Posts from April 2008.

Things I Learned About My Dad (in therapy)

Things I Learned About My Dad (in therapy), a compendium of essays on fatherhood headed up by Dooce’s Heather Armstrong, hits stores today. I contributed a chapter, with the caveat that it not follow any of those of the other writers (as they are all so astoundingly talented that mine would pale in comparison), and also not come first. I’m not sure how Heather pulled this off. Stayed up late last night, printing out copies of my piece from her home PC and stapling them to the back covers, is my guess.

 

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The Shape of Things to Come

Tired of the protracted Democratic fight for the Presidential nomination? Want to pretend we’re already in the general election phase of the campaign? Why, just head on over to Snopes for a preview of what things will be like six months from now:

And lots more.

It’s hard to pick a favorite, but “The Book of Revelation describes the anti-Christ as someone with characteristics matching those of Barack Obama” is definitely in the running:

According to the Book of Revelations the anti-christ is: The anti-christ will be a man, in his 40s, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations with persuassive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal.... the prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace, and when he is in power, will destory everything. Is it OBAMA??

I usually dismiss such prophecies out of hand, but this one has me a little unsettled. After all, it has already established its credibility by successfully predicting the religion of Islam, which was founded half a millennium after Revelations was written. (Fun facts: other warnings in Revelations include the failure of the McDLT, the prohibition against putting metal in the microwave, and the cancellation of Firefly after only 14 episodes.)

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The Bad Review Revue

Deception: “A nonprescription alternative to Ambien.” — Lou Lumenick, NEW YORK POST

88 Minutes: “Will be hard-pressed to last much longer than its title in theaters before doing time on DVD.” — Michael Rechtshaffen, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

Never Back Down: “Speeds up and slows down as though controlled by a director in the grip of competing medications.” — Jeannette Catsoulis, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Superhero Movie: “Writer/director Craig Mazin took the screenplay for Spider-Man, propped it up next to his MacBook, and just went through it, inserting fart gags, pratfalls and the lamest of jokes.” — Peter Howell, TORONTO STAR

College Road Trip: “Better than most Martin Lawrence movies, much as strep throat is better than malaria.” — Kyle Smith, NEW YORK POST

10,0000 BC: “Apocalypto for pussies.” — Peter Travers, ROLLING STONE

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Ding Dong!

Ding Dong!

Yeah, you’re gonna want to see that one at full-size.

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Computer Games I Have Known And Loved

I’m not a big computer game player, but here’s a few that have reeled me in recently.

Skyrates: One of my favorite types of board games are those using a mechanism we call “pick-up-and-deliver”, in which players acquire things in one location (quests, passengers, commodities, etc) and receive points or money upon successfully transporting the cargo to its intended destination. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that I find computer games employing this gameplay to be equally satisfying. I lost several weeks to Escape Velocity back in the day. More recently, I have been hooked on Skyrates, an online, browser-based game where you assume captainship of a plane, and fly around the various “skylands” buying goods where they are plentiful (and cheap) and selling them where they are rare (and expensive).

Two aspects of the game really set it apart. First, it can take anywhere from 30 to 240 minutes to travel between the skylands, in real time. So rather than playing for large blocks of time during the day, you instead give your pilot his marching orders, close the game, and check back on his progress a later. It’s the perfect game to “play’ at work, as you need only visit the site for five or ten minutes, a few times a day. Second, the economy of the world is influenced by all the players. If diamonds are abundant (and thus inexpensive) on skyland X, you may rush over there to fill up your cargo hold; but if dozens or hundreds of concurrent players get there before you and buy in bulk, the gems might be rare (and thus pricey) by the time you arrive. It’s a clever way of introducing player interaction that doesn’t involve combat. A solid game all-around, and one which I have become addicted.

Blocksum: Just when the whole “match three” genre of video games (epitomized by Bejeweled) seems played, someone comes up with a new gimmick to revitalize the field. In the freeware game Blocksum, each piece contains a number, and when a certain quantity of pieces containing the same number form a contiguous group, they disappear from play. The gimmick here is that you can merge adjacent blocks into blocks, containing the sums of the merged blocks. (You could merge a 3 block and a 4 block into a 7 block, for instance). A bit more cerebral that most titles in the field, but one that you will nonetheless find enthralling. I defy anyone to get past level 8, though.

ForumWarz: Unforgivably profane and entirely too hard, ForumWarz still managed to gnaw away at my free time for a span of two weeks or so. After a while I found it to be pretty repetitive, but I was undeniably hooked there for a spell. The game allows you to start playing even before having an account, so there’s no reason not to give it a try–assuming, of course, you are essentially unoffendable, which is the only people to which I would recommend it. (Also: Andy Baio interviews the game’s creator.)

Moonbase Commander: Simple! Fun!! Long out of print now, alas, but if you can still find copies for sale (and, ahem, binaries for download) if you look hard enough.

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Afternoon Sealight

Two things of interest I discovered while searching the Internet to craft the Darwinian language in the previous post:

1. The Coolidge effect is the tendency of males of every tested mammalian species to perform at their sexual peak when introduced to a new receptive female. The term comes from this old joke:

President Calvin Coolidge and his wife visited a poultry farm one day, and, during the tour, asked the farmer how he managed to produce so many fertile eggs with such a small number of roosters

The farmer explained that his roosters performed their duty dozens of times each day.

"Perhaps you could point that out to Mr. Coolidge," replied the First Lady in a pointedly loud voice.

The President, overhearing the remark, asked the farmer, "Does each rooster service the same hen each time?"

"No," replied the farmer, "there are many hens for each rooster."

"Perhaps you could point that out to Mrs. Coolidge," replied the President.

2. This photograph:

You can go here to see what the actual caption is. I prefer to think it reads “A mated elephant seal pair, having consulted the Kama Sealta, decides to give the missionary position a whirl.”

