Friday, September 23, 2011

v2, d417: Not a feature

This is not a feature, but I thought I'd pop in to say that, one week before our move-out date, Kim and I have finally secured a place to move in to.  Also, I'll probably have to refrain from blogging until after the move.

Much, much to do. 

See you all on the flip side!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

v2, d416: WOF2, #5: Explaining Why I Havne't Blogged Lately

That's become a regular feature, right?

Dave recently called me out for not blogging since Tuesday.  And, of course, he had a point: I promise a Week of Features, and after four days I disappear FOR A WHOLE WEEK!!!  It's a good thing most of my readers keep in touch with me via other methods, because otherwise the Internet would think I was dead.  On that: let's face it, time has moved on in the WBW universe (literary reference only two of you will ever get!).  Yes, this week has a seven-day break in the middle of it.  And it may be an eight-or-nine day week.  Are you surprised?  I mean, how often does Random Nintendo Game of the Month happen?  Yeah.  We'll just say units of time are relative.  Don't worry, you'll get your full week in soon.

Next up: I don't think y'all realize how tired you can get when 5 hours of sleep is a good night.  The other night, I fell asleep at 4:45 a.m.  Heck, in the past couple of years there've been times when I've had to wake up at that point in order to get to work on time.  My efforts to fall asleep at a more manageable hour have thus far been thwarted, but I am not defeated!  Still, I am pretty tired, and after awhile "try to sleep" starts to win out of "Week of Features."

Third: I have done some potentially-for-profit writing lately.  I've had friends abandon blogging for a time because they are writing a book and say they  just can't write a book and keep up a blog.  Well, I think that in the past I've proven that I can do that.  However, I cannot always write a book, keep up a blog, and take care of kids at home.  As much as I want to still be that hoss blogger who comes up with something for every single day, it's probably not important enough for me to neglect other responsibilities.  (That doesn't mean that you lovely people aren't important.  It means that Shuffleblog probably oughtn't take precedence over putting food on the table)

Fourth: Have I mentioned that I'm moving in twelve days?  And it's still not confirmed where exactly I'm moving to?  (We've applied to a place, it should go through okay, but still.  Prayers are appreciated)  That takes some time/energy.

So that's why I haven't blogged for the past week.  Even now, I'm writing this while eating my lunch at 10:45 (because I'm not sure when Isaac will give me another chance to eat) when I'd rather be working on a new play script. I imagine that in the near future, I'll do less "regular blogging" and more of the standard "I'll blog when I have time/something to say" blogging.  Which is sad, because invariably that's when every blog I've ever followed eventually gets neglected, and readers become disinterested, so the blogger becomes disinterested, and then the blog dies.  Now, I have no plans on that happening, but history teaches that it probably will sooner or later anyway.

But not anytime soon.  Trust me, I'm still committed to blogging.  It's still fun, and I know I've still got the loyal few who enjoy that I do it.  So when I disappear for a day or two (or seven), know that I'm still here.  I promise I'll tell y'all when I'm losing interest.  Because by that point, most of you probably will have already lost it, too.

More regular features, starting "tomorrow" ;-)

(Edit: Another unofficial feature: hockey-related links you won't read!

"Our Dates Chose Hockey Over Prom"

Former Aero and Official FOMW Favorite Josh Harding's return from a year and a half of suck is tonight.  Here's the story.

Finally, greatest trailer of the year: Dark Knight Rises?  Harry Potter 7.2?  The Avengers spot at the end of Captain America?  Or this trailer made for some German hockey team?

(Though personally, I like last year's better)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

v2, d415: WOF2, #4: Top 7

Well, the time is finally at hand when all Borders stores everywhere are closing their doors forever.  (I can't tell you exactly when, but I know it's some time in the next few days)  As a hopeful writer and a fairly new reader, I'm really saddened by this.  Unfortunately, I have to admit that there is a portion of my life where books and reading were really quite low on the priority scale. A few years ago, however, I started reading again, and I regret those years that I put it down for the sake of...whatever it was I did with my spare time in college. (See, I had so much required reading that I never wanted to do any recreational reading...but that's another blog for another day)  That to say, I'm probably not the best person to express exactly why the end of Borders is such a sad thing, so I'll pass that responsibility off into the very capable hands of the Librarian's Daughter

Regardless of my recent history, literature is now a very big part of who I am and what I'm passionate about, so it's after great reflection and many revisions that I'm finally confident enough in my selections to present my Top 7 Favorite Books (not including the Bible).  Most of these books I've already read more than once.  The ones that I haven't, I've severely wanted to and likely will in within the year.  These are all books I either own or plan to own.  They are books I can see myself reading several times over the course of my life.  They are books I am always ready to discuss.  Usually, the act of thinking about one of these books is enough to make me want to reread it.  Because there's no concrete, scientific evaluation process for this sort of thing, I can't guarantee that these seven are may seven favorites every single day or that they don't shuffle around in order from time to time.  I'm pretty sure, however, that this is at least a pretty dang close approximation of my Top 7 Favorite Books.


Blood Feud: Detroit Red Wings v. Colorado Avalanche.  The Inside Story of Pro Sports' Nastiest and Best Rivalry of its Era by Adrian Dater

I know, I know.  I'm starting this list off with some high literature, aren't I?  But this is one of the most fun books that I've ever read.  Yes, I have the bias that I am an Avalanche fan and that I still remember many of the more memorable clashes between the Avs and Wings in the late 1990s/early 2000s, but the fact is this book is written well enough that you can't help get into the story.  While the Avs and Wings never got the publicity of the Yankees/Red Sox or the Lakers/Celtics, the aggressive, emotional nature of hockey escalated this rivalry into something so consistently nasty that I've never seen anything like it in any sport in the twenty years that I've been a sports fan. Most sports rivalries are perpetuated primarily by the fans.  Somehow, the epic clash of the Wings and Avs was a personal affair for everybody involved.  Players, coaches, reporters, beat writers, trainers.  It was flat-out insane.  What made it even better, however, is that these were two of the best teams in the league from 1996 through 2002, so in addition to the passionate insanity of rivalry, fans were also treated to some of the best hockey games any of us will ever see.

