Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Prick in a No Parking Zone.

As some of you may have read earlier in the week, I had a trip planned for today. I awoke at a brisk 4 AM this morning in preparation for a drive to Charlotte, North Carolina. I had a toy and hobby show to attend at 9 AM and an early start was required. Alternatively, it was nice to take the new Jeep for a long drive and prove its mettle. Though, this has nothing to do with my article this evening.

Instead, I turn my focus to a single photograph.

I snapped this photo while in the Cheshire Place Shopping Center on WT Harris Boulevard in Charlotte this morning. The green Buick you see in the center of the photo had just insanely whipped in front of me after blowing through an intersection. After cutting before me, he hurriedly slammed on brakes and parked in this No Parking zone. While not something I welcome, encounters with terrible drivers are nothing unfamiliar to me. Nay, what particularly perturbed me about this incident was the rush to plop his vehicle in a clearly marked No Parking zone.

Let's evaluate what the problem is...

You see, almost all retail businesses, restaurants, etc. have a No Parking zone in front of their establishment; it's required by law. As such, they are appropriately signed to let drivers know not to park there.

These placards do not take into consideration assholes like this guy.

Instead of parking in the parking lot like all the other customers, this guy decided that putting his vehicle in the No Parking zone was the appropriate place to leave his car. I mean... why read the sign that's on the building? Much less... WHY READ THE FRICKIN' NO PARKING SIGN RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR CAR ON A BRIGHT ORANGE HAZARD CONE?!


It's unfortunate that this business has been forced to put cones in the No Parking zone just to keep pricks like this guy from parking there. But, it's obvious that even the brightly-colored cones aren't enough to prohibit such callous and disrespectful behavior.

And this, my friends, is where I make my point.

In one photograph, I have somehow elegantly surmised the pitiful state of our dear nation. I got lucky, no doubt about it. The truth contained within is stark. Americans have become impertinent, negligent and altogether arrogant.

The hazard cone tactic has obviously failed. There's only one logical response.

Lethal, genetically modified giant guard scorpions.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy ~ 1931-2015.

The world received the sad news today that Leonard Nimoy has passed away after an extended battle with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). He was 83 years old.

I won't attempt to eulogize Mr. Nimoy. There are countless other writers and historians whom have already said what we're all feeling. Nimoy was irreplaceable. Whether he realized it or not, Nimoy's very presence on screen inspired an entire generation of scientists, futurists, free-thinkers and creators. Because we live in a time where his creative endeavors can be seen long after his passing, I'm certain he will continue to inspire many more generations to come. Through Spock, Nimoy has achieved what man has always sought -- immortality.

Very few realize how important Star Trek is to the modern development of our world. So many aspects of that fictitious universe in deep space have transcended the fourth wall. From transparent aluminum to personal communicators and tablet computers, the world of Star Trek correctly deduced a plethora of technologies that we now employ on a daily basis. At the core of that fabled journey through the stars was Mr. Spock. Over the course of six decades, Nimoy carried the weight of that narrative for all to enjoy.

The universe is a little less brighter than it was before. Leonard Nimoy will be sorely missed.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Why is Your Snowman Square?

Today was a good day.

Here in North Carolina, we received approximately five to seven inches of snow overnight. While nothing to get frantic over (it's just snow), I always welcome a heavy dose of the cold white stuff.

Needless to say, Crystal and I made no waste of the frozen precipitation. After debating what to make with the snow (a snow man was too predictable), we went with a Rubix cube.

Which then morphed into just a standard box for sitting on.

Upon which, Crystal crushed it with tremendous force. She was most harsh in her unrelenting destruction.

As I said, today was a good day. Ice Cube would approve.

On the new Jeep front, it handled quit well pulling out of my driveway. Unfortunately, the local road crews had plowed the snow off the roads quickly, so I couldn't take the new wheels out for some donuts. Alas, that must wait for another day.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What Not to Do in a Snow Storm.

I have to be honest with you -- as I type this article, I've had a few adult beverages. I feel FANTASTIC! Wine sure is great, isn't it?

Tonight's article is about what you SHOULDN'T do when you're faced with a possible snow storm.

A typical horse-drawn snow carriage in the nineteenth century.

Here's what you shouldn't do:

Don't buy a bunch of food which requires refrigeration. Guess what? When your power goes out, all the stuff in your fridge will spoil. Buying up a a bunch of milk, eggs, frozen pizza, frozen burritos and the like is a waste of money. If you really feel compelled to stock up on food, purchase non-perishable goods like tuna fish, crackers, dry cereal, oatmeal, rice, beans and canned mackerel.

Mmmmmm.... canned mackerel.

Don't waste time driving to see your boo. Your boo isn't important. Stay off the road if the snow is just too much for you to handle. If your boo loves you, they will wait. Otherwise, drop your boo like a bad habit and find a new boo.

Don't freak out. Snow is just rain you can pick up. It's not amazing... it's just nature's dandruff. You'll survive.

Don't crowd the grocery store. You probably need a bath because you're a poor piece of human trash. No one wants to smell your funk.

Don't crash your vehicle. The snow isn't difficult to drive in. Drop your transmission into low gear, put down your cell phone and pay attention. After a while, you'll learn that driving in the snow is actually fun!

There's my tips for surviving a snow storm. It's not difficult. You can do it!

I've got to go now. I need to finish a bottle of wine. Toodles!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Deed is Done!

HAHA! Fooled you. No, I didn't buy an Ice Cream Truck.

After a long day of negotiating, this guy is once again mobile. Starting around lunch time today and continuing to roughly 5:00 PM, Crystal and I negotiated with a dealership in Greensboro over a vehicle on our short list. It was tough and they didn't want to budge too much, but we finally got the price down to a number that we were comfortable with.

And to think... the last bargaining chip we needed was a spare tire.

I won't make you wait any longer to see my new vehicle. The suspense must be killing you.

Wait for it...

Wait for it...


Okay, seriously Jared, you're being obnoxious.

