Friday, December 20, 2013

New Christmas Television Specials For The 21st Century

Every December, it seems that we're treated to the same holiday specials and Christmas-themed movies. After a few of seeing the same ones over and over, I for one am getting kind of sick of them, and yearn for something new.

That's why I've come up with a series of brand new holiday specials for Christmas or whatever the Hell else you want to celebrate in December. Where appropriate, the suggested network is provided. Any television executives who see this list should feel free to contact me courtesy of this blog.

A Charlie Brown Krampus (ABC Family)
Charlie Brown and Linus finally get fed up with Lucy being a violent, raging, football-pulling turbo bitch, and summon the Krampus to drag her off to Hell. Meanwhile, Woodstock deals with the repurcussions after he's shown at the conclusion of "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" eating turkey, which implies that he is now considered a cannibal.

The Kardashians' Khristmas Karol 
The Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future (Khloe, Kourtney, and Kim) visit Ebeneezer Scrooge (Bruce Jenner), after a visit from the ghost of Jacob Marley (Kanye West). The constant whirring sound you hear is Charles Dickens spinning in his grave at 100,000 RPM.

I'm Dreaming Of A Great White Shark Christmas (SyFy)
A massive school of cold-thriving, snow-capable great white sharks converge on a town's Christmas celebrations during a super-blizzard brought on by sunspot activity. Starring Shaun Cassidy, Maureen McCormick, Mike Lookinland, and Tiffany.

Teen Jesus (MTV)
An ongoing series that explores the time between the Nativity and the beginning of Christ's ministry. In this episode, Teen Jesus get His friends in trouble when he accidentally turns the football team's drinking water into wine. Later, Teen Jesus ponders whether or not to cure the head cheerleader (Mary Magdalene) of her acne in order to get the school bully (Pontius Pilate) to stop teasing her. Back at home, Joseph uses the last of the wise men's gold to purchase a new camel for the family, and Teen Jesus wants to borrow it.

Behind The Music: The Little Drummer Boy (VH1)
The life and career of the Little Drummer Boy is examined with a series of interviews and rare performance footage. This installment details the LDB's attempts to keep his career going after playing a solo for the King of Kings, which let's face it is something that's difficult to top. LDB struggles to stay relevant while dealing with his frankincense addiction. Includes rare footage of LDB's "Do or Die, One Last Shot at Redemption" Comeback Concert at the Coliseum in Rome. Special interviews with band members Beat-master Ox and Time-keeper Lamb, LDB's agent (Judas Iscariot), and Brutus, the Roman Coliseum lion who ultimately ended LDB's career for good.

Black Friday/White Christmas (Lifetime)
A widowed mother (Valerie Bertinelli) who lost her husband in a Black Friday X-Box riot the previous Christmas tries to get over the trauma of her loss in time to go and buy presents for her children. Along the way, she is aided by a mysterious yet daffy Christmas angel (Lady Gaga).

One Horse Openly Slays (AKA Jingle Hell) (FearNet)
A demon-possessed horse (Sarah Jessica Parker) goes on a violent murderous rampage through a crowded shopping mall on Christmas eve. Oh, what fun.

A Very Dyslexic Christmas
Things end in soul-shattering tragedy when a group of dyslexic revelers try to sit on Satan's lap.

Herbie, DDS
This hard-hitting medical drama showcases Herbie the Elf (Hugh Laurie) and his attempts at bringing dental hygiene to the North Pole. In this episode, Herbie tries to fit the Bumble (Seth Rogen) with dentures, and Yukon Cornelius (Jack Black) loses four front teeth when he accidentally bites in a frozen solid piece of peanut brittle. It's a race against time for Herbie to reattach the teeth in time for Christmas dinner. Meanwhile, Clarice (Jodi Foster) is being stalked by Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins).

The War On Christmas (History Channel)
The tactics, weapons systems, and prominent military leaders are showcased in this hard-hitting documentary detailing the organized humanist assault on Christmas. Includes footage of fruitcake IEDs, creche fire-bombings, and surface-to-air candy cane launchers. Actual combat footage of Christmas Caroling squads engaged in skirmishes versus ACLU-backed Christmas-haters. May be too intense for young children and toy-making elves.

RuPaul's Drag Race: Don We Now Our Gay Apparel (Logo)
Drag queens. Christmas outfits. You do the math.

The Sarah Palin Holy Christian Jesus God Bless America Traditional Family Values Old Timey Christmas Special (Fox News Channel)
This variety show features Sarah Palin and her guests Rush Limbaugh, Ted Cruz, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, and Bill O'Reilly, as they celebrate an all-American old fashioned Christmas celebration, just like Jesus and His family did, as outlined in the Declaration of Independence. Also, guest star Kirk Cameron delivers a rambling and confusing Christmas message.

The Terminator Saves "It's A Wonderful Life" (Spike TV)
The Terminator (Ah-nuld) goes back in time for the sake of humanity, and positively murders the living Hell out of anyone even remotely connected with the production of the "It's A Wonderful Life" sequel.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Things I've learned thus far this Christmas season.

1. Every Christmas season has its particular recurring themes. This year, they appear to be: Elf on the Shelf, Ugly Christmas Sweater Parties, and Krampus. 
2. The world needs more ugly Christmas sweaters depicting Krampus dragging the Elf on the Shelf off to Hell.
3. The proper response to the Cthulhu-inspired turduken amalgam of turkey, octopus, bacon, and crab legs is "Kill it with fire".
4. For some reason, tickets for the World Champion Boston Red Sox 2014 season are cheaper than Bruins tickets.
5. There IS no war on Christmas. Any politician telling you otherwise, is selling something.
6. On the other hand, people who are "offended" by their neighbors' Christmas light displays really need to shut the Hell up.
7. If you think the ASPCA commercials with the Sarah McLachlan song "Angels" are eye-gougingly depressing and make you want to open fire on your television, then you haven't heard the holiday version, with "Silent Night" being sung like a dirge.
8. It is possible to maintain one's vow never to set foot in a Wal-Mart ever again and yet still find extremely good Christmas shopping bargains.
9. It's never too early to start bitching about the snow and cold.
10. For some reason, the average Joe or Jane on the street seem nicer and, dare I say, merrier this season. I won't question it; I'll just continue basking in it.
11. Apparently, pine trees are poisonous to cats. But it turns out, fir trees aren't, Thankfully, we got a fir without even realizing it.

