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Encyclopedia Giachettica

A repository of fragments of partially formulated thoughts, ideas and musings swirling around the head of Paul. NOTE: Not a reliable source of facts or information, despite what the name may imply.

Updated: 2018-03-06T16:54:22.669-05:00


Red Dwarf Cosplaying: Fun, Fun, Fun at the Con, Con Con


By Paul C. GiachettiAs a creative type, I’ve long been fascinated by the art of cosplaying: the merging of one’s favorite franchises with costuming. It’s mostly been a spectator sport for me; I possess no ability whatsoever to sew, staple or glue two strips of fabric together. My only attempts, a Lost Dharma employee, a Fallout 3 vault-dweller, a member of the Blue Man Group and Pee-Wee Herman, have really been more for Halloween parties than actual con-going. Still, I’ve found and befriended many cosplayers on social media throughout the years, and thoroughly enjoy watching the process of building props and creating costumes from scratch.The act of cosplaying has, of course, been around for as long as sci-fi and fantasy conventions themselves, but the term “cosplay” (short for “costume play”) is generally cited as having been coined in the mid-1980s. Since then, it has evolved into its own art form and lately has erupted into the mainstream of entertainment, with many cosplayers now using their skills as a primary means of income. These days, it’s almost a fashion faux pas NOT to dress up while attending a convention.I’ll admit, many of the characters I’ve seen at cons and online go way over my head, especially those revolving around manga or anime, so it’s especially interesting to come across familiar cosplay, moreso when it involves my favorite franchises. Internally, I squee with delight at the sight of Chell from Portal, or Back to the Future’s Marty McFly, or any one of the thirteen Doctors. These characters, along with the contingent of Jedi, Klingons, Stormtroopers and Federation crewmen, are all pretty standard fare nowadays at any given con, however. This is why, every few years, I look forward to Dimension Jump, the premier Red Dwarf convention in the United Kingdom, hosted by the Official Red Dwarf Fan Club.Red Dwarf is, and has been, my all-time favorite television series, ever since I discovered it on PBS Channel 21 back in the 1990s. Alas, here in the United States, the show’s popularity isn’t as strong; I’ve been to nearly a dozen conventions on the East Coast, and have yet to come across even a single Red Dwarf cosplayer. Dimension Jump fills this void, offering a forum completely dedicated to fans of the show, and a place to show off their dedication in the form of cosplaying.And show it off they do! It’s amazing to see the level of creativity that goes into many of the Red Dwarf outfits displayed at DJ, as well as at other conventions, every year. Red Dwarf is primarily about a crew of four living in the isolation of a universe devoid of humankind; because of this limited cast of characters, you would think that Red Dwarf cosplay would be fairly restricted. But it’s because of this limitation that fans are often tasked with getting creative with their outfits.“I decided to do this [small offduty Czechoslovakian traffic warden/banana] cosplay as it was a bit different than other ones I had seen at previous DJs and a bit out the box,” explains Susan Casey, who attended this year’s DJXVIII. “I wanted to do something that only fans of Red Dwarf would understand and get what I was supposed to be straight away.”Susan Casey gets creative at DJXVIII as she cosplays as Kryten's inaugural lie from "Camille."2013’s Costume Contest winner, Cole Welch, blew everyone away at DJXVII with her literal Red Dwarf dress, complete with miniature spacewalking Lister and Starbug and Blue Midget light-up shoes. Her rationale was similar to Casey’s: “I chose to be the Red Dwarf itself, as looking back through costume competition images, it was one of the few things no one had done. The models around the shoes were an afterthought in the designing process.”Cole Welch poses with her award-winning Red Dwarf cosplay with actor Chris Barrie at DJXVII.Kerry King-Neale says she was similarly inspired for her Despair Squid cosplay for DJXVIII, noting, “I chose the Despair Squid because I hadn’t seen it done before, and I already cosplay Ursula the Sea Witch from[...]

Dreams 2.0


Dreams… everyone has them. Many people can't remember many of them, but they're always there, lurking in the night. Throughout the ages (and yes, I am, in fact, going to gloss over the fact that my last blog post was four years ago) certain patterns of dreams have emerged. Everyone knows the classics: Standing naked in front of a room full of people; being late for school or work; not being able to run or move. These themes are so commonplace within dreams that people have made entire careers out of writing books and analyzing these cryptic scenarios.

As society changes, so it seems does the subconscious, and I'm a bit leery as to the message mine has been trying to get across to me lately. You see, in the last few weeks, I've noticed a brand new "recurring theme" in my dreams: being lost with a failing/dying GPS or smartphone. Usually it's somewhere in the city or another location I'm vaguely familiar with (at least my dream-mind is) but don't necessarily know how to get around, but sometimes I haven't the slightest idea where I am. Sometimes I'm late for something, adding to the stress levels, and sometimes I'm just scared shitless because of the extra-creepiness of wherever the hell I am. But they're usually similar in one respect: The battery is about to die, and I, for the life of me, cannot get the technology to work properly for whatever reason. That reason ranges from issues with Siri (a very REAL issue my REAL self has in REAL life), or hitting the wrong buttons, or for some reason having an unfamiliar phone. In some dreams, I'm on a bike or scooter for some reason. I don't know.

What I do know is that while yes, it's true I have an utterly piss-poor sense of direction and religiously depend on GPS for any trip that involves a journey of more than three roads, I don't think I have an actual FEAR of being lost, much like I don't really have a fear of being naked or late, despite what my dreams may imply. Which means, much like those other staples of dream-repeats, the whole being-lost-with-technology-of-questionable-quality thing is really just another front for some deeper, less obvious neurosis. But what? Armchair analysts may jump in and say stuff like, "it signifies you feeling lost in life, or your fear of not being in control, or yadda yadda yadda." Which may all be true; I just find it fascinating that my brain has updated it's repertoire for the 21st century, and wonder if any other of the "standard scenarios" were similarly spawned from emerging technology.

For example, many people have dreams in which lights don't work, or it's dark, or for some reason they can't see properly. Was this scenario, in fact, created by the sudden popular use of electric lighting? I also often have dreams in which I can fly. Well, not like Superman up-in-the-sky flying, more like hovering just over the ground. I'm walking down the street, I take a giant step, and just never land, floating all the way to my destination. Could this be a deeply-rooted skewed take on my ancestor's fear of operating that newfangled device called an automobile? Did ancient farmers actually ever dream of being late for something, given that they were really just kinda stuck on their property, or did they start having nightmares about their new aqueduct system suddenly running dry?

We may never know, but it'd be interesting to see how other emerging technologies seep into our subconscious and start affecting our dreams. I hope to one day (er, night) be dreaming about my transporter sending me to the wrong planet.

It's cold outside, there's no kind of atmosphere.


