Mario Monday Is On Vacation

Monday, June 29, 2009

No regular Mario Monday today since I am on vacation in North Carolina. To honor the life of Michael Jackson, who passed away last Thursday, and to preview the next installment of the weekly time line of Mario I thought I would share a pair of musical tributes dedicated to the King of Pop.

Next week Mario Monday returns with a look at Mario Paint for the Super Nintendo, one of my personal favorites.


Michael Jackson Made Weird Al Yankovic

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Perhaps nobody in the entertainment business was as big a fan of Michael Jackson as Weird Al Yankovic. Yankovic is a genius in his own right but he really made a name for himself with his outstanding parodies of Jackson's hit songs Beat It and

Jackson's video for Beat It is a classic. For Yankovic it was just a template. What I appreciate about Yankovic is not just ability to cleverly write new lyrics to great songs and give them a humorous twist, but he also pays homage to the original music videos as much as possible. Take one of his greatest videos from earlier in his career, Eat It.

If you have seen the original Jackson video for Beat It then you will likely notice a number of similarities in the Eat It video. Yankovic also gives a tribute to the historic Thriller video at the end.

Yankovic has another Jackson parody that made him famous though. Fat is another food inspired parody of Jackson's Bad. Once again, the music video for Bad serves as the guide for the production of Yankovic's video for Fat.

I honestly can not listen to a song that receives a Yankovic rendition and sing the original lyrics in my head. To me watching certain music videos receives the same effect. Yankovic probably would have made a name for himself even without Jackson's songs to utilize, but I find it hard to believe Yankovic would have enjoyed as much success without him.

Remember, Nirvana didn't come around until the early 90's and Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise was not around until the mid 90's.


Thriller in LEGO Form

Saturday, June 27, 2009

I do not remember if I posted this video before or not, but in honor of the passing of Michael Jackson I wanted to share this special edition of the monumental Thriller music video.

This version is done entirely in LEGO form!


Movie Review: The Proposal

Friday, June 26, 2009

There are some actors in Hollywood who can make movie good just by being cast in it. It is these kind of actors who can provide a real charm to any scene at any time and if the rest of the movie is poorly put together it won't matter to most people because that one actor was terrific. Now imagine if a movie had two of those actors in the same cast, playing opposite of each other?

What you would get would be The Proposal, from Touchstone Pictures. The romantic comedy written by Pete Chiarelli (producer for the Terry Tate series of commercials for Reebok) and directed by Anne Fletcher (27 Dresses, Step Up) stars Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. Both lead actors have demonstrated their own appealing characteristics in previous films and today they were as genuine as you could imagine, which translates to great on-screen chemistry.

Bullock stars as a tough-as-nails editor for a publishing company and learns that her job will soon be in jeopardy as her work visa application was denied, which would force the Canadian back home to her home land. On a whim she tries to convince her boss that she is engaged to her assistant, played by Reynolds. Under the impression that if his boss were to be deported to Canada than he would be out of a job, Reynolds plays along.

Convincing the United States immigration officer in New York was just the first test. Trying to play off the engagement as genuine to Reynolds' family on a trip to their home in Alaska would be the other, which would prove to be more difficult than it would seem.

The plot is not exactly the most unique and some of the scenes are at times foreseeable, but the story is well written and the humorous scenes are plentiful. Even guys will enjoy this date movie. The supporting cast is incredible with Craig T. Nelson playing the role of the not-so-supportive father who wants his son to come home, Mary Steenburgen playing the role of the loving mother, and Betty White playing the role of the eccentric grandmother.

The Proposal gets a seal of approval from me, so take that for what it is worth. It is a movie that most everyone will enjoy for its plot, cast, and humor.

Movie Info
The Proposal from Touchstone Pictures
Director: Anne Fletcher
Writer: Pete Chiarelli
Genre: Romantic comedy
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 108 minutes

Score of 1 to 10: 7.3


Remembering Michael Jackson

With the passing of Michael Jackson yesterday I started to wonder; is this the biggest icon to die in my life? The answer is, without a doubt in my mind, yes.

Michael Jackson, though I did not see him in his Jackson 5 days, has always been the top music icon of my generation. Other musicians have come and gone and rarely have the top names continued to remain prominent through the years. Other than Madonna what other musician could grab headlines at will (or against their will) without so much as blinking an eye?

While his legacy may be tarnished in the recent point of view by scandalous allegations and rumors, down the road when people think about Jackson they will think of his impact on the music industry. Music videos would probably not be where they are today if not for Jackson. Fourteen number one songs in the United States. Nineteen Grammy awards. Thirteen Guinness world records. Twelve world music awards. One memorable episode of The Simpsons.

The impact left by Jackson will be huge for a long time. How many weddings will you go to in your life? Each of them will play at least one classic hit from the King of Pop, whether it be from his solo career or his days with the Jackson 5.

How many musicians had a video game casting him as the main character? Jackson had his on the Sega Genesis. Fittingly it was called Michael Jackson's Moonwalker.

There are many songs that will be etched in our collective memories for the rest of our lives. Jackson provided us with songs we will never forget. What is your favorite Jackson song? What will you remember most about Jackson?

Feel free to share your thoughts and memories in the comment section.

EDIT: Also be sure to read my quick Penn State take on the passing of Jackson over at NittanyWhiteOut.

Michael Joseph Jackson
August 29, 1958 - June 25, 2009


Press Hop

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What happens when you take some of the most famous press conference quotes and mix them to a dance club beat?



