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Instrumental Invasion, 9/30/20 October 1, 2020

Posted by Mike C. in Airchecks, Animation, Audio, Broadway, Film, Internet, Jazz, Media, Music, Personal, Radio, TV, Video, Video Games.
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The September 30, 2020, Instrumental Invasion on WCWP was recorded on August 28. It was intended to air on September 23, but due to a programming error, the previous week’s show ran again. The error revealed the danger in recording shows so far in advance and immediately submitting them to a shared Google Drive folder. Other hosts record the week their show is to air and then submit it. Last Thursday, I was instructed that going forward, I am to submit the following Wednesday’s show the day after each show airs. That’s what I will do for the October 7 show and so on.

The playlist was created on the afternoon of August 25 with annotations beginning that evening and continuing into the recording session. As you can tell in the PDF, Acoustic Alchemy‘s “Allemande” duet was not my first choice to wrap up hour 2’s first segment, but I’m glad I went with it.

This show was the first to include a liner that Game Dave graciously recorded for me:

Considering his friend and former Digitally Distracted co-host Gerald, it’s an odd coincidence that the liner is followed in alphabetical order by Gerald Albright (a repurposed Mike Chimeri Show liner).

This was also the first time I got to use my friend Ryan Grabow‘s liner, which debuted a few weeks ago, coming out of a Rippingtons song:

“A Ripping good time,” indeed.

Musicians recurred more than usual in this show, but I might have overplayed my hand with recurring instruments.

As I back-sold “Juicy” by Brian Simpson, my mouth randomly salivated. I acknowledged that in my talk break, but opted to cut it out as it could be misconstrued as lascivious. Here’s what you would have heard:

I used the correct title on the air, but the track listing for Herb Alpert‘s Come Fly with Me adds “got” to “A Lot of Livin’ to Do.” That led whoever compiled composer credits to confuse it with the unrelated Elvis Presley song, “Got a Lot o’ Livin’ to Do!” Ironically, the song in Bye Bye Birdie is performed by Conrad Birdie, a character inspired by Elvis. (Sounds Like… called it “Gotta Lotta Livin’ to Do,” but correctly credited Lee Adams and Charles Strouse as composers.)

I am truly baffled as to what the voice sample says in “Category A” by Cindy Bradley. To quote Professor Farnsworth, crazy gibberish.

Finally, the aircheck you’ve been waiting for. Click here to download the MP3 or listen below:

Attending the 2020 U.S. Open in spirit; how I got through the COVID-19 lockdown September 22, 2020

Posted by Mike C. in Comedy, Dogs, Golf, Health, Internet, Media, Music, New Age, News, Personal, Photography, Sports, Tennis, Travel, TV, Video, Video Games.
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2020 would have been the third year in a row I attended a PGA Tour major championship held in the New York metropolitan area and fourth year in the last five. In 2016, I traveled to Baltusrol Golf Club for the second round of the PGA Championship. In 2018, I was briefly at Shinnecock Hills for the third round of the U.S. Open. And last year, I witnessed the final round of the PGA at Bethpage Black Golf Course, the third time a major had been held there.

This year, the U.S. Open was to return to New York in June, as usual, to be held at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck. As my dad and I had done in 2002 and 2018, we opted to attend the third round so that he could watch at home on Father’s Day. We attended the final round the last time the championship was at Winged Foot in 2006. We were on the periphery of Phil Mickelson‘s collapse on the final hole. So many people stood by the 18th green that we could only hear the undoing. It was a depressing walk to the bus terminal and ride back to general parking at Orchard Beach in the Bronx.

Shortly after Dad bought the 2020 third round tickets in December, I bought a polo shirt that I would proudly don as I walked Winged Foot’s West Course. I had visions of aerial shots of the course along and ground level views of flags flying in the breeze while Brian Tyler‘s epic theme for Fox SportsUSGA coverage – “Triumph of the Spirit” – danced through my head.

Meanwhile, an insidious disease was spreading its way around the world. By March, Coronavirus Disease 2019 – also known as COVID-19 and the coronavirus – had reached the United States. State and local governments put residents on lockdown. Events were canceled or postponed left and right. Sports were put on hold indefinitely.

It was a sudden, sharp, and scary change that was very hard for me to bear. I was so scared and paranoid that I avoided watching or reading the news. It was torture passing by the den as my parents watched New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings. His voice was the last thing I wanted to hear as it served as a harsh reality check. Social media wasn’t any better. Every day, another public figure became a casualty. Some of my friends lost their friends. My dad lost two of his friends.

From March to June, I kept busy at home. I retouched photo scans, removing dust and scratches, and adjusting contrast and color. While I worked, I listened to music or to interview podcasts that didn’t reference the news. Once I landed a weekly radio show at WCWP, recording and producing the shows became another preoccupation. In my downtime, I watched videos on the various YouTube channels I subscribe to, learning about technology and video games. I also watched traditional TV programming: sitcoms like Last Man Standing and Man with a Plan, and the documentary miniseries The Last Dance, about the Chicago Bulls championship dynasty in the 1990s. I worked out religiously and watched what I ate. I bought groceries and other necessities online.

On social media, I limited my Facebook posts to treadmill running milestones, post-radio show blog posts, and photos from the past on Throwback Thursday (#TBT), Flashback Friday (#FBF) or #MemoryMonday. Instagram had some of those photos from the past, but I also began the Cocoa Photo Series, with new entries posted every two to three days. It’s photos of my late Chocolate Labrador from his puppy days in 1998 through Christmas 2006. Here’s an example:

As states and localities were phased back to somewhat normal, I left my house more often, disposable mask in hand when walking through the neighborhood and covering my face when necessary, especially when shopping. I still buy some things online, though.

For a few months now, I’ve begun to follow various dog accounts on Instagram, mostly for Labrador Retrievers. Watching dogs grow up is just what I need in these difficult times.

This concludes the COVID-19 portion of the post.

In April, I learned that three of the four PGA Tour majors were rescheduled for later in the year, with the [British] Open Championship being canceled outright. The U.S. Open was rescheduled for September 17 to 20, the first time the event was in September since 1913. (This meant it would occur a week after the conclusion of the tennis US Open, sans periods, held south of Winged Foot within the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. For the record, Naomi Osaka won the women’s singles title for the second time in three years while Dominic Thiem won for the men, his first grand slam title.)

Assuming spectators would be allowed, I would be attending the third round of the U.S. Open on September 19. I put the date in my iPhone calendar and hoped that fans got the okay to attend. On July 29, access was denied. I felt like I had wasted my money on a shirt for an event I couldn’t even see in person. At least Dad got refunded for the tickets.

Indeed, to date, I’ve only worn it once after the above Instagram post. That one time was on September 10, a week before the first round. It was for a photo project that would put myself at Winged Foot in spirit.

I connected my Nikon D5500 to a tripod, attached a remote, and photographed myself in front of a blank spot on my bedroom wall, clad in what I would have worn to the third round:

The hat is from 2006 and the ticket holder is from 2018.

Then, I applied an effect to make it seem like I was outside in the sun:

The third step was to combine the image with a shot of Winged Foot I found on Google:

I used the magic wand tool to highlight the wall so I could delete it, leaving only myself. Then, I copied and pasted what was left over the Winged Foot image. After initially placing myself in the center of the image, I cropped it down and re-centered myself. This is the end result:

For publicity’s sake, I made sure to note it was a “fake photo.” I posted to Facebook upon completion on the 10th and to Instagram on the morning of the 19th:

Fall conditions were in effect in the area, which meant I’d have a jacket on if I was truly in person, as I did last year at the PGA:

I watched all four rounds of the U.S. Open on TV like everyone else, but not on FS1 and Fox. The rescheduling put Fox in a bind as they were committed to college football on Saturday and the NFL on Sunday. The only solution was to relinquish their USGA rights back to NBC Sports, which they did on June 29. Starting this year, Thursdays and Fridays would be seen on Golf Channel with weekend coverage on NBC. This also meant the previous U.S. Open theme, “In Celebration of Man” by Yanni (pardon the audio quality), made its return. (A bagpipe-infused version was made for Open Championship coverage, as heard in 2016.)

At the end of 72 holes, Bryson DeChambeau was the 120th United States Open champion. He was the only player to shoot under par in the final round and the only player under par for the championship. Bryson joined Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods among players to win an NCAA individual title, the U.S. Amateur, and the U.S. Open. It was his first career major victory and I was very glad for him.

The end result motivated me to include the polo shirt in my regular rotation, just as I do with shirts for most of the other tournaments I’ve attended.

