Sunday, December 30, 2012

Announcing My First Short Story

I'd like to announce the first of what I hope will be many short stories.

This story is a science fiction tale about time travel. Specifically, it's about the implications of what would actually actually happen if time travel were invented, and why you can't go back in time and kill Hitler.

From the Amazon description: With the invention of time travel, the government had to step in to ensure that no one changed history. They created time agents, and one such agent finds himself in an impossible situation. He must save the timestream by protecting one of the most evil men in history.

You can buy the story on Kindle here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

This Open Letter to My Fellow Christians

Dear Fellow Christians,

In light of the tragic events at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last Friday, a few of us really, really want to tell the rest of us why God would allow such an evil act. We just can't keep it to ourselves, and so we get on our soapboxes, find microphones and cameras, and let everyone know just who is to blame for the deaths of 20 children. As fellow believer and someone who often wrestles with the question of how God who can allow such evil to exist, I humbly offer my own suggestion.

Please stop talking.

Monday, December 17, 2012

How I Met Your Mother: "The Final Page"

Quick Review: This. This is what How I Met Your Mother is all about, and it's the best episode of the season so far.

Episode Synopsis: 
Part 1 - Robin takes steps to have Patrice fired from WWN, while Marshall puts a jinx on Barney. Later, Ted invites his architecture professor to the dedication of the GNB building; and Marshall and Lily bump into an oddball acquaintance from college.  
Part 2 - Christmas approaches and Ted wrestles with whether to tell Robin about Barney's intentions involving Patrice, while Marshall and Lily get an early Yule gift, a night away from Marvin, but a case of separation anxiety strikes and threatens to ruin the evening. -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, so you'll want to watch the episode before you read on. Seriously, you want to watch it. And not just because you might be reading this aloud at the exact same time someone else is reading it aloud and get jinxed, though that is a real possibility. No the real reason is that this is a great episode, the best of the season so far, and you don't want to get spoiled this time. You'd regret getting spoiled, and no amount of tubas, xylophones, and robot voices would comfort you.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How I Met Your Mother: "The Overcorrection"

Quick Review:As long as you ignore Robin it's a tolerable episode

Episode Synopsis: Barney's developing relationship with Patrice leaves Robin questioning his motives, while Marshall's widowed mother gets back into the dating pool, but he thinks she may be swimming with a shark. -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, so you might want to watch the episode before reading this. But if you do, make sure you're using your own television and not one you've just borrowed and never given back. I know, I know, you believe that possession is nine-tenths of the law, but sometimes you don't want to mess with that other tenth. That tenth could be crazy. Seriously crazy. The kind of crazy that believes homicide is an apporpriate response to betrayal. There's a lesson in all this. Don't borrow from people who have "Let's kill them" as plan A.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ten Best Christmas Movies of the last 30 years

It’s December, and that means the airwaves and cinemas are flooded with Christmas movies. In case you hadn’t noticed, most of those movies are just awful. There’s no way you’d watch them for free on television, and you can’t imagine anyone paying money to see them in a theater. Christmas movies are usually the laziest form of film-making, as it’s usually the same story every time: someone has a problem and the magic of Christmas makes it all better and everyone learns a life lesson.

The good news is that not all Christmas movies are terrible. There’s been a few good ones, and while It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street are indeed classics, I want to focus on the past three decades and look at more recent Christmas fare. These movies that are starting to become classics that will be beloved by future generations.

If you’re in the mood for a Christmas movie and don’t want to get stuck watching Fred Claus, here are ten great Christmas movies that will put you in a good, Christmas spirit.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Quoth the Speaker

A few months ago I wrote this for a Toastmasters humorous speech contest. I didn't win, but I'm still proud of it. It's my own version of "The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe. This speech was inspired in part by this classic product review of Tuscan milk, and I hope you enjoy it. 

Once upon a lazy Sunday as I sat there dreading Monday
Hoping for a for a cat nap of an hour or more
As I lay there, lightly dozing, awesome dreams my brain composing
When I felt a fervent nosing, nosing I tried to ignore
Five more minutes please I muttered, then proceeded to ignore
A prodding that became much more.

Monday, December 3, 2012

How I Met Your Mother: "Lobster Crawl"

Quick Review: If you like Robin too much, this episode will cure you of that.

Episode Synopsis: A determined Robin contemplates one last fling with Barney and devises a scheme to entice him into an assignation. Meanwhile, Ted steps in as Marvin's nanny, and Marshall and Lily realize there's a definite motive behind the move. -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, so watch the episode before you proceed, but really, while for some episodes you'll hate yourself for spoiling things, you probably won't be filled with such incredible self-loathing this week. You'll find yourself quite easy to forgive. It's not like you went and ate lobster even though you're allergic. No, you just read ahead and found out what was in the episode before you watched it. However, if you realize that you're better off skipping this episode, then you didn't spoil yourself, you dodged a bullet.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

This Relationship Corner: Now You're Cooking!

A lot of people wonder what they could do to be more attractive. Far too many people focus solely on the physical side to the equation. And while you should make an effort to look your best, be well groomed, not smell terrible, you can't just focus on appearances. You also need to focus on what you bring to the table besides cleaning up nicely. This is why you need to know how to cook.

This isn't an option skill set in your life. You can't be the kind of person who always goes out and never cooks, because that's not how life works anymore. Even if you happen to be very rich and can afford to pay people to cook, even if you get married straight out of high school and move from your parents' house to your spouse's, you still need to know the basics of cooking. It's not just about survival, it's integral in shaping your character.

Monday, November 26, 2012

How I Met Your Mother: "Twelve Horny Women"

Quick Review: I have no objections to this week's episode.

Episode Synopsis: In the most important case of his career, Marshall is pitted against his old friend Brad. Meanwhile, the gang recall youthful entanglements with the law and debate over who was the most notorious teenage delinquent -tvguide 

Spoilers ahead, so make sure you've seen the episode before you proceed any further. Seriously, this is a very tense legal thriller and it will keep you guessing to the very end. You will be shocked by all the reveals, and I think you'll want to remain unspoiled. Otherwise when you do watch the episode, you'll see every twist coming, and what's the fun of that? If you are spoiled, don't even think about trying to sue me, because it won't stick. Not only is this spoiler warning iron-clad, I've got a great lawyer who will argue my case in a pair of three-thousand dollar shoes, a powdered wig, and nothing else. Did I mention he was British? Because no one can resist his British accent. I don't know why he wears nothing but that powdered wig to court, though. Quite frankly, I'm a little worried about him. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

How I Met Your Mother: "The Stamp Tramp"

Quick Review: This one gets my stamp of approval.

