Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Grab Bag of Thoughts and Musings: September 2011 Edition

I haven't blogged much in the past several days, and so I felt it was time to unleash a hodge-podge of my pent up thoughts and feelings.

1. Troy Davis was executed last week. For several reasons, it ended up being a pretty divided issue. The controversy has got many speaking up against the death penalty, and providing ammunition for several groups to make the big push to eliminate this form of punishment. Unfortunately, I don't see it happening any time soon, but it'll likely cause state's to stretch out the time until the next execution.

One of my major problems is the absolute glee that some seem to embrace with the death penalty. I get nauseous when I hear statements like 'Justice has now been served.' Because no, the justice was served when the killer was convicted and sentenced to jail. What the state is essentially doing now is enacting a 'life for a life' or an 'eye for an eye' type mentality. It's reveling in medieval barbarism and sacrificing a life in order to make up for a lost one. They punish one horrendous crime by doing the exact same thing. That isn't justice.

What I really don't get, is that the people who tout the excellence of the death penalty are often the same people who claim to be 'pro-lifers'. These are people who are screaming over and over 'thou shall not kill', but then the first to demand for the lethal injection. I realize I have potential to open up a huge can of worms in the comment section, and so I'm not going to go too much deeper here (but rather save it for another time), but an execution is the ending of an already established life and an abortion is the stoppage of the potential for a life. One is clearly killing someone who has already lived and made connections with other humans, but yet that isn't the issue that gets any attention from most 'pro lifers'.

The bigger issue with Troy Davis is there was a good deal of questions and doubt surrounding his guilt. The man was decided to be guilty by a court of law, and so I don't think many were just asking for his release. When you have doubts, should you really be killing a man for the crime? There was no DNA evidence linking him to the crime. The eye witnesses over the years either retracted their statements or they started changing their stories. Even a few of the jurors have begun questioning if they made the right decision. There was definite doubt, yet it was decided the man should be killed. So, the question I've asked in other places is what happens to the state if it is discovered they murdered an innocent man?

2. In the "I really hope this is a totally misreported Onion story' category, the town of Bay Minette, Alabama is passing a new law where a misdemeanor offender has the choice of going to church for a year or going to jail. Because apparently, the moral fiber of the world has been torn apart and the only way to save it is to regularly attend church. Because everyone who goes to church never ever does anything wrong. The act of church apparently makes you perfect. Well, I know a few people who must not have gone to church properly, because they still ended up being rather powerful assholes. It seems that this town has never heard of the term, "Sunday Christian." Anyway, I'm sure it will be deemed unconstitutional rather quickly.

3. A quick writing update, September has made me feel a bit like a child who has been eagerly waiting weeks and weeks for Christmas, but then his parents get laid off, so he is left with his cousin's hand me down sweater as a gift. I had been hearing all summer about how the fall is the big ocean full of fresh writing clients. I was pretty stoked because my summer (the apparent dry period) was fairly busy. Well, fall has started, and September hasn't been as hectic as I dreamed. I've got work and my family isn't heading to the soup kitchen, but I think my expectations were inappropriately raised.

At the same time, I did all of sudden fall into a rather big puddle of work at the end of last week and I have formulated more really positive connections. Plus I got myself yet another byline, which is always like dancing with unicorns and pandas.

It is a reminder that as awesome as it is to work for your self and be able to stay at home, there are some rather large pains in the ass. The big two are the endless need to try to track down your next gig and then, the even more important nagging until you actually get paid for the work you've done (luckily, this is still fairly rare for me and my clients have been fantastic at paying promptly). It is definitely not a job for everyone, or especially those with low risk tolerance and high anxiety. I'm still hoping it is the job for me.

4. A quick rundown on some of the TV I've recently watched but not done any reviews for yet.

Community: I decided to check out the premiere this year, because I've always been intrigued about seeing Chevy Chase back at work and the show has received plenty of solid reviews. I am not sure if it was because Emily wasn't really liking the show or if it was an especially weak episode, because I wasn't really feeling it. I love that Chase and John Goodman are on my TV, but the show never made me laugh out loud. A good comedy has to at least cause one big laugh out loud moment (and then several that make you smile or giggle softly). I do like that it is quirky and pretty over the top, and I'll likely give it another chance down the line.

