Archive for March, 2008

THREE I LOVE: 03/30/08

Posted in Jiving Ditties on March 30, 2008 by butthorn

I’ve been drinking and it’s time to talk about the music!

VAN MORRISON – INTO THE MYSTIC

I have yet to fully establish an opinion regarding Van Morrison. I can’t lump him into any particular category. I don’t know what he is. But this song never fails to impel me to lean back in my computer chair, crossing my arms and smiling fondly and thinking of boats I’ll never own.

This is in spite of some lyrics that would ordinarily give me some pause. You don’t ideally want people to sing things like “I wanna rock your gypsy soul” to you. I don’t really want Van Morrison doing anything to my soul, and I resent him labeling it a “gypsy” one. I don’t care WHAT he wanna. But dumb as it is, holy shit, that’s the part that floors me. Boy does he belt that out. Once he gets to the part where he’s quietly intoning “when that foghorn blows” over a lilting acoustic riff, my heart rate actually increases, because I know in a few short seconds he’s gonna lay into that “IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII” like nothing I’ve ever heard. It’s the best sustained, gravelly held note in popular music. It’s too bad it ushers in a now dated and silly line, but it really only serves to prove his estimable vocal power. Who cares about whatever follows that thrilling “I”, the most compelling of all vowels? He could be saying “I wanna alphabetize your DVDs” or “I wanna read that Parade when you’re done with it”.

This is a case of some dopey words being nullified – no, for my money elevated and justified – by one of the best male rock vocals ever. He sells it, and I buy it, and I love it.

The song predates music videos, so enjoy this random couple’s vacation to the Grand Canyon. I find it only increases the poignancy.

LORD MR. FORD – JERRY REED

I cannot overstate my affection for Jerry Reed. I wish I could purchase him. I’d love to just have him around the house. I can think of no better pet than Jerry Reed. Sure, part of it has to do with the “Smokey and the Bandit” movies, and “Eastbound and Down”, which is now and forever one of the catchiest songs ever to come down the pike. But if you’ve any interest in countrified rock or guitar playing in general, do yourself a favor and seek out some of his lesser known work, including this novelty hit from the early ’70s.

“Lord Mr. Ford” is essentially a bunch of drawled corny observations involving the various problems that owning a vehicle can incur, and at face value it’s middling Dr. Demento at best. But what keeps me returning to it? My iTunes just loves to play it for me on shuffle (isn’t it odd how certain songs play more than others? it borders on creepy sometimes.), and I never, ever skip it. I’ve also put it on one or two mix CDs for the car, and while I tend to be a wanton skipper of songs while driving, I’ve never once skipped this one.

It probably helps that it’s about cars. But it choogles along so well, and Jerry’s humor, while lowbrow, is infectious, and his bark of a baritone is a wonderful instrument, unrefined but unfailing. I truly think his talents have never been adequately appreciated, and not just within the realm of music. Check him out in “The Survivors” or “Gator” sometime. Neither are particularly good movies, but his villainous turns in both are genuinely frightening. For all the knockabout redneck goofy charm he exhibited in his live concert performances and in the “Smokey” movies, there was a dark side to him, and he clearly relished the opportunity to indulge it. “The Waterboy” be damned, Jerry Reed is a great character actor.

But foremost, what an amazing musician this guy is. You’re not gonna find a better picker anywhere. There are riffs throughout “Lord Mr. Ford” that floor me every time, particularly the deliriously cascading coda. I submit that he could throw down with Yngwie Malmsteen anytime, or at the very least punch him out in a bar fight, and really, that’s all that matters in the end.

One time I burned a CD to play in my parent’s car when they drove us to see my grandmother, and I put this song on it. My dad laughed at every single dumb joke and smart-aleck comment Jerry Reed made. It did my heart good, and so does this song. I get a big ol’ kick of it, son.

Again, the homemade video above contains no actual footage of Jerry Reed, but here’s one that does. Highly recommended if you want to see a human guitar machine at work:

DROWN – SON VOLT

You’re causin’ it.

As far as Uncle Tupelo offshoots go, Wilco continues to get all the attention, but none of their perfectly good tunes have stuck with me as well as this single from Son Volt’s 1995 album “Trace”. It’s simple, it’s catchy, and it stops and starts at will throughout, all qualities I unfailingly respond to, and if I’m the one being asked, I’ll take Jay Farrar’s sad pleas over Jeff Tweedy’s sleepy excuses anyday.

Ideally, I just wish those guys would kiss and make up, but if they hadn’t gone their separate ways, I never would’ve gotten to hear “Drown”. What a great tune. It’s the musical equivalent of the old comfy jeans that only you think you look good in, and hell man, only you matters anyway.

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EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED TODAY, IN RICH DETAIL!

Posted in Mundane Events on March 26, 2008 by butthorn

All times approximate.

5:45 AM: Awakened by alarm. Confused as to why this strange little appliance is making such an intolerable racket. Turn off alarm. Becomes slowly apparent that alarm went off because it’s time to get up. Hear computer running in next room. Go to shut it down. Don’t like leaving computer on. Restart computer. Lie down. Realize that I restarted computer instead of shutting it down. Go to shut it down. Shut it down. Lie down.

5:50 AM: Realize that I should reset the alarm clock to ensure that my wife and I get up and attend school and work respectively. Set alarm for six AM. Wonder if this is why the alarm clock mysteriously didn’t go off on Monday. Fall back asleep.

6:00 AM: Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

6:04 AM: Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

6:08 AM: Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

6:12 AM: Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

6:16 AM: Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

6:20 AM: Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

6:24 AM: Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

6:28 AM: Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

6:32 AM: Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

6:36 AM: Decide to get up. Wife groggily broaches plan to continue slumber. Sit on corner of bed. Pressure in anus inspires poop contemplation. Decide against it. Cobble together work outfit from various laundry piles and enter bathroom.

