Pinback’s Cool of the Day: BALLOONS
Oct 1st, 2012 by Pinback

Today a bunch of hot air balloons flew over our place! Like, close enough where the people in them were saying, not yelling, “Mornin'” and taking pictures of us while we took pictures back. Apparently in this area that’s not a big deal, but it was by far the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me.

Well, I decided right then and there that I would get totally into hot air balloons for at least the rest of the day. “How do you steer them?” I asked myself! “How do you pilot them?” I asked myself!! “WTF?!!” I asked myself! Then I stopped screwing around and reminded myself “Hey, there’s probably a hot air balloon simulator somewhere.”

There is! It’s only 2D, but in terms of learning how balloons work and simulating control of one, this seems pretty spot on, as there are only two controls: make the air in the balloon hotter, make the air in the balloon not as hot.

Using those controls you are tasked with completing… a task (going somewhere, then turning around and landing where you started), and like all great human endeavors, it seems incredibly stupid and simplistic before you start, but then you realize it isn’t.


And the most frightening thing I learned today was the answer to my original question, “how do you steer them?” Which is, in a very literal sense: You don’t.

The above link will give you due appreciation of that fact.


Here was the balloon that said “Mornin'”, if you want to play along at home. They eventually landed in the backyard of the house about three down from ours.

I mean, imagine walking out of your house in the morning, looking up and seeing this. Wouldn’t you be, like, “whoa”? We were like, “whoa”.

Who Framed Wreck-It Ralph? (As A Launching Point To An Arcade Post)
Jun 8th, 2012 by Ice Cream Jonsey

There is a movie in development called Wreck-It Ralph. I hope it makes a billion dollars and everyone involved had that moment where they go see it in a theater and sneak in some scotch to celebrate a job well done, because if I worked on movies I’d totally sneak in a little bit of the old Johnny Dapper when a movie I worked on premiered. I know this because I don’t work in movies and still bring a flask.

I want those things for the crew behind Ralph because I am a liker, and I like things. But then there’s stuff like this promotional poster:

Ha ha! Remember those guys from that game??!

Rather than face the outrage of this insult a moment longer, I took my concerns to Twitter, which left me about a million characters short to express anything meaningful on the subject. Not that I didn’t try.

My pal Jason asked me if I would have thought the same about Who Framed Roger Rabbit? It’s different, but I sure wasn’t going to be able to express that on Twitter. And please keep in mind that none of this is really as annoying in the real world as a paper cut or a stubbed toe, but let me be a crazy person anyway.

The fun parts, to me, of Roger Rabbit involve the plot of Bob Hoskins trying to solve a crime in this unique world we’re presented with. I don’t want to call Eddie Valiant a classic noir protagonist, because I haven’t seen it enough times to name his characteristics, prejudices and arc by memory, but he does wear a trench coat and is a private eye, so let’s go with that. I like noir. Photographs of Jessica Rabbit literally playing patty-cake is hilarious. Roger Rabbit has an annoying voice, but isn’t annoying. That’s amazing. It really has a great script. I think reasonable people agree it’s a good movie, maybe even a great one. I’m sure it’s hundreds of spots below Seven Samurai and the bed jumping scene of Return of the King on IMDB, but what good, maybe great movie isn’t.

With that in mind, I couldn’t have cared less about all the other cartoon characters they tried to cram into Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.

The part where Donald Duck and Daffy Duck engage in dueling pianos was stupid and dragged. Maybe if Elmer Fudd was actually murdering denizens of ToonTown with a sawed-off shotgun that’d be something and a decent use of all the characters the filmmakers licensed, but all the other appearances were fan fictiony. Seeing Dolan Duck in the background of frames 1,023 through 1,046 isn’t just automatically interesting to me.

(Popeye wasn’t in it, I remember. I always liked that. I felt like he was on my side. If you have a guy who eats spinach all the time not do something that apparently every other character who had ever been in an animation cel agreed to then you know he is standing up for his principles.)

I don’t know anything about the movie of Wreck-It Ralph, other than the fact that the plot (an arcade bad guy trying to make good) is perfectly fine on its own. That’s a legitimate idea for a movie, and I am going to try my best to make some kids tonight so I can bring them to the theater and they can enjoy it when it gets released. OK I was gonna do that anyway, bow chicka bow.

But what would be even better than Q*bert and Slick being destitute in a promotional image (and the image is great, don’t get me wrong) would be a Q*bert movie. Written by Warren Davis and/or Jeff Lee. It’s their stuff!