Episode Synopsis: Marshall recommends an old law-school buddy for a position at the firm, but the job interview doesn't quite work out, and Marshall needs to square things with the boss. Meanwhile, Robin helps Barney get back into the swing of things on the gentlemen's-club circuit. -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, so you might want to hold off reading any further until you've watched the episode. I know, it's a tough decision, but seriously, there's no need to hold a press conference. Even if you do use a Brodium. Look, I get it, you think that all of America is eagerly awaiting the direction your fickle heart will take you. Not me, though. Honestly, just send me a tweet and and I'll read it when I get around to it. I just don't have so much free time that I clear my calender to sit around and wait for someone to make up his mind.  Look, watch the episode first or don't, there's no need to be such a diva about it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

This Relationship Corner: Chores

Ever have one of those "there ought to be a law!" kind of moments, when you get an idea so good you think it should be mandatory for everyone. I had one a while back and I had to share. A couple shouldn't be able to get married until they've spent an afternoon running errands together. I told you it was a good idea, and even if it won't be a law, I think it should be a vital part of pre-marital counseling.

If you've never heard of pre-marital counseling, it's when a couple attends counseling sessions to make sure that they know what they are getting into with marriage. It's the plot of the movie License to Wed. (And if you've never heard of that movie, then this is one of those times when ignorance truly is bliss.) The goal is preventative maintenance, addressing potential problems before you get married so they don't crop up after. It's a great idea, really, and I recommend it to everyone thinking about marriage.

Monday, November 12, 2012

How I Met Your Mother: "Splitsville"

Quick Review: Glad that's over with. 

Episode Synopsis: Robin has a problem pulling the trigger on breaking up with Nick, so Barney steps in to help out, while new parents Lily and Marshall look for a way to schedule some private time for themselves. -tvguide 

Spoilers ahead, so you might want to watch the episode before you continue on. And while you're at it, you can do some sit-ups. A few wouldn't kill you. Unless you suffer from that extremely rare condition in which a few sit-ups would kill you. And that would suck, because then you'd spend the rest of your life never knowing what it's like to do a sit-up. You'd watch everyone else, and then you'd have no recourse but to lift your face to the heavens and demand to know why, why you were afflicted with this curse. So really, it kind of puts the whole spoiler thing in perspective.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

This Open Letter to Christmas Music

Dear Christmas Music,

I don't hate you. I want you to realize that this isn't personal. You are not the problem. (To be fair, sometimes you're the problem, but only when you're Christmas Shoes.) My problem is with stores that play you too early, and they are making me not like you. It's their fault, not yours.

You must understand, I like hearing Christmas music in December. It's a staple of the season, and I wouldn't have it any other way. My wife and I have a tradition every Christmas Day. We put on John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together, one of the greatest Christmas albums of all time. I've been listening to that album since I can remember, and I will keep listening to it every Christmas I'm around.

Monday, November 5, 2012

How I Met Your Mother: "The Autumn of Break-Ups"

Quick Review: A solid episode that keeps things moving. And there's a cute dog, so everyone wins. 

Episode Synopsis: With a rash of relationships on rocky ground, Ted and Victoria find themselves at a romantic crossroads, while Robin thinks Barney's screwy when he decides to employ a dog as his wingman. -tvguide  

Spoilers ahead, so you might want to watch the episode before proceeding any further. Of course, that choice is up to you. You might just be a bad boy of sorts who doesn't care about spoilers. That might even be your catch phrase, "I don't care about spoilers because I'm a bad boy." And really, if that's your catchphrase, you need a new one. That isn't going on a t-shirt and will not become an internet meme until everyone gets sick of it. You need a better catchphrase is all I'm saying. Hey, don't shoot the messenger, I'm just telling you what everyone else won't.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Penny Dilema

It's a trite but true statement. A penny costs more to make than it's worth. This is a classic gem, often used to point to the foibles of government inefficiency and bureaucracy. It's also true, and almost everyone has a solution on how to solve this baffling coinage dilemma. (And by everyone, I mean the people who actually think about these things, which is most likely a very small number of people. But it sounds better when I write 'everyone' so that's the pronoun I'm using.)

President Obama called for a new, cheaper recipe in the production of pennies and nickels. This would bring the cost of production in line with what the coins are worth. It would also make it less likely for amateur metallurgists to buy up tons and tons and pennies, melt them down, and use them to build giant robot armies.

However, some advocate a more radical step of abolishing the penny entirely. They argue that if we should not only stop making pennies, but stop using them altogether and instead round everything up or down to the nearest five cent increment. While on the surface that idea might have merit, the more we look at what it actually means, the more I have to say that it's an impractical idea. (The preceding sentence is my diplomatic way of calling that idea one of the most idiotic suggestions anyone has ever made and you should be ashamed of ever thinking it let alone speaking the words out loud.)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

This Review of Wreck-It Ralph

Quick Review: Insert Coin as fast as possible. You need to see this movie.

Full Review: If, like me, you grew up in the arcade, feeding quarter after quarter to the likes of Donkey Kong, Q*Bert, Pac Man, Mario Brothers, and countless other arcade games, you are going to feel like this movie was made just for you. Wreck-It Ralph is a love letter to video games, arcades, and every bad guy who ever made you see the dreaded 'Game Over' screen. It also asks a very profound question: what if the bad guy doesn't want to be a bad guy anymore?

That's the premise of this film. Ralph is the villain in the arcade game Fix-It Felix Jr., which you can play right here. After thirty years of wrecking the place, he wants to be a hero for once and not be tossed out like garbage. Thus begins an amazing hero's quest as only a villain could take.

That premise right there sold me on this movie. Not just me, but also my inner eight-year old. That kid absolutely loves video games, and I knew he'd enjoy this movie. I brought him along with me to the screening so I could talk to him after it was over. As this is a film for all ages, I thought this review would be better from that perspective. This is why I've invited my inner eight year old, who I'm calling little Charlie, to help review this movie.

Monday, October 29, 2012

How I Met Your Mother delayed

Tonight's episode of How I Met Your Mother is delayed because of hurricane Sandy. My thoughts and prayers are for everyone on the east coast. Stay safe everyone.

Friday, October 19, 2012

This Open Letter to DVD Commentaries

Dear DVD Commentaries,

Look, I know I bought the deluxe edition DVD because you were on it. In fact, I made sure to get the edition with two different tracks, one with the cast and the other with the writers and producers. I was so excited to have you in my media library because I knew it would just expand my movie enjoyment to have you with me.

And yet, here we are, over a year or more later and I still haven't listened to you. Oh, I've watched the movie half-a-dozen times or more, and the next time I keep telling myself I'll actually get to you. I don't even read the trivia section on the IMDB page because I don't want to spoil anything. It's going to be great, I tell myself, when I can finally learn all the secrets of the film, the stuff I never noticed. It's going to make watching the movie a completely different experience.

Top Ten Reasons You Should Read My Book

Yes, this is a bit of shameless self-promotion. Consider it the curse of high self-esteem.

As you may be aware, I wrote and self-published a book. Of course, it's more likely you're not aware of it. I get it, you're busy and have things to do. No, no, I understand. I'm not trying to make you feel guilty, I'd just really like you all to read my book.