Go ahead and congratulate yourself. You now know a guy with a Jeep. That's right -- the new ride is a 2015 Jeep Cherokee Sport. It has a rare Southwest Option Package, which includes larger 17" custom alloys, full window tinting, custom silver roof rails, spoiler, a satellite radio and radio control buttons on the steering wheel -- amongst a host of other things not usually found on the Sport trim level. All of these options are very rare on a Cherokee Sport (trust me, we looked all over the east coast). In fact, it's so rare that the dealership didn't even know they had it on their lot until we pointed it out (it pays to do your own research). To find all of this together on a vehicle that actually has been painted a color instead of a shade... well that's just super! The Deep Cherry Red paint job is sexy -- yes, I said sexy. Considering the space it has inside, the above average gas mileage, a nine-speed transmission which drives smoothly and an engine with way more power than I'm used to... I'd say this is definitely an upgrade over the PT Cruiser.

Back to that spare tire I mentioned -- the dealer finally met me at my desired price when they informed me that they couldn't obtain a spare tire and jack kit. That saved $500 off the bottom line and placed it in the acceptable purchase price zone. Considering I can get the spare kit for a few hundred bucks, it was worth it (perhaps for even less if I scour a couple salvage yards).

The funny part? I've now completed the MOPAR trifecta. I have owned a Dodge, a Chrysler and now a Jeep.

Expect updates on my upcoming adventures in the coming days. I know I'll be taking a trip to Charlotte on Saturday.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Negotiating a Deal.

The journey for a new set of wheels continues...

I sat down today with a local salesman to discuss some numbers on the Nissan Rogue. It's a great vehicle with a lot of potential, but the price for it seems to differ wildly from dealership to dealership. Needless to say, I wasn't too happy with the initial price that I was given. Per what the salesman said, the price he offered on this Rogue only included $100 in profit for him. Because the exact vehicle I would want is located in Charlotte on another dealer's lot, I was told that the price would be higher. Of course, I was not comfortable with the initial offer presented. In response, the salesman made a pitch concerning the same model on their own lot, just in a different color -- dark grey. On this vehicle, he presented an offer that was two thousand dollars less than the previous. Though, it was still higher than what I want to pay for a vehicle. Considering there are similar competitor vehicles available for a few thousand dollars less (specifically the Jeep Cherokee), I am under no pressure to purchase the Rogue.

My logic on the matter is this -- if I'm going to spend $25,000 on a vehicle, I at least would like to get what I want. Why spend that much money on a vehicle I don't really want?

In this instance, I wanted a blue Rogue SV with a moon roof and fog lamps.

What irks me the most is when salesman say that white, black, grey or silver are the best colors to buy. They claim that they retain the highest resale value and look the best when dirty. I wonder... have these guys ever seen a dirty white car? A dirty silver or black car? They look terrible! Not to mention, why not drive something with a little bit of color? Has humanity become so dull and lifeless? They might have a higher resale value, but is it because dealerships keep telling us that this is so? Talk about controlling the narrative. Shoppers need to show a little more originality when buying a vehicle. Refrain from conforming to the accepted norm. Do what suits you! Want a yellow convertible? Go for it. Want a pink station wagon? Lovely.

Not to mention, where did all the station wagons go in the United States? That's a whole other gripe of mine.

The next time you get on the road, I want you to take notice of the private passenger (non-commercial) vehicles that pass you. Spend a few good minutes watching the colors of cars that you see. You'll notice a trend -- most cars on the road are not a color, but a shade. White, black, grey and silver are the most popular paint jobs on vehicles. You might see the occasional red vehicle, maybe a blue. Green, orange or yellow? Maybe one or two in an entire day. And don't even get me started on poor old purple (my favorite color). Auto manufacturers are racist as hell when it comes to the most royal of colors.

One of my dream cars - a purple 1950 Studebaker Champion. I have a thing for a bullet nose on a car. 

Back to the events of today...

Before I left the dealership, the general manager came in to negotiate. He offered to get the blue Rogue in Charlotte and sell it for the same price as the one on the lot. Suddenly, the Rogue in Charlotte was worth two thousand dollars less. How quickly the story changed in just a span of half an hour! Add on top of that offers of zero percent financing (which I don't need because I already have cash and financing) and free regular maintenance -- they thought a sale was certain to be made.

Nope, I walked away and said I had to think it over for a day.

Seriously, consider this for a bit -- if there were two thousand dollars worth of wiggle room in a vehicle that's not even on their lot, how much actual wiggle room is there on the vehicle that is on their lot? At the end of it all, I still don't want to spend over twenty grand on a car that isn't what suits me. This holds especially true when I can get a similar car for less with another manufacturer.

At this point, I'm half way tempted to just buy an old car and have it restored for half the price of what I'd pay for a new vehicle. That's what I really want to do anyway!

The quest will begin again tomorrow!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Twisting Reality.

Don't you hate it when people hear what they want to hear? Or worse yet, they ignore what you're saying altogether and replace it with their own narrative?

Yeah... me too.

I've become pretty adept over the years at dealing with people whom contort what I might speak into something I don't mean. Let's just say that I've had a lot of practice. What irks me the worst is that these same individuals will get mad at me when I become annoyed with their behavior. What do they expect? They just twisted what I had to say, only to expect me not to become angry about it!

That right there is the mark of absurdity.

If you keep poking the bear, eventually the bear is going to growl back at you.

As humans, we're some pretty funny creatures. Our fellow mammals don't do this sort of thing. Nor do fish, birds, reptiles or insects. No... we're the only ones whom will attempt to reshape reality just to be correct. Imagine if elephants did such a thing... or dolphins. What if ants, when upset with their queen, suddenly stopped working and walked away from the colony?

It's quite silly if you think about it. So why do we do it?

I suspect it has something to do with our pride.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Cold Feet.

With it being so cold this past week, I've developed what I like to call a "skinny people problem".

My feet and hands just will not stay warm.

