Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Continuing the Turkey Day Thoughts...

I also will be returning home to Michigan for the Turkey Day. And, like Jason, truly appreciate the traditions associated with this holiday. For me this year, things are really different. It almost became unbearable when the Lions started flirting with another blackout. However, as of noon today, the game sold out and that issue has been avoided.

An important tradition in my family has been the home Thanksgiving, often at my grandparents house. Everyone in the family is invited (and that includes all of the extended family, the ex-husbands and new wives, people who are longtime friends, etc.) Normally all of these people are invited, half say they will come, and everything works out fine. This year, due most likely to el Nino, everyone said "Yes, we'll be there."


The table won't fit nearly that many people, and my grandparents (in their 80's, both have had hip replacements) really can't cook and clean up for that many people. So, for the first time EVER, we will be eating at a restaurant. I have literally no idea what to expect with this. I'll probably miss some of the Lions game, and also I am worried that I won't get some of my old favorite foods. On top of this, part of my family decided they didn't want to deal with the restaurant, and are having a smaller dinner at home. I am expected to attend, so after I go out to eat, I have to come home to eat. Oy...

However, the day will be great I am sure, with family and friends and food. And, MSU basketball tips at 7:00pm Thanksgiving night against Maryland. That should be good...

I also am looking forward to joining in Jason's traditions on Saturday, and seeing my 3B brothers. That does not happen nearly often enough.

Mmmm... Stuffed Kramer

I get to fly home to the mitten today for what is fast becoming one of my favorite holidays if it wasn’t already. This is my second Thanksgiving away from home and now more than ever I enjoy building new traditions. Making my brother pick me up from the airport; playing the “but I never get to come home anymore!” excuse during dinner clean up; stealing all the good parts of the turkey because I am the long lost son, ect.

For real though, this for me is where traditions really become important. This trip will mark the second such year I stay up till the sun breaks on Thanksgiving eve playing video games with my bro, it will be a third annual football match at Brooklands between college friends, and it will be one of a very few occasions I get to celebrate with my Three B gang out at the bar Saturday.

Top all of this off with a trip to see the Red Wings Friday and it might as well be Christmas. So a happy holiday to you my friends. Travel safe, eat too much, and god forbid please do not watch the entire Lions game. Depression sets in after the holidays, not during people.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 24, 2008

This Football Season Is No Fantasy of Mine

Fantasy football. FANTASY football. You would think that something claiming to be a fantasy would be way more pleasant than what is currently happening in my football fantasy. At this moment I am bringing up the rear in one league, and I am third to last in the other. And my "good" team hasn't so much as squeaked by in each of my victories. My personal fantasy football moment involves more blow outs, less injuries, more offense, no bad players, and no bad management. Shit - I would even settle for more close games as long as I win. Fantasy. Instead I get football hell. The only blow outs occur when I am taking it raw. If a star players goes down, chances are I own him. If I don't own him, then he is probably the guy that should be passing the ball to my star receiver (fucking Tom Brady). If a player had a breakout season last year and was poised for great things, then I made sure that my guy was the one that proved that the previous season was, in fact, a fluke. And that leaves managerial errors... If Yahoo! predicts a my no-name running back or wide receiver to have a career making week because the player over shadowing him goes down or because he is playing the Lions, and this prediction influences me to bench my older future Hall of Fame player, then the chances are that the no-name player will continue to be a no-name player and the future Hall of Famer will have the greatest game of his life... while sitting on my bench. Fantasy. For about half the teams the season turns into a hellish mix of headaches and bad decisions... sort of like undergrad. A little less than half of the teams have season that ends with "I almost made a difference" or "I was so close"... sort of like life. And then there are the select few. Out the thousands that "play" each season, there are the champions. They made all of the right decisions: getting a lesser draft pick that meant you couldn't snag those super stars that had the worst seasons of their careers and instead had to settle for the guy that turned out to lead the league is everything, stumbling across a couple of free agents that turned out to be key role players (like the guy that runs for 21 yards and 2 TDs), getting his roster to play a nice mix "now you guys can take a break this week, but this means that you guys need to have break out weeks," and making sure his players stayed healthy all year... So you know, all of the things that they didn't actually have any control over. Fantasy. This game needs a new name. My fantasy would have more human interaction (because its more fun to talk smack in person), more money (I would be happy to sign a 10 year contract worth $2.4 million annually to play this game in Yahoo! over ESPN), and more cheerleaders. I would settle for each games' highlights to be reenacted by cheerleaders, but again this is my fantasy. *Sigh* Fantasy.

