What the heck happened this year?

2013 is pretty much over.  Just a couple hours to go.  I keep saying I hope every year is better than the last, and I keep getting disappointed, so this year I kinda said screw that I'm just hoping to keep my head down and keep things going.  Turns out a lot happened this year.

Got in a car accident, but no one got hurt.  Almost got into a second one when a car lost control and nearly hit mine.  Been a crappy year for commuting but when you drive 40 miles on a light day that's bound to be the case.

Our brother-in-arms dojo Zanshinkan opened a new store front location.  Took a lot of hard work, but the place really looks great and its always a pleasure to work out there.

Speaking of Dojo type things, our classes at Seireikan grew a bit, and we're hoping to keep things going.  Many of our students have done well in tournaments and we had a lot of fun at our beach workout and annual demo.  I did very well at the Petersburg Karate Open, and actually won the Grand Championship in forms at the Old School Fall Classic.  That's the first time I've ever pulled that off in open competition.  It was also the first time my mother had ever seen me compete.

 Work kept on going.  I managed to not get fired once again.  Yay me!

This year I once again had a song that really rocked my socks.  I even managed to get it played a couple of times on the local radio station until the upper management told the DJs to stop.

Not a huge year, but I'm still chugging on.

Price of Knowledge

I came across a quote from Richard Buckminster Fuller, and by came across I mean people put the quote as a caption which is called a "meme" by people who have no idea about memetics and put it up on their social media whatever to be shared and make them seem insightful
We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

Wow.  This is advocating flat out mooching.  Let's take his "fact" that one in ten thousand of us could make a breakthrough that could support everyone else.  Why should they?  If a system is in place that people are taken care of then what is the point to doing something or really anything?  Fuller had this notion that we'd all be better off if we were left to ponder things without all the hassle of actually having to do things.  Of course he was a philosopher of sorts so his idea of a solution to the problems of the world will be what his specialty is.

What does his idea of a solution lead to?

Life doesn't work the way Fuller seems to think it does.  Necessity is the mother of invention, but desparation is the father.  You have to have drive to make things happen.  Just look at the homeless guy who when given a choice between $100 and lessons on how to write code made the smart choice.   This guy showed dedication because he knew that $100 goes fast but learning a valuable skill can keep you fed much longer.  People in general love accomplishing goals having experiences along the journeys of our lives.  Thinking is important, but we can't let it stop us from doing and living.

We do have to think, and we do need a proper education.  You have to know and understand the world around you so that you can make good decisions.  Unfortunately, we've run into a bit of a problem with our education system.  High school level and below seem to be struggling to find its feet in the best ways to educate our young people and there's a nearly fanatical push to go to college.  College isn't a bad thing but it isn't for everyone, especially at today's rates.

I like Henry Rollins, and while I don't totally agree with everything he said in this video he makes some excellent points.  First and foremost that the debt young people incur from going to college is way too high.  It is ridicuous.  Rollins goes on to say that if we want to succeed as a nation that we need to make college either free or really cheap.

Let's go with cheap, because knowledge is a valuable commodity and anything valuable has price.

Education does not just come from schools.  We can receive it from many different sources if we keep our eyes open.  College is not a must have anymore, and the myth that it is preparing to evaporate.  We've got great stuff like Mike Rowe Works which is really worth everyone's time to go in and check out.

We need a balance between Rollins and Rowe, and if we get that, look out world.  Affordable college and plenty of alternatives to close the skills gap?  That's a hell of a combo.

But then some people may ask, "Why no just make these things free?"

I teach Karate.  I don't make a lot of money at it.  In fact, most of the time I'm probably doing it a financial loss.  I still charge my students a nominal fee.  My time and the knowledge I'm imparting are worth something.  I worked hard to gain the knowledge and experience that I'm passing on.  Just like any teacher in any school.  I'd love to have more students, and I was once asked "why don't you just make the lessons free?" since I really am in it for the love of the art and if it was free there's a notion I'd probably get more students.

The reality is I'd likely get less students and the one's I have may not be that great.  Same with college.  If we made college free, sure there would be young people who really benefited, but there'd also be young people when faced with the choice getting a job and goofing off in a classroom for free will take the latter.  Those kids in those college classes work hard.  Why?  Because that class cost a whole lot of money so they better get something out of it.  Charging puts that blockade up that weeds out slackers and admits serious students.

There's also the sweat and pain that comes into a Karate class in which students must learn a technique, put the work in to do it well, so they can learn the next technique.  Same with any type of learning.  You learn your basics.  Put in that work.  Do your homework.  Then move on to learn more.  You put in that sweat equity.  I spent a couple of weeks limping just from one workout in which I learned a very good and very brutal technique.  People asked what happened.

"Its the price of knowledge."

You don't start off knowing everything.  You don't even know everything after going to school.  That's one of the reasons I get irked by fast food workers demanding $15 an hour.  That's a starter job.  That's where you learn how to run a register, and make sure your drawer comes out right.  That's where you learn how to make quick things on demand.  You get a big order from a hungry family and you have to quickly assemble what they want.  That's a skill.  That's a useful skill that you are being paid to develope.  Not mention the customer service skills you gain.

You can take those skills and work you way up the fast food chain to manager and eventually franchise owner, or you can take those skills, put them on your resumé and hunt for another job that pays better.

And people complain that its not a living wage.  Its not supposed to be.  They are entry level.  That's where you start.  Once you start you're supposed to go somewhere.

Hopefully we'll get Governemnt out of throwing money around and suckering kids into debt and hopefully our society will wake up and realize that there's more to learning then just sitting in a classroom.  Thinking is important.  Learning is important.  But without working and doing you're going nowhere.

White Knights

There was stupidity afoot involving my circles on Google Plus this week featuring a woman who I know to be bi-sexual and last I checked is in a relationship with another woman being labelled and harassed as a homophobe.  How can this be, you may ask?  Well, its the internet and stupid things happen.  There's no IQ check to ride this ride.  This lead to someone I've known online for years coming into the thread of the accused out of seemingly nowhere, caps lock a-blazing, spamming a post with comments demanding to be blocked.  The spammer in question was someone I've chatted with online since Google Buzz, but over the years I finally got weary of their knee jerk attitude and removed them from my circles.  They weren't posting anything remotely interesting to me anyways.  I did so quietly choosing to just vanish as far as they were concerned.  However, since there seemed to be a homophobe about, they felt the need to come in and put them in their place.

Doesn't matter that the person in question is in no way a homophobe.

The comments were deleted, which is good because they were just sad to look at and the conversation continued about people who post emotionally as opposed to logically.  I then get a massage sent to me including a screen capture of a comment I made in the thread by the person who had made a specticle of themself.

"Ah, so despite all the courtesies and allowing you to freely speak your mind over the years I'm the crazy one." 
Silly me for not realizing that they were in charge of Google and/or the internet as such I owe my posting ability to them.  It continued.

