Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympic Weekly Features

The 2012 Summer Olympics have begun and our weekly features are designed to celebrate the majesty of sportsmanship and competition at its purest form.  Along those lines, our top five list consists of our top non-medal Olympic moments.

5. Jamaican bobsled team, Calgary 1998 – Not a summer Olympic moment, but a story of a group of athletes who dedicated themselves to a cause and kept at it.  More importantly, it resulted in a movie starring John Candy.  Oh, how I miss him.

4. John Stephen Akhwari, Mexico City 1968 – After a fall that resulted in a fracture in his leg during the marathon, this Tanzanian runner refused to quit and finally crossed the finish line after the winner had already finished over an hour earlier.

3. Kerstin Palm, Tokyo 1964 through Seoul 1988 – The Swedish fencer was the first woman to compete in seven, yes seven Olympic games.  What drove her to keep going for so long?  The love of the sport.  Palm never medaled, yet returned over and over again just to keep competing.

2. Lawrence Lemieux, Seoul 1988 – While in second place during a rowing competition, Lemieux saw two athletes from Singapore competing in another race simultaneously capsize in rough waters.  Lemieux quickly steered off the route and saved both men from drowning, sacrificing his place in the history books to help his fellow athlete.

1. Derek and Jim Redmond, Barcelona 1992 – The most inspiring and memorable Olympic moment ever, especially to a dad like me, came when injury plagued British sprinter Derek Redmond snapped his hamstring in the middle of a race and his father, Jim pushed past security in order to race to his son’s side and support him across the finish line.  Technically, Derek was disqualified, but it was a family victory in the end.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

TGD's Fantas(y)tic Offer

The most intense sports season of all is nearly upon us.  No other sporting contest tells you more about yourself and your competitors.  Loyalties are tested, friends become mortal enemies and even kin turn their back on one another for the chance at victory.

Yes, it is time to begin prepping for the fantasy football season.  And nobody can do it alone.  The sooner you accept the fact that you need help, the sooner I can help you.

I don't pretend to have advice to offer you about who to draft, who not to draft or who to draft if that one guy you were going to draft has already been drafted.  There are countless websites and publications out there you can reference to get such advice.  No, the help I so generously extend my hand and offer today concerns something many overlook.  It involves the first thing anyone will notice about your fantasy team.  It is your first chance to make an impression upon your opponent, whether it be to intimidate or confuse.

I want to name your fantasy team.

I made this same offer to my readers in a post from last year.  However, nobody accepted my offer.  Now, it's possible that the ranks of fantasy football leagues out there were peppered with some of the gems that I let slip in that post and that would be fine.  But my true hope is that you readers out there might comment on this post, telling me a little about yourself and giving me insight into your personality (your football philosophy, favorite hobby, book, movie, or brand of cereal), and that I may then offer a few potential names for you to choose from.  I'm thinking each comment gets three potential names.

But you doubt my abilities, don't you?  I can't say that I blame you.  And so, as a gesture of good faith, I will throw another few beauties out there that you can choose to steal for your own team if you are too shy to leave a comment.  Here are just a few I thought of at random in no particular order...

  • Secret Apprentice
  • Dungeons & Defensive Backs
  • Kobiyashi Maru
  • Mean Machine
  • Tusken Raiders
  • The Horse You Rode in On
  • The Wreck of the Larry Fitzgerald
  • Boom Bang Pow
  • Previously Unreleased Yardage
  • Brick by Brick
  • Something Completely Different
  • Unimpeded to Your Quarterback
  • Mandalorians
  • Herald of Galactus

...and I'm spent.

But seriously folks, that took a matter of two minutes.  If you comment on this post and ask for a customized name for your fantasy team, I guarantee that I will spend at least five minutes thinking up three potential names just for you.  That's more than one minute per name!

Regardless of your naming decision, I wish you all luck this season.  May the Force be with you...ooh, that's another one!  "Force With a Capital F."  Ok, I'm done.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Third Person Thursday: What's in a Name

“You are really taking it seriously this year,” Hank said to Greg without averting his eyes from the television.  “You invite me over to watch the Sox game and then you spend the whole time in front of your computer plotting your fantasy football strategy.”

