Friday, December 31, 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Alex Ovechkin is the best hockey player because...

If you can't see why he is better than Sidney Crosby then you aren't a hockey fan.

Days Off

I've been home all week on vacation.  When asked if I was getting a lot done around the house I said no.  I have been watching TV and playing video games.  This is exactly what I envisioned when I decided to take the week after Christmas off.  I feel no amount of guilt for not "doing things around the house."  Also, I've been wearing the same pair of sweat pants and flannel shirt all week, too.

For the record, I drove a approximate total of 2,000 miles during Christmas this year.  It's not like I didn't earn this week of slothfulness.

Yes, I've been showering.  And going to the gym.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Beauty of Pixar

After spending 11 days re-watching all 11 Pixar feature films, Leandro Braga took 500 hand-selected scenes and made an amazing tribute to the best animation studio on the planet.

The Beauty of Pixar from Leandro Copperfield on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How to cook

JC Sez:

1.  Never start cooking with a cold pan.

2.  Always let meat rest after cooking it.

3.  Your knife is the most valuable tool in your kitchen.

4.  If you know how to read you know how to cook.

5.  Low and slow wins the race and gets you laid.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Is it Christmas yeti?

Due to a recent, sudden "adventure" with bronchitis I was not able to send out Christmas cards this year.  Our Christmas card this year would have included this photograph.

Friends and lovers, Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Raining Teddy Bears!

The Calgary Hitmen, a minor league hockey team, have an awesome way to collect teddy bears for charity. Fans throw their support onto the ice after the first goal is scored at their annual Teddy Bear Toss. Over 23,000 bears were collected this year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


"Blogging has Peaked"

By Hamilton Nolan (Valleywag)

The internet is so popular these days! A big new survey shows that people of all ages are emailing, searching, shopping, banking, and browsing news and information online more than ever. What they aren't doing more is blogging.
In other words, the internet is becoming more and more populated by normal people and less and less by nerds! This may soothe or alarm you, depending on which category you fall into. Christ, 16% of internet users age 74 and over are on Facebook (or possibly Friendster). Every normal act of searching and communicating on the internet has become mainstream. Searching for health information is the third-most popular online activity for everyone, even 18 year-olds. The internet is no longer a cool place for nerds: it's a boring place for all of us, where we check our bank balance and secretly research what that rash might be, all while trying to avoid running into grandma on Myspace. Keeping your diary on LiveJournal now just seems like a waste of time.
Only half as many online teens work on their own blog as did in 2006, and Millennial generation adults ages 18-33 have also seen a modest decline-a development that may be related to the quickly-growing popularity of social network sites. At the same time, however, blogging's popularity increased among most older generations, and as a result the rate of blogging for all online adults rose slightly overall from 11% in late 2008 to 14% in 2010. Yet while the act formally known as blogging seems to have peaked, internet users are doing blog-like things in other online spaces as they post updates about their lives, musings about the world, jokes, and links on social networking sites and micro-blogging sites such as Twitter.
That's right: blogging is an old person thing now. Have you ever seen Jeff Jarvis? There's your prototypical blogger. This was inevitable. Full sentences are an awful waste of characters.


Last day of work before Christmas!

Merry Christmas, Cameron Station shuttle bus!

Merry Christmas, Blue Line Metro train!

Merry Christmas, McPherson Square!

Merry Christmas, security guard who talks like a medieval knight.

Merry Christmas, unusually cold Washington DC!

Walking Beside a Creek

By Ted Kooser

Walking beside a creek
in December, the black ice
windy with leaves,
you can feel the great joy
of the trees, their coats
thrown open like drunken men,
the lifeblood thudding
in their tight, wet boots.

From The Writer's Almanac 12.16.10

Monday, December 13, 2010

You love pirates!

Um, why didn't anyone tell me Ian McShane was in this?  Now I actually, really, truly want to see it.  

Yuppie Dickens

It's been a hectic few weeks leading up to Christmas and our (seemingly) bi-annual trek to northern Illinois, yet Lynette and I manged to fulfill some holiday jubilation on Saturday when we went shopping in Arlington.  After parking the car and walking out into the frigid night air we encountered Santa Claus, elves, ice sculptures, weirdos dressed as Christmas trees scaring children, and an old timey group of carolers standing outside the Apple Store.  The halls were decked at Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel. The sparkly lights glistened from the roof tops of The Cheesecake Factory and The Container Store.  Not a creature was stirring all through the Barnes and Noble. 

Actually, there were a lot of creatures stirring at Barnes and Noble, jockeying for position in front of the desk calendars and bargain book bins, or as I like to call it, the books your nephew won't read bin. The holiday shoppers were out in force.  I like it.  I enjoy the hustle bustle of Christmas shopping, but I was able to resist the $30 pack of hot chocolate mix from Williams Sonoma.   

Metrodome Roof Collapse

Did you see this yesterday?  S'like watchin' a 'splosion.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The National Christmas Tree 2010

From last night's episode of 30 Rock: "Only terrorists say 'Happy Holidays."

Bacon Rules!

I suddenly like Kevin A LOT more now after seeing these commercials.  Hilarious.

