Monday, June 28, 2010

Master of My Automotive Destiny

Six months ago, I lost my car after being unemployed for awhile, and not being able to make the payments on the car. It wrecked what little of a social life I had, and re-established several habits that could have led me to revert to my previous status of hermit. My responsibilities didn't stop, though, so I had to keep moving, relying on friends, family, and public transportation to get around. What got to me the most was the loss of independence. I wasn't able to go where I wanted, when I wanted. And I become a burden on the people around me, and I couldn't do a damn thing about it.

This past Saturday, after much deliberation and research, I finally re-acquired a vehicle, a 2000 Ford Expedition XLT 4WD. I've dubbed her "Bianca".

I'm not one to buy into the propaganda the US tries to front load into its citizens, but there is a kernel of truth to the belief that a car represents freedom. Having a car gives you the ability to accomplish tasks on your own, without having to rely on anyone. Like any other form of freedom, there are costs that are inherent with a vehicle, but those costs are worth it.

Don't get me wrong, getting a car isn't the answer to all of life's problems. There isn't a single unilateral solution to the problems inherent to life, aside from death, of course. But, it does give you a chance to resolve a good portion of them. And it does allow for the deeper enjoyment of the pleasures of life.

For me, it means not being a burden on my friends & family. It means being able to go and visit friends, getting to & from work, and a lot less stress. At least for now.

I am proud to say that once again, I am master of my automotive destiny!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Thoughts On... Being the Eldest Child

Two things inspired this post. The first was a meltdown a family member of mine had recently. The second is an old comedy special, Bill Cosby's "Himself". In the comedy special, Cosby talks about parenting and children. Among all the anecdotes, he mentions the specialized roles each of his children has. The youngest is "The Baby", one of the middle children is "The Informer", etc.

While it was really funny, this familial phenomenon is nothing new. There have been tons of studies on the subject, especially the influence birth order has on a child's personality. Typically, the Eldest child is a caretaker, usually pressed into service in caring for the younger siblings by their parents. The Middle Child is a schemer, usually having to work around other siblings for any & all resources. The Youngest Child is the free spirit, usually not having to deal with strict rules due to parents experience with the older children.

One of my family members had her older brother fall on some hard times, and she's had to step into the role of caretaker for the past 5 months or so. Given her already hectic lifestyle, it's been a real trial for her as for the first time, she's had to give constant support with no workarounds, day in and day out. We spent a while talking while she vented her frustrations and cried out her stress. After that conversation, I couldn't help but go over the events in my life.

In my immediate family, I am the eldest child of three. And yes, I'm the caretaker. When my sisters are dealing with issues, they come to me. Whether it's about what shoes go better with their outfit, what did the guy mean when he said xyz, or what college is the best option, the process is the same. We sit & talk out the options, I help them clarify what they want and how the various options available may or may not help them get what they want. When they need to vent, I listen. It's like I'm the rock they come back to when they need to get away from the storms of their lives for awhile. The strange thing is, doing all this doesn't seem like a big deal, but after talking with said family member, I realized how big that job really is. And it's not just my immediate family, I do the same for extended family & friends.

Who'd have thought I'd have such an effect on people?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More Season Finales...

Here are some of the other season finales that I was too caught up in other stuff to write about when they actually finished. Thoughts and comments are welcome, as always.


There have been TONS of shows were the main source of ongoing dramatic tension is the sexual tension between the two leads. And almost ALL of them screw up that seemingly essential tension by either mishandling how the two leads get together (i.e. Moonlighting) or by NEVER getting the leads together (i.e. Bones, as of this post). So far, Castle has avoided most of the pitfalls of its predecessors and has handled the relationship between Castle & Beckett exceedingly well. Using believable delays grounded in the character flaws of each person, but keeping enough of those "spark" moments around that the tension never fades away.

The season 2 finale for Castle is another example of how deftly that tension is handled. For two seasons, we've watched Castle go from lustfully smitten to actually romantically interested in Beckett in small increments. At the same time, Beckett has increasingly warmed to Castle as her pre-conceived notions of the author that got her through her mother's death were replaced with the startlingly immature, yet endearing reality.

Now at the end of season 2, Beckett seemed ready to admit some type of attraction for Castle, and was undone by all the work she had put in denying the possibility of that attraction. Again, a completely believable delay. One, that has me wondering what the consequences are going to be for the relationship. I hope that Beckett gets a bit of the same frustration/pain that Castle felt as she watches Castle and the ex-wife together for a little while.

But, I also think that Castle & Beckett should get together in Season 3, either near the middle of the season (like just before the Christmas break) or towards the end of season 3. If done properly, it wouldn't hurt the show, it would ADD to the comedic madness as Beckett has to deal with entering deeper into Castle's semi-upper class world, while Castle has to deal with the real possibility of Beckett possibly dying in the line of duty. That plus the normal relationship issues, exacerbated by both of their larger than life personalities, could fuel the through the end of season 4!


While I LOVED the addition of Dr. Ray Langston to the CSI team, I never liked the "Dr. Jekyll" storyline, it always came across as a little writer's trick to get the audience to respond to Langston's character. He already had one serial killer in his back story, why not expand on THAT one? Why do you need to add ANOTHER one that just happens to kill with medical expertise, right when a medical doctor was added to CSI?