“Sorry I’m being so intense about it,” Greg said without averting his eyes form the stat table displayed on his computer screen, “I just really want to win the title this year.”

“I’m not complaining,” Hank elaborated and shoved an entire White Castle cheeseburger into his mouth.  “More sliders for me,” he then spoke around it as he chewed.  “You’ve won half the years we’ve been playing in this league.”

“Five out of eight actually,” Greg said.

Hank waved off the correction with a swipe of his hand, swallowed and promptly removed the next miniature cheeseburger from its box.  “The rest of us spend our mental energy hoping that your best players will suffer career ending injuries just so we might have a shot at winning.”  He ripped open and squeezed a packet of brown mustard.  “Still, I’ve never seen you put this much time into it.  What’s so special about this year?  You going balls out for that three-peat?”

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: What a Difference a Day Makes

Wordless Wednesday: Ice Cream PSA

I apologize for breaking the rules of Wordless Wednesday, in fact another post with two pictures and no words (I promise) will be posted a little later, but this is a serious matter.  In fact this is pratically a public service announcement.

Observe if you will the above photograph.  You may recognize that this is a Dairy Queen soft serve ice cream cone.  What you may not recognize, unfortunately, is the topping on this particular cone.  If you have the extreme displeasure of being located near a Dairy Queen that does not carry "Crunch Coat" this is what you are missing.

Alas, for years many people near the offending Dairy Queen locations have not known what I was talking about when I requested my cone be rolled in Crunch Coat on several occasions.  This is a tragedy and I seek that all Dairy Queen patrons be treated equally and have accessibility to this amazing taste sensation.  Alert the manager at your Dairy Queen immediately and demand that they make this crunchy, peanut-ty option available to you without delay.

The more you know...

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Fallacy of the Trilogy Pattern

With the third and final of Christopher Nolan's Batman films now in theaters, I spent some time recently reflecting on some of the more well-known film trilogies.  I remember reading that the overwhelming opinion of many film-viewers was that the quality of each of the three films in a trilogy followed a predictable pattern.

The first, it was said was good enough to draw attention to the franchise.  It developed the characters and injected interest in their story into the consciousness of the general public.

The second film was the crowning achievement.  With the main characters established, new challenges and trials could be introduced.  the story hit the ground running and gave you the most bang for your buck.

The third film was usually the source of heated debate.  Did it end the franchise successfully or did it stagger off into the sunset like the athlete with injury problems who should have retired three seasons back?  Regardless, the third film showed a significant drop off from the second, often held in regard as the best of the three.

I argue that this is really not much of a pattern at all and below, I set out to provide evidence toward my argument.  Please peruse the following graph and think of each trilogy mentioned (I know I left a number out, but the graph was becoming rather cluttered) as you saw it...

Two things should be evident from looking at this graph.  First, I am not very skilled at graphic design. Second, the suggested pattern does not hold as steadfast as some would suggest.  In fact, several trilogies had the second film in the series nearly knock the success of the franchise off the rails before the third could be released.

I welcome any and all questions, challenges and debates regarding the opinion expressed above.  Of course, I am speculating on where The Dark Knight Rises might fall on this graph and I have ignored that extra film that had Indiana Jones in its title for reasons which I hope are obvious.

Same Bat-Blog, Same Bat-Features

The final movie of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy is out in theaters and I am going to overcompensate for my not having yet seen it by loading up this week's features with Batman and trilogy movie references.  It starts with our top five Batman villains...

5. Catwoman - An intriguing character in the Batman universe, but since she has become more of a part-time villain/anti-hero, she can't very well rank higher.

4. Bane - I'm a big fan of the strong, muscle-bound villains whom the hero must outthink.  Not having seen the film, I'm hearing that The Dark Knight Rises version of Bane is a bit different, so we shall see if the movie portrayal causes his stock to rise or fall in reference to this list.

3. Two Face - Another villain done differently in the films, I always liked the schizophrenic ex-DA in the comic books.

2. Riddler - Ok, he may have the worst get-up out of them all, an obnoxious green spandex one piece with question marks all over it, but his approach always got me.  I still find myself posing questions to my friends by starting, "Riddle me this, Batman..."