The next major to be held in the New York metropolitan area comes in May 2022 when the PGA Championship is held at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey. I hope the world is post-pandemic by then so I can be there in person. (Other future sites can be found here.)

I’ll leave you with video and additional articles related to the final round of the 120th U.S. Open.

VIDEO:
John Pak finishes as low amateur
Final round top shots
Final round extended highlights
Bryson DeChambeau, every televised shot
2020 U.S. Open top shots
Every televised shot from DeChambeau’s victory (all rounds)
Trophy presentation
Press conference
Bryson with Todd Lewis on Live from the U.S. Open
Bryson with Todd Lewis on Morning Drive

ARTICLES:
Will Gray, Golf Channel: Bryson DeChambeau cruises to U.S. Open win for first major title
Michael Bamberger, Golf.com: Victory & Validation: Bryson DeChambeau won the U.S. Open on his own terms
Mike Dougherty, Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Bryson DeChambeau vindicated after dominant finish at Winged Foot
Bill Pennington, The New York Times: Bryson DeChambeau wins U.S. Open his way: in commanding fashion
Mark Cannizaro, New York Post: Bryson DeChambeau runs away with U.S. Open for first major title
Greg Logan, Newsday: Bryson DeChambeau powers his way to his first major at Winged Foot

Instrumental Invasion, 9/16/20 September 17, 2020

Posted by Mike C. in Airchecks, Audio, Comedy, Film, Internet, Jazz, Media, Music, Personal, Radio, TV, Video, Video Games.
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The September 16, 2020, Instrumental Invasion on WCWP is the 25th show overall. It was recorded over two days: the first hour on August 21 and the second on the 22nd.

The playlist was created on August 18 and annotated on the 19th, with additional annotations during each recording session.

I finished recording in the nick of time. After the last talk break, the landscaping crew for the two houses directly behind my bedroom began running their leaf blowers.

I had to work in “Working Girl March” by Dave Grusin from the Tootsie soundtrack, which I bought immediately after watching the film on Netflix a week before recording. The version on the soundtrack is not the cue used in the film.

The show intro was one of three talk breaks I scripted out in Notepad. Each had a lot of information to share and I didn’t want to get stuck.

The ends of the talk-ups for “Cruisin'” by Larry Carlton and “Hacienda” by the Jeff Lorber Fusion had to be remixed and precisely spliced over the original mixes. The first talk-up had a glitch between “not” and “Grusin.” The second required me to raise the gain on “this time” because it was too low to hear as I raised the music levels.

I didn’t mention it on the air, but the notes at the end of Larry’s solo on “Cruisin'” always remind me of the pause sound in Konami games for the NES:

Now, here’s the pause sound mixed with the end of the solo:

I noted that Jean-Luc Ponty performed “Tender Memories” on David Sanborn‘s Night Music around the time Storytelling was released. Here is that performance:

Click here to download the show 25 aircheck MP3 or listen below:

Instrumental Invasion, 8/26/20 August 27, 2020

Posted by Mike C. in Airchecks, Audio, Internet, Jazz, Media, Music, Personal, Radio, Technology, Travel, Video, Video Games.
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The August 26, 2020, Instrumental Invasion on WCWP was recorded on July 31.

The playlist was created on July 29 with annotations on the 30th and during the recording session on the 31st.

I was able to include “Bright Sky” by the Jeff Lorber Fusion after replacing it during the recording session for last week’s show.

As noted during the show, “Morning Dew” by Anders Enger Jensen is the theme song for videos by The 8-Bit Guy, who I was fortunate to meet at the Long Island Retro Gaming Expo in 2017 and 2018, attending his panel at the latter. (I also watched his panel at UPLINK earlier this month.)

Click here to download the aircheck MP3 or listen below:

POSTSCRIPT: During the height of the pandemic, WCWP hosts were asked to record messages to include in PSAs (public service announcements). Here was my contribution, recorded May 1, which may or may not have been used:

8/28 UPDATE: Upon listening to the aircheck, I realized missed an opportunity to segue from Bob Mamet‘s Day Into Night to Nelson Rangell‘s Turning Night Into Day. Instead, I got hung up on the saxophone aspect of the show before the spot break and blindly referred to “the sunrise directive” in the talk-up after.

UPLINK by LI Retro recap August 21, 2020

Posted by Mike C. in Art, Film, History, Internet, Interviews, Media, Personal, Technology, Video, Video Games.
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Long Island Retro Gaming Expo recaps: 2017, 2018, 2019

Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, events have been canceled or postponed. The 2020 Long Island Retro Gaming Expo was no exception. In its place, the team behind the expo announced UPLINK by LI Retro, a convention held entirely online. They also announced that tickets for the 2020 LI Retro will be honored in 2021.

UPLINK ran August 8 and 9, the weekend intended for the expo. In the days leading up to it, I consulted the schedule to determine which panels I would attend remotely. Seven caught my eye.

Saturday, August 8
As UPLINK began, the cable remained out at my house, stemming from an outage that began around 7PM Wednesday, two hours before my radio show was to air. That meant until service was restored, I had to take part via 4G on my iPhone 11.

I only noticed one vendor in the exhibitor hall selling games and none that I was interested in. So, there won’t be any pickups at the end of the post.

Discord chat servers were set up on the right side of the main event page and on all panel pages.

My plan was to take notes during each panel and also take screencaps for private use and, if granted permission, a public blog post. (Obviously, I was permitted or you wouldn’t be reading this.)

The first panel I attended, at 10:30 AM, was Origins of the JRPG (Japanese role-playing game) with Jeremy Parish, co-host of the Retronauts podcast and host of the Video Works series, and Kurt Kalata of Hardcore Gaming 101:

The games discussed were:

Some of the above games were chronicled in a 2013 HG101 post.

Jeremy and Kurt concluded by answering questions from the chat and Twitter, discussing Kurt’s upcoming JRPG book, and opining on the Trials of Mana remake.

I screencapped the panel from the archive video once my cable service was restored.

My next panel wasn’t until 1:45 PM, which gave me time to retouch photo scans on my computer while listening to an episode of Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast.

The 1:45 panel was a My Life in Gaming Q&A with channel creators Coury Carlson & Marc “Try4ce” (“Try” for short) Duddleson:

Minutes into the panel, the 4G service fell to one or two bars, making UPLINK impossible to watch live. I hoped to watch the panel archives once cable was restored, whenever that would be.

Having given up, I turned on my TV to watch a film on Blu-ray. A strange thing greeted me: a message on the top right corner of the screen. Those only come if there’s a Wi-Fi connection. I walked into the guest room to check the cable modem. There were three solid lights! Not one solid and one blinking! The cable was back! My UPLINK weekend was back on!

Here are the notes I compiled while watching the archive:

The panel is available to watch on the My Life in Gaming YouTube channel:

I had a pair of primetime panels, but first, dinner and shows on my DVR that I missed while the cable was out.

At 7PM, there was a roundtable discussion moderated by Dom Delledera of the It’s All Fun and Games YouTube channel, with Metal Jesus Rocks & Friends: Metal Jesus, a.k.a. Jason Lindsey, The Immortal John Hancock, John Riggs, and Kelsey Lewin:

Due to technical problems, Riggs was a few minutes late.

Dom is on the top left, John Hancock is top center, Jason is top right, Kelsey is on the bottom left, and John Riggs on the bottom right.

Metal Jesus and his friends are based in Washington State. Jason and Kelsey both live in the Seattle area, Riggs is in Yakima, and Hancock is based on Longview.

For this and subsequent panels in the recap, if a remark is not in quotation marks, it is not verbatim.

