Saturday, December 31, 2011

That Time Of Year Again

Hi folks.

I've been gone a loooong time from the blogs, I know. Sorry about that. I usually get scarce this time of year, as I'm rarely online when I'm on staycation. How's that for irony, huh?

So this means I haven' blogged or read blogs in all this time. And I therefore apologize for my lack of comments, people. Nothing personal, okay?

Anyway, I hope you all are having a good wrap-up to the year. 2011 was not a nice year to me, and to be honest I can't wait for it to be done with already. But I hope the rest of you have had a better year. And even if yours sucked as much as mine did, let us join forces and wish really hard that we ALL have a fantastic 2012!!!

As some of you already know, the end of the year is never a good time for me. New Year's Eve is when my mother was taken from us, as I've already chronicled here and here before. So it's not a happy, merry ol' time for me or my family. We tend to be very low-key on this night, watching the ball drop on Times Square from the comfort of our living rooms, but not much else. I can only remember one time since my mother's passing that I've gone to a NYE party, and that was mostly to take my mind off depressing thoughts than anything else.

Still, don't let me spoil the fun and merry hijinks of this night. I wish you all the best . . . auld lang syne, and all that jazz. May you have a prosperous and joyous 2012.


Monday, December 19, 2011

A Brief History Lesson, Game Of Thrones Style!

So how was your weekend? Mine was fine, filled with a lot of writing done on the ongoing practice novel . . . but also much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the performance of my NYC-area NFL teams. Grrrrr! Way to eff up my Sunday, Giants and Jets! But at least I got to see the Pats embarrass the Broncos. Was looking forward to that the most, actually. And Tom Brady delivered!

Anywho . . .

Got a nice surprise over at Winter Is this morning. Seems they received a specially made press-kit from HBO bearing the sigil of House Stark, and packed with all sorts of goodies for the upcoming home video release of the 1st season of Game of Thrones.  You can click on the link to see what was in the kit, but I'm going to embed a special video below which was taken from the Blu-ray box set. The clip is part of one of the many special features, this one consisting of 24 videos pertaining to various aspects of Westerosi life, culture, and history -- and each containing sketch-art animation with narration provided by various members of the show's cast. This particular one details the religious institutions of Westeros, and is narrated by both Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark) and Isaac Hempstead-Wright (Bran Stark). This brief history of the dual religions which came to dominate Westeros is information that was spread out in bits and pieces throughout the books, but which is very handy for newcomers to get all in one place like this. Watch for yourselves and enjoy:

I'm impressed. And also, highly excited to get my hands on my own Blu-ray set this March! I'm going to watch all 24 vids as if they're a History Channel doc. It's going to be AWESOME, I just know it!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Batista's 10 Contrarian Rules To Life

I've overcome many obstacles to get to where I am today. Those who know me already know the long of it, so I won't bore you with the details about my chaotic childhood. But do you wanna know a little secret I utilized to get through some of the tougher periods of uncertainty and doubt?

Simple: I did the opposite of what everyone else was doing!

It sounds like a an odd thing to say, right? But somehow it worked! I got through high school, for instance, by taking a look around me and realizing that I didn't want to be like all those other kids I saw because they were obviously headed in a very bad direction. So instead of hanging out, chasing girls, and seeking attention -- I stayed indoors, studied my ass off, and generally avoided people. Getting out of the inner city is really tough when the odds are stacked against you. Even more so if you don't come from a solid nuclear family who's members emphasize working hard to succeed. It's a vicious cycle! I simply did what I had to do to break out.

So, this is when I came up with my "opposite" rule. Do the opposite of what is undesirable, and perhaps you'll achieve that which is desirable.

It worked for me! Well, so far at least.

So, then, here are the 10 most crucial observations I've made about various aspects of this world that should really be obvious to most, but is sometimes not. Generally speaking, doing the complete opposite of these things will make you an all-around better person. These are my "Anti-Asshole" rules, in effect.


1)  Those who constantly talk about how smart they are, usually are not. (So don't be like that)

2)  If it's easy money, it's illegal money. True financial reward can only come from working hard and smart.

3)  The man who talks the loudest usually has the least of interest to say. (So speak softly and carry a big stick!)

4)  If your charity needs to be acknowledged by others, then it is not true charity. (The anonymous donation is genuine)

5)  If you begin a sentence: "I'm not racist, but . . ." You are most likely racist.

6)  If you have to say: "My gay friend is coming to the party." You are most likely a bigot.

7)  The popular girl in school has the most admirers, but the least friends. (Cherish your unpopularity)

8)  Angry people die young. (Don't worry, be happy)

9)  Fervent patriotism is not always a good thing. (Hitler was the ultimate patriot)

10) Pride is the ugliest human emotion. No one's ever donned a hood and bombed a church over "humble" power.

I'm sure I could go on and on, but these 10 are a good start. Thinking like this has prevented me from committing some spectacular failures in my lifetime. It also grants me the occasional immunity to "foot-in-mouth" disease.

Useful, that.

If anyone wants to add to the list, feel free to do so in the comments section below.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

G.I. Joe Done Right!

So, I don't think I've talked about it much here . . . but I hated that live-action G.I. Joe film that came out 2 years back: The Rise of Cobra. It wasn't a spectacular fail of my 80s childhood by any means (I liked it a lot better than the Michael Bay Transformers movies, for example), but it still left a lot to be desired by this fan.

Well, looks like that might all be changing when the sequel hits theaters next summer. At least, going by the recently released trailer, that is. Check it out below for yourselves:

Whoa! I like! I like it very, very much. I don't know how this is possible, but in some ways this one little trailer alone is far better than the entire 2009 film. HOLY HELLS! And yes, yes . . . I know that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is now in this as "Roadblock," and that all the talk is about Bruce Willis's surprise cameo as the original "Joe" -- General Joe Colton. That's all cool and all. And, in fact, Willis's delivery at the end of the trailer is just damn hilarious!

But forget all that! Do you know who I'm excited to see in this movie the most? My favorite ninja girl -- Jinx!

You spot her a few times in the trailer with the red blind fold. She's a scion of the famed ninja clan, the Arashikage, and is a disciple of the one and only "Blind Master" (played by the RZA, of all people) -- hence her "blind" fighting style, which I just think is the epitome of AWESOME!

I first fell in love with this character in the original G.I. Joe cartoon movie released back in 1987. She was part of the new rookie recruits known as the "Rawhides", trained by "Beach Head." In fact, one of my all time favorite scenes in the movie is when Beach Head gives her a hard time and tests her to see if she's got what it takes to join his team. Check out the clip below, which I'm sure will bring back tons of memories to you fellow 80s kids out there! :)

They just don't do animation this well anymore, do they?

And, oh how I love this scene! And from this point on, little 10-year old me was a die-hard Jinx fan! I would even dare say I had a huge crush on her. *blushes*

So, imagine how pleased I was to find out that the talented and beautiful French actress, Elodie Yung, would be playing her in the film. Are you serious? SCORE!!!! To be sure, I only know her previously from the movie, District 13: Ultimatum -- but she was one of the more memorable presences in that otherwise forgettable film.

Yeah, I think she might just work out fine!

G.I. Joe 2: Retaliation is currently slated for release on June 29, 2012 -- the weekend before Independence Day here in the States. I, for one, will be there opening day!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Winter Is Still Coming . . .

. . . And the Cold Winds are Rising.

Eh? Not as strong a tagline as I would have liked, but I'll take it. Even if it was never uttered in the books. Anyway, THE DAY HAS ARRIVED. Finally, after so long a wait, the first teaser with any actual footage has been aired for the next season of HBO's Game of Thrones! It aired just before the season finale of Boardwalk Empire last night, and it was GLORIOUS!

Watch it for yourself below, and I'll comment afterwards:

“My brother left no trueborn heirs.
By right, and birth, and blood,
I do this day lay claim,
To the Iron Throne of Westeros.
Let all true men declare their loyalty.
The Iron Throne is mine by right.
They will bend the knee,
Or I will destroy them.
The cold winds are rising.”

Whoa! We only get to see a small amount of new footage, but it was enough to whet this fan's appetite. How about you?

