Saturday, May 28, 2011

EGN Annoyed my inner nerd, but I still wanna play this game

I've got a post about Walking Dead coming up in a day or two, but since we're nearing the end of Zombie Awareness Month, and I have yet to do any zombie-themed posts for May, I figured I'd add another.  In this case, I'm also motivated by the issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly I picked up today.  Cover story: Dead Island.

I normally don't bother with it, but I've been following information on this game since first seeing this:

Did you watch it?  Did you?!  As horrific as it is heartbreaking, this micro-family-drama-in-reverse is possibly the best game trailer ever.  I'll grant you, some of my reaction to this video probably has something to do with my deep and abiding interest in all things zombie.  But still.  Did you watch the video?

So, of course, I had to buy this issue of EGM.

Overall, I was pleased: an interview with the developer, new screen caps... what's not to love?  I'll tell you what: "John Romero."

Not Id's John Romero, of "about to make you his b*tch" fame -- though come to think of it, that may have been part of the problem in editing the piece -- but the creator of the original Dead trilogy, King George Himself.  It may seem a little nitpicky to complain that an article about a zombie game accidentally called the godfather of All Things Zombie by the wrong name -- heck it happens all the time; and EGM probably has "John Romero" in its auto-correct database -- but still.  All I'm sayin' is, if you're doing a piece about a game that was clearly inspired by the Dead films, in a genre practically invented by the creator of those films, and reaching a core audience of fans of those same films, George Romero is a pretty important name to get right.  (Note: At least they got it right in the online 'zine.)

Again, this is forgivable.  What isn't is that the writer seems not to have actually seen any zombie movies, but is instead basing all his or her comparisons to zombie movies on what he or she has seen referenced in and among pop culture.  Example, references to slow zombies as "Romero" archetypes and following it up with "Think: Braaaaiiiiiiins."  Maybe it's just the fanboy in me, but I have a serious problem with a write-up of a zombie game making the assumption that, A, people wouldn't understand what a Romero zombie is and, B, that those same people could get the basic 'gist' as long as they've seen footage of Dan O'Bannon's parody.  Y'know, in spite of the fact that the "Living Dead" in Romero's and O'Bannon's movies were actually very, very different.  Okay, yeah... I'm probably being nitpicky again. 

Apart from that, the write-up and interview are well worth checking out.  In the meantime, I'm still looking forward to this game.

Friday, May 20, 2011

... and I feel fine

And honestly, not even the most absurdly credulous man
in radio REALLY believes this is the Big Finale.
Like most people, I've been more or less using all this "the world is ending on Saturday" stuff as a source of humor and merriment.  Most of us are basically convinced (with much in the way of historical evidence to back us up) that anyone taking any of this seriously is either a nut or at least extremely gullible.  By which I mean unreasonably credulous, on a level that would embarrass George Noory

It was while we were in the midst of our merriment -- planning, I believe, how we were going to spend our final hours (though there is some confusion as to whether whatever Scripture these folks were reading were referring to Central Time or Eastern Standard...) -- when one of my co-workers piped up.

"It does make you think, though," she said.  "I mean, really, for some of us, it could end tomorrow."  Depressing, right?

Don't worry.  I have no intention of preaching here, but allow me to encourage you in the following: consider with me the idea that, tomorrow, the world will probably go on, but there's always the chance that you'll no longer be in it.  Let that sink in, and make of it what you will.

As such things do, this concept led to other avenues and rabbit trails, until finally somebody wondered: would you want to know when you were going to die?  Turns out, I don't.  I love a good surprise.

Some day, I figure I'll just be walking down the street, totally oblivious to anything and everything (if you know me, this is no great feat of imagination), when ....


Without warning, instead of the post office or whatever, I'll be walking toward Jesus, who will be chuckling.  I expect I'll laugh along with him, and say, "You got me, Lord.  Totally did NOT see that coming."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Who did what to whom: a question of grammar

Who's on First, indeed!

I'm more and more convinced that educators, well-meaning though they may be, are doing a massive disservice to the English language.  This crime against grammar consists of a single word.  A word which, when used correctly, is merely a little boring; but when used incorrectly it grates on the ears (or your mind's ears) like the first round of American Idol.

There is the added irritation that, logically, you can't even lash out at the perpetrator of incorrect usage, because it simply isn't his or her fault.  Chances are very good that he or she was taught it incorrectly, or else not really taught it at all. 

The word in question: "whom."

How many times, while you were growing up, did you use the word "who" only to be curtly corrected with "whom?"  And of those times, how often was it really explained to you?  The problem is, as children we were made aware of the word's existence, but never taught how to correctly apply it. 

It's like the sea gull in Disney's "The Little Mermaid," WHO is aware of the existence of a fork (or, TO WHOM the existence of a fork is known), but, left to make his own assumptions, decides it is a hair care product.

The result of this semi-education seems to be that many intelligent people -- very many of WHOM are otherwise excellent writers and speakers -- wind up throwing "whom" around with nary a thought as to whether or not it actually belongs.  Usually, it doesn't.

So, for those underserved by their teachers, I have a very brief primer on the usage of "who" versus "whom."

Remember: Who did what to whom.

WHO failed in teaching us the proper use of "whom?"  Educators.
They failed WHOM?  All of us. 


If it comes after a preposition (in, to, by, at, etc...), the word is "whom."
If it comes before a verb or verb phrase (including forms of the word "is"), the word is "who."

Who is it?  To whom am I speaking?

Grammar Girl puts it this way: use whom when you are referring to the object of a sentence. Use who when you are referring to the subject of a sentence.

I highly recommend reading her whole piece as well, as she dives a bit deeper than I into the subject.

