Thursday, March 31, 2011

Trainwreck Idol: Top 11, Take Two

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim.com)

It’s Elton John week. On Motown Week, I said that it could be a good thing and a bad thing, and I meant it because some of the contestants don’t have the level of talent for at least half of the Motown library. This week I’m saying it could be a good thing or a bad thing, because Elton John is an artist I absolutely love, even though some of his songs suck to me. At the end of the show, I think the songs that were done were mostly songs that I like.

Scotty sang “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” or something like that. He has a good country voice, you know. I don’t know the song.

Naima did a reggae version of “I’m Still Standing.” The judges, who can’t seem to say anything bad to anyone, suddenly were bagging on her version. The thing is that I was cringing at the idea of that song as reggae, but I was surprised that unlike some previous attempts to do a reggae version of something (from previous seasons) that the vocal melody of the song translated very well. By the end of the night, I feel her performance was probably overshadowed, but I did like it.

Paul did “Rocket Man.” Excuse me while I vomit. “Rocket Man” is one of my favourite Elton John songs. I absolutely love the song. I even love a very similar track that Smashing Pumpkins did called “Space Boy” because it puts me in the same emotional space as “Rocket Man.” The only emotion Paul brought to me was really more of a state of being perplexed. I don’t know how many different ways the judges can say that he sucks without actually saying anything bad about him.

Pia did “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” She did great of course. This is one of those odd songs that I don’t really like much, and yet there are versions of it I like. The version on “The Lost Boys Soundtrack” is great. Elton John’s live performance with guest George Michael was enough to get me to admit that I like the song. That’s just odd for a song that I’m not a fan of.

Stefano sang “Tiny Dancer” and actually redeemed himself in my eyes, even if it still wasn’t great. Not an Elton John song that I’m really all that into, but I’ll usually listen to it. The thing is there are some very distinctive notes in that song that not everyone can hit. I know I can’t. Stefano did so, and made it seem effortless.

Lauren did “Candle in the Wind.” I could have done without some of the twang, but otherwise, it was very, very good.

James performed “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.” He’s the first person to really do the Elton John theatrics, interestingly enough. His vocal performance came across as less interesting than everything else going on, but it was fun to watch. To his credit he pulled of some moves that would left me flat on my face.

Thia sang “Daniel” and it was the best performance of the night. She has such a great voice. I think that every time I hear her sing, and I always get a tinge of worry at the end of her performances that she’s not noticeable enough to make it as far as she should.

Casey did “Your Song” and reminded the world that he can actually sing. It’s too bad he had to be scared shitless to remind us.

Jacob sang “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.” Like Pia, he’s always great. Not my favourite performance by him, but still very good. I really love this song, and I wish he hadn’t gone so far off the melody the second verse.

And finally Haley… “Bennie and the Jets.” It made me think of the first “Dark Tower” novel, by Stephen King, where the gunslinger walks into a saloon and they’re doing a player piano sing along of “Hey Jude.” I felt like I should be wearing a ten gallon hat and cheating at poker. Add to the fact that it wasn’t very good. I don’t know. It’s already becoming clear that I’m in the minority for thinking it wasn’t good. I do want to say that it’s one of her better performances, but not good enough for me to say it was actually good.

So bottom three. I’m really tired, so I’m going to pick some names out of my ten gallon hat. Naima, Thia, and Stefano. That’s not who I think should be there. That’s who I think will be there. They talked everyone else up too much. And I’m looking at who probably got overshadowed. Paul was the worst performance of the night, hands down. It would be a pleasant surprise to see him go home, or at the very least end up bottom three where he belongs.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Season 2 ' The Fix' Part 7

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)


Welcome to the seventh part of the According To Whim Season 2 'Fix'. The editing I have been doing is in an attempt to rebuild Episodes 3, 4, 5, and 6 of our public access television show: According To Whim (Season 2). Season 3 Episode 1 was also lost so I have included it as well.


After a rip-roaring start to the whole project I took some time off (weather it was intentional or not). A month or so has passed and I have gotten back on the wagon to fixing Season 2. After reviewing all tapes (I could find) and working on Episode 3 my plan was to continue on with the re-edits.


I had this gnawing feeling that I was missing some tapes though. There were several scenes that we shot that I am 80-90% sure I never recorded over (but that I can't find). My suspicion is that I either dropped a tape behind something, left it in a closet or cabinet somewhere, or gave it to Chris or Miguel to use or encode or something. Some of that missing footage was shot waaaaaay later and I don't see any time in which I would have needed to reuse tapes. I have had a surplus for quite some time now. I only ever reused tapes when I just HAD to have something right that moment and even then I believe it was only during the initial Season 2 shoot.


After much cleaning and searching I still have not found any lost tapes lurking in the couch (yes I looked there too). I have decided to push forward and just consider those scenes completely lost and in need of a reshoot.


There are about 8 scenes that we shot and will need to reshoot. The biggest ones are the last Chris/Miguel conversation at the Fort Worth Water Gardens as well as the next to the last scene of the show where Nathan and Chris meet in the Front Yard of the house and reconcile. I basically dumped all the scenes into Premier and matched the missing pieces to the script.


My next step will be to continue the editing process and narrow down the scenes and bits to reshoot. It is getting to be that time of year again that will match the original shoot (nature wise) so by the time I am ready to reshoot the shots will match up fairly well.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Process of Creativity

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

I’m very interested in the process of creativity. I think sometimes that the story of how or why something was written is more interesting than the writing itself. I guess it just depends on my mood.

Have you ever listened to commentary on a DVD? I listen to a lot of commentary. (Well, that’s not entirely true, because I don’t watch a lot of movies, but often when I do, I’ll listen to the commentary as well.) The commentary I like best is the type that talks mostly about the behind the scenes stories, the less pretentious the better. It’s really weird to me how some commentaries can lack information and entertainment, and some are just as entertaining as the movie.

I think sometimes that people do get secretive, and I get it. I write many things that I never plan to explain. It feels sometimes like it takes the wind out of the sails. But stories about the process don’t always have to give away secrets about meaning or anything like that.

I’ll tell you an odd truth. Sometimes I choose what to work on based on how interesting the explanation of the project will be. I wrote a sketch during Season One of “According To Whim” called “Subtlety.” It’s a very long, very dry sketch. If you can follow the dialogue, there is a little philosophical thought to be had. I doubt I will ever rank it up there as one of our best sketches. What I will say though is that there is a relatively interesting story about the process that went into its creation. I reference Calvin and Hobbes and their sled rides where they discuss deeply philosophical life things. This was my way of doing one of those comic strips as a sketch. Furthermore, the end of the sketch references a sketch from the show I did with Miguel where I told four jokes that all had the same punch line, which is all “Subtlety” is.

Much the same can be said about the “Temp Worker” sketch, which was an idea I had based on creating a week worth of four panel comic strips. We only did five days since it was supposed to be a work week. I used Scott Adams’s model of the six factors of humour to create the situations and punch lines. Read “The Joy of Work” by Scott Adams if you’re interested in what I’m talking about. The book in general is just Dilbert goofiness, but the section I’m talking about is one of the most interesting reads I’ve found about the process of creating humour.

I’m not saying that nothing is worth doing without an interesting story about the process. I’m simply saying that sometimes choosing a work that has a story behind its creation can be a good way to choose what to do.

One story about process that is very relevant here is that sometimes rather than coming up with an idea that can be written or otherwise created, I will instead try to come up with a different way that something can be created. Sometimes you end up with gimmicks by doing that, and you certainly want to avoid that when possible, but if you have a truly good idea, then go for it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Little White Wonder on Wooden Waggon Wheels

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

I bought my 2001 Ford Ranger back in... 2001. I have always taken to heart what my Aunt told me many many years ago. 'If you are going to buy something that expensive, buy it new'. Now most economist and money savvy people will tell you to never buy a new car but I can see what she means. If you buy a new car you should have to worry about it. To me buying a used car might be smart (money wise) but it is a scary proposition.

I think of myself of someone who takes care of stuff but even I don't pamper my vehicles that much so who knows how the average person treats their vehicle. I know it's not the smart money thing to do but it is nice to 'not have to worry' about something so important. As a quick rundown I initially owned my family's old 1986 Monte Carlo. I drove that for a few years until some electrical issue killed it. If I would have spent a couple hundred on it I could have continued using it but I just HAD to have something new. It was 1995 and bought a Ford Escort. I loved that little car. It was a hatchback so I was able to load it up when I needed to. I drove and drove that until the transmission started messing up. I decided to get a new truck in 2001 but even after I bought the ranger I kept driving the Escort for the fun (and economy of it). I kept it for another year and sold it to my roommate (who sold it on to some other person).

My 2001 Ford Ranger has done me pretty well. It currently has 149,250 miles on it. It has been acting funny for a few years now but nothing that has stopped me from driving. The first big issue I ran across was the lights in the cab wouldn't go out. I guess the door switch messed up. Then at some point I noticed that when I hit big bumps the engine jumps. The mounts for the engine must have broke some time in the distant past. About a year ago the windshield fluid sprayer stopped spraying (this is the most annoying thing of all). Also about a year ago I noticed that if I get the car up to 5k RPMs the motor would jerk and sputter like the fuel injector was clogged or something. I hardly ever need to get that high so I didn't bother with it. The check engine light comes on every so often then goes off but week before last it came on and stayed on.

Finally on the 24th the issue that I was having at 5k RPMs started happening at 3k RPMs. I started to nervously think about ditching the car seven months earlier than planned and getting something new now. I decided it wouldn't hurt to take it to Autozone and have them read the code for the check engine light. The code that came back was that the cylinders were misfiring. He suggested I start with new spark plugs. If that doesn't fix it then next is the distributor cap and wires. If that doesn't fix it then I am off to buy myself a new truck (or a VERY low mileage used one)... happy Chris?

BTW my wife hates the truck for some reason. She is the one that calls it the Little White Wonder on Wooden Waggon Wheels. May I point out that I have had that one truck to her having 4 vehicles...

UPDATE: The spark plugs didn't fix the issue so I took the truck to the Ford house and for $90 they told me the issue was that 2 of the heads were blown. It would cost (through them) $2,100 to fix it or $4,500 for a new engine. At that point I was really eyeing the new trucks but decided to wait (since the truck drives fine as long as you keep it under 3000RPMs). Chris is going to take my truck to his mechanic to get an estimate from them. We will see what the cost will be (from someone other than a dealership).

