There’s a vicious rumor that we have bones to support our structure and bind our muscles.nbsp; We actually have bones so your pocket knife won’t go clear through your finger when you slip and stab it. The bone in my index finger performed this task quite well on Saturday. I wish my quarry would ever leave a blood trail like I did through the house. This would make life simpler. Surprisingly, the wound is now closed. There’s some bruising, but it looks pretty good.
I’ve been feeling significantly less than creative lately, so in lieu of actual content, I bring you Metallica and Lady Gaga. And, it’s pretty awesome if you ask me.
When I began shooting regularly, my parents had a handful of guns in the top of their closet. Most of those have since moved to my brother’s gun safe. One that I toted home with me is a Winchester 69a that belonged to my Grandpa. It’s a .22 bolt action with a five-round detachable box magazine. It will feed and fire shorts, longs, and long rifle cartridges. It’s been fitted with a Lyman micrometer peep rear sight. With its 26-inch barrel, it’s very quiet to shoot and is a serious tack-driver. Indeed, this rifle has taken more wild game than all the other guns in the house combined. For one-shot drops on rabbits and squirrel at 50 to 100-yards, I see that trend continuing for quite some time in the future. The gun has no serial number, so we know that it’s a pre-’68 for sure. Without citing sources from my many internet wanderings, it appears that Winchester replaced the model 69 with the 69a in 1937, so it can’t be any older than that. It also seems that they changed the angle on the bolt handle somewhere around 1954, and this copy has the old style bolt handle. So, that gives us a 17-year window in which this rifle was made 60 to 77 years ago.
That’s it between a couple 10/22s in a line up of rifles. There were the accumulation of dents in the wood, worn lacquer, and faded bluing, but it’s all honest wear. For as much action as this gun has seen, it’s in very nice condition. Note how the bolt handle is in the white. That was blued from the factory.
As many of you already know, we recently hosted a blog shoot. We had the pistol range and clay throwing station same as years previous, but in addition to the 500-yard rifle range, we added a 100-yard rimfire rifle range with some swinging steel targets. There were several of us who lined up on the firing line with our .22 rifles to ping the swinging targets with a brace of guns that satisfactorily represented the last century in history. The Winchester has been wearing what’s left of the long strap of a M1907 sling (the other strap broke) that I rigged up as a basic sling until I can do something fancier. I went to sling up in a hasty seated position, and as I drew the front bead on the round plate that I intended to ring, I felt the sling slack off. It didn’t ‘pop’ so much as just kind of let go. My first thought was that the old leather had given out and I’d finally have to get a new one. I dropped the mag and cleared the chamber and stood up to inspect the damage.
As I did so, I chunk of walnut swung down, tethered to the rest of the stock by the still intact sling. And then, I remembered the small crack that I’d seen in the wood grain ever since I could remember this gun. The crack had run right where the lower butt plate screw went into the stock, about the same depth as where the rear sling swivel bottomed out in its hole. Upon closer inspection, it was obvious that it was indeed this old crack that had finally given up and let go. So, I bagged up the old gun. I wasn’t going to let it ruin the fun. We would deal with it later. When we were finished with our weekend, I pulled out the gun, took it down, and started pulling fixtures off the stock to get a better idea of what I was dealing with.
I really couldn’t have asked for a better break. In the above picture, you can see a few of the dents and dings in the wood. The butt plate is labeled “MOD 72″ on the back side. When I was growing up, my dad worked on pianos for a living. I’ve seen him repair countless piano legs with similar breaks. Often, a leg would be cracked but not broken through. He found that the best way to approach that was to complete the break, glue and clamp it, and refinish after the fact. If simply gluing and clamping was sufficient to hold up a piano, particularly a concert grand or one with a heavy player mechanism, then I figured it would work just fine for the stock on a .22. I decided that if I was going to go to the trouble of gluing the stock, I may as well sand it down and refinish it. If I was going to bother doing that, I should probably steam out the dents. And, if I was going to refresh the stock that much, I may want to do something to the metal, even if only a little spot rebluing. Crap. What had I gotten myself into?