My extremities used to never get cold. Then again, I was pushing 340 lbs. I had enough blubber to keep an entire village of Eskimos warm! Now that I'm down into the 200 pound range, I've noticed I get cold much easier. My hands and feet have suffered the worst, but not as much as they have this past week. The bitter cold we've experienced has not been pleasant by any measure.

As I write this, my feet have four pairs of socks on, plus slippers, plus a heating pad underneath... and they're still not warming up. I have to put gloves on every so often to maintain the heat in my fingers. All in all, it's quite depressing. While I don't miss being a gigantic fat ass, I do miss the warmth that I always had in the winter.

To all my skinny readers out there -- I completely understand your plight now. I can only imagine how much colder I'll be when I take another forty or fifty more pounds off.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Importance of Continuity or: How Marvel and DC Comics Lost Me.

Over the course of 2011 and 2012, I stopped reading mainstream comics. There were a variety of factors (loss of interest, event fatigue, boring stories, rehashed plot devices, etc.), but perhaps the death knell was DC Comics' New 52 universe reboot. I dropped DC Comics before that event took place. Not soon after, I stopped reading Marvel Comics. Though Marvel was not rebooting their universe at that time, they shared the same narrative problems as DC. Plus, I could instinctively see that they were going to reboot their universe as well -- it was just a matter of time. My prediction was right; Marvel is rebooting their universe in just a few months via the Secret Wars event.

Above all other aspects of a shared narrative universe, I value continuity most of all. Continuity is what holds a fictional universe together. Without continuity, you've just got a series of unrelated and inconsequential stories that have little bearing on each other. Ultimately, continuity is what adds importance to the stories that take place within the universe itself. Without it, those same stories are cheapened and bear little reason to exist.

If I'm going to take the time to read your story, then I need to know it has merit and value. Without continuity, then your story is meaningless because it bears no consequence. That's something I just won't waste my time reading. Hence, this is why I don't read mainstream comics anymore. The continuity factor has been devalued and nearly forgotten. Marvel and DC Comics stories carry no gravitas.

When a narrative universe undergoes a reboot, the continuity isn't the only thing that goes out the window. By essentially wiping the slate clean, you're saying that the old stories simply don't matter. Because they've been deleted from the current continuity for the sake of a fresh start, their bearing on the universe is no longer valid. Hence, they're merely useless exercises in story telling -- practice, to put it simply. No matter how well written and interesting those older stories may be, they're still irrelevant. It's no coincidence that I began selling my vast comic collection after I stopped reading mainstream comics. Without a continuity to add value to their existence, those old issues were pointless. Why would I want to keep old pieces of paper with stories that didn't technically happen? Other than the potential aftermarket collector value, the stories were worthless.

Why am I speaking about this today? I recently read an article on about DC Comics and their presentation at the annual 2015 ComicsPRO retailer summit. During their presentation, DC Comics senior staffers Dan DiDio, Jim Lee and Bob Wayne discussed what was going on at DC Comics. Specifically, they detailed the upcoming Convergence event, which again alters their all too brief current continuity (post New 52).

'Raiders of the Lost Ark' employs the tired deus ex machina plot device, thereby saving Indy at the very end by a contextually nonsensical magical act.

Using the villainous character Brainiac as a deus ex machina plot device, DC Comics will shuffle past and present iterations of characters, many from defunct and erased continuities to do... well something. Who knows what they will do at this point. Ultimately, does it even matter? There will be dozens of mini-series released during this Convergence event, profiling a plethora of characters. By the end of the series, Jim Lee stated that only the best stories would become canonical (meaning the "official" continuity). It's like Survivor for comics, only everyone loses. Wait, I have a better analogy...

Convergence is the Thunderdome of comic events. Two (or more) continuities enter, one continuity leaves.

I have a real problem with publishers and storytellers treating their universal continuity like a steel-cage combatant. Inherently, stories are subjective. Some readers may like a tale, others may not. Best is a relative term not easily defined. Also, by implying that you're only going to select the "best" published work, doesn't that reflect prior knowledge of an inferior product also being sold to readers? Why don't you only publish your "best" work to begin with?

History within a fictional narrative, once written and published, can not be erased. No matter how much you don't like something that happened in the past, it can not and should not be altered. The legacy of a story and the characters involved is what makes the present possible. Gutting your past just to make your current storytelling process easier is cheap and lazy. A great writer within a shared fictional universe, no matter how much they may dislike an event or something in a character's past, can build upon that failure to make something successful. Erasing continuity is a reflection of weak, confidence-lacking storytelling.

While I am most certainly in the minority with this opinion, I stand by my words. I don't know if the two mainstream publishers can ever win me back. This is one of those point of no return scenarios. I'd be curious for you to share your thoughts with me on this matter in the comment section. Does continuity matter to you? If not, please explain why.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Ups and Downs of Car Shopping.

I experienced two extremes today in terms of shopping for a new vehicle. I'll start today's article with the negative experience, but end on a positive note.

First, the bad...

2015 Toyota RAV4

Crystal and I went to check out a Toyota RAV4 at the local Cox Toyota dealership. Our salesman, whom was initially polite and answered all of our questions, soon morphed into a belligerent salesman whom wouldn't take no for an answer. From the onset of our encounter, he was directly informed that we would not impulsively buy a vehicle on the spot. We wanted to look at all of the vehicles on our short list of candidates, of which the RAV4 was one. Only after evaluating all of the potential candidates would we make a final decision. We test drove the RAV4 and liked it reasonably well (though, it has not proven to be one of our final selections for reasons unrelated to the salesman). Upon returning to the dealership, we asked if he could provide a breakdown of the general prices on each trim level of the vehicle for comparison sake. After vanishing and making us wait for twenty minutes, he returned with a data sheet. This sheet concerned one of the models he had on the dealership lot, which he felt perfectly fit our needs. How he knew what would be a perfect fit for us, I have no idea -- that's a decision only myself and Crystal can make. He then began his sales pitch, assuming we were ready to buy the vehicle he selected. When we tried to compare the RAV4 to other models we were considering, he immediately spoke ill of them. HELLO -- when you do that, it implies that we're idiots for considering them! Needless to say, this salesman was in for a surprise. I had to reiterate that we were not buying the vehicle on the spot, but merely evaluating it for purchase. After a few rounds of him second guessing our judgment, tossing out-of-date consumer reports at us and generally throwing a tantrum, we walked out. Because of this salesman's behavior, I wouldn't buy any vehicle from Cox Toyota just on principle. They lost our business... permanently. And to think -- none of this had anything to do with the quality of the RAV4.

