Saturday, December 23, 2006

Microsoft Still Sucks

It appears that Microsoft isn't totally focused on screwing the customer (which is a great short-run position, but terrible in the long-term), as evidenced by this article. That's all well and good, but it still doesn't make me want to run out and buy another 360. I'd still caution other potential buyers about giving their dollars to Microsoft, too.

Why? Because this isn't really about the customer. It's about Microsoft covering its own ass. As the article says, "The company labeled it 'a move to benefit customers' but some might construe that as 'a move to avoid a major class action lawsuit.' Microsoft admitted that the failure rate among launch units was higher than acceptable, but it would appear from the numerous complaints on message boards and other popular gaming forums that the problem went beyond just the launch batch of consoles." No shit. When everyone I know who has a 360 has had it die on them, that's a little bit more than a "higher than acceptable" failure rate.

It is kind of nice that I'll be getting my 70 bucks back, even if it does take 10 weeks. I'll use it to buy a new PC game and to go see a couple of movies next year. Right here, Microsoft.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Weekend Movie Reviews

I had some more free time this weekend and watched some DVDs. My pain is your gain. Or something like that.

Brother Bear, rated G, featuring the voices of Joaquin Phoenix, Rick Moranis, and Dave Thomas. Wow. What a pile of shit. As animated films go, it looked pretty, but the plot was a load of garbage. Ok, I get it, quite a few Disney movies are supposed tear-jerkers where a main character learns a moral lesson. But this movie was just bad. Filled with spiritual bullshit, some guy turning into a bear, and a hackneyed ending that I saw coming 20 minutes into the film, I really don't know why Disney bothers anymore. There's a sequel, too. Guess what I'm not renting?

UHF, rated PG-13, starring Weird Al Yankovic and Michael Richards. It's been a while since I saw this film, so it was almost like I was watching it again for the first time. Hilarious, albeit kind of disturbing in some spots. Plus, Michael Richards doesn't call anyone a nigger!

Done the Impossible, not rated, featuring Adam Baldwin, Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Jewel Staite, Ron Glass, Joss Whedon, and a bunch of other Browncoats. An entirely fan-made documentary about Firefly and Serenity, with interviews by many of the actors and creators of the show and film. I picked this up along with a re-purchase of the Firefly set (since my other set is somewhere where I don't know where it is now), and I was not disappointed. For 20 bucks, you can't go wrong.

Weekend Update

I've got a few more things I wanted to mention.

First, Saturday Night Live sucks. Let me rewind a bit. When Mad TV first came on the air, it was a breath of fresh air. SNL was starting to get stale, and Mad TV filled that late night weekend comedy void. But then around season four or five, Mad TV went right into the toilet. As shitty as SNL was, it was still better than Mad TV.

However, the quality of SNL continued to decline, until the only segment that was consistently funny was Weekend Update. But now, even that's terrible. The whole show's just a wasteland. It's pathetic, really.

In fact, I'd say that Studio 60, which takes a behind the scenes perspective at a late night live comedy show, is far and above better than SNL or Mad TV. The jokes that they do on the "show" are much funnier than the shit those other writers come up with.

Switching gears (hehe, switching gears to talk about a show about racing), there's awesome news about Tim Minear's new series Drive. Nathan Fillion is attached! Check out the blurb over at And no, I'm not going to mention the 800 pound gorilla in the room. If we ignore it, maybe it'll go away.

Finally, I've seen a handful of websites and whatnot refer to the Nintendo Wii as a "niche" product. I disagree. The PS3 is a niche product, the Wii most certainly isn't. Nintendo has captured 100% of their base. I would wager that anyone who's ever played a Nintendo product in their lives (and enjoyed it) is going to buy a Wii. Not only that, but I'd also wager that people who have never played video games before are going to buy a Wii.

Shit, it's $250 and it comes with a game. You don't get a game for 600 mother fucking dollars if you buy a PS3, you just get an overhyped piece of shit that plays Blu-Ray discs. You don't get a game for 400 goddamn dollars if you buy a 360, you just get what appears to be a quality gaming machine until it implodes 2 weeks after your warranty runs out. But for 250 bucks, you get a compact little box with a game (technically, it's like 5 games in 1) that kids and adults alike can enjoy. That's not a fucking niche, assholes.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I Am Jack's Blog Post

I feel like commenting on some stuff that's happening with The Heath.

First, more on the promotion, since it's now finally official. I don't really talk about work (except when I do), for a number of different reasons. But promotions are generally considered to be good things, and I certainly feel that way about this one. I'm a supervisor, which, more than just being a title, brings a certain amount of responsibility and prestige along with it. My resume will of course look better, and I get paid even more (and I thought they were paying me too much before). Also on the plus side is the fact that I don't have to interact with the general public nearly as much as I used to. On the negative side? Nothing of consequence, really. I still enjoy what I do and the people I work with, and I get more monetary compensation for doing it. What's not to like?

Second, I built a new computer for myself. I won't bore you with all the geeky technical specs (especially since they're pretty much meaningless to me, even), but I will say that it kicks ass. The main reason I upgraded my computer now instead of later is because I sold my 360, which leads me to...

Third, I sold my 360. I was so glad to get rid of that steaming pile of shit, I didn't even care that I only netted $550 for the whole damn bundle. It's someone else's problem now. Fuck Microsoft.

Finally, I'm almost finished with my Christmas shopping. I've been almost finished for about 3 weeks, the problem is that my sister still hasn't told me what she wants. Looks like she'll be getting a gift card.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Mid-Season TV Roundup

Well, it's that time again. Most TV series take a holiday break at mid-season, and usually by this time, the shows that were going to get the ax have gotten it long ago. Let's get started. As usual, I'll list the series I started watching at the beginning of the season, along with some comments.

Monday night:

How I Met Your Mother, 7:30 pm, CBS - Well into its Sophomore year, this sitcom seems to be doing well, and I'm still enjoying it. CBS bumped this back a half hour to the 7 pm slot earlier this season. I now watch it on tape, since I don't get home from work until after 7.

Prison Break, 8:00 pm, FOX - I think this one can keep going for a while. The cons broke out at the end of last season, and it's been a manhunt so far this season. Good stuff. Prison Break is currently on a break.

Runaway, 9:00 pm, CW - Donnie Wahlberg cannot get a fucking break. First Boomtown gets cancelled in its second year, and this show couldn't even get off the ground before the CW pulled the plug. I thought it wasn't bad, and it was a hell of a lot better than most of the other shit on CW.

Heroes, 9:00 pm, NBC - I love this show. I think it might be the third best show on television (I'll get to my first and second best shows in a bit). Superheroes, for chrissakes. If you're not watching this show, get caught up and start. It's on hiatus right now, so you've got plenty of time.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, 10:00 pm, NBC - While it was on shaky ground early in the season in the ratings, Studio 60 seems to have found its feet. I never watched either of Aaron Sorkin's other shows (Sports Night and The West Wing), but I think I'm going to have to check them out on DVD. Because this show rocks. This is my pick for the second best show on television right now.

Tuesday night:

Standoff, 8:00 pm, FOX - Yeah, I'm a Joss-verse fanboy. Gina Torres is the only reason I started watching this show, but it's pretty damn good. Tim Minear has since joined the show as a producer, which I really hope doesn't lead to it getting cancelled.

Veronica Mars, 9:00 pm, CW - If this show was the only show on television, I don't think I'd be disappointed. I don't know how anyone can't like Veronica Mars, and anyone who doesn't watch it is dead to me. By far, the single best show on television. I am supremely pissed that not only is it currently on break, but the fuckers at CW didn't even renew it for a full season, instead stopping at 22 episodes. If VM gets cancelled, I might have to go to jail for killing some executives.

Smith, 10:00 pm, CBS - I really don't know why they bothered with this one. "Yeah, so we've got a bunch of bad guys, and they're the focal point of the show, but there's no reason the viewer should care about them because they're all stereotypical assholes." Needless to say, it got canned after a handful of episodes.

Wednesday night:

Jericho, 7:00 pm, CBS - Post apocalyptic Mid-West, baby. This is a pretty solid show. Like with How I Met Your Mother, I'm taping this one and watching it later.

Bones, 8:00 pm, FOX - Another runaway hit for FOX last year, and it's still going strong. More Joss-verse peeps in this one, too.

Lost, 9:00 pm, ABC - I'm torn with this show. I still watch it religiously, but I don't think it's any good anymore. When it started, I thought the writers had an elaborate plot that would unfold with time. Now, I think they're just making shit up as they go along. People like me keep watching it, though, so this one will be here for a while, I think. It's on hiatus currently.

Day Break, 9:00 pm, ABC - Running as a replacement for Lost during the winter hiatus, Day Break has a solid premise, but the execution is a little sloppy. I've taped quite a few episodes, but haven't gotten around to watching them, mainly because I don't think it's going to last. I've been wrong before, though.

Kidnapped, 10:00 pm, NBC - Oh noes, a snotty rich family has their son taken and held for ransom! Who gives a shit? Fuck em, I say. That's what other viewers said, too, and this one went down the shitter.

The Nine, 10:00 pm, ABC - The Nine tells the story of nine people's lives after a two day hostage situation in a bank. I think this is another one of those Lost clones, but it's enjoyable so far. It's also on hiatus.

Thursday night:

My Name Is Earl, 8:00 pm, NBC - I can't say enough good things about Jason Lee. This show is simply fantastic.

The Office, 8:30 pm, NBC - Paired with Earl, these shows make up the best hour of comedy on TV.

Smallville, 8:00 pm, CW - The only reason I still watch this one is because it's Superman. But the show itself sucks out loud.

Supernatural, 9:00 pm, CW - Yet another runaway hit, now in its Sophomore year. Great show, right here. I got Justin hooked on this one, which, in his own words, is "scary as shit."

