Thursday, December 30, 2010
Christmas Eve, I rolled out the door with Wifefish and Little Danger to stay with my in-laws, whom I hold quite dear. I won the in-law lottery.
As the Eve progressed, the TV rotated between White Christmas, Sirius Christmas Music, A Christmas Carol (both Muppet and not), and of course A Christmas Story. There was sledding. There was festivity, happiness, and love.
Santa came to visit, a fantastic member of the Santa Corps whose sleigh is a beaten pick up, but who brings the magic of the Claus with great aplomb. From deep within his sack, he brought forth toys and candy, and held Little Danger in his arms for a photo with my niece and nephew. It is the most precious and adorable thing ever, and if I send the picture to Kim Jong Il, North Korea will fall apart tomorrow. I may be in consultations with the government on whether or not to do so. There are conditions of regional stability to consider.
After a bit of a visit, Santa told the younglings that he had to go meet the elves with his sleigh, and set his massive pocketwatch on "North Pole" to begin his magical journey. I read The Night Before Christmas to the kids in my best basso profundi, and off to bed they went.
Unfortunately, like Scrooge, I was about to be visited and tormented in the night. Alas, it wasn't Marley that came to call at the bell's tolling of 1. It was a dreaded nemesis indeed, the stomach flu that Wifefish had already suffered through 3 days hence. Yes, my Christmas was blessed by the same virus that fucks up entire cruise ships. I would rather have had to fight off Magneto without any of the X-men to help. With a butter knife.
As I hobbled from the bed to wrap my loving arms around the porcelain altar of Christmas Dinner Yet To Return, I came to dread the day. Yet, the day was going to come, and presents would be opened, and Little Danger would have his first Christmas. It was time to greet some Daddy Toughness.
As morning broke, I dug deep. I found the iron of my will, wrapped it around my oh-so-tender gut, and took a sip of water. The iron bent a bit, but remained. I took Little Danger up the stairs to greet Christmas Morning.
Through a foggy haze and a few more trips to the loo, I made it through stockings. I took pictures of Little Danger with his stocking stuffers, but Wifefish tells me they were blurry. I'm sure they looked clear when I snapped them, but alack, I was evidently hallucinating from Montezuma's Revenge of the Sugarplum Fairy. The iron gave out, and became something less Herculean by far. "The sponge cake of my will" doesn't sound near as determined, I imagine, but ended up being far more accurate for the rest of the day.
Christmas Breakfast had begun, and so back to bed I went. I was assailed by the scent of bacon, normally a siren call of impending ambrosia but now a vicious mugger beating my digestive system up for loose change.
I was awakened when it was time to open the rest of the presents. Little Danger got an assortment of awesome things, including a stuffed Yoda plushie that talks (first Star Wars toy FTW!). I gritted through as best I could, disappearing from time to time as needed. The boy had a good haul, and now has plenty of toys to play and learn with.
As for me, the rest of the day was spent mostly in a fog in bed, curled around the lump of cramptastic agony my belly had become. I am a notorious wuss when it comes to illness, but this thing had my number.
A quick aside: Spike TV was running the Star Wars trilogy on Christmas day. Now, I can appreciate the target clientele of Spike, but I have to take a bit of issue with the decision to run condom and vibrator ads during every commercial break. To hear my 8 year old niece comment "that looks like a vibrating lipstick", while fuck-all hilarious, was perhaps something that the nice folks at Spike could have given a bit more thought to avoid causing.
I slept through Christmas Dinner, a piece of toast serving as a reluctant substitute. It fought me for the privilege for about an hour, and I persisted in a fugue state on the couch. Eventually, Wifefish drove our chariot home, Little Danger in his seat and her poor, pitiful wretch of a Dangerboy in the passenger seat. She's a goddamn saint.
Somehow, even having to deal with the Plague, it ranks up there as one of the Best Christmases Ever. And that's all about a tiny little gift, hugging his new pal Yoda and doing his best Han Solo smirk. I know in years to come, I won't remember the Ghost of Christmas Presents...I'll remember that precious giggle, that charming smile, and the love inspired by my Little Danger.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Behold: IKEA. For some, it is a Mecca of low cost, unpronounceably named items. It is, to them, a veritable playground of shopping ecstasy, with row upon row of knicks, knacks, and furniture. I, however, say fuck that. For my dollar, the very thought of IKEA fills me with more dread than a trip through a TSA checkpoint when the screener has cold hands and is standing under the mistletoe.
You see, IKEA is laid out by the same geniuses that design rat mazes and Dungeons&Dragons modules. The floor plan is designed to coax you into seeing everything there is to see, as if shopping for home furnishings were some form of vacation. And perhaps it is sexist of me to say so, but this is the quickest way to piss off men everywhere.
Typical IKEA layout, lost lemmings.
A trip through IKEA is an experience; watching lemmings follow each other past the large arrows on the floor into each and every department and display. I am not a lemming, following hitherto and yon, seeking all that I may gather unto me while driving my credit line into the stratosphere. Nay, I am Dangerboy!, Hunter not Gatherer, and I desire to beeline to the object I wish to buy, then directly to the checkout, only taking the scenic route if it happens to meander through a taping of America’s Next Top Model: the nude edition. I do not wander in merchandise. Ever. (Video game and hardware stores notwithstanding because they don’t fucking count.)
After making it through half the store, I begin muttering things. Wifefish looks on indulgently as I speak seemingly in tongues. “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”.
“Nothing, dearest love! Mumble grumble.”
See, I think IKEA has a great plan, but like Jedi mind tricks, it only works on the weak willed. Force everyone to look at everything, and they just might buy more. Suffice to say I subscribe to the Dark Side of this philosophy, and will gnaw off some of my more useful parts to avoid such a plan like some deranged Sith-inspired coyote.
