The Slayer Lives: A Look Inside a Fan’s Custom-Built ‘Buffy’ Pinball Machine

Posted in Check It Out!, TV on November 20th, 2013 by Nick

IMG03Fans of popular culture usually show off their fandom in many ways: tattoos, art, pets’ names, original songs, cakes, etc. And since this is the Internet, land of the weird and home of the macabre, I’m sure there are far scarier examples of that floating around. But Dave Nelson is doing something completely different…something that has rarely ever (never?) been done before. He’s creating his very own, custom-built Buffy the Vampire Slayer pinball machine.

As outlined on his website,, Nelson carefully selected all the pieces to his creation, as if constructing his very own 314 project: the cabinet, the translite, the display, the art-filled panels, and more. The Buffy logo on the display even changes colors and the show’s entire opening credits rolls right in front of your eyes. There’s a whole lot of intricate programming involved, too, but I’ll leave the complicated stuff for him to explain on his site.

Nelson took the time to chat about this ambitious project that even caught the attention of Buffy, herself – Sarah Michelle Gellar. And like every true Buffy fan, he struggles in choosing a favorite episode!

The Littlest Winslow: Where did the idea for the Buffy pinball machine first come from? What inspired you?

Dave Nelson: I have been into pinball nearly my entire life. I credit this to my father who is also an avid pinballer. Growing up we always had pinball machines in our house to play, so it was only natural that I ended up loving them too. When I was old enough to afford one I purchased my very first machine and never turned back. I am a very mechanically inclined person, so I not only enjoy playing pinball, I also enjoy working on and fixing up pinball machines. For years I have dreamt of making my own pinball theme, but up until recently, making a custom pinball machine was extremely difficult to do. However, thanks to new technology, it is now fairly easy for anyone to attempt this. One of my other obsessions in life is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I love all things Whedon, but Buffy is my all time favorite, so it was only natural that my pinball obsession and Buffy obsession would eventually come together. Enter the Buffy Pinball concept.

TLW: What has been the most challenging aspect of the project so far?
Nelson: The most challenging thing so far has been what I am currently up against…the coding of the new software. I am mechanically inclined, but when it comes to writing new code for rules, sounds, and display functions, I am as green as they come. It is not something that is impossible to learn, but it is something that requires time and devotion to pick up on. Unfortunately, it has been very difficult for me to find the time to devote to this part of the project, so I decided it would be best to seek out help for this. If I hadn’t, it would be years before I would have had the time to learn the ins and outs of what needs to be done, and I didn’t want this project to die because of that. I was lucky enough to find a guy who is not only extremely knowledgeable in the coding that is required, but is also a big fan of Buffy as well. This is a HUGE plus as he can take my vision of how I want the game to play and utilize his knowledge of the show to make suggestions or improvements.

TLW: When it’s completed, what do you intend to do with it? Sell it, keep it, display it somewhere?
Nelson: This will be my baby and I doubt it will ever leave my house! Although, it would be cool to bring it to some of the local shows and show it off – maybe some of the local Cons, or the Slay-a-thon event that happens here every year. I, for sure, will be bringing it to the Pinball Expo in Chicago if I can complete it by then.

TLW: Sarah Michelle Gellar retweeted a link to your site. Any plans to try to get it in front of Joss or other cast members?
Nelson: I would LOVE for others that were involved with Buffy to see it (especially Joss), which is why I wouldn’IMG08t mind bringing it to certain events. If I could get pictures of some of them playing it, my life would be complete!

TLW: How much do you anticipate this project will end up costing ?
Nelson: It’s a lot! Pinball machines these days are not cheap. They can range anywhere from $500 for an old mid-70′s machine to $10K+ for some of the more modern sought after games. I am only about half way completed and have over $3k into it. Could I have built it for less? Yes. Would it end up being as nice as this one will? No way! I decided if I was going to build my dream pinball machine, I wasn’t going to cut any corners.

