Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Best Pillows Are Behind Us

The other day my oldest dog threw his back out humping a pillow.

Well, we think this is what happened any way. He has had a rough time getting around the house of late, which we attribute to his age what with his 14th birthday looming on the horizon. Going up and down stairs takes him a bit longer, partially because he's slower and partially because he'll perch at the top of them and stare for a few seconds as if it takes an act of will to traverse them. Sometimes he'll walk funny, sometimes he won't. Sometimes he'll jump down from the bed or the couch without a problem, sometimes he doesn't so much jump as he'll fall in a semi-controlled manner and land with a resounding thud.

Through this all though, he has continued to hump the pillows.

My dog is an inveterate pillow humper and has been ever since we had him neutered a scant six weeks or so after coming home. In his youth you could chart the path of his day by following the trail of fucked pillows as they lay strewn about the home. He would start his day in the living room, then move to the family room, then the spare bedrooms before finally coming to rest on our bed, usually saving his most furious bout of copulation with my bed pillow. The dog and I have shared a mutual, long simmering disdain for each other for years now, which I attribute to my wife. Simply put, the dogs were her babies before we had babies and while my second dog has always tirelessly worked for my affection, stealing a pat on the head or a sit in my lap when I'm willing to give it, and being thankful for it, my first dog sees me as nothing more than competition for my wife. Oh sure, he's happy when I pet him, but he's also snapped at me more than anyone else in the family, and he has never snapped at my wife. We get along, choosing to avoid each other and for the most part, it works out. Except for the pillows.

It's hard not to read human intention into animal behaviour, especially animals that you live with so when I get home to see my pillow humped to hell, I take it as an insult. After all, the pillow has to smell like me, so if the dog is choosing to hump it, it has to be his way of exerting a meager amount of control over me, or at the very least, flipping me the doggy finger. Whether or not he meant it to be an insult or it was simply a manner of my pillow being more humpable, the end result was the same, the pillow would be on the floor, one corner stiff from where he held it in his mouth, the side of the pillow dented due to his fervent thrusting.

The most amazing, if that adjective can be used in such a situation, aspect of his humping was how quickly he would get down to business. On many occasions, he wouldn't even wait for us to get down the driveway. If I forgot my wallet, or needed something else from the house and came back in, there he would be, fucking the living room pillow with abandon not thirty seconds after we had left. I consider myself a normal, red blooded male and even in my horniest, most sex obsessed teenage days I don't think I could go from zero to fucking in such a short span of time. Certainly not now when those days are a good twenty years behind me.

As he got older, the amount of humping lessened, but it still remained. The daily ritual upon coming home from work, or from a day of running errands would be to get put the various pillows back on the couch, both those left for him, the "house" pillows if you will, and those deemed to nice to be violated by him, the "guest" pillows. Earlier this week, Linda noticed that in the morning, the dog was walking well, spry and full of pep and she returned home from an errand, picked up a pillow and noticed the dog walking oddly, as if in pain. Shortly afterwards she sent me a message informing me that our dog threw his back out humping the pillow.

It's an odd feeling to see something you love, or at least begrudgingly tolerate, get older to the point where their normal behaviour becomes less and less of a certainty. I'm not the most adventurous sexual partner, but I have, on occasion tweaked this thing or that thing while engaging in activities, and it has given me pause, but not so that I'd consider not engaging any more. To see my dog, who has humped pillows for over ten years now, leaving a trial of violated bed accessories in his wake, get to the point where this activity may have to stop due to his old age is sobering. Turns out time waits for no man, or dog as the case may be.

I have joked for years that the easiest thing would be to just put the dogs down and move on with our lives, having removed two of the four obstacles that lay between us and the ability to live unfettered. The cruel joy of pets is that they are expendable and when they are gone, they are well and truly gone, unlike children who may leave your home, but you will always worry about and fret over, even if you do so at a rare 5:00 movie, or a dinner date taken right from work. Not so with pets. Pets don't move out, they move on.

