Bojangles’ Famous Thighs

A couple of months ago a Bojangles restaurant opened right beside the office building in which I work.  Even though it is close enough that I can smell the chicken on the way to and from my car in the parking lot, I very rarely go there to eat.  I don’t have anything against it per se, they make some fine chicken and fixin’s for sure.  After playing some basketball at a local rec center and not having anything for lunch upon returning to work, I decided to brave the 150 feet it takes to walk there and go get some famous chicken.

When I walked into the restaurant the place was actually pretty packed.  I had to wait in line while the customers ahead of me were making their choices.  On a big sign right beside the register there was a promotional flyer telling patrons that you could get a two-piece chicken meal with a side and a drink for only $5 dollars.  It must have been a pretty good deal because the people in front of me in line were all ordering it.  When the man, approximately 50 years old, right in front of me got to the counter, he ordered the two-piece meal but was very torn about what type of pieces he wanted.  After much deliberation he told the lady behind the counter he wanted two legs in the meal.  My initial reaction to this choice was to wonder who orders legs when breasts are still on the table.  Apparently he discovered his miscalculation as well because as soon as the words came out of his mouth you could see the regret on his face.

For anyone that isn’t familiar with this restaurant, the chicken at Bojangles is right in front of you when you are ordering.  The workers fill your plate or box from large trays of chicken sitting under heat lamps right before your eyes.  As the lady started to fill the man’s box with his now undesirable leg pieces, it apparently became too much for him.  He yelled to the lady, “what’s a thigh?”  I believe at this point she was slightly caught off guard by the question.  Frankly, I was also surprised that a man in his 50’s, who appeared to be a somewhat regular dude, wouldn’t know what a thigh was.  That’s when things took an unexpected turn.  I’m not sure if it was because of the way in which the man asked the question or being caught in the middle of preparing his meal, but the worker dropped his to-go box on the counter and proceeded to show the man where the thigh muscle was located on her own body.  Forgetting for a moment there were whole trays of chicken thighs available to her at an arm’s length from her current location, the quick refresher course on the human anatomy must have been enough for the man because he promptly changed his order to two thighs.

With my interest now piqued, it was my turn to make some big decisions.  I stepped to the counter, filling the vacancy left by the now delighted two-piece thigh customer ahead of me.  I placed an order for a two-piece chicken meal, specifying both to be legs.  As the lady proceeded to pick up a box and approach the tray of leg meat, I loudly inquired: “what’s a breast?”

 

The Death of the News Media: How Walter Cronkite Killed My Grandfather

Walter Cronkite dropped out of college in the fall of 1935.  He quit school to pursue a career in the newspaper business.  At the time, many people didn’t realize the true nature of Cronkite’s work.  My grandfather met Walter in…

Okay, I’ll be honest.  My grandfather, to my knowledge, never met Walter Cronkite.  This post actually has nothing at all to do with my grandfather or Walter Cronkite for that matter.  This is an example of how a writer can throw out a deceiving headline with a click bait snippet attached and get you to view something completely unrelated. This happens when a news organization gets desperate when they realize the industry around them has changed, oftentimes in a way that now makes them obsolete.  Instead of admitting to themselves that it’s not working, they instead double down in an attempt to hold on to years gone by.  Think I’m talking about OneStackMind.com?  I’m talking about the entire news media.  I’ll let you in on a secret bigger than Walter Cronkite: the news media is dying and no one wants to admit it.

Back in Walter Cronkite’s days as an anchor for CBS Evening News, he controlled the news.  His 30-minute television show was the face of the media for the entire country.  If there was a story worth hearing, it came from Walter Cronkite.  After Al Gore created the internet for us all to enjoy, some things were bound to change.  Now, instead of one large tube sitting in your living room floor, you have a vast series of tubes that allow you to query any piece of information you care about at any time you want to look for it.  You now have instant access to news, tailored to your likes and dislikes, sent to you through push notifications, triggered as they happen.  You definitely don’t have to wait for the nightly news to tell you what’s going on in the world today.