That's why I LOVED how this season ended. I loved the inclusion of the more interesting killer, and how he related to Langston. I'm dying to see how the next season unfolds!!

The Mentalist

The most compelling part of this finale was Red John. And he was in the episode for like a minute and a half. As much as I enjoyed Patrick Jane's games, I was looking forward to seeing Red John take glorious retribution upon those who would defile his work.

My hope for the next season is that they either introduce a NEW serial killer for the season, or spend MORE time on Red John. Enough of this filler stuff. Let's get to some real challenges!


After six seasons, House and Cuddy get together, and frankly, I'm not sure that I like that. Aside from the way it was written, which made it seem more like an afterthought to the ep, I'm of the opinion that Cuddy isn't a good match for House. I'm not denying that there is chemistry between them, but House's personality can too easily overwhelm Cuddy. It's happened so often on the show, it's become part of the formula of the show.

In season 2, when House's ex, Stacy, was on the show, things worked between them, because she could return fire and put him back in his place. At times, she could do it effortlessly, other times it was more problematic for her, but she was ALWAYS able to do that. She was always capable of matching House's strength of personality.

To date, Cuddy hasn't come anywhere close to doing being able to match wits, or even attitude with House which makes this ending feel more like Cuddy giving in to what House wants again, than her actually having any feelings for him. I know, I know the events of the episode are, in fact, the reverse, but them being together still didn't work.

It seems like the producers of the show are trying to make House a nicer, more relatable person. That scene with House and the psychologist and the "I want to be happy!!" is a harbinger of that. So is House and Cuddy getting together. I hope that next season will not see House upbeat & happy, but I'm not so sure that it won't.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My Metroid is Back & Better Than EVER!!!

Two days ago, I wrote a post that was essentially geek fanboy gushing about my favorite game series ever, Metroid. Now, I wake up from my self induced coma and am reminded that the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3 to those in the know) is in full swing. After that initial stab of pain of not being able to ATTEND the damn thing subsided, I got smacked in the face with a couple of pieces of news. First, the rumors of a new Metroid game ARE TRUE!! The second:

Metroid: Other M comes out THIS SUMMER!!

I went to the Metroid site and watched the intro teaser, and it was good. Then I watched the gameplay movie. And my jaw hit the floor!! MY Metroid is back!! Side Scrolling deliciousness!!

There's going to be occasional first person views to find items and other such fine, detailed tasks. But, Metroid is BACK!!! YEAH!!! The only problem is that now I have to buy a Nintendo Wii. I have to own a game system with such a RIDICULOUS name!! Why couldn't they have kept the Nintendo Revolution name! Why do you do this to me Nintendo? WHY???


Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!!! Now, for the hardest part, the waiting...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Alpha... Mike.. FOXTROT!

I grew up watching The A-Team. Like most young boys at the time, it didn't matter to me that the bad guys didn't die, or that no one on the show could hit the broad side of a barn. The show was nothing more than an action based military comedy. Kind of like Lethal Weapon, only with former soldiers. I have no illusions as to the artistic merit of the show, but I LOVED IT!! And when I heard that Hollywood was going to make a movie, I was psyched!!

Within the first few minutes of the movie, I knew they had nailed it. They got the characters pitch perfect and yet managed to update and modernize every single one of them. If I hadn't seen it myself, I would never have believed it.

First let's talk about the casting. It's been my curious experience that most bands of insane people tend to have a mostly normal leader. In my mind, that makes the leader the most scary of the bunch since all these insane people cede their allegiances to the NORMAL ONE! So, how crazy is THAT person? Nowhere is this more true than in The A-Team. As wacked out as Face, H.M. Murdock, and B.A. Baracus are, they don't come CLOSE to touching the level of crazy that lives in the mind of Hannibal. And he was the one part of this movie, I had the most qualms about. George Peppard managed to create a person who commanded respect & loyalty, and at the same time could believably relish being vicious and outwitting any & all would-be challengers. It's a tricky role to play in any genre, but in an action comedy it's all too easy to make Hannibal overly campy. I have no doubt in Liam Neeson's acting ability, but no amount of good acting can completely overcome bad writing. Thankfully, Liam got Hannibal down effortlessly. With one line, he summed up not only his talents, but those of the rest of the team as well.

"Give me a minute, I'm good. An hour, I'm great. Give me six months, and I'm unbeatable!"

Bradley Cooper as Face was an inspired choice. After watching "The Hangover" (Cooper's audition for the role), I knew he wasn't the best choice, he was THE ONLY CHOICE for the role. Cooper nailed that mix of boyish innocence, macho charm, and military capability like he was born to it. The scene with him in a bathrobe in prison was priceless!!

I first saw Sharlto Copley in District 9. I was impressed with his acting ability in that film. He showcased a HUGE array of emotions through that performance. But that movie gave NO indication at all how awesome he would be as Murdock. The scene that nailed it for me was when he was hanging off of the helicopter blades singing "Spin Me Round". After that, he was Murdock. Plain and simple.

