Friday, February 28, 2014

Video Games and Useless Characters, what more could you want?

Well, I’ve had quite a bit of time off lately, due to a severe toothache letting me get out of work for a bit. And during this time, I’ve thought about working on a new post a few times. And then generally that thought would disappear after a few minutes and I’d waste my time doing something else. But I’m determined now to put out a new post before I go back to work next week. Update from the future: yeah, that didn’t go so well. It’s now almost two months after I started writing this post. Bah. So first things first, before I get to any new material, I have to actually go back and do a review of Marzipan’s Answering Machine 8.0. Thanks to Eric119 for noticing that I skipped over that one, by the way. Rather than tack it on to the start of this post, I’m going to add it to the post where it was originally supposed to be, the one from July 21. The Answering Machine was released between the sibbie and suntan emails, and it completely escaped my notice somehow. Here’s a link to the older post so you can check it out if you want.

I've got the heart of a turkey, and the wings of cranberry sauce, because it's Thanksgiving!
http://www.everybodytothelimit.com/zeen.html
After looking through the lists of Toons and other site updates, I believe I only missed one other thing, and that is the Limozeen Thanksgiving E-Cards. Which I am deciding to not really say anything about, because it kind of speaks for itself if you want to take a look at it. If anyone thinks I did miss anything else, feel free to let me know. Just for the record, I’m aware that I never said anything about If I Ran The Camera (because it has nothing to do with Homestar Runner), a certain old game that will go nameless (because it apparently has a dark unspoken history… don’t ask, maybe one day I’ll elaborate on this), and the various “scroll button songs” that would update every once in a while on the SBEmail menu (which I’ll cover all at once at some point). There’s also some pages that I mentioned but said very little about, like the King of Town April Fools material (Revenge of the King, King of Town Email, etc) and the Character Videos. But I don’t really plan on going back to those, because I just didn’t have much to say about them in the first place. So anyway, moving on to new material, let’s start 2004 out strong with the classic SBEmail, army.


Hold the line! Hold the liiiiiine!!!!
http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail93.html
This email is almost on the same page as stuff like dragon and comic in terms of impacting the future of the website, but in sort of an indirect way. Watching this for the first time, there’s not really any indication that something greater would come out of it, but once you know what the future holds, it’s an interesting look back. Without completely giving away the spoiler, let’s just say that “Firebert” was one of many commando names made up for The Cheat, and the ones that were scrapped were used for other purposes. This email is also one of very few to have a direct sequel, albeit nearly 80 emails later down the road.

So what can I say about this one? Col-o-nel Homestar is wonderfully ridiculous, and Strong Bad is completely unfazed by his actions. Homestar’s “Homestarmy” consists of Strong Sad (who I can understand wanting to go after Strong Bad), Homsar (who’s probably there because he doesn’t know any better), and a couple of inanimate objects. This series really does have a lot of objects considered to be characters – just look at the inhabitants of Strong Badia. And The Stick. And The Paper. Geez, there really are a ton of them when you think about it. On another note, lots of callbacks are present - mainly the painting from i love you and the box that originally read “eleven soaps” from fingers, though I like to think that “do you has what it takes” is a reference to “I think I has the solution” from Yello Dello.

So overall, this is definitely a solid email. It’s not a personal favorite of mine in the sense that I don’t have any huge attachment to it, but I can’t deny quality humor when I see it. And the next email is definitely a winner too, if only because of the massive amount of content it produced. Now it is my intention to sit down and write about video games for several hours. Well, hopefully not that long, but let’s take a look.



And you'd just have to sit there and imagine why on Earth you can't get ye flask!
http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail94.html
This is one of the all-time best emails, in my opinion, and I don’t think many people would disagree with me. There could have been a bit more done with the concept, but I think this managed to condense quite a bit of variety into three minutes, and SBEmails generally aren’t too much longer than that. So here we finally get an answer to a very often-asked question for Strong Bad. Since Strong Bad has apparently never quite moved out of the late 80s to early 90s in terms of technology, our look at the types of video games he could appear in is understandably kind of dated. So let’s just do a quick analysis of each of these games.

The first game, Secret Collect., (yes, there is a period at the end of the title for some reason), is clearly based on the standard appearance of an Atari 2600 game. I rather like the weird flashing walls that look way out of place with the rest of the graphics, because those totally existed. Just look at the title screen for SwordQuest. And then you’ve got the graphics that only look “kind of like” Strong Bad, aka, a red square. Granted, there were plenty of games that did at least attempt to represent the character, but then there were ones like Adventure which did not.

Next is StrongBadZone, which is sort of like a Vectrex game (though it also looks rather Virtual Boy-ish, given the color scheme). I’m not quite sure why this one doesn’t let you play as Strong Bad, when he was clearly playable in Secret Collect. and appears in one of the following games too. I’m not going to say much about the humor in most of these, because I think it kind of speaks for itself, but this is definitely the one that most people remember from this email, if only for “Your head a splode”.

The next game, Thy Dungeonman, strangely doesn’t actually feature Strong Bad at all, and, perhaps even more strangely, is the one that generated sequels. It’s one of those things that is barely even connected with the overall Homestar Runner universe, but is yet still part of the website. But anyway, this is clearly a parody of old text adventures like Zork that require a lot of imagination and patience, because your goal is often not very clear, and a lot of times, these games would be really challenging to actually complete because of obtuse puzzle-solving and requiring obscure, missable items. Thy Dungeonman is anything but difficult though, as we’ll see in a bit.