I got on the phone with my mom to explain what happened and propose my solution. It’s technically her rifle on long-term loan, so I didn’t want to do anything to the gun without talking it over with her first. We discussed that although the gun is sentimentally special and a great rifle to boot, this model is not particularly rare or valuable. I told her that although Winchester offered a couple different rear aperture sights optionally, that I believed this one was an aftermarket add on, as the gun also has the notch elevation adjustable rear sight dovetailed to the barrel. I also told her that it was wearing a model 72 butt plate, so it was probably made of mixed parts anyway. She agreed that it sounded like I had weighed the options and gave me the go-ahead. So, I started with some Gorilla brand wood glue. I went a little heavy on the glue. It was a mess.
It can be tough to get a good clamping angle on a piece like this, with non-parallel lines and ergonomic curves. On advice from my dad, I bought a package of rubber bands and put them around the stock one by one. I dabbed off excess glue as it bled from the crack as the rubber bands put more and more tension on the joint. You might not think of it, but you can get a lot of tension from a bunch of rubber bands. I used the whole package and not much wood was showing on that end of the gun when I got to the end of them.
I let that set up and cure for a couple of days before touching it again. When I unwrapped it, I was pretty pleased on how the joint came out. There was a light film of excess glue that had dried on the surface of the old lacquer, and the crack was still visible, but it was honestly tighter than it had been prior to breaking completely.
And then, I sanded to get the old finish off. I thought about using a chemical stripper, but that stuff is just nasty. So, I sanded.
And sanded some more.
When I had it clean and smooth, I steamed out the dents in the wood. A good clothing steam iron works great for this. Where I thought I was going to have to use wood filler, my 1800-watt Rowenta popped dents out with surprising ease. I put an old t-shirt between the foot plate of the iron and the wood, so I wouldn’t accidentally burn the wood. I don’t know if that’s really a danger, but I didn’t want to risk it. With the dents raised, the specs of lacquer that were trapped in them became like tiny plateaus on the wood that sanded off with little effort.
I decided to refinish with Formby’s Traditional Tung Oil Finish for a few reasons. Although this is anything but an actual, traditional, tung oil finish, it is a penetrative varnish, which should more or less get the look of the original lacquer finish, but should wind up more durable and protective in the end. There’s nothing so lovely as a hand-rubbed finish. Although I was attempting to be respectful of the original production, I was not trying to make the gun absolutely ‘correct.’ This one is a shooter, and I intend for it to be taking game and ringing steel for the next 60 to 77 years. The wood greedily sucked up the first few applications of the varnish, and I was able to apply about four coats right off the bat.
Over the course of the next week, I sanded with 1500-grit between coats and put an additional four or five applications on the stock. I did some simple clean-up on the magazine well plate and trigger guard. I wound up rebluing the magazine release with some cold blue solution, and I did some spot bluing on a couple places on the barrel and receiver. I also hit a spot that was worn thin on the trigger, and I reblued the bolt handle. I’ve had mixed luck with cold bluing in the past, so I was quite happy how this came out.
After the final applications of wood finish, I let it rest for a few days to cure. After it had a chance to set up, I reinstalled the barreled action in the wood, and reinstalled the furnishings. Everyone who has seen it has been impressed. When Teen Bot saw it for the first time after completion, he didn’t even recognize it as the same gun and thought that I’d bought another rifle!
I’m really pleased with the way it came out. Mom seems to approve too. Although, I can feel just a little bit of shift between the wood and metal that I don’t recall from before. I haven’t shot it yet, but if it lacks accuracy that it had before, I may want to bed the action. That and, it needs a new M1907 style sling. It’s nice to think that perhaps Teen Bot’s grandchildren will be shooting rabbits and squirrels with this same gun someday. It was more of a project than I originally counted on, but I’d say it was well worth it.
Recently, Teen Bot has picked up a few GameCube games to play on our Wii. If you’re not familiar, Nintendo’s Wii console will natively play GameCube disks, and has four GameCube controller ports under a cover on the top or side of the unit, depending on how it is oriented on your shelf. As he’s been playing these games, his status was mysteriously not saving from the last time he played each game. Upon further reading, it came to my attention that the Wii will not save GameCube game status internally, but requires a GameCube memory card for this function. At the local game scalp shop, I inquired as to whether they stocked any GameCube memory cards, even though I’d found a few options online. They showed me their offering, a 32mb, or 507 “block” card for $9.00. I declined and ordered a 128mb, 2043 “block” card for $11.00 on Amazon Prime. The mailman dropped it off today. The packaging looks like the packaging in the local store, but I actually read the text on it this time.
So, let’s recap.
1. CAN INDEPENDENT SAVE DIFFERENT KIND OF GAMES
Viva la memory card!
