Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

To all of you who take time out of your day to come and read about my silly corner of the world, I wish you the happiest of holidays and the merriest of Christmases. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for spending the past year with me and look forward to entertaining you next year. Yes, I'm going to actually try and entertain you.

May your holiday be a safe and happy one.

-Brandon (SuburbanJoe)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Couch Surfing

 Posted from the Wii's brand new Internet Channel. Huzzah!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Microphone Check

I apologize for my absence. I'm working on our annual end of the year DVD to send to all of the relatives and editing it's been a bit of a bitch. I get a little anal about these things so it's important I get things right, lest I'm up all night worrying over whether or not I've picked the right title or the right transition or what have you. As it is, I'm concerned the audio levels aren't correct as Premiere Elements doesn't have a way of picking all of the audio in the project and equalizing it out. At least version 2.0 doesn't. The little it I watched on Sunday morning, after burning a rough cut caused my laptops speakers to explode at one point, so I'm thinking some reworking will be in order.

In other news, rather than continuing to brave the barren wasteland of Christmas shopping traffic in search of additional Transformers, I took my business online and scored a Classics Deluxe Grimlock and Mirage from Apparently in the rush to shop at all the cool online places like Amazon and Toys R Us online, folks have completely forgotten all about good old KB Toys. Not me though, and because of this, I have reaped the rewards. The completest in me is clamoring to pick up the Classics Deluxe version of Bumblebee and Astrotrain as well, but the rest of me knows how unbelievably lame both of those Transformers are and is repeatedly giving said completest wedgies until it shuts the hell up.

This is what I spent part of my day looking at today. As my company is a small one, it relies on employees to wear multiple hats. Today I wore the "voice talent for a marketing flash demo" hat. Yes, that's right, your humble host here has made his first tentative steps into the high flying world of Hollywood voice over work. Soon the world will know me by name, well, by voice anyways, and all of America will be in the thrall of the man who voiced random post closing dude in our company's flash overview thingy.

As I'm not one for the flash and pretentiousness of a limousine, I opted to drive myself and my costar to the studio where all of the magic happens. It's a pretty damn big place and they do all sorts of audio, video, post production, effects work and other A/V wizardry. Being that I'm a creative type, I can't be bogged down with all of that Poindexter mumbo jumbo. I just show up and shine.

And shine I did. When we arrived at the studio, I was dismayed to see that they had neither the Peruvian spring water I requested, nor the green almond M&M's, nor Kristen Bell's home phone number. In the future, I'll have my agent speak to these people ahead of time to ensure that my demands are met as I can't be bothered with worrying that I'll have neither adequate beverages nor snacks. Doing voice work is extremely difficult work, and if I have to be concerned where my water came from, well the performance just won't be genuine.

I managed to say my lines without completely screwing them up, and while I won't be winning any awards for my work, I think I did OK. I could tell that there's a pretty big difference between reading a line with the proper inflection to get a point across, which is what I did, and actually acting using only your voice, which is what people who do this for a living do. I mean, sure, I got across the feelings of loss and loneliness that comes with not having an integrated document management solution and the eventual triumph and exultation that comes with obtaining such a system, but really, anyone could have done that. I was hoping to provide a layered performance of vulnerability touched with strength and a hint of whimsy but that's kind of hard to convey in two lines. Lines about software no less.

One thing I learned is that if someone asks you to say a line with an emphasis on a certain word in the line, it is then impossible for you to not emphasize the same word in subsequent readings, even when asked to no longer emphasize the word. In my case, the last few words were something like "we even lost points at funding." Here's how it went down.

Me: ...we even lost points at funding.
Marketing guy: Ok, that's great, but let's put an emphasis on the word "lost".
Me: Ok...we even lost points at funding.
Marketing guy: Good, good, try it again.
Me: ...we even lost points at funding.
Marketing guy: Umm, let's go back to before. Don't emphasize "lost" any more.
Me: ...we even lost points at funding.
Marketing guy: Great, but let's not emphasize "lost".
Me: ...we even LOST points at funding.
Marketing guy: Again, let's not emphasize "lost" any more.
Marketing guy: Alright, cut!

Try it yourself at home. It's impossible. I managed to nail the second line in 3 takes, so I felt pretty good about myself, despite me committing the recording faux pas of having my phone ring twice, during the recording session. Some people don't take the hint of being sent right to voice mail. Amateurs.

I don't expect to ever have to do anything like this again, but I would in a second as it was a ton of fun and certainly a nice change from the monotony of software testing. I've always admired people who do voice over work, as in games anyway, the difference between good voice work and shitty voice work makes a tremendous difference in the game playing experience. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to be act with nothing but a script and a microphone while someone gives you directions like "your character is feeling ennui with a bit of prideful lust." Those people probably take years of specialized deemphasizing training. Years.

Friday, December 08, 2006


I'm not quite sure how the Autobots escaped from the certain peril of just a few days ago, but this is the site that greeted me upon returning to work this morning. Obviously I can't condone the execution style retribution killing of one's enemies, especially in the workplace, so after relieving Optimus of his armaments, I sat everyone down and we had a long chat. We talked about how we don't shoot our friends and that we should all use our words to work out our differences. Luckily Starscream's spark is indestructible so it only took a little flanagaling to get him back up and operational. Folks didn't seem especially open to my talks to end the hostilities so I forced them to all transform into their vehicle modes to at least reduce the number of guns. Granted, Megatron is one big gun, but without anything to wield him, he's pretty harmless. To be safe, I pointed him at the corner.

Kids these days. I swear.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Oh Noes!!!

Well, as you can see Optimus and Megatron have joined our little family and already tensions are on the rise. I'm not sure how Megatron got the jump on Optimus and Hot Rod, but hoo-boy, those two sure are in a pickle. Unlike in the cartoons, the figures don't seem to be able to change size at will, so Starscream can't wield Megatron's "vehicle" form. Nevertheless, he still manages to help out in his own way. I don't know how Optimus and Hot Rod will get themselves out of this one. Stay tuned!

Megatron has, by far, the coolest alternate form. The trigger doesn't have quite enough space for repeated pullings, so you better make that first shot count. Linda said that it's because these are made for children, which is just a ridiculous notion. I mean, since when does Timmy, the local 8 year old have the money for something like 18 Optimus Prime variants at 50 bucks a pop? Plus, it's not like Timmy can drive himself to Botcon. In robot form, Megatron isn't as imposing, what with the wings and everything, but he's a lot more poseable than the version I had as a kid, so I'm OK with it. Optimus is the badass we all know and love, and his truck form is solid. As an extra bonus, his hands fold out, rather than having to be added post transformation. I always thought that was odd as a kid. I mean, how can someone without hands have the dexterity to install their own hands? It boggles the mind. Like Megatron, Optimus is a lot more poseable than the one I had as a kid, so this makes up for the lack of a trailer. As they should be, both leaders are bigger than their subordinates.

I saw that in addition to the Classics figures I already have, there's a Classics Grimlock out there. Oh yes, he shall be mine. Him and Mirage, and then I'm done with the Classics line. Well, until they come out with more of them, that is. I'm still on the lookout for Wing Saber, yet at the same time, I'm not sure he'd fit in. I mean that quite literally. He's fucking huge. This also marks the end of my repeated ramblings on the subject, for now anyways. Oh sure, I'll still post pictures about their robotic shenanigans, but I'll try and keep the blatherings to a minimum.

In other news, I'm still playing Zelda and am still loving it. I just recently figured out a way to attack as a wolf and not look like an epileptic husky. And it only took me 11 hours of playing to do so! I'm not entirely convinced that Midna is on the up and up, but at this point, I'm held hostage to her twilightian mechanizations. I'll be sure to keep you informed of any treachery.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Oh, It Is So On

As you can see from the above picture, Hot Rod, wait, I'm sorry, Rodimus, has joined the party. I'm not sure what the point of renaming him is as these are supposed to be "classic" Transformers, and if that's the case, he's Hot Rod. Maybe he could be Rodimus Prime, but seeing how Optimus Prime is also around in this toy line, that would make for some very embarassing social situations. Optimus would be all like "we should go here and do this" and everyone would be following him and no one would be following Rodimus and eventually Rodimus would get all sullen and huffy and Optimus would have to put him in charge of something meaningless like getting take-out just to get him so shut up.

Yes I'm aware that there was an Energon Transformer named Rodimus-just-Rodimus, however he transformed into a big rig cab and this Rodimus transforms into a race car, hence me calling him Hot Rod.

But I digress. I'm sure him and Starscream are having some very interesting conversations what with one being a coward and the other being a brash, headstrong warrior. They're also mortal enemies, which probably helps to spice things up. I see the conversation going like this:

Starscream: So tell me, what was it like to be responsible for the death of your beloved leader?
Hot Rod: No worse than being disintegrated at your own coronation. How'd you manage to put all that together anyways? I thought Skywarp was the brains of the operation.
Starscream: That was a production run issue! My intelligence rating is higher!
Hot Rod: I'm sorry I can't hear you over all of the retreating.

Ha! Good stuff. I saw that the classic Optimus Prime and Megatron are on sale this week, so I'm tempted to purchase them as well but then the infighting is only going to get worse. I've been lambasted by my coworkers for not having Optimus around, but all the ones I've seen so far are like 50 bucksHa! Good stuff. I've seen classics Optimus and Megatron on sale and are 9 feet tall. the mix. I have issues with the scale of the various Transformers as it is without bringing a XXL Optimus Prime intoI'm ok with Megatron now being a raygun instead of a Walther P-38 handgun as despite my continued bias against children of any size and/or shape, I certainly don't want some kid being shot by a cop for assault with a deadly Decepticon. Megatron would complicate matters too, as he's the only one I'd want to keep around in "vehicle" form, due to it looking so badass, and such a good compliment to my Nerf weaponry. If they could somehow make a Megatron that was also a working Nerf pistol, well, I'd probably pass out from joy.

