About Les

I'm the guy that runs this place. You can contact me at: les@stupidevilbastard.com

Let’s do a stupid Dungeons and Dragons thing I found on Facebook.

I’m not normally one to participate in posts that list off a bunch of questions for you to answer and then peer pressure all your friends into doing the same. In part because they’re often a sneaky way to get you to reveal personal info that could be used to try and answer security questions and in part because most of them are stupid. This one is also stupid, but I don’t think any of the answers can be effectively used for nefarious things. So what hell, let’s give in to the pressure and do a…

Yes, I still have copies of my original Advanced Dungeons and Dragons books. Along with a number of filled out character sheets for both my own and other’s PCs.

D&D Meme!

  • What was your first D&D character?
Click for full image.

Fuck if I can remember. We’re talking almost 40 years ago. It was probably a human fighter because that’s about as basic as you can get and a good starting point when you’re just learning the ropes.

Wait, I still have a folder around here with some of the character sheets from back then. Both for myself and for other players when I ran games. I wonder if…

Holy shit! I do have it! Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you from all the way back on March 1st, 1983, what may very well be the very first AD&D character I ever played. A human Chaotic Evil Magic User named Bendor! Apparently, I jumped in on the deep end.

According to the sheet, he was level 9 so I didn’t play him for long. Considering Magic Users get a d4 for hit points and Bendor here has 35, I either rolled really well or the DM took pity on me. There are a couple possibilities for who DMed my first game, but I’m not positive on which one it would’ve been.

All of this is assuming that the Number 1 on the sheet is accurate. Based on the math, I was 16-years-old when I started playing. Could’ve sworn it was earlier than that, but thinking on it this makes sense as I joined the D&D Club at Pontiac Central High School that year in an attempt to do more extra-curricular stuff. For reasons I still don’t understand, I was made President of the club that year too. The next year I’d be at Lake Orion for my final year of high school.

  • Which D&D class is your least favorite to play, or do you not want to play?

I never got the hang of Bards. It didn’t help that they were considered a supplemental class under AD&D rules and many DMs just didn’t allow them. You have to go all the way to the back of the Players Handbook to find them under Appendix II.

Bards were a pain in the ass.

It very well might be that I just wasn’t literally charismatic enough to play one, but I remember it being a confusing process. I thought there had been revised rules for them in the Unearthed Arcana book that came out in 1985, but I just checked and didn’t see anything. I didn’t think I had any Bard characters in my collection but it turns out I do still have a sheet with my one attempt at a Bard on it. He was level 7. Looking at it I’m not sure we were doing it correctly.

  • What D&D spell would you most want to have in real life?

That’s a good question. There’s a lot to choose from even in just the original Player’s Handbook. There’s the classic Magic User — I forgot the class was called that — level 9 spells of Wish and Time Stop that have obvious possibilities. The Cleric’s 6th level Heal or 7th level Resurrection would be handy.

However, I’d probably go with 9th level Magic User spell Shape Change. If nothing else, for the pure amusement factor alone. Though I can think of a number of ways it could be useful.

Nasty buggers.
  • What’s your favorite D&D monster?

As a player? The dragons, of course. Once you reached a certain level, they were laughably easy to deal with and always profitable. Whether you’re talking about the dragon’s hoard or about selling off the dragon itself. Not to mention that subdued dragons can be ridden! Who the hell doesn’t want their own dragon to fly around on?

As a DM? Probably the Lich. They were always good for putting the fear of… well, of a Lich in the players. Literally if they were lower than level 5.

This is if we’re only considering the original Monster Manual. The choice becomes a lot harder if we include the Fiend Folio in the equation.

  • What’s your favorite NPC/villain that you’ve encountered/created?