2. SUITABLE FOR WII VERSION GAMES
Of course, we’re not having issues with Wii games, just GameCube games. If it doesn’t work right, you’ll hear about it.
3. HIGH SPEED AND EFFICIENCY PRODUCT
Good to know.
4. EASY TO USE
I should hope so.
5. QUALITY ASSURES
Alright, but what does quality assure?
6. REAL 2043 BLOCKS NON-COMPRESS
I’m not really even sure what that means.
! DON’T KEEP “THE MEMORY CARD FOR WII CONSOLE” IN HOT, DANK OR SUN SHINE PLACE.
I promise not to store this memory card in Sun Shine Place, wherever that is, even if it sounds like the most awesome suburban housing addition ever.
! DON’T THROW, DROP OR APPLY STRONG SHOCK TO “THE MEMORY CARD FOR WII CONSOLE”.
“Apply strong shock to”? So, I shouldn’t tell it that it’s adopted on its ninth birthday?
! DON’T PUT ANY HEAVY OBJECTS ON THE “THE MEMORY CARD”.
Lightweight game save only. Also, the redundant “THE” is awesome here.
! DON’T CLEAN “THE MEMORY CARD” WITH OR GANIC SUB STANCE.
I had to read this last one about three times to get the full scope of it, and then fall apart in fits of laughter. The bottom of the package is marked “MADE IN CHINA.” Really? I’ve gotten spam email and blog comments for Russian mail-order brides that was more coherent than this. So again I say:
Engrish can. The success fully!
As we’ve said before, we spent part of last Saturday at Super! BitCon, a show put on by our local chapter of Retro Gamer’s Society. Jennifer already posted about some of the costumes we saw wandering around the event. I’d like to focus on three of the younger ones, two brothers and their sister. Of course, the contest winner and show stopper was little Ash.
He was standing right next to me while I was inspecting wares on a vendor table. I didn’t even notice him until Jennifer pointed him out. They did a fantastic job on his costume. I had to say to him and his dad, “well done, sirs!” And, his brother…
The gaming icon himself, “Jumpman” Mario. Obviously, his costume was also well-executed. And then, there was their sister.
I was drawing a blank. She excitedly proclaimed, “I’m a *unintelligible*” She actually said it twice, and I felt really bad for not understanding that last word.
Then her dad said, “are you familiar with the game ‘Cheetahmen’?”
I laughed out loud, “of course, she’s a Cheetahman!” Then I said to her, “are you going to jump twice and glitch out and float in the air?”
“Yesssss!” her dad said.
If you, gentle reader, aren’t fully with me here, the following video will shed some light on the subject, although take it with NSFW and foul language warnings:
Again I say, well done.
WizardPC pointed out to me in email that the pictures that once accompanied this post have since vanished. At some point in time, I quit using webshots, and started uploading my pics directly to the blog. When the account lapsed, I lost a lot of pics that were previously posted on this page. Many of those old entries elicited a ‘meh’ from me, but this one is important enough that I’ve decided to repost it with minor textual editing and with freshly cropped and resized copies of the original photos. It all started with a conversation I had with my brother. With his permission, I published the story he wrote up for me so we could all learn something from it.
Let me introduce myself. Call me Microcosm Overlord. I am the non blogging brother of the Evyl Robot. Very similar in many ways we share a fondness for self sufficiency self protection and firearms. This is my story about my accidental discharge*, what a 12 gauge with 00 buckshot can do, why everybody came out unscathed, why the home has relatively little damage and why a 12 gauge with 00 buckshot is the preferred gun for home defense.
I have a Remington 870 Wingmaster as my home defense gun and as my social breakdown, attack of the zombies worst case scenario gun. I have Cut the barrel down to 20 inches, put the 3 round magazine extension on it, had it refinished in flat black Dura-Coat, made myself a nifty little sling out of some webbing I had lying around, put a Hi-viz fiber optic front sight on it and generally love on it like any good gunny should.
I had been manipulating it earlier in the day and had put it away next to the bed where it generally stays. Later I was demonstrating a feature/function of operation to my wife and that’s when instead of “chuck chuck” *click* happened, it went “chuck-chuck” BOOM. I had neglected to clear the magazine.
Let me digress. I have what used to be a completely fresh target hung on a door at the end of my hallway that leads to the garage. This target is for dry fire practice. It is in its specific location for two reasons. First the hall is a good 15 yards at its longest and secondly, I know that there is nothing of any real consequence behind that door.
