First world video gamer problems.

When you play video games for as many years as I have, a lot of it becomes muscle memory. This extends to and includes things you might not think of, like how you launch a game. A while back, Blizard made a change to their games so that everything is launched through the Battle.net application on Windows. Considering that most Blizard games require an online connection to play, this isn’t an entirely bad change because it saves you having to type in your credentials each time you play the game.

If you play a lot of Blizard titles — or titles hosted on Battle.net, like Call of Duty — you might have pinned the Battle.net app to your taskbar. Like I have. I also have Steam pinned there because that’s the second most common launcher I use. Recently, Blizard decided the Battle.net icon needed an update and you can already see where this is going.

On the left is the old Battle.net icon. In the middle, the new one. And on the right is the Steam icon. Below is what my taskbar looks like.

Now when I go to launch Battle.net I instead end up clicking on Steam because it more closely matches the color scheme of the old B.net icon. Every. Single. God. Damned. Time.

That icon in between them? That’s GOG Galaxy, the third launcher I use most often as I have been growing a collection of old games on Good Old Games. Plus, it ties into every other platform — including PlayStation and Xbox Live — allowing you to track playtime, trophies, and friends. You’d think my muscle memory would work off of where the B.net icon is and not its coloring, but nope.

*Click*, open Steam, close Steam, open B.net. Sigh exasperatedly.

Lil Nas X’s MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) has a lot of Christians shook.

With all the talk and memes about Lil Nas X, I thought I’d look up the video to see for myself. Until this blew up, I hadn’t heard of him because I’m stuck in my little musical bubble of 1980’s Synthpop and Electro Swing and I don’t tend to listen to commercial radio these days.

I had heard that the video for the song involved the Garden of Eden and the talking snake and Lil Nas X being stoned to death and then pole dancing his way to Hell where he gives Satan a lap dance before snapping his neck and taking his place on the throne. And, yeah, that’s pretty much what happens.

As for the song itself, I won’t claim to understand the meaning or intent behind it after just a couple of listens, but I liked it. Which is saying a lot considering it’s way out of my usual musical choices.

A lot of Conservative Christians are, of course, outraged. Not only by this video, but by his stunt of selling ‘Satan Shoes’ that he collaborated on with street wear company MSCHF. With only 666 pairs being made, the Nike Air Max 97s had all the usual Satanic iconography you would expect including a pentagram pendant, Luke 10:18, and a bubble in the heel that supposedly contained a drop of real human blood.

Nike was none too pleased about it themselves. They released a statement saying they had nothing to do with the production of these shoes and then hitting MSCHF with a cease-and-desist order almost immediately, but not fast enough to stop the $1,018 shoes from selling out. The video was actually released after the shoes and did nothing to sooth the furrowed brows of America’s righteous Christians.

Lil Nas X who is, if you couldn’t tell from the video, openly gay is unapologetic:

https://twitter.com/LilNasX/status/1375857638869585922

I’m not his target audience, but I can appreciate both this song and his trolling of Conservative Christians. I can especially appreciate the open letter to his younger self he published to Twitter after this all blew up.

Amen to that.

As for the video itself, I found this opinion piece by Heather White, author of Reforming Sodom: Protestants and the Rise of Gay Rights, helpful in understanding it.

But this about a lot more then gleeful provocation. Lil Nas X’s comments about his use of Christian imagery shows that his core aim is not to offend. His latest art is in fact deeply personal, depicting his own struggle with self-acceptance amid a claustrophobic and shaming religious culture. A gay son of the Black church, the real devil on Lil Nas X’s back is one familiar to many LGBTQ folks reared in conservative Christianity: being told that who you are is a sin.

Lil Nas X’s ‘Satan Shoes’ trolled some Christians. But ‘Montero’ is about more than that. – NBCNews.com


I’m white, straight, and male which puts me in the most privileged of positions in American society. The only the way I could be more privileged is if I were rich. I cannot begin to imagine the daily stress black Americans deal with just trying to get by and to add being gay on top of that can only make things so much worse. As an atheist, I am tickled by the trolling of Conservative Christians, but I also understand that this is about more than just pissing off the overly religious. I hope this goes a long way to not only helping Lil Nas X be more comfortable with who he is, but also inspires others who are experiencing the same forms of self-loathing to come to accept who they are as well. Bravo sir, well done indeed!

UPDATED: How about a little SEB Podcast to brighten your day?