Drawing a blank on this one. It’s been a long time since the heyday of getting together with my friends and playing for a ridiculous amount of time on a Saturday. If we were including games other than Dungeons & Dragons that I’ve played then I can think of a couple of villains I made for the Champions superhero RPG that I loved playing. Also, I enjoyed the hell out of playing The Computer in Paranoia. D&D though? Can’t recall anything about the modules we ran other than hazy details. I have a few laying around here.

I wasn’t kidding. Yes, that is an official World of Greyhawk fantasy setting along with White Plume Mountain and the Tomb of Horrors.
  • Has one of your characters ever died, and what killed them?

Of course! Several of my characters died. Usually from something stupid I’d done. Traps, monsters, angry NPCs. You name it. Trying to run through the Tomb of Horrors module was always a good way to lose a character. We did finally make it through on a third or fourth attempt. Most of us anyway. ToH was a favorite to pull out when PCs in a game I was running had gotten too big for their britches. That is probably my favorite module of all time both as a player and a DM.

  • What’s your best natural 20 story?

I don’t really have one. I wasn’t particularly lucky. My best friend, Bill Owen, was often ridiculously lucky with the dice. The best story I have about dice rolls isn’t from Dungeons & Dragons, but Paranoia and it was Bill, not me, that had all the luck. Again, this was almost 40 years ago. I can’t think of any particularly memorable die rolls I had.

  • What’s your best natural 1 story?

See above. Same answer. It’s been too long. Still got most of my original dice, though.

See? Wasn’t kidding about that either. Pretty sure I had more than this, but this is what hasn’t been lost over the years.
  • What’s the highest level you’ve ever played a character to?

Given that Tomb of Horrors is for characters level 10 to 14, at least level 10. Most of the XP tables for the classes don’t go beyond level 11 with Monks topping out at 17. Tables listing number of spells per level, however, went as high as level 29. There wasn’t any hard limit set, but after the mid-teens pretty much all the monsters were trivial unless the DM was bumping their stats.

That said, I found another stash of old character sheets and in it I have a level 34 Illusionist named Lis Ouslos, which was just my name with characters swapped. It was from a total Munchkin campaign. I mean, look at her stats! An illusionist with a 24 strength?

There isn’t a thing about this character that isn’t ridiculous. I have another copy where she’s “only” level 26.

You can tell I was a teenager as on the back under Distinguishing Marks I’ve written “Mole on her left breast” and under General Description there’s just one word: “Beautiful.” I think Mark Grismer is the one who ran that campaign.

  • What’s your favorite magical item?

Probably the Bag of Holding. Got a ton of shit to lug out of the dungeon you just cleared? A couple of Bags of Holding will get the job done without breaking a sweat. The Wand of Wonder was always fun for a laugh, but the Bag of Holding was near-essential gear.

  • If you had an IRL alignment, what would it be?

I’d like to think I’m Neutral Good, but if we go by one of those WHAT ALIGNMENT ARE YOU quiz things on the Internet, I’m supposedly True Neutral. Which is a surprise to me.

  • If you had to date one of your characters, which one would you pick?

What a strange question. No one specific character comes to mind.

  • Is there a character you want to play but haven’t had a chance to play yet?

I don’t think I’ve ever played a Cleric. If I were suddenly to take up AD&D again, I might give one a try. I don’t know anyone who still plays this version of Dungeons & Dragons, though. In the current version (5th edition?) it appears the number of classes has been expanded so there’d be several I’ve never tried, but would give a whirl. Oh look! Bards are considered core now.

  • Are you a dice goblin, or a dice minimalist?

Did you see that pic of my dice bag up there? What do you think? Keep in mind that I’ve lost a few over the years.

Or let’s put it this way, I still feel the itch when I see ads for shiny custom dice on the Internet even though I’ve not played a pen & paper RPG since the aborted attempt to join my friend Greg’s campaign some six or seven years ago. (I think I made it to two sessions.)

  • What rule or mechanic have you never quite wrapped your brain around?

Probably psionics. Another thing found in the Appendix before Bards. Looking over the rules now it doesn’t seem to be as much of a pain in the ass as I remember it being, but back in the day we generally didn’t make use of psionics in our games. Sometimes we did, but not often.