The final game shown is Rhino Feeder, which is probably my least favorite of the four, despite Strong Bad’s insistence that it’s incredibly cutting-edge. I guess that’s sort of the joke. I’m not quite sure what system this is supposed to be a parody of either, because it does seem to be a step above NES graphics, but it’s definitely not 16-bit. It’s actually more similar to the Atari 7800, which wasn’t necessarily better- or worse-looking than the NES, but had sort of a different visual style, and the sort of gradient at the top of the screen gives me more of an Atari vibe.


"I'm supposed to release a video computer game on TV without this graphic!"

At the end of the email, you have the opportunity to try out all four of the games, probably making this the email with the most content attached to it, though website arguably beats it by a bit. I’ll be going over each of those games a bit more in-depth in a video at the end of this post, which will also cover the first of a couple other Videlectrix games released in January and February of 2004. A little bit of backstory here – Matt and Mike had been receiving emails with this subject for quite a while, and it took a while to get the creative jump to actually make the SBEmail. So when they made it, they basically got Jonathan Howe (the programmer for TROGDOR!) to make these games as well, which he managed to pump out in about three days. I guess he kind of got into a groove with those, and then proceeded to make a game called Pigs on Head a couple weeks after this email released, followed by Thy Dungeonman II another few weeks later.

Those two games are not actually on the Homestar Runner website anywhere, but rather, on the Videlectrix website, which launched on the same date as Thy Dungeonman II. (I’m not actually sure where Pigs on Head was playable before the site started, it may have temporarily been solely accessible through the “new update” button, if I had to guess). I’ll probably go over this site a bit more in-depth later on, but for now, let’s move on to another email that, surprisingly, does feature another video game, albeit briefly. It’s called the bet.



King, I think that stuff's for automotive use only.
http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail95.html
For emails like this, I do have to wonder what it would be like if Strong Bad’s answer to the question is just “no”. 


Dear Strong Bad,
Do you ever go over to The King of Town's place for dinner? If so, what's it like?

Chris
Ann Arbor, Michigan

a>  Uh… nope. What, did you really think I’d ever hang out with the King of Town? Pff. Well, that answers that one. Until next week everyone, send me some emails that I won’t be able to answer in two seconds. [preeeeow]



That would be pretty funny as a one-time thing. But anyways, here we have a pretty decent email – nothing too outstanding, but it works well for what it is. Homestar’s bet was delightfully random, and the scenes with KoT went about how you’d expect them to, honestly. I guess the advantage to hanging out with an uncool person with a lot of food is that you get to have … well, a lot of food. Can’t really say no to that. The “putting mayo in the vent” prank was pretty funny too, and definitely one that would be horrible if it happened to me, because I hate the smell of mayonnaise anyway, even when it’s fresh. As for Typing Tutor, I only have one thing to say about it: it doesn’t have all the letters. Kind of seems like a bit of a flaw there.

Strangely, the highlight of this email is actually in the Easter eggs at the end. I usually don’t bother pointing those out any more, but definitely check them out in this one, because both are pretty funny. Butter-da is noh hush a bush push Leopold. And now for the next email, we have lackey. And I’m going to lead into this one by saying that I remember this being one of the most useless emails ever, but I haven’t seen it in quite a while, so maybe I’ll be surprised. Let’s give it a shot.



The Cheat is a good lackey because he "knows what's best" and "doesn't want to get left by the side of the road during a thunderstorm"
http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail96.html
Yep, pretty useless. Moving on.

















… Crap, I thought if I pressed Enter enough times, people would let me skip to the next one. Ok, I’ll at least say one positive thing about this email – the stuff Strong Bad was saying about The Cheat at the start (all of the stuff in quotes, basically) was actually pretty funny, if a bit long-winded. And the rest of the email was … yeah, pretty dumb, in my opinion. The “BC” jokes really overstayed their welcome (and were not actually funny to begin with), and I have no idea where the heck the idea for Doreauxgard (screw that spelling, btw) came from, or why anyone thought it was a good idea.

But apparently they liked Doreauxgard (look, can I just call you fhqwhgads?) enough to create an actual puppet version of it (not just the cantaloupe-on-a-pencil version seen in the Easter egg at the end of this email, but rather, one with an opening mouth and everything), which did not make an appearance on the website until 2008. It also has a Quote of the Week character head (basically a pre-loaded image in the Quote of the Week file that they pull when they want to use that character’s quote), despite never actually being used. That file is actually the only reason that anyone knows how to spell this freaking thing’s name. And that’s about all I have to say about this. The next one will probably be monumentally better.



Oh the things that man does! Come to think of it, what exactly does that man do?
http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail97.html
Watching through this email again, all I could think of was the fact that this email, just like lackey, introduces a “new” character that is entirely useless, but the difference here is that this email is actually funny. The existence of the Thnikkaman in itself is hilarious because it’s about the laziest costume you could ever have, and he has absolutely no purpose at all. Strong Bad asks if he can have “some”, and Thnikkaman just says “yeah, okay”, and then that’s it. Genius.

As for the monument itself, I think the design sort of lost focus after the legs, but I can’t say no to the random palm tree sticking out of the side of it. It should have at least duct taped some aluminum foil to some twine, though. And aside from that, this email did actually lead to the introduction of Club Technochocolate (or the name of it, at least), and it also directly influenced my opinion on something in real life. Ready for it? The name “Kaitlyn”, and all spelling variations thereof. Seriously, after watching this email, I realized how freaking common that name is. I swear, every one of my classes in high school had at least one Katie in it, usually two. And it probably would have escaped my notice if not for Strong Bad pointing it out. Thanks a lot, guy. But getting back on track, I’ve still got a couple emails to get through, and the next one, much like these last two, has some stupid stuff in it. No, really, that’s the name of it.



