Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Here are some shots of the newest addition to the Transformers party.

Dig that crazy cone head. Here he is with the others.

Parts is Parts

I realized the other day that part of the reason I'm not posting as regularly these days is that I wait until I feel I have enough to post about. This seems to be antithetical to the idea of blogging what with it's offerings of instantaneous publishing. I could be posting all the time, as things popped into my head, but that seems silly to me. It would appear that I don't "get" blogging. I tend to think of this place as more of a collection of columns, rather than just a place to record my various thoughts, which, on the one hand, leads to what I think are more entertaining pieces, but on the other hand, they come less frequently. Honestly, I don't see that changing any time soon, however I'm going to try to pop in more frequently with smaller bits if anything just to keep the hoards clamoring for content in between bigger pieces. Keep clamoring hordes!

That being said, today's post is a collection of these aforementioned small bits. I have a mind to parcel them out over the next few days in some sort of advent calendar of useless content but that serves no one well. Plus, this new Blogger keeps forgetting who I am and the sign in process is unnecessarily shitty, so I'll just stick to the one trip down Blogger lane for today.

Recently, when Linda and I were out and about, we saw a sign for a restaurant's breakfast offerings. The sign said "The best parts of breakfast." For some reason, this struck both of us as very unsettling, as if breakfast at this place was just an assortment of cooked animal parts, a plate of limbs and wings and other appendages all akimbo. Perhaps they were swimming in a sassy sauce, perhaps not. Eggs and hash browns may also be present, however it's not guaranteed. We're not sure if they meant to say that their breakfast was the best part of a morning, in an attempt to wrestle the title from Folgers, or they meant to say that their meals were the best part of breakfast, unlike toast which is just lazy and brings nothing to the table. At any rate, the misplaced "s" ended up screwing up everything and instead of visions of a hearty morning meal, we had visions of dismembered farm animals. Think The Shining meets Animal Farm. Not pretty.

Thanks to some diligent searching on my part, Ramjet has now joined the Transformers party. He's a pretty cool model in both robot and vehicle form, despite his robot form looking like a mechanical Conehead. This helps bring the Decepticons to within one of an even playing field. I guess I could buy Astrotrain, but come on, it's Astrotrain. How evil can a supply vehicle possibly be? Thankfully my reissue of the classic Soundwave is on it's way and the Decepticons will once again be on equal footing with the Autobots. Plus they'll have tunes. Linda scoffed at my notion that Soundwave needs to be a tape player and not some lame ass stealth bomber, but at least tape players don't have that DRM bullshit. I bet if I showed some youngster how I could take a tape and play it in any tape player ever built he'd shit his knickers. Try doing that with your fancy iTunes songs. The best part of getting Soundwave is that I didn't have to go anywhere. Toys R Us emailed me (it's a TRU exclusive) and I made with the clickage. I realize that the hunt is half the fun, but I don't have time to flit from store to store. I'll gladly pay the shipping.

Target has an exclusive Ultra Magnus vs Skywarp set for the low, low price of 20 bucks. It's tempting except for the fact that Ultra Magnus is just Optimus painted light blue and white and Skywarp is Starscream painted black and purple. I'm ok with that last one, as the Decpticon air corps members all pretty much looked alike, but I remember Ultra Magnus looking decidedly different from Optimus. Still, 30 bucks worth of toys for 20 is a pretty good deal. I'm just not sure if I'm ready to have the conversation with my coworkers about Ultra Magnus not being just a repainted version of Optimus when he is totally just a repainted version of Optimus. I've seen the classics version of Cliffjumper out there too, but he appears to be just a red version of Bumblebee which means he's just a different shade of lame.

The other weekend I smoked another meat loaf and while it turned out well, it wasn't as spicy as I had intended. I'm mulling around in my head a recipe for a meat loaf so hot, so spicy, so decidedly caliente that I've decided to call it Heat Loaf. We're still in the planning stages but at some point I'll be going into prototyping. The problem is that I want to balance good taste with heat which is often difficult to do. Also, a lot of hot sauces have a vinegary flavor to them which doesn't jive well with what I think a good meat loaf should be. One thing I did think of was crushing up some wasabi peas into the bread crumbs but I'm not sure wasabi is the right flavor. We'll see. I like the idea of a very hot meat loaf as it's a nice surprising juxtaposition of comfort food and searing pain. It's as if your mom called you over for a hug and instead she poked you in the eye. This also got me thinking of different flavored meat loafs such as an Italian meat loaf with parmesan and mozzarella cheese, green peppers and pancetta and sauced with a spicy tomato sauce; a buffalo wing meat loaf made with celery, carrots, blue cheese and sauced with a spicy wing sauce; a bacon cheeseburger meat loaf with chipotle peppers, smoked mozzarella and bacon bits, "sauced" with slices of provolone cheese and the aforementioned Heat Loaf. I think we may have the beginnings of a good restaurant here. Think Zaxby's, but with meat loaf. Inquire inside about exciting franchising opportunities.

