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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Random Act Of Kindness Fail

People have been talking about doing random acts of kindness, so, I decided to lend myself to that cause. Unfortunately, it always ends in disaster.

Last Friday, while the events of Sandy Hook unfolded, I was out and about doing some shopping. I came across an old man in the Market District parking lot. He had just drove one of the motorized grocery carts to his car and I offered to take it back for him. He explained that I had to be seated and to pull the handle to get it to go.

So, begrudgingly, I sat down and made my way. I say begrudgingly because from the moment I sat down, I felt like a stereotype. “Oh, look, it’s a fat man on a motorized scooter. Such a shame.” Not to mention, the damn cart only went like half a mile an hour. As I pulled into the road and began crossing to the front of the store, people were passing me, walking slowly… I could feel the eyes of drivers stopped at the crossing, looking at my ridiculousness.

I decided this was silly and got up, attempting to roll the scooter to its destination under man power. Of course, the first instruction given to me by this man, who was probably now laughing all the way home at how bad he trolled me, became forgotten. You have to be seated for it to move.

Crap. Now I’m wasting everybody’s time. So, I sat back down and tried to get the cart going. I went backwards. Then, I quickly corrected and putted along, head down, hand raised in the “My Bad” position.

The world is against me, I swear it.

Monday, December 17, 2012

2012 D-Bag Awards: Abridged

I was going to post an entry for the D-Bag awards sometime this week. Things have changed, though.

I had already compiled a list of all the nominations including entries from Sports (The Pirates, The NFL, The NHL, and Lance Armstrong), to celebrities like Chris Brown or Donald Trump.

Businesses featured prominently due to the cutting back of workers and benefits after the upholding of the ACA and/or gay marriage issues.

Politics was huge among the entries, and it was hard to keep them to four. There were so many d-bags eligible.  Everyone, from the Rape Republicans to the constant lying and misinformation during the campaigns, made it hard to choose a clear winner in that category.  The fiscal cliff issue alone should have been the winner just on principal.

The Hollywood or Entertainment bracket was going to be great thanks to NBC’s colossal fail at the Olympics or the release of Honey Boo Boo on TLC.  The vast amount of remakes and childhood mining for material in Hollywood added a tough competitor to the mix.

Lastly, the category with the most impact this year started to unfold. The Life category had the Christmas Creep, a new nominee competing against the likes of The Mayans and Mother Nature, because of the whole apocalypse and Hurricane Sandy business.   But when I started listing all of the names of people who died this year for the stats of Death, a perennial contender, I found that it was clear where I needed to lay the award.

It wasn’t bad enough that a lot of great and influential people died this year. Yes, there were a lot of celebrity deaths, which is normal because THEY get reported more than anyone else, but we also had the attack in Benghazi as well as the Colorado, Oregon, and now Connecticut shootings. Prior to last Friday, it was somewhat of a tossup as to who would be taking home the title. I was going to say the Mayans and post the results on 12/22. What? Did you honestly think this was some kind of scientific or statistically measured tournament? Sorry. I’m just a guy with an Internet connection and a lot of voices in his head.

So, as I was saying, when I started listing out all of the names of people who had died and were listed on the news, I left it open, because there was still time on the clock. Then, the Newtown shooting happened.

As a 20 something, Columbine was hard because I was only a few years removed from that environment. Virginia Tech was even harder because it was closer to my age. However, since I am a father of a five year old girl, who is just about the age of most of the victims, I reeled when I found out. I caught the early reports on the radio, as I was rushing around getting things done on my day off, Friday.  Immediately, my heart sank.  I was going to meet up with some coworkers to see The Hobbit and would probably not be home in time to kiss my little girl goodnight. I texted my wife to tell her to give her an extra hug and kiss as I was near tears most of the day.  Then, I got a call from them and got to speak to her. She was so earnest in her little voice explaining what had happened.

After the movie, I got another call because she was going to bed and I wanted to say goodnight to her. Her sleepy little voice reminded me how much I love being her Daddy.  For all the bad times, the tantrums, the repeated requests to watch the same four episodes of Wild Kratts OnDemand, the intelligence and sweetness she brings into grown up conversations just melts my heart.

And realizing that she had to go to school today, in a different world, again, made me realize that there was no more need for discussion.

Therefore, I give you this year’s D-Bag of the Year Award winner, Death himself.  He recaptures the title after winning it the first year. Well played, douchebag. The amount of lives lost this year in senseless fashion just bolster my decision.

Now, some may wonder why I just don’t give it to the guy who did the shooting. Well, that’s because I don’t feel we need to give this sorry excuse for a human anymore recognition than he deserves, which is none.

If I could give away an opposite award for the best example of a human being in this world, I would give it to the teachers and principal at Sandy Hook. They were heroes. None of them with any kind of training or weapons. They protected those children and gave their lives to stop more from dying. They deserve a medal. Yet, all we’ll do is debate mental health and gun control until their sacrifice is nothing more than a Facebook photo of a candle.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sandy Hook Tragedy

It's hard to find any good in this tragedy.  Some will use it to stir the debate over gun control.  Some will focus on mental health.  Some will debate the media's role in all of this.  Facebook will be awash in the shared statements of those saying, "hands off my guns" or "If more people had guns then less shootings would happen".   Some will be bandying about carefully worded statements that admonish the need for owning multiple firearms, ones that shoot bullets in succession, over and over.  All choose to ignore what needs to be said in the face of this tragedy.

I choose to focus on how a few brave souls made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the innocent lives of children.  Some stood between the gunman and the children.  Some attempted to overtake him, unarmed.

What little good in all this is that there were more selfless souls than dark ones.  They outnumbered him.  Their bravery will, and should, overshadow the heinousness of what was done.   28 people died, but many, many more were saved by their actions. 

They did it without firearms or military training.  They did it without being asked.  They did it with no protection or guarantee of personal safety. 

They will be remembered for being heroes, saviors, protectors, and teachers.  They should be remembered, not the one who took their lives.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Breaking Bond: Part Two of the Skyfall Review

Continuing the review of Skyfall by discussing the evolution of Bond Baddies over the years. Spoilers ahead.

Bond villains are of a special breed. Most have some physical deformity, ranging from the slight to the ridiculous. Most are geniuses in their own right. All are certifiably wacko. Over the last 50 years the blueprint for a Bond villain has primarily stayed the same; crazy, smart, well funded, singled minded, and short sighted. However, the latest seems to have done a lot of homework on his predecessors and then built a better mouse.

It always made me laugh how inept the Bond villains were. First of all, you knew from the opening gun barrel that James Bond would always return. The villain would never win. Even in the case of Casino Royale, Bond catches up to Mr. White… who is immediately dispatched in the beginning of the next film. But, in every film, once Bond gets his orders, he usually encounters the big bad by the end of the first act.

He meets Bond, explains pleasantries and then immediately tries to kill him with an elaborate, yet easily escapable situation. There’s a reason Austin Powers called that out. It’s true. In fact, it’s not even like Bond disguises himself to the villain very well. Even with a fake name and back story, the villain knows it’s Bond. And yet, they do the dance of one-up-man-ship to prove who has the bigger Goldfinger… or is it Thunderballs?

Bond has faced many lethal and quite capable villains, yet none of them have ever done the simplest of tasks… kill Bond. In Skyfall, the closest he came to death was being shot by his own team. Most rely on their henchmen, physically over matched for 007, yet the Goliath to his David. Easily felled, usually by their own physical traits. Odd Job is killed by being electrocuted by his own hat, and Knick Knack gets trapped in a suitcase due to his size. Maybe that’s how he got to Fantasy Island. Mr. Rourke found him floating by in a suitcase.

But you can bet Scaramanga’s third nipple that the Bond villain is probably the best role any actor can land in terms of having fun on a Bond film. In fact, Bond films are probably the only place where the villain can be free to be as outlandish and scene gluttonous without fear of totally overshadowing the blunt instrument that is 007. I don’t think Roger Moore or Sean Connery felt like Michael Keaton did going up against Jack Nicholson’s grand larceny of scenes in Batman. Bond is never the comic relief, he’s the straight man anchoring the film while the villain is free to take a jet pack ride through the stratosphere of over the top performances in a Bond film. Skyfall’s Silva seems to borrow most of his crazy…and hair care tips from A View To a Kill’s Walken, while carving out his damaged psyche and motivation from the same cloth as Goldeneye’s Alec Trevelyan, and finally a referral from Jaws’ orthodontist. While Blofeld is probably Bond’s biggest nemesis, his kind of villain is probably never going to make an appearance in the 21st century world of Bond and QUANTUM.

