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My friend Jason recently tweeted that Mike Berlyn is fighting cancer and just had a stroke. He encouraged us to say thanks. I’d like to say thanks.
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Recently I bought an Atari 800 flashcart. It’s pretty good, but not perfect. Every Atari 800 game in the world comes in the .ATR format, and the flashcart isn’t great at using that format – it prefers .exe or .xex. Which sucks, because NOT every Atari 800 game in the world uses that format. It can also fit 800 KB of stuff. I know the developer is working on a larger cart, and I’ll get that when it is available.
(The alternative to the flashcart is to use a SIO2PC cable that goes from your computer to your 800. And that works pretty well, and it’s OK with .ATR files – it’s just that you are tethered.)
Anyway, how do some of the Atari 800 games hold up? Let’s find out.
Inspired by the fact that The King of Kong has been re-uploaded to Usenet, I picked this one out and started playing it. All four levels are represented! There’s some animation missing, like the upskirt shot of Pauline as DK drags her up another level to the building, but nothing important seems to be cut. Or everything important is cut, depending on how you roll. Much easier than the arcade, in so much as I can actually make it to the top of the first board with some regularity, instead of never on the real thing. (The nearby arcade even has it on “easy” mode and gives you five lives, which is extra-humiliating!)
You can select various difficulty options, but there is no way to tell which is which because instead of “1”, “2”, “3”, “4” and “5” they are “hammer,” “firefox,” “spring”, “barrel” and “pile of cement.”
It’s an easier game, but fuck this is fun. The molasses-encased like myself can now enjoy Donkey Kong. My goal in this project is to determine which Atari 800 games still hold up today. These aren’t in-depth reviews, in fact, some of this stuff won’t even load. Donkey Kong, however, is worthy of being on many “What’s your favorite 8-bit game?” list.
Donkey Kong: HOLDS UP NICELY!
I personally believe that Shamus is one of the Top 100 games ever made, and the Atari version is actually superior to the one I grew up playing on the PCjr, due to the fact that it’s able to display more than four colors on the screen at the same time. Shamus looks great. He moves a little sluggishly when someone is going in the same direction as he is, but that won’t be for very long because everything dies nicely and quickly in this game, due to the fact that you keep throwing stilettos at them.
Apparently, Shamus is a private investigator, as the name of the sequel is “Shamus: Case II.” He also has a little fedora (well, maybe it’s a top hat: not enough pixels to really tell) and I think “shamus” means “drunken, Irish private eye.” This game is better than Berzerk in two ways:
1) It feels like you are making progress in Shamus.
2) “You can teach a monkey how to play a certain number of rooms but you cannot teach a man how to play Berzerk.”
There’s a few different skills levels to pick from and a running score so you can track your own progress.
Shamus: HOLDS UP NICELY!
That’s Boggit, he hates buggies. I thought I would hate this game as well due to the fact that you control it with the joystick and due to the necessary changes from the arcade version’s vertical monitor to the horizontal TV. But it really is quick to respond. The extra horizontal room is nice and offers more chance to shoot down the centipede. The graphics are colorful and crisp. Centipede is the game that everyone used to point to and use as the one that women liked more than men. My theory to this is not because there are pastel colors in the game, but because of the spider. Allow me to explain. Wait! Come back!
You get 900 points if the spider is right on top of you when you kill it. You get 600 points if it’s a little farther away and if you’re some kind of baby you get 300. The game dispenses an afghan and booties out of the coin return if you’re continually trying to get 300 points from the spider. The spider can never retrace his steps. It can’t go backwards: if it enters on the left side of the screen, it can move up and down and right, but never to the left. If he enters from the right, he can’t go to the right. It’s the easiest thing in the game to avoid, so long as it does not kamikaze itself right at you before you can respond. But there is something ingrained in the male brain that will cause guys to pick a fight with an enemy that can no longer affect them, whereas a woman is more likely to have matured to the point to where they won’t make it personal with a goddamn video game spider.
I don’t have an 800 “trakball” so I don’t know how it is on that. Probably better, but there’s no negatives to this version being played on the joystick.
CENTIPEDE: HOLDS UP NICELY!
