Youtube channel update

Alright so I keep saying I am going to be launching the Youtube channel soon. I been saying this for a while. Today I got one step closer. I verified the website with my channel so that the branding is now tied together. I am still working on nailing down exactly the types of content I want to produce. I am thinking for the time being I might just start as a typical vlogger until I come up with something more involved. I actually have multiple channels associated with my account so I might try to upload different content to different ones. I haven’t decided yet. But I do know I am getting closer. I also experimented with using my phone as a video camera. I wasn’t 100 percent satisfied with the quality but the process was simple enough I might consider using it again. This is just a general site update post nothing much to see.

A look at internet shopping: buying groceries from Amazon?

It was probably 2000 or 2001. I was watching an episode of smart guy and they found they had some toy or something that was worth a whole lot of money on eBay and the two kids went crazy selling a bunch of stuff on eBay. This was the first time I ever considered buying anything online so I went to ebay.com and decided to check it out and see what they had. I signed up for an account and started buying stuff on eBay mostly toys and collectibles from my childhood at this point. Go back then being that I wasn’t fully an adult I didn’t have a credit card or a bank account and I still live with my parents I had money since I had a job, but I didn’t have any way to pay for stuff. What I did was I had to buy money orders and mail them to people. That made shopping online a hassle. Pretty soon eBay would take that option away and replace everything with PayPal, a smart move I thought. Now I shop on Amazon all the time.

Last night I did something I had never done before. I filled up a box of Amazon pantry and I ordered groceries through the internet to have them delivered to my door. I know people who would laugh at the idea of buying groceries online. I was probably one of them for the longest time. But once I started shopping around I realize  they were selling a lot of the same foods I buy when I go to the dollar store, only they had a lot more variety and their prices were just as fair.

It’s no secret I’m one of those people that hates leaving the house. But my motivation this week for buying my groceries online wasn’t because I didn’t want to go anywhere. It was actually quite simple. My bank account is empty so I had to use my Amazon Prime card to shop online. They just happened to have groceries.

When I look at our social media world I realize that most of my friends are people that I know through the internet. A lot of them are just avatars with usernames that I know through discussion boards or video games. I can honestly say I am thoroughly connected to the web. I don’t have cable. All of my entertainment comes through my PlayStation. I get all my movies, TV shows and video games through my PlayStation.  I get all my comic books on my phone. I have a tablet I can get comic books and movies on. I create web videos. I have a podcast. I run this blog. I do pretty much everything in my world online. Yet I still feel like I’m connected. I’m enjoying life and getting things done.

Being able to buy food from the internet then having it delivered to your house it’s a little different than actually going to the local supermarket. I’m kind of leery about ordering a box of food to have it delivered to my doorstep, especially when I don’t want people to steal my food. I know I would be paranoid if I just left it sitting out there waiting for me to come pick it up could probably walk away.

I’ve already transitioned to a point where I do most of my shopping online. When I started out I was using eBay. I was only buying things through the internet  that I couldn’t buy locally easily. Things like Transformers collectibles, rare comic books, hard to find video games, stuff like that. As I got more and more used to it I bought all my college books online once I realized it was cheaper than buying them from a bookstore. I’ve slowly started buying all my comic books online. Once I discovered Netflix my transition to doing everything on the internet was almost complete. I still had cable for a while but I started using it less and less. In some ways I kind of see this as a milestone. Moving forward I am getting closer and closer to a time where I don’t buy anything locally and this is kind of a conflict for me.

For the longest time I believed in shopping locally because I was under the impression that if you shop locally you create local jobs. I believed that until I went to college and started studying business. I started realizing that if Walmart can come to town they might put four or five shops out of business. But those four or five shops don’t employ anybody. They’re usually just four or five entrepreneurs who employ themselves and maybe one or two part times. So when Walmart brings in 200 jobs I don’t see that as a bad thing. One of my economics professors also pointed out that if you can save money shopping online or shopping at Walmart, that gives you more money to spend elsewhere in the community on the businesses that you wouldn’t have otherwise patronized. For example there’s a custom furniture shop in town. If you have to spend all your money on groceries, clothing and household items,  you don’t have any left over to buy custom furniture. You just buy random junk from the thrift store or yard sales or whatever you can get your hands on.

That money doesn’t go into the hands of anybody and there’s certainly no tax benefit from it. But if you can save a considerable or even significant amount of money by shifting your purchases to online or even shopping at places like Walmart you can free up money in your budget to be able to spend it on what that specialty shop you’re still giving your money to local business and entrepreneurs while  still putting money back into the tax pool.

Now I’m going to be honest. There are a lot of things I couldn’t buy off of Amazon. They didn’t sell dairy products. There wasn’t any frozen foods. They certainly didn’t sell any meats. Well, except for canned meats.

One thing I did notice they had an abundance of are those complete meals. It’s basically a whole meal  like a meatloaf or some type of dinner that has a meat and the potato underneath. I buy these from the dollar store anyways. They sit in my cupboard until I’m ready to microwave them. These are also pretty good meals.  The best part is Amazon had a pretty good assortment of canned foods and box dinners too. Again stuff that I already am buying from the dollar store.

I realized if I can spend the same money, or even less, and have it delivered to my door I don’t see the downside to me buying a box of groceries off of Amazon pantry. Especially if I can just put it on my Amazon credit card. I even noticed that you can clip coupons during the transaction.

What if I want a gallon of milk or a carton of eggs? I’ll still have to go to the grocery store. but I think I can probably fill my cupboards and do without some of that stuff. I can also save money by not buying ingredients for meals. This way I won’t be trying to cook something that I’ll just mess up, eat a little bit then throw away. I guess when you get down to it if you’re already not a big fan of going out in public, while being on a very tight budget, you start to get creative. I think shopping Amazon Pantry is another way to just be more reliant upon the internet. For better or for worse, this is the world we live in.