Honorable Mention: This is the best Christmas video this year.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Facts You May Not Know About The Pearl Harbor Attack

Today marks the 72nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. As a history buff, especially in terms of military history and naval history in particular, I've always found Pearl Harbor to be a fascinating event.

So here's a list of eleven factoids that many people may not be aware of. Read on!

  1. US Army general Billy Mitchell, an early proponent of air power, predicted that the US would go to war with Japan, and that Pearl Harbor would be attacked by aircraft. He made this prediction in 1924!
  2. The Japanese were good at taking other nation's lessons and learning from them. The attack on Pearl Harbor was inspired by a similar attack by the Royal Navy against the Italians in the Mediterranean, at Taranto. The British bombed the Italian naval base with aircraft launched from the HMS Eagle, in 1940. One Italian battleship was sunk, and two damaged. The Japanese studied the battle carefully, and implemented the tactics when they hit Pearl.
  3. The Pearl Harbor attack was but one of a series of simultaneous attacks across the Pacific by the Imperial Japanese forces. The overall plan had been to knock out the US Navy, drive off the Royal Navy, seize as many bases and territories as possible, reinforce and fortify them, and dig in, bracing themselves in anticipation of America's manufacturing might eventually building up a large navy again. Japan figured that if they took enough territory and then made it impregnable, they could eventually negotiate a peace.
  4. While it's commonly said that there were eight battleships at Pearl on the morning of December 7th, technically there were NINE. The aged USS Utah, no longer fit for front-line combat duty, was stripped down and converted into a target ship. The Japanese mistook it for a carrier, and sank it.
  5. One battleship, the Nevada, was not sunk, but rather beached at Waipao Point. The Nevada was the only battleship that had steam enough to get underway, but as she made for the harbor exit, the Japanese focused on it as a target for bombs, and it occurred to the captain that if the Japanese sunk the ship at the mouth of the harbor, it would render Pearl Harbor useless until the ship could be raised. So, instead, he ordered the battleship to run aground.
  6. Only two battleships actually were total losses, the Arizona and the Oklahoma. However, a lot of American propaganda at the time insisted that the Oklahoma had been rebuilt and was fighting in the Pacific. Um, no.
  7. The attack happened on a Sunday morning, and many servicemen were at services. According to author Walter Lord, who wrote Day of Infamy, one chaplain's benediction was "God bless you all, Pearl Harbor is under attack, report to your stations."
  8. In the movie "Tora! Tora! Tora!", considered one of the best and most accurate movies about the attack, the band on the fantail of the Nevada was playing the national anthem and raising the colors as the attack began. They are shown increasing the anthem's tempo because they saw the Japanese planes swooping in for a bombing run, and they wanted to get the heck out of there. While it made for a kind of funny scene, it did NOT happen that way. The band played the anthem at the normal tempo, didn't miss a beat, finished it, THEN ran for their stations.
  9. The US Navy fuel storage fields were mistakenly labelled as baseball fields on Japanese intelligence maps, so they were not bombed. Had they been, the resulting destruction of those supplies would have gone a long way towards crippling the surviving ships' operations.
  10. When FDR gave his Day of Infamy speech and Congress voted to declare war, it was declared only against the Japanese, not the Axis Powers as a whole. America was assuming that they would be fighting only the Japanese, while providing arms and material to Britain and Russia in their fight against the Nazis. It was Hitler who declared war on America a few days later, followed by Mussolini.
  11. Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of the attack, was reportedly upset by their Foreign Ministry's messing up the delivery of the declaration of war. He was upset that the attack occurred when the two nations were technically at peace, and that the attack would be considered a sneak attack.
Incidentally, I highly recommend Walter Lord's book "Day of Infamy". Lord was an excellent writer who wrote non-fiction, documentary style accounts of some important events of the 20th century (Pearl Harbor, Dunkirk, the Titanic, the Battle of Midway).

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes! Red Sox Version!

Although most of Red Sox Nation is still walking around with big dumb grins of delighted victory disbelief on their faces, we must turn our attention now to the off-season and the plethora of moves that the teams are conducting, particularly our beloved Red Sox.

I would be remiss if I didn't commentate on three significant Red Sox bits of news that hit teh Interwebz today. And what's that they say about news coming in threes?

1. Jarrod Saltalamacchia Rides Off Into Tropical Obscurity
Okay, so let's say you are a free agent who has two choices. One, you can take a two-year contract with your former team, a World Champion team, no less. Enthusiastically rabid fan base, great teammates, historical park, just an all-around awesome deal. But again, they won't offer you more than two years. Your other choice is THREE years on a pathetically bad National League team located in the state where America goes to die, with a fan base that doesn't approach anywhere near the level of enthusiasm of your former team's fans. What do you do?

Apparently, you take the crap team.

What a pity. I liked Salty. I also liked saying his name; it sort of rolled off your tongue. Saltalamacchia! Sort of like how the name Antonio Banderas does (although you must say it with a slightly Spanish lilt to it. That is, you use the lilt for Antonio, not Jarrod).

But think of it...Marlins are big salt-water fish. Saltalamacchia is often referred to as Salty. Fish. Salty. You have to admit, there's a bond there.

Fun Useless Fact: The Homecoming Queen in my senior year at High was Eileen Saltalamacchia. And yes, she was the perfect choice.

