Wednesday, March 9, 2022

8-Bit Encyclopedia: Euchre

 A game so midwestern it calls every fizzy drink, "pop."

Wait, did you say, "NES Euchre?" Yes. Yes I did.

In some alternate universe, the Nintendo Entertainment System was released exclusively to the US Midwest. From Ohio to Nebraska, Minnesota to Missouri, kids shouldered up to the KB Toys NES display, (politely) saying, "Ope, 'scuse me, gonna go ahead and -- grab one of these 'Euchre' cartridges." In this Midwest-centric Universe, NES "Euchre" sells over 40 Million units. The Game Boy becomes the Euchre Boy. Church festivals and sleepover basements are rife with kids calling loners and overtrumping kings with bowers.

If only.

In our wider, non-Midwest branch of the multiverse, NES Euchre is a nifty homebrew game by Doug Fraker. Coded as part 2018's's Best Homebrew competition, Euchre is exactly what it promises to be: an 8-bit version of the popular trick-taking card game. "Euchre" is available for free download from Fraker's website: 

Monday, March 7, 2022

reWeez: "Dope Nose"

"Dope Nose" might be the absolute worst of Weezer's worst lyrics. "Says who?" you say? Well, let's ask Weezer frontman, Rivers Cuomo:

"['Dope Nose' is] not about anything. It's just a bunch of garbage lyrics."

"Dope Nose" is "a bunch of garbage lyrics," written in a tequila/Ritalin haze (yes, really).

And while the whole lyric sheet is bizarre, the main offender here is a gay slur in the second verse. Though the early 2000's were a different time (the first state to legalize gay marriage, Massachusetts, wouldn’t do so until '05), the slur didn’t need to be included then and absolutely should be removed now. That Weezer continued to perform “Dope Nose," slur included, as late as 2015 is a head-shaker.

If "Dope Nose" were a baseball player we'd say it has plus power but zero brains. The track bops, despite itself. "Dope Nose" is the career minor leaguer who shows up to the ballpark still hungover, who strikes out two-thirds of the time but still mashes enough dingers to score an occasional groupie. After floundering for a few years as a demo, Weezer called "Dope Nose" up to the Big Leagues, putting it second on their 2002 album, Maladroit. Many hailed the album as Weezer's best since Pinkerton.

The song starts with some great ooh-oohs that I unironically love (and that might be the part of this lyric sheet): 


Then Rivers starts tossing out garbage. Despite his claim the words mean nothing, "Dope Nose" seems to form a cohesive narrative about, shall we say, Better Living Through Chemistry.1 With that in mind, we'll try to arrange the song's nonsense around the ideas of escapism and mild drug use.

Debts on my head
Wasting time, Blazing dimes, on my own
Sleep Please, rescue me
Take me back to my home the unknown (Oh, take me home)

So we've set up that our narrator is under a lot of pressure. They don't have "debt," they have "debts." Plural. Much worse. They've also got a little weed, a little time, and a little need for escape. The math practically does itself.

Then comes a gobbledygook refrain. Individually, each word has meaning. But strung together, they verge on incoherence. How exactly does one, and I quote, "bust ryhmes real slow?"

For the times that nights when you wanna go and
Bust rhymes real slow Make time spin slow
I'll appear, slap you on the face 
the world away and
Enjoy the show flow

And now on to the prime offender. The reason Weezer hasn't played "Dope Nose" for years and probably won't anytime soon. If the band was attempting to make some larger social statement with these lyrics, we could have a discussion about including a slur. Green Day's "American Idiot" comes to mind. But "Dope Nose" is no "American Idiot." Hell, it's not even "All by Myself." By design, "Dope Nose" makes no point whatsoever. The slur is flippant and unnecessary. This verse makes so little sense, that there's nothing to renovate; we have to demolish and rebuild.

