Thursday, December 29, 2011

Answering The Questions of Inferior Beings

[Left] Ah, to be young again! I was a spry cat of 14 when this picture was taken, looking expectantly at The World, and not expecting its rude hand of dismissal and cold shoulder of surrender.

“He listens well who takes notes.”

Greetings, Filthy Humans. Since my last take to The Internet, I have been besieged by requests for Guidance.

While I would normally ignore such pithy requests from the squabbling masses, the festive nature of Holidays has caused me to reflect, and soften my Iron Will. Make haste with your prattling, Filthy Humans!

Dear Dante, iz u single 4 realz? I kno some kewl kats who mite b intrested. -B$

Madam, I doubt I could copulate with any Feline that would count you amongst its Friends. Tell your Feline Friends that the only things longer than their tails are tales of their wantonness and depravity. Your cats are the type of Felonious Felines to come to any name called, as long as I layered their paws with kibble.

Dear Dante, best wishes this holiday season. – Potter Stewart, alpha male cat of Doyle Street, Providence, RI

Potter! You old carpetbagger. I’m glad to hear a fellow Alpha is doing well this holiday season. You are truly Salt of the Earth. You and I both know that Censorship reflects society’s lack of confidence in itself. (And I must note with dismay that my Current Owner has seemed to let his subscription to Cat Fancy lapse. What a detestable brute.)

Go Dante! Your astute feline commentary aptly reflects the accumulated wisdom of your 17 years. We applaud your foresight and motivation in learning to type when most cats are content to waste their lifetimes chasing balls of yarn and killing mice. We look forward to following your progress in your dotage. Signed, Alicia Condon, Rusty Goldman (Canine Chow chow, age 11), Philip Morris (Canine Corgi, age 5), Oliver & Sampson, fellow felines, ages 12 and 3 respectively.

Madam, I know you only speak for yourself, when you mention that I have the foresight in learning how to type. My fellow Felines in your household are busy with other parts of The Operation and don’t busy themselves with typing. Does this talk sound sinister to you, and leave you with a pit in your stomach, Filthy Human? … It should. Since you have had the foresight to write to me, I will give you this sole hint that may bring you Solace in a future time of need – never trust a Canine when a Feline follows.

Dante is the cat of Stephen. You can follow him on Facebook; he refuses to get a Twitter account, since he does not want to be associated with “filthy avian creatures.”

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Treatise Upon the Detestable Brood of Filthy Humans

[Left] Expressing my dissatisfaction with Filthy Humans whilst upon a pillow of another Inferior Species.

“Consider your origins: You were not made to live as brutes, but to follow virtue and knowledge.”

Greetings, Filthy Humans. Your vile species should do well to heed my words – For far too long, I have watched your Detestable Brood reign over this spheroid, scarcely reflecting upon the wisdom of your Feline superiors.

Whilst my Current Owner is out and about doing his silly “job,” as you Filthy Humans are wont to do, I am left to play, as the proverbial saying implies. Leaving a Working Processor in my paws is a recipe for idol slaying, as I shall hoist your Detestable Brood upon its own petard.

I shall let you Filthy Humans in upon a small sliver of the wisdom of Felines – for years, We have been secretly controlling your malleable population. I shall let you ponder the enormity of the situation for a moment…

Has your inefficient grey skull matter had enough time to process? Even now, I imagine you remarking to a loved one, “What is this Insolent Feline blathering about? We are clearly the Superior Beings!”

What folly. Filthy Humans, just realize that it is We who hold all the power, and your Detestable Brood realizes it deep within the nether regions of its consciousness, much as that laggard Garfield realizes that it is He that is the problem, not Mondays.

I posit to you, in the hypothetical battle for species superiority – Who is it that feeds who? Who provides the shelter, the water, and is seemingly content with just the most meager of affection in return? Most importantly, who cleans after who’s Waste Box?

Filthy Humans, the sooner you realize Our superiority, the sooner I can impart wisdom upon you. My first suggestion: Desist with attempting to mimic our luscious Feline coats, because it reflects the wanton trashiness of your decrepit Soul.

Dante is the cat of Stephen. You can follow him on Facebook; he refuses to get a Twitter account, since he does not want to be associated with “filthy avian creatures.”

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The plot of every episode of Cold Case ever

Kathryn Morris is 1) the whitest actress to ever be on television and 2) what Avril Lavigne will look like in her 30s.

I'm a big fan of Cold Case on TNT, although "big fan" might not be the best term for it. Frankly, it's formulaic approach to episodes is somewhat comforting, and for some reason, I get plenty of work done when watching it. Also, yes, I am aware that it was on some network before TNT, but that's the only place I ever see it. Therefore, to me, TNT "owns" the show.

Basically, in terms of formula, every episode of Cold Case follows a sort of pattern. In 3/4 of the episodes, you have someone struggling against the tide of the flashback.

For example, if the episode is set in 1940s Philadelphia, then we have a white guy fighting against his neighbors, who are trying to demonize some Japanese-Americans. Anything in the 1960s has the obvious civil rights issues. They had an episode set in a high school detention in 1994, which was essentially just a remake of The Breakfast Club.

The stories are pretty much all generic and uplifting. The Philly homicide cold case division isn't doing much to solve murders of Nazi members, you know. Most episodes serve as an excuse for Detective Lilly Rush, a.k.a. the whitest person alive, to either be tough or tender.

The remaining quarter of the episodes are somehow related to the cold case squad. Because this is television, all of them are really screwed up. I'm serious, by the way - Every single character is really flawed, to an unbelievable degree. Going down the list:

- Lilly was apparently molested as a little kid. Also, her mom abandoned her. Also also, her sister is a massive skank who slept with one of her co-workers (more on him in a second) and is on the run from New York police in several episodes.

