Monday, April 27, 2009

The Pains Begin Again

I'm not a fairweather fan and I know its early on in the season but I'm already starting to lose hope for this season with the Indians. Cliff Lee pitched 8 shutout innings and the Indians couldn't score a run until the 9th inning against one of the most feared closers in the game, Jonathon Papelbon! This kind of inconsistency is strange to say the least and to me signals that the players heads just aren't in the game anymore. It really seems like they are going up there one at a time trying to be a hero and hit the ball out of the ballpark and they are losing because they have forgotten that baseball is now and has always been a team sport.

Maybe I'm just getting cynical but I'm just tired of seeing this every year. Things need to change soon and I hope that Shapiro and everyone else in that power structure does what is necessary to bring a championship back to Cleveland. It has quite simply been way too long!! With that said, I don't know what the right call is but the biggest weakness is quite clearly coming from their relief pitching. Today was a prime example as they gave up 3 runs in the ninth (I mean who does that?). Rafael Perez and Rafael Betancourt have been pitching for too long to still have the same old problems. Either demote them or trade them. Something needs to be done to fix this!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Final Fantasy XIII - A Preview

Final Fantasy XIII is scheduled for release at SOME point in the near future and it has been announced to come out on the xbox360 which will save me from having to pick up a PS3. As other FF fans can attest to I would have HAD to pick it up if it was exclusive to the PS3. Lucky for me that it will make its way to the system I actually own. Though I did not start out as a fan of final fantasy when it originally came out as I was maybe 5 or 6 years old at the time (not sure of the exact date and I'm too lazy to find out). Indeed, I never owned any of the Nintendo incarnations and I never owned a playstation until I was in college.

Final fantasy has become a cultural phenomenon since its original entry back in the '80s well before all the fancy and new-fangled graphics capabilities of today's modern systems. It was a completely new gameplay experience at the time and many, myself included, have fallen in love with both the gameplay and the overall experience. There are many people out there who cannot quite fathom why these games are such a success and I cannot quite explain it myself. There is just something about the way that the Japanese create their RPGs that is just a great deal of fun to play. Most western style RPGs focus seem to focus more on frenetic combat while the JRPGs (Japanese RPGs) favor the more deliberate pacing of turn-based action. See the two different takes on the genre below.

Personally I enjoy both types but I get a greater sense of accomplishment through playing many JRPGs because they seem to require more tactics than some of the western RPGS which feel more bash-em-up at times. With this background I am extremely excited from what I have seen with FFXIII not only from a visual perspective but also from a gameplay perspective. The video below is a preview of the game from IGN that has me really excited.

The first and most obvious thing is how gorgeous the game looks!! I consider myself somewhat of a graphics whore in that I just love it when games look incredible in action, especially as concerns water for some reason. I just love running around in puddles in games that I've played lately. Back to FFXIII I just love what I am seeing so far in the gameplay footage. With these games, which often have off the wall characters (thank you Japan for having a sense of humor even if I don't get it all the time) as well as fantastical settings it is important these days to really portray the characters onscreen in a living and breathing tableau. I've been honored to play many of these games and I will readily admit that Square-Enix has some of the best designers in the field and I often catch myself staring at the amount of detail that they have always been able to cram into their games. The images below are just a couple of examples of the scenery in the games.

The second big thing that I noticed from the trailer above is that they have once again tweaked the combat from its past iterations in their neverending quest to find the perfect combat for Final Fantasy. The combat here takes cues from past entries in the series as well as other games such as Knights of the Old Republic where you can queue up moves and unleash them at your will. One thing that I didn't notice in the trailer is whether or not their will be the ability to freeze time and reassess your actions. Call me old-fashioned but this is one of the reasons I enjoy turn-based games because I'd rather have some time to do that. Now I suppose I could just "Pause" but I would like to see an option similar to past Final Fantasy games allowing for those like myself to play without worrying about the enemy taking too much of an advantage when I'm sorting through my inventory looking for that vital potion that I need. A minor gripe, but I would like to know if that will be an option in the game.

The last thing I want to mention in this preview relates to the characters themselves. While the trailer is in Japanese you can get a sense that they behave differently and act differently from one another. This level of characterization, while still difficult to tell, is something that I have grown accustomed to in past games. While the american voice actors may get on player's nerves sometimes the writing has generally been well above average and in games that routinely top the 60 hour mark (for the main story alone) it is important that we care about these characters or else we have no real incentive to keep playing after the initial period right after starting a game has worn through and the real grind begins. The video below shows some of these fanciful characters who always seem to be just the tiniest bit at odds with my western sensibilities but I can't help loving it.