No, faithful blog readers, today's entry is not about the ridiculously apocalyptic weather Mother Nature has blessed the Northeast with this winter. Today's selection is a combination "I freaking need to update this blog NOW"/shameless promotion piece about a British television series called Red Dwarf. Why, you may ask, am I writing a blog about this particular show, when I watch hundreds of hours of other sci-fi and/or comedy television, probably on a monthly basis, and never bothered to write about any of them? Well, you inquisitive and nosy little reader you, I'm writing about it because I WILL be writing about it. A LOT about it. A whole book's worth, actually.For those that don't already know, one of my "extra-curricular" activities involves being co-owner and art director for Hasslein Books, a little venture my good friend and author Rich Handley and I created to publish unofficial sci-fi genre reference books. To date we have published two well-received guides to the Planet of the Apes mythos: Timeline of the Planet of the Apes and Lexicon of the Planet of the Apes. Having sucked the last bit of life out of that particular universe, we decided to expand our lineup to include other franchises; currently Rich and fellow author Greg Mitchell are teaming up to tackle the Back to the Future universe, no small task by any means. As with the Apes projects, my involvement in production of these new books won't really kick in until after the manuscripts are written which, given the depth and detail to minutia these books typically include, can be well over a year. I've now watched Rich do this twice, and both times I had wondered: as big a 'fan' as I claim to be about certain franchises, television shows, movies, bands, etc., was there actually anything I truly felt so passionate about, wanted to know about in such intimate detail that I'd spend years hunting down, pouring over and dissecting every last scrap of material I could find? Invariably there was only one series I could ever see myself even attempting to do: Red Dwarf.If you're unfamiliar with the show, I only need three words to describe it – British. Sci-Fi. Comedy. That's all you need to know (that, and the term Red Dwarf refers to an immense crimson mining ship in space and not, as some people have actually asked me, about actual dwarfs). Trying to describe it any further than that would ultimately do the show a major disservice; Like most brilliant sci-fi television shows, it's not so much the overall premise that hooks you, so much as it is the characters (and more importantly the interaction between these characters), and how they play with the conventions of science fiction. And when it comes to Red Dwarf... oh, how they play; and sometimes not very nicely. Logic holes, plot holes, inconsistencies and whatnot, things that would normally drive a nitpicker like myself absolutely insane within a more serious program, are absolutely accepted (and in fact encouraged) in a typical Dwarf episode. It's the juxtaposition of simultaneously mocking and embracing science fiction clichés that makes the show more than just a comedy, but a smart comedy. And I've just tasked myself with writing the comprehensive encyclopedia on it. Fortunately for myself, there's not a huge amount of material to sift through... 'huge' being a relative term, of course. Some may consider meticulously analyzing 53 television episodes, 4 novels, 23 issues of fanzines, an official website, a roleplaying game and several other books on the subject a 'huge' amount; comparatively speaking, however, it's quite small compared to many sci-fi franchises such as, say, Planet of the Apes, which had literally hundreds of comics, books, novels, shows, unpublished scripts and other media in addition to the original movies.Despite the limited amount of resources to go through, I'm already finding myself running into a few interesting challenges. For one, much of the humor of Red Dwarf depends on the use of similes, metaphors and references to fict[...]

Holiday Negotiations


It's that time of year again, and as much as I love the holidays, there's always been one aspect of it that has gnawed at my tiny little conscious. We're all familiar with the symbols and traditions surrounding many of the well-known holidays – Santa and gift-giving for Christmas; bunnies, ducks and coloring eggs for Easter; pumpkins and trick-or-treating for Halloween; placing the fate of the world's climatic system in the paws of a large rodent in Pennsylvania for Groundhog's Day — All fairly harmless, good clean fun. But then there's one, gruesome holiday; one based on lies; whose traditions are built on the mass murder of millions of innocent creatures. I am, of course, referring to the genocide known as......the Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner."And why is this so terrible?", you may ask. "After all, we eat turkey every day." This is of course very true; it just seems to me, I don't know, cruel and somewhat zombie-like to all set our sights on one specific animal for one specific holiday just for the sake of tradition. But I'm not going to go on some lunatical rant about the morals of butchering entire lots of flightless fowl so American families have a reason to sit down at the dinner table together; oh no, this blog addresses the bigger question, the question nobody bothers to ask. Who the HELL did the turkeys piss off to get THAT gig?Seriously, when it came time for the powers-that-be to negotiate holiday contracts with various bidders, who exactly represented the turkey population? What kind of Bernie Madoff/Joe Jackson mutherfucker were they stuck with as an agent, because as little as I know about the legal process and contract negotiations, even I can tell they got a bum deal. Image with me, if you will, how it must have gone down:Turkeys: Phew! Sorry we're late, travel's a real bitch, what with being flightless and all... anyways, what'd we miss?Agent: Well, it was a real circus in there, all the major holidays were up for bid, but I think you'll be happy with the one we got.... Turkeys: Awesome! What happened?Agent: Well, first off, we couldn't get your own holiday like you requested; turns out the Groundhogs have a knack for seasonal predictions, which the Committee felt was a much better selling point than your ability to solve a Rubiks Cube in under ten minutes; I couldn't really argue against their case... Turkeys: Damn! Well, it was a longshot...Agent: We almost got you into Easter, but ultimately it was decided that your brightly-colored plumage would conflict with the pastel colors the committee had chosen for the holiday, so it went to the chicks. Unfortunately the Chicken Labor Union, which was funded by the Toledo Dye Corporation, teamed up with the Bunny Rabbit Worker's Force, which received major backing by the Hershey's Corporation; so now the official symbols of the Easter holiday are brightly colored chicken eggs and chocolate rabbits; what any of that has to do with the resurrection of Christ I have no idea, but their agent was fantastic!Turkeys: What the?? Please tell us we're not so convolutedly shoved into a holiday like that....Agent: Oh no no no.... your role is very significant to the holiday.Turkeys: Oh wait... is it Christmas? Did we get Christmas? Because, you know, we ARE cold-weather fowl....Agent: No, unfortunately the state assigned that one to some pediphile as community service; they WERE looking for animals to pull the flying sled though..... Turkeys: Perfect! Agent: However, I had left the meeting to go get some Jujubes, and the reindeers grabbed the contract..Turkeys: The REIN.... what the FUCK? They're not even birds!! Maybe we can't fly, but at least we have freaking FEATHERS! And who the hell eats Jujubes anymore?? So what was left? Halloween?Agent: Apparently turkeys aren't scary enough for... Turkeys: SCARY? you want to see SCARY you sonofabitch?!?! Tell me what we got stuck with! Valentine's Day??Agent: I'm sorry, no... independent studies showed that 98% of all regional turkeys can't sh[...]

The Game of Perfection (or, 'My First Stress Test')


Remember that 'ol Milton Bradley game, Perfection? The one with oddly-shaped pieces that needed to be placed in their respective holes on a big plastic board before the timer ran out, lest it all spontaneously springs up, tossing your well-placed shapes everywhere and giving you a near-heart attack in the process?

Yeah, I hated that game.

In the classic Chicken-and-Egg conundrum, I'm not quite sure which came first; my intense and primordial hatred and loathing for strictly-timed mental-aptitude tests which therefore governed the deeply rooted anxiety that game brought out; or the deeply rooted anxiety that game brought out, which in turn fed my intense and primordial hatred and loathing for strictly-timed mental-aptitude tests. In other words, do I despise the game because of what it is (basically a stress test) or do I hate what it is because of the game?

(image) They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I say I'll take my chances...

Because let's face it, that's really what this torture-chamber-in-a-box really is; an adolescent mental stress test. I don't know about you, but MY face never looked so happy and entertained as the cheery little cherubs on the box would suggest -- more often it would be decidedly more frowny in appearance, with possibly a bead or two of sweat forming on the brow as the incessant ticking of the timer distracted me from finding the hexigonally-shaped hole.

I do find it amusing there's a warning label on the box that simply says, "Choking Hazard...not suitable for children under 3", as if that's the only danger this game poses. I believe it should really say: "Psychological Hazard - may cause aneurysms due to exceedingly-high stress levels... may scar your child for life and cause him/her heightened anxiety when placed in similarly stressful situations down the road.... Side effects may include heightened agitation near clocks, an unnatural fear of geometric shapes, and a constant feeling of being 'rushed'... " To this day I can't play games (board, video, or otherwise) which force players to complete a certain amount of tasks before time runs out. And despite working in the publishing field, the thought of strict deadlines makes my heart palpitate. Sometimes, while working on a desperately-needed layout, I feel as if any minute my keyboard may go BAM!!! and spray key shrapnel everywhere like a Vietnamese booby-trap.