Contemplating the Netflix purchase of comic book imprint Millarworld

The Spiders Lair is not a news site first and foremost. Obviously nobody is learning about this news by coming here. Still this is big enough I wanted to get something down before the dust settles.

According to reports Netflix is purchasing an indie comics company called Millarworld. Apparently it’s the publishing house that does Kick-Ass and Kingsmen, among other comics I never heard of. At first that sounds like a pretty big deal. Especially when you take into account their current deals with Marvel. Netflix could soon become the premiere streaming service for quality, comic book content.

Of course the only two comics they make I know about are the very two not included in the purchase. What does this mean in the grand scheme of things? On the surface, very little. Netflix has never out right purchased another company before. By picking up a comic book imprint the idea sounds good. If they can develop enough titles into quality movies and shows for their service, combined with the already fantastic Marvel shows they have, other publishers could come on board. I think the far reaching implication would be for more indie developers to bring their titles to Netflix for production. This could mean we could start seeing shows based on comics that aren’t as mainstream as Marvel and DC without having to go through the Hollywood studios. This could be a game changer depending on how things work out.

Imagine as more comic book fans start to discover all the good shows and movies they want to watch are coming to Netflix. This could snowball where all the content creators scramble to get their indie comic characters turned into a Netflix series. I would LOVE to see a Gen 13 show or even a revived Buffy with a new lead. Oh, I guess if they wanted to they could go the animated route too. I just wish they would use their licensing deals to pick up a few more classic animated comics based shows like the original TMNT cartoon or even some X-Men the Animated series. When I first discovered Netflix they had a ton of those types of shows. Now they have a few here and there. I don’t think the quality has declined much. I just don’t think they need to abandon old shows entirely to make room for new content. I would prefer they found a better balance between the two.

AS of right now this is more akin to when Hasbro bought the rights to Atari back in the 90’s. They are getting some new properties but are they really going to have the impact Netflix desires? A real game changing deal would have been if they picked up Image, Malibu, or even Dreamwave, at least then you are getting a solid blend of well known and indie comics. Here you are basically getting 4th tier comics from a very small specialty publisher. Not a bad deal, it’s still new content but seriously if you have to Google what their titles are it’s not like they are making waves. I mean I read comics, I go to Free Comic Book Day. And I wasn’t that familiar with this company. I loved Kingsmen and Kick-Ass but since those two aren’t a part of this deal I am not even sure how much of an impact this will truly make. All in all I will just take a wait and see approach. Since I haven’t really even been paying attention to Netflix in quite a while I am certain this won’t really affect me all that much anyways.

What’s really in the dark?

I enjoy horror movies and science fiction TV shows. Whenever the two intersect I tend to be very pleased. In Season 4 of the revived Doctor Who series there was an episode called “Silence in the Library.” It was basically a two part episode dealing with an alien, flesh-eating parasite that lives in the darkness.In fact it was the two-part episode “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances” with a very horror movie tone that got me into the revived Doctor Who series in the first place.

But, what really is hiding in the dark?

There are all sorts of myths, religions, urban legends and superstitions about what lies in the darkness when the lights go out. Things like monsters or ghosts are very common. One question that often comes out of this sort of pondering would be, why are we afraid of the dark to being with. The short answer is because we can’t see in the dark. We are afraid what we can’t explain. More specifically we are afraid of the unknown. We know in our minds that darkness is really the absence of light. But is that really the case?

Let’s look at a few instances of possible supernatural activity that might shed some light on this subject. So what about monsters, ghosts, spirits, demons, etc., do we really think these things are hiding in the shadows? Or is it likely we just fabricate these types of explanations to placate our sensibilities? After all, it’s easier to make something up that fits into our experiences than it is to ask questions. It’s even harder to explore the world around us if we start off afraid.

Everyone knows someone who has heard, or shared, a ghost story. We are all drawn to ghost stories for the simple reason they justify our fears. If you tell yourself that cold sensation you get walking past the “haunted” painting in the hallway late at night when you are waling to the bathroom is a spirit stuck in this world, it makes sense so you accept it. The scientific mind would look for a rational alternative explanation. Perhaps a draft coming from somewhere in the walls. Or maybe it’s just your imagination from watching too many episodes of Tales from the Crypt.

One thing about ghost stories is nearly every culture has some belief in spirits. Some attribute them to the deceased unable to pass on to the next life. In some culture they are demons who have turned their backs on the creator, waging a war of good against evil. Spirits and spiritual things do not always fit into the mind of the rational skeptic. The next issue then is, do you believe in ghosts?

This comes up a lot. No matter if you are a Christian, atheist, or adherent to some other belief system; the question of belief in spirits and ghosts usually comes up at some point. Without getting into documented cases just consider that everything you can’t explain doesn’t have to have an explanation either. The scientific principal of the easiest explanation is usually the best doesn’t always apply. What if the easiest explanation for that shiver you get is a result of a spirit passing by your presence? Isn’t it easier to freely admit there could be a ghost than it is to try and offer and number of explanations? Just some things to consider.

Do I personally believe in ghosts? The short answer is I don’t know. I believe that in a universe as vast as ours there are some things we can’t explain. That doesn’t mean that we need to jump to any conclusions. We just need to keep in mind that you don’t have to immediately dismiss a supernatural or spiritual explanation for something that isn’t so easy to explain otherwise. I sometimes question what lies in the dark. I think we all get the feeling we are being watched at times. We experience this feeling even when we are certain we are alone. I once lived in an old house in the country. I swear I could hear the sounds of a little girl crying in the attic late at night. My sister, who lived a few blocks away came by to visit me one day and asked if I was babysitting because she could hear a little girl crying upstairs. We checked it out and there was nothing.