So when I see that my dog, our first shared biological responsibility is getting old enough to not go about his day, even a reduced version of it, it saddens me because as much as the old bastard annoys me, he has been a part of our lives for quite a while now and as much as it might be easier to not have him around, I can't say with certainty that easier equals better. Plus, the fact remains that as he got older, I did too and if he is getting to the point where he can't do the things he loves due to the advances of age, that day will eventually come for me as well, provided I don't die beforehand. When I do get to that point, will my children joke about putting me down? Will I be seen as an obstacle for their ability to go about their lives unfettered? Will I have warts and a penchant for fucking inanimate objects? I sure hope not.

The wife and I have said that the dog needs to go to the vet, but neither of us are taking the steps to do so, which, I'll admit, is cruel to the dog, but I know that for me, it's not necessarily because I want to avoid the expense, because I do, but more because I don't want to be told that the dog is getting to the point where the right choice is the final one. I do not want to take him on that final car ride. I do not want to have that talk with my children. I do not want to get mad at my other dog because she won't stop searching the house for her brother. Most of all though, I do not want to come home to a house of unhumped pillows.

Monday, June 22, 2009

All Of Your Brink Questions Answered

Well, probably not all of them. Certainly not all of them, actually. Come to think of it, this probably represents but a fraction of a fraction of your Brink questions. There would have been more had I been even halfway competent and had Todd been sober. Still, it's a decent read. How's that for promotion?

Friday, June 19, 2009

A New, Boring Hope

So my son and I finally sat down to watch Star Wars about a month ago and ever since he has been peppering me with Star Wars questions. Oh, awesome, you're thinking, he wants to know about Jedi and Sith and speederbikes and shit! Ha, yeah, no. That would be cool. Those questions I could get into. No, what he wants to know about is where people get their clothing, whether or not there's gum in Star Wars and if Darth Vader ever shoplifted as a child.

Now, I'm sure that there are a number of people thinking "well, there's no such thing as a stupid question" and I can assure you that you are completely wrong. There are many, many stupid questions, most of which are asked by very young children. Oh sure, the first time my daughter asks "is it sunny outside" as she squints to look at me and has to cover her eyes from the sun's blinding rays I will consider that what she's really asking is "would you use the word sunny to describe today" and she just can't suss out the right way to say it, but come the ninth time that very same question is asked, well, that's when you start worrying that she'll never be able to live on her own.

In fact, just this week my son came up to me and asked "In Star Wars, was there a broken bridge and Luke Skywalker held on to Princess Leia and they swung across it?" That is exactly what happened in the movie, the movie that he watched with his very own eyes. I mean, come on! I have no recourse but to use sarcasm in that situation. "Well, did you see that happen in the Star Wars movie?" I asked. "Yeah" he said. "Then, I think that means that it happened" I said. I asked him more questions around his question to see if there was something else he was getting at, but nope, his question was to verify that what he saw with his own eyes actually took place. I guess it was all so thrilling that he thought it was some sort of wonderful dream.

To fully explain the types of questions he's been asking, here's a little conversation I dreamt up. Imagine George Lucas has told the people at 20th Century Fox that he's looking to revisit Star Wars. The script has been dropped off, and read and now it's time to go over it. Take it away George and oh, I don't know, let's call him Marty.

George! Come on in, great to see you, great to see you.

Nice to see you too Marty.

George, let's get right down to it. You know, when you told us here at Fox that you were interested in revisiting Star Wars, well, we just about died and went to Heaven. I mean, obviously we've been huge fans of your work and have been honored that you've let us all take everyone's positive memories of Star Wars and shit all over them.

I've enjoyed it too.

But...with this new draft of your plan on revisiting Star Wars, well, I'm not sure how to say this so I'm going to just come out and say it. George, this has to be, hands down, the most boring fucking script I've ever read.

How so?

How so? How so he asks. Ok, well, let's start off when Han Solo and Luke Skywalker first leave the Millenium Falcon after being captured by the Death Star. You spend ten minutes going over how the doors to the Millenium Falcon work.

People like doors.

No, people like The Doors, and then it's only the pretentious assholes. Ok, fine, so how about later on when instead of going to rescue Princess Leia they go looking for a pool.

I like pools.

I like pools too, but I don't want to see a movie about them. Jesus George, you have a ten minute scene where all you do is show various Stormtroopers and TIE Fighter pilots eating.

And chewing gum.