"You really shouldn't be such a hypocrite in public." 

Being a hypocrite is like real-estate.  Its all about location, location, location.  Especially when the hypocracy is imaginary.

"I posted this private to you, because previously I've tried to give you a fair shake. But if this is how it is, then don't think I won't give you the same...courtesy you've just shown me." 

That last part almost seemed like a threat, but as its just funny and pathetic its not much of a threat.  I responded by telling them to "take your victimhood issues and fuck off" and promptly blocked them.

Seems a bit like that cyber-bullying that we worry so much about, doesn't it?  That's because it is.  Fortunately there's "block" and "ignore" options available on social media sites and the internet would be a much better place if people used them more.

This brings us to the main reason for this post and the cyber-bullies behind this: White Knights.  These individuals are aptly named due to them being on a crusade to rid social media and pretty much anywhere someone can post a comment of those terrible people who dare to disagree with them.  That Resumé of Hate I posted a while back?  These are the folks that believe all of it.  Some are just outright nuts.  Some have just fallen for the logical fallacy that they, like most people, consider themselves to be a good person and if someone does not share their views and/or values they must somehow be a bad person.  This isn't anything new.

The only thing that's really changed is that now we have a global internet community to contend with.

There's plenty of the little sub-groups within the White Knights, and here's a few of them:

The Tinfoil Hat Brigade.

There's so much information easily within our grasps today and anyone can be posting.  Accuracy is not a guarantee.  As such, we get people who have taken their off kilter opinions as facts and have found something somewhere online to validate them and that's plenty for them.  I enjoy a tasty conspiracy theory as much as the next guy who loves a good story.  In fact a good friend linked a brilliant article about how much people in general really are into conspiracy theories and how much of a pain that can be.

Where we have a problem is when a person let's their favorite whacked out idea consume them to the point where they'll insert it into any online chat or comment thread that they possibly can.  This is usually complete with links to some YouTube video or some obscure "news" site that totally backs their claims.  They're out to save us all from our own ignorance, which we must obviously have since we don't buy into whatever crackpot theory they're peddling.

Oh, and don't bother trying to provide information from reliable sources to try to set them straight.  Those sources are all part of the conspiracy trying to cover up "the truth".

The Magenta Lantern Corp

Otherwise known as the Magenta Oppression Army.  I just like the other name better.  This brand of goons have real issues that they are combating.  These are things like social inequalities, racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.  Their big problem is that they are so wrapped up in battling that issue that they see it everywhere they turn.  Yes, these issues are legitimate, but they are not in every facit of our society and existence.  Major persecution complexes here.

Let's consider our little cartoon fellow here.  This came from someone posting a picture of Nicholas Cage, but the printer messed up and it came out basically a silhouette of Cage's head with only his eyes and teeth visible.  Looked freaky and in the middle of a discussion of how freaking it looked a guy came in and said that the picture was racist and we were all racist for not being horribly offended at how racist that image was.  The discussion then pivoted to amazement at how incredibly butthurt a person would have to be to go off like that.  Needing a color coding for that level of butthurt, and after much discussion and careful consideration, it was determined that it was a magenta level of butthurt.  This also seemed to fit with the Johns' Emotional Color Spectrum from the Hal Jordan and the Techni-Color Dance Party-a-Go-Go DC Comics put out a few years ago.  The picture soon followed.

There are things that people post online that are indeed offensive.  If you find that you're being offended over every little thing, then you may want to back away from the internet for a while.  Try some meditation.  The Corps are guilty of one big crime and that's putting their issues ahead of their logic.  They let their knee-jerk emotionalism guide their online activities and just make themselves look silly.  Its hard to dismiss them totally since what they're crusading against are mostly real problems.  However, its like PETA: they would win the debate with they weren't such a bunch of obnoxious douchbags about it.

The Church of Richard Dawson and the Latter Day Atheists

This shower of shmucks come out in force this time of year.  They're the first to decry relgious people as intolerant but have no tolerance whatsoever for anyone who doesn't share their viewpoint.  You see, each and every one of us is on our own spirtual and/or philosophical journey through life.  As long as what you believe, feel, or think doesn't justify you hurting others then you're probably OK.

The Latter Day Athiests don't believe that though.  They think if you're a Christian, then you're an idiot and are in the same ilk as the Westboro Baptist Church, or if you're a Muslim, then you're a Jihadist.  That picture of your Christmas tree that you posted is their call to arms for them to comment on that picture that the custom of the Christmas tree originated with a pagan custom that Christians adopted.  Although, despite being fundie athiests they'll still take part in holiday gift giving and most would still not want to work Christmas Day.

These are typically the most pompous of the White Knights as they don't fall back on knee-jerk emotionalism, but rely upon a psuedo-intellectualism and an air of superiority that lingers in forums like a stale fart.

In conclusion, the White Knights will never go away as they're pretty much part and partial to the human condition.  There's always going to be those think they are better than other people.  They'll group together and reinforce their ridiculous notions in what one would consider an echo chamber, but sound doesn't echo in a vacuum.  Fortunately, this group is most often self-defeating.  It was White Knights that wanted to shut down Chik-Fil-A and that resulted in the franchise breaking all of their sales records (although the White Knights still think they actually won that one).  It was the White Knights who were the force behind Everybody Draw Muhammad Day and in their quest to strike a blow for freedom of expression and free speech got an entire country to temporarily block social media and spawned protests against their actions.

Most importantly, even if you think you have right on your side, cyber-bullying is cyber-bullying.  And if you encounter these people, just hit that "ignore" or "block" option.  You're not going to change them.  Save yourself the headache.

Insignificant strikes

There's been a whole lot written about last Saturday's UFC welterweight championship match in which Georges St. Pierre "defended" his title against Johny Hendricks.  First, I want to make it completely clear that I am a GSP fan.  We're both karate guys.  He's always come off as a classy fellow and a great champion.  There's a serious problem with last Saturday's fight.  I watched it, and I had this fight scored 49-46 for Hendricks.  GSP looked like he'd been through a meat grinder by the end of the match.  Hendricks looked like he'd maybe gone for a jog.  This had been the foughest fight the champ had been in for a quite a while.  Yet, the judges gave GSP the win in a split decision.

There's some serious problems going on here.  This is the second title fight I've seen recently with some really questionable judges decisions.  Last fight was Jon Jones' defense again Alexander Gusstafson.  That fight was incredibly close and two judges giving it to Jones 48-47.  The last judge gave it to Jones 49-46, which was complerely nuts and spawned jokes that the judge in question was paid off by either Gatoraide or Nike (who both sponsor Jones).

That match raised a few eyebrows, but it was understandable that Jones had done enought to keep the belt.  The GSP/Hendricks fight is a completely different story.  This raises a lot of troubling questions, mainly, was this rigged?

The problem here was not GSP.  He fought with everything he had, and doesn't control the judges.  He seemed surprised as well with the decision.

