Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Might this Unreleased Campaign Poster Have Made a Difference? We Will Never Know.

Disclaimer: This is in no way intended to express my
political views.  It is merely a campaign poster that the
Romney camp did not use and I happened to stumble upon.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

TGD Movie Review: Wreck-It Ralph

Loving video games, especially retro ones as much as I do, Disney's Wreck-It Ralph was something I had been anticipating for some time.  So, after its November 2nd release, I did not waste much time in getting my kids to the theater on Saturday to see it.  I was not disappointed and I'll explain below why you won't be either.

The Plus Side:  Like the Pixar releases before it, Wreck-It Ralph is visually amazing.  The colors are vivid, the animation smooth, the characters realistic looking (Volkswagon-sized fists or not) and the backgrounds sprawling and downright artistic.  As with so many films before it, Disney has made the 3D worth the extra cost with this one.

On top of being visually stunning, the story sets up a video game universe that you believe (not literally) and understand without much explanation.  Game characters play their Toy-Story-esque roles during the day then travel through the power cables of their cabinets into the surge protectors (like a train station, one of my favorite images of the film) at night to socialize.  While there are a few made up games (Fix-It Felix Jr., Sugar Rush, Hero's Duty and Turbo Racer), the film pays homage to a great deal of old school games in ways that make you laugh.  Q-Bert, Sonic, Street Fighter, Pac-Man, Mario Bros. and more are all referenced.  Many of them gather at Tapper's for a drink after a long day.  The story also keeps you guessing and while you might guess where it's taking you, I for one was surprised by the emergence of the true villain, a plot technique I am not accustomed to with animated features.

The movie is both hilarious and heart warming.  You laugh on a regular basis at subtle references as well as slapstick.  The jokes are quick, clever and clean and the action keeps them moving along.  The moral of the story, like most Disney films, is impossible to miss and sappy as it is (I'm beginning to wonder about Disney's portrayal of their characters willingly facing death) it will still bring a tear to your hear and make to jump in your seat a little at its conclusion.

The Down Side:  Your kids won't get all the video game references in the film unless they have had some extensive retro game education.  You may find yourself leaning over to explain a joke or tell your kids who that guy is.  Or, like me, you may distract yourself by laughing and shaking your head at the inclusion of a particularly obscure eight bit character barely visible in the corner of a shot.

Other than that, not much is wrong, annoying or frustrating about this movie.  It's an overall enjoyable experience to watch it.

The Wrap Up:  Go see this movie.  You and your kids or whoever's kids you might take to see it will enjoy it.  This is Disney at its best with a memorable, funny romp for all ages unfolding on the screen.

And while you're at it, fork over the extra few bucks for the 3D.  The action and the colors jumping off the screen are amazing and fun.

I'm Still Alive and Here Are the Weekly Features to Prove It

It's been awhile since the weekly features were updated.  How long?  I'm not sure as self-regulation has not exactly been a strength of mine lately.  But that's all water under the bridge because today the features are brand new and there will be more content coming.  Exciting, right?  Temper your excitement for a moment and let's get to the top five things I love (hate) about Autumn...

5. Darkess later in the morning (and sooner in the evening) - I like that it's still dark in the mornings, especially because I work an overnight shift.  I get to rush home in the morning and crawl into bed while the sun is still hidden on the other side of the earth.  However, by the time I wake up I only have two or three hours of daylight left.

4. (shrunken) Sweaters - The crisp Autumn air is my favorite of the year and I relish looking over my sweater drawer and deciding which I will pull over my head to go out and meet the day.  Then I have to struggle to squeeze my melon through the neck hole and stretch out the sleeves for the next few hours.

3. Thanksgiving (aftermath) - One of my favorite holidays because it's all about stuffing yourself, which for some reason leaves me feeling bloated and stuffed afterward.  Weird.

2. School (drop off) - Having the house nice and quiet during the school year while my kids are gone feels nice.  Waking up to take them there instead of staying hidden under the nice warm blankets?  Not so much.

1. (wet) Leaves - The colors of Autumn might be the best, most iconic aspect of the season.  The difficulty of picking them up after they've had time to sit out in a cold rain might be the worst.

This week's cool-ass thing you will never own is your own urban farm.  Live in the city?  Love eating tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach and kale (gag) but hate having to pay out the nose for organic produce at your local grocery store?  How about building your own farm?  All you need is soil, seeds, hoses, sprinklers, a greenhouse, some fans and a whole buttload of space.  Thinking about making one on your roof?  I hope it's not over your bedroom.

This week's sign you are a nerd is that you read books about comic books.  I'm currently crawling through Supergods by Grant Morrison in an attempt to look more serious and explain away the perception that comic books are kid stuff by reading an extremely wordy (though entertaining) argument.  I could have read so many comics in the meantime.

This week's nemesis is game updates.  Just as I started to find my comfort zone with Minecraft on the 360 and catch up to my kids' learning curve, they go and change the whole set up.  Now I have to sit through tutorials from my eight and nine year old sons.  Not at all patronizing.

This week's lesson learned is not to name the email folder that you are trying to hide online gift receipts in "Secret."  Finally, the Lego Minecraft sets are in stock so you order a few and plan on hiding them until Christmas rolls around.  Maybe you manage to intercept the package at the door and hide it in the crawl space.  But when your kid borrows your smartphone and goes poking around, they are going to figure out that the toys you received the delivery confirmation for are most likely not for you.  GFuess who is headed straight for the crawl space?