UPDATE: Chris took the truck to his mechanic and they can do the repair work on the heads for half the price that the dealership so I told him to make it happen. I will attempt to start saving to replace the truck in the distant future.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Running Down the Rundown

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

Nathan wrote on Tuesday about being so rundown and defeated feeling that nothing seems to matter… or was that Wednesday? Ah, who fucking cares?

But seriously folks… What did the bi-polar bear say? I’ll fuck anything that moves! Eh, I’ll just hibernate. The real question is how cold it is.

I’m really funny sometimes, and I wonder if it ever translates as well from my mind to the written word.

So Nathan was feeling a little down in the dumps, and maybe he still is. I don’t know because as I write this I’m at work rather than at our Thursday Meeting, which will probably be sometime this weekend instead. If that huge moth outside my car doesn’t break the windshield and carry me off.

What is bi-polar and manic-depressive really? As Nathan stated in his blog post, they are instances that everyone experiences at some point in their life. In our medication infatuated society, we tend to flip out a little bit when we experience the basic symptoms, and drink, take, medicine, do, dangerous, things, like, take, hard, drugs, make, rash, decisions, in, the, name, of, entitlement, or, use, too, many, commas.

,

There are people who are honestly afflicted with a chemical imbalance who do need medication to function from day to day. Most of us don’t. Our minor episodes with mania or depression just need a little tempering.

If I had to guess what has happened with Nathan is that he accomplished a whole lot in our first ten-weeks of goals, and when the dust settled he just found it hard to get back at it with the same zeal.

The trouble with mania is that it feels so good when you’re in the midst of it, and then it eventually settles. Nathan said, and I quote (though not directly), “Man, ah dont wan be frontin’, but dis shit feels a bit like the depression, even tho I no it ain’t.” That’s because it’s not depression. It’s just a lower point than the mania that was driving all that accomplishment. And we do all feel this. We feel like we accomplished so much, but at the end of the day, nothing much changed. It can be a little disheartening.

I wish I had a better answer than I’m about to give, but this is really it, without getting into things like drugs, alcohol, medication, and strippers… which is really just mania that you eventually get sick of too. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Nathan say, “I’m gonna quit licking Zoloft out of strippers belly buttons, washing it down with Jack and Coke, and sniffing heroin from the wrong end of a g-string.” I pretty sure it’s between zero times and never, but I don’t know. Maybe I’ll write it into a script.

The answer is to just get out of bed every morning and try. Unless you’re clinically depressed, you probably do this every day anyway. We all get to a point where we don’t want to go to our job, but we go, because we know we have to. When it comes to personal goals, it’s a little harder to deal with. There aren’t any clear consequences if you don’t work on your goals, aside from the consequence of not achieving them. Your job equals a paycheck equals a place to live and food to eat. That’s clear. Writing a blog each day and finishing Season Two equals having a daily blog and a completed TV show. It’s not quite as clear. But just like you get up and go to the job you’re tired of (again unless you’re clinically depressed, when you need to go see a doctor) you should just work on your personal goals a bit each day anyway. Sometimes that little bit of work won’t lead to anything that makes you feel any better, but sometimes you’ll find yourself interested in what you’re doing.

Consider the following to run down the rundown:

Just Do a Little – Maybe you’re more interested in doing than you thought, and maybe you’re not. You don’t know until you try. Before you try, you’re simply presuming you’re not.

What Do You Want To Do? – Nathan’s post said that he wasn’t interested in doing anything, but surely that’s not entirely true. Sometimes your activities have to match your mood. Having a clear idea of what your goals are in every aspect of your life can help, but it can become overwhelming if you’re not careful, leading to the next item.

Pace Yourself – Step one is to set realistic goals, or partially unrealistic goals with a realistic plan to achieve the goal. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of talk about planning. The fact is that if you set a goal for the next week to do something, you have to first figure out if you can do one-seventh of the goal each day. Let’s say you want to write a short story that you approximate will be 21 pages long. Can you write three pages a day? If you normally only have time to write two pages then you either have set an unrealistic goal, or you need to adjust to make it realistic.

Balance – If you like doing all of the following: writing, reading, listening to music, friend and family time, roller skating (I think some people still do that), watching TV, house and yard work, and solving crimes that stump Scotland Yard; you have to make sure that each of these things are represented in your goal plan. You have to make sure that they are represented and balanced, or you may wake up one day sick of TV and wondering why Scotland Yard never calls you anymore.

Take a Break – You might just need a break from the struggle of keeping up. Here’s the trick though. Don’t take a break against your will. The moment you look at a project and say, “I’m not interested in doing that, I’ll go do something else,” you’ve lost that battle. Your mind, the lazy part of your mind, has said, “I don’t wanna,” like a spoiled little kid, and you gave in. Tell yourself instead, “I’m going to work on this, as I have been, for the next two days, and then I’m going to take a break from it for two days.”

You Choose – If you say to yourself that you’re not interested in doing anything, there is actually no mystery as to why you don’t feel like doing anything. You just told yourself that you don’t, and you believe yourself. Build a buffer zone between the two states. Much like deciding to take a break but on your own terms – if you are not interested in doing something, pull out a notebook. Write a list of valid reasons why you’re not interested, and examine them. Call bullshit where you can. If you still feel you don’t wish to do it, write a list of things you can do instead. Make it your choice. Make yourself accountable. If you say, “I’m not interested and I don’t know why,” all you’re doing is placing the blame on something outside of you, because you don’t know “what” is causing it. By making yourself confront “what” is causing it, you make yourself accountable for what you feel.

At the end of the day, you just don’t let yourself feel depressed or defeated. You don’t have to feel happy or empowered. You just don’t give up. If you ever have trouble with even getting out of bed and trying then you might examine the possibility of clinical depression. Otherwise, you owe yourself an honest effort each day of your life, and to take breaks from honest efforts on your terms only.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Flash Ahhhh!: Episode Twelve – Redneck Dawn

by the According To Whim .com crew

(Part One by Nathan Stout)

[INT - VAN - DAY]

(Nathan and Miguel are sitting in Paul’s van along with Paul, Angelina, Chris, and the girls from The Healing Touche’. Everyone is packed into the tiny space and both Nathan and Miguel have looks of ecstasy on their faces, as both of their heads are planted between the huge boobs of the women.)

ANGELINA: What are we going to do now?

PAUL: I’m not sure, just keep driving. I’m not totally sure we have lost them yet.

(The van zips in and out of streets and alleys in the Como area of Fort Worth.)

CHRIS: I think we should pull over and calm the fuck down.

NATHAN: NO!

MIGUEL: NO!

PAUL: I agree. If they catch us now we can kiss ourselves goodbye.

CHRIS: Fine. Why the hell do you two have the smiles of the freshly lobotomized on your faces?!

(Nathan and Miguel say nothing, they just make sure they do exaggerated jostling when the van hits any bumps in the road.)

CHRIS: Damn it’s hot in here.

(Miguel and Nathan say nothing as the sweat makes the sliding against the girls’ boobs even more enjoyable.)

CHRIS: Am I the only one irritated!?

(Nathan and Miguel nod their heads vigorously.)

PAUL: What’s the matter?

CHRIS: Nathan has lost yet another business, and he doesn’t seem the least unhappy about it.

(Nathan’s eyes are crossed in delight.)

CHRIS: See?!

PAUL: We have more serious things to worry about. The professor is pulling out all the stops to find you.

CHRIS: Find me? How about blow me up?!

ANGELINA: It’s possible. If they feel they can’t get you, they would need to eliminate you.

PAUL: I agree. And apparently so do Nathan and Miguel.

(After a while longer of driving Angelina pulls into an abandoned gas station.)

ANGELINA: Let’s take a breather. Nathan and Miguel are obviously in shock and need some fresh air.

(They both shake their heads back and forth vigorously.)

MAN: Hey you!

(Angelina gets out of the van along with Paul, as someone in a truck pulls up in front of the van.)

MAN: You’re trespassin’.

ANGELINA: We have a couple of people in our party who are in distress, and we needed to pull over.

MAN: This here is private property.

ANGELINA: Like I said...

MAN: I am the caretaker of this property and you are trespassing. You need to get off of it right...

(Angelina puts the silencer quickly back into her waistband and steps up to the truck, reaches over the dead man and slips the truck into park.)

ANGELINA: Fucking Texans.

(Angelina opens the van doors, and the girls from The Healing Touche’ pile out. Nathan and Miguel slide down the seats into the floor, nearly lifeless. One of the girls moves forward to Nathan, reaches down into his pants, and pulls out his wallet.)

WOMAN: That will be fifty bucks for the thrill, boys.

(There is a screeching as two black vans pull into the parking lot. Out of the van pours agents, the professor, and men in SWAT uniforms. Three other people join the professor from out of the last van. The three others look rather normal.)

PAUL: Oh shit.

(The women from The Healing Touche' all produce guns from who-knows-where and form up behind Angelina and Paul. Chris is pretending to tend to Nathan and Miguel who are recovering from their near-fatal titting.)

ANGELINA: Professor...

PROFESSOR: My dear...

PAUL: Not him too?!

(One of the agents pulls out a dampening gun. Paul flicks his hand in the general direction of the agent. The gun flies twenty feet away and smashes to the ground.)

PROFESSOR: Really...

CHRIS: Wha?

(End of Part One)

(Part Two by Chris McGinty)

(EXT – SOME RANDOM PARKING LOT – DAY)

(There is a tense situation a brewin’, and no one seems to have made coffee to discuss things over.)

ANGELINA: Professor, I don’t understand. When last we met, well before the helipad, part of me remembers you walking, but part of me remembers you in the wheelchair.

PROFESSOR: I fell into a continuity glitch. It left me in this wheelchair.

ANGELINA: Is a continuity glitch anything like a plot hole.

PROFESSOR: Yeah, except you come out covered in gelatinous crap, like in Poltergeist.

(Chris is kneeling in front of Miguel and Nathan, and their stupid stupor. He waves his hands before their faces, and gets no response. He snaps his fingers, and gets no response from his fingers, because he’s never learned to snap his fingers. He makes up something about boobs waiting for them in the van, and they perk up.)

NATHAN: Really? Where?

CHRIS: Nowhere. I was just trying to bring you back to reality.

MIGUEL (looking around): Reality doesn’t look too appealing right now. What the hell is going on?

CHRIS: What’s the last thing you remember?

MIGUEL: The bombshells.

CHRIS: Oh, so you remember the shop getting attacked?

MIGUEL: The shop got attacked!?

(Chris rests his face in his palm, and rubs his eyes. He can hear Angelina, Paul, and the professor arguing about something.)

