Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Go Rampage, It's Your Birthday

Oh the feelings of excitement that Soundwave must have felt when he got the call from Megatron to return to his rightful place at Megatron's side. As it turns out, Megatron wasn't in need of Soundwave's highly specialized listening skills. No, they just needed some tunes.

Even Rampage is getting his groove on, although it is a wee bit hard to make out from this picture. Now that I've called a ceasefire, our disguised, robotic friends have no way to work off all of their extra energy. Perhaps they have learned to settle their differences through the universal language of dance. Perhaps they know that Jetfire is coming and they want to get down with their bad selves before the party gets crashed by the resident scientist. Who needs a wet blanket Poindexter ruining all the fun anyways?

In other news, I saw Downshift when I was out and about today and couldn't resist. Between his very badass pseudo-muscle car mode, his rocket launchers, and his vaguely ninja-like appearance, I felt he'd make a good addition to the other toys. Plus, he has this claw thing that pops out of the front of him. Good times. Now that I have another Autobot, I need another Decepticon to bring balance. I think I'll go with the version of Skywarp that comes from the same toy line as it doesn't require me to buy Ultra Magnus with him and he's not just a repaint of a toy I already have. Now I just have to find him, which is kind of funny as I've seen him everywhere during my searches for Jetfire, so now I'm sure I won't ever see him again.

I have completed my first three bowling lessons and I think they're starting to pay off. Today I bowled in the 150's, in the 120's and in the 130's. Before my lessons, the low score in a day's outing would be in the 20's, not the 120's, so clearly we're turning a corner. There's still a lot of work to do, as picking up spares isn't exactly my strong suit, but I feel like I'm getting somewhere. I'm sure I'll descend back into the depths of mediocrity come our league game tomorrow, but for one brief shining moment, I looked like someone who kind of knew what they were doing. At this point, I'm not asking for much more. Reach for the stars, I always say.

Be sure to come back Friday when I spin the tale of one man's journey through the wilds of the craft universe with only some construction paper, some glue and a 4 year old at his side. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 26, 2007


It's been a while since I've rapped about games to ye, well, rapped about anything in fact, but that's besides the point. Today it's all about the gaming.

Well, not quite. Despite weeks and weeks of searching, I have been unable to find Jetfire, despite various accounts of sightings from like minded toy hunters. As much as I enjoy spending my lunch time searching in an ever expanding circle of retail establishments, I have caved and ordered the toy online, from Wal-Mart of all places. I do not wish to disparage those that shop at Wal-Mart, however I will say that I'm a Target person and just leave it at that. This is clearly a situation where the toy must be served, and in order to do that, we must shop in places we find less than ideal. I mean, for chrissakes, they had him labeled as a Decepticon. Jeez. At any rate, I should have him soon, and when I do, we shall sing and dance all the live long day.

In a quest to obtain Crackdown solely through trades, we have been burning the midnight gaming oil at the homestead. I am now prepared to issue judgement on a number of titles. I apologize if I end up repeating things I've already written about, but I don't feel like going through old posts, and really, what else do you have to do?

Red Steel (Wii) - Somewhere out there is a game that shows how good the Wii will be with first person shooters. This game ain't it. The controls were ok, except for the part where you had to turn the volume of the Wiimote speaker all the way down lest your aiming reticle jump around like a seizure victim. The zooming in for sniping was absolutely awful as the Wii doesn't exactly excel at determining changes in the Wiimote's distance from the sensor bar, and you zoomed in by pushing the remote towards the screen. The sword fighting controls were somewhat unresponsive and the whole idea of gunning down rooms full of bad guys with your submachine gun just to then pull out your sword to fight someone with a baseball bat was silly. To top it off, I hit an issue in the game that gave me the choice of either starting the entire mission over, or calling it quits and trading it in. I chose the latter.

