Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "Bass Player Wanted"

Quick Review: A very satisfying episode

Episode Synopsis: A guy at the wedding intentionally stirs up trouble among the gang; and the prodigal Marshall finally makes it to the Farhampton Inn. -tvguide

Spoilers below, so you might want to actually watch the episode before venturing further. Or not, it's entirely your choice. You could make worse choices, of course, including something that gets you arrested. They'll be slapping the handcuffs on your, and you'll think to yourself, "This is far worse than being spoiled on an episode of How I Met Your Mother." It's all about perspective.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

This Open Letter to People who say "Happy Holidays"

Dear People who say "Happy Holidays,"

There are three phrases that history will never forget and never forgive: "Crucify Him," "I was just following orders," and "Happy Holidays." I just want to put what you're doing in the proper perspective, because right now you seem blithely unaware of your crimes against humanity. When you wish me a "Happy Holidays," are you completely unaware the depth of your depravity? Don't you understand that every time you utter those foul, disgusting words, your soul shrivels up and Lucifer dances a jig? Can't you see the Divine Judgement headed your way?

I'm telling you this, as a friend, that you need to stop this reprehensible behavior immediately. One of these days, it will be legal to hunt people like you for sport. After all, running you down like an animal is the only solution I see to preserving the true meaning of Christmas. Your bloody carcass will serve as a clear reminder that Christmas is about God's love for all humankind. Except for people like you.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "The Rehearsal Dinner"

Quick Review: A very pleasant surprise

Episode Synopsis: Barney is shooting to have the rehearsal dinner at a laser-tag venue, while Lily is upset when Ted fails to live up to a promise. -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, so be very cautious before you proceed. I know, you see "spoiler alert" and you just have to charge ahead. You must be one of those people who can't help but push that button. That big, red, flashing, shiny button. It's human nature, really. In fact, maybe it wasn't an apple in the Garden of Eden, it was a button. Adam and Eve were told not to push the button. They could do anything else but push that button. Of course, eventually, they did push the button and got kicked out of the garden. What, you wanted a spoiler alert for that? Dude, there's a statute of limitations for spoiler alerts.

Monday, December 2, 2013

My cap gun

I have a cap gun sitting on my desk, and it's all I can do not to grab it, pull the trigger, and let loose. I'm a grown man, with all sorts of adult responsibilities like paying bills and mailing things with stamps. Every day there are people who look at me as if I'm some kind of authority figure, and then it dawns on me that yes, I am some kind of authority figure. I am often referred to as "Mister," once more cementing my role as responsible adult in this society.

And all I want to do is pull the trigger on that cap gun until the room smells like whatever a room smells like after you go through an entire round of caps in one go. I almost wish I had a cat so I could scare it and post the video to the internet, because the internet never gets tired of cat videos. My wife would either give me a cross look for having terrified the cat, or be angry that I wasted all the caps because she wanted a turn.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "Bedtime Stories"

Quick Review: If this episode is viewing that you will be choosing, then you'll find it funny, clever, witty, and amusing.

Episode Synopsis: To get his restless son to go to sleep, Marshall tells him three tales in rhyme: "Mosby at the Bat," "Robin Takes the Cake" and "Barney Stinson, Player King of New York City." -tvguide

Spoilers lurk below, so beware before proceeding
Let this spoiler warning be a caution you are heeding
Once read, this information gets quite lodged into your brain
It will never go away, alas those memories will remain
So please, good reader, take a moment, think before you leap
You may think you don't care now, but later you might weep.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "Mom and Dad"

Quick Review: Some funny moments marred by an annoying A-plot.

Episode Synopsis: Robin is concerned about what's on Barney's mind after his father arrives at the hotel, while Ted is up in arms when one of his wedding chores doesn't go as planned and he believes he was sabotaged.-tvguide

Spoilers ahead. Look, you might not appreciate this warning. I understand. But do you know that there are people out there without spoiler warnings? They have to endure a life in which anything can be spoiled at any time. They have to either live in total sensory deprivation, or learn to cope with the fact that everything they ever love will be spoiled. So please, appreciate what you have. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Humor prevents Groupthink

Show me a group that can't laugh at itself, and I'll show you a group I want no part of. The ability to laugh at yourself, to be self-effacing, is a sure sign of humility. The ability to recognize the flaws, silly habits, and oddball behavior in yourself or your group keeps you grounded, and it can prevent you from making a huge mistake. It prevents groupthink.

Groupthink is dangerous. It is deadly. It kills. It is what happens when a group achieves too much harmony and there is no conflict. The individuals in the group lose their identity and become a collective consciousness. No one dares disagree with the group, nor can they even see why they'd need to. Bad ideas seem like good ideas because everyone agrees.

Years ago I was a student at Texas A&M University, a fine institution I am proud I attended. However, the year before I enrolled, they suffered one of the most horrific tragedies they've ever faced: The Bonfire collapse. Twelve people were killed, many more were injured. Since 1999, there has never been an official Bonfire at Texas A&M, though the tradition still continues off-campus.

While the Special Commission Report pointed to the structural failures, the biggest cause, according to the report, was groupthink. No one saw a problem with students building a giant structure, the size of a four story building, without any faculty oversight. No one thought to make the students submit all their plans to the engineering or architecture department. No one thought to take every precaution to ensure that such a disaster didn't happen.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Villain is Certain

In any story, there is one character who is unwavering, uncompromising, undeterred. This character has no doubts about his course and knows, with utmost conviction, that he is right. This character never needs to naval-gaze, has no use for introspection, and will never second-guess. This person is the villain.

