For those of you that are unaware of what that means, I invite you to go here so that you can see why this is a cause for celebration. It’s an opportunity to be amongst my fellow nerds and geeks, as well as catch up with many friends that I often times only get to see at these sorts of things. It’s also a great time to have a random celebrity encounter or two.
Here’s my story!
This had to be close to 10 years ago, but I was riding in the elevator to head back to our hotel room after a good bit of aimless wandering in the Dealers’ Room. The plan was to relax for a sec, grab something to drink and then return to the sea of humanity that was the convention. There were a few other younger folks on the elevator heading to their own various destinations. The elevator stops, and a rather distinctive older gentleman makes his way on and gives a friendly greeting before pressing the button for his floor. I’ve done a bit of research and online sleuthing since that moment, and after lots of intensive labor I was able to track down his photo.
Now as famous as George Takei is, this was during the years before he became the Lord and Savior of the Internet and easily one of the most influential personalities in existence. You youngsters might not believe it, but there was actually a time where people didn’t know who George Takei was. And here I was on an elevator with such a group, as no one paid him any semblance of a mind or even flinch.
Be cool, Mani. Be cool…
He starts cracking jokes, because of course he’s going to start cracking jokes. There was some laughter from the masses, but still no sign of recognition. He doesn’t seem to mind, and he just keeps smiling and chatting away. Finally, the elevator comes to my floor. As I’m making my way out, I quietly extend my hand and smile.
“Huge fan of your work, sir.”
He returns the smile and shakes it. “Oh, thank you very much.” And after the door closes, I practically power-walk to our room, throw the door open and announce to my roommates that I had just run into George Mother-effin’ Takei =)
I’ve had other friends have some pretty cool celebrity encounters at Dragon Con as well. So, my people, let’s hear it- have any of you had any sort of celebrity encounter? Who was it? Where was it? I’d love to hear about it!
I vote for the immediate removal of the phrase ‘it ruined my childhood’ when describing any sort of new media based on a nostalgic property. I mean, let’s be serious. We throw around that phrase way too often. And until Michael Bay invents a time machine that hunts down your memories and replaces them with a looping video of him setting fire to your copy of Transformers: The Movie, I think we’re being a bit overly dramatic.
Now this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t complain about things. Oh God no, I wouldn’t dream of trying to take that away from us. All I’m asking for is that we keep things in perspective and NOT be THAT guy/girl. I know that there are some things that hold a special place in our hearts that automatically gets a raised eyebrow whenever someone tries to mess with it. But I have to ask, is this really such a bad thing? Best case scenario, we get a new chapter of something that we already love. Even if we follow the worst case scenario and it ends up being a colossal dumpster fire, it can actually give us a better appreciation of what came before. I refer to this phenomenon as The ‘Street Fighter’ Effect. I think that we can all agree that the Street Fighter movie was somewhat… lacking. But didn’t it seem that much better when faced with the atrocity that was The Legend of Chun-Li?
The funny thing is, I didn’t have a particular fandom in mind when I started writing this. These were just observations that I’ve noticed over the years. But then, the Gods of the Internet were merciful and decided to bestow upon me a concrete example. In case you weren’t aware, there was a trailer released yesterday based on a nostalgic property that some fear shall go all I’m-Looking-For-Sarah-Conner on their memories.
Some of us need to calm the &#@% down.
Now, I understand the trepidation that comes from messing with a classic, I get that. And I’m not even going to address the misogynistic backlash, at least not in this column; that’ll be a rant for another day. But to everyone out there that has lost their mother effin’ minds and collective shits, to those of you screaming about how this somehow destroys your experiences growing up and that this movie, through some sort of temporal anomaly and/or sorcery, has somehow managed to ruin your childhood…
I had every intention of writing about something else tonight. But then I got word that Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire had passed away.
On one hand it seems silly to be upset over the passing of somebody that you’ve never even met. But then again, it’s kinda not. Music has always been about emotion and memories for me, and I have so many that I associate with EWF. I remember my parents playing their music from “back in the day” on those early Saturday mornings as a kid, which would always (and I mean ALWAYS) had some EWF mixed in there. I don’t know if it was the voice, the bassline, the horn section, or the combination of all three, but one day I just had to ask my mother. “What is the name of this song?” I wondered. “And who sings it?”
Mom smiled. “This is Earth, Wind and Fire,” she explained. “And the song is Let’s Groove.” She would then, without fail, start singing along. Let’s Groove remains to this day my Happy Song. On another day I was riding around with my dad and asked about that heartbreaking song that we just heard with that poor man pouring his soul out.
