The Kimberly effect on MMPR

The last article I wrote on Power Rangers centered on the science fiction aspect of the show. While you could make a case it’s technically more fantasy than sci-fi with all the magic, the technology defeats the magic forces so in a way it’s science versus the supernatural. I never really considered it any deeper than that. However there is one factor missing from the previous analysis of the show, Kimberly or the Pink Ranger.

All too often young boys will hide their true feelings on things because they are constantly bombarded with notions of masculinity and what is “appropriate behavior” for a boy. If you then find a young boy drawn to a strong female character in a science fiction show, and it’s not romantic or sexual in nature, people get weird about it.

I discovered similar reactions when people find out I like Sailor Moon, Aeon Flux and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and it wasn’t sexual in nature. I guess if you have a crush on a female it is acceptable to root for her success but otherwise it’s creepy? I don’t know I have friends who refuse to watch any film or TV series with a strong female lead. In fact I know certain people who are turned off by the new Star Wars movies just for that very reason. There is another side, the less obvious but also worth confronting, that is the anti-feminists. In other words those who are so strongly anti-feminism they refuse to accept anything that doesn’t fit into that narrative. No, I am not really trying to sound political, because I have my own views on feminism that might contradict the mainstream narrative if you take them at face value. But I can certainly appreciate, and root for, a strong female protagonist without having to feel guilty about it. Especially when I know for 100 percent fact my admiration for the character is not rooted in sexual desires. I mean, no I never had a “crush” on the Pink Ranger. I had a crush on Melissa Joan Hart I make no secret of that. But seeing Kimberly over come her valley girl, prissy, spoiled brat attitude and transform into a kick-ass super hero fighting evil with the rest of the boys, and the stereotypical Asian chick, it was something I could look at and think yeah okay keep kicking ass. I was also one of those who rooted for Tommy and Kimberly to hook up, not something a boy with a crush would do (I wished nightly for the death of any boy caught kissing my beloved Sabrina on screen).

This was further complicated when I grew up. Being raised in a very conservative Christian home I do carry with me plenty of values and morals from that upbringing. Despite the evangelicals on TV crying how “evil and Satanic” Power Rangers was, I discovered I could tune those ridiculous cries out yet when confronted with justifying liking the Pink Ranger and admitting it wasn’t  physical attraction (again not to “objectify her” but she wasn’t that pretty in my eyes back then). But still I think I mostly hid my liking of this show more because it was un-masculine and ‘pro-feminist’ if I admitted liking it for the reasons I did. I am still not sure how to handle the #metoo movement or feminism as a whole, hey cut me some slack I am a guy. I am also a 35-year-old virgin by choice so let’s not complicate things by dragging my preferences through the mud. All you need to know is not everything has to be broken down into leftist verses right-wing politics. I mean, it’s a silly kids show for crying out loud, why can’t it just be harmless entertainment?

I will, however, freely admit that seeing Kimberly being replaced by the much more pleasing to look at Katherine in Season 3 was certainly a motivation for me to keep watching despite being heartbroken at watching the cast I had grown to admire leave, one by one. I was ready to also call it quits when I learned Kimberly would no longer be donning the Pink Ranger suit. It wasn’t because I had crushed on her or felt betrayed personally, it was just I had developed a strong respect for the character as she was the most developed on the show by that time. At least of the original cast. I still believe Billy remained a caricature throughout the series while the other rangers were allowed to become somewhat real character, even if they were cookie cutter variants of a signature type. Especially seeing Bulk and Skull, the bullies of the show, blossom into likable characters you ended up rooting for in the end. Secretly I always felt Skull was a big softy he just needed to be tamed.

If I admired the character for being a female who could kick ass but not someone I wanted to imagine myself doing nasty things to, what does that mean of me and my masculinity? Well, again as someone who as abstained from sex by choice I can say it’s not really that hard to not get too sexually arouse by gorgeous women if you see them as people and not objects. I know that sounds political but screw it, I mean I think it’s a balance of Christian upbringing and being raised in a house with 3 sisters and no male influences outside my dad. So say what you will, make fun of me call me names belittle me for having different views and seeing girls as people. After all my best friends were always girls and I never gave into temptation to engage in sexual behavior with any of them. Not that I wouldn’t succumb to the pleasures of a female if I was in the type of relationship my personal views would allow, it’s just I actually get more out of doing little things like making her smile or getting her to laugh when she was down, than I would treating her like a sex toy. Take that for what you will but for me I will continue to see this show as both a form of harmless entertainment, and a source of food for thought.

Ranking the Freddy vs. Jason movies: Part two the Jason movies.

The Spiders Lair ranks the Freddy vs. Jason franchise. This is part two, the Jason films.

Jason movies

Friday the 13th 2

I wish I could tell you I have some fond memory of discovering this movie as a child and how it shaped who I became, much like the Freddy movies did. No, I didn’t ever watch these movies when I was growing up. I saw part 3 and part 7 when I was a kid, the rest I discovered long after reaching adulthood.

That being said, I was able to go into these with the clarity of a new comer who lived through their first-run, but missed them entirely. That helped reduce the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia. That’s why I think I was able to name part 2 as the best of the series. For me, it was the only truly scary movie in the series and the one that really defined the slasher summer movie genre.

The plot was basically just repeating the plot of the first movie but with a new set of kids. The only variation was the killer. It had some good jump scares but the gore was definitely yet to become a staple of the series. This one had the most believable characters, for the most part, and the final girl felt like she really deserved to survive not just because she happened to be cast in the role.

