Looper – A non-spoiler, “should you see this movie” review.

I saw the new movie “Looper” today.

This is what I knew about the movie walking into the theater;

  1. Bruce Willis was in it.
  2. It was something about a guy that is sent back in time to kill other people and stuff, and when they “retire” you they have you kill your older self, closing the ‘loop’.

I didn’t see any trailers, didn’t know anything more about the plot than that.

Now, I am a big Bruce Willis fan. That may not be enough to get you excited about a movie, but based on how well I’ve enjoyed his recent smaller productions, such as ‘Red” and “Surrogates”, I wanted to see this sci-fi actioner before it vanished to DVD.

A spoiler-free review

I can’t actually describe anything to you. I don’t know what magic in the way I approached the film might be lost if I explain anything of substance.

Anything I say might give you expectations, and if I even gush about it too much, or talk about the approach it takes towards things, you might have it built up so big that your expectations couldn’t be met by anything short of another Lord of the Rings.

This ain’t another Lord of the Rings, by the way. A teeny spoiler there.

What I can tell you is this.

I enjoyed the entire movie. Every step of the way, I was on the edge of my seat.

At the beginning, my expectations were that there would be shallow, cardboard cutout characters with flimsy motivations, big explosions and violence, and some good one liners by Bruce Willis. Also, I expected seriously cheesy, predictable time-travel science fiction.

What I got were characters that were good, solid, and damn well developed. And the movie didn’t beat me over the head with some “oh we are so serious, we studied at Juilliard look at the subtext layers” bullshit, either. I was gradually introduced to the basic setup, the initial characters, and the environment and then stuff got layered in a VERY natural way. No pretentious bullshit, it was stripped down, meaty rock and roll.

But it didn’t stay totally stripped down for long.

It kept building and building, it set a solid foundation early on and then, unlike most smaller movies, it USED that foundation and went off like a rocket.

I found myself becoming emotionally invested in the characters. I didn’t expect that. There was character growth, and yes it may in retrospect have been accelerated, but it’s a movie, and at the time it did feel very natural.

The characters felt like real, believable people with fucked up but real attitudes and decisions based on how they had been setup and acted.

The science fiction… the action. The plot.

All I can really say is, there are two types of sci-fi plots I usually identify.

There are ones that take an existing condition or idea and try to follow it through, foretelling what it might turn into naturally. Those kinds are usually very focused on getting the tiniest details just so. They’re built on the existing world and tweaking it a little, so small details have to be clearly thought out and resolved. If you are making a statement about the dangers of existing technology or philosophy, then you have to have every single duck in a row, or people will use a logical fallacy to pick it apart. “If they were wrong about x, then y must also be wrong.”

Then there are those sci-fi plots that take a big, honking bold idea, something currently impossible, truly no kidding impossible and then ask, “what if”.

This is definitely the second kind of movie. Big ideas, but bold ideas… but viewed at purely from the street level, once those ideas are put in the hands of the little guys.

You never even see the big picture. This is what you see in a tiny sliver of the world when Pandora’s Box is open, and the demons are loose, and what one group of people that most citizens don’t even have anything to do with get their hands on it.

This is a Goodfellas film, or a Godfather, where all you really see is the world the bad guys live in, because that’s where the story takes place.

There are some big ideas here. And those ideas and how they are presented are very smart, very well thought out.

The movie does not allow itself to fall into the trap of having to explain every little thing to you. You are encouraged to watch, to follow along, and figure this shit out as you go. And enough is done well and explained ant intrinsically logical that I got the impression that if you could see the entire backstory they wrote, the science would make sense, but there is no realistic way that they could fit in all the explanations while people are either hunting down other people to kill them, or running for their lives.

Basically, I was wowed by Looper. Yeah, I’m gushing, but there it is.

I thought I knew what I was in for, and yes that is what I got, but I also got the bonus plan. It was more than I expected, in a good way.

I expected a light snack, and got a fulfilling meal instead. With an ending that left the people in the audience kind of stunned, and silent, taking it all in.

It’s that kind of movie. For a second, just before the credits roll, you stop and think, “Holy shit.”

You have to take a breath.

I’ll be honest, I’m sitting here, and even as I’m typing this, I’m still thinking about some of the ramifications of the plotline and how it all played out. And I’m not trying to pick it apart or look for loopholes, I’m working it out backwards, unraveling the thing and admiring how it all went.

I guess, here is how I would end a review.

Should you see it?

Well, putting aside your personal feelings about Tom Cruise, did you like the way the plot unfolded in the first Mission Impossible movie?

The first Mission Impossible was the one where, in the beginning, a con job unfolds before you, and there are lots of intricately timed movements, like watching a carefully choreographed ballet.

And then it all turns to shit, and how it turns to shit is at the heart of the movie.

Some of it is explained, but at the same time, most of it is left for you to figure out and keep up, we’ve got a movie to run, fuck spoon feeding you.

Did you like that? Did you like that feeling that they’ve got a story to tell, a visual story, and you’re expected to pay attention and figure some of it out on your own like a big boy or girl?

Put aside the rest of the Mission Impossible movie, did you like not having everything spoon fed to you? Like maybe you could figure some of this stuff out based on what you SEE?

Then I have to say, if you like that, and you like Bruce Willis, and you like science fiction action movies with guns and stuff, you’re going to damn well like this movie.

I just missed three hours of WoW playing on the Sunday afternoon the first week of release to see it, and I’m damn glad I did.

Oh, and as an afterthought, I hear they’re doing a sequel to Red.

Pandas Are Cool. Deal With It.

Ever since BlizzCon, when the expansion and the playable race were revealed, I’ve read a lot about Kung Fu Pandas.

I’ve never felt the desire to comment about Pandas before now, but there seems to be a rising narrative that I want to rebut and rebuke before it simply becomes “what everyone thinks” from inertia and a lack of pushback.

It feels stupid to even acknowledge the ignorance, but what the hell. It’s annoying me, I’m not seeing anyone address it, and whether you feel what I say about it is appropriate or accurate or not, I’ll feel better for having said it.

The playable race is Pandas. Pandas are cool. Deal with it.

I’ve seen people talk about how they hate the pandas, the idea of pandas, how stupid pandas are, multiple references to Kung Fu Panda, and my personal favorite, repeated statements that nobody out there wants to play a panda as a heroic character because they’re fat and stupid and uncool and, like, whatever.

Um.

First off, and my biggest point.

Speak for yourself. Don’t speak to what “everyone” thinks, or “everyone” wants, because you just come across sounding like what that shit is: stupid or ignorant or both.

All you can speak towards is what YOU think. You’ve got no idea what other people think. All you know is what you think in your head, and what you’ve seen people publicly say in the locations you go to.

If you surround yourself with alcoholics, and then ask if drinking is the best thing ever, you’re going to get a certain point of view. It’ll likely be damn close to unanimous in favor of the awesomeness of booze. Ask that same question at an AA meeting, and you’ll likely get a different answer.

