Monday, December 31, 2012

My Random 2012 Rewind

Time once again, for some of my most random thoughts – from the
"funtastic to the fantastic", here are 12 things we all lived through in 2012, through the eyes of those of us in the corner.

Gangnam of Thieves – Korean rapper Psy's Gangnam Style has now officially become THE most watched video of all time. The one-hit wonder has spawned a number of spin-offs and spoofs that have taken YouTube by storm. The once controversial artist has been widely accepted by his countrymen, MTV and the White House alike. A previous 'political thug' in his homeland of South Korea, Psy does now have a legit place in history. We will likely hear no more from this admittedly infectious little jam and that's just fine by me.

Boo Boo Knows Best – During this presidential election year, the  MOST watched television programming during the election of this country's, perhaps even the world's most important position of power was not the RNC or the Democratic conventions, it wasn't even the debates. It was coverage of America's newest sweetheart, pudgy princess of purgatory, Honey Boo Boo. Maybe the apocalypse did occur... 

"We will not fade quietly into the night–!" – So yet another 'end-of-days' has come and gone. Those crafty Mayans had a calendar that abruptly ended on December 21, 2012 which left many pondering the end of the world as we know it. As we all know, not very much happened, though there was a massive spike in tourism to Peru to see the Mayan ruins. The Mayans were of course, known for building a massive civilization and empire but honestly, they didn't even see the Spaniards coming. 

Rhymes with Snit – From out of the languishing ranks of lost souls from the Grand Old Party came a silver-tongued super-villian hell bent on sewing seeds of mistrust, deceit and lies throughout our fragile economy and deceiving nearly half of our countrymen that he was all that and a bag of chips on a shoulder. MItt Romney's laughable campaign of vapid emptiness took the country by storm until even Mitt's own kin folk woke up, hours before the election and said "WTF?" Swing and a miss, Mitt.

Free Eye Glasses with Every Paycheck! – ... aaaand speaking of poor judgement, the lofty referee lockout at the beginning of this year's NFL season saw a phalanx of scab referees hit the field–and football fans everywhere hit the bar, hit the bottle and hit the floor in utter disbelief as scores of horrifically bad calls bellowed when bad whistles blew for four weeks that utterly decimated the NFL with some to the most atrocious calling since Dewey vs Truman.

"And there came a day..." – I'm still reeling from the onscreen awesomeness that was Marvel's The Avengers, a near-perfect super-hero mash-up that smashed box office records, our perception of hero movies and puny Gods alike. With a $1.5 billion box office performance, the Avengers is just heating up. Expect more hero adventures in Thor and Iron man in 2013. As my favorite book growing up, the Avengers were, how do you say? The bomb diggity–! There, I said it and there's no taking it back.

Darth Vader gets Goofy – In one the most mesmerizing business buyouts of ALL TIME, Disney purchases the Star Wars intellectual property and rights to the franchise from an increasingly perplexing George Lucas for a mere $4.05 billion. While I am ELATED at the prospect of more SW movies, didn't George make like, $4 billion in merchandising alone? "Join me and together we can rule the empire...!" Done, done and done.

Standing Room Only – In one of 2013's most bizarre mass media events, Hollywood bad boy and conservative whack-a-doodle, Clint Eastwood has a conversation in front of the entire non-Honey-Boo-Boo-watching country with an invisible Barack Obama. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Dirty Harry goes off on an empty chair in front of... well all of us. I don't think the RNC has been this embarrassed since Sarah Pailin went all "hockey Mom" with her "drill-baby-drill!" bit.

The Accessible Red Planet – In September, a VERY under-reported event and the next step in man's exploration of space unfolded as the Martian Rover, Curiosity, landed safely on the Red Planet. It's two-year mission is to take it's 19+ cameras and feed back images and even live video of our small blushing sister planet. Curiosity will open up new discussions about the nature of Mars. Get your ray-guns ready...

Massacres on Main Street – the mass murders in a movie theater in Aurora Colorado and Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown Connecticut show us how out-of-control our gun culture has become. I don't care where you stand on the gun control issue, if this country had it's sh*t together with properly enforced gun laws, 20 kindergarten kids and scores of othewr innocents would still be alive today. Period. Good thing Automatic Rifles are selling out in record numbers across the US. Nope, don't see how that could POSSIBLY make things worse. Not one bit. 