I think we can all agree that the first to die was the newspaper business.  I am predicting the next to go will be the 24-hour news cycle of cable television stations.  Do you remember when MTV was cool?  You know, when they played music videos and all?  Is MTV even still a station?  The 24-hour news stations are suffering.  Someone in a board room somewhere decided that the way to combat this whole internet fad is to turn away from objectivity and journalistic integrity.  The result is that cable TV news is now in the entertainment business where everything is “BREAKING NEWS.”  Its programming is filled with talking heads, who are nothing more than shock jocks trying to get people to tune in.  Literally, no one out there in cable news cares one bit about giving a balanced interpretation of the news.  The slow and painful death doesn’t stop with just politics; sports reporting has gone downhill along with the news.  ESPN doesn’t show highlights anymore, they get two former athletes to sit on opposite sides of a table from each other and purposely take different sides of an argument.  CNN, MSNBC and FoxNews are no different.  They are each in a nightly competition to see how many picture in picture, guest commentators can fit on one screen.

The main culprit in the ultimate demise of cable networks will be or is social media.  I am envisioning it going something like the photography business.  25 years ago cameras were expensive and very few people could afford professional quality equipment.  If you wanted family pictures, done you had to go to a studio, where you stood in uncomfortable poses, in front of hideous backdrops.  As the cost came down and the quality of cameras greatly improved, everyone became a part-time photographer.  Half ofmy friends on Facebook have photography businesses on the side.  I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing.  What I am saying, though, is that because of this phenomenon, there are fewer and fewer full time photography studios.  Along those same lines, with Twitter and Facebook everyone is now a makeshift news reporter.  If you see a car wreck on the interstate, you will pull out your phone and complain about traffic long before the local news even knows something has happened.  Why wait for the news to pull a smartphone video from social media and report it on their website?  Why wait for an interview with a celebrity or politician, when you can follow them directly on Twitter and learn what they ate this morning for breakfast?  You now can even get the play by play from inside the white house directly from the horse’s mouth.  It’s cutting out the middleman in a way that makes a lot of journalists very, very nervous.

 

I’m not saying anything earth shattering here that you don’t already know.  That’s kind of my point, actually.  Everyone knows it but the cable news just won’t admit it.  One day you will find yourself experiencing the dull pain that comes from listening to Rachel Maddow drone on for what feels like hours or Sean Hannity telling everyone how it feels to be a proud American, and you will think back to this article and realize these people are a far cry from Walter Cronkite.  And that’s the way it is…

Listening Pleasures – Let’s Pretend

Do you have little kids?  Do you get sick of them watching the same stupid shows with no real plots?  How about in the car, do you have trouble getting them to shut up and behave?  Well I’ve got just the thing for you. . .

As I’ve posted about before, I spend a lot of time listening to Old Time Radio (http://otrrlibrary.org/index.html).  Several years ago I stumbled on a children’s radio program from the 40’s and 50’s called Let’s Pretend.  I was actually looking for something to listen to with my kids while putting them to bed.  With my kids it seems that music, or anything else really, keeps them up more than it helps them to go to sleep.  After randomly playing a couple stories my kids were immediately hooked.

The show was a 30 minute radio broadcast by CBS that started in 1934 and ran through 1954.  It used young voice actors in front of a live studio audience made up of little kids.  Each week the show does a different children’s story/fairytale.  The shows include well known stories such as Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel and Gretel, etc.  It also includes a lot of stories that I hadn’t really heard before like Ondine.

Let’s Pretend 54-06-05 Beauty and the Beast.mp3

Let’s Pretend 54-10-09 Hansel and Gretel.mp3

Before I knew it, my kids were asking for Let’s Pretend.  They each have their favorite stories to listen to and all now know the Cream of Wheat theme song.  Check out the list of episodes available through OTRR and feel free to donate to this wonderful service.

 

The Lost Art of Syndication: My Top 5 Shows To Binge Watch

To finish what I started last month with my thoughts on the lost art of syndicated television (click here, in case you forgot), I feel I need a follow up post discussing the current state of television.  If you haven’t noticed a lot has changed since the 80’s and 90’s shows I wrote about previously.  With modern streaming services giving you easy access to whole seasons at a time, it has made every plot into an overarching story line.  Gone are the days of picking up a single episode of a show without asking yourself, “Who are all these characters I have never seen before?”  Or “Why does my favorite character not have any arms?”

I’m not just talking about your favorite shows that you like so much that you could watch them for a whole weekend.  I’m talking about shows that if you don’t watch them all at the same time, you spend most of your time Googling plot discussions to figure out what in the world is going on.  With these shows it is almost a requirement to be binge watched, or else they are impossible to watch.