I used to tell a story about my childhood. We had this painting that I swear I could sometimes see a little girl hiding in the woods, while other times there was no sign of this girl. My sisters each have reported seeing different things in that very same painting over the years. We had my mom so convinced it was haunted she got rid of the painting. I don’t know for certain if I believe in ghosts. But I am 100 percent convinced there are spiritual, perhaps even supernatural, forces at play in our universe. Even if we do not currently have the scientific capability of detecting these forces.

One of the reasons I enjoy horror movies so much is because they often do make me think about what might be hiding in the shadows.

What if… retrospective: The TurboGrafx-16

The TurboGrafx-16 (TG16) is quite an oddity. Much like the doomed Sega Dreamcast nearly a full decade later, this game machine would be plagued as a mid-generation release that failed to catch on. Much speculation has been banded about on the internet on why it failed. Discussion forums are littered with topics discussing what could have been done differently. In this retrospective I will take a look at a few factors that are often overlooked in why this machine failed. First, I am mostly talking about within the context of the North American (mostly United States) market. While it is true the system performed better in Japan than it did in the US, and there is some doubt if it even existed in Canada at all, it still can be deemed a failure world wide by every measure. In fact, it didn’t even make it to the PAL region. Let’s dig in.

Usually two topics get brought up first when discussing the TG16. The first is Nintendo’s illegal exclusivity contracts in North America that would prevent third party companies from releasing games on the system. Often fans of the system will state that if it had better 3rd party support it would have sold more systems. While it is typically pretty obvious more games makes for a more attractive market, it’s not always the case. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Hudson could have found a way around this by vetting developers and publishers who weren’t even making games for the NES at the time. So that argument holds little weight, Sega was able to get plenty of support for the Sega Master System (SMS) and they sold quite a few more consoles and games than TG16, all on inferior hardware.

So first let’s look at the games that did come to the system. Despite most of what die hard fans will tell you, there are a few false statements often repeated about the TG16 library. The first is that the console had a great library of arcade style scrolling shooters, also known as shoot-em-up’s or shumps to some. The fact is, however, the NES, SNES and even Sega Genesis ALL had more shooters released for their consoles than TG16. The myth it is a shooters dream console is false. The reason this myth is spread has some merit. There is a significant percentage of games for the console that are, in fact, quality shooters. The problem is, there are only 94 games total for the console. So that means the fewer than 21 total shooters on the console stand out as the dominant genre by default. If roughly one forth of your consoles entire library is made up of a single genre, it stands to reason people will gravitate to that genre. No arguments there, the shooters on the console are all quality titles. Of course many fans today are looking at the ENTIRE library as a whole. They forget that for the super vast majority of gamers in the 1980’s when the console was sold people didn’t import as much as they do today. So when you add in all the PC Engine games to the list, especially when you take into account people playing these games using emulators, you start to see a skewing of the facts.

The thing is, it doesn’t matter how many arcade games were released in Japan at the time. When discussing why the console failed it is essential to do so within the scope of the time it was released. In this case it was 1987. This is important because those 94 games that made it to US shores, weren’t all available the first year. Keep in mind you have to look at it on a month to month basis. As a consumer in the late 1980’s even if you were contemplating getting a TG16. Either you were getting tired of the NES, or perhaps you never had the NES and were wanting to upgrade from your Colecovision console or something else. Maybe you were a PC person looking for a new console. Whatever your motivation for wanting one you always have to look at the games first. Everyone talks about how abysmal Keith Courage was as a pack in title. The problem is if you look at the console market at the time, pack in titles were relatively new concept. It really started with Super Mario Bros. on the NES. So when you talk about game consoles you can’t really put too much weight into what pack in title was included. Remember even today pack ins are rare and they were a BRAND NEW concept in the mid-80’s. It’s a fallacy to believe just packing in a different game would have enticed more users. Why? Because if the games that were sold separately weren’t going to convince you to buy the system, throwing on into the box for free wasn’t going to make a difference either. With pack in titles it’s always a gamble. Even when it works like with Wii Sports or SMB, or even Sonic the Hedgehog, it’s still a big risk when the publisher is missing out on all those extra sales. It’s at best a gimmick marketing tactic that is rarely used in the grand scheme of things.

Still, since it gets tossed out let’s debunk the myth anyways. My question is, if not Keith Courage then what? It couldn’t be an arcade shooter. Remember 2 facts, first at the time it was a NEW console so gamers wouldn’t be able to predict it would become a haven for shooters. 2nd, despite being popular among retro enthusiasts, even at the time shmups are NOT that popular. No console in the history of consoles ever packed in a shooter even if they did pack in a freebie. The reason is shooters have a low appeal. Even the best quality shooters only appeal to maybe a tenth of a consoles entire userbase. That is why they are so rare. Even to this day the number of shooters released is small and the ones that do get released are done in very limited runs. Newsflash, that was the SAME back then, why do you think all those so-called “gems” are so damn hard to find? Because, NOBODY BOUGHT THEM. They didn’t sell. There is no chance in HELL a shooter was going to sell the main stream gaming audiences on an untested console. Even the often cited spectacular R-Type, wasn’t exclusive to the console. Sure the NES port has issues, but honestly you are talking a small percentage of your gamers that even want a shooter, even smaller sub-set of those that care about a superior port elsewhere. That’s why when a shooter does become popular it’s some low budget throwaway title in the bargain bin. Gamer’s don’t spend money on them, only collectors do and only in hind sight because they are told to more often than not. Even me, someone who does occasionally enjoy the shooter game, wouldn’t rush out and buy a console even for the most perfect shooter. They are fun, in small doses but they are usually very remnants of older arcades.