Now, to the good...

2015 Nissan Rogue

Later this afternoon, we visited our local Carolina Nissan dealership. Another vehicle on our short list of prospects was the Nissan Rogue. I had previously spoken with our salesman a few days ago for a minute or two. He provided me with a booklet concerning the Rogue's specs, which is what incurred me to include it on our short list. Not once did he ever try to tie up my time and lure me into a sales pitch. I took the booklet, shook his hand and left. Today, he was very polite and prompt. This salesman answered all of our questions about the vehicle and showed us every nook and cranny. We sat together in the Rogue and he went over each and every detail about the interior. Then, we completed a test drive. What I appreciated about this salesman was that he remained quiet for the majority of the ride. He allowed Crystal and I to take the Rogue in and let it "sell itself". After we got back to the dealership, the salesman asked us into his office, explained the different prices on the trims, and told us that he would appreciate the chance to do business with us if we deemed the Rogue worthy. He was not pushy, nor brash, nor did he make assumptions about what we wanted. This salesman let us ask questions -- not only about the Rogue, but other vehicles we were considering as well. He spoke highly of some of the other candidates and said they were just as good (if not better in some areas) than the Rogue. The fact that he didn't bad-mouth the other models on our list reflected well upon his nature. Instead of trying to knock the other guy down, he instead chose to lift his own product up. I like that in a salesman. He had the confidence in his own product to let it speak for itself. Because he was so gracious and realistic, combined with the fact that the Rogue was fantastic to drive, we've now moved this particular vehicle into the finalist category.

I'm a considerate and realistic guy. I realize that a salesman is selling a product to earn a living. I can respect that -- being a salesman is a difficult job where you really get to see people at their best and worst. Even though I don't sell cars, I'm a salesman myself -- I can completely relate. Yet, a salesman also has to realize that they don't have a product that's right for everyone. As the old saying goes... one man's trash is another man's treasure. If you can be polite, answer my questions and let me judge the vehicle for itself, then perhaps you'll get a sale out of it.

Being a salesman is like going fishing. Sometimes you don't even get a nibble. Sometimes you get a few nibbles, but nothing takes the hook. Sometimes you get lucky and reel the fish in. It's just the nature of the beast.

That being said -- if we decide to purchase the Rogue, I'll only buy it from the gentlemen I spoke with today. By not aggressively selling the Rogue, he sold the Rogue. Do you get what I'm saying? You attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Farewell My Friend.

There's an empty space in my driveway where my PT Cruiser used to be.

My 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser Touring Edition

As lame as it may sound, I feel a little sad inside. That car served me well over the past five years. Now, it resides in the care of an old grandma. The running gag over the years is that I was driving an old woman's car; perhaps that joke was right. But... I don't care. I could have traded the Cruiser in towards a new vehicle, but I certainly was able to demand a higher price by selling it privately.

Sure, it's just a car you might say. And you'd be right... it is just a car. If anything, I'm nostalgic; I have a hard time letting things go. This situation is no different. I know it's for the best, but there's a little piece of me missing. The act of letting go gets me a tiny bit down. I'd wanted a PT Cruiser since the moment they were released in 2000. I can remember seeing prototype images during my senior year of high school and instantly falling in love. The PT Cruiser was designed to invoke the styling of older classic coupes from the 1930's and 1940's. I finally bought one in 2009 -- nearly a decade later. I'd have purchased one much sooner, but even my own father didn't want me to get one when I was younger. Nine years and one Dodge Stratus Coupe later (the EVO-BOT... I miss you too), I finally had one of my own.

Tonight, I'll toast my former chariot and wish it well in it's new life. May the Cruiser's wheels always roll straight and it's engine never struggle.

Now... I need to find a new ride.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Top Five Favorite Godzilla Foes.

I love Godzilla.

No... I mean I R-E-A-L-L-Y love Godzilla.

I have every Godzilla film on DVD. I've got posters and vinyl characters and action figures. Hell, I even have a rare set of Godzilla nesting dolls! Over the past fifty years, Godzilla has battled some mighty powerful enemies. Ranging from robots to aliens and everything in between, the Godzilla Rogues Gallery is packed full of awesome combatants. This list is a countdown of my five favorite Godzilla Foes. Please note that kaiju whom have historically been allies of Godzilla are not included on this list (like Anguirus or Mothra). Here we go!

5. Titanosaurus - Even though he's only had a starring role in one film, Titanosaurus is no push-over. He appears in the 1975 film Terror of MechaGodzilla. In actuality, Titanosaurus is a peaceful monster. Leave it to a mad scientist with the power of mind control to turn him evil. His ability to stand toe-to-toe (claw-to-claw?) with Godzilla puts him on this list. He proved that he could dish out just as much punishment as Godzilla. Not to mention, he's an aquatic-based creature, which is something I can really dig. All the while, Titanosaurus sports one of the best kaiju designs from the Showa era.

4. Gigan - If there's a bully in the Godzilla Universe, it has to be Gigan. For lack of a better word, Gigan is a total jerk. He behaves like a schoolyard tyrant and treats everyone around him with little regard. Ultimately, you grow to love the giant robotic chicken-esque monster because he's just so darn terrible. Gigan has appeared in numerous films over the years. He is definitely a force to be reckoned with -- blades for hands, a giant laser eye and a chainsaw blade in his chest. Yeah... you don't want to meet Gigan in a dark alleyway at night. His last appearance in 2004's Godzilla: Final Wars was outstanding.

