Monday, October 31, 2011

PC & Console Game Week: 1 of 6

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Greetings Programs! Welcome to According To Whim's PC & Console Gaming week! This week Chris and I will be posting 3 blogs each about different gaming systems, games, and PC stuff as well. This week was Chris' idea that came about because I opened my big mouth about having more than one blog worth of stuff I had to say on the topics of games and consoles. Let's get started!

Remember when video game systems were measured in 'bits'? The Nintendo 8-bit system was the first system were people really started focusing on it. Before that there was the Atari (4-bit) and other systems like it but back then no one really talked about or cared about the amount of bits they had. When the Nintendo came out (in 1983 in Japan) everything changed and the console wars began again (as they had in the last 70's).

Let's jump back a bit to the days of Atari before we shoot forward to the Nintendo (which figured so prominently in my childhood). My brother got an Atari back in the very early eighties. We would play Combat together and I would get my ass whooped. I was six years younger than him so he had the advantage. When all was said and done Combat was one of my least favorite Atari games. I think Combat actually came with the system and we soon got Pacman. What an amazing game (to me back then) and Donkey Kong. I got better and better at them and soon needed more games to fulfil my needs. Pitfall was a favorite (for just about everyone) and I even enjoyed the shitty E.T. game (apparently the biggest commercial failure of the time). All in all I probably enjoyed a game called Midnight Magic the most. My friend had it and I used to spend a couple of weeks at his house each summer and we played and played that game. At around the same time a movie called Midnight Madness was out and we used to sing the theme with the Midnight Magic name plugged in there (hey I was young). There were other Atari systems to come out but we only had the 2600.

Let's jump forward a few years... I remember playing Super Mario Brothers (the full sized arcade version) at the Putt-Putt in Fort Worth... well I say play, I mostly remember waiting behind others to play more than actually playing myself. The graphics were new and fresh and unlike anything before it. When I first got a whiff of what the soon to be Nintendo Home Entertainment System was going to look like I couldn't believe Super Mario looked SO SIMILAR to an actual arcade game! I couldn't afford it up front so I began to save my money for it. I had a piece of paper with each bit of money I had accumulated towards my goal (with appropriate Mario drawings). When the day came to get the system it was just like Christmas. On the first day I played and played and had gotten to world 8. That night I was reading the manual and discovered to my unhappiness that there was only 8 worlds! I was so disappointed but that didn't stop me from playing the shit out of that game. Soon after I was able to snag Metroid and Kid Icarus. Between the three games I had total I couldn't even begin to estimate how much time I put into them.

A couple of years later Sega put out the Genesis but I wasn't interested. To me it was just something trying to horn in my Nintendo time. As a side note my Granddad's wife's sister's grand kids had gotten an actual Famicom (Japan's Nintendo) and I got to play it one summer. It was so awesome (the cartridges where like half the size of the US ones).

I was a Sega hater but it was competitors like Sega that pushed us into the next level of 'bit' gaming... 16-bit. The Sega Genesis beat the Super Nintendo by a year but I was still not paying attention. Other system had started to come out too like the Atari Jaguar (which boasted real video and '64 bits of gaming') but I was still only interested in Nintendo.

I can't remember how or when I got my Super Nintendo but I can remember that I worked at Kmart at the time and we couldn't keep them in stock. I got ahold of one one night before closing and opened it up and hooked it to one of the display TVs and played it for a while. Super Mario World was (and is still) one of my all time favorite games. The level of depth  and enjoyment of game play has made it a long lasting favorite. I also enjoyed Pilot Wings (the very 'light' flight simulator). The 3D like effect was amazing for the time. As much as all the later systems rocked I would have to say I enjoyed the Super Nintendo's games best. It could just be that warm and fuzzy feeling from that time in my life but I really had a great time with that system.

Ok, thats all for today's installment. Check tomorrow for Chris part then another part from me on Wednesday (and so on and so forth). I will cover more Nintento and then onto Playstation and computer stuff.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

CTFU: Super Mega Edition (Part Eight) – Good and Bad Commentary Tracks

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

I seem to have taken a week long break from this, but the nice thing about that is that I’m seven weeks ahead right now, because I haven’t even posted Part One yet. So let’s get back to the brainstorm file that is producing all the fuel for this. Here is the next entry:

[10. Why Just Review It?

One thing I’ve been thinking about is that some of my better posts come from watching a movie, reading a book, playing a game, listening to an album, etc. But usually those posts aren’t straight out reviews. It’s usually that something clicks into my head, some concept, or some memory. I haven’t specifically reviewed “If Chins Could Kill,” but I’ve got a lot of mileage, both on blog and otherwise, from reading it.]

I also haven’t specifically finished reading “If Chins Could Kill.” I stopped at the chapter about “The Quick and the Dead” so I could watch it, and all my normal go-to places for movies haven’t worked. I might try some gosubs next. I should probably just finish reading the book, but oh well.

I thought of this because Nathan and I seem to default to reviews sometimes when we have no other topics to discuss. This has been a real issue this year. I took on a lot of work hours, and so we aren’t doing a whole lot of project stuff. When we’re doing project stuff, we tend to have topics to write about. I’m not sure if we would have accomplished a whole lot if I wasn’t working. We had goals and such, but we always have goals. It doesn’t mean we follow them zealously.

I’ve noticed that when I have a topic that ties into the review, it makes it easier to write. The unfortunate thing about reviews is that I have an easier time complaining about something that was bad than I do explaining what was good. I could write those blurb reviews you see in magazines. I can’t write a full page review. If I have something to talk about relating to the subject of the review, I’m better off.

If I wrote a straight review about “Inception,” I would probably say something like, “Um, it was good. I was intrigued by it. Well acted. Well directed. Um, it was good.”

If I told you about how I had this sinking feeling in my gut the whole time I was watching it because of certain aspects of the storyline resembling certain aspects of a story I wrote in 2009, then I might have an interesting tale. My story was really nothing like “Inception.” Inception is probably a better story anyway. But then I could write an entire article about times that I’ve experience that moment of, “Oh shit. This is just like that thing I wrote.”

One example of this is from the days when Miguel was a musician. He and I had set out to form a band, and it didn’t really work out to well. Our friend, Brett, was our singer, and we wrote a few songs together. We wrote a song called “Flat,” which if I’m being honest was influenced by two songs. The first was “Aneurism” by Nirvana. I used the same two chords that I thought made up the song, but I played it differently. The second was “I Believe/All I Need to Know” by Duran Duran. The hook of the lyrics of “Flat” was, “All I need to know,” sang four times.

Years later, I was at Brett’s apartment. Miguel had long since dropped out of our music project, and I was just hanging out over there. He had recently bought a copy of Nirvana’s “Bleach” and I had not heard it yet. I put it on. We listened. “About a Girl” came on. It was weird. We were listening to “Flat” with a little better inflection on the guitar. It was the same chords played basically the same way. Sure it had bass and drums. Sure ours had Miguel’s other guitar line. Sure Cobain’s vocals sounded nothing like Brett’s, but my guitar part sounded just like “About a Girl.”

I commented about this to Brett. He said, “Oh, I thought that was where you got it.” I was like, “No, I never heard this before.” Soon after, they released “MTV Unplugged” and “About a Girl” became a radio hit. So much for sneaking it in under the radar.

By the way, there is a movie called “About a Boy.” It’s based on a novel by Nick Hornby. You should read the novel. “Um, it was good. I was intrigued by it. Well written. Well paced. Um, it was good.” The relevant point, I guess, is that the movie ends somewhat differently from the book. The book ends on the day that Kurdt Cobain shot himself. What I find interesting about it, is that it captures a very real thing for me. The first time that a celebrity died that was not only before his time, but was someone who I planned to listen to for years. It’s very weird how celebrity works in that respect. I never knew Kurdt Cobain, but everyone who listened to his work, knew a part of him. We knew that part based on our own interpretation of what we were hearing, but we knew something. The book version captured that very well.

See? I almost get more mileage out of explaining my own experience surrounding other people’s works than I would if I just said whether I liked it or not.

I suppose that there is another way of going about this. I sometimes write blog posts where I deal with a number of different subjects while not getting too deeply into any of them. The problem with that procedure is that I often do it as a means of pounding out a quick blog post when I need one to post. I find myself looking for interesting things to talk about. If I wrote those sort of small thoughts every day, and then later compiled the more interesting of the thoughts into a blog post I’d probably be better off. In that respect, I’d probably be better off writing blurb reviews of movies I watch that have no personal relevance to me, and insert them into those blog posts. Just a thought.

In fact, I watched a movie recently that was Gene Wilder’s first movie as a writer/director/actor. It was called “The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother.” Nathan suggested it to me. The movie was good, but it was scene by scene. Some of the scenes were very funny. Some of the scenes fell flat.

How do I make this personal? Well, I write about something that has bothered me for a while. Some commentary tracks suck, while some commentary tracks are great. The truth is that there is no true formula, but there are a couple guidelines that tend to be mostly true. I was looking forward to the commentary track that Gene Wilder did, but it didn’t really work for me. He didn’t have a lot to say.

Don’t Fly Solo – The commentary for Stephen King’s “Cat’s Eye,” done by the director, Lewis Teague, was pretty interesting, but it is one of the exceptions to the rule. Mostly, when you have one person doing a commentary track, they have trouble making it interesting. One person talking about a movie tends to have very little to say about the movie. In most cases, having three of four will not only give the commentators someone to reply to, but if everyone can talk for a half hour about the movie, the time will be filled. Unless you’re Robert Rodriguez, who does great commentaries, think twice before you do a solo commentary.

Discuss Making the Movie – It doesn’t matter if you tell stories about how the scene was done, or if you tell stories about life while making the movie, discuss the movie. Sometimes it might work to discuss other things, but I think Kevin Smith may be the only one who can get away with that. Even with him and his cohorts, I sometimes wish they would get back on the topic of the movie. This is why Robert Rodriguez can do a solo commentary. He discusses the production of his movies in great detail.

Be In the Same Room with the Other Commentators – Even worse for me than doing a solo commentary is a lot of people doing solo commentaries and then editing them together. Often times you still run into the same problem of solo commentaries which is that when no one discusses a scene, there is silence. In some ways, an addition to this rule would be to be in the same room with people you can have good conversations with. It’s probably hard not to get caught up in a movie, but it really sucks when people start watching because they have nothing to say to each other.

I think that’s probably all I have to say on that subject. I can always come back to it. That is all for this part. I will see you next time.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Flash Ahhhh!: Episode Forty-Three – White White White White Number Onnnnneeeee

by the According To Whim .com crew

(This episode by Nathan Stout)

[STUBBY’S HIDEOUT - DAY]

(The professor, Paul, Angelina, Stubby, and Quincy are in the lab while the professor peers through a microscope.)

PROFESSOR: Curses!

(Paul spits out a mouthful of water he was just about to drink.)

PAUL: Sorry. I just thought it was funny.

(Angelina does an eye roll.)

STUBBY: What is it, professor?

PROFESSOR: The bone marrow sample is contaminated. There appears to be a large amount of seminal fluid mixed into the sample.

(The Professor rolls his head around from the microscope viewer. He and the others look over at Stubby at the same time.)

STUBBY: What?!

(The silence continues. Stubby looks guilty.)

