Christopher – 1, Buzz Lightyear – 0

January 17, 2017 1:19pm
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Today I was reminded of an old episode of the Gobots in which Leader-1 got captured by the Renegades and ran through this machine that effectively disassembled him into little more than a pile of nuts and bolts…

It seems those age ranges that Lego puts on the side of its boxes are there for just such an occasion like when your toddler wanders off with your Lego Buzz Lightyear and proceeds to disassemble him by banging him repeatedly against his high chair’s tray to signal that he’s done with his lunch.

Sorry, Buzz, but if it’s any consolation, the other Guardians did manage to put Leader-1 back together again by the end of their episode, so I’ll see what I can do just as soon as I get this little Renegade of my own put down for a nap! 😉

tmnt2I can’t believe I’m saying this, but last night we watched the latest Ninja Turtles movie and it … wasn’t actually that bad???

Looking back, I guess I didn’t even bother writing about the first Michael Bay reboot – that’s how little I cared for it, but after watching Out of the Shadows last night with almost ZERO expectations … it’s almost as if somebody cared enough to set out and make a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie this time!

I still think that the turtles themselves look kind of weird, and all I hear is Antonio Scarpachi whenever Splinter speaks, but for the rest, they actually did a really good job of tapping the classic turtles mythos by bringing in more of the bad guys and vehicles and even the Technodrome!

When I heard that Krang was trying to transport the Technodrome to Earth, I was just waiting on the edge of my seat for the turtle blimp to make an appearance … maybe in TMNT 3. 😉

I feel like a big difference between this movie and its predecessor was simply that this one was a lot more fun and didn’t nearly try to take itself as serious as the first one seemed to. I mean, let’s be honest – Bebop and Rocksteady looked kind of funny, much in the same way that the turtles themselves do in this version – but they ran with it anyways and didn’t try to make the characters something that they weren’t, and it worked.

We got to see a little Casey Jones, and even a little Baxter Stockman … though casting Tyler Perry did seem a bit odd … on top of a recasting of Shredder that just seemed to work a lot better, with armor that was a bit more relaxed than the band-aid-warranting monstrosity that they had him running around in for the previous movie!

I’m still not crazy on Megan Fox as April because both movies seemed to make her a bit more central to the plot than she really needs to be in a movie about mutant ninja turtles, but all in all it was a fun movie and it was actually enjoyable from beginning to end – something that you couldn’t exactly claim about the first Michael Bay concoction. 🙂

Death of a Newspaper

May 3, 2016 6:29pm
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It was a little sad, but honestly not at all surprising to read today that one of our two local papers – The Tampa Tribune – is closing up shop, as it was just acquired by its competition.

I’d link to the video by their CEO “announcing” this exciting change, but even ironically it’s a painfully stale video to watch … one of those pieces of evidence that will surface 50 years from now and make people think, “Wow, so your print journalism was still alive back when this guy was somehow a part of it?!”

Anyways, I was just thinking about how when I first moved to Florida … or technically even before I moved here, I was an avid reader of The Tampa Tribune. As soon as I got here, I signed up for a full subscriber to kind of soak in the locality as much as possible, but I think a good year prior to that I actually would get their Sunday editions mailed to me at home up in Michigan! They would arrive about a week late and I would use them mostly for scoping out jobs and apartments, but also just in general to sort of fantasize about this far off land that I dreamed of moving to eventually one day…

Hell, I think I actually even applied for a few jobs with the Tribune over the years, but clearly those never got too far! 😯

I guess I stopped reading the Tribune probably 5-6 years ago when it became more common to have a stack of papers sitting in the corner that I had to make a conscious effort to flip through before throwing them in the recycling bin. Slowly there became less and less that they had to say that I hadn’t already read in one form or another online, plus computers have always had this nice way of not turning your thumbs black while you’re reading them, and so eventually I just canceled my subscription altogether and really just never looked back.