What is this awfulness? I remember reading through computer game magazines and being jealous of the fact that Atari and C64 owners could play this, which had to be an awesome game, and I just had access to shitty version of Q*bert, including but not limited to the 2600 version (horrible) the Intellivision version (less horrible) and the version that came on a digital watch (surprisingly better than the 2600 version). This game is stupid. I don’t like Pogo Joe.
For starters, he looks like there is something wrong with him, like he’s been squashed in an industrial lathe accident, or somehow part of the Doug Flutie family tree. Going to cylinders instead of cubes was stupid. You have to press the button to do a “super jump” onto and off of the really high areas, and you can jump on most of the monsters I encountered, which limits the challenge. The monsters are all a single color and while you can tell that one is supposed to be a dragon and one a featureless blob, they look like rejects from Atari Football.
This game isn’t any good today, so if this was somebody’s huge favorite in 1983 I’m not saying you have no taste or that you’re dumb or anything. Pogo Joe now has competition against the MAME version of Q*bert and it does not hold up.
POGO JOE: DOES NOT HOLD UP!
Jason Scott blogged about the inevitable changes of Kickstarter here. I found one passage particularly fascinating:
I am positive, as much as I am willing to be, that someone somewhere has rented an office and begun the careful, involved process of building a backstory and a history for their non-existent endeavor. This endeavor will come at you with the warm, smiling pitch of the talented grifter, with an answer for everything and a dream that’s just this side of crazy and therefore that side of compelling. They’ll have domains, a website, a phone number. They’ll give you a feeling of being at the start of something great. And you are. You most certainly are.
This got me thinking. What form would The Big One take?
The Big One, in this case, is the Kickstarter project that generates more than a couple million dollars with the owner immediately retiring on a tropical island. Money matters. This project, the “Videogame History Museum” helped a couple guys move their arcade cabinets across the country and hasn’t done anything else since it was successfully funded on September 1st, 2011, but it was only funded for $50,000. Diaspora* is an old fan favorite of a failed Kickstarter project (coupled with the audacity of their request for more money via e-mail a few months ago) but that was just for $200,000.
Looking at the projects that were so enthusiastically funded, the first two that come to mind are the Double Fine Adventure and Ouya video game console. In my opinion, why they really took off is what will make The Big One successful: they tapped into the righteous fury that nerds feel when something was taken from them.
(And I do feel that it will be a general set of nerds, dorks, geeks and spittles that fund the killer scam in a couple years. I mean, you are probably aware what web comic geeks will fund just on their own. It won’t be sports fans: without an official license from the NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA you aren’t getting far. Though I suppose there could be a Kickstarter project to do something with the Stanley Cup after hockey ceases to exist forever in two weeks.)
Did the Double Fine Adventure take off because people loved Tim Schafer’s games that much? I remember hearing for years how disappointing the sales were for Psychonauts and Brütal Legend. (Though Schafer has claimed that Brütal Legend has sold more than a million copies.) I think why the Double Fine Adventure campaign did so well was because people were sick that they couldn’t buy adventure games anymore. That was a perfectly fine genre that entertained people, but got marginalized due to the fact that you couldn’t make a five-million copy seller. I don’t believe it was because people were sick of the games or because there was suddenly something intrinsically wrong with pointing and clicking to advance a story and solve puzzles.
Ouya is another example, and I feel that it was a reaction to the locked-down systems of Windows 8, the 360, the Wii, the Playstation 3 and the iOS app store. Video game enthusiasts tolerate these models, but were clearly ready to support something open. To the tune of over $8 million in Kickstarter funding. The millions that the Double Fine Adventure, Wasteland 2 and Ouya generated has to have opened some eyes. Some fradulent eyes. Hell, on those occasions where I have described Kickstarter to someone, their first question is, “Why doesn’t someone make a fake one and run off with the money?”
So the idea is to protect ourselves, and to do that, well, personally I’m no longer supporting new versions of games I liked on the Atari 8-bit computer. Ha! Ha ha ha!
Ha ha ha hahaaha!
No. I Paypalled $100 to email@example.com and that doesn’t even exist yet. No, instead I am going to try to predict what I think the scam to end all scams will be:
1) Firefly. Well, it’d have to be that, wouldn’t it? A show that Kickstarter’s target audience enjoyed that was stolen waaaaay too early by those damnable suits at Fox. Sssss! How they snake and slither! The problem in bringing this show back in order to take $10 million to the Cayman Islands is that you’d need to get the rights, which you can’t, and then the actors and actresses, which you won’t. So this won’t happen, though it is the web at its most vulnerable. At its softest underbelly.
