Friday, August 31, 2012

Online Dating Is Sketchy

Having not had a serious girlfriend in a while, I was tempted this morning after my jog to create an online dating profile with Match, then I remembered the horrendous experiences I had with these types of services while in Denver. They're good for a laugh, so I'll share some...

First, a lot of the profiles online are fake. They're stolen photos or dummy bios run by hackers trying to get dupes to send personal information or join shady websites. They lure you in with niceties, then send a link to their site or a virus to your computer.

Second, I had two occasions where I spent a little over a week exchanging emails, which ended at the phone portion of getting to know each other. We exchanged numbers: one person called me at odd hours and just listened, never said a word, and never answered when I called, always emailing with an excuse about why they couldn't pick up the phone; the other, when picking up the phone, turned out to be a dude that had been posing as a woman.

Third, I once had a woman, after emails, phone conversations, and a light dinner, come over to my apartment. The first thing she said to me while passing through the threshold was, "I have a knife." I laughed, thinking she was joking, then she showed me a knife Crocodile Dundee would have been proud of. The woman made herself at home on the opposite end of the couch (I was glad there was distance between us because I didn't want to get stabbed even though she had put the knife away), and we watched TV for a few hours. At two in the morning, I informed her I had to work early and asked her politely to leave--she refused, because Braveheart had started and she'd never seen it before. Needless to say, she stayed until it was over, and I went to work the next day completely exhausted and almost fell asleep in my cubicle.

Fourth, after the knife incident, I was a lot more cautious. I extended the email and phone courtship, but my next mistake was just as bad. I was tricked by very seductive and attractive photographs, which, lo and behold, turned out to be about a decade, 250 lbs, and 2 children old. False advertising. Granted, it was the same woman, and I might have been able to get over the fact she had lied to me for over a month because she was ashamed of her weight...until she sat on my couch, broke it, and left in a thunderstorm of tears. At the time, I was beginning my financial woes and unable to replace the couch--ever. I spent my last year sitting on what appeared to be a raised seesaw.

Fifth, I did meet someone once. She was about six years younger than me, and she was a blast to hang out with. Things went smooth; we had fun every time we hung out, had a lot of laughs, got drunk and crazy. I thought we were headed in the right direction. Then I started meeting her friends, none of which liked me; some even told me they didn't like me, and that included a mentally handicapped guy, who was also the brother of the girl's best friend, another guy. Long story short, she dumped me two days after one of my best friends died from cystic fibrosis. She said the reason was, "You're kind of depressing," but a week later I bumped into her and her best friend, the one with the handicapped brother, buying furniture for their new apartment at Walmart. I would've believed their story of being just roommates, if I hadn't turned the aisle at the tale end of a tongue kiss. I looked her up on FB once and discovered she was single with two kids, which I assume were from two separate fathers as they were not the same ethnicity.

So, all in all, my online dating experiences have been nothing but nightmares, and I don't plan to try it again. In fact, typing all that out made me realize I might just prefer being single.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Still No Cigs

As I sat down at my computer this morning with my coffee, getting ready for my usual job search, it dawned on me that I hadn't really craved a cigarette in a while. Coffee and cigarettes used to go hand in hand, but I'm nearing week 5 and the closest I've come to smoking again is a total of three drags on three separate occasions when I was inebriated; so drunk and out of control, in one case, that I was booted from my family reunion for swearing like a sailor in front of my aunts and nieces.

The urge for cigarettes isn't as strong. If someone lit up in front of me a few weeks ago I'd be foaming at the mouth, on the verge of asking for a drag. When my mom lit up in front of me yesterday, all I could think was, "That smells terrible." The smell is pungent too. I can smell my dad smoking while my door is closed and he's downstairs on the couch. As for the general public, I can smell the telltale ashtray odor of a smoker's clothing from across a store, all the while chuckling about how I used to stink as bad.