I know I am crazy when it comes to this, and that’s fine. I think that you get a special relationship with the character of Q*bert when you are soaked in sweat on a summer day trying to figure out why your Q*bert machine is spontaneously resetting in a cool basement. You develop a thing for Mr. Do! when you accidentally push it down the stairs to your game room and spend 20 hours over two days trying to get the thing working again. I mean, there was a stretch of time, before Mr. Do! was famous, where kids went into an arcade and sized the thing up. They knew nothing about it. The game became a thing we (well, er, I) still care about 30 years later because it was awesome and amazing and interesting on its own merits. We’re now living in a world where the interesting stuff to consume increased exponentially and I think it’s cheating to shove the heads of Pengo and the Lode Runner down in the water so you can float a little yourself.

So. Maybe Kazutoshi Ueda will get unfrozen from whatever cybernetic think tank the world stashed him into when he was done creating the masterpiece Mr. Do!. Maybe he wants to make a screenplay! Maybe that was his lifelong dream, I don’t know. The character of Bugs Bunny wasn’t going to have possible future films closed to him based on how Roger Rabbit did, but arcade characters have nowhere near that much pull. This is probably it for them. I just think it’d be cool for the people who developed the games in the first place to have their opportunities (as — last I heard — the games Joust and Asteroids do), rather than prop up this other thing, Wreck-It Ralph, that ought to die or flourish based on its own qualities.

… Oh. And regardless of how dramatic I was being over Twitter, I would still maintain that a Food Fight movie staring a kid whose jaw can dislodge to ten times its normal size would be an amazing disaster movie.

Mar 10th, 2012 by Ice Cream Jonsey

My game Cryptozookeeper won some awards last weekend. There were many categories — you can see the list of winners here, the transcript of the on-line ceremony here, and the list of nominees here.

With the XYZZY Awards, I closed a chapter of my life. It took five years to make the game, and it’s been 9 months since I released it. In all that time, for every semi-exotic animal I encountered, my first thoughts were “Can I get a picture?” and “What cryptid would it make if crossed with MAN?” It’s different now. I jogged by the Denver Zoo with my girlfriend the other night. (Well, we weren’t what you would call extremely close, but elephants carry a scent that make the entire world seem tightly packed.) It was just a jog. There weren’t any thoughts of getting a ladder to scale the fence and a gas mask to snap some pics for the game.

In the aftermath, I realize I really left some things by the wayside. My house is a mess. A raccoon ate my chimney two years ago and I haven’t put the new panels I painted up. The sunflowers depicted in this Caltrops thread basically took over my entire back yard in the summers that followed. I have to clean that area up. I have dear friends I haven’t called on the phone to chat with, family members I haven’t been in proper contact with, and someone said something about a black President??

I’ve tried to thank everyone a zillion times since I put this game out there. But I wanted there to be one last spot where I did so. Gerrit, who played Vest, was the first guy I involved in the production: he sent me source pictures according to the snippets of plot I gave him over the course of three or four years. He kept the same purple shirt and his beard the same length to make it easy for me to digitally-manipulate him into New Mexico. There was something inspiring about another round of source pics. There were very few actual pictures of the player character in Fallacy of Dawn — mostly because my brother had aged 10 years from the main head shot I used. But there’s lots of Gerrit in this, and I think it makes the attempt at storytelling more complete.

Jonathan Blask’s scenes were shot in a hotel room in Las Vegas, during the 2007 Classic Gaming Expo. I remember that text game folks Nick Montfort, Adam Thornton and Jason Scott were around for this. Jason generously let me borrow his camera, which was clutch because half of the shots I took of Jon with my camera were blurry and unusable. Adam was also great sport, being OK with getting divided him in half, in Photoshop, to exteeeeeeeend him and create a giant mass of a man in Igor Cytserz.

I knew a couple things that would happen when I asked Alex to play Lebbeus: I knew he would knock it out of the park, and I knew it might take a year or two for him to get me the source shots. Both were right! I had no idea that in making this game he would introduce me to my dear friend Jennifer, who played Bleem in the house party scene. I met them both in Edinburgh three years ago, and the friendships that this silly little sci-fi game inspired will always be the thing I treasure most.

Clint Hoagland was incredibly generous to offer up his music to me. Clint and knew each other through Caltrops and I find him to be a kindred soul — I think, in another lifetime, under different circumstances, we would both be pursuing our creative passions full-time, but instead we’re, ah, in IT. I must have listened to his wonderful songs a thousand times each while making the game, and in putting that link in this article, I played Everything Seems Perfect one more time.

I will always be grateful to Dayna for putting up with me during the first few years of work on this game. I know I didn’t make it easy. She also introduced me to Alana, who played Jane — I knew I needed one genuinely nice character in the game, and Alana just has this sweetness about her that shines through. She’s adjusting the mannequin’s tie on the back of the DVD box, and I think that little black and white shot captures what a thoughtful person she is.