This week's analysis diagrams the evolution of the in game avatar:

Finally, this week's Star Wars quote is, "The last remnants have been swept away."

Monday, October 15, 2012

TGD Game Review: Fix-It Felix Jr.

It is no secret that we here at Transformer Generation Dad are huge fans of retro video games.  This is why our anticipation of Pixar's newest film Wreck It Ralph is already at a fever pitch.  Preceding the November 2nd release of the film, there is now game on iTunes that allows you to play the fictional video game from the movie, Fix-It Felix.  TGD reviews the blocky goodness below.

The Plus Side: Do you like 8-bit games?  Love the simplicity of the movements, the plodding forward game design and the 90-degree angles of the edges?  This has it.  The graphics are perfectly scaled down to make it look like this was a stand-up arcade game form the 80s.  You will find yourself playing and replaying trying to get a higher score each time and cursing Wreck It Ralph when one of his thrown bricks breaks a window that you had just fixed with great agility, leaping from sill to sill.

Perhaps the most charming aspect of the game to me was the sound.  There is authentic retro game music featured.  The title screen bursts forth as the game completes its load in a swirling fury of computerized notes.  Once the game starts, the laid-back tune that will stick in your head for weeks to come heralds back to the NES's Urban Champion.

Did I mention it's free?  I don't know if it is staying this way of if it's a limited offer, but you can have this title for no charge on Apple's iTunes store.

The Down Side:  As an adult who plays children's games on the regular, I often have the same problem I have with this game.  My finger tips are too large.  Large, fat, call it what you will, the directional pad on the touch screen of my iPhone is too small.  I regularly find myself in the thick of level seven scrambling to keep up with the destruction all around me just to find Felix is not responding to my commands because the meat of my giant thumb is simultaneously mashing against three directional arrows.  There goes my hopes of defeating my high score.  If you play the game on the iPad the impact on your experience of this design flaw is significantly reduced.

Along those lines, free games have their price.  In Fix-It Felix's case, the price is ads popping up at the bottom of the screen instantly as your game ends.  Thus, on more than one occasion I have already navigated away from the game screen to an ad for some sort of service I have absolutely no interest in because I was trying to jump down a level to fix one last window as I died and my giant thumb once again found errant placement.  The worst part is that once you jump to the ad's link, your opportunity to add your initials to the high score rankings disappears.

The Wrap Up:  Overall, this is a good game.  Is it perfect, no, but it will certainly keep the player entertained and coming back for more.  It's simple and amusing, it's fun for the whole family and the price is right.  TGD definitely recommends you download it today.

Well done Disney and Pixar, now let's see how you do with the tie-in film.

Full Length Weekly Features

I don't know about you, but with the commercials proliferating the television, I am becoming very excited for next month's release of Pixar and Disney's new film Wreck It Ralph.  So, to help whet my appetite for retro video games gone CGI, we have decided to start this week's features with the top five feature length Pixar films up to this point:

5. The Incredibles - An underrated volume in Pixar's collection, the adventures of the Parr family and their struggle to both mask and accept their exceptional abilities did just as much to make this movie enjoyable as the fast paced, epic battle scenes.

4. Toy Story 2 - A more enjoyable, funnier storyline in my humble opinion, but the ground work had already been laid by the original, which deserves more props.

3. Up - The most visually dynamic and outright beautiful of the Pixar films, it was the first to take full (and i do mean full) advantage of 3D.

2. Finding Nemo - Not only were the colors in it amazing, alternating from the full color coral reef to the grayish, hazy depths, but the story is one that a dad can't help but get choked up by every time he views it...or forces his kids to view it with him on Father's Day.

1. Toy Story - Know your roots.  The classic that revolutionized the animated feature will more than likely always be TGD's favorite Pixar film.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Who is Running Hollywood?! How is This Movie Not Already Made?

Zombies, mobsters, action, horror and CGI animation are all proven film gimmicks.  So imagine my surprise when I was perusing the internet earlier today and stumbled upon (not while on Stumble Upon) a Kickstarter project for an animated film based on a graphic novel with all the aforementioned elements involved.

Imagine my further surprise when I learned well-known director David Fincher was involved with the project and that the production idea had actually been first unveiled at Comic Con 2010.  How could something so impressively awesome with so many aspects of current successful films and the interest of already recognized Hollywood names need to turn to Kickstarter in order to get their film off the ground?

The idea in question is a film based on the comic series The Goon.  and as you can see by the following video clip, it would be amazing to see on the big screen (WARNING: the trailer is violent and offensive and not for children):

So, if you like zombies, mobsters, foul language, violence and animation (and really, who doesn't?) and you have a few bucks burning a hole in your pocket, head over to the Kickstarter site and fund this project.  I'm sure the producers will be grateful, but more importantly, so will I because I want to see this yesterday.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Third Person Thursday, Throwback Edition: Fear Itself

It being October and me being too busy (translate: lazy) to produce any new fictional content, I skimmed through the TGD archives and found this four part story from October/November of last year.  I recall that I started this one not exactly knowing where it would go and it ran off on an entirely different direction than I had anticipated.  That being said, it is a little sloppy at times as most of my hastily constructed Third Person Thursday efforts are, but there are some scenes there worth reading still I think.

I will stop boring you with the insights to the process and provide you now with the links to the story's various parts.  Enjoy...