Okay if not a shooter then what? The next game often cited is Bonk’s Adventure. That WAS a pack in just as soon as they game was released. But even that didn’t really move units. Again for as much fun as Bonk is, it’s only half as much fun as Sonic, which itself is probably half the fun of Mario. By order of transference Bonk’s Adventure wasn’t a great enough of a game to really convince people to give up their Mario machines. Sonic came close but it took a lot more than one game to get Sega on the map.

I try to be reasonable. I looked at the entire library and to be honest I could not find a single game that stood out as good enough to convince me to pick up a TG16 over an NES. Now I know it comes down to preferences, and I am NOT trashing the console just examining what if scenarios.

So what if it had a BETTER pack in comes down to, no real impact. I can’t imagine Hudson having it in them to imagine a game that would have that appeal. Some would argue Bomberman. I would reply, even the best Bomberman games didn’t help the Saturn, N64, Dreamcast or Gamecubes so sorry nope. Unfortunately there isn’t a single, stand out game on the console.

That takes us back to the first point, Nintendo’s illegal strangle hold on the market. It is well documented Nintendo forced publishers to sign contracts disallowing them from making games on competing consoles. Even if you tried to argue TG16 wasn’t an 8-bit system so it technically wasn’t competing, that wouldn’t pass mustard because Hudson referenced NES in their marketing.That leaves us to wonder then, what games could have potentially been developed on the console that weren’t.

Even if you take the 3rd party deal out of the picture and pretend the Turbo could get any old developer to make games for it. Remember the NES launched with barely 18 games. Now it had a POWERHOUSE launch combo with SMB/Duck Hunt that TG16 didn’t even have in its entire lifespan. So you get ONE shot to entice gamers to pick your machine over theirs. It took Nintendo 2 full years to get the 3rd party support we remember. If TG16 launched in 1987 that means it wouldn’t even begin getting the same level of games as NES until around 1989. That would be a full year into Genesis’s life and the Genesis could be cited as more of the death of the TG16 than anything else. Despite all the flaws of the SMS and the shortcomings of the TG16. Sega DID manage to get a quality launch period stash of games on the market. While Altered Beast is not fondly remembered today, when it released it was somewhat impressive. The scrolling levels, the large sprites, the transition animations, the cut scenes, and the compressed audio voices were all very big deals in 1989. So even if you look at the top tier NES games, let’s assume Castlevania, Mega Man, Contra, Ninja Gaiden and maybe even Double Dragon all have quality ports on Turbo by the time Sega launches. Fair enough, however some of those games did get ports on other consoles, and there is a Castlevania on the doomed Turbo CD (but that’s an entirely different story.) You have to keep in mind 1, how long it takes to port a game over, and 2 the cost to do so. Most 3rd parties wouldn’t have jumped ship to support an untested console when NES was doing so well so let’s just assume it still struggled. I can imagine it doing slightly better but remember NES was NOT successful because of games alone. Nintendo were masters of marketing their toys to kids at that time. So you have to look at the marketing along side the games issue.

Marketing can sink a good product and prop up a terrible product in the short term. Now for all intents and purposes, the TG16 is actually a decent product, sort of. It was more powerful than NES, but not as powerful as Genesis and SNES. Those would be the main consoles it had to compete with. Again NES would have still been replaced with SNES by 1991 even if the TG16 was successful, even more so because Nintendo would have felt threatened. So let’s look at just marketing. TG16 was ONLY sold in very big cities with populations over 1 million people. This is well documented. It was also ONLY marketed in the major cities where it was sold. This left consumers like me in the middle of no where Kansas reading about it in comic books and magazines sold nation wide, but I was not able to just walk into my local Sears, Radio Shack or K-Mart and pick one up. If I can’t find it how can I buy it? And you know what, I can say this with some degree of certainty because despite the flawed marketing strategy overall, it sorta worked because I DID want one. Even if it had a “killer app” pack in I still couldn’t have gotten my hands on one without great effort.

The 1-2 punch of lack of 3rd party support and terrible marketing is often given as the reason for it’s downfall. Now let’s go back to games and see if maybe Hudson could have done more even within the framework of Nintendo’s monopoly. Going back to the question of which game would have been a better pack in. When I look at why gamers wish for more games on the beloved TG16 I often remember its because they see the potential and wish it would have been realized. So let’s just assume they marketed it better, maybe localized a better Japanese games for the launch and it sold enough to at least get attention of developers that weren’t locked into contracts with Nintendo. Who does that leave?

The obvious choice is Atari first. Why them? Simple, they were willing to release games through their Tengen label on the NES. It stands to reason they would have seen dollar signs on TG16 if they saw an opportunity to get superior ports of their games on a competitors console. Why didn’t this happen? It’s often stated, obviously, because they were still marketing the 7800 at that time. False. You see Atari split into two companies following Time Warner selling them off. Tengen was a branch of the arcade division, the company that made Gauntlet and NARC, among others. The company that owned the rights to the Atari arcade catalog, the ones publishing under the Tengen brand, wouldn’t care about the 7800 at all, that was the home computer branch which would go on to release the Jaguar before dying. The arcade division would go through a few different sellers. This is important because while true Tengen did release games for the Sega Genesis, they did so as authorized 3rd party licensees unlike with Nintendo where they did so technically illegally.

