow. …har har.” – Brad

“Oh man what a great topic. me and my fellow playmates(i can call them
playmates because we were 9) would take turns holding the catridge exactly 2
feet from the system and spray a cloud of lysol and run through it with the
game in tow hoping it would clean it out. we did this 3 times and then put
the game it. it worked everytime.” – Brock Kappers

“Well, of course we used the old ‘blow into the cartridge’ technique. And there
were a number of occasions when hitting the hell out of the thing worked just
fine. Also, towards the end of our systems life, we had to jam a kazoo on top
of the cartridge in order for it to work properly. Not just any kazoo, but
this big yellow one that we got at the state fair. It was the only one that
worked. We also had to slant it, like on a stack of books or something. Man,
that thing just took over our lives. I remember the first night we got
Tetris–my family stayed up until 6am trying to get past Level 3. It was
great. I suppose this won’t be all that entertaining for you, but it brought
back some nice memories.” – Mariam

“I get my system to work by placing a screwdriver exactly in the middle on top
of the game and shoving it in. Sometimes you have to giggle it a little and
blow on the game. For the most part it seems to work.” – Chris Avello

“The obvious first option was to blow into the open side of the
cartridge.  Starting from the left of the slot and ending to the
right, placing the cart back in and pressing the power button. If that did not work, the cartridge would be removed, blown into again.This time, though, the system itself would also receive a burst of wind.Insert cartridge, press button. If this still didn’t do the trick, there was a third and final method,which i like to tell myself i invented.  I would repeat the blowing procedures, as a precaution, and insert the cartridge into the slotalmost completely, leaving approximately 1/2 inch sticking out ofthe cart bay.  I would then force the cart down, fighting the friction of the excess 1/2 inch. This usually did the trick. Of course… I should have just always done the third method but that wouldn’t have been half as fun.  I’ve had this conversation with friends a million times, and everyone’s got their own tricks. Hilarity!” – Chris

“I know you posted a few days ago about the Nintendo aid tricks…and I
wanted to share mine. heh. I think it’s what everyone did though.

  • step 1- take out game cartridge…blow in the ridge thingy (you know what i’m
    talking about, right?).

  • step 2- blow in the actual system.
  • step 3- place game back in system…popping it up and down a couple times,
    before finally pressing power.

I think I remembered that correctly. it’s been a while. Anyway…I’m
curious to see what you do with this information.” – Cathleen

“I don’t exactly recall, but I think I remember in 6th grade my friend, nick,
insisting that we close all the windows and turn off all the lights before
opening the door on the NES. then of course, more typcial NES maintenance
occured (a few swift blows into the cartridge, a gentle swabbing with a
spit-soaked q-tip, a quick half depressing of the spring activated loading
dock before the full insertion of the cartridge) and well as the golden
rule: never never turn on the tv before the game was inserted and nintendo
was on. These were Nick’s techniques, but I engaged in them wholeheartedly,
so I suppose they’re mine too.

I hope this helps.

ps. how cool was lifeforce?! the shooter where you played the spaceship that
went inside a giant aliens body to disable he major organs and thus save all
of civilization (kind of like fantastic voyage star trek style)? and how
impossible was zelda 2? my dumbass was thoroughly defeated and humiliated by
that game…” – Paul Bissa

     Awhile back I asked about those lame birthday songs that some restaurants have because I was trying to figure out which place had a certain one. Here is what I got in response:

     “Bill Knapp’s didn’t believe in actual lyrics when I worked there, and probally still don’t for that matter, but they did have a Birthday Button which you would press and the birthday song would play over the speakers like really bad elevator music. I just wonder if when the manger was running over
the layout of the restaurant with the architect he was like “Dude where did you put the Birthday Button?” Seeing such a blue print with an arrow and the words ‘Birthday Button’ would make my week.” – Rich G.

