Saturday, December 31, 2005

Friday, December 30, 2005

Favorite Movie of the Year: The Family Stone!?

Please pick yourself up off the floor. I’m sorry to shock and befuddle you like that. This is probably the last thing you’d expect me to write. At this point you think I probably turned my back on all that is cool and hip, or perhaps the cold has gotten to my brain. I know this isn't like me at all, but bear with me. I’d like to point out that I should have used the word, “experience” in the post’s title. I’m not saying it’s the best movie of the year. Let me explain though why it’s my favorite movie experience of the year.

As stated in yesterday’s post, my family and I went to see The Family Stone. I wasn’t exactly thrilled by the idea, but I was trying to win brownie points with Ben K’s wife, Julie. I thought it’d be up her alley, and my sisters would probably enjoy it as well. Now I had little knowledge of what the movie was all about. I knew it was about a son bringing his to-be fiancé to meet his quirky family. Of course she’s high strung and anal, and they are loose, fancy free, and lovably odd. I had no idea about the whole mother dying of cancer part. I should’ve because it fits in with every other cliché in this movie.

Even though it’s been over two years, we as a family still struggle a little when this sort of topic comes up in movies. It also didn’t help that Diane Keaton played the mother. You see Keaton and my Mom shared similar quirks and vocal mannerisms. That made watching the movie all the more difficult. There is of course the fact that we are one large and quirky family. I completely sympathized with Dermot Mulroney. I can easily imagine my own fears when I will have to introduce a girlfriend or fiancé to my family. I can also imagine her fear and feeling of being overwhelmed. Anyway, my point is that we as a family completely identified with this family in one-way or another.

The movie itself is a by the books quirky family Christmas movie. What saved it were the performances. Every actor basically nails his or her performance. Diane Keaton is especially great. The dialogue itself is good as well. It’s just the plot is completely predictable and the love square is quite ridiculous. It has its funny moments. It also becomes heavy handed when it decides to preach. It’s a nice rental in my opinion. Even with all those flaws The Family Stone is still my favorite movie of the year.

This ranks up there with my Finding Nemo experience. The theater itself was basically empty, so it was like having our own private viewing. We also treated it as such. We laughed and cried out loud even at inopportune moments that I’m sure confused and offended those few sitting in the theater with us. The prime example was at the ending, when you could easily hear and see our whole family bawling. Yet the second the screen faded to black we all laughed as one at our own crying. I’m sure we came across as asshole’s laughing at such a somber moment, but it was our release.

Leaving the theater we were all red-eyed with some of us still drying our eyes. We didn’t say much, we just kept laughing. Maybe we are all crazy, but we shared an experience as a family. We expressed our pain of missing Mom at Christmas, and we remembered her. It just took a schmaltzy and flawed movie to bring it out of us. That’s why The Family Stone was the best time I had at the movies this year. Now you can have nothing to do with me. I will admit I think the poster is lame.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Christmas Break Recap (Pt. 1)

December 19th
Got Flu.

December 20th
Got over Flu

December 21st:
Once healthy my sisters and I went shopping and wrapping, and wrapping and shopping.
The family and I went with the family to see The Family Stone. That whole event is another blog post.

December 22nd:
Ben K. and Julie left for Ireland on the 22nd.

December 23rd:
More Shopping. My dogs are barking. My back is in knots.

Christmas Eve:

We went over to my brother, Ben I. and his wife’s place for Christmas Eve dinner.

We hung out with nieces Evie and Moira. Evie was a little under the weather and had the nose snot thing going. She did though do her best to entertain. As did Moira who is the smartest 7 year old I know. I offer this conversation as an example.

Mandy: Look Evie’s a bear. Bear’s are carnivores just like us.

Moira: We’re not carnivores. We’re omnivores. We eat both plants and animals.

Moira is seven.

My stepfather showed Moira and Evie all about taking video and photos.

Anne had a little birthday cake.

Returning home we went to bed while Anne went out with friends for her 21st birthday. She came back sick and hung over. She didn’t listen to my one advice. Never do Tequila shots. It will mess you up. She did seven that night.

Christmas Day:

Since the rest of the family wasn’t coming till later in the evening, my sisters and I exchanged our presents.

My stepfather opened up am envelope left by Ben K. and his wife, Julie, before they went to Ireland. The only thing inside was an ultrasound picture of my new nephew/niece. Julie is due in August I believe. That makes six.

They then went to my stepfamily’s Christmas get together. I stayed home and watched football on my stepbrother’s new HDTV. I clearly had the better afternoon.

There was peace in the house.

Then the rest of the immediate family arrived or returned, and we had our Christmas Chaos. It was quite entertaining watching the two new nephews from Russia experience Christmas for the first time. The most recent one, Andrei, literally got out of the orphanage a week ago, and now he’s playing with dinosaurs and trucks.

Evie was nearly buried in wrapping.

Boxing Day:

We go back over to Ben I, and Jamie’s for lunch and more quality niece time. I would like to point out that the cute outfit Evie is wearing was purchased by me, the greatest uncle ever.
The evening was spent organizing things for Inga and my brother in law, Dan, birthdays. Once again we had last minute gift buying. It really never ends.

After the birthdays, my sisters and I go see King Kong. Their first time, my second. It doesn’t hold that well on a second viewing. At least for me it doesn’t. I couldn’t tolerate Jack Black as much this time. I’ve come to the opinion that you can’t write fake B-movie dialogue. It’s not funny. It’s the same thing as trying to make a movie so bad it’s good. It’s simply something that happens. You can’t force it or fabricate it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Happy Birthday... this old jackass.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Happy Boxing Day!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas Everyboooody

I hope you get what you want.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Birthday Anne Marie!