Then why couldn’t they release games for TG16? Okay, the reason was business. Again by the time the TG16 released it was already doing poorly. Those Tengen games didn’t even come to the NES until the time when Hudson was scrambling to get their console into homes. Atari Games would have looked at the TG16 and seen it was doing poorly and considered it too risky to put games out for it. Hudson recognized the need for those games so they did license some themselves as Sega was doing with SMS, but it was too little effort as it just spread them too thin. Then why did they make games for Sega? Simple, whereas the TurboGrafix launched to abysmal sales in the US, the Genesis took off basically overnight by comparison. It was a hot item kids wanted. The marketing was perfect, the games were fantastic, the console looked futuristic by comparison. I am not saying all this as a die-hard Sega fan. Remember before I discovered Sega I did want a TG16. What pushed me over the top was, of course, Sonic. That’s another story for another day.

Even if we ASSUME the marketing was better and we assume Tengen was on board because why not. That’s still barely what, 20 or so games they released for the NES? Even if they ported every single one to the TG16, would it have really made that much of a difference? I mean okay, is Gauntlet or Alien Syndrome really going to get you to buy a system that Splatter House or Bonk’s Adventure didn’t already sell you on? Even if you add the ENTIRE Tengen (Atari Games) library, and you throw in a few NEW arcade ports here and there, we’re talking about not 2nd tier, not 3rd tier, Atari was making 4th and 5th tier games at this point. Sure that’s about on par with the slop Hudson was dumping onto the TG16, a few hidden gems aside. Looking at it this way, I still can’t see the TG16 doing much better. But, let’s keep going. Which developers weren’t locked into contracts with Nintendo at this time? Well I am not going to bring up the unlicensed NES crap games that sell for tons of money, because they all sucked and were only on the system as shovel ware because it sold so well. A dying console doesn’t get shovel ware unless the 1st party developer is making it themselves.

We could look to the PC scene. If you remember the NES did get a ton of Commodore 64, Apple II and PC DOS games ported to it. The problem is they came later in the life when it was more affordable to do so. Still let’s examine this as a potential for games. Remember I am assuming no NEW games were going to magically get made. Developers only have so much inspiration and I can’t believe for 1 second that just because they were making a game for the TG16 instead of Apple or Amiga they would miraculously be inspired. That is not how art works. That leaves companies like EA, Epyx, Sierra Online, LucasArts and SSI. All of these companies mostly avoided the NES until t was firmly established as a must own console everyone needed to get their game on. Each of these developers shined on the PC at the time. Here is why I find it unlikely you would have gotten them to port games over to TG16 (not talking Turbo CD here that’s whole other article.) These companies were large publishing houses, but they didn’t develop games for the most part. Lucas being the major exception. So what you have is a case where developers might have wanted to tinker with the guts of the PC Engine as it was known in Japan, their publishers would have said no. I have been talking within the framework of the launch window to the release of the Genesis and SNES. In order to assume the TG16 would have been more successful over all it would have had to be more so out the gate. If you consider that then which game developers making powerful graphic adventure games that use up tons of memory are going to release their games on tiny HuCards? Keep in mind even with the CD add on these companies largely ignored ignored the platform entirely. The reason it took later for them to get games on the NES was because it took that long for Nintendo to develop larger carts. Remember Legend of Zelda was originally released in Japan as a floppy disk game, something you could do with a computer but not a console. The floppy drive was not sold in NA, therefore Nintendo had to find a way to squeeze the game onto a cart. The solution was larger carts that could hold more data.

Even if you scour the entire library of games that were released for Commodore, arcades, PC, DOS, Apple, etc., that didn’t get ports to NES, it’s remained unlikely many of them, if any, would have been ported to the TG16 anyways. At most I figured maybe 30-40 games would have been released over the 94 that were, again maybe half of those in the time span it would have made a difference. By going through all the variables I discovered there was just nothing Hudson and their partners could have done to make it a success in the States. The deck was stacked against them from the start. Even if that mysterious pack in game that doesn’t exist was available, and the console was sold at every toy and department store in America, the things Hudson could control, they couldn’t force developers to make games for their console and even if they could, consumers still might have passed up on it. No matter how you examine it I truly believe the TG16 was always doomed to fail. Remember Genesis was right around the corner, SNES right behind that and before long you had so many games and consoles on the market the TG16 was always going to get lost in the shuffle. At best you might have gotten a dozen or so ports of games from Tengen and a few high profile PC ports that didn’t require large amounts of storage space. Even with all things in Hudson’s favor the system was doomed from the start. In a way it’s a shame because the console really isn’t half bad. If it wasn’t so expensive due to how rare it is, I might be temped to pick one up one of these days. As it is the machine is forgotten by the same people that mostly didn’t even know it existed. The library is ripe to be discovered through modern means, however, so there are still good games worth looking into these days. As I tried to think of any scenario, aside from Nintendo going out of business, there wasn’t anything that would have made it the success it’s die hard fans often wish for.

The Spiders Lair Podcast Episode 7

In this episode I discuss the Child’s Play/Chucky film series following a marathon viewing over the weekend. I take a look at comic book characters I personally discovered through playing a video game featuring that character while taking a look at the comic book games released for the Sega Genesis, Super NES and NES consoles. I talk about Big Brother in the framework of Game Theory and how it reminds me of the online forum game mafia/werewolf in some ways. All of this and more on the latest episode of The Spiders Lair podcast.

My comic book memories: X-Men

A couple of days ago I went onto Amazon to purchase some Dawn comics. For those that don’t know Dawn is a character created by Joseph Michael Linsner in the late 1980’s. I discovered Dawn in my early pre-teen years when I was just starting to really get into comic books. Before I could commit to buying any more issues or trade paperbacks I had to dig out my comic vault to see what I had to make sure I wasn’t buying something I already bought previously. I started going through my X-Men graphic novels and TPB’s and realized I didn’t have all of the ones I thought I did. I also confirmed I didn’t have any of the Dawn TPB’s so I was good to order them on Amazon.