Which is a funny thing to say seeing as that first character sheet I shared up above shows some stats under the Psionics section with a comment that says “See notes”, but the notes section on the back has been erased.

End of the meme questions.

That’s going way back.

I could’ve saved a lot of time if I had just gone with the basic Dungeons & Dragons, which I have also played. It was so basic that Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings were listed as classes instead of races. But that’s not the first version of D&D I ever played. As I said earlier, I got a late start and AD&D had taken over the stage by the time I got in on it.

I believe I got the box set of the basic Dungeons & Dragons from my mother as a Christmas present. She didn’t realize it was an older version of the game. I sat down with a couple of friends and actually played it a couple of times, but there wasn’t a lot of source material for it.

I said that I had some character sheets from other players from games that I DMed. If you’re curious, I’ve included four examples below.

Lastly, here’s a cover to a couple more AD&D related things I owned. One being the official DUNGEON MASTERS ADVENTURE LOG which I barely used because I suck at record keeping. Still, it had some handy charts and illustrations in it. The other being the highly coveted official DUNGEON MASTERS SCREEN.

There, I’ve now spent way more time on this than it probably deserved. There’s probably a grand total of 5 people who would even have an interest in this, but I always say that if you’re going to get all nostalgic and shit then you may as well over do the fuck out of it. All images are clickable to go to their attachment pages where you can then expand them even bigger for a close look at my terrible hand writing.

New address, who dis?

We got a late Christmas card from a “Phil and Pam” and we were scratching our heads trying to figure out who the hell they were. I didn’t recognize the last name or the address it came from. I thought for sure it must be someone who has friended me on Facebook as my address is visible to friends, but I couldn’t find them on my friends list. Additionally, they spelled my first name wrong.

The card in question. A nice little Christmas tree.

Thought maybe it might be my mother’s best friend, who is also named Pam, but the last name was wrong as was the address. Maybe she remarried and moved? Maybe “Phil” was the name of her kid? I couldn’t remember if any of those things were true, but a couple of questions to my mother confirmed that wasn’t the case so it wasn’t her.

After a couple of days, Anne finally figured out it’s from our former next-door neighbors who just sold their house to the Trump supporters. In the three years we’d been here before they moved, I never spoke a word to Phil (because he was upstate most of the time taking care of his mother) and Pam and I spoke maybe a couple dozen times. It’s not because they were unfriendly, just that we only spoke in passing most of the time and our schedules were such that we just didn’t pass each other that often. I could go a few months before touching base with her. She was often gone on the weekends to be with her husband upstate.

They sold the house because Phil’s mom was getting worse and Pam was retiring so it made sense to move in up there. The Tumpers have been friendly enough so far and actually invited me in while they were finishing up the remodeling Pam and Phil had been in the middle of when they sold the house, which makes for the first house in this neighborhood I’ve been in that wasn’t my own. The new neighbors even loaned me their extension ladder so I’d have an easier time getting my lights up this season.

I’ve not spoken to the new neighbors since before the election so I’m not sure how they’re taking the results or what they think of the attempted coup that took place two days ago. I don’t know if they’ll bring it up the next time we interact or not. Until they do, I won’t worry about it.

That’s not the point anyway. The point is this was a pleasant and unexpected surprise from a neighbor we didn’t interact with a whole lot while they were around. We will have to make a point of sending one back next year.

Oh, we did send out cards this year. We’re normally not very good at that, but with Momma living with us now we had constant reminders that she wanted to send out cards so we figured we’d try to get into the habit as well. Or I should say that Anne did as she did all the work. I’m still terrible at it. Hopefully you’re next upset if you were expecting a card from us as, like I said, we’ve traditionally been terrible at it. This year it would most likely be because we didn’t have your address. That’s my assumption anyway. As I said, I didn’t do any of the work on it.

