Monday, June 30, 2008

Loose ends

1. My wife knew of my love for John Adams prior to our marriage, so she has no excuses now. (She didn't know of my secret affection for Johannes Gutenberg though.)

2. Yes, my family is probably going to be wealthy some day. If that day comes, however, I'd like to think that I'll retain enough self-awareness to refrain from flaunting it under the guise of complaining about the commute to my second home to a poor 25-year-old law student.

3. Diablo II had a powerful ability to bring roommates together. I hope III can do the same.

4. Nick the Stick was only absent from my sweet allegory because I couldn't think of a historical fuigure from that period who would try to walk from Farley to Knott and end up on the other side of a lake. John Burgoyne, maybe?

5. Jake took his first steps the other day. It's a dizzying, terrifying experience to watch.

My Closing Argument

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I am here to present you with facts. Not opinions, not speculations, just facts. Cold, hard facts. Inescapable, undeniable facts. And here are those facts.

1. Big Jim's unwillingness to enter the fray and eagerness to achieve victory through cowardly and ungentlemanly means led the Smash Bros. Coalition (i.e., the fray-entering warriors) to develop a system that included the number of knockouts as a factor in determining victory (the BCS).

Think about that for a moment. Nintendo was unable to develop a system that adequately compensated for Big Jim's craven play. This gutless, spineless style of play was so unforeseeable – indeed, so incomprehensible – that the greatest video game company in the history of mankind failed to account for it.

2. Once the Smash Bros. BCS (see point one) was adopted, Big Jim countered by constantly pressing for team battles. Some people, when confronted with the reality that their style of play was no longer viable, would change that style of play. Not Big Jim. Rather than adapt a manly fray-entering style, he instead resorted to seeking to fight in two-on-two scenarios. There, he could continue his fray avoision and do so under the guise of being a good teammate. Despite Jim's protestations below, no right-minded Smash Bros. warrior ever left the experience of teaming with Big Jim without severe scars. Years later, poor Pikachu still goes to physical therapy three times a week.

3. Big Jim fathered a child with Sally Hemings. There, I said it.

As you can see, when we look at the facts, it is irrefutable that Big Jim is a pusillanimous, bastard-producing loser. Having said all that, I'm willing to give Big Jim a chance at redemption. All he needs to do is buy a Wii, buy Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and become a master in the art of brawling. It's that simple.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Always into the East . . .

Ok, so the trailer's not all that good, and the website says something about fighting the failing powers of heaven. Why does Blizzard always ruin things that way? Warcraft and Starcraft had the same damn problem. Anyway. II was ridiculously addictive. With any luck, III will follow in its footsteps. Problem. Despite Rico's urging, the only time I'll be able to regularly play a video game will be during my year abroad. I'm thinking I'll have better things do in Rome. Maybe I should take a year off to "discern" or something?

Lies! All Lies!

Only I know how it truly went down.

While our esteemed Rico certainly presents a plausible version of events, the perfect linkages in his construct surely should make the discerning reader leery of accepting his version of events. The regrettable lack of Nick the Stick is merely the first in a series of gaping holes. I might also point out that the Wierema and Pontzer areas of Smash Bros. were largely separate save for the occasional reunion game. While the regular player of need hardly be reminded, our less practiced readers might not be aware that Samus' Up B is Falcon's best friend. Without the incapacitation provided by this nigh un-blockable move, the 10 second windup on our avian commander's punch renders it all but useless. Finally, I might add that Rico is not only wrong on the particulars but offers a strangely static vision of Smash Bros. history. As the records clearly show, while my play with Samus was unorthodox, it was undoubtedly the most effective style of play for that character. As I progressed to Falcon and Donkey Kong, rarely was I absent from the fray. The bizzare complaints of a certain roommate and Pontzer that my characters threw too much are otherwise inexplicable.

Oh, one more thing. Rico's analysis of the Ponz is spot on.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Today's Smash Bros. History Lesson

Reflecting on John Adams, I can't help but notice the parallels between the Continental Congress and my college experience playing Smash Bros. (Spare me the criticism. If something can't be reduced to a Smash Bros. analogy, it's not worth studying.)

We would routinely play two-on-two team battles. Whenever Big Jim and I would team up, I would inevitably be Captain Falcon, the bombastic and badass brawler. Jim, on the other hand, would choose Samus, the archetype of a jobber. Naturally, I would do the heavy lifting for the team, shouting "Show me your moves!" and "Falcon Punch!" all along the way. Jim, of course, would allow me to take a two-on-one beating just so he could stay in the corner and charge up his Big Shot. Despite my demands to "Get in the fray!" the most assistance I could hope for would be the occasional Up-B. Then, at the end of the fight, just as I was about to complete my heroic one-on-two victory, Big Jim would come in, fire one Big Shot, and steal my kills.

So it was in the Continental Congress. While John Adams was up fighting for independence on the floor of Congress every day, Jefferson sat on his hands like a scared little boy. Adams would take a beating from opponents of independence such as John Dickinson, and Jefferson would remain silent, providing virtually no assistance. Once Adams had heroically swung Congress to vote for independence, Jefferson hopped in, wrote the Declaration, and stole all the glory.

