Friday, December 3, 2010

#7: "What's this? What's This?!"

As we are currently in the transitional period from Halloween to Christmas, it is time for one of the greatest movies of all time that has to do with both holidays to start appearing on Television. There are really not a lot of movies that can be equal parts Christmas Joy, laugh out loud funny, and at the same time have some of the scariest classic movie monster types that have ever existed. The movie I am talking about is of course...Home Alone

"But Shawn," you're probably asking, "are you sure you don't mean Nightmare Before Christmas? There aren't any horror movie monster types in Home Alone." Ah, but you see, that is where you're wrong. This dawned on me just recently when Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (Which by the way is tied with Die Harder as my favorite sequel subtitle) was on television at some point on ABC Family back in like May. I watched as Kevin McCallister set traps that he used to severely and physically punish the Wet Bandits, Harry and Marv (Known as the Sticky Bandits in Home Alone 2). Much as he had done in the original, he would cause countless blunt force traumas to the head that would kill you're average human being. It was at that time I finally realized what was going on. Harry and Marv are ZOMBIES!!!!!!

There have been plenty of articles that come out every year about the injures that would be sustained by someone if they actually did have all the things happen to them that does in Home Alone, and usually there's about 5 things that would kill you. So it is obvious that the Wet Bandits are the Walking Dead Bandits. "But Shawn," again you ask, "it's just a movie. None of it is real so of course they survive all of it." Well there in lies the problem. The Home Alone universe is set in a basically realistic universe. At no point are we to believe that there is some kind of magic or sorcery involved. Heck, they even sold the Talkboy in Home Alone 2 at toy stores. But these guys just keep coming after this little boy, and they will not die no matter what he does. He burns them, he punctures them, he smashes their faces with heavy objects, and still they keep coming, and why? Simple, he doesn't take their heads.

Seriously though, how awesome would that have been if at the end of Home Alone 2, he realized that the only choice he was going to have to finally be rid of these 2 immortal criminals that have now tried to kill him in 2 different states would be to decapitate them? He has them chase him into a pawn shop and he goes behind the counter, picks up a katana, and as they come storming in he's on the counter and just slices both of their heads off. Everyone would just be sitting there stunned. But really, is that all that bad. I mean, they're 2 grown men who are literally trying to kill a child, well, 2 grown zombies anyway.

When I was watching this earlier this year, it got me interested to look up something I never had before, the other sequels. Did you know that there are in fact 4 Home Alone movies? Home Alone 3 was originally meant to be made at the same time as 2, but that idea didn't pan out. In 1996 they decided to make it with a teenage Macaulay Culkin (who would have been 16/17 at the time. I know because he was born a year to the day after I was) however, he had retired from acting by that point. So instead they just started over, with a new character and story. Surprisingly enough, it was actually written by John Hughes as well. However, it didn't do so well. Really nothing to interesting in this one except that Scarlett Johansson plays the sister. Oh and that the song "Tub Thumpin'" by Chumbawamba was used in the trailer. I always found that odd since it's a song about getting drunk and "pissin'". Now we get to the really strange one.

Home Alone 4 was a TV movie made in 2002. It is about Kevin McCallister again, but it's not really a sequel. But it's not a remake either. Basically what happens is his parents get divorced (probably because they keep losing their kid) and he visits his dad who is currently living with his super wealthy girlfriend. Marv, one of the wet bandits, has teamed up with a female criminal to rob the mansion (I guess Harry had had his head removed by this point). However he runs into his old nemesis Kevin. So in theory this is taking place after Home Alone 2, but Kevin is actually younger then he is in Home Alone 1. Plus it's all new actors playing the parts, with French Stewart playing Marv instead of Daniel Stern. So this is more of an alternate reality (or maybe they're all Time Lords!)

So wait, what? Oh right. This Christmas if you happen to be flipping through the channels and you catch one of the Home Alone movies on, stop for a second, and just think about the fact that Nightmare Before Christmas wasn't in fact the first Christmas movie to have monsters in it, because 3 years earlier the biggest comedy of all time up to that point came out and was chock full of some would be child murdering zombie action.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

#6: Tears for America 2.0

So this weeks blog is going to be super long because I'm going to start off by pasting a blog I wrote on MySpace on July 8th 2008 in its entirety which is super long in itself. It reads as follows:

Let me start off by telling you about a little movie called "Idiocracy", in case you haven't seen it. "Ididocracy" is a movie that was made by Mike Judge, creator of "Bevis and Butt-Head", "King of the Hill", and the writer/director of the cult classic "Office Space". "Idiocracy" is slowly turning into a cult classic within itself. It stars Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph of "Saturday Night Live" fame (whom by the way the song "Loving You" is written about, that's a little tidbit of knowledge that is stuck in my head for all eternity that I felt should be stuck in yours as well, enjoy). In "Idiocracy" Luke Wilson plays the world's most average soldier. He is selected by the military (along with Maya who is deemed the most average woman) to be put into cryogenic freeze. Because of budget cut-backs, the project is scrapped and what was supposed to be a 1 year cryo freeze ends up being a 500 year cryo freeze. That is very much like the pilot episode of "Futurama". However, where as "Futurama" paints a picture of a utopian future, "Idoicracy" paints a picture that I fear, may not be to far off. Due to the fact that the smart people of the world take their time to reproduce so that they can become successful, and some don't even at all, intelligence slowly dies off. On the other hand since the red neckish trailer trash of the world spreads their seed like Fabio is endorsing it (Anyone? Anyone at all), the average IQ of the nation has dropped. That's as far as I'll tell you about because really, you should watch it. It's entertaining and it makes you think.

So why do I bring this up? Well it's simple, that movie has everyone being pretty stupid in 500 years. I believe that it will actually be far less then that. What is it that occurred today that made me believe that? Well, at work during lunch someone was watching a movie in one of the rooms that I never had any desire to see. I sat down and watched it for about 10 minutes, and I seriously felt a small piece of my soul die. Let the longest set up in blog history now come to an end as I tell you that movie was.....Epic Movie.

Now let me set the record straight and say that I by no means hate parody movies. My most favorite movie of all time is a parody movie, "Spaceballs". Mel Brooks has made a multitude of fantastic parody movies from "Blazing Saddles" to "Robin Hood: Men in Tights". (I stop there and don't count "Dracula: Dead and Loving it" because, well, people that excel at their professions tend to make mistakes every now and then). In the 70's and 80's the Zucker brothers and Jim Abrahams put their spin on the parody movie by creating the comedy classics "Airplane!" and the "Naked Gun" series. Unfortunately they also made Leslie Nielson shoehorn himself into a career that has resulted in, well there's no better word, crap. In the 90's the Wayans brothers took their turn at the parody movie making "Scary Movie". At the time I really enjoyed it. It's really funny. A few years later "Not Another Teen Movie" came out which I also enjoyed. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a plague that was going to descend upon us as a nation.

Over the next few years "Scary Movie" 2, 3, and 4 came out. Next was "Date Movie". Followed by "Epic Movie", "Meet the Spartans", and then "Superhero Movie".
When "Epic Movie" came out, it would seem like these movies were being made in such a short time that it didn't make sense how they could make them, "spoofing" movies that had just come out.

Case in point, "Epic Movie" came out on January 26th, 2007. It "spoofs" "Superman Returns" which came out on June 28th, 2006. That's 7 months later. As absurd as that is, "Borat", which was also "spoofed", came out on November 3rd, 2006. That's 3 months. How could they "spoof" something that came out only 3 months earlier? Simple, they "spoofed" a scene they saw in the trailer.

Now, why do I keep putting "spoof" in quotes? Well because a spoof is "a mocking imitation of someone or something, usually light and good-humored; lampoon or parody" ( These aren't imitations. They're direct quotes and scenes ripped from movies, with 1 or 2 words changed.

So why do these movies keep getting made? Well it's quite simple. "Epic Movie" was made for $20,000,000 (Estimated). It made $39,737,645. "Meet the Spartans" was made for $30,000,000 (estimated). It made $38,232,624. "Superhero Movie" was made for 35,000,000 (estimated). Thank God it only made $25,815,447.

What's next? Well, someone today mentioned they saw the trailer for "Disaster Move". When I got home I looked it up on YouTube. After the 1 minute and 30 seconds of the trailer, I was so full of venom and spite that I had to spew it out onto the internet pages of my MySpace blog. The trailer for "Disaster Movie" basically shows in about 6 different scenes, someone dressed as Iron Man getting crushed by a cow, someone dressed like Hannah Montana getting crushed by a boulder, someone dressed like the Hulk having his pants blow away, the princess from "Enchanted" getting hit by a car , and someone dressed like Hancock flying and hitting his head on a lamp post. Then there is some sort of bizarre "Sex and the City", "Juno", "Don't Mess with the Zohan" hybrid "spoof" that just makes as much sense as the American people saying, "You know who I can't get enough of, that Steve-O guy" (which by the way I'll never understand).

Here's where it all ties together. If you watch the movie "Idiocracy", there's a scene were you see Dax Shepard's character is watching a show called "Ow! My Balls". This is a show where a guy basically keeps getting hit in the balls over and over in extreme fantastical ways. The trailer for "Diaster Movie" is basically nothing more then, "Ow! My Balls". So really, Mike Judge may think that "Idiocracy" is 500 years off. I say, if "Disaster Movie" ends up not losing at the very least $15,000,000, then it's about 10 years away.

