Wednesday, March 25, 2015

HERE IS WHAT HAPPENED IN VEGAS:









  





CLICK HERE FOR MY FULL LAS VEGAS PHOTO ALBUM

CLICK HERE FOR MY FULL GRAND CANYON / HOOVER DAM PHOTO ALBUM


SATURDAY, MARCH 14th

We had lunch at McAlister's here in OKC, and flew out of Will Rogers Airport (my favorite airport, by the way). Landed in Vegas a couple hours later and took a shuttle to our hotel, the Rio (sadly, we didn't get any pictures of the famous Las Vegas sign!). But at least our hotel room was bloody huge - bigger than my apartment :p

For dinner on Saturday, we had a reservation at the Hofbräuhaus, a really fancy German restaurant. I say "fancy" and not "snooty", because in addition to the place being very big and very German, the waitresses use paddles to spank people who order shots. Because Vegas! I had bratwurst and beer, which were both awesome - my sister had a "Radler", which is a crazy-delicious beer + lemonade drink.

After dinner we wandered around downtown Vegas for a while. Shopping, random street shows, lots of awesome photos, and whatnot. Every corner had a shady schmuck on it trying to hand out prostitute calling cards - I actually almost grabbed one, entirely because I thought it would be the most hilarious souvenir ever :p The Bellagio and its famous fountains were really cool! We made our way back to the hotel and gambled a little bit - I'm not a big gambler, but I had fun and only lost a couple dollars. I also had a Whiskey Blackberry Smash, which was delicious.


SUNDAY, MARCH 15th

We all got up at the asscrack of dawn, stupid o'clock in the morning, 5:30am, to catch our bus tour to the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. (I've put an accidental 'n' in "Hoover Dam" literally dozens of times since then.) Our bus driver was a hilarious dude name Julio - picture one of the thickest Mexican accents you've heard, plus the dryest sense of humor you've heard. ("The bathroom is for liquids only, not for 'the Big Enchilada'!")

The Hoover Dam is....big. Really big. Big ol' impressive hunk of concrete. And it produces so much clean hydroelectric power that it could power Las Vegas by itself. Smart government projects ftw!

Then we rode across the border into Arizona, and continued to the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is....big. Reeeeeeeeeeeeally big. Big ol' impressive hole in the ground. See, you can tell it was pretty bloody epic, considering my family snapped OVER TWO HUNDRED PHOTOS OF IT. Aside from how incredibly scenic in general it is, seeing the individual layers of rock that have been built up and carved out over millions of years was really cool. Geology ftw!

After a couple hours, we made the 4-hour return trip to Las Vegas. We were literally the last ones to be dropped off at our hotel, from a bus full of tourists. At that point (10pm) we were STARVING, so we ate a huge meal of buffalo wings and burgers at the hotel (blue cheese + grilled onions = one of the best burgers I've ever had, actually). My sister had a Cosmopolitan, and I had a "Heaven" (which was a rum/coconut/raspberry concoction).


MONDAY, MARCH 16th

The next day, after (mercifully) getting to sleep in, we ate at a different restaurant inside the hotel, and then took a shuttle back to downtown Vegas, to see the parts that we didn't get to see on Saturday, like the inside of the Bellagio itself, and the M&M World Store. The latter of which contained a massive wall of M&M colors and variations for people to buy a custom mix of. I bought peanut butter M&Ms, crispy M&Ms, and plain BLACK M&Ms (which made me happy). We also went to the Coca-Cola World Store, and the Las Vegas Hard Rock Café.

Next we took a cab to Fremont Street, a different part of Vegas. We made our way to The D (don't laugh), the hotel/casino where "Marriage Can Be Murder" - our murder-mystery dinner show - was at. I was the only one in my family who had been to a murder mystery dinner show before, and my sister had wanted to go to one for some time. The show itself was hilarious (and the food wasn't bad either). There was no shortage of audience participation - the women were supposed to "cry and mourn" anytime someone "died", while my dad was a "pallbearer" for said dead bodies, and I "played" the "trumpet" in the band that was part of each "funeral procession". (There may or may not be video of that.) None of us were able to figure out the solution to the murders, but we still had a really great time.

