Thursday, July 02, 2009

Broken Dreams Barbie

My sister-in-law just unearthed some of her old toys that have been in hiding for 20-some years. A couple nights ago, she was showing us these toys in a trip down memory lane. One of them is a little ballerina doll that spins around when you push down a plunger that comes out of her head (yes, a little odd, but it's a toy). Unfortunately, one of her legs (the one on which she's supposed to twirl) hyperextends at the knee. This is hilarious to me. I imagine the doll having little phrases, such as "Oh, my leg! I'll never dance again!" "The pain is unbearable!" and "I don't have health insurance!"


Heidi and I have expanded this admittedly morbid joke to a line of dolls (Barbie is a good placeholder, but it could be a different line of toys) called the Broken Dreams Barbie line. Each would have its own playset, which would hook into the Boulevard of Broken Dreams playset (which comes with a "Street Corner"). Some of the dolls are a little too sick/mean/dirty for me to post here, but I'll give you a few ideas:

-"Ex-Child Actor Barbie" with McDonald's playset
-"Philosophy Major Barbie" with Telemarketing Call Center playset
-"Homeless Barbie" complete with 3-wheeled shopping cart (naturally, she wouldn't have a playset)
-"Pimp Ken" (who has the obvious counterpart that we're not going to discuss here)

There are numerous others that we're thinking of, but since many people who read this don't get my sense of humor sometimes, it's better to let this stand as is. Although this has become a common topic of conversation over the dinner table at Chez Fisher. Maybe we'll actually get these into production in time to traumatize Nola!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Obligatory New Father Post

On Tuesday, April 14th at 3:54pm, Nola Mercy En-Ai Fisher was born. She was 6 lbs 2 oz and 21 inches. I have participated in the creation of another human being. Holy Crap.

I've heard numerous new fathers talking about how life-changing an experience, how unutterably wonderful it is, and I never understood it. I'm still getting there. When huge, monstrous events happen that have such intense amounts of emotion tied to them, I tend to process the information for many days (or weeks). I'm still processing, I think. Only just today have I been able to hold her and think of her in any way beyond just intellectual acknowledgement that she is actually my daughter. But I'm still chugging through the huge emotional impact. Over the past few days I noticed that when I'm not there, I couldn't wait to hear her plaintive little whiny cry/whimper again. Now (and I doubt this is going to last), crying is not an annoyance to me, but rather a signal of life. For the first time in my life, I've started singing little spontaneous songs as I'm holding her. I've also noticed that I'm much more open and accepting of other people, as if the world is a better place.

Let me tell you how everything happened:
I had been up too late, playing a free trial of Age of Conan (which I recommend, by the way), so I got up a bit late that morning. As such, I was rushing around to get myself ready in time for work. Heidi had gone to the bathroom and taken a shower after I got done, and when she came out, she told me she thought her water might have broken. She lay down on the bed for a bit and nothing seemed out of the ordinary, so I decided to head to work. As I was walking to the bus stop, I saw the far-too-familiar sight of the bus driving by as I was two blocks away. I've gotten used to that, so I wasn't a huge deal to me. However, just before I got to the bus stop, Heidi calls me and said, "Yep, my water broke." I turned right around and headed back home as she called her doctor.

What followed next was a pretty quick labor. I should state right now that Prentice Women's Hospital is a very nice hospital in which there is one patient per delivery room and one patient per room in recovery. It's one of the few hospitals I've been in that wasn't depressing and scary. In any case, the hospital staff kept a pretty close eye on Heidi's blood pressure and the baby's heart rate during the labor. At each contraction, the baby's heart rate dipped a little bit, which is fairly common. However, at one point, the baby's heart rate dropped from it's usual 140 to the mid 50's, and didn't come back up. Immediately, there were a dozen people in the room and Heidi was rushed out to an operating room. They left me in the normal delivery room, alone and clueless. This was a pretty rough time for me. It was as if I walked off a cliff and fell into the sea, and didn't know when or if I would rise back to the surface. I called people to pray, and then sat there alone, praying on my own. After about 10 minutes, someone came in and told me that the baby's heart rate came back up and both mother and baby looked like they were doing OK. Then she left, asking me to stay where I was, and I was sitting there alone for another 20 minutes. Eventually, our nurse came into the delivery room and took me back to the OR. This wasn't something that any of the medical professionals thought of, but Heidi had asked them to go get me, as she knew I'd be panicked. I married a good woman.