I feel I need to provide a little context for what was just seen, though, as I think it might be difficult to follow for those who are not readers of the books. Or for those to whom the last season is a barely remembered blur. Heh, heh . . . it happens.

First off, the man you hear talking is Stannis Baratheon, younger brother to King Robert (who died in the first season), and older brother to Renly. Renly, if you recall, is the guy who served as King Robert's Master of Laws on the Small Council, and who urged Ned to seize the throne before Queen Cersei could place her illegitimate son on it. Ned, of course, refused and Renly fled King's Landing to marshal his own forces. Both he and Stannis lay equal claim to the Iron Throne now, under the pretense that the new King Joffrey was no seed of their brother Robert. The two younger siblings, in turn, hate each other and seek to eliminate their rival despite the blood they share.

Yeah, it's getting positively Shakespearean up in this piece!

Although it is Stannis's voice you hear doing the narration (acted by the talented Stephen Dillane), the first person you actually see in the clip is Renly Baratheon, astride a horse and wearing the stag crown of his noble house. The next scene--a night time one--shows Stannis himself, accompanied by his wife Selyse and a host of soldiers. These two are new to the show, and were never seen in the first season. Stannis was only ever mentioned by name on several occasions, including once during that now infamous grooming/blowjob scene between Lord Renly and his buddy, Ser Loras Tyrell--aka, the Knight of Flowers.

You remember THAT, now, don't you?

Next we get a series of one-shots featuring many faces you should all be familiar with by now. Of particular note is the quick shot of a short-haired Arya Stark, who should have a sizable role this season if they are closely following the book. Yay!

Pay particular attention to what you're hearing near the very end of the clip (at the 0:30 mark). That's three horn blasts from the top of the Wall. This is significant, if you don't know. One horn blast means a Ranger of the Night's Watch is returning from patrol beyond the Wall. Two blasts means a Wildling attack is imminent.

But three blasts . . . well, that means the White Walkers are approaching. *shudder*

Damn, this season is going to be BAD ASS! Are you as excited as I am?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sports Week Roundup

This has surely been a week for the ages in sports land. Where do I even begin?

West Coast Rattler In The MLB.

It all started with Jose Reyes leaving the Mets for the FL Marlins. Uh-oh, how low can the Mets sink now? As a dyed in the wool Yankees fan, I can only laugh at our poor miserable red-headed stepchild of a sports team we've got there across the East River. Their misfortune is my glee, and for them to lose who is arguably the "Derek Jeter" of the Mets -- well, I can only say good riddance! The Mets are a suck-ass excuse of an MLB team, and I think it's high time the local media admits it. In case some of you don't know, while the Yankees are of course the darlings here in New York, for some reason the actual news anchors who deliver the tv news are heavily slanted in favor of the Mets. I've never quite been able to get a clear explanation why this is the case, but I think it has to do with the "underdog" theory. Well, perhaps now they'll see just why the Mets deserve to continue being underdogs. They can't seem to do anything right!

Staying with the MLB, there was also news mid-week of Albert Pujols getting snatched up by the L.A. Angels. Oh great, as if that city needed MORE superstar sports stars on their local teams. I think this is going to be big trouble for the Yanks next season, as there are times I feel the Angels are a more feared rival than even the hated Boston Red Sux! Still, I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being excited about seeing Pujols on the West Coast. Too bad New York is aging pretty badly and won't really have anything to offer up next season to counter the threat from the West. Oh well, such are the whims of this sport. I still hold out hope that we can pull out some surprises of our own before Spring training begins.

NBA Losing Touch With Reality.

Or rather, Commissioner David Stern seems to be. Just when I thought L.A.'s luck couldn't possibly get any better, word came early in the week that the Lakers would be getting coveted super awesome point guard, Chris Paul. HOLY SHIT! I couldn't believe the news. Although, personally, I thought the deal stunk to high heaven from the get-go--I would never give up Gasol for ANY prospect in the entire NBA, period--I thought it was a gutsy move, and one that I could see as possibly paying off huge dividends for the Lake Show if handled properly. But then David Stern had a hissy fit and decided the league was better off without L.A. being an even bigger contender than it already was, nixing the deal in the name of fair balance to all the owners who currently have a shared stake in the N.O. Hornets. The fuck??? I've never seen more shady underhanded switcheroos going down in sports since the 1919 baseball World Series. And since I wasn't even around for that, this goes down as number 1 in my book. I mean, wow.

Still, while it's a shitty thing to have happen to Chris Paul, I guess there is nothing technically illegal with Stern stepping in. The Hornets are owned by the NBA, for all intents and purposes, and the Comish has the power to steer the NBA any way he deems necessary for the maximum revenue generation he sees fit. It still stinks, though. And I for one do not like it at all.

But on a local front, I'm pleased as punch to see our New York Knicks getting an early Christmas present this year. Tyson Chandler is now a Knick! OMG, I can't tell you how thrilled I am by this turn of events! Although it sucks if you are a Mavericks fan, eh? Damn, that must hit hard! But we get to benefit from Chandler's big-D, an area in which New York was sorely lacking. And with 'Mello and Amare already set in place, I think we're going to finally see the most dominant front court we've seen on the Knicks in what seems like AGES. And guess what? We also got veteran Mike Bibby, to boot! Holy shit! I'm a HUGE Bibby fan! Can this actually be the time for the Knicks to truly make their presence known? Christmas day is going to be extra special for me when they take on the Boston Celtics. Wow, what a game in the making!

There are rumblings that Dwight Howard may be coming to the Nets. If he does, this is going to be BIG, people! And I'm actually more of a Nets fan than I am of the Knicks! There's still no telling which way this rumor will turn out, but I have to admit I have my doubts. Will have to wait and see and cross my fingers in the meantime.

Let's Get Ready To RUMBLE!

The week started out huge with the fallout from the Cotto vs Margarito fight last Saturday. I was so glad to see that Mexican bum get his comeuppance, let me tell you. But it was a very good fight, nonetheless. As much as I hate the guy, Margarito does have staying power. But Cotto is the better boxer, and definitely the better man. Cheaters deserve to get punished and suffer in the worst way possible. I only wish the fight could have gone the full 10 and end in a spectacular knock-out! Though, to be honest, that was never going to happen with these two. Margarito, naturally, wanted a rematch immediately. Cotto just laughed it off for now, but personally I think there is one more bout left between these two heated rivals. Margarito's star is hugely diminished, but for the sake of closure I think there needs to be a definitive end to this saga.

HBO Sports had a big boxing event last night. Besides replaying the Cotto fight, they headlined the bout between super lightweights Amir Khan and Lamont Peterson live from Washington, D.C. But before we get to that, I have to say I was greatly entertained by the undercard heavyweight matchup between Timur Ibragimov and Seth Mitchell. The fight was over before the 2nd round even really began, but Mitchell impressed the hell out of me! Wow! The Uzbek, Ibragimov, is a respected technical fighter used to going long in the rounds -- but Mitchell absolutely put him down while barely breaking a sweat. I can't wait to see more from this guy in the future.

The main event of the night, Khan vs Peterson, was one of the better fights I've seen in a long time. I was so not expecting that! I honestly thought the bout would go long, but that Khan would come out on top in every round. Such was not the case. Peterson showed great heart out there, and really gave it as well, if not better, than he was getting. Still, I'm highly upset at the outcome. Although local boy Peterson did fight with real guts out there, there was no doubt in my mind that the fight belonged to Khan. But due to some truly bizarre officiating, the Brit ended up losing on the count of two points deducted for pushing. Pushing? PUSHING??? Are you fucking serious? That was some bullshit right there! The ref never even gave him any hard warnings. He did tell Khan to stop doing it a few times, but never a direct, hard-nosed warning like you would expect before a full deduction. And who the hell takes away points for pushing, anyway? Bizzare, I tell you!

So Peterson (right) is the new champ, and honestly it was an awesome fight. He showed great class, too, by immediately agreeing to a rematch. Really, it's the decent thing to do considering the shady circumstances surrounding the decision.

NFL Sunday Is The Place To Be.

Right now I'm watching the Kansas City Chiefs get absolutely demolished by Gang Green as I type this. It's good to see the Jets finally getting their act together, but I only wish it was against a more worthy opponent. I can't say this impending win inspires much confidence in me for where they go after this, but hey . . . one step at a time, eh?