The hero has doubts. The hero questions. The hero wonders if she's making the right choice. The hero wrestles with his conscience. Often, the hero must change and consider other viewpoints and perspectives. The hero must concede the possibility that she is wrong, that she might even be fighting on the wrong side.

In many hero stories, it's not just a clash of good and evil, but also of doubt and certainty. That's why the best heroes, the ones whose stories I find the most interesting, are the ones who wrestle with doubt. They believe that they are doing the right thing, but their biggest fear, something many villains gleefully exploit, is the possibility that they might be on the wrong side. The villains never have this struggle.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "Platonish"

Quick Review: Now we're back on track - a solid episode

Episode Synopsis: In flashbacks, the gang contemplates the future of the love triangle among Ted, Robin and Barney, while Lily and Robin issue a series of challenges to Barney.  -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, and if you don't want to feel so terrible about yourself that you spend the rest of your days wearing a garbage bag, you'll steer clear until after you've watched the episode. Now, you might be a bit brave, thinking that you can't be harmed by a few spoilers. Sorry to break it to you, but even the smallest spoiler can ruin your life. It doesn't even have to be a big spoiler. Just a little one. One so small that it goes unnoticed, crafty enough to sneak into the spoiler warning itself. Now, this might be a harmless spoiler, easily brushed aside. But it could be the one spoiler that manages to burrow straight into your brain and do things that even the internet finds disgusting, and you've met the internet. it takes a lot to creep that freak out.

Monday, November 11, 2013

This Open Letter to My Leftovers

Dear Leftovers,

I'm not eating you. I don't care how awesome a meal you were the first time around. I don't care how zesty and flavorful you were. That was two weeks ago, and unlike Ghostbusters, you have not aged well. Like Ghostbusters, you are covered in unexplained green slime and some people from the EPA want to shut you down. So no, I'm not eating you.

Don't take it so personally. It's not like I didn't want to eat you. I love leftovers. Sometimes food is better the second time around, and leftovers are an under-rated pleasure. That's why I get a to-go box when I'm dining out, as there's nothing like having last night's dinner for breakfast. Believe me, I am very pro-leftover.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "The Lighthouse"

Quick Review: While it had a few good moments, it was a big, wasted opportunity.

Episode Synopsis: Robin and Loretta's disagreement escalates, and Barney is trapped in the middle, while Marshall and Daphne discover a stowaway on their trip, and Ted takes Cassie on a date to a lighthouse.  -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, so watch yourself. You'd hate to get spoiled, especially if you plan to take a trip to a very romantic lighthouse soon after. You'd climb all those steps, get to the highest point, take a look at the incredible view, and still not be able to get over the fact that you spoiled an episode because you read the review before watching. Your whole trip will be ruined, and I can't have that on my conscience. I mean, if I am responsible for ruining your trip, I'd want it to be for something a lot better than an episode review. I do have a reputation to maintain.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Problem

The essence of drama is conflict. The essence of comedy is conflict. The essence of character is conflict. When there is no conflict, there's nothing really interesting going on. Lack of conflict is the essence of bad writing. Sadly, this is one of the problems facing the new show, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. There just isn't any good conflict.

We get to know characters by their conflicts, and that's especially important in an ensemble show. When the characters lack dramatic tension, they lack defining characteristics and it's hard to tell them apart or even remember their names. Each character needs to both have a purpose and a conflict, because that's what we remember about them. The worst thing you want is for your characters to be forgettable.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "No Questions Asked"

Quick Review: A silly episode that comes together nicely at the end.

Episode Synopsis: Lily receives a troubling text message from Marshall's traveling companion, Daphne, so he recruits the rest of the gang to help get the message removed before his wife sees it. -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, so don't continue forward if you haven't seen the episode. Of course, whether you proceed forward is entirely up to you. I'm not the boss of you. I'm just here to offer some friendly advice and then step back so you can make your own decisions. I won't judge you, no matter where your choices take you. Even if it means dressing in a blue leotard, because if that's what you have to do, I'm behind you. I just won't be under you, because I probably lack the upper-body strength to catch you if you fall, and that's not the time you want to find out.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "Knight Vision"

Quick Review: This episode chose wisely

Episode Synopsis: Ted hits the dating jackpot when he gets to choose among three women as a companion for the wedding weekend, while Robin and Barney don't see eye to eye with the minister, and Marshall discovers some interesting information about his traveling companion, Daphne. -tvguide

Spoiler alert, so you'll probably want to see the episode before taking the dangerous journey below. You never know what you might face. You might have decapitating blades, perilous drops, and an invisible bridge. That's not something you want to face unprepared, even if James Bond is your father and you shot first. Of course, I can't stop you. You are free to make your choice.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "The Poker Game"

Quick Review: A good episode, it misses a perfect opportunity to be great.

Episode Synopsis: Barney receives family-relationship advice from Lily when Robin has a disagreement with Barney's mother and brother, while Ted and Marshall disagree over wedding gifts and thank-you-note etiquette. -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, so think twice before proceeding. Unless you've seen the episode. If you've seen the episode, then there's no real reason for you to not proceed. It's not like there's something holding you back. You should feel free to continue onward and read this review. Don't worry if you have to be at the gym for the second time today. The gym will still be there when you're done reading. Granted, this review should be here if you choose to go to the gym first, but can you really take that chance? I wouldn't.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "The Broken Code"

Quick Review: This series is always at its best when exploring the relationships between the characters, and this week's episode was no exception.

