Thursday, December 27, 2007

Beefed Up Wind Instruments

The gauntlet has been thrown down.

Each year, my friend Kevin and his family send out a Christmas card. Tucked in each of these cards is a three paragraph note detailing what Kevin's family has accomplished during the year. The paragraphs organize themselves by family member - starting with Kevin, moving to his wife and finally closing with the details about their smart, talented daughter.

It is very similar to other holiday letters we receive, except for one thing:

Kevin's family accomplishes an amazing amount of crap in one year.

Kevin, for instance, is a project manager on two major government construction projects. He's been selected by a trade magazine as one of fifty up and comers for his field. In his spare time, he got a law degree. His daughter is no slouch, either. She goes to school and takes multiple classes outside of school. In her spare time, she wrote a book.

In my spare time this year, I taught my kids to fart the melodies to all the songs on Britney Spears' comeback album.

As impressive as that accomplishment is, I still feel like something of a slacker when I look at Kevin's annual letter. So, I've decided to do something about it. I'm going to send out my own letter. Obviously, I can't go back in time and urge my family to achieve more than they actually did. No, it's much more practical for me to just lie about our achievements.

"When he wasn't spending hours working on his award-winning blog, Grim Richard mapped and sequenced his own human genome using parts salvaged from abandoned bread-making machines and exercise equipment. He also was nominated for, but did not win, a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the half life of french fries lost in the fissures of car seats."

Now, we're getting somewhere.

"His wife, when not perfecting her technique for growing breast tissue with her mind, finished writing and inking her twelve volume graphic novel detailing the history of the Middle East - making it the first graphic novel written in English, Farsi and Esperanto."

I'm starting to like my family better already. But my letter needs a little truth to keep it anchored to reality...

"Grim Richard produced and re-mixed Britney Spears' comeback album, Blackout, using "found" instruments and a beefed-up wind section...."

Yep. that's it.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Catnip for Chicks

Ahhhhh! Our small house rings with sound of cooking, caroling and giftwrapping.

My only complaint? It's difficult to concentrate on video games like Call of Duty 4 or Halo 3 with all of that ringing Christmas crap going on in the background.

Every married video game player faces the same conundrum. How do you fit quality time with your wife into your already hectic video game schedule? And when you're spending that quality time with your wife, what's the best way to pretend that you're not thinking about playing video games?

It' a question as old as Atari, my friend.

My personal strategy combines elements of chess, timing and a keen understanding of my wife's television-viewing habits. When I get home from work, I resist the urge to jump online and play video games. Instead I do something less intuitive - I help around the house. My wife notices this pretty quickly.

"You're not going to play video games?" she asks.

"No," I reply. "I figured we'd watch T.V. together on the couch. You can lay down and I'll rub your feet."

At this point, my wife senses the trap, but to no avail. For some reason, foot rubbing is like catnip for chicks. They can't resist it and my wife is no exception. She positions herself on the couch; I turn on the Lifetime channel which, when combined with foot rubbing, forms a potent cocktail unrivaled by even Valium. My wife is snoring within 15 minutes. Then, I go play video games for three hours.

If she asks the next day, I tell her that I rubbed her feet for about an hour and then went to bed early.

I mentioned my strategy to a fellow video gamer at work.

"I use a different strategy," he said.

He begins the same way I do, by watching television with his wife. He tolerates it as long he can and then, when he can't stand it anymore, he turns to his woman, looks soulfully into her eyes...

"...and then I touch her boobs," he said.

Her response is almost instantaneous. She doesn't even look away from the television.

"Why don't you go play some video games, baby?"

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Web's Only Honest Holiday Gift Guide

The Web's Only Honest Holiday Gift Guide
(What You Shouldn't Buy This Christmas)

Every year, I see Web sites filling up space by publishing holiday gift guides. And every year, I see parents standing in line outside of Best Buy trying to buy the items listed in those holiday gift guides. Coincidence?

I think not.

This year I offer the Web's only honest holiday gift guide as a remedy. It's list of really cool stuff and reasons you shouldn't buy that cool stuff.

The Nintendo Wii

Every parent I know is searching fruitlessly for a Wii. It's the cheapest game console on the market and boasts revolutionary controls that encourage players to actually move and exercise when they're playing games.

My family got one last Christmas. It took my kids about an hour to figure out that big, wild, vigorous movements (you know, exercise) can be completely replaced by small, controlled wrist movements. Luckily for my kid's health, they enjoy playing a virtual reality game called "Running Around" on a revolutionary game console I call "The Outdoors."

The Lowdown: The only exercise benefit you're likely to get involves standing in line at Best Buy.

The I Phone

I really, really want one of these $400 phones with the revolutionary multi-touch interface. I want one of these so much that I harangued my wife into getting me one for Christmas - and then I withdrew my request.

You know why? It's a $400 phone. And it doesn't actually do anything better than other, cheaper phones. It just does it cooler. It's like the high school cheerleader of phones.

Hmmmm. Now, I want an I Phone again.

The Lowdown: It's expensive and won't improve your life. It does have the ability to make early adopters look cooler than they actually are, but if you don't have one by your money and buy another black turtleneck.

Big Screen Televisions

The old adage says it all: size does not matter. Unless you plan to sit more than 20 feet away from your television, a huge screen size is cool for exactly ten minutes - and then it looks like every other television screen.

The Lowdown: Bigger does not mean better. If someone tries to tell you different, they're either trying to sell you a television set, trying to justify why they bought one or compensating because of other, uh, size issues.

Gift Cards

You realize that this is a scam right? Stores offer them because up to 30% of the money put on these cards is never used - resulting in pure profit for the stores.

The Lowdown: If you'd like to approximate the purchase of a gift card for a friend without actually buying one, do this: withdraw $100 from your bank account. Hand $70 to your friend. Light the remaining $30 on fire and hug while you watch the money turn to dust.

Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Unreview

I'm a man with varied and eclectic interests that include reading, writing and working on elaborate science projects with my kids. I am, however, also a busy man and I've concluded that actually spending time on any of these interests would consume way too much of my discretionary time. For this reason, I don't actually participate in any of my hobbies, but I do enjoy buying stuff that gives me the appearance of actually participating.

Lately, instead of reading, I've been trying to buy Amazon's new electronic reading device, the Kindle. The Kindle, for those who don't know, is a white, paperback-sized device that lets you buy books wirelessly and begin reading them almost instantly - all for the low price of $400. I used the phrase "trying to buy" because the Amazon Kindle is sold out and will not be available until February.

A person less dedicated to buying stuff might use this opportunity to actually read books the old fashioned way. Not me. Instead, I've spent hours reading the Amazon reviews for the Kindle. I haven't actually learned anything new about the device, but I have learned something cool about the consumers who write Amazon reviews:

Hundreds of people who have never actually touched the device have given it negative reviews. That's right. Of the hundreds of negative reviews garnered by the Kindle, only a fraction were written by people who've actually used the device.

Frankly, this was an epiphany. For years, I've held back my opinion on various products because I hadn't actually used them. I've stifled my thoughts on hundreds of movies I haven't seen and buried my feelings concerning thousands of books I haven't had the time to read.

I had no idea you could unreview something.

Well, I'm going to make up for lost time. I'm planning to become the Internet's - nay, the world's - best unreviewer. And I've started by unreviewing the Kindle. You can read my unreview here.