So, I’m sitting at my computer on Christmas Eve dwelling upon the fact that my little sister is out on the town celebrating her 21st birthday. They grow up so fast. It seemed not that long ago when I introduced you to punk rock. You and I would jump up and down on the bed while my stereo blasted. You were to young to understand, but I was trying to get you away from the Al Jarreau. I was trying to educate you. But I didn’t need to worry you were already too smart. You would never fall for my bribes when I babysat you. You still ended up loving musicals. I’m certain though my small time playing the bass lead you to dabble in it as well. You also became quite a romantic both in language and life. Some how my negativity never rubbed off as you always seem to have that optimistic bounce in your step. So, happy birthday little sister. You're still the greatest Christmas present Santa's ever brought.

Friday, December 23, 2005

It's Not All Cornfields

Christmas the past few years has been at my brother Ben K. and his wife Julie’s house. This is what happens when you have the most room, and you marry one of the most gracious and hospitable women on earth. This year they’ve been remodeling their kitchen. Which means we’ve been going out a lot. Driving around I realized Columbus has quite a few cool things to offer besides Ohio State Football, Blue Jackets Hockey, and Hooters. Here’s a nice list of things to see and places to eat if you happen to somehow end up in Columbus, Ohio.

Growing up I always wanted to live in German Village. It’s a 223-acre neighborhood in the southern part of downtown. The whole neighborhood is quaint brick buildings closely built together with brick sidewalks. They even still have brick roads. There are some great eateries and bars like the Mohawk. But the first restaurant you must visit is Schmidt’s Sausage Haus. This place is genius. It’s all great German food from bratwurst to Wiener schnitzel to the chocolate cream puff pastries. My personal favorite is their legendary Bahama Mama. The Bahama Mama you see is one of the city’s food specialties. Heck, we even have a day called Bahama Mama day. If you ever go, hit the buffet so you can try it all. Or go Wed. or Sat. when the Schnickelfritz band is playing. Also make a quick stop at the Fudge Haus across the street so you can feel even fatter. If you are really lucky you’ll visit sometime between Sept. 30th and Oct. 2nd for the genius that is Oktoberfest. Fat, hammered, and happy is how everyone leaves Oktoberfest.

To take off a few of those added pounds from Schmidt’s walk over to the Book Loft. It’s a two-story building that’s a block long, and it’s all books. There are 32 rooms. Each rooms specializing in a certain category. You can spend hours just browsing and the prices are dirt cheap on both used and new books. It’s a maze of books so take breadcrumbs. Walkie-talkies might be nice to so you and your friends can find each other before the next winter.

The German Village though isn’t the only place in town. When I first moved to LA people were telling me I needed to go to the farmer’s market. So, I went and you know what I thought. This is a lot like the North Market in Columbus. The North Market is a great place to try different foods, and people watch. With more than 30 merchants not including the actual Farmer’s Market you can lose a solid portion of your afternoon.

Close to the North Market is the Short North district. This is your artsy fartsy hip and happening area. There are great boutiques, galleries, and restaurants down High St. I used to always go to great video store here to get my Asian Action flicks. This was back when video stores charged money for memberships, but since this was the only place in town that imported the stuff the price was worth it.

Ohio State University has some things to do as well. It's not the cleanest of areas but that part of High Street should be experienced. Campus was where I went for music. First there’s the historic Newport Hall. It’s been there for ages, and it shows. There are other venues of various sizes around town, but the Newport holds a dear place in my heart. The other concert venue that holds an embarrassing place in my heart is King’s Place. The title of the place should tell you enough about the kind of music that was showcased there. Still think the One Bad Pig concert kicked ass. The dude jumped into a swimming pool of ice cream! But I digress. The other spot on campus that I went for myIt’s not pretty but the OSU campus area has quite a few cool music fix was Used Kids Records. When I was in high school the shop was in the basement of a building. You had to walk down a flight of steps into a windowless shop. The place was weirdly organized. It was cool before I even knew what cool really was. Now they take residence on the second floor of some other building and it’s lost a little of it’s underground charm. Still if you want something they have it from vinyl to CD. It was basically my Amoeba before Amoeba. One little warning if you buy something lame they will call you out on it. I still have emotional scars from when I picked up an old Boston CD. I don’t know if they do this anymore now that they are a little more legitimate.

Downtown has a few things to offer. The Arena district has some pretty good restaurants. I don’t have a lot of info because it’s a newly developed area. There is also COSI (Center of Science and Industry). I used to go about twice a year when I was a kid. They moved it now, and some famous Japanese architect designed the new fancy building. Inside are tons of exhibits and experiments designed to teach and entertain. It’s much more enjoyable than I’m making it out to be. My fondest memory of the place was the huge pendulum clock in the entrance. This giant spike would swing back and forth over the circle that is outlined with pegs. For every minute it would knock over a peg. Also walking into a replica of the eye was pretty cool. And the experiment with the electric eels was badass. For you historians out there, the original Wendy’s restaurant is downtown as well.