2. Tacoby Bellsbury Goes Over To The Dark Side (Though They Don't Have Cookies..Just $153 Mil).
Come on, is anyone really surprised by this? Jacoby wanted his big payday and he's a client of Scott Boras. The Sox weren't going to give him what he wanted. He was a goner already. So, in steps the Yankees, whose roster is aging so badly that Depends are now standard equipment in the dugout, and they throw a 7 year $153 million dollar contract at him. Because, you see, the Yankees are the leaders in hideously ill-conceived contracts. Just ask A-Fraud. So let's improve their roster by bringing in an injury-prone 30 year old.

Look, I wish the guy well. He was a part of two of our World Series wins, and is a great lead off hitter and a great base stealer. When he's healthy. And therein lies his Achilles heel (any reports of a damaged Achilles tendon are just rumor). He has difficulty staying healthy, and his recoveries are notoriously slow. And I got news flash for ya, Sparky...the older you get, the longer you take to recover from injuries. Fact.

But I'm sure the Yankee fans will be their usual understanding selves.

And for what it's worth, if I get to a game next year, and by some miracle it's Sox vs Yanks, no, I won't boo him.

3. Say WHAT!?
But wait! The news today isn't just about who we's also about who we gained! We now have a new catcher! Salty wasn't interested in the two year deal the Sox offered him; he wanted at least three years. We didn't want to give him more because we have a couple of minor leaguers who will be ready soon. Okay, so all the Sox had to do was find a catcher for one year, perhaps a slight possibly of two. Someone whose temperament would fit in well with this team of loveable, personable, wacky guys!

And boy oh boy, did the front office find someone!

We got...

Wait for it...

This is gonna be good...

A.J. Pierzysnki!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sox Win The World Series! Now Here's Some Random Thoughts...

It's fitting that today is Halloween, because last night the Boston Red Sox pulled the ultimate trick on major league baseball and gave us Fenway Faithful an awesome treat: going from one of the worst teams in 2012 to winning it all against the Cardinals.

Seriously, as much of an optimist, pie in the sky, we're down 5-0 bottom of the ninth but we can still win this, kind of Sox fan that I am, I did not see this coming, even as late as the start of the playoffs. Of course, once they made it to the World Series, I did call it: Sox in six!

A hearty congratulations and WOOOFRICKINHOOO! to the Red Sox and the entire fan base! What an amazing year with a spectacular ending!

So, since this blog has a sports-oriented name and I'm a die-hard Sox fan, naturally there needs to be a post that has something to do with the World Series. Here's a collection of thoughts that have been going through my brain today (thoughts other than "man, I shouldn't have had that champagne and stayed up so late last night").

  • Big Papi deserved the World Series MVP, but I'd have been just as happy if Lester had won it, or even better, if they had co-MVPs.
  • You do know that if Bobby Valentine was still manager, they'd have won the series in just three games, right? And all the while, he'd be serving the team sandwich wraps!
  • The awesomeness of last night was further enhanced with the realization that we'll never have to subject ourselves to Tim McCarver's deranged biased ramblings ever again. And that's a win for all baseball fans, not just Boston's!
  • Hey, Phillies! Thanks, for indirectly giving us the Flyin' Hawaiian!
  • I think the people who said that Pedroia was too short to play baseball need to be called out, front and center, and let Red Sox Nation point and laugh at them.
  • The 2013 Red Sox season could also be called "The Redemption of John Lackey".
  • So. Where's the fried chicken and beer jokes now, eh?
  • Big Papi in Cooperstown? Hell yes!
  • I have no difficulty in believing that Terry Francona contacted John Farrell and congratulated him on doing the same thing that he himself did: bring the Sox a World Series win in the first year of being manager.
  • Farrell wasn't perfect this year, but somehow I think he's received some impressive on the job training. And no one can deny that his gut feelings which he employed in putting together the Game 6 lineup were spot-on.
  • Entry in the "Sox fans will always find something to bitch about even when they win" Department: the only way this could've been better is if Pesky had been around to see one last championship, and this was the year of Fenway's 100th anniversary, not 2012.
  • The shrieks of ecstasy that you heard seemingly from nowhere were the sounds of Scott Boras anticipating a huge payday in the near future.
  • Speaking of which, here's four free agents whose Sox futures are uncertain: Ellsbury, Saltalamacchia, Drew, and Napoli. My prediction: Ells is gone, Salty is gone, Napoli stays, and Drew can go either way.
  • If Ells does indeed go, welcome to the Jackie Bradley Jr era. This is not a bad thing.
  • I wonder what Beckett, Gonzalez, Crawford, and Youk are thinking today. And of all those guys, the one I feel the most sorry for is Youk. Yeah, granted, he was getting injured a lot, but let's face it, he was a direct casualty of the Clown Manager From Hell.
  • Hey, remember the news story that broke during the 2007 World Series celebration? That badly-timed, self-serving news item? Something about some baseball player getting an obscenely huge long-term contract from the New York Stinkees? Remember how many people threw back their heads and howled, and rightly so, about how the timing of that news story was poorly executed, since the big baseball news story that deserved sole attention was the Sox winning the Series? Yeah, remember that? Where are the Yankees now, and how's that relationship with A-Rod working for them today? Ladies and gentlemen, Karma has come to call, and she's in a rare mood.
  • Considering how many "The Official (insert product/service here) of the Boston Red Sox there are out there, are the Dropkick Murphys the Official Band of the Boston Red Sox? If not, they should be. If they are, then whooops, never mind...
  • After reading about how hard Mike Napoli took the World Series loss when he was with Texas two years ago, I feel especially happy for him today.
  • Since the victory parade traditionally has a duck boat for the team's support staff, and that Pedro, Tek, and Timmay worked for the organization in some capacity this year, does this mean we'll see them in the parade? I think it does! Hope so, anyway...
  • Bringing in Fisk and El Tiante to throw the first pitch in Game 6 was a touch of brilliance. 
  • I wonder what it's like to be Xander right now. You're 21 years old, you began the season in the minors, got called up to the majors in August, found yourself thrust onto the World Series roster, and now you're getting a ring.
  • Speaking of Xander, I predict he's going to be with us for quite some time, and will become one of those beloved players, like Ortiz or Pedroia.
  • If you're a fan of feel-good stories, especially in the "cast offs make good, win it all" genre, you have to love this 2013 Sox team. Whether it's veterans who've never been to the Series, veterans who've been to the Series but lost, or guys whose teams cut them loose because they supposedly had nothing left, there was a lot to root for here.
  • Summing up the 2013 Red Sox: Characters with Character.
  • After listening to John Henry's words upon receiving the World Series trophy, I really think the Red Sox IT department needs to install a new communications interface patch in his programming. I've seen Daleks be more articulate and emotive.
  • Ben Charington, you rock, sir.
  • The 2004 team was characterized as a pack of unlikely idiots. The 2007 team was just a scary good team of expert players up and down the lineup. The 2013 team is definitely more like 2004, don't you think?
  • After seeing photos of the Sox both clean-shaven and with their beards, I come away with the conviction that, as a rule, men look way better without beards. Or said another way, it takes a very rare breed of man who can pull off a good beard look. Lord knows I tried back in the late 90's. I'm just about done writing apology notes to anyone who'd ever been around to see that travesty in person.
  • Definitely on my Christmas list: World Series t-shirt, Red Sox Road Team jersey with Victorino's name on it.
  • Okay, don't get me wrong here, but is it at all possible that we can continue to remember the marathon bombing and keep praying for and rooting for the victims and their families, and do whatever it takes to help in their continued recovery and make sure that nothing like this ever happens again, but also permanently retire "Boston Strong"? Please?
And now, the off-season begins. Whatever happens, it promises to be an interesting one. And through it all, we'll have the Red Sox victory to keep us warm through the winter.