  • How has everyone been during the pandemic?
  • Kelsey noted how game prices were affected by the pandemic
  • Games that Jason and Riggs have been looking for
  • Jason has been buying PlayStation 3 games at various GameStop locations. He suggested collectors pick up games for PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, and Wii U.
  • Hancock is currently collecting retro computer games and pursuing Nintendo Switch games.
  • Riggs hasn’t been pursuing games due to the pandemic. His area is only at Phase 1. He’s fortunate to have an enormous backlog.
  • Kelsey and Jason have started cataloging more often.
  • Hancock went over his YouTube channel‘s recent videos, including The Many Ports of Joust, from Atari to Xbox.
  • Riggs talked about recent videos on his channel.
  • The conversation turned to preservation.
  • Jason is a fan of really bad movies, such as Chopping Mall.
  • All media has value, Jason said, whether it’s good or bad.
  • Every game is someone’s favorite game, said Riggs.
  • Hancock believes we need to consider obscurities.
  • The current generation of games is difficult to preserve.
  • Preserving mobile games: Jason preserved some of them on his iPhone 6
  • Hancock lamented that we’re moving from an ownership model to a service model, and that’s concerning.
  • Kelsey noted this has been a problem since the original Xbox.
  • It’s not just archiving games, Jason explained, but also servers.
  • Riggs bought NES games cheap during liquidation sales in the late 1990s. Examples: Bucky O’Hare for $4 and Contra Force for $6.
  • Hancock used to get lots of games in a flea market with only $20 to $40 on him. He’s still finding deals at flea markets: a PS3 controller for $3, a Move controller for $5.
  • Kelsey noted the economy of retro game collecting has changed so much in the last decade.
  • Ever had to spend more than you wanted? For Jason, it was SSI gold box games and Neverwinter Nights. Kelsey spent more than she’d have wanted on Mama Mitte, a pregnancy tracker for the Bandai WonderSwan: $3,200. John Hancock’s big purchase was Magical Chase for the TurboGrafx-16: about $2,000 on a payment plan. John Riggs found The Flintstones: Surprise at Dinosaur Peak for NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) from Chile for only $200.
  • The rarest game in Hancock’s collection that he never gets to talk about is the Microsoft BASIC programming cartridge for the Mattel Intellivision. Jason’s rarest game is a DS cartridge for horse race betting.
  • Kelsey asked if anyone had anything rare outside of games. Jason has CDs that there’s only one copy of, such as a demo tape at a Nevermore signing by an album producer who also produced Queen. Hancock is an all-in guy; just games. Riggs has old cereal boxes. And Kelsey collected Nintendo toys from before they made video games.
  • Hancock and Riggs listed the games that their children play. Riggs’s 12-year-old son, who is autistic (I’m also on the spectrum), loves Clubhouse Games for the Switch.
  • What plans do they have for their collections at end of their lives? Hancock has a non-profit formed and is working on a museum. He never intended to keep his collection. Kelsey’s collection is committed to the Video Game History Foundation, where she is a co-director. (More on that in the VGHF panel later in this post.) Riggs has been piecing out his collection, selling some games at conventions.
  • What have you given up looking for? John Hancock gave up Neo Geo AES carts, prototypes, signage, and kiosks. Jason’s through looking for arcade machines. For Kelsey, Bandai WonderSwan store displays and WonderSwan “booth babe” outfits. She does have an inflatable WonderSwan balloon. Riggs has given up on the Ultimate Journey NES prototype.
  • Jason hoped he’d find more 64DD development disks, after previously finding a 64DD, but no one came forward.
  • In closing, Dom asked if Jason had a hidden gem. He chose Skyrim VR. It’s not really a hidden gem, but it’s the first thing that came to mind.

Immediately after the MJR panel, I jumped to the Fireside Chat with David Murray, The 8-Bit Guy, moderated by George Portugal:

  • The Tech from Texas series (part 2)
  • New backyard workshop in backyard to be built over the next 3 to 4 months – will be able to work on projects more efficiently
  • David keeps retro hardware in his attic. There’s little room for it elsewhere in the house.
  • He won’t be moving his office into the workshop.
  • The DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth) retro computer community – used to have regular quarterly meetings – everyone would bring something – active Facebook group
  • David doesn’t ask for donations anymore because he can just borrow a given item from the community.
  • The Commander X16 project is 99% complete. He hasn’t been involved much in current development. Everything is working on the board except for the video chip. If it were booting now, he would start the Kickstarter campaign. He needs a functioning prototype first. He expects the Kickstarter to launch in the fall. Some people could have an X16 by Christmas. Christian Simpson, a.k.a. Perifractic, is doing the manual.
  • David talked about his various series on manufacturers – Commodore, Tandy, Sinclair – and took future episode suggestions.
  • He reacted in agreement to my Discord chat post: “You can’t please everyone.”
  • The worst videos to make are the ones that never got finished.
  • David gave an update on the Commodore series DVD (or Blu-ray). He’s waiting to finish it with a video on the Amiga line. He doesn’t know much about it outside of the 500, and is communicating with experts for help.
  • He will also need help in scripting the TRS-80 series video.
  • Are there YouTube channels David enjoys or watches? There are two he subscribes to: LGR (Lazy Game Reviews), run by Clint Basinger, and Techmoan, run by Mat Taylor. He also watches Perifractic and electric car-related channels. He has heard of and talked to the Nostalgia Nerd. He’s seen Technology Connections videos, but hasn’t talked to Alec. He likely won’t meet Mat since he doesn’t travel or do conventions.
  • David keeps a running list, in spreadsheet form, of topics he wants to cover.
  • His favorite video is the history of the Commodore VIC-20, which was his first computer. He also likes the two-part VIC-20 restoration video (part 1, part 2), which each got over a million views.
  • Are you PC or Mac? David is both, but edits on a Mac.
  • He hardly has time for games unless it’s for the purpose of a video. When there is time, he’ll play StarCraft, Duke Nukem 3D, and his own game, Planet X3.
  • Will there be a Planet X4? David says maybe. He’s working on something similar that’s closer to SimCity and M.U.L.E.. Whatever the next game is, he wants it to work on all Commodore systems. He’ll code it on the PET.
  • David likes programming constraints.
  • He might be getting a THEVIC20 mini console to review.
  • He has no desire to port Planet X2 to Atari 8-bit computers.
  • David owns all the equipment to do a video on Family BASIC for Famicom, which was donated to him recently. He’ll need help, though.
  • His favorite Commodore 64 games are the Ultima series, Master of the Lamps, M.U.L.E., Ghostbusters, Action Biker, Spy vs. Spy, Maniac Mansion, and Zak McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders.
  • David went on Richard Garriott‘s property for the Austin episode of Tech from Texas, speaking to Richard about that earlier in the year. Richard was in France at the time, and would have come back, but when the pandemic struck, he stayed in France. Instead, David was shown around the property by former Origin Systems employee Scott Jones and former Portalarium employee Edward Vitralis.
  • David’s least favorite computer that he reviewed are the Advantech I.Q. Unlimited by V-Tech and the Timex Sinclair 1000. His least favorite that he restored was the Osborne (part 1, part 2, part 3).
  • His favorite current computer storage medium is SD card; retro is 3.5″ floppy.
  • Are UV lights the best approach to retrobriting vs. the sun? David still prefers to use the sun, if available because it’s much faster.
  • David’s wife and daugther don’t help much with videos. His wife was camera operator in Austin, and his daughter handled that in Houston.
  • He talked about his appearance in a recent Krazy Ken’s Tech Talk video. It was recorded last year, and he forgot he even said what he did in the video.
  • David lamented that he couldn’t come to Long Island this year. He had a speech planned on the demo scene, which would have been revamped from a previous speech at Portland Retro Gaming Expo (PRGE), which was also canceled this year. He doesn’t like the IMAX theater in the Cradle of Aviation Museum. You can’t see the audience when the lights are dimmed. The projection on the IMAX screen is curved. Everyone is up above.
  • Hopefully, in person next year.

That was the last of my Saturday panels. I finished watching a movie on Prime Video and went to sleep.

Sunday, August 9
My first panel of the day wasn’t until 12:15 PM. Of the three panels I planned on watching, two conflicted with each other. So, I opted to watch one live and the other later.

The 12:15 panel was the Retro Roundtable hosted by Bob Neal of RetroRGB (top left), with Ste Kulov (top center) and Nick Mueller (bottom center) of HD Retrovision, Zach Henson, a.k.a. Voultar (top right), and René Richard (bottom right) of dB Electronics:

