What's Up!

December 2, 2007


I'm going to say it, Guitar Hero is one of the best video games in existence. It's fun, challenging, interactive, and allows for reasonable delusions of grandeur. It's one of those games that you don't think highly of until you actually play it, and then you're converted. I'll leave how I got onto the Guitar Hero bandwagon for another time, because this issue of What's Up! deals with how to really make the most of it.

And this all stems from an exchange I had with my young nephew (to protect the innocent, we'll call him Justin). On his MySpace, there are photos of him enjoying Guitar Hero III, and I ask if he has a cool band name. "Justin" replies that he just put in his name, and then when he realized that it was for a band name, he opted not to change it.

I told him that's not that way a real rocker does things. You've always got to promote yourself and your act. So I told him how to proceed in living the Guitar Hero Lifestyle, using myself as a example.

You first need a rockin' band name like:

Then, you need to post the cover of your first CD single:
Love Song for a Ninja

One other thing that you need (which I didn't post on his page due to space) is the poster of the gig at the hippest club in town that your band is headlining:
Live at Studio 47

Then all you have to do is properly manage the groupies.

That's the way you start living the Guitar Hero Lifestyle. And, at the very least...


What's Up!

November 3, 2007


url: http://whatsup.dmounited.com/x/2007-1103.html

I've played a lot of video games in my life. So I've decided to stand on my soapbox and declare The Best 5 Video Game Consoles Of All Time. What? I have the power to make that proclamation.

The angle I'm taking is that of casual fan and gamer and have based my judgment on 3 criteria:
1) Gameplay compared to contemporary systems.
2) Technological legacy.
3) Impact on society in general.
Now, I am not like some fanboys that hate one particular console and love another and whatnot. I'm trying to be as unbiased as possible, so if you're favorite console isn't up here, don't be hatin'.

Instead of a typical countdown method, I figure it be best to just start at the top o' the mountain. So without further ado, to the summit.....

1) Sony PlayStation 2
PlayStation 2Making the PlayStation 2 the king of the mountain wasn't exactly a hard call given that the PS2 is the best-selling console to date, reaching total sales of 120 million console units so far. Hell, the PS2 became the fastest game console to reach 100 million units shipped, accomplishing the feat within 5 years and 9 months from its launch. And here's a interesting fact, since the launch of the PlayStation 3, the PlayStation 2 had consistently outsold its newer brother month in and month out, showing that even though something fresher is out there, people still want the PS2.

As far as gameplay goes, it remains one of the premier gaming platforms around. At the time of launch, it competed directly with Sega's Dreamcast, Microsoft's Xbox, and Nintendo's GameCube, and the gameplay experience between the four of them were relatively even. However, as more game developers went exclusively with the PS2, namely Square Enix and its Final Fantasy franchise, this led to a game catalogue that could not be matched.

The technological legacy of the PS2 can be summed up in two features: A) The first being the ability for the PS2 to be backward compatible with original Sony PlayStation [PS1] games, with no extra modifications or attachments. Given the extreme popularity of the original PlayStation, owners of that console could "upgrade" to a PS2 and suddenly have a huge library of games with a new machine. B) The most important feature of the PS2 to new console buyers was its ability to double as a DVD player, a fact practically forgotten nowadays. This allowed people who still did not have a DVD player to enjoy both a video game console and a DVD player in one machine.

Lastly, the PlayStation 2's impact on general society is quite vast. Not since "Nintendo," has a console name been used synonymously with the term "video game." When the word "PlayStation" is the lexicon of your run-o'-the-mill soccer mom, you know you've made it. But it was the exclusivity of some of its game franchises (the aforementioned Final Fantasy series as well as Kingdom Hearts, Metal Gear Solid, and Ratchet & Clank) that allowed PlayStation 2 to leave its mark on the world. And let's not forget, the PS2 is where games like Guitar Hero and Splinter Cell earned their chops before going multi-console.

The X Factor that the PS2 has that no other video game console has is crazy longevity and relevance. This console originally launched in 2000 and is still cranking out units. Let's put this in perspective. I recently started playing a new hockey season on NHL 2002, and it still plays well.

