Thursday, November 29, 2007

The next exciting book in The Candy Bar Adventures series is here - March of the Evil Mard!

Though it took me a year longer than I had originally planned, my second book in The Candy Bar Adventures series is now available - March of the Evil Mard!!!! This book picks right up where The Battle of Caramel Castle left off, and I gotta say, you're going to be in for one twisting, turning, wild literary ride!

Initially, my new book will only be available through Lulu.com, but within the next few weeks or so, it should start showing up on the major sites such as Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, etc.

FYI: You can buy my first book through those sites now...just sayin'.


From the Back Cover of March of the Evil Mard:

The Candy Bar Adventures continue...

The "Battle of Caramel Castle" has ended, but a bigger battle is brewing!

While Carmelot rebuild Caramel Castle and mend fresh wounds, Zangela and Zongel return to Yumchewz to find that old wounds are about to reopen. Perhaps no greater wound will be suffered though than by our Hero Squad (Hersh, Mick, and Snick) when a sweet, mysterious confection enters their lives.

Meanwhile, Mard's unquenchable desire to be the richest, most famous, and most admired, will lead to a creation that could devastate the entire candy world - the Cookie Cutter!

New adventures will begin for all - and all will be shook to their candy core!

Our Hero Squad march toward an unseen danger...a danger formed from within.

Zangela and Zongel march toward hope...a hope wrought from despair.

And naive masses from every land in the candy world march toward a shared fate...a fate "cut" from a "common" mold.

The march toward a new battle has begun - deception, jealousy, and greed will lead the way...

MARCH OF THE EVIL MARD


Head on over to www.thecandybaradventures.com to find out more - read chapter previews, character profiles, even do a little colorin' and jigsaw puzzlin'! You can even read the original stories I wrote over 20 years ago as a kid - the stories which inspired this new The Candy Bar Adventures series.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

10 Songs I should probably be embarrassed to have on my iPod...but I'm not.

I was adding some new songs on to my iPod the other day, when I got to looking at my total song collection (current tally = 2,460 songs…just saying). I would say about 95% of it’s pretty “kickass”, and I would have no problem taking the ol’ iPod to the next big shindig, hooking it up to an external speaker system, and hitting shuffle for all to enjoy…however…that leaves about 5% of my collection that, if heard by family, friends, or total strangers, could leave me open to mocking, ridicule, and worst of all - bring my level of dudeness into question.

But ya know, the songs on my iPod are on there for more reasons than just being universal “kickass” rockers from various eras, or beat-breakin’, mixin’-n-scratchin’, old school delights. There are some songs that trigger great memories from my youth; have incredible vocal harmonies (I’m a sucker for great vocal harmonies); are brilliant masterpieces of human creativity; or just give me chills when I hear them (the good kind, not the scary kind)…and sometimes these songs are not by artists such as Elvis, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, etc., who get the universal “stamp of coolness”. Rather, they’re by artists who are universally seen as either uncool, or gender polarizing (i.e., fine for chicks to listen to, but not us fellas).

To that, I have two words – “Fuck” and “you” – put them together and you can make yourself a nice little (middle) finger sandwich – ‘cause if it’s pleasing to my ear, I’m listening to it!

So, here are 10 songs (in no particular order) I should probably be embarrassed to have on my iPod…but I’m not…(and that I could also find videos for on YouTube – love YouTube!)

ABBA – S.O.S.



Wait! Let me explain!: OK, I have just three words – “Hot”, “Swedish”, and “chicks” – put them together and you get “Hot Swedish chicks”! Who doesn’t love hot Swedish chicks?! Sure, they have songs that make me cringe – Dancing Queen I’m talking to you – but for the most part this group made incredible songs which featured: hot Swedish chicks, great vocal harmonies, great Phil Spector “Wall of Sound” production values, and once again, hot Swedish chicks. And how about a round of applause for the two guys in the group – they were married to the two hot Swedish chicks!

Fun fact: When I was around Kindergarten age, my mom had the 8-track of Abba’s Greatest Hits. I used to plug that into our groovy 8-track player, put on a pair of headphones that were bigger than my head, and play “air drums” to every song on that tape (and I played some wicked air drums back then). Yeah, Atari 2600 wasn’t around yet.

Mamas and the Papas – Dedicated to the One I Love



Wait! Let me explain!: Yep, another of the 2 guy, 2 gal groups. When some people think of the Mamas and the Papas, they probably just think “crazy hippies making hippie music”. Fair enough, I guess, but they had absolutely incredible vocal harmonies in their songs. Like I said, I’m a sucker for great vocal harmonies. I’ve got a lot of Mamas and the Papas on my iPod, and this song is one of my favorites. There are a couple of moments in this song, when all four hit a couple of notes together, that give me chills – it’s that good.

Little River Band - Reminiscing




Wait! Let me explain!: Not a big Little River Band fan, but damn, this is a great song! It kind of tells a story, it has lyrics that are easy to remember and sing along to (which I’ve been known to do), and, well, it’s just well constructed in all facets: lyrically, vocally, and musically.

Al Martino – Spanish Eyes



Wait! Let me explain!: This is simply a fantastic vocal performance – almost operatic in grandeur; and a “romantic” classic. If you can’t appreciate the vocal power of this song (you may want to introduce your ear to a Q-Tip), you should at least appreciate (and respect) the power of Al’s wicked Mafioso pinky ring in this video!

Tom Jones – Delilah




Wait! Let me explain!: When it comes to Tom Jones, I see the guy in two different lights. On the one hand, he’s kind of a cheesy Elvis-wannabe; but on the other hand, dude drove women to the point where they would throw their panties to him on stage during his concerts – “High-Five” my friend! This song has the same vocal grandness as the Al Martino song – which makes it humorous, in this video, to watch the “cool kids” trying to dance to a song not really made for dancing.

Juice Newton – Queen of Hearts



Wait! Let me explain!: This is a song that, I admit, is not the greatest song in the world – BUT – it is a song that transports me back in time whenever I hear it. In the early 80’s, when this song was popular, I would go to Iowa every summer to see my Grandma. When we were there, we would go to the County Fair – which featured one of my favorite things at the time – Truck and Tractor Pulls!!! Damn, those were awesome! You just haven’t lived until you’ve seen a tractor flip up in the air because it was trying to pull too much weight behind it!

Oak Ridge Boys – Elvira




Wait! Let me explain!: See same reason as above. Plus, how can anyone not think the “Oom-Papa-Oom-Papa-Mow-Mow” part kicks ass?! Oh, one more thing…this video has me a bit perplexed. Do you think the lead singer looks more like the “Master of Illuuuuuuusion” Doug Henning, or John Oates from Hall and Oates fame? I’m stumped.

