August 2006 Archives

One Year Later

It was one year ago this week that I banged my head repeatedly on my steering wheel. In some ways it's hard to believe it's been a year already, but in the way we understand each other it seems like we've been together a long time. My life has been richer in the past twelve months for having her in it.

Her eyes still sparkle, and I can still get lost in them for hours.

Happy anniversary, sweetie.

Comments (5) | last by harlan, Sep 14, 12:51 PM

Why'd It Have to Be Snakes?

Browsing the TV schedule tonight I noticed a channel showing Passenger 57 starring Wesley Snipes. And it occurred to me that they really need to rerelease that film under the title Snipes on a Plane.

Comment (1) | last by Jelly, Aug 27, 11:11 AM

The 'rents, the gf, and I spent the past couple of days in Vancouver, which is a stunningly beautiful city. Vancouver made Seattle look like a cheap imitator. The public market on Granville Island seemed more varied and interesting than Pike Place Market. The view from Cloud Nine, a revolving restaurant on the 42nd floor of a hotel, was far grander than that from the Space Needle. Gastown seemed more authentic than Pioneer Square. If I were Seattle, I'd have a jealousy complex. It's like Vancouver is Madonna to Seattle's Britney.

Speaking of Gastown, I stumbled across a game store there called The Games People which, to my never-owned-a-game-store eye, gets everything wrong. It's the kind of shop that simultaneously excites and repels me. It's positively dreary to a casual shopper. Upon walking in the first things you notice are a) the store's very dim lighting, b) the stale, dusty smell normally reserved for antique malls full of forgotten Victorian ephemera, and c) the chaotic jumble of the items on the shelves. The store isn't comfortable or inviting. It doesn't tantalize shoppers with attractive displays of handsome boxes, enticing them to enter and explore. The Games People is a dark, dusty cave that seems a relic from a bygone era.

Which is exactly what excited me when I walked in the door. The casual Gastown tourist wouldn't dare cross that murky threshold, but I was hoping to step back in time. I approached each shelf like an explorer in an ancient tomb, gingerly pushing aside the effluvia of the ages in the hope of unearthing treasure. The 70's-era family games near the entrance suggested the store had been there for a long time. Who knew what unsold inventory still lurked in a back corner?

But here's the crazy part. The vast majority of shelves-- the ones with all the really interesting stuff-- are behind glass counters that keep the customer at a distance. I had to crane my neck from a few feet away to read the densely-packed spines of bygone boxes. If I wanted to look at anything in detail, I had to ask a clerk to fetch it for me. That might be fine for the Library of Congress, but it's a lousy way to browse. Had I been able to get my hands on the games myself, I'd have reveled in examining every relic in stock. When a title caught my attention, I'd have grabbed the box, looked it over carefully, and either replaced it or tucked it under my arm for purchase. Kept at arm's length, however, I hardly looked at anything in detail. I saw a copy of Eon's Runes, but didn't bother asking the clerk to see it because I didn't really want to buy it-- but I might have if I'd been able to pick it up myself and the price was right. The hunt for treasure changed from fun to work. I left the store annoyed and disgusted. The Games People is a store that seems to be doing nothing right. Many shelves had games displayed frontwise, blocking a dozen more games. It was impossible to peer behind them to see what hid beneath. What kind of way is that to run a store? How has this place stayed in business?

We took the seabus across Burrard Inlet and happened to come across the other Games People location, tucked away on the second floor of a market/mall. This one was smaller, brighter, and every bit as cluttered and difficult to browse. As with the other store, all the interesting goodies were crammed together on shelves behind the counter, out of reach. Apparently everything I think I know about running a game store is wrong, because these guys are keeping not one, but two locations open despite their horrible feng shui.

Comments (9) | last by Ellery, Nov 23, 1:01 PM

My parents are in town for a visit. I'm planning a remodel of my bathrooms and kitchen, and my mom likes looking at houses, so we decided to go to this year's Street of Dreams. That's where a bunch of builders, landscapers, designers and decorators get together to assemble monstrously extravagant homes and then invite everyone who can't afford them to pay a hefty entry fee for the privilege of salivating over comforts they'll never have.

So what are the trends in multi-million dollar homes? Mammoth refrigerators that blend into the cabinetry. Media rooms. Flat-screen televisions in kitchens and bathrooms. Multiple washer-dryers. And apparently once you own a lavish home you get invited to all sorts of parties, because all the homes had dedicated gift-wrapping stations.

But by far the most promising trend I noticed is the emerging popularity of secret doors and passageways. Two of the homes came equipped with hidden chambers beyond swinging bookcases. One such bookcase even opened up onto a spiral staircase leading down to what they billed as-- I kid you not-- a "Man Cave". Presumably they're marketing to the burgeoning population of wealthy bats who, traumatized by the death of their parents, dress up as men by day and earn millions trading oil futures. Seriously, if you're going to install a Man Cave in your home, why mess with a spiral staircase? Clearly a man-pole is called for. And there was no bust of Shakespeare to be seen.

Comments (4) | last by Jodi, Aug 22, 10:56 PM

Frosty

Of all the fast food burger joints, the one I like most is Wendy's. Not necessarily because their burgers are better than their competitors', mind you, but for a number of factors combined. Their value menu has an excellent array of choices when you want something cheap, including the winning combination of a real, honest-to-goodness baked potato and a cup of acceptable chili (whose real, honest-to-goodness-ness I choose not to dwell on). Slice open potato, pour on chili, enjoy. They have both batter-fried and roasted chicken sandwich options. Most importantly, I like their fries-- thicker than Mickey D's or Burger Kings, less crispy, but heartier and less salty.

