High Heel Jet Boots

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So for those that don’t know my preferences, I am a Super Smash Brothers fanatic. The idea that my favorite Nintendo characters can come together in one game and beat the ever-living piss out of each other is divine, and every time a new one is coming out I follow every aspect of it. This past Tuesday, my sister and I ordered Papa John’s Pizza and watched the newest Nintendo Direct episode centered all about the next Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS. Here, you can watch it for yourself if you want:

Yes, it’s 39 minutes long, but it contains every bit of information you could possibly want to know, including two brand new, never before revealed characters at the very end. Smash Bros is a big thing with my sister and I; we’ve been playing it together since the original, and I have it on good authority (my own eyes) that she used to sit in her room for hours playing Melee as Zelda/Sheik. She got damn good at it too. As we watched it, we saw the reveals of the returning characters like Zero Suit Samus and Sheik and were excited about the fact that they would be their own characters now. We oohed and ahhed at everything Sakurai presented and laughed at his attempts to recreate the Iwata “directly” hand gesture.

Amidst all of our reactions, I’ll tell you what we didn’t do: we didn’t put a second thought into what each character was wearing.

Afterward, I go online to find that a sect of people are upset that Zero Suit Samus’s new jet boots are high heels. They’re angry that gender stereotypes are being continued because a girl has been given high heels. They don’t like the idea of Zero Suit Samus, a characters whose entire gaming life has been about being a girl in a “man’s world,” is given this minute accessory.

The entire debate has me wondering if I’m even qualified to be a “gamer” anymore. Not because I question my enjoyment of video games and love for the industry, but because I didn’t give a single shit, damn, or f— about the fact that Zero Suit Samus is now wearing the equivalent of high heels. When her portion of the Direct came on, I was more focused on how she played and what she could do than her costume. I hope that doesn’t put me at the minority, but I think it might.

Now I know gender issues are high on the list of industry problems right now, with the very successful hashtag #1ReasonWhy still carrying strong. I fully support every person who wants to get into gaming, be they white, black, man, woman, whatever, but I feel like this jet boot issue is completely overblown. Is your entire opinion of the character really going to be affected because she’s now wearing high-heel jet boots? Will you not buy the game because one character is wearing one piece of digital clothing? It makes zero sense to me that folks would be offended by the type of boots she’s wearing; it’s really not important in the least. Furthermore, if you want gender equality, look no further than the Wii Fit Trainer: both the male and female trainers will be included, and both of them have the same attributes, strengths, weaknesses, and moves. The two are exactly the same in every way, making for literal gender equality in the game that NO ONE is talking about. I find it odd that detractors would turn Samus away, but ignore the Wii Fit Trainer.

Bottom line: think whatever you wish, but I feel like a few aspects of this argument are a tad overblown. In the grand scheme of things, this is not something to get up in arms about. Your heart is in the right place for thinking there’s a major argument to be made, but this isn’t the topic to use as a strong point.

That’s just my two cents.

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21-1

21and1

 

This entire weekend seemed off, like something crazy was always around the corner.

It started yesterday when I went to get my oil changed at Wal-Mart and I watched one of the mechanics take a quick five-minute snooze in my driver’s seat before the job was done. Next it was the guy on Chester Pike who, when he saw me trying to make a left at a changing light, looked me in the eye and shook his head “no” as he sped through the intersection. Then I witnessed a mini cat-fight in the middle of MacDade Blvd at 1:30 on a Saturday afternoon over a plastic bag filled with clothes in someone’s trunk. All of that occured in the span of three hours, 11AM-2PM, while I ran errands.

Now, as I sit here trying to gather my thoughts after yet another fun Wrestlemania gathering, I can’t help but just feel sad. Sad that at the 2:53:44 mark of Wrestlemania 30 (it’s already on WWE Network for replay) my all-time favorite wrestler, The Undertaker, saw his insane 21 win, zero loss streak at the Super Bowl of wrestling shows come to an end. Sad that the one to beat him is a part-time wrestler who has only wrestled in one other match in 2014 beside this one (and that one doesn’t really fit the definition of “match”). Sad that a piece of my childhood has swept away in the river of time, lost forever. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s absolutely true.

Quick aside: Yes, I am 100% aware that wrestling is scripted, or as detractors like to call it “fake.” “Fake” implies that wrestlers don’t actually get hurt doing these moves or feel any pain whatsoever after a match. “Fake” says that what these guys do is not real, and by that nature doesn’t actually exist. By calling it “fake,” you’re telling me that my eyes have been lying to the rest of my face for the last 24 years, that wrestling doesn’t exist. You’re saying that I didn’t actually go to the Spectrum as a child with my parents, sit right at the guardrail, and watch as my heroes walked right past me to the ring. Did I imagine when Virgil high-fived me? Was I dreaming when one of the Bushwhackers gave me a noogie? I agree that it is indeed scripted, hence why I treat it like a male-focused soap opera, but I will never say it’s “fake.” 