Kajagoogoo – Too Shy



Wait! Let me explain!: Ya know, it’s just a classic cheesy 80’s song that I like. Actually, I probably should be embarrassed to have this song on my iPod. I could be wrong, but I believe it was after seeing this video that I got my first “spiked” haircut…I avoided ever getting a “Rat-tail” though…can’t say the same about getting parachute pants – oh, the horror.

Laura Branigan – Gloria



Wait! Let me explain!: Another cheesy song from the 80’s that defies explanation as to why I like it. Her voice has a bit of an operatic quality throughout which makes the vocal pop, and well, I can’t help it – I’ve always liked this song. So, screw off!

Liszt – Hungarian Rhapsody #2




Wait! Let me explain!: Oh classical music, the “uncoolest” of all uncool music – but not to me. I’ve got quite a few pieces of classical music on my iPod that aren’t just from the Star Wars saga. Hall of the Mountain King, Flight of the Valkyries, 1812 Overture, just to name a few, but my favorite is Hungarian Rhapsody #2. It’s just pure genius! It makes me marvel at what the human mind can conjure up. Though the version I have on my iPod is the full orchestral version of the song, the only videos I could find on YouTube were of the piano-only version…but this guy does a helluva job with it.

And there you have it…Ten songs I should probably be embarrassed to have on my iPod…but I’m not.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Sopranos Finale

After many years investing my time in "The Sopranos", it was time to cash out. The finale was much anticipated, especially considering the events taking place leading up to the finale.

But as the final moment of the final episode transpired, I, along with I'm sure millions of others who were watching, were left muttering - "What the hell?" or "Well, that was stupid!" or a combination of both.

I was left a little speechless. After all that time watching, that was the big finale?! That was my payout for all that time I had invested?!

Well, after several minutes of contemplating what had just transpired, I was left with one thought - "David Chase just made one of the most brilliant endings of any TV series!"

With so many people having so many theories of how this show should end; with so many other endings from other shows which could be copied; with so many people who could be let down by an ending that didn't suit their tastes; Chase went and created an ending for everyone!

How, you ask?

By letting the viewer create the ending in their own mind!

Depending on how each and every viewer sees the world, and depending on how events in each episode impacted that viewer over the years, will combine together and lead to the creation of whatever ending they create for themselves.

The way the ending was set up played on the aforementioned criteria brilliantly!

I'll explain (and if you haven't seen the episode yet - things are going to get a bit "spoiler-ish")...

The family gathers for a simple meal at a local diner (well, Meadow was a little late - but that works into the equation as well). A lone, older, white guy, comes in as well wearing a "USA" cap. The Italian guy with AJ gets up to go to the restroom as the ending gets nearer. A couple of African American/Middle Eastern looking guys walk in as well near the end. Also, as mentioned earlier, Meadow has a hard time getting her car parked which leads the viewer into thinking about all sorts of scenarios (depending on their outlook concerning the two criteria mentioned earlier). To top it off, Tony selects from the Jukebox, the song - "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey.

OK, here goes...

Depending on your view of the world and how you viewed events that took place in the series, what entered your mind when they would cut to the older white guy in the "USA" cap? Did you think he was an undercover law enforcer who was going to bust Tony? Did you think he might do something crazy and violent? Did you not think anything about him at all? I think it all depends on how you view the world and how events throughout the series impacted your thought process.

Depending on your view of the world and how you viewed events that took place in the series, what entered your mind when they showed the Italian guy that came with AJ, getting up (what looked like) to go to the restroom? Did you think he was going to betray the Soprano family? Did you think he was going to take out Tony right then and there? Did you not think anything about him at all? I think it all depends on how you view the world and how events throughout the series impacted your thought process.

Depending on your view of the world and how you viewed events that took place in the series, what entered your mind when they cut to the two young-ish African American/Middle Eastern-looking males walking into the diner? Did you think they were going to harm the Soprano family or Tony? Did you think they were going to blow up the diner? (This is where the thing with Meadow comes in - I have to admit, I thought the diner was going to blow up just as Meadow was crossing the street...so what does that say about me and my views on the world and how events throughout the series impacted my thought process? I guess a little prejudiced, actually, when it comes to my views on the world; and since Tony had been giving information to the Feds about the two Middle Eastern guys coupled with the way the whole scene was playing out, I thought the show might go out with a literal "BANG".) Did you not think anything about those two guys at all? I think it all depends on how you view the world and how events throughout the series impacted your thought process.

But the piece of brilliance that ties it all together is - the song. "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey.

With all the bad crap we see in our journey through this world - violence, greed, jealousy, deception, ignorance, etc.; with all the crap we saw happen to characters in their (and in a way, ours, as we watched) journey through the show - violence, greed, jealousy, deception, ignorance, etc.; at the end of the day, you just have to sit down with those that you love, enjoy the simple moments in life, and - "Don't stop believing". Don't stop believing that though there's a lot of crap in the world that can fertilize a bad outlook on the world and the people in it, it can also fertilize the growth of something good - it just depends on how you deal with the stench.

"Don't Stop Believing".
(A Journey song. Who would have thought?!)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

I need me a "slow clap" for my everyday achievements...

For some reason, I got to thinking about one of the greatest, cheezy, movie cliches of all time - the "slow clap". You know, it usually happens at the very end of the movie after the underdog has overcome all of his/her adversities to reign triumphant over all of the doubters and haters.

The locale of this shining moment usually involves a generic gathering place (school hallway, school cafeteria, school gymnasium, school sports field, school drama stage, school...yard, school...well, hell, you get the idea) where the new hero is usually surrounded by a huge crowd of people - the same crowd who never believed in him/her.

Next, the feel-good speech of the year(!) is delivered by either the new hero or the one person who always believed in the new hero. As the sentimental music begins, the speech usually retraces the new hero's just completed arduous journey, pointing out the misgivings of the doubters and haters along the way; add a dash of self-introspection by the new hero him/herself; a dollop of moral righteousness; shake well with a few tear drops as the music swells to an inspirational crescendo; and then - you'll hear it - *clap*...*clap*...*clap*-*clap* (builds a little more) *clap*-*clap**clap**clap* (builds even more!) *Clap**CLap**CLAp**CLAP-CLAP-CLAP-CLAP* (until its a full-blown orgasmic) - *APPLAUSE!* "YEAH!!!!!"

Someone else must have felt the same love for the "slow clap" as I do, so much in fact, they created this great compilation clip.

*cue inspirational music*

A clip nobody thought could or should be compiled.

A clip, still awkward and small when it was first being compiled, was laughed at and mocked by all the compilation clips featuring the superstars of sports.

A clip rejected by all the compilation clips featuring hot bikini models.

Well, I tell you what popular, strong, and beautiful compilation clips, this compilation clip learned a lot about itself and the whole world of compilation clips...

