The American Girl Experience

Standard

When my daughter, Lexi, turned four my wife and I decided to do something big for her birthday. We had a couple reasons for doing this. The first being that we hadn’t done anything “big” in about four years (the last “big” thing being have a child). The other was because we had managed to keep another human being alive for four years. No easy feat in today’s world of war, hardship, and famine. I mean, good grief, our car doesn’t even have wi-fi! It was an event worthy of celebration. My wife, Lindy, thought it would be a great idea to take Lexi to the American Girl doll store in Atlanta.

For the uninitiated, American Girl dolls are a brand of impossibly expensive dolls. Each doll has its own name, personality, time period, and hobby. For example, the popular one this year was named Isabelle. She lived in modern times and liked to dance. There was also Kit, who lived during Great Depression and whose favorite hobby was not starving to death. Then there’s Caroline, who lived during the war in 1812. She went on a mission to rescue her father from the British. Her favorite hobbies included sneaking around military facilities and snapping the necks of British soldiers. My favorite was Amelia, the Cyborg Demon Vampire Hunter who lived in 2065. One can only imagine what her favorite hobbies were!

Anyway, off to Atlanta we went. Before the American Girl store, my wife had to stop at Target. She loves Target. We do not have a Target where we live – a fact that greaves my wife to no end. I don’t have the heart to tell her it’s the same stuff as Walmart only five to ten dollars more expensive. While shopping for odds and ends we bought Lexi a musical magic wand. It was from the movie Frozen and when activated played about five notes of “Let it Go.” We also got her a slinky for a dollar. Remember these facts because they will become relevant later.

Eventually, we showed up at the store which contained an estimated seventy-five thousand little girls and their mothers. That’s not to say there weren’t some fathers there, because there were. And all five of us just nodded to one another in solidarity. As the day wore on our nods became more haggard and desperate. We briefly threw around the idea (through silent nods) of starting a fight club. With the dolls. The benefit being that they would never be able to talk about fight club.

After having been shown several dolls, Lexi decided on Isabelle, the dancer. Also, some outfits and a pet cat because we weren’t spending near enough money. When it was time to pay, the cashier led me to the back and showed me the barrel I was about to be bent over. To their credit it was a nice barrel. It was pink (of course) and lined with soft fur. It also had molded rubber handholds which I thought was a nice touch. The cashier cheerfully explained that I was not required to squeal like a pig. No sir, I was free to squeal like whichever animal I deemed appropriate. I chose octopus.

At the end of the day, both Lindy and Lexi had a great time. Now, pop quiz – remember how I said we’d bought some toys at Target? Out of all the toys we bought that day which do you think she played with the most? If you said, “Why the American Girl doll, of course.” You’re an idiot. I swear I have never in my combined thirty-five years seen a slinky played with for so long.

 

Advertisements

My Top 5 Most Satisfying Video Game Actions

Standard

I am a lifelong gamer. I started playing video games with the Atari 2600. The one with the old wood grain design. My grandparents got one for Christmas one year and it was the best reason to go to their house. I eventually got one of my own. My grandmother was worried that I wouldn’t want to play the one at her house. She was silly. Of course I would play her too. Good grief. Anyway, one of the reasons I play games is because doing game things is so satisfying. Certain things are more satisfying than others and here are my top five most satisfying actions.

1. Finding a New Item (Legend of Zelda series) – Back in the day there was nothing better than fighting through a dungeon, killing enemies, pushing that block and watching that staircase appear. Finally, you’d walk down that stair case and see your prize – a raft, a ladder, a magic wand. It didn’t matter what it was. You knew that getting that item would open up the entire world… again! As Link hoisted that item over his head in triumph you were already ticking off all the places you were going to revisit. Special mention goes to the Hammer in Zelda 2 as getting this item provided a rush of endorphins you just can’t replicate.

2. Completing the Marsh Cave (Final Fantasy) – The Marsh Cave might as well be the last dungeon in the original Final Fantasy. It is one of the two major hurdles you have to overcome in order to beat the game (the other one being the Ice Cave). It’s incredibly tough for the beginners. It’s a pretty long walk from Elfland to the cave to begin with. Not to mention almost every enemy can poison you – some can stun you. Then you have to beat two “Wizards,” which use no magic (ironically) but can put your characters in the ground in one hit. As if that wasn’t enough, if you manage to beat the “Wizards” you have to limp all the way back to Elfland. After the Marsh Cave you can get a huge stash of loot and money. The game becomes a good deal easier. A victory made sweeter if you could managed to get out of the Marsh Cave with your party intact.

3. Sniper Rifle Headshots (Gears of War) – Headshots are always pretty satisfying no matter what the game. I gave a special mention to the Gears of War series because I’ve never loved headshots more. Locust heads explode like melons when you hit them making a very satisfying SMOOSH! It helps that it’s not too hard to do either and the aiming for such an action seems pretty forgiving. In the two games I played I never passed up the sniper rifle. Ever.

5. Beating a Boss (Castlevania: Symphony of the Night) – The thing I like about beating a boss in C:SotN is that second-long pause once you’ve made the final strike. It lends some weight to the action. It gives you a chance to say, “Yeah! Suck it, jerk!” just before the enemy launches into their death animation. It doesn’t hurt that each boss beaten extends your life.

5. Cuttin’ Up Fools (Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance) – I just finished this game last week and I can tell you that the Zendetsu mechanic is one of the finest in video games. It allows you to slow down time and meticulously slice enemies into tiny, tiny pieces. The game even counts how many pieces you made. And it doesn’t matter whether its a low-level mook who was stupid enough to get in your way, a giant robot, or boss who’s bested you twenty or thirty times, slowing down time and turning them into giblets is awesome. I don’t care how short the game is, Zendetsu makes it all worth while.