6:40 AM: Negotiate water temperature. Slightly too hot upon entering shower, but currently find this to be favorable. Wife enters shower and evidently disagrees with water temperature.

6:45 AM: Decide to use newer bottle of shampoo. Dove. Very creamy and foamy. Spend longer than usual lathering head. Wife attempts to explain dream involving her old boss at Movie Gallery and John Locke from “Lost”. Distracted by lathering.

6:50 AM: Wife leaves shower upon realizing that I am about to rinse my soapy armpits. My tendency to do this with vigor can result in unpleasant splashing of musky runoff. Pits have been smelling lately so I apply soap liberally.

6:55 AM: Exit shower. Dry off. Note scentless armpits with satisfaction. Apply deodorant to pits and powder to buns. Don clothing. Brush teeth. Note in mirror that outfit in no way matches.

7:00 AM: Recontemplate pooping. Note recently acquired old “Late Night with David Letterman” Top Ten List books on tank of toilet with renewed satisfaction. Do not poop.

7:05 AM: Informed by wife that it has snowed, and is snowing. Select brown shoes, and lace loosely. Note wife discarding hard-boiled eggs foisted on her by well-meaning aunties at Easter dinner. With great difficulty, sculpt pizza box into shape that will fit into garbage bag.

7:10 AM: Make intent to exit apartment and start car plain. Descend stairs with garbage bag. Run hand along snowy railing. Note snow is sticky. Though I have no intention of building a snowman today, somehow sticky snow is still some sort of compensation. Trudge across driveway. Note neighbor’s interesting parking job. Drop garbage at curb. Bag blessedly lands in a manner that requires no repositioning. Attempt to discern contents of neighbor’s translucent garbage bag unsuccessful.

7:15 AM: Clear snow off car windows with bare hands. Make little, poorly-formed snowballs and throw them at nothing. Enter and start car. Wipers clear windshield despite initial resistance. Engage heater. Mind incapable of fixating on anything.

7:20 AM: Wife exits apartment. Entreat wife to clear snow off neglected area of windshield. Request granted. Depart shortly, wrong way up one-way street as usual. Surprised by uncharacteristically large gathering of children waiting for bus. Two boys sitting on ground, slapping together terrible-looking construction of indeterminate function. More children seen throwing snowballs at one another further down street.

7:25 AM: Stickiness of snow discussed. Childhood snowplay habits discussed. “Just Give Me Some Kind of Sign, Girl” becomes stuck in head for no apparent reason. Likely to remain there for remainder of day.

7:30 AM: University of Maine reached. Drop wife off at back entrance to Memorial Union. Kiss goodbye. Depart. Enjoy the greenness of a traffic light that rarely exhibits such qualities. Low gas level noted, disregarded.

7:35 AM: Pass only gas station on my route. Mild panic and regret commence.

7:40 AM: Pass both a diner I want to eat breakfast in and a woman waiting for the bus with a Hannaford bag of library books of whom I am jealous in quick succession. Reflect on pleasures of breakfast and books. Note that I am going five miles under speed limit and adjust accordingly.

7:45 AM: Clock on local bank affirms that I am making decent time. Infamously long traffic light that I fail to make handily destroys former affirmation. While waiting for light, realize that trying to do a blog about everything I did and thought today will be no small task. Attempt to mentally piece together last two hours largely unsuccessful.

7:50 AM: The making of two more generally unforgiving traffic lights amends situation. Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot is logicless, physically impossible nightmare of rundown automobiles. Prospect of free coffee awaiting me at work heartening.

7:55 AM: Arrive at work. Parking lot emptier than usual, indicating that a number of employees may have elected to sit out relatively innocuous storm. Member of grounds crew is daintily sprinkling salt on walkway as though he intends to consume it. Enter elevator with two women. Realization that attempts to discern contents of stranger’s nearby tote bag may be regarded as creepy dawns too late to avoid awkward moment.

8:00 AM: I am right on time. Enter office with groggy pride. Bid morning hellos to all. Hellos returned in kind. Surprise expressed by co-workers that I elected to come to work on a day featuring inclement weather. Ball-busting acknowledged with conceding cheer. Neighboring co-worker Lisa ventures that I took borrowed vehicle to work, and laughs heartily when informed she is correct.

8:05 AM: Remove coats, get situated. Attempts made to figure out what I was doing yesterday. Excel and calculator started. Needed files accessed.

8:10 AM: Documents used yesterday make little sense today. Gibberish and gobbledygook. Squint meaningfully at computer screen when co-worker Sandy unexpectedly walks by desk.

8:20 AM: Enter break room to acquire coffee. Break room more populated than I’ve ever seen it. Fill mug with coffee from one of two pump pots. Sandy and co-worker Sarah are there, preparing small breakfasts. Sandy informs me that coffee in the other pot is a lot fresher. Assure her that taste is not a concern. Diarrhetic qualities of coffee implied by Sarah, who is heating up two breakfast hot pockets in microwave. Envy over ownership of hot pockets expressed.

8:25 AM: Approach Higgy’s desk. Higgy greets me by saying “Bring any drugs?” Higgy is my boss. Four miniature candy bars acquired from Higgy’s candy basket: Three (3) Baby Ruths and one Nestle’s Crunch. Weather conditions briefly discussed with Higgy.

8:30 AM: Candy bars and coffee leisurely consumed. Reflect that I never used to like Baby Ruths before working here, and now of the three miniature candy bar brands currently offered by Higgy’s basket (the third brand: Butterfinger), it may now be my favorite. While not as flavorful as other bars, it seems much more satisfying. Realization that satisfaction now more impressive to me than flavor makes me feel old.

8:35 AM: Think about nursing homes. As yet unlikely situation in which Mum dies and Dad calls begging for financial assistance and familial comforting envisioned.

