Gaming Grandma

Once upon a time, kids played innocent video games that had, as their selling point, learning and teachable moments embedded in the fun.  LeapFrog was one of these; a creative, book-oriented electronic game whose only purpose was to teach our kids how to count, how to read, and how to sing very annoying songs. My kids were no exception.  We leaped with the best frogs.

Next came computer games, like Club Penguin, Toontown, and Jumpstart.  These were adorable games where the kids learned to chat in controlled phrases, and they began to experience their first taste of competition.  The next logical step was Pokémon and Naruto, where competition, chatting, and teamwork became part of everyday life.

From there, my kids jumped into League of Legends, where the sole purpose of the game was to annihilate other players.  Yay, progress.

When my son was living at home, I would hear the muffled thuds, the not-so-muffled thuds, the cursing, the banging, and occasionally the overturned chair coming from the sanctity of his room.  I wondered, but no way was I going into a teenage boy’s room alone; God only knows what science projects he had brewing under his bed or in his dirty laundry hamper.   It was hard to tell if he needed a new hobby, more practice, or better friends.  My daughter wasn’t much better, only her game frustrations were much quieter and spilled out to the dinner table in the form of dirty looks and grumbling.

I went through the usual parental worrying.  Do they spend too much time online?  Are they secretly chatting with some 60-year-old pervert in a pink tutu in this multi-player game?  Do they need to get out and socialize with the real world?  And most importantly, will they end up living in my basement into their forties?

Obviously, my kids got their video chops from their cool mom, right?  Yeah, not so much.  I don’t like video games, they make me anxious and I get stressed when I play.  I blame Milton Bradley’s Perfection. While not a video game, it was a battery-operated panic attack. Besides, life is like a video game, with adventures to be found at the grocery store, the freeway, and, occasionally, the kitchen when I try a new recipe.

So, if not me, where did they get this video game aptitude from?  Well, look one generation back, and there it is.  Thanks, mom.

Oh yes, you read that right.  My mom, sweetest lady, butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, the picture of innocence.  My mom was a pro gamer before gaming was cool.

First it was Atari. That was too easy for her. Asteroids, tennis, and pong?   It was like shooting fish in a barrel for my mother. Come to think of it, she had that game too.

The next level of her addiction came with new heroes, courtesy of Sega Genesis.  Round, prickly ones named Sonic.  Sonic ushered in some of his closest friends, including Zelda, who rode in on the wave that was Super Nintendo.  The original Zelda, thank you very much. Kids think they know Zelda, but you’ve never played Zelda until you’ve played it on the original gaming platform, in full glorious side-scrolling wonder with its tinny music and recycled backgrounds.

Then, hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen … along came Mario Brothers.  My mother immediately forgot everything else in the world as she threw herself into mastering this game.  My family frequently went without eating for days at a time, no clean clothes, up to our ankles in our own game, “Chase the Dust Bunnies.”

Of course, that’s not true, but she was completely obsessed with the game.  I still remember when she hit the high score or won the game, whichever the goal was.  She left the game on the entire day as proof and if I recall correctly, she took a picture of the tv screen for good measure because she was afraid no one would believe her. I like to think that the birth of my brother and me were the happiest days of her life, but I tell you, I’m not so sure.

Once she conquered the world of supersonic mammals, Italian plumbers, and valiant quests, she went for a more maternal distraction because, apparently, a real family wasn’t enough stress. She went full on geek and got herself a Tamagotchi critter, which I think was a dog.  She even took it camping and on vacation, so it wouldn’t die.  I have no idea how long it survived, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was years. Hell, she may still have it in a closet somewhere, secretly feeding it and dutifully cleaning up its little digital poops.

I often wonder, does my complete inability to play video games reflect poorly on her?  Or did her gaming ability soar straight through my DNA without passing GO and hit my kids squarely in the controllers, picking up power as it went?  If that’s the case, then my great-grandchildren will be amazingly gifted… prodigies even.

As for me, I’m still playing the fun video game, “set my car clock for daylight savings time.”  It’s been going on for days now. Fall back indeed. Just what the hell did I do with that owner’s manual?