How to Properly Give Twitter a Chance

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In the past year I have steadily seen my activity on Twitter quickly dismantle my need for Facebook. I find myself communicating with friends more on the micro-blogging service than I do on Facebook, although I find ways to use the social networking giant to my advantage in ways I may not be able too with Twitter.

As an avid blogger I find that Twitter is a terrific tool for not only spreading the word about my own stuff but also great for discovering new content. For example, I have found myself hooked to On the DL, a podcast that discusses Philadelphia sports but also takes a look at the way sports in general is covered in the media. Maybe it is not for everyone but I do not know if I would have come across it, or bothered to give it a listen, if not for Twitter.

So what exactly is Twitter?

As you may know, Twitter is a micro-blogging service that allows people to share updates in 140 characters or less. The social network has ballooned in popularity over the last few months with celebrities trying to get a piece of the Twitter action and news companies or entertainment companies offering updates through their own tweets to keep people up to date.

To me Twitter can get a bad wrap because of the apparent overkill of Twitter ads. There appear to be four kind of Twitter users;
  1. The attention seeking celebrity
  2. The news source attempting to utilize new technologies
  3. The fervent social networking enthusiast
  4. The casual user who reads updates more than anything else
I put myself in the third category as I do a lot of activity online and like to not only spread my own messages and updates but also to seek out other new content. If you follow the right people that are geared towards your interests you will get a lot more out of Twitter. This is why I follow a large number of Philadelphia sports, Penn State football, and technology news related Twitter accounts.

If you just start up and find yourself following the most popular Twitter folks just for the reason that they are the most popular you may find yourself overwhelmed and lose interest rapidly. That, to me is why many people sign up for Twitter, use it for a day or two, and never check it again.

One way to find quality people to follow is by using Twitter search. Allow this video to explain it to you in plain English...

Searching on Twitter is terrific. Some desktop applications will allow you to save your searches. For example, on Tweetdeck you can set up a column to keep track of search results.

Recently Twitter made the news for the way the stories about the Iran election dilemma played out. People were discussing the Iran elections well before the traditional media sources could break the story. If you want to find out what people are saying about a certain topic just type into your search box what you want to read about. Type in "Iran election" or "Joe Paterno" or your home town. Want to know what people think about a movie? Do a Twitter search for your desired movie and you will quickly find out if people like it or not.

The point I am attempted to illustrate for you is that Twitter can be a lot deeper than what naysayers of Twitter will say. There is much more content available that what Charlie had for lunch or what load of laundry Sally is on or how many nickels are in Lucy's can or what Beethoven album Schroeder is listening too (whoah, Peanuts references overload).

If you are turned off by Twitter because you don't care about Miley Cyrus's love drama or Ashton Kutcher's summer tan, then just think about what you would like to get out of your Twitter experience. You will probably get a lot more out of it than you expected if you give Twitter a proper chance.


Drum Major Flip FAIL

For more on the drum major flip check out my latest post at Nittany White Out!


Mario Monday - Super Mario Kart

Monday, June 22, 2009

With the launch of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System Mario was bound to expand on his empire and game library. After spending years stomping on Goombas and kicking Koopa shells, Mario had a desire to hit the race tracks. Taking a page from the success of F-Zero, Super Mario Kart took the racing genre to a whole new dimension.

Super Mario Kart for the SNES is still one of the most successful games on the system and launched a franchise of its own. Before the days of online multi-player races and the Wii Wheel, Super Mario Kart was simple, yet addictive with its four cups, time trial mode and the exciting battle mode.

Released in the United States in September of 1992, Super Mario Kart quickly became a must-own game for every SNES owner. Obviously the fact that the Mario cast and worlds were featured in the game many fans picked up a copy just to have another Mario game. Had this game not been branded with Mario though the game would still be a great game due to its smooth game play and re-playability with battle mode.

Super Mario Kart features eight racers with four unique styles of play. Mario and Luigi were the average kart drivers. Yoshi and Princess Peach were quick accelerators while Bowser and Donkey Kong Jr. were slow starters but could reach the highest speeds. Toad and Koopa Troopa (my kart racer of choice) provided the best control but lacked the highest speed.

Competition consisted of three cups; Mushroom, Flower and Star. Conquering these three standard cups would unlock the Special Cup.

Super Mario World plays a heavy influence on the course layout in this game. Ghost Valley courses are designed with the ghost houses introduced in SMW, as are the Choco Island courses and Donut Plains tracks.

The Special Cup introduced the legendary Rainbow Road, a course that would be adapted in each of the future editions in the Super Mario Kart series. Mastering Rainbow Road took patience, and to this day it will still give kart racers fits as there are no borders to keep the driver from falling off. This frustration would be somewhat fixed in the future, but Rainbow Road generally represents the toughest stage in all of the Mario Kart games.

Perhaps the greatest part of Super Mario Kart is the vast array of items that the drivers can use. The items that can be picked up ranger from coins (which help increase speed), mushrooms (giving the driver a speed boost), and banana peels (which cause opposing drivers to spin out). Of course the most coveted items are the lightning bolt (which zaps all opposing racers and shrinks them), the starman (giving the racer temporary invincibility) and the red Koopa shell (which acts as a homing missile on the racer in front of the driver).

The red Koopa shell was probably the most useful item in Super Mario Kart, but it came in handy the most in the battle mode. In battle mode two players drove their karts around a specially designed course, picking up various items with the goal of popping the opposing player's balloons. The first driver to have their three balloons popped would suffer defeat. Red Koopa shells all but guaranteed a popped balloon but the more experienced kart drivers could find ways to defeat the red shell.

