Monthly Archives: July 2010

The eats of my Wisconsin trip

During the course of the week I was in Wisconsin, my family as well as my aunt went to a lot of restaurants. The only exceptions were on Wednesday, where we cooked bacon and hash browns; and the Thursday where we got Pizza Hut wings and pasta. Both were surprisingly delicious. I originally considered calling this blog entry the “Noms of my trip,” but I realized how much I despise cat macros and decided against it. So, let’s begin on Friday

On Friday (7/16), after being up all night and a brief nap when we finally got to Wisconsin, we drove to a local family reunion of sorts at this restaurant called Dick and Joan’s. I had not eaten at all since the night before — eating two burgers and some fries from Jack-in-the-Box in rapid succession was a bad idea – So I had bought this “large tenderloin” which I think was about 12” or so. It was so goddamn delicious and tender; I ate the whole thing and most of the potato. Since I didn’t know any of the family members, I just sat and ate.

The following day (7/17), We went to Country Kitchen Buffet The Golden Corral, a buffet place I saw a lot of commercials for back at home. The last time I went to a buffet to eat was probably 3-4 years ago, when one of my cousins was having a birthday. Or we must have decided to dine at an Izzy’s one night a few years back, I forget which. (Izzy’s is a small chain of buffet restaurants back home in Portland.) Anyone who’s ever been to a buffet probably knows what’s there, so I’ll spare the details. It’s funny, Theresa said that dad and I eat “like birds.” Granted, I had a bowl of Raisin Bran earlier that morning, so I had an excuse to not eat a lot. Then again, I don’t really like buffet restaurants, they seem like one of the least-classiest places to dine. Nothing against them, the food there was great; but I felt like I didn’t fit eating there.

Now we move to Sunday (7/18), of which we went to Frank’s Pizza Palace, apparently one of the most well-known pizza places in Appleton. The place has been around since 1955, the year my dad was born. Oddly enough, it opens at 4PM daily, quite late for a pizza place. Even though we got there at around 4:30, it was already packed. They gave Theresa and my dad this noodle that doubles as a straw. It was so goofy and original that they coerced me into getting one after my first glass of Root Beer. As for the pizza itself? It was alright, it was cut into squares rather than slices, and when I tasted it at the place it tasted weird. Yet I ate some of the pizza later after it cooled and it tasted fine. Mom suggested that it was probably the basil that gave it that strange taste.

After we went to the baseball game on Monday (7/19), we stopped by Coaches Corner for a free burger, since they hit four runs in a single game. The burger there was delicious despite the big fluffy bun. The fries were skinny as hell, skinner than fries at McDonald’s or many other restaurants. Thanks to the victory at the game, we used our tickets as a way to redeem the free burgers, but we asked if we could keep one as a souvenir. (I still have it.)

And finally, on Wednesday (7/21), we went and saw a small cabin, and then stopped by the Potawatomi Casino down near Wausau, WI. I had another burger there, with bigger fries this time, but the same weird issue of large, fluffy buns. Maybe I’m too used to store-bought or fast-food brand buns, but these are almost like bread tops for buns. But enough talking about that. There wasn’t much else food-related that happened there, but I already mentioned the lucky slot spin and nailing $40 in the last blog, so I’ll move on.

Granted, there were a lot of interesting restaurants in and around Appleton, and I would love to visit some more next year. But this consisted of where I ate.

(Most of the entries here are excerpts from blogs I wrote on my dad’s laptop while we were vacationing, taken from Microsoft Word. They have been edited for clarity.)

The chronicles of my trip to Wisconsin

Wow, this is a few days overdue. Well, when I got home, chronicling the trip was the last thing on my mind. Coupled with the fact I tend to procrastinate more often than not, and you got me not wanting to write about it. But I must get this done otherwise it’s gonna eat at me. Lingering things do that to me.