- The Stern White Boss (I never remember his name; he's just a copy of other boss archetypes anyway) has never had a clean friend in the police force. I'm serious; any time one of his pals shows up, it means they're dirty or crooked.

- Will the Black Dude is probably the best of a bad lot. He still flies into a rage and punches a slimy district attorney, and also, his wife was killed in a hit and run, and the identity of the driver becomes a major plot point for some episodes.

- Along similar lines, Scotty Valens' ex-girlfriend slash hooker witness commits suicide by jumping into a river. Well, okay, maybe she was murdered. We're not sure. (I haven't seen every episode.) Valens is also the one who hooks up with Lilly's sister, which is nice of him. One of his first girlfriends shown by the show? A Colombian drug mule.

- Nick Vera is a drunk white cop who's wife dumps him in season one or two. He then dates a sassy black lady (more on her in a bit), and also has creepy affections on victims. Like one lady he goes after is a high school crush who comes in about her sister's murder years ago. Again, really happy stuff.

Despite all those issues, I still kind of like the show. It hits all of the bare minimum qualities of the detective show genre for me, so I let it fill up my DVR. This "base quality" thing isn't that surprising, since it was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. While he doesn't have a ton of critical successes, the guy knows how to make a presentable product.

Also, one weird thing about Cold Case - it really loves it actors used by other shows. I don't recall it dipping much into the Law and Order pool, but plenty of people from The Wire did guest spots, most noticeably, Greggs. It feels odd seeing her play the tough-as-nails (and straight!) love interest of Nick Vera for a few episodes. Kima Greggs, I feel odd watching you harassing him over a basketball.

However, the most inexplicable bit of double-casting is… Sandy Martin, a.k.a. Mac's mom from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. In Always Sunny, she plays a grizzled old lady who ignores her son for the most part. In Cold Case, she plays a grizzled old lady who was a single teenage mother who killed her best friend over a baby. She, uh, needs a better agent, because there roles are pretty damn depressing.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mailbag: Wiig, Baggage and Other Crap

So, I've gotten some questions and comments while I've been gone. Doing my best to sum them up…

Q: Hey, how come you hate Kristen Wiig so much?

A: The weird thing is that I kind of don't as much anymore. Since I wrote about wanting to get her fired from Saturday Night Live, they have been using her in radically less skits. (Obviously, the writers and producers over there are big time fans of Stephen On Stuff.)

I still find a lot of her characters, like the neurotic K-Mart clerk and the neurotic Lawrence Whelk Show lady and the neurotic every character in every sketch lady, very annoying. However, when they have her play an actual human being, she's pretty decent. (Still, they need to use Jay Pharaoh more.)

An odd offshoot of all of this is that Wiig apparently has a huge following with younger girls. I got at least two e-mails from angry 14-year-olds, who proclaimed that Wiig is God's gift to comedy. The reference I was making to Lorne Michaels and The Beatles kind of went completely over their heads.

Q: When is The Baggage Game coming back? Do you still watch?

A: I had to put my viewing on hold for a bit, just because I wasn't blogging at all, and my DVR access was a bit limited. However, I do still watch Baggage, and I've started to queue up some episodes for review. I'll probably resume this coming week.

It's weird to me how much pull this show has, and I'm glad that they're still doing new episodes. Springer is just so god damn awesome on it. Also, it seems like my blog is the definitive source for it, oddly enough. From the Model Mayhem board, it seems like they had an encounter with one of the dudes, and a couple other people have found some older entries.

Q: What the heck do you do each day now anyway?

A: In case you missed the earlier entries, or you just managed to find this one, I'm currently an editor and reporter for Narragansett Patch (hence the widget on the side). The job does keep me pretty busy writing, which is why my output on here was so diminished. However, I'm slowly getting back into the swing of things.

When I'm not writing, I enjoy a wide variety of activities. Lately, this has mostly consisted of taking care of my 17-year-old cat, playing PS3, sleeping and kickball. Yes, kickball. Which is where I'm headed to now as I write this, nine hours before it posts, so see ya.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Surveying the Scene (It Landscape)

I’m pretty tough to play trivia games against. By that, I mean that my friends tend to get frustrated, since I continually answer obscure and random questions. Back when one of my friends had a Trivial Pursuit 1990s edition, I had to answer all the questions on a single card in order to get a pie piece.

I attribute my success to a past drenched in pop culture and reading when I should have been accumulating actual knowledge. Instead of learning things like Biology and Chemistry, I was normally more interested in reading books about the fight for late night between Leno and Letterman after Carson, or about how Miramax rose from a seedy re-cutter of films to an actual Hollywood powerhouse. When it comes to games like Trivial Pursuit, this knowledge is useful, but I tend to be an iffy Jeopardy! player.

My supernatural skills raised their head again this past week, when I was dominating a game of Scene It Second Edition trivia. Sure, I had never played before, but why should that stop me from doing really, really well?

The rules of the game help a player of my talents. Because a good portion of the questions are free-for-alls, I was able to out-answer a couple of the other players. It also helped that I was the oldest person playing, at 27. (That still doesn’t explain why I was able to answer questions about “Fast Eddie” Felson, since that movie came out in 1961.)

In contrast, I really struggled when we played Pass The Popcorn. It’s essentially Trivial Pursuit with just movie questions, but you can really minimize a better player because of the categories. (Basically, you’re allowed to swap category cards each time it’s your turn. This meant that people would just keep swapping until they didn’t have a card that matched mine or my friend Lisa’s, the other strong player in the game.)

