Tuesday, November 30, 2010

v2, d217: Farewell, Little Red and Unnamed Gold Car

We've been a "One-Car Family" for almost a year now.  We proverbially drove our last two cars into the ground to the point where they were no longer worth the cost of fixing to pass state inspection standards. And so they both sat in guest parking at our apartment complex, waiting for us to find an appropriate junking service.  Well, our complex is instituting new parking rules that involve towing ANY vehicle with an expired registration or expired state inspection sticker, so we now had a deadline to get those cars outta here.  (Part of our hangup had been the fact that Kim had lost the title to her car and we were afraid we wouldn't be able to sell it legally without the title.  Fun fact: Not so!)  (Other parking policies: any vehicle without a pretty new blue parking sticker--GONE!  We may even need to get guest parking tags for visitors, but I'm not clear on that one.  All I know is that tow-a-palooza starts at MIDNIGHT!  Because they really MEAN IT!!)


Contacted the good people at Rusty's Auto Salvage, and they set up an appointment to have a tow truck come by yesterday afternoon to cart away Kim's first ever car and our honeymoon getaway vehicle in one fell swoop.  I got a little sentimental as I helped him shove their lifeless car-casses toward the big impersonal tow truck, but only a little.  Lots of memories with those two vehicles.  I remember brushing back tears watching Kim drive away for a full Christmas-through-January break one year at OBU. And one of the balloons shoved into the back of my car for our wedding actually melted to the rear window, so there was always a small white plastic reminder of my groomsmen's handiwork. 

I (obviously) cleaned out our two cars before they took them away.  Seemed like the polite thing to do. Keep in mind we haven't been in these cars in almost a year.  (Over a year, in Little Red's case!)  A lot of things that at one point we intended to clear out and then never actually did.  

Between the two cars, I found:
An umbrella
A flowerpot
Robbie's favorite baby rattle (now rendered inoperable by the effects of time in a small metal car in Houston)
Jumper cables (I knew these were there)
One clean sock (mine)
One old pair of dress shoes (mine, and not so good for wearing anymore, but I had been wondering where they'd been)
One CD I'd lost over two years ago
Multiple "burned" CDs
Three books owned by Dave
One book owned by Travis
One book owned by me
A slew of pennies that will likely push Cubbies over the top for the Awana penny drive
A play script I never submitted for a competition that it wouldn't have won anyway
Some clothes (Christmas presents from 2008, I believe)
Two pairs of drumsticks
Understudy scripts for Cold, Frankin Sense, and Brr! and The Importance of Being Earnest (Fun fact: I don't think I was an understudy for The Importance of Being Earnest!)
Scripts for several touring shows
And here's the kicker: One street hockey stick. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

v2, d216: Back on the Grid

Okay.  Holidays over, family safely back home, late-night computer access once again uninhibited.  Blogging will commence immediately.

Lemme give y'all a run-down of the last week.  Started pretty bleak, actually.  About a week ago I was mightily discouraged, and any blogging I would have done would probably have sucked anyway.  Fortunately, Kim's sisters and parents made it down here Wednesday, and we were in full-blown Thanksgiving mode.

I love Thanksgiving.  I think I've said that before.  It's my favorite holiday, I think.  I took an extra couple of days off work to help get ready and spent pretty much all of Wednesday cleaning the house, save for the hour I took Robbie out to the playground by my workplace.  Thursday, I slept in until about 11:30.  (This was to become a recurring theme during my break)  By the time I woke up, Robbie had already had about three hours of running around the park or digging in the rocks out in the courtyard here in our apartment complex.  We all sat down together and feasted at a table prepared by the culinarily talented Stevens women.  While Robbie took a nap, I assembled our quaint little fake Christmas tree so that, when he woke, he could decorate it.  One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions I'm doing my best to keep alive.  True to any three-year-old tree decoration job, every single lower branch on the tree has a colored ball hanging from it.  I had to shuffle some things around to balance it all out, but I think it looks pretty nice. 

Along the way, Robbie found the musical Godzilla ornament that Sherri gave us five full years ago.  He loved it.  He was chasing his other toys and his aunts around the living room, pressing the button that plays the Godzilla theme while the monster roars.  Pretty epic.

Once the tree was up, we had just enough time to shimmy on down to the Uptown District for the tree lighting and fireworks.  I had an inkling that it would get gold and rainy while we were out, so I grabbed Robbie's jacket.  (It struck me as funny at the time, and still does now, that the same inkling didn't lead me to grab my own jacket)  Kim's parents were staying at a hotel just a block away from the fireworks site, so we parked at their hotel and walked all the way around the block.  As soon as we hit the parking lot where the fireworks would be best visible, it started to sprinkle.  Three minutes later, it started to pour, and hundreds of people sprinted for the storefronts.  A group of friends I was looking to meet up with texted to say they'd decided to forgo the festivities due to inclement weather.  But, it was still half an hour till showtime, so we held out hope that, much like the angel of death when it sees ram's blood, the rain would pass over.  Eventually it did let up significantly, and we left the safety of the covered walkway to venture closer and see if they were making any announcements (like, "Sorry, we're canceling the fireworks! Everybody go home cold and miserable!").  To our ("our" in this instance means Robbie and I; I'm not sure anybody else was really all that thrilled about it) delight, there was a children's choir singing Jingle Bells on the stage.  Robbie joined in the singing, and then it started to pour again.

By this point, we were by Maggiano's Italian restaurant (Ah, memories of Christmas touring!), so we joined the throng that rushed up against the Maggiano's windows.  Here's the joke, though: the walkway wasn't actually covered!  It only looked like it!  Instead, it was wide open, and we were all still getting soaked.