So, I had never been to Wisconsin before. This was more of a family bonding trip for my dad, he had known many of the people since his youth, and I didn’t remember any of these people. I will say they’re all very nice. Well, except for my aunt Theresa, who we stayed with. I have nothing against her, she’s a nice and friendly woman, reminding me of my late grandma on my mom’s side. But she has the sort of vitriol of poking fun at me for the sake of humor. To be honest, this always bothers me. I know it’s to be taken in jest, but with how my mind works, I cannot easily separate satire for seriousness, so I automatically think everything is true. Theresa also has a very large Elvis Presley collection, complete with clocks, memorabilia, you name it. Every room had Elvis in there somewhere, except the bathroom. Kinda funny when you dedicate every room in the house to Elvis except the one type of room where he died in. Also, a broken clock of 50’s-era Elvis was watching me sleep the whole week. It stopped being kinda creepy after the second day.

On Friday (7/16), we got up at 4AM to catch a flight from Portland International Airport (PDX) to Denver International Airport (DEN), then another flight from DEN to Austin Straubel Airport (GRB). Despite a hangup at PDX where they had to clarify that there were two people on the same flight with the same name and that it wasn’t a computer error, we got through both airports fine. The flight from PDX to DEN even had TV. Only problem is that it cost $6 after takeoff, and you couldn’t even watch the Navigation channel to see how far we were in the flight.

Friday was basically a “sleep in” day, I didn’t get much sleep the night before, and I was severely drowsy once we landed in Green Bay. We later went to a restaurant, which I’ll cover in the following blog, and met some of the family. After we ate, we went back to my aunt’s place and stayed the night as we got everybody settled in.

Saturday (7/17) was meeting families in person, talking and reminiscing. Well, for my parents anyway, I was doing the “sleep on the side of couches since I was up until 4 in the morning” thing. One of the families had a small plant collection, with some African Violets and Summer cacti. My dad did a lot of gardening, not so much anymore, but we still have a bunch of roses outside our house.

Later on, they decided to visit another family, but I was still wiped out from travel and not getting much sleep, so I opted out, instead deciding to watch a baseball game of Yankees vs. Rays and the Yankees lost 10-5. At around 6:30, a cousin decided to call Theresa’s place and ask if she was there. It turns out she was mentally handicapped and kinda gave me a bit of her life story. Unfortunately I’m too timid to cut somebody off, especially of a mentally challenged person; so I heard her story, and conveniently the phone died. She supposedly called again a few times, all through the course of the week.

Sunday started out with a trip to a car show with an Uncle and my dad. Unfortunately I’m not a “car guy,” although I do appreciate older cars. Lots of cars from the 1930s to a few 1990s-era cars. They even had a dude with an Isetta, Steve Urkel’s car. I know it more for being a prize on a 1950’s episode of The Price Is Right I have on tape somewhere, but hey.

Afterwards, we headed back and met with the family member who called in yesterday. Nice lady, but she unfortunately lives in a residential home where she has to be checked upon hourly. It’s sad to see that happen to someone, and as a result, it made the whole visit all awkward.

On Monday, I woke up to find out we’re going to a baseball game. Granted, it was a minor league game between the Great Lakes Loons and Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, but hey, it’s better than nothing. I haven’t gone to a sporting event since the TrailBlazers played years ago, but I forgot how much crowd interaction there is between innings. T-shirts, mini games on the field for small prizes (one was a boxing game with massively huge gloves, set to the movie theme of MORTAL KOMBAT! That amused the hell out of me), even people getting free bratwurst and such. I might have to visit more sporting events like that, it was kinda fun.

Tuesday was more family visiting, and such. Not much more I can say there, except we tried to find a family’s lake house since one of the uncles offered us a chance to visit it. We ended up missing the first turn it was on. When we got there, we find out he wasn’t even there! We met with them at their place, and I finally got to access the internet from their laptop for the first time. I had like a dozen emails.