TLW: Have you done any other big Pop-Culture/TV related projects like this?
Nelson: Nothing of this magnitude. However, I did have some downtime during this project and decided to make a full sized replica of the BRONZE bar sign that hung above the front door of the iconic bar. That was a lot of fun. Since revealing that to the world, I have had requests from others to make more and have made 4 extras to date.

TLW: What are your favorite Buffy seasons or episodes?
Nelson: I have been a fan of Buffy ever since it first debuted. I was hooked after watching the first episode. I am not sure I have a favorite season, as they all are very different and brilliant in their own ways, but I would say that I prefer the earlier seasons to the later ones. Only by a little though, as I do love them all. My favorite episode…this is tough, there are SO MANY good ones. If I had to pick one it would be Hush. Everything about it is just plain brilliant. I love this episode so much that I even came up with a special Hush mode for the game.

TLW: How long have you been working on it and how long do you anticipate it will take to complete?
Nelson I started planning this project in October of 2012. A lot of thought went into how to go about doing this and many different concepts were considered. However, I officially started this build after I acquired the donor machine in January of this year (2013). So I have been at it for about 10 months so far. This is all just in my spare time though. I have a full time job, a wife, and two young daughters that take up a huge amount of my time, so this is why it has taken me this long to get where I am now. I would say that I am only about 40-50% through the project, and I hope to have it close to completion by October of next year, but only time will tell if that will be possible or not.

TLW: Lastly, when can I come and play it? 
Nelson: You are welcome any time…after it is completed, of course!

For more information, photos and videos of the Buffy Pinball game, visit Nelson’s website or Facebook page! And drop him a Tweet to tell him how rad he is, too!



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Guns Don’t Kill People

Posted in TV on July 25th, 2013 by Nick


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Friday Fun: A 30-minute Look Behind the Scenes of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’

Posted in things I like that you should like too, TV on June 28th, 2013 by Nick

buffyIf you’ve read this blog more than once (the commitment required – I know!), it’s no secret that I am part of Joss Whedon’s army. Specifically – Buffy the Vampire Slayer is my favorite show of all time and, in my opinion, it’s one of the best television series – fantasy or otherwise – to ever air on the small screen. (In fact, EW just called it the 8th best of all time, putting it right up there with shows like Mad Men, Seinfeld, The Simpsons, The Wire, and more!)

If you’re late to the party or simply don’t get it – well, it sucks to be you.

This week, former stunt coordinator Jeff Pruitt posted a 30-minute behind the scenes video showing Buffy stunts from season two, interviews with the crew, and some funky cast shenanigans as well! Die hards – check out this 30 minutes of gloriousness and squeee your way into the weekend on a Scooby Gang-kinda high. Because seriously – the stuntwork and make-up on this show were amazing (Becoming Part 2 sword fight scene – I’m lookin’ at you!).


It’s amusing to think back to a time when I was slightly embarrassed by my Buffy fanaticism and obsession, and had to defend it around every corner. But now, I take comfort in obnoxiously giving the world the biggest “I told you so!” at every opportunity that presents itself. Because this show has been off the air for 10 years and people are still losing their shit over it.

Fan from Day 1. Fan for life.

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Happening Sh*t – May 10, 2013 – Simon Pegg, the Essnemma Vlog and an ‘IT Crowd’ Finale Special

Posted in Happening Sh*t on May 10th, 2013 by Nick

It’s Friday and you know what that means: time to celebrate some Happening Shit – and there’s plenty to chat about this time ’round. Let’s hit it:

Simon Pegg’s New End of the World Flick

Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright are a dream team of sorts; they’re geeky film fans who make movies based on the genres they loved growing up. Shaun of the Dead explored the zombie-horror genre way before zombies became the new vampires. Hot Fuss took on buddy cop dramas. Next up: an end-of-the-world apocalypse movie! In The World’s End, a group of friends (Pegg, Frost and Martin Freeman from The Office and The Hobbit) set out to repeat a pub crawl that their younger, former selves took on 20 years prior. Over the course of the crawl, it becomes apparent that making it to their final destination, a pub that’s actually called “The World’s End,” becomes the least of their worries. There’s glowing beamy eyes and chasing and apocalyptic bad things! The trailer looks amazing and if you’re a fan of any of the other Pegg/Frost/Wright films, this one is surely right up your alley.