UPDATE: A little further below I announced the date of the return of the SEB Podcast as February 20th at 3PM. As it turns out, Dave is apparently very highly in demand at his current job and as such a big super-secret project he’s involved with has already resulted in us having to postpone the return of the podcast just hours after we settled on a date and time. The new date will be March 6th at 3PM. We now return you to our original entry.

If you’re a long-time visitor to SEB then you know that at one point in time, I attempted to start a podcast with Dave Hill of ***Dave Does the Blog. In the past 11 years since we started it in February of 2010, we have managed only ten total podcasts. If you look in the podcast section of the blog, you’ll see that we managed to do the first four in the same year with only a couple of months between them. Then the fifth was nearly a year later with the next two also coming in within a couple months of each other. The eighth one, again, came nearly a year after the seventh. The ninth, however, well it was over three years later in 2015. Jinkies!

I hear you saying, “Wait a minute! You said you did ten podcasts, but there’s only 9 listed in the podcast menu!”

Yes, the tenth was done as a live-stream in Google Hangouts which I apparently never got around to adding to the podcast menu. Probably because I was going to strip the audio from it and save it as a MP3 file. You can find it here on my YouTube channel. It was streamed on May 6th, 2018 making it almost three years ago that we last sat around shooting the shit. Naturally, this means it’s time for Dave and I to make another one.

I’m still really annoyed they killed off Google Hangouts.

So, that’s what we’re going to do. On February 20th at 3PM EST I will haul the desiccated remains of the Stupid Evil Podcast from the shallow grave it’s been lying in along the railway tracks and prop it up for another go. You can either watch it live as we stream it as we will once again doing it as a video stream or catch it later once it’s been archived to my YouTube channel. Google Hangouts streaming, which we used last time, is no more having been replaced by Google Meet. Which I think is the same damned thing with a new name. That’s probably what we’ll be using, but I’ll need to double check and make sure it’ll do what we want. I’ll leave a comment with exactly what we’re using once I know for sure.

As always, we’re looking to you guys for topic ideas. Yeah, Dave and I have a lot to catch up on, but it never hurts to find out what you guys want us to talk about. It doesn’t even have to be anything we’d know anything about, though it might make for a better answer if we know at least a little about it. Got something? Leave a comment below or on social media and we’ll try to address it.

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.

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.

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!

The original lyrics for “Deck the Halls.”

I realize we’re still a couple of months away from the season, but while browsing through memes recently I came across this one:

I recalled having heard something about this previously, but never got around to looking into it. As it turns out, that’s not the only drinking reference removed from the song. Here are the English lyrics as they appeared in in volume 2 of Welsh Melodies in 1862:

Deck the hall with boughs of holly,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
‘Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Fill the meadcup, drain the barrel,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Troul the ancient Christmas carol,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!

See the flowing bowl before us,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Follow me in merry measure,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
While I sing of beauty’s treasure,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!

Fast away the old year passes,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Laughing, quaffing all together,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Heedless of the wind and weather,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!

The version most folks know today is from the December 1877 issue of the Pennsylvania School Journal.

Deck the hall with boughs of holly,
‘Tis the season to be jolly,
Don we now our gay apparel,
Troll the ancient Christmas carol,

See the blazing yule before us,
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Follow me in merry measure,
While I tell of Christmas treasure,

Fast away the old year passes,
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!
Sing we joyous all together,
Heedless of the wind and weather,

Interestingly, the English translation above isn’t a literal one from the original Welsh. Additionally, the tune has been around a lot longer, predating Nos Galan, a traditional Welsh New Year’s Eve carol published in 1794 from which Deck the Halls borrows its melody. According to Wikipedia, the original lyrics in Welsh and English for Nos Galan are as follows:

O mor gynnes mynwes meinwen,
fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la.
O mor fwyn yw llwyn meillionen,
fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la.
O mor felus yw’r cusanau,
[instrumental flourish]
Gyda serch a mwynion eiriau
fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la.
Oh! how soft my fair one’s bosom,
fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la.
Oh! how sweet the grove in blossom,
fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la.
Oh! how blessed are the blisses,
[instrumental flourish]
Words of love, and mutual kisses,
fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la.
Source: Wikipedia

I don’t have point to this other than I find it interesting how far back this song goes and how it’s changed over the years. I tend to double check memes that make factual claims like the one above and this one dropped me into a rabbit hole that seemed like it would make a good blog post.

We’ve come such a long way from ‘Pong’.