There’s a restaurant somewhere around the halfway point of their dull grey arrowed version of the Yellow Brick Road, and by the time you get there you feel like Scarecrow anyway, as all semblance of grey matter has long since trickled out of your ears back at the Flinginsvardtgubens. I wonder about some of the items on sale at said restaurant…from monstrous hot dogs to what the fuck ever a lingonberry is to the “Kottbullar”. I don’t know if these “Kottbullar” are actually Swedish meatballs, or a diabolical plan hatched by two lab mice to TAKE OVER THE WORLD with sentient orbs of meat.
Kottbullar Kommandos enacting their plan
But alas, IKEA stocks items that really are inexpensive and even useful. And so it comes to pass that I blindly follow along with the Wifefish as we visit Merchandise Mordor. My attention meanders like a game warden at a fishery. My desire to be anywhere else multiplies like unsupervised guppies. I twitch so much that passersby start saying “Don’t tase him, bro!”
My typical IKEAxperience. The things we do for love.
Perversely, Wifefish wants me to write that “she does not support your opinion of Ikea and she thinks it’s a magical fairy land.” Truly, she flits about like Tinkerbell on meth, darting into short cuts only she knows about, emerging into mystical places within the IKEA that dispense mana as choirs of faerie children sing from on high and fill her with the Spirit of Shopping.
Wifefish dancing with unicorns and fairies at IKEA.
I’ll grant that I’d rather spend money at IKEA than Voldemart (Walmart), but I much prefer the Dangerboy method. This is a way of shopping IKEA that I firmly believe that many of us men should engage in as often as possible. It goes a little something like this: “You know, Wifefish, you haven’t gone shopping with your mom in a while. Oh, and I saw this Glubsnardt on IKEA’s website, wouldn’t it be great in Little Danger’s room?”
I know this seems sinister, even dastardly, but understand that I’ve no qualm with accompanying Wifefish on a shopping excursion normally. It’s that damned IKEA. I shout it out like Kirk shouts KHAAAAAAANNN!!!!! It is the bane of my existence.
And so I salute you, IKEA, but I salute you with one finger. May you rearrange your monsterless dungeon crawl before I farm your aisles for Experience Points.
Note to IKEA. Please don’t sue me. I actually buy a lot of your stuff, and I’ve even eaten the meatballs.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
This solstice was coupled with a very lovely lunar eclipse, which sadly I did not get to see thanks to the thick blanket of clouds clamped over the area like a chloroform soaked rag over a clown's face. Between that and my head cold, I'm not sure I feel the returning light so much as the desire to slide back under some blankets and pull my best Rip Van Winkle.
But Little Danger's first Christmas approaches, and I've got some serious Santafying to do. I may have bought him a stuffed Yoda yesterday. I may be slightly giddy about buying him presents. I may drop a shot of Jameson's into my coffee Saturday morning, though. (Anyone ever read 2 truths and a lie? This paragraph was dedicated to it. Or was it?)
I've a feeling this will be the best Christmas ever, even though we're in the same boat with everybody on the whole having-less-money-this-fucking-year thing. Wifefish and I have agreed to cheap out on each other, but spending the day amidst the family traditions with Little Danger should be all the gift I need this time around.
We have some fun traditions, too: a visit from Santa, cookies by the fireplace, the watching of A Christmas Story, and many more. Little Danger won't really remember any of these this time around, but with a baby it's more for Wifefish and I.
This half assed post brought to you by the letter Q. That big damn Q on the dayquil container.
I leave you today with a question: What's your favorite holiday tradition?
Friday, December 17, 2010
It’s time for another walk down Nostalgia Lane. We’ll come back to the Atari 2600 in some later posts, but for now I’m going to jump ahead in time to 1988, and the second of my electronic childhood companions, the Sega Master System. Ah, the upgrade to 8 bit glory. I can’t remember whether this was a Christmas or Birthday treat, but I do recall that it arrived after transitioning into high school, when Transformers and Legos were no longer cool. Ah, foolish youth…Legos are ALWAYS cool. But I digress.
One of the first Sega games to absorb my time like Borg with a bad habit was Lord of the Sword. A simple side-scrolling adventure, Lord of the Sword featured a young man by the name of Landau attempting to complete three Very Important Tasks, while presumably lording over his sword.
Prepare for 8 bit glory, children!
The tasks must have been named by the Fraggles, I think: find the Tree of Marill, subdue the goblin of “Balala Valley”, and destroy the very, very aptly named “Statue of Evil.” And while the goblin wasn’t singing “Oh, you touch my Balala”, he did have some wicked flaming skulls, if I recall correctly. And whereas the statue was the Statue of Evil, and not merely the Statue of Slight Annoyance or the Statue of Jaywalking, it was a worthy target for annihilation.
Lord of the Sword had some fairly freaky enemies, from floating eyeballs to mutant armadillo badgers to flying devils, not to mention the ninja warriors. The ninjas would stalk you, disappear, and then fall out of the fucking sky to stab you in the back. They were, however, the weakest enemy in the game, and could be defeated with one simple strategy: just keep walking. Dumbest. Ninjas. Ever. (Side note: keep walking away from a pirate, and he’ll shoot you in the fucking back.)
Stupid ninja summons batscorpion. It is super effective.
You’d stop in various villages, earn various rewards, and kill various enemies. Seriously, I mean various enemies. In addition to those mentioned previously, there were also wolves, pterodactyls, scorpions, skeletons, caterpillars, bursting seed-pods, and more. It was as if the game designers had rolled through an old Fiend Folio or Monster Manual and decided it was the perfect roster for their own evil kickball team.
Always picked last for Kickball. Always.
