Friday, October 31, 2008

Oooooh, very scary

My take on the scariest video game characters evar is up. This is some stone cold, scary shit. Read it at your own peril.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fun with Squash

Wednesday morning I get an IM from Linda that says "Ben want's a scary tiger face pumpkin, but it's supposed to be a surprise." My kid has an odd notion of what makes up a surprise. Birthday parties that you don't know about are surprises. Coming home to find your partner making out with your sibling is a surprise. Your choice of a pumpkin? Not a surprise.

More importantly, what the hell is a scary tiger face?

"I don't know how to do that" I replied, because I don't. "Don't worry, he only wants tiger teeth" she said. "Oh, I can do that." Or so I hoped.

When I got home, all of the tools for pumpkin carving were out on the table. Before going to get Abby, Linda told me that she figured that Ben could participate in the pumpkin carving with me. I said he could, but I knew what would happen. See, I'm the parenting version of the Midnighter. I had seen every scenario played out in my head before I even picked up the carving tools, and I knew how this was going to go down.

I removed the top of the pumpkin and Ben and I peered down into the orange cavern.

"That's disgusting" he said. Yep, right on target.

I told him that we needed to scoop all of the innards out and he looked at me like I asked him to scoop his own innards out. To his credit, he did put his hand about a centimeter into the pumpkin, right up until he brushed the goop.

"It's on my hand." Again, right on target.

"Well, wipe it off", I said "It won't kill you." Amazing how once you become a parent the entire world can be broken down into things that can kill you and everything else. He did, and then said that he didn't want to take the innards out.

"Well, you want to do pumpkins don't you?" I asked. He nodded. "This is part of doing pumpkins, so let's do it." Now, I'm not going to make him scoop the whole thing out himself, but he's supposed to participate and it's not like I can tell him to pick up a saw and start hacking the thing up. If he was going to participate, this was pretty much it.

In the end, he managed to pull out about five seeds before complaining so much that I had him wash his hands. As I scooped, I asked him what kind of design he wanted for his pumpkin. True to his word, he asked for a scary tiger face.

"I don't know how to do that" I said.

"You don't know how to or you don't want to?" he asked. When I first heard this, I thought, man, what kind of a dick does my kid think that I am that I wouldn't make him the pumpkin that he wanted simply because I didn't want to? Then I remembered. My daughter has a feeding aversion problem, which means that she won't eat. And when I say she won't eat, I mean that she won't eat anything. At one point, when she was in one kind of therapy, and we would work with her at home, when we gave her food, she would say that she couldn't eat it, and we would always say that she could eat it, she just didn't want to. At least that's what I'm hoping he meant, and not that he thinks I'm a massive dick.

"No, I want to do it for you, I just don't know how to" I said. "Why don't you look through the pattern book and see if there's anything else you want." Seemed reasonable to me. After all, we had like a dozen patterns in there. He was bound to find something that he wanted.

"Nope" he said. "I want a scary tiger face. Or any tiger face that you want. An awesome tiger face is ok too." Oh, well, now that awesome tiger faces are on the table, I can totally do this. Again I told him that I didn't know how to do it and he wandered off into the family room, no doubt to find a father capable of handling his most basic of childhood needs.

"It can have eyes like this pumpkin" I heard him say. Odd. I don't remember having a pumpkin in the family room. Wait! We have a fake pumpkin in the family room! I go in there, take a look at the pumpkin, and the weird thing was that once I saw the eyes, which gave me a place to start, the rest of it all came to me. I quickly sketched out what I was thinking of and showed it to him.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah!" That's his big thing now. "That's what I want. I didn't know you could do that." Me neither.

Once it was carved, I realized that it either needed more tiger stripes up top, or less down below, but I'll let you be the judge. For a freehand sketch, I don't think it ended up looking too bad.

See? Not too shabby. For Abby, she wanted a pattern called "Wink and Smile" which I originally renamed the Palin Pumpkin for obvious reasons, then changed the name to Governor Pumpkin, finally sticking with The Okie-Dokie. As Obama said, we're not going to let them run the okie-dokie on us, except for pumpkins. Here's Abby's effort. Well, my effort and her pattern.

For the sake of reference, here they are in the light. The little pumpkin is one Abby got at school, done up in marker by Linda. It's hard to tell from her effort, but there's a reason that I'm the one doing the carving.

Carnival Games Mini Golf review

Holy crap, what a POS this game is. Crappy swing mechanics coupled with endless grinding and a main character that's mean and a bad sport. Fun!

You can witness the carnage here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

On Funerals and Saying Goodbye: Part 2

Part 1 is here.