Thank you, Milton Bradley, you sons of a bitch.

(NOTE: Thanks to Steve for the inspiration to write this entry, who somehow was able to recite the entire Perfection jingle on cue.)

Technology turns 360°


No, that's not a typo; I'm not referring to technology taking "2 steps back" as I have in the past
(See "You'll Thank Me Someday...") which of course would be technology turning 180°... This is more about technology going through several steps to arrive at the exact spot is started, more along the lines of this entry ("Call, Click, and Come on in") over at the Heart and Mind Blog. In order to begin, though, I do need to refer back to the former post.

Back when I first started archiving the blogs on paper, an argument was made about the redundancy of typing, posting and storing a blog electronically, only to go back and print an archaic 'paper copy' of it as backup, and if this practice was in fact going against the grain of technology. My counter-argument referred to people who buy expensive phones with the capability to actually talk to people, only to use them to hold entire conversations via texting, which is arguably much slower and more painstaking. I pointed out how that practice has become the norm and "acceptable" in today's world, and the people who were ribbing me about printing a book off of an electronic medium should just get off my damn back already.

We're still only talking a technological 180° turn here (going from "talking" to "texting"), but what inspired this entry is what apparently is coming next. Because Congress is only now starting to realize that texting while driving could potentially kill you and others, companies are starting to develop speech-to-text technology for phones which will, brace yourselves, convert your spoken words into text, which will then be sent through your phone. Let me reiterate that. You can now SPEAK into your PHONE, which will convert into TEXT, which will be sent through your PHONE, to be read... on another PHONE. I'm guessing its only a matter of time before the other end gets converted by text-to-speech software, making this ludicrous circle complete. Now it can take a full half hour to have a ten minute conversation!

I'm not sure how many lives this will eventually save, or how many accidents this will really avoid; but I can already foresee the damage this can potentially cause to the fragile relationships between shallow narcissistic people who simply can't wait to get to their destination before texting about weekend barhopping. Let's face it, no technology is foolproof; a girl may get a text asking what she wants to do tonight, and she verbally answers, "Club Houstead", which her phone translates as "club you in the head" and sends on its merry way... and she'll forever wonder why that friend suddenly turned really bitchy and seemed to lose interest in hanging out. Or what happens if you're listening to your iPod whilst dictating a message to your mom? Listening to Nine Inch Nails might not be a good idea while making dinner plans... "I'll be over around 6 to f*ck you like an animal..." Yikes.

Totalitarianism, Anarchy, and Utopia: The Goldilocks Syndrome


I am by no means a scholar, so anyone expecting a deep philisophical discussion on the political climate of today's world can just skip to the next person's blog. No, this is merely an attempt to straighten out the thoughts in my head, which at this moment involve the means to a Utopian Society, and why humanity's abusive nature will never allow one. But first a prologue to that idea. I am a big believer in the 'universal balance', the idea that light cannot exist without dark, good without bad, the duality of the cosmos, karma, etc. It is the fundamental Yin-Yang theory, and one of the reasons for getting one tattooed on my leg; the other was to symbolize my personality in general. That's not to say I have a split personality; it's more about the duplicity in my beliefs, the ongoing series of arguements between the devil and angel on my shoulders, with rarely a clear winner. I tend to see both sides of a story as having legitimately good and bad points, with different shades of gray, and have a hard time deciding which side I'm on. In trying to resolve conflicts, both internally as well as externally, rarely do I find one side unequivically right and one side inarguably wrong; to me life has always been a wide spectrum of grays, the trick is to determine which side has the lesser amount of it. Unfortunately human beings are probably the single biggest gray area in the cosmos, which makes them the hardest to figure out and predict. Here's why: the more complex you make a mechanism, the more chances there are for things to go horribly wrong. You see it in cars, you see it in computers, and you see it in living things. A grasshopper is not as likely to maul you unprovoked as a dog would; likewise, a dog is not as likely to imprison members of your family in a power struggle to gain control over the household as, say, some humans might do to a country. The human brain is the single most complex mechanism known to exist, and thus the most unpredictable. Yes there are 'good' people and 'bad' people, (and let's not forget these very concepts are based on perspective) but very few of us are totally 100% saintly (yin) or completely 100% evil (yang). We all have that little spot of contrast within that adds a gray tinge to the mix. It makes for an extremely diverse world. So what does this have to do with the title of this blog? Well, I often find myself looking around the world and saying to myself, "Well, this sucks". Mostly it's while reading the news. And being me, I frequently try to think of solutions to the various problems I see, if only in hypothetical terms. I ask myself, "What would need to change in order to obtain the level of peace and harmony so often seen in science fiction's version of the future? What do we need more/less of in order to create a Utopian society? What exactly IS the definition of a 'Utopian' society?" Well, a generally accepted perception of the perfect society seems to be one with no crime, no poverty, no disease, no hate, no corruption; where everyone lives harmoniously and no one is left wanting. Where the need for material gain is replaced by the need to improve the society as a whole. And that, I'm sorry to say, will never happen. It's not being pessimistic, it's not being fatalistic; it's being a realist; unfortunately being realistic oftentimes tilts towards the pessimistic side. It will never happen primarily due to the reasons above; There are too many people, with too many different beliefs, that are too set in their own ways. I'll break it down: In order to have a purely Utopian society, you'd have to convince everyone on Earth to: Have the same ideals, ethics and values; Have the same beliefs and belief system or at the very least TRULY and TOTALLY believe in religious tolerance. Have the same perception of justice, and agree on a system of law and a method of enforcing it; Have the utmost respect for and faith in their [...]

Random Boba Fett Thought of the Day


Do you think Boba Fett was a little freaked out while working for the Empire, you know, with all his clones walking around working for Vader? I mean, now that we know the stormtroopers are just 2nd generation Clone Troopers, all made from the same genetic material as Jango and thus, Boba himself, and not having lived among them since childhood, wouldn't you be a little creeped out walking around Cloud City knowing everyone in shiny white plastic suit looks and sounds exactly like you? I don't know, maybe not... maybe it was just killing him not to be able to teach them to shoot straight or give them armor that can actually block a laser....