The reason this book works so well is not that the rivalry itself was so great, it's that Dater does a fantastic job of taking eight years of incidents and people and weaving them into a cohesive story that starts with Claude Lemieux ramming Kris Draper from behind in a playoff game in 1996 and ends with the Wings clobbering the hobbling Avs in game seven of the conference final in 2002.  He brings out the stories of the men who made this madhouse so dang entertaining.  He evenly portrays every perspective into each anarchic playoff series, every behind-the-scenes shouting match, every ejected coach and goalie fight, and the reader really gets a sense of what a roller coaster ride this rivalry was.  It was as if the players knew at the time that what they were involved in was something that doesn't come along every day, and Dater's thrilling account makes a fairly exclusive rivalry in a niche sport into a story about people, pride, and passion.  If you can manage the hockey player's vernacular, I'd recommend this to anybody with a mild interest in sports or real-life character studies.  It's sort of the literary equivalent to a summer blockbuster.  But there ain't nothing wrong with that.


 Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
There's a reason that there are dozens of film, stage, television, picture book, comic book, ballet, and just about anything else adaptations of this story. Not to mention all the spinoffs, unofficial sequels, unofficial prequels, and the one official sequel. Peter Pan rocks.  It is absolutely off the wall.  It is the essence of a boyhood adventure tale.  The story is wildly imaginative, the prose is delightful, the tone alternates between dark, innocent, whimsical, mischievous, sentimental, and playful, the characters are unforgettable...this is just an amazing book all around.  It's child's play at its most serious, consistent within its own realm but unhindered by adult rationality.  There are several moments that are laugh-out-loud funny (such as the Darlings' sitting on the bed with their pocketbook to determine whether or not they can afford to keep their own baby, or Mr. Smee's attempts at fierce piracy which only end up making him look lovable) and some parts of the story that are actually pretty scary as well.  While every adaptation I've seen tends to make Neverland a physical place (albeit a magical one that doesn't show up on the map), Barrie's Neverland is more the place where fantasy becomes reality, another realm where every child's imagination becomes real.

This book is pure joy from beginning to end, and it has been entirely too long since I read it last.


 Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
The seven-book Harry Potter saga is amazing.  It's just an incredibly story that is almost perfectly crafted.  Its themes are positive and universally true.  J. K. Rowling has created some of the most memorable characters in modern fiction and there's a reason so many people all over the English-speaking world just can't let go of this story.

As for myself, I didn't really start getting into the series until this book.  I liked bits and pieces of the first two novels, but they really didn't hook me.  Now, by the time I'd started reading, I'd already seen this movie and Goblet of Fire, so I knew things were going to pick up and get a lot better.  Otherwise I may have dropped the series after the second installment.  But Prisoner of Azkaban was the story that got me hooked, and even now that the rest of the series is over it remains my favorite.  Because I find the whole of the series to be far greater than the sum of its parts, I turn to this book as the volume in which THE story really starts to pick up.  The first two books are pretty similar.  Harry goes to school, Harry and his friends have adventures, something really creepy involving Harry's ultimate enemy happens, Harry goes home for the summer.  Azkaban is the story where you start getting some answers about Harry's mysterious past and Voldemort starts to show his hand.  From this point on, every story thrusts these two closer toward their penultimate confrontation and the battle between the armies of good and evil.

I don't just love this book because it's the one that really gets the story moving, however.  The novel, even as a stand-alone, is fantastic!  Almost everything that happens in this book is cool.  The dementors are cool.  The patronuses are cool.  The werewolf element is cool.  The Marauder's Map is cool.  The plot twists are amazing!  The Whomping Willow!  Azkaban!  Sirius!  Lupin!  Even the hippogriff is cool!  I'm not kidding, virtually everything that is in this book is fun, engaging, intriguing, exciting, or otherwise dynamic.  I enjoyed all of the books after this one quite a bit, but I will always love Prisoner of Azkaban above all the others.


 The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
I promise, I do read grown-up books, too.  I first read Winnie-the-Pooh last year when I played the silly old bear in our children's theatre production of, well, Winnie-the-Pooh.  I'd never really gotten into the Pooh cartoons as a kid, though I could recall some of them pretty well and I wasn't altogether unfamiliar with the characters. (Does anybody else remember the live-action Winnie-the-Pooh show on Disney Channel?)  When I read the book, which includes both Pooh collections, I was blown away.

The first thing that surprised me was how funny the book was.  I expected a fairly gentle and bland little series of friendship tales, because that was what I remembered of Pooh.  Instead, I remember several times I had to chase down my wife to read aloud to her the passage I'd just read.  Fortunately, it was even funnier when read aloud.  The second characteristic I came to associate with Pooh was "feel-good."  This book really just leaves you feeling good.  Like Peter Pan, it harkens back to a more innocent time in all our lives, but whereas Pan is a love song to high adventure, Pooh is a surprisingly profound examination of the simple and good things in our lives.  Home, friendship, music and poetry, exercise, pleasant weather, adventures, accomplishment.  Just about the only times Pooh is ever discontent is when he notices one of his friends is upset.  And, good-natured guy that he is, Pooh always refuses to rest until he has made things right for whoever happens to be feeling down.  Even if it's Eeyore, who seems to rather prefer being gloomy.

Man, how much better would life be if we were all a little more like Winnie-the-Pooh?

In addition to Pooh, the supporting cast is memorable and lovable, but it's the story's central character that really holds this world together and gives it such a lasting place in my heart.


 The Stand: Complete And Uncut by Stephen King
Here's yet another book I didn't expect to enjoy nearly as much as I did.  This extended version of one of Stephen King's best-known works clocks in at around 1200 pages.  I remembered seeing commercials for the TV miniseries when it came out back when I was a kid, and all I took from those commercials was that a Superflu wiped out most of the people on earth, so I assumed that this was a book about an unstoppable disease killing everybody.

Au contraire!  