Emma Caulfield’s “Essnemma” Vlog

You probably remember Emma Caulfield as ex-vengeance demon Anya Jenkins from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (but since she gets all sorts of cranky when she’s only referred to as Anya, she also played Susan from Beverly Hills, 90210 and Oona in the FANTASTIC indie sci-fi-rom-com TiMER). Her vlog Essnemma is worthy of your radar. Every Thursday, she goes on her Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter and takes your questions for her weekly advice video. Generally, her advice is pretty terrible, but it’s equally hilarious! She’s a riot who doesn’t take herself, her vlogs or your shitty problems too seriously. On Tuesdays she releases her Grab Bag video – she chooses something from fan suggestions and then talks about it or reviews it. Sometimes she draws self portraits blindfolded. Or plays the marry-fuck-kill game. Or stands on her head (literally). She’s also super interactive with fans on Facebook. (Just don’t go calling her Anya.)


‘The IT Crowd’ Finale Special


Fans of the British series The IT Crowd will be pleased to hear that a finale special is now in the works! Creator Graham Linehan wrote the script and tweeted back in 2012 about wanting to wrap up the characters’ stories, but he was waiting for the actors’ schedules to open up. Guess he had to wait awhile since Chris O’Dowd is kind of a big deal now (Bridesmaids, Girls, etc.). The special is going to be 40-ish minutes. O’Dowd, Richard Ayoade, Katherine Parkinson and Matt Berry are all rumored/most likely returning. If you don’t know this series, you can catch up on all four seasons on Netflix Instant. (EW)

YO THAT’S SOME HAPPENING SHIT! I wonder how long I can keep this premise up. 

Producer: I don’t… I-I just don’t think this… the idea of the song can sustain itself for that long because it…it seems a little sweaty now, so…
Tracy: This whole premise is sweaty!

Til next time!

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See Joss Whedon’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ Trailer and Swoon

Posted in Movies, Trailer Park on March 12th, 2013 by Nick


In the middle of writing, directing and cranking out the third highest grossing movie of all time (The Avengers), Joss Whedon collaborated with some friends to make yet another movie, because clearly the man is not a fan of sleep or free time. The movie in question: Much Ado About Nothing, a modern-day version of a Shakespeare comedy, adapted and directed by The Man Himself.

Flimed in just 12 days, Much Ado features some beloved actors from Whedon’s past works, including Amy Acker (Angel) and Alexis Denisof (Buffy, Angel) as Beatrice and Benedick, Nathan Fillion (Firefly) as Dogberry, Clark Gregg (The Avengers) as Leonato, Fran Kranz (Dollhouse, Cabin in the Woods) as Claudio and Reed Diamond (Dollhouse) as Don Pedro. Some of Whedon’s cast are even veterans of Shakespearean theater – bonus!

As the trailer shows, the movie was shot in gorgeous black and white, and follows the story of two unlikely lovers who inevitably fall in love. I don’t know this story at all and am avoiding spoilers because of that, but since there was a gun in the trailer and it’s Shakespeare, I’m assuming everyone dies at the end. And Whedon is GREAT at killing everyone!

The film opens in North America on June 7 and in the UK and Ireland on June 14. Check out the trailer below (which includes a hot track from St Germain called “Rose Rouge”):


Maybe, just maybe, the world will finally fall in love with Amy Acker.


Props to

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‘American Horror Story’: The Best Show on Television?

Posted in Horror, TV on January 3rd, 2013 by Nick

american-horror-story-asylum-unveils-first-look-at-charactersThis post is spoiler free. 

Sure, Dexter, Homeland, Game of Thrones and Mad Men are worthy competitors, but it’s time to face the facts: American Horror Story is the best show currently on TV.

There. I said it.

Horror may not be everybody’s bag, but Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story has been consistently delivering all the goodies these other shows have been dishing out and more. More zombie-monster things! More aliens! More World War 2 Nazi Evil Mad Doctors!