The bigger news today, of course, is the matchup between my beloved NY Giants and that scrappy, little-known team you may have heard of, the Dallas Cowboys. HOO-BOY! I've been antsy ALL FUCKING WEEK for this game! Even today I've been a restless ball of nervous energy for the game to hurry up and BEGIN already! But, of course, the NFL wants to drag out my torture by scheduling it as the premiere lineup later tonight. Pure, unadulterated TORTURE, I tell ya! This is going to be a game to end all games. So much is on the line for the Giants. It's do or die for my team here. It's so big that I really have next to zero interest in whatever the hell else is going on in the NFL right now. I'm vaguely aware that the Pats and Redskins are involved in a major throw-down this current moment, with the Pats on top so far. And that's all good and all, but -- GO BIG BLUE!!!!

And that, as they say, is all the news that's fit to print. Sound off on your own thoughts re: the big sports week we've just had, and are still having, in the comments section below. Also, if you will (and if you follow such things), be sure to include your pick for who you think will survive tonight's big NFC East showdown. Pretty please?

Have a good Sunday, all!

EDIT @ 12:13am:   Phew! That was such a nail biter of a game. Right down to the wire. SWEET MAMMA-JAMMA, JAMBALAYA!!! I must have had a hundred heart attacks during the 4th quarter alone, plus another one when 6 seconds were left on the clock for that attempted field kick. Jesus H. Christ! But, alas, I am so thrilled the G-Men pulled it off. Wow, Eli was looking like a real QB down the stretch there. He showed heart against the Cowgirls on their own turf! It was close, but I'll take that win straight to the bank, thank you very much. WOOOOO!!! :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

In Which I Get My Man Card Revoked

My wife, Lisa, and I just watched this movie (again) tonight, apropos of the season upon us.

I know I risk my masculinity by admitting this . . . but Love, Actually is one of the best Christmas movies of all time! Definitely my favorite romantic comedy bar none. That's right, you heard me. I watch romantic comedies on occasion. Sue me. Of course, I have Lisa to thank for this, as I'd probably want to stab myself in the eye were I single and all angsty about love and what-not. But as it stands, I like a well made romantic comedy. Don't you? And Love, Actually is the most heart-whelming and funniest of them all, in my opinion.

Anyway, watching this film for the umpteenth time now I've decided to officially crack open my special Xmas playlist on the ole iPod. I only ever listen to this playlist in December, before closing it again for yet another year. But I had to listen to Mariah Carey's song "All I Want For Christmas" twice, because honestly it is just that awesome! Click on the link to see her official video of the song. Like Love, Actually is to romantic movies for me, I strongly feel that this is the best Christmas tune of the modern age. Seriously, how can you not get into the holiday spirit after listening to that? It is sublime perfection, I tell ya!

Also, that Mariah sure can sing her heart out! It's only fitting that the song was featured so prominently in the movie, then. And, with that being said, I leave you now with the perfect scene from that movie to set the mood off. This little girl does an impressive cover of the song in question:

And how cute is that little boy with his puppy-love crush? Ah, young love! Where have you gone? (ha, ha)

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Motherly Favoritism?

Hmmm, I've been wondering . . .

Why does it seem mothers proffer way more attention on their sons instead of their daughters? It's an observation I've been making among many of my real life and Facebook friends (not that FB isn't real life, but you know what I mean -- ha!). And yes, if you're a mother with both sons and daughters, I already know what you're going to say:

But, Batista, I love ALL my children EQUALLY! Blah, blah, blah.

Can it, okay? Because, let me tell you: that's sooooo not what I'm seeing! What I see on FB and the blog-o-spheres is a tendency of many mothers to baby the living hell out of their sons, meanwhile giving their daughters what they term a sense of "self dependence." Haha -- but we all know what that really means, right? It means: toughen up, little lady! Because your whole life will be nothing but you fighting for your rights and dignity, and sticking up to the cruel injustices the world inflicts on women.

While there is much truth to all that, of course (girls really need to be taught strong, independent values), I think mothers should take a step back and examine what they're really doing to their kids.

On Facebook, for instance, I've noticed that mothers of both boys and girls constantly praise their sons and record every little motherly greatness they've performed for their male offspring on any given day. And what about their daughters? These they relegate to the occasional reference on birthdays or major milestone moments.

That's it.

But for the 364 other days of the year, it's: "go team Mama's Boy!" all THE DAMN TIME! It's almost as if mothers are making up for a self-perceived inferiority complex they themselves developed growing up in a generation where we were all taught that men RULE THE WORLD!

Which is strange, actually, since nowadays we're very much living in the time of the Super Mom who can never do no wrong. Super Mom is so much smarter, harder working, and a better parent all around than her nameless, helpless spousal partner who gets occasionally referenced as simply "the hubby" whenever Super Mom is feeling magnanimous.

So I find it weird, in this day and age when we're supposed to be more sensitive about empowering the women in our lives, that mothers are STILL practicing the time-worn tradition of holding their sons up on a higher pedestal than daughters. As if to say that boys are lacking in certain areas and actually NEED the boost up? Oh, forget the girl! She's strong and brilliant--JUST LIKE ME--and will therefore be fine. I'm not worried about her.

Admit it, mothers: this is how you rationalize your treatment of your daughters. Right?

But fine? FINE YOU SAY? Hundreds of psychiatrists and millions of dollars spent on therapy say otherwise, methinks. After all, is there anything more fraught with pitfalls than the modern day mother-daughter relationship? By contrast, father-son rifts look like a day at the spa!

Look, I understand the opposite-gender favoritism thing that parents have going on. Mothers favor their sons, fathers favor their daughters. Freud wrote many, many articles on the subject, I think. And I get it. Really, I do. Still, if you're a single mom, or a mom who has a very strong presence in her kids lives (meaning, you actually give a damn), then please stop raising boys who grow up into pampered, egocentric, entitled pricks. Those self-centered ignoramuses who think women exist solely to prop them up and mooch off of.

This is all I'm getting at here. It's becoming an epidemic around these parts nowadays. I can't tell you the number of assholes I know who just so happen to be mama's boys, too. I mean, honestly -- you think there's not some correlation there?

So please, unless you're an ancient Egyptian . . . ease up on that there son worship, ladies. In this day and age where the good, conscientious, self-sufficient man is a dying breed, and where mother-daughter relationships have never been at their most fractured, how about you stop pretending your daughters are thick-skinned and actually reflect her accomplishments on Facebook or the blog for a change?

I'm so tired of hearing how great Billy is, and how he will be your baby FOR-EVAH and EVAH!!! Stop shouting to the world how handsome, tall, and strong your Mark is -- and, oh . . . as an aside, Sally won a scholarship to Yale, too. She takes after me, you know?

I think you know by now which one of those accomplishments I find more pertinent to the real world and, therefore, worthier of praise. Give me brains over good looks any day, I say!

As mentioned earlier: it might not be as apparent to you, but it is to us. Your sons are getting WAY too much of the shout outs and atta-boys from you on the Internet. So let's stop this blatant favoritism before the world is filled with nothing but soft, mewling, pansied man-boys getting absolutely NOTHING done, and hurting the women around them with their gender-elitist attitudes.

Oh wait -- TOO LATE!

And this is coming from a former boy who got pampered and exulted from the female parental figures in his life, you know? Yes, even in my screwed up, shit for luck life I couldn't escape this preferential treatment. Sure, I benefited greatly from it on an emotional level, but holiday get-togethers with my female siblings and our guardians is the stuff social therapy textbooks are made from!

Just a friendly word (or thousand) of advice this holiday season. I'm all about giving, don't you know . . .

Monday, December 5, 2011

That Time I Dreamed Of Talking Flowers . . .

©2010-2011 Karin Charlotte

Over at the Economic Disconnect, my good buddy GYSC waxes nostalgic about the joys of taking prescribed painkillers, and cautions why it's perhaps not the best time to perform even basic automotive maintenance while under their, er, spell. In the comments section, I mentioned I have my own cautionary tale to tell--which coincidentally also came about from being prescribed painkillers after surviving a sometimes harrowing, though rudimentary, dental procedure.