Six Degrees, 10:00 pm, ABC - Another Lost clone, but this one's not half bad. Also on hiatus currently.

Friday night:

Is a wasteland. There's nothing worth watching on Friday night at all. There's supposedly some good stuff on Sci-Fi, but I'll wait for the DVDs.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Girls Next Door...Made of Plastic

I was just watching some Total Access on the NFL Network, and they had Kendra Wilkinson as a guest. Apparently, she does this show called Girls Next Door, which I've never seen, but that's not the point. The point is that she was smiling and laughing all throughout her segment, but her face was like a mask. The corners of her mouth didn't turn up when she smiled, her eyes didn't wrinkle, there was no movement of her eyebrows; basically, nothing on her face moved but her lips opening and closing.

I'm pretty sure that's not normal. Now, don't get me wrong, I'll be the first to tell you I don't just read Playboy for the articles (although they are damn interesting), but that segment was fucking disturbing. Kendra's a big football fan, but she's also a stupid whore. She's incapable of having an intelligent conversation (it was full of "likes" and "stuffs" and "ya knows"), and she's pumped so full of Botox or whatever the shit it is that she doesn't look like a real person. On top of all that, her laugh is grating. Christ.

On a completely unrelated note, I finished the setlist for GH2 on Hard. Now I'm going back and five-starring Easy and Medium, before I come back to try and five-star Hard.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Guitar Hero 2: GotY

It's official: Guitar Hero 2 is a 12.

Because Guitar Hero was an 11, you see.

I haven't even finished the entire song list yet, and I can tell you that it's a 12. I'm currently sitting at the beginning of set 7 (Furious Fretwork), having just finished Stop by Jane's Addiction. I started on Hard, because I'm a pimp, and have yet to fail a song. Sure, I've 3 starred more than a handful, and been in danger of being booed off a few times, but I've made it through so far.

Set 7, however, is intimidating. I can almost guarantee I'm going to get booed off at least once during the set. But that's ok, because there's a practice mode in GH2. A practice mode that lets you set a slower tempo and/or play specific parts of a song without worrying about impressing a crowd.

That's not the only new addition. There's 3 button chords, there's easier hammerons and pulloffs, there's new characters/guitars/skins/venues, there's an expanded song list and more cohesive career mode, and most importantly, there's new and improved multiplayer modes. There's the cooperative mode that lets one player take lead guitar, and the other take bass or rythym guitar (depending on the song) for simultaneous rocking (with each player able to choose a different difficulty level). There's the face-off mode from last time where the players alternate parts of a song. Finally, there's the pro face-off mode where both players play the whole song, note for note, at the same difficulty level, in order to put those "I'm a better GH player than you are" debates to rest for good.

There's not anything that I can say bad about the game, honestly. It's harder than Guitar Hero, I think. Expert mode on GH1 was pretty hard, I still haven't completed it, actually. But Expert mode in GH2 is insane. I couldn't get booed off on a first set song in GH1 on Expert if I tried. But in GH2, it's hard not to get booed off on the second song. But that's not really bad, it just adds to replayability. If I could pick up GH2 and finish it in a week, that would suck. So I'm glad it's harder. Might it alienate new players? Perhaps. But they should just get GH1 and become a pro before going back to GH2.

In short, Guitar Hero 2 is the Game of the Year. Even if you don't own a PS2, you should buy one, just to play Guitar Hero 1 and 2. While there may have been killer apps/system sellers before, Guitar Hero is the only one that's actually worth buying a whole system just for one game (and its sequel).

Sunday, November 05, 2006

So Awesome

I'm feeling extremely good right now, for a couple of different reasons.

One, RedOctane shipped Guitar Hero 2 on Friday, so if I don't get it tomorrow, I'll get it on Tuesday. That is going to rock the whole entire house. If I can tear myself away from it for long enough, I'm definitely going to throw up impressions and a full review later this week.

I've already played the 4 song demo that was with last month's issue of OPM. I actually payed 10 bucks for a magazine I have no intention of reading, just because it had the demo for GH2 in it, so that tells you how much I'm anticipating the game. The demo has Shout At the Devil by Motley Crue, You Really Got Me covered by Van Halen, Strutter by Kiss, and YYZ by Rush. I've played it both single and co-op, and done both lead guitar and bass/rythym guitar in co-op on all four songs. I like Shout At the Devil and Strutter the best. I would have liked another Van Halen song, really, because You Really Got Me, while good, isn't very Van Halen-y. And YYZ is damn hard.

Some early impressions based on the demo: three note chords are devious. They're a serious curveball at first, and it's going to take some practice to get them down. They're all over the place on Strutter's rythym guitar. It's way easier to do hammer ons and pull offs in GH2. I couldn't do them to save my life in GH1, and would just have to hit the strum bar like a maniac and hope I hit the flurry of notes. Now, though, I can hit it once and do a whole scale of hammer ons and pulls offs up and down the fretboard. Well, not really, but I can see how it would be totally possible with practice. Finally, I like playing the bass with my finger (upstroke strumming) rather than my thumb (downstroke strumming). I wanted to do it two finger style, but the strum bar isn't that responsive, so I just play with my index finger. It's still awesome, though, and really captures the feel of playing bass.

Two, I was offered the position that I had previously written about today. I accepted after hearing what the payrate would be (although I probably would have still accepted even if there was no increase at all over my current rate). Not only will it be full-time (a 40 hour week as opposed to my current 25), I'll be making about $1.50 more an hour. Ultimately, it works out to almost 40 grand a year. That's still not quite the goal I had in mind after college (I was told an Econ degree could net at least 40 grand a year right out of the gate), but I'm almost there, and only 2 and a half years off schedule. Even being conservative as to what the tax rate on a salary like that is, at my current rate of expenditure, I'll be free and clear of all my debt (credit card and student loans) in 12 months. That's some hot shit, right there. Not too many people are free of their 4-year college debt before their 26th birthday. I will be.

Not only that, but once I'm free, I'm never going into debt again. Expensive home electronic or other purchases? If I can't write a check for it, I don't need it. New car? I'm paying for that shit cash. Buying a home? Fuck that, I'm renting instead.

My next goal: get out of Stockton. The home offices are in Oakland. Season tickets for Raider games, here I come.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

What A Shame

I hate politics. I don't follow politics anymore, because it's all bullshit. But I couldn't let this slide without saying something about it.

I was reading the paper today, and saw a bit about how Michael J. Fox shot a campaign ad for some Senator in Missouri, and how there's an outrage going on. You see, it has to do with stem cell research. As you may or may not know, Mr. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1991, and retired from acting in 2000 because of the debilitating disease. He established the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research that same year in order to help find a cure.

The ad is airing now, and is available on Youtube. I should have expected some outrage over the stem cell research stuff, but I didn't expect Rush Limbaugh to open his yap about the content of the ad, claiming that Mr. Fox "was either off the medication or he was acting. He is an actor, after all." Rush's dumb-fuckery aside, I think now is a good time to link to the ad. Here you go.

Is it exploitative? Is it acting? Is there mudslinging political bullshit going on? I don't see anything wrong with that ad. In fact, I see something very wrong with anyone who has a problem with that ad. You know what? I noticed the peanut gallery on Youtube had some things to say about the ad. Let's see some of that.

"Now people have rationalized murder with psuedo-science and glib remarks about intelligence and attacks on religion. It does't take a genius to figure out who is behind this. Agnostic, Satanic, souless people who will not be with the righteous on the last day. I can promise you that."

"Horrible exploitation of a disabled person. You can debate about where life begins, but it DEFINITELY began WAY before the life became an embryo. Oh and I'm NOT even a christian, I'm a scientist, and an embryo is obviously is living life. it's sad we live in a society that allows sucking the brains out of babies when they are half-way out of the womb. Yet, if they just slipped another few inches, it would be a felony crime. Nothing changed about the baby. Murder is murder."

"This is such a joke and for MJF to use his disability to try and get people to feel sorry for him is a disgrace. You can even tell he probably didnt take his meds on purpose so he would shake even more! Stem cell is a joke and everyone knows it, it's just another ploy the dems are using to try and win, how sad!"

"You all are idiots. If you are for stem cell research, volunteer with your local church of Satan/planned parenthood. If you are against stem cell research then volunteer with your local church or pro-life office. Several nurses have become pro-life after witnessing the killing of babies that even had enough time to gasp for air and cry before having their heads crushed. Murder isn't fun anymore when the blood is on your hands. Cissy liberals. talk talk talk. Hope you all enjoy hell."

"Too bad it was Clinton that outlawed it. Then Bush made it legal yet the drive by media and the democrats shamelessly lie about it and talk about the evil radical right wing Christians who oppose it. I think liberalism is a brain disease and they should look for a cure for that."

"Michael J. Fox don't tell us it matters to "Americans like you" because you are NOT are Canadian. We are not as stupid as you think we are Mike!"

"Geez, i used to think Michael J. Fox was cool, but it looks like hes just another liberal commie with no respect for life."

"Democrats don't want the Terrorist to win, but The Terrorist want the Democrats to win. Sad but true. They want all our heads in a basket! Sad but true!"

"Cells don't suffer? That's a convenient idea for you isn't it? No doctor denies that "an embryo", otherwise known as a baby feels the pain of abortion. Become more informed about this. It's about a lot more than embryonic stem cells. It's about growing and harvesting human beings."

"The second reason I don't support Federal funding of stem cell research is because of celebrities like these. Why should they ask me (who makes very little money) to pay for it out of MY tax dollars while they make millions of dollars--I don't see them pouring their millions into it if their so sure it works. The first reason I don't support Federal funding of stem cell research is because it isn't proven to work--probably why those celebrities don't pour their millions into it!"