When I got in the OR, Heidi was on a table, surrounded by a few doctors and nurses, who were discussing whether or not she should go back to the delivery room to finish up delivering normally. Heidi had dilated from 5 cm to 9 cm (10 cm is fully dilated) in the space of an hour, and the kid had had a hard time tolerating that. Evidently the motion of rushing her to the OR had worked it's magic, and the kid was in much better shape. They waited for two hours to see if she should go back to the delivery room and finish up. After that, the doctors realized that Heidi was not dilating any more despite some pretty intense contractions, and determined that the baby should come out via Caesarian. Since this wasn't an emergency C-Section, I was able to stay in the room with Heidi; they put a sheet up between us and the operation, so we could avoid the nastiness. Before I knew it (but what seemed like 30 years), the baby was out and shrieking her tiny little lungs out.

She tested almost perfectly on the Apgar test (a scale that measures the health of a newborn), but since she was still considered a preemie (she was 36 weeks, 6 days; 37 weeks is acceptably "full term"), they wanted to run some tests on her, and the test that measures her ability to regulate the glucose level in her blood came back a little weak. So they took her to the NICU, where she still is.

For a NICU, Prentice's is very nice. We're able to have an alcove to ourselves, and we have 24/7 visiting. They have a solid once-every-three-hours feeding schedule, which is convenient, because we know when to go down and be with her, and then at night we actually can get an adequate night's sleep. Still, Nola had to have a Dextrose IV for the first couple days of her life. she soon established her ability to maintain a good glucose level, but then the staff doctor noticed she was a little jaundiced. Jaundice is really common for Asian kids (Heidi had it much worse when she was freshly out of the oven), so this was nothing unusual, but still a bit annoying. Tomorrow, if all goes well (which the doctor is confident it will), she will be here in the room with us, as Heidi finishes up her recuperation.

So yeah, I am responisble for creating another human being. That human being is partially me. Blows my mind.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

William Chen, 1939-2008

My Father-in-law died on Sunday. The funeral was yesterday. It's been a busy week.

We originally were on a cruise to the Caribbean all week. The first couple days we had were freakin' glorious, but Sunday night we got the call, and the next day we were landing in the Dominican Republic. The ship had 24 passengers that didn't make it down in time for the launch from Miami, and instead went through Santo Domingo and took the 2 1/2 hour cab ride from the Santo Domingo airport to Samana, the port in which the ship was. We took the other way. We really felt the prayers of our friends & family on the way back, and all our flights (and the cab ride) not only left on time, but came in 20-30 minutes ahead of schedule. It was pretty cool, for being such an exhausting and difficult travel day.

The next few days were a busy time of making funeral arrangements. I never really realized how much work goes into a funeral; it's slightly more complex than a typical "party," but you're also mourning the loss of whoever it was.

I didn't know my father-in-law for a very long time; it was coming up on four years. In that time, I did realize that his motivation for the vast majority of his thoughts and actions was love. He was irascible, opinionated, and grumpy, but that was on the surface, whereas his love for God and his family was the deepest part of him. He was a brilliant, creative man, if a bit disorganized, who would frequently bite off more than he could chew, and then figure out how to finish whatever project as he went.

Heidi gets a lot of her personality from him: not so much with the grumpy aspect (and I hope that doesn't increase with age), but his stubbornness, creativity, sense of humor and attention span are hers.

I knew this was coming, but it still saddens me. For me, it's more of a regret that he won't get to meet his granddaughter (at least not for a long while), and an understanding that I'll miss him. I spent most of this week doing support work, and that will continue for months to come.

