Monday, November 30, 2020

Superstar of the Week is Shy Guy

The most iconic character of the American version of Super Mario 2, Shy Guy, has survived three decades as a member of the cast of Super Mario Bros characters. In fact, these days, Shy Guy is generally depicted as one of Bowser's minions, despite that Super Mario 2 featured a completely different antagonist from Bowser, and the entire game turned out to be Mario having a dream in the end.

As a kid, I always wondered why Mario 2 was so different from any other Mario game; a completely different cast of bad guys, enemies that you can hop on and ride, or pick up and throw, rather than enemies that die when you hop on them, pulling vegetables from the ground instead of hitting blocks in the air, a life meter, digging levels instead of swimming levels, selectable characters with different abilities, no fire flowers, no two-player mode, and a very distinct Middle Eastern vibe. 


Eventually, I found out that this is because, America's Mario 2 wasn't the actual Mario 2. Nintendo of America felt that Japan's Super Mario Brothers 2, which was identical in appearance to, but much more difficult from the original Super Mario Brothers, would be too difficult for Westerners. So, they took a completely different game, an Arabian themed game called "Doki Doki Panic", reskinned the playable characters into Mario characters, and released it in the U.S. as "Super Mario Brothers 2".

So, Shy Guy, despite being a character designed for a completely different game, has survived for three decades as a Mario character, and been adopted as one of Bowser's minions.

Also, when I first saw Shy Guy as a kid, I thought he was a walking loaf of bread with a face.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A Request From 2007


There's a particular tune I've been trying to figure out since I was in High School, over two decades ago. Something from my childhood that I just can't figure out where it's from.

Back in 2007, I filmed a video in three clips, in which I play the tune on a keyboard. I intended to edit the video into one clip, upload it to YouTube as a private video, and send the link to my friend Adam, who I grew up with, to see if he recognized the tune. I never actually got around to doing this, and the three video clips have been sitting around in a file on my computer ever since. 

The other day, I was organizing my files, and came across these three clips, so I decided, "what the hell". After all these years, I edited them together and uploaded them to YouTube as an unlisted video, and sent the link to Adam, despite the fact that we've already discussed this since the time that I filmed the video. I also decided to add some background music that I commonly used in my videos in 2007-2008, just to give it that 2007sy touch.

What do you think it is? It has an 8-bit sound to it, with a pulsing beat. My thoughts are, either some old game, either NES or Arcade, or some local (Portland metro area) commercial for a dealership or furniture store, or something. Leave a comment if this tune is familiar to you.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Superstar of the Week is Captain Bartholomew Gosnold

It's Thanksgiving week in the United States, so I thought I would feature someone who you've likely never heard of, despite the fact that he's only the guy who started the English migration to the Americas in the first place.

Everybody who grew up in the United States, grew up with the Thanksgiving story, about how the ancestors of the U.S. migrated to the Americas to escape religious persecution, sat down and had a lovely turkey dinner with the locals, then one two skip a few, and suddenly there's thirteen colonies going to war with the British.

Of course, if your history background is a little more extensive than what you learned in grade school, then you might be aware that Virginia colony was already well established in North America by the time our Thanksgiving pilgrims made their trek across the Atlantic, which is where our whole "Jamestown, John Smith, Poccahontas" story comes in. Actually, everything in North America that was claimed by the British was referred to as "Virginia" at the time. That is until John Smith, having been banned from Virginia colony, mapped the northern part of this area, and gave a little sales pitch to would-be English settlers, calling the newly charted area "New England". 

Many Puritan settlers had already migrated to Virginia colony for the promise of religious freedom. The pilgrims who boarded the Mayflower, agreed to partake in John Smith's New England project, starting a new colony in the New England territory, rather than settling in the already established Virginia colony. If anything, the Thanksgiving story is the story of why we have a "United States" rather than simply a "State of Virginia".

After the U.S. Civil War, the Union decided to focus on a northern based origin story for the United States, rather than a southern one, and so Thanksgiving was established, focusing on the pilgrims who migrated to New England, rather than the earlier foundation of the southern state of Virginia.

So now, I have written out an entire article, and haven't even mentioned the Superstar of the Week, yet. Basically, Bartholowmew Gosnold was the guy who had the vision of establishing an English colony in America. He started a company called the Virginia Company, and convinced the government and many would-be settlers that prosperity would be found by establishing a colony in America. John Smith referred to him as the "prime mover" of Virginia Colony. Once they reached  Virginia, Bartholowmew Gosnald became the first governor of Jamestown.

He dreamed of a happy utopia built by a union of  English colonists and native Americans. Of  course, it didn't quite go that way, as the natives were quite fine with their way of life, and not particularly interested in conforming to Engish civilization. And, the English weren't quite interested in taking "no" for an answer. But, Bartholowmew would never know this, as he only lived for a year after arriving in Virginia.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Blast From the Past

The Socrates 80s Educational Game Console


A friend of mine shared this video with me, which took me back a ways. In 1988, my family moved up to Oregon from California. The Nintendo Entertainment System was the latest and greatest thing that everyone had to have. I think I remember mentioning that I wanted video games for Christmas, or something. Sure enough, that Christmas I got a video game console. It was not an NES, or even an Atari. It was a Socrates educational console. 

This is where you may be expecting me to tell you how disappointed I was that I got a Go-Bot instead of a Transformer, like a spoiled ungrateful little punk first-worlder. No! I liked Go-Bots. Go-Bots were cool in a lesser than Transformers sort of way, and Socrates was cool in a lesser than Nintendo sort of way. I was excited to have some sort of gaming console that I could hook up to my TV like Nintendo.

Socrates had math games, and word games, and a hang-man, a music feature, and a "Super Painter", which was pretty much a rudimentary version of MS Paint. There were even cartridges we could purchase, which you could plug in for additional games. I had one that had really tough algebra that nobody could figure out. It also had a wireless control, which was pretty much a long bar with a keyboard and two pop-out controllers on the sides.

I pretty much gravitated toward the Super Painter, and also enjoyed the hang man game, which had different levels in which Socrates, an adorable little robot knockoff of Johnny 5, journeys from his home planet to Earth. There was also a two player game which involved competing Socrateses on a game board. I pretty much ignored the math and spelling games, but my friend Adam enjoyed them. He even spent a lot of time trying to solve the algebra game, even though we were fourth graders. He says he thought Socrates was cool because it was  different.

The next year, I got an actual Nintendo for Christmas, and Socrates became a dust collector. 


Monday, November 02, 2020

Superstar of the Week is Sean Connery

 Raise your hand, if you totally missed Sean Connery's passing on Halloween a few days ago. Maybe you've heard about it since then, but were unaware of it when it happened. Or, maybe you're reading this, years from now, and going, "Wait... What!?" 

That's how crazy this year is. Typically, when a celebrity passes away, we're bombarded with news of it all over the place. You can't miss it. It trends on Twitter, people share tributes all over Facebook. Sean Connery was huge! He was a major beloved icon who starred in over a million movies!* Yet, there's so much craziness this year, Sean Connery's passing was barely a blip in the media! You know, we also had the world's first commercial space flight this year. Any other year, that would have been one of the year's major stories, but this year, nobody cares about things like commercial space flights! There's too much else on our plates! It's crazy!

So, this Superstar of the Week pays tribute to Sean Connery, the star of Zardoz, and some other things. He went young, at 90, not even a full century, yet. 

Sean Connery 8/25/1930 - 10/31/2020

* The quantity of movies starring Sean Connery may have been exaggerated in this post.