There has never been a time in my life as a wrestling fan where The Undertaker wasn’t a part of it. As long as I can remember I think about getting ready to watch wrestling on Monday nights just to see him. Sure I had other favorites, but no one even came close to The Undertaker in my eyes. I played as him in the video games. I dressed like him for Halloween. I had his action figures, foam fingers, you name it. Even during his “American Badass” biker stage I still thought he was awesome (even though that gimmick in hindsight was totally lame). I can still pinpoint the exact moment where Taker became my wrestling icon: January 22nd, 1994, the Royal Rumble, where Taker fought Yokozuna in a Casket Match for the WWF Championship. Mom and Pop had ordered the pay-per-view for me as a birthday gift, and I watched it with my family as a birthday party. Undertaker lost the match when Yokozuna’s gang interfered, but after the match this happened (skip to 18:59):

To normal people, this is campy special effects backdropped by cheesy commentary. But to a little boy mere hours from his seventh birthday, this was the coolest thing in the entire world. The smoke, the screen, the speech, the rising to the ceiling, all of it…it was just incredible.

Tonight I feel like that moment came full circle. I experienced all five of the Kubler-Ross stages of grief in a mere ten minutes:

Denial: “No way…no way! I don’t believe it! I can’t accept this! What just happened?!

Anger: “BROCK LESNAR?! REALLY? BROCK F@#%IN’ LESNAR?!

Bargaining: “The only way I’m OK with this is if I find out later on that Taker himself requested this ending.

Depression: “Now, as I sit here trying to gather my thoughts after yet another fun Wrestlemania gathering, I can’t help but just feel sad.

Having typed all of my thoughts out, I can now reach acceptance. The reality is setting in: the man just turned 49 on March 24th. He’s made his debut in the WWF/E in November of 1990, a career (assuming he retires tomorrow like I think he will) spanning almost a quarter century. He was a loyal company guy, never jumping ship to WCW or other factions once joining the WWF. He performed to the best of his ability every single night, giving us moves that no man 6 foot 10, 300 pounds should ever be able to accomplish (walking the top rope?!). There’s really nothing else he can give us at this point. He went out with one more shock, even if it was a shock no one really wanted.

One other quick aside before I wrap up: the Undertaker’s loss has reminded me of why I wanted to distance myself from social media for Lent. I went on (it’s Sunday, I’m allowed) to see what people were saying about the match and immediately I saw stuff like “I used to love professional wrestling…and then I turned twelve” or “guys wrestling is fake you’re all dumb for watching it” and so on. It’s one of the worst things about the idea of constant connection: no one is allowed to like anything anymore without someone saying he’s/she’s wrong for liking it. How about this: you like what you like, I like what I like, and neither of us get on the other’s case for it. I remember a time where stories about dragons and swords were reserved for “nerds” and “geeks,” but how many of those not watching Wrestlemania were watching Game of Thrones? I bet a lot.

As I sit here eulogizing the Undertaker’s long career, I realize that I am also eulogizing a part of myself. That little boy who loved the Undertaker and everything he brought to professional wrestling every single night will no longer hear the emphatic GONG that could stop him on a dime. He’ll never again see that man walk down a long aisle beset in blue light, smoke billowing from behind to create the perfect backdrop. The legend has ended, and professional wrestling just won’t be the same without the chance of the dead rising again. People talk about investing time in their favorite TV shows or movies; I invested over twenty years to this professional wrestler, and it seems to finally be coming to an end. It’s bittersweet, but I’m taking the “don’t be sad it ended, smile because it happened” route from here on out.

Thanks, Mark “The Undertaker” Calaway, for two decades plus of entertainment. I doubt you’ll ever read these words, but thanks for choosing to give us your best years on this Earth. You’ll always be my favorite wrestler.

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Dropping The Ball

deseandropNothing’s more important than a first impression.

Eagle fans all vividly remember that Monday night in mid-September, only your second game in the National Football League. You, DeSean Jackson, our newly drafted wideout with a ton of speed and upside, caught a long pass with nothing but the endzone in front of you, only your hotdogging led you to drop the ball on the one-yard-line before crossing the goal line. That’s a fumble, and the refs ruled that we’d get the ball on the Dallas 1 instead of six points on the board. Luckily, we were able to score on the next play so it didn’t really matter, but from that moment on I knew there was something about you that bothered me.

You never felt like part of the Eagles to me, you were just…I don’t know, there. Perhaps I was wary of another wideout whose shit apparently doesn’t stink, much like the guy who did sit-ups in his driveway with reporters swarming around him. As your Instagram account became more active, I began to wonder where exactly your head was. Were you a team guy, or were you another Terrell Owens? I sure didn’t want T.O. again, and that’s why I kept you at arm’s length. I waited for the other shoe to drop…and waited…and waited some more.

This past season, I finallly forgot about these inhibitions. You played like a man possessed, easily having the best season of your short career. You were hailed as the future, a playmaker who struck fear into the opposing team every time you touched the ball. You were one of those guys that the other always looked for before doing anything else. “Where’s DeSean lining up? OK, we’ll plan around that.” After this season I was stoked about the future of my football team. Philadelphia hosted playoff football! Things were trending up instead of down! The future was the brightest it’s been in a long time, as if a big red moon had stopped eclipsing the sun of success…

…but then, just like that, the other shoe dropped.