With that said, here are my top 5 shows that I think epitomizes binge watching:

 

 

The Walking Dead – You would think a show about zombies killing people or being killed by people would be a pretty simple watch.  The reason that is not the case, is because this show is quite frankly a soap opera.  Did Glen just die in that dumpster?  Who is this Governor guy?  Where did this baby come from?  There is no way you could pick up a later season episode of this show and have any idea what’s going on without watching previous seasons.

 

Dexter – The inclusion of Dexter on this list is somewhat questionable.  The show has overarching story lines throughout but there is still a lot of consistency around the main plot.  Dexter is in the same job, the same office, and many of the same characters are around him through each season.  The show, however, likes to have a main theme for each season.  It will introduce a new arch enemy for Dexter at the beginning of the season and then build on that until season’s end.  At the beginning of the new season, there are always slight differences but the scenario starts over anew.

The reason I make the binge watching requirement for this show is because if you tune in to see John Lithgow, Colin Hanks or Mos Def without any backstory you are going to be completely lost.

 

 

House of Cards – I didn’t specify whether this was the British or American version but I guess both apply.  This show has twists and turns at every corner.  Main characters come and go, some even die from time to time.  The main character changes jobs pretty frequently, moving further and further up the food chain.

I could see someone turning on season 4 and wondering why Kevin Spacey’s hair is so gray, how he became president or why Claire is so annoying.  Scratch that last one from the list.  Claire is annoying from beginning to end.

 

 

 

 

 

Lost – This show is a little older than all of the others on the list but I can remember a time when it was the king of the water cooler conversations.  I never had the patience to watch it in real time.  I waited until after the show’s finale to watch my first episode actually.

For a show that basically starts as a revamped Gilligan’s Island it quickly is clear that it’s not made for syndication.  Even though there should be a limited number of new characters available since it’s an island, the show always has an influx of new spirals.

Even watching the show on Netflix within about a 6 week period I often found myself saying, “What the heck is this bunker they’re in?”

 

 

 

Breaking Bad – If I only had to choose one show for this topic, I think Breaking Bad would probably be my choice.  The main couple of characters stay the same but everything else about this show gets turned on its head at one point or another.  Walter and Jesse’s living conditions, romantic situations, and circumstances around their work changes from season to season.

There is enough detail in the stories that it would make it tough to pick up and watch later, without having trouble piecing together the action.

 

 

 

 

Those are my top 5 shows that are synonymous with binge watching, let me know yours…

 

Rage Quit: “10 Concerts I’ve Been To, 1 is a Lie”

You may have seen the social media trend of posting a list of 10 concerts where 1 of them is a lie.  The idea is that your friends will look over the list and guess which one of the concerts you didn’t really attend.  On the surface it appears to be a harmless attempt at some entertainment, but, according to a CBSNews report, it could be THE WORST MISTAKE OF YOUR LIFE!!!

[insert commercial break cliffhanger riff]

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/10-concerts-free-coupon-scams-go-viral-on-facebook/?ftag=CNM-00-10aab6a&linkId=37081500

Cyber security expert Dennis Nedry.

Let me start this rant out by first saying that identity theft, hacking and phishing attempts are all very real threats in today’s world.  I am in no way minimizing the risk of being frivolous with your personal information.  With that said, though, I feel like news reports like the one above are taking a real danger and marginalizing it by seeing the boogeyman everywhere you look.

The first sign to take notice of in these articles is when they trot out a “cyber security expert”.  It’s the equivalent of asking a car salesman at a dealership their objective opinion on whether it’s worth it to trade up to the latest model of car.  Cyber security experts make their money on the fears of their audience with respect to how hazardous the internet security monsters truly are to them.  They don’t really want hackers to lose all the time, because if your data was safe, then the experts would be out of a job.

“The first thing that came to mind was a phishing attack where they could see your preferences and probably glean some demographics info from your band preference and send an email that says something like free tickets to whatever band you said you liked,” Ingemi explained. “You click on it and then you’ve downloaded malware or a virus and they have access to your network.”

The CBS News writer then hammers home the point with: “Hackers could then get into your account by resetting your password.” 

I would like to point out that within three quick sentences, they just went from harvesting band preference data to resetting your password and taking control of your account.  That is some CSI level, made for TV, hacking abilities!  Never mind the fact that your entire Facebook page contains your preferences.  The entire idea behind a Facebook like or follow is to refine your newsfeed to the things you are interested in.  If all hackers needed to steal your account was whether you were a Lakers fan, a Patriots fan or a Yankees fan, then they don’t need a post from you to do it.  All of that information is freely available, if public, on your Facebook profile by pages you like or follow.