Episode Synopsis: Barney discovers Ted still harbors feelings for Robin and decides to hit him where it hurts, at the best-man poker game. Meanwhile, Lily comes to realize that she is Robin's only girlfriend. -tvguide

Spoiler alert. Yes, there are spoilers. I would be in violation of the code of the internet if I didn't warn you about spoilers. I'm courteous like that, a big believer in Netiquette. That's why I also don't type in ALL CAPS, because that's another violation. If you're not careful those quickly add up, and then the Elders of the Internet show up at your house. To avoid that happening, please consult the code of the internet, which can be found in many hotels next to the Gideon Bible.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "Last time in New York"

Quick Review: Deuling, Zombies, The Princess Bride, Mandy Patinkin, True Love...and yes, this is a kissing episode.

Episode Synopsis: Lily finds a to-do list of things Ted hopes to accomplish before moving from New York to Chicago, while soon-to-be-married Robin and Barney steel themselves for the arrival of their relatives. - tvguide

Spoilers ahead, so be warned. The last thing you want to do is spoil yourself before getting into this fine episode. Who lives, who dies, you will be shocked when you find out? Ok, no one dies this episode. That could be considered a spoiler, though, which is why I recommend you stop reading right now. Otherwise you'll feel terrible, like a Vikings fan forced to wear a cheese hat. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

I Blame George Takei

So there I was, ready to use my time productively. I was going to accomplish everything on my ever-growing to-do list. And then George Takei convinced me to write a joke review on Amazon instead. He's such a bad influence.

I'm not normally a fan of potty humor, but I just had to make an exception in this case. If you're wondering why I chose to spoof 'The Raven' by Edgar Allen Poe, I direct you to the classic Tuscan Whole Milk review. This isn't the first time I've spoofed The Raven either.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "The Locket/Coming Back"

Quick Review: If this is what we can expect from this final season, I'm good.

Episode Synopsis: It's Robin and Barney's wedding weekend on Long Island, where the couple make an unsettling family discovery, while Marshall is winging it back East for the big day, but runs into some problems, and Lily has a confrontation with Ted over his long-standing attachment to Robin. / Robin is concerned about how Barney will take bad news about his brother, while Marshall scrambles to find transportation to the wedding, and an uncomfortable Ted deals with flying solo in a romantic hotel. -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, and you will probably want to view the episode before you venture any further. If you do venture, may I point out that there are some really exciting tourist destinations you may be interested in, including a goat that can blow smoke rings. You don't want to miss that. But I do recommend you bring your leather driving gloves. It's statistically safer.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

This Open Letter to Paramount

Dear Paramount,

Let's dispense with pleasantries and get right down to business. You won. It wasn't even a fair fight. In your corner you have Muhammad Ali in an M1 Abrams tank. In my corner I have a sock puppet with a missing eye. We both knew how this was going to end.

Today is the day you released the Star Trek Into Darkness Blu Ray. A while back I was dismayed to learn that you weren't putting all the special features on one release. Instead, you got the bright idea to give different stores different versions, so that each retailer can boast its own set of exclusives. Now, either I buy two or even three copies of the same movie to have all the features, or I choose which features I can live without. It's like Sophie's Choice, except this isn't the Holocaust, it's only a Blue Ray home release, and I'm being incredibly petty.

Friday, August 30, 2013

This Relationship Corner: Indulge Each Other

A while back my wife flipped for a new book called The Art of Clean Up. It's by artist Ursus Wehrli, and the book is all about his efforts to put the world in order. He takes a normal scene and pulls it apart bit by bit, and organizes each component into separate categories. I wouldn't have given this book a second look, but this is in my wife's wheelhouse. Naturally, I got it for her.

Earlier this year my my wife and I were shopping and we happened upon some pajama pants. These were no ordinary pants, there were emblazoned with the face of Mario, of Super Mario Brothers fame, and my inner geek loved those pants. My wife was never a Mario devotee, but she knows how much money that plumber has taken from me over my lifetime. She got those pajama pants for me.

What is the point of these two anecdotes, besides the fact that my wife and I have eccentric and geeky tastes? It's that when we saw something that would make each other happy, we went for it. It might not be our taste, we might not quite understand it, but that doesn't mean we can't indulge one another. In fact, these small indulgences are part of maintaining a healthy relationship.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

This Open Letter to Moral Crusaders

Dear Moral Crusaders,

I know you're busy, let's cut to the chase. We need each other. You need a villain to star in your next fund-raising newsletter, and I need the publicity. As they say in the business world, we could create some real synergy and shift our paradigms. (Most of my business expertise comes from Dilbert.)

I'm a struggling author trying to make it big, but not a lot of people are paying attention. Perhaps that's my fault, as I could be doing more to increase my brand. I could be doing a lot more internet-savvy things to generate attention, but marketing is a lot of work. I'm a writer. The entire point of being a writer is to do as little work as possible.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

This Open Letter to my DVD Collection

Dear DVD Collection,

I know it feels like I've abandoned you. Up until a few weeks ago, you were my go to source for entertainment. When I had a few hours to kill and I wanted something I could count on, and I didn't want to put up with commercials, you were my first and only destination. I could throw in a disk (and by that I mean carefully transfer the disk from the case to the player to avoid scratches and extend the life of the DVD) and whether it was a movie or a favorite television show, the result was enjoyable all the same.