My favorite part of that last clip is definitely the black dude with the chocobo in his afro causing the little child to laugh. I really hope that in the final incarnation of this game little moments like this that make you laugh or cry are liberally spread throughout the entire game. Sometime in the future can not get here soon enough!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Susan Boyle - Britain's Got Talent

I have been increasingly skeptical of reality television over the past few years as it just keeps getting stupider and stupider in my opinion. Rubbish like The Apprentice and Keeping with the Kardashians continues to stay on the air year after year when a whole slew of great scripted television shows continue to appear and quickly disappear because their audience seems more captivated with the inanity of much of reality television. I was very skeptical of its use until I saw a Youtube video of a matronly old woman (about 47 so not too old) walk onto stage and bring an entire audience to their feet and the judges to tears. Truth be told, I was weeping as well because she not only sang one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs ("I had a Dream" from Les Miserables) but she sang it brilliantly. I encourage everyone to watch this video and just enjoy the beauty that can come from the smallest things.

The next time the news of the economy bums you out watch this and remember that there are still surprises around every corner and you never know what will come next. When you have bad news come up I would encourage you to take a peek at the bravery of Susan Boyle. I know it seems like I'm being a bit over the top with this but this video really touched me and brought many feelings to the surface. Again, please watch.

Apparently I can't embed the video in the body of the blog itself, but here is the link:

Sunday, April 12, 2009

MLB Season, Week 1

Yesterday I went to go see the Cincinnati Reds play the Pittsburgh Pirates. The sunburn that i received was not the only pain of the game as I had to sit through a 10 to 2 rout. It seemed within grasp until the reds gave up two homeruns back to back, the first of which being a grand slam!! In addition to this, I saw very little offense to make me feel very comfortable for their chances throughout the season. I just finished watching a complete game shutout by Aaron Harang and I still don't feel positive because the Red's only managed 2 runs.

In addition to this, the Indians are currently in a 5 game losing streak which means that they have yet to win a game at all this season. The culprit generally seems to be that the pitching AND the hitting are not going very well right now at all. This actually puts a team that many picked to win the World Series LAST year and finish first THIS year in danger of having a cellar-dwelling season. I only hope that Eric Wedge survives this season because I generally like him as a coach.

In order for either team to have a chance in hell this season, they need to figure something out fast. I am definitely not a fairweather fan but I'm not going to use up my free time on a lost cause. I know its only the first week of the season but both teams need to start proving themselves to me.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Food and Photos

A friend of mine has recently starting seeing an explosion of popularity on his blog, Imagine a Different World. If you like food and you like staring at pictures of food then you will really enjoy this site. He is an exceptional photographer and also includes quite inciteful looks at his Sunday Dinner creations. I honestly never thought that the history of grilled cheese could be so interesting and I look forward to what he will do now that he has the popularity to go with his interests. I encourage anyone who takes a peek at this blog to add him to your reader for an inciteful and witty commentary on Sunday Dinners.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Review of "I Love you, Man"

Many comedies these days, romantic and otherwise, are rife with cliches and quite honestly just aren't as funny because of them. While I do agree that some of these are necessary as a base from which to jump off but those comedies that rely on cliches are doomed before they even get off the ground. The cliches that I am referring to are such things as certain sight gags that are used over and over again or that character who shows up in every comedy with the same attitude and the same role. I think that the most nefarious movies that use these of late are the string of horrible movies that started with Scary Movie and has culminated with such atrocities as Epic Movie and one I just learned about today, Dance Flick. They even need to change the title to separate it from the rest.

Thankfully, "I love you, Man" seems to escape for the most part an over-reliance on these kinds of tactics. If you are beat over the head with the same joke over and over it just ceases to be funny! This movie follows in the footsteps of other great comedies that instill a sense of humanity into the comedy instead of strictly parodying that same human condition. There are several moments during the film where I could quite literally feel the movie slipping dangerously close to this over the top point only to be saved at the last minute by a scene that actually made you empathize with the character.

Paul Rudd is his usual self really, and as such he's quite good. He really does have a great ability to humanize his roles and make the audience feel sorry for him yet not too sorry for him. He is, in other words, the consummate lovable goofus. He is the main character, but he isn't left with the lion's share of the plot as Jason Segel and Rashida Jones play comfortably off of his character and create a believable triad. For anyone who has seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall or How I met Your Mother they really won't see anything new in his performance but his chemistry is quite good with Rudd. Rashida for her part avoids the ultimate cliche in my mind which is the significant other (usually a woman in these movies unfortunately) who is overly sensitive about ANYTHING that the main character does and turns her nose up quite frequently. Her character genuinely wants to see her fiancee find that male friend that he has been lacking for most of his life.

This brings me to the part of the movie that I was most impressed with. It takes a very critical eye on the difficulty with establishing male friendships in this culture. From my viewpoint it seems extremely easy for women to strike up lasting friendships but when men try to do this it can be extremely awkward. Perhaps this has to do with homophobic tendencies among males of this society but whatever the cause it is extremely prevalent. To this date, most movies and television shows depict relationships between two guys as effortless. Poker nights or drinking a brewskie in front of the football game are prevalent depictions. As someone who has for one reason or another always had better relationships with women I can certainly see how difficult it can be to establish a permanent friendship with a guy that didn't start in diapers or soon thereafter. Once we leave pubescense it can be very difficult indeed.