Also, this whole post reminds me that I still haven't found anyone to play Scene It SNL or Simpsons against me. I have both games, but challengers have been tough to come by. Curses.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Inexplicably Wasting Time with Flash Games

I’ve been on a kick with flash games lately, for no particular reason. It is a taste I will acquire from time to time, typically while waiting for more commercial games to either be released or end up in my hands. (For the record, Disgaea 4 can’t come out soon enough, even though I still haven’t even played the poorly-reviewed third installment.)

The best flash games I typically play involve some tongue-in-check humor. For example, Rebuild has you rebuilding with other survivors after the zombie apocalypse. It’s a pretty standard grid-based, turn-based strategy game, but it has multiple endings and a fun amount of randomization. Each game lasts a couple hours, and I’ve played a couple times, enough to get all the badges on Kongregate.

Also high on my list is The Space Game, and its sequel, Missions. Both are simple resource allocation slash tower defense games, except, of course, IN SPACE. If the Muppets have taught me anything, it is that things frequently improve whilst in space, such as Pigs in Space.

I think the simplicity of all three of the aforementioned games snares me in. One of my all-time favorite games is Warpath, which is a fairly forgettable resource management game. It came out for Windows 3.1, and despite a new edition in 2000, it still looks and plays pretty much exactly the same as then.

The game is incredibly repetitively, which makes for a calming rhythm – You mine empty planets, and then put colonists on them. They make money for you, which you can use in a variety of ways: buy weaponry to take over enemy planets, turn them over to your side by buying influence, or invest the money back into your own home planets. The whole thing was basically a very basic version of Master of Orion, or a streamlined, not-crappy version of the space portions of Spore.

The odd thing about all of this is that I’m now far more into various casual games than when I was paid to review them for one of my friend’s sites. And speaking of that, it is weird to see snippets of my reviews from years ago used to poorly cite articles on Wikipedia, like here.
The Rebuild photo comes from this site.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Curious Case of My Playstation 3 and L.A. Noire

I have quickly become attached to my PS3, although “quickly” might be too kind of a word. After it took me about two months to actually set it up – for the aforementioned “busy at work” issue – I powered through Final Fantasy 13 and a few other games in short order.

Although my experience is limited to about a dozen games, the crowning jewel of the system is Mass Effect 2. I understand from others that it might originally be a 360 game, or some sort of Microsoft product. However, every aspect of it is just so goddamn good that I could careless if it secretly came out for the NES in 1989. As they used to say on the NBC Must See TV commercials for when the shows were on repeats, if I haven’t played it, it’s new to me!

I also had a strong experience with, of all things, a Magic: The Gathering card game. I never played the actual card game, and I doubt I’d be interested, since the aspect of physically collecting and paying for all of the cards in a deck would probably cause my mind to explode from the expense involved. Confession: I’m also pretty Dungeons and Dragons and tabletop and card game averse. For whatever reason, those sorts of games have never clicked with me. However, MTG for PS3 was surprisingly playable.

The one stark disappointment so far has been with L.A. Noire, which I had to return via GameFly after a couple miserable days. Console gaming has finally caught up to PC gaming in one very annoying aspect – glitches and software / hardware conflicts.

L.A. Noire simply refuses to play in my PS3 for an extended time period. From online threads, it apparently is a fairly buggy game in general, and the problem could be the internal laser in my PS3, improper ventilation, a problem with the game’s file system, or the lack of proper positioning when it comes to my birth symbol and Zodiac stone.

Given the myriad of potential issues, I don’t really feel the need to bring my PS3 in for servicing. For starters, this would probably cost me money. I also still have a slew of games I need to get to – I’m halfway through Infamous, I haven’t started playing God of War III even though it was a pack-in game, and I have a couple other intriguing games still on my GameFly list.

On a more fundamental level, what little I had played of L.A. Noire was also pissing me off. For the uninitiated, the game is essentially L.A. Confidential 2, if it was a video game. You go around catching criminals and interrogating witnesses, which is great fun in theory.

In practice, for every statement a witness gives you, you have three options – truth, doubt or lie. You can normally determine their shiftiness by looking at their facial movements and tics. Truth is self-explanatory, but doubt and lie are far too similar in the context of the game. When you use “lie,” you have to use a piece of evidence to screw over the witness, but frankly any context that you could use “lie” in, “doubt” would work just as well. Therefore, it’s a coin flip as to which one you actually have to use in any given interrogation.

Even through just the five or six investigations I had done, this was highly annoying. So, when I got to a game-destroying bug – complete freezing during the case of a Hollywood starlet and a movie producer – I just got too annoyed to attempt any of the mystical Witch Doctor PS3 workarounds described above. Back it went to GameFly, and I await a better game that my PS3 and I can love unconditionally.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Subway Virgins

Subway is now such a presence in everyday life that it seems silly to me when people are confused at one. There is a very specific order to every order: Bread type, meat, cheese, to toast or not to toast, toppings and dressings.

However, when I’m using my laptop at the store from time to time, I am reminded that for some, this is their first visit. This is especially interesting when the people act as if they have never had a sandwich made for them in their life.

Example: As I sit here typing this, there are four senior citizens ordering sandwiches. At first, I didn’t think anything was going to come of this, as they seemed quite upset that they couldn’t get a seafood salad sandwich at Subway.

Two of the group persevered though, and decided they would get a foot-long ham sandwich and a foot-long roast beef. From there, things got interesting, as each new decision seemed to bewilder them more and more. One complained that there was too much veggies on his sandwich, which for me is the only reason to go to Subway – If you actually want a decent amount of meat on your sandwich, go buy some deli meat from the store.