There’s a little taste of things to do in Columbus when and if you ever visit. I don’t know why those who read this would, but in case you do. Columbus is a pretty nice and wonderful town. Wait I forgot White Castles!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Christmas Miracle of Moms

I don’t know how my Mom successfully pulled off Christmas year after year. Even with all her other duties she’d somehow someway make Christmas happen. I knew she was making tiny miracles happen, but I never fully understood until recently. The day after I got into to town my sisters and I were given a daunting task. My stepfather had apparently dropped the ball, and not gotten anyone Christmas or birthday gifts. That means in four days we had to buy Christmas gifts for seven siblings, three sibling in-laws, three nieces, and two nephews. We also have to get Christmas gifts for two siblings, one sibling in-law, and one niece. This doesn’t include our own Christmas/birthday shopping we had to do for each other. We’re into day two, and I’m about to snap. We are amazingly close to being finished, but it’s taken its toll. It’s difficult enough deciding what to get everyone what with thier vague Christmas lists and specific tastes. We also have to take in account budget concerns, balance practical and impractical, and good grief the wrapping, the endless, endless wrapping. Today was a particularly tough day because it meant we had to go to Toys R Us and Media Play. Both are on the bad side of town and both employee people who work at two speeds; slow and catatonic. At Toy R Us, I constantly found myself boxed in by people and their carts. It was like I would stumble into the middle of a high noon gunfight. Just moving around the store was quite similar to driving in LA. You move a few inches, but then the people in front of you have to stop so they can “Ooh” and “Aah” over the Spiderman Stunt Set. You’re suddenly weaving through the back alleys of bikes and Bratz dolls, doing a few hit and runs on discarded toys, and sideswiping old ladies carts just to reach the check out line. Yet this is something Mom would do every year. Of course she had a lot more time. She was also a seasoned pro and planned ahead. But she had to because she was also responsible for two separate family Christmas dinners. Wait, make that three family dinners, and three to four birthday parties. She made it look so easy, and she did it so well. I still don’t know how she did it without killing a few people. Here’s to my Mom and Mom’s around the world that help make Christmas...Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Sometimes You Should Rent Rather Than Buy

In certain situations it is better to rent than to buy. Last night it was announced that the Cubs and former Twins OF Jacque Jones agreed to a 3 year $16 million dollar contract. I think the Cubs bought when they should’ve rented. Certainly I’m pleased, as anyone would be to have a player named Jacque on his or her team. It’s no Willy Mo, but it’s pretty good. Jacque was signed to fill the vacated RF spot after the Cubs declined the option on Jeromy Burnitz’s contract. Burnitz actually had slightly better number in nearly all categories except for stolen bases. Jacque is younger, faster, and probably a slight upgrade defensively. Still, Jacque is 30 and most players hit their prime when they are 27 and 29. The last time Jacque hit .300 or higher was back in 2003 when he was 28. Since then his batting average has been .254 (2004) and .249 (2003). The one high point in his career last year was that he had a career high in walks (51). That’s really not that great especially considering he also had 120 strikeouts. Cub’s management is blaming his two-year slide on trying to carry the Twins when their superstars were hurt. I hope they are right. I think we are simply seeing the normal age digression of an average player. I’d be surprised even if he hit around .280. I think the Cubs got desperate and didn’t want to wait as long as they did last year to fill their slot. So, they tied up someone earlier for three years. The thing is they basically have the same player as last year. But now they are tied into a three-year contract, when a one-year would’ve been better. I do hope I’m wrong. This signing also means the Patterson will soon be traded somewhere. I'm pretty sure he'll put up at least the same numbers as Jacque.

It should also be noted that the Cubs were battling the Royals in order to sign Jacque. The Royals offered a 3yr $15 million deal. The Cubs simply had to offer a million more and the Royals were out. That’s the state of affairs for baseball right now. Though with how the Royals have been the last decade the Cubs probably could’ve offered the same deal as the Royals to land him.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Always Pressing My Luck

I’ve realized that I tend to always press my luck. Even if I know the result I’ll see if I can beat it. Actually, we are all probably like this. It could be from laziness to never wanting to hear the word “can’t” to the gambling nature in some of us. It's obviously a little of all three for me. If I could somehow narrow when I press my luck down to better odds, I’d probably put a lot less stress on myself. Here are few short examples in my life where too I pressed my luck and get Whammied.

I know that guy across the table was slow playing his trip Queens. He also never ever bluffs. But, that King on the river gave me two pair, and what if this is the one time he’s bluffing. He calls my raise and I’m out of the game.

I bet if I get enough speed I can make that jump on my bike. After flipping on my back, I’m left sucking for the air knocked out of my lungs.

What are the chances that a bottle rocket will actually hit me in a bottle rocket fight? A few minutes later my ears are ringing as I try to smear the burnt mark off my shirt.

Nobody will notice if I just finish up the timed quiz while the teacher is collecting them. Half an hour later I’m bent over a chair as the whistle of the paddle sings in the air.

My little brother sure is angry about my comical put-downs. I wonder how many more he can take? After one put-down too many I find myself shoved through the glass window of the storm door.

I’ve never skateboarded in my life. But now that my Dad has bought me a skateboard I should try a difficult trick. I’m sure I can pick it up quickly. Fifteen seconds later I’m snapping my fractured arm back in place.

This girl and I sure are getting along well. Rather than just taking it easy and letting things develop I should press the matter. Two dates later and she won’t return my twentieth phone call of the day.

I’m driving my ‘74 Ford Maverick. I wonder how fast this car can go. In fact I know a certain stretch of road where I could find out. With the needle pressing 95, I’m sure I can reach a hundred. The flashing blue and red lights keep me from finding out. The car also never ran the same.

I bet I can make it to work in 20 min. Cut to 10:00am and I’m bitching about there being traffic in LA.

I can make it through the day on four hours sleep. I’ll stay up and keep writing/watching TV/playing video game/writing a blog post. By noon the next day I’m already doing the head bob.

When I smoke I’m always pressing my luck.

Done with Flying

Ok, I’m not planning on flying for a while. I’ve already blogged on my adventures last week trying to fly through Chicago last weekend. In preparation for my flight Monday I checked the weather numerous times to see if some strange blizzard was going to hit Atlanta. No blizzard was in the forecast.