CHRIS: You remember that we all have super powers, except that Angelina diminished Nathan’s ability… and her girls seem to have diminished his mental faculties.

NATHAN: Have you ever really thought about boobs, Chris?

CHRIS: Yes, but only in my most philosophical hours. Anyway, you might remember the professor who registered our powers with the government.

MIGUEL: Yeah, he was nice.

CHRIS: Except that he’s trying to capture me since I have the power to move at incredible speeds, and if he can’t capture me it seems that killing me is an acceptable alternative.

MIGUEL: Well, he seemed nice at least.

CHRIS: Well, he’s here. He brought two vans. The first van contained the professor, his agents, and a SWAT team. The second van had three normal looking guys who are hanging around all mysteriously without explanation.

MIGUEL: They’re probably performance auditors.

CHRIS: We can hope, I guess. Here’s the thing though. I’m not sure who we can trust. Paul seems too benign to be a danger to us, but the professor warned me against him, and Paul has a power that we didn’t know about. And sure, the professor warned me, but the professor wants me captured or dead. Meanwhile, Angelina seems to be working against Paul while working for Paul. She took Nathan’s ability to read minds, so he never was able to read her intentions. She seemed to know that the shop was going to be attacked based on my phone call. And while she and her girls are pretending to be penis experts, there was no indication of prostitution in The Healing Touche’.

NATHAN: Have you ever really thought about boobs, Chris?

CHRIS: No less than a hundred times a day.

MIGUEL: What’s with the puddle of blood over there?

(Chris looks to where Miguel is pointing. He realizes that the body of the abandoned gas station owner has got up and walked away.)

CHRIS: That’s the inner fluids of the guy Angelina shot. Either the wound wasn’t as bad as it looked, or he has some sort of regenerative ability.

MIGUEL: Or he drank that now empty bottle of whiskey, and got his health back.

CHRIS: Miguel, that’s ridicu…

(The sound of a shotgun goes off with a deafening report.)

GAS STATION REDNECK: Get off my land!

CHRIS: Seriously?

(Everyone turns to look. There are about a few dozen clones of the Gas Station Redneck, and they’re all armed.)

MIGUEL: Nathan’s been hit!

(Chris turns to see that there is a huge hole in Nathan’s pants around his hip, which is smoking from the heat of the bullet. Chris doesn’t see blood yet, but he doesn’t hesitate.)

CHRIS: Help me get him into Paul’s van.

(Chris and Miguel haul Nathan into the van and shut the door.)

CHRIS: Paul’s Driver, I need you to get us out of here before everyone who has a gun, which seems to be just about everyone but us, opens fire.

(The driver doesn’t say anything, nor does he start the van, probably out of loyalty to Paul. Chris looks at Nathan’s wound, except that there is no wound.)

CHRIS: Do you have a steel cigarette lighter in your pocket, or did all those credit cards in your wallet finally do you some good.

(Chris reaches into Nathan’s pocket, and pulls out the piece of paper that was given to Nathan by the “Tidy Cab” lawyer.)

CHRIS: This piece of paper stopped a bullet?

NATHAN: It is a cease and desist.

CHRIS: Why is the van not driving us to safety?

(The driver still says nothing, but right at that moment a gun fight breaks out, and the van seems to be right in the middle of it. Glass shatters, bits of the van scatter, and the driver’s blood splatters. It’s very loud, very scary, and very messy)

MIGUEL: Holy shit! Holy fuck! Chris what’s happening!

CHRIS: Bad things, Miguel.

(Nathan stands. He moves the body of the driver aside, and tries to start the van, but the barrage of bullets have clearly hit something very important, like the starter. He looks out the window briefly, and then ducks into the back of the van.)

NATHAN: Everyone is using vehicles as cover. They’ll surely all be disabled by the time we could possibly get to one. Those rednecks are coming out of the woodwork. Angelina and her girls, Paul, and the professor’s team are all working together to square off against… what’s that?

(They listen closely, and they hear a helicopter. Nathan moves back to the front seat, moving carefully as stray bullets keep pelting the van. He looks out, and then returns to the back of the van.)

NATHAN: It’s the assault team that took out the shop.

MIGUEL: The question is whether the professor called them in or Angelina.

CHRIS: It hardly matters. If those creepy rednecks win this fight then they’ll likely kill us. If anyone else wins, then I’ll likely be captured, and maybe killed.

(Suddenly the van door opens and then shuts, and Chris is gone.)

NATHAN: Did that fucker just leave us to rot?

(The van door opens and shuts again, and Chris is back holding three shotguns.)

CHRIS: We’re going to have to fight our way out.

NATHAN: I don’t know nothing ‘bout birthin’ no babies.

CHRIS: No one’s asking you to…

NATHAN: I don’t know anything about combat either.

CHRIS: You eat all those freeze dried army rations. You’re practically a warrior. You know, I actually think of you as my own personal John Rambo.

NATHAN: Really? Let’s get out there and fight.

MIGUEL: What about me?

CHRIS: Um, I think of you as that one from “Commando.”

MIGUEL: Really? John Matrix?

CHRIS: No, the one played by Rae Dawn Chong.

MIGUEL: Rae Dawn Chong?

CHRIS: Now, let’s get out there and fight.

MIGUEL: Rae Dawn Chong?

CHRIS: Sure. If that’s your battle cry, then Rae Dawn Chong!

NATHAN: Rae Dawn Chong!

MIGUEL: Eh, we’re going to die either way. Rae Dawn Chong!

(And with Paul, Angelina, the professor, a SWAT team, possible auditors, and a band of ruthless hit-women and mercenaries on one side; psychotic redneck clones on the other side; and a massive assault team coming by land, Lake Como, and air pretty much everywhere else; our three heroes step out of the van ready to die or die trying. Rae Dawn Chong, indeed.)

(End Episode Twelve)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Review: TSR's The New/Classic Dungeon Game

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Today I will talk about a great old board game called The New Dungeon (or also known as The Classic Dungeon). The game is by TSR (the makers of Dungeons & Dragons).

In the 80's TSR came out with Dungeon, a board game-simplified version of their Dungeons & Dragons role playing game. A few years later they released an upgraded version (bigger board and some changed rules and such) called 'The New Dungeon'. A couple of years later they came out with another edition of the 'The New Dungeon' called 'The Classic Dungeon'. This is the same game with new artwork.

I purchased both the 'New' and 'Classic' Dungeon games at various Goodwill stores for dirt cheap. They seem to be completely interchangeable.


In the game you pick a character and dash about a dungeon fighting monsters and collecting gold. Once you have a certain amount of gold (listed on the character's card) you head back to the 'start' and win the game. You can play with simplified rules where all players have the same abilities and gold goal. In the advanced game you choose from a larger range of characters with their own unique abilities.

  • Warriors - Average strength character
  • Elfs - Average with a little better chance to find hidden doors
  • Thief - Average with extra ability to ambush other players (to steal their treasure)
  • Wizard - Ability to use spells but weak against hand to hand (weapon) attacks.
  • Paladin - Less than average but with ability to heal
  • Dwarf - Slow but tough character

Things you can do in this game (besides attacking monsters) are:

  • Ambush the other players to steal a piece of treasure.
  • Use special abilities in certain chambers in the dungeon (like transporting, healing, and spell recharge).
  • Roll to 'attempt' to 'find' secret doors on the map.

Some of the treasure items you get off of monsters don't have a gold value but are useful in playing the game. They are:

  • Pendants for using ESP (see monster's stats in a room you are about to enter).
  • Charms for automatically finding secret doors (very useful).
  • Swords that give your combat rolls bonuses.
  • Pendants that allow you to mentally see creatures AND treasures in any room on the map.

The game play is fun and once you get done the basic rules it is a lot of fun. The more players the better the game gets. There are only a finite number of treasures so if you have a lot of players you will eventually have alto of ambushing going on. Players can also play cooperatively to defeat really tough monsters.

I highly recommend this game. You can read more about it at BoardGameGeek.com

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Trainwreck Idol – Top 11

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

It was Motown Week on American Idol, which promised to be both wonderful and awful. It would be wonderful because there were so many great songs produced by the Motown label. It would be awful because some of these people aren’t talented enough to sing them.

Jennifer’s makeup was over made. I just felt like I should say that.

I’ll start out by saying that I had it right about the bottom three last week. I would say that I should have gone for broke and guessed who would go home, but I think I would have picked Naima, and that would have been wrong.

Casey did “Heard It through the Grapevine.” I’m not so sure I liked it as much as I’ve liked his past performances. There are some contestants who no matter how good they are have only one voice. I didn’t realize that he’s one of them.

Thia was fantastic. They were giving her shit about singing a bunch of drowsy ballads, so she went with “Heat Wave.” She was very good, but I’ve liked her every week, even when she’s been drowsy.

Jacob sang “You’re All I Need to Get By.” I’d never heard the song before, but he sounds so great every time he performs. Every year I feel like there is someone who we should just give the title to. This year it’s Jacob. That whole thing with the front row coming up hug him was funny as hell.

Lauren did “Keep Me Hanging On.” This is an odd song because I’ve always liked Kim Wilde’s cover almost better than the original, but I love the song generally speaking. She did very well. I’ve been waiting for her to really step away from the country, so I’m happy.

Stefano thought doing Lionel Richie’s “Hello” was a good idea. It was an intricate mix between lounge act and Latin lounge act. It was pretty horrible. Jennifer tried to spin it positively, and it took her awhile. Then Randy jumped in to try to spin it positively. I called bottom three for Stefano and it was only five contestants in. I decided I would stick with that prediction no matter what happened after.

Haley was awful too, trying to do Smokey Robinson as “smoker’s voice.” Ugh. The judges liked it for some reason. Oh wait; I know what that reason is. They have nothing bad to say. They’re hardly judges anymore. The competition is getting to the point that the truly mediocre singers are almost all phased out. This is the point that the bottom three could start seeing actually good singers in it, and the judges aren’t saying it.

Scotty did “For Once in My Life.” Have I mentioned that he has a good country voice? This was like Elvis covering the Jackson 5. That’s not meant as a good comparison.

Pia did “All in Love is Fair,” which I’ve never heard. She always sings very well. The judges are complaining about the ballads. I think it’s making her a little non-descript. She’s just that girl that’s really good.

Paul did Smokey Robinson too, and his voice is better suited to it, but I didn’t really like it. It was his best performance since “Maggie May” but I’m still not about him.