Congratulations again to the Boston Red Sox!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ex-Manager Bobby Valentine Claims Credit For Remarkable Red Sox 2013 Season

Former Sox manager Bobby Valentine addresses empty room.
After the abysmal 2012 season that showcased a dysfunctional Red Sox team led by "manager" and chronic verbal diarrhea sufferer Bobby Valentine, the best results that many of the Fenway Faithful expected out of Boston's 2013 team was that they simply not embarrass themselves or trip over the steps when emerging from the dugout. As of this writing, a stunned baseball world is witnessing the Boston Red Sox crowned as the AL Champions, finishing in a tie for the best record in baseball for 2013, and locked in a duel with the St. Louis Cardinals in the Fall Classic.

Even the most ardent Sox-hater has to grudgingly concede that this Boston team has, regardless of the World Series outcome, accomplished something special, a turnaround of positively epic proportions, one for the books. Many have tried to offer explanations for the resurgence, and on Thursday morning, another explanation came from a rather bizarre and yet regrettably not a wholly unexpected source.

"I am responsible for the Red Sox' fantastic performance this season!" proclaimed ex-manager Bobby Valentine. Taking the podium at a hastily arranged press conference, the erstwhile manager and professional blabbermouth regaled the empty room with his "logic".

"My 2012 tenure was a little less than successful," Valentine admitted in a rare display of acknowledging reality. "By the time winter hit, the guys, at least those that weren't traded away or ran away screaming, were humiliated and embarrassed. When Spring Training came around this year, they were exceptionally motivated to erase the memories of 2012."
  News Update:: These cats had more to do with the Sox
 successful season than Valentine did.

Valentine maintains that it was this degree of humiliation and almost fanatical desire to expunge 2012 that served as the catalyst for the Red Sox surprising success this year. "If I hadn't so completely and utterly screwed the bed as manager last year, they wouldn't have had that burning, itching need to prove themselves and salvage their dignity this year. And since one of the many tasks of a manager is to motivate his players, well, I leave you to do the math."

And, with a vacant, cow-like expression and dopey grin, he did just that, leaving the podium and wandering out the door, phone raised to his ear as he attempted to touch base with the Detroit Tigers' ownership, offering his services as manager. Screams could be heard on the other end of the line.

Some critics scoffed at Valentine's claims, noting that the words "Valentine" and "dignity" are mutually exclusive.

Valentine's bizarre assertions were further shot down in a statement released by John Henry, Red Sox principle owner, steel-driving man, and full-time android. "Bzzzt...Valentine does not compute not found!..bzzt..beep..Subject is delusional and possibly insane..approach with caution...bzzt. Ex-ter-min-ate!"

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sox Win The 2013 AL Pennant!

It takes a very special person with a very special mindset to be a true Red Sox fan. While I could ramble on about what doesn't make a true fan (some recent nasty fan comments, attitudes and behavior fresh in my mind), I'll instead point out one huge positive characteristic: an insane, stubborn optimism that the Olde Towne Team is going to rise to the occasion and prevail.

But not even in my wildest, craziest, reality-defying moments of optimism and wishful thinking did I think the Red Sox would win the American League pennant. No way. And I'm a big fan.

When you consider that the best mental picture of the 2012 Red Sox would be a herd of several dozen irritated, underachieving cats being unsuccessfully herded by a deranged, grinning circus clown with a non-functioning internal editor button, the idea of them having a season where the best outcome could be for them not to embarrass themselves for two consecutive years was all any true fan could hope for.

One of my co-workers, a dyed in the wool superfan who leaves me in the dust, was so disgusted with 2012 that he said the Sox would be lucky to win 70 games this year. I disagreed, and said that they would a) finish above .500, b) make the playoffs via the Wild Card, and c) get eliminated in the American League Division Series.

After all, they finished with a 69-93 record in 2012. And in a "Well that bloody well figures" department, 2012 was Fenway's 100th anniversary, and beloved Red Sox veteran Johnny Pesky died in August. I mean, talk about a season where it would have been a really good idea to not bite the large one and become mass victims of the St. Bobby Valentine Day Massacre! Pesky passes away and his last impression of his beloved Red Sox is them doing a convincing impersonation of the Houston Astros.

