Ring, ring... Terebikko calling!

2020-11-22 - Reading time: 4 minutes

So, a couple weeks ago I was watching this video tribute to Super Mario World's 30th anniversary.

At around the 17:20 mark, in the middle of talking about various tie-in products to promote the game, it brings up Mario & Yoshi's Adventure Land. A one-episode animated movie that follows Mario and Luigi through, essentially, the events of Super Mario World.

temp2.jpgWhat makes it unique is that it this is a "VCR game" of sorts that uses the Terebikko: an interactive 'quiz' device that mimics a telephone. Mario calls you. The phone rings. You pick it up. He asks you a question that needs a 1, 2, 3, or 4 response. (Or red, green, yellow, blue.)

You press the answer within the allotted time, and you get a response. (Near I can tell, it mutes the phone for the inappropriate response, but that's something we're going to find out definitively.)

And it's more than just Mario. There's a whole catalog of videos made for it in Japan, including Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon.

I found it all oddly fascinating. And my curiosity started to kick in. It seemed so simple, but it was a clever idea. I loaded the audio into Audacity and realized I could make out binary... uh oh.

See, one of the things I've always had an interest in, but never got a chance to try was demodulation of a digital signal from an audio file. Like the screeching of a modem, or a game loaded off an audio tape into a ZX Spectrum. That kind of thing. This seemed like the perfect on-ramp for it.

With very little actual information online, this also seemed like a perfect reverse engineering project in general.

I found out they released a version of this in the United States in 1989 under the Mattel label, a year after it's debut in Japan from Bandai, and... I found one on eBay for under $20 shipped. 😎

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So now I'm, seemingly, irrevocably committed to this project, now that money is involved. 😏

Here's what I'm planning. I've already spent a couple days dicking around and have a stack of notes. I'm hoping to get at least several decent blog posts out of this adventure:

My Goals for this Project!

Primary

  • Reverse engineer the digital protocol used, as much as possible
  • Create a real time decoder for it
  • Create a tool to generate the codes, so people can create their own, new videos

Secondary

  • Do a complete tear-down of the actual device with high res screencaps of the internals (I believe both US and JP versions are identical -- the case and operation certainly is, and the videos are all compatible with each other's versions). Just totally document the hell out of it. Get it all onto Github and Archive.org for safe keeping.

Nice to Have

  • Possibly integrate the decoder into a software emulator/video player as an all-in-one playback app. (How hard are VLC plugins to write...? 🤔)

That last one is unlikely, but hey, if I haven't burned myself out on the entire thing by that point, who knows?


Archer Season 11 Thoughts

2020-11-21 - Reading time: 9 minutes

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Lots of spoilers here.

Season 11 of Archer has been over for a while now, but a recent video from Wisecrack discussing the downside of the "coma seasons" got me thinking about it again. (For the record, I thought the coma seasons were generally fun, interesting "what if" anthologies that I understood helped break up creator Adam Reed's creative block. But I was happy to see them in the rear view mirror.)

This latest season? Fun in the moment-to-moment. But on the whole? I was left feeling apathetic.

I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the team becoming better without him, while he was in a coma. I mean, I loved the better people they became. Especially Cyril. It was like they all evolved in their ultimate forms.

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And I know, deep down, that "backsliding" is where the plot of the show HAS to go. Their transformation is the setup, and Archer being the reason they were held back is the punchline.

I understand that. But it also brings a great deal of personal frustration.

I found myself thoroughly enjoying the new, improved ISIS. And I kind of hoped the show was going to subvert my expectations. Instead of resetting everyone to their pre-coma semi-incompetency (they weren't technically shitty agents before; just... distracted... and held back), let's explore the a new normal. One where Archer turns his back on his friends, because he feels betrayed. And they no longer need him to be the agent of chaos 'glue' to keep them successful.

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For a while, I seriously believed they were going to do this.The various clues I picked up on almost seemed to suggest Sterling might basically say "fuck it" and start recruiting for his own, competing spy agency. And maybe we'd see future seasons dip into that awkward, jealous rivalry. It certainly looked like Sterling was beginning to accumulate a series of friends who actually LIKED him, for a while there. Aleister, Barry, Hands. Hell, maybe even steal Pam. A competing agency of people who actually appreciate him, and maybe work better with him around? Now that's an interesting premise to explore for a while.

But... it didn't go there.

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Instead it was, apparently, just business as usual? Instead, Lana's marriage begins to fall apart. Cyril relapses into his "beta" position. And the rest follow suit, with the whole show reset back to Archer being the cause of, and solution to all of their problems.

And that's a letdown. The season felt like it was building this arc in the background... but it wasn't. It was just my imagination. The show was just backsliding. Like the characters themselves.

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And now with Sterling seeing coma illusions in the finale, I don't know if this is a fake-out and he's still in the coma. Or is this some new psychosis?