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The Descent of Bandann

While I allowed my blogging muscles to atrophy, my longtime friend has been pumping his up, and recently became the in-house blogger for the The Soup. And by “longtime friend” I mean, like, since first grade, although I’ve always known him by a name other than “Clog Narter.” I can only assume that that’s a pseudonym and/or anagram of “furry for life.”

Reading his blog yesterday, I cam across his entry on Bret Michaels which was a little unsettling because I’d never even heard of this guy until an hour prior when I came across this mindnumbingly atrocious video, apparently drawn from a “tv show” where “girls” compete to go on “dates” with the Mr. Michaels. I’ve known for a while that the teaching of evolutionary principles in the public school system has been under siege, thanks to religious fundamentalism, the ID movement, and Ben Stein. But never have the horrific consequences of these efforts been as apparent as on Rock of Love. Surely any woman with even a cursory knowledge of phylogeny would recognize that the female’s “mate choice” sexual selection criteria are askew when they vie for the affections of an organism who has, along with other exaggerated morphological features, a propensity for wearing bandannas.

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Bit of Free Verse That Popped Into My Head At Three O’Clock This Morning

Somewhere in the annals
of European history
Is a man by the name
Of Al Dente.

Who served to his guests
Plates of undercooked pasta
And then stubbornly insisted
He had done so by choice.

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Reflections On My Netflix Queue

Black Sheep & The Host

So I’m out on one of my woefully infrequent nights of carousing, and at some point a buddy of mine opines that I would like the movie Black Sheep, and also, while we’re on the topic, this other film called The Host. And somehow I write these titles down, which is fairly amazing since it required (a) paper, and (b) a working pen, and (c) the presence of mind to actually record the names of recommended movies for future references, three things I very rarely possess simultaneously. Anyway, as soon as I start writing, my buddy goes, “well, uh, I should probably warn you …” and I am all like “Silence! It is too late to deter me, for my commitment to watching these so-called ‘motion pictures’ is already ironclad. Let us speak of them no more!”

Anyway, long story short, a week later both discs arrived from Netflix on the same day, and I was all like whuuuh?, and it took me a while to recollect the above (and possibly paraphrased) conversation. (I was never able to remember actually adding the movies to the top of my queue … ah, late night inebriated Netflix queue adjustments …) So The Queen and I watched them, and: hahahaha! Yes, you should see these films! And learn nothing of them in advance, as I did. (I will, however, forward the one disclaimer than my friend insisted in divulging: “When renting Black Sheep you want the 2006 film … not the one with Chris Farley!”)

Downfall

Maybe you’ve seen the various Hitler gets banned from a computer game videos and wondered what film the footage was drawn from. *** spoilers! *** it’s 2004’s Downfall. An absolutely fascinating film that shows a side of Hitler and his regime that you rarely see on screen: as a bunch of losers. (Not losers in the “sitting around in their boxer shorts at 11:45 in the morning eating chips and watching To Catch a Predator on TiVo” sense, obviously, but as the side that lost the war they initiated.) It’s a testament to the skill of director Oliver Hirschbiegel that this portrayal of the “bad guy’s point of view” manages to evoke neither sympathy for their plight nor revulsion at the horrible acts you know they have committed, and instead makes you feel like the proverbial “fly on the wall,” watching the drama unfold with a dispassionate eye (or “dispassionate compound eye” I guess, to extend the Dipterian metaphor). And here, I’ll spare you the trouble of pausing the film halfway through to visit Wikipedia: the exact cause of Hitler’s tremors is unknown, though syphilis or Parkinson’s disease (or both) are suspected.

51 Birch Street

At first I though this documentary Doug Block made about his own parents was just so much self-indulgent navel gazing. Then he began hinting at their Dark, Hidden Secrets and I got all intrigued. Then said secrets were revealed and I was back, to, “dude, did you just trick me into watching your home movies?” Perhaps I would have been as enthusiastic about this film as the critics if I hadn’t felt suckerpunched. Or whatever the opposite of a suckerpunch is. Like when some guy says “I’m going to punch you in the gut!” and then he just gives you a friendly slug to the shoulder and you’re all like “wtf man I was all tightening my abdominal muscles and preparing to die like Houdini, lame.” Like that.

Juno

Aww, why the hate? Yes, it was aggressively quirky, but I still liked it twice as much as Little Miss Sunshine, to which it was often compared. I mean, at least this film was about a real issue (teen pregnancy), instead of a bunch of dilemmas as zanyfied as the characters themselves (I can’t be a pilot because I’m color-blind, waaa!). I guess this is one of these deals where hipsters liked it when it was largely unknown, but then when it got popular and started winning things they decided it must actually suck (see also: Barak Obama).

There Will Be Blood

How sad is it that, during the climatic end scene, I’m sitting there on my couch thinking, “I’d bet a hundred bazillion dollars that someone has already mixed this monologue with that abominable Kelis Milkshake song and posted the resultant video to youtube.” And then, after the film was over, I checked youtube and found it. And the topmost comment on the file was “i knew someone wuld make this!!!!!!”

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Last LOST Post For a Year, I Promise

Okay, a friend and I just did the math.

The final episode of LOST Season 4 will be #82. After that there will be two more seasons, each with 16 episodes.

The premiere of LOST Season 4 was in mid-January, 2008. Let’s assume that the final season starts in mid-January of 2010. At that point, 98 episodes will have aired. So, what’s January 15, 2010, minus 98 weeks?

Answer: February 29, 2008.

So: if you’ve never seen LOST, you can start from the pilot now, view one episode a week (with five double-headers), finish right before the start of season 6, and see the remaining installments in real time, thereby watching the entire series without hiatus.

Lemmie know how that works out for you.

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