Naima did “Dancin’ in the Streets.” I hate that song. It’s one of the worst songs ever. It’s up there, or rather down there, with “Locomotion.” Her voice was strong on the song. There is that. Her performance was good, busting out with an interesting dance solo will probably set her apart enough to be back next week. The song is just awful though.

James did Stevie Wonder “Living for the City” or something like that. I’m not too familiar with it, though I think I’ve at least heard it before. James would have been really good in the hair band era. Just grow his hair out, bleach it, tease it, and learn how to pucker his lips at the camera, and the voice would do the rest. I thought he did a good job with this song. It maintained a Stevie Wonder feel while certainly being in a style of his own.

I’m having a tough time this week deciding what will happen with the bottom three. I’m still going to say Stefano, because I promised myself I would. Here’s why I was so bitter earlier about the judges talking everyone up. Not only does it not help the contestants see their flaws, but it makes it harder for me to predict the bottom three. I want Paul in the bottom three, but when the judges talked about him like he was so great. I didn’t want to call it. I don’t really have that gauge this week.

This leaves me using the trends to make a guess. I think Scotty should go, but I think he’s got a loyal following. Thing is that his performance may chip away at that following a little. Naima would be an almost automatic choice for me for bottom three, except that I think she may have got a few extra votes this week for her trouble. I’m going to say Stefano, Naima, and Haley. Based on performance, Stefano should be gone, but Haley has been in the bottom three the whole time (I think) so she’ll go sooner rather than later.

I’m going to try something now. What do I think the Top 6 will look like? In order of what I think will happen, first being the winner, second being runner up, and so forth: Pia, Jacob, James, Lauren, Casey, and Thia. Unless Lauren goes back to country too often, in which case, swap her with Thia. I’m probably being too optimistic that Paul will get booted soon. I think that Paul will get the judge’s save when they finally vote him off the week of Top 8. Scotty will go Top 7 for some odd reason, meaning that starting with Haley or Stefano this week, the bottom three I chose will all go soon.

Since the likelihood of me being completely right is not too high, I will say that a lot of that prediction is subject to everyone’s talent level staying about the same in weeks to come. Unless something drastic happens in the coming weeks to make me revisit my thoughts here, I’ll just let it go until the Top 6 is chosen, and then see how well I called it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Feeling Rundown

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Do you ever get the feeling of being rundown? Not just rundown, but run-out. Something akin to begin depressed but you can't actually say that. That's what I have been experiencing lately.

Here at According To Whim we usually communicate with each other using a Yahoo! Group. We try to post a few times a week to keep in contact and let each other know what we are working on. A post like this one that you are reading is would normally go into that group as a post but I thought I'd talk with everyone about it today. I think most people get this way every once in a while and can relate.

The fact is that I am not in bad health (that I know). I don't have massive money problems. I don't have family drama. I don't have friend or work drama (at least nothing out of the normal). For some reason I feel generally depressed. That is a big, ugly word and shouldn't be used to flippantly (which is usually is now-a-days) but it is the best phrase I can find.

I have been battling this for a few weeks now. Chris knows what I mean because we have been having discussions on the Yahoo! Group about it too. I have been complaining about our direction as a group and have been generally avoiding any creative work.

I would have to say that my big issue is lack of interest. I seem to have lost interest in most everything. Like I said I don't feel bad (per se) but I don't feel like doing anything. I have no interest in doing anything. Usually I will have an interest in one or two things and be doing a few projects (like stuff around the house or working on the show) but lately I don't.

I have the feeling that most people get like this from time to time. They run off and get pills to 'fix it' and only wind up not feeling anything (they just don't care about it anymore).

I thought perhaps I need a reboot. You know how computers need to be rebooted every once in a while... people need that too. Most people will tell you they need time off (a vacation or something) but I have never been big on vacations but maybe I need one.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Durandatory Duran: Nathan’s First Concert

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

You may have heard the term “opposites attract,” and that may explain how it is that I’ve been friends with a guy for, let’s see I think we met in 1999 and it’s now 2011… that I’ve been friends with a guy for 6.88 years, give or take, who has never been to a concert. Until now. And “All You Need is Now.”

On March 18, 2011, Nathan and his wife drove up to Winstar Casinos in Thackerville, OK. At roughly the same time, my dad and I were picking up my brother and sister, and we all drove up to the same casino. Was it to gamble? No, though Nathan and his wife did a little. Was it to look at boobs? No, though I did a little. Was it to see the greatest band ever, perform live? Well, according to me, yeah. It seems others have a different belief. An online friend once told me that her friend said that Duran Duran was the second greatest band ever, but she couldn’t remember what he said the first was.

Anyway, there is so much to talk about. When I saw Duran Duran in February, I wrote well over 2,000 words about it, and one of these days I will certainly post that up. Luckily, having attended with Nathan, we were able to do an audio show about the whole sordid affair. Well, it wasn’t really all that sordid. It was just fun.

Nathan will post a link here to the audio show.

This is the set list for the Duran Duran show for those of you who are interested in that sort of thing:

All You Need is Now, Being Followed, The Reflex, Notorious, Safe (In the Heat of the Moment), Friends of Mine, Leave a Light On, Ordinary World, Mediterranea, Girl Panic, Careless Memories, Sunrise, Wild Boys, and Rio. Then the encore was A View to a Kill and Girls on Film.

As a quick side note, I saw Helmet with Miguel on March 17, 2011. We also did an audio show, but since we rode together we did it on the way to and on the way from. I have to upload the files to the website.

At which point, Nathan will post a link here.

I also saw Uh Huh Her on March 20, 2011. There is no audio show for that one, so let me tell you a little about it. My biggest disappointment about it was that I wasn’t very familiar with much of the set. I’m only really familiar with the “Common Reaction” album. They didn’t play much from it, and what they did play weren’t my favourites. They didn’t play “Common Reaction,” “Covered,” “Say So,” or “I See Red.” Those are the songs that kept me listening to them, though I like all the songs, and those song made me feel I had to see them live when they toured.

Aside from that, I did really enjoy the show. I made the mistake of thinking I would get a t-shirt after the show, and then they announced that they would be doing a meet and greet at the merchandise booth. So everyone lined up, and I found myself having to stick around a bit to get a t-shirt. I got their new EP, which is really good, and they signed it.

Camila Grey was in a band called Mellodrone before. I’d never heard of them, but when I listened to some of their stuff I thought they were pretty good. The problem is that the online information was pretty unclear about what albums she played on if any. So I asked her, since she was there, when she was with Mellodrone. She said that she joined when they were touring for “Box.” I asked, “So you weren’t on the album?” She said, “No.” Ok, good enough right. I thanked them for playing. They thanked me for coming. I left. I later realized that what I meant to ask was if she was on any albums. What I asked was whether she played on “Box.” Doh! They way that the timeframe falls with “Box” coming out in 2006, and the first Uh Huh Her EP coming out in 2007, I’m presuming her entire time with Mellodrone was as a touring musician.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Getting the house fixed - Foundation on a mobile home

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

I am sure you have read about me trying to sell my house for a couple of years now. Technically we did sell it (twice) but the financing for the buyers fell though both times (in 2009 and in 2010).

One of the bi issues for me was the leveling of the house. It has always been dubious (but only just so). There are two additions that were added after the mobile home was bought by the original owners. The man who did it wasn't a professional carpenter and it shows. He didn't do a good job with the piers and beams so the house suffered. It was also built on an incline with no drainage so that just set the property up for disaster.

As anyone who has EVER had to deal with foundation issues (cracks in walls, around door frames, etc) you will know that it all comes down to how wet or dry the ground around and under your house is. Well my house (with the addition sitting on a slope) has been moving up and down for years now. As the ground gets wet under the house the dirt swells and that raises the piers. As the ground gets dried out, the house sinks as the dirt returns to its original postition.

Walking in my house (in the additions) have always been an adventure in balance. You are walking along and suddenly you are going up or down. At certian points you can actually see the slant in the floor.

Back in 2007 I tried to get my house leveled so I hired a mobile home moving company that also leveled mobile homes to come out. This was out $500 and they did very little work for that amount of money. They basically refused to touch the additions because it was actually going be hard work.

So a few years later I tried one or two times to level that part of the house myself with not much myself. I could do this sort of work, but I could never get it right. I started looking in 2010 for companies that did house leveling and finally got a couple of companies to come out and give me estimates. One company (a real house foundation company) estimated nearly $3,000 just to do the irrigation (the main issue in a house with my issues). The next guy I got out gave me a good price to do the leveling, irrigation, add proper tiedowns (something you have to have to sell a mobile home), and skirting. The skirting was in really bad shape and let in any old animals to tear up my insulation.

I agreed and they came out and started tearing up stuff. It took them six days total but it finally got finished. I am not 100% happy with the leveling but I doubt anyone can get it right (with so many variables). The skirting looks great and the irrigation should help with the further movement of the house.

This has been a six year search to get all this stuff done but it is finally done! Now I have a few other things to get done but I can rest assure that if and when we ever decided to sell we can confidently rely on the foundation, skirting, irrigation, and tiedowns.

Before (the slope).

After (the slope).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pac-Man, Risk, and Guitar Hero

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

I have one thought about Pac-Man referring to Risk, and then a few thoughts about Guitar Hero.

I read this bit about Pac-Man:

http://blog.games.yahoo.com/blog/443-five-things-you-never-knew-about-pac-man

The section entitled, “Each ghost had specific orders,” is what I found the most interesting. A while back, when I was still rocking my Commodore 64 as my primary computer (go ahead guess, it was probably more recent than whatever you guess is), I bought the C-64 version of the classic board game Risk. My biggest complaint about this version was the AI. The computer players had one goal in mind, which was to destroy the human players. The problem with that, of course, is that if you were the only human player in a six player game, you would not even come in fifth place. I tried. I would hole up in Australia, if I could take it, and let them fight it out as I stockpiled armies, but it never seemed to work out anyway, and it was boring. What I ended up doing was either playing me against one computer, or three me against three computers, but that’s still not the spirit of Risk.

I think the problem with the Risk game could have been easily solved by giving each computer player a different style of play, much the way that Pac-Man made the game a bit more balanced by not having all four ghosts specifically trying to take out Pac-Man. From the article:

“Instead, it's only Blinky, the red ghost, who doggedly pursues you throughout the game. Pinky, the pink ghost (naturally), simply wants to position itself at a point that's 32 pixels in front of Pac-Man's mouth. The blue ghost, Inky, is seeking to position itself at a similar fixed spot. And Clyde, the orange ghost, moves completely at random.”