Vader's Gaucamole

Regarding the person I made, he/she is allegedly the size of an avocado now, floating around inside Lynette's body.  They float around in there, right?  Like astronauts in outer space.  Since my homemade person was merely the size of an olive a few weeks ago he/she is probably realizing that real estate in my wife is dwindling.  I reckon it must feel like being trapped in a trash compactor with a Wookie after escaping from Stormtroopers.  Yeah, I'm probably right.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thanks, Howard

Love him or hate him I would like to publicly thank Mr. Stern for agreeing to stay at Sirius XM for another five years.  Considering Howard and my wife both work for the same company his decision to stay has bolstered even more confidence in satellite radio whose stock price is in need of stimulation.  And considering that Lynette and I are pretty much depending on the stock to rise, his decision to stay indirectly affects my efforts to raise my future son/daughter.

Anyway, I like him. I have my reasons, but this isn't a post about the merits of Howard Stern or why people don't like him.  He doesn't need me to defend him.    

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mom and Stan

My mom and the Stanley Cup for some reason.



Watch this  strangely compelling game of Dungeons and Dragons being played live in front of an audience.  With Wil Weaton.

My Unicorn Collection

I like the cold until I don't like it anymore.  This recent spell of frigid weather has me dreaming (nightmaring) of walking to school as a young child in -20 degree wind chill temperatures.  You haven't lived until you feel that burning sensation on your face after walking indoors from an arctic stroll in northern Illinois.

Here's what's interesting:  We never complained.  The icy air and numb fingers and slick roads were so much a part of our lives that we didn't know we had the option of complaining.

Imagine going through life without the option of complaining.  I'm not talking about repressing the urge to complain - I mean imagine the non-existence of complaining.  

I'm going to try to revert to younger days when complaining about situations yielded no results. An impossible feat methinks, but an interesting effort it shall be. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Exerpts from the 2010 Bad Sex in Fiction Finalists

Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross
"He jumped out from his pajama pants so acrobatically it was like a stunt from Cirque du Soleil."

Heartbreak by Craig Raine
"The two dints at the base of her back above her behind. What did they mean? They seemed enigmatic, strange, profound to Steph."

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
"To discover, now, that sex had been fully registering in her as language — as words that she could speak out loud — made her much realer to him as a person. The two of them could no longer pretend that they were just mute youthful animals mindlessly doing their thing. Words make everything less safe, words had no limits, words made their own world."

The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon
"I want to tell her she's making a meal out of a cracker and we could be finished in a minute if she put her mind to it, but she can surely see that."

Maya by Alastair Campbell
"... then she was pulling me towards her, directing me to everything I had ever hoped for. I thought the walls were going to fall down as we stroked and screamed our way through hours of pleasure to the union for which my whole life had been a preparation."

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
" 'Magnifique.' His eyes wandered over her whole body. He repeated the word, his voice dazed, almost breaking from his desire."

A Life Apart by Neel Mukherjee
"There seems to be a restless animal in his devouring eyes. Ritwik finds his exaggerated porn-speak so ridiculous that he has to make an effort to subdue the laughter bubbling up from inside, it's in his throat now, it has to be pushed down down, no he can't let it come out, can't come out ...

And the award goes to: LINK

And now...

I would like to formally introduce you to my future son/daughter. He/she will be trained in all ways Lego and Star Wars. He/she will be heir to my vast kingdom and paltry comic book collection. He/she will follow in his/her father's footsteps and dutifully cheer on the Chicago Bears.

Lynette and I began clearing out our second bedroom to make room for him/her. A larger storage unit was rented and Operation: Baby Room has begun.

Friday, December 3, 2010

RIP Ronnie

Ron Santo is dead.  Long live Ron Santo.

Listening to the Cubs on the radio will never be the same.  This is a HUGE loss for the Cubs and all Cub fans everywhere.

The biggest Cub fan that ever was.

Angry Birds Christmas

Just when things started to slow down and get normal my iPhone decides to update and BOOM a Christmas themed Angry Birds!  Honestly, if you haven't played Angry Birds on your smartphone you are missing out on some primo time wasting.

Angry Birds is like a time machine.  I open it up to play for a few minutes and three and half hours goes by just like that. But don't take my word for it.  Try it out.  It's only a dollar for cryin' out loud.  I spend more on a drink from Starbucks that's never really made right.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Music Appreciation: Shabazz Palaces

Blastit... by subpop


I found a fairly large screw on the floor of my cubicle and spent nearly ten minutes trying to locate its home.  Conclusion: It doesn't belong here, this large screw.  Or, one wrong move and these walls come crashing down.

But seriously, where the heck does this large screw belong.  It's not the type of screw one can ignore without thinking a disaster is just waiting to happen without it.

So here it sits on my desk, a reminder that at any moment... Wait!  I think I found where it goes!

Nope.  I'll just have to go through my day wondering when or if this cube falters and tumbles to the floor taking my seemingly comfortable environment with it. Or not.

I also put a lot of faith in those grates on the sidewalk.  I could take the extra time to walk around them, but if I start doing that then how long will it take before I start wearing tin foil hats? I step on those grates with complete faith.

This large screw shall sit here on my desk and be my reminder not to worry about the small things in life.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Kinected my knee!

Over the Thanksgiving weekend I had the pleasure of playing with the new Xbox Kinect.  Ultimately, the Kinect is awesome, but there are a few hang ups that bothered me.  First, you need a lot of space in front of your TV for this thing to work.  Second, you need a lot of space vertically in front of your TV.  (There a few chunks missing from my dad's basement ceiling tiles from many overhead beach volleyball spikes.)  Third, the voice recognition is iffy.  Fourth, many of the games suck.

