Monday, January 31, 2011

"What're you waitin' for, Christmas?"

During my childhood, my lack of athletic prowess wasn't as debilitating as it was to the other kids' social lives. When my feet touched a football during lunchbreak, it generally resulted in disaster. Countless break-times were lost to searching in ditches for elusive balls, or spent apologizing to the girl on the adjoining basketball court who took the brunt of my toepeg to the face.

These things mattered little, for I had a secret weapon. For you see, dear reader, I had Duke Nukem 3D, a game that stood out from the crowd by offering a protagonist was a pastiche of swear-happy action stars, spitting out countless hilarious (and context-sensitive!) one-liners as the bloodbath ensued on screen.

Classmates would call over to the house, demanding to see in person this wondrous game featuring scenes of ultra-violence, swearing, and nudity. I'd fire up Episode 1, Level 2, turn on the weapon cheats, and walk them through a well-rehearsed romp through the 'Red Light District', blowing up the enemies to prompt Duke's taunt of "Blow it out yer ass!", showing off the amount of in-game objects that could be fiddled with (flush toilets! flick light switches! play snooker!), and of course, spending plenty of time in the strip-club using up Duke's endless supply of scrunched up hundred-dollar bills.

It probably sounds a lot lewder than it was - the tone of the game was goofy - the graphics were cartoony, the violence was comically exaggerated, and the fidelity of the nudity would only titillate the type of person aroused by wood-grain patterns. The 'adult content' was the hook, but I played and replayed this game because it's a phenomenal one. When I revisited the game two years ago, it passed the test of time - a feat few other games and movies from my childhood have managed.

The wait for the sequel has been painful - for over 12 years a trickle of magazine articles and screenshots have kept me updated on the game I've waited half a lifetime for, and finally, the end of the wait is in sight.

When I consider the game from a rational point of view, I know that nothing could be worth that long of a wait, but emotionally, I'm preposterously excited to play this game. The trailer came out a week ago, and I've watched it at least a dozen times - this is the same obsessive behaviour I engaged in back in the day with promotional VHS cassettes that came with gaming magazines. Looking at the trailer critically, I don't find it entirely compelling, but then I feel those old irrational feelings of excitement stirring up:

Hail to the king, baby.

Friday, January 28, 2011

How many men does it take to get a free pizza?

Last week, I got a Chicago Town BBQ Meat Madness Pizza. [This is going somewhere - my blog hasn't quite stooped to that level yet..]

I noticed that there was a problem with the cooking instructions on the packaging, so I showed it to my housemate - let's call him Mega.

Fans of Celsius will notice that the listed temperature is about 100 degrees less than it ought to be 
Mega was aghast. "That's despicable, unfathomable, improbable, outrageous! You have to complain."

Not really bothered, I told him he could do it on my behalf, and thought nothing of it.

He had sent the e-mail alright, but his sense of outrage and self-entitlement was clearly not evident. He opened by describing himself as a "huge fan", mentioned that "the pizza was great", and concluded by saying that he "just wanted to highlight this error to prevent a mix up and ensure everyone can enjoy this high quality product".

The response came through first thing the next morning, and would certainly be disappointing for anybody hoping for a truckload of compensatory pizzas to show up outside the house:

Thank you for highlighting the error with the cooking instructions, feedback and comments are always appreciated, we are aware of this error and it has now been corrected by our printers.
Thank you for sending the packaging details so we are able to track this error.

[In case you're wondering, I didn't censor Mega's name there - the customer service rep didn't even bother to copy/paste his name into the boilerplate message]

Crestfallen, Mega expressed his disappointment to his work colleague, who tutted at his lack of savvy, and lectured him on the rules of engagement with companies, repeating the mantra "the shy baby gets no sweets".

The promulgator of peculiar idioms sat down in front of Mega's computer, and fired off a quick e-mail under Mega's identity:
Thank you very much for your swift reply. However this error was found too late. Unfortunatly, being unaware of this issue. We cooked the pizza at 90 degrees and were very ill afterwards. Please let me know what you plan on doing to rectify this situation?
Continuity be damned! He didn't care that Mega had earlier said that the pizza that made him "very ill" was "great" - he wanted to see what kind of stuff was there for the taking!