Sometimes I would sit back and re-watch a movie I'd seen dozens of times already. Or I might have some busy-work or chores to do, and the familiar television characters would keep my company during my drudgery. It was a solid system, one you feel I've betrayed because now I have Netflix and Hulu Plus.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Jesus and the Giant Monsters

Pacific Rim is about giant robots punching giant monsters in the face. If any movie deserved the "shut up and take my money!" treatment, it's this one. My wife and I saw it opening day, and we sat right in front because my inner 12 year-old demanded we sit up close to the action. There are times you listen to that 12 year-old, and if this isn't one of them, I don't know what is; if there's one movie about robots punching monsters that you see on the big screen, it's this one.

What the grown-up side of me enjoyed was the exploration of that world and its culture. The movie takes place about a decade and a half after these giant monsters (Kaiju) have started showing up and doing to our cities what rock stars do to our hotel rooms. Once the initial shock wore off, the presence of Kaiju became a normal part of the world. People learned to adapt to the reality that giant monsters from another dimension would occasionally rise from the ocean depths and try to kill us. What the movie didn't have time to explore in depth was just how much this changed society.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

This Open Letter to my Brain

Dear Brain,

I know you're busy managing all my vital bodily functions and keeping me alive. You have a pretty full schedule, and I understand this. However, you have another duty as well, and lately you've been dropping the ball. I'm trying to remember something important, and when I ask you about it, I get nothing.

Look, I don't need to recall a long list of obscure Simpsons quotes from the 90's. I don't need to know the lyrics to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song. I don't need to know the order of the planets, the colors of the rainbow, or the recipe for banana bread. Don't get me wrong, that's good information to have when I need it, but I don't need it right now.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

This Open Letter to Gay Marriage Opponents

Dear Gay Marriage Opponents,

I get that you are passionate about this issue, more so now that the Supreme Court has overturned parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and basically nullified Proposition 8. I'm not saying you don't have the right to your opinion. I'm a big believer in free speech and would never want to censor you. However, in your defense of this position, may I ask you a favor? Some of you are claiming that allowing gay marriage will lead to people wanting to marry their household appliances. I'd really appreciate it if you stopped saying that, because now one of my appliances wants to marry me.

Apparently my Playstation 2 has been half-hearing pundits talk about the issue for years now, and it somehow got the idea that since DOMA was overturned, man-machine marriage is now legal or about to be. It figures that since we've had a relationship for years, now, that it's time to get serious. It doesn't care about the fact that I'm already married and that marriage is a contract between two consenting human parties. It just wants to get married.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

This Relationship Corner: Work has no Gender

If you were alive in the 1980's, you couldn't escape The Cosby Show. It was the biggest sitcom on television, providing the template for many, many 80's sitcoms about the perils of raising a family in middle (or upper-middle) class America. One part of the show that always stuck with me was the character of Elvin, Sondra's chauvinistic boyfriend who absolutely believed that there was "man's work" and "women's work." The women of the Huxtable house, Claire in particular, took umbrage with that.

The Cosby Show was not just about breaking down the racial divide, showing an affluent African American family with two professional parents: a doctor and a lawyer. The show also made great strides on breaking down the gender barrier, refusing to buy into the idea that men, and especially women, had "their place." Elvin's beliefs that there was such a thing as "women's work" was quickly slapped down by every female in the Huxtable household. He was also given a counter-example in the form of Cliff Huxtable.

Cliff was an active member of his domestic partnership. He never divided the household duties into His and Hers. He simply did what needed to be done. As an impressionable 80's viewer, I never forgot the sight of Cliff in the kitchen, or watching the kids, or doing whatever was needed for his family. Cliff knew a very important truth, one I share with you today: work is work, it has no gender.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Why This New Superman Works

Rather than simply review Man of Steel, I decided instead to discuss the specific reasons this movie succeeded as a Superman story. This is not the Superman of Richard Donner and Bryan Singer. This is not the Superman of the Silver Age, with all the classic trappings. This is a 21st Century story, unlike any live-action portrayal we've seen so far, and that's why it works. The filmmakers finally figured out that their audiences have grown up, and it's time for the Superman mythos to do the same.

From here on out I'll be discussing the movie in specific detail. There will be spoilers. I'm so glad I went into this movie as spoiler free as possible, and I recommend you do the same. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

This Relationship Corner: Ditch the Defensiveness

There's a line from the new Star Trek movie that I particularly enjoyed. As Spock and Kirk are arguing, and Spock tells Kirk, "Your defensiveness indicates that you agree with me." It doesn't matter what century we're in, we often resort to defensiveness when we can't, or won't, see that we're wrong. It's a common human failing, one that will destroy your relationships. Even your potential for relationships.

I'm a huge fan of the website Cracked, and when they aren't pontificating on the possibilities of a zombie apocalypse, or the realities of creepy urban legends, they will sometimes feature columns full of relationship advice. A recent column focused on five turn-offs found in male dating profiles and why those personality traits are relationship repellent.  If you want a textbook case of defensiveness, read the article's comments section. Man after man complained that the writer should also talk about what women do wrong and why women, not men, are the problem.

In other words, the men commenting refused to accept that their attitudes and actions were a problem. They aren't the problem, it's everyone else who's the problem.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

This Guide to Tipping

People ask me all the time when they should leave a tip. My first response is, of course, is "Who are you?" and "Why won't you leave me alone?" and "Why are you dressed like a bumblebee?" Once we get past the awkwardness of why total strangers are accosting me, we get into the time-honored tipping dilemma. When should I tip, and how much?

I can understand why this is a frustrating topic. It seems that everyone is expecting a tip these days, not just waitstaff, bellhops, and hit-men. Tip jars are everywhere these days, and it's hard to keep track of whom to tip and how much. (It's even harder than trying to remember whether to use who or whom in a sentence.)