Brain Food – AMC's family-friendly series chronicals a group of survivors as they make their way through a zombie apocalypse. Complete with enough gore and bloodletting to rival a pork processing plant, The Walking Dead, based on the phenomenally well written monthly comic from Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore is the show that everyone is somehow just now discovering. The first half of the astonishingly well written season three is done and the story picks up again February 2013. If you haven't watched it yet – well good God what are you waiting for? It is waayyy beyond a guilty little pleasure–its an American icon.

Greatest Love of All – We said goodbye to a host of VIP-level personalities in 2012, but none will impact me more than the untimely death of R and B/Pop dive Whitney Houston. no one defined the 1980's pop scene like Whitney. Her demise and slow sinking into the mire of heavy drug use does nothing in my eyes to diminish her fantastic contributions to music. RIP girl, you're the Greatest!

Happy New Year
– to all of you who have been sent to the corner–thanks for reading! 2013 is coming hard and fast and the new year will have a new format and new stuff for me to get int trouble over. See you then!

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Lion In The Dessert

If your life isn't all that its cracked up to be,
maybe you could hang out with our family more often.

I could quote Benjamin Franklin, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow or Charles Boudalaire but today I quote the likes of the teenagers in my own home that offer a poetic perspective to some of life's finer points. I just plain love these priceless insights for us adults who have all but forgotten what it means to be young at heart. So to lighten up the mood of this blog, I offerfor your enjoyment, dear readersome priceless quotes from my children. 

"You're wasting my life!"

My twins (age 12 as of the writing off this blog) are treasure troves of quotable sound bites. When one was incessantly aggravating the other, he simply turned to his brother and said; "Stop wasting my time with this–you're wasting minutes of my life!" Often, siblings get each other so frustrated, they can't help but over exaggerate their point. While it's not a categorically wrong statement (actually holds some cut-to-the-bone truth), it does kind of imply the person saying this is trying REALLY hard to get their point across. 

Gold. Pure gold.

Pick up lines.

"Did you hear the one about the multi-racial group
of stock photo models?"
Having three boys in the house–all girl-crazy–they compare (failed) pick up lines. It's hilarious! Now, I must say most of them are awful. The boys haven't yet grasped why these disingenuous and cheesy pick-up lines don't work on their intended targets. I'm sorry for having missed what is sure to be near endless eye-rolling by the scores of hapless young teenage girls who have fallen victim to these horrific attempts at cross-gender conversational ice-breaking. I will spare you the vomit-inducing attempts at verbal swagger but I will share one my son Alex came up with:

"Hey girl, I'm glad I've got my library card–cause I'm checking you out!"

Honestly. I don't know why that didn't at least get a smile and/or a phone number… 


We've all have had fun with song lyrics we don't understand. My (16 year-old) daughter had once asked me about a word in a popular Black-Eyed Peas song. The lyric was, "… flock to us." My daughter, however, heard something different. So she asks me "Dad, what's floptuous?" 

What indeed. It's times like this when I wonder if songs might not be better if we just made our own lyrics stick then the ones the songwriters wrote? No? Its just me, then. 

Sandy Claws

My kids' rather wry sense of comedy may stem from their ancestry.

Namely, me.

It may have started when I answered the question, "Dad what was the funniest joke you heard as a kid?" I shared the following answer;

What do you call a lion in the desert at Christmas Time?
"Sandy Claws"

Teddy and his infectious sense of humor 
I couldn't tell you the exact year I heard that one for the first time, but when I did, it busted me up for weeks. Even as I type this I can't choke back a giggly smirk. Maybe it was the absurdity of the question and the completely out-of-left-field answer. Maybe it was the processing of this ridiculous scenario that go to me. All I know is... that's funny! (I mean c'mon, Lion's aren't EVER in the dessert, and if they were, why at Christmas?!) Trust me, the more brain power you put behind that one, the more giddy you get.  

Laughter is the stuff of life. A good hearty laugh secretes endorphins, lowers blood pressure, helps stabilize moods and makes us feel good.

Otherwise, we'd all be... "Lion Around". Huh? Huh? 

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Time To Face Our Demons

Family members grieve upon getting detailss about last week's
massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown Connecticut
This week we lived the horror, once again, of gun violence vented toward innocents in one of the most unlikely places. Folks, it's time for a change. 

Our country has suffered once again, at the hands of another gun-wielding madman who vented his frustrations, empowered by mental or emotional illness, by visiting horrible atrocities on scores of innocents by slaughtering 20 kindergarten children and eight (8) adults – which included the shooter's mother – before ending his own life. 

The massacre of more than two dozen innocent took place in the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown Connecticut, a well-to-do sleepy suburb, and for all intents and purposes, a 'safe' east coast burg in New England. 

