Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

End Of Line

Posted by Trixter on December 30, 2018

I’m leaving myself behind.

Wow, that sounds really melodramatic, doesn’t it? I have started this post multiple times, and each time, it sounds like some hammy grand exit, like I’m taking all of my toys and going home. That’s not my intention, but in today’s social media landscape, there isn’t a way to word something like this without it sounding sensational. I’m just trying to leave a signpost to my friends so that they don’t wonder what happened to me.

Let’s try the direct approach:

  • I am exiting my long-standing hobby circles: The demoscene; personal computing history; software preservation and archival; vintage gaming history; others.
  • I will neither monitor, nor participate on, social media or online forums.
  • I am completely changing my physical lifestyle: Diet, sleep, and exercise.

Why? While the timing makes this seem like a New Year’s resolution, that’s just a coincidence; the reason is because I need to make improvements to my mental health, which suffered trauma some years ago and never quite recovered. It surfaces whenever various triggers present themselves, but unfortunately for me, there are triggers for this kind of trauma everywhere I currently haunt online. So that ends.

(I explained this in great detail in my previous post, which you may notice is hidden behind a password. Just before I posted it, I got excellent advice from close friends that made me see how posting it in its current form could make things worse, but could also go off like a claymore and unduly hurt someone else, so I walled it. I’m leaving it up as something I can refer to in case I need a therapeutic reminder. If you are a close friend whom I’ve known for over a decade, email me for the password.)

While leaving my previous interests is necessary for mental improvement, it is also required for physical improvement: The time I would normally spend on hobbies will instead be spent learning how to take care of myself, preparing my own food, and getting enough sleep.

The physical aspect of this change intrigues me: I will be trading a youthful appearance for health. Since 2000, I’ve steadily gained about 5 pounds every year to the point where I’m 90 pounds overweight, but that’s had the effect of pushing out the skin on my face to fill out whatever wrinkles would be there. I don’t spend a lot of time in the sun, I have all my hair, and my hair isn’t gray — all of these factors combine into making me look younger than I am. A few times a year, I get mistaken for someone in their mid-30s when in fact I am nearly 50. Losing weight will thin my hair, and also allow my wrinkles to show. I will finally look my age.

Literally and figuratively, I will become a different person.

So what happens after that? I’m not sure, but I’m hoping it’s a return to what got me here in the first place. I built Mobygames because of my love for computer gaming history and etymology, which ironically led to a drastic reduction in playing actual games. I participated in vintage computing forums, programming, and archival to help others with the hobby, which again led to a drastic decline in my own activity in that area. I wasn’t careful what I wished for, and got it. Maybe I’ll return to those and find my passion again. Maybe I’ll do something else. I’ve always wanted to make personal computer history videos. I’ve always wanted to program a game for vintage computers. I have some ideas I’ve always wanted to turn into science fiction short stories. I really miss willing things into existence.

But for now, this is it. I’m no longer going to seek validation through projects or interaction. I’m not going to follow your achievements or hear your opinions — nothing personal. I hope you understand. This is now a one-way street, and we’re at different intersections.

Can I be contacted? Yes, via email. I’ll always respond to email, although it might take a few days. I’m also not skipping out on any works-in-progress: If you and I are in the middle of something, I’ll complete that thing. Email me if you’re concerned.

If I manage to accomplish something I’m proud of that I feel benefits anyone, I might pop in for a second to announce it via the usual haunts. Until such time‚Ķ take care.


PS: For those of you secretly wishing I was a drama queen and hoping that this post was going to be overly melodramatic, I’ll leave you with a personal soundtrack. Listen to it when you think of who I was.

Posted in Lifehacks | 4 Comments »

Protected: The Blind Item

Posted by Trixter on December 27, 2018

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It’s been fun

Posted by Trixter on December 26, 2018

My vote for the most subtle-yet-cruel entry in the category of brain mis-wirings is Imposter’s Syndrome. (It is also a first-world problem; apologies if this offends you.) I have it fairly bad, and it’s gotten worse as I age. It has prevented me from starting projects, finishing projects, and having normal levels of self-confidence. I am, thankfully, able to praise and mentor other people as necessary, but I cannot provide that for myself. Combine this with yearly instances of FOMO and you end up with someone who goes through waves of trying to join the party, only to feel sheepish once they get there.