Do I even need to tear those comments apart? No, I think the idiocy speaks for itself.

Here's my political message: If you feel the need to vote, don't vote for dumb-fuckery. Do your homework instead of being a knee-jerk reactionist moron.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Mish Mash

I finally decided to post an update, even though I've had news for like three days. One, I didn't feel like it, and two, Blogger was being a bitch when I did want to update. So, on with the news.

I managed to get ahold of someone at MS that was not only friendly and knowledgeable (like the others), but actually seemed concerned about my dead Xbox. He volunteered to contact a supervisor for me to check if I could get it repaired at warranty rate (i.e. free). Failing that, he processed the repair order at the 50% offer I'd been quoted previously. He also said a box would be on the way, contrary to what I'd been told before about having to pay for shipping. So it's a short few days wait to receive the box, I'll ship it back out, they'll ship me the replacement, I'll snap some fancy pics with my digital camera/cell phone, and put that shit on eBay. I'm hoping to get $700 for the full package (360 premium edition with HDD, wireless controller, and component video cables, extra wireless controller, play and charge kit, and 7 games: Oblivion Collector's Edition, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, Project Gotham Racing 3, Prey, Kameo, Saint's Row, and Dead Rising), but I'd still be happy if I only got $600.

Because once I'm done with that shit, I'll have (almost) enough cash to buy a shiny new PC, capable of kicking ass and taking names. Glee!

I've got an in-house interview on Friday for a position in which I'll only have to speak with the public during rare circumstances. I'm so eager to get it I might wet myself.

Finally, something fun.
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

I'm a pretty unique son of a bitch. Only me and 12 other mushroom cloud layin' mother fuckers named Heath Wheeler in the US. Hot damn.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Anybody Want an Xbox?

Seriously, because I've had it. Microsoft is "updating their system" so the repair order didn't go through. I called back today to see if the update had finished, and they still can't process any orders. Not only that, but "as of yesterday, (they're) no longer able to send out prepaid shipping boxes." So they expect me to pay for shipping of my dead box to their repair center, too.

Hey assholes, if you'd taken care of my shit four days ago when I called initially, you could have sent me a goddamn prepaid shipping box, huh? For your fucking busted system that you saddled me with, huh? That I have to pay you to take back, and pay to ship to you. Should I give you my bank account number, too? So you can just make an automatic withdrawal every month in exchange for fucking me up the ass?

Seriously, when does it stop? Because I don't see any end in sight. The PS3 launch (as impotent as it seems to be) and the Wii launch are less than a month away. Now is not the time to be changing policies and pulling bullshit. Now I remember why I hated Microsoft with a goddamn passion 5 years ago.

So I'm calling back tomorrow and asking for a supervisor who "has the authority" to process a repair order not only at no charge, but to send out a fucking prepaid shipping box. Then when I get the replacement back, I'm boxing it up (in the original box) and selling it on eBay. Because I'm fucking done with Microsoft and their bullshit. Right here, mother fuckers.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Update: Apathy Subsides, Replaced By Rage

I just got off the phone with Microsoft. For a few moments there, I was actually shaking with rage. Let me break it down.

The rep picks up, and I explain the situation, complete with names and dates, that I was told my warranty would extend until 10/19, and I would like to get my box repaired for free. After all, it's only been about a month and a half since I got the replacement, and I've only had the Xbox for about 4 months (that's a blatant lie, but they don't know any different). I explained how the rep a few days ago had said the warranty was expired, but I didn't have my notes then to dispute it. He puts me on hold to check. After some minutes (not sure how long), he comes back and says the original rep was incorrect, and that I am still out of warranty. I disagree, as I was told by the rep a month and a half ago exactly when my warranty would end, and stated that I shouldn't be punished for someone else's mistake. It's at this point I request a supervisor, because I know this guy's hands are tied. I know that because I am this guy, basically.

Another lengthy hold time, and he comes back with the supervisor. He disconnects and I explain everything all over again to the supervisor (I want to make sure she has my side of the story, rather than just the rep's), which apparently upsets her, because she makes a comment about "letting her talk." So I do, and she spits out the same old garbage how I'm out of warranty. She adds new garbage by explaining why the original rep was wrong about the warranty. Here's how it works: When a new 360 is purchased, and it comes with a 90 day warranty. At any time during that 90 days, it can be returned for repairs. When the repair is received, it starts an additional 30 day warranty clock, not to exceed the original warranty by more than that 30 days. What does this mean for the consumer? Let's give some examples.

Example A: The 360 is purchased on January 1. It dies on January 17. The replacement is received on February 3. An additional 30 days begins at that point, but since the original 90 days is longer, there is no "extended" warranty.

Example B: The 360 is purchased on March 1. It dies on May 29 (the last day of the 90 day warranty). The replacement is received on June 14. An additional 30 days begins at that point, so the "extended" warranty is an additional 30 days.

Example C: The 360 is purchased sometime in June. It dies on August 11. The replacement is received on August 29. The "extended" warranty ends on September 28, even if the original warranty was supposedly set to end September 27.

That last example is me. I didn't purchase my 360 in June, but it's best that they don't know that. Anyway, she continues by saying that a repair order has already been entered and I've been charged $140 for the repair. I counter by asking if there's any way that can be refunded, due to this problem. She says it can be cancelled and I would be refunded. I had been getting steadily angrier through the entire call. It's at this point the rage tipped the boiling point. I don't remember exactly what I said, but I was pissed. I think I referred to my box as a "$400 paper weight" and said of course I wanted the repair. But it's ridiculous that I should be charged $140 for a replacement that's already been replaced once, and has gone bad twice in the span of 4 months.

She put me on hold again. At this point, I was shaking. A shorter hold time and she came back, and said she had the authority to do a repair order at 50%, so I would only be charged $70. I remembered that compromise people had been offered on the boards when I checked back in August. I said ok, and she charged the order. I asked again about the 1 or 2 year extended warranty, and confirmed I can call back once I receive the repair to purchase that, and the box can be replaced an infinite number of times during that span at no charge.

Am I still upset? Yes. Even at 50%, that's a bullshit way to make money off a manufacturing problem that they had prior knowledge of. It's not how you build goodwill. It's not how you earn repeat customers. Microsoft seems to be the juggernaut this round of the console wars, but these repair incidents make me seriously question how long it will last, and what this could mean for the next generation. Sony clearly needs to get their shit together, but Microsoft is kind of like the smoking hot woman that everyone wants, but then she opens her mouth and stupid pours out. So we'll see.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

I Can't Even Work Up the Rage

Seriously, I'm feeling so fucking apathetic right now, I can't even get upset about this. I know I should be, but I'm just worn out.

My surgically repaired Xbox crapped out on me yesterday. It froze while I was playing the demo of Tiger Woods PGA 07 or whatever the hell it is. I thought nothing of it, and rebooted and continued playing without a problem. Then I rented NCAA 07, and was going to play that last night, but before I could even put the disc in, it froze again. I rebooted, and this time the Xbox logo froze right in the middle of it's silly animation.

So I called Xbox tech support. I explained the problem, and he said I'd need to send it in. Apparently, I'm out of warranty, because the guy said I'd have to pay $140 for the repair. I discussed that with him, because it was my understanding that I was still under warranty, but unfortunately didn't have my notes from the last time I called. So I was ready to go through with the repair charge, but the system went down just as it was about to go through.

As it turns out, that might be a very good thing. According to my notes from last time, the rep had told me the original warranty lasted until 10/19, which would be extended by 30 days after the repair. So I should be well under warranty. The guy told me to call back tomorrow to process the order, so when I do, I'm going to hit em with the notes. "According to so and so on such and such, my warranty should still be in effect." If they say I still have to pay, I'm going to say, "Well, I shouldn't have to pay as much because so and so told me I was under warranty, that's not right." I hope I don't have to pay anything. If I do, oh well. I should be extremely pissed about that, but I'm not.

I'm definitely opting for the extended warranty this time, though. I don't know how long it's going to take Microsoft to fix their hardware problems, but I'm through taking chances.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Departed and other things

Last night, I went to see The Departed. It's the new Martin Scorsese flick with Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and Mark Wahlberg. I wasn't really expecting much, but it was pretty good. I enjoyed myself, although it was too long. At 2:30, it was a bit unwieldy, a half hour could have been trimmed and it would have been taught. Plus, it was like, "Holy shit. *long pause* Holy shit! *pause* Holy SHIT!! *pause* HOLY SH...Wait, what?" Shocking the audience = good. Shocking the audience for shock's sake = bad. Having the whole theatre burst into laughter because the movie just took an unintentionally ridiculous turn = very bad. But my overall verdict remains the same: The Departed is worth seeing at the theatre, even if it does get a bit ridiculous and is unintentionally humorous.

Also, I was really looking forward to playing Space Empires 5 this weekend. It's already been released in Australia (of all places), and EBGamestopWare Etc. had it listed as shipping on 10/5/06 on their website, even though the generally accepted release date for the US is 10/16/06. So I called the stores on Friday, and while they said it did ship from the warehouse on Thursday, they hadn't received it yet. They recommended I pre-order so I could get a copy as soon as they did. So I did.

But now I'm thinking that they were giving me a line of bullshit. It says on their website that there are no copies on the way to the stores here in Stockton. In fact, there are no copies on the way to any of the stores in northern California except for Santa Clara and Santa Rosa. Great. Tomorrow is a holiday, so I don't think they'll get a delivery then. So I'll give them a call on Tuesday, but I seriously doubt the game will be there. I couldn't wait for SE5 before, but this bullshit jerking around with the release date, getting my hopes up and then destroying them makes me angry. At this point, I don't care if I have to get it online, by direct download, on Steam, or by pirating the fucking thing, I just want to play the goddamn game, goddammit.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Vacation Movie Reviews

It's been a while since I've done one of these. I've had the last two days off work, so I had time to watch some flicks, and will now proceed to tear them apart for your entertainment.