And then there's Rampage Jackson. The one role that is the easiest to overplay is B.A. Baracus. Watching the show, it's easy to miss the real affection B.A. has for his fellow teammates, not to mention his mechanical genius. Jackson hit each one of those beats exceptionally well. Even the sub-plot of his switch to non-violence, played well.

As for the story of the movie, the plot covered the formation of the team, the crime they did not commit, the escape, and the aftermath of that decision. Fairly stock stuff, but "The A-Team" did it with style! I loved how they worked the original theme music for the tv show into the movie. I'm not going to ruin that for you, dear readers. When you watch the movie, you'll know what I'm talking about.

The other big thing about the movie that I liked was that it didn't take any potshots at our military forces. There was a scene near the beginning just after Face's "rescue" where he is at the height of being himself, when he finds out that B.A. is a fellow Army Ranger, the act fades away and he gives B.A. a simple, sincere, "Thank you". It was a small moment in the film but it was an awesome moment, simply because it showed the respect soldiers have for each other on an individual level. Sure, there are rivalries, but there's always respect.

The only other movie I have seen from this director was Smokin Aces, and I was surprised how much action Joe Carnahan could play out on the screen and NOT lose his audience at all. With The A-Team, Carnahan just displayed more of the same, giving a fantastic amount of action, yet managing to keep the balance and maintaining a solid thread of continuity that allows the audience to be amazed and thrilled without being overwhelmed by the action on screen.

Now, I can honestly say that I don't expect this movie to win any Oscars. I'm sure that the more technical critics out there could rip it apart, but given the source material, this was the greatest movie it could be without violating the tenets of what The A-Team is. A fun ride with good people and LOTS of explosions!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

ALL TIME FAVORITES - Game Series: Metroid

There has only been ONE series of video games that has never disappointed me. One series that has captivated me and augmented my reality since I first played it. That series was Metroid. The first time I played the original game on the NES, I had no idea how addicting it would be. I drew my own maps, I had dreams of being in the game. And if it weren't for school and chores, I would NEVER stop playing it.

Finding out that the main character was a girl didn't really stop me either. When I finally beat the game after weeks of obsession (I went so far as to draw my own maps!!), my reaction to the revelation of who was in the suit was simple: "Wow, COOL!!" I had no idea, at the time, how revolutionary that little 8bit animation was. Samus just became the first girl I ever related to. Then I started playing the game again. It wasn't until years later, that I realized Samus was one of the first female heroes in video gaming and to date, she remains a powerful role model for young girls everywhere.

But the game that sealed my love for the series was Super Metroid for the SNES. That game tapped into the obsession I had with the original from the moment I heard of it's existence, thanks to the commercial where the game turned a rowdy german shepard into a traumatized chihuahua. The day before it came out, my mother had gotten me the bazooka for the SNES. When I told her I wanted Super Metroid she said, "But I just bought you the gun. We can't buy another game." So, I made her return the SNES gun and buy Super Metroid. Never gave that gun a second thought. At one point while playing Super Metroid, I had EVERY SINGLE KID IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, staring through my windows or hanging in my living room watching me play, cheering me on and shouting out hints. I even created my first internet handle from the name of the boss I had the hardest time beating: Ridley.

This is how much I was into Metroid: I didn't buy the Nintendo64 because they never released a Metroid game for it. Neither Zelda or Mario was enough for me. I was waiting until Metroid got a game, and it never happened. The N64 got multiple Mario games, a plethora of Zelda games, yet for some reason, Samus didn't merit an appearance. Then the Gamecube was released and one of the first games scheduled to ship out within the first year was Metroid: Prime.

I have to admit, I was a bit concerned when Metroid went first person with the Prime games, but they handled it beautifully and about 30 seconds into the game, I was in love with the new format. They even worked the trademark Morph Ball of the Metroid series into the 3D prime games exceptionally well. Prime 2 rocked and the only reason I have to buy the new Nintendo console is to continue with the Metroid series. Unfortunately, I can't fund that at the moment, but someday I will.

I'm hoping that at some point, they'll make a movie or even better an ANIME of the Metroid series just to fully complete the arc! Until that day, I'll just keep my Gamecube running, waiting for the next time Samus is needed to put foot to Metroid/Space Pirate ass!!

On the seventh dawn of the seventh day...

"In 1564, Nostradamus predicted the destruction of Earth in three terrifying waves. The first wave is here. My name is Cade Foster, these are my journals. They killed my wife, framed me for murder. Now I run but I don't hide. With the prophecies of Nostradamus as my guide, I seek them. I hunt them. I will stop the First Wave."

Thus started one of the greatest shows the Sci-Fi channel ever aired: First Wave. The show is the story of Cade Foster (played by Sebastian Spence), an ex-thief who's life was turned upside when he was chosen at random to be a part of an alien race's experiment on humans. The point of the experiment was to judge how the strength of human will in the face of adversity, and ironically enough, the by-product of the experiment was the creation of the alien race's greatest enemy. For the rest of the series, Cade Foster travels around the US using clues hidden in a book of ancient prophesies, to find and shut down various alien experiments in an attempt to stop the invasion.

