Popeye Small craft warning: Sentimentality storm ahead with windy sincerity. Proceed with caution.

Thanksgiving is the one holiday we haven't screwed up. Or maybe it's the one we've screwed up the least. Retailers insist on leveraging it as a launchpad for the Christmas marketing onslaught, and they've successfully managed to commandeer the day after, "Black Friday," as a shoppers feeding frenzy.

But most of us here in the States still think of Thanksgiving as a time to gather with family and friends and reflect on the things that matter to us. I've been doing a bit of that lately.

When I think about this blog, I think about a place that's become a significant part of my daily life, and I realize how much it means to me. And I feel thankful.

This is the place I come to express myself. It's the place I come to share ideas and experiences with friends. It's the place I come to learn and grow in my understanding of these lovely games that bring me so much joy. It's a certain kind of home.

I'm grateful to be part of a community that welcomed me when it could just as easily have ignored me, or smirked at the musings of a middle-aged prof who doesn't quite fit in. I'm thankful for the people who took time out of their lives to read something I wrote. I'm thankful for all the comments and advice and helpful recommendations.

I'm thankful for all the times when the conversation rose above the fray; when people tried hard to listen and empathize and learn. I'm thankful for the all times you helped me see my limits and consider my blind spots. I'm thankful nobody told me to shut up about Flower, Little Big Planet, or my kids.

I'm grateful for all the gamer friends I've made online. Real friends. Not virtual ones.

And I'm thankful for the games, and the thousands of hours, and the thousands of people who make them. I don't do best-of roundups, mostly because a list I'd make today would probably look very different from a list I'd make tomorrow. Today I'm loving the new Mario after breakfast with family. Yesterday, it was Demon's Souls at 2:30am by myself.

All I know is I can't think of a single moment this year when I ran out of games I wanted to play. There's always a game I want to play; usually a stack of them. And I'm thankful for that too.

So, thanks for indulging my need to say thanks. :-) I'm taking a few days off for the holiday, but I'll be back on Monday with a new post. Happy gaming everyone.

Nunchuck jockey

Zoe1 The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than 2 be restricted from television viewing. My wife and I decided to heed that advice when our baby Zoe arrived 13 months ago. I expected such a restriction would feel like a big sacrifice, but it really hasn't. We don't watch much TV anyway, and the small handful of shows we enjoy don't come on until after she's gone to bed. Sports can be a problem, especially during baseball season, but we have an old TV upstairs I can always retreat to.

But video games...well, that's another story. I do my best to abide by our parental agreement. I play late at night or very early in the morning; I play in my office sometimes; and I play on my laptop computer. Basically, I get my gaming in however I can, but it's not as easy as it was in the old days. And the older I get, the less I can manage those late-night gaming benders without zombie-like consequences.

So I guess you could say I'm a Responsible Gamer Dad now. Hard to believe those three words belong in the same sentence, isn't it?

But the old rebel-gamer hasn't disappeared completely. Zoe and I have a secret. We play Animal Crossing together. That's right. Come and get us, Academy of Pediatrics. If you can catch us, that is.

We play for 10-15 minutes a day. She operates the nunchuck, and I handle the Wiimote. We fish, plant flowers, dig holes, chop down trees (her favorite), and generally mix and mingle with the denizens of our little town. Zoe's still working on motor skills, so she can't do many things by herself, but the game works remarkably well as a co-op experience, at least for now. I can tell by the way she keeps jerking the Wiimote out of my hand that co-op mode may not last for much longer.

Zoe2 I've written here before about how much I love the Animal Crossing games, so I won't go on about them again. The Wii version, City Folk, doesn't add a lot of new content, but I don't mind much. These games have never been about feature-lists and content upgrades. Crazy as it may sound, I still find it novel and thoroughly charming that every day in Animal Crossing is different from the next.

The trees got decorated for Christmas, and Zoe noticed. An anteater named Cyrano moved in the other day. Zoe liked him because he was new; I liked him because he's an anteater named Cyrano.