Well by now, the event organizers realized this wasn't blowing over anytime soon, so they went ahead and lit the trees and shot off the fireworks ten minutes early.  Good on them.  With Robbie in my arms, I rushed back out into the rain so he could get a better view.  (He, after all, was wearing his jacket and was perfectly comfortable)

The look on the child's face made the entire ordeal not only "worth it," but "can't miss."  It was like magic.  As the colors splashed across his face, his eyes lit up and a huge grin slowly spread from cheek to cheek.  "Ooo!" he'd exclaim.  "Cool!"  And then, halfway through the show, "This is the best Thanksgiving ever!"

You want to remember why you love holidays?  You want to discover why we have traditions in the first place?  Take it all in with a kid.  I dare you to be wet and grumpy and miserable.

Naturally, the rain dissipated to a mere mist as soon as the fireworks ended.  And that's how that goes. 

Let's see, what else is going on?  Due to the benevolence of free family baby sitting and unused anniversary gift cards, Kim and I got a nice night out together.  Our first in months.  Literally, months.  We went to Red Lobster and splurged a little bit, which was fantastic, and then we decided to take in a movie since we were out.  Finally saw Deathly Hallows Part I.  It was pretty good.  Found a movie theater that only charged us $6.50 each on a Saturday night.  That was even better.  (When the man first said the total was $13.00 I thought he'd misheard me and only charged me once)  Immediately afterward, someone stole my jacket.  That was not good in any way shape or form.  But I guess that's the tradeoff for getting into a movie for $6.50.  Great ticket price = stolen articles of clothing. 

I guess it is only fair.

Hey, I'm in a show, and the first and only preview performance is tomorrow night.We open Wednesday morning, and then we perform something like 80 times before the end of the month.  Did I do a Top 10 for the last show I was in?  I ought to think about resurrecting that old chestnut.  Though if I did, the regularly-scheduled Top 7's might get jealous. 

We'll see. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

v2, d215: Thanksgiving

Sorry for lack of posting lately.  We've got out-of-town family and it's a holiday, and you know how those things have, in the past, proven to be less than conducive to regular blogging.  But I'd be remiss if I didn't wish my dozen or so loyal readers a happy Thanksgiving!  Take some time to day to actually, you know, give thanks to God.  He loves that! 

Also, if you get a chance, say a quick prayer that our fireworks aren't rained out this evening.  Robbie would be severely bummed.  (That's right.  Robbie would be bummed, not me.  That's the ticket) 

Monday, November 22, 2010

v2, d214: Checkin' In

You have to eat the bananas pretty soon, because they go bad really fast.

It's like life.

Today was good!  Has Thanksgiving meal at church following service today.  I kinda miss the Asian American Church that used to meet in our side chapel.  They usually brought steamed rice and shrimp for Thanksgiving.  Not that there's any shortage of yummy things at church Thanksgiving, but still.  They were missed.

It's impossible to explain "restraint" or "stomach aches" to a three-year-old who has stumbled across a room with four dessert tables.

After lunch, I decided to take a much-needed nap rather than catch the last half of the Texans game.  You know what's sad?  I just can't bring myself to care right now.  And it's amazing how many other die-hard Texan fans I've spoken to recently who share the exact same sentiment.

The nap, incidentally, was wonderful.

I really dig being at church for the full AWANA night.  This is the first year I've done that (because this is the first year we've been down to one car).  Good choice.  Also get lots of important information, since most of the people I need to talk to for my church job are also there Sunday nights.  Some good conversations.  Good hot dogs, too.

For the last few months, I've been making up bedtime stories for Robbie about a couple of bears that live in the zoo.  Their names are Harry and Scary.  Or is it Hairy and Scary?  I haven't decided.  "Harry" is an actual name, so my first inclination is to use "Harry Bear."  However, the rhyming "Scary" has to be spelled as the adjective, since there's no alternate spelling commonly used as a first name.  So do I go with "Hairy" for consistency in the adjectives-as-names theme or "Harry" because it makes more sense? 

I don't know that this is important unless I decide to actually write out these stories at some point.  Then again, an actual Harry/Hairy and Scary book might make for an awesome Christmas present.

Anybody want to draw a children's book for one kid for me and not get paid for it?  Yeah...maybe not...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

v2, d213: Set All Stunners to Stun

That post title has nothing to do with this post, but I liked it.

I got to work at the theater tonight for our Christmas show.  Er, shows.  Sort of.  We have four one-acts prepared and every night we do three of them based on which colorful box the audience encourages the actors to open at the beginning of the show.  So you may never see the exact same shows in the exact same order even if you come up to three times!  Or four.  I got conflicting information on how many scenarios we have this evening.  There's also a prize giveaway at some point where people have to pick a box from under the tree to see what prize they'll win.  It's kinda like Deal or No Deal.  (When I was a kid, I loved Deal or No Deal.  I'm not sure why, but I think it was because of the random lame prizes.  Hey, why was everyone in the audience dressed up?  Man, that show was weird) 

Anyway: it was a small crowd tonight, and I had a lot of friends working the show with me, and it's a fairly short evening of entertainment, so it was quite the smooth and pleasant night at the theatre.  (I didn't really get to watch the shows because of the stuff I had to be doing--counting ticket stubs, counting concession money, waiting for late seaters, dimming lights, opening doors, etc, but I'll see it one night when I'm a lowly usher and not the mighty House Manager) I absolutely love being at the theatre on show night.  I know I've mentioned that before.  There's just a magic about it.  I enjoy the people who have made something special out of the evening by coming to a show.  I love seeing the long-time fans who have come expecting to have a good time.  I love hearing the audience reactions from behind the closed box office door while I'm working on something.  Hearing people discuss the show or their favorite actors at intermission.  Watching husbands take their wives by the hand on the way out the door as the show is over.  I love it all.  In some ways, I'd rather be working front-of-house type stuff than I would actually be in the show (most shows).

Tonight, however, I also realized that the "night of the show" buzz really irritates my writer's itch.  When I'm watching a play--almost any play--I want to write a play.  Sadly, by the time I get home and take care of everything, the itch is usually gone.  But I can definitely tell that it was there.