STUBBY: It’s lonely down here...

(The eye rolls are almost audible. Angelina lifts her weight off the grimy ground, never touching more than her toes to the floor for the rest of the time she is in the cave.)

PROFESSOR: This sub-par sample won’t be enough to finish our work. It looks as if we will need to continue with plan B.

QUICNY: Oh man!

PROFESSOR: Quincy, take him and collect your goons and get back to gathering all that broken glass.

QUINCY: I like breaking it, not collecting it!

PROFESSOR: Irrelevant. Where is Larry?

PAUL: He is learning the controls of the T.A.C. in the main cavern.

PROFESSOR: Don’t let him leave with the nimrods.

(Quincy and Stubby look around quizzically, not recalling anyone called Nimrod.)

ANGELINA: So what about operation “Speedy?” Should be try to capture him again?

PROFESSOR: No. We don’t have time. COBALT is probably on our trail and we can’t waste time with those bozos. Speaking of bozos, why aren’t you two gone yet?

QUINCY: How much more glass do we need to collect?

PROFESSOR: About two more metric tons. The T.A.C. won’t work without at least that much more insulation.

STUBBY: Uhhhhhhgg. That’s gonna take forever!

PROFESSOR: Tough! Plans have changed and if you don’t get cracking my plans will fail, and no more mountains of money for you two.

(Stubby and Quincy shuffle off down the cave until they realize they are kicking up “spunk dust” and stop.)

[INT – SCI-FI CONVENTION – DAY]

(Chris appears in front of Nathan’s booth sporting a black shirt with a Flash logo on it.)

CHRIS: Flash! Ahhhh!

NATHAN: At least you are having fun. I haven’t sold crap. All anyone seems to be interested in is “Magic: The Gathering” singles and panes of replacement glass.

(A man stops at the table and asks a question, and then moves on before Nathan can really finish talking.)

MAN: Do you have National Geographics?

NATHAN: Wha?

CHRIS: Look!

(Chris points to a dude dressed as a Tron character.)

NATHAN: That costume is not appealing to the eye. Perhaps if the dude lost about 200 pounds.

CHRIS: This is your chance to sell the Light Cycle!

(Nathan picks it up off the table, a slow gleam showing his eye.)

NATHAN: Yeah!

(Chris vanishes in a blur and shows back up pushing Mr. Skin-tight 200 pound overweight Tron guy.)

CHRIS: Look at this!

(Tron guy looks at the box.)

TRON GUY: Oh my God! Jesus baby Christ! A Japanese Medicom Import Light Cycle!

(Chris looks pleased with himself.)

TRON GUY: How much!?

NATHAN: Well the package is singed a bit so I am going to cut you a deal and sell it for twenty dollars.

TRON GUY: Wow, this is so rare!

(Tron Guy absently puts the package down and looks at the other stuff on the table, all the while saying things like, “Oh man, rare Tron toy, wow, Medicom Light Cycle,” etc. at a low level. He just kind of moves along the table, looking, talking, and then moves off past to the next table and out of Nathan’s life forever.)

NATHAN: Fucking really?

CHRIS: Well, we tried.
(Chris vanishes again. Nathan sits down dejectedly. Someone sitting in the booth next to him speaks up.)

PAUL WHITE: No luck huh?

NATHAN: No. I can’t sell that thing to save my life, literally.

PAUL WHITE: I know what you mean. I can’t sell these books to save my life.

(The man motions to his booth and the pile of books displayed on it.)

NATHAN: You wrote these?

PAUL WHITE: Yes. I’m Paul, nice to meet you.

NATHAN: I’m Nathan.

PAUL WHITE: You see, my late brother designed this amazing device back in the 70s and I wrote this book about it.

(Paul hands a copy to Nathan who flicks through it.)

NATHAN: Did you help design it?

PAUL WHITE: No.

NATHAN: Did you help build it?

PAUL WHITE: No.

NATHAN: Did you fund its creation or something?

PAUL WHITE: No. I wrote this book about what he did.

(Nathan just nods and hands the book back.)

NATHAN: I see.

PAUL WHITE: It was an amazing device to send out human thoughts over vast distances.

(Chris suddenly appears in front of the booth.)

CHRIS: Did you say it sends out thoughts?!

NATHAN: How did you know what he was saying?

CHRIS: I can also process conversations fast and I have been running in a huge circuit around the dealer room listening to everyone’s conversation. By the way, David Prowse is about to punch Miguel.

(From the other side of the dealer room a faint “ow!” can be heard.)

PAUL WHITE: Yes, it sends out thoughts. He could never build it though. It was too expensive. The massive amount of heat it put out requires large amounts of silica insulation... glass, you know.

(A large clicking noise can be heard coming from Chris’s head as he stares at nothing.)

NATHAN: What was that?

PAUL WHITE: Sounded like clues clicking into place.

(Chris vanishes and in an instant Nathan’s booth is packed away and Nathan is sitting at an empty table.)

CHRIS: We have to go.

NATHAN: Why did you do that? I’ve only made a dollar so far.

CHRIS: A dollar? You sold a four dollar model earlier.

(Nathan looks guilty as guy selling the three dollar sodas can be heard hawking his wares.)

CHRIS: You didn’t.

(Nathan shrugs.)

CHRIS: Nevermind. We have things to do. Get in the truck. I’m getting Miguel.

(Chris vanishes. Then reappears.)

CHRIS: Buy one of his books.

(Chris vanishes again. Nathan grudgingly buys the book and walks out negative twenty-two dollars. All three get into the truck and head off.)

PAUL WHITE: Well, hi there! How are you? Things have picked up for me today, I sold a book!

ERIC STEEL: I’m just dandy, Paul. Just dandy...

(End of Episode Forty-Three)

Friday, October 28, 2011

The credit card game

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Credit cards suck. Chris can go on and on how the credit industry is crap and keeps poor people poor and so on and so forth but this post from me is about my credit issues and what is going to be done about it.

I began using credit cards back when I was like 18. It was so easy to get credit back in the early 90s... you could blink and poof you got a credit card. I played right into the credit card company hands. My first purchase was a Creative Labs CD Rom drive (1x). It was from Best Buy and it costed me $1,200! I am probably still paying on that damn CD Rom drive to this day. I will go into more detail about the CD Rom drive and all the cool stuff that came with it next week when According To Whim presents 'Gaming Week'! 6 days of gaming and PC blogs. Let the fun begin!

Anyway back to more depressing subjects. My credit card use only went upwards from there. With the ease of getting cards my credit limit soared and so did my balances. I have not been credit card balance free since then. That was more than twenty years ago! I have never defaulted on any of my credit cards or been late (on purpose). I have only ever done the credit card companies right. I paid my minimums and payed all that interest out the nose. At one point my available credit limit (including all cards) was over $22,000!

Time went on and balances became unmanageable. I played the credit card shuffle like most people. A balance transfer offer would show up in the mail and I would move my balances over to it. Six months (or a year) would pass at a low rate then I would have to do it all over again. Once again, I was being a good credit customer. I paid on time, I paid my interest, and when I transferred balances I paid all those ridiculous fees. Life was good.

Then 2009 shows up. The shit hit the fan in the economic world thanks to the housing market and all that crap and banks and creditors started panicking. I started getting letters in the mail from creditors cutting my available credit to nearly nothing. Bank of America was the biggest offender. I had a $18,000 credit limit (with NO balance) and they reduced it to $1,000. This happened with every one of my credit cards and soon I was stuck. My previous trick of shuffling my debt around for decent rates was no more. I couldn't transfer balances off other cards so when full APRs kicked in I was stuck. This basically doubled my interest payment each month (into the $600 range). This wasn't my payment... this was just the interest added to my cards. I was fucked.

I considered my options. I could just screw them all and stop paying (like many people were forced to do during this time period) or I could file bankruptcy or find some debt pay off plan. Being the decent consumer (even when creditors were not) I opted to pay back my balances in full and I found a payment plan company. Basically I made one lump payment each month to them and they dispersed the funds to the credit cards. I pay them a $50 a month fee and they do the foot work. My interest rates get knocked down and they setup the plan to pay off all the cards I submit in 5 years. I didn't know at the time that you can deal directly with credit card companies and get yourself into a 'debt plan'. All you have to do is call them up and tell them you want to get onto a debt repayment plan. They suspend you account and reduce your interest rate.

This coupled with my plan to have Chris help me pay off my debt (Chris McGinty, Emeny of Debt Season 2) should help me kill off my credit balances. This is my main goal when it comes to getting my finances in order. Chris will want to go after my cars and home and such but I am more interested in getting rid of the credit debt.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chris McGinty - Enemy of Debt - Episode Fifteen

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

Welcome to Episode Fifteen of: Chris McGinty – Enemy of Debt

For an explanation of this feature, and disclaimers that talk about how I’m not a professional money anything, go to Episode One. If you are caught up to speed though, we’ll begin discussing my friend who called me in financial desperation on July 10, 2011. Out of some, perhaps slight respect for his privacy, I’m not using his real name. I am instead referring to him as Genghis Confucius Say Man With No Cents Doesn’t Add Up To Dollars.

You know, last episode, I defended my method of trying to help Genghis as giving of myself what I was able to give. Yes, I just summed up 1,600 confusing words in a simple sentence. Well, I guess I’m going to have to write a rebuttal to my own argument, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

I told the tale about Genghis getting a bonus at his main job, and then, how the big payday loan cashed his check. The truth is that made things a lot easier, especially when I found out that we would have to deal with insurance and his suspended license. Because of the word limit that I’ve put on most of these episodes, I didn’t explain how we took care of a lot of this. I told you that his wife and I went to take care of the insurance, but I didn’t explain how I gave him a To Do List and set him free on his own. He went and paid the fees on the other two payday loans, and a few other things. I was very impressed with him, because he did everything just as he was supposed to. I didn’t get a call from him saying that he was short on anything, along with some excuse about why he had to use some of the money.

The reason I wrote last week’s episode was because I wanted to segue into what might be a new age of the Enemy of Debt saga. My plan was to have him start calling me and telling me how much money he got on his check, and then giving him instructions. It would make him take responsibility for himself, and let me get some sleep. All that would be required of me would be to play accountant to make sure he’s doing what he’s supposed to.

The problem is that the one thing he didn’t do on that To Do List was to get his pay stub showing how much he got on that bonus check. Nor did he ever remember to get it between then and his most recent check. I was understandably curious if he was just forgetting, or if there was a reason.

I showed up at his work that morning. We looked at how much he had, and then we went to his apartment where I made him sit down and work out a budget, based on the money he had in his bank and the money I held onto from his last check so he would have enough to pay his bills this time. Between his main check and his guard check, he would not have enough money to pay his bills if I didn’t.

When the budget was done, we went to the bank, and I insisted that he get a 30-day activity report. If you haven’t been paying attention to all of the hints, that asshole pulled out $80 prior to my arrival the week he got the bonus, which is why he wouldn’t bring me the pay stub.

I could go into the bitch out session I gave him. Heck, I could go into the bitch out session I gave him a few days prior when I went over to take him lozenges and his wife told me that he was saying that he was going to tell me not to help him anymore because he could handle it from there. But really, I want to spin this so that I don’t look like the fucking asshole that I was to him.