Me too!

I will join Newman in vowing to have a renewed (read: new) effort to post on this blog.

The topic of my first post: Ice Hockey.

The younger class of Ninja Monks (Mike, Ken and Myself) are coming out of a brief hockey retirement and starting some drop in at Troy Sports Center and the Onyx. The end goal will be to join a league. If any Metro Detroit Area 3Bers are interested we'd be glad to have you.

For your added humor I will be attempting to combine minimal roller hockey goalie experience and minimal ice hockey experience into playing goalie on ice. I have yet to buy the goalie skates, but once I do... well... I don't expect it to be pretty. I would really appreciate it if anyone familiar with Royal Oak (Howie) might be able to direct me to a frozen pond / outdoor ice rink where i can slip and slide in my pads before going to a drop in (where I expect to disappoint the paying customers).

30 lbs. Short of a Six Pack: Season's Best

(30 lbs. Short of a Six Pack is a recurring feature which reviews a beer from the point of view of a guy who knows nothing about beer except for that he loves it. And it loves him. So go quench your thirst my friends.)

Ya know, I spoil you. Or you spoil me by reading this. Either way, let me reward you. Is there anything in life better than beer? Seriously? A significant other yells at you, sports hurt us, children cry. Beer loves you. Beer tastes good. In my constant search for blog relevance, I have added a second recurring feature this week, and it shall be known as 30 lbs. Short of a Six Pack. If you can't catch the metaphor there, you probably don't like beer. Yes, for you, I shall sacrifice. I shall endeavor to explore and search out new and tasty brews, even old familiar brews, and put my taste buds to keyboard for you. My review of such brew, shall flow fourth like the frothy head of... ok screw it, time to taste.

Today's beer is in the seasonal category. Winter truly is one of my favorite drinking times, and breweries never let you down. Saranac beers come from the Matt Brewing Company of Utica, NY. In the Saranac Holiday Sampler you will find this happy little beer; and that is what it is. A pleasant, easy to finish, fun to start, not too filling, not too weak beer. Described as a nut brown lager, Season's Best has a mild amber color and hint of caramel. It carries very little head and finishes just ever so slightly bitter, that good tinge of bitter finish you would get in a specialty Sam's. Real beer people would tell you that the finish comes from more hops or something, I will tell you that it is just plain good. This beer is 5.3% alcohol and Saranac recommends it with some good old pork or BBQ. I recommend it with more Season's Best, because you need be saving room for whats important... more beer.

Now because I love you, and I know I don't know jack about beer, I want to lend to you a real voice of authority. If you have never heard of Beer Advocate, thank me now, because I just made your world better. This website is a fantastic user generated review forum for beers, and for each review I shall throw in one from BA to give some actual knowledge to what I be saying. For Season's Best we tap into "wiseguy142" from Rochester, NY.

"Nut Brown Lager." Wtf. Ok I guess I'm excited, sounds pretty tasty and unusual. Just noticed the nice artwork on the label which I don't think I've been appreciating when it comes to the rest of Saranac's beers. Pours a nice amber brown.. maybe a little too similar to their ESB if they're trying to differentiate the two based on color. But good head and good lacing. Aroma is great, very perfume-y and piney, but it's either how it mixes with the rest of the malt or something else that makes it unique. Taste is a huge kick in the malt bone, if there was one. Astringency is very noticeable though, which seems to be a problem for Saranac's beers. The complex roasted malt flavors retain their integrity in the face of the lagering process, which was what I was worried about. I was worried it was going to be like the Indian Brown Ale and taste nothing like a brown anything, but it definitely pulls through. Unfortunately, the astringency is a huge flaw and affects my score significantly. Mouthfeel benefits form the overall malt character- medium to full body and really pleasant to drink. Probably a tie with the ESB for my favorite in the mix pack. Just fix that astringency, apply it to the other beers in the pack and I'd be really happy."