If he drank, I'd pour a forty for him. In lieu of that, I'll just say I loved him and miss him.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Little Fishie

Yes, I freely admit that I have been lax in the blogging department. My job has a super-tight internet blocking policy, and being that I work in computers, I don't spend so much time on the computer at home. Therefore, I don't write on the old blog so much anymore. Most of my latest updates are on Facebook (and it's likely that many of my friends are reading this off the facebook feed anyway). Yes, our super-tight internet block allows me to be on facebook, but doesn't allow me to hit blogger. If you can think of a rational explanation for that, I would welcome it.

In any case, for the few people who do have this on their feed (or, heaven forfend, actually visit the blog), we're adding to the population. Yes, I have spawned, and the Little Fishie is due in early May.

So, to answer the questions:
1. We don't know the gender of the kid yet.
2. Everything seems pretty normal in the ultrasounds.
3. Heidi is doing OK. She has pretty much all the standard symptoms of pregnancy, except that she has yet to actually puke.
4. Heidi has yet to experience "the quickening" (which sounds like something science fictiony, but in actuality just means when Heidi can feel the squirt moving).
5. The government has been notified, and they'll be checking into registering his/her superpowers once the election is over.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

I quietly dreaded Kung Fu Panda for quite a while. Here was a pretty clever idea, done by DreamWorks animation. DreamWorks doesn’t have a very good track record with animated movies. They typically have big-name stars voicing their movies, a weak story with lazy/sloppy writing, and then market the movies based off the star power (I remember a couple trailers of movies that did this, actually showing the stars in the recording studio instead of showing clips from the movie). Don’t get me wrong, they do make some pretty good movies, but for every Shrek, there are a couple Antz or Shrek the Third's.

And the star power they got for this show pretty much spanned the spectrum of voice talent. Jack Black, good choice. James Hong, excellent without resorting to the A-List. But Lucy Liu as a rather friendly snake? Seth Rogan as a kung fu bug? Jackie Chan doing voice work? In English?

And then there was the Kung Fu Panda licensed game demo on Xbox360. Now, movie-licensed games are typically bad games. You can’t judge a movie based on the game, but you can get some flavor of the movie. And yes, as a game, Kung Fu Panda is pretty ho-hum. Except for the intro. The intro pulled straight from the movie. The movie that instilled more joy in me and pulled more laughter out of me than any movie I’ve seen this year.

Yes, Kung Fu Panda is freakin’ wonderful. I don’t really know where to start. The writing was probably the best part. As Pixar demonstrates over and over again, you have to start with a good script before you make a good movie. The script here has a good, if formulaic story, and the “believe in yourself” message is a bit heavy-handed (although I personally think that this message is one that bears multiple repetitions), but the dialogue is snappy and witty and the story just works. And the acting both by the animators and in the voices, was excellent. The story does have The Furious Five (five “star” fighters) as supporting cast, with the aforementioned Seth Rogan, Lucy Liu, and Jackie Chan among the voices. And other than David Cross, their voices don’t add much (Angelina Jolie was the fifth, but also not that notable). But even with the weak voice acting, it’s less noticeable because the animation acting is so subtle and “real.” And, adding to the excellent animation acting, Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Ian McShane, and yes, James Hong, shine. They more than make up for the mediocre voice work of other people in the cast.

I’m a big fan of kung fu movies, and was a little concerned about how an animated film was going to handle it. Yes, with the recent trend in over-the-top action that the kung fu genre has become, animation is the way to go with it, but I was still a little concerned that the action would appear stiff and contrived. And another no. The action was really on par with most recent movies of its ilk. It’s obvious the action wasn’t choreographed by Woo-ping Yuen, but it’s still a graceful and artistic ballet of violence, one in which it’s easy to forget that the characters are animated (even despite them being animals).

