Tote Goat Heroes

Hello, I'm Mark Wynkoop and I've logged more hours on a Tote Goat than any man still alive. I propose a video game called "Tote Goat Hero". It's like Guitar Hero.

You try to ride a virtual Tote Goat across a rugged, preset path at full speed. You get points both for staying on, and for technique.

If you ride it poorly, your cyber-friends jeer at you because of how goofy you look riding a Tote Goat. So its kinda like the real world.



I wanted to name a band "Interrobang", and against my longstanding policy I Googled it. Sure enough, Interrobang exists and they have a myspace page. They're from Massachusetts, of course, the too-many-bands black hole of the universe (Google "band" and "Boston" sometime).

Nevertheless, I intend to use the Interrobang character more often. The expression of excitement or disbelief in the form of a question pretty much sums up my perpetual state of mind.

Therefore my band name for today shall be:



I Missed Myself

"Logic Doors" refers to the old liar/truth teller problem. The problem with liars in the real world is that they don't lie all of the time.



Shot to the heart, and you're to blame.

I give love a band name.
That darn tropical storm re-entered Florida for a record fourth time. It's done more damage than many hurricanes. A couple days ago it finally moved away at a whopping two, count 'em, two miles per hour.
If I feel nostalgic for tropical storm Fay, I can currently catch up with it by walking north at a leisurely pace.



Eye of the Storm

David and the kind folks at Monstrous Movie Music [ web site ] will be glad to know that we weathered Tropical Storm Fay alright. It dumped 30 inches of rain so far. Contrast this with the 4 inches of annual rainfall that I used to get in Colorado!

The storm flooded my place of work. I have not been back to my studio, but I'm kinda worried about an auxiliary Ensoniq SQ80 that I had propped against a wall. Besides this (and my comic books), everything else is replaceable.

Contrary to early estimates, the storm didn't strengthen to hurricane force (as of yet). It just sorta parked over my house and dumped rain.

It was nice not to have to work during this storm. I was involved with the NGA effort on Katrina and was working 100+ hour weeks with two other storm systems barreling down on us. In fact, NGA-Earth still exists. The government wanted to call it "GEO-int"--whatever that means. I knew that people would call that site "Joint" for shorthand and wanted to avoid that. I recommended that the NGA office register "NGA-Earth", and the name stuck.

Within weeks we were providing geospatial support not only to other storms in the US, but earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons overseas. I salute the NGA office for this effort and I'm proud of my involvement with it. The current site still has some of my design elements and graphics.

Its a completely differnt experinece to just get to a safe dry space and wait out the storm instead of being in the thick of it with the responsibility of being a first responder on your shoulders. This post is dedicated to first reponders everywhere.



Rainy Day Band Names (the Atari Landfill post)

We're hunkered down for a hurricane here folks. Enjoy your rainy day band names, courtesy Hurricane Fay.
Turns out the Atari landfill really does exist, and isn't just another urban legend. In news that has been announced in the last few weeks, "they" have identified the location, the contemporaneous reporter, and interviewed the mayor of the town where landfill exists.

It's the news those fatcats in the mainstream media don't want you to know! [ maybe my friend Kyle's blog should do a podcast about it...]

But lets dispel another rumor: The Internet is awash with pseudo-hip "wiseguy" reviews that the reason Atari dumped these games is because they were awful and this led to the first video game industry crash.

The truth is, for 1982, the game is eminently playable, with a title screen, full color characters and a musical score. The designer was quite talented, and did a responsible job with the insane 5-week deadline the company allotted.

You need the instruction manual to successfully complete the game, but try learning Halo 3 without the manual. Here is one--of a number--of reviews by industry insiders that refute the "received wisdom" that the game was sub-par.

The a more likely story is that Atari, under the last gasp of a corrupt management regime, was attempting to cook the books. The company was raking in money like never before, but it was hemorrhaging money through near-insane command decisions. It's like a tiny and primordial early dry run of the 90's Internet bubble.

At the time, the company had a Windows-style market share but maintained an Apple-like monopoly of its technology and a rabid Apple-esque fan base. Yet they were able to squander all of this with false starts, un-leveraged research projects and reactions to market conditions that any 16 year old gamer would have recognized as unsound.

Is there a lesson here for modern business? Maybe nothing specific, but the comparison with Apple is surprisingly germane. Apple has churned through multiple cycles of innovation, decadent protectionism and decay. Its a model that has worked for Apple but failed Atari.

If Apple fails in the future, it may be attributed to a disastrous product (like Apple TV). But in the case of the Atari landfill, one thing is clear : Don't blame the games, blame the major industry players.