*Play that John Tesh-esque inspirational tune loud!*

Every little clip is special in its own way, and when those clips are assembled with just such a belief, it can be as popular, strong, and beautiful as any other clip compilation out there!

*clap*...*clap*...*clap*-*clap*-*clap*..."YEAH!"



But ya know, there are times when I'd love to have a "slow clap" waiting for me after hurdling life's little obstacles.

Example A:

As Marty Schottenheimer knows, "taking the Browns all the way to the Super Bowl" isn't always an easy task (well, impossible actually if you're poor Marty...but I digress). So, after trying Three or Four times to drop the Deuce, I'd love to hear a little appreciation for my efforts.

I'll set the scene...Toilet flushes; looking down humbly, I emerge victorious from the "room of doom" wiping a bead of sweat from my brow; I look up; a crowd has gathered in my hallway; I shriek like a little girl (I mean, c'mon, there's a crowd of strangers in my hallway!); they look at me like I'm a Superstar; and then...

*clap*....*clap*...*clap*...."YEAH!"

Example B:

I am not a morning person! The alarm clock is my mortal enemy. With the advent of the "Snooze" button, however, the alarm clock and I were able to broker a fragile truce. Rarely have I ever been able to awaken early in the morning without looking to that magical button of procrastination for a few more moments of restful grace. So, when I do awaken on the inaugural buzz, I'd love to hear a little appreciation for my efforts.

I'll set the scene...5AM (in reality, about 10 'til 5 because I purposely set my clock ahead 10 minutes to avoid being late...yeah, I'm clever). I'm sleeping cozily under my blanky, dreaming sweet dreams of a hot chick who actually doesn't point and laugh, who doesn't make the universal sign for "P.U." with her hand and nose, and who doesn't get physically nauseous when I look in her direction in contemplation of starting a conversation with her (yeah, dreams are great!) - when I hear - the dreaded "EH-EH-EH-EH!" of the alarm clock! (Side Note: Have you ever noticed that the buzz of an alarm clock sounds eerily similar to Fran Dresher's laugh? Coincidence? Meh, probably.)

Anyway, I spring out of bed without the help of the "Grand Snooze-bah" and voila! - a crowd is gathered at my bedside! I shriek like a little girl (again, crowd of strangers in my bedroom - freaky!); look to see if there are any hot chicks in the crowd - yes, but they give the "P.U." sign - the rest look at me like I'm a Superstar; and then...

*clap*....*clap*...*clap*...."YEAH!"

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Question: Is there a better TV intro. than this one? Answer: No

Grand TV intro's. They're an endangered species nowadays. Maybe a quick flash of the actors/actresses names, the creator's name, title (sometimes), maybe even a licensed song. But I remember a time, a time as a young boy in the late 70's and early-mid 80's when just about every TV show had a full blown intro. with original music and everything. A little 30 - 90 second "welcome back" every week just for Me, the TV viewer.

I wax nostalgic at this time, because, well, it's easier than waxing my truck! (*Pause for uncontrollable laughter*....mmmkay, then). But seriously folks, I wax nostalgic because I realize just how lucky I was to grow up during a time of such great craftsmanship.

No better craftsmanship was displayed than what those gifted editing masterminds forged into the greatest TV intro, ever - The Six Million Dollar Man.

That dang thing just gets cooler and cooler as the years go by! Everytime I see it, I want to drop everything that I'm doing and watch a full episode right then and there. But then I realize - it's not the 70's anymore...and the dang show has yet to come out on Region 1 DVD. Sure, the folks over in Europe get to watch all The Six Million Dollar Man they want on their fancy-Euro Region 2 DVD's, but I, a tax-paying, law-abiding American, cannot yet re-live the exploits of one Steve Austin! Where is the justice in that?...where, I ask you, where?!

I mean, I still have my Steve Austin doll - er - action figure with red jumpsuit! And, yeah, I'll admit it, I still like to look through the little Bionic Eye peephole on the back of his head while making the Bionic Eye's Bionic Magnifying sound! Yeah - I'm still that cool!....and, um, yeah, I'm still that single...*ahem*.

Anyhoo, while I'm on topic, coming in a close 2nd on my "Great TV Show Intro's" list is the one for a little cartoon known as - Battle of the Planets! Between this epic opening and the one for the original (and still superior) Battlestar Galactica, I was able to satisfy my Star Wars pangs during 1978 - a year in which my little 4-year old mind could not yet fathom such great inventions as: Cable TV, VCR's, DVD's, and high-speed Internet, in which I could watch all the Star Wars I could handle.

There are many more great TV intro's I could rave about, from the 70s' Starsky and Hutch, Emergency!, CHiPs, The Jeffersons, Good Times, Charlie's Angels, Fantasy Island, Happy Days, Three's Company, Eight is Enough, Dallas, Buck Rogers; transitioning into the 80s' Dukes of Hazzard, Diff'rent Strokes, Facts of Life, Silver Spoons, A-Team, The Greatest American Hero, MacGyver, Cheers, Family Ties, Growing Pains, etc.

But there's one show that stands out above the rest in this "Best of the Rest" lot...a show that set sail in the 70's and finally docked after many hot-to-trot voyages in the 80's - yes, I think you're expecting them, because - "...they're expecting youuuuuuuu" - The Love Boat!

I mean, c'mon! You get a classic, cheesy theme song (is there a better karaoke song for people who can't sing? - no, because how can you make the song any worse?), and perhaps one of the greatest moments in TV history - the coolest bartender ever, Isaac, whipping out the "six shooters"! Hell yeah! The dual "six shooter" quick-draw is still in my personal repertoire - see a hot chick? "six shooters"; see one of your buds in the pub? "six shooters"; knock over an old grumpy waiter with your cool Euro friends, yet earning a smile from the old gruff at the end? "six-sh-" well, actually, that's a "Mentos Moment", but anyway...

Bring back the lost art of the full-fledged TV intro. Like silence, they're golden...and I'd like to grab me a nugget.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I actually enjoyed an MLS match

I decided to give the MLS another try this season since I knew more Kansas City Wizards games were going to be available on TV. Plus, I was interested to see if the MLS were trying anything new in the presentation department in this "the year of Beckham". Well, nothing in the presentation department stood out, but I gotta tell ya, KC looked fantastic in winning 4-2!

The Wizards and DC United played a wonderfully exciting, fast-paced game throughout! There were 3 goals scored in the first 11 minutes of the game! Also, though the field conditions were slippery and sloppy from the almost continuous downpour of rain, the play between the two teams was anything but sloppy (for the most part).

KC's #1 Draft Pick, Michael Harrington, scored with his first shot on goal just a few minutes into the game, making his goal (according to Omar Garriot's recap for MLSnet.com) "...the fastest in MLS history for a player making his league debut". The left-winger, Harrington, would later add a sweet cross toward a teammate near goal, but that shot was denied.