Finally, no that is not real coffee my daughter is drinking in today's earlier post. She does perfectly well not sleeping on her own without the benefit of stimulants, than you very much. When we went out to eat yesterday, they were out of kids' cups, so we got the kids water in coffee cups. The resulting photographical shenanigans were just too much to resist. Please don't call child services on us.

Naps? Who has time for naps?

Seriously, I don't have time for this nap bullshit. I have time for coffee and that's about it. I have some new words to learn, I'm trying to figure out what things are colored red and at some point today, I need to fill my pants. Maybe you have time for naps, but where I come from, it's either win or go home. I hate to drink and run, but these shapes aren't going to sort themselves.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Monday, November 27, 2006

Playing With My Wii

Now that I've had more time to spend with the Wii, I'm prepared to offer some additional thoughts on the subject. Gather the children for lo I am about to speak!

I can't say which company will end out on top when this latest generation's battle is over, however I can say that playing games on the Wii is probably the most fun I've had playing video games in some time. There's something joyous about doing simple movements and then seeing those movements replicated on screen that can't be experienced on the other consoles. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy playing Gears of War, and Uno and sneaking around as a corporate whore, both on and off of the 360, however playing Zelda on the Wii is just way more fun.

Now, it could be that it's because I'm playing Zelda and Zelda has always had a special place in my heart. Before we adopted my son, I bought Wind Waker for the Gamecube and told myself that if I could just play a little Zelda before I went on a continent spanning journey to obtain an heir, I'd be happy. At the time, I thought that once I came home with a child, all video game playing would cease, so even a little Zelda would be better than no Zelda at all. Foolish, I know, but you try preparing to go halfway around the world and become a parent at the same time and see how rational your thinking is. I remember playing Zelda downstairs while my wife and her parents waited upstairs for me to finish so that we could go to the airport. Something about riding in my little red boat, searching for sunken chests and the next island to explore gave me great calm before my own trip. Besides, if this little dude in a green tunic can rescue an entire world from evil, surely I can handle a 7 month old child. When we were in Russia, I spent the time in the Wan (not a typo) playing A Link to the Past on my GBA SP, and again, were it not for Zelda all I would have had were my thoughts of potential parental failures and a slight case of nausea brought on by the infernal smell of that place.

Based on this, I can recognize that I'm not entirely objective when it comes to Zelda, however at the same time, these games kick a tremendous amount of ass, regardless of the personal baggage you bring with you on your journey. The game's art direction is something to behold, with the Twilight portions being particularly impressive. When in the Twilight Lands, or whatever they're called, everything has a somewhat blurred, intangible look, with washed out colors and pieces of ash constantly floating up from the ground to the sky. Once you return the light to whatever area you're in, the colors are strong and vibrant and each person has a distinct personality that comes through in their character design. This is particularly important given that there's no voice acting to portray personality. Zelda games have always had somewhat goofy yet completely endearing character design for the various folks you meet along the way and this game is spot on in that regard.

The control scheme works very well. I took a short break from Zelda to play Gears of War the other night and was surprised to see how much I missed being able to control my character with a flick of the wrist, or a shake of the controller. I also missed the ability to use my controller as a pointer of sorts for shooting, as once you have the ability to do that with the Wii, you'll hate going back to the dual stick mode of aiming. Locking on to multiple targets with Link's boomerang is so much easier than it used to be with the Gamecube's klugy C-stick. It's unfortunate that the current crop of shooters for the Wii have been knocked for not having enough content (Call of Duty 3) or just being generally mediocre (Red Steel) because the limited time I've spend shooting things in Zelda has opened my eyes to how much a shooter would kick ass on this platform. I have high hopes for Metroid Prime Corruption as I seriously doubt that Nintendo would allow one of their premiere franchises fail on their shiny new console. That and Retro Studio's talents are such that they could coax life from the cold, unforgiving rock of a barren planet.

Everything isn't perfect with Zelda as I find that in wolf form, attacking is a somewhat haphazard affair filled with me spazzing out and barking like some sort of enraged rottweiler. The speaker on the Wiimote is not quite up to the task, so while it's cute to hear the various Zelda sounds that designate progress coming from your controller, the speaker makes it sound like your Wiimote is calling you from a third world payphone. These are minor problems and in no way reduce your enjoyment of the game but they are "growth points" for the next game in the series.

Wii Sports continues to mock my lack of fitness by giving me an ever increasing Fitness Age. At the rate I'm going, I'm afraid Nintendo is going to disable my Wii remotely for fear that my heart will explode under the stress of trying to hit multiple home runs. The wife and I played some Super Monkey Ball, but because of the shortage of controllers, we were limited to the mini games that had alternating play. The Hammer Throw mini game is an inspired piece of game design. Darts is a mockery of all that is good and pure in the world. With 50+ mini games some are going to be great, and some will be less that great. I'm dissappointed that Monkey Target is a simultaneous play game as the original Monkey Target from Super Monkey Ball was one of the greatest minigames of all time, and it was alternating. Why they had to mess with perfection is beyond me. The single player game is a great deal of fun, and the Wiimote works beautifully for controlling your monkey. The single player game now has boss battles, which seems out of place for a puzzle game. I've only encountered one of these bosses, and quickly dispatched him by using my monkey's protective shell to cave in the boss's skull. Rated E for everyone!

I'm hoping that Nintendo has arranged for a steady stream of titles for this console, as I'd hate to see it go the way of the 'Cube with it's thrice yearly releases. So far it appears that there's plenty on the horizon for it, but I would like to see some more meaty offerings to counter the minigame collections. Don't get me wrong, I love minigames, but sometimes I want a story to go along with my gameplay. I'm funny that way.

As I said before, I have no idea who will win this console war, but I'm having more fun than ever playing games, and when that happens, we all win. Well, at least I win, and really, that's all I'm concerned with.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the good old U S of A. For those in foreign countries, happy Thursday the 23rd of November!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Team Wiinky

Huzzah! The era of the Wii is upon us. As the title of this post suggests, I have named my Wii "Team Wiinky" to coincide with my Xbox gamertag "Team Binky". I find it important to have synergy across my gaming platforms. No doubt, you agree.

Boy, what a weekend this was. Two, count 'em two console launches in one weekend. I'm wondering how the folks at Sony feel. On the one hand, they sold every console they put in the retail channels and they got a whole bunch of press while doing so. On the other hand, most of the people who bought the console seemed to be doing so to sell it, and a lot of the press around the launch had to do with people being shot, stabbed and forced into lampposts at jaw shattering speeds. Granted, that last one was more a result of retail level stupidity, but given the abysmally small number of units available at launch, it's hard to be surprised that stores resulted in such shenanigans to ring in the event.

The Nintendo launch sold every unit put into retail, as long as every extra goddamn controller imaginable, and got a whole bunch of press while doing so. In contrast to the Sony launch, the press for the Nintendo launch seemed to be around how much fun the damn thing is. Granted, press is press, however if I had to choose between being known for being fun, and being known for people having violence befall them by associating with me, I'd choose the former. Sony appears to be in their own little world in regards to their console business, so who knows which they'd prefer.

Before we go any further with my impressions of the Wii, I need to share something with you. Today, I purchased a video game that might very well go down in history as one of the strangest games ever. It is "Sneak King", made by the fine folks at Burger King, and stars the Burger King as a stealthy purveyor of Burger King products. My reasons for purchasing the game were twofold. One, is that my sisters is freaked out by the Burger King as much as I am, and when she comes to visit at Christmas, she will undoubtedly find this game to be as hilarious as I do.

My other reason is that the game has undeniable charm. The back of the box outlines your mission, which is, as the Burger King to "unleash your hot sandwiches" upon the hungry citizens of your immediate vicinity. I find that phrase to be particularly compelling, in a number of literary situations, however erotic fiction is what first comes to mind. For example:
"Unleash your hot sandwiches" he murmured to her, breathless with passion.

She did so with a fleshy "Whump!". They were double whoppers.
See? Genius! Your job, as the Sneak King is to skulk around unsuspecting people and provide them with food before they collapse with hunger. The more burgers you deliver, unseen, in a row, the more points you get. If you do something particularly skillful like get very close to your victim, or hide in a trash can or other suitable container, or provide the food with a Flourish move suitable of your regal trappings, your score increases. Make no mistake, despite his cheerful grin and jaunty dance moves, the Burger King is every bit as lethal in his mission as Sam Fisher is in the Splinter Cell series. The only difference is Fisher strikes with lethal precision while the Burger King strikes with dance moves and heart disease. To be honest, I'm not sure what is more disturbing, the fact that you spend your time hiding in a refuse container with a food item, or how happy people are to see you spring out of a trash dump with an omelet sandwich.

But enough of that, on to the Wii. I'll be brief and just say that so far, I am having a tremendous amount of fun with it, and not just me, but Linda is also sharing in on the mirth. The unit is very small and sleek looking and was a breeze to set up. The sensor bar is much, much smaller than I expected it to be and is easily mounted with the provided double-stick tape. In fact, peeling the backing off of the tape was the hardest part of the whole set up. My fingernail still hurts!

Once we had the unit set up, I made the mistake of configuring the internet connections, which then caused TW to go out and obtain the necessary firmware upgrades to enable the Virtual Console and the Wii Shopping Channel. Given that everyone and their mother were doing the same thing, this took roughly nine hours. In fact, it took so long that we fired up the 360 and played some Uno while waiting. Luckily, the use of the Wiimote made it much easier to enter in my 8 hojillion character WEP key than doing so with the 360 controller, however what I made up in character entry time, I lost in sitting around and waiting time. Eventually we were all connected, could see the games to download and opted instead to play Wii Sports.