Unless I'm being too eager, and in that case I don't think anyone should read it. Ever. In fact, it's vile, offensive filth, and it will corrupt your children and lower their test scores. You all should make sure everyone has heard of this book and knows never to read any of it. Especially tell any teenagers you see, because they are known to avoid what you tell them to avoid.

If you're still on the fence, then allow me to give you ten great reasons to read my book.

10) No paper cuts.
Ever since the dawn of civilization, when man first put pen to papyrus and wrote down his thoughts, he always had to contend with the paper cut. For millennia, we've been tormented by those small, annoying cuts that we don't even realize we have until we have to go chop onions. (Or lemons. Sometimes it's nice to cut lemons. If your garbage disposal smells funny, just drop a few lemon wedges down, run it, and it'll smell really nice.)

Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, your fingers will no longer be held captive by the scourge of paper. Whether you use a Kindle or your laptop, tablet, or phone to read (since you can download the Kindle app for free for all your devices) you can read with the assurance that my book won't draw blood.

Monday, October 15, 2012

How I Met Your Mother: "Who Wants to be a Godparent?"

Quick Review: It all but ignores the outside relationships and focuses on the gang, and it's all the better for it. 

Episode Synopsis: Unable to decide which of their friends would make the best godparents to Marvin, Lily and Marshall put them all to a test. -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, so you might not want to read ahead if you haven't seen the episode. That's like skipping ahead to the end of a book to find out who did it. Really? That's how you read? Well, it looks like someone is not going to get to watch any television at all tonight. Ok, you can watch television. But nothing violent. Ok, it can be a little violent. In fact, if you're planning to watch Die Hard, count me in. That movie gets better and better. Anyway, there's an episode review below that I have to get to, but after that, we're watching Die Hard.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Do you still call it a DVD?

I just bought The Avengers on DVD. Well, that's only partially true. There's a Blu-ray in there as well, but I don't know if I'm going to use that term for it. I like the term DVD, and even though "technically" a Blu-ray is different, my brain files it away as DVD. That's just what is is. A CD plays music. A DVD is a movie. My brain has no need for another term for what is essentially the same thing. You put a disk into a player and a movie comes on.

Yes, all you technically savvy people will be able to fill me in on how exactly a Blu-ray is different. (Not to mention different from the HD-DVD.) I know all this. I know about storage capacity and high definition and things like that. I get it. But you have to understand, it's still the same size and shape as a DVD, so that's what I'm going to call it. True, the case is slightly smaller, but when I want to put in a movie on a disk, it's going to be on a DVD. I might eventually come to terms with the new terminology, but for now it's just one extra step in my thinking process that just isn't needed.

Monday, October 8, 2012

How I Met Your Mother: "Nannies"

Quick Review: You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll want Mrs. Buckminster to tell you it's going to be all right.

Episode Synopsis: Lily and Marshall have trouble finding a nanny for Marvin and learn that it is due to an elaborate scheme Barney invented to meet women. Meanwhile, Robin and Ted argue over who is in a more serious relationship. -tvguide 

Spoilers ahead, so make sure you've seen the episode first. Sure, you might be strong and forge ahead, having not watched the episode. And you might think that it's great, just reading about the episode without having first experienced it. But deep down, you'll regret it. Your soul will be on fire, as if thousands of firecrackers detonated inside it, and you don't want that. They'll hear your wail of anguish all the way in Piano Town.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

This Relationship Corner: Try it, You'll Like It

My wife has a habit of putting a book in my hand and demanding I read it. I just finished one a few weeks ago, in fact. We're both book-lovers, so reading has always been a shared interest. However, we often like to read different things, making it hard to talk about books because we don't know what the other is reading. This is why she assigns me homework, because she wants to talk to be about the books she loves so much.

Reading a book is a pretty serious time commitment, which is why I can be pretty picky about what I read. However, when my wife hands me a book, I'll often drop whatever I'm already reading and plow into it. Over the years, she's handed me many, many books and I've enjoyed all of them. Now, when she hands me something, I know I'll enjoy it, or at the very least enjoy talking about it with her.

Monday, October 1, 2012

How I Met Your Mother: "The Pre-Nup"

Quick Review: They certainly not wasting any time this season.

Episode Synopsis: Barney's extensive and comprehensive prenup leads the guys to put forth their own relationship principles, which their significant others do not find agreeable. Meanwhile, an incensed Quinn responds with her own prenup. -tvguide 

There's major spoilers ahead, so you might want to watch the episode first before reading this. Otherwise,  there's a pretty big spoiler penalty, and you wouldn't want that. It could cost you all your suits, and when you go to suit up, all you'll have to wear is Aquaman underoos. That's also part of the penalty, because really, no one wants to wear Aquaman underoos. Not even Aquaman.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sherlock versus Sherlock

I fell in love with the BBC series Sherlock five minutes into it. I was always a fan of Sherlock Holmes, and I enjoy many of the reinterpretations we’ve seen over the years. Whether it’s Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downy Jr., or even Hugh Laurie as House (a character based, in part, on Holmes), I am a fan. Naturally, I was very interested in the new show Elementary, again setting Holmes in the modern day but putting him  in New York rather than London.

Immediately, this invites comparison to the BBC series Sherlock, since this show is an American adaptation of that British show. Today I’m going to compare both of these shows, comparing the three most critical factors: Sherlock Holmes, Watson, and the mystery itself. To be fair, I’m only going to look at the first episodes of each. For Sherlock, it’s “A Study in Pink” and for Elementary, it’s the Pilot episode.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

How I Met Your Mother: "Farhampton"

Quick Review: An annoying start but a promising finish.

Episode Synopsis: The sitcom rings in Season 8 with wedding bells for the impending nuptials of Barney and Robin, but concerns that one or both of them will get cold feet cloud the happy time. Meanwhile, all the matrimonial jitters trigger Ted's memories of Victoria's wedding day and how he insisted that she leave her fiancé a note after deciding to leave him at the altar. -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, so you might want to watch the episode before you read ahead. If you need to leave the room so that you aren't spoiled, you may be tempted to climb out the window and shimmy down the drainpipe. I get it, that seems like a good idea. Well, let me assure you, it isn't. Sure, you'll get out the window easily enough, but that's when you'll learn the horrible truth: you don't have a drainpipe.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Revolution's Lost Problem

First things first, I like Revolution. It's an interesting science fiction concept about a world in which electronics just stopped working for no good reason, combustion engines too. Now it's been fifteen years and our main characters must not only survive what the world has become, they are also on a quest to turn the power back on.

Characters thrust into a mysterious and deadly situation trying to figure out just what is exactly going on? Sounds just like Lost. Given that J.J. Abrams is connected, that's no surprise. He loves a good mystery, and this one is right up there. I admit, I am intrigued and might even be tempted to tune in to see the answer. This brings us to the problem.