Fun fact: The head of Jason’s dead mother is used as a prop, and plot device in this movie tying it back into the first movie.

Friday the 13th

I ranked this one higher than my personal enjoyment of it. The reason, it’s a classic and it reminds me slightly of The Last House on the Left in tone more than the following films. Since I loved that movie I give this a pass. As far as scares go, it’s not that scary. It’s mostly pacing and jump scares, more atmosphere than anything. Much like Sleepaway Camp to follow, this movie relies heavily on the fake out of not revealing who the killer is. Now, to be fair, the twist at the end of that movie was a real twist and not a tacked on jump scare to justify a sequel.

Fun Fact: Kevin Bacon is one of the victims in this movie.

Friday the 13th 4

The Final Chapter. Right, just like The Final Nightmare was the last time we saw Freddy Krueger. For some reason this one jumps out at me as the most 80’s horror movie I have ever seen. This one has the great hair music, teenagers being actual teenagers, Corey Frigging Feldman, and hockey mask wearing Jason getting some visually stunning kills. Oh and hot twins.

Fun Fact: This was the first movie to feature a story arc that carried over to the following movies more than just the setting and Jason.

Friday the 13th 3

Now in 3D! Freddy waited all the way until his intended demise film to go 3D. Not Jason, they did it in the first movie to have what would become his iconic mask. It was the first one to stray from using an all orchestral soundtrack to a solid 80’s rock soundtrack, but it was for the better. The movie had much better special effects, likable characters and even a sub-plot involving side characters. It even had a flash back that implied Jason might have raped girl.

Fun Fact: The nerdy character in this movie drives around in a totally 80’s retro VW Beetle reminiscent of G1 Bumble Bee.

Friday the 13th 6

 

Friday the 13th 5

I typically try to avoid ranking movies from best to worst following numerical order. Often times the movies do degrade progressively but sometimes you get an odd instance where a quality sequel will rise above the rest. This is one of those cases where part 5 sort of stands alone as the black sheep of the series. No small feat considering how many films stray from the formula. I have a lot of things I really enjoy about this movie but it’s still not the best. I like the change in setting. I love how different it is in tone and kills. What does trip me up though is the fake out reveal at the end, and the crazy red-neck characters that seem to contribute nothing but a cheap joke. This was one of those I did see as a kid. Not the whole movie but I distinctly remember the kid that I thought was trying to look like Michael Jackson who got killed in the outhouse scene.

Fun Fact: The hot blond doing the break dancing moves in this movie is the daughter of the woman who played the English teacher in the original Nightmare on Elm Street.

Freddy vs. Jason

Yes, this is the breaking point. From here on the movies all go downhill. One of the biggest complaints this movie gets from fans of both franchise is it doesn’t seem to work well as a solid entry in either series. I happen to disagree. I think it works better as a Freddy movie than a Jason flick, considering the Freddy stuff stays very true to the mythology that came before and this movie just makes up its own Jason mythology as it goes along, like they pretty much all do. However, I still enjoy it as a movie more than all the rest of the films on this list.

Fun Fact: The black chick was one of the singers in Destiny’s Child (that defunct band Beyoncé started in.)

Friday the 13th 8

If I was being completely honest, remove Freddy vs. Jason and this movie could go up a notch on the list. Chronologically this is where the franchise hit rock bottom. Everything after this is just garbage.

This movie has few redeeming qualities for me. I enjoy the early boat stuff, the parts most people tend to despise, but I completely hate all the physic dream stuff. This one felt like it was trying to appeal more to the Freddy fans and it didn’t work. At least not for me.

Fun Fact: Jason actually takes his hockey mask off voluntarily for a scare.

Jason X

I like this movie more than most. I don’t think it’s a bad movie. I do think it is a bad Jason movie so ranking it among the others in the franchise it tends to fall pretty far down the list.

Fun Fact: This was another in a long line of horror movies moving to space for some reason. Others were Leprechaun and Hellraiser.

Friday the 13th 7

I hate this movie. It takes the psychic stuff too far. It has a few decent kills and it expands the mythology, I guess, but it messes up the time line and is just plain boring to watch.

Fun Fact: This was the second time a corpse jumped out at the end to drag someone into the water.

Jason Goes to Hell

This was one of the few I did see when I was a kid. In fact it was the only one I watched when it was a new release. I didn’t like it at all. The body switching stuff was too much. Jason didn’t look like the familiar character at all and since it as the first one I watched all the way through it soured my opinion of the franchise for several years.

Fun Fact: There aren’t any, New Line cinema bought the franchise and it should have ended here. I think they only made Jason X just to hold people over until they could get Freddy vs. Jason off the ground.

And that’s the list. Considering I haven’t even seen the remake yet I can’t rank it. Considering how my views tend to differ from the mainstream I am not sure what I will ultimately think of it. I do own the DVD, I just have never gotten around to actually watching it.

 

The Dark Web podcast episode 3- (SH*THOLE EPISODE) Nintendo Labo, R-rated horror movies on the decline?

https://thespiderslair.podbean.com/e/the-dark-web-podcast-episode-3-shthole-episode-nintendo-labo-r-rated-horror-movies-on-the-decline/

This R-Rated examination of the decline of hard-r rated horror movies. Also a look at how Donald Trump has made it okay to say shithole in the news now. A brief but energetic rant about the Nintendo Labo crap coming from Nintendo, and a look at the passing of the world-famous singer of the Irish band, The Cranberries. It’s a shorter episode packed with lots of thoughts in rapid succession. Oh I also talked about the recent Cracked video layoffs.