And if I fail, then I'll quit stealing the bricks from your house, one by one.
http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail98.html
I think this email is easily overlooked, because it doesn’t do anything too crazy. It’s just a basic at-the-computer email with little more than some dialogue exchange, but it works quite well in its simplicity, thanks to Homestar’s usual brand of humor and high level of energy. There’s no single thing I can point out that makes this a good email, it’s just generally funny all around, from the “stealing the bricks from your house” thing to “Butt’s Twelve By Pies”. And of course the whole Grumblecakes/Cheatcakes thing, which kind of came out of nowhere.

I’d say more about this email, but like I already said, it’s pretty simplistic, and the humor doesn’t require any kind of explanation or analysis, it’s just two characters that play off each other well. It may not be the most memorable email ever, but it’s enjoyable, and you’d have to be a liar or thief to say it’s not. And those people go to prison. So now for something more elaborate, let’s head on to email #99, different town.



Bubs would give away flamethrowers that shoot chocolate hundred dollar bills...
http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail99.html
This is almost a musical version of your friends, with the difference being that email had Strong Bad inflicting harm on everyone, and this is just him imagining things being different about them. Which I guess is actually completely different, so that makes my comparison moot. Hehe. Moot.

So… I’m trying to think of what I should say about this, but I think my imagination’s broke from this too. Lemme try to think of the best thing ever. Um… Exploding muffins. Well, that’s a step up from beef stew, at least. Still though, I seem to be running into this problem a lot with some of the better toons. I can talk trash about the ones that aren’t so good, and explain why I didn’t like them, but with the good ones, it’s usually pretty evident why people enjoy them. With this one, you’ve got plenty of fast-paced jokes and visual gags that go along with a pretty catchy song. The endcaps aren’t as great as the main song portion of course, but the conversation with Strong Sad about the bust of Bubo was still humorous.

I do have to disagree with Strong Bad about Homsar’s treatment being disappointing – I think the “modestly hot” variation was definitely more interesting than Coach Z wearing a jacket or Homestar … quitting? (I’m not sure what actually happened with him). Yes, Modestly Hot Homsar is creepy looking, but I think that’s sort of the point.

The one other thing I need to point out about this email is the origins of the actual song. People who know a decent amount of stuff about the site are probably aware of this already, but the song (sans lyrics) was written by They Might Be Giants. They did get credit within the email at the very end, but only in acronym format, so if you don’t know what TMBG stands for off-hand, then it doesn’t really do you much good. But yeah, this is the band’s first involvement with Homestar Runner, and definitely not the last. I’m not by any means a huge fan of theirs (the only thing I really knew them for prior to this email was “Triangle Man”, from the Tiny Toons segment, and even then, I would have never been able to tell you who made that song), but I do enjoy their work within this series, and would definitely seek out more of their songs if I actually cared about listening to music in general.

Alright, so that basically covers everything I planned on talking about here. With the exception of Thy Dungeonman II, which I’ll be going over next time, this at least gets all of January and February’s material out of the way, so I’m at least somewhat caught up now. But before we’re through, as promised, here’s my look at the various video games from SBEmail 94, plus Pigs on Head. Enjoy.



Links to the individual games:
Secret Collect.
StrongBadZone (original version)
StrongBadZone (Wii version)
Thy Dungeonman
Rhino Feeder
Pigs on Head

Monday, January 6, 2014

Hello 2014, Goodbye 2003 (alternate title: Caffeinated Strong Sad and Comb-over Strong Bad)

Happy new year, everyone! With a new year comes a new era of me occasionally posting on this blog. Now that I’ve gotten over the addiction to Pok√©mon Y (following the previous addiction to Minecraft), I might actually be able to update it more often. Before moving on to the usual reviews, let’s take a look back at all the Homestar-related updates from 2013.
  1. Will Wheaton was given an introduction at a convention by non-animated Strong Bad and Homestar, much to the surprise of … well, everybody, really. 
  2. Decemberween cards were given a $2 discount in the store, meaning you could get all nine cards (three each of three different designs) for only $17.95. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that nobody took advantage of this amazing deal.
  3. Nothing else.
Well, I suppose that’s more of an update than we saw in 2012. But anyway, I’m going to see if I can finish up the 2003 updates in this post, which means I have to get through … five SBEmails, an Answering Machine, a secret toon, and a Main Page. I guess it’s actually not that much material after all. I’ll start things off with the weirdest of the bunch, an unnamed toon that wasn’t even featured on the website, known only as Where the Crap Are We? 


I think it's Massachusetts.
http://www.hrwiki.org/mirror/egg.html
There’s really not much to say about the toon itself here, just the origins of it. The only things I will point out are the Easter egg at the end (an Easter egg in a toon that is, in itself, an Easter egg. Woah.) and the fact that a quote from this was eventually made into the Quote of the Week, making that the only reference to it on the entire website. Now, since I certainly wouldn’t have known that this thing existed without the help of the Wiki, I can’t really do anything other than just copy their explanation for it: “This cartoon could be found in the program Macromedia Central by going into "Help → About Central" and Ctrl-double clicking on the "C" logo. When given a password field, one would type in "sbemail" and press enter. The cartoon would then play in the "about" box.”

So in other words, nobody would have ever, ever found it without somebody actually involved in the making of it (whether it was Matt/Mike or someone from Macromedia) telling other people it was there and then letting it eventually be spread through word of mouth. I think weird hidden stuff like that is pretty cool, and it’s definitely weird to have a Homestar short hidden in an unrelated application like that. The origins of this will probably remain a mystery, and hey, speaking of which, let’s learn about the couch patch.



