Welcome to Pages of Fun!

This is the personal Web site of Robert Wm. Gomez. I am an artist, musician and nerd living in Chicago, Illinois who has been maintaining this site (in one form or another) since 1996. Enjoy your visit!

Johnny Cool (6/10)

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Johnny Cool is a black and white gangster movie from 1964 featuring a pre-Bewitched Elizabeth Montgomery and, in the title role, Henry Silva demonstrating that he is more cheekbone than man. Johnny just goes around killing various mob bosses which include members of the Rat Pack and the great Telly Savalis. In hindsight, there are a bunch of plot points that never pay off and Silva’s portrayal of Johnny as a cold, icy killer means he has one expression of cold, icy-ness throughout the entire picture. The Sammy Davis Jr. cameo is fun though.

No More Heroes on Nintendo Wii (6/10)

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No More Heroes is a spazzy fighting/action game for the Wii in the vein of say Madworld. It leans very heavily on humor and style rather than any sort of innovative game play. The player’s task is to run around a largely empty open-world city collecting money so that they can pay for your next ranked assassination battle.

As far as the fighting goes, it’s really basic: target-lock an enemy, then mostly hit the A button, sometimes hit the B button, and occasionally dodge with the crosshair button. When your opponent is ready to explode into a shower of blood, swing the Wiimote. It’s not horrible, and is definitely not as frustrating as a Devil May Cry or Bayonetta game, but it is far from the pinnacle of gaming variety.

Where No More Heroes shines is in its self-aware plot and dialogue. Travis Touchdown may be a super-cool assassin, but his reality is mostly that of an Otaku fanboy with anime posters, toys, and a pet cat. The game goes to great lengths to point out how much of loser he really is by having him constantly get embarrassing calls from the video rental store and making his home base a crappy motel room. This stuff is great. I only wish the fighting was a little more fun or the world more interesting to explore.

A Chinese Ghost Story (6/10)

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Admittedly, I didn’t really give this one my full attention while I watched. At one point when I came back after pausing it, it had skipped ahead to the climax and I didn’t even notice. Sufficed to say, the story is not that engaging. The reason to watch this is the bonkers ghost and monster effects. It felt a little like an early Peter Jackson film without the gore or the competent writing.

Captain Goodnight and the Islands of Fear on Apple ][ (8/10)

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Along with Karateka and Prince of Persia this may be one of the most solid story-oriented action games on the Apple ][. It’s a run and gun side-scroller in which most of one’s time is spent running to the right blasting robots with a pea-shooter of a gun. But, Captain Goodnight tries to give the player a variety of things to do in the form of piloting various vehicles on land, air and sea. You’ll start the game by hopping in a jet and flying over a landscape dotted with radar dishes and missile launchers. It’s almost a complete rip-off of another Apple ][ title, Star Blazer. There is no goal target to shoot or arcade-style point incentive. Just dodge bullets and oncoming aircraft for a long enough to move on to the next stage of the game. The only penalty for crashing is time ticking off the game clock. Run out of time, and the doomsday bomb goes off and you lose.

Eventually, you’ll land your plane and then move on to the robot shooting phase. To be honest, the game play here really isn’t that great. It’s rather primitive considering games from around the same time, like Contra or Rush’n Attack, would have a similar feel but be exponentially more fun to play.

Hey, this was the Apple ][! We were happy that we could see lines on the screen without them becoming a jagged purple and green mess. For what it’s worth, Captain Goodnight’s graphics are very impressive. Just look at the size of some of those vehicle sprites. Surprisingly, they move across the screen without bringing the machine to a grinding halt. Everything’s smoothly animated and filled with little details that help bring to life the simple story of stopping Dr. Maybe’s Doomsday Machine.

Oh, and about that doomsday machine: you’d better have a game manual handy. The game uses a lookup table for deciphering incoming doomsday machine codes (and thwart would be software pirates). That most likely stopped me from ever finishing the game as a teenager. But now in 2020, the Island of Fear is no match for me with the power of emulation and save states:

Captain Goodnight final scene! VICTORY!

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski (8/10)

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The first official book in The Witcher series is not as jam-packed with action as the short story volumes were. The plot mainly is focused on the education of Ciri as both a prospective witcher and/or magician. Quite a bit of time is spent getting to know the various characters and setting up hints of the larger machinations in the world without getting in to the nitty gritty yet. Despite being translated from Polish, I really am enjoying the style of the writing.