The Dark Web TV Episode 2- UNBOXING STUFF, Go-Bots combiner team and more

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In this episode I introduce a new soda product I recently discovered. I start things off with my first ever unboxing. For the What’s Streaming segment I mentioned two YouTube channels that are interested to me. They were Biographics from the people who make TodayIFoundOut, and MetalJesusRocks crew. In the Retro Showcase I showed off my original Go-Bots combiner team, Puzzler. The Dark Web TV is a news/talk show done in a similar format to a typical news broadcast but modified for the YouTube audience. This show is a companion piece to The Dark Web podcast. New videos are set to stream each week. Follow The Spiders Lair: Twitter: @phatrat1982 Facebook: @thespiderslairblog Podcast: http://thespiderslair.podbean.com/feed/ iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/t… Website: http://www.thespiderslair.com Please like and share.

Fanfiction coming to The Spiders Lair

I am still working on some original stuff behind the scenes. As I delve into writing things I get tons of ideas in my head. I used to write some pretty lousy fanfiction back in the early days of the world wide web. I am thinking of a few ideas that I have been kicking around. Below is a list of some of the fanfics I would like to do. The purpose is to jump start my imagination to, hopefully, inspire me to finish some of my other works of fiction.

The first day I took a job at the newspaper I was thrilled to be able to finally tell people I am a writer, and I actually get paid to do it. I have always been a writer. Ever since I was a kid. I just finally got around to finding a way to make a living doing what I love.

That being said, every writer has writers block. In terms of fiction stories, especially the suspense and horror stuff, I have hit a dead end for the time being. So I will start up some fanfics as a way to get the creative juices flowing again.

Here is a list of settings I would like to delve into. This is not an exhaustive list, just a few that I have ideas that I think would inspire me. Also, I am absolutely not making any commitment to finish any of these. The idea is to get excited and inspired to write something original.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

Specifically the original team of Jason, Trini, Kimberly, Zach, and Billy. The good thing about a fanfic here is you can cut out all of the cheesy acting and low budget special effects and focus on writing a fun and exciting story. There are a few science fiction stories I have swirling around in my head that a MMPR fanfic could be a good starting point.

Robocop vs. The Terminator

I have a lot of verses ideas. Actually who doesn’t to be honest. I don’t imagine any of mine will be award-winning stuff that makes fans geek out. Rather I expect it to be the types of stuff that only a certain type of fan might enjoy. I would set mine basically in the world the Sega Genesis game created.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

I have seen every film starring Freddy Krueger. I have seen all of the episodes of Freddy’s Nightmare’s a low budget TV series set in the same universe. I have even read all of the comic books and played all of the video games. It’s safe to say I know this character well enough I could write compelling fanfiction. In fact when I was younger much of the fanfics I wrote were based on this character.

Doctor Who

I have an idea for a Doctor Who fanfic where the Doctor travels into the Star Wars universe. I haven’t decided if it would be a parallel universe type story or something else. It revolves around him trying to prove the science of the Jedi and use that to dispel their “magic” as he often does. Thankfully Mr. Lucas created a way to science up the Force in a perfectly Doctor Who way.

Inspector Spacetime

Okay so ever since I fell in love with Community (and Alison Brie I won’t lie) I have been super excited to explore the Doctor Who rip off set in that shows universe. I have seen enough Doctor Who, Community, Futurama and The Orville I know I could get into this world and have tons of fun.

Speaking of…

Yes, I would love to write Community, Futurama and The Orville fanfics as well. I mean they are just each ripe with uncharted territory that needs to be explored further. I want to be free of the shackles of actors leaving the show so I can continue the adventures of Troy and Abhed in the Morning without worrying about one of them pretending to be a gangsta rapper or whatever it was. Futurama is also a goldmind for fanfiction material. I must confess it’s one of the few comic book series I truly enjoy so it’s quite possible I might already be able to get my fix that way, but still I think I could delve into that universe if I was properly motivated. As for The Orville. Okay it’s still new enough writing fanfiction might be premature. However, as it is loosely based on Star Trek, yet free from the convoluted retconning, it would be a cinch to jump in as there is little to go on and nothing can contradict anything else since it’s so new.

Super Mario Bros.

I loved the Super Mario Super Show. I know what you are thinking but I did. I would love to write stories set in that world using the characters and settings that have come since it’s end. The best part is, there really is no wrong way to do a Mario story since technically each game is disconnected from the rest. I might even have a way to write some Super Mario Bros: The Movie fanfiction that fixes some of that universe’s issues. Hey one can dream right?

I won’t dig into explanations for the remainder just list a bunch I can see myself having fun writing, even if nobody ever gets to read them but me.

Transformers meets Gobots

Boy Meets World

Saved by the Bell

Psych

The Goonies/The Monster Squad

Gremlins

Shinobi

Mechwarrior

Dungeons and Dragons

Loony Tunes/Disney/DuckTales

Indiana Jones

Legend of Zelda

Rainbow Brite

The Smurfs

Sonic the Hedgehog

Mortal Kombat

Friday the 13th

Pac-Man

The Matrix

G.I. Joe A Real American Hero

Super Smash Bros.

Final Fantasy 6 and 7

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Sabrina the Teenage Witch

And that should do it for this wish list. Thanks for reading and if you have any fanfiction you would like to share feel free to send it in.