Like I said, in the end this this is great family fun.  I played beach volleyball with my brother (which is currently the best game I played on Kinect thus far) and  my dad boxed against my nephew which was hilarious to watch. I would have liked to play Dance Central after seeing so many commercials for it.

As far as the market goes, kiss the Wii goodbye.  And Playstation's Move hasn't got much of a chance either since both require players to hold controllers.  This holiday season it's all about using your body as the controller and Microsoft has hit a home run with some truly innovative concepts.  I especially liked manipulating the Xbox dashboard with my hand and voice as opposed to pushing buttons like a butt sniffing caveman.  And I'm curious about the exercising games that will eventually sprout up for the Kinect.  Speaking of exercise, playing the Kinect left me both sweaty and out of breath.  Hard core gamers obviously will hate it, but it definitely gets kids moving.  The only thing better would be actually going outside to kick a soccer ball around the yard.

Also, I hurt my knee playing it, so if you're old and/or out of shape be careful, you turkey.

RIP Irvin Kershner

Irvin Kershner directed the best movie sequel ever made.  Irvin Kershner is dead.  Love live Irvin Kershner.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Give Thanks, Yo.

Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching like neighbors who see you walking your dog 300 yards away and you don't really want to talk to them but it's too late because they saw that you saw them and so you put on your closed-mouth smile and ravage your brain for more folksy things to say.
Just kidding - I love Thanksgiving. The food is a no-brainer, but I really do like commemorating the act of being thankful. As a species, we don't do it enough.

Here's my 2010 list of things I am thankful for:

  • My beautiful, funny Lynette
  • My soft, aloof Leia
  • My cozy, comfortable home
  • My quiet, safe neighborhood
  • My trustworthy, accepting friends
  • My refreshing, enlightening church
  • My loving, far-away family
I am truly blessed and thankful for everything I have in my life and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't thank God for this fortuitous life.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


By Carl Sandburg

I ASKED the professors who teach the meaning of life to tell

me what is happiness.
And I went to famous executives who boss the work of
thousands of men.
They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though
I was trying to fool with them
And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along
the Desplaines river
And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with
their women and children 
and a keg of beer and an

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Let it Be

The Beatles are now available on iTunes!

My musical tastes began to develop in the 80's when I made the interesting transition from Guns N Roses to Depeche Mode.  I'm proud to say I was a pioneer at my high school when I began to listen to this new type of music called "alternative," back when it actually was an alternative (By the way, before the suits coined the term alternative we used to call it New Wave).  But I did not discover the beauty and magic of The Beatles until 1990 when I saw the movie Imagine: John Lennon.  From that moment on I realized that nothing I had ever listened to or will listen to would ever come close to the miracle of what John Lennon and Paul McCartney created.

Often I try to think what it must have been like for America's youth the first time they heard The Beatles.  Can you imagine the awakening that must have spread across the conservative, buttoned-up, repressed nation that was 1960's America?  Nothing in my lifetime can compare to what those newly freed teenagers must have been feeling.  I'm jealous of those people.

Note: There is one type of music that has energized a group people in similar fashion in my lifetime: Rap.  Rap has given an entire generation a voice that did not exist merely 20 years ago.  Time will tell if it has made as big an impact as The Beatles.

And so I look across the landscape that is popular music and sigh. I'm not snobby enough to say it sucks in comparison to The Beatles.  In fact, there is no comparison.  I wouldn't compare my church pastor to Jesus Christ, or Chicago pizza to any other region's pizza.  The Beatles transcend 'music' because they represent more than some catchy pop songs.  They were the voice of a country coming of age - Like falling in love for the first time... and having that sudden realization that you can follow that girl anywhere.

Chicks n' Space

Two of my favorite things.

This is Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson orbiting above Earth in the International Space Station.

Fly Nude!

It's been a few years since I have flown on an airplane.  When a round-trip ticket to Chicago (a 90 minute flight) peaked $400 I threw in the towel.  But now we have a new reason not to fly: invasive body searches.  Neat!

So, here's where we're at as a country:  In order for a person to get on an airplane they have two choices when they approach the security screening... Let TSA take a naked picture of you, or let TSA fondle your junk.  No, it doesn't help when people say it's the same for everyone.  That means we're all guilty until proven innocent. 

I really don't have a problem with security or authority.  The pat-down might be a bit much.  But I think my real gripe is with the naked x-rays.  Can there be a more unflattering image of our nude selves?  I think I'd rather just take off all my clothes for the TSA.  Then at least I could suck in my gut or strike a sexy pose and flex a muscle.Better yet, let's just deposit all our clothes in a bin before we get on the plane and fly naked.  Fun!  There'll be more than ears poppin'!  Hey-Oooo!

Monday, November 15, 2010

You look like...

New Carrot

Buy beer and trucks NOW

You wouldn't know it by watching TV or anything, but the Chicago Bears beat Brett Favre (and the other guys on the Vikings team) yesterday thereby moving into first place in the NFC North division.  Hello?  Can you hear me?  I said... Oh never mind, the shitty Cowboys played a game.  I can see why that is WAY more important.  Assholes.  It's a travesty that Dallas is receiving this much undeserved love.  Look, no amount of lamenting by the NFL and Fox is going to result in the Cowboys playing in the Super Bowl in their own stadium.  Get over it, Troy

Also, the commercialization of NFL games has gotten out of hand.  I guess I was numb to it because it's nothing new, but Lynette provided quite the objective perspective yesterday during the Bears game: There are a disgusting amount of commercials during these games.