The problem is not with the UFC and Dana White, because they do not get to pick the judges.  MMA walks a fine line.  They have to stay sanctioned with the athletic commisions of various states so they can keep holding events in them.  They don't dare rig or work a fight because White knows full well that's one of things that screwed boxing.  Yes, things are set up to make a bit of drama, but once those two fighter get in that cage there is no script.  If people get the very notion that this is rigged then the whole franchise is doomed.

The problem lies squarely with the judges, and the UFC has no control over them.  They don't get to pick them.  White doesn't seem to trust many of them, especially in Nevada where the fight took place.  I've seen some of these score card and have watched the fights they go with.  One of the things that fighters are scored on is "significant strikes".  I've been in martial arts since I was kid.  I've put on the gloves.  I've gotten concussions and cracked ribs.  I know what a significant strike is.  A significant strike does something.  It causes damage and/or knocks the other person back a bit.  Judges are declaring strikes significant that fighters are moving away from avoiding the brunt of the blow and sometimes the strike is completely blocked.  As mean as it sounds, many of these judges really need to get punched in the face just so they know what a significant strike is.

Dana White has said he's really hesitant about holding any more matches in Vegas after this.  That should be enough for the Nevada athletic commission to get the hint and look into this, but I doubt they will.  The only thing governments like better than money and power is red tape.  Fortunately, there's many other states that sanction UFC events.  Love to have them come to Norfolk.  That's the smartest move right now for the UFC.  The judges in that state are bad, so stay out of that state.

Other sports have their own referees and judges.  What would be best is if the UFC could get a bunch of judges that they know are going to be solid and get them sanctioned in the states they're holding fights.  I don't know how difficult that is going to be though.

There's been so much drama and speculation around this fight, and much of that is around the decision.  There's the "Hendricks tapped" dopes who must be really new to the sport to think Hendricks tapped in the first round.  There's rumors that UFC wanted GSP to remain champ because he's more marketable and will be in the upcoming CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER movie.  There's GSP's remarks about him needing some time away from the sport.  Its a whole big mess.

One thing is completely clear though: the scoring system in MMA needs to get a good hard look and things need to change.  Johny Hendricks got completely screwed over, and that shouldn't happen in any title fight.


I went into this movie a little tentative.  I loved the first Thor movie.  THE AVENGERS picked up very well from that.  I really did not like IRONMAN 3, and I was hoping that this movie would redeem the Marvel stage 2 for me.  I got exactly what I wanted.  I loved every bit of this movie.  

For those wondering what's the 411 on this and haven't seen it, its been two years since the events of the first movie.  We also find out what happened when Loki was returned to Asgard at the end of THE AVENGERS.  Beings called the Dark Elves who were defeated by forces led by Thor's grandfather are setting to return to destroy the "Nine Realms" which does include Asgard and Earth.  

Everything in this movie is bigger than the first movie.  The first movie was more Earth centered.  In this film you see so much more of Asgard, and its all absolutely stunning.  The effects in the film were very well done.  The amount of production and post production that went into this really show in the final product.  Of course, being me, I love the fight scenes, and there's plenty of those to be had.

Chris Hemsworth once again did a wonderful job playing Thor.  Yes ladies, he does take his shirt off.  I know this is important to many of you.  That aside, he really delivered with everything asked of him be it the big action heroics, the heavy drama, the romantic parts, and the humor.  Natalie Portman is great as Jane who is once again in way over her head (not a short joke, honest) but shows a lot of guts in dealing with the fantastic things she's experiencing.  Anthony Hopkins shows a lot fo gravity and restraint in playing Odin.  It would be so easy to go over the top with the role.  Chris Eccleston plays the big bad in this and he's quite monstrous in his quest to destroy everything.  There's no liking this villain.  

Three people in this really made this a memorable movie for me.  Kat Dennings as Darcy was a joy.  For the most part she was comedy relief, but she so great here that you can't help smiling whenever she's on screen.  Rene Russo as Frigga was magnificent.  She was quite under used in the first film, but this movie gives her these really great scenes that made a lasting impression on me.  Finally, I have to talk about Tom Higgleston as Loki.  Yes, I know there's a lot of fan-girling over him.  I wasn't too sure about how they were going to be using him in this film.  Tom Higgleston gave an amazing performance, and he's given so much great material to work with.  The character's motivations are constantly questioned both by the other characters in the film and the audience.  He keeps everyone guessing, but is so consistent that who can really latch onto him as a character.  The actor has gotten a lot of praise for the role, and earns every bit of it.

This movie had a lot of action and drama.  Outstanding effects.  The final battle was completely nuts, but I loved every bit of it.  They also did a great job in lightening things up with great humor at all the right times.  There were real laugh out lot moments.

Lastly, this movie succeeded where IRONMAN 3 failed.  IM3 felt like a final chapter, as if that part of the Marvel Universe was closing down.  This movie expanded on thing in the finale which will leave viewers wanting more.  Also, make sure to hang in for both of the bonus scenes.  The first one mid-credits surprised the crap out of me.  The one at the end of the credits was a lot of fun.

Great film.  I'd pay to see it in theaters again.

Government: fail

We're currently in shutdown mode as far as the federal government is concerned.  This is because legislation can't be agreed upon on funding the government.  Main of us have an alright idea about how this is supposed to work thanks to Saturday morning cartoons.

This is a decent little overview that doesn't get into the all the little details and hoops that are jumped through.  Right now we have two political parties that most people align with.  Governor Bob McDonald said it best in a radio interview I heard.  "Two sides come to the table with what they want.  Neither side will likely get everything they want, but hopefully we'll get legislation everyone can live with."

So if something is a good idea and both sides can agree on it then it should get through to the President with no problem.  If there's something that can't be agreed on then we go to committee and its argued about.  Negotiations are had, compromising is done, and deals are made.  Again, we hopefully end up with legislation everyone can live with.  Its balance, and that's important.

So where did we come off the rails?  Due to imbalance.

For a while one side had a "Super majority" which was described by Jon Stewart as a "Grizzly bear with chainsaws for hands".  One party had enough representatives to completely push the other party off to the side.  This is never good.  Super majorities are bad because it provides too much power to one side and that side can forget that they don't speak for everybody.

The United States of America is not a democracy.  A democracy is mob rule.  If you don't enshrine individual rights first then democracies can be utterly horrible.  Example: me and my buddy want your Playstation.  You don't want to give us your Playstation.  We vote.  2 against 1.  We get your Playstation.  That's democracy.  However, you have a right to your property, and there's laws about that.  So the vote does not matter, because we can't legally take your Playstation?

People have somehow forgotten in all the rhetoric and bile being spewed all over that these two parties and the representative in power are representatives.  So when one side gets froze out, those are people whose voices are not heard.  One side had enough power to ingore people that they had the ability to make laws for.  Yikes.  However, people don't like imbalance and then 2010 happened.  Each party controlled a side of Congress.  This is supposed to be a good thing.