Elebits (Wii) - An interesting concept and nice, bright visuals however the game play was very repetitive and the voice acting was so horrible that it made small mammals bleed from the ears. I know others enjoyed this one, but there just wasn't enough to make me want to keep playing.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii) - While not the best Zelda ever, that's still Ocarina for me, this is one of the best games I've played in a very long time. The art direction was particularly impressive and very easily bests all other entries in the series. Some of the horseback stuff got a little annoying, but the beast form mechanics were integrated nicely and the expanded repetoire of sword moves was a nice addition. Boss battles weren't too difficult, in fact the only time I ever died in the game was when I fell off a ledge or something, however what the final bosses lack in difficulty they make up for in length. You better pack a lunch when going up against these guys. Speaking of boss battles, your very last battle is a straight up sword fight against Ganon, which was a nice addition to the usual "use every item you found in the game" kind of fight we're used to. While the ending wasn't as dramatic as Wind Waker's ending, it was still immensely satisfying and left me with that familar mix of joy and sadness that I get when finishing a Zelda game. I can't recommend this game enough for veteran Zelda players and folks new to the series.

Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando (PS2) - I always find it odd that when folks talk about the big, PS3 exclusive franchises, they consistently fail to mention the Ratchet and Clank series. These games are easily, some of the funniest, best written games you'll play on any console. The action is equally well done with massive guns, huge explosions, tough enemies and a nice mix of platforming and straight up destruction. When the next one comes out, I'll be horribly, horribly jealous that I won't be able to play it. Guess I'll just hold off on playing "Up Your Arsenal" and use that to soothe my jealous soul.

Transformers (PS2) - Not a bad title, I just didn't have it in me to "catch 'em all". I like Pokemon and I like the Transformers, but if they're going to be combined, I want it to be a situation where I throw a Pokeball and Metroplex comes out and stomps the shit out of Squirtle, not me playing as a Transformer on a quest to collect and subjugate other, lesser Transformers. Plus, the ending movie, with the fireworks display was dumb.

Gears of War (360) - Technically I haven't finished this game as Joel and I are still rocking the co-op on Insane, but I did play through it on hardcore and had a fantastic time. When all is said and done, this will be the first game that I a) played through co-op and b) played through multiple times at different difficulty levels. It's such a different game when played with another sentient being that it warrants an additional playthrough. The change in difficulty also forces you to use different weapons and different strategies, thereby making it a different game as well as developing skills that are beyond mad and safely exist in the realm of the furious.

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: And Justice For All (DS) - I'm almost done with this one. Well, truth be told, I'm on the last case, which, like the first entry on the DS was as long as all of the other cases combined, so in actuality, I'm about half way done. If you like the Phoenix Wright games, you'll like this one and if you don't like 'em, there's nothing here to change your mind. I fall in the former camp, so I'm in judicial heaven right now. After this I plan on picking up Hotel Dusk so I can continue my DS adventuring in earnest.

As you can see, I've been quite busy and I don't see it letting up any time soon. Crackdown is proving to be as much fun as the demo, even more so as my destructive powers have surpassed the levels achieved in the demo. There is something immensely satisfying with standing your ground as a tow truck bears down on, only for it to then be turned aside with a kick of your incredibly strong, genetically modified leg. I usually follow up these actions with either dropping a grenade on the overturned vehicle, flambeeing the occupants in the process, or I bring the weight of my titanic kicks onto the fleeing gang members, disposing them in the process. Shooting is fun too, but right not I'm getting my kicks through kicks. Last night I tried to scale the Agency tower, however she is a harsh and unyielding mistress, and I was unsuccessful. I shall return and conquer her at a later date.

SSX Blur comes out tomorrow or Wednesday with Tiger Woods for the Wii shortly afterwards. I'm surprised and vaguely unsettled with all of the attention EA has focused on the Wii. For now, I'll take my titles and be happy with them, however I am prepared to combat what ever dark designs they have for my happy little, white box.