What I got instead was a massive tale of good versus evil, a story using ordinary men and women as champions fighting literally on the sides of God and Satan.  Turns out, the Superflu was just the setup for the story.  The Stand is really about the survivors of Captain Tripps disease as they are almost mystically drawn to two settlements--one in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and the other in Sin City itself, Las Vegas.  The settlement in Colorado is headed up by an old black woman named Abigail, a devout Christian who speaks often of prayer and visions.  The Las Vegas community is headed up by a character who goes by the name of Flagg.  He usually appears to be pretty human, but throughout the book there are instances that show that there's something supernatural, even demonic, about this character.

What makes this book scary, however, is not its demonic antagonist.  The real terror comes from the realistic portrayal of evil in the hearts of the human characters.  There's actually quite a bit of sound theology in the pages of this book.  (In fact, I think King has a better understanding of some of these biblical principles than some Christian writers I've read)  Each of Flagg's people are tempted by their own desires into sin, and that's how they eventually find their way into his camp.  This story has some realistic depictions of hideously evil acts--and in most cases you can understand why the person committing the evil made the choices they did.  King's villains are never excused for their choices, but it is made very clear that they are regular men and women, and that the possibility for that sort of evil exists in each of us.  Of course, there are equally heroic acts, and that's why I think this book is so great.  It's a story that's biblical in proportion of both God and Satan using flawed people to impact the world around them.  It's scary.  It's heartwarming.  It's surprising.  And it's amazing.

Granted, I did feel like there was some unnecessary moralizing about the evils of civilization at times, and there were two particular sections that I thought dragged on a bit longer than necessary, and there was one small side-story that I wish hadn't existed at all.  Nevertheless, there are few books that impacted me as powerfully at Stephen King's The Stand: Complete and Uncut Edition.


 Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
No, this book isn't on the list solely because I love the musical.  It's here because this is one of the most beautiful stories of redemption I have ever read.  Admittedly, it has been a long time since I've read this book, and a thorough re-read is my tentative November reading project (though it may get pushed back to January, depending on NaNoWriMo), but I remember the story and the characters fairly vividly.  I can't imagine creating a work of this much depth and breadth with so many powerful moments.  This story touches every corner of your soul.  There are almost no pitiless characters.  I feel for each in his or her struggle.  For a story called The Miserable, I'm amazed at how much hope shines through the pages.  Of course, I'm usually looking for light in dark places, and that's probably why I found this book so appealing.  Yes, Victor Hugo is wordy.  Yes, he gets majorly sidetracked at times.  Yes, he likes to talk about Napolean in stories that have nothing to do with Napolean.  But I can let it slide, because this book is just beautiful.  I can't choose a favorite character, I can't pick a favorite storyline, I can't point to a handful of favorite scenes.  It was the first book I ever read that I felt completely satisfied upon finishing it. And whether it comes in November or January, I have been anticipating this re-read for several years now.  Welcome back, old friend.


 Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
I can't say enough good things about this book.  I first read it five years ago while Kim was pregnant with Robbie.  I read it again this past January, a father of three and a half years.  Each reading gave me a different story.  The book is a journal written by an aging preacher in the 1950s to his five-year-old son.  Because the preacher married his second wife so late in life, he will likely be dead before his boy's sixth birthday, so he's writing these memoirs as a way of giving his son something to know him by.  Most of the book is written in short, loosely-related passages.  This book is heartbreaking.  This book is hysterical.  It's melancholy and wistful, it's hopeful and jubilant.  I was surprised it so recently won a Pulitzer, because it's ultimately an uplifting tale that uses a lot of Christian scripture.  There are so many great passages in this book, you could flip it open to just about anywhere and read for a few pages and you'd probably find something you want to circle, copy down, or memorize.  I recently let my friend Sherri borrow this book, and since she brought it back a couple of weeks ago I've come close to picking it up for another read at least three times.  I will probably never get enough of Gilead, and it's one of very, very few books that I would recommend to absolutely anybody.

So there you have it.  My top seven books.  A heartwarming father-son memoir; a wordy, epic work of historical fiction; a dark fantasy set in a post-apocalyptic reality; a lovable bear with very little brain, a riveting adventure for young adults; the original riveting adventure for children; and a nonfiction account of my favorite hockey team.  If you're wondering what some of the titles that just missed out are, I thought long and hard about including The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan, Identity Crisis by Brad Meltzer, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, The Silver Chair, The Magician's Nephew, The Silver Chair, and That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Don Miller, 1984 by George Orwell, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, and The Game by Ken Dryden. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

v2, d414: WOF2, #3: Guest Blogger

All right, it's been an awful long time since I've tried a guest blog, so I'm going to give a quick run-down on the concept once again: My first time through this blog, I would occasionally let other people blog for a day in my place. Those were my guest bloggers. However, very few of my guests felt comfortable blogging for some reason, so this time through I made GB more of a writing exercise/gimmick. Instead of having other real people blog for me, I am inviting a character from one of my plays, books, or story ideas to share their thoughts with the world. In other words, it's a chance for me to explore these characters by writing in their voice about things that are important to them. Or, as is often the case with blogging, things that aren't terribly important but happen to be passing through their minds anyway. (I have yet to decide if this is a cool idea or a lame idea)

As such, please keep in mind that any opinions expressed by a Guest Blogger do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the FOMW writing or editorial staff. Also, if you're planning to point out the fallacy of how some of these people have access to a computer or the Internet in their time or place in history, well, calm down and quit thinking so hard.

Today's guest blogger is a young lady named Brindolynn Englehart. Brindolynn lives in a small village on the edge of the Tirrabar Valley. She lives with her father, the town's bladesmith, and her twelve-year-old cousin Gab. And I can't think of anything more to say by way of introduction, so I'll just turn it over to Brin now.

Here's a phrase I've never really understood: "her knight in shining armor."

I understand the phrase in the sense that I know what a knight in shining armor is, despite the fact that no such man has passed through our village in my lifetime.  It's an image that has survived adventure stories and similar tales that have existed long before there were any villages in Tirrabar.  I also understand that the phrase is often used in a romantic context, when a young lady (around my age, perhaps a bit older) finds her own personal hero, the man who will ride into her life and save her from...something or other (it's never quite clear in most instances) before taking her off into a lifetime of wedded bliss. 