For those a little shakey on why the government shutdown happened, the Congress has not passed a annual budget in five years.  This goes back to when one side had that super majority so it wasn't parties bickering that started this.  Without a proper budget that government has been using "continuing resolutions" to keep things funded, which really is a stupid way to do things.  That's just flat out not doing your job.

A continuing resolution came up, and the House added in that they wanted to defund the Affordable Care Act.  They want to do this because the House is currently controlled by Republicans and no Republican voted for this act nor were they consulted it the formation of the bill that was voted on.  They were froze out and not considered.  This means the people they represented were not being considered.  That's never good so they are working hard to get rid of that law and get, again, legislation we can all live with.  That bill went to the Democrat controlled Senate and the Senate said "no".  OK, the Republicans sent another bill over with a different request.  Again, blocked.  Finally they asked for the individual mandate in the ACA be postponed a year just as the mandate on businesses was.  Again, no go.  The Senate wanted a check with no strings attatched.  The shutdown happened.

This isn't the first time this has happened.  Its happened 17 times before under 5 different presidents.  Each time the president got in there and negotiated to get things going again.  I'm not a huge fan of President Clinton, but the when the government shut down on his watch, he was in there everyday working to hammer out a deal.  And he did it.  Like him or not, the guy handled his business.  The difference is we now have President Obama who said, when his party had the super majority, "Republicans can come along for the ride, but they have to sit in the back."  He's refusing to negotiate.  He's not doing his job.  Probably why he's currently enjoying a 37% approval rating while Clinton's rating was over 60%.

One side does not get to make all the rules.  Doesn't matter which side it is.  These parties are supposed to be talking to each other and trying to figure this out.  Not only is the Senate refusing to do this, but they aren't even considering the bills the House have been sending over funding parts of the government to try to lessen the impact of the shutdwon on the people.  And if you're ready to rail against Republicans as the talking heads on TV have been so eager to do, consider this.  If the situation was reversed and it was Democrats trying to have negotiate and it was a Republican controlled Senate refusing to have any of it and a Republican President sitting back and just scolding your representative for not just doing as they're told, would you like that?

Then we have those people who holler about term limits and get rid of everyone in Congress.  People have the ultimate rule on term limits.  You don't like your representative, then vote to replace them.  However, it seems that many of the people who yell about getting rid of those in Congress don't have a problem with their representives.  "They're all horrible... except for my guy."

This'll keep going for a bit.  Part of me sort of wishes they Republicans had just gone along with CR so we could all focus on the massive fail that the ACA has been this week.  There's talk on the debt ceiling now.  Typical BS.  Those not in power are against it, while those in power are for it even though they said it was a horrible idea when they weren't in power.  Don't worry too much about this.  A law was passed a while back that prevents us from defaulting on our debt because we much pay the interest on it to avoid default.

So, hang in there folks.  The shutdown does suck, but its been this bad before.  We got through it then, and we'll do so again.  You can't count on the Government for everything.  It up to us to do what we can for ourselves, and when necessary help those who need it.

Be good to each other.

And talk with each other, not at each other.

Because that's what caused the problem.

My day in court

Last month on Friday the 13th, I got in a car accident.  Everyone was fine, but my car got impaled upon the truck's ball hitch.  The truck in front of me had to make a quick stop.  I did likewise, but my car started to skid and whammo.  His truck had no damage at all, but my Ford Focus couldn't say the same.  I do have both halves of my former licence plate.

Police come on out and do the accident report.  I get a ticket for following too close.  When the car is getting repaired its notcied that my alignment is off and the tires are showing bad signs of premature wear.  That explained why the car hit the skids.  So I have a good case to beat the ticket and save a bit of money and few points on my licence.

Court was today.  I put on my good goin' out clothes and I sit there waiting my turn.  Seems it was "Take you kid to your hearing day" as I counted four infants and toddlers in the courtroom.  Seemed like half the people there were there for driving with a suspended licence.  One guy showed up and the judge infromed him that his case had been continued to another date and he should probably keep in touch better with his attorney.

There was one lawyer there, old dude, wearing his blazer jacket, bow tie which matched his scarf, and SANDLES!  I couldn't believe it.  That suit certainly wasn't all business.  

After waiting around for about an hour, I get called up.  I'm ready.  I'm set to plead "not guilty", and I've got my paperwork to prove my case.  I'm gonna beat this thing.  I'm smiling and perfectly pleasant.  I exchange a few pleasantries with the judge.  Nothing smart-ass.  Just a "Good morning" and a "How're you".  

I'm then informed that officer that wrote the ticket could not be there today and my case was dismissed.

I felt a little bit like I had trained for a tournament, but was the only guy to show up for my division.

Still, in the courts, a win is a win and I'm not complaining.  

Little free advice for DC.

AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. premiered this week and its getting good reviews and people are liking what they see so far.  Marvel is firing on all cylinders to the point that in an interview Chris Hemsworth was asked about the rivalry between marvel and DC and he pretty much replied "What rivalry?"  Such is the extent of whupping Marvel is putting upon DC on both the large and small screen.

Right now, I'm firmly in the Marvel camp.  They're giving us these really fun movies and on the DC side we and given a whole lot of dark and grittiness.  The creative directors over at DC are pushing the dark crap to the point that they don't want their heroes to have pleasant personal lives.  They're current big event is all the villains taking over their books.  Meanwhile, Marvel is serving up insane space adventures with its heroes rising up against threats that I can't begin to fathom how they're going to beat, but the good guys have Captain America so we know the good guys have got this.

Right now, Marvel's got a better paradigm about its creative direction, but what I'm looking at is its paradigm in its direction into other media.  They have major movies in different franchises linking together in a shared universe, and now a network TV show linking to that.  Disney is loving this.  They don't have to look far to get their stuff out.  They have a successful movie business already and they own ABC.  They're being smart.

DC Comics is owned by Warner Brothers.  Warner Brothers has a TV station, the CW and they make movies.  So why can't they put two and two together and start making things exciting for fans?  The season premier of ARROW will be hitting soon.  Think they'll mention the huge alien invasion in another city?  Even in passing?  Of course not.  They refuse to let the chocolate mix with the peanut butter.  So instead of dropping a line or two and linking the show to the new Superman franchise MAN OF STEEL launched, their big news is a TV show about Commissioner Gordon before Batman came on the scene.  

Everyone, including Warner Brothers, wants a Justice League movie to happen.  The new Superman movie will have Batman in is played by Ben Affleck.  Some of you are upset by this casting choice.  I'm upset that they aren't firing Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder and letting Affleck write and direct it as well as play Batman.  There was the GREEN LANTERN  movie that did not do too well, but it did indeed happen and has established the character.  There's talk of a Flash TV show spinning off from ARROW.  A big hang up for a lot of people is that Wonder Woman hasn't made it to the big screen yet.  We can work around that a bit.