It was late January, 2007. I was 30 years old and going in for my first major surgical procedure of my life. Fortunately, it was a routine wisdom tooth extraction. Unfortunately, I had opted to get all 4 removed at once! Pretty much since the age of 12 onward I would experience periodic and quite painful gum swelling at the rear of my mouth, just behind the last molars. One time, even, a small space opened up and got infected back there. I needed penicillin that time, and oh how my pee smelled terrible for the next 2 weeks or so!

There was a brief time during and just after college when I had no medical or dental insurance, so I went a few years longer than I should have without regular checkups. But finally, just as I was starting to take all facets of my health more seriously as I entered my 30s, all this negligence caught up to me right quick! In 2006, I learned that some of my wisdom teeth had not come through the gumline completely, and that in fact one of them was actually impacted. A visit to the oral surgeon confirmed that I would need to have all my wisdom teeth removed at some point, and preferably sooner rather than later.

I agreed to the sooner option, and all at once. I hate when jobs are left incomplete, don't you? It's a pet peeve of mine. So I insisted on this. I also insisted that I not be put under, since this is a rule I live by until it becomes absolutely impossible to maintain. If there is an option, in other words, I will never agree to be put under. I simply cannot abide the thought of losing that kind of control even for a mere second, if I can help it.

For some reason, the surgeon didn't seem to think this would be a problem. I know some of you might be thinking I'm crazy right about now. But I actually have a VERY high pain threshold. And I figured that, plus the novacaine, would be enough for me.

And you know what? I was right! No shit.

Yes, I know you were expecting a different outcome. One filled with blood, curses, and prodigious amounts of screaming, right? Well, sorry to disappoint. The entire procedure, once the surgeon rolled up his sleeves and got to work, only lasted 25 minutes. It would have been faster, in fact, if not for the very last tooth getting caught around a nerve ending. The surgeon had to be more delicate with that situation, obviously, and ended up busting the tooth up into little pieces with a drill first, before gingerly removing each chunk by hand.

The entire time I barely felt a thing. I could feel the tug at my jaw as he wrenched each tooth out with those huge pliers, and the crunching sound that ensued was pretty awesome to my ears as well. But, honestly, I felt not even one moment of piecing pain. To this day, I have no idea what people go on about when they talk about the horror of getting wisdom teeth removed. Especially since so many opt to be put under and wouldn't remember the pain anyway. Go figure on that one.

Anyway, after all was said and done, I was given the drill (not literally) on how to keep rinsing out my mouth at home with slightly salted water, flushing the empty sockets out with this water pic type device, and taking my percocet pills on a regular schedule.

At first I didn't think I would even need the pills. The local hadn't worn off yet and, except for the huge wad of gauze inside my mouth, I felt perfectly fine.

And then I came home, and the anesthetic wore off!

Yeah, I felt true pain then. Enough for me to run for the pills. And oh how it hit me, that blasted percocet! At first I felt nothing. Then gradually over the course of a few minutes the pain began to subside. Pretty soon I was feeling fine. A little too fine, perhaps. Then I got sleepy, so I took a nap.

What happened next is too graphic and surreal for me to adequately describe here. My head was spinning, first off. And somehow that had me spiraling down, Alice In Wonderland-style, through the looking glass of a demented Tim Burton-esque experience. I was floating high, I was floating low. Angry colors assaulted me as if they were real, breathing people, and then the happy colors came and chased them away. I heard voices far and near, echoing as if through canyons.

And then the talking flowers showed up. They had a lot to tell me, the petaled folk. I can't say I remember exactly how the conversation went, but I know it was fairly deep. I was being told secrets of the universe I really should have tried harder to retain.

Anyway, next thing I knew I was waking up three hours later from what was supposed to only be a thirty-minute nap. The fuck?

But the last vestiges of that crazy dream was still there, floating around on a euphoric, rainbow-hued cloud in the back of my head. Quickly, before it all vanished, I ran to my PC and started cranking out the hasty outlines of a brand new short story. The concept was bizarre and unlike anything I had conceived up to that point, but already the effects of the drug-fueled dream were fading fast. I managed to get all the important bits down, and then I took another nap.

It wasn't long after that I switched from percocet to maximum strength Tylenol instead. Yes, it meant that I would have to deal with a little more pain . . . but at least my head stayed clear and free of talking plant matter. Honestly, the freaky dreams were cool in that they provided me with great writing material. But the vertigo and spinning rooms I could do without. I really don't know how people get addicted to this stuff, because it quite frankly scared the shit out me.

Anyway, once I could think clearly I sat down and started to type out the story proper. It turned into a pretty long story, in fact, and was very bizarre. Several critiques and revisions later, I had a final draft that I tried to shop around. It got rejected to hell and back again, and eventually I trunked the behemoth.

But this is what blogs are for: to dredge up old ghosts of stories past. If you would like to read the story that resulted from my brief brush with Rock 'n' Roll fun, click here to get to it. Alternatively, you can also find the story, titled "Ascending the Sending Road," by checking out my Unpublished Short Stories sidebar on the upper right-side portion of this blog.

Give it a read if you feel like it, and then come back here and leave comments. But don't feel obligated to. It's a lengthy read at over 30 pages long, so I'll understand if you take a pass.

And also, remember . . . DON'T DO DRUGS!!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Boston, Prepare Thyself!

I may be all up in your shiz come President's Day weekend!

Yup, folks, I think this my be it. I think this may be the time I finally pop my cherry (of sorts) . . . and attend my very first ever science fiction book convention! What in the seven hells could I possibly be going on about? Why, take a looksee for yourselves:

Yes. I've been giving it a lot of thought lately, and I think I just might be able to pull this off. I've known about Boskone for quite a few years now, and each year I promise myself that this will be the year I go. And then I never do. But that's it. I'm putting my foot down! This time I will not flake out. Boston is also not very far from NYC, so I really have no excuse. The con itself is being held at the Westin Waterfront, somewhere downtown on Summer St. near the Boston Convention Center.

Of course, my decision is made all the more easy by the fact that the one and only John Scalzi, extraordinaire, will be there in person as next year's Guest of Honor. I missed him the last time he was here in New York promoting his novel, Fuzzy Nation. So this may just be my chance to make up for that oversight.

To be sure, Boskone will have a lot more to offer us con goers than just His Baconess alone, radiant though he may be (or maybe that's his cat?). If you take a gander at last year's program, you can see that Boskone is no joke when it comes to jam packing the weekend with lots and lots of interesting and varying things of a geeky nature for us fans and newbie writers to squee over. Since all this will be new to me, however, I'm pretty sure I'm going to utterly screw up my time management skills during this event. There's just too much to do! But oh well, no time like now to finally learn. And Boskone is a relatively small convention compared to, say, your Worldcons or DragonCons.

I'm very excited, though, but also not yet decided on this course of action. I'm going to give it a few days to stew over the pros and cons of going before finally taking the plunge. But in the meantime, if anyone has been to any Boskones past and/or would like to use your powers of persuasion to convince me to go, the comments section below is at your command. Use your powers for good, though.

Thank you.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Post-Turkey Day Wrap-Up

I love this time of year!

I know I've stated this many times ad-nauseaum here already, but actually the reason this time has nothing to do with the holidays. It has to do with work. Many of you don't know this, but November and December are wind-down months at my office. Most of the busy work is between the months of April and September, with October being a transition month. But especially starting in mid to late November, we get to sit back and take a breather while more mundane, non-critical tasks are completed and reviewed. So in addition to the already festive mood I'm in, I get the added luxury of having it pretty easy at my nine-to-fiver as well.

So, this is my rather roundabout way of saying that the return back to the office after 4 luxurious days off has been a breeze. Nothing too taxing for me to stress over. How was your own transition back into the daily grind?

In addition to an easy, breezy start to the week, I had a rather sweet weekend spent at home finishing up some odds and ends. I did a bit of house cleaning, sure. But more importantly--I finished up two items of import which I shall go into more detail below:

Friday, November 25, 2011

There And Back Again, A Thanksgiving Tale

Woke up early yesterday morning for the long drive. Where we live in New York City is fairly close to the major highways heading north, so driving to visit my aunt and uncle upstate is easy. It's just a matter of navigating the very twisty, narrow roads as you get closer to the mountains and out into the "boonies," where the trees far outnumber the people.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Another Holiday, Another Rental Car . . .