With the Craig era of Bond villains, we get a more subdued and not quite so flamboyant performance and back story… That is until we reach Javier Bardem in Skyfall. Le Chiffre is hardly bombastic, with his plans. He hires a bomb maker to blow up the maiden flight of an airline in order to tank the stock… helping to fund terrorism. He intends to make up his losses to his war mongering clients by winning it all on cards. He’s sort of a down on his luck villain that cries blood. In Quantum of Solace, we have a somewhat green terrorist… get it, green? Well, at least he pretends to be trying to save the planet, but it’s all about money in the end. Dominic Greene isn’t even that much of a physical threat… sure, with a gun, he’s dangerous because he’s nuts, but he doesn’t even appear all that smart… just opportunistic. His death doesn’t even come at the hands of Bond, but played as a footnote, related to Bond by M. He was found with two slugs in the back of his head and a stomach full of motor oil. Now, why they bothered to do an autopsy with the apparent cause of death as lead poisoning and cranial ventilation, I don’t know.

When we get to Skyfall, the rules change, somewhat. As I said, Silva could be most closely compared to Alec Trevelyan in his back story; a field agent who ended up being a little more of a hacker than he should have been, traded for other agents, betrayed by M and MI6. He finds his place in the Pantheon of Bond Villains with the three basic traits: physical deformity – collapsed face and damaged vocal cords from a faulty cyanide pill, brilliant – cyber terrorist extraordinaire who outwits Ben Winshaw’s young and geeky Q, crazy as balls – bent on revenge against M and MI6. But where other Bond villains rely on sophisticated torture devices and henchmen to soften up Bond, Silva used a very simply tactic; sexual harassment. That scene was ridiculously uncomfortable yet ten times better than Le Chiffre “scratching” of Bond’s balls.

Ultimately, Silva suffers the same problem as most villains. He is too hell bent on his plan. He continues even when all is lost. While chaps like Blofeld try to escape in their subs, like in Diamonds Are Forever, Silva hunts M down like a dog, asking to end it all. Well, he got his wish… and I’ll say nothing more.

Coming up next… Bond Girl Interrupted.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Being Bond: Part One of the Skyfall Review

The character is so one dimensional that he could be nearly faceless. As it’s been said, he is just the guy pulling a trigger, a blunt instrument.  Ian Fleming himself sought to create a totally uninteresting character, devoid of personality where things just happened to him.  He even gave him, what he thought was a boring name, originating from an ornithologist. Yet, for all his base, the character has evolved with every film, in five decades.  He has never been boring or faceless on screen.  Here now, a look at the ongoing evolution of Bond, James Bond.  Be careful.  Spoilers ahead.

Sean Connery (Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice,  and Diamonds Are Forever.   Six films, not counting the Non-Eon Film: Never Say Never Again)
Connery was all gruff and misogynistic, a caveman of class, but it was enough to get the Bond girls out of their clothes. His physical style was more brute force, a blunt instrument like Fleming's description. He quipped and straightened a cuff link, but he was definitely not the most cerebral of the Bonds. He’d just assume slap a woman for being obstinate. In the 60s, the sexual revolution was still forming and for a while, Bond’s ways were tolerable, if not applauded.

George Lazenby (One film: On Her Majesty's Secret Service)
Lazenby didn’t have enough time to develop a character.  He won the part basically by punching out the stunt coordinator during the audition.  The producers wanted someone who put forth an air of sexual confidence and assurance, but his brief marriage and loss of his wife proved to be a more intriguing part of the Bond mythos.  After all, he showed up in a kilt and got married, something no Bond had probably ever done before or since.

Roger Moore (Live and Let Die, The Man With the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy,  and A View To a Kill.  Seven films total.)
Moore was more regal and suave, sexy through chivalry, in a way. His one dark turn, kicking a villain’s car off the side of a cliff, essentially killing him in cold blood was somewhat out of character but justified. Moore’s Bond would normally have played by the Queen’s rules, giving the villain a sporting chance.

Timothy Dalton (The Living Daylights and License To Kill. Two films.)
Dalton was somewhat human and softened in a way. Some will argue his Bond was more violent and action driven. They’ll say his Bond was darker than previous and that could be true, but it comes from a sense of character. His psyche was conflicted and it humanized him a bit. He was the more evolved and sensitive kind of Bond, in a way. He was probably the most realistic Bond to date. His bro-mance with Felix Leiter in License to Kill was apparent of this.

Pierce Brosnan (Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day. Four films total.) 
Brosnan was called a dinosaur in his first outing by a, now, female M. He was a relic of the Cold War which had ended since Dalton wore the tux. This was a more PC world in the 90s and was no more evident in the dynamic between Judi Dench’s M and Brosnan’s Bond discussing his masculinity and perhaps even safe sex in this time of love and AIDS. Brosnan’s physical presence was a combination of past Bonds. He was capable of the physical demands of the character, but gave the role a more debonair, analytical approach. He could kill you with a gun or fight you to the death, but he’d just assume beat you tactically with his brain. Usually, his good fortune was sprung from luck, the right gadget, or timing. He was cool, calm, and collective. Looking back on the first film, it still holds up well in terms of believability, however, as the the films went on, it became increasingly silly that he could outlive any scenario he was a part of, including the silly Die Another Day paragliding on a wave.  But beyond all that, he also looked to have the most fun playing Bond. I viewed Brosnan’s Bond as a kid getting to play the greatest character ever. It was Christmas for him.

Daniel Craig (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall.  Three films so far. Reported that he signed on for two more.)
I admit it. When Brosnan left and Craig was named, I was skeptical. He’s blond, blue-eyed, and only 5’ 10”. The shortest Bond was Timothy Dalton at 6’0”. The Bonds have gotten successively shorter throughout the series. I wasn’t a fan of Dalton, even though I watched the films. I grew up on Roger Moore and only saw Connery in Never Say Never Again or repeats of the earlier films during the holiday showings of the 13 Days of Bond on TBS. So, I went into Casino Royale… part reboot, part adaptation, part sequel, with a lot of concerns.

Then the song came out. Grunge doing Bond? Soundgarden’s front man doing a Bond song? WTF?!?! We had Shirley Manson and that was near awful but appropriate voice and styling for a theme song. However, this? How could EON recast this Bond and hire this singer? This will be awful, I thought. Then, I listened to the song and watched the trailer. I was more psyched than ever. Then, I saw Casino Royale in the theater. I was blown away. Not only had CR erased the stain of Die Another Day, it gave the franchise a much needed shot in the arm… or jolt to the heart, as it were.

Then, Quantum of Solace got mired in the bureaucracy of a writers’ strike, as if SPECTRE held the world ransom, demanding payment or else the world would never see another Bond film. Even though it was a financial success, most agree it is the worst of the three Craig films and probably in the bottom five of all Bond films, alongside Die Another Day and Diamonds are Forever.

What we do get with each successive Craig outing is a very different, more updated Bond. Craig’s Bond is one that is overall more physical. We’ve come to the point in film technology where special effects and CGI can cover a lot more than it did when Connery would drive a car with a movie screen in the background showing a rear view scene. Sure there is plenty of double work, but Dalton, Brosnan, and Craig did do a lot of their own stunt work. I would venture to say, however, that Craig’s Bond is clearly in the best shape. He runs in nearly every film. Hell, he almost does friggin’ Parkour in Casino Royale’s chase through Madagascar. As far as Bonds go, he also gets the most bloody. His face takes most of the damage, it seems. A piece of trivia: Skyfall is only the second time Bond has sustained a gunshot wound since Thunderball.