  • René wore a mask initially.
  • Bob was the only one to wear a t-shirt that says “Bob& Zach& René& Nick& Ste.”
  • What everyone’s been up to?
  • Bob, Ste, and Nick’s lives haven’t changed much. Zach’s has due to Kentucky small business regulations and government mandates. He had issues with the shipping system. At one point in the pandemic, items weren’t arriving on time, but “things are much better now.”
  • René said there was one COVID case in his town. Schools were shut down, and he worked from home for two months. René was eventually allowed back to his office, but with a mask, and he had to wash his hands after entering and before exiting. He quit Twitter about a year ago. René’s house got flooded, and he had to tear out the drywall. He hadn’t worked in the last few months, nor had he played any games during the post-flood restoration. He started playing games again two weeks ago.
  • Bob talked about the Sony BVM D32.
  • The last game Bob beat was The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for Nintendo Switch. He has been using the PlayStation 2 version of OutRun 2006 to test other games. It’s a really fun racing game, he said.
  • Ste learned how to machine aluminum, had a problem with a U.S.-based supplier – Nick clarified it was over Dreamcast cables – and he played Final Fantasy VII Remake.
  • Nick said it took three months to ship cables to a distributor in Switzerland via USPS.
  • Bob lamented his shipping woes.
  • The last game Zach played was also Link’s Awakening. Like Bob, he can look beyond the subtle frame rate issues.
  • Zach and Ste rented server space, at $9 a month, for games they love to play, such as Battlefield 2142. They soon hope to invite friends and viewers to play in the server. Ste noted it’s running now via OpenSpy. Zach said all Doom games are on the server.
  • Bob asked if you can up the frame rate on older PC games. Zach said yes. A game’s vertical refresh rate will sync to the refresh rate of your monitor.
  • There was talk of two PlayStation ODEs (optical disc emulators): CybDyn’s PSIO and the upcoming xStation by Robert Neumann. (Zach posted a video on the xStation the day before.) ODE loading speeds were compared to loading speeds on disc.
  • They talked about the MiSTer FPGA (field-programmable gate array).
  • René listed the flash carts he has.
  • Krikzz’s Mega EverDrive PRO vs. Terraonion’s Mega SD, two carts that can play Sega CD games and Virtua Racing for Genesis
  • The subject turned to personal non-retro projects: René built his own amplifier, which he showed off. It’s a 4-channel tube amp that he made back in about 2008. Unfortunately, there’s a pop sound when switching between high and low gain.
  • The issue of repro (reproduction cart) sellers was debated.
  • Zach promoted his cartridge patching and translation service.
  • Bob joked about a “guitar-off.” René’s been practicing guitar, improving his skill for the first time since 2012.
  • Bob went over his recording process.
  • The panel talked about the Analogue Pocket. Zach said their marketing is “disingenuously brilliant.” They praised Kevin Horton, a.k.a. Kevtris, who worked on previous Analogue consoles.
  • Zach plugged an upcoming video on Analogue.
  • What are their thoughts on mini consoles? Bob thinks they’re best for a nostalgia fix; Zach said they’re a fun novelty.
  • The panel universally praised 8BitDo products, then showed off controllers from 8BitDo, Krikzz, and Retro-Bit.
  • Ste and Nick gave an update on HD Retrovision.
  • There was a plug for the upcoming MLiG/John Linneman panel.

The Video Game History Foundation panel at 2PM was the one I chose not to watch live. I watched on Wednesday, taking the most comprehensive notes out of any panel I watched.

This panel was moderated by Jeremy Parish, co-host of the Retronauts podcast and host of the Video Works series, who I saw on Saturday morning in Origins of the JRPG. His guests where VGHF founder and co-director Frank Cifaldi and co-director Kelsey Lewin, who I saw in the Metal Jesus roundtable on Saturday night.

  • Jeremy first thought of doing a VGHF update during last year’s Long Island Retro Gaming Expo. He would have had a panel at the GDC (Game Developers Conference) in the spring, but “the whole world got sick.” (The GDC was rescheduled to a few days before UPLINK was also held virtually.) Jeremy was “glad that we can finally make it happen” at UPLINK.
  • Jeremy spoke to Frank, Steve Lin and Mike Mica about their starting VGHF three years ago during California Extreme.
  • Frank got into video game history through the video game industry, starting in the late ’90s as a video game journalist. His first entry to preserving video games was seeking out cartridge-based console games that weren’t yet preserved digitally. He was inspired by The Film Foundation, applying that line of thinking to video games. He started a website called Lost Levels, the first to focus on unreleased games. He talked to game developers. He worked Gamasutra and 1UP. Frank is also in game development, working for Digital Eclipse on their game compilations. He was the producer/director of the Mega Man Legacy Collection and SNK 40th Anniversary Collection. He also worked on Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection and The Disney Afternoon Collection. The Video Game History Foundation is the culmination of Frank’s preservation on the side. “‘That guy Frank’ should be more than me,” he said.
  • Kelsey started collecting and playing old games a decade ago. She was working at a retro video game store, Pink Gorilla Games, which she now owns with her husband Cody Spencer. She enjoyed researching old games and reaching out to developers. Like Frank, Kelsey was a frustrated historian. She discovered VGHF shortly about a month after their 2017 launch.
  • Frank noted that Kelsey pitched the idea of being a public relations representative for the foundation, but he declined. She didn’t go away, though, and started sending him things, showed up to all the meetings, helped organize museum displays at PRGE. Kelsey did a project for Game Informer, organizing volunteers to help digitize a collection of press kits, slides, press releases, and more. She did it for all five weeks. Kelsey’s a co-director because “she’s the real deal and she proved her worth by far.”
  • Jeremy’s Video Works series was inspired by Chrontendo.
  • Jeremy lamented the problem with being a completionist is always thinking there’s more to do. (I can attest to that.)
  • Frank: “The research is never done.”
  • Frank stumbled across the Video Game Update/Computer Entertainer newsletter and has most of the set scanned. It’s a great resource for Jeremy, proving “you can’t believe everything Nintendo says about its own library.” The newsletter was the only outlet that consistently covered console games from 1985 to 1988 when video game magazines came back or launched. In Frank’s words: “This is the only English-language review of Super Mario Bros. from when it came out. This is it.”
  • Frank’s passion isn’t completing video games; it’s completing information. He admitted he gets upset if missing an issue of a video game magazine.
  • VGHF’s focus isn’t on the games, but the context.
  • Kelsey’s WonderSwan pregnancy tracker, Mama Mitte, caught the attention of Tanita, who manufactured it. (They also manufactured the scale I’ve had since 1999.)
  • Kelsey said there are still things in Japan that are not well-documented, such as retail releases. She claimed we’re 99% done here, but there are still some holes in Japan.
  • Frank talked about archiving Where in North Dakota is Carmen Sandiego?, a mainline Carmen Sandiego game that became extremely rare. He interviewed teachers who worked on it and managed to archive a clean copy of the game (unsaved disks) and a game box.
  • Frank is trying to blanket cover English-language print media and assets that the media had.
  • Frank said a majority of video games were made by companies that no longer exist.
  • Speaking of the Nintendo Gigaleak, Jeremy said it showed there’s actually a company that obsessively preserved all the content about a game: betas, development documents, in-house messaging. That doesn’t happen often in Japan. Regardless, the way the leak came out was unfortunate.
  • Frank believes collecting game development source material is the best way to study a game. You have access to its source, and can tweak and rebuild it.
  • Frank said source code should be donated to libraries. The code is something that lives in a place where an historian can access it, study it, and start piecing together a narrative.
  • The thing that drives Jeremy is telling stories and piecing them together: how a game compares to what else was on the market, what it owes to other creations. The more information that VGHF can put out, the easier it becomes to tell those stories, to go beyond review of a game and piece together a timeline of video game history. As someone of his age, who can remember the time of the NES launch (he was 10, at the time), he can fill in gaps from his experience. You need as much raw material to work with as you can.
  • Kelsey noted you get little info from a game itself. One magazine doesn’t paint the entire story. She analogized handing someone Pokémon Red and thinking that’s the entire story, ignoring three to four years of PokéMania, as chronicled in a TIME cover story. (Here’s the cover.) You don’t get that from just handing someone a copy of game.
  • Frank helped on an EarthBound documentary with VGHF resources. He noticed patterns: almost every reviewer thought the graphics were objectively bad. “8-bit” came up a lot. The game was compared to Chrono Trigger. Reviewers were in a 3D reality at the time. Jeremy added that American console gamers didn’t have nostalgia for RPGs back then. Frank concluded there was no scenario where better marketing would have saved EarthBound.
  • Projecting the thoughts of the reviewers, Jeremy quipped: “[Battle Arena] Toshinden looks so much better than EarthBound. I bet it’s a much better game. It’s gonna be a timeless classic that people are still talking about in 20 years, and EarthBound, no one’s gonna remember that.”
  • How has the VGHF mission has evolved in three years?
  • In the early days, Frank envisioned the foundation as a vetted, digital repository of information. There’s a lot of work to be done to get there, though. The foundation still doesn’t have good intake system. The biggest change since founding is recognizing things only they can do and what others can do. They will use resources to go out and seek things like video game source code from developers that trust them. They will not turn source material into gossip. Most resources are spent communicating, building bridges and organizing as opposed to actual archival work. Kelsey said it’s a matter of resources and dealing with volatile media. They’re currently focused on advocacy, building a premise of a world where people can study video games more easily. She talked to someone who came into Pink Gorilla that worked in the video game industry. The person had old builds that he considered “microwav[ing],” wondering “who’s gonna care about this game?” Kelsey concluded, “we don’t get to decide what becomes historically important later.”
  • Jeremy has found through hunting down Japanese game developers that worked on classic games 30 years ago that “people are often a very poor judge of the merit of their own work.” Some overvalue their work, others work for hire. It never occurs to them that the games mean something to people on the other side of the planet who will want to learn more about them. He continued you have to get over the barrier of humility, establish a sense of trust. It’s hard to get across, but essential if you can.
  • Frank recalled how in 2017, VGHF published an article breaking down Disney’s Aladdin on Sega Genesis: how it was made, the tools that was used, the animation process, and cut content. It was a very respectful long article. Thanks to the article, Disney and Digital Eclipse made Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King. They used source code from the archives to make a new version of the Genesis Aladdin game that’s on the compilation. Speaking of advocacy, Frank said “if we’re able to demonstrate our vision in a respectable way, … we start working with companies and archiving this stuff more often.”
  • What would you most like to accomplish five years from now? Speaking “for both of us,” Kelsey replied getting the source code initiative off the ground. There are legal hurdles. They don’t have legal precedent for putting source code online unless it’s open source. The first step is to be able to have that accessible in the library.
  • Before formalizing VGHF, Frank visited the Library of Congress’s film archives, which is also where video game archives are. He spent time with librarians who run that, and came to understand the function they serve. LOC has master film reels; companies get prints for remasters. “This should exist for video games.” He wants it to become commonplace where source code is accessible to people, especially abandoned source code. It should be normal, in the archives of any kind, and accessible to people.
  • Kelsey said it’s great to have original art and development documents archived in a way that’s accessible to people.
  • Frank lamented that no video game publisher can justify any labor for allowing access. Time is money. It doesn’t make sense for a for-profit company. Jeremy added that profit motivation is the biggest challenge to preserving video game history. Games that are safe bets are republished constantly – such as Super Mario World – while esoteric games are in rights limbo.
  • How does the foundation’s work apply to MMOs (massively multiplayer online games)? Frank said they can’t do anything about that right now, but on the bright side, companies have gotten significantly better about archiving their material. They’ve figured out how to have secondary market for their product with HD remasters. Kelsey said there’s no way to make an MMO feel the same way it did when it was active, even if you’ve saved everything. What’s useful to historians is many video experiences, oral histories, and blog posts. Frank’s wife is currently playing World of Warcraft Classic, which is not the same as the original. He said people are playing it in a different way.
  • “You can only go so far with anecdotal commentaries,” Jeremy said. “Having the hard copy there as proof is invaluable.”
  • Someone in the chat asked about getting involved in VGHF. Kelsey said there will soon be a need for people who understand library systems, like cataloging and sorting things. The website is going through remodeling. Reach out to VGHF on Twitter. Frank acknowledged the Patreon page with Discord access. “Hang out with historians like us,” he pitched, adding that “it’s nice to have this tight-knit group that we can have conversations with so that we’re not feeling like we’re on our own with this stuff, and you could help us solve problems that way.”