“When you forget your password to various things, one of the [security] questions is what was the first concert you ever attended,” Ingemi said. “Well, if you have that list you could do some reverse engineering to figure out what might have been the first concert.”

So, if by some slim chance on one of your accounts you picked a security question option that asks what your first concert was and you played the concert game with your friends on Facebook, then hackers have a 1 in 9 chance of “reverse engineering” (Wow, that sounds technical) a single security question on that account.  Forget the fact that there will be other security questions, usually 2 factor authentication through a code, and you will also be alerted to all failed attempts.

Let’s be honest here for a minute.  There is no chance of a list of concerts you may or may not have attended being posted on Facebook is ever going to play a part in your identity being stolen or accounts being hacked.  A person could gain more pertinent and detailed information from a decently worded Google search than they would ever get from a list of 10 concerts.  I know that, you know that, and CBS News knows that.  What CBS News also knows is that alarmist headlines involving social media trends and hackers makes for great click bait.  It also makes their older clientele strap on their tin foil hats and tune into the nightly news programs to find out how those evil Russian hackers know everything from their shoe size to their preference in deodorant.

“If you want to participate and you’re concerned about the security risks, Ingemi recommends setting your privacy settings to “Friends Only,” preventing strangers — and potential hackers — from accessing that valuable information.”

I am glad that CBS News finished the article with the first useful piece of information of the entire piece.  If you plan on sharing personal information (agree or disagree with whether concert attendance falls in this category), make sure your privacy settings are set accordingly.  You wouldn’t want ex-girlfriends stalking your page to know you ate Chinese last night.

I’m all for informing people about the potential risks of doing stupid stuff with personal information on the internet.  The problem arises when you continue to produce hysterical laden articles sourced by cyber security experts on a regular basis; you start to sound like the boy who cried wolf.  You either delegitimize the seriousness of the real issue or you make people so paranoid they fear doing anything on the wicked internet.  Neither of those are really that helpful to the people that need the internet to function on a daily basis and don’t want to have their private information targeted.  So, please feel free to keep sharing the concerts you’ve attended and quit clicking on CBS News articles.  You never know, it could be a link for adware…

/rageQuit

The Lost Art of Syndication: First 5 Shows to Randomly Watch

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, I feel like I was witness to the golden age in rerun television.  At any point during the day you could flip on the TV and immediately be pulled into a random sitcom or detective show.  In this day and age there is programming of all genres available at your fingertips whenever you want it.  Don’t get me wrong, I think that’s a good thing and in no way want to return to the 13 channels of basic cable programming available to me in my formative years.  But at the same time, I feel like modern TV shows have lost the simple pleasures I found in syndicated reruns because of the oversaturation and availability of entire seasons that you get with streaming services.

With a good rerun, outside of the dreaded “To Be Continued” episode, there is really no need for a backstory or any understanding of previous episodes.  There are not many overarching story lines that you need to know about in order to understand what you are watching.  The main characters need to stay pretty consistent throughout all seasons so that you don’t have good and bad seasons because of the cast.  How annoying would it be to tune in to Walker, Texas Ranger expecting to see the stunning Chuck Norris only to find out for the last couple seasons of the show they cast Steven Segal in the lead role?

There is a time and place for binge watching shows with overly complicated plots that stretch across multiple seasons but this list is only for shows that you can keep in a list of favorites, picking up an episode here and there for amusement and stress relief.  With that said, here are the first 5 shows in my rerun rolodex of good times:

 

The Rockford Files – Need I say more?  Quite possibly the greatest show ever produced, The Rockford Files was on for 6 seasons through the 70’s.  It stars James Garner as the main character and his sweet Firebird as the most notable reoccurring co-star.  The plots are all pretty similar with the main theme being a hard luck private detective comes out on top and catches the bad guy after first encountering some issues.  Anytime you combine James Garner, a Firebird and frequent breakfast tacos you might as well go ahead and sign me up.

 

 

 

Seinfeld – While I was in college, TBS would run two episodes of Seinfeld every afternoon/evening.  That means by the time I graduated I had probably seen every episode at least 8 times.  Even though I know each episode like the back of my hand, I can still laugh along as if it was the first time I watched it.  The cast stayed pretty much the same throughout the shows run and the storylines were all reset at the end of each episode.  The stories for each show were so unique that the episodes could be shuffled and the show would still have the same effect.