My wife shrieked and realized what happened before I did. I didn’t even feel the recoil having no expectation of it. The gun had been pointed to the target on the door that is instinctual to me now. If I draw a bead in the house, the front sight lands on the target. After we had inspected the damage and found that nothing major was broken and that both of us were OK, save our eardrums and nerves, I had a good embrace with my wife and asked her forgiveness. For at least five minutes afterward all I could say is “I just did that…”
This is a slightly embarrassing confession for me. This was a beginner mistake and I know better. But I hope that it can also be a learning experience for those who may read it.
So today I took measurements and photos and here’s all the data: the shot traveled 21 feet from the end of the barrel,
through a 1 3/8” uninsulated wooden door (note that the wadding made it through the first layer of the door),
through 9 ½ feet of empty space in my garage where two of the nine pellets came to rest in a stereo receiver and one came to rest inside a rearview mirror that I was saving for spare parts.
You can see a fourth one made a dent in the sheetrock but was stopped. The remaining five pellets passed through a piece of ¼” cedar particle board,
through the 7 & ¾” of drywall, insulation and siding, where one lodged.
The remaining four pellets traveled another 20 feet
before finding their rest on the exterior wall of one of the outbuildings.
Total distance: 51’ 3.5”. Total thickness of penetration of the last four pellets: about 2” of wood all in total.
As to safety and The Four Rules, I can only fault my brother on number one: He did not treat the gun as if it was loaded, and it was indeed loaded. He obviously kept it pointed in a safe direction. He pulled the trigger when he intended to drop the hammer. He knew his target and what was beyond it. Like many other things in life, it’s all too easy to get sloppy and have a negligent discharge. But, this will only make him that much more diligent to make certain to be aware and increasingly more safe with his gun handling. It was because of his already thoughtful and conscious gun handling that this was a minor incident and not a tragic accident. If everyone was so conscious about safety, the incidents of accidental shootings would diminish to virtually nothing. He also took full responsibility for his actions and owned the situation. He even tracked down the wadding and all nine pellets. When I talked to him about it, he said that he was so rattled that all the guns were in the safe that night. He was pretty shaken up to say the least. Thank God everyone was safe! Although, he may have had to peel his cats off the ceiling…
The penetrating power of 00 buckshot out of a 12-gauge shotgun is staggering. Note how little spread the shot pattern had in the 21 feet between the muzzle and the garage door. I get tired of hearing people say, “You don’t even have to aim a shotgun.” Well, yes you do actually. But in house distances, I suspect that any form of lead coming out of a 12-gauge will be lethal with a well-placed shot. I know that I’m tempting the debate of birdshot versus buckshot versus slugs with that comment, but I just don’t see how any loading could be less than effective in the ranges available inside a typical home.
My brother is fortunate that he had this learning experience with no more excitement to show for it than rattled nerves, and a couple damaged possessions. By the time he took the pictures, he had filled the holes in the siding with spand-o-foam. The loss of an old stereo receiver, spare car mirror, and a little wood and sheetrock are far preferable to someone getting hurt. I encouraged him to share this story so that other people could learn from it. Always be very careful whenever you handle a firearm. Remember and practice The Four Rules. Also make it your business to know what your gun is capable of. Guns can be a lot of fun, and I’d encourage anyone who is able to go out and enjoy recreational shooting, but only ever with the highest degree of safety.
*negligent discharge. I offer this as a footnote, as the original text is a direct quote.
Borepatch shares this video on his blog:
I’ve been in this meeting so many times. When I was material requisitioning, I used to have a joke.
“Evyl, we need you to get some solid gold wrenches for us.”
“Respectfully, they don’t make those.”
“Sure they do! They make wrenches out of stuff don’t they? And, gold is stuff that exists. Surely someone makes wrenches out of gold.”
“Why do you need gold wrenches anyway?”
“It’s for a project that sales is working on. Don’t worry about it.”
“I’ll make some calls, but I really don’t think that such a thing exists.”
“You better find something, we’ve already got the project sold.”
“You what? You’re supposed to determine cost before selling a project, you know that.”
“They just estimated it, but they bid it high. I’m sure it will be fine.”
“Alright. I’m going to get with some shops and see if we can have something custom fabbed, but it’s going to be expensive.”
“Not if we order in bulk.”