I have some gaming to speak of too, however I feel this is better left to Friday's post when the weekend lays before you and perhaps you can take a moment from the toil and drudgery of your every day life and engage in some digital shenanigans. Oh the times we'll have!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Book of Dad

Greetings. Sorry for the long time between posts. Much like Stella, I am working on getting my groove back. It is a work in progress.

Anyone with small children knows that parenting is 50% common sense and 50% saying 5 or 6 phrases over and over and over again. Most of the time, I think that a cardboard cutout of me and a tape recorder could do the same job I'm doing while at the same time freeing me up to play Ratchet and Clank. I'm assuming that when your kids are older you have to listen to them and deal with their problems, or at least feign interest, but for the toddler/young child set, it's basically just telling them for the 15th time to stop playing on the goddamn furniture.

This morning for some reason, I delivered one of my pearls of wisdom to my daughter as if it were from the Bible. I don't know why. Last night I rapped "Mama Said Knock You Out" while I gave her a bath. I'm a strange cat. Anyways, while I don't think the message got through any better than when I just say it like it is, it was fun for me and the momentary look of confusion on both kids' faces was worth it. If you haven't confused or upset your kid at some point in the day, you're not doing your job as a parent correctly. I prefaced my statement with "A reading from the Book of Dad" which gave it the gravitas I felt my words deserved. For your enjoyment I have compiled these nuggets of wisdom so that you may use them with your own children, starting with the one I delivered this morning. Enjoy.

"For lo, a hunger did fall upon the land, and this hunger was called morning. The children who ate their dinner the night before were happy, while those that were banished from the table for misbehaviour had empty stomachs, and their mouth did taste like ash."

"Dirty hands shall touch no dinner. Crying mouths shall taste no snack."

"Why dost thou not use thy words? Were thou not raised as a man? Does a man not speak? A child who speaks in tears and wailing will not receive help, for their parents can not understand them. Rejoice, for thou have been given the gift of speech! Use this gift and all shall be delivered unto you."

"The child who raises his hands in anger shall be banished to his room. And his sole companion shall be hunger."

"And the child did play on the furniture and a fall was taken. The child, seeking sympathy for his injury met only with rebuke for he had been told that the furniture was forbidden. And lo, his tears dried as tracks of shame upon his face."

"Thy pants are not a napkin, nor is thy sleeve nor thy hand nor the furniture nor the dog."

"Pick not thy nose, lest a booger be delivered unto you."

"And the child did ask 'Father, why can we not listen to our music in the car?' And the Father replied, 'Child, one day you shall have a job and with that job you shall have money and with that money you shall have a car. On that day, you may listen to whatever music you like. Today you have no job so you have no money so you have no car so we shall listen to My Chemical Romance.' And they did. And it was good."

"And the child who asked nicely was rewarded while the child who did not was given only shame."

"The magic word is please and please is the magic word."

"Listen to thy parents for thy parents hold the keys to the kingdom. When thy parents give thee a task, do not make them ask you again and again, for your only reward shall be righteous anger."

"Do not take toys from thy siblings or thy toys will be taken from thee and thou shall have only shame to play with."

"And the child did cry for no reason. And soon, a reason was delivered unto them."

I particularly like that last one. I think it'd make a good shirt. You know you've made it when one of your phrases makes it on the chests of aging hipsters and emo kids everywhere.

Monday, January 15, 2007

2006: The Year in Music

As music goes, this was a pretty good year. After all, any year that has a Pearl Jam album in it is right up there with the best of them. I should warn you that I am a piss poor music reviewer, so prepare for lots of "I liked it, but not as much as the last one" something like 15 times. As with the games and the movies, I'm limiting this list to music that came out this year.

Super 400 - Live 05
Super 400 is a tremendously talented power trio from my home town of Albany, NY. They bring the rock in copious amounts and their love of Led Zeppelin is palpable. Plus, they have one of the hottest women in rock on bass, the lovely Ms. Lori Friday. Check them out at

My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade
One of the best albums this year. An amazing mix of Green Day punk, Queen bombast and dark, death emo imagery. Plus, it's got a cameo by Liza Minelli which fits the album to a "t". The opening 5 songs are genius and if you can listen to "Dead" and not rock the fuck out, something is totally wrong with you. My daughter loves it and she's only 2. She's off to a great start.

Angels and Airwaves - We Don't Need To Whisper
Yes the lyrics can be a little too uplifting, but this band has some serious talent and the hooks are undeniable. Great music to play Uno on the 360 by too.