Wii Sports is a ton of fun, and while it may not be a game you keep on playing for months and months, it does a good job of getting non-gamers playing, and it shows what the console is capable of. Tennis is fun, as is bowling and the hitting part of Baseball. The pitching part isn't particularly challenging. Boxing seems unresponsive to me, however I may just need to spend more time with it. I haven't played golf yet but hope to soon. Controls are simple to use and are very accessible.

On the aforementioned bowling, it would appear that Linda is a natural, while I have carried over my real life bowling problems, only magnified about a billion times. While she was throwing straight ball after straight ball and closing out frames, I kept hooking to the left and missing completely. At one point, Linda turned to me and said "This must be frustrating for you. This is how you bowl in real life." Ouch. That's my wife ladies and gentlemen, put a controller in her hand and she gets in your head and starts destroying your will to compete. At the end of the game, she had bowled in the 130's, while I had bowled in the 30's. Since then, I have fixed some problems with my stroke and have managed to break 100, but only after some serious tinkering.

I have also found out, thanks to this game, that my Fitness Age is 57. That seems about right. In fact, it's downright generous.

I haven't played much of Zelda, 28 minutes to be exact, thanks to my daily Wii message, but so far it's a lot of fun. The game looks good, not 360 good, but pretty damn impressive for the platform. The jaggies that come with progressive scan are a little annoying, but they're easy to overlook once you get into the game. The controllers seem to be a good fit, however I haven't done anything combat related yet, so my opinion may change. I doubt it, but stranger things have happened. Hopefully the soreness in my arms as a result of Wii Sports will fade once I have to start swinging the Master Sword. Otherwise, we're going to have some problems. Note, this is not a condemnation of the Wii's control scheme, but of me being an out of shape slob.

Super Monkey Ball has yet to be opened, but I think I need to spend more time with the controllers before I attempt to take Linda down in a fit of simian oneupmanship. I fear her Monkey Boxing.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Flying Solo

The wife is traveling on business, hence the title of this post. Invariably, when this happens, one of the children pees all over the bathroom floor. Not sure what it is about the absence of a mother figure that makes this happen, but it's happened the last two times now, so I'm thinking the events are connected. Last time was a result of Ben not making it to the bathroom in time. Easy enough to clean up, what with the tile floor and all. This time, Abby was running around naked, waiting for her bath to be ready and decided that the bathroom didn't have enough water in it. She seemed pretty proud of herself so it was hard to be mad, but having one more task added to the list wasn't exactly what I was looking for. Ah, children, they sure do know how to make more work for you, don't they?

The era of the Wii has officially begun at our house as today I picked up my first Wii game, Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz. Granted, I don't have anything to play it on, and won't for several days, but when Gamestop calls to tell you that your game is in, it is in your interests to go and pick it up. They had a drawer filled with Wii offerings including Red Steel, Call of Duty 3 and Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam. To say that the drawer looked delectable would be an understatement. Before he could relinquish the title, the clerk had to call someone of authority to inquire as to which titles, 1st party or 3rd party he could sell. As Super Monkey Ball is 3rd party Nintendo was comfortable with letting the game out of it's steely grasp. Why this is an issue at all, given that the console, an integral part of the game playing experience, isn't out until Sunday is beyond me. I'm sure Nintendo is just looking out for our best interests and don't want us to mar the Zelda disc with copious amounts of drool.

I am happy to see that the initial Wii game reviews are, for the most part, positive, with folks saying that the control scheme works for both puzzle games such as the aforementioned Super Monkey Ball title, action games like Zelda and shooters like Call of Duty 3. The review I'm waiting for is Red Steel as I have more of an interest in the story of that game than I do reliving WWII yet again, however if COD3 is the only way I can get my shoot on until Metroid Prime 3, then so be it. I find it interesting that some reviews state that the controls are kind of wonky and then some say that the controls take some time getting used to and calibrating but once you do, it kicks ass and anyone who thinks that the controls are wonky haven't spent enough time with the game. I guess this is really going to be a case of personal preference, so I'll have to make sure I tread with caution as if I find I don't like the controls for a game, it's not like I can go and return it. Then again, there's always Costco.

I am currently watching "Hellboy: Sword of Storms" the latest Hellboy animated movie. It's quite good and is voiced by the actors and actresses from the movie, including Doug Jones who did Abe Sapien's body motions. Ron Perlman is his usual fantastic self and, at this point, any non-print Hellboy project without Perlman as Hellboy would be tantamount to blasphemy. The movie has a lot of cool Japanese imagery and mythology and, more importantly, big beasties getting the beatdown by Hellboy, something I felt the feature film lacked. They're currently in the midst of editing the next animated film "Hellboy: Blood and Iron" and Hellboy 2, the live action pic is a go, so fans of Big Red have a lot to look forward to.

Finally, without getting into too much detail, we found out today that our daughter does not have Cystic Fibrosis. As you can well imagine, this is a huge load off of our minds. Something still isn't right in the state of Denmark as she's not growing as much as she should be, but thankfully, the thing that's not making her grow enough isn't a disease that would cap her life span at 30. I am perfectly content to have my daughter grow up to be the world's smallest octogenarian, just as long as she grows up.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Honey, I Shaved the Dog

"And I bought clippers so I can shave the dogs!"

I'm standing in my kitchen, watching my wife's obvious excitement regarding her most recent purchase and thinking that perhaps coming home for lunch wasn't the best idea. A bowling trip at work had fallen through so I thought I'd come home and play a little Marvel Ultimate Alliance. When I called Linda to tell her, she told me that she was out getting her hair cut. Fair enough. Along with going to get her hair cut, she also stopped at Target and purchased the implements sher was so very, very excited about. I had no response.

"The clippers were only 25 bucks and we spend 100 dollars every time we go take them to the groomer. I mean, how hard can it be? And look, it came with a DVD! Besides, I think it'll be a funny story."

There aren't a lot of ways to respond to your wife when she comes home with clippers and every intention of shaving your dogs. You can try and offer token resistance to the idea, but doing so will only delay the inevitable. No sir, when your wife wants to shave the dogs, there's really nothing else to do but strap in and go for the ride.

Lunch was uneventful. We had Wendy's, I beat up some folks with Ghost Rider and then went back to work. About an hour later a message from Linda pops up:

"These clippers aren't working so well."

Before I can respond, the phone rings. It's Linda and she's laughing hysterically. Things have not been going well. I can't say I'm surprised. A brief background on my dogs. Due to her Pomeranian nature, Maggie has wiry hair that could be gathered, tied to a stick and used as a brush for cleaning grill grates. She's also on a hair trigger and is not the kind of dog that would react well to loud, whirring blades just inches from her person. Henry is the calm one, however he's covered in warts that are in various stages of scabbing over, has large deposits of fat roaming under his skin and has teeth that are held in his mouth by only plaque and whatever pieces of dog shit he just ate. Between his mouth and whatever seems to be eating him from the inside, his odor ranges from somewhat unpleasant to horrific bordering on assault. He's not a dog that you'd want to have panting around you due to being clipped, nor is he one you'd want to have to, you know, touch and certainly not clip lest you gouge a wart or a fat deposit. What I'm saying here, is that attempting to groom these dogs on one's own is the very definition of "not going well."

Linda proceeds to tell me that she started shaving Maggie but the clippers weren't doing a very good job with Maggie's hair. Then the clippers started making a weird noise. Then the clippers started heating up to the point that they burned Linda's hands. Then they started making even weirder popping noises. Wisely, she chose to unplug them at this point. She said that she was going to switch over to the clippers that I use to cut my hair, and just buy me new clippers. Why clippers that are used to cut human hair, hair that isn't used as the organism's sole protection against the elements would be better than clippers used to cut dog hair is beyond me, however I've used my clippers on a number of occasions and never once have I lost use of my hands as a result.

An hour or so later I got another message:

"Maggie half done. I'll finish her later."

Later? Later when? This did not bode well for the lack of involvement on my part, something which had been promised up and down, backwards and forwards. At this point, I got up from my chair, went over to my teammates and said "I bet I'll be shaving my dog tonight". A word of caution. This is a statement that, when said without prior qualification, will be greeted with stares of quiet befuddlement mixed with a fear that you might become violent at any moment. Once I described the situation, my team was in agreement that I'd be spending my evening as a canine hairstylist.

When I got home, I was greeted by a dog that was, in fact half shaved. Her head, shoulders and top half of her was shaved, the bottom was not. It looked like she was wearing some sort of hair skirt. It was not pretty. There were also random tufts of hair in places where her hair kind of grew together at weird angles. In short, it looked like the work of someone who had watched a DVD and then attacked their dog with a set of molten hot clippers.

Abby was in a mood that night, and it was my night to put her to bed. Afterwards I heard the sounds of the tv mingled with clippers coming from our bedroom. Ben was sitting in our bed watching TV while Linda was shaving the dog in the bathroom. The amount of hair on the floor and on the ottoman that Maggie was standing on looked like someone sprinkled a litter of puppies around the bathroom. Maggie was pretty calm, I'm assuming from grim resignation. Linda wasn't faring any better than earlier. It was at this point that the good husband in me took over and I told her to give Ben a bath while I finished shaving the dog.

Surprisingly enough, I am a particularly adept dog groomer. The key is to go with the hair, cutting it to one length and then shaving it down to the length you want. It's still not perfect as I don't know how to trim around the paws. I did not watch the DVD. Maggie also has rows in her fur that look like she's a piece of farmland, a casualty of whatever guard we used on my clippers. When I was done, I vacuumed up the dog hair, cleaned said hair out of the vacuum and threw it out. It was a relatively unsettling sight as it looked like a rabbit died and we were trying to dispose of the body.

Henry I refused to touch for the reasons I mentioned before so Linda is on her own with him. At present he's half way finished as well. Apparently my clippers weren't very useful on him as they just kind of pushed the hair around rather than cut it. As a result, his head and body are shaved, but his legs aren't which makes it look like he's walking on the legs of a dog twice his size. It's all very unsettling. All weekend long he had a tuft of hair sticking up between his eyes and three long hairs coming out of his chin. Thankfully Linda trimmed those up as they were starting to freak me out.