Friday I saw some movies. Saturday I hung out with some friends and drove by Best Buy to see if there was a line already for the Xbox 360. There was a line, and I refuse to wait in line more than three hours for one of them. Sunday was planned to be my laundry, packing, and cleaning day. I woke up Sunday ready to get to it. It never happened. Around lunch time I had that scratch in the back of my throat. I put everything aside and went into fight the cold mode. I was chugging OJ, and popping pills. Unfortunately there was no stopping it. By 10 I started getting the shivers. This was no cold, but a flu. I was screwed. My flight was at 7am, which meant I had to be at the airport at 5am. I figured I had to get up at 4am to drive to work, drop off my car, and get a taxi. I tried to go to bed early. I couldn’t. Not with a temperature of 102. So, I’m left watching the seconds tick by while I shiver and sweat.

At 4am I down another glass of OJ, and some pills just so I can hopefully make it through the day. Sitting on the plane with my pale skin and stank of sickness I kept thinking back to that awful movie Outbreak. This is how epidemics start. I’m the lone carrier that spreads it because he wants to get home for Christmas. I’m going to be responsible for millions of people’s death or at the very least I’ll wipe out some small town in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, I finally got to Ohio, and slept, and slept, and slept. Here’s to sisters that go out in the freezing cold to get you chicken noodle soup.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


In honor of unexpectedly receiving Friday off I did my own double feature. I began with King Kong and followed it up with Narnia. Kong was definitely the better of the two. Mine main quibble with Kong was I still think Jack Black was miscast. He wasn’t awful but there were certain dramatic moments I was wincing at. Still it’s one helluva a ride, and I did get weepy over the big ape. Narnia is actually better than I expected. Is it perfect? No it certainly has its short comings both in story and technology. I did get the underlying feeling of this being an attempt for another Lord of the Rings. Beyond that this movie has very old fashioned feel to it. There’s an innocence and awe in the film that is rarely witnessed in current children’s fare. The director wisely sticks through the children during the whole movie. The kids who play Lucy and Edmund do a fabulous job.

This may be nitpicking but I’ve become frustrated by the guitar solos being inserted during the worship portion of church services. I want to sing and your poorly executed guitar solo is keeping me from singing. I miss hymns.

Thanks to the writer’s and EP I have the dough to begin my next effort to buy an Xbox 360. Best Buy it seems has been hoarding the ones that have been shipped after the launch date to do a sort of second launch date this Sunday. Lucky for me the Best Buy near me will supposedly have around 80 available. So, it looks like I’ll be up early Sunday morning and standing in line again. Thank goodness I live in LA. Those people that waited in line in freezing temperatures are crazy. I’m only slightly crazy.

Surprisingly, I have over half my Christmas shopping done. I have nine down and five to go. I thought I only had four till I received news that my sister and her husband just returned from Moscow with their third kid in tow. Soon they will have adopted every kid in Eastern Europe’s orphanages. They are already working on adopting another little girl. The new one’s named Andrei. I haven’t even met their second kid Alex yet. I love big families but keeping everything straight in my old age is becoming a pain. Crap. I forgot we celebrate like four birthdays during December too including mine. So that’s four plus three leaving seven more gifts to by. I thought I was so close. But, I got nine down and for me that’s a little Christmas miracle itself.

I know this edges me toward the geeky gay category. I can’t tell you how excited I was that there were official Katamari Damacy T-shirts available. I picked up the ostrich one. I’m not comfortable enough in what’s left of my masculinity to pick up one of the “Feeling” t-shirts.

I don’t know what makes me happier. The Yankees making absolutely now off-season moves or the Cardinals paying out 13.5 mil for Brandon Looper. I like seeing someone other than the Cubs in desperation signing mode. Of course the Cubs still need a RF.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Goodbye Work...

...Hello Christmas Break! Benefit number 132 of working in the biz is the two week Christmas break. It's like I'm still in school. Having worked at a bank and retail, I truly treasure this lengthy break. It means I have time to visit family and friends and not feel I have to compress it into a long weekend. Which is really good considering how far I live from everyone. Have a merry Christmas. I'll still be posting while I'm back in Columbus, so I hope you have time to visit after being stuffed with turkey and boozed up on eggnog. In fact being in that state probably makes this blog more entertaining.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Happy Holidays from TV to Me

I was thinking how they don't make Christmas Specials like they used to. I then realized they don't make special Christmas episodes like they used to. Hell they don't do anything like they used to, but that's not exactly a bad thing all the time. Here are some of my favorites that I could remember or remember enough that I could find out more on the internet. I'd also like to thank Krystal, Sunil, Dean, Brian, and Tamara for giving their two cents and leading me in the right direction.

Mary Tyler Moore Show – Not a Christmas Story

One of the classics. Sure it's not exactly a Christmas episode. The entire newsroom staff is arguing with each other, and when they are trapped at the office due to bad weather. Sue Ann decides to serve her Christmas dinner early which leads to the staff having dinner on the Happy Homemaker set.

M*A*S*H – Death Takes a Holiday

Christmas at the 4077th finds the surgeons struggling to keep a mortally wounded soldier alive, even if it's only through the holiday.

WKRP in Cincinnati - "Turkeys Away"

This one immediately sprung to mind when I was trying to compile this list. Yes, it's a Thanksgiving episode, but it deserves to be on this list. I remember laughing my ass off watching this as a kid. The station Manager, Art Carlson, arranges to have 20 live turkeys dropped from a helicopter as an advertising stunt. The famous qoute of Carlson's following the fiasco, "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!" still gets me. For a trip down memory lane here's Les Nessman's broadcast.