Parks and Rec: This one the other hand was a super strong season premiere. How can you possibly not like an episode that sports the type of mighty beard showcased by Ron Swanson? The episode was full of great moment like Ann being sent several pictures of male official's private parts after she properly diagnosed one perv with the mumps, Tom having a black print on a black background business card, poor Jerry finally getting some good news when it is revealed he has one magnificently large penis, the fact Swanson has an emergency kit and a getaway route in case ex-wives arrive, and Andy not only quitting his shoe shining job but ruining the already polished shoe so the job wasn't half done. I'm sure I'm leaving out so many other great moments.

It has also opened up some great potential future storyline such as Leslie running for mayor, Andy taking on the role as Leslie's assistant and Ron having to deal with being audited. We've got some interesting storyline arcs for this season.

The Office: I still question if the series will live past this season (how many shows last more than one more season after losing their main star?), but I thought this was a fantastic start. James Spader has joined the cast as the new CEO of Sabre, Robert California (he got the job as branch manager, but immediately went down to Florida to talk Jo out of the CEO job). I like his addition because he is entirely different from the Michael Scott character. In order for the show to work, they needed a replacement that wasn't just a Michael Scott rip off. It was also revealed that Andy Bernard is the new branch manager, but I wouldn't be surprised if that changes while the season progresses. Based off the premiere, I like him as the branch manager, because again he is something very different from Michael Scott and will allow for different type of stories.

I was a real big fan of the premiere episode, and it did a good job of showcasing several of the characters. The cast is huge, and so some characters will get ignored occasionally, but I felt most were given a few chances to shine. I'm the fan of Stanley's new catchphrase and the fact it gives him his usual 30 second cameo. The parody of planking was funny, and I always enjoy when a show makes fun of a stupid trend. The whole storyline of the office trying to figure out what the left side and right side of the notebook means was classic Office humour, and I loved the fact California just nonchalantly revealed the heart breaking truth (one side was reserved for the losers of the office). I loved when Andy finally confronted his CEO and stood up for his staff, well, except for Gabe. Speaking of Gabe, I swear his character was written out last season, but maybe I was confusing things (I also don't remember when Angela went from girlfriend to wife). The Office has a great mix of sweetness with strong laughs, and it was a great way to kick off the season. I have faith we are looking at a really fun season with some pretty crazy moments in store.

Terra Nova: I caught the two hour premiere of this heavily hyped TV series. Fox has marketed this thing like crazy and Steven Spielberg is even attached to this sucker. The special effects prove this one has a fairly high budget for a television series. Then again, the expectations of TV shows really have changed this past decade, thanks to premium cable such as HBO and Showtime focusing on original programming (and snagging big name film stars).

For a series kick off, I thought it was a pretty decent episode. The show has got a few freight train sized plot holes and characters did a few rather convoluted things to push the plot, but I also realize they needed to move things forward to get to the premise and purpose of this show. Maybe you'll get annoyed if you think for too long about things, but the show still was pretty fun and action packed. I can see it doing a decent job of filling my one hour science fiction action fix for the week.

They've done a decent job of establishing the main characters and giving you an idea of what is going to motivate them going forward. It has also dropped in some mystery and intrigue, and so you'll want to stick around to get those questions solved. I think, they want to go for a bit of a Lost vibe here, where these is some larger overarching storylines and mysteries that you hope will slowly get revealed over time. I also like the fact there is a bit of ambiguity at this point as to who really are the good guys. This episode painted the Sixers as the show baddies, but there were scenes in the episodes that make you think not everything is how it seems. The show ended with you discovering that the main leader of Terra Nova's son may not really be missing like he said and that he has got some pretty dark secrets that are being kept hidden from the rest of the colony.

Plus dinosaurs are cool.