Such humble beginnings

I’m an O.G. gamer, having cut my teeth on Pong and Breakout and Space Invaders way back in the day. I can remember every major jump in graphics tech and how we thought things couldn’t possibly get any better than they were right then. I remember the brief period where it seemed Laserdisc based games were the future. I remember when CD-ROMs took over from cartridges offering up incredible — for the time — amounts of storage (Final Fantasy VII would not have been possible with cartridges). Then there was the arrival of true 3D rendering and how were they going to top that?

Crash Bandicoot.

I’ve been a Sony fan since the original PlayStation was released though I almost didn’t buy one. I moved on to gaming on computers after the console market crashed in 1985 and didn’t bother going back when Nintendo and Sega revived it a year or so later. The one exception was my purchase of a Panasonic 3DO in 1993 and that was only because ex-Amiga people were behind its development. Everyone was excited for Sony’s PlayStation arriving in America in 1995 and the word was that if you hadn’t preordered you weren’t going to be able to get one, but I didn’t bother. I happened to walk into the local Babbages the day it was released, and they had a stack of them on hand that weren’t already claimed. I bought one on a whim and have been a fan ever since.

Now the PS5 is looming on the horizon and I’m tingling with anticipation. There will be yet another improvement in graphics with its release, but the real jump in tech will be from its storage technology. The last two generations of consoles have included mechanical hard drives as their main form of storage which, much like CD-ROMs did, allowed for much more capacity as well as giving developers the ability to release updates and new content to a game. Large mechanical drives, though, are terribly slow which could make for long loading times between levels. You can alleviate some of that by putting a Solid-State Drive (SSD) in your console, but it’s not there by default so developers don’t take advantage of it.

Oh, you sexy beast!

The PS5 is including an SSD for the first time, but it’s not an ordinary SSD. It’s a variation on a newer form known as an NVMe drive which offer ridiculous transfer speeds because they bypass the normal drive bus and talk directly to the system bus. I have an NVMe drive in my gaming desktop and it is disgustingly fast. The one in the PS5 reportedly is custom designed to exceed a standard NVMe’s transfer speed and works in conjunction with a custom I/O chip to deliver uncompressed data to other system components at up to 5.5GB/sec. What that means is insanely fast load times and the ability to stream data into a game faster than ever before.

What can you do with that? One of the best examples is the upcoming Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart game:

Now it may not be immediately clear why the new custom NVMe drive in the PS5 is the most important part of the new system, so allow me to elaborate. The game has a portal mechanic like the PC game Portal in those orange things Ratchet is grappling through. No big deal, that sort of tech has been around for a while and we’ve seen stuff like it before. It’s a testament to the power of the PS5 that so much of the geometry is being rendered in the portals as you move through them, but it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before.

It’s the purple portals he falls through that show the power of the new SSD drive. When he’s falling through those, he’s going from one game level to a completely different game level with a different art style and a whole new collection of assets. The game has to load all that in which is why there is about one and a half seconds where he’s drifting “between realities” before the second portal opens and drops him in the new world. The end of the demo does this five times in relatively quick succession and it’s almost seamless. Watch it again:

This will start at the purple portal sequence.

That’s damned impressive. I’d bet most folks wouldn’t even realize it’s doing so much work in such a short period of time. I’m trying to think of any other video game that has pulled this sort of thing off and I’m coming up empty. This also means things like Fast Travel in open world games should be so brief that there’s little to no time to put up game tips. I’m currently playing through Ghost of Tsushima which has one of the shorter Fast Travel features I’ve seen in an open world game. Especially compared to a title like Red Dead Redemption II which is almost glacial in comparison. I can’t wait to see how that feature will work on games on the PS5.

Above and beyond that, though, is just the shear amount of detailed stuff that’s happening onscreen during this demo. It really is dizzying at times to look at. The previous games in this series were no slouches in terms of on-screen action, but this is just so much… more. More stuff, more detail, more effects. I’m not a huge Ratchet & Clank fan, but I’ll be picking this one up.

Let’s do a stupid Facebook list thingy.

I’ve been meaning to post something for awhile now, but between working from home and the fast pace of news I’ve just not been able to compose my thoughts. So instead I’m doing one of those stupid “How Many X Things Have You X’ed” lists that make the rounds on Facebook. Only I’m doing it here so I’ve at least posted something. Feel free to play along in the comments.

Photo of old TV set.
Source: Rene Asmussen

You never realize how much/little TV you watch until you fill this out. Put a ✔ by the shows you have watched more than 10 episodes of. How about you?