This must end. Not in the manner in which my friends and fans might have hoped, but it simply has to end if I’m going to be available for the people who matter (including, most importantly, myself). So, it ends today. It ends with a list of things I’ve achieved in my life by my own skill, intelligence, and volition. I’m granting myself permission to be proud of everything on this list.

And, most importantly:

  • Met my wife, became a better person for her, and started a family

That is truly my greatest accomplishment. It has directly touched hundreds of lives, contributed something positive to the world, and will outlive me by many decades, if not centuries.

But this person is going away, and this is the third-last post I will be writing on this blog.

Posted in Demoscene, Digital Video, Gaming, MindCandy, MobyGames, Programming, Vintage Computing | 3 Comments »

A Premature End to October of Horror

Posted by Trixter on October 30, 2018

I am taking on a contract programming job with a deadline this week, so I’m afraid my horror movie indulgence must come to an end.¬† It’s unlikely I would have made 31 movies by the 31st anyway, but I’m happy with the 25 I managed to cram in.¬† I found some new favorites like Return of the Living Dead III, and had some recommendations validated such as The Night Stalker and Fright Night.¬† Most of them were duds, but it was worth going through them to find the diamonds in the rough, such as Killer! and — who would have thought?! — Pinocchio‚Äôs Revenge.

Here’s the complete list of movies I was able to cram in:

October of Horror #1: The Visitor (1979)

October of Horror #2: A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

October of Horror #3: Return of the Living Dead II

October of Horror #4: Fright Night (1985)

October of Horror #5: The Night Stalker (1972)

October of Horror #6: Warlock (1989)

October of Horror #7: Return of the Living Dead III (1993)

October of Horror #8: Evils of the Night (1985)

October of Horror #9: Infection (2004)

October of Horror #10: Pinocchio’s Revenge (1996)

October of Horror #11: The Darkest Hour (2011)

October of Horror #12: Zombieland (2009)

October of Horror #13: Killer! (1989)

October of Horror #14: The Beyond (1981)

October of Horror #15: Slaughterhouse Rock (1988)

October of Horror #16: Halloween (1978)

October of Horror #17: The Thing (1982)

October of Horror #18: The Borrower (1991)

October of Horror #19: Bordello of Blood (1996)

October of Horror #20: Meet The Hollowheads (1989)

October of Horror #21: The Wraith (1986)

October of Horror #22: Street Trash (1987)

October of Horror #23: Zombie High (1987)

October of Horror #24: Waxwork (1988)

October of Horror #25: Society (1989)

 

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October of Horror #25: Society (1989)

Posted by Trixter on October 29, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

An affluent son starts to suspect that his parents, and maybe his entire life, are not what they seem.

Opinion

Holy geebus, this movie 100% embodies the WHAT DID I JUST WATCH meme.¬† It’s a paranoia-induced mystery where a rich teen keeps seeing odd things out of the corner of his eye, notices people acting strangely, and can’t figure out what is real and what isn’t.¬† And for the first two thirds of the movie, it held my attention based on that alone.

(spoiler alert)

And then, the movie descends into a body horror fever dream the likes of which I’ve never seen.¬† It puts From Beyond to shame, and gives Reanimator a run for its money.¬† It goes into utterly bananas territory with an equally bananas victory for the hero.

Does this make it bad?¬† No, it truly kept me guessing and delivered the promised shocks.¬† The actors did a fine job, the effects were good where they needed to be and cheesy when it was warranted, and the director did a fine job for his debut.¬† I’m glad I saw it — but can I recommend it?

Recommendation

Society is unapologetically a body horror film, so if you are grossed out by that, do not watch.¬† But if you want to see something you’ve never seen before, and can handle the (bloodless!) gore, check it out.