Dreaming of some good Mash Up movies: Versus, team-up and cross over films that might be interesting to see just for fun

Over the years there have been a lot of cross overs done in comic books, video games and to a lesser extent, films. Now that the comic book multiverse concept has firmly taken Hollywood by storm here is a list of completely fantastic team-up, cross over and versus films that would be fun to see. This is just for fun so there are no rules, rights issues, budget, mixing genres, etc., none of that will be taken into consideration.

1. Spider-Man vs. Wolverine

This one has been done in the comics before. It could be a team-up or it could be a straight brawl to the death, either way it would be lots of fun to put these two anti-heroes together on screen as opposites.

2. Beetlejuice meets Scooby Doo

Imagine a movie where Tim Burton directs an all CGI world with  a mix of live-action and computer characters. The plot would basically turn out that Scooby and his companions find themselves facing an actual ghost. It would be a total over-the-top comedy of course.

3. GI JOE and Transformers

Hasbro and Paramount had a missed opportunity to put the GI Joe and Transformers characters into the same universe. With reboots all the rage in Hollywood it would be really cool to see them reboot both the GI Joe film franchise and the Transformers with them teaming up to take on Unicron.

4. Mega Man and Castlevania

It would probably be best as CGI but it would work as cell animated. Live action would be harder to pull off. It would have a Belmont team-up with Mega Man in a weird alternate universe where the robot masters are all horror movie themed and the locations are set in Castlevania. This might make for a better video game than movie but whatever it needs to happen anyways.

5. Pinhead vs. Chucky

These two don’t really exist in the same universe but it could work. Pinhead and his goons all wind up terrorizing Chucky who stumbles upon the puzzle cube believing it could finally set him free from his doll body. He ends up defeating the cenobites because they learn since he is made of plastic their torture methods don’t work on him. In a weird way he would actually be the hero of the film.

6. Ghostbusters v.s Gremlins

This one would have to be animated with a retro throwback style of the Real Ghostbusters cartoon. The Gremlins could be CGI but I suspect it would work best if everything was animated. It would blend horror and comedy with the Ghostbusters trying to find a scientific explanation for the Gremlin problem while looking for a solution. It would put them out of their wheel house as they fight a physical monster their proton packs would be useless against. It totally has to be holiday themed, probably Valentines Day or Groundhog day just for the hell of it.

7. Marvel vs. DC the movie

This absolutely absurd idea somehow worked in the 90’s with a comic book crossover that shook up the entire comic book fandom. With Marvel making so much money from their ventures for Disney they could easily strike some sort of deal where they step in and “save” the failing DC film universe by bringing everything together for an epic 3-film blockbuster record breaking behemoth. This one actually needs to happen one way or another, somebody make it so.

8. The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers meets Sailor Moon

It needs to be live-action with Japanese characters for the Sailor Moon side and Americans based on MMPR Season 1, or you know those kids from the recent reboot. I imagine it would start out with the two sides as enemies then teaming up as the monster shows its face and they do what they do best. It should have a totally 80’s metal glam rock soundtrack too.

9. Smash Bros: The Movie

This one is a piece of cake. It needs to be CGI. It needs to be PG-13. It needs to have voice actors from the entire video game and comic book spectrum. It just needs to happen A.S.A.F.P. ‘Nuff Said.

10. Monster Mash

This would basically be a full reboot of Monster Squad but with a hard R rating, and feature not the Universal Monsters but Chucky, Jason, Freddy, Pinhead, Letherface and Michael Myers as the monsters. It would follow a similar structure to the original but would need to have teenagers instead of pre-teens.

Whether any of these actually happen or not, these would all be completely entertaining films to watch.

Exploring digital music stores

I have reached a point in my music collecting that I need to explore other options. I like buying CD’s because they offer me a physical thing I can put on a shelf while also giving me the ability to rip the tracks to my hard drive and then move them to my iPod. The problem is, CD’s are not getting any cheaper for some reason. I buy from Amazon and even though I have Prime, it still ends up costing 7-10 per CD. I was buying them for $2 to $3 each brand new unopened or $.99 used from Hastings. Sadly, Hastings is no longer in business. There doesn’t seem to be any other new or used CD retailers near by so I have turned to the internet. I was hoping I would find some cheap alternative to Amazon but it doesn’t appear to be the case. Now I am exploring digital options.

First, I am NOT anti or pro digital. I have always been for whichever options is cheapest while being the most consumer friendly. My primary reasons for sticking to CD’s has always been cost. When I can get a CD for under $5 even if I only like 2-3 songs, it’s worth it because I value the packaging and artwork, the physical item, at least $1 value so I tend to figure that’s a good price. It’s not like in the 90’s and early 2000’s when I was spending $12 to $15 for a CD just for 2-3 songs, if that. Cost value has always been a factor. I purchase music from iTunes a lot but based on cost alone. For instance, if I know for a fact I only want literally 1 songs from a certain CD and it’s not worth the space having a physical copy would add to the clutter, then I pick up the song from iTunes for the $.99 or $1.29 they tend to be. However, if I know I want all of or a majority of songs, for example Doggystyle by Snoop Dogg, I wanted the whole record, so I was not going to spend the $9.99 on a digital copy when I would prefer a physical copy with the fold out pamphlet. This is another reason why just having a single JPEG for the album art sucks, you just get the superficial cover, you don’t get the actual contents of the booklets.