3. Destoroyah - Even though Destoroyah isn't my number one favorite Godzilla foe, he's definitely the most dangerous. From the 1995 film Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, this kaiju is a demonic mutated juggernaut. Formed from the combination of much smaller crab-like monsters, whom combine into a larger monster, whom then grows into a larger monster... whom then grows into a GIGANTIC final monstrous form -- Destoroyah is evolution in action. He features more spikes than you can care to count, a horn blade on his head, powerful wings, a pincer tail, claws and a killer energy blaster that comes OUT OF HIS FRICKIN' CHEST! Godzilla has a tough time fighting him, even in his final "meltdown" form. If not for the intervention of his human allies, Godzilla didn't stand a chance. For that reason, I consider Destoroyah the one monster that Godzilla probably can not beat alone.

2. SpaceGodzilla - One any given day, I might switch my number one and number two choices. They're nearly tied when it comes to being my favorite Godzilla villain. SpaceGodzilla is everything Godzilla can be, plus more sheer power and intelligence (probably the smartest of all). On top of that, SpaceGodzilla can levitate and fly. Cloned from the DNA of Godzilla's foe Biollante (whom you'll see in a moment), SpaceGodzilla is a more massive version of Godzilla whom is covered in crystal spikes. They did battle in 1994's Godzilla vs SpaceGodzilla. It took the combined might of Godzilla and the robot M.O.G.U.E.R.A. to bring SpaceGodzilla down.

1. Biollante - This is it... the most terrible of all Godzilla foes. Biollante isn't menacing at first. Thanks to some shared genetics from a plant, a human and Godzilla, she begins life as a mutated rose monster. Yes, I said rose. Before long, though, Biollante morphs into a hulking mass of tentacles, tendrils and plant matter. Biollante is far bigger than Godzilla. She's so much bigger, in fact, that she tries to swallow Godzilla whole. Biollante does major damage to Godzilla, in so far as she burns part of his face and chest off with a toxic radioactive acid spray. Combined with her size, killer tentacles with razor sharp teeth and a thunderous level of strength that just won't quit, I think Biollante is Godzilla's greatest foe. By the end of the 1989 film Godzilla vs. Biollante, the two manage to battle to a stalemate. Eventually, Biollante dissipates and floats off into space (where her essence is later used to create the menacing SpaceGodzilla).

As to my question yesterday about the origin of Godzilla's trademark roar, it was first created by rubbing a leather glove over a double bass instrument. The glove was first coated in pine-tar resin to create the signature sound.

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Godzilla Teaser.

I'm working on a fairly in-depth article for tomorrow, so I thought I'd leave you with a little teaser for what's coming up.

I also have a piece of trivia for you to find the answer to. How did the original film makers produce Godzilla's distinctive roar? The answer... find out tomorrow!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

My Favorite Video Games - Vice: Project Doom.

Fire up your NES Advantage joystick, folks. It's time for...

My Favorite Video Games!

One of the very first video games I purchased with my own money as a kid was Vice: Project Doom. Let me tell you... it was one of the luckiest purchases I ever made. This game is an absolute diamond in the rough. Rarely heard of outside the retro gaming community, Vice: Project Doom is one of those fly under the radar sort of titles. American Sammy (Ninja Crusaders, Amagon) published this title in 1991 to little fanfare. It's like the mutated love child drawn from three other great NES games -- Ninja Gaiden, Contra and Batman. I found it for a mere $10 at a Roses Department Store (those of you whom didn't grow up in the Mid-Atlantic/Southeastern United States may not be familiar with the name). As most kids did back in the '80s and early '90s, I made my decision to purchase the game based upon the awesome box art. This same technique was used with VHS movie rentals in the '80s as well (typically horror and science fiction flicks). I was fortunate -- great box art is typically not an indicator for a quality game. In fact, the opposite usually holds true. I'm looking at you X-Men.

If Mel Gibson and Meg Foster ever posed for a video game cover, this is what it would look like.

The goal of Vice: Project Doom is simple, but challenging. You control Detective Quinn Hart, a bad-ass vice officer who must investigate the BEDA Corporation. It's suspected that BEDA is behind a street drug named Gel. Unfortunately for the abusers of Gel, it has a tendency to mutate them into monstrous freaks. You must use your wits and weapons to plow through eleven stages of terror. At your side are an electric whip, grenades and your trusty pistol.

A boss will challenge you every few stages, to which they grow increasingly more hideous and tougher to kill. By the end of the game, you've uncovered a global plot hatched by evil aliens intent to control everything. Not only that, but Hart might not be who.. or what... he thinks he is.

There's really nothing bad to say about this game. The graphics are superb. The music is ominous and catchy. The controls are very responsive and tight. If you make a mistake in this game, you can't blame the programming! Even the cut scenes between levels are intense. A few of the levels are from a top-down perspective and allow you to drive your high-powered sports car. Some levels even take a first-person perspective and allow you to shoot all over the screen. By the time you reach the very last boss, you've killed thousands of enemies, seen two friends die and have nothing left to lose.

Needless to say, I highly recommend Vice: Project Doom. No serious NES game collection is complete without it!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Bathroom Terror.

I sat trembling on my toilet, shaken to the very core with fear. Desperately, I gripped my toothbrush in hand. As if it would do me any good. That... thing... was coming out of my bath tub.


A few moments before, my body was fully immersed in the warm water, cast agleam with silky soap residue just skimming the surface. My eyes had started to wander for a moment as I began to relax. With little resistance, my head went back. Too long had it been since I'd had a moment to be still. Life and love... those muses of ever-constant sorrow, had tampered with my existence for far too long. For just once, I let it all go. My eyes grew heavy. The worn flesh of my being sunk low into the basin, nearly eclipsing my face.

As the water started to grow cold, I stirred slightly. My eyes opened to the piercing lights of the overhead light. I could feel the bar of soap brushing against my knee; a sticky buoy sent adrift towards the opposite end of the tub. I sat forwards slightly to rotate the hot water knob and raise the temperature of the water to a more comfortable level.