Finally, this past weekend Linda and I were paid a visit by Bones and his lovely wife Cathy. We had a fantastic time, which was nice as, up until that point, Bones existed only in the world of Teh Intraweb and could have been a homicidal maniac or a maurading android bent on world domination. He may still be, but at least now I can tell the police that he seemed like a nice guy. It is so easy, in these days of instant communication and virtual gatherings of like minded people to feel as if someone you are speaking with would be cool to hang out with, only to find out that they're so completely not, that you start to assume that the people you meet online are best left there. It's nice to be proven otherwise.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Behold, My Iron Clad Will!

The toy hunt continues in earnest. Thanks to my frantic checking of Gmail, I was able to read the notification from Toys R Us in regards to the reissue of the G1 Soundwave, and order one before they ran out. Actually, I ordered two and managed to snag my manager into my web of toy neurosis. A week or so later, Soundwave arrived and he's everything I remembered him to be, just...smaller. He is a reissue in every sense of the word, right down to the "1983" copyright date stamped in his battery area. He even came with the original decals so that you could make him even spiffier.

His transformation is pretty simple, not at all like the complex rituals of mechanical tomfoolery that come along with the new classics series. I mean, I'm a smart guy. I have a couple degrees and everything, yet I still can't transform Grimlock from memory. Soundwave is child's play by comparison except for his legs, which stick a bit and always make me think that I'm going to turn him into a double amputee every time I transform him into his oh-so imposing microcassette recorder. Speaking of which, I know that at a kid, I didn't think twice about him being a microcassette player, and not a full sized tape player, but now I find it kind of odd. I mean, I know that were he a full sized tape player, the tapes would transform into birds and jaguars bigger than Soundwave himself, further screwing the Transformers' already messed up sense of scale, however I find it hard to believe that there was a significant number of 10 year olds who were both robot fans and reporters in training.

I was also surprised to see that he had a belt clip. This made me laugh at the idea of some kid clipping Soundwave to his belt and strutting to school thinking that he was 100% Hot Shit, a real playa with his very own homicidal robot attached to his hip. Then I shuddered in horror as I considered the very possible idea that I was Johnny Hot Shit. I certainly don't remember skipping to school with a Decepticon on my belt, however it could be that the merciless mocking of my peers drove the memories deep into my subconscious. If that's the case, I'm oooookay with it. That's a memory that needs to stay buried.

I'm still hunting for Jetfire and despite reading of sightings in the general Atlanta area, my little corner of the world is still Jetfire free. I finally saw the Ultra Magnus - Skywarp two pack at Target today, which gives me hope that soon Jetfire will show up. The two pack is certainly cool, and getting both for 20 bucks saves you 10 big ones, but I just can't pay for them knowing that they're exactly the same as Optimus and Starscream just with different paint jobs. I guess this means that I haven't gone entirely around the toy bend yet. I expect whatever remaining willpower I have will evaporate completely when the Transformer movie toys drop as I've seen pictures and they're damn cool. All of the Autobots look like badasses, even Bumblebee and while I'm not a big fan of Megatron being some kind of jet/spaceship thing, Barricade looks awesome and Blackout is a massive helicopter, so you know, everybody wins. The movie toys drop June 2nd-ish, so if you see lines forming at Toys R Us, Target and/or Wal-Mart at that time, you now know why.

I finished the Transformers game on the PS2, or, rather, I finished being interested in the Transformers game. It's not that it wasn't any good, there just wasn't enough there to keep my interest. Plus, every time your autobot got knocked to the ground, there was this really annoying animation that took forever, and by the time you recovered from it, every enemy robot in the area was all over your metallic ass. Instead of playing through the game, I busted out the cheat code to unlock all of the extras, some of which were PSA's from the original cartoon. Some of them were the usual PSA fare, things like don't run away from home and make sure you wear bright clothing when riding bikes at night. Then it got strange. First, some young lads were sailing and right after the "cool" kid went on about how he didn't need a lifejacket, the skipper of their vessel cheerily swung the sail around, clocked the kid on the head and knocked his ass into the water. The best part was how completely and utterly clueless the skipper was to the fact that he may have just killed one of his crew members. Thankfully Seaspray showed up in the nick of time, and despite his speech impediment, was able to convey how important it is to wear a life jacket.