So just shut up about telling us what “everyone” thinks based on what you think coupled with the opinions you’ve read in the places you frequent. Or, as I like to put it, stop giving us your knowledge learned in the school of “What some guy said in a pub.”

I’m saying you’re full of shit, in case I’m being too vague. You not only don’t speak for everyone, you CAN’T speak for everyone. Nor can you speak for a majority of people, about ANYTHING.

What, you did a Rasmussen poll? Who did you contact? Where? The forums? Oh yeah, that’s representative of the playerbase as a whole. Some blog? Your college dorm friends? What is your sampling size? What backgrounds and demographics are represented?

This goes for every damn thing out there. I don’t care what the topic is. Shit, even if we’re talking cannibalism. You can assume that nobody in the entire world is in favor of cannibalism, but you don’t KNOW. All you really know is what you think and what you feel inside your own head, and sometimes you don’t even know that.

Haven’t you ever heard of repressed feelings, and living in denial?

Maybe eveyone in the world secretly wonders what people taste like, but nobody dares to mention it for fear of being thought a freak. You don’t really know? Do you? 

If you want to say something about what you think, say what you think. Don’t try to bolster your argument by acting like everyone else thinks the same as you, if you disagree you’re not cool. Outsider, unclean, conform, conform.

Bullshit. Yes, speak your mind. If you think pandas suck, fine. Say so, loud and long, based on YOUR thoughts and feelings.

But don’t tell me that “everyone else thinks they suck, too”. Red flag, BULLSHIT ALERT. BULLSHIT ALERT.

Let’s move on to more Panda-specific ranting, on the race and on role playing in general.

People say Pandas aren’t cool. Aren’t neat. Are stupid as a playable race.

Here is where tastes divurge.

I think Pandas in general look pretty cool. When I see them hugging a tree, or eating a piece of sugarcane, I go “d’awww.” So cute! For all I know they might be mean little buggers in real life, with nasty claws and a bad temper. No idea.

More specifically, I think the Pandaran race in World of Warcraft looks very cool. When you see them in motion, there is a graceful flow to them that is very nice. I made a male Panda Warrior, and the two handed sword combat looks super-cool. It brings back fond memories of watching old Kung Fu movies when I was a child.

They are very graceful, without being explosions of macho muscle. They seem deadly like a keen edge, not a battering ram. And yet, the males Pandaren are physically huge, without being aggressively muscular.

So, you don’t think they’re cool? I do. I’ve given some reasons already, and I’ll have more further down. If your reason for why they’re not cool is to say, “Well, duh, ’cause they’re pandas” I say, not good enough. Back it up.

Now, I’m going to really delve into my own personal opinion on role playing games, playing, and what I think is at the heart of all the panda hate as a race.

Total speculation, my opinion, based on my own personal experiences playing pen and paper role playing games for many years, both in High School and for eight years with Marines that also played.

I know some people play role playing games to live vicariously through the lives of their characters.

I have known people I’ve played with who heavily invested themselves in the character they created. They played their character to feel things and do things, and act in ways through their character that they either could not or would not in the real world.

These were characters, yes, but they were also surrogate selves. They were the people my friends wished they were, or were like, instead of the reality.

Some of them, yes, played their character to feel powerful and badass. Some of them were Marines I’ve known. It may surprise you, but Marines can feel powerless and ineffective in the real world too. They played to feel some control, some power, some feeling of success.

I’m not just guessing. Some of my good friends and I would bullshit about this stuff all the time, they knew they did it, and copped to it. In some cases, freely admitted that they did it as a stress relief. Work may have really sucked and the Sergeant has been giving them a ration of shit lately, by damn let’s get this game going, I want to blow some shit up.

I say, good. Whatever you do that helps you feel better, and doesn’t involve hurting other people is just fine with me.

I’d much rather someone feel powerful by playing a badass in an RPG than that they get out on the open road in a 2 ton car and decide that by God they were going to make people fear them today and touch someone else’s life whether they like it or not.

It’s not just about feelings of power or control, either.

I’ve also known people that had a public face, professional, restrained, even proper, but when playing a role-playing game felt safe enough or free enough to act completely different than they ‘normally’ would. To be flirty or unrestrained, as one example, but also to act loud and brash, or argumentative and bullheaded instead of going along to get along, or other behaviors that they just didn’t feel right doing in real life.

Part of role playing is it’s not real. It’s a safe environment to let you do shit you yourself don’t do in the real world, because that’s not who you really are, but let’s pretend for a short time.

Sometimes, how you or someone else acts in the anonymity of the internet isn’t who you really are inside, it might be someone you are exploring being, a path not taken, someone you’ve never been, just to try it on where it’s ‘make-believe’. What else IS role playing, if not trying on something that ain’t really you?

They’re role-playing games. This is the whole point, doing things and experiencing things through a character that ain’t you. Sometimes you’re working out issues, sometimes, you’re just exploring the possibilities.

Hopefully, doing it inside a fictional storyline, being interactive and playing with friends makes it all one big fun time.

But, if you do play the your character in the game to feel like a powerful badass, then a character race or class that you identify with that feeds into a sense of personal power would be what you want, not some soft cuddly panda.

I get that.

In pen and paper role playing games, the races chosen by players seeking personal power would be the big gonzo things, the giants, half-giants, orcs, dragonkin, half-dragons, etc. Massive super-powerful, imposing, rippling muscles and ragged loincloths or big spiky armor. Honking big axes, flaming swords, that kind of thing.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Damnit, it’s one of the things that I like best about role playing games, we’re adults, we can damn well play make believe in any way and for whatever reason that we want to. There isn’t a ‘right way’ to play a role playing game. 

But maybe that is why people say they don’t like the pandaren playable race, or think they’re not cool?

The person playing to be a powerful badass wishes they’d gotten something badass and powerful like dragons or dragonkin as a playable race, or something else large and imposing and covered in spikes or rippling muscles. Something that fits a different definition of ‘cool’. A definition that gets fed by the covers of video game magazines, muscle car magazines, and the Shooting Times.

I don’t know. I’m wondering, and yes I’m projecting, but I’m trying like hell to figure out where all the panda rage is coming from, and I’m drawing some blanks here.

In short, I’m wondering if most of the rage at Pandas as a playable race is coming from people who wanted a race to feed their power fantasies better.

If you don’t like pandas or are raging against them, if that’s your thing, go for it.

But don’t go out there and start talking about how everyone hates them and nobody would play one, or how stupid they are, and expect it to go unchallenged.

I love the panda characters, their style, their feel. They are very interesting as potential characters.

They cry out for stories, for adventures, for making their way in a fictional world, stumbling into trouble and trying to learn more about the outside they’ve never known before. And all of this with a positive, open, curious frame of mind.

The pandas to me are a playable race where, finally, we don’t have a legacy of war and patriotism and old feuds and fury. We’ve got a race that can wander out in the world, not to kill or dominate or impose their will on others, but to see, to explore, and to learn.

Pandas are the good stewards, looking to leave things as they find them, to learn from what they see, and to offer aid to those that need it regardless of who they are.