2) The 3D Printed Assault Rifle. While typing this blog post, I’ve had to shut my window twice to drown out the sounds of gunfire from the spree shootings going on, and nobody lives in my town. The pasty dickhead’s nightmare of the government coming for your guns will pretty much happen in the next four months, because after shooting up kids someone will top it by shooting up the players during the fifth inning of a Yankees game, then a bunch of babies. At that point somebody WILL be coming door to door, individually, for your guns. It will be like the beginning to Inglorious Basterds, except that instead of cutting away to people living in-between the boards, Uzis will be in closets going like this: o_0;;;;;;;;;. Oh, and per household, the Basterds version will involve fewer guns. At that point a 3D Printed rifle project will be launched. (Though I assume Kickstarter themselves would not give the “go-ahead” for a 3D weapon, it’s the sort of thing I could see on IndieGogo, the “Gobots” of crowd-funding.)
3) A motorcycle-like piece of transportation. An open source motorcycle-like machine, delivered to your place, for a few thousand bucks that you could then totally mod? And give the finger to Big Oil at the same time? I mean, you played Rocket Jockey, you know how much fun it would be to have one of these.
4) Rocket Jockey 2. Whoops, that’s me and only me giving my life savings toward it. Don’t do this one at me.
5) Something Involving Movies. By this I mean that film is the one thing, beyond video games and music, that nerds feel they had taken from them, though in this case, they never really had it to begin with. I do know that running those anti-piracy ads at the start of theater movies has brought people to a slow boil. I could see a charismatic individual setting something up to fund indie filmmakers, distribute their stuff on-line and otherwise shape it so that the greedy pits running Hollywood (just “Hollywood”) don’t get a cut. I think this is where we are weakest and would most want a big change, one that results in some guy sitting on a mountain of money that forms his own private island.
Anyway, if you use any of these ideas, tell them you don’t know me.
I intend to use this thread to chronicle the cool things I see at the Midwest Gaming Classic each year. Here are my thoughts on this year:
For some ten years, the Milwaukee area has been lucky enough to have its own gaming convention, the Midwest Gaming Classic. Now, I haven’t made it ever year- or even fully half of the years, I’m pretty sure- but I’ve always been impressed with the things they’ve done with it. In the early days, they had a strong Dreamcast homebrew presence (when I thought Dreamcast was going to be *the* homebrew console, considering the ease of playing games off of burned CDs) and, in general, welcomed a wide range of interest (the MGC was the *first* place I met Howard Sherman in person). Inviting pinball enthusiasts into the mix was also a good idea, as the increase in machines and bodies brought a quick respectability.
One year, I had a nice photo taken with Billy Mitchell. Last year, I was lucky enough to hear a great talk by Eugene Jarvis and share a story with Scott Adams (who, um, also gave a talk).
They don’t really do the best job of updating the web site with planned speakers until literally a couple before the show. I imagine this is because the speaker line-up is a fluid, fickle thing. In an case, I had no idea what to be expect. I kind of hoped that the speaker line-up would be exactly the same. That ended up not being the case, but there still were things that impressed me.
No Jarvis this year, but the arcade world was well-represented by Walter Day. He gave a talk announcing his newish line of videogame trading cards. The interesting thing is that the cards are not limited to arcade game record-holders, as one might expect from him. He also wants to make cards of influential designers (he specifically mentioned how he’d like to give Tim Schaefer a card), console game champions, and just people who have contributed to videogame culture in general (the talk also doubled as a card-awarding ceremony to the owner of Starworlds, an Illinois arcade, and the organizers of MGC).
Anyhow, I’m a sap, but the whole thing truly did seem less about making money as much as giving appreciation to those who rarely get it. I have to admit that I was touched by the whole thing.
Afterwards, we were invited to another room to pick up signed versions of the cards from the people they were honoring. Not really knowing what to say, I didn’t actually really want to talk to anyone, though, as nice as these people were, so I just tried to surreptitiously snag a couple cards and went on my way.
Unfortunately, other arcade/retro talks were by Skype, such as the ones by Ted Dabney and Scott Warshaw, but both fellows have gotten talking-by-Skype down pretty well and were generally entertaining.
