Find a Way To Follow!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Out In The Open

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

Trip Down Nostalgia Street, vol. 2

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

Things I Hate, vol. 4

The Bully Edition

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

Trip Down Nostalgia Street, vol 1

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?

Scotchy Scotch, vol 2

Second in my journey through the bottles of “water of life”, I’d like to introduce you to one of my personal favorites: Dalwhinnie.

Dalwhinnie is a very, very easy to drink Scotch. Consider it entry level, but still of a quality. A taste of Dalwhinnie brings to mind fields of heather, and indeed has a taste of heather flowers or heather honey in it. One might also get a sense of pear in the taste. The nose is sweet and slightly smoky.

This is a distillery that doesn’t have a tremendous selection, but that is no handicap whatsoever.

When you have something good, you stick with it. After all, Dalwhinnie is one of the “Six Classic Malts” collection, and has earned its place there.

<-- Look, the distillery...where the magic happens!

It’s a great example of a Highland scotch. That's not to say it will cut off your head, but speaks to the style.

It’s average in price for Single Malt, taking about a $45 bite out of my wallet for each bottle. It is also a bottle that I make sure I always have at least one of at all times in my bar.

Dalwhinnie. Remember it, and Slainte!

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