Lost in the Stacks Interview - 15 Dec 2017

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The Brothers Chaps were interviewed on the 366th episode of Lost in the Stacks, a radio show broadcast on 91.1FM WREK in Atlanta. The episode is titled "Homestar Runner, Gone in a Flash", and the description reads "We wanted to tell some people some funny stuff, and video was not an option." @StrongBadActual promoted the interview a few hours earlier, saying, "[The Brothers Chaps] will talk too much and play some cool old 7 inches!"

Running Time: 1:01:06


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[edit] Transcript

{Clip from Flash is Dead! plays:}

STRONG BAD: I'm talking about the situation, man!
HOMESTAR RUNNER: What situation? I'm trying to update my dating profile.
STRONG BAD: Haven't you heard? Flash is dying!
HOMESTAR RUNNER: Oh, well, good! I'm a way better runner than that guy anyways.
STRONG BAD: No, I'm talking about Flash. Like, what we breathe. The thing what creates us all.
HOMESTAR RUNNER: Strong Bad! If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were getting a little religioso on me.
{Something is heard falling.}
STRONG BAD: Ahh! See? That's a chunk of Flash Authoring Interface right there! It's falling apart! We gotta head for the hills!

{Music plays, then fades out.}

CHARLIE BENNETT: You are listening to WREK Atlanta, and this is Lost in the Stacks: the Research Library Rock'n'Roll Radio Show. I'm Charlie Bennett, in the studio with Emy Decker and Fred Rascoe. I am on the board and I am terrified. Each week on this show we pick a theme, and then use it to create a mix of music and library talk. Whichever you're here for, we hope you dig it.

EMY DECKER: Today's show is called "Homestar Runner: Gone in a Flash".

FRED RASCOE: Homestar Runner is a very popular, very funny website with cartoons starring a host of animated characters, like Homestar, Strong Bad, The Cheat. It's been going for years, but there might be a slight snag on the horizon.

EMY: Indeed. All of these cartoons are made using Adobe Flash, which—spoiler alert—is not long for this world.

CHARLIE: We're going to find out what this means with today's guests, the creators of Homestar Runner, Mike and Matt Chapman. They are the Brothers Chaps.

EMY: If you are listeners who want to join the conversation, the hashtag for this show is #lits366 for Lost in the Stacks, episode 366. Feel free to Tweet your thoughts, questions, or favorite Homestar toon with that hashtag.

FRED: And our songs today are all about artistic tools, dying formats, and loss. After years of ominous threats and warnings, Adobe has finally made good on its word and pulled the plug on the tool used to create the Homestar universe. What does that mean for future toons? And maybe more importantly, what's next for the toons already created on a deprecated software? Time's up for Flash; the clock is striking midnight. So let's start the show with "Because, It's Midnite" by Strong Bad's favorite band, Limozeen. Right here, on Lost in the Stacks.

{Because, It's Midnite plays.}

{A portion of theme song plays, then fades out.}

FRED: "Heart of a lion, wing of a bat..." Good way to start off the show. This is Lost in the Stacks, and our guests today are the Brothers Chaps: that's Mike Chapman and Matt Chapman, creators of the online cartoon universe of Homestar Runner; Mike and Matt, welcome to the show.

MIKE CHAPMAN: Hi, thanks for having us.

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, thank you very much!

FRED: So, um, we've got a lot to talk about. Uh, but before we get started, I know that a lot of our listeners are probably familiar with Homestar Runner, but we might have some that aren't, so: when you meet someone that doesn't know what Homestar Runner is, how do you describe that?

MATT CHAPMAN: That's, well, that's everyone I meet...


MATT: And, uh, I just say we make weird cartoons, uh, on the internet... featuring a host of dumb animal characters. And it won't be very accessible to you at first, but maybe if you give it a chance, you'll find yourself coming back for more. Uh, 'cause the times when I've tried to describe it in, like, elevator-pitch sort of style, either totally misrepresents it or it's, uh, everyone has left the elevator and the building and I'm still talking and it still doesn't make any sense.

CHARLIE: Yeah, that kind of speaks to the independent nature of it too, right? 'Cause you didn't have to sell this to anybody at first.