Later that day, there was an open meeting by the International Game Developers Association Madison Chapter. At first, they were mentioning this event in Madison where people can show the games they’re working on, and I’m like, huh, maybe this group has some good opportunities. Of course, the talk at some point turned to Kickstarter, and the chapter president starts talking about how he didn’t contribute to the Doublefine Kickstarter like it was a point of pride and went on to brag about putting down $50 on Wasteland 2.
I guess dude used to work for Raven and remembered talking to some guys at Activision who complained about Doublefine being behind schedule on Brutal Legend (but he did go on to say that, yeah, he just didn’t like adventure games, either). He also bragged about working on Wolverine for the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games. All I could think was this guy was such a company-man asshole. I bet he supported every jackassed thing that the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games do (they are pretty much the biggest example of doing the asshole thing where they stop selling DLC at some point just to screw over people who might *gasp* buy the game used or something).
Hey, I’m cool with people not liking adventure games, but I’m not cool with people being smug shits about it; you know dude will take that smug attitude towards text games or anything else his spineless soul can’t digest.
Okay, on to another cool thing- in one area, there was a setup by some high school programming class. They had designed this 4-sided (as in, controls on each side) cocktail cabinet thing and have been using their class to write 4-player multiplayer games. It is always (well, sometimes) nice to see kids doing cooler things in high school than I ever did.
Lastly, Scott Adams *did* give another talk this year. This time, he was even “beta-testing” a new game. I’m pretty sure I correctly identified Adams’ wife and daughter, too. Anyhow, what we played of the game was entertaining enough, but I do have to say that the kind of “correct commands” that Adams designs for are pretty crazy (for instance, there’s a wire you have to bend until it breaks. doing >BEND WIRE three times is not enough to break it. you have to do >BEND WIRE UNTIL IT BREAKS).
Adams said we could e-mail him and betatest the game FOR REALS (as our group session only played long enough to solve one puzzle). While I don’t expect a well-designed game, I was almost tempted, just because. Still, knowing that Adams is a 7th Day Adventist, I can’t help but remember this mysterious novel I got in the mail from an anonymous source years ago, basically the 7th Day Adventist book version of a Jack Chick tract. It tells the story of two families- one who mows the lawn on Sunday and one who mows the lawn on Saturday and how the latter dies horribly during the end of days but the former is saved. I threw the book out a long time ago, if anyone wanted it. Sorry.
I imagined I somehow got myself on someone’s radar, and in retrospect, I wonder if I had sent any e-mail to Adams back then and if it was possibly he who sent the book. Anyways, not wanting to receive anymore religious material in my mail, the chance was too great to risk.
Anyhow, in future years, I hope the convention has more attention on adventure games and RPGs and things, and I may even do my own IF booth at some point. We will see.
“There’s going to be a point,” I thought, sniveling in a glass of Gatorade and white chaw, “where the rate that good things get made exceeds my ability to enjoy them.”
I thought it would be years from now, in a terrible, dark dystopia when people were forced to drink Gatorade. It happened on April 11th, 2012.
I was surprised by a gift from my girlfriend at the beginning of the month: scuba diving! Everything I know about scuba diving can be neatly summarized from the box to this Infocom game:
The following things, therefore, quite clearly happen in scuba diving:
1) Someone cuts your air line
2) Someone sinister comes up from behind you and cuts your air line (I know this shares a lot of the same qualities as #1, but I feel this can’t quite be overstressed)
3) There’s panicking
4) Look at that gentle blue and serene ocean! Quite beautiful, that
Implicit in the box artwork to eyes most deft is the fact that someone, both the “stunt throat” as they say in the biz, and the men who would cut it, can swim. I couldn’t swim. Couldn’t swim! And had scuba lessons in a week. To put a nice bow on all this, I’d probably rather get my throat cut in a two-star text adventure than disappoint my girl, so a week’s worth of swimming lessons were to begin. Which meant I’d miss a whole lot of freshly-released games.
First up was Lone Survivor. It is, as far as I can tell, a horror-themed side-scrolling graphical adventure. Rock Paper Shotgun did an article on it, and I purchased it after I had read the article, but before I had descended into the typically abhorrent RPS comments.
I would love to play and solve this game.
Next up was Wasteland — the Wasteland 2 Kickstarter became funded to the tune of two million (and later three million) dollars. I played Wasteland in the 90s, well after its initial release, but I wanted to solve it. I wanted to make sure I would get every reference that might be in Wasteland 2.