I thought this week's email was entitled "Teddy Graham Memories."
http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail88.html
Is this the first email where the sender is asking about some small, useless detail in the background? I’ll answer my own question – no, because no loafing came out like, right before this one. But I was just thinking of upcoming emails that focus on weird stuff like extra plug and geddup noise, not to mention origins. I guess the mindset here is that you want to email Strong Bad, but can’t think of anything to write about, so you just watch another email, notice something minor, and decide to ask about that. I suppose that works.

Anyway, I like this email’s alternate explanations for what happened. Strong Sad’s probably seemed the most legit (maybe just because Strong Sad is probably the most reputable source), but then Strong Bad acts as if the whole “Coach Z Shadowy Figure puked in it after eating doo-doo meat gumbo” story did actually happen. An interesting fan theory is that all of the stories were actually true. Lil’ Strong Bad writes the message on the couch, realizes his mistake, and tears it up. Much later on, Coach Z pukes in it and sews it up to cover the evidence. Strong Bad later on tears it back open and releases the terrible stench from Coach Z’s mess. And then of course, Homestar spits Teddy Grahams all over the place. And The Cheat’s head explodes for no reason. There’s a few holes in that theory (HA. Pun.) but it makes about as much sense as anything else in this series, so sure, why not.

Actually, if you want to look even more unnecessarily deep into this, the “biblical stench” explanation could kind of tie in with a 2008 Easter short called Rotten Eggs. But here I am putting way too much thought into this again, because that’s what I always end up doing. I’ll end this review with a pointless explanation of something: If you’ve watched my older and more popular LPs on Youtube, you’re probably familiar with “The Steve”, a papaya that I gave a name to for absolutely no reason and then turned into a self-proclaimed “running joke of biblical proportions”. Yes, I was thinking back to this email when I made that statement. And no, I’m still not sure why I called it that. Anyway, enough of that, let’s move on to local news.



I guess those ROADS should not be RODE upon, eh?
http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail89.html
The subtitle in the screenshot there doesn’t necessarily reflect my opinion on this email (not entirely, at least), I just kind of picked it. And while I’m pointing that out, allow me to correct the statement I made in the fourth post on this blog, where I said that The Cheat’s character video was the only place you ever get subtitles for what he is saying. And while I’m pointing THAT out, allow me to say that The Cheat was actually rather adorable in this email. I like the little ditty he’s singing during the news introduction.

My overall opinion on this one is kinda meh. It’s not bad in any way – when I look at all the individual jokes, most of them are pretty good. (Best five bucks I ever spent!) And I definitely like the Strong Bad’s Rhythm n’ Grammar songs at the end. I’ve used those quite a number of times over the years to correct people, and the apostrophe song is genuinely useful. It’s how I usually remember which spelling to use for its/it’s. So yeah, I can’t really place what it is about this email that I didn’t like as much as I should have. Maybe it was just the Strong Bad segments, which were not very funny (saying “tonight” every three words doesn’t really constitute a joke). And while I don’t mind the concept of him throwing together the local news, it feels like something he’s definitely done before, hence why they drew so much attention to it. I can’t think of an exact instance of it though, other than pizza joint, and that email came way later than this. I dunno. Like I said, it’s not bad, just not one of my favorites. And neither is the next one, for that matter. I present colonization.



I met a strange man who had strange ways and strange odors.
http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail90.html
I’m with Strong Sad on this one, ketchup on eggs just sounds gross. I’ve never actually tried it though. Fishcorn, however, that that stuff is the haps. Seriously though, apparently Native Americans taught Pilgrims to plant fish heads with corn to fertilize the soil. I just now learned that from the Wiki and feel like this is something I should have learned in school as a kid. I just assumed this email was being weird.

So going back to the usual standby of overanalyzing the crap out of everything, this email establishes that Strong Badia doesn’t actually belong to Strong Bad, he’s just renting it from Bubs. (Debatably – the ad in the newspaper says “lot for sale”, but then Strong Bad says he pays rent for it). This is kind of the last straw for an issue that’s been bugging me for a while. Come on, man. You’re already running the only frequently seen establishment in the series (the only other places I can think of are Blubb-O’s and Club Technochocolate, neither of which have been seen yet, and the latter of which is also at least employed by Bubs, if not outright run by him), but now you’re renting out dirt fields too? What are you even doing with all the money that you make when there’s nobody else to buy stuff from? I mean, I know there must be other places that you just don’t ever see, but it’s just weird is all. …Unsettling.

Getting back on track … no, actually, that’s about all I have to say about this one, other than pointing out “Hoofton Mifflin” and the two Easter eggs, which are pretty good. I like the Shanama song, and I agree with Homestar about the whole Hank thing. Same for Charles = Chuck, and to a lesser extent, Dickard. But yeah, let’s just move on, because the next couple emails are pretty good. I’ll save those for last though, instead, have an Answering Machine. Version 9.2 to be exact. Why the “.2”? I have no idea.



You're the best girlfriend I ever had. Let's have a marriage. Let's have a marriage license.
http://www.homestarrunner.com/answer9.html
I think this is the best Answering Machine so far, thanks to Homestar’s intervention at the end. And as for the “.2”, my best guess is it’s just because the answering machine itself was changed for this installment. I thought for a while that it might be an incredibly obscure reference to a MST3K DVD number, but upon further investigation, Volume 10.2 had a legitimate reason to be called that, and that DVD wasn’t actually released until 2008 anyway, so… uh… moving on.