     “Rio Bravo’s birthday song: cumpleanos feliz! cumpleanos feliz! feliz cumpleano from rio, cumpleanos feliz! Actually, it IS the birthday song, but in spanish. oops.” – Aimee

     “Italian Oven (Mt. Pleasant, MI) and no…I never had to sing it.
(sung to the tune of It’s Amore)
when the moon hits your eye
like a big pizza pie
Its your birthday
and your friends take you out
and they make sucha fuss over you
special wishes its true from the Oven to you with amore
excuse the huss for the fuss but we’d just like to say happy birthday” – Mike G.

     Applebees’ brithday song: “This song had a leader/follower thing going (rythmic clapping accompanies this of course).

Applebee’s is fun it’s true
Applebee’s if fun it’s true
Especially when we sing for you
Especially when we sing for you
Good news is we sing for free
Especially when we sing for you
Especially when we sing for you
Good news is we sing for free
Good news is we sing for free
Bad news is they sing off key
Bad news is (s)he sings off key
Sound off
Happy
Sound off
Birthday
Sound off
Happy birthday to you.” – Carrie

     …this last one was the one I was looking for. Read through it to get the rythmic effect, and you’ll notice how uninterested someone singing that last part sounds. It’s like the employees aren’t even interested in making you happy that it’s your birthday, but rather they’re trying to squeeze the most embarrasment potential out of the moment. SO the birthday person is all “HA HA HA I TOLD THEM NOT TO!” on the outside but on the inside they’re subconciously thinking “What a horrible song. They don’t even mean it.” Or something like that. It’s hard to describe how crappy the ending of that Applebee’s birthday song made me feel for the person it was being sung to. Annnnnyway.

     A few questions on the off chance that anyone I don’t know is reading this:

  • Hey artsy fartsy types: How can I get a graphic file onto a slide (ie for a projector)? Is there an easier way than printing it out and taking a picture? I will owe you a seriously wicked helping of gratitude if you figure this out for me.
  • Hey publishing types. I’m looking into the possibility / feasability of doing a small run of a hardbound book. Does anyone know anything about this? Yes, I’ve seen the McSweeney’s Introduction on the topic, but I don’t feel like paying to have mine shipped from Iceland. So any North American recommendations will be much appreciated.

Chris O. sent me a link to this auction. I don’t know if he found the link from another page or if he was just searching ebay for “poop pens,” but either way, here it is.

Brief rant about car stereo things (at least it’s not video game related):

     So I was ALLLL ABOUT getting a CD player put in my car this weekend. I’ve been driving around for a few months with nothing but the radio – no tape player, even. I already had a perfectly good CD player sitting at home, but my car is a newer model escort, and the ford engineers on these cars decided: “Let’s combine the radio and AC into one panel so that people will either have to pay a ton of money for a Ford CD player or deal with an immense pain in the ass when trying to put in a non ford CD player.” So I drove around all Saturday looking for a place to sell me this replacement faceplate that still has the Ford AC controls but not the radio controls, and of course everyone was all out of them. I eventually found one, and after briefly considering attempting to put it in myself, drove up to the nearest Car Stereo place. It was here that I dealt with the mystified stares of salesfolk who simply could not understand the fact that I did not even in my wildest dreams of excess WANT an amplifier for my trunk or the hottest new speakers or a CD player with a dvd screen that pops out [Great idea by the way, lets encourage drivers to WATCH MOVIES]. Just take this faceplate, and this stereo that NO, doesn’t have an animation of a dolphin swimming screensaver, BUT it DOES work and it’s PAID FOR. Now, please install them in my car and charge me an insane amount of money because I’m too lazy to do it, and I’d probably end up screwing a few things up and I just want it done today for god’s sake. Thank you.

     At any rate, while I was sitting in front of this place and my car was in the garage getting a stereo transplant, there was this couple sitting there too. They had a tricked out New VW bug, with detailing and speakers and amps on servo motors, etc. Apparently their “thing” to do on weekends was drive their bug (also, it was yellow) to these car stereo places, park out front, plug it in to a wall jack, and sit there while all the employees and customers drooled over their car. All day long. I was being taken care of pretty close to closing time, so soon this couple starting packing things up. Then they tried to start the car,a nd it wouldn’t start because the battery was dead, because one of the garage folk had tripped over the extension cord at some point during the day. So naturally, they tried to push start it right into the middle of a busy 5 lane road, without taking the position of the transmission into account. It was hard not to laugh at them.