I watch the Watchmen


"The studios are extended gutters and the gutters are full of garbage; the accumulated filth of all their greed will foam up about their waists, and all the studio execs and publicity whores will look up and shout 'make us a sub-par movie with over-rated actors while defiling the source material and compromising integrity for a quick buck', and Zack Snyder will look down and whisper, 'no.'"While it's very likely this exchange never actually took place, it may as well have, as it's perfectly clear having just seen Watchmen that director Zack Snyder not only lived and breathed this epic comic series (my friend Rich would kill me if I used the term 'graphic novel') during production of this movie, but also refused to buckle under any pressure that may have been applied by the suits to make just another run-of-the-mill blockbuster action flick. The end result of this resolve is a film worthy in every way of the name 'Watchmen', a story long considered to be ultimately unfilmmable. That's not to say that the film is without it's issues; I'd be hardpressed to find any film I couldn't nitpick a few points on, especially when it comes to adaptations. However they're mostly issues born out of necessity; problems that arose because bigger problems needed to be solved, and in this respect I consider them minor at best.Before I get started, a word of warning: This film is not for everyone. People who know very little of the Watchmen universe, it's characters, backstories, and the comic may find this film extremely disjointed and very hard to follow. Had I not just recently read the novel, I may have had a very different reaction to the film. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that people who aren't well-versed in the Watchmen universe should avoid it; quite the contrary, by all means book your tickets now, if for any other reason than to whet your appetite enough to want to run to the bookstore to learn more about these fascinating characters and their motivations. Just don't go into it thinking you're getting the full story - the book, having originally been 12 separate issues of a comic, is disjointed enough; add to that the various elements that needed to be cut or condensed to fit into a feature film and you may walk away with a lot of questions.For those that ARE well versed, you're in for a major treat. It's clear this movie was directed at the fans, but not in an in-your-face kind of way that cheapens many other film adaptations. Although storyboarded directly from the comic panels (there are certain scenes you can literally overlay over the film and not see a difference), it never comes across as forced or out of place. One of the many concerns most people had was how the dialog would come across; whether it would be word-for-word and thus sound like, well, cheesy comic book dialog, or fleshed out enough to keep it from being cringe-worthy. Fortunately the answer is the latter. Most of the key dialog is there verbatim, from Rorschach's journal entries and trademark "hurm" grunt (and no, he doesn't actually SAY 'hurm', much to my delight) to Dr. Manhattans miracle speech on Mars. But it never comes across as a bad audition read; Proof positive that writing is only half the battle, you need good actors to give the words life.Speaking of actors, it'd be damned near impossible to collect a better cast to play these characters. If you've read every other review of this movie, you know by now that Jackie Earl Haley deserves an Oscar nomination for portraying one of the most fascinating characters ever created on paper, Rorschach. Certain actors were born to play certain roles, and Haley has finally fulfilled his destiny. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is the living embodiment of the Comedian. And Patrick Wilson will have future generations of viewers wondering whether the book was actually illustrated AFTER the film, basing th[...]

Worst-case scenario


I'm going to take a literal lesson from my friend Steve over at the Heart and Mind Blog and deconstruct a popular modern phrase which seems to have lost it's meaning through repetitive use. Today's victim: PHRASE: "Worst-case scenario"USAGE: Typically used by someone attempting to help another make a choice or decision; for example, taking a job or asking a girl out – FORMAT: Stating the preferred choice, followed by the phrase "Worst-case scenario:____ then what the person perceives as the worst outcome, which usually ends up not being so bad, in an attempt to convince the other person to follow their advice.EXAMPLE: "Dude, I think you should ask your sister's friend out, Worst-case scenario: she says no, no big deal!"VARIATIONS: "Worse comes to worst", "What's the worst that can happen?" Now I'm certainly guilty of using this particular phrase ad nauseum, as I am constantly trying to convince other people to see my point of view or take my advice. It's a good method of weighing the pros and cons of a particular decision; when the benefits seem to be equally balanced, the other alternative is to choose the 'lesser of two evils' as it were. But it always nagged at me whenever I said it, because deep down I knew almost certainly that what I was suggesting couldn't possibly be the WORST case scenario. Realistically, things can always get worse. Take the above example: Asking your sister's friend out. Is her just saying 'no' really the "worst" thing that can happen? Maybe she says no, slaps you, laughs in your face and stomps on your foot.... Maybe she says no, whips out a switchblade and starts wildly flailing about towards you, yelling "DIE, you disgusting pig!" Hell, maybe she says YES, you go out on a few dates, spend lots of money on dining out and movies, cuddling, kissing and canoodling every step of the way, and when it finally comes time to get your freak on, she gets undressed and you suddenly realize exactly what kind of 'operation' she's been going on about for the last few weeks.... You just never know.Here's another example: You already gave your two weeks notice at work, and your boss is really ticking you off today. A co-worker may suggest that you go tell him off, the 'worst case scenario' being that he fires you... Har har. Well, yes, he may simply fire you on the spot, or he may dismiss you, then send assassins out to kill your entire family. He may choose to shrug it off, or he may grab you, beat the living crap out of you and push you out of the 12th story window his office just happens to be on. Or, he may just smile at you devilishly like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons, fingering that button on his desk you always wondered about, finally realizing it's purpose... the quick release trap door to an underground alligator pit. With these alternatives possible, just firing you would seem to be the BEST case scenario, in my opinion. But even those examples are not really the absolute WORST that can happen. You can ask the girl out, she says no, laughs in your face, and nuclear war breaks out and the entire earth is decimated and reduced to rubble. Sure, one event isn't actually related to the other, but you have to admit that's the worst it can get... or is it? Maybe you tell your boss off, he kicks you out of his office, and the world is attacked by hideously slimy diseased alien things that instantly enslave humanity, making us their sex toys; but since our puny little genitals aren't nearly enough for their 6 ft. tall vaginas, they need to use our entire BODIES to pleasure themselves. Within days every tall thin bald man is wiped out by suffocation, leaving the rest of us to suffer an excruciating life as human dildos. Now, you tell me.... does it get any worse than that? I think not. So, rather than relaying this horrid tale every time we try to convince others [...]

The System Works


As I've stated in the past, I'm not a very politically-minded individual, and even when I do get worked up about who and what's going on I generally try to keep it off the blog, for fear of alienating a portion of my 5 readers. However, after watching the election coverage last night, my feelings can be summed up with this quote from the hit television series South Park; "Wow, I haven't seen a beating like that since Rodney King!" (And no, the irony of that quote is not lost on me...) After the last few so-called elections I all but lost complete faith in humanity, fearing some other "technicality" would allow the empire to retain it's grip on the American people. But people had enough, there was to be no more. And that is Mr. Bush's legacy; not being the shiny beacon of light in a post-911 world, not being the man who brought justice to the powers that would seek to destroy us; no, his legacy is the ruination of the Republican Party and becoming almost as universally loathed and hated across the planet as the man he calls our enemy. The numbers say it all… a 2 to 1 lead in electoral votes? People lined up in Times Square? Cities in other countries having election day parties?? It was nothing short of a controlled revolution, and the people prevailed.
It actually felt good to be an American this morning; driving in to work I felt an enormous sense of pride in having had a hand in the change that is to come. As I looked in my rear-view mirror, I swore I saw a technicolor sunrise washing unnaturally vibrant colors over the eastern sky while "What a Wonderful World" played on the radio; looking ahead I swerved to miss a dozen or so little-people dancing in the roads singing "Ding Dong, the witch is dead..." Smiling, I looked off to my right and noticed the stark red neon lines outlining the topography softly change to a more comforting light blue. Off in the distance I could see a tall, slender building supporting a giant eye frantically searching around, then exploding in a violent fireball. With slight trepidation I glanced over to my left, and there they were: Jubilant Ewoks singing their "Yub Nub" song, watching X-Wing fighters soar overhead through a dazzling display of fireworks. It truly was a wonderful world.

(NOTE: The preceding was a dramatization and not a freaky drug-induced romp through cinema-land)

Go Fish


No, not the game. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that made me laugh. I didn't chuckle right away; it was only after I thought about it's message a little did the absurdity of it really kick in. It said, simply:


The idea, of course, is the driver is so extraordinarily good at fishing, the mere mention of his name (to fish) strikes fear into the hearts... of fish.

Here's what I found amusing about this particular statement: Of all the Game and Wildlife sports, fishing seems to me to be the most... I don't know, passive. Now I'm in no way putting down, making fun of or belittling fishing; I'm sure there's a certain amount of skill and knowledge involved in successfully catching fish, and if that's your outdoor sport of choice, then enjoy to the fullest. But let's face it, of all the sports which involve stalking, hunting and killing prey, a worm on a hook seems the most easily avoidable. Guy sits in boat, plunks down line, and waits for hungry fish to come to him. There's nothing to justify any fish fearing him... just simply avoid the bait! At least with hunting there's a real sense of, well... being HUNTED. The deer, rabbit or duck has a reason to fear the hunter.... they're actively being tracked, stalked, chased. No matter where the animal goes, the hunter could show up and BLAM! at any minute. That's a man to be feared; not the man whose line you happen to stumble upon and think looks yummy. If you're going to personify fish to the extent that they know a man's name when they hear it, then it's reasonable to assume they're intelligent enough to sidestep the hook and be on their way.
Think of it this way: Which man would you actually FEAR, the enemy with a sniper rifle who could pick you off at any moment, or the guy that lays the minefield? Sure both are deadly, but one's actively trying to kill you, while the other is passively hoping you just happen to step on one of his mines. I think the minelayer would get laughed out of the bunker if he went around claiming the enemy shakes at the sound of his name.