After the show, we went up and down all the performances and shops and bars along Fremont Street. We all had alcoholic slushies (Long Island iced tea!) and watched a couple of amazing artists paint very intricate pictures in a matter of minutes, with just spray paint and and a few simple tools. There was an amazing U2 cover band that not only sounded exactly like the real U2, but also looked like them as well. And there were also a couple Irish bands, since we were there the day before St. Paddy's Day.

Fremont Street, for those who don't know (I didn't until I went), is almost completely covered by a huge panel of lights that work together to form a very massive, curved LED screen of sorts, which they use to put on intricate light shows every half-hour or hour. (Sidenote: you can also ride a zipline from one end of the street all the way to the other.) While we were there, they used the screen for an epic Bon Jovi concert/music video show (which we got video of!). It was extremely cool. I want one over the ceiling of my future house.

After seeing everything on Fremont Street, we took a cab back to the Rio. After showering, we took a glass-walled elevator (really cool in and of itself) up to "Voodoo", the nightclub on the Rio's roof. Even though there was a bridal party making everything crowded, it still made for some of the most epic photo-taking of the entire trip. I had a Godfather (half Scotch, half amaretto), which is my second-favorite drink.


TUESDAY, MARCH 17th

Our flight home was pretty straightforward, although I will add that Vegas's McCarran Airport is among the worst I have ever used. Airport food for lunch (Jersey Mike's!), and a couple hours later, we were back in OKC. We had dinner at Mutt's Hot Dogs, which, if you've never been, YOU NEED TO TRY. It took some time to sort through all my souvenirs, and even longer (hence the delay in writing this blog!) to sort through our 844 photos and 20 videos.

But here's an irony for you: we spent four days in a place called "Sin City" and we didn't get robbed or mugged or assaulted or anything; came back to a place called the "Bible Belt" to find that my Corolla had been broken into and the stuff in its glove box stolen while we were away. Typical.

Anyway - already looking forward to going back B-)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Triforce

Normally I'd just post something like this to Facebook, except that (a) it's exceptionally awesome, and (b) the dimensions for these images wouldn't work well there :p The artist's website is at the bottom of a couple of the images.

Monday, March 9, 2015

#DancingMan

One of my new favorite news stories:

"Man Body Shamed For Dancing Gets Huge Social Media Invite To LA Dance Party"


The full story:
The text above the pictures reads, “Spotted this specimen trying to dance the other week. He stopped when he saw us laughing.”

Well, the pictures made their way around the web, and obviously a lot of people didn’t care for the way “dancing man” was being treated and expressed their sympathy. One person decided to go the extra mile to help him out.

Cassandra Fairbanks kicked off a social media campaign to find the dancing man and throw him an epic VIP dance party.After a day or so of searching, they found the dancing man. He set up a new Twitter account, @dancingmanfound, to thank everyone.

So obviously, plans for the huge dance party are underway, and as if that wasn’t enough, a bunch of celebrities [Pharrell Williams, Moby, Andrew W.K.] even offered to show up.
The story has gone completely viral (more details at HuffPo here). This is beyond awesome.

The media (especially the 'Jezebel, Feministing, et al.' crowd) constantly implies that body-shaming is something that only women really have to deal with, and that men never have to face this kind of scrutiny or humiliation - which is as dead wrong as wrong gets.

So here's to you, Dancing Man. If that dude ever wants to wreck a mosh pit with me at a metal show, I'm down.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

I'm rebooting my secondary blogs as Facebook Pages!

  

 

For a long time now, I've had a pair of secondary blogs alongside this one, which I've recently turned into Facebook Pages:

This first was originally a Tumblr called "This Is Pretty Epic", which was basically a dumping ground for a lot of random/funny/crazy crap I stumble across on the internet, but that I didn't have room for on my personal Facebook or on this blog.

Click here to be amused and entertained!

The second was, at first, a Facebook Page called "The Political Photoblog", which then became a Tumblr called "Aggressively Humanitarian", and is now back to being a Facebook Page, called "Pugnaciously Humanitarian". It's basically the same thing as This Is Pretty Epic, except that it's all about politics, religion, and current events.