Now the search is on for new clippers for the dogs. Most of the models we've seen cost around 100 bucks, but given that one trip to the groomer's costs that much, they'll probably be worth it. I'm assuming that for 100 bucks they'll actually cut hair and not singe your hands. I'm not sure which one of those is more important. Probably the latter as I can deal with long haired dogs but not with a wife with gnarled, blackened stumps for hands. We've already purchased new clippers for me, complete with a cape, something like 3 dozen guards and an apparatus for trimming my eyebrows. This last one is intriguing, yet scary at the same time.

The next day I told my team that I spent my evening shaving the dog. Again, the lack of a qualification before that statement caused them to look at me as if I could hurt them at any moment. This time I didn't explain as it's fun having them think I could snap at any moment. Maybe tomorrow I'll come in with some clipper hanging off my belt and really freak them out.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

An Open Letter to the Democrats

Howdy. Please excuse my getting political today, but the recent elections were pretty dang important and I don't want them to pass without dishing my completely useless opinion on them. Don't worry, we'll be back to stupid posts about games on Friday. As a sneak peak, me likey Gears of War!

Ahem, yes, where was I? Right. Yay Democrats, you won! Or is that the Republicans lost? Hard to say, and as of right now, it really doesn't matter, however you can bet your sweet bippy those particulars will be pretty damn important 2 years from now when it comes time to pick a new president.

My personal opinion is that the traditional conservatives and Reagan era Republicans just put the Republican party on time out until the party can stop acting like assholes and play nice. Now, if the next presidential election were a reelection campaign, I wouldn't be too optimistic about the GOP changing up what it does, however it isn't, so rest assured that the Democratic nominee won't be the only person running an "I'm not Bush" campaign. If you don't think that a nominee would attempt to distance themselves from the previous president from the same party, allow me to introduct you to Mr. Gore. Mr. Gore, the Democrats. Democrats, Mr. Gore. This being the case, it is vitally important that you, as a party, start figuring out just who the hell you are and what the hell you stand for, independent of who is running against you.

Given that you have 2 years to do this, I wouldn't say that it's insurmountable, however you do need to stop being so goddamn afraid of how the Republicans portray you. Granted, now is probably the best time to be portrayed as the opposite of the GOP, however Americans have notoriously short memories, and it won't be long before people start buying into the same old GOP bullshit about Dems being soft on terror and anti-freedom and blah, blah, blah. You need to come up with a platform that addresses the salient criticisms of the Republicans, ignores the inflammatory bullshit ones, and more importantly, gives the average voter an understanding of what they're voting for when they vote Democrat. You've bloodied the bully's nose at this point, do those few things and you'll kick the living shit out of him.

Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty happy at what went down yesterday, and with the recent stepping down of Rumsfeld, I'm approaching gleeful, I just want to make sure that 2 years from now we're not where we were 2 years ago, which is to say watching from the sidelines as the country gets reamed. So, enjoy your victory, put the President on mute during his conference call with you so that you can all snigger and make faces, but when Congress reconvenes in January, don't take anything for granted and get to fucking work.



Monday, November 06, 2006

Gears of Commerce

Greetings friends and neighbors and welcome to the first November post. This November is shaping up to be the cruelest month, in terms of cash outlay. In fact, this week alone has a barrage of retail offerings like none I have seen in recent memory. Between Gears of War, Tony Hawk's Project 8, Call of Duty 3, FEAR, Guitar Hero 2 and Elite Beat Agents, you're looking at a cash outlay of three hundred and twenty five American dollars. Granted, three of those games are niche games for those who long to skate, rock out and beat elitely, but even if you just like straight up shooting shenanigans you're looking at 180 bucks. More if you can't resist the super collector's editions with their art books and their shiny tins.

Next week brings the PS3 with it's $500 minimum price tag. The weekend after that is the Wii at $250 for the console and upwards of $180 to allow others to play with you. With the Wii, you could get away with just purchasing the console as long as you're content to bowl and play other sports until you can save up enough to buy some other games, but with the PS3, unless you're lucky enough to score a Blu-Ray copy of Talledega Nights in the box, you may want to purchase some games for your newfangled video game player.

By my estimation, the only way you could play everything that will be available by the end of this month would be to have the gift of foresight and seen these times in a vision, so that you started squirreling money away several years ago. For those of us who are not prophets, well, renting games is always an option, as is selling bodily fluids.

As for me, I'll most likely be picking up Gears of War. Guitar Hero 2 will have to wait until the 360 version is available, or until my steely resolve crumbles in the face of the game's barrage of rock. Call of Duty 3 and FEAR won't be gracing my disc tray any time soon but are viable Christmas options. My Wii is half paid off and Zelda is fully purchased, so have no fear on that account, however extra remotes are in no way definite purchases.

Speaking of Zelda, that sound you heard over the weekend was the sound of millions of gamers breathing a collective sigh of relief. Various gaming journalists were allowed an appreciable amount of time with the game last week in Redmond and they all came back with tales of gaming excellence and, most importantly, a control scheme that did not suck. This was my biggest fear, that the Wiimote control scheme would feel tacked on and well, silly. It would appear my fears were ungrounded. Halleluja. Hopefully other games are similarly well controlled as I don't think I can justify a $250 purchase for just Zelda, as much as it pains me to say it, and with a play time of roughly 70 hours, I can't purchase the console, play the game and then return the hardware. Tough decisions lay ahead should every game but Zelda suck the big one.

I have been spending an astonishing amount of time with Marvel Ultimate Alliance and I have some tips for you. First of all, make sure you want to play as all of the heroes in your team. Here's why. As you progress you'll be able to use Xtreme powers, which can only be triggered once you've built up enough momentum. You build up momentum by using non-special powered attacks. The AI is pretty durn smart about using special powers, so if left to their own devices, your teammates will always use special powers and never build up enough momentum to use their Xtreme powers. So, in order to use everyone's super special powers, you'll need to take control of each person on the team and beat the snot out of things. The added bonus to having everyone all supercharged is that if one person's powers trigger, all of the powers will trigger, causing a play of destruction in 4 acts.

My other tip to you is to not use any of the cheat codes save for the codes to unlock Daredevil or the Silver Surfer that you got when preordering. Allow me to tell you my tale of woe. As you progress through the game you can unlock various costumes for the heroes. These costumes can be upgraded by purchasing points. Unlike skill points for your powers, once you purchase these points, they can not be reassigned, so you need to make sure that the outfit you're powering up is the one you're going to stay with. Me being the idiot that I am, I put in the code to unlock all of the outfits so that I could make sure that the outfits my heroes were wearing were the ones I wanted to start upgrading. Little did I know, this bout of curiosity would cost me all of my future achievements should I continue down the path of whupping up on supervillains. Yes, that's right folks, using cheat codes disables achievements. Whoopsie.

Now, I can understand this, to a point, as some of the cheat codes allow you to make money at the drop of a hat or unlock all powers or be invincible or have the Touch of Death. Clearly, enabling these cheats would not make you worthy of the various achievements as you could simply cheat your way to victory. In my case, getting the new costumes don't actually do anything for you other than make the heroes look cool, so this cheat doesn't make the game any easier for me, just considerably more stylish. I guess if you're in for a penny, you're in for a pound, so all cheats have an amazing achievement disabling power. Oh well. I tried to go back and find a save game prior to my indiscretion, but alas, none existed. Had I just spent 30 seconds with Google I could have found screenshots of the alternate costumes and never used the code in the first place. Ironically enough, I didn't even use any of the costumes I unlocked. Yes, I am in fact an idiot. Let this be a lesson to you my gaming friends, that cheaters never prosper. And, if you have a friend who is playing Marvel Ultimate Alliance and their list of achievements for the game stops halfway through the list, they're either a quitter or a dirty cheat. Continue your association with this scoundrel at your own risk.

Finally, tomorrow is election day, so please be sure to get out and vote, several times if you have to. I don't care if you vote for the same party that I do, but I do care that you vote as it is the singularly most important thing you can do as a member of this glorious nation. For the record, I'll be voting mostly for the Democrats, however I think I'm leaning towards keeping our Republican governor, Sonny Perdue in office. I haven't been particularly impressed with his Democratic opponent, Mark Taylor, and I'm not unpleased with the way the state is being run. My main problem with the Taylor is that he seems to be running on a platform of not being Perdue and that's just not enough for me. I mean, if Perdue was running this state into the ground, then sure, I'd be happy to pick someone other than him, but from where I'm standing that isn't the case. I'm voting for the Democrat candidate for Lieutenant Governor, partly to balance things out, and partly because the Republican candidate's attack ad called the Democrat "alarmingly liberal". Here's a little secret for you, I'm a liberal. So, if I see that someone is alarmingly liberal, that's like saying something is alarmingly cheesy, which is to say, delightfully appealing. Also, the things that this guy did to be so damn liberal, banning prayer in school for example, I happen to be behind 1o0%. What a coincidence. I'll probably vote for Democrats for state legislative candidates too in the interest of keeping things balanced.

There are several constitutional amendments on the ballot, all of which I'll be voting against. I tend to hold constitutions in pretty high regard and am not a fan of fucking with them, especially for something like keeping alive the tradition of hunting. Surely there must be some other way to ensure that squirrels continue to fall to the canny hunters of the great state of Georgia without writing a fucking amendment. I'll leave it up to the newly elected state legislators to figure that one out, as it will be, you know, their job.

So there you go, that's how I'll be voting. Please take the time on Tuesday to go out and make your voice heard, even if it won't be tracked correctly by whatever voting machine your state has chosen to implement. Ain't democracy a beautiful thing!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Marvel Ultimate Alliance

I've had a few days to spend with Marvel Ultimate Alliance and I'm prepared to share my impressions with you. How lucky you must feel!