And so, now look at the Sox. Booby (sic) was given his walking papers, where he would eventually go on to just making stupid statements in public and actually putting me in the uncomfortable position of sticking up for and sympathizing with the New York Yankees in the wake of Valentine's comments about 9-11. The underachieving players, the dead wood, the "I'm not comfortable on this team" people were traded away, and players were brought in who could really work together and brought a level of energy and joy to their playing.

Bringing in John Farrell was a stroke of genius. Sure, he was "only" the pitching coach for the Sox previously, but he knew the team, knew the division rivals, and had the respect of the Sox veterans still on the team. Not only that, pitching wins championships, and even though he wouldn't be returning as the pitching coach, you can't tell me that he didn't offer opinions and suggestions for the pitching staff.

But wow...seriously? American League champs? A rematch in the World Series with the Cardinals? UM..ok....yeah sure, I'll take it!

Yet as far as I'm concerned, this has already been an amazing season. It could end right now, and I'd call the 2013 Red Sox a raging success. This team is fun to watch, a joy to root for, and made up of genuinely likeable players. Being half-Portuguese, I have to root for Shane Victorino (of course, after his heroics in ALCS Game 6 that's easy to do!!); players like Mike Carp who were in essence salvaged from the scrap heap; young 21-year old gifted rookies like Xander; Big Papi with his "This is our #%^% city!" in the wake of the Marathon tragedy, as we all struggled to come to terms with the bombing and were eager to start the healing process. The high-five happy, hug-happy, Koji "Jonathan who!?" Uehara. Guys like Nava, Gomes, and of course the ever-colorful Pedey. I mean, come on...these guys have personality and character! Hell, they ARE characters!

Of course, every victory comes at a price: we're now stuck with Tim McCarver for at least four more games.

So, congratulations to my guys! Whether you win the Series or not, you're all winners already!

Oh, and...Sox in six. Just saying.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Best Damn Haunted Attractions In New England (at least we think so!)

The Halloween season is that special time where we set aside the horrors of the real world (the Tea Party, Miley Cyrus, government shutdowns) and immerse ourselves in the make-believe world of spooks and scares.

Not all horror is Halloween-based
My wife Carol and I are horror aficionados, and this year, rather than working at a haunted attraction, we made it a special point to allocate a butt-load (an actual unit of measurement) of cash for the express purpose of visiting as many haunts as we could.

To give you an idea of how committed we were to this fun project, we decided to try and see as many haunts as possible on their opening night. Granted, logistics dictated that we couldn't accomplish this for every one of them, but we did okay, which resulted in us starting our haunt tour on Saturday, September 21! Yes! Finally, Christmas isn't the only holiday that people can start putting stuff up for and observing unusually early!

Although every haunt we went to this year was well worth it, these five stood out as the best. If you get the time and inclination, visit all of them. Each of them is an outstanding example of your classic New England style Halloween haunted attraction, and you can't go wrong with any of them. Here they are, presented in no particular order.

Ghoulie Manor: Mwahahaha!
Ghoulie Manor (Taunton MA)
Ever visit an attraction and have a great time but, for balance's sake, you try and come up with at least one drawback or negative, but you just can't find one? Welcome to Ghoulie Manor; a perfect haunt. The props have a level of scary detail that show that the builders made this a labor of love. This place is delightfully creepy, and it's filled with great performers with good backstories and convincing makeup. There's one or two spots here that caused this jaded haunt fan to actually jump, so yeah. This is Ghoulie's second year in operation, and new haunts needs all the bodies (warm or in states of decomposition) that they can get. If you like supporting the new local business and cheering on the plucky newcomer, then Ghoulie deserves your support. If you like going somewhere to get the Hell scared out of you, then Ghoulie works there too!

Dark Walk. This lady's makeup was...disturbing.

Dark Walk (Andover, CT)
Speaking of "try to find at least one negative and coming up short", there's Dark Walk. As the name implies, it's a walk through the dark woods, and let me tell you, talk about a walk to remember! The intricate backstories, the very convincing acting job, the entire theme and story of the haunt, the realistic sets, all combine to create a haunt experience that you won't soon forget. Unfortunately, the weekend of October 18-19 is the last one for the year (they only run two weekends), but anyway, keep it in mind for next year.

There's nothing like a menacing clown staring down at you while
you're waiting in line...
Barrett's Haunted Mansion (Abington, MA)
If Ghoulie is one of the newer kids on the block, Barrett's is an absolute old guy on the porch, telling those damn kids to get off his lawn. Yet its longevity has done little to diminish its impact as a haunted attraction. Now, I'll admit, I didn't find this year's attraction "scary" per se, but the entertainment value, particularly the set pieces (with some uncomfortably realistic props) make this a must-see. They've also expanded their haunt to include a creepy, fog-filled maze set in a make-believe cell block. And after the haunt, there's the ever awesome Abington Ale House, just a short walk across the parking lot, to retire to for beer and food. Om nom nom...

Fright Kingdom (Nashua, NH)
Yeah, this one's in our backyard. Not our actual backyard, but sort of down the street from us. And in the interests of full disclosure and integrity, I should point out that we have worked there in the past. But that doesn't take away from the fact that this one is a can't-miss. Like Barrett's, Fright Kingdom is another haunt veteran. But if you want to go somewhere that has the complete haunted attraction experience, you must go here. Creepy manor? They got it. Freaky-ass clowns? Check. Vampires that don't sparkle? Oh yeah. Zombies? A whole barracks full of them. Blackout Maze? Yeah they have one. Fright Kingdom has something for every horror phobia that you or that really jumpy friend of yours could possibly have. Add to this an awesome Monster Midway with food, games, special guest celebrities, and zombie dancers, and the experience is complete! Add the fact that it's right off the highway (Route 3), and the entire thing is indoors (no worries about  cold and/or rain), and you get a haunted attraction that gives you more boo for your buck!