Ok, back to 2010. So what happened? "Disaster Movie" was made for $25,000,000 (estimated). It ended up making $14,190,901. This was such a disaster (pun intended) that the 2 guys responsible for all of these atrocities didn't get to make another movie...Until this year.

On August 18th 2010, their latest movie came out, "Vampires Suck". Going after the popularity of the "Twilight" movies and the popularity of hating the "Twilight" movies, it would appear they had the perfect idea. Which it turns out they did. People went to see it because they wanted to see what they hate so much decimated, and the "Twi-hards" went to see it because it still had cute emo vampire and werewolf boys. What did they get when they saw it? Nothing but dissappointment. How do I know this? Well, it's really quite simple. On "Vampires Suck" has a 5% from critics, and from the 50,000+ audience members who rated it, it is at a 37%. But all of this doesn't matter.

You see, because of one simple fact. "Vampires Suck" was made for $20,000,000 (estimated). It made $36,658,108. That's right, it made a profit. It was even the #2 movie the week it came out, behind "The Expendables". This just means that they will now get to continue making these things. However that's not the most painful thing about all of this.

The same week this movie came out, so did the exceptionally superior "Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World". How can I make a claim that it is superior? Well it's simple, on it has a critics rating of 81% and an audience rating of 86% with 72,000+ votes. Meanwhile, that movie was made for $60,000,000 (estimated) and only made $31,494,270. This is how I know that America is getting stupider.

What do you think the average American thinks when they see "The Jersey Shore" or "Keeping up with the Kardasians" or "Rock of Love" or any of the countless reality shows that are populated with the most moronic, unintelligent wastes of human flesh that have ever crawled out of a back alley bar and in front of a camera? Do they think like we do and just look at them for the simpleton parasites that they are? No, they look at them and think, "I want to be them!" They look at the girls on "16 and Pregnant" and think having a baby as a teenager will make them famous. They think being stupid and outrageous will make them millions of dollars, and unfortunately, there's a good chance they're right.

But now here's the real kicker. I feel that I have an above average intelligence. I feel that I'm smarter then these morons that I see on TV that just disgust me with their unending inane prattle. I feel that I have more mental capacity then the entire cast of "The Jersey Shore" combined. However, what am I doing with it? It's simple, nothing. I'm not becoming a multi-millionaire like "The Situation". I'm sitting in a crappy 1 bedroom apartment in Long Beach, bitching about how stupid Americans are becoming instead of doing something about it. There in lies the problem.

The internet has given the intelligent members of our society a place to go and complain about things that are bothering them. A place where they can go and vent about how stupid these morons are that our dominating our movie goers and TV stations. But while they sit at there computers and let out all of there angers on the screen in front of them, the very people they're complaining about are out in the world, taking it over. It's time that the intelligent members of our society unplug from the internet, and get out there and take this country back, before it's to late and there's nothing left to save. Or at the very least, get a little fist pumping in at the club.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

#5: "I am this close to raping you!"

So there is a potent element out there that causes some of the most evil, angry, and just outright horrible things to be said in this world. It will make normally smart individuals lower their brain patterns to that of a neanderthal, and for really no good reason. It will make those that are usually the most sensative of us say things that only a jerk would say. It is one of the most infuriating things we live with today. It is not alcohol, it's much much worse...It's nerd rage.

Nerd rage is one of the most prevalent things on the internet. Whereas 95% of the internet may be porn, the other 5% is, well, it's links to porn. But in the comment sections or forums of said pornternet, that's where the land of the rage filled lives. Nerd rage comes from a place deep in the heart of someone who is a bit of a social outcast. Who likes things that in the outside world have made them that way. They like these things so much that it turns them into shut-ins, and they will fight to the death to defend it. One of the topics that has caused the most instances of nerd rage in the past 30+ year, but most notably in the past 10 years, is Star Wars.

In 1977 George Lucas made Star Wars: A New Hope. He had based the idea on Saturday afternoon serials he had seen when he was a child. He had an idea for a 6 movie saga that would follow the life of a man from childhood, to becoming a hero, to falling and becoming a villain, to eventually redeeming himself. Realizing there was a chance of it failing, he picked the 1 of the 6 that would be best to make, in hopes that some day he'd be able to complete it all. That movie of course went on to be the biggest movie of all time. He then went on to make 2 sequels to it. Children, teenagers, and twenty somethings alike all fell in love with these films. For years and years they worshiped at the alter of Lucas because of the joy he had brought them.

