I Played That! #20: Rockstar (PC)

I have NO idea where I got this. Probably downloaded from a BBS or something. Rockstar was from Wizard Games, obviously in England, and was hilarious. In it, you were an up-and coming musician who had to gig, release records, sign contracts, and live the rock star life on your way to multiplatinum rock god status. Along the way you dealt with drugs, bad reviews, and various other ills. Thankfully your manager, Dodgy Sam, is there to help you out.

Rockstar was powered strictly by ASCII graphics, but they did a lot with it. Almost too much, as the interface was rather loud and busy. It was loads of fun to play. You got to name your band and your records (usually something horrible) and figure out what your best move was at any time. You had to navigate both the menu and British slang. Along the way you were offered drugs, which could give you a creative jolt, but came at a cost of addiction and other effects. LSD would cause the screen to freak out at inopportune times and heroin was an instant addiction from the first moment you tried it.

It wasn’t easy. Even if you avoided drugs, the constant schedule of touring and releasing would exhaust you, and vacations are nice, but they cost money you probably don’t have. The public was fickle and even a smash hit single didn’t guarantee you a smooth ride. Failure didn’t usually mean giving up your dreams and punching a clock in the mundane world, but death. Still, I did manage to become a superstar a few times.

You can still find Rockstar lurking around in a few places but without one of those programs to considerably slow your computer down, it’s impossible to play. If no one has, someone should really make an app version of it. It was quite a fun little game.

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Minion Space Cabby by Chris “Chance” Brown

Be careful what you wish for on the Internet.

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Space Cabby by Matt Lubchansky

There are people you follow on Twitter because you think they’re funny. And sometimes you joke back and they fave your tweet and you’re like “omg this funny person liked my joke!” And then you get the blessed RT on a joke from them. And then…they follow you. And you just can’t believe it. This may or may not have been my timeline with Matt Lubchansky. Maybe I’m just, you know, spinning hypotheticals here.

Anyway, Matt was doing some commissions and well, you know how that story goes. Matt may not have been completely familiar with the source material, but forgetting he’s wearing a space helmet and smashing coffee into it? That’s definitely something Space Cabby would do.

Where else can you see Matt’s comics? Well, there’s his webcomic, “Please Listen To Me”, and his Tumblr. He does comics for The Nib and The Toast. And you can buy comics such as “Swole” and “New Amsterdam Mystery Company” from his shop.

Are YOU an artist who would like to draw Space Cabby for me? Please let me know!

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Space Cabby by Jordan Neves

Most of my Space Cabbies come from Twitter pals, so when I heard that Jordan Neves was doing commissions, I knocked on his virtual door. And holy cow, look what answered!

Jordan enjoys drawing wrestlers (and robots!) and Space Cabby is neither but looking at that picture I now think he needs his own entrance music. Look at that guy! I especially love the Lego Classic Space logo lapel pin he’s wearing.

Jordan’s work can be found on his website and his Tumblr. Definitely check out his Marauder comic.

Are YOU an artist who would like to draw Space Cabby for me? Please let me know!

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I Played That! #19: Worlds of Ultima (PC)

By 1990, Origin was a powerhouse of a game studio. By this time I would buy pretty much anything they put out. They also realized they had a good thing going with this Ultima series, and started working on ways to branch it out. The first attempt was the Worlds of Ultima series.

The idea behind these was that the Avatar, the heroic figure the player represented in the Ultima games, could use the dimension-hopping moonstones to travel to other times and places, particularly ones that weren’t medieval high fantasy. It was an interesting way to get away from the setting while still tying into the main storyline.

The first of these games was The Savage Empire, set in a “Lost World” environment with dinosaurs and with prehistoric cultures from all over the world. They had all been brought to this world (actually supposedly still on Earth but bidden away) through a malfunction of alien technology. The player had to unite the different tribes against the malevolent aliens.

In addition to being tied to the main Ultima story through plot, the player would also find echoes of recurring Ultima characters in these worlds. You became allied with natives named Shamuru, Triolo, and Dokray, alternate versions of the characters Shamino, Iolo, and Dupre from the original games. It was a neat touch.

Origin games usually came packed with neat stuff, and Savage Empire came with a “magazine” talking about how the game was being developed into a movie. It wasn’t real, of course, but it was so convincing and I was so gullible I actually thought it might be true.

The second game in the series was Martian Dreams, which was good old-fashioned Welles-and-Verne Victorian science fiction. A bunch of luminaries of the time land on the verdant world of Mars, where things begin to go awry. Your job as the Avatar is to bring these famous people back to their senses and figure out what happened to the original Martian inhabitants. Along the way you meet Sherman, Yellin, and Duprey. There are also nice touches like the fact that the quiz you’re given at the beginning to determine your stats is administered by Sigmund Freud.