The King of Town was his usual lame self here. I mean, you can (and do) eat copious amounts of food on days that aren’t Thanksgiving anyway, so why does it matter so much? Turkey and the other typical Thanksgiving food isn’t even that good anyway, in my opinion, hence why I never cared much for the holiday. Strong Bad’s message is definitely a step in the right direction. His first one, that is. The second one is kind of meh, but the Cablem’n Jorge bit was pretty funny. Would 100 feet of coaxial cable really reach Strong Bad’s house from Marzipan’s? It’s never really established where the characters live in relation to each other. Not that it really matters, it was just something I picked up on.

Coach Z’s message was kind of a work of art, honestly. I have no idea what “discatapes” are supposed to be, but whatever they are, he wants them back, so he’s going to sneak in like usual and retrieve them. But then he tries poorly to cover this up and instead just changes the subject completely to curly fries. I love the seamless transition there. And then of course, we end with Homestar’s disaster, where he somehow misinterprets a message to “go away and pick up sticks”, and hilarity ensues. There’s not much I can add to the humor of this segment, but once again we have an instance of Matt doing a character’s voice, impersonating another character’s voice. It’s not quite as hard as it seems (since the impressions aren’t particularly good, it’s basically just the standard Homestar voice but with a slight alteration to it), but it’s still fun to listen to. We also get to hear Homestar not only impersonate himself (badly), but the return of “some animal died”. I love callback jokes like that. Alright, so one last thing before the emails, let’s take a quick look at Main Page 19.



So, Characters, you were in a movie recently. Tell us about that.
http://www.homestarrunner.com/main19.html
Like most Main Pages, there’s not too much I really need to say about this. It’s a nice little twist on the usual formula, in that Homestar says full sentences relating to the “The Show” theme, rather than just saying Toons, Games, etc and having funky stuff happening. The best part of this (other than referring to the Gremlin as “a new store”) in my opinion is the music that plays during some of the mouse-overs. And well, that’s about it, I don’t want to put anyone to sleep by talking too much about a small thing like this. So let’s have some caffeine and wake up for the next SBEmail.




Here goes the wood-davers train! It's takin' off! It's a new century!
http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail91.html
This is one of my favorite emails, but unfortunately, it’s funny in one of those ways that can’t really be described, so there’s not much to really comment on humor-wise. It’s certainly not intelligent humor, it’s just Strong Sad wigging out over some Sanka (which for the record is non-caffeinated, so I don’t know what the crap happened here), and Strong Bad collecting data on it. Practically everything that happens in this email is hilarious, but the highlights for me are Strong Sad rambling about wood-davers (which is what he calls pinecone birdfeeders, and thus, what I call them also), Strong Mad’s very uncharacteristic reaction to “parakeet”, and Strong Sad repeatedly slapping Coach Z. So in other words, about half of the email.

Really though, what else is there to say? This certainly isn’t the first time that a cartoon character has gotten hyperactive and started doing a lot of strange things, but it’s a pretty funny example of one, especially on a character like Strong Sad. And while he definitely steals the show here, I do have to focus on some of the other stuff happening, like the “All-Wide Science Fair”. What kind of name is that? The original project on the effects of gasoline on fire sounds like it would have been interesting to hear. We do see a bit of it at the end in an Easter egg, but it’s not very extensive. Maybe he should have just done the project on the shark-mobile. But at any rate, I hope everyone enjoyed that email, and we’re about to move on to another one of my all-time favorites, which is really funny and … well, kind of cool.



I'm very sorry, ma'am, but could you help an old denominator, like me, gather his spectacles?
http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail92.html
In this email, we witness the admittedly confusing origin of one of my favorite characters on the website, Senor Cardgage. I’m going to spoil things for new viewers a bit here – yes, this character does return in later toons and emails. Quite a lot, actually. In fact, I’d consider him the unofficial 13th main character. He doesn’t have as many appearances as the rest of the main cast, but he does exist in the same universe as the rest of them (as opposed to characters from Teen Girl Squad, 1936, 20X6, Trogdor, etc), and there’s not that many other recurring characters that can claim that, aside from The Announcer and The Goblin. As for my high regard for this character, all I can say is that the man is hilarious in a very sketchy sort of way. This email does a fantastic job of describing the guy, and while I don’t think I would enjoy actually hanging out with a person like this in real life, I can definitely enjoy watching his interactions with the rest of the cast.

Now let’s take a step back and look at this email, and try to dissect exactly what it is that we’re seeing here. Strong Bad is describing what he would be like if he wasn’t stylish, buff, or handsome. The rest of the email plays out as if we’re watching a hypothetical scenario where this is what Strong Bad might be like, and at the end, Strong Sad explains that he was basically describing their old neighbor. But coming back to this email later on, after learning that Senor Cardgage does exist, and he is the exact same character that we see in this email, it becomes kind of weird. There’s really no way that this makes sense other than looking at it this way – Strong Bad and Senor Cardgage just happen to look very similar (much like Homestar and Homsar, but even more so), and the character had just never been seen before this email. Strong Bad isn’t making anything up here, he’s basically just introducing us to Cardgage and at the same time, wishing that he could be more like him.

I’d get back to reviewing this one email and not just the character in general, but I think I’ve almost said enough here. I will however point out that there’s three different lines that can play during the scene with Strong Mad (Cardgage describes himself as either an old denominator, wintergreen or Soderbergh). And going back to what I said about Homsar being the “weird variant” of Homestar, Senor Cardgage is actually a similar idea to a character I had drawn once before this email came out, which I named “Stong Bad”. I don’t really remember much about my drawing, but I know it didn’t look anything like Cardgage. And that’s about it for this, I’ll just leave you with a screenshot of my Minecraft skin (credit for making this goes to darkychao).