Boss fights were enjoyable, including the swamp spirit, a twisted version of the Great Pumpkin with a rotating mirror for a body, which you had to shoot with your bow, while knocking back an invincible samurai before he cut your face off. (The before was the hard part.) Then there’s the Beast of Fire who looked like Harvey Birdman’s stunt double, or the giant Pirate with a sword for a hand. (Scoffed at a mere hook, he did.) Come to think of it, somebody was definitely smoking some meth on the design team.
Things we've all seen while smoking meth.
But usually kicking the little angel off our other shoulder.
The final battle consisted of a throw down with the evil Ra Goan, a name that sounded suspiciously like the sound you’d make after losing the fight for the 853rd freaking time in a goddamn row. Eventually, though, I did beat the big bastage, and thus won the crown of the kingdom. A final story board progression told the tale of your peaceful reign, and finished off with the words “The End”. How quaint. And vaguely anticlimactic.
While fun, this game would fail to inspire my imagination as much as other games I'd played before and since...I didn't really want to BE Landau, I just wanted to beat the game.
The 8 bit revolution improved gaming a great deal, bringing story and conclusion to games, where Atari titles had typically just featured “get a good score before you die” as their plotlines. And I’m not going to lie, Marge, I spent a lot of time wiggling my thumbs on that controller, and didn’t put the controller down willingly…until the 16 bit revolution came to call, invading the peace and quiet of Nostalgia Street.
Monday, December 13, 2010
My family and I, like many, have a running gag. I used to love going to the zoo, and in fact I still do. Seeing animals that are rare, wondrous, precious, or just plain there is a treat that I’ll be sharing with Little Danger for sure.
On this particular once-upon-a-time, I sat quietly in my stroller as my parents wheeled me along the pathways at the St. Louis Zoo. We spent a bit of time watching the giraffes in the sweltering heat of an August summer day. I was fascinated by the way the giraffe would swish its tail, shooing the flies away from itself with its very own built-in flyswatter. Of course, being only 5 or so, I didn’t quite have the vocabulary or patience to properly articulate such a sentiment. Instead, I happily chirped out “Gee, I like that giraffe’s butt!”
Thus began a long and endearing (though occasionally embarrassing) run of giraffe butt jokes that has persisted for 3 decades. It’s still possible for me to make my mom giggle by the mere mention of a giraffe butt, and I try to make sure I do so every now and then. For instance, finding myself in London’s largest toy store, I staged a shot of me grabbing a giraffe by the tail…and I submit to you that if you can afford a life-sized stuffed giraffe, you can fuck right off. Some of us outside of the rarified airs actually have to struggle to make ends meet.
I’ve always been a fan of little in jokes like this, secret ways of saying things within a couple, family, or group of friends. They build a secret language of shared experience, humor, and love. What’s your favorite family in-joke?
Thursday, December 9, 2010
There are times, when faced with an imminent asskicking, that we learn just how far we might go for our fellow man. How far will you go? Let me share with you a story, of a time I came *this* close to jumping on the grenade.
I was on a deployment at Keesler, and hanging out with Kit quite often. (See the Slidell Saga) Of a Saturday night, we’d do whatever adventure we were doing, and hit the Denny’s on the beachfront for late night breakfast.
A midnight Denny’s crowd can be a group of regulars, and such had become the case at this location. We had a regular waitress, a regular table, even though we weren’t entirely regular ourselves. Sort of off-normal, which suited us just fine…there was a section where nerds and geeks would regularly be seated, and the rest of the restaurant for the late night drunkard crowd. You can probably guess which section we frequented.
On this particular night, we were just being served when the large table behind us was invaded and conquered by a bunch of teenagers, fresh out of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. As you might imagine, they were dressed quite strangely…one young lady in a clear skirt and gold lame’ panties, a young man in a dress…I’m pretty sure they had played Rocky and Janet that night, but gender-switched. Both were probably 16, at the most. The rest of the table was equally as wild, and Kit and I smiled at each other, reminiscing about our own Saturday night floor shows, truly beautiful to behold.
Don't dream it...be it.
We finished our meal, chatting and enjoying ourselves…even when the boy with the Mohawk asked Kit for the rest of her sausage. Some may have been bothered, but we just smiled at his boldness and rewarded it with the sausage. Michael Rennie might have been ill, but we were just having a good time.
Unfortunately, what would have been a lovely evening started getting murky as I noticed 4 military meatheads at another booth, giving the kids the stink-eye. My danger sense was tingling so hard I started looking around for radioactive spiders. I’ve been military myself, and proudly, but these guys took me straight back to high school in a hurry…I can recognize a dung beetle when I see one, and I was looking at four of them.
Kit noticed me go quiet, as I started truly listening to the Fucktastic Four. The kids were gathering up and getting ready to leave, when I heard the lead douchemuppet utter “I swore an oath against all enemies foreign and domestic, and that looks like a domestic enemy to me” all the while giving the boy in a dress (a knee length floral number, by the way) his best Deathglare. (I'm not sure who writes southern villain dialogue, but they need to be fired.) He looked like a stocky version of Dolph Lundgren, a true poster boy for the Aryan Nation. I swiveled my legs out to the side so I could get up quickly, and called for the waitress.
“Crystal, you need to call the cops, there’s about to be trouble in your lot.” She didn’t even question me, just went for the phone. The kids left. Two of the four meatheads followed. Our waitress dialed the phone, while Kit went a bit pale.
I stood and quickly crossed to the booth, addressing the remaining two. “You guys need to stop your friends before they do something stupid” I exclaimed. Neither looked up from their Grand Slams, gazing into their plates as if divining the future in their scrambled eggs. Or maybe they just couldn’t lift their eyes under the colossal weight of their shame.