Super Mario Kart took advantage of the Mode 7 graphics processing on the SNES> Mode 7 was "a form of texture mapping available on the SNES which allows a plane to be rotated and scaled freely, achieving a pseudo three-dimensional appearance." (Source) Mode 7 gave game son the SNES a unique visual appearance that set it above the level of the Sega Genesis. Today it looks primitive but the ability to have a camera spin around a character and rotate the playing field the way it does was ground breaking at the time and visually stunning.

Super Mario Kart also utilized the, at the time not so common, split screen view. The top of the screen was used to show you the driver and the course. Meanwhile on the bottom the player could get a view of the entire course map as well as where the other drivers were located. The map screen could also be used as a rear view mirror by pressing the right button.

In two player mode though the bottom screen would remove any maps and rear mirror functions and act as the playing screen for player two.

The original Super Mario Kart has yet to be released on the Nintendo Virtual Console (although Mario Kart 64 has been released). The only way to play the game today is by hooking up your old SNES and plugging in your controller of choice. Grab a friend to play along and relive the memories of 1992 all over again.

Just watch out for those red Koopa shells!


Remembering Gary Papa

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Another Sad Day for Philadelphia Sports; Gary Papa Loses Battle With Cancer

Friday, June 19, 2009

As you may know I grew up watching Action News on WPVI in Philadelphia. For years the news team on channel six entered my life every day to give me the latest news, weather and sports. The channel six news team is my favorite group in Philadelphia and I have never found any other station to match their genuine attitude.

Today Action News lost one of my favorites, sports director Gary Papa. It seems as though it was inevitable, as I have not really seen him on the air in a while, but Papa lost his battle with prostate cancer this afternoon at the age of 54 years old.

I can not tell you how many times in my life I have watched the news until I saw Papa give me the scoop on the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, Sixers or whatever else was going on. If he was not at the desk next to Jim Gardner he was live at Veterans Stadium as the Phillies were concluding batting practice, or he was on the sideline for the Eagles.

Five years ago it was announced that Papa was diagnosed with prostate cancer and he battled it like a champion. He seemed to have gotten past it but Papa had to return to treatment on a few occasions. Today Pap just could not fight it any longer and the Philadelphia region lost one of the most spirited sports anchor around.

Philadelphia has had a rough year in the sports world. First Harry Kalas, then Danny Ozark, and now Gary Papa.

Papa is survived by his wife Kathleen and his sons Tucker and Nathanial. My heart goes out to them. Please feel free to share your memories and thoughts about Papa in the comments section.

Remembering Gary Papa (
Papa's first Action News report (
Papa Slideshow (
Jim Gardner breaks the news (


Update: Nittany Lion Hall of Fame

Over at NittanyWhiteOut I put together a quick video blog to thank all of the Penn State fans who helped to contribute to our campaign. If you forgot (here's a reminder), we started an initiative to get the iconic mascot inducted to the Mascot Hall of Fame.

This is my first video blog of sorts, and I may consider tweaking the process in the future for some projects. Anyway, I thought I'd share the video here as well.

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How the Eagles Can Be the Gold Standard

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

When you think about the gold standard in sports, what franchises come to mind?

The New York Yankees, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely some of the names that first pop in your head. The term "gold standard" is used to define the elite organizations who have gone about their business in such success that other teams find themselves molding their plans in a similar fashion.

Jeffrey Lurie, owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, once used that choice term to describe his team, stating that the way they handle their business had become the role model for the rest of the NFL. To be fair in some ways he was correct, but critics, including the frenzied Eagles fans, are quick to point out that to use the "gold standard" label your team must win at least one championship in your sport. As we all know the Eagles have won exactly zero Super Bowls.

While the Eagles have enjoyed a sustained level of success that has never before been seen in Philadelphia the frustration of not winning "the big one" leaves Eagles fans somewhat on nerve when the faces in the front office proclaim the way they run the business as the best around. Financial terms and company surveys do little to satisfy the general football fan, who traditionally judges their success by performance on the field. So what can the Eagles do to make amends and back up their "gold standard" level of achievement?

Win the Super Bowl, of course. But how exactly can they lay the framework to bring home the team's first Lombardi Trophy? Perhaps they should take a page from the boys across the street, the Philadelphia Phillies.

I am of the belief that conversations should never compare sports of different orientation. You will never find me debating whether Jimmy Rollins is better than Brian Westbrook or if Scott Rolen deserved a second chance more than Terrell Owens. However, it seems that there is something the boys in green can learn from the boys in red. Here are three key ingredients to winning the championship.

Home Grown Talent
Last season the Phillies won the World Series and the key players were mostly brought up from within the farm system. Pat Burrell, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and World Series MVP Cole Hamels all made their strides to the big leagues coming up through Clearwater, Reading, and Scranton. If you take any one of those players out of the mix and the Phillies would take a serious hit in production.

The Eagles have had some decent success with their own players as well, drafting players like Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Shawn Andrews, and Stewart Bradley. The jury is still out on DeSean Jackson, who enters his second season in 2009 and there are reasons to be optimistic about rookie wide receiver Jeremy Maclin down the line.

Under Andy Reid the Eagles have always been pretty good of developing most of their young players. While there have been some exceptions to the rule (Jeremy Bloom comes to mind) the younger players have always made somewhat of an impact as they get time to grow. Just look what Donovan McNabb has done under Reid. A controversial pick at first when he was drafted, McNabb has developed in to one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. Though he is no longer among the top elite in the league (Peyton Manning, Tom Brady) he is still worthy of a top five or top six ranking among NFL quarterbacks.