I for one am grateful to have a new race that is more open to having a different point of view, a more peaceful, reflective mood as a foundation to build on.

Oh shit. Wait, I just thought. Is peace not cool, either?

WoW: Have I Told You Lately…

Have I told you lately that I love you? That I hold no one else above you?

I can’t gush too much because, hello, spoilers.

But I can say two quick things and then give you a screenshot of happiness.

First thing. Last night I started doing the starter area in Pandaria with my Druid, but before too long decided to follow my nose and sniff out herbs. I explored a lot without ever looking at a map, and found herbs, herbs and more herbs. I quickly got my Inscription to 600, made two Scrolls of Wisdom now (24 hour cooldown, but got the first in before midnight last night), and know two of the new minor Glyphs. So, if you are on Azuremyst and want your Warrior’s Charge to leave a flame trail, or you want your Priest to be looking like a Vyrkul when something or other spell goes off, I’m yer Drood.

The thing of it is, all that exploring left me very, very happy with the land of Pandaria, and I’ll tell you why.

You’ll likely see a lot said about the beauty, the architecture, the design. That’s all nice, I agree.

The big thing to me, the thing that feels RIGHT, is it feels like a land people actually LIVE in!

There are orchards with trees in bloom and peaceful farmers. No mobs, no flames, no distress… just people going about the business of daily life.

Yes a lot of the land, by necessity, is crammed with dangerous areas for questing.

But there are also areas that are there because, you know, people need food. Beer needs barley and hops. Flowers come from somewhere before being picked and placed in a bowl on a table.

There is life happening in Pandaria, and it’s something that I’ve often felt was missing in previous expansions, by necessity of cramming quests into a limited amount of space.

The space in Pandaria is generous… and even on the panda starting area, on the back of a giant sea turtle, this attention to detail of the life and loves and daily work of a people is given consideration… to the improvement of the game.

Okay, so the ecospace seems a bit tiny for the Virmin… who among us didn’t give out a laugh at what we saw deep underground in the Vermin-infested carrot patch? I know Alex drug me over to show me in delight.

So, my first thing is, thank you Blizzard for giving me a land that feels like a settled land with history that supports a people, rather than a coldly calculated quest zone.

My second thing is, whoever designed Pet Battles needs to be given a raise, and then somebody slap the shit out of ’em. Not necessarily in that order.

Pet Battles are so good, so awesome, so perfect and so ADDICTING that if this shit isn’t the single greatest threat to raid teams, I don’t know what is.

The pets, the achievements, the sheer quantity of critters to seek out and capture, the swapping nature of the game, the tactics and brute force, the balancing act between winning by overpowering and having someone weak enough to give a wounding shot but leave the target alive for capture… wow.

Cassie had no interest in it. Cassie wasn’t in the slightest interested in it.

So who was it that spent most of last night capturing pets in Elwynn Forest and Westfall until she had a rare of every critter in both zones (except the cat in Elwynn, damn the slow spawn rate), and had used a Bunny as her main combat pet? Or, as she put it, ‘That’s one bad bunny!”

Who was it that told me, after her 40th tamed crab in Westfall, that she thought there WERE no rares out of respect for Ghostcrawler? But kept on trying until she finally got one?

She’s got achievements for capturing over 100 critters now, and I still don’t have a third pet past level 2. Mostly because I feel like I really should get my Druid to combat level before getting too deep into Pet Battles and lose it all.

There is going to be a twelve step program for Pet Battles. We’re going to see guild interventions. Mark my words. You will lose raiders over this. They would’ve been ready on time, but they were collecting critters in Kalimdor, and didn’t have time to farm for flasks or food.

I’m telling you. It’s coming.

And finally, this.

Just, this.

While I was exploring, I came across this gentle soul, taking his pet fish for a walk.

That’s all he’s doing… he’s taking the fish for a little walk.

It’s little moments of insane awesome like this, that are the reasons you need to stop and LOOK when you’re playing, or you might miss something that’ll gobsmack you.

Oh, and one last thing.

“An’ this one’s for Gizmo and Socks, you bastards!”

Best. Line. Ever.

 

What was the first thing you did?

Good morning!

Whether you took some time and are making a marathon of it, or just logged in long enough to go, “Yep, that’s a panda all right”, I hope everyone has had a chance to dip their furry toes in Pandaria.

I spent just about an hour and a half in before work, myself.

So, the big question.

All bullshit aside, what did you really do for your first hour in Mists of Pandaria?

I’m really interested.

Maybe you had big plans or not, maybe you thought you had plans and when you logged in you changed your mind at the last minute and did something else.

What did you do?

How did you spend your first hour in Mists of Pandaria?

Did you rush to level a profession for a server first, or make a new alt, or quest, or try your hand at the new instances?

I thought I had sort of a plan. I was going to go to Pandaria on my Druid and explore a bit. I didn’t do any of the level 85 – 90 content in the beta, it would be truly new content.

Instead, when I logged in this morning I found myself turning my name placeholders into real characters. So, I now have a Panda Monk named Bouncybutt, and a Panda Warrior named Baconbutt. Warriors are supposed to tease the bad guys. If I could wear special threat-enhancing bacon-scented armor to cause more aggro, I would. Oh yes I would.

And really, isn’t it about time we were able to use our Cooking skill to make threat enhancing scents to apply to our armor or shield? The very best chefs could create mouth-watering aromas that drove the critters wild… literally!

After making my new alts, I did log into my Druid… and the thought uppermost in my mind was Pet Battles.

I found the trainer in Stormwind, and then had to go fight a critter. With a pet.

I had to choose a pet to battle with.

Aw… well, shit. I knew I forgot something.

I never picked a team. Quick, who do I choose?

I scrolled through my pet list, and the first thing I noticed was, none of them have any rarity indicator. Still. They just are what they are, no common or rare or anything.

What can I say? I’m a jarhead at heart. Out comes Grunty the Murloc Marine, and I went to pit his automatic weapon against… a bunny wabbit.

It was a tough battle, but I emerged victorious! Err, Grunty did. Yeah, that’s what I mean.

By the time I finished doing pet battles quests, I had a level 3 Grunty, I’d picked the Phoenix as my 2nd battle pet just to have something in the slot, and I could and did capture a poor quality bunny, a poor quality squirrel, and a common Stormwind Rat.

Fine, off to Pandaria!

I won’t spoil anything about the Pandaria experience for those that may still be at work or who have yet to buy the CE version in stores.

What I will say is, when I arrived in the skies above Pandaria, I saw far below the paw print icon of a capturable critter. An Emerald Turtle!

My first Pandaria pet!

When I landed in Pandaria, the very first thing I did was ignore any quest giver, run past all foes, weave and dodge, and got to that Emerald Turtle.

I engaged it in furious pet battle… and it destroyed my pet team in two shots.

Turns out, Pandaria Emerald Turtles are level 24. Oops.

I did a few quests there after that, and then switched to my Panda Monk and got to level 3 while the area was pretty empty.