After this PSA, we were entertained by the story of two youngsters out looking for a good time, who decided to supplement their night's activities with a little grand theft auto. The first car they tried to steal ended up being Tracks, but unfortunately our Autobot friend didn't deal with the two thieves by dispensing some Autobotian justice and instead gave them a lecture about not stealing cars. The best part was at the end, when the one kid says "Now I know!" as if to say that, up until this point, he was completely oblivious to the laws of the nation he'd been living in for the past 17 years and thought it was perfectly acceptable to steal cars. I wonder what the next PSA was. Perhaps Skids counsels some youths on why they shouldn't push old ladies in front of subway cars. Thanks Skids, now we know! Ah, the halcyon days of my youth, when the lessons of morality could all be summed up in a 30 second spot from huge, transforming robots or highly specialized, trained killers. Let's see the Backyardigans take out an APC with a rocket launcher.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

School Daze

Last night I attended a registration seminar for my son's daycare to learn about the differences between the daycare's private Pre-K and Georgia funded public Pre-K offerings. As he's already in daycare there, we already knew which one we were going to go with, however they didn't give out the registration packets until after the hour long ordeal was over, so I ended up being subjected to their propaganda anyway. I felt the explanations of what each program offered was a little one sided, however that may be because I was hungry and tired and wanted go get home in time to play some Transformers on the PS2 before watching TV. Realizing this, I have typed up the comparison information they gave us in the interest of letting you read it and decide for yourselves. Oh how I love an elaborate setup.

Greetings and thank you for attending our Pre-K registration seminar. This packet of information will explain the differences between our private Pre-K offering and our Georgia funded Pre-K offering that, by law, we have to let anyone into. Both offerings will prepare your child for the rigors of Kindergarten and beyond so whichever program you choose, rest assured that your child is getting the best education possible. (Note: Some educations are more best than others.)

This packet is structured to explain the differences between the Pre-K offerings as they apply to the various aspects of your child's learning experiences. Please do not hesitate to ask questions should you have any, however please keep in mind that questions asked in regards to the public Pre-K offering may not be answered so that we have time to answer questions from the parents who actually give a damn about their child's education.

Class Structure and Syllabus
If your child is in our private offering, the teacher is provided with a detailed class syllabus on every theme possible, structured so that every waking moment of your child's day is spent having the week's theme hammered into them. These syllabi were developed by educators and scientists, all of whom are far, far smarter than you. With this syllabus the teachers are encouraged to develop their own materials as well, as long as it doesn't interfere with, or in any way impede in them teaching the materials we paid so very, very much for. Your child's day will be similarly regimented with set times for set learning activities so that they never have to step outside the warm, comforting bounds of a strict schedule.

In the public Pre-K offering, the teacher is left entirely to their own devices and are free to come up with whatever material they choose, provided it adheres to the Georgia state guidelines, which may or may not include reading this year. We're still checking. Your child's day will be "unstructured" and "free" and will allow your child to wander the classroom with their peers like a roving band of feral dogs.

Our private offering has workbooks and textbooks and special paper and helps to teach your child basic mathematical concepts like patterns, sorting, charting, linear algebra, n-space polynomials and Topological Hochschild homology of twisted group algebras. Your child's work will be available for you to review each week so that you can help reinforce concepts at home.

Our public offering offers a rich mathematics program with activities such as counting, counting some more and counting even more things. Your child's work may or may not be available for you to review, depending on whether or not the teacher had time to get it together, what with all of the lesson planning she needs to be doing.

Reading and Writing
The private offering has an award winning system of phonics and sound recognition that allows your child to not only see the sounds that letters make, but how those sounds combine to make words. Special paper is provided so that they can practice learning how to write letters and words. Our current class will be finished with Anna Karenina by March and are looking forward to ending the year with some Nabokov

In our public offering, left over pencils and discarded pieces of paper from our private class are made available so that they can scribble and "write" in an attempt to ape the efforts of the kids in the smart, er, private class. The reading exercises are pulled from mostly fast food menu boards to prepare your child for their career in French Fry Management.