First up:

The Benchwarmers, rated PG-13, starring Rob Schneider, David Spade, and Jon Heder. Wow. A crappy baseball movie with dick and fart jokes. Good for a chuckle or two, I suppose. There was a time when a movie like this would have gotten a big thumbs up from me, but that was about ten years ago. Now, it's just another piece of shit that I'll have forgotten about in two days.

Ultraviolet, rated PG-13, starring Milla Jovovich. The best part of this movie was about 6 minutes in, where Milla walked down a purple hallway naked. About 6 minutes after that, I turned it off. Let's see, there's bad acting, shitty action, a plot that doesn't make a goddamn bit of sense, stuff happening that doesn't make sense either, and just plain crazy going on. I'm pretty good at suspending my disbelief, but I have to have something to work with. A dark ass-shot of Milla isn't much, and that's all this movie had going for it. I've got two words for Ultraviolet: absolute bullshit. On a side note, it now joins only two other films in existence that I've started watching and haven't finished because they sucked out loud: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Kung Pow Enter the Fist. That's the shit-tastic Top 3 right there.

V for Vendetta, rated R, starring Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving. I read the graphic novel first. I loved it. When I heard the Wachowskis were doing the film, I hated it. I stayed away from it, and then finally decided to give it a shot. And it's not bad. Some things were changed from the book, certainly, but I think they worked for the most part. The book ended on less of an upbeat note than the film did, and I think I liked the book better in that regard. Overall, I enjoyed the movie, and while it hasn't completely restored my faith in the Wachowskis, I don't think I'll avoid their next film like the plague.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Test Drive: Limited

The name of the game is actually Test Drive: Unlimited. While it's pretty good, it's far from being the best racing game out there.

Let's start with the good.

Cars. There's a good mix of makes, models, and time periods represented in the game. There are enough cars to give the game variety, but not so many that you're lost in a sea of a million and one Skylines.

The map. You have the whole island of Oahu to explore, and drive exotic cars around on. For the most part, races are spread out so you won't have to drive down the same stretch of road more than a couple of times. That's brilliant.

Pacing. You start out with the low class of cars and easy races, and as you progress, the races get harder and require you to move up to the higher classes. Just like it should be.

Graphics. Very nice. Draw distance is like a mile, literally. And when you're travelling at 180 miles an hour, that's a very good thing. Plus, the cars look amazing.

Control. Each car handles differently. Some hug the road, some are slippery pieces of shit. Very nicely done.

Online play. Something I still rarely get into on the 360, usually because the matchmaking is so fucking terrible. But it's fantastic in this game. There's no TrueSkill bullshit, there's no searching for games, there's just races on the map that happen to be inhabited by other players. In fact, when you're connected to Live and driving around the island, there are other cars, driven by actual players, doing the exact same thing. Pass one and flash your lights at him, and you've got a one on one drag race. All with no loading and no lag. That blows my mind, and it's absolutely the right way to do a racing game with online multiplayer. Plus, I think you can race for pinks. That's fucking sweet.

Now we get to the bad, which surprisingly, includes the flip side of some of the good points, and includes some utterly horrendous things.

Cars. Just because a car is classic, it's automatically considered "G" class. Sorry, but the Shelby Daytona Coupe is definitely not in the same class as the '68 Camaro Z28. Yes, the Camaro is a nice car, and I'm glad it was included. But it can't hold the Shelby's jock. The Shelby won the FIA World GT Championship, for chrissakes. Do your homework.

The map. I like the immersiveness of it, I do. But don't sacrifice fun for realism. Do not make me drive all over the island just to find a goddamn car dealer. Why are there seperate dealerships, anyway? Or seperate real estate agencies? You want realism? Try using the fucking internet. I'm sure I've purchased a laptop with my millions of dollars in race winnings, let me visit and to buy my shit.

Control. So, is it a sim, or an arcade racer? A melding of the two? No. I don't know what the hell it is, but trying to be a bit of both doesn't work. That just leads to taking a sharp turn and having a 50/50 chance of either powersliding through or spinning out of control.

Damage modeling. Where the hell is it? If I smash into another car head-on doing 200, both drivers would be dead and their cars would disintegrate. But in this game, the only penalty is a flashing badge meaning the cops might be looking for me. Wow. Which brings me to...

Cops and tickets. Cops aren't psychic. They don't know about shit they don't see. And they can't give tickets to a vehicle that isn't stopped. They sure as hell can't do that when it's doing 90, but somehow I managed to get a ticket when I was doing just that. Seriously, this isn't Hot Pursuit. Hot Pursuit was a good game, and did the whole cops and racers thing very well. Don't remind me of a better game when I'm playing your poor excuse for one.

Online play. For some strange reason, my Xbox can't seem to stay connected to Live when I'm playing this game. It'll connect initially, and stay connected for about 5-10 minutes, and then just drop. I don't get it.

Final verdict: A fun rental, but that's it. Apparently, it can be purchased for 40 bucks. While that's not a bad price, I prefer the $8 dollar rental. You'll have your fun, with none of the regrets. Damn, I can't wait for Forza 2.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Contemplations and Ruminations

I've been so geeked about the prospect of the Tensided Radio Hour lately. I can't wait to sink my teeth into it. Audacity is a great (and free) program, but it doesn't seem like it does everything I'd want it to. Or maybe I don't know all the little tricks to get it to do what I want. Either way, I was looking into other programs that would do more, and be more user-friendly.

Lo and behold, Apple has a program called Garageband. And it sounds freaking awesome. Not only does it do all the podcast stuff, but you can actually create your own music with it. That right there is worth the price of admission. I decided I had to try it. Whaddya know? It's included with the 06 version of iLife for 80 bucks.

As much as I like spending money on new toys, however, I wanted to try it out first. So I got a "trial" version of just Garageband (version 3 is the newest one), and popped the disc into my iBook.

Bad juju immediately. The package file would supposedly launch, but Installer just sat there, staring at me blankly. I let it sit for a while, thinking it would work eventually. After 10 minutes, I gave up and consulted the net. Apparently, a G3 processor can't handle Garageband 3. Hell, I couldn't even get Installer to actually launch the package.

That's fucking great. I looked around for a "trial" of Garageband 2 (which will run on a G3), but found none. eBay has copies of iLife 05 for 10-20 bucks, but I'm never using Paypal again. And internet stores don't sell iLife 05 anymore. Shit.

So I hit up Apple's store today, wondering what I could get a new MacBook for. The low-end (which now come with Intel Core 2 Duo processors, shiny) laptops weigh in at $1100. Kind of steep. But then I noticed the MacMini under the desktop listings. Look at that. Tell me that isn't a sexy piece of hardware. My badass widescreen monitor supports multiple video inputs. I could just use a beater keyboard and mouse with it, and I'd be set. iLife 06 comes in the box, for only 600 bills.

One of my qualms, though, besides the price tag (which isn't bad, but more than I should be spending on a whim, really), is that Leopard comes out next spring. If I do want to get it, I should probably wait. But damn if it isn't tempting.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Too Damn Funny

Saw this over at Bill's blog, and it's just too damn funny, so I have to repost it. He was talking about a glitch in the European version of Madden 07 where the quarterback will wind up and throw the ball backwards. As in, behind him. About 30 yards or so. For those unfamiliar with the rules of football, not only is that not the direction you want to throw the ball, but if no one catches it, it's a fumble, so the other team can pick it up and run the other way with it. Anyway, here's the clip for that.

But what's even funnier is this clip.

That's our quarterback, ladies and gentlemen. But before you weep for the Raiders, please know that Andrew Walter will be starting the next few games, and hopefully, the rest of the season. I strongly believe he's the future of my team, now he just has to prove it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

King Kong

I rented King Kong...wait, sorry, I rented Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie a few days ago, and just completed it. I didn't really need to complete it to give impressions, but it was so damn short I figured I might as well.

First off, that name. What the hell? I've said it before, but how's about you tone down that hubris, Mr. Jackson? So you won an Academy Award for some dumb-ass movies about a ring that no one outside of geekdom gives a flying fuck about. Lahdi-freakin-dah.

Second, the game's called King Kong (sort of), so why are there only like 5 levels (out of 30 something) devoted to Kong? I haven't seen the film, but I'm betting only about 45 minutes to an hour of the whole 3 and a half hour wankfest is devoted to Kong, even though he's the goddamn title of the movie.

Third, while I can see what they were going for, the whole cinematic experience doesn't really work in a game when you forget the gameplay. Here's the way the Jack levels go: walk through some tunnels, find a spear, light it on fire, burn down some bushes, find a stick thing in order to put it in a post so you can open a door, shoot some enemies, wash, rinse, repeat. All the while some guy, a chick, some punk ass kid, and Jack Black are yelling at you to save them while a giant insect/flying thing/dinosaur tries to eat them. Color me unimpressed.

Let me break it down.

Things that are good:
Jack Black. You really can't dislike Jack Black. Unless he's yelling at you to save him because his leg is being gnawed on by a dinosaur.

Kong. Kong rocks, and I really wish the whole game were about him. Who doesn't like swinging through the forest, running on walls, swatting villagers aside, and snapping dinosaur's necks?

Level design/graphics. This game looks really good, and certain levels look amazing.

A game that feels kinda like a movie. This is good, but not when they forget the gameplay that keeps you interested. Which brings me to...

Things that are bad:
The Jack levels. What a fucking grind. Lighting shit on fire, finding sticks to put in posts that open doors and shit is not inspired gameplay. Hell, it's hardly even gameplay, it's just busy work. I don't like my games to be busy work.

