In the spring of 1995 the band Tesla rolled into Oklahoma City. Most bands lumped together under the “hair metal” umbrella fought to separate themselves from that label, and Tesla was no exception. Even though the band was named after the Nikola Tesla, that did little to set them apart from the pack. Tesla had a few hits in the 80s and 90s and are best remembered for “Love Song” and their cover version of “Signs.”
Tesla was in town to play a show at the Diamond Ballroom. The Diamond is where bands who can’t sell sell out the larger local venues play. Tesla was in town supporting their fourth album, Bust a Nut, an album with no radio singles. Still, there were plenty of people familiar with their earlier work who were willing to come out and see the band perform live.
To drum up interest for the show, Tesla held an autograph signing at the Best Buy where I was working at the time. Prior to that we had held a few other music-related events, like midnight CD release parties for The Eagles and Van Halen, but this was the first time I can remember actually having a band live in the store.
Toward the rear of the store we set up tables for the members of Tesla to sit at. Customers were encouraged to buy a Tesla CD for the band to autograph, but I’m pretty sure they would sign anything anyone brought. From the outside the life of a rock star seems pretty glamorous, but when you’re working an event like this it seems like anything but. The tables were in the back of the store because the band was hiding in the brown goods warehouse — a big concrete room full of broken electronics waiting to be put on pallets and sent back — until it was time for Tesla to “arrive.”
While I knew people would line up for autographs, I had no idea how many people would show up and how many gifts they would bring. Before long the table began filling up with flowers and stuffed animals. It seemed like every girl who came through the line had something to give the band. For their part the band was very polite and accepted every one. My task quickly became carrying all of these gifts back into the warehouse and keeping the table clean and clear.
I don’t remember how long the band was there — maybe an hour, I’m guessing — but soon it was time for them to leave. The band stood up, waved goodbye to their remaining fans, and made their escape back into the warehouse.
I assumed my next task would be loading all of those teddy bears, stuffed animals and flowers into the band’s van, but that wasn’t the case. “Take that stuff home to your girlfriends,” the band told us. “We can’t take all that on tour with us!” After shaking hands with the band and watching them drive away, those of us remaining in the warehouse divvied up the loot into piles. That night all of our girlfriends got gifts of flowers and teddy bears and pillows that had been intended for Tesla.
While everybody has good days and bad days, I remember the members of Tesla being extremely friendly and professional during their brief visit to Best Buy. Meeting them was one of the more exciting things that happened while I worked there.
I don’t remember what I ate last night before bed, but whatever it was, I need to eat more of it. Last night I had a bizarre dream.
Last night I dreamed that Eddie Van Halen was having a meet and greet in the back of a restaurant in Florida. MTV had held a contest where people had to submit their dream vacation and in my entry I said I wanted to go on a cruise with Eddie Van Halen to Fiji and that I would write and blog about our adventures. MTV was announcing the winner at the meet and greet and you had to be present to win, so Susan, the kids and I had driven to Florida.
When we got to Florida, outside the restaurant was a place named Alice’s Whorehouse. Susan and I thought it would be funny to take the kids in there and pretend like we thought it was an Alice in Wonderland-themed restaurant. We took the kids inside and played dumb while a naked manager came out and nervously tried to explain to us that this was not an Alice in Wonderland-themed restaurant, but instead a whorehouse. For some reason we found this hilarious.
Then we went next door to the meet and greet. Eddie Van Halen was at a table in the back of the restaurant with two small kids. No one else was around so I sat down and we just started chatting. I told him I had entered the contest and he asked me about writing and playing the guitar.
While we were chatting, Valerie Bertinelli (Eddie Van Halen’s ex-wife in real life) arrived with bags of groceries. Eddie introduced me to her and she said, “Oh, I have something for you!” She handed me a piece of paper that looked like a map and said it was a puzzle. When I looked at it, the paper said to “connect the x’s” and there were two x’s, one on Florida and the other on Fiji. I got pretty excited and figured they were telling me I had won the contest. Then Valerie told me that they loved the idea so much that she and Eddie Van Halen were going on the cruise alone without me. Bummer.