The last of the magnificent seven panels was at 2:15 PM Sunday: a second My Life in Gaming panel, this time with John Linneman of Digital Foundry:

  • This was John’s first U.S. convention appearance. He’s an American expatriate based in Germany, and previously France.
  • The main topic for the panel was gaming technology.
  • October marks seven years since MLiG debuted.
  • John joined Digital Foundry in 2013, as well.
  • Frame rate graphs
  • Video creation process
  • Preferring retro games to modern games
  • Coury praised John’s wealth of knowledge.
  • John said he can look at a game and immediately know how it’ll play.
  • John pretends he’s giving an E3 demo when capturing modern games. Try called it a “cinematic approach.”
  • Gaming technology originated for Coury with Quake II with its Voodoo graphics accelerator by 3dfx Interactive. He didn’t think much about it again until seeing John’s videos, as did Try.
  • SLI (scan-line interleave)
  • The evolution of John’s videos
  • What started John down the gaming tech path was seeing the Daytona USA arcade game in 1994.
  • Try’s entry was F-Zero X on Nintendo 64.
  • Try lamented that people will fight over frame rate, saying 60 FPS (frames per second) retro games are impossible. Coury said that’s likely due to early 30 FPS YouTube videos.
  • John is a self-taught video editor. Coury and Try come from video editing backgrounds.
  • John’s first video in 2015 took a long time to put together
  • John and Try exchanged profundities: John’s pearl was “nobody will ever see the video you didn’t make,” while Try recalled his grandfather’s words of wisdom: “good enough never is.”
  • The trio went over their video editing techniques.
  • Try believes editing more fun when you’re providing each other material. He also used the term “G-roll,” which G to the Next Level liked in the chat.
  • John said “it’s more fun to work with a group now, when it’s possible.”
  • What’s the toughest part about making a video? For Coury, it’s writing. Try is better at that, saying he enjoys it, though he said he gets wordy at times. Coury leans more into editing, which is toughest for Try. The toughest part for John is stress. He feels a sense of accomplishment after finishing a video’s introduction. Then, the writing becomes easier. He writes in chunks.
  • Coury has been experimenting with writing outlines, taking bullet points (like the ones in this post) and turning them into paragraphs.
  • John uses Notepad.
  • Try writes notes so he doesn’t forget.
  • John on editing: “What could look cool here?”
  • Try: Slider shots
  • Coury: Comparison shots
  • Coury cautioned that “you don’t want to repeat shot ideas from episode to episode.”
  • John is proud of the intro to his Analogue Super Nt video.
  • Try is proud of the Play It Loud intro to the MLiG Super Nt video, with its low frame rate, Play It Loud music, and Kevtris soundbites.
  • Coury: Hands-on feel
  • They spoke of the Analog Frontiers series (part 1, part 2).
  • Try’s dog Sandy made a couple of cameos in the panel.
  • John’s PC gameplay capture was used by Try in a video via PC monitor.
  • Why does John say “Mega Drive” instead of “Genesis“? He loves the name, and has more Japanese Mega Drive games than Genesis games.
  • Try believes the PC Engine scene is bigger than TurboGrafx-16 scene. That means there’s more interest in the PC Engine than for its North American counterpart, which released two years after Japan.
  • What were their first experiences seeing RGB on a PVM? John’s came circa 2004. Coury’s first experience was seeing Dreamcast in composite on a CRT. For Try, it was S-Video in college in 2002 and then RGB explanations on Hazard-City.
  • Voiceover techniques
  • Capture techniques
  • Storyboarding and animation
  • John: “I just envision it in my head.”
  • Coury suggests that if you get stuck, step away and try again the next day.
  • Two of Try’s creative locations are in the shower and on the toilet.
  • John is most proud of the video he did on the making of Onrush. He filmed it all in a day and edited over three days. It’s not the best, but he’s proud nonetheless. It didn’t get many views because the game didn’t get much attention.
  • What are your dream documentary subjects? Coury’s is Working Designs. Try would like to profile the original Final Fantasy staff, including creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. John’s dream subject is the original creators of the Sega Saturn. He’d like to understand the entire process, from initial thought to release, and its legacy.
  • What’s the most powerful mini console? John said the Capcom Home Arcade. For hacking purposes, Try went with the PlayStation Classic. Coury’s choice was the Super NES Classic Edition.
  • What videos would they like to do over or differently? Try would like to redo most older videos. The voiceover has improved so much over the years. He would redo the Myst series video. He wouldn’t have written his opinions into the script or use first- or second-person terms.
  • Has John gotten pushback from a company? Once. Most are happy. On his Redout video, he made a small error regarding the Xbox One X version. He received threats. (A retest video followed.)
  • John tries to be positive and documentary-like in videos, helping people understand things. He’s not a raging critic, referring to “angry videos,” though he can’t fault them.
  • They all prefer the OSSC to the Framemeister.
  • They think of Bob Neal when referring to bob deinterlacing.
  • There was a question in the chat about Analog Frontiers with Saturday’s information reiterated. New to this panel was Try considering a spinoff called Analog Frontiers Gaiden. John offered to do a Gaiden video about The CRT Wizard in Germany (referenced in this tweet). Try also noted Artemio Urbina and Tim Worthington will appear briefly in part 5. (Artemio previously appeared in part 2.)
  • They all prefer open world over simulation in contemporary games.
  • Try believes the generic AAA game formula has become tiresome.
  • What’s your favorite modern game? John was torn between Sonic Mania and Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom. Coury’s favorite is also Monster Boy. Try’s is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for Nintendo Switch.
  • Thanks to everybody who hung out and watched.
  • John said it was good to see G To the Next Level in the chat. He feels like he’s competing with him on Genesis videos. (Here’s one such video.)
  • Thanks to John for staying up late, as it was 10PM local time.

