Fun and Frivolous

Sometimes you just wanna have fun. Post a stupid photo, upload a dumbass video. You know silly shit. Well, this is place for it, baby. All things retarded and pointless go right here.

Lego Kidsfest Atlanta 2014

This past weekend, Sunday afternoon, I attended Lego Kidsfest Atlanta. It’s kinda like a Comic-Con for Legos. My daughters absolutely LOVE the Lego Friends stuff (as well as the Princess DUPLO sets) and so, naturally, they had to twist my arm to get me to attend. I’m a big fan of Mindstorms and Technics kits, so I had my own reasons for wanting to attend when I saw that there would be robotics demonstrations as well as Star Wars and Technics play areas.

The Lego Kidsfest people (brilliantly) realized that the whole room has about a 4-hour life-span. Not for the kids, of course, but for the parents attending. So they broke the three day (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) event down into “sessions” with one session on friday, and two sessions each on saturday and sunday. We attended session 2 on sunday from 3:30 to 7 and I really didn’t even get a sense that it was “the last day of the show”. The people working the event seemed just as enthusiastic as if it were Friday and the event just started.

As we wandered the event and played at various pit-stops, I found myself wondering things like, “does Lego put this on?” and, “where did all of these Legos come from?”. It’s an interesting event. It’s not really like a comic-con in that there were no “dealers” there or “booths” set up. But it also didn’t appear as if it was an official “Lego” event. It says on the website that it’s put on by LIFE Marketing & Events (yes, the LIFE is all caps… I don’t know why either, and I agree, it looks weird), and when you visit their page, it’s just a single page with rotating testimonials… so it seems to me that somebody somewhere had the great idea of selling kids $30 tickets to something that lasts 4 hours and figured out how to find the right brand to appeal to kids and draw ‘em in like Mongol Hordes. Kudos to them! For a minimal investment in toys (how much could bulk legos cost anyway?) and a spot at several high profile city event centers, you can tour the country, play with legos, and print money. Sounds like someone found their dream job…

At the end of the day, I was delighted, kids were over the moon, the people putting it on sold a boatload of tickets, and everybody walked away tired, but happy. Couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend a lazy, hot Sunday.

Enjoy the Gallery. Click on the image to close:

The First Annual Southern Fried Gameroom Expo 2014

Oh my gosh. Where to begin? This past weekend I attended the First Annual Southern Fried Gameroom Expo at the Marriott Century Center.

It. Was. Amazing.

Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever attended anything so awesome in recent memory. They had completely taken over the Marriott, and when I say, “completely taken over”, I mean “COMPLETELY TAKEN OVER”. I’ve been to that Marriott at least half a dozen times in the last couple of years for the quarterly single-day Atlanta Comic Book Convention (which is a great convention, by the way!) and it’s not even remotely been this packed. They had every ballroom in the place and every conference room open to convention-goers and packed with Pinball, Coin-op Arcade Video Games, Home Video consoles, retro/oldschool game systems, as well as various vendors stationed throughout the expo. It was great. Even if you walked up to the door, day of the show, it was only $20 admission for unlimited gaming, all the expo events, movie screenings, panels, and tournaments. Advance tickets were actually half that much! Note to self, when that thing comes around next year, make sure and buy advanced three day tickets.

I got there a little early on Saturday to participate in the Swap Meet. I’ve been dying to find an arcade cabinet for a while for a MAME project, and I got some business cards and talked to some people who can definitely help me when the time’s right. I am SO going to build a MAME cabinet with an oldschool controller setup. I saw some great examples of them there, and I think the cabinet might very well wind up being the most expensive part of the project. I also spent some time in the vintage home video system room playing Atari, Virtualboy, Intellivision, and my favorite vintage home video system of all time: Coleco Vision. What a great system.

Enjoy the photo gallery. I tried to upload some of the best pics I snapped while I was there. It was a fun time. If you heard about it this year and for some reason didn’t get to make it, by all means, don’t make that mistake next year. Here’s looking forward to the second annual one in 2015!