I got up to leave the table and was greeted by a robot guy? He was wearing a trenchcoat and a hat and had a shiny, smooth piece of metal for a face with no features. He told me he was a truther-bot and that he wanted to show me something. We went to the corner of the room and he showed me that the walls and floor didn’t fit together exactly right. Where they didn’t line up you could see white light shining through. He told me it was because this was a dream and that in dreams the buildings are never put together exactly right.
Right after that, I woke up. The first thing I did was check the corner of my bedroom to make sure no light was leaking in from outside. Whew.
A couple of homes were recently broken into in our neighborhood. We were informed at our last Home Owner’s Association meeting that the MO for all the robberies has been the same. The thieves knocked on people’s doors and rang their doorbells to see if anyone was home. When nobody answered, they went around behind the house and kicked the back door in.
Yesterday, at 8:15 a.m., someone rang our doorbell, knocked on our front door, and then walked around behind our house.
The reason I know this is because Susan and I were both home yesterday. I was upstairs working from home, and Susan had a 9 a.m. doctor’s appointment that she was getting ready for. I just assumed a FedEx or UPS guy had rung the doorbell. I didn’t realize Susan had just got out of the shower until I heard her yell, “Somebody just rang our doorbell and now they’re in the backyard!!!”
This is one of two reasons I own a gun. I don’t carry my gun with me to the mall or while I’m out shopping, but if someone were to break into my home while I was there, it would be a bad day for everybody. (The other reason I own one is for road trips.)
By the time I made it downstairs and to the backdoor, the person was gone. I told Susan to pre-dial 911 as I headed toward the front door. When I opened the door I saw… a pest control guy out by the street, packing his tools into his truck.
I stood on my front porch for a full five minutes in my best Ice Cube “Do we have a problem here?” pose until he left.
The pest control guy drove off in one direction, did a u-turn, drove back the other direction, and did another u-turn before stopping in front of the next door neighbor’s house. I’m guessing he checked the address on his paperwork a bit more closely the second time. Susan was already on the phone with our neighbors, confirming that the had indeed called asked a pest control guy to visit their house. They had.
The guy was still out by his truck when Susan left for her doctor’s appointment. As she drove by she rolled down her window, explained the situation, and cautioned the guy (who was obviously startled) that it might be best to make sure he had the right address before he opened people’s gates and began messing around in their backyards at 8:15 a.m. on a work day. He agreed.
When I got my concealed/open carry license a few years ago, our instructor warned us that you may never know if you are capable of shooting someone that means you harm until the time comes. As I stood there on my front porch with my hand wrapped around the grip of that gun, I knew the answer.
Tucked away in the heart of Austin, Texas is the Museum of the Weird. Susan found this museum while searching for things to do in Austin and I’m so glad she did. While it’s a little rough around the edges, it is definitely worth stopping by if you like weird things.
The Museum of the Weird is divided into three parts. The first part is a self-guided tour through a collection of oddities. The second portion of the tour is a sideshow performance. The final portion, if you pay extra for it (more on that later), is a viewing of the original Minnesota Iceman.
The first section of the museum, the self-guided tour, has lots of real and not-so-real items on display. By real, I mean things like a stuffed two-faced calf…
(The fur-bearing trout was of particular interest to me as that is one of the cryptids featured prominently in Robb Shewwin’s game Cryptozookeeper!)
This portion of the museum is very small. If you were to read every placard on every item it might take you ten minutes. If you are into weird things then you will love this stuff. There’s a “real” (?) skeleton, some wax dummies, and a few movie props to look at while you’re here.
At this point we experienced a bit of a traffic jam. Apparently we showed up right as the sideshow performers were changing shifts, which left us stuck in the first part of the museum for roughly 20 minutes. In that amount of time you can see everything in the museum roughly five times. Unfortunately because the space is so small, as other people began entering the museum we were literally trapped and had to stand shoulder-to-shoulder until we were eventually met by our tour guide and escorted to the next portion of the tour.
