- American Creation: Triumphs & Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic and Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation (Joseph J. Ellis) - two excellent books on the founding of the United States, focusing on personalities & incidents rather than trying to do the "broad sweep of history" kind of writing. Lucidly written with an actual sense of narrative & style. Methinks the author is NOT a fan of Thomas Jefferson, though...
- America 1908: The Dawn of Flight, the Race to the Pole, the Invention of the Model T & the Making of a Modern Nation (Jim Rasenberger) - I couldn't put this down... the title pretty much says it all, as the author works his through 1908 chronologically, using the stories of the Arctic explorers, the "great race", Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers & the Great White Fleet to anchor the flow of the book. I've found three more books to read, thanks to the bibliography. (If you're curious: the two book biography of Teddy Roosevelt by Edmund Morris & Race of the Century, the most recent book on The Great Race.)
Monday, April 28, 2008
Sunday, April 27, 2008
- Horton Hears A Hoo - the boys really enjoyed this... and I wasn't running screaming from the theater (like I want to during the Shrek films), but it just felt a little, well, plastic. And while there were inspired moments (mostly during the Hoo-ville scenes), it's not particularly Seussian. Sigh. (Better than Mike Myers in the Hat or the Jim Carrey That Stole Christmas by a mile, though.)
- Michael Clayton - The acting is solid, the direction is well-done, the cinematography is very good... but it just doesn't add up to all that much. "Lawyer who lost his way ethically finds it again" - to see this plot line done right, watch Paul Newman in The Verdict.
- Dan in Real Life - This was a sweet, understated film with some real heart in it. It probably didn't do well because both Steve Carrell & Dane Cook play real people rather than their normal "anything for a laugh" kind of characters - but if you like stories about families & love & pain & hope, this is the movie for you.
- Once - I fell in love with the song first - "Falling Slowly" is an amazing piece of music & totally deserved the Oscar it received - but I was surprised to find how much I liked the film. I hesitate to tell you much about it - some of the joy of the film is in discovering the story for yourself - and I esp. encourage you to avoid looking up the music video/trailer of "Falling Slowly", as it gives away way too much of the plot. Just see the film. (One warning: the film is rated "R" for harsh language... if that's a problem for you, don't see the film. Most of you know I'm pretty cautious about nudity/sex in a film - that is NOT a problem here.)
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Friday, April 18, 2008
Miller suggested that in our "me first" culture, we tend to want things that end up telling dumb stories... when the focus of our life, our efforts, our everything is the acquisition of a new car or a bigger house, what story are we telling? When our energies & hopes are devoted towards getting someone to like us enough to date and/or sleep with us, is that a big enough story to inspire someone to change the direction of their life?
Sunday, April 13, 2008
#109: Baby Crack & Veggie Tales
Remember that time Jesus and all the disciples did trust falls on the banks of the Red Sea? Right at the last second they didn't catch Jesus when it was his turn but he floated because he was the son of God, so it was all good. OK, that didn't happen, but to this day, the trust fall is a staple of most youth groups... It's a simple concept: One person stands on the top of a ladder or a stump and falls backward into the waiting hands of two rows of people. At the end of the whole experience you're really close and play DC Talk songs and walk through the ups and downs of adolescence together with your face against the winds of change that swirl across us all with challenges and opportunities, hopes and fears, dreams and decisions. Cue One Tree Hill music...
Before I write a short love letter to Veggie Tales let me share 3 things you need to know about children's television:
- Baby Einstein is the equivalent of baby crack. Seriously, turn on one and your screaming kid will become comatose as colorful shapes spin and bears dance and toys shimmer across the screen to Mozart. The only issue is that if you're ever out and about and your kid hears classical music, they'll start jonesin' for a fix.
- The show Caillou will make your kid afraid of everything on the planet. This is the only cartoon character I have ever wanted to punch. He whines and cries and whimpers his way through the entire program. Avoid at all costs.
- No one knows what the Doodlebops are but trust me, they are terrifying. Their ears are kind of tucked into a flap of skin, they are ungodly good at playing instruments and breakdancing on buses and one of them can shrink his body down into impossibly small spaces.There, I feel worlds better.