Hopefully I'll have something new on paper by the end of 2010.  It'll be tough, because Christmas is going to be a busy and hectic season.  Honestly, it'll probably be rough from now until...well, at least May, I'd guess.  But some of my best stuff has come when I haven't had the time to do it, so I've got that going for me, maybe.

Oh, incidentally, there aren't a lot of competitions out there that really encourage new plays for young audiences in the state of Texas.  I'm thinking of starting one.  Which would be a bummer, because then I couldn't enter or win it.  But I'm sure there are people out there who would appreciate it. 

K, I'm tired.  I don't want to go back and read this because I'm afraid it won't make much sense.  I think I was a lot more awake when I started writing than I am now.  Curse you, caffeine crash!

Friday, November 19, 2010

v2, d212: Palindrome Day

Since 212 is somewhat of a palindromic number, I decided today can be Palindrome Day. 

What's your favorite palindrome???

Here are a few I'd never seen before to whet your appetite:

Rats live on no evil star
Was it Eliot's toilet I saw?
Satan, oscillate my metallic sonatas!
Doc note: I dissent. A fast never prevents fatness. I diet on cod.

I'm amazed at how many palindromes have religious connotation!

Do geese see God?
Dennis sinned.
Ah, Satan sees Natasha.

Run, Natasha!  Run!!!

More Palindrome Fun can be found HERE!

Enjoy your day, ya dru oy yoj Ne!!
(Making up palindromes is harder than making up haiku)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

v2, d211: Be careful, little mouth, what you say...


Sorry for no posting yesterday.  For those who don't already know, we went back to the hospital again with more contractions.  Just like last time, they gave Kim a few shots and sent her home.  Unlike last time, they also gave us a prescription to bring home.  The medicine makes Kim a little jumpy/shaky, but she's handling it well.  We left for the hospital about 10 or so last night (had a good friend stay over and sleep on our couch in case Robbie woke up in the middle of the night--thankfully he did not) and got home around 2-2:30 a.m.  So, another long night.

Then, today was a rehearsal where not many people were feeling very good and then a meeting with the boss which went well-ish, but I'm really tired of having certain things brought up again.  And again.  And again.  Specifically because I'm in the room.  It's lame getting blamed for something that you didn't really do wrong. (Which is where tonite's post title comes from.  There are a LOT of snippy things I could have said today that, by the grace of God, I didn't say.  'Cause, fun as it is, my snark rarely makes people feel good)

After that, I hit a total mental breakdown, mostly because I didn't get a chance to eat lunch until 2:30.  Then I ate, had another cup of coffee, had a super-productive afternoon in the office, and had a lot of fun with my family at home tonight.  Also, a high-five-awesome trip to Wal-Mart. 

So, despite the fact that it's only 11, I think it's about time for bed.  I'm about to fall over out of my chair.  And that'd be bad, 'cause I might hit my head on the plastic trash can at my feet or the corner of my desk.  So I'ma go ahead and take old GG's advice on this one:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

v2, d210: And speaking of video games...

I'm gittin' 'er done on the ol' novel tonite, so you get a filler blog.  

I posted this on my Facebook the other day, but I'm gonna share it on here as well.  Super Mario Crossover.  It's a free game somebody put up online that lets you play through the original Super Mario Brothers game with your choice of Mario, Link, Ryu, Megaman, Samus, Simon Belmont, or the guy from Contra whose name I don't remember.  And it's actually really cool.  Each character plays more or less like they play in their original game (with a couple tweaks added in).  I've had a small bit of trouble getting the game to respond to my keystrokes, but only very rarely.  Using Link to downward thrust on those multiple-coin blocks is fun.  He can also stab through brick.  So far, I generally enjoy using Link or Contra-guy for most levels.  (Though occasionally I go the boring route and choose Mario, since it's quicker than trying to figure out the physics of using a new character)

In the immortal words of Tatsu, "Go.  Play.  Have fun." 

Monday, November 15, 2010

v2, d209: Top 7 Favorite Video Games

First off, I have to say that I'm not what you call a hard-core gamer.  I played a LOT of video games back when the NES was pretty much the only show in town, but once consoles got into 16-bit I really didn't keep pace with the industry.  I played some SNES at my friend's house and eventually I owned a Genesis system, but by that point games had moved on to 32 bits and I was pretty heavily involved in theater most evenings and just didn't play as much.  I completely missed out on 64 and PS1 and didn't actually own another system until I got a PS2 as a wedding present.  By that point, the PS3 and XBox 360 were practically out.  So, I've always been behind.  I've never played much XBox, so I know I've missed out on one of the most popular video game franchises of all time.  This is not going to be a terribly well-informed list.

Nevertheless: I have spent hours upon hours of my life playing video games.  Saved many worlds many times over.  Won several Stanley Cups.  Died many, many deaths and even rescued some princesses.  And there are some games that I would still play at the drop of a hat.  (Providing, of course, after the hat was dropped, the hat-dropper said, "Hey, let's play this video game")

Here, then, are my top 7 faves.  (Some of my favorites come in series; where that's the case, I'll just choose my favorite of the series to speak for the whole slew of 'em.  Gives the countdown some more variety)

#7: Rock Band (Xbox 360)

Rock Band, Rock Band 2, 3, Beatles, whatever.  I love this game.  I don't actually own this game.  I don't really even generally have access to this game.  In fact, I've played it twice.  Ever.  And it rules.  Look, it's been stated on here once or twice how one of my few big regrets at this point in my (admittedly short) life is that, save for one evening on the Craig Dorland stage, I've never been in a rock band.  Playing Bat Boy came close.  And no, obviously, playing this game isn't the same thing.  But it's the closest I'm likely ever going to get.  And playing the drums is actually pretty similar to playing a true electronic drum kit.  Plus, it's playing with three other people, which makes it hecka more fun.  Then again, I've always been more of a team player than a solo artist.  Even if I did own this game, I don't know that it'd be that much fun, because most of my gaming time comes late at night when everybody else is asleep.  And I just don't think it'd be nearly as much fun playing solo.