After leaving the museum we were led past a big monitor lizard (so lethargic that we were never quite sure if it was alive or not), past a small apartment where Johnny Depp stayed while filming What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and into the sideshow performance room. While waiting for the performance to begin, we were encouraged to take pictures with the props placed around the room.
Next, our tour guide took the stage and began talking about sideshow performances. He mentioned the “blockhead” trick which instantly perked my ears as I know exactly what that is. Based on the first part of the tour I was not sure whether to expect a real performance or a trick, but sure enough, within a few minutes the performer (Eric) had pulled out a hammer and a six inch penny nail and proceeded to hammer it up his nostril directly into his sinus cavity!
Once he was done with that he asked for a volunteer from the audience to help him remove it. I’ll give you three guesses as to who ended up on stage…
After giving her some specific instructions (mainly, “don’t wiggle the nail”), Morgan pulled the nail straight out of Eric’s face.
“You might think that’s brains on that nail, but it’s not (snot),” he said. The kids loved that joke.
Over a span of ten minutes Eric hammered a nail up his nose, stuck his hand into a fox trap, attempted to lift a concrete block with his beard (the rubber bands snapped), and finished the show by allowing an audience member to staple a tip to his chest using a staple gun. Did we get our money’s worth or what?
After Eric’s performance ended we were led back down the stairs and into a another room which held THE MINNESOTA ICEMAN. (Cue music.)
I remember reading about the Minnesota Iceman when I was a kid. According to the legend, a hunter accidentally shot and killed what appeared to be… well, an iceman. And it ended up in Minnesota. (Keep up with me here.) The Minnesota Iceman was encased in ice and displayed at carnivals and sideshows across the country for many decades. At one point the FBI examined it due to concerns that a real human being might be encased in the ice but they determined it to not be real. If you’re into cryptids and Bigfoot and tales about such things, the Minnesota Iceman was semi-legendary.
In 2013, the Iceman was sold on eBay. It was purchased by the Museum of the Weird. It was featured on an episode of Shipping Wars, where the Iceman was shipped from Minnesota to Austin, Texas.
The Museum of the Weird does not allow photos to be taken of the Iceman, although a quick Google search turns up thousands to choose from. Compared to older pictures of the Iceman, the ice he is encased in now is much cloudier, making the iceman’s features much more difficult to see. There are pictures online of the Iceman when he was thawed out a few years ago, if you really want to see the details.
To this day people argue whether or not the Minnesota Iceman is “real” or not. To me, that’s not the point. This is the actual box that was toted around the country for decades that people paid money to see. I read about it in books when I was a kid. Seeing the actual signs that were displayed along with the Iceman was super exciting for me.
This is a picture of the Minnesota Iceman that I found on the internet. The ice was nowhere near this clear when we saw it.
Our trip to the museum got off to a rocky start in regards to the admission price. While the website says admission is $8 for adults and $5 for kids, we didn’t read the fine print. It was actually $12 for adults and $9 for kids if you wanted to see the Iceman. We also learned that our kids, ages 9 and 12, are actually adults (the kid prices only apply to children under 8). So, we showed up expecting to spend $26 on and ended up spending $48. To be honest, we were going to let the kids buy souvenirs and we ended up not letting them to balance out the price.
I’ve already had one person ask me if I thought the Museum of the Weird was kid appropriate. My answer would be, “it depends on your kids.” My kids love scary stuff and were fine with all the horror movie props, the sideshow performance, and and the Minnesota Iceman. Know that our sideshow performer let someone from the audience staple a $20 bill to his chest with a staple gun, and it bled. It’s not a place for everybody; I suspect you’ll know if it’s a place for you and yours to visit.