Now there are tons of alien invasion shows out there. There's even a remake of a the alien invasion classic, V, on the air now. So what makes "First Wave" stand out? There are a lot of reasons. Most alien invasion storylines lay out as a backstory that the aliens have spent years prior to the invasion studying humans, but few actually explore the experiments aspect of the story. It's interesting, on an anthropological level, to see what kind of experiments an alien intelligence would design to test the various aspects of human life.

I've stated in other postings on here, dear readers, that I enjoy the blending of genres. First Wave touches upon that with the air of mysticism that is added by the usage of Nostradamus and his prophecies. I loved the idea of magical explanations for scientific concepts. Stuff like "dispatches sent on birds with wings of lightning" translating to "email" and other such coolness was fun to hear.

Another awesome aspect of the show are the alien race themselves. They're called the Gua, and they present an interesting and multi-faceted enemy. Living in genetically engineered human husks, their society seems monolithic at first, but over the course of the show, you find that the Gua are almost as fractured as we are. Some of them are overwhelmed by the various pleasures of humanity: sex (the Gua reproductive act is painful to them, unlike ours), drugs (salt is like crack to the aliens), and ego (as a totalitarian culture, some of the aliens get drunk on the power of having human followers).

Plus, as a cool side note, the third season had an unexpected bonus: the addition of a new cast member: Traci Elizabeth Lords. She played Jordan Radcliffe, the leader of a militia called the Raven Nation, dedicated to hunting down and killing the Gua. This role gave Traci Lords some much needed credibility, and she nailed it!

First Wave was a fantastic show, and it came up at the height of the SciFi Channel's popularity with me, which was during the late 90s. One of the greatest travesties of the SciFi Channel's career is that this series has not been released on DVD. I'd recommend watching it, if you can find the show. It's most definitely a good time!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Glee Season 1

First off, yes, it's true. I watch Glee. I'd say about 90% of my interest in the show is the music. And that's after a season of watching the show. Call it a guilty pleasure, that I don't particularly feel all that guilty about.

I just finished watching the season finale of Glee and I have to say, I'm underwhelmed. Over the course of the season, I've let the show slide on a great many things, but there are certain areas where I draw the line. First off, that kid who plays Jesse REALLY needs to stop singing Queen songs. While he's technically proficient, the kid doesn't have any emotion to his singing. What should be a tour de force performance comes off as nothing more than a hollow copy, and to Bohemian Rhapsody, no less! I mean that's Queen's SIGNATURE song! I know that no one can replace Freddie Mercury, but a singer can at least TRY to sing with the emotional content the man put in his music. Music is not just about hitting notes, people. As a side note, syncing the last part of Bohemian Rhapsody with Quinn's birth was creepy. Brilliantly creative, but creepy.

Secondly, what's with the surprise shift in Sue Silvester? The last ep she comes back from being emotionally toyed with by Schuester, and now she's suddenly soft on Glee club? I'm sorry, but that's just too large a shift. I knew she was softening to them, it's been shown over the course of this season, but it's been a slow burn, and I LIKED that. Had this shift come in the middle or end of season 2, it would have been more believable. And then at the moment of her victory, to relent and allow the club another year? That's WAY TOO MUCH! It would have been better if they had kept to their guns and let Glee die out, and then in the beginning of season 2 find some loophole or manipulation to resurrect the choir. They could have even parodied a bit from Mission:Impossible where Schuester picks the Glee club members out of whatever drudgery they dealing with in class to get back into the choir.

As an alternate choice, they could have simply had the choir place second in Regionals, which would have placed the writers in an interesting position. They could have the choir join forces with Vocal Adrenaline against some other choir at Nationals, or have the choir redouble their efforts to beat VA in next year's Regionals. As it stands now, the choir goes on for another year, presumably under the same deal that they have to place at Regionals, and their main adversary is revealed to be a decent, caring person. Not exactly the stuff of great cliff hangers.

Overall, the first season of Glee was okay. There were the typical first season mistakes as they figured out what the characters could do, and how they should interact with each other as people. There was a steady increase in the ambitiousness of the musical numbers, and they managed to find, by the second half of the season, two key balances: the balance between music & story, AND the balance between current music & standard choir music. Speaking of which, they tapped on some great music. Their rendition of Gold Digger was great, I LOVED their version of "Imagine", but that's a song that's so great it's exceptionally difficult to screw up. The Madonna episode on the whole was good, as was their version of P-Funk's "Give Up The Funk". Their single greatest number however, was Safety Dance. No other number topped that. Which is ironic, considering that the song did NOT include the series' two main vocalists!

Predictions for season 2 of Glee:
-- A Micheal Jackson episode: The man has been in the music industry since he was like 5 years old. There should be a Glee tribute to him.

-- A Frank Sinatra/Rat Pack episode: The show did a very good job with "The Lady Is A Tramp" and I think they'd be able to handle what is essentially a show choir standard.

-- A 80's Music episode: They opened the door to this with the "Funk" episode. They've paid tributes to individual groups and artists, why not to a genre of music? Especially one that for some mysterious reason is so universally appealing.

-- A Classic Rock episode: In the "Theatricality" ep, Finn brings up the point that the choir seems to be lead by the decisions of the female members, and it seems to be true. A Classic Rock ep would be a fantastic equalizing force.