Thank God for hockey.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

'Call of Duty: Black Ops' is nearly a full-time job for dedicated players

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 13, 2010

"On a daily basis?" asks Will Duren, a TSA security guard at Reagan National Airport. "I've been playing about five hours. Maybe six."
He pauses. He clears his throat.
"Honestly, yesterday I played from 2 p.m. until 11 at night."
He is talking about the seventh installment of video game series "Call of Duty," which was released Tuesday. Within 24 hours, more than 5.6 million copies of "COD: Black Ops" were sold, breaking the previous record set by another "COD" chapter.
You must understand: "Black Ops" features the voices of Sam Worthington, Ed Harris and Gary Oldman. You must understand: In this first-person shooter game, you are a special forces operative tasked with assassinating Fidel Castro during the Cold War. Before you judge Duren, it is essential that you realize that in addition to assassinating Castro, players also get to kill zombies.In one segment, you can be President Kennedy and you can kill zombies.
Duren, 23, feared that his girlfriend, amazing as she is, wouldn't understand. So told her he was sick, and not to come over. She came over with orange juice. Because he was sick. "And I have a dumb look on my face because now I have a big gallon of orange juice, and I'm not feeling sick at all."
All around the country this week, citizens have gone missing, spiderholing into dens, co-opting the good television, grinding the Cheez-Its into the sofa with their numb posteriors. For such activities was the term "man cave" invented, though women have been known to play, too. On the e-mail discussion group of a Montgomery County high school, parents fretted that children might be skipping classes to protect the free world from communism and reanimated corpses. As if adults were any less addicted.
"I've promised that it will all be over by Sunday," says Tim Schmidt, a Web designer in Baltimore who has been fighting zombies until 2 a.m. most nights this week. His wife is patient because she knows there is an end in sight. "When I finally went to bed on Tuesday night, I did ask her if she was still going to be here by the end of the week."

Schmidt has one more request: "My friends, when we play 'Black Ops' together?" Schmidt says hopefully. "Our clan tag is BACN. Like 'bacon.' If you could throw that in the article, that would be awesome."
Here you go, Bacon boys. A little shout-out, just for you.
"As soon as I saw the GameStop bag, I knew what was coming," says Emily Wang-Murphy, a stay-at-home mom in Washington who, like many others she knows, has become a Black Ops Widow this week. "The headset's going on," the husband's tuning out.
Throughout Wang's marriage, she has been through six "Calls of Duty," from the early days of courtship when her husband, a lobbyist, would drag her to midnight release parties, to recent years when playing had to be limited to after children's bedtimes. "As far as I can tell?" she says good-naturedly. "It's just World War II shooting."
She and her friends try to see the positive in the situation. "It means we have free babysitting for the week. It means moms' night out for cocktails." The spouses at home might be half catatonic and preoccupied with escaping a gulag, but at least "we have coverage. There's an adult in the house."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank You.

Dear Veterans,

Regardless of whether or not I agree with the decisions our country has made and how foolishly it has put you in harm's way, please know that I whole-heartedly thank each and every one of you.  In my heart I am hopeful for mankind and his ability to create peace, but in my brain I know evil lurks in dark corners of the world.

I would also like to thank all the families that had to endure the absence and/or loss of a loved one to the service of our country.  Sacrifices are made by the entire community and the pain is never suffered in vain.

Lastly, I offer a prayer to all the innocent people and families around the world who were made to suffer the consequences of wars fought by all the armies of all time.  You are the true cost of battle and your needless pain is a travesty.  May God point us in a direction where war is never the answer.

Vive en estado PLAY

Never before has a company been able to market to me with such accuracy and precision.  The Latin American advertising team that developed this commercial must have been secretly studying me for years! Because this is me!  Nailed it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I'm a True Hero

This morning I almost vomited on the train.  Almost.  I felt the nausea hit as the train car swayed and jostled, but I closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing.  Then I felt beads of sweat trickle down my forehead.  I swore to myself that I was not going to be the reason this entire train would have to unload.  I've been on a train that has had to unload due to a "sick passenger" (aka puker) and I felt genuine hatred for that person.  Not today, my friends.  Today I fought back and conquered the urge to spew. 

You're welcome.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Let my Cameron go.

I am sick, sick, sick.  As I sit here and lift my weak fingers to type this short blog post I can feel the room spinning, my temperature rising, my sinus pressure crushing my head from the inside out.  Please, if you love me, you will stay far, far away.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Don't suck, Dads.

The Supreme Court is hearing a case from California which proposes a ban on violent video games to minors.  Let's ignore for a minute that video games already have a ratings system (just like movies).  There's a simple solution to this "problem": Be better parents.

Not understanding the same technology that your children are using IS NOT an excuse.  Not understanding the same technology your children are using is LAZINESS.

And, not that this is a new argument, but if we're going to ban violent video games then we also need to ban violent cartoons, violent TV shows, violent sports, and violent books (aka the entire entertainment industry).  Are we ready to do that, America?  Or should we just get off the couch and be more involved in our children's lives?

If you don't choose the government will.  And precedents are a bitch.