Thank you wiseguy142.

Ok, I have five more to drink and an airplane to catch tomorrow. Peace.

Here Comes Newman!

I just want to let everyone in 3B know... and by "everyone" I mean Jason and Dammon it seems... that I, Newman, will now be slightly more active in this blog! I am making this decision after getting a random, weird invite on facebook from Jason. I normally delete these right away, cause I don't enjoy becoming an elf on someones trek to *insert mythical place here.* But, this one said 3B in the title, so I was mildly interested. I couldn't figure it out at first, until I realized it was just a page to promote the old crappy blog, instead of something sexy and new.

Now, at this point I normally would have just pooped out on it again, but I recently started using google reader. It's this "thing" that takes "posts" and puts them in one place. So, I wouldn't need to say, remember to go to the blog to now read it. So I added this blog to my reader.

Reader #3!!! Whooo! My favorite post so far? Dammon saying Jason's rule of tyranny is over. :)


Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Album You Missed: 11 Days

(The Album You Missed is a recurring feature which describes a great album from the past that well, you might have missed and should probably go out and listen to. Seriously, just even download it on-line, it will take you 6 minutes.)

So I have a lot of music. I have always been a fan of music, obsessing over different genres and bands as fads came and went. I worked at a college radio station for the better part of 5 years and lets just say we looked at "borrowing" the music fairly liberally. Before my computer KO'd on me I had somewhere above 15k songs on it, now I host a modest but diverse 6k to go along with my 600-700 albums stacked in the living room. I like to throw the itunes on shuffle and see where it takes me some days and it makes me nostalgic. When these moments happen, well it is time to blog about them. TAYM will dig into my collection on a whenever I feel like it basis and give you the scoop on something I, in my egotistical opinion think you need to know.

The first artist for this topic you've never heard of it. Literally. Like thats the band. Never Heard Of It, or NHOI are California pop-punkers who have been kicking around the docs for the better part of two decades I think, I don't have any facts to back that up, but it feels right. NHOI are truly some of the veterans of the pop punk genre and honestly, Fall Out Boy, Yellowcard, Simple Sucks Plan.. err Simple Plan would not be in existence without the trench work dug by this gang. 11 Days was released in 2004 on Unmotivated Records. Ironically named enough, Unmotivated Records is run by NHOI as they are a powerhouse of a DIY band.

11 Days is laced with the kind of pop and lyrics that really get you through a bad day, stubbed toe, apocalypse, whatever. When Hard Headed hits on track two, you just start singing along by the second round of the chorus, because it is that simple to pick up. Yea, none of these lyrics or hooks are going to rock your world and make you spit on Hendrix's grave, but sometimes baby, toe tappin just has to happen. Where else are you going to find a band who can spew out the lyrics "Shes been acting like a dick and I've been a bitch" while smiling and humming? 11 Days will give you 11 tracks, nearly all of them topping out at the punk standard of 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Stick around after the last song for one of the best bonus tracks ever recorded. EVER. Think Arnold the Governator doing a rap with Danny Devito, for serious. Highlights on the album are Hard Headed, Walkin' Alone, Dead Awake and Satisfied.

Score: 3 out of 5 "I'd be embarrassed if a hot chick pulled up next to my car and heard me listening to this but I know all the lyrics anyway."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mega Man is a real prick

Mega Man taunts me. I wrote that Dead Space was scary? How about a tiny 8-bit demon who laughs at you in your sleep? I think my "gamerscore" made me too cocky, or maybe the ease of games these days is to blame, but my 10 year old self would be ashamed. Mega Man 9, the "reboot" of the series on XBLA and PSN is old school hard. Rendered in beautiful 8-bit video and sound, it makes you shrink 2 feet (well for me 0) and act like a kid again. The game triumphantly brings back all the nostalgic habits of your retro gaming past. Button mashing, edge of your seat screaming at the TV, cookies and Mountain Dew... yum. Every Mega Man game to me from 1 to 5, was really just the same. Yea, new bosses or gimmicks, but puzzles run together and themes kind of get stale. It was what it was though and you played for the joy of the familiar. That past day is so old now, it really isn't familiar, but a friend I am happy to reacquaint with now that winter and video game season is setting in.