-- A "Weird Al" Yankovic episode: Personally, I think this would be fun. They already satire the whole "High School Musical" idea, why not pay tribute to the man who has been satirizing the music industry for at least 3 decades??

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


People, watch this!!!

All right, say it with me... OH MY GOD!!! I mean WOW! When I saw this my first thought was: IT'S ABOUT FUCKING TIME!!! I've been waiting for Mortal Kombat to get a treatment like this since they screwed up the first movie. Seeing quality actors playing these roles finally gives the proper strength to the story. Granted the story is a departure from the games, but it's being treated like a serious movie.

Now, I have to say upfront that I've never been a huge fan of the Mortal Kombat games. My natural inclinations led me towards the Street Fighter 2 side of fighting games. But, I've always said that the story of Mortal Kombat was much more compelling than the Street Fighter series. That's what makes the Mortal Kombat movies and tv shows better than the same fare from SF. But the biggest drawbacks to the MK movies is that they never took the story seriously. There was always a tongue-in-cheek aspect to the films that betrayed the power of the events unfolding on screen.

Watching this trailer (yes this is a REAL trailer, here's the info from IMDB), was nothing short of a revelation. I mean seriously, who ELSE could play Jax but Michael Jai White? The man is one of the most bad ass actors in Hollywood. It's a shame that he doesn't get the props he deserves. And if you want to see his fighting on film check out Blood And Bone. The real surprise was Jeri Ryan as Sonya Blade. Ms. Ryan has established herself as one of the powerhouse actresses of modern day Hollywood, and just her reciting lines gives more power to Sonya than has been afforded the character in any movie. And Ian Anthony Dale as Scorpion, well, after seeing the trailer, I don't have to say anything else.

Now, about the story. From what can be gleaned from this trailer, it looks like a mix between Se7en, Saw, and the original MK storyline. I find the modifications intriguing. They certainly lend a greater realism to the trailer which, in this day and age, is a very good thing. The only bad thing I can see from this is that there isn't MORE of it.

Unfortunately, it looks like the movie is slated for a 2013 release, so we're gonna have a LONG wait ahead of us. In the meantime, dear readers, warm up your game systems and get ready...


Monday, June 7, 2010

Lie To Me... Again...

Tonight, a show I thought had gone the way of the dodo bird, returned to the air. The show is called "Lie To Me". It's about an agency that specializes in deception detection, or how to spot lies, and their efforts assisting law enforcement & other government agencies in exposing the truth. Based on the actual scientific discoveries of Paul Ekman, the premise of the show is that whenever a human being lies, the body unconsciously signals that lie. If you can read the signals, you can tell if someone's lying or not.

Tonight's ep was the one episode I was TRULY hoping they would make. I've always wondered how the science they use in the show would work against a psychopath. You know, a dyed-in-the-wool killer. Given the nature of the show, the endgame of each ep can be fairly predictable, but the journey there usually holds one or two surprise turns for me. This ep was no different. I knew that Lightman (main character of the show, played by Tim Roth) would be running game, and that the hammer would most likely fall on him, but to take the game to the point of withstanding torture... It was an amazing thing to see.

In reading on the inevitable buzz about Lie To Me's return, I did see a remarkable amount of comparisons to "The Mentalist". While I do like "The Mentalist", I think it's unfair to compare the two programs. The basis of "Lie To Me" is the detection of lies through small unconscious body gestures. The signals that contradict what the person is saying. It's about dichotomy between the body and the mind, and figuring out what the biology says about our psychology. That study and interpretation is what makes episodes like the one tonight so intriguing. It's an example of scientific inquiry into a mind that is, for lack of a better term, an aberration. "The Mentalist" is more focussed on law enforcement using unorthodox tactics, like Lethal Weapon, where "Lie To Me" is more about cutting edge behavioral science proving to be useful for law enforcement, like cutting edge mathematics was useful in the show "Numb3rs".

If you haven't watched the show, dear readers, please tune in and check out "Lie To Me", it airs Mondays on FOX. It'll be a good time

Favorite Games: Prince of Persia - The Sands Of Time

In 2004, I was on the verge of dropping video gaming forever. It seemed to me that every game out was either some new variation of a sports game based on the fact that it's a new year and everything was different based SOLELY on that fact, or some variation of the first person shooter where the point was to kill everything you saw and move to the next room to do the same thing. No one seemed interested in compelling stories, or any type of creative product anymore. Originality in gaming was dying for me. Then I saw a commercial for the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time for the PS2.

I was a big fan of the original PC game. I burned a good deal of my youth in front of my public library's computer playing Prince of Persia. I liked the control scheme, the story, and the exotic graphics that reminded me of a world that I'd never seen before. When I heard about the new version, I decided to check it out in depth. Everything I learned just built up the game in my mind. When I finally got to play the game, it was a revelation! It was an example of the best kind of remake. One that takes the spirit of the original and re-expresses it with modern sensibilities while at the same time, extending the original concepts into brand new areas that weren't technologically available in the past while keeping the original style. For example, in the original version of the game, the prince had the ability to hang and/or drop off of ledges as well as being able to pull himself up. In PoP:sands of Time, they kept that, but rather than just have it be a quirk of the game, they used it as an essential skill needed to pass certain sections. Plus, why limit it to just ledges? He could hang off of poles, ropes, etc.