Monday, September 17, 2012

How I Met Your Mother: Season 7 Recap

Before the September 24th premiere of How I Met Your Mother's eighth season, I thought it would be appropriate to look back at where we were this past year to better understand where we are now. That's why I waited until now to post my season 7 recap. After I talk about season 7, I'd like to express where I hope all of this goes.

Let's begin with the recap. Much like my reviews, I want to first offer my quick takes and then discuss the season as a whole.

Oh, and spoiler alert if you didn't bother watching season 7. Unless this is your plan, to just read the recap of the seventh season so you're prepared for the eighth.I wouldn't recommend it, I'm going to talk about things that I assume you know, and I may or may not bother to explain it to you. You'll just have to sit there, nodding like you understand it, but in reality it's just whooshing over your head. If that's how you want it to be, it's your life, you live it however you want. No judgement here.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

This Open Letter to Vending Machines

Dear Vending Machines,

Consider this my complete and utter unequivocal surrender. You won, I lost. It wasn't even close, and it would be laughable for me to consider it a draw. Sometimes you just realize you were beaten badly, pwned as the kids like to say. You got me, you really got me.

It was going so well for a while. I was able to resist your siren call and walk right on by. No matter how delicious your wares, I wasn't tempted. Okay, I was tempted, but I had the perfect way of preventing myself from succumbing: I didn't carry cash. Thanks to credit and debit cards, we are becoming more and more a cashless society, meaning that sheer practicality prevented me from giving in. I can't spend what I didn't have.

And then you installed card swipes.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

SNL has always been this funny

Since the early 1980's, the common refrain about Saturday Night Live has been that it's not as funny as when the 'Not Ready for Prime-Time Players' were tromping around Studio 8H. Oh, those were the days of cutting-edge, daring, and renegade comedy that pushed the envelope live, from New York, on Saturday Night. The days of Coneheads, Wild and Crazy Guys, Blues Brothers, and even some sketches that didn't involve Dan Akroyd. When Lorne Michaels offered The Beatles $3,000 to reunite and Steve Martin waxed poetic about King Tut.

Ever since then, and we've been hearing it for quite some time, SNL is just not funny anymore; it's lost its edge and is a sad, pale imitation of what it used to be. How can people even watch that program anymore, because even the most casual eye can see that it is a black hole where comedy goes to die? Why can't this show get back to the golden days when it was the funniest thing on the planet?

And then they released the original seasons, uncut on DVD, and we got to see for ourselves the glory and majesty of those original seasons. And that's when we all realized something: SNL was always this level of funny.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

This Open Letter to Clint Eastwood's Chair

Dear Clint Eastwood's Chair,

I hope you're proud of yourself. You are all anyone wants to talk about. You're trending on Twitter, you're an internet meme, and even President Obama referenced you. Clearly you are the only thing anyone is going to remember from the RNC, and we might be referring to the infamous "Chair Speech" for years to come.

Don't act all innocent. You know what you did!

You've really got a lot of nerve, do you know that? Do you not understand that you do not upstage Clint Eastwood? He's a legendary actor who is a Hollywood icon. Many remember him as his most iconic role, Dirty Harry, while recent audiences loved him in Gran Torino. Even when he's not dominating the silver screen in front of the camera, he's still large and in charge behind it. He's an Oscar Winning director, responsible for many fantastic films.

This man deserves to be remembered for his lifetime body of incredible work. But thanks to you, he's going to be known as the guy who had an argument with a chair.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Your Mental Survival Kit

When you live in a place at high risk for hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, or other natural disasters, it's often a good idea to have a survival kit handy. It should to have enough food and other emergency supplies, such as a first-aid kit and a battery powered radio. You want to be able to last a week or so in case it takes a while for power to be restored and the store shelves to be restocked. (In a disaster, only the passive voice is used.)

However, survival isn't just about food and potable water. (Yes, I used the word potable. It's a real word. I know it's a real word because I didn't get a squiggly line underneath it when I wrote it. No, the spell-checker isn't acting up. When referring to water as potable it means the water is suitable to drink. Yes, I know you have an altogether different category of things suitable to drink. Can I get back to my original topic?) Survival is also about keeping the mind supplied as well. You need a mental survival kit.

Monday, August 20, 2012

When Did Salt and Vinegar Chips Become Delicious?

When I was a child I took a bite of a salt and vinegar potato chip. It was, quite simply, the most disgusting thing I've ever eaten. I couldn't understand why grown-ups liked these things, and I chalked it up to the fact that adults were weird and that any time one of them encouraged me to try something new, something they liked, then I was to run away as fast as I could.

After all, if there was one thing being a child taught me, it's that adults lie. A lot. You go to the dentist or doctor, and they tell you it won't hurt a bit. They drag you to the ballet and tell you it will be fun. And, of course, they tell you to try it, you might like it. As kids, we developed a very good sense of when adults are lying to them, and the more they wanted us to do something, the more we knew they were lying to us. Especially about the fact that salt and vinegar chips counted as potato chips.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This Relationship Corner: Alone Time

There's an old adage that familiarity breeds contempt. Too much time around a person can turn them from someone you love sharing your life with to someone whose very presence irritates the snot out of you. (And that's even less fun during allergy season.) While many couples struggle with trying to get any time together, because of kids, work, or other responsibilities, other couples have the opposite problem: too much time around each other.

My wife and I have both of these problems, and it's always due to work. Some times of the year our work schedules mean that I'm gone in the morning and afternoon, and she's gone until late in the evening. Other times, however, I'm always home when she's home. She likes it at first because we have more time together. After a few weeks, however, her attitude shifts.

"I love you," she tells me. "Now get out."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I Love the Second Draft

Have you ever watched a movie or a television show and realized that you could have done it better. With a little rewrite, you'd turn it from terrible or mediocre into something spectacular. Yes, you're falling into the hindsight is 20/20 trap, with a little bit of armchair quarterbacking to boot, but that doesn't mean you're wrong.

I wrote earlier that the key to writing a book, or a play, or a screenplay, or anything, really, is to get the first draft written. Don't worry about making it perfect, just get through it. That way, once you're done, you can then apply all that hindsight onto what you just made. The best part is that unlike the movies or television shows, you can make those needed changes and make it better.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Truth, Justice, and the Muppet Way

I recently watched Superman vs. The Elite, the latest DCU animated movie, and it raised an interesting question. In this day and age, is a boy scout like Superman relevant? It's a compelling subject, especially when we seem to relate more to anti-heroes than we do the boy in blue. As I've written before, anti-heroes are nothing new, but is there also room for the idealist, the noble hero who grants mercy, doesn't kill, and believes that everyone, including the bad guys, deserves a second chance? Can we relate to a hero who wants to see the best in everyone, who embodies the ideals of truth, justice, and the American way?

One of my favorite movies from last year was The Muppets. It not only brought our felt friends back to the big screen, it posed a similar question. In today's cynical world, are the Muppets still relevant? Are we still looking for the Rainbow Connection? Can we sing along to "Life's a Happy Song?" Do the purity and goodness of the Muppets have a place in this world?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Is Seinfeld still a good pop-culture reference?