Snow Patrol - Eyes Open
Good hooks, plenty of emo angst. A fun little record. I give it an 8.

Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere
Sometimes the lyrics can be a little too strange, but the beats kick ass, and if you like songs about fucking dead people, this is the album for you

Matisyahu - Youth
I'm not a fan of reggae, so I'm not sure how reggaeish this album actually is, but this dude has a great flow and his songs always pick me up.

Queensryche - Operation Mindcrime: II
A complete and total fucking waste of money. Not only is this a shitty record, but it manages to taint the original in the process which is a shame. Ronnie James Dio sings like ass too. They should have never recorded this piece of shit.

Sarah Harmer - I'm A Mountain
Not a bad album, but I like her earlier stuff a lot better. At the same time, if you like bluegrass, you may get a kick out of this one.

Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
The most fun album I've heard in quite some time. The level of talent on this album is amazing and all of the songs are kid friendly, perfect for getting your rock on while you make dinner. "Erie Canal" is a work of genius.

Pearl Jam - Pearl Jam
Hands down, the best album of the year. Now, I'll agree that I'm biased towards The Jam, but objectively speaking, this album kicks ass. Filled with amazing melodies, blistering rock riffs and their usual penchant for stellar lyrics, this is not only one of Pearl Jam's best albums, but one of the best rock albums to come out in some time. Plus, it brought Pearl Jam back in the spotlight where they so rightfully deserve to be. The kids of today need rock. They need Pearl Jam.

Angie Aparo - El Primero Del Tres
A fun EP from one of the best independent musicians out there. Translated literally, it means "The First of Three". I look forward to the next two. If you get a chance to see him live, do so. "Stairway to Freebird" is well worth the price of admission.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Stadium Arcadium
Usually, I'm of the opinion that a double album should be cut of the filler and made into a stellar single album, but two discs of the Chili Peppers is always better than one. Maybe there's half a disc of filler, but that's OK with me, because the rest is kick ass funk rock.

Guster - Ganging Up On the Sun
These guys get more and more talented with every record. A great band to see in concert too, should you get a chance.

Keane - Under the Iron Sea
Some good songs, some OK songs. In totality, it's nothing you'll keep coming back to, but when you do, you won't have wasted your time. It's reviews like this that explain why I don't work for Rolling Stone.

Butch Walker and the Let's Go Out Tonights - The Rise and Fall of...
Butch Walker makes the most fun records in rock today. This one is his best yet. If you can score a copy of Live at Budokan on DVD, do so, if only for the acoustic performance.

Tom Petty - Highway Companion
Tom Petty makes amazing records. This is a Tom Petty record. Ergo, this is an amazing record. Seriously, why aren't you out buying this now?

Outkast - Idlewild
The first time I listened to this album, I was like "There are some good songs in here." The second time I couldn't bring myself to listen through the shit to find them. Oh well.

Pete Yorn - Nightcrawler
An uneven effort. Pick up "Live in New Jersey" instead if you're down for some Yorn-age.

Citizen Cope - Every Waking Moment
A good follow up to his last effort. It improves with every listen too, which is always a good thing. "Brother Lee" is spectacular. He puts on a good show too.

Barenaked Ladies - Barenaked Ladies Are Me
Should have been titled "Barenaked Ladies Are Boring". Not sure where the fun band of "Stunt" and "Maroon" went, but hopefully they'll come back soon.

John Mayer - Continuum
This dude has talent. Plus, he's willing to do skits with Dave Chappelle which puts him at the top of my list of rock-pop guitarists.

The Killers - Sam's Town
Brandon Flowers seems like a bit of a dick, and sullies my good name in the process. This is a fun record, but nothing that will go down in the history of rock. I did find it interesting that prior to the release, everyone was all like "The Killers! The Killers! They're trying to sound like Springsteen circa Born to Run!", but once the album came out, people knocked them for trying to sound like Born to Run and failing. Well, duh. No one can sound like Bruce did on that album, not even Bruce any more, and certainly not a band that spent its first album trying to revive the 80's.

Lindsey Buckingham - Under the Skin
Pop's most underrated guitarist. This album has some songs that are a little hard to get into, but all of them are technically impressive and most of them have some damn good hooks. This dude is a genius.

Incubus - Light Grenades
A nice way to end the year, with a kick ass rock record from one of my favorite bands. If you have any Xmas money left over, this would be a good thing to spend it on.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

2006: The Year in Games

Jeez, what a year for gaming 2006 was. I'm not going to get into a big recap as anyone who is interested in this post already knows all of the gory details. Two consoles launched (3 if you consider the DS Lite), Sony stumbled, Nintendo soared, Microsoft stayed the course and a whole bunch of really, really good games were released.