Some quick calculations went through my head, and I was worried these two would follow me out the door if I went. I knew the scrawny kid wouldn’t have a chance, though, and I remembered all too well the years I had been targeted like that. Somewhere within, a flame grew hot. I hit a quick about face and headed for the door, figuring to grab my mag-light out of my trunk on the way. When I can, I try to avoid a 4-on-1 without some sort of equalizer.
For the second time in the Deep South, Dangerboy was ready to receive a good old-fashioned ass-whoopin’. Hey, Alex, what do you think?
The category: Timely Intervention. The clue: Faster than eggs through a hen.
What is the fastest police response I’ve ever seen without a Krispy Kreme involved?
Correct for $200!
Thank you, Trebec.
As I rounded the corner, I saw the lead meathead reaching into the kids’ car, grasping for the lad with the fashion sense. At the same moment, one of Biloxi’s finest pulled into the lot. They had to have been right next door, as the response time was under a minute from time of call. Seeing the cop hop out of his cruiser, I turned around, heading right back inside. Kit was happy to see me, to be certain...and for that matter, so was I.
The girl in the transparent skirt came back in to retrieve something they’d left at the table, and I noticed she was wearing a rather large shiny pentacle. I caught her eye. “So,” I said, “is that for show, or are you pagan?”
She straightened her back and met my eyes with pride, and said slowly “I’m a witch.”
“Well then, Blessed Be.” I replied. Her eyebrows made a climb for her hairline, as she realized that I wasn’t busting her chops at all. I winked at her as she thanked me and left, and I’d like to think that perhaps she put two and two together there on the whole who-called-the-cops issue.
I called for the check, and decided to finish my coffee and pie. It wasn’t long before the 2 douchehats came back in and sat back down in their booth, and then the glares got heavy. I pointedly ignored them, though truth be told I made a huge mistake not going over and asking for the name of their CO so I could end their careers. Fortunately for them, I had so much adrenaline pumping in my system that rational thought was difficult to maintain.
After about 5 minutes of enduring the stares, Kit and I paid and left. I flashed the dung beetles a wolfish grin on my way out, and you can be sure I kept my eye on the door until after we’d pulled out of the lot.
I’m certain that I would have been hurt, and likely badly, had the balloon gone up, but I’m proud of myself that a young man would have avoided that fate had it happened. Still hyped up on adrenaline and caffeine, I stayed up with Kit for several more hours, playing Mortal Kombat 3 until the wee hours just before dawn. A repeating chorus of “Sub Zero wins” finally serenaded me to relaxation. I’m still just fine that none of the Fucktastic Four managed a “Get over here!” though. I might have broken out in bruises.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
I have to admit it, I’m a Scotch snob. I don’t typically drink blends, unless they’re part of a mixed drink. I will take straight Laphroaig before I’ll have Johnny Blue. And I’ll like it.
Occasionally, though, I like to try something new and different, but only at the pour-me-one level. I very rarely audition a new booze with a whole bottle, though, as my wallet tends to rebel against such shenanigans like a rag tag alliance on Hoth.
Being a snob of Scotch, I was surprised to learn of an unlikely treat: Japanese single malt whiskey. I was even more surprised to see it on the Scotch shelf at my local Boozehouse. Japanese, you say? Better known for sushi and pleasant baths than bagpipes, says I. And while the bottle of Yamazaki intrigued me, the $54 price tag taunted me like a Vegas hooker. You think it’ll be a good time, but you can’t justify the expense to your wife, and you know it might taste bad no matter how it’s dressed up.
And so, I cruised right on by that bottle on the shelf, and picked up some of the Glenmorangie instead. And out the door I went.
I do travel for business, and so it came to pass that I ended up in a lovely sushi place at Disney’s Swan resort, with Wifefish and Willie, Little Danger in tow in his stroller. While he napped (Little Danger, not Willie), I perused the menu. I may also have perused the waitress in authentic kimono, but my eyes came back to the menu as the familiar Yamazaki caught my eye. I decided I’d give it a try, and the Hibiki as well. Yes, it’s a blend, but I bent my rule on this one so as to experience a traditional whiskey aged in a plum wine cask. Gang, that just sounded too yummy to pass up.
By the way, I have to call out my sushi bars around the nation. I have eaten sushi at many, many places…New York, Vegas, San Diego, Ohio, Indiana, Texas, even New Orleans…and never seen Japanese Whiskey, only sake and Ki-Rin beer. What gives? Why have you hidden this from the Dangerboy? Now I’m going to be looking for it every time, and when I can’t find it I’m going kaiju so far off the deep end you’ll think I was directed by Ishiro Honda, so you’d better have a pair of tiny Japanese girls in your pocket just in case.
That's Yamazaki, not Yamaha, not kamikaze, and damn sure not Hamekameha.
Anyhow, on to the meat of the post…the drinks. The Yamazaki is a product of Suntory distillery, built in 1923. I found it a pleasant drink indeed, a bit sweet like a Highland Scotch, but with a distinct personality and a bit of cherry hiding in the wood. As always, your mileage may vary, but this is a not-scotch that I’ll let wear an honorary kilt with its katana. Pride in whiskey is pride in whiskey, whatever flag it flies.
Hibiki means "harmony", fitting for a blend.
As for the Hibiki, I’m glad I gave it a shot, even though it’s a blend. It is of course smoothed out, but if you’re a fan of blends, you need this in your collection. It’s another Suntory production, and is very smooth and sweet. The plum flavors really come to the fore, and it finishes with a bit of peppery spice. I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least, and I’d allow a bottle of this to grace the shelves of my Pyrate Pub any time.
And so it came to pass that Dangerboy, Celtic heritage intact, did come to enjoy the fruits of the Far East. And I share it with you, now...grab your Pokemon and your bagpipes, and have a wee dram of something a bit different!
Yamazaki and Hibiki. Remember them, and Slainte!…or Kampai!!