I don't think anything else could be said right now to knock Sony's PlayStation 2 off the throne as Best Video Game Console Of All Time.

2) Nintendo Entertainment System
Super Mario Bros.In all its 8-bit glory, the Nintendo Entertainment System (or just "Nintendo") ranks at #2 for many obvious reasons. It was cool, it turned Mario and Luigi into household names, and may have saved the video game industry.

I think we can all agree that the gameplay was practically revolutionary for its time, and then for kicks, factor in some unique accessories and controllers like the light gun for games like Duck Hunt, the "Power Glove," and the short-lived R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy).

Despite its advances, most owners will remember the annoyance of game cartridges not working. The NES became the only console where you had to blow air into the cartridge and the machine to remove any stray dust that would cause the games not to work right. Or you could buy the suddenly appearing "Cleaning Kits." Needless to say, the legacy of the NES is no one make games that load like that again.

The impact on general society is where the Nintendo Entertainment System scores higher than anyone. There was a huge lull in video games since 1980 when the last set of consoles game out, and this was due to numerous factors (a few companies going bankrupt being one of them). Many thought that the home video game was a dead fad. Then Nintendo pops up, and suddenly EVERYONE bought one. I never owned one because I could always go to one of a gazillion friends who did to play. And due to this mid-1980s glory, which put Nintendo on the map, we now have Pokemon and the Wii (and we all know what impact they've had on society).

3) Atari 2600
Atari 2600I was kind of torn about placing the Atari 2600 (originally the Atari VCS) this high, but then I remember that there is a band called The Ataris, so the 2600 earns the #3 on the list.

Gameplay on the 2600 was kind of a mixed bag. Some games were awesome. Some games downright sucked. However, this was console that let the public know that there was more to video games than Pong, so expectations weren't exactly high.

The legacy of the Atari 2600 is this simply was the first console to be popular enough to be mainstream and to inspire other companies to jump on board. Once it was learned that the 2600 was nothing more than a chip, control board, a coat hanger and duct tape inside the console, everyone wanted to hitch a ride on the "we're video game builders, too" bandwagon.

And I guess that plays more or less into the societal impact rating. The Atari 2600 kept on trucking when many thought video game consoles were a fad that had its time, but Atari was able to bring games found in your local arcade in your living room with games like Pole Position, Asteroids, Space Invaders, and even Pac-Man (but that's another story).

The X Factor for the Atari 2600, much like the PS2, was its longevity. Though it fell from relevance with the onset of Nintendo's dominance, the 2600 was first released in 1977 and kept selling units until it was finally discontinued in 1992. That's 14 years. Not bad for a machine with a controller that only had a stick and a button.

4) Sega Genesis
Sonic The HedgehogThough not the first 16-bit system released (the TurboGrafx-16's Japanese release date was 2 years before Sega's), the Sega Genesis (and known in the rest of the world as the Sega Mega Drive [copyright issues here in the U.S.]) was by far the winner of the 16-bit console generation.

16-bit is twice as good as 8-bit, right? Right. And that was really the selling point which brought people who were playing Nintendo over to the Genesis (the Super Nintendo would come out two years later, but by that point, it was too late). With games like Sonic the Hedgehog and Madden NFL to highlight the better game experience, the Sega Genesis became the system to have.

As far as technological legacy, a few things stand out. Sega tried to introduce online capabilities with its Sega Meganet and Sega Channel, and with the addition of the Sega CD attachment, more complex games with more features could be played, instead of relying on cartridge of yore.

Sega's closing catchphrase of a staccato "Se-ga," dare I say, entered into public consciousness. However, the greatest impact on society was Madden NFL. The 16-bit Genesis allowed for advances in sports games never before possible and now, Madden NFL is one of the most successful game franchises in history.

5) Intellivision
IntellivisionIf the Atari 2600 was the Windows PC of its day, the Intellivision was the Apple Mac. The Intellivision was a better machine but didn't have the market share dominance of the 2600.