But honestly, I love Veggie Tales. It's creative, imaginative and has enough adult humor to keep me engaged. The best song is the cheeseburger song, there can be no debate on this point, but all of their stuff is good.
My one issue is that when we went to the "Pirates the Don't Do Anything" movie in the theater, they didn't start the movie with their theme song. It was like going to see U2 and Bono refusing to do "One" or "Where the Streets Have No Name." My two year old daughter leaned over to me and immediately said, "Not this veggies." That's toddler for, "What a poor branding decision. That theme song is an audio trigger that lets me know it's time to enjoy some Veggie Tales programming. To leave that song out was a foolish, foolish decision on the Director's part."
Friday, April 11, 2008
- race games
- co-operative games
- dexterity games
- think-y (abstract) games
- pick up & deliver games
- collecting games
- bluffing games
- and so on...
- Igel Argern (which Pat thought enough of my description to purchase, but really probably didn't have a chance, what with needing 24 pieces that could stack.)
- Choice (this Sid Sackson dice game is a solitaire favorite - but it's a little complicated for what we were doing - if you'd like to play it online, you can do so right here.)
- Kangi Cup (this really is an oddball suggestion... it's a press your luck/race game featuring kangaroos... and also some of the crappiest production in a German game by a semi-major publisher. I'm still glad I own it - it's fun with 3 or 4 players - but don't knock yourself out trying to find a copy. I am, btw, the only person on the Geek who is willing to admit they own it. Having a custom die - complete with boomerang symbol - is one of the things that kept it out of the book.)
- Ticket to Ride/Transamerica (I tried to figure out - in vain - how to do "trial versions" of each of these games for the book. Ah, well. If you haven't played 'em, you should. There are a couple of connection games in the book - Surround & The Game of Y - but not in the same family as these.)
- Barricade/Malefiz (we did a lot of research, trying to figure out who did/didn't hold some kind of claim on this game... and Pat decided in the end that it wasn't worth it.)
- Spinners are, in general, a way to generate a fight - did you spin hard enough? did you lean on it to get to go one way or the other? is it on the line or not?
- If you are going to use a spinner, get the graphics guy to make the lines between the areas as THIN as possible, thus lessening the chance of a liner.
- Big areas are preferable to small areas - easier to see & less likely to cause "liner" problems.
- If there's another way to do it, it's almost always more elegant.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
- WALL*E (June 27th) - My personal anticipation is set on intense for this one... what's not to like when Pixar does sci-fi with a robot hero who watches "Hello, Dolly" to discover what love is?!
- BOLT (November 26th) This "dog journey" movie crossed with a "actor who believes he's really his character" movie only rates a medium... but that's pretty much the way I felt about ENCHANTED which I ended up really enjoying. This also marks the beginning of all Disney/Pixar films being released in Disney 3D.
- UP (May 29th) Pixar brings us an adventure story with a 78 year old hero & his 8 year old sidekick. Anticipation level is high... both because it's from Pixar and because it's cool that an animated film is going to let a character with some age on 'em have a leading role.
- TOY STORY in 3-D (October 2nd) The original TOY STORY re-released in Disney 3D. I have the film memorized... but I'll be there to see it in 3D. Anticipation level: medium.
- THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG (Christmas) Traditional animation... an African-American heroine, Randy Newman writing the tunes... and the promise of a singing alligator? Anticipation level is high.
- TOY STORY 2 in 3-D (February 12th) I cry literally every time I see Jesse being left behind in the donation box. Really... every time. I can't imagine seeing this in 3D will make me any less teary. Anticipation level is high.
- TOY STORY 3 (June 18th) And here's the reason for updating Toy Story 1 & 2... the third film will come out in June of 2010 with the original voice cast... and Ned Beatty. (No idea what role he'll be playing... or what story they'll be telling.) Color me intensely interested in this one.
- RAPUNZEL (Christmas) Not of lot of details... but this one will be all CGI. My interest is only medium until we know some more about it.