That's all for this week's Third Person Thursday.  I could get used to this throwback stuff.  It's way easier than writing new material.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Delayed Features

After a busy weekend with the kids, filled with Autumn activities (there may have been a pumpkin patch, apple orchard and state park involved) something had to be trimmed from my schedule and, like usual, the weekly features suffered as a result.  But two days late is better than never and we start this week's features by anticipating next week's arrival of The Walking Dead: Season 3.  While I think the show has done a pretty good job overall (almost as good as the comic version) there have been a few frustrating portrayals of zombie characteristics that have irked me.  So, the top five list will be the top five errors in zombie portrayal in television and film:

5. How do they not eat one another? - I get that every death of natural causes results in another zombie. I get that they bite the occasional victim who manages to then make good their escape only to be turned over to side of the zombie hordes later.  I get this increases their numbers.  What I don't understand is how, in moments of no other food source, how they just don't start taking bites off one another.

4. Strength - Can a normal human of average strength rip open the torso of another living human and disembowel them?  No.  How then can a half-rotted, muscularly-atrophied walking corpse find the arm strength to do so?

3. Speed - I am going to make a singular, simple bold statement upon which all zombie portrayals should be based: Zombies cannot run!  Everyone knows that the way they catch you is not by chasing you down, but by your allowing yourself to get surrounded or trip over some inevitable obstacle which breaks your leg and immobilizes you.  The following words are acceptable to describe zombie movement: hobbling, limping, lumbering, lurching, shuffling, shambling, stumbling, hobbling, walking.

2. Problem-solving - When a zombie sees you behind a window, it walks head first into that window.  It does not look around for a different way to get in or pick up something to smash the window with.  the only way that window will be broken and the zombie will gain access will be if enough others congest behind it and break the window through sheer pressure of their combined weight against it.

1. Facial expressions - Far too many times I have seen a mindless corpse glance at its potential prey and either narrow its eyes or flash an evil smile.  There should be no emotion whatsoever on the part of any zombie.  No happiness over discovering an unprotected, vulnerable meal, only the instinctive registration of a food source that results in a change of direction at the same speed previously attained toward said food source.  Also, it should be hard to smile when the zombie's lips rotted off weeks ago.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mr. Parker, Mr. Stone, You Have Done it Again

When done correctly, satire is the most powerful comedic tool in the universe.  It is the Death Star of comedy, able to lay waste to all other forms with a single well-focused attack.  Now imagine that the Rebel Alliance had never destroyed the Death Star...or the second, not as aesthetically pleasing but still fully operational Death Star.  Imagine that it had been allowed to "position itself" all over the galaxy and crush any hint of rebellion in its tracks.  Such a reign would be terrifying, but since we are talking about satire here, it would be hilarious...terrifyingly hilarious.

I have been a long time fan of South Park.  Sure, at first it was just how crude both the paper cut out style animation and jokes were.  As the years went on, however, the razor sharp edge of the show's humor sliced through all sorts of topic that were previously considered taboo.  Whether it be religion, racism, disabilities or comedy itself, nobody has escaped the rapier wit and ruthless criticism of South Park's creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

And that is really the key.  If they made fun of only the people that disagreed with their social, political or personal views, their satire would be just plain mean.  But the genius of South Park's humor comes from the fact that they think that we are all ridiculous idiots and somehow manage to make us realize that they are right, we all suck.  To top it all off, they turn the microscope of their satire inward occasionally and admit their own shortcomings.

In their latest episode, South Park poked fun at obesity, our obsession with shows like Honey Boo Boo (my favorite moment coming when they point out that it is on The Learning Channel) and James Cameron's love of himself.  In doing so, they pointed out that the bar had sunk to an all time low.  That was, in fact, what James Cameron had dove into the depths of the ocean to try and find.  Once the bar was discovered, they suggested that South Park itself might bear some of the responsibility.  They managed yet again to make fun of everybody, including themselves with a distinct start-to-finish story line, not just random jokes.

That is how satire is done.  Take notes, Family Guy.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Third person Thursday, Throwback Edition: Exceptional - Book 2

As promised, Third Person Thursday this week looks back to the second book in our super hero serial, Exceptional.  If you didn't read Book 1 last week, you can find all the links here.  Once again, all of these portions of the story were created with very little free time and when I look back at them myself they seem at times sloppy, but they are what they are.  If I were to try and get them published I would go over them with a fine tooth comb and change a lot of things, but for the likes of you all, they should do.  I'm kidding, of course.  Enjoy.

Now that that's over, I'm looking into rerunning another serial next week.  Let me know if you enjoyed (or didn't for that matter) reading this one.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Celebrate Banned Books Week

It's Banned Books Week!  Yes, it started Sunday September 30th, but it's never too late to get on board with a worthy cause.  To think that books like The Lord of the Rings, The Grapes of Wrath and Brave New World were all at one time banned or challenged is really pretty ridiculous.

While I am not currently reading a banned book, per se, the book I am reading (Supergods by Grant Morrison) explores in its early chapters the backlash against comic books and the moral outrage and vilification of comic books during a certain period.

To celebrate and to exercise your freedom to read what you want, I encourage you all to pick up a title that was at one time banned or challenged.  Check out the Banned Books Week site to get a listing.  You should also take a look at artist Grant Snider's blog, Incidental Comics, for a timely comic discussing banned books you can purchase in poster form.