Cheese Trees smells so good
On a burnt piece of lamb Burnin' sweet, in my hand (Piece of what?)
Drag (pssh--ahhh) of the year
Who could beat To defeat up your man life's demands

And that's it. "Dope Nose" is a mess, y'all. It's a one-tool player; a big-cussing, unlikable SOB that somehow made the Big Leagues. One could argue that a lot of prospects need time to develop. Remember, all-time strikeouts king Nolan Ryan just *barely* pitched out of his first inning. I doubt any amount of seasoning would make “Dope Nose" an All-Star, though. Even scrubbed clean, the song is thoroughly "meh." But by removing slurs and tightening the narrative, we can at least nudge “Dope Nose” into positive WAR.2

Dope Nose

Lyrics by Rivers Cuomo
Edits by Keith Good

Debts on my head
Blazing dimes, on my own
Please, rescue me
Take me to the unknown. (Oh, take me home)
For the nights when you wanna go and
Make time spin slow
I'll appear, slap the world away and
Enjoy the flow

Trees smell so good
Burnin' sweet in my hand (Piece of what?)
Drag (pssh--ahhh) of the year
to defeat life's demands

For the nights when you wanna go and
Make time spin slow
I'll appear, slap the world away and
Enjoy the flow

Oh - this dope nose!

1 Yes, I know there's a much better link to put on this text, that Queens of the Stone Age actually has a song called, "Better Living Through Chemistry," but don't the lyrics to "Feel Good Hit of the Summer" just *fit*?
This parade of baseball references brought to you by Joe Posnanski's phenomenal book, The Baseball 100. A ranking of the 100 best baseball players of all time, I just finished reading it and already I can't wait to read it again.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Pat, as Always

When it rains, it pours. I'm pleased to say my short story, "Pat, as Always," runs today with the fantastic SFF magazine,

It's a fun little story about office drones and cupcakes and giant mutant slugs and the limits of what a person can take. The site is absolutely teeming with great genre fiction; I'm above thrilled to add my little story to the list.

Image by Clever Cupcakes. Used under CC BY 2.0 License

As I like to do when my work sees publication, here's a side-by-side of the story's first line as originally drafted and as published. My first draft of Pat opened with:

Cold basement air gelled Pat’s back sweat, turning her blouse to papier-mâché.

Its an image I like. It feels immediate and relatable. However, it doesn't quite set the table or do the character work the story required. Here's Pat's first line as it runs today in Anotherealm:

Pat jogged down the basement steps, cake carrier in her upturned hands like the Ark of a lesser Covenant.

Same action—jogging down the basement steps—but with a more character flavor. A sweeter cupcake. That Pat is carrying a cake carrier like it's a holy relic, hopefully, tells you a little more about her. The stuff with the sticky blouse, a card too good not to play, got shuffled later into the hand.

Monday, February 28, 2022

reWeez: "Grapes of Wrath"

"Grapes of Wrath" is the 3rd track on Weezer's (first) 2021 album, OK Human1. The album, a complete departure for the band, features exactly zero electric guitars. Gone are the crunchy riffs, Moog synths and wah-wah solos. In their place are an assortment of more contemplative (yet still damn catchy) pianos and strings. I know every Weezer fan says this about every successive Weezer album, but OK Human might be my favorite Weezer release since 1996's Pinkerton.

Fun fact: the title "OK Human" is a reference to humans living in Oklahoma.
OK Human
The album's lead single, "All My Favorite Songs," scored Weezer its biggest hit in a decade, hitting #1 on Billboard's Rock Airplay charts and becoming the 4th-most played rock song in 2021. The band also released a remix featuring indie-pop band AJR, which, in addition to adding synths to the track, (rather appropriately) improved the lyrics to the second verse. 

Despite the success of "All My Favorite Songs," "Grapes of Wrath" might be OK Human's best track2. "Grapes" is—somehow—both upbeat and contemplative. Even better, the song is about the transformative power of literature!

Rumor has it Steinbeck's original draft ALSO included an odd plug for Go figure.

The song's refrain name-drops Audible. As in Amazon's subscription-only book and audiobook service Audible. The same Audible that gobbles up books and authors and puts them behind a paywall so that Jeff Bezos can buy another yacht. Ech. As someone who believes free information, who's devoted the better part of 20 years to libraries, the idea of a band pimping Audible makes me barf in my mouth a little bit.

The Audible-referencing lyric feels suspiciously like product placement. The musical equivalent of Vin Diesel turning to camera and taking a long, satisfied sip from a perfectly dewy Coke Zero before shifting his muscle car into gear and peeling ass out of frame. That Amazon went on to promote Weezer's OK Human and "Grapes of Wrath" across its various platforms only makes the connection feel worse.