Please, for the love of all that is good and holy, pass this on to your friends.  Heck, copy it and paste it in an email.  I don't care.  But if I keep seeing people using "whom" incorrectly on facebook, I'm gonna snap.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Paul Harvey... Good day!

Harvey received the Medal of Freedom in 2005.
It was on this date in 1976 that Paul Harvery launched his successful news spinoff, "The Rest of the Story."  So, I thought it was only appropriate, on the official "The Rest of the Story Day," to pay it our respects.

I literally grew up on Paul Harvey's radio program, and in fact would call it one of the two most significant factors in my ultimately becoming a broadcaster. 

My dad owned a '72 Oldsmobile Cutlass -- ugly, matt gray-green Rolling Awesome -- with the original AM-only stereo.  My memories associated with this car include fighting with the small front window, struggling to get the door open, and listening to talk radio with my Dad.  The interior was an aromatic blend of spilled coffee and dead moths, but I loved those drives, listening to Paul Harvey (or Rush Limbaugh) and having conversations with Dad about the things we were listening to.
Also, at least it was in better shape than this one.

 The news would come on, and then, Harvey's distinctive, homely cadence as he introduced us to "the Rest of the Story."  And I would wait through the entire story, for the identity of the story's subject, for that little twist of the familiar.  And then came "page two," and before you even knew what was happening, Harvey had woven such an engaging and interesting story that, by the time he told you about the Bose speaker system he was pitching, you were ready to buy a dozen of them -- and you still weren't sure whether he was actually selling them or if they just happened to be part of the story. 

I mourned with many when Paul Harvey passed away in 2009, and I'll never forget him.  I'll never forget that old piece of crap car, held together as much by rust as by metal, or those afternoons with my Dad and that AM radio.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Something something something... Aaaaaafricaaaaa...

I love music.  Always have.  I was raised in a house where there was always a radio on, whether it was in the kitchen as my mom prepared meals, or our rooms as we cleaned or relaxed, or in the garage, working on some project or another with my dad.  No matter where we went, music went with us.  When the radio wasn't on, we were singing, my sister leading my brother and I in various choruses, teaching us how to harmonize.  But always, there was music.

I grew up in the 80s and early 90s.  My mom and sister always listened to contemporary hits radio (chr), while my dad was locked in to the local oldies station.  Actually, that's one reason I chose a career in radio, but that's a story for a different day. The point is, whether I wanted it or not, I was exposed to a variety of styles, and got to witness the evolution of those styles into new and different types of music.  It's largely thanks to that, that I now have vastly eclectic musical tastes.

This morning, as I was driving to work, I popped in a CD I'd made of music from 1980-85.  I started thinking about the songs I chose for the compilation.  Though I'll tell anyone who asks that I love new wave, there really isn't any to be found on that disc.  Much of it, in fact, was decidedly adult contemporary: The Alan Parsons Project, Thompson Twins, Cyndi Lauper, Genesis... and, yes, Toto. 

I enjoy the music, certainly, but part of this, I find, has much more to do with nostalgia.  It's a feeling I get of being a child again, surrounded by family, still full of wonder.  More than that, though, the blessed glimpses back in time. 

I find that, as I get older, my memory fades.  I lose bits and pieces of my childhood and am left with disjointed anecdotes where there once were memories.  But when I hear "Eye in the Sky," for example, or "Hold me now," I get ... not movies, really, but still frames.  Partial pictures and images without context.  A phone hanging on a kitchen wall.  A Roy Lichtenstein print.  Clues to a period I can barely remember.  I know I saw these things, but can't remember where or why.

Other memories are more clear: listening to Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" while my childhood self sat in a car, and remembering that Tommy James and the Shondells' "Crimson and Clover" was on right before, and Sly & the Family Stone's "Everyday People" is coming up next.  Being in my sister's room and listening, with her, to the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams."

I love my life.  I have a fantastic wife, great kids, a job I enjoy.  But there's stress, too.  Bills and responsibilities.  Nostalgia is a security blanket.  I play the music driving to work and, even if I can't grasp the details, remember that, before adulthood, there was a small boy who found it magical.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

It's a Beer!

I meant to post the other day, but it is indeed official: Houston, we have beer! 

Isn't it glorious?
After about an hour's worth of work (total) and several weeks of pacing around, I have unbottled a beautiful pale ale.  For a first effort, it's not bad, if I do say so myself.  To be sure, it wasn't a perfect brew: it may well have benefited from using purer water in the first steps, for example.  Bottles that were bottled earlier in the process are also a bit more carbonated than the first bottle (wondering if, perhaps, I should have leveled off those scoops of sugar before putting them in the bottles).  But the bitterness is about right and, though it sits a little heavy (I have yet to finish more than a single glass in a sitting), it is pleasantly flavored. 

Of course, little of that, except the mistakes, has much to do with me.  So far.

I mentioned in an earlier post that brewing and writing had similarities.  One such similarity is in learning the craft.  With the brewing, I'm learning first by using Mr. Beer's pre-packaged kits. The kits include everything you need to create the malt -- ultimately the heart and soul of your beer.  Once I've nailed down the basic processes, I'll start adding things to the malts to create flavors, and then, finally (hopefully), gain the confidence and understanding necessary to start from scratch and create brews completely my own.

Anyone who is writing with any success will immediately note the similarities.  You don't start out writing like Longfellow.  You learn the basics: syntax, word usage, grammar.  Then you begin to sprinkle your own personality in as you learn and, ultimately, you're building your very own stories. 

Actually, anything worth doing in life tends to work the exact same way.  Impatience can be its own kind of instructor, but you skip the learning at your peril.