But the single most impressive point of the game was the reason WHY the Prince was in trouble this time. Being young & brash, he screws up royally causing the release of the Sands of Time and the consequent destruction of the kingdom of a friend. Now, he has to FIX that mistake. There are tons of stories of heroic people or soldiers fighting to save loved ones or their world, even more of people DESTINED to participate in events, or being ordered to participate by some higher power. But there are exceedingly FEW stories in video games of the "hero" screwing up and getting tons of people killed and working to fix that mistake. In fact, the only other game I can think of with that kind of storyline is the PC game Thief. (The main "hero" steals an object for a client, only to find out later that the client was the Devil and the item was the last piece he needed to open a door to hell. So the Thief decides to steal the item back and close the door to hell.)

And seemingly in response to the "gotta kill them all" attitude of the time, PoP:Sands added a puzzle concept. To continue not only do you have to kill everyone in the room, but after you're done with that, you ALSO have to figure out EXACTLY HOW to get OUT of the room!

I loved it!! The only downside was the final boss battle wasn't to the same level as the rest of the game. After such an amazingly difficult journey, I was expecting a mind-bendingly extreme fight with the final boss, instead it was just a couple of hits and it was over. Given that the final boss was an old man, I can understand why they did it, I just wish it had been more difficult. But overall, Prince of Persia:The Sands of Time has become one of my favorite games ever. And it single handedly saved my interest in video gaming in general.

Thoughts On... Weight Loss (updated essay)

To be completely honest, I've never really given much thought to weight loss. Despite spending twenty or so years overweight, I never had a problem with my weight. Which is not to say that I haven't been conned into some half assed weight loss attempts, because I have. But, I've never really been obsessed about it. I've just never really cared. The thinking behind that being that I am an odd person. Anyone who spends more than sixty seconds talking to me will agree. I act oddly, think oddly, and enjoy odd things. So why shouldn't I look odd as well? It's a logical extension of who I am. Over the course of my life, I have learned a great many things about myself, and others. I have gathered facts & figures, ideas, beliefs, theories, and opinions, but at no point did any of that register in such a way where I saw my weight as a problem. My weight has made romantic relationships problematic. (How's that for understatement?) But, most of my interests are solitary in nature and I've always been more comfortable alone than with people. In this case, my weight has HELPED me achieve the lifestyle most conducive to my satisfaction.

Most of my interests are sedentary in nature. Reading, writing, watching tv & movies, coding software, and listening to music can all be done sitting down and in solitude. I'm not interested in things like hiking, skiing, camping, or sports. From that perspective, my weight has no impact on the activities that hold my interest and make my life worth living. And since I work as a software developer, it has no impact on my ability to earn a living. Now there are certain physical activities that are necessary for human survival: walking around, climbing stairs, etc. My weight slows me down in doing those activities. But, that only allows me to more fully enjoy the journey to my destination, instead of being caught up in the rush of day-to-day society. I mean, seriously, when was the last time you stopped and took a nice slow walk and actually LOOKED AROUND, as opposed to just speeding to whatever destination? Again, my weight has helped me here, since I have the time to appreciate the things around me and ENJOY life.

With all these benefits, why should I consider my weight a problem? Because society says so? The same society thought parachute pants were a great form of fashion and currently think American Idol & Survivor are not only quality television programming, but also captivating subject matter? I should listen to these people? Please. Actually, that's not fair. There are some good things about this society. It's a major accomplishment for a society to have convinced its members that to be happy they have to be attractive, despite all evidence to the contrary. Look at Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. I refuse to use that $()#* fusion of their names. It's degrading to the English language and since we regard names as a tag to our individuality (Otherwise, why have unique names?), it's also an insult to them as people. They are widely regarded as one of the most, if not THE most, attractive couples in this country. Plus, they're extremely wealthy. And their attractiveness makes them so happy they live behind lock and key with a small city of people to support them. And they adopt most of their children because if Angelina has too many naturally, she won't keep the look she has now. And if she looses her look, who knows if she'll still be attractive enough to be happy or profitable?

So, you have to be attractive to be happy. And you can't be overweight and be attractive in this country (despite the examples of Jennifer Hudson, or Mia Tyler), therefore the logical conclusion is you can't be overweight and happy, which has led to larger and larger numbers of people getting eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia. And being the good little capitalists we are, we followed the example set forth by the Tobacco companies and spawned an entire industry of products, pills, plans, and diets (to tobacco's spittoons, lighters, and ashtrays) to not only feed and refine this belief, but also to perpetuate it to future generations! Take that commies! Not only will we get healthier, but we'll make TONS OF MONEY doing it! To tell the truth, in the true American way, the dieting industry pushed the example further and have succeeded where the tobacco companies failed: TV. How many versions of "The Biggest Loser" and "Celebrity Fit Club" are out there? Where tobacco is banned from TV. I can just see the head honchos smiling in pride as their bastard child, the diet industry, exceeds their example with flying colors.