The state of journalism itself these days kind of has me torn because although some publishers have done ok or better at embracing digital media, most of the big guys like the Tribune and the Times have not and as a result it’s left a bit of a hole in the news that needs to be filled one way or another. In some cases we’re seeing TV stations and even radio branch onto online to snag in those readers, but they still ultimately have the same issues that print ran into – finding a way to financially support their efforts without either selling out to special interests or else just putting entertainment first and making it hard to take them seriously when it comes down to real news.

And of course, the web and social media have made it easier than ever for groups and organizations themselves to share their own news, so I suppose that some of the playing field left behind is still covered by them, but then there’s always the conundrum of honesty vs. being self-serving, too…

Personally I’d think what I’d like to see is some new local news organizations popping up to take the place of these corporate behemoths who can no longer seem to make a profit in the space. The Internet being a super cheap replacement for the classic printing press and technology in general continuing to rival that which goes into professional productions, there’s no reason that a small team of passionate journalists couldn’t get together and create their own local media company to cover the same types of things that these newspapers used to cover. Unless their plan is to strictly target senior citizen communities, newspapers aren’t going to make a comeback – at least not with any generation who can operate an iPad without having to call their grandkids for tech support – so the barriers for entry in this new age world of journalism are really lower than ever.

Because we need local coverage in our daily lives to talk about the things that didn’t happen around the country in New York or Los Angeles. And a media company for a mid-sized metropolitan area like the Tampa Bay region may not be able to support the 250+ employees that the Tribune was said to have had prior to today’s announcement, but 20-30% of that including a decent, local sales team? It seems like it should be very doable, and it would be a great asset to a community that continues to grow despite its conglomerate-owned media giants flailing for relevancy because they simply don’t know how to do business in a world where most readers don’t care about print and won’t pay for an online subscription.

Mind you, *I* certainly have no desire to take on that challenge myself, but for our local journalists who are really passionate about the thing that they do – you’ve probably got better odds trying your own thing than you do vying for a spot at the paper.

So this happened today… 😀

Cfy6GaUUsAAukXP

Now I know that I’ve told the story many times before, so here’s the highlight version:

  • Just Laugh, my humor site, was established in 1999 using the domain justlaugh.net because somebody else owned the .com and wanted $3,000 for it.
  • A couple years later, that guy let it lapse, so then I owned both justlaugh.net AND justlaugh.com!
  • In a twisted case of cruel irony, I let justlaugh.net lapse when I moved to Florida in 2003 and somehow forgot to renew it.
  • After a squatter scooped it up almost immediately, it proceeded to bounce from one reseller to another, usually with overseas registrars, leaving me almost no legal recourse to bother trying to reclaim it even if I did have the $1,000 fee or whatever.

So I’ve had backorder monitoring setup with GoDaddy on this thing for years – I seriously don’t even remember when I did it, but it was like $18 and came with a year of hosting, so I figured why not … maybe they’d catch it one of these years if the squatter fell off his game, even though it always seemed to magically renew a week or two before the expiration date rolled around.

The notification emails from GoDaddy were kind of torture, watching that happen year after year…

…until this year when surprisingly the expiration came and went without renewal, and the registrar threw the domain into pending status!

Even then I tried not to get too excited about it because I know that there are companies that do nothing but stalk the expiring domains list to scoop up anything that could be of value to them. In fact, I even got a curious email about it last week asking “if I was interested in the domain” … which made me wonder if he was either the guy deciding whether to renew it again or just another stalker fishing leads to see if it was worth picking up. So I didn’t respond, and I also tried to avoid any of those backorder sites that might accidentally trigger a notification to the owner that someone was poking around about it.

And then this afternoon, I unexpectedly got this email from GoDaddy saying that the backorder had been successful!!!

Mind you, I don’t really have much use for it – after all of these years, it’s purely a nostalgia grab, primarily fueled by the poster on the wall in my office that all of our contributors signed for me back in our heyday that just happens to still bear the justlaugh.net address…

justlaugh

I’ll pretty much just redirect it to justlaugh.com and 99.999% of visitors will never even know that it exists … but I’m a nostalgic guy, so that doesn’t really matter to me. It’s just neat to have finally reclaimed the name that I’d originally bought fresh out of high school when I started this whole thing in the first place, back when the website was entirely hand-coded in PHP and looked a little something like this…

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 2.11.51 AM

Good god, St. Patrick’s Day and the Christmas menu buttons were still up?! Well, that was 2003 for you… 😉

So I noticed something interesting late this evening while I was watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation whilst buried under a mountain of kleenex. I’d never really thought much about it before because it’s really only featured in the opening scene, but the Family Truckster – the iconic mode of transport that takes the family to Wally World in the first Vacation movie – isn’t actually the same car as the one in the first movie!