Now, as an adult video gamer, I whole-heartedly  welcome a cleansing of all the little kids playing these mature games.  But that would mean creating a full lockdown of the in-store selling process that would nearly resemble TSA screenings at airports.  I really don't want my wang danglin' on an x-ray machine just so I can buy Call of Duty. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Fable III Cast

I bought this game last week and I am enjoying it.  The reviews are mixed and that usually means it sucks, but my theory is that most people who bought and/or reviewed this game were expecting a true RPG which this game is not.  Which is probably why I like it. 

For the record, I did not like Fable II, so...

To Be a Danger

By C.G. Hanzlicek

Just once I'd like to be a danger
To something in this world,
Be hunted by cops
And forced into hiding in the mountains,
Since if they left me on the streets
I'd turn the country around,
Changing everyone's mind with a word.

But I've lived so long a quiet life,
In a world I've made small,
That even my own mind changes slowly.
I'm a danger only to myself,
Like the daydreaming night watchman
Smoking his cigar
Near the dynamite shed.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Why the Supreme Court should rule that violent video games are free speech

By Daniel Greenberg (Washington Post)
Sunday, October 31, 2010; 12:00 AM

On Election Day, everyone in Washington will be focused on the polls. Everyone except the Supreme Court justices. They'll be busy with video games.

Tuesday is the day that the court has agreed to hear Schwarzenegger v. EMA, a case in which the state of California says it has the power to regulate the sale of violent video games to minors - in essence, to strip First Amendment free speech protection from video games that "lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors."

Since I express myself through the creation of video games, including violent ones, I'd like to know how government bureaucrats are supposed to divine the artistic value that a video game has for a 17-year-old. The man who spearheaded California's law, state Sen. Leland Yee, has not explained that. We've had no more clarity from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed the bill into law.

Yee argues in his friend-of-the-court brief that since the government can "prohibit the sale of alcohol, tobacco, firearms, driver's licenses and pornography to minors," then "that same reasoning applies in the foundation and enactment" of his law restricting video games.

As a game developer, I am disheartened and a little perplexed to see my art and passion lumped in with cigarettes and booze.

The U.S. Court of Appeals struck down the law as unconstitutional, just as other U.S. courts have struck down similar anti-video-game measures. California appealed to the Supreme Court, which surprisingly agreed to reconsider the lower court's rejection of the law.

So while everyone else is celebrating their constitutional right to vote, the Supreme Court will ask: Does the First Amendment bar a state from restricting the sale of violent video games to minors?

It seems clear to me that violent video games deserve at least as much constitutional protection as other forms of media that would not be restricted under this law, such as violent books and violent movies. Books and movies enable free expression principally for their authors and makers. But video games do more than enable the free speech rights of video game developers. Games - even those incorporating violence - enable a whole new medium of expression for players.

Gameplay is a dialogue between a player and a game. Reading a book or watching a film can also be considered a dialogue, but the ability of the audience to respond is far more limited. Books and movies rarely alter their course based on the emotional reaction of the audience. (One exception would be those old Choose Your Own Adventure-type books, some of which I wrote before I started working on video games.)

The exploration and self-discovery available through books and movies is magnified in video games by the power of interactivity.

A new generation of games features real changes in the story based on the morality of a player's decisions. Mature-rated games such as "BioShock," "Fable 2" and "Fallout 3" go far beyond allowing players to engage in imaginary violent acts; they also give players meaningful consequences for the choices that they make. In "BioShock," the player meets genetically modified people who have been victimized by a mad ideology. The player can help the unfortunates or exploit them for genetic resources. The game's ending changes radically depending on the player's actions. In "Fallout 3," players can be kind to people or mistreat them, and the people will respond in kind. In "Fable 2," the player must make a painful choice to save his family from death or save thousands of innocent people - but not both.

In games such as these, gameplay becomes a powerful meditation on the nature of violence and the context in which it occurs. Some of the most thought-provoking game design is currently in Mature-rated games (similar to R-rated movies). This is because, in order to have a truly meaningful moral choice, the player must be allowed to make an immoral choice and live with the consequences.