Level design/graphics. I know, I listed this under the good stuff, but it's also bad. For being on the 360, certain things don't look all that great. Some of the textures are bland and overused, the first person weapons look like ass, and some of the levels are boring and cookie cutter. I don't ever want to see tunnels in any first person game ever again. Let me explore the world, assholes, don't confine me to your shitty tunnels.

Length. I'm torn on the length. While I don't think I could sit through more Jack levels, it was also over way too quickly. I'm real glad I didn't drop 60 bucks on this game, since there's absolutely no replay value, either. Any "extras" that might tempt you to replay the game just to see them can be unlocked with a simple code.

A game that doesn't feel like a game. By going the cinematic route, the devs had something that could have been great, but when they forgot they were working on a game, they ended up with a surefire rental (and not even that if the prospect of being Kong doesn't interest you).

Final verdict: Rent it if you have about 6-8 hours to kill and don't mind the skull-crushing agony of suffering through the Jack levels to get to that sweet, giant monkey action. Otherwise, stay away. Run the opposite direction, even.

Monday, September 11, 2006

We Remember

We remember.

Of course we remember, how can we not? You assholes sure as hell won't let us forget.

Seriously, is this really an anniversary we want to commemorate? I mean, I'm not really comfortable with the anniversary of D-Day. Why this one? People don't make a big deal of the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Don't even think I'm being insensitive to those who were lost. What I'm saying is if we're going to remember someone, we don't celebrate the day they died.

What about other anniversaries? Why don't we commemorate when we landed a craft on Mars, or when we walked on the moon, or when the Civil Rights act was passed, or when schools were desegregated, or when the Social Security Act was passed, or when the 19th Amendment was ratified? What about all that shit, huh? Isn't that some shit we should be reminded of on a yearly basis, instead of a fucking tragedy? What the fuck?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

360 Update

This weekend I finished the main storylines of both Saint's Row and Dead Rising. I say "main" storylines, because there are still a few missions and a handful of sidequests to do before I've truly done everything there is to do in Saint's Row (I'll get around to them eventually), and I survived 72 hours in Dead Rising. There's still overtime mode which is an additional 24 hours, and finally, infinity mode, the goal of which is to survive for 7 full days. I don't know that I'll get around to that, since you can't save at any point during the whole 7 days. Sure, game time is sped up, but that still means about 15 hours of consecutive play. Not sure I want to do that just so I can get the gamer points.

So now that I've seen (almost) everything there is to see about both games, has my opinion of them changed? Not really. Although the early game in Dead Rising is a pain in the ass. They really just should have started you at level 10. Anything less and you're just going to have to start over anyway.

I think both games will go down as a couple of the best for the 360. While you could probably get your fun out of them with just a rental, I feel like my money was well spent. Plus, most people aren't as hardcore as I am, and I'm not even hardcore.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Saint's Rising, or...Dead Row

At the request of Nikoda, I come back to my blog to discuss Dead Rising and Saint's Row.

First up, Dead Rising. A game which I bought, got to play for precisely 2 or 3 hours in one day, and then had to let it sit on my shelf for two and a half weeks while I waited for my Xbox to be repaired. So let me tell you, when I finally did get to play it again, I played it for about 6 hours straight, and then another 6 hours the following day. It's one of the most polished games I've ever played. The controls are nice and tight (although the camera can get a bit wonky in tight areas, a problem which has plagued absolutely every third person game ever), the story is interesting and different (even if you've seen Dawn of the Dead, apparently), the voice acting is damn good, and the graphics are knock your socks off amazing. Especially when there are hundreds of zombies onscreen, all looking different and shuffling differently, with no drop in frame rate.

Let's break it down. Things that are good:

Melee combat. Who hasn't wanted to knock someone's head off with a home run swing? Or crack them in the face with a 2x4? Or chop them in half with a chainsaw? Dead Rising lets you do that to any zombie you meet. Awesome.

Story. When you have a game that almost requires you to play through it more than once, the story better be good. This one is, from what I've seen of it.

Voice acting. No familiar voices here, but they're all really well done. I can't really pick a bad one out of the bunch.

Photography. It's not only a great way to boost your skills in the early game, but it's actually kind of fun blowing a zombie's head off and snapping a pic real quick of the geyser of blood.

Graphics. Easily the best looking game on the 360 so far. Specifically during cutscenes, where the character models and facial expressions can be shown off.

Things that are bad:

Ranged combat. Especially against non-zombies. The gunplay just isn't very well done. I would have preferred an ever present cursor when holding a ranged weapon (or maybe at all times, since you can throw almost every melee weapon in the game, too). Hitting an extra button in order to shoot accurately is a pain in the ass, and makes it so you can't move and shoot at the same time. Bad, bad design, which brings me to the next point.

"Boss" fights. Zombies are human. Or at least, they once were. So I should be able to take their heads off with a sickle, or bisect them with a chainsaw. That makes sense, and I'm glad I can do it. What doesn't make sense is having to fight a supposedly regular human who is nearly immune to every type of attack, whether it be a sledgehammer, lead pipe, pistol, or shotgun. I don't care who you are, if you take a rifle round in the forehead, you're dead. If you take a full load of buckshot in the chest at point blank range, you're dead. If a ten pound sledge slams into the side of your skull, you're dead. Make the "boss" fight challenging in some other way then simply allowing them to cheat, because that's bullshit.

Non-agression in the security room. The security room is your safe haven from the slavering zombies in the mall. It's where you take surviors back to, and it's your base of operations for the entire game. But dammit, if I get frustrated by the zombies or a goddamn "boss" fight, I want to be able to take it out on those bastard survivors! I especially want to kill Otis.

Otis. I hate you, Otis. I hate you with a fucking passion, with every fiber of my being. I don't give a shit what part of the mall I'm in, who's trapped where, what color shoes match my jacket, or what you had for dinner last night. I don't fucking care, Otis, so stop fucking calling me on the goddamn transceiver!

Final verdict: Should be in everyone's collection. Even with the bullshit, it's still a ton of fun to spit in a zombie's face, and then burn it off with a red-hot skillet.

Next we have Saint's Row. Everyone says it's just a copy of GTA: San Andreas, but I don't care. Furthermore, I disagree. Sure, they might have a similar tone and similar elements, but the game itself is quite a bit different. There are a larger variety of missions, much better progression, a better driving model, and a better combat model.

Things that are good:

Free aiming. Finally, a cursor that allows me to aim where I want to shoot, anywhere I want to shoot. No more lock-on, auto-target bullshit that makes me aim at a civilian behind me instead of an enemy in front of me.

Car handling. Cars actually handle differently, instead of just having different speeds, like "slow" or "fast."

Voice acting. Lots of names here, although I had to look at the instruction manual to place a few of them. Very well done.

Story/missions. Varied, fun, and interesting. Lots of different things to see and do.

Graphics. Probably the second best looking game on the 360. Very nice.

Things that are bad:

Auto-fail conditions for missions. So fucking frustrating when the mission tells me I failed, even though I clearly didn't. As an example, if I fail a mission because someone "got away" even though I can still see their car. Bullshit.

No body armor of any kind. At least, none that I've found. Although your health will regenerate eventually, if you're infiltrating an enemy stronghold and they all have sub-machine guns, you can get ganked really quickly. It's also aggravating when some asshole pulls you out of the car and blows you away while you're on the ground, helpless. But I'm nitpicking.

Final verdict: Fucking awesome. Again, as with Dead Rising, even when it's pulling bullshit, there's fun just around the corner.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

More Things

I figure I should post this now, since I get my Xbox back tomorrow and won't be posting anything for a while. I'll be too busy gaming, you see.

First up, the Raiders signed Jeff George today. At first, I wondered why they'd do that. He hasn't played a game in half a decade, after all. But then I thought about it, and realized it makes sense. Art Shell has brought back the high-powered, long-ball offense that fits Aaron Brooks' and Jeff George's styles. Andrew Walter was impressive last year in preseason, and he's been even moreso this preseason. Obviously, he's the future prospect, Brooks is the starter, and George is the veteran backup. I suspect Marques Tuiasosopo will be released before the start of the regular season. There are certainly teams out there that could be upgraded by having Tui as a starter, I think. He just no longer fits into the Raiders style, and at 27, it's do or die time for him.

On the other side of the ball, I really like that the Raiders defense is young and fast, much like the Colts defense has been for the past couple of years. I'm not saying they're as good as the Colts are, but I think the Raiders could surprise a lot of teams this year. Especially if the sportswriters keep underestimating them (last in the AFC West again, they say). We'll see. I can't wait for Monday Night's opener against the Chargers.

Next, I saw Snakes on a Plane over the weekend. That was fun. Bad, but bad in a good way. Therefore, it wasn't the worst movie I've seen at the theatre this year. That title goes to Pirates 2. The more I think about that movie, the more I dislike it. I also dislike all the idiots spewing bullshit about how Pirates 2 is now in the Top 10 of the all time highest grossing movies. No, it isn't. In fact, it's just barely in the Top 50. Go ahead, call me a liar.

That's right, these assholes shouting from the rooftops that Pirates 2 is the fourth highest grossing film of all time, and how Titanic takes the cake are fucking wrong, and they're fucking idiots for using nominal data. If they want to talk about "all time" they need to realize that they're dealing with data over time. When that data is cash receipts in dollars, it has to be adjusted for inflation, or it's useless and meaningless. Using the real data, Pirates 2 ranks at #48. That's just shy of the Top 10, I'm afraid. Oh, and Titanic? #6. Sorry, Kate, Leo, and James. You lose to Gone With the Wind. In fact, every movie today and in the future will always lose to Gone With the Wind, which made almost $200 million in 1939. Domestic box office will never equal more than 1.3 billion dollars. That number will continue to increase with time, of course. Whoops, how's that taste, dipshits?