My suggestion: link the TV and movie properties.  This gives you Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, the Flash, and possibly Black Canary to play with.  The Justice League movie can introduce Wonder Woman.  Give people something to really get excited over.  

TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

There's been a whole lot of hype around this show, but in case you've been living under a rock, here's the breakdown.  Marvel has been releasing movies that all tied together and culminated in 2012's THE AVENGERS.  Marvel is continueing to release movies, and has now released a TV show on ABC tha exists in the same shared universe as the films.  This TV show is being helmed by Joss Whedon who is also overseeing the Marvel movie projects.  This is not a knock off show with a couple of characters that you may recognize the names of from a successful movie.  This is a continuation of what we saw in theaters.  This is what happened after the credits rolled.

This delivered on all the hype.

Gregg Clark returns as Agent Coulson who we all saw die in THE AVENGERS.  The details of how he's still breathing are gone over and its fairly satisfying for five seconds until we get a major hint dropped that all isn't what it seems.  Coulson assembles a team that is going to be specializing in containing the emerging superhumans that are appearing.  If you're going into the first episode expecting huge action and stuff blowing up left and right, you're going to be disappointed.  What you will be getting is a very thoughtful, very careful pilot episode that does exactly what its supposed to do.

If you never saw any of the Marvel movies you can get through this with no problem.  Sure, you may miss a reference or two but the story does not hinge around the viewer's knowledge of the Marvel flicks.  Brilliant move.  This is about expending the audience, not just catering to the established fanbase.  Yes, THE AVENGERS happened, and is referenced.  IRONMAN 3 is referenced as well, and pretty heavily, but again, you don't have to have seen that movie (and if you didn't, you can Redbox that thing soon, but no rush) you're still good to go to keep up.

The cast was great.  The writing was sharp.  The action scenes were very nicely done.  There was a lot of heart to this.  Some of the scenes really grabbed me, and yes, I did gasp out loud at one point.  I had a lot of expectations going into this, and I can honestly say they were exceeded.

5 Simple Rules for Karate Judges

Last weekend I competed in and judged at the Old School Classic Karate Tournament.  I'm happy to report that I won the grand championship for forms.  First time I've ever pulled that off.  While I'm happy with my results, there's been some issues I've had in the past with judging, and these are things that I try to teach my students about so when and if they are called upon to judge at a tournament it'll go smoothly for them.  I'm writing these as a person who has completed for over 20 years in open tournaments and has been judging for nearly as long.

FIRST: If you are new to judging in open tournaments makes sure the other judges know this before things get started.  They should help you along the way.  Also try to get in a ring that handling younger kids.  Its a great learning experience and five year olds typically don't get too crazy when they don't like how you're scoring things.  And if you are a more experienced judge and you have a newbie there to help, make sure you let them know what they need to know.  I teach my students how to judge, but not all dojos do.

SECOND: Know the rules of that tournament.  There is usually a black belt meeting before these events in which the rules are gone over, and that's when questions are asked.  Go to that meeting.  It does not matter if you've done these things a hundred times, everyone needs to be on the same page before getting into a ring.

THIRD: It is not your tournament, it is only your ring.  The rules are in place for a reason, and you don't get to change them.  It does not matter if you are a 9th degree black belt.  It does not matter if you are yourself a tournament promoter.  You stick by the rules established.

Years ago, back when I fought in these things, we were being staged for our weight class and the center judge informed us that she would be allowing face contact in our division since we were black belts.  The rules as established and gone over repeatedly stated clearly, "No face contact", and I informed her of this.  She told me if i had a problem with this then I didn't have to fight.  I informed her that if she had a problem following the rules of the promoter, who was paying to insure the event, then she shouldn't be judging and I had no problems getting the arbitrator over to sort her out.

Just last weekend, one of my black belts was judging a ring and one kid split the other's lip.  There's a no blood rule in effect for this event.  You make the other guy bleed and its a DQ.  My students stops the match, pointing out the blood.  The center judge tried to keep the fight going.  Fortunately my student announced loudly enough "Blood" that it caught the arbitrator's attention and he got in the ring to sort it out.

When its your tournament and you are paying for the insurance on the event then you can make the rules.  Until then, know the rules and enforce them.

FOURTH: Make your calls quickly.  Don't look to the other judges to try to see what they are saying so you can follow suit.  You've got to make a call and make it quickly.  This is especially true in fighting.  Nothing gets everyone ticked off faster than a late call.

Remember: the "no point" and "didn't see" calls are perfectly legitimate calls.  Judges are positioned in different spots in the ring for a reason.  Everyone can't see everything thing.  If a judge calls a point and you didn't see it, there's no harm in calling that you didn't.

FIFTH: Go over the rules briefly with the competitors when they get to your ring.  Helps things go smoothly and there's a lot less confusion.  This could be the first time out for some of these folks and they may have questions.  They paid their money to enter so taking a minute to make sure everyone's straight on everything in good for the tournament.

There's other little tricks I know and I try to make sure that everyone has a good time when they get into my ring.  These five points that I touched on are important and should always be considered when you are judging.  These tournaments are supposed to be fun, and the best way to ensure that they are is with good judging.

Words fail me.

There are times when I hate people for how they use language, and I'm including myself in this declaration.  Yeah, as a former English Major I have been known to completely butcher the language, but I figure having a B.A. in English doesn't mean I have to be snooty about it.  Sometimes though I like to use words and language as they are supposed to properly be used.  When that earthquake caused the terrible tsunami in Japan I told my buddy I thought it was awesome how the effects of that quake could make it all the way to the west coast crossing the entire Pacific.  I then caught grief from him about how could I refer to anything having to do with that quake as "awesome".

"Awesome" is currently the "cool".  "Cool" is nearly antiquated now.  Thank you, Bill and Ted.

When I referred to what happened as "awesome" I meant it in the classic sense.  I was in awe of the effects of the quake.  I saw the video of the waves coming into California.  It really made me consider the power of our planet.  Certainly I would not refer to a natural disaster which killed many people as anything ressembling "cool".

I'm bringing this up because of something that I talked about today with Federali and Joey Part Deux up at Kings.  We were talking about Marvel's INFINITY storyline
and event.  Last post I made a joke about how it was a tie in to the new Disney video game since they both kicked off inside of a week of each other.  Here's the thing, this storyline is offically three issues in, but its been building in multiple books for a while.  Hickman's set the stage for something that's really huge.  

Let's look at what's going on.  

A group called The Builders are taking out everything in their path.  The Avengers have ties to the Kree and the Shi'ar, and the Builder's path is heading forwards Earth.  Captain America has taken a team into space to join with the major players in the Marvel Universe to combat this.

Back on Earth the Illuminati have been busting their butts to try to save Earth and the Universe from the collapsing of the Multiverse and parallel Earths crashing into our earth.  This process destroyed most of the Infinity Gems.  And we have Namor and the Black Panther going to war with each other, so there's back-stabbery afoot.