I’m so frustrated with him. When I confronted him about his plan to tell me he could handle it on his own, he told me that he was tired of not having any money. I told him that that was why he needed my help, because he didn’t have any money whether I was helping him or not. If he believed that he would have money just because I wasn’t in the picture anymore then he’s a fucking idiot. He was like, “Well, since the payday loans will be paid off this time.” And I was like, “This is what I’m talking about, idiot. The only reason they will be paid off this time is because I was going to loan you enough to get them out of your way. If you weren’t such a dumb ass, you would know that you fucked yourself up when you called into work three fucking times, and set yourself back by $300 dollars. You have no money, you idiot. You can’t even pay your bills this time without my help, you idiot. Do you not get how fucking stupid you sound, you idiot?”

I’m so nice.

So, to find out that he was trying to sneak money past me when I’ve been loaning him money and giving him time and counsel… I’m so frustrated. I really thought we were making progress, and not just on the bills. Now I think the only reason he didn’t fuck up that To Do List was because he had already fucked up.

And before you tell me that it is his money and his choice. No. It’s my money, because I was going to loan it to him to pay his bills. It means that by the time his rent is paid on the Monday coming up at this writing, he will be $80 further into debt with me than he should have been.

There is a part of me that feels like giving up at this point, but he still needs to get some money saved for a vehicle so that if his mother-in-law finally gets sick of helping, he’s not without a vehicle.

I told him that he was going to set up a $1,000 emergency fund that would be in an account in his wife’s name. He asked me if he could do it in my name, because she would spend it. I told him that I wasn’t going to hold on to that much of his money, and that if she screwed up their emergency fund that all the nonsense she’s been lording over him about how she’s better with money than him would be easy to debunk. It’s not so easy to debunk now, because he would never let her have any say with their money without a fight.

The last thing I said to him after paying off the payday loans the other day was that we were still going to set up that emergency fund, and I feel bad for him, because the way he’s acting… she’ll probably end up using that emergency fund to move in with her mom when he gets them evicted early next year. Because he hasn’t learned a fucking thing.

[NOTE: This was written a few weeks ago, as I explained last week. I also explained that Enemy of Debt is over (at least as Genghis goes). I have to write an explanation of why I’m no longer helping Genghis, and that will be next week. Depending on how long the explanation ends up being, I might take two weeks to tell it, but at this time I think one week will do it, unless I get off on tangents and philosophical nonsense. See you then.]

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Comic book phony

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

I admit it... I am a comic book phony. Or at least I was. Let me take you back to my teenage years and how I got into comic books.

The year was 19XX (I don't know when, I've just always wanted to do that XX thing). I was a teen and the only comic books I had ever really read were Archie comics. I had gotten then from my Aunt who liked them and had a bunch long ago (60s and 70s). The late 80's rolled around and gotten into comic books. I was more interested in the artwork than the stories. This was the first part of my phony-ness. I had always been a drawer (look here and you will see) and comic books were awesome. A couple of years went buy and I had become an avid collector (as far as being broke and only being able to buy one here or there is a collector). The problem was that I wasn't reading them I was only collecting them. It was the great comic glut of the 90's.

The comic book industry needed a boost in the arm and they figured out a way to do it. They came up with the idea of relaunching like every freaking title they owned so there was a mass of #1s to collect. It was a plan designed to get more kids into comic books and I guess it worked because I fell for it. Soon I was snagging every number one I could get my hands on. Bayou Billy... really?! Bayou Billy? Oh the shame.

Even in all this I was still only ever reading Archie comics. Of course Archie (owned by Marvel) was putting out #1s as well and I enjoyed new stuff like Archie 3000 (set in a Utopian Riverdale) which was alot like Hill Valley in Back to the Future. When the buzz of number ones was getting a little low comic books upped the ante by releasing gimmick covers. Foil covers, Lenticular covers, Embossed covers, Alternate covers, you name it, they released it.

It was at this time that Image comics was coming into their own. Image was like that Presbyterian church that formed when members of the larger Presbyterian church splintered off because they didn't like the sermons. Image was made up of Marvel artists like Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen (who was the best in my opinion), and Jim Lee who got tired of the BS at Marvel and went on to make it for themselves. They really took comic books to a whole new level in terms of quality. Comics went from what you were used to seeing in Sunday papers (the quality of the ink and paper) to high-end glossy and vibrant inks for their comics. Marvel and DC (and everyone else) had to change everything to catch up to the quality of the product Image was putting out. As a side note Todd McFarlane did the same thing to the toy industry as well. When his company put out action figures based on his comics they took it to a whole new level of detail that hadn't been there before. All the other companies had to catch up and bring up the quality of their toys too.

So I went on and continued to collect special covers and number ones, professing to be a comic book geek when I didn't hardly read any of it. Such a phony...

Fast forward to 20XX (te he he) and here I am, still a comic book geek but slowly making good on it. Over the last several years I had become more interested in what was going on inside the comics now. This was good because I didn't spend all that money buying all those issues when I can now by collected anthologies at a 10th of the price. I love graphic novels (especially of older comics) and get a certain joy out of reading and enjoying some of the dated stories.

In the end (after all these years) I ended up with one long and one short box of comics. Most of them are those number ones from the 90's. They aren't worth crap because when they did all these special editions they printed a bazillion of each.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dude, Where's My Word Processor?

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

I experienced an odd thing the other night. Microsoft Word wouldn’t load. I could open Word files in Word, but I couldn’t start it normally. The icon was gone from the recently loaded Programs menu, and while the Programs menu still showed it in the Microsoft Office folder, it wasn’t showing the icon there either. And it wouldn’t load, but I think I mentioned that.

I went online and started to look for solutions. Nathan probably could have solved it in a matter of minutes, but I do like to try to solve it myself before I bug him. Maybe if he was at work at the time, he could have just pretended that I was in the hospital. This is Chris from X-Ratedology. I’m having some issues with my computer. Yes, it runs Windows XP. Oh, so that’s my entire problem? Ok, thanks.

The thing is that with an overabundance of information online, I guess many problems can be solved by going online, and typing in a search for the problem you’re having. This isn’t your daddy’s insistence on doing it himself without help from the experts. Not that my dad exhibited those behaviours. He was pretty good about getting help when he didn’t know how to fix something or about asking directions when he didn’t know where he was.

I guess we all like puzzles. Maybe it’s why we buy things like Sudoku toys, why we play video games, and maybe even why I set out to help a total moron with his finances with the belief that I could teach him a few things about budgeting his money to have better use from it. Sometimes, trying to solve those problems with something that is out of our grasp (the reason why I’ll only work on my own car if I don’t have to troubleshoot the problem myself) or while we’re driving around using up gas (the reason why I love gas stations, phones, and GPS).

Computer stuff is a little bit different. I seem to do ok with it as long as the solution is to be found online somewhere. In this particular case, the solution was pretty easy. I spent a lot of time working on it, but I was doing a lot of routine maintenance at first, hoping that it would fix the problem in the process.

The most recent change that I made to the computer that was in anyway significant was that I loaded a game called “The Movies” onto my laptop. I’ve had this game for a long while, and it was given to me as a gift because it was on clearance for $5. It’s a sim game that could have just as easily been called “Movie Studio Tycoon.” What the draw was supposed to be with the game is that it allowed you to make movies using the game. It’s very limited as the game is set up, but if you’re willing to invest in microphones and such, you can make a decent computer generated short. The problem is that the game itself isn’t very good, and the community for using it to make movies isn’t very extensive.

I don’t have a whole lot of interest in using it as a movie maker. I figure I can just do that in real life. I wanted to see if the game got any better as you played it. When I first played it, I played it for a couple of days and then got bored with it. This time around with it, I’m still not very impressed. I think the problem with the game is that you’re supposed to be managing a movie studio, but you’re really trying to make the actors happy. This would be fine, except that making them happy isn’t as clearly defined as it is in The Sims. Further, you don’t really have money problems in the game. Roller Coaster Tycoon was always a little more interesting to me, because you really had to pay attention to money management. Some rides didn’t do well. Some promotions didn’t help.

The relevant point here is that while I was playing the game, I placed a building down, and when I tried to use that building, it blue screened my laptop. Ok, fine. I just won’t use that building then. The problem is that my laptop blue screened later too, and I want to remember that it was while I was using Word, but that might be my brain superimposing my later troubles with Word over that incident.

I ran all the regular maintenance on the computer. Updates, Error Check, Disk Cleanup. I forgot to Defrag, and then I searched the trouble I was having. I’m amazed at how often bad interaction with anti-virus software comes up in these troubleshooting guides. I thought those programs were supposed to help. But if they were the culprit in this case, I will never know. I used the repair feature for Microsoft Office in Add/Remove Programs, and it solved the problem easily.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hangman's House of Horrors VIP night

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Saturday night was Hangman's House of Horrors VIP night. The charity has a party for their corporate sponsors and an awards ceremony to give out award plaques. Once again According To Whim was slated to get an award. This time we arrived to the party as guests, not there to film it. Last year I got the award for our group so I decided to let Miguel get it this year. He put more hours in on the house than I did so it seemed only right.

This was a very busy weekend in general for me as well as for the whole North Texas area. On Friday the wife and I went 'RV'ing' with some of her coworkers out at Benbrook lake so that ate up Friday into early Saturday. We headed back home where I got a few hours respite. I needed to be at Hangman's for the party at 7PM. The wife wanted to go but got called into work so she was a no-go. Miguel was going to bring his daughter but it turned out that she had a slumber party or something to go to so he brought his wife.

Miguel's wife has been given a lot of grief by Chris and myself as to the reason Miguel never does anything anymore (creative wise). She has been the easy target for so many years but I'm 90% sure it's never really been her. She is just an easy scapegoat for Miguel's missing creative side and/or laziness. Miguel can't seem to step up and tell us to shut the fuck up about his wife either. Sorry turd.

Anyway I headed out a few minutes early so I could drop off some books at the downtown Fort Worth library. As soon as I got on 35 it was a nightmare. Apparently the Alliance air show just ended and everyone was heading back into the city. 35 was jammed and it took a lot longer than I expected. Luckily I am the kind of person who always allows for time so I wasn't late. I dropped off the books and went down 7th street to work myway around to the haunted house. Well 7th was packed now. The 3rd World Series game was about to start and EVERYONE was out cramming into bars in the area. As you might know that part of West Fort Worth is loaded with bars so that was fairly annoying too. I finally got there just in time to meet Miguel's wife out front while Miguel parked. We all went in together on time. The VIP party is held in a tent they put up in the middle of house grounds. Last year the party was packed and Miguel and I had to squeeze our way around in there. Thanks to the World Series game the party was only about half full this time (despite having 4 TVs in the tent broadcasting the game). The Rangers were in the World Series last year too but apparently there was no game on the same night as the party.