I can taste food again too, though I eat twice as much. To combat my hunger, I drink a lot of water, and I have started exercising 5 days a week. I'm up to 7 to 10 miles a session on my exercise bike, depending on the day, and I can almost run 3 miles without having to slow to a walk to catch my breath--it usually averages out to about half an hour. I can tell I'm not gaining weight, because when I tug on my stomach or under my chin there's less to hold on to and the skin is tighter. On a side-note, the pools of phlegm with black/gray clumps I've coughed up over the past month are pretty disgusting.

I think I've made progress. I'm not quite at a point where I can say I've kicked the habit for good, yet I think that day is a little closer. Right now, cigarettes are like an ex-lover that pop into my head at the oddest times, and I can feel the growing distance as we diverge onto separate paths, the yearning less as I learn to live without them.

Monday, August 27, 2012

True Blood Finale Flops (Spoiler Alert)

During True Blood's season 5 finale, I found myself laughing and not because a joke was told--the characters were all over the road. The only real congruent story (I would consider Andy Bellefleur's story if it was the least bit interesting or endearing) throughout the entire season was Alcide's, ending with him becoming the new packmaster. Alcide is finally not moping around and being a wimp; he progressed.

Bill Compton also evolved...in a direction I despise. The writers massacred his character, which was really odd after they made the Bill/Eric relationship so dynamic and engaging. He went from southern gentleman, a vampire with a heart, to a lying, manipulative, crazy monster. Try as they might in future seasons, there is no way to redeem him. Ever. Once a cornerstone of the series, Bill ends the season trying to kill Sam Merlotte, betraying/murdering Salome, threatening/turning on Sookie, and drinking a vial of Lilith's blood, which seems to have reincarnated him as a Vampire God. I suspect he'll be the villain for next season, should I even return to watch. I, like many others, have already decided Bill needs to die, and for me, watching him return from a puddle was the show jumping the shark.

I suppose Eric is now our vampire hero on Sookie's side, moreso than ever, which also ruins the shadiness and selfish pursuits that epitomized his character over the years. At this rate, I wouldn't be surprised if he's eventually murdered or made into a villain, too. Notably, Eric is also the only love interest Sookie has left out of the major three.

The entire Eric/Pam unrequited love story that I always felt was an underlying theme was also dropped as Pam and Tara embraced in a kiss. I guess all that pining and worrying over Eric was just Pam's adoration. And the whole backstory of how she was made, including hints at a relationship, was moot.

Jason Stackhouse is militarized, borderline psychotic, and hellbent on killing vampires, similar to the way Hoyt was in the middle of the season yet more extreme. Oh, and he's also seeing his dead parents after being thrown into a tree. Since the first season, Jason has flipflopped between liking and hating vampires. Sometimes it happens multiple times in a season. In the bonus scene, he considers killing Pam, Tara, Jessica, and Nora (she was the lone character I enjoyed in the finale), but at least Nora is somewhat safe because she recognized the name Warlow--Jason needs her for information.

And where was Warlow? Throughout the entire season we piece together the story behind the death of Sookie's parents, learning it's an old vampire that might even be a fae (I imagine Warlow's blood is what Alcide and his father got hopped up on), then he's never introduced. The story was simply dropped and left unfinished. Cliffhangers like Bill rising out of a pool of a blood that finishes one arch and sets us in a new direction are bearable and expected, but unfinished stories are not; they're just plain frustrating.

What happened to Sam? After his girlfriend exposed shifters to a live national audience, the story ended. We don't know if she died like his brother or how/if they got out of the Authority. Once again, we were left stranded in the middle of a tale. Usually a cliffhangers entail something monumental, a death, return of a character, or major event, but writers tend to give the entire event or get us as close as possible to its conclusion--they don't leave us in the middle of it, during the action, then make us search Youtube for an additional scene. Not cool, HBO.

As for the rest of the characters, most of them hung out at the bar and were used as comedic relief, having had their stories/whatever passed as their stories completed. For a season that started strong, True Blood simply crumbled with each episode. By the finale, the vampire deaths weren't even consistent. Some explode instantly. Others break apart, then explode, and it doesn't seem to matter about their age. The rate of explosion seems to depend on the importance of the character, if you consider Roman, a 500 year old vamp, took a lot longer to die than Russell, a 3,000 year old vamp (I'm still trying to figure out how Eric ran through the light of twelve faeries, which up until that point launched vampires across rooms and meadows, to kill Russell).