Westbrook surprised the NFL world with his talent. The third round draft pick out of Villanova gets overshadowed when discussing running backs but Westbrook is explosive and can hurt defenses two ways.

The Phillies have gone from a perennial NL East cellar dweller to the top of their sport. They did so by giving their top prospects time to develop. They were patient and ended up having two players who have the National League MVP (Howard and Rollins) and one player who many believe will win one some day (Utley) and have a top of the rotation pitcher in Hamels. But they also had guys like Brett Myers, Ryan Madson and JA Happ step up and contribute in key roles. The Eagles have players who can do the same.

Tight end Brent Celek may be the most important home grown player. With a comparable tight end McNabb can be very effective. Jason Avant emerged last year at the wide receiver position and could continue to receive more playing time in 2009 while Maclin gets acclimated in the offensive system.

The home grown talent on the defense though will be the most important in 2009. Quintin Demps and Quintin Mikell must step their game up after the departure of Brian Dawkins, one of the best players to ever be drafted by the Eagles himself. Akeem Jordan will look to contribute more solid defensive play at weak side linebacker, next to Bradley and Chris Gocong or Omar Gaither. Each of the top linebackers on the Eagles were draft picks.

The Right Acquisitions
When assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. worked out a deal with the Houston Astros to acquire closer Brad Lidge, the path to the World Series title was created. With the Phillies welcoming Lidge to the closer role they could put Myers back in to the starting rotation, though Myers may have been hesitant at first.

Not many off-season moves wok out as well as that one did. Myers struggled early but came back in the second half as though he was another player. Lidge, as has been well documented, had a perfect season in save situations.

Don't expect the Eagles to make a move that can work out that well, but they have made some terrific moves of their own. Gone are fan favorite Jon Runyan and perennial Pro Bowler Tra Thomas, but making a home in Philadelphia are Pro Bowler Jason Peters and Stacey Andrews (brother to Shawn) on the offensive line. Losing two long time franchise players is hard, especially on the offensive line, but the additions of Peters and the elder Andrews brother figure to give McNabb some good protection as well as open up plans for the running game.

Adding Leonard Weaver could be the final piece of the puzzle for Eagles fans having a desire for an improved running game. Weaver was a veteran free agent acquisition that may fill the hole at fullback. In a similar way the Phillies made a trade for Jamie Moyer during the season in 2006. Moyer provided the Phillies with not only a reliable player in the middle of the starting rotation, but veteran leadership for younger pitchers like Hamels. Weaver may also help players like LeSean McCoy learn the nuances of the backfield at the pro level. McCoy would be wise to listen to Weaver's lessons, as Weaver reached the Pro Bowl in 2008.

Asante Samuel was the big name free agent acquisition prior to the 2008 season, giving the Eagles a true play maker in the defensive backfield. But big name players are only half of the strategy. Players like Juqua Parker provide solid defensive play even though he is not a big star.

Trades in the NFL rarely happen for significant players, so a deal similar to the Phillies trading for Joe Blanton and Moyer are not likely to happen. But the Eagles should keep an eye for players who get cut and are available as the season progresses. You never know when a Blanton will come along.

Lock Up Core Players
The Phillies have the mainframe of their championship team locked up for a few years. Phillies fans can look forward to a few more seasons of Rollins, Utley, Howard, and Hamels for sure. The Eagles usually do a good job of locking up their players as well.

The Eagles just restructured a deal to ensure McNabb is around for two more seasons. After trading for Peters the Eagles worked out a four year deal. They also have worked on deals with Brian Westbrook and young defensive and offensive line players through the years.

The Eagles usually do a good job of locking up younger players early on, though at times it backfires. Take for instance Sheldon Brown, who had signed a contract and now wants to a new deal. This sort of issue is nothing new in pro football. The Eagles though pick and choose who they want to do battles with financially. The Phillies have sort of done the same thing though, with Ryan Howard being the prime example.

Howard won a record arbitration case prior to the 2007 season, and before Howard and the Phillies went to arbitration in 2008 the two agreed to a deal to keep both sides happy for a few years.

It seems as though the Eagles and Phillies are using essentially the same playbook when it comes to putting their team together. The truth of the matter is sometimes you have to have some things fall your way. Both teams last season took advantage of a late season collapse to get in to the playoffs. The Phillies took advantage of a second straight collapse by their rivals to the north and the Eagles were fortunate enough to see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers blow a shot at the playoffs on the final day of the NFL season.

The problem seems to be in game situations. When Geoff Jenkins is kicking off a resumed game with a hard double, Donovan McNabb is throwing a ball at the ground. When Chase Utley is making a pump fake and throwing home, the Eagles are trying to recover from a critical roughing the passer and subsequent deep floating pass to Larry Fitzgerald.

The Eagles have what it takes to make it to the Super Bowl. The question is whether or not they can it. Until they do the gold standard label will have to remain in Citizens Bank Park.


Mario Monday - Super Mario Land 2

Monday, June 15, 2009

After the success of Mario's debut on the Super Nintendo, the famous plumber made a return to the portable Game Boy system. The sequel to Super Mario Land, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins picks up the story line from where the original portable adventure left off.