Of course, if the driver of the vehicle with the bumper sticker had a row of fishheads on spikes lining his bumper, well that's a different story... even I'D be scared of that guy!

Quotey Fingers


The other day I was writing an e-mail to a friend of mine, ribbing him about his new 'working at home' gig, and during my bashing I wrote something along of lines of "oh yeah, all that (quotey fingers) WORK that you do, doing all that (quotey fingers) WORKING." We all know what 'quotey fingers' means, it's that two fingered gesture one makes when stressing a point in a sarcastic tone. The late George Carlin even listed individuals using this gesture as "people he could do without." Anyway, I was trying to be funny by actually spelling out quotey fingers instead of just putting the text in quotes like normal people do, the humor being that not only was it an extra 17 characters of typing rather than just hitting ", but it forced the visual image of me actually making the finger gesture, while reading it in text form. It was only after thinking about the whole thing in greater detail (because, well... that's just what I do) that I realized the real absurdity of the whole quotey fingers phenomenon. Consider this:
If one wanted to determine the origin of using quotes to sarcastically stress a point (if one was, say, really really bored), then one could argue it started as a verbal method of slowing down and stressing a word or phrase to suggest an opposite meaning. "Oh, yeah, they went back to his place for CAWFFEEEEEE" suggests they were not, in fact, drinking coffee. This evolved into quotation marks when in written form in order to stress the point: "...and afterwards I'm sure they "went to sleep"" implies no sleep was had.
Then, not convinced the sarcastic tone of the spoken word was enough, people started supplementing the tone with using their fingers to mimic quotation marks above their heads, placing virtual punctuation around the phrase needing emphasis, hoping that will drive home the bitter sarcasm they were trying to get across. What resulted was essentially a redundant gesture, because it came from a written translation of a particular way of speaking. It's no different than asking a question (complete with raising the pitch on the last syllable, the tonal cue of a query) and squiggling your hand around in the shape of a question mark at the end. Yeah, we get it, it's a question, the fact that your pitched changed at the end gave it away, we didn't need the visual.

And that, my friends, is where my humor comes in. Writing "quotey fingers", the spelling out of a hand gesture derived from the written punctuation referring to a tonal difference of a spoken phrase meant to display sarcasm, is damned funny to me.

Yeah, sometimes even I worry about myself.

Judge Giachettica: The Waiting Room incident


Wow, where has the time gone? I can't believe it's been almost 3 months since my last post; I blame it all solely on my bathroom project. Alright, I'm sure there were other factors as well, but it's just easier to say that lately all my time and money has been spent painting, flooring, caulking, nailing, and more painting in my bathroom. But it's almost done, the dust is beginning to settle, and I can finally get my head out of the glue and paint fumes and resume my duties as blogmaster. Today's entry deals with an encounter I had the other day in the waiting room of my allergist.I consider myself a fair and just person. Occasionally I can let my emotions cloud my judgement and react without thinking through a scenario, but I believe fundamentally I have a good sense as to what's right and wrong. I was even almost... ALMOST... sad that I didn't get picked for jury duty when I got called in last month. As I grow older I've come to understand that resolving conflicts are almost never as simple as "he's right/he's wrong", but more about determining who's MORE right and/or MORE wrong. And the hardest conflicts to deal with, of course, are the ones where fair and just people look at both sides and say, "well, they BOTH have equally valid points, neither is more right or wrong than the other." Hence my little internal dilemma when the following example played out.NOTE: The following descriptions are meant to paint a picture of the people and events that transpired, and are not meant to lead readers to prejudge or support either side.A few weeks back, I was sitting in the waiting room of my allergist waiting to be called in for my weekly shots. There were a few other people in the room waiting for their turn as well; among them was a man appearing to be in his late 50's, with long white hair, beard and wearing I believe a leather vest, or something that looked like biker-wear. (we'll call him 'hippy biker' for lack of a better term) and a somewhat heavy-set black man in his early 40's talking on his cell phone (designated 'phone guy'). Now phone guy was talking away, but not particularly loud, and not at all offensively, but he was talking, despite the sign on the front door of the office that requested cell phones not be used. I didn't particularly care, having tuned him out and gone off into my own little world. Hippy biker, however, was not as passive, and asked in a not-so-completely-innocuous tone, "Excuse me, could you take your call outside?" My ears perked up... spidey senses tingling, I felt a sudden rise in tension. Phone guy just kind of stared at him for a moment, obviously dumfounded by the request. He asked again, "Could you take your call outside, it's very annoying". Phone guy stared some more, then simply replied, "You go outside." Hippy biker went on to explain how rude it was for people to talk on their cell phones in public (I assume he meant in close quarters, like buses, waiting rooms, etc.), phone guy responded by saying he didn't care, which was met by a very sarcastic "You're very considerate, thanks, very considerate." Some more words were exchanged, including phone guy addressing Hippy biker as "boy", then he was called in for his appointment. Now I really don't like confrontation and usually don't get myself involved, but my body was all stiffened up with adrenaline, because halfway through I decided if this escalated to blows I might need to intervene, and it looked like it might. With the danger now passed, I was left with several thoughts and questions in my head. Who did I think was right and wrong here? How would I have reacted had it been me on the phone? Would my knee-jerk reaction have been the same as a more thought-out analysis of the situa[...]

Oh, Please sign my book.....


OK, this may not exactly be real blogworthy material, but in case my readers don't scrutinize every square inch of my blog site every time they log on, I'd like to announce that to the right over there, under the "About this Blog" blurb, is a link to my newly formed guestbook. The reason for creating this section is simple: Newbies to the Wonderful World of Paul's Mind may not feel comfortable leaving comments on any of the specific topics posted here, or may not have a strong opinion on the most recent entry. In fact, it's pretty apparent they don't. This allows a place for visitors who, either by accident or intentionally, find my blog in their travels through the World Wide Web to comment on the overall experience of reading through my entries, or to simply stop in and say hi. I often joke about my loyal readers numbering in the single digits, that nobody else would read dreck like this, but in reality I've always been curious about how many people actually DO find the site and stop in to read. Hopefully this will give me a better idea of who and where my readers are.
Of course, to me this "Guestbook" idea always seemed like a throwback to the 'ol days of graduation, where throngs of students spend the last remaining days of their school career running around getting friends and people they barely know to sign their yearbooks, all in an attempt to look cool and feel good about themselves by having every page covered in signatures. Believe me, my creating this guestbook for total strangers to sign is in no way a sad attempt to relive that era and make up for the virtually unmarked yearbook I came out of high school with..... really. This apparent need to solicit every man, woman and child on the internet to sign my humble little guestbook does NOT stem from a feeling of inadequacy, low self esteem, and unpopularity... Honestly!

Now PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE just sign the damn book!!

"Bring Me Elmo's Head on a Platter!"


WARNING: GRUESOME CONTENT - For those with a weak stomach, click off this blog now. I cannot be responsible for any nightmares or breakdowns in mental stability that may ensue.