I realized there had to be a better option. I shot down Amazon digital because the selection sucks. Sometimes they have a “CD” I want and sometimes they just have selections from the artists library. I have come across HUNDREDS of songs or albums they do not have. iTunes has a similar shortcoming so in those instances I tend to look for the actual CD. I tried Pandora but I hate Pandora. I even tried the paid option for a period and it wasn’t any better. I learned Pandora is designed to help you “discover” music. I am 35, I discovered all the music I like when I was a teenager now I just want to build up my collection so I can have music to listen to when I am in the right mood.

Then I tried Spotify. At first it seemed like the perfect option. I could add ENTIRE albums to my playlist, if I paid a monthly fee I could turn off ads, and the player wasn’t terrible to navigate. The first shortcoming I noticed, however, was like Amazon and iTunes they are limited to licenses. This means sometimes they have the ORIGINAL recordings by the original artists, and other times they have those disgusting “Remastered” copies. It’s never clear if a remastered edition refers to them cleaning up the original audio recording tapes from before digital like they did in the 90’s, or this new, very disgusting trend where old men attempt to re-record songs in their twilight years hoping they will sound the same as when they were young men. Trust me I have compared plenty of original recordings to the remastered versions and I can ALWAYS tell the difference. Something  is always off. Maybe the drummer gets tired and starts to slow down, maybe they are using a different drum kit than before, sometimes the guitarists tunes his guitar different or the singer just can’t hit the high notes like he could when he was young. Sometimes it’s noticeable but not too terrible and other times it literally sounds like a damn cover band. I hate that.

Also, they always add new tracks, usually “studio sessions” or demo crap I am not interested in. I want the ORIGINAL album just like it was when it was originally released. The whole point in buying CD’s or records even if you go that far, is to have a tangible item from your actual past. Not some replica. I don’t want reproduction NES carts and I don’t want artists re-recording their songs and selling replicas of their real works.

I have also run into the issue of rights. Sometimes Spotify only has the rights to a selection of songs from an artists not their entire works. This isn’t a problem for mainstream artists but when looking for tracks by techno DJ’s from the 80’s or those quirky low-selling alternative bands from the 90’s suddenly it becomes an issue. To make matters even worse, sometimes they don’t even have full soundtrack albums just a user created playlist containing the closest example of the songs from that soundtrack. I couldn’t even find a single recording of Techno Syndrome by the Immortals, the THEME song to Mortal Kombat. It wasn’t available on any of the digital stores, not even Pandora or Amazon. Nothing. Now I already have the complete line of CD’s, including More Kombat which is just a few bonus songs, but still if someone wasn’t aware of that shortcoming they wouldn’t be able to “discover” that song because it doesn’t exist as far as the digital stores are concerned.

All things considered I realized that buying digital is not the best way to go even still in late 2017. By now you would think they would have everything digital but its like streaming movies services, somehow less is more is their philosophy and its just frustrating as a consumer. I guess I will just stick to buying CD’s for the most part resorting to digital only when it’s necessary to acquire the one or two obscure songs from a particular artists, assuming iTunes or Amazon even has the song I want. I couldn’t find a single store that had Beautiful by Joydrop. I don’t want to spend the outrageous price they want for a copy of the CD for just 1 song so I either have to do without or settle for streaming from YouTube. That is, until YouTube decides to take the video down, again.

Master P Ghetto D: A look back at a classic gangsta rap album

Between the years of 1995 to 1997 there was a war waging between the two coasts of the United States. The East Coast Gangsta Rap scene, led by Puff Daddy and his boy Biggie Smalls, against the hardened West Coast Gangsta Rap scene led by veterans of the L.A. gang scene, and pioneers of the genre N.W.A, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, and newcomers Snoop Dogg, The Dogg Pound, and 2Pac. While Death Row Records was at the forefront of the West and Bad Boy was taking the helm in the East, there was a newcomer about to bust things wide open.

Shots were fired, literally, in late 1994 when 2Pac was gunned down entering the Bad Boy Record studio. He miraculously survived this attack, taking five bullets and then recovering to launch the war full force at Death Row records a couple of years later. In September of 1996 the shots fired again, this time ending 2Pac’s life. Presumably in retaliation, or perhaps as an indirect results of the gang wars, for whatever reason Biggie Smalls was shot and killed just a few months later right before the release of his double album, Life After Death.

Just when everyone thought the Gangsta Rap genre was going to fizzle out, Puff Daddy quickly dropped the gangsta rap persona and shifted to a more radio friendly hip-Pop sound, reminiscent of the main stream sound Will Smith was employing. The gangsta scene looked like it was going to disappear for a brief moment. Even Bad Boy’s next rising star, Ma$e, altered his gangsta image to a more MTV friendly look and their music videos reflected this by focusing more on their flashy parties and money than their gangsta life styles as previous videos had done. The Mafioso rap would live on, under the head of superior producer to Puffy, Jay-Z, as his masterfully crafted Rocafella Records picked up the pieces of the crumbling Bad Boy empire.

In the middle of all the coastal wars there was a new gangsta rap guru waiting to take over and push both Bad Boy and Death Row into obscurity. The mans name was Master P. The record label was No Limit Records. The album, Ghetto D.

By the time No Limit Records came onto the scene, gangsta rap was either west coast G-Funk or east coast mafioso, the southern blend of hard core street and down to earth thugs just trying to make a living was a different change of pace. Although No Limit Records quickly supplanted the two dominant gangsta rap labels of the day, they did so using the very same talent Death Row used to launch. Snoop Doggy Dogg, rebranded as just Snoop Dogg when he left Death Row and joined No Limit. This story is going to focus on the record that made the shift happen. Keep an eye on part two where you can learn more about Snoop’s time with Master P and company.