Tomorrow I think we'll drop by Shampoodle. We'll see how Zoe feels about a new hair color.

So long, asshole


George Carlin was a great man. In the formative years of my life, he taught me many things about courage, principled dissent, and the power of words. Roughly half of what I think I know about comedy, I learned from George Carlin. He was a genuine hero to me, and to the end of his life he never let me down.

I distinctly remember watching the very first live broadcast of Saturday Night Live. Carlin hosted, did some stand-up, and basically blessed the proceedings with his comic imprimatur. I remember thinking the show had no chance whatsoever. Too edgy for mainstream America - sort of like Carlin.

I played his albums at home when my mom was away. I pretty much wore out "Class Clown," which I still consider one of the greatest comedy recordings ever made. My mom knew I listened to the Carlin records - heck, I think she actually bought most of them for me - but Carlin wasn't her cup of tea. I've since come to realize how important that little gift of autonomy was to me. Thanks, mom.

Carlin told the truth. Hypocrisy drove him nuts, and he attacked it with brilliant precision. But he also had a big heart. I recall watching Thomas the Tank Engine with my son when he was little. Carlin could easily have phoned in this voiceover gig, but he read his part with softness and conviction. My son had no idea how complex Mr. Conductor really was.

A few years ago Carlin appeared on Inside the Actors Studio, and he spoke about his Catholic school education. I think his words convey something revealing about what made George Carlin tick:

I wanted people to know that the disrespect that I had for the dogmatic aspect, and for the inconsistency, and in a lot of cases the cruelty of Catholic doctrine, was tempered with an affection and a gratitude that I had for this wonderful setting that I considered like a garden ... where they let me grow ... be a creative person and think for myself there, so I kind of wanted to kind of illustrate that, and go, thanks and no thanks.

In 1972, Carlin was arrested in Milwaukee for uttering the famous "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television." For old times sake, here they are again in all their infamous glory.

  1. Shit - The bird shit on the statue.
  2. Piss - I have to piss like a race horse.
  3. Fuck - Fuck you.
  4. Cunt - She has a gorgeous cunt.
  5. Cocksucker - Go to hell, you cocksucker.
  6. Motherfucker - You are a motherfucker.
  7. Tits - Hey, nice tits.

Thanks for everything, George. When you see that motherfucker Lenny, tell him we miss him too.

My handheld has motion control!


I tried to walk away from this one. Really I did. (See "late to party" update below.)

From Reuters:

Two Belgian beer fans have launched a video game named Place to Pee which allows players to slalom down ski slopes or kill aliens while relieving themselves at urinals.

Werner Dupont, a software developer, and Bart Geraets, an electrical engineer, got the idea while drinking Belgian trappist beers, they told Reuters Television at a local festival on Sunday.

"This thing had to be invented by Belgian people and that's what we are," they said.

The Place to Pee booth is designed for two users at a time and offers two games -- blowing up aliens in outer space or skiing down a virtual slope. Gamers hit their target by aiming at sensors positioned on either side of the urinal.

A specially designed paper cone allows women to play too, the inventors say.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Brainy Gamer programming.

Update: A vigilant reader informs me that Belgian police have intervened and banned the game. Apparently Reuters' report, published yesterday, is late to the party because this story first appeared in 2007. Which makes my post not only late, but downright laggardly. Oh well. At least I found an excuse to post that cool Easy Rider shot.

Rumble feature enabled

Indiana_state_flag_2 At 5:36 this morning my wife (who grew up in California) grabbed me, woke me up, and said "We're having an earthquake." Sure enough, our floors were shaking, windows rattling, and it sounded like a train was rumbling by our house.

We live in Indiana, so shaking floors and rattling windows always mean an approaching tornado to me. I've never felt an earthquake in my life. Now I have. We were hit this morning by a magnitude 5.2 earthquake. No damage, everybody's fine, and our baby slept through it. So did our cat.

Apologies for the video game disconnect. I guess if you're a midwestern blogger experiencing your first earthquake, you're going to blog about it. And so I have.