As many of you may already know, parking in NYC is atrocious. Add to that the overcrowding and all the never ending parking rules, and it's practically prohibitive to own a car in this city. But for those of us who sometime find the need to drive where the subways and taxis won't venture, this can provide a bit of a quandary. I've gotten over that particular hump in recent years by resorting to Zipcar. Which works fine, most of the time.

The only time it becomes impossible, though, is on or around major holidays. Like now. This year all the Zipcars in New York are booked solid for tomorrow. My aunt's having Thanksgiving at her house up north near the Mass. border with New York -- a quaint, out of the way place in the woods near Old Chatham. That meant, naturally, that I would be needing to rent a car. Ye gods!

This year I decided to give Enterprise a try for the first time. Usually I go with Avis, even if they are very overpriced. Enterprise is more modestly budgeted, however, which I used to always view with suspicion. But this year I had no choice -- all the other big rental agencies were sold out in the area. Bummer!

The surprise was on me, though, when I showed up today and found the people who work at my local Enterprise agency to be both professional and very accommodating. I had reserved a Nissan Sentra since it was the only class of car still available online, but when I got to the garage all they had for me was a Sonata. And a pretty decrepit looking Sonata at that! WTF?

But the agent lady was very nice. She offered me an upgrade to a Hyundai Santa Fe for no extra charge! I thought about it, realized that I'll be travelling on dirt roads at least for the tail end of the journey, and quickly decided that perhaps having all-wheel-drive at my disposal might just be a good thing.

And I have to say, it's not a bad looking vehicle for a two-day rental:

Of course, I knew finding a parking spot for it in my neighborhood was going to be a nightmare. I tried to get home before rush hour, however, and lucked out big time after finding an empty space big enough for two cars to fit directly across the street from my apartment building. SCORE!

So I'm all set for the holiday now. Tomorrow I will be driving up to my aunt's house with my grandmother, sister, and her boyfriend in tow. It's a 2.5 hr drive on twisting, albeit scenic, two-lane highways, but I'll have good company and music to wile away the time. And, best of all, plenty of interior space high up off the ground, which I actually prefer.

All in all, I think things turned out far better than I had anticipated earlier this week. Hopefully the drive up and back will be non eventful (i.e., no stupid drunk drivers on the road). While I'm gone and away from blogger land, I'd like to take this moment to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. And if you're not from the U.S., then have a fantastic Thursday, Nov. 24th!

Gobble, gobble! :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sample Scene From Unnamed Novel

Although I don't speak about it much here, I've been busy these past couple of months taking a second stab at my practice novel. My earliest readers may recall that I'm writing this so-called "practice" novel based on the old Nintendo video game, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. This game was a huge thing back when I was 14 yrs old. I remember literally saving up PENNIES for its release, and going to the nearby K.B. Toy Store with my younger brother and friends--and a brown bag full of loose change with which to pay for it! That's some dedication there, boy! And although there are better games in the series (Super Castlevania IV and Symphony of the Night, to name two), I felt this was the best game for me to try and novelize, being that it had a bare-bones plot and is a prequel to the very first game which came out in 1987.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Never Late

Another thing some of you might not already know about me, although it's possible I've blogged about this before:

I'm a stickler for punctuality!

I've been told that this is a very Virgoan thing, although I don't hold much stock in astrological signs. But, yes, you can call it another one of my pseudo super powers. With rare exception, I am almost never late. I'm also almost never obscenely early. I tend to arrive at pre-arranged engagements precisely on the dot. I guess I'm a lot like Gandalf when he remarks:

"A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to!"

Except I think he meant this as someone who lives outside the rules, creating his own time as it were. I, on the other hand, am always conscious of the clock. You can almost call it an OCD, really. But I don't. I simply find it disrespectful to never show up on time. It's bad enough to do it for important events like interviews, meetings, etc., but I extended this rule to casual social gatherings as well. When my friends and I decide to meet, I'm always the one who arrives precisely at the time specified. Which also means I'm usually the one waiting for everyone else to show up. A friend of mine recently shared this funny photo on Facebook:

See, this is the very antithesis of me. I actually despise this cavalier attitude toward time that so many people seem to share. Sometimes I want to yell: GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER! It's annoying as hell to agree on a time only to end up waiting 30 minutes for the other party to show up. Grrrrrr! And in the workforce, this is a huge no-no. Nothing screams unprofessional more than showing up late on a consistent basis.

But yeah, I take it to the extreme sometimes. I know I have a problem. Case in point: If I show up at a place, say, 15 minutes early, I'll go somewhere else until it's almost time and then suddenly appear out of the blue. Because, see, arriving too early is almost as bad as arriving too late to me. This is more so true when it comes to professional meetings. I almost never apply the "too early" rule to social gatherings. I guess this is a holdover from my days of constantly going to job interviews. As someone who now conducts hiring sessions himself, I'm well aware that arriving too early at an interview is not always seen in the best light.

Anyway, how about you? Are you as much a stickler for time as I am? Or are you selfish and march to the ticking of your own effed-up clock? Inquiring minds would like to know.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Boys To Men

No, relax. This one won't be about that 90s R&B group.

This is about the time a simple tv ad for cola made me sit up and take notice of a particular lady who really needs no introduction if you were a little boy growing up in the late 80s/early 90s. This is the day I went from being a boy to a red-blooded, all-American male . . . and all the raging hormones that went with that. For this is the day I first set eyes on one Cindy Crawford.

You remember the ad, I'm sure. It's the infamous tv spot from Pepsi which played during one momentous Super Bowl back in the early 90s. It has that song playing in the background -- Doris Troy's 1963 hit "Just One Look." It has a fire red Lamborghini, a car maker I would fall in love with. And it stars two precocious youths who just crack me up each time I watch this commercial. I swear, the look on their faces is just priceless!

What, you want to share this trip down memory lane with me? Oh, all right. You know how I can't resist a good video plug here on this blog. So, without further ado . . . here is your blast from the past. Where were you when this first aired?

"It's beauuuuuutiful!"

LOL! Yup, she sure is, kid. She sure is! God, I think I actually blushed watching her down that can like that. HOT DAMN!

Although I have to laugh at those ridiculous 90s shorts. It's takes a truly gorgeous woman to make those ugly things sexy, boy!

Sometime a decade later--perhaps during the 2002 Academy Awards, if I'm remembering correctly--Pepsi aired a new commercial starring Ms. Crawford. Call it an "update" of the first commercial, if you will. Except, this time showing us the new Diet Pepsi. I think she's still got it, don't you? And, look! She's got lines to speak this time, too! My how the times have changed.

This commercial, of course, is nowhere as good as the first. But, then, I don't think it was trying to be. More like an homage to a classic, if anything. And I've since fallen out of my crush for Cindy and moved on to others . . . but yet I can't deny the things that original ad made me feel back when I was a boy on the verge of becoming a man.

Commercials can be great like that sometime, don't you think? Especially the really good ones. Those capture a specific moment in time that, no matter how far into the future you watch them again, always remind you of what you were doing and feeling when you saw them for the very first time.

Now if you excuse me . . . I have a sudden and mighty need for an ice cold can of Pepsi!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Building Your Own PC

Something you might not know about me:

Over a decade ago, before I started employment at the legal & finance publisher I work for today, I used to be an editorial assistant on 3 national tech magazines: the now defunct Computer Buyer's Guide and PC Upgrade magazines, as well as their sister publication, Laptop Magazine, which still enjoys success today. I was just out of college at the time and, up until that point, had only Mac experience with personal computing. But I learned a lot working on these publications, including the rudiments of building my own Windows-based PC.

Thing is, I've never actually done the deed before. Not on my own dime and in my own space. Also, it's been so many years since I've thought about doing so that the technology has gone up and changed itself in myriad and exciting ways since. To be sure, at its heart building a PC is still the same. You still need the basic components: motherboard (pictured above), CPU, RAM, GPU, hard drive, power supply, heat sink fan, and chassis. Except, of course, nowadays everything is more robust, faster, and way sexier than back in 1999!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Don't Be That Person -- Facebook Edition

Okay, this is my post where I kvetch about all the annoying things you do on Facebook that you probably don't realize are annoying to others, and which you probably shouldn't do. And by "you" I don't mean you, the lovely people who follow this blog. Because you are all cool and not annoying like that.

