Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What I Did This Year

2014 is about to come to a close and I'll admit, this is one of the first New Year's in a while where I DON'T feel like a pathetic pile of shit. I think it'd because the year overall was pretty lousy what with all the death and awfulness in the world and everything.

But this year I've learned to reflect on just how good I have it. Despite all that awfulness, I've had a pretty damn good year. I know I haven't detailed much of it here (and I'm making the umpteenth promise to fix that for the next year), but I should share just all the good things I did in 2014.

Since its December, I should post what I got for Christmas.

Amiibos! Yes, over the past week I added 5 more Amiibo to my growing collection, bringing the total to 10. Above you see Yoshi, Kirby, the Wii Fit Trainer, Little Mac, and Luigi. They join Diddy Kong, Marth, Mario, Link and the Animal Crossing Villager. Captain Falcon and Pit (Kid Icarus) are currently in transit.

I don't think anyone saw the demand for these things skyrocketing coming, as any Amiibo that aren't Nintendo staples like Mario, Link, Peach, Pikachu, etc. are next to impossible to find. You can blame low production numbers and slow shipping rates for most of that. Hell, Wii Fit Trainer, Villager and Marth are considered the "Holy Trinity" due to being shortpacked at day 1. I just had the amazing foresight to get Villaget and Marth on launch day after learning they were gonna be rare. My buddy Steve picked up the Trainer a few weeks back with two others through some godforsaken Wal-Mart miracle. 

I'm not going for "gotta catch em all" for these things so I wasn't that interested in her initially (or Diddy Kong for that matter), but dammit I rode the hype train for them and I'm feeling very full of myself that I have them now and you most likely don't.

DVDs! Yes, my Christmas staples are all here: the latest Simpsons, Parks & Rec and Community seasons. This list has been getting shorter since Archer isn't out yet and Futurama ended last year.  The three on the top of the stack were generously gifted from my friend Goobian, thanks so much for being awesome! (Although getting the Animaniacs & Looney Tunes sets out of sequence is irritating my OCD, I appreciate the gesture all the same)

I also got gift cards (iTunes, Nintendo eShop, Panera, Subway), the latest Hess Truck (which is awesome), the traditional 25 $1 scratch off lotto tickets I get on Christmas Day (won $19!), and a Roth IRA. I keep being told that future financial planning is a fine gift, so I'll go with that.

I went to Vegas in March! I meant to write that up back when I actually did the trip, but I just wasn't up for it, I guess. I scratched a few things off the old bucket list while I was there, though. Going to Vegas itself was a big one, as was experiencing a different time zone for the first time. That one was weird, when it was time for dinner there, it was already 8pm back here. Of course, once I got used to it, I had to go home and readjust. Such is life.

I climbed to the top of the Stratosphere, the highest point in Vegas. 

Me looking at the view from the top. A panorama of most of the Las Vegas area on such a lovely day (nary a cloud the entire time I was there) is a sight that I totally recommend. Did I mention that there's rides on the top, too? Yep, and I got to ride them.

This is Big Shot, a launch tower that shoots you to technically 1,000 feet off the ground. The view I had from that point is incredible, I could see for miles. and it's a view that I swear I will never see again. I like thrill rides and all, but the feeling that I was going to be launched into the stratosphere and thinking for a split second that nothing was going to stop me is only worth doing once. My heart couldn't justify going on reride just for the view.

Here we see "X-Scream," a calm little spinner ride that's enjoyable when you try to forget that you're hundreds of feet in the air. It goes off the side of the building.

This was the aptly titled "Insanity," a teeter-totter-like coaster ride that convinces you that you're going to be shoved off of the tower. I rode in the back because there was no way in hell I'd sit with an unobstructed view straight down. Seriously, look how tiny those houses look.

What was interesting was that someone's brochure for the tower fell out of their pocket and I watched it fall all the way to the ground. Luckily it was just paper and not anything injury-worthy.

I got to eat at a buffet, which Vegas is considered the Mecca to that method of dining. Sadly, I only was able to go to the Paris buffet and the breakfast buffet (seen above) was far better than the dinner one. I'll have to wait to go to the one in Cesar's, which is considered one of the best (and quite pricey).