In Risk one computer could always go after the player with the most armies that it can attack, one could go after the player with the most territories that it can attack, one could go after the player with the most army gain per turn that it could attack, one could have it out for the human players, and one could attack randomly. It may not still have been as balanced as playing a real game of Risk with human players, but it would have been far more balanced than, “Everybody kill the human!”

I read a blog about Activision dropping the Guitar Hero franchise citing a decline in sales in the music genre:

http://blog.games.yahoo.com/blog/374-activision-axes-guitar-hero-franchise/

One commenter on the blog said that Rock Band isn’t suffering. Whether or not he had valid information, I don’t know. What I do know is my own personal experience. It seems like every time I open up a Game Informer magazine there is some new Guitar Hero or Rock Band product being reviewed. As a fan of music games, I am reasonably happy that there are so many games to play, and that Rock Band has moved in the direction of more realistic instruments. I just wonder if maybe they over did it.

Let’s look at it this way. If once a year there was a new Guitar Hero title released, it would probably sell pretty well, right? Even Rock Band could have a once a year release and it would probably be a pretty big seller. But what happens when between the two franchises there seems to be a new game out quicker than even the most avid fans of the games can complete the last game they bought? Do they really rush out to buy the new one?

It seems that everything I’ve read wants to act like the genre either started sucking, or the fans were fickle at best. This kind of thinking might lead a game company to do something rash, like drop a whole franchise to focus on what’s hot right now. I’m not knocking them for putting their resources where their resources need to be. I just wonder why they wouldn’t continue to develop a new game each year, and let the music game community miss it a little while. It’s possible that they don’t wish to reinvent the wheel to follow Rock Band into the more realistic instrument arena, and I guess that would be entirely valid. Sales aren’t quite as valid to me as long as the games are profiting, but I don’t know the gaming business. They may be making the right decision moving their people to games that need the attention, and will bring in enough money to keep the company going.

My hope is for a smaller publisher to purchase the publishing rights to Guitar Hero. It’s happened with other franchises, some of which have been revitalized by the new publisher. If that doesn’t happen, I simply hope that the makers of Rock Band stick it out. I feel that the music games genre has many new and interesting directions it can still go, but it needs to be supported by publishers that believe it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Flash Ahhhh!: Episode Eleven – Between 10th and 11th

by the According To Whim .com crew

(Part One by Nathan Stout)

[INT - SHOP - NIGHT]

(Taco Hell wrappers are spread all over the shop floor, and everyone is lounging around the small collectible shop.)

PAUL: What is that racket you are listening to?

CHRIS: This is a mix CD I made for Nathan. It’s designed to introduce him to music he loves but never knew it.

NATHAN: He’s right.

PAUL: Sounds like crap.

ANGELINA: I like it.

PAUL: Really, then why don’t you go fuck it?

CHRIS: Do I detect some bitterness about our ass-kicking vixen?

NATHAN: Yes.

PAUL: Shut up.

MIGUEL: Arrrrggg. I’m so bored here!

PAUL: You know, I think this was an excellent idea for a hide out. You have not had one customer.

NATHAN: Mew.

CHRIS: You should have known... location, location, location.

NATHAN: But YOU and Paul picked this place!

CHRIS: But you decided to start a business here. I never told you to do that.

NATHAN: Well, it sure seemed like that’s what you expected!

CHRIS: Did I say it? Did I think it? Go on, look.

(Nathan pauses, looking at Chris.)

NATHAN: Urm.

CHRIS: How many times do I have to tell you I’m always right?

MIGUEL: Oh man... I’m going crazy in here.

ANGELINA: We have to stay put for a couple of days. The professor will have his forces out in... force. By the way you are so hot.

(Miguel smiles; happy to be able to use his power to relieve his boredom. Angelina slaps him across the face.)

ANGELINA: Do it again and I will cut your nuts off.

NATHAN: Too late.

MIGUEL: Yeah, he’s right.

CHRIS: Hey, you all aren’t paying attention to me! Hello!

PAUL: Will you just shut up for a second?

NATHAN: Good luck.

ANGELINA: Shut it.

MIGUEL: Booooorrrrreeeedddd.

(Suddenly everyone shuts up as someone actually comes into the shop.)

NATHAN: Hi.

CUSTOMER: Oh hi.

(The customer browses the comic and collectible type items in the shop for a full hour and a half before talking again.)

CUSTOMER: Do you guys have any National Geographic?

NATHAN: Uh, no. Sorry.

CUSTOMER: Hey, can I use your phone?

NATHAN: Sure.

(Nathan hands the young man the phone and he makes a call.)

CUSTOMER: Hello? Yeah, little old lady is in her shoe and all the kids are there too.

(The customer hangs up and gives the phone back.)

CUSTOMER: Thanks.

(The customer leaves and shortly after there is a popping noise outside. Nathan runs to the peeking flap and curses.)

NATHAN: I knew I recognized that noise. That fucker stole a bomb-bag.

ANGELINA: A what?

NATHAN: It’s a novelty that pops when the two chemicals mix inside this little bag.

ANGELINA: What?

PAUL: More IMPORTANTLY, what was that call all about?

NATHAN: You see this foil bag has baking soda in it...

PAUL: What about that suspicious call?

ANGELINA: Baking soda?

NATHAN: Yes, plus there is a little bag of vinegar and when you squeeze the inner bag it mixes the two chemicals together and the gas fills the foil bag and it will pop.

PAUL: What...

ANGELINA: Interesting. Let me see one.

NATHAN: Neat stuff. We get them from Moscow Trading Company.

PAUL: Is anyone listening to me?

CHRIS: I am.

(Chris walks to the phone and presses *69.)

(End of Part One)

(Part Two by Chris McGinty)

[INT – SHOP – NIGHT]

(Chris is listening to the phone ring and waits for someone to answer.)

CHRIS: Anime Renegade, where we hope to reverse our profit and loss as well.

PAUL: Is there someone on the other line?

CHRIS: No, just practicing.

(Angelina suddenly becomes very interested in the fact that Chris is on the phone, but Miguel doesn’t notice Angelina’s interest, because he’s too busy looking at her titties. Nathan doesn’t notice Angelina’s interest, because he’s too busy explaining about all the cool novelty toys they can order, while looking at her titties. Chris notices Angelina’s interest, but doesn’t pay it any mind, choosing instead to look at her… then the other line picks up. It’s a female voice.)

VOICE (over phone): Does the little old lady have the kids under control?

CHRIS: I think she dropped them off at the pool.

(There is silence on the other end.)

VOICE (over phone): Little Blue Boy. Confirm. Tick tock. Nine. Are stitches entwined?

CHRIS: The picture is developed. The cigars are lit. The veil is being raised.

(There is a longer silence this time.)

VOICE (over phone, nervously): Little Blue Boy. Confirm. Tick tock. Five. No one left alive?

CHRIS: This confirmation nonsense is giving me a headache.

(Chris hangs up the phone. He looks at Angelina who looks somewhat stricken with fear?)

ANGELINA: How did you know the clues?

CHRIS: My handy dandy notebook.

ANGELINA: What?

CHRIS: I don’t know what you’re talking about. I answered the phone, and the woman on the other end started going all “Mama my armchair is broken” on me, so I just made some shit up. Earlier Paul said, “The Healing Touché is a cover for a band of ruthless hit-women and mercenaries.” It put me in mind of one of the only bad episodes of “Nowhere Man,” so I said some stuff that referenced that show, and she acted all freaked out.

ANGELINA: Quick turn on the TV.

NATHAN: We only have a DVD/TV combo. It won’t pick up any stations.

ANGELINA: Then follow me down to The Healing Touché. We have a TV in there. We need to see how much damage you’ve done.

CHRIS: Why not just call your contact back?

ANGELINA: You said drop them off at the pool, which is the code for going silent after the following message.

MIGUEL: It is not. It’s a euphemism for taking a doo doo.

NATHAN: Doo doo?

MIGUEL: I have a kid.

(Angelina walks out of the shop. The four confused men follow her as she walks to the other end of the building, and walks into The Healing Touché. The Rick Springfield door chime announces that “We all need it, and I need it too.” They all walk in. Angelina turns the TV to the news while three women who might be a band of ruthless hit-women and mercenaries, and might also be rub down experts, look in surprise as the four men enter.)

NEWSCASTER: In a strange twist of events, an emergency order has been given to reinstate Bill Clinton to the office of The President of the United States of America.

NATHAN: I knew he had a way back in.

NEWSCASTER: This emergency order will last only long enough for bold decisions to be made concerning encrypted intelligence phoned in by a field operative codenamed Blue Boy, a mysterious figure who has a strange affinity for Bomb Bags from The Moscow Trading Company, and has been deep in Operation: Tight Blue Jeans. Every night in Tight Blue Jeans.

(Nathan rolls his eyes at the amount of stretching that took. Angelina turns to Paul in a girl panic. Nathan let’s that one go.)

ANGELINA: When Chris said he had a headache after reinstating Bill Clinton, it was code to bomb an Aspirin factory. They have these coordinates. I need to know if there is an Aspirin factory operation anywhere nearby.

(Chris thinks back to what he could have possibly said to get Bill Clinton reinst… oh…)

PAUL: Well, let’s see. There is of course The Healing Touché and Anime Renegade.

MIGUEL: What’s all this equipment?

GRRRL 1: It’s surveillance equipment.

(The TV cuts to a commercial. It’s a poorly drawn cartoon of a boy carrying a lollipop. He approaches an owl sitting in a tree.)

PAUL: There is also a church group.

NATHAN: Surveillance equipment? What about this closet over here. Is that where you keep the oils?

GRRRL 2: Oils? No, that’s where we keep the sniper rifles.

BOY (in TV commercial): Wise owl. How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Hoffman Pop?

PAUL: There’s a tax office.

MIGUEL: So where do you do the nasty with the men?

GRRRL 3: We find men nasty for sure, but we’re L Word, if you know what I mean.

MIGUEL: Hooker? Prostitute? No, I don’t know what you mean.

OWL (in TV commercial): One, two…

(There is a crunch as the owl bites into the Hoffman Pop chewy center. The owl hands the Hoffman Pop back to the boy.)

OWL: (in TV commercial): …three.

PAUL: There’s that Bauhaus Spa for Gothic folks who need to relax.

NATHAN: There’s not a single massage table in this entire space.

ANNOUNCER (in TV commercial): How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Hoffman Pop?

PAUL: There’s the chandelier and lamp repair.

NATHAN: There is no indication of skin trade anywhere in here. Is this a bone shop or not?