I... just don't care...🤔

As a massive fan of the show for a very long time, that genuinely hurts to admit.

Don't get me wrong, the show is still fun, if a bit tired. But it just feels completely aimless in the larger view. And that's on them: they introduced the season-long arc concept back when the show took a hard turn into  Archer:Vice. And now, many seasons later, a viewer can't be blamed for looking for that to continue... trying to find a thread interlinking the episodes... and feeling kind of empty when nothing of consequence is there.

Though, the coma illusion stuff in the finale feels like wanting your cake and eating it. But I guess we'll see what happens next season for that thread. If there WAS anything anything TO it.

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So yeah. I really don't know what the hell they're doing at this point.

There was a predictable vibe to the show that was it's meat and potatoes in prior years that is hard to accept returning to. Those jokes and tropes made the show what we love. But increasingly Archer feels like a show that knows that it has to change, tries for a bit, but then gets cold feet about commitment and swings the steering wheel back onto the main road. Sterling's daughter was the last straw of my patience for that kind of thing: it felt like we could finally see even a sliver of permanent character development for him, but instead AJ just becomes another delivery system for TWO finger-raised-while-drinking jokes, and, this season, a kidnapping plot point.

Maybe it was better to just leave Sterling in the coma and leave the future to our imagination. 🤔


Concerning Shatner's Charity Commitment vs. Attending Nimoy's Funeral

2015-03-01 - Reading time: 3 minutes

Couple thoughts.

Look, I know how it's important to US, as fans of the Star Trek franchise, for him to attend Nimoy's funeral... but when you get down to it, this is a REALLY personal thing. Nobody has a right to tell another person how or when to pay their respects.

Myself, I have never attended a funeral, and I don't expect to do so...ever. Not because they're meaningless to me, or because I'm insensitive. I just choose not to stand on ceremony and grieve in public. I absolutely MUST deal with these things in private. If you ever gave ME shit about it at a very vulnerable time, like some of Shatner's fans are on Twitter, they'd probably be putting TWO people in the ground. :P

I'm not suggesting that's what Shatner is dealing with. We don't actually KNOW what his true feelings and motivations are. I'm saying don't put so much weight on being physically present somewhere in order to pay your respects.

...

That said, there's another angle to this that I don't think many people really think about.

Personally, I never got the impression that Nimoy and Shatner were quite as like-family close as we'd all like to imagine. Undeniably, they have a famous, shared history, and they seemed to get along well.

But, behind the scenes, who's to say Leonard wasn't just this guy he worked a lot with over the years and occasionally meets up with to promote stuff together?

Being at his funeral might not be as important for him, personally, as it is for US. If that's the case, that disappointment is ours to bear, not his. That's not to say it won't be a terrible PR move. He'll definitely catch shit from his audience over it, if that's how things really are for Bill.

Anyway, the guy tried to get head of the wave by admitting his inability to attend via Twitter, and tried his best to improvise, staging a virtual memorial through his account.

There's not really much more you can ask, except for us to just move on.

UPDATE: Turns out he DID go. Hopefully on his own terms, and not because the disgusting media and incredibly rude fans were pressuring him to do it.


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For those upset over the action focus of Abram's take on Star Trek...

2013-03-21 - Reading time: 2 minutes

Every Trek movie, save for perhaps The Voyage Home, has been an action movie.

  • V'ger probe threatens Earth; boredom threatens audience
  • Khan escapes exile, steals a ship and plots revenge against Kirk
  • Kirk steals the Enterprise and goes rogue
  • Spock's secret "half brother" hijacks the Enterprise; religious fanaticism ensues
  • Kirk and Bones are framed in a massive peace-threatening conspiracy
  • El-Aurian survivor kills Kirk, destroys the 1701-D, threatens millions to get high
  • Borg attack earth; use time travel to destroy the Federation; plastic ships break
  • Picard goes rogue to thwart unethical blah blah blah over immortal hippie planet
  • Picard's secret twin, Bane, builds a warship; fails to reenact Wrath of Khan plot

None of these really fit the traditional high-concept ideas usually attributed to the television version of Star Trek.

Insurrection comes close, mostly because they did that plot once already ("Homeward"). But it's still boils down to a rebellion and combat sequence by the end.

The original Motion Picture is another close one, however glacial the pace. Definitely the most cerebral of the franchise, if you can take enough caffeine to keep yourself awake through to the end.

The Voyage Home is the least violent, yet possibly most generally well-received out of all of the pre-Abrams movies. Combat generally comes down to Gillian Taylor slapping that guy at the aquarium, and a mannequin of Chekov being thrown off the edge of a platform.

Wrath of Khan is the undisputed fan favorite. And that was a bloody, violent war flick.

Complaining about Abram's take on Trek because of it's focus on action is basically damning the majority of the movie franchise. Star Trek movies are a completely different animal from it's television incarnation.


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