Then in 1997, after his company had made the dinosaurs for Jurassic Park, Lucas felt that digital technology had finally reached the point that his vision had always seen. So to test out if they could do what he envisioned for the prequels, he made the Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition. Using computers he made changes to the original movies so that they would be how he always wanted them to be, but couldn't accomplish with 1970's tech. The most controversial change that he made was in the cantina scene. Greedo, a bounty hunter for Jabba the Hut, sits with Han Solo at his table. They have a conversation and then...the incident. In the original version of the film, Han Solo shoots Greedo and walks out. After 20 years Lucas decided he didn't like having Han Solo murder someone for no reason, feeling it didn't fit with his character. So he made Greedo shoot at Han first. Later on the DVD release, he made Greedo shoot 2 frames sooner then Han.

Now in 1997, I don't recall hearing much about this. I remember seeing it in the theater, and I realized he had added Greedo's shot, but I really didn't think much else of it. Other people, not so much. The nerd rage began with that. Chants of "Han shot first!" rang out over the then early days of the internet. People seemed outraged. How dare he? How dare he change things. As the other 2 special editions came out, there were more changes that enerdraged fans. The added things in those 2 also seemed to not sit well. In Empire Strikes Back he added Luke screaming as he fell from the Darth Vader fight, and in Return of the Jedi he added a dance number in Jabba's Palace and changed the song at the end (all of which I will admit, I'm not a fan of). A majority of people didn't care. But the people who were so in love with Star Wars, it angered them. This is when the early rumblings began.

Then, in 1999, Star Wars episode 1: The Phantom Menace came out. I saw it opening night. For me, from the first shot to the last, it was a Star Wars movie. I loved it. It had everything I like about Star Wars and more. To this day the pod race is my most favorite thing in any Star Wars movie. I always use it to check on my speaker set up when I move to make sure everything is working right. Other people, not so happy. People started the complaints. Suddenly people were finding continuity issues with the original trilogy. Questioning things like why C-3PO never told Luke his father built him, or why Jar Jar had to exist. People seemed to forget there were 2 more movies left that could easily answer all of these questions. Once the other 2 came out, all of the questions were answered, yet still people complained. (In case you're wondering Jar Jar needs to exist because it is due to his gullibility and easiness to control that the Empire even exists. If he were such a simple minded fool, Chancellor Palpatine wouldn't have anyone to suggest in the senate giving him complete control thus creating the empire.)

It was around the time the 3rd of the prequels came out that I first heard one of the worst lines that has ever been said due to nerd rage. "George Lucas raped my childhood!". Anytime I hear someone say that all I can think of is an actual rape victim. They must be thinking, "You know, when I was held down and forcibly sexually assaulted in what was the worst moment of my entire life, something that will haunt me until the day I die, forever changing me and making me never feel safe again, ya I can see how that is exactly the same as you seeing some movies". To me, this is the darkest part of nerd rage, making comparisons to horrible events that actually happen to people in order to complain about pop culture. It's the same as when people compare things to the holocaust and Hitler. It really makes me wonder about just how shut in these otherwise rather intelligent individuals really are that they feel that a statement like that is completely valid.

Then comes my other favorite argument caused by the nerd rage. Once the Revenge of the Sith came out, all I ever heard from people that hate the prequels so much was, "George Lucas is a horrible writer" and "George Lucas doesn't know how to make movies". However the thing that has always confused me about this statement is that, the movies that they're comparing them to that they love so much were written, directed and/or produced by...George Lucas (Yes Irvin Kershner directed Empire Strikes Back, hence "directed and/OR produced"). How is it that he's a horrible film maker and writer when making one set of movies, and a god when making others. Well it's really quite simple.

When most of the people that experience nerd rage towards Star Wars saw the original movies, they were children. They didn't care about writing and directing, they just cared about how cool everything was. X-wings and TIE fighters and Jedi and Lightsabers and Wookies and Droids. It all captured their imagination. Children today that see the prequals love them, you know why, they're children. They're the target audience, just like the originals were. They're the ones that want the toys and the merchandise. They're the ones that have the imagination to be captured. There the ones that the serials that George Lucas saw as a child were aimed at, and it worked then too. People put too much of themselves and claim almost an ownership to things that aren't really theirs. George Lucas owns Star Wars, not the people who watch it. If George Lucas wanted to replace all 6 movies with nothing but CGI and destroy the masters of the movies as they are now, guess what, he can. Like I said, I didn't like Luke yelling as he fell from Darth Vader (which they actually removed from the DVD release) or changing the yub jub song at the end of Return on the Jedi, but I'm not going to attack him for it. Like Bobby Brown says, it's his prerogative.