Click here to be rage-inducingly well-informed!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Game Reviews: Valiant Hearts, Gears of War 3, Sonic Generations, New Super Mario Bros. U

 
 


Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Holy crap, I was not expecting this game to be as good as it is. For starters, it's unique in a wide range of ways: it's a World War I game (you really don't see very many of those), but it's also a 2D side-scrolling puzzle-solver rather than a shoot-'em-up. The artwork is somewhat like a comic book, but it also has its fair share of grittiness to it. The story is inspired by letters written during WWI, and is damn good, as is the sombre-but-hopeful music. The game isn't an out-and-out cakewalk, but it's also certainly not too difficult to be enjoyed by someone who doesn't play games much (it helps that the controls are fairly simple, too). It's only a few hours long, but it's unquestionably worth every penny. It's not technically an indie game, because it was developed by Ubisoft, but it pulls off the "indie" vibe (and I mean that in the best way possible). I can already tell that this is going to be one of my favorite games of the year.

Overall: 10/10


Gears of War 3

I still love the Gears series, even if its levels and gameplay are a little paint-by-numbers, run-and-gun at this point. Even if they're painting by numbers, the picture is still gorgeous - literally. This is one of the best-looking games I've ever played - sometimes I found myself wandering around a level just to look at the incredible amounts of detail they put into everything. And the gameplay is as solid as ever too - Gears' third-person "cover and pop" mechanic is the best alternative to 'normal' first-person shooters, in my opinion. It's largely unchanged from the first two games, because don't fix what ain't broken. The story is my favorite of the trilogy, too - Marcus Fenix actually does show slightly greater emotional range than just shouting urgent orders at his squadmates (although there's still a lot of that, too). Cole Train is still my favorite (read: the most hilarious) character in the Gears universe, and there's an absolutely great bit near the start of the game where you get to play as him, which was really cool. I preferred Gears 3 over Gears 2, and 2 over 1 - so even though I have no idea where they could possibly take Gears of War 4 on the Xbox One as far as the story goes, I'm already all in.

Overall: 9/10


Sonic Generations

I'm pretty sure this will be the last Sonic game I play. I loved the crap out of Sonic the Hedgehog games as a kid, but looking back, that's probably largely because I cheated and played as invincible Super Sonic the whole time. But that's the thing - not having to worry about enemies meant I got to blitz through levels as fast as humanly possible, which made them so much more fun. Playing Sonic as an actual platformer instead of a glorified racing game made the whole thing really lukewarm for me.

Sonic games never have quite the same level of polish that Mario games have. Generations isn't broken, but it was a long, long way from being triple-A, for me. The gimmick for this particular game is that each level can be played in 3D as "modern" Sonic, or as a 2D old-school side-scroller with "classic" Sonic. Additionally, each of the games 9(-ish) levels is taken from a different era in Sonic's history, from Genesis to Dreamcast to modern times. It worked pretty well overall, even if it wasn't mind-blowingly innovative. It did nail the nostalgia, though. But to be honest, only one level in the game completely and utterly did blow me away: Rooftop Run is a Sonic the Hedgehog level that takes place in a fictional yet ultra-realistic version of an Italian City. I'd post a Youtube video, but I don't want to spoil it - this one level is gorgeous, and a ton of fun to play, and it's the sole reason I'm giving this game a 6 instead of a 5.

Overall: 6/10


New Super Mario Bros. U

This is the most fun I've had in a 2D side-scrolling Mario game since Yoshi's Island came out in 1995. It nails absolutely everything that makes Mario games so timeless, even better than the first couple "New" Mario Bros. games that came out on the Wii and DS. It's also another game that shows how Nintendo nails co-op play better than almost any other company in the industry: you have the option to either have up to four players on-screen at a time (Mario, Luigi, and two Toads), or to have 1-4 players on-screen with an additional player using the touchscreen controller to place blocks throughout the level to make it easier for the players to cross gaps and beat enemies (this is how Steph and I played the majority of the game together, with her on the touchscreen). Like most modern Mario games, it starts off as a cakewalk, and then gets progressively more challenging until you beat the game, and then adds a few extra levels after that which go from "challenging and fun" to "throw your controller at the wall" brutal. I'm not a fan of that, but it is what it is - and at least it doesn't ruin the first 98% of the game. Even if the graphics aren't eye-popping enough to blow anyone away, the gameplay is so tight that this counts as Nintendo at its best.

Overall: 10/10