Finally, my niece started Kindergarten last week. Is it just me, or does time fucking fly? It seems like yesterday I was holding her in my arms at the hospital. Christ.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Xbox 360 Update

No updates on games, because I can't play them anyway. This is an update about the status of my console.

First off, I'd like to say that Microsoft has handled this problem very well. I've called them three times, and spoken with friendly and knowledgable reps that go by the book. I got no problem with that, or with them. Hell, I am one of those guys, so I can relate.

I've already detailed the experience of my first call, so I'll skip to my second call. I had already shipped my dead console in the cardboard waste receptacle the same day I received it: 8/17. At this point, I was still well within the 10 business day window that the inital rep had told me it would take from start to finish. So on 8/22, I wasn't really surprised to learn that my console had been delivered to the mortuary that very day. The rep informed me it would be repaired in the next day or so, and suggested I call back Thursday as there would definitely be a tracking number available by then for the return shipment.

Thursday came and went too fast for me to call. So I called today, and was given my tracking number. The rep informed me the package shipped 8/23 (nice), and it should be delivered on 8/29. This struck me as odd, but I wasn't at my computer to double check it, and didn't want to give the guy any shit. So I thanked him and hung up. Here's what I found when I checked the UPS tracker (click for a larger view):

Umm, huh. We'll start at the bottom. UPS received the billing information on 8/23/06. Which means Microsoft paid them for the shipment on Wednesday. But the package didn't actually go out until the next day. That's odd. It goes from the repair center in McAllen, TX (never heard of it, I'm guessing it's a small town), to San Antonio, then Houston.

That makes sense, Houston is huge, they have an airport, big shipping center and shit. But look at what happens in Houston on 8/25. "Out for Delivery?" What the fuck? Obviously, that's an error. So it departs Houston, presumably bound for Oakland or something like that.

But wait a moment, that would make too much sense. No no, my package arrived this morning in Louisville, KY. Louisville, Ken-fucking-tucky! It's been awhile since I had high school geography, but I think Kentucky is a bit to the goddamn east of Texas. Not to mention that the package sat in Kentucky for about 7 hours. I guess UPS used that time to have a circle jerk.

Now we reach the top, "Rescheduled Delivery: 8/29/06." No shit it's a rescheduled delivery, assholes, you fucked that up real good. Basically, if UPS hadn't been complete fucking morons, not only would I have received my Xbox back today, still within the 10 business day timeframe, but I could have played it this weekend. Now I have to wait until next Tuesday. Right here, UPS. Right fucking here.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Just discovered a nifty little game called Uplink. I played the demo for about 45 minutes, and I'm so hooked. It's too damn late to get the full game tonight, but I'm getting it from Steam first thing tomorrow when I get home. For 20 bucks, they throw in Darwinia, too, which Bill Harris raved about. Rad!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

This Just In...

Nobody gives a shit about the murder of JonBenet Ramsey anymore.

We now return to your regularly scheduled programming.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


I didn't want to title this post "Stuff" so there you go.

It's now been...11 days since I had a working 360. I finally received the cardboard coffin last Thursday and shipped it off. I hope to have my box or one like it before it died back by Friday. That would be the 10th working day, which the tech suggested was the turnaround time. With my luck, I'll get the box back Wednesday or Thursday the week after. Oh well. I've been biding my time with DVDs, TV, and Civ 4. Ah, Civ 4, how I missed you. There's still only one good mod, but it blows all the other mods away, so it's not a problem.

I watched The Warriors today. The new DVD version, apparently. Not sure what was different, but it was a good flick. Definitely worth a rental, if you're into "guy" movies. Only one explosion, but a lot of fisticuffs. There was one chick with a see-through top, that was nice. One dude was a homophobe, even.

The Raiders are now 3-0 in the preseason, and laid a solid ass-kicking on the Forty-Whiners. Sure, it doesn't count yet, but I got to see a lot of Aaron Brooks, and he impressed me for the first time. Andrew Walter looks damn good, too, though. Luckily, there's still 2 games left before the start of the season to make a starting QB decision.

Finally, I caught the Roast of William Shatner tonight. High-larious. Favorite line? Shatner himself: "Andy Dick. What was that you were so good in? Ah yes, that's right, George Takei's mouth."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Hobbit

I was going to do a quickie review for this movie, but it's so bad I have to go into detail.

First of all, I read the book in high school, but I don't remember it being like that. The plot was of course similar, and there were certain events that I recall. But the quality was sub-par at best, and absolute shit at worst. Maybe the book was that bad, and I just don't remember because I didn't know what the fuck was good when I was 17. That's probably it. I'll go through it point by point, since I took notes while I watched. I wanted to make sure I could write about it later, just in case I blocked it out of my memory.

It was animated, which would have been fine if the animation was actually good. It wasn't.

The folksy bullshit music was god-awful. The lyrics described shit that was happening, and badly at that. Absolutely terrible; words can't communicate how bad the music was.

Whenever someone or something died, there was a ridiculous spinning animation, and then they disappeared. Apparently that's a less violent way of handling death, but it's a really fucking stupid way of handling death.

Early on, Gandalf showed Bilbo and the dwarves a map, and Bilbo reasoned it was showing a secret entrance. Gandalf blathered something about "knowing it when they knew," and reiterating that it was a secret. Then he handed the head dwarf a key. "Here's the key to the secret door." What the fuck?

The creators had a hard-on for magical swords. Elrond made a big fucking deal about "Orcrist the Goblin-Cleaver" and "Glamdring the Foe-Hammer." Later on, they ran into a group of goblins, who also had to make a big deal over them. "Oh no, that's Glamdring, the Foe-Hammer!" And Bilbo had to make a big fucking deal over naming his pussy dagger "Sting." Who gives a shit, seriously?

Gollum was even more annoying than in the live action films. I didn't think that was possible.

Smaug the dragon had spotlight eyes. His eyes shone big damn lights, like flashlight beams. I wish I was joking.

The king of the Wood Elves sounded like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Again, I wish I was joking.

Talking animals. I know, suspension of disbelief, especially when we're dealing with goblins and trolls and shit, but it's not a fucking Disney movie. Disney movies are good.

I'm not sure if it was intended for television originally, but it seemed like there were clearly defined spots for commercial breaks. That was jarring.

"Bilbo Baggins, that is enough." Jesus H. Christ, what a flaming piece of shit that was. I almost turned it off. More than once, I stared at the screen slack-jawed. I smacked my forehead a couple of times in frustration. Even if you consider yourself a glutton for punishment, stay away from The Hobbit.

Finally, I usually try to be fair in my reviews, and even though this turd doesn't deserve it, there was one good thing about it. At 1 hour and 17 minutes, at least it was over quickly. Unlike Tolkien's self-important books and the self-important live-action movies based on them that take days to get through, The Hobbit ended before I began to seriously contemplate bashing my head against the corner of my desk.

TV on DVD Recommendations

This is something I haven't done in this blog yet, but I figure you gotta start somewhere. And since I watch a shitload of TV on DVD, why the hell not?

First up is a set I just picked up off my doorstep today, Animaniacs Volume 1. I remember watching the Animaniacs (and Tiny Toon Adventures, but they're not on DVD yet) after school when I was in the 6th grade. It was hilarious then, and it's hilarious now. Like any good animation, the Animaniacs have humor that both kids and adults can enjoy, and certain jokes are geared specifically towards the adults. Great stuff, and I can't wait to add future volumes to my collection.

Keeping with the animation, The Boondocks Season 1 Uncut and Uncensored is fantastic. I was a big fan of the comic strip until the asshats in my city bitched and got it pulled from the local paper. Then along comes the TV show on Adult Swim, and I fell in love all over again. The start of the second season was pushed back because the network upped the episode order, so there's still plenty of time to get caught up on the first season.

Finally, a show that I just recently got into and have a shitload of catching up to do, The Dead Zone. I rented the first season from Netflix and really enjoyed it. I've got 3 more seasons to get through on DVD, by which time the 5th season will probably be on DVD, so I could rent that one, too. I've gotta say, USA network makes some quality shows.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Two Quickies

Movie reviews, that is.

The Grapes of Wrath, not rated, starring Henry Fonda. A classic. Not bad. I must have read the book in high school, but I honestly don't remember it. If you haven't seen it, it's worth a rental.

Why We Fight, rated PG-13. A documentary that uses President Dwight D. Eisenhower's final address as a backdrop. Eisenhower warned against the military-industrial complex gaining too much power. 45 years later, this documentary shows that Eisenhower was all too right. Recommended viewing, even if you're not a leftist commie pinko.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

Tonight, I watched The Wizard of Oz for the first time (believe it or not). I thoroughly enjoyed it. But you don't need me to tell you it's a great movie, because you've already seen it and know this. I can't explain how I missed it. It should be required viewing for every kid. They show it all the time on TV. I just managed to miss it for 24 years.

Of course, I've heard all the references (the title of this post, "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" "I'll get you my pretty, and your little dog, too," "Oh Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore") and songs, but never actually saw the flick.

I didn't really dislike anything about it. Some of the effects were quaint, but most were very well done. The makeup was spectacular. I kept waiting for the Wheelers to show up, until I realized they were in that other movie that shall not be named. The running time was perfect, it never dragged and moved right along. I wish they hadn't made the Munchkins sound like Chipmunks, but according to IMDB, that was partially because most of the actors didn't speak English.