I also tried each of the "Cokes Around The World" at the World of Coca-Cola store. Sixteen sodas all hailing from different corners of the world, each drink a mystery to its flavor until you drink it. Like carbonated Russian Roulette. My favorite was the one you see above, Fanta Kolita from Costa Rica. It tasted like that bubblegum toothpaste that the dentist gives you, trust me when I say that it was totally amazing.

This one is the infamous Beverly from Italy. This is what I wrote about it: 

"They warn you about this one. There are people coming around the tables with cameras telling you to try it. You see others around you drink it. And then you try it for yourself, you think you'll be ready for what comes next.

No matter what you think, your body will not be ready for this. It looks like seltzer water, but it's not. This is something Italians just sip on to cleanse their palate, it's just meant to be the most bitter thing you'll ever taste. This stuff nearly ruined my my entire day, the taste will take hours to leave your tongue, and it will not want to stay in your body for very long. Pick an orifice, you'll want it to come out of it as quickly as possible.

In short, you must try this at least once in your life."

And yet I couldn't stop drinking it. I had the runs for the rest of the day, I pretty much took the Las Vegas Bathroom Tour. Cosmopolitan, New York New York and Margaritaville's were my favorites.

I got to see the Bellagio Water Show, from pretty much all angles and lighting. It helps that I was staying at Bally's, which was right across the street.

Just a good pic of the Paris that I took.

I wanted to go to my first In & Out, but since I didn't have a car and that it was waaaay over there, I was forced to wait for another time.

Oh yeah, I gotta tell you about the swanky room I stayed in. When I got to Bally's, I was told by the nice receptionist that I was given a complimentary upgrade to a suite. I thought that meant that my room was going to have a fridge in it. Ooh, boy was I wrong. I got the fridge but so much more.

Thus is what I saw when I walk in. Fuck a hotel room, this was a mini apartment! There was a little bar area to the right, a dining area to the left and its own living room.

The fucking bathroom was the size of a regular hotel room! Yes, that's a hot tub in the middle, and the shower/sauna was behind it.

The bed was way too big for my purposes, but oh so comfy.

Checking out was the hardest thing I had to do that trip. That place was wasted on a shlub like me, but I know that I was damn lucky to have it.

I also rode in a limo for most of the trip, thanks to a aunt that had lots of comps from gambling her life away.

One day I'll show you the rest of the highlights of that trip. But now, other things.

I went to the end of the world, as detailed in this entry.

I also went to NYCC, seen in this entry. But I also got one awesome pic:

Me with the cast of the Thrilling Adventure Hour! You might recognize some familiar faces: John Hodgman, Paul F. Tompkins, Paget Brewster, Jonathan Coulton, Marc Evan Jackson (Brookyn Nine Nine), Scott Adsit (30 Rock, Baymax of Big Hero 6), and Janet Varney (Korra). With everyone else, that was at least $250 worth of comedy for one $20 picture. I was with them for about a minute but that was by far the friendliest swarm I've ever encountered.

I got to watch 90% of the Every Simpsons Ever marathon! The best twelve days of my life! That other 10% was due to work, sleep, and being out of the house for most of Day 2. Hell, I convinced some Simpsons crewmembers that I never even slept at all! That's how dedicated I am.

Got to see the Oddball Comedy Festival at Jones Beach! Lots of great comedy in ove place! (you can see blurry Louis CK above) 

Got to take my pic with two doctors at LI Who Con! That was a fun weekend, I even got to catch the finale with a room full of Whovians, which was followed by an hour of that same room discussing what the hell we just watched.

Got a WiiU! Sure it's mostly a $200 Mario Kart and Smash Bros machine, but I love it.

So that was my 2014, hope yours as equally as awesome. I'll see you all in 2015!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

What I'm Thankful For - 2014

November comes to an end once again, and again I'm in an introspective mood. Thanksgiving was a few days back and every year around this time, I write down what I've been thankful for during the past year.

I think the only big thing I can be thankful for this year is life.

Yeah, kinda like that. I'm just thankful to be alive, I guess. This whole year I've had to deal with a lot of death.

An aunt and an uncle passed away within two weeks of each other back in July, the aunt from complications of various illnesses, and the uncle was a suicide. A very good friend and fraternity brother of mine also died unexpectedly in October, too. And that's not even counting all the deaths of people I knew vicariously; Parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins you name it all decided to croak this year.