Oh, right, can't forget the gum. Honestly though, the worst part is when you have the Crimson Guard-

Emperor Guard

Fine, the "Emperor Guard" dress and undress himself over and over again. Never mind that the Emperor Guard aren't on the Death Star in the first movie, who the hell wants to watch someone put on clothes for like fifteen minutes?

It's a very complicated outfit.

It's a shawl and a red bucket! They can't even see out the damn thing!

I still don't see what the problem is. These are very valid insights into the world of Star Wars.

No, they're not. They're very boring insights into the world of Star Wars. George, I know you're not a very good filmmaker, but no one, and I mean no one wants to see how people get dressed. I mean, they assume that characters put on their clothes the same way that everyone else does. Ditto for going through doors. You have every bit of daily minutae in this film short of watching a storm trooper take a dump.

(George stands up and drops a script on the desk.) Empire revisited bitches!

Lord that was awful. Any way you get the point. I'm almost afraid to have him watch Empire, not because I'm afraid of explaining how Darth Vader can be Luke's father, cause he won't notice that, but because I won't be able to adequately explain where Lando buys his boots.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Kingdom of Puzzles

Here it is, my long awaited Puzzle Kingdoms review! I know, I know, you've been anxiously awaiting this one for weeks. Weeks! Well, wait no longer.

Friday, June 12, 2009

More E3 Madness

It's the E3 Games We Promise Won't Suck. Whee!

I liked this one because after days of writing previews which had very little of my personality and thank you emails to PR, which, in the interest of maintaining relationships had almost none of my personality, it was nice to be myself when writing this one. I'm certainly not the best writer of our merry crew, and it shows, but I don't care. I got to be me on this one, and Bill let me, so I'm happy. Now, I'm fairly certain that I'm going to be arrested for mentioning orgasms and Zelda in the same paragraph so I should probably go and call my lawyer.

Let's Talk About Toys, Baby

I've been spending a fair amount of time with the new Transformers for the upcoming movie and the underlying theme can be summed up in one word: complicated. I don't know if they toy designers felt that the original movie toys didn't have enough going on, or they just want to punish parents by putting "ages 5+" on a toy that requires an engineering degree to transform, but whatever the case, these toys have a lot going on. Now, the plus side of this is that the robot modes all end up being a lot more detailed and varied than the toys from the first movie but the flip side is that some of the transformations are damn near impossible. Part of this has to do with the fact that the transformation instructions haven't gotten any better yet the toys are even more complicated leading you to a situation much like getting an air conditioner installation manual consisting of one step that reads "Step 1: Install air conditioner."

I mean, there is no way in hell that a five year old could transform these things and I'm not talking about a lazy-ass five year old like my kid, although I should be honest in pointing out that my kid is a lazy-ass six year old. I'm talking about a kid who is willing to spend time with a toy trying to figure it out. Most likely the damn thing will come apart before it gets transformed and either Timmy will just throw it out or Timmy's dad will then have to spend time figuring out how to put the blasted thing back together and then how to transform it. I'm lucky in that my kid doesn't like Transformers, no doubt because he won't take the time to learn how to transform them, even the easy ones, and I'm not one to repeat myself a dozen times, however I like Transformers and these things are starting to irritate me.

Granted, this didn't stop me from dragging my family out on the Friday before they came out so that I could buy a bunch of toys at a Walmart in Florida, many of which I have since returned because Toys R Us had them on sale and Walmart wouldn't price match them. Luckily my family is used to following me around looking for toys and at that point in the vacation, the impending afternoon rainstorm was putting a damper on most plans, so it's not like it was all that big of a deal. Well, the credit card company denying my charge because they thought someone had stolen my card and driven to Florida was a big deal, as were my misbehaving children, but those aren't my fault. I'm just the one that brought us all there. Ok, shutting up now.