Feeling Targeted

I know my poor Netflix has identity issues when it comes to interpreting my viewing habits and bouncing suggestions back to me on a daily basis.  Spotify has the same problem … classic rock, country, Disney movie soundtracks, and new artists all combine to thoroughly confuse whatever algorithm is in place to ensure relevant offerings are featured in the “recommended for you” listings.

Now, apparently, whoever is in charge of filtering advertisements on the social media sites I visit, based on my internet history, is having an interesting time of it as well.

And quite frankly, I’m torn. Even if I had the money to purchase one of these items … I’m just not sure which one I would choose.

Not Married, But Attached

I know I’ve written many times before about the weird and wild world of online dating. I’ve written about the “stranger danger” Spidey sense that hits when you decide to meet a stranger in person for the first time. I’ve written about the unflattering photos of men way past their prime flaunting their topless torsos when they really shouldn’t be (in fact, no one should be). I thought I’d seen everything. I thought there was nothing else shocking left. Oh, how utterly naïve of me. The Internet has come through, yet again, and shown me that just when I think I’ve seen it all, there’s another new whacked-out layer to discover.

We all pretty much know the basics of how online dating works, right? You write some things about yourself. You post some of your best pictures. You scroll through other people’s profiles. You swap emails. If you find someone you get along with, you meet and see where it goes from there. Pretty simple.

Recently, I was going through the motions. I was scrolling through the available men out there. I saw a man who seemed to be not a serial killer and decided to check him out. His profile was pretty normal (which is not the case a shockingly high number of times), so I move to the pictures. Picture #1, fine. Picture #2, fine. Then I get to picture #3. It’s a photo of him, at his wedding, feeding cake to his bride. There are plenty of couples who have profiles looking for a third person to add to the relationship. It’s not really for me – I don’t play well with others — but I have no problem with that. To each their own, I say. Every relationship is different. I just didn’t remember reading anything in this guy’s profile saying he and his wife were looking for someone.

So, I read his profile again.

It becomes very clear to me after another read-through that this guy is NOT married. At all. He is definitely single, as in divorced. The woman in that picture is his ex-wife. That’s when the bizarreness hit a whole new level. He actually posted a picture from his wedding—probably the happiest day of his life at that point—to a DATING SITE! I know it’s good to provide pictures showing that you know how to have fun, and yes, it sure looks like he’s having a friggin’ blast, but why in the world did he think it was a good idea to use a friggin’ wedding photo to attract other women??? Is it to prove his lack of a fear of commitment? To show he cleans up well in a tux? I almost messaged him just to ask if he could guide me through his thought process when he was choosing pictures to use…I mean, I’m really curious.

Maybe, just maybe, in his warped perception of determining what women want, he thinks that by showing that he has the ability to commit and look good in a tux, he’ll seem more desirable. If that’s the case he is sorely mistaken. All it shows me is that he is clearly still attached to his ex. Or, has no sense. Either way, it’s a no go.

I didn’t think this was something I would ever have to advise, but as a general rule of online dating, whether male or female, I don’t care how great the lighting was or how flattering the pose, DON’T use pictures from a time you legally bound your life to another person. Guess what…it’s a turn off.  I can’t be alone in this way of thinking, right?

My Future Explained

The movie Far and Away, starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, is one of my favorite movies. Yeah, yeah, it’s a love story and I like that aspect okay, but in the context of this entry, I like the lead character Shannon’s feisty attitude.

Here’s some of the dialogue I liked best from the movie:

Coniff (a fellow worker to other workers): I think the prettiest girl in this factory, the one with the prettiest eyes, and the prettiest red hair, is Joseph’s sister – if you don’t mind me saying so Joseph.

Joseph Donnelly: Well, ya can say what you like lad. But I warn ya, that redhead has a bite that stings.

Flynn/Boss: [to Shannon] Get to work!

Shannon: Get your filthy hands off me you ugly animal!

Flynn: That’ll cost you a day’s wage. Go ahead. Insult me again. 