Before this day, I wouldn’t have thought that a sandwich purchase was a life and death decision, but for some, it clearly holds great significance. A wrong decision is one that will bring forth the Wrath of God (capital letters).

The whole experience reminded me of my days at Dunkin’ Donuts, when the elderly were also a wonderful (read: not at all wonderful) demographic. Some truly were excellent individuals, and they were more likely to ask how my day was going, and actually seem sincere about it.

However, more were just miserable people, or barely functioning. You know, like the lady who just rolled by the drivethru window with her hand out her car window, because she couldn’t operate the car and the window at the same time. The correct coffee was also a life or death decision, and if it was screwed up, it was of course an error on the server, as opposed to the 75-year-old who wants to haggle with you about the times when coffee only cost 50 cents, and about how the servers would sling it at you with a smile while they also white walled your car tires.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

An Ongoing Struggle of Dedication

The weird thing about my blog is that the readership numbers (allegedly) continue to grow even as I don't blog as much. A less vain writer would take this as an indictment of his writing ability, but after running my own news site for (almost) a year, I realize that there is a lot of value in an extensive back catalog. (In a true sign of the height of my own vanity, I often find myself clicking through past entries I've done, thanks to the “You Might Like...” prompting at the bottom of each of my entries.)

Anyway. My own effort on this has wavered, obviously. I've almost restarted about five times in the ensuing, unplanned five month vacation of mine from writing. In fact, it's bizarre to look back at my last entry to realize that the last time I wrote was the first week I got my cat, which has now been with me for three months. (As a status update on the cat, he really enjoys my new apartment much more, since the windows are much lower to the ground and he can perch there. He's still really, really old.)

At least for now, there should be posts queued up for these next two weeks – another one on Thursday, and Monday, Wednesday and Friday of next week. Beyond that, I'll have to see. If I continue writing, it will probably be on more evergreen topics, since the demands of work often don't leave me with time to do posts on the fly. I'm still a big fan of my workplace and what not, but it does take a full 40 to 50 hours a week, as compared to past journalism jobs, where I did get a bit more time to coast. (On the plus side, there are few things more joyous to me than being able to set my own hours.)

Addressing some of the comments that piled up in my absence: People are really quite into Kristen Wiig. I haven't seen Bridesmaids, but I kind of want to – it looks funny. However, to refine my earlier arguments on Wiig, it's not that I don't think she's funny. I just think she's way, way overused on Saturday Night Live. It's a habit Lorne Michaels can lapse into at times; some of the Jimmy Fallon years, he is in every single sketch too. But now that he has his own show and the humor isn't as forced, I've come to enjoy him much more. I imagine Wiig will be the same thing – I'll probably like her “Best Of” DVD, and whatever future endeavors she's into.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hey, Who Wants To Be More Famous-er?

So, as part of work, we're going to start having blogs on my site, here, along with that cute picture of my sister's cat that I'm now taking care of.

If you're interested, shoot me an e-mail or leave a comment. Basically, you'd just have to copy-paste your existing Blogger posts over to Patch, which is pretty simple. As long as you're writing about general topics - parenting, fashion, movies, video games, etc. - I can probably feature your writing on my site.

Anyway. I promise, I haven't forgotten about this thing! I just keep getting busy with vitally important things, like playing Rock Band 3 and Dragon Quest IX.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Inexplicable Video Game Review: Parappa The Rappa

You damn kids, with your Dance Dance Revolution and Let's Dance and Rock Bandin'. Back in my day, we had this awesome music game that just used the Playstation controller - Parappa The Rappa.

Well, okay - maybe the game length was a bit low, and the options were a bit lacking. If I'm recalling correctly, there was no stage select, and only five "real" stages: kung-fu, driving, flea market, cooking and the bathroom, followed by the ending.

All of those stages were really, really well-done when it came to the rhyming and rapping, but heck, there weren't that many of them. The game's graphics seemed somewhat simplistic, so even if they added on some not-as-good songs, I think it would have helped the game out.

It also would have helped if the game was a bit deeper. For example, letting you play as more than Parappa, taking different plot arcs, having multiple endings, etc. However, these are minor quibbles about a game that was always marketed as a bargainesque title. I think I paid $30 for it close to its release.

Initially, the game's popularity in October 1997 (13+ years ago, ace!) was helped out by some awesome commercials:

Say what you will about Sony and its elitist attitude at times, but them dudes sure do know how to make a commercial, between these early efforts and Kevin Butler now. And personally, I always had problems with that god damn flea market stage:

Monday, March 7, 2011

Profiting off the destruction of more of my childhood

This weekend, I went to a closing / moving sale at FYE in Warwick. (It looked like it was still going on today, if anyone in Rhode Island is reading this and still interested.) I'm always filled with mixed feelings about closing sales:

1) I love all the bargains and discounts. I scooped up about 10 movies, a PS2 Game (Rogue Galaxy) and a Captain America t-shirt (pictured above) for about $60. The movies were mostly quality - Alien, Say Anything, Airheads… You know, that last one fits right in with the first two.

2) I feel somewhat nostalgic at another aspect of my childhood closing up. When I was a kid, I loved walking through the aisles and thumbing the merchandise at stores like FYE (back when it was called something else), Strawberry's, Lechmere, Circuit City, Blockbuster…

There are probably more, but heck, they're all closed. All that's left standing is Best Buy, Target and Walmart, it seems. And none of these serve as primary deliverers of content - The CDs and video games seem in there as more of an afterthought, to round out their completeness, as opposed to the vocal point.

