Why “The Empire Strikes Back” destroys the Star Wars Universe

Pop quiz time, what’s the best Star Wars movie (so far, don’t let us down Abrams!)? Did you say Empire? You probably said Empire.

If you said any movie in episodes I-III, please leave.

If you said any movie in episodes I-III, please leave.

Alright, so Empire Strikes Back shows that either the Empire, who is striking back, is either dumb or that there’s a major problem with the entire Star Wars mythology.

Let’s start, at one point Darth Vader is having a discussion with Admiral Ozzel via Skype. Darth Vader gets upset and chokes Ozzel, as you do.

Worst performance review ever.

Worst performance review ever.

In Episode VI, Darth Vader says something, which at the time seems silly.

The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.

In Star Wars, we see Darth Vader choke a guy with his mind, while in the same room. Mind you, this happens after we see him choke a guy with his hands, so it’s essentially just wireless choking. We also see him have a weak sword fight with an old man. And he also gets hit by his wingman. So, this line seems downright foolish when we see the Death Star blow up a planet. Of course, the Death Star is slow moving and easy to destroy.

But let’s get to another important scene in Empire, they have drones. They have drones, with cameras.

Viper Probe Droid

The Empire is scattering these droids across the galaxy in the hopes of finding proof of the rebel’s base. Once the droid sends video back to the Empire, the Empire sends a giant army of large slow tanks on four legs, for some reason.

walkers

You know a better idea? Just send a bunch more probes with cameras and have Darth Vader kill the rebels with his force powers over the camera. No casualties, no major loss of equipment. No lead time for the rebels to escape!

In Empire Strikes Back we see Yoda lift a spaceship with the force. We see Darth Vader make a storm of large objects fly at Luke. And apparently this is all doable if the force user has a line of site, even a camera, at their target! The Empire has the most dangerous weapon in the galaxy. Any place there’s a camera, Darth (or the Emperor, who can also use the force) can kill people using the force. They can even move large objects around. The Empire insists on sending large armies to attack the rebels … just because?

The original Star Wars trilogy was already the story about the scrappy underdogs beating overwhelming odds. But Empire Strikes Back makes it worse. The rebels are essentially fighting an omnipotent being wherever there are cameras. How many times do the Emperor or Darth Vader have a video channel to a major event? Every one of those scenes should end with the rebels being choked or their ships crashing into each other. All I can conclude is that the Empire is idiotic. After all, they’d have to be to be defeated by an army of teddy bears.

NerdCast: WMAC Masters

WMAC Masters

This Week’s Show

Andres Alvarez (@nerdnumbers) and his brother Daniel are back to discuss a TV show from their childhood: WMAC Masters! The world’s best martial artists are all competing for the ultimate prize on a Saturday morning show that tries to blend wrestling, G.I. Joe, and Street Fighter. Did it work? Tune in to find out our thoughts.

Hosts

  • Andres Alvarez (@nerdnumbers)
  • Daniel Alvarez. He’s not on Twitter, but he did also do the editing of the show!

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Video Show

Show Notes

Surprisingly a show cancelled in the mid-90s due to low ratings has never been released on DVD or blu-ray. You can find the entire show on YouTube(for now) here

I normally try and leave highlight of our train of thought on the show. We hop all over the place though. I say just enjoy the show. If you watch the video show, Daniel splices in lots of clips from the show to prove we didn’t just make all of this up. Don’t worry, I’ll add some random footnotes too.

The Wikipedia entry on this show is quite comprehensive and worth checking out if you were a fan of the show.

A Trope I mention is called Stage Whisper, where characters discuss private and important information in a very obvious fashion.

Herb Perez, aka Olympus, ended up becoming a city council member in real life.

More tropes this show used: “Remember the New Guy?” and “Lampshade Hanging”

Correction, Erik Betts is a helicopter pilot in the movie “Ant-Man” not “San Andreas.”

A goal of this show was clearly to sell action figures. This failed spectacularly. A byproduct? The toys from the show are now rare and expensive.

Retail $129.99

Retail $129.99

We talk a bunch about season one’s feud between “Great Wolf” and “Tiger Claw”, which was the conversation we had that lead to us actually making this podcast episode.

Despite having a women’s division, WMAC Masters ignores their female characters (reminds me of the WWE) Out of twenty-six episodes, only seven feature womens’ fights. And many times these fights are shown in highlight flashbacks or even just characters telling each other what happened.

The idea any of these fights could happen is silly. Here’s a clip of Herb Perez in the 92 Olympics, where the fighters wear full pads, and he knocks a guy out with a kick.

With that, I’ll leave you with, in my opinion, the best dialogue in the show

“It was an accident” – Olympus
“No, YOU’RE an accident” – Chameleon

Behind the Scenes from a Contestant on “Pop Quiz, Hot Shot”

Remember that episode of “The Critic”, where he excitedly goes to show his family his college indie film and then has to conclude: “It stinks.”? Yeah, “Pop Quiz, Hot Shot” from Channel Awesome felt like that. I’ve been a big fan of the Nostalgia Critic and other Channel Awesome shows. I was “lucky” enough to be a contestant. I was not in the pilot episode. I am, I believe, one of the contestants in one of the other five episodes they’ve recorded. As it has been over a month since the pilot was released, there’s a good chance my episode never sees the light of day. I wanted to give some insight into what I saw as a contestant and some general thoughts.

I Enjoyed the Experience

Pop Quiz Hot Shot

Let’s start with the following. I did not contribute to the Indiegogo campaign. I did not expect to win any prizes by agreeing to be on the show and was more excited about the experience. I live in Wisconsin. I have friends in Chicago. I enjoyed taking a day trip up to Chicago. I got to see the Nostalgia Critic’s studio. I got to meet and talk with Doug, Rob, and Barnie Walker in depth. Tamara showed up to record her scenes, and it was great to meet her as well.