To top things off, Thanos is looking to put the curb stomp on the entire planet and has sent his generals, the Cull Obsidion, to get the last Infinity Gem and put away anyone who gets in their way.  As such, ironman and the Illumanati, instead of prepping to take on the Builders in case Cap's team and the rest of the Universe can't stop them, are in it up to their necks dealing with one fired-up mad Titan.

Seriously.  Holy crap, that's a lot going on.  And that's just a brief overview. 

There we are talking about this storyline and there's just one word that I could think of to describe, and I didn't even want to use that word because of every goober online using it to describe anything remotely above average: "epic".

This thing is freaking epic.

This is like Hickman is saying to the funnybook fandom and the internet, "Yeah, that word you've been misusing?  I'm taking it back."

Because, as the Missus said earlier and paraphrasing THE INCREDIBLES, "When everything is epic, nothing is epic."

To Infinity and... something...

This past week Disney released it new DISNEY INFINITY game on multiple gaming platforms.  Game Informer is saying this is going to be one of the top 5 games this year.  Lots of hype, but the game itself is pretty remarkable.  Characters from Disney and Pixar movies that everyone loves coming together for us to play with and giving us the ability if create worlds to run these characters around in.

Its not surprising that Marvel, being owned by Disney, would put out a tie-in comic to really get as many people as they could on board.  The first issue of INFINITY came out last week, and Jonathan Hickman has guided his AVENGERS series to this event, much like the nice folks over at Gamestop have been collecting thos pre-orders.  The cross marketing has been subtle, and fortunately Hickman has been very careful not to overplay things.

Both the comic and the game deal with multiversal concepts.  The game does branch out a bit more as it allows players to explore multiple Earths wereas the comic just sticks to the Marvel U that we know.  There has been a lot in NEW AVENGERS dealing with "incursions" which stem from a chain reaction caused by on universe in the multiverse being destroyed and the other universes reacting to that void.  Has of yet I have found no such destruction of a Universe in the video game, although to be fair I haven't played through the MONSTERS UNIVERSITY segment of the game, nor purchased the CARS and  THE LONE RANGER expansions.

The big feature in the video game is "The Toy Box" which lets you create, customize and populate your own world with various things you earn in the adventure protions of the game.  You have ability to alter and erase elements as well.  Hickman cleverly inserts this element into the comic with the Builder characters.  These are essentually gamers on a cosmic level whom really enjoy Sim City and Civilization type games in which they guild and nudge species towards goals.  They also seem to like a bit of Pokémon as they'll work to evolve species as well.

These builders have gone a bit nutters and are wiping out worlds.  They go after the Space Knights and the Kree in the comics.  This is a clear cut message to old school ROM fans, there's a new age upon us and they have not qualms about breaking out the magic wand from the game tools and deleting whatever they don't like.  However, it must be noted that these Builders are not the good guys.  In fact Captain America is leading the Avengers into space to help confront them.  This echos something unwritten in the game but the message is clear throughout much of the gameplay: "Its better to create and nurture an idea than to just wipe it away."

So my compliments to Disney and Marvel for such a great game launch and tie-in event comic.  Many people were worried that Disney would lean on marvel a bit after the acquisition to put out book that push the Disney brand, but I'm happy to report that even though Marvel is paying its due to its parent company, its doing so in a very entertaining fashion.

The New Alternative

I got a homework assingment from Lee Foster over on 96X: listen to this song and tell him what I think.

96X is the local alternative rock station.  I like that song.  Its very good, but does it belong on an alternative station?  96X is very much the radion station for me as right when I was coming on age this station challenged my ideas of rock and roll.  Seattlle had just exploded and you had Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam blasting like anthems for us Gen-Xers.  There were other bands like Hole and Sponge that caught my attention.  The station changed as the genre changed.  Ska came into vogue.  Weezer kicked off a whole new wave of nerd rock.

Alternative music has changed a lot over the years, but now we're looking at something that doesn't quite fit the mold.  Alternative Country music.  They played a track today on there "4:20 Buzz" that's along the same line.

Alternative rock came about when we looked at what was being sold to us as "our music" that was supposed to be youthful and fun and said "bullshit, this isn't us."  It was pop garbage, and carefully constructed images and dudes in spandex wearing girly make-up with bug teased hair which was supposed to be what drove girls wild.  We didn't care.  We didn't want that.  We tuned into the radio because that's where the weird, interesting music was.  Music that was different than the recycled crap that was played over and over agian n the rock stations.  We wanted different and alternative music gave it to us.

Now we're a couple decades down the road and another genre has turned to pop garbage: country music.  Let me get this straight, we went from Hank Williams and Lorreta Lynn, to Travis Tritt and Reba McEntire, to Scotty McCreery and Tayler Swift?  How the hell did that happen?

So we have an uptick in what is known as Americana.  Bands like the Avett Brothers, and Old Crow Medicine Show which utterly forsake the pop route in favor of soulful, poerful music that resonates.  Lee told me yesterday, "There are people who love the Avett Brothers and people who just like the Avett Brothers, but nobody hates them."  People are resonding to this music just like the Gen-Xers responded to the Seattle sound.  They don't like what they are being told is country music so they're going with the alternative.

This brings us back to our main thought, if Americana is alternative country music, shouldn't it be played on an "alternative" station even if that station made its bones in alternative rock?  96X seems to be a station in flux.  Has been ever since they cut loose the Mike and Bob Show.  They have to decide where they go from there.  Do they want to fully embrace this alternative idea?

At the very least, could they bring back "The Punk Show" on Sunday nights?

Random Acts of Education

Last go around I wrote about how the Gifted and Talented programs I had been involved in did absolutely nothing for me, and pretty much put me off wanting to be involved in any of them.  I do wonder if those things served more as some weird networking type tool that if I persued would give me good contacts that would allow for social and professional advancement later.  I'm also pretty sure that the programs now have a lot more to offer kids.  That said, while I think those programs did nothing for me, that's not to say that my time in school was all a waste.

I mentioned Coach Donovan in my last post.  He was the phys ed teacher when I was in the Philippines.  He always gave off the vibe that use kids were the reason his hair was turning grey.  "Kid, I swear you're going to send me back to the oil fields."  I don't know if he ever really worked in any oil fields, but him saying that and shaking his head at me as my latest stupidity utterly exasperated him gave me a chuckle.  He did delight in getting one up on us little punks too.  Like in a game of Simon Says when we were ordered to jump up, but he called everyone who came back down 'out'.  That's right, to beat the old man we had to break the laws of physics.  A few of us even managed to pull it off.  Here's the thing: Coach loved us.  This guy honestly gave a crap about each one of the little twerps that came through that school no matter how long or short a time we were there.  He'd take time to actually teach us and encourage us when he knew we needed it.  I model much of the way I teach after the way I watched him teach.