We sat around for about an hour, eating the finger foods and drinking (sodas). I picked up a T-shirt while I was there too. At 8 we all went out side to the Karaoke stage where the presenting was going to happen. Again this year Rebecca Miller of CW33 was there along with KSCS' mid-day chick. They did the presenting (with Rebecca's microphone malfunctioning the whole time). Miguel's name was called and he went on stage and got his award and his picture taken.
After that I packed it in. Usually after the award ceremony the VIPs are let into any of the house they want to go in. I had seen enough throughout the year not to want to go through it again. I headed for home and hoped to have the rest of the weekend to chill out.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

CTFU: Super Mega Edition (Part Seven) – Another Dull Examination of Writing Humour

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

If you want to see what I’m doing here, you can go back to Part One. If you would like to see the start of the current topic I’m discussing, you can read Part Six. I’m going through a number of brainstormed topics I have in a file, and I was on the topic of wisdom from famous people that I apply to my daily creative life.

I read an interview with Gene Wilder once, and he spoke about writing comedy. The odd thing about comedy writing is that it’s hard to find practical advice about being funny. A lot of examinations of comedy that I’ve read have been high brow examinations of high brow humour. I have no problem with smart humour. A lot of the time though, smart humour has to be mixed with the more silly type to work.

What Gene Wilder said was pretty simple. For a page of script you should try to have four jokes. It seems like that’s a lot for a page of script, but I do my best when writing comedy to reach that quota. I use it when I’m writing comedy in book and essay writing as well. I figure that the pace is understood to be slower in this type of writing than on screen, so I can get away with about four jokes per page then as well.

Scott Adams, who I said would come up later in this, but I didn’t mean this when I said that, wrote a great examination of comedy writing in “The Joy of Work.” In his examination, he contends that there are six basic starting points for jokes: Bizarreness, cleverness, cuteness, meanness, naughtiness, and, um… and Doc… oh, recognizability. He also contends that if your joke can combine at least two of those that you have a pretty good chance of having something funny. You’ll have to read his examination for further explanation, because while it would help fill my word count, it wouldn’t be incredibly original… which he discuses originality in there too.

There are a few types of humour that I recognize. Miguel actually has a pretty good examination of humour too, but getting him to write it might be hard. What I’m going to list here are not really anything that I was astute to notice on my own. They are things that I realize exist, and that I use in my writing.

Visual – This is probably one that I should use more often when I’m writing show sketches, since it is a visual medium. Nathan is particularly good at this. Visual can be slapstick. Visual can be goofy faces. Visual can be something that the audience sees that they realize is out of place. Etcetera.

Dialogue – This is the one that I use most often, and maybe not to good effect. The basic idea here is that you have two people talking, and they say things that are funny. I said before about smart humour needing to be mixed with the dumber humour. An overabundance of dialogue humour can create a dull sketch, even if it is technically funny. An overabundance of visual humour can cause people to desensitize to the visuals. Keep this in mind with any type of humour you might use.

Prose – This is also a speech humour, but is usually written into situations or description in stories or essays. These jokes are more or less spoken in the author’s voice rather than by the character as it is in dialogue humour.

The rest of these can actually fit into visual, dialogue, and prose, and are perhaps a little more specialized.

Blue (aka dirty) – This is the dick and fart jokes category. When I am criticized for my humour writing by Miguel, it’s usually not productive criticism in the respect that it might help me refine what I do. His criticism is that since I don’t write dick and fart jokes that I’m not funny. He’s wrong. Even if I’m not funny, there is no proof that you can’t be funny unless you use blue humour. This can also fall under the heading of slightly politically incorrect humour.

Tasteless – There was a collection of books called “Truly Tasteless Jokes,” or something like that. This is a form of blue humour or politically incorrect humour, but tends to just be very wrong. It’s the kind of thing that when you do laugh at it, it’s usually out of an involuntary uncomfortable feeling. Dead baby jokes and severely racist or sexist jokes fall into this category, as well as a lot of politically incorrect jokes. These should probably almost never be used. Understand that when I say tasteless, I mean tasteless. I’m not talking about something that’s only slightly out of bounds. I won’t give examples. k-thx. Have a good day.

Inside – This is one that I’m often criticized for. I write jokes that will be funny to a very small group of people. I blame this on my jobs. Stupid jobs. Yes, that was an inside joke. The funny thing about this is that one of the funniest shows on television, “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” made good use of inside and obscure jokes. The reason I’m a fan of this type of humour is that it’s often more exciting to laugh at something that you know that not everyone will get. When used sparingly (listen up, Chris) inside humour can be very rewarding to the audience who gets it.

Callback – This is the most effective type of inside humour. The concept is that you have set up the audience to understand the inside joke, so that when it comes up again, they understand it. It basically calls back to information you gave the audience earlier. I once demonstrated this in a way that I was a little proud of myself for. Nathan and I were being interviewed for a newspaper (don’t get excited, the interview was never printed, though there is an audio show somewhere) and I said something that was funny to Nathan and me. The woman interviewing us didn’t get it. I told her that I’m a fan of inside humour. I explained why what I said was funny, and she got it with explanation. I then found a way of repeating the joke, and she laughed, because it was a callback at that point.

Math – This is a type of humour that you should use very sparingly. I like to throw in really odd jokes that you only will get if you know that the mathematical fact is wrong or what it represents. “He’s reliable, sure. But is he consistent?” “Oh yes sir. He always adds up to nine.” Yes. It is actually funny. Not very funny. But it is funny. This can also work for scientific fact, historical fact, and even technical fact. “If my Peavy T-40 breaks another strap, I’ll have to sell it,” said Tom, heavily. “I feel as stiff as my Peavy T-40,” said Tom, woodenly. Yes, it’s an extension of inside humour.

Situational – I touched upon this a little above, but maybe it deserves a spot here. This is the kind of thing that sets off the laughter, but not so much because someone said or did anything specifically. This is a type of humour that if something good occurs to you, you should probably pursue it, because it will likely get laughs. A good example is in “Zak and Miri Make a Porno.” They have set up for the first night of shooting in the coffee shop, and the two actors are performing their scene (you know, porn “acting”). The problem is they left the front door unlocked. A guy walks in and quietly walks up beside them and starts watching. Eventually, there is dialogue spoken and action taken, but at that moment the situation is all that you need to start laughing. Further situational is that the guy is so drunk that he doesn’t even seem to comprehend what is out of place in the coffee shop.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, and like I said, Miguel actually has a list of some very specific examples of humour. Maybe he’ll write it up sometime. Also, like I said, even though examinations of humour tend to be dull (“I know this probably was,” Tom said, parenthetically.) there are a few good ones out there.

I still have a few things to discuss concerning the wisdom of famous people. We’ll get to that next time. See you then.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Flash Ahhhh!: Episode Forty-Two – Life, the Metroplex, and Everything

by the According To Whim .com crew

(This episode by Chris McGinty)

[EXT – MINK AND SHAKE RESTAURANT – NIGHT]

(Chris, Miguel, Nathan, Grrrl 1, Grrrl 2, and Grrrl 3 are exiting the restaurant. Grrrl 3 is hanging on Miguel’s recently pill induced focused elbow.)

NATHAN: I gave you an A.D.D. pill, not an aphrodisiac.

MIGUEL: What can I say? I’m charming when I’m not being a douche.

CHRIS: You know. We’re not exactly all that worried about the espionage and intrigue. That seems to be the villains’ deal. Would you three like to join us for a night out on the town?

(Nathan groans.)

GRRRL 3: I would!

(Miguel gloats. Grrrl 2 elbows Grrrl 3 in the arm.)

GRRRL 3: What? He’s charming when he’s not being a douche.

NATHAN: As much as I love female attention, Chris’s idea of a night out on the town just doesn’t appeal to me.

GRRRL 1: Well, that’s ok anyway. Friday night is one of our busiest nights for roadside assistance. We need to get back at it.

CHRIS: Fair enough. You gots to make that scrilla.

(Nathan and Grrrl 1 perform an act of synchronized eye rolling that nobody notices… well, Miguel notices. On that pill, Miguel notices everything.)

CHRIS: Nonetheless, I would like to thank you ladies for your companionship at dinner, and the exposition you so freely gave.

(Grrrl 2 elbows Grrrl 3 again.)

GRRRL 2: I told you to keep them in your work shirt!

GRRRL 1: He means the story information we gave through our dialogue.

GRRRL 2: Oh. My bad.

(Grrrl 1, Grrrl 2, and Grrrl 3 say their goodbyes. Grrrl 3 gives Miguel a big sloppy wet kiss.)

MIGUEL: I sense something, a presence I’ve not felt since…

(Nathan checks the pill bottle. Chris looks at him questioningly.)

NATHAN: Just making sure I didn’t slip him a Viagra. Why is it that the fact that it’s Friday night makes me want to remember something that I can’t quite remember?

(It’s at this point that Chris sees Muffy the unicorn gallop up to the group.)

MUFFY: You must go to the Dagobah system.

CHRIS: Listen, that wasn’t funny when Board Member Reginald said it. And I don’t have to listen to you because you’re not real.

NATHAN: Who are you talking to?

MIGUEL: I see her. I see dead…

NATHAN: Miguel, we’ll be sued!

MIGUEL: …plotlines.

MUFFY: Tomorrow is October 8 & 9.

CHRIS: What year?

MUFFY: Nineteen Eighty-F…

NATHAN: Unseen character, we’ll be sued!

MUFFY: …five. I must go now.

CHRIS: Yeah, you go girl.

(Muffy and Nathan perform the synchronized eye rolling thing, and Chris stops hallucinating.)

NATHAN: What was that about?

CHRIS: Something about the October 8 & 9.

NATHAN: Why does that make me want to remember something that I can’t quite remember?

[INT – NATHAN’S BEDROOM – NIGHT]

(Nathan wakes up in the middle of the night and yells out.)

NATHAN: October 8 & 9 is the Sci-fi Convention. We’re supposed to be selling what I salvaged from the shop when it was devastated by military forces!

MIGUEL: It would have taken less breath to just yell, “I forgot the convention!”

(Miguel is in the bed next to Nathan. Nathan looks down at Miguel’s arm which is draped across his belly.)

NATHAN: Miguel, you know that I hate it when you sleep with your arm. I’d hate for Chris to come in here and get the wrong idea.)

CHRIS: Just ignore his proclivity to cuddle when he sleeps. I’m more worried about the fact that he keeps taking the covers.

(Chris is in the bed next to Miguel. He tugs the blankets back over him.)

CHRIS: Now both of you shut up. It’s hard enough for me to sleep at night.

[INT – FLEA MARKET – DAY]

MIGUEL: Why are we here at the flea market?

NATHAN: I’ve been trying to sell the shop stuff out here, but nobody wants to buy anything high end at the flea market. All they want to buy is two-dollar candles and five-dollar handbags.

MIGUEL: Can I have one of those focus pills?

NATHAN: Why?

MIGUEL: I feel like I’m missing something.

CHRIS: Like when has Nathan had time to come out here and sell?

MIGUEL: That sounds about right.

NATHAN: Well, I haven’t exactly made it out here since I moved the stuff here.

CHRIS: Do you think maybe that’s why people aren’t buying?

NATHAN: Nah. They wouldn’t buy even if I was here.

(They walk to Nathan’s table and start loading the stuff.)

MIGUEL: I really need one of those pills.

NATHAN: I feel like I’m missing something.

CHRIS: Like the fact that everyone is selling window glass and other household glass because of all the damage Quincy has done in recent times?

MIGUEL: That sounds about right.

NATHAN: Let’s get out of here. I can’t wait to be among real sellers, not these opportunists.