In spite of some of the issues surrounding Channel Awesome lately, I’ve still been a fan for a while. It was fun to meet the crew. And the “game show” was fun as well. It was akin to getting a chance to play Trivial Pursuit with a TV personality you like. My excitement at the experience of that probably clouded what should have been some obvious issues with the show itself.

Background the Show Story

The show attempts to use a narrative to explain the show. A tactic that doesn’t quite hit the mark. But let’s review it.

Brad Jones, a Channel Awesome personality, wanted to host a game show. After being turned down by the Nostalgia Critic, he decided to make his own game show. With the help of his henchman General Anaesthetic, he kidnaps Ms. Stockholm to be his lovely assistant. He now kidnaps various contestants to be on his show. If they win, they get fabulous prizes! If they lose, they die!

Background the Show Format

Popquiz Hot Shot

The show consists of five rounds. The pilot did a horrible job of explaining the rules of scoring. Hopefully, this helps.

Round one is a “physical challenge.” In the pilot, this was a game of Hasbro’s “Let’s go Fishin’” and in the episode I was on, it was a game of Hasbro’s “Don’t Break the Ice.” The winner of this round gets four points. Again, this was never explained on the show that aired. And we’ll get back to some more issues with it later.

Round two is a trivia round. Each correct response is worth a point. Each incorrect answer costs you a point. For the show I was on, the theme was 80s trivia.

Round three is another “physical challenge.” In the pilot, the contestants had to solve a giant maze. In the episode I was on, we had to spell the names of a bunch of actors from their pictures — the hook being all of the actors had hard to spell names. Also, spoiler, I did horrible at this! The winner of this round gets four points.

Round four is another trivia round. The same rules apply, a correct answer is worth a point, an incorrect answer costs you a point. For the show I was on, the theme was 90s trivia.

The person with the most points after the four rounds gets to face the Nostalgia Critic head to head! Brad asks the Critic and the contestant six quickfire questions. In the pilot, it was Disney love songs. In my episode, it was cartoon theme songs.

If the contestant beats the Critic, they get a $100 gift card. In theory, this prize rolls over if the competitor loses. By the time I filmed, they weren’t sure. Spoiler, the Critic won, so we never found out.

One note, for our taping in the trivia round, we were told we had to wait until Brad finished reading the question before buzzing in. As we saw in the Pilot episode, there was an issue with one contestant spamming the buzzer. Also, the negative point for an incorrect answer was added. Again, this was to help alleviate the issue of just spamming in and guessing.

With all the background, let’s get to some of the issues with the show. Fish in a barrel, I know.

Scheduling Issues

I listened to a podcast with some former Channel Awesome employees. They had some hope that maybe the quality of the show would improve, as the pilot was a disorganized mess. The sad news that it hasn’t.

It appears a major issue for the show has been scheduling conflicts. Malcolm Ray was not around to shoot when we were there. I believe this is why Fard Muhammad was brought in to play General Anaesthetic. Except, he too had some scheduling conflicts. Barney Walker wasn’t sure Fard would be around for filming, so he purchased a “Dictator” costume so he could fill in if need be.

082112-the-dictator

This is who Barney is supposed to be.

Barney then took the name of Colonel Klink, a character from Hogan’s Heroes and spoke with a German accent. Of course, Fard was able to make filming, so both are inexplicably filmed, to the confusion of everyone!

I answered a casting call that Doug put on the tail-end of one of his episodes on Avatar. I was told to arrive for filming at 12:30pm. I then spent a lot of time waiting. As I mentioned, I didn’t hate this too much as I got to hang out in the Channel Awesome studio. But it was still somewhat troubling that a scheduled recording took quite a while to get going.

I also know both weather and sickness have caused some scheduling issues of previous episodes. But the big takeaway should be that even several episodes in, they hadn’t gotten to the point of being able to schedule a taping. Somewhat troubling given their goal is forty episodes.

General Disorganization

The show itself still had some organization issues. Remember the physical challenges? Well, neither myself or the other contestant had ever played “Don’t Break the Ice.” but they just started the timer and away we went! We played it incorrectly it turns out. I’ve also heard the contestants aren’t playing “Let’s Go Fishin'” with the correct rules either.

I mentioned the trivia rounds were broken into two categories, 80s and 90s. Well, it turns out that the cards got shuffled up and some of the 90s trivia made it into round one! Oh well!

After the show was over, my wife and I went and grabbed some food nearby. We ran into both Barney and Fard from the show. We were actually told our episode had recorded the quickest they’d seen yet. Not the best sign.

I should note, this was recorded in October! I sent an email to the Channel Awesome Game Show email account when I was done to ask about airtime. I never heard back.

Audio/Video Quality

I can’t speak to the audio/visual quality of our episode. But as far as I can tell, no new camera or microphones were added between the pilot and our episode. So, if they continue to air the episodes, it’s unlikely they’ll get any better. There were no updates to the set either, so don’t hold your breath there.

There was some hope that things improved since the pilot. I believe I was in the third or fourth round of taping. So, unless they scrapped all their initial episodes and went back to the drawing board, don’t hold your breath.

The Show Doesn’t Know What it Wants to Be

Alright, one of the big issues with this show is it has no idea what it wants to be. The trivia rounds are essentially “Jeopardy”. The physical challenges are supposed to be reminiscent of “Double Dare”. The final round with the Nostalgia Critic is meant to be like “Win Ben Stein’s Money.” Ms. Stockholm, I think is supposed to be a joke Vanna White or Bob Barker assistant. The show’s set is “Saved by the Bell” themed. The Brad Jones background story is supposed to be something. But in the end, none of it works together. Tack on the editing in the final cut of the first show, and it does, unfortunately, come out a big mess.

Indiegogo thoughts

Channel Awesome - Indiegogo

I’m really conflicted here. The biggest complaint I hear about the show, repeatedly, is “Ninety thousand dollars! Can you believe they stole ninety thousand dollars?” I’m going to try and be a little nice to Channel Awesome for a second. But just to avoid any anger while you read the next few paragraphs, I have to be clear. After reviewing the Indiegogo campaign, and observing the state of things first hand, there is no way to say Channel Awesome hasn’t royally screwed up here.