In short, The Wizard of Oz is frickin' great. Two thumbs up.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Oh Hell Yes

This is awesome news. And did I call it, or did I call it? The PDF document linked to in the article is also a fantastic read. Very interesting stuff in there about Marvel's previous projects, and of course, their upcoming projects, which just so happen to include The Avengers.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A Couple More Things

Oh, how I wish I could play Dead Rising. It sits there, on my shelf, calling out to me. It wants me to play it. I want to play it. But alas, I cannot. I so wish my Xbox worked.

Apparently I'm not the only one (besides the countless people on the net, but I don't know them) whose Xbox crapped out. I called a friend of mine yesterday when my box died to see if he knew anybody who did Xbox repair that he could recommend. He called me back today to let me know that he had just turned his 360 on and got the flashing red lights of death. Luckily, he's had it for less than 3 months, and probably never registered it anyway, so I told him to call MS after relating my story. Dead Xboxes = not an isolated incident.

This whole experience has really opened my eyes. I've never been an early adopter. Especially with the consoles, I think the only system I bought so close to launch was the 360, and even that was 6 months after the fact. But from now on, I'm not only waiting until a second (or possibly a third) hardware revision comes out, but I'm getting an extended warranty if the standard warranty is anything less than a year. I don't care how great the games are at launch or post launch, if everyone else has one already, or if the first hundred thousand customers get a free blowjob with purchase. Not doing it.

In other news, preseason football started last Sunday. That means only a month to go before the regular season starts. Personally, I still have my doubts about Aaron Brooks, but we'll have to wait and see. I have confidence in Art Shell and Al Davis. Just win, baby!

On Microsoft

I was a huge hater on Microsoft back in the day. On the PC side of things, I suppose I still am. Yeah, I use Windows, but that's only because I'm too damn lazy to learn a UNIX-based OS. I parlayed that hate into the console division, until I realized the PC side and the console side of Microsoft were two very different entities. I once vowed I'd never buy an Xbox. I eventually broke that vow. I even went so far as to predict Microsoft would win this round of the console war.

Now I'm not so sure. Sony has done just about everything wrong up to this point, whereas Microsoft (seemingly) had done everything right, or so I thought. Until yesterday.

I was reading the forums yesterday and today about all the horror stories with the 360. Disc drive errors. Hard drive errors. Memory errors. Video errors. Overheating. "Unknown" errors. Hundreds, thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands of dead boxes. Dead boxes that were dead because of known issues. What is Microsoft doing to fix these problems?

First off, if you're within the 90 day warranty, you're golden, cause you get a free replacement. Which is usually what it is, a replacement, rather than a repair. I suppose that's fine, especially when you're dealing with a manufacturer and not a reseller. Especially since nobody wants to wait a week or more for some shmuck to fix your shit, you just want to get back to gaming.

But if you're out of your 90 day warranty? You gotta pay $160 for your replacement. Tack on an additional 60 bucks if you want a two year extended warranty. This is especially heinous if you got a Core console, since you'd now be just $80 short of getting a brand new box.

Let me tell you: that is not the way to turn a negative into a positive. That's not the way to gain goodwill. How would you feel if you dropped $400 on a console only to have it die 3 and a half months later, a mere two weeks out of warranty, so you then had to drop another $220 to get a replacement and a guarantee of a replacement any time within the following 2 years if that one craps out too? Not to mention having to go 2-3 weeks without being able to play? I'd be pissed.

That said, I'm not pissed. Primarily because I'm not an idiot. Let me explain. I don't register shit. I don't register software, I don't register hardware, I wouldn't even be registered to vote if my parents hadn't practically forced me to 6 years ago. That's point number one. Point number two is I don't volunteer information to tech support that's irrelevant. If you don't ask me specifically about this or that, I'm not telling you anything other than what the problem is.

For example. I called MS today after work. Tech guy picks up, asks how he can help me. I explain the situation. "I've had my 360 for a couple of months (which is technically true, I just didn't say how many months), and it worked fine, until yesterday. I put in Dead Rising, played for about two minutes, and then it froze. I turned it off, let it sit for a moment, and turned it back on. Played for another two minutes, it froze again. I took out Dead Rising, put in Kameo, and rebooted. This time I played for about 30 seconds before it froze. I shut it down, and went to the support website. I tried everything there, unplugged everything, plugged it back in, tried it without the hard drive, different games, still the same problem. I couldn't play for more than a few minutes before it froze."

The tech guy says, "Ok, let me get some information." Name, serial number, address. He asks if I've registered my console. I say, "I don't think so (actually, I know I haven't)." He registers the console for me. He clarifies that I tried everything on the website, I say yes. He asks if the Dead Rising disc is clean and free of scratches. I say of course it is, I just got it two days ago. He says he'll submit a repair ticket, and send me out a box (a cardboard coffin, as it were) to ship the console in. He says since I'm still under warranty until October 19, 2006, the repair or replacement will be free. My warranty will be extended an additional 30 days once I get the system back. Total turnaround time is about 10 business days.

It's at this point I ask about an extended warranty. He says I can call back within the 30 days to get an additional year for $30, or two years for $60. I thank him for his help, the call concludes.

Am I satisfied with the way Microsoft handled my problem? Yes, but only because I'm not an idiot. People on the forums whine about how they registered their console the day they bought it, and now it's dead after 5 months, so they have to pay the $160. Or how when they talked to tech support they told the guy they got their Xbox on launch day, so registered or no, it's not under warranty. There was one guy whose box was no longer under warranty, so he opened it up to see what he could do. Failing that, he called support and tried to pay to get it fixed. Since he also told the tech guy that he had opened his box, MS refused to take it back, even with payment. Apparently when they say modifying the console in any way voids your warranty, it also voids your official service contract.

Obviously that's not what those people should have done, but there's plenty of blame to go around. A 90 day warranty? Come on, that's a slap in the face. Charging $160 for out of warranty service? That's a full-on ass-reaming. Especially for known issues.

And then there's the idiots and assholes who spouted shit all over the place earlier this year when they claimed only the launch boxes had problems, and a new version of the console had been released. Wrong. They were either talking out of their ass, or deliberately lying. There's only one version of the hardware, and whether your box was manufactured in November of 2005, or July of 2006, there's a not-insignificant chance it'll die before its time. That's BS, MS.

What Microsoft should be doing is honoring anyone who calls in with a problem, regardless of warranty. We're less than a year out from launch, folks, these things should not be failing yet. Hell, they shouldn't be failing at all; I still have an NES that my Dad bought me in 1987 that works great. And if Microsoft is so serious about gaming, they should realize gamers want to game. So forget about this "we send you a box, then we check out your system for a few days, and send you another system" shit. When a customer calls, you take his credit card number, and ship him a new system with a return box. If you don't get the busted system within a month or whatever, you charge him for the new system. A lot less downtime, and you're still protected from fraud.

I seriously hope they're hard at work on new hardware that doesn't have crippling problems. The brass claim the return rate was well below the 3-5% average, but that was back in December. I wonder if that's still the case. Even if it's at the average now, let's say MS has sold 5 million units. 5% of 5 million is 250,000. That's a pretty damn big number, and I can't help but think that its quite a bit bigger than that. And even if it is at the average, or still below it, that's not necessarily something to be excited about. Average is not what you want to be; average does not win wars.

Which is what it ultimately comes down to. Like I said, Sony has seemingly done everything wrong, but this is the first wrong step for Microsoft. If they continue to make mistakes, who knows what could happen. Here's hoping MS rights itself and Sony smacks into a brick wall.

God Fucking Dammit

Why can't I have nice things? Seriously, it seems like everytime things are going good, life decides to take a shit on my head.

Well, maybe not all the time, but that's what I feel like right now.

See that post down there? Just one post down, about how I'm so happy I have a 360 because awesome games are starting to hit right now? Dead Rising is indeed kickass, I picked it up yesterday and had a shit-ton of fun with it. I really wish I could have played it tonight.

But oh, I can't. You know why? Because my Xbox is fucking broken, that's why! It chose now, today, after 4 months of functioning flawlessly, to kick the bucket. No warning, no sketchy behavior, just a normal boot, then a freeze. After a restart, it gave me flashing red lights of death.

Notice I said 4 months. Normally, with just about every consumer electronic on the market (literally 99.9% of them) I'd have a one year manufacturer's warranty. No problem, send it back in, get it fixed, bada bing, bada boom, right?


The 360 has a 90 day warranty. That's 3 months. You don't see 90 day warranties on products unless they're from some fly by night company. Microsoft, for all their faults, is not a fly by night company. So why the 90 day warranty? Don't ask me.

All I know is, I have to call them tomorrow to see what I can do. I'm too tired to deal with it tonight. I don't know if I can get a replacement, or if I have to pay for repairs, or what. Chances are, though, I'm looking at about 2-3 weeks, at least, with no Xbox. And that makes Heath a sad panda.

Right now I have to enjoy having a four hundred dollar paperweight.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I'm so glad I bought a 360

Because it's already paid off, and there's plenty more gaming goodness coming down the pipe.

Since the last time I made a post like this, quite a few things have happened.

I finally finished Oblivion, which was one of the games I got with my 360. That kicked ass.

I also finished Hitman (although I might have made a post about that one), and that kicked ass, too.

I completed the single player storyline of Prey as well. I had previously mentioned that I hoped Prey would be better than Doom 3, and I think it was. About 10-12 hours for the campaign, which is all you can really expect from a shooter. I've taken it online a few times, and while the online play is alright, it's only really fun when there's 6 or more people in Deathmatch, and you're not getting horrendous lag. Any less than that and it's not frantic enough. Team Deathmatch blows cock, especially if your team is losing and your teammates quit out (that happened to me today, and since I was no longer having fun getting anally raped by the other team, I quit out, too. Then those fuckers had the gall to rate me that I have poor conduct because I "Quit the game early." Fucking cockknockers).