Stupid Evil Bastard turns 20 this year.

I’ve been bad at remembering to celebrate SEB’s blogiversaries for a while now. The very first post I made was on December 2nd, 2001 and it was short and didn’t say anything in particular other than “Look! I got it up!” and I didn’t write anything else for the entire month, but it was a start and I can’t believe it’s still here after 19 years.

The first post. Clicking it will take you to it. There are a few comments that have been left over the years. I tried to get a Wayback Machine screenshot of it, but they didn’t start tracking SEB until 2002.

Other than living day to day, there a very few things I can honestly say I have stuck with for 20 or more years. Playing video games would be one thing I suppose and the one game that comes close to a 20-year run is World of Warcraft which just turned 16 in 2020, but I haven’t played it continuously during that time. I took a couple of breaks during bouts of unemployment.

On April 21st of this year, I will have been married to my wonderful and amazing wife for 20 years. That’s pretty impressive to me. Considering the number of friends and extended family who seemed to have their shit together have had marriages end in divorce, I’m not sure how I managed to keep mine together.

This year will also mark my official 10-year employment at my current job come September. That’s as an actual employee. I’ve already hit 10-years last November if you count my almost-a-year as a contractor. That’s the longest stretch of employment I’ve ever had. Of course, most of the rest of my career was as a contractor so short runs are to be expected.

So, yeah, almost 20 years. You could say I’m celebrating prematurely, but I think it’s kind of a big deal even if I’m terrible at posting regularly these days. My experiments with Podcasting didn’t last long and I keep meaning to get into vlogging and/or streaming for the past couple of years, but have yet to do so with any seriousness. I can’t promise you it’ll still be around 20 years from now, that would put me at 73 going on 74 and I’ll probably be in rough shape by then if family history is anything to go by, but I’ll probably stretch it out for as long as I can manage.

For now, Happy 19th Birthday a month late, SEB. Never thought we’d still be hanging out by now, but glad we still are.

Merry Christmas 2020!

I’m a day late with this, but from all of us here at SEB, here’s wishing you and yours a safe and very Merry Christmas! It’s been a rough year, but it’s almost over and that can’t come quick enough for me.

I had a pretty good haul this year. Got a new coffee mug that says “I drink this so you all may live another day” which will be heading into the office with me in the New Year. Two new Hawaiian shirts, “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” and “Dishonored 2” video games (yes, I know they’ve been out forever), a cast iron kitty door stopper, a USB Bluetooth adapter for my desktop, some new RGB case fans for my computer, and way more candy than I should be thinking of eating. I’m told a couple more things are still in transit.

Lastly, the family is safe and healthy which is the best gift of all. Hopefully the same is true for you and yours.

Christmas shopping back in the day.

While perusing Facebook this morning I came across this Frazz comic strip shared by the Decrepit Old Fool himself. Here’s a quick description in case you don’t want to click on the link. In the past I would’ve included the comic with a link back, but the site specifically mentions a license for blog posts and it’s $35.

Two kids are talking about Christmas shopping in the past. The girls says that her Dad said it used to be all traffic jams by the mall while her grandpa said it was traffic jams by the downtown department store. While they, the kids, would be the ones to grow up to not be able to get out of their own driveways (due to all the delivery trucks). It really is better to go see it for yourself.

This, of course, started me reminiscing about Christmas shopping back in the day. I can vividly remember going to The Pontiac Mall and trying to remember what my parents and siblings had said they wanted and often failing. The crush of the crowd was both frustrating and amazing. It was one of the few times of the year that you really got a sense of just how many people lived in your area.

The Pontiac Mall in its early years before I shopped there.
An example cover.

Of course, we did have mail order back then, but it was mostly limited to a few catalogs that took aim squarely at the Old White People demographic (e.g., Harriet Carter) or foodies (Swiss Colony). Both of those are still around and on the Internet these days, which is a helluva testament to their knowing their target markets.