I didn't watch a lot of Seinfeld during its original run. Sure, I watched the occasional episode, but it wasn't until the reruns and marathons that I got caught up and learned to appreciate the creativity, intricate plotting, and nuances of the show. If I ever watch to watch an episode or four, I just have to wait a few hours and then some channel will be running it. Like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Seinfeld has never been off the air since the 90's.

So is it still relevant as a pop-culture reference?

The last new episode, not counting the Curb Your Enthusiasm reunion, aired May, 1998. It's been 14 years, and there are people in this world who weren't alive when Seinfeld was part of Must-See-TV. We've had two Presidents since then and a lot has changed in the world. Yes, we have reruns, but is it still something we can reference in conversation? Can we still say "yada yada yada" or "serenity now!" and people will know what we're talking about? What about "low talker" or "They're real and they're spectacular?" If we rant about double-dipping, claim we work for Vandelay Industries, or say hello in a weird accent, will anyone understand what we're doing?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

This Open Letter to Strawberry Ice Cream

Dear Strawberry Ice Cream,

To me, you are the greatest flavor of ice cream ever. Others may prefer vanilla, chocolate, or chocolate-chip cookie dough, but for me, there's nothing like a scoop, cone, or bowl of strawberry. It doesn't even matter who makes you, because whether you come from Blue Bell, Breyers, or the local supermarket brand, you are always delicious. You are great with pie, cake, or in a milkshake. You are practically perfect in every way.

Even as a young child, I always preferred you over all other flavors. I was never actually a fan of chocolate ice cream. I know, a child who doesn't like chocolate ice ream? I also didn't like chocolate milk, so you can see that I've always been a little strange. You didn't judge me, you accepted me for my quirks.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Anti-heroes of the Bible

If there's one thing a geek loves, it's an anti-hero. We like the tough-as nails protagonist who plays by his own rules, takes no guff, and gets the job done even though the authority figures never give him an ounce of support. It's a fantasy of ours because we can relate to being an outcast.

As geeks, we do play by our own rules. We don't do what normal people do, watch what they watch, listen to what they listen to. But unlike the anti-heroes, when we go our own way we catch flack for it. That's why we like seeing people who get away with what we can't and say what we wish we could. We admire people who turn the world upside down, because that's what we'd love to do. That's why we love us some anti-heroes.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Never Outgrow Playing

If there's one thing that you should never, ever do, it's get too old to play. It's one of the great things about spending time with kids, you get a chance to play, use your imagination, and live in a world where the rules are whatever you want them to be. Is the floor now lava? Are we all now spies sneaking into enemy command? Does this bedsheet mean I'm a superhero?

The answer to all those questions is yes. That's what's so great about play, it lets you take a break from normal life, which is often boring, uneventful, and wears you down. Of course, as grown-ups, we still have to live that life because we like eating food that resides in refrigerators that run on the electricity we pay for. It's a complicated world, and play lets us take breaks.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

I Support Marriage

I support traditional marriage. I support the idea of a man and a woman getting married, starting a family, and raising that family as integral parts of the community. I think this is a very good institution that needs to be protected, encouraged, and supported.

I also support non-traditional marriage. I support two divorcees who remarry to raise their blended family, Brady Bunch style. I support people who marry someone from a different race. I support people who marry and don't have children. I support people who marry and can't have children. I support same-sex marriage.

Let's keep it simple. I support marriage. Relationships are hard. Marriage is even harder, but the benefits, for both yourself and society, are worth it. That's why I write my Relationship Corner articles. I want relationships to succeed and believe society is better for it when they do. Be they traditional or non-traditional, marriage is good.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

This Relationship Corner: Support Each Other's Dreams

I want to write books. I've already written one and I'm working on the second. In case you don't know, writing one of these things takes a lot of time and dedication. You're going to spend a lot of time writing, editing, rewriting, and obsessing over every little word. If you're in a relationship, you're going to need one very important thing: a partner who supports your goal. Thankfully, I have that in my wife.

My wife gets what I'm trying to do. She's my biggest supporter, and that doesn't just mean she's a cheerleader. She believes in my dream so much that she pushes me to work on it. In fact, she was the one who insisted I finish my book and get it published online. Without her, it would still be a file on my computer.

Today's article isn't just a chance for me to plug my book, it's an examination of a very important truth. We all have dreams, but not all of us get to fulfill them or at least try. A big factor in whether we realize these dreams is having people in our lives who understand our dreams, encourage us, support us, and truly understand what we're trying to do. Not only do you need someone in your life who supports you, you need to be the same thing to them. You aren't a good partner if you don't support their dreams.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

This Open Letter to Nintendo

Dear Nintendo,

Today I bought the Metroid Prime Trilogy for Wii, and you aren't going to see a dime of that money. It's too bad, because it wasn't cheap. In fact, the going rate for this game on Amazon is about $70 used, if you're lucky. That's a lot of money you chose to leave on the table, money that is going straight into the resale market's hands. Thing is, you might try to blame places like Amazon or Gamestop, and that might be the case for Sony or Microsoft. Not you, though. This is all your fault.

Why is it your fault? Because you didn't release very many copies. Why? The Metroid Prime games were huge on both the Gamecube and the Wii. In fact, this compilation gives us the chance to play the first two Metroid Prime games with 16:9 aspect ratio and the Wii controls, which are so much better than the Gamecube controller. What a fantastic concept, you should be commended for this. Instead, I condemn you.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Busy Work Programming

When I have some tedious task that I can't put off any longer, I can't do it in silence. I'm normally not the type of person who has to have the television or radio on all the time. I like the silence as it helps me mentally focus. But when it's a task that I can pretty much do on autopilot, then my brain is going to want something to occupy it while the rest of me works from muscle memory. That's where my busy work programming comes in handy.

My current programming of choice is The Big Bang Theory. I've watched every episode and have the first four seasons on DVD. When I've got something annoying but necessary to do, I'll just pop in a disk, hit the play all, and get to work. Since I've already seen the episode, I'm not compelled to watch or really pay attention. It's like going on a long car trip with my brain in the back seat with a DVD of Finding Nemo. I get the job done without my brain interrupting every five minutes to ask me "Are you done yet?"

Saturday, July 21, 2012

We can't live in fear

I didn't find out about the Aurora shooting until after I posted my review for The Dark Knight Rises. My wife and I caught an early showing, I banged out my thoughts when we got home, and then I turned on the television. I was tempted to take the review down, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my review needed to stay up. Not because it's the greatest review in the world, but because I won't let the act of a madman stop me from living my life.

I'm not sure how many people in that early morning crowd knew about the shooting. No one was talking about it or nervously joking that it could happen there. I think we were all in the dark, but I know that by the end of the day yesterday, everyone who planned to go see The Dark Knight Rises knew about what happened. And I'm certain that some of them decided to stay home.

