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.