It sounds batshit crazy to deem a show like this TV’s reigning champion, but it’s time Horror started getting its due. Horror TV had always been a cult phenomenon. Shows like The Twilight Zone, The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer broke industry boundaries and paved the way for the television landscape we see today. Oftentimes, they never garnered the proper cred and respect they deserved until way later. In fact, shows like Dexter, True Blood, the upcoming Bates Motel, and more, simply wouldn’t have existed over a decade ago. Thanks to these pioneers, Horror has now bridged the gap between “cult fave” and  the “mainsteam.” Horror TV is here and people love it, and thanks to the creativity of American Horror Story, it’s being taken to an entirely new level.

This season’s Asylum edition of AHS has been a wee bit convoluted at its worst; at its best, it has been a beast harnessing some of the best writing and acting of 2012. This season’s plot surrounds Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) and the patients, doctors and nuns who occupy an institution for the criminally insane called Briarcliff Manor. It’s a completely new american-horror-story-asylum-poster1storyline from Season 1, yet like its predecessor, the story operates on multiple timelines, jumping back and forth from 1964 to the present. Some of Briarcliff’s inhabitants are morally twisted, like the evil Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell). Others are unjustifiably thrown into the asylum, like Kit Walker (Evan Peters) and Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), two characters who are trying to right the wrongdoings that put them there. They’re completely sane…or is Briarcliff ridding them of their sanity? Lange’s character this year lies somewhere in between the Good vs. Evil power struggle of the asylum. For Sister Jude, life at Briarcliff is a bit more…complicated. Oh, and then there’s that pesky Devil romping about.

As a result of its ambition and complexity portrayed through the show’s morals, graphic violence and simultaneous plot lines, the show should be a mess. Thanks to Murphy and his writing team, American Horror Story has avoided getting lost in its own insanity, balancing characters and action nicely and knowing when to wrap up certain character’s tales (see: last night’s episode! Hot damn!).

The acting is just as jaw-dropping as its blood and gore. Jessica Lange’s performance in last night’s “The Name Game” was probably one of the best performances I’ve seen. Ever. Her character’s transformation is rather spoilerific, but it’s an acting feat that cannot be missed for any fan of fiction. She deserves every award in the book for this performance. Hell, we need to just make up fake awards and throw ‘em at her. The Jessica Lange Award for Best Acting in a Mini-Series…presented by Jessica Lange. And the winner is: Jessica Lange. And us, of course.

Though Lange is the lead first and foremost, the cast is most definitely an ensemble. She’s surrounded by skilled professionals, most notably Lily Rabe, who plays two characters in one as the devil-possessed Sister Mary Eunice; the aforementioned Cromwell; and Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under) who co-stars as the Angel of Death. Week after week, these actors churn out performances that are…well, to die for. Cheeky, but true.

There’s a lot happening on TV right now. With cable networks producing more and more bankable products like The Walking Dead, Mad Men, and Sons of Anarchy, it’s often hard to break through such stiff competition. But American Horror Story is so unique in its storytelling and design that it must be celebrated. And it’s so refreshing to see such twisted perversion on the small screen without ever sacrificing character or quality.

Grade: A

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Joss Whedon’s ‘The Avengers’ Hulk-Smashes the Shit Out of the Box Office

Posted in Movies on May 10th, 2012 by Nick

Although everyone and their adoptive mother’s third cousin has already reviewed Marvel’s latest superhero soiree, I would still be so, so remiss if I didn’t comment on the super-mega-ultra blockbuster. I’m somewhat remiss by posting this nearly a week after the powerhouse raped and pillaged the box office and made it its bitch, but dammit, here I go.

Given my occasional Joss Whedon fanboy tendencies, I’m sure it’s of no surprise when I tell you that I absolutely loved The Avengers, and support it with every fiber of my being. Now that the world has all of a sudden jumped aboard the Whedon train, I’m fighting the urge to do a grotesque, insanely awkward “I told you so” dance, even though Whedon more-or-less told me to. Putting my various biases aside, the movie really did work on so many different levels.