How I got into X-Men is a little more interesting than how I discovered Dawn. I always preferred comics with more of a mythology feel or fantasy/swords and sorcery stuff. I enjoyed Conan, and the D&D comics especially. That is how I found myself getting into X-Men. My first experience with Marvel’s famous mutants was not even through comic books. Since I was mostly into indie comics, horror comics, and less mainstream stuff I didn’t see a lot of advertisements for X-Men or other mainstream stuff. If I did, I ignored it or dismissed it as a bunch of spandex wearing clowns. My first exposure was walking into a video arcade and playing the 6-player behemoth X-Men arcade machine. I had no clue who these characters were. Since I discovered TMNT through an arcade game I decided to check out X-Men since I really loved the Ninja Turtles at that time. Turns out the Ninja Turtles were mutants, and the X-Men were also mutants so I thought cool I can get into this. Even if I didn’t really know what a ‘mutant’ was at that time.

I didn’t really pick up any X-Men comics right away though. Instead my next exposure came from renting the abysmal NES game. Now I had rented my share of terrible games on the NES but this was by far one of my least favorite. I couldn’t believe this was how they ported that awesome 6-player game to the NES. I didn’t discover until years later the weren’t even connected outside of the name.

From here I was in 3rd grade and I had a teacher that new I was into reading fantasy and science fiction stuff so she lent me a few of her issues of X-Men comics. They were all mostly current stuff from the late 80’s. Nothing special but I had no idea what was even going on. They were about 3 unconnected issues that had totally different characters in each one. The only character that I recognized from the video game was the guy in the yellow and brown jump suit with the claws. My first impression was I hated that guy. I learned his name was Wolverine and I thought, what a stupid name. His power is he has claws, yawn. Oh he has unbreakable claws, so what.

I didn’t give X-Men another serious thought until the animated series came on Fox a couple of years later. I watched a few episodes and it was entertaining, but I still didn’t know much about the characters, and I still couldn’t stand that blasted Wolverine who just happened to basically be the star of the show. By this time i was really heavy into the Conan the Adventurer cartoon and the new Aladdin animated series. Like I said I was more into horror and fantasy stuff than actual sci-fi. Well I saw a commercial for the Phoenix Saga mini series of X-Men cartoons coming soon. There was a Phoenix character on Conan so that connected the mutants to the mythology stuff I was more into. I was also getting really heavy into Dungeons and Dragons right about this same time.

Finally I gave the cartoon a second chance. I had seen a few random episodes here and there. While the action was always good, the characters didn’t really mean much to me as I had no connection to them. So when I started watching the Phoenix Saga and Dark Phoenix Saga unfold as a dramatic event over several weeks, I became hooked. Suddenly I picked out the characters I did care for and wanted to follow them. I immediately ran out and began buying all the Cyclops and Jean Grey stuff I could. I fell in love with that couple and wanted to get everything I could. By this time I was also getting into collecting trading cards so I had picked up a few sets of Marvel Universe series cards. There were always X-Men characters within those sets so I started reading the backs of the cards, trying to learn more about the lore of these characters. By this time I was really getting fascinated with the Cyclops character and Marvel Girl especially. I started buying X-Men trading cards, action figures, that super fantastic Sega Genesis game and it’s pretty amazing sequel, too. By the mid-1990’s I had gone from not caring or knowing much about the X-Men to being completely dedicated. Before long I was less excited for Conan and found myself looking forward to X-Men episodes even more. As the series dragged on my disdain for Wolverine continued so I quickly lost interest again as the characters I liked took a backseat to his temper-tantrums.

Then it all culminated with me picking up the Wedding of Cyclops and Phoenix issue. Seeing Scott and Jean get hitched was the perfect end to the fairy tale. The mess that was the Spider-clone saga had completely turned me away from Spidey comics by this time. I had sat through the majority of the Age of Apocalypse with intense interest and curiosity. Then just as things were starting to ‘recover’ they started they whole Onslought stuff and I finally lost interest in the comics for good. I kept paying attention to the characters through buying action figures, picking up back issues of the comics that were void of Logan as much as possible. Then they dropped the bombshell of a movie on the world. Wow, for the first time I didn’t care for the Cyclops character and was actually rooting for Logan. Part of this was the movie made Logan a much more likeable character than the whiny little bitch he was in the comics. He was still a selfish asshole in the movies sure, but not as bad as he was in the comics.

This allowed me to warm up to the character so I went back and tried to get into the Wolverine comics too. Needless to say the movies altered my perception of the characters quite a bit. Before long I was stating to lose interest in the characters and their mythos entirely. Still, every once in a while I go back and remember what it was I liked about them in the first place. At one time I was collecting everything X-Men related from New Mutants comics to Cable and Deadpool spin off stuff. Eventually the movies would start to really spend too much time focusing on Logan again, giving him solo movie after solo movie while continuing to treat my beloved Scott and Jean like second, or even third class characters.  Today I have a pretty decent X-Men comics collection I can go back to and revisit. I have all but one of the films and that’s just because I just haven’t been looking for a copy. All in all I discovered I really loved the X-Men and I am very glad I took the time to get to know them.

The Spiders Lair Podcast Episode 6

In this episode I talk about Star Wars Rogue One, the prequels and special editions, Nirvana and the 90’s grunge rock scene, the underappreciated film Ghost World, and some other stuff.