Gameplay was far superior to anything on the market at the time. Hands down. If you played baseball on an Atari and baseball on an Intellivision, it was night and day. Most of this was due to the controller for the Intellivision which feature a numeric keypad in addition to the first true 16-direction controller pad. Games would come with a plastic cover for the numeric keypad to identify what buttons did what, and made the controller game-specific. Prime example of superior gameplay was my favorite game, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. You had the ability to run one way and shoot arrows in a separate direction thanks to the numeric keypad.

Technology legacy is where Intellivision scores huge points. The aforementioned controller pad was not a joystick but a thumb pad, practically revolutionary for its time. And look now, every console that followed uses a thumb pad. The Intellivision was the first system to feature downloadable games (though without a storage device the games went bye-bye when the machine was turned off). It was the first game console to provide real-time human and robot voices in the middle of gameplay, courtesy of the IntelliVoice module. And was the first video game console to try to double as a home computer with the proper peripheries (for those old enough to remember the Keyboard attachment and subsequent fiasco).

Impact on society wasn't as prevalent as its counterpart, the Atari 2600. Intellivision would often appear in movies and film when a video game or some sort of computer image was needed in the background (as its graphics were far superior to anything else on the market), and Intellivision featured the first video game celebrity pitchman in George Plimpton. But that was about it.

In the spirit of proper disclosure, in my lifetime, I have owned: an Intellivision; a Sega Saturn, a Sega Game Gear, a Sony PlayStation 2, and a Nintendo GameBoy Advance SP (and I think the Intellivision and Saturn may still be tucked away in some closet at my parents house). But like I said, I've played almost every other system out there (and even some you haven't even heard of).

So there you have it. I have declared what are The 5 Best Video Game Consoles Of All Time! Discuss.

October 7, 2007


Some shocking and interesting things came across my desk this week. Let me share.

Pocky Problem
For those that don't know, Pocky is a Japanese treat. All it really is, is a sweet cracker like product dipped in a cream/icing. The most popular version is chococlate; I like strawberry, myself; they also have "Men's" Pocky which is just dark chocolate.

They are crazy tasty, and people love 'em. In fact, during the Anime Expo, we were given a steady stream of Pocky for our enjoyment. But then, when picking up a pack this week, I noticed on the back that these bitches are chocked full of 3.5 GRAMS OF TRANS FAT. What! Where the hell is the trans fat coming from? Please, someone check the ingredients and tell me!

And I know how popular they are in Japan, how are they not dropping due to heart attacks over there? Must be all the fish and rice to balance it out. Since I'm not high on fish, I'm going to have to cut down on my Pocky consumption in order to stay alive. Bummer.

Smoking Kills... Cell Phones
Ok, check it. There is a device that you can buy that acts as a cell phone jamming device... and it's in the shape of a pack of Marlboro Lights.

According to the website that sells it (for the low, low price of $950.00), all you have to do is open the cigarette box and push the black button seen in the picture. It will jam all cell phones signals within range of 60 feet so no one can make or receive any phone calls within that range. Allegedly, it prevents eavesdropping using cellular telephones in meeting rooms, homes, offices and the like, and can also be used where disturbance from phones are not allowed such as in theaters, meeting rooms, class rooms, libraries, etc.

I'm not sure what's more odd; the fact that the jammer exists (and potentially works) or that it's disguised as a pack of smokes.

If you want to buy one for the spy in your life, visit the website here and scroll down.

O Dollar, Where Art Thou?
Within the last decade, the U.S. Dollar has taken a tumble (or more like a freefall) in value against foreign currency. A number of factors can be blamed, but check this rates against some world monies, current as of press time:

1 US Dollar = 0.71 Euro (or 1 Euro = 1.41 Dollar)
1 US Dollar = 0.49 British Pound (or 1 Pound = 2.04 Dollar)
1 US Dollar = 0.98 Canadian Dollar (or 1 Canadian = 1.02 US)
1 US Dollar = 116.95 Japanese Yen (or 100 Yen = 0.86 Dollar)

What does this mean to you and me? Travel abroad just got way more expensive (for example, for me to return to London, will cost literally twice as much to say vacationing in the U.S.). But we'll get many more foreign travelers now because it's way cheaper to come here. So the next time you go into an International House of Pancakes, it might just be loaded with internationals.