You’re gone now, cut from my beloved Eagles after what’s been an offseason already brimming with tumult. We’ve heard reports of locker room issues, of insubordination, and of irresponsibility. We now read that your off-the-field activities may not be on the up-and-up, considering the company you keep. That unknown reason I kept you distant, the thing that made me never actually think of you as an Eagle despite you wearing my team’s jersey for six years, made itself known out of the blue on a Friday afternoon. I knew I couldn’t completely trust in you, DeSean, and for once I’m sad that I was right.

So far I’ve seen or heard two distinct reactions to this story:

1. The Eagles leaked this info so they could soften the blow of the release.

A lot of callers to sports radio (where my ears spent most of the day yesterday) immediately put on their tin foil hats, accusing the big bad front office of manipulating the media to make themselves look as good as possible for the public. They source the fact that the NJ.com story was out a mere 35 minutes before the announcement of Jackson’s release, calling it too coincidental.

I counter with this possibility: ESPN reports that the Eagles became aware of this report on Wednesday, a full two days before they cut ties with Jackson. How could they then have leaked the information? Those who aren’t journalists don’t always understand the time and effort that go into writing a big story like that: do you honestly think Eliot Shorr-Parks found out all of that information Friday morning, then had his report written and published by lunch? Unless he’s an android, that’s completely impossible. Even the best online journalists in the world couldn’t make that happen. That article was weeks’ worth of research, planning, outlining, then writing. I’d wager that Shorr-Parks finished the article on Wednesday, and that’s how the Eagles found out about it. Perhaps this story was merely the proverbial straw on the Eagles jersey wearing camel’s back and not the nefarious deed of a group of villains sitting in an ivory tower.

2. DeSean is allegedly tied to gangs and he gets cut, but Riley Cooper uses a slur and gets rewarded. Hypocrites!

Right here is this story’s version of the same typical knee-jerk reaction that every single story every written in the history of reporting has ever faced. Without thinking things through, without considering all of the facts, minds turn to anger and rage over what’s basically easy pickings.

There’s a major difference between the two, and it has nothing to do with skin color: Cooper indeed used a slur, a heinous word, but he accepted responsibility, paid his fine to the Eagles, attended sensitivity training, and atoned for his error. He did everything that was asked of him to take responsibility for his bad act. Do you get the same vibe from DeSean? There had to have been conversations with him, with players or coaches or even the brass at the top, about his off-the-field persona…did it change? Did he stop uploading those Instagram photos? Did he change his ways AT ALL? No; he showed no willingness to do what was asked of him, he continued to miss practices and not follow the regulations imposed by his new coach (AKA his BOSS), and he was shown the door. If I went into my office flashing gang signs and turning a deaf ear to my superiors, my ass would be looking for work too.

Which leads me to another point: the idea that “normal” jobs and playing in the NFL can’t be compared. That, for lack of a better term, is bullshit. Professionalism is professionalism, no matter if you catch a ball for millions of dollars or flip burgers for minimum wage. If you’re not a professional when at your place of employment, that employer reserves the right to kick your ass right out of the company. Which is exactly what happened here.

I’m sure of two things: that Jackson will find another team to play for, and that we haven’t heard the last of his life outside of football. He’s going to keep posting to Instagram, reppin’ his Jaccpot records, and being DeSean, just with a different set of colors when he suits up for work. One can only hope that he won’t make any really dumb mistakes.

However, one fact remains: as far as the Eagles are concerned, DeSean dropped the ball. Again.

 

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#Familulz

lakefront

Man I love spending time with family. Could be a Sunday dinner at Mom’s or a big birthday/holiday with everybody, nothing beats sitting in room with your loved ones, laughing it up about God knows what and just having a great time. That family feeling is part of the reason I was so pumped to visit my cousin Kim last weekend in Kenosha, Wisconsin. She lives out there in the Badger State for her job, which makes seeing her outside of a phone or tablet screen rather difficult. Steph, Jess, Steve and I had found a weekend where we could go and visit, as well as a financially manageable travel plan to make it work: we’d fly Frontier Airlines out of Wilmington to Chicago’s Midway airport both ways, saving a ton of money in the process. It was happening! We were going to Kimmy Country! You can imagine our excitement when last Thursday came and we piled into Jess’s car on the way to the Wilmington/New Castle Airport.

Unfortunately, getting to Chicago would prove more difficult than originally thought.

So we arrive at the utility shed that is Wilmington airport (seriously, I think the main hall of my high school is bigger than that nonsense), park the car for free for the weekend, and go check in.  Once we reach our gate (the only gate at this airport, visible from the check-in counter), we find out our flight has been delayed. From 3PM to 8PM. Rats. After confirming that we were allowed to leave the airport, we set off on a journey across the street to TGI Friday’s, where we got lunch. Before we could enjoy our meal, however, we saw a new status for our flight: the dreaded C word Cancelled. Seems there were maintenance issues in Orlando on the plane we were to take out, and for safety reasons they had to shut the plane down. Look, that’s completely understandable and I don’t begrudge them one bit for making that decision, but the “customer service” we got afterward was dreadful. The most the front desk at the Utility Shed did was hand us a card with a phone number and bluntly say “Call this number, we can’t help you” before deserting the front desk all together. Phone calls to the number were met with long wait times (anticipated) and agents whose sarcastic use of “sweetheart” also sent a cell phone out the window. We get that there’s not much more you can do other than refunds and vouchers (both of which I did receive) but there’s no reason to talk down to us or blindly turn us away without any semblance of assistance. Sorry Frontier, but I don’t ever want to set foot on one of your airplanes again, even if you have cool animals on the top of them. This bad taste in my mouth will never go away.