Yeah, so this hasn't gone even remotely the way I had planned. As it turns out, I'm not a very good writer, or at least I'm not very good at writing in the style I was going for. I tried, and tried, and tried, writing the second part and then agonizing over it and then rewriting it. It's like having a vision in your head of a grand painting and when it comes time to paint, all you come up with is stick figured and happy little clouds. Unfortunately, you're the one who ends up looking at my crappy painting, but hey, at least I tried.

As we were driving up to the PA, my dad was keeping it together, but I could tell that he really didn't want to deal with his brother's death. Just the fact that he didn't go up earlier than he did spoke volumes, as this is a guy who never needed an excuse to drive a few hours and visit his family. Once we got closer to when we'd be meeting to have dinner and then go to the viewing, I could tell that he really didn't want to go. I totally understood. I mean, once you see your brother there in the casket, you can't deny his death any longer.

Unfortunately, eventually we did have to go to the viewing, and all of us had to confront the fact that Randy wasn't going to be with us any more. They had dressed him in one of his signature flannel shirts with a NASCAR t-shirt underneath, and had placed his riding jacket in the casket with him. I was glad to see that his kids didn't put him in a suit, as Randy would have hated that. As expected, my dad, aunt and grandmother didn't handle seeing Randy all that well. This was the thing I was most dreading. As a child, even when you're a grown adult, you still don't expect to find yourself in a position where you have to comfort your parents. They're the ones that are supposed to be comforting you. I'm not good with the comforting, and seeing my dad so broken up was hard to watch. I think it's normal to feel useless in these situations, which I did, but I did what I felt I could do, namely was there to provide support and hug whoever needed to be hugged and talk to whoever wanted to talk about Randy.

My cousins were similarly broken up, however as they had been dealing with things for days now, they were a little better about things. It's weird how much people seem to grow up in front of you when you know that their parent has died. Seeing my younger cousins get married or have a baby never made them seem older to me, but seeing them and knowing that their dad had passed suddenly made them seem older than me.

Everyone in the family was surprised to see how many people came to the viewing, and everyone who was more than happy to talk to you about how much they loved hanging out with Randy drinking a beer, or going for a ride or just shooting the shit. I think it made my cousins feel better to know that their dad had touched so many people, and that they weren't missing him all on their own.

The next day brought the service and the internment. Randy's friend did the eulogy and he really did a fantastic job. He's a pastor, so he had all of the right passages prepared, but because he was Randy's friend, he was genuinely grieved at Randy's passing, so he struck the right note between someone who understands that God has a plan, and someone who was upset that Randy's passing was part of it. Not being religious, I don't share the same views, but he still did a great job with the eulogy. After that, it was off to the cemetery with my cousin rising Randy's bike, followed by three other bikes to lead off the procession.

After the internment the family headed over to the Moose Lodge, where my uncle used to hang out, and we all got a chance to just catch up with each other as well as look at old photos of Randy and talk about how much we had all loved him. There was also a lot of food, something I'll still never get used to. Sorry for your loss, have you tried the cookies?

The funeral ended up being a good thing, as much as such a thing can be. I never really understood the purpose behind wakes and funerals as I tend to think more about celebrating someone's life once they're gone, rather than mourning their passage. I have a much better understanding of the purpose of these events now, after watching how my family changed between before the viewing and after the internment. For my cousins, they seemed tired, but much, much better at the end of the two days than at the beginning. Ditto for my dad. I still think the whole viewing thing is ghoulish, and maybe that's from a childhood steeped in horror fiction, but the events gave my family comfort and closure and that's the most important thing.

The toy motorcyle that I had spent to much time looking for ended up leaning up against Randy's jacket, and I'd like to think that wherever he is, he's riding it, or something much better than it, given my limited motorcycle knowledge. He was a good man, a great brother and a fantastic father and grandfather. We are all the better for having known him, and we'll all miss him.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Status Quo

Fuck all of this introspective bullshit. Back to the whoring!

My Rock Band 2 Gear Round Up is all sorts of live. Go read it and marvel at my ability to speak effortlessly on topics I know nothing about.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

On Funerals and Saying Goodbye: Part 1

As I often do these days, four days after I heard of my uncle's death, I found myself in a toy store.

It was Sunday, and I was leaving for Baltimore the next day so that I could meet up with my sister and then the two of us would join my dad and my stepmother on the drive up to Harrisburg, PA to say goodbye to my Uncle Randy. Randy was my dad's younger brother, the youngest of the family, and four days earlier he had died in his kitchen of a massive stroke. He was 55.

Earlier in the day, as I was mowing the lawn, I got the idea that Randy should have a motorcycle to ride in the next life. Randy was a simple guy. He drove a truck for a living and enjoyed hanging out with his neighbors while they tapped a keg of Old Milwaukee. He also absolutely loved motorcycles. As my cousin would say, if it had two wheels and an engine, Randy would be happy to ride it. I remember Randy telling me stories of riding up the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the pouring rain, stopping under the overpasses when the rain got to be too bad, worrying my grandmother sick in the process because it was taking him much longer to get home than planned. When my sister was real young, my uncle took her for a ride on his bike, jumping some trash cans in the process. My mother was not pleased.