So. To quote a much better lyric, let's take a sad song and make it better. Much like scrubbing McDonald's golden arches and clown mascots from its otherwise outstanding NES title, M.C. Kids, lets get out our writers' turpentine and scrub Jeff Bezos from Weezer. While we're at it, let's strengthen the verses so they feel less like literary name-dropping and more like a cohesive narrative.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Introducing reWeez - Editing Weezer's Worst Lyrics

Rivers Cuomo & Co. have made a career cranking out crunchy, catchy guitar pop. "Buddy Holly." "Island in the Sun." "Say it Ain't So." Hell, even "Beverly Hills." The band knows how to write hummable, head-boppable, toe-tapping tunes.

What Weezer are *not* known for, however, are their deep, poetic lyrics. Bob Dylan they ain't. Consider the opening stanza from The Red Album's "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)": 

You try to play cool
Like you just don't care
But soon I'll be playin' in your
I'm like the mage
With the magic spell
You come like a dog
When I ring yo' bell

Eesh. These lyrics are as close to the written equivalent of the cringe emoji that the English language can produce. 😬1

It's feels like Rivers (Weezer's frontman and main songwriter) scribbles scratch lyrics while noodling around on the piano or guitar and then just forgets to change them. ("Oh shoot! We still have that dumbass bit about mages in the song? Aww, shucks. The Red Album is already in the can; too late to change it now.") Writers2 call this aversion to revision "first thought, best thought." Despite honing their toplines, despite perfecting their melodies and using take after take to hit just the *right* guitar solo, it sounds like Weezer just sticks with whatever gobbledygook lyric comes out of Rivers' brain first. 

It was only by revision that "scrambled eggs / oh my baby how I love your legs" became "Yesterday / all my troubles seemed so far away."

Weezer isn't the Beatles. Some lyrics, even in the hands of McCartney or George Saunders or Jane Austen, will never reach 'Yesterday.' But certainly, we can save Rivers from mages and underpants, right?


We can try. Our first effort (and probably last, knowing how these things pan out), coming Monday, will aim to remove some suspicious product placement from one of Weezer's more recent tunes. 

1 And yet I STILL like this song. Goes to prove the maxim that no one really cares about the lyrics. At least in this case, Blues Traveler's "Hook" was right. 
2 Especially Jack Kerouac wannabes and writers who detest the soul-crushing process of editing 

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

The Revisionist

I'm pleased to announce that my short story, "The Revisionist," runs today at Class Collective Magazine.

It's a snappy, humorous little fable about an idealistic young house husband determined to build a modern house in an historic neighborhood. Originally set in the aftermath of the Great Recession (and originally given the mouthful of a title: "An Historian's Guide to Modern Architecture and Home Repair"), as I edited the manuscript, I worried we were too far from 2008 for some of the struggles to make sense. So, if you're looking for silver linings in the swirling crapstorm that was 2020...hey; at least it made my little story relevant again.

Check it out at the link below. I hope you'll enjoy. And while you're there, click through to some of the other great work on Class Collective. It really is worth your time.

Read "The Revisionist" at Class Collective Magazine here.

Friday, October 22, 2021

What the Water Brought

Publication news! My magical apocalyptic tale, "What the Water Brought" runs today at The Chamber Magazine.

The story follows three teens, running from the horrors of war, who stumble onto a little riverbend that flows outside of time. But their own private eternity comes with a catch. A choice. They must ask themselves: how long can we stay forever seventeen?

Read What the Water Brought at the Chamber Magazine.

And just because I love to pull the curtain back on these things, here's the opening sentence from my original draft of the story:

"We idled at the riverbend, skipping stones, skipping school, skipping time."

Its fine enough. Gives you a place. Some people. An action. But for comparison, here's the story's opening line as published in The Chamber Magazine:

"We were vampires at that riverbend, desperate to suck the blood from eternity."

The first is fine; the second is better (with an assist from Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, who just so happened to pop on to my playlist as I was editing the manuscript). Tonally, it fits much better with the rest of the story. It just goes to show that writing isn't in the writing: it's in the editing.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Amazing Off-the-Rack Book Outfits for Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons somehow has millions of Nintendo Switch players clamoring for daily chores. Weed the flowerbed? Yes! Tidy the house? How fun! Make small talk? “Hi, Raymond! How’s the weather?” Maybe it’s the game’s soothing soundscapes. Maybe it’s the sugar-sweet graphics. Whatever its alchemy, New Horizons actually has us champing at the bit to—shudder—try on clothes.