Anyway, this game is at #7 because, well, I've only played it twice.  So I guess there's always the possibility that it's not fun anymore when the novelty wears off.  But I doubt it.

#6: Punch Out!  (NES)
 Oh, man.  What a simple-yet-addicting game.  Anybody could play this game.  Both your buttons punch.  Left and right move you left and right.  Down blocks.  And up makes you punch up.  Occasionally, start gives you a super punch.  And that is all you need to know, my friends.  Box away to your heart's content.  (Unless you lose three times.  Because apparently, three losses means it's time to retire)

The utter ridiculousness of this game only adds to its mystique.  You've got this seventeen-year-old kid planning to box his way up to fight Mike Tyson (or Mr. Dream, depending on which version you have), boxing through opponents who are literally three times his weight.  (I think Little Mac was something like 97 pounds; the guys he fights get upwards of 300)  His opponents are so big that he has to jump in the air in order to land a blow to their head.  And somehow, he's still got enough momentum behind those blows to send these big guys flying.  The only thing more ridiculous than this concept is the roster of Mac's opponents, an A-list of the most politically incorrect characters you're likely to find in one video game.  You've got the whiny pansy French guy; the cold, heartless German military instructor; the giant Japanese man who spews out foreign automakers as part of his vernacular; the flamboyant Spanish dancer with the great hair; the Indian mystic (complete with turban and tiger skin); the tough-talking black hoodlum from Philly; the 50-something celebrity type from Hollywood; and my personal favorite, the big drunk Russian who shows up to the fight sloshed.  (Sure, that's root beer, Soda Popinski.  I totally believe ya)  (Note: I don't know if King Hippo should be offensive to obese people or not.  Likewise the insane Bald Bull to Turks)

The more you play this game, the more you realize that every fight has its own rhythm, and once you get that down, it's actually pretty easy.  This game was great for teaching pattern memorization and reflex reactions.  However, even after you could beat the entire thing almost by rote, the redundancy somehow became part of the fun.  This game was so fantastic that they recently remade it for the Wii and changed very little.  If it ain't broke, why fix it?

#5: EA Sports NHL 2004 (PS2)
Okay, I've enjoyed the entire EA sports NHL series that I've played, even going back to 1992 when it was NHLPA (instead of NHL) on the Genesis.  EA consistently makes the best hockey simulation out there.  And hockey is really a sport that translates well to video games.  Several gamer friends of mine (not hockey fans) have commented that hockey sim games are usually more fun to play than the other sports.

So why is NHL 2004 the one on the list?  2004 is the point where they really started getting some pretty realistic results.  Unfortunately, it was also the year where they stopped using quirky commentary.  ("That goal was as chunky as the milk in my fridge!"  "What he lacks in compassion, he makes up for in lack of compassion!")  However, my junior year of college, my RA bought this game, and he and I would play it to all hours of the night, playing through an entire season in the elusive quest to go 82-0 and then sweep our way to the Stanley Cup.  Fun times.  One night, while he was working night security, I stayed up until about 3 with him with this game.  He had a pack of Oreos and we decided we'd toast every goal with an Oreo.  Man.  That was a bad choice.  We scored a lot of goals that night.

So 2004 gets the nod here for the memories.  Dang, this makes me want to pick up the latest game and play through the season with some poor guy who I drag along for the ride!  Note: This video, the players had it set on Easy Mode.  That means the commentary occasionally stops to give you "helpful hints" like, "Hey, you should hit the pass button to make a pass!"  or "Good job!  Next time, try hitting the other player!"

#4: Megaman III (NES)

I love the entire Megaman series.  It's like a choose-your-own-adventure video game.  You decide what order you want to do the levels in.  And then, when you beat the boss, you get his weapon!  And you can use it on other robots!  And you can experiment and find out which one works best against which enemies!  (Or you can cheat and use the strategy guide)  Now, a lot of Megaman fans cite #2 as their favorite of the series, and that's a solid choice.  It's actually tough for me to pick between the two.  However, Megaman 3 is where they started getting creative (without getting silly).  It's the first game to use the slide.  It's the first game to use a robotic dog.  It's the only game with Doc Robots (I know a lot of people hated Doc Robot, but come on!  After you beat all the levels, you have to re-play half-destroyed versions of four of them and fight through all of the Megaman 2 bosses!  Oh, snap!)  Plus, there's the first bit of major story intrigue: "I have a brother??"

Plus, there's no alien at the end.  MM3 gets my vote.

#3: Final Fantasy VI (SNES)
Originally, this game was released in the U.S. as Final Fantasy III (because FF 3-5 had not been released in the U.S.).  A lot of FF fans pick between this, FF VII, or (for the Johnny-come-latelies) FF X as their favorite.  I think it probably depends on which one you fell in love with first.  This is the game I would go to my friend's house to play his SNES in order to play.  It's the game that eventually convinced me to download an SNES emulator for my computer at college.  It's the first cartridge to max out the capabilities of the SNES system.  The story was gripping.  The characters are fantastic.  The music was gorgeous.  (In fact, official FOMW Favorite Powerglove's lead guitarist commented that this was the game that made him realize how powerful music could be--specifically, the Opera House Scene)  The game was easy to understand--I even got my sister into it for a weekend once while she was home when I had it on my computer.  The story wasn't hard to follow, which isn't something that can be said for all the FF's.  It was also the first to successfully blend the sci-fi/tech elements with the fantasy/magic element.  It was a very accessible RPG that served as a good jumping-on point for the series, because it avoided the tedium of some of the earlier titles and prepared the amateur gamer for the complexity of some of the later ones.  So, while this probably wasn't even the best RPG Squaresoft put out before the SNES was a thing of the past, it's always going to have a special place in my heart.