With so much confusion, it is my public service to give you my own personal guide to not only who should be tipped, but how much. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

This Open Letter to the Used Game Sticker I Can't Fully Peel Off

Dear used game sticker I can't fully peel off,

Can't you get the hint? You are no longer wanted here. You've served your purpose, alerting me that you are a much cheaper version of a game I want. You have allowed me to not only get a game for a much cheaper price, but ensure that this transaction doesn't put a cent in the hands of game companies who refuse to release a 'Greatest Hits' version of the game. You did exactly as you were told, and I commend you for it.

But now it's time to go. You just can't let go. I try to peel you off, but what I get is that white under-sticker residue that tenaciously clings to the game. I can't have that. I need you to smoothly peel off and be like you were never there. I need to remove your presence from my life, and I need you gone yesterday.  It's nothing personal, I just don't want you ruining the aesthetics of my game collection.

Monday, May 13, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "Something New"

Quick Review: This is what we've been waiting for.

Episode Synopsis: The Season 8 finale is set just before Robin and Barney's wedding, with Ted taking Lily to see the house he's been fixing up, and Robin and Barney settling in for a treasured night of relaxation that is rudely interrupted by an obnoxious couple. Meanwhile, Marshall and the baby take a last-minute trip to see his family in Minnesota. -tvguide

Spoiler alert. Seriously. You're reading this and not watching? Come on. This is a huge episode, and I mean it. Huge. Whatever you're doing can wait. Unless you happen to be performing surgery, then you might want to go operate first, then watch the episode. Do they let you watch television while you operate? Probably not. That could be really distracting. So you're allowed to operate first, but as soon as you're done, and you make sure you didn't leave your keys in the patient, then watch the episode.

Monday, May 6, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "Something Old"

Quick Review: We are treated to three plots that don't reach their full potential  and instead repeat past glories.

Episode Synopsis: Years ago in Central Park, Robin buried a "something old" for her wedding, but now she can't locate it. Meanwhile, Marshall and Lily ask Ted to help them pack for Italy; and Barney spends some bonding time with Robin Sr. -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, so you might want to stop what you are doing before you go any further. Otherwise, when you are busy reading the spoilers, someone is going to come from behind you and steal your batteries. Do you want that to happen? Do you? Because when that happens, and it will, you will wonder how someone was able to remove the batteries so deftly. You won't even know where these batteries are from, but there they are, in the hands of your adversary. It's not a pretty picture. Especially since you'll spend the rest of the day wondering which of your possessions no longer has batteries. That can drive you mad.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

This Open Letter to Gays

Dear Gays,

First of all, I want you to know that I love you guys. You are some of my favorite celebrities, including Ellen DeGeneres, Stephen Fry, and John "Captain Jack" Barrowman. Plus, you gay men never get tired of telling me how awesome my hair looks. I've never gotten better compliments.

And of course I support gay marriage. I've come out in support of it before, and I've even tried to reach out to my fellow Christians about how they can come to terms with the inevitability of gay marriage. It's going to happen, now a matter of when, rather than if. It's all over save for the shouting of the rapidly shrinking, soon to be irrelevant, minority.

That's what I want to talk to you about. Because I don't just support marriage between gays, I also encourage it. To be frank, as soon as you are able to be married, I need you need to do it, as a personal favor to me.

Monday, April 29, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "The Bro Mitzvah"

Quick Review: One of the best payoffs in this show's history.

Episode Synopsis: Barney's bachelor party has the gang pulling out all the stops in an effort to make it legendary.  -tvguide

Spoiler alert. Now, there are times when I'm not going to try as hard to prevent you from proceeding on ahead. This is not one of those times. If you were a child of the 80's, you especially do not want to be spoiled. In fact, I won't even make a vague reference to what will most definitely get spoiled. Do you see what I'm doing here? I am so committed to you remaining unspoiled that I am eschewing an opportunity to make what is, in my mind at least, a clever reference of the episode. If you don't know how big a deal that is, let me assure you, it's not a big deal. Not really.  But let's act like it is a big deal so I can totally milk it for sympathy. Anyway, I'm spoiling everything from this point on.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

This Open Letter to My Page-A-Day Calender

Dear Page-A-Day Calender,

First, I want acknowledge that yes, I've had you for a year and a half and you are still only on May. I get that you're upset. You are, after all, a page a day calender and yet I seem to have not held up my end of the bargain. Every day you provide a new amusement, and in exchange, I keep you up-to-date by removing the outdated pages.

I get it, I do. I have many, many things occupying my time. You only have one. From your perspective, as an entity created with a single purpose, it's hard to conceive of a world outside the need to remove a page a day. Why would you? For you, existence begins and ends with the calender year.

Monday, April 15, 2013

How i Met Your Mother: "Romeward Bound"

Quick Review: We're mainly getting setup this week.

Episode Synopsis: Lily must decide if she's willing to ship out to Rome to be the Captain's art consultant. -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, so it's probably best that you watch the episode first before you read my commentary on it. Otherwise, you will be spoiled, and there will be nothing to do but sit in an Italian cafe in an angsty, existential crisis, your world in black and white as you sip coffee and ponder the meaning of it all. There may or may not be a scooter involved. I don't know. Do you want a scooter involved? Because if you don't, and one shows up, then that's just adding insult to injury.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Smart Choice is Boring

I caught Olympus Has Fallen a while back, and if you're looking for some mindless entertainment where a bunch of stuff blows up and people get killed, then you're in luck. This movie will definitely deliver. If you were disappointed in the latest entry into the Die Hard franchise, then you might like the fact that Olympus is pretty much Die Hard in the White House. You'll probably spot several moments lifted straight from that 80's classic.