Eventually we did get to Midway, but it took some divine grandparental intervention to do so. Once we arrived, we had an absolute blast. Chicago is one of the coolest cities in the country, with the cleanest streets I’ve ever walked on and some damn good deep dish pizza (because of course I ate deep dish pizza). If you follow me on the really cool UnTappd beer app (and why don’t you if you don’t?) you already know that I encountered (and mostly enjoyed) seventeen never-before-tasted beers out there, and there’s a TON of local brews that I didn’t get to. I’ll just have to go back and see Kim again, I guess!

Picture time (not in chronological order)!

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These are the Bloody Marys sold at Sobelman’s in downtown Milwaukee. Pure insanity.

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Milwaukee’s famed Fonzie statue. I’m taller than it.

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But I still liked it enough to give it a hug.

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Giordano’s pizza. Amazing.

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A few pictures of our time at Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee. Good beer and a great tour. That mug is the mug the Brewers mascot used to dive into before they built Miller Park. Lakefront also owns the mascot’s original shack AND the original beer bottling line from Laverne and Shirley. We sang the theme song during the tour. It was awesome.

wideofthebean

The Millennium Park bean. Not sure what the significance is, but it’s pretty cool.

thebean

If you go under the bean and look up, this is what you see. It’s trippy.

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Reflections on the bean. Is this a selfie?

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I learned a lot about myself here, formerly known as the Sears Tower.

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There’s a reason I’m half in the dark, it’s because I’m half on the glass platform. I chickened out. Why?

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Because I walked onto it looking down and saw this. Nope.

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Thanks, Milwaukee dumpster. So are you, in your own dumpstery way.

What started as a major trial turned into one hell of a trip. Looking forward to the next time.

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Breaking the Habit

Breaking the Habit 124

I am by no means a completely religious man. I have faith, sure, but church and I haven’t been seen together lately (outside of a few visits to my neighbor’s congregation). However, tomorrow is Lent, and we Catholics are supposed to sacrifice something for 40 days (until Easter Sunday for those rushing to calendars) to make us better people or something. I haven’t given anything up for Lent in a really long time (again, bad religious guy), but this year I’ve decided to take the plunge. I had been thinking of giving up that which I’ve decided to give up for Lent for a long time now; I’ve thought at length about what, if anything, this thing is adding to my life. I’ve come to realize that, outside of a few laughs and a few other small perks, that this thing which I used to treasure has become more of a burden than anything else.

Social media, it’s time you and I went our separate ways for a little while.

Whenever I log on to Facebook or Twitter any more, one of three things happen: I chuckle at a funny picture or joke, I get angry at someone being a moron, or I have no reaction at all. I just scroll through my feed endlessly, looking for something to pique my interest. What’s more, some of the discussions I do see on either feed get me so riled up than they can actually change my mood. I could be feeling more productive than ever, the world is my oyster, then I’ll read a Tweet from some idiot talking about God knows what and I’ll come to a screeching halt. It’s time to break free.

For damn near ten years I’ve spent at least five to ten minutes a day wondering what other people are up to. It used to be interesting, it used to be fun; now it’s either someone complaining about their lives, someone complaining about current events, someone complaining about all the people on Facebook complaining about stuff, or cats. I’ve realized that outside of the occasional link to an interesting article or conversation with a friend or peer that I don’t normally see, Facebook and Twitter have added nothing to my life in a long time, so I’ve decided to take a 40-day break. Score points with the big guy upstairs AND try to break free of these social media chains; it’s a win-win.

Most importantly, I realized that a few 140-character thoughts on Twitter or status updates on Facebook could turn into blog posts or even freelance ideas elsewhere. I figure since I’m losing my ability to quickly spout off and say something stupid about something, I can instead turn here to the personal blog, gather my thoughts, and write something more fleshed out. Who knows, my writing may even be better off for it.

Now, there are two caveats: one, I set up this blog to automatically post links to anything I publish on Facebook and Twitter, because I intend to include links to my work in my blog post ramblings. Also, it’ll make it easier for anything who decides to read the dumb crap I write on here a quick way to see that I posted something. Some may call that cheating, but it does not require me to sign on to either Facebook or Twitter, so I call it sound logic.

Second,  there is the Lenten rule that whatever is given up is allowed to be used on Sundays, so you might see me on Sundays post a thing or two, but I don’t want to make a habit of it.