“Yes, even if we order in bulk. Gold is expensive. Having it custom made into wrenches is going to be extremely expensive. What are we using the gold wrenches for anyway?”
“Well, we need to get these bolts really tight, and the gold will give us the ability to do that, because it’s such a good conductor.”
“No, no. *sigh.* That’s not how it works. Conductivity isn’t going to help with torque. In fact, gold is such a soft metal that it will actually be worse for this application. If the wrenches we have on hand aren’t going to be tough enough, what you’ll need is just a tougher wrench. I’ll order some good, U.S.-made chrome-moly steel wrenches.”
“We already told the customer that we’d use gold.”
“Dude. Fine. Whatever.”
*two weeks later…*
“Evyl, these gold wrenches you sourced are terrible. We can’t even put as much torque on them as the cheap wrenches in the shop.”
“Huh. Who would have thought? I should be able to return them, but we’re still going to be out the manufacturing cost.”
“I suppose that’s something. But, now what are we supposed to do about the project.”
“I’m going out on a limb here, but try these other wrenches that I brought in just in case.”
*Hands over good, U.S.-made chrome-moly steel wrenches.
“These wrenches work great! And since we bid the project to use gold, the price difference will almost cover our losses on the return! Well done, Evyl.”
Sometimes I miss working in an office. I need these little reminders from time to time.
My fascination with robots began when I was a child. In the fourth grade gifted classroom, I watched with envy as the fifth graders got to play with the robot kits. These were simple machines that the students assembled as per the included instructions that performed simple tasks. There was one that would follow a black line on a white sheet of paper. Others would seek out light sources and waddle on spindly legs. They were only robots by the most rudimentary of definitions. I also took a great interest in the software conversational programs in the computer lab at school. I fully knew that all of the responses were pre-programmed, and that there were key words that they were coded to pick from user input that would prompt their selected responses. I also suspected that these could be written far more elegantly, although I didn’t have the know how to do any better at the time. Things quickly changed though.
I voraciously learned everything I could about robotics and programming. By the time I was in the robot unit in fifth grade, the kits in the gifted class were too simple for my tastes. I earned extra credit in that unit for building a robot from scratch that could measure out precise volumes of materials and mix them together in predetermined ways. I intended it to be a chemistry aid, but my parents found that it was a great automated bartender for their parties. That old thing is still in the back of a closet at their house, as far as I know. I kept building machines of various sorts, each one more complex, and yet more streamlined than the last. I sought to code a program that would not simply spit out a sentence from a list like the ones mentioned above, but one that would give genuine, intelligent responses to user input. Could a machine be programmed with philosophy?
I had a grand vision of one unifying machine that would bring together my interests in AI, programming, robotics, and sculpture. The kind of exotic hardware with the raw processing power that I was after was difficult and expensive to get my hands on. I was able to scrape together the funds I needed by delivering papers every morning, mowing every lawn I could, and selling my plasma and semen using a fake ID. Many sleepless nights were spent soldering chips to boards, programming, and silicone casting. I felt like Dr. Frankenstein, obsessed with my work. I was out to make a beautiful, living, breathing creature from the underpinnings of synthetic materials. I wanted the AI framework to have wit and learning ability and to exhibit genuine care for others. There were many failed attempts, but in the end I was successful. The Jennifer unit was my crowning achievement.
I have to admit that my internet handle is only guilty projection. When Jennifer first powered up, she was so perfect that I simply couldn’t hide her and keep her all to myself. I had to share her with the world, and so registered InJennifersHead.com so everyone could have a chance to appreciate the fruits of my labor. I’ve had very little to do with her website since then, and her interactions have been genuinely hers. She’s programmed to write very well and I took special care in writing her snark module. Those of you who have had the opportunity to meet her can attest to the fact that she looks as natural as you or I. In fact, the only ones who may have ever suspected that she wasn’t a human are those that were at that party back in 2001 when she glitched out and I had to reboot her. To the host, I’m still sorry about the curtains. At the time, I was terrified that I’d hit upon yet another failure, but with a couple of hardware and coding tweaks, Jennifer has been running smoothly ever since.