Homicide Life on the Street – All Through the House

Another one of the first epsidoes that came to mind. I'm sure most don't remember this, but it was such a great episode. Munch spreads his usual Christmas cheer. Russert, who misses detective work, joins Meldrick on an investigation into the murder of a material witness, when she discovers she knows something about the victim's case. Munch and Bolander investigate the death of a man in a Santa Claus suit and Munch spends the evening with whom they believe is the victim's son. Beau buys Christmas presents for the kids, although he still doesn't know where Beth and the kids are. Bayliss searches the station in search of a game of hearts. Munch biting his tongue while he watches over this kid who describes his Dad as some wonderdad. Then Munch finally cracks. A great episode of one of the greatest tv shows ever made.

Homicide Life on the Street – The Documentary

This a News Years Eve episode. I figured if I'm throwing in Thanksgiving might as well do all the holidays around this time. On New Year's Eve, the detectives sit back in the quiet of the evening and watch a documentary that Brodie has made about them and their work. In this documentary, entitled "BACK PAGE NEWS: Life and Homicide On The Mean Streets Of Baltimore", one of Frank and Tim's cases is covered where some "lies and hidden truths" are revealed. During a sequence about one of Mike and Meldrick's cases, they chase a suspect right into the filming of something called "Homicide" by director Barry Levinson and his crew. Mike and Julianna agree to try a date. Also, the identity of the "lunch bandit" is revealed to be Gaffney. Brodie reveals that the documentary has been sent to PBS and gives his reasons why. As the New Year rolls in, things return to normal as the phones start ringing.

The Simpsons - "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire"

Christmas is nearly ruined when Marge has to spend all of the family's gift money to remove Bart's tattoo. Homer becomes a department store Santa to raise more cash, but bets it all at the dog races on a hot tip from Barney. Homer and Bart save Christmas by adopting the losing greyhound, Santa's Little Helper.

The Brady Bunch – The Voice of Christmas

Carol is to sing in church on Christmas, but days before the event, she loses her voice. Later at the mall, a hopeful Cindy asks a Santa Claus to bring Carol's voice back by Christmas. Don't try to deny that you don't remember this one.

Good Times – Penny’s Christmas

After getting her wallet stolen, Penny steals a necklace from a department store in a desperate attempt to try to get Willona a Christmas gift. However, Penny's attempts may lead to Willona losing custody of her. Janet Jackson will always be Penny to me.

The Office Christmas Special

I got pretty weepy in this one. When Dawn opens her present from Tim. Then she walks back into the office and just kisses Tim. Awww. I'm such a sap.

I know there are a heck of a lot more. So, add your favorites in the comments below.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Best Games of 2005

It’s that time of year again. You know you love them those wonderful “Best of” lists that every magazine and blog will compile. They are great for so many reasons. For the compilers, we get to impose our pop culture taste and tell you what we think is cool. For the reader, they get to point out sacrilegious omissions, confirm their own coolness, or scoff at the fact that someone thinks their opinion matters. Well, I love “Best of” lists for all those reasons and more. Today we will begin with the medium that most of you don’t really concern yourselves with: Video Games. You may click the back button on your browser…wait for it…not yet…now.

Platform Game of Year: Psychonauts

Even with very few platform games being made these days, Psychonauts is one of the best. You play as a Raz a kid that sneaks into a Psychic Camp with the dream of becoming a Psychonaut. Caught by the counselors, Raz has a day to learn all he can till his father comes to pick him up in the morning. Everything changes though when Raz discovers that his fellow campers are having their brains stolen. Now Raz must enter the brains of the counselors and other adults to find out who is behind the brain stealing. In each brain, Raz must journey through and battle that person’s mental baggage using his developing psychic powers.

The brilliance of this game is in its design. Each level is completely distinct and surreal. You never feel you are jumping, floating, or swinging in the same place twice. From the brain of paranoid milkman to a stage frightened actress to a painter that specializes in velvet painting, every level brings smile and wonderment. Game designers should take notice of this game. Extending from that, each character is designed uniquely and the voice acting is top notch. The game is also the funniest written game this year. With the platform genre fading into children specific games this one crosses over all age barriers.

Driving Game of the Year: Burnout: Revenge

I’ve discussed this game enough on this blog that what I’d say now is all rehash. So, I’ll keep it simple. You car enthusiasts and gear heads can keep your Grand Tourismo with its standard tracks and lack of car damage. I will take my blurring speed, traffic checking, and vertical takedowns and have a hell of a lot more fun.

Horror Game of the Year: Resident Evil 4

So I was a little harsh on my first blurb on this game. It’s not highly overrated. It’s just slightly overrated. On the good side it’s amazing the graphics they could pump out of that old PS2. The game looks amazing. The white-knuckle tension of fending off crazed villagers is certainly great. Trying to protect the President’s daughter is tolerable for escort missions. Having to go to the menu to switch weapons is a pain in the ass. I realize it raises the tension level and think that’s why I’m not so high on this game. I guess I’m not a fan of the horror genre in video games. Still I recognize how great this game is.

Pure Joy Game of the Year: We Love Katamari

If you get it you love it. If you don’t… This game shows that great graphics aren’t necessary to make a great game. All you need is a great control scheme, style, and sense of fun.

Action Game of the Year: God of War

I think a lot of games this year are a great indicator of how the timeline of a console works. Many people are complaining that the Xbox 360’s graphics aren’t a huge jump up from the current consoles. With games like Half-life 2 on Xbox, Resident Evil 4 and God of War on PS2 it shows that the best games seem to come out at the end of a consoles run. With God of War and Resident Evil 4 it’s clearly evident that the game designers have learned how to get the most out of the PS2.