It wasn’t made by an 11-year old girl or anything, but I would love to play and complete this classic game.
I was sent Blur, the racing game that reminds me of Road Rash, except that it existed in the 2000s and didn’t suck pole. I’ve tried to not mentally refer to it as “Shut up, Blur.”
I would love to play Blur long enough until I got the Subaru WRX that I assume is in there.
Legend of Grimrock was released. Naval War: Arctic Circle. The contents of the new Humble Bundle. You know, I wouldn’t be totally against trying frigging Cutthroats, too, by the way, number of stars be damned. There’s A Colder Light, Muggle Studies and this year’s crop of Spring Things. It’s not a computer game, but the new BBC show “Sherlock”? I don’t want to say it’s brilliant, but I would say that I like it quite a bit and each episode is an hour and a half. It’s the sort of programme you have to pay attention to. All that, and I’m working on a new text game, I’m testing a friend’s text game and I also enjoyed swimming so much that I joined a gym.
I wish I had time for this (waves hands) ALL of this.
There’s one game left. It’s the only game that I have been able to play, because it’s the only game I have time for. It goes like this:
Remember bulletin boards? It was even more primitive tech than games that gave you cyan and magenta color schemes. There are quite a few aspects of bulletin boards that I miss, but one in particular was the whispered asynchronous communication: I called the telephone of someone in Rochester that I didn’t know… I accessed his or her phone line, the modem, the computer, and read messages. I scoured the file bases hoping that someone accidentally uploaded warez. I might have even hoped that they would read my posts and call my BBS.
And the only thing I seem to have time for is to do the same over Twitter. I logon to my @Cryptozookeeper account, where I follow everyone back. I try to find people who are also trying to make their fortune on Twitter by posting fun timelines and following others who haven’t taken off in meteoric fame yet either. Most of the time nothing happens, but sometimes… ah, sometimes two people do make that asynchronous connection and follow each other. When this happens, I consider that we both “won” this little, horrible, stupid game and gained a point. Or level? OK, a point. I know it’s not a great game. It’s not a good game, in fact, it’s a terrible game! But at the moment, it’s the only one I have the time to play.
pinback: So, DOTA.
Ice Cream Jonsey: DOTA?
Ice Cream Jonsey: Day of the Tentacle?
Ice Cream Jonsey: Dark Age of Camelot?
pinback: “Defense of the Ancients”. The “Ancient” is the big thing that you lose the game if you do not “Defend” it.
pinback: I am watching a professional match and do not understand it.
pinback: Looks like a buncha fuckin’ nerds.
Ice Cream Jonsey: Who are these fucks?
pinback: Koreans, probably.
Ice Cream Jonsey: I heard that the best player in the world of DOTA, his girlfriend is Ms South Cleveland.
pinback: Apparently it’s a five-on-five team game, with each player controlling one “man” who can gain “levels” and “skills”.
pinback: It was the most popular WC3 mod, apparently, and now both Valve and Blizzard’s biggest upcoming releases are “DOTA 2”. They’re each making one.
pinback: It’s the biggest thing in gaming today.
pinback: Is what I hear.
Ice Cream Jonsey: I don’t like any games any more that are supposed to be “big.”
pinback: It’s BIG. Everyone’s playing it, Robb.
Ice Cream Jonsey: I don’t like Defense of the Ancients, League of Legends, Call of Duty or Gears of War.
Ice Cream Jonsey: I wish I could narrow down what those four games have in common.
pinback: I SENSE A THEME.
pinback: I don’t understand DOTA though. And these broadcasters might as well be speaking, I dunno… some sort of… what, alien language? Or something?
pinback: Man, I don’t get any of this.
Ice Cream Jonsey: I can help. I made a reference that only YOU would get in another place. Would you like to see it?
Ice Cream Jonsey: http://www.intfiction.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=3787&start=40#p27486
Ice Cream Jonsey: You are the only person who will get the reference.
pinback: heeh eheh kekeke and the plagooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Ice Cream Jonsey: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Ice Cream Jonsey: Aw man. I wish customized jerseys were cheaper.
Ice Cream Jonsey: Because I would get a Saints #22 PLAGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Ice Cream Jonsey: (Until they ran out of letters.)