Really, the only thing missing is dessert. I know lots of people who swoon over the Frosty, but chocolate dairy treats aren't my thing. I like dark chocolate, and any ice cream concoction will have more of a milk chocolate flavor. When it comes to shakes and the like, I'm a vanilla guy. Songs of praise for the Wendy's Frosty fall on deaf ears.

So last night I found myself at a Wendy's, and a decal on the menu caught my attention: "Chocolate or Vanilla". I did a double-take. The Frosty machine stared back at me from behind the counter as it always did. It looked no different. It still had only one spout-- a spout that heretofore always dispensed a chocolate dairy treat. "Excuse me," I asked the cashier, "do you guys have Vanilla Frosties now?" She confirmed that they did, and so I ordered my first 99 cent Frosty-- dispensed as if by magic from the formerly chocolate-spewing machine.

And you know what? Meh.

It was basically a cup of vanilla soft-serve. A perfectly fine soft-serve, but too firm to be sucked down with a straw. Certainly nothing to replace McDonald's old hot caramel sundae-- I used to ask my dad to stop at the golden arches just for that. With extra caramel on the bottom, please. Ooooooh, yeah. But this? Nothing to get excited about whatsoever.

Blizzard, your throne remains secure.

Comments (4) | last by Don Munsil, Aug 22, 12:03 PM

Tie One On Now Available

The gf has just told me that she purchased a copy of Tie One On at a Bay area Wal-Mart, so the legions of hopefuls sending me plaintive emails can finally visit their local stores and buy out their supplies. The game still doesn't show up on Wal-Mart's web site, however, so you'll have to let your legs do the walking. The price is reportedly around $18. Buy an even dozen and get all your holiday shopping finished early this year.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire is holding Seattle-area auditions this Friday in the Everett Mall from 9 AM to 4 PM. Obviously, I'm a big advocate of showing up and taking your shot-- it could be worth big bucks. Remember, passing the test is actually the least important part of the audition. If you pass, spend time on the questionaire they give you-- don't rush to be the first one done. You are, in effect, selling yourself to the producers not just as a potential contestant, but as a potential interview subject for Meredith. Use the questionaire to showcase what's interesting and different about you that would make for a fun conversation in the hot seat. And when you talk to the producers, be friendly, enthusiastic, and coherent. Put yourself in their place, imagine what kind of people you'd pick if you had their job, and let that guide you.

Oh, and get there early-- like 7 AM.

Audition details can be found on the Millionaire web site.

Comment (1) | last by Nathan Beeler, Aug 11, 1:27 PM

Unless they're distributing flight belts to the winners of this one, I'm positive that I appeared on the right "Who Wants to Be a" show. Fortunately for creator and host Stan Lee, there's no shortage of attention-starved media whores willing to don spandex and make utter fools of themselves to gain a brief national spotlight. Who Wants to Be a Superhero? is a show strangely at odds with itself. In its opening minutes we're treated to a freak show of oddballs with absurd make-believe powers, auditioning in a star-chamber-like hall where Stan Lee grills them from a giant plasma screen. Even he doesn't want to be physically near these people, and in fact borrows this page from John Forsythe's book throughout the show, appearing only on flatscreens and communicators, never in person, as if he couldn't be bothered to actually travel to the set of his own television show.

Before long we're introduced to the contestants, many of whom come off as actors desperate for exposure. There's lantern-jawed Major Victory, who mugs for the camera to deliver his motto: "Be a winner, not a weiner." There's Lamuria, voted onto the show by Sci-Fi.Com readers seemingly for her ability to fill out a gold lamé catsuit. Monkey Woman climbs trees and screeches like a simian, while holding all the hopes and dreams of her native Seattle (go, Monkey Woman!). The Iron Enforcer is a Vin Diesel wannabe overcompensating with a giant prop gun strapped to his arm. And let us not forget Fat Mama, harnessing the force of a coronary attack for truth and justice.

The show kicks off in high camp, rendering each contestant in comic-book style and challenging the viewers to take things seriously. And then the flatscreens turn on and Stan Lee rebukes everyone for smiling, having fun, and socializing with each other, sternly informing them that superheroes don't act that way. Which isn't at all the impression I got from Marvel's Avengers or Fantastic Four comics, but Lee's getting on in years so we'll cut him some slack. His role seems to be to get the players to take this farce seriously as he "tests" them in various ways to see who's got the right superhero stuff. The challenges are meant to test their character-- honesty, integrity, compassion, and so forth. Right off the bat, one contestant is eliminated for having his words twisted by leading questions into seeming like he's only there for the money. Which is patently absurd, because EVERYONE is there for the money-- if not directly, then from other opportunities the national exposure might provide.

I'm down with reality competition shows. I love me the Survivor, Amazing Race, Big Brother, Hell's Kitchen, Top Chef, and Treasure Hunters. But the truth is, Who Wants to Be a Superhero may well be the guiltiest pleasure of them all. The whole concept is absurd, made all the more so by the tone of dire importance lent to it by doddering codger Lee and the eagerness with which the contestants pledge to make him proud. Honestly, it's an hour of laughs-- and in the world of summer television, that's a superheroic feat of its own.

Comments (8) | last by Justin, Mar 22, 5:44 PM

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