Lavator Anai World Reunion

"Lavator Anai" was a recent Band name Of The Month winner. It was sent in by a frequent corespondent who may wish to remain nameless--because he might be a clergyman or FBI agent or hold some similar office of public trust.

Its not that "Lavator Anai" is such a disreputable band name, after all, everybody poops, and you may as well refer to that muscle by its correct name. It's just that some people are overly sensitive.

You remember that flight attendant who lost her job after posting perfectly normal pictures of herself at work? Its not that the photos were too sexy. They wouldn't have even been considered scandalous in the 1930's. Rather, they were almost like a blank canvas, allowing the oversensitive to project their own insecurities upon them.

Well, a 1-shot band called "Lavator Anai" featuring a medical student and other working professionals is nothing to project your personal insecurities upon. Let's all keep a sense of humor. As far as I'm concerned, you're free to call your band anything you want. After all, "Ring Around The Rosie" and "London Bridge" aren't suitable for children either, and look how pervasive they are.

And with that humor-killing dictum in mind, allow me to post this update. "Lavator Anai" has played a reunion concert. Sort of. Allow the author's email to tell the story.

BTW, you were just projecting your personal insecurities upon the word "dictum", weren't you?
The un-named "Lavator Anai" band member writes:


I thought you of all people would be interested in my latest adventure. Besides my second son being born July 11, I had to put together a "Beach Boys" band for a vacation bible school. Wait, it gets better.

My Mother, bless her heart, is out here in the Dallas area to be near us and the kids. My Dad is gone and she's looking for ways to plug herself into life out here. I understand that. I'm not that dense. She's going to plays, Church groups, senior group suppers, and the like. The problem is she volunteers me to do things so she can be involved.

She's evidently on some committee at church that organizes VBS (vacation bible school) in the summer. She heard the word music. A bell went off in her head: Her husband was a college professor and musician. She gave birth to sons who are musicians. "Gasp, I'll get my boys to do it.

Before I knew it we'd been billed as a "Beach Boys" band (the theme of this years
vacation bible school was "surfin' with the scriptures" We were headliners in the church bulletin) I tried to explain to her, that although I don't really care for the Beach Boys, their music was not the typical three chord rock 'n roll. Their vocals often involved 4 and sometimes 5 part harmonies. This was a task I didn't have time or resources to fulfill. I don't have cables, amps, monitors, mics, ...and all the stuff it takes to put together something like this.

Oh,.....and I don't have a band!

She would not take no for an answer.
"When I was growin' up...if a family member asked you to do something...you DID it."

"Mother, this is not sewing a dress for a cousin's wedding, or raising a neighbor's barn. I can't do this."

"But I told the church you would do it."

"Well, stop telling them you're bringing Davey Jones to the prom. Or telling the kids your Dad's an astronaut, because this isn't going to happen. In other words...stop saying things that aren't true."
But it kept getting worse. There was a new, horrible detail that came up every few days. "You want us to fill 40 minutes?! When I was playing horns in bar bands they kept shaving their set close to 35 or 30 minutes as the night went on. Do you realize what you're asking of us?!!
[Editors Note]
Mark writes: As a musician, I can attest that your time always gets cut. Never expanded. So the author is writing about an unusual problem of needing to fill up too much time, which is a nightmare. Most tedium you encounter in public music is when the musicians only have 2 good songs for a 15-20 minute set. "Filler Material" is the enemy of quality live music.

Another problem is that beach Boys songs are notoriously short. Example: "Little Deuce Coupe" clocks in at only one minute and forty-nine seconds (a near record in brevity for a top 40 hit, but in line with other Beach Boys tunes. The complex opus "Good Vibrations" is only 3:37, for example). Imagine trying to learn 10 reasonably complex songs only to discover that they only cover half of your alloted time. The beach boys were not a jam band, and their songs just don't expand. In other words, this was no Phish concert. "You're gonna need a bigger boat."
[Story Continues]
At any rate....you can see where this was going.

So now....I was literally "on a mission from God". I called the guys who had played in the band 13 years earlier for my brother's bachelor party. Some people drove four hours for this. All these guys had had many meals in that old house, cooked by my Mother over the years...so they came. Brought equipment. Guitars. Themselves.

We had a reunion of Lavator Anai.

One rehearsal. Much worked out individually ahead of time. Relying on individual talents and prayer we put some songs together.

At the concert that night, the last day of VCB, I put up a sign on an easel that held evidently, oft referenced scriptures on it, at the front of the church for all to see. . .


An old guy came up to us and told us he'd helped his wife study for her medical boards years ago and knew what that was.

I said, "What do you mean?"

He said, "That's a muscle in your poop hole, son."

"Really", I said? "I had no idea. Just thought it was a cool sounding name from Latin class."