To sum it all up, season 5 was inconsistent, at best.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

"The King"


Another drawing from high school with bad anatomy: I think one arm is longer than the other, the kneecap is disjointed, the foot is too small, and the head being held up in the air is too small. The king's hand gun is also too small. I've considered drawing this over, because I kind of like all the guns.

Friday, August 24, 2012

"Divine Fear"



I drew this in high school, back when I used colored pencils, and I find it interesting how I was only beginning to understand anatomy. The imagery is also kind of twisted. I think I was into Spawn comics at the time.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Darksiders II Review

It's rare that I ever buy a videogame for full price. Usually I wait a few months for the cost to go down, using that time to read player and critic reviews, but I had heard and read so many good things about Darksiders II that I couldn't resist splurging. So far, about halfway through the main quest (I think), I'm more than satisfied with my purchase.

I played the original Darksiders and wasn't blown away; that's not to say I didn't enjoy it, but I felt the areas in it were somewhat cramped, and I particularly didn't enjoy having to backtrack by foot through the entire game to collect items I missed. In the sequel, there's fast travel and Death comes with a horse able to sprint, because the areas are massive.

One of the high points of the original Darksiders was combat. While Death has a similar control system to War, their styles couldn't be any more different. Death is wiry. He dodges and strafes attacks, retaliates, and if you don't get the knack of dodging, you die. When in combat, I find the only part that is clunky is the use of special abilities. To target and employ I have to hold down a trigger, bumper, directional, and then punch a button. It took longer than usual to incorporate my specials into the free-flow, yet it's very reminiscent of the Batman: Arkham series. In other words, it's a proven system I've seen before.

The bosses, which can be epic, require interesting tactics. I am reminded of Legend of Zelda circa Nintendo 64 and beyond. So far, there haven't been any bosses that stumped me. When a throwable or moveable object appears or falls, it's pretty obvious it has to be incorporated in the fight. A lot of the fights in the original I felt were generic. On War, I usually just let off a series of combos, blocked, and unleashed more combos until everything died. On Death, I'm thinking a bit more and figuring things out.

However, combat is not even the best part of this title. Darksiders II employs a leveling system, complete with character builds like an MMO or Borderlands. You can raise ghouls or summon ravens. You can rely on yourself, beefing defensive and/or attack abilities. You can specialize in single combat or taking on groups, or, if you're anything like me, you can be a Jack of all trades and prepare for whatever situation comes your way. There's a lot of possibilities, which can be tailored to your style of play. Not happy with the talents you choose? Respec.

As of right now (Level 17 starting the Lostlight Realm) my build is simple. My Death is like a brawler and dependent on my weapons prowess. I use Teleport with maxed skills that boost wrath regen, refund health, cause enemies to explode and cause them to burn, along with Harvest with every additional skill for it maxed because this ability destroys everything around me. And for the tougher fights, I recently incorporated Aegis Guard for survivability, though I read up on the Ghouls, and they sound as if they could take a lot of aggro off me like tanks. These skills, along with stacking str, def, wrath, crit % and crit dmg, have gone a long way to make my character a beast; I leave health potions on the ground all the time.

Along with builds, there's a RNG loot system akin to action rpgs like Diablo or Torchlight. Now and again, you kill a monster in the wild or in a dungeon (bosses offer some killer gear), and loot drops at your feet. From there, you decide whether to wear or store it. If you don an item, Death's appearance changes with his stats. Some items are more powerful than others, coming with enchants and a rainbow of colored titles. Weapons can be possessed. If you want to upgrade them, you feed it the useless junk in your inventory instead of selling the junk to a vendor. The results can get crazy--I can swat regular beasts with 1 or 2 hits after upgrading a slow-handed mace to its max.

And if you like puzzles as much as I do, Darksiders II is loaded with them. In fact, there is more puzzle solving than combat. I've easily spent an hour leaping, running, shifting objects, exploding walls, vaulting, swimming, and climbing without an enemy, just to progress to the next area, where the door locks behind me and I'm assaulted by droves of monsters that rise from the floor.