Midfielders Sasha Victorine and Davy Arnaud were a constant presence throughout, feeding the ball to the very impressive and speedy duo of Forwards - Eddie Johnson and Scott Sealy. Sealy is frickin' fast, but Johnson was just plain awesome last night! Though never a fan of MLS, I was thrilled when we traded for Johnson last year as I had seen him play for the US National Team and had been very impressed. His form, unfortunately, was pretty lackluster last year for both the Wizards and the National Team. It's great to see him back on track...though I wonder how long it will take before some of the big European clubs take notice and entice him over there?

All in all, I was surprisingly impressed and entertained by the product on the field last night. I look forward to the next Wizards game now, and heck, I might become an MLS fan after all.

Though, on a sidenote, I have to make this comment: Does KC really still need to call themselves the Wizards? How about something more traditional like KC FC (Kansas City Football Club)? Or at the very least change the logo to something a little cooler than a soccer ball with a frickin' rainbow shooting out the back of it! I mean, do we really need a Wizard of Oz connection to the sports team?

Monday, April 9, 2007

Hooligans - The Untold Story...A Panorama/BBC Documentary on Freemoviescinema.com

So, after seeing Grindhouse on Friday (awesome movie! I enjoyed Planet Terror more than Death Proof...Death Proof was a little too "talky" at times) I was in the mood to see some schlocky 70's/early 80's flicks.

I remembered a few websites that offered free downloads or streaming viewing of movies that were now in the public domain. I had downloaded some old B-grade 60's horror movies from these sites before. Well, one such site I checked out was freemoviescinema.com. While I did find a couple of movies I might want to download, what I got stuck on was the site's Documentaries section. In particular, a Panorama documentary, broadcast on the BBC, titled Hooligans - The Untold Story.

Being a soccer fan, in particular a fan of English and German soccer, I decided to check it out. This particular documentary shines a disturbing light not on the club-level hooliganism which is rather common throughout many parts of the world, but rather the nationalist-inspired hooliganism which took place at last summer's World Cup in Germany.

Man, this was quite a fascinating documentary! From what I had seen on TV here in the U.S., everything was just one big, happy-go-lucky party during the World Cup; with only brief mentions of hooligans that were more-or-less detained before anything hit the fan. Well, as this documentary graphically shows, this was not entirely the case.

Turns out there was quite a contingent of hooligans from England who were looking not only for a place to drink beer and cheer their country on in Germany, but were looking to raise a little hell as well...um, actually a lot of hell. You know how you'll be at a party or at a bar and there's almost always "that one guy" who has too much to drink and then thinks he can kick everyone's ass (usually because he's trying to impress some chick(s); and since he has no real personality he does the only thing he knows how to do to get the ladies' attention...which, sadly, there's usually one dumb chick who will fall for the act and give him her attention - thus proving people are just like any other primitive animal on the planet...but I digress)? Well, take "that one guy" and multiply him by a couple hundred or so. Craziness!

Though the documentary mainly focused on the shenanigans brought about by the English hooligans against (primarily) the German fans, it also focused slightly on the rivalry between the German and Polish hooligans (Germany faced Poland in the World Cup). What was interesting in both cases, was that none of the clashes really had anything to do with soccer itself (or football as it is called outside of the U.S.) but seemed to have everything to do with old World War II-era hostilities. It was really fascinating to hear what was coming out of the mouths of the drunken English hooligans. Even more fascinating was the fact that groups of German and Polish soccer hooligans routinely schedule all out brawls against one another on vacant soccer fields!

This was a very interesting documentary to say the least. If you're interested in the soccer counter-culture (as I'll call it), or if you're just interested in the Sociological, Anthropological, or Psychological fields, this documentary makes great study material and is well worth the 60-minute viewing time.

Monday, April 2, 2007

KC Royals Game 1 Recap: A Royal Open to the 2007 Season!

I'm sporting a very satisfied "cat that just ate the canary" grin as I write this...

What a great start to the season! We showed the ESPN, er, Boston Red Sox that things are a little different here in KC this year. We have club leadership that demands professionalism and players that are committed to showing it on the field. I make a point of mentioning that at the onset because what I particularly noticed from the Royals today was - professionalism.

Every player out there not only carried themself as a real big leaguer, but they all had their head in the game for the full 9-innings. I've bled "Royal Blue" since I was a kid watching Brett chase .400 in 1980, so it was real nice to finally see a team that was bleeding the same color as me, and showing pride in wearing the Royals uniform. My hometown team just looked like they belonged on the field today more than the Red Sox from Boston...oh, what a nice change!

If I could give a "King's Crown" to one player today, I would have to give it to...two players - Gil Meche and Mark Grudzielanek.

Meche survived a shaky 1st-inning to cruise on into the 8th, showing the scoffing national sports media (paging ESPN and SI) and nervous Royals fans (paging, um, Me) that he has the stuff and know-how to be a staff Ace. My hat's off to you today fellow Northlander; it goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that I would love to see more starts like this throughout the season!

Grudz not only made a surprise recovery from Spring knee surgery to start today's game, but showed why he earned a 2006 Gold Glove Award, along with a great day at the plate. Grudz is a model number 2 hitter in the lineup - consistent contact and smart placement of his hits. He adapts his hitting to the situation rather than making the situation adapt to his hitting - that equals great clutch hitter, great team guy. A Gold Glove for 2006 was nice, but how about a Batting Crown for 2007?

Other notable performances today included Tony Pena Jr. and his 2 deja-vu triples and great play in the field (the surprise trade acquisition from about a week and a half ago); John Buck calling a solid game and hitting a regal shot over the 410 sign in center; strong line-drive hitting from Mike Sweeney (stay healthy!); and Joel Peralta showing real cajones in relief by striking out both David Ortiz to end the 8th and Man-Ram to start the 9th.

Speaking of Manny Ramirez, that guy just really reminded me of Randy Moss today. Both players are capable of brilliance in their respective sports, but when things aren't going their way, they both just seem to go fetal and shut it down rather than push on to turn it around. Here's to hoping the Royals pitchers can keep Man-Ram in fetal mode!

One last note: while as a fan I was excited like the 41,000+ at Kauffman Stadium today when Alex Gordon stepped up to the plate for his first MLB at-bat with the bases loaded in the 1st-inning - BUT - at the same time I felt bad for the kid. He's been hyped up as a future superstar and the second-coming of George Brett, and then to be faced with that scenario for his 1st at-bat?! Shoooooot! Facing Curt Schilling, bases-loaded, an SRO crowd collectively standing in anticipation of the new "saviour" to hit a storybook grand-slam to get his MLB career started - man! Tough stuff. Though Gordon may not admit it, you could tell he was trying to hit anything that came close into the strike zone out onto I-70! Hey, I don't blame him, but the nerves and adrenaline had to be shooting through him something fierce - that combination can wreak havoc on even the best of concentration levels. Tough day at the plate for him today, but he'll have his fair share of ESPN highlights this year (of course, he'll probably have to be playing against Boston or New York to make it on their highlights...geez.)