- NEWT (Summer) Now this sounds... interesting? "The last two blue-footed newts on the planet are forced together by science to save the species... and they can't stand each other?" For those of you who know Dave Arnott, it sounds vaguely like his film, The Last Man. I'm intrigued but wondering how they can (a) keep a G rating with this subject matter and (b) make it work at at all. I'm interested but this is the first time I'm only set on medium for a Pixar release.
- THE BEAR AND THE BOW (Christmas) Also Pixar (two in one year?!) this is a hero(ine) tale set in Scotland - could be interesting. Anticipation level: high.
- CARS 2 (Summer) The press release has something about Mater & Lightning "needing their passports", so I guess they're going to race Formula One... or some kind of race around the world or whatever... I'm nervous that they'll screw up the delicate & wonderful balance of exciting races & delightful small town life that made the first film such a success in my book. But the guy who produced RATATOUILLE is directing... which is a very good sign. The release of this film is linked to the opening of Cars Land at Disney's California Adventure, where they're planning to build what could be Disney Park's most elaborate thrill ride - described by some Disney insiders as "... Test Track meets Indiana Jones Adventure meets Pixar." Yes, my anticipation level is intense, both for the ride & the movie.
- KING OF THE ELVES (Christmas) Elves & trolls in the Mississippi Delta? Color me curious and highly interested.
Friday, April 04, 2008
- Gumball Rally - what a sweet little racing game... one of the guys in my group compares it to Formula Motor Racing (which I also own but don't like nearly as much as this). Note: the designer, Ted Cheatham, is a very good friend, so I may be a bit biased. But the fact that it plays up to 8 players is a major plus for a filler game.
- Risk Express - Yahtzee meets Risk in a very enjoyable little dice game. I still don't get why this isn't being released in the U.S.
- Soccer Tactics World - Imagine if you took the much-loved StreetSoccer & complicated it slightly. Two things happen: (1) it takes longer to play, and (2) you end up with a much more soccer-like game. I like it so far.
- Prophecy - this lies somewhere between Return of the Heroes (the most Euro-ish of the fantasy adventure games) and Talisman (the "old school" classic that is, despite being reprinted, starting to really show it's age)... which is not a bad place to be. We've been playing to 2 artifacts (meaning no final battle) which actually works very well. (BTW, I'm looking for a copy of the Z-Man edition to trade for... the copy Braeden & I have been playing belongs to Steve - hi, Steve! - and he's planning to trade it away.)
- Alchemist - this is a kinda fiddly game of pushing cubes that was alright with my group but I could see turning into a nightmare with the wrong think-y kind of player. Nothing awful but nothing great.
- Arkadia - my one play of this was very enjoyable... it's a thinker but didn't seem to lock up with AP (analysis paralysis). Of course, the fact that I got this for about $6 at the Barnes & Noble clearance didn't hurt my opinion of it, either.
- Bobbin' Bumblebee - the generic reprint of Loopin' Louie you can find at Amazon.com... which, surprisingly, is a pretty good little game. The physics works differently than LL, so you have to learn some new skills.
- Container - some lousy art choices (what in the HECK is the island/blob thing?) and overly layered game play (you mean I have to offer something which sells then sells again then take it to the island to get points?) doom what could have been an interesting game. Once was enough, thanks.
- Cranium Squawkbox: Lunch Munch - a better game than Pirate's Passage... but that's not saying much.
- Cuba - This is another "build your economic/victory point" engine games... and though the laws mechanic is interesting, the game seems to go too quickly for you to really build up any head of steam. And, even as I say "it seems to go too quickly", it felt like the game ran too long. I'd rather be playing Princes of Florence.
- Darjeeling - a tile picker-upper that's cute but fiddly. I don't need to own but I'd play it again.