On Wednesday, however, we got to see a lake house nearby Lily Lake, near Wausau, WI. It’s a really nice place despite a musty smell due to someone thinking putting plywood on wet concrete was a good idea. My dad has considered staying up there for a few days if we go next year. I wouldn’t mind, really.

On our way back, we stopped by the Potawatomi Casino down near Wausau, WI. After we ate there, we decided to do some gambling. Paulie, the guy who took us to see the Lake House, got a little money, while dad and I ate through $100 through slot machines. After that, dad made a comment that people lose money just as fast as we just did, and I decided to give this Joker’s Wild slot machine a chance, this time with my own money. It was a penny machine, and by penny machine we mean “It costs 40 cents for one pull.” I had to continually put in dollar bills because I’d have insufficient credits needed to spin. But after I decided to risk a 160 credit spin, I got three jokers and a wild on the slots. Thus began my climb into snagging some bonus cash. A bonus that’s like Beat the Devil from the TV show started playing. Every time I hit credits, I got closer to hitting a bonus threshold. I eventually got to the bronze level, and once a devil came up, the bonus stopped. I then looked at my credits: $43.80. I had made $40 out of $3, proving my dad wrong. After one botched $2 spin, I cashed out, $41 richer. Gambling is fun and fascinating, but only when you win.

On the last day of the trip, Thursday, we saw some family members for the last time. We got to have a nice lunch at one of the families we met on Saturday, which consisted of many corn-on-the-cobs and one sloppy joe. Which I found out are also called “Spanish Hamburgers.” News to me. Other than that, not much happened on the last day.

On Friday, we packed up ready to go. We first stopped at a nearby coffee shop were some of the family members resided, and everybody but me had a few cups of coffee and such. Eventually we had to make a slight dash to the airport, and then we had one of the worst airline experiences I’ve seen. Keep in mind I can easily recall the last times I’ve flown somewhere in reverse chronological order: PAX 2009, meeting with my dying Grandma in 2008, going to Vegas that same year, and before that was probably Disneyland and Vegas in 1996.

First, the airline (Frontier, for anybody who’s curious) was going through a merger with Midwest, and also had their computers down. It took them about half an hour to decide that they were going to handwrite the passes instead.

Second, We then went through TSA security and found out my snow globe (from a Rattlers game my aunt didn’t go to) and a tube of toothpaste couldn’t go into the carry-on, thus resulting in me rushing to the front desk, and getting them in the other bags. The line was STILL backed up, longer than any other airline there, plus I was in a panic because I thought the plane was gonna take off in twenty minutes. Then I was told that the plane was delayed, which caused my panic to immediately dissipate. After the delay, we eventually got proper boarding passes for the GRB to DEN flight.

Third, since it was delayed, we got into DEN a little later than usual. The tanned woman who was our stewardess on the flight said that the Portland gate was “two gates away” when we were at gate 50 (It wasn’t, it was at gate 32), and that we actually MISSED the flight to Portland due to the delayed flight. My dad was furious, he complained to customer service and thankfully got us on the next flight to Portland, but since it was at-the-last-moment, all three of us were spread out on different seats. Other than my PSP’s battery being on the brink of death, the flight back was problem-free.

Regardless, I think this story gave us two lessons: Don’t book your airline tickets at “Cheapoair.com,” and don’t fly Frontier Airlines. We didn’t even get anything like free TV out of the deal for the changed flight arrangements and putting us through trouble of being briefly stuck in Denver. I think that if we miss a connecting flight due to some problem on your end, we should be compensated as such.

Even with that last speed bump, I’d have to actually say that the trip was a fun one. I wouldn’t mind going next year. Dad said he wanted to drive to Green Bay and see the Packers Hall of Fame, visit a few other locations, hell, we were even considering driving to Minnesota to see the Mall of America! This was before dad realized that all the family visits would take up the week’s time. Maybe next year.

Games Journalism: More of an oxymoron than an actual profession.