5 out of 5 "I'm never getting far enough in this game to rate it"'s.

In about a month I'll be writing my top five albums of the year again. I have been pondering what I really liked, what I missed, because honestly I know I've missed a bunch no longer being around radio operations. I try and listen to several different indie feeds and I know when my favorites of the genre are performing anew, but obviously some will slip through the cracks. I need to fill up on a few new tunes before my plane rides this holiday season kick up. Suggestions are much appreciated.

And now, several fractured thoughts from a tired mind: Personally, I am really excited to get home for Thanksgiving. Shit has been weird around these parts lately. I've had struggles at work, however I am in a happier and much more productive mode now. Stress is still high but I think I have evolved and am dealing with it much better than before. Training wheels have rusted off kid. Personal life continues to baffle me. Hockey season ended with a heroic playoff drive and victory, but now I'll be on the shelf for awhile so I can heal my back. And let us just say, outside of "Mickey", boy have I hit a cold streak.. ouch. Guess I need a hair cut. I really wanted to finally move downtown into this loft right next to Camden yard, but nothing was available in the size I wanted; the waiting shall continue. Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind was on to something I think. I would like a cheeseburger. Maybe a coke... eh lets make that a beer. Happy Sat night all.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Karma is an asshole

Well didn’t this lil man just have an interesting night last night. Per usual, whenever my bad influence comes into town, shenanigans follow. With Korey suggesting this could be one of the last trips he makes to Baltimore, I ventured out for one drink that naturally turned into a few more. What can I say, I need booze to suffer through his dominance of me in all of the bar games we play.

Well fast forward to the Waterfront where we are playing billiards. As I humbly sit aside and watch Korey play some dude, I enjoy sips of Sam’s in between insults about my choice to wear a scarf. It was friggin cold alright? Then out of nowhere, like Wal-mart Wolverine on a price drop, Mickey descended upon me. Mickey can best be summed up as such: Over 40 woman, Iranian decent, decent appearance for her age if you like the skuzzy Balmore type who reeks of smoke and seafood. While draped over my shoulder, sniffing my hair and groping various areas, she informed me we were now pool partners, she was recently divorced, and she was horny.

Now normally I have a great sense of humor, I love when this shit happens to OTHERS, but tonight with the look in Baby Bop and associates’ eyes, I knew I had to suffer through this one for the team. So in between texts about getting man raped and drink after drink to make this situation a little more tolerable, I took solace in the fact that somehow, somewhere, Mike Ford was smiling.

Let us turn focus to the hilaaarious image accompanying this post. Yes my friends, the new Xbox experience is upon us, and my avatar has already bludgeoned Damman’s. This thing might just catch on. I am impressed for the most part. The system seems to run faster, information is laid out in a way which makes sense. I love the Gamertag and Game blades, which show information in an easy system, where before you had to dig through multiple layers to see what achievements could be had and were accomplished.

It will take time to see how it fleshes out in terms of user interaction, but party set up, and avatar games could add a decent Wii like influence to the console. Bravo M$, it took you four years, but you finally have an OS that makes sense.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gametober Part 2

Wow! I've been on the blogosphere for 4 days and already I'm my own rating system! Not bad for a weed growing out of the cracks in the internet. As Jason alluded, it is in fact that wonderful time of year when big name games just flood onto the market and extract us from such menial processes as work and school. God bless Christian adaptations of formerly pagan holidays!