I could go on, but it’s becoming a long post already. This is a must-purchase movie on my list. John’s recommendation: see it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Wikipedia Challenge

Here’s a challenge that I think is fun for no reason other than I think it is. Start at the Wikipedia homepage. Hit Random Article, and whatever comes up, try to drill down to a page for the following:
One real person (alive or dead)
One organization
One fictional person
One location
One thing related to a hobby of yours

I’ve found that in order to be fun, you need to be very specific. Instead of Computer, choose RAM or Red Hat. Instead of Beer, choose Ethanol Fermentation or Dogfish Head. Instead of Italy, choose the Piazza della Repubblica or Bolognese sauce. Being obscure can be fun, too, but it could take a while. Here’s what I chose:

Peter Gabriel
Monty Python
Rogers Park
Liberty City (the city in which GTA IV is set)

And so goes the search:

1. Brodow->Germany->European Union->United Kingdom->British Music->Genesis->Peter Gabriel

2. Cuisine of Cameroon->European Cuisine->English Cuisine->Cheese->List of Cheeses->Cheese Shop Sketch->Monty Python’s Flying Circus->Monty Python

3. Sanoodi->Wales->BBC Wales->Television->South Park->Animation->Filmation->He-Man and the Masters of the Universe->Skeletor

4. Constant Velocity Joint->1927->Repeal of Prohibition->Prohibition in the united States->Al Capone->Chicago->Neighborhoods of Chicago->Rogers Park

5. Leo Burnett Building->Chicago->List of People from Chicago->Robin Williams->Video Game->Video Game Controversy->Grand Theft Auto Series->Liberty City

Don’t bother with the searches that don’t bear fruit (these last two were really difficult, with me abandoning nearly a dozen searches total), just the ones that lead to your goal. And if you don’t do all five, no worries, just do what works for you (although I did have a lot of fun with this).

And y’know what? I’m going to tag a few people, because I want to see their searches: Mattox, Zach, and Hunahpu. Go forth, discover, proclaim!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

And the band plays on

One might think from the title, this is a post about Rock Band. One might be incorrect in that assumption, although that post will probably come soon. This is another one about the continuing fracas surrounding Grand Theft Auto IV. It’s a long one, so read at your own peril.

Wow, this is the story that doesn’t die. It’s not the first videogame issue that’s come up, but it has been one of the most widely touted, at least in recent memory. And it’s all about protecting the children. Think of the children!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Take Two Interactive sued the CTA for breach of contract when the CTA pulled GTA IV ads. I noticed Friday that the bus stop outside the Aon building has a GTA ad. Hooray for capitalism!

The rest of this post is inspired by this article in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune. No, it’s not a paper I read regularly, but GamePolitics has been following the GTA thing extensively, and this was one of the articles they brought up. It’s a well-thought-through article, but wrong on a few points, and these are some points that have been bugging me for quite a while. And although the bulk of my regular readers have no real understanding of what I’m talking about, I’m still going to talk about it.

First, let me get this out of the way: this is a game kids should not play. Younger minds can be influenced by what they see and do, because they have yet to develop a thorough understanding of who they are, who they should be, and the difference between right and wrong. They have a less clearly defined separation between reality and fantasy. Which is why younger minds should not see R rated movies. This is why the term “adult themes” exists. And Grand Theft Auto IV, and many other quality games, are rated M, equivalent to an R rating in a movie.

But think of the children! You know they’re going to get their hands on it! Ask any 15 year old boy about whether his parents are the gatekeepers of their children’s play! And to that I agree, to some extent. In actuality, underage buyers of M-rated videogames have about a 20% success rate. Sounds like a lot, right? Not so much if you consider that an underage buyer can get an R-Rated DVD about 50% of the time, or get into an R-Rated movie 35% of the time. So in that sense, the videogame industry is clamping down pretty hard (at GameStop, the success rate is actually about 6%… makes me want to give them more business). And yes, parents sometime may get the game for their kids, not knowing about the content (that argument gets brought up all the time with games). Well then, I guess the parents are actually the gatekeepers of their children’s play. I could follow with a rant about good parenting, but I won’t.

But still, think of the children! They’re going to get their hands on it somehow! Think of the damage it can do to their fragile psyches! Yes, I agree, to some extent. And these children can also buy an R-Rated DVD, sneak into an R-Rated movie, look at things they shouldn’t on the internet, drink alcohol, smoke, possibly even get into drugs. I guess in the light of that, playing a videogame, even a very adult one like Grand Theft Auto IV, doesn’t seem as horrific. The idea that a game will influence them to do horrible things, when they have an almost limitless variety of other cultural influences, to say nothing of the influence of their peers, is foolish.