Now, don't get me wrong, I really like these new toys, I just may need to hire someone with smaller, more nimble fingers to transform them. The other big difference between these toys and the last go around is the penchant for more strange robot modes. Someone at Hasbro, or someone who worked on the new movie, really has a fetish for unicycles as several of the new toys have a robot mode that involve balancing on one wheel while another one sticks up in the air. For example, take Chromia and Demolisher:



Now, in Demolisher's defense, he can stand on his own, as long as he balances on his hands, like a gorilla. Chromia has no defense. If she's not standing on the weapon rack thingy, she falls right over. Also, Chromia, despite her seemingly simple design, was impossible to transform using the supplied instructions. I ended up putting them aside and using the picture of her robot mode on the card to transform her. Maybe I got it wrong and when transformed correctly she balance on one wheel perfectly but I sort of doubt it. The upcoming Arcee figure, also a motorcycle, also has a unicycle robot mode as does some unnamed upcoming female robot. The fan community thinks that all three robots will be able to combine in some fashion no doubt into some huge robot that also can't stand on it's own. Perhaps all three will just stack one on top of the other into some giant collapsing tower of Cyberton.

Now, I can't say that were I to visit another planet and be given the ability to take a shape that I wouldn't choose to roll around on wheels, but at the same time, I can't think of any real practical purpose to it, especially given that they can't stand up by themselves. And come on, if it's such a good idea, woudln't our ever-present intelligent designer have designed us with one giant wheel instead of legs while it was also making complicated bacteria motors? Come on people. Legs are good enough for us and good enough for your loving G-O-D so they should also be good enough for sentient, transformable robots. Plus, they make posing so much easier. At this rate, the next movie is going to feature robots that balance on a giant pin when in robot mode necessitating me to pose them in a display I'll call "Please Don't Disturb the Sleeping Transformers".

I still don't have all of the toys yet, nor have I transformed the Leader class ones, which, in the past were hella complicated, so it's possible that this first wave was just overly complicated and that the engineers layed off of the crystal and designed the later toys to be something a child could actually play with. More likely they realized that their target audience is grown men so they said "fuck it" and decided to give us value in the form of a toy that takes the better part of a half hour to transform, not counting the fifteen minutes needed to liberate it from its plastic coffin. Who the hell am I kidding? I'll buy 'em either way. Such is life when you're a slave to the plastic.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

E3 A-Z

The GameShark E3 A-Z is live, penned by yours truly and the five other writers that attended E3. I think it turned out really well, however you'll have to disregard the comments about my skills at playing Left 4 Dead 2. My cohorts on the team were a disheveled lot of scoundrels and layabouts, men not fit to spend any appreciable amount of time with. I was the only gentleman among them, and as a result, I let them hog all of the glory. I see now that was the wrong way to go.

Any way, if you're not entirely burned out on E3 coverage, give it a look. Exciting stuff.

Monday, June 08, 2009

And We're Back

Oh yes, back in full effect, whatever that means.

E3 was a hoot as well as being supremely weird. During E3 I did the following:
  • Crashed a fashion show/PR party
  • Got manhandled by Mickey Rourke's bodyguard
  • Fawned excessively over Mark Sheppard (Romo Lampkin from BSG)
  • Fawned excessively over Tom Chick (nicest guy ever)
  • Stopped N'Gai Croal and Brian Crecente in the hall so that I could fawn over them (both are very nice and accommodating)
  • Saw Joe Madureira from afar but he was busy so I couldn't fawn over him locally
  • Rode in an elevator full of four foot tall, hysterically laughing Latinos
  • Heard a bunch of PR bullshit
  • Played a bunch of games
I also got to hang out with Bill and Todd, both of whom are much fun to hang out with even if Todd thinks that Dollhouse is better than Buffy season 1, an assertion that is as wrong as the day is long. The other writers I went with were cool as well, but only Todd excelled at being wrong. He elevated it to an art form.

Once I got home a ton of stuff to write about, which I completed. Now all I have to do is transcribe an interview and then get to all of the emails to PR folks to thank them for showing us around and then beg them for games. Oh the life of the games reviewer. Truly, I have no shame.

Oh, and the people working at High Voltage Software and Harmonix are quite possible the nicest people to ever walk the planet.

I have more to write about involving Transformers and new projectors, but I'll do that later. Don't want to go crazy on the first day back.

Monday, June 01, 2009

There and Back Again

So last week I was gone all week because Linda and I took the kids and her in-laws to Disney World for the week. Now that I'm back, I'm getting on a plane this afternoon to LA so that I can cover E3 for

At the time that I booked my E3 stuff, I was all excited and stuff but now I'm just tired. Tired, tired, tired. A vacation with two young children will do that to you. All in all, the trip went well, although Linda and I went on far fewer rides than I thought we would. As it turns out, any ride that's enclosed and has a hint of darkness and the possibility of peril sends my daughter into uncontrollable fits of terror.