The panel ran 45 minutes over its intended 3:15 end time. Like the Saturday panel, this one is available to watch on the MLiG YouTube channel:

I don’t think I’ve ever taken this many notes for a blog post. It was a worthwhile endeavor to archive the discussions I witnessed. I hope to be back at the Cradle of Aviation Museum next August to take many photos of panels and exhibits, meet and greet the panelists, and pickup retro games from vendors. Stay safe and healthy, and thank you for reading.

Instrumental Invasion, 8/19/20 August 20, 2020

Posted by Mike C. in Airchecks, Audio, History, Internet, Jazz, Media, Music, Personal, Travel, TV, Video, Video Games.
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The August 19, 2020, Instrumental Invasion on WCWP was recorded on July 24 (hour 1) and 25 (hour 2).

The playlist was created, modified, and annotated between July 21 and 23.

To accommodate my chatty second talk break of hour 1’s second segment, I had to replace the Jeff Lorber Fusion song I had in mind. Instead of “Bright Sky” off Galaxian, I went with “Lava Lands” from Wizard Island. It was a fitting choice, having watched the Oregon episode of Smithsonian Channel’s Aerial America on their YouTube channel a few days before recording. The Fusion’s album is a reference to various landmarks in Oregon, including Lava Lands Visitor Center and, of course, Wizard Island, which is located within Crater Lake.

I had to rerecord the second and third talk breaks of the above segment on the morning of the 25th, shortly after waking up. That’s why my voice sounded the way it did. I realized that morning I’d mistakenly left out Will Lee on bass while talking about “Some Down Time” by Steve Khan, and wanted to correct that immediately. I had to script the talk breaks so I wouldn’t get flustered or forget what to say.

As I did in my 2018 and ’19 Homecoming Weekend shows, I dedicated the Keiko Matsui song I played – in this case, “Marlin Club Blues” – to Game Dave, citing a video where he suggested you listen to her music rather than in-game music:

I neglected to mention that Randy Waldman played keyboards and Hammond B-3 organ on “Marlin Club Blues.” Keiko was only on piano.

And speaking of YouTube, here is the music video for “Living Out Loud” by Joyce Cooling that I recommended:

Click here to download the aircheck MP3 or listen below:

8/22 UPDATE: While watching the Houston portion of The 8-Bit Guy‘s second Tech from Texas video, it occurred to me that David Benoit‘s song “El Camino Real” was not about the road in California, but the trail in Texas. It should have been obvious since a song called “Houston” precedes it on his Inner Motion album. As a California native, I assumed David had the California road in mind when I annotated the playlist. Clearly, I was wrong.

Instrumental Invasion, 5/13/20 May 14, 2020

Posted by Mike C. in Airchecks, Audio, Internet, Jazz, Media, Music, Personal, Radio, Video, Video Games.
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The May 13, 2020, Instrumental Invasion on WCWP was the seventh show recorded. By this time, I had eschewed theme weeks in favor of five segment formats:

  • 1984 & earlier
  • 1985-1995
  • 1996-2006
  • 2007-2016
  • 2017-present

The formats can be implemented in any order and one can be used twice. In this show, and most shows going forward, that honor goes to 2017-present.

The playlist was created and annotated on April 5 and the show was recorded on the 6th. The current photo for the blog header and about page was taken after recording the first segment.

After hearing arrangements of Super Mario World music in the Splash Wave retrospective on that game and its sequel, Yoshi’s Island, I just had to seek out the game’s two-CD soundtrack album. The arranged music is on the first disc and Koji Kondo’s in-game music is on the second. My favorite arranged track is “Welcome to Mario World,” based on the title screen song, thanks to Sadao Watanabe on saxophone. Once I got my theme weeks out of the way, I found a spot for the song on Instrumental Invasion.

If you’re interested, here is the Splash Wave video:

“Welcome to Mario World” is heard during the end credits.

I like my regal talk-up for “Proclamation” by Metro at the top of the show and the risque talk-up for Spyro Gyra‘s cover of “Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream. It’s also fascinating when I crack myself up as I did back-selling “Katy’s Groove” by Jay Rowe.

Click here to download the aircheck or listen below:

Pat Contri, Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the SNES Library December 2, 2019

Posted by Mike C. in Baseball, Basketball, Books, Education, Football, Internet, Media, Radio, Sports, Technology, TV, Video, Video Games.
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I photographed my copy of Guide to the SNES Library shortly after completing it Sunday

Two months and one day after completing Pat Contri‘s Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Librarywhich I reviewed here – my pre-order copy of the special edition of his Guide to the SNES Library arrived on my front porch.

Once again, the guide is as big as an educational textbook. Now that I think of it, this book is educational. There’s much to learn about the Super Nintendo Entertainment System within its 445 pages (plus a few pages listing Kickstarter contributors).

When I tweeted on Sunday that I finished reading, Pat wondered what my muscle gains were, considering the book’s heft. I replied thusly:

I was late in boarding the NES bandwagon, not getting a console until February 1990, over four years after its initial release in the New York Metropolitan Area. The Super NES, released on August 23, 1991, is a different story. Besides commercials, my first exposure to the console came at my friend Jessie’s house. I regularly played Super Mario World and F-Zero on her projection TV as 1991 gave way to ’92. After saving up part of the cost, my parents got a console for me and my sister Lauren in late January. In the months that followed, I spent many hours playing games, especially the aforementioned Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart (an 11th birthday present), and Mario Paint. I discovered all of Super Mario World’s exits and repeatedly watched the end credits. I would get emotional at the scene with the Yoshi eggs hatching. I successfully beat all cups in Super Mario Kart in all cc modes, and I loved the Rainbow Road theme. And as a weather buff, I had fun making radar loops with Mario Paint’s animation feature.

In nearly 28 years, I’ve amassed a collection of 46 Super Nintendo games. Reading this guide inspired me to add to that collection, at least somewhat.

Guide to the SNES Library chronicles all games released in North America and PAL territories in alphanumerical order, from 3 Ninjas Kick Back and The 7th Saga to Zool and Zoop. (Yes, those are their names.)

Pat Contri was not alone in reviewing the games. Returning from Guide to the NES Library are Asheton “Ashi” Phinney (I loved his alliteration, puns, and rhymes), Jim Evans, and Karen Niemla. The new recruits are Daniel Anderson, Daniel Greenberg, Dagan Moriarty, Kyh Yang, Alli Flanagan (who, like Pat, appeared in The Video Game Years), Pete Skerritt, and Mike Vito(12/14 UPDATE: Dagan, Kyh, and Pete also wrote reviews for the third edition of the NES guide.) Visual effects artist Yoshi Vu provided cart and hardware images, and additional cover art. The foreword was written by Jirard Khalil, a.k.a. The Completionist.

As with Guide to the NES Library, most pages in Guide to the SNES Library are devoted to two games. An image from one of the games is blurred in the background with two images from each game appearing above and below the review. The top of the page shows the games’ cartridge designs and lists their genre, release date, developer, publisher, number of players, special features, availability during the SNES’s life (from “very common” to “extremely rare”), and star rating. There are 10 ratings that range from half a star (one small star, “poor”) to 2 1/2 stars (two big stars and one small star, “average”) to 5 stars (five big stars, “classic”). Reviews can take up anywhere from a fifth of the page to a third of it, followed by the reviewers’ “reflections.” Reviewers are identified by their initials (i.e. PC, PS, AP, DG).

Eleven landmark titles with five-star ratings got full page reviews, including EarthBound, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario World and its sequel, and Super Metroid. Those reviews take up more space on the page than regular half-page reviews. I only own four of the games out of those eleven, and only two that I listed here. Some five-star games only got half a page, such as Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest, Super Street Fighter II, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. I have two of those, along with one that I didn’t mention. You’ll have to buy the book to find out which other five-star games were only on half a page and which got the full page treatment.

The tone of game reviews ranged from clinical to critical, but not in your face or obnoxious. I’m just glad the SNES versions of Tetris 2 and Yoshi’s Cookie weren’t treated as harshly. As I mentioned earlier, I currently have 46 SNES games, and I plan on buying some of the easier-to-obtain games in the book with ratings of 4, 4 1/2, or 5 stars to add to the collection. If they cost over $100, forget it. No Pocky & Rocky for me.

There were plenty of sports games released for the Super Nintendo that I read about. At the moment, I only have four: NBA Hangtime (which I also have on the Genesis and Nintendo 64), NBA Jam: Tournament Edition, True Golf Classics: Pebble Beach Golf Links and Super Bases Loaded. While reading about Midway games like NBA Jam, I learned who that the voice of most of those games was Tim Kitzrow. Besides NBA Jam, Tim also voiced the NFL Blitz series, which I enjoyed on the N64. He included video of an appearance on FOX Sports West on his website:

NBA Hangtime, Midway’s successor to NBA Jam, was voiced by longtime Bulls TV play-by-play announcer Neil Funk, who is retiring at the end of this season. Other TV announcers and analysts to lend their voices to sports games on the Super Nintendo are Al Michaels, Jack Buck, Pat Summerall, and of course, John Madden, to name a few.