Like its predecessor, Darksiders II has a comic book-like approach to the look of the cut-scenes and characters. This time around, the NPCs are a bit more fantasy than apocalyptic, but their voiceovers are nothing less than stellar. I actually sit and listen to everything they have to say without skipping ahead. I've seen complaints about the graphics, and I have no idea what people are talking about. Yeah, it's not Skyrim, where you stop and look at flowers or stand on mountaintops and gaze into the distance. It's a stylized, crisp world that feels...right for the characters.

As for music, the soundtrack really stood out in this one from the beginning, seamlessly flowing, really drawing me into the ambiance. As an example, check out and listen during the Guardian fight at the end of the first realm; the music fully immersed me.

There's a town full of Makers (there are other towns for each realm), where Death can pick up side quests, just in case you feel the main story isn't enough. The quests are basic: fetch these items or kill these guys--it's better than nothing. They ease the burden of rounding up collectables as you search every nook and cranny for items to nab or shoot (you get Fury's pistol early on). Darksiders II has three difficulties, an arena system, and a +game mode after you complete it, offering all sorts of replay.

I've stumbled on a few glitches, nothing gamebreaking. The worst glitch I have noticed is an unresponsive B button; sometimes it's finicky and won't let me instant-kill an enemy or move an object without hitting it several times. Another bug that has happened to me twice is the game not acknowledging a ledge when dropping from above, which has resulted in a death-by-lava and grumbling as I start a climb over from the bottom. I hope both of these bugs will eventually be fixed by the release of the first DLC. If not, the game is still playable and enjoyable.

Another slight problem I've found is the story. It is nowhere near as complex or engrossing as the original. I don't mind, because even though it's a simple tale (Death seeks the Tree of Life to revive humanity and redeem War, who has been blamed for the Apocalypse) it's a solid tale. The characters are rich, neither flat nor boring, and that's more than what I see on TV or in most movies.

Halfway through Darksiders II, I have to say it's been one of the best gaming experiences I've had on my Xbox 360. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see it as a Platinum Hit or Game of the Year: it's that good. Between the original and the sequel, Darksiders is on course to be a truly remarkable franchise with at least two more sequels to unfold, as we have yet to meet Strife or Fury, the last two horsemen.

Friday, August 17, 2012

G.I. Joe: Retaliation Postponed Until 2013

Yesterday it occurred to me that the new G.I. Joe movie, which I was excited for, had not released. I hadn't heard or read anything in a while, recalling it was supposed to be out at the end of June. I figured its release was pushed back to September or October, since I hadn't seen any new trailers, but it was much, much farther...

The movie is releasing March 29th of 2013.

Why? Because Battleship was such a domestic bomb that Hasbro and Paramount decided to reformat the entire movie to 3D so they can make more off foreign sales, an act I find very telling. Obviously, they have little hope for this film in the United States, so they're relying on gimmicks.

I will not be attending G.I. Joe in the theater. Originally, I had hoped the sequel would make up for the terrible original (the trailer really had me interested). Now that I know it has been pushed back an entire year due to greed, there's no way it's going to happen. Even if every single friend I have tells me it's the greatest film ever made, I won't go.

The executives' decision to push this movie back is reprehensible. If there was something wrong with production or they wanted to make improvements due to serious faults in the film itself, I could understand, but the studios saw dollar signs and panicked when Battleship didn't churn out as much green as they'd counted on. It's not that they're going to change/add any scenes or dialogue or improve CGI; they're simply going to make the movie available in 3D because it's a craze overseas and offers more theaters with steeper ticket prices--ridiculous.

When a studio gives a release date, going as far as offering trailers up to five weeks prior to that release, they really need to consider it as an upspoken agreement to the moviegoer that the movie will be out when they say. Anything less, except a catastrophe, is an insult to the fans.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mists of Pandaria Cinematic: Blah

I've watched the newly released opening cinematic for Mists of Pandaria several times now, trying to force myself into liking it, yet I feel let down.