God of War kicks serious ass in all the right ways. The story is fantastic with one twist you never see coming. It’s almost disheartening because you think you’re so close and then WHAM! As Kratos you must try to stop Ares from destroying Athens. With your blades you slash through minotaurs, cyclopses, harpies, and medusas to attain Pandora’s box.

The combo system is designed to easily pick-up but takes some time to master. Don’t forget the different powers that are given to you by the other gods. It is a near perfectly constructed game.

Adventure Game of the Year: Shadow of the Colossus

I’ve already done a whole post on the brilliance of this game. You can read about it here.

Game of the Year: Shadow of the Colossus

It really was close between this and God of War. It basically came down to one thing. When I finished God of War I thought, “What an outstanding game.” When I finished SotC I thought, “What an experience.” I’ve gone through Shadow twice and I still get choked up at the end. I’m a wuss.

Honorable Mentions:

Mercanaries: Grand Theft Auto in South Korea only you're mercanary rather than a thug. Special moment: Entering the code to play as old school Han Solo.

Half-Life 2, Lumines, and Ninja Gaiden Black

Sunday, December 11, 2005

High School Reunion Recap...kind of.

So here's a rambling of the recap. Part of it's written during the weekend which explains the changes in the tense. I still don't know if the whole trip was worth it.

Thursday - Friday: I’m a moron. A couple months ago I thought for some reason that going to my 15 year high school reunion was a good idea. When I found out that it was in December I still thought it was a good idea. I thought it was such a good idea that I bought an airplane ticket. Now I’m stuck in O’Hare at 2 in the morning. I’ve just sat on an airplane for seven hours. Three and a half of those hours the plane was in the air. My real mistake was booking a flight that went through Chicago…in December. What the hell was I thinking? I thought it might be nice to see Chicago in the winter time. I’ve only seen it during baseball season, so I thought it’d be worthwhile. I’m a moron. At least I’m not alone. There are plenty of strangers sleeping on cots or just sitting around. Oh how I love strangers! I have another six and a half hours left in O’Hare till I can hopefully fly into Columbus. I wish I could sleep but I can’t. There’s no way I’m sleeping with all these strangers. It can only go up from here, right? Right? That is till I have to fly back. At least my Christmas flight goes through Atlanta. What I wouldn’t do for a Pepsi and a cigarette.

Friday: It’s now 1:00 PM and I just got in from the Chicago. This has been the most wheels off flying experience I’ve had. It even beats sleeping in La Guardia. So my morning flight into Columbus at 9:00am was cancelled. But, there was a 7:15 flight that was delayed to leave at 8:15. So, I ran down and put myself on the standby list or so I thought. The desk lady said there already were four on the list, so that would make me numero 5. I wait patiently and a few others walk up to get their name on the standby list. I’m guessing there are about 8 now. People begin boarding the plane. After awhile they started calling the standbys. After the fourth name was called I had my fingers crossed. “Just one more! Just one more!” Then they called someone else’s name, and then someone else’s. What the hell? They skipped me! I ran to the desk and asked why I was skipped. She said I wasn’t in the system. Not only was I not on standby, but I wasn’t even listed anywhere to be on any flight. This was the same lady who entered my information. I asked her how she could forget me. I just talked to her ten minutes ago. She said she was sorry but the plane was full. There were 44 passengers and that’s all they were allowed to put on the plane. Then I heard the magic words, “I only have 43.” Apparently, someone checked in but didn’t get on the plane. So they kept paging this person while I prayed and prayed and prayed. Finally, they allowed me to get on as passenger number 44. With my own paranoia mixed in with watching Lost, I was a little worried that I had doomed the plane. Or, the plane was already doomed and I “luckily” got the last ticket to ride. There were two babies on the plane so I thought we were pretty safe. Still I’ve clearly watched too much TV in my life. Perhaps the fact that we sat on the plane until 10:30 reversed any doom effect I brought on the plane. Yes, 10:30 is an hour past the flight time of my cancelled flight. With a short hour flight I finally landed in Columbus 13 hours after I was supposed to. I understood the canceling of flights due to weather. I just don’t understand the complete lack of communication. I felt like I was looking for an Xbox 360.

Maybe I should start going without sleep every now and then. It’s midnight here in Columbus and I still haven’t gone to bed yet. After landing I had breakfast with the Bens and Ben K’s wife Julie. Then I went Christmas shopping with Julie and was able to get gifts for 2 nieces and 2 siblings. Thanks to Julie, I feel pretty confident with my purchases. Still my day and night wasn’t finished. My niece Moira was singing in their church’s Christmas kid’s choir. They were called something “Jam.” Being the great uncle I am I went. Riding my fifth wind, I was able to stay awake. When the adults got up to sing I was tempted to nod off, but then Moira sat next to me and we had our uncle and niece chat. Besides with the smoke machine and stage lights shining in my face sleep was out of the question. Then we all met up at Ben K’s house after picking up some grub at the Mad Greek. I was able to summon up what was left in my tank and played with Evie and Moira. Eventually Ben I. and the family had to leave. The nieces were up past their bedtime and it was beginning to show. Finally, I’m able to go to sleep. I hope I wake up in time for the reunion.

Saturday 10AM: Grumble…grumble…roll over…zzzzzz.

2PM: I finally wake up, and still have that airport grime on me. It takes another three hours for me to be able to put words together to form sentences. Eventually I shower the airport off of me, and get ready for the reunion.

