The ATC Report

"In Control" - Vol. XII, No. 6

We give up. Six episodes (including the last one) and seven prompt columns into the new season and we can't seem to get hardly any reaction at all out of the readers at TARflies. Our interview with Kynt and Vyxsin went over pretty well, but that was just us talking to a couple of fellow racers. Oh sure, we actually had to play the tape back and transcribe what we all said, but we didn't have to make anything up for the sake of getting cheap laughs!

This episode we were going to include lots of pictures of animals, alluding to the fact that there seems to be an inordinate amount of animal-related challenges this season. We were going to describe several failed ideas for Roadblocks involving these animals. Either that or we might have claimed they were Roadblocks that were yet to come. In any event, we've scrapped the whole ‘animal Roadblock' idea. We haven't yet scrapped the pictures though - we're going to keep them in this column. Now they're here to prompt squeals of, "Oh, how cute!" instead.

Formerly a picture of the ‘Vicious Attack Puppy' Roadblock (the clue would have been photoshopped into the middle of the circle), now a cheap attempt at feedback.

See what we're talking about? When we ran the ‘Vicious Attack Puppy' idea past our test audiences, they loved it. (Yes, Steve and Dave do have test audiences. Do you think we got married for their 401Ks?) They thought it was hilarious. Then again, they loved our new road-sign clues last episode. They thought those were hilarious too. Yet here, the road-signs bombed bigger than the Enola Gay. With that in mind, we decided that spending time actually inserting an image of a clue was pretty pointless.

This might have been a ‘Dog Slingshot' Roadblock. Now it's just another cute picture of some puppies hanging on a line. Don't you want to just hug them?

The picture above and the attached ‘Dog Slingshot' Roadblock scored quite well with our Steve & Dave test audiences. Also scoring as well was our idea for a whole column on low-def vs. high-def images. We spent hours creating those fake HD images. Even though our test audiences loved them, here they produced...death.

Awwwww...kitties! Under other circumstances, they might have been the ‘Stack A Cat' Roadblock. Now, they're just another cheap attempt at comments.

Personally, we have mixed emotions on cats. Dave likes them. Steve thinks they are quite tasty if cooked properly. (Now don't go getting hostile on us. That was a joke. Steve doesn't really eat cats. Unless he orders the Kung Pao Chicken, in which case, who knows?) But poll data revealed that many potential readers DO like cats, which meant that we couldn't just have dog challenges or those folks might feel left out. The poll data also told us that people would think a fake interview with Mariana and Julia that turned into a fake interview with Kevin and Drew was outrageously funny.

We actually found this picture a little distasteful (pun intended). But it could have killed as the new ‘Hot Dog Eating' Roadblock. Now it's just a picture of a teeny little puppy.

Now you HAVE to admit that the above picture is cute. We were somewhat put off by it initially, and were really thinking twice about using it as a ‘Hot Dog Eating' Roadblock. Then we conducted a telephone survey (the wives were out shopping and we had to call them on the cell). Overall, 55% of those surveyed said that the picture probably wouldn't cause them to think twice about cruelty to animals. (Now, before you math whizzes [we're looking at YOU Apskip] complain of skewed figures, remember, Dave has been married several times.) An amazing 83% of respondents who planned on reading our column said that they actually thought the gag was funny, and 62% of those said that they were likely to take the time to comment on the column based on that bit alone. (Please note that there was a margin of error of ±4% in the survey.) [Addendum: there is an additional ±2% margin of error in the previous statement as well.]

Unfortunately, this same survey told us that almost no one (7%) would like a ‘quiz' column, and that it would generate even less feedback (2% responding ‘possible', ‘likely', or ‘definitely will' to the statement "I will post feedback on a quiz column."). Wouldn't you know that our quiz column generated more feedback than any since our interview with Kynt & Vyxsin? We've always considered the "quiz columns" a lazy way to fulfill our contractual obligations. They take almost no effort to plagiarize from other sites and the only difficulties arise from cutting and pasting our names in.

It was going to be the "Find The Pantomime Horse" Roadblock. Now it's just some more cute dogs. Feel like posting some comments yet?

We're actually not even gonna pretend anymore. No fake surveys that showed that our new clue column was the funniest of the season. No statements about how tough the graphics were to create. No statements about our shock that the column garnered fewer comments than a story about Big Brother premiering in February. Just another picture.

It was going to be a Detour - ‘Sleep With The Elephants' or ‘Sleep With The Fishes'. Now it's two more animal pictures. Hey, if you like Pandas (filthy, flea-infested, randy little bastards that they are), you might like elephants as well.

Start composing your comments now. Here's a suggestion for an opening line: "You two are the best darn columnists ever. I read you religiously, and find it hard to start my day without you. Would it be OK if I mailed you my life savings to show my appreciation for your work?" Of course, you should probably fill in a few more lines describing how great we are, and the things you would like to give to/do for us. If you only included the lines we provided, we might not feel that you were being genuine. (Not that insincere flattery upsets us - beggars can't be choosers.)

This was probably never going to be the "Mug 20 Kitties" Roadblock. But now it is definitely a threat. Cute cat, huh? Want it to stay that way? National Lampoon already threatened to shoot a dog; we're just taking the next logical step. Now before you sic the ASPCA on us, we filled the gun with blanks. We aren't that heartless, but remember the Brandon Lee incident. Do you really want to take that chance?

Question: In the spirit of the holiday giving season, and with a fine chance to exhibit your writing style, wouldn't now be an excellent time to ask yourself, "Should I immediately go and write glowing things about this column?"


Who knows? Maybe (just maybe) the poster with the most eloquent gushing will get a mention in an upcoming column. How exciting is that prospect?! A word of caution though - if Steve and Dave even get a sniff of the fake Carissa-style praise (ex: "Gee Carissa, I can't believe you are only 11 years old AND potty trained and you write a super swell column that makes me spit my Red Bull all over my new wireless keyboard and no way does your mommy write your column and, blah, blah..."), you will be eliminated from further competition.


BONUS STEVE & DAVE! Only for TARflies readers!

This is now the second episode in a row in which we've included bonus material for the TARflies readers. Not that any of you noticed, based on the comments we got. Anyhow, here's one last picture. It's another animal picture, although not what you might be expecting. We just like the picture.