Craig’s Bond is also the most damaged of them all. He is a Bond that, even though is new to being a 00 agent, seems to exhibit some form of PTSD. I’m not sure if it was already there or if the death of Vesper and the torture scene leads to it. He basically loses the taste for death, even though he is a harbinger of it in the form of dead female bodies along the way. While QoS was more about bringing down the SPECTRE and SMERSH like group called Quantum, but it’s more about Vesper. It’s vengeance. It’s retribution disguised as job task.
By Skyfall, he clearly lives for death, perhaps even his own, as is seen in the opening scene. Whether his wounds lead to his dependence on painkillers and alcohol, or his feelings of betrayal from M and MI6, Craig’s Bond looks more like a soldier, unable to reintegrate into society after combat.

When Bond does return, he is pretty messed up. He’s dependent on booze and pills, his skills are off and he’s still damaged. But he’s the best there is. He gets cleared for duty by M, who is the cause of all this mess. So, Bond it is.

Now, he has to save the one person who hung him out to dry, M. M is the one woman in his life, that is consistently around, since there’s no Moneypenny…. *cough* yet. M is the closest thing he has to a stable anchor in this world. The closest thing he has to a mother. That’s the new twist on Craig’s Bond, his childhood. We learn he was orphaned at a young age, recruited by MI6 due to his parental status. It’s not supposed that Dench’s M is the only M, since Ralph Fiennes takes over and we hear in Dench’s first turn mentions of previous Ms. However, this M’s portrayal is different than Dench’s M in the Brosnan era. Dench and Brosnan played it as an unwilling, yet necessary partnership between a successful and high ranking female in the 90s and a male subordinate, who is an HR nightmare, yet continues to be the best performer in the office. With Craig, the relationship transcends one of necessity and appears to be a grooming or a nurturing… I could envision Bond hanging out in M’s office during the day while all the other employees toil away at their desks, jealous of the preferential treatment. Yet, he still infuriates her. It’s almost become comical how he breaks into her home.

There is a devil behind blue eyes in Craig’s Bond. He is nothing, if not serious, but the comedy from Craig’s delivery comes from a more acerbic and sarcastic place. It’s very rooted in the humor landscape of the last 10 years. Connery’s humor was very simple, he was the straight man reacting to the funny things around him. There was a playfulness to it, but he wasn’t over the top in making quips. Most of the time he was reacting to Q’s idiosyncrasies or the names of his Bond girls. Moore was more of a English gentleman. There is double entendre or tongue in cheek humor to Moore’s humor. His facial expressions tell the joke, almost breaking fourth wall convention. Was Dalton funny? I kid. I really don’t pay a lot of tribute to Dalton who was probably the closest to Flemming’s description of James Bond. Brosnan was very jovial in his humor, very puckish. Craig is more devious and delinquent. Rascally in his mischief.

There you have it, my takes on each of the Bonds.  Coming up next time, a look at the evolution of the villain. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


This past weekend, I finally got up the outside Christmas lights. I also cleaned the bathroom from top to bottom. Now, that may not seem like a lot of activity, but apparently, it was enough to tweak my back a bit. By Tuesday morning, I was finding it extremely difficult to move or bend.

I must have also pissed off the gods of nature because I was delivered a car-mic blow coming to work. I have about a 35 mile commute which can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic. Now, I leave in the dark and get to work in the dark, so noticing any potential problems with the car when I leave is somewhat hard. As it was, I didn’t notice anything while driving for about 25 to 30 minutes.

In fact, it wasn’t until I entered the Squirrel Hill tunnels that I noticed something wrong. As I was exiting, the car felt and sounded weird. My first thought was a tie rod went. So, I pulled off to the side of the road and looked. The back passenger tire was flat and smoking. Apparently, I’d been riding the rim pretty good for awhile. Yet, somehow, I never noticed it until then. Realizing I had no room or light to change the tire on the side of 376 West, I limped into Oakland and stopped at a Sunoco. I was hoping to just fill the tire with air. Hopefully, it would be enough to get me to the office and I could deal with it when it was light out.

As I hooked up the air, I could hear it hissing out from somewhere else on the tire. This was not going to be enough of a patch. So, I dug out the donut and jack. Now, over the course of 10 years, I have changed a few tires, using the supplied jack. It’s a pain in the ass, but in a pinch, it gets the job done. However, the jack on my ’05 Malibu Wagon was not one I had ever seen and harder to get disassembled. Realizing I was probably fighting a losing battle, I called my dad (A.K.A. my insurance agent) to ask him if my insurance covered towing back to my place or the local garage I use..


So, I sucked it up and fought some more with the jack until I thought I had broke it. Then, if there was any more proof needed that there are still good people out there, I was saved by a random stranger. He was there getting gas and saw me struggling with the jack. He came over and managed to figure it out and we began changing the tire. Unfortunately, the iron they supply to remove the lugs wasn’t exactly great and a few of my lugs felt like they were rounded off, slipping as we tried to turn the handle, probably from over tightening at the garage I usually get tires put on at. My savior apologized because he had to leave and go pick up his wife. He did say that he would swing back around and if I was still there, he’d continue to help.

I struggled with the last two lugs, resorting to smacking the end of the iron with the bottom of the jack to get a snug fit. Stepping on the handle and applying the equivalent of my full body weight in torque nearly dropped me to my knees when the iron slipped off the lug. Random stranger returned and we both worked on the last two lugs, getting them off and pulling the tire. The inside of the tire looked as if Edward Scissorhands had put it on in the first place. The inside was completely shredded and smelled of burnt rubber. We laughed at the sight and I told him that if he wanted a real laugh, know that my last name was ironic. He said something to the effect of “If I was a girl, I’d have a whole pit crew out here changing this thing.” Unfortunately, it was hard for me to get any torque or even bend over to work on the car. My back was making it hard to breathe. The stranger did most of the work, which made me feel like an invalid, but I was thankful.

During the whole ordeal, I offered to buy him and his wife coffee for their trouble. He declined the offer. I then realized I had a $100 bill in my pocket. Our department meeting was going to be at the Casino later and afterwards, I was going to do a little gambling. Hard to fathom, I had been gambling with my life on this tire.

After the donut was on, I thanked the stranger, named Matt, repeatedly and made a last ditch effort to compensate him for his time. I tried to give him my $100 bill, but he declined, again. I tried hard, but he wouldn’t take it.  He was a decent person, selflessly helping a stranger in need. Gave me a good feeling. I hope to pay it forward, as long as someone doesn’t need tire changing help.

As a side note, I drove to work, on the donut, with the hazards on, going around 40 mph. Even with my four ways on, I still had plenty of people honking and flashing me with their high beams. Turns out, the same side as the blown tire had a blown turn signal bulb. So… I looked like that one jackass, driving 40 on the highway with his blinker on for 10 miles. During my lunch, I went to a local shop up the street and got two brand new winter tires. They were probably both due, anyway. Merry Christmas… again. After all, I wasn’t about to drive downtown, to the casino, on the donut and I wasn’t going to just ride with someone else and come back to a donut at six o’clock in the evening, still needing to change out the donut. Then, today, I stood out in the cold and fixed the bulb. Did wonders for my aching back, standing there without a coat.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

WUMF: November 2012 Edition

OK… so, I really slacked this past week.. but there’s been reasons. No… it wasn’t just because I was too busy playing Tekkit. I didn’t plan to be so slacky…

No, I didn't. Honest... I ran out of gas. I... I had a flat tire. I didn't have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn't come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts! IT WASN'T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD!

Yeah, OK… it was Tekkit.

And a few other things. With that… here’s the WUMF.

Skyfall Review
I was supposed to be doing a review of Skyfall, and in essence, Bond… Well, the end of the month came around and I didn’t want to cut into that thought process mid ramble. So, that’s coming next month, I did preface it last post, but purposely didn’t really start.

If you’re really hard up for some good Bond talk, check out The commentary is a little dry… kind of like Tom Bodett giving movie reviews on NPR, but his videos are pretty well done and somewhat hilarious. Put it this way… the guy did not like Brosnan as Bond, and he uses a lot of clips from The Matador to describe Brosnan’s post Bond mindset.  Priceless.  Plus... Cannonball Run redone with all James Bonds.