Click the images to enlarge, click the image again to close/exit:

My Brush With Fame, Or, That Time I Met The American Dream Dusty Rhodes

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The American Dream, Dusty Rhodes, if you will…

I was in the Navy in the mid to late 1980s. I grew up in Richmond, Virginia and had family in North and South Carolina. So during the 70s and early 80s, I was a huge Jim Crockett Mid-Atlantic/NWA fan who attended shows in NC,SC, and VA religiously. I grew up on Rufus Jones, Ric Flair, Blackjack Mulligan, Greg Valentine, Dusty Rhodes, etc. During the time I was in the Navy, I was stationed out west in Seattle. I didn’t get to fly home all that much, but this was one time I was heading home for vacation. I don’t recall if it was a direct flight from Seattle to Charlotte or not, but I know that I had a layover in Charlotte, and was flying from Charlotte to Richmond for leave.

So the flight from NC to VA was a brief little hop, and it was a late night flight. Like, around midnight. Not really a redeye, but a late flight nonetheless. Back in those days, fllghts would fly with barely anyone on them. It happened. This was one of those flights. If memory serves, there were less than a dozen people on the flight and my seat was towards the rear of the plane (the smoking section at the time). When I boarded I walked past the first few rows and seated up front, taking up nearly two seats, was Dusty Rhodes… THE Dusty Rhodes. Given that this was around 1986, there’s the very real possibility that he’s the current NWA World Heavyweight Champion, at the very least, he’s a contender and running Jim Crockett at the time. So this was a big deal.

I recognized him immediately and made my way back to my seat. There was nobody sitting around Dusty at all, and across the aisle, in the same row, it was completely open.

When the plane took off, the moment the seat belt light went off, I made my way up front and moved to that row. There I was, same row as the American Dream. I looked over and he had a spreadsheet out, was wearing little wireframe glasses that rested on the bridge of his nose, and was working on something… I’m guessing it was travel expenses or something of that nature. I just remember that he was engrossed in whatever it was. Now I was 18-19 at the time and starstruck, I certainly didn’t think anything about trying to strike up a conversation and potentially spending the next hour or so talking with Dusty (in my head we were already on a first name basis) about all things wrestling.

So I waited a moment, cleared my throat and said, “excuse me, are you the American Dream Dusty Rhodes?”.

He stopped what he was doing, looked over the rim of his glasses at me for a moment and said, “Thon, is that your athigned theat?”

Without a word, I got up and made my way back to my seat.

EDIT: Now with more bonus Dusty. This is from right around the same era. Dusty’s cutting a promo in October 1985, just before Starcade ’85. So a little context… He’s booking Crockett’s “Mid-Atlantic Wrestling” at this time. He’s A-list right now. Imagine someone in 1985 with Orton/Batista/HHH levels of heat and power. He’s not Flair… but he’s chasing him!

Welcome to SXSW!

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For the second year in a row, I’m back in Austin attending SXSW. Below are some thoughts. I attended some cool stuff, saw some cool things, met cool people, had a lot of cool encounters and even cooler conversations.

First day in Austin. Landed this morning, straight to the Palmer Center to work on the Mario Kart experience we’ve been putting together since late last year. It’s nice to see all the hard work and big ideas come to life. It’s the most rewarding part of the job, by far. Make sure you check out the accompanying website that my team in Dallas put together. I’m really proud of the work they did.

 

What do you call them? I know you know what I’m talking about…

You’re flipping. Then you see it, and you stop dead in your tracks. You can’t flip anymore, and you have to watch the rest of it… every time you come across it.

For me, it’s always “Goodfellas”, “Casino”, “Open Range”, or to a lesser extent, 80′s movies like, “Pretty in Pink”, “Sixteen Candles”, or “Saint Elmo’s Fire”.

Don’t judge me.