Unless your child is sadistic enough to demand this for their birthday, I strongly urge you to reconsider bringing them to Waldbaums to choose a cake for his/her next party. Strolling through the aisles of the supermarket while shopping (yes, I DO shop, and no, that's not the gruesome part), I unexpectedly happened across this hideous scene in the bakery department, a display more suitable for a Halloween wax museum or Horrorfest than a grocery store. I was appalled; Young children, innocently holding on to their mother's hand without a care in the world, should never have to be exposed to such horrors. Don't say I didn't warn you.


Marie Antoinette suffered a similar fate when suggesting cake.

What would possess any parent to purchase this abomination for their child? Forgetting the whole "it's freaking Elmo's HEAD on a platter" thing, it's not even a close resemblance of the muppet; in fact, it really does look like a decomposing head! Scary by any means. And of course we all know the birthday traditions about the birthday boy/girl and the cake.... "Hey, let's traumatize Jimmy some more by forcing him to make the first incision into Elmo's skull!"

I implore you, do not put your child through such agony. You'll pay for it in therapy for years.

Seriously... WTF??


I try, I really do try, not to make fun of the younger generation; if for any other reason than the mere fact that they're simply too easy a target. Anyone can make an 'underwear hanging out' joke referring to current styles, or a 'would you like fries with that' comment suggestive of the overall intelligence of today's youth. It's just too easy, and quite frankly makes me sound like an old friggin fart. Today however I'll run the risk and am willing to make an exception, because I ran into a situation the other day that left even me speechless. Let me set up the scenario:

Saturday afternoon; Smithhaven Mall. Spencers (big shock there). Shopping for a birthday card for my brother. (yes, Spencers sells birthday cards..) Finding a card a liked, I bring it up to the stoner cashier for purchase. Now, I'm calling him a stoner, because I'm trying to give him the benefit of the doubt here; to say otherwise would imply that he really was, in fact, seriously mentally challenged. Now if that was the case then I must truly apologize in advance, I don't make fun of the handicapped; but I have a hard time believing that, equal rights aside, even Spencers would let a mentally handicapped individual handle the cash drawer by himself. So, for the sake of the story, we'll just assume he was a stoner. Anyway, I bring the card up to the stoner, who takes his sweet time ringing up the order... the order of ONE birthday card mind you. He asks me if that is all; I say yes. Time passes. He asks me if I'd like a Spencers preferred customer card. I say no. Time passes. He asks, "Are you sure?" I say yes, I'm sure. More time passes. He starts to say the price of the card.... "Twenty, wait....." It takes him a full 15 seconds to realize a single birthday card shouldn't cost twenty four dollars. "$2.40" he finally says. I quickly hand him a five, my patience starting to wear thin. I never in my wildest dreams expected the next phrase...

"....would you like a gift receipt?"

"Uh... wha? Ummm.. aaaa....errrr... huh?" That's what went through my mind in the span of a split second. A gift receipt..... for a birthday card. I'd give real money to see the security camera footage of my face as the question was posed to me. As it stood I simply just said, "No" and forced the muscles in my eyes from rolling back in disbelief. Had it not already taken way too long to purchase a single birthday card, I might have actually called him on it, said "Yes, please", gotten a gift receipt and had my brother try to return it for a full refund... signed, licked and all. But I just wasn't in the mood, holiday shopping will do that to you.

Next time, however, I will be prepared.

Bush's Days are Numbered, Literally


Taking a political cue from my friend Rich's blog (Criteria for Impeachment), I decided to write a small post about something I found in the mall while shopping the other day which confirmed the state of Mr. Bush's popularity. It still baffles me how it seems, at least in my daily life, that Bush denouncers outnumber Bush supporters about 100-1, yet he was elected not once but TWICE. It still baffles me that this man most likely holds the record as being the most loathed and hated U.S. President in the history of our country, and yet he still gleefully holds the reigns of our lives. "The most hated President? Isn't that a bit harsh?" you might say (you probably wouldn't, but you might just to keep the conversation going). Well, look, every President in my recent memory has had his fair share of foibles, and subsequently has been ripped apart by the media, late-night talk show hosts, and stand-up comedians worldwide. It comes with the territory, and Bush is no different. But what makes him stand out, however, is the LEVEL of abuse he elicits. Never before have I seen so many anti-presidential memorabilia sold in stores; entire books written JUST about a President's lack of verbal skills; movies made about a President's alleged involvement in terrorist activities, and now, this:


A calendar dedicated solely to counting down the final days of a President's reign of terror. Priceless. It's non-aggressive protestation at it's finest, and really gives a new literal meaning to the phrase "his days are numbered". What I found even funnier, however, was while looking for an image of this year's calendar, I discovered that for the past several years this company has put out this calendar, slowly counting down the days until this man is finally and forcefully removed from office. Now how many Presidents have you known to evoke this kind of animosity from the American people?

Got a Buck? Go Elsewhere


Throughout my many years in the publishing and advertising fields, I've learned and accepted this simple fact: clients and advertisers love to idiot-proof the hell out of their advertisements. "If we don't put the price 10 times bigger than the rest of the type, they'll think it's free"; "If we don't put our name and phone number 15 different places, they won't know who to call..."; "More color means more sales, add more color!" So it really cracks me up when I see marketing that completely abandons this concept. Case in point: I came across a store in a strip mall yesterday whose name pretty much said it all: "Things Over $1.00". Yes, that was the name of the store; it was not just a sign in the window, it was not in front of a single aisle; you have Target, you have Best Buy, and you have Things Over $1.00. Just the title alone made my eyes roll in astonishment, wondering what chimp got paid millions of dollars for that genius bit of marketing. But it's the implication that really gets me. Things over $1. They sell things that cost more than a dollar. Doesn't really leave much out, does it? I mean, does that imply that I can go in there and buy, say, a phone, or a pool, or a welcome mat, or a motorcycle, or a beret, or an air conditioner, or a couch, or a suit, or a python, or a calendar, or a shovel, or a hamburger, or a set of speakers? Last I checked these things all cost more than a dollar, so hypothetically I should be able to find any one of these items there. What am I supposed to expect to buy when walking into this store?
Finally, a true one-stop shopping experience

I mean, I get it. I know what they're trying to do. They're in the same field as those "99¢ Stores" and "Under $1" places. But there are two flaws in their strategy: First off, The whole appeal of a "99¢ store" is just that: everything is 99 cents. You can go in with a few bucks and leave with several things. It's almost like a garage sale, without worrying about whose feet those nailclippers touched last. What exactly is the appeal of a store that touts everything in their store as costing "over a dollar"? Sure it could mean some things are, like, $1.09, but it also means some might be $2.09, or $4.99, or $9.99. At that point they're really no better than any other store that sells low-end crap, so why bother?
The second point is simply this: it's a grim reminder of today's economic environment. Over at the Thymenage blog, Steve wrote about a similar phenomenon having to do with gumball machines and the inflation from 10 cents to 25 cents to now up to 50 cents plus, all for the same crap you got 15 years ago. Click here to read. This is similar to the trend we're seeing here: first the "Under $1" store, then the "99¢" Store, now the "Over $1" Store. I for one am putting my foot down here and now; I refuse to shop at any crappy merchandise establishment selling their cheap sub-standard goods for anything over a dollar! Join me, and we'll ensure a future free of overpriced knick-knacks and clothes hangars, knock-off batteries and plastic tools.

Torture!! Bloody Torture!!