After 400 pages of North American and PAL releases, there are chapters on special and promo cartridges, test cartridges, select games from the Japanese Super Famicom library, a look at some unreleased games (by Evan Gowan of SNES Central), and the SNES console and its accessories.

Guide to the SNES Library concludes with supplemental articles. Three of the articles were based on the authors’ YouTube videos. James Rolfe‘s “The Console Wars: SNES vs. Sega Genesis” was taken from a two-part video in 2012, which was combined into one part on the Cinemassacre Plays subchannel:

James and Pat Contri’s friendship dates back to their early days on YouTube. They’ve occasionally collaborated on videos. In fact, their latest went up on Saturday night:

Kelsey Lewin‘s supplemental article was on the Life Fitness LifeCycle Exertainment Bike, based on her video from last year:

In addition to her YouTube channel, Kelsey is the co-owner with her husband Cody of Pink Gorilla Games and co-director with Frank Cifaldi of The Video Game History Foundation. For you sports fans, Kelsey’s father is play-by-play announcer Josh Lewin. You may know him from his stints with the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers on TV, and the New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, San Diego Chargers, and UCLA Bruins football and men’s basketball on radio. Those and other credits can be found here.

And speaking of sports, the third article based on a video was Norman Caruso‘s Gaming Historian 2016 episode on Nintendo‘s ownership of the Seattle Mariners, which he posted as Nintendo was selling most of their shares. The episode had periodic quote readings by YouTubers, and Pat read a quote – in a sinister tone – from Fay Vincent, commissioner of Major League Baseball at the time of Nintendo’s purchase. Unfortunately, MLB forced the removal of the video, so I can’t embed it here.

As for the rest of the supplemental articles, Chris Kohler’s entry on the SNES CD-ROM originally appeared on Kotaku last September. Roger Barr, Andre Meadows, and Karen Niemla supplied original articles. It’s worth reading each article, especially the ones based on videos so you can see differences in text.

It took 19 days to read 445 pages of Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the SNES Library. Once again, I kept a journal of how many pages I read per day. Dividing 445 by 19, I averaged about 24 pages a day. I mostly imagined my own voice in my head as I read the reviews, but I occasionally thought of certain public figures narrating them. I had Pat’s voice in mind when I read his reviews.

Guide to the SNES Library was another great read! Thanks to Pat Contri and his fellow reviewers Ashi Phinney, Daniel Anderson, Daniel Greenberg, Kyh Yang, Karen Niemla, Alli Flanagan, Jim Evans, Dagan Moriarty, Pete Skerritt, and Mike Vito.

For those that grew up with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, are collecting for it, or just want to learn about it, this book is a must. There are eight versions available for purchase ranging from $59.99 to $99.99, or $29.99 for just the digital download. I have the $79.99 special edition, but I recommend the physical/digital combo at $99.99. I should have bought that in the first place, but I didn’t mind paying an extra $10 yesterday for the digital download and paying the same price to download the NES guide. Having the books physically and digitally is the ultimate experience.

There will eventually be an Ultimate SNES Game Guide Collecting app for iOS and Android. I will update this post when it’s available.

My experience at Day 1 of 2019 New York Comic Con October 5, 2019

Posted by Mike C. in Animation, Art, Blu-ray, Broadway, Comedy, DVD, Internet, Media, Personal, Photography, Technology, Travel, TV, Video, Video Games, Weather.
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Previous New York Comic Con recaps: 2012 Day 22014 Day 1, 2017 Day 1, 2018 Day 1

Thursday marked my fifth time at New York Comic Con, and third year in a row. It’s become tradition to attend, meet actors, and tour the show floor. NYCC is held annually inside the Javits Center in Midtown West.

I waited by my computer for about two hours back on May 5 to buy my Thursday badge. I didn’t know what guests would attend, but I found out a month later. The ones I was interested in meeting were Paul Reubens, James Arnold Taylor, Laraine Newman, Jennifer Hale, and Tom Kenny. Once again, this was my sole reason for attending because there weren’t any panels worth seeing.

One day removed from record heat, the weather that greeted me when I left my Wantagh home at 8:30 was cool and cloudy. As I stood on the LIRR station platform waiting for the 8:47 train, I briefly wished I brought gloves. Keeping with my train travel routine, I chose to sit in the first car. There were a few people seated ahead of me that were also on their way to New York Comic Con, but I didn’t want to bother them. I just listened to David Benoit and Friends and ate my protein bar with a can of orange seltzer.

The ride to Penn Station took about 45 minutes. When I exited at 8th Avenue and West 33rd Street, I greeted by persistent drizzle. It followed me all the way to the Javits Center. It took a while for the massive throng of attendees to get through security, but my search was quick and scold-less. After I was checked, I walked toward the entrance and then zipped my backpack compartments back up.

Once inside, I made my way to the autographing area:

It turns out there were two autographing areas: 1C and 1E. I was looking for Paul Reubens’ table in 1C, but he was actually in 1E. So, I walked toward there and waited in line at his table. Thank you to the staff members who aided me.

Like most 1980s children, I grew up watching Pee-wee’s Playhouse. I didn’t realize Pee-wee Herman was a character created and portrayed by Paul Reubens until the mid ’90s. That was the first time I saw Paul out of that character, on Murphy Brown.

I rediscovered Pee-wee’s Playhouse on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim in 2006, then rediscovered it again ten years later on Netflix. Watching it there wasn’t enough. I had to buy the series on Blu-ray, especially for the bonus features. I sometimes find myself quoting not just Pee-wee, but other series characters like Globey, Mr. Window (particularly when I see Lynne Marie Stewart [Miss Yvonne] on TV), Jambi, Pterri, Conky, Randy, and occasionally Clocky.

So, it was a thrill to meet Paul, albeit briefly, on Thursday morning. I told him I met Phil LaMarr last year. Phil played Cowboy Curtis in the Broadway run of The Pee-wee Herman Show. I had noticed Paul was making a surprised face while posing with attendees ahead of me, so I tried to do the same:

I look more shocked than surprised, but I still like it.

I returned to 1C to meet four voice actors:

First up was James Arnold Taylor:

I discovered James through Johnny Test, but learned more about his illustrious career through his website, JAT Vlogs on his YouTube channel, and appearance on the podcast Talkin’ Toons with Rob Paulsen. I told him I liked how for his Fred Flintstone voice, he combined Alan Reed’s original portrayal with Henry Corden’s subsequent version. I also expressed my love as the voice of Fox’s Sunday primetime promos, to which he said he recorded the latest set of promos in his hotel room the night before. There was one thing I neglected to discuss. I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game, but I am aware of an infamous cutscene he voiced as Tidus in Final Fantasy X. In the cutscene, Tidus let out a loud, wooden, staccato laugh: “haaaa ha ha ha ha ha ha!” James explained that scene in a March 2016 JAT Vlog:

I chose a character collage at his table to sign, and he wrote:

Mike – You’re awesome!!
James Arnold Taylor

5:05 PM UPDATE: James recorded another promo from his hotel room yesterday, as he shared on Instagram:

After James, I moved one table to the right (his left) and spoke to Laraine Newman:

You may know Laraine from her days on Saturday Night Live, and I’ve seen a handful of sketches from that time, but I’m more familiar with her voice over work. She was Queen Jipjorulac, Mark Chang’s mother on The Fairly OddParents. Mark Chang was voiced by Rob Paulsen as an energetic surfer dude with awkward syntax (pronouncing assistance “ah-sis-TAHN-say,” for example). When Rob interviewed Laraine for Talkin’ Toons, she mentioned Histeria!, the Warner Bros. edutainment animated series they co-starred in. I was not aware of the series when it originally aired, but my curiosity was piqued after that interview. Unfortunately, unlike the other ’90s WB series, Histeria! was not yet on DVD. When it was finally released years later, I bought it, watching for the first time over the 2017 Christmas vacation. I loved it! So, it was that DVD that I brought to NYCC for Laraine to sign. She was thrilled. I told her how much I loved the show and loved her characters: Miss Information, a bubbly Southern tour guide with a penchant for getting things wrong, and Charity Bazaar, a sad girl who frequently lamented, “I’m not happy.” I said I sometimes find myself saying that in certain situations.