Why I decided that Randy needed a motorcycle, I have no idea. I don't have any firm beliefs about the afterlife, and truly, if Randy was in the Heaven he was raised to believe in, he was either riding the motorcycle of his dreams, or he was so danged happy that he didn't care what he was doing. Alternatively, if there is no ultimate resting place, or if Randy has already been deposited in his new life, a motorcycle was also of no use. On a practical side, getting a full sized motorcycle up to Pennsylvania, much less in a casket was not going to happen, which is why I ended up in the toy store.

This was not the first toy department of the day. As part of our errands we had stopped at a different Walmart, in which I completely forgot about the motorcycle as I helped my son pick out Power Rangers to buy with his birthday money. We also stopped at a Target and a Costco, all for nothing. Here's something I never would have figured, finding a toy motorcycle is much, much harder than you would imagine. The Hot Wheels and Matchbox lines seem to be completely devoid of motorcycles. If you want a station wagon from the 60's, both have you covered, but not so for the bikes.

I found a number of larger sport bikes, but those didn't seem like something that Randy would ride. I was hoping to find a Harley, as that was the bike he had when alive, and when you're looking for a Harley, finding a Honda sport bike, while still an impressive piece of machinery, doesn't quite cut it. Eventually I found a Yamaha and while it wasn't a Harley, it looked close enough to my untrained eye.
After I paid for the toy and got back into my car, I felt overwhelmingly stupid. Here my uncle had died, his children were grieving, as was my father, and I was spending my time looking for a toy to put in his coffin. I tried to chalk it up to just trying to do my part to remember my uncle properly, but I still felt like I wasn't doing the right thing, or enough of the right thing. Over the next two days, this would not be the last time I felt this way.

Sonic review

My review of Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood is up.

Lest you think I only post here to tell you about my reviews, I'm working on a piece about the funeral I just went to, however I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the whole experience. Hopefully I'll have something soon. Joy!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Saints Row 2 review

The long saga of my trip down the PR rabbit hole has ended and my review of Saints Row 2 is now live. Whee.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Behold, the bounty of books being enjoyed at my household as we speak! Huzzah! Most are new, one is not, all shall be explained for your enjoyment and edification.

Starting at the top left we have "Your Hate Mail Will be Graded" by John Scalzi. Scalzi is one of my most favoritest authors, and the majority of his stuff that I've read has been over at his site. I've also read almost all of his books (more on that later) but seeing how I've been visiting his site daily for several years now, most of what I've read has been his internet musings. The best of these musings are compiled into this volume. Oh sure, I could go back and read his stuff on his site, but where's the fun in that? I don't always agree with him but I'm always entertained by him, so I'm very much looking forward to this one. On a related note, Subterranean Press, the publisher of this book, make some really nice books. Check them out when you feel the need to consume words.

Next up is "The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian" by Robert E Howard. These are Howard's original Conan stories in the order that he wrote them and they are completely awesome. I've been reading the Dark Horse comics adaptations of these stories for a while now, but it's still good to read the original tales. The cool thing is how much they jump around. In one story Conan is a thief, then a king, then a pirate. I can see the interest in having the stories arranged chronologically to make things easier on the reader, but this way is so much more interesting. It's amazing how bloody and gory the stories are considering that they were written almost 80 years ago. All of Howard's stories, with all of his character have been assembled in similar volumes and I'll probably end up getting them all. Crom's bones!

After that is "Waiting for Athena" also by John Scalzi. This book/pamphlet thingy came with "Your Hate Mail..." and is a collection of writings done by Scalzi as he waited for the birth of his child. I honestly didn't remember that this would be coming with the book, so yay for free stuff. Having waited for two kids now, I'm sure I can find some stuff in common, however as Scalzi didn't fly halfway around the world for his kids, I doubt that our experiences will be all that similar. Still, I'm sure it'll be a good read.

On the bottom row, left side is "Zoe's Tale", also by John Scalzi. "Zoe's Tale" is the last book in Scalzi's Old Man War universe and is a retelling of "The Last Colony" from the point of view of Zoe, the protagonist's teenage daughter. I quite liked "Old Man War", the first book and absolutely loved "The Ghost Brigades", the second book, finding "The Last Colony" to be the weakest of the three. It was still good though, hence this purchase. The reviews that I've read have said that Scalzi nails the teenage girl thing, so at the very least, this will give me a glimpse of the future with my daughter, minus the roving band of space werewolves. Well, I hope so anyway.