 

 

 

Matlock – Andy Griffith was close to making this list twice but I chose this show in particular because its cast didn’t contain Warren the replacement deputy.  Seriously though, this show is a consistent watch.  His lead investigator changed a couple times and his female co-attorney seemed to come and go but the storylines for this show were all basically a reset.  Every episode would start with a bad guy committing a crime, Ben Matlock playing the role of a fool, a lot of noisy eating scenes with hot dogs and eventually Matlock winning the case.  Did he ever lose a case?

 

 

 

Cheers – I’ve watched this show through a couple times and I still find it pretty funny.  There is some turnover in characters with Coach dying/being replaced by Woody (Harrelson) and Diane (Shelly Long) being replaced by Rebecca (Kirstie Alley).  The core characters that come and go in the bar though pretty much stayed throughout its run.  Sam, Norm, Cliff and Carla are enough to keep a good synergy and plot line going that keeps the show watchable from beginning to end.  The atmosphere of the bar and the way it comes across as a big family is what sells the show.

 

 

Murder, She Wrote – Angela Lansbury is the equivalent of a female James Garner basically.  I couldn’t imagine the role of Jessica Fletcher being played by anyone else.  There was some turnover in the other cast members and the location of the episodes changed frequently, but for the most part the plots were pretty consistent.   Every episode someone would drop dead and it was up to Jessica to solve it because law enforcement was clueless.  Even though she was a mystery writer, she somehow got a crazy amount of access to open cases.  How come she was never suspected of the crimes?  Everywhere she went, people were giving up the ghost left and right.

 

Close but no cigar (and the reasons why):  

The Andy Griffith Show (After Barney left, the show was never the same.  If a Warren episode comes on I might just put my foot through my TV)

The Dukes of Hazzard (The Coy & Vance years)

Law & Order (The cast had a lot of turnover and some down years)

The Office (Without Michael Scott the show suffered.  It even had an awkward season with Will Ferrell)

Magnum P.I. (Tom Selleck is no James Garner)

 

Leave a comment and let me know how your top five mindless rerun favorites compare…

 

Things You May Not Have Heard About Backyard Chickens

As a frequenter of social media, I often times see people talking about the benefits of raising a small number of chickens at your own home.  It is apparently a movement that has become pretty popular among people in my area.  After doing some reading and consulting with my wife, I decided last spring to take the plunge and try out the farming life.  I bought a book off Amazon about raising backyard chickens and did a lot of research before coming to this decision.  Now with the benefit of a year of hindsight here are a few things I have learned along the way in this process, many of which surprisingly no one mentioned in the literature I consulted.

 

The first thing that I was surprised about was the initial cost.  In online reading, the cost was usually estimated at $2-$5 per chick depending on the breed and whether they were straight run or not.  For those of you that are not familiar with that term, through selective breeding many types of chickens can be broken up by sex at a very young age based on characteristics of their gender.  These are usually more expensive because you get to determine which sex of chick you want to purchase up front.  Since I have always been a little afraid of roosters, we went with already sexed chicks and chose 3 hens. What I hadn’t budgeted for was how high spay and neuter fees were at this location.  I’m not sure if it was just this particular site but they said it was there policy to not let anyone take the animals home until they were fixed.  I had no idea chicken population control was that big of an issue but I didn’t make waves and after $100 dollars in fees and expenses, I was able to take my 3 new hens home with me.

Prior to making my purchase of the chicks, I went to the local Tractor Supply and picked up all the items I would need for new chicks.  I bought a heat lamp, a feeder and water dispenser.  From the reviews on the heat lamp I purchased, everyone saw positive results.  In my experience though my chicks didn’t respond well to the heat lamp.  Often times it was almost like they didn’t like the light and heat, so much so that they just tried to get away from it.  It got so bad that I stopped using it within a couple days.  I also purchased some special formula “grower” food specifically made for young chicks.  They were reluctant at first and were much more interested in a bowl of milk as opposed to the grain.  In all of the resources that I could find, no one suggested milk for young chicks but it was a lifesaver and really helped their growth.