Whether for bug catching, running a King Tut Race, or destroying your competitors’ will to live in the fishing tourney, every Islander needs the perfect outfit (or five). Even if you have zero customization skill, no worries; we’ve collected the perfect book-themed outfits for your Animal Crossing: New Horizons islander.

Daring Detectives

Sherlock Holmes

This one is, dare I say, elementary. Match the Detective Hat and Detective Coat with brown Tweed Pants and watch Victorian widows flock to your cabin with tales of woe. Bonus points if you carry a violin!

Lisbeth Salander

Who wouldn’t want to be The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Try a Biker Jacket, Pleather Pants and Visual Punk Boots. Top it off with a ‘Mowhawk Wig’ and you’ll have those Scandinavian baddies quaking in their parkas.

Sam Spade

If Dashiell Hammett’s hardboiled noir is more your speed, throw on a Fedora, Trenchcoat, and Slacks in tan and black. Then bust into Redd’s Trawler and smash all those fake statues.

Miss Marple

Someone been stealing your prize tulips? A Gown Coat or Quilted Down Jacket is perfect for solving your island’s cozy crimes. Pair it with a Long Plaid Skirt and Ribboned Garden Hat to complete Marple’s signature look.

Literary Legends

Holden Caulfield

If you want everyone to know that they’re phony, don a camel-colored Checkered Muffler with Denim Pants and a Knit Cap with Earflaps. Lurk on your island’s cliffs and catch any one that tries to run past.

Scout and Atticus Finch

It’s not hard to dress as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird alter-ego: just put on a pair of blue Overalls and take off your shoes! For Atticus, wear a gray Waistcoat, matching Slacks and brown Business Shoes.

Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan

Put K.K. Jazz on the Phonograph and step into F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Roaring Twenties with a Flapper Dress, Bowler Hat with Ribbon, and Strappy Heels. For Jay, a Straw Boater and Suspender Outfit in matching colors should do the trick. Just keep away from any optometrist billboards and blinking green lights.

Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy

Going to a Pemberly ball? Stay in everyone’s good opinion with Lizzie Bennett’s Elegant Dress and Gothic Headdress or Headband. For Mr. Darcy, try a Tailcoat, Antique Boots, Noble Pants and a Top Hat. Extra points if you keep your anger reactions and a set of wedding clothes ready.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

A green Caterpillar Costume and a red Imp Hood will show your love for Eric Carle’s eating machine. Be sure to carry enough fruit for every day of the week!

Swords, Sorcerers and Fairies Galore

Harry Potter

New Horizon’s game designers must be Potterheads. Tops like the Thick-Stripes Shirt and Graduation Robe, for example, just *happen* to come in Gryffindor Red, Hufflepuff Yellow, Ravenclaw Blue and Slytherin Green. Pair any of those with Celeste’s standard Wand and a Frugal Hat to prepare for the Sorting Ceremony.

Peter Pan

There are enough Peter Pan duds in New Horizons to dress a whole village of Lost Boys. The Sprite Costume paired with Moccasins and a Paperboy Cap will have you flying to Neverland. If Tinkerbell is more your speed, pair a Fairy Dress, green Semi-Opaque Tights and Pom-pom Shoes. The Darling children can even come along: have any island guests dress in PJ Outfits and Nightgowns! To top it all off, Guilivarr’s Pirate clothes are pretty much tailor-made for a Captain Hook cosplay (if you can withstand enough of his nautical puns to snag a set).


If you want to wow the other Islanders with magic, show up wearing a Frugal Dress, White Leggings and Clogs. Then, once it’s time for the ball, pull out your wand and—bippity boppity boo!—its blue Princess Dress and Tiara Hair time. Reese’s Wedding Pumps will have to stand in for Cindy’s famous Glass Slippers, at least until midnight.

Alice in Wonderland

This is another case of Animal Crossing: New Horizon including famous characters without infringing any copyrights. The Adventure Dress, paired with a blue Giant Ribbon, Everyday Tights and black Mary Janes seem tailor made for a romp with the White Rabbit.