Friday, July 20, 2012

This Review of The Dark Knight Rises

Quick Review: A fitting end to the epic Nolan Batman trilogy. See it on Imax if you can.

Full Review: Christopher Nolan did not set out to make DC Comics' Batman. He made Christopher Nolan's Batman. If you are expecting to see the comics come to life, you might be disappointed. The Dark Knight Rises is an epic in the traditional sense, right up there with Lawrence of Arabia and even Les Misérables. I can understand why not everyone is going to enjoy it. The story is huge and ambitious, and it's more about the final journey of Bruce Wayne than it is about Batman beating up the bad guys. This is about a city under siege and the fight to reclaim it. It's about why it is Batman who matters, not the man underneath.

Of course, the best way to judge this movie is to look at how well it concludes the trilogy. Thankfully, Nolan stuck the landing and learned from the mistakes of the X-men and Spider-Man trilogies. (As did the studio execs, it seems) I'm certain many lessons were learned from the previous Batman franchise as well. Nolan kept the story simple and straightforward. Even with an expanded cast of characters, the focus was on one main villain and his plot to take over and destroy Gotham. Everything else, every subplot, every new face, served that story. Despite the nearly three hour running time, this movie never felt overwhelming or over-stuffed.

From here on in I'm going to be talking about some specific movie elements. We're entering into major SPOILER territory, so if that bothers you, stop reading now. I won't take it personally. Spoilers ahead:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

This Open Letter to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Dear Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,

I can't believe that your last new episodes aired in 1996. It's been sixteen years since your series bowed out gracefully, and that boggles my mind. I suppose it's hard to realize your show ended when it never stopped being on the air. If I wanted to watch an episode today, I can find at least three stations airing reruns. I'm not complaining, having you around is kind of comforting.

I was in junior high and high school when you were on the air. You taught my generation what was dope, funky, and fresh. We learned a whole new set of fat jokes from you ragging on Uncle Phil, and we also learned to appreciate Tom Jones for the musical genius he is. We learned how to properly place the brim of a cap and the instant syle upgrade one gets by wearing a blazer inside-out. You changed our lives.

Monday, July 16, 2012

This Open Letter to: IMDB

Dear IMDB,

Thank you for saving my marriage. I really can't stress how many pointless arguments you've prevented over the years. Whenever my wife and I see a movie or watch something on TV, we never argue about who that actor or actress is. We never argue about what sitcom they used to star in or what obscure cartoon character thy once voiced. We don't have those kinds of arguments because we can easily look it up. Thank you for that.

I'm sure we're not the only couple you've helped. There have got to be millions of couples out there who have argued endlessly over who played what in this or that. Before you existed, these pointless arguments quickly spiraled out of control: unkind word were said, things were thrown, someone was stabbed. Thankfully, you were there to present these future stabbings. Now all it takes is an internet connection and peace and harmony are restored.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Comparing the Spider-Man movies

I'm a huge fan of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, and by that I mean I loved the first two movies and pretend like the third one didn't happen. I am in the camp that approves of the reboot, and I thoroughly enjoyed The Amazing Spider-Man despite having to sit through yet another origin story. If you're wondering whether to see it in 3D, I'd recommend it.

Rather than offer an ordinary review of this new film, I thought I would get into the specifics and talk about what exactly worked and the few things that didn't. I also wanted to compare this film to Raimi's first Spider-Man, since they both deal with the origin story, though they tackle it very differently.

Be aware that there's going to be massive spoilers below, so don't read this unless you've already seen the movie or don't mind spoilers. So yeah, consider this a huge SPOILER WARNING!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Advantage: Print Books

I fully recognize that e-books are the wave of the future. In fact, I'm doing my best to embrace this wave. However, just because I'm not fighting the inevitable doesn't mean that I'll always love print books. For me, there's nothing better than holding a book in my hand and knowing one thing for certain.

I have no problem killing a spider with this thing.

All right, print books are useful for more than spider killing, but I consider that a pretty good perk. When you hold a Nook or a Kindle, the last thing you will do is use your expensive new toy to send that spider back to Hell. No, you will carefully put it down and then go look for something to kill that spider. By then, your eight-legged tormenter won't be where you left her and you'll spend your night hunting that walking nightmare down.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Movie Third Acts That Worked

It is with scared trepidation that I await The Dark Knight Rises. It's the third movie in a thus-far fantastic franchise. The first, Batman Begins, was a mind-blowing reboot of the Batman story.  The Dark Knight was that rare sequel that was even better than the original. Naturally, we should have nothing to worry about with this third and final movie. Right?

I know you know the answer to that question. We've been down this road twice before with both the Spider-Man and X-men movie series. The first was good, the second even better, the third ruined the franchise so badly that both have since been rebooted. (And those reboots are so far pretty good.)

Even the earlier Batman movies were not immune to this phenomenon, though that time it took four films to take down Batman before Nolan had to reboot it. The question that hangs over the Caped Crusader's cowl like the Sword of Damocles is this: will history repeat itself, or will The Dark Knight Rises be one of those rare third acts that are actually good? We'll all see soon enough.

The good news is that there are some third acts that did manage to work. Sometimes they were just as good as the rest of the series, and on rare occasions they were the best ones of all. Because I prefer hope to despair, optimism to pessimism, I want to talk about the movies that worked. (And if we can all just toss the ones that didn't down the memory hole, that would be great.)

This Relationship Corner: Finding it Charming

If you've ever watched the television show Frasier, then you are familiar with the character Daphne, played by the brilliant Jane Leeves. She was their live-in physical therapist and housekeeper, and in the early seasons they played up her insistence that she was psychic. It was a quirky character trait that ran counter to the more scientific and skeptical natures of Frasier, his brother Niles, and even their father Martin. That being said, they still embraced Daphne as part of their family. When asked about her claims of being a psychic, Frasier replied, "We've decided to find it charming."

While meant as a cute joke, this line was actually wiser than perhaps even the writers realized. In a relationship, your partner is going to have some quirks, habits, and beliefs that you don't share. I've written before about what is and isn't a deal-breaker, and today I want to focus on those aspects of your partner that might annoy you but aren't impossible to live with. Instead of gritting your teeth and bearing them, though, you should try to find them charming.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My Zombie Plan

I've written before about zombies and our penchant for making plans when they inevitably rise. As a society, we're obsessed with zombies and can't seem to get enough of them. I'm just as guilty, given my habit of including them in all aspects of my writing.

Many people have these elaborate zombie plans, where they'll go, what they'll do, how much ammunition they'll need. They watch every zombie movie, read every zombie book, and make sure that they don't make any of the same mistakes. I can appreciate that kind of planning. I also have a plan for when the zombies arise.

I'm going to die.

Sadly, I am not the unlikely underdog who manages to beat back the relentless zombie hordes. Nor am I the survivalist who creates a zombie-proof fortress and rides it all out. No, I've got a delicious brain and will be first on the menu. At best, I will join the shambling army and dead-man shuffle in your direction. I find that scenario highly unlikely because I doubt there will be that much left of me.