Way to go Blue! The "Royal Turn-Around" starts today!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Diorama: Silverchair Gold from 2002


I tell ya, nothing more timely than a 2007 review on a 2002 album!

As I eagerly anticipate the upcoming release of Silverchair's first album in 5 years (titled Young Modern), I thought I might take a step back and share my thoughts on what I think is not only their best album, but one of the best albums by any group...Ev-ah! <--Hey, how 'bout that wacky spelling of the word "ever"...yeah, I'm still pretty hip.

After three albums of ever-evolving music, Silverchair mixed together everything great about those first three albums, added a heaping dollop of 1970's Queen-esque grandiose, and created an ever-fresh batch of ear candy. (As a matter of fact, I listened to the whole album (for the ba-jillionth time) this very morning on my trusty ol' iPod...which pretty much inspired me to write this post...but I digress (have you noticed that digressing forces you to use a lot of parentheses and ellipses?)...hmmm).

Seriously, not only did they add a heaping dollop of Queen-esque goodness, I think they channeled the creative spirit of Freddie Mercury himself from the afterlife. Ya know, you hear a lot of rock bands say stuff like "yeah, we're spending extra time in the studio to do something really special and ambitious...a lot like those old Queen albums" when they try to make an album that's creative and different from the norm...BUT, what usually happens is that they cut one or two tracks that sound like cheesy Bohemian Rhapsody ripoffs, and totally miss the mark on what made the Queen-sound so unique.

The studio pairing of Van Dyke Parks with Silverchair for Diorama created musical brilliance not heard since Roy Thomas Baker paired up with Queen to make their gems in the '70s. The elaborate orchestrations, vocal harmonies mixed in perfect unison with melodic music, and occasional crunching guitar riff, truly makes sweet music to one's ear. However, if you only know Silverchair from their 1995 grunge-rockin' debut album, Frogstomp, you may or may not be pleasantly surprised - as the first track on Diorama is not like anything heard on that album...

Track 1: Across the Night - The opening track let's you know right away that this is not like any of the other Silverchair albums. Lead-singer, Daniel John's vocals on this song are fantastic - especially when the song changes pace near the end - as the sweeping orchestration crescendos, John's vocals match and exceed the musical backing in such an impressive way, you'll fight the urge to give your music player a standing ovation upon conclusion.
Rating: Brilliant!

Track 2: The Greatest View - The brilliance continues in this track, as they very subtly throw everything but the kitchen sink into this song (I swear I hear banjo before the second chorus...no cowbell though). Great vocals belt out uplifting lyrics while crunching guitar softly underlines this musical concoction, as it patiently waits to roar to the forefront in the form of a kickass riff (one which Jimmy Page would even be envious of) each time after the chorus.
Rating: Brilliant!

Track 3: Without You - Guitars rage in the background, mixing with a thundering drumbeat in the foreground, to create a sonic thunderstorm that envelops what is really just your standard radio fare power ballad, but it's still a great song. Once again, vocals are great with a few changes of pace thrown in for good measure.
Rating: Excellent

Track 4: World Upon Your Shoulders - If there is one "meh" song on this album, it would be this one (in my opinion). It's not a bad song mind you (it even has a bit of Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here-sounding guitar diddlin') , but when compared to every other incredible track on this album, it just seems a little vanilla. There is a neat little musical and vocal interlude in the middle of the song that adds a little spice though.
Rating: Good

Track 5: One Way Mule - If there's a song on this album that even comes close to mirroring the hard rockin' grunge sound of their debut album, it would be this track. However, even this rockin' tune has some great harmonies and melodic sophistication to it.
Rating: Excellent

Track 6: Tuna in the Brine - Ah man, this is THE ONE!!! This is Silverchair's Bohemian Rhapsody (although it might actually pair closer with March of the Black Queen) and Stairway to Heaven all rolled into one. If I were to make a Top 10 list of my all-time favorite songs, this one would be in the top 5! This song is a perfectly orchestrated wall of sound - emotional vocals, perfect harmonies, and just a fantastic sweeping scope!
Rating: Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant x 100!!! (yeah, I kinda like this song)

Track 7: Too Much of Not Enough - Fantastic rocker that sounds like it could be the lovechild of The Greatest View and One Way Mule. The matching bassline and guitar riff leading into the chorus frickin' rocks!
Rating: Brilliant!

Track 8: Luv Your Life - A sweeping, symphonic ballad - yet with acoustic undertones - is this one. Classic lyrical moment - "I don't pay for sanity, but sanity don't come cheap". If you don't find yourself singing, or at least humming, along to this one then you just don't appreciate good music. This song sounds like a late-era Beach Boys and Beatles conglomeration (the Van Dyke Parks influence perhaps?).
Rating: Brilliant!

Track 9: Lever - Straight-ahead rocker that reminds me a little of their song, The Door, off their 2nd album - Freak Show. The guitar riff throughout the song sounds like lightning bolts - lightning bolts shooting out of Emperor Palpatine's hands at the end of Return of the Jedi!
Rating: Excellent

Track 10: My Favourite Thing - Another ballad-esque song...again, outstanding vocals and harmonies. I wouldn't say this song is "my favourite thing" (ahhhhh!...yeah...that was clever), but it is a damn fine thing!
Rating: Excellent

Track 11: After All These Years - Now, this song is a straight-ahead mellow ballad - however, it too features the great symphonic orchestrations like the rest of the album. It's one of those songs that makes you feel like you should be sitting and reflecting on your life...can't say that I actually have, but ya know, I'm just saying that's what it makes you feel like.
Rating: Brilliant!

Simply, one of the greatest albums I've ever heard. It will make you thankful for having two functional ears.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Kansas City Royals 2007 Projections - Let's Go Blue!

Well, the Super Bowl is over with and now that Peyton Manning has finally won "the big one", I fear we're all going to see even more bad commercials with him sporting a cheesy porn 'stache.

Cripes.

So, to block out that bit of future dread, I'm going to focus instead on my beloved Kansas City Royals and their upcoming season...a prospect usually filled with a heaping dose of dread all it's own.

This year is going to be different though...I can feel it!*
(*Disclaimer: I've had the same feeling before every season since '97)

I mean, c'mon, how can the Royals not be better this year? If they got any worse they would be record-breaking bad, and I don't think the new leadership under Dayton Moore will allow that to happen.