To fill out the analogy, Wierema has to be George Washington, always ready for a fight but smart enough to find one on good terms. And clearly Pontzer is the French: only fighting when it suits his own interests, prone to spectacularly violent disasters, and far, far too effeminate.

The Perils of Wealth

Yesterday, I was having lunch with an attorney from the company where I'm working this summer. She was telling me that she was about to go on vacation to her family's second home in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. She said it was nicer than her first home, which is no small feat considering the neighborhood in which she lives.

Then she had the gall to complain to me that she had to drive to the house while her husband got to fly the family plane. She finished the complaint by saying, "You know how it is."

As a matter of fact, I don't.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


One of the reasons I've been on hiatus for so long, much to the chagrin of my six fans, is that we recently got a Nintendo Wii. I can say it's unequivocally awesome.

The game that comes with the system is Wii Sports. It was prominently featured in the original Wii commercials ("We would like to play") for good reason. The games (baseball, bowling, boxing, golf, and tennis) are simple, intuitive, and fun, and they really set Wii apart from the other Next Generation gaming systems, which are so focused on raw power. All five sports are fun to play, and Wii Sports is perfect for just about everyone because the learning curve is virtually nonexistent.

Along with Wii Sports, we purchased Mario Kart Wii initially. It's very similar to all the recent Mario Kart games with the exception of the Wii wheel, which really adds another challenging element to the game. The other fun feature is the inclusion of tracks from previous Mario Kart games, going all the way back to the initial Super Mario Kart for SNES. It's a lot of fun to see how the game has evolved, although some of the tracks chosen for inclusion are puzzling. Also, Rainbow Road is as difficult as ever.

Lastly, my brother got me Super Smash Bros. Brawl for my birthday (over a month late, but that's another story). While I've just begun to tap into all the different features, I can tell you one thing: this ain't your daddy's Smash Bros. I didn't play Smash Bros. Melee too much, but Brawl seems to have adopted Melee's frantic pace. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but something I'm not used to after playing something approaching 1,000 hours of the original game during college.

The other thing that surprised me about Brawl was the sheer number of features. In addition to your traditional multiplayer free-for-alls and "survive and advance" modes, there is an actual story mode (The Subspace Emissary) and a slew of mini-games, challenges, and features.

The final sweet feature about Wii is the free online gaming and wireless access. Whereas playing against AI can get tiresome after a while, online play offers an almost limitless challenge. Now the task is to get all my college friends to join in. Especially those who receive stipends from their Ivy League schools' Classics Departments. Hint, hint.

John Adams

Mrs. Rico bought me John Adams, the HBO miniseries, for Father's Day. Thus far, we've watched the first two parts of the seven-part series, and I'm surprisingly conflicted.

On the one hand, it's truly brilliant television, a rare feat in the days of I Survived a Japanese Game Show and Celebrity Family Feud, (on ABC and NBC last night, by the way). Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney are simply phenomenal as John and Abigail Adams. They both perfectly capture the profound intellect, surprising warmth, and deep love of the Adamsseses. They also capture the couple's personality quirks without descending into the slightest bit of caricature. The series is very well produced, largely maintaining historical authenticity with small and acceptable embellishments for dramatic purposes. (My only complaint thus far is that Washington looks much too old. He was only 42 at the time of the First Continental Congress, and the actor portraying him is 55. Giamatti, by contrast, is 41, while Adams' was 38 in 1974.)

As you may already know, I'm a huge early American history buff, so it's really exciting to be able to watch my favorite historical moments captured so beautifully. Already we've seen Henry Knox, the 300-pound bookseller turned Continental Army engineer, transporting British cannon through hundreds of miles of wilderness aided only by field animals. All my favorite quotes and moments from the pre-war period have been used, and there are so many additional scenes I'm already anticipating. Plus, it's great to see how captivated my wife is by the series, even if she's getting a huge crush on Washington. (Can you blame her?)

And yet, on the other hand, I'm slightly jealous that Adams is being shared with the wider world. I've always felt a special connection with Adams, and I've always identified so closely with him, warts and all. I like to think I share his virtues (service, self-sacrifice, a passionate love of his wife, an eagerness to debate and fight for his beliefs) as well as his flaws (stubbornness, arrogance, pride, an occasional need to be coddled, a tendency toward feeling unappreciated). David McCullough notes in his stupendous biography of Adams that he is, in a sense, America's forgotten founding father, often confused with Sam Adams and generally unappreciated and underrated. While I'm happy he is getting the appreciation and publicity he richly deserves, I always kind of relished the idea that Adams was my founding father.

Blog Bonanza 2008!

Because (1) I have nothing to do at work, (2) I can't really ask anyone for things to do, and (3) I want to look a little busy, I've decided to type long blog posts into Microsoft Word, email them to myself, and post them when I get home.

Lucky you!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Banned in Canada?

Definitely won't hear that joke nowadays.

Wouldn't a Bazooka Be a Lot More Fun?

As it is, darts will have to do. Best individual reaction time (guessing is cheating) is 0.132 s. My highest rating is "Rocketing Rabbit." Rico, let's see if your superior Smash Bros. skills translate to other fields.

Friday, June 6, 2008