Oopsie! Burger King did a misogyny!

For the sake of my fragile mental health during quarantine, I’ve started exclusively reading Twitter through their Tweetdeck app, which allows me to customize my experience to my enjoyment. I can choose not to see retweets, for one thing, and Tweetdeck doesn’t push people’s ‘likes’ onto my feed. I only use it to network with artists I enjoy, and occasionally retweet the stray meme. My exposure to the woes of the cursed blue website is mercifully minimal. If you want to live like me, I strongly recommend this plan of action: log into Tweetdeck, uninstall the app from your phone, read Ed Zitron’s article on how to enjoy Twitter, and follow all your Twitter mutuals on non-Twitter sites.

It’s because of my strict no-Twitter-angst diet that I managed to miss out on the website’s latest stunningly atrocious fast food PR scandal until just today. So you guys are probably rolling your eyes – gee, look at this chump writing an article 3 days late! But my tardiness is because I take care of myself first, and you should too. If I were to expose myself to every horrible thing going on in the world right now, I would almost certainly instantly take 20d6 poison damage and die.

It’s for these reasons that I sincerely advise not reading this article unless you’re in a good enough place mentally and you really want to see my take on it. I don’t have anything to gain from stressing you out pointlessly, and neither do you, and also I really don’t want to be giving Burger King any more free advertising than they’re already getting right now.

If you feel like you have to know, you don’t. It’s not that funny and it’s absolutely not worth it. Here, I’ll sum it up for you: Burger King said a stupid out-of-context thing about women while they were trying to say something positive, and it was probably on purpose to stir up social media drama. There you go! Now go do something else. Go play some Wobbledogs or whatever the hell it is you like to do these days.

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Nightmare Ned was Disney’s doomed dream

If you were a kid in the 90s playing CD-ROM games, you probably played at least one Disney Interactive game. For kids learning how to use the computer, Disney games were the best of the best, the cream of the crop. 101 Dalmatians: Escape from Devil Manor, Disney’s Animated Storybook: Mulan, Disney’s The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, you name it. All your favorite Disney franchises, right on your desktop!

Oh, and Nightmare Ned. You remember him, right? That great beloved Disney franchise? … No?

Nightmare Ned was a platformer game released sometime in late 1997 (it’s difficult to get an exact date, due to vague distribution of PC games at the time). It was, as far as I know, the only Disney Interactive game to not be based directly on an established IP – it only had a single season of a cartoon that was made after the game began development, and by the time the game released, the show was no longer airing even in reruns. It was Disney’s one voyage into making ‘original’ video games, and it disappeared as quickly as it came.

So what even was it?

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Bean Dad, or “Maximum Fun Isn’t That Fun 3”

Welcome to the first week of 2021! Today’s Twitter trends are “Bean Dad”, “She’s 9”, and “Six Hours”. All of these trends are about the same topic.

Twitter, as we all know, is a fantastic website to have thoughtful and nuanced discussion about complicated and difficult topics. So it should be of no surprise that “Bean Dad” is about a father who withheld food from his daughter for six hours.

You’re probably here because you’re wondering: who is the Bean Dad? Why is the Bean Dad? Buckle in for a humiliating public spectacle of awful parenting.

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101 Dalmatians: Escape from DeVil Manor haunts me to this day

There’s something about the 101 Dalmatians franchise that enraptured me as a child against all odds.

Be outraged if you must, but truth be told, I’m not even sure if I had watched the original movie at that age. When I watched it as an adult, I remembered nothing about it, and I’ve never found a VHS of it in my family’s extensive Disney tape collection.

And I mean, what about it actually drew my attention? The main characters are British heterosexuals. Yes, somehow they managed to take the two most annoying groups of people in the world and combine them. And then they had the audacity to make the dogs British and heterosexual, as if dogs are capable of hate. Absolutely dreadful. Why do I like 101 Dalmatians?

Because of the puppies. Duh.

Even Disney knew the puppies were the only reason 101 Dalmatians is even relevant enough to talk about today. And boy, the merch they made. Sequels! Cartoons! Toys! I think I spent more time playing with my Dalmatians-themed snow globe than watching 101 Dalmatians: The Series (which, admittedly, still takes up way too much space in my heart).