So there ya go, my manifesto on my plans for the next forty days or so. Thanks for indulging me! Click on “Portfolio” up top to see my latest works, and maybe click on that “Talk to Me” next to it and drop me a line once in a while. No one said anything about emails!

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In Defense of the Grinch and Other Christmas Thoughts

grinchsmile

I love this time of year.

In murky skies of “Christmas is too commercial rabblerabblerabble” and an exorbitant lack of “the spirit” in people this year, my house presses on: we’ve decorated inside and out (special thanks to Matt Boyle, my personal Spider-Man, for helping us with the roof lights), we play Christmas music every chance we get, and I personally have been watching the classic Christmas specials on my phone the last two weeks. With such continued exposure, I’ve noticed a few things that young Jason never really picked up on. Here’s what I mean:

 

The Grinch is completely justified

 

That poor green bastard is completely misunderstood. He doesn’t hate Christmas (or the Whos, for that matter) just for the sake of hating something; he has some totally legitimate reasoning that’s all spelled out for us. The narrator must be a Who down in Whoville, as he shows very little concern for what the Grinch is truly feeling:

It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. Or it could be that his head wasn’t screwed on just right. But I think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small. But, whatever the reason, his heart or his shoes, he stood there on Christmas Eve hating the Whos.

Oh ok, we’re trying to figure out what makes the Grinch tick, but whatever, let’s just watch him stand there hating everyone for reasons unknown. Except the reasons aren’t unknown: as the Grinch then explains, the arrival of Christmas turns every Who down in Whoville into a stark raving lunatic. Imagine have 364 days of peace and quiet on top of Mt. Krumpet, only to have that serenity shattered by some of the most outlandish noisemakers of all time, all commandeered by a bunch of hooligans. Observe:

grinch1

In this shot alone, we have a miniature train, two kids on roller skates with giant nets, two more on the same set of stilts (one blowing a trumpet), another with a hammer for Who knows why, and the last little girl practicing archery on top of a narrow, shaky pile of boxes. Apparently ol’ St. Nick forgot to bring SAFETY AWARENESS for Christmas, but more on that in a bit.

grinch2

THIS DOESN’T EVEN MAKE SENSE. What the hell is the point of this?!

grinch3

It’s not enough for this guy to bang some cymbals together, no he has himself a giant tuba looking instrument with his own set of wheels. Mobile cacophony deluxe!

grinch4

LOOK AT THIS FUCKING THING. Ever stand next to one trumpet at full volume? Imagine the noise Hydra Trumpet here can generate. It even has a little trumpet mouth coming out of a bigger one in the center there. This guy’s favorite word at Christmas dinner is “what?”

grinch5

As if small children don’t make enough noise, let’s strap a damn bass drum onto the high chair! Oh, and how about some bike pedals so they can zoom around the house whacking the shit out of it to boot? Something tells me that “Who Hash” was missing an extra “-ish” at the end of it…

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What, the two giant timpanis on wheels weren’t enough for you sir? You needed a giant bike horn to bite as well? Not to mention he’s locked into that device like he’s HanniWho Lecter…how can that possibly be fun?

grinch7

This game defies all logic. How does one earn a point? What’s with the drum head that Who holds so the ball can crash through? Furthermore, how do you even play this…

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Oh, so it’s a mix of lacrosse and croquet like the Grinch says, but we can also throw couples roller skating in there too. I’d love to know the concussion rate in this “sport.” Has anyone called Roger Goodell?

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Here’s the mother of all noisemakers: four Whos blowing into it (accomplishing what, I have no idea), one Who playing the triangle because why not, and a conductor to try and harness this audio atrocity. One guy doesn’t even know what the hell he’s supposed to be doing, he’s just tooting along as best he can, slipping a peak at his neighbor’s sheet music when he gets a chance.

I didn’t even mention the feast, where I can only assume they eat as loud as they play, and the part where they all go outside and start ringing giant bells and singing in the middle of the square AT THE ASSCRACK OF DAWN. I hate it when a neighborhood dog barks at 7AM, can you imagine this mess first thing in the morning?

As some folks who I’ve discussed this with have pointed out, it’s only one day a year, why does old Grinchy-poo have to get so jazzed about one day a year? Well, two reasons: one, with all of the nonsense that goes on here, he has to be thinking about it way before the day even comes, possibly even before Halloween. That’s a steady two months of straight up dread before Hurricane Christmas brings a downpour of loudness. Second, and more importantly, it’s not like the scene we’re watching is the first time the Grinch has faced this situation…

Why for 53 years I’ve put up with it now!

Fifty-three years. Fifty. Three. Most of the people I gather with at Christmas haven’t been alive as long as the Grinch has been exposed to this noise torture. Wouldn’t you try to stop it any way you could too?

I don’t blame the Grinch, not one single bit. 53 years is too long to put up with that shit. 

Next topic!