On second thought, perhaps it's not accurate to say I've never understood the phrase.  Perhaps I ought rather to say I'm not sure why the knight with his lovely, polished, unscathed armor has ever been an attractive image to young women through the ages.  Please don't misunderstand me.  I've a friend at school who often tries to convince me that I ought to remain unmarried my entire adult life, that I need no man to make my life complete, that I would be happier without one at any rate.  I know there are girls who share this opinion.  Believe me, I am not one of these girls.  In fact, my friend's father is not the greatest of men, and I suspect that's where her bias against all things romantic stems from.  My father is a wonderful man, and I know I shall be lucky to marry anyone who is half the man that he is.  (Sorry, gentlemen, but my father has set the standard fairly high) 

I also have no resistance to the "knight" idea.  Who doesn't want to be married to a hero?  Besides, in a town that is in a constant state of conflict with our nearest neighbors and is located next to a forest filled with Dark Creatures, it's a bit impractical to ally yourself with a coward for life.  Poets use such lovely language, but I'd find their company to be woefully inadequate should a goblin wander its way into the village.  (Not that that happens often, but still)  I like to think that I can take care of myself--one of the perks of being the bladesmith's daughter is that most of the time I have spent with my father through the years has involved weaponry to some degree--but I admit it's also nice to imagine a match in which I don't have to.  When I love, I want to feel safe with the man, as I'm fairly certain all women do. 

My chief complaint with the phrase in question is the condition of the man's armor.  Why is it shining?  I understand that the picture may be more pleasing to the eye if the hero returns gleaming in the sunlight.  Ever since I've been a little girl, however, I've always been bothered by the idea of a knight in pristine condition.  Hasn't the man found anything better to do with his time than polish his armor? 

There is very little metal armor in Desderan.  We have no true knights and we have no visitors.  Even the merchants have stopped coming through for some reason.  Most likely alarmed by the reputation of the Dark Forest, I suppose.  And admittedly, "Dark Forest" doesn't sound all that inviting, does it?  Our village is protected by the Defense Corps, and the men in the corps wear heavy leather clothing for protection.  While actual violent conflict, either with Ivallian troublemakers or creatures of the forest, is rare, these men are constantly training to become more able defenders and protectors for when they are needed.  I've seen them return from training sessions, I've watched them spar in swordplay tournaments put on for the amusement of the village.  The mere practice of battle often leaves these men--many of them boys my age--scuffed and bruised, and their leather armor takes quite the beating.  They do their best to mend and clean it, of course, but one look at a Corpsman and you can tell immediately that he has had at least a taste of battle. 

What, then, is to be said of our gallant knight in neat, clean, new outerwear.  Why isn't he at least a little bit dirty?  Has he found no reason to use the sword at his side?  Has he found no monsters to fight?  No homeland to defend?  I know enough of the world to know that fighting men are always in need virtually everywhere.  Has he simply found no cause that he has deemed worthy of his attention?  How then do I know that he will fight for my cause should the situation arise?  Does the knight wish me to be impressed with the state of his protective wear? How do I know he will be able to handle anything that threatens me if he has never found an opportunity to tangle with a dragon capable of denting his ornamented breastplate? 

When my "knight" arrives, I expect to find him a bit battered and bruised.  I expect his armor to be tarnished and his weapon well-used.  I will hear of the victories he has won, and he will not be afraid to tell of the times he has been the vanquished, for they will have all served to make him a stronger warrior.  I will know that he will fight for me--no, rather he will fight with me--not because he says he will but because his actions have shown that he will.  I will not fall for any man because he looks impressive but because he is impressive. 

After all, if I must be cast as the princess in this metaphor, I see no reason why I should expect anything less.  And if ever I find do myself locked in a castle and guarded by a beast like the heroines in the stories of our youth, and if a knight should come riding to my rescue in his gleaming, flawless armor, I would probably tell him to turn around and send someone else.  I'll wait around a bit longer for my own knight.  The one who comes with dents, chips, and bruises that I can be proud of.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

v2, d413: WO2, #2: Random Nintendo Game of the Month!

Remember the Domino's Noid?  That mean claymation guy in the red spandex with some sort of bunny-type ears in Domino's Pizza commercials in the 1980's?  He basically spent every commercial just trying to wreck pizzas.  He didn't steal them, didn't eat them, he just wanted to destroy them.  Jerk.  Did you ever watch those commercials and think, "Man, I really want to play through a side-scrolling adventure Nintendo game with that guy as my protagonist!"

Yeah, probably not.  But since several different companies were going through these phases where they made Nintendo games based on their mascots in order to sell more products (I'm looking at you, 7-Up Spot), the Noid somehow became an action hero anyway in 1990's Yo! Noid.

The story of this game is as follows (this taken from the game manual):

Somebody's wrecking New York City! Or maybe it's a whole gang!
Wherever you go, hooligans jump out and knock you down. Can you imagine
the noive!
For instance, try strolling on the wharf, and get flapped by a fish.
Or go skateboarding Central Park -- you'll get shredded by dive bombers.
And with loonies everywhere, what a time for a brownout in the Bronx!
This is what the NOID is up against, and more! In fact, it looks
like his duplicate Mr. Green is causing all the antics. That's double
But the NOID's got plenty of ammo -- supernatural powers, incredible
inventions, and a whiz-bang yo-yo. He just needs a pizza every now and
then to keep him going!"

So, what exactly is going on in this game?  Basically, the Evil Noid is trying to make your life difficult by sending bizarre henchmen after you.  WHAT NOIVE!  Also, according to the story screen, the mayor knows that the only one who can save the city from the carnage is none other than the Noid.  Okay.  So you take up your trusty (stringless) yo-yo and fight your way through New York to finish this once and for all.  (I never realized the Noid had a green arch-nemesis from the commercials.  In fact, since the Noid was always a villain in the commercials, wouldn't that make Mr. Green a hero?)