Having also written the script, Whedon did a great job of properly serving and balancing each superhero’s side story. Since most of the characters already had their origin stories told in previous films, I’m sure the ability to soar right over that aspect really helped us firmly plant ourselves in the world of The Avengers rather than backtracking or rehashing. The screen time balance for such a large cast is a tricky tightrope to navigate, but Joss’s resume proves he has experience in doing just that (Firefly/Serenity, for one).

The action scenes were also extremely well done: they were intense and well shot, really accompanying the 3D aspects of the film nicely. But even when our heroes were simply hanging around and talking shop, well, Alex Pappademas from GQ said it best: “It’s the rare superhero movie that doesn’t flatline when its characters are just standing around talking, because in Whedon’s work that stuff is the meat, not the bread.”

There can’t be a good movie, nay, a blockbuster without a solid script. Isn’t that the difference between John Carter and The Hunger Games? Between Pearl Harbor and Jurassic Park? A shitty script makes a shitty movie and no amount of action or wowing CGI or 3D mumbo jumbo can ever fix that. Luckily for us, Whedon had all of these elements on lockdown;  he was aware of the necessary measures in order to successfully pull off not just any ol’ blockbuster, but one that combines multiple beloved series in a well-written and intelligent way. It’s a difficult feat, and simply stated, he nailed it.

So back to that huge “I told you so”…tempting, but I’ll hold off. In fact, it doesn’t even need to be said. Even though only one week has passed, there’s no question:  The Avengers is a huge success. Sure, with fame and success comes more hype and possibly more pressure for Whedon’s next outing, but as some of us have known for more than a decade, he’s more than capable. And his army will only continue to grow.

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Geeking Out with Felicia Day

Posted in things I like that you should like too, Video Games on April 26th, 2012 by Nick

Though she may not be a household name yet, make no mistake: Felicia Day leads an army. They may not be that strong or confrontational, and their weapons perhaps work best in an MMORPG setting (for non-gamers, that’s a Massive Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game – keep up!), but they are loyal and mighty. Her number of Twitter followers only confirms that.

Best known for her roles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog, and her grassroots, geek-tastic Web Series The Guild (which she wrote and created), Day has recently launched something even sharper than her character Codex’s sword – a new YouTube channel appropriately titled “Geek & Sundry.” I must say: I’m obsessing.

It all started with The Guild, a show revolving around the lives of a group of gamers and their online guild, The Knights of Good. In addition to her duties as the show’s creator, Day plays Cyd Sherman, aka Codex. Codex struggles to deal with life as her two seemingly separate worlds collide: one of her guild-mates shows up at her doorstep and the entire guild finally meets in person. After five seasons and a Microsoft sponsorship, The Guild has garnered millions (count ‘em!) of views and is now available on Netflix, the XBOX Live Marketplace, Zune Marketplace, MSN Video, Netflix, and now, Day’s own Geek & Sundry.

In addition to the The Guild, Day and her crew offer plenty of gamer-fare to make your inner geek squeal with delight. For example:

Table Top: Hosted by Wil Wheton, this series introduces viewers to the best of the best in table-top board gaming. There are celebrity appearances, behind-the-scenes interviews, and a new game every episode! It’s also chock-full of witty banter and great laughs.

Dark Horse Motion Comics: Watch as some of your favorite Dark Horse characters come to life with state of the art graphic motion-y goodness! Technology. Design. Smart people lingo. Yeah, I don’t know how they do it.

Sword & Laser: The popular podcast can now be seen rather than heard all thanks to Geek & Sundry! Hosts Veronica Belmont and Tom Merrit showcase the latest in technology, geek and entertainment news and discuss some super rad Sci-Fi/Fantasy books throughout the process. Genre fiction, galore!

The Flog: The Felicia Day Video Blog Show! (The Flog! Get it?) In this G&S special, Day dishes her five favorite things of the week, partakes in a weekly activity (blacksmithing, anyone?), and responds to some fan email. Her whimsy and enthusiasm are not only welcome, but contagious; her sincerity, and heart for gaming and geeking perpetually on her sleeve. My favorite of the pack, join Felicia as she plays the violin, bakes Italian tortas, and plays vintage games that somehow escaped her childhood (see below).