My son wasn't scared of things, but then again, he didn't want to go on much, so it's hard to tell. Prior to the trip, Linda and I discussed pushing him a bit on this trip to have him do stuff he wasn't 100% comfortable with, but after seeing how his sister was, and having to deal with it, pushing the boy just didn't seem worth it. So, as a result, Linda's parents spent a lot of time with Abby, taking her on the Small World ride something like a dozen times while Linda and I took Ben on rides he wanted to go on. The kids had a good time, but that type of set up doesn't make it easy for mom and dad to go on anything. Luckily on the one night we took to hit the parks, when we went out it had just stopped raining, so we hightailed it to Hollywood Studios and got on Tower of Terror with basically no waiting. Seeing how that was the one ride we both wanted to make sure we got on, the trip was a success.

Everyone had a good time, including Linda's parents. They had always wanted to do Disney with the kids, so I'm glad they got a chance to do it. A vacation with young kids is just do damn tiring though. They went pretty much non-stop every day from the minute they woke up around 6 AM to the minute they went to bed around 7:30. Keeping them up later did nothing for the wake-up time. Let me tell you, when you're parenting a 6 and a 4 year old for close to 14 hours straight, with the only time for a break when you take a shower or use the bathroom, it makes for a very tiring day. In the end though, everyone had a good time, I just wish there was more time for me to catch up on sleep before I head to LA and share a room with two complete strangers. And no I don't mean hookers. Besides, I've known your mom for a while now. Zing!

Yeah, so E3. Well, I've always been very candid and up front about the fact that this whole games writing thing is just a side gig for me. Nothing about that has changed, so E3 should be interesting in that it's a big networking event and I could give a shit about networking. Oh sure, it will be nice to have PR contacts so that I can contact them directly for review copies and I have certainly enjoyed my continued relationship with THQ (Red Faction copy FTW!) but at the same time, I'm not all that interested in networking. I am interested in being professional and earning my money though, so I'll do the meet and greet thing and be sure to turn my critical eye on everything placed in front of me.

Oddly enough, in spite of my disdain for Guitar Hero, I am really looking forward to DJ Hero. I have to say that the Scratch: The Ultimate DJ controller looks more usable, but the fact that Jay-Z and Eminem will be providing music for DJ Hero, and the fact that the game supports other plastic instruments makes DJ Hero a slightly more attractive option right now. I'm not up on upcoming games, so I don't have a lot I'm really looking forward to seeing, but I need to get my hands on these DJ controllers. They both look like way too much fun.

Oh, and the PSP Go? Yeah, no thanks. There aren't enough games to support the PSP I have, so I'll be damned if I'm going to buy a third Sony portable. Plus, splitting the market between UMD and downloadable doesn't sound like a very smart thing to do. Unless a downloadable game half of, or less than half that of a physical copy, I'll always choose a physical copy.

In other, totally unrelated news, the new Transformer movie toys dropped and so far I'm pretty impressed. I bought a metric ton of them but haven't had a chance to play with most of them, but the ones that I have messed around with are pretty damn cool. Ransack is my favorite as he's a skeletal Decepticon that transforms into a biplane. A biplane! It makes absolutely no sense, which is why it's so awesome. That and for such a spindly robot he makes a very solid plane with a hella cool transformation. If I get a chance I'll resurrect my lightbox project and take proper pictures, but it won't be for a while.

It's funny. I was so thrilled to be hunting again that the finding and the purchasing of the items was what got me most excited. Opening them and playing with them was less of a thrill. Not sure what that says about me. Any way, now that a DVD cabinet for the basement is on the way, the old movie toys will come from work to home with the new movie toys going to work. The Animated and Universe line continue to share top billing in the Man Lounge, they just need proper shelving to be displayed in the manner they are accustomed to. Yet another project to undertake.

So, that's it, for now. I'll be back soon with tales of E3. Speaking of which, they just announced Crackdown 2. So, yeah, show's over folks. Nothing can beat that.