Basically, if you played X-Men Legends or X-Men Legends 2 and enjoyed them, you'll enjoy this game as it's basically the same thing, only in 3-d and with more heroes. That means that it's still as fun to unleash your superpowers as it was in those games, and it's still as annoying when your teammates box you in behind a pillar because they refuse to get out of your way. Reed Richards may be a supergenius, but he's not so good with the personal space.

There's a pretty good roster of heroes to start with, allowing you to make smaller sized versions of the Avengers, the New Avengers, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. For the record, that last one is full sized. Finding new and interesting team combos is part of the fun as you get bonuses for having say, all brawlers, or all women, or all people who can fly. You can also make your own team, once you get to a certain point, and as long as you keep with that team, you earn reputation points which allow your team to perform better. The problem with this system is that not all heroes are available from the start, so if you're someone like me who wants to make a team with Dr. Strange, Blade and Ghost Rider, you'll have to wait until you unlock them to make your Team Supreme thereby missing out on earning reputation points while you wait. You could make a team and then just swap out members when they become available but then you lose reputation points. Apparently no one in the Marvel universe likes quitters. Sure, I could use a cheat code to unlock them all and then make my team, but it'd be odd to have Ghost Rider on my team when I do whatever it is I have to do to rescue Ghost Rider. Ghost Rider, meet Ghost Rider. That would be awkward.

Each hero has 4 different outfits, which, in some cases, extends the number of heroes available. Not much, mind you, as Beta Ray Bill is Thor, just with orange skin and a vaguely horse skull like head but if you're an Omega Flight freak like some people I know, you'll be happy for the extra outfits. Along with the different outfits, you can also purchase points to make your spandex of choice super buff, so that not only will you be making a statement that Wolverine's brown and orange outfit was the best, but you'll be sentencing him to an underpowered demise should he choose to take it off. Take that overexposed mutie!

Combat is pretty fun and fast paced. Just when you think you've obtained a set of powers that make the game too easy, you start a new level where you're strategy doesn't work quite as well. Thankfully you level up quite quickly, so new, stronger powers aren't too far off at any given point. There appears to be some Xtreme powers available, just as in X-Men Legends 1 and 2, however I can't figure out how to actually unlock them and use them. Perhaps I need to drink more Mountain Dew. It seems like a a good place to start.

I haven't played any multiplayer however it seems untouched from the X-Men Legends 2 days, complete with the inability to just pick a map, instead forcing you to load up a save game and make everyone play from it. It's a little annoying but the addition of things like competitive coop which allows you to steal kills, energy and health orbs from others makes up for the inconvenience. At least I would think it does.

The cutscenes are a mixed bag. The CGI movies that start off the game and the different acts are amazing and will make any fan of Captain American long for a fully rendered Cap movie. The movies in between levels on the other hand, are done with the in-game engine, which means every emotion has to be displayed with excessive hand gestures, due to the fact that the character models don't have changeable facial expressions. This is made even more annoying by the fact that the game isn't smart enough to know what heroes you're using and swap them into the cutscenes. Instead you have a cutscene with Wolverine, Spider-Man, Thor and Captain America on the jet to the next mission, but when you get there, they've been magically transformed into the Fantastic Four. Not a big deal, but what fun would it be if all I did was say how great the game is?

Along with the story there are various comic book missions for heroes in the game, heroes not in the game but part of the Marvel Universe and villains you fight during the story missions. Playing as heroes in the game allows you to unlock more skins and generally make your heroes even more heroic. Playing as other non-unlockable heroes, or as villains lets your 360 transform into an Easy Bake oven and make you cookies. Actually, I have no idea what it does as I haven't played any of them yet, but you have to admit that's a pretty damn cool idea.

So far I'm having a great time playing the game and have had my ass handed to me a number of times by various supervillains, so it's definitely not a cake walk. If you're into Marvel superheroes and enjoy a game where you can mash buttons and have it magically transformed into every power you ever wished you had, then you won't be disappointed. Now let's hope that DC wises up and hires Raven to do a DC version. It certainly can't be worse than Justice League Heroes, a game so bad, it made Batman boring.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

No Formal Craft Training

Yeah, that's right. I'm a 3-D cat making machine. Those other Pre-K parents want none of this.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Not Gonna Do It

Sorry kids, no post today. Nothing's wrong, I'm just not in a posting place at the moment.

Be sure to return on Monday for my take on Marvel Ultimate Alliance for the 360. It'll be a hoot!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Signs, Signs, Everywhere the Signs

People are idiots.

This is the conclusion I have come to recently, as a result of a brouhaha in our neighborhood over political signs. I had originally planned on posting about how, as an adoptive parent of two children, this whole Madonna adoption situation bugs me, but then I realized that I didn't care enough to find out all of the details of the story. I know that this is the internet, and it helps your ranting if you know next to nothing about the topic at hand, but that's not how we roll here at Chez SubJ. Bottom line, a kid who, by all accounts, wouldn't have lived to see his teenage years in his home country, has been given the opportunity to live a "normal" life. In the end, it's hard to be upset about that.

We live in a neighborhood that has, like most neighborhoods, a Homeowners Association. By and large, HOA's bug me, as I don't like other people telling me what I can and can't do with my home, especially considering that I keep most people in relatively low regard. I do, however, recognize them as a necessary evil though, as I'd rather not have my neighbor cut down all of their trees, or paint their house lime green. Our HOA is pretty low key, and for the most part doesn't cause any problems.

Now that it's election time, and we're in the midst of forming a city, campaign signs abound. Some of these signs have found their way into the neighborhood. Not a big deal, or so you would think.

A couple of weeks ago, someone emails a message to the HOA's email list that they had gotten a call about their campaign signs being in violation of the HOA's strict signage rules (I had no idea we had signage rules) but could they keep them up because the sign was for their teenage kid's friends's dad or something and said teenage kid was volunteering for the person running for office. I thought this was an odd request, given that, by asking this, they'd effectively be teaching their kids that it's ok to break the rules, as long as you're doing it in the service of public office. Come to think about it, that's probably not off the mark.

This email then prompted a bunch of responses from people who said that you're allowed to have political signs in your front lawns regardless of HOA rules (not in Georgia, you're not) and others saying that the signs weren't that bad and could they keep them and still others saying that they removed their signs but they want to put them back, so if people are allowed to, please let them know, thanks! There was a common notion that somehow their first amendment rights were being trampled by not being allowed to show support for the candidate for county commissioner, district 4, a notion that irritates me to no end. Upon purchasing a house in our neighorhood, we all entered into an agreement with the HOA that we would follow the covenants of the HOA, or risk action being taken against us. If you want to have a sign, put up your goddamn sign, just don't be surprised if you get fined. Similarly, if you took a job at McDonalds and asked everyone if they wanted any fucking fries with their fucking soda, thank you and have a fucking nice day, you can't say that your first amendment rights have been trampled if you get fired for using foul language. You're free to say whatever you want, you just have to be prepared to pay the penalty. Last I checked, the Bill of Rights does not guarantee a repurcussion free existence.

So these emails go back and forth, until such time where this one dude just unloads on everyone. He's all going off on why can't people be good neighbors and this is ridiculous and he had to be told about people's problems with his signs from his mother!!!!!! That last part I didn't understand, why his mother would be part of the HOA mailing list, but he wasn't. I mean, even if she lived with him, it's still kind of strange. So he basically calls everyone assholes and then vanishes, never to return to the debate again.

Then our fearless HOA leader gets on there, apologizes to everyone, makes some speech about being good neighbors and yay for folks who want to be politically involved and God Bless America and oh, by the way, everyone is free to determine if they want to follow the covenants or not.

Wait. What now?

I read the email a couple of times, as did Linda and we both came away with the same impression, that the president of the HOA basically told us it's ok to say fuck the covenants. Now, for political signage, I could care less what rules you want to follow, but if we go back to our previous lime green example, I'd appreciate it if people follow the goddamned rules. I searched the email for further context thinking that perhaps she meant that people were free to not follow the rules, as long as they didn't mind being fined, or having legal action taken against them, but that sentiment wasn't there. Perhaps she felt it was implied. I mean, technically yes, it's understood that we're all free to go buck wild and do whatever the hell we want at any point, however we still usually tell people not to set things on fire, or kick puppies, or wear white pants after Labor Day. Certainly when the topic of armed robbery comes up with my kids I'm not going to tell them that they're free to steal anything at gunpoint, only to then clarifiy the situation for them once they're in jail. That might be considered bad parenting.

Well, once that got sent, then everyone who had posted about taking signs down before were all asking if they could put the signs back up. They also posted about walking in the morning. They're going to meet by the stop sign at 5:45 AM if you're interested, but bring long sleeves because it's going to be nippy! On the topic of the stop sign, I find it odd that everyone is all up in arms about whether or not they can have political signs in their yards, yet almost everyone in the development runs both of the stop signs we have. Support for their candidate of choice must be more important than not mowing down my kid. Thanks for that.

But I digress. Now, there are more signs in the neighborhood than ever before. I think people are making up candidates just to piss other people off. There's also a request for a signage amendment to be brought up at the next board meeting so folks can vote on it. I usually avoid these meetings like the plague, but I'm tempted to go and be on the anti-sign side, if only to piss people off. I'm funny that way. Saturday we have our annual Halloween parade for the kids and chili cookoff (which I won last year, btw). It should be interesting. I'm hoping that the dude who was all pissed off shows up and starts going to town on all of those restrictive anti-sign motherfrakkers. I may have to mill about the crowd and stir things up. Nothing helps usher in fall like watching suburbanites fight amongst the bratwurst.

In closing, I will leave you with one of the finest bits of lyricism on the topic of signs, by the illustrious Five Man Electrical Band.