Ice Cream Jonsey: I would hope that the Os would flip around to the front.
pinback: I always wanted to get a #79 Avs jersey with the name “PHO”.
pinback: THen I would go into Pho #79 and demand free soup.
Ice Cream Jonsey: (turns around, points thumbs at back of jersey) EHHHHH???
Ice Cream Jonsey: If either one of us ever makes more than $300,000 then that will be our pact. We get us both our customized jerseys.
I wrote this in the comments of Joe Posanki’s blog, but what the heck. Joe was talking about how the most valuable player race would go in the American League this season.
The MVP, in my opinion, is Jose Bautista, but let’s get in the minds of the voters. None of these guys are on steroids, but voting is going to come down to who is doing the most fake steroids. Therefore, to baseball writers:
4. Jacoby Ellsbury. There is not a shred of proof that he is on PEDs. But during their championship run, everyone else on the Sox were injecting themselves with any fluid they could find. So that means it’s the culture there, and Jacoby should pay for writers not seeing it earlier.
Odds Of Steroid Use: 1,000,000%, 4th place.
3. Jose Bautista: You just gotta at least ask the question! It was also proven by ESPN.com that a mysterious “man in white” was able to fire darts filled to bursting with steroids into Jose’s neck during play last year after certain pitches were released from the pitcher’s hands. Clearly on steroids, but most writers aren’t sure if they are legal in Canada or not, so he may get some slight benefit.
Odds of Steroid Use: 4,000%, 3rd place.
2. Curtis Granderson. They can’t punish A-Rod for his steroid use here, but what we saw with Bagwell being denied is that a different guy on the same team is good enough. (Bagwell the one being punished for Ken Caminiti.) Sorry, Curtis.
Odds of Steroid Use: 1,000%, 2nd Place
1. Justin Verlander. Nobody cares about steroid use on a team that lost 170 games in a season like the Tigers did a few years back. Could be punished for Miguel Cabrera’s behavior, but 1) Cabrera will be punished in this vote for Cabrera, and 2) Scotch? NOT A STEROID. 25 wins is a big middle finger to last year’s AL CY vote and, don’t ask the voters how, Moneyball as written by Billy Beane.
Odds of Steroids Use: 0%, 1st Place
On September 22nd, 2011, I decided it was time for the Internet to know my secrets. Told only to my Internet Comedy Partner, Pinback, the time is now right for these to get out. So I scheduled them a year in advance. — ICJ, 9/22/2010
Ice Cream Jonsey: Did I tell you the Tale of Tommy John?
Pinback: he had a surgery
Ice Cream Jonsey: He did have a surgery.
Ice Cream Jonsey: There’s a list.
Ice Cream Jonsey: There’s a list of people who had “Tommy John Surgery.”
Pinback: TJS list.
Ice Cream Jonsey: Do you see this?
Ice Cream Jonsey: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_John_Surgery#List_of_notable_baseball_players_having_received_the_surgery
Ice Cream Jonsey: Do you see the  next to Tommy John’s name in that list?
Pinback: I do.
Ice Cream Jonsey: Do you know why that is there?
Ice Cream Jonsey: I will tell you.
Ice Cream Jonsey: Because when Strasburg fucked up his arm, I edited that page and put a  next to Tommy John’s name in that list.
Ice Cream Jonsey: And sure enough
Ice Cream Jonsey: Sure enough
Ice Cream Jonsey: Some Wikipedian Aspergerian did so.
Pinback: FAMOUS PEOPLE WHO LOOKED LIKE HITLER: HITLER 
Ice Cream Jonsey: It’s just one of those things I’ve never told anyone. But I wanted you to know.
Let me tell you about my friend Jack Straw.
Jack was a teenaged kid when he originally found my dial-up BBS (still called Jolt Country) in Rochester. There was a main “gang” of posters at that point (me, Da King, Jethro Q. Walrustitty, The REAL Man, Aardvark, Freemesser, Bunky, Oh-Niner, etc. — a good group of contributors) and because we were all local, we could all hang out fairly often. While many of us met and bonded from 89-92, Jack Straw was a later arrival. It’s one thing when you’ve got a community coming together. It’s another when you have an established community and an outsider finds you all funny enough to want to be a part of it. It was like his interest was a compliment.
