The Late Movies: These Tetris Videos Will Stress You Out

In recent years I've become interested in a niche hobby -- competitive NES Tetris. Yes, it's a video game that came out more than twenty years ago and I still find it fascinating. I don't play competitively, but I know a bunch of people who do (and I recently refereed at the 2012 Classic Tetris World Championship). Tonight, I bring you a collection of max-out videos -- these are feats of unbelievable coordination and concentration, in which Tetris masters manage to break the 999,999 point score limit ("max-out") on the Nintendo game. These people have been playing for decades, and it shows. Warning: these Tetris videos will stress you out.

Matt Buco

Buco's max-out is most notable because it's so fast -- he starts on Level 18, then maxes out on Level 26 (!). Most players hit the score on 28 or 29 (the latter being so fast that it's basically unplayable). Buco was fourth in the world to document his max-out, and it happened on January 2, 2012 (1/2/12).

Ben Mullen

Ben Mullen (like most of these guys) is featured in the movie Ecstasy Of Order: The Tetris Masters -- if you've seen the film, he's the guy who taught his wife to solve a Rubik's Cube (and there's a DVD extra in which they have a cube-solving's totally sweet). I refereed the match in this year's championship in which Mullen was eliminated, and it was a huge bummer to see him go. But he packed up, went home, and one week later he maxed out the game. Now that's a winner!

Harry Hong

The first documented max-out, from April 19, 2009. Hong starts here on Level 18.

And then in 2011, Hong returned to do it starting from Level 19.

Eli Markstrom

This happened in late September, just before the championship. Eli maxes out just before the Level 29 "kill screen" (where the pieces move so fast it's nearly impossible to move them to the sides of the screen).

Alex Kerr

Kerr maxed out in May, starting on Level 18. His play in the finals of the championship this year struck me as extremely efficient -- he favors a right-well (as do most players) but is a master of building a gapless left stack, then crushing it with Tetrises. Note that at the very end he clears two lines on Level 29, despite already maxing out on 28.

Jonas Neubauer

Neubauer has taken top honors at all three world championships. He's a machine. Here's his first documented max-out, starting at Level 18:

And, like Hong, Neubauer proceeded to repeat the feat starting at Level 19:

Full disclosure: I did some writing work on Ecstasy of Order, but I have no financial stake in the film. It's out on DVD and VOD now -- and it will only stress you out in a good way. (If you get the DVD, that's the only place to see Thor Aackerlund's max-out -- it's a bonus feature.) It has been a kick getting involved in this community, partly because there are so many winners.

How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?

Here’s something else to stress about for Thanksgiving: where to put the stress in the word Thanksgiving.

If you’re from California, Iowa, or Delaware, you probably say ThanksGIVing, with the primary stress on the second syllable. If you’re from Georgia, Tennessee, or the Texas Panhandle, you probably say THANKSgiving, with the primary stress on the first syllable.

This north-south divide on syllable stress is found for other words like umbrella, guitar, insurance, and pecan. However, those words are borrowed from other languages (Italian, Spanish, French). Sometimes, in the borrowing process, competing stress patterns settle into regional differences. Just as some borrowed words get first syllable stress in the South and second syllable stress in the North, French words like garage and ballet get first syllable stress in the UK and second syllable stress in the U.S.

Thanksgiving, however, is an English word through and through. And if it behaved like a normal English word, it would have stress on the first syllable. Consider other words with the same noun-gerund structure just like it: SEAfaring, BAbysitting, HANDwriting, BULLfighting, BIRDwatching, HOMEcoming, ALMSgiving. The stress is always up front, on the noun. Why, in Thanksgiving alone, would stress shift to the GIVE?

The shift to the ThanksGIVing pronunciation is a bit of a mystery. Linguist John McWhorter has suggested that the loss of the stress on thanks has to do with a change in our concept of the holiday, that we “don’t truly think about Thanksgiving as being about thankfulness anymore.” This kind of thing can happen when a word takes on a new, more abstract sense. When we use outgoing for mail that is literally going out, we are likely to stress the OUT. When we use it as a description of someone’s personality ("She's so outgoing!"), the stress might show up on the GO. Stress can shift with meaning.

But the stress shift might not be solely connected to the entrenchment of our turkey-eating rituals. The thanksGIVing stress pattern seems to have pre-dated the institution of the American holiday, according to an analysis of the meter of English poems by Mark Liberman at Language Log. ThanksGIVing has been around at least since the 17th century. However you say it, there is precedent to back you up. And room enough to focus on both the thanks and the giving.

TAKWest, Youtube
Watch Boris Karloff's 1966 Coffee Commercial
TAKWest, Youtube
TAKWest, Youtube

Horror legend Boris Karloff is famous for playing mummies, mad scientists, and of course, Frankenstein’s creation. In 1930, Karloff cemented the modern image of the monster—with its rectangular forehead, bolted neck, and enormous boots (allegedly weighing in at 11 pounds each)—in the minds of audiences.

But the horror icon, who was born 130 years ago today, also had a sense of humor. The actor appeared in numerous comedies, and even famously played a Boris Karloff look-alike (who’s offended when he’s mistaken for Karloff) in the original Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace

In the ’60s, Karloff also put his comedic chops to work in a commercial for Butter-Nut Coffee. The strange commercial, set in a spooky mansion, plays out like a movie scene, in which Karloff and the viewer are co-stars. Subtitles on the bottom of the screen feed the viewer lines, and Karloff responds accordingly. 

Watch the commercial below to see the British star selling coffee—and read your lines aloud to feel like you’re “acting” alongside Karloff. 

[h/t: Retroist]


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