Carageenan, Monteljohn. Can you detect me to the nearest bus stamp?
And that’s it for 2003! Next time we’ll just be going over more SBEmails like usual, but they’re some pretty memorable ones, and there’s a lot of extra content that was released simultaneously with one of them, so there’s that to look forward to. 2004 is also the first year where the regular updates to Weekly Fanstuff and Sketchbook began (Quote of the Week began earlier, but I group it in with those two). I’ll probably be touching on some of the stuff in those every once in a while, but I don’t want to force myself to go over every single update for them, because I’ll drive myself insane and updates will take even longer than usual if I feel the need to incorporate them all. On that note, I’m also going to set a new year’s resolution to finish reviewing all the material from 2004 and 2005 within this year. Honestly I’d like to get even more done than that, but this is more realistic. I guess we’ll see how it goes.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday Special: Store retrospective! CD review! Limited time only!

For today’s article, I actually had to go through some material that was completely new to me. Which is somewhat unusual, because I’ve seen everything there is to see on the website (except for the game that I briefly mentioned in the previous article). But that’s because this wasn’t something on the site, it was something you had to buy from the store. I’ve been wanting to write a few things about the website’s store for a while, but it’s somewhat difficult, because I don’t have any hands-on experience with the majority of the things in it, and the pages themselves are somewhat difficult to find archives of. So let’s just start off with my personal experiences, and then I’ll move on to what I’ve learned through research on the Wiki. And then I’ll finally get to the major thing I planned on covering in this post – the Strong Bad Sings and Other Type Hits CD.

I may have mentioned this before, but one thing that I remember from my very first visit to homestarrunner.com was the “what’s new” button displaying a new Pom Pom shirt available in the Store. Not having any idea who Pom Pom was at the time, I assumed it was a shirt with actual pompoms on it, and didn’t really investigate this any further. I would look at the store every now and then to see what kind of stuff they had, but I never had any interest in getting any of it, because A) I didn’t have any money, and B) I didn’t really trust online shopping. Over the years, I eventually did get a Homsar T-shirt, as well as hoodies of Strong Bad and The Cheat. They came with keychains, one of the Strong Badia stop sign, and one is just a white star with Homestar’s head on it. I still have those keychains, but unfortunately I don’t have any of the shirts any more. I gave one of them away, and I have no idea what happened to the other two. And that’s about it. Now, rather than just talk about the other stuff that the store contained, I’d like to provide a link to an archive of it, thanks to the Wayback Machine, and then you can look through it a bit on your own while I talk about some of the more obscure stuff.



With Majesty!!
http://web.archive.org/web/20030622133647/http://www.homestarrunner.com/store.html
Alright, so this is the old Flash-based store. If you look at the store nowadays, it’s a bit more organized, but also not quite as interesting to navigate. So looking over the stuff available here, you’ll obviously see all the different T-shirts they had available (at this specific time at least – there were actually quite a number of different ones added and removed over the years, and the wiki has a complete list if you’re interested in such things), as well as some of the extra stuff like messenger bags, and of course the figurine set. The set shown in this link is the original set with most of the main characters, and there was eventually a second set released with the characters that didn’t make it into the first set, as well as a second Homestar and buckethand Strong Bad from the new hands email. There’s a third set also, but I’ll be mentioning that later on when it becomes relevant, because it contains characters that haven’t been covered in this blog yet.

I actually do have something else worth mentioning about those, which unfortunately I can’t find an archive of, but I do remember that at one point, you could play a certain song with the “doo” noises that Homestar makes when you mouse over the shirt designs. When you got the correct note, it would show a star (I think) in the corner of the screen and when you finished the song, it would show you a preview of the figurine set. Since this particular archive already has those for sale, this was obviously an older version of the page, but none of the archives from before this date seem to have a page that loads properly, otherwise I’d link to it.


 And since I don’t really have any better time to talk about these, there’s a couple other things the store offered that are kind of interesting and worth pointing out. First off is this funky “floaty pen” that you would apparently get for free if you bought a messenger bag. I checked quite a few of the archived pages and wasn’t able to find one with this mentioned anywhere, but I do vaguely remember it existing, and you could click and drag the pen to make The Cheat float up and down in the pen. Exciting.
Super exciting pen-related fun times!Taryn picture not included

On a more interesting note is the Kick The Cheat doll, which I mentioned in an earlier article, since it’s the exact same thing they use in the puppet videos. From what I can tell, this was released around February 2004 (which is odd, because I seem to remember it being available before they used it in the puppet videos, but I guess I’m remembering wrong.) When it was released, there was a little game (though I use that term loosely) you could try out, which is actually somewhat similar to that hidden Taryn game from the Message Bored. Rather than link directly to the game, here’s the page that has a little rotaty The Cheat image, along with a separate link to the game.


A last look before Yahoo took over
http://web.archive.org/web/20050523001349/http://homestarrunner.com/store.html
As time went on, the store did expand its inventory to include the Strong Bad Sings CD, as well as the strongbad_email.exe DVD, which contained the first 100 emails, along with several extra bonus toons. Eventually, more DVDs would released for the later emails and the majority of the non-email toons, but those will be covered when I get to them chronologically. I basically just wanted to take a look back at the old store and point out some of its interesting bits. In May 2005, the Flash-based store was replaced with the current one. It has evolved a bit over the years, adding and removing stuff as time went on, but for the most part has stayed roughly the same, so I don’t really feel the need to link to any archives of it. Instead, with the thumbnail here you’ll find one last look at the old version, from the final archive before it was switched over.