 

Dressed to Kill: A hard rock retrospective part 4

The 1990’s were, obviously, a very confusing time. With Ellen making her big announcement near the start of the decade, to the revelations of the Bill and Monica scandal, the decade was over run with sexually confusing expressions dominating the news cycle. None of them were more shocking than seeing Marilyn Manson walk out on stage at the MTV music awards in his leather speedo singing about “The Beautiful People” to the bewildered youth sitting at home wondering what to make of this new “shock rocker” taking the world by storm.

Manson was not the first shock rock band, and they certainly weren’t the last. Unlike previous bands discussed, shock rockers aren’t identified by their sound, some are glam rock, others thrasher metal, while others a mix of industrial electro rock fused with 80’s dance pop. What united them was their ability to rely on stage antics, publicity stunts, and a growing anti-establishment movement that wanted to tear down the walls of Capitalism once and for all. Let’s start at the beginning.

You Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog

Believe it or not, the first “shock rocker” was the King of Rock N Roll himself, Elvis Presley. Although his music and movies were very tame even by standards of the day, his stage antics lead to all sorts of controversies. All he had to do was shake his hips and stir young girls crazy. Of course the uptight mothers of those sexually aroused teen girls swooning for Mr. Presley didn’t take it laying down. They tried to have him banned from even appearing on television with the compromise being the camera had to stay above the waste.

I can’t get no satisfaction

To some the Rolling Stones are the turning point where rock n roll sheds it’s pop sound and returns to it’s urban blues roots. To others it’s just the continuation of the degradation of American culture. No matter where you stand the Stones rose to such prominence in the world of Rock music that to this day, the premiere authority on rock music is a magazine named after the band. Not quite as tame as Elvis, they certainly could fall into the camp of more shocking rock bands of the day.

School’s Out

There is no denying that shock rock as we know it today started the moment Alice Cooper stepped onto the scene. His theatrics, outrageous costumes, decidedly darker music themes, and eye shadow did more to create room for the counter-culture than any band before, or since. While their famous record, and the world-renown title track, were created by an entirely different band than who would later take on the name, the lead singer was really the star of the show anyways.

Ozzy

The Prince of darkness himself is easily one of the most recognizable early heavy metal rockers and clearly one of the pioneers of the shock rock genre. Of course he wasn’t the first to come onto the scene, he took it to dark places nobody else was willing to go. He was also well known for his theatrics, and is often mistaken for Alice Cooper, who both have similar styles in some ways. Black Sabbath and all bands inspired by are living proof that just being shock rock on the surface doesn’t mean the music itself can’t be taken seriously.

I Wanna Rock N Roll All Night

If you weren’t a member of the KISS Army you probably weren’t a hard rock fanatic in the 1970’s. It’s okay, I wasn’t even alive. What I do know about the and comes from second hand stories my mom told me, and what I learned from the classic comedy Detroit Rock City about a group of misfits on a road trip determined to see the band live in concert.

KISS is a prime example of a band whose style and image personifies the shock rock look and attitude, yet their music is so much softer and tamer than their image would have you imagine. Even in comparison to other hard rock bands of the time their music was very tame for the image they projected. Not that it was bad, they are still one of my favorite hard rock bands, but if you played a KISS song for someone and never showed them a poster or image of the band, you wouldn’t think they were shock rock at all.

They band was good at one thing even more than making music, business. They were not so much a band as they were a brand. They sold comic books, dolls, even video games, all trying to exemplify the shock rock image of children of the night. Yet somehow they managed to get away with recording a disco album and nobody even bothered to notice the irony. Hey it was a damn good song and still one of my favorites so can’t fault them for knowing how to make money.

Twisted Sister

By the time to get into the 1980’s there isn’t much left that shocks the metal world. You have already had Ozzy allegedly biting the head off a bat, or was it Alice Cooper? Yeah google how often those two get mixed up. There was the whole KISS backlash, you had Judas Priest on the scene and even a host of bands giving people reasons to label rock music as satanic or demonic. So when you see the cross-dressing Twister Sister come on the scene you think, okay, now I’ve seen it all. Now unlike KISS whose image didn’t fit their music, Twister Sister at least had a solid 80’s metal sound that blended in with the other hard rock bands of the time. The 80’s didn’t really see that many other cross dressing bands, aside from the one Boy George headlined, it still helped ease Americans into at least accepting there were people with different lifestyles, even if they didn’t accept those lifestyles quite yet.

Nine Inch Nails

To be more specific, Trent Reznor. This time he went in the opposite direction. The sound he created was infinitely harder and more shocking in many ways than the look he portrayed. On the surface he was just another heavy metal looking dude, nothing special. But his music, especially Head Like the Hole, really brought industrial music to the main stage. Maybe there are those who wouldn’t put NiN on a list of shock rockers, but he clearly paved the way for the mother of them all so he deserves a spot in this timeline.

Antichrist Superstar

Before I get too deep, Marilyn Manson is one of my favorite bands of all time. From the cover songs Sweat Dreams or Tainted Love, among many others; to their rock anthems The Beautiful People, Rock is Dead; to their darker tracks like Deformography, Worm Boy; or their WTF tracks like Kiddy Grinder, or Sh*tty Chicken Gang Bang, the band does shock rock better than any band before. Their music, style, videos, persona, and themes are a perfect storm of counter culture done right. Nothing about the band says conformity. During a time when rock bands sounded like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, or The Goo Goo Dolls, Manson was finding ways to churn the stomachs of their loyal followers, harshest critics, and even their peers, all while constantly putting out records that told stories that had to be experienced not just heard. The phrase nobody does it better always comes to mind when I think of Marilyn Manson and shock rock.

Other bands like Garbage, Godsmack, Orgy, etc., would come onto the scene and push the envelope of what was decent and acceptable with many more to follow. By the end of the 1990’s heavy metal, hard rock and rock n roll had each splintered into more than a dozen sub-genres, scenes and movements each equally important to their respective followers.