There was one piece of Dalmatians-themed memorabilia that held my attention for the longest, though, and it was by far the least appropriate for the puppy-obsessed children they were marketing to. For little me, 101 Dalmatians: Escape from DeVil Manor was fun, emotionally stimulating, and also absolutely unnecessarily terrifying.

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Homemade Dole Whip fills a void in my life

If you’re a long-time follower of this blog, you’re amazing, and also you may remember the Dole Whip Saga. In short: I really, really want to try Dole Whip, a pineapple-flavored soft-serve ice cream treat that can only be found in Dole-sponsored locations, the most prominent ones being Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

It has been over two years since the first installment of the Dole Whip Saga. I am going to be honest with you, dear reader, that things have not gotten much better for me since then.

A few months ago I got a chance to try Taco Bell’s Pineapple Whip, which satisfied the primal desire to taste a pineapple frozen beverage, but brought me no closer to enlightenment. Other than that, the chances of me ever obtaining a Whip have drastically lowered in light of the pandemic. In fact, Walt Disney World is now probably one of the worst places in America that I could go to for any reason, and it will probably remain that way for a long time. Going to Disney would be a moral crime, not only to myself, but to my loved ones and everyone around me. It is unthinkable.

Other things have changed since that fateful July of 2018. I’ve gained a better understanding of what Walt Disney World even is. For some reason when I wrote the original article I was sincerely convinced that the mascot characters talked. I also have a short list of rides I would like to go on (mostly Haunted Mansion), none of which my wife shares my enthusiasm for, because I think my wife would be a lot happier if I did not want to go to Walt Disney World in the first place.

Since I love my wife and do not enjoy causing disdain, I tried to refocus my goals into more realistic ones.

It turned out that the Minnesota State Fair serves Dole Whip! Holy crap! I’ve been to the fair multiple times and I’d never even seen it before. That was very achievable, and that became the new plan. I would go to the Minnesota State Fair, a place I associated otherwise with pain and sweat and resentment, and I was going to enjoy myself. I even started exercising with the hopes that I’d be able to fit on the fair’s admirable selection of rides.

And then, you know, literally everything happened.

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Wayback: Tomba!

Tomba! is a rare case of a ‘cult favorite’ game that I sincerely feel like had no good reason to not be popular.

It was produced and directed by Tokuro Fujiwara, already known for producing and directing games like Mega Man, Ghosts ‘n Goblins, and even creating the survival horror genre with his NES game Sweet Home which was later adapted into the goddamn Resident Evil franchise. Tomba! is built wholly from the same good game design concepts, with RPG elements that innovated the platformer genre without taking up too much space. It’s funny and cute, while still having a sizeable spooky side. As far as 2D platformers go, it’s the total package.

Despite all this, Tomba! never sold enough to qualify for a Greatest Hits reprint, and copies now regularly go for over $100 on eBay. I just really don’t know why, even trying my best to approach this from an objective perspective. Games with less production value have successfully been spun off into entire TV franchises, while Tomba! languished with a single sequel and some very obscure merchandise.

Even with my history in the video game industry, the whims of the market are completely opaque to me. I don’t really feel like it’s my place to speculate on if the game was marketed well enough or what-have-you. Still, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what the official promotional material was like.

Today we’re using the Wayback Machine to look at a whole 4 sites: Tomba! on the US PlayStation website, the independently hosted Tombi! site, the official Whoopee Camp site, and the very first official Tomba! site. I can’t give precise timestamps, but most of these are around the year 2000.

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Wayback: Crystal Dynamics – Gex

When’s the last time you’ve played a mascot platformer that wasn’t a Mario or a Sonic? It was probably a Crash or a Spyro if it was anything at all. The genre is dead, and I miss it very much.

Gex, at least to me personally, is the iconic failed mascot platformer. He’s everything bad about the genre: he talks way too much and thinks he’s clever, his world is made of cookie-cutter tropey levels that don’t fit together, he has way too many gameplay gimmicks, and in the grand scheme of things he’s been completely forgotten. These are all the reasons that I find Gex oddly enjoyable, as a game trilogy that just doesn’t really work and isn’t very fun.