8:40 AM: Begin composing this blog. Coffee indispensable in recalling events of recent past. Intermittently stare at incomprehensible documents.

8:50 AM: Realize that once the morning stuff is out of the way, rest of workday will make for excruciatingly bland reading material.

9:00 AM: Document finally comprehended and dealt with accordingly. Second document easily managed.

9:10 AM: Last Baby Ruth consumed, savored. Third document least comprehensible yet.

9:25 AM: Document photocopied needlessly. Long lost Sharpie located.

9:30: Blog of morning’s events now up to date. Coffee depleted. Need to poop now fully engaged. Go to bathroom. Bathroom empty. Handicapped stall selected. Pants pulled down. Pee. Poop. Someone briefly enters bathroom solely to wash hands. Leaves shortly. Poop hot and clayey. While wiping, envision fanciful situation in which a giant inflates human by blowing into their anus, then pops them like a guts-filled paper bag. “You Make My Dreams Come True” suddenly stuck in head.

9:35 AM: Exit bathroom. Water wanted. Cups in break room, which is as populated as before, but with different people. Cup acquired. Leave break room and nearly make it to office before realizing that I neglected to get any water. Double back to water cooler. Clean and well-dressed man filling large green water bottle. Decide to use another water cooler. Man done filling bottle when I’ve walked about three steps in the opposing direction, but decide going back to the original water cooler would look weird for some inexplicable reason. Water obtained.

9:40 AM: Return to office and write in blog about pooping and getting water. On way back to desk smell, in order of detection: fruit pastry, bananas, and paint. Decide to begin notating happenings manually in notebook, to cut down on risk of discovery.

9:55 AM: Insanely difficult document dealt with. E-mail checked, responded to. Information on grad school and possible apprenticeship at UMaine from wife actually intriguing. Imagine self striding about classroom, amusing attractive young people with expertly timed bon mots.

10:00 AM: Sneeze. Sneeze blessed by co-worker who is good about that sort of thing. Expectorant rubbed into hands.

10:05 AM: Brain now into the swing of things. Officially ready to work!

10:10 AM: Printout for Monday’s “birthday breakfast” for other boss Joanna regarded. Scary graphic of balloon wearing party hat holding another faceless balloon. Have agreed to bring donuts.

10:15 AM: Mysterious Applebee’s takeout menu on my workstation entices co-worker Sandy, who professes a love for shrimp. Have never seen this menu before today; why is it here?

10:20 AM: Crippling fear of accidental deletion assuaged when document found saved under unfamiliar name. Stomach now hurts for nothing.

10:25 AM: Brief but bewildering incident involving Num Lock key.

10:30 AM: Coworker Beth confirms position as World’s Worst Storyteller. Attempt to brush chocolate crumbs off shirt results in smearing. Higgy impersonates The Terminator twice by way of impermanent farewell. He has a doctor’s appointment.

10:35 AM: Acquire 3 more miniature candy bars: 2 Baby Ruths and one Twix. Twix an unexpected holdover from last month’s candy basket selections. Catch glimpse of Applebee’s menu as I return to seat. Have to admit shrimp does look good.

10:40 AM: Bite off half of Baby Ruth to study ingredients. Nougat? Hurriedly jam rest of bar into mouth when Sandy unexpectedly walks by. Women extra sneaky when not wearing nylons.

10:45 AM: Baby Ruth improperly swallowed. Throat now tickley and unclearable.

10:50 AM: NASCAR-themed vacation being discussed. Depends undergarments somehow involved. Topic abruptly switched to Busch Gardens.

10:55 AM: Doug, the office volunteer worker, arrives. Had forgotten it was Doug Wednesday. Doug enthusiastically joins Busch Gardens conversation, but manages to steer conversation (without much finesse) to his recent gall bladder operation. Doug reports that he is feeling much better, but “hasn’t been doin’ too much boogie-in'”.

11:05 AM: Comment on Doug’s enormous Dunkin Donut’s coffee. Unexpectedly in-depth conversation involving our respective caffeine intakes soon underway. Doug reveals that he used to routinely drink entire 2-liter bottle of Mountain Dew every night before bed.

11:20 AM: Wastebasket gazed into. Lots of candy wrappers. Feelings of fatness.

11:25 AM: Pee. No one in b-room. Mind wanders while drying hands. Get water and drink it. Spill a little. Unidentifiable co-worker exits office and runs full-tilt down hallway.

11:30 AM: Notice for first time today an empty water pitcher and a potholder with 3 cats meowing at balls of yarn on my workstation.

11:35 AM: Itchy legpit.

11:40 AM: Domino’s thin-crust bacon pizza mentioned in e-mail. Now extremely hungry.

12:00 PM: Leave for lunch. Go to Leadbetter’s gas station, where I like to buy food lately. Place is packed. Regular rednecks and redneck businessman. Difference is redneck businessmen wear Dockers. Old man taking a long time getting red hot dogs out of thing. Get rolls with tongs and attempt to get hot dog but the one I want is inexorably linked to another hot dog. Attempt to separate by pinching connector with tongs a failure. Get different hot dogs. Put ketchup and mustard on one and just ketchup on another. New colors of Amp available! Orange and blue! Decide on blue. Also get little tin of Pringles “Grab N Go” pizza-flavored chips and a Gosselin’s chocolate butternut donut. Pay. Grab free issue of “The Maine Edge” and go to eat in car.

12:10 PM: Eat. Hot dogs good as usual. Pringles too much powder but good. Look at ingredients and understand what Bob meant on “The Biggest Loser” last night by phrase “empty calories”. Amp is berry flavored, not bad. Parked car badly. Donut quite good. Nicely full. Didn’t read free paper.

12:30 PM: Return to work.

12:35 PM: Get to office. Resume work. Doug gone.

12:45 PM: E-mail from wife detailed 2 falls she took at school today. Worrying about possible brain tumor. Resist urge to make hackneyed “Kindergarten Cop” reference.