OK, well, think of the adults! These husbands and fathers can’t be any good if they spend their free time fantasizing about shooting hookers or running down pedestrians! And to that I agree. If someone spends their time fantasizing about these things, they have some pretty serious issues. However, not so many actually bring that away from the game. It has been my firm belief for a long time, that all of life is experienced through your own personal lenses. You bring out of any media that which is already inside you. I’ve known people who saw Star Wars, and they brought any number of things with them: some wanted to study film, others science, others music, others martial arts. Some parents refuse to let their children watch or read Harry Potter in case it influences them to get into witchcraft. That is more than a little ridiculous, and so is the concern about adults playing videogames.

I have seen myself be influenced by video games. After playing Burnout: Revenge, I find myself having to be careful while driving. After playing Katamari Damacy, I find myself influenced to clean up around the house, and thinking about what would roll up well wherever I go. I have gone to sleep and dreamt about matching gems after playing some games, and had music from other games floating through my head for days after. And I play Grand Theft Auto. In the game, I have driven a bus the wrong way down an expressway, plowing down cars as I see fit. I have stolen cars, mugged people, driven through crowded pedestrian areas, have gotten falling-down drunk (and once tried to drive that way… boy that didn’t last long), driven off "stunt ramps" so my car could fly dozens of yards, and done donuts on a baseball diamond and a beach. Am I influenced to do anything I have tried in game? No. Why? Because it is so far removed from who I am in real life that it's not a draw. At all. It is a game, not one in which I'm acting out my violent fantasies, but one in which I'm either trying to accomplish a goal or taking the opportunity to experiment and explore. And that right there is the kicker: games are blamed for corrupting people (much in the same way movies and television and comic books and rock & roll and cartoons and alcohol have in the past), while the truth is people don't need the help. Videogames have been blamed for the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings. Some tried to pin the blame on games for the NIU shooting before any evidence was in, and it turned out that the guy hadn’t played a game for years. It is my belief that these people were seriously messed up to begin with, and would have gotten the desire to kill others and themselves had they watched TV, played videogames, listened to music, or read the newspaper. It wasn’t in the media, it was in them.

Video games are the nation's current hysteria. It seems every decade or so, something has to be demonized. The most extreme example is prohibition in the 1930's. Alcohol was the evil “flavor of the month”, and a constitutional amendment was passed (yes, they changed the Constitution of the United States for this) declaring that this evil must be abolished from society. Fewer than ten years later, people realized how silly they were being, and repealed the amendment. Videogames have been the most recent perpetrators of evil in our culture; as they have become more mainstream they have attracted more attention, and those that don’t understand the influence fear the change, just like television, rock music, and the Internet.

Children: don’t play the game. Parents: communicate with your kids. Society: relax.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Iron Man

I had absolutely no expectations for Iron Man before it came out. I had seen the preview once or twice; since we don’t get TV, we don’t really get the media saturation that goes on for some movies. What I did know is that any superhero movie can make a spectacular trailer. Ooooo, big effects! Oooo, the superhero using his superpowers! Ooooo, cinematography! Oooooo, look at the actors! The trailer is usually spectacular, the movie, not so much. Therefore my expectations were pretty much nonexistent. I have a lot of bad superhero movies buried deep in my Netflix queue, and if I get to them in a year or two, they’ll be lucky. I was going to see what Rotten Tomatoes had to say about it, and if it was good, then I’d see it. On Wednesday, Rotten Tomatoes had it rated at 90%. On Thursday, it slipped a bit to 86%. Friday was a busy day, so I only had a few moments to see, but it went up to 95%. So I didn’t really get excited for it until Wednesday, but when I did get excited for it, I got really excited. So we saw it on Saturday morning, when the prices are cheap, and damn!