Level one of this game in on the wharf, and the tide is coming in and going out the whole time.  The water animation makes the whole screen look really busy and it's hard to focus on...whatever it is you're doing.  Unfortunately, this is one of those "one hit and you DIE!" games as well as one of those "you die and you have to START ALL OVER" games.  Which is fine, because the levels aren't really that long, but it's still obnoxious.  You walk along, avoiding the rising tide and knocking seagulls and guys with harpoons to their deaths with your whiz-bang yo-yo.  It's not really a hard level, but it's rare for a rising-water-level to kick off your game.  Usually you get a pretty standard 2-D left-to-right no-tricks level to let your players get used to the physics without any gimmicks.  The only time I got really frustrated with a death was when I stepped onto a platform that was 1/4 covered in receding water and immediately died.  That's right, I drowned by standing on a plank that was only very slightly submerged.  

Come to think of it, the whole water-rising level idea rarely makes sense.  See, in SMB3, if you got caught in rising water it just meant you had to swim for it.  And there were enemies in the water.  And sometimes they could swallow you whole.  But in a lot of games, your ankles get wet and you're a goner. 

I finished the level and got to what appeared to be one of those in-between-stage games where you flip cards or play roulette or whatever to get powerups.  In this game, I was facing off against a purple Noid in a pizza-eating contest that ran pretty much like a card-based magic RPG.  We each had a deck of cards, each card had a number value that represented a number of pizzas.  He would play a card, then I would play a card, and whoever had the higher card got however many points made up the difference.  The goal was to fill up your gauge or make your opponent run out of cards.  This introduced an element of strategy into the game.  Unfortunately, it was NOT FUN.  AT ALL.  This mini-game was SO not fun, I decided to get up and get a snack and just let the time run out.  After about thirty seconds, my opponent said, "You snooze, you lose!"  And the game was over.  

And there I was, back at the beginning of Stage 1.  

That's right, the pizza-eating contest was my boss battle.  Would have been nice to know in advance.

Play through stage I again, play through the ABNORMALLY LONG, ABNORMALLY BORING BOSS BATTLE, and finally move on to stage 2.  

Dear Yo! Noid, 

While it is perfectly acceptable, yea, even expected for a side-scrolling NES game to have IceWorld level where it's impossible for the player to come to a complete stop on surfaces because they're frozen, YOU MAY NOT MAKE LEVEL 2 THE ICEWORLD LEVEL!  I mean, that's not fair!  Your players are still figuring out how this obnoxious little guy jumps, how he runs, and you COMPLETELY jack with the physics at the first opportunity!  No, don't think you can make it up to me by putting hockey-playing polar bears in the level.  And may NOT include moving platforms in your Level 2 IceWorld stage! And no, you may NOT make the moving platforms ice-coated as well!  Nor may you make the players stand on collapsable blocks while waiting for the moving ice-coated platforms to get close enough to jump on!!!  

That's just NOT RIGHT!

So that's Yo! Noid.  I don't know what stage three is like.  I don't really care.  I died a lot in this game.  The combination of being a true one-hit wonder, never having a straight level to get the physics worked out, and jumping from frozen moving platform to frozen moving platform pretty much sapped my fighting spirit.  Let Mr. Green have New York City.  If the Noid was your only hope of salvation in the first place, you're probably not a city worth saving. 

I have, of course, gone on to do a bit more reading about this game. Apparently it's just hard throughout.  You have pizza-eating boss battles throughout the game.  It's just kind of sad all the way around.

Here's a video of the epic conclusion to the game.  And the final boss battle is paced MUCH faster than the one I played after level one.  (I guess that's the game's way of upping the difficulty?)  

Post script:according to Wikipedia, there was a guy whose last name was Noid who apparently thought the entire Noid advertising thing was a personal attack, so he held two Domino's employees hostage and demanded they make him a pizza while he waited for the police to bring $100,000.00 and a getaway car.  He was eventually declared insane and thus not sentenced criminally for the incident.  Now, this is Wikipedia, so I don't know if it's true or not, but wow. 

v2, d412: WOF2, #1: Shuffleblog

It's funny, but as I was going over which features I still have in stock (now that Birthday Mad-Libs are over, I'm down to six and thus will have to come up with a new one before the Week of Features is out), Shuffleblog is actually the one that takes the least amount of time to write (about half an hour or so).  Which is good, because Outgehangen has got me started on this a bit later than I'd originally intended. 

And so, off we go.

#1.Nickels for Green-Eyed Girls by Polarboy
Nickels for green-eyed girls,
Empires built for the world.
All these things will fade away,
Yeah, yeah, yeah...
This song always reminds me of the Christian rock station that we used to have in Wichita, mainly because I don't think I've ever heard this band anywhere else in the world (save for the occasional showing of the In My Shoes music video on Christian video stations).  I know Christian rock has a bad rap, and some of that is deserved, but there were some really great bands, especially in the late 1990's.  Most of them were never heard by anybody outside of a very small pocket while a lot of groups that were really watered-down, both lyrically and artistically, became mega-huge.  I think this is because the majority of the Christian buyers' market tends to like safe, formulaic entertainment, and that generally fights against most true artistic expression or spiritual exploration.  Songs that really confronted some of the tougher questions of faith and doubt and suffering often took a backseat to songs about love and peace and.  And, of course, the Bible speaks very loudly of these things.  They're pretty much the book's central tenants.  However, it never tried to hide the ugliness away to make the peace and love of God look more appealing.  If anything, it was always the exact opposite: the ugliness and depravity of the world is what  makes the light of the gospel shine. 

Anyway, a lot of Christian artists became burned out by the "Christian music industry" and so some bands that really rocked and also challenged me unto growth in my faith went largely unnoticed by both the Christan and secular markets.  And eventually, even the decent rock station in Wichita went that route as well. 

There's another whole blog's worth of thoughts that could go into this topic.  But the next song has already started. 

2. Underwater by Switchfoot
She's underwater, she won't drown. She cannot believe it.
And everyone she meets feels just the same.
And just like clockwork, she'll climb down in her bottle,
Yeah no one down there cares to know her name.
Nothing to be; she's already been
Plenty of times, plenty of time, plenty of time...
What's that, you say?  You've never heard of a song called "Underwater" by Switchfoot?  Yeah, if you heard it you probably wouldn't recognize it as them, either.  This is the third song of their debut album from 1997, and Jon still had his quasi-Kermit-the-Frog vocals going on in this album.  (That's not a knock, either.  I just always thought it sounded only vaguely Kermit-ish)  I was fifteen when this song came out, so it took me a long time to realize exactly how sad it was because it was just so dang bouncy. This was actually the album I listened to when I was feeling alone, unloved, and generally emo.  Or the album that would get me to that state in the first place.  Not that it's really all that emo of an album, actually.  However, I was fifteen, and I pretty much saw everything through the lens of that whole Why Do Nice Guys Always Finish Last phase. 