12:50 PM: Usual post-lunch divorce discussion in progress.

1:05 PM: Mouth won’t stop tasting like hot dogs.

1:10 PM: Sarah uses Higgy’s M&M dispensing machine knowing full well sound of M&Ms clinking will make me want some. Luckily hot dog mouth is making me sick. Thanks, hot dog mouth!

1:20 PM: Suddenly remember that virtually all our clothing at home is dirty. Ponder options. Just as suddenly remember that wife recently bought a new paper shredder. Fantasize about shredding unneeded documents.

1:25 PM: Someone in office: “Ha! Painted Easter butts!”

1:30 PM: Higgy returns from doctor’s appointment. Ladies jokingly accuse Higgy of receiving a mammogram. Higgy replies that in fact that is exactly what took place. Awkward silence and hushed speculation follows. Subject dropped without further investigation.

1:35 PM: Accused by co-worker Amanda of bringing nearby box of fancy “English Breakfast” tea to work. Truthfully claim ignorance. Where’s all this weird crap on my desk coming from?!

1:45 PM: Sarah needs to record audio for PowerPoint presentation at my workstation. Can’t make noise!

1:50 PM: Sarah must wait for office discussion re: fat people wearing thongs to end before she can start recording. Office notified that she will soon be recording, to little avail.

1:55 PM: Instant she begins recording, a voice in background says “I have stinky sneakers!” Project abandoned shortly thereafter.

2:05 PM: Higgy on phone: “I’m never sick! I’m a MAAAAAAAAN!”

2:10 PM: Suddenly remember existence of once-ubiquitous song “Take My Picture” by Filter for virtually no reason. Only song playing in office currently is “Lean on Me”, which does not sound like “Take My Picture”. Have not thought of this song in perhaps years. Why think of it now?

2:15 PM: Sandy’s fiancee Steve shows up to visit, talks about recent back injury.

2:20 PM: Steve leaves, says goodbye to Higgy, who replies “Bye, I love you!”

2:30 PM: Check Netflix to ensure they have sent “The Best of Hootenanny Disc 1”. All is well.

2:50 PM: Convinced nothing of interest is going to happen for remainder of afternoon.

2:55 PM: Laugh at something I write in e-mail to Tori. Reflect on past instances in which I have been hilarious.

3:00 PM: Pee. Awkward moment when departing co-worker Dennis and I say goodbye to one another and then both go into bathroom.

3:05 PM: Possibly should have pooped while in bathroom. Anus up to something.

3:20 PM: Still drinking this stupid blue Amp. Caffeine having no effect.

3:30 PM: Break time. Adjourn to break room and read a bit of “Notes from a Small Island” by Bill Bryson. Have another coffee against better judgment. Chat about the grossness of Amp with co-worker Lori. Briefly distracted by weird-looking ketchup packet.

3:45 PM: Get water and return to office. Resume working after watching vibrant maze screensaver for awhile.

3:55 PM: Neck hurts. Face itches. Butt weird. Check AV club site briefly. Nothing of interest.

4:00 PM: Higgy leaves, after giving me a detailed description of his plans to remove his snow tires tonight.

4:05 PM: Marvel quietly at Tori’s yarn obsession. Coffee getting lukewarm and nasty. Higgy’s phone ringing nonstop now that he has left.

4:15 PM: Left ear plugged.

4:20 PM: Pouring water in mouth and wiggling tongue around makes fun ploppy sound.

4:25 PM: Drop pen. Good excuse as any to officially stop working.

4:30 PM: Depart work! Pee first.

4:35 PM : Return to office because forgot notebook filled with notes of everything I did today. Redepart.

4:40 PM: Windy and weird and dark and wet outside! Maybe have seen girl from my high school class in lobby but we were both moving too quickly to discern. Beauty of rainbow outside somehow not diminished at all by the fact that it hangs directly over Lowe’s.

4:45 PM: Pathetic amount of gas reluctantly purchased.

5:00 PM: Pretend to give lecture on creative writing to impressed class of hipsters on drive home.

5:15 PM: Arrive home. Informed by wife that car dealership has fixed the troublesome car we just bought last month. Briefly discuss wife’s falling problems and grad study program at UMaine.

5:25 PM: Leave for car place. Nervous about car not starting again.

5:30 PM: Topic of tumors reemerges. Decide to employ trusty if overused “Kindergarten Cop” line after all. Reaction slightly better than expected.

5:45 PM: Arrive at car place. Get in Sentra. Won’t start on (admittedly brusque) first attempt. Heart sinks. Want to die. Retry. Starts. Freak out about this for remainder of ride home.

5:55 PM: Frenzied, often angry back-and-forth about shitty car continues. Pay no attention to road and have no idea how we got home.

6:20 PM: Stop at Burger King drive-thru. 2 cheeseburgers without ketchup for Annie, Whopper meal for me. Debit card declined! What?! World ending! Identity theft! Everything gone! Annie pays with her card.

6:25 PM: Worst fears come true! Living pointless! An ugly loser for life! Everyone evil!

6:35 PM: Get home. Check account online on bank website. Still have $. Nothing looks off. Everything okay. Head and stomach ache now! Won’t sleep tonight!

6:40 PM: Annie’s burgers have ketchup on them. Now she knows how it feels to be LOATHED BY GOD!

6:45 PM: Eat food and watch Frasier. Good, relaxing Frasier. Forgot to request cheese on Whopper. Fuck my pussy.

6:55 PM: Food gone. Lie on bed. Worry about everything.

6:55 PM: Cuddle with wife.

7:00 PM: Seinfeld.

7:15 PM: Reluctantly agree to rub wife’s back.

7:20 PM: While repositioning to more easily rub wife’s back, accidentally kick her in the back of the head.