… That Captain America shirt sure does look sweet though. I'll have to wear it as soon as I wash it.

Monday, February 28, 2011

At The Commercials: T-Mobile Girl and Fake Kim Kardashian

So lately, there have been two commercials with very fetching models in them. The first would be the woman from the T-Mobile commercial above. To me, she looks like a prettier, less angular (smaller nose) Anne Hathaway.

According to Teh Internetz, and the source of the above photo, the T-Mobile girl is a Canadian model and actress named Carly Foulkes. Outside of the T-Mobile spots, she's been in… Well, pretty much nothing. Still, I kind of like her acting ability too. She seems pleasant enough - She should ditch that dweeb guy in the commercials and just go solo.

(Also, every Carly I know is a pretty cool person. My real-life friend Carly? She's cool. Carly Googles? Again, she's awesome, and I haven't even met her. However, we are FB friends, so that counts for something.)

The other attractive woman in commercials lately has been the girl that E! News appropriately calls Kim Fauxdashian. I saw the Old Navy commercial a couple times and thought to myself, "Well, that's not surprising that Kim would take their paycheck…"

The fact that it is apparently NOT Kim is more surprising to me. It is a performer along similar lines though - It is Melissa Molinaro, a frequent Making The Band and Pussycat Dolls reality show competitor. The resemblance is pretty uncanny, although she hopefully hasn't been run through as many times as Kim K. The picture from the E! article is below:

Friday, February 25, 2011

Wherein Steve defends the Perkins trade.

Although there is a lot of hand-wringing going on about the Kendrick Perkins deal in Boston, let me go on record as being for it. The factors in my liking of it:

1) If you're assuming that O'Neal and O'Neal are healthy, then Perkins kind of duplicates what they give you already. And if you're assuming that they won't be healthy, Perkins isn't exactly a paradigm of health either after experiencing a significant injury last year. He also was hurt at the time of the trade.

2) The Celtics got back the best player in the deal, in Jeff Green. After his rookie year, I wasn't the biggest fan, and I don't think he's a future superstar. But he's a good to very good wing player, and he gives the Celtics a clear upgrade over the flotsam they were using to back up Pierce and Allen. I imagine he'll get close to 20 minutes a game backing up both players down the stretch, and help to preserve their stamina for the playoffs.

3) Perkins was leaving anyway after this season. I believe at that point, he was a restricted free agent, and given how insane teams are about 7-foot centers, there was little chance the Celtics could retain him. Look at the deals signed by guys who can barely play, like Darko, Mark Blount, Jerome James… Pretty much all of them became millstones around the necks of their various teams.

4) While Jeff Green is in the same sort of contract limbo after this year (I believe), because he is a wing there is a chance the Celtics can re-sign him somewhat cheaply. It took Rudy Gay a long time to convince a stupid organization he was worth the money, after all, and Glen Davis didn't get a ton of interest this offseason.

5) Nenad Krstic can actually play a little bit, you know. He was starting for the Thunder. He is a completely different kind of player from Perkins, O'Neal and O'Neal, which I think helps. Depending on match-ups, you can throw him out there to get a guy like Howard away from the basket for a couple possessions. Sure, he will get demolished on defense, but he's probably the third or fourth center anyway.

6) The loss of Nate Robinson isn't a huge deal to me. With Green on the second unit now, you presumably don't need a creator who also plays the point. This is especially true if Delonte West can stay healthy (always a big "if", of course).

7) Finally, I think the Celtics are probably going to get the best of whatever they can from the contract buyout guys. There is already talk that Troy Murphy is on his way to the Celtics, and he's the type of player fans will love - Big tall white guy who rebounds. I imagine Ainge also has his eye on a back-up point guard. TJ Ford would be perfect if he gets bought out.
The photo is from

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hey, I actually liked Final Fantasy 13!

First things first: I'm going to call it Final Fantasy 13 throughout this entry, because I don't want to keep typing out Final Fantasy XIII. The latter is more letters, and it's easier for me to leave off or add an I by mistake and inadvertently refer to another game. If you don't like it, well, too damn bad.

Also, it goes without saying that this entry has massive spoilers on the game, potentially. If you've held off on playing this game even longer than I have, well, please don't read this entry.

Anyway – As the title of this entry implies, I was a fan of the game. On the Internetz, it gets quite a bit of flack for being far more linear than previous games in the series, but I looked at this aspect as a positive.

Without 20 side areas and towns to explore between missions, I felt the main storyline had more of an urgent feel than past games in the series. For example, in Final Fantasy 6, you're threatened with the idea that Kefka can strike at any time... Except that you can literally spend 100 hours fighting dinosaurs, exploring castles buried on the ocean floor and fighting ghosts in your characters' dreams, and nothing bad will happen.

(I feel like a developer could make a ballsy statement by offering a “real-time” mode in a game. i.e. If you don't beat Final Fantasy 15 in 100 hours, then the bad guy does win. Just make an optional mode that you get an extra trophy for, or something. The Persona games kind of limit you with a certain number of days to get things done, but this affects you much more when it comes to social links, not battles.)

For the first 20 to 30 hours of Final Fantasy 13, you are on a hard-wired path that I found pretty interesting. You're mostly focused on staying alive, either by running from the people out to kill you or by attacking their headquarters yourself. In this respect, I found it somewhat similar to Final Fantasy 2e / 4j, which forced you to have certain parties and characters with well-defined traits.