So, I was directed to a Tumblr blog that my friend Blaze mentioned in one of his tweets a few months back. The blog was called “Game Journalists are Incompetent Fuckwits.” Game Journalists are Incompetent Fuckwits, GJAIF for short, consisted of Ben Paddon pointing out the crappy fact-checking, misspellings, and non-news reporting of various game sites and blogs. He did this regularly for about three months. Unfortunately, he recently left a blog entry saying that it was draining him and decided to stop. I was saddened, as I felt it was the end of an era. (EDIT: He decided to go back to writing GJAIF, but has more guest editors on the blog now.) This entire blog is something I loved and appreciated, because let’s face it: modern games journalism sucks and has been sucking for years now.

A common target on GJAIF was Gawker Media site Kotaku, dubbed “The Gamer’s Guide.” I really don’t like Kotaku, mostly because of their constant failure to fact-check; but I also don’t like them because they would post dumb images or videos of items BARELY related to video games, like some sort of piece that has to do with physics. But Paddon showed me something I had not noticed of Kotaku, especially of long-standing writer Brian Ashcraft: He’s a goddamn pervert. A good chunk of his blogs have him posting scantily clad Asian women that barely apply to his article for the sake of getting page views. This is not hyperbole: Look at his articles and count how many articles you see with random girls (usually Asian ones) that have little to do with the article’s subject matter. It kind of sickens me.

Even with Ashcraft and Brian Crecente’s seniority of making piss-poor writing, the current staff isn’t better; especially when they post articles of things that only remotely resemble video games. They also have Tim Rogers writing articles for the site, a writer I hate. I seriously believe Rogers thinks his novella-length articles are worth reading, because all his articles are nothing but babbling on about something he was doing on a Japanese train before he picked up the newest Final Fantasy game or something. (On a side note, I can understand that those type of articles COULD work as an interesting piece, but it would have to be from an outsider’s perspective, or an unusual occurrence. Virtually all of Rogers’s articles are almost like daily musings of what he does or thinks about, something that’s more suitable for a personal blog than for Kotaku.)

I used to have a MS Word file on my computer a chronicling of dumb Kotaku articles from around 2006-2007 called “Kotaku is Full of Shit” (or KiFoS), a reference to an old game show community I used to frequent who used a similar acronym for one of its members. Some of the articles were by Ashcraft as well as former Kotaku writer, John “Florian Eckhardt” Brownlee. What really pissed me off about Brownlee (or Eckhardt or whatever the hell he goes by) is this article from 2006 where he said the following:

If she was a real girl gamer, she’d have a 36 inch plasma screen balanced on the top of her head, thus allowing me to fulfill both of my life’s primary functions simultaneously.

What floored me is not only how sexist that particular comment is, that HE STILL HAD HIS JOB THERE AFTER THAT ARTICLE. If I was Brian Crecente, I would’ve kicked his ass to the curb faster than you could say uncle. Even though I’m a guy, I find objectifying women even in jest absolutely disgusting.

My dislike for modern games journalism doesn’t end at Kotaku. Destructoid, a site I browse daily to get away from the mediocrity of Kotaku, also has its fair share of bad writers. A good example is Jim Sterling. His reviews on games are something I don’t care about (though him giving Deadly Premonition a 10 was kind of funny in a “take THAT, games writers!” sort of way), but rather when he thinks it’s funny to write “joke articles” like these. “HERP DERP”? How does shit like this be deemed worthy to be posted on the site?! I don’t even care if it’s meant to be a joke, this is crap that lazy editors do when they are trying to get fired! And he makes a living out of making crappy articles like these!