Since you’re already in front of a computer, check out Geek & Sundry today, and subscribe, subscribe, subscribe! Felicia and her crew deliver on multiple levels, and they’re only getting started! Put down your remote (Only for a few minutes…GOD, stop freaking out) and appease your inner geek! And check out Episode 2 of The Flog below!

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Hannigan, You Heartbreaker

Posted in TV on January 6th, 2011 by Nick

Did everyone see this week’s episode of How I Met Your Mother? Cuz it’s spoilin’ time! This episode has got me in a headspin – I’m all tizzy with glee and melancholy at the same time. And it’s all because of you, Alyson Hannigan. You heartbreaker.

In the episode entitled “Bad News,” Marshall and Lily are still trying to have a baby, as they visit a fertility doctor to make sure everything is A-OK down there (enter: Barney Doppelganger…finally!). The episode offered a fun little countdown that would eventually drop the bad news bomb.  Starting at 50, the numbers counted down, displaying a different digit in every scene until the big WHOA moment of its final seconds: Lily gets out of a cab to tell Marshall that his Dad has died.

Ok, so check it: First – I can’t lie – I didn’t even see the numbers the first time around. Props to Doom for bringing this to light. Second – and the reason for this post – Hannigan, you have broken my heart. Again. For the millionth time. And I love you.

It’s just like: bad news, BAM!, she cries and my life is ruined. That’s how it goes down. I’m convinced that when Alyson Hannigan cries, 25 babies die somewhere. Damn, man – she kills me every. fucking. time. Remember that little ol’ show Hannigan was a part of – Buffy the Vampire Slayer? (I’m thinking about Season 4′s “Wild At Heart” and Season 6′s “Grave” in particular). Aly brings the hurt every single time.

I’m feeling a picture post coming on, because dammit, I want you to feel the pain too.  

That’s it! That’s all I can take.  Someone give this woman a damn Emmy, already.

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Learning How to Let Go: 'Castle'

Posted in TV on October 5th, 2010 by Nick

As Fall TV graces us with its presence, so does William Shatner, proving that television can sometimes morph from enjoyable escapism to torture in a matter of minutes. Thirty-minutes that is.

Shit My Dad Says was the very first victim to have its throat slit by my DVR. The borderline-racist Outsourced was victim #2 (I miss you, Amy Poehler and Parks and Recreation).  But new shows are always a risky gamble. At the end of the day, if a new show sucks, you’ve only wasted a few minutes or hours trying to find your next 24 or 30 Rock. But sometimes you just can’t handle continuing with a show you’ve invested significant time and energy into. It is at this time I must bid you farewell, Castle.

You know, I love you Nathan Fillion, and this decision has nothing to do with your remarkable charm or seasoned aura of confidence (Captain Hammer and Captain Tightpants are some of my favorite characters ever). But the format just kills me.

So there’s a guy and a girl, right? And one of them is “rough around the edges”; the other, the seemingly opposite. OMG – Will they kiss and be together and get married and have babies…or won’t they. This week, some random stranger committed the crime and I don’t care. Next week, some other random stranger committed the crime, and I still don’t care. Rinse, repeat, recycle…regurgitate.

Why do people watch these shows? Law & Order has to be the worst of the bunch. Barely any character development, no over-arcing plot, nothing substantial to make you think…what’s the deal? It’s unchallenging television, I say, and Castle has sadly fallen victim to this lame and tedious formula.

NCIS: I hate you.
Bones: Gag me (Sorry David B.)
C.S.I.: Die in a fiery fire.

I loathe all of you equally. Goodbye, Castle. Maybe I’ll see you someday. I’ll eventually peek around during your timeslot just to see how my boy Nate is doing…and though I’ll miss him, your relationship with my DVR is through.

I now present you with a Nathan Fillion picture post. Because I really do love him.

nathan.jpg image by RS_Davis


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