And the sign said everybody welcome, come in, kneel down and pray
But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all, I didn't have a penny to pay,
so I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign
I said thank you Lord for thinking about me, I'm alive and doing fine

Sign Sign everywhere a sign
Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign

Monday, October 23, 2006


Well, we're at the beginning of week two of our illness and boy, does it suck. I thought that I'd be over this cold by now, but the cold seems to have other ideas. Waking up every morning and not feeling better is starting to get tiresome. I can't imagine what it must be like to be chronically ill, where a "good" day is just one where you don't feel like complete shit. I also can't imagine what it must be like to have a difficult pregancy, where you're sick all the time, and then, when it's finally over, you have a newborn to take care of. That would push me over the goddamn edge.

I can tell you that not all nasal decongestants are the same. Some provide sweet, sweet relief and let you go about your day. Others make you feel like someone has hit you in the face with a cinder block. This is the new wrinkle of my cold, where my sinuses revolt and fill with death. I'm not coughing anymore, but there are times, at random mind you, when I swallow and a searing pain emanates from my gullet, as if shards of glass smuggled themselves into my Diet Dr. Pepper.

Finally, I have become very conscious of my nose hairs. It is not a condition I wish to prolong.

The title of today's post is in reference to Toys R' Us's annual buy two games, get one free sale. Yes, I know I'm saving money, and yes, Marvel Ultimate Alliance comes out on Woden's Day, however I found it nigh impossible to resist the ability to pick up not one, not two, but three Playstation 2 Greatest Hits games for 40 of your American dollars. For the record, I picked up Ratchet and Clank 2 and 3 as well as Kingdom Hearts. As anyone with young children can tell you, Disney is all part of the child rearing bargain, so I might as well embrace those animated sons of bitches, and fill my gaming with them as well. In my son's world, both Batman and Spider-Man are in the Lion King movie, so I should show him this game and really fuck with his head.

On a similar note. If you can watch the last Curious George movie and not think that monkey is the cutest goddamn thing ever committed to celluloid, it's quite possible you died and no one told you.

Getting back to the sale, it's early in the week, so I was able to see a good collection of games, however as the week progresses, you can be assured that the quality level will drop dramatically. I'm tempted to go back and pick up Shadow of the Colossus as well as the Jak and Dexter games, but I should probably show some restraint. Otherwise I'll start picking up 40 dollar games as well as 20 dollar games and the value proposition will plummet. 3 games for 80 bucks doesn't have the same savetastic ring as 3 for 40. If you wanted, I guess you could use it to pick up 2 360 games and then get one free, however getting 3 games for $120 bucks is hardly something to brag about.

Now that new games loom on the horizon, my evening movie watching will go on hold. After I wrapped up Battlestar Galactica, I started watching movies to pass the time from the childrens' bedtime until I joined the missus for the evening's tv festivities. I watched Constantine (one of my favorite movies), the Wild Bunch, in all of it's seminal western glory, A Nightmare on Elm Street, which Bones's wife should totally let him get, and American Psycho. An odd movie that last one. Serial killers have never been so funny. If Batman Begins did nothing more than open my eyes to the superb acting of a one Christian Bale, I would consider it a rousing success. I look forward to seeing The Prestige on DVD sometime next spring. Batman and Wolverine in the same film? I may just weep with enjoyment.

Finally, returning to Battlestar Galactica, I have to agree with Mr. Moore that if BSG does not win the Emmy for best visual effects for Exodus Part 2, the Emmy academy, or whoever they are, need to be soundly thrashed. That vision of Galactica plummeting through the New Caprican atmosphere as it spewed forth a torrent of flaming Vipers was a piece of digital wizardry unmatched in television today. If you missed it, or don't watch the show, then a small part of your soul died Friday night. To you, it probably felt like a touch of indigestion. For treatment, I suggest watching the episode when it eventually comes out on DVD. Either that or some flat ginger ale. Your choice.

Friday, October 20, 2006

One Month To Go

Well, here we are, one month from the PS3 launch and the Wii launch. Can you feel the excitement? Its palpability is palpable.

Sony held a "gamer's day" to show off the PS3 yesterday, which was ironic given that no gamers outside of the press were allowed to actually touch the damn thing. I must say, I have conflicted emotions about this whole PS3 launch. On the one hand, competition is a beautiful thing in any arena, so a vibrant Sony product with lots o' launch games will make Microsoft step their shit up and gaming goodness will befall us all. Wheeee, rhyming. On the other hand, Sony has been pretty serious dickwads about this whole launch and I'd kind of like to see them fail just so that they'd have to face the realization that people, in fact, won't just buy anything Sony puts out because Sony put it out. On a third hand, enough people will just buy anything Sony puts out because Sony put it out, so the odds of that second hand scenario taking place are pretty low.

The fact is, Sony bugs me about as much as Microsoft bugged me when they came out with the Xbox, so I'm sure that with time, I'd come around to the PS3. I'm sure that most of the people who work for Sony are nice people, and they probably cringe every time Phil Harrison opens his piehole, just like the rest of us do, so it's silly to hate them just because the executives in charge of gaming are clueless lunkheads. It's also important to remember that it's a video game console, so really, investing any serious amount of emotion one way or another is pretty silly. I'm sure that by the time the PS3 is $129, I'll pick it up, and have just as many old PS3 titles to enjoy as I do now with the PS2 and then boy howdy, won't the joke be on Sony? Ha-ha. Hee-hee. Ho-ho.

With the Wii, I'm excited, but feeling a little, what's the word? Concerned. Not sure why. I've read some hands-on accounts lately, by non gaming press people of the Wii and it's launch games and the verdict was that games made for the motion sensing were awesome, others, not so much. This would include, sadly, Zelda. Now, given that this is the first time Zelda has ever been a launch title, and people have been slavering for the game ever since they saw a realistic Link demo on the 'Cube like a hojillion years ago, odds are, Nintendo has this shit wrapped up. However, Zelda was originally supposed to be a 'Cube title, so you wouldn't be completely off base to be concerned that perhaps adding motion sensitivity to sell Wii's isn't exactly an organic game design moment, if that makes sense.

It's also cause for concern that the gaming press hasn't been given final Wii hardware, or Wii games to start reviewing. With about 20+ launch games, that's a whoooooole lot of games to review in a month's time, especially one as huge as Zelda. There's also not a tremendous amount of Zelda hands on information in the gaming press, which makes me a cautious. I mean, this is Zelda. The gaming press should be all over that shit, getting us into a Hyrulean frenzy.

Bah! I'm sure it's just that I really want this thing in my house, so I'm filling the time with needless worry. I tend to do that at times.

I am filling up the time until Marvel Ultimate Alliance by watching movies. Tonight I started watching the Infinifilm version of "A Nightmare on Elm Street". It is an amazingly well done release of the movie, and the sound mix is particularly fantastic. I had forgotten how disturbing some of the imagery in this movie is. Tina's arm flopping out of the body bag as she's dragged down the school hallway always got to me as a kid. I like the fact that the "kids" in the movie look like normal teenagers, including a young Johnny Depp. Were this movie made now, Freddy would be 100% CGI and the teens would be played by slutted out CW tartlets. I bought "Feast" of the third Project Greenlight season today and look forward to watching Henry Rollins as a motivational speaker. The gore also holds special allure. Between this, "Slither" next week and soon "The Descent", it's a good couple of months for horror aficianados.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Deja Vu

Once again, illness, foul, foul illness waylaid me on Monday, rendering me powerless to communicate effectively. We were all sick, every blasted one of us. The wife and I had colds from hell, and the children had the remnants of said colds, however, in my son's case, with a new, exciting wrinkle.

As adults, we take a lot for granted in terms of sensations our bodies experience. Sunday night was the first time, at least that's our supposition, that my son had ever had a sore throat of any seriousness, and it was, in a word, unpleasant. Usually when you get a sore throat, it's bothersome, sometimes even slightly painful. You may wake up in the morning and wince. Perhaps coughing brings you flashes of discomfort, but unless you have strep throat, or something painfully lodged in your larynx, it's usually not all that bad. Not so for my son. Apparantly the apocalpypse was taking place in his throat, thereby rending his vocal cords asunder. Between his plaintive wailings, and my daughter's usual nighttime shenanigans, my wife and I were up 8 times. Yes, that's right, 8 times. By the next morning, he was fine, albeit tired and on a hair trigger, but his throat issues seemed to have dissappeared, leading me to believe that it was more surprise that his throat could hurt in the first place than actual searing pain that caused the issues.

On the other hand, my wife and are legitimately sick, with foul colds drummed up from the pits of hell. I knew I was getting sick when I started remembering my dreams and they were completely freaky. I usually don't remember my dreams, unless I'm sick, or getting sick, so Saturday night, when I dreamt of smearing peach yogurt on my face as a means of preparation for shaving, I should have known that a bad moon was on the rise. Sunday night, when I managed to snatch an hour or so of sleep, I dreamt that I had a group fo 12 Japanese men, all identical, that I had to lead to another group of identical 12 Japanese men. For the record, both groups were different from one another. I know. It's all very odd.

My cold seems to be on it's way out, a change in my condition punctuated by a mass exodus of nasal discharge from my person. When I have a cold, my thing is coughing. My wife's is nose blowing. Between the two of us, conversation is nigh impossible. As my cold progresses, my body seems to make large amounts of fluid which it holds on to for some unknown reason. Once my body gets the upper hand over the virus, it decides to get rid of this fluid, as quickly and as efficiently as possible. As a result, I actually sound, and look, worse, yet feel much better.

I would not fault you if, at this point in the post, you desperately wished I would go back to topics on the order of how paper works.

I am doing my best to keep my head down and not buy new games, but it is difficult. Okami sings to me its siren song of gaming magnificence. Club House games seems to be taking the edge off, however with us on the precipice of an avalanche of game releases, it's hard to not want to buy something out of sheer anticipation. I am confident that I will prevail though. My will is strong.