Though no one I knew did the majority of their Christmas shopping through them. I certainly didn’t, but I did look forward to the arrival of the catalogs as one sign of the start of the holiday season. Also. I did drool over more than a few items in the Swiss Colony catalog. I’m a sucker for cheese and sausage gift packs.

I get excited just remembering browsing through the toys in this venerable book.

We didn’t have an Amazon Wish List. Back then it was the Sears Wish Book. Going through the toy section, circling desired items with different colored pens, discovering the women’s underwear section as I hit puberty, such wonderful memories. Sears is still hanging on by a thread, but back in the day they were one of the big department stores along with Hudson’s which has since gone extinct.

A lot of my clothing growing up came from Sears as did the very first video game console I had: The Sears Video Arcade! Which was just a rebranded Atari 2600. This gives you an idea of the kind of clout that Sears had back then. Atari wasn’t a household name yet, but Sears was. So, Atari agreed to let Sears slap their own name on it because Atari knew Sears was highly trusted brand and it would get their consoles into homes.

When I was growing up The Pontiac Mall had a Hudson’s and a Montgomery Ward as anchor stores. They built a Sears at the north end of the mall in 1973, but it wasn’t attached to the rest of the mall which was annoying during the winter. It was eventually connected during the huge expansion in 1988 that nearly doubled the size of the mall and added stores like J.C. Penny’s and led to changing the name to “Summit Place” which I hated and refused to use. Hell, for most of my childhood I was ignorant of the fact that “malls” were common so it was always just “The Mall” to me growing up. Things have changed a lot since those days. “Summit Place” closed its doors for good in 2009 with only J.C. Penney and Macy’s remaining until early 2010. Sears held out until 2014. It was finally demolished last year. Driving past it during demolition and seeing it reduced to rubble was more emotional for me than I expected.

MY CHILDHOOD, RUINED! Source: Jonathan Hair on YouTube

Not that I’m complaining about things now. The vast majority of my gift giving over the past decade plus has been done online. Yes, I’m Amazon’s bitch. I can’t begin to imagine doing it the old way in the middle of a pandemic. Those crowds would’ve been an unparalleled super spreader event.

I keep my Amazon Wish List updated throughout the year and yet I’m amazed at how many folks still ask me what I want. Here’s a complete list with things both cheap and expensive as fuck. Pick something. I guarantee you ANYTHING on that list will make me happy. That’s why it’s there. For that matter, I’m amazed at how many people don’t have an Amazon Wish List or don’t bother to keep it up to date. It’s one of the things I love about living in the future.

Anyway, I’ve not posted anything since Thanksgiving and I wanted to get something up and the Frazz comic kicked off a wave of nostalgia. I was originally just going to reshare the comic on Facebook as George did, but when I got up to two paragraphs of writing about it I figured it should be a blog post instead. Now I’ve spent the better part of an hour and a half working on this instead of the 2 minutes resharing would’ve taken. That’s OK because I am on vacation and can’t go anywhere thanks to the COVIDs.

What about you guys? Got any memories of Christmas shopping before the age of the Internet and the rise of Amazon? Do you still go to your local mall? Here in Westland where I live now, we still have a local mall — The Westland Shopping Center — that I have been to in the past, but haven’t been in the three years since I officially moved here. I keep meaning to go because I’ve not wasted an afternoon walking around a mall aimlessly in many years, but haven’t yet and probably won’t until this pandemic is under better control. DAMN YOU COVID-19!

Happy Thanksgiving 2020!

Image by Biljana Jovanovic from Pixabay

From all of us here at Stupid Evil Bastard to all of you who still drop by occasionally to see if I’ve posted anything new, here’s hoping you have a very Happy Thanksgiving. The year is almost over and, boy howdy, what a year it’s been.