I’ve found in the age of Patreon, Kickstarter, etc. that many people take on the role of shareholder when they find out how much a creator collected. Except, most of these collection techniques aren’t the same as owning stock in something. Additionally, many people that don’t contribute, take it upon themselves to explain what the creators owe.

And, in general, I find people don’t get finances. Things like Kickstarter take a cut of the profits. What’s more, some pledges don’t pay. And many reward tiers do require some cost to fulfill. Then, of course, there are taxes, etc. to be considered. So I find people think there’s a bigger stack of money than there is.

Now, even with all of that said….this ended up a major cluster. Let’s be clear about a few things. First, their initial budget was absurdly stupid from the get go. At the amount they reached ($89K and change) they promised:

  • 40 episodes of the Pop Quiz, Hot Shot game show.
  • 52 Episodes of a Comic Book Show
  • 40 Episodes of a “Gaming Gauntlet Show”

That’s 132 episodes! Even if they had the full budget, that’s $681 an episode! As of the pilot release they said they’d spent $47,767.67 of the funds they’d collected. In the same notes they said they’d filmed ten episodes of Pop Quiz Hot Shot — that’s assuming they count the five test episodes.

Now, I have no idea of the communication Channel Awesome has had with their backers. As per Indiegogo’s FAQ, transactions are non-refundable once a project is successfully backed. You are allowed to contact the seller directly – see their FAQ here.

The basic thesis of Doug’s initial video was essentially that with the money Channel Awesome would:

  • Improve the quality of their equipment for recording.
  • Build more sets. Note, I had not seen any built when I visited in October.
  • Use the new equipment and sets to make new shows.
  • Produce new content quicker and with better quality.

The reality is that almost two years after the campaign finished, they are over halfway through their budget and less than ten percent of the way to their goal. And that’s ignoring the whole improved quality issue as well. A lot of the criticism of the show is the poor quality of the set, recording, and editing.

The truly rough part about this is that, in theory, they should have been able to do better. A big reason I’m sure many people gave money was because of how quickly shows like Nostalgia Critic were released with mostly good quality. The number of mistakes that have been made are hard to take. Especially, as in the original video, Doug talks about many of them. You can’t say, for instance, you want to improve the quality of your recording equipment and then have issues with soundproofing.

On the one hand, I can kind of sympathize. I’ve definitely decided to take on a project, invest in some equipment and then never go anywhere. The issue is, I did this with my own money. I have absolutely no idea the best way forward here for Channel Awesome. They need new sets, and a faster turnaround. But that’s what they said two years and $50,000 ago! Is it likely with less time and less money they’ll actually accomplish it?

They’ve burned a lot of goodwill. In short, I’m sorry if you contributed money. The show is every bit the trainwreck you imagined. That said, I had a fun day playing trivia with a guy that makes funny videos on the net. Since then, it’s been sad to realize that Channel Awesome has a lot of issues that make it not-so-awesome.

A Sad P.S.

The Giddy Owl has a fun rundown of the pilot episode. They also posted a mini-update from Rob Walker about the show. First, the update promises corrections and fixes. Second, it mentions an episode with Fard as host should be coming out “this month”, which refers to April. Finally, they say Brad should be filming four new episodes in the first week of May. The show with Fard as the host, to my knowledge, did not appear in April. If they are filming new shows then I’d say it’s fair to say they scrapped the other episodes, which means that Channel Awesome is back to square one. Again, I’m sorry to all the Indiegogo backers.

Why “The Cat’s in the Cradle” is a Silly Song

The song “Cat’s in the Cradle” is an emotional song that pulls at the heart strings of fathers and sons. The basic gist is a man has a son, but is too busy with work to spend time with his son. Meanwhile, his son idolizes him, repeatedly saying “I’m gonna be like [my father]”. When the man finally has time to spend with his son, his son is an adult and doesn’t have any time to spend with his dad. What tragedy! Except, here’s the “ironic” end to the song.

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you”

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

Ok, the narrator is trying to show a parallel. Basically, he’s using the same 1980s drug message. Anyone remember these? “I learned it watching you!”

But there are two important parts to the message. The son says, “the new job’s a hassle”, which does signify he’s a workaholic like his dad. Except, he immediately follows it up with “and kids have the flu.” His son is indicating he’s deciding to focus on his job AND his children. He’s not being like his dad here; he’s acting the opposite. He’s choosing to focus on his kids instead of his dad.

Now, even the ignoring the kid seems off to me. The first verse has a key phrase in it:

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say “I’m gonna be like you, Dad
You know I’m gonna be like you”

The narrator seems to be a workaholic in part to pay the bills, which we’d assume includes his new son. It’s not like he’s neglecting his son for terrible reasons. And, in fact, we only get four major points in his son’s life according to the song:

  1. His son’s birth, which he can’t attend.
  2. His son’s tenth birthday, which he does attend. However, he doesn’t have a lot of time to play with his son.
  3. His son’s college graduation, where his son would rather borrow the car than hang out with his son.
  4. And finally, the last moment is when his son is an adult and has his a family of his own.

In only one of these cases is he gone, and he gives a good reason for it — he has to pay the bills. And his son oddly sees the father enough to want to be like him. And it seems this strategy paid off. His son graduates from college and grows up to have a (we assume) good job and a family of his own.

In general I kind of hate the “busy parent” trope that shows up in a lot of movies and songs. This song is no exception. The real thesis of the song could be – I didn’t have a lot of money when my son was young, so I couldn’t spend as much time with him. I wish I’d spent a little more because he’s busy now. And, while that certainly is a decent message, it’s not the tearjerking “ironic” yarn the narrator has been lamenting. At least, that’s my two cents.