Seeing articles like these on Kotaku and Destructoid, from the “HERP DERP” sense of humor, to the constant ignorance and laziness, makes me want to stand up and do this (Complete with crappy Ed Asner impression):

I’m not saying games writing has to be all serious all the time, I’ve seen professional news and blog websites have their occasional fun articles. But in this day and age, because of these “junk articles” being the norm over something interesting and substantial, most gamers tend to ignore game sites because of the overall quality of the writing. To put into the words of an average forum user: “lol games journalism.” Sites like Kotaku and Destructoid exacerbate the problem more than help it. For a while, I’ve been thinking of a guideline for games journalism, some of these I took from my second Destructoid community blog. I’m not saying that these should be followed to the letter, but a good 60% of the articles posted on game blogs today would be outright eliminated or truncated if they followed at least one or two of these guidelines:

  1. Found a rumor about some game or development? Don’t post it. Most idiot kids from a fan message board make up dumb rumors all the time and it spreads all over the web like a virus. Some rumors can become true, but this is almost as bad as posting that some actor will be playing Spider-Man in the new Spider-Man movie. It’s almost gossip fodder.
  2. Found a post about some developer saying how awesome their stuff is, in a way that resembles corporate dick-waving? Definitely don’t post it! Leave it to NeoGAF posters so they can have a 50 page console wars thread that leads to massive user bans, not something you slap on your blog site to get hits. (This also applies to game developers trash-talking business executives, like Robert “fourzerotwo” Bowling calling Activision executive Noah Heller a “Super-Senior Douche” back in 2008; or in more recent news, Tim Schafer of Double Fine insulting Activision CEO Bobby Kotick.)
  3. Want to post updates on a game, such as a patch? Don’t post it. Unless it fixes a severe bug that was causing game problems for many, it’s easier for people to just read the patch notes on the game’s website.
  4. Thinking of posting that report that some publisher will announce some game some time in the near future? Don’t post it! It’s a waste of your time and precious resources!
  5. Thinking of posting a game announcement with barely three sentences of text and reposting the entire press release as a literal copy-and-paste? Don’t post it unless normal people can’t read the press release from the company’s site! Paddon particularly derided people for doing this, and I agree with him on how he thought it was useless fluff.
  6. Found some stupid thing off the internet that shows something in real life that resembles something from a video game, like tiles shaped like Tetris blocks? Don’t fucking post it! Leave it to 4chan’s /v/ for silly troll posts. The only exception is when some artist does something in the vein of I am 8-bit, and even that’s barely blog-worthy.
  7. Think you’re funny by poking fun at console wars or a similar subject? You’re not. Leave the snark at home. This irritates me the most about games writers, they think “being funny” is that sarcastic wisecracking jerk at a party that people tend to ignore after a short while. It’s not funny, and it makes you look like a pompous jackass. Quit it.
  8. Found something interesting tech and science-wise, and you are part of a blog network with specific blogs catered to certain subject matter? Post it on those respective blog sites, not a site you call “the gamer’s guide.” Funny, Paddon had questioned whether or not Kotaku was even “the gamer’s guide” anymore after posting many blogs about scientific things that had nothing to do with games, in which one of Kotaku’s writers said that it isn’t a guideline for everything to be gaming-related. Personally, I don’t care much for science-related articles that much, and I’d rather have somebody post a twitter link about that stuff than waste time writing a summary of an article that has nothing to do with my site’s overall goal.

Now you’re probably asking: “Is there good games journalism?” Well, yes. Gamasutra and Game Set Watch are sites I totally recommend if you want smart, interesting writing on video games. Granted, I tend to gloss over the articles when they’re on my RSS feed; but sometimes there’s that one article I really get interested in, and I cannot help but read it.

Maybe I’m just a jaded, bitter, cynical writer who bemoans at the current state of games writing. I get worried every day that the quality of games writing will dip, and “good games journalism” will be an oxymoron. People are looking more towards the TMZ and E! style of games journalism, instead of looking for a pseudo-intellectual New York Times style of games journalism. Granted, both are two different styles of writing, and they can co-exist; but you need more of the latter style of writing than you do of the former. Otherwise games writing is about as credible as the Weekly World News. You know something is wrong when Something Awful mocks Kotaku for all the right reasons.

(EDIT 7/25: Did some considerable editing to the blog for grammar check and clarification.)