We played.

They loved.

I'm not doing it again.

I hope my Mother got that message.

Mark Responds:
Thanks, my friend. That gave me a huge laugh. I always thought I was the king of having people volunteer me for impossible tasks because they think they will be easy [link to anniversary videos, free original sports-music scores, political websites (for both sides!), 24-hour tech support . ] Clue: Its always easy when someone else does it!

It's good to know guys like you are out there suffering right alongside me. Hope your mom and the assembled multitudes appreciated all the effort.

P.S. You'll notice that there are no pictures on this blog entry.
In retrospect, that was probably a good idea. After all, what would I have shown?



Self Fulfilling Prophecy

Somebody left their keys in the bathroom at work. They've been in there for three days and no one has moved them. The key chain features a medallion that says "God never closes a door without opening a window".
And I thought, "That's probably a good thing, because this guy is going to have trouble getting into his house without these keys."



The New Weird

1. Normal is the New Weird.
2. "Scutum Crux" probably doesn't mean what you think it means.
3. I like the idea of a "startle warning" before alarming material in children's films. I, for one, would choose a loud air horn, positioned slightly behind the tots left ear. It would suddenly blare out well in advance of any offending imagery, thereby ensuring that this generation of overprotected little treasures never has to worry about being frightened at the movies again.

More Wankeling
I may have already used Wankel Engine as a band name, but I have to bring it up again. I have a lifetime fascination with nonstandard engines. in this case, my tribute is not to the engines themselves, but the Internet. I will never machine my own engine, but now, thanks to The Tubes, I can learn how the wankel relates to the early pistoned rotaries, and how the boxer engine extends the v4. Somehow motorheads and car race fanatics avoid the "geek" label, but they are anoraks of the first order.

Also I like saying the word wankel.



Smells Like Me Spirirt

Sham Tickoo is a real-life academician and computer textbook author. Great name, man. Would be a good moniker for a brand of hiphop haircare products.

"Drugstore Cologne" Is from NY based performer and database wonk Trish Fleming who starred in a couple short films I was involved in. Thanks for putting up with me, you crazy kid. I still have your detangler spray.

Trish probably came up with "Drugstore Cologne" based on the Stuff Magazine news item "In blind test, Ladies pick drugstore body spray over expensive cologne". The news item is suspicious, as Stuff Magazine is heavily subsidized by the winning "cologne", Bod Man spray. Hmmm.

Maybe I'll start a new feature. An info box that, instead of saying "what I'm listening to now", will say what I smell like now. Let me prototype an applet here:

Trust me. You will not want to check back here tonight at 11:30 PM when this applet updates....



King Dork

Q: This blog does band names. When are you going to address "King Dork"?

A: A valid question that shouldn't be avoided. The answer is "Not today."



Cows Don't Look Like Cows On Film

Remember that "Radioactive Man" episode of The Simpsons? The one where the band Fall Out Boy got their name? That was a pretty funny show, wasn't it? Yes it was.
Ralph: "Why don't you just use a real cow?"

Set Painter: "Cows don't look like cows on film. You gotta use a horse."

Ralph: "What do you do if you want something that looks like a horse?"

Set Painter: "Eh, usually we just tape a bunch of cats together."





Multi-Word Band Names and the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Just got back from a camping trip. The state park had several pre-WWII cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps., one of the few New Deal programs to yield concrete results, (that's a pun, folks).

The CCC program was an adjunct of the Army, and was run as such. Yet many of the artifacts of this effort are profoundly pleasing from an aesthetic sense. I slept in a cabin with a stone fireplace that was a work of art, stylistically arranged and organized.

As a fireplace, it was woefully under-engineered, with a too-shallow firebox and no internal damper arrangement. Years of soot had stained the outside, a testament to the chimney's lack of drawing power. I would hate to rely on that fireplace in the winter.

But I could appreciate it very much as a work of art. Maybe there is a lesson there about the role of government or some such. As for me, I just enjoy thinking of the men of the CCC, setting the stones in cement. Maybe occasionally thinking that what they were building might last 50 or 100 years.

I make a lot of things that get released to vast audiences who will never know my name or see my face. For my occasional failures, my fireplaces that smoke, I offer my apologies. I'll try to do better next time.

And for my occasional artistic successes, whenever you see a pleasant design or hear a tastefully orchestrated music cue that just fits perfectly, folks like me are the modern CCC. I'd like to think we are building for the future, sometimes alone and unrecognized, but always with the profound sense that we are making something better, building something bigger, a pixel and a semitone at a time.

And no one can take that sense of accomplishment away.

P.S. Ask me about "Somewhat Frayed" sometime.

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