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October of Horror #24: Waxwork (1988)

Posted by Trixter on October 29, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

Upper-class high school friends check out a waxworks museum, only to get trapped in some of the exhibits.

Opinion

Waxwork feels like it is trying to be a Charles Band/Full Moon horror movie but the final result has half the quality and even less charm.¬† It can’t decide if it’s trying to be a horror-comedy, flat horror, or just “quirky”, and it fails at all three.¬† Which is a shame, since the premise is somewhat original:¬† People who wander into incomplete waxworks scenes end up living the scene itself, and, if killed, becoming part of it forever.¬† It’s a great idea!¬† It’s just a shame the movie can’t pull off any of the three tiers of execution it is going for.

The low budget didn’t help.¬† Waxwork was filmed for $1.5 million.¬† If it had $1 million less money in the budget, it would have been a flawed but admirably ambitious film.¬† If it had $1 million more money in the budget, it would have been able to pull off more scary effects.¬† But what got onto celluloid just falls flat.¬† It’s even distracting to watch at times — some dialog gets cut together with dialog that feels like it was an alternate take with alternate lines.¬† One character fires a machine gun as he dies (trope alert), but since they couldn’t afford an automatic machine gun, you can see the character pulling the trigger while “dead”.¬† Some characters are caricatures while the two main characters play it completely straight.¬† It’s a mess.

Recommendation

I hate to kick a movie while it’s down (especially since, based on the commentary, everyone had a fun time making the film), but you should skip it.¬† For every scene that works, there are three that don’t.¬† Your time would be better spent watching 4 episodes of Tales from the Darkside (or even 4 episodes of Monsters).

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October of Horror #23: Zombie High (1987)

Posted by Trixter on October 28, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

Students at a prestigious boarding school start to suspect something nefarious is going on as they their friends’ personalities change into perfect students.

Opinion

If I had to summarize the film in a single sentence, it would be “Invasion of the Body Snatchers for teens.”¬† And that’s pretty much what it is — friends of the main characters either disappear or change into unrecognizable people, and the main members of the school board know more than they’re letting on.

The film is notable as an early major role for Virginia Madsen, and also stars Paul Feig in a bit part serving comedy relief.¬† Unfortunately, there’s just not much for either of them to do:¬† There’s not enough scares, things move slowly, and you start to recognize padding.

Recommendation

It’s merely ok.¬† I can’t really recommend it.¬† I feel Feig is a better actor than director (I have enjoyed exactly 1 of the films he’s directed) so if you like Feig and want to see him acting, you could do worse than Zombie High.

If you want a decent horror film starring Virginia Madsen, see the much better Candyman instead.

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October of Horror #22: Street Trash (1987)

Posted by Trixter on October 28, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

Homeless people start melting when drinking “Viper”, toxic hooch discovered after being locked away for 60 years.

Opinion

This film is all over the place.¬† It goes from black comedy, to body horror, to action film, to Vietnam veteran drama, to the plight of the homeless, to gore/splatter pic, to gangster humor, to… it’s just all over the place.¬† I keep writing sentences about it and then erasing them because I honestly can’t understand what the fuck I just watched.

I’ll defer to “RevRuin” from IMDB, who in 2001 summarized the film better than I seem to be doing right now:

One day someone said, “I’d like to make a movie featuring a bottle of hooch that makes people melt into multi-colored ooze. I think I’ll also add “sub-plots” about insane homeless vets, murder, necrophilia, gang-rape, castration, and police brutality. Oh, and it’s a COMEDY.”

Anyone who blasts the movie probably had no idea what they were getting into. Yeah, the story – if you want to call it that – is flimsy at best, but the film is punctuated by some inventive effects, some nice camera work, and a hysterical mostly-improvised Doorman character played by James Lorinz.

Summed up, if you like your movies dispicable, reprehensible, obnoxious, offensive, crude, and downright nasty, pick this one up.