As a pure comedy I would recommend this movie to everyone. As an r-rated movie there is plenty of vulgarity and the all-powerful sexual innuendo but no nudity (which should appeal this puritanical society!). It's not an award winner by any stretch of the imagination but the characters are three-dimensional with few exceptions and the plot is believable enough. In the end the writing elevates this otherwise formulaic comedy to a good time had by all.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Moment

My life is one of great complexity these days. My girlfriend of three years (three glorious years if you ask me) just dumped me out of the car going sixty down a country road. Now... some might view this as an overreaction but I've come to accept it as simply a reaction. I mean it could have been worse. I couldn't have been wearing any clothes, for instance. She at least did me the kindness of allowing me to dress myself (mostly) before trundling me into the car and then springing the door open at sixty miles an hour while I wasn't even wearing my safety belt. Take that as a lesson, always remember to wear a seatbelt when driving around with the love of your life... you never know what might happen. As I fall, in rather slow motion (how else would I be able to internally dictate this!) I can't stop thinking about her hair. It is so shiny and smells so nice, and yes I'm aware the smell is artificial and not really coming from her.

What brought me to this deplorable state you ask? That is quite a long story, wow that's cliched. Just had to say it, didn't I? Every good story is a long one, unless its not. This story is really quite short and may inform the reader why I am not really angry at her at all. I mean, I may very well die after this fall has concluded but perhaps I'll just break a couple of bones. Maybe if I'm really lucky, in the split second before I hit the ground an alien spacecraft that has been lying dormant for millenia (under my very feet no less) will sense my impending doom and spring to life enveloping me in some bubble that will absorb all of my weight. No.... I suppose that has a very slim chance of happening but it always helps to be an optimist. The problems started this morning when I came home completely plastered. Before you judge me, it was my bachelor party.

...Did I forget to mention that my girlfriend and I were going to be married today? Hmm, I certainly need to bone up on my storytelling abilities. Anyway, I was wasted still from my bachelor party the night before and I was having the hardest time in the world waking up. Dreams were haunting me, literally, as I walked around trying to get ready for the big day. I could see my mother, who is long dead, following in my footsteps as I went into the bathroom to take a shower. The next thing I knew, Johnny Kruger (Freddie's twin.. made him up long ago) was trailing me with his banana fingers of doom - my mother wouldn't let me watch scary movies as a kid and she edited her bedtime stories quite severely. It was only much later that I realized how strange that, even edited, she deigned it appropriate to tell me the story of Johnny and his penchant for sending kids away to military school where they learned to be happy and productive members of society.

Where was I again? ... Oh, right, I was drunk. Check that, I was hungover. If I was still drunk this morning perhaps things might have gone slightly differently (actually they probably would have been far worse). Hold on, I need to check how close I've come to the road and the agonizing pain and/or death. .... I should be fine to finish the story, I have about 5 inches to go. At this current life flashing before your eyes timeline that should give me ....

"Coming up on News at 9. Joan the panda has given birth to quintuplets!!"
"Wow, that is something. Thank you John. In sadder news, a local man was thrown out of a car today on old interstate 7. Authorities have his ex-fiancee in custody now who claims that she threw him from the car because he stayed out too late at his bachelor party. She claims she didn't realize the fall would take his life."
"Tsk, Tsk. Let that be a lesson to all you men out there."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

To PhD or not to Phd - APRIL FOOLS!!!

It's been a crazy month for me because I had what I'd like to think of as an epiphany a couple of weeks ago. For a brief backstory, I was sitting at my desk "doing work" when a thought suddenly popped into my head that had my jaw resting firmly on my desk for a solid minute. I thought to myself, "what's the one thing that is missing from my life right now?". I decided then and there that I would continue to pursue my goals of being a professional Archaeologist that I gave up on midway through my Master's degree in New Mexico.

I know this probably isn't the best time to do something like this, given the state of the economy and my wedding coming up in such short order, but I think it will be best in the long run. As such, I've made some preliminary inquiries into OSU to see if their program would suit me for what I want to study. For anyone who doesn't know, I studied the geospatial arrangements of fauna remains at the site of Isla Cilvituk in the Yucatan and I am looking forward to starting something similar with my PhD work. Unfortunately, it doesn't look plausible for me to pursue these goals at OSU.

After some more time passed I finally found a good school that has exactly what I need to pursue my research in California. There program, and the reliance of the archaeologists on GIS software, makes this an ideal candidate for me. Obviously I cannot pursue this in 2009 so I'm looking towards 2010 to begin my research. This will mean moving, once again, completely out of my comfort zone and into a completely new geographic region. Jess and I have discussed this in great length and agree that this is the best course of action for me and my career goals and being that it's California she won't have a problem with finding a new job.

I'm a little nervous about doing this once again but I can't balk at every sign of difficulties in life. Between now and then I have alot of decisions to finalize and plans to make. Wish me luck!!