As the commercial suggests, Wario, a bizarro world type Mario has taken control of Mario Land and Mario's palace. Wario has stolen the six golden coins, which provide access to Mario's Castle, and spreading them out to six unique areas Mario would have to reclaim them by battling numerous enemies, both familiar and new. Mario also could use power ups, as usual, including Rabbit Mario, allowing Mario to slowly fall to the ground.

Super Mario Land 2 saw many improvements over the original portable adventure. While Super Mario Land used pixelated graphics reminiscent of a TI-83 game, SML2 used actual game sprites to depict Mario and other characters. Many of the game play aspects were carried over from Super Mario World (actually Super Mario Brothers 3) as well. Mario can advance to various stages in the order of his choosing on the world map. One aspect of the game that may be slightly influenced by previous games is the casino.

In the casino on the world map Mario can gamble coins he has collected for extra lives. This is very similar to the end-of-stage bonus game in the American Super Mario Brothers 2. Games of chance also appeared in Super Mario Brothers 3 as well, with memory card games and a slots inspired game.

Clearly though the legacy of Super Mario Land 2 is in the character of Wario. The evil version of Mario has gone off to star in his own line of games and has become a favorite character in plenty of Mario spin off games like Mario Baseball, Super Smash Brothers, and more. In the original instruction booklet Wario was mentioned as an old enemy of Mario who was jealous of the hero's fame and fortune. Who can blame him? Mario was the star of Donkey Kong and received his own video game changing franchise of games. Wario on the other hand? Well...there is Wario Ware, right?

Like its predecessor, Super Mario Land 2 was not produced by the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto. The music for the game was catchy, of course, but never reached the fame that other Mario themes have received. The game play was smooth though, which made for a great game. The original Super Mario Land may have more fans but Super Mario Land 2 is a worthy game itself. Perhaps it is because this game was molded off of the game engine used in Super Mario Brothers 3, the greatest video game of all time. With a 4 megabit game cartridge, this was one of the largest Game Boy games at the time it was released.


The Return of Zack Morris!

Friday, June 12, 2009

One of my favorite shows growing up was Saved By the Bell. I am not ashamed to admit that! It was aired every day at 5pm on what is now my local CW station. Whether it was on Saturday mornings on NBC or weekdays on channel 57 in Philadelphia, it was probably a good bet that I would find time to watch it.

I despised The New Class and The College Years, but Jimmy Fallon is on a mission on Late Night to reunite the most famous cast. This week Mark-Paul Gosselaar came on the show as Zack Morris to confirm that he is in for a reunion. After grabbing the main star of the show Fallon's goal is now two cast members short.

Tiffani Thiessen and Dustin Diamond are the last two targets of Fallon. I have a feeling that Diamond will be the last to accept the invitation.


Raul Ibanez vs. The Blogger

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is Raul Ibanez on steroids?

That is the question that many fans have quietly wondered to themselves, hoping that the answer would be negative. The truth is we will never know for sure unless a test is made public. Under the current drug testing policy in baseball there is no reason to suspect that everybody is clean.

I believe Ibanez to be clean and one of the hardest working players on the Phillies. I believe that Ibanez is a class act and has made himself to be a great role model for kids learning to play the game of baseball. But in all honesty I once felt the same way about Alex Rodriguez. the only reason I am discussing this, and I do not plan on expanding on this issue any further after this, is because I feel that this story has immaturely grown wings and gotten to the point where people are unjustly forming opinions that are misguided.

On Jerod Morris, pen named as Jerod, of Midwest Sports Fans posted a well thought out article examining Raul Ibanez's 2009 season compared to his previous seasons. Morris goes against the typical blogger stereotypes and provides actual research breaking down stadium comparisons and digging in to home run stats and pitchers Ibanez has faced. Morris never stated that he believe Ibanez was on steroids. Not once. What Morris does do is comment on the state of baseball and the way fans can not have total faith in the purity of the game, regardless of the player. Ibanez just happens to be the stimulus to the conversation.

On June 9th John Gonzalez of the The Philadelphia Inquirer provides his commentary on JRod's piece and seems to miss the point. Gonzalez goes on to lecture JRod about whether or not he should be discussing the issue of Ibanez and performance enhancers. What Gonzalez fails to realize though is that watching silently is how baseball got in to the mess it has become. Are we just supposed to expect that the game is pure? In this day and age when universities are giving football players free textbooks, or cars, or houses and when baseball players continue to state they have never used performance enhancers only to be found out months later, it is totally fine to address your concerns. JRod did nothing wrong. What Gonzalez did was over the top. Why a big city paper columnist would care about what a blogger from the midwest thinks is beyond me.

Naturally the word got to Ibanez, who vehemently defended himself. From what he came out and said I am not sure that Ibanez actually read the original piece. I understand him being upset about being under scrutiny, but as long as he is clean he has nothing to worry about. When Ibanez pulls out the cliche 42-year-old man-blogging-in-his-mother's-basement though, I have to insert my response.

Bashing bloggers is easy to do. Main stream media members will point out the fact that bloggers are not legitimate media. I will not argue that, but there was also a time newspaper reporters did not have blogs. The real issue here is the state of baseball and the inability for a player to enjoy success without going under the microscope. It will happen for everybody until baseball seriously cracks down. The issue is not what a blogger thinks.


Dorney Park

Monday, June 08, 2009

On Sunday we went to Dorney Park for Stef's company picnic. Sarah and Ed joined us for a day in the sun, riding roller coasters, and enjoying an endless supply of hot dogs, burgers, chicken, chips and drinks.