MIKE: Right. Yeah, and we'd always had a hard time figuring out what one cartoon to— for somebody to start, as sort of a starter thing like, "Here, you'll get it if you watch this one!" It's like, "Nah, watch maybe ten or fifteen of 'em, and if you haven't gotten something then it's not for you."

FRED: I think that's why I punted and asked you to describe it because I— {Chaps laugh} I was trying to figure out some way to introduce Homestar Runner and couldn't.

MATT: Yeah, we recently— someone asked us and we kind of— it took us this long to come up with this, what we think is a fairly accurate description. We were like, it's... uh... "family road-trip inside-joke humor," is like the best way that— they were like, they kind of asked like, "Hey, it seems like it's accessible across a lot of different lines and a lot of different people." And, I was like, I don't know, that feeling of like, that joke you made in the van driving to somewhere on a long road trip and now it's the funniest thing, and your family quotes it for, y'know, the rest of your family's lives... and I was like, "I think we tapped into a tiny, like, little bit of that...?"

FRED: Like, I guess that's kind of an experience you have, a lot of people come up to you and quote lines, uh...

MIKE: Yeah.

FRED: ...from cartoons.

MATT: Yeah, that— which is amazing. When we, uh— We love to hear when it's people that have, like, it's taken on a life of its own where they were like, "We actually kinda forgot this was a Homestar quote and now this is what we all call, y'know, this dish at the dinner table! ...and this room in the house!" And then they'll be like, "Yeah, we forgot!" And then like, y'know, five years later, there was like, "Oh yeah, that's a Strong Bad quote!" And to me that's great, like because we have those, y'know, from cartoons that we loved or whatever growing up and it's like, yeah when they just kind of... completely meld with your lifestyle.

FRED: So, like Charlie was mentioning just a second ago, this, um, was a DIY thing and—and still is, it's totally controlled by you guys, correct?

MIKE: Yeah, it's basically just the two of us, I mean it is just the two of us that have been... making the cartoons and doing the music and the animation and everything for the website...

FRED: So, um...

MIKE: ...for seventeen years.

FRED: The—the website uh, and all the cartoons and everything on the website are run on uh, the program called Adobe Flash. All the animations are done, I should say, with— with Adobe Flash. Right?

MIKE: Right.

FRED: Um, and w—was that um... I—uh... I guess I want to know if that's— if you chose that software because it uh, meshed with that DIY aspect?

MIKE: Well... yeah, at the time, I mean, uh... whatever late '90s—early 2000's, neither of us were animators by trade and so, it was... the main thing was that it was simple enough for two people that were film major and a photography major to be able to make cartoons. Um...

MATT: Yeah, or to make content at all. I mean, that was the thing, video compression was so... y'know... horrendous back then and dial-up was still...

MIKE: Yeah, and I mean this is...

MATT: ...in more than fifty percent of households, so it was like, you aren't going to try and shoot a video and put it online. I mean this is— Flash was a made to— a way to tell stories and tell funny jokes... and so it was just like, "All right, well, let's come up with a cartoon for that," because that was kind of the medium was... y'know, if you were doing Flash, it was animation. So, it was more that like, just delivering content— we wanted to, like, tell some people some funny stuff and video was not an option at the time, so...

MIKE: Yeah, it kept file sizes at around a meg or something, which even dial-up modem in the late 90's—early 2000's was doable, but video was not.

CHARLIE: I've never used Flash, I have to confess. I—Is it coding? Is it—is it point and click? Wha—what do you do?

MIKE: Well, so, it's an authori— So the thing about Flash is that it's two-prong thing, I mean, it's an authoring tool which is what we use to make it, but then it was also the player that was on every browser, so you have used the Flash Player, that's how you watched any of these Homestar Runner cartoons.

CHARLIE: Ah, okay, busted. I have used the Flash Player.

MIKE: And so that's what's... that's what's going away is the... um... player. The Flash Player is what's going away. The Flash, as an authoring tool, they changed the name and it's now called Animate, so that's sticking around. So we'll be able to make the cartoons the same way.

FRED: Oh, okay.


MIKE: We just have to export them in a different file format as uh... you know, whatever, QuickTime movie or whatever that we can put on YouTube or some other format.

MATT: Yeah and the only coding is if you're doing any interactive stuff. So, I mean, the times when we'd hide little Easter eggs, that's a teeny bit of coding, uh, just to put little hotspots in the cartoons and stuff. But for the most part, it's similar to like um, a timeline— any timeline-based, y'know, authoring tool like Final Cut or After Effects or something, so it's not— not too far from that.