Greg, Lysander, Worm and hygraed from this website’s forum tested Crypto over and over again in the first couple of years, and Jon Blask, Marius, Michael, Johnny and Flack gave me tons of feedback to allow me to actually get it out the door. They found so many amazing things — when Deanna reacts to Grimloft in the end game? That was because Michael noted it in his transcripts. (Michael’s transcripts, in particular, were a delight to read, just filled with advice, questions he forced me to think about and more than a couple plot holes I was able to solve.) I was also greatly aided by people who only had a chance to run through parts of the game for a little bit: to Bananadine, Last, Juhana, Pinner, Brian, Sorrel, Zseni and Mike Sousa — I owe you all a debt.

(Oh, and Tdarcos as well, of course! The word “humbled” can also apply to his experiences with the game. Needless to say, I will be considering players that are new to text adventures in a way I didn’t when I started Crypto.)

I had blogged before about how my friend Randy is responsible for the game looking like it does — he runs a haunted house – but I didn’t get a chance to mention that we also got together with our friend Dusty and put him in some old robes to “be” Ukilicoz. I am blessed to have so many friends like Sarge, Vark, Worm and Pinner show trust in me that I would make them look good in my text game.

Lastly, my girlfriend has been wonderful throughout this (waves hands) all of this. I took her to see Get Lamp, and she has met some of my friends that I’ve met through interactive fiction enthusiasm, but this is… this is a bit of an esoteric hobby that so many of us are into. I don’t have a good answer as to why I’m not just trying to write a book, except for the fact that I feel so strongly for IF. She’s been amazing.

That so many people enjoyed the game I worked on means the world to me, and all I can say is that you have my promise that I’ll throw as much blood into the ones in the future as I did this one. Thank you. I remain humbled.

May 25th, 2011 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Five years is entirely too long to spend on a single video game. I’ll never do so again.

It was April of 2006 when I took SHELL.HUG from the Internet Archive and started the process of creating Cryptozookeeper. I had done two games that had handy labels attached to them so they could be easily described to potential players (“D&D creatures attack a mall! Clones on Phobos!”). Those games, of course, came from a much more personal place. I didn’t have much personal left to say when I started Crypto, so I thought it would be a great time to do a game without trying to cram it full of, ah, full of my problems. I had been interested in the pseudoscience of cryptozoology, so the thought of merging adventure-style text gaming — but through getting DNA instead of treasure — with the delightful alchemy of fake-creature building appealed to me.

But in the five years it took to make, the relationship I was in ended, and the job I had got rid of me. I found myself, suddenly, with lots to say and lots of frustration to work through. I was able to throw it all in my game, because the first couple of years was really just putting together the intro, getting some graphics going, setting up the rooms, the cryptids and the characters. I had a theme exactly when I needed one.

Development has gone on for so long that I can’t remember a time when this game of mine wasn’t part of my life. I’ve had stretches where I’ve lived on 4 hours of sleep indefinitely to get this thing together, and I’ve had months where I was only able to write a few lines per night. I listened to hundreds of hours of new music in order to pick out some that would fit the mood. I talked about the game a little bit at Boston PAX… and enough time elapsed where they had another Boston PAX. Even the IntroComp I entered is almost a year away now. But I was lucky enough to find a completely different lineup of testers for the finish line, having burned out the ones who helped me so wonderfully at the start of the project, and it’s much better than it was just a couple months ago.

There are a lot of regrets I have about the development of this game, the foremost being out of the loop for so long as a game maker. There is a chasm between what I am looking for in a game in 2011 and what is out there for me to play. In fact, it’s a completely different world than when I “left” to make Crypto in 2006, and to be honest — when I look at the whole of computer and video games and what the industry has come up with and what they want to sell me, well, I’m sick of clapping, when I know I can do it better for myself. I did the best I could to merge story and game and while I definitely want to create text games for the rest of my life, it does certainly seem like they’ll all be demo-length, bite-size fun in comparison. I simply wanted, once, to tell any potential player that might find this post that I left it all out on the field.

It’s May 25th, 2011. Crypto is finished, save for one last bit. I saved the last cryptid for the very end, and I’ll write about that tomorrow.

Yahoo!’s Sign-in Protection Really Sets My Mind At Ease
Dec 19th, 2010 by Ice Cream Jonsey

The first time Yahoo! behaved like childish cunts to me, it was 1998. I had just gotten a new (to me) car. I wanted to show my friends a photo of it. This being 1999, I don’t think it was even possible for me to shoot a picture that “weighed” more than 25 kilobytes. I was hosting the Knight Orc Home Page through them, so even though the terms and conditions of the site said that I couldn’t have external links to my pictures, I did it anyway.