As with the Year in Movies post, here's a list of every 2006 release I played. Well, bought and played is more like it, I'm not counting demos. Huzzah!

Xbox 360
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Put your best foot forward, I say, so this game is the first one listed as it was, hands down, the best game I played all year. How it did not get Game of the Year over Gears is beyond me, but I'm not a big, fancy pants game site editor. Oblivion is one of the finest RPG's I've ever played with a scope and level of character customization unparalleled in console gaming. Once you taste the joyous freedom this game gives you, you'll find it impossible to go back to a traditional game's linear structure. Sure there were some framerate issues, particularly when on horseback, and I had my game lock up once or twice, but the issues were worth it. I have 90 hours logged and I haven't even completed everything that shipped with the game, not to mention all of the extra content I've downloaded. It also kept me playing my 360 for the boring summer months of zero good content on the console, so Microsoft better make sure that Bethesda gets a nice "thanks for keeping our console relevant" bonus.

Gears of War - While it didn't seem possible for Gears of War to live up to the hype, it did with lots of action, gore and sky high production values to spare. If Oblivion is the reason for RPG fiends to buy a 360, Gears is the reason for shooter fans to do so. The game is amazingly beautiful, packs a powerful audio punch and keeps the adrenaline fueled pace up througout. Multiplayer is a blast, and co-op is tons of fun. I'd like to see a more flexible multiplayer experience, or a way to save your co-op progress for those of us who are Dom-curious, but these are minor quibbles in an otherwise spectacular shooter experience.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter - Multiplayer was a hoot, especially the co-op maps. I got one level into the single player before Oblivion came and I never went back. I hear it's good. I'll never know as I traded it in months ago. It sure is pretty though.

Burnout Revenge - It's the same game that came out in 2005 for the other consoles, just with better explosions and a better crash junction mode, which is like saying it's like sex, only with better orgasms. The online mode had some problems, which is to be expected with an EA game, but once you got racing, it was a blast. Literally. Saying I'm excited for Burnout 5 is an understatement of mythical proportions.

Dead Rising - Great concept, great variety of weapons, great zombie mashing sounds, shitty, shitty, shitty save/mission system. Oblivion ruined this game for me which is a shame, but I'm a stickler for flexible save systems, so it's not all Oblivions's fault.

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance - An excellent action-RPG with tons of cool Marvel heroes. The individual simulator missions helps to extend the game, and the cutscenes were some of the finest CGI productions I've seen in some time. I thoroughly enjoyed this game from start to finish.

Uno - The sleeper hit of the year! Easy to pick up and impossible to put down, Uno remains my go to game when I want to play something for only 5 minutes. Granted it never lasts only 5 minutes, but that's OK. It has also started Linda and I playing the real life version when we watch TV which is great except for the fact that I lose pretty much every game.

Texas Hold 'Em - It was free, which is pretty much all it has going for it. The Hold 'Em game I have on my phone is better, and I can play it at red lights.

Sneak King - As stealth action games go, it's pretty medicore, as a sign that the apocalypse is upon us in the form of a corporate mascot hiding in a garbage can, waiting to force hash brown nuggets down an innocent passerby's gullet, it's top notch.

Pocketbike Racer - A fun little Mario Kart-esque racer. Where else can you race as the Subservient Chicken? Where else would you want to?

Nintendo DS
Elite Beat Agents - This game really has to be played to be fully understood. As rhythm games go, it's a blast, and quickly ramps up in difficulty. It also has an incredible sense of humor and style. It's one of the few games I can think of that would be just as much fun to watch being played as playing it yourself. Agents are go!

Tetris DS - It's Tetris, in many, many forms, all with a unique Nintendo feel. If you like Tetris, you'll love it. If you don't like Tetris, what the hell is wrong with you? A great game to show off the DS's new screens too, as the colors in this game are delightful.

Metroid Prime: Hunters - A great Metroid game and a great shooter and it's the first and only Metroid game to have online multiplayer. The mission and save structure don't fit with the pick up and play for 10 minutes style of a handheld, but if you can get past that, you're in for a real treat. It also helps fill the Metroid void (hey I rhymed!) until Metroid Prime: Corruption.

Clubhouse Games - By far, the best gaming value out there. 42 card, board and "other" games all with different difficulty levels and game specific missions. If you wanted one game to keep in your DS so that you'd never be bored, this is the game. Where else can you play darts, then go bowling then play a game of Rummy?

Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day - Lots of fun for the various puzzles, but entirely worth the 20 buck price tag just for the Soduku. The handwriting recognition can be a bit dodgy, but that may be a result of my crippled chicken scratch.