MIKE: Yeah, so we're seeing a stage with the characters, and if Homestar's leg needs to move, we just drag the corner of his leg and spin it up and... y'know, whatever, so—

CHARLIE: He does your bidding.

{Mike and Matt briefly laugh.}

MIKE: Yea— Yes, exactly— exa— We're not coders so it's not... uh... super...

MATT: Code-intensive.

MIKE: Code-intensive, yeah.

FRED: So the... the actual ani—making of the animation is— is divorced a little bit from the actual playing it on the website.

MIKE: Yeah, so we can export that cartoon in a—multiple... multiple formats, different ways depending on how we're delivering it.

MATT: Yeah we did a— we worked for Disney for the last couple of years, we did these shorts for Disney and um— and we authored them all in Flash the same way we would a Homestar cartoon but they were all exported to broadcast quality like, {chuckle} so we're making these terrible web-quality cartoons that somehow Disney deemed okay enough t—to put it on one of their channels and we were like, "Okay, if you guys are sure, this is what it's going to look like!"

CHARLIE: I feel like that's a humble brag.


FRED: Yeah, you say— you say terrible quality, but, I mean, is there... like an inherent limitation in the software for...

MIKE: Well it's funny, 'cause we use the... we still use 12 frames a second, which was the— basically the default in 1999, so we still do all our animation at that. So it's just based on Flash's default in 1999 or whatever.

MATT: We just can't be bothered to click that button, that pulldown menu to change—

MIKE: Yeah, go up to 24, 30 or whatever.

CHARLIE: Yeah there's 60 frames per second on some playbacks... okay.

MIKE: Quintuple our framerate!

MATT: Yeah, but then we have to animate all those.

FRED: And a standard multiplex film is like... 24 frames a second or something like that?


CHARLIE: So why have you stuck with it, all this time?

MIKE: Don't wanna learn something new?

MATT: Yeah, we just got— well, we got good at it 'cause there were all those limitations for so long, you know, and it was like, 12 frames per second was best for dial-up... and all this— there were all these reasons in the first like three years we were making these, and then we got really good at doing that and could churn out content quickly when it—

MIKE: Right, it's also the way that we can make a cartoon in a week. If we up the framerate and upped the... y'know, started doing different processes, we wouldn't be able to do it the way we've... figured out this quick-and-dirty way to do something and it just...

CHARLIE: Did the Flash Player seem vulnerable any time in the beginning? Like, were you worried about, how long will this be around?

MIKE: No, not at all. I mean, initially it was like on every browser, and it was like 99.9% saturated, like anyone who's got an internet connection has access to this. And then basically... Jobs... Steve Jobs, started killing it in the mid-2000s.


FRED: Oh man. And that's a perfect segue to our next segment, because there's uh... trouble on the horizon. We are speaking to Mike and Matt Chapman, the Brothers Chaps, creators of Homestar Runner, and we'll be back to talk about the downside of Flash, after a music set.

{Music sting.}

FRED: File this set under Z701.3, C65.

{Playlist continues.}

EMY: You just heard Hip Hop Dance by Coach Z. Before that was Give Life Back to the Fhqwhgads by Daft Punk vs. Strong Bad, as mixed by DJ Arique...

CHARLIE: Well done.

EMY: ...and The System is Down by Strong Bad. Songs about the tools we use to create art.

{Music sting.}

FRED: This is Lost in the Stacks, and our guests today are the creators of Homestar Runner, Mike and Matt Chapman. And before the last music set we were talking a little bit about the pros and cons of using Flash as an animating tool, and one big con that we sort of alluded to, but didn't quite get to, is that using Flash... uh, it's not officially dead yet, but it does have an execution date. Um, and so this has been brewing for years, and there was even a Homestar Runner cartoon about it in 2015, which we played at the top of the show— er, a clip of that, at the top of the show. And this past summer the Adobe company put out the following statement, which was: "Today most browser vendors are integrating capabilities once provided by plugins directly into browsers and deprecating plugins. Given this progress, and in collaboration with several of our technology partners, including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla, Adobe is planning to end-of-life Flash. Specifically, we will stop updating and distributing the Flash Player at the end of 2020, and encourage content creators to migrate any existing Flash content to these new open formats." Mike, Matt, you guys are the "content creators" they are talking about... in that statement.