 

Santa Claus is a real jerk sometimes

 

Nothing in this theory is substantiated, it’s merely an observation realized by watching multiple specials back-to-back-to-back, but it seems to me that Rankin-Bass tried really hard to make Santa Claus into a royal asshole. I have five Rankin-Bass specials in my rotation of eleven shows, and in all five of them this jolly old elf isn’t exactly the paragon of politeness that he makes himself out to be. Here’s what I mean:

santaclausiscomingtotown

Santa Claus is Coming to Town gives us Kris Kringle’s origin story and how he came to be the lovable Santa Claus. Granted, the Burgermeister is an oppressive prick who just needs to watch where he steps, but we learn that Santa Claus got his start as a wanted fugitive, avoiding responsibility and fighting “the man.” Oh, and he married Mrs. Claus in the forest surrounded by animals…is that legally binding?

(This was the weakest example, I promise. It gets better from here.)

twasthenight

The oft-forgotten Twas The Night Before Christmas begins with the entirety of  Junctionville getting their letters to Santa returned to them adorned with a giant “Not Accepted by Addressee” stamp. Why would Santa crush the dreams of the town and its people like this? Because someone (the crying mouse pictured, yeah a MOUSE) wrote a letter calling Santa a “fraudulent myth” among other things, and St. Nick got his cherry-like nose all twisted. Does Santa have Twitter? I sure as hell hope not, or else he’d never deliver a single gift again with this level of sensitivity. It took a massive clock literally singing Santa’s praises to change his mind. How pompous is that?

frosty

Keeping with the “lack of forgiveness” theme, Frosty the Snowman‘s version of Santa lays down the mother of all threats to the magician Professor Hinkle:

Santa Claus: If you so much as lay a finger on the brim, I will never bring you another Christmas present as long as you live.
Professor Hinkle: [traumatized] Never?
Santa Claus: Never.
Professor Hinkle: No more… trick cards or… magic balls or…?
Santa Claus: No more anything.

Hoo boy, the man can’t even touch the hat that, despite his throwing it away, rightfully still belongs to him. Oh, but Santa gives him a chance to repent: “Now you go home and write “I am very sorry for what I did to Frosty” a hundred zillion times. And then maybe – just maybe, mind you – you’ll find something in your stocking tomorrow morning.” Except it will take him far longer than tomorrow morning to write all that out, so you have no intention of keeping your end of the bargain, you old liar. Apparently ol’ Jelly Belly here doesn’t feel the same way about forgiveness as his Christmas co-sponsor Jesus does.

yearwithoutasanta

In A Year Without A Santa Claus,  our boy just doesn’t feel like coming. “There’s not enough spirit, I don’t feel good,” etc. Certainly cares about all the children of the world, doesn’t he? I wish I had the luxury of not working just because I didn’t feel like it. Let’s not even get into how he reveals, in song, how he yelled at a young child, in the middle of the night, as he lay in bed, about not believing. That’s professionalism right there.

rudolph

Perhaps worst of all is the Santa we see in the original Rankin-Bass classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  This Santa is a total jackass from pillar to post, first telling Donner that Rudolph wouldn’t be on the sleigh team because of his nose, then publicly emasculating the poor deer when Rudolph’s disguise doesn’t hold up (pictured). “Donner, you should be ashamed of yourself!” What the hell for? He did what you basically told him he had to do, hiding the nose so Rudolph could be accepted. It’s not just deer that face his wrath either; take the elf practice scene for example, when Santa is a total DICK to the innocent little group of elves. First he rushes them along, telling them to “let’s get this over with” as he has to “go down and look over the new deer,” then offers ZERO critique other than “well, it needs work” before he cuts and runs. Thanks for that, St. Dickolas. Add to that how his picky eating habits resemble that of a crying four-year-old, and you have one Santa who belongs on his own naughty list.

 

Pee-Wee’s Christmas Special, Muppet Family Christmas, Charlie Brown’s Christmas, and the Garfield Christmas Special are the Mount Rushmore of Christmas specials.

No argument needed, it’s just the truth.

 

I had a little fun here with some classic television, but believe me when I say I love every second of all of those shows. I revel in being able to sit down with family and watch them, even though I get wayyyy too involved with their sub-plots.

I hope I was able to give you a laugh on this Saturday before Christmas Day, and I wish the Christians reading this a merry Christmas, the African Americans a happy Kwanzaa, I hope the Jews had a great Hanukkah a couple of weeks ago, and a great Tuesday to the atheists out there. Regardless where you fall in that group, Happy New Year too!

I leave you with the best rendition of We Three Kings you’ll ever hear.

 

 

Gaming For Parents Episode 1: The Ratings System

Grand Theft Auto V launched last week, and since then everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) has put their two cents in about it. I’ve seen some fantastic things since then, like this piece on the game’s size by some guy I know and the veritable P Scott Patterson‘s YouTube video showing Gaming Parenting 101 (It does exist! People can do it!) . However, as we gamers have come to expect, not all of the Grand Theft Auto coverage has been peaches and creme.

Elizabeth “I Annoyed The Women Of The View So Much They Made Me Leave” Hasselbeck used GTA as an impetus to say that everyone who buys a violent video game should have to be put on a registry.

Meanwhile on FoxNews.com (yeah I know, consider the source), John S. Dickerson writes this gem: “Like other best-selling games today, Grand Theft Auto V trains millions of young Americans to walk into public places and shoot innocent people.