Star Fox Command - A dissappointing mix of 3-d space shooting and turn based strategy. I wish they had just stuck with the flying as it was fun, what little of it there was. The game is incredibly short, despite the multiple endings, as it wasn't fun enough to go back and play for the various outcomes. I've heard the multiplayer is fun, but I can't attest to it.

Big Brain Academy - The puzzles in this game were more fun, and more colorful than in Brain Age, but there's no Soduku, so ultimately it's a wash.

Uno / Skip-Bo / Uno Freefall - The reign of Uno continues! I have no idea what those other modes are, as I haven't played any of them, but I've played a ton of Uno and it's just as good on the DS as it is on other platforms. And hey, I can actually win a game or two, unlike when playing Linda.

Nintendo Wii
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess - One of the best games I've ever played, and probably the best Zelda games ever, but I'd like to wait until I finish it before making that decision. As with all of the Zelda games, it's an absolute joy to play and the production values and art direction is top notch. The Wii control scheme makes the shooting much, much easier, and shaking the nunchuk to perform a spin move is tremendously fun.

Rayman Raving Rabbids - Lack of progressive scan is dissappointing because the Rabbids are so much fun to watch, you want to make sure you can see every detail. The sense of humor in this game is fantastic, and the mini games swing from extremely easy to extremely frustrating with plenty of middle ground. Highly recommended.

Wii Sports - The smartest thing Nintendo did with this launch is packing this game in with every system. I now use it as a workout disc of sorts for my Wii Sports Weight Loss plan and these minigames have gotten Linda back into gaming at a level not seen since the halcyon days of Super Monkey Ball and Tiger Woods.

Elebits - The game looks and plays great. The voice acting makes you long for the eternal silence of death. Thankfully you only have to endure it in the cut scenes. I haven't played it too long, so I can't speak to the fun factor over a long period of time, but any game built on the concept of enslaving sentient beings for our power needs is OK in my book.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz - Controlling the single player game with the Wiimote is intuitive and lots of fun. Sadly, the same can't be said for all of the minigames. With 50+ minigames, some were sure to be stinkers, but so far we're averaging about half which is a bummer. Oh well, the half that are good, are a lot of fun, however I don't see Linda and I returning to this game with the same fervor as the original Super Monkey Ball.

Red Steel - Amazing only in it's medicority, this game shows that the Wii can be a viable platform for the FPS genre, as long as it's a competent team making the game. I'm still not sure why I put down the very powerful shotgun when someone comes at me with a sword, but I'm sure it has something to do with honor or some shit. Whatever. I'll keep playing it to see what happens, but I can't really recommend it. Not at 50 bucks anyways. At 20, sure but not at 50.

Okami - I haven't played this one yet, but I'm really looking forward to it. A Zelda-esque action adventure game steeped in Japanese lore? Yes please!

Black - For 50 bucks, this game was supposed to be a dissappointment. For 15 it looks like just the thing when I want to get my violence on. Yay for Costco.

For the PS2 I also have to finish Guitar Hero and Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando as well as start Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal, Kingdom Hearts and Transformers. I also have Killer 7 and Eternal Darkness for the Cube/Wii. Verily, lots of good gaming await me, and it's not even 2007, the year of Mass Effect, Bioshock, Too Human, Phoenix Wright: And Justice for All, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Metroid Prime: Corruption, Super Mario Galaxy, Alan Wake, Burnout 5 and Guitar Hero 2 for the 360.

On that last one, allow me to take this time to thank the Gods of Rock and their human conduits over at Red Octane for including not only Pearl Jam but My Chemical Romance at launch for GH2 on the 360. My prayers have been answered and I look forward to continuing to pray at the altar of rock in March. God of Rock be praised!

Friday, January 05, 2007

2006: The Year in Movies

Welcome to what is the first of three "The Year in..." posts. This one focuses on movies while subsequent posts will focus on games and music. As I'm a selfcentered son-of-a-B, I am of course referring to movies that I've seen and not some general here's how the movie industry did as a whole in 2006. Not only am I not smart enough to make the critical observations necessary for that kind of post, I also don't care. I've decided to limit this post to movies I saw this year that actually came out this year, as trying to remember all of the movies I watched this year would be an exercise in futility.

One thing I should point out before giving my little mini-reviews is that, of late, whenever Linda and I watch a movie in the basement I end up sleeping through part of it. As a result, I may be giving a movie somewhat of a bad review because it didn't make any sense, a direct result of my narcoleptic tendencies. Thankfully I seem to remember that most of the movies I didn't like, Linda didn't like either, so you can rest assured that the movie was probably still bad, just not for the reasons I'm listing. On with the show!