All that was beside the point. For me, the thing I apaprently really wanted to do was pet battles, and if it weren’t for the desire to level at least one character to max, I’d have stayed with pet battles all morning.

I hope that you enjoyed your first steps into Mists of Pandaria. I hope you’ll tell me how it went for you!

Oh, and if anyone knows how I go about finding out what rarity my existing pets are, I’d appreciate it.

Take care, and happy hunting!

 

PS, if you haven’t done pet battles yet, when you train the profession, critters you can fight or capture in cagtesd appear on your mini-map as little green paw prints. It is SUPER awesome, and will help those of us who want to fly around in low levels areas expanding our critter stable. I was wondering how you went about fidning new critters, and now I know! And knowing is half the battle.

Pre-Mists Madness!

Well, not so much madness, as mild meandering.

Tonight, we are going to bring a completely fresh, unspoiled perspective into Karazhan.

Yes, that’s right, Cassie and I are going to be bringing Alex into Karazhan for the very first time.

Oh, yeah, and the reason we’re going is that Tesh has activated a 7 day “why don’t you come over and see me sometime” trial on his World of Warcraft account.

Tesh has a level 81 Dwarf something or other, and has never, ever stepped foot inside Karazhan before. So, we’re going in.

Two players can destroy the place, I know, my friend Melpo and I slammed through the first half in about half an hour just a few weeks ago. The point isn’t to see how fast you can go.

What I think the idea is, is to travel through with our eyes open, and take the time to see just how awesome and beautiful the place is, enjoy the ambience, and make that first visit really count.

Now, there will be four of us, all of us ridiculously overpowered for the content, and we’re going at 6:30 PM tonight (Central Time).

I bring this up, because if there were a few more people who would like to join us and play with Tesh of Tish Tosh Tesh infamy, I’d be open to having a few more folks join us… folks that understand we ain’t zerging, we’re respecting the gravitas of the past on the very eve of the future.

If you would like to join us, let me know via email to thebigbearbutt@gmail.com. If you’re already my Battletag buddy, you’ve got first call, due to having responded to my call for people to join us weeks ago on runs. Just be advised, space is super limited.

Like, super.

Fall, Theramore, Fall!

‘Tis the day before Pandaland, and excitement is brewing and bubbling away.

Poor timing for this post? Perhaps. But in the rush of enthusiasm, as many are carried along, there will be at least one voice saying, “But momma, he’s not wearing any clothes.”

This is, yes,a bout the Fall of Theramore, but it could as easily be called “What I did last weekend.”

But this isn’t about the story qualities of the Fall of Theramore. I’ve got a completely different axe to grind. Or not.

I think Rades said everything that should be said about it, in the best possible way. At least, everything I hope can be said about it. I find myself nodding along and wishing that it was all intentional to build up the Raid of Orgrimmar, and not just, you know, fail character development of Garrosh.

When The Fall of Theramore scenario was first released, Alex, Cassie and I all hopped on our characters and ran it once. We had a good time learning about it, exploring, burning the ships, etc.

Alex, as could be expected, was a big fan of setting the ships in the harbor on fire, usually while Cassie and I were still fighting on the decks.

We ran the Fall scenario just once that first night, because when we went to re-queue, the option for Fall was greyed out.

The second night, we went in again, and did it a few times. It turned out that you could re-queue, as long as you dropped group and then regrouped. Fortunately, that bug has since been fixed, but at the time it looked like a given character could do it but once a day.

I think we only ran it twice that second night, and I went on my Death Knight, hoping to get a weapon upgrade.

Instead of gear, I got the Everlasting Alliance Fireworks in my loot bag. Alex saw me get that, and was excited at the possibility of getting it as well. I mean, fireworks, right?

I wasn’t sure how loot was designed for the scenario, because after three or four runs, none of us had seen any loot whatsoever, and I had thought there was supposed to be a pretty long loot table for it, so, is it even working? but clearly, there is loot, and it was in the spoils of Theramore box, so… okay?

We ran it again a few times over the week, and no, none of us ever got any epics or Everlasting Fireworks on anyone else.

The drop rate seemed pretty low for anything, and it’s now school time. I decided to just put it aside until we were level 90, and could do the scenario at our leisure to get the fireworks.

Time moves very fast. It was Saturday night when I saw that a Blue had commented that the loot you can get from the scenario of Theramore now will NOT be available in the level 90 Mists of Pandaria version. If you wanted any of the items, you’d better go get them now.

Well… shit. Really?

It was late, maybe 10:00 pm, but I decided to log into Alex’s account and queue up his Death Knight to try and get those fireworks for him. It was no big thing, but I like surprising him with things like that, and he loves the cute flavor items more than actual gear upgrades, you know?

I left Stormwind to fly up to Western Plaguelands to farm iron ore, and join what I expected to be the long queue time for Fall of Theramore, just to get him an everlasting firework.

My first surprise was that the queue time was instant. I’d heard there were huge wait times earlier in the week, but not on Saturday night. I had three runs in before my flight even landed in Western Plaguelands.

How long could it really take to get one simple firework? I could reason that the epics might have a lower drop rate, but a cute little flavor item with a short availability? Shouldn’t be a big problem.

After my third run, I mentioned in Guild Chat that it was going to be a long night of runs to get that firework if the drop rate was as low as it seemed. I mean, sure I didn’t get any loot, but neither did anyone else in any of the runs.

Call me suspicious, but three runs now, plus the runs from earlier in the week, and NOBODY got an epic yet? That suggests a fairly low drop rate. Not exactly raining epics.

One of my guildies, Baddmojo, offered to run it with me three or four times to speed the runs up a little.

Saying his presence would speed the runs up is not a boast. Well, it is, but it’s also damn true. He’s a member of the progression heroic raid team in the guild, and his Rogue is a pure badass. He mentioned in guild chat that he hit 88k DPS on one of the DS boss fights over the weekend, and all I can say is, really? Well, we could bring three of my Hunter, or one Baddmojo to a fight. Hmm… let me think about that for a second. So yeah, I could reasonably expect the runs to go a teensy bit faster with him on the squad.

We queued that baby up and ran the Fall of Theramore.

About four runs in, I realized I was getting Justice Points for every run. Alex had no points when we started, and had been wanting to get a Spellpower Heirloom Staff for our baby Warlocks, so hey, double bonus! We’ll be making progress towards two goals at once. Can it get any better than this?

We ran the Fall. And we ran it some more. Then, well, we might have run it again.

It might seem boring or like drudgery, but I was having a blast on every run.

See, I have a Death Knight that is now a baby 85, no raids, no runs, barely an instance or two. Still half in pvp 377s. But I was on Alex’s Death Knight, and seeing what a hotrod can do on the open road.

It was an eye opener. So many things to try, so much to do, shiny buttons and Talents, oh my! 

Inevitably, we were trying to see how fast we could do it, and okay, so we were messing with each other pulling mobs. Since his DPS was so obscene, I would use Death Grip on his mobs when he was far way from me… especially when I’d see his Legendary Dagger wing effect pop. 🙂

I figured out I might have been going too far when I didn’t let the mobs spread out to engage the water elementals on the last phase, but rushed the group instead so I could Death and Decay and my diseases on everyone at once. Oops! Steamrolled!