7:25 PM: Sitting on wife’s butt rubbing her back. Have to fart. Chivalrously cover butt with hand so don’t fart on wife, not taking into account fact that I would thereafter be rubbing wife’s back with farted-on hand. It really smells.

7:30 PM: Entertainment Tonight comes on. About to change channel, but segment on Priscilla Presley’s botched plastic surgery interests wife. And me.

7:35 PM: Learn that Priscilla Presley has stuff used to fix cars in her face.

7:40 PM: Try out different smiles on wife because I never smile and want to find a good one. Wife laughs at all of them, occasionally covering my face with her hand while in hysterics.

7:45 PM: Fall asleep.

7:55 PM: Wife wakes me up by flopping my lower lip with finger to make popping sound.

8:00 PM: Wife watching “American’s Next Top Model”. Decide to type up blog from notes. Stomach hurts.

8:05 PM: Go to poop and there is – I’m not lying – no toilet paper. Entreat wife to bring me paper towels, of which there are only two individual sheets left. Do my best.

8:10 PM: Use dying flashlight to see inside computer case so I can reattach the piece necessary for starting computer that keeps falling off. Start computer.

8:15 PM: Make 2 pretty terrible Scrabulous moves.

8:20 PM: Begin typing the above.

9:45 PM: Done typing the above. Vow to do nothing interesting for remainder of evening so I can stop doing this.

MUG OF THE WEEK 03/25/08!

Posted in Inanimate Objects of Note on March 25, 2008 by butthorn

Because “Mug of the Infrequent Whim” just isn’t that catchy.

Here it is:

It’s Don of the Rockies, everyone! See ya next time!

HEY, LET’S BLAH BLIBBIDY BLAH COMMODORE BLAH: NON-ALF EDITION

Posted in Antiquated Technology on March 23, 2008 by butthorn

I don’t know if I’m gonna have much to say about the following games, as I barely remember how to play them to any real extent. There were certain games whose goals just never made themselves apparent to me, and if I couldn’t figure it out during the course of my first couple of attempts, it just ended up taking up space in my floppy disk storage unit.

Such a game was AZTEC CHALLENGE.

Replay Value: Low.

Now doesn’t that look fun? Chasing down a curvaceous, scantily clad woman with a baton while wearing a big feathery hat and a jocular, fun-loving grin that implies “Don’t worry, I’ll beat you to death with this stick before I cram it into your anus”? What heterosexual nerdy 12-year-old male wouldn’t want to find themselves in that very position (within the confines of a primitively rendered computer game, of course)? No wonder it went “U.S. Gold”.

Unfortunately for pervy nerdbombers circa 1986, the actual game looked like this:

Turns out YOU’RE actually the one in danger of posthumous rectal impalement. What fun is THAT? So you run towards that pyramid there, and the dudes along the sides all huck spears at you till you die, an event that transpires about twelve seconds after the five minutes you spent waiting for the damn thing to load.

These pictures seem to indicate that other things happened in the game, such as this:

And this:

Sadly, I never reached the “Hop Across the Butter Garden” or “Run Past a Giant Grumpy Coin As He Attempts to Direct Your Attention To Something On the Floor” levels of “Aztec Challenge”. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone made those pictures with MS Paint, honestly. I doubt their existence. I don’t remember if I just sucked at the game, or if I got bored with it quickly, or there’s always the chance that my copy didn’t work right, but whatever the case, pee-yoo! It’s a stinkah!

B.C.’S QUEST FOR TIRES:

Replay Value: Medium

A computer game based on the comic strip “B.C.” was a strange concept even back then. It just wasn’t the type of strip that inspired much merchandise, if any. I’m sure at one point you could get buttplugs with Garfield and Snoopy on them, but the platitude-spouting cavemen populating “B.C.” didn’t even merit a plush doll. A “B.C.” game brought about the same slightly perplexed/surprised reactions that a “Frank and Ernest” or a “Redeye” game might have elicited. It was just weird and unexpected enough to make me curious, so I had Harold, my trusty C64 dealer, make me a copy.

Not a bad game at all, it turned out. It wasn’t entirely dissimilar to “Moon Patrol”, another game I’ve always liked for various consoles. In both games you’re controlling a digital protagonist that is in perpetual motion, in this case a caveman barreling across a sparse landscape on what essentially amounts to a stone ab wheel, and you have to time your jumps perfectly to avoid hitting rocks and divots and other such obstacles. I mean, look how content that dude looks riding around on his little trike. That’s pretty much the facial expression one would display while playing this game, and anything that makes you make a face that pleasant has to have something going for it.

Unfortunately, there was also the above scenario to deal with. As if hopping a unicycle across a biggish pond on the backs of randomly submerging turtles weren’t perilous enough, you have a bloated, taunting hag waiting to bludgeon you on the other side.

So much for the contended facial expression. I died early and often, but I never got terribly frustrated because just tooting along on the little rock dealie was fun enough to take the sting out of the swift and imminent defeat. It was an ideal game to “cool down” with after an intense two-hour session with whatever game I was currently obsessing over. A worthy addition to any C64 game collection worth its salt.

BEACH HEAD:

Replay Value: Nonexistent.

I was excited to play “Beach-Head” because I naturally assumed that it involved the adventures of Beachhead from G.I. Joe, an action figure I owned and employed often in battle.

Instead, it involved this:

A battalion of outdoor grills, waiting for something, anything, to take place. Or maybe they’re picnic tables. Whatever they were (I know, it says “tanks” right there, just let me do my thing, all right?), they were no fun. Lots of people actually love this game, but I was never among them. I really wanted it to be about a guy in a green ski mask running around with a machine gun and having adventures, not military vehicles that kind of resemble camping equipment.

I need to go to bed, so that’s it for this round. In closing, here is another picture of Debbie Harry:

Commodore 64! FOOTILLY DOOTILLY DOO!!!!!!!!!