Both games used the same engine as Ultima VI, and both, like their parent series, involved solving puzzles and completing tasks over combat (though there is combat). Once again, finishing both games didn’t involve any kind of “boss battle”.

These were both good games in their own right, but this was a busy time for me and while I finished them both, I didn’t really go back to them afterwards as I did with other Ultima games. That also wasn’t helped by what would happen next in the series.

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My Tweek on Twitter

What I did this week on Twitter, where it’s always something.

* BEST OF THE WEEK imo:

* This led to me finding out I’ve been singing Rag Mop wrong all my life

* sorry

* This was replied to by someone doing something similar and better

* RT of the week

* No wait this is RT of the week

* This is part of a longer topic but it stands on its horrible own

* The D could also stand for “dude” I guess but I’m also not that

* RT of the week, Prince of Stories edition

* truth

* good riddance

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Work Harder, Not Better-Remunerated

With fourteen “major” candidates announced and a few more impending, the Republican field for President in 2016 has been described as a “clown car”. That’s funny and all, but at least they don’t have their party deciding that if they don’t like Hillary Clinton, too bad, so sad, it’s her turn and nobody else’s.

But even a clown car has a driver, and that seems to be Jeb Bush, the “smart” Bush, which is like being the “nutritious” gummy worm. This is great news for people who’ve forgotten that over 200 years ago we opted not to have royal families rule us.

So far Jeb’s pretty much been a by-the-numbers Republican candidate, trying to stand out from a pool of contenders all trained to never, ever, depart from the purity of the party line and bred to diminish any kind of imagination. I don’t know how the average conservative voter chooses from an identical bunch of options, but I guess there are variances in flavors to true connoisseurs.

In any case, Jeb got some valuable attention yesterday by talking about how we Americans need to work harder.

My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this rut that we’re in.

Well, this is nothing new. We proles are used to having our economic betters tell us that we too could be massively wealthy if we just worked harder, usually while they’re standing on a golf course or sitting in front of a TV camera. There may be more to this, though.

In a statement, a Bush aide clarified that he was referring to the underemployed and part-time workers: “Under President Obama, we have the lowest workforce participation rate since 1977, and too many Americans are falling behind. Only Washington Democrats could be out-of-touch enough to criticize giving more Americans the ability to work, earn a paycheck, and make ends meet.”

Bush commented on this issue speaking before the Detroit Economic Council back in February.

“For several years now, they have been recklessly degrading the value of work, the incentive to work, and the rewards of work. We have seen them cut the definition of a full-time job from 40 to 30 hours, slashing the ability of paycheck earners to make ends meet,” he said. “We have seen them create welfare programs and tax rules that punish people with lost benefits and higher taxes for moving up those first few rungs of the economic ladder.”

Forget the nonsense about Democrats, he’s actually criticizing our sacred and beloved “Job Creators” there, although he probably doesn’t realize this. It’s not Democrats who have frozen wages, not Democrats who’ve drastically cut hours and benefits, not Democrats who use unemployment and underemployment as a solution to their payroll problem, that is 100% on employers, who took a crisis situation in 2008 and have happily and profitably rolled with it ever since. Americans aren’t choosing to not be employed, or to be underemployed. And they’re not choosing to be underpaid for the work they do. That’s all on companies who have profited on Wall Street and in CEO pay while claiming poverty when it comes time to pay the people who actually do the work. (It is, however, Democrats, who love love love secret multinational trade agreements that send even more jobs overseas to be performed for pennies.)

As always, it’s always about the cheap labor. That’s it. Every plank in the Republican platform is hewn from the same tree. Even their Evangelical Christian footsoldiers work towards this cause, as you can con people into living a miserable life if you promise them a glorious one afterwards. Every election is the same: how can we convince you peons to give up more for the comfort of your corporate masters?

If Jeb Bush were the smart man people claim he is, he’d realize that he’s pretty much admitted that Sacred Reagan Trickle-Down doesn’t work. He might think he criticizing Democrats, but he’s criticizing the idea that if we give the rich more, everyone prospers. If he were smart, he’d see this and realize his blunder. If his many opponents were smart, they’d jump on this as a weak point to attack. But they’re caught between wanting to attack “Democrats” and wanting to please the only demographic that matters.

Any discussion of labor that doesn’t address wages is pointless. Working more hours with the same anemic pay is like selling more items at a loss in the hopes that volume will somehow make up for it. Our current model is not unsustainable, it’s simply unsustainable if you also want someone other than the bosses to benefit. Productivity is not the problem, and it hasn’t been for decades. It’s all about the wages. Demanding more productivity without increasing the cut for the people doing the work isn’t prosperity, it’s, at best, feudalism.

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He Speaks Softly Too

About a year ago a branch in one of our trees partly broke. It was just hanging there taunting me, as nothing I did could get it down. Yesterday I finally managed to grab it with a rake and pull it down, scoring a huge victory for me. But who did the celebrating?

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