Laraine signed the following on my DVD:

To Mike (Heart)
Laraine Newman

Laraine and the aforementioned Paul Reubens, Lynne Stewart, and Phil LaMarr are all alumni of The Groundlings improv and sketch comedy troupe. It’s where Paul created Pee-wee Herman.

Jennifer Hale was next:

Jennifer has a wealth of video game credits, but I know her mostly for her work as Ms. Keane on The Powerpuff Girls, various characters on Johnny Bravo, and T.U.F.F. Puppy. Someday, I will play some of the games she appeared in.

As with James, I chose a collage for her to sign:

To Mike!
Jennifer Hale

And finally, Tom Kenny:

Of course, Tom is the titular character on SpongeBob SquarePants. I love that show, but also love Futurama, where Tom’s credits include the all-purpose commissioner Abner Doubledeal and Leela’s bland eye doctor boyfriend Adlai Atkins, and the aforementioned Johnny Bravo, where he played Johnny’s (Jeff Bennett) nerdy friend Carl Chryniszzswics (“cruh-SIN-uh-wits”). He was glad to hear Carl get some love at the convention, as one attendee ahead of me had a drawing of Carl. We talked about his co-star, the late Larry Drake, who voiced Pops. I even imitated Pops (“Hey, Johnny!”). Tom told me about Larry’s horror film background, which I wasn’t aware of but glad to learn. Prior to Johnny Bravo, I only knew him from L.A. Law.

I thanked Tom for taking the time to meet with everyone in line, as the line extended down to one of the panel “chutes,” requiring security to let people know which side was the panel chute and which was the line for Tom (or “SpongeBob,” as the guard said). I brought my copy of the eighth season of SpongeBob SquarePants for him to sign:

10-3-19
Mike Ahoy!
Best fishes from “SpongeBob”
Tom Kenny

Thank you to Paul, James, Laraine, Jennifer, and Tom. It was a pleasure to meet all of you. Thanks, as well, to Anissa and her eldest son James, who I met in Tom’s line. It was nice to meet you, too, and I hope we can stay in touch.

After nearly four hours in autograph land, I was ready to head for home, but not before touring parts of the show floor:

Within 20 minutes of walking the show floor, I exited the Javits Center:

25 minutes after that, I was back in Penn Station where I boarded the 3:03 Babylon-bound train, which was packed with commuters. The crowd thinned a little at Jamaica, then further at Rockville Centre, but a handful of passengers exited with me at Wantagh one hour later. I was once again in the first car, which meant that I was on the east end and exited above Beech Street. (The first car westbound is just west of Wantagh Avenue.) After walking 20 minutes in the mist, I was home.

Once inside, I unpacked and photographed my autographed merchandise and my badge (with the codes blurred out):

I hope to be back at New York Comic Con next year. In the meantime, thank you for viewing this post.

Pat Contri, Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library September 13, 2019

Posted by Mike C. in Books, DVD, Internet, Technology, Video, Video Games.
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A cropped photo of my copy after returning from day 1 of this year’s Long Island Retro Gaming Expo

Pat Contri was a name I’d heard of since I started regularly watching YouTube channels a few years ago, but I’d never seen his videos, listened to his podcasts, or bought his merchandise. My only exposure to him was the Angry Video Game Nerd episode he appeared in, which he wrote with series creator and star James Rolfe. My unfamiliarity dissolved after visiting Pat’s table last month at the Long Island Retro Gaming Expo. I got to meet him and his friend and colleague Ian Ferguson…:

…and I bought early episodes of the Pat the NES Punk YouTube series on DVD along with Pat’s comprehensive 2016 book: Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library.

As with Leonard Herman’s Phoenix IV last year, I vowed to read the Guide to the NES Library after the expo. After reading a couple of preface pages on the Uber ride home on August 10, I held off on the rest of the book until 12 days later, August 22. I had another day of the expo, photos to edit, a recap to write, cousins to hang out with while they visited for a few days, and a photo editing project for a friend. In my downtime, I worked my way through the three sets of DVDs. As I neared the end of the third set, my photo editing project was complete, which meant I could finally commit to Pat’s guide.

Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library is as big as an educational textbook and just as heavy. It’s 437 glossy pages long, but the last five pages are a list of the book’s financial backers. So, I read two more preface pages, then moved on to the main 432.

The book chronicles each and every game released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in North America, from the numbered titles like 1942 and 8 Eyes to Zoda’s Revenge and Zombie Nation.

Pat is not alone in reviewing each game, as he is joined by Ian Ferguson, Asheton “Ashi” Phinney, Brett Weiss, Jim Evans, Joe Pingree, Karen Niemla, and Joey “Roo” DeSena.

Most pages are devoted to two games. An image from one of the two games is in the background while four images from each game are on the bottom. The top of the page shows the games’ cartridge designs and lists their genre, release date, developer, publisher, number of players, special features, whether the game is licensed or unlicensed, availability (from “very common” to “extremely rare”), and star rating. There are 11 ratings ranging from bomb (“awful and/or broken”) to 2 1/2 stars (“average”) to 5 stars (“classic”). Below that is the review, which can be a few short sentences in medium type or several paragraphs in small type. Then the reviewer, identified by their initials (i.e. PC, IF, JD), will add their “reflections.”

The landmark titles get their own pages with additional images. Such titles include the three Super Mario Bros. games, The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II, the unlicensed Tengen version of Tetris, and Tecmo Super Bowl.

Following 387 pages of North American releases, the book concludes with PAL exclusive games, HES (Home Entertainment Suppliers) games, special and promo cartridges (i.e. Nintendo World Championships 1990), test cartridges, label variants, the NES console and its major accessories, supplemental articles, and images of unreleased games.

It took me 21 days to read 432 pages of Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library. Along the way, I kept a journal of how many pages I read each day. I started with 12, then 14, 18, 20, 24, and 50 and 53 pages on two of my last three days. For some games, I imagined certain public figures in my head reading in their voice. I thought of Bob Costas for baseball games, Mike “Doc” Emrick for hockey games, Ahmad Rashad for basketball ones, Jim Lampley for boxing, Liev Schreiber for football, David Feherty for golf, and even Matt Ezero for some games he evaluated in his LJN Defender videos. For reflections, in the case of Pat, Ian, and Roo, I imagined them reading for themselves.

When I wasn’t reading on the first 11 days, I finished Pat Contri’s DVDs, watched all ten episodes of The Video Game Years on Amazon Prime, and caught up on most of Pat’s non-podcast videos from 2012 to the present. That included all later Pat the NES Punk and Flea Market Madness episodes.

It was neat to read about games that I previously saw in Punk episodes, like Baseball Stars, Dance Aerobics, Sqoon, and Wall Street Kid. It was also satisfying to know that some games in my collection were uncommon, such as Wario’s Woods.

The tone of the book’s reviews range from clinical to overly critical. I was satisfied with all but three reviews: Tetris 2, Wheel of Fortune: Featuring Vanna White, and Yoshi’s Cookie. I liked those games growing up, getting plenty of mileage out of them. I treated Tetris 2 and Yoshi’s Cookie as endurance tests, playing until a game over. For Wheel of Fortune: Featuring Vanna White, I played solo, hitting select during the puzzle selection each round until I finally got a big one. That meant more money to win on the wheel. In …Guide to the NES Library, Tetris 2 and Yoshi’s Cookie were dismissed as lousy cash-ins. Wheel of Fortune: Featuring Vanna White was considered a step down from the Rare-developed games that preceded it. “Pat Sajak would not be pleased,” wrote Pat Contri in the reflections.

There were sporadic typos or word omissions, and (counting Console Wars author Blake Harris’s foreword) six instances of my pet peeve phrase “at the end of the day” (thank goodness there weren’t more), but ultimately, the book was a great read.

If you grew up with the Nintendo Entertainment System, are collecting for it, or you just want to learn about the console that revived the video game industry, buy this book, available for $59.99. You’ll love it. And when you’re finished with that, be sure to pre-order Pat’s next book, a Guide to the SNES Library, which will focus on the Super Nintendo’s games. It’s also available for $59.99, or you can buy the special edition for $79.99.

Lastly, there’s a $4.99 app called Ultimate Game Guide – on Android and iOS – which contains all NES games from all regions, as well as accessories and console variants. If you select a game, it includes the statistics and review from the book, though not the reflections. You can even keep track of the games you have in your collection, and go to Amazon or eBay to check listings for the ones you don’t.

11/13 UPDATE: The special edition of Pat’s Guide to the SNES Library arrived on my front porch yesterday. I will begin reading today and will dedicate a post to it when I’m finished, likely sometime next month.

12/3 UPDATE: Here is that post.