HEY, LET’S TALK ABOUT EVERY COMMODORE 64 GAME I EVER OWNED! PART 1: ALF!

Posted in Antiquated Technology on March 16, 2008 by butthorn

As promised, and like the title says.

I scribbled down all the titles from a few different online lists on a yellow-lined piece of notebook paper, and I’m going to go in the order that the games appear on the list I made. Why I didn’t simply print out the online lists can only be explained by the fact that we haven’t had our printer very long, and honestly I keep forgetting it’s there. It needs to do something to make me notice it, like, I don’t know, occasionally play a John Prine song, or project a hologram of a nude late-60’s era Jane Fonda. Anyone know where they sell that printer? With my luck, it’s probably only available at Circuit City. I just can’t go into that store. I don’t know what it is.

So these will kind of be in alphabetical order, but not really. Also, the first few entries in this series probably won’t be very interesting, not only because they deal with a long defunct computer, but because for some reason I don’t seem to have played the games we owned whose titles began with the letters A – F all that often. After the title, I’ll helpfully indicate whether the game personally inspired a high, medium, or low level of replay value.

I’m excited because this involves my childhood! How about you?!?!? Wiggidy woggidy wowzers!

ALF: THE FIRST ADVENTURE!

Replay Value: Medium

It was inevitable that the creative geniuses behind “ALF” produce an asinine computer game to go with their asinine television program. Even in its heyday, though I imagine I watched “ALF” as much as any middle-schooler, I did so somewhat begrudgingly. Had the show been on earlier in the 80’s, I’m sure I would have loved it, much as I did “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “Knight Rider”, two more not-good shows that escape my wrath thanks entirely to the benevolent blindness of nostalgia. 1986 may have been the first year I began to realize that occasionally some things in the world of entertainment are terrible. I guess I should thank Alf for giving me an early basis of comparison. Thanks for fervently sucking vats upon vats of shit, Alf!

The game itself was poor, to be sure, but it was more enjoyable than sitting through an episode of the show, most likely because A) There weren’t really any jokes, which in Alf’s case could only be a positive thing, and B) Alf wasn’t a complete churlish burden to everyone he came in contact with. In my case, Alf’s particular brand of affable incorrigibility generally elicited righteous indignation rather than mildly shocked titters. He really caused his overly gracious hosts a lot of serious problems, and even though I didn’t really like them any more than I did Alf, I rarely failed to side with the Tanner family. Hey Willie! I’m systematically destroying all of your personal belongings and besmirching what little standing you had in your occupation and community, not to mention lusting after your wife and daughter and trying to consume your family pet! Whyever aren’t you laughing at the bottom-of-the-barrel, sub-vaudevillian quips that accompany these considerable missives, any one of which would impel any rational family man to lure me into the garage with a kitten and then cave my face in with a nine-iron, caterwauling with unbridled release as I gurgled terrified pleas and oozed indeterminate fluids from my vulgar, croissant-like nose? I mean, the fuckin’ thing practically commits a sex crime against Willie’s wife in the OPENING CREDITS.

We’re supposed to laugh knowingly as a space creature with unclear intentions corners a defenseless woman in the shower with a video camera, beaming fond smiles as she desperately conceals her naked body with a towel, protesting wildly and calling out for help that never arrives? Oh, that Alf! Always with the gross sexual misconduct! Why, I wonder if Ames has any stuffed replicas of Alf that I could purchase for my child!

So we’ve established that I don’t care for Alf. And the game isn’t that great, either, but I found myself playing it probably every seventh or eighth C64 session, and in the long run that means I played it reasonably often. You could call the Alf game a lot of things, but “visually complex” wasn’t one of them.

shot2.jpg

So that blob up in the upper left hand corner there next to the house is Alf’s head. That’s your guy. You have to maneuver him around several screens of insultingly cinchy mazes to pick up things like cats, pizzas, and spaceship components. Because pretty much every C64 game is required to feature a key playing element that makes nary a lick of sense, in order for you to be able to pick up a cat, you have to have recently consumed a pizza, “recently” in this case meaning “within the past three microseconds”. So you have to move Alf’s head over a pizza, and then IMMEDIATELY move Alf’s head over a cat. You can’t reach the next level unless you’ve collected a certain number of cats and spaceship parts (thankfully, the game does not require that you briskly enjoy a meal of Italian takeout before picking up spaceship parts), so you have to go through the frenzied pizza-to-cat dash an infinite number of times, a necessary evil, I suppose, considering that otherwise the game would take less than five minutes to complete.

Further cramping your style are the local dog catcher, who will cart you away and I believe take one of your lives, and Willie himself, also just a disembodied head, who will take the far more infuriating action of relieving you of all the items you’ve just squandered the past three hours of your increasingly valueless life amassing. The curses and juvenile invective I directed towards actor Max Wright in my tween years would no doubt terrify and confuse him. It’s best he never find out, although in the unlikely event that I ever make his acquaintance, I plan to give him a piece of my mind. I like the idea of him holding some type of Q & A, and seeing how he’d respond to my raising my hand and emotionally inquiring “Why did you have to take all my cats, Mr. Wright?! I’d almost finished building my spaceship!!!!”

There are also trash cans for you to run into, usually while being pursued by Willie, and if you collide with them you get stunned for what seems like hours, enabling Willie to swiftly and thoroughly mug you. I guess it’s adequate payback for years of torment, but aggravating in the extreme all the same.

I have no idea what happens if you win this game, because it’s impossible as far as I can tell. In all my years of video and computer games, I have beaten almost none of them. I just don’t have the drive. If I lose a level more than twice, especially a level that was really hard and took more effort than I would have ever thought possible, I am going to find something else to do, because I am going to be angry and tired at that point, and my already subpar reflexes will be irreversibly affected by my roiling emotions. Furthermore, money does not shoot out of your machine if you win the game, thus it is simply not worth it. You should really only do things that result in the acquisition of funds.