Ghetto D (short for Ghetto Dope, as per the albums title track) came out hitting hard and fast. The first track on the record hits you in the face with it’s message, “a shout out to drug dealers” as the record claimed. The record didn’t spend a lot of time talking about pimping hoes, drive by shootings, or hit men coming to snipe the snitch, the record just painted a picture of a working class thug trying to make a living selling drugs.

The album gets straight to the point with tracks like Weed & Money, Ghetto D, and Stop Hatin’, it’s the single and subsequent music video that really propelled the record to mainstream recognition. “Make Em Say Ugh!” quickly became a radio hit, a hit on MTV and the anthem for the new wave of hard core gangsta rap that was about to burst onto the scene. That track brought the entire No Limit studio crew right to the front of the Hip-Hop scene and proved that gangsta rap didn’t have to take a side in the deadly gang wars.

The record itself is massive. It sports 19 tracks of pure, hard core hip-hop. Not a single track of interludes, fake radio broadcasts or people talking. The album didn’t tell a story using theatrics like Doggystyle, a superior gangsta rap album in many respects, it did manage to get straight to the point. Master P didn’t need a lot of story lines cluttering up the record, he let the music speak for itself. With solid base lines, quick battle raps, hard beats, and lot’s of G-Funk melodies mixed with some southern beats, the record demonstrated there truly was a middle ground to the gangsta rap turf wars.

1998 was defined by the sounds of Master P, C-Murder and Silkk The Shocker, all who quickly dethrowned the entire Bad Boy and Death Row crews from prominence. Ice Cube, one of the founders of the Gangsta Rap scene, turned to Hollywood and left the music industry mostly behind. Dr. Dre responded to the  new label by hiring a White Boy to get his game back on track. Snoop Dogg himself even followed the old, if you can’t beat em, join em, mantra as he released several albums on the record label that left Death Row in the ashes. Silkk The Shocker would quickly follow up Master P’s glorious sounding Ghetto D with a record of his own, Charge it to The Game, featuring the hit “It Ain’t My Fault” and prominently featuring newcomer Snoop Dogg on some respectable gangsta tracks.

Much like Doggystyle before, each track serves a purpose in getting the listener to fear and respect the talents of the producer behind the scenes. Ghetto D rose to the occasion of filling in the gaps created by the decline of the two East Coast/West Coast giants. Their reign didn’t last forever as Jay Z and his Rockafella Records would soon surpass all three gangsta rap labels in terms of sales, money, presence in the market, and number of important artists all combined.

The aftermath of the decline of the Coastal Wars left Death Row in ruins, Bad Boy turned pop, and Dr. Dre selling records featuring a bleached blond Backstreet Boy lookalike. Master P stood up and reminded the world that gangsta rap music could still be about hard music with a prominent message interlaced within some head bobbing tracks. Ghetto D is easily one of the top 25 gangsta rap records of all time.

The story of a home brew part 2: A case study of one game that did it right

The Immortal John Hancock, a prominent YouTube gamer, posted a thread on June 3, 2016, to a Nintendo collectors’ forum asking for a programmer for a potential project. Antoine Fantys was the programmer that answered that call.

From his early days as a programmer fiddling around with BASIC on his Commodore 64, Fantys wanted to be a programmer.

“I came across a Commodore 64. The beauty about this machine was that you could learn BASIC programming and program simple games directly on the computer.” he said.

“I ended up learning BASIC and coding my first games on a retro platforms, which included text adventures and a horse racing game of all things.” he added.

His interest in retro games began with his NES games on a Game Boy Advance, which later developed into full blown passion once he discovered YouTube.

“I found footage of the first Super Mario Bros. on the NES. Finding out about Super Mario Bros. and all those games of yesteryear sparked my interest in retro gaming, and especially the NES” he said.

When Hancock made the call asking for a programmer, he jumped at the opportunity. It was his chance to do something for the community, and make a name for himself while honing his programming skills. He reached out to Hancock via that forum and they two went to work.

“The game was John’s idea. I believe the game was a favorite of his. It’s based on an old 1981 Stern/Konami arcade game called ‘Turtles.'” he said.

He knew right away it was a project he wanted in on.

“As soon as I saw the video of the game John sent me, I knew I would like to work on this game because such arcade games are fun and easy to port on a console like the NES.” he said.

Fantys got his start on the NES doing, in his words “crappy rom hacks.” From there his interest grew. He found his way onto a Nintendo fan site that had a home brew section and he began learning the programming language of the NES.

For the most part, he works alone. He will occasionally bring on help with the music, in this case he did it all.

Once the game was finish John Hancock shared the story to his YouTube channel. From there John Riggs took the game and turned it into a charity work for an gaming expo he was a part of. With the help of prominent YouTubers, Fantys was able to get his name, and work, to a wider audience.

When it comes to ROMS and the home brew scene. Fantys tends to play it safe. He doesn’t make his roms he owns available, choosing to just sell carts if he can. He indicated he would consider using a form of DRM if it was a work he owned the rights to, yet he did claim he often sells the rights to his games.