I am watching the classic western, "The Wild Bunch" and am somewhat put off by seeing Ernest Borgnine in a younger form. I guess it makes sense that he didn't spring from the womb the spry 65 year old I remember from Magnum PI and Matt Houston episodes, but it isn't any less disconcerting. The titular Bunch has just stolen some guns from the Army. I have a feeling things are about to get messy.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Golden Ticket


The Wii preorder quest was a rousing success, but only because of the high number of EB/Gamestops near my work. I headed to my regular store at about 9:30, thinking that the odds of there being a line were pretty slim. I mean, everyone knew that Nintendo had about a hojillion of these things just waiting to be sold on launch day, right? Yeah, not so much. I was told that the people in the line represented the number of preorder slots available which meant I was essentially, SOL. Thankfully, the store's manager had told all the extra folks, and by extension, everyone in line, that two other stores by us had more units. I decided for the mall store as it was closer to my work (this was during working hours) and I thought have more units, being a mall store and all. I got in VanStar One, hoofed it with a quickness to the mall and headed inside. This line was much longer, but I noticed that the store manager was handing out stickers from a roll and he had a few stickers left.

I got in line and got my sticker, unsure if this meant I'd actually be getting a Wii at launch. Those 360 wounds still haven't healed. I asked the manager if he knew how many he'd be getting in and he said no, but it didn't seem like a real "no" more like a cover your ass "no". I said "You don't know how many you're getting" and he held up the last two stickers and said "All I know is that I've got two left." That was good enough for me and the waiting began. Unfortunately, they only had one clerk to service 30 people, so it took some time, but at that point, I was so happy, I didn't care. I had some good conversations with people in line, and curiously enough, no one spoke of selling their Wii's, or their preorder tickets for that matter. It was nice to see people actually excited for a console, rather than for the insanely large profit said console represents.

Through various trade-in shenanigans, I have managed to pay off part of Super Monkey Ball, half of the Wii, Zelda in its entirety and Marvel Ultimate Alliance (for the 360) in its entirety. On that last title, I'm still figuring out which team I'll go with. Certainly Ghost Rider and Dr. Strange belong there. When I was a wee lad, I wanted to be Doctor Strange with a vengeance. Oh sure, most kids probably wanted to be Superman, what with all of the flying and the invulnerability, however I longed to harnass the mystical powers of the Eye of Agamotto and serve this realm as its Sorceror Supreme I will admit, the leggings are offputting, however I was ok with that. I have very shapely legs.

Ghost Rider, on the other hand, isn't a title I read very often as a boy, however what red blooded lad wouldn't want to be the Spirit of Vengeance? I mean seriously, hid head is on fire and he can ride his motorcycle up buildings. If he could make donuts spontaneously appear, he'd be damn well perfect. I like the combination of him and Strange, for the obvious mystical parallels, however the other playable characters don't offer similar solutions. I could go with the Silver Surfer for a Defenders vibe, but I never really got into that character. The surfboard seems silly. More so than leggings if that's possible. Blade would add a supernatural element and Luke Cage is just a badass, so maybe they'll round out the team. I'd add Thor, but this seems to be the Ultimates version of Thor where nobody believes he's the God of Thunder. I like my Thor old school, where he whacked that fucking hammer down and there weren't any more questions. Don't worry, I still have time to think about it. Feel free to carry on about your day.

Now that I have a Wii on preorder, the desire to purchase even more games is strong. Call of Duty 3, Red Steel, Raving Rabbids all call to me with their siren songs of new control schemes. I hadn't planned on getting Call of Duty 3, but after reading a preview of how much fun it is to play shooters on the Wii, I'm finding it hard to resist. I'm sure I'll get it eventually, but only after playing the holy hell out of Zelda. This is an odd situation, having too many games of interest at a Nintendo launch. Usually the lack of titles is so strong, that you can barely justify purchasing the console, instead looking forward a few months until, no doubt, more titles will make your new purchase slightly less silly. Now, all of the launch titles could end up sucking out, but that seems statistically unlikely, especially given that there's a Zelda title at launch. I guess only time will tell. And what a short amount of time it is. 5 weeks by my count, and what a painful 5 weeks it will be. I think we've discussed in the past how I don't do well with waiting. This shouldn't be any different. Hopefully I can keep my head down, keep on playing Guitar Hero and Clubhouse Games and get through it.

Speaking of Clubhouse Games, it's the shizzle. I said I'd speak about it today, and there, I just did. Only the best for my readers, only the best.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hell on Rungs

Greetings friends. I must apologize for my absence on Monday. My daughter was sick over the weekend and spent most of the time coughing on your's truly and tainting me with her foul magiks. As a result, I was sick on Monday. Not horribly sick, mind you, just sick enough to not want to be at work, which ended up being a good thing as Abby was still sick and I could help out at home with her. Anyways, I'm back, and seemingly healthy, until the next virus that is.

You may have heard visciously untrue rumors about me today. Rumors that I went into a game store and purchased Club House Games for the DS. I am here to tell you that they are completely untrue. Yes, the person who purchased that game looked like me and sounded like me. Yes, that person paid with a card tied to an account that had been opened with not only an exact match of my social security card, but an exact match of my demographic information. Yes, the person who bought that game drove a minivan matching the color, make, model, trim level and license plate of my own, but I can assure you, it wasn't me.

Come here, I have something to tell you.



It was totally me.

I know, I know, I'm a weak man. But there are 42 games in this 30 buck package. 42 games! That comes out to 71 cents a game. 71 cents! I can't get a Snickers bar from the vending maching for 71 cents! Come on, it has Spit. Spit! It also has checkers, chinese checkers, chess and bowling. BOOOOOOWWWWLLIIIINNNGGGG!!!! Say what you will about me, I don't care. I'll be too busy playing spades and poker and backgammon. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha! I shall regale you tales of club house gamery on Friday. Mark your calendars.

Speaking of games, Linda and I decided to buy Chutes and Ladders for Ben for his 4th birthday a few weeks ago. The box said it was a "classic children's first game" and was for ages 3+. Lies, lies and more lies. It may be old, but I'm not sure I would call it classic. And it might say it's for ages 3+. but I'll be damned if my kid could follow the complex rules set forth in this magnum opus of leisure activities.

Here's something I never knew, and maybe it's just because it's been some time since I played, but Chutes and Ladders is a thinly disguised morality play. The children start at the bottom, in a hellish pit of despair. As they move upwards, no doubt towards the right hand of their kind and loving G-O-D, they come across opportunities for activities. Choices, if you will. A good choice, such as helping a stray puppy find something to eat, allows you to climb a ladder, thereby getting closer to your eventual goal of ascension. A bad choice, like breaking dishware, causes you to slide down a chute into the darkest pits of Hades.

What the game designers failed to understand is that ladders aren't fun, slides are, so all of these life lessons were completely lost on my son, as he thought the goal was to slide down the slides, not climb up the ladder. I can't blame him. Short of an emergency deplaning, I can't think of any sliding situation that would be unfun, but I can think of many ladder based situations that aren't even remotely fun. Cleaning gutters, clearing cobwebs, caulking, installing ceiling fans, all are ladder based activities that I have participated in, and in none of these cases did I get to do this because I helped an old lady across the street.

Not only was the ladder/slide dichotomy lost on Ben, but he seemed incapable of understanding how to count off the blocks to move his cardboard based avatar. He would spin and then stare at me and say "where's one?" I'd show him that one was the block next to the one he's in and help him count from there. Roughly twenty spins later, and twenty questions later, I was ready to find whoever designed this game and Chute them. Ha! Get it? Sometimes he wouldn't ask me where one was, instead choosing to pick random boxes all over the board and move thusly. Truly his is a revolutionary style of gameplay.

It doesn't help that the last row of blcocks in this game is literally plagued with chutes so long, that the player is deposited into the realm of negative numbers. Try explaining to a 4 year old the concept of the left side of the number line while at the same time explaining that you don't want to go down the chutes, because going down the chutes means you have to keep playing this godforsaken game. It is no fun. No fun at all. We had thought about getting Candyland, because what kid doesn't like candy, but between the games redesign into some sort of Burtonian nightmare, and the fact that it requires cards to play, we felt it wasn't the best choice for our household. We've lost so many cards from various matching games in this house, that we ended up combining all of the remaining cards, and now the only way to win is to match a Triceratops with Spider-Man.

My son's daycare teacher has told us that Ben is exceptionally smart, as he's the only child who can tell her what month it is and other calendar based questions. Personally, I think she should play a board game with him before she starts getting him ready for Harvard. I can only assume that the environment at school is better suited to stimulate his young mind, as when we ask him what month it is, he responds with either "purple" or "eeeee!!!!' or "because, because, because I love him." Oooookay. Next time, instead of a board game, we can just buy him a dayplanner.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Hard Choices

With this holiday season's glut of gaming goodness, we have come to the time where we need to make hard choices about where to spend our hard earned cash. I assume you earn your cash, it's possible you steal it or inherited it. I really have no idea.

Even if we weren't on the precipice of not one, but two console launches, there would be so many titles coming out in the fall months to render your wallet near weightless. I say two console launches, but truth be told, I have no fucking idea what to call the PS3 launch. I mean, yes, technically, on the 17th of November, the PS3 will be available for purchase, provided you can find a store or person that has one to actually sell you. Target, Best Buy, Walmart, Circuit City and EB/Gamestop account for roughly 10,000 stores in the US which means a grand total of 4, yes that's correct, 4 PS3's per store at launch. 4, as in the number of fingers on your hand after trying to trim your thumbnail with a table saw. The thought that you could be the baddest motherfucker on the planet, someone who is willing to do the hard wait in line time and have your intentions thwarted by a group of people small enough to fit in a Civic hatchback leaves me feeling like this PS3 launch is just some silly PR stunt so that Sony can say they launched in November, for all that fucking matters.