ANNOUNCER (in TV commercial): The world may never know.

PAUL: And the recording studio.

NATHAN: You said you were fucking a client.

ANGELINA: I meant that I was betraying Paul. You know. Fucking him.

PAUL: And the brass polisher.

NATHAN: But you went along with our assumptions that you were a prostitute.

ANGELINA: I went along with you guys having your minds in the gutter, as per usual. Is there any other businesses operating out of here, Paul?

PAUL: I think that’s about it.

ANGELINA: Thank goddess.

NATHAN: What’s that huge section right in the middle of the property?

PAUL: Oh yeah! That’s the Aspirin factory. How could I forget about that?

ANGELINA: Get out of here girls! Fast!

(Angelina and her co-workers rush out of the building.)

CHRIS: Um, even if we don’t fit the description of “girls,” I think we might want to get out of here fast as well.

(The four guys run out into the parking lot, and are met with an amazing sight. Angelina and her co-workers are standing there. And if that wasn’t amazing enough, when they look into the sky, they see fighter jets. They also see missiles being fired at the building. They all duck as the Aspirin factory in the middle of the plaza is blown to bits.)

CHRIS: Well, that was scary. I’m glad it’s over now.

ANGELINA: Oh no. It’s not over. You said the veil was being raised. They have orders to keep an all out assault going until you are dead or captured.

CHRIS: I know it’s pointless asking, Nathan, but can you read anything from any of the girls?

NATHAN: Still nothing.

ANGELINA: And it will remain that way. From the very moment that I rescued you from the “Tidy Cab” I’ve been running a disruptor ray that has not only blocked his ability, but has also diminished it. The security alarm I installed completed the job of neutralizing his ability to read minds altogether. And I have nice floppy titties.

(They all look at Miguel.)

ANGELINA: Unfortunately, they don’t have a disruptor ray for his ability yet.

(The jets make another fly by. They destroy The Healing Touché, and that entire side of the building. They look and see armed helicopters flying in. There is enough fire power to level the area five times over.)

CHRIS: The only way I see out of this is if I use my super speed to go get my car. Unfortunately, I can’t drive it at super speed, but I might make it back in time to get the two of you out of here. They might not completely raze the area until Angelina and her girls are out of here safely.

ANGELINA: You should realize that it’s a pointless task, Chris.

MIGUEL: And I have nice floppy titties.

CHRIS: You do, Miguel, but if I were you I wouldn’t be bragging. I’ll be back as quick as possible.

(Chris starts to run, but he runs no faster than a regular human male.)

ANGELINA: You talked too long, Chris. The helicopters have dampening fields.

CHRIS: This is not something that comic book heroes had to constantly deal with. Every time I can put my ability to a good use, there is a dampening field keeping me from doing so. And now Nathan is neutered.

NATHAN: That is to say that my power is neutralized, thank you.

MIGUEL: Well, we’ve been on Hoth for awhile now. It only makes sense that we would eventually have to fight the epic battle against the AT-ATs.

GRRRL 1: Does he always talk so weird?

CHRIS: Pretty much constantly.

NATHAN: I know I’m a curmudgeon, but one of my New Year’s resolutions was to look on the bright side of things.

CHRIS: And what do you see?

NATHAN: That at least the air strikes haven’t destroyed our precious shop.

(That is pretty much the moment that the third air strike flies over, and fires missiles right into the shop.)

NATHAN: Noooooooooooo!

(Just then a tiny little dot caught Nathan’s eye, it was just about too small to see, and he watched it way too long… and it hits Nathan right in the head, knocking him out. Chris looks at the item that flew out of the explosion and knocked Nathan unconscious. It’s the Light Cycle model.)

CHRIS: He’s right. We’ll never get rid of that thing.

Friday, March 18, 2011

David Zed - Robot Comedian, Songster, and more.

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)


Ladies and gentlemen I present to you: David Zed

It's probably a good bet you don't know who David Zed is (if you are American, that is). I didn't know who David Zed was until I stumbled across him last week.

I was browsing Kraftwerk music at work. If you don't know who Kraftwerk is... you need to go search for them. I suggest you look for their 2004 concert videos. Kraftwerk is a German Electronic band from the 70's. These dudes INVENTED Electronica. Their song Radioactivity is particulary topical (even after all these years thanks to the Japan Nuclear crisis). As I was browsing I saw one of the 'suggested' videos by a group called The Rockets. You probably haven't heard of the Rockets either. They are a 70's & 80's pop/electronic band from France that dressed like silver spacemen. I found their song Galatica and fell it love with it. I soon found out that The Rockets have a tribute band called The Universal Band which does a cover of Galatica that rocks.

Where was I??????

Oh yeah! I was browsing Kraftwerk, The Rockets, and The Universal Band and saw some song called 'Robot' by a guy named David Zed. It was a 80's Italian top 40 hit. It's pretty catchy (even if you can't understand what the hell he is singing about). He was also VERY good at doing 'the robot' (titled in Italian: Balla Robot). He really looks like an automaton. I did some more searching and found that David Zed also had a couple of other songs but I didn't really like that (sorry Dave).

On the same search results was this robot-themed comedian called Zed. I watched his clips (from various US shows like Regis and Kathylee). He does the whole 'comedian robot of the future' act. The strange thing is that I kept seeing this robot song mixed into the search results for this comedian.

I then started doing searches for name of the guy in the music video. I found his real name: David Kirk Traylor... Once armed with name I was able to discover so much more (including the Italian Wikipedia page).

Wait a second that robot song guy from the early eighties is this VERY American speaking Robot comedian??? Now I am really confused. The guy doesn't look like the robot guy (and vice versa). I did some more searching and yes, it is him. David Zed = David Kirk Traylor = Zed The First Robot Comedian. Thanks to the interwebs you can translate languages so I read the Italian Wikipedia page and the enigma known as David Zed unfolded before my eyes.

David Kirk Traylor moved to Italy in the 70's and found unexpected success and fame there. He made some songs (one being Balla Robot) which broke into the Italian top 40. At some point he gave up on the singing and made the transition to Robot comedian. That's where the real confusion happened for me. At first glance I wouldn't have thought someone to start out as an Italian singer then suddenly he is a comedian on American TV.

David became a household name in Italy and all across the globe with appearances on television including a show of his own on a satellite network. He appeared on many shows here in the US as a stand up comedian guest but never caught on.

Despite his lack of household name status in the US, he has done quote a lot of work. Check out his Internet Movie Database page. Pretty impressive list, huh.

So here is to you, David Zed. Thanks for the mini-mystery you presented to me!

Here are some more interesting links about David Zed:

  1. An Italian program that talks about when Zed performed for the Pope!
  2. Zed's Official website.
  3. Zed's act on a different show.
  4. David in an Italian show (without makeup) but he does a bit of his old song too!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Trainwreck Idol: Top 12 Trainwrecks

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

It was a rough night on American Idol. When I watch the show, I don’t usually walk away feeling like I lost an hour or two of my life. I feel that way after watching it today. I’m wondering if they’re going to have the same mentor the whole season too. I guess it would be alright, because the mentors usually don’t tell them much more of use than this guy is.

It was “year of your birth” night, and I realized that Thia is the only fifteen year old still left in the competition.

Naima did “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” by Tina Turner. It was a bad performance of a good version of the song.

Paul did “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” by Elton John. I don’t understand. Rod Stewart had an album in 1984, right?

Thia was good. I was thinking, it’s from 1995, it’s not grunge, I know it, and I have children. It must be Disney.

James was born in 1989. He did “I’ll Be There for You” by Bon Jovi. James was basically good, but Bon Jovi wasn’t basically good at all that year.

Haley did “I’m Your Baby Tonight” by Whitney Houston. She didn’t do well at all.

Stefano finally came out and did a real performance, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” which is just wrong for anyone to be doing Simply Red when Brett is gone. And it was their version, because it was year you were born, and Stefano was not born in 1972. I was. Because I’m 38.

Pia did “Where Do Broken Hearts Go?” She sang it well, but it was the gay club dance version of the song, so I didn’t like it from that perspective.

Scotty… have I ever mentioned that he has a good country voice.

Karen sings better in Spanish, strangely. She did “Love Will Bring You back” by Taylor Dayne. Taylor Dayne had a huge, strong voice and Karen didn’t.

Casey finally broke the instrument cherry. No one has used an instrument since the first competition show (Top 24). He did an ok job, but he did Nirvana’s “Smells LikeTeen Spirit,” which while a great song, isn’t vocally dynamic. It was one of those “bold moves” that contestants sometimes make to set themselves apart from the rest of the contestants, but it was wasted on a night of such bad performances.

Lauren was spectacular. She did “I’m the Only One” by Melissa Etheridge. She absolutely picked the right song. Her last couple of weeks had made me doubt her a little, but this brought back my confidence. And since singing isn’t the only factor that people tend to judge by, I want to say that I like her personality. She’s such a goofball. I’d like to hang out in a room with her and a bunch of other people for an hour just to be entertained.

Jacob wow. Just wow. That guy is so great. He did “Alone” by Heart. I always cringe when someone tries to sing something sung by Ann Wilson, because they always underestimate how good of a voice she has. To hear Heart, it doesn’t seem all that intimidating, but she has one hell of a powerful voice. When the song started out I was thinking he had made a mistake, but he turned it into something pretty amazing.

I’m not sure if I can pick a bottom three this week. It was all so terrible. The thing is that Haley and Karen were in the bottom last week, so it might stand to reason that they will end up there again, but neither of them was that bad compared to some of the others. I think that Paul should be in, but the judges are still talking him up. They more or less said, “That wasn’t good, but you’re so unique that we think you’re great.” So I’m going to guess Naima, Haley, and Karen. Stefano could end up in there, but I don’t think he should be. My first instinct last week was a little more right than my final guess. I said Stefano in both. He wasn’t in the bottom three. So I’ll say Naima, Haley and Karen.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Review: Zombieland

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

It's about time I finally got around to seeing this. I am really bad at not going to the movies or even getting movies when they first come out on DVD. I got rid of my Netflix account when we moved back from Fort Worth (since we got Dish) so my movie watching has really been lagging behind. I often rely on my mom (who buys movies on DVD like there is no tomorrow) for my new movie watching.


So Zombieland is this 'light hearted' look at the results of a zombie apocalypse. That dude who looks like that other dude stars in the movie along with Woody Harrleson and two actress chicks.