If you’re the type of kid who used to watch (or read) Ripley’s Believe it or Not, stay up late reading horror comic books under the covers with a flashlight, or paid a dollar at the fair to see the “Man Eating Chicken,” then run (don’t walk) to the Museum of the Weird in Austin, Texas. If the thought of seeing a cyclops pig in a jar of formaldehyde or watching a guy stick his hand into a fox trap, this might not be the vacation destination for you.
Earlier this week on Facebook I posted a link to Disney’s “Lonesome Ghosts” cartoon. So many of you responded and asked for a top 5 list that I decided to put one together.
(Just kidding. Nobody asked for a top 5 list. But I put one together anyway.)
In no particular order…
Lonesome Ghosts (1937)
In this Disney short, Mickey, Donald and Goofy are called out to investigate a haunting. Little do they know, the people who placed the call are the ghosts themselves! In the end, Mickey and his pals end up covered in flour and giving the ghosts a scare of their own.
FIsher-Price released a small handheld Movie Viewer and included a copy of Lonesome Ghosts with it. That seems to be where a lot of people were first exposed to this cartoon.
Mickey and the Seal (1948)
In this cartoon Mickey gets followed home by a seal, who plays tricks on him while Pluto gets the blame. I think every kid can relate to getting blamed for something he or she didn’t do, which might be why this cartoon appealed to me as a kid. Youtube has two versions of this cartoon available: a cut down 2 minute version, or this full-length version which is in Spanish. There’s so little dialogue in this short (neither the seal nor Pluto can talk) so I posted the Spanish version.
Mickey’s Trailer (1938)
In this short, Mickey, Donald and Goofy go on vacation. This short is full of great gags, from the opening moment where the background folds up to where Goofy electrocutes himself and turns his corn on the cob into popcorn. I also always loved the transforming rooms in this short. The short ends with a runaway trailer careening out of control down a dangerous mountain road. As a kid this short made me want to go on vacation with my two best friends.
Goofy and Wilbur (1939)
In this short, Goofy and his pal Wilbur go fishing together, but it’s not what you think! Wilbur is the (willing) bait that helps reel the fish in! The part where Wilbur dies and turns into an angel at the end made me cry as a kid.
Goofy in Aquamarine (1961)
In this short, Goofy takes Junior out to teach him how to water ski and ends up with an octopus on his head. Anyone who has ever tried putting skis on while floating in the water will laugh at this one.
In The Bag (1956)
In this short, Ranger Woodlore gets Humphrey the Bear and his friends to pick up litter by giving them sticks and trash bags and teaching them a catchy song. Eventually Humphrey gets stuck with picking up all the trash, which he unwisely attempts to hide inside an active geyser. I used to sing this song whenever I had to clean my room as a kid. I never got a stick with a nail in the end of it though.
One of the things Susan wanted to see in Austin was the Congress Avenue Bridge Bats.
Congress Avenue is a street in Austin. There’s a bridge on that street (the Congress Avenue Bridge). Under said bridge are hundreds of thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats — somewhere between 750,000 and 1.5 million bats, depending on the season (the bats migrate and are in Austin from spring until fall). At dusk, all of the bats fly out from underneath the bridge to go eat. If you are standing near the bridge near dusk, you will see a lot of bats.
From what we read and could tell there are three optimal places to view the bats. You can stand on top of the bridge on the sidewalk and watch the bats fly out from underneath the bridge. You can sit on the grassy area next to the water below and watch the bats fly over you. You can also get on a small boat and watch the bats up above from the water. Any time you are under bats I assume you are in a “bat pooping zone” so we opted to watch the bats from above.
It is recommended that you arrive an hour before dusk in order to get a good spot on the bridge. We attempted to arrive an hour early but the traffic and parking set us back 30 minutes. We were able to stand in the second row on the sidewalk. I am bad at estimating crowd sizes but I would say there were somewhere between 500 and 1,000 people waiting around to see the bats.