Reaching up, I noticed the bar of soap sitting on the edge of the tub. But... it was just floating past my knee, was it not?

I could feel something tugging... no... sucking on my left foot. With little regard for how wet my soaked frame was, I launched myself out of the tub. Slipping the moment I placed my first foot on the floor, I ripped the shower curtain away from the tub as I fell to the floor. My ankle was sprained, but I didn't notice nor did I care. A large tentacle covered in suckers lurched over the side of the tub. This freakish thing had scales that seemed to morph in swirled colors like a foggy rainbow.

Paralyzed in fear, I froze up awaiting my demise. First one tentacle, then two, then four, then a dozen or more of all different sizes. A mass with no definition filled my tub and pushed all of the water into the floor. Wait... that was definitely an eye I just saw. Yes, an eye! It could see me, though it seemed as if it could see through me. Oh, and that mouth -- an onyx abyss toothless and gaping. Its lips, if you could call them that, rippled and sloshed about. Various tentacles would flap and scrape the bottomless hole, as if it were picking debris from inside. A low-nestled rumble slowly leaked from this thing's orifice. 

And still, I could not move.

Two of the tentacles reached for my shoulders. Quickly, they coiled underneath my arms and around my ribcage. It could feel the toilet leaving my bottom side. My pathetic choice of a weapon, the toothbrush, dropped to the lagoon I called a bathroom floor. Another two tentacles went for my legs with the speed of a crashing jet. The sucking of the tentacles as they dug into my skin hurt at first. Though, the pain soon passed and I could not feel them any longer. Above the tub, this shapeless horror raised me like a newborn child. I wanted to scream, but I didn't have the chance. 

No sooner had the beast accosted me that it swallowed me whole.


There I was in my bathroom. My body was poorly imitating a raisin, floating lifeless in the frigid water filling my tub. I'd fallen asleep like an exhausted preschooler after a long day of chocolate milk and recess. Rising forth with little expediency, I hopped over the edge of the tub and grabbed my towel. And there I stood -- calm, quiet, still. As I dried my legs, I glanced down at the swirling drain. A vortex of cloudy liquid pushed down and away, never to be seen again. There I stayed, watching that hole as if something would actually emerge from the darkness. Dressing myself in warm attire for bed, I collapsed under the safe sheets and closed my eyes once more. Before I drifted off, I couldn't help but wonder...

When are we asleep and when are we awake? Could we tell the difference, even if we wanted to?

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Car Quest Continues.

A Nash Auto Dealership circa 1949

The quest for a new vehicle now continues...

I might just have a private buyer for my PT Cruiser. That would be most excellent, considering I can demand a higher price than using it as a trade-in. Don't get me wrong -- I love my PT Cruiser. It's been a wonderful car that I've taken care of. A 2008 touring model with only 57K miles? That's pretty low. But, I need something with slightly more power, so it has to go. I do hate to part with it, though.

My short list of possible car choices has grown smaller. The Subaru Crosstrek, Subaru Impreza, Mazda 3 5-Door Hatchback and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport are out. They just didn't afford me any more horsepower than what I already have. The Jeep Cherokee Sport and VW Golf have risen to be my top choices.

I was quite impressed with the power of the Cherokee Sport. It has the new 9 Speed Transmission, and boy could I tell it in the short time I drove it. I am also eager for the VW Golf, but it only comes with leatherette seats. I'm worried that they might crack or pull apart over time. I would have to get a Golf GTI just to have cloth seats -- that's something I'm not opposed to for the right price.

Before I make a final decision, I still want to test drive a Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Kia Sorenta and a Kia Sportage. Perhaps next week when I have more time. In the mean time, am I forgetting any other auto manufacturers and their products? I believe I've covered them all.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Let's Go For a Ride.

Interior of a 2015 Volkswagen Golf

For a while now, I've been debating buying a new vehicle. I test drove a multitude of different selections today. As such, I'm rather tired and my eyes are weary. That being said, I won't have much to say this evening.  What I would like from you are your opinions. Of the vehicles that I have recently test driven (all 2015 models), tell me if you have any personal experience with one or more of them. Here is what I've tried out:
  • Chevy Equinox
  • Mazda 3 5-Door Hatchback
  • Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Ford Escape
  • Jeep Cherokee Sport
  • Honda CR-V
  • Volkswagen Golf
  • Subaru Crosstrek
  • Subaru Impreza 5-Door Hatchback
If you have any personal suggestions based upon something similar to what I've tested, I'd be happy to hear your thoughts. Thank you!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Case For Winston.

The fact that there's a new Ghostbusters film on the horizon is both a blessing and a curse. It's wonderful that a new picture full of ghosts and goblins will entertain audiences both young and old. It's sad that the film apparently will not be a continuation of the original story.

There's only one way to save the film in my eyes...

And that's the addition of Winston Zeddemore.

You see, Winston was the best original Ghostbuster in my opinion. He was the every-man; busting ghosts was a means to an end. Winston wasn't in it for the science or the glory. He was just trying to support himself with a job... ANY job. That's admirable in my book -- someone who will diversify their skill base and be a jack-of-all-trades. Plus, Winston was easy to relate to. Not to mention, he had the best line in the whole movie.

"When someone asks you if you're a god, you say YES!"

What most viewers of Ghostbusters might not realize is that Winston was cut out of the majority of the film. Originally, he was slated to be in it from the beginning. But, after numerous script rewrites, his role was reduced to a mere fraction of what actor Ernie Hudson had signed on for. It's a shame; Hudson is a fantastic actor that I've always been a big fan of. Apparently, it was revealed that his role was intended for Eddie Murphy, but that plan didn't work out. As great as Murphy was at the time, I can't picture Winston being played by anyone else than Ernie Hudson. Ernie is the MAN.

Back to my concept for the new Ghostbusters film...