Game of Thrones Giveaway: The Westeros League
Well, I pulled it off at the 11th hour. After Season 2 of GoT ended, I started thinking about doing some designs. I had already put out a couple of ideas, but had never seen the show. Then, a friend lent me season one and I gobbled it up. Then, another friend fed me all of Season 2 from his thumb drive… Shhhh, don’t tell…. And I was loving it…. And then scared of a vagina wraith coming to get me. Seriously…. WTF?!?!

So, because of that, I started planning out a set of designs called The Westeros League. 14 teams based on the various houses in the show. Tried to model them after professional… and a couple of minor league sports teams here in the U.S. After I was done, I put posts on each design ranging from the inane ramblings of a Sports Center type commentary to finally abandoning the insanity and settling on just talking about the designs themselves.

Finally, I put together a prize pack of 14 stickers, a shirt, a stein, a $20 gift card, and Season 1 on Blu Ray and hosted a giveaway. The turnout was small, compared to some others I’ve done, but I expected this with a more concentrated theme. In the past, I’ve done holidays or seasons and that usually opens up the base of entries to a more broadened spectrum of people. With a dedicated Game of Thrones theme, it focused more on those who were fans of the show and a few others. Still, happy with the results.

'Tis the Season
Thanksgiving snuck up on me and I was not prepared for the amount of time I’d be putting into getting shit done around the house and work. The giveaway run this past week and I’ve been working on that. I had to get out and do the shopping stuff with my kid and my wife, for all our food. I was trying to catch up on stuff to keep my DVR from exploding…. And well, um TEKKIT

My Pool
If you’ve been reading the blog for awhile, you know how much fun (sarcasm) I’ve had with my pool. I inherited it from my brother after he got a new one. It was an INTEX 16 foot round jobs that you assemble in fifteen minutes. Well, after three years of either being too lazy or ill prepared to close it down in the Fall, I decided I was going to it right. We cleaned out all the leaves, treated it with all the chemicals, and actually put the damn cover on the thing.

Then Hurricane Sandy said, “LOL Pitiful Hooman”. The cover came off with all the leaves and branches going into the pool. After it was all over, I attempted to clean it all back out and recover the pool. As I spouted every four letter word in the book, I noticed daylight peeking from the opposite side of the pool. Above the inlet hole, there appeared to be a foot long wide tear. I rage quit the job and tossed the skimmer. Someone asked if I could get a new liner… well, the whole damn pool is pretty much a liner. Now, I could probably try to patch it. However, I’ve spent too much time and money getting it up and running each year. I’m tired of just maintaining and pissing money away on it, so it’s either time to buy a real, more permanent pool… or just get another Intex. Thoughts? Remember, I am a cheap bastard and don’t plan on retiring in my current residence.

Winter Beer Exchange
I've done this a few times over the past year and plan on doing it again.  I have about 8 different beers to review for all you craft beer lovers.  I will probably keep notes on each, as I try them.  Since I won't be sharing with my Father-in-law.... he's on Coumadin and can't really touch this stuff right now... I can just drink the eight types in about four days and get a review out rather quickly.   Sorry, I'm not a big drinker, so two a night is plenty for me.

Here's what's on in bottles:
  • Heavy Seas Winter Storm Category 5 Ale.
  • Bell's Winter White Ale
  • Bell's Christmas Ale
  • Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas
  • Southern Tier Old Man Winter Ale
  • Weyerbacher Winter Ale
  • Anchor Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
  • Great Divide Hibernation Ale 
D-Bag of the Year Awards 2012
Most of December will probably be devoted to the annual D-Bag awards. Unfortunately, it requires a lot of research on my part. I need to go back and look at all the stories throughout the year. Of course, the usual suspects will be nominated: Death, Mother Nature, Chris Brown…

I am actually thinking of just streamlining the process more to whittle down the effort of having to rehash all the nominees. Guess I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.

That’s it, folks. Bring on December! Mayans, be damned!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Review of Skyfall, But First... Monologuing

I am a traditionalist. I like my adaptations played as close to the source material as possible. I like my sequels to be in the same vein as the originals or close to them. I don’t like reboots and I don’t like reinventing the wheel.

That being said, when you’ve been putting out movies in a franchise for fifty years, sometimes the old ways are the best ways. And… sometimes the material is better served being looked at from a different perspective while still maintaining that commonality of the franchise… Can anyone say “Crystal Skulls”?

Skyfall represents the latest in a series of films which franchise predates the death of JFK. And, frankly, Bond never looked better. But along the way, we need to look at the evolution of how we got from Connery to Craig and Dr. No to Skyfall.

I started to do just one post but as I ranted on for nearly three pages, I thought, “Might as well break this up into sections…” Call me Peter Jackson, bitch!

So, I’ll start off giving my thoughts on the Bond character as portrayed by the various actors. Next, I’ll go into the movie evolution. Lastly, Skyfall. If you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read any further.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bond at 50

Coming over the next week, I'll be putting up some rather lengthy entries on my thoughts on the different Bonds as well as the newest movie itself.  It'll be a return to the old days of my three page long rants, oh joy, right?  I will also go back and redo my Bond theme list to include the latest song, by Adele.

So, to get in the mood, I self bought... for Christmas... thanks hon... ;)  the Blu-Ray collection of Bond 50.  The thing is, a friend bought it a few weeks ago for $150.  I saw it on Wednesday for $129, so I snapped it up.   Come Thursday, it was up to $200 and by later on Friday, it was $205.   Now... it's $99.   Unreal.  I'm kicking myself, yet not quite upset enough to pull the trigger and get a couple to sell on eBay.  I suggest picking up a copy for yourself or your loved ones, this Christmas... before the price goes back up.  It has 22 out of the 23 EON Bond films along with tons of extras.
Bond 50 from Amazon.  Today, 11/24/12 for $99.99.
Qualifies for free shipping.

UPDATE:  Apparently, that $99 price was short lived.  It's now $249.  I would check on Monday.  It's bound to be somewhere close to $150-$200, again.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Game of Thrones Giveaway

OK,  sorry to be late this week.  I'm in the middle of a giveaway over at the store blog.  Not to sound biased, but I think it's a pretty sweet one, too. 

Winner gets a copy of Season One of Game of Thrones on Blu-Ray, a set of 14 stickers from my Westeros League designs, a shirt with the design of their choice, a mug/stein/4 shot glasses with a design of their choice, and a $20 gift card to Skreened.

It's simple to enter.  Just comment on the blog post, retweet a phrase, or come over to the Facebook page and comment on my cover photo.  That's three chances to win between now and November 26th.

Also, just found out that Season 2 of Game of Thrones will be released on February 19, 2013, a month before Season 3 starts up on HBO.  You can pre-order it on Amazon, now.  And get over and enter the giveaway.... WINTER IS COMING

Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage
or Buy New $55.99

Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Lazy Vs. Efficient

I hate wasting time and resources.

I hate when I am not getting the most out of something. I usually do not run the A/C or the heater while driving. If it’s nice out, I keep the window down and the air off. In the colder months, I will heat up the car, just to take the chill out. Then, I will just drive with the heat off, but the temperature to heat. I also don’t use the gas pedal on hills. I build up a decent speed, and then coast through a hill to the bottom. Some will disagree with my approach to gas efficiency. I know it sounds silly, but I still manage to get at least 300 miles to a tank of gas in a V6 engine driving back and forth through Pittsburgh, everyday.

I also hate wasting time in the mornings. When I get to work, the kitchen is the first room I enter on my way to my cube. I put my lunch in the fridge, make my coffee, and get breakfast ready. Some days, it’s Pop Tarts. Some days, it’s cereal. Lately, it’s been oatmeal. In any case, I get it all prepared before heading to my cube. That way I don’t have to walk all the way there, drop off my stuff, then walk back to the kitchen. I can have my coffee and breakfast going while I get my computer up and running, checking emails, etc. That may seem lazy, like I don’t want to walk all that way. I consider it being efficient in using my time wisely.

I remember in one of my old jobs, working at a hotel, that due to being pressed for time in turning over a room from a lunch to a wedding we would try to be as efficient as possible. If the room had all rectangle tables for a meeting, and we needed mostly round tables, we’d save the ones we needed and remove the rest. We would take back two rectangle tables, one in each hand, and bring out two round tables, rolling them out, side by side.