I'll admit, there's things that I get enerdraged about (that's twice now, I own it!). Take the Spider-Man reboot for example. The producers of the film couldn't come to terms with Sam Raimi on the villain for Spider-Man 4, so they decided instead that they wanted to reboot the franchise. They didn't like that by having a 27 year old Toby Maquire (now 35) they had to take him out of high school quickly because he was to old to play an 17 year old. So they wanted to get a younger actor instead so they could spend more time with the high school days. I could completely understand this seeing as I'm a huge fan of Ultimate Spider-man which for 10 years, has been set in Peter Parker's high school days. Also they need to work him into the new Marvel movie continuity. I was excited for the potential. So then what did they do? They hire 27 year old Andrew Garfield to play Spider-man...Um, what? Isn't that doing exactly what you did before? They have also done the same thing again by hiring a red headed Emma Stone to play the blond Gwen Stacey. They did the same thing when they hired the blond Kirsten Dunst to play the red headed Mary Jane Watson and red head Bryce Dallas Howard to play Gwen Stacey. Yes, all of this makes a little part of me enerdraged, but I don't get to crazy about it. The movie is 2 years away, what am I going to do, stew in my anger until it comes out? No, I'll wait and see how it is. When I first heard Toby Maguire was going to be Spider-man, I wasn't to happy about it. I would have much rather it be Topher Grace. But when Spider-man 1 and 2 came out I loved them. I thought Toby Maguire did a good job. Spider-man 3 not so much, but that was mainly for emo Peter Parker and the what could have been with Topher Grace being there.

Anyway, so what is the point I'm trying to make here? Honestly, I don't know. I guess what I'm really trying to get at is, don't take things that are meant to entertain us so personally. Liking a movie or book or comic or video game is one thing, but to compare it to one of the worst events in human history or a moment when someones life is shattered is so extreme and insensitive.

That being said, next blog I revisit one of my old MySpace blogs, "Tears for America" in which I discuss the horrors that are the "Movie" movies, thereby negating everything I just typed in this blog.

Oh, and if you're wondering where the title of this blog came from, click this link:

Have a good however long it is until I talk to you again.

Monday, November 1, 2010

#4: You live! You die!

So this blog is going to be about something you may not know about me. In 1997 I was in my senior year of High School. I was in the marching band and every year if there was a home football game on Halloween or the weekend of, we would wear our costumes to perform during halftime and throughout the game. I had an old suit of my brothers that was this gray tweed sort of thing that wasn't anything I'd ever wear. I got the idea to dye half of it and go as my favorite comic book villain, Two-Face.

I always have liked Two-Face since the 90's animated series days. He was the district attorney of Gotham City who from an early age had always kept his anger inside, never letting it out. When he grew up, it caused him to develop a second personality that would come out whenever he got pushed to far. Finally one day when trying to get his psychiatric file from a mob boss, he was caught in a chemical explosion which ended up scarring the left side of his face and his left hand. In the original comics and Batman Forever, he had acid thrown in his face in a courtroom. In The Dark Knight, he had half of his face set on fire. This ended up twisting his mind completely, and caused him to start making decisions in a new way. He decided to go with chance. He had carried a lucky two headed silver dollar with him throughout his career. In the comics when he got the acid thrown at him, it scarred one half of the coin. In the cartoon, the explosion did. In the Dark Knight, his fiance had it with her when she died in an explosion, causing half of it to get charred. So he would make all decisions by flipping this coin. The clean side would be the good choice, the scarred side would be the evil choice. He's just such a fascinating character to me because I too tend to bottle up my anger. I haven't developed a separate personality because of it though. I also like the number 2, which is often a theme of the crimes he commits.

Anyway, where was I? Oh right, Halloween. So I went to Michaels craft store to get some fabric dye with my grandmother to dye half the suit. She asked how I planned to do that, and when I said I really wasn't sure, she offered up a better idea. She bought some black fabric and sewed it over half of the suit, which really was no easy task. She almost gave up 10 times while doing it, but knowing how much I wanted it, she did it anyway, thus proving why she was the greatest grandmother ever. I ended up wearing a normal dress shirt and tie, and painted half my face and hair. As the final cap on the costume, I got a silver dollar, and tried to scar the back of it, which is actually very hard to do.

Now here is where we reach the point of the blog. Ever since that night in 1997, I have carried that silver dollar with me every day. I always have it in my pocket when I leave the house. And yes, on multiple occasions I have made decisions with it. It has never been something as drastic as say in The Dark Knight when he's at the bar and he decides rather the guy will live or die. Usually it's in stores when deciding what to purchase if I'm torn between 2 things.

However there was actually about a 2 month period where I didn't carry it. I had gone to Texas to visit my brother and dad. When I got back home I couldn't find it anywhere. I eventually started to carry another one, but one day my brother told me he found it under the couch and sent it back to me. So yes, other then that time, I have carried it for 13 years today.

You may be wondering why I never tried to find an actual double headed silver dollar. Well it's very simple, I have. I went to the only two magic shops I knew of in Colorado (one of which interestingly enough was next door to Casa Bonita for you South Park fans) and they both said they had never seen one before. They had double sided quarters, nickels, dimes and half dollars though. Since then I have checked online multiple times. The only thing I could ever find was a replica set from the Dark Knight. I did end up buying it but it was very disappointing because the coin is obviously fake as it's thicker then a silver dollar, and the "bad" side is just painted black.