No, this is a list of Top 10 "DON'Ts" for all those other people on Facebook who annoy the hell out of me. If you happen to be reading this and recognize some of your own shortcomings, don't worry. I've been known to flub a bit on a few of these points as well. This is not meant to be taken THAT seriously, now.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Attack Of The 80s Movies!!!

Well, apparently I was having a Very Brady 80s weekend or something, because I suddenly got all nostalgic and decided to raid the ol' DVD library to re-watch some timeless classics.

I watched American Ninja II, Karate Kid II, Rocky II, and The Last Dragon.

Sensing a theme here?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The I Inside

What are you?


The dreaded question. Folks, I can't tell you the number of times I've heard this in my lifetime. Everywhere I go this seems to be the question of utmost fascination when people come across my path:

"You know, I've always wondered: what are you?"

Sounds pretty rude, doesn't it? But this is not an embellishment -- this IS the way it's constantly worded. Sometimes the person doing the inquiring will precede it with a: "I don't mean to be rude, but . . ." And we all know what the "but" means in these statements. The funny thing is, I actually don't get offended by this. Honestly I don't.

Monday, October 31, 2011

He Giveth, And He Taketh Away . . .

So, only 2 days after putting up this post about the surprise snow storm we got here in NYC . . . it's almost all gone! Well, yes, I did predict it wouldn't stick around for long (no pun intended), but it still sucks. Here is a panoramic I took outside my bedroom window earlier this afternoon:

Aside from the very small patches of white you can still see, you would never know our area got nearly 6 inches of the white stuff over the weekend. I mean, look at all that green! Luckily for me the temps have not risen too much. We'll be in the low 50s for most of the week. And of course, it IS the start of November tomorrow. Things will only continue to get colder and snowier from here on out. Hip-hip HOORAY!

Oh, and yeah . . . Happy Halloween, all! It's not really a holiday I give a rat's ass about, but all my other adult friends seem to have lost their minds today so -- have fun! :)

Now, bring on Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Suddenly In The Mood To Re-Watch Game Of Thrones

. . . Because, Winter is HERE!

Okay, okay -- no, it's still Fall. Let me not get carried away. Heck, it's still OCTOBER for crying out loud! It never snows in NYC in October. Ever! And yet it did today.

Many of you know how much I love Winter. And snow. And so today it was like Christmas came early for me. Completely threw my body for a loop! All morning long I kept thinking it was much later in the year than it actually was. It all began shortly after 11 am. I looked out my windows and saw:

Holy HELLS! Now, yes, before some of you start: I know this is nothing compared to the Midwest or whatever. But that's not the point. Trust me, we're not strangers to snow here in New York, either. No, the point is that it is only October 29th. It's not even Halloween yet!

Another thing is, the stupid forecasters got it all wrong. They kept going on and on all last night about how only the surrounding areas of upstate New York and New Jersey would get snow, and that NYC would have mostly rain and ice during the day today before turning over to SOME snow near midnight. Well, guess what? They were WRONG! And not only was it snowing so early in the day, but it started to pick up furiously less than an hour later:

Wow! Now that's what I like to see! I was so happy I didn't know what to do with myself. Fortunately (or, maybe the best word is UNFORTUNATELY, according to my wife), we had to go out in this stuff! Yup, Lisa and I had already made plans for today, and so off we went. I couldn't get over the fact that we were busting out the winter clothes so soon, too -- coats, boots, gloves and scarves! The temp reading was a nice 34 degrees out. In October. Before we left, I took one last pic. You can already see how it's starting to stick and accumulate, despite the fact that the trees and grass are still green here:

All in all, this was a delightful surprise for a Saturday. It greatly lifted my spirits, and at the same time I got to witness some pretty sketchy looking driving on the roads from drivers who should really know better about handling themselves in snow. I drove through not one but TWO freakishly cruel blizzards last Winter and survived, so I felt like I was a master at it by now. Today's snow was great, but in actuality it really only amounted to a dusting. Child's play, really. I imagine it will all be gone by mid-afternoon tomorrow, too. Bummer!

Still, I find myself daring to hope this means we'll be getting an early and ferocious Winter. I honestly thrive on such chaos, it seems. I absolutely get off on it!

Yes, I said it before and I'll say it again: I am WEIRD! :)

Hope all of you are having a fun weekend as well. Unless of course you're Texas Rangers fans, then . . . uh, yeah.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Last Night I Flew Again

Or, maybe it was early this morning. I can never tell.

Anyway, I had the most interesting of dreams last night. I, and two other unnamed friends, were trapped in a world where humans had been enslaved by vampires. In this dream, I remember being in a dark urban alley, where the tenement buildings all around me soared to skyscraper heights. It was as if I was in the Bronx (where I still live to this day), but all the buildings were as tall as the Empire State building now.

And I had to get out of there! For some reason, I was supposed to rendezvous with my friends at some big deal vamp hangout spot. So I started to rise up from the ground, higher and higher toward the sky. As I flew upward, hands reached out from the windows of the apartments all around me. They were human slaves, begging for me to bite them and give them the "gift" that would make them immortal. They were the downtrodden, living in ghettos meant to keep them down. Vampires were the elite, and these people were assuming that since I could fly, I was a vampire too.

But I was not.

So, not knowing how to help these people, I rose higher and higher until I was above the rooftops under a brilliant white moon. As usual when I fly in my dreams, I felt so free and wondrous up there -- all alone and removed from it all. But then I remembered my purpose, and started to fly in the direction of where I was to meet my friends. I remember being afraid that the real vampires would see me flying and come after me, so I hurried.

Eventually I discovered that the "hang out" of these elite vamps was this posh NYC-type restaurant at the top of the tallest tower in the city. Again, everyone assumed I was a vampire since I flew in rather than took the stairs, so I didn't have any trouble getting in. When I got to the table on the terrace where my friends were already waiting (who, curiously, still remained nameless and faceless) I got the impression that they had been able to get in by pretending to be my human thralls. One friend, a girl, had somehow faked puncture wounds on her wrist and wore makeup to appear more like a person who's been drained regularly.


Anyway, we started talking about why we were on this world. Apparently we were inter-dimensional travelers come to liberate this world from the vamps. So, from that I took that this dream had sci-fi leanings, and not strictly horror. I still don't know how I was able to fly--except that I always have the ability to fly in my dreams. I wrote about this peculiarity before here on this blog.

Anyway, some officious looking vamps came in and asked to see our credentials or something. But just as the dream was getting good, my alarm clock woke me up and I realized I had to get to work.

Don't you just HATE when that happens?

LOL! Anyway, that was my interesting dream this morning. Or last night. And, yes, for me this dream was a lot of fun and not scary. Nightmares for me don't involve vampires or zombies and such. Those types of dreams are always fun. No, real nightmares are if I dream about, like, losing my job or where I get kicked out onto the street and have to find shelter somewhere. Those are the dreams I don't want to be having. But any dream where I get to fly is a lot of fun. I love flying so much! It's the only superpower I've ever wanted. Well, that and invincibility. Since, after all, it would suck balls if I could fly at mach 5 and then end up slamming into a bird, or a jet, or a building or something and breaking my neck. What would be the fun in that, huh?

So, yeah, in case you didn't already know . . . I'm weird.

Or, as I like to say: I'm an SF writer! You didn't think we all dream normal mundane dreams now, did you? Tsk, tsk.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Dude, Don't Be That Dude.

Just a random observation I'm making about the workplace. And by workplace, I am of course referring to my own. I've worked in other offices, though, and have witnessed the same behavior. So I'm sure there's some measure of truth to this beyond the personal.

Anywho . . .