Now, when I first played this game, I didn't get past the 10 hour mark.  It was close to ten years before I ever played past that point.  So for about a decade, this was my favorite scene in the game (this player is somewhat over-leveled for this particular fight):

#2: Super Mario Bros 3 (NES)
 Now, as for SMB3...this may just be the most complete 8-bit game Nintendo ever created.  It struck a perfect balance of fun and difficult.  It added all sorts of fantastic new creative elements to the Mario mythos.  It allowed Mario to fly.  It turned Mario into a frog.  It let Mario be a freaking Hammer Brother!!  It introduced the Western World to the tanooki (which, apparently, cannot actually turn into a statue)  It introduced a whole new generation of Koopas!  Mario jumped around in a shoe!  Mario stored items for use at a later date!  Mario took out the sun with a green koopa shell!  Mario battled tanks and submarines and jets! There was even a throwback mini-game to the original Mario arcade game!

Mario was awesome!!!  

This game was so highly anticipated due to some ninety-minute-long product-placement film that we're not going to talk about (It's so bad) and it somehow managed to live up to and destroy those expectations!  This was one of the first games to come along and blow everybody away.  The individual worlds were unique and exciting.  (Ice world!  Water world!  GIANT WORLD!!!)  The new two-player cooperative play was a good addition.  But my favorite innovation of this game was probably the new boss fights, so this video shows the brothers Mario kicking some Koopa tail (and rocking out to the Boss Battle theme)

#1: Kingdom Hearts II (PS2)
This probably doesn't surprise anyone.   I've played through both main titles of this series multiple times in the past five years and almost played through the Chain of Memories in-between game.  (I stopped because it made me want to play the main titles again, so I went back to them instead of finishing CoM)  Also (because SquareEnix are kinda weird about this) there have been several recent support games that have been released on other systems--like I can afford to have more than one video game system--so I've been following them through fan sites, youtube, and gamefaqs.  This is really an incredible story.  And it's an idea that should not have worked in the first place.

For those who are unaware: the people who made Final Fantasy RPG games decided to create an original story centered around a 12-year-old hero whose world is consumed by darkness.  He is the wielder of a special weapon that can vanquish this darkness and is eventually accompanied to many other worlds looking for his friends by traveling companions Donald Duck and Goofy, who were also sent to stop the darkness by King Mickey.  So the majority of this story happens in and around these different worlds, most of which are specific Disney movies.

Should.  Not.  Have.  Worked.

But it did.  The Final Fantasy fans loved it. Disney fans loved it (my wife loves it!).  Kids.  "Older" gamers like myself.  And so, when they made KH2, they took everything that made KH1 work and made it even better.

It's hard to do this game justice.  It's a button-masher, but it's not a tedious button-masher.  It's an RPG, but there's not so much thinking/strategizing that you can't enjoy the flow of the battle.  It's difficult, but not so hard that anybody can't enjoy it and eventually beat it.  It's intense, yet safe.  It's corny yet sincere.  Even the spaceship shooter missions (called "Gummi Missions" and a definite low point in KH1) are addicting.  You can play straight through the story and have a perfectly fulfilling gaming experience.  If you want a bit more depth, though, there are dozens of side quests you can complete.  There's enough to keep you busy for a long time without falling into the boring endless-leveling that KH1 eventually fell into. Even the Winnie-the-Pooh bonus games are more interesting this time around.

This is a beautiful, fun game.  It is something for everybody.  It has high replay value, memorable characters and cinematics, fun and creative level designs, and a nostalgia factor that is through the roof.  

In fact, get out and play these seven games.  Right now.  This has been a fun Top 7 to write.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

V2, D208: A very short opinion on tongue rings

Dude.  Tongue rings are gross.  Same with those "studs" things, too.

Now, I'm not saying they're wrong or indecent or only punks get them or anything like that. Nor am I really even saying that they make you look ugly and worldly.  But when I see someone with something sticking through their tongue, my gag reflex kicks in. 

There is metal!  In your mouth!  Sticking THROUGH your tongue!!!!

Maybe that's just me being and old codger, but ick.  Ick ick ick ick ick.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

v2, d207: Farewell to Pooh

It seems I ought to say something reflective upon the closing of Winnie-the-Pooh.  I'm not sure why because, realistically, it was only nine weeks of my life.  Nevertheless, there's always such a sense of finality when a show closes, when you bow for the final time, when you hang up the costume never to put it on again.  Though in all likelihood you will put at least pieces of it on again, because you're a rep company and a non-profit and there are only so many things in your costume stock that will fit you. 

I think I've said before how much I've enjoyed the show and what a privilege it has been work with this particular cast.  The show ends with a rousing little reprise of "Sing Ho! For a Bear" where the entire cast changes the lyrics to "Sing Ho! For my life!"  And I would generally agree with that sentiment when we reached that point in the show.  I was always happy to be there, doing a play, playing Winnie-the-Pooh, with these people.  The entire show was an hour of warm fuzzies and feel-good times from start to finish.  And that's how I'd like to remember it.

Not with the way it ended up ending up: starting 20 minutes late on the day of the last performance, with me losing my voice progressively as the show went along to the point where "Cottleston Pie" was half-sung, half growled because I'd somehow lost 80% of what limited vocal range I'd had at the beginning of the morning.  Among other things. 

In-joke saved for posterity:  "I partied with the Mad Hatter!  And Winnie the Pooh!" 


Then, suddenly again, Christopher Robin, who was still looking at the world, with his chin in his hands, called out, "Pooh!"
"Yes?" said Pooh.
"When I'm--when--Pooh!"
"Yes, Christopher Robin?"
"I'm not going to do Nothing any more."
"Never again?"
"Well, not so much.  They don't let you."
Pooh waited for him to go on, but he was silent again.
"Yes, Christopher Robin?" said Pooh helpfully.
"Pooh, when I'm--you know--when I'm not doing Nothing, will you come up here sometimes?"
"Just me?"
"Yes, Pooh."
"Will you be here too?"
"Yes, Pooh, I will be, really.  I promise I will be, Pooh."
"That's good," said Pooh.
"Pooh, promise me you won't forget about me, ever.  Not even when I'm a hundred."
Pooh thought for a little.
"How old shall I be then?"
Pooh nodded.
"I promise," he said.
Still with his eyes on the world Christopher Robin put out a hand and felt for Pooh's paw.
"Pooh," said Christopher Robin earnestly, "if I--if I'm not quite---" he stopped and tried again--"Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand, won't you?"
"Understand what?"
"Oh, nothing."  He laughed and jumped to his feet.  "Come on!"
"Where?" said Pooh.
"Anywhere," said Christopher Robin.