Of course, I would also love to hear from you about what book you are currently reading.  or perhaps you would like to discuss one of the books you are surprised to see on the list, or maybe even a title that you can't believe isn't on the list.  Regardless of the specific topic, I'd love to hear from you about your feelings on banned books.

Unless you decided to read Catcher in the Rye.  Keep that to yourself.  I think being banned gave that book more street cred than it deserved.  Holden Caulfield is a real dick.

Monday, October 1, 2012

"The Time Has Come," the Walrus Said, "to Admit Your Team Was Lame."

I dislike Aaron Rodgers.

You may wonder why.  The guy seems to be so likable after all to the rest of the nation, appearing in commercials, winning a Super Bowl and being arguably the best quarterback in the NFL.  You probably insist that I am either jealous or allowing my love of the Bears to influence my hatred of a rival, nay, the rival team's quarterback.  While I have nothing against his commercials and certainly recognize his stellar play, my dislike of the Packers' #12 is based on a fairly simple, fairly solid sports principle that I adhere to: act like you've been there before.

I am no fan of celebration.  Strike that, I love to celebrate and do so as often as I can and expect a team that just scored a touchdown to celebrate as well.  What I dislike is choreographed celebrations.  Getting together with your teammates and jumping around and high-fiving as you make your way back to the bench is great.  Spontaneous joy over an achievement is perfectly acceptable. Such celebrations can even take the form of recurring traditions and still hold their charm in my mind.  Just to show I have no ill will (on this subject matter, at least) against the Packers, I will use their Lambeau Leap as an example.  When one of their players scores a touchdown, they jump up into the waiting arms of the fans in the end zone to celebrate.  That is a fantastic tradition.  That I can abide.

This I cannot:

Behold the Discount Double Check
When you have a prepared celebratory move devised, you are, in my book, a douche bag.  This goes double when your touchdown celebration involves a symbolic proclamation to be a heavyweight champion and triple when it involves a forward crotch thrust.  Aaron Rodgers is guilty of all three.  (Note: any defensive players performing the Discount Double Check after sacking Rodgers are also, for the record, lame based both on the grounding principle of this argument as well as the fact that they are even less original for just copying an opposing player's move)

But the offenses against subtlety by the Packers' QB do not end there.  He has been spotted by yours truly celebrating a few other on-field accomplishments as of late that manage to somehow be even more annoying.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

WTF - Weekly Timed Features

I've been spending a lot of time in the TGDRGM and watching the exploits of S.H.I.E.L.D. on The Avengers, then I come to find out through our friends at Today in Geek History that today marked the premiere of M.A.S.K. back in 1985 so it only seems natural that this week's features would begin with our top five super villain acronyms...

5. A.I.M. - Advanced Idea Mechanics one of Marvel Comics' recurring nefarious organizations and I firmly believe the inspiration for the yellow suits worn by the CDA in Monsters, Inc.
Decide for yourself

4. COBRA - Many don't realize that G.I. Joe's main nemesis...actually, the only nemesis I ever recall them facing.  How is that possible?  Anyway, the name COBRA actually stood for COnversion by Blackmail, Revolution and Anarchy.  They really forced that one in there.

3. CAW - The only reason that Criminal Alliance of the World makes this list is thourgh situational irony because they were adversaries to Hawkman in a DC Comics' story arc.  CAW!  Ca-CAW!  Get it?

2. MODOK - This is not only one of Marvel's freakier and yet somehow also comedic looking villains, but it begs the question of which came first, the drawing of the armed and legged giant head or the name, Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing?

1. VENOM - But the inspiration for the week's list the Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem takes the top spot for two reasons.  First, I don't remember what the MASK stood for and second because any villains who are that redundant must be extra committed to their evilness...and viciousness...and the causing of mayhem.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Third Person Thursday, Throwback Edition: Exceptional, Book One

During the fledgling months of this blog's existence, I undertook a significant project.  I used one of the early installment of Third Person Thursday to begin a serial superhero tale that would unfold over several weeks.  I titled it Exceptional.

It was the story of a young teenager figuring out that there was something different about him and, furthermore, trying to figure out just what the hell he was supposed to do about it.  It was rough as I tried to hold myself to the self-imposed Thursday deadlines (which I did not always meet) but I had fun writing it and received some positive feedback over it.  Some months later, the characters called back to me that they wanted more and so I began Exceptional Book Two, another series of stories which were, in many ways, just as rough and hurried as its prequel had been but were still incredibly fun for me to write.

I had been inundated with superhero input over the past few weeks as I catch up on back issues of comic books, watch all the Avengers special features and read Supergods by Grant Morrison.  Thus, I am going to spend this and next Thursday reposting the stories that were.  I will post the links to the originals in order with Book One's links today and Book Two's next Thursday.

Without further ado, please enjoy Exceptional: Book One...

I know that's a lot to take in, true believers, but maybe you'll space it out and be thoroughly excited about diving into Book Two next week.  I can only hope you look forward to more and don't hate me for wasting your time.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: The Long Walk Home

Ok, a few words.  Those dots in the distance are my kids
walking home from school.  They are so grown up and
while my brain wants them to be cool, my nerves want
them to remain helpless babies on some level.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Teachable Moments in Sports

As a father, when I watch sports with my sons, I seem to have an instinctual desire to turn certain key moments into valuable lessons.  I know that they will watch the action jumping out at them in high definition, lifelike color and if I don’t pair their observations with my own thoughts on certain key matters, they could end up admiring and glamorizing the wrong aspects of the game.  My feelings on trying to control and spin to my own liking any sensory input they receive is akin to China’s Internet policies.  Hey, my house, my rules and sports these days seem to be chock full of teachable moments.