Hostel - I rented this one to see what the hubbub was about. By hubbub, I mean that I heard there were some pretty hot topless chicks in it and there were . It is not lost on me that the lustful urges used to lure the young men to their dooms in the movie were the same urges used to get me to watch the movie. I'm OK with that. After all, my achilles tendons remained intact. The movie was OK. Certainly entertaining but nothing to get all jazzed up about. It's not for teh squeamish though as some of the violence is pretty brutal.

Glory Road - Linda and I rented this over the summer. Think Miracle but with basketball instead of hockey and with boredom instead of emotional resonance and national pride. Total waste of Emily Deschanel too.

Underworld: Evolution - For the life of me, I still can't fathom how it is I can watch these Underworld movies and not understand a goddam second of them. I've seen the first one like 3 times and I still have no idea what happened. Oh well. Kate Beckinsale is smoking hot in her leather catsuit thingy and Bill Nighy is always a hoot. It was a little on the long side and I'm pretty sure I slept through part of it.

Final Destination 3- Not as good as the first two, however if you're a Final Destination fan, you'll still be entertained. The DVD has an interesting cut and paste feature that allows you to put together how the different folks die. At least I heard that it does as I could never get it to work.

Running Scared - Suprisingly enough, this hyper violent "fairy tale" was one of my favorite movies of the year. Paul Walker did an excellent job as a low level mob flunky who finds his life turning to shit when the gun he was supposed to get rid of, due to it's use in a shootout with some corrupt cops, gets stolen by the neighbor's kid and used for an attempted patricide. It's dark, funny, extremely violent at times and filled with a bunch of really memorable characters. This movie will put your sound system to the test too, particularly in the opening shootout. Plus, it's got Chazz Palminteri who is always worth the price of admission.

16 Blocks - You'd think that a movie with Mos Def and Bruce Willis would be pretty good. You'd be wrong. Mos had this really annoying nasal voice througout the whole thing and the bad guy was the blonde dude from St. Elsewhere. Ooooh, very scary. I slept through a big chunk of this one, so maybe it was better, but if it was better I probably wouldn't have fallen asleep.

Dave Chappelle's Block Party - An excellent concert film if you're into hip-hop and such greats as The Roots, Kanye West, Erykah Badu and Black Star. A not so great concert film if you're into Dave Chappelle as he does very little, if any standup. It's still funny at times, especially when he walks the streets of his home town giving out golden tickets, but those expecting a laugh out loud movie will be dissappointed.

V For Vendetta - A pretty accurate rendition of the seminal comic mini-series, especially for an Alan Moore joint, which usually end up getting raped over a barrel when made into movies ("League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", I'm looking at you). Natalie Portman was hot as usual, and Hugo Weaving did an excellent job emoting behind a plastic mask for 2 hours. I was glad to see that they kept V's identity a secret througout the film, as they did in the comics. All in all, a very entertaining action movie.

Inside Man - Spike Lee - good. Clive Owen - good. Denzel Washington - good. Need I say more?

Slither - A hilarious horror-comedy movie about space slugs that come to Earth and prey on the populace of an unsuspecting town. Nathan Fillion is in it, which makes it a must watch in my book. It's a shame this movie didn't do better as it's quite good and Fillion deserves to have some serious leading man money pushed his way so that he can show how he can hang with the best of them. Bill Pardy fans unite!

Lucky Number Slevin - An interesting little crime noir movie with Josh Hartnett, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman and Bruce Willis, among others. The movie's got style and keeps you guessing throughout. Plus, for once I didn't find Lucy Liu annoying. Worth a rent if you see it on the shelf.

The Sentinel - Utter shit. The movie made no sense, and it had Eva Longoria, who is one of the most annoying people working in Hollywood today. Avoid at all costs.

Mission: Impossible III - Once you get past the fact that Tom Cruise is in it, you'll be treated to the best Mission Impossible movie of the three and a damn good action movie in it's own right. Turn up the speakers for the bridge scene and rattle the neighbor's house. Ving Rhames is his usual badass self, Maggie Q is fucking gorgeous and the brief appearance of Keri Russell made me remember why I loved "Felicity" so.

Over The Hedge - Absolutely hilarious animated movie based on the comic strip of the same name. The voice talent is amazing, the animation is top notch and it's damned funny. Buy it for the kids, watch it for yourself, or hell, screw the kids. They probably don't deserve it anyways.

X-Men: The Last Stand - Well, Colussus looked cool and it had the Fastball Special. On the one hand, I'd hate for the franchise to go out on this particular note, but on the other hand, the potential is there for them to go out on a far worse note. Let's hope the Wolverine spin-off is better.