In an effort to bridge the old Ghostbusters with the new ones, I believe Ernie should be there to pass the torch. Write it in such a manner that Winston is the last remaining Ghostbuster. Egon, Ray and Peter have passed on after battling ghosts, ghouls and monsters over the past few decades. Only Winston remains. Realizing that he's outgunned and out of options, he decides to seek out new members for the team. In essence, Winston becomes the sensei for the new generation.

What better way to keep the continuity of the original two films going, but bring the modern Ghostbusters into the fold? It makes sense, while serving as a big tip of the hat to the often forgotten Ghostbuster member.

Paul Feig, if you're reading this, just give my idea some consideration.

Please share this article with as many folks as possible. Do it for Winston.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cap'N Crunch vs. King Vitaman!

This is it -- a titanic battle of two classic breakfast cereals. In one corner is the Morning Marauder, the Commander of Catastrophe, the man with a mustache that just won't quit...

And in the opposite corner, standing regal like a lord of old, we have the Emperor of Eats, the Tyrant of Taste, the man with a cape that makes Ric Flair jealous...

When it comes to tasty breakfast cereals, two of my all-time favorites have to be Cap'N Crunch and King Vitaman. Both are highly similar in taste and method of production. Once and for all, I'm going to pick a favorite.

So, beyond the taste, what does Cap'N Crunch have going for it?

  • Introduced in 1963 by the Quaker Oats Company.
  • Developed by Pamela Low and based upon an old recipe of her grandmother's, which involved a butter and brown sugar concoction poured over rice. Low was a flavorist with the Arthur D. Little consulting firm and also worked on other famous treats like the Almond Joy and Heath candy bars.
  • Made from a corn and oats recipe that's cut into small squares and baked.
  • Cap'N Crunch's full name is Horatio Magellan Crunch, so he gets points for having a really cool name.
  • Has been produced in over a dozen varieties, including Galactic Crunch (space-themed marshmallows), Halloween Crunch (green ghost Crunch Berries) and the ever popular Crunch Berries (multi-colored fruity orbs of joy).
  • The hat that Cap'N Crunch wears is borrowed from Napoleon Bonaparte, which makes him a total boss.
King Vitaman is no slouch, though. Let's check the stats.
  • Introduced in 1970 by the Quaker Oats Company. I guess that makes the Cap'N and the King cousins!
  • High in iron and other essential vitamins, like Vitamin A and B12.
  • The recipe uses roughly half of the sugar found in other typical breakfast cereals. That's always a plus.
  • In the 1970's, the television commercials advertising King Vitaman were crafted by Jay Ward Productions, whom also produced the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon.
  • During periods when Quaker wanted a real-life person to portray King Vitaman on the cereal box, they employed classic vaudevillian actor George Mann. Mann was more famously known as half of the classic acrobatic comedy act Barto and Mann. Vaudevillian actors don't get enough respect.
  • The cereal pieces are shaped like tiny, golden crowns. Every time you take a bite, you're literally eating like a king.
  • Also made from corn and oats -- if it ain't broke, don't fix it!
When it comes down to choosing between the Cap'N and the King, the flavor really doesn't enter into the equation for me. Both are fairly similar and highly tasty, with Cap'N Crunch being more corn-ish and King Vitaman having a bolder natural sweetness. For me, the deciding factor between the two has to be their texture and consistency. In my experience, Cap'N Crunch tends to stay crispier for longer. Yet, once it becomes saturated, it falls apart. Alternatively, King Vitaman will become softer quicker, but doesn't implode like Cap'N Crunch does. Cap'N Crunch also has a tendency to sometimes make the inside of my mouth sore because it's so hard. I've never had that issue with King Vitaman. In my fair assumption, that makes King Vitaman the winner!

All hail the King of the Morning!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Islamophobia or Bust.

Skyline of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Go ahead... call me Islamophobic.

Coming from the perspective of the modern Western liberal agenda, that may appear to be the case. I don't respect the Islamic way of life. Islam (as a doctrine) promotes the division of economic classes, xenophobia, sexism, female genital mutilation, murder, physical abuse and a host of other terrible things. I digress, though. I am in no way afraid of Islam nor those whom identify as Muslim. In my life, I've met many wonderful Muslims whom were nothing but kind to me. They treated me with respect and politeness. You see, that's the part that perturbed me in the past. How could someone so nice subscribe to a theocracy that has a near infinite number of faults? It makes no sense.

I could show you numerous photos and videos of violent acts committed in the name of Allah. There are more videos of beheadings on the internet than I would ever care to watch -- as if I would want to watch any to begin with. I won't show you such horrors, though. No one should see such a terrible act as a beheading.

You may say...

"But Jared, most Muslims would never commit such heinous acts. Your position is unfair to those people."

And you would be right -- most Muslims would never cut off a person's head or set them on fire. Nor would they use children as martyrs or rape their own daughter.

Here's the issue I have, though.

By being a member of the Islamic faith, you at least partly condone these actions. Through worshiping the Quran as the word of Allah, you agree to the tenets and principles of the religion found within that holy text. Continuing to identify with a group that regularly condones war, rape, murder and martyrdom is highly suspect. All I know is this -- If I were a member of a group that started to rape, pillage and murder, I'd leave that group.

And yes, I realize that many people have no way of leaving their situation, especially in countries that practice Sharia law. To yearn for revolutionary change, but to be stuck in an oppressive society, must be absolute hell.

This routes me back to my question at the beginning of this article. It took me a long time to understand why Muslims, whom are so polite and kind in person, could be members of such a vile ideology. When able to speak independently and without the gaze of other Muslims, the weight of strict adherence to Islam can be lifted. On an individual basis, a Muslim can be free to act like a normal human being. Essentially -- the radical nature of Islam increases in proportion with the size of the population. It's like the old concept of keeping up with the Joneses, but with Islamic undertones. I realize this is only a theory, but it makes sense to me.