[INT – SCI-FI CONVENTION – DAY]

(Nathan leads Chris and Miguel past table after table of glass sellers. He seems to be mumbling something not so nice under his breath.)

MIGUEL: At least these glass sellers each have a woman dressed in Princess Leia’s slave outfit.

CHRIS: Does it seem odd to anyone that a princess was constantly being captured and there wasn’t any sort of political retribution?

MIGUEL: In what way?

CHRIS: Well, think about what would happen if the US kidnapped Prince William’s wife. We’d probably have countries rise up against us to get her back.

MIGUEL: Not if England was seen as some sort of rebellion against a world peace. Then it would be more similar to the time Saddam Hussein was captured. It didn’t matter that he was the leader of a country. He wasn’t popular with the world order.

CHRIS: British actors played the Imperial forces anyway. So Princess Caspian, or whatever her name is, wouldn’t be captured as a rebel anyway.

MIGUEL: The amount of false logic that…

CHRIS: Sorry to interrupt, Miguel, but why is Kevin Smith following us and taking notes? It’s creeping me out. He should be at his table like all the other guests.

(They arrive at Nathan’s table. Nathan looks at it and seems a little displeased.)

NATHAN: There’s so little room. And so little time. I’m not sure how I’m going to arrange everything and be ready in time for the public.

(Chris suddenly disappears, and before Nathan’s eyes the table becomes perfectly set up.)

CHRIS: I think it would look something like that.

NATHAN: I forgot you had your power back. Thank you.

(Chris suddenly disappears, and before Nathan’s eyes the table reverts back to emptiness.)

CHRIS: I hope you can remember how that looked. Anyway, I’m going to try to find George Takei.

(Chris walks off. Nathan holds his fist high and stares at the ceiling.)

NATHAN: Curse you, McGinty!

(The guy at the table next to Nathan’s walks up to him.)

SELLER: Hey, buddy. I was supposed to have four helpers today, but only one showed up. Think you could help me unpack my product?

MIGUEL: Ooh. Is that David Prowse? I’m going to follow him around and explain why James Earl Jones is Darth Vader.

NATHAN: You do that. But drop the name Hayden Christensen.

MIGUEL: Ooh. Great idea!

(Nathan turns back to the seller.)

NATHAN: I’m pretty sure I have it worse off than you.

(Later, Chris is standing behind the table with Nathan. Nathan is ignoring him.)

CHRIS: Listen, I came back and set it up again.

NATHAN: Yes. I know you did.

CHRIS: So why are you mad?

NATHAN: Because it was only after you dismantled it twice and I managed to pounce on you and threaten to cut your hair.

CHRIS: Think of it like you earned it.

(Nathan goes back to ignoring Chris. They notice one of the roving soda vendors, a man who seems rather confused as he’s yelling, “Ice cold soda only three dollars.”)

SODA GUY: Ice cold soda only three dollars. And only fifty cents for anyone who thinks that Hayden Christenson looked better in the Darth Vader suit!

(They notice that Miguel is following very close behind the vendor. They also notice that David Prowse is following the vendor, heckling him for being un-American and various other taunts that he probably found on a newsgroup somewhere.)

CHRIS: Well, since I’m managing to tell more people about Danny Daewoo than I’m managing to sell Japanese model kits to, I think I’ll go walk around.

(Nathan grunts.)

CHRIS: Be back soon. You better be in a better mood before I get back.

NATHAN: Or what? You’ll dismantle my table again?

CHRIS: Oh sure! You know me so well. I’ll be thinking of something else while I’m gone just to prove you were wrong when you weren’t.

(Chris walks past the home glass section, making a mental note to taunt Quincy later, if they have the misfortune of seeing him again, about missing such a glass breaking opportunity. He walks into the celebrity section. There are multiple people dressed in makeup like from “The Crow.” They’re all roaming like bad video game townsfolk asking where James O’ Barr is. It’s at this point that Chris notices someone out of the corner of his eye. He turns to see Rick Springfield sitting at one of the celebrity tables. He walks over to him.)

CHRIS: I didn’t see you on the convention program.

RICK SPRINGFIELD: I wouldn’t imagine that you did.

CHRIS: You’re so much more vague than I imagined you. What are you doing here?

RICK SPRINGFIELD: I’m promoting my new sugary breakfast cereal. I’m also signing the boxes.

CHRIS: I’ll take three.

(Chris walks back to Nathan’s table with three signed boxes of Rick Springfield cereal.)

CHRIS: I got you something.

(Nathan looks and can’t help but laugh.)

NATHAN: Has he really been reduced to this?

CHRIS: That’s the thing. I don’t think he has. I’ve been seeing things lately, like I’m experiencing the dream state. First, it was Board Member Reginald, then Muffy, and now Rick Springfield. The difference being that this time I was able to actually get physical items from the hallucination. I got one for Miguel as well, even though he doesn’t know the joys of Rick Springfield.

NATHAN: Yeah. Miguel is a loser like that, listening to crappy bands like Hel…

(Nathan notices that Chris is wearing his Helmet t-shirt.)

NATHAN: Help! The Beatles Tribute.

CHRIS: I really doubt Miguel…

NATHAN: I was thinking of Miguel from work, sorry.

CHRIS: Um, ok. The point is that I think that Reece is close by.

NATHAN: His name is Larry.

CHRIS: Uh huh. Keep dreaming. I just can’t think of any other explanation as to why I would be experiencing the dream state constantly unless Reece was causing it.

[INT – STUBBY’S HIDEOUT – DAY]

(Angelina, Paul, the professor, Quincy, and Stubby are gathered around a table looking at the results of the professor’s tests.)

PROFESSOR: The first bit is that I’m not sure if we got a good enough sample of Chris’s DNA. We’ll have to test it directly.

ANGELINA: I’m willing to torture him again if not. The bastard.

(Larry walks in.)

LARRY: Hey, people what’s up? I was just hanging out with Agent 1, Agent 2, and Agent 3 in the other room.

PAUL: Angelina was just saying how she would happily torture Chris, but it was the cute way she said it.

LARRY: At what point was he reduced to an uninteresting character whose only focus is his girlfriend?

PROFESSOR: It happens to all of us at some point after puberty, Larry. But I’m glad you’re here. Larry, do you remember when we took a DNA sample from you?

LARRY: Yes, you made it part of your science class at the college. You had one of your students use a saw to cut into my leg to get bone marrow from me. You had Agent 2 standing by healing me as it happened so that I wouldn’t feel it, but in spite of his best efforts, it still hurt pretty bad.

PROFESSOR: Sorry about that, pal.

LARRY: No problem, professor. I still feel bad about punching Agent 2 in the face and yelling that he should try having this baby. I think I must have soaked that in from a sitcom somewhere.

PROFESSOR: You retain all sorts of useless knowledge, Larry…

LARRY: Thank you, sir.

PROFESSOR: …do you remember if the student put the saw into formaldehyde after cutting your leg?

LARRY: He did not. I was thinking that maybe you were getting the DNA sample from the saw.

PROFESSOR: No, but unfortunately, I think that when we were cutting into Chris’s leg, and we retriggered his leftover DNA containing his super speed power that he may have actually got some of your DNA with your dream state power.

[INT – SCI-FI CONVENTION – DAY]

CHRIS: Nathan, have you ever really looked at your hands?

NATHAN: You sound like you’re on acid. I guess I’ve examined my hands enough in my life.

CHRIS: Good. Are those your hands growing out of the table trying to strangle me?

(Nathan looks at the table to see Chris’s hallucination growing from the table.)

NATHAN: Nah. They don’t look that much like mine. Mine are more like this…

(Nathan slaps Chris on the back of the head. The hallucination disappears.)

NATHAN: Now get back to work.

(End Episode Forty-Two)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Thursday Night

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Today's post will be about Chris' visit last evening (Thursday 10/21). Normally this wouldn't be blog worthy but Chris rarely gets to come over anymore. Early in the week we talked about Chris coming over since he wasn't scheduled into work until 1AM. Chris' time of arrival was scheduled by Chris to be between 5:30 and 6:00. He arrived at 6:30 which is about what time I estimated his actual arrival (I know him well).

I had dinner ready to go by the time he arrived so we sat down to empanadas and re fried beans. We enjoyed some Arcadia (aka Duran Duran side project). I have the So Red The Rose Anniversary edition CD/DVD that came out last year. The DVD contains all the videos produced for the album as well as a short 'filming the video' segment that whoever made them seem to have lost interest early on since all the ones past the first video were very short and or had little to do with the filming. We sat through 4 of the 'filming' segments and their respective videos. They were very entertaining (both Chris and I had not seen them all). What?! you say? Chris hadn't seen all the Arcadia stuff?! Impossible! Well, it's true. I'm glad to have been the one to show Chris something of Duran Duran's he had not seen before.

After dinner we stood around the kitchen while I showed him my excel spreadsheet of my bills. I have kept an extensive spreadsheet of the last 5 years of bills I have received. We discussed what assets I have and what I could sell in the coming year as apart of the 'Chris McGinty: Enemy of Debt 2: Electric Bugaloo' where Chris helps get me out of debt. I doubt it will be as drama filled as season 1 was.

Later we convened at the table to play some long-neglected NetRunner whist listening to Duran Duran's bastard child: Liberty. Liberty is right up there (was actually there before) Red Carpet Massacre as their great 'ignored' albums. I don't know why. I did fairly well in NetRunner winning a few games then loosing the last one or two. The wife showed up by then so we talked to her a little and finished up our gaming with best 3 out of 5 of 'Shut the Box'. We took a break from all this to go check out Chris' new ride.

We chatted a while longer and then Chris decided to leave. He planned to head home for a couple of hours before heading into work. That was ok with me since I was like seven hours past my bedtime.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chris McGinty - Enemy of Debt - Episode Fourteen

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

[I wrote this almost a month ago. Each of these has been running about three weeks slow, because so much happened the first couple of weeks. Last week, Nathan and I were doing convention writing, so this got even further behind. To make matters worse, this was an article of side thoughts, rather than an actual discussion of events. The upside, as far as catching up with this, is that I’m no longer helping Genghis CanIGetaHellYeah, which is a downside as far as what was left of our friendship. I’d written one more post after this. It will take either one or two posts to tell you about why I’m no longer helping him, so if you’re a huge fan of the feature (Hi, Miguel.) then there is still at least a couple of weeks.]

I think I’m going to take a break from discussing Genghis’s situation as a series of events for this week. As of the time I’m writing this there isn’t much going on anyway. Of course, it’s the middle of September, and this won’t be posted until the middle of October.

The reason I want to take a break is to deal with a couple of side items; possibly dealing with Nathan’s finances in 2012, and a comment that was left on a previous episode.

I joked that when I was done with Genghis I was going to take on… well, for the sake of his privacy, we’ll call him Greenly… ok, it’s Nathan. I joked that I was going to take on Nathan’s debt next, then my personal debt to my dad, and then the national debt. Well, Nathan sent me a message today saying that his wife is at least a little receptive to the idea of me doing an “Enemy of Debt” on their finances. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if it happens, but I’m up to the challenge.

In the meantime, I am technically starting mine, yet again. I’ve tried many times to get started on paying down the debt I have. I usually end up having an unexpected expense, usually having to do with a vehicle I own. The problem is that like with many things I try to accomplish, I get sidetracked too easily. It’s easier to make someone else stay the course than it is to make yourself stay the course. This brings me to another discussion.