By the way, a little side story to my costume thing. In 2002, (which was the worst year of my life, but that's for a blog in February) I was working at a Blockbuster with this girl who was around my age that I had become really friendly with. I would go to this bar with her and her roommate every now and then to help me get my mind off things. As Halloween was getting closer she was telling me that her and her roommate wanted to dress up in a joint costume that was comic or movie related. About a week later she told me they were going to dress like whores. I was all like, "What?!" and she said they decided to go as sugar and spice from Batman Forever, but since they didn't have anyone to be Two-Face, they were just going to be whores. Holy crap, are you kidding me. I explained that I had a Two-Face costume and I'd gladly be their Two-Face. I wanted to beef it up though. So once again, having the greatest grandmother in the world, she sewed together 2 old collard shirts, and covered half of a red clip on tie that I got with black cloth. I then went to the Wizards chest which is the place to go for Halloween in Colorado and got some face makeup and a burned face mask. I really did it up right. So for that Halloween, which I still consider the best one I've had yet, I was a much better Two-Face, with Sugar and Spice by my side.

P.S. (Or again, whatever you call it in a blog) I ended up working a ton of overtime this past month which is why I ended up slacking off on my goal of writing a blog every week. I'm going to make a major effort to get back into a grove and doing it every week now. I've got some good ideas lined up for the next few ones, but as always, I'm taking suggestions for topics if you have any.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

#3: What were they thinking?

This weeks blog is going to start off with some visual aids. First off, here is a GoogleMaps image of the i405-i710 exchange:

I tend to use this exchange everyday I drive anywhere since the 710 goes a few blocks from my apartment, and the 405 connects it to the rest of Southern California. Everyday I drive to work I take the 710E to the 405N. It looks a little something like this:

Once a week I try to go visit my bestie in Newport Beach. When I drive home from there I take the 405N to the 710W. Here is what that route looks like:

Ok Shawn, that's fancy and all that, but what's your point? Well it's quite simple, here is what these 2 routes look like together:

What is going on here is that the people trying to get off of the 405 have to crisscross with the people that are trying to get on to it. I don't know who planned this. In a part of the country full of people who aren't really known for their driving abilities, who thought it would be a good idea to put this "cross swap" (phrase I just made up regardless of what the 4,000+ search results say on Google) in an exchange for 2 of the busiest highways in Southern California? This is one of the few places I have ever seen this (if I'm not mistaken there is one close to downtown LA as well, which is just as brilliant).

With how much time, money, and planning that goes into the building of the United States highway system, it amazes me that something like this could be done. Very shockingly, I have yet to see any sort of an accident occur in this exchange, but really, it's only a matter of time. One thing I have seen is a major slow down of traffic due to the "cross swap".

The worst part about the 405-710 mess, the type of vehicle that would be using this the most. Semi trucks are probably the most common vehicle that uses the 710 as it heads to the docks. The distance that one has to do the merge onto or off of the 405 is really only about the length of 2 semi's with a regular trailer (an Optimus Prime if you will. Cartoon version, not movie). I don't have any idea what would happen if they ended up meeting at this point.

The really strange part about this whole thing, I can't really figure out how it is different from other exchanges. I have to really stop and think about how a regular one works in order to figure out why they don't need to do a "cross swap" (that's 3 times now, it's mine!). We drive on highways everyday, but we don't really stop and think about how meticulously planned out they are. Every single detail had to be thought about. The mind really starts to reel when you think about the mega exchanges that have elevated ramps and multi-layers. There are some here in Southern California where I swear at a single point, there are 5 levels of road on top of each other. Yet somehow in the extreme cases, they still didn't have to go with the "cross swap".

I think the point I'm trying to make here is, next time you are driving on the highways, take a moment and just think about how amazing some of the engineering that went into designing the system that we use everyday actually is. It really is one of the greatest feats of modern civilization. But if you're in Southern California, don't think about it too long, or you'll most likely end up in an accident!

P.S. How bad are the drivers in So-Cal? In my first year here, I saw more cars on their roof (completely upside down) then I saw in all 26 years in Colorado before that, and it's never snowed here.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

#2: What the hell is a ShabeRaven?

As you can see from the title of my Blog, for some reason I'm calling myself ShabeRaven. Those of you who are friends with me on XBOX Live, PSN, Steam, Raptr, or follow me on Twitter know that this is my name there as well. But how many of you actually know what it means? Well, here's the origin, plus some places it has been used and/or modified. I warn you now, this post is going to get super geeky. Plus I'm going to start a new innovation to my posts, pictures!