So they went off together.  But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing."

Friday, November 12, 2010

v2, d206: Update

I was thinking of not posting today on account of today TOTALLY wiping me out, but then I realized some of you out there might be anxious for an update on yesterday's adventure, so here it is:

Not a whole lot to report.  Kim took it easy today.  We're gradually working her back up toward a "normal" day and trying to figure out ways that she can somehow take it even easier than she has been the past few months.  Tomorrow, she's planning on doing some cooking and lying down to watch movies with Robbie while I'm doing the final Pooh show, and then I'll start picking up the slack in the afternoon. 

In the meantime, I felt much better today, but I sounded a lot worse.  By the end of my third performance (Pooh in the morning, full run of Angel in the afternoon, and more Pooh tonight), my voice was pretty much gone.  I'd appreciate a quick prayer that it'll hold out for one more show.  Then, I can crash briefly.  I'm told living crash-to-crash isn't healthy, so I've put in a request for a little extra time off at Thanksgiving.  We'll see how that goes. 

Thanks for your love and support, everybody.  These are rough times, but we've seen rougher, and God has shown Himself to be bigger than our circumstances multiple times these past few years. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

v2, d205: Surprise!

Man.  I'm getting tired of writing this type of blog.

Surprise visit to the hospital today.  Kim was having some severe pains whenever she tried to, well, move, and there were some contractions happening as well. (We're at 23 weeks) So we waited for the doctor to call us back to see if we needed to go in to the hospital.  Robbie didn't understand why we weren't going to school and started getting kind of mopey.  Finally, we decided I'd take Robbie to school and go do the show this morning while Kim got a ride to the hospital with good friend Neighbor Sarah, and I'd come by after the show if I was needed.

Now, I'm already feeling pretty awful, so I wasn't looking too forward to doing the show this morning anyway, and spending the first two hours of my day running around the house for both Kim and Robbie had me pretty frazzled.  (Note: I'm not complaining.  I'm aware Kim had it much worse than I did this morning)  Eventually, the doctor called back and Kim and Sarah went to the hospital.  After lunch, I skipped out of my afternoon rehearsal and went to relieve Sarah and see my wife.  After three terbutaline shots (not pleasant, I promise you) and an hour or two of observation (plus a test or two), the doctor decided Kim could come home and rest the remainder of the day.  No prescribed bed rest, just lots of rest and water until she feels 100% again.  As of tonight, she still feels about 35% (with the other 65% being either "pain" or "fatigue") so she'll be home again tomorrow.

For those who weren't around, about three and a half years ago, Kim started going into labor at about 28 weeks--11 weeks early.  We went in to the hospital to get it looked at, and they hooked her up to an IV and had her flat on her back in a hospital room for five weeks.  So you can guess where both our minds went when this started this morning.  We're trying not to be afraid, but also realizing we have to start seriously considering emergency plans in case something like that does happen again.  Which means certain major life changes I thought I could pursue are probably going to have to be put off until after this baby comes, among other things.

For tonight, though, not a lot I can do about it.  Going to go smash some Heartless and get to bed before midnight.  Who knows what tomorrow's going to bring?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

v2, d204: Hat Trick

Sorry for missing last night. I got home from the grocery store (8 lbs of oranges, 10 lbs of potatoes, 16 oz of mozzarella, and 2 bags of tortilla chips for 10 bucks!) and suddenly felt awful.  Still feeling pretty bad today, so trying to take it easy before the last four shows of Pooh.  Also means I went to bed early last night and left the blog untouched.  If it makes you feel any better, I didn't get to the dishes, either. 

Gonna hit ya with three hockey-related newsworthy items from the past few days. 

First: You just gotta check out Official FOMW Favorite Cal Clutterbuck's game-winning goal against Columbus from last Saturday. 

BAM!  Takes out two guys with one hit, bounces back to the front of the net, aaaaand game-winner.  Thing o' beauty. 

Second: Cal's old Minnesota teammate Derek Boogaard scored last night.  Why's that such a big deal?  It was Boogaard's first goal since his rookie season...the 2005-06 season.  The goal was so newsworthy, every hockey blogger or analyst I follow on Twitter had to mention it.  My reaction when I saw it on the box score was something like "Boogaard scored?  On purpose?"  I had initially thought someone must have banked it in off his head or something, but nope.  Not only did the man score, he went coast-to-coast on a breakaway before ripping a slapshot by Michael  Neuvirth of the Caps (who should now be ashamed of himself).  In fact, the event was so monumental that Official FOMW Favorite Mike Russo felt the need to write a blog about it immediately...while his brother was in the process of asking him to be the best man in his wedding.  Brother's fiance?  Not thrilled.  

Ah, hockey people.  They're a rare breed.

Finally: The NHL is changing up the way it runs the All-Star game.  A long time a go, the format was Stanley Cup Champion vs. All-Stars from the rest of the teams.  Then, it switched to Conference vs Conference.  Then, in an attempt to stir up Olympic hype in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it switched to North America vs. The World.  After people grew tired of that, we went back to East vs West.  But now....well, it's a tad complicated.  See, the league will pick a pool of players who are All-Star eligible.  Those players will vote for two team captains.  And then, after the fans have picked the All-Star starters, the team captains will pick the teams the Friday of All-Star weekend.  That's right, it's basically the ultimate pick-up game.  No conference allegiance or alignment, just "You took Joe Thornton?  I'll take Chris Pronger.  Let's play hockey." 