My sons and I have had long talks about steroids.  Not only have I taken the whole “Say no to drugs” stance, but the intolerance I have for cheating has been made clear.  A line has been drawn regarding cheating in sports and my sons realize that performance enhancing drugs lie miles on the opposite side of it.  Once, when asking me who my favorite play as a child, Mark McGwire, was, I responded, “Who?  That guy?  That is a coward, boys.  A coward who is dead to me.”  It confused and possibly distressed them, but I felt a lot better.

Last year, when Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz had their little encounter after a game, I made it clear to my sons that a certain coach was being a sore loser.  We watched video, complete with John Madden like pausing and rewinding in order to get my point across.  Last week, the Buccaneers and Giants final play controversy turned into a lecture about the difference between giving up and accepting a loss gracefully.  Of course there are also countless other small events throughout any game that provide teachable moments.  I find myself pointing to a play and telling my sons things like, “You have to keep playing until the whistle blows,” or, “You shouldn’t celebrate too soon,” and, most importantly, “See, that’s why you must always wear your cup.”

All New Features

Sure, you know about the panoramic photo option and the larger screen, but our weekly features plan on revealing some of the lesser known iPhone 5 features to all of you in order to help assist you in making your decision about whether to update or not...

5. Invisibility cloak app - This is only available with the 5.  You can't just update the operating system on your 4 or 4S and expect to sneak into the ladies locker room unnoticed.

4. The auto-correct now improves your Facebook posts - Having a hard time coming up with something clever but feel like it's been to long since you last posted a status?  Don't worry.  The spell check engine has been expanded to recognize lame posts about your family pet and change them into trendy song lyrics that totally express your attitude on life.

3. Siri wakes you up to talk - Your high tech personal assistant has become a little more pushy on its way to evolving into GLaDOS.  If you haven't used Siri for 48 hours, it will wait until you have just begun to fall asleep then sigh and ask aloud, "Why don;t you talk to me anymore?"

2. The new adapter conceals a sonic screwdriver - The iPhone 5 requires a new plug.  This has resulted in a great gnashing of teeth amongst loyal customers who have all sorts of old plug accessories.  What they aren't telling you is that Apple has decided to reward the adapter purchasers with their own version of the Time Lord's handy dandy tool.

1. Google no longer secretly monitors your movements through the maps icon...Apple does - It's one thing to watch my every move, but it's another to allow an outside corporation to do it.  Kudos to Apple for finally being its own Big Brother.

This week's cool-ass thing you will never own is this retro-video game room which I mentioned earlier in the week...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Guess What We're Doing Tomorrow

I have had a busy weekend without much time for posting, but you all need at least a quick heads up before tomorrow arrives or I could not forgive myself.

What do you need a heads up about?  Well, tomorrow is September 25th.  And it's a Tuesday.  What happens on Tuesdays?  Movies get released on DVD.  And even though I haven't had time to update the weekly features and what's to come for the week yet, I have just enough time to squeeze in this post alerting you that tomorrow will mark the release of...

The Avengers
on DVD
and BluRay

Go out and pick it up, true believers.  I, for one, have a whole day to watch the special features and what not tomorrow.  I'll let you know what I think of them when I'm done.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ignorance is Bliss, then Facebook Ruins It

As I published hear a few weeks ago, the Transformer Generation Dad Retro-Gaming Museum (TGDRGM) is up and running (and accepting donations).  I have collected several old systems of mine, pooled the cartridge collections of any friends and family that were willing to contribute and constructed an impressive library of titles that you can play on their original systems.

There is also a rumor that I am in possession of an old Xbox that has been converted to play thousands of video games from retro systems including old stand-up arcade consoles.  While this would make the TGDRGM even more impressive, this is only an urban legend (I wrote so here myself).  Regardless of the awesomeness of the TGDRGM, I was well aware of just how many consoles and games were missing from my museum.  Collecting every video game ever made would be a near impossibility, but I was pleased with what I had managed to assemble.

Then someone sent me this picture that they found on Facebook...

I cannot attribute this behemoth to anyone as its origins are a mystery to me

...and I hung my head in shame.  Here it was, the ultimate goal, the unreachable ideal I held in my head of what a retro-gaming museum might look like, the shrine to gaming history that I thought could never be achieved and someone had actually created it.  More importantly, that someone was not me.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Third person Thursday: The Telltale Brick

“Can we build it now?”

“We don’t have time right now, Lucas,” he explained to the puppy-eyed eight-year-old across the table, “you have to get to school.”


“I’ll tell you what though,” he said and popped open one end of the rectangular cardboard box, “we can sort the pieces right now over breakfast and when you get home from school, we’ll build it together then, okay?”

“Okay,” the boy replied and bounced excitedly in his seat.  His father dumped the contents of the Lego set box onto the breakfast table and they alternated between sliding pieces into color-coordinated piles and scooping spoonfuls of Cookie Crisp into their mouths for the next twenty minutes.

Soon it was time to leave.  Lucas’ father had the day off work and after he dropped Lucas off at school he returned home and headed to the kitchen to pour himself another cup of coffee and contemplate how to best use his free day.