-Dre

NerdCast: E.J. Fischer and “The New Mother” Part 2

E.J. wraps up the conversation about “The New Mother.” We also get into tangent-land, including the Spurs, John Scalzi’s “Red Shirts”, and how Nintendo is a lot like professional wrestling.

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Show Notes

Asimov April/May


If you can’t find Asimov’s April/May magazine at your local store, you can buy the back issue online here.

We start by talking more about “The New Mother”, warning, spoilers!

I talk some of the implications of E.J’s premise. Genetic algorithms, how evolution happens with cloning, and eugenics come up. E.J. spoils that eugenics will play a major part in his upcoming book.

We discuss the freakiness of Men’s Rights groups. E.J. also examines some trends in these groups in his upcoming book. As before, he’s done research on terrorism, including the work of Louise Richardson.

I love this quote by Anita Sarkeesian:

It’s possible (and even necessary) to simultaneously enjoy a piece of media while also being critical of some of the more problematic aspects of that same media.

We talk a little about the book Red Shirts. E.J. and I may discuss it on a future podcast. Given our schedule and my overall busy-ness, expect that in a year or so!

We talk about Cracked’s podcast on how documentarians lie. They do so with the “best of intentions” but doing so makes a meaningful argument more difficult.

We talk how difficult it is to be unbiased as a writer. In fact, it’s impossible. Every writer in some way or other has political work.

E.J. won a contest where he wrote a Haiku for John Scalzi’s book Red Shirts.

E.J. is in the book as a character. Of course, E.J. stopped reading after his character died, so he doesn’t know how the book ends. I compare this to a Jim Gaffigan bit about owning a book you haven’t read.

I certainly can’t point fingers. This post is up about two weeks later than I hoped it would be. But E.J. was supposed to be mentioned in the author’s notes…

E.J. points out that there is a blanket thank you in the author’s note. So he did get his thanks in the sense we were all Time Magazine’s person of the year in 2008.

The Audible version of Red Shirts is great. Will Wheaton is the narrator, and he’s amazing.

E.J. mentions 100% of books that use him (or his namesake) as a character have won the Hugo award. Just food for thought.

We want to be 100% clear; there is no bad blood between E.J. and John Scalzi.

E.J. says he’ll get around to finishing Red Shirts, but wants to read John Scalzi’s “Lock-In” first.

E.J. is making sure to keep his reading more gender balanced this year. As such, 50% of the books he reads need to have female authors. Definitely an awesome idea.

E.J. has read Kelly Sue Deconick’s Bitch Planet as well as Sex Criminals by her husband Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky. We have a weird genealogical discussion of works or something. Tune in!

E.J. is reading “Two Girls Fat and Thing” by Mary Gaitskill right now — or was when we recorded.

E.J. is also reading “Persona” by Genevieve Valentine. He really liked “The Girls at the Kingfisher Club“, also by Genevieve Valentine. He’s mentioned it on the podcast two times now.

E.J. also has “The Angel of Losses” by Stephanie Feldman on his radar. It won the Crawford Award, which is basically a “Fantasy Rookie of the Year Award.” Zen Cho tied for the award.

As you might be able to derive from the above list, E.J. is trying to hit two books a week. It’s an absurd schedule.

We briefly talk the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. When we recorded this, I hadn’t seen it. Next time.

Me and E.J. both loved 30 Rock.

We talk a little about House and Kal Penn leaving the show, in part because he had been on the Nerdist podcast right near the recording.

We talk a little about “Slacktivism” and the idea of how it’s hard to impact stuff. I think it’s a good thing actually.

We also talk a bit about fate vs. narrative fate.

E.J. brings up “Blame” by Michelle Huneven as an excellent book with themes of fate.

We talk a bit about how real life narrative is hardly structured and as cohesive as stories. In short, lay off the Lost finale!

In narratives, we get used to tropes and devices. This primes us for story types. This can be good and bad. For instance, I felt the New Mother was a horror after reading the intro.

I compare the narrative priming of “The New Mother” to Wrestlemania 31. I’m proud of this.

I’m not sure if I’d seen it yet, but I use a phrase that smacks of Max Landis. His movie on wrestling is a must watch.

Born Standing Up” by Steve Martin is a must read. It’s great in how he discusses joke construction.

Of course, we reference Red State as it’s the epitome of the idea of a creepy Reverend and subverted tropes in horror films.

We compare Nintendo to the WWE. Both rely heavily on nostalgia and older properties that were much more popular in the 80s and 90s.

I mention Sheik’s tale from Ocarina of Time would be a fantastic premise for a game. Or we could let Link be the protagonist for the millionth time.

Aaron Diaz did a premise for a Zelda themed game based on Anita Sarkeesian’s video series. It’s called Clockwork Empire.

We prove our nerd cred by discussing the origins of Mario/Jumpman/Donkey Kong.

We bring up the famous Henry Ford “faster horse” quote in reference to why innovation is an excellent idea. Of course, he may not have said this.

We talk the Suns and Spurs rivalries in the NBA playoffs. E.J. still thinks the winningest team in recent NBA history should have won more.

The Phoenix Suns are an example of a team that tried something new but didn’t get the success people wanted. We question why more teams didn’t try to emulate it.

E.J. uses the Spurs as an example of a team that “couldn’t win” until they did…

We wrap up comparing the Spurs to Apple.

Phew! Lots of notes. Hope you enjoyed the discussions. We’ll see you next time!

NerdCast: Eugene Fischer and “The New Mother” Part 1

Eugene Fischer joins the NerdCast to talk about his novella “The New Mother.”

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Show Notes

You can find Eugene, or E.J. as I’ll call him the rest of this post at http://www.eugenefischer.com

E.J. has now been on 100% of the NerdCasts, including the Nerdcast Reboot

I briefly thought I would be starting up my own podcast. Of course, I haven’t had the time as you can find me weekly on the Boxscore Geeks Show.