A 25KB photo.

Within two days, Yahoo! had identified the fact that I put a picture of my Neon R/T (look, I was broke in 1999) on my buddy Jeff’s web forum. They deleted everything I had hosted with them. Everything. Gone.

I had a “backup” only because it was easiest for me to throw my files into a folder and upload it to my Yahoo!-hosted site, through their execrable upload manager. I vowed to never use Yahoo! again, for as long as I could help it. I vowed to do whatever I could to discourage other people from using them. Obviously no one person can have a real effect, but I hated them for being so pathetic, so small-minded, so desperate and greasy.

They’ve killed services again and again. I find it sad and unfortunate that so many people say that the Yahoo! engineers they’ve met are/were hard-working and talented. If they are, they must have the most militaristic and simply stupid middle and upper managers in the world, because they’ve systematically destroyed anything great those engineers might have created.

I was using Flickr before it became a Yahoo! property. I’m well aware that the links I’ve placed on this blog will be a quiet string of little red Xs someday. There’s no export function to Flickr, of course. Hahah, why would there be an export function? And I can’t find an authorized Picasa app that integrates with Windows Explorer. (It’s no longer 1999. I want to be able to right-click on a file and send it to my image hosting service. Flickr supported that, although it was insanely awkward.)

It’s just funny to see the hard-ass quotes from their awful CEO when they can’t keep a service on-line that provides links, for chrissake. Wow, she’s gonna drop-kick to fucking Mars any employee who leaks a memo. Oh, and anyone who was working on Delicious. That was the other big group. Good to know – Mars will be populated by memo leakers, developers who were doing just fine before the insipid and overmatched choadlings at Yahoo! got involved, and native Martians.

Anyway, I hate their process for logging in and out of Yahoo! Groups. They don’t save context. I have two Yahoo! logins which, again, weren’t my idea. If I go to Yahoo! Groups and find I authenticated under the wrong one, I have to sign out from Groups, which doesn’t take me back to It takes me back to That’s moronic. So I have to type the URL I wanted to go to, and then give it the other username and password. That’s terrible. That’s just a tiny frustration, but I did get a kick out of this, the last time I went to login to Yahoo! Groups:

Yeah, make sure my stuff is extra-protected, please! I can’t click on that link quickly enough!!! I wouldn’t want someone to guess the password and fucking delete it all! Ha! Ha ha! When that sign-in seal one day gets clubbed, it’s gonna take about two seconds to figure out what company did it.

Food Pinback Could Eat Everyday: The Philly Cheesesteak
Jan 13th, 2010 by Pinback


Look at that picture above. That’s the banner for the website of South Philly Cheesesteaks, a chain of cheesesteak jernts which is so far and away better than any so-called “authentic philly cheesesteak” place in town, and in almost every other town I’ve ever lived in, that it’s really shameful any other place would dare call themselves authentic. Or, you know, “good”.

I have been there many a-time. I introduced Robb Sherwin to this place, and he was kind enough to agree that it makes every other cheesesteak place in town appear to be peddling twelve-inch, foil-wrapped tubes of hog feces.

But I got to thinking. Might there be an easy way to make a South Philly Cheesesteak cheesesteak at home? Might there be an easy way to make it cheaper? And just as good? Might there even be a way to make it… better?

Friends, join me on our quest. Our quest… for cheap, easy, awesome, homemade cheesesteaks!

STEP 1!!! Swallow your pride, put in some heavy-duty earplugs to shield you from the din of screaming children, go to a WalMart that has groceries in it, and get a box of THIS:

STEP 2!!! While you’re there, pick up a yellow/brown onion (not pictured), and a jar of THIS:

If you’d rather use some other type of cheese, substitute that here, but I’ve tried ’em all, and nothing comes close to the tangy goodness of Whiz, in the context of cheesesteaks. The rest of this recipe assumes you’ve made the right choice, assumes you’ve made the Whiz choice.

STEP 3!!! Get the rolls.

This is the only hard part. You’re gonna need those Amoroso rolls. Now, my local South Philly, you ask ’em for a six-pack of 8″ rolls, and they’ll give ’em to ya for a couple bucks. That’s the only/easiest way I’ve found to get a hold of ’em. If you have no luck with that, and like me, haven’t found a way to order them online, you may have to bite the bullet and substitute some other kinda roll. You’re looking for a roll with a light, but still crispy, crust, and a nice spongy, chewy inside. I haven’t found a suitable substitute, but maybe your local bakery can hook you up.