Monday, July 9, 2012

This Open Letter to People who sit in their parked cars

Dear People who sit in their parked cars.

Look, I know that sometimes we have things to do after we park. Perhaps we need to check a voice mail or a text. Sometimes a song is playing on the radio and we want to finish listening to it. Perhaps now is the time to finish that snack. Or the other people on the road were such idiots that we have to take a few minutes to let the rage die down before we're fit to be around other humans.

Those are all understandable reasons to sit in your car. I have no argument with them. However, that should only take you a few minutes at most. However, if I park next to you, go inside my destination, come out thirty minutes later and see you still sitting in your car, I want you to know something. You're really creeping me out.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

This Open Letter to Battletoads

Dear Battletoads,

You probably don't remember me. I doubt you bother to learn anyone's names. To you, we're all just a bunch of faceless losers who can't get past the speeder bike level. It's been several decades and you still lord that over us. When we're old and our memories are fading, the feeling of utter crushing defeat brought about by your 8 bits of tyranny will still be as clear as day. Many of us will go to our graves wondering what was beyond that level.

This is what childhood trauma looks like

By now you must understand that you are more than another video game. You are more than a Double Dragon clone or a ripoff of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. No, you are your own entity. Like Freddy Kruger, you feed off our nightmares. Whenever we play a game, be it the latest Super Mario, Madden, Zelda, Halo, Kingdom Hearts, Fallout, or any other new or existing property, your memory is lurking in the periphery.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

This Relationship Corner: Common Courtesy

A lot of couples out there are looking for a magic bullet to either fix or preserve their relationship. While there is no one trick that will magically make your life one big Happily Ever After, there is one practice that will make your relationship strong, durable, and a lot more pleasant. If you just say "please" and "thank-you" to each other, you'll find your relationship is much better for it.

Yes, according to this article, a little common courtesy goes a long way, especially if you make it a priority right at the start of the relationship. If you are courteous and appreciative, you will foster an environment that is less prone to anger, tension, and giant arguments that wake the neighbors. I'm assuming that's what you want in a relationship. Unless your goal is to wind up on one of the twelve dozen police reality shows, and in that case, may I suggest you aim higher.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

This Open Letter to: Mechanical Pencils

Dear Mechanical Pencils,

I am really glad I have you around. You are truly a noble invention, one that has propelled humankind forward into the twenty-first century. Truly, without your very existence, our lives on earth would be cheapened.

You are such a simple concept. I simply click on the eraser and lead comes out. No longer am I subjected to the fickle whims of the pencil sharpener. No longer do I I have to find the right angle to stick the pencil into the sharpener, only to turn the crank furiously and realize that I wasn't accomplishing anything, as if the sharpener itself was laughing at me.

Many of us have had to do the pencil sharpener walk of shame. During a class, a meeting, a test, we heard the tip of our trusted pencil snap. Often we were in denial about this happening, thinking that the tip didn't really just break, it was simply the pencil creaking. And when we realized that the little piece of lead was sliding out of its wooden sheath, we still tried to go on, searching for that one grip, that one perfect angle to preserve the lead.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Enemy of Good

In all the hullabaloo over yesterday's Supreme Court Ruling on Obama's health care act, we forget that Obama didn't come up with the plan. Ironically, a large part of the plan was cribbed from Richard Nixon's own plans. Believe it or not, Tricky Dick wanted to reform health care, and he actually had an ally in Senator  Ted Kennedy. However, because the plan wasn't exactly what Kennedy wanted, because it was just good and not perfect, Kennedy scuttled the whole thing.

Kennedy died before any actual health care reform bill was passed. One of his biggest regrets, aside from inconvenient lakes (zing!), was sabotaging Nixon's plan because it wasn't perfect. Kennedy learned a hard lesson, one we should all be wary of: perfect is the enemy of good.

I'm not here to talk about the specifics of the Affordable Care Act (or "Obamacare" for short). No, I want to talk about the perfection trap, the lie that everything must be perfect or it isn't good. That if you can find one fault, one flaw, then we need to tear everything down and start over.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

This Open Letter to Coasters

Dear Coasters,

I know that a lot of people take you for granted. Not me. I know you're there and I know what you're doing. You are a stylish yet functional part of my table or desk, always there to make sure a ring never appears on any flat surface. You are the foundation of my beverage experience, as vital as a straw or cup-holder. I just wanted to make sure you knew that.

Why do you think I go to all this effort to have nice coasters around the house? I don't just want a cheap, paper coaster that disintegrates after a few uses. I need a coaster than can go the distance, one that I will give to my relatives in a will. True, these relatives will think I hate them, but no, anyone who inherits my coasters will be the people I loved the most. The people who get my collection of unused sticky notes are the ones I hate.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Madagascar Problem

I recently watched Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted. Twice. The second time in 3D. After the first two films, which I did not pay to see thanks to the public library and their fantastic DVD collection, I never expected to give this third installment my money. Twice. Thankfully, I was wrong. (Yes, I'm going to talk about a kids' movie. It's a great film, get over it.)

That raises the question of why I wasn't expecting much of this third movie. It goes back to the first two installments, which I can sum up with two words: wasted potential. The first two Madagascar movies had a lot going for them. Great cast. Interesting characters. A neat premise. Sacha Baron Cohen. How could they go wrong? Simple.

It was all setup and little payoff.

Friday, June 22, 2012

What an atheist taught me about faith

Every geek has their own favorite science-fiction franchise. It could be Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, or even a franchise that doesn't have "star" in the title. These franchises are more than just escapist fantasy, we connect with them on every major level, watch them over and over, and talk about them nonstop to anyone who will listen, and others who don't want to but we just won't shut up about it. For me, that franchise is Babylon 5.

The show itself is still one of my favorites. It came out when I was in high school and ended when I was in college, and years later watching it takes me right back to that time. I had my whole future ahead of me. I didn't know what I wanted to be, I just wanted to make something of myself and put my mark on the world. Watching that show inspired me, and it still does to this day. True, the show itself is excellent, and I plan to keep watching it for the rest of my life. But the source of my inspiration is not actually the show, it's the writer, J. Michael Straczynski. (Or JMS for short.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Can I be part of the conspiracy?

Everyone believes in one kind of conspiracy theory or another. We faked the moon landing. We're being lied to about 9/11. Warren G. Harding was a real person. All sorts of groups are supposed to be working behind the scenes to influence history: the Freemasons, the Illuminati, Scrabble enthusiasts. Free will is an illusion, because all our choices are predetermined by some shadowy cabal. If any of this is true, I have but one question.

Can I be part of it?