This is where the gaming community and the home brew scene can come together. While I believe it to be okay to download roms of games nobody is profiting off, of course except the re-sellers making cash on second hand merchandise, I think original games have a right to be protected. On the other hand, when it comes to games like Pac-Man, Mega Man, Mario, Zelda, etc., then the user should make a attempt to purchase, or obtain, a legal copy before pirating. In this case I tend to favor supporting the Nintendo eShop, the PSN, Xbox Live Arcade and Steam. It sucks paying money for a ROM of a game you already owned at some point in time, yet you do have to remember once you sell the physical cart you sold your rights to the program on that rom. Also owning physical carts does not automatically give you the right to the program stored on the carts rom chips.

All things considered Fantys took a game someone else already made, an arcade game, and ported it, at the request of a collector in the industry, and made it available as a clone to those who were interested in obtaining that version. Since the game in question is based on someone else’s property, it stands to reason the gamer who does wish to play the game would be better served tracking down a legit copy, or playing it on MAME if they have no other option. The real need to play a ROM of a port of an arcade game to the NES, decades later, seems kind of counter intuitive. Is it scummy, shady or illegal what Fantys and Hancock have done? I don’t think so. They made it very clear every step of the way it was a clone of an arcade game, they made it very clear they were making it available to collectors who wanted physical copies, and it was done as a labor of love to the community of home brew gamers, programmers, collectors, and retro gamers in general. All in all this is how you do a retro/homebrew based on existing works the right away.

Now if they called it Turtles, basically recreated the original game in its entirety line byline and tried to sell it a their own without recognizing the original rights owners, that would be a different story entirely. Kudos to Fantys and Hancock for creating a project that was done out of passion for the scene, the community and the love of retro games. While it is easy to get caught up in who owns the rights to what, which degree of piracy counts as infringement and where the line should be drawn, at the end of the day all that really matters is gamers get to enjoy the works of programmers who enjoy making games for others to enjoy. It’s the circle of gaming.

Be sure to check out his YouTube video discussing the game Here

 

 

 

The story of a home brew that redefined what it means to be a home brew: Part 1 the morality of home brews.

A kid turns on a small, square shaped tube television set his parents kept in the basement for some reason. Hooked up to the TV is a square, mostly gray box. Inside the box is a tiny little rectangular piece of plastic that holds some computer program inside a ROM chip. The kid turns the TV to channel 3, pushes the piece of plastic down into the slider, closes the lid hits the power button with fingers crossed the game turns on this time glitch free. If everything lined up perfectly, the cart was cleaned, the console was dust free, the stars aligned just right, the game would begin. If not, the ritual of blowing into the cart, wiping the spit/grime of with a Q-tip, then jiggling the cart in, shaking it, pushing reset 25 times, etc., would commence in hopes things would find a way to get to work.

Everyone that was a Nintendo gamer in the 1980’s went through a similar ritual at least more than once in his or her life. The reality was the NES, as fondly was we try to remember it, was actually a terrible product. It required constant maintenance, care, cleaning, the cords were fragile and easy to bend, the controllers, while sturdy, were made of a very hard plastic that could crack or break if not taken care of properly. It had sharp edges that dug into kids hands, the console it self was sharp edges that if you weren’t careful could stub a toe on or hit an elbow or in some cases just jam a finger trying to shove the stupid cart into the machine. While any game would legitimately have GOOD memories of the games they played, when they in fact worked, more often than not we tend to push aside the negative memories we really have of the NES and allow blind nostalgia take us on a trip down memory lane.

One of the reasons we forget is, aside from a small subset of eccentric collectors, most gamers don’t actually play their old NES games on physical NES systems anymore. In fact, even a growing number of those who do play using PHYSICAL carts, do so on either refurbished consoles with extra money put into keeping the machine working, or in those increasing cases, play on a clone console that actually, compatibility issues aside, works better in many cases. The need to own a physical cart is even supplanted, but still satisfied by those who purchase a FLASH cart and load it up with ROMS. The point is there are a lot of different ways to enjoy an old NES game, playing the original cart on original hardware worry free is not the number one way of doing so. Despite that there remains a retro and home brew gaming scene who prey on the customers who have desires to relive, a false version of their childhood. These people are not all predators, some are but most are just coders who have fond memories of the NES and want to share their games with others. The problem is some of them take it a step too far, going as far as implementing copy protections on games they didn’t actually create, they really just took someone else’s design and made a port, calling it their own work and preventing others from playing the games the way most gamers actually DO play NES games, on a emulator minus all the hassle of tracking down all the satanic little emblems you need to make your retro machine work. Hyperbole aside, I have never in my life had a good experience picking up a USEd NES cart, inserting it into an original NES and it just worked. Not even when I was a kid and the machine was fairly new. We would rent games from the video store and I would spend the first half an hour or so just fighting the stupid thing to get it to work. You only had a game for the weekend if you were lucky or 1 night if it was a new release, so every second you spent twisting and tugging on carts was precious sec onds you would have been playing, what could have ended up being a shitty LJN game.

If you put aside the fact that most people don’t game on physical hardware, then why is it scummy for a programmer to charge money for a ROM they programmed? They put in the work and time after all? Honestly, it’s not scummy to charge for your time or work. It is, however pretty shady if the work you did was merely just porting a game some other creative person actually thought up and created decades back. If all you are doing is copying someone else’s work I, personally, think you have no right to sell it to the general public. If you want to sell your work to a collector, the physical cartridge, the art work, the case, etc., fine by all rights, but when a programmer, or coder, ports a game from another system, or just hacks a rom and calls it their own, to me that is kind of shady.