Science and Technology
Science and Technology are very important for our private offering to prepare your child for living in the 21st century. Every child will have access to a laptop and will attend classes on software design, object oriented programming and successfully moving tech support jobs overseas. The rich tapestry of scientific discovery is also presented to them in experimentation activities, thesis defense and time spent in our very own linear accelerator.

In our public offering, we don't have any computers but we have a box we've painted blue to act as a monitor and a dead phone to help simulate the tech support experience. As for science, well, this is a Georgia funded program so we're not allowed to teach science. Hope you like Intelligent Design!

Foreign Languages
Our private program sees the importance of living in a global economy and recently introduced Spanish into the syllabus. When Arturo the Burro shows up, the children know it's time to speak in EspaƱol, por favor! Children learn to count in Spanish, learn their colors in Spanish, learn basic words in Spanish and learn how to say useful phrases like "How are you this morning?", "Where is the police station?" and "Don't cut the goddamn hydrangeas back so much!" in Spanish.

In our public offering, maybe your kid will learn Spanish, maybe they won't. Maybe your teacher will have the time to come up with a rich Spanish lesson plan or maybe she'll just let them watch Telemundo while she texts her boyfriend. Caliente!

Personal Development
Our private program emphasizes the need for children to not only develop as smart, forward thinking individuals, but as kind, caring, generous individuals as well. Different positive character traits such as honest, generosity and respect are taught as well as one can to beings who are so self centered that the rest of the universe is rendered effectively absent.

In our public program your child's teacher will do their best to ensure your kid doesn't grow up to be a total shitheel. If they do, 9 times out of 10 it's your fault anyways.

Academic Development
At various points in your child's time in our private program, your child will be tested and placed in groups to help your teacher tailor the learning environment to them as well as let the other kids know just how far behind your child is. By the end of the year, all children are in the "smart" group and no child is left behind.

In our public program, children with academic disadvantages are helped with a two prong approach of beatings and public shamings. Children deemed "dumb" are humiliated and stoned by the children deemed "smart". By the end of the year, all children are fully prepared to act out their preordained roles for the rest of their natural born lives.

Attendance and Holiday Schedule
Children in our private program can attend as much or as little as you want them to. You're paying full price either way, so we really don't care. Should you choose to spend no time with your children, we will happily dress them in their pajamas so that you can being them home and put them right to bed without spending any additional time with them. Ask about our weekend nanny rates!

As our public program is Georgia funded, your child will be expected to be in class and on time every day. Unexcused absences are not tolerated and may result in a visit from Knee Breaking Nicky our resident Attendance Counselor. Absences due to doctor's visits must be accompanied with an Excused Absence form filled out in triplicate, a sworn affidavit from your child's physician, a second opinion from a non-network physician and a character reference from your state's representative in the Senate and/or Congress. Your child's day will end at 2:15 and all children must be picked up promptly by 2:17 or a $50 per minute fee will be assessed. After school care is available at the rate of $975 a week. We also offer full day care for the 115 or so days off your child will have at the rate of 70 hojillion dollars a day. Special financing is available.

Your child will graduate from our Pre-K program with all of the pomp and circumstance that should accompany a child leaving a program that isn't actually real school. This is but the first of many graduations, pageants, plays, recitals and other events you'll have to attend, all in an attempt to make your child think they're special before being thrust out in the real world where they'll find out they're exactly like everyone else.

Georgia doesn't care about graduation, and by extension, the self esteem of your child so graduation isn't funded. If you'd like, we can hum a jaunty tune as they walk down the hallway when leaving. Don't let the door hit them on the ass on the way out.

We hope that this information will help you make an informed choice in regards to your child's education. Obviously, by being attending this seminar you have an interest in providing your child with the finest learning experience possible. Don't fuck it up now.