Now maybe this is completely intentional, but because I’ve got plenty of cough syrup coursing through my veins *I* thought it was an interesting, fun little fact. And granted, the movies themselves were released 6 years apart, so it could be argued that of course it’s a new car, although it seems like my own family growing up milked our family Oldsmobile for far longer than that.

PLUS!!!

The Truckster that made its cameo in this year’s Vacation sequel in fact was the original car, or at least one that looked a lot like it, so … that!

Anyways, here’s the original…

wagon-queen-family-truckster-national-lampoons-vacation

And here’s the version from Christmas Vacation, which appears to just be some sort of Ford Taurus painted to resemble the unmatchable Family Truckster…

1989-Ford-Taurus-Wagon6

I tell you, it really broke the continuity for me to see all of those sleek and sexy curves of the Taurus in place of the blocky, ton of bricks-exterior that the original Truckster was known for. Ok, so not really, but cough syrup will do strange things to a man, so frankly you’re lucky your even getting advent blog posts at all right now!

Holiday ro-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ad, holiday ro-o-o-o-o-o-ad… 

Are you sure you don’t want a banana???

November 11, 2015 2:15am
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I was singing the chorus to this old classic from Tally Hall to the kid while we were walking through Walmart earlier this evening … decided to show him the video before bed and forgot how extraordinarily creepy the actual video for the song really was!

Needless to say, I had to summon the aid of one C. Monster to help bring things back to his level… 😉

Living Vicariously Through Big Change

October 9, 2015 4:00pm
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My sister is moving to Florida!

Like right now!!!

And through this creepy app called Glympse that she keeps sending me links from, I can literally track her every mile of the way… 🙂

lori_moving

In all seriousness, though, I’ve kind of been living a little vicariously through her the last couple of days because it brings back all sorts of cool memories from when I made the pilgrimage myself from mighty frigid Michigan down to never frosty Florida some 12 years and 14 days ago. I know that on one hand it’s kind of terrifying to be trekking across the country with all of your worldly possessions packed around you in your car…

…or in their case, sitting in a semi-trailer somewhere between Michigan and Florida…

…but it’s also kind of exciting to pull into a completely new place where anything and everything is new to you and especially compared to our old hometown, you’ve got this absolutely ginormous region to explore! Beaches, theme parks, shopping malls, Toys ‘R Uses that aren’t a 2-hour drive away, jobs that pay more than $12/hour, people who are ethnicities other than white – all new and all just waiting for you to go out and explore them!

Thankfully, they’ve at least got a couple of things going for them that I didn’t when I moved. First and foremost, her husband actually already has the job that he’s moving down for, and they’ve arranged to stay with us and with some friends of his until they can get on their feet, so no $37/night Howard Johnson specials for them! And to leech off of their situation just a little myself, they’re actually moving to Orlando, so I’m kind of looking forward to a bit of my own expanded exploration as I’m sure we’ll be around their neck of the woods a bit more often and up until now the farthest we typically ever get into Orlando is either Disney World or occasionally The Florida Mall.

Granted, I’m sure it’s also a little more trying of an adventure in that they’re traveling with two kids whereas I was only traveling with a small bucket of goldfish that all promptly died within 72 hours of reaching my destination, but they were pretty big goldfish! Life on the road isn’t fit for everyone…

Enjoy your remaining 673 miles, S’sr Rabbit – here’s hoping that the rest of Tennessee is slightly less stinky for you than it was for me. 😉

movie thoughts … Jurassic World

July 14, 2015 9:15pm
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jwI went through a lot of phases leading up to this movie…

First I thought it was ridiculous because I hate Hollywood making sequels instead of trying for new stories and then having them be horrible.