1. Joker - True sick, disturbed, evil mind and what better way to portray that than having hims resemble the most evil of God's creations, the clown.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Third Person Thursday: Ben Takes the Bait

Anchor in place, before a single item of tackle was attended to, Ben Grainger took care of his top priority and popped open a can of beer.  He took a long swig and set the can on the bench in front of him.  Then, he set to baiting the hooks.

“Stupid fish,” he said to himself after he had properly hooked a minnow and dropped the line over the side.

The white side of the red and white bobber floated upward. Ben set the pole into one of the holders scattered around the edges of his boat then took another long, self-satisfied swig from his beer can before setting up the next pole the same way.  After each pole was set there came another pull from a beer can such that by the time all six poles had been set up Ben was downing the last drops from his third can and already opening his fourth.

By this time, the bobbers’ white topsides had begun to dip below the water.  “Stupid, greedy fish,” he said and reached to the various poles, setting hooks and reeling in lines, all the while taking swigs from the cans which he let fall to the bottom of his boat as he emptied them.

Ben’s target was walleye, walleye large enough to make a halfway decent fillet.  If he found the fish to be too small, he tossed it back in.  If it were a different species, back it went also, though he paused for a minute to inspect a rather large perch in his hand before deciding not to settle.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

TGD Review: Kingdoms of Camelot Battle for the North Reminds You, Time is Money

Platform, first person shooter, RPG, MMO and puzzle games all have their place in this world.  At any given moment, I may prefer one genre over the other and the greats of each category could prompt heated arguments over which is the better overall game.

But as I have watched video games evolve over my lifetime from Pong to Pac-Man to Mario to Modern Warfare, the most curious of the video game genres to sweep the nerdscape is what I call the "pay to play" genre made popular by the era of smart phones and social media.

Ok, so maybe it isn't always pay to play, but it is "pay to play better."  These games are normally apps you purchase for your phone or link to your Facebook account.  They start as free.  Sometimes you can upgrade them to avoid the advertisements in between levels.  But almost always, you can spend money on in-app purchases in order to be better than the rest of the people you are squaring off against in the game.

Enter, Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North, a multi-player online game that seeks to piggyback off the medieval fantasy friendly atmosphere generated by the success of Game of Thrones and get people to spend every waking hour and every spare penny to build a mighty kingdom (or, if you pay just a little bit more, several mighty kingdoms) that will be the envy of all others.

Let's get this review over with, shall we, my liege?

Monday, July 16, 2012

July's First Features

Posting has been quite sparse here over the last month.  July has seen perhaps an all time low in regularity of my shared ranting.  After a week out of town, fishing in the north woods, I have decided to finally update the weekly features.  It begins with the top five ways I was able to notice (other than road signs) that I had returned to Illinois…

5. Lack of pine trees – The sprawling groups of tall pines begin to become less sprawling as you come closer to Illinois’ northern border and pretty much disappear by the time to you cross it.  It also gives way to…

4. Flatter terrain – Goodbye scenic bluffs of sandstone and rolling hills, hello boring flat fields of grass.

3. More lanes on the highway – The same interstate opens suddenly from two lanes into four most places and even more once you start reaching the tollbooths, which leads us to my next sign…

2. Tolls – You may have driven for four hundred and fifty miles for nothing more than the cost of your gas, but now the same stretch of road is going to cost you $1.95 every thirty miles or so.  Welcome home.

1. Terrible drivers – You would think that the open lanes and the tolls would combine for better traffic.  On the contrary, the whole slower traffic to the right thing just seems to fly out the window once you cross into my beloved Land of Lincoln (who was born in Kentucky).

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday Double Shot Part Two: The Spider Called the First Burger

Wordless Wednesday Double Shot Part One: And That Is How It's Done

The Winds of Change Whisper Through the Pines and I Think it Would Be Rude to Ignore Them