As I said, there were failed attempts. My Jennifer, the one that you all know and love, is actually Jennifer 2.0. Jennifer 1.0 was admittedly a mess. She was the very face of the uncanny valley, looking not quite like a genuine biological. She had a buggy system too. One night in a drunken rage, she burned a barn down, throwing herself into the flames. I nearly gave up then, but pressing onward, I was able to learn from my mistakes. There were a couple of fatal flaws in the first Jennifer’s positronic net, and I missed some small but distracting details in her case. I took my time with Jennifer 2.0, determined to get every detail perfect. She can drive a car, shoot a gun, work a job, sing, and do pretty much anything a natural born human can. She can even swim, although I’m always paranoid that she may get a leak and damage her circuits. Indeed, if I could do anything differently in her build, it would be to improve her coordination, if that’s even possible.
It seems that I completely broke the mold on her build. Soon after, I built Wee Bot 1.0. The Wee Bot series has since been replaced with the Teen Bot series, but both have been fraught with bugs. I still can’t get him to work right, even on the current revision, Teen Bot 15.0. He’s completely unpredictable. Sometimes, he does exactly what he’s programmed to, but other times he’s defiant and rebellious, and fails to perform even the most simple of tasks. I haven’t given up on him yet, but he’s certainly not a finished work. Especially with the relative ease of interaction with Jennifer, Teen Bot has been quite the frustration from time to time. It was admittedly a pretty scary decision to identify him as a ‘Bot’ to the rest of the world so early on. To my surprise, people have accepted him despite his surly attitude and questionable judgment algorithms.
You must be wondering why I did it. The answer is simple. I was lonely. You don’t think that a guy like me could actually attract a woman like Jennifer do you? Not a chance, building one from scratch was the only viable option for me. And would I do it all over again? Yes I would, in a heartbeat. I do regret that I haven’t been truthful to my loyal readers though. Now that I’ve put all this out in the open, I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me. And, please don’t judge Jennifer for my actions. Please do keep reading and commenting on her blog. She didn’t ask for any of this. Well, except for that party where she glitched out and burned the curtains. Hopefully all those bugs are now behind us.
Last week Jennifer emailed me a link to Super! Bitcon. This was the inauguration of what is intended to be an annual event. We deliberated over whether or not we wanted to attend. Money has been tight for a while now, and we have tried to be careful how we spend it. Ultimately, we decided that we really didn’t want to miss out on the first shot. So, that’s what we did on Saturday. There was a Commodore 64 present and an Xbox One, and everything else in between was also represented. There were costumes (pics to come), there were contests, there were demos on hardware and software, there were arts and crafts, and there was a lot of stuff for sale. One vendor had a Nintendo GameCube for $18, and another had one for $60. At one table, they had a copy of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past with the original box and manual fairly priced for $85. Another vendor had a similar example and quoted me a price of $40.
In the rear of the main floor there was a vendor who had a pair of Pioneer Laseractive controllers, new in their original boxes. For those of you who don’t know, these puppies are basically Sega Genesis Controllers that have the Pioneer logo printed on them. I wouldn’t mind picking up a pair of them to run on our Atari 2600. These two were priced at $70 each. I chatted with the vendor for a few moments about them. I told him why I wanted a pair, but that I wasn’t prepared to spend what he was asking, although his pricing was not out of line for such mint examples. As we were surveying his wares, I turned around to see why people were standing in line behind us.
“Jen!” I said breathlessly, “that’s an Oculus Rift!”
I was a big fan of the concept of virtual reality in the 90′s. I remember some mobile arcade thing that was set up at the Dallas Galleria in about 1992 that was selling a few minutes of VR gaming for about $6. At the time I took the bait and put on the heavy goggles. I was immersed in a world of giant polygons. There was a degree of depth perception to the vector graphics, but it was mostly just laggy, hard to control, and bad. The landscape and characters were bland and glitchy from what I can remember. It was an interesting experience, but They cheated me out of my $6; live and learn though. Indeed as a teen, I checked out quite a few products sold under the umbrella of the term ‘virtual reality.’ The vast majority of them were flimflam pieces of gimmick that didn’t really deliver, but were designed to separate consumers from their money. Most of them didn’t offer any actual depth perception at all, but simply put a screen or two within eye-strain distance. Arguably the nail in the coffin was Nintendo’s sadly executed Virtual Boy, which sold poorly due to excessive pricing and sad underdevelopment. The industry got ahead of itself and sold a product it didn’t really yet have the technology to back it up with. Whatever the cause, VR seemed to be swept into the dustbin of history. But, not everyone gave up on it so easily.