It's been a few years since I have been to Dorney Park in Allentown, PA so I forgot how good some of the roller coasters were. Ed and I were the only ones willing to ride Steel Force in the front row. I was the most extreme thrill ride seaker though as I was the only one who rode Possessed, and I did so in the front row by myself. Hydra was also one of my personal favorites. We all rode that one twice.

Below is a slide show of the photos from the day. You can view the album here.


Mario Monday - Super Mario World

In 1991 Nintendo introduced the much anticipated successor to the smash hit Nintendo Entertainment System with the aptly named Super Nintendo Entertainment System. As a young Nintendo player growing up I naturally learned as much about the system as I could through my subscription to Nintendo Power. I had saved up my allowance for months and was a proud owner of the Super NES soon after its August 1991 release.

As cool as I thought it was to be the first kid on the block to own a Super NES (most kids fancied a Sega Genesis at the time) I was more excited to lay my hands on the pack-in game (remember when systems came packaged with a game and two controllers as the standard?), Super Mario World.

At the time Super Mario World was pegged as the greatest Mario adventure ever, and it may in fact still be. While Super Mario Brothers 3 took the series to levels it never reached before, Super Mario World took those changes and enhanced them. Super Mario World took the traditional Mario storyline and took it further with a new land to explore, a new power-up, many new enemies and some new friends.

Super Mario World takes place in Dinosaur Land, which I assume is adjacent of the old Mushroom Kingdom. Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach (of course) and taken reign over Dinosaur Land with the help of his kids from Super Mario Brothers 3. Each Koopaling took control of a castle that would stand on Mario's way to tracking down Bowser. Along the way Mario would encounter many familiar baddies, such as Goombas, Koopa Troopas, piranha plants, and more, but these traditional foes took on new looks in Super Mario World. Goombas were more difficult to defeat. One jump would not kill them as before, but turn them over. Mario could then pick them up, similar to the ability to pick up a Koopa shell.

Also an army of new enemies made their debuts in Super Mario World. Underwater stages now featured Rip Van Fish and Urchins. Many land stages featured new foes like Chargin' Chuck, Dino-Torch, and .

Gone from Super Mario Brothers 3 were the different suits, such as Hammer Brothers and Frog, as well as the popular Raccoon Leaf. Super Mario World did not take Mario's flying ability away though, and introduced the feather, which provided Mario with a cape. The cape, when used properly, allowed Mario to fly over great amounts of land but could also be used as a weapon. Spinning with the cape would wipe out enemies if they got too close. Mario also had the trusty fire flower available to him. But the most important addition to the Mario family was the famous green dinosaur, Yoshi.

Yoshi quickly became a fan favorite and would eventually go on to star in his own line of games, garnering much more attention than Mario's brother Luigi. Yoshi was the ultimate weapon for Mario as he could gobble up many enemies (giving Mario a coin in exchange), walk on many foes that Mario could not, and could also be used to give Mario a boost when the plumber jumped off of his new green dino friend. Who amongst us has not used Yoshi to save ourselves at least once?

While the most common Yoshi was green there were also three different colored Yoshis hiding in the secret Star World. A red Yoshi would breath fire. Yellow Yoshi's caused an earthquake. Blue Yoshi's could fly. The ultimate combination was a caped Mario with a blue Yoshi.

Super Mario world was a monumental game for Nintendo. There was not better way to introduce the Super Nintendo to consumers than with one of the best Mario games of all time. Sega was blasting Nintendo for their delay in bringing the SNES to the United States and would point out the Genesis' superior "blast processing". But when gamers got their eyes set on Super Mario World it was painfully obvious that the Super Nintendo was capable of a lot more than critics thought.

As always, feel free to share your memories of Super Mario World in the comments section!


Movie Review: Up

Friday, June 05, 2009

Animation has always fascinated me. When I was a kid in elementary school I could draw with the best of them. I never fully immersed myself in to producing animation but there was always something about the latest Disney releases that would capture my eyes. While my sister would enjoy The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast for its typical Disney formula of girl meets boy, over comes differences and lives happily ever after, a theme as old as Cinderella and Snow White, I was sitting with wide open eyes marveling over the brilliant animation.

Then came the age of CGI. I was torn at first. On one hand I lamented the trend of CGI as it dismantled the glory of hand illustrated frames, but on the other I could not help but be captivated by the smooth lines and realism. Jurassic Park set the tone for the wave of CGI, but Pixar has mastered it with their own flare. Up is their recent claim to fame.

What other company could pull off a storyline regarding an elderly old man that closely resembles Joe Paterno and his house that flies with helium balloons? Naturally the story line is deeper than that.

Carl Frederickson grew up idolizing famed adventurer Charles Muntz. Muntz battled naysayers who refused to credit him for discovering a rare species so Muntz vows to never return from a strange land known as Paradise Falls until he captures the live bird creature. He is never seen again. Young Carl meets the girl of his dreams, Ellie, who also is an admirer of Muntz. The two form a special bond and live a long and happy life together, dreaming of moving to Paradise Falls to spend their lives together in peace.

Ellie though passes on before the elderly couple get a chance to move to their dream home, once again showing that Pixar has no problem illustrating sad and painful scenes for all audiences (some people will tell you that Wall-E was one of the saddest movies, not just animated, in a long time). As Carl faces a law suit that could force him to a retirement home so his house could be leveled in favor of commercial zoning, he takes flight in his house using an incredible amount of balloons. Young Russell, a local wilderness scout looking to do a kind deed for Carl so he can earn his final merit badge, unknowingly to Carl, is standing on the deck of the house as it flies away to Paradise Falls.