I can admit it.  I grew out of it.  And I think I ended up doing okay coming out of it, too.  Now I can listen to some of these songs and realize how comically I missed what was really there.  Oh, fifteen-year-old Will, you were so self-centered and dumb. 

3. I Am from !Hero: The Rock Opera
Sometimes it's hard 
To do what you're meant to do,
These fires we must walk through, 
Sometimes it's hard... 
I have one of those machines that plays your iPod through speakers so you can listen to it from across the room and share the music with others.  That's what I'm using for my shuffle, because I still don't have very much of my music in the new Lappy.  (We'd have all Five Iron, Supertones, Les Mis, and Toddler Tunes on our Shuffle if I used the Lappy)That's all well and good.  I like the machine (whatever it's called) and it even has a remote control.  But here's the thing: THE REMOTE CONTROL IS CRAP!  I mean, it really doesn't matter what button you press.  The machine is pretty much going to do whatever it wants to anyway.  You want to skip forward a song?  Press the button.  Maybe it'll skip ahead.   Maybe it'll skip back.  Or maybe it'll  crank up the volume.  Who cares that its' 2:30 and the rest of the house is sleeping?  What's that?  You don't want the volume to go up?  Well, if skip forward turned it up, surely skip backwards will turn it back down.  Wait,  no.  Skip backwards also turns the volume up.  So pretty much every button turns the volume up.  Awesome. 

What does this have to do with the song?  Nothing.  But Shuffleblog is pretty much a stream-of-consciousness thing anyway, and that's what happened when I clicked forward to this song.  Grr. 

4. Rent by Animal Couch
And this time, skip forward skipped to the next song.  What'd I tell ya?

Here's another product of that awesome Wichita station.  Animal Couch was an indie band from somewhere in Texas.  They only ever released two EP's, and somehow we got a  hold of them in Wichita, so they had a pretty big following up in ICT.  I remember when they finally came for a concert (the other awesome thing about this station: it booked tons of concerts of the small underappreciated bands it played).  All of "the regulars" came to the show, and man were we ever stoked. Not only did the band rock, but it had two girl singers!  (Any band that had a girl in it was instantly awesome to us high school/college age boys back then.  I wonder if that's still true today?) 

Anyway, the band was actually pretty good.  I still like to listen to their songs, though I don't think they're nearly as profound as they used to be.  This song, for instance, is pretty much about how humans have trashed the earth, and going to heaven will be so much better.  But it still sounds kind of pretty, in a rock-ish way. 

This concert ended after they played all of their songs, but we called for a third encore anyway, so they started to replay songs, and a guy suddenly fell to the ground clutching his leg and screaming in the mosh pit.  It was a small, intimate venue, so that pretty much stopped everything mid-song.  It was a real mood-killer. 

I hope that guy didn't do any permanent damage, because it was otherwise an awesome concert. 

5. Don't Feed the Plans from Little Shop of Horrors
And the plants proceeded to grow and grow
And begin what they came here to do
Which was essentially to
Eat Cleveland, and Des Moines, and Peoria, and New York,
And this theater! 
Feels like I've talked about this one before.  Not on Shuffleblog, but on the blog nonetheless.

This is the "everybody dies" closing number to the musical version of Little Shop of Horrors.  The script describes vines exploding from the stage and from over the heads of the audience in the lyrics quoted above.  In my high school, we didn't have that capability.  We actually had a glorified lecture hall for a theater: a raised thrust stage.  Nobody had a good seat!  We also had two concrete barriers that separated the three main sections of seats.  So instead of plant vines exploding from the ceiling, we had the chorus cross onto those balance beams and toss trash bags full of green streamers on the people sitting immediately around them. 

To be fair, when I saw the national tour of this show (with Anthony Rapp), this number was still pretty hokey.  It may not have been streamers thrown in our face from two feet away, but they did have the principals in what I can only describe as big green sleeping bags trying to do some sort of choreography that just looked like someone had dropped itching powder into their tent during a campout. 

6. Got to Get You Into My Life by the Beatles, covered by BUCK
 I was alone, I took a ride, I didn't know what I would find there.
Another road where maybe I could find another kind of life there
Ooh, then I suddenly see you. 

Ooh, did I tell you I need you,
Every single day of my life?
 Is it just me, or is a classic Beatles song a great way to wrap up...well, just about anything? 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

v2, d411: Closing The Book

I'm sorry. It feels like this blog has become a bit of a downer lately.  I'm lonely, tragic hockey player deaths, bad poetry.  Just not a lot of cheer.  And I know that, without my cheer, none of you would like me. (That was a joke)  Thus, after today's doozy, I hereby declare the period from September 9th to September 15th to be the second ever Week of Features.  Hopefully that'll inject some life into this place again.


In two days, the Traverse City Prospects Tournament will kick off.  Finally.  The hockey world can start worrying about hockey again.  This summer has been quite hellish for a lot of people, following the Boogaard accidental OD (here's Russo's latest excellent and harrowing piece on the matter, this one detailing the dangerous world of painkillers among pro hockey players), Rick Rypien's suicide, and Wade Belak's accidental (no longer considered a suicide) death last week.  A lot of folks around the hockey community couldn't imagine things getting a whole lot lower. 

Oh man, were we wrong.

By now, you've probably heard (at least in passing) of hockey's latest and greatest tragedy, because it made front-page news on CNN and BBC (though, interestingly, not on ESPN).  A plane carrying the Russian pro hockey team Yaroslavl Lokomotiv crashed into a lake and exploded into flames immediately after taking off yesterday morning bound to the first game of the season.  Forty-three of the forty-five people on board died instantly.  The other two are still in critical condition and aren't exactly expected to survive.  (The only surviving player was said to have burns covering 90% of his body and respiratory system)  Eight of the players/coaches on board were former NHL players. You had the former Red Wings assistant coach embarking on his first head coaching job.  Several older guys who decided they wanted to play one last year before retirement.  A couple of guys wanted to play a couple seasons in their homeland before hanging 'em up.  Worse, when you're talking a plane full of guys in their 20s-40s, you're looking at a lot of young wives, young kids, even young parents in some cases. 