Being a logical person, however, I can't deny the actual, medical facts that all point to the fact that being "morbidly obese" is detrimental. What the best weight is to be healthy is something of a moving target, but there is NOT ONE SINGLE IOTA OF DOUBT that being overweight is bad for health. I mean they don't call it "morbid" for fun, folks. And in the initial version of this essay, I was all hyped up about fighting the battle on weight loss. But it's not a simple, single fight. It's a long drawn out war. And of all the stuff, I was doing during that last attempt, the smallest changes are the ones that have stuck with me.

For those of you that are truly, and honestly concerned about my life, I fully appreciate your concern. And, I thank you for caring about me that much. I'm walking the path to being healthy. Just allow me to do it at my own pace. True, lasting change takes time.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

25 Things About Me.

A blog I follow, The Musings Of A Wannabe Star had a post recently called 25 Things... where the author posted 25 facts about herself. I did one of those a while ago on FaceBook, and given the reminder, decided to post an updated list here. Here we go:

01) I was born & lived in NYC for the first 8 years of my life. This makes me forever a New Yorker, and forever yearn to live there again.

02) As of right now, I am the only member of my family to attain a college degree.

03) Science Fiction. Fantasy. These are TWO SEPARATE genres, people.

04) Due to the strength of my powers of analysis, a good portion of my friends come to me for dating/relationship advice, despite my EXTREME lack of success in the dating world.

05) My favorite season is the fall. The heat of summer mitigated by the incoming cold of winter and highlighted by the changing colors of leaves, makes autumn the most appealing of all the seasons.

06) I have always been intrigued by the blending of apparent opposites. Take science and magic. How many interesting things can come about from mixing the two? For example: fighting a dragon with an Apache helicopter.

07) Everything in the universe is systematic, with internal rules and logic. This makes science's goal of being able to explain everything within the universe possible, but we're NOWHERE NEAR there yet.

08) I consider myself a scientific, logical person. But I believe in magic.

09) Having your own form of transportation increases your independence greatly.

10) When I was little, I thought my life would end when I became 10. There was something about being double digits old that seemed ominous.

11) As far back as I can remember, I have found villians much more interesting than heroes. Heroes were always so cookie-cutter and robotic, where the villians they faced were so much more vibrant and alive.

12) The single, scariest image I have ever encountered came from the movie "The Devil's Advocate". The image? New York City in broad daylight... completely devoid of people.

13) Given the opportunity, I would NEVER kill Hitler. The world gained too much experience and humanity so much nobility from what Hitler started to have that erased by never having Hitler come to power.

14) I believe the human capacity for violence is a necessary trait that should never be lost. There are things worth fighting for. There are things worth dying for. And we should never lose the ability fight and die for the causes in which we believe.

15) I respect any & all members of my country's armed forces. The sacrifices they make on my behalf is extremely humbling. That's why I feel I can poke fun at them. Why waste my time creating jokes about people I don't care about?

16) I believe the best way to know yourself is to question your assumptions and beliefs. Socrates said, "An unexamined life is not worth living". And I completely agree.

17) I have had my house robbed six times and have been mugged once. Yet, I never once regretted losing what was taken. I believe my own survival is more important than any of my material possesions.

18) My favorite quote of all time is: "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." - Voltaire (although there is some debate on who said it)

19) The first time I ever drank beer, I was 9. One of my family members gave me half a bottle of Heineken to drink. It knocked me out for the rest of the day. This was my first experience with chemical babysitting.

20) I do not believe that recreational drugs expand your mind, consciousness or perception.

21) I believe in God, but not in religion.

22) If someone really loves you, they love all of you. The good and the bad, with no need to change you.

23) It is possible to predict anything, including the future, IF you are given enough information and INTERPRET THAT INFORMATION CORRECTLY.

24) Despite my complete and total dislike for 95% of my family, I still enjoy the idea of having my own family.

25) I am grateful for the life I have led up to this point. It has granted me the abilities I have, the people I care about, and the strength to persevere in these trying times. Regrets I have aplenty, but I love my life because it made me the man I am. And I like that man.

Thoughts On... Video Games

My relationship with video games has become somewhat tenuous. It seems that all the things that have become popular don't appeal to me. I guess growing up during the resurgence of the video game industry in the mid-80s kind of defined the frame of reference I have for gaming, which affects how I react to the latest generation of video games.

Graphics do NOT impress me. I grew up with 8/16 bit games. Games that are STILL legendary today, and their fame has NOTHING to do with their graphics.

Difficulty is important. Most games today tend to be obvious/dumbed-down. There's no difficulty in gameplay, so the challenge becomes getting a bunch of awards or achievements. I don't care if I unlock the "X" costume for "Y" character. I care about finishing the game. If I can beat the game with little or no effort, then it's just a waste of time. I remember playing Gradius III for the SNES, which ironically was an easier version of the arcade game since Konami WANTED you to finish the game at home, and having my sister walk in during one of the levels and she gasped in surprise to see me fly my spaceship through what looked like an impenetrable wall of bullets and lasers. It took me days of trial and error to find the exact path to take, but once I figured out how to do it, I felt like I had earned something! After a series of levels like that, when I finally beat the game, THAT was the accomplishment that made it worth playing the game.