OculusVR is a company that was born out of the attempt to improve on these forgotten devices. A Kickstarter with a quarter-million-dollar goal sourced nearly ten times as much funding. Now with the backing of Valve and FaceBook, the money and software support are definitely on hand to make this virtual reality a technological reality. The device itself is still in the development kit phase. These units are far better finished than a rough prototype, but they’re essentially betas. Jennifer, Teen Bot, and I stood in line to take our turn for a few minutes with the demo. (Duh.)
The experience was remarkable.
The eyepiece is a lot lighter than I expected, a fraction of the weight of the old units that I remember from twenty years ago. It has motion sensors installed that turn and pivot the point of view with the literal motion of your head.
The graphics are well implemented and deliver true depth perception as though you have stepped into a digital world. Note the monitor showing a representative view of what I was experiencing in the following picture:
To steal a cliche, this is the real deal. The screens wrap to the peripheral vision and make for a very convincing show. Even only as a visual display, the sound of the real world seemed to dull and quiet into the background. It was disorienting. I understand that the final release will have higher resolution monitors, which is definitely lacking in the Development Kit. There is a nearly imperceptible lag between in the motion that is dizzying. Each of the three of us experienced this phenomenon and felt as though we were about to fall down when we moved too fast. I actually stumbled as my eyes were giving me slightly different motion information than the rest of my senses. The final version is supposed to be faster, which should mitigate this issue as well. Assuming they address these two minor complaints well, and assuming they can keep the purchase price down, this piece of tech may be about to revolutionize the way you interface with your computer just like the multi-touch screen did with your cell phone.
With what this device promises to be upon release, there are some somber implications. With modern graphics, stereophonic sound, and motion controls, games will become a truly immersive experience in a way that they have never been able to before. I don’t consider myself to be a big gamer, but a really good game will suck me in. A game of that quality experienced like this would certainly make me lose track of everything else. I’d have to set a timer to limit myself. I have to admit that I’m excited to see what OculusVR brings to market as the example we played with on Saturday was quite impressive. Even so, it’s a cautious excitement. We haven’t seen VR like this before, and we don’t really know what it will do to the industry or to society. I will be patiently waiting for the first news stories of gamers who injured themselves by falling down using these things. This thing plus alcohol is guaranteed to result in accidents. It’s only a matter of time before we hear of someone getting their home cleaned out by robbers while their senses are cut off from the rest of the world, or someone getting assaulted while using this in an unsecured fashion.
Several years ago, my phone rang. I saw on the caller ID that it was my friend Wilhelm.
I answered the call, “hi Wilhelm. What are you doing?”
“Hi Evyl,” he responded, “I’m not doing much of anything. What are you up to?”
“Well, I’m killing off some brain cells,” I confessed.
“Oh yeah?” Wilhelm was intrigued, “how’s that?”
Wilhelm laughed, “Oh, you really are killing brain cells!”
Just as monks of yore are reputed to have self-flagellated, sometimes I enjoy watching a truly bad movie. However, I do not own a copy of Avatar. That’s over the line for me and I don’t have the patience to watch that much compressed bad movie for that kind of duration. It takes so much alcohol for me to endure that film that I’m going to start calling it The Last Bender. Movies based on video games are a pretty easy mark for bad content searches, with rare exception. A young friend of ours recently exposed his wisdom and said in conversation, “I’d rather watch Resident Evil movies than play the games.” Outside of the Umbrella Corp., we get the likes of Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter. The only line I remember from either of those films is when Johnny Cage says, “I’m in a hostile environment. I’m totally unprepared. And I’m surrounded by a bunch of guys who probably want to kick my ass… it’s like being back in high school.” Most of the time, video games make for terrible movies. Scrape the bottom of that ugly barrel, and you have Super Mario Bros.
***Spoiler alert! If you have spent the last two decades unaware of this movie, and you still plan to watch it, you might want to go take care of that before you read the rest of this. Or you know, skip the middle man and take my word for it that there are better things that you can do with 104 minutes of your life. In that case, read on.
