The Loop / Golf Digest — The classic Nintendo Entertainment System was great for games in which overdramatic and cliched Italians hurled turtle shells around subterranean drainpipes, but real bad for golf. Between the years of 1984 and 1992, the original NES spawned a handful of golf-oriented video games, all of which attempted to capture the majesty of the sport and none of which, to our memory, came within a country mile of Ninja Gaiden or Metroid or even Golgo 13, and yeah, I see you out there, my Golgo 13 people.
But was that memory false? Did the games hold up better than we remembered, in our decades-old Super Tecmo Bowl-themed fog? This week we set forth to find out, using a Raspberry Pi, a customizable and probably legal device on which you can basically play every video game released between 1860 and 1993. (Indeed, the entire vast breadth of your video-game childhood now fits on an SD card the approximate size of a Wheat Thin, although of course they taste entirely different.)
For real, I’ve been laughing at this for three weeks straight.
GateHouse — The thing that I love most is how the 8-year-old hands me — me! — the iPad to clear a level of “Angry Birds: Star Wars,” like that’s something that I can do better. Like because I am a Grown Person with my own retirement account, flood insurance and cholesterol medicine (ha! just kidding about the retirement account, and possibly flood insurance) I possess magic Angry Birds-Flinging powers available only to graying people whose bones make weird noises when they get up in the morning.
I suppose I should be thankful for this, that at the age of near-9 my son still holds me in enough esteem to shovel me problems he finds insurmountable and I, being a dynamic and powerful father, will not hesitate to squoosh a junta of cartoon pigs who are wearing stormtrooper masks. I should also be thankful that we haven’t encountered any Insurmountable Problems that involve, say, removing a snake from someplace confined and damp, or attending to something in or around an engine block.
But most of the time, I’m just watching the kid squish birds. Actually, I’m sort of watching him, because my aging eyes cannot adequately track his fingers. All they see is hands moving, going from one spot to another without apparently visiting the space in between, like a skinny ninja who cannot remember to brush all of his teeth, and then some pigs explode. He’ll fling a bird and evaluate in mid-flight whether or not the bird’s trajectory is pleasing to his little spongebrain, and if it’s clear the bird isn’t going to splat where it’s supposed to splat he’ll have paused, canceled and restarted the level basically before I’ve realized that the iPad is on. One would think someone with this kind of preternatural grasp on physics and trajectory would be able to walk up a door marked PUSH and not pull it, yet here we are.
GateHouse — Is there some reason the Mars Curiosity rover isn’t the lead news, the 720-point dominant headline, the screaming neon BREAKING NEWS ALERT of the day, all day, every day? Is anything else truly happening that resonates on such a primal, galactic, mysterious, steam-shooting-out-of-your-ears level? Paul Ryan? Preseason football? A guy from “Saturday Night Live” talking about tax policy? This is all you’ve got? Nothing else that can match, in pure wonder and damn-right impressiveness, a sedan-sized space car that we parked on a DIFFERENT PLANET? Oh wait, according to this Major American News Website, “Boy’s head lodged in guardrail.” Sorry, professionals! Get back to work!
To recap: Last fall, we sent a thing to Mars. Shortly after, it arrived at Mars. If this was the end of the story — Thing We Shot At Mars Actually Freaking Made It To Freaking Mars — it would be cause enough for a joyous celebration tinged with childlike wonder, the turning over of some cars, and, I don’t know, probably some half-naked frolicking in the streets of whatever place space people hang out most — I guess that would probably be New Mexico? Where do nerds hang out these days? Is GenCon still happening?
Yet you likely do not know this story, which appears currently on a Major American News Network’s Web Site next to another headline that reads “Man floats with dog to ease its pain.” Which is sweet, unless he’s floating with the dog by holding onto it, which I have to surmise would cause more pain that it would ease, what with all the thrashing and wet-dog smell.
It's shocking how much time was not needed to locate this image
GateHouse— You know what Facebook could use is an increased level of unprovoked information about people’s kids, and before any of you jumpy gophers who leave a Facebook tab up “at work” to pounce on posts/comments like rabid animals get all “snarky” and “sarcastic” and “busy with quotation fingers” I know I put kid pictures on Facebook all the time too; I am not saying that I never do it or you should never do it, particularly if hypothetically your child was all sweet pushing his baby brother around in a stroller or that baby has a particularly lively reaction to your eerily accurate Swedish Chef impression. I am just saying that oh my God seriously if I see another child I don’t know sitting on a toilet I am definitely canceling the Internet service of the elderly neighbor/nonprofit I’m stealing wifi from, which is either “rutner house” or “Beaufort County Orphanage” or “linksys” or “linksys” or “linksys” or “linksys.”
(Incidentally this is where my 8-year-old would roll his eyes and go, “Don’t listen to him, Dad’s being sar-castic,” not that I would put that on Facebook or anything EVEN THOUGH IT’S UNBEARABLY CUTE AND YOU SHOULD ALL KNOW ABOUT IT.)