Finally we have "The Great Outdoor Fight", a collection of strips from the absolutely hilarious online comic "Achewood". This book contains the entire "Great Outdoor Fight" story in which Ray Smuckles, one of the cats residing in Achewood finds out that his father was one of the greatest combatants to ever set foot in the Great Outdoor Fight. Ray and his ever present companion Roast Beef head to the Fight to show how a new generation of Smuckles fight. Not only is the book beautifully bound, but it has a lot of extras including a glossary of terms used in the Fight.

In the case of the Scalzi books and the Achewood book allow me to give something back to two incredibly creative and hilarious people whose work I've enjoyed free of charge for years now. I'm glad I can do it, and getting a bunch of good books out of it certainly doesn't hurt.

All Hail Saving Throw

This month's Mr. Binky is up, and with it, the story of my Rock Band 2 band, Saving Throw. The pictures in the article are shots of my band members courtesy of the fantastic picture maker thingy at

I named my lead singer B. Ryan in a nod to my mom. My middle name is Ryan and my mom once told me that the reason she gave me that middle name was because she thought that when I was older, and successful, it would loook nice to have the name B. Ryan Schnell etched in glass on a door. Despite these wishes, no one in my family ever called me anything resembling that name. Course, I went and fucked it all up by hyphenating my last name and by not being remotely successful enough to have my name etched into anything. Why one would go through all of that trouble when picking out a middle name is beyond me, however I'm not one to talk as I designed my son's name so that it contained the name of Spider-Man's uncle. For Abby, no such designs were made, as there aren't any superheroes names Abigail. Of course, with her personality, finding a supervillain would have been more apt.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Here's my review for de Blob. The game really is lots of fun and very well done. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

On the Media Tip

Media purchases abound! For once, all of my money isn't going to Transformers. Not for long, though as Animated Ultra Magnus as well as the next wave of the Universe line has been spouted out and about. Unfortunately Atlanta's rampant gas shortage will put a dent in my toy hunting, but ultimately, I will prevail!

Tuesday brought a bevy of glorious media purchases that I must share. First up is the 2-disc Iron Man DVD. Iron Man was not only one of my favorite movies from the summer, but was one of the most surprising in that it totally kicked ass. Oh sure, I knew that Robert Downey Jr could be funny, as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of my favorite movies, but still, there were so many unknowns about the movie that I was unsure. Can't wait to let my subwoofer tear into this one. If the house is rockin', don't bother knockin'!

I also bought the 3 disc super special version of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Linda and I saw this movie when we were vacationing in Texas and we both really enjoyed it. Along with being very funny, the characters in the movie were all very well done allowing even the so called "bad" characters to be sympathetic and likeable. Plus, Kristen Bell in a bikini. Of late I've been eschewing the super special versions of DVD's as I haven't been watching the extras, but with this one, and Iron Man, the extras looked really interesting, plus, once I'm done with my current Mass Effect run as I work out, I'll be looking for something that can be wrapped up in one workout session and DVD extras fit the bill perfectly.

Finally, Tuesday saw the release of Ben Folds' latest CD, Way to Normal. Oddly enough, I had forgotten all about the cd being released and on Tuesday, as I headed to Best Buy, I heard a single from the record (the duet with Regina Spektor) on the radio. Hooray for XM! The album is the usual fare from Ben Folds with good lyrics, tight pop sensibilities, slammin' piano licks and swear words in song titles. I can only hope that he'll tour in support of it as I swear I've seen him perform the same songs in concert for the past nine tours. I've seen him in concert three times now, making him the Artist With Shows Most Attended by Me. Congratulations Ben! He must be so proud.

For the record, the artists I've seen multiple times are:

1.) Ben Folds - 3 times (opening for Counting Crows, on tour with Guster and Rufus Wainwright, opening for John Mayer)
2.) Guster - 2 times (the aforementioned Ben Folds/Rufus Wainwright tour, their own headlining tour)
3.) Pearl Jam - 2 times (headlining both times)
4.) Eric Clapton - 2 times (headlining both times)

Earlier in the week I was alerted by a one Mr. Greg Howley that MC Frontalot's new album Final Boss was available for preorder. Well, not only was it available for pre-order, but by joining up at Front's site, I was able to get a download of the album once I bought it. I've been listening to it pretty much non stop and it's damn good. It feels a lot different than his last album, a joint I loved immensely, so I was initially put off by it, but the more I listened to it, the more I enjoyed it. Jonathan Coulton dropping some insanely tight choruses certainly doesn't hurt, neither does a very funny skit with Wil Wheaton. I hope that Front tours soon so that I can add him to the above list and get yet another picture with him as I don the latest in monkey couture.

Finally, last week I bought my Flobots tickets for their November show. I'm very, very, very excited for this show. Live hip-hop with both a viola player and a dude on trumpet? Sign me up.