There was a comment left on one of these episodes, and I wanted to respond to it here. It was anonymous, so who knows, maybe it was Miguel. I doubt it, but it could be. The basic idea behind the comment was that I should either just give Genghis money to help him or leave him to his own devices. What I’m doing, by regulating his smoking, and making him discuss any money he wants to spend is bullshit.

The funny thing is that I basically agree with the statement. The problem is that it’s a statement that I agree with at the most fundamental level, but I also realize on some level that sometimes you have to compromise beliefs. I want you to understand that when I say that, I’m not saying that you have to compromise your strongest held beliefs, or all your beliefs, but that there are beliefs that you have that are simply guidelines to your behaviours rather than full on deciders.

An example I gave recently is the example of war. I don’t believe in war. I don’t believe good truly comes of war. I do understand that when you have a maniac like Adolf Hitler committing genocide with the help of an amassed army that sometimes the further atrocities that are avoided probably outweigh the fundamental belief I hold.

A day to day example is that I don’t use the breakdown lane on freeways as an extra lane to get around traffic… except when I’m on 820 Westbound trying to exit Holiday Lane. Why? Simply because the lane is an exit only lane that people are stopped in, trying to get over. You don’t stop at a green light. If you follow an exit only lane down to the exit, you exit only, but hundreds of cars, every day, don’t exit. I’m reasonably sure that most of them know what they are doing when they enter into an exit only lane with no intention to exit, so I go around via the breakdown lane when normally I would be patient enough to wait.

How does this apply to Genghis? First off, something that Nathan pointed out, Genghis asked me for help. He agreed to my terms. Why did I have terms? Because I tried to help him before, and he did whatever he wanted anyway. I refused to help him unless he let me help him. Fundamentally those were my terms. I won’t help you unless you let me help you, which means that if you feel you can do a better job of fixing your situation, have at it. Otherwise, you do what I say.

Look at it this way. Let’s say you hire a roofer to fix your roof, but you’re a day sleeper. You tell that roofer that you don’t want him getting started on your roof until after 3:00 pm, because you have to sleep. The roofer then says that the request is unreasonable because the job would be inconvenient for him, and would cause the project to take too long to complete.

I’m the roofer and Genghis is the day sleeper. If you take the analogy all the way, this roofer is also doing the work for free, and is the only roofer who will do the job for you. You simply have to provide the materials. Genghis is not paying me or otherwise compensating me for my help. He is providing the materials, which is his paycheck, and I am fixing his roof, also known as his financial situation.

If Genghis then turns around and tells me that he wants me to help him out of his situation, but he wants to spend over $100 on cigarettes each month, $50 on beer each month, $30 on movie rentals each month, and whatever else, he is inconveniencing me because it will take me that much longer to finish the project.

What I’m saying is that I didn’t impose myself on him. If I had, it would be bullshit, but much like a roofer will tell you that you’ll have to hire someone else if you want to sleep undisturbed until 3:00 pm, I had terms for helping out Genghis.

The basic idea behind giving money rather than loaning is because of the potential strain that it could have on a friendship, and it was stated in the comment that “that’s not what friends do.” The truth is that my friendship with Genghis has been strained for a while. He is an addict. He has run out of money three times and landed his wife and children in a hotel. He was arrested for check fraud because of a defaulted payday loan, and then racked up a number of payday loans knowing what could happen. On top of all of this, he was looking at eviction number four, and putting his children into a divorce situation. Why? Cigarettes, beer, movies? General laziness. An unwillingness to humble himself for the good of those he’s responsible for.

The truth is that I believe (and I may be wrong, but I do believe this) that I’m showing true friendship by not telling him to fuck off because he did it to himself. I’ve told him that that’s what will happen if he ever gets himself into this situation again, but that I will teach him. It’s easy to say that that is tough love, and that your refusal to help will by proxy help. After all, once someone reaches rock bottom, they have no choice but to take responsibility for themselves. And that must be true, or we would have a homeless problem in this country.

Let’s say you’re teaching your child how to add and your child is telling you that 2+2=5. Do you let that child believe that’s the case, more or less dooming their ability to do many math problems well into their future, or do you instill the correct answer? It’s tough love you say. My refusal to help them remember the correct answer will force them to learn on their own. At some point, there is nothing you can do if the child refuses to accept your answer, but as long as you are helping that child with their math homework, you will not let them add 2+2 as anything but 4. I will teach Genghis nothing if I give him money with no guidance. He will continue to solve the problem incorrectly.

“Give or do not give, but do not loan and lord over” is a commonly held belief, and like I said, I fundamentally agree with it. There is another commonly held wisdom, which is, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”

I don’t have money to give to Genghis. I don’t have money to give to anyone. I have time to give to Genghis. I have some amount of wisdom to give to Genghis. I don’t have money to give to Genghis. What would you have me do? Let him get evicted, divorced, moved into a hotel, and shit faced because he doesn’t have a wife to tell him he’s not allowed to buy beer every night. And only then could I try to give him wisdom by what? Talking to him? Gently explaining the virtues of doing the right thing? Maybe I can give him a kidney when one of his fails.

This leaves me with one basic choice. Loan him enough to get him on his feet again and then lord over his life until I get the money back, and try to teach him what he did wrong along the way. I would say that there is also wisdom in the statement, “Give what you can give, nothing more.”

I have no money to give him, but I have time and wisdom. I’m doing what I can with what I have for somebody who I hardly respect anymore, but who is my friend. I’m doing what I can with what I have, and I’m not asking anything in return. If you don’t think that that is what friends do, then I might suggest that you adjust your bullshit meter. It might be going off for another reason.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On having renters 9

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

This is the 9th part of my series on renovating my mother's rent home in Joshua. The previous renters really tore the place up and it is up to me to get it ready again. Most renters have to sign a contact but the people who lived there were friends of my late step dad and never did. He did a lot of modification to the house but he never finished ANY of it. It has been about five months now and I have been going down there for a couple of hours each Saturday to work on the place.

This last Saturday I finally got to go back down there. It has been harder and harder to get down there lately. My mom doesn't seem to be in any rush but I am getting anxious to get it all done. If you remember I was planning to go down there next to do some painting with the sprayer. Since I figured out how to properly clean it and such I decided it would be best to paint the ceilings.

I got down there and set everything up for using the sprayer and got the paint ready. Well, I had one can of paint I had already started using on the house which was a little less than half full. I had brought a 2nd can from home which I have had for a long time. I shook it up and poured them both into the sprayer hopper. The older can wasn't as bright as the newer one. This worried me since I have already painted a couple of walls with the white so if I came back and painted the ceilings with this new 'less than white' it would show where the newly painted areas were. I went ahead and started painting and said what the hell...

I started painting and noticed that the paint wasn't coming out evenly. There were thicker 'lines' on the left hand side of the spray. Then the sprayer wouldn't stop running. What happens usually is that the pump will charge the line up then stop and only kick back on to refill the line with air. For some reason the pump would never shut off (like it had last time I used it). I quickly realized that painting the walls with this uneven spray and low spray output (because of the pump) wasn't going to work. I did however go ahead and paint the ceilings of the little and big bedrooms. You don't notice the uneven-ness of the paint since it is all textured.

It took me a while to clean the thing out but that was all I did on this trip. For my next trip I am planning on more painting (with a roller this time). I will also be buying a better type of paint. As I have said in some of the previous posts the cheap white I was using covers very badly so I am going to just spend some more to get the better stuff.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Debunking Self-Help

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

I’m a huge fan of self-help. I run much of my life by the principles presented by the self-help crowd. My intent here today is just to show that I don’t follow blindly. There are some things that I logically realize are goofy as self-help goes. Perhaps I choose to mostly ignore them, but whatever.

The Deserving – Self-help sometimes seems to be a bi-polar, multiple-personality, slightly autistic mess of beliefs. The one that I have the most trouble with is the manic-depressive nature of whether or not I deserve the best in life. On one hand, you have the self-help crowd running around telling us that we’re not entitled, and the world doesn’t owe us a living. Then on the flipside, we have these same folks saying things like we deserve to be happy. The difference seems to be in the definitions of entitled and deserving. They seem to think it has something to do with hard work and sacrifice. If you were born and you breathe air, you’re not entitled to have whatever you want. If you work hard and sacrifice you deserve to have what you want.

The Martyr – I’ve believed for a while that this seeming contradiction about the entitled and the deserving fits into a category that I don’t think you’ll often see in self-help material. A martyr is basically a person who sacrifices for the good of others, and presumably doesn’t complain about it, because it’s for the good of others. In my experience, there are a lot of martyrs out there who wear their badge as a means to say that they have sacrificed, and now they are deserving. The true hero needs no reward. It’s a hard place to be, because I think it’s human nature to want to be rewarded.

The System – We hear about people who use the system. We hear about people who cheat the system. The main difference seems to be legality and intent. If it’s illegal, then it’s cheating. If it’s legal, but you’re doing it just to get more than you deserve, then it’s cheating. Basically, to use the system, you have to be willing to work hard, sacrifice, and give back to the community, all while playing it off legit.

Mega-Happy – The entire self-help medium is predicated on bigger, better, faster, more, improved, and anything else that you typically associate with advertising. I’ve talked for many years about what I call “mega-happy.” Very few of us are ever just content in life. I think this is one of the dangers of self-help. Contented behaviour is passed off as stagnation, inability to leave your comfort zone, and settling for less. Self-help doesn’t often talk about how we all deserve to have our basic needs met, and to be content with what we have. It tends to take it to the next level. The next level is striving to be better. Even Buddhism and Jonathan Livingston Seagull believe that there is a point where you have achieved all you can achieve. Self-help tends to word itself in such a way that if you are not fully happy with your life that there is room for improvement. I believe that it’s that constant focus on the areas of improvement that turns the wheel of the self-help industry, because until you can look at areas that have room for improvement and say, but it is good enough, you will always believe you are unhappy.

The Ideal Job – Let me say this straight. I don’t believe that because I like playing music that I’m working in my chosen field if I get a job a Guitar Center. I don’t believe that because I like writing that I’m working in my chosen field if I get a job teaching English. I read a statistic that 80% of college graduates aren’t working in the field of their degree. Has anyone ever really thought about why this is? Many of the jobs that exist don’t require degrees. Let’s face it. If everybody went to college and got a degree, the fast food industry wouldn’t suddenly disappear. Restaurants wouldn’t suddenly disappear. There are service industry based degrees “Service and Hospitality” or something like that, but not everyone can be a manager. What I’m trying to say is that as long as we need lawyers, we also need security guards. As long as people buy things, we need retail jobs. As long as people eat, we will need unskilled workers either in fast food, restaurants, putting groceries on shelves, or scanning the stuff people buy.

Lifestyle – The only answer that I see is for people to live on less than they make. I realize that there is a belief that the age of retirement should be higher. I realize that we are able-bodied for many more years than we once were. I think that we should all hit a point where we retire though. I’m not saying that when you retire that you have to stop being useful to society. Do what you like. Keep working if you want. The problem that I see is that we are a society that traps ourselves into working longer than we have to as opposed to working longer because we want to. This is a great equalizer in the world of work. It doesn’t matter if you get stuck in fast food for your working life if you put $2,000 a year into a retirement account starting as early as you can. You can eventually get out of the job, and pursue things you’d like to do. It doesn’t matter if bands don’t get paid very well, if you’re in your 40s and have no need for an income, because you’re already retired.