Straw would come over to the townhouse that Walrustitty and I lived in and network game with us and a few others. As The REAL Man said the other night, Jack was one of the few guys who wasn’t one of us, but then became one of us. The year that Walrustitty and I spent in that townhouse was so much fun. It was from 1997 until the summer of 1998, and we gamed the HELL out of that place. It was the first time I lived in a place with the Internet. It was the first time I lived in a place with permanently networked computers, allowing us all to be playing the same game at the same time. I remember having Jack and some other friends over for a weekend. We started playing Starcraft (I have been asked by certain Starcraft aficionados to not drag that game into all this. Understood.) Jonathan Blow’s The Witness until about 7 in the morning. He would relentlessly move zerg witnesses around the screen, and I would trudge around, clicking on humans. I went upstairs and collapsed for a few hours. When I woke up I found that Jack was ready to play some more networked games. In fact, he hadn’t slept at all. He loved video games more than I did, to where he could go without sleep.
Games just get a lot better when you are playing them with your friends over a network. I downloaded the Multi-Gauntlet emulator at one point, and had it working with my four Gravis GrIP controllers. Jack, my brother and I started talking about how pointless it was to get treasure in Gauntlet when coins were no object. We were hanging out in front of what could have been — at most — a 15″ monitor (Awful even for 1998; I’m always a good 10 years behind on monitors) playing Gauntlet II, getting treaaaaaaaaaaazhure. I have no idea why we started saying it that way. Well, Jack was probably stoned out of his gourd, but I’m not sure why I joined him in making the “e” and the “a” four seconds long. Gauntlet II just sort of gets hypnotic eventually. Hypnotized by the treaaaaaazhure chests, I would guess.
I moved to Colorado eventually. You’re not going to believe this, but as someone who stayed in Rochester, his job situation became progressively shitty. Whatever financial depression the rest of the country is going through, it hit western New York 13 years ago. Jack met a woman (“Blue”) that he had a baby (Noel) with. While his girlfriend was pregnant, we were all out one night and going to pick up something from Burger King. Blue had a very complicated order, that was perfectly acceptable because she was carrying another human inside her. I recall that the burger needed to have multiple pieces of cheese. And pickles as well, I think. Jack tried to explain the build order witness-creation order to the drive-through guy from the back seat of whatever piece of crap I was driving, who getting increasingly pissed. That lead to this exchange:
Blue: He’s not going to spit in the burger is he?
Jack: Oh yeah, definitely.
ICJ: It’s more spit than burger now
Okay, I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it was along those lines. We paid for the food but found another place to eat and order there as well, because we were absolutely certain that guy spit in the food. (Plus, it being Rochester, the only real thing to do is eat.) I remember how chill and laid-back Jack was. He didn’t care how many places we went. “If I get a woman pregnant someday,” I thought, “I’m gonna be as chill as this guy.”
It didn’t work out between Jack and Blue. They were one of many couples who split after they had a kid. There were custody issues, all that sort of stuff. But Jack and I remained in touch, because we posted on the same BBSs. I’m really close to those people I share bulletin boards with, regardless of distance.
I saw him virtually every time I went back home to NY. As our group got older and bought houses and had children, we’d go over to Walrustitty’s to play Bomberman ’94. Jack met another girl and married her. They had a daughter as well (Mia). Once, when getting kicked out of a club in Canada because our gang wasn’t drinking quickly enough, he informed me from the back seat that he really needed to take a piss. I wanted to find some place for us to do that, but the highway between Toronto and Rochester might as well be the stretch of space between Earth and Mars. Not a lot of options. Jack went as long as he could and then – with his future bride in the car – somehow arranged himself to piss out the right rear passenger window. I’m telling you this because trying to contort yourself into some pantomime of humanity in order to do that deserves a mention. I’m telling you because, even though you had to be there, it was hilarious. I’m telling you because I wanted there to be one single place on the Internet that somewhat remembers my friend Jack Straw as the warm, friendly, hilarious and good friend that I remember him to be.
Jack Straw was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Lake George, NY on Tuesday.
But before he killed himself, he killed his two little girls as well. Noel, aged 10 and Mia, aged 3.
And it’s… it’s the worst thing regular people can do, isn’t it? It’s like the most evil thing a regular joe can manage to pull off in this world. To want to spite the two women you had children with so badly, and make them suffer for the rest of their lives. It’s the worst nightmare of every parent.