E.J’s novella “The New Mother” appeared as the title story in Asimov’s Magazine. Here’s where you can pick it up. Some of these are out of date. That’s on me, sorry!

Gary Freeman did the fantastic cover art for the story.

“Communicable Parthenogenesis” is the exact condition E.J. focuses on in his story.

Wolbachia is the original condition that got him thinking about the premise behind “The New Mother.

Other messed up conditions are toxoplasmosis and ophiocordyceps unilateralis.

While E.J’s biology knowledge is stellar, he says a lot of his research for his novella had to do with social aspects. For instance, the reaction to the A.I.D.S epidemic in the 80s and 90s.

We recorded this during March Madness. During that time, Indiana passed a religious freedom law, which essentially was anti-gay-marriage. Even the NCAA was against it.

Prominent NBA names like Charles Barkley denounced Indiana.

I’ll actually give Charles Barkley some credit, he was much more understanding at the time than other athletes.

However, it’s just worth noting the stigma in the NBA against gay people, even 20 years ago, has changed dramatically.

E.J. says the idea of a fundamentalist religious sect starting the story came from a fundamentalist group of Mormons in Texas doing child marriage!

This is E.J’s “one” writer writing about a writer. I’d be fine with more, see Stephen King!

This book hits on the implication of women gaining more control in a patriarchal society. Books like “Lean In” –  and “The End of Men” (by Hannah Roslin, I forget her name in the show) have pointed out some of the demographic shifts.

We talk a bit about being a biased news source near minute twenty-two. It’s a fun listen.

The specific trope I mention for Winston in the Ghostbusters is Audience Surrogate. If E.J. was a lazy writer, his main character Tess could have been this. Luckily, E.J. makes sure to develop her as a fully fleshed out character with agency, motivation, and a story arc.

E.J. went to graduate school at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. It was actually featured on Girls. He did a lot of the New Mother as part of his M.F.A

E.J. points out his story does not pass the “Reverse Bechdel Test” — no two men speak to one another.

We’ve discussed how Star Trek — the original series – was progressive for the time. It’s not the same in today’s era.

We talk a bit about how a work can be feminist while having “non-feminist” characters. Part of making females a bigger part of pop-culture is allowing them to have agency in stories. This means letting them screw up!

We talk the notion that all writing is political. Dan Olson had a great video on this.

I talk a bit about how just having a minority character can be huge for representation. E.J’s main character is a bi-racial. The movie Chef intentionally includes Hispanic characters.

E.J. has an exclusive reveal about Judy in this podcast. You’ll have to listen to hear it though!

E.J. ends part one with a reading of the ending of “The New Mother”, obviously I should state, spoilers.

And guess what? That’s only part one! Part two will be up Wednesday. Or, if you’re reading this in the future, it’s already up, lucky you!

The NerdNumbers Podcast: the Reboot!

I had started up the NerdNumbers podcast a while back, before I ended up doing the Boxscore Geeks show weekly. Well, the NerdNumbers show is coming back. Who better to have on than E.J. Fischer, star of the infamous “lost episode”.

This Week’s Show

The NerdNumbers show is back! We have a special guest, who’s on to discuss Batman vs. Superman and everything else.

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Show Notes

E.J. and I have podcasted before. In fact, there’s a “missing podcast”, I never ended up posting back in the day.

Indeed, Eugene is a popular holiday location.

We decide to talk Batman vs. Superman, which I recently wrote about. That was the plan anyway.

We discuss the depressing nature of DC comics. Also in a weird turn we actually suggest taking Orson Scott Card and Frank Miller off your reading lists!

One of my favorite series: Impulse, ended with the authors complaining about executive meddling.

We end up discussing Big Hero 6, which is amazing! Seriously, check it out! Although, as E.J. says, you could rename the movie: “Hardware solutions to software problems.”

Damon Wayans Jr. from Happy Endings and Scott Adsit from 30 Rock are in Big Hero 6 if you needed more convincing.

Ratatouille had massive rewrites in the middle of production.

Reminder, Avatar: the Last Airbender is amazing.

The Harvard Implicit Association Tests are great to make you realize how you may have subtle biases you don’t realize.

Shout outs to both Feminist Frequency and the fantastic book Delusions of Gender.

The “10% of your brain” myth infuriates me. It’s wrong. Screenwriters please stop using it.

E.J. made a map of rhetorical relationships between genres.

There are pervasive ideas in mainstream media. I feel it’s naive to think we’re immune to this.

John Boyega plays the Stormtrooper in the new Star Wars trailer and E.J. says he was good in Attack the Block.

Whitewashing the Mandarin in Ironman 3 may have been justified given the character’s racist origins. However, replacing Ricardo Montalbán with Benedict Cumberbatch though? Unacceptable.

Superman is Moses. I’m dumbfounded I never realized this. Also, we talk a lot about how Superman should be an interesting character. Sadly Zach Snyder doesn’t get this.

I wrote about why Superman is interesting a while ago.

E.J. did not like Man of Steel, at all, like at all.

Marvel’s Joe Quesada had an interesting metaphor for D.C.’s inability to make good things.

DC couldn’t let Batwoman have a lesbian wedding. However, they’re completely fine with the current storyline (content warning if you click on link.)

I have written a lot about the Mighty Ducks 2…

We originally decided to talk Exterminite, a new series by Mikey Neumann, Len Peralta, and Kris Straub. Check out the first issue here! Only the “pilot” episode is out. We agreed we liked it, but that didn’t make for compelling podcasting. We’ll talk more as the series unfolds.

E.J. has a short story coming out in the April-May issue of Asimov’s magazine. I’ve committed to reading it and having E.J. back on the show to talk about it.

E.J. won the “my move sucked” contest.

Dan O’Brien has a hilarious video about being awkward.

No, Batman wouldn’t win a fight with anyone! Just stop.