One day, I snapped at a younger, less experienced coworker. They were carrying in round tables and not taking out rectangles. I flat out said, “If I see you walk out of here empty handed, one more time, I’m putting my foot in your ass.” Of course, I was mostly joking, but we needed to hurry.

Anytime I can reduce the number of trips I need to make, I feel like I am being efficient. Granted, I try to carry every bag of groceries from the car, instead of making trips because it’s tiring. However, is it really being lazy if you load up your arms to capacity instead of carrying two bags and making ten trips in and out of the house?

When I’m at home on my laptop, working or just vegging, I tend to do what I can from a fixed position. If the kid wants a channel change, I ask her to bring me the remote. Yeah, that’s not lazy, huh? LOL. Granted, I’m a big guy who hates to get up and down a lot. Still working….well not much… on that. It’s hard when 80% of what you do to make money involves a computer and a chair.

That reminds me… I have a giveaway to prepare. Wink wink

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sports in Bizarro Burgh

Maybe the Mayans were right.

Let’s see… We had the Pirates cock tease for another season… this time, making it past the All Star Break with an above .500 record. We actually thought… “Screw winning season, I smell division leader… nay… PLAYOFFS!” Then, another 19 inning game crushed our souls like a can in a compactor. The team fell down the chute of our board game minds. They picked the lollipop card in Candyland and had to go all the way back to the beginning. But… we still had Penguins Hockey and Steelers Football, right? RIGHT?!?!?

Training camp rolled around and our new offensive line was set. Finally, we had better protection for Ben and more holes to create for RBs. But… Mike Wallace was nowhere in sight. He wasn’t in Latrobe. He wasn’t in Pittsburgh. He was home, sitting on his couch, wearing his helmet, and reading his playbook… hoping for more money. He waited. Training started. He waited. The pre season started. He waited. Three pre season games passed. He finally showed up. We played Denver. Oh, yeah, we lost some of our shiny new toys in the early games. We also broke some of our others… *cough*Troy *cough*

But not to fear, Mike Wallace came in and made touch downs and amazing plays… and who needs training camp… and pre season? Soon those sentiments were replaced with, “Who needs to learn how to catch the ball, first?”

We lost to bad teams like Oakland and Tennessee… we squeaked by in Kansas City… We lost our starting quarterback…. He went out with a shoulder sprain that could puncture his aorta? Was that what I heard? I’m kidding, of course. So, in comes the cannon that is Byron Leftwich. The guy who was supposed to start in Ben’s absence during his four game suspension… only to break his arm in pre season, that year.

On his first play during the KC game, he throws to NOBODY and ends up ass over tin cup on the ground. Who’s his backup? Not Charlie Batch, mister reliable. Mister “I can manage a game while never making you believe I can either win it or lose it on one play rather I will do my best and that’s pretty damn good”. Mister, “I’ve been in this league a long time and bailed your asses out, and yet you still put me down in the depth chart only to come and ask for my help, but I will never be resentful because I am a true gentleman”. That guy. He was inactive. So… who was our emergency QB? I knew who he would have been last year… Hines Ward. The guy we got rid of and then waited for Mike Wallace to finally show up.

For Sunday’s game against Baltimore… the emergency guy is Heath Miller. I would rather have Heath play QB than Leftwich at this point. At least he can move. He may not have a cannon that can throw the ball into the parking lot on the off chance a receiver happens to be there waiting… but he isn’t the Tin Woodsman in the pocket that takes 20 minutes to throw the ball. Now, Ben does take a long time, but that’s play development, not the act of throwing the ball.

When I saw the schedule this year and noted that we had three divisional games in a row: Baltimore, Cleveland, and Baltimore, I knew we were in trouble. I predicted something like 7-9 or 9-7 due to what I perceived to be a rough schedule. Denver was getting Manning… we lost to them in the playoffs but still, the Ninety-Six Million Dollar Manning is always a problem at QB. Beyond that, look at our back half of the schedule: Baltimore, Cleveland, Baltimore, San Diego, Dallas, Cincinnati, Cleveland.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. Dallas and San Diego suck, and Cleveland… pffft alleasy games.

We were supposed to have killed Oakland and Kansas City… and Tennessee was supposed to be manageable. San Diego scares me…because they are a bad team… and possibly… so are we. My prediction stands…. 9-7…or 7-9… hopefully, I’m wrong… except in the case of 8-8.

At least there’s hockey….


Friday, November 9, 2012

World War Z Trailer Released

So, the new movie trailer for World War Z has hit the web.  Sigh.  I loved both Max Brooks' zombie apocalypse books, but this film looks to just be another "missed the mark" adaptation of books where only the basic plot and title are kept from the source material.  Think of The Running Man movie in comparison to the book by Richard Bachman (Stephen King).

The trailer looks like any disaster movie, set in New York.  Typical day of traffic where the main character has happy conversation with his family.  Then, it all goes to shit.   After that, there's running and explosions, and aliens, and asteroids, and Godzilla, and... wrong movies.   You get the idea. 

What follows is a Matrix Revolutions like assault of zombies on level with 28 Days Later rage virus zombies and Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead versions. These zombies just don't run, they plow over each other and off of objects like lemmings or horses spooked by Samara from The Ring. The zombies from Brooks' novels are shambling and shuffling and only pose real threats in great numbers or sitting on the bottom of a lake.
Here's the trailer... see for yourself.

With that, I offered to redo the movie and here's what I came up with in an hour. 

Movie is done in 30 minutes!


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Achievement Unlocked: I Voted

Whatever your party affiliation, your convictions, or opinions, we can all agree that it is our civic duty to get out and vote. 

For us PA voters, there has been a huge deal made about Photo ID being required for voting.  In fact, the stupid ads were still be played on the air even after the Supreme Court shot down the law requiring ID.  So, in case you are still confused, I will say it one last time....

In Pennsylvania, you will be ASKED, but NOT REQUIRED to show Photo Identification at the polls, unless you are voting for the first time in a new polling place.

OK, so get out and vote.  The lines will be long, but I'd rather complain about wasting an hour of my life instead of not being able to complain about the next four years.

Achievement Unlocked: I Voted
Get it at the following places:
Redbubble, Skreened, Cafepress, and Zazzle

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I've Got a Bad Feeling About This

With the news that The Disney Corporation has bought Lucasfilm, there is already talk about a sequel to Return of the Jedi and other shake ups in the a galaxy far, far away.  I just happened to have acquired a copy of the new script,  along with the re-re-release scripts of all six movies, which were smuggled out of the Magic Kingdom inside of an Astromech droid.  Here's some of the details of the new movies and the edits to the old ones due in theaters next year.
  • New Death Star being constructed, looks surprisingly like Spaceship Earth.
  • Entire Endor battle scene takes place between ants and grasshoppers.
  • John Carter gets re-release date of 2014 with new effects, same script.
  • Mace Windu rides ice chutes into Clone Wars.
  • R2-D2 appears in new movie... looks a little like Wall-E
  • Chewbacca now blue and sounds like John Goodman.
  • Every time Luke whines, his nose grows.
  • Episode III ending involves Ben holding baby Luke over a cliff while rebels bow.
  • Jabba the Hut reimagined as sea creature.
  • New musical numbers in the cantina...sung by the drink and silverware.
  • Padme disguises herself as young Asian man instead of handmaiden.
  • "I've got a bad feeling about this" line now "To Infinity and Beyond."
  • John Ratzenberger still in Empire Strikes Back, but plays different characters in other five movies.
  • Millennium Falcon speaks, sounds like Larry the Cable Guy.
  • 101 Dewbacks rushed into production.
  • At the end of Jedi, ghost of Simba appears alongside Yoda, Ben, and Anakin.
  • Leia officially named new Disney Princess, shocks everyone with slave outfit.
  • Boba Fett doesn't fly anymore, but he falls with style.
  • Randy Newman hired to do the soundtrack for new movies.
  • Opening crawl begins with, "A long time ago, in the office of P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney."
  • I won't mention what happens to Lando... but it involves Br'er Lobot.
  • New Star Wars Holiday Special DVD delivered in time for Christmas... returns to the vault, Jan. 1st.
  • Leia leaves Han and moves in with the Seven Ewoks.
  • Jar Jar out...   Roger Rabbit in.
  • Yoda now voiced by Robin Williams
  • Han Solo now wears eyeliner and drinks rum.
  • Darth Vader's mask... something's different. 