One concern I had going into this experiment was the reading I had done about how stinky and messy raising chickens can be.  Surprisingly with our 3 hens, they were very clean animals.  I didn’t even have to clean out their coop very often because they were perfectly fine using a litter box.  From stories and guides I had read, many people said you need to clean out their coops every couple of weeks to keep it sanitary and to prevent common diseases.  There were many times that our adolescent chicks would lay in the sun, self-grooming.  Honestly, I was very pleased with this because it made less work for me.  Another concern, that I have now realized to be unfounded, was keeping them in my backyard coop in close proximity of my neighbors for fear of the noise factor with them crowing in the early morning hours.  Our chickens, even now, make very little noise.  Every now and then when they are spooked or hungry they might make a slight whimpering, almost meowing, noise but nothing like the crowing I expected.  This may be a result of not getting our chickens to really take to roosting in our coop.  No matter how many poles or posts I added to the coop, they would never roost on them.  Maybe roosting and crowing go hand in hand for chickens?

There were some unanticipated benefits to owning chickens.  Our chickens have been very good at killing rodents and pests.  Sometimes we let them out to graze in our yard and 9 times out of 10, one of our chickens will kill a mouse and place it by the backdoor.  Who knew that chickens could be so good at pest control?  They are also very affectionate to my kids.  They are almost like indoor pets.  Our two older kids are pretty good with them and the chickens will come up to them and walk back and forth between their legs, rubbing against them.  It’s really cute to listen to the purring sounds.  Our youngest though is pretty rough with them and doesn’t know how to handle them.  The chickens have pretty sharp talons and will scratch her when she tries to pick them up and carry them.

At the end of this year long experiment, I have to say I have been pretty pleased.  Many of my early concerns, brought up from months of research, turned out to be false for us.  Everything from eating habits to cleanliness turned out to be unforeseen positives.  I have to say though given our initial cost and the fact they will only eat cans of Fancy Feast, they have not been real cost effective to this point.  We are actually still waiting on our first egg to be laid and it’s been over a year.  Maybe next time I’ll go with something other than calico.

 

Patient Gamer – NBA2K17

The idea behind the patient gamer category was originally to review Xbox Live “Games with Gold” but I have trouble following guidelines.  Plus, not only does a gold membership give you access to free games, it also allows you to have a free play weekend.  You can download a full game, give it a try for the weekend, and then determine if you really want to buy it the following week.  For me, this is a terrible trap to which I am constantly trying not to fall.

A couple of months ago, I saw that NBA2K17 was available for a free weekend trial.  I downloaded it on a Friday and, by Sunday, I had already played through a full season with my beloved Philadelphia 76ers.  Since it is one of the few places you will actually see the Sixers win a game recently, I was immediately drawn in.  By Monday, I loaded the game and was in shock when it took me to the Xbox Store to prompt me for purchase.  After reluctantly forking over $60, I spent the next couple months weighing my decision.  I’ll try to break down some of my thoughts into pros and cons and we can all decide for ourselves the quality of this purchase.

Pros:

  • Overall graphics and attention to detail – After taking a few years off from sports games, I was pleasantly surprised by the realism and beauty of this game. The arenas are well done with realistic looking crowds, courts and scoreboards.  This may seem like a petty observation but there were many times that friends or family couldn’t tell whether I was playing NBA2K17 or watching a live basketball game.The player models were also very well done with each player having their own unique look and playing style.  The details, even down to their exact shooting form, was captured perfectly for most players.  It’s fun to randomly pull up an exhibition game between some retro teams and watch Magic Johnson dribble around with exaggerated high knees or Larry Bird hitting threes with his arms raised well above his head on release.

Draymond Green works up a sweat punching guys in the junk.

  • Control modes – Often times when you play a sports game, the buttons take a 9 week course to master most of them. In this game for every control, there is a simple or complex button choice.  For instance to shoot the ball, you can either hold down the X button or use the stick.  The stick gives you more control but is harder to get the hang of than just a simple button click.  This was appealing to me because while I was trying to get the hang of more complex button combinations, I was able to still use the simple controls to get by.  It wasn’t like some games (UFC, WWE, etc) where until you get a firm understanding of the exact combinations you are going to get throttled, repeatedly.
  • Career mode – Outside of just your standard play now modes, there are some other pretty interesting game modes. I’m usually not a big fan of online modes, so when I play games like this I am usually looking to sink time into modes that don’t force me into online play (this will be covered in more detail in future con items, I assure you) without a decent local play mode.  Career mode allows you to create your own character and starting with a couple college games, character build to your heart’s content.It also has a neat feature that allows you to take pictures with your smartphone and upload them to your career mode.  It takes your selfies and models them around your player model.

    When you have a face like this, who wouldn’t want to look at it as much as possible.