Just this last off-season, the Royals - I repeat, the Kansas City Royals - outbid other teams for one of the market's big free agents. Sure, some analysts (by "some analysts" I mean the Red Sox, er, I mean, ESPN baseball analysts) are scoffing at us for shelling out $55 million for Gil Meche, but hell, I don't care! The Royals actually went out and outbid other teams for a player still in his prime! And why do I get the feeling that if the Red Sox, Yankees, or Cubs would have picked up Meche, all of those same scoffing ESPN analysts would have their noses even further up those respective teams' GM's ass for coming through with such a great acquisition?...yeah, thanks for the continued un-biased nationwide coverage guys. (yeah, the last bit of that sentence was sarcasm, I hope you picked up on it).

Anyhoo, I'm also glad they kept Buddy Bell on. I've had differing feelings about him since he was hired - at times I think he's great, at other times I'm wishing we would have given Frank White a shot at the Manager's job. However, after watching and reading about Bell go through his cancer ordeal this past offseason, I'm in full support of the guy; and I hope every player putting on a Royals jersey this spring puts forth a little extra effort for their skipper. Buddy's a good baseball guy and I'd like to see him have some real success.

Now, before I go into my picks for the Royals lineup and pitching staff, I'd like to give my prediction on their record...ok, *takes a deep breath* here goes:
85 Wins, 77 Losses - good for 3rd place in the AL Central behind Detroit and Cleveland in a tight division that I think will see either Chicago or Minnesota go through a surprisingly bad season...why do I think that?...I really don't know - just a weird hunch. You may now commence to throw stones in my direction.


Starting Lineup
1. David DeJesus - CF: Great kick-start to the offense, DeJesus MUST stay healthy! May spend some time in LF if Joey Gathright makes the roster.
2. Mark Grudzielanek - 2B: Gold Glove winner in 2006, and to be honest I'm shocked he signed on for another year with us...I'm happy he did though. Look for strong-hitting Esteban German to spend some time at 2B as well.
3. Mark Teahan - LF: Yeah, I think Teahan will be moved to LF because I think Alex Gordon will make the Opening Day roster. Even though Teahan is coming off shoulder surgery, he deserves the number 3-spot unless someone takes it from him. When I watched him hit last year, I actually found myself comparing him to George Brett...yeah, I couldn't believe it either. If he doesn't let the move to the outfield adversely affect him, he could have a HUGE year at the plate - and the Royals better get their checkbook ready if he does.
4. Mike Sweeney - DH: Depending on how Spring Training goes, Sweeney should see a return to the cleanup spot. It's hard to say yet though if all the injuries to his back and neck have sapped significant power from his swing. If he can't slug like he did before his numerous injuries, I would slip him down to the 6-spot and bat Emil Brown 4th.
5. Emil Brown - RF: Emil has silently put up pretty darn good back-to-back seasons at the plate. I'm still not sold on his fielding, but he should be adequate in RightField. I would play Emil in RF and Teahan in LF, as I think it would be an easier move for Teahan to LF since he played 3B and the ball coming off the bat should look somewhat the same out in LF...or really deep 3B. :)
6. Ryan Shealy - 1B: When the Royals picked up Shealy last year we kept hearing that he can put up both huge power numbers and +.300 average. Well, I'm eager to see what he can do over the course of a full season playing every day. Look for new-signee Ross Gload to spell Shealy from time to time.
7. Alex Gordon - 3B: Officially, the Royals aren't saying that Gordon is a lock to make the Opening Day roster, but, c'mon, unless he forgets how to play the game this Spring he'll be at 3B. Not only did he win just about every award that a Minor Leaguer can win last year, but during the previous Spring Training with the club he hit +.300 and impressed his big-league teammates not just with his skill but also with his great demeanor in the clubhouse. Gordon has speed to go with his hitting which makes him a great 7-spot guy in the lineup, and he could very well challenge Teahan for the number 3-spot. He's going to be exciting to watch.
8. John Buck - C: This could very well end up being recent signing Jason LaRue's everyday spot, but I think Buck will retain the starting job. I don't think he's even come close to reaching his potential at the plate, as the emphasis for him has been to help cultivate a young pitching staff...not an easy task as a young guy himself. But hey, he'll be 27 this year and he has a few years under his belt, so it's time for a breakout year.
9. Angel Berroa - SS: Aw geez, where do I start with Angel? Supposedly he's been rededicating himself to get back to the same form that saw him win the Rookie of the Year award in 2003...he frickin' better because he was an absolute disaster last year. Just a little reminder for ya Angel - baseball games are 9-innings long and you need to be alert for every inning of them! If Berroa should falter, and Andres Blanco is once again fully healthy - I would love to see Blanco playing everyday.

Bench
Ross Gload - 1B/OF
Jason LaRue - C
Esteban German - IF/OF
Reggie Sanders - OF...although I really hope we can trade Sanders as this would open up a spot for presumably either Joey Gathright or Shane Costa. I would give the edge to Gathright because of his awesome speed.
Andres Blanco - 2B/SS...although veteran Alex Gonzalez could start out the season with the big club until Blanco is fully healed.

Starting Rotation
1. Gil Meche - The $55 million dollar man better step up and pitch like a #1 guy. Stat that makes me hopeful he will do the job - fewer hits allowed than innings pitched over the course of his career...I like that. Would like to see him cut down on the walks though.
2. Odalis Perez - Supposedly will battle Meche for the Ace role. I could see him slip to the #4 spot though. I'll need to see him have a good Spring Training before I get excited.
3. Brian Bannister - Picked up from the Mets in the offseason, I'm excited about this guy. I believe you need your most stable and consistent pitcher in the #3 spot because it's usually the transition point between your 2 "big guys" at the top, and the 2 "not sure, but hopeful" guys at the bottom of the rotation. I believe Bannister will be that "steady eddie" guy.
4. Luke Hudson - The Royals brass seem to really like this guy in the rotation. I'm not completely sold, but he should be a good fit at #4. Scott Elarton is expected back in June or July, so he could be taking Hudson's spot if he's not cutting it at that time.
5. Jorge DeLaRosa/Jimmy Gobble - Both have experience as starters but I prefer both in the long relief role. I could see the two of them sharing the #5 spot, however, the one wild card in this situation is how Zack Grienke does in Spring Training and if whether or not he's more interested in Starting or Relief.

Bullpen
Jimmy Gobble - Long/Middle Relief - I feel he's a better reliever than starter.
Joakim Soria - Middle Relief/Setup - Rule 5 pick will either be extremely great or extremely bad...key word there is extreme. He will be interesting to watch.
Ken Ray - Middle Relief - Dayton Moore brought him over from the Braves, so he must have faith in him...I guess we will have to as well.
John Bale - Middle Relief - Left-hander from Japan...we'll see. Could see Zack Greinke take this spot.
David Riske - Setup - Great offseason signing (not very "riske" if you ask me - ah-ha-ha-ha - yeah...I went there)...please keep up the great pitching for us!!!
Octavio Dotel - Closer - Please don't get hurt! I think the Royals will actually need a closer this year so please pitch good!