What's at stake here?  Nothing, really.  But there never really was anything at stake for the ASG.  The league is looking to capture the spirit of natural competitive fun that comes out whenever you get a bunch of guys together playing a game improvisationally.  So we'll see if it works.  Personally, I kind of like it.  They haven't released all the rules for the new format, as they just decided to try it last weekend.  Players seem jazzed about the idea.  Should be fun. And really, All-Star Weekend should be fun and nothing more.  So, props to the league for thinking outside the box. 

And because I'm hot with the links today, here's Wyshynski's early take on the announcement, along with a bit more information. 

Adios, amigos!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

v2, d203: Gremlins


So, I've been spending the last hour or so looking up some stuff for tomorrow morning's Bible study.  (Assuming I end up doing tomorrow morning's Bible study.  You really just never know anymore)  Therefore, while I had originally planned on making a nice Tale of the Tape for a battle royale between the Ewoks and the Mogwai, I pretty much ran out of time. 

I did do a little bit of research into the topic, however, and I have come to the conclusion that I want to have a Gremlins/Gremlins 2 watching party at some point this holiday season. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

v2, d202: Random Nintendo Game of the Month!

We love quasi-regular features!

This month's(?) Random Nintendo Game is a weird little gem called Little Samson.  This game, published by Taito in 1992, follows the adventures of a young man (maybe he's just a boy?) and three other random warrior characters as they try to save a kingdom from some dark prince.  The story really is that generic. 

Here's how the game starts: A king sends out four identical soldiers.  A green wizard shows up and blasts them.  Then, the king sends out four...birds, I'm guessing.  Next thing you know, you're choosing between a human, a dragon, a golem, and a mouse.  (You will eventually play as them all)  What I've put together is that the birds were apparently sent out to gather these four warriors, and the first level is you taking each of these guys and getting them to the castle, because at the end of each stage you meet another identical soldier (They all look so much alike in this kingdom.  It's creepy), and in subsequent levels you can choose between all four characters. 

This is a basic MegaMan-style action scroller, control-wise.  What makes it interesting is that each character is so different.  You have Little Samson, who can jump better than the other characters and shoots what appear to be jingle bells pretty quickly, but they're not terribly strong.  He can also climb on walls and ceilings, which comes in handy.  Your dragon character can fly for short periods of time and shoot fireballs that curve upward slightly.  The fireballs are also chargeable for more damage.  Your golem is really big and slow and he can't jump far, but he doesn't take as much damage (invulnerable to spikes?  Unheard of!) and his stretcho-fist attack (kind of a cross between Reed Richards and Johnny Storm) is mighty!  Mighty, I say!  And then there's a mouse who, as you would expect, is really useful for getting through very tight spaces.  And is otherwise pretty useless. 

The introductory levels are pretty much designed to get you used to using all four characters and identifying their strengths and weaknesses.  It doesn't matter what order you go in.  When everybody gets to the castle, a Sputnik-looking orb shows up to beam your heroes to another location.  First the mouse goes into the ship, then the golem, and then...wait, what's this?  Uh-oh, the dragon doesn't wanna go!  And now you have to fight it!  But why?  Well, you never really find out why, because there's no dialogue in this game.  Nevertheless, once you beat the snot out of the dragon (it's actually not very hard; just stand directly in front of it and wail away), it's like everything is instantly forgiven, and the dragon and Samson both get on the ship. 

Now, the gameplay is pretty simple because, for the most part, it's so familiar.  I mean, how many games featured run, jump, shoot, climb, fight bosses?  But let's face it: we didn't love NES games for their complexity.  The levels here aren't redundant though they're not terribly original.  The enemies in this game are bizarre.  There are these bulbous greenish things that shoot bubbles and turn into miniature versions of themselves if you don't shoot them fast enough.  There are also big thingies that climb on ceilings and shoot downward at you from their backs, I guess.  Look, I know all NES enemies are strange, but these guys really take the cake.  Then again, you're saving the world with a guy, a dragon, and golem, and a bomb-laying mouse.  (Did I mention the mouse has bombs?  No?  Well guess what.  The mouse has bombs) 

So, you finish this second level and face your first boss.  Who, surprisingly, is the green wizard from the intro.  I assumed that guy was the last boss.  He's not, he's the first boss.  And you kill him, and you get all excited, and then he turns into a cyclops and wails upon you, because you totally weren't expecting that!  Then you calm down and do it again, and eventually you move on.  Also nice: this game gives you passwords, so you can come back and just pick up where you left off. 

I probably will, too.  Cuz this game is sorta fun.  There are skulls and aliens and flowers that shoot feathers and monster bubbles and kamikazee Zelda II skeleton ripoffs.  But in the end, it's a fun new twist on a formula that worked.  I don't know what the heck is going on.  But I'm okay with that.  Reminds me of work sometimes.  

Saturday, November 6, 2010

v2, d201: Discretion is the Better Part of Blogging...

So, I've now nearly finished (only to delete) two blog posts already tonight.  The second was explaining why I decided not to finish the first.  Highlights:

*There once was a CHL team in Macon, Georgia, called the Whoopee.  Lest you miss the double entendre, they incorporated a bird and a bee into their logo.  One day, there was an incident at a game involving an opposing player, Macon fans, pink panties, and a mascot's head falling off. 

*Lubbock, Texas, legalized packaged liquor sales for the first time in 2009.  I learned this when I went there one time. 

*Sometimes, late-night blogging can be dangerous, because that which seems like a good/lucid idea at 2 in the morning often doesn't sounds so good/lucid ten hours later. 

So there you go.  A summary of two posts that I almost finished writing, but neither one of which you really wanted to read anyway ;-)

Friday, November 5, 2010

v2, d200: Bullet Points

A few random thoughts at the end (?) of a long week.

--When I see my friends posting their NaNoWriMo totals each day, I get a little sad/jealous that I'm not NaNoWriMoing this year.  However, it was clearly a good decision, because I've just got too much else that's more important going on right now.