MIKE: Yeah, we've got an extra year, I thought it was 2019. 2020, we've got all kinds of time!


MATT: Yeah, that's great— that's great news. All right, I should have read the statement in full. I just read the first, like, two sentences and ran off screaming.

FRED: So what's, uh— when you saw that, did you immediately leap into action, or... are you still mulling what's going to happen next?

MATT: Well, the writing's been on the wall for a long time. I mean, since even before we... we took kind of a few years off from doing Homestar Runner content, even once we came back and started doing new ones, we kind of already knew that it's like... uh, Flash, is not long for this world, as a player.

FRED: You took a hiatus in 2010, right?

MATT: Yes.

FRED: And that's about the time that Steve Jobs issued his famous manifesto against... basically just saying how terrible Adobe Flash was.

CHARLIE: Maybe he thought that there wouldn't be any more Homestar Runners. He was like, "Well that was the only reason we had it."


MATT: But, uh... yeah, so we kinda knew that that was... you know, we've always had an eye on that, we had started putting, you know, trickling things out onto YouTube, um, the content. And the decision was always like... we've always had these minimal interactive components to the cartoons, whether it be hidden Easter eggs if you clicked on things, or at the end of a cartoon there'd be a hidden scene if you clicked on something. And so that's obviously something we knew was going to have to go away. YouTube has some of that stuff, y'know, you can do those little mouseovers or those notes that pop up, but they're way more intrusive, so we haven't seen like a nice one-to-one version of it. So, yeah, we already kinda started that conversation of, like okay, well what is like a... y'know, how do you archive these, is it just sorta like... 'cause even a DVD can have interactive features, y'know, all our DVDs included all the Easter eggs 'cause you could do that on a separate video layer, which, again, you just can't do all the same stuff.

CHARLIE: How important does that interactive quality feel to the work?

MIKE: At the time I mean it was a pretty big part of it, I mean it's always been a part of it, now it's sort of a part— a cool part of Flash was the interactivity, I mean, that's the way we did any of the menu stuff, and there was like... in the early 2000s, that was cool. Like everybody loved that. And so it does feel like... part of the heart of Homestar Runner is that sort of... aspect of it, but...

MATT: I feel like you could find a new— like a version of that. The idea is that it's rewarding the repeat viewer, y'know, the superfan that knows all these tiny references, and there's probably ways to do that within other constraints. And I feel like there is kind of a... it's sort of that thing like, "if you were there", like before the show we talked a little bit about seeing Fugazi live, and how these things happen, and it's like "well if you were there during that time, and you were on the web, and you got to experience this Flash Player thing that you could click on these hidden things", and maybe that's going to go away, and so... it kinda becomes this, like, badge of honor that like, "I got to click on the stuff on Homestar cartoons back in the early 2000s, and now you just have to watch it."


FRED: I want to explain to listeners who maybe haven't clicked on the site... one, the interaction with Flash on the web site, I'm gonna use the Strong Bad Emails as an example. When you go to the site and click on Strong Bad Emails, it's not a list of files, really, that comes up, there's an animation. Strong Bad has a little email saying or phrase that changes every so often, and the idea is that you actually have to scroll through Strong Bad's screen... like you're not selecting from a menu or anything, or searching something like on YouTube. And it's part of that interactive experience. So yeah, finding that in a different format seems like it would be kind of a challenge.

MIKE: There are some bad things about... the experience you were just talking about, Strong Bad's screen and having to scroll down, and it's really just—

FRED: It's not user-friendly.


MIKE: —two-hundred-something cartoons, and there's no search feature and all the cartoons have some sort of random one-word name, so it's like, you could have a really good memory of a cartoon and have a really hard time finding out which one it was.

MATT: So then yeah, you just go to YouTube and find some kid that has ripped all of our Flash content and made it searchable with meta tags and then, it's like... well I'm just going to watch this kid's YouTube channel instead of going to the website.

MIKE: There's also no pause or rewind feature when you're watching the cartoons, which is another thing that like... there's going to be some improvements when we migrate this to other formats.

MATT: Well, that's something that Flash added very early on that we just didn't implement...