Looking back, it can be hard to find a lot to be thankful about. Still, I try to be optimistic on this day and, if I’m honest, there are at least a few things. I’m still employed and we still have a roof over our heads. We’re not going hungry and we’ve managed to stay relatively healthy. Or at least, no worse than we already were before the pandemic started. Not least of all, the election swung in our favor and Donald Trump will be out of the White House shortly after the new year starts. All things considered; we’ve been lucky in this household when a lot of others have not. It is my hope that things turn around for them and soon.

That’s it. That’s all I wanted to say in this one. Be safe and try to enjoy the day.

Ubisoft is clearly not my favorite game company.

Ubisoft is launching a new ecosystem, whatever they mean by that, and to celebrate you can go out to their webpage and have them generate a summary of the time you’ve spent playing Ubisoft games since they started keeping detailed stats around 2015 or so. I’m guessing on that last bit as that’s when they start my review even though I know I’ve played Ubisoft games for several years prior to that.

Here’s mine.

This was interesting. If nothing else, it shows that I don’t tend to play Ubisoft games a whole lot. I mean, I have some impressive hours in here, but not when you consider this stretches back over five years. I’ve spent way more than 313 hours on just a single Call of Duty in a single year before.

For example: Advance Warfare – 432.2 hours, the original Black Ops – 469.3 hours, Black Ops II – 603.1 hours, Black Ops III – 838.2 hours, Ghosts – 762.4 hours, Infinite Warfare – 790.7 hours, Modern Warfare II – 704.5 hours, and one of the grand-daddies of time sinks, Modern Warfare 3 – 1,017.2 hours. Those are just the ones from Steam that I can easily look up. I’m sure I’ve put in similar amounts of time since they moved to BattleNet. Glancing at my combat record in Back Ops Cold War I’m already at 1 day, 5 hours, and 17 minutes for a game that’s been out a week.

So, yea, 313 hours over 5 years on multiple Ubisoft games isn’t as impressive as it sounds. You can also tell I don’t tend to do PVP in games like The Division what with my 0 rogue agents killed. I’m just not good at third-person shooter PVP. I was very surprised that none of the Far Cry games showed up in my review. I thought for sure I had played the last couple more than I had played The Division 1, but apparently not.

As for what the new Ubisoft ecosystem is, I think it’s just a new games launcher. I just realized I hadn’t reinstalled it since the last time I had to restage my system (again, shows you how much I play Ubisoft games) so I just did and… it looks more or less the same. Not sure what’s different about it. Still, it made for a mildly amusing video for the morning and a bit of reflection on how much time I waste playing Call of Duty.

Steven Tyler’s nipple got me thrown into Facebook jail.

I’ve gotten to be known for shit-posting memes constantly on my Facebook account. I know it’s hardly a vital public service, but it seems to amuse most folks who follow me over there and it weeds out the ones who don’t share my sense of humor. Plus, if I dump a crap load all at once I can go a day or two without posting anything and people will still see content from me. This is riskier than you might think, especially with my sense of humor, as some memes walk the line of being “Adult Content” and thus falling prey to Facebook’s “Community Standards Algorithm” which is apparently as dumb as a box of rocks.

Said algorithm is why this picture of Liv and Steven Tyler currently has me on a 7-day restriction:

The offending nipple.

Not that I need to explain the joke, but I’m going to. Steven Tyler is male and male nipples are allowed in pictures on Facebook whereas female nipples are, for some reason, not allowed. That is clearly Steven Tyler and he is clearly a male despite him having a decently feminine looking breast and hairstyle hence the humor in the caption. Apparently, it’s enough to fool FB’s artificial intelligence into thinking I’ve dared to try to share a woman’s naked breast.

The amusing part is, I’ve posted memes that had actual female nipples in them — albeit in painterly form — that had way more sexually suggestive captions on them and FB didn’t so much as blink an eye because “art”, apparently. I’ve also posted plenty of text-only memes that were incredibly vulgar in comparison to this that also didn’t raise the ire of FB’s Community Standards.