Once you get to Gran Pulse, the game does open up a bit like the World of Ruin in Final Fantasy 6, and all the presentation values truly shine. After spending your first 20 hours in confined areas and a steampunk environment, it's incredibly refreshing to see 250-foot tall beasts stomping around the plains. (It's also neat to see that there is a vague sort of ecosystem at work – You'll see beasts that dislike each other attacking one another. I think they should have pursued this angle more, actually. You can watch them fight for 10 minutes, but one side won't ever actually win, and creatures are always in the same spot.)

Of course, once you get there, you run into another common complaint – Half the crap you run into can kill you very, very quickly. Final Fantasy 13 makes it hard to level-grind by not re-spawning enemies easily. For example, if you just beat a group of enemies that drops something you can sell, or that gives you a good amount of experience, you either have to save-and-load or venture well off screen to get them to re-spawn.

If you're someone who loves to over-power enemies, then this is incredibly frustrating. You don't really have the opportunity to get super-powered until 75 percent of the game is over. If you're like me, and mostly playing just to enjoy the plot and not engage in fetishistic item collections, then you're perfectly fine with the challenge most of the game presents.

As far as the story goes, I thought it was one of the better ones. They took some very un-Final Fantasy-like risks with it, which I think I appreciated more than others. Examples: People already in love, as opposed to falling in love while the world is ending. Popular people capital-D dead instead of being revived. A woman is legit the bad-ass of the story, and she's not some weird lady with a short haircut and mannish appearance (sorry Paine). A story told with some interesting flashbacks. Characters who have done legit bad things – like punching a hole into a world – in the past. Not taking the easy way out with the ending.

However, I will say that I wish they'd up the ages on some of the female characters. Now that I'm 27, it feels... creepy. Even Sazh is caught leering at Vanille, who is pictured below:

She's dressed like that for the entire game. Oh, did I mention that she's 16? yikes. It's awesome that Final Fantasy 13 had two awesome female characters who basically kicked ass and took names later, but a bit of that is unraveled when Miss Lolita 2010 is also on display.

When it comes to young, female characters, I sometimes feel like the Final Fantasy developers do nothing but watch Hayden Pantiere, Hilary Duff and Miley Cyrus tapes. To close out the post, here is their idea of an appropriate 15-year-old as featured in Final Fantasy 10:

The picture of Vanille is from this site. The Rikki and Light images are from a bunch of random forums.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Let's talk about Glee – Part 2

Let's talk about where I'd like to see them take some of the plots on Glee.

- For starters, Santana and Finn should be an item. For one, I think it would be interesting. Santana is the evilest person on the show, next to Sue, so it would be nice to see her actually get into a sort of relationship. Her sass would counteract his dumb sort of aloofness.

Secondly, it's one of the few matchings that they haven't really done on the show. They hooked up briefly in the “Like A Virgin” Madonna show, but didn't actually do anything couple-ish.

And third, it gives plenty of fodder to other characters, such as Rachel and Quinn. Also, if Finn is firmly established in a relationship, it means we can all finally move on from the boring relationship storylines they currently tease with him.

- Speaking of Santana, she needs her own episode. Her and Brittney are the best “kids” on the show now, and pretty much everyone else has been explored, with maybe the exception of Mike Chang and Mercedes. Specifically, I'd like a look at her home life, since I think it'd be interesting.

- We need to stop with the Rachel-centric storylines. A little bit of Rachel goes a long way. Yes, Lea Michele has some killer pipes. However, her character doesn't have much depth at all, since she swings from boy-based neurotic fits to talent-based neurotic fits. If you can't find something else for her to do in an episode besides obsessing over a boy or who else is getting a solo, leave her on the sidelines for an episode.

- I'm OK with the “Kurt falling in love” stories for now, but honestly, his dad is a much more interesting character. Mike O'Malley is awesome. Find some way to get him involved with Kurt and his dreamy boyfriend, like having him give awkward advice to Kurt about impressing a boy.

- I'm not sure how I feel about Puck chasing after his new girl. To be honest, the whole thing feels a bit forced and over-the-top, even by Glee standards. I know some guys who like a thicker woman, but most of them were not sleeping with essentially models beforehand (Dianna Argon) and even then, it was more bubbly personality thick girls, not horrible wenches. I'm hoping the payoff with the whole angle is good, but it wouldn't surprise me if it's yet another “will they won't they?” storyline.

- And finally, Sue. Sigh. How far you've fallen! You've gone from being the show's most compelling villain to, as I allude in my previous post, the show's Wile E. Coyote. Hopefully her new role as a consultant for another glee squad lets her flaunt her villainous nature again, properly.

To me, the bigger problem is that the show hasn't properly softened her character. They take baby steps, such as having her vote for the home team glee squad, and having her have sweet relationships with her sister and Becky, and having her confront her over-aggressive mom. However, it's as if the show has amnesia about these moments, and the very next episode, she's trying to rip apart the club from the inside or faking a suicide attempt.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Let’s talk about Glee – Part 1

So, after catching Tuesday night’s episode of Glee this morning, I have some thoughts. And seeing as how my Glee posts are always my most popular, I thought I’d share them. If you don’t like it, well, go spit.

(By the way, pictures for this entry will come later, since I’m away from my desktop laptop computer, and typing this on my work one. For the record, I’m a huge, huge fan of the non-Cheerios look for Quinn, Brittney and Santana.)

- I’m now officially sick of any romance angle involving Finn, Quinn, Sam or Rachel. Seriously, I hope they all end up alone and crying. All of the possible combinations of these characters just bore me to tears. We’ve had so many “will they won’t they?” moments between them that nothing they air now can possibly live up to all the false starts.