Now before I get to the CD, there’s still one last thing I did want to talk about related to the store, and that’s the little Flash scenes that would play when you buy stuff. There’s two kinds – ones that would pop up within the store as you add stuff to your shopping cart, encouraging you to look at other items (I don’t have any record of these other than the Wiki mentioning them), and the “Thank You Messages” that would appear after you complete your purchase. I can’t really link to these directly, because they were intentionally coded so that they would only play after legitimately buying something and not just linking to a url.


Thank You's - $5
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lv6CqCRqzbY
There actually was one of Strong Bad yelling at you for trying to access them the wrong way, which I could link to directly, but there’s no point in me doing so, because due to the persistence of Homestar fans, there already exists a video on Youtube showing off all four of the real messages, along with the fake one. Behold the wonder of some short scenes that you probably haven’t seen before! (link in the picture) It’s also worth noting that the one of Homestar in his pajamas would only play between midnight and 5 AM, and the other Homestar one (out in the field) would have a differently colored sky depending on the time of day. Quite a bit of effort, I must say. Remember, this store was Mike and Matt’s only source of income for quite a while, so it doesn’t hurt to put a little extra work into thanking your supporters.

Which then transitions into my next point – I’m definitely a fan of the site, but I haven’t exactly supported the series financially. So when it comes to reviewing material that I don’t own, there’s a few different options – don’t review it at all, actually support the site and buy it like I’m supposed to, or rely on other people to upload the material to the internet and watch it that way. Guess which one I picked. To be fair, I didn’t illegally download anything, I just used Youtube, but still, I do wish I had the physical copy. Maybe at some point I’ll get the DVDs (they’re all pretty cheap on the official store), but for now, I’ll just be a complete hypocrite and ask other people to support the site while I sit back and freeload. So here’s Strong Bad Sings and Other Type Hits. No, I’m not linking to it, you can search Youtube on your own.




Available on 0 records, 1 CD, 0 casettes, or 0 8-track tapes
I really do want to just get to the point and say a little about each song on this CD, but first, a short intro. It was released on November 17, 2003, and there were actually a couple emails that came out between the Halloween stuff from the previous post and this one, but I’ll be getting back to those next time. And as I’ve already stated, I don’t own the CD, so I can’t really talk much about the artwork, but the front cover of it is delightfully outlandish. The other artwork sounds kind of cool from the Wiki’s descriptions, but I can’t find any pictures of it, so I’m out of luck there. So enough loafing around, let’s just get to the songs. Whether you have the CD yourself or you have to use Youtube for it, feel free to go through them with me. Just keep in mind that I have no musical knowledge whatsoever and no position to put out any kind of meaningful review. Ready? Go.

TROGDOR: This is probably the most well-known song on the album, thanks to its appearance in Guitar Hero II. It’s also one of the few that is actually played in this format on the website – in this case, the Happy Trogday toon (though it doesn’t play in its entirety there). Overall, this is a pretty dang good song. Very … loud. And energetic.

The System is down: Good mindless fun. It’s worth mentioning that there’s actually three distinct versions of this song – this one, the one in the techno email itself, and the one on the Downloads page. This is definitely the best of the three, as it would be expected. I also like the ending, where it’s revealed that Strong Bad was somehow doing all those noises at the same time, and not just layering them over each other in post. Which was already seen in the email, of course, but meh, I still found it funny.

Strong Badia National Anthem: Well, I can’t say that this is one of the better songs in this, but I do like the attempt to make it stand out by including a class of students singing along with it. Though I have to say, it’s a bit weird how they sound like teenagers at the start and then have much higher voices while singing, unless only girls were singing. I dunno.

Oh Yeah Yeah: I can’t say I expected this one to turn into a rock song when I first read that it was on the CD. But I’m not sure what else I expected. It’s probably the most worthless song on the CD, but I might take that back after listening to some of the later ones again. 


Breakin' the chains! You'd better cut me some!
Because, It’s Midnite: This one was also in Guitar Hero, and much like TROGDOR, is considered extremely difficult by people. Except this one is actually possible to finish on Expert, whereas TROGDOR is not. And one last thing comparing it to that song – this one also appeared in its full version on the actual website, in Limozeen vs. Sloshy. But enough about that, is the song actually any good? Well, I definitely think it is. I’ve never been a big Limozeen fan, but I can’t deny that it’s catchy, and is one of the best songs on the CD in terms of actual musical quality. I can’t say if the song actually has any kind of meaning behind it, but it’s not purely comedic either, it’s just an homage to old hair metal bands.

Circles: Remember the theme party email? Yeah, I don’t either, and I’m surprised that they did. The best part about this song (well, aside from the meaningless lyrics) is the random muttering between lines. I’m not sure exactly what was going on here, but it was definitely unprofessional, and that was obviously what they were going for, so … good job, I guess. I dunno, not too crazy about this one.

Let’s get started on doing all those awesome things I suggested: This one actually made me laugh out loud when I first listened to it. Not because of any of the pre-song comments or anything, because those were pretty useless, but because the song just completely dies as soon as it begins. I would have liked to actually hear some of the song, but this was hilarious in its own right. 


Brain dead, the state of your mind!
Moving Very Slowly: Meh, I can’t say I’m a fan of death metal. Or “stoner metal”, as people are claiming this song actually is. I dunno,  music genres are a mystery to me. Point is, it’s not that great of a song in my opinion. And it’s the longest one on the CD. Eugh. But yeah, anything Taranchula-related is pretty hit-or-miss. I did enjoy the death metal email, but that came long after this. At the time of this CD’s released, I think the only things related to the band were the original band names email and the short clip from fingers.