Fable 2 - It's worth noting that I played the original Fable, while Jason did not. With that said, some of what he said is true of what to expect. The game tries to give personality to nearly all of the NPCs you encounter by assigning certain attributes to them (prudish, flirty, stuck up, straight, bisexual, gay, ...), it's a neat idea, but very few of them seem to matter worth beans. My main beef is they talk to you way too much. By halfway through the game, I had a flock of followers in every town harping on me to either consummate my existence, or give them a ring so we can "properly" consummate my existence. A lot of the in town chatter you hear walking about is amusing in the whimsical way Fable handles all of it's jokes, but it's all drowned out by the repetitive leaches attending to you. I did like the handful of main characters that were given real dialog. As for the main character, it's not quite fair to critique his/her development through the story as he's supposed to be your avatar. Ya know, it is called a ROLE PLAYING game. If you can connect through the type of blank slate character, the story progression's not bad. Some positive notes: the combat is 1000% better than the first game, the dog offers an amusing companion by not being overdone, and the quirky humor still hits when it's not forced down your ear canals.

Despite that this review is carrying a bit too long, I need to point out the interesting social experiment Fable 2 has presented. When I take on a game like this with all it's moral decision making, I play through the first time as the hero I'd like to be. Given the radical nature of the choices presented, he's usually a pretty virtuous guy. This being Jason's first good/evil game (Mass Effect doesn't count), he sank to levels of vileness I hadn't even thought possible. He bought up entire towns only to jack up the rent on every piece of property, then slaughtered the people for complaining about having nowhere to live. If Lionhead has any means of monitoring in game activity, I'd think he holds the record for fastest trip to pure evil.
Score: 0.6 out of 1 Me *

Dead Space
- I haven't played Dead Space and don't think I plan to. With that said, Jason's a wimp and wouldn't hack it on a monster infested space ship.
Score: 1 out of 1 Me for every time it makes him question his sanity *

Gears of War 2
- While Jas and I did beat this in two sittings, it was an effort to do so. The campaign mode is a very solid length. There's a few areas that stretch a little long (particularly some of the vehicle parts), but I think it delivered. The story tries. It falls into a pretty Hollywood groove with a grim side as the game warrants. Same personalities in same situations, enough said. The horde mode will soak up some time (it's basically just non-stop combat in an open level) and I may try to wade through the multiplayer a bit for a change. Prepubescent hate-mongers be damned!
Score: 0.7 out of 1 Me *

Left 4 Dead (Demo) - I hate zombies more than any other person alive. Don't doubt it. Blasting through a city infested with them with three other people who you NEED to depend on is claustraphobic and freaky. I found myself playing the group mom trying to keep everyone on our team clustered together. You just don't know when something will snatch you away to be strangled, clawed, or just overwhelmed by the disgusting horde. Valve did a great job making the team gameplay work and the atmosphere always put you on edge, yet I have to agree with Jason. I don't see the appeal lasting. Unless the different levels offer very different experiences, it looks like a pass.
Score: 0.5 out of 1 Me *

Rock Band 2 - I'm not big on the music game genre. I played a friend's Guitar Hero a few years ago a handful of times (usually with drinking involved) but I was never sold on it's lasting ability. Recorded music is great to rock out to, but learning music to me does not entail memorizing button patterns. Still, I was convinced to pick up RB 2 by another friend so we could play online. Online bands work well, though it would be nice if you could switch instruments without exiting and rejoining. The career mode has lots of options to help keep you progressing, and it's nice that friends can help you along over Live. The guitar play hasn't changed since the first GH, so it's solid. What I really love though is the mic. It feels like just the right difficulty so that if you know a song and can reasonably alter the pitch of your voice, you can do pretty well. I have NO singing experience, and yet I can belt my way through Carry On My Wayward Son on expert. Throw in a hefty track list, endless downloadable content, and Eye of the Tiger, and you've got a winner in my book.
Score: 0.8 out of 1 Me *

Fallout 3, Far Cry 2 and Mirror's Edge to come!

"Masquerading as a man with a reason"

* I had to make an adjustment to the rating system. It just didn't feel right having a possible 5 Damman's running around.

The new eleventh month is Gametober

Oh it has been a long time since writing. And lo and behold what happens when I venture away from my blog for too long? A Damman goes and grows out of the cracks…

So lately life has been a whirlwind. I suppose when you step away and look at two months in any scenario, it will amount to an excess of thought and feelings, but these two months felt like more. In a situation where you’ve found your life void of security, lacking definition, and where once you felt solid, you are now weak; escapism is a fantastic thing. And so a month where I thought I would lose my job among other things, gave way to the greatest video game month in history. Thank god for virtual worlds.