And yet here we are, thanks to the Consumer Electronics Show, an annual gathering of people to whom I would normally ascribe a dumb, nerdworthy nickname like “coding goobers” or “zittlywankers” or “Parrotheads” except I’m sure that any one of them is capable of building a nanorobot 14 molecules high that could kill me in my sleep using an endoplasmic reticulum. If you haven’t read up on this thing take a look online; seriously, it’s like a “Star Wars” convention for nerds.
Well, make that nerds and their parents: Because of CES we will soon have access to a device that will weigh your Precious Little Angel and auto-fire the results to Twitter and Facebook, saving you the trouble of weighing your child on some vintage hand-cranked lead-painted off-the-grid scale from Service Merchandise in 1983 and using a whole separate app to bore everyone to tears manually.
GateHouse — Oh my God you guys the best thing just happened: my Mac finally broke! For good! It’s totally useless! THIS IS AMAZING!
Wow, this, I don’t need to tell you, is fantastic news if you are 1. a dippy Mac nerd and 2. a Vrabel, because the regular replacement of even sleek sexy Apple objects, whose very existence demands expensive upgrades at regular intervals, does not come easy to Vrabels.
Which is not to say that we eschew technology. My 80-year-old Uncle Jim, for instance, last year brought home a forehead-slappingly monstrous new iMac, one whose screen was easily large enough to humiliate most of the movie theaters in my hometown. It was terrifying, not just because my family wouldn’t have been more surprised if he came home and announced he had just purchased a previously undiscovered Jackson Pollock from an auction in Amsterdam, but whatever, it was way cooler than anything we had.
And what did he do with this glorious piece of sleek gorgeousness? He literally set it up on a desk that has been around since before I was, next to a computer called a Commodore Amiga that he literally purchased in 1989, on which we literally spent spent visits there playing hours of “Zac McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders” and which is literally STILL SITTING WHERE IT SAT IN 1989. I haven’t the foggiest notion if it functions or even turns on or has been totally gutted and is housing a family of vagabond gerbils, but it is there, this wonderful metaphor or progress, of the inexorable march of technological improvement, of my family’s still-lively inability to even remotely begin considering to throw things out if there is any chance it can serve some vague purpose down the road, or, failing that, if they can sell them to people for Bears-ticket money.
GateHouse — When you are a barely functional idiot who attempts to “write humor” for a living, and by “living” I mean “occasional side deposits of nickels and/or circus peanuts that augment your salary from maintaining the slurry tubes at the poultry processing facility,” it can be sometimes impossible to come up with a decent topic. Revolution in Egypt, for instance, is a heartening story of the power of the united human condition, but it’s not terrifically funny, except for those protestors who kept stepping on rakes that would fwap up and hit them in the noses. There are times when it can be difficult to think of a topic, although generally during these times I just give my son eight or nine cups of coffee and follow him around with a voice recorder. And then there are times that the Catholic Church approves an iPhone app designed to assist with confession. Bless me Father for I have sinned, although you apparently don’t mind that much, because you TOTALLY HAVE MY BACK THIS WEEK.
To recap: An iPhone app that handles confession — although, if we’re being literally interpretive about it, which we probably should, given the circumstances, the app “prepares” you for confession, in the same way that online poker “prepares” you for Vegas. So let’s just get some things right out of the way:
“Yes, Father, I can hear you just fine, please stop asking me that.”
I’m on AT&T, so I probably have a better chance of getting a decent signal in hell than on my back porch.
Whoever had “Touch-screen confession before women can become priests” in the pool is a big winner this week!
Because if you’ve ever felt confused that a life’s accumulation of sins, impure thoughts, impure memories, thoughts about impure memories and so forth could be recalibrated into math, wait until you see it done by the same device with which you tweet.
I suppose the Nelly Furtado cover on this promo art is a pretty good indicator of how popular this thing is, huh
GateHouse — Do you know those annoying, pretentious, patronizing Mac people, the indigestible elitists who swear by their little ivory-colored best friends, the ones who wear small T-shirts with clever slogans on them to work, the ones who schedule days off of work to watch Steve Jobs’ keynote presentations and the ones who shake their heads in sympathetic bemusement at their friends with “drivers” and “security patches” and “several hundred dollars of Norton-based expenses”? Yeah, that’s me. Please take your shoes off and leave your Vista laptops in the car — we don’t serve their kind here.
I am a Mac nerdperson because, much like my indestructible Honda and this previously blue Cubs hat from like 2001, they’ve worked, really well, for a long time. I realize this may not be the common experience, and I can actually hear my reflexiveMac-hater friends clickity clackity-ing up witty rejoinders, but to them, as always, I say: You are probably using them wrong. Try checking the instructions.
