So someone decided to make a fake Lego Breaking Bad videogame trailer. Meth may be bad, but America is still great.
So someone decided to make a fake Lego Breaking Bad videogame trailer. Meth may be bad, but America is still great.
The protest cries went up as soon as I grabbed the remote. “Look,” I tried to explain. “You guys both know that I rarely interrupt your viewing of episodes of Phineas and Ferb that you’ve seen several dozen times to watch sports. But this is my school, San Diego State, and they are playing an important game against our hated rivals, the BYU Cougars, a team of degenerate cheaters and thugs from an awful school full of terrible people.” A reasonable request. Zoe was having none of it. Her measured response: “I HATE STUPID FOOTBALL!”
College football fandom is a curious thing, at least to me. This has everything to do with the fact that I went to San Diego State University, a school whose most notable Football Moment was the Marshall Faulk Era. Faulk electrified audiences at the time; he'd go on to a successful NFL career, and the Aztec football program would go on to continued mediocrity. I’m not a TV Sports Guy, but school loyalty dies hard. In the great grand scheme of things, the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl was fairly low on the list, but I was interested in the outcome. The Aztecs had a long and noble history of falling valiantly to the Cougars. Perhaps this game would be different. And at the very least, the kids would have the opportunity to watch their old man’s team. I’m a believer in the concept of Being Knowledgeable: one doesn’t need to be an expert on all things, but one should be able to speak intelligently about many things. Lucas has been asking about Pop Warner football, and Zoe…well, this is 2012, so why shouldn’t she know a bit about football? After a few minutes of grumbling, both of them settled into the couch.
The game was a “defensive struggle” – the polite way to describe a snoozer with a 6 to 3 score going into the 4th quarter. Zoe’s interest was piqued, to my eternal shame, when an Aztec player bobbled a fairly straightforward pass. “Look Daddy,” she said. “Your guy dropped the ball. That’s silly!” She jumped up out of her seat when the SDSU cheerleaders came on the screen. “Cheerleaders!,” she yelled. I mumbled something to her about not becoming a cliché when she’s older. The game dragged on; I had to take Lucas out to buy his sister a Christmas present, and there was nothing in the Aztecs’ play to indicate that something exciting would be happening any time soon. Zoe’s interest left as we did – she got up and wandered over to her pile of Barbies - although she did tell me that she hoped my team would win the game.
I often wonder if my kids are missing out on anything by being “real” fans of sports teams. After all, it’s fun to root for someone. The Aztecs would be a good choice for them: Beth and I both went to school there, their basketball teams (men’s and women’s) are among the nation’s best, and their football team has been on an upswing for the past couple of years. Maybe this Poinsettia Bowl would see them turn a corner, delivering a victory and making two new fans in the process. They didn’t, of course.
And now a word from the sponsor of this post, Dove Men+Care: "College football brings out the biggest rivalries of all time and now guys can compete head-to-head with fellow fans. Earn extra bragging rights this season by participating in the Dove® Men+Care® Fan Bowl Photo Challenge. Even after the game is over, fans can still keep the football spirit alive by submitting photos in weekly digital challenges doled out by the “Journey to Comfort” quarterbacks. Challenges will ask fans to share their “Most Impressive Tailgate Spread” or to don their “Best Game Face” for a chance to win “Bowl Game” tickets or meet John Elway. All submitted photos will be featured in an image gallery located on DoveMenCare.com andFacebook.com\DoveMenCareUS."
A lot of you out there are devout football fans; I'm a rugby guy myself, so I find American football sort of cute, what with the pads and the helmets and stopping play every two minutes so that morbidly obese lineman can rest and suck down some oxygen. Nevertheless, I've been known to watch me some football, and was pretty stoked when the folks at Dove Men+Care recently invited me and a bunch of other dads to go to New York and hang out with Doug Flutie:
Flutie is a stand-up guy, and in an age when most brands could give a rat's ass about dads, Dove Men+Care has done a fine job portraying fathers in a positive light. They've also sent DadCentric a whole bunch of sponsorship opportunities over the past year, which helps me pay the bills. (Maintaining a gold-plated yacht isn't easy, you know.)
So I'm happy to pass this along: "College football brings out the biggest rivalries of all time and now guys can compete head-to-head with fellow fans. Earn extra bragging rights this season by participating in the Dove® Men+Care® Fan Bowl Photo Challenge. Even after the game is over, fans can still keep the football spirit alive by submitting photos in weekly digital challenges doled out by the “Journey to Comfort” quarterbacks. Challenges will ask fans to share their “Most Impressive Tailgate Spread” or to don their “Best Game Face” for a chance to win “Bowl Game” tickets or meet John Elway. All submitted photos will be featured in an image gallery located on DoveMenCare.com and Facebook.com\DoveMenCareUS."