Is there a name for these movies? “Flip Stoppers” seems a bit contrived… but oddly appropriate.

What are yours? And what do you call them?

 

You know, the first step is admitting you have a problem…

I just had the oddest experience. I was walking down the hall at work when I caught myself thinking about something.

No, that part’s not the “odd part”. The odd part was what I was thinking about.

I was thinking about peanut butter. Specifically, I was thinking about “Smucker’s All Natural Smooth Peanut Butter with Honey”.

I have an almost uncontrollable addiction to nut butters. I love them. I eat them on Triscuits. I spread them on whole wheat bread. I eat them on bananas. I have absolutely no ability to moderate my intake of any particular nut butter. It gets worse when it’s almond butter. I daresay I could polish off an entire jar of almond butter in one sitting and not blink twice.

So there I was, walking down the hall at work thinking, “boy, I can’t wait to get home tonight and eat some peanut butter on some Triscuits”.

What the hell is wrong with me?

I don’t know, but I guarantee, whatever it is, it can be fixed by spreading a little peanut butter on it.

Is there a name for this? “Embarrassment Coupon” perhaps?

I recently got on a Cafe Verona kick. Dark, “chocolatey”, it’s really a delicious coffee, and so lately I’ve been snapping up Starbucks Cafe Verona anyplace I can find them. I’ve got a little single-cup coffee maker at work. Black and Decker. It makes one little cup of coffee, and usually during the course of the day I’ll make a couple cups. It wasn’t until I was on my second or third bag, that I discovered that Starbucks will give you a free cup of coffee if you take the bag back into any Starbucks Coffee. “Hmmm” I thought, “that’s pretty cool. It’d be nice to be able to stop by Starbucks one day when I’m out and about and know that I’ve got a free cup of coffee coming my way”.

So a couple days ago, I finished a bag and before I could throw it away, remembered to save it. I took it out to my car and put the empty bag in the middle console between the two front seats.

And there it sat. Mocking me.

Was I so pathetic, that in order to get a free cup of coffee, I was willing to walk all the way into the Mall clutching an empty bag of trash? I don’t carry a purse, so it’s not like I had any clever place to “hide” it on my way in. No, I was going to have to walk into Starbucks and hand over my empty trash and say, “here’s my empty bag, can I have my little free cup of Pike Place Blend, please?”

That was when I realized the genius of Starbucks. They know you’re not going to redeem that shit. They know if you’re going to plunk down $7 for a bag of ground coffee, that you’re not the type of person who looks for ways to get a 90-cent cup of coffee for free. Oh sure, you might try to tell yourself, “well, they’re going to recycle them”, but you know that won’t happen. The little Emo Barrista behind the counter is going to look you over, judgmentally sneer, fill a little cup up with some coffee he was about to throw out, toss your little bag in the trash, then talk shit about you to all his friends when you leave. “Dude, today this guy brought in an empty bag of coffee in so he could get his free cup of coffee… I know, right?” Not to mention the looks you’ll get from every customer in the place. I mean, if I was in line and you approached the counter and offered up and empty bag of trash in exchange for a cup of coffee, I’d be like, “man… here… lemme buy you a Venti, bro…”.

So I mean, there has to be a name for that, right? You offer someone something you KNOW they’re never going to redeem, but you look good offering it. It gives people a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling, but in the end, nobody’s pathetic enough to redeem it without submitting to some kind of “walk of shame” and taking a few self-esteem hits.

I think I’ll call it, “An Embarrassment Coupon”.

Oh, and if you spotted me in Starbucks today during lunch, don’t tell any of my friends, okay?

“I hate that place”

I hear that so often these days. From friends, from co-workers, from Twitter followers. Seems like everyone hates Facebook.

So why are so many people still using it?