For example, I have a nearly-destroyed five-year-old iPod that has basically been through the MP3 version of the Bataan Death March; it has been dropped and kicked and nearly put through the washing machine and almost fumbled into the sea, but the damned thing just will not expire, like that liquid metal Terminator, or John McCain. The front screen is now in a state of such unreadable scratchiness and pixel blowout that you can literally only read titles if you hold the device at a 40-47-degree angle to your nose, and do you know what? IT STILL WORKS FINE. I’m scared of it, to be honest.
Pictured: The device responsible for last week's stock market collapse (it's powered by Windows 7, obvs)
GateHouse — If you are a computer, chances are good that everyone kind of hates your guts right now.
First, they hate you for attempting to flatten the global economy by putting your 1 and 0 keys so inexplicably far away from each other, an indefensible design oversight which, when coupled with a human error in which someone e-mailed the word “infer” when he really meant “imply,” last week irrevocably demolished the whole of the American economic system and caused literal billions of dollars to spontaneously burst into flame and fly through space to China, where they were going anyway. (Along the same lines, Greek people hate you for reminding them repeatedly that goods and services must be paid for with actual currency.)
Second, people on Facebook are confounded and irritated by your sudden, unturnoffable refusal to let them talk about their children’s illnesses in peace until they announce to the global human experience their approval of music by Train. (Note: Making this joke gives Facebook implicit consent to sell my immunization records to Netflix; don’t be alarmed about the tetanus thing, I feel fine, I swear.)
But third, and most importantly, computers have been jerking around with the Houston Astros — and that, robot army, is where us carbon-based rebels draw the line at your manufactured tyranny.
Pictured: The Apple iPad, due April 3 (drives sold separately)
GateHouse — Well, as usual, my attempt to avoid coveting a sleek and impractical object produced by the nerd-leprechauns at Apple has lasted until the exact moment they showed a commercial for it on the TV. Thanks, Oscars, not only did you throw my spring budget into chaos with your deliciously tempting ad for an electronic device I couldn’t possibly need but would give me something do with my other hand while I’m futzing with the iPod during the commute, but also you gave Best Costume Design to “The Young Victoria?” Um, did I miss the part where you all became gravy-brained goat-people? Because the costume designs in “The Young Victoria” are a HUMILIATING JOKE WHEN COMPARED TO THE SHATTERING GRANDIOSITY OF THE COSTUME DESIGN OF “COCO BEFORE CHANEL.” This is why real America hates the Hollywood elite; go back to British Columbia and take your Neil Patrick Harris with you, appeasers.
Anyway, I was talking about Apple (for the purposes of finishing this piece I’m turning the Oscar broadcast off before they announce Best Documentary Short because if it isn’t “Music By Prudence” I am going to smash all the windows at the mall). We have all Apple products here at the house, for two very simple reasons:
They work. Knock on wood, but in four years we haven’t had one notable thing go wrong with either, which, given the amount of illegal music and international pornography I download, is a miracle on par with that time I found the Virgin Mary’s profile in my yogurt swirls. And I really mean this, I’m not just saying it so Apple sees me on their Google Alerts and decides hey we should send this guy some free gear or something just for being so nice and complimentary to us and besides Apple Apple Apple Apple.
GateHouse — A short parable for this holiday season, starring .htaccess files, five lightsabers, inessential ambition and egregious, carrying-a-walrus-with-two-hands-over-your-head stupidity:
I am, as anyone who has spent more than four minutes with me and my collection of stories involving personal interactions with “Weird Al” Yankovic (there are six) will attest, a nerd. Not a geek, mind you, nor a dingus, and not really a twerp, although there was a good period of pronounced twerpery between the years of 1987-1989 that cheerfully coincided with the purchase of a new camera by both my Dad and the school yearbook staff. Good times.
The point is, nerd. To wit, I spent Thanksgiving this year at the home of lovely and hospitable friends who have one baby and five lightsabers. Also to wit, I just said to wit, which actually makes me want to beat myself up. Anyway, after dinner the husband component of this couple produced the replica lightsabers — I’m going to stop and do that again with overbearing punctuation: five. replica.lightsabers — and the small percentage of guests who were able to regard this development without releasing a sigh of utter despondency adjourned directly outside and — well, there’s no other way to say this — had a Jedi fight. I would say we did this for the benefit of my five-year-old son, but I’d be lying if I suggested that I found the entire endeavor to be anything south of way awesome.
Anyway, this minor though not entirely un-violent episode coincided with a time in which I decided, hey, you know what, this Internet thing seems to be gaining traction amongst the youngsters and the media, in that order, so let’s see if I can’t get my blog looking a little spiffier and moved to a new host that can make that happen.
Writer: GQ, Men’s Health,
the Washington Post, Garden & Gun, Indianapolis Monthly, Golf Digest, Vice, BruceSpringsteen.net,
the Indy 500, Fatherly, etc. Proud owner of a Bruce-related Guinness World Record. Even longer bio/clips.