Courtesy of Etsy

This move angers me more than I can tell.  First off, Lucas was a pioneer.  When the technology didn't exist to produce the effects or sound that he needed to realize his vision, he invented it.   He was so against corporate intrusion that he primarily financed his movies with his own money, just to maintain control and buck the Studio System.

Now, that level of control proved to be a bit of a downfall as the original trilogy was redone, enhanced, edited, and re-released.  The most heinous of changes were Greedo shooting first, the inclusion of Hayden Christiansen in place of Sebastain Shaw at the end of ROTJ, and the replacement of Jason Wingreen's voice with Temuera Morrison in TESB.

Regardless of Lucas' constant tinkering, Star Wars represented so much more in the way of innovation and advancement in film making while Disney was seen as being very slow to adopt new technologies, allowing Pixar to become the juggernaut that it was in animated films.  Disney floundered until they eventually bought Pixar around 2006.

Some of the fan chatter I've noticed in the last 24 hours has been positive.  The supposed Episode VII talk seems a bit joking, but think about it.  Lucas says he has no plans for three more movies.  Those stories are done.  But with Disney in charge, suddenly there is talk?   I don't like it.  Disney sequels are notoriously done to make money and not actually deliver a quality product.  I smell a string of straight to DVD titles with little effort.  Now, Toy Story 3 seems to be the exception but Cars 2 reeked of Disney corporate machine churning out a sequel to bank off the original.  Remember the debacle with Aladdin 2?

I've got a bad feeling about this?
This list will be re-released next year with added scenes and better grammar.

Monday, October 29, 2012

WUMF: October 2012 Edition

Boo to you fellow surfers. Another month ends and that means it’s a roundup of what’s been going on lately.

Post Anemia
Work has been taking up a lot of my time and my post counts have been lower than I’d like. I am sort of trending in the wrong direction and I apologize to those four and half people that read this stuff. I will try to keep it going as much as I can.

I will say, that my posting on the Store blog has increased immensely. I’ve been putting out a post on each of my designs for the Westeros League.

It’s a group of designs centered around a fictional sports league for 14 teams from the world of Game of Thrones. There are specific sports attached to each but there are clear influences from real life professional sports teams among the NBA, NFL, and MLB.

Hurricane Sandy
First off, I want to give a shout out to all my friends on the East Coast and hope they stay safe and somewhat dry as Sandy becomes a bigger bitch to them through Halloween. However, apparently, Pittsburgh weather reporters felt it was necessary to scare the poop out of folks in Southwestern PA. Seriously? We’re getting some rain, but to nearly empty stores of milk, bread, and TP is ridiculous.

Will we get a lot of rain. I’m sure of it. Will we get snow? Eh, jury’s out. Depends on the wind. It could be a Noreaster come Halloween night. But, I do not believe it will be as bad as Snowmageddon was back in 2010.

In any case, we did catch a sigh of relief. The trick or treating in the Pittsburgh and surrounding areas was pushed back to Saturday, November 3rd at 6pm. Sucks having to get your kid out on a weeknight and then come home to go to bed before really getting a good start on their candy.

The Election
Whichever way you choose to vote is up to you. I am not here to sway you one way or the other. It has always been my opinion that elections are not about picking the person who will do the best job. It’s about picking the one who won’t be worse at it. Now, I also believe that I am not voting for a candidate but for an electoral vote. The electoral college can vote however they like regardless of who has more individual votes… and they have done it before.

Still, it’s your right and duty to vote. So, get out and vote…. And for those of us in PA, don’t listen to the ads that are still playing about Voter ID. The courts overturned it. The commercials are wrong. Don’t be intimidated by ads or people. VOTE people! And… make sure you just don’t vote straight party and not look. There are other issues, individual issues that need voted on, not just people. Pay attention to the machine or ballot and complete it all.

Missing the Point
Kids are precious. If anything ever happened to my daughter, I'd go into Liam Neeson mode... but I am not as good. I'm more like Peter Griffin in that sense. In any case, whenever a kid goes missing, I can sympathize. I think about my kid in that situation and try to instill in her the idea that strangers are bad, and even you know the person, if they do something that makes you uncomfortable, make sure you are heard. Scream yell, and run like hell.

However, when I see the various Facebook posts about missing kids, I tend to be a little less sympathetic. A lot of times, I see people passing around posts about missing children and they are not even in the same area of the country. If people would only take the time to check snopes or Google and see if it's a valid claim. Further still, when I see the pictures that these people use to promote the idea that a kid is missing, I hate when they use Facebook profile pics or dumb duck face shots from over their head. PEOPLE... if you want to legitimize your concern and get help, post a better picture. Do people not have school pics of their kids? Hell, take a photo of one of them and post that.

I was driving home today and there were two electronic billboards with a missing teen's picture offering $1000 reward and all I could think was, "Unless I see a kid that looks like Daffy Duck, I'll never know this girl if I see her. I know that sounds cruel, but you want to make sure you have a picture of what your kid will look like at any given moment, not something they post on Facebook for the sake of wanting people to like the picture.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Travellers Tales 2012 Supplemental: Marblehead Lighthouse and East Harbor State Park, OH

Part 3 of the Labor Day extravaganza, only two months late.

After we left Great Wolf Lodge, we spent the day at Marble Head lighthouse and the beach at East Harbor State Park. First, we needed breakfast or lunch, as it were. We stopped at a place called. Marblehead Galley.

I think it was under a different name the last time I had been out here, some 12 years ago. It was a tad busy. In fact, the server said that if we were having lunch it would be longer than if we were having breakfast. Apparently, there were a few big parties and they didn’t have everything switched over for the lunch menu… I try not to figure it out as my head begins to hurt when I do.

Another factor contributing to the long wait was a somewhat small seating area. However, the food was excellent. It was probably the meal I had that weekend. I had their signature waffle and it was delicious. The food was worth the forty five minute wait.

The Lighthouse was how I remembered it in my Cedar Point days. You could see all the way to the park. However, the beach was a bit of a letdown. Now, I’ve exclaimed to wife that Lake Erie beaches aren’t the same thing as the beaches of the Outer Banks. The sand isn’t sand color and the water isn’t very appealing. She continued to call me a negative Nancy about the whole thing.

However, when we reached the beach of East Harbor State Park, it looked like a post apocalyptic beach. The building, which used to house showers and restrooms was pretty well abandoned and simple plywood cubes were constructed in the entrances of the restrooms, serving as changing stalls. There was no bathroom, save a port-a-john in the parking lot. Along the beach side walls were a string of shower heads at shin level. That was your only way to wash off the scum.

As you walk down the ramp to the beach, a sign gives you all you need to know about the area. Now, usually, beaches will have warnings about the tides, lack of lifeguards, or general things you should not do. Except, how often do you see warnings about ingesting the water and watching for slime and algae?

My wife’s mood soured. My kid was all gung ho to get in the water but her mother wasn’t having it. “Toxic blue-green algae?”  My immediate thoughts from seeing the sign and state of the area was a bit from Creepshow 2, called "The Raft".

The lack of a proper shower just sealed the deal over the whole thing. Now, I truly hate to be right in these situations but I had just say, “Why do you not listen to me when I say that Lake Erie is not the ocean and it’s a bit of a cesspool?”

“Shut up!” was the only response she would give. Up the road a bit was what looked to be a newer station being built. It was all enclosed with fences and “Do Not Enter” signs. A passerby who had been coming to these beaches in her youth said that there were stations all up and down the beach, active, and clean. No more.

Eventually, we decided to leave, against our kid’s wishes. We let her play in the sand for about an hour before packing up and heading out. It was a downer moment on an otherwise fun trip.

Perhaps next year, we’ll find a new place to go, or as my kid expressed, “Let’s go back to Splash Lagoon.” Frankly, I don’t have a problem with that. I liked Great Wolf Lodge, but it wasn’t really built for adults. It was built for kids whose parents were happy to watch them frolic while they just stood around.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Travellers Tales 2012 Supplemental: Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky, OH

I’m recapping our trip to the Great Wolf Lodge over Labor Day Weekend… nearly two months later. Next up, I’m talking about the room and the actual hotel rooms and water park.