Jack crashed his cars, when he was still with us. He did it… I mean, he did it a lot but not all the time, but more than you think. Semi-rare. Imagine the frequency of, I don’t know, Seattle Mariners playoff appearances. He drove recklessly, for no reason any of us could fathom. After one such debacle, years ago but after Noel was born, he posted about it on JC and was getting an enormous shit from some of the other gang, who had basically left the forum and come back to yell at him. Jack wrote:
I really need to start a BBS and just give RobB access; he’s the only fucking guy out of the whole lot of you that doesn’t judge me.
Not gonna judge you, partner. It’s inexcusable and you’ve left everyone who cared about you wondering what the fuck. You fucked up as badly as a single person can fuck up. There isn’t any excuse. And I can’t make any more sense out of it than that.
From this awful piece of nonsense.
Several Jays had extreme splits in 2010. Bautista, for example, had a 1.118 OPS (on-base plus slugging) with 33 homers at home but an .879 OPS and 21 dingers on the road. First baseman Adam Lind had a .759 OPS with 15 homers in Toronto but a .660 OPS with eight bombs on the road. Second baseman Aaron Hill? His home-road OPS split was .730-.605.
Lookout, guys! Amy K. Nelson just discovered home/road splits and is ON THE CASE! Ha ha ha!
I took a look at Derek Jeter’s home/road splits in 2010. His OPS at home was .790. His OPS on the road was .633. Since this is a greater split than Lind or Hill, I can only conclude that in the few tenths of a second Jeter has to make a decision on whether or not to hit a ball, he is able to identify hand signals of a man sitting 260 feet away at New Yankee Stadium. Possessing the gritty heart of a champion, this is even more impressive when done in New York, because 90% of all Yankee fans are “clogging the signal” by giving each other the middle finger.
Astonishingly, Jacoby Ellsbury’s home/road splits in 2010 were .304/.556 in favor of playing on the road. Now, I should mention that Ellsbury only played 18 games last year, but making wildly retarded conclusions based on complete fucking nonsense that is obvious noise to anyone with a fourth-grader’s knowledge of baseball would seem to be “in bounds” for what Ms. Nelson came up with here.
I fucking love how a profession — baseball writer / sports reporter — that literally could not have cared less when steroids were making a mockery of the game is now suddenly sounding the alarm, throwing elbows and putting the gumdrop on the police cruiser because Black Dad looked at the miserable lineup he was left with last year and told everyone to swing for the fences. You don’t get a Sports Pulitzer for figuring out why Jose Bautista became the best player in baseball “suddenly,” assholes.
They’ve been playing baseball for over a hundred years. This clenched-lip determination to ensure that Jose Bautista doesn’t make a fool of everyone covering the sport is adorable. But it is almost inevitable that a guy who was unheralded was going to hit like Babe Ruth Lite suddenly. I’m willing to explain what happened, however, and it goes to the first rule of reporting: nobody covering an event or story is going to know what happened better than a fan of the team.
Jose Bautista could always crush left-handed pitching. He’s not really doing anything new there.
Jose Bautista entered a few organizations that have no idea what they were doing (Pittsburgh, Baltimore) and who had no idea what they were doing in 2004 (Kansas City, Tampa Bay).
Jose Bautista was acquired by a team (Toronto) that found itself finally admitting, after 18 years, to start a youth movement and see what they had in a few vets. A lot of people gave Cito Gaston shit for the way he managed when he came back to the Blue Jays, but the guy is one of the few managers in the history of the game to win back-to-back championships. If you ignore things like lineup construction and logic when giving guys “days off” he’s pretty good at what he does, and it was a travesty that he never ended up getting a managerial job with another team. Because of the laughable salary commitments the current state of the game afford a couple franchises in the American League East, Toronto was absolutely primed to unearth nuggets of talent passed over by other teams. Randy Ruiz, in a small sample size, had similar numbers to Bautista in 2009, but elected to play in Japan when he was getting jerked around by the Jays. The same people that saw that Bautista’s play was sustainable did not think Ruiz’s was, and that was proven to be correct.
No I’m just kidding, there’s a man wearing white who can freeze time and give all the Jays batters hand signals regarding what pitch is coming. This is why Aaron Hill went from belting 35 home runs in a season to belting 35 pop-ups in a week last year.