I recently picked up GRAW again, too, after letting it sit for about 3 months. I had become frustrated with it because it was so damn hard, even on normal difficulty, and completely unforgiving if you made a mistake. It's still fucking hard, but I think I can manage it. The story is actually pretty interesting, so I'd like to finish it.

Chromehounds came out, but I haven't checked it out yet. There's no demo, and from what everyone's saying, the game is all about the multiplayer (the single player game is just there to prepare you for MP). I'll give it a rental and see if I like it.

Dead Rising's release date got pushed up from the last time I posted about it, and it now hits stores on Tuesday. I can't wait. I got the demo 2 days ago and I've probably played through the 15 time limit at least a dozen times.

Next up after Dead Rising is Madden 07, which I'm still on the fence about. I probably won't end up getting it until a few weeks after it comes out (7/22), since I want to know if it's actually worth buying. A demo won't tell me that. Bill Harris over at Dubious Quality will tell me that.

At the end of this month, it's Saint's Row time, which I'm overjoyed wasn't pushed back. The demo was released last week, and while it's a little rough around the edges, it's definitely something to keep busy with until the next GTA game comes out in 14 months.

In non-360 news, November is going to be awesome. Both the Wiiiiiiiiiii and Guitar Hero 2 come out in November.

Guitar Hero is the only game I can think of that came out a year ago and I'm still playing it. Not put it down for 6 months, then started playing again because I got the urge, no, I've been playing Guitar Hero about once a week every week since I got it last year. Guitar Hero 2 promises to be even better.

And since I've purchased every Nintendo console since the original NES (even if you count the Virtual Boy as a console), I'm definitely getting a Wiiiiiiiii on launch day. Wiiiiii Sports? ExciteTruck? Metal Slug Anthology? Red Steel? Metroid Prime 3? Zelda: Twilight Princess? Shit, the only games that would make that launch lineup better would be Mario Galaxy and the new Smash Bros.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

No, this isn't another movie review post, but it is related to a film. I haven't seen An Inconvient Truth, but I want to. Word is it opened in Stockton this weekend, which I wish I had known about yesterday, so Justin and I could have gone to see it. Hopefully it'll still be playing next weekend.

So I was reading the paper today, and I decided to check out the Opinion/Letters section (something I rarely do, since the stupidity is blinding). I ran across this gem. I'll break it down piece by piece.

"Sometimes I get discouraged, but my faith is restored by letters to The Record that deny global warming."

Oh shit. He mentioned faith. This is gonna be one of those Jesus-freak bible-thumping mother fuckers.

"Americans are famous for common sense and open minds. Thank God enough people with common sense can see that Al Gore and global warming are just plain silly."

Wait, now he mentioned common sense and open minds. Is this a sarcastic letter?

"A majority of scientists say there is global warming, which shows how common sense disappears at the gates to our universities. The scientists are herd animals, trying to get to tenure pasture."

Ok, I've met my share of folks with PhDs who aren't very smart, but that's ridiculous. Does he really think professors write papers and do research just because they want tenure? And that those papers would somehow be accepted into scholarly journals (which are independent from the tenure committees at their local universities) if they were pure bullshit? Maybe this isn't sarcasm.

"Earth's atmosphere is too big and too divinely designed for man to cause something as cataclysmic as global warming. It's common sense."

Nope. Definitely not sarcasm. Just stupidity.

"Scientists who blame warming on the burning of gas and coal are fossil fools. Man has been burning things for centuries. We've had cars for 100 years. Why, all of a sudden, is it a problem?"

I make no claims to be an expert on global warming, but it's crystal clear that this dumbass doesn't know the first thing about it. He's awfully quick to dismiss the findings of "scientists," while spouting nonsense about the Earth's atmosphere being divinely inspired, and using such quantifiable terms as "big."

"Only because extremist environmentalists like Gore need an issue. They get government grants to study this stuff and live off taxpayers."

Ah yes, taxes. The dreaded government taxation that provides such services like healthcare assistance, public schools and libraries, public transit, roads, grants for higher education, and countless other things that make our lives better. God forbid the government give some of that money to folks who use it to research solutions to problems that would otherwise make our lives worse.

"How can we have global warming (which assumes Earth is a globe) when common sense says the Earth is flat?"


Wait. What did he say?

"How can we have global warming (which assumes Earth is a globe) when common sense says the Earth is flat?"


That's what I thought he said.

"William West,

Well, William West, you sir, are a fucking idiot. And I am now permanently dumber for having read your letter. How did you even learn to read and write, since you're apparently developmentally disabled? Or did you have your personal assistant write the letter for you while you pointed at pictures of the idea you wanted to convey and made gurgling noises? I'm ashamed that I have to share my town with you. But I do wish you success, so you can buy a large house with many floors. Then you can trip and fall down a few flights of stairs on your way to breakfast and break your stupid goddamn neck.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

One More Thing About Superman

This is something I didn't think of until after the second viewing, but this would have been awesome. They take Supes into the OR, they've got him hooked up to the machines and whatnot, they give him the juice from the defibrilator, and he flatlines. *boooooooooooop* Fade to black, roll credits.

I mean, shit, talk about internet controversy. Talk about repeat business. Talk about getting people excited for a sequel. I would have shit my pants if the movie had ended that way, but I would have been jacked. And Pirates? Who would have given a shit about Pirates? Superman is dead, what's gonna happen next?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Weekend Movie Reviews

First up, a couple of flicks I caught one more time this weekend because I liked them so much.

Clerks 2. If you haven't seen it, stop reading, call some friends, and go. I'll wait.

Ok, good. Wasn't that hilarious? I tried to get a bunch of friends together to go see it this weekend, but almost everybody flaked out. Bitches. One thing I noticed on a second viewing is how good Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson are. I don't know why they haven't done more films, other than bit parts and whatnot in Kevin Smith's flicks.

Superman Returns. I had a couple of free passes, so I figured I might as well see it again before it slips out of theatres. Plus, the first time I saw it was in about the third row at an IMAX, so it was nice to see it at a comfortable distance. I don't know why it didn't make more of an impact at the box office than it did. Sure, Pirates 2 came out the very next weekend, but I don't understand why it made such a huge impact, since Superman was the better film all around (and I'm not saying that just because I'm a Supes fan, I really liked the first Pirates film). One thing that stood out more the second time around was the Christ allegory. "The world needs a savior," Supes falling back to Earth, prostrated in the sign of the cross. Thanks for that, Mr. Singer, but keep your religion out of my comic book movie.

On a side note, there was a trailer before the movie with some bullshit text flashing up, like, "One family...One child...Who would change the world...Forever." And then it hits you with, "The Nativity Story." At that point, I leaned over to Justin and said just loudly enough for him to hear (or so I thought), "What the fuck?" Mere seconds later, some bitch a few seats over and a row down said, "Hey, buddy, back there? Can we control the reflexes?" Justin's not convinced she was talking to me (she proceeded to be a loudmouthed bitch through the rest of the movie, spouting nonsense to the people she was with), but I am. And that pisses me off.

First off, if you take offense at language, you just need to shut the fuck up. Don't give me your holier-than-thou bullshit, and insult my intelligence because I use "bad" words. I say whatever the hell I want, when I want, and if you don't like it, that's too damn bad. It's called the First Amendment, asshole. Besides, I don't think that was her problem, since she and her dumbass friends dropped a couple of f-bombs during the movie.

So what she took offense at was my visceral reaction to "The Nativity Story." I don't want or need your religion in my movies, alright? I hate trailers anyway (there's a reason they're called trailers, they used to follow the movie, not preceed it), so excuse me for taking issue with a trailer for a pointless film that I was forced to watch. You want to believe in God and thank Jesus for being your savior and read your bible, fine. I got no problem with that. But get your fucking bullshit out of my entertainment! I don't want your Passion, I don't want your Nativity, I don't want your God is Great and Anyone who Disagrees is a Worthless, Sub-Human Heathen. Fuck you.

Now that that's out of the way, we come to the DVDs that I rented.

The Villain, rated PG, starring Kirk Douglas, Ann-Margret and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Got this at the recommendation of my Dad, who's usually pretty solid with his recommendations. However, I honestly don't know what he was thinking. It's a western, but is filled with slapstick comedy. I know what you're thinking: Blazing Saddles. But The Villain is less like Blazing Saddles and more like a live-action Road Runner cartoon. There must have been at least a dozen gags with Kirk Douglas' Cactus Jack (the Wile E. character) trying and failing to trap the other two leads with a scheme right out of the Looney Tunes. As bad as it sounds, it's even worse on film. What a piece of shit. Oh, and 27 years later, Arnold still has the exact same accent.

The Pink Panther, rated PG, starring Steve Martin, Kevin Kline, Jean Reno, and Beyonce Knowles. Sir, I watched The Pink Panther, I liked the Pink Panther, The Pink Panther was a favorite of mine. Sir, you are no Pink Panther. Famous quote paraphrasing aside, this movie sucked. Steve Martin apparently co-wrote the screenplay, but the other guy must have been in charge of the jokes. There were only a few genuine laughs in the whole hour and a half, and if I'd seen this at a theatre, I would have demanded my money back. Peter Sellers played Clouseau with more subtlety than this. He's a bumbling detective, not a fucking moron. Kevin Kline was forgettable, Jean Reno is better than this (he was fucking Leon, for chrissakes), and I have no idea what purpose Beyonce served, other than being a cocktease. Seriously, she needs to pose for Playboy or something.

Old School, unrated edition, starring Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, and Vince Vaughn. Rented this on the recommendation of a co-worker. Finally, a good movie. Funny as hell. Nothing much else to say, except that it gets a thumbs-up from me. Word has it they're doing a sequel, although I'm not sure why.

Until next time, the balcony is closed, fuckers. Nooch!