So that’s “Alf: The First Adventure”. To my knowledge, the first adventure proved to be the last. Much like Remo Williams before him, Alf naively promised a succession of further rousing exploits that sadly never surfaced due to a resounding lack of public interest. At least Alf got a C64 game, though. I would gleefully sauté my genitals and eat them on pumpernickel for the opportunity to play a “Remo Williams” Commodore 64 game, but alas they never made one. By the way, above this paragraph there was originally going to be a picture of the front of the box that the “Alf” game came in, but the website wouldn’t let me link to it, so I figured frig it, I’ll throw on a picture of Debbie Harry and call it good. Consider it my reward for having to think about “Alf” for the past hour and a half.

I hadn’t intended on writing this much about “Alf: The First Adventure”, so you can only imagine the tedium in store for you when I eventually do a blog about a game I actually enjoyed. Glistening indifference awaits!

COMMODORE-ABLE!

Posted in Antiquated Technology on March 9, 2008 by butthorn

I wasn’t into much when I was a kid. The list of things I disliked extended far beyond my roster of cherished pastimes. I flat out hated sports and spirited competition of most any sort, and apart from a few TV shows and Saturday morning cartoons, sitting in front of the tube generally failed to hold my interest (movies were a different story, but money and distance prevented us from both going to the theater or renting tapes all that often). Going outside and playing was diverting enough for a half hour or so, but mosquitoes and blackflies generally drove us back into the relative buglessness of our rooms. Reading and action figures were both an important part of my daily time-filling routine, but both took a serious backseat to the wonders offered by a new addition to the household in 1982: the Atari 2600.

Now I fully intend (or probably won’t, potayto potahto) to devote a potentially enormous series of blogs to the beeping rainbow of cartridges that the various Atari and Coleco systems had to offer, but in my case those esteemed forebears of far superior technology were merely stepping stones to more fulfilling game experiences just a few short years down the road.

The aforementioned fulfilling game experiences were in no way provided by the above machine.

Hot on the heels of Atari in our household was the Radio Shack TRS-80, a personal home computer that initially blew our minds (we had a COMPUTER!) but revealed itself as a one (exceedingly unimpressive) trick pony in short order: It could talk, kind of. As I recall, the title of the game you were about to play would be announced by a robot with a cold speaking through a couch cushion piped through a dying hi-fi. You would then get to wait ten minutes for a game to load, whereupon you would not have any fun playing it because it wasn’t good.

The only passably diverting game we had for that thing was a Sesame Street affiliated learning game called “Grover’s Number Rover”, in which you would type in answers to basic math problems, and Grover would tell you if you got it right or not. Had we been informed beforehand that the funnest thing to do on our new computer would be math, I assure you my brother and I would have immediately burst into tears and begun screaming things like “THIS IS THE WORST CHRISTMAS EVER!” and “I HATE MUM, DAD, JESUS AND SANTA!”. The only thing we truly enjoyed about “Grover’s Number Rover”, apart from the fact that it was refreshingly free of challenge and loaded relatively quickly, was that when you (usually, though not always, on purpose) typed in an incorrect answer, Grover would frown and furiously shake his head back and forth, accompanied by a loud, vaguely flatulent beep. As you can no doubt imagine, very little learning took place. For our purposes, the game could just as easily have been titled “Grover Angrily Waggles His Head and Breaks Wind”. We certainly would have been more excited to see that title under the Christmas tree than “Grover’s Number Rover”. Other than a catchy rhyme scheme, what was a “rover” and what exactly did it have to do with bland, undemanding computerized mathematic worksheets? Dictionary.com defines “rover” as “a senior boy scout”, “a routing machine”, “a familiar name for a dog”, “a pirate ship”, and “someone who leads a wandering unsettled life”, none of which apply, even obliquely, to a computer game involving math. I realize that not many people would have purchased “Grover’s Stultifying Computation”, but that’s no reason to abandon logic altogether. Why not simply make a game kids won’t hate, preferably one that eschews the very notion of education?

Anyway, the TRS-80 was a jive-ass computer, and we probably wasted a lot of hard-earned money on it, but again, an important stepping stone, leading to what is still to this day the purest idle glory I can presently conjure, and a much better Christmas present besides:

c64pic

The Commodore 64.

I know this makes me a very sad and very old man, but if I could only take one gaming device to a desert island, and I didn’t feel brave enough to kill myself while lamenting that terrible set of circumstances, I’d take this baby right here. For me, a computer game just isn’t a computer game if you’re not required to wait 3-5 minutes for it to load up, and if you need more than a sturdy stick and a single jolly red button to get anything done, and if you get more than three lives to overcome insurmountable, if primitively rendered, hardships and surreal skill challenges.

My friend Harold was the lucky owner of a Commodore 64 before me, and I had been to his house and played with it on a number of occasions, so I was adequately prepared for the beautiful dream that my life was about to become. I also knew that if I provided him with floppy disks, Harold would happily and illegally (seriously testing the resolve of the Commodore Police) copy games for me.

I was set for life.

I owned exactly one of the games pictured above (the classic “Impossible Mission”), but it’s a nice overview all the same.

C-64 games weren’t like any other games. You never really knew what you were getting into. Pictures on game boxes and descriptions or reviews in magazines like “Run” and “Compute! Gazette” could only hope to scratch the surface. Occasionally, in the case of games as strange and wonderfully crazy as “Lazy Jones” (one of my favorites ever, which we’ll get to), even playing the game itself didn’t shed much light on the situation. It often took several playing jags before one actually grasped what your little guy is supposed to be doing, and what keeps making that weird noise, and how come I keep dying when I run into that blob. Due to a canny compound of simple fun and cryptic/nonexistent tutorials, the best Commodore 64 games boasted an unmatched replay value.