With all my many interests, some of them I did not discover without the aid of a teacher.  One of those teachers was one I couldn't stand: Ms. Warren.  Her class was miserable.  She was an English teacher who could not pronouce the letter "R".  She'd just stand there in front of us like the ultimate know-it-all, and it was insufferable.  One of the most easy-going mellow guys I knew in high school finally got up and stormed out of her class never to return.  But, one of the short stories that we studied was "The Red-Headed League".  Yes, the classic Sherlock Holmes story.  This wasn't the first Holmes story I had read for a class, but Ms. Warren did a group exercise to teach about detective work.  Each student was given a fact about a case.  We all have to work together to get the clues in order to solve the crime.  We did two of these, one was a murder, and the other was a theft.  I solved them both, easily.  This sparked my love of a good mystery and love of detective work.  I've been watching that "Whodunnit?" show on ABC this summer and absolutely salivating, collecting the clues and lining up that cases.  That's something I'd love to be in the thick of.  I'd have it won in a walk.

My big interest came from another English teacher: Mr. Babb.  This was not some advanced placement class.  This was the standard M1A1 English composition class.  Mr. Babb was a younger guy who joked around with us and his class was pretty easy going.  He gave me an assignment that probably changed my life. "Write something."  The stuff I turned in ended up being twice as long as what he asked for.  He said we were going to spend about two weeks writing a short story, going through all the steps, and learning the process.  It only had to be about four pages long.  I came back the next day with eight pages.  I became obcessed with writing that story.  I could not stop that night until it was done.  Looking back, it was crap.  That's not some weird modesty or me being self-depricating.  The story was really horrible.  But Mr. Babb liked it.  My classmates liked it.  The girl who did not like me at all, liked that story.  I've written much better ones since then, but that class and that teacher put me course to write all the stories I had in my mind. I'm still working on that.

I then got to college, and for a while was not sure why I was there.  Grades weren't good at all.  Lot of stress.  I wanted to quit, but my folks would have had my ass if I did.  Then I learned some very important stuff.

1: I'm a moron who doesn't know everything, but I can pick it up if necessary.

2: Stress will kill your ass sure as cyanide.

3: When faced with overwhelming anything, don't panic, pick the most pressing target, and just start slogging it out.  Hesitation is not an option when there's a deadline.

4: You can get through damn near anything as long as you've got your buddies with you.

I've had a lot of teachers during my time in education.  I remember many of them very fondly.  But it wasn't some special schooling or gifted program that did it.  It was teachers putting out ideas that I could latch onto.  It wasn't he tests or memorizing stuff.  Those are important, but that's not what changes a student.

Its inspiring the students.  They don't have that in study guides or teacher's edition text books.

Pass the Dunce Cap

When I was a kid, someone got the notion in their head that I was smart.  I don't know where this came from.  My coloring skills were miserable.  I showed no leadership ability at all, nor any interest in leading much of anything except a lunch line.  My grades were alright, but not top of the class.  I liked reading comic books so maybe they figured me nerding out early was some sort of sign as to a superior intellect lurking within me.

In fourth grade I was placed in the elementary school's "Gifted and Talented" program, or GAT, due to what must have been a clerical error.  This entailed me and a few other fourth graders being sent to the library once a week to engage in activies to feed our young gifted and talented minds.  One the first day we were asked what we wanted to be when we grow up.  Of course the answers of scientist, and doctor, and astronaut and such were written down.  I do indeed remember what I wrote down.  

"I want to be a Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestler."

Of course my parents were mortified, but as Lewis Grizzard wrote, "Wrestling is like eating collard greens.  When you're hooked, you're hooked."  My hero was Jimmy "The Boogie Woogie Man" Valiant.  I was on the edge on my seat when he was feuding with "Exotic" Adrian Street.  Unfotunately, I never filled out and suck at wrestling.  Another young dream dashed.

So I sat in GAT class with my dreams of the squared circle, and I don't remember anything about the class aside from being shown those pictures that are really two images depending on how you look at it.  There's that picture which is an old woman, but also a young woman looking away.  Never did see the old woman.  Drove me nuts for a long time.

Fourth grade gave way to fifth grade, and it was on to middle school.  The GAT program continued by this time it was once a week being loaded onto a bus and taken to a whole other school.  It was a bit more memorable in that we had a computer class.  We knew computers were the way of the future, but I really didn't care.  The teacher did his best to teach us a bit about computers, and I sat as patiently as I could waiting for the end of class when he'd let the class play a few games on the old comps.

This only last a few months as midway through my fifth grade year my family moved to the Philippines.  They did not have a GAT program at the Oliver Hazard Perry Elementary school.  They had a TAG program.  Same old soup, just re-heated.  I also somehow formed an intellectual rival, Gladney Asada.  Gladney was smarter than me.  Looking back, my desk was smarter than me.  There we were in the TAG program, which met one afternoon every other week.  I hated it.  The only thing I remember from that was the question getting posed "That would be a more sensible color for a road to be other than black?"  That's what we were supposed to ponder with of talented and gifted minds?  

This began the my first practices in skipping class.  We all went home at lunchtime, and I'd fake sick and stay home to watch cartoons featuring giant robots doing giant robot type things.  My grades started taking.  I didn't care about the classes.  Didn't care much for my teachers aside from Coach Donovan who was great guy.  This got me out of any giftend and/talented programs for the time being.  I never got anything out of them.  But then, I was a lousy student.

Upon returning from the Philippines I started to get myset back in order.  My folks said that my transcripts got lost in the move.  Yeah, right.  The TV did, but those transcripts with all my lousy grades got buried somewhere.  I started fresh, and worked a bit at school.  My grades were good, but not great.  Some people still labored unted the notion that I was smart, which was crap, but I didn't dispute it.  Things were moving along smoothly enough.  I managed to make the honor roll on a regular basis.  If you made honor roll, you got the skip out on a class for a pizza party.  I usually skipped those.  Went one time my senior year.  Quickly realized why I skipped all the previous ones.  There was nothing there for me.

Junior year I was offered to join the National Honor Society.  What was weird about that was if you did not want to be a part of it you had to sign a form and turn it in to the school's NHS director who was my old biology teacher.  There were meetings to go to and some sort of club fees.  I had no car and wanted no part of it.  My folks both worked and would have had to take off to pick me up from school after the meetings.  They'd have done it, but I didn't want to ask them to do it.  So I signed the form opting out and placed it on Mr. Regan's desk at lunchtime, when he was out of the room.  That part wasn't intentional, but I was just dropping off a form.  Later that day in Chemistry class, Mr. Regan slipped into the room, spotted me, and quietly moved to where I sat in the back of the room.  He held the paper in front of me wanting to know why on earth I would opt out.  He did this as discretely as possible, which I respected.  I told him the truth.

"I can't get a ride, and don't really want to."

Academic achievements are important.  Working hard in school is important.  Grades are important.  But to me, I just wanted to get by.  Not the best attitude.  If I had a better one then maybe I wouldn't be a laborer for a living.  Ah well.