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This is a popular question that comes up all the time. And internet, we need to talk. Batman is a crazy guy in a bat costume. He lives in a world with gods. He’s not taking down Superman. He’s not outwitting the Flash. If anyone’s taking down Darkseid it isn’t Batman, even if he *gasp* uses a gun. Here are some common arguments I see about Batman being able to win a fight vs. various super beings, and why they’re wrong.

Batman is Super Smart!

Smart Batmobile

Smart Batmobile

This is a common one. TV Tropes is riddled* with tropes about outwitting, outthinking, etc. that Batman is pretty much the epitome of. However, this falls flat pretty quick when we consider:

  • Superman’s main nemesis is a genius that Superman regularly trumps.
  • Speedsters like Superman and the Flash can think super fast, and more importantly, act on this.
  • There are legitimate villains that have the power of super intelligence. I mean, Brainiac anyone?

Batman is that straight A student from a small school that just showed up at MIT. Also, everyone at this fictitious MIT is on speed…and a superhuman mutant.

Another side note here is the fact that Batman’s “foes” are often stupid, even if we’re told they’re smart. In the Princess Bride, the only reason Wesley defeats Andre the Giant is because Andre wants to have a one on one fight. He quickly shows he could have just beaned Wesley with a rock from far away. Why Superman would ever bother fighting up close to Batman is beyond me. And yet, we see “smart” villains/heroes engage in strategies against Batman that a five-year-old would consider ridiculous.

Batman has Advanced Technology

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Where does he get those wonderful toys? Batman is chocked to the brim with technology. He’s got Batmobiles, Batwings, his utility belt, etc! He invariable has just the gadget to solve any problem. That’s all well and good, except…

Various heroes have alien technology that trumps Batman’s. Superman’s fortress of solitude, Green Lantern’s ring, etc. So many people in the DC universe are aliens with advanced technology that Batman being able to just buy stuff isn’t that impressive.

Also, in general advanced technology isn’t that impressive because others can catch up. There are secret labs, like Cadmus that are working on similar technology. The military and other forces can get it too. And in the DC universe being able to just make advanced, powerful technology doesn’t seem that hard. Remember Steel? He just whipped up his super-suit in a basement in one day.

_steel

The same amount of time they spent writing the script for Shaq’s movie version.

Batman has Money!

Batman Money Clip

This kind of ties into the technology part, but I think needs some elaboration. Batman is a billionaire. However, the reason he’s a billionaire is because of his company Wayne Enterprises, which sells defense technology. In the Christopher Nolan movies, we basically see that Batman gets his gadgets via the research and development from his company. This poses quite a few problems.

Essentially, Bruce Wayne is embezzling from his company. Any half-decent audit would eventually notice that a lot of resources just going to Wayne’s side projects. Also, shouldn’t various groups, like the military, notice that various technologies they’ve been demoed are being used by Batman? Also, shouldn’t the same groups have technology as good or better than Batman’s? If Batman’s in-world wealth is to be believed, the following things have to be true:

  • Wayne Enterprises is a successful, multi-billion dollar firm that Wayne controls a majority of.
  • Bruce Wayne can take technology and resources from Wayne Enterprises with no one noticing.
  • Wayne Enterprises develops great technology, but they don’t sell it. They sell inferior technology and keep the best for Batman. Somehow, no one at Wayne Enterprises notices.

In essence, Batman’s wealth in the DC universe makes about as much sense as him winning a real fight with any major power.

Batman knows Everyones’ Weakness

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Despite this post, awesome movie, check it out!

Many heroes have weaknesses. Superman has kryptonite; the Green Lantern has the color yellow; Martian Manhunter has fire; Wonder Woman has misogyny. And, of course, Batman knows them all. If push came to shove, he’d exploit them to win, which is the premise the series/movie Doom.

Here’s the problem, every single weakness of every hero applies to Batman. Kryptonite is a rare and radioactive mineral to Superman. Well, there are tons of radioactive substances to humans, and Superman can safely handle all of them. Yellow things are ineffective to Green Lantern’s ring? That’s objects of every color to Batman! Batman is hurt by fire, and can be tied up. Batman doesn’t have an edge on any hero/villain because of their weaknesses. At best he starts on the same page before being knocked back a hundred feet due to no super powers.

But, the Authors Love Batman!

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Perhaps the start of the most bizarre fanfic ever.

Batman is the Wesley Crusher of the DC Universe. I said it! Batman’s major edge is that the authors like him. Here’s TV Tropes take on “The Creator’s Pet”

Sometimes, however, the creator(s) have become so attached to this character for whatever reason, whether because they see something of themselves in the character or the character reminds them of someone they were close to or the character represents something they admire, that they decide to increasingly focus on him, magnifying the importance of his role…

I can’t actually argue here. This is Batman’s gift. To be fair, Batman comics have understood the importance of the audience being able to empathize or even place themselves in the story. The whole reason Robin worked is that it allowed children to pretend they could adventure alongside Batman. As Kevin Smith regularly says, he knows he can’t ever be Superman, but with enough money and training, any of us could be Batman. It makes at least as much sense as the plot to Chasing Amy. There’s a reason that this “normal” guy being able to triumph over gods in the DC universe resonates with so many. But seriously, Batman would beat few if any in the DC Universe. I mean, come on, his biggest nemesis is literally a clown!

joker-is-crazy

To be fair, clowns are scary.

-Dre

*Pun intended.

Why it’s difficult to tell Steve Nash was much better than Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash

In the 1996 draft, two future MVP players entered the league. Kobe Bryant was a promising high school recruit drafted in the lottery. He only went as low as 13th because he made it clear he only wanted to play for Los Angeles. Steve Nash was a fringe player selected by the Suns. Both players would go on to define their franchises, but in different ways. Kobe would be the staple of the Lakers. Through good times and bad, Kobe was there scoring points. Nash would bounce around until becoming an MVP player on the Suns.