That e-mail was sent on Friday afternoon, but no reply came. The spectacular response time only seemed to apply to customers who where spinally-challenged. No word came on Monday or Tuesday, but then, on Wednesday, a letter arrived at our house from the Chicago Town Pizza overlords:

The letter said many things, mostly assuring Mega that he couldn't have gotten sick from eating a badly cooked pizza:
All our pizzas are produced from high quality microbial tested raw materials. In addition this this, all products produced within the factory are tested on a daily basis. This testing is carried out and recorded for both pathogenic, i.e. food poisoning bacteria, and nonpathogenic bacteria and all of the test results were fine […] even if the product was undercooked there would be no reason that this would cause sickness. [...] Illness caused from eating unwholesome food can take varying times to occur, up to a period of 72 hours after eating the product, this does make it difficult to identify the cause.
The letter was clearly from a template to deal with the loons and goons who claimed to have been poisoned by Dr Oetker products, but it did include one voucher for a free Chicago Town pizza (worth €4.50!) and two Ristorante pizzas (worth €2.00!).

Look! The voucher even includes life advice! [Underline added]

€9.50 worth of free pizza? Well worth being a total sphincter in an e-mail, if you ask me.

It just goes to show me that if you want anything in life, you have to bitch and moan and be an insufferable asshole until somebody decides they can't take it anymore and does whatever it takes to get you to shut the fuck up. Or, as the old saying goes: "The shy baby gets no sweets".

Monday, January 24, 2011

It's all about packaging...

My girlfriend does not abide juvenile humour.

As part of her project to break me down and rebuild me as a decent human being, she goes out of her way to admonish scatological jokes with scoffs and eye-rolls devoid of any kind-hearted irony.

Well, dear reader, it seems that I've found a loophole. My girlfriend enjoys Irish culture, and keeps a death-grip on every hiberno meme I bring to her attention. Her retention is quite phenomenal - sometimes she'll impress me by stringing together various Irish words and verbs into an almost coherent sentence ["Dún an madra, Taoiseach!"] - sometimes she'll triumphantly scream "WELCOME!" and point at the doormat adorned with the word "Fáilte" outside my grandmother's house, clapping her hands together in glee until I praise her for being such a clever girl.

The day after Thanksgiving, we were in a crowded mall in Wisconsin, and as a treat for my good behaviour, she let me go to Gamestop for a quick look at games that I had no interest in buying.

One of the more prominently displayed Wii games was on display:

I noticed her hesitate in front of the promotional artwork - she was intrigued. As she pored over the somewhat dark artwork, pondering what it meant, I leant in to disrupt her mental process.

"Hey Kate, y'know what that game's title means where I'm from?"

She fixated on the title, cogs turning furiously in her brain, trying to recall what I was getting at. Once I spotted the glimmer of recognition, I leant into her ear to affirm her inkling.


The resulting release wasn't really a laugh - it sounded more like braying - she was clearly finding mirth in something that would make an Irish schoolchild chuckle.

When I pointed this out to her, I got a stony faced reprimand to "Grow up", but it mattered not. The lesson had been learned - if I parse unsophisticated humour in this idiosyncratic fashion, I will hit paydirt.

Operation dick joke is a go.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Socializing with Sully: Moistening those dry-balls [Part 2]

In my last post, I modestly put forward that most young people in Ireland engage in an activity that is selfish and dull, and suggested that without intoxication, standing around in a loud room not talking to  your friends isn't a particularly good time.

I'm not quite sure how to start a post following up on such assertions, especially when I've never partaken in these activities myself. As a teetotaller, I feel some trepidation in dumping on the preferred Irish pastime, but I'm hoping that rather than a mere dismissal that I'm 'missing the point', someone will elucidate why I'm missing the point. Anyhow, on with the show.

I lived in Pittsburgh for a glorious, eye-opening year. My friends and I were under the legal drinking age (21 years of age still seems nutty), but that didn't stop them from consuming alcohol - it just meant that it typically wasn't in public.
"This penis-straw may be zany, but I assure you, I'm dreadfully boring"

Most evenings involving alcohol were spent hanging out in the nicest apartment available, swapping stories, playing board games, or maybe having a game of charades. On a few occasions, the cash-strapped lot of us would go out to dinner. Talking about it now is reminding me of the reaction I had at the time after years of Irish programming: "That all sounds so lame".