How many opportunities are there for men to make fools of themselves at the office? PLENTY, it seems! I don't know why this is the case, but I notice that anytime you have a reasonably attractive and/or fit female co-worker at the workplace, she becomes an instant target of some of the most dorkable kiss-assers we have employed. And the woman doesn't even have to be a knockout by any stretch of the imagination. Seriously, there's no more criteria beyond the fact that she simply needs to not be, well, gross . . . and all the pathetic Y-chromosome losers come out of the woodwork! It's become a joke, I tell ya.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Drake's Next Adventure

So, in the midst of finishing up Gears of War 3 for the Xbox 360 and preparing to start up Batman: Arkham City on the PlayStation 3, I learned that we're only 2 weeks away from perhaps the greatest game of all time releasing on November 1st . . . Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception!!!

Yes, I know. Blasphemy! For surely, Batista, the new Batman game is the undoubted king this year? And you know what? It just may retain that crown, because from what I'm hearing so far this Batman game is just about better than sliced bread! And I've only played the first 10 minutes, but I'm inclined to agree so far.


The Uncharted series has always been a stellar, shining example of Triple-A game making. Seriously, each title has gone on to win tons of awards and plenty of Game-of-the-Year titles (GOTY) from various reporting agencies in the industry. The last game, Uncharted 2, was seriously the best game I ever played! And from what I'm seeing so far, this third installment is pulling out all the stops. Here, check it out for yourself. The launch trailer below was just released, and I'm PSYCHED beyond belief! Hoooo, boy!

In case you don't know the story, Nathan Drake is a treasure hunter descended from the historical Sir Francis Drake. His illustrious ancestor was quite busy in his time tracking down various legendary artifacts across the globe, and he's bequeathed the same unquenchable thrill-seeking genes down through the family line, it would seem. The Uncharted games are sort of a cross between the Indiana Jones movies and the Tomb Raider games. No, really, there is no better way to to put it. The series is just THAT much fun! If you're a gamer and you own a PS3 but you haven't yet played these games . . . seriously, dude, what the hell are you waiting for? Do you honestly want to miss out on THIS much greatness?

The trailer above wowed me, though. I knew the game was going to be great, but I had no idea it would look this fantastic! I didn't think it was possible to improve on the visuals of the second game . . . but now I eat humble pie, because this is ridiculously gorgeous! And the story looks soooooo intriguing. Gave me goosebumps!

Sure, I'll be missing out on it myself since I'll be busy playing Arkham City. I usually save the Uncharted games for the holidays, though, so this is actually coming out at just the right time. Hopefully by December 25th I'll have completed the Batman game. It's going to be close, but I'm sure I can pull it off.

Oh, and one more note on this whole Uncharted thing . . .

A co-worker of mine sent me a link today to this video clip of Harrison Ford playing six minutes of the yet to be released Uncharted 3:

Lucky man!!! But, LOL, it's funny seeing his reaction to the visuals. See, this guy is an ACTOR! He can pretend quite convincingly that this game is blowing his socks off. You can tell he's not a gamer, though, but at least he gives it the ole college try. This was part of a Japanese promo event to sell the game in the Land of the Rising Sun. Apparently they all love themselves some Harrison Ford. But, I guess: who doesn't love the man, right?

Han Solo is still cool after all these years. Bet!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Weekend Update, Post Mortem

This blog post was to go up last night . . . but I completely dropped the ball. So, you get it a day late. Sorry.

You ever have one of those weekends where you have so much planned, but then so much other crap comes up that you get none of your original plans done? Yeah, that was me. Nothing bad, I must add, but I sure did get a lot of distractions to prevent me from doing what I wanted to do. Of primary suckitude was not getting to continue working on the novel. I had planned to bang out an additional chapter or two, but instead I ended up getting squat done. Oh well, I'm not too stressed about it. Work is coming along nicely on that, and I'm still ahead of the pace I had set a few months back. So, in the long run, I doubt this will be a major setback. As always, you can keep monitoring the word counter at the top of the page to see my progress. I'm about 20,000 words in right now, which I think is roughly 7 chapters or so. Nowhere near the end goal of 120,000 words, or course, but I'm not in a race.

Luckily, I did manage to get in my daily workouts. I almost didn't, because when I get majorly distracted by outside influences it can make it damn nigh impossible to find the motivation. But find it I did. For those wondering, I work out 6 days a week rain or shine. I really don't play around, and never really had a problem with motivation. My schedule is usually:

Mon. and Weds. -- weight training and 3 mile run (1 hour)
Sun., Tues. and Thurs. -- 4 mile run on treadmill with variable incline (35 mins)
Friday -- Rest day.
Saturday -- weight training and calisthenics (45 mins)

Saturday is always my big day since I workout with much heavier weights than I do during the week. So I was glad I forced myself to get that in this weekend. I always get cranky if I miss my Saturday workout.

Additionally, although many of you did not know this, I've been on a juice fast for the past 3 weeks. Yesterday was my last day. This was my first time undertaking such a thing, and I did it primarily as a cleanse. I had no intention of losing weight on it since I'm in very good shape as it is, but in the end I lost 6 pounds anyway. Wow. The "juice" I drank was nothing more than fresh fruits and vegetables put through the grinder. 100% natural, with nothing else added except some wheat grass and spirulina powder for an added energy boost. Still I'm extremely careful with my daily nutrition--I keep charts and everything! So I made it a point to make sure I got a more than adequate dose of protein, too, throughout the day. I'm very particular about my carbs to protein balance since I work out a lot and it's very important to me that I burn fat and build muscle at the same time.

So, yeah, after 3 weeks of eating like a vegetarian hooked up to a tube, I lost a bit of body fat and actually GAINED muscle mass. It's ridiculous, I tell ya! But I feel and look great. Today marks the start of real food, which my body had no problem adjusting to apparently. I guess because I'm still eating healthy anyway. I did have one lapse around a week back when my good buddy GYSC came to visit New York City for his first time. We watched the Jets vs. Pats game at a crazy little Irish pub in Hell's Kitchen, then I introduced him to good ol' NY pizza at this really cool spot I know nearby. But, see, I had already factored in at least one "cheat" day during this juice cleanse--and that happened to be it. So it was actually no big deal. I'm good at not guilt-tripping myself like that. It's how I've managed to keep in sound body and mind all these years. :)

So, at least that didn't get side-railed this weekend. What else?

Oh, yeah, I finished up playing Gears of War 3. You can read all about it in the "Now Playing" sidebar to the right of this page. And just in time for Batman: Arkham City to come out tomorrow! I will most likely pick the game up on Wednesday, however, and won't get around to playing it until this Friday. I have a busy week ahead of me, including catching up on some of the stuff I didn't get to do this weekend, like read and update my iPhone to the newly released iOS 5.0 update. That's going to take me a while to get through since it will erase everything on my phone and I need to make sure I do an adequate backup of all my settings and files first before I commit. Wish me luck!

So, that's all the news that's fit to print in my neck of the woods. How was your weekend?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Movie Trailers That OWNed Me, Big Time!

So, if you are big into genre movies like I am, no doubt you've already heard the hooplah surrounding the new trailer for Marvel's The Avengers movie. It was just released earlier this week and geeks are going batshit crazy over it. And I'm one of 'em! The film releases next May and will showcase some of the big blockbuster names in the Marvel universe who have already had their own standalone movies prior to now: Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, Captain America. Now imagine all that bad-assery teamed together in one flick. What do you get? A kick ass-o-pacalypse, that's what!!!!

So, yes, I'm am very geeked out at the moment. And if you want to check out the trailer and see what all the fuss is about for yourself, click here. May 2012 can't come fast enough!

But it got me to reminiscing about other movie trailers in the past that got me seriously amped up. Now, I'm not talking good movie trailers -- or even great ones. No, I'm talking FUCKING great movie trailers! These are the promos that, before I even really new what the movies were truly about, had me literally tingling from head to toe with excitement. Yeah, I know it sounds like hyperbole and all, but trust me--this really was my reaction to each and every one of these!

I'm going to embed clips of each movie's trailer below, followed by a brief explanation of why they--more than most--stand out to this day as key defining moments in my movie going experience. By now, of course, those of you who know me should know that I'm a huge movie buff. I own close to 800 DVDs and Blu-rays at home! It's positively SICK, I tell ya! But before they arrived on my shelves, I first had to have seen the movies in theaters. And before even that, first came the promotional trailers. This is what I wish to focus on here. These things can be works of art, I tell ya.

And so, here we go:

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Autumn Is Officially Here

Well, for me that is.