Imagine Dennis the Menace and Mr. Wilson flying away to a strange land and you have Carl and Russell. The boy never intends any harm and Carl wants to ignore the boy as much as possible so he can live in peace. Along the way of course they develop a unique bond as they try to save Carl's house from flying away in the wind as well as try to get it to its final destination before the balloons lose their helium.

Pixar is terrific at telling a good friendship story. Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Wall-E may be the best. Up though should be included in that same mix. Personally I would not put Up at the top of the list for Pixar movies, but I found it to be very enjoyable. Brilliant animation adds to the most unique story in movies.

Do yourself a favor and go see Up if you have not already. Also, if you get the chance, spend the extra couple dollars where required and watch Up in 3D! It is well worth it.

Movie Info
Up from Disney-Pixar
Directors: Pete Doctor, Bob Peterson
Writer: Bob Peterson
Genre: Animation, Family
Rated: PG
Running time: 96 minutes

Score of 1 to 10: 7.8


Nintendo E3 Recap

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Looking over my wish list for Nintendo's press event at E3 shows that I had a thirst for a return of some key franchises. Zelda had been at the top of my list, with Excitebike being a very dark horse. No Zelda was announced but Nintendo managed to make their fans happy with word of four new Mario games and a brand new Metroid game.

You heard me; FOUR new Mario games and a new Metroid.

Nintendo must have known that they would need some big name franchises to make them seem relevant, especially with the fantastic presser that Microsoft had a day before. Painful memories of 2008's E3 presser were maligned for months and Nintendo made sure to avoid any similar mistakes, for the most part.

Demonstrating New Super Mario Brothers for the Wii was a bold first move. In the blink of an eye WiiMusic demos were quickly forgotten as four players demonstrated a level from the Wii version of New Super Mario Brothers. If you have played New Super Mario Brothers for the DS you will be familiar with the play style and game play of the Wii version. The exciting feature of the Wii version will be the four player cooperative play!

From that point though the press even was mostly lacking any real reason to be excited, with the latest information on WiiFit Plus following up the Mario news. Wii Fit Plus is looking to be very similar to the original WiiFit but will have the ability to create custom workouts as well as 15 new balance games. I was relieved when they did not mention a new and improved balance board, a rumor I had heard on the news earlier in the week.

The Wii Motion Plus was discussed but there was not much new to say about it compared to what they unveiled at last year's E3. Last year the Wii Motion Plus was demonstrated using Wii Sports Resort. Guess what. This year it was demonstrated using Wii Sports Resort. Yes, the game will be packaged with the add-on sensor, but wouldn't you rater see it demonstrated in a higher quality game? While using a basketball three point competition within WiiSports Resort Nintendo used Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime and the demonstrator on the stage to compete in a life like competition. To me the demo would have been more satisfying if Nintendo had arranged for an NBA three point shooter to participate. Something tells me Microsoft would have pulled that off with the guest stars they featured in their presser the day before (Tony Hawk, Steven Spielberg).

After a bevy of announcements about RPG titles coming to Nintendo systems, including an exclusive Kingdom Hearts for the DS as well as Golden Sun, Nintendo managed to bore the crowd with announcements of Women's Murder Club for the DS and a fashion design game targeted to their female audience.

Then things got interesting. The DSi took the stage for some titles including a download only Mario vs. Donkey Kong title and a WarioWare title.

In my wish list I had hoped for more online usability. Good news for DSi users as the wireless abilities will allow them to access the Wii Store to download games over a network right to their DSi. Also for Facebook using DSi users the ability to upload and share photos from the DSI will be coming soon. It may not be exactly what Microsoft had in mind with the XBox 360's ability to upload screen shots and achievements right to Facebook (and Twitter usability) but it is interesting and fits Nintendo.

When the President and CEO of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, walked out on stage it was expected to be big news, or lame business news. It was more of the latter, with the highlight of Iwata's speech introducing the Wii Motion Sensor, which hooks in to the Wii Remote and is placed on a finger to detect pulses. No mention on how this could be incorporated in to future games but I can see it being seldom used. It would actually be a unique feature in sports games, when your team is under pressure to make a big play or to judge adrenaline. Or perhaps it could be utilized in a game like Resident Evil to gauge how nervous the player is getting in tense moments. I am guessing thought that Nintendo will not use it to those extents though.

Finally, the biggest news of the day was when Nintendo gave E3 a glimpse at the next installation in the Super Mario Galaxy series, with Super Mario Galaxy 2! Much of the game play and environments looked to be similar to the original but now Mario will have the companionship of his favorite green dinosaur, Yoshi!

Nintendo also tried to sell fans on some exclusive third party titles, such as Resident Evil, and closed with a shocker; Metroid: Other M. The Metroid game will be released in 2010 and while I have never been too in to the Metroid series, it would be foolish to not say that this is a major announcement. Metroid is still one of Nintendo's best long standing series, after Mario and Zelda. Metroid has been with Nintendo since the beginning so it is great news to be able to say that Nintendo will be releasing major titles from two legendary franchises in 2010.

This press event was by far better than last year's and things look to be exiting for Nintendo in the future.


Nintendo E3 Presser Wish List

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Watch live video from g4tv_e3 on

Using the embeddable video above you will be able to watch the Nintendo press conference at this year's Electronics Entertainment Expo (from here on referred to as E3). Nintendo has some interesting rumors surrounding it this year, and I hope to be able to watch this press conference with great intrigue.