Oh yeah, right. When you’re dead, you do zero DPS. Right. Forgot about that.

About, I dunno, 8 runs in we got a dedicated Priest healer, and holy CRAP did that change the nature of the game. The two of us dropped any pretense at strategy, and just started zerging the island.

We’d pile everyone up at the beginning, kill that damn kissing captain, and then he’d take the left ship, and me and the healer would head right. By the time we’d hacked our way through to the right ship’s captain, Baddmojo would have knocked off the left captain and caught up to us. Usually bypassing us to set the ship on fire.

After that, zerg the fountain, zerg the demolisher, and successfully zerg the final wave.

I wanted to hug that healer. Such fun! So fast! I wanted to keep him and hug him and name him George.

I asked him if he’d stay with us. Don’t leave us! Baby, it’s cold outside.

He was there farming cloth, he was delighted to run it again with us.

Over and over and over…. and over and over and over…

By 2:30 in the morning, I had about all I could do. Fortune favors the brave, and random is random, but it just wasn’t happening.

God bless Baddmojo, he stuck with me the whole way through. He may have said he’d run three or four with me, but we ran Fall of Theramore enough for me to earn enough Justice Points to buy that heirloom staff outright.

Lemme see here… 168 JP per run, and 3500 JP for a staff, equals… huh, about 21 runs in one sitting. Or maybe it’s 186 JP per run, and 19 runs. Shit, I don’t even know anymore.

What I do know is, we ran Fall of Theramore a lot.

Over the course of the evening, I saw a lot of cloth drop, a lot of trash grey items, and I got… one Black Circlet epic.

No Everlasting Alliance Firework, just a ton of the Alliance fireworks.

Baddmojo got three of the epic daggers to drop.

I never saw any of the other players we were with get any epics at all.

All night long, not a single one of us ever got the Everlasting Firework.

Here is the sad part. We didn’t get the loot that was supposed to drop, but we did get a world drop of a iLevel 359 epic. A necklace or something, Ju’tzes bell or one of those things.

It wasn’t a waste of an evening by any stretch. Like I said, I did earn enough JP for my son to get the heirloom staff all in one night. That’s pretty badass.

When we played our Warlocks the next day (we’re at 27!) he was so delighted. Now, as he pointed out, he only needs enough JP for the cloth heirloom shoulders. As it is, we’re twins in so much Heirloom gear, the mobs might as well bend over when they see us coming. 

It wasn’t a waste in other ways, too. I had a freaking blast playing through that on Alex’s Death Knight.

I learned so much about performing AoE DPS on a Death Knight, on survivability cooldowns, on how Talents work, I can’t begin to tell you.

I know that I started out the night doing around 15k – 18k DPS, and by the end of the night I was doing 33k.

Of course, Baddmojo was doing about 20k more than that, but I felt a distinct sense of satisfaction at improving so much.

I had never really had a chance to play with AoE Death Knight mechanics, and let me tell you, the Blood Tap Talent is awesome for repeated applications of Blood Boil at carefully timed moments of maximum crowd density. Just, wow. Boom boom boom!

And then there was just having a blast messing around with someone doing things that aren’t for progression, just… having fun, you know?

What I’m just a little ticked off about is the miserliness of the drop rate for these items.

Just.. why?

I don’t understand it.

Is it really intended that you should take one character and have to chain run it for a week to get one item you’re looking for? To invest four, five hours running the same 20 minute scenario in the hopes of getting an everlasting firework so you’ve got that cute memento?

Alex wasn’t down about not getting it… not with the multiple stacks of normal Alliance fireworks he got. He can burn those suckers off for the next two years. He’s cool. It’s not like we were dying for some specific transmog item, either. Aside from the Archmages Staff, they’re pretty ugly items.

But the drop rate…. I really am surprised. Ooh, here’s the point of the post. I’m a little worried, too.

What I’m worried about is that this isn’t intentional design, but instead a result of the new LFR loot system.

As far as I understand the new LFR loot system, the game decides if there was a chance that loot your class and spec could use would have dropped from the boss. If the answer of that random roll is yes, then a second roll is made to see if you would have been lucky enough to win it based on normal numbers of competitors all rolling for it.

So, although you’re not literally rolling against anyone else, the rarity of loot is supposed to be equivalent to your playing with a full group of people, and always having everyone who could roll for something useable by you competing with you.

Is what I saw in Fall of Theramore that system in action? Where I won a single epic helm after 18 (or 21) runs of the scenario, not including the runs from earlier in the week?

Or was the scenario not using LFR rules, and it was just… hell, the worst loot luck I ever heard of.

Not leaving me with warm fuzzies, here. What if it had been a pet drop? Something I would have wanted on my account, too?

All in all… the Fall of Theramore is leaving me with a bad Cataclysm aftertaste, and I am hoping, I am really hoping  that it’s not a sign of what the live Mists of Pandaria will be like.

The Cub Report – Controlling ALL The Things!

So, you probably think all we’ve been doing this week is running the Fall of Theramore.

Honestly, the scenario was exactly what a scenario should be – a cute little thing to do together for fun, no big deal. Oh look, a cool Tabard and some, er, fireworks.

Or, as Alex said at the time, “Did they just give us fireworks to celebrate Theramore getting destroyed?”

Well put.

No, my friends, oh no. Fall of Theramore was a good topic of conversation for a day, but that is small potatoes, of no consequence before the fires of a boy’s imagination.

Since the 5.0.4 patch, and the Talent/Skill revamp, Alex has been going through his spellbook, looking at his skills and reading descriptions.

It was while doing this that he came across a cool looking icon with a skull on a black background.

The name of the ability was “Control Undead”.

All of you Death Knight players out there, you know what happened next.

He didn’t say anything to me, he just took it upon himself to fly up to Icecrown and experiment.

I was doing a little Archaeology, and happened to glance over at his screen.

“Son”, I asked, “Where did you get an undead puppy for a pet?”

Well, it turns out he’s been controlling, well, everything. Everywhere.

So, I asked him to take me on a guided tour of all of his favorite undead to tame and control. Just, go ahead and show me your favorites.

What follows is your Death Knight Control Undead Travelogue.

Enjoy.

It Begins.

The Pustulant Horror

Alex started off by bringing me to one of the closest undead to Dalaran to tame, the Pustulant Horror. It was here he instructed me on the basics. They replaced your existing pet while you controlled them, they would stay controlled for up to five minutes, if you controlled something else they would either vanish or attack you, and if you tried to take the really big ones off walls carelessly they would bug out in midair instead of following you anywhere… like Dalaran.

Yes, he tried.

Malefic Necromancers – Gotta Catch ‘Em All

It turns out, there are three colors of malefic Necromancers wandering the Icecrown valleys. Yes, Alex was very careful to capture one of every color for me to take a picture of. Yes, this is important.

