Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Spirit of Tom Sawyer

Do you watch the TV show Chuck? I like it because it combines authentic geekery with spies in a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup type fashion, resonating deeply with my desire to be James Bond without having to stop playing video games or argue about obscure points of music. It's also pretty funny.

I caught up on some back episodes earlier this week and enjoyed what may be their best episode yet: the guy who designed Missile Command for Atari was some kind of spy who linked up the game with a nuclear missile-totting satellite and now, 25 years later, someone figured out how to use the game to launch the missiles on a strike on Los Angeles. A good start, but what launched the episode into my top slot was the solution: to stop the missiles, a player had to get to the quasi-mythic "kill screen," a feat requiring incredible mental math abilities...or the realization that the game's programmer loved Rush and had programmed the game's physics to follow the beat of "Tom Sawyer."

As a hook, it's brilliant: "Tom Sawyer" and Missile Command are just close enough to the mainstream periphery that most of the show's audience will get them without damaging the show's geek credibility. There's one problem, though: Missile Command came out in July, 1980 and Rush didn't release "Tom Sawyer" until the following February. I know "Tom Sawyer" is Rush's most recognizable song, but I'm still a little disappointed: a show that celebrates geek culture should know that the type of nitpicking I'm engaging in with this blog post comes standard with the Star Wars references and obsession with shiny gadgets and chosen an earlier Rush hit. "The Spirit of Radio," perhaps?

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