King Whirpool Suite with Fireplace and Patio

The room was, according to my wife, awesome. We had a King Room Whirlpool Suite with a sofa sleeper for my daughter. There was a gas fireplace, two televisions and a patio outside our room. Not too shabby. At Splash Lagoon we had to walk pretty far from a connecting motel to the actual park. Here, it was simply down the hall and down one floor. After driving for four hours, we wanted to decompress but the kid was jumping on the bed, “Let’s go! Get our swimsuits on, come on!”

Now, Splash Lagoon also had several slides of varying levels of thrill. There were ones for younger riders and then there was the pain hole that I tore myself up on over and over for two days. No such luck, here. It was very kid friendly. They had a small kids area with some little baby slides and standard buckets and fountains to get the little ones wet. In the middle of the complex there was the fort. It was a giant tree house looking structure with lots of rope climbing areas and various pipes and levers to squirt water out at people. Then, every few minutes, a bell rings and a giant bucket drops water on everyone.

Attached at the top were two slides, one that went in the dark and one that didn’t. In the back of the park, there were two kid slides, a couple more tighter turn slides that emptied into pools and two inner tube slides that went outside the building but were still enclosed. On the left side of the building was a pool with basketball hoops, a general swimming area and a small ropes course, and on the right side was the family and adult hot tubs.

Outside, you could go lounge at the pool which had lots of chairs and umbrellas and some basketball hoops in the water at one end. It was nice that they provided lockers at a fairly decent rate per day. The only issue was that the key was your standard locker key on an elastic wrist band. While trying to keep up with my kid, who insisted on climbing up to the top via cargo netting, I snagged the key on the netting and ripped it right off the band. I managed to find her and tell her to stay put while I climbed all the way back down to the floor and search for it. It doesn’t help that there is rushing water everywhere with a giant bucket dumping 1000 gallons on you every couple of minutes. Luckily, I found the key and my kid hung back until I was able to reach her.

After you’re done seeing the park you can get a pretty good, but slightly overpriced meal at the restaurant and even some ice cream. For breakfast they had a pretty decent buffet with omelet station. The thing is, after one day, you’ve pretty much exhausted all there is to do at the park. Splash Lagoon kept us busy for a couple of days but I was pretty much just standing soaked with nothing to do on day two.

After a long first day, we decided to settle down at the lobby and watch the Chuck E. Cheese style show with a bunch of woodsy creatures and a really bad Native American get up straight out of grade school Thanksgiving coloring books.

Clocktower Show

I wanted to download some pictures of the event, so I ran out to the car close to midnight to retrieve my laptop bag which had my microSD adapter in it.  Remember, I don't have a smart phone; just a lowly old LG Cosmos.  On my way out to the lot, I caught a glimpse of something interesting.   Lo and behold there’s one of the local police force parked outside. “Son of a bitch”, I thought. Of course, I had to get a picture of it because, well, if you read any of my Outer Banks posts from this summer you’ll understand why I am a little gun shy when it comes to vacations and the police. The next day, I had asked the server at the breakfast joint and they said the police are here often. In fact, they had an evacuation before we checked in the day before. Gives you a great sense of security, right?

Perkins Township's Finest 

One of the last things we did at the hotel was go into the game room. That was a huge mistake. First of all, the child does not really play video games with any skill or coordination and the first thing she wanted to play was Dance, Dance Revolution.

“You have trouble walking in a straight line. No.”

Then she wanted to win something which is always a joke. After working at Cedar Point for a year we realized how bad the redemption games are. You spend obscene amounts of money for tickets to buy something worth a fraction of the price. Listen, the reason why people always win the Scale Games at amusement parks isn’t because the guesser sucks. The scales have nothing to do with your ability to fool someone. You are the fool because you play. If you see someone win, you are more inclined to play. So, you spend $2.00 on a game and win a prize worth about $0.20.

With redemption games, you pay $0.50 for a game of Skee-Ball, only to get enough tickets to get an eraser or $0.10 piece of candy. Now, the first two games of Skee-Ball ate my quarters, so I had to go get the attendant to refund me. That was a joke. One poor girl manning a counter with each side filled with people. There was no order, no line, no sense of organization. Quite frankly, I was happy to be out of there.

Next up, Marblehead light house and East Harbor State Park

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Travellers Tales 2012 Supplemental: Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky, OH

Only a month late on this… I had to break it up into parts as to… um.. not… ramble….

Yeah, I’m doing that trick where you used to expand the spacing to get an eight page paper to look like a 10 page one.

So… the long time coming, hardly anticipated post is here.

Labor Day Weekend of 2011, I took my wife and daughter up to Erie to visit Splash Lagoon. We take our normal summer vacation in the first week of June, but it leaves a lot of summer left without a getaway of any kind. Labor Day Weekend is the last chance to have any fun before the pool closes and it gets all rainy and chilly around our place.

This year, Splash Lagoon was booked, so I turned to my old stomping ground of Sandusky, OH. I spent two summers working at Cedar Point. And for a moment, I thought about saying, “Let’s just go there.” However, with a five year old in tow, it seems like an awful waste of money to go to a coaster heavy amusement park and spend your whole day in Kiddieland. Yes, they do have a water park on site, but it’s outdoors and even though the weather was still warm, it rained or was cloudy most of the weekend. So, we opted to go to an indoor joint, instead.

Great Wolf Lodge is another one of those indoor water parks like Splash Lagoon. This one has a forest theme, complete with log cabin motif. As I started to look for the best deal, my wife chimed in saying, “You better get a King room with a whirlpool.” Now, this is the same girl that was all gung ho to go camping and sleep on the ground the week before, stating I was being a sissy for having some reservations about sleeping in a tent. The fact that I had to book a King room for her, just proved my point.

The trip has been a point of excitement for my kid who has been chomping at the bit to go. She just started kindergarten and was excited to get away for the weekend. I was, too. I think we all were. That weekend was also her parents’ wedding anniversary and that’s still a sore subject after losing her mom two years ago. We felt bad, at first, leaving her father at home. He had been sort of sedentary all summer with a bad leg. We had no idea what we were coming back to with that. But, he put on a brave face and said go. I’m sure my wife had some pangs of guilt about leaving him at home, but after two years, the pain is more like a dull ache that acts up every once in awhile.

After getting on the road we wanted to stop for a restroom break and decided on the Portage service area on the Ohio turnpike. We had thought about Boardman as that is the closest exit to the border, but I ballsed that up and missed the exit. We ended up on a back road near some college and said, “Screw it! Get back on the turnpike. Boardman IHOP will just have to be skipped.” After that roundabout we realized that we desperately needed lunch, as our kid’s mood was starting to reach critical mass, so we stopped at the next service area which was 27 miles away. As we pulled in, my kid says, “Great, we’re back where we started!” We had to explain to her that most service areas on the turnpike are almost identical.

We had a pretty decent meal as I had opted for Panera. Gotta love the Bacon Turkey Bravo. I had even got some chuckles from the guys working there as they noticed I was wearing my Callahan Auto shirt. I really had no ulterior motive to wearing it into Ohio. It had just came up in the rotation of shirts. Still, I did the “business card” thing and gave them one to go and get their own. After that we were on the road towards the Great Wolf Lodge.

You can always tell when you’re close to Sandusky. The quarry smell sort of gives it away. After awhile you become indifferent from it, but I can always tell when I’m close to being back there. Some of it looked different. I guess 15 years will do that. The Great Wolf Lodge used to be called The Great Bear Lodge when I worked at the Point. Eventually, they got absorbed into a corporate location and now operated as Great Wolf, though I’m sure that most of the exterior resembled what it used to way back when.

Once we arrived, the kid could barely contain herself, but we were too busy checking out the digs. The lobby which looked like a log cabin as if a log cabin was built by Donald Trump in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The huge fireplace took up almost one wall and the chimney went floor to ceiling, three floors high. There was a huge set piece in the lobby which we weren’t sure what to make of when we saw it. Apparently, they had some kind of animatronic show, a la Chuck E. Cheese. That would be a nice wind down moment for our kid after dinner.