Lets start off by getting the second part out of the way as there really isn't any explanation as to what it is, only why it's in my pseudonym. Well for that we have to travel all the way back to October 25th, 1990. The second season of the Simpsons had been going for 2 weeks. They decided to do a special Halloween episode, and as a result, the first edition of the "Treehouse of Horror" was born. In this episode, Bart and Lisa are exchanging scary stories in the treehouse (this being the only "Treehouse of Horror" episode to actually take place in the treehouse). Bart tells a story about the family moving into a new house which is possessed, then about aliens attempting to eat them. Finally Lisa reads a scary poem, "The Raven" by Edger Allen Poe. This was the first time I had ever heard this poem, and I instantly fell in love with it. Shortly there after I had to do an English report. I chose to do it on "The Raven". I read an essay that Poe had written about the process he went through when writing the poem. In this essay he explained why he chose a raven. It's because he needed to have a bird that can talk but he wanted it to be black as well, and ravens are the only black birds that can be taught to talk. I found that amazing as I'd never heard that before. From that day, they became one of my 2 favorite animals (maybe I'll tell about the other someday).

Since I'd always liked comic books, I had always thought what my super hero name would be if I ever got powers of some kind, and Raven is what I chose from then on. I got an idea for a costume based on a Storm Shadow GI Joe figure that had kind of a ninja hood. Then I put that away in the back of my head for who knows when. Maybe someday I'd get good enough at drawing or something where I could make that actually happen.

Cut to many years later. I was late to the computer age. I didn't get a computer until after I had graduated High School. Once I got online, I started going to all kinds of bizarre web sites. One of them is this one, the Star Wars Name Generator ( This site has a simple formula that will generate a Star Wars name for you, as well as an honorary title, which I'll admit is kind of lame. The basic formula is this:

First 3 initials of your first name + First 2 initials of your last name=Your Star Wars first name

First 2 initials of your mothers maiden name + first 3 initials of the city you were born in =Your Star Wars last name.

So using this formula for me you get "Shabe McEng". This quickly became something else that was put on the back burner.

So here we are, we have the 2 parts of my pseudonym, how did they get together? Well in the world of MMORPG's of course. In case you don't know, a MMORPG is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. Basically its a game with a persistent world that has hundreds of thousands to millions of people playing it all at once together. The first one I ever played was "Dark Age of Camelot". Shortly after that I heard that they were making a Star Wars MMORPG. Finally my chance to actually make Shabe McEng. I saved him for the day I would be able to make a special character and finally one day I did make him, but I didn't play that game much longer after that. Especially once I heard about a new super hero MMO coming out, "City of Heroes".

Finally, I would have the chance to make the character I always wanted to, Raven. I wanted to make a special E-mail address to deal with all the stuff for this game because the one I had been using as my primary address was getting a lot of spam in it, and the second one I had was just for work stuff. So I went to AOL and started making my 3rd E-mail address. I tried Raven, I tried Raven79, I tried TheRaven79, all of these things were taken. Finally I realized I'd have to put something in front of Raven that no one could possibly have. Ah ha, my Star Wars name. So with that became my new E-mail address.

So that was a pretty long story for a pretty short pay off wasn't it? Oh no, it doesn't just end there. Did I ever get to make Raven? Did Shabe McEng ever exist again? Well, the story continues. I got into the Beta of "City of Heroes "(the beta is when they open a game up to a select few members of the public so they can test how it will run once it's released to everybody). The first character I created was going to be Raven. Of course being such a simple name, it had already been taken. I had to add a prefix of some kind. I wanted it to sound similar to my new E-mail without being stupid. So I picked the word Shade. Shade Raven became my first character.

He has gone through some changes over the last 5 years, but as you can see, the basics of the Storm Shadow figure above are still there. The second character I made was based on Bestie D (See future blog to find out who that is). Finally the 3rd character I made was an Irish Ninja. His name, well of course it's Shabe McEng.

Someday I'll maybe tell the back stories I've come up with for all these characters. As it stands now I have 27 of them, and each one has a unique back story.

One last thing on this topic. When I finally got an XBOX 360 and it came time to pick my Gamertag, I actually tried to get ShadeRaven first. But it was already taken. So I went with ShabeRaven since I already had so much with that anyway. Stupidly though I decided to capitalize to B to accentuate the origin of it, which really ruined it. It will now cost me $20 if I want to change ShaBeRaven to ShabeRaven. Oh, and funny thing, I recently checked and Shade Raven was available all along :/ Guess a space makes a difference.

P.S. Ok, I know that this one really isn't all that funny, which was the point of this blog to begin with. I just felt that I needed to explain why it's ShadeRaven's Thoughts. Plus, it's early, and I'm still figuring out exactly what this is going to turn into.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

#1: So what the heck is this?