STEP 4!!! Make the cheesesteak, and you do that by doing this:

4a. Turn your oven or toaster on low, low heat and put the roll in there so it can warm while you’re making the rest of it.

4b. Chop up a quarter of the onion and saute it in a little olive oil until soft. Set aside.

4c. Open that WALMART MEAT. You will find what looks like little sirloin patties. But they are not! They are finely sliced and chopped bits of sirloin pressed together and frozen to look like sirloin patties! Holy fuck! Take TWO of the patties and cook, following the directions. Basically you throw the patties into a hot pan, flip after a couple minutes, and then they start to fall apart into instant cheesesteak awesomeness. Best invention ever? I say AYE.

4d. When meat’s about done, throw in the onion, and a heapin’, HEAPIN’ tablespoon (or two) of Cheez Whiz. As you stir it around for the next minute or two, it will melt and everything in the pan will start to coagulate into a gooey, Cheez-y, meaty fucking mess.

4e. Scoop the fucking mess into the roll.

You are now ready to have the BEST GODDAMN CHEESESTEAK YOU WILL EVER EAT, and a food that I, personally, could eat every day:

The Three Greatest Spielberg Films
Dec 31st, 2009 by Pinback

Steven Spielberg has made a lot of movies. Some of them were mailed-in cash grabs, some of them were impressive pieces of moviemaking, and some were among the greatest movies of all time! Let’s take a look at the top 3:

#3 – Close Encounters of the Third Kind

A fantastical sci-fi romp, with all of the touchstones of a Spielberg movie (cute kids, astounding special effects, masterful action sequences, wry sense of humor) but with the added foundation of a note-perfect picture of a modern suburban family, and the effect of such astounding events on it. Dreyfuss has never been better than he is in this, and even little one-off, throwaway lines (“Toby, you are close to death!”) become something approaching unforgettable. Pretty much flawless.

#2 – Saving Private Ryan

If you take out the two battle sequences that start and end the movie, you’re left with one of the grittiest, best war movies that there is. But those two sequences, which must comprise at least 45 minutes of the movie’s total running time, are so indescribably great that I can’t even begin to describe them. Until Children of Men came out, I’d say these were the two best battle scenes I’d ever seen. As it is, they’re still 2 of the top 3. Which saves us the hassle of doing a Three Greatest Battle Scenes thread.

#1 – Jaws

Created and defined the term “summer blockbuster”, but none since has gotten close. Fun, exciting, hilarious, I could watch it a thousand times and never get bored. The first half is a trip, but once the three stars get on the Orca and begin the hunt, it becomes magical, becomes transcendent. Also includes Robert Shaw’s U.S.S. Indianapolis monologue, arguably one of the three greatest single scenes ever put to film.

Nobody who reads this will agree with me about any of this.

Inglourious Basterds Review + DIRECTOR FIGHT
Dec 30th, 2009 by Pinback

Inglourious Basterds begins in brilliant Tarantino style, with a long, drawn out, very quiet scene where the dialogue carries the show, the tension building throughout, until you can’t barely take it anymore, and it explodes in a blast of horrific violence. At this point, I’m giving it four (****) stars.

But then the movie does a weird thing, for a Tarantino movie: It does the same thing, over and over again. For two and a half hours.

Each individual scene, if it had started the movie, would be golden. Always, a scene of implied danger and paranoia, and always, the witty (largely subtitled) banter continues, and the danger piles up with every word, and the tension mounts and mounts, until WHAMMO!

But they’re not all the first scene. They all come in a row. And at some point, even though you’re enjoying the scene, you realize you’ve been watching people build tension through dialogue for nigh-on two hours now, and is anything ever really gonna happen?

It does, finally, in a great climactic scene, and overall, I have to say I was entertained and intrigued throughout, but damn, it just didn’t quitesnap for me, as a whole. I’d call this movie Tarantino’s “Benjamin Button” — As with Fincher, even when he missteps, it’s interesting. But yeah. Can’t… can’t give this one full marks quite yet.


Now, it’s time for DIRECTOR FIGHT.

Tarantino himself has said that Paul Thomas Anderson is his biggest filmmaking bud, and they sort of have an implied competition between them to outdo the other. Each now has made five films (I’m combining the Kill Bills, as God intended). Let’s see WHO IS WINNING:

Tarantino: Reservoir Dogs
Anderson: Hard Eight/Sydney

Hard Eight was great, a quiet first step into the director’s Hall of Fame for PTA. But Dogs was a bombastic, hilarious, super-cool, awesome launch into it, and I watched it a million times, and is an all-time classic.