Risen Alliance Soldier

The Risen Alliance Soldier that Alex controlled is clearly a Paladin of some sort… awesome armor, very badass. As you can see, this captured a tense moment, as the Risen Alliance Soldier was about to be ganked from behind. Oh no! What will happen! Will our hero survive? Alex couldn’t just control one of the normal ones, oh no, he went for the gold.

Hulking Abomination

The Hulking Abomination was interesting. Alex pointed out that, if you wait, he grabs his stomach in both hands and kinda jiggles it. I couldn’t help noticing that the third arm, the one sticking out of his shoulder and holding the hook? Yeah, he periodically uses it to scratch his own back, right in that hard to reach spot.

That BASTARD.

Frostbrood Skytalon

Up to that point, all was about what you’d expect. Ho hum, Death knight sees random undead, controls undead. Then, he flew through a pack of Skytalons intentionally, brought one down and tamed it. It followed him around as he flew on his ICC 25 mount, and damn if that didn’t look cool.

Fallen Spiderlord

Bugs… why’d it have to be bugs. That there is the worlds largest undead cockroach… and my son had to tame it and make it his pet. I’m so proud.

Frostbrood Matriarch

Then he went for a target, and all I could say was, no freaking way.

Yes, yes he did. He tamed a Frostbrood Matriarch to be his ‘pet’. That shot doesn’t really do justice to the concept…

So by way of comparison, I had Alex get on his mount, and circled him. He’s that teeny circled Death Knight down there, completely hidden in that giant honking shadow. That thing is HUGE.

Bone Sentinel

Oh, I’m sorry, did I say the Frostbrood was huge? Sorry, my mistake. Thanks for clearing that up by showing me what REALLY huge is like.

That’s right. If you look closely, Alex comes up to the top of his BOOT. Just, WTF, and Blizzard, please make this a permanent pet when Control Undead is Glyphed. Or make Unholy be a “tame undead and have a stable like Hunters” spec. Unholy argleblargle. They’ll never do it, how could you fit that thing through a dungeon door? But god, couldn’t you just SEE Arathi Basin with a few of those giving away your position?

Coprous The Defiled – The Saga

This will be a series of shots. See, Alex wanted to show me this cool trick Coprous does.

He drops his left arm… and, well, you can’t be having with that, now can you?

A Boy and His Dog

As he ran up to this one to tame him, Alex called out, “Here boy! Come on! Who’s a good boy, huh? Who’s a good boy! Oh yes you are!” We may just need to get him a puppy. Our three cats might not like that, though.

The best moment, he really did save for last.

Acherus Deathcharger

I almost missed it at first.

He ran up to one of the mounted Death Knights outside the gate, and he controlled… the mount.

RIGHT OUT FROM UNDER THE KNIGHT.

If you look up there, you can see the pitiful broken body of the Death Knight there in the corner. All the dude was doing was cruising along, thinking wormy thoughts, next thing he knows his OWN MOUNT throws him and goes running off to a new master.

That’s cold, man. That’s really cold.

What is it about Arthas, that everything he raises has to be… bigger?

He seems to have a real thing about size. I don’t like to mention it, but he also seemed to be really obsessed with the… performance of his minions.

Let’s choose not to speculate on why he may have turned to evil after his tryst with Jaina, shall we?

I hope you have enjoyed this completely out of character visual journey through the adventures of a Cub and his Control Undead games. You can be sure that, from now on, every undead we see will be a lab rat for his experiments.

Look at it this way. We finally found something to experiment on that people care less about than lawyers. Do you see PETA coming up to Icecrown to complain?

I think not!

Snarky Thoughts While Reading Tides of War

I’m reading Tides of War.

I’m not that far into the book, Cassie got it from the public library yesterday. She finished it, so it’s my turn.

Yes, she finished the book before we did the Fall of Theramore scenario. I did not. She seems more disappointed in it than I am. She expected…. a LOT more.

While reading the book, a few thoughts pop into my head.

I love Christie Golden, I know some folks don’t, but I can see the difference between a good writer writing a great book of her own crafting, and a good writer writing the best book she can with storylines handed her by a design team.

She does a great job with what she’s given, is what I’m saying.

Anyway, as I’m reading, some thoughts pop into my head. Not nice thoughts. Snarky, smart ass thoughts.

If you haven’t read the book, please don’t read past this point. I don’t want to spoil things inadvertantly for you, and also what I might say, taken out of context and in a sarcastic way, might give you the wrong impression.

Okay?

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First, what up with Thrall? Thrall and Jaina getting all chatting and he’s like, “You know, you need to get yourself a man, that’ll chill you right out.”

What up with that shit? Really, Thrall?

Now, I could’ve taken that like, all sexist and shit. Woman ain’t no good unless she gots herself a man. But this is Christie Golden, so, no.

Instead of that, I kinda got the feeling Thrall was doing the same thing I’ve had happen to me before.

You have a single friend, they get married, and they get so full of the awesomeness of being married with their snugglebuns that they want all their single friends to get married, too.

Or perhaps they realize that they’re now stuck in an eternal hell of their own creation, and can’t stand to see your single ass happy and free. Whatever.

But in that same conversation, there was a completely different point that needed to be made.

Jaina tells Thrall he needs to go have himself a talk with Garrosh, that boy be fucking some shit up. And, you know, little reminder here, but, Thrall, you done saved the world and shit, stood up side by side with the Aspects, you lit a fire up Deathwings’ ass, your orc homies be listenin’ to yo ass if you set ’em straight.

Thrall, he leans back, looks at Jaina all relaxed and says, “Ain’t my problem. I’m in the Earthen Ring now. And I might be the leader of the Earthen Ring, but really, all we do is smoke weed and listen to Hendrix, man. That Garrosh shit? That’s your problem, you deal with it. And don’t come crying to me if you’ve got some hotheaded militant asshole all up in your business looking to stir up some shit. *cough* Varian *cough cough*.”

Are you shitting me? Really?

“Hey Thrall, dude, you spent all of your life bringing your people out of slavery and instilling some pride and discipline into them. You carved out a home for them, built strong alliances with other races, and told your former captors to go piss up a rope. You’ve given a lot, and you’re entitled to some peace, quiet and a life raising a family. I know.”

“But dude, stop and think about it. You spent your life building all of this, but that fucktard you put in charge has killed your best friend, sunk your treasury in debt to the goblins for an all-iron makeover of Orgrimmar, and is actively working to launch a war that will endanger everything you have built, and send it all tumbling down into ruin. Can’t you, like… I don’t know, SAY something? Hell, just go on a fucking tour of Orgrimmar, check shit out. What, you hate your people so much now that you won’t even set foot in Orgrimmar?”

Thrall leans back, takes a puff, “… Nah. It’s cool. Y’know… now I can go to our real home in Draenosh when I want to, fuck a bunch of desert wastelands. Let it burn.”

Yes, I’m exaggerating a lot, but what? Just… sure, nobody listens to Jaina, because nobody really thinks SHE’S going to go all berserker and shove a fireball up their asses if they stick her in a corner or patronize her.