Before I go any further, let me clear the air. Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and even Buddhism are all guilty of atrocious acts in the name of their faith. When it comes to the concept of shared guilt, I feel the same way about Christians; continued adherence to that faith is a consent to child molestation (however painful that truth may be for you to accept, I stand by it). The same goes with the Jews -- being a practicing Jew implies that you're comfortable, at least on some level, with grown men cutting the foreskin off male genitalia (in some cases using their mouth). I'm not just pointing the finger at Islam. I'm merely highlighting how Islam is the chief offender. One theology has to be the worst... and Islam is it.

All theocracies are guilty.

What really pisses me off is the permission given to Islam by the aforementioned Western liberals. A Jew or a Christian can commit a terrible act in the name of their god and a liberal will call them out on their fundamentalism. Yet, Islam somehow catches a free pass. The liberals defend Islam and say that this is "their culture" and we "don't understand". It's as if criticism of Islam is immediately relegated to the realm of racist hate speech. Automatically, I must be a bigot if I call out the nefarious activities of Muslims.

You couldn't be farther from the truth. I'm just calling a spade a spade.

For that matter, why should we celebrate a culture that regularly abuses women? That makes them hide their face? That cuts their clitoris off? That keeps them from holding a job or driving a car? That keeps them from speaking or voting or doing anything to better their condition? Is that a culture we should really be celebrating?

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

I want to highlight the story of King Abdullah's jailed princesses.

Details emerged last year about four daughters of the recently deceased King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. These four princesses (Sahar, Hala, Jawaher and Maha) have been detained under house arrest for over thirteen years. Why? Because they spoke out against the injustices and crimes they saw around them. Their own father decided it best to lock them away. All this because they wanted to reform conditions for women and prisoners held by the state. What kind of father would do that to his own children? A pretty terrible one, if you ask me.

Yet, King Abdullah has been praised by leaders around the globe as a beacon of peace and prosperity in the Middle East. He has been ushered into the afterlife as a proponent of equal rights and social reform. I am completely appalled by these blind statements of support. Abdullah and the kingdom he ruled with an iron fist is yet another example of Islamic barbarianism. No surprise, given you'd be hard pressed to find any member of the United States government willing to even identify the radicals that enacted the Charlie Hebdo attack as Muslims. The terms of dialogue have steadily changed when it comes to international affairs. No longer will you hear government officials say "Islamic terrorists". Nay, now they've become "radicalized terrorists". Even the Islamic State (commonly called ISIS), has been carefully careened into a secular connotation. Our own president has proposed that ISIS does not represent Islam; they're merely fundamentalist radicals claiming to be Muslim.

Members of ISIS poising for a group photo

Hello! Think, McFly! Think! ISIS, if anything, represents one of the purest interpretations of the Islamic faith. Not only do they believe what they worship, but they practice what they preach! What's even more scary is that polling data of Muslims from around the world regularly shows that support for ISIS is broad and substantial.

A page from the Quran

What do I want you to walk away with after reading this article? I want you to understand that you can criticize Islam and not be a bigot. I don't loathe Muslims -- I dislike the Islamic faith. Never be afraid to speak out against vicious savagery.

Except for Raif Badawi, who has been lashed by the Saudi Arabian government for blogging. He has every right to be afraid.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Unnecessary Sex Scenes.

You've nestled in with your significant other to watch a film that you've been eager to see. The popcorn has been popped. Your blanket is warm. You've clicked play on the movie.

And twenty minutes in, there's breasts and butts and genitals just flying all over the screen.

Sadly, you've fallen victim to watching unnecessary sex in cinema.

Isn't it annoying, and not to mention awkward, when a television program or movie inserts a completely superfluous sex scene? I can't even begin to count the number of times this has happened to me. The biggest issue I have with unnecessary sex scenes is that they add nothing to the plot. Why do I need to see two fictional characters grinding against one another, making silly noises and pretending to intermingle their jiggly bits? Very rarely would I consider a sex scene important enough to be inserted into a movie.

Mind you, I'm no prude. People can carry out their sex lives in whatever manner they see fit. Whatever gets your motor going, I say go for it (just as long as animals and kids aren't involved). Neither am I for censorship -- nothing should be censored. Adults should be able to make their own decisions as to what forms of media they ingest.

The presence of a sex scene in a film or television program does not automatically make it art. In fact, I find it insulting that many programs and films expect the viewer to appreciate the sex and comprehend its supposed nuance.

You know what I really think?

I think film makers and television producers are inserting dispensable scenes of intercourse to appeal to the lowest common denominator of audience possible. These individuals know that sex sells. Thereby, they cheapen the art of film making and resort to parlor tricks of a provocative nature. 

I also believe sex scenes are used as filler when there is terribly little content to be had in the film or television show. The plot is thin and the characters are dull -- why not have them bump uglies?! The crowd will love it!

Many of you are surely fans of Game of Thrones. I admit that I watched the first four episodes of the program to see what it was all about. When the program was about to premiere on HBO back in 2011, the teasers and commercials previewing the program looked interesting. Typically, I'll watch anything with Sean Bean in it. Sadly, I was let down by the program. Instead of a well-acted war epic, I was delivered a pitiful soft-core pornography dressed up as a fantasy program. Not to mention, the plot was abhorrently messy and extraneously convoluted for the appearance of density. There might have been a plot there, but it was so hidden by absurd moments of sex that it totally detracted from the content.

Game of Thrones is far from the only guilty party. There's more examples than I care to remember. 
  • Watchmen
  • The Matrix Reloaded (one of the very few issues I have with series)
  • The Devil's Advocate
  • Knocked Up (a film I generally loathe all around)
  • Demolition Man
  • Forgetting Sarah Marshall (a film I otherwise quite like -- at least it has some full male nudity included to be fair)
I could go on, but what would be the point? If I tried to compile a list, I'd be writing until I died an old, wrinkled man.

On the flip side, at least there's a film that understands the absurdity of sex scenes in cinema and flips the script -- Team America: World Police. Leave it to the creators of South Park to illustrate how silly sex scenes are on film!

At least actual pornographic films don't pretend to be something they're not!