OK, Pokémon is cool after all

Pokémon FireRedSince I was in my mid-20s when Pokémon was created, I never really “got” it. The only thing I knew about it was the whole seizure thing. But then I had kids. Just before he turned 4, my son went through a brief-but-intense phase of obsession with the Pokémon cartoons and toys just before he discovered Mario and the video game floodgates opened, leaving all past obsessions (Thomas, Star Wars, etc.) in the dust (if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor).

So as the video game thing took off, I bought him Pokémon FireRed for the Game Boy Advance, thinking I could tap into his pre-video game interest. I vaguely knew that the games were RPG-style, but I didn’t make the connection that, unlike in many games, where there’s reading but it’s fairly inconsequential, in a Pokémon game it is absolutely essential that you be able to read in order to play. Since my son’s still a pre-schooler, that didn’t work out so well.

Eventually, I decided to give the game a try myself, and I’ve become completely hooked. It’s kind of ridiculous, but the characters are tremendously varied and creative, with clever names, and the RPG elements of the game are solid and very well-done. What can I say, it’s fun!

But it wasn’t until I encountered one particular foe, that’s not only funny looking but very cleverly named, that I fully embraced the Pokémon world: I’m not even sure what it is, but it appears to be a purple, wheezing puff bag, with a very self-satisfied smile, oozing toxic fumes, named (I love this) “Koffing.” And here it is, in all its nasty glory. Apparently there’s a mutant evolved version named “Wheezing” as well.

Koffing More Koffing Koffing and Wheezing

Obviously I’m not the only person who appreciates Koffing’s unique appeal. He’s achieved the ultimate honor: an “ate my balls” page.

Something has to give in your life to be this good at Super Metroid

I didn’t play many console video games between outgrowing my Atari 2600 in high school (while I would visit friends’ houses for regular reminders of how much I sucked at newer games on their NESes) and getting my GameCube in 2003, but since then I’ve had a bit of a renaissance and am a lot better at these games than I used to be.

But I will never be great at Super Metroid. In particular, I cannot for the life of me get the timing right for wall jumps in that game. I’ve been able to do them on occasion, but it’s just been luck.

Now my son is playing it (on the Wii) and he seems to be drawn like a magnet to the spot where you have to wall jump to get out of a deep shaft. (The spot where the native creatures “teach” you the wall jump.) And then he wants me to help him. Good luck with that!

I decided to try to research what the trick is. I got some leads, but I still doubt I’ll master it. And there is no way that I’ll ever be able to do a 32-minute speed run like in the following video. Of course, wall jumps are all over it. (I can’t even begin to imagine how to do the wall jump against a single wall. I didn’t even realize it was possible until I saw this!)

Get Flash to see this player.

Dream Out Loud video now available

I’ve updated my Bands page with a video clip of Dream Out Loud performing “Hope” at Breakers Music Hall on May 2, 2002.

Here’s the video…

That’s me standing stiffly stage left and playing my beloved (and former) aquamarine metallic Fender American Jazz Bass V. (Well, I do miss it, but I certainly can’t complain about the translucent orange Music Man StingRay 5 I bought to replace it.)

Note: This video requires QuickTime.

And now your daily dose of sheer ridiculousness…

Shockingly lame, mildly offensive (probably moreso if you’re Native American), yet hilariously ill-conceived and even more hilariously ill-executed, we have this music video for a disco-fied version of the oft-covered surf rock hit “Apache.”

I can’t make out the name of the band written on the bass drum head, and it doesn’t seem to match any listed here.

Although I will never recover the precious minutes of my life wasted watching this, and I may never even know the name of the band (so I can take care to avoid them in the future), at least one good thing came of this: my discovery of the Second Hand Songs site, which is actually a pretty cool idea!

Update (September 29, 2006): I guess I should’ve just checked Google Video… there, we have the song identified as the work of the Tommy Seebach Band.

This one just may take the cake…

First, a qualification: Since I got a flat-panel display at work, I no longer have my PC connected directly to the display; I view the PC’s video output via Remote Desktop Connection on my Mac. I’ve learned over time that RDC does not provide a direct, unaltered feed of the PC’s video. For understandable reasons (faster screen refresh), but by perhaps unjustifiable methods, RDC re-renders parts of the video display. The result is that you do not see a pixel-perfect (or even simply downsampled) representation of the actual PC video; it appears to be redrawn completely for network transmission.

In particular, this does funky things with Internet Explorer’s output. Last year I spent a few hours trying to figure out why borders around my buttons were extending by one pixel both down and to the right, until I realized that on the actual PC’s display this wasn’t happening… it was just an RDC quirk.

With that out of the way, I have to admit that perhaps my current problem is an issue with RDC and not with Internet Explorer. But either way, it’s a Microsoft problem.

After making some CSS adjustments to a page I was working on, I noticed that the main body seemed to be extending 3 pixels wider than it should be. Further testing revealed this only happened on certain pages, and after resorting to commenting out each CSS class one-by-one, I tracked this down to an inline class that simply italicizes text. So, for whatever reason in the grand Microsoft scheme, a word or two in italics can cause a much larger section of the page (at least 2 or 3 levels up in the document tree) to expand by 3 pixels.

Again I ask… WHY???

And again my cry for explanation goes unheeded. Time for another lame workaround?

Addendum: As it turns out, in this particular case a workaround will not be needed. I went to our test PC and confirmed that this is an RDC glitch, and not an Internet Explorer one.

Still got the fever…

I was perusing some of the older articles on my site today, such as the one about Bucker and Garcia. For those of you who don’t remember B&G (or, shame on you, were too young to experience them), they’re the one-hit wonders behind everyone’s favorite video game themed song, “Pac-Man Fever.”

Well, as we can see from this video, they’ve still got the fever.

It clearly is a home video, apparently shot in the home music room of either Buckner or Garcia (although I notice that the plaque on the gold record says “Presented to Mike Stewart). Our heroes are set up with a pair of microphones and appear to be performing the song. Buckner (I’ll assume top billing means he’s the lead singer) most definitely is singing live, but the backing music sounds suspiciously canned, despite Garcia’s keyboard (and miraculously chorus-like backing vocals).

I got suspicious when I realized Garcia was lip-syncing the backing vocals even though Buckner was really singing, and when the guitar solo appeared, note-for-note and bend-for-bend consistent with the original that’s permanently etched into my brain from the 8 billion times I listened to the song in 1983 alone, I finally realized what was going on…

You see, it was fairly common for singles released by Columbia Records at the time to include an instrumental version of the song on the flip side. And that is what was playing in Buckner’s spare bedroom. He was doing karaoke to his own song.

Getting Ready for MGC

MGC, for those not in the know (including myself, not terribly long ago), is the Midwest Gaming Classic, a big event coming up in a couple weeks in Milwaukee where I will join throngs of like-minded geeks, many of whom are also, like me, regulars in the AtariAge Forums, to play old video games, talk about old video games, buy and trade old video games, and just basically live for a brief moment in a world where they are still relevant (a world outside of our own heads, that is).

Being a person who can still fire up a game of Yars’ Revenge pretty much whenever I feel like it, this is a welcome experience indeed. I am planning to take a few of the rarer but also less-interesting (to me personally) titles from my collection as trading fodder, and I’ll see what I come home with. I just wish Paul Slocum would’ve been able to have a finished version of his Homestar Runner-themed Atari 2600 RPG homebrew ready in time for it.