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
As some of you may know, I have a special place in my heart for the first fall of snow. Despite the fact that it inspires 98% of the drivers around me to revert to their inner moron, it inspires in me memories of staying home from school, snowball fights, hot chocolate, reading a book while watching it fall, and of course snuggling up with my Mom or, on those occasions he was off of work, with Dad.
There's a certain magic that comes with the first snowfall, which the 2nd and 27th snowfalls just can't touch. The 27th snowfall always makes me yearn for the Turks or Bahamas anyway, as by that time I'm ready to choke out a caribou just on principle. But oh, that first snowfall, come to call in its soft embrace and wrap me in all those memories of life's wintry pleasures! The first snowfall is welcomed with open, though freakin' freezin' arms.
While my friend has lost the power to let me have a day home, today's first snow is more special still. Today I'm going to bundle up Little Danger in a big fluffy blanket and carry him outside, and I'm going to introduce my friend. I think I'm going to set aside a vacation day in the coming years, too...his first snow day off from school (still some years down the road), I think I want to take off work and share that with him. My old friend would surely appreciate the company.
Monday, November 29, 2010
It was a beautiful, though sweltering, summer day. My friends D&J were getting married in a local park, amidst the vivid green of a Midwest weekend. The tents were up, the mead chilled, the keg cooling. The dress code was casual and comfortable, and thus I chose to wear my Utilikilt for comfort and style.
The ceremony was lovely, and I was pleased to meet the bride J’s family from out-of-state. Given that the beer was flowing, this was a bit of a treat, for the most part. Little did I know that I was about to enter the annals of Wedding Legends the land over.
Amidst the glow of both the setting sun and a fair amount of mead, I was standing with Wifefish when J’s mom approached me. She looked, as many people do, at the kilt and asked, “Are you wearing it correctly?”
“Of course,” I quickly (and accurately) replied. It was a damn hot day, and some underkilt breeze is a heavenly thing, my friends.
“No you’re not.”
I’ve been party to exchanges like this once or twice before, and so I asserted that I was, in fact, purely Regimental. “I don’t believe you,” she exclaimed, her hands grasping the hem of my garment. She looked at Wifefish, who smiled broadly and said “Go ahead!”
I’ll take the Scottish Flower for $1000 Alex.
The answer: proudly displayed by Scotsmen and other Celts for ages.
What is “My Prickly Thistle”.
Thank you, Alex.
Up went the kilt. Wide went the eyes of J’s mom. Time seemed to stop, her hand frozen for an eternal second of disbelief until she released the kilt, allowing gravity to reassert my modesty. Wifefish laughed heartily, as did J. The mother of the bride then ran from me, face flushed red in embarrassment and humor, laughing all the way. “I thought he was lying!” she nearly shrieked. The laughter rang out loudly, as we continued our reveling.
The time came for me to make our goodbyes and head home for the evening, and I ended up speaking briefly to J’s mom. I told her how glad we all were for her daughter, knowing she missed her now that she’s moved here, but that we are all better for her presence.
“Thank you,” she said. She started to walk away, then hesitated. With an impish grin, she turned to me and said “Nice penis, by the way!” I couldn’t help but laugh, and it was my turn to blush a bit. Dad always told me that I’d be rewarded if I told the truth, and this day was no exception.
Needless to say, J and I now have a special connection, and a great story that we love to share.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
It’s time for another walk down Nostalgia Street. This time, we’re visiting 8 year old me again, for another of the Atari 2600 treats. This week’s game was another Activision hit, Chopper Command.
8 year old me, and in fact now year old me, was/is obsessed with action packed flight games. The pickings were slim in ’82, but Chopper Command fit the bill quite nicely indeed. Here was a game in which I could pretend to be a pilot, escorting convoys through the desert, splashing MiGs and enemy choppers with frickin’ laser beams! Pew Pew!!! Er…I mean…ahem. Moving on…
My Code Name is Wild Bill, Muthafucka!
This was a fairly advanced concept for early 2600 games, a side-scroller that introduced a wrinkle to the classic “blow everything else the fuck up while you twitch like a mongoose on meth avoiding enemy missiles and try not to fucking die” formula. That wrinkle was the introduction of a friendly convoy crawling at ¼ the speed of smell across the bottom of the screen, serving as target practice for the enemy fighters. Your mission was to protect said convoy of militarized slugs as it inched across the bottom of the screen in ominous black vehicles.
This mission was made all the more challenging by the imaginative way enemy shots split in two and fired straight up and down. This of course defied all concepts of physics, merely existing to inspire thrown controllers to crash against walls in households everywhere. Wired controllers did have one advantage, ladies and gentlemen…they stopped before they hit the wall.
Chopper Command was accompanied by a slew of marketing peripherals, and in fact I’ve given you a gift here…that’s an actual mobile you can print out and fold up to have your very own Chopper to…well, command. As with many other Activision games, you could take a picture of your screen and send it in to get a groovy patch to try to beg mom to sew onto your jacket. (Blog tip #347…overuse of preposition? CHECK.) The Chopper Command patch was infinitely cooler than some of the other patches, for instance the Short Order Squad patch, which wouldn’t have been cool if it came with a pack of candy cigarettes.
Awesome on denim...
Granted, acing Chopper Command for the coveted end game score of 999,999 made you only slightly cooler than Barry Bostwick in a bodysuit and blue headband, but for an 8 year old, it’s the little victories in cool that matter, that push just a little more toward "awesome". Gameplay was repetitive, but then so was virtually every video game in the early 80’s. Story driven games just hadn’t been invented yet, and so it was up to a child’s imagination to create said story every time the power switch got flipped to “ON.”