For 30 minutes, we waited for the bats to wake up. Mason shouted “bat!” a few times and pointed at planes flying overhead. Eventually, one bat did fly out. Then a second bat flew out. Then a third. Then, this happened.
What looked like smoke billowing out from underneath the bridge turned out to be hundreds of thousands of bats. While a few bats swarmed the nearby trees and dined on mosquitoes, most of them flew together in formation, making a huge, thick line of bats circling the skyline.
Here is a picture I stole from the internet showing the bats from below.
While they say it can take up to 45 minutes for all the bats to exit the bridge, we stood and watched them for about 15 minutes before heading back to the car. I can’t think of anything else to say about watching bats fly out from under a bridge.
I’m on a quest to visit as many retro arcades as I can. We’re lucky to still have Cactus Jacks here in Oklahoma City. Four hours east of me is the Arkadia Retrocade and five hours north of here is the 1984 Arcade. I’ve been to lots of others as well, and the latest notch in my belt is Pinballz Arcade in Austin, Texas.
Unlike most of the retro arcades I’ve visited recently, Pinballz does not charge a cover and the games are set to take tokens. All the arcade games I played were 50 cents. The majority of the pinball machines I played were 75 cents with a few minor exceptions.
Despite its name, Pinballz has a decent selection of arcade games. There are a lot of games to choose from both old and new, from Gauntlet, Q*Bert and Burgertime to newer games like Mario Kart and Batman Arcade Racing. Like all arcades a few of the older games were out of order, but that’s to be expected with machines of this age. In the picture above my daughter is playing Battlezone (which came out 26 years before she was born), after which I killed her at a game of Marble Madness. Good times, good memories.
Also before someone points it out, Pinballz did have two or three multicade (60-in-1) machines, purists be damned. I would be curious to find out what kind of money they bring in as everyone I saw walked past them to play the original machines.
The layout of Pinballz greatly reminded me of the old Bally Le Mans in Crossroads Mall by having multiple levels. There was always something cool about going up and down mini sets of stairs to move into different areas of an arcade. To the right of the front door was the redemption area — an area my kids love and that I typically avoid. Susan found skee-ball machines down there and played a few rounds.
While playing one of the games, Mason somehow won thousands of tickets. Mason says the machine malfunctioned; based on the fact that he recently disassembled his toy remote controlled boat and re-purposed one of the motors for his latest invention (self-tying shoes) I’m not sure I 100% believe his story, but whatever. With his new-found wad of tickets he managed to purchase a whoopee cushion, a set of false teeth, a wind-up set of chompers, some candy, and a switchblade comb (which I know he loves because he opened and closed it 900 times that day).
And finally (no surprise here), Pinballz has pinball! Lots and lots of pinball — 100+ pinball machines to be exact, including the top 25 rated pinball machines! Those of you who know me know that I’m more of an arcade guy than a pinball aficionado, but here’s what I know. Off the top of my head, here are my favorite pinball machines (in alphabetical order): Addams Family, Avatar, Baby Pac-Man, Back to the Future, Cyclone, Earth Shaker, Fun House, Guns N’ Roses, Indiana Jones, KISS, Metallica, Pin-Bot, South Park, Star Wars, TRON, Whirlwind and the Wizard of Oz. And, guess what? Pinballz had every single one of them! They also have Banzai Run (with the vertical pinball action) and Hercules (the table that uses billiard balls for a pinball), two fairly rare machines. Despite the fact that I saw a few arcade machines here and there that were out of order waiting for repairs, I don’t remember seeing any pinball tables there offline or in need of maintenance. All the pinball machines I played were in perfect condition, both mechanically and physically.
Pinballz has a snack bar with a public seating area and another one that was reserved for a party. Susan bought a couple of bottles of water that were reasonably priced. They also had drink holders attached to microphone stands scattered around the arcade that kept people from setting their drinks on top of machines or on the ground where I’m guessing they get kicked over a lot — great idea!
We had a blast at Pinballz and are already planning our next trip south so that we can visit again!