"Dismal", "disappointing", "lifeless", and "embarrassing" are some terms that could be used to describe Nintendo's press conference last year at E3. Do I really need to remind you? This year hopefully will be a rebound for the world's video game leader. Here are some of my expectations and items on my wish list.

New Zelda - This is a cop out I admit because every year Nintendo fans wish for a new Zelda, or a new Mario game. This one though I feel has legs. It has been a few years since the last Zelda release, and now with a team that can focus solely on the Wii platform rather than both the Wii and Gamecube, perhaps Nintendo can bring out the best of the Wii. And to top it off why not throw in enhanced game play utilizing the seldom used Wii Motion Plus, and then pack it in with the latest Zelda title?

Excitebike - When you think of classic NES titles what comes to mind? Aside from the slate of Mario, Zelda, Mega Man titles you probably won't meet a person that has not played Excitebike. When Super Mario Kart was released Nintendo unveiled the Wii Wheel. I personally would love to use the wheel add on for an Excitebike remake. And I'm talking wild and zany tracks with just motorcycles. Excitebike 64 was good, but I think Excitebike could have some good times on the Wii, especially with online multi player modes, including tournaments!

Hard drive expansion - While the latest version of the Wii menu allows for the enhanced SD memory options it may still be nice to have expandable hard drive options. Seriously, why have USB ports if they're not going to be used?

Virtual Console Expansion - Enough is enough Nintendo. Just go ahead and make your entire software library available, at least for the NES. And how about making more N64 titles available? I can't totally fault Nintendo for the sparse Sega game library, but I can hope that they finally find a way to bring old Game Boy games to the Wii. Right?

Mario Paint - One of my favorite games, if you can really call it that, on the Super NES was Mario Paint. It took MS Paint to the next level by adding simple animation and music editing and putting a fun twist on it all. The Wii could have endless possibilities with an updated version. It doesn't even have to be a retail game though. Mario Paint could easily be created as a channel downloaded form the WiiStore.

Revamped Online Network - Sony and Microsoft have online gaming down to nitty gritty. Nintendo will likely never be as hard core with online gaming networks as those two competitors are but they could benefit from an enhanced system. Giving players a profile linked to their Mii and rankings based on their competitive play in games such as Super Smash Brothers, Mario Kart and numerous other online games would attract third party publishers as well as give existing third party publishers incentive to bring their Wii versions up to par with their Sony and Microsoft versions.

While the rumor mills are starting to turn about the next home console version form Nintendo, I wouldn't expect any mention of it today. Nintendo is just coming off the release of their latest version of the Nintendo DS and while work is underway on the successor of the Wii, if not a more powerful Wii, public news about it in this forum is still a good year or two away.

What I fear will happen...
  • Pokeman news
  • WiiMusic 2
  • No new franchise title (Zelda, Mario, Star Fox)
Whatever Nintendo talks about today, it should be interesting. I am curious about the new WiiFit release though. Will my current balance board really be outdated? That would really be a bummer.


Mario Monday - Dr. Mario

Monday, June 01, 2009

Before Nintendo had officially moved on to the next generation of gaming he left the 8-bit universe with one last golden nugget. Nintendo used Mario to put together the most successful Tetris clone known to the gaming world, Dr. Mario.

Dr. Mario took the addictive game play of Tetris and threw in their own twists. Rather than pile up bricks in straight lines the object was for the plumber-turned-doctor to rid the jar of various viruses. Gone were the Koopas and Goombas and in were three different colored viruses; Fever, Chill and Weird. To defeat these viruses Mario had to stack three same colored vitamins on top of the virus.

Sounds easy, right? Of course it starts out easy, with only three or four viruses posing a threat. Naturally as the levels increase, so does the threat of a breakout of the virus. Not only do the viruses continue to populate in the jars but the speed at which the vitamins thrown by Dr. Mario also increases, similar to Tetris.

The thought of Mario in a puzzle game came off strange at first but once anyone took their try at the addictive puzzler, they were hooked. But it is not just the quality puzzles that make this game what it is. The multi-player modes also play a factor.

Multi-player modes on the NES were great because each player could set their own difficulty levels, which made it great for first time players and seasoned video game doctor-plumber wannabes alike. An experienced player could choose faster speeds and more viruses to defeat while a rookie could select a much easier goal.

The NES provided just 2-player play though, which of course was normal for those days despite the four player adapters that were available. I however prefer to the 2-player mode on the Game Boy, probably because I have played that version more than any other.

In the days of the Game Boy there was no Wi-fi connectivity options and both players had to have a copy of the game, as well as a link cable. I spent many long car trips beating my sister in Dr. Mario (and Tetris), although she can handily beat me on the NES version today.

In Tetris when one player cleared multiple lines the excess would pile would raise your opponent's stack, causing panic at the most inopportune times. In Dr. Mario rather than raise the viruses and already placed pills, random pill halves would fall from the bottom before the player's next pill was used. Would a different colored pill half cover up what your opponent was building up? Hopefully.

But what is the best part of Dr. Mario? Definitely the music. Who will ever get this theme out of their heads?

As great as the Fever theme may be, I have always been somewhat partial to the Chill theme...

Dr. Mario still lives on today. The character of Dr. Mario has appeared in the Super Smash Brothers series and the game is still thriving today in the form of remakes. You can find it on the Nintendo Wii under the WiiWare titles for example.

If I had to choose between Tetris and Dr. Mario I would find it near impossible to pass up the classic Russian puzzler, but my favorite plumber would definitely suffice as a replacement.


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