There you go! My top 5 most satisfying video game actions. What are some of yours?

It’s All About the Benjamins

Standard

I really hate my job. A lot. This is a problem because I need to make money. The mortgage company gets pretty grumpy if I don’t send a check every month. Big babies. I am always thinking alternative money making ideas that require a minimum of actual work. After all, those who make the most money never do any work. Do you think the CEO of WhateverCorp does any work? Nope, it’s all meetings and hookers for him. Overseas hookers, too. The kind that cost a lot of money but will play King of Tokyo[1] for hours if you ask them to. Yeah, that’s the kind of money I want. Overseas hookers money. I don’t want to get any hookers, mind you. But imagine if you lived a life where you had to resist the temptation to get an overseas hooker because it’s an easily affordable option?

On second thought, becoming a CEO takes too long. Also, I hate meetings. Not one productive thing has ever happened in a meeting. Meetings were invented by choleric personalities so they can feel like they are doing something when, in fact, they are not. No, what I really need to do is create something, write a movie, make a song, or indie video game that I can sell and become rich. It doesn’t even have to be a good item, song, movie, or game. In fact it could be one of the worst items, songs, movies, or games ever made but that won’t stop me from making money. How else do you explain things like Big Mouth Billy the Singing Bass!

Imagine for just one moment. Some down on his luck redneck was fishing in his boat on a hot summer’s day. While drinking and fishing out on that serene pond he feels a tug on his line… oh joy of joys a big mouth bass emerges from the water! This redneck thinks to himself, “This is the perfect moment! I can think of only one thing that would make this better. Fish! Sing me some Skynard!” Thusly the singing fish was born. Now this man is living high off the hog… life o’ Riley… all because he acted on an idea most of us would dismiss as  “idiodic” or “stupid” or “just plain goofy.”

I’ve had several ideas that I thought could make me money. One was a movie starring Fred Savage called Coach Pitch. Basically it was a rip-off of Air Bud, only it starred the dog from the Beethoven movies. When I was in college my friend Megan and I would waste hours at Krispy Kreme planning the whole thing out. The genius of it was that this wasn’t going to be a great movie, nay, not even a good movie – it was going to be spectacular in its mediocrity. It would also be cheap. I imagine Fred Savage isn’t doing much these days. Of course that doesn’t matter… we would still make money!

Another idea is to write a pop song of some sort. The good thing about writing pop songs is that you don’t really have to have any talent to make a hit. Take one stale disco beat… add some electronica or dubstep… a sexy female backup dancer that can gyrate her hips to the beat (talent optional) and viola! You have a hit on your hands! How ‘bout something like this…

“You’re My Girl”

You’re my girl

This I swear

Standing here

In my underwear

Swear it’s true

Don’t deny

You’re my girl

Til the day I die

Catchy eh? I think so too…after all if the Black Eyed Peas can write songs about Fergie’s “humps” and Taylor Swift can write songs about every boyfriend she’s ever had, I figure I could write a song like this. It would be a smash! I could be called in to write songs for other groups too! I’d have a string of hits like “Girl, You’re Mine” and “My, My Girl” or perhaps, “That Girl of Mine.” I can just see it now, sitting in my guitar shaped pool, sipping a cool drink, playing King of Tokyo with an overseas hooker. Yeah, it’d be great.


[1] That’s an actual board game, not a sex thing. Am I saying I would pay hookers just to play a board game with me? Why that’s just silly!

I Know All The Ponies

Standard

I know all of the characters’ names from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. This is not by choice. Nor is this a boast. I have a three-year old daughter. Of course, means I am exposed to My Little Pony on a daily basis. Also, for some reason my brain chooses to retain any and all information concerning My Little Pony. I know all the main characters’ names. I know what their “cutie marks” are. I know what a “cutie mark” is. I know that Princess Celestia was replaced by a double before her very own wedding. I know that Twilight Sparkle, since her promotion, is what’s known as an “alcorn.” I know what an “alcorn” is. I know way more about ponies than any non-fan should ever know.

But it’s not just ponies either. My daughter also likes Lalaloopsy dolls. Lalaloospys are supposed to look like rag dolls with button eyes. And they do… sort of…well, as close to rag dolls as a giant four pound hunk of plastic can look. Remember the movie Coraline? You know, where all the evil characters had creepy unblinking button eyes? Well, imagine that, only now there’s one staring at you while you poop because your daughter left one in the bathroom. It’s terrifying. If that thing decides to murder me I have no recourse but to scream and pray I don’t die mid-kerplop.

Being a father to one little girl means my life consists of mostly wading through piles of naked Barbie dolls and fairy wings. Seriously, what is it about the young female mind that causes them to immediately undress any and all dolls within reach? More importantly, why doesn’t this behavior carry over later in married life? “But Adam!” you might say, “Why play into all the stereotypes? Get her some boy toys to even things out!”

Don’t be an idiot.

First off, getting a girl boy toys in the hopes of “defying stereotypes” is a little bit like taking a man to women’s retreat and hoping he doesn’t look at boobs. Second, I have taken my daughter down the boy’s toy isle many times. Each time I hope, beyond hope, that she’ll want to buy a Transformer or a Star Wars figure or, heck, even a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger. But no. She regards boy toys with the same disdain that I have for country music and vegetables. I would be more than happy to buy her some boy toys if she wanted because – dang – playing ponies and creepy murder dolls is boring.

Usually when I play ponies or murder dolls I change my voice so that I sound like a life-long smoker or Batman. My daughter loves this. It’s still not terribly entertaining though. I have toyed with the idea of buying myself a Transformer just to see what kind of shenanigans Twilight Sparkle and Optimus Prime could get into. No doubt many lessons about friendship would be learned. Also tea parties. Tea parties with Optimas Prime. I can’t think of anything more awesome than that.