The movie is about a cross country trip in a land full of zombies. I have never seen the reason for the whole 'zombies are cool' pop culture thing. The movie is funny and the effects are pretty good.

Wow. That's about all I have to say about it. It focuses on the character interaction so that always makes me a little happier about anything. The zombies pretty much take a back seat to whats going on.

I won't go into the huge mistakes the female character make towards the end of the move by turning on all the lights at an amusement park (thus attracting tons of zombies)... ok I will. What the heck? These characters have seen NO ONE (with the exception of Bill Murray) all across the country so that tells us these girls must be pretty smart when it comes to surviving in this zombie filled world. Why o why would they do something so stupid like turning on everything at an amusement park?

What about the power? Why is everything still working all across the nation with no one alive to run it? Oh well...


I still enjoyed it and will probably borrow the sequel from my mom when it comes out on DVD (oh yeah, I'm sure there will be a sequel).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Why Bands Struggle

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

So this is what I was told a few hours ago. A band of musicians that quit their jobs to tour, paying their way in part with a tip jar, “… sounds like panhandling and being homeless.”

Let’s start with the homeless claim. First of all, that presumes that they don’t have homes waiting for them when they get back, and if they do then basically anyone who travels for a living is homeless by that reasoning. But whatever.

You know what sounds homeless to me? The moment my dad stops paying my rent for me, and I can’t find a full time job, in addition to the 50 plus hours I’m already working.

You know what sounds homeless to me? Not being able to pay the rent if your roommate(s) suddenly walk out on you, and you’re working any minimum wage job.

So what about panhandling? Well, a panhandler is someone who lies to you about what they need the money for, and gives you nothing in return, except occasionally to take watered down glass cleaner and a filthy rag, run it across your windshield, and leave more streaks than it started with. Actually, that sounds like politicians, minus the glass cleaner.

I’m guessing the point of contention for this person, who shall remain nameless so that I’m not accused of publicly airing out my laundry, is the tip jar. I guess that means that the wait staff at a restaurant are basically just panhandlers too. And the person who knocks on your door and mows your lawn when you don’t want to is just a panhandler too.

You know what sounds like panhandling to me? Hey dad, even though I work 50 plus hours, most of my paycheck goes to child support, so can you pay my rent?

You know what sound like panhandling to me? Going to the Department of Human Services and asking for food stamps because it’s next to impossible to survive on a minimum wage job.

At least those things sound about as much like panhandling to me, as putting a tip jar out when your band plays.

Let’s just discuss what that tip jar pays for real quickly. We’ll bring up a hypothetical bassist named Chris.

Chris buys a bass guitar for $150. He then buys an amp for $300. He teaches himself to play for at least five minutes (though for most people it’s more like days, weeks, months, and years). He decides not to spend $50 a week to get lessons, because many music teachers are people who aren’t making enough money by playing in a band, and he heard somewhere that people in bands are panhandlers.

Before Chris is actually able to do anything with his talent, he has to listen to everybody he knows tell him that he’s not all that talented, he’s a fool for trying to join a band, there’s no money in being in band, he needs to grow up and have real dreams like everyone else (dreams like fucking their way into a better paycheck, or marrying for money), and that once again, he’s not all that talented.

By the time he can get past the self doubt that has been instilled by everyone else (making it weird that it is still technically self doubt) he sees the people who just quit their jobs, and started pursuing their dreams, as almost heroes, because they had the guts to pursue their dreams. But they aren’t heroes. They don’t rescue people from burning buildings. They don’t fight the wars that our presumed leaders feel are best for us. They don’t get stuck trying to stop nuclear reactors from destroying their country, as the presumed leaders flee to safety to live to start other important wars another day. But really, these bands that pursue their dreams aren’t heroes, and neither is the guy who serves you your McNuggets, or the woman who turns the gas pump on for you, or the dip shit who brings you your pizza, or Angelina Fucking Jolie and her ambassador nonsense. Most people aren’t heroes, because self doubts keep us from doing anything particularly important with our time on Earth. So fuck it. Chris figures he can get over it enough to go to Guitar Center and look for people who allegedly want to be in bands.

Chris joins a band, and they spend at least five minutes writing music and practicing it. Then they realize that they need a CD. What options do they have? They can pay a recording studio $1,000 to make a shitty sounding demo. Since the average band has four members, it will cost Chris $250. Well, maybe they can chip in for a cheap $500 multi-track recorder, and make their own shitty sounding demo. In this case, Chris only has to pay $125. Finally, Chris just borrows a video camera from his hypothetical friend Nathan, records a practice, and uses the computer, which he still owes Nathan money for, to make an even shittier, but much cheaper, demo. Then everybody pitches in $5 to get a spindle of CDs.

The band finds a club to play at. They get five friends each to show up to watch them (because all of your friends will come to your first show to prove they support you, it’s just every show after that where you start having trouble). The club charges them all five dollars at the door (except each band member gets to put one friend on the guest list, and effectively alienate the other four friends). Each of the twenty friends, and the four band members, spend an average of $10 on drinks. The club brings in $320 from the band and their friends, between cover and bar tabs. The panhandler behind the bar (known as a bartender) is tipped about $5 per person, and walks away with $120 from the band and their friends. Then if the club is feeling generous, they give the band $20 (but usually less than that, like nothing). Chris, being only one member of the band, gets $5.

That means that Chris, provided he buys no soda at shows, doesn’t tip the bartender, doesn’t make friends with other bands who he pays to go to see at other shows, and never breaks any strings, only has to play 70 more shows to make back his initial investment… and this of course presumes that you’re not counting the money he lost from taking the night off from work. Oops I forgot the $25 guitar cable. 75 more shows.

And since this is hypothetical Chris, one day the band starts to gain some notoriety, and they see an opportunity to play some bigger shows. The venues, the vendors, the sponsors, and the promoters get their share first, and then the band gets some money. The first 25% goes to their manager and agent, who would get more if it wasn’t for legislation that limits how much they can skim off the top.

Then when they get signed to a major label, they get an advance, which seems cool at first. But then they find out that when their album starts selling the initial sales go to pay off that advance. Then it goes to pay off the over priced recording crew that charged a thousand dollars an hour to make a recording that doesn’t sound shitty at all, but is going to have them touring for the next three years to see any royalty checks.

Then they split up, because by this point they hate each other.

But you’re right. Homeless panhandlers. Nevermind that everybody else makes more money off the band than the band ever makes. You’re right, I’m better than all that homeless panhandling shit, because I’m willing to just keep hanging out in a security guard uniform, and pat myself on the back that I get to write my fucking blog while I’m on the clock. You’re right. Go listen to your Justin Bieber album, and spare me all your pretenses of telling me how you think I’m talented, and how you admire the amazing person I am. You don’t get me, as I always suspected.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ode to a cassette tape

by Nathan Stout (of According To Whim.com)

Ok, I am not going to actually write an ode. I just want to wax poetic about cassette tapes. I love tapes. They are fairly durable, versatile, and somewhat fixable. The same can *somewhat* be said of CDs but there is still something about the cassette tape that appeals to me. It is probably a nostalgia thing.

I was around when records were still the norm then along came 8 track and cassette tapes. Records went away (there are still some cool things about records but I won't go there) and 8 tracks died a fairly quick death (like DAT tapes). Cassette tapes seemed to be the future until the 80's when CDs started creeping into society (because the price finally started dropping).

A few of the first tapes I ever had were hand me downs from my brother. One was the Ghostbusters soundtrack, the Miami Vice soundtrack, and Billy Joel's greatest hits. I can't tell you how many times listened to each of those but I am sure I wore them out. Over the years I got tapes here and there but not regularly since they were expensive for a kid/teen. There was this little store down the street from where I grew up that was run by some Koreans. It was called Sun and Moon. They had a selection of tapes on display under the glass fronted counter which were of dubious origin. I picked up the Batman soundtrack, Fine Young Cannabis (oops, Cannibals), and even Information Society. This selection of cheap tapes is PROBABLY where I got my musical tastes as an adult. I think I wore out all those tapes as well.

In 1992 I bought my first CD player. This was back when they were about $120.00 (Optimus brand) and you had to have an amplifier. The first CD I bought was the Star Wars soundtrack (an straight port from the LP). My family had gone to Disney World that year and I saved as much money as I could for that trip and didn't spend it all so I could get it when we got back home. It was fantastic and basically began my transition from tapes to CD (at least at home).

I still used tapes for my car, mix tapes, and my recording of Robotech video tapes. I found that in the car tapes worked best. I lost too many CDs by trying to juggle them while driving. They got scratches and even broke (Sting's Brand New Day) when heavy stuff falls on them. I started gravitating back towards tapes in the car. If you remember my post on moment that make us happy I talked about listening to a tape in my car. Maybe this is why I still hold onto tapes...

Back around 1996-1997 I bought an imported tape set of the audio books for Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers and Better Than Life. I made a copy of the tapes and sold the originals. I have listened to those tapes for more than 10 years. I do have them on MP3 but the places I listen to them at are generally more conducive to listening to them on tape. I am sure one day everything will be able to play MP3s but until then the sturdy old tape will do me just fine in certain areas of my life.

It is becoming harder and harder to find tape players and I suppose I just need to get over my love of the tape. I thought that at some point people would wake up and realize that tapes are tough alternative to the fragile CD and keep them around (if only for specialized uses). I might be holding on just as those who thought 8 track wouldn't die.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Your Own Private Chernobyl

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

Earlier this week, I discussed our reluctance as a culture to find alternate fuel sources for our cars. Then later in the week, another power resource issue came to the forefront for discussion. A combination of a tsunami and an earthquake damaged nuclear power plants in Japan, which luckily stopped short of a full meltdown.

It is unclear to me from what I’ve read whether Japan, or any other part of the world, was in any real danger of a nuclear meltdown. There were evacuations in Japan, and there was talk about how much it might spread if things went bad.

For years, I have heard that nuclear power is safe. Sure there was a storyline on the TV show “24” where terrorists forced a meltdown at a US plant causing a major explosion, but in “24” they manage to get across Los Angeles in less than fifteen minutes, regardless of the time of day. Maybe it’s not the best gauge of what could happen. The situation in Japan, on the other hand, might raise a few questions.

Why do we have nuclear power? Well, as it turns out, it’s because it’s a more efficient, and cleaner, way to create electricity than burning fossil fuels. But wait, that was the whole point of my article earlier this week. There are folks out there saying not to worry about using up our oil. So if we’re not worried about it then why go with nuclear power, unless, of course, we’re worried about oil consumption.