Look, I’m all about not liking video games if you don’t want to, it’s your life so live it how you will, but let’s be reasonable here. I’ve been playing GTA V for a week now like everyone else, but I have no desire to go to my local mall with a gun and start shooting. Nor does anyone I’ve talked with about GTA, or anyone who’s written about it, etc. If anything, GTA is the most accurate social commentary I’ve seen in media in forever, but that’s another discussion.

I’ve decided that rather than get defensive about it, I’m going to do what I can to educate parents on the subject of gaming (even if it doesn’t always work). It’s not going anywhere, it hasn’t for damn near 40 years, so maybe it’s time to learn what it’s all about.

Above is Part One of my three-part miniseries called Gaming For Parents. In these three episodes, I hope to educate parents everywhere on what they’ll encounter when they walk into a video game store. I want to remove that deer in the headlights look I encountered for five years working gaming retail, replacing it with a foundation of knowledge that will help them make informed decisions about the games their children want to play.

Part One deals entirely with the Entertainment Software Ratings Board and their video game ratings system. It’s a lot easier to learn than it seems, but not if parents don’t know what to look for.

Part Two will center around the different consoles currently available for their children, with some mention of upcoming selections from Microsoft (Xbox One), Sony (PlayStation 4), and Nintendo (Nintendo 2DS).

Part Three will detail the game selection for this upcoming holiday season, covering all of the big releases of 2013. With this I hope to help parents hit the ground running with knowledge of what to expect on Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus lists this year.

With these three videos, I hope I can spread a little bit of knowledge about video games to parents around the country who have no idea what they’re getting into. If the parents know what to expect, then they can make the necessary judgment calls about what their kids can and cannot play. Do I think this will completely stop little kids from playing these games? No I don’t. However, if I helped one parent make an informed decision, considering all options instead of just saying “yeah whatever,” then this is a success.

If you’re a gamer, share this with everyone you know: parents of gamers, gamers themselves, and non-gamers. Knowledge is power, after all, and I really want to see more power at the register this holiday season.

Nintendo Can Do No Right, Apparently

reggiebron

Nintendo is the gaming world’s Lebron James. What do I mean by that? Take a listen.

A ton of Nintendo news dropped today. Release dates for various games like Wind Waker HD (September 20 digitally, October 4 physical), Super Mario 3D Land (November 22), Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Nov. 22), and more. However, two pieces of news stick out: a $50 price drop for the Wii U just in time for the holidays, and a brand new handheld called the 2DS, pictured below:

2ds

Now, at first the system does look odd: doesn’t fold like the other DS systems, strange shoulder button placement, etc. I agree it’s strange, but once details came out about this new handheld, the reasons for it make total sense. For those unaware, that 2DS is a 3DS without the 3D: it plays all 3DS and DS games, has all of the same pre-loaded software like Find Mii and Face Raiders, and it even can take 3D pictures with the double front cameras, though they obviously won’t appear in 3D on this device. What’s more, the system checks in at $129, $40 less than the original 3DS and $70 less than the XL.

You may be asking what the point is, and that’s simple: when the 3DS launched, I was still in gaming retail. Dozens of worried parents would ask if the 3D capabilities of the 3DS would mess with their children’s eyesight. Some of them, even though I showed them how to turn the 3D off and assured them that no eyes would go crossed, still wouldn’t take the plunge, fearing that their kids would just turn the 3D on anyway. With the 2DS, Nintendo is telling those parents “we hear you, so here’s our solution: a cheaper system with no 3D that can play all of the latest games.” On top of that, the non-folding aspect of the 2DS also gets rid of the MOUNTAINS of broken-hinged DS systems I used to see every day. This thing even has a unique feature in that the entire screen is a touch screen separated by a piece of plastic. Take out 3D and broken hinges, insert full touch capabilities. Sweet! Oh, and it releases the same day as the next installments in the Pokemon franchise, which may be a bit popular to young kids.

It’s a perfect way to allow those younger kids to get in on the fun without also segregating the normal gamer crowds, as we’ll just continue on with our normal 3DS handhelds. No harm, no foul…except if Twitter is to be believed, this is the worst decision of all time. Everything from “this is stupid” to “why Nintendo why” to “*expletive* *expletive* *expletive* *expletive* Nintendo *expletive* *expletive*.”

The reaction boggles my mind. Yes, everyone is entitled to their opinions. Yes, I don’t have to agree with it. However, it’s worth talking about why these people feel this way. Are they afraid Nintendo is replacing the 3DS with this? That’s not happening. Do they not understand that Nintendo isn’t going after everyone, just the kids with this device? Could be.

How about Nintendo can do no right? Yeah, that sounds right.

Remember when the 3DS was selling gangbusters (and probably still will)? Remember when the system was releasing hit after hit after hit and everyone raved about how strong it was compared to the Wii U? Do we really think that making a kid-friendly system that parents won’t have to worry about will impact 3DS sales negatively? If anything, this will send software sales through the roof! Launching the system the same day as Pokemon X and Y makes even more sense, as kids who are upgrading to the 3DS for Pokemon just made their arguments stronger. What is the problem?