- Die Macher - I finally played this monster/classic... and now I understand what the fuss is all about. We set aside a night to play the game - and while there were only three of us, it was still a blast. (I can not imagine the chaos with 5 players - yikes!) Scott Nicholson's video review/rules explanation is required viewing before you play - the three of us were all newbies & with that intro, we managed to cruise right through the game without any major rules problems. I won a squeaker (11 pts separated the three of us at the end) by saving enough cash to control the polls in the later elections - we called it "push polling" and it was enough to keep the other two parties at bay. I'll gladly play again but it requires setting aside 1/2 a day to play.
- Felix: The Cat in the Sack - great art & sneaky gameplay make this a nice 30 min. auction game that reminds me a bit of For Sale, but not really.
- Kingsburg - the only problem with this nicely made dice game is the length. If it was an hour, I'd love it. At 90 min., it's long-ish.
- Leonardo da Vinci - Aladdin's Dragons meets Princes of Florence... blech. I won the only game I played of this, but I really managed to luck into the win by hoarding goods & hoping for the right cards to come up. They did. Again, I'd rather be playing Princes of Florence.
- Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel - this early Richard Borg shoot-em-up design came to me in a math trade... and now I need to set aside a day or two to get a crew involved in a full campaign. We played a couple of scenarios & realized we didn't fully get all the rules. But, I like the Space Hulk-y feel with shorter scenarios & the campaign structure.
- Pandemic - possibly the best cooperative game since Lord of the Rings... and mercifully shorter (about 45 min.). Added bonus: NOT a fantasy game, which means it's easier to introduce to a wider crew of non-gamers.
- Schildi Strandkröte - the small box cousin to Schildi Schrillkröte, it has hands down the best "game" of the two boxes in it. (Each game is actually the components to play 3-5 different games.) That game is Turtle Bowling, which is fun with a capital "F".
- Tannhäuser - an innovative way of doing movement & line of sight for a combat game (using the board) is hampered a bit by what feels like unbalanced squads. I'd be willing to play again & see if I'm wrong.
- Trampelfanten - this is Das Storrisches Muli with nicer pieces & a couple of rules changes. More PC (politically correct) than Muli & in a smaller box.
- Zero! - this is the Pacific Theater version of the Down In Flames system... I only got to play one dogfight (which I won) but I'm looking forward to teaching this nifty card game to my group.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
- the original game was actually called "The Menorah Game"
- it's supposed to be really good, but I haven't got to play it... yet!
- Race for the Galaxy - Once you get past the whole "what the heck do all these icons mean?!" phase of learning the game, this one hums along at top speed. The rest of my regular group is catching up and/or passing me in skill, so I'm no longer winning every game I play. Doesn't dampen my enthusiasm, though - there are a BUNCH of nifty card combinations to put together that I haven't managed to pull off yet!
- Hüpf hüpf, Hurra! - This wonderful dexterity/luck game was a gift from one of the members of my congregation (who has a son serving in Germany)... and it's been a hit from the minute we cracked open the box. I had to translate the rules myself (well, with a bit of help - thanks, Henning!), but it's not that difficult to figure out. Essentially, it's the direct descendant of the old Tupperware game, Bounce-It-In... except with marbles & a cleverly slanted rim around the scoring area that allows for some fun "around the horn" kind of rolls. It's proved popular with kids, adults & kids playing with adults.
- Burg-Ritter - this is a cooperative dexterity game from Haba which utilizes an old-fashioned girl's hair band (kind of like a super-strength rubber band) with four strings connected to it to make a medieval "crane" to maneuver tower pieces into place. My six year old enjoys it a lot, though we need to go with a shorter timer to make the game more challenging.
- Dish It Up! - my youngest son has just discovered this memory variant which I consider to be an unrecognized gem. Rather than matching the tiles to each other, you match them to the items on your tickets - you're a waiter in a diner!
- Battleship Express - Part of a series of dice games released by Hasbro in nifty plastic carrying cases, it's not as good as Risk Express (which, for no apparent reason, is not available in the U.S.) but it's still a decent little game. It probably works best with 3 players - 2 & 4 are, weirdly enough, too quick to be any fun. Three players allows for some time to balance out the fluky rolls of the dice.