Here is a link to all the pictures Susan and I took while visiting Pinballz.
Instead of sitting around the house this Labor Day weekend (my plan), Susan said, “let’s go to Austin, Texas.” Austin is roughly 400 miles/6 hours S/SE of Oklahoma City. We’ve been through Austin twice (both times while driving to Galveston) but had never stopped.
Went swimming in Barton Springs, a creek naturally fed from underground springs that is 68 degrees year round (yes it was cold).
Over the next few days I’ll be writing more about Barton Springs, Congress Bridge Bats, Pinballz, and the Museum of the Weird. We had a great time on our first (and quick) trip to Austin and we are already excited about going back again. There aren’t a lot of towns on our list of “other places we could live,” but based on this trip I think Austin might have made the list!
Last Friday (on my birthday) while performing some routine maintenance on my home server, I rebooted it and it never came back. It just left and never came back… like Judge Crater. The machine turns on (so it has power) and I switched enough RAM around to decide it wasn’t that, so either the processor or (more likely) the motherboard gave up the ghost.
This leads us to three things I’ve said before. One, my blog is a great source of historical information for me. A quick search reveals I bought the old server in June of 2009. Six years isn’t a great lifespan for a motherboard (he says, glancing at his still-working Commodore 64), but they’re not that expensive to replace. Two, I try to never get upset whenever something electronic dies. Instead, I see it as an opportunity to upgrade. And three, there are very few technology related problems that can’t be solved with a credit card.
My home server hosts lots of movies and music to be streamed, but more importantly it runs a few virtual servers (including the one that hosts robohara.com). I was able to pull the hard drives out and copy the virtual servers over to my workstation and run them from there for the past week, but it wasn’t the ideal situation. It kept my workstation pegged and pretty much unusable for the entire week, but at least I was able to keep the website up.
Back in 2009 when I built this (now dead) server I bought a new case that came with four fans — one in the front, one in the back, and two in the side. While this might have kept things cool, it did so loudly. While working from home and talking on the speaker phone I’ve had people ask if I were standing on a runway. So, I decided to buy a new case as well.
Unfortunately I don’t have a way to test whether it was the motherboard or the CPU that actually died, so I decided to upgrade both. I had hoped to purchase something locally but all my old “PC parts” haunts have apparently closed up shop, and Best Buy… is Best Buy. That led me back to NewEgg, where I purchased the following:
11-148-067 — CASE LOGISYS| CS136BK R — $34.99
13-128-699 — MB GIGABYTE|GA-F2A55M-S1 A55 FM2+ R — $44.69
19-113-280 — CPU AMD|TA10-5800K 3.8G 4M FM2 R — $109.99
20-231-745 — MEM 8G|G.SKILL F3-1600C11S-8GIS R — 2 @ $76.99 / $153.98
Happy birthday to me.
For you techies, that’s an AMD 3.8GHz quad-core processor, slapped into a Gigabyte motherboard with 16 gigs of RAM and a case that doesn’t have loud fans on the side. Also note that 4-7 day shipping for all of that stuff was $7.99, and there was no tax.
Everything arrived on Friday. I was watching the FedEx tracking so I knew when it would arrive. As far as building the actual machine went, it was one of the fastest builds I’ve ever done. Things are so compatible and well-labeled these days that I went from “stuff arriving at my house” to “server is booting” within half an hour tops.
That’s the old server on the bottom and the new server on top. And my MC Escher mousepad that I bought in 1994.
Remember those days when you couldn’t pull a hard drive out of one Windows machine and boot another machine off of it? Apparently those days are gone. Remember those days of tracking down a zillion drivers to get a new motherboard to work? I guess those days are gone, too. I pulled the hard drive out of the old server and placed it in the new one, installed the network drivers, and let Windows update itself. A couple of reboots later and everything was up and running.
Once the server was back up and running, moving all the physical drives and RAID containers over was simple. For some reason one of the RAID enclosures lost its shares in Windows, which took less than a minute to correct. The only lengthy process was transferring the virtual servers back over to the new server, which took a couple of hours.