Shannon: [somewhat quiet but determined, like she can’t keep it inside] Pig.

Flynn: There goes tomorrow. Done?

Now at this point, Shannon really should stop. She needs the money, and from a strictly monetary standpoint, she really can’t afford to lose another day’s wages. But, it was like she couldn’t contain herself.  She just has to say something.

Shannon: [looks over to Joseph, who gestures “No!” she returns to work, but then spins around] Take Friday as well, you spineless little fraction of a man.

Joseph Donnelly: [laughs and smiles]  Bite, lads. Bite.

While of course it helps to have the looks of Nicole Kidman, it’s not necessarily a prerequisite for a smart-ass mouth.

I made a blog entry recently where I pointed out that I would most likely meet my fate through employing sarcasm or smart-assery at the wrong time. You may remember it. Thinking about it today, I have to say that it’s likely true. I’m actually surprised it hasn’t happened before now. After all it’s not like this is a new, emerging talent…

Even now, I often cannot help myself from having the last word, or at least a word, with the totally clueless people I come across in my daily life.  Of course I don’t mean people who are just unaware or those who maybe are just having a bad day (don’t we all have those!) or anything like that. I mean the truly senseless people of the world that are often hard to take.  I seem to encounter them every single day. I don’t know how that’s possible, frankly, it just seems to be my karma. Lucky me.

Of course Facebook is the worst. Well, that’s the anonymity of the internet for you. People reveal their true selves – or just talk tough – because they know they’ll never meet the people they’re being rude to, or the gender they’re dismissing, or the people they’re being condescending to.

It can’t be just me, right?  I’m sure everyone encounters these yahoos and deals with them in their own way…

For me, it is soooo difficult to just let it go.  You know – you just know – that responding to stupidity on Facebook will get you nowhere because no-one (well, virtually no-one) is interested in the truth, they just want to hear themselves talk, or rather, type, and really only want to sow the seeds of dissent.  You can’t really do much with people like that. Nonetheless it’s hard to hold back the “WTF is wrong with you!?” comments.  At least for me.  That’s nothing though – that’s just an ongoing frustration.

Where the real fear of my Grand Demise lies is in answering someone’s goofball question honestly (without running it through the “safety filter” first) or perhaps coming out with (what I think) is a comedic retort to a rude comment made by a person who just doesn’t find me funny (or as cute as Nicole Kidman).

Now, I do have some control. It’s not like I go throughout my day willy-nilly saying rude things to people who deserve a few choice words, whenever and wherever I want. But it’s damn hard, I can tell you that.

My tongue hurts by the end of the day, I kid you not.

What kind of people come into my life, you’re asking yourself.

And is it just me, I ask myself?

I meet them at parties, in restaurants, on the street, in a store – people who are blatantly rude, gender-biased, intolerant, condescending…they run the gamut. Sometimes they just come up with incredibly silly observations that deserve equally silly answers (à la Bill Engvall) and, for better or worse, it seems like my mind is always on fast forward in that regard.

I’ve gotten really good at making the smart-ass comments in my head and letting the “real,” more appropriate, comments come out of my mouth.  But there are times I feel as if I must surely look like a fish gasping for breath.

You know the fish face thing – you want to say something, but you’re so dumbfounded by the person in front of you that you lack the appropriate response, or else you’re trying desperately to contain a not so appropriate response, so your mouth opens and closes like a fish gasping for air as you mentally tell yourself, “Don’t say it, don’t say it. For God’s sake, don’t say it!”

That’s what I look like (or what I imagine I look like) when I’m mentally searching for some innocuous words to use instead of the ones I WANT to use.

I have to say, sometimes I feel like I hesitate for so long prior to saying something (from sheer shock at the stupidity of what the person has done or said) that we’ve skipped into another time zone.

The thing is…you can’t fix stupid. And while a very apropos remark might make me feel better at the time, the sad thing is, I think it would go totally over the heads of most of the people I’d be directing it to. And if they do understand it (with no explanations necessary) that’s when their anger might just kick in, and rather than pushing these folks toward an epiphany, it might just lead to them pushing me under a bus.