While watching the movie, I couldn't help but be bothered by several important plot elements. Now, I realize that going to an action movie for the plot might be counter-productive, but I am a writer, and plot matters to me, even with an action movie. Many action movies, Die Hard included, have a plot dependent upon one thing: characters making stupid choices. In order to have our hero be the only one capable of stopping the bad guy, everyone else in the movie has to make the exact wrong call at the exact wrong time. It's a staple of the genre.

Naturally, Olympus Has Fallen presents several moments in which the plot is advanced by the characters' poor choices. Some of these choices are understandable, others are downright frustrating, but in the end, they serve the plot. Because had everyone made the right call, the movie would have either been very short or very boring. As frustrating as it is, sometimes we have to endure these illogical character choices if we want our action movies, and I'm going to explore this idea using Olympus Has Fallen. Not only am I going to examine the poor choices, I'm also going to look at one very smart choice and examine its impact as well.

I'm going to go deep into spoiler territory from here on out, so don't proceed if you don't want to be spoiled.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Legislated Morality Killed Jesus

How's that for a headline? It combines two major thoughts occupying Christians this week. The first is the death and resurrection of Jesus, this being the week between Palm Sunday and Easter, when we Christians contemplate Christ's arrival in Jerusalem, His betrayal, arrest, and execution. On Sunday we celebrate Easter, the third day when Christ rose from the grave. That's one thing Christians are thinking about. The other thing is gay marriage.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard two different challenges to laws that deny gay couples the right to marry: Prop 8 and DOMA. As is often the case with big Supreme Court challenges, the masses descended on Washington, some in favor of gay marriage, others who want marriage to stay a strictly man-woman arrangement. It's made for quite the scene.

Both sides have been making their case for years, but that's not what I plan to talk about. Not directly, anyway. No, I want to get down to one of the more basic principles behind the desire to uphold laws against same-sex marriage, that the United States needs to legislate morality and use the force of law to enforce God's laws. That rather than base laws solely on the Constitution, we should base laws on the Bible. We can find many examples of Christians stating that they want the United States governed by Biblical values.

Monday, March 25, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "The Time Travelers"

Quick Review: This emotional powerhouse is easily the best of the season.

Episode Synopsis: Futuristic doppelgängers of Barney and Ted try to persuade them to attend a Robots vs. Wrestlers competition. Meanwhile, Marshall and Robin engage in a dance-off. -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, and if there's ever a time you listen to me about spoilers, this is it. You don't want a future self to appear and warn you against getting spoiled. Trust me, that conversation can get pretty awkward, and it's never a good idea to get into an argument with your future self. You never know what kind of future gadgets they might bring back to the present, and that just won't be a fair fight. Plus, you might see that you've gone bald in the future, and that will probably just freak you out.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "The Fortress"

Quick Review: It begins with promise and ends with me being severely cross.

Episode Synopsis: Robin would like Barney to sell his bachelor pad so they can get a place of their own, but he is somewhat reluctant and goes to great lengths to sabotage any potential sale. Meanwhile, Lily's art-consultant position with the Captain impacts her relationship her husband. -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, so you might want to wait until you watch the episode before proceeding. Otherwise you will share the same bitter disappointment you felt when you discovered who had framed the chimney sweep or deliberately over-watered the plants. Things like that can only be learned once, and then it's stuck in your brain forever. You can try to get them out, but you won't like the side-effects.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Why We Need Frivolous Bad News

This was supposed to be a big week for the SimCity franchise. Instead, reports of the new installment's failed launch are burning across the internet. There are well over a thousand reviews on Amazon, most of them giving SimCity a one-star rating. It's all anyone can talk about, and it's become a huge PR nightmare for EA, the publisher. I have a feeling that this massive failure will be remembered for a very long time. Whether this becomes a failure on the scale of Atari's ET remains to be seen. While I doubt it will be that epic a failure, this is still pretty bad.

Why is this such a huge story? Is it because SimCity is such a cherished franchise? That could be part of it. Many of us grew up playing SimCity and other related Sim games. This franchise is almost as beloved as Super Mario Brothers, and people still play the older games in the series. To see a one-time giant fall is kind of a big deal.

There's also the fact that this failure is caused by a key new component of the game - you can only play the game with an active internet connection. If you can't connect to EA's servers, you can't play your game. Many gamers hated this idea, wanting the option to play offline and not have to depend on the often unreliable internet to get their SimCity Fix. They even brought this up to EA representatives and found themselves soundly ignored. So for some people, this is a heaping helping of "I told you so" mixed with Schadenfreude.

But I have another theory why this is becoming a huge news story. This is the kind of bad news that we need.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Star Wars and the True Gospel

Last year's surprise news that Disney bought Star Wars sent nerds to the internet in droves. Some loved the idea of new Star Wars movies, others denounced the move as a naked cash grab, and many more argued about whether Disney would even do the franchise justice. Those arguments haven't died down (nor will they ever, welcome to the internet) and they will only intensify when the movies actually premiere. So why all the fuss? After all, they're just movies.

Calm down, internet, I was being rhetorical.

Star Wars is more than just a series of movies. It is a cultural force that shaped the last few generations. Even if you've never seen the films, you've no doubt seen their impact. Star Wars is everywhere, influencing modern directors and filmmakers, scientists, and even politicians. Don't think churches haven't been influenced either, as countless pastors have used the saga's themes of good versus evil, sacrifice, and redemption in sermons.