So I became curious as to why we’re pushing nuclear power over the many other forms of energy we could use. I looked up dangers of renewable resources. I wanted to know if there was anything else out there that could potentially kill people and wildlife on a mass scale because of a simple accident.

As it turns out, the big concern about solar energy is the materials used in making solar panels. Many of them, if not recycled or disposed of properly, can pollute areas. Otherwise, solar energy is a convenience issue. The cost to go solar currently tends to outweigh the savings, and the number of conditions where the panels will save the energy, are limited, requiring certain types of sunlight.

Wind turbines can break in extreme weather (though they won’t melt anything down) and can be a danger to flying creatures when grouped together in wind farms. Hydropower is limited, because of wildlife concerns. And geothermal energy raises issues about pollution of water.

So what is the solution? Nuclear power probably is safe overall. My only concern is the one time that something goes drastically wrong. The results can be devastating. The problems in Japan raised concerns for many European countries moving toward nuclear power. Is it really safe?

Proponents for nuclear energy basically came back with this simple retort, “That won’t happen here.” I’m paraphrasing. The statements we’re more to the effect of, “We don’t have extreme weather conditions, and we don’t have extreme seismic activity.” I’m still paraphrasing, but one sounds less nonchalant than the other. It doesn’t mean that both statements aren’t nonchalant. Answering a concern of, “What if this happens?” with, “It won’t,” isn’t addressing the issue.

I think the issue, again, comes back to the consumer. I think it’s probably safe to say that we use more energy than we need. The reason for the growing need for more energy is more power usage. I’m not suggesting anything extreme like reading books only when there is a full moon so you don’t have to use your reading lamp. I’m just suggesting that maybe we would do ourselves some good to cut back where possible. Again, nothing extreme. I’m not going to sleep at night to conserve electricity, but I’m ok with not leaving my computer and TV running when I’m not using them, or unplugging my cell phone when it’s fully charged. There are hundreds of energy saving tips. There is really no reason to ignore them, unless it is specifically beneficial to you to ignore one or more.

One reason given for nuclear energy is that it burns cleaner than fossil fuel, so there is less pollution. It’s just so weird to me that we’re all about that mentality when it comes to building potential industrial plant sized bombs, but we don’t have that mentality when it comes to the millions or maybe billions of cars on the road. If we no longer had pollution from cars, and there were less or no fossil fuels in cars, then using fossil fuels for electricity would not have as devastating of an effect on the environment. If we then lowered our overall electricity usage, we would use less fossil fuel for energy production. It’s not so hard of an equation, so I’m not sure why we fight it so much.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Flash Ahhhh!: Episode Ten – Psychic… Powerless… Another Man’s Sack of Fast Food

by the According To Whim .com crew

(Part One by Nathan Stout )

[INT - SHOP - NIGHT]

(The whole gang is sitting at the back of the shop – of which the building belongs to Paul Tygers, the construction work is that of Chris, and the Sole Proprietorship is that of Nathan. On the front of the building, the poorly made banner says: “Anime Renegade.”)

CHRIS: Didn’t this sort of business fail on you the first time?

NATHAN: Ah yes, but now I have switched the words around in the name of the business, so it is bound to do so much better.

ANGELINA: I have plastered posters of nerd-dom on the front windows so no one can see in. I will also place this ice chest in front of the door so no one can come in until we get a peep of them through this hole I cut in this poster.

MIGUEL: She’s thorough.

PAUL: Well, she IS the best.

(Angelina walks out the front door.)

ANGELINA: I have to check in, I’ll be back.

CHRIS: I thought she worked for you?

PAUL: Well, she does sort of. I pay her employer for her time.

MIGUEL: Really? And who is her employer... the government?

(In the distance, the chime on the front door of the shop five doors down can be heard. It is the Rick Springfield song “(We All Need) The Human Touch.”)

CHRIS: Really...?

(Paul just raises his hands.)

PAUL: The Healing Touché is a cover for a band of ruthless hit-women and mercenaries.

(Nathan just stares into the distance, lost in his dirty thoughts.)

MIGUEL: I just thought it was a bone shop.

PAUL: Nah, just a rumor.

CHRIS: Come on, back to this.

(Chris points back at the table where a selection of Magic: The Gathering cards are laid out.)

PAUL: Ugh.

[INT - SHOP - NIGHT]

(Nathan is building Magic: The Gathering auctions for EBay, while Chris continues to teach Paul the game, and Miguel is sleeping in a pool of his own drool on the front counter. Rick Springfield notifies everyone of Angelina’s impending arrival.)

ANGELINA: I'm back.

CHRIS: Where have you been, plotting to overthrow some government?

ANGELINA: No, fucking a client.

(Paul’s head snaps around so quick everyone can hear it.)

PAUL: Wha?

ANGELINA: A girl’s gotta make rent somewhere.

MIGUEL: Excuse me.

(Miguel leaves to the little bathroom in the back of the shop).

PAUL: So all this time I could have been getting some?

ANGELINA: No, I don’t do special job clients.

(The air rushes out of Paul’s disappointed face).

NATHAN: So...

(Nathan stares at Angelina for a moment then blushes furiously.)

NATHAN: Hurry up.

MIGUEL: Hang on.

(There is a flush and Miguel emerges.)

CHRIS: Did you wash your hands?

MIGUEL: No, I don't touch my wenis when I piss... or whatever I do in there. I can’t anyway, there’s no soap.

(Everyone looks at Paul.)

PAUL: It's not my fault!

NATHAN: Miguel, you are HUGE liar.

MIGUEL: Stop reading my mind!

NATHAN: I wasn’t. I just knew that was a big lie. No one can avoid handling their junk while pissing... or whatever.

(End of Part One)

(Part Two by Chris McGinty

[INT – SHOP – NIGHT]

(Chris is digging through plastic tubs that Nathan uses to store unsold toys and models. He reads off a description of each item he pulls out, and Nathan types up EBay auctions for each item.)

CHRIS: Scotland Yard board game.

(Nathan types.)

CHRIS: Let me know when you’ve posted it.

NATHAN: Done.

CHRIS: How is it doing?

NATHAN: It’s already been bid up to $16.33.

(Chris rummages through the tubs. He notices that Paul is still sitting in the same place he’s been for the last half hour, and is still staring somewhat fixedly at Angelina. Angelina, meanwhile, is installing a security alarm by the door. She said something about breaking the glass and turning the lock, but neither Chris nor Nathan could understand what she meant. Chris pulls something else from the tub.)

CHRIS: Net Runner Corp Starter box with a torn up Tycho Extension card.

(Nathan types.)

CHRIS: Let me know when you’ve posted it.

NATHAN: Done.

CHRIS: How is it doing?

NATHAN: It’s already been bid up to $45.78.

(Miguel reaches into one of the tubs. He pulls out a Tron Light Cycle model.)

MIGUEL: Wow! This is awesome!

NATHAN: You really think so? We’ve been trying to sell that for years. We just can’t seem to get rid of it.

MIGUEL: That’s crazy, cos I totally want it.

NATHAN: Really, let me check… yeah we can sell it to you. It’s been re-listed 885 times and has never had a single bid. Do you have $50?

MIGUEL: Hell yeah. Oh wait, I don’t see where the Tron figure is supposed to go inside.

NATHAN: It’s a model.

MIGUEL: So no ripcord to make it roll along the ground?

NATHAN: No.

(Miguel drops the Light Cycle back in the plastic tub, and walks away wordlessly.)

NATHAN: We’ll never get rid of that thing.

PAUL: Ok, I’ve had enough of this.

(Everyone looks at Paul as though they didn’t even realize he was still sitting there.)

CHRIS: Enough of what?

PAUL: This.

CHRIS: Um… Paul, why don’t we give you something to do? Why don’t you run up to Taco Hell and get us all some nummies to eat?

(Paul stands and walks out the door saying something incoherent and/or surly.)

CHRIS: Miguel, can you go make sure he gets us food?

(Miguel follows Paul out of the door. Angelina looks up from her work on the security alarm. She makes some sort of excuse about something incoherent and leaves. A moment later, they hear Rick Springfield blaring from the speakers at the Healing Touché.)

CHRIS: Finally, we’re alone.

NATHAN: Oh not that again. I told you my heart belongs to Miguel.

CHRIS: No, no. I think that something is incredibly wrong.

NATHAN: We’ve been over this. I’m not going to lower the price on that Light Cycle.

CHRIS: Again, you misunderstand me.

(Chris starts to examine the security alarm that Angelina has installed.)

CHRIS: Nathan, how long have you not been reading minds?

NATHAN: What? Why would you think something like that?

CHRIS: Because you’ve been very slow on the uptake on things that you should just know by reading people’s minds.

NATHAN: Like what?

CHRIS: Like not hearing me think that you’ve been very slow on the uptake on things that you should just know by reading people’s minds.

NATHAN: You’re right, as much as I hate to say those words to you. I haven’t been able to read Angelina’s mind… or Paul’s mind. But wait, I read Miguel’s mind earlier when he said he didn’t wash his hands.

CHRIS: No, you actually said you didn’t read his mind.

NATHAN: Well, because I don’t actually read Miguel’s mind. I can just detect when he lying.

CHRIS: Do you remember actually detecting a lie?

NATHAN: No.

CHRIS: You reasoned it out?

NATHAN: Yeah, I think so.

CHRIS: What about the helipad? Did you actually read my mind to know that I was trying to play Othello?

NATHAN: Well yes… well no. You know, we’ve been playing strategy games for so long that I’ve picked up on some of your tells.

CHRIS: I don’t have tells.

NATHAN: Yeah, you do. That’s why after awhile I start beating you at every strategy game we play, especially those with bluffing. I never read your mind on the helipad. I recognized your Othello tell. It’s how I always know you’re about to place a piece in the corner spot, and keep me from winning. But if Angelina and Paul were using a dampening field, you and Miguel wouldn’t be able to use your powers, and you have.

CHRIS: And if Angelina and Paul had powers that simply kept you from reading their minds, you would still be able to read mine.

(Just then the door opens. It’s Angelina. She’s carrying a bag of food.)

ANGELINA: I just saw them pull up, so I came back down to help them carry food in. Let’s eat.

(Angelina smiles, but both Chris and Nathan sense something devious behind the smile. Miguel and Paul enter carrying more food.)

MIGUEL: Paul and I talked while we were out, and he’s only feeling semi-psychotic now.

NATHAN: Well, I don’t know about anyone else… literally, Chris… but I’m starved. Let’s eat.

CHRIS: Too bad you don’t have your Black Adder collection.