Tarantino: Pulp Fiction
Anderson: Boogie Nights

Both came into their own with these sophomore efforts, and although Pulp Fiction got more cred for getting the Oscar nomination, both have become classics to the same extent. To pick one is to be unfair to the other.


Tarantino: Jackie Brown
Anderson: Magnolia

I liked Jackie Brown. You don’t hear much about Jackie Brown, though. Of course, you don’t hear much about Magnolia either, except for me constantly trying to explain to you that it’s the greatest movie ever made.


Tarantino: Kill Bill
Anderson: Punch-Drunk Love

Here’s where I have to try really hard to keep my personal bias from coming into the picture. I think PDL is an unbelievably, perfect, awesome movie. I think Kill Bill is less perfect, but also unbelievably awesome, and huge, and entertaining from the first frame to the last. So while I know if I could only get to see one of them for the rest of my life, I’d go PDL, I can tell which way the wind blows.


Tarantino: Inglourious Basterds
Anderson: There Will Be Blood

I was rooting for another neck-and-neck contest, but at about the 1 hour 45 mark of Basterds, I would have killed for Daniel Plainview to have rumbled onscreen and beat Hitler to death with a fucking bowling pin.



This is a fun battle, I do hope it continues for years and years.


It’s been pointed out to me that I forgot about Death Proof, which doesn’t totally count I think, in the same way the Kick the Can part of Twilight Zone The Movie doesn’t really count towards Spielberg’s score.

But okay, let’s be complete here:

Tarantino: Death Proof
Anderson: …

Alright, here we’ve got a decision to make. What else do we have from PTA’s ouevre to put up against Death Proof?

The natural choice would be A Prairie Home Companion, which technically is a Robert Altman film, but Altman was dying while he was making the fucking thing, so he brought in PTA, his protege, to man the director’s chair while he was busy kicking the goddamn bucket. So APHC is almost sorta half of a PTA movie, which would be fitting, since Death Proof was originally half of what you paid to see if you went to Grindhouse.

That seems fitting.

But no. Fuck it.

Tarantino: Death Proof

Jonsey thinks Death Proof is the worst movie of all time. Jonsey would likely say that the Mattress Man commercial is NOT the worst movie of all time, so on the Jonsey scale, this is an easy call. However, things are a little more complicated in Pinback Land. On the one hand, you have Kurt Russell skating through about fifteen different film styles, including one really boring one where those bitches sit around and talk about nothing for a half hour. On the other hand, you have Hoffman bouncing onto the fucking pavement.

I can’t decide.


Cancelling Xbox 360 Gold Membership Is A Fucking Horror Show
Dec 12th, 2009 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Three months ago my brother wanted to play some stupid baseball game with me over the Xbox 360. Well, I never got around to getting the game. I thought we could play Warlords instead. He didn’t buy Warlords because I didn’t get the baseball game. Somehow, in this debacle, I upgraded my 360 account to “Gold” membership.

In a desperate, greasy cash grab, Microsoft demands money from you in order to play video games over the Internet. It was fucking sickening when they started this shit, and it’s equally shitty now.

Three months later, all I’ve ever used the service for is playing Robotron against people. Even that’s a fucking mess: two players go at the same time, and when the first player dies off… the second player’s game is immediately over. I know. I know!

So, I don’t want them billing me any longer for this shit. They’ve stung me three times now, made $36 off me, which would have allowed me to purchase every 360 Live Arcade game I’ve ever wanted. I’m going to document the process of attempting to cancel my account, because it’s a hilarious clusterfuck.

One word before I get started, however: for the most part, I’m very neutral on Microsoft as a company. The two things they do, consistently, as a company that absolutely drives me insane is continually change their fucking GUIs and refuse to adopt a consistent, multi-platform GUI.

Continually changing their goddamn GUIs means that every tutorial is out of date a few months after its created. I was going to take a bunch of screenshots of the hell I’m going through with the cancellation, but what’s the point? Their terrible, terrible site will have a major upgrade sometime soon, and all the work in documenting how terrible the last version was would be pointless.

I don’t think managers at companies really understand how this is such an abortion for the consumer. Any form of internal in-application help doesn’t work. It just doesn’t. Most of the time the “help” option in a program just takes you to a website that isn’t maintained. No, the way normal people get support for your product is to type in search terms on the net and read blog or forum posts. You have to maintain some consistency. I can understand the first major revision – initially, you need to get stuff out there so it works. Fine, fine. Next, you want to make it look nice. Cool. But to constantly rework GUIs like every Microsoft product… what a mess!

Honestly, I want to like their stuff. But I think the following conversation ought to happen:

MSN Messenger Team Lead, June 2008: We’ve completely reworked the MSN Messenger interface. It looks great. We’re proud of it.
Some VP, Somewhere: Excellent. Well done.