Persistence – There is probably a weird truth having to do with persistence. You likely won’t succeed unless you’re persistent. The problem with self-help is that it attempts to guarantee success with persistence. The logic is that if you try for twenty years and then give up, well, you just weren’t persistent. You gave up. Maybe if you would have persisted for a couple more years. It’s an odd trap, because once you give up, you have given up. You proved that without persistence, you fail. This is where another one of those contradictions comes into play. They tell you that you have to abandon what isn’t working. Well, that’s called giving up. Yes, they frame it so that you are persisting, but coming at it from a new angle. It’s just giving up though. If I want to be a novelist, but that pursuit isn’t working, so I abandon what isn’t working and get a job at a newspaper; well, I gave up didn’t I?

Reciprocation – There is also a belief that what you give is what you receive. If you smile at a person, they will smile back. This is mostly true, but it’s not always true. If you pray, or if you write affirmations, then your deity or the universe will place resources and opportunities in your life. I think this is one of the hardest ones for me to grasp. I want to believe it’s true. It would make creating a path for my life so much easier. It’s just that when you place value on things that work for you as being destined and value things that don’t work for you as “everything happens for a reason” or an “opportunity in disguise” you are deluding yourself. I have a pretty positive outlook about life. I really do. But I don’t believe that just because shit decomposes and becomes flowers that I want to be shit on. I read a quote attributed to Shakespeare: “Sweet are the uses of adversity.” I believe that. I believe that when bad things happen that you can move forward in a positive manner. I just don’t believe that you can turn a negative into a positive. Place a value on your dignity and integrity in the face of bad times. Don’t place a value on how a bad became a good just because you feel happy at the moment.

Faith – Ok, I’ve been pretty down on the whole self-help field. If this is the first thing you’ve ever read that I’ve written then you must think me to be very anti-self-help. I’m not. They say that faith is belief without measurable proof. I have faith in a few things. The proof I have is lacking and convoluted, but it doesn’t matter because when you have faith, you move forward with hope and belief. There are downsides of faith, of course, and I would be remiss to not point that out given the nature of this article. The point here is to not follow blindly. I am a fan of the self-help literature. I just don’t give it a free pass from scrutiny.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Stuff and stuff

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Once again I don't have a specific topic to talk about but I do have some bullet points to cover a bunch of different thoughts I have...
  • My wife has suddenly become interested in the Rangers. As for myself I don't care for sports. I will get mildly intersted if said team is playing for a championship and even then I am like: 'meh'.
  • Still painting my house a little bit at a time. I could just quit now and probably no one would notice the difference but there are tons of little areas here and there that need touchups.
  • My yard is growing again and it looks like I am going to need to mow in the not too distant future. I thought the heat had killed it all but I was wong.
  • It's almost cool enough to hang out in the shed in the back field... not quite though.
  • Didn't do much this weekend. I did do some work at the rent house which I will post about on Wednesday.
  • I have started reposting stuff to eBay for selling. Since the convention didn't go so well I am looking at some turn over online.
  • My job is stressing me at the moment.
  • It would be nice to not have debt right now so I could just quit.
  • We are going to stay the night at WinStar on Halloween night. I don't know why... I guess the wife wants to be elsewhere.
  • I wish we lived in the city... Halloween would be a big event.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Star Wars Fan Days Convention: Day 2 (Post 3/3)

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Today is the 3rd post in my series of posts about the Star Wars Fan Days Convention that Chris McGinry, Chris Noble, and I went to. You can read all about Chris McGinty's experience this last week as well. My first part covered the setup day and the first full day of the convention. Today I will cover the 2nd day and the wrap up of the series.

The second day of these conventions usually start a little later than the first which will allow time for a little sleeping in but Noble wanted to get there early so he could search for stuff to buy. Noble is a huge Star Wars fan (Bobba Fett in particular) and wanted to scour the show for something to buy. I agreed to show up early but I failed to realize that although the shows opens later to the public that does not mean the dealer room would open just as early to exhibitors as it did on Saturday. On Sunday morning I got up and did a double check on the opening and say that I had about an hour and a half to kill before we should even leave. I farted around the house and eventually Noble showed and we left. McGinty wasn't sure he was going to come and later confirmed it (or perhaps he confirmed it the night before).

Texas has been a drought for a few years now. This year has been especially bad. We haven't had rain in more than a month (and even then it was very little). Late Saturday the heavens opened up and we got drenched. It rained all night and the ground became a swamp. I decided to take my wife's SUV instead of the truck so the stuff wouldn't get wet on the way back home. Noble brought his kid and we set off for the show.

Sunday was more of the same as Saturday, cheap-ass customers, self-promoting douche bags, and ass-hole exhibitors. To add insult to injury the concession staff was rolling around coolers trying to sell $3 sodas, sounding like carnival barkers. The crowd was much lighter as expected and it was a struggle to sell anything. I got with Hank and we made a trade of some graphic novels and models. I utterly failed to get his email once again but I am sure we will see him again. About two hours before the close of the show the guy who runs it made an announcement that went like this: 'Exhibitors, we are still selling tickets and people are still coming in. Do not pack up and leave yet. Please give these fans a chance to buy something.' Are you kidding me? I paid for this space I can do whatever the fuck I want to. If you are a greedy enough individual to be still charging admissions to people right before the shows closes that's your issue, not mine.

Nothing else of great interest happened during the 2nd day. When four o'clock rolled around we packed up and started loading up the SUV. Now I was already worried that we had too much stuff to cram in there and my fears where quickly realized. We had 2 big boxes left over and no more space to shove it in. This was getting irritating. We should have been out of there long ago but were stuck for about 50 minutes just unpacking and repacking the SUV. Finally we got it all shoved in, having to ditch one large box and simply place it's contents in all the nooks and crannies inside the vehicle. We got home and I got unloaded while Noble took off for home.

After doing some inventory work and figuring out what I had and didn't have after the show I came to the grand total of -$23 in sales. I had brought home almost at $1,000 but when you calculate the cost of renting the tables and such I wound up paying to go through all that trouble. Take that cheap-ass customers! Oh, if you then add in the State Sales Tax I will be paying for this event my grand total comes to about -$100.

As I said in part two my enjoyment for this type of event is waning. We might setup for the next one because of McGinty's brother and I will more than likely try for the May show again but I'm getting jaded. I'm thinking that the real money is online.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Flash Ahhhh!: Episode Forty-One – Yesterday and To-Marrow

by the According To Whim .com crew

(Part One by Nathan Stout)

[INT - STUBBY'S HIDEOUT - DAY]

(Chris is tied up with Quincy watching over him. As promised, Chris is trying to get free. As he wriggles, he hits his phone and it dials Nathan’s phone. Chris knows this because of Nathan’s De-cresche Dialer Mode ringback tone playing through the earpiece.)

NATHAN (on phone): Hello?

(Chris, not wanting to tip off Quincy, goes into one of those over exaggerated dialogues with Quincy, wherein, he attempts to clue Nathan in with out tipping off Quincy.)

CHRIS: So Quincy! Why did I get kidnapped by you guys again?!

QUINCY: Why are you talking so loud? Shut up.

CHRIS: But you bad guys kidnapped me and brought me back to Stubby’s hideout for some reason!

(Chris can hear a squeak come out of the phone. Then it hangs up.)

CHRIS: Sorry. I was wondering if I talked really loud in here if it would echo. Do you ever do that? You think that a place might echo if you talk loud enough? I did that once in a fast food place, the night I first met Nathan, as a matter of a fact.

(Quincy is clearly getting irritated.)

QUINCY: Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!

CHRIS: Ok.

[EXT –WHALE-O BURGER – DAY]

(Nathan and Miguel are sitting in the local Whale-O Burger eating dolphin-dogs made with real dolphin. This is my story and I can rub it in the noses of the animal-huggers everywhere if I want.)

NATHAN: You know, maybe we should do something about Chris.

MIGUEL: Nah. He is fine. This whole thing has been going on for days and he seems to always come out alive. What’s a tiny bit more danger?

NATHAN: I kind of feel bad about leaving him at Hangman’s with those dudes.

MIGUEL: I don’t think they want us there, and I don’t want to be there, so there.

(Miguel pulls a napkin out of the holder. The little speaker on the holder makes an unmistakable dolphin scream.)

NATHAN: Don’t you just love this place?!

(Miguel takes a few bites and talks through the sweet dolphin meat.)

MIGUEL: You brought me here to try and test my liberal sensibilities but it won’t work.

(Nathan looks disappointed.)

NATHAN: Why not?

MIGUEL: I’m only a lip-service liberal. I only need to spout off liberal objections when it comes to stuff that conservatives say or when my wife is around. Really, I could give a shit.

NATHAN: I am sorely disappointed with you. They say opposites attract...

MIGUEL: Only Paula Abdul says that.

NATHAN: Come on. Where is the old fire? When we first met, I was sure you were going to be my best-est friend ever. That fire died out quickly.

(Nathan just watches Miguel in silence for a bit.)

NATHAN: Come on... Let’s go save Chris in a manner that our children and grandchildren will talk about for ages. We will do something so grand that it will be popular on the internet for a whole day.

(Miguel chews a bit more, thinking about it, but trying not to look like he is.)

NATHAN: Huh?

MIGUEL: I don’t know...

NATHAN: Huh?

MIGUEL: I...

NATHAN: Huh? Come on buddy!

(Miguel sighs, resigned.)

MIGUEL: Ok.

NATHAN: Yes! Thank you, Miguel. Now, get excited and stay that way for at least 10 hours. Fake it till you make it.

MIGUEL: I’ll try.

NATHAN: This will help.

(Nathan tosses a pill into Miguel’s direction. Since Miguel is used to this method for his Xanax delivery he automatically opens his mouth and the pill goes right in.)

MIGUEL: What was that?

NATHAN: Tabular speed.

MIGUEL: Whaaa?

[INT – STUBBY’S HIDEOUT – DAY]

(Chris struggles feebly with his bonds and Quincy sits at the table smashing little glass figurines, giggling in evil delight. Suddenly, the professor walks in, followed by Angelina, Stubby, and Paul. Behind them someone walks in who Chris knows very well – but I’m not gonna reveal that just yet.)

CHRIS: You pirating muthu’ fuckers!

(Stubby looks extremely happy about something.)

CHRIS: Are you in bed with these dicks now, Stubbs?

STUBBY: I’m now in the employ of these fine people, if that’s what you mean.

PROFESSOR: We had a little issue, Christopher. We thought we were done with you a while back but our formulae were not fully realized.

CHRIS: I wondered why he looks like shit.

PROFESSOR: Tisk tisk tisk now. I needed Larry to get a sample to retest so we could make adjustments and sure enough we needed you back.

(The professor looks back at his group of people.)

PROFESSOR: Angelina, saw. We are going to need a bone marrow sample.

(End of Part One)

(Part Two by Chris McGinty)

CHRIS: Ow!