And that's just in single-player mode.
The expressive potential of video games jumps exponentially when players take interactivity online. Players can cooperate with or compete against friends, acquaintances or strangers. They can create unique characters, build original worlds and tell their own stories in multiplayer online universes with a few or a few thousand of their friends.
Video games, even the violent ones, enable players' free expression, just like musical instruments enable musicians' free expression. No one in the government is qualified to decide which games don't enable free speech, even when that speech comes from a 15-year-old. The courts settled the question of the First Amendment rights of minors long ago. Those rights are so strong that, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that school boards do not have the power to ban books from school libraries, even if students can obtain those books outside of school (Board of Education v. Picoin 1982). In that case, the justices said that "the right to receive ideas is a necessary predicate to the recipient's meaningful exercise of his own rights of speech, press, and political freedom," even when the recipient is a minor.
The people allowed to limit a minor's free speech rights are his parents or guardians. And maybe his grandparents and aunts and uncles. But not Sen. Yee and Gov. Schwarzenegger.
Most developers of video games will admit that we have barely begun to tap their vast potential to enable player creativity and free speech. In this early stage in the history of video games, the range of expression that we provide to players is too limited. We've done a good job of creating imaginative ways to attack our imaginary enemies, but we have not done nearly as thorough a job exploring all the other forms of human (and nonhuman) interaction.  Fortunately, many of the best developers are tackling new ways to increase players' in-game actions. I've seen some amazing early work in this field, from the biggest video game companies right down to one-person indie developers.
For example, the seemingly simple but emotionally complex online game "Darfur Is Dying" lets the player try to survive in a refugee camp without being killed by militias. "Infamous 2" promises a much richer, open-ended world to help or harm. In "Epic Mickey," Mickey Mouse will have the ability to misbehave.
One of my current projects is a game system that lets players shape and reshape the moral and spiritual development of the game world and the people in it by their actions and alliances.
If California's law is upheld, it is likely that far more onerous measures will appear all over the country. Some stores may stop carrying Mature-rated games. Game publishers might be afraid to finance them. Developers would not know how to avoid triggering censorship because even the creators of such laws don't seem to know. The lawmakers won't tell us their criteria, and their lawyers have refused to reveal which existing games would be covered, even when asked in court.
Such censorship is not only dangerous, it's completely unnecessary. More than 80 scholars and researchers from schools such as George Mason University and Harvard Medical School have written an extensive friend-of-the-court brief in opposition to the law, noting that California failed to produce any real evidence showing that video games cause psychological harm to minors. And even if there was harm, the law's supporters have not shown that the statute could alleviate it.
The game development community has worked hard on creating a rating system that clearly discloses games' content. Even our critics, such as the Federal Trade Commission, have praised our efforts. The FTC's own survey shows that 87 percent of parents are satisfied with the rating system.
Parents have good reason to be concerned about their children's media diet and to ask what possible good can come from blowing out the brains of a character in a game. Make-believe violence appears to have many benefits for minors, such as relieving stress, releasing anger and helping children cope with difficult feelings such as powerlessness and fear of real violence. A recent Texas A&M International study shows that violent games could actually reduce violent tendencies and could be used as a therapy tool for teens and young adults.
There is no small irony that the man helping to spearhead the charge against violent video games is Schwarzenegger, the Terminator himself. He, more than anyone, should understand the thrill of a good fake explosion.
Even when video games contain graphic violence, and even when the players are minors whose parents let them play games with violence, picking up that game controller is a form of expression, and it should be free.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Every day is Halloween

This morning I was looking at the people on my crowded blue line train.  Typically, I have my face in a book and barely notice the mass of humanity orbiting around me.  But this morning I watched faces - and pictured their unsmiling, dreary mouths kissing.  We all put on our train faces every morning, but these faces do not represent us.  Inside we're kissing.  We're hugging.  We're fucking.

We love our briefcases and our smart phones and our free newspapers, but these are merely accessories for the costumes and masks we wear every day.  Occasionally, kissing happens on the train or metro stations and strangely it seems foreign and out of place, like a soldier wearing a clown wig in the jungle.  But we're so used to maintaining that wall of conformity, that facade of neutrality that we lie to ourselves.  None of us wanted to be robots when we grew up, but that's the costume we wear on a daily basis.   

When Al Jourgensen of Ministry sang "Everyday (is Halloween)" he wasn't talking about the freaks and punks and oddly dressed people in our society - he was talking about The Normals.  The people who hide behind suits and haircuts who deny themselves the freedom of identity.  We are not couches.  We are not frappacinos.  We are not iPhones.  We are husbands and lovers and artists and dreamers.  I am going out of my way to find these qualities in every person I see.

The Walking Dead Opening Credits (for realsies)

Sunday night!  Sunday night!  Sunday night!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Geek Is...

Blizzard's senior vice president of creative development, Chris Metzen, delivers a rousing dissertation to a packed audience at BlizzCon about what it means to be a geek.

Seriously, I want to play D&D again.  No, really, I'm being serious.  Shut up, I'm not kidding!  Back in the day I was one heck of a Dungeon Master.  Boom!  Best days of my life B.B. (Before Boobies)

Why the Jon Stewart Rally is my generation's Woodstock

By Alexandra Petri (Washington Post)

We don't go to rallies.
Drag races? Men in heels.
Once we were in a protest, but only because we had to walk through it to get to a Lady Gaga concert.

Sign petitions? Please. March for a cause? Only if by "march" you mean "walk in a determined fashion" and by "cause" you mean "to buy that new frozen yogurt that is so popular these days."
Call us Generation I. I for irony, iPhones, and the Internet. I for instant gratification. I for idiosyncratic, inventive, impertinent. We're all these things.
Recently, Charles Murray accused us of being a "New Elite." This might be overstating our case a bit. What binds us is not a common experience or similar eugenetic stock, as he claims. It's our mindset -- a staunch and unstinting refusal to take anything seriously.
It's not that we don't believe some things are serious. We'll make It Gets Better videos or perform comedy for jazz relief, or whatever the occasion is. But sum up our lives in a phrase? The Importance Of Never Being Too Earnest.
We know what happens to people who take themselves seriously. They become bent and broken with care and develop arterial plaques. Sometimes they're elected to political office. "In America, any boy may become president," Adlai Stevenson once noted. "And I suppose it's just one of the risks he takes." We don't like the sound of that.
Forget the 1950s, which we picture as an entire era of people in conservative sweater-sets earnestly pushing towards the front of the class. These days, the whole class wants to sit in the back row and lob spitballs. Our icons are the class clowns, not the overachievers in near the blackboard. Raise our hands? Make a statement? Please. What is this, a Norman Rockwell painting?
After someone discovered the mystical secret of doing things ironically, we felt a great weight lift from our shoulders. Now, we dwell in thickets of inverted commas. Commit to fashions, opinions, favorite beverages? Why bother, when you can take someone to prom ironically as a commentary on beauty, or move to Tibet and spend three years living ironically in a monastery?
Want us to come to a rally? Better make it a "rally." Want us to testify before Congress? Can we do it in character?