Unlike most platformer mascots, Gex was not aiming to be the face of a single console: he was the catchphrase-spitting gecko mascot of Crystal Dynamics, a video game company founded by women in 1992. Crystal Dynamics had a broad ‘a little bit of anything’ approach to making games: they had many platformer games, an action-adventure franchise, a point-and-click, a fighting game, a racing game … you get the idea. I guess they also worked on some series named Tomb Raider.

But Gex was Crystal Dynamics’ thing. He was funny, he was memorable, and he was the face of the company, especially once the substantially more popular sequel Gex 2: Enter the Gecko was released in 1998. In that way, Gex was a fixture of the late 90s, a reminder of what things were like.

And what’s more ‘late 90s’ than a terrible website for a terrible video game?

Today I’m going to the Wayback Machine to see the Gex pages on the Crystal Dynamics website from 1998 to 1999. It’s tail time, as one might say.

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Cuckoo for Blue’s Clues Blue Foods

I really loved Blue’s Clues. Did you ever watch that one? The kids show with the blue cartoon dog?

I loved Blue’s Clues well past the point where most children would have moved on to other shows. I loved Blue’s Clues to the point of accidentally isolating myself from my peers. I was still watching it when I was 8, and even once I lost interest when they kicked Steve off for Joe, I kept watching it with my sibling well into my preteen years.

I had a Blue stuffed toy. I had the Handy Dandy Notebook, with the giant crayons. I wanted the Thinking Chair very badly, and would randomly declare any particularly comfortable chair or even sofa to be the Thinking Chair. I had a Mailbox I would put random crap in. I had several figurines that would regularly get lost and stepped on. I had the Humongous Entertainment PC games, which were very good. My dog was named Blue.

Above anything else, I loved the Blue’s Clues food. I already loved neon-colored food, something that I know many 90s kids can sympathize with, and in my case I especially loved neon Blue Food. I can’t say for certain if my love of the Blue’s Clues Blue Food was because of the show itself, or if I started to love the show more because it was a consistent source of serotonin-inducing Blue Food. I think solving that mystery might be even harder than the chicken-or-the-egg conundrum.

Would you like to see my collection of favorite Blue’s Clues Blue Foods? Come on into my article! Blue skidoo, you can too.

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Wayback: Helga’s Love Secret

Fansites really suck nowadays. For one, I don’t even remember the last time I’ve seen one, do you?

If you don’t remember or weren’t around, there was a time before blogs were our main medium of contact with the fandom world. There were forums, sure, but niche forums were often run by moderators with a tight fist. If you were an independent person wanting to post about your favorite characters or ships, you probably had a fansite, and it was probably hosted on GeoCities.

The shift from fansite to blogging had already begun with the rise of LiveJournal, but journals were still incredibly personal spaces, and advertisers left it the hell alone. If anything, LiveJournal was a great space to promote and link your personal webpages, and they flourished there.

The death of the fansite started to feel very official once fandoms started moving onto Tumblr. It began with the “Fuck Yeah, [Thing]!” formula of blogs, which rapidly supplanted ‘character shrine’ fansites as a space where people posted screencaps of their favorite characters. Then everyone had a blog, including directors and writers and storyboarders and character designers … and now, nobody has a fansite.

Fear not, fellow web surfer: there’s still a place on the Internet where we can see all the fansites we want, and that’s the Wayback Machine. Today I’ve prepared for you a fansite from 2002, before Tumblr devoured the internet and left us with Kpop Twitter.

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Wayback: Taco John’s

We’re all in agreement that 2020 sucks at this point, right? And it’s really not looking like 2021 is going to be any better. Aren’t you getting tired of this bullshit? Wouldn’t you like to go back?

Great news: there’s a magical website called the Wayback Machine where you can go almost anywhere you want, to almost any point in time where the internet existed. So as long as your fond memories aren’t from before the technological corruption of society, you have a chance to get away from this madness, even if just for a little bit.

Maybe unsurprisingly, I’ve been using the Machine a lot recently to escape the monotony of everyday horror. Today, I’d love to take you on a journey with me. This time I’m going to the website for the midwestern fast food chain Taco John’s, all the way back in 2004 – before online apps were a thing, and before competitor Taco Bell fucking betrayed all of us when we needed them the most.

Let’s go back… wayback!

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