I took my wife apple picking this weekend. The weather wasn't looking too great for it Friday night, pouring rain like cats and dogs and all. But bright and early next morning it looked like a doable day for it, so I took out a Zipcar from the nearby garage and we drove about 90 minutes north of NYC to a family orchard in Warwick. I've never been there before, but it was a quaint little place. The smell of trees and all that fresh air reminded me a lot of my college days spent in the northern wilds of Vermont. And although it drizzled on and off the entire time, it was a very nice day for picking apples.

My favorite apple is the Red Delicious variety. Why? Well, because it's neither too tart nor too mushy--two things I absolutely loathe in an apple. A good Red Delicious has a chewy outer skin, crisp and watery inner, and can be eaten practically to the core without oxidizing too badly and getting all brown and gross. My next favorite apple is the good ole Macintosh. That one's a little more sweet than the Red Delicious, but still very good. It has to be very fresh and not overly ripened for me to enjoy one, though. Which is why I never eat Macs in the city. By the time they reach the fruit stands here, they've usually gone too soft.

Luckily for me, the two varieties that were ripe on the trees this time of year (last week of September, early October) are the Red Delicious and Mac types. So I scored big time by going now. Yay me! The dirt roads in the orchards were very muddy, however, so the Nissan Sentra I had rented out for the day had a tough go at it. Everything was going fine, for the most part. We had picked around three bags worth of apples, and were just leaving the farm when the missus decided she wanted to check out a grove of Concords off the side of the road. Me being an idiot, I drove off the road right up under the trees.

Big mistake.

After we had picked a few apples, we got back in the car and I reversed. Only to find the Sentra going nowhere fast. Sonuvabitch! I got out of the car and found the tires mired deep in mud and loose grass. We were stuck! Why oh why didn't I pick a 4WD vehicle instead, I thought. The Sentra didn't even have a lower drive setting--grrrr!

I tried pushing the front of the car while my wife reversed, but still no go. The tires were only sinking deeper. It was one of the most frustrating predicaments I'd ever been in. At one point, I got so bent out of shape pushing at the front bumper that I slipped almost face first into the mud. Do you know what it feels like to have your clothes completely covered in wet mud, and nowhere to go to wash it off or change into another set? I would've settled for a hose at the back of a barn at that point, actually. Not only that, but the mud smelled like manure. Yep, that's right: I smelled like a cow's ass!

But anyway, that was the least of my worries. I still had to figure out how to get the car unstuck. We were out in the middle of nowhere, and God only knew where the main house was. Luckily, I found a stack of hay bales nearby. I grabbed one and lugged it on over to the car. I then proceeded to stuff hay beneath and behind the tires, jamming it in there really nice in the hopes that I could give myself some traction. After several touch and go attempts--by which I mean the car got unstuck and then stuck again numerous times--I finally managed to push the car to some gravelly ground with the help of a few kind strangers who assisted me in pushing.

Unfortunately, the Zipcar was covered in more mud than I was now. Arrgh! There was no way I could return it looking like this. Even worse, I had no choice but to climb back into the driver seat and muddy up the interior now.


Some days it doesn't pay to get out of bed.

But, I took it all in stride I have to say. I drove and found the main area eventually. My wife and I sat down with some other pickers at picnic table and had some apple cider (yum!) and apple cider donuts (double YUM!!), and purchased a homemade apple pie to take home. Yes, it was a very apply Saturday for us. :)

But, boy, you should have seen the stares I was getting from everyone. I looked like I had come out of the losing end of a rugby match--YECK! I even had mud caked in my hair. And my shoes were shit! But they were hiking boots so that's what they were designed for, I guess. The whole time I was driving home, I couldn't wait to get out of those clothes, drop them in the washer on the "HEAVY SOIL" setting, and then take a nice hot shower.

But first I had to take care of the car.

Luckily I stopped by a car wash in the Bronx just before reaching home. I paid for the FULL SERVICE option and watched a team of undocumented workers who couldn't speak English go to town on the interior first. Then the car went through the old washer-roo and I watched on the waiting end as it got all spit-shined and polished. Wow! What a difference that made! I wish I had remembered to take pictures of it all, but by this time I just wanted to get home. I tipped the workers generously, though, then hopped in and burned rubber out of there! Got the Zipcar back to the garage with time to boot, then trekked the two blocks home while generating even more odd stares. Funny thing was, they're filming a movie in my neighborhood. The trailers had been set up on my street, and I'm sure someone thought I was some sort of extra or something. I passed by the crafts services truck and the guy working the counter gave me a double take.

Hmmm, on second thought . . . I should have tried to score some free food!

Anyway, I'm home now and I have delicious apple-tastic treats to show for it. Well not show, per se, as I don't want to bother with the camera right now. So you'll just have to take my word for it, but they're GOOD!

It's getting pretty chilly here in New York, too. Temps are now in the 60s for the following week, with nighttime temps even getting as low as the upper 40s here. Sweet! Perfect sleeping weather! I do so love this time of year.

Otherwise, I hope you guys had an awesome weekend. Tell me about it in the comments section, if you please.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Where Does One Find 'Roids In The Post-Apocalyptic Future?

If you check out my "Now Playing" sidebar, you'll see that this is what I've been busy with as of late. Yes, it's Gears of War 3, which was just released for the Xbox 360 last week. I've been off from work these past several days, so I've had the luxury of getting in some pretty good game time. It's been a while since I've gamed so consistently and thoroughly -- WHEEEE!

The game is, of course, the third in the series. The initial game was my very first title for the 360 when I got one for Christmas back in 2007. It's a third-person action shooter, with team-based squad tactics against horrific alien foes. So it's a cross between sci-fi and horror, with a war backdrop to boot. And I must say, I get a lot of joy out of using my chainsaw bayonet to get up close and rip out some Locust grub guts. Yes, that's right: I said CHAINSAW BAYONET!!!

Thing is, this 3rd game in the saga is supposed to take place some 2 years after the first game when the human race is on its last legs. These guys have been doggedly trying to outrun extinction for a while now, see, but I have to laugh at just how buff they managed to stay in all that time.

It's utterly hilarious to anyone who weight trains and knows a thing or two about muscle building. And I can tell you there is no way in hell these soldiers could maintain that density of muscle mass while constantly in the field and fighting for their lives. Real soldiers come out of years-long conflicts more wiry than buff. So when I play titles like this I have to laugh at the rather adolescent view of male physicality being depicted in these games, especially the war ones.

Muscles like that take constant dedication day-in and day-out in the gym, with careful nutritional intake and supplements thrown into the mix. Running through bombed-out cities and devastated countryside constantly on the run do not a muscle-bound superman make. In such extremes, your body tries to conserve energy and keep one's profile sleek and fast. The soldiers I know--the ones who have seen constant combat--are usually lean and wiry, not puffed-out bulky like in these games. This is the type of build than can maintain energy levels for long periods of time. Plus, I mean the amount of calories one would have to consume each day to support a hulked-out physique -- there aren't nearly enough chickens running around the fictional world of Sera to sustain all that!

Still, silly exaggerations aside, Gears 3 is so far shaping up to be a much better game than its predecessor. Gears 2 left a bad taste in my mouth because it was too much of an all-out frag fest and lite on story. But the final installment in the series brings us back to what I loved so much from the first game--action AND story, blended perfectly.

Sometimes, I love gaming!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Ago, On This Day

*I've decided to update and repost this blog entry I wrote 3 years ago in honor of the tenth anniversary of that terrible tragedy which befell my city.*

10 years ago, on this day . . .

It was a bright Tuesday morning, I recall. Cool and refreshing, with a hint of summer coming to an end. I was walking to work from the West 4th street subway when I saw a plane flying low over the Hudson River. My company was located on the extreme west side of lower Manhattan, just one mile directly north of the World Trade Center. Something about the sight of that plane felt odd to me, as commercial airliners don't usually fly over that part of the city. And certainly not that low in the sky. But as I was running late, I put it out of mind and rushed to get to my office.

Panama Trip - Day 1: Here There Be Balboas!

In late May, 2017 I embarked on a trip of a lifetime. A trip to Panama's steamy tropical province, Bocas del Toro. Now, before 2017 ...