Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Increasing Voter Turnout: A Quickly Imagined, Scathingly Brilliant Idea

Hi, friends!

I hope you are doing well on this fine Tuesday evening. And if not, allow me to send you a virtual high five to lift your spirits. Wooooo!

Today I come to you just minutes after doing my civic duty: voting in the Pennsylvania Primary. I hope you did the thing today, or whenever your time is/was. If you didn't, I have a wonderful incentive for you that I thought of on my way home.

As I approached the polls, I was taken aback by two things: the lack of signage (I know it's "only a primary") and, more importantly, the the lack of people. The timing of my adventure probably had a hand in the latter, but recent history tells me there's a bigger issue - people just aren't voting.

In France last week, there was a turnout of 75.3% - their lowest since 1969. I'm sure you've seen on the news by now that this percentage would have been the highest in a U.S. Presidential Election since 1896 (79.3%), and the first time with a 70% turnout since 1900 (73.2%). For a developed nation where many people pride themselves on "being patriotic," that is horrendous. (Also, the Internet is a thing now, so there's really no excuse for not getting informed.)

But fear not, fellow citizens! I am here with a solution that should work for everyone.

As I left my empty polling place to trek home, I heard the familiar jingle of the ice cream truck. Feeling super American, I decided to treat myself to a cone. And then it hit me: my fellow Americans love ice cream. So to fix the pitiful turnout, I am proposing two ideas:

  1. Free ice cream sandwiches to all voters (after ballots are cast).
  2. Move Election Day to Saturday. (Honestly, why hasn't this happened yet?)

Now I realize I haven't thought of every angle here, but that is where the smart people join the conversation. Americans love ice cream and getting stuff for free, Putting these two things together seems like a great way to get people out to the polls.

"But Pat, what if they don't get informed and just press buttons to get free ice cream?" A great question, my friend. To that I offer this not-so-reassuring counterpoint: there's a good chance a lot of people randomly press buttons anyway, just to do their civic duty. Since there's no real way to track or combat this, isn't increasing numbers a step in the right direction? I say yes, which is why you're reading these words right now.

And I know money is an issue, one that I can't resolve right now. But I did think of having poll workers (maybe even students) giving out the free stuff, and charging a few bucks for "better" treats. That money, of course, would go to the school where you're voting. Because yes, elections should be done at schools. It just makes sense.

As for the second idea, I simply say this: a lot more people can get out to do things on a Saturday than on a Tuesday. This should already be a thing. Let's tackle that after Flint gets their water back.

So call your reps and let's get this out there. We all scream for...yeah, you know the thing. So go do it!

Until next time, don't do anything I wouldn't do!

Crap open a cold one!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Thursday Nights on Campus Update: The Attic Sessions EP

Hey friends!

Since I have decided to make real progress on my music project, I think the best way to keep at it is to let you know how I'm doing so far. Doesn't that sound fun?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Public Transit Adventures, Part 4: The Entertainers

Hi, friend!

I almost made this a podcast topic (like I do with most blog ideas, hence the lack of updates), but then I decided to diversify my bonds and post it here. Instead of doing my usual "put you in the scene" writing for this, I will just ramble about it on my own. There are several types of performers I see in my travels, but today I will focus on one specific group: train singers.

It wasn't long ago that I started seeing a duo walking the aisles on my commute home. I thought nothing of it, since people wander up and down asking for change all the time. So I figured they were attacking in a pair for double sympathy.

And then they started singing. And do you know what? They weren't bad.

They began their pitch saying they were taking donations for studio time, trying to "do something positive" for the city. I was intrigued by this, since I'd never seen anything like it on my ride. But I didn't donate because a) I'm broke and b) I can't buy into their reasoning.

If this was 1996, I would be totally behind this. I might even steal the idea (assuming I'm also 28 in this past). Recording a demo basically had to be done in a studio, which cost a good chunk of change - and still does. So it would have made sense then since there weren't a ton of options.

But today? Almost anyone can record music on his computer and send it to a big wig. Will the quality be great? That depends on the producers and their equipment, but having even a raw demo can at least gain the group a following. And plenty of software (and/or a smartphone app) is free, so it's hard for me to get behind this cause.

So for me, these "live demos" raise two questions:

Where exactly is that money going?
What is the "something positive" they claim to be doing for the city?

Assuming they have access to modern equipment, getting music made and heard is super easy. (Don't believe it? Click here to listen to my songs. Yay, internet!)

I get that studio-produced songs will sound better, and help you get closer to "making it," and I don't fault anyone for trying. But self-producing is not all that difficult, and can earn enough change to go to the arcade get into the studio.