Story is MOST important. Every game I enjoy has a story that appeals to me. From Super Mario Bros. to Prince of Persia:Sands of Time, from Gradius to Metroid:Prime. If I don't care about WHY the character is going through the events of the game, I won't care to play. From the simple, primal story of Super Mario Bros., to the more complex story of the PoP:Sands Of Time, you care WHY these people are doing what they're doing.

The latest generation of games seem to be focussed on bigger and better graphics and not on anything else. It's deeply discouraging. To be completely honest, I constantly ask myself why I don't just drop video gaming entirely.

The answer is that every once in awhile, there comes a game or a game series that redeems the industry. The last one in recent memory for me is the Prince of Persia Series on the PS2.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Immediate Goals

1) Get a car
I've found a couple places that have Durangos for sale. Once I get the first Pinpoint Global paycheck (and possibly the last Single Digits paycheck), I'll try those places to see if I can get a Durango again. The idea being that I can get a car if I have the cash in hand. This is kind of dangerous given the limited time nature of the Pinpoint Global job, but I HAVE to try. If that fails, my best option is to go through CraigsList to get the car and work on rebuilding my credit to get the Durango again.

2) Get certified in C#.NET (MCPD)
There really isn't any downside to this. If the Pinpoint Global contract doesn't translate to a permanent position (a very real possibility), having this certification increases my marketability and enables me to get another job MUCH MUCH faster! If Pinpoint Global does become permanent (also a very real possibility), then I get more skills under my belt to strengthen my case for switching to a code development position with them!

3) Get a cheaper apartment
This particular goal is a bit more complicated. The point is to save SOME amount of money in rent since I don't really need to spend over $1K/month for an apt that I only use 30% of the space. What makes this complicated is WHERE the new apartment should be. The way I see it, I have four options.

--A: Stay in Manchester. Personally, I don't really have any attachment to Manchester. There's nothing for me to do here, but I have been here for the better part of a year and I've gotten used to it. This town is too far from every thing and everyone I know. Not necessarily a bad thing, but there are NO MOVIE THEATERS here! I have to go to one of the surrounding towns to watch a movie. But there's TONS of bars! How civilized is that??

--B: Move to Nashua. The only real benefit here is if the Pinpoint Global job becomes permanent. I'll be minutes away from work. (Provided I have a car.) This is basically a new town where I don't know anyone and I'd have to build a social network all over again.

--C: Move to Salem,NH. Here, I get the benefit of being in NH, yet I'm still close enough to Methuen/Lawrence/Haverhill area to do the things that I enjoy: movies, karaoke, visit friends. But there's no real guarantee of a cheap place there, and if Pinpoint becomes permanent, it's tricky to get to and from Nashua from Salem.

--D: Move to Methuen/Lawrence/Haverhill. This is kind of the same as Salem, NH only with Mass state taxes added on top. But, I do get a bit closer to Boston for the purposes of better IT job accessibility. And again, one must consider the possibility that Pinpoint Global might become a permanent position.

A variation on this would be to get another roommate to help with the rent. In which case, I could stay in the apartment I have now and STILL save some money.

Those are my immediate goals. By the end of the year, I will have accomplished ALL of them!

New Month, New Job

I have a confession to make, my dear readers, I have been keeping something from you. I didn't want to jinx it, and I also didn't want to make a big deal of it during the final two weeks at my last job. Plus, there was the end of 24 which hit me in a big way. So, it wasn't anything DELIBERATE per se, but a combination of a desire for discretion and being overwhelmed with other things.

Here's the story:
While I was working at SD, I kept up my job search. I mean I was happy to have a job again, end user support isn't my ideal job, and my paycheck wasn't covering what I needed to cover. I applied to a bunch of places, registered with a couple of headhunting/staffing firms, waited, and then started again.

Time passed, I got better at end user support. I made some friends (which I intend to KEEP, by the way) and things got more bearable. Then about 2 and a half weeks ago, I got a call from one of the staffing firms talking about an opportunity with a small company called Pinpoint Global. I got the call on a Thursday. The interview was set for the next Monday morning. By that afternoon, I had the job and I gave my two weeks notice.

I didn't make a big deal about my leaving SD. I told people that needed to know, and a couple of other people. Then it was all about surviving the next two weeks. Man, that was torture. It's different working at job you don't like when you can't get out, but knowing you're going to leave, and still having to work there is an excruciating experience. Try it sometime if you don't believe me. I wouldn't have made it if it weren't for the friends I made there. To all of you, and you all know who you are: From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

And that concludes the sappiness section of this post. Here are the pertinent details:

Company name : Pinpoint Global
Job Title: Customer Helpdesk
Job Type: Contract-To-Perm
Length of Contract: 3 months
Hours: First shift (9-5ish)
Pay: $20/hr

First impressions of PPG are positive. I like the space, the people are friendly, and I like the work laptop they set me up with! And for the first time in awhile, I feel good. It won't last (never does) but I'm enjoying it while it's here. It's the start of a new month. I have a new job. Things are good.