For starters, we don't see war. We see the end of a naval battle, where an Orc and Human wash up on the shores of Pandaria. While the rendering is amazing (you can see sweat on the orc's skin and grime on the human) they look a bit...cartoonish. I'm very much accustomed and a fan of their appearances in the Vanilla and BC trailers, that's to say, a sense of realism.

Then the Orc and Human fight; this is the highlight of the trailer for me. It's cutthroat--if left to their own devices, one of them would die, but a Pandaren shows up and breaks them up, beats them down. If only Blizzard had left out the humor, that's really what has me upset.

I say these things because since the announcement of MoP, Blizzard and Metzen have repeatedly told us Pandaren will be treated in a serious manner, that they won't be kiddy or something to laugh about, and I truly saw that while playing beta, despite a bunch of humorous quests. A few seconds after Chen's appearance in the trailer, he fixes a lamp with a grunt. Right there, my disappointment sunk in. It doubled when the Human passed the Orc, whose jaw is dropped, a spear.

Trailers have always been something I look forward to. They're usually dramatic and real, bringing you in to Azeroth as if it's a place that could and does exists. The past three (BC, Wotlk, and Cata) showcased the main villain. BC also showcased the new races, and to this day, it's the trailer I like the most. Without needing impending doom or a villain, Vanilla, my second favorite trailer, showcased the races of Azeroth and the battle to come.

In part, I thought there would be a montage of war and races we have yet to see rendered. No luck. To this day, Gnomes are the lone original race left out. It appears they never will be recreated with CGI. We also haven't seen death knights, Worgen, and Goblins, and I had really, really hoped to see Goblin on Gnome violence in an epic way. Trolls have made a scant appearance, nothing spectacular. In other words, I feel a ball was dropped. We get the usual Orc and Human tussle (eerily similar to one that happens in a WC3 cinematic), Chen Stormstout, and some neat scenery.

And in the end, the Orc and Human help each other. In no way did I think they were going to keep fighting. I didn't sense an upcoming war or an escalation in conflict. I felt they were going to be pals, drink and explore together. In my opinion, I felt the opposite way of what I was promised the expansion would entail.

All that said, I'll still play MoP and make my Pandaren Monk, yet each day I grow more and more suspicious that Blizzard will not uphold their end of the bargain and give us an all-out war. If that's the case, this just might be my last expansion.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"And the Raven..."


This is a self portrait I made in Drawing I at Elmira College, using charcoal and pastels.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Did We Invent God?

This week I watched another interesting episode of Through the Wormhole on the Science Channel, and it discussed whether or not humans created God as a way to cope with unexplainable events in our lives--I've often wondered this.

It used to be that God lived in the sky and earth was the center of the universe, which the sun and everything else revolved around. We learned that wasn't true, and God, like our science, adapted to where He now either exists in a different plane (heaven) or encompasses all that is, was, and will be. He used to speak to the people in the Bible. Now He gives us signs.

I found several experiments in Through the Wormhole incredibly interesting. In one test, psychiatrists demonstrated that humans did not believe or acknowledge imaginary or invisible beings until around the age of 6 or 7. If a child younger than that was told of an invisible princess in the room, they didn't acknowledge her flicking on and off the lights and always guessed wrong where a ball was hidden in wooden containers. When they understood the flicking light was the invisible princess giving them a sign, they guessed right.

Similarly, in another test, children cheated when left alone to play a rigged game. When children of the same age were told there was an invisible princess sitting in a chair, watching them, they no longer cheated; it was amusing watching them wave their hand over the chair to try and sense if the princess was in it before they decided not to cheat.

Another test I found fascinating had people answering questions on a computer. At the end of the test, they were shown a still picture of television static. Originally, they said they saw nothing. Then the psychiatrists added a random correct or incorrect to every question answered. The test subjects, feeling they had failed the test (there really was no pass or fail as they could have received an incorrect no matter what they answered) started to see things in the static, when they shouldn't have. In other words, their brains interpreted and made sense of a chaotic, incomprehensible problem. They saw patterns and signs.