The Break-Up - Jennifer Aniston seems to get hotter and hotter in every movie, while jon Favreau gets bigger and bigger. Vince Vaugh was his least outlandish and created a character that was very realistic while still being Vince Vaughn funny. The fights were actual arguments you would expect normal couples to get in which made the movie painful to watch at times, but ultimately entertaining.

Cars - The animation is great, but at 2 hours, it's just too damned long for a kids' movie. My son got up to do other stuff at one point, which he never does when watching a movie. Warning, after watching this, your children may want you to smash into other cars when driving. If you already do that, good for you.

Superman Returns - The best movie of the year and one of the best comic book movies ever made. It pains my soul to see that the aforementioned X-Men piece of crap made more than this movie. I still react with incredulity when I hear that people didn't like this movie, but I also don't understand why people like bananas. No accounting for taste, I guess. This movie will be on permanent rotation in our house for a long time to come.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - Good, with amazing special effects but ultimately too long and too meandering. Hopefully the third one will be a little tighter and act as a good bookend with the first one. Not enough Keira Knightley in a bodice either.

The Descent - Best horror movie of the year. I was scared out of my mind before they even came across the beasties, so well did the film the claustraphobia of spelunking. Carniverous cave dwellers aside, you couldn't pay me enough money to crawl around in some tunnel under the ground. Neil Marshall now lives atop my must watch list for directors.

Feast - Linda and I watched the making of this movie on Project Greenlight, so I felt obligated to buy it and help John Gulager out. It's actually a really good movie, with lots of gore, humor and hot chicks. I know that IMDB lists this as a 2005 release, but I'm not counting film festivals. I'm talking wide release or DVD release.

So there you have it. 2007 looks to be a stellar year with 300, Ghost Rider, Spider-Man 3, Transformers and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix among others. I may actually see one or two of these in the theater. How exciting!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Merry Illness to All

Greetings. Welcome to the new year. I hope it is a good one for you and your's. I also hope that your holiday was a good one as mine was conjured from the blackest pits of hell. What, pray tell, could cause such problems over this, the gloriousest of holiday vacations? Why, a sick child, that's what. And not just a sick child, but a SICK child. Come with me as I spin a tale of woe, but be warned for here there be monsters.

Before we get started, I should point out some things, things that every parent knows but are loathe to admit. The reason for me doing this is that Greg, a blogger whose work I have come to enjoy, and his tastefully named wife Linda, are expecting their first child in summer of this year. This being the case, I feel it my responsibility to lift the curtain from their eyes so that they can see the truth of what they can expect from the years ahead. No longer will I live in this code of silence perpetuated by fellow parents with the hopes of ensnaring other child free couples into our web of shared misery! No longer!

First, and this really shouldn't come as any surprise, but children have a tendency to ruin everything. OK, not necessarily everything, but most things, and certainly the important things. It's not really their fault, most of the time, it just happens. It happened when you were a kid, and it will happen with your own kids, or has already happened. I remember putting my arm through our front door's window the day before we were going on vacation and requiring 15 stitches on two cuts. This required us to have to find a doctor in Cape Cod who could remove the stitches, causing my mom to almost pass out in said doctor's office in the process. While we could still go on vacation, I dare say it was pretty damn close to being ruined. If you have an event, or a vacation, or you just want to go out with the family for a change of pace and have a nice dinner, invariably, someone will get sick, or fall off of the roof or just act like crazed monkey children in the restaurant and get you slapped with a restraining order. It's the universe's way of testing the boundaries of your love for your children. It also helps keep all of those boarding schools open as parents give up in fits of exhaustion and pack their kids off to be raised by strangers. Good luck Timmy, see you in June.

The reason that parents are so insistent on their kids having kids is because they know what's coming, and they want revenge for having all of their activities ruined for 18+ years. No one really wants grandkids, they just want to hear about how their grandchild ruined their son's/daughter's vacation/holiday/ski trip. I know I can't wait to hear about how little Abby junior threw up all over Thanksgiving dinner, a dinner I missed because Linda and I were vacationing in New Zealand. Similarly, people with kids naturally want others to share in their misery, so they want their child free friends to have kids too. I say nuts to that. The world doesn't need more people, and I like to think that someone is having a holiday not tinged with unhappiness.

The other thing is that the simple act of you commenting on how well things are going is enough to cause it to all come crashing down around you. Maybe this is just something with our family, but if either Linda or I notice some positive aspect of the children's behaviour, and we comment on it to each other, sure as the sun rises in the morning, that behaviour will change. Case in point, we had a good couple of weeks where Abby was sleeping fine and not getting up in the night. Linda says "it's nice that Abby sleeps through the night now" and that night she was up like every half hour and we haven't had a stretch of more than two good sleeping nights in a row since. I have tried to tell her that our words have power so we shouldn't abuse that but does she listen? Noooooooo! After all, what do I know? She says that she likes to say nice things about the kids. My response is that you can say nice things, you just have to be careful. You can say that they're nice kids, good kids, good looking kids, smart kids, creative kids, whatever. You just can't say something like "I'm glad none of the kids have held up any liquor stores" because if you do, our 4 year old will be picked up that night for trying to knock off the Beverage Mart.