MSN Messenger Team Lead, December 2008:  We’ve completely reworked the MSN Messenger interface. It looks great. We’re proud of it.
Some VP, Somewhere: Haha erm. Okay?

MSN Messenger Team Lead, February 2009:  We’ve completely reworked the MSN Messenger interface. It looks great. We’re proud of it.
Some VP, Somewhere: Okay, this is your third rev in a year. You obviously wasted our time with the previous two. Do you have plans for yet another GUI revision? Were you working on … how many of these are you working on at once? Don’t you understand that, with GUIs, there is an end game? You’re all fired.

And again, I’ve logged an embarrassing number of hours through MSN Messenger. Of the chat clients I’ve used, it’s by far the “best” one. But – for instance – if you attempt to maximize the version I’m using, it won’t fully maximize. The upper bound is a few pixels from the top of the screen, just enough for, say, a full-screen browser window that ought to be behind it, to have its close/minimize buttons at the top-right corner of my screen. I have probably closed a browser window instead of MSN Messenger due to this infuriating error a hundred times. Clearly, someone decided that MSN Messenger ought not to adhere to the min/max protocol of EVERY OTHER FUCKING APP ON THE PLANET, and that person and the people who approved this behavior ought to be shot.

(Unless it’s a bug, but Jesus Fuck, how are bugs like that still happening. Anyway, I don’t think it’s a bug.)

But refusing to adopt any sort of consistent UI is a Microsoft standard. Why does MSN Messenger look nothing like Windows XP or Vista? Why does the 360 dashboard look absolutely nothing like that of the Zune? Why does Internet Explorer have nothing in common with Media Player? Why does Office 2007 look like it was the result of some terribly-mismanaged Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri cultural artifact exchange? I mean, I know why: Microsoft is a giant corporation and the divisions making the various products have absolutely no contact with each other.  But it’s not acceptable.

With that, here’s what I had to do to cancel my Xbox Gold membership.

1) I went to and signed in with a hotmail account. I won’t get into how dumb it is that they bought hotmail, and that my e-mail account for accessing Xbox live is now something I use for absolutely nothing else. As if there were a legitimate reason in the world stopping me from using I guess the fine they got for bundling their garbage wasn’t big enough, they haven’t learned a thing.

2) After clicking on some screens that were unhelpful, I got to “Modify Your Billing or Personal Information.” Again, this website is unlike any other Microsoft site or product that I’ve ever used before.

3) This directed me to the Billing and Account Management Site at What the fuck does that have to do with anything? I consulted a couple other Google Searches to ensure that I didn’t want to be there.

4) I somehow got to this page, don’t ask me how, because I couldn’t reproduce the process:

It helpfully states, “If you purchased a pre-paid membership and you do not have a renewal set, you will drop from the Gold membership tier to the Silver membership tier when your Gold membership expires.” And I just have to shake my head, as if there’s any fucking option to not have it renew. Way to go, I just found the most useless sentence in Microsoft Product History.

5) Again, I have no idea how I got there, but I found out where my credit card was listed. I thought it best to just remove it as a valid form of payment. I am instead told that there’s an outstanding balance on the card. What the fuck does that mean? If there’s an outstanding balance…. charge the fucking card!

At this point, I’ve given up. I search Yahoo! Answers for two things – how to cancel this abomination through the phone, and how best to kill myself.

I then have to call up the 1-800-4myxbox number and talk to a person to cancel my account. They make a half-hearted offer to get me to convert to a yearly membership in exchange for the full cost of a yearly Gold membership (that will no doubt renew) and 800 Xbox points in blood money. 800 points, wooo, I could play Qix++ for seventeen fucking minutes and complete it. WHAT A DEAL.

So I dunno – they told me on the phone that they’ve actually charged me a couple weeks after they’ve turned on service, so I’m going to get charged again on December 15th for services previously used. This means that the biggest software company in the world can’t:

– Allow you to terminate services through a website

– Allow you to select a method of service that doesn’t automatically renew

– Instantly kill services and require a partial payment for previously rendered services

– Charge you at the time your service begins like every other fucking web product in the world

I mean, they can do these things, they simply don’t want to. And that’s what’s so goddamn infuriating. People are making a lot of money to have stupid, stupid, stupid decisions implemented, and for Christ’s sake, I wish them all dead.

The Stolen Green Chile Recipe
Dec 9th, 2009 by Ice Cream Jonsey

“Stolen!” — Mike Martin, The Mike Martin Travel Agency

We will look back upon these days, where I pirated the new Third Eye Blind album and cooked up green chiles, and we will weep. We will weep for two reasons, both of which I’ll bet you can surmise when taking into account that I’m a pussy when it comes to hot, new music and a pussy when it comes to hot, green food.