Sweet Cuppin’ Cakes Theme Song: What the crap was this? Like, seriously, what was this? I guess it fits in with the concept of the actual cartoon, I’ll give it that much. And I did enjoy the rapid “everybody knows it” bit, because it reminded me of the “check it out, check it out” from Lookin at a Thing in a Bag. And then there was a weird voice at the end. It might have been Eh! Steve, but it sounded more like Homsar. The wiki can’t decide what was up with it either.

i think i have a chance with this guy: So mix together The System is down with Teen Girl Squad, and you get this. Sure, why not. Not as fun as the original techno song, but the lyrics are at least pretty funny in this one. I think I’ll put some ants on this guy. 


I've never been more serious in my life!
It’s like it was meant to be: No clue where this one came from. It’s not even from the original Strong Bad Sings toon. And I’d say this has a good contender of being more useless than Oh Yeah Yeah, but … nah, it’s not quite that bad. It just lost focus pretty quickly. It went from being a love song to just Strong Bad repeatedly insisting that he’s being serious. I completely forgot this one existed when I got to it my second time going through the CD, and the first time was only like, two hours ago. So yeah.

NITE MAMAS: Y’know, this CD is making me rethink my opinion on Limozeen. They might seem kind of out of place compared to the rest of the Homestar universe, but I legitimately enjoy their music. I don’t think this one is quite as good as Because, It’s Midnite, but they’re both good in different ways. This one’s just a bit too repetitive, I think, but it’s still a nice tune.

Sensitive to Bees: Ok, this song is legitimately funny, thanks to Strong Bad’s live commentary. And Homestar joining in at the end and messing up. It doesn’t hurt that the song itself is really stupid to begin with, but not in the Oh Yeah Yeah kind of way, because this one does have substance, it’s just … well, really stupid. And sometimes that can be a good thing.

You’ve got an Ugly & Stupid BUTT: I was disappointed when this changed its tone after the first line. I wanted to see where the song would be heading, and I can’t say I expected it to completely change genre and just devolve into him saying essentially the same thing over and over.


I'm so old-school they tore the school down!
These peoples try to fade me: This is one of the songs on the album that I’ve always been interested in hearing , and now that I have, I must say it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Coach Z has better raps out there – namely Hip Hop Dance and Rap Song. Neither of which I’ve covered yet in this blog, but I’ll get to them in due time. This song wasn’t awful by any means, but I feel like it was too repetitive, and the funny parts went by too quickly. Now there is one other thing I must mention about this song, and that’s the music video that comes along with it. If you have the CD, it should automatically play if you get to this song when playing it on a computer. If not, just check Youtube. It’s nothing to write home about, but I was surprised to see its similarities to the one from New Boots. And this one came first, so it’s kind of weird to realize that a toon that I was quite familiar with is actually sort of a follow-up to something older.

The ladies in Town all know my name: Ok, enough of these. Let’s get started was funny, It’s like it was meant to be was forgettable, and this one was just kind of dumb. It seemed like it had potential, but then it just stopped. Which I guess was kind of the joke, but come on, you had a nice melody going and then just killed it.

The theme from DANGERESQUE II: This time, it’s not Dangeresque I: Man, that’s a long title. But that aside, this was a pretty good one, I think. It definitely has the spy movie feel to it, and some of the lyrics were quite funny (I enjoyed the “length of pipe” bit). And on another note, there was actually a preview of this song in an old SBEmail menu. For the sake of being thorough, here’s a link. Be aware that the links on the sticky note don’t actually work in this mirror, but there were two of them: one for this song, one for #19. 


Everybody's stupid but MEEEEEE! Somebody Told Me (Now I Believe Them): This is the last of the ones taken from the Strong Bad Sings toon, and at least we ended on a good note. Yes, the song is repetitive, but at least it wasn’t less than I expected. In fact, I rather liked the twangy feel to it. Not great by any means, but it took a single line that I enjoyed from the original toon and actually made it better.

THE Cheat is NOT DEAD: I always enjoyed the original version of this song, and this is an extended version of it with a random choir and overly enthusiastic gospel segment at the end, so you’ll get no complaints from me. I’d say that this, TROGDOR, and the next song are in close competition for the best non-Limozeen song on the album, and it’s really just a matter of personal taste to say which is the superior song.

EVERYBODY TO THE LIMIT (Live): Definitely ending on a high note here. I think this is my favorite out of the three that I just mentioned as the contenders for “best on the album”, but it really is a close call. This one just has a lot of energy behind it, and it’s a fun song in general. I can picture Strong Bad on stage singing this to a crowd of fans. It’s a strange image, I’ll grant you that much, but I can picture it nonetheless. 


You're the secretest song on the album
Secret Song: This one is found by waiting on the last track for a few minutes. And it makes me realize that Homestar really wasn’t on this CD very much. Friggin’ Strong Bad always stealing the spotlight. Anyway, this was a nice little Easter egg. Not the best song on the album, but definitely not the worst.

And there we go, that’s the whole CD. Definitely a big range of lots of different types of music, some good, some bad, but overall, I have to say it was an interesting collection, and I’m glad I checked it out, even if I was about ten years late. Next time will be a more standard update, with some classic SBEmail goodness, and perhaps a bit of other stuff. But this was a nice little diversion, and I’ve been wanting to go over the store for a while, so I’m glad I got that done. But this post came out much longer than I anticipated, so I’ll have to wrap it up here for now.