AAAAAA! It's coming right for us!

Haunted Overload (Lee, NH)
Overload is right. Holy crap. Take a stretch of woods belonging to a farm. Decorate it with HUGE props of skulls, pumpkins, hideous tree-things. Add some extremely effective actors. Put up some dark shacks and tunnels to walk through along the long, dark, twisted path. The resulting concoction is a horror overload to your senses, and a screaming good time for all. You must check this one out, but only if you want some highly effective scares. The scenes were definitely more actor-driven than prop-driven, but the props did have a more "organic" feel to them, conveying a very convincing "creepy nature" vibe. If the only negative you can come up with for a haunt is that they sold out of your t-shirt size, well, that's saying something!

 So there you have it. Our favorite five. Go to any or all of them, and your Halloween season experience will be enriched and unforgettable. You'll also end up going back year after year, so beware: these five are habit-forming.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A-Rod Sues Jason Varitek: "It's all his fault"

Om nom nom...
NEW YORK- The saga of New York Yankees third baseman, steroid user, and noted sociopathic narcissist Alex Rodriguez took another odd turn yesterday when he announced that, in addition to suing the MLB, the Yankees, and the Players' Union, Rodriguez has decided to file suit against former Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek.

Alex Rodriguez, also known as A-Rod, A-Roid, A-Fraud, A-Hole, Slappy, Slappy McBluelips, Mr. Madonna, and Dumbass, is embroiled in a PED controversy that threatens to tarnish the legacy of disgust and contempt that he has worked so hard to foster during his illustrious career with the New York Yankees.

"Alex claims that all of his problems began in 2004 when Varitek tried to force him to eat a glove on national television during the 2004 season," Bobby Shill, a spokesweasel for Rodriguez announced yesterday during a press conference. "It was at this point that A-Rod's psyche was so irrevocably damaged that he had no choice but to turn to performance enhancing drugs to make himself better, which of course he didn't actually take. On purpose. He was tricked. He didn't do it. He didn't know the stuff was illegal. Which he didn't take. A big scary monster did it."

According to the wording of the suit, Jason Varitek caused Rodriguez "irreparable harm to Mr. Rodriguez' self-esteem and mentally unhinged him, forcing him to commit unsportsmanlike acts that he would otherwise not do, if there was any chance he'd get caught."

The suit further alleges that after the catcher's mitt made contact with his teeth, Rodriguez developed "an unhealthy obsession for beef jerky and other forms of stringy aged meat products", citing not only the possibility that Varitek had rubbed barbecue sauce on his mitt, but also offering a possible explanation for why Rodriguez formed an ultimately destructive relationship with Madonna.

A-Rod took time out from a recent posing session for a new portrait depicting him as a minotaur. "It doesn't matter that I eventually went on to single-handedly win the World Series for the Yankees in 2009, and won the love, respect, and admiration of every fan and player in baseball. Jason got inside my head and really messed me up."

Rodriguez also offered a hint that if his current defensive strategy fails, he intends to prove that all wrong-doing was in fact committed by his evil counterpart from the Mirror Universe, as depicted in the original Star Trek series. "My evil counterpart is clever," Rodriguez admitted. "He even shaved off his evil counterpart goatee in order to pass for me!" Rodriguez will attempt to prove that every time he did something good, it was the "real" him, managing to somehow overcome his evil opposite and take his life back, while every time something questionable occurred, it was the evil Mirror-A-Rod regaining control.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Pathfinder Game Recap: Chapter One

In addition to my many other interests, I'm an avid role-player. We play Pathfinder, which is essentially Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 but cleaned up nicely. Our campaign takes place in Hawkhaven, which is my original campaign world from the late 1970's, now cleaned up, converted to Pathfinder rules, oh, yeah, and the timeline gets advanced over 2,000 years, effectively limiting my ability to trot out my old characters and inflict them on the players.

We meet once a month at our place, and we have a huge group. This is our third Hawkhaven campaign, creatively called "Fame and Fortune". It's geared to be more of a traditional, straightforward "old school" type of campaign, with a big old dungeon inexplicably loaded with monsters and treasure.

Here's the roster for that first game. It's important to note that we also had two people who couldn't make it. It's a big roster, sure, but as time goes on and people get schedule conflicts, it starts to work out that about 2/3 of the active players can actually make it to any given session.

Haru (Augie)- Male Human Nihoni Cleric of Amaterasu
Miranda Morden (Carol)- Female Human Rogue
Captain Frank Longbeard (Chappy)- Male Human Rogue (Pirate);
Plin Forestwatcher(Chris)- Male Gnome Alchemist
Eara McElwyn(Colleen)- Female Half-Elf  Oracle
Caelma Silvertree (Dibs)- Male Elven Wizard
Takeo (H)- Male Human Nihoni Samurai; he’s a Ronin
Stanton (James)- Male Human Sorcerer
Hanabe (Jason)- Female Human Nihoni Ninja; she has a metal arm
Ashton (John)- Male Human Ranger
Gabriel (Kevin)- Male Human Paladin
Ratchtagg (Seth)- Male Half-Orc Fighter; travels with a mule named Claude and a mangy dog named Mumma-dog
Goram Deepseeker (Warren)- Male Dwarf Cleric of Dumathoin; He’s a Forgemaster

And here's the actual recap!

Chapter One: The Troll, The Troll, The Troll is on Fire
March 25th-26th, 316 PE (June 22nd, 2013)
Roll Call: Goram Deepseeker , Captain Frank Longbeard, Haru, Ashton, Stanton, Ratchtagg, Plin Forestwatcher, Hanabe, Takeo, Gabriel, Miranda, Eara, Caelma

It’s Kingdom Day! This is the day that all four of the human nations are celebrating the official day that marks their independence from the Valgarion Empire. Thuringia holds an Octoberfest type celebration, Aguitania holds chivalric tournaments and grand parties, Calabria has operas, masquerade balls and art exhibitions, while Ardrovin has the typical country fair/competitive games, jousting and archery tournaments. Each kingdom’s celebration runs for about four days.