First off, this isn’t Batman Begins. Its initial reaction is definitely positive, but not as much for the fancy action or climactic battle. What really sticks with me is that it’s actually a good character piece, particularly strong considering it’s a flashy superhero movie. I’m not saying it’s Citizen Kane, but we see Robert Downey Jr (who’s a really good actor, despite his checkered personal life) developing from a playboy, care-free, self-centered genius, to someone who recognizes value in people after an attack, capture, and subsequent escape from Afghan terrorists. There are believable human moments, and moments of real, but not forced or excessive, comedy (which is something that isn’t in enough superhero movies). The action is nice and fancy, but nothing special. I like the power armor concept, and am kind of surprised that I never got into Iron Man when I wore a younger man’s clothes, so I was able to overlook the fact that some of the action really isn’t all that exciting (please note that I did say “some”). The climactic battle at the end is actually a little awkward, but I was able to give in to the moment and accept it. But what made the movie for me, what makes me want to see it again, what makes me want to own the DVD, is the fact that I really like how Tony Stark is played, and I really like who he becomes, and I really like the relationships that develop.

John’s recommendation: see it.

Friday, May 02, 2008


Evidently, I plan to steal, kill, and destroy. I contribute to the end of all that is good and holy for our children. Look upon me, for I am the face of moral decline. I purchased Grand Theft Auto IV.

There has been a media circus regarding the release of this game. Admittedly, I follow news like this, but it seems that every day someone else (or several someone elses) have to put their two cents in about theage of darkness that will be ushered in by this game. One would think that the cover of this game is a little gate to hell, and opening it will unleash such evil that the western world will dissolve into anarchy.

This game has been called a murder simulator, a cop-killing trainingdevice, and pornography. And it’s a game. One that is played while sitting on the couch, looking at a TV. If this game had been a movie, nobody would have complained. If this game had been a book, nobody would have thought twice. But no, since it’s interactive, it will unravel the fabric of society.

This game is rated M by the ESRB, a rating that is equal to an R rating in a movie. And yes, it earns its rating, perhaps more so than any other videogame I have played. It is a game in which it is inevitable that you will be running from the police. It is a game in which it is very easy to run down pedestrians, and actually a little difficult to avoid it. It is a game in which your character has the option to do any number of illicit things, such as kill a cop, steal a car, pick up a hooker, drive drunk, or go to a strip club (and no, from what I understand, the naughty bits are not visible). It is also a game in which your character can go bowling, watch TV, buy clothes, play darts, or go to a comedy club (and yes, they actually have real comedians doing virtual performances). You have options, just like life.

I understand the concern of parents who don’t want their child exposed to the less virtuous aspects of the game. The language alone is pretty bad. However, several places (including the CTA) have pulled advertisements based off of the complaints of various concerned citizen groups. Is that going too far? To remove advertising because of the damage the product might do to someone that is not in its target audience? Will this advertising be replaced for ads for an R-rated movie? Alcohol? Is this media assault not giving the game tons of free advertising?

I’ve never been a parent, but I do know that if I don’t want my children exposed to something, one of the best ways to do so is to not bring it into my home. Yes, it would be naïve to think that children won’t get exposure to it outside the home, but I am led to believe that’s why parents are supposed to communicate with their children. I feel like the attacks on this game are reflected in the South Park movie. In that, the kids go see aCanadian movie that is far too adult for them, and it affects them negatively. The parents never asked what movie they were going to see, nor did they talk to their children about the effect it had on them. Instead, they chose to Blame Canada for their children’s new vocabulary.

This is a good game. It provides a hugely detailed city to explore, has adeep, engaging storyline, and gives you tons of leeway about how to live your new life in America (the main character is fresh-off-the-boat from Serbia). Yes, in my first few hours of playing I stole four cars (one of which I used to do donuts on the beach before I drove it into the river), ran from the police three times, beat up three people, and shot four more. I also went bowling on a date, ate a hotdog from a street vendor, and watched the sun come up while on a Coney-island-esque pier. Are kids going to buy this game? Not legally. Are kids going to play it? Yes, if their parents let them (through understanding of the kid, or through negligence).Would I let my young kids play it? Hell no. Will I play it? Hell yeah!