September 30, 2007


If you believe the propaganda, and there is no reason why you shouldn't, then you all know that I am a SuperGenius. In fact, you've probably heard me say many times that, "the probability that I know everything is well within the realm of possibility." It's not like I make these claims lightly; I very often back them up with the gray matter inside my uber-melon. But how do I maintain my superior mental edge?

First off, my awesome genetic foundation plays a part (sorry, can't help you there). Secondly, there was a strong emphasis on learning during my youth (thanks mom and dad). But lastly, and maybe more importantly, is my ability AND desire to soak up information. If there is one thing that has proven itself time and time again is that information I may have picked up 6 months ago will come in handy today. You just never know when something will be important later, so I keep cramming my head full of goodies to make sure that the arsenal that is my brain is always well armed.

So where do I get all the information that fills my head? The interweb, of course.

Without further ado, he is my "morning coffee" that I start everyday with:
Now, I don't go through and read every article on every site, but I do try to browse the headlines and read stories of interest. I can't stress highly enough how important it is to get all the latest information (if at the very least, to not sound like an idiot in the course of normal everyday conversation). I will usually come across something that requires further investigation and then I learn more, storing that information in my head (I have the added bonus of being able to remember EVERYTHING, but due to a couple of death-defying head injuries, I occasionally have problems recalling it when I need it. Sure it's annoying, but I'm alive. I scored a bargain on that deal!).

Most people, once they finish school, stop learning. They fall into the trap of accepting that what they know at 21 is all they'll know and all they'll NEED to know. This couldn't be farther from the truth. You must continually engage your brain in fresh thinking and analytical processes; don't just program in a routine and call it a day. Your brain will atrophy and die. Do a crossword, play a little suduku. Hell, I just read that if you're bilingual, your brain is less likely to drop off the sanity train at Senile Town. So learn a second language. Do something... do anything!

The reason why I'm pulling back the curtain, to use the entertainment parlance, is twofold. One, I figured it would be a treat to show you all out there the methods behind the madness that is Demosthenes, and invite you to try to grow into SuperGeniuses yourselves. Two, I find myself constantly dealing with idiots in life. Maybe, if one of them stumbles across this and tries to apply themselves into becoming something better, then I will have made an impact and taken a ignorant fool off the roads. Yes, I'm a dreamer.

Shameless plug time: click here to get your very own DMO SuperGenius t-shirt and goodies.

September 14, 2007


Avid readers of What's Up! know that we're big fans and supporters of public libraries. Honestly, they serve as repositories of knowledge and serve to aid in our cultural development. Well, I just learned that September is "Library Card Sign-Up Month."

In 1987, the Secretary of Education at the time, William Bennett, launched a campaign to make sure every child had a public library card and knew how to use it. Since then, libraries (both public and school varieties) join together each September to push Library Card Sign-Up Month. So, like we've said before: "Get a library card. Just do it." If you want to find out more information, visit the American Library Association website at www.ala.org.

The libraries don't have September all to themselves though. Here's a list of other random celebrations for the month:

And just for kicks and giggles, September 15th is Wife Appreciation Day. So to my beautiful wife, I've decided to write a little poem. And I've written it in the style of haiku. Ahem...
New day to say thanks;
You are special and pretty.
Like always, no card.

For those that don't know, haiku is a type of Japanese poetry, with the traditional haiku consisting of a pattern of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables. If you didn't know that, you know where you learn about it? That's right the library. Look at that, that completes our circle of life for today.

Get a library card. It's good for the soul.

September 8, 2007


This past month has seen a lot of activity. It must, or else how can I explain my constant state of fatigue. But actually, very little has taken place that would compel me to pontificate here on ye olde What's Up!

So, just to keep this thing relatively updated, it's time for one of those stream of consciousness pieces.

  • I'm going to go on record and say that the greatest job on the planet is Mythbuster. Adam, Jamie, Tory, Kari and Grant have way too much fun doing things that most of us would love to do. And it's all in the name of science. Science rules.