- Funny Bunny - an old standby here at the Jackson house... but now it's Collin who is requesting it rather than Braeden. (We bought it on our first mini-vacation here in CA, when we went to San Luis Obispo in September 2003.)
- HeroScape - I discovered the Battles of Vahalla boards on heroscapers.com, which put us back into HeroScape overdrive. 500 pt armies, small but well-designed boards so that you're fighting from the 2nd round on... and the rest is history. Braeden & I are currently planning a "Ice Dragon/Yetis" vs "Marvel Superheroe Duo" battle on an ice-heavy board.
- Kiki Ricky - from the same Ravensburger series as Funny Bunny, this is basically King of the Mountain with a chicken who throws eggs at players. It's silly but fun.
- Monopoly - Tropical Tycoon DVD Game - I'm working on a more extensive post, but this is not only the best Monopoly spin-off game, but it's also the best version of Monopoly period. More to come...
- Scene It? - Disney - 50+ plays of this game has not dampened Collin & Braeden's enthusiasm for this game... and, yes, we have many of the clips & puzzles memorized. I'm trying to figure out if the 2nd edition has repeat clips from the 1st edition... if not, we'll probably get it for them for Christmas.
- Tumblin-Dice - the size of this game (about 1/2 a coffee table) keeps it in the box for much of the year... but when it comes out, it gets a LOT of play. So far, it's been played both at Fresno Gamers & with my family.
- Turbulento - a really odd Selecta game of dropping wooden balls onto curved disks (to flip them over) which turns into a memory game as you have to remember what animal is on the bottom of the disks. Collin is spectacularly good at the memory part & Braeden rocks at the flipping part... which means I don't win very often.
- Duck, Duck, Bruce - This is a very cute game that reminded me a lot of Zirkus Flohcati... and then I realized it's actually a reprint of an older German game that pre-dates ZF. There's a bit more luck here (what with the Bruce die to steal cards) but it's also a bit friendlier (a duplicate card doesn't always keep you from taking cards).
- Hisss - It's barely a game... but my youngest (Collin) really likes to play & it helps him with matching colors. Soon, we'll move on to better games & I can leave this one behind.
- Memoir '44 - Richard Irving was in town, which accounted for a couple of plays... and Braeden really wanted to try out scenarios with airplanes. When things slow down a bit, we plan to play some more!
- Zingo - Bingo that is actually enjoyable for 3 year old children... and adults, as long as you don't have to play it over & over.
- Zooloretto - This game grows on me every time I play... which is odd, as I detest Coloretto. I think the combination of excellent theme & a greater number of choices makes it a winner in my book. An excellent choice for Spiel des Jahres last year, even if I still think Thebes got cheated. (We haven't done much with the expansions yet... just used the Petting Zoo, which was kind of neat without changing the rules much.)
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
- April 2005 - 12:13 pm - Collin is born!
- May 2005 - How In The Heck Did I End Up Here? - the stories of my ministry life (yes, I still need to write a couple more posts in this series)
- June 2005 - Dig Hay Zoose - this story still blows me away...
- July 2005 - Interview #2 - wherein Tom Vasel does an e-mail interview with me & I manage (I think!) to get my thoughts straight about the crossroads between being a Christ-follower & being a gamer
- August 2005 - Welcome to Pat's World - which explains why the catchphrase "Be Like Pat" is never going to gain traction
- September 2005 - Enter Pastor Man - the history of my musical tastes & a pretty decent summary of how I deal with art from a Christian perspective
- October 2005 - The Tale of the Pig (And How His Influence Still Touches My Life) - ah, the Pig... I wonder where he is now?
- November 2005 - Small Soldiers Big Battle - I'm finally figuring out how to write a review that sounds like me
- December 2005 - Blasts From The Past - gaming & autobiography... a theme I'd return to with a vengance during the summer of 2006 for my series about D&D
- January 2006 - Unpacking the Baggage - one of my most painfully honest posts
- February 2006 - Five & Dime 2005 - where I finally find a good way to showcase all the data I've been collecting over the years
- March 2006 - Come Back To The One Hundred, Blog Reader, Blog Reader - which is a signpost pointing to another blog I created with Stephen Glenn & 65 of our closest friends about the best games ever...