Hope its over

The George Zimmerman trial has concluded.  The not guilty verdict is in.  If you have no clue what I'm talking about then I look forward to hearing your tales of life under a rock.  I'm so glad its over.  I don't care about the verdict.  I'm just hoping this blows over without riots or any more violence and hopefully the dimwits shouting how "the system" is racist, and there's no justice will eventually settle down.

This whole thing breaks down to two guys who made a bunch of bad choices.  Unfortunately one of them ended up dead.  Tons of public outrage.  Obama spouting bullshit about "if I had a son, he's probably look like Treyvon Martin."  All this pressure to put Zimmerman away.  Ridiculous amounts of news coverage.

The prosecuting attornies should have gone for a manslaughter charge, but think about how that would have played out.  "How can they not go for a murder charge!" would be the battle cry from all the people who had already made up their minds about what happened despite not having seen all the evidence.  This of course has much to do with media spewing forth every little factoid (regardless of accuracy) and opinion that someone has to offer.

This was such a circus.  A big stupid circus.  The media hyped it up for ratings.  People got their outrage on and fed the media beast.  It spiraled out of control.  Everyone who disagreed with someone else was somehow a racist, and then there were the actual full on bigots that popped up to either call for the lynching of Zimmerman or say disgusting things about a dead teenager.  If everyone had just shut their yeps and let this play out and let the police, and investigators, and the attornies do their jobs then Zimmerman would probably be in jail over a manslaughter charge.

Keep that in mind.

Movie Review: Despicable Me 2

Yes, answering all the questions left unanswered by the original DESPICABLE ME, here comes the sequel. Actually, there were no real questions left unanswered by the first film.  Pretty much a nice little self contained little piece.  The first movie was cute.  I got some good laughs at places.  Left it feeling good.  There was really only one thing that really demanded another movie be made.


I love me some Minions.  If the movie powers that be decided that they were going to make a movie that was nothing but two hours of Minions doing Minion-type thingies, I'd go.  I doubt I'd be alone either.

However, this isn't MINIONS THE MOVIE, its DESPICABLE ME 2, and Gru is back!  When last we left him, he was going to hang up the whole super villain things and dedicate himself to being a father to Margo, Edith, and Agnes.  That's exactly what he did too.  This isn't about Gru adjusting to being a good dad.  He rocks at being a dad.  Sure he's got plenty of help with all his little, yellow henchmen, but he's completely engaged with these kids.  The interactions with them are deligthful and completely believable.

But there's trouble afoot, and Gru is called upon to use his expertise to stop a mysterious villain before things go horrible.  To top it off he's partnered with a delightfully eager and adorably awkward partner, Lucy.  Yep, we have to see if Gru can save the world and find love while doing it.  

Let's break this down.  This movie is a lot of fun.  I enjoyed it more than the original.  Technically sound on all points with animation quality, voice acting and everything.  The story was light and fun, with just enough heart and plenty of adventure.  Took the kids, and they had a blast.  It managed to keep adults entertained without getting to heavy on the "adult" humor.

Like I said before, I love Minions.  They really were the breakout stars from the first film, and there was plenty of Minion hyjinks to be enjoyed here.  However, this movie smartly gave us more Minion-y goodness, but also balanced that very well with the overall story.  It could have easily turned into something that was Minion topheavy and just had the story there to get us from one goofy Minion bit to the next.  It didn't.  This flick really delivered.

Now, for anyone wondering if this movie suffers from "Trailer fail" (In which all the really good parts are shown in the trailer and the rest of the movie is lame), it absolutely doesn't.  Go see it.  Find a kid and take them.

The Ballad of Steve and Larry

Saw this video.  Made a comment about making a fan-fiction, and so of course I had to do it.

It was a tense day in the far away land known has Minnesota. Queen Ashley looked to skies which were hazy and odd looking, like the distorted dreams of one who had eaten too much pie. She feared for her subjects, many of whom were too busy looking at cat videos to take note of the possible, impending threat. The noble queen stood atop the outer wall of her keep with a cool evening breeze blowing through her blonde hair. She pondered what was to come, much like she pondered the severity of hangovers after nights of much hearty beer.

It was then that the enemy struck. It was trolls. Hundreds of them. They brayed and screeched; yowling to the heavens about the queen’s editing and content. They shouted how she was derivative and added nothing of value to the ether of ideas that swirled through the world. The queen knew that her loyal subjects would rise up to defend her, but she also knew too well the harsh consequences that could come from such skirmishes. Insults would be hurled. There would be flames; OH how there would be flames.

Well, if the trolls wanted flames, then flames Queen Ashley would give them. The foolish trolls must not have known that her realm was protected. The cool evening breeze strengthened to a gust; a gust which could only be caused by the mighty dragon, Larry! As Ashley took to the highest tower to survey the coming battle, Larry swooped overhead. His passing made her hair and dress wave and dance like parking tickets before a leaf blower. His mighty, green wings carried him straight towards the troll hoard.

The trolls unleashed their battle cry of “Tits or GTFO!” and the sky was then filled with spears and arrows aimed at the noble lizard. With one flap, Larry created a mighty wind which scattered the spears and arrows. Still the taunts came. Still the torches were waved. Larry belched forth a mighty fireball which sent the little hobgoblins scurrying and squealing, like a tween girl in the face of an annoying Canadian pop star. Larry took pride in his earnest work defending the realm of Queen Ashley and it smiled as best it could. Still, he was a dragon and even smiling he looked like he was ready to eat someone. He spied a tasty looking morsel of a troll. The troll was a fat one, fresh from his underground dwelling beneath the home of his parents. Larry swooped down to gobble up the smelly bastard.

It was then that disaster struck. The trolls had an ace up their sweat-stained sleeve. A mimetic catapult hurled a ridiculously overused image and words which were somehow meant to be clever at Larry. Caught unawares, the dragon was struck hard and crashed down to the cold ground of the battle. He struggled to regain his composure before the trolls overtook him. Then came the chants from the hoard. “FAIL!”

Queen Ashley could not let her noble ally be taken by the horrid, unwashed masses. She hurried to the deepest dwelling of the keep. There she came to her realm’s ultimate defense: the Supreme Tactical Electronic Vindication Engine. Standing before it she uttered the activation voice command “Hey there” and with a wink of her pretty eyes the behemoth came to life.

Rising up from the depths of the keep, S.T.E.V.E. the robot strode towards the battle. He was bright and shiny with flashing lights and waving arms. “WTF?!,” howled the troll hoard before S.T.E.V.E. scattered them with one swing of his mighty, slinky-looking robot arm. This allowed plenty of time for Larry to compose himself and once again take to the skies.

The mighty robot and noble dragon could not be swayed or deterred by the verbal barbs and incessant flames of their annoying foes. Queen Ashley retook her post in the high tower and looking down upon the scene of the trolls retreating to her dank dwellings with Larry and S.T.E.V.E. is pursuit. A smile played at her ruby lips as she uttered the cry of victory. “PWN’D!”