These tests aren't definitive proof that God has been conjured by our minds; they merely demonstrate that with intelligence we're capable of accepting concepts beyond what we can hear, smell, see, or feel, and we're prone to problem solving, making sense of things that don't make sense. Not only that, the ability to do so is interwoven in our DNA. Otherwise, we would have never found germs or particles or bands of light. Somewhere along the way, our brains diverged from every other form of life on our planet. Was it divine intervention, evolution, a mutation, or happenstance?

I don't have an answer. I'd like to think there's a God, that things happen for a reason, that we're given signs and directions, that life was created through a higher power, not by chance. I'd like to think, "God does not play dice with the universe." I'd like to think, even if I turn out to be wrong, something is looking out for our best interests.

But, I'm human, and I have doubts. I question one moment, pray the next, and I wouldn't be surprised if I wasn't alone in my agnostic-want-to-believe behavior. Worst case scenario, as I truly believe I live life the best I can with little pain or hate toward others, I die and it's like before I was born--comfortable nothingness.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Silver Surfer, Where Are You?

I feel many would agree with me that one of the greatest disappointments ever to come out of superhero movies was Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Not only did they butcher Galactus, making him a pink cloud rather than a building-high demi-god that walks around planets like Godzilla, leveling everything in his path, they made the Silver Surfer a wimp...a whiny, not-so-shiny wimp at that.

When I checked on the status of the Silver Surfer movie, which I hoped would redeem him, it was slated for a 2012 release. It has now been pushed back to 2014-2016. Why? Turns out, Fox and Marvel are haggling over the rights to the Surfer, Galactus, and Daredevil. Marvel wants the rights to Surfer and Galactus (probably Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom too) so bad they're willing to let Fox hold on to Daredevil (the rights expire October 10th if no movie has started production) and massacre him in another installment.

If there's one origin story I actually wouldn't mind, it would be the Surfer's. Other than a brief glimpse of Thanos at the end of the Avengers and a few scenes in Asgard during Thor, Marvel's universe, when it comes to outer space, has not really been on film. Granted, the Guardians of the Galaxy movie releasing in August 2014 will delve into the cosmos, but there's an insane amount of ongoings being overlooked.

For starters, Surfer's movie could begin with Norrin Rad as an astronomer from Zenn-la that stumbles upon Galactus, pledges himself as a herald to save his planet, and travels around causing all sorts of genocide, after, of course, Galactus creates the Surfer's board and gives him the Power Cosmic. Half of the movie Surfer would be a hero forced to do villainous deeds, and he wouldn't be brainwashed or poisoned. He'd be fully aware and distraught over his actions, a side we've never really seen from a superhero. When shown in Rise of the Surfer, he has already grappled his demons; we see the tail-end of his arch. From there, Fantastic Four can get their needed reboot as well.

If there's ever to be an Infinity Gauntlet trilogy, Silver Surfer has to be involved, which means audiences need to be more familiar with Jack Kirby's creation. Using the Surfer, filmmakers can also introduce races like the Skrull and Kree, cosmic entities (Eon, Un-Being, Celestials, Nemesis, etc.), Adam Warlock, or the Defenders, a superhero group that consists of Dr. Strange, the Hulk, Namor, Valkyrie, Nighthawk, and Hellcat...among others. The roads a Surfer movie would open are almost endless.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Exaggerations

It occurred to me this weekend as I told a story at my cousin's graduation party that I exaggerate a lot, and when I say, "a lot," I mean at least a third of what comes out of my mouth. I have no definitive reason for my behavior, yet I can admit it's there and always has been. I'm fairly confident the exaggerations started in grade school and stuck to my personality like glue.

Over the years, I've tried to curb my exaggerations. It's not that the things I say are fabrications, but even I can admit some of my stories can get widely exaggerated to the point of nearing a lie, much akin to a fisherman's tale. Part of that stems from my desire to be more interesting than I feel; after all, I live with my parents and rarely leave the house. There are few occasions something out of the ordinary happens, so when I tell my yarns, I want to captivate the listener as best I can--it's frustrating to known you're mundane.