--That said, I'm enjoying working on my All Hallow's Read story.  I don't care that it'll be a week late.  It's one I've wanted to get at for a while.  I probably would have finished it tonight, but an absolute WAVE of fatigue hit me.  And not just "I'm tired" fatigue but "I'm incapable of being creative right now" fatigue.  That's the worst kind.

--The history of Bambi is a lot more interesting than you might expect.  Nazis vs. Bambi, for example. 

--Not to be confused with Bambi vs. Godzilla.  Incidentally, I'm pretty sure the first time I ever saw that clip, it was actually at the front of a Godzilla 1985 VHS tape we rented and watched at my uncle's house once.

--I've spent literally two and a half hours waiting for Facebook to upload/process two videos.  They are a combined four minutes long.  Awesome.

--Only one week left of Winnie the Pooh after tomorrow.  Shows next Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning (and Friday night).  I've enjoyed the show, but I'll be ready for it to be done.  Now, will I be ready for a month-long blitz of The Littlest Angel?  This has yet to be seen...

--The Octo-bows are up at Highland Village.  Also, the palm trees glow after dark and there are Christmas trees up around the entrances to the little shopping center at Richmond and 610.  While I personally don't believe in putting up Christmas decorations at home or breaking out the Christmas music until everyone's awake from their Thanksgiving nap, I have to admit it's kind of nice seeing some of the seasonal signs up on the way home from work.

--I'm reading a book of really obscure fairy tales from around the world.  If you're ever given the opportunity to read a story called The Goblin Pony, take it from me: it's not as cool as it sounds. 

--Good night.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

v2, d199: Movie Sign!!

I can finally upload videos from my Handycam to the Compy!  Got a bit of catching up to do.

How old are some of the videos on my camera?  Weeelllllll......

I'll be posting more of these to my Facebook as the days go on.  I've got baby videos and some Hero Squad and Alice rehearsals.  It apparently takes a LOOOOOOONG time to update videos on Facebook. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

v2, d198: Prepare to be Disappointed!!

Apologies.  I'm having trouble focusing tonight on anything blog-related.  There's a certain ominous Something that is distracting me, and it's entirely possible that only a night of button-mashing is going to get my mind to settle down enough for some sleep.  (After a nice Quiet Time, of course) 

Yeesh.  2010 is insane.  Turbulent.  God is good, however, and His name is a strong tower.  The righteous run into it and are saved. 

So if'n you'll excuse me, I'ma go run back to the Fort for a little while and then play some video game or other until I'm ready to zonk out for the evening. 

See you all with something substantially more interesting tomorrow! :-) 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

v2, d197: Birthday Mad-Libs

Hey look, it's 1:30 a.m.  Again!  Yay!!!

Nevertheless, I'd be severely remiss if I did not offer up a Birthday Mad-Lib for Mighty Tarvis, very likely the most loyal follower this blog has ever (or will ever?) known.

Take it awaaaaay, BML!

That sounded bad...

Fantasy News Network

The worst crime wave to have rocked this country in living memory continued today as items ranging from jewelled Anne Mccaffrey books to the humble van were reported missing. Super Heroes are at a loss to explain the thefts.

"I admit that we are played," said Fantasy's chief of super heroes today. "A few of the computers stolen have been valuable, but most of the items are incredibly loyal objects. We believe it must be the work of a seriously supportive mentoree."

Just a few of the items reported stolen: a box of video games; a large number of Pringles and Double-Stuff Oreos; a Wii-mote; a blue rubber parent's credit card; an optimistic PS2; and a device for tossing Dr. Pepper.

Super Heroes warn NPCs that the thief has been able to steal from extremely well-protected locations. "The evidence suggests that on some occasions, the thief tried no less than 7 times over a period of several semesters to get into a dorm room to take a useless T-shirt," said the head of the investigation. "This person is either very, very passionate or very, very hairy."

Most vocal in his outrage has been Mr. Tarvis "Pizza" Throfssonsson. Throfssonsson, a nerd, was forced to stop growing Pringles after so many of them were stolen that it became uneconomical. "I diversified into Double-Stuff Oreos and now those are getting stolen too," he said. "I mean, who on earth needs twenty Double-Stuff Oreos at a time?"

"Our investigations are continuing," said the chief of super heroes. "In the meantime, we urge all citizens to keep a hair out for anybody who strikes you as odd in any way."

"You know, just somebody who is being intelligent," he added.

Happy birthday, brother.  

Monday, November 1, 2010

v2, d196: All Hallow's Read

So a week or so ago, a guy who sells books for a living got the idea to make Halloween into an opportunity to give books to people.  And he has a Twitter.  So it became an official Thing.

Not self-serving.  At all.

I'm kidding.  I actually really love the idea, obviously, because I think people ought to read more.  Neil Gaiman got the idea and had Twitter followers suggest names.  The winner was All Hallow's Read, and the premise is really simple: for Halloween, you give somebody a scary book.  It can be new, it can be used, whatever.  You don't have to give them out to every kid who knocks at your door looking for candy.  There really aren't a whole lot of rules at all, because it's an idea that's like three weeks old.  The book can be as "scary" as you want.  There's really no point other than just to have fun with it.  I mean, I love holidays, and I love traditions, and I think making gift-giving in book form a part of a holiday tradition sounds like fun.

Of course, I didn't actually do it.  But you know.

Actually, I've started to.  I was a bit busy all Halloween week, what with fever and emergency room and shows and rehearsals and carnival, so I'm getting a late start.  But I'm writing a short story that sort of fits the "scary story" bill.  (Really, it's more fairy tale, but there's a witch, and spells, and a giant spider, so there you go)  I wrote about half of it tonight and could probably keep going, but it's 1:30 and I can tell if I keep going I won't sleep.  Which is bad, because tomorrow is get-up-early-to-vote day.  And Tarvis' birthday.  So, I'll finish it up and post it soon.

Which is probably better anyway.  Because taking part in a Halloween tradition (albeit a new one) on All Saints Day is probably some sort of sacrilege.