And then it’s helloooo afterlife…

 

“I’ve been accused of bein’ a lot of things…

inarticulate ain’t one of ’em.” 

Boyd Crowder

Internet Ease

The debate will never end on the pros and cons of the convenience given to us by the Internet. The world is literally at our fingertips, able to give us answers in a microsecond to some of the most absurd questions you could ever think of. (Who was the assistant manager of the Cincinnati Reds in 1974? What’s the name of that hunky news anchor in Plano, Texas I saw on Anderson Cooper 360? When were China’s terracotta soldiers discovered and which Emperor built them? What is this thing growing in between my toes? What did Ryan Reynolds look like in high school? How many buttons does it take to button a two button suit?) It never ends. It’s all right there laid out in front of you.

That makes life SO easy in so many ways. I can’t imagine what it used to be like when letters had to be put on horses and galloped across the country. Or sending a telegraph hoping it would be delivered on time. I can get a message to China in under a minute now.

Here’s one of the numerous buzz-kills I’ve been struggling with. With all of this information so ready for consumption there’s really nothing that can be hidden from the public eye for very long any more. If anything is even marginally important or an event will be attended by more than 20 people, there’ll probably be grainy pics from a spy cam on the web well in advance.

Of course this affects me directly when I think of movies (mostly Marvel Comics and the like). Back in the day when a great movie came out everyone was absolutely thrilled after its release. We’d memorize all the lines, act out the scenes, put ourselves in the shoes of the heroines and swoon over the heroes (or vice versa depending on who’s reading this). We all would hope for a sequel but we wouldn’t find out about it until pretty shortly before it was actually released. So what did we do after the movie left theaters? We moved on. We found another great movie. That was back then in the PI (Pre-Internet) Age.

Now, what do we do? We want a sequel so we read posts on comment forums about “a source” that says that the studio is definitely thinking about doing a sequel or the writer was quoted as saying at a Comic-Con in San Diego that he has ideas on where the story would go if there is a sequel. And that’s enough to fuel us for months.

Then, when a sequel is actually being filmed there’s the inevitable roll out of unauthorized pictures, authorized pictures, Tweets from the director, teaser trailers, and the list goes on. There are already pictures leaking from the set of Avengers 2 and that’s not coming out for another year.

Hell, Marvel executives have already publicly stated that they have a plan for how they want to shape the Marvel Cinematic Universe up to 2028. 2028! They’re planning movies up to 14 years in the future…and letting us know about them too so we now have years to watch the clock ticking by ever sooo slowly as we await a release date so far in the future we’ll probably have new jobs, new hairdos, new cars, and new kids by the time it actually comes out.

Is it torture to have all this knowledge? The old saying goes that patience is a virtue but I tend to just find it to be a pain in the ass. Then again, the assurance that there is something great to look forward to does make each morning just a little bit brighter. Oh, Internet, how you fool with my heart!

Mature Professional Man

What can I say about the world of dating? Times they are a-changing. Whilst perusing the often hysterically funny Craigslist advertisements one day, an ad featuring the headline ‘Mature Professional Man’ grabbed my attention. I clicked on the ad, you know, just curious, hoping not to find my husband using this online name. I suppose I expected a well-dressed middle-aged man in a suit, perhaps with golf clubs in hand, ready to take his date to a ritzy country club. Perhaps a rugged hiker with a twinkle in his eye kneeling down next to his golden retriever puppy or, god forbid, a photo of him standing next to the business he started from the ground up.

Click — it is a picture of his penis. Not sure what it says about me, but I was instantly taken back to a Seinfeld episode with Elaine declaring: “He. Took. It. Out.”

Mature? Professional? Well, maybe he’s a professional (although a professional what I don’t know), but he’s certainly not mature. What made it even worse (or funnier depending on your viewpoint) is it was a serious ad. There was no “Ah-ha, gotcha!” moment. This man was genuinely earnest in his quest for a suitable mate. And all the while you’re reading about his more mundane and appropriate attributes, you’re faced with an up close view of his penis. I mean, I suppose he thought it was important.