1. Grey’s Anatomy:
2. Stranger Things: ✔
3. The Vampire Diaries:
4. The Walking Dead:
5. Fear The Walking Dead:
6. Dexter: 
7. American Horror Story:
8. Orange is the New Black:
9. A Million Little Things:
10. This is Us:
11. The Simpsons:  ✔
12. New Amsterdam:
13. Manifest:
14. How To Get Away With Murder:
15. Breaking Bad:
16. Sons of Anarchy:
17. Scandal:
18. Riverdale:
19. The Good Doctor:
20. House of Cards:
21. Once Upon a Time:
22. House: ✔
23. True Detective:
24. Dr. Pimple Popper:
25. Power:
26. Empire:
27. One Tree Hill: 
28. Supernatural:
29. Family Guy: ✔
30. Santa Clarita Diet:
31. Shameless:
32. Pretty Little Liars:
33. Secret Life of an American Teenager:
34. Bones:  ✔ *
35. Criminal Minds: 
36. The 100:
37. Chicago Fire:
38. Chicago Med:
39. The Resident:
40. Game of Thrones:
41. The Big Bang Theory: ✔
42. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia:
43. Lost:
44. The Sopranos:
45. NCIS: ✔ †
46. NCIS Los Angeles: 
47. NCIS New Orleans: 
48. Law & Order SVU: 
49. Gossip Girl: 
50. How I Met Your Mother:
51. Blue Bloods:
52. Two Broke Girls:
53. The Office:
54. Blacklist: 
55. Full House:
56. Fuller House:
57. Downton Abbey:
58. Hawaii Five-O:
59. Big Mouth:
60. Last Man Standing:
61. Six Feet Under:
62. Wentworth:
63. Friends:
64. That 70s Show:  ✔
65. Girlfriends Guide to Divorce:
66. Heartland:
67. All-American:
68. Greek:
69. Yellowstone:
70. Better Call Saul:
71. You:
72. Rescue Me:
73. Scrubs:
74. Community:
75. Letter kenney :
76. Kitchen nightmares :
77. The Masked singer:
78. Robot Chicken: ✔
79. Vikings:
80. Mind Hunters:
81. New Girl:
82. The Good Place: ✔
83. Black Mirror: ✔
83. Lucifer: ✔
84. Peaky Blinders:
85. iZombie:
86. Parks and Rec:
87. Brooklyn 99:
88. Handmaid’s Tale:
89. Modern Family:
90. Smallville:
91. Seinfeld:
92. Gilmore Girls: 
93. Charmed: ✔ *
94. Private Practice:
95. Lost Girl:
96.True Blood:
97. Roswell:
98. Haven: ✔
99. Mad Men:
100. Arrow:
* Not by choice, but because someone else was watching it and I couldn’t be bothered to find something else to do.
† This is the only one of the NCIS shows I could stand.

As you can see, there’s a lot of “popular” television that I largely ignore. Add in shows like Happy! and Doctor Who and then my count would go up. Most of my TV viewing these days consists of movies I missed in the theaters and YouTube channels I’ve subscribed to. After cutting the cord, YouTube has scratched my channel flipping itch by having dozens of different short videos I can go through on all sorts of topics. And, unlike the text that starts this trivial exercise, I’m actually quite aware of how little TV I watch.

How about you? How many shows do you keep track of regularly?

That trailer for the “Cats” movie is… unnerving.

What unholy hellspawn gave birth to this abomination?

Seriously, who the hell saw the final result from the CGI tests and said, “This! This is what we want! Something that looks like a mad scientist’s fever dream of human/cat hybrids gone horribly wrong.”

To be fair, I’m not a fan of the Broadway musical of the same name. I’m familiar with the songs because people I know and love really like the musical and own the soundtracks and have played them many times over the years in my presence, but all I’ve seen of the stage play is the clips they use in the advertisements when it’s in town. I thought the play’s costumes were a little funky, but they worked.

This? This lands solidly in the uncanny valley which is weird because those are real humans prancing about that look like someone forcibly inserted an animatronic tail in their assholes while injecting them with the world’s worst hair growth formula. They look vaguely cat-ish with realistic ears, but they have human eyes and teeth. And I thought the CGI hedgehog in the upcoming Sonic movie looked disturbing. This takes it to a whole other level. The oddest part is that they somehow seem even more naked than if they were actually naked.

I suppose if you’re a fan of the Broadway show this will do nothing to dissuade you from seeing the movie, but at the same time this does nothing to lure non-fans into the theater.

What has been seen cannot be unseen so my only relief was to share my pain.