It began simply enough with Fable II. A fantasy RPG truly allowing you to be someone else, I had a lot of high hopes for this. Driven more than it should have been by the desire to co-play with Damman, I grabbed this one on day of release. The multi-player proved buggier than Castle Crashers and wholly unsatisfying. The game provided a few days of exploration and then I dove into the story and was greeted by the worst character development and ultimate ending I have experienced in a decade. Much was made of this title being the deep, thought provoking game of the year. What it was, is an example of how off track and horrible a game can be when it relies on gimmicks. Here is a hint Lionsgate; Dog equals less than Awesome ending.

Score: Two out of Five Dammans.

That same trip to the store for Fable produced an unexpected purchase. I felt rich that day for reasons I have none. I managed to put down a copy of Armoured Core (for you Canadians) and pick up a copy of Dead Space. As Damman wept over the loss of reality in me rejecting a giant robot game, I dug into the most terrifying experience of my video game life. In all honesty, I never played Silent Hill, Resident Evil, or anything remotely shock inducing, except for maybe Phantasmagoria like 15 years ago. Dead Space kept the lights on for the first few nights, and it hunts me. I sit there now on chapter 5 of 12, not wanting to turn it on. I don’t want to walk down the hallways and look behind me, I don’t want to watch my air run out as I flee baddies, I don’t want to play a game and be scared into finishing it quickly. My gosh though, do I want to see it’s sights, not hear it’s sfx in the volume of space, and feel the design of the world. It is an arty masterpiece, redefining sensory involvement, but at times, it is off track. Judging solely on 6 hours of play, I cannot rate this total experience, but I rate it based on enjoyment … and fear.

Score: Four out of Five Dammans.

Fallout 3 came out in the middle of all of this, and honestly, it is going to be ridiculously awesome. All I have done is escape from the vault and walk out into the nuclear disaster of D.C. and I stopped. I cannot approach this until all else is at rest. I want to be as dedicated to this as I am to my nose.

Score: Five out of Five Dammans for anticipation.

Red Alert 3 is as campy as they get. I bought this for two reasons. My brother and I have a bond going back to before we had a bond when it comes to RTS games. Red Alert seems to have always been there. I remember him first introducing me to the concept when C&C first came out. And then there are the cut scenes. Oh I love the cut scenes. Ironic that last night as Medium and I lay the first campaign to bed, the cut scene is what ultimately KO’d my super computer. Somehow my PC was now convinced that a floppy drive was needed to boot my system. After fixing that little annoyance, I eagerly await claiming the Statue of Liberty back from the Soviets. Spasiba Comrade. The game play may be a bit faster than it should be, and the units are farther from reality than I would have liked, but overall, it is what RA is.

Score: Three out of Five Dammans.

Gears of War 2 is kind of like Nickleback. Frat boys and teenage girls will flock to this one and pollute the message boards and online community with thoughts I do not want to hear. This is the same crowd that forces me to unplug my headset while playing Halo. The quality of story in the media is lacking, but the professional polish is what it is. That all said, Damman and I plowed through this in marathon session part 1 and 2. I enjoyed it greatly and that probably says more about me than I hoped. The story, and ending, leave me kind of chilly, but oh my, does horde mode warm me up. That sir, is not sketch.

Score: Four out of Five Dammans.

Finally, Medium, Damman and I tried out Left 4 Dead last night in 360 demo form, and while I was first overwhelmed with hope and excitement over the promise of this, I left our session dulled. It felt too one dimensional. In a way this was Wolfenstein 3D all over again. I knew where to run, where to point, how to use my one of two guns. Any gimmicks that were there did not save my opinion. I cannot rate it as just a demo, but I think I’ll pass on this one.

And so, the story goes, November became Gametober, and the wallet screamed in agony, while the hearth rejoiced.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The monopoly is over!

The time of Jason's tyrannical rule over this probably never read blog has come to an end, for Damman has arrived! Ok, granted I have nothing of interest to say, but at least I can contradict whatever nonsense Uckofay's spewing out. Cheers!