I am curious to know if there is someone out there who actually thinks they'll get a PS3 at launch. I mean, I don't know anyone who actually wants one, much less is foolish enough to think they'll actually get one. I don't doubt that there are people out there planning to get in line a good week or so prior to launch day to ensure they get ushered into this brave new world of next generation tomfoolery, but I'll be damned if I know any of 'em. Personally, I couldn't tell you one game launching with the PS3, so even if I had no plans for the week leading up to the 17th, I'm not sure what I'd play on the blasted thing once I got it home. I dunno, maybe watch the Fifth Element on Blu-ray? Fuck if I know. I seem to remember the warrior cry of Riiiidge Raaaaacer let loose during E3, so I can assume racing on ridges, or possibly Ruffles, will be available.

We have already spoken of the Wii and my unbridled enthusiasm for it. It too represents a significant outlay of cash, of which we have also already spoken. Every week, Friday to be specific, I call my local Gamestop to inquire as to the status of preorders. I already know the answer, as I'm not so foolish as to believe that news of Gamestop taking preorders will first come to me from my local store, rather than the raging fires of the Intraweeb. I feel foolish calling like this, not because I already know the answer and am desperately clinging to hope, but because in my mind, they know it's me. They're sitting, timing their day by my call and then, after hanging up, they laugh and laugh and laugh, possibly taking a Wii preorder from some other customer at the same time. Truth be told, they have no idea who I am, despite that store being the only store I buy from, and many purchases at that. This is the strange, narcissistic world I live in.

When I called today, they told me they'd know about preorders in about a week and a half. Take it for what it's worth. I give it more creedence than usual, as that would be about a month out from launch and that has a level of symmetry I can latch on and cling to for dear life.

We have spoken of the gaming moritorium, however I am asking for a reprieve so that I may purchase Marvel Ultimate Alliance for the 360. I know that I had spoken before about buying this for the Wii, and it pains me to not have this be the means with which I support the new console, however this game is setting my gaming cabal afire with comic book geekery. For Christ's sake, we are discussing how much we would pay to purchase the Great Lakes Avengers. For the record, I have called dibs on Monkey Joe. The promise of online coop and not just coop, but competetive coop, by which I can let Bones pummel the Mandarin's henchmen to near death with Captain America, only to have me and Ghost Rider come in at the last moment and, with a flick of my hellish chains, steal his kills, is too much to resist. I have instead, decided to purchase the next instance of Splinter Cell for the Wii, rather than the 360 as I am quite possibly the worst online Splinter Cell player in the history of digital entertainment. Besides, Ubisoft is supporting the Wii with a fervor I am unaccustomed to seeing for Nintendo products, so it only makes sense that I return the favor. I played the first Splinter Cell on the 'Cube and found it neck snappingly delightful.

Between these games, Zelda, Guitar Hero 2, the next Super Monkey Ball outing, possibly Rayman: Raving Rabbids, possibly Call of Duty 3 and possibly Gears of War, we're talking a momentous amount of cash. So much, that I may have to actually depend on family members to provide me with these games as holiday offerings. This scares me, as traditionally, my mother-in-law does all of her shopping at garage sales and I fear what she would return with were I to send her out to find monkey balls.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

It Burns!

Recently, today actually, someone in my cabal of fellow Xbox gamers mentioned that some member of his family was in the market for a new A/V receiver. As I am drawn to the A/V desires of others like a moth to the flame, I couldn't help but offer my assistance in researching possible options. Some would call me nosy, others would call me helpful. This is something I do. I enjoy researching A/V stuff, so when I see someone in need, I swoop down and offer to Google things for them. Not sure what about their lives is so compelling that they themselves can't Google things, but obviously they have more going on than I do. I am ok with this.

His list of features is as follows:
  • THX certification
  • HDMI switching
  • auto setup with microphone
  • $1000 ceiling
  • ability to have HDMI audio out to speakers and TV at the same time
Not really sure why that last one is important, but it sounds like something a wife would ask for, so it becomes more necessary than the other parts. I haven't found anything yet, at least not with all of those features but I remain undaunted. This is the part I enjoy the most of the hunt, the comparing and contrasting of the various units, further whittling down the choices until finally the best choice stands alone, gleaming in the sun. I know it's strange, but it's either this or pornography and frankly, I have a better chance of getting with a Yamaha RX-V2600 than I do a Playboy playmate, so forgive me if I hedge my bets towards the hardware.

What this does though, is make me want all new A/V equipment. When I see the joys of HDMI switching, I want it, I crave it despite the fact that in my basement I have a grand total of 1 item that can output an HDMI signal and said item, when hooked up to my projector via HDMI, doesn't look any better than via component video. I want 7.1 processing, even though there aren't any 7.1 dvd's out there, and my receiver is smart enough to take 5.1 and make it 7.1. I want THX certification even though I have no idea what that is, nor what that will give me other than the approving gaze of a one Mr. George Lucas. I want 1080p upconversion even though I don't have any displays in my house capable of such a glorious picture, nor would I of the altered flaps notice any difference between that and 1080i. I want these things because they're out there, I'm reading about them and I can get them in a receiver that's the same price as the one I bought a year ago.

Bah! No sense pining over things I can't have. I guess I can calibrate my tv in the meantime to help take the edge off of things and I'll always have my Radio Shack sound meter for those cold, cold nights. 80 dB never felt so good.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Copemeister

As my recent posts show, I spent Saturday night at the Citizen Cope show. Despite the fact that I spent 4 hours at the blasted place, it was an awesome show.

For those of you unclear with the modern concert going experience, allow me to illuminate the goings-ons. First you go online and buy tickets, complete with massive processing fee and shipping fee and other related bullshit fees that make a 20 buck ticket cost somewhere near 4.7 billion dollars. Then, the tickets come and you see printed right on it, "doors open at 8" which is code for "show starts sometime mid-23rd century."

But, being the good little concert goer you are, you get there for close to 8 because even though you know with every fiber of your being that the show won't start anywhere close to 8 PM, you're a hopeful sort. You get there and see that there's parking right under the theatre, wahey, but it's more than double what you usually pay when you park downtown, boo-hoo. Unfortunately, you don't know the area very well and even though your super cool van can get you home from even the deepest reaches of the oceans, you fear getting lost in a hellish nightmare of one-way streets and panhandling hobos. You pay the 15 bucks and head up to wait in line.

This being an all ages show, you're surrounded by teenagers which do nothing but make you think ahead to when your kids are teenagers and you have to sit your daughter down and tell her that only when the blackist, hottest pits of hades are touched with the icy finger of winter will you let her venture out into the world dressed like a whoring slut monkey. As you look around at everyone who apparantly walked out of either a J Crew or Hollister catalog, you look down at your own Nintendo t-shirt and Old Navy cargo shorts and feel as if perhaps there was something else printed on the ticket in regards to a dress code and you just missed it. You think back to when you were younger and single and used to go to rock shows and how it never occurred to you that perhaps you should dress nicely because you might meet someone there. Then you remember that you used to go to rock shows with Pete Childs and he used to make you smuggle a microphone in your pants so that he could illegally tape the Robert Plant show.

Eventually you make it inside, check out the merch table with it's substandard selection of t-shirts and then find your seat. The concert hall was very nice and small so there really weren't any bad seats. Plus there was ample floor space for those that wanted to rock out on the floor, thereby enabling those of us who were tired from day 2 of their son's birthday weekend to sit and be mellow. Usually I dance at shows, but not that night. I was tired, and I wanted to just sit. Thankfully, for the most part I could, except for the times where all of the teenage girls in front of me kept getting up to go to the floor and then coming back and then going and then coming back and then texting their friends on the floor so that they could find them when they went and on and on and on.

At 9:30, Alice Smith took the stage with Cope's band. She's a very good soul singer. Great pipes, nice stage presence, good songs, the whole nine yards. The only annoying thing was that they did this echo, reverb thingy on her voice when she held notes at the end of her songs. I would have preferred she just sang, but that's just me. If you see thet she's coming to your town, perhaps in a headlining for Cope capacity, and you like funky soul music and great vocals, I highly recommend seeing her. Her album dropped at the beginning of September, so perhaps some Googling might be in order.

Finally, at around 10:30, Cope took the stage. Most of the stuff he played was from his last album, not his new one, which I thought was kind of strange. He did play "Brother Lee" from the new joint, which is one of my favorite Cope songs evar and did a fucking awesome job on it as well. His band was really talented with not just one, but two guys on keyboards. When they played "Son's Gonna Rise", to much crowd excitement by the way, they traded in the guitar solor for some pretty badass organ/keyboard work giving the song a whole different sound but not reducing the intensity one bit. It was really quite impressive.

Once the show was over, I left so that I could watch the encores from the stairwell, thereby allowing me easy access to the parking garage. The garage's layout was such that I knew that waiting until the show was completely over would result in me being trapped there for all eternity so I decided to trade a little of my rock soul in for a quick departure. I watched pretty much all of the encore, until the usher told me I couldn't stand in the stairwell anymore. I took that as a sign that the show was about to end and hightailed it on out of there. In truth, by that time, I had heard all the songs I wanted to, including "Picasso's Theme", "Penitentiary" and "D'Artagnan's Theme" so I was satisfied. Plus, at this point it was after midnight and I had been there for 4 hours. I was tired and had a 30 minute drive ahead of me, so I bid Cope, the theatre and the pimped out teenyboppers adieu.

Despite all of my complaining, I had a great time and heard some really good music, so it was all worth it. I would definitely go back to see a show there as it's a nice theatre and all of the seats are great. Maybe I'll even dance next time. To answer Andy's question, yes I was photo blogging from my fancy doodad wotsit directly from the show, and yes, it was dope. That's me, dope at Cope. Heh-heh-heh.