    Career mode allows you to take control of the day to day life of an NBA player.  You start with a generic player model and design everything about them.  You choose your position and what type of player you want to be.  As you play games, you are rewarded with points for how well you do.  You take the points and redeem them for leveling up different aspects of your player’s game.  There are several abilities, like free throw shooting, that you can only level up through practice.

    During the day, there are periods of time where the gym is open and you can go practice.  You can work on your shot or as other NPC’s come and go in the gym, play pickup games.  The experience earned in practices allows you to improve on things you couldn’t otherwise do by buying skill levels.As you play through the season, you can receive player awards, participate in all-star games, or attract new fans by hanging out with past and present NBA players.

    For gamers with a thing for leveling up characters, this would be your mode.

Cons:

  • Endless loading screens – As in most other sports games, NBA2K17 is made up of about 78% loading screens. When you turn on the game, the initial splash screen is discreetly a loading screen.  You can skip the intro video, which will then drop you to the main menu screen and another progress bar.  I think at this point behind this loading screen it’s going out to 2k servers to check for updates.  When that finishes, you will probably be awoken from your slumber by horribly loud hip hop music.  This is your cue to choose the menu that will advance you to your next loading screen.  If you choose an offline mode of gameplay, the update it previously was searching for will be downloaded at your next convenient load screen.Let’s say you want to play career mode and blow off some steam.  To get to an actual game play (you know, the actual point of turning the game on), you have to wait through two additional load screens and an additional load screen disguised as a pregame show to get there.  If you are counting at home, that’s a total of 5-6 load screens to get to actual game play in career mode.  You sit down, turn on your Xbox to play a little basketball and before you know it, it’s baseball season.
  • Updates – As previously mentioned, 2k is thrilled to pump out daily updates for this game. This would please most online gamers, but for me, it’s just one more thing to wait on in a loading screen that I have yet to see a return on investment with.  The updates won’t attempt to download unless you are in an offline game mode.  This means that if you bring up play now, GM or season mode, you are going to have an extra long wait time at your initial load screen whether you want the update or not.Another fun benefit of the daily updates being pushed down your throat is the game often time gets confused and the update will hang the game at unexpected points with no notice whatsoever.My favorite of these is when it occurs at the initial game launch.  You load the game up, some sweet hip hop music greets you and it plays a beautiful video of your favorite stars.  Without warning, Chris Paul stops moving and the music stops.  There are no error messages and no indication that the game is still alive.  You can attempt to resuscitate it by launching the game again but 2k is persistent.  They want you to have this update, no matter the cost.  When this fun issue arises, the only way that I’ve been able to resolve it is to clear the reserved game cache for NBA2K17 on the console.  This forces it to pull down the latest version (with a longer than usual load screen) and install fresh.  Try googling the phrase “NBA2K17 freezes” to see how big of an issue this is for users.Any game developer that can’t even properly push out an update without requiring its users to basically clear the game’s cache manually prior to updating doesn’t deserve my money.

Get used to playing games with this banner unless you want to quit everything you are doing and drop back to the main menu to install your daily update.

  • Feeling alienated – I realize that the NBA has doubled down on targeting a younger market to which demographically I don’t belong for several reasons. To say this in the nicest way possible, I don’t really care much for hip hop or rap music.  I’m not much of a fan of street ball either.  Does that mean I can’t be a fan of NBA basketball now?  Why is it not in the NBA’s and 2K’s best interest to open their doors to fans from all walks of life?I guess I’m just a little disgruntled as a 33 year old, un-athletic, lifelong video game player and fan of the NBA, to so obviously be the antithesis of this games’ target audience.  Oh, and get off my lawn while you’re at it!

 

Scorecard:

I’ve developed a scoring system to determine if you will like this game or not.  Add up your scores and I’ll let you know where you fall:

A:  (# of JayZ Songs You Know) (# of Kids You Have)

B:  (# of Lebron Jerseys You Own) (# of Hank Williams Jr Songs You Know)

C:  (# of Hours Daily You Play Online Console Games) (# of the ’89 Pistons You Can Name)

A + B + C = Your Score

If your score is greater than zero, you’ll probably enjoy this game.  My score is a sweet -13 by the way.  Oh, and don’t make me tell you to get off my lawn again!