Monday, February 25, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "Weekend at Barney's:

Quick Review: We finally got the fiery end we were promised.

Episode Synopsis: Barney's legendary relationship playbook, which Robin thought was destroyed, rears its head when Ted and Jeanette break up and Barney decides to use his chick manual to help Ted find a new girlfriend.  -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, and you might want to watch the episode before you go any further. Now, the consequences of being spoiled won't be too dire. No one is coming to your house to do unspeakable things in your drawers, now will they blow up your possessions with fireworks. But you might want to watch this episode first. It's just common sense.

Monday, February 18, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "The Ashtray"

Quick Review: I think the writers had one too many sandwiches.

Episode Synopsis: Ted gets a weird and surprising call from the Captain, which launches the gang into a series of recollections about the last perplexing encounter they had with him. -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, so perhaps you might want to watch the episode first, lest you be spoiled. Why am I so insistent upon giving you a spoiler warning? Because in the days of pirates, giving away the ending to a story without so much as an "Avast, here be a spoiler warning!" would earn you a quick trip to Davy Jones' Locker. Keel hauling might play a part, and that's a nasty way to go. Let this be a warning to any of you who go around spoiling without warnings. When you least expect it, you'll see a black flag on the horizon, and your doom approaches.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

This Relationship Corner: It Won't be Perfect

I'm writing this on Valentine's Day, but this column could be about any special day the two of you celebrate. It could be about your anniversary or birthday, a special vacation or a quiet evening together. It could be about an event you've planned for months, if not years, or something you throw together at the last minute. No matter what the occasion, you need to understand one thing: it's not going to be perfect.

The word "perfect" is the ruiner of relationships. I've written before about the misguided belief in "soul-mates," as it causes you to abandon relationships at the first sign of trouble because you believe that when you meet "the one" you'll never have problems. Just as dangerous a belief is that your special moments must be blemish-free, that when you leave behind the worries of the world, you will enter a private paradise.

Monday, February 11, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "Bad Crazy"

Quick Review: This show is getting exhausting.

Episode Synopsis: Ted is gun-shy about breaking up with his wacky new girlfriend. Meanwhile, Robin finally breaks down and holds baby Marvin, and finds herself becoming incredibly attached to the little guy. -tvguide

Spoiler alert, but really, why bother? Last week, sure, you wanted to be kept spoiler free. This week, I don't know. Yeah, there's a couple of surprises. One that's kind of good, so yeah, you might regret knowing it. Even seventeen years later, you might not exactly be happy with being spoiled on it. Oh, sure, you think that in seventeen years you'll probably get over it, especially with all that wine. You might be right. You might also be an alcoholic, which after seventeen years will do a number on your liver. Hopefully by then we'll be really good at growing new ones. Otherwise, you're going to regret drinking wine for seventeen years to forget. So even this week, you might not want to be spoiled. Your future liver thanks you.

Monday, February 4, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "P.S. I Love You."

Quick Review: Robin Sparkles is back! What more do you need?

Episode Synopsis: Barney discovers a lost episode of a behind-the-music show that features Canadian teen singing sensation Robin Sparkles (aka Robin), and includes a new video and another intriguing revelation from her past. Meanwhile, Marshall and Lily suspect that Ted's new girlfriend is a stalker.  -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, so you might just want to watch the episode first before you proceed. If you get spoiled on this episode, you might go into a dark place. A very dark place. And then you'll start wearing flannel, dye your hair black, and wind up with a Canadian restraining order, which is like an American restraining order but it's a bit more polite, measured in meters, and it comes with a donut. Because it can be rough getting that restraining order, and they're really sorry to have to do it to you, so they give you a donut so you'll feel better. So hey, no hard feelings. Enjoy the donut, and maybe take in a hockey game while you're there.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

This Open Letter to Superbowl Commercials

Dear Superbowl Commercials,

Thank you for giving me a reason to actually pay attention to sports once a year. I know, sports are an integral part of the American fabric; mom, apple pie, and baseball representing the crucial trifecta of family, good food, and sports. It's a part of America, and there is no non-religious day bigger in America than the Superbowl. (And depending on where you go to church, they make just as big a deal about Super-Sunday as they do Christmas and possibly Easter.) It's a big deal.

One that I really have no interest in. I can barely remember who's playing, and unless my hometown team is in the game, I really don't care all that much. (If they had made it, this would be a very different column.) However, despite the fact that I have no skin in the game, so to speak, I do feel an obligation to pay a little attention to this annual American tradition. And that's why I'm thankful for you commercials.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How I Got Over Myself and Learned to Love Community

Confession time. I didn't like Community when it premiered. Not because it wasn't a good show, it's quality was never an issue with me, but because I actually teach at a community college. This show was invading my home turf, and I didn't appreciate it. Just from the promos alone, I knew I would hate it and spend all my time pointing out to whoever would listen that "real" community colleges aren't like that at all. (I can be insufferable like that.) So rather than waste my time with an inaccurate portrayal of my workplace, I smugly ignored it.

Some of you want to smack me through the internet, don't you? Don't fret, I did not remain in the Darkest Timeline.

After some soul searching and introspection (and one of my favorite shows referencing it in their opening titles) I realized that I may have been mistaken about Community. Perhaps my pride got in the way and I dismissed what would have been a fun television experience because they didn't get it "right." I decided to borrow the first season from the public library (thanks, taxpayers) and watch an episode that everyone was talking about: Modern Warfare, the legendary paintball episode. If I liked it, then I might like the show.