Interested? Excellent. You can submit your photos here. (You do know what they mean when they say "Bowl Game", right? Super.) The contest ends on 12/20/12.
My boys and I have this game. You could call it Extreme Backyard Cardio if you’re a believer in accurate descriptions in titles, but the boys just call it Horsey. Basically, one of them chases me while I run through the yard with the other one riding on my back. Through the trees, around the playhouse, past the chicken coop, across the deck until I decide the ride has lasted long enough and I run back to base where I ease the kid off my back, plunk down, and relish the feeling of the tom-tom drum pounding away in my chest. “You feel that?!” my heart yells at me. “That means you’re alive, motherfucker! You won’t always be, but you are now, so get up!” And so, after I catch enough of my breath, I do. The kids switch places - rider becomes chaser and vice versa - and we do that shit all over again.
And now, friends, let us pause at this paragraph to laugh and mourn at the imperfection that permeates and in part even defines our very humanity. Faulty creatures we are, stumbling through life doing our best to accommodate for our flaws, sometimes even increasing our failures by orders of magnitude even while trying so hard to head them off at the pass.
So Horsey. Whenever my kids ask to play it, my first instinct is self-preservation tinged with laziness. But most of the time, I reverse course and let them have their way. Imagine, if you will, one of those old scales, the two-cupped kind akin to the one that blind Lady Justice uses, but instead of guilt and innocence, this scale balances my children’s weight against my strength and stamina. Right now, while the strength side outweighs the weight side, games like Horsey are entirely possible, even if it grows a little more difficult as the two sides move toward a balance. And one day that balance is going to tip and Horsey will be a thing of our past. So yeah, I acquiesce.
And so it was on a recent summer afternoon. I had my youngest on my back and eldest on my tail. This is by far the more difficult of the two Horsey combinations, for even though my youngest is lighter, his older brother is faster and takes the chasing part of the game much more seriously, which has a way of bringing out my normally latent competitive side. Maybe it’s some hardwired father thing, make him try harder so that his eventual and inevitable victory over me will be truly earned, or something, I don’t know. Anyway, youngest and I are zipping across the yard, between the trees, etc., eldest is right behind us, when I come around the corner between the kid’s playhouse and the chicken’s coop and my foot just … goes out from under me.
On my way from the kitchen to the playroom yesterday, I almost didn't notice what might have appeared, to the untrained eye, to be a random assortment of crap piled on the upturned chair we leave on the stairs to keep our incontinent dog out of the carpeted part of the house, but what closer inspection would reveal to be an intricate arrangement of unlikely elements that formed a delicate art installation: a Disney princess hand mirror, a slice of wooden pizza, a rubber ball with a liquid center that when shaken stirs up swirls of glitter, half of a hollow plastic Easter egg, a purple crayon, shredded bits of multicolored Play-Doh, and a 4"x6" flyer for Soak City.
I knew that it was in fact half a morning's work for one of my not-quite-three-year-old twin girls, not only because I had been, while trying to get everything in order for the girls' first day of school, half aware of her chattering away as she busily assembled the masterpiece on the third step; but also because it was one of the best examples of the 3D collage sculpture that has become her milieu. It was balanced without being symmetrical, it had a pleasant mix of textures and densities, and the colors were complimentary without being matchy-matchy.
The other twin is more into drawing. She draws large-scale portraits of "hippos" on the chalk board. If you saw them, you might think "lion" or "pig" or "human." You would be wrong: according to her, they are all hippos. Sometimes they have long hair with bows in it, dozens of legs or cilia or whiskers on the perimeter of their round faces, long skinny arms or puffy sleeves, umbrellas, shoes, dresses, and often expressions of horror.
We were standing around in a circle, sweating, waiting for leg muscles to start seizing up. "Who are we gonna lift?" Had this been asked ten, even five years ago, no one present would've given it much thought. But like Tennyson's Ulysses, we were not once we what we were, and the thought of two guys having to lift a third gave everyone reason to pause.
In rugby, when the ball goes out of bounds (or "into touch"), a line-out occurs. The team who didn't take the ball out of bounds gets to throw it in; both teams get to vie for possession. It looks a bit like this:
So somebody had to get lifted. The two "smallest" guys were Josh and I; Josh was the scrumhalf, so he was out. "Looks like it's you," one of the guys said. "Oh fuck that," I replied. I was a back - we run and score, avoiding the stupid stuff the forwards do, like scrums and getting lifted up in the air by a couple of guys in their forties, creaky and winded with age.