To further my point, the majority of Tweets I saw about the $50 Wii U price drop were “it’s not enough” or “now it’s the same price as the white one, who cares?” Now we have a situation where people urged Nintendo to drop the price, they responded, and now it’s insufficient! What gives?

It seems Nintendo can do no right outside of its loyal fanatics, which makes them a perfect parallel for Lebron James. He’s the same way in the NBA, as fans outside of Miami (especially in Cleveland) still revile him for “The Decision” in 2010, even after he proved two NBA titles later that his move to Miami was the right one.

Maybe Nintendo should give King James a call for sponsorship; it’s a perfect fit.

 

Quick Hits: MUDA!

I don’t have a major topic to cover with this post, but here’s a few cool odds and ends:

- Updated the Portfolio with my most recent stuff, including a review for GamerNode and a few more galleries for GamesRadar. Check ‘em out, and look for the seven (four reviews, three features holy crap!) articles I have in the pipeline for GamerNode soon!

- If you’re in Wal-Mart’s game section in the near future and you see this guy:

walmartmadden

…pick it up! The cover story, Madden 25, was written by some guy whose blog you’re currently reading. I’m published! In Wal-Mart, the biggest chain in the country! Holy sheeeeeeeit!

- Smooth McGroove can do no wrong. Evidence: his latest tune:

Such a good tune to begin with, but this is divine. It sounds repetitive, but halfway through he mixes it up, makes it even better.

- A good friend of mine, my main man Ralph, is also a YouTube musician. Under the name Rakohus, he remixes popular music and gives it a retro 8-bit sound. His latest, Lady Gaga’s “Applause,” is totally worth your time.

- Quick WWE note: I friggin’ love the totalitarian approach of Triple H right now. RAW’s ending last night was something we hadn’t seen since the Attitude Era, the boss doing his things while the rest of the locker room is powerless to stop it. Making them all watch, however, is a new twist that makes me think I’ll love Hunter as the new Vince.

- I’ve taken up an enlightening side project: using various Wikipedia pages and an Excel spreadsheet, I’ve decided to go back and list every game I’ve ever played, sorting the games by the year they released and listing if I’ve ever finished them or not. Early statistics show that I played a ton of fighting games and didn’t finish nearly as many games in my youth as I thought I did. Hopefully when I get to the PS1/N64 era I’ll see some more “yes” marks. Hopefully.

- Applied for my New York Comic Con press pass today, taking place October 10-13.  I missed it last year, and I always have a blast when I go, so hopefully the kind folks at NYCC will let me come back. Pleeeeeeeease?!

- Finally, here’s one of the best pieces of video game music of this generation, period.

Until next time, everyone!

See ya, Charlie

Charlie Manuel

 

I’ll never forget October 29th, 2008.

School and work flew by that day, except for the last hour of work. I switched on the radio at Marple GameStop, heard ol’ Harry’s voice through the speakers, and World Series Game 5 was back on. I heard Pedro Feliz knock in what would be the Series-winning run and jumped up and down like a moron, slapping my hand on the counter so hard it still hurts me almost five years later (I wish I had seen the security tape, I probably looked like a total dope). The store closed at 9:00, I was in my car at 9:05 on my way home to watch the final innings.

I got home at the top of the 8th, a Wawa sandwich waiting for me. I don’t even remember eating it, though I do recall holding it close to my face in sheer terror during every pitch. Eventually it was the top of the ninth, and Brad Lidge took the mound. We all know what happened next, and why I ended up in MacDade Blvd GameStop’s parking lot cheering like a fool. For the first time in my then-21 years of life (and still the only time in my now-26 years), a Philadelphia team had done “it.”

We all had our favorite players, Utley, Howard, Hamels, etc. However, no matter who your favorite player was on the field, there was one guy in the dugout you loved unconditionally: the skipper Charlie Manuel.

He was an entire city’s wise ol’ grandpa, telling stories with a rambling southern drawl and walking to the mound with a trademark gait. Where Andy Reid was the target of many an Eagles fan’s rage, Cholly was universally loved. Winning a championship will do that, of course, but even before that I’d argue Charlie was the most popular head coach in Philly. Andy Reid was a bumbler who couldn’t call a timeout, the Sixers’ coaching position was a revolving door, and the Flyers were still pre-Laviolette. Meanwhile, the Phillies snuck their way into the 2007 playoffs on the last day, then the next year won it all. World F—ing Champions, as our second baseman put it so succinctly.

Today, the city’s grandpa was told his services were no longer needed in a disastrous season. My baseball mind says it’s a good thing–if we were going to reboot the team at the end of the year, why wait?–but my heart is heavy. Anyone born from 1981 on who tells you that they’re not the least bit sentimental about this move is either lying or soulless. All of us in that 32-year span has only seen one Phillies team win the World Series, and Charlie Manuel led them to it.  He says he’s going to take the rest of the season off to think, but I know he’ll be managing next year, and that’ll just be too weird.

Monday I go to the fifth game in the six-pack my wife bought me for Christmas, the first one of the rest of my Phillies fan life. It’s been a good run, Charlie. See ya around the ballpark.

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