Arriving at the Rusty Bucket, my first thought was ”What the hell am I doing?” After a cigarette I scoured the parking lot for familiar faces. Seeing none, I decided to just giddy up and go for it. I had the flop sweat going as I climbed the stairs to the “party room.” There were only about 13 there from my class. Add in the spouses and you had about 25. Not bad I guess for a class of 50ish. Of the three people I wanted to be there, Karl actually showed up. I got to meet his wife. Every single one of my conversation consisted of two topics. First was what are you doing, and the second was how is your Dad. He is everyone’s favorite teacher for 19 years and counting. It took awhile but I’ve accepted the fact. Nothing really spectacular happened. I just talked for around three hours and left. Obviously, I over analyzed the whole thing before coming. Also, most everyone knew what was going on with other people in our class. I was sort of the wild card and my ego liked that. The nerdy comic book, shy, baseball loving kid left town and came back with after making good in Hollywood. At least that’s what they think and I’ll let them think that.

The flight home was a breeze…of course.

Side note:

I’ve always been disappointed with my lack of celebrity sightings when I fly. I made up for it all on this trip. Two are pretty cool. R. Lee Ermey was actually on my flight to Chicago. You might remember him for Full Metal Jacket and all the other movies where he played the same character.

Waiting for a taxi after returning to LA, I saw Robert Loggia wandering around the airport. I felt like he should help him out, but he just wandered off. He may still be wandering.

My favorite though was on my flight from Chicago to LA. I saw what I thought was for certain a pimp. Can you guess which one I thought was a pimp? It wasn’t till I saw the other two that I realized it was R&B supergroup Earth, Wind and Fire! Earth, Wind & Fire! They clearly can’t stand each other anymore because I never saw the utter a word to each other.

What Should the Cubs Give Up?

So, someone in Baltimore is demanding a trade. It just happens to be All-star shortstop Tejada. The Cubs don't have a definitive shortstop since Furcal opted to go to LA. Tejada's contract averages out to around $12 mil. a year. Which is a relative bargain since Furcal signed a $13 mil. a year deal. Tejada is exactly what the Cubs need. They got the leadoff man they needed when they traded for Juan Pierre. Unlike most teams the Cubs even have the extra cash to take on Tejada's contract. Why don't I think a deal will be made? First of all the Red Sox will be in talks because they traded Renteria, and they need to trade Manny. Manny doesn't want to play in Baltimore. If Manny isn't in the deal, why would the Orioles trade an All-Star to a division rival? The Cubs need to get in on this. So, what should they give up? As long as it's not Lee, Ramirez, Prior, or Zambrano I don't care. I'd send Rich Hill, Wood, and Patterson. Maybe Cedeno if it's absolutely necessary. The Cubs should not fight on how much of Tejada's contract the Orioles will eat. The Cubs should eat all of it. That has to be tempting to the scrooge of an owner Angelos. Hendry better not drop the ball on this one.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Rusty Bucket Here I Come!

I’m heading back to Buckeye country tomorrow for my 15 yr high school reunion. I think the over/under on how many attend is probably 22. My graduating class totaled 63. I’m hoping the awkwardness portion of the evening ends quickly. Since I can’t even remember the last time I saw anyone from my class, I’ve spent the last couple days brushing up on names and faces. What I’m really looking forward to is some quality time with the nieces. It’s been nearly two years since I’ve seen them. I hope Evie at least still remembers me. Have a good weekend everybody.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Where Does It Lead?

For almost a year I’ve had my hand on the lever to my own trapdoor. I’ve known the decision has been coming on whether or not I should pull the lever. Yet, I still haven’t a clue on what I should do. The problem is I like my life above the door. I’m comfortable. For far too long I’ve lived not knowing where the next paycheck will come. I don’t want to go back to that. I like the security. The problem with life where I am is that there are no stairs leading up. There’s just the trap door below my feet and I have no idea where it leads. I have three months till I officially have to make a decision. I’ve asked those passing by and have gotten numerous responses. It’s not an easy choice, but I think it eventually become easier as the time nears. I really think I have to pull the lever to get where I want.

You know what should've used in place of the trapdoor analogy?
An Ejection Seat!


Monday, December 05, 2005

Warning: Strange Ear Infection Spreading Across U.S.

For the past year there has been an epidemic for which there seems to be no cure. It has infected the ears of numerous people all over this country. The infection though appears to only act up when they hear the name “Brad.” I say Brad, but they always hear Brian, always. When I answer the phone at work, order takeout, or make my research calls my name enters the receiver as Brad with a hard “d.” 10 out of 10 times they still hear Brian rather than Brad. I’ve even gone to exaggerating the “d,” but nothing works. Is Brad that odd of a name? Is the infection just making there ears lazy so they assume Brian. There are two sounds that separate Brian from Brad: “i” and “n.” I pride myself on my professional phone voice for work. It’s top notch. This leads me to believe that it is in fact a virus. That can be the only explanation. When my family members begin to show the same signs of the infection I will have my proof that it is not my speaking but their hearing. I am Brad not Brian dammit!

Ramblings (Sports Edition)

I had an expletive filled morning this Sunday. Why? The first thing I did this morning was get online to see if Furcal had decided if he was going to play for the Braves, Dodgers, or Cubs. I honestly thought he was coming to the Cubs. They offered 5 years for 50 million. The Braves couldn’t and wouldn’t cough up that much particularly for that many years. I didn’t think any player would go to a team that just signed a GM less than a month ago and still didn’t have a manager. I was wrong. Furcal chose the $13 million a year contract over the only team he’s ever known (Braves) and a team that offered him more years and supposedly has two of his friends on the team (Cubs). How the hell do the Cubs lose out to the Dodgers? The damn Dodgers! Furcal was the one player the Cubs could not afford to lose. He was exactly what they needed. How can they overpay for middle relief but not the best lead off hitter on the free agent market. Also, I thought Dusty Baker was supposed to be a draw for free agents. Not a single top line free agent has joined the Cubs. Dusty it’s time. I’m completely frustrated by this. It’s like losing the cute girl to the guy still living with his parents

Here are a few things and people that need to be done with. They’ve run their course, and it is time to say farewell. Save what’s left of your dignity. Don’t make us kick you out the door.