That's not counting all of the people in the public eye that passed recently like JewWario, Joan Rivers, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, James Avery, Jan Hooks, Don Pardo, the guy who played Doc on Fraggle Rock, but especially Robin Williams. That one came between the aunt and the uncle and that hit me pretty hard. I never knew the guy, of course, but he was just one of those people you never thought would go away, especially the way he did.

I guess that's true for all deaths, really. You're always surprised when they go. You're like "Really? HIM?! How?!" You're so used to these people being in your life, and no one knows what to do when they leave.

But all of those people, whether you actually knew them or not, taught you to value life. You remember how much better your life was for knowing that they were there, right?

And let's not count out all the people that are still here. Your family, your friends, the people you work with, everyone you've ever sent a message to (online or not), that jerk that cut you off in traffic today, even random people you meet on line at Comic-Con. They are all important to you for knowing them, just as you are to them. Each person makes every other person value life in their own way, the good or the bad. And it makes their (and your) inevitable exit that much harder.

But when they're here now? That's all golden. I want to be here as long as I can, and I'm happy to be here. I want to do more cool things next year that I did this year. I went to Comic-Con, Las Vegas, got to meet LeVar Burton, and I even went to The End of the World (okay, just Long Island).

It's quite a contrast from this time last year (and other years) when I was depressed and had thoughts about ending it. But the deaths, the people I know now, and even going to therapy (yeah, I do that now) pretty much changed that perspective for me.

And that's why I'm thankful for life. I'm not done yet, and I want to make your life the best that I can make it, as long as you're willing to do the same for me.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween and NYCC 2014!

Looks like Halloween is upon us yet again and that means costumes! If you remember last year (I certainly don't), I posted a collection of my favorite cosplays from New York Comic-Con.

And this year shall be no different, as I went to NYCC this year and saw lots of great cosplayers! And what's an even bigger trip was that for every Cosplayer I got pictures of, there were at least five I never even know were walking around. 

Like, I didn't get to see this guy, Ronald McThor: 

Not my pic

See, awesome, and I had no idea he was even walking around. The Javits Center is a big place, folks. 

But here's a good list of people I did see!

This was the first one I spotted, Jonah Hex. I thought to myself "I hope I see cosplays that are just as good!" Oh, you bet I did.

Because of that new show about Green Arrow, characters featured on there like Deathstroke became popular Cosplay choices this year. And a guy like Deatstroke finally getting his due just warms my heart, just look at how badass he is. And he had an equally awesome Red Hood in tow.

See, here's one of many, many Green Arrow cosplayers I saw that weekend. Lots of Green Arrow characters were represented: Classic, Arrow version, Speedy, Artemis. 

And Lady Deathstroke, looking amazing. She looks like she can kick my ass and I'd be just fine with that.

Link, and Legend of Zelda in general were also popular. I saw at least two Tetras walking around. Seriously, Tetra.

This Link was one of my favorites because he had an actual Navi hanging off his shoulder, it lit up and everything.

But here's a Link with a human Navi. Definitely a unique choice.

Since Smash Bros came out on 3DS earlier in the month, almost every character that appeared in that game was represented at least once. I don't know why it was so popular, but this was one of at least three Fox and Falco pairs I saw.

Little Mac, pink sweats and all, ready to kick (or punch) some ass.

You wouldn't dress as Captain Olimar unless you were part of a Smash Bros group.

Or Ike from Fire Emblem.

This Pokemon trainer shares his pain (and was a totally great guy to chat with).

I don't know what I'm more impressed by: that someone dressed up as Dr. Mario or that this wasn't the only one I saw.

Want a pic of a good cosplayer? Too bad, Waluigi time!

Holy crap it's a Skull Kid (as seen in Majora's Mask)! I was half-tempted to steal the mask for myself, but I know that wouldn't end well for me.

Seriously, someone dressed as R.O.B. Seriously. This was a female too, so now I have thoughts of "stupid sexy R.O.B." floating through my head.

Another popular choice this time was Guardiabs of The Galaxy. You'd think Star-Lord would be the most popular (and he was), but I was surprised to see all of the Rocket Raccoons of various quality. Different heights, genders, and makeup vs actual fursuits were all seen here. But for some reason I didn't see a single Drax. 