I also got a warning for this meme and this one I can at least kind of understand:

You missed.

Again, though, no actual female nipples are exposed in this picture which means it is actually in-line with Facebook’s community standards. I can only assume the words “nipples” and “pierced” were enough to trigger the “algorithm” into clutching its peals.

Both of these were within moments of each other and it was only a couple minutes later before the ban hammer was dropped on both posts. I suspected two in a row so rapidly is why it’s a 7-day restriction. I’ve disputed both of them and perhaps that’ll bring them in front of an actual human with more intelligence than a broken clock who can reverse the ban, but if it doesn’t it’s not like a 7-day vacation from FB is a bad thing.

I post this less as a rant and more of yet another example of why relying on “artificial intelligence” to make decisions about things like community standards is stupid. That said, people are expensive and the emotional toll of making them look at the horrible shit other people try to share on Facebook is huge. Compared to some of those folks, my shitty little memes seem pretty tame. So, if I’m doomed to complete my 7 days of not being able to like, comment, or share so that someone doesn’t have to review a snuff film because the “AI” caught it first, well, that’s a small price to pay.

I remember those early cable TV days.

Came across this meme on Facebook today and it made me a little ranty. It’s one of the big reasons I ended up cutting the cord years ago and switching to streaming only. It’s largely accurate except for Bravo.

Image may contain: text that says 'TV CHANNELS: THEN & NOW WHAT IT SHOWED THEN MTV Music videos WHAT IT SHOWS NOW TLC Trash reality shows that feature young, attractive people Medical shows and documentaries ANIMAL PLANET Trash reality shows that feature oddballs and grossouts Wildlife documentaries A&E Trash reality shows that feature doggies and kitties Historical biographies HISTORY Trash reality shows that feature murders and ghosts History documentaries BRAVO Trash reality shows that feature pawn shops Makeovers and weddings DISCOVERY Trash reality shows that feature gold diggers Nature programming WEATHER Weather Trash reality shows that feature gold-diggers Weather @MATTSURELEE'

I was a teenager in the 1980s when Cable TV started showing up everywhere. I can recall clearly hearing the news that it was coming to my hometown of Pontiac, MI and how excited everyone was for it. I can also remember the launch of several of these channels.

MTV was a channel I spent a lot of time on and is the major reason I can recognize musical groups from that era when I see pictures of them. Hours were spent watching videos and when we moved out to Orion Township in 1984, which didn’t have cable TV yet, my mother felt so bad that she bought a couple of MTV compilation VHS tapes to make up for it. I think I still have them around here someplace.

Some folks know that TLC stood for The Learning Channel and started off with a lot of educational programming and documentaries, but what a lot of them don’t know is that it’s one of the oldest cable channels. Founded in 1972 by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and NASA as the Appalachian Community Service Network its focus was on education through TV and was distributed for free by NASA satellite. It was privatized in 1980 and became The Learning Channel and its main competitor was The Discovery Channel, which aired similar content. TLC was considered the better channel for shows about nature, science, history, current events, medicine, technology, cooking, and home improvement. So, of course, the folks behind The Discovery Channel ended up eventually buying them out and then slowly moved the content to the trash that it is today for the sake of ratings. Then in 2006 to 2008 they tried to shift their focus back to actual educational programming even using “The Learning Channel” in some promotions. That didn’t last long at all.

Of all the channels above, TLC is the one I’m most upset about because it in the early days I really enjoyed it. The HISTORY Channel falls into the same category. I struggled with history in school, but I enjoyed the hell out of the programming on The HISTORY Channel back when it actually had shows about history on it. Arts & Entertainment (A&E, natch) was also really good in the early days even if I didn’t watch it all that much because I have no artistic sensibility. BRAVO I didn’t watch much of because I recall it had a lot of operas and “serious theater” on it which didn’t have enough explosions to keep my ADHD addled attention. Not sure why the meme lists BRAVO as makeovers and weddings as that’s the crap it turned into before it went full reality TV programming.