Thirteen strangers who attended Ardrovin's observance decide at the conclusion of the holiday  to travel together for safety, heading south to The Paths of Fate, an inn located at the crossroads of all four kingdoms, a strip of territory claimed by no one. This group is accompanied by five Calabrian young clergy of Duma (good god of freedom), who are initiates in the Order of St. Barea (patron saint of healers), and are traveling to a nearby chapter house.

While traveling along the road that leads out of Ardrovin, the group hears a clash of arms and decides to investigate. They come upon a group of orcs on worg mounts harassing a merchant wagon. The party sees one injured unconscious man and one hopelessly overmatched merchant desperately swinging a stick. The group springs into action.

Caelma calls the orcs out in their own language and casts Enlarge Person on Ratchtagg. Eara casts Divine Favor on herself and readies her bow, Stanton casts Magic Missile on one orc, Haru casts Bless on the group, and the rest of the party advances into combat.

Caelma casts Gravity Bow and lands a shot with his longbow on the leader. Miranda advances on the leader’s mount and hamstrings the wolf, damaging it and slowing it down. Frank moves in to hit the leader and downs him, but the wolf remains standing. Takeo moves in but misses badly while Gabriel lands one blow on an undamaged orc. The orcs counterattack. One badly misses Miranda but a wolf hits her hard. Another orc gets a critical hit on Hanabe and he falls unconscious to the ground. The wolf fumbles trying to hit Takeo and he counterattacks and kills the beast. The wolf attacking Gabriel throws his rider from his back and Gabriel gets an attack that damages the fumbled wolf. Plin advances to help Hanabe and throws an alchemical bomb at the group of orcs that are still riding on wolves, causing some general harm, havoc, and a nifty explosion. Eara moves up and casts Stabilize to stop Hanabe from bleeding out. Haru moves up and selectively channels to heal only his comrades.

Caelma uses his bonded item to retrieve Enlarge Person and casts it on Gabriel, who then moves up and slays one of the orcs. Ashton takes a shot at another orc and kills it. A few other party members advance to attack but miss. The orcs decide to retreat and run for the hills, though by doing so they suffer attacks from several party members. Miranda lands a blow on one fresh wolf. Frank misses a trip attempt on another wolf. Takeo and Gabriel gang up on a retreating wolf and kill it. Eara misses with a longbow shot while Hanabe comes to and gets her bearings. Haru moves up once again and catches more allies in a healing burst.

Being an elf, Caelma doesn’t want to let the orcs get away, and presses the attack, moving up to take another shot, wounding an orc. Miranda runs after an orc and crits it with a sneak attack. Frank then charges in, swinging an oar, but misses. Takeo kills an orc. Clearly outmatched, the surviving riderless wolves decide to run full out, despite suffering attacks of opportunity from many of the party members. Although a few blows connect, the retreating wolves manage to get two hundred feet away from the party, and break into a full-out run, successfully fleeing the scene.

The group comes back together and begins to make sense of the mess at the caravan. The conscious leader of the caravan introduces himself as Delmin Borgar, while the initiates of Saint Barea tend to everyone’s wounds. He and his compatriot are from the Lundarian Free Lands and are members of a merchant guild. When the orcs intercepted the caravan, the mercenaries hired to guard the caravan turned tail and ran off.

Eventually, a small group of Ardrovanian soldiers ride up (conveniently, after the fight is over!) and check up on the merchants. They agree, along with the clerics of Duma, to continue with the slower-moving caravan, freeing up the party to go on its way. However, before they leave, Delmin beckons the group aside for a moment in private.

Delmin tells the group of a lost underground complex created on a whim by an insane wizard who then proceeded to fill it with all manner of fell creatures, and scattered his fabulous fortune within the subterranean structure. Delmin is willing to pass along the approximate location of the complex if the party agrees to cut him and his partner in for 10% of the treasure, eliciting binding promises that the party will honor the bargain.

As a joke, Caelma lays claim to any boat inside the complex, as a dig at Frank. Frank takes exception to this and insults Caelma, who retaliates by casting Grease on him, but he makes his save. Caelma, his temper now out of control, hits Frank with a Telekinetic Fist, which knocks him back. Frank charges and scuffs Caelma with the blunt end of his oar before the party decides to separate them. The two of them calm down. Delmin decides to help out the party even more by giving them some items from his caravan, items he would have given the mercenaries after they arrived safely at their destination. The party splits up the items and continues on their way.

A couple of hours down the trail the group is stopped by ten highwaymen. Before the leader can finish his monologue (“Stand and deliver, and all that!”), the paladin and samurai simply up and charge the man. At this point, the leader calls out to release the troll and all Hell breaks loose.
Frank moves up to the troll and throws a bottle at it. Ashton takes out his Oathbow and swears to slay the troll and hits with a called shot to the troll’s leg. Haru moves up towards the troll and his keepers and uses the Gem of Brightness to try to blind the troll, but it resists. Ratchtagg charges in and his dog Mum watches his back as he lands a blow on one highwayman. Hanabe charges the bandit leader and makes a sneak attack on him.

Gabriel, wielding two weapons, lands a critical hit with his bastard sword and a regular hit with his longsword. Caelma moves to advance and uses his Telekinetic Fist to punch the leader into next week, knocking him unconscious. Eara attempts a Diplomacy check to get the highwaymen to surrender, but they reply confidently that they still can prevail, as they have a fully operational death troll. Plin runs up and lobs a fire bomb at the troll and his keepers, damaging the group, setting the troll on fire, and coming up with the recap title.