To start their careers, Nash didn’t look like he’d become much while Kobe definitely showed promise. By the time their careers were fleshed out though, Steve Nash was one of the greatest players to grace the game. Kobe Bryant was, well, an all-time player but not an elite player at the level of Nash.

Now, when I say this, people fight back quickly. They forget that Kobe’s rings came with giant Shaq and Pau Gasol sized strings attached. They ignore that most of Kobe’s shooting is average and his clutch ability, despite its massive reputation, is virtually non-existent. They don’t realize that Steve Nash is one of the most efficient players to ever shoot the ball and that Kobe is often the textbook definition of a chucker. But, the reality is it’s easy to see why it’s so hard to tell that Nash is much better than Kobe. The difference is in the details, and, as they say, the devil’s in the details.

Compared to Average

Something baseball has understood for a while is the importance of comparing a player to their respective position. The Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metric does just this. First basemen are compared to first basemen, shortstops to shortstops, etc. In basketball, this is equally important. The Wins Produced formula does this. Many of the older conventional metrics (PER, Win Shares) don’t.

Let’s add a little more perspective. Basketball is a game of possessions. A possession starts when a team gets the ball. This happens either by a steal, rebound, or inbounding the ball after the other team makes a basket. A possession ends when a team takes a shot, turns the ball over, or a foul happens. The average game has around two hundred possessions (these are evenly split amongst the teams, so roughly a hundred possessions per game per team). Even without timeouts and commercial breaks, the average NBA game is close to an hour in length. That means; an astute fan has to keep track of lots of possessions over a long period and somehow be able to make a judgment on that.

With that in mind, let’s unravel Kobe and Nash.

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant vs. Average

Let’s examine Kobe Bryant’s game to an average shooting guard. Above is how Kobe’s per-game numbers in the major stats compare with an average shooting guard. As an example, during Kobe’s career an average shooting guard took 3.6 three-point attempts (P3A) per 48 minutes. Kobe Bryant, however, took 5.2 three-pointers per 48 minutes. Kobe Bryant played roughly 36.6 minutes a game. So if we take the difference between what an average player would have done in 36.6 minutes and what Kobe did, we get the difference: Kobe took 1.2 more three-point attempts per game. One last note, in regards to Personal Fouls and Turnovers I have swapped the value. As in, if a player gets more turnovers than average, I show it negative, not positive on the scale.

Kobe’s shooting stats are the most obvious ones, and even those are a small part of the game. Kobe took almost five more shots a game than an average shooting guard. That’s only 5% of the Lakers offense and less than three percent of the total game! His free throws, which are where he truly excelled, boil down to two trips to the line a game. This is not to denigrate Kobe. It’s more to point out, even the most significant difference in his game amount to a few possessions.

In fact, areas Kobe did excel are not scoring. He’s actually been pretty good at passing. He’s an excellent rebounder. He doesn’t foul. Yet, even looking at these, it’s hard to notice. Kobe dished the ball out 1.1 more times a game than the standard guard. He got 1.2 more rebounds. This is part of why Kobe was a good player. Yet, can you tell me you noticed in a given game that extra rebound Kobe got in the second quarter on a routine play is why he’s a good player? In fact, barring Kobe’s shooting stats, the difference in most of Kobe’s game can be counted on one finger. One or fewer possessions a game decided that Kobe played well or didn’t. I’m willing to bet most fans didn’t notice.

Steve Nash

Steve Nash vs. Average Numbers

Nash is more subtle than Kobe. Most of his stats were within two of an average guard. Nash played fewer minutes per game; so this does impact that. Nash’s major contribution came in two areas. His assists were absurd. Additionally, his three point shooting was great, both in attempts and makes.

In regards to offense, Nash essentially took the same number of shots and free throws as compared to an average point guard. Except, Nash took a higher rate of three-pointers and passed a ton. Kobe, by contrast, took more twos. The rest of Nash’s stats follwed the same trend. He was better in some areas – defensive rebounds and personal fouls. He was worse in others – he didn’t get a ton of steals and turns the ball over. But, none of these even hit one a game. It takes analyzing many games of stats to see the difference. And, it’s worth noting, Nash slowly improved most of his stats over his career. It’s tough to notice, but it’s mattered a ton.

Kobe vs. Nash

Kobe vs. Nash

Let’s get to the showdown. If we compare Nash to Kobe, how does he stack up. If we take the level Nash exceeds (or misses) the average point guard and then subtract the level Kobe exceeds or misses the average shooting guard, how does it look?

Only one area cracks four a game, and that’s two-point shot attempts. We’ll get back there shortly. Nash “crushes” Kobe in two spots. First, he made 0.4 more three-pointers a game relative to his position. This is particularly impressive as he only took 0.1 more three-pointer attempts than he’d be expected to versus Kobe. He also got 1.4 more assists per game than Kobe. Remember, this is giving Kobe the benefit of being a shooting guard and not even being expected to pass as much. Nash also beats Kobe in regards to turnovers. Barring personal fouls, Kobe is better than Nash at the rest of the game. Of course, the difference doesn’t match the value of Nash’s assists and threes. Let’s examine Nash’s three-point shooting a bit more.

Kobe Bryant vs. Nash Net Points

The biggest difference between Nash and Kobe is shot attempts. Kobe’s shot level far exceeds Nash. But does this matter? A test I use is net points. If we compare the points from a shot and factor in the shot attempts, we can see how many points a shot nets. We can then compare how well our player shoots vs. an average player. This lets us know how much their shooting is helping or hurting their team.

The good news is both Kobe and Nash helped their team by shooting. The issue is how. Kobe’s two pointers and three pointers were actually negative relative to an average shooting guard. He simply did not shoot that efficiently. However, he is amazing in regards to free throws. He both gets to the line more than average and shoots better once there.

Nash though, is a killer. A majority of Nash’s damage came from three. That said, he was still efficient from two. Finally, while he didn’t get to the line often, his efficiency there still keeps him better than the average point guard. In the end, Nash has been around 35% better at scoring — in regards to helping his team — as compared to Kobe. As a reminder, this is factoring in their different positions and difference in minutes per game.