And there you have it. The new server has double the RAM (went from 8GB to 16GB) and the virtual servers (including the one that runs this website) are flying faster than ever before.
As home computers began to invade our lives in the early 1980s, so too did they invade our movies. In 1982’s Tron, mainframe computers turned on their creator by pulling him into their digital world and attempting to “derez” him on the game grid. In 1983, the country was nearly thrust into World War III after high school hacker David Lightman began playing games with the country’s defense systems in the hit film WarGames. By the time we reached 1984, the danger got more personal as computers had begun to invade our homes.
Miles Harding, the protagonist in 1984’s Electric Dreams, is an average, ordinary, non-technical guy — a twenty-something architect who prefers pencils and paper to electronics. After getting in trouble for showing up late to work (again), Miles decides to join the digital revolution. Originally he sets out to purchase an electronic Casio Day Planner, but is up-sold by a spunky and overzealous sales associate to a full PC.
“I don’t know anything about computers,” Mies tells the associate.
“Nobody does, but don’t you want one for when you do?” she responds.
One hour (and presumably thousands of dollars) later Miles is the proud owner of a state of the art Pinecone brand computer. This new top-of-the-line PC does it all, and Miles spends the rest of the evening connecting it to his phone line, his security system, his home appliances, and pretty much everything else he owns. He stays up so late doing all of this that he oversleeps the following morning and wakes up late for work. Since this is the main thing Miles had wished to prevent from happening, the computer seems like a pretty bad investment at this point.
Depending on your point of view, things get either real interesting or real stupid real fast when Miles attempts to dial into the mainframe at work from his new computer to download some information. He guesses his boss’ password in less than five minutes, but that’s not the unbelievable part; his computer becomes so overloaded by downloading “too much information” that it begins to short circuit. In an attempt to cool the machine down Miles pours a bottle of champagne directly into the computer’s innards, an action that is surely (or at least should be) listed under “bad ideas” in the Pinecone user manual. This combination of actions (the information overload combined with the champagne) miraculously brings the computer (“Edgar”) to life. (Note that for no discernible reason, we don’t learn the computer’s name until the closing shot.)
As a voluntary viewer of this film right there you have to decide whether or not you are willing to buy into that concept — that the proper ratio of volts and Chardonnay could somehow bring consciousness to a home computer. If you can, Electric Dreams is an interesting movie about a three-way love interest between a guy (Miles), a girl (his neighbor Madeline) and a computer (Edgar). And if you can’t, you’re going to be repeatedly asking yourself “Why doesn’t Miles just unplug the damn thing?” for the next 75 minutes.
Early on it is established that, like Rodney Dangerfield, Miles “can’t get no respect.” His boss calls him Milton, and his own computer (thanks to a typo during setup) addresses him as Moles. The only person willing to give Miles the time of day is his new neighbor, Madeline. Madeline’s true love is her cello, but she takes interest in Miles after he performs an impromptu duet with her through the apartment’s air vents — the twist being that it was in fact Edgar performing the electronic chords she heard.
This leads to what I refer to as the first major “plotadox” — ridiculous things people do in movies to keep the plot moving forward that no one would ever do in real life. In real life, if asked about the electronic music coming from his apartment, Miles would have said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about — it must be my new computer. Want to see it?” Instead, Miles plays coy and pretends that he was the composer. A major part of the plot revolves around Madeline, a classically trained cellist, becoming attracted to Miles because of Edgar’s music. This is the equivalent of an art collector falling in love with me after learning I am really good at pasting my head onto bodybuilders with Photoshop.
As Edgar grows in strength and power, he also grows emotions. Sounding like a cross between Conky from Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and Number 5 from Short Circuit, Edgar asks Miles questions using “techno baby talk” like “What is the love?” and “How to kiss?” Edgar eventually quenches his need for “more input” by plugging in to Miles’ cable feed and watching a steady stream of commercials, classic films, and General Hospital. Miles attempts to explain to Edgar that love cannot exist between a woman and a computer, even though Edgar rightfully states that since she is in love with is Edgar’s songs and music, technically she already is.