And so it was, dressed in the flightsuit of my thermal-knit long underwear, that I would scramble fresh from a bowl of Count Chocula, climb into my cockpit, flip on the switches, and take control of a futuristic laser armed chopper to protect vanloads of loosely-defined “goodguys” against the privations of the dastardly and aptly named “badguys”. Even though the cockpit bore a striking resemblance to my bedroom, the scramble didn’t start until after I cleaned up the table, and the chopper existed mostly in my mind, there was a lot of fun and adventure to be had flying that two dimensional chopper, commanding a spot in the airspace over Nostalgia Street.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Kudos to Blilzzard for not putting a 2 after it to make the change, but rather just trusting their fans and customers to come along for the ride as they drop a serious package of doom on their world, changing the face of what was to the face of what is. Kind of cool, really.
Here's your link for the Earth-Shattering "Kaboom" of the intro trailer.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
It's kind of a shame I don't have an odometer installed in my ass, it would be flipping like crazy this month. I'll see you all for a real post next week, promise. Until then, be well and be happy, and do something awesome.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Behold: the TSA. If you were to create a government agency empowered with a vague mission to make people feel safe by making them do stupid shit, then you would be late to the party. They’re already here, and they are in every airport in my beloved U S of A.
I recently had the joy of taking my first flight to and fro with a baby in tow, as Wifefish, Little Danger, and I ventured forth for a business trip to Disney. Sidenote: Little Danger will have no recollection of Disney, but it was still kind of awesome. Suffice to say, getting through security with a baby and a laptop is more than anyone expects you to be able to do in today’s oh-my-gods-we’re-all-going-to-fucking-die atmosphere.
Having reviewed the website list of what is and is not allowed to go in a carryon, we thought we were prepared. Wifefish carried Little Danger through security while I spontaneously sprouted 4 more limbs to empty out the laptop, belt, shoes, diaper bag, cellphones, and all other items and convey them, along with the stroller, into the big x-ray machine. The ensuing trip through the checkpoint would have made a great juggling act for Cirque du Soleil, I’m sure. Of course, we were informed that we were not OK at all, and had to stand to the side and allow each of Little Danger’s bottles to be tested for explosives. Because babies are fucking scary. I gathered all of our gear and lugged it to the “further screening” area, not surprised in any way that a loving couple with a baby should be subject to such scrutiny.
Look, I will admit that my child is fully capable of some explosive force and weapons-grade chemical warfare in the form of the things he creates in his diaper, but to date he lacks the ability to concoct any sort of actual terrorist device out of water and formula. Honestly, I was less upset about being pulled aside than I was about being lectured about taking his bottles out ahead of time so the agent wouldn’t have to run the bags a second time. So very sorry to inconvenience you, TSA agent, but the boy isn’t ready for Big Macs in the terminal yet. Piss off.
As I heaved a sigh born of impatience, frustration, and sadness, the agent had the tits to say “I’m just doing as ordered.” Yeah, they said that shit at Auschwitz, lady. And while that’s an extreme metaphor right there, I have no desire to let these Laff-a-lympics they pass off as security Actual TSA training photo
measures devolve much further. I looked at the idiocy around me at the checkpoint, then looked at Little Danger and thought about how much further down the road to Shitsville things could go. I don’t want that world for him.
Pro-tip. These people have orders that they must follow. These orders are designed to be implemented by people who are qualified to work at the DMV. They are not going to catch a single terrorist, but you must comply with their idiotic bullshit. I’m standing here in my socks not because anyone is ever going to successfully detonate a shoe bomb, but because someone is afraid someone might be able to do so. I fully expect that within two years, they will demand that we do the hokey pokey, and if we cannot successfully demonstrate what it’s all about, we are sent back home, unable to fly.
The further joke is that despite all the fun and fantastic hoops you and I get to jump through, the smart terrorist is just going to drive in the back gate with the catering trucks and fueling equipment, or chuck whatever they need over the fucking fence, or train a flock of emus to carry napalm tanks through the front door and self-detonate in an orgy of flaming feathers and fury. Emu Death Squad
But don’t you dare try to bring a 6 oz bottle of Grins and Giggles Baby Lotion in your diaper bag, because that, ladies and gentlemen, is a threat to everyone on the plane. Wifefish actually had an agent throw out a bottle of lotion once and claim she was “just keeping everyone safe.” I laughed in that agent’s face, despite the risk of anal search.
See, I’ve been in the military, and I’ve done security for installations before. I know that no matter what you have on the front end, your entire security setup is only as strong as its weakest point. And while they’re distracting us with standing in our stockings and not being able to bring our Venti No-Water Chai Latte through security, while the agents are grabbing our belongings and shoving them around because we’re “holding up the line” trying to comply with their bullshit antics, while we’re too afraid to speak out for fear of missing our flight, the fucking terrorists have already won. We gave up some of our freedom, some of our common sense, for the illusion of safety.
There is no substituting bureaucratic procedures that must be followed without anyone being offended by “profiling” for well-trained officers who are allowed to use their own judgment to implement security, or for advanced technology, such as the infamous “naked scanners”. I’m actually all for them, because they can cut down the time I have to be inconvenienced by all the other bullshit, and also because I just don’t care who gets to swoon over my junk. Not my problem if they have a hung-like-a-hamster fetish.
I really could go on and on and on with this topic, but I don’t really want to become boring. Too late, I know. Suffice to say that it has been proven by journalists (search for security theater) that almost every single hoop you jump through is every bit as useful as Paris Hilton’s thesaurus. It’s just there for show.
And so I salute you, TSA, but I salute you with one finger. Guess which one. You are every bit as useful as the Ministry of Silly Walks, and I wouldn’t let half your employees make me a sandwich at Subway. May you go the way of the dodo, and soon.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
There’s something I haven’t talked about yet, a powerful change that has happened in my life.