 

Up Jump the Boogie: A hard rock retrospective part 3

“rollin’ in my ‘4 with 16 switches
And got sounds for the bitches, clockin’ all the riches
Got the hollow points for the snitches
So would you just walk on by, ’cause I’m too hard to lift
and no this ain’t Aerosmith”

Who doesn’t remember that line from Dr. Dre’s gangsta rap classic The Chronic. The line, well the whole record really, took shots at the entire hip-hop scene up to that point. Between the split with N.W.A., beef with Eazy E and Ice Cube, to him launching his new record company, Death Row Records, Andre Young was on a warpath.

“The Day the W****z took over”

Dr. Dre was referencing a 1984 track where Run DMC recorded a new version of the hit Aerosmith song, Walk This Way. One year later the Beastie Boys burst onto the scene with their Hip-Hop masterpiece, Licensed to Ill. The thing with the Beastie Boys is, they started out as a punk rock band from Brooklyn. Before long they were trading in their instruments for turntables and microphones. The rap group gained significant airplay with their rap hits like Hold it Now, Hit It, Slow and Low, Brass Monkey, and Girls. However, the record had a noticeably heavy metal sound underneath the raging frat boy exterior. Their biggest hit from the record, and one of their most famous songs from the period was not a rap song entirely, it was the metal anthem “Fight for your Right to Party.” Between this and the clear mix of genres Run DMC did previously it was clear that hard rock and hip-hop could blend together in a world that would take both to new heights in the 1990s.

The Beasties would strike back in the early 90’s with another rock/rap anthem, this time it was able to not only get significantly more radio play, it was featured on late night talk shows. Sabotage quickly propelled the Boys back into the spotlight, proving they were not a one-trick pony. The band was able to effortlessly navigate both worlds of punk rock and hip-hop while gaining more than enough respect in each community to legitimize their unique sound.

To the Extreme

At a time when the Beastie Boys and Run DMC were helping blend hard rock and heavy metal together Vanilla Ice was emerging out of the shadows to bring black urban hip-hop music to the white suburban masses. Hits like Play That Funky Music, Ice Ice Baby and Ninja Rap all helped spring the wannabe rapper to the forefront of the middle America radio waves. It didn’t take long before rap music was quickly accepted by those masses and with that came the push to separate the colors, a watered down flavor of hip-hop that was palatable for the white middle class, but with enough heavy metal edge to keep the industrial working class interested.

Vanilla Ice was a flash in the pan, but he deserves credit for his contribution bringing rap music to the parts of the country that weren’t entirely welcoming up to this point.

Rage Against the Machine

They weren’t really the first, true, rap/metal band, but they were by far the most popular. What made them unique is unlike Beastie Boys who could slip in and out between their rock and rap personas seamlessly, Rage was 100 percent punk rock/heavy metal, while remaining 100 percent hip-hop/funk at the same time.

My first entry into the rap/metal genre was the Godzilla soundtrack. Between No Shelter from Rage to Puff Daddy’s rock remix of It’s all About the Benjamin’s, I became curious of a growing sub-genre of both scenes.

With record after record, the one band that could truly be classified as rap/metal and not be ashamed of it was Rage. They even managed to lift from hip-hops cousin, reggae. Fortunately that never became too mainstream…

N together now

While Beastie Boys and Rage Against the Machine were both finding ways to blend rap and rock in ways that made creative, and artistic sense, a new band emerged that threw all of that out the window.

With their break out hit Faith, a cover of a George Micheal song, Limp Bizkit didn’t exactly instill much confidence in the music world. They picked off the DJ from the hip-hop duo former known as House of Pain, blended their record scratches and fast rock lyrics to freestyle sounding raps over the top of heavy metal guitars and hard rock drums, the sound was a mess from start to finish. Somehow they managed to get big with Break Stuff, Nookie, and their crossover hit with Method Man, yet for all the diplomacy they might have been seen partaking in, what they really did for the music industry is perpetuate stereotypes on both sides with wannabe gangsters pushing the envelop to increase their street cred while musically cluttering the airwaves with a sound that didn’t really appeal to fans of either genre. By the time they released Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water, people had grown tired of their antics, and lack of musical talent. Even Vanilla Ice was able to mount a mini comeback thanks to them, albeit as a cheap knock off.

Bawitdaba

By the time Kid Rock hits the rap/metal scene it’s clear the genre is not uniting anyone. Up till now you had some southern California NuMetal rockers with Fred Durst and his Klan of misfits, you had the post-metal Rage Against the Machine and an almost industrial sound, and you had the Beastie Boys firmly planted in the roots f hip-hop sheding any remnants of their former rocker pasts. Kid Rock decided to throw one more sub-genre into the emerging kitchen sink of a mess that was becoming the rap/metal “genre.” He added country music to the mix. And he wasn’t alone, he unleashed the insufferable Uncle Cracker on the world, paving the way for Bubba Sparxxx before eventually turning into a full blown country rocker turned political activist. His “rap” songs were offensive to fans of the genre, his rock songs were hardly anything to get excited about, and his country songs are, well country.

By the end of the 90’s the rap/metal scene was far from united. Unlike the decade before where experimenting with sounds was still acceptable, the 90’s hip-hop scene was firmly established with solid funk riffs, smooth jazzy tones, and hard core gangsta stories woven into  a tapestry that celebrated urban youth culture, the white rockers who attempted to cop-opt the sound in the 90’s did it out of some form of protest, although most of them didn’t know what they were supposed to be protesting, and left the world scarred with the aftermath of turning lose Slim Shady to rectify the mistake.