 

Listening Pleasures: The Great Gildersleeve

Around 10 years ago, after a friend’s suggestion, I stumbled across the Old-Time Radio network Antioch Broadcasting Network (ABN). Prior to that time I had never really listened to radio for anything other than music or talk radio. I’ve always liked classic television, so it was to be expected that I immediately followed the various crime or detective stories broadcast on ABN.

With radio programs, outside of a very limited amount of sound effects, the voice acting is the integral part to whether the story reaches its intended target. With these shows taking place primarily before the invention of television, the best actors were still in radio and it showed. In those days the advertiser actually had control of the programming as opposed to the show or network calling the shots. Companies such as Kraft Foods (sponsor of The Great Gildersleeve) had their own stable of actors and programming that was under company control.  The concept that the company being promoted during commercial breaks is actually the driving force behind the radio program itself is almost absurd to think about in comparison to today’s television programming.
After my initial interest in crime dramas I started to listen to several situational comedies. At first I was a reluctant listener but then the characters started to grow on me, somewhat unexpectedly. The show that stands out the most to me in the group of early radio sitcoms is The Great Gildersleeve.

The show started as a spin-off (it’s actually one of the first broadcast spin-offs of all time) of one of my least favorite shows: Fibber McGee and Molly. The main character, Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve, was played by Harold Peary. The character started as a neighbor of Fibber McGee and became so popular with listeners that Kraft Foods (the show’s sponsor) decided to give Peary his own show.

The premiere episode was August 31st, 1941 and I’ll be honest, the initial story line is not the greatest. Gildersleeve is single businessman (owner/operator of Gildersleeve Girdles) who has to leave his business and move to a town called Summerfield to take care of his recently deceased brother-in-law’s children. This part of the plot is very vague and is never really touched on again. It is just accepted that there is an odd living arrangement where Gildersleeve is the new guy in town, taking care of his adolescent niece and nephew.

Most of the initial storylines revolved around the kids, Leroy and Marjorie, getting to know their uncle. The household also had a housekeeper named Birdie. Marjorie is a teenager when Gildersleeve arrives and several early episodes centered on the latest love interest or teenage girl issue. Throughout almost the entirety of the show, Leroy remained 10 years old. The voice actor that played Leroy was actually an adult from the very beginning. He specialized in a teenage boy character’s voice and apparently did quite well at it. Because of the consistent age, most Leroy stories were similar to a Tom Sawyer-esque approach. Leroy and a revolving cast of friends were always up to something mischievous.

There was no doubt however that the focus of the show was Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve. Harold Peary, the actor that played Gildersleeve, was a very good singer and his singing ability was often a part of the theme of the episode. The character was also overweight for the 1940’s, so there were always comments about his weight from his arch nemesis Judge Hooker. Gildersleeve had a very distinct laugh that would be impossible for me to describe. The laugh was so unique that it became the calling card of the show. With Gildersleeve being a bachelor his love life was a constant work in progress. In a very fluid love interest character role, Leila Ransom was the most reoccurring character.

Since the show was in its prime during the start of WWII, it was inevitable that the war shaped a large portion of the show. I still remember the night I was listening to an episode when there was an interruption in the broadcast and a news anchor announced the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I listened to that episode multiple times that night just imagining what a listener in 1940s America would have thought tuning in expecting to hear Gildersleeve chasing a girl, never realizing that their entire world was about to change. The following episodes of the show contained plugs for war bond drives, rationing, soldiers returning from overseas and many other war time themes. These episodes were a peek into a time long forgotten by many, even though it was a simple family comedy that I don’t think ever intended to be anything more than just that.

OTRR LIBRARY – THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE

The show continued into the 1950s and by this time Harold Peary has been replaced by Willard Waterman because of a contract dispute. I have listened through all 552 episodes of the show, all the way through 1954. In my opinion the show ended with Harold Peary in 1950. No offense to Willard Waterman but he was simply a person doing a bad impression of Harold Peary playing the Great

Gildersleeve. While many of the main characters like Judge Hooker, Peavy, Marjorie and Leroy continued in the series, the show was never the same and I believe the ratings are evidence of that. The series also had a short lived run as a television series and also several feature length movies.

I’ll admit that I started this series with a very strong dislike of its storyline and the main character but for some reason it just grew on me. I found it to be a good stress relief in the hustle and bustle of today. The characters are genuine and the wartime setting made the show very memorable for me. I suggested it to my wife and she reluctantly fell into the trap, all the way up to the Willard Waterman years (Willard Waterman!!!). Seriously though, if you are looking for some easy listening give this series a try…