I often wonder if an exaggeration is a lie. When I told my cousin over the weekend that I wore shorts to a 30th birthday party and woke up with a 100 bug bites (first number that popped into my head), was he able to tell I was exaggerating to get my point across? By his scrunched face and lack of response, I can only assume he didn't. He had a look that said, "What a bullshitter."

For me, I think what separates a lie from an exaggeration is intent. When I exaggerate, I feel it's obvious, something that can be distinguished moments after being said, and it's usually a case where I'm talking and thinking at the same time. It's also worse when I'm drinking, yet a lie is a purposeful deception. A lie masks the truth, giving wrong impressions that can last for years.

I also pride myself on being able to recognize both a lie and an exaggeration. As the saying goes, you can't bullshit a bullshitter--exaggerations are far less subtle and usually involve ridiculous numbers of whatever is involved. You'll hear things like, "There were a million puppies," or, "I saw a hundred people I knew," and after a moment to think, you conclude the person talking probably saw 3 to 10 people they knew. When it comes to lies, I usually have to pay attention to a person's eye contact or mannerisms. Unfortunately, I'm usually not happy with the things I detect. It can cause awkwardness, because sometimes, just sometimes, I can't help but call a person out.

Not too long ago I asked a friend if she had hooked up with someone at the bar. Even though I already knew the story, I asked out of curiosity, wanting to know how she'd react. As I suspected she laughed my question off and proceeded to inquire as to why I thought such a thing of her. When my attempts to change the subject failed, I responded, "You've been with my friends before. It's no big deal." Again, she pried, and I obliged her with the list of my friends I knew she'd had sex with, creating a long moment of silence as her face turned red. As always, it would have been better if I kept my mouth shut.

Along with quitting smoking and making sure I exercise 5 days a week, I'm also setting a goal to curb my exaggerations. This, more so than smoking or working out, will be the hardest to overcome, as I have a tendency to think aloud when talking.



Friday, August 3, 2012

TV This Fall

With Fringe and Breaking Bad on their way out, I'm on the hunt for new shows. So far, it's not looking promising for this Fall. I suspect most of the shows that premiere in the coming months will be cancelled by December.

We're going to be up to our noses in wannabe versions of Modern Family, doctor shows, and dramas about cops/firemen: The Mindy Project (doctor-dating drama), The Mob Doctor (title says all), The New Normal (Modern Family rip off), Chicago House 51 (firemen), Do No Harm (doctor with multiple personality), Infamous (cops), Vegas (cops)...and these are just the ones I know about. I'm sure there's more lurking on cable too.

There are a few shows, however, that seem promising. As a general rule, I give any show that catches my eye a couple episodes and then decide whether or not I'm going to stick with it. Here are the few I found that I'll at least give a shot.

Fox

Though I can't stand most cop shows, Fox is bringing in Kevin Bacon for The Following midseason. He plays a FBI agent on the hunt for an escaped serial killer that has recruited and taught a group of people to also be serial killers. The trailer looked dark, almost a mix of Millenium and Manhunter. I still have yet to see a trailer for the new series about Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham in the early years, but I'm probably going to be more interested in something new and unique with The Following rather than a prolonged origin story I've known for over a decade.

NBC

I doubt J.J. Abrams' Revolution will suck me in the way Lost did. For starters, the show will have a major event and then skip 15 years. 15 years. For some reason I'll never quite understand, movies and television shows like to pass over the collapse of civilization and jump to the aftermath. I want to see the world burn, not the ashes.

There's a couple of comedies I'll check out as well: Guys That Are Dads, 1600 Penn, and Next Caller. If I can sit through the pilot of Whitney, I can sit through any episode of a sitcom and wait for a laugh. After all, that's how Parks and Recreation caught me by surprise and became one of my favorite shows on TV.

CBS

Maybe, and this is a very slight maybe, I'll catch the premiere of Elementary. Again, it's a cop show, but it's Sherlock Holmes and a female Watson, played by Lucy Liu, in Manhatten. It appears the show will be full of fail, but it's Sherlock Holmes. If anything, I can set aside an hour for my favorite detective, if only to complain about how CBS butchered my favorite detective, and I'm sure there will be plenty to complain about, especially since Britain already brought this classic to modern times brilliantly--I doubt Lucy Liu's Watson is going to be rooming with Holmes, which means the writers already dropped the ball on one of the funniest, quirkiest parts of the story.