 The highwaymen spring into action, landing one blow on Miranda, one blow on Hanabe, two hits (one of which is a critical hit) on Takeo, and one shot on Plin, while the troll horribly misses Frank and stumbles, giving him a free shot which he takes full advantage of. Takeo lands one hit on a rogue. Goram hurls his new warhammer at his racial foe, the troll, landing a terrible blow on him. The hammer then returns to his hand.

Frank insults the troll but fails to faze him. Ashton attempts to finish off his foe and does so with a shot of his Oathbow. Haru moves into range and uses the Gem of Brightness to blind four out of five of his targets. Gabriel gets into attacking range and lands a hit. Miranda makes a sneak attack. Caelma moves up and casts Color Spray on two enemies and is able to stun one of them. Eara shoots wide of the highwayman that refused her offer of mercy.

The highwaymen that decided against surrender suddenly change their tune and lay down their arms. The group begins to tie them up and Frank decides to question one of them, using his spiked chains as incentive. They get the location of the bandits’ camp from one of the prisoners and find it a quarter mile from the road. They set up camp, loot the bandits’ treasure, and turn the highwaymen over to the Ardrovanian soldiers who eventually come down the road. The party then rests for the night uninterrupted.

The morning of March 26th comes and the group rides for the day uneventfully and reaches the Paths of Fate Inn. The group enters the large inn and finds it to be a bustling gathering place for people from all over the northeastern portion of the continent, as well as exotic places across the sea.

Caelma sets up a dining room for the group and retires there for a couple of hours to scribe a scroll. Miranda chats it up with a pair of Calabrians who greet her with open arms. Gabriel gravitates towards a group of worshipers of Adonai, his patron god.  Eara meets with an Alborian Bard named Merry Mack who starts to exchange flirtatious pleasantries. Haru speaks with a Tengu (raven-folk) and his catfolk companion, the latter in stylish boots, floppy hat with a feather in it, and a rapier by his side.

Frank talks to a man with an eye patch mainly because Frank has an eye patch. The man turns out to be from Norgheim (Norse), and worships Odin. Frank is inspired by the man’s demeanor and decides to follow Odin as well. Goram ends up in a staring contest with a member of the Order of Sepulcher. The anti-paladin doesn’t appreciate what he sees as the dwarf’s lack of respect, but before the situation comes to blows (and through all this, the dwarf refused to back down, of course!), the crisis is diffused with some honeyed words from Eara.

At this point in the evening, a bard/herald named Barvil takes the stage on behalf of the free lands of Lundar. He exalts the values of uniting the Lundarian Kingdom once again and calling those to move out the remnants of the Valgarion Empire from the former kingdom. The herald announces that a new warlord is coming, a man of might who has the blood of the ancient Lundarian kings in his veins, and who will unite the nobles and lords into a grand kingdom once more. The clientele is disappointed overall, since they were in the mood to hear bardic music, not a paid political announcement.

This attracts the attention of many of the party members, including Caelma who stops working on his scroll to see what all the commotion is about. Plin ends up moving towards a group of gnomes known as the Dogriders led by Desi Diamonduster, Paladin of Garl Glittergold. Caelma also joins up with the group and suggests some magical music to move the “performer” along. Plin recommends a laxative.  The music option prevails and Merry Mack takes the stage to tell the great story of Shadowport and the Four Heroes as well as the story of the New King of Albor.

The group retires to the private dining room and are eventually met with a knock at the door. The newcomer is a male human sorcerer named Feldor who was impressed with the way the group handled themselves out there with some of the patrons. He has a job for the party, who he keenly realizes are wet behind the ears and could use some seasoning. He looks to hire the group to find the Calvera Sangreal, a relic that empowers necromantic spells.

Many in the party look reluctant when the word "necromantic" is said, but Feldor reminds them that necromantic spells also include things like raising the dead and such, and can actually be used for good. The Calvera is a neutral tool, with no inherent morality or ethics attached to it. The group cautiously agrees to the task.

 The grail is located in a large abandoned graveyard that lies to the southeast. The group will be paid 500 gp each for their services plus whatever they find in their travels. The group ends up negotiating with Feldor and is able to secure mounts for those who initially couldn’t afford them.

Later in the evening, Ratchtagg the half-orc checks on his mount (Claude the mule) but once in the stable, his attention is caught by a Nelmarine merchant wagon parked there. He does a little bit of investigation and realizes that the wagon contains slaves, meaning the Nelmarine merchants are in fact slavers. Ratchtagg comes back to the inn and brings this information to the group’s attention.

The group ends up debating whether or not to intercede on behalf of the slaves. Gabriel is greatly opposed to the plan on the grounds that the party is raw and inexperienced, and Takeo, Miranda, and Plin agree. As far as they are concerned, the half-dozen tough-looking guards that accompany the Nelmarine  merchants would be too much to handle. The rest of the group, especially Ratchtagg, argue that they should at least look into the situation and see if there's some way to free the slaves. Miranda decides this is a good time to go to turn in for the night.

Time to split the party! Yay!

Eara gets some information from a drunken slave merchant, who tells her very that they are traveling the next day towards the south to sell their slaves. Outside, Hanabe, Ashton, Frank, and Caelma investigate the barn.  Hanabe notices 12 dinner bowls, as well as two guards watching over the slave wagon. Ok, so 12 slaves are in the wagon then.

As Caelma casts Sending in order to get caught up on any info Eara managed to get, Frank decides to stumble into the stable, acting drunk and smelling of booze, and that’s when the guards begin to unsheathe their swords. Caelma hurries inside and acts as if Frank is his servant boy. In the ensuing conversation, Caelma shows that his prowess is in magic and casts Light, which he holds in such a way that it shines enough light inside the wagon so that his sharp elven vision can see a couple of humans inside the wagon. At this point, Caelma decides to move out of there with Frank in retreat, and regroup for the night.

And that's where we ended....