I try not to do "hey, this happened to me today" blog entries, but this I think deserves an exception. I've been following this game 'Bioshock' closely for almost a year; it's the first of many Next Gen PC games coming out in the next few months, and it's finally being released August 21st, a day after my birthday. I had heard rumors that some stores were selling it already, even though they were supposed to wait until the 21st by law, but I never thought anything of it, figuring it was only the XBox version that was circulating around and I'd never have the luck to come across a store that was selling them anyway. I decided I wanted the Collector's Edition, which comes with a whole mess of geeky goodness to satisfy my thirst for tacky extras, including a figurine of the main baddie of the game, the Big Daddy; a soundtrack; a bonus behind-the-scenes DVD; and other fun stuff. So today I figured I'd check in at the local Gamestop store during lunch to see what the deal was, as the Collectors Edition was supposedly a Gamestop exclusive. Here's the dialog, in a nutshell:Gamestop Employee: "Can I help you find something?"Paul: "Sort of, are you guys getting the Collector's Edition of Bioshock for the PC?"GE (slowly): "Yeeees.... yes we are"Paul: "Um..Ok....." GE: "Here's the story on that..."Paul: "There's a story?"GE: "Yes, the story is we're only getting one Collector's Edition in this store on release day...."(OK, I thought, here comes the high pressure sell, even though I already decided I was pre-ordering it....)GE: "...and it's waiting to be reserved"(At least he didn't say it was already reserved... I don't care if there was one or one hundred, as long as they keep one for me.)Paul: "Ok, sounds good." (slight pause)GE: "Wanna know the worst thing?"Paul: "Um, OK, what's that?"GE: "It's sitting in our back room there, but we can't sell it until the 21st."Paul: "WHAT? You guys got them in already? How'd that happen? I thought it went Gold only a few days ago."GE: "No idea. They came in early, but we're not allowed to sell them until Tuesday."Paul: "Arg! You gotta be kidding me! It's the collectors edition?"GE: "Yep"Paul: "With the porthole window box?"GE: "Yep."Paul: "And the Big Daddy figurine looking out the porthole?"GE: "Yep."Paul: "Aagghhh! You're killing me! Hey, does it make a difference that my birthday is Monday??"GE: "Nope"Paul: "DAMMIT!"GE: So...would you like to pre-order it?"Paul: "Son of a.....(sigh).... yeah.""you will be mine Big Daddy, oh yes, you will be mine"So now I have to freakin' wait until Tuesday to pick up the most highly anticipated game of the year while it sits on a back shelf in Gamestop's inventory room. I know what you're all thinking... you're thinking, "Geez, I'm surprised you didn't ask to see it and hold the box in your grubby little freak." Well, I'd be lying if I said I didn't STRONGLY consider asking him to bring it out to see what it looked like, but decided to salvage what little dignity and self-respect I had left and departed. I can wait another few days, I guess.[...]

Stupid People in the News


I'm sorry, I tried to come up with a more clever title for this blog entry, but sometimes the direct approach just works the best. I usually don't do commentary on news events, but this one just had me so baffled I felt the urge to write and let the world (or at least my circle of readers) know these people exist.
You may recall a few years back a very bizarre event which occurred in Erie, PA. A pizza deliveryman walked into a bank with what appeared to be a bomb locked around his neck, and demanded money. After the robbery he left the bank and was soon stopped by police, to whom he explained that he had been taken hostage while delivering a pizza, forced to wear the collar bomb and told to rob the bank. He insisted the bomb was set to go off if he did not return, and sure enough shortly after being handcuffed to a police vehicle, was killed when the bomb detonated. What prompted me to run to my computer and blog was the news article I read today, announcing police had arrested two individuals as co-conspirators to that bank robbery plot. One of the two, Marjorie Armstrong (the apparent ringleader) is currently serving time in prison for the murder of her boyfriend. She was linked to the robbery scheme when the body of her boyfriend was discovered in a freezer in a house near the building to which the pizza deliveryman was delivering a pizza at the time of his abduction. Let me repeat: She's already been prosecuted and imprisoned for the murder of her boyfriend, and has now been charged with plotting a bank robbery. OK, now for the 'stupid' part. In defending his client, Miss Armstrong's attorney denies she could have had any part in the planning and execution of the bank robbery, saying (and this is a direct quote), "Margie's bipolar and has other problems...She won't get off of something until that thing is settled. So it's hard for me to believe she'd be planning a bank robbery when she's concerned about her boyfriend's body."

I'll pause to let that sink in............

This statement, I believe, is proof positive that evolution has officially stopped, reversed course and is now racing backwards. I don't even know where to begin to describe how many ways this single quote justifies EVERY dead lawyer joke I've ever heard in my life. His defense... of this woman..... is she's bipolar and therefore incapable of dealing with two heinous crimes simultaneously. Wow... who knew the mental illness card could now be taken to such a new low. I can see where we're heading: "Your honor, my client couldn't possibly have committed this murder, because she has OCD, and there were dirty dishes left at the scene of the crime, which my client would NEVER have left without washing......" Wait for it... you know it's coming.

Rock On, You Crazy Hero


Damn you Joe. Damn you to hell.For all of you who are NOT Joe, let me explain: I have this problem you see. My head is like a fertile garden; once a seed is planted it takes root and grows at an extraordinary pace until I satisfy it. Knowing this, and knowing how susceptible I am to suggestion, especially when it comes to gaming, my friend Joe maliciously and with intent to disrupt my life planted a seed that would spread and take over my mind like a parasitic weed. This seed: Guitar Hero 2.I don't think even Joe expected what happened next.I generally don't like console games, and never really got into them. I didn't have Guitar Hero 2. I didn't have a Playstation 2. And I certainly didn't have not one but two Guitar controllers. But a week after being shown a video on YouTube of some kid rocking out to Rush's "YYZ" on Guitar Hero 2 Click here to watch , and a brief visit to eBay, I now do. And let me tell you, it was the best $200 I've spent in years! This game completely and unequivocally rocks. For those who live shielded from the video game world, a brief description may be in order. It comes with a guitar-shaped controller with five colored fret buttons on the neck and a strum bar in the body, essentially letting you mimic the act of playing a guitar while color-coded notes fly down your screen according to the song being played. The object of course is to hit the right colored notes in time with those on the screen, whilst hitting the strum bar to simulate strumming the strings of a guitar. If you've ever seen Dance Dance Revolution, it's along the same lines, but with less energy expended and alot more hand dexterity required.Yes, Steve... I wore the "National Scream" shirt just for you. The greatest appeal of the Guitar Hero series is simply this: it gives musically-challenged people like me the ability to feel as if I'm really playing guitar along to some of rocks greatest tunes, without having a clue how to actually play. Anyone who's ever fingered their steering wheel while driving along to "You Really Got Me" or "Sweet Child O' Mine" can understand the attraction of this game. It's basically air guitar with an added sense of skill and accomplishment. I've never played a real note on a guitar in my life, and yet can already nail riffs and chords on the Medium setting. Don't let me misguide you however; this game does NOT teach you how to play guitar, no more than playing a combat simulator teaches you to how to fly a fighter jet. But just like piloting a virtual jet into a virtual war is meant to be enjoyable to the typical gamer without being overly complicated (or dangerous), Guitar Hero is designed to let the average person enjoy the sensation of rocking out to the classics without years of music lessons or succumbing to stage fright.I've come across a few discussions online as to whether musicians who actually know how to play guitar would find this game easier or harder than the average guitar virgin. The obvious answer would seem to be yes, of course, since the game is a watered down simplified version of the real thing; however, some argue that in actuality the strict nature of the game and the necessity to hit the notes EXACTLY as shown with no room for improvisation or adding one's own style makes it MORE difficult for a seasoned player to adapt to the game. Personally I don't believe in that poppycock; to be honest I don't believe in the use of the word 'poppycock' either, but it seemed to fit the idea I was trying to portray nicely, so[...]