He passed by the table and admired the Lego bricks lying in wait in their neat little piles.  He looked forward to transforming those piles into a Lego Star Wars Y-Wing with his son later.

He poured his coffee and added cream and sugar.  He was staring out the window at the lawn, considering using the morning to mow it and just taking his first, loud sip when he heard it.


He cut his sip short and waited to hear the curious sound again.  Nothing came.  He shrugged and took another sip, which he nearly choked on, when the sound came again.

Pew! Pew-pew!  Pew-pew!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I Could Get Used to This...But Probably Shouldn't

When I started taking online classes at Coursera a few weeks ago, I thought it would get me back into routine of being a student without the precise scheduling.  I figured it would be a low pressure way to recondition myself to committing to schoolwork and serve as a stepping stone towards going back to school for real in the near future.

Little did I know that the site would completely ruin the traditional educational format for me.

Yes, three assignments into my very first online Coursera course, I expect that I can not only wait until the last minute to finish my assignments, but I can cram all the lectures into an afternoon.  Depending how alert I am on a particular day, I can even use the video player's speed option to make the professor ramble on faster so that an hour lecture can be heard in half the time.  Granted, he then sounds like the old Micro Machines Guy, but it saves time.  If I had to show up to a lecture hall two days a week to do my learning now, I would surely distract the rest of the class with my loud, annoyed sighs.

Furthermore, I don't see how I ever made it through all my previous schooling without the ability to multi-task while attending class.  I can get all sorts of things done now as I carry my laptop with me around the house and listen to the professors.  I do laundry, eat lunch and browse other websites.  If the option of cracking open a beer in the middle of class were now taken away from me, I'm not sure how I would react.  Don't even get me started about how many lectures I've already listened to while sitting on the toilet.

Yes, the site is amazing.  Yes, you can take classes from real life professors from the likes of Harvard, Princeton and Yale.  Yes it is undeniably convenient.  Yes, I am learning a great deal and having a lot of fun.  However, I am no longer able to function as a real world student and I am afraid of what this may mean for me when I attempt to return to school and pursue an actual degree.

My biggest fear is that since I have become so accustomed to dressing down, often taking in sessions from the comfort of my own bed, that those terrible dreams I used to have about showing up to class in my underwear may finally come to fruition.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Anyone Who Enjoys Lego or Marble Runs Should Take a Look at This. In Other Words, Everyone Pay Attention!

While taking a look at The Brothers Brick blog, I stumbled upon this absolutely amazing, spectacular, know what, I'm going to run out of adjectives and adverbs before I can do it justice, so just go ahead and watch the video.  You're going to want to watch the full seven minutes, trust me.  It keeps getting better.

Shhhh, no words.  Let's just enjoy the fact that our worlds are now a little brighter.

Remaking Our Weekly Features

I’m a day late, as usual, updating the weekly features so let’s dive right in.

There have been so many unlikely movie remakes lately.  Some reboot, like The Amazing Spider-Man or Clash of the Titans while some seek to fix the mistakes of the first attempt like Total Recall and Dredd 3D.  There are even more currently in the works which seem like curious decisions doomed for disaster like Robocop and Red Dawn.  Since no one in Hollywood wants to listen to our advice to slow down with the rehashing, we have decided to suggest a few more movies that we would like to see reworked.  Here is our top five:

5. Fantastic Four – Forget the orange suit and do for the Thing what The Avengers did for the Hulk, CGI.  Also, let’s get some more intense fight scenes and a real Galactus, not just a dust cloud hovering in space to make Marvel's first family respectable comic heroes again.

4. Demolition Man – The over-scientific, over-regulated future seems to be a hot theme again and maybe you could get Sting to do another title song.  You forgot about that horrible tune until just now, didn’t you?

3. Ghost Rider – Cast someone who is not Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze and it’s sure to be better.

2. Masters of the Universe – We’ve watched Transformers, we’ve seen (and hated) G.I. Joe (thus far), so what other classic 80s toy needs a remake film?  He-Man, fools!  The old movie was barely recognizable as being related to the toy line, so this time, whoop it up with the somehow in the future but also in the medieval past dichotomy.  Confuse everyone.  Speaking of confusing everyone, the biggest thing missing that must be added to a new version can be summed up in two words: fuzzy underpants.

1. Weekend at Bernie’s – Want to take an old movie and capitalize on the latest craze?  I’m surprised nobody has thought of this.  Make Bernie a zombie.  Annnnnnnd, action!

Friday, September 14, 2012

My Sincerest (Hypothetical) Gratitude

Transformer Generation Dad's Retro-Gaming Museum (TGDRGM) has been up and running for a few weeks now with rave reviews.  All visitors (yes, all eight) to the TGDRGM have been wowed by the selection of titles from yesteryear and the authentic retro-gaming experience it provides.  If you recall, the TGDRGM is even accepting donations.  Click this link to find out how to make yourself one of TGD's most favoritest of all readers by donating your old game cartridges today.

If there is one thing that we here at Transformer Generation Dad take more seriously than retro video games, it is anti-piracy laws.  Which is a real shame because I hear through underground channels that one can, if one were so inclined, procure an old Xbox console and outfit it with hundred if not thousands of retro video game emulators from various systems.