ANGELINA: I haven’t even started sawing yet.

CHRIS: I’m rehearsing.

(Angelina continues to sharpen the saw blade.)

CHRIS: Ow!

ANGELINA: Would somebody please shut him up?

[EXT – SOME ROAD – DAY]

NATHAN: Look Miguel, I’m sorry.

MIGUEL: I said it before and I’ll say it again. If it wasn’t for the fact that you have me hopped up on some super focused soccer mom pill, I would be extraordinarily pissed that we were walking. But as of right now, I’m fine with it.

NATHAN: Look Miguel, I’m really, really sorry.

MIGUEL: Maybe next time you’ll think about what you say about the condition of the cab you’re riding in. Oh wait; there won’t be a next time, because you got a lifetime ban.

NATHAN: Miguel, I’m very, very, very sorry. And in my defense, you were in that cab; you saw how disgusting it was.

MIGUEL: Maybe we should just put up with Shag and Dentre’s sobbing over lost commissions, and get a ride from then in MaryAnn.

NATHAN: That might work to get us to Hangman’s, but they’ll be useless in any sort of rescue mission.

MIGUEL: What about the Grrrls?

NATHAN: Oh, I love them. Though I think the Bible and Amy Grant would define it as lust. Wait, did you actually just have a good idea?

MIGUEL: Yes, I did.

NATHAN: That soccer mom speed is amazing. But you’re right; we can call the XXX Auto Club Roadside Assistance and ask them to give us a ride.

[INT – STUBBY’S HIDEOUT – DAY]

CHRIS: Ow!

ANGELINA: Shut up!

CHRIS: But you’re really cutting into my leg now!

ANGELINA: Either keep quiet, or I’ll have them gag you and remove the Mr. Peepers drip.

CHRIS: Whimper.

(Angelina rolls her eyes and starts cutting again.)

ANGELINA: You were supposed to whimper, not say whimper.

CHRIS: Ow!

ANGELINA: Shut up!

CHRIS: Ow! Ow! Ow! Fiddlesticks!

QUINCY: Well, at least he has the decency to not cuss even through all the pain.

STUBBY: Actually, he’s referring to my collection of fiddle sticks that I have hanging on the wall.

(Quincy turns to look, but there is nothing on the walls.)

QUINCY: You fooled me. That’s a funny thing, boss.

STUBBY: Just trying to lighten the mood. I think he may actually be delirious from the shock.

CHRIS: Ooh that tickles.

QUINCY: Yeah, he’s delirious. It’s more humane that way.

PROFESSOR: Can you get a sample now?

ANGELINA: I believe I’ve cut far enough now.

PAUL: I love my little surgeon/scientist/hot chick.

(Angelina groans, but stays focused on the task at hand. Angelina is busy playing surgeon/scientist/hot chick, and doesn’t notice that Chris has come out of his haze, and is looking at her with focus and clarity.)

CHRIS: That really tickles you know?

STUBBY: Wait, that doesn’t sound like delirious shock.

CHRIS: You altered my DNA so that I would no longer have super speed.

PROFESSOR: Yes, but we can get the unaltered DNA from your bone marrow.

CHRIS: And so can I. You know what happens if I rub the loose ends of this rope together.

BOARD MEMBER REGINALD’S GHOST: Don’t say loose ends. The continuity of this story literally killed me.

CHRIS: Stay out of this, Board Member Reginald. I need to concentrate to escape.

QUINCY: Who is he talking to?

STUBBY: Shocked delirium.

CHRIS: You’re not real Board Member Reginald. I have to focus on escaping.

ANGELINA: I’m almost done here if someone would just shut him up.

BOARD MEMBER REGINALD’S GHOST: You will go to the Dagobah system.

CHRIS: I will do nothing of the sort. I just have to rub the loose ends of the rope together.

(Stubby and Quincy, who are approaching Chris, notice that he is rubbing the rope parts together, but that he is using super speed to do it. Before they have a moment to react the rope catches on fire.)

Chris: Ow!

STUBBY: Damn it! I knew I should have bought tallow soaked rope rather than the cheap stuff.

PROFESSOR: Tallow soaked? They make that?

(Chris, with his hands now free, slaps Angelina away from her marrow extraction work. He reaches down and unties the binds on his feet with super speed. He then immediately knocks out Paul before Paul can use his power to stop Chris. He tears Paul’s shirt to make a tourniquet for his leg. He ties it off as Board Member Reginald’s Ghost scolds him.)

BOARD MEMBER REGINALD’S GHOST: We’re looking for ratings here. You should have torn Angelina’s shirt for a tourniquet.

CHRIS: Leather doesn’t make for a good tourniquet.

BOARD MEMBER REGINALD’S GHOST: True.

CHRIS: Oh, and I’m not talking to you, because you’re not real.

BOARD MEMBER REGINALD’S GHOST: Fair enough.

(Chris finishes the tourniquet, just as Stubby and Quincy are about to overtake him. He speeds off out of the hideout.)

PROFESSOR: What the hell!? How does he always manage to escape!?

(Chris speeds back in to the hideout.)

CHRIS: Next time I gain back my super power, you should run straight to the dampening field rather than trying to grab me.

(Chris speeds out of the hideout.)

QUINCY: He has a point.

[INT – XXX AUTO CLUB TRUCK – DAY]

GRRRL 1: We could get in trouble for this you know. We’re not a taxi service.

(Nathan is sitting in close quarters with Grrrl 2 and seems to be in delirious shock.)

NATHAN: Uh huh…

GRRRL 1: We’re only doing this because it’s been a slow shift, and because we dislike Angelina as much as you do.

(The truck hits a bump, and Nathan gets popped in the head by rather large bouncing boobs.)

NATHAN: Uh huh…

(Meanwhile, Focus Group Miguel with swivel action grip and special mental faculties included with purchase, is speaking French to Grrrl 3. She seems to be swept off her feet, even though she can’t understand a word Miguel is saying.)

GRRRL 3: I thought you were nothing but a drip before, but now you seem more focused and intense, and I must say that I want to do things that I’ll be thinking of even as I die by your wife’s scorned hands strangling me.

MIGUEL: Ah moan sherry sieve you play… is that Chris running along side our truck.

NATHAN: Uh huh…

MIGUEL: I thought it was. Thank you for verifying, Nathan.

NATHAN: What? What did I do?

[INT – MINK AND SHAKE RESTAURANT – NIGHT]

(Chris, Nathan, and Miguel sit at a table with Grrrl 1, Grrrl 2, and Grrrl 3, watching the sunset through the restaurant window.)

MIGUEL: The colours are so vibrant.

NATHAN: Colors, Miguel. It’s pronounced colors.

MIGUEL: For you low cultured Americans perhaps.

NATHAN: Remind me never to give him a focus pill again.

CHRIS: He seems useful all of a sudden though.

NATHAN: So Stubby’s real hideout isn’t actually at Hangman’s?

CHRIS: No, it’s in some sort of Batman like cave. And Garrett took my Duran Duran collection, so that whole trip was pointless.

NATHAN: Except that you found out that Stubby met with Owen R. and then returned with Paul, Angelina, and the professor. That’s more information than we had before.

MIGUEL: Not to mention that you got your power back.

NATHAN (grumbling): Yeah, not to mention that.

MIGUEL: Who the hell is Owen R? Is he married to a woman name Veru?

NATHAN: I would think that that pill would have made you grow out of that.

MIGUEL: And there is that thing that Chris is refusing to reveal to us.

CHRIS: What? You love it when I keep you in the dark about something for a long period of time only to reveal it later after you no longer care.

NATHAN: You said it was someone who you know very well.

CHRIS: Then I said, “But I’m not gonna reveal that just yet.”

MIGUEL: Let it go, Nathan. It will end up being some guy that was in the background of a Sonic Youth video, and you’ll just be disappointed.

(The waiter, played by Steve Buscemi, approaches the table with a tray of plates. Each plate has a variety of pasta surrounding a small cooked carcass.)

WAITER: Your grilled mink with choice of pasta side. Are you enjoying your milkshakes?

MIGUEL: At five dollars a pop, they’d better be good shakes.

WAITER: Sir, I’ve already told you that our milkshakes only cost $2.99.

NATHAN: So Miguel, does this disgust your liberal sensibilities? Your average mink can only feed one human. All those slaughtered minks. Horribly murdered and then cooked for the pleasure of fat, greedy humans.

MIGUEL: You know this pill is making me think clearer, and I’m realizing that conservative thinking is really sounder than liberal thinking.

CHRIS: Except on social issues.

MIGUEL: Fair enough.

(Nathan looks at his plate. He looks a little disgusted by the grilled mink.)

NATHAN: Well, I’m glad that you’re finally seeing the light.

CHRIS: So, Grrrl 2. You’ve hardly said anything since we’ve been here. Is there something on your mind?

GRRRL 2: I’ve been missing our job at the heavy metal bar.

CHRIS: Yeah, why aren’t you working there anymore?

GRRRL 2: Those places open and close quicker than theme restaurants.

(The waiter walks up to the table.)

WAITER: The bad news is that we’re being shut down because of failure to pay rent. The good news is that the landlord is letting everyone finish their meal.

(The waiter walks away, flips off his boss, and leaves the restaurant.)

CHRIS: Listen Grrrls, I don’t mean to take advantage of our current comfortableness with each other…

GRRRL 1: This is so guy like. I bought you dinner now you have to do something to my penis.

GRRRL 3 (watching Miguel eat and slobber mink juice): I can only hope that’s what he wants.

CHRIS: No, you misunderstand me. I wanted to ask you about Angelina.

NATHAN: For the record, I like the penis idea.

CHRIS: When Nathan had his power, he was blocked from getting any Intel from Angelina’s mind. What do you know about her part in all of this?

NATHAN: Speaking of which. I’m not too happy that you have your power back and I don’t. Do you think you could perform the actions that got you your power back on me?

CHRIS: Sure.

(Chris describes the method by which he got his power back. Nathan’s face has gone pale. He looks at his plate.)

NATHAN: Anybody want this?

(Miguel, wiping his face, soaking the napkin, and still not getting it all, raises his hand. Nathan pushes the plate to Miguel.)

GRRRL 2: The truth is that we don’t really know what Angelina has been trying to accomplish. About all we can say is that she is a self-mercenary. Rather than giving her services to the highest bidder, she switches sides according to whim…

(Nathan, Chris, and Miguel “woot” and give each other high fives.)

GRRRL 2: …based on who she thinks will bring her the most power. Then when she has the most to gain, she’ll arrange a coup and take over.

GRRRL 1: While she paid us well, we’re probably lucky to have been fired. Paul and the professor are going to regret letting her get so close.

[INT – STUBBY’S HIDEOUT – NIGHT]

(Angelina wakes up. She seems dizzy and holds her head in her hands.)

ANGELINA: I don’t remember drinking anything.

(Paul is sitting at the end of the makeshift bed of anything remotely soft they could find around the cave.)

PAUL: Chris got his power back and slapped you pretty hard. I think the speed made it harder than it normally would have been. The good news is there is no longer a handprint on your face.

ANGELINA: The bone marrow sample!

PAUL: It fell on the ground when you were knocked out, but the professor thinks he may have saved enough. He’s in there now testing it.

(End Episode Forty-One)