At the very least, if you can get permission from the original programmer, or their blessing then by all means do so. Sometimes copyrights are infringed but they can be done so in certain contexts without repercussions. My stance has always been respect the copy rights of those who do the actual creative work, not the pirates who stand to profit off other peoples work yet claim it as their own.

I do understand as a new programmer, especially one unwilling to actually go to college and get a job in the industry, starting out you need to get experience somewhere and porting other games to a new platform, or writing a clone program is certainly a very TRUE and legit way of honing your skills. However, make sure you let people know your CLONE is just that. I am okay with clones existing and if you want to sell a clone game by all rights you should be able to do that, as long as your clone is at least somewhat original or at the very least going to a good cause.

I did some digging into the behind the scenes development of a few different clone games, some home brew games and some rom hacks. There are cases of games like Battle Kid where the game is truly original the programmer has every right to brag about what his or her team accomplished. Games like Pier Solar are cornerstones of the home brew and aftermarket industry. Then you have the 150 thousand Super Mario Bros and Sonic 1 rip offs that just alter the sprites, rearrange the levels and try to pass it off as something original.

All of this has to have some middle ground. While I certainly do not in any way begrudge a programmer cutting his or her teethe on doing a rom hack or a home brew that is basically a clone of another game, there needs to be some honor in doing it. First, you should make sure people are fully aware it is a CLONE and do your best to reference the original game, if you CAN give credit to the original programmer, and better still if you can at least make an effort to reach and and get said programmers blessing more than anything great fantastic.

There are examples of some scummy home brew hacks who profit off other people’s work, I won’t list them you can dig up the dirt your self, google home brew. There is one hack in particular who just did a straight port of a certain PC game to a long dead nobody cared about console, I won’t say more than that except it’s not even a clone he did it entirely as a straight port. This, to me, is a gray area closer to don’t even bother. Now if it’s an open source game go ahead.

Then there is the example I want to highlight if you are still reading. This is a two-part story, part one set the stage, which is all the opinion above. Keep in mind my opinions are just that, my opinions and are meant to get people thinking. There is no need to attack me, argue with me, or hate me for getting people to think. If you disagree, share that, explain, in a civilized way, why you disagree and maybe I will listen to what you have to say. I often make claims not as my own but just to get people to really think about things so they can defend their stance.

That being said, I do think home brew games are fantastic, and when they do get a physical release for the collectors to enjoy, I am all for that. I think roms should ALWAYS be dumped at some point, minus copy protection because one, if nobody is copy protecting Mario or Zelda games, games Nintendo still profits off, then they shouldn’t be copy protecting their own roms. Two, I believe that roms should always be available for preservation purposes even of new games. The reason, the collectors who WILL pay for the game are not going to download a rom and those who WILL download the rom were NEVER going to pay for the physical cart in the first place. If you want to hold the rom until you know the collectors who want carts all have it and then dump it, DRM free at a later date, fair enough, do that. But holding a rom hostage, especially when its not a 100 percent original work, is shady at the very least. Holding roms hostage when it’s a rom hack or a prototype is 100 percent scummy, UNLESS you are the actual copy right holder and you just don’t want your failures made public, that is your right.

So when is it okay to charge for a rom and when should you limit the audience of your game? In the case of Battle Kid, that is an easy answer. If the game is 100 percent original and you did the work, then preventing people from stealing your work is your right. I also agree that Nintendo has a right to prevent you from playing Super Mario Bros. on your PC, support them buy a 3DS if you can’t stomach the Wii U, and download the rom from their virtual console. If a game was released by a company that no longer exists, and the only people who profit are re-sellers of used copies, then by all rights pirate that game all day long if you so desire. It’s technically illegal but it’s close enough to fair use you should be able to justify it.

What about when a programmer takes an existing game, say Pac-Man, and ports it to a system it never had an official release, say the Channel F, as an example? Should this person have a right to copy protect THAT rom? No, because it’s not their work. They have a right to burn the rom to physical carts and sell those to all of the collectors that are willing to pay a price for it, but copy protecting that rom is wrong and should not be tolerated. However, come on if you aren’t buying a physical copy why would you want to play an inferior port if there is no historical context? As bad as it is I do re-play the Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man from time to time, because it has historical value and I had it as a kid, there is nostalgia. Nobody had Pac-Man on their TG-16, it was never ported officially to that, so if a rom hacker makes a port of that game and sells it, that is fine for a CART but wrong, in my opinion, to sell a ROM. Even releasing the ROM to Steam is wrong, not to mention that is actually illegal no question.

But what if its a clone. Not a true port but a game made to resemble another game? KC Munchkin was considered a Pac-Man clone. While I disagree with the courts decision to pull it from shelves, the fact remains it was pretty much a clone. However, there is historical context there and nostalgia. What about porting PC games to non-PC systems, or would it be okay to port Super Mario Bros. not a rom, not an emulation but a re-programmed straight port, or clone even if you will, a la, Giana Sister, to a PC? I think even this is acceptable to do, but not to profit off.

Here is where I draw the line. A truly original work that is your own, charge money for it protect your copy right until your death and leave it in your will to someone you love. If it’s just a labor of love, a practice, a port of someone else’s work to a system that didn’t already have that game, if you want to sell the physical cart to collectors fine but let the rom go to those who will download it do so. I mean as a gamer myself I don’t download rom hacks or games that didn’t exist anyways, like I said I need historical context or else I have no interest in playing Mortal Kombat on a SNES, I would be better playing the actual arcade port on PS3 or the rom on MAME.

Check back for part 2 as I investigate an outlier I think did it right, but did leave room for error.