And let me tell you, the day a bunch of men ignore a fucking Mage and patronize her? That’s the day she SHOULD shove a fireball up their asses and remind them of who has the BOOM STICK.

But fine, nobody listens to poor Jaina, and she gets all frustrated because those assholes still don’t respect her opinion after all this time.

But who exactly in the Horde is going to ignore the opinion, or orders, of Thrall?

Who?

Thrall walks on into the new throne room, sees Garrosh standing there with the Blackrock Orc, wanders around listening to some of the news about guards and the Blackrock smacking around anyone that voices dissent, hears about how some vanish in the dark, gives a quick chat to Baine and Vol’jin..

Are you seriously telling me that he couldn’t stop it?

With two sentences he could have shut the whole thing down.

“You are a disgrace to the memory of Grom Hellscream and an enemy of the Horde. Get out of my sight or I will kill you where you stand.”

He’s Thrall. He forged an Orc nation from nothing and brought his people out of despair, forged an empire and saved the world. Fuck an Orc that grew up in some pussy place like Draenor, where there are so many animals to kill and eat nobody has to farm in Nagrand.

Seriously. Thrall. Disappointing, man. That shit is weaksauce.

Hey, other than those minor quibbles, the book is pretty good! I’m only on page 97, but I have a good feeling that they’ll find the Focusing Iris, avert a war and save Theramore in the end.

Right, guys? Guys?

Guys?

The Fall of Theramore – Alone in the Crowd

Last night, in World of Warcraft, the first new content was released for the game in about ten months. It was released just a bit more than one week in advance of a new $40 expansion.

I recap that because I do have friends who come here who don’t play WoW anymore, haven’t in years, and probably couldn’t care less about it. It’s good to provide some general perspective before launching into discussion, right?

In the short time the scenario has been out, I have seen dozens of blog posts, hundreds of tweets, and some pretty incendiary flaming directed at it.

A lot of folks are upset.

Scenarios are a new addition to the game, and I’ve read that we will see a bunch more of them in the new expansion aimed at level 90 players.

Whats the big deal?

In the current game of World of Warcraft, there is the questing content for solo players (and lately we’ve seen just about all of the old group quests nerfed down to be soloable), there are dungeons designed for groups of five players that must incoporate a tank, a healer and three damage dealers, and then there are raids, content for groups of from ten to twenty-five players that again are designed to require some of the players be designated tanks and healers to succeed. Or to be pretty damn crafty and overgeared for the raid. Druids and Death knights and Paladins, I’m looking at you.

Scenarios, on the other hand, are a very new concept for World of Warcraft.

Scenarios are designed for groups of three players, they are supposed to be of shorter duration than a traditional dungeon instance, and most importantly, they are designed to allow groups of any composition, so long as most can do damage, to succeed. I’m sure groups formed of three healers will be… interesting to watch. I can’t wait to see videos spring up on Youtube of groups of unlikley combinations having fun.

Scenarios can still grant nice loot rewards, but they seem to be meant to be little mini-stories. True scenarios, where you are presented with a beginning situation, and work through the events towards a conclusion. more than a quest, less than a big dungeon full of complicated boss mechanics.

From a bald description of scenarios, you’d be left to wonder why so many folks are upset, right?

The answer to that is tied up in player expectations and story shit that has nothing to do with scenarios.

There have been quite a few expansions for the game now, and for each of the previous expansions, there was a special event within the game starting a week prior to the expansions release.

The events really only last a week or two, and typically end the night before the expansion is live.

Having done these cool little one-time-only events so many times before, there was an expectation in the game that we’d see the same thing this time; something coming out that was special a week or two before the expansion landed on store shelves.

So far, there is only one week remaining, and what we have is this one short ten minute scenario.

The next issue a lot of people have is that the Fall of Theramore is an act of aggression by the Horde against the Alliance, serving as the single most visible catalyst for the eruption of full scale war between the factions going into the expansion.

There was a book, The Tides of War, that deals with all of this story development and the buildup of these events, but within the game, everyone expected to see some kind of playable event or even quests or content that would allow us to take part in and feel involved in this huge whopping change that was about to take place.

Basically, we all expected to be playing something that would involve us in events and allow us to become more emotionally invested in going to war.

Again, instead of any cutscenes, quests, or outward manifestation of what led to the moment, within the game we got… a 10 minute scenario.

Many players are a mite upset at this. And I do get that.

What I question is whether it is right to heap all that anger on the scenario.

I’m not looking at all the lore stuff, and I’m not judging the scenario based on my expecations for an in game event. I didn’t really expect it to be taken as one, but maybe I’m crazy.

I expected the scenario to be exactly what it was; a tease of the kind of new content I’m going to be able to play in Mists. And based on that expectation, I really enjoyed it. I loved it. It made me very, very happy. I can foresee many happy evenings with my family doing scenarios on whatever bloody character we’d like to bring.

The scenario is really two completely different scenarios, one from the Horde/aggressor point of view, and the other from the Alliance/defender point of view.

I like that, and for the first time I really, really wish I had at least one Horde character at level 85 to be able to experience it. My bad. I will next time, my Panda Warrior will be Horde all the way.

From the point of view of the Alliance side, my first expectation was met. I was able to group, on whichever character I chose, with Cassie and Alex and enter the scenario. I did not know if there was a quest or just to queue like you do with world holiday events, so I checked, and there were scenarios listed under the Dungeon Finder. The three of us queued, and in we went immediately.

The event itself spawned quests that flowed naturally from one to another. We did not try to ‘zerg’ it, or beat the clock, but instead took part as if we were in the story. We read the chat, followed the quest clues, and took part in the retaking and defense of Theramore Isle and Jaina. Alex felt pressure to avoid wandering level 85 elite wolf patrols, and loved being able to engulf each of the ships in flames. Cassie had to remind him to please let us get OFF the ships before he set them on fire. I’m totally going to use that in a book someday.

Each part of the scenario story flowed naturally into the next. At one point Cassie was irritated because she was taking considerable damage without time to heal between waves, but that’s what Natures Swiftness/Healing Touch is for. It’s back, baby! I feel like a real hybrid Druid again. Mangle Swipe Thrash BIG HEAL Mangle Mangle…

The scenario did exactly what I hoped it would do. It showed me a new type of content where three people will be able to play together in an interesting fastpaced storyline without taking the length of time of a full instance, and without the normal worry over having one of each necessary role or making sure each person was stopping and healing/holding aggro, etc.

It is indisputably selfish, but now Cassie, Alex and I will have current things we can do when we’d like together without needing to make sure we’ve got a tank, a healer, and two other people who may or may not be asshats. And I freaking love it.

For what I expected, it rocked.

I think it’s damn unfortunate that it was released to stand all alone a week before expansion, pushed out the door to be devoured by a crowd starving for new content.

I picture the scenario almost like a comedian being tossed out on stage to do a quick bit of standup to chill out a crowd that has been waiting five hours for Axl Rose to appear for a GNR concert. Poor scenario. Poor, poor scenario. Nobody deserves that fate.