I was torn today. Every now and then, one realizes that certain truths one may hold very dear don't exactly get along perfectly. They are the Felix Unger and Oscar Madison of your brain and while you roll your eyes and chuckle at the hilarity of their differences there's still always that uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach that one day one of them is going to be caught trying to stuff the dead corpse of the other down the incinerator chute. As I navigated the tree lined passages of the Northwoods, my iPhone alerted me to the incoming text message and instantly and instinctively I pulled it from my pocket to check it. This is something I never would have done five years ago. Of course, I couldn't have done it five years ago because the network reception wasn't nearly what it is today, so I suppose I ought not to get so high and mighty over the sanctity of nature with myself. Still, it bothered me slightly. When you escape into nature, you expect there to be an enveloping dome of technological regression that is somewhat comforting. It's not that you don't want to be able to reach the ones you love or be able to contact help in case of an emergency like a bear attack (though I hear the last thing you should do during a bear attack is get on your cell phone...it will only further enrage the bear and increase the ferocity with which it mauls you) it's just that you welcome the excuse to limit your contact with the outside world. Simultaneouly, I was ashamed to be excited. I love for my sons to be on the cutting edge of technology. I love that they show me how to do things on the iPad. I love that they have begun to show me effective video game techniques. I suppose I will enjoy it slightly less when they begin to kick my ass at said video games, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. So, when the two sides of my psyche collided, the side that loves getting away from it all and the side that feels the constant need to be plugged into it all, my head began to swim. I texted my response and immediately dragged my boys onto a canoe and started paddling. And while I ran from my choice between technological progress and good old fashioned outdoorsy fun, the answer came to me. I didn't need to make a choice at all. If the two sides of me were to coexist, who was I to resist. After all, religion and science can find common ground. Okay, that is an admittedly terrible example. But I'm sure I can make this work. I have to. Besides, what's the harm in catching a largemouth bass and immediately posting my celebratory photo on Facebook? Once I'm done using the iPad's 3G network to write this blog post, I'll shut it down and pick up an old paperback book and read unto the wee hours. Then I'll wake up in the morning and do some fishing first thing all by myself from the dock. I'd better set the alarm on my iPhone so I get up on time. (Note my inability to properly edit the format of this post...I am so roughing it)

Friday, July 6, 2012

TGD Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

I will be the first to admit that it seemed a little too early in my mind for a reboot of Ol' Web-Head's tale.  I wondered how much would change, how much would have to be done a second time and how much time I would spend comparing the new Spidey to the old Spidey.  But in the end, the question became one of how I could sleep at night knowing that I had denied myself the chance to see one of my favorite Marvel icons on the big screen?  The answer: I couldn't.

So, on a hot, humid Thursday afternoon, my family and I and a few extra kids who were told explicitly that I was not to be bothered during the middle of the film for something as inconsequential as bathroom breaks (why do you think we bought you that large drink cup?) hit the theater to see how the Web Slinger's new origin story would fare.

The Plus Side: To start with, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone looked their parts.  It was as if Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy had been extracted from the pages of the comic book and placed on the screen through some sort of hokey pseudo-comic-science.  Call it corny, but such little details and homages to the original comic characters go a long way in my book.

Monday, July 2, 2012

To Each His Own With Our Brand New Poll

In response to June's poll question regarding how you felt about DC Comics' decision to make the Green Lantern (at least the alternate universe version, so "a" Green Lantern) gay, our readers responded with a resounding YAAAAAWWWWWWN.  And since the majority of you didn't think it was a big deal, I will conform and treat it as such by immediately moving on to the new poll with little to no fanfare.

Within just a few hours (less than one on the East Coast) of typing this post, the newest Marvel film, The Amazing Spider-Man (remember the hyphen) will be released for viewing.  Alas, my schedule will probably not allow me time to see it until a week or two later.  Sigh.

With the major new reveals of the movie still unspoiled, July's poll will have to do with one major point of controversy over the new film.  I speak, of course, of Spidey's web shooters.  In the Tobey Maquire franchise, they had been made part of the hero's enhanced physiology, much to the chagrin of fans demanding reverence to the comic book.  This time around, Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker constructs his own as he did in the comic.  Be prepared for the scene when he runs out mid-swing.

So what do TGD readers prefer?  Do you like your web shooters to be part of the (Spider-)man?  Would you rather see the boy genius invent his own?  Or would you rather see the web done away with and some new spider transportation method inserted?  Perhaps he manages to make with way through the city quickly by tricking people, thus traveling on a web of lies, or is able to harness the power of the internet to travel on the world wide web.  Perhaps some other terribly corny web reference would suit your fancy.

Let's reconvene at the end of July and discuss.