Dusty Baker (see above)

Chris Berman: For the last 10 years Berman has been a shell of what he was. Now he’s more important than the sports he covers. At least in his mind he is. His nicknames used to be cute. His “Back, back, back” homerun call was never good. This made all the more evident during the Home Run Derby. Is there any reason to do a HR call at the Derby? I mean other than to hear yourself talk. (Scott Van Pelt though has grown on me. He’s my current favorite anchor. Yes, part of that is because he’s bald.)

ESPN also needs to put to rest that “I love…” song about football. When Coors stops using it in their commercials that should be a sign. I like football but I hate the marketing of it.

The Campbell's Chunky Soup commercials with McNab's Mom have to go.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Notre Dame/Ohio State Fiesta Bowl draws a bigger TV audience than Texas/USC national championship game. All the BCS bowls do seem to have some great games this season.

Isn’t it time to give quarterback, Brad Johnson, some credit? He’s not flashy or have that strong of an arm, but he wins. If I had a choice between Vick or Johnson, I’d pick Vick to sell tickets, and Johnson to win games.

With the fire sale going on with the Florida Marlins it must suck to be Marlin fan. That is if there are any. Shouldn’t there really be regulations against such things. I can understand a small market team trading their top star before his contract is up because they can’t afford to sign him. But, to get rid of nearly everyone is ridiculous and not fan friendly. Can they ever expect to win fans back? Of course it seems that’s their idea. The only baseball that should in Florida is spring training anyway.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Bits O' Music

I’ve meant to put this band up here awhile ago, but it kept slipping my mind. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are an indie rock band from Brooklyn. When I say indie, I mean they are truly indie since they have no PR or record label. What they do have is a great name and a great debut album. Over jangling guitars and a solid back beat their singer does his best David Byrne impression. This isn’t some Talking Heads rip-off though. It’s a solid indie rock band that has me looking forward to what they will do next. Check out their web site for more info.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah-The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth

If you are an artist or artist representative being featured on this blog and want me to take down a song, let me know, and it will be removed from the server immediately.

Friday, December 02, 2005

O' Christmas Twig! O' Christmas Twig!

While trying to come up with Christmas songs, and after reading Keymaster's post, I thought it was time to put up my "tree." My Mom sent me the little thing a few years ago. It was my first Christmas alone. I was stuck in LA because my shitty job at the time only had Christmas Day as my day off. Easily the worst Christmas ever. Anyway my Mom sent me my gifts and among the gifts was this little tree with ornaments. It was awfully sweet of her, and it become my LA Christmas tree. Fast forward to last night and I can't find it anywhere. I spent a good hour tossing my apartment and cursing myself while I looked for this little tree. Could I have possibly been dumb enough to leave it in North Hollywood? Did I throw it away? Eventually, I had my Eureka moments, and found it on the top shelf in the kitchen. By 1am, I finally had it setup to where it wouldn't tip over. Man, I love the Holidays.


Along with everyone who’s been a fan of Lost, I’ve been frustrated. This week’s show gave me a little glimmer of hope. At least they stopped wandering the damn jungle. I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. Invasion is still trumping Lost.

Much like the Xbox 360 I’m stuck waiting to see if Braves shortstop Furcal will sign with the Cubs. Reports say that his choices are down to Atlanta, Cubs, and Dodgers. He’d be a moron if he went to the organizational mess that is the Dodgers. It’d be a nice Cubs Christmas present if he does choose the Cubs. Going against my plans Giles has decided to resign with the Padres. That leaves the Cubs scrounging for a right fielder. Unless they could steal Abreu in a trade from the Phillies. That won’t happen. One final thing about the Cubs paying big bucks for middle relief pitchers that are over 30 years of age: It’s never ever a good idea.

Are the Mets becoming the Yankees of the National League?

Throwaways it seems is going primetime for a whole split second. I signed a waiver the other day so this blog can be used in one of our episodes. What does that mean? Well if you have Tivo, you might be able to catch it. So it means absolutely nothing.

Remember when I talked shit about the game Resident Evil 4? I’d like to retract my rant. It’s a pretty great game, and I judged it a little early. More about it in another post.

I’m working on a playlist of unusual Christmas songs. Sure there are the classics, but there are those quirky songs that need to be recognized as well. This is what I have so far:

Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight) – The Ramones
Christmas at Ground Zero – Weird Al
Christmas in Hollis –Run DMC
Merry Christmas Everybody-Slade
Christmas in Heaven-Monty Python

That’s all I have off the top of head at 1AM. Feel free to suggest your own

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Bits O' Music

Here's a song from one of the albums I picked up while I was on my blog hiatus. It's another album I picked up on a whim. Amoeba seems to bring that out of me. I wasn't thrilled when I first listened to the album. Then one of the songs would randomly come up on my iPod and I'd always find myself playing it again. I guess most would categorize them as post-punk. Which I guess is correct. If you do like this, I have a little bit of bad news. Rex Aquarium is a local band, Silverlake to be exact. What does that mean. It means the album is only available in two stores: Amoeba and Sea Level. I'm willing to help out though, and pciking it up for you if you want. Visit the Rex Aquarium website for more info.

Rex Aquarium-The Back of the Room-The Back of the Room

If you are an artist or artist representative being featured on this blog and want me to take down a song, let me know, and it will be removed from the server immediately.