I’m just not ranting or raving this time around. My expectations… were met.

I already did the pissy thing about the age-old question of how much of the game do we get to play as the main characters, and how much as the spectators. I ranted about it back when Cataclysm came out and the world just… switched over without my having any involvement whatsoever. When the cataclysm came, I apparently watched the waves roll in while drinking rum shots with little umbrellas in ’em.

I said it all then, I’m over it.

After the great Cataclysm world flip, I no longer had the expectation that I would be seeing or taking part in any of that story or lore that tranforms a world. I am a spectator, and as was pointed out to me then, the game world exists in it’s own time, an ever-fixed ‘now’.

As a critical piece of lore, standing alone to usher us from a world at peace in the aftermath of the defeat of Deathwing into a world where Horde and Alliance strive for conquest and domination, the scenario would be pretty sad. Maybe it’s just the tip of the iceberg this week, I dunno.

As an introduction to a brand new style of WoW gameplay,my expectations are met, and all I gots to say is, HELL YES!

Bring them on, the more the merrier I says.

What Has Been Seen Cannot Be Unseen

My conceit is that I think of myself as being knowledgeable in the ways of the world.

The truth is, the world is not only stranger than I know, it is stranger than I can know.

Even in the most mundane of daily activities though, that strangeness can sometimes shine through and, holy shit, I’m left to babble incoherently into my Mountain Dew.

Case in point.

This past weekend, my family and I were engaged in the usual weekend routine. We travel as a unit to gather food stuffs, dry goods, trim the fur when necessary and partake of honey, grubs and larvae.

It was while stopped for said grub, at a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, that the nightmare unfolded.

I’ll give you a warning, here. This story will be safe for your work, but it might not be safe for your peace of mind. Once you have been exposed to this knowledge, you cannot unlearn it without repeated applications of the Ball Peen Hammer of Forgetting +5 (lbs).

Abandon all hope, ye who read further than here.

The Kentucky Fried Chicken, for those unfortunate souls who do not live near one, is one of the strangest fast food franchises in existence. They seem to go out of their way to keep the consumer confused and avoid letting you eat their tasty yummy treats.

Their menu changes without warning. That’s the first thing. You’ll go in, and immediately wonder, ‘What the hell did they do to their menu? Do they have drinks anymore? I don’t see them.”

They will have some very tasty items that actually don’t appear on their menu at all and that you have to ask for at the counter. No joke. One I went to would have mashed potatoes and fried gravy simmered with bits of leftover chicken from the night before. They’d serve it if you asked at the early morning crowd over biscuits. No, I’m not kidding.

Some franchises just won’t carry some things, others will run out of odd stuff at random, and their prices can be pretty damn high for 3 pieces of fried chicken and a coke.

All that being said, I do get me a craving for some extra crispy, now and again.

KFC. The restaurant I go to despite their best efforts to stop me.

So I had a craving for fried chicken breast and wings, and Alex loves their popcorn chicken. Off we went.

It only took visiting two KFCs before we found one that had both items on their menu. The first KFC we visited had, for whatever reason, eradicated popcorn chicken from their menu in some kind of scorched earth anti-popcorn warfare that left me asking, “They do still make it, right?” To which the lady behind the counter answered, “I really couldn’t say.”

Like, WTF did popcorn chicken do to that franchise owner that it became the menu item that must not be named?

We stood in the middle of that KFC as I leveraged the power of the smartphone to call up a list of other KFC franchises in our area, and called ’em up one by one asking, “Do you have popcorn chicken?”

I was smart, though. After I found one that did, answering in a tone of voice that strongly implied, “Of course! We’re KFC, why wouldn’t we have popcorn chicken, you moron”, I did think to ask if they had extra crispy breasts and wings. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I’m on to this game.

We drive back across town, ordered our delicious fried chicken, and began filling our beverage cups.

Alex chose a Mug brand root beer, and filled it himself.

Life lessons. He filled it a bit too full too fast, and the foam rose rapidly, threatening to spill over the cup.

I warned Alex that he may want to spill some of his beverage out of the cup into the drain so it didn’t overflow, making the sides of the cup sticky.

Cassie said, “You don’t have to do that to get rid of the foam.”

I looked at her as if to say, “WTF”, but what I asked was, “Oh? How else can you get rid of it?”

She looked at me in that knowing, always right way she has that lets me know I’m about to get schooled again, and said, “I learned it when I worked at Dairy Queen in high school. You can’t do it to someone else’s cup, that would be icky, but you can do it to your own cup to get rid of the foam.”

I’m just staring at her blankly. I have no earthly idea where she’s going with this. “What in the world are you talking about?”

She grins at Alex, and says “You just touch your finger to the side of your nose, and then touch the foam. All the foam vanishes, instantly.”

Alex immediately shouts “Cool!” while I just stare at Cassie in horror.

She looks at me and says, “What?”

“You’re full of… you’re full of it.”

“No, really, it works.”

“You touch the side of your nose, and then touch the foam in the cup, and the foam vanishes.”

“Yep!”

“Bullshit.”

“No, it really works.”

‘Bullshit.”

“I’m not kidding, it really does.”

“I’m still calling bullshit, prove it.”

“No, it’s Alex’s cup, I can’t do it to his cup.”

“I don’t care, I’ll buy another cup, I want to see the foam disappear.”

She touched the side of her nose with one finger, and I mean a touch on the outside, not some finger-mashing booger-picking low crawl. Just a gentle touch, lasting but a moment.

The she touched, just as gently, just as briefly, the foam right where it was touching the edge of the cup.

Instantly, and I mean instantly, the foam vanished, starting from that small point and spreading rapidly like some kind of scourge-created nose plague.

Just, one little touch and fwump! All the foam was gone, leaving bare liquid in a cup.

What. The. FUCK.

Okay. I’ll admit it.

I thought I knew a lot of stuff, and while I will admit I don’t know everything, I thought I knew most of the neat bits in our common everyday life.

That shit flanked me and left me flat-footed, ripe for ganking. Thank god KFC is a Sanctuary zone.

I live in a world where you can have a carbonated beverage overflowing with foam, touch your finger to the side of your nose, touch the foam, and the foam vanishes instantly.

Where the FUCK was I when this was talked about in class? Huh?

That’s what I want to know. I spent HOW many years in the public education system, and nobody thought to clue me in to this shit before now?

Hey, I was good, I took chemistry, I took physics, we even had an astronomy class. I paid attention. I paid my dues. I stayed awake through some boring ass shit, man, and some horrible teachers.

Nobody ever thought to demonstrate this shit to me?

Goddamn it, do you people even KNOW how to get kids interested in science? You show us freaky shit we can do with it, man!

How the hell did the public school system let this one go?

You know what I’m gonna tell you.

You’ve gotta go try this.

You have to go out there, to a public restaurant, get a big foamy glass of some kind of soft drink, touch your nose and then touch the foam to make it vanish.

In front of a crowd.

FOR SCIENCE!!!