    On one episode, they talked about a little black book that they use as a reference. It's aptly named, Pocket Ref. Being the geek that I am, I went and picked up a copy. Man, that thing is chocked full of info and random goodies. That was one of the more surprisingly pleasant purchases I've made.

    The Mythbusters got theirs at a hardware store. I got mine at my local bookseller. If you can't find it at those two locations, you can go to their website and order it direct. You should get one for the nerd in your life.

  • You know what other job I wouldn't mind having? Being Alton Brown on "Feasting on Asphalt." Ride around for a month, stopping at out of the norm places, and eating. Don't tell me that doesn't sound envious.

  • I should be ashamed of myself. I've forgotten how much I love Melanie C (that's Sporty Spice to those who don't know). Some of her recent stuff is on her MySpace page and it's fantastic! Sadly, only her first solo album was released on the U.S. Naturally, I own it. She is my fave out of the five.

    I actually saw her in concert at the House of Blues years back. Twas quite a good show. Although, I must admit that I'm glad she ditched the short hair look (especially the blonde version from the Northern Star video).

  • Speaking of Sporty Spice, how frakking awesome is it that Spice Girls are touring again? It's not just awesome, it's holy f*cking super awesome. The venue for the tour stop in Los Angeles hasn't been announced (probably because they want to find out how people want tickets), but I bet it'll be at one of three places: the new Nokia Theatre (if demand is small), the Staples Center (if demand is healthy), or the Home Depot Center (if demand is high).

    I love my friends and that they so easily equate me with the Spice Girls. Once the tour was announced, I was informed of this by no less than 12 people. Half of them also registered for the chance to get tickets. And that's why they're my friends.

  • I totally botched the popcorn tonight. I used a little too much oil (3 1/2 tablespoons as opposed to 3), and not quite enough popcorn (just shy of the 1/3 cup needed). It tasted fine, and was a tasty treat as usual. You really couldn't taste any difference. But now, when I burp, it tastes like peanut oil. Not the happy popcorn aftertaste. No, it tastes like my tongue is coated in oil. That's wrong. I'm going to have to deal with that for the rest of the night. I'm sure the Mrs. will be pleased.

  • If I ever become rich enough, I'm going to pay for naming rights on an arena/stadium. It's going to be called, "Demosthenes Plaza." Here's the preliminary artwork:

  • I just realized I can't write this and play online poker at the same time. I'm trying to write a sentence, but it keeps asking me if I want to bet on a King-Five offsuit (which I did, and everyone folded behind me).

    I think the number one thing that bugs me about online poker, are the idiots who go all in before the flop on the first hand of a tournament. It would be one thing if they had decent hole cards, but usually somebody looks him up and he turns over an 8-5 offsuit or something. Lame.

    But maybe I should write for What's Up! while playing more often, given that I just won a 90-seat tournament in the middle of this. Check it:

  • The new offering from Tanqueray, called Tanqueray Rangpur, has turned me into a gin drinker. Interesting.

  • I think we have a problem. We have subscriptions to National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, and National Geographic Adventure. That might be a little too much National Geographic.

    Ok, I think I'm done. Keep on truckin', peeps!

    August 6, 2007


    As you know, one of our favorite pastimes here at the World of Demosthenes is to locate obscure fortune cookies fortunes. If you scroll back through past issues of What's Up!, you'll see some winners.

    After giving the DMO United Command Center a thorough cleaning, I found this gem that had gotten lost. Enjoy!

    What the hell does that mean? I'm not even in the market for a new vehicle. Unless it's trying to be metaphorical and is telling me I should dive head-first into a mid-life crisis. That's just wrong.

    And here's another prize...

    That's not a fortune. That's your pessimistic, world-weary father-in-law, saying, "Whoa. Slow down, sonny. Don't get any crazy ideas. The world needs ditch-diggers, too." I can't believe someone gets paid to come up with these pearls of wisdom.

    I'm just waiting for the day when I crack open a fortune cookie and it reads, "(INSERT FORTUNE HERE)."

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