Of course, I cannot speak as to whether or not this can actually be done because I will never admit to having seen it first hand.  At this point let us just consider the possibility that it might just be an urban legend (an extremely geeky one at that) and that none of us will ever know if it can truly happen.  Thus, we can discuss the awesome potential of such an outfitted system in hypothetical terms.  Let the parenthetical comments commence.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Third Person Thursday: Let it Ride

Despite the fact that his stomach felt like it had been flipped upside down, Marvin held it together.  He felt cold and clammy and imagined that if he saw himself in the mirror, he would look positively green.

But he didn't want Freddy to notice so when he asked Marvin, "Want to go on another ride?" Marvin nodded excitedly, smiled and subtly swallowed the vomit that had jumped up into the back of his throat.

Each ride seemed more intense than the last.  They pitched and turned and sometimes flipped over.  Marvin's stomach seemed to be punching the rest of his insides in an effort to escape from the torture.  The sweat poured from his forehead as the world streaked in flashing colors all around him until the ride finally came to a stop.  Between rounds all Marvin could hope for was as long a line as possible on Freddy's next choice, the better to give him time to regroup.

At one point, while following Freddy from the Tilt-a-whirl to the Gravitron, they passed the funnel cake stand.  With his dizzying nausea, the odor of the fried dough caused Marvin to gag.  He spotted a nearby garbage can and ducked behind the tent and leaved over it, convinced he was about to throw up and, in fact, almost welcoming the relief it might bring.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Don't Let the Younger Generation Forget Either

No matter how many years pass, those who witnessed the events of September 11th, 2001 will never forget the horror, the tragedy and the sadness of that day.  However, it being eleven years in the past the population that was not around to experience it is ever growing.  With two boys younger than the disaster myself, I have turned each year to a picture book that does a great job touching on the subject with kids.

It is entitled Fireboat and is the true story of an antique fireboat in NYC whose owners and crew did what they could to help on that day.  If you are looking for a way to explain what happened to your kids in a way that isn't too scary but highlights the spirit of our country and how everyone pulled together, give it a read with your kids.  I'm sure you will not be disappointed.

Let us all remember those who lost their lives and their families today and remember the freedom that makes this country truly great.  If you don't have the opportunity to fly your own American flag stop and take a moment to salute or at least admire one you see in your travels.

Forever may it wave.

Monday, September 10, 2012

TGD Review: PvZ Pinball

My sons and I are nuts about Plants vs. Zombies as I'm pretty sure 90% of the gaming population is.  So when I heard that there was going to be a Plants vs. Zombies table on Zen Pinball 2 (or FX Pinball 2 on the Xbox) I knew I would be downloading it on the first day it was made available on Xbox Live.

I stayed true to my word and last Wednesday, disappointingly one day after it was released on the Play Station Network, I spent 240 Xbox points and made it my own.  Nearly a week after playing it daily, I review it here for you.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Opening Weekly Features

Since I spent most of my day staring at the TV and screaming at it in hopes of influencing the outcome of my favorite team's game (which I am pretty sure worked), I figure I ought to be productive and update the features as well.

This week's top five list consists of my start of the season NFL picks to win it all.  this year, I am leaving nothing to chance:

5. Chicago Bears

4. Bears

3. Da Bears

2. The Monsters of the Midway

1. A certain team from a town known for its wind and whose team is destined to achieve the status it once held under da great Mike Ditka, a team that will lead the league on both sides of the field dis year, also known as...Daaaaaa Bears.

This week's cool-ass thing you will never own is the football with which you scored your first NFL touchdown.  Certainly you see more rookies coming in and making immediate impact with their teams, often in their very first game, these years.  Still, you would have to make it to the NFL to begin with, which means you better hit the gym...and become way more athletic somehow.

This week's sign you are a nerd is that you correct the nearby fan who is singing the fight song incorrectly.  You may have leaned over and politely said, "Pardon me, but it is, 'What though the odds,' not, 'Although the odds.'"  Or perhaps you told someone whom you thought was as anal about such things as you are, "Every play doesn't make the way for victory, it clears it."  Truth is no matter how polite or academic your approach, you sound like a lame killjoy.

This week's nemesis is Brian Urlacher's knee.  No matter how pleased or confident I am about any Bears' season there always looms over my head some delicate aspect of the team that threatens to shift the weight of the team bus just enough to send it plummeting off the cliffside to a fiery death below.  Last year, though i perceived it to be the offensive line, it was an injury to Jay Cutler.  This year, it looks to be the aging joint of our middle linebacker.

This week's lesson learned is to reread any written assignments for a class you prepare while watching a football game.  I nearly submitted a bunch of half sentences and gibberish and I'm pretty sure a subconscious reference to proper tackling form to my online class in my distraction.  Thank God I checked it over at halftime.

This week's analysis charts my feelings about my home team after years of wins and losses and notices a pretty predictable pattern:

This week's Star Wars quote is, "Only Imperial Storm Troopers are so precise."

That's all for this wee.  Thanks as always for reading.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

TGD Review: The Simpsons Tapped Out Is Just That

One of the greatest shows in the history of television and unarguably the pioneer of the plethora of adult  oriented animated series currently on television is The Simpsons.  I have been a long lover and supporter of the yellow skinned family from Springfield and am willing to consume Simpsons merchandise when it's worth while.

Certainly, Homer and his family are no strangers to video games.  I remember throwing quarter after quarter into the four person brawler while at the arcade with my friends.  One of my favorite games when the Gamecube was new was The Simpsons Road Rage.  So it was with hope in my heart that I thought the heroes of the beloved television series might make me more receptive to the time consuming world building games that have become so popular on smart phones and social media.  Below are the results.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Third Person Thursday (Throwback Edition): Body Works

Brain watched the twin video monitors intently, taking in the footage from both Left and Right Eye simultaneously, processing them together to calculate depth.  He leaned forward and pressed the button labeled Right Arm on the large control panel in front of him.  This caused several of the buttons to light up at once.

