The Return of Homestar Runner: How It’s Changed and My Hopes For The Future

Digital denizens of the 90’s, I come bearing great news; Homestar Runner is back!

For those familiar with the name, Mike and Matt Chapman – more commonly known as ‘The Brothers Chaps’ – have been slowly rebuilding and reworking their earliest project for years in-between other business; most notably Matt’s writing, directing, and producing of the Nickelodeon children’s show Yo Gabba Gabba and voicing the character of  Alfonzo in the Disney XD series Star vs. The Forces of Evil. However, over the last few weeks, the amount of new content coming from their YouTube channel has sky rocketed.

For those unfamiliar, Homestar Runner is one of the most enduring artifacts from the days of the pre-YouTube internet when your options for getting visual media on the web were limited and less than ideal. The Chaps, like many early pre-YouTubers, found Flash animation to be a simple way to get seen.

But it didn’t start with animation, the original Homestar Runner started life as a children’s book. However, as time has gone on, the comedy has matured for older audiences and, occasionally, finds itself poking fun at its child-like origins. This turned out to be the right move for the series as the original website is still operating off of merchandise sales to this day.

I’ve naturally been going back through the back catalog of old episodes and almost all of them still hold up. In fact, some of the jokes actually got better and more relevant (remember when resident shopkeeper Bubs refused to violate net neutrality by “throttling down” download speeds… unlike Verizon?).

Still, there are problems with being a web series that has existed for so long that it may as well be the internet’s Stonehenge. Technology and how we use the ‘net has changed so much that many of the techniques the show uses are horribly obsolete. Even the cast recognized the danger in flash not being the universal animation standard anymore. It seems that they’ve finally caved and have gone fully to YouTube in light of the situation.

Part of me wishes they could continue with the format they have now because it means the loss of one of my favorite aspects of the original animations: easter eggs. Occasionally, you could click on things in the animation as it played and you could uncover hidden content. Some of these are preserved in ending stingers, but there’s something rewarding about finding a secret ending that makes the experience special and encourages viewership.

There’s also the issue with the flagship sub-series Strong Bad Emails (SBmails for short); namely that no one uses email as their primary communications medium on the web anymore. This wasn’t as big of an issue thanks to SB getting an official Twitter account, but it does feel uncanny to someone that grew up with the classic. Plus Strong Bad Tweets (SBeets?) doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Still, I remain hopeful. I want to see this great piece of internet comedy history rise like the Phoenix again. Also, I’d like to see them do more joint works with other artists like when they made music videos for They Might Be Giants. Hell, I’d REALLY like to see them continue their series of episodic point-and-click adventure games with Telltale Games.

At any rate, here’s to the return of yet another of my fond memories from long ago.

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The Agent Gets Nostalgic: Stuff From Yester-year That I Kinda Miss

So, I have literally been sitting at a blank word processor for two hours trying to think of the words to share this week and all I could do is let my mind wander aimlessly. I had nothing. For the first time in what feels like forever, nothing jumped out at me in my personal life this week to comment on.

… Until I started thinking back to the old days.

I started to think about the commonplace stuff from my day that they just don’t seem to have anymore. Things that I once took for granted that I sorely lack now.

So today, instead of sharing deep thoughts on pop culture trends or bringing obscure facts to light, I’m just going to wax poetic on the things from my youth that I miss having around.

CDs and CD Players

Carrying these bad boys around fully loaded is how we got ripped back in the day.
Source: Case Logic

I was actually born in the age of cassette tapes, VHS videos, and floppy disks. So when someone had the bright idea to slap music, movies, and games on CDs, it was a life changer for me. No more tangled or worn-out tapes that wouldn’t play anymore. Now we had durable, portable media storage with way more space to hold the stuff we love.

These days, while I’m not exactly heartbroken about DVDs and CD-ROMs being replaced by digital streaming and downloads, I do find that I miss CD quality music. I get that having your Spotify playlist on your phone is more convenient than schlepping around the mall with a backpack filled with CD binders. But I’m an audiophile (if you haven’t noticed from the many articles I’ve done on the subject of music and my weekly #TuneTuesday posts on Facebook and Twitter) and the compressed sound of today makes me feel like I’m missing something.

Music is a spiritual experience for me; my mind and body resonate with some indescribable emotion that I never feel anywhere else. I’m the kind of guy that cranks his car stereo to 60 just to feel the sound run through my veins like liquid lightning. As such, I want to make sure I experience all of it every time I hear it.

Cartoons made just to sell toys

Don’t even get me started on the ones we would “customize” from pieces of the broken ones and nail polish.
Source: Mental Floss

In one episode of my favorite cartoon of all time Freakazoid, I was introduced to the term ‘toyetic’ – an adjective used to describe an object that has the potential to be mass marketed as a toy, game, or similar product.

It was on that day that I realized that the vast number of shows I grew up with as a kid – TransformersZoids, etc. – existed for no other reason than to see how many times I would buy the same toy over and over again just because it was cool.

And you know what? I’m totally fine with that.

The reason I bought those toys (or rather, begged my parents to buy them) was because my friends and I were convinced that we had better stories to tell than the people who were paid to write them professionally. And for that short time as kids, we actually did.

Basically, I miss these toy-centric cartoons because they were my first introduction to writing. And while I’m not that into fiction anymore, I like to think that the passion still burns just a hot now as it did back then.

Speaking of cartoons…

Animated Variety Shows

I couldn’t think of an adequate picture to sum up this thought, so please enjoy this GIF of a toy that’s wildly inappropriate in retrospect.
Source: Giphy

What is an ‘animated variety show’ I hear you ask? In essence, much like how variety shows of yore were showcases for various acting, comedy, and musical talents, their animated brethren were collections of short subject cartoons from various artists and writers. And much like how actors could use those appearances as a jumping off point for bigger projects, these cartoons served as pilots for what could become a new series.

A lot of well-loved shows got their start this way; both Powerpuff Girls and Courage the Cowardly Dog got started as shorts on Cartoon Network’s What-A-Cartoon. Meanwhile, Beavis and Butthead and Aeon Flux came into their own via MTV’s much edgier Liquid Television.

I miss these cheap and cheerful parades of creative Ids gone wild because it gave us a look into talents that we very rarely would get to see otherwise. These days, such things have been replaced with soulless statistics and sample audience surveys.

There’s a reason why Youtube is my go-to place for entertainment these days; because the internet is where the people crazy enough to do something amazing can be truly free.