- April 2006 - Pastoral Advice For Engaged Meeples, Minefield, Minefield Spawns a Question, & 9 Years Ago - April was one of those months where I was writing lots of good stuff... so, I picked four.
- May 2006 - Minefield, Part Deux & The "M" Word - Cuz you really shouldn't read all that stuff I wrote in April without reading the follow-up stuff in May
- June 2006 - Stay Out Of Range Of The Giant: Descent - Journeys in the Dark, The Day I Quit Playing D&D, & Say It With Me: "Non-Binding Resolution" - D&D and alcohol... June was evidently a dark month or my attempt to write a rebuttal to Chez Geek
- July 2006 - DW, Bill Cosby & Evercrack - the "Return of the King/Return of the Jedi" of my D&D trilogy
- August 2006 - Three Geeks... er, Caballeros - a surprise reunion of high school friends
- September 2006 - Underwear & the Four Gods - one of the weirder analogies I've made... in print and/or while preaching
- October 2006 - I Don't Want To Be Some Kind of Nutjob - in which I talk about spiritual warfare & how I'm scared of being a holy roller
- November 2006 - Crackpipe Remote OR Yes, As a Matter of Fact, I Do Watch Too Much Network Television - the title says it all
- December 2006 - Asleep on the... Hershey Bar? - I'm still weirded out by this one...
- January 2007 - This is News? - Obviously, Chris Herndon & his flying monkeys did not live near this lady...
- February 2007 - The Mouse Gave Me The Bum's Rush - how I got thrown out of Disneyland
- March 2007 - Peanut Butter & Karo Syrup - I had some of this just the other night... it's still very yummy.
- April 2007 - Soundtrack of My Life: Steve Taylor - the first (and so far - sigh - only) post in a planned series on the music that has dug deep into my soul.
- May 2007 - I wrote a set of posts about my trip to SoCal for The Origins Experience: Yelo, More Yelo, Origins Experience: Tuesday & If Everyone Jumped Off A Cliff. Not a big blogging month, but a pretty profound one in my pilgrimage as a leader.
- June 2007 - We played games at Braeden's birthday party... and he got games... and somehow the post Birthday Gaming has become one of the more commented upon posts in the history of this blog.
- July 2007 - After four years here in Fresno, I ended up meditating on the nature of my profession & how easy it is to live the Christian life like a magic trick in a post entitled Shattering the Illusion.
- August 2007 - In response to questions I got as part of an Open Mic series at my church, I began answering some of them with the blog, starting with Open Mic: Sex, Lies & Videotape.
- September 2007 - For some reason, I got inspired in September & pumped out some more really good stuff in the Open Mic series (Knock Knock Knockin', All Day Singin' & Dinner on the Grounds, and The New World Slang) as well as a post on the game, The Settlers of Catan, that I feel real good about (The Unofficial Guide to Catan, Part I).
- October 2007 - I answered a question no one asked (Open Mic: The Question Nobody Asked) about why we homeschool and also wrote a really good game review entitled 1492/Ocean Blue (about Mayer's game, Columbus).
- November 2007 - As we close in our Disneyland vacation, I launch into an extended theological musing about DLR I called The Hypnotic Power of a Bug Zapper & the Happiest Place on Earth... and I also managed to finish my guide to all things Catan (The Unofficial Guide to Catan, Part II).
- December 2007 - Two posts stick out in December: my plea for sanity in the face of a potentially anti-church film (Three Requests) and my plea for sanity in the face of sub-standard Monopoly play (Giving Away Your Own (Monopoly) Money).
- January 2008 - Less pleading this month... instead, I wrote a lot about religion & politics. The best of the bunch was Religion & Politics: Oil & Water.
- February 2008 - Of course, there was a chunk of Five & Dime posts... but the highlight of the non-statistical/gaming stuff was Evangelical Does NOT Equal "Right Wing Nut Job".
- March 2008 - Take Me Out To The (Ball) Game... where I ruminate about baseball & board games