MIKE: Yeah, we were too busy to—

MATT: —because we were lazy.


MATT: And again, I mean, like Mike said, in the heyday we were making a cartoon every week, so it was harder to like... there just wasn't the time to upgrade to the new whatever, when it was just the two of us doing that stuff. We don't really have an excuse... {crosstalk} why we didn't do that in the four-year gap.

CHARLIE: Is there a little bit of, this was a upgrade or a work change that you were going to have to do anyway—

MIKE: Yeah. Right.

CHARLIE: If Flash Player was still around, in a perfect world, you would have moved on to another format, or another platform, already?


CHARLIE: {chuckles} Oh. They both took a deep breath.

MIKE: Yeah well, the funny thing about Flash— like, even using Flash, we used an ancient... Flash 5, which I think came out in '99, we used Flash 5 until I think 2014—

MATT: Macromedia Flash.

CHARLIE: Oh, wow.

MIKE: Yeah, Macromedia Flash, not Adobe, because Adobe bought Macromedia, so we used Macromedia Flash 5 until probably about 2014, 15...?

CHARLIE: There's like a time pit opening behind me right now, that I'm gonna fall into.


FRED: Loved Macromedia.

MATT: But yeah, so I mean we kinda knew that at some point, I mean even with— we put all our stuff on DVDs, and that we were like that's the... y'know, we've archived it forever now! And then it's like... oh wait, within a year Blu-Ray was— became the new standard, and...

CHARLIE: Do you have colleagues, peers, or just people that you're connected to, who do the same kind of work that you're doing, who are going through this same kind of thing? Maybe not dependent on Flash, but, what you just said about DVDs and Blu-Rays, like yeah, of course! Everything's constantly changing, and so you're being sort of dragged along—

MIKE: Yeah, every 5 or 10 years, you have to... re-archive everything in the new format.

CHARLIE: Do you all get together and complain about it, y'know, as a professional association?

{Laughter, crosstalk.}

MATT: Everybody else is sort of better at that. Like, we definitely, intentionally once, and at the time it would've been Friendster or MySpace, the precursors to Facebook... like once any sort of inklings of social media started, we kind of were like "aaaagh", we were being very old men about it, and it was just like, let's keep heads-down and keep doin' what we're doin', like, Strong Bad doesn't need a Friendster page or a MySpace page. And so we kind of knew like... and so anyways, people that have kind of embraced those things, y'know they've just sort of grown with it, and so again, like with having your own YouTube channel, or your own Vimeo or any of the other sort of video streaming options you have, other people that do this kind of content, I feel like, embraced that stuff sooner than Mike and I did. 'Cause we were trying to be punk rock about it, like {in a crotchety voice} "no, let's do it the old way! This is like recording on 4-track... analogue cassette!"


MATT: Sometimes we do that, to our detriment.

CHARLIE: Yeah. But there is something to that, to have that feeling and to have the thing that... you know how creaky it is.

MIKE: Yeah, no, we complain about Flash all the time, and we use it every day, and there are still elements of it that are like... I'll complain to Matt about something I've been complaining about for fifteen years.


MIKE: ...and I still do it.

EMY: We'll be back with more about the death of Flash with the Brothers Chaps, on the left side of the hour.

{Music sting.}

IAN MACKAYE: {over music} Hello, good people. You are Lost in the Stacks, with Ian MacKaye, here on WREK in Atlanta.

{Music plays out.}

CHARLIE: Today's show is called "Gone in a Flash". Ever since Steve Jobs wrote, in 2010, a manifesto explaining why Apple would never use Adobe Flash, the death knell for the animation software has been growing louder and louder, as criticism grew stronger and stronger. This past summer, Adobe decided that due to security concerns — a likely story — and the widespread adoption of HTML5, Flash would no longer be supported after the year 2020. Here are some other formats for creative content delivery that have died the death: VHS tapes... 2008. Geocities... 2009. Many first web sites were there. Polaroid film — oh, that hurts — 2012. Mainframe punchcards... the last company that made them closed in 2012. Betamax... Sony stopped producing it in... 2015! Betamax players were discontinued in 2002. And then of course, Vine... 2016. Who you finna try.