Which brings us to our story. Abby has a long, proud history of getting sick every time family comes to visit (see everything, ruining of). Usually she gets sick a few days before they arrive so that she's well into it by the time they get here. This time, as of Thursday night, she hadn't, which led Linda to utter the fateful words "It's good Abby didn't get sick for your mom and sister's visit." At that point, I knew we were doomed. "Why would you say that?", I said. She brushed off my concerns, but I knew that the die had been cast and we would come up big losers.

Sure enough, Friday morning, not only is Abby miserable but she has an elevated temperature. Linda kept her home for a little bit to make sure she was OK. Once Abby was behaving like her normal self, Linda brought her to school. We went to the airport, got my mom and sister, had lunch and all was well until daycare called at 3:30 saying Abby had a temperature of 103. Yikes. It was on, 'til the crack of dawn.

Over the next few days Abby's temperature would range from a normal temp in the 98's up to a high somewhere in the 102's. Sometimes she was irritable, sometimes she was fine. Every night she was up screaming around 10PM and then later on around 1 or 2 in the morning. Fun!

On Tuesday, a day in which Linda and I had planned on bringing the kids to daycare so that we could enjoy a day of shopping and eating out with my mom and sister, we brought Abby to the doctor instead as, at this point, she had had a fever for going on 5 days now. There she was diagnosed with hand, foot and mouth disease and we were told that she should be over it in no time as that particular virus only lasts for 5 days max. Also, she was showing signs of the blisters that come with the disease which means it was on the outs.

On Wednesday her fever was worse than before, and then her eardrum exploded. Yes, you read that right. One moment she was fine, the next she was screaming and a bloody discharge was coming out of her ear. We thought that maybe she had a blister in her ear and it broke, but when Linda brought her to the doctor and the doctor took a look, the ear drum was perforated. Apparently, sometimes kids will get really fast, aggressive ear infections and the ear drum blows from all of the pressure. Ooookay. The doctor also noticed a rash on Abby that's usually indicative of sepsis so she had to get a whole mess of blood work done, and get two big antibiotic shots, one in each leg.

On Thursday, her fever was gone, and she was fine, but a little irritable until one point in the morning when she collapsed screaming for like 20 minutes straight and was completely unconsolable. As this was a symptom of further trouble to look for, Linda brought her back to the doctor. The doctor called the Center for Infectious Diseases to make sure Abby didn't have some strange jungle virus (she doesn't) and Abby got more antibiotic shots. The rash was still there, but hadn't spread, which pretty much ruled out sepsis, and the CID said that sometimes when kids get the flu, or other viruses, they can get the rash. The doctor said that it's possible she got the flu, plus the hand foot thingy, plus an ear infection, plus some other unknown infection. When this kid gets sick, she gets sick.

On Friday she was somewhat irritable but no fever, no exploding parts and she was eating more.

Saturday, Sunday and Monday found her more irritable than usual and with a slightly elevated temperature which we attribute to the fact that she's cutting her last tooth. Not the most convenient time for this tooth to make an appearance as the elevated temperature made us think she was having a relapse, but given that she's a) still on antibiotics, b) in a much better mood, c) eating normally and d) showing the signs of the tooth protruding from the gum, we're taking it as business as usual for a teething child. This is a good thing as neither one of us could take any more of her being sick, and I'm pretty sure she wouldn't want to be sick any more either.

It's dissappointing that all of my holiday vacation was taken up by a sick child, and that Linda's holiday vacation was taken up by getting ready for Christmas and then a sick child, but it has taught me a valuable lesson, which is to never, ever, ever save up all of your vacation until the end of the year. It's better to spread it out over the calendar year so that your kids can get sick once per season. In fact, it's probably better to never take any time off at all. While it means you'll never take a vacation, it also means that your kids will never get sick. Once the kids are in school, rather than daycare, I think we'll be able to take time off as long as it corresponds to their breaks, as kids rarely get sick and wreck their own shit.

All in all, I'm glad that Abby is feeling better and glad that the break is over. I'm hesitant to say that now we can all just be normal for fear that the bubonic plague is just waiting to come back in one of my children. Instead I'll say that I'm glad the Earth is still orbiting the sun. That way, if that changes as a result of these words, at least I'll take all of you down with me.

Happy New Year!