The first time I saw him, my breath stopped for a moment, and truly I understood the idiom “my heart skipped a beat”. I’ve been happily married for quite some time, and my wife is beyond fantastic…but I simply had no idea I could love this deeply.
The most magical part of my day now is when I see him laying there first thing in the morning, sun streaming into the window, and his eyes meet mine, and he smiles at me as if to say “Oh, there you are.” Tears come to my eyes with the purity and power of the love I feel at that moment.
I hold him close to me, and feel overwhelmed. I want to make the world move for him. His smile and his laugh light up his entire face. He has deep, bright blue eyes that capture me at a glance.
Sometimes I just stare at him, enraptured by what I see there. Sometimes he begins to drift into sleep, and a soft smile spreads across his features as he feels some nameless joy at the moment of transition away from the world of light and into the land of dreams. My chest feels, at that moment, as if it can barely restrain the pressure of my heart’s rapid expansion, growing to allow room for ever more love, affection, and awe.
It moves me in ways indescribable that I was chosen to be his. I’m lucky, because the Wifefish totally understands and supports my love. She shares it, after all.
He is my son, and he has made the world a vastly different and new place to live. He's still relatively new to the world, but the Little Danger is already making a pretty big splash in my life.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Let’s take a second trip back in the time, and visit 8 year old me again. Damn, I’m cute. We’ll check in on another of the Atari 2600 cartridges that claimed vast swathes of my time growing up, Defender.
Defender’s premise was, at the time, fucking awesome. Invaders from space (not that game) were attacking the planet, stealing humanoids to turn into raging mutants! The only thing that could stop them was your spaceship. This may seem like no big deal in 2010, but at the time it was truly cutting edge.
Graphics for Defender were notably geometric in nature. There was a rectangle that dropped tiny squares that would fuck you up, called a bomber. There was the asterisk called a swarmer. The triangle with a circle on top was known as a lander, and it was on a mission to grab the little blinking squares in the “city” (a series of rectangles and squares) and abduct them, presumably inserting anal probes and turning them into mutants: big red blobs of chase-your-ass-down-for-the-next-few-levels fucking angels of death. Like many Atari games, Defender was a Pythagorean nightmare; it was as if a crate of children’s blocks had animated and conspired to seal your doom.
This little guy? Here to fuck your shit up.
Defender stands out in my mind as a fun and challenging game for its time. In addition to just moving and shooting, there were numerous special actions. You could hyperspace jump, landing some random place on the screen and hoping that didn’t happen to be a spot already occupied. This would result in the leading cause of controller failure, the tantrum toss. You could time your firing to pass through foes, because for some reason firing your main gun made you completely fucking invisible, but for just long enough to cause trouble. You could also just generally rain destruction with the smart bomb, which would eradicate all enemies on the screen. All of those options were activated with the limit of one button, so kudos to the programmers for some serious out-of-the-box thinking.
Like all Atari games, there was no option to pause the game. Defender featured a poor man’s pause, though, which consisted of killing all but one foe and tucking your craft into “hyperspace”, the area containing the score and lives remaining. You never left a lander though, as this would result in a dreaded mutant invasion and fuck your shit up. Using poor man’s pause, you could go and have dinner when called to the table, secure in the knowledge that your attempt to kick your big brother’s high score into next week was still viable, and could re-commence after the dishes were done. Unless that prick finished his chores first and made it to the reset button. Not that I’m bitter. You might even, as I did one fateful July evening, wrap the score! (The score only went to 999,999…if you hit 1 million, it started back at zero.)
Scoring was fairly straightforward, though rescuing a humanoid was worth a ton of points. So, perversely, you would almost always let at least 1 lander try to make off with one of your blinking squares, and let them experience the thrill of free fall before catching them and dropping them off on the corner of 12th and main, with a new chilling tale to tell their grand-pixels in their old age. Failure resulted in a lovely sound effect that roughly translated to “SPLAT.”
Splat. The sound of failure.
I could say I lost many hours listening to splats and yelling at the screen, and just as many triumphantly scragging every alien in sight. Those hours weren’t lost, though, they were just paid as rent for an alien-filled studio apartment in Funville, right there on Nostalgia Street.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
I have noticed a very huge trend on the series of tubes: a profound outcry against bullying. As you may have guessed, I have strong opinions on the matter, and so I’m going to join this dogpile in a special Dangerboy cannonball.
Behold: the bully. They come in all varieties, and all ages. In short, they suck. But since a two word blog entry is somewhat... disappointing, I shall continue.
The Geek may be ascendant, but the previous Age of Man was the Age of the Bully, and we the Geeks remember each time we had to run home from the bus stop to reach the protective sphere of our parents. We the Geeks remember each taunt, each wet willie, every wedgie, all the “pick that kid last” moments, and every fist to the face. We remember every insult, and all the witty retorts that earned us an ass-kicking. But since we all follow Wheaton’s Law, you bullies have lived a relatively revenge free existence. That’s because we get laid more than you do now. A lot more. So in a way, we already have our revenge…more money and more nookie. Oh yes, our revenge is both sweet and complete.
As I reflect, I’m pretty sure that bullies are much like dung beetles. To go for the cheap joke, they have a shitty attitude. I learned when I was 5 that you are what you eat, so there’s that…dung beetles. The second similarity is the metamorphosis. You have your larval bullies and your adult bullies. They must be dealt with in different ways. And the third is that whole “rolling in shit” metaphor.
We begin with the larvae of the specie. See, a larval bully is fixable. Love and assurance and all that. They are usually just hurting in some way, and bully the larval humans around them to get attention, or to feel good for a bit. Note to larval bullies: discover masturbation…it feels SO much better than hurting another larval person. For that matter, discover Amsterdam. Legalized hash and prostitution could do wonders for your stress levels. If you’re not old enough for these activities, then take up a fucking hobby. And a note to those with larval bullies in your lives: you can keep them from becoming adult bullies!