Ballot Box + Match = ???

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We are about a month away from what I am told is, “The most important election of my lifetime.” They apparently have forgotten about the season three semi-finals of Dancing with the Stars, but that’s to be expected.

Devil Man Himself!
Actual photo of U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

With the pandemic lockdowns and the anxiety-riddled drones being in a constant state of mortal fear, the big newness this year is mail-in ballots. For a brief moment this became a rallying cry to defend the indefensible U.S. Postal Service. Seriously, this year I have had no less than four horrific experiences with the U.S.P.S. either lost packages, express delivery taking months, or just the usual mail clerk incompetence. This was long before Trump appointed that guy (who my Facebook friends assure me is the Antichrist) as Postmaster General.

Thankfully, we are now about 300 news-cycles away from when U.S.P.S. was all that stood between democracy and Armageddon. Since then we’ve been told that dropping your ballot in a specified drop-off box is now the way to go to insure fair election results. Of course, with this is now coming stories of fake ballot boxes. I googled photos of these fake boxes and can’t believe anyone would fall for what is essentially a rusty file cabinet with a printout taped to the front inscribed with the words “Offishal Ballot Box.”

This got me thinking that wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to simply drop a lit match into an actual ballot drop-off box? I can’t be the first person to have thought of this. I haven’t been able to find anyone else suggesting it. Sure, there wouldn’t be enough oxygen inside the box for it to burn very long, but I suppose you could prop the flap open and provide some sort of accelerant. I guess today’s electioneering fraudsters just lack creativity. I blame social media.

Spare Change on Apple ][ (9/10)

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Although I am very nostalgic for many a game on the system, the Apple ][ was never the ideal platform for action games. Spare Change is one of the very few that has actually held up after all these years. Yes, the graphics are crude and the sound is mostly restricted to clicks, beeps and a single square wave tone at a time, but it makes very good use of these limited resources.

You play as the manager of a video arcade where a pair of characters from one of the popular games have come to life. The Zerks’ goal is to steal tokens from your arcade. Enough so that they can retire. How dare they! Your job is to grab the tokens before they do and thwart their retirement plans.

You will mainly grab tokens from the change machines scattered about the level, but occasionally you’ll find one in a public telephone’s change slot or after a lucky spin of a slot machine. Fill the collection boxes with ten or more tokens the Zerk Show door will slide open and you can live to battle Zerks on the next level. The game plays a bit like Pac-man: run around the maze, collect coins, and avoid the random movements of the Zerks. There are even between level intermission animations.

Much of the fun of the game is triggering the various Zerk distractions which include a jukebox, a pair of phones, and a popcorn machine. Each distraction costs a coin and then provides about ten seconds in which the Zerks are dancing around rather than stealing away your progress.

The whole game is an appealing, lighthearted affair that retains its charm even after all these years and still provides a pretty intense arcade game challenge.

P.S. If you want to change the game’s difficulty, you can hit CTRL-Z to open the settings screen. There you have precise control over the Zerk’s behavior settings. I discovered this only today, some forty years after having first played the game.

Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski (9/10)

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The second collection of Witcher short stories is actually the first or something like that. You’ll need to Google the series in order to figure out which books to read first. The sections in this collection flow nice in to each other and it really feels more like a connected narrative than The Last Wish ever did. At the heart of all this is the story of Geralt and Ciri’s destiny. And who doesn’t love a good origin story? This is a context that was very much missing from the games.

The Hermit - Wood Engraving

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At first I was going to do something about covid lockdown and isolation but quickly realized that just about every hack artist on Instagram was doing some image with masks and microscopic viruses. Most of it was awful. I stuck with the hermit theme and kept thinking of all these stories of people trying to survive wilderness and being forced to eat tree bark. Many of the early sketches had the guy taking a big bite of the tree, but I went with the stick full of fish instead.

Hermit Heat Transfer

This was the first time using my heat transfer tool to get a laser printed sketch on the block. It work well without needing acetone as some tutorials suggest.

Hermit Carving

Here is the resingrave block about halfway through the engraving process. Working this small is really hard by the way.

Hermit Drying Rack

Finally, here are the finished prints hanging to dry.