Dad nodded. “After The Love Is Gone,” he answered. He neglected to begin singing it because, let’s be honest, very few people on this planet can hit those notes. But that never stopped me from trying (within the privacy of my own vehicle as I got older, of course, and after making sure there wasn’t anyone around in at least a 3-mile radius). Their music would guarantee one of two things; I was either going to be in a good mood and shaking my posterior, or I was going deep into my feelings. Their music was a reflection of life to me. It talked about the highs, the lows, our hopes and dreams, and it showed me that awesome things happen when we bring together our various backgrounds and experiences.
EWF shaped my appreciation of music, taught me about funk and soul, and was the perfect soundtrack for those days where you were just happy to be alive. RIP, Maurice White. May we continue to make memories to your wonderful gifts to the world.
At the start of every year, I take special note of the first full song that I hear on the radio. To me, that’s a reflection of how the next 365 (366?) days will go. Last year it was Once In A Lifetime by Talking Heads, and I reaaaaaally do hope that 2015 was a once-in-a-lifetime sort of year.
Anywho, what’s funny about this year is that my song choices got interrupted twice (I was the passenger at the time), and I ended up coming into the middle of the third. They all seemed to work in their own special sort of way, however, so I’m changing the rules up a bit for this year.
1. Photograph by Ed Sheeran
A bit of a sentimental choice, but not a bad one. Remembering those that we are closest to even when they’re not around? I can work with that. It’s a good song, but I was slightly relieved when my wife changed that station since it gave me an out. Still though, I can respect the message.
2. Time Of Our Lives by Pitbull (ft. Ne-Yo)
On the surface this song is about mainly about drinking and fornicating, two activities that definitely would have made it on Conan’s extended list of What is Best In Life. Taking a look a bit deeper however, it’s also about an often overlooked aspect of our lives- Self Care. Let’s examine the opening lyrics.
I knew my rent was gon’ be later ’bout a week ago I work my ass off, But I still can’t pay it though But I got just enough, To get up in this club Have me a good time, before my time is up.
Knowing that your rent was going to be late that far in advance indicates that one is going through some tough times; this is supported by his next statement, which indicates that this is all despite the working off of the ass. That’s textbook frustration right there. But despite this (or perhaps even, because of it), he’s making the effort to enjoy life. Do what you can to take care of your business, but always take time to enjoy yourself.
3. Call Me, Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen
HOLD YOUR HORSES, THERE’S A STORY HERE.
My father-in-law liked this song. I mean, he REALLY liked it. For the longest time I wondered what was it about this insanely catchy (albeit slightly overplayed) pop song that appealed to this guitar-playing badass with a love for 60’s and 70’s rock like The Beatles and The Yardbirds? I never got the chance to ask him, but I think I finally figured it out.
I think personally that it just made him happy. And we need things in our life that just make us happy.
So, when I hopped in my car to run an errand and turned on the radio to hear this, I immediately starting laughing because I knew that I had my songs.
May your 2016 be filled with memories, self-care, and things that make you happy!
This is the time where everyone posts their thoughts on the previous year. I will be no different in this regard. And my assessment of 2015 is that it can hurry up and get the hell up out of here.
2015 was a good year for a lot of people. This has been a year of several weddings, engagements, career changes and personal growth for many folks. And for them, I am truly happy. But to me, 2015 will always be the year that I lost my kind and generous father-in-law. It is the year that I lost a wonderful uncle. A beloved pet breathed her last this year. I missed being t-boned by an SUV that ran a stop sign by mere seconds earlier this year. And a young man that I considered a brother left us way too soon this year.
So yeah. I’m not the biggest fan of 2015.
But, it certainly has been a great teacher.
2015 reminded me to take nothing and no one for granted because we never know what the future holds for any of us. I’ve never been a great communicator, and I feel that I should apologize to people for the relationships that I’ve let lapse, or for not telling my friends and family how much I appreciate and cherish them. It has helped me to remember what is important, and to appreciate my family. And it has showed me that the will to persevere is inside of us all. My wife has taught me more about that than any lesson could have. Though she struggles to see it sometimes, she’s one of the strongest people I’ve ever known. Bring it on, 2016- I’m ready.
Because I think that we can all use a little more humor in our lives.
5. Trouble ft. Wimpy Goat
I love the Wimpy Goat. And I nearly fell out of my chair the first time I saw this mashup.
4. 300 Raining Men
Let’s be honest- there was a lot of homoeroticism in 300. Like, a LOT. So, what better way to celebrate it than this?