It probably is lame, but I had never played charades before, and my experience of board games to date lead me to believe that they were merely a tool to lubricate interactions between distant-cousins at family-holidays while the parents drank themselves silly. How wrong I was.

Anyone waiting with bated breath (hah!) for this post to see what the 'silver bullet' to a more 'worthy' night of socializing is entitled to scoff at the suggestion, but there's more to it than "board games are a laugh" - I experienced a different approach to the consumption of alcohol: it was a complement to the evening's proceedings, and not the focus of the entire endeavour.

When you're playing board games, you generally have no choice but to talk to people - whether shouting frenzied guesses or going off topic with personal interjections, it's all 'quality time', particularly since the most exciting or embarrassing moments get brought up (in somewhat embellished form) at a future get-together. It's certainly a superior method to building a rapport with someone than getting drunk next to them.

As the token Irish member of the group, it stands to reason that yanks would be more interested in what I had to say than my fellow paddies, particularly when myriad cultural differences mean you'll never need to endure a pause in conversation ["In my country, we call what you call 'sweaters', 'jumpers'"], so maybe the difficulties I've had with enjoying the Irish way of fun are just a reflection of my lack of anything interesting to say to somebody from a similar background.

Don't think that I've mistaken the part for the whole - I've been invited to 'game nights' at various households in the States, often with people I've just met, and by the end of the night I'm joking and laughing with them as if I was what their group of friends was missing all along and they didn't realize it. Genuinely fun evenings like this drive home the point that if you're looking to loosen tongues, alcohol pales in comparison to the might of forced-human interaction.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Socialising with Sully: A Brief Tirade [Part 1]

I despise socialising with my friends. It's not entirely their fault, they are for the most part an interesting and intelligent group of people. The problem lies with the dearth of activities to do in Ireland, or rather, what my demographic (young, post-college people) consider fun.

I have a sizable group of friends from various counties of Ireland, and while I do spend most of my time socializing with them in Limerick, I consider them to be an accurate cross-section of young people in Ireland, and what their hopes and expectations of a night out consist of.

The objective: "Have the craic"
The method: Stand around in a pub or club ingesting mood-altering drugs, whilst enduring eardrum-shattering decibel-levels that smother out conversation and push the inhabitants towards more booze. More booze is always good.
Possible Outcomes: "Decent night" - consumed enough alcohol to briefly temporarily enhance self-confidence, and impair fine motor control - fun seemingly a consequence of the additional challenge in piloting one's body through routine acts.

"Well-daycent night" - consumed enough alcohol to progress past the stages of a decent night, and encounter prolonged losses of ability to coordinate voluntary muscle movements.

"Fuckin' deadly night" - consumed enough alcohol to bring about the stages of a "well-daycent night", with added losses of consciousness, anterograde amnesia, and possible urinary incontinence. The perceived fun of the night is the joy of having survived overnight without succumbing to pulmonary aspiration (choking on your puke).

It's my fault that I'm unable to engage in these fun activities, as I choose not to drink, meaning that without the mood-altering drugs, I'm just standing around in a loud room watching my friends gradually lose their balance. I might entertain myself by ironically dancing in an overly-enthusiastic fashion, but that wears thin after about ten minutes.

Millions of young people are happy to go with the flow, but I can't help but take umbrage with attending venues that snuff out conversation (often with terrible music), and I consider going out with the intention of getting hammered and becoming a burden for your friends to be inherently selfish. I have no problem with alcohol or those who choose to imbibe it [precedence has shown I object more vociferously to teetotallers]- my problem is with how it seems to be the focus of a night out rather than an added element.

Dear readers, I have visited the promised land for teetotallers, and I will share with you my wisdom of how to have a fun night without alienating your dry-balled tetotalling friend. But not right now - give me a day or two to parse this information in a way that won't make your brain explode.

In the meantime, I implore you to disagree with me and point out how to have fun without alcohol via the comments (no suggestions of "go on the pull" please, the ladyfriend won't abide that).

You may also be interested in "A Brief Guide To Dealing with the Irish"