“Right Bicep, extend the entire arm so that the Right Hand Division can get around the back of the pipe,” he said into a speaker.

“Aye, aye, sir,” called back Right Bicep as Brain watched his instructions followed to the letter on the monitor.

Brain hit the Right Arm button again and the lights extinguished.  Right Bicep, Tricep, Forearm, Hand and each of the Fingers worked in unison to loosen the nut from around the drainpipe.  They struggled and strained for a few minutes as Brain watched the water seep from around the gasket.

“This isn’t working,” he mumbled to himself.  Then he snatched the microphone from its stand and made an announcement.  “Attention all body parts.  This is Brain speaking.  We are aborting this project effective immediately.  I will need the assistance of Right and Left Hands and both Eyes in order to conduct some Internet research.  All personnel are hereby instructed to execute the getting up from the floor protocol.  And please be careful.  This ship’s not as young as it used to be.”

Monday, September 3, 2012

This Labor Day, Remember How far We Have Come

At the time of this posting, Labor Day 2012 is nearly over.  But as your barbecue, family vacation, day of laziness or other chosen method of celebration winds down, I encourage you to remember what Labor Day is really about...

Most of you probably work an eight hour day.  If you work more than that, you are more than likely compensated in some manner, whether it be a higher salary, more pay for the extra hours, or some other sort of perk that you deem worth it.  Saturdays and Sundays are your days off, most likely and you enjoy the weekends with your family and/or friends.

Speaking of family, they don't have to worry as much as they would have many years ago because your workplace is likely much safer.  Also, God forbid you should die in a horrific accident at work, your death will not simply be chalked up to another  unfortunate loss.  Plus, if you have children, you do not have to worry about how their day at the factory went because of our country's chid labor laws.

A lot of the work practices we take for granted these days were not always commonplace.  People spent all their waking hours (and even some when they should have been sleeping) laboring away.  Pay was less fair and work conditions less clean and more dangerous.  Kids had to go out and start bringing in paychecks as soon as they were able.  People got in a lot of trouble and even lost their lives fighting to make these benefits possible for the average working person in this country and many people around the world do not see these rights as a possibility.

I happen to be a Union worker.  I know that carries a negative connotation amongst some circles, but I assure you I do not send my entire day standing around staring at the work that needs to be done...usually.  I kid.  To be perfectly honest, I end up with the occasional opportunity to check my email or complete a level of Plants vs. Zombies on my iPhone during my shift, but that has more to do with the time of day that I am working and the nature of my job in general than it does the fact that I am part of a union.  I am proud of the job that I do and I am proud that I am in a union.

I encourage you all to remember these things on Labor Day.  Remember that no matter how much your job sucks on the average day, had it not been for the men and women behind such labor struggles who sacrificed a great deal for the rest of their coworkers, it could suck a whole lot more.

We Labor Through This Week's Features

It's time to dive right into the weekly features with the top five ways to celebrate Labor Day (there's still time left):

5. Play video games - The countries where these things are made, for the most part, do not have the same kind of labor restrictions that we do.  So what better way to celebrate the time off from work by enjoying the fruits of someone else's sixteen hour days of labor?

4. Have a Jimmy Hoffa scavenger hunt - The first one to find the Teamster leader's remains wins!

3. Force your children (if you have any) to do chores - Child labor laws are just one of the many things of which Labor Day celebrates the institution.  But that doesn't mean you can't make them sweat like little slaves around the house every now and then.  Your grass is long and that car needs washing.

2. Ceremoniously place your white clothing into storage - No wearing white after Labor Day.  This could also be interpreted as the burial ceremony of summer.

1. Relax - It's your day off.  You deserve it.

This week's cool-ass thing you will never own is a real Plants vs Zombies pinball table.  The virtual table will be released tomorrow for the Zen's Pinball FX2, but wouldn't it be awesome to play it on a real life table.  Alas, the technology to have the undead rise form its tilted surface and shamble toward your flippers is just a little ways off yet.

This week's sign you are a nerd is that over 50% of the glassware in your home has comic or science fiction characters printed on it.  I have fond memories of growing up drinking out of the Burger King collectable Star Wars glasses, complete with lad based paint.  Now, as I break our grown up looking drinking glasses one by one over time (accidentally, of course) I have been replacing them with similar pint glasses with Marvel, DC and Star Wars imagery emblazoned upon them.

This week's nemesis is my giant fingers.  If I had a dollar for every time I mistype something because my enormous fingers accidentally mashed several buttons on my keyboard at once I would have had seven dollars by the time I finished writing this gag.

This week's lesson learned is to check expiration dates.  The food you swore must still be good will be prevented from tearing your stomach lining to shreds.  The wait in the drive-thru will be less embarrassing when you don't have your coupons handed back to you and have to pay full price.  Your driver's license will still be valid when you get pulled over.  The dates are printed on these things for a reason.  We ought to pay closer attention to them.

This week's analysis examines what we find in our Lego storage containers:

Aaaaannnnnd, this week's Star wars quote is, "Fear will keep the local systems in line."

Happy Labor Day.  Thanks for reading.