Believe it or not, when I first heard this, I didn't feel particularly affected.  I don't know if it was because it was so far away or because it was so tragic it almost didn't seem real at first.  However, my Twitter feed is filled with hockey analysts, beat writers, and players.  And it was chaotic.  I was trying to get information, because at first all we had heard was that the plane had crashed and just about everyone was dead.  The quote from a team official was, "There is no hope.  The team is gone."  But then there were reports that this guy might not have been on the plane, that that guy may have been at home instead.  One player hopped on Twitter immediately upon news of the crash to say that he wasn't on the flight.  Maybe there were others?  But my Twitter feed wasn't curious fans looking for info; it was guys trying to find out if their friends were dead or alive.  And eventually learning, in every instance, that they were dead. 

"Am hearing reports Rusty may have been at home! Anybody know if it is true?"
"They are saying Pavol is dead. Still hoping it's not real!"
"Is that official?  Ruslan is dead??"

On and on and on.  All day long, as hopeful tweets eventually gave way to mournful ones.   It was terrible.

I think, looking back, the reason that Boogaard's and Belak's deaths had more of an emotional impact on me than Rypien's was that each had a connection to one of my two favorite NHL beat writers (Russo and Dater, respectively), so I got a more personal side of each story.  Well, multiply that by just about everybody in the NHL.  And then came fan reactions as word spread.  It seemed like no matter who you cheer for, you lost one of your own yesterday.  Fans of the Preds, Avs, Panthers, Stars, Ducks, Wings, Sens, Blues, Kings, Wild, Canucks, Hurricanes, Isles, Rangers, Leafs, Blackhawks, Jets, Coyotes, Bruins, Flyers, Flames, Whalers, and Devils all lost familiar faces.  Impromptu memorials were erected by hockey fans across the continent outside of home arenas.  International hockey fans wept, as some of these guys, while popular in the NHL, were absolute heroes back in Europe.  Tributes from gifted writers to fan favorites and all-around-good-guy types that were suddenly gone too soon.  And of course, the really sad stuff came in later, like the story about the player whose mother had a heart attack and died when she found out about the crash.  Or possibly the saddest thing written in the hockey world, well, just about ever, a widely-circulated (and since-removed) blog post about the man who drove Karlis Skrastins' widow and two daughters (5 and 2) to the airport for the funeral.  The girls still didn't know about the crash when he dropped them off at the airport; they were just excited to be going on a trip to see Daddy.

It's just too much, folks. 

And I don't really have a "closing thought" to wrap this one up.  I'm sure most of you don't care about the details about what happens now to the team, what happens in the Russian league.  I can say that it's been reported that over 30 players have volunteered to play for the Yaroslavl team, and every KHL team has volunteered to offer one of their players to keep the hockey tradition in the town alive.  And that's phenomenal for the town, because as unimportant as the game is in the face of something like this, it's also a huge step in the healing of that city.  I can say that the two survivors have got a fighting chance if they can make it through the next two days.  Apparently, men with this type of injury typically die in the third or fourth day since the accident.  I can say that a lot people are now coming to grips with the reality of this situation and trying to figure out how they'll go on from here.  I can say that the KHL is already taking steps to ensure safer travel accommodations for all teams (apparently teams were arranging their own travel, and this one found a cheaper option: a 1993-built passenger plane). I can say this is a summer that no hockey fan alive today is going to forget. 

Other than that...I don't really know what to say.  We're all ready to learn what we can discover from all of these tragedies and then close the book on these past few months. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

v2, d410: Paint

Okay, I'm feeling a little blue tonight, and that often leads to irresponsible blogging.  Discretion being the better part of blogging, I've decided not to write from the heart and instead share something that always serves as an effective pick-me-up when I'm in a funk: 

A Mario Paint Composer playlist.

You're welcome.

And of course, my all-time favorite:

That actually helps. A lot.  G'nite, folks. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

v2, d409: Goals

Okay, here are the goals:

First draft of next script done: End of Sept.

First round of book revisions done: End of Oct.

New NaNoWriMo project done: End of Nov. (obviously)

These are ambitious goals, and there's a really good chance I'll fall short on at least one of them.  Especially if/when I find a part-time job in the evenings.  After all, it is Labor Day.  Stores will probably be hiring holiday help sometime next week.

Feel free to ask how I'm coming with these as the months roll by.  Not in an obnoxious, Hey-Are-You-Working-On-That sort of way.  But in a "Hey, how are you coming on your writing projects?  I'm really looking forward to seeing what you come up with!"  And maybe a high five. 

I may never "make it," but dangit, it won't be for lack of trying. 

v2, d408: RAAAAAAAAAAAAIN!!!!!

Okay, this post has nothing to do with rain, but still, WE GOT RAIN!  THANK YOU, LORD!!!!  It wasn't a ton, but it was far more than we've had, and too much rain would really ruin the place after the drought we've had. I ain't complainin'. 

Also, I don't think I've mentioned on here that my parents are in town for Labor Day Weekend.  Have I mentioned that?  Well, they are, and it's awesome.  You might be thinking, But wait, Will, didn't you just have a guest LAST weekend?  Yes, yes we did.  And Kim's parents are coming in next weekend as well.  Why is this?  Because of a strange little phenomenon known as "The Strange Phenomenon About Will And Kim's Visitation Schedule That Has No Actual Name," or The SPAWAK VS THNAN for short.  (My money is totally on Th'Nan in that battle)  According to SPAWAK VS THNAN, we usually go months at a time with no visitors, and then everybody comes at once.  Please note, I'm certainly not complaining at all, because we love out-of-town visitors whenever we can get them.  It's just odd that it always seems to work out this way consistently enough that I can officially (by FOMW standards) brand it a phenomenon. 