Not that I wasn't. Four weeks into training for an upcoming tournment, and I was still praying for Death's sweet embrace at the end of every practice. The routine was the same: 45 minutes of tag rugby (no tackling, but no breaks, either; the touch game is pretty much non-stop running), then 45 minutes of tackling drills or full-contact scrimmaging. So far I'd managed to avoid any serious injuries. The right knee was my biggest concern; my brief rugby career had been derailed some six years ago, when I stepped into a hole during a practice and my knee went one way while the rest of me tried to go another. In addition to two practice sessions a week, I'd been hitting the weights and the track. My knee was fine. Everything else hurt, and constantly.
And I shouldn't have been the one to complain. After all, the whole thing was my idea. About a week into Lucas' most recent season, I suggested to my fellow coaches - all guys with kids my age, or older - that we get together and play, just for fun. Then I remembered that the Catalina Rugby Festival was in May. This was strictly an Old Boys' tourney, for semi-retired guys like myself to get together, play rugby, and (of course) drink beer on beautiful Catalina island. I realized that not only did I want to show the kid that the old man still had some gas left in the tank, I missed playing. Rather, I still felt cheated by Fate and that knee. How dull it is to pause, to make an end, to rust unburnished, not to shine in use! I took things a step further, suggested that we put together a team, my fellow coaches enthusiastically agreed, and so here we were.
Kevin, the big forward from Oceanside, gave us instructions. He would be one of the lifters, Shaun - an big former college rower who'd never played rugby before - would be the other. "Grab him by the shorts. He'll call it off - one, small step to the left, two, get ready, three, lift him up. When you do, move together - that'll help steady us and if someone runs into us it'll make it less likely that we drop him." (Wait, what?) Kevin looked at me. "Keep your feet together, like you're diving into the pool. That way you don't kick us in the head or the chest. When you're in the air" (really wish he didn't put it that way) "lean in - you know the ball has to go down the center, so you're gonna want to go after it." I nodded.
We assumed the formation. I was going over the routine in my head. "One!" This was nuts. I'm 43 in six weeks, playing a game that wears out guys half my age. Lean in, get the ball, get it to the scrumhalf. "Two!" Run fast, tackle hard, think about how you feel right now - banged up, yes, but younger than you have in years. Seek. Strive. Find. Never yield. "Three!"
Because you were all so good and read my series of posts about my experiences with the Xbox 360 Kinect, I'm going to give one away. Yup. All you have to do is leave a comment. Oh, and read this, courtesy of the generous folks at Edelman PR and Microsoft:
Xbox 360 Kinect Family Bundle
The bundle includes a special edition white Xbox 360 4GB console, white Kinect sensor, white Xbox 360 wireless controller, “Kinect Sports” and “Kinect Adventures” and a three-month subscription to Xbox LIVE Gold. The bundle will be available for purchase beginning February 28, 2012.
The Xbox 360 Special Edition 4GB Kinect Family Bundle includes the complete Xbox 360 experience all available in a glossy white package. With “Kinect Sports” (the best-selling franchise on Kinect for Xbox 360, with more than six million games sold to date), “Kinect Adventures” and Xbox LIVE Gold subscription at no additional cost, the bundle is an exceptional value. Now, users can enjoy the complete Xbox 360 experience including the controller-free fun of Kinect or grabbing the wireless controller to play blockbuster games. When it’s time for TV or movies, they can then log on to Xbox LIVE for social experiences and access to world class entertainment (Xbox LIVE Gold membership and/or additional subscriptions or fees may be required).
Here's what it looks like. Pretty!
Like I said, if you want one, leave a comment. Just one. If you leave more than one, you won't win. Tell us how the Xbox 360 will change your life. (It won't help your chances, since we'll be using Random.com to pick the winner, but maybe we'll give a special prize to the one who writes the best comment.) We'll close the comments on Thursday, March 1 at 9:00 PM PST.
(Oh, and it goes without saying that if you actually want to win the thing, you need to use a viable email address so that we can contact you. Looking at you, Facebook User.)
AND WE HAVE A WINNER: Congrats to commenter DrLori71, whose lucky number came up in our random drawing. And thanks to everyone for participating.
The problem with promising PR/Marketing folks that you'll review kid-related things for them within a certain timeframe is that there are kids involved. I'd told my daughter a couple of weeks ago that we'd play Kinectimals: Now With Bears together. Immediately upon doing so she entered what we parents of four-year-old hellion redheads call "a phase", which is a nice way of saying that she had the mood swings of a Gremlin 'round midnight. The Xbox Threat was made early, and adhered to: act up, and no Kinectimals for you. Needless to say, there was plenty of acting up.