{Quiet laughter.}

CHARLIE: I bet it ain't me. Librarians have never saved everything, but there is more information to save now than at any previous point in history. Are we up to the challenge? Or will this all be gone... in a Flash? ...I'm sorry for that. File this set under T385.S62282.

{Playlist continues.}

FRED: Cool, Cool Tapes — and a bag of four grapes — by Marzipan. Before that: Flash, by Queen...

CHARLIE: {imitates Queen's "AAH-aah"}

FRED: ...and we started off with Tropical Lazor Beams, by Homestar Runner, with They Might Be Giants. Those were songs about dying formats, and trying to save things that are slipping away.

{Music sting.}

EMY: We're back, and we're talking about the death of Adobe Flash, with Mike Chapman and Matt Chapman, the creators of Homestar Runner, which is one of the most well-known Flash animation websites. So, earlier we had been talking about how the demise of Flash will affect the future of Homestar Runner in the immediate future, but how can we think about this more in terms of... we're all librarians, we think about preservation and access. Have you given any thought to how you'd preserve it, or how we'd move forward in the future, without Flash?

MATT: Yeah, I mean we're already sort of migrating things to... the video content, rather, to YouTube, and we're exporting everything— what's good about Flash is, it produced everything in vectors, so you can export at whatever, like...

MIKE: ...size.

MATT: ...it's just math, so yeah, the—

CHARLIE: The librarian in me has to stop you right there. YouTube is not an archive.


MATT: Well, that is true. Good point, good point.

CHARLIE: So, how are you keeping it for yourselves? What is your sort of store?

MATT: So we've been exporting them at the super high quality, so that the idea is that we still have those source files, we're exporting them at as high a quality as we can. So for whatever it is, if it's Blu-Ray, if it's Super Blu-Ray, if it's Blu-Ray HD-D-D or whatever is the next—

CHARLIE: Batman Blu-Ray?

MATT: Yeah. {laughs} That we can put it onto that, and that we have it at this nice... as big and pretty and as good a quality sound as we can. 'Cause that was another thing about Flash, is that really, I think that... that Marzipan song you guys just played was, uh... I think that was straight from Flash—

{Laughter, crosstalk.}

MATT: You can really hear how messy and, yeah, compressed it is. So, but, it is one of those things where it's a bummer that like, y'know, like we were saying before: if there's no way to experience it as it is now, on the web site, because all browsers just reject the Flash Player completely, that will be kind of a bummer. Because there isn't really a one-to-one to that, with the interactive experience. So, we are preparing, just exporting our cartoons as high-quality as we can, to sort of... for whatever the future is.

MIKE: And the other thing is games. We have... there's a whole bunch of games that were all done in Flash too, and that's a much bigger problem to solve. It's relatively easy to convert something to a different video format, but uh... basically have to reprogram all the games.

CHARLIE: Because of that interactive quality.

MIKE: Yeah, right. So we are doing that with some of the more popular games, starting to make it... I don't know if we're doing it in HTML5, or something that can play in HTML5...?

MATT: Canvas?

MIKE: Yeah.

MATT: Is that a thing?

CHARLIE: Would you record the interactive experience? Would you like, have a film of... here's the Flash animation, and then click each one in order?

MIKE: Well that's what we do, usually, when we're converting stuff to video now... a lot of the interactive Easter eggs that would pop up we sort of auto-play, so you're still sort of getting it, but you're not being interactive, or getting the extra stuff.

MATT: Yeah we have all these "main pages" on the web site that you could select from, and it's like the menu pages, and Homestar would say "Toons! Games! Email!" And we, uh, there's like twenty-three or four of those or something, and so we've talked about just making a video of where we just do a screen capture, and we just go through and just play all of them and you just see all of them, and make this weird video just like, "Did you want to see what it used to be like to select a page on HomestarRunner.com? Watch this video!"


MATT: I mean, you know, there's Let's Play videos and Twitch streamers of video games, it's like, why not? Like hey, this is how you used to "play" this web site!

FRED: So your kids can find out, in some dusty digital archive...

MATT: {laughs} Yeah.

FRED: Well, have you thought about emulations, of the website experience? Or do you know of any other Flash websites, or Flash-run animations, that are looking at an emulation to preserve that experience? So you don't just have to look at a video of someone doing it, it kinda preserves, even if you can't use the Flash Player anymore, something that could emulate that.