The Three Musketeers

Have some friends itching to go “one for all and all for one?” Matching Cavalier Shirts and Cavalier Hats, along with Antique boots and Noble Pants will have you in the height of 17th Century French fashion.


Before he was a movie star, before he was an internet meme, Shrek was a book by William Steig. With the game’s expanded skin colors, it's easier than ever to the loveable green guy. Match a brown Frugal Outfit with a Bulb Bopper and yell at everyone to “GET OUT OF MY SWAMP!”

With all these clothing options at your virtual fingertips, there’s no excuse not to waltz into Guest Services in your bookish best. …Now go do your chores!

Monday, April 8, 2019

The SNES Omnibus, Vol. 2

Today marks the release Brett Weiss' stunner of a book, The SNES Omnibus, Vol.2. A companion to Vol.1, The SNES Omnibus, Vol.2 is a complete encyclopedia of Super Nintendo games N-Z. This includes most of the SNES' immortal, all-time games: 'Super Mario World,' 'Super Metroid,' 'Street Fighter II,' and 'The Secret of Mana1.' It's a wonderful coffee table title, full of tidbits and illustrations. Each entry includes a brief overview of the game in question, as well as essays by noted (and some less-noted) video game journalists.

Which brings me Through my work at and (the now defunct) TecmoBowlers, I was referred to Brett as a possible writer for parts of the book. I pitched two essay ideas and Brett was gracious enough to accept.

If you pick up The SNES Omnibus, Vol.2 (and you really should, its a hell of a title), you'll see my byline under entries for 'Super Bomberman' and 'The Secret of Mana.' That I got to write about The Secret of Mana, one of my all-time favorite video games, was a treat beyond words.

And because Brett is such a mensch, he was kind enough to promo the book using my essay for 'Super Bomberman.' You can read it over at his blog.

Read my 'Super Bomberman' essay on Brett Weiss' website.

1 Okay, okay, I realize these are all just the letter S, but I assure you there are other great titles for the SNES that begin with other letters N-Z. Like... Uh...'Shadowrun.' Crap. 'Sim City?' Shit, no, that's an S, too. Uh, about about...Pilotwings! Yeah. Pilotwings.2

2 Whoa. There are a LOT of great SNES games that begin with the letter S.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

8-Bit Encyclopaedia: Motor City Patrol

There's no disappointment as bitter as potential unfulfilled. A game that starts out as a breath of fresh air only to quickly stagnate. To borrow a phrase, a crappy game will always be a crappy game. Ikari Warriors is steaming garbage from "Press Start" to "Game Over." With little expected, Ikari's failure means little.

Motor City Patrol, surprisingly enough, starts with promise. Its "drive around a city completing tasks" gameplay makes it a spiritual forerunner to Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto series. Developed by Source Research and Development and released in 1992 by Matchbox (yes, the toy car people), Motor City Patrol doesn't boast a stellar pedigree. Source R and D's only other games are the infamously bad Noah's Ark (also released by Matchbox) and a Gameboy puzzler called The Pyramids of Ra.

But once Motor City Patrol gets revving, we see a game with a decent handle of what the NES allows. The graphics, as exemplified by the title logo in the header, are surprisingly rich. The controls are responsive and tight. The plot is simple enough: the player controls a police car which must patrol the city, stopping speeders, thieves and criminals along the way. Pressing Select brings up a map of the city which shows where the criminals are. If a criminal gets too cheeky, pressing B fires your police sidearm out the car window. Nabbing criminals earns the player points which can be used to upgrade their patrol car.

Out patrolin'...
...and checkin' the map.
To "win," the player must patrol 7 days in each of the city's 5 precincts. However, accidentally arresting innocent citizens or letting too many law-breakers escape earns the player a warning. 5 warnings, or accidentally shooting innocent motorists, ends the game. Crashing the car into too many obstacles (but strangely enough, not cars) will also end the game. To neutralize any warnings and damage to your car, 16 "stolen items," aka flashing chotchkies, are scattered through the player's patrol route. Collecting them all will reset the player's "warnings" and car damage to zero. These are vital in the later stages of the game.

That is, of course, assuming you can play to the later stages without dying of boredom first. Because Motor City Patrol is a high-priced sportscar without a road to drive.