5. Speaking of reviews, I've got a mountain of already read book taking up my desk space. I've watched three movies recently (Tangled, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Albert Nobbs) that I've got my opinions on. At one point, I actually had been hired as a reviewer for novels and films, but unfortunately, we couldn't agree on a rate. I like spraying out my opinions on pop culture, but my reviews are usually one of the lesser read articles on the blog. So, my question is do you actually like the more in depth reviews or would you prefer one post that quickly sums up my thoughts on several books or films? In the end, I am just going to do what I feel like anyway, but I like hearing people's feedback.

6. I've been playing a bit of Sam & Max Save the World. It is an adventure game created by Telltale, which is a company that specializes in adventures games. Sam & Max was originally a comic strip that Lucas Arts then turned into a rather successful game back in the '90s. But by the early 2000s (and really late 90s), adventure games were no longer considered economically viable forms of electronic entertainment and so Lucas Arts (and several other companies) basically dropped those brands from their schedules.

Telltale is actually full of former Lucas Arts employees and has resurrected some past brands such as this and Monkey Island (I still need to play the new version). Though they'll likely never becomes a massive gaming empire by doing just adventure games; they are a strong niche company and do well selling their wares online.

As for the game, I think the graphics are great and the controls are smooth. They've set up an easy interface and a clean landscape that allows you to easily immerse into the world. There are a few moments where you get annoyed because you can see a diner or building, but your character is unable to get past the magical force field blocking him (I realize there are restrictions and at some point, you have to get a cut-off point on what can be explored). The humour is pretty strong for the most part, but there are a few jokes that die a fiery death. It may be partly because I am not familiar with the comic, but I found there were things that just weren't funny (but obviously, were intended to be). I do think the game excels in presenting really quirky and odd characters. For me, the variety of characters is the game's charm and as the season (they call the game a season and break it up in six episodes) goes on, you start to get connected with the recurring characters, which makes you feel at home. The storytelling is the games strong point, and they've got some really intriguing and over the top cases. My criticism is some of the puzzles are a little too easy and seem to be designed just to push the story rather than supply actual game play. I also found it annoying that many of the puzzles made me feel like an errand boy, where essentially, I had to pick up one item then cart it to another location and then repeat that a few times. Some puzzles were nothing more than relaying information from one character to another character or giving one character an item from another location, and so you end up wasting time with lots of dull travel.

For the most part, I've enjoyed the game. I'll find myself thinking about puzzles while I'm doing other things. I'd say that is a fair sign that it achieved its purpose, and it is an enjoyable way to waste some time if you're into adventure games.

7. We've been shopping around for baby stuff lately. Mostly because it is nice for a baby to actually have a place to sleep or be a baby. On top of that, we've been going over the different baby names that we love and despise -- we'll likely go with the names we love. In between that, I usually feel Emily's belly so that I can get a high five from my future child. The baby definitely moves, so I have lots of opportunity for that. You pile all those things on top of each other; I'm starting to feel like a future daddy. For the most part that is pretty exciting. The constant parade of cribs and strollers and car seats can get a little tiring, and I can never get the names straight. Sometimes, I feel that at the end of the day, all the information has just blended together and I start wondering why I need a maneuverable two seated crib. I also think we've done a rather good job scouting, and we've got a pretty strong idea of what purchases we want to make.

The more planned we get, the more I feel like this thing is real. I am going to be a father. It is pretty exciting and thrilling and happy. As long as I don't start thinking about the teen years or how much time parenting will consume my life going forward. Even then, I start realizing this is a child that I am going to love so much, and be able to show this entire magnificent world to. I get a kick out of showing off my house to visitors, so how fun will it be to show off an entire world to a new member.

You don't realize how much there is to decide and prepare for, until you're actually in the spot. There are the strollers and seats and cribs and such. Of course, you want to name this thing that will be occupying your life for many years to come. There are also things like mid wives vs. doctors or home vs. hospital. Things that I never really had much thought about until friends started having babies. Yes, we've made most of our decisions and we're happy with them, but it is a crazy process all the same. On top of all that, I've got my wife's growing belly and my own growing emotions. Emotions that are so strong, and not always easy to describe. I just call them the, "Holy crap, I am going to be a daddy!" emotions. Or maybe more accurately, "Holy crap, I am going to be a daddy to this thing in my wife's belly, and I don't even know it, but I love it so much already." Yeah, that is probably closer.

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