Twenty-two minutes later I was a diehard fan.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

There's Never A Final Showdown

The evil Empire has a space station that can destroy planets. The Joker is about to poison Gotham City's water supply. The Dark Lord's armies are about to crush the Muggles. Things are bad, and all seems lost for our heroes. But just as the darkness is about to close in, a hero will rise and face down this evil. The hero and villain have a final showdown, and in the end, everyone is saved.

It's the same story since Beowulf. A great evil plagues the land and we need a hero to stop it. That's the appeal of the Hero's Quest, from Star Wars, Batman, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, quite a few fairy tales, and every other epic adventure. We love it for several reasons, not the least of which is we identify with the hero, imagining ourselves as the most important person in the realm, if not the galaxy, because we're the ones who vanquish evil forever. All it takes is a few good moves with a sword, wand, or light saber, and the day is saved.

That's the other draw. How does the fairy tale end? "And they lived happily ever after." In these tales, all the troubles in the land are caused by this one supreme evil. When that dastardly villain is beaten, all is right with the world and there is peace and prosperity throughout the land. I can definitely see the appeal of these stories.

Monday, January 21, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "Ring Up"

Quick Review: It's like the series forgot that this is supposed to be a love story between a man and his future wife.

Episode Synopsis: Barney believes it would be in Ted's best interest to continue dating his much younger, much more uninhibited girlfriend, despite having very little in common with her. Meanwhile, Robin adjusts to the powerful dynamic of wearing an engagement ring. -tvguide

As usual, there are spoilers ahead, so you might want to watch the episode first. And, while you're at it, Lord of the Rings. It gets referenced quite a bit, and while the gag has been done before, it still works. Besides, if you haven't seen Lord of the Rings, you really should. You don't even need to see the extended editions, but if you can, you really should. There's so much more added to the story. Then, if you're feeling like it, watch the Star Wars trilogy again. Because why not. It's the Star Wars trilogy. And if you think I'm talking about the prequels, let me assure you, I'm not. I'm never talking about the prequels.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Why we need a Back to the Future remake


I know what you’re thinking. There are too many remakes already, don’t give Hollywood any more ideas. Normally, I agree, and I’d hate to see most of my beloved 80′s movies remade. To be fair, they did a good job with Footloose, but the less said about Red Dawn, the better.

Most of the time I’m ambivalent about remakes, but this is one case in which a remake is a good idea. I know, it sounds sacrilegious, but hear me out. This is not another case of Hollywood being out of ideas, it's Hollywood having a very good idea.

Besides, it’s not like we’ve never had good remakes before. Some of our most beloved movies are remakes. Ben Hur, Wizard of Oz, and The Muppet Christmas Carol are fantastic remakes of previous films.

Each was more than just a cynical cash grab; it was either an improvement over the previous version, or it added something new the original lacked. That’s the key to a proper remake: there’s a good reason for it, and Back to the Future has a very, very good reason for being remade.

Monday, January 14, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "Band or DJ?"

Quick Review: For better or worse, it all ends in four months.

Episode Synopsis: Despite having already popped the question, Robin insists that Barney seek her father's permission before the couple can announce their engagement. Meanwhile, a conflicted Ted throws himself into the planning of the their wedding. -tvguide 

Spoilers ahead, and I'm not kidding around. You not only want to watch this episode before reading my review, you'll want to have watched the entire series up to this point, because I'm bringing the spoilers. That's right, there's a spoiler here, a spoiler there, it's like Oprah's Favorite Things and her favorite things are spoilers. You get a spoiler and you get a spoiler. That's why this isn't just red, it's bolded. That's how serious I am about warning you. I will spoil just about everything in the following writeup. Some things I might not have needed to spoil, but I did it anyway. That's how I roll, but at least I do you the courtesy of a warning. Other people would just let loose with the spoilers without warning you, but not me. I'm courteous. I spoil politely, as is proper in civilized society. In fact, I believe that even Miss Manners has attested to the need for spoiler alters in polite company. That's right, I just name-dropped Miss Manners. Deal with that.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

This Open Letter to the Spider in my Car

Dear spider in my car,

I won't ask how you got into my car. You are an engine of pure evil and hate, forged from my every nightmare, of course you'd get in there. I should be asking what took you so long to find me in one of my most vulnerable spots. It's the perfect place for an assassination attempt, which is why I presume you were there. I'm in traffic, belted to the seat, a literal captive audience. What about that setup isn't perfect for you?

Was it too easy? Did you find the lack of challenge boring? Because let me tell you, my terror was real. I pride myself on making sure that my face is not within four feet of any live spider. To see you crawling around on my visor was not what I expected when I flipped it down to shade my eyes. I was expecting to see better without the sun in my eyes. And I did. I saw all too clearly the terror that skitters on eight legs.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

This Relationship Corner: The Major Procedure

What's the difference between a minor and major surgical procedure? The major procedure is what happens to you. That's how I feel when I have to go to the doctor or when my wife has to endure anything medical at all. A while back she went in for an outpatient procedure at the hospital. She was in and out that day, but it was still pretty major in my book. Fortunately everything went as well as it could have, and she is feeling so much better now.

This is a moment that can be a proving ground for relationships. I've written before about caring for your significant when they are sick, but that's nothing compared to supporting them through a surgical procedure. If there is one big rule in relationships, one commandment that should be written in stone, it's that when surgery is involved, you first priority is your partner.