No Purchase Necessary


I went to Kentucky Fried Chicken for lunch today. I know, I know, with my cholesterol, that's the last place I should have gone, but I was craving some hot wings and surprisingly, KFC has some pretty decent wings. So there I was, sitting down with my meal, and looking around for something to read. I like having something to occupy my eyes while I eat meals, whether it be a tv show, video game, or the placemat on the tray of a fast-food restaurant. To my dismay KFC's placemat had nothing of relevance to read, so I grabbed the receipt to check it out, and lo and behold, a contest! Well not really a contest, it was one of those opinion survey things, where you call or log onto their site, let them know how your experience was, and possibly win $1,000 for your troubles. These "E-pinion" things seem to have become very popular lately, as if restaurant owners suddenly realized that 'Customer Satisfaction' is not just a empty promise scrawled across a mission statement. While reading the contest info and rules, I came across a frequently used term in contests: No Purchase Necessary. I found this quite odd, for a number of reasons. First, I would never have known about the survey unless I actually purchased something and found it on the back of the receipt; but more importantly, the whole point of the contest was to encourage patrons who are buying things to take a survey to rate the service received. If there was no transaction, no purchase and no interaction with the staff, how am I supposed to rate them on a service I didn't receive? What am I supposed to say if logging on to the site after NOT having made a purchase? Is there an entire column labeled "Not applicable" for those that just decided to take the survey for the hell of it, having never stepped into the restaurant? Don't get me wrong, I understand the whole "No Purchase Necessary" thing is pretty standard on most contests, especially those that are instant winning types or those in which you need multiple pieces to win, such as the McDonald's Monopoly game. These also crack me up though, because along with the whole "No Purchase" thing they also state that you can "write in for a free gamepiece" or "free scratch-off game", as if they're really going to send a million-dollar winning gamepiece to some loser who couldn't even be bothered eating at their restaurant. Anyway, as far as KFC's "" survey went, I decided to call them on it, wondering if maybe they had some kind of contingency for those who actually did walk in and out of the store without purchasing a single item. Sure enough, the first screen I get to: "Look on the front of your receipt and find the store number.... Enter the number in the space below exactly as it appears on the receipt." Hmmm... OK, kinda hard to do if one HAS no receipt, but whatever. As I was in fact lucky enough to have one, I punched in the number, answered 3 little questions, and was coldly told I was not this weeks winner, and to try again in six weeks. SIX WEEKS? The receipt confirms this: "Limit 1 entry every 6 weeks". I had to wonder how they plan on monitoring this, given I supplied absolutely no information about myself save for the 7-digit store number. I input the number again, and this time I get a much longer survey. Ah...filled it out and again was told I'm not $1,000 richer. Tried one more time, and their records showed I already filled out a survey from this machine. Ah ha, that explains that. But I'd still like to kn[...]

I'm a Stinkin' Liar.....


Well, what can I say? It's been exactly 2 months since I left my second job to persue more free time, a more relaxed lifestyle, and the ability to chew my food instead of choking down a meal in 10 minutes. Two months since I last wrote on my blogs, promising more frequent updates due to my newfound freedom, more tales of adventures permitted by all the free time I would now have.

And what has happened since then?


Well, nothing is obviously an understatement. I mean, things happen all the time; to reword, nothing BLOGWORTHY has happened, or more specifically, no blogworthy ideas have sprung into mind as of late. The first month after my escape I was preoccupied with a wedding album job my dad had given me, one of those "coffee table" books that we've been talking about having me do for his studio. That occupied every waking moment of my consciousness; it was a pretty big book. Meanwhile, my other freelance work picked up and I was told to come two days a week rather than the usual one. So, even though I left Star Community Publishing with the hopes of having more free time, the first few months my friends have seen little change in my availability.

Oh, one thing that has happened, I decided to treat myself to another computer. Oh, yes, if there's one thing I like doing, it's treating myself to new computers. So getting this behemoth to work properly has been the focus of my attention the last few weeks; why would I need to get a brand new computer working properly, you ask? Very good question, you attentive little readers, you. Well, I have the unfortunate tendency to buy computers just as they're releasing new operating systems, this time around it's Windows Vista. And just like any new Operating System, it's riddled with compatability and performance issues. Add to that the fact that my new video and sound cards are too new to have working drivers for them, and we have a brand new system virtually useless to me. So I've been spending weekends moving harddrives, reloading software, downloading drivers, moving more hardware, and overall trying to get this to work within my acceptable parameters. It's not quite there yet. Some call it a sickness... I call it a hobby. All for the sake of amazing graphics at a reasonable framerate.

So, I'm not going to lie to you again and say I'll be back to blog soon; I really just don't know when I'll have something worthy to enter, could be tomorrow... could be another 2 months. Right now I have to catch up on everyone else's blogs to see what I've been missing. Thank you for being patient with my lax attitude; I can only hope it will eventually get better. =)

A New Year, a (belated) New Beginning


The comedian Lewis Black stated in his "Goodbye to 2006" Comedy Central Special that time is an illusion; the recording of time (minutes, days, weeks, years, etc.) is something we humans made up to keep track of things, and doesn't really exist. I've always believed this fundamental truth, all you need to do is count how many "calendars" exist in the world today. For starters, look at the dates created just for new years: there's the standard Catholic New Year, the Chinese New Year, the Jewish New Year, and I'm sure several others not commonly known. Who's to say which one is 'correct'? The answer: none of them are. They're all fabrications surrounding events in each cultures history, and have no real bearing on what goes on in physical world. Yes, technically a 'year' is the time it takes the Earth to circle around the sun, but the "New Year" could have been set at any point, and weeks and months were just convenient ways to divy up the time between now and the next time the Earth is here. Case in point: Birthdays. Birthdays are randomly selected for you. They can happen on any day. When people ask, "How does it feel to be so-and-so?", usually at the milestone 18, 21, 30, or 50 year marks, do they really expect an answer such as, "Well, Bob, yesterday I was fine, things were going great, life was good... as SOON as 4:28pm rolled around on my 30th birthday my pancreas exploded, my left arm doesn't work anymore, and my hair hurts. Damn it feels aweful being 30, but thanks for asking." Chances are it feels EXACTLY the same as being 29. So why ask? Because human beings have this need to set time markers; hell, we created time as a measurable element, why not utilize it as such. When people ask how it feels to be 30, they're not talking physically; rather the question can be reworded "how do you feel about your life at 30? Is it where you expected to be? Have you fullfilled all the goals you set to have accomplished by 30?" Nothing physical actually happens on the day of your birthday to make it feel any different than the day before. Another example of marking time: New Year's, more specifically New Year's resolutions. Any one of us at any time can decide to go on a diet, why wait until January 1st? Somehow it makes it all official, giving us a hard line in the sand that says, from this point ON I will eat better, exercise more, not kick puppies, etc... Plus, let's be honest, it allows us a buffer zone to splurge until then. I always found it amusing that December 31st and January 1st are just two regular days next to each other, most of the time just thrown somewhere in the middle of the week, yet everyone's mindset changes drastically from "the end of a year, out with the old" to "the beginning of a brand new year" along with the hopes and dreams that somehow this new year will be better than the last. Again, nothing actually physically changes. In fact, we don't even celebrate it at the same time on this planet, rather we take turns in 1/24th divisions as each time zone floats past the imaginary 12 midnight mark. Hell, most people have broken their New Years resolutions before the rest of the planet even gets there. As for me, I too have a marker coming up. No, it's not New Year's, and it's not a birthday; for me, the date I eagerly await as the start of a new era and chapter in my life is January 25. If you don't already know, I've had two jobs for the past 9 years, not inclu[...]