3. Terry Tate, Office Linebacker
The original Terry Tate remains one of my all-time favorite Super Bowl commercials. So, as you can imagine, I was quite thrilled when they started releasing more of them online. Another awesome moment was hearing Cole’s voice for the first time in Gears of War and realizing that good old Triple-T was back in spirit =)
2. Medieval Land Fun-Time World
There’s a lot of really good Bad Lip Readings out there (I’m looking at you, NFL 2015), but this one is, without a doubt, my favorite. Game of Thrones as a Renaissance Faire comedy? I’d so watch this movie…
1. Michael Winslow, ‘Whole Lotta Love’
I believe with all of my heart that Michael Winslow is an alien ambassador from another planet that was born with an extra set of vocal cords so that he may learn and speak any language in the cosmos, INCLUDING GUITAR.
I was having discussion recently with one of my coworkers regarding our favorite SNES-era RPG’s. She mentioned Chrono Trigger, which was all that was needed to get the nostalgia train rolling. While I did put some serious time in on Chrono Trigger, there was one other RPG from that time frame that stuck with me. Those that know me understand that I have a hard time picking a favorite anything; I’m indecisive and noncommittal like that. Not so in this case. If you were to ask me what my favorite game in the Final Fantasy series is, without hesitation I will tell you Final Fantasy 6. And a lot of that love is due to one demented villain, the infamous Kefka Palazzo.
Usually the first name that springs to mind when discussing villainy in the Final Fantasy universe is Sephiroth, and for good reason; between summoning meteors, the awesomeness of the Masamune and making millions of boys and girls cry with a single act, Sephiroth deserves his props (even if he is a bit of a momma’s boy). With that being said, however, we can’t discount the sheer evil that was Kefka. Heroes are only as interesting as the villain that they’re up against, and boy howdy did Kefka make things interesting. To me, there were three things that made Kefka the ultimate bad guy.
** Spoilers Obviously Follow! **
1. Nobody Expected Him To Be The Main Antagonist
The first time we meet Kefka he’s complaining about having to visit Edgar Figaro, who’s castle is in the middle of the desert, which is causing him to get sand all over his boots. He then demands that one of the soldiers accompanying him clean them off before they arrive. At first you assume that he’s the comic relief of the story, a thought that stays with you as you thoroughly trounce in several early fights in the game. But as his actions escalate and become more and more terrible, it soon becomes apparent that he’s not playing around. And when he has his Darth Vader Moment with the Emperor, all that’s left is for you to sit back and go “Aw crap…”
2. Kefka Don’t Give A @*%$
From poisoning an entire city, to literally kicking Espers while they’re down, to WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO GENERAL LEO, it became abundantly clear that Kefka, in no way, shape, fashion or form gave anything even remotely resembling a rat’s ass. It’s been said that characters that are totally evil are boring, that it helps to give them some aspect that makes them just a little more human. I generally agree with this sentiment. But sometimes, you just need an all-out unrepentant bastard to root against and want to see go down. Kefka filled that role nicely, and as a matter of fact…
3. KEFKA WON (or, at least won the first half of the game)
I was about 16 years old when I played Final Fantasy 6. I don’t know if you remember being that age, but 16-year-old-me thought he knew everything about everything. Of course I knew exactly how this was all going to end! Yes, there’s going to be a big battle on the Floating Continent, where good triumphs over… ok wow, I wasn’t expecting that to happen with the Emperor. No matter! We can surely… whoa, dude just absorbed like, ALL of the power from those statues. Oh, we’re running away because the Continent is about to crash land? Ah, so the climactic battle is to take place OH I KNOW THIS MUTHA@#$A DID NOT JUST DESTROY OUR AIRSHIP!
If Final Fantasy 6 would have started at that moment where Kefka is ruling the world and you had to reassemble your party to take him down, it still would have been an awesome game. But getting to witness the villain’s rise and have him take you down at your most powerful, and having to prepare to fight him again as he rules the world like some malevolent god? That’s when you get to toss around words like ‘epic’.
Honorable Mention: ‘Dancing Mad’
Again I’m not trying to take anything away from Sephiroth, because ‘One-Winged Angel’ is exactly what a final boss theme should be; it’s epic, menacing, and has a choir singing about how Sephiroth is about to whup ‘dat ass. But that doesn’t mean that we should ignore ‘Dancing Mad’, 17 minutes and 35 seconds of symphonic metal awesomeness. A final boss so massive that you have to fight him in tiers, only to face-off at the end with an even more powerful Kefka than before, a man with the sheer unmitigated gall to look like some sort of freaking angelic being.
This man earned and deserved every bit of our ire. Thank you, Kefka Palazzo, for your role in one of my all-time favorite games, for it truly would not have been the same without a villain like you destroying, burning, and telling us that we sound like pages from a self-help manual. Final Fantasy 6 was awesome, but you helped make it epic.