I don’t post pictures there. I don’t upload video there. My only participation is to use it as a broadcast medium to point to the place where I control the universe. Here. I might share a link or two, but they’re also shared here as well. I don’t want Facebook to actually have any of my content. It’s mine. Not theirs. They don’t have any right to my family photos, my videos, my thoughts, my ideas. They make money off my stuff. If all of a sudden everyone stopped giving Facebook all their shit, Facebook would be completely value-less. Facebook’s whole value is wrapped up in your eyeballs. Increasingly, they’re becoming a walled garden. I saw a post the other day comparing them to AOL, and I thought, “that’s perfect”. AOL used to be a lot of people’s “internet experience”. You’d sign on to their world, play around in their playground, interact with their users, then log off. Once you started sniffing around outside their walls, they were essentially done. People went, “waitaminute, you mean there’s all THIS out there? Why didn’t you tell me?”. Then it was all over for AOL.

Seems like the same thing’s happening with Facebook.

It’s the end of the year. Time for people to start writing those “retrospective” posts looking back on “the year that was” and a lot of them seem to be themed around the idea of “moving on from Facebook”. People seem to be coming around to the idea that there’s life beyond 500 million users. That juggernauts can be stopped cold in their tracks. That there will be a “next big thing” and they’re already starting. That can’t bode well for Facebook, but it could be good for users.

See, I think, as an idea, Facebook’s great. Share shit with your friends and family. As a platform, it’s been great as what I would call, “the first iteration” of that idea. Sort of a “here’s how you do it and make it easy for people”. What I think it’s failed at miserably though, is the obvious obsession with monetizing the idea. In an effort to somehow get money out of an idea that’s inherently NOT a money making idea, they’ve had to open the “social graph” to people who weren’t part of your conversation in the first place.

I was talking with my friends and family. Who invited Coca-Cola and Toyota?

Then there’s the whole notion of Facebook making money off of my life. Seriously? You take my photos, my videos, my thoughts, my ideas… and you monetize them so YOU make money? And you don’t offer me a cut? How does that work?

Turns out it doesn’t. At least not very well. In order for Facebook to make that money, they’ve got to run completely counter to their idea. They have to open what was originally a very closed idea. I liked it when the idea was closed. I liked it when I had friends, I could share, they could share, and that was our world. Now, this whole, open platform environment runs counter to my comfort level and the comfort level of most users. You think I want all my friends to see my activity on Huffington Post? Do I want everyone I’m friends with on Facebook, business Friends, personal friends, family, to see what I like on Buzzfeed? You think that’s appropriate? I don’t. It’s also not the deal we signed up for.

So what happens now? Well, it’s anybody’s guess, but judging from some of the conversations out there, we won’t have to wait long to find out. There are a lot of really smart people out there who see this coming and are already working on solutions to “the Facebook problem”. I’m confident they’re smarter than Zuckerberg, too. Here’s the best part, you don’t have to “train” a new audience what the idea of Facebook is now. All you have to do is be the one who comes up with the next, “It’s Facebook, but better”.

Here’s how I imagine that conversation went down…

OPENING SCENE: SOME CANDY COMPANY BOARDROOM, MID-80s:

“Okay people, here’s the deal. Parents are having a shit-fit. We can’t sell sticks made out of sugar, with a little painted red-tip, packed into boxes designed to look like cigarettes, and call them ‘Candy Cigarettes’ anymore. It’s just not working. So we’ve got a machine downstairs that makes sticks out of sugar, and another machine that makes cigarette boxes. Any ideas? ”

“What about if we just call them ‘Sticks Made Out of Sugar’ instead?”

“You’re fired. Next?”

“I know! We’ll call them ‘Candy Sticks’. That way, it still has ‘candy’ in the name, and kids love sticks!”

“Okay, I like where you’re going with this. Now. What about the box machine? How do we work that into the mix?”

“We’ll print superheroes on the boxes. Kids love superheroes.”

“I like it, it’s a real win-win. Let’s go with that one…”

Candy... sticks?


Kids LOVE candy. Kids LOVE superheroes. Kids LOVE sticks. It's a no brainer, right?