In case you hadn't guessed, this post is about college football.  This was the first weekend of the new college football season.  As you know (unless you've forgotten), I had previously decided that this was the year I was finally going to care about college football.  I kept going back and forth over which team I should claim allegiance to from this point forward. (My college actually didn't have football, in case you weren't aware) At first I was leaning toward Alabama because a good friend of mine down here is a huge Crimson Tide fan, and he's probably more passionate about college football than anyone else I know.  However, I have a friend on Twitter who's a big Arkansas fan, and I'm afraid she might block me if I started posting "Roll Tide!" and the like.  And of course, I can't take Arkansas because I'll never say "Woo Pig Souiee" while cheering my team on.  My heart really wants me to take one of the Big XII teams, but not only is that conference now in mortal danger, but I found myself so over-exposed to both obnoxious Texas and Oklahoma fans in college that I just can't line myself up with either program.  I can't go with Oklahoma State, either, though my friend Sarah is a fan, because that would put me in bad with Kim's grandfather.  And the two Kansas teams...well, I'll always be happy to see them doing well, but I grew up around them and they were never really "my" teams then, so it'd be tough to claim them now. 

Basically, I wanted a team that I could make a legitimate claim for that wouldn't ostracize me from any of my friends and family.  Finally, I decided I'd just go local and root, root, root for the home University of Houston Cougars.  I caught most of their game against UCLA on TV this afternoon, and it was really a fun game to watch.  Kim says she can get discounted tickets to one of their games, and since they're not a mega-franchise like UT, I may actually be able to afford a discounted ticket before the season is up. 

I think just about every team that I'm aware of one of my friends following got a win in week one, so that's kind of cool.  Nobody (that I know) has to be mad, which is great because it's such a bummer to spend an entire year looking forward to a new season only to be let down by your guys

So welcome to college football season, everyone. Boomer Sooner, Roll Tide, Hook 'Em Horns, Sic 'Em Bears, Rock Chalk Jayhawk, Woo Pig Sooie, and It's Either A Kind Of Prickly Nut-like Thing Or Else A Delicious Candy. 

I think that covers everyone's rally cry that I know. 

Hey, do the Cougars have a rally cry?  *goes to look*  Okay, here's what I found at
"Traditionally, the stand cheer has gone: Eat 'Em Up! Eat 'Em Up! Rah! Rah! Rah! Not surprisingly, some fans erroneously chanted Raw! Raw! Raw! at the end of the cheer. However, in 2000, the cheer was changed to Eat 'Em Up! Eat 'Em Up! Go Coogs Go! At a minimum, this should be less confusing for everyone."

Heh...yeah, those idiots, changing "Rah" to "Raw." could they tell???

Saturday, September 3, 2011

v2, d407: You've Changed

I'm talking to you, blogger. You changed on me.  You moved everything around, you put all the buttons in different places, you took all the fun and color out of my log-in screen and replaced it with...with...CHANGE!! 

Obviously, I don't like it, because people on the Internet always have to hate it when you change anything.  I always love it when Facebook changes something.  Everyone goes absolutely ballistic.  It's fantastic.  And then people create pages on Facebook about how they hate the changes to Facebook. And then everybody pretty much gets over it and goes back to making pages claiming they need a "Dislike" button.  I also remember when Twitter changed, and for what seemed like months it said you had a choice between using "New Twitter" or sticking with "Old Twitter" for a little while longer.  I can't actually remember what the difference was.

Now, I do remember being a bit hacked off when Youtube would only let you log on with a Google account.  In fact, Youtube and Blogger are both jerks for that. Especially since Blogger attached itself to my work email account rather than my personal one without asking.  About a week ago, that became a problem, because suddenly I can't be logged on to either Youtube or my email while logged into Blogger, because Blogger wants my work email log-in info.

Anyway, our Internet sites change on us all the time.  And the changes really aren't that big of a deal most of the time.  I'll figure out where you hid all your buttons and features, Blogger, and we'll get along just fine.

But if you ever start playing commercials with sound that randomly start up while I'm trying to blog, so help me I will end you.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

v2, d406: Following up

Here.  This is the best thing I've read after the Wade Belak tragedy from yesterday. (Police confirmed today the he was found hanged in a hotel room. No suicide note, no suicidal tendencies whatsoever)  And I've read a lot about Belak's death and what this past summer means for hockey, for fighting, for fighters, etc. Adrian Dater knocks it out of the park here, relating how most NHL tough guys really never wanted to be NHL tough guys, but that's the price they pay to do what they love for a living.  Combine that with Greg Wyshyski's round-up of post-Belak sentiments from around the Mainstream Media and you get a pretty tragic picture that shows not only the way many of these athletes live their lives, but also potential emotional and psychological plane crash that comes when life suddenly kicks you to the curb.  Whether you're an athlete whose career is suddenly over, an actor whose fifteen minutes of fame are up, or even just the guy who loses his job of ten years and finds himself staring at his living room walls for hours on end, it can be a rough adjustment to try to make.  There are a lot of folks in this world who wake up one day to realize their dreams aren't all they thought they would be.  "I only wanted a family, so why don't my spouse and kids satisfy me?"  "I knew I'd be in movies, but I never thought I'd be stuck with the boom mic."  "I wanted to be a writer.  I did not want to spend the rest of my life writing copy for crappy Internet travel sites."  "I wanted to be successful, and I am.  I didn't realize I'd have to pay the price in meaningful relationships."  And so it goes. 

It's like trying to buy a car, but when you get home you realize what you drove back from the dealer is not the same vehicle the salesman sold you.  Sometimes, even your dreams aren't all they were cracked up to  be.  And it sucks when that happens.  And I'm not saying that so that we'll look at Belak and Rypien and say, "Yeah, it happens to everyone.  Deal with it."  I'm only saying that, when put into this kind of context, I understand a lot more of where these guys are coming from.  Which, obviously, doesn't mean I'd condone the act of suicide.  Not at all.  But it's probably time to realize that, whether we like hockey or not, whether we even care about sports at all, whether we have the potential to earn 1-2 million bucks per year for nine months of work, we're really not all that different from these guys.  In their hearts, they were really just chasing their dream, and in a way, it turned on them.  Turns out, there's something in these guys' stories that I can relate to after all.