And maybe the bigger hangup is that something positive will come out of this for me. Maybe I'm just a scrooge, but I don't see how these dudes getting into the studio to finish a mixtape (those are still a thing, right?) benefits me. If you want to make music, go for it. I love the passion. I love the enthusiasm. But just say that. You don't need to sugarcoat it. Not everyone will see this as a positive. Hell, a lot of people may not even care. It just seems silly to me that these guys feel the need to put a spin on their pitch, when all they need to do is be real. (Also when they finished the song, they clapped for themselves. WEAK.)

If nothing else, though, it sounds better than the usual sob stories we commuters hear every day. And now that I think about it, I haven't seen them in quite some time. Is it safe to assume their plan worked and they were discovered? I say yes. So I guess the lesson is: Go out there and be somebody!

Or something like that.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Yeah, I'm different. So what?

Good day, fellow lasagna lovers!

Today I present something completely different. I posted this to Facebook last week, but I don't know how to make things "public" after they're posted. So here's a thing I wrote about, essentially, treating people like people. Thanks in advance for reading, and feel free to share your thoughts with me!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Top 25 on N64: #1

Hi there! Welcome to a bonus VIDEO GAME POST, sponsored by taco salad. Today I break down, in detail, my favorite N64 game! You know all of the other stuff, so let's not mess around here!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Top 25 on N64: 5-2

Hi friends!

Some of you may be chomping at the bit to read this [almost] last section so you can definitively tell me just how wrong I am. If you aren't, you probably haven't read the other posts. So here they are for your pleasure (each link opens in a new window)!

25-21: Crus'n USA to Star Wars Rogue Squadron
20-16: NBA Live 200 to Destruction Derby 64
15-11: Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards to StarFox 64
10-6: Perfect Dark to Winback: Covert Operations

Now you're ready. Grab your popcorn and let's get it on!

5. Super Mario 64

Mario's first leap into the 3D world was nothing short of wonderful, especially for 1996. The levels look great and are still challenging, even after I've beaten them so many times. A lot of the enemies are new takes on old favorites, as is the music - and both are great. Also I love how not only the Bowser levels, but his actual battles, change each time.

And while it's tough to narrow down my top aspect of this game, a big one is the ability caps. Borrowing an idea (or reusing it I guess) from Super Mario World, you activate these by hitting big switches. And then the fun begins! Invisibility, flight, and - my personal favorite - METAL. These hit boxes are scattered throughout the world, so you can do fun stuff everywhere! Woo!

Bottom line: this game is incredible. My only gripe is the lack of Luigi, but at least Yoshi made an appearance so my nostalgia was fulfilled there. If you somehow haven't played this yet, do the thing!

Also you can fly around on a bird!

4. Super Smash Bros.

Speaking of great party games, and games that make you realize you have crappy friends, this one might be the ultimate. Take your pick from (initially) eight classic Nintendo characters and kick each other's asses. The main characters each get a home stage, and there is a sweet bonus stage, all with different/frustrating pitfalls. I would have liked bonus stages for the secret dudes, but that's a minor complaint.

One of my favorite parts about this is the menu that for the longest time, none of my buddies could nail down how to unlock. Truthfully, I still can't remember off the top of my head. But the ITEM SWITCH for multiplayer is super fun and it makes me sad that my current cartridge resets when I turn off the system. Basically, you can decide how often certain weapons/poweups appear. My personal favorite? High frequency Bob-ombs! Oh what fun!

In addition to the multiplayer, the story mode is super fun. Though it does get repetitive since you have to beat it with everyone to truly finish the game - also I wish Giant Donkey Kong was a playable character. And I do enjoy the Target Practice and Board the Platforms...with most characters anyway (looking at you, Jigglypuff).

BONUS STAGE: Mushroom Kingdom! Woo!

Part of me wanted to rank this higher, but the top 3 were locks even on the original, ever-changing list. Still, #4 is a solid spot for a game I routinely got crushed at by my brother. Still great!

3. GoldenEye 007

I should have saved that Smash Bros opening line for this, because it definitely applies. Actually, it's more appropriate to use here than either Smash Bros or Mario Party. Because this is the game that everyone loved...unless you weren't good.

We have a rule with GoldenEye: the winner of each round picks the weapons for the next one. Guess who hardly got to pick Slappers Only? I have gotten better, but I still don't get to pick that often. (How fun is playing with chops, though?)

There are so many great weapons in this game, I could probably do a whole post about it. Maybe I will someday, but for now: lasers, rockets, several automatics, the sniper if you were a marksman, throwing knives - again, I could go all day. The fact that you could double-fist most of these is also super awesome. But the one that gets everyone who isn't fast enough: the goddamn Golden Gun. The one-shot kill to end all one-shot kills. It can be so cheap, but it's the best when you get it (much like my fantasy football bonuses).