Adam Lanza is the deeply disturbed and troubled young man who is guilty of killing a host of young people and teachers who were the epitome of innocence. The horror is not just the fact that Lanza killed these people, but that he did so with such irreverence and disregard for life. 

High Calibre Aggression
A .223 Bushmaster Assault Rifle:
The same weapon used in the Sandy Hook Massacre

Lanza used a .223 Bushmaster high-powered assault rifle, a weapon capable of firing six-rounds per second. The body count tells a huge part of the story. This is a military grade weapon used in combat when nations or factions are at war. I am all for the right to bear arms. I believe a defended populace is a safe one. But we also face bitter reality.

High-powered assault rifles don't belong in the hands of the common citizen. Period. This gun is NOT used for defense, hunting or sport. The popular conservative position is that "guns don't kill people, people kill people." Perhaps, but extra credit for missing the point. 

Certainly, if Lanza wanted to kill with a knife or a home made bomb or a small handgun, he would have done harm. But the rate and the ferocity at which these CHILDREN were killed is staggering. 

And it's NOT an isolated incident.

TIme For Change

President Obama once again consoles a grieving nation
We all know this isn't a lone incident. The massacres at Columbine high school, the theater shooting at Aurora Colorado, the shopping mall in Portland Oregon and the slaughtering of students at Virginia Tech along with a host of others tells us we need to change our culture. We can't just beat up the guns. Its the whole picture; bullying in schools, mental healthcare practices, identifying the warning signs of psychosis, civil defense protocols, gun legislation, social awareness and easy access to high-powered weapons just to get off the launching pad.

In our black and white, right or wrong, no-compromise society we look at absolutes. There aren't any. Until we wake up to THAT fact our loved ones, co-workers, our children and ourselves–are all in deadly danger. Other democratic and free societies have shown us the way; England, Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Italy, even China have a sliver of death toll we suffer domestically.  

More than 12,000 Americans (some say a much higher number!) died in 2012 at the wrong end of a gun. There is evil and mental illness rampant enough in our world – we don't need to feed it with access to weapons meant for war. 

How many babies have to die before we take responsibility for this issue and help us wake from this nightmare? 

What We Know

Adam Lanza wasn't hunting wild deer last week. But please, let the families of the slain teachers and kindergarten kids know that their loved ones died horribly because "people kill people," not guns. That's just crap. 

Even the NRA admit it's time things changed. 

Remembering lives taken for NO GOOD REASON
The answers aren't easy but they are simple. But only if we want to act like adults and answer some brutally honest questions. A gun didn't kill these children and their teachers. In truth, Adam Lanza didn't kill them. It was Adam Lanza, a mentally unstable man with a .223 Bushmaster–with with enough rage to have killed ten times as many innocent people empowered by a culture of violence and DNA-routed ignorance and resistance to change. 

Twenty babies and seven innocent women–as well as Lanza himself–lie dead in the ground because we have no system of checks and balances for the mentally ill, dealing with psychological turmoil, a culture that applauds violence. 

They all lived in a nation loves guns more than life itself–and paid the ultimate price. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Reviewer Misses The Target On Badass Game

Better then Ever! Gearbox's Borderlands 2 brings us back to the brutally fun world of Pandora
MY GAMERLIFE POST #1: Gearbox's BORDERLANDS 2, is bigger, stronger and faster—hell, it is downright badass! But if you're not careful, you'll miss the point–just like the Wall Street Journal did. Join me for my first ever in-the-trenches video game review.

First, I gotta say, this post is long, long overdue. I am a full-time Dad, Ad-man (I channel my inner Don Draper often, as a force for good) and a fan of all things that engage my love of the sci-fi/fantasy genre. I co-host a sci-fi/super-hero movie blog. In as much, I am also a hopelessly addicted gamer as well as a life-long advocate of gaming as an integral hobby and immersive visual experience

Managing your own gaming life

The beautiful (and often overlooked) reality of gaming in the 21st century is that it's unique to each of us. We all choose the world we wish to engage in. You into Zombies, we got an endless horde of undead (titles). Like Star Wars? The force will be with you… always, with a staggering array of Lucas-inspired properties to choose from. And if stomping mushrooms as an italian carpenter with bright red overalls is your thing, well; weirdo out-of-touch lemming, meet Mario Bros

Available in all shapes and sizes!
While I do understand there is a whole sub-section of our culture that does not participate with any gaming whatsoever (and if that's you, kudos to you for still reading at this point) but I know that for the Gen-X crowd and younger, we have grown up gaming. The graphics, the sounds, the button mashing–ooh, my heart's racing even as I write this!–and the sense of virtual accomplishment. And whether you're a problem solver, a FPS hound, a sports nut or RTS fanatic you likely take your gaming experience quite seriously. 