That’s not to say you didn’t run into your fair share of crap games. With 10,000 software titles on the market (and that’s not including the multitudes of independently produced games, many of which were more fun than what Radio Shack or Zayre’s had on the shelf in spite of their generally weaker graphics), they couldn’t all be winners. In my experience, though, even the worst of the lot could usually claim at least one compelling feature, some intriguingly odd detail that made it worth popping into the old 1541 every now and again, whenever you were tired after three straight hours of a genuinely good game, like “Bruce Lee” or the Epyx Olympic-themed series.

Another exciting aspect of the C-64 was the ability to create ones own text-based computer games, armed with only the basest knowledge of the BASIC programming language.

Generally, the games would take the form of a “Choose Your Own Adventure”, or some kind of quiz, in which wrong answers would invariably result in taunting allegations of homosexuality, always a popular activity in 80’s-era central Maine. Excretion and genitals were also a recurring theme.

A typical game of ours might be programmed thusly:

10 PRINT CHR$(147) <—-cleared the screen

20 PRINT “HELLO! WHAT IS YOUR NAME?”

30 INPUT A$ <—–this would create a prompt where the player could enter their name

40 PRINT A$”, PLEASE ENTER A, B, OR C.” <— A$ now causes player’s name to appear

50 INPUT B$ <—–again, a prompt appears onscreen, this time for player’s choice

60 IF B$ = “A” THEN PRINT “YOU FARTED,”A$”!”

70 IF B$ = “B” THEN PRINT “YOU SURE HAVE A SMALL PENIS,”A$”!”

80 IF B$ = “C” THEN PRINT A$” IS A FAG!!!!”

90 PRINT “THANKS FOR PLAYING!”

That’s just a rudimentary example. The games were generally a bit longer and slightly more complex, often with an unreliable narrator that would urge you to make selections that resulted in your death or sexual humiliation. Inputing “SOUND 1, 100” would make a beep in varying registers, depending on what you used for numbers, and occasionally we’d employ that capability if we wanted to get fancy, but not often.

Eventually my mom sold off our C-64 and all its games at a multi-family yard sale. At the time this wasn’t a big deal. I was out of high school by this point, and more interested in Playstation. The 80’s were recent enough that I could actually remember them with fairly dependable accuracy, thus swiftly nullifying any potential for wistful nostalgia. What did strike me as rather funny even then was the knowledge that included in that overstuffed plastic storage contraption for floppy disks were probably 30 or 40 of our own homemade text games, much like the one detailed above, except most likely a lot more offensive. It does my heart good to think of a nice, unsuspecting family excitedly playing all their new games, only to be viciously and crassly insulted and barraged with 8-bit hate crimes.

Later, I lamented the loss of that system and all those games. I’d like nothing more than to be able to play all those deeply offensive BASIC games that we made, or to play any of the hundred or so actual games that so captured my imagination from grades 5 through 8 (that’s about the time Nintendo and self-loathing entered my life, both of which ate up a lot of time once solely devoted to C64). A few years ago, I was able to get my hands on an old Commodore system, but without all those games, those exact games, I couldn’t really get into it.

But that’s probably only a small fraction of the reason the C-64 didn’t reignite my excitement years later. The fact of the matter is, you really can’t go back. Having purchased a new computer back in 2004, I was thrilled to discover the world of emulators, meaning I could download a tiny program that would essentially transform my Compaq into a fully functional Commodore 64, replete with access to every game ever made for the system. Once I downloaded everything I needed, I probably logged a total of thirty minutes using it, if that. To reclaim that former magic, I’d need to be in my parent’s basement, with the computer hooked up to a 9-inch Zenith on top of a picnic table my mom had painted white, with our old cat Sneakers rubbing up against my feet, and Dad and Mum talking unintelligibly about their work day upstairs, and Justin clomping around aimlessly or watching “Square One” or “Scooby Doo” while eating a pouch of Fruit Wrinkles in the living room, and I’m wearing my Dad’s old ratty yellow tee-shirt I inherited, the one advertising the awful 1976 remake of “King Kong” starring Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange, contendedly failing yet again to get through the second screen of the incomprehensible game based on “The Goonies”. It was about the setting and the people more than the machine itself, which is interesting considering I spent much of my time ignoring both of the former in favor of the latter.

Whiling away a break at work mulling over a supposedly complete list of C-64 games on Wikipedia, I decided I’d go through and try to recreate a thorough-as-possible list of all the games we ever had for the Commodore. So far I’ve compiled 56 of them. This seems a little light, but no doubt I skipped over a few, and, even more probable, forgot a bunch. Also, I remembered a few titles we had that I didn’t see on that list, so I’m going to keep an eye out for more exhaustive documentation, at which point I intend to discuss each and every one of those games at length, depending on how fun they were and how often I played them.

I realize that discussing the merits of outmoded video/computer game systems is not exactly trailblazing as far as blogging and the internet are concerned, but while that arguably testifies to my laziness and lack of original thought, it definitely testifies to the undying affection little nerdy guys and gals (?) everywhere still harbor for this once-ubiquitous computer, an unfailingly positive memory and a true old friend.

NEW SONG: GOO-GOO BEH-BEH

Posted in Jiving Ditties on March 6, 2008 by butthorn

I amused myself (and likely only myself) by recording this fine tune on Garage Band. I call it “Goo-Goo Beh-Beh”. Please like it.  See that new “snazzy effin” box to the right there, in the sidebar?  I may decide to put low-quality songs in there from time to time.   Probably not very often because I get sick of doing things extremely quickly.

Purportedly, all you have to do put your pointer on the file there, click on the arrow that appears, then download it, should you like to listen to it.  I am just now learning this newfangled technology, so if it doesn’t work I refuse to apologize for my ignorance.  I can no more help being stupid than I can help being devastatingly handsome.