MATT: Yeah, I would love that. There's a browser-based Apple IIe emulator that like, I play the original Carmen Sandiego and Oregon Trail with my kids all the time, and that would be hilarious to have this like, 2002 Flash Player Emulator that loads in your browser and inside of that is this deprecated Flash Player. I would kind of love— I would feel honored to be in, like, have our stuff preserved in that kind of format, like you have to emulate it in order to like, get to that old weird point. I never thought that like, digital entertainment, like it's sort of the equivalent of analog. It's this, like... having to get a cassette player out to put a cassette in. It's like, "oh, you gotta get your Flash Player out and play the old Flash files".

FRED: So what happens after 2020? Is there just gonna be a point where you're just gonna have to say, well, the Homestar Runner experience is on YouTube now, or whatever decision you make, and we just have to go from that. Or have you, like, reached a decision on that?

MIKE: Yeah I mean, there'll be a version of the website that is... that will be non-Flash, at about that point, that has... all the cartoons, certainly, and as much of the, whatever games and other interactive elements that we can migrate to the new format.

CHARLIE: Will you have to change your process, your artistic process, at all, when you don't have the interactive... I mean, have you thought about, "and then we'll do it this way, instead of that way"?

MIKE: Well, the last couple years that we've been doing new cartoons, we have been... there are fewer Easter eggs and less interactivity, because we sort of knew that—

CHARLIE: Oh you've been deprecating the interactive— {laughs}

MIKE: —and so when we make a YouTube version we automatically put the Easter eggs in.

MATT: But I mean, you could just make the— that interactive experience be through some other, y'know, you have to embrace this other thing where it's like, Strong Bad has a Twitter account, and so it's like, maybe the interactive part is that Strong Bad will talk to you on Twitter about those— you know, or like, point out hidden things in the cartoon. So yeah, it's cool 'cause it is going to make us have to find this new, kind of, solution for some of that stuff, which will be fun to work within those constraints.

FRED: And I'm excited to see how it happens and, you know, if, we happen to know— we're all librarians here in this room that you're talking to, on this side of the mic. So if you need to get in touch with a digital archivist, we can hook you up.

CHARLIE: Oh yeah, we got one.

FRED: Right.


FRED: We have been joined today by Mike Chapman and Matt Chapman, otherwise known as the Brothers Chaps, the creators of Homestar Runner. Mike, Matt, thank you so much, it's been great.

MIKE: Thanks for having us.

MATT: Yeah, thank you.

{Music sting.}

FRED: Um, Charlie, I know it's time to do our usual music set here, but... I wonder if we can do this one a little bit differently.

CHARLIE: Yeah, I see that the guests are still here.

FRED: Yeah, they're kind of hanging around—

MIKE: {muffled} Sorry.


MIKE: I'm still here!

FRED: —clutching piles of vinyl. Mike, Matt, you brought a few requests in, can you tell us a little bit about them?

MIKE: Yeah, we have some stacks of 7-inches at our houses that we... found some things lost in. So what are we— are we starting with the basketball thing?


MIKE: So this is a 7-inch by The Tall Boys, which was four Atlanta Hawks players, Tree Rollins, Cliff Levingston, Jon Koncak, and Kevin Willis. They made a rap song, an anti-drug rap song, about 1986 I'm guessing, called "Hugs Not Drugs".

CHARLIE: We're gonna play that, and then we're actually gonna start just... sampling from the other 7-inches you've brought. Which, I understand many of them are cover songs that you would not expect?

MATT: Yeah, I mean, speaking of just those things that it was fun, now, I found all of these on YouTube. Like, you know, someone— and it's like, some of them were literally someone filming their turntable. And then it's... you know, it's higher-quality audio, but... whereas finding these in a record store, it used to be this find, you know, it's like, "I was the one guy that had this Lou Barlow collection of home recordings, like none of my friends had found it at record stores", and now it's just, you just send somebody a link, and the whole world can listen to it.

CHARLIE: At least yours is bright red.

MATT: Hey, thanks! Yeah, it is colored vinyl.

MIKE: I would bet that the Hugs Not Drugs is not on YouTube.

MATT: That is—

{Laughter, crosstalk.}

MATT: ...once we started recording when there's something that we try and find. There's an old character that Chris Elliott did on Letterman that we can't find any evidence of on YouTube, and we like, write that down, because we're like, "this is one of the few!" Like, the day that this becomes available, it's like, okay, yeah, there's nothing secret...