Then I got curious because I watched Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy and realized that I didn’t actually hate him, just the character he played in the first few episodes of Parks & Recreation.

My skepticism grew as its release got closer and we started finding ourselves overwhelmed with all of the marketing and product tie-ins that the movie had secured, even though admittedly I didn’t make the connection of how clever the Barbasol sponsorship was until far later than a proper fan of the original movie really should have…  😳

Finally as the movie came out and reviews started floating around the Internet, I became both hopeful and even excited to see what this movie ended up looking like. We don’t get to see nearly as many movies in the theater as we used to, so we kind of have to aim for the big hitters and leave the rest for home viewing. Jurassic World seemed like it had the qualities to make up a pretty sweet summer blockbuster … but once the film started rolling, would it end up just feeling like yet another unnecessary sequel like … well, Jurassic Park 2 & 3 ended up feeling???

Actually, not really!

I mean, don’t get me wrong – there were some ridiculous moments … running from dinosaurs in heels throughout the entire movie, driving when a simple phone call would do, arguably even the Indominous Rex in general, but if you even look back to the original Jurassic Park, we had plenty of the same types of moments back in 1993, too … “This is a Unix system – I know this!” It didn’t matter then because our adrenaline was pumping as we explored this terrifying, new world, and the same thing happened 22 years later with Jurassic World.

Besides, if you can suspend disbelief long enough to tolerate cloning dinosaurs from 65 million years in the past, not to mention building yet another park after the first two resulted in many, many people’s deaths … then maybe the idea that Claire wore high heels isn’t really that big of a deal, after all!

Although I will admit that the gyrospheres or whatever they were called not having a return home command to invoke in case of emergency kind of bugged me a little… 😛

All in all it was a fun, wholesome summer blockbuster for what it was, holes and all, and even though so many people have died at this point, it should be interesting to see what they get away with next when no doubt Jurassic World 2 hits the screens to re-merchandize the franchise all over again a few years from now!

I have some really good memories about my earlier years of working on Just Laugh, and the last couple of days I’ve been revisiting some of them as I’ve been slowly adding in some of the older content from Just Laugh magazine to the new site’s archives. It’s kind of awesome to think of how many great humorists were all contributing to that site back in the day – I’m not quite sure how I’m going to get there just yet, but I’m really looking forward to rekindling a bit of that spirit with a new team of contributors once I get to the point where it makes sense to add more content.

Anyways, this pass had me going through the works of Linda Sharp, Kim Burke, Michael Buonauro and Jeff Lofvers of Dr. Lobster, our resident advice expert Savannah Lawless, the great Deep Fried, Live! animated series from 8 Legged Entertainment, Ink, Paint & Tears… courtesy of myself and my sister, as well as the rest of my own humor columns that hadn’t been imported into the new site yet. It’s a little crazy to think that all of this stuff was produced over a decade ago, but nonetheless here are some of my own personal favorites…

And believe it or not, I’ve still got over another dozen left to go through, so I’ll be sure to share more of my favorites as I continue working through the pile every couple of weeks until everyone’s back together on justlaugh.com right where they belong! 😉

Star Fox Zero trailer

June 16, 2015 8:27pm
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This looks like it could be fun! I still have quite fond memories of when the original Star Fox came out for the Super Nintendo … for whatever reason, my Dad had to go to some sales conference downstate for a week and the family came with him, and they brought my SNES with us to help keep me entertained. The first day we made a trip over to Toys ‘R Us because we didn’t have one up north and I got my copy of the hottest new polygon-based game to hit the system!

As one may have suspected, I didn’t really have much desire to even leave the hotel room the rest of the week while we were there… 😉

It’s kind of crazy to look back at the graphics that were really pushing the 16-bit SNES to its limits and then see this new game that will be released in full HD this fall for the Wii U. I honestly never played Star Fox 64 or any of the other games beyond the original, but this might be a fun one to pop in come Christmastime to see how it continues on with the tradition!

Aside from that weird chicken robot that apparently your ship can turn into on land, it looks pretty cool so far!

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