Continue reading this post »
By Alexandra Petri  | October 26, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This ain't the beach.

Make up your mind, Media:

Are the Cowboys a good team or not?  Because their 1-5 records kinda says, "We blow."  But "pundits" (aka TV execs worried 'America's Team' won't make it to the playoffs) keep telling me that ON PAPER they're the greatest.  Shoulda woulda coulda.

Also, Jon Stewart.  Is he a comedian or a legitimate source of news?  Because the Washington Post (among others) are worried that his upcoming Rally to Restore Sanity here in DC is going to be detrimental for Democrats, liberals, etc.  I guess it depends on the weather.  Hey, America, if you don't give us a spokesperson for the Moderates we will appoint one.  His name is Jon Stewart.  You snooze you lose. 

One more thing... Why are we bombing villages in Afghanistan? According to the military (as reported yesterday), our presence there ain't doing jack shit.  The Taliban is getting stronger and innocent people are getting killed on both sides!  War is not the answer.  Or if it is then level the region and be done with it.   

Monday, October 25, 2010

Peter Jackson Speaks

As you know (I'll assume you know even though I know you don't) The Hobbit is having some trouble getting started.  A labor dispute has made things quite complicated in New Zealand and Peter Jackson is pissed. 

Giant Rangers

People who don't watch baseball:  First, I pity you and your lack of taste. Second, you missed some great baseball recently.

The Texas Rangers beat the New York Yankees (of all teams) to make it to the World Series for the first time ever.  (Ever!)  I can only imagine how the people of Arlington, Texas are feeling right now.  And then the San Francisco Giants beat the Philadelphia Phillies in one of the most intense bottom-of-the-ninth innings I ever watched.  And now the World Series which begins on Wednesday night will be some of the best baseball that no one will watch.  No superstar Yankees.  No down on their luck, sappy Red Sox. No Brett Favre.  Just two teams that would sacrifice a testicle to win. 

I'm pulling for the Rangers because I was thoroughly impressed that the team used ginger ale instead of champagne during their celebration because one of their own is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic.  That's respect and those guys get my vote.  

The Rule

Logic is a gift.  Like a shiny new Craftsman hammer.  But like that hammer, logic is merely a tool.  If it's a house you're trying to build you're going to need more tools. 

When it comes to God and Christ and the Bible I am merely a student.  A learner.  I understand faith and feel myself moving closer to it every day, but it's not like a light switch for me. I wasn't able to just turn it on.  Sure I went to Sunday School, etc., but that kind of faith is like choosing between milk chocolate and devil's food cake.  As an adult beginner there's a new level of intellectuality that factors into my decision making process.

Recently, there's one aspect of Christianity that has been a challenge for me:  Loving people.  I don't mean Mom and Dad and Lynette and your Aunt Tilly.  I mean PEOPLE.  How do I truly love people as I love myself?

I live in a heavily populated region of the country.  I ride public transportation.  I stand in line at grocery stores.  How in the world am I expected to love these annoying people?!

Is empathy the same as love?  Probably not.  I can empathize, but that's not enough. I'm not asking a rhetorical question here... How do I love the people that annoy  me?  How do I love people that do me wrong?  How do I love people that scare me?  How do I love the person riding my ass in the car behind me?    

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Bears 76, Redskins 3

The Tree of Life, by Mark Ryden

Mark Ryden, one of my favorite contemporary painters. LINK

This is his latest.  I think I like it because it has a bear in it.  And bees. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I loathe when people tell me about dreams they had.  So here's mine from last night!

I was arrested at the childhood home of Loretta Lynn for stealing a piece of the wall that had a doodle on it. 

Interpret that, you weirdies!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


If you stick your head out your window you might be able to hear me squealing like a little girl over this picture.

The Hero is Still Only a Sandwich

Why are we so in love with the bad guy?

Gratefully, my dad took me to see Star Wars in 1977 and I left the movie theater with a desire to be Darth Vader.  I loved Darth Vader.  Of my various Star Wars action figures, Darth Vader was my favorite.  I even had a Darth Vader belt buckle (which I still own today).  Looking back I can say with confidence that Darth Vader was a real dick.  But I still loved him.  Why?

Tony Soprano was a murderer, an adulterer, a terrible father, and a real dick.  But I loved him.  Why?

The Joker (as recently portrayed by the late Heath Ledger) was a psychotic mad man.  But I dare you to go to a Halloween party this year and not run into at least five of them.

And most recently, Don Draper.  Initially, I was captivated by the cool stylings of a sauve, swingin' 60's hipster like Draper.  But lately I'm feeling a Don Draper hangover.  Does television have a bigger douchebag?

Don't get me wrong, I love the show.  But cheese and crackers Don Draper is such a dick.  At this point I can't figure out if the show is trying to get me to feel sorry for him or cheer on his downward spiral.  Either way the character leaves a wake of hurt where ever he goes and we can't seem to get enough.  Why is that?