MIKE: Everything's out there now.

MATT: Yeah.

FRED: The revenge of the analog.

CHARLIE: Fred, do you want to classify this set?

FRED: I think we should file this set under SB_EMAIL.EXE. Hit it.

{Playlist continues.}

FRED: Okay, well, we started out at 45, so we thought we'd end that one at 45.

CHARLIE: {laughs}

FRED: That was "Everyday Shoes" by Verbena, before that we played a clip from Great Lakes, a song called Conquistadors. And before that we played the theme from Midnight Cowboy, which we think was written by — John Berry? We're gonna go with John Berry, without googling it — by the Cows. And before that we played a selection of "To Love Somebody" by Mule, and then we played before that, "Run to You", the Bryan Adams classic, as recorded by Lou Barlow. And we started that with "Hugs Not Drugs", by the Tall Boys, featuring members of the Atlanta Hawks circa nineteen-eighty...

MIKE: ...six or seven, I'm guessing?

FRED: Okay.

CHARLIE: So if anybody was really entranced by the sample they heard, they can go looking for those 7-inches...

MIKE: {laughs} Good luck.

CHARLIE: ...out there in the world.

FRED: Right. Songs selected by our guests, Mite Mack— ugh. {laughs} Mike and Matt, played on vinyl, which is a format that will never die.


{Music sting.}

CHARLIE: Our show today is all about the death of Adobe Flash, and the possibility of a lot of online art going down with it. Before we wrap up today, what other formats or tools or media do you think you'd hate to see suddenly go extinct? We're gonna go around the room. Emy?

EMY: Well, vinyl may not be dead, but after going through vinyl, tapes, CDs, and MP3s, I'm really tired of rebuilding my music collection every decade or so. So I think I'd be really sad now if my MP3s were out of vogue.

CHARLIE: That's a pretty practical answer, yeah. Allison?

ALISON VALK: Well, we're already going down the road to extinction with this, but: analog film. I'm glad I can still kinda get ahold of some of it.

MATT: I'm afraid those bubble lights, those bubble Christmas lights, that like have the bubbles inside them, will go away because LEDs don't generate enough heat to make bubbles. Or whatever that toxic sludge is.

FRED: I think that I would really miss YouTube. That is my on-demand radio. I would hate to see that... and if Homestar moves to YouTube, then that's another reason not to want it to go away.

CHARLIE: Those are all great answers. I'm gonna have to be really pretentious and say it's paper, for me.


CHARLIE: I'd be really, really sad if we stopped using paper altogether.

FRED: That's apocalyptic.

CHARLIE: Okay! Well, that's our show for— apocalyptic? You know what? Let's roll those apocalyptic credits.

{Credits music starts.}

CHARLIE: Lost in the Stacks is a collaboration between WREK Atlanta and the Georgia Tech library. Produced by Charlie Bennett — that's me — Wendy Hagenmaier, Fred Rascoe, and Emy Decker.

EMY: Charlie was our engineer today.


EMY: And this show was sponsored in part by The Collective, a library conference designed to create collaborations between next-generation academic librarians, archivists, and library staff.

FRED: You can find out more at TheLibraryCollective.org, where you can see the schedule and register for next year's conference.

CHARLIE: Legal counsel and Cold Ones from Bubs' Concession Stand were provided by the Burrus Intellectual Property Law Group in Atlanta, Georgia.

ALISON: Oh, and special thanks to Mike and Matt for being on the show, and thanks as always to each and every one of you for listening.

FRED: Find us online at LostInTheStacks.org, and you can subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and probably lots of other places we don't know about.

CHARLIE: Next week on Lost in the Stacks... Fred?

FRED: Yes?

CHARLIE: Is it a LITSmas show?

FRED: It's a LITSmas miracle.

CHARLIE: It's gonna warm your heart... probably not mine.

FRED: {laughs} Maybe even your black heart, Charlie. I dunno. It's time for our last song today, and I think it's a no-brainer what we have to close with: start your Friday afternoon off by burninating the countryside, along with "Trogdor" by Strong Bad, right here on Lost in the Stacks. Have a great weekend everybody, everybody.

{"Trogdor" plays.}

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