I’m posting this stolen recipe in the hopes that Benjamin “Pinback” Parrish will add to it, tell me what I did wrong, and basically help me improve my life to the point where I’ve got more going on at nights than spending it over an unwashed tin pot.


1 handful of medium-heat, Big Jim’s New Mexican hatch green chiles.
1 unraveled discount chicken thigh
1 quarter cup of flour, intentionally listed this way in the hopes that you’ll mess up and use a whole cup
A sufficient quantity of chicken broth
1 ounce of 240 Californium
1 Apple iPhone
1 bouillon cube
$100 in gold bullion


I don’t live in New Mexico right now because the county assessor took a look at the fact that my home had been ravaged by a 30 pound raccoon, homeless veteran and pair of thrown eggs and docked me – me! – a cooool thirty-thousand dollars. I don’t think I’ve made payments that total that, even before interest gets involved. Ergo, you’re going to have to get some Hatch green chiles. I… well, confession time, I don’t know why they’re called that. That, specifically, I mean. In other words, much like the new Battlestar Galactica, I have no idea what Hatch is fucking doing there.

We got ours in Parker, Colorado, although it was later confirmed that I have passed a Hatch dealer on my way to work every day for the past… well, I wasn’t working for all of it, so who knows. This could be that elusive third case for the Snooper Troops.

The Hatch Guy we had was a family man from New Mexico. His wife and young son were with him, and he told us what a standard grill will put out, in terms of BTUs. I thought he was talking about the chiles themselves, so when he said, “150,000 BTUs” I was like, “well, this is fine, then – I’ll have food, one atom at a time, for the rest of my life.” When he later expanded his narrative to let me know he was talking about his gas grills, it made more sense. He had three grills. Three grills with which to roast the chiles.

It only took a few minutes for the chiles to be ready. We had alloted a half hour. He told his kid to get an old garbage pail, and he guided the chiles into it. I was glad to see his son working and not just being a lazy layabout – kid was a new Mexican after all.

We gave the chiles an hour to cool. I left them in my car to make my car smell like roasted green chiles. I don’t have a lot of people in my car, and I have now eliminated any that don’t find green roasted chiles to be one of the finest of all scents. I will harpoon one and throw it around my rear window like an air freshener tomorrow.

The chicken thighs need to come from the Safeway Discount Chicken bin. Thaw them using the “Auto Defrost” command on your 120volt-Compatible Microwave.

Take the 240 Californium and knock it roughly against the kitchen table. This will begin the decomposition countdown. You need to get the chicken thighs to your outdoors gas grill before the Californium weighs one-half ounce. Any more time, and the chicken thighs will go totally off and smell bad and make you sick. Adjusting for the natural half-life of Californium 240, you have just over one minute. Happy hunting!

Set your Apple iPhone’s timer for seven (7) minutes.

Lastly, shuck the chiles. Hopefully, the skin will be burned and slide right off, but your mileage may vary. Additionally, leave all the seeds in, there’s no downside here.

– Throw the chicken broth in the pot. Heat to taste.
– Throw the chiles in the pot, with the chicken broth.
– Throw the bouillon cube in the pot. You’re mainly doing this to get rid of the bouillon cubes from your cupboard.
– When your phone’s timer goes off, relax… Turn the timer off and let the entire memory fade from your short-term memory… ahhhh…. ahhh yes….
– Mix in the quantity of flour you got for yourself. Don’t look or scroll up! Use your memory here, no cheating!
– If you used one-half cup of flour, turn to page 72.
– If you used one entire cup of flour, you have died in the desert! End of session.
– Stir the flour into the broth/cube/chile mixture. Add a little more heat to the stove! You deserve it.
– The mixture will start to bubble and get the fuck over everything, like the toaster, the sink and the George Foreman gr– oh shit!
– Run outside and retrieve the chicken thighs from the gas grill. Grit your teeth over the fact that half the chicken has stuck to the grill itself.
– Throw the chicken thighs into the mixture. Stir vigorously. Cover.

– Wait until you can’t bear it any longer, and throw it all into a secondary container. (It will otherwise stick to the pot, and you’ll need that pot to make more of this crap.)

– Taste! Regret the fact that you didn’t take enough seeds out. You’ll regret it more when you break your fast on it tomorrow, and then extra-more when it travels through your system. Don’t wuss out here, though. Leave the seeds in.

– Realize that you followed a recipe from Ice Cream Jonsey of all people, break off half the gold bullion and get yourself two large cheese pizzas from the local pizza guy. Tip well.

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