ABC

666 Park Avenue has an intriguing plot, residents of a swanky apartment building sell their souls for their dreams and happiness. Plus, Terry O'Quinn (Locke from Lost) plays a devil-like character, and that's got to be good for everybody. It reminds me a little bit of Devil's Advocate.

Another paranormal drama called Zero Hour looks iffy, but I'm a sucker for Nazis searching for occult relics; it's probably derived from my love for all things Indiana Jones. There seems to be an apocalyptic tone to this show as well.

Revolving around a submarine and nuclear war, Last Resort could be a smash-hit. In the trailer, I got a sense that it begins like The Hunt For Red October and evolves into a modern Lord of the Flies. Great cast, action...there's a lot of potential.

I don't know why, but Brad Garrett cracks me up. He always plays a bit of a sad-sack like an overgrown Charlie Brown, and I can relate. That's why I'll tune in to How to Live with Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life. I don't doubt some of the show's premises will hit home as well.

CW

Absolutely nothing. I'll check in on Supernatural week after week, but that's all this channel has going for it. Beauty and the Beast looks terrible, even with Kristen Kreuk.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Favorite Xbox Live Arcade Games

Burned out on Diablo 3, waiting for World of Warcraft's next expansion, I've crawled back to my Xbox 360. While the selection of classics isn't as good as Wii's there are some addictive games to be found in the arcade section, and not all of them cost fifteen bucks.

In no particular order, here's some of my favorites:

Plants vs Zombies - As a strategy game, the title tells you all you need to know. You raise plants that shoot peas, turn to bombs, catapults, etc. and defend your house from an invasion of zombies. The Xbox Live version comes with multiplayer, gardens, survival mode, bowling, puzzles, and purchaseable/unlockable items.

Shadow Complex - This platform-adventure reminds me a lot of the original Metroid. As a 2.5D side-scroller, you crawl through vents, take out armed henchmen, and find weapons/upgrades/ammo. You even level. There's also a challenge mode, but I never got into it. Just like Metroid, you might not be able to access areas until you obtain a specific ability or weapon, which means you backtrack and search.

Dungeon Defenders or Orcs Must Die -  Dungeon Defenders is a tower defense game with multiple classes (none of them play alike), a leveling aspect, endless builds, and gear drops like an old-fashioned action rpg. My only complaint about this other than there not being enough flexibility with the camera angles is that it was released on consoles prior to the PC's release of 8 additional classes (countess, adept, ranger, initiate, summoner, barbarian, series ev, jester), all of which are amazing. Because of Xbox's limitations for downloadable content (DLC) Xbox users are stuck with only 4 classes and will never get to experience the game in full. If you didn't know this, however, the game is a blast.

I would also recommend a tower defense game called Orcs Must Die. The mechanics are faster and smoother than Dungeon Defenders, so is the camera. Though it only has a single class/character with 4 different, somewhat strict builds after you make the initial choice, you build him with each level and change depending on the set-up. Lots of carnage, interactive maps, it's also half the price of Dungeon Defenders.

Castle Crashers - A 4-player hack and slash side-scroller with rpg elements. You pick from a wide assortment of knights, kings, and villains (assuming you grab the cheap DLCs) and travel to different levels/zones smashing minions. On the way, you can find weapons and pets, each with distinct abilities. Beating the game offers a +mode with more of a challenge. Unfortunately, there was never a legit expansion, only DLC with new character choices to repeat what you've already done (really not necessary to level more than one character), and The Behemoth company doesn't make sequels.

TMNT: Turtles in Time Reshelled - A revamped classic and model as to what I want for my old games--updated graphics and everything else the same. I immediately thought of my childhood and all the fun I had playing, mashing buttons, kicking foot soldiers at the screen, yelping, "My toe! my toe!" and stomping the Super Shredder...good times. A bunch of other classics I picked up didn't grab me the way the originals did, such as 1942: Joint Strike or Space Invaders Extreme. TMNT was as great as I remembered and more.