Conclusion

It’s easy to notice large changes. When a player goes from scoring ten points to scoring twenty points, we notice. But it’s really hard to notice little changes. Yet, these little changes are what can turn a good player into an all-time great. A small tweak in turnovers or shooting efficiency is virtually undetectable in a single game. But over an 82 game season or a twenty-year career it can amount to a huge difference. And Steve Nash is the epitome of this. When we compare him to Kobe, a lot of their stats are close. Nash’s assists, turnovers, and three-pointer attempts put him over against Kobe. But on a per game level, this is almost impossible to notice. Their shooting efficiency gets even worse. Nash’s two-point shooting has been around three percent better than Kobe’s. Even his amazing three-point shooting only amounts to around half a three point shot a game! But this efficiency is what separates the good from the great.

Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash were drafted with different expectations. The were given different roles. And over the past twenty years they’ve provided an amazing natural experiment. They’ve shown how hard it is to notice small differences between great players. Over his career, the small differences in Nash’s game have made him a much better player than Kobe. But without looking closely, most people would never guess this. And, as we repeatedly see, most people won’t look this closely. But for those of us that do dig deep into the stats, it’s easy to say Nash is one of the most amazing players ever to play.

How Many Keys Can You End Zelda 2 With?

The Question

How many keys can you end Zelda 2: The Adventures of Link with?

Answer: 24 (or 0)! We’ll get there.

Background

In Zelda 2 you require keys in the Palaces to unlock doors. You acquire keys in said Palaces. If you play the game “on rails” you’ll use almost all of the keys (I’ll elaborate in a bit.)

There are two loopholes though.

  • In Mido town, you can learn the Fairy spell. With this spell you can turn into a fairy and sneak through keyholes.
  • In new Kasuto, you can get the Magical Key. This lets you unlock any door in any Palace. Once you get this, you just keep any key you acquire and have acquired.

The one thing about the Fairy spell is that if you do have a key, it will still use it on the door. Also, you can’t pick up any items while in Fairy mode.

Strategy

Our strategy is to get the Magical Key using as few keys as possible. To advance in Zelda 2, you need to acquire special items that help get rid of natural blockages in the games. Most of these are in Palaces and require keys to get. So we’ll get them in the order that will use the fewest keys and lets us advance through the game.

  1. Handy Glove: This let’s you break bricks inside of Palaces. You need it to acquire the raft in the third Palace.
  2. The Hammer: This breaks boulders on the world map. You need to get this to acquire the Fairy spell.
  3. The Raft: You need this to get the second continent.
  4. The Boots: These let you walk on water on the world map. You need these to get to the Palace on the Seas.
  5. The Flute: This gets rid of a spider of the world map and makes the Tri-Rock  Palace appear.
  6. The Magical Key: Our end goal, we can get it as soon as we have the Flute.

Now, we just have to spend the fewest keys in each Palace. We’ll map it out below!

Maps

All maps acquired from NintendoMaps, click on each for larger version.

World Map

In case you wanted the route through the world we’ll take. Obviously some back-pedaling is required. Still, this is the minimum route to get the Magical Key.

Parapa Palace – Keys Acquired (4)

Good news, the special item in this Palace is the Candle, which is needed to see in caves. This is not strictly required. We can just skip this Palace completely and come back with the Magical Key and get all four keys in the Palace.

Midoro Palace – Keys Acquired (2)

The most obnoxious of the Palaces. To get the Handy Glove requires three keys! As mentioned, you can’t use the Fairy hack to get through a door if you have a key. You also can’t pick up the Handy Glove while in Fairy format. That means you have to grab all the keys required to get to the Handy Glove, which is three. You can leave two keys in the Palace to come back for later.

Maze Palace – Keys Acquired (4)

The Island Palace has the Raft, which we need to get to the second continent. Good news, there are only two doors between us and the Raft. We can use the Fairy trick to get through the first door, and there’s a key waiting before the second door. We need to use the key on the second door, because it’s in the same room as the Raft, so we can’t be in Fairy form. That means when we come back; there will be four keys waiting for us! Score!

Island Palace – Keys Acquired (6)

We need to hit the Maze Palace for the Boots. There’s only one door between us and it. It’s in the same room as the Boots unfortunately. Still, this Palace has seven keys in total. So we spend one key to grab the Boots, and there will be six waiting for us when we return!

Palace on the Seas – Keys Acquired (4)

We just need to grab the Flute before we’re done with our quest for the Magical Key. There are three doors in our way. We can use the Fairy trick on one. Be sure not to pick up the first key though, because even in Fairy form, Link will use a key on a door if he can. We have no choice but to use two keys on the remaining doors. The first is because there are no keys before the last door. The second is the classic problem that the Flute is in the same room as a door. We leave four keys waiting for our return though.

Three-Eye Rock Palace – Keys Acquired (3)

This Palace requires you have the Magical Key to traverse. However, there are actually three keys you can pick up. I’m not sure if the level was redesigned, or if it is just legacy code — bosses tend to drop a key, there are three bosses in this Palace. You acquire the keys just by solving the Palace.

The Great Palace – Keys Acquired (1)

The Thunderbird, the second to last boss in the game, drops a key. It’s the last key in the game. Good game!

Bitter Irony

There is only one character for the number of keys. After you hit nine keys it starts using letters. A = 10, B = 11, etc. Guess what happens when you hit 24? The letter O! Now, it does look different than the 0s. Here’s what 0 keys looks like below.

Still here’s an image of Link with “N” keys right before grabbing the last one.

Even ending with “O” keys is impressive. As I mentioned the Three-Eye Rock Palace and Great Palace both have bosses that drop keys. If you pick up every key you see, you would normally finish the game with 4 keys. Anyway, 24 superfluous keys! They’re not worth anything but bragging rights. So I’m cashing em in.