So you can imagine the horror of my discontent when I learned the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) had an entertainment writer trash one of my all-time favorite franchises. 

Oh, it is so on!

Lock And Load!

First, I gotta' say this is an EXTREMELY biased post but then again, that's why we all blog, right? So, Borderlands 2, I love it, my friends love it, you should run out and love it too! It's violent fun and challenging. Colorful graphics, dark humor, unexpected plot twists and more than 100 million in-game weapons* to blast all the aliens, monsters and robots who try and stand in your way to achieve greater intergalactic glory. 

Ready for Glory!
The game is built, from the ground up, to offer an immersive, steadily escalating set of challenges that offer loads of homicidal ballistic fun! But the game's sheer programming genius is in it's co-op gaming features. Drop-in, drop-out co-op gaming, co-op game leveling and automatic game difficulty increase and decrease due to the number of players in game (1-4). If you play this game alone, it's good, but together, in co-op, it's a franking experience! Having two or three people firing different elemental weapons at the same adversary–burning and being doused in acid simultaneously–is only one of the many great features that make this game pure gaming gold. 

So, to Mr. Adam Najberg of the Wall Street Journal's Arts and Entertainment staff, while I share your love (and implied) passion for gaming, you really missed the boat, missed the target and missed the whole point on Borderlands2. It's not Call of Duty: Black Ops. Your endless comparisons to those rage-fueled bouts Ritalin-induced foul-mouthed 13-year olds is a sad mis-informed correlation this fan cannot abide by.

I actually hate the multi-player experience of CoD:Black Ops as it unfairly pairs you with school-skipping preteens who spend 4-6 hours a day mastering this rancid multi-player "experience". You couldn't possibly be comparing the campaigns because they are as dissimilar as you can get and still be in the FPS genre.

I Can't Believe He Said That!

Some of Adam's review: "There’s an extremely limited four-player cooperative mode, and if you have an Xbox Live Gold account, you can team up that way, but this isn’t the type of deeply engrossing FPS game the headset-wearing COD crowds gather to play months and months after release. In comparison, I read on several sites that COD: Black Ops 2 will feature up to six teams, for a total of 18 simultaneous players, in multiplayer mode."

WTF!? Why are you talking about Call of Duty in this review? Come on dude, don't be THAT guy! If you love CoD and just don't like games where people work WITH each other versus slaughtering each other, than just say so.

This quote also sounds like he is having some sort of elitist 'I shouldn't have to pay for this' gripe with X-BOX LIVE. While I can share you discontent, sir, again a game review is NOT the place for this. Stay focused, dude. 
I've Got Your ClapTrap Right Here!

"Does this photo make me look too fat?"
I gotta' give a shout out to my main bot, Claptrap. As the game's  primary (but certainly not ONLY) comic-relief character, this foul-mouthed, narcissistic bot with an attitude is by far one of gaming's most entertaining characters ever. Too many to mention, the dialogue that spews from his audio box is some of the most well-written comic-relief I've ever heard.

One of many infamous wise-cracks, your playable character is salvaged from the wreck of a horrible train wreck at the hands the game's vilian, Handsome Jack. Claptrap says (to you) at the start of the game: "Excellent my minion–your ability to walk short-distances without falling down will be Jack's downfall!"

Probably something else Mr. Najberg completely glossed over in his clearly hasty review of Borderlands 2 (sigh). 

So, Arth Vader, How Do You Really Feel?

So, Mr. Njaberg, I have a proposition, dear sir. Try this game again, only this time, detox off of any previous title you have played (and obviously prefer) and focus your game-play review on the new and different one offered by Borderlands 2. The game has gotten high marks across the board (4.25 stars out of 5 from Gamer magazine, 9.5 star out of 10 from Game Informer magazine). Maybe you would have a similar good time with it, if you found a friend or two to play it with and stop comparing it to what appears to be the only other inferior, cookie-cutter FPS titles.

Of course, if you keep making game review blunders like this one, you may be wondering why your buddies are all playing great games that only you hate. 

With that gauntlet thrown down, I give Borderland 2 nine (9) mashed buttons out of ten!

* According to Gearbox Software president Randy Pitchford; "Together the guns, grenade variants and shield variants total almost 100 million loot varieties (stat variations)."