That’s about right.¬†¬†It’s downright odd how it switches subjects and tone every 5-10 minutes.

Recommendation

I guess if 30% of more of the above appealed to you in some way, watch it, I guess?  50%, maybe?

Actually, there is one good reason to watch it:¬† Tony Darrow.¬† Darrow was a lounge singer until, at age 50, he was cast in this picture as a gangster, which he was familiar with having grown up around gangsters his whole life.¬† He did an ok job, but what is surprising is that Martin Scorsese somehow saw Street Trash and cast Tony in Goodfellas, which then led to a number of gangster characters until he found himself in The Sopranos where he played “Larry Barese” for the entire show’s run.¬† If you’re a Tony Darrow fan, you’ll enjoy him in this picture improvising some funny scenes with¬†James Lorinz.

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October of Horror #21: The Wraith (1986)

Posted by Trixter on October 28, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

Members of a car gang are challenged to races by an anonymous newcomer with a car nobody has ever seen before — and when they race for their lives, the newcomer always wins.

Opinion

I had never heard of this film until a few years ago, when some co-workers and I talked about cheesy teen action films from the 1980s (especially the silly BMX films like BMX Bandits and Rad), and someone mentioned The Wraith.¬† When I learned it starred a young Sherilyn Fenn, Charlie Sheen, a ton of 80’s music, and a Dodge M4S with a serious paint job — and believe me, all four of those are equally the stars of the film — I had to check it out.¬† Amazingly, I found a 1080p print of the film and set out to watch it.¬† As I watched it, I felt like I had picked the wrong picture for October Of Horror, but was surprised by how much I wanted to see it through to the end.

So what makes this barely classifiable as horror?¬† (Spoiler alert!)¬† The plot involves the ghost of someone killed by the car gang coming back to take revenge on the gang.¬† Kids are killed by a car with supernatural powers.¬† “But wait,” you say, “Wasn’t that the plot of The Car¬†9 years earlier?”¬† Yes, but that movie — strange as it was — was a true horror film where the car is the physical embodiment of a demon and it kills a lot of people for seemingly no reason (which is the best kind of reason to kill people in a horror film).¬† The Wraith is more of an 80’s revenge picture for teens.

Recommendation

If you like any of the following:

  • Clint Howard playing the role of a nerd completely seriously (and well)
  • An 80’s soundtrack featuring Ozzy Osbourne, Stan Bush, Robert Palmer, Bonnie Tyler, and Billy Idol
  • A futuristic-style car creating ludicrously gigantic explosions

…then The Wraith is worth your time.¬† If not, skip it.

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October of Horror #20: Meet The Hollowheads (1989)

Posted by Trixter on October 27, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

Witness a day in the life of the Hollowhead family, which takes place in a reality very similar to our own — if our lives relied on strange creatures and pipes filled with goo.

Opinion

I was attracted to The Hollowheads when I learned it was Anne Ramsey’s (The Goonies, Throw Momma From The Train) last film.¬† I looked further and saw it also starred a young Juliette Lewis, and with very strange creatures and setting thrown in, I felt it was worth my time.

After watching it, I guess I have to say it’s not for everyone.¬† It’s also not horror — I suppose it technically qualifies as a black comedy mixed with fantasy, maybe?¬† It’s hard to classify.¬† It plays like a gross, dark version of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse where every talking piece of furniture was replaced with a hose spouting goop or a frog-like creature that gets chopped up for a snack.

Frustratingly, there are hints of a good film in there, especially when the boys venture outside to go to the pumping plant.¬† You get glimpses of an entire interesting world that wasn’t fleshed out due to budget and time constraints.

Recommendation

It’s interesting, but it’s not horror.¬† But if you like learning the deep inside details of how films are made from proposal to celluloid, read The Edgewise Guide to Filmmmaking which is a production diary of Meet The Hollowheads from one of the writers, Lisa Morton.¬† It gives a glimpse into the film they were shooting for, and how it turned into the film we got.

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