But I did see a great Groot. There was also a baby Groot in its pot walking around but it looks like I didn't get a pic with that one.

I love the originality of this one. Almost makes me forget that I was traumatized by Gremlins at age five.

This Zangief was a really friendly guy,

Powdered Toast Man! With a Quailman, too!

And here's the other, better Powdered Toast Man I saw the same day I saw the first one. He demanded that I grabbed onto his buttocks (both of them?!).

So many Thors, but there was only one Beta Ray Bill. 

I didn't know who this guy was supposed to be but he was awesome.

I asked these guys if George Clooney's Batman was worse than a Batman we haven't seen yet. It was an easy way to shut them up.

Gotta love Calvin & Hobbes.

This was one of my favorites, Dark Helmet from Spaceballs! He even had the Schwartz ring!

And here he is without the mask. He had a really good Barf with him, but I didn't catch that one.

Totally badass Swamp Thing with one of several Poison Ivy cosplayers. I certainly saw more Ivy cosplayers than Harley Quinn's this year, which was definitely a surprise to me.

And speaking of badass, out of all the Mortal Kombat cosplays I saw, this one's my favorite. That's not Scorpion or Noob Saibot, oh no. That's the human version of Smoke (with a female Ermac as far as I can tell). Definitely going for the obscurity points there.

Lots of great Steven Universe cosplays this year, too. For instance, here's Garnet. 

I couldn't get good pictures of any Amethyst or Pearl cosplayers, but I got a Steven.

And this amazing Opal, a giant four-armed woman that's a fusion of Amethyst and Pearl. She's voiced by Aimee Mann.

Brook from One Piece was another favorite of mine, I just love the effort that was put into this one.

One Piece itself was a VERY popular Cosplay choice, mostly of Luffy (you can see one in the background). I saw the entire Straw Hat crew with the exception of Franky. Probably like Drax, people that share his body type tend not to go to conventions.

Yes, I did see an Usopp, long nose and all, but didn't take a pic of him. Nor did I get any of the Zoro cosplayers and there were some really good female ones that pulled it off really well. Also caught a few Choppers and I can say that it's really creepy to see a full grown man dress up like a three foot tall reindeer person.

If anyone out there remembers the clusterfuck that was Dashcon, this guy went as the infamous ball pit. Pretty sure you'd catch hepatitis from those balls, just like the real thing.

It was cool to run into this guy again. If you recall, he was Inspector Gadget last year with the giant helicopter.

Dude was tall, like around seven feet or something. I might be exaggerating but the guy was taller than anyone else I saw.

Except maybe Sauron who was easily eight feet tall, but he was clearly wearing lifts.

I can't talk about cosplayers without bringing up Deadpool. 

So. Many. Deadpools. That's not even close to all of them, you can easily find videos of about twenty of them having an impromptu dance party, or the Chimichanga Conga Line. 

Here's my friend Rob as Real-Life Peter Griffin! Man was he popular, I talked to several people that were either excited to meet him, wanting to meet him, or sad that they didn't see him.

Did I mention that I came face to face with Triumph The Insult Comic Dog? Because that totally happened. He was filming his new Adult Swim show with Jack McBrayer, seen here:

Not the most flattering picture of one of the nicest guys in the world, but when he's standing three feet away you'll take whatever angle you can get.

Captain Cold rocking the parka. I love those goggles so much. That's a bit of Jack Kirby's art that I feel is never touched upon.

Definitely gets one of the top spots on my favorite list this year. I have to applaud the originality and commitment of cosplaying as Tetris blocks. I have no idea how they got through the doors but they did anyway. They're such little troopers.

Interesting to note that there was an I block Cosplayer with them but he wasn't there with the others at the time.

Now the one is by far my favorite one I saw this year. Originality, the awesome quality of the costume, plus obscurity points galore. Captain Melonhead from Ed, Edd n Eddy was one of the last characters I expected to see at this convention, but here we are, with Plank and everything.

Doesn't hurt at all if this one's easy on the eyes. It's one of those weird feelings since Captain Melonhead was the alter-ego of Johnny 2x4, the resident weird kid of the show.

And this looks like a good place to end things. This isn't even close to all the free stuff I saw, but I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse of my life.

Happy Halloween, everyone!