Others who could make the Bullpen: Ryan Braun (I'd like to see him make the team - wicked stuff!); Joe Nelson (Had a surprisingly good year last year); Joel Peralta; Todd Wellemeyer; Dewon Brazelton; Zach Day; Wayne Franklin

Well, those are my thoughts...Spring Training starts in full on February 22, 2007!!!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Candy Bar Adventures: The Battle of Caramel Castle, receives some great compliments from a Writer's Digest Awards panel judge

Received a cool piece of mail yesterday...Last year I had entered The Battle of Caramel Castle in Writer's Digest's 14th Annual International Self-Published Book Awards. Well, I had already found out that I hadn't won in the category I had entered or the Overall award, so I took it like any "good sport" would and dejectedly mumbled - "I bet they didn't even read my dang book! How could I have not won anything?!"

Turns out though my book did get read and judged, as not only did I receive my Certificate for participating in the Awards competition (Yeah, I know - whoop-dee-do!), but I was also sent the Judge's Score/Commentary Sheet. Upon reading said Commentary Sheet, I instantly swelled with pride as the judge's comments really gave me a nice shot of confidence! Read the scanned image below:

So, basically if it wasn't for my rather plain cover design (and I'm sure my somewhat lame artwork on the back) I might have won a dang award! Ah, oh well - I just care about the quality of my writing and story-telling, and it seems I really did quite well! I know my cover design and art skills are below par, but the writing is what matters most to me, and I have to admit, it felt really good to read such complimentary remarks.

And you know, I think I may just take that judge's advice and start submitting my book (and the next one when I have it finished) to the major publishers. Perhaps they could team me up with a professional cover designer and pump a little promotional clout into these books - then who knows? - maybe The Candy Bar Adventures series could finally hit the big time!

Though a poor cover (packaging) prevented my book from possibly winning an award, it just goes to show - You can't judge a book by its cover!!!!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Memo to MLS: Beckham signing alone won't make league a success

Ok, judging by the title it probably seems as if I'm about to start bashing the sport of soccer. On the contrary, I'm a big fan of the sport...so much so in fact, I've even caught myself calling it football instead of soccer (the international folks would be proud). I would love to see MLS become a huge, long-standing success.

The problem is that although Beckham coming to MLS will definitely bring some great publicity to the league, it's just one small step forward in the overall scheme of things. You see, MLS will only have the spotlight temporarily. Beckham's first game with the L.A. Galaxy won't be until August (hopefully he won't get injured in the meantime), and while his first game definitely will capture the spotlight, unless he starts scoring hat-tricks every game, the spotlight will fade very quickly (in America anyway). The number one reason?...the almighty NFL will be gearing up for their regular season opener as September begins, and "that other football" will soon revert back to the shadows.

If MLS think that the signing of Beckham alone will automatically have a NASCAR-esque effect on its popularity, they're sadly mistaken. They need to use this temporary spotlight wisely and kickoff revolutionary changes for their league and the sport of soccer in America!

In my opinion, MLS needs improvement on three fronts: Marketing, Infrastructure, and League Dynamics. I'm only going to detail some Marketing ideas, otherwise this will be the longest blog post in history.

Reader's Digest format for the other two:
Infrastructure = soccer specific stadiums for all teams; build up NCAA soccer programs so that they rival football and basketball - high profile college stars going to MLS will keep interest in MLS (similar to football and basketball)
League Dynamics = expanding MLS to enough cities (maybe 30 or so) so that two divisions of 15 teams could be created and conducted similar to other soccer leagues around the world (see English Premiership & English Championship)that feature relegation and promotion between the two divisions - i.e. the regular season needs to mean something; join with Mexican and South American leagues to create Cup competitions similar to those in Europe. (UPDATE: 1-14-07...Found out about a Superliga tournament between MLS and Mexican teams this July - ok, MLS, good start...but we need our own Champions League type tournament as well.)

Marketing MLS and soccer correctly to the American audience would benefit the sport more than 20 Beckham signings ever could. Soccer in America is widely seen as a sport for kids. If grown men are playing it, they are seen as wimpy sissy-men. Now, this is not my personal view as, like I stated earlier, I'm a big fan of the sport. However, I do prefer watching the English Premier League because it's more gritty, intense, and here's the big factor - diving is seen as dishonorable.

The average American male does not want to be thought of as weak or dishonorable, so as such, we do not even want to be associated with anything that is weak or dishonorable (unless of course women think those things are cool and thus would increase our chances of getting laid). When most American males think of soccer (those who don't follow the sport), they think of some foreigner (sad, but true) falling to the ground as if he's been shot though he's hardly been touched (aka diving), writhing around on the ground in "pain" for what seems like an eternity, only to pop back onto the field a few moments later as if nothing happened. That type of display is both weak and dishonorable in the eyes of the American male - and more importantly - the American male sportsfan.

Also, the average American male does not like a "prettyboy" - "prettyboys" get all the hot chicks while either looking or doing things that aren't entirely masculine (I think you know what I mean by that) - which gives the average male 2 big reasons not to like them. Though anyone who has watched soccer from around the world knows that the majority of soccer players do not look or act like "prettyboys" - poll the average American male sportsfan and he will more than likely tell you otherwise. Signing Beckham, perhaps the ultimate "prettyboy" in the eyes of many American male sportsfans, will definitely NOT help to squash that stigma. Chicks will dig him of course, but screaming teeny-bopper girls will not turn the MLS into a respected and hugely successful sports league. However, market MLS players in a way so that they come across just as cool, tough, and brave as top NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB players and NASCAR drivers - the "prettyboy" stigma will largely disappear.

Additionally, when most American sportsfans think of soccer they think of scores that end 0-0, 1-0, 1-1. Games that end in a tie are a bad enough concept to deal with, but 0-0?! Why would the American viewer sit and watch (or pay hard earned money to go see) something that will most likely not feature much scoring, if any, and/or result with no winner and no loser?

Soccer is a sport that is largely not respected and/or not understood (and to some extent each being the cause of the other). Fix those two things, and soccer could rise like Nascar has in recent years; like the NBA did in the early 80's; and like the NFL (yes, even the NFL wasn't always "Mr. Popular") did in the early 70's. Baseball is pretty much the only sport that has always been rather consistent - long called "America's Pastime" its history is rooted as deep here as soccer is in the rest of the world.

Because of this, MLS will need to create a new public image for their league and soccer. Soccer players need to be presented as noble warriors who won't fall to the ground and whimper at the slightest touch like a 3-year old who doesn't want to take a nap; MLS players will fight and claw their way on the field of battle as they march toward the ultimate goal - a, um, GOAL!!! They will fight on though in pain, though bleeding, though tired - they will battle for the pride of their club and the city that club represents. They play as honorable men, playing to become champions!