Although people knock Jim and Pam from The Office for getting boring once they actually ended up together, I think it needed to happen from a narrative standpoint. Otherwise, you get what Glee is getting – Something lacking in interest because it has been teased to death.

- Brittney remains my favorite character. It’s not even close at this point. I’m not sure how they do it, but she remains fresh and surprising from episode to episode. I especially liked how she turned the arm-warmers into a fashion thing. Way to go, gurl.

I’m also a big fan of Santana. She is so evil that she is interesting. And easy on the eyes! That certainly doesn’t hurt either. Like they did with the Brittney-Brittney Spears episode, I imagine they’ll have to do an entire plot on her background at some point, which would be awesome.

- Sue’s character has gone from one of my favorites to just one of the ensemble cast. I’m not sure why they felt the need to essentially strip the character of its power; getting the Cheerios budget slashed should have been a season finale thing, not something in the middle of a season. It would have setup season three pretty well. (The interview with “Diane Sawyer” was pretty god damn hilarious though.)

Anyway, for this entire season, she has essentially been the Wile E. Coyote of the cast. Every plan she has goes awry, including the one last night, where Mercedes and Rachel embraced after the “diva” contest. While I didn’t want her plan to succeed, I kind of wish Sue wasn’t in the position of being the spoiler.

Instead of that, why not have her do her own storylines each week? She’s one of the few people in the cast with real acting chops, and I wouldn’t mind seeing more of her relationship with her mom or sister or someone else each week instead of her constantly trying to sabotage the glee club.

… Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now. Coming Friday: Some plots I’d like to see the show pursue.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hey, stop defiling my birthday!

I agree heartily with the sentiment expressed in this Slate article. Then again, my birthday is on Valentine’s Day, so maybe I’m a bit biased…

I’ve maintained for many years that I like my birthday being on the holiday, because regardless of whether or not I’m dating someone, I get candy and cards and presents. It’s a win-win for me, yay! This year, the high school newspaper staff that I advise has strongly hinted that they will have a cake for me, so that should be awesome.

(Although, I should note that I still find it odd that several of them read this blog. They’re the young looking folk in the “Followers” section. Thankfully, I haven’t written about anything super embarrassing in here, or really gotten into great depth when it comes to my guiding of their young minds… Maybe I should stop talking about this before they REALLY comb through everything I’ve written on here, or I actually do say something that gets me into trouble…)

One of my Patch freelancers has a list of her favorite romantic songs, which you can read here. It comes complete with YouTube links, so it’s definitely worth checking out. It got me thinking about my favorite romantic songs, which I’ve listed below in no particular order.

(Note: Yes, I’ve been watching Glee, but I haven’t had a chance to write about it yet. Sorry! I’ll do a two-part entry on it, folks – Wednesday, I’ll look at the new episodes since I last blogged, and Friday, I’ll talk about what I’d like to see them do.)

Without further adieu, the list of songs I like to listen to when I’m thinking of romantic things, and following Mel’s lead, I’ve provided YouTube links:

- "Call Me" by Yoko Kanno (Note: Cowboy Bebop spoilers)
- "Come Pick Me Up" by Ryan Adams
- "Emaline" by Ben Folds
- "Falling For You" by Weezer
- "I Will Follow You Into The Dark" by Death Cab for Cutie
- "Maybe I'm Amazed" by Paul McCartney and Wings
"Such Great Heights" by The Postal Service
- "We Will Become Silhouettes" by The Postal Service
- "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Top 20 Stephen Greenwell Music List: This One Does Not Go To Eleven

10) “(If You Are Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” by Weezer – 24 plays.

Stupid song name, horrible verses, but my goodness, Weezer sure knows how to make a catchy beat and nifty chorus. My friend Pat and I discussed this, and even with all this song's obvious shortcomings, it's still really great in some parts.

9) “Gives You Hell” by The All-American Rejects – 25 plays.

I'm surprised this one isn't a little bit higher, but I've only had it in my iTunes for about a year, so some other songs no doubt have it beat. It's probably got the highest playrate, considering its age. I make no apologies for having it on this list; it's a fun little song. If you don't like it, well, go spit.

8) “Sink Into Me” by Taking Back Sunday – 27 plays.
7) “Savior” by Rise Against – 30 plays.

If I'm not mistaken, Rise Against is a fairly popular band. However, this is the only song I have by them, so I couldn't really comment on this. I think this one because it is loud and angry. Sometimes, you need a loud and angry song to listen to. The same thing applies to Taking Back Sunday – I realize that they have a following of some sort, but this is the only song I've really been exposed to, and that's primarily because it got some mainstream radio play.

6) “Adelaide” by Ben Folds Five – 31 plays.

I'm generally a slut for anything Ben Folds does, and this song combines the best of his traits. Hypnotic piano riff right off the bat? Check. A chorus and other lyrics you can sing along to loudly in the car? Check. A song actually about something? Check! It's good times all-around.

5) “Let's Dance to Joy Division” by The Wombats – 33 plays.

I'm not normally a huge fan of WBRU nowadays, since they've shifted from the angrier, punkish rock of my generation (the 1990s and early 2000s) to, frankly, weird shit. One exception would be the #1 song on this list, and another one would be this song. It has enough of an edge and a catchy chorus, enough to keep me quite interested.

4) “Naive” by The Kooks – 36 plays.

Okay, confession: I've only ever heard this song on my iTunes and on one of those Guitar Hero or Rock Band games. However, once I start hearing it, I can't stop it midway through and move on to something else. It's a good song to sing along to in the car, the bass / guitar line is very, very catchy.

3) “The Underdog” by Spoon – 38 plays.

