, we ended up in Wisconsin with The Internet's Maximum Potential
. I've decided to stay another week in the forgotten America where people work hard and play by the rules, thinking about one of the net's best-known Wisconsinites, Mr. Benjamin J. Heckendorn
Heckendorn, better known as "Ben Heck", is revered as a Godhead in the classic video gaming community for his superhuman ability to build portable versions of vintage consoles. He first gained celebrity with a portable Atari 2600, but he's since portablized a Jaguar, an an Atari 7800, a Colecovision, an NES, a Super NES, a Nintendo 64, a Wii, a Genesis, a Playstation, a Playstation 2, a Neo Geo and an XBox 360. For my money, his neatest achievement is the Atari 800 computer he made into a laptop:
Sah-weet. I'd love to play me some M.U.L.E. on that. Now, if only he would build me a portable Turbografx-16. Oh wait.
Being a man of several awesomenesses, Ben Heck also makes neato movies that you can download for free and watch on your computer or iPod, the newest of which is the "action-adventure epic romantic comedy" Port Washington. But this isn't Filmthoughts, nor is it Oldvideogamethoughts; it's Podthoughts, so the Ben Heck joint we'll focus on today is the BenHeck.com podcast [iTunes link].
In the BenHeck.com podcast, Ben Heck and his buddy Jason Jones talk about many things, almost never including console portablization and rarely including filmmaking. Rather, they turn their attention instead to movies, music, technology, video games; the stuff of our culture. Which, devoted Podthinkers will note, makes this a TTWGBAC. It's no biggie that Ben and Jason are two thirtysomething white guys rather than two twentysomething white guys; while that makes for ever-so-slightly different content, it leaves the abbreviation untouched. In addition to how much they love WALL-E, how disappointed they were by the new Indiana Jones, how much Ben hates the Wii, how Blu-Ray smacked down HD-DVD, and the relative merits of Guitar Hero versus Rock Band, they also discuss conspiracy theories, Egypt, outer space and aerosol cheese. As a bonus for the listener, some episodes begin with elaborate spoof movie or game trailers (the Oblivion "Writer's Guild Expansion Pack" being particularly inspired), and others, such as their trip to the 2008 Midwest Gaming Classic [MP4], go out in glorious video.
This being a Wisconsin podcast, you can once again keep the hosts' voices straight by remembering which one sounds more like Mark Borchardt. In this case, it's Jason: he clocks in at about .65 Borchardt Units (BUs) to Ben's .2. He's also kind of an odd dude, admitting both to believing there was a conspiracy to kill JFK and to having flown on an airplane only twice in his life. There's an ever-so-subtle shade of a Ricky Gervais/Karl Pilkington relationship between Ben and Jason, though it's not as if Jason theorizes that Chinese people age overnight like pears, nor does Ben ridicule him for having a perfectly round head. Not that it wouldn't be beyond hilarious to hear that exact schtick played out in the accents of America's Dairyland.
I poke fun, but I actually prefer my podcasts to be grounded in whatever makes them unusual, be it geographically, temperamentally, intellectually, or experientially. Quite frankly, I wish the guys would talk more about local Wisconsin things, or that Ben would speak more from his unique perspective as a top-tier electronics hacker and independent filmmaker, or that Jason would reveal more things that he believes or hasn't done. Nevertheless, I've enjoyed listening in on Ben and Jason's chats — especially when I disagree with them, as when they dismissed the unimpeachable greatness of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner — but I do admit to wearying of the open-ended TTWGBAC genre. So next week I'll change it up.
Running since: August 2006
Frequency: semi-regular, every 1-2.5 weeks
[The best thing about being freelance Podthinker Colin Marshall isn't thinking about the podcasts, it's showing everyone online he did. Reach him colinjmarshall at gmail. Discuss Podthoughts here, or submit your podcast for the next by-Max-Funsters column here.]