This was bad news for the PR person, but good news for me, as I'd picked up a used copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops. Hooray, sloth and killing!
This is the second in a three-part series of Xbox 360 Kinect reviews. Part One is here.
The boy was skeptical, as was I: would the Kinect deliver on its controller-free promise?
The answer? Sorta.
First, I had to set the thing up. The Kinect requires that you have a certain amount of floor space; our couch protruded into the thing's optimal zone, so I had to do a bit of furniture re-arranging. Not a problem for me, so much as an inconvenience; I backed it up a foot, and moved the attached ottoman over to the right side to free up the space we'd need to jump, swing our arms, and run in place. (Those of you with a small TV room, or one with a ton of furniture, beware: you might need to do some serious remodeling.) Navigating via the Kinect requires you to use different gestures, kind of like Tom Cruise does with his various future computers in Minority Report. It takes a bit of getting used to, and for younger kids, this might be frustrating, especially as the menu navigation functions can differ from one game to the next. (One suggestion: use the voice control whenever possible.)
Full disclosure: when the folks at Edelman PR contacted me and offered to send me, for review purposes, an Xbox 360 with Kinect and the games "Kinectimals (Now With Bears)", "Kinect Sports: Season Two", and "Kinect: Disneyland", I actually hesitated.
Here was a can of hi-res worms I wasn't sure I wanted to open. We'd bought a Wii a couple of years ago, and I was more than happy with it. Not because it's a decent console, with fun motion-based controllers and a whole slew of games for younger kids. No, I was happy with the Wii because for the most part, it sits by the TV collecting dust. Every once in a while Lucas plays with it, but he's a bit of a jock, likes his outdoor time, and quickly becomes bored or frustrated with video games. Not the worst problem to have as a parent. Zoe is four, and her definition of "playing" video games usually involves waving at the screen and talking to the computer-generated characters. As for me, I've never been much of a gamer: I had a first generation Xbox, which I bought a year or so after Lucas was born. I figured that as a new dad I'd be hanging around the house a lot more, and video games seemed to be a good way to pass the time. (When I wasn't being a caring and commited father, of course.) My days as an Xbox gamer were short-lived: a few months after I bought it, the kid busted it. He found out that the eject button opened the tray, and tried to close it manually. By pushing straight down on it. Snap. A couple hundred bucks down the drain. I was bummed for a couple of days, but as it became apparent that fixing the thing was going to cost as much as it would to buy a new one, I found myself...not caring. I gave the busted console to a friend who wanted to use it for parts, sold a few of the games to a used CD store, and didn't think twice about it.
And so we lived as non-gamers, and were content. Then I got the offer from Edelman. It did take me a few minutes to reply. But I said yes, and told them that I'm not a gamer, and that I was going to be honest about my experiences with the Xbox, the Kinect, and the games. That's fine, they replied. It's what we're looking for.
"Gamer" is a weird way to self-identify. I occasionally describe myself as a surfer, but there's something to be said for that - I possess a set of physical skills and knowledge of the ocean that the average person does not, enabling me to participate in a very difficult, demanding, and even dangerous sport. But "gamer'? It's blissfully shameless - "I'm an adult who spends several hours a day sitting on my ass in front of the TV playing video games!" And make no mistake - the Xbox 360 is for the gamers. To get good at, say, Call Of Duty: Black Ops, you do in fact need to spend several hours sitting on your ass in front of the TV. As a guy with a fulltime day job, a few writing gigs, a blog to manage, oh, and a family, I do not have several hours a day to spare. The Wii was great, in that regard - the games are basic enough for both my 7-year-old son and decidedly non-gamer me.
The Kinect, however, was what set the hook. Looking like a dashboard-mounted projector, the motion-based controller proports to go one step beyond the handheld Wii controllers - as the ads say, YOU are the controller. Simple concept, enormously complex execution: you stand in front of the thing, and what you do - swing an imaginary golf club, throw an imaginary football, wave an imaginary wand - is translated right up there on the TV, in the game. I was intrigued - not for my own sake, or even Lucas', but for Zoe. At four, the Wii controllers and most of the games are a bit too complicated for her. But running in place? Jumping up and down? That she can do. Lucas, meanwhile, was skeptical. "You don't hold anything? You just act it out?" "That's what they say", I replied. "Hmmm", he said. "That sounds impossible."
This is the first of three posts I'll be doing about the Xbox 360. Next up: the kids put the Kinect through its paces. Finally, I try my hand at a couple of "grown-up" games, and ponder life as a new member of the Xbox Nation.