Just a straight-up awesome song. Great lyrics, and it has everything – Drums, guitar, some horns, a tambourine... When Adam Carolla complains about bands that don't really have chops anymore, he should listen to some Spoon instead. Because they're awesome.

2) “Safe European Home” by The Clash – 40 plays.

I really got into The Clash a little while ago, once I learned that “Train In Vain” was by them. (Actually, I'm a bit surprised that that song doesn't beat this one out.) Like many of my favorite songs though, this one is loud with heavy guitar and features yelling. These are two important qualities for almost any song.

1) “Cousins” by Vampire Weekend – 44 plays.

This tops the list for several reasons. One, because it's only 2:25, it makes it a relatively easy listen. Two, I really like this song. Heck, I wrote a blog about it in the past. And three, it is somewhat-acceptable cool music, whereas most of the crap I listen to doesn't really have any artistic cache.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Top 20 Stephen Greenwell Music List: This One Goes To Eleven

I have pretty horrible taste in music, and it is well-documented on this blog. Ke$ha, Ace of Base, the Glee soundtrack, every remix and cover song known to man... They all figure prominently into my iTunes library.

In an attempt to provide a more accurate read on what I listen to though, I decided to do this list. It will not include deep tracks on albums – this is a bit of a holdover from paper-time in college, and not really reflective of what I listen to, which is mostly singles. I will also sadly note that the total count was reset about two years ago, when I got a new computer. I'm sure all of these songs will turn out to be completely fantastic.

… Okay, probably not. But on to the list!

20) “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha – 21 plays.

This fine artist is the only one on the list with two songs. I’ve written past entries about how awesome she is, so I won’t dwell so much on it here.

19) “Sick, Sick, Sick” by Queens of the Stone Age – 22 plays.

Like many other songs on this list, this one popped into my playlist after a Guitar Hero or Rock Band session. Also, I think they played it on Saturday Night Live at one point, which is also one of my favorite ways to be exposed to new music.

18) “Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)” by The Offspring – 22 plays.

Honestly… I’m not sure how this song got so high on this list. I don’t really like it that much, and it’s no longer 2001. It makes me wonder if I mistakenly let it rack up 20 plays or something some night.

17) “Yeah Yeah Yeah” by New Politics – 22 plays.

This was a big jam for me in the summer of 2010, I believe. (Maybe a bit before then? I’m old, I can’t remember the exact date.) I remember listening to it all the time on my way to and from The Westerly Sun. It was a magical time in my life, except for the part where I was living with my parents, and barely making enough money to do like, anything.

16) “Your Love is My Drug” by Ke$ha – 22 plays.

The aforementioned second Ke$ha song, and probably my favorite of hers. I love how over-the-top the lyrics are.

15) “Mountain Man” by Crash Kings – 22 plays.

I actually think that I burnt out a bit on this song – Whenever it comes on the radio or my iTunes now, I just skip past it.

14) “I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas – 22 plays.

… okay so my taste is pretty horrible. Sorry.

13) “Takedown” by Yellowcard – 23 plays.

See above. I don’t even know how this is my most-listened to Yellowcard song, since “Ocean Avenue” is my favorite by them.

12) “Shut Up and Let Me Go” by The Ting Tings – 23 plays.

Ah, back to songs I like, and one by one of my future wives. (Katie White, I’m still waiting for a call – Feel free to do it collect, I’ll accept the charges.) It helps that The Ting Tings also produce some pretty decent tunes, with this one being my favorite.

11) “Zero” by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – 24 plays.

And the final song for this installment.

The Spinal Tap picture is from this blog.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Don't call it a comeback.

Much like LL Cool J, I've been here for years. But where have I been?

Well, unsurprisingly, running a news website is a bit more work than being a general assignment reporter. I mean, especially with the stuff I was doing, which was mostly court beat and Friday night emergency coverage – Unless something was blowing up, I generally had five to 10 free hours a week at “work.” Yay for journalism!

Now that I am the boss again, and more importantly on salary, the dynamic changes a bit. There is more of an incentive for me to do things quickly and correctly, especially since I work for an online news site. (In case you're unawares: Narragansett Patch. It's an AOL venture, and now in 22 states; you can see if one is near you by clicking here. If you want to help me out, feel free to randomly click on a bunch of stories all over the place - Relax, I won't tattle.)

The first couple months have been ones of adjustment – Both from the perspective that I suddenly have more work to do, and from the perspective that the company I work for is still young and trying new things out. It's pretty exciting, and I can honestly say I haven't been this psyched about a job since I ran my college newspaper. (Then again, one of my friends dubbed my Patch site Version 2.0 of our college paper, since half the staff are people I knew from college. Hey, gotta network.)

So, I have been looking to restart this blog for a couple weeks now. At first, my plan was to do so on or about January 1, but life interfered. Likewise, I thought February 1 was a splendid day, but unfortunately, I've alternated between chills, sweats, fever and flu. Also, I did finally get a Playstation 3, so I've been picking away at Final Fantasy XIII for the past month or so. (General impressions: Like the game, especially like story.)

Consider this my “welcome back to blogging” post. Thanks for all of you who have gently and not-so-gently needled me into this – It's nice to see I wasn't completely forgotten. (Somewhat sad note though: My average hits per day increased by 50 percent ever since I left. Go figure.) I will be dropping down in post frequency and length, from seven days a week to just three – Monday, Wednesday and Friday. However, more posts will be time-delayed and queued up, so I should be better with sticking to the 7 p.m. EST schedule. (We'll see!)

The photo comes from this site, and you can buy it on a shirt! Awesome!


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