The Discovery Channel was another early favorite because I was big into science stuff and so were they. My favorite program was out of Australia called “BEYOND 2000” which was all about the cool shit we’d be using in the future. I first heard about Dental Implants on that show and now they’re actually a thing here in the future. At the end of my time as a cable TV subscriber the only shows I could stand to watch on the channel was The MythBusters and occasionally How It’s Made.

The joke of the meme is the WEATHER channel, which covered the weather back then and still largely does so today, but it hasn’t escaped from the reality TV trend entirely. With shows like Fat Guys in the Woods and So You Think You Would Survive, they’ve got their toes in the water. Hell, not even the major cable news networks have managed to avoid the trend.

The promise of cable TV back in the day was that it had enough room for networks devoted to knowledge to exist alongside the standard TV fare and for a while it lived up to that promise. Alas, ratings mean money and when the first reality TV show showed you could get massive ratings for extraordinarily little expenditure the fate of these channels was sealed. Why show an informative documentary on how paper clips are made when you can air a show about the hardships of a family of little people and make four times the cash from it?

The same sort of thing happened to parts of the Internet. I first ventured onto the net before the World Wide Web was a thing, so it was a text-based experience. USENET News Groups were the main draw back then functioning much like web-based message forums of today or the Bulletin Board Systems we ran before the Internet was widely available. There were groups devoted to all sorts of topics and they put you in contact with knowledgeable people around the world. Alt.Sex was an amazing forum for getting information from experts about that topic right up until around 1996 when the boom in Internet Service Providers (ISPs) happened and suddenly the Internet became a lot more crowded. Groups like Alt.Sex went from being a place with useful info to nothing but porn ads almost overnight.

It’s almost like any form of educational thing gets ruined the minute you give it to the masses. Early cable TV was highly informative as was the early Internet. Once it reached the mass public both kinda soured. There are still areas of both that hold worthwhile content, but content aimed at the lowest common denominator reigns king and you must step around a lot of dog shit to get to it. It’s a shame. I miss those early days, but that’s probably me being a grumpy old man looking at the past through rose tinted glasses.

Hey you kids! Get the fuck offa my lawn!

Welcome to Fall 2020.

The leaves are only just starting to change color around here thanks to some pleasantly mild weather as of late, but according to the calendar summer has officially ended. If you go a bit further north, you’ll find the colors have started taking hold in earnest.

Fall Foliage. Source: Forest Wander

With 2020 being such an unending shit show, it really feels like it took Fall both forever to get here and no time at all. The holidays will be upon us in no time and I’m already stressing about it, but probably not in the way that you would think.

The Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas period is my favorite time of year, but with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming election and all the political bullshit that seems to be happening all at once, I’m having a hard time getting too excited about it. The past couple of years we’ve not had any money to do gift exchanges over Christmas which is a huge bummer for me so we’ve been trying to put some aside for this year, but we keep having to dip into it. I’m worried it’s going to be another year with a Christmas tree with nothing under it.

Which is a stupid thing to be worried about when there are so many other folks out there worrying about wear their kid’s next meals are coming from. I’ve been lucky in that I’m still employed even if we were just handed a 10% pay cut for the remainder of the year. The mortgage is covered, we have food on the table, and the gas and lights are still on. So, yeah, I don’t have much to be worried. So, of course, I’m worrying about other stuff like what happens if I lose my job or if Trump manages to get reelected or insert some other thing that hasn’t happened yet here. This has been affecting my sleep and eating habits which is just makes for another couple of things that are stressing me out.

Still, I’m hanging in there and trying my best to be as positive as I can despite my cynical nature. Memes help and I’ve been shit posting them like a mad man all over Facebook lately. I’m hoping the cooler temperatures of fall will help me to relax as well so I can get at least a little enjoyment in the days ahead. Hopefully you’re doing well and aren’t stressing out like I am.