     Anyway, the whole reason i bring this story up is because I was looking for a place to order that damn faceplate online and I found this which is absolutely f’ing nuts.

     What it is, basically, is a hard drive that’s encased in a car stereo. You can slide it out of the dash and into a drive bay in your PC, and if you install a big enough hard drive you could theoretically have every CD you own in your car stereo at once. So crazy.

     Adam and Jenny have pointed out to me that there is good, funny song about Bjork and physics. It can be heard by clicking here.

     What you are looking at, here, is a candycane that was hanging on the side of an enclosure that was housing cactii. Some ants decided: “Shit! let’s get that sugary part of that there candy cane, a little bit at a time so Adam doesn’t notice ’till we’ve damn-near hollowed the fucker out!” And they did. So it’s kind of like an ant farm, but in a candy cane. Kind of. Festive! Science! Festive Science!


     I will be here this weekend. I can only hope to witness the absurdity that is the chengwin.

Unaddressed Complaints

Dear test I just took:
     I hate you. The last test was all things I knew how to do. Actually, so are you but you have stupid TRICKS thrown in to screw me up. I got a 98 on the last test, which was a WAY better test than you are. Why did you have to have a stupid TRICK in EVERY problem? It makes it difficult to get a 98 when I am unable to finish ANY of the three problems because of your UNCALLED FOR TRICKS. Why couldn’t you be more like the last test? I hate you.

     Best wishes,

     Adam.

     This is the best thing I’ve ever come up with, ever: If Steven Spielberg ever has a double feature, it should be A.I. and E.T. After the double feature, the people would go home. The next day, the people who went to the double feature would have friends who would ask “How was that double feature?” And the people would say, “Oh, it was AIET.” Get it?

Speaking of A.I. here are a few things I’d like to say:

1. Chris Rock Cameo.

Dear Steven,
     First of all, thank you for E.T. I had a brown E.T. shirt when I was little and I liked it a lot. Secondly, In case you were wondering what would be a good way to kill every last trace of suspension of disbelief that might be lingering in an audience, it would be to give Chris Rock a cameo as a robot in a sci-fi film that otherwise takes itself way seriously. And also, have that be the only reference to present-day pop-culture in the entire film so it sticks out like a sore thumb (Except for the statue of liberty thing which was also a bit questionable). Yep thanks.

2. Ass-tastic ending.

STANLEY KUBRICK’S GHOST: Here you go, Steve, a perfect ending. Giftwrapped even. Now just fade to black….

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Hot damn! I still have enough money left over for a half hour’s worth of half-assed CGI inserts! Cha-Ching!

STANLEY KUBRICK’S GHOST: …aw shit.

Dear Steven,
     Why the HELL did you not fade to black after the long shot of the helicopter frozen in ice? Is it even possible for someone to overlook the fact that that was a PERFECT ending? Even the audio would have been perfect. You could have had that narrator guy say “..and the next day… and the next day…” etc and slowly fade him out, perhaps even in unison with the fading picture. But no, you had to go and envision a distant future ON TOP of the distant future you had already envisioned. That white cube-ish space ship? Crap. Those lame looking “aliens?” Crap. I was even going to overlook the neon-covered motercycle guys and that stupid ‘band’ you felt it necessary to put in there, but thanks to that abysmal ending, you are now obligated to accept full blame. I hate you, Steven Spielberg, and also I hate your stinking neon.

P.S. Remember how you referenced Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrission) in E.T.? And now Chris Rock? What the hell is your deal?

     My puppy ate a wasp. This resulted in a sore mouth and hopefully the knowledge that eating wasps is very stupid to do.