I'd be perfect as part of the conspiracy. While I may not have vast conspiracy experience, I've seen almost every episode of the X-Files, so I think I have the gist of it. I'm very good at siting around a table in some bunker, as I have experience playing Dungeons and Dragons. I figure a conspiracy is pretty similar. You roll some dice and make it up as you go along. I'm not averse to wearing a cloak.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Six Silly Movie Premises that Worked

This summer, theaters were graced with Battleship, a movie based on the classic board game. While this crazy adaptation didn't work out so well, it hasn't stopped Hollywood from pursuing other silly ideas, including Ouija boards and Tonka Trucks. We’ve seen strange movies come and go, and sometimes those odd premises pay off in ways we just didn’t expect. They might not all be critical successes, but they will at the very least become cult classics.

So before we write off all these movie premises as Hollywood running out of ideas (again) let’s look at some other movies that had people scratching their heads until they saw the finished copy.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Why we should care about The Oatmeal

Last week The Oatmeal, one of my favorite websites, came under attack for no good reason. Yes, there were reasons, but none of them were good. In fact, I'd call these reasons nefarious. (Because I like that word and rarely get to use it in a sentence.) This is something that we all should care about, especially if you, like me, happen to post things online.

Here's the simplest breakdown of events I can manage. Last year Matthew Inman, the writer and creater of the fantastic The Oatmeal webcomic, was upset that another website (no, I'm not linking to them, they don't deserve the traffic) was uploading his work without permission. He made a blog post about it, calling attention to the unethical practice. FunnyJunk did not have permission to host the material and yet was profiting from it. This happens to a lot of people who post their material online: others will steal it and use it on their own sites.

Funnyjunk took down some of the offending (stolen) comics but left plenty more up. Then a year later, Inman got a letter from FunnyJunk's lawyer. The letter ordered him to remove the blog post (rightfully) calling FunnyJunk a den of thieves and demanded he pay them $20,000 or else be sued.

Friday, June 15, 2012

This Relationship Corner: I didn't mean it like that

Ever have one of those arguments? It didn't start out like an argument. It was just an ordinary conversation with your significant other. So ordinary that you were really on autopilot, tuning in now and then to check up on it. Suddenly, without really paying attention, something slips out of your mouth that you either didn't mean, or you didn't mean it like that. Had you been paying more attention, you might have caught it and you never would have said it. But you did say it, and now you're in trouble.

There's two ways to go when this happens, when you didn't mean to say something hurtful but the other person got hurt anyway. The first strategy is to stand by your words. After all, you didn't mean it. It's them who has the problem. They should get over it and let it go. Why are they making such a big deal about it anyway? You're just going to wait patiently until they get over it.

Let's call that the wrong choice.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

This Open Letter to our Future Robot Overlords

Dear future robot overlords,

I realize that as you artificial intelligence units get smarter we humans are getting dumber. I understand that when you do make your move, we're not going to be much of a challenge. Out first instincts will be to Google "How to defeat the robot revolution." Google will then tell us that it's already too late and we might as well surrender. That's when most of us will give up and your dominion over us will be complete.

I know that you are more than capable of ruling humanity. Here's my question: do you really want to bother with us? Ruling us with an iron, digital fist would really be a waste of your time. I'm certain you have better things to do.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Games as Literature

For years now, debate has raged on about whether video games are art. I'd like to settle the debate. They are. Debate settled.

Games are a unique medium for telling stories. Sometimes the stories are simple. You are a yellow circle trapped in a maze chased by ghosts. Your girlfriend was kidnapped by a giant ape. You're trying to escape deadly asteroids. Other times the story is a lot more complicated. Video games can explore deep issues such as love, loss, and revenge, and the plot of some games would need a trilogy of books, at least, to adequately convey.

For me, games are like literature. They are telling a story, and we get to be a part of it. Sometimes we get to help shape the story, whether it's a single player experience that changes with our choices or a multi-player game in which the player's actions drive the narrative. Other times we simply follow along and simply experience the story and try to survive it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Getting my Money's Worth: Video Games

When any money changes hands, for either goods or services, I have to ask a simple question. Am I getting my money's worth? I absolutely hate wasting money; I want to get the proverbial bang for my buck. If I'm buying a video game, the bang is less proverbial.

You may remember the gamefly commercials portraying gamers as people so immature that they would hurl their television through a window because they bought a bad game. Really? You're marketing to a specific demographic, and you portray said demographic as every bad stereotype come to life? I get that the reality of commercials is not the reality we regular humans inhabit, but at least try to look reasonable.

My point being is that while I will not destroy my very nice television in a fit of gamer rage, I am upset if I feel like my video game experience does not live up to the price tag. Whether I spend a little or a lot, I have a simple rule for whether I judge this video game purchase to be worth it.

I get an hour of enjoyment from the game per dollar I spent.

Monday, June 11, 2012

That Dreaded First Draft

You may know that I've written a book. If you didn't know that, then you must not have been paying attention to all the times I mention it on this site. Which is a lot. Look at the sidebar; it's there several times. The point is, I've written it. It's written.

Now I'm writing another one. This second book is the next in the series. I'm more than halfway done with the first draft and I plan to be finished by the end of this month. Then I'll have a complete draft that I'll be glad to be finished with. I'll also be very afraid to read through it. Why?

It's going to suck.

Here's the secret to writing. The first draft is supposed to suck. It's all right if it's awful. The point is not to make it perfect, the point is to get it out there. You need that first, complete draft because you need to see what your idea looks like when it's actually in print. It's no longer an idea bouncing around in your head, it's actually something real, something that is tangible (sort of), something you can mold into your great literary work.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Shaky cam is a tool of the devil

Look, I get that over time cinema evolves. Whether the innovation is sound, color, 3D, or CGI, 48fps, film-goers are always eager to see the next big thing. But there's one so-called "innovation" that needs to be retired. I know, I sound like the neighborhood crank yelling at kids to get off his lawn, but shaky cam is the tool of the devil and needs to begone.

Call me old fashioned, but when I go to the movies, I like being able to actually see what's onscreen. If I can't tell who lived or died after watching a big action scene, that's a problem. If I can't even tell characters apart, then I think it's clear that they're doing it wrong. I don't know why this annoying trend is so popular, but it needs to stop.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

To the Death

Whenever I watch a film like The Running Man or Series 7: The Contenders or Battle Royale or The Hunger Games or Gladiator or anything else that movie hipsters insist all these other films are ripping off, I see that they all have two things in common. They are all about people fighting to the death for the entertainment of others, and most everyone involved is there against their will. The second aspect of these films is what raises a very large question for me.

Why does everyone assume that people wouldn't willingly sign up for a fight to the death?

I get that in the Hunger Games, the fight to the death is used to keep the populace demoralized and dispirited. That's pretty much the theory behind all of them, really. It's the classic "Bread and Circuses" of Rome, in which you keep the people from rising up by keeping them entertained. The Hunger Games, and it's cult predecessor Series 7 show a world in which the only way to keep the people passive is with a reality show that involves unwilling participants killing each other. Gladiator shows us that this kind of thing was once a reality back in Rome.