I guess that old book from years ago entitled “Everything Men Know About Women” featuring entirely blank pages is spot on: Men do not know what women want. It’s definitely not a close up shot of your bait and tackle. I thought this was something that could go without saying but I guess in this day and age a woman has to specifically mention things like this. Do men really believe that all of us women are sex-crazed nymphomaniacs obsessed with viewing grainy, blurry pictures of men’s packages?

woman screaming

just so we’re clear, here is the typical reaction you get

To my knowledge, there has never been a romance novel written where a woman saw a picture of a man’s penis and instantly fell in love and knew that was the man she just had to marry. Sorry guys, but most women seeking a romantic encounter and perhaps even a long-term relationship with someone they meet online, a photograph of his penis is not the first thing they want to see. A picture of his bank account maybe…. You failed, MPM.

So Mature Professional Man, let me make this easy for you (it’s okay to take notes):  1) Women want men who treat them well. This should be a no-brainer but after MPM messed everything up I can’t make any assumptions about what guys understand. 2) Women want chivalrous and smart men. 3) Maybe most important for those of you wondering why your online dating career hasn’t taken off yet; Any woman worth dating is not going to send you a message because you have a nice penis. But then again, what Mature Professional Man worth dating puts an ad like this on Craigslist?

Call me old-fashioned. Who knows, maybe I’m wrong (wouldn’t be the first time). Perhaps one day we will live in a society where women choose their lifelong companions based on penis shapes and dimensions. It may become trendy for women to carry specialized tape measures with them. When they meet a nice man they can use it to say, “Sorry, but before we go any farther I’m going to need to measure you.” and reaches into his zipper without anyone on the street paying any mind at all. Just another girl-meets-boy encounter. These tape measures could be carried on the hip in a fashion-accessorized, blinged-out holster and have voice notifications and alert ringtones made by Nokia or Samsung.

Surely this is not the most outrageous prediction one could make about the future of society. There have been worse prophesies. And worse inventions. Watch, I just gave someone an excellent idea and years from now I’ll be kicking myself for not patenting the damn thing.

Many so-called reality TV shows have already started down this road. Shows such as Millionaire Matchmaker, The Cougar, Momma’s Boys, Temptation Island, The Bachelor, and The Bachelorette illustrate how real-life romance isn’t cutting it anymore. Romance, it seems, has been unseated and replaced by more base and dubious motives, most of which are far removed from the traditional concept of love. Society is clamoring for more drama, more sex, more prizes, more to win, and more to lose if it doesn’t work out. Romance is turning into a competition not an act of love. While these TV shows might be moderately amusing, they portray a perverted view of “reality” as far removed from real reality as Barbara Walter’s ego is.

Okay, I’ve got a fantastic, sure-fire hot property, and I’m pitching it to the network honchos first thing Monday morning: Get ready for the newest, hottest, dating drama coming this fall! Get heated up and tune in for (wait for it) … Penis Wars! — Ladies, get your fashion-accessorized tape measures ready, because there’s sure to be some amazing things to measure here on Penis Wars! Sound absurd?

Well, who could have predicted that Naked and Afraid would ever see the light of day? Wait a second … Did you say ‘naked’? As in naked nudity? Oh, right. Nudity sells itself. It was Hogan’s Heroes and F-Troop I was thinking of that would have been hard sells to the network brass.

Listen up, guys — and you especially, MPM — if you take away nothing else from this entry you will still have been served well by heeding this one piece of advice: Stop posting pictures of your penis! Present yourself with a little bit of class. Dust off what remains of the etiquette your mothers taught you and flaunt for us (just to be totally clear, not your penises). We want to see that indomitable, innate charm rise to the surface. There’s no woman out there that will look at your profile and turn her head in disgust because you showed her your chivalrous behavior. Show your junk and you run that risk more times that you would like to think. So, just be a gentleman. I know you can do it. Oh, a nice shirt and tie doesn’t hurt either!