If marketed correctly, the average male sportsfan will come to respect the players and the sport, even if the score ends 0-0 (well, ok, a 0-0 scoreline is still a tough proposition to sell).

Presentation and atmosphere could help overcome the above scoreline problem though. NFL games in America have a similar crowd atmosphere as soccer does in the rest of the world - it's one big rockin' party where most people also understand and appreciate the game. People need some reason to go to the game - they need a reason to be excited (this is where Beckham will initially help); people watching at home will have to feel this excitement as well - this is where smart presentation comes into play.

One of the biggest gripes about soccer (as a sport, players not factored) in America is that it is slow and boring. Well, people griped about baseball being slow and NASCAR being boring, but FOX Sports helped to change that with quick-cut editing, unique camera angles, numerous replays, and other flash. MLS should try a little of this to see if it will change the "slow and boring" perception, as well as enhance the excitment of the stadium atmosphere.

I've got some other Marketing ideas, but I'm too damn tired of writing right now so I'll just leave with this - signing Beckham was an exciting first step, but it has to be seen within MLS as just that - a first step. Create a league that is competitive at a high-level comparable to Europe and South America; infuse what is considered a foreign sport with classic American ideals and philosophies to make it feel more American; players that are widely known and respected and well-paid in line with the other major league sports...then "primetime" players will be more likely to come from all over the world to play in the MLS (and more importantly, young American males will aspire to become MLS stars in the same numbers as the other major sports).

Who knows, someday even MLS Fantasy leagues could compete in popularity with NFL Fantasy leagues - that's when you'll really know soccer and MLS have succeeded in America!

Monday, January 8, 2007

Arcade's Next Generation?

As most video game enthusiasts know, the Arcade is all but dead in the U.S. - has been for some time. Yes, that magical place which drained my weekly allowance one quarter at a time throughout my childhood in the 80's, may just have a chance at revitalization for a new generation of gamers.

The GameDaily BIZ website (a great website by the way, which I read - well...daily) is featuring an interesting article today about a movie theater in Madrid, Spain, converting one of its screens into an arcade of sorts.

From an old-school gamer perspective, I think this is a great idea; one which could bring a whole new generation of gamers the old Arcade-esque experience from days gone by. Not so much the feeling of wandering around and picking out a game to sink a quarter into, but rather that real social experience of playing (and watching others play) a particular game as opposed to the virtual social experience provided by today's online gaming.

From a business standpoint, while the initial cost of converting a movie auditorium and its screen into a "gaming auditorium" (as I'll call it) may make a few mega-plex execs waffle on the idea, I think it would be well worth the try. Failure from action is a hell of a lot nobler than failure from inaction.

Think about the number of times you've gone into one of the countless movie mega-plexes with its 15 - 30 auditoriums, sat down to watch a movie that wasn't one of the big releases or one that had been out awhile, and noticed there were maybe five other people in the place? Why not utilize one of these auditoriums for a unique gaming experience rather than showing some movie that nobody will pay to see anymore because it will be out on DVD within the next month? In fancy, elitist business speak this is called utilizing your assets to increase your ROA (Return on Assets).

I have no idea how they are pricing this new "gaming experience" in Madrid, but I was thinking, for here in the U.S., why not use the same ticket pricing structure already in place? I'll explain: assuming most people spend about 2 1/2 hours at a particular movie's showing (2 hour movie + 1/2 hour of ads and trailers), why not charge an admission price for a 2 1/2 hour gaming block? Also, you could charge less during the afternoon and more during the evening peak hours (just as they do with movies).

Additionally, the theater could carry the same titles for purchase that it's showcasing for play in the "gaming auditorium". It's another avenue for the game companies to sell a copy of their game, and it's a way for the theater to get a cut of the retail price that would normally go to other more traditional retail outlets.

Now, I know a lot of people out there would think, why pay the price of a movie ticket to play a game for 2 1/2 hours when it could either be rented for a longer period of time or just bought outright? Well, to this point, I would compare it to watching a movie in a theater as opposed to waiting for the DVD. You're paying not so much to see the movie (or play the game), but rather for a "unique experience" in which to watch that movie or play that game. Just as you could experience a movie such as Star Wars at home on DVD, how much better is it when experienced on a huge screen with a lot of other people? Just as you could experience a game such as Gears of War at home, playing over XBox Live, how much better would it be to experience that game with a unique audio/visual setup and other people...in person?

Heck, who knows if it would actually work or not, but I truly believe it has great potential as a substantial new revenue source for both game companies and movie mega-plex chains. In any case, I applaud that mega-plex in Madrid for having the cajones to try something new.

Could this be the beginning of Arcade 2.0?

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Whispering Pines


The Band is one of those bands whose songs I've heard over the years but never realized it was them who sang them, until I recently happened to stumble across an episode of VH1 Classic's "Classic Albums".

This particular episode featured The Band's 1969 self-titled 2nd album (also known as "The Brown" album). While showcasing more well-known songs (songs I had heard over the years on Classic Rock radio stations) such as: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Up on Cripple Creek, and The Weight (which is actually from their previous album), they also played a tidbit from a song titled Whispering Pines.

I was blown away after hearing just that small tidbit! I immediately set out to get my hands on the full song...and that full song has now become one of my all-time favorites (thus the blog post).

Lead vocals on The Band's songs were usually shared between Levon Helm (Drums), Rick Danko (Bass), and Richard Manuel (Piano). The last name on that list was The Band's first name in great vocals, and was the voice behind Whispering Pines. With masterful, thoughtful, abstract lyrics written by lead-guitarist Robbie Robertson (lyrics which presumably were trying to capture Manuel's own feelings of loss and loneliness); Richard Manuel's achingly beautiful vocalization of those lyrics; and somber musical backing; everything comes together perfectly to create more than just a great song - Whispering Pines creates an atmosphere and feeling of not only sadness, but of hope, that is real, that is sincere, and as such will stay with you from the moment you hear it.

Needless to say, I'm glad I came across that VH1 Classic show (not to mention, afterwards, they aired The Band's filmed swan song "The Last Waltz"...directed by Martin Scorsese - you may have heard of him). You can count me as a new fan of an old band whose talent was so rich and varied they really didn't need to call themselves anything other than, simply - The Band.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

My first post for you - a Haiku (hey, that rhymed!)

I'm not a poet by any means, but after purchasing a 72-slice pack of Hormel fully-cooked microwaveable bacon at the local Sam's Club, I had to express my joy in a way befitting it's hearty, hickory-smoked, heart-clogging greatness. (Extra tidbit - cooks in 20 seconds! Oh yes!)

A Haiku is all that will do (hey, that rhymed again! Neat!)

As Def Leppard wails
"You're Bringin' on the Heartbreak"
My chest feels tight - gasp!


I love you bacon.