As for adult bullies, they should fucking well know better. Their root cause is a bit different, as they’re usually afraid. And we all know that fear is the mindkiller. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering through Hayden Christiansen’s shitty acting while George Lucas rapes our childhood memories. Not that I’m bitter.
Rather than conquer their fear, the adult bullies lash out, teaching their larvae to do the same. Consider: the fuckwads that get in a group and beat up gays would feel better if they’d just give each other a reacharound instead. Sadly, they’re afraid they’ll like it. Or that gays will somehow destroy marriage with their huge gay steamroller. Or that they will secretly enjoy having fabulous shoes. And so they hurl the names, and the fists, and teach their kids that being different is wrong, because the invisible man in the sky will hate them forever.
It’s human to be fearful and insecure. But it takes a true asshole to pass those conditions on to their kids, whatever the source of fear. Be it race, sexual preference, religion, weight, IQ, clothes, favorite football team, hobby, or odd resemblance to a lemur, it’s just not OK to teach kids to hate other people and dehumanize them. OK, maybe the lemur people. They’re just fucking freaky. Lions fans, too…and I think maybe the Venn diagram for lemur people and Lions fans is just one big freaking circle.
Sadly, it’s now easier than ever to be a bully. We have the power of anonymity these days, hurling our insults with incredibad spelling from behind screen names and “anonymous” tags that keep us safe from receiving the ass-kicking we would richly deserve when we call them ostrich raping sons of whores who just happen to be doodyheads. Or whatever we call them.
Every bully I’ve ever met, I have to resist the urge to hop to the top rope and drop the People’s Elbow on them. Metaphorically, of course…remember I have an allergy to pain. See, I was bullied often as a kid, being an easy target. I weighed 125 lbs soaking wet and was the brainy gamer kid. This is what the military calls a “soft target”. During my high school years, I lived the life of the duck at the Old West Shooting Gallery, waiting for the next shot. I’m glad to say that I changed the majority of that just by graduating, and gradually have learned how to defuse most adult bullies with the tools of ridicule and just plain ignoring them. Don’t feed the trolls, and all that. It’s been a long slog, but I suppose I’m better for it.
And so, for all you are, I salute you, bullies. But I salute you with one finger. Guess which one. May you suffer two atomic wedgies for every one you dish out.
I’ve got plenty of bully stories from my younger days, and maybe I’ll share one or two here later. In the meantime, for a more poignant look at the topic, I suggest this blog entry as a really inspirational read. Get out there and save some larvae…some of those dung beetles would make much better butterflies.
Also, a very special thank you to the Wifefish for the fantastic art in today's blog.
Also, a note to the Detroit Lions. No offense guys, please don't kick my ass for this. It's just a blog, and I'm sure you'll have a winning season SOMEDAY. But really...what is with the lemurs?
Friday, October 1, 2010
The Pitfalls of Harry
One of my favorite Christmas presents growing up was the Atari 2600. I remember playing Combat! with my dad and my brother for hours that day. Pac-Man was another favorite. But, of course, we all have games that stand out as favorites, and 8 year old me was exceptionally fond of Pitfall.
Maybe it was the fact that Ron Ely was on every Sunday morning for Tarzan re-runs, dodging Styrofoam boulders and knifing crocs underwater. Maybe it was the fact that I had really enjoyed Raiders of the Lost Ark, even though I hid my eyes along with Marion. (You remember the scene.) But for whatever reason, Pitfall was, if I remember correctly, the first game that I imagined myself to be a part of.
Upon receiving the game, I first read the manual. This looked like it was going to be fun, and 8 year old me took note that I’d have to use the red button AND the joystick at the same time. They capitalized AND…holy shit, they were serious about this! Two things at once! And despite the giggles from those of you who grew up on Halo with your 47 buttons and 23 triggers, 8 year old me had one hell of a time hitting the button and stick together just so to land safely and not be eaten by crocs or stung by scorpions.
And look there, in the back of the manual…the designer of the game wanted to hear from ME! He wanted to know how Harry and I were “getting along!” The “tips from the creators” was a great move on the part of Activision, and really made you (if you were 8) feel special.
Soon, it was time to insert the cartridge into the 2600 and flick the switch to power on! In no time, I was running along with Pitfall Harry, questing through the jungle, jumping over logs and landing on the heads of crocodiles. If only Steve Irwin had known that standing on their eyeballs made them unable to bite you, he’d have missed out on some stitches in his early career.
The thrills! I was collecting treasures from the depths of the jungle! I kept track of them in an old notebook in case the 2600 got shut off or, more likely, commandeered by my brother to assuage his Pac Man Fever. I imagined what I’d buy with my silver bars and diamond rings and bags of money, usually more Star Wars toys. Alas, that money was merely make-believe, and vanished as soon as the Reset button was touched, and so Lobot had to wait on the K-mart shelf next to Dengar and IG-88.
The graphics of Pitfall were cutting edge for the Atari, as every obstacle was actually identifiable, unlike so many games of that age where your square avoided other squares until you could run into a differently colored square and put it in a rectangle. The logs looked almost like logs (or maybe rolling poo), the gators were identifiable (as lines and then greater than signs, alternately), the scorpions creepy (no, really…they were fucking creepy). Tar pits were black, the jungle canopy was a green blob perpetually anchored to the top of the screen, and magic numbers appeared amongst the leaves to show how much time remained, and what score you’d achieved.
Now that I think on it, it was a lot like doing ‘shrooms. Or so I’ve heard.
I never did achieve the coveted perfect score, but I jumped over so many logs and scorpions that my left thumb was noticeably more developed than my right. I’d played many video games, but Pitfall! still stands out in my mind as a simple classic.
What was your first favorite video game?