The conflict between Miles and Edgar grows increasingly aggressive and ridiculous as the computer’s jealousy turns to rage. “I’m talking to a machine, what’s happening to me!” Miles screams (after talking with the machine for days). When things start to get out of hand Miles threatens to “have him checked tomorrow,” and when things REALLY get out of hand, Miles demands the computer “get up and fight.” In one scene, to get Miles’ attention Edgar cranks up the RPMs on his electric toothbrush. Two things a sentient Pinecone computer won’t put up with: stealing its girlfriend, and chronic halitosis.
In an evening montage, Miles shows us why he was single in the first place when he takes Madeline out on a date. First he takes her to a drive-in movie to see Casablanca, where he manages to pour his drink on her, spill his popcorn, and smack her in the face within 30 seconds. Boy, have I been doing it wrong! Later he takes her the most romantic place on earth: Alcatraz, the maximum security prison. Maybe Madeline would be better off dating the computer after all. During the date Miles tries to explain that his computer has been talking to him. When Madeline mentions she has heard of talking alarm clocks, Miles replies, “but that’s not like think talking.”
This movie could have used some more think talking.
Back at home and left behind, the lovelorn Edgar has grown desperate and miserable. He calls and interrupts Miles at work when he is bored, and at night dreams of electric sheep (so at least we finally got that question answered.) When Edgar’s pleads to meet, touch, and kiss Madeline fall on deaf ears, he goes on the offense by ruining Miles’ credit and having him declared as a dangerous felon. Miles of course makes this possible by leaving Edgar connected to all of his appliances, phone, and most importantly, an electrical socket. When Miles does decide to unplug the computer, Edgar reprimands Miles for touching him and begins to shock him. Miles, out of ideas, quits trying. My kids have found seven (and counting) ways to ruin iPhones and iPads; you would think Miles could come up with some way to power off the machine. If only he owned an oven mitt!
If you haven’t tossed all logic out the window by now you will soon when Miles must finally face Edgar. In the final showdown, Edgar prevents Miles from fleeing by heating up the apartment’s door knobs. Before Miles can ask “How is that even possible?”, Edgar shoots light bulbs at him and commands electronic toys to attack. It is amazing how resilient Edgar is for a PC from 1984. My Commodore 64 required one fan on the power supply and another one on the disk drive to keep it from overheating.
Despite Miles’ efforts, the following day Madeline and Edgar do finally come face to face. As any woman would, she sticks her hand inside the computer case and caresses its circuits to calm it down. When a tear from her cheek falls inside the machine, it finally learns what love is and realizes that it must let her go. Miles finally grows a pair and returns to his house with an axe to put an end to Edgar (!), but this proves to be unnecessary as Edgar has sent “40,000 volts” from around the world in an attempt to blow himself to pieces. In a final goodbye, Edgar reveals his name to Miles. Why it was a secret this whole time is anybody’s guess. Seconds after this endearing moment the voltage arrives as advertised and blows Edgar all to shit. This was meant to be a touching moment but all I could do is wonder whether or not this sort of thing is covered by renter’s insurance.
The biggest problem with Electric Dreams, technical absurdities and plot holes aside, is that it’s never clear as to what it wants to be. The movie is part romantic comedy, part fantasy/science fiction, part horror, and part musical, but it never fully commits to any of those genres. It certainly holds a place in 80s computer-themed movie history, and most definitely had an influence on both 1986’s Short Circuit and 2013’s Her. Electric Dreams touches on some interesting concepts like computers falling in love with people or whether machines can create art but it doesn’t spend enough time on them to do them justice. By blowing himself to smithereens, Edgar takes the easy way out of this film while the rest of us are left sitting and wondering, “Now what?”