Are we at the zoo peering in on the strange man and his strange family?  Or are we in our bathrooms looking in the mirror?  Too many of us have felt the pain left behind by men like Don Draper.  In some form or another.

Or maybe it's a good sign, our morbid curiosity.  Maybe it means we're so fascinated by the dark, mean, evil spirits of these villains because it's so foreign and most of us are good, faithful people. Also, shows about an upstanding, faithful father is dullsville, man.    

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mashed Mad Men

Nature Boy/A Beautiful Mine mash up.  A Beautiful Mine (by RJD2) was used in the Mad Men theme.  Also, this video was shot in one take. Also, it's awesome.

Post Anger

Not that Hank Stuever reads my blog, or anyone who knows Hank Stuever, or anyone who has ever heard of Hank Stuever, but this morning's Washington Post review of last night's LIVE episode of 30 Rock was a travesty.

Firstly, I'm not saying you have to be a fan of 30 Rock. (But usually people who say they don't like 30 Rock are people who don't "get it.") (Kidding.)

I knew his review was headed for the shitter when Mr. Stuever (if that's her real name) mentioned the cameo appearance of the "much-missed" Rachel Dratch.  Seriously?  Dratch was the first season's weakest link, you dolt!  Then Mr. Stuever said for people not fascinated by the behind-the-scenes goings-on of Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock seems like a pre-Office chore.  A pre-Office chore!  Has this dude been stuck in a mine for the last three years? (Too soon?) 30 Rock has always aired AFTER The Office until this season, AND everyone knows The Office has been steadily (slowly) sucking these last few seasons.  30 Rock has only been getting better.  Then Stuever said "some of our DVRs have a few unwatched episodes of 30 Rock in the queue."  Look, folks, I'll let you in on a secret... If 30 Rock gets DVRed it's the first thing that gets watched the moment you get back from where ever you felt was more important to be than at home watching 30 Rock.

I know I'm being a tad bit dramatic.  I know I don't sound very objective right now.  But come on, they did the episode live last night!  Holy shit!  And it was great!  If a small child approaches me and proudly shows me some artwork crafted with beans and pipe cleaners my response to that kid isn't going to be, "Nice. Hey, didn't you shit your pants last week?" 

Here's the funny thing: I work across the street from the Washington Post.  I probably stood behind Hank Stuever this morning at Jack's Deli.  If I had known it was him would I have the coconuts to disagree with his lame review of 30 Rock?  Probably not. 

You don't have to like what I like, but if you're going to criticize it at least know what you're talking about. 

Trivia Question:  How many years in a row did 30 Rock win the Emmy for best comedy?  (Boom.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Since Feeling is First

By E.E. Cummings

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

BttF Trailer Remake


"I was with God, and I was with the Devil."


Fortuitous things are going to happen to you. Good news will occur in your life. Are you able to read the signs? As I type this, thirty-three miners in Chile are being pulled from the depths of the Earth after being trapped for more than two months. Amazing.

What grabbed me most about the story of the trapped miners is that after the accident seventeen days passed before anyone knew they were still alive. Seventeen days. Can you imagine not existing for seventeen days? Would you want the people who love you to think you were dead for seventeen days?

Don't tell me there ain't good news in the world. Don't tell me fortuitous things don't happen in our lives. Don't tell me the signs aren't there for us. We just need to know how to see them.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Banksy Meets Simpson's

Proof that The Simpson's is the most culturally and socially aware show on TV:

UPDATE: Fox has blocked the video from being viewed on YouTube. I highly recommend searching it out and watching it before it's gone forever.

Hockey Town?

I'm no hockey expert. Heck, I didn't even start watching hockey until two years ago, but I'm afraid DC is not a "hockey town" as the above video purports.  (BTW, this video plays at the Verizon Center at the beginning of every home game.)

Considering DC sports and the people who make up a lot of its population, it's difficult to determine what kind of town it is.  Baseball is way too new and the Wizards have a stupid name.  The United is soccer (no explanation required).  Then there's the Redskins... From the outside looking in I can't even say this is a football town.  In defense of football and its sudden rise in popularity in recent decades there's a whole lot of Redskins fans here.  Normally, that would be a duh statement, BUT this town is so full of transient people that often you might run into more Cowboy fans than Redskin fans.  Or Bears, or Steelers, etc.

My point is I think it's sad that more people who live here don't back the home team. Back in Chicago, there are no options.  The sports teams are like family and we loved them no matter what.  Even in the losingest of losing seasons rarely did a "fan" get too down on the beloved Bears.  Every family has that weirdie loser who can't seem to do anything right, but we loved 'em anyway.

I live in DC now.  I am a Nationals fan.  I am a Capitals fan.  I am a Bears fan.  (Sorry, blood is thicker than water!)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Happy Birthday, John

John, This world has suffered without you.  My eyes well up just thinking about what could have been, yet eternally grateful for what was.

Kill Anxiety

Whoever watches the wind will not plant;
whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.

Ecclesiastes 11:4

I have a huge problem with anxiety and uncertainty.  Christianity has helped me retain perspective on what is truly important in life.  Our lives are full of meaningless trivialities. I worry about everything, but mostly I pretend that I don't because I have learned that the key to success is acting like you know what is going on.  Play the part - that was my mantra.  And so far it has worked.  But I'm pretty sure I haven't given credit where credit is due.  I'm a resourceful man, not an actor.  I don't believe in accidents.  Random acts merely tip over the first domino.