And with that we went to our room. Next up… the amenities.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Dissecting Skyfall Trailer and Song

OK. Let me tell you. I am psyched for Skyfall’s release in November. When the trailer first came out, my 12 year old self squealed as if it were 1987 all over again and Roger Moore… or at least his stunt double… was dangling from the Golden Gate Bridge.

As more trailers came out and the Olympics showed us that skit with Bond and The Queen (Oh, the CORGIS!) I began to ramp up my excitement. November is now only a month away. And now, the announcement of Adele doing the theme has cemented that feeling.

I don’t want to get all gushy over Adele, because I have one friend that rags on her voice being auto tuned… but then again he’s a conspiracy nut who looks at 9/11 as an inside job…. Let’s not go there. Still, I can appreciate the lack of joy over a Top 40 performer being pegged to do an iconic turn as the Bond Theme Singer du jour. However, when you look on the names and talents associated with the honor, Adele fits right in with names like Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Nancy Sinatra, Carly Simon, and even Tina Turner. Don’t get me wrong, I love Duran Duran, Paul McCartney, and Chris Cornell’s themes, but there is something about a set of female pipes that just lends a smoky, sultry quality to the themes.

So, what about the trailer? (Spoilers ahead)

Well, from what I can gather, and I’ve not done a lot of reading, Bond dies. If this is intended, like all Bond movies, to give him an edge in his investigation I don’t know. After listening to the song, this is probably going to be the opening gambit, with Adele’s song coming on screen as Bond seemingly sinks to his doom after falling off the train, shot by Naomie Harris. The opening lyrics talk about holding your breath. Probably a good bet that this is how the movie opens. The second trailer goes more into detail about the opening scene, I think.

Now, I won’t make any judgments, yet. I won’t go and update my Best of Bond Themes until I’ve seen the film. I’m thinking that the new theme falls somewhere around 11. May need to reorganize that list. Until then, I will wait with baited breath until November 9th.

On another note, I want this. I usually hate buying collections because the newest movie isn’t even out yet. Though, this is the 50th anniversary. It might be a good idea. Of course, my only Blu-Ray player is my PS3. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

20 Years of Sucktitude

20 Years of Losing
Get it on a shirt at Redbubble or Zazzle

The Pittsburgh Pirates ended their season with a loss. They ended with a loss to the Braves and a loss to the fans. They did clinch their 20th consecutive losing season with a record of 79-83. Now, that’s seven wins more than last year, but when the team was 16 games above .500 and in contention for a wildcard spot in August. Now, they have only the speculation to look forward to.

What will the team do to improve? Will heads roll? Will money be spent? For the angry fan, the answers always seem to be, “No”.

The last time the Pirates had a winning season, Bush was in office. That wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t talking about the first Bush. I was still in high school. I’m now 37. Chipper Jones was on the Braves’ minor team at that time. That’s how flipping long ago it was.

However, the last two years seemed to be different. They were improving. They were winning. They were bringing back the fan base. I bought into it, two years in a row. Then, the same thing happened, twice. They collapsed. Oddly enough, both collapses started after a 19 inning game. Suddenly, the fans were a battered spouse and the team was the abusive drunk that promises to stay sober and get help… only to smack us around one more time.

Last year, the team got on this weird kick of taking on a Wilson Philips song as their theme. This year was the year of the “Z”. Last year, the Wilson Philips thing didn’t do much. This year, the “Z” was infectious. The Zoltan sign was such a quirky one off that it caught fire and soon shirts were being sold, people were scratching their head and looking up a movie called, “Dude, where’s my car?” It was strangely catchy, though. Hell, I even jumped on the band wagon.

But that was August. The sad truth is we can’t blame management for this collapse. We can say that they didn’t do enough at the trade deadline or that they dealt away Brad Lincoln and Casey McGehee. Well, actually, maybe you can. After all, the real reason why the Pirates were as good as they were may not be because they were any better than an under .500 team. It’s just that the rest of the division was weak out of the gate. There was a lot of sound bites thrown around about how bad the other teams were that it made it easy for the Pirates to look great. Andrew McCutcheon played like he wasn’t human and on most teams that would be enough to help. AJ Burnett, who made me facepalm early on with his Spring Training injury, became the beacon of hope for the team. He was the one player who had every reason to be negative. He played for the Yankees and ended up here. Yet, he played like he cared. He cared like he wanted the team to snap that losing streak.

And now, without hockey to talk about, we rally around the Steelers who are 1-2. Steelers aren’t stellar. No hockey. Sigh. The Pirates missed a great opportunity to grab more fans. Now, all we have left to think about is that they are raising ticket prices and probably won’t get any more players to justify that cost increase.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

WUMF: September 2012 Edition

OK... so, I've been distracted lately with stuff.   It's kept me from regularly posting, and I'm still late on my Labor Day travels post,  but the culmination of a few things have led to another thrilling edition of WUMF!

The Replacements
We all know that the replacement refs suck.  Fine.  But really, does the NFL care?  No.  You know why?  Because even bad publicity is good publicity.  Was it a bit petty that the league did not cave until the blown Green Bay/Seattle game??  Yes.  But the league generates a billion dollars. Even though the regular refs get like six figure incomes for working half the year and first class airfare, that's a still a huge disparity. 

Yet, it kind of backfires when the biggest names in team ownership see their games impacted by the botched calls.  The Krafts, who own the Patriots, and the City of Green Bay, which pretty much own the Packers both had games with controversial end game calls, resulting in losses for them.  That might be why the talks finally resumed and came to a conclusion.  So, now, we can get back to bashing the regular refs for blowing calls.  At least we get to see the Hochuli pythons signaling touchdown or holding.  Flex them you douche.  Flex them all the way to the bank.

If you know what that's from you'll know what the hell I'm talking about. On Sunday, my wife was about to give our five year old a bath when she noticed what looked like a blackhead on her back.  Turned out to be a tick.  I looked at it for a second and just said, "Eff it!"  I pulled it out.   I managed to get it all out, intact.  It sat on my finger nail looking at me, wiggling.  So, I flushed it.

In hindsight, I should have saved it.   We took her to the pediatrician on Monday and they actually wanted to hire me to do tick removals.  Seems to be OK.  They gave her an antibiotic to treat a sinus infection and after three days, the bite is hardly noticeable.   No, "Bullseyse", as it were.   We'll keep an eye on her, though.

Now, we have some woods around our house, but we don't go near them.  In fact, on Sunday, we were only outside to go to the store, and then she was outside with m for about twenty minutes while I grilled steaks.  She played on her swing.  She didn't go anywhere near brush.  So, I don't know if she got it then, or if those damn strays passed it along.  That situation is getting ridiculous.

The other reason I haven't been posting is that I got sucked into watching these videos.  For those of you who do not know.  Slenderman was part of a competition on the Something Awful forums.  The task was to doctor up some photos to make it look like some scary phenomena.   The result was this thing that looked like a cross between the Gentlemen from Buffy, and a sperm.  Go look him up.

Anyway, it turned into an ARG, which is an alternate reality game where a group of people started posting videos like they were found footage.   Under the guise of making a "Student Film" called MarbleHornets, a friend is given a bunch of tapes from the production and is told to "burn them".  Of course, you can't do that, so the person starts watching them and posting them as entries online.  What happens is that you see strange things like video and audio distortion, shapes, SLENDERMAN!

You get sucked in, even though you know the whole thing is fake, just because they capitalized on the thing that made Blair Witch so popular 12 years ago. There is no explanation for why it's happening and that's part of the fun.  You hardly see the monster.  Of course, when you do, it's so badly constructed, but still, it creeps you out a bit.   After three years and 60 some entries, it's gotten a bit ridiculous, but damnit if I won't watch every single one of them.  There's even free video games online surrounding the hilarity.

Hitchcock was really good in using fetishistic scopophilia in films like Rear Window and Psycho.  That's when you are entertained by watching others' as in the case of Norman Bates looking at Marion Crane through the peep holes or L.B. Jeffries looks at his neighbors across the courtyard.   But what really ratchets up the excitement or terror is when you are simply observers, unable to control what's happening.  You simply sit and watch something.  In the case of the MarbleHornets videos, you are given a POV (Point of View) experience and the person filming takes you along on for the ride, passive and unable to control what is happening in the frame.

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