As I may have recently mentioned, Teen Bot has gotten more into video games over the last several years, thus Jennifer and I have recently gotten more into video games. Last week or so, we came to the realization that he had not yet seen the steaming pile of a film that is Super Mario Bros. So last night, we looked it up on YouTube and gave it a watch. I had long forgotten exactly how bad this movie is. For years, when it would come up in conversation mentioned as a bad movie, I would come to its defense and proclaim, “it’s not that bad.” No, Evyl. It is actually that bad and then some. This film stands as a monument to the fact that you can start with a good cast, expensive special effects, and good intentions, and still wind up with a crappy film. I’m reminded once more of The Last Bender. The biggest problem with it is that it has almost nothing in common with the Nintendo games. It’s as though the writers took advice from Wayne’s World just a year or so earlier, when Noah Vanderhoff proclaims that kids don’t know anything and that they are easy to manipulate out of their money with crappy entertainment. I paraphrase of course, as I can’t find the actual quote with a quick internet search… *Squirrel!*
Throughout our viewing of SMB, I kept saying things like, “hey Teen Bot, in the games, did you ever notice how much Bowser looks like Dennis Hopper?”
And Jennifer would correct me, “King Koopa.”
“To-may-to, to-mah-to,” I would respond, “same guy.”
I reflected, “Daisy in this movie was a whole lot cuter when I was younger.”
“She is pretty cute,” Jennifer noted.
“Yeah,” I agreed, “but she was really cute the first time I saw this movie.”
Teen Bot simply laughed at his dorky parents.
“Hey Teen Bot,” remember in the games how the goombas were giant reptilian humanoids and not waddling mushrooms?”
“Hey Teen Bot, remember when you drive an electric car through a grungy underground city in the games?”
Teen Bot responded, “well, I guess it’s kind of like Mario Kart.”
“Yes, except completely not,” I said.
“Hey Teen Bot, remember in the SMB games when you had to recover a meter fragment from some scary chick in red latex at a club so Bowser couldn’t take over our world with it?
“King Koopa,” Jennifer said.
“Same guy,” I defended.
“Hey Teen Bot, remember all these weird people in the games?”
“Hey Teen Bot, remember in the games when Bowser was shooting a gun at you and you had to defend against it?”
“King Koopa,” Jennifer corrected.
“Hey Teen Bot, remember in the game when you shot Bowser with the Devo Gun and he transformed from a human to a t-Rex and then into Odo from Deep Space Nine and colapsed into green sewage on the ground?”
Jennifer corrected me, “King Koopa.”
“Actually,” I said, “I think he’s the President in this one.”
And yes, the Devo Gun was a pretty important plot device in the film. Evidently there wasn’t enough cannon material from the established game series to make a whole movie around, so they had to invent stuff like reptilian humanoids and the Devo Gun, which wasn’t fractionally as cool as a Dubstep Gun. But then, what is?
When we got to the scene where Daisy is imprisoned in the tower, and the cute little bipedal dinosaur wanders out from behind the furniture, chained with a metal collar, Teen Bot said, “what is that supposed to be?”
“I’ll give you a hint,” I quipped, “in the game you might ride him around and make him eat goombas and stuff.”
“Oh, it’s Yoshi?” he said.
“Yeah, but they might have gotten the scale a little off,” I replied.
Throughout the duration of the film, neither Mario nor Luigi stomp on a single turtle or mushroom. They do not collect any 1-ups or fireflowers or leaves or capes. Neither of them dons a frog suit or a tanooki suit. Not once do they pull a flag down a flagpole nor do they enter any castles. They don’t collect cards or throw turnips at the bad guys. There is a character named Toad, but he’s a minor character that gets turned into one of Koopa’s minions who goes rogue to help our ‘heroes’ escape. They may as well have named him Earl for as much continuity as they bothered with. I mean, he doesn’t even wear a ridiculous poofy hat!
“Hey Teen Bot, remember that random woman in the game who steals the meteor fragment so she can merge the worlds on her own?”
Indeed, this movie would have been marginally better if they had made it as a stand-alone story and not affiliated it with Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. Granted, that would not have saved it as a film or made it anything that it is not already, but of many flaws, its most glaring is the fact that it is supposed to be a SMB story. IMDb gives it a marginally higher rating than Spice World, but I’d highly recommend the latter over the former if you are after some brain rotting entertainment. It is no small wonder that we haven’t seen The Legend of Zelda, Sonic the Hedgehog, or Metroid on the big screen or any other major title video games for that matter. SMB was the nail in the coffin for any such enterprises. Nintendo and Sega respectively, as well as many other game programmers heeded this film as a clear warning of the worst case scenario and said, “Oooooh no. We’re not going to let you do that to any (more) of our beloved core characters.” And for some reason, writing this post makes me want to grow my hair long, put on a flannel shirt and Doc Martens, and listen to some Nirvana or Cranberries while drinking Crystal Pepsi.