The single-player mode, though I'll barely talk about it, is also super fun. It follows the film for the most part. Although it's been quite a while since I've seen it not on TV so I could be off on that. Even though trying to keep Natalya alive was not fun, at least this mode prevented the biggest crime in video gaming from being committed: screen-watching. I already yelled about this, but I always like to call out these jerks whenever I can. Stop screen-watching, you dicks!

They just don't make multiplayer this fun anymore.

Wow, this almost turned into a full post. I guess that's why it merits being in the top 3! Let's wreck stuff with lasers!

2. WWF No Mercy

Although this is a top-2 game for me, and really this could be number one, I won't go all in-depth. "Why not, Pat?" Well, dear friend, because I did most of that in my curmudgeon post.

I will say here though, that this is my favorite wrestling game ever. The engine is amazing, and more than makes up for the graphics being not so great. The improvements from WrestleMania 2000 - ladders, tables, backstage brawling, detailed story mode - are wonderful. Do I wish the game didn't lag with more than 2 people on the screen? Sure, but that doesn't kill my enjoyment.

One of the biggest rosters at the time, a fun list of unlockables (characters and "stuff"), an awesome create-a-wrestler mode to put just about anyone you could want into the game: you get all of this and more! This game is so great and I could write and talk about it for days. For now though, since we have just one game to go, I'll leave you with a 3D!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Top 25 on N64: 10-6

Hi there!

If last week's section didn't rally the troops against me, the final two certainly will! We've reached the top ten and I am excited to share my...favorite favorites with you. If you want a refresher, check out the rest of the list:

25-21: Crus'n USA to Star Wars Rogue Squadron
20-16: NBA Live 2000 to Destruction Derby 64
15-11: Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards to StarFox 64

Done and ready to shake your head some more? Good. Here we go!

10. Perfect Dark

Some of you may wonder, "Pat, how the hell can you put this so low?" And to you I say two things: It's at least in the top 10, and the game you're comparing it to will come next week.

Look, I enjoyed this game. I really did. It took what GoldenEye had and improved a bunch of it. My two favorite parts of this game are the bot training challenges, and the gun that lets you find and shoot enemies through walls.

For real. It's awesome.

But since this is my list of "games I play most" and not "best games ever," there are several titles ahead of it. Still, this game is awesome and worthy of a high ranking on any top N64 list. So go save the future and stuff!

9. NHL Breakaway 98

I did a full review of this game already, so I won't dive into it again. Although I guess I could since it's so high on the list...

Anyway, this game is still super fun for me and you should join me to play sometime. It'll be great!

8. Mario Kart 64

Ah yes, another game that is great for ruining friendships. While not the original, this is the one I always think of when someone mentions Mario Kart.

Red shells. Lightning bolts. Stars. And the wonderful - or terrible if you're in first - blue shell. The courses are fun and plenty challenging as you progress, and each character has strengths and weaknesses. Sure there's time attack and the unlockable "mirror mode," but let's be real: Battle Mode is what brings you here.

Four arenas (Block Fort #1) to choose from to humiliate up to three of your buddies. Plus, if by some bad luck/collusion you get taken out, you can become a bomb kart and ruin someone else's fun. If that's not awesome, then someone altered your dictionary. Do it up!

7. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater

It was really hard for me not to rank this higher. This is the game that made most of America realize there are other pro skaters than the title character. And helped me realize the skate deck I need to display in my future home. But I digress...

I will say that as awful as I was at the multiplayer modes (graffiti especially), they were still fun. But a main reason this ranks here is replay value. Yes, I have unlocked everything several times. Yes, I have set all of the high scores. And yet, I was just playing this game minutes before writing.

The collection of skaters is great, even though I knew who maybe two of them were at the time. The boards you can unlock for each [mostly] look great. The controls are super easy to master. And the different locations for the levels look amazing, especially when you consider the release year. All of that - plus the wonderful soundtrack! - keep me coming back, no matter how often I've done it.

Back to school!

So skate on, my friends, and watch out for the psycho bitches!

6. WinBack: Covert Operations

I have no idea how many times we rented this game before one of us decided to buy it, but what a great choice that [finally] was. For a game that has influenced many modern shooters, I don't think it gets enough love. And before you say it: yes, I am aware that this is essentially Metal Gear Solid on N64. I also don't care because this game is super fun on its own.

You play as Jean-Luc Cougar as part of S.C.A.T.: Special Covert Action Team. Your mission is to infiltrate the enemy base before they fire their super space laser at the White House. Along the way you'll encounter enemies (so many!), traps, puzzles, and stuff that explodes. The element of surprise is key here, so the run-and-gun style won't do you much good. The strategy, the story, the rocket launcher - all of this and more make me love this game.

Do yourself a favor and give it a playthrough. Be sure to move quickly and avoid the lasers! Also laugh with me about the time Bill fired a perfect strike with his controller at the game because Bump and I inadvertently teamed up to kill him in multiplayer. A million to one shot!