When I was about 5 years old I was at dinner with my mom, my brother, my grandfather, some of his friends, and various other people that I can't remember simply for the fact that I'm not Rain Man. At some point during the dinner someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. It was at that point that I stated "I wanna be a comedienne". As everyone laughed at this statement I knew I must have the right idea. I was then told that comedienne's are female. Still though, I got the point across.

All through grade school I would watch a lot of stand up comedy on cable, for the short time we had it. I was obsessed with comedians. Whenever I would do a book report, I'd always just skim the book and make it up as I went along. I made sure to get at least one laugh in whenever I did though. I did this as a reflex because of how nervous I was. I was always super shy, and I would be so scared in front of the class. In fact, I faked being sick my last 3 days of grade school for they made everyone make a speech in front of all the parents and teachers. My shyness also made me a target for ridicule.

When I got to middle school things actually got worse. I was mocked constantly. Everything about me seemed to be perfect fodder for people to tear into. I had bad skin, I was the first to start growing facial hair, just whatever they saw when they looked at me, they'd mock. I had such low confidence that anytime I had to get in front of a class, I would be even more nervous. I'll never forget in 8th grade science when we had to make models of a molecule. When I got in front of the class and presented mine, I was shaking so bad as I held it up that it was just bouncing around. You would have thought the molecule was extremely hot (that's a science joke). It was also in Middle School that the friends I had had for all of grade school turned on me.

One day when I went to lunch and went up to all of them, they all turned in unison and said "Shawn, Fuck off!". How do you handle that when you're 12? Well, even though it crushed me, I kept plugging along the way I always did, with humor. I made a few new friends that held me over until I got to high school and found where I finally belong (More on that in a future blog).

It was still my dream to be a comic, even though I had the worst stage freight. Finally I got my first chance. I saw a poster that said they were holding auditions for "Creek's funniest people" (I went to Cherry Creek High School.) This was my Freshman year. I said what the heck, put together an act, and tried out. I got in, and on January 5th of 1995 I performed stand up for the first time in front of a live audience (I was able to look up the date because I remember it was the same night they reviled Kramer's first name on Seinfeld).

The school theater held 720 people. I did a mixture of jokes I wrote about the school, and jokes that I admit I stole from comedians I had seen (Ironically one of them had been Michael Richards). I didn't really have an ending, so I was partnered up with this guy that was going to do a Ross Perot (remember him?) impression. He was to come out and kick me off the stage. Well this kinda backfired. To be quite honest, I killed. I'm pretty sure I got the most laughs. When he came out I did the pretending I was shocked and pissed off thing, then ran back to grab the graphs I was supposed to bring out and hold for him. In my act I had mentioned I was a Freshman, and I recall hearing just silence from the crowd as I was looking for the graphs. Suddenly a guy yells out, "Bring back the Freshman!". It was probably the biggest ego boost I've ever received in my life. Anyway, long story long already, he was wearing a mask and no one could understand him, so he epically failed. When we took our bows at the end, I got the most cheers. For a week after this, I was recognized at least once a day, and complemented.

On my 21st birthday, I went to the Denver Comedy Works for the first time, and saw Bobby Slayton. I learned shortly their after about their new talent night and so on Halloween of 2000 I performed comedy for the first time in an actual comedy club. I had 5 minutes, and I didn't steal any jokes this time. For the next year I did about 4 more new talent nights. However, I got frustrated. I entered a competition and the winner of it had been doing this character that she did for over 10 years. To me, that's not new talent. Plus, I just wasn't performing enough. I've always heard every successful comedian say you need to be doing stand up every night if you're going to be good. Once every 3 months wasn't cutting it.

OK, now to start to cut it short. I started to look at acting. I took some lessons, moved to California, did extra work, then got side tracked with video game testing. So what is the point I'm trying to get to by telling you all of this long winded back story?

All my life there is one thing I have been absolutely certain off. I was blessed with 1 thing. I am funny. Not just a little, but a lot. If you know me, I may very well be the funniest person you know. I know that sounds egotistical, but it's true. My sense of humor is the only thing that I am 100% confident about. There will be times when I make a joke and I can't believe that it came to my mind so fast. However, I don't use it. Yes I make people laugh in my daily life, but I don't really do anything with my gift. So it's time. It's time I start writing. This blog is my first step. I'm 31 now, it's time to get the lead out. Someday I may very well give my dream of being a comedian another shot, but for the time being, I just need to write. Here it is, my first blog and I'm not sure how to end it...I know. Ross Perot, get out here!

P.S. (Can you P.S. a blog?) I've been trying to think up topics I could write about and I said once I get to 10 I'd finally start. I will run out of these 10 topics quickly so if you have any idea's, please e-mail me at

Next week: What the hell is ShabeRaven?