Category Archives: David

Breaking Bad Finale: “Felina”- What I liked


Well, it’s over. It’s finally over. After 5 seasons of drama and many deaths, the saga of Walter White is over. The series finale “Felina” premiered last Sunday night to an AMC record 10.9 million viewers, nearly doubling the previous ratings high. Critics have said that this is one of the cleanest series endings ever, neatly wrapping up all the story lines with a neat little bow. I’ve got a few things that I liked and didn’t like about the way this series ended:

Warning: Spoilers below

I liked…how everything was wrapped up neatly. So many times a series tries too hard to end a series in an “artistic” way lie the series finale of Lost that was widely despised by critics. This ending saw Walter White give his wife a proper goodbye, give his daughter one last hug, make sure his son was financially taken care of and he got to save his adopted son Jesse from a fate worse than death. He realized that living his life away in the New Hampshire wilderness was a prison worse than any jail cell. He made right with himself and family, and that feels good for an audience who has hated him since season two.

I didn’t like…that Walt had to die. I understand the finality of death, and how the only option for the writing staff was to have Walt die in the end. I think they could have changed the ending a bit so that Walt didn’t get hit by the stray bullet, but instead just admired the machinery while the police arrested him. He could have made everything right with his family and still lived to at least hear about his daughter growing up.

I liked… using Badger and Skinny Pete as “hit men.” It was a brilliant way to get one last exposure to the “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern” of the Breaking Bad sonnet. The use of the laser pointers as a harmless threat against the naïve Gretchen and Elliot Schwartz was wonderfully done.

 I didn’t like… how naïve the rich must be. Walt hired 2 hit men for a lifetime contract for $200,000 total? Come on, I bet real hit men get paid more than that for a quick job. The Schwartzes had no idea of Walt’s financial situation, he could have said he paid them a million each…that’d have been a little more believable.

I liked…the best line of the entire series: “If we’re going to go that way Elliot, you’re going to be a bigger knife.” Sorry rich boy…a cheese knife isn’t going to do much against the mighty Heisenberg.

I liked…the music selection. While I had never heard of any of these songs coming in, the lyrics were perfectly chosen for the situation. Marty Robbins’ “El Paso,” Badfinger’s “Baby Blue” and of course Todd’s ringtone of “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” by Marx Bros was blended with the story seamlessly.

I LOVED…Todd getting choked out by Jesse. It was amazing to see the “Dead-eyed piece of s*** Opie” get his comeuppance from the very chains that held Jesse down.  The whole Nazi crew got what they deserved mainly because they forgot to check the trunk of a very dangerous man. You should really just shoot people as soon as you get the chance.

I didn’t like…that it’s over. What else am I supposed to do with my Sunday nights from now on? Breaking Bad…you were there for me for 5 years, and I loved every minute. I can only hope my next love is amazing as you

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Stereotypes in Pickup Basketball


This is a re-post of an original Dave article from 2011…with updates!

 

If you’ve known me for any amount of time, you know how much basketball is my favorite sport. Just last week I devoted my space to the lockout that no one cares about. While watching basketball is always a great time, my real love of basketball comes from playing it — constantly.

Since my dream of playing NBA basketball was tragically destroyed when I was about 15, I’ve been playing pickup basketball as my way of coping for over a decade now. I’ve been lucky enough that I can go down to the local gym and play with a variety of people practically anytime. If you have people, a ball and a hoop, you’re good to go.

Despite the varied people and places that pickup ball consist of, the rules tend to remain the same.  Shots are worth 1 or 2 points outside of the arc, everyone calls their own fouls, and games are played to 15 points, win by two. If you win, you stay on the court to play the next team. However, the people playing on the court are as colorful as an Arizona Sunset.

Cagey Veteran: The old guy that comes in with grey hair and a beer gut. He’s got a headband, knee brace and goggles, moves slower than molasses, and somehow never misses. The added bonus of this guy is that he constantly sweats enough to require a ball dryer after every possession.

SWAC (Shooter Without a Conscience): Missed his first 7 shots? The 8th one is going in, according to him. The game is tied at 13 and your team has the ball? You’d better hope that he’s not bringing the ball up, because he’s shooting it from half court for the game winner. No one likes the SWAC, because 9 times out of 10 he’s going to lose the game for you.  He’ll never let you live down that 10th time, though.

The Girl: Every once in a while a girl will come and play. After the initial time of getting hit on by 80% of her team and 60% of the other team before the game, everyone is clueless on how to guard her. Nothing screams “I LOST MY MAN CARD” louder than a girl crossing you up and scoring on you. It doesn’t matter if she’s never touched a basketball in her life or she plays in the WNBA, nobody will let you live that one down. The opposite is true as well: Guard her too tight and block her shot and everyone sneers at you for being a bully. You just can’t win.

The Rebounder: Feel special if you see this guy on a court and get him on your team. He’s about as rare as a date with Shaun. No one in pickup games wants to do the dirty stuff like set picks and rebound, but the rebounder does. He doesn’t care about scoring, unlike every other player on the court. Usually this guy ends up playing for 3 hours because his team never loses.

The Ball Hog: This is just like he sounds: He’s Kobe on steroids (Actually…with the way Kobe has been playing…Kobe on steroids might be regular Kobe now…but I digress). This guy won’t pass to you and is so hated on the court he’s got a second nickname: The black hole. Now if this guy is really good, you might win a few games as you go along, but you’ll pretty much lose your soul while you do it.

The Ultra-Competitive Guy: Imagine Kevin Garnett was a foot shorter and had no talent.  Now imagine he’s playing basketball with you and treats your friendly pickup game like its game 7 of the NBA finals. He’s willing to kick, claw, bite and slap his way to victory, all while not having a clue why 3 people want to kick his ass.  No one likes this guy

The guy who just doesn’t belong: You feel bad for this guy…but he’s the one that just likes playing basketball and has absolutely no talent doing it. He can’t dribble the ball without staring directly at it, he’ll constantly miss layups, and his defender doesn’t even have to think about him when he’s on offense. I’ll be damned though if this guy doesn’t hit a ton of game winning shots when his defender leaves him to double team someone. Karma’s just like that I guess.

Dominant Guy: He makes everyone else feel like they’re inadequate. This guy most likely played basketball at a D1 college or even in the NBA.  Usually he takes half the game off talking to his buddies, or shooting 20-footers. But when the game is on the line, he has no problem going in and scoring the last 10 points without breaking a sweat.

Side story for you: I once played basketball with James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder back when he was in college at ASU. Despite the fact that I was 3 years older than he and we were triple teaming him, he easily dribbled right past the 3 of us and dunked on my head.

It was right then that I realized how much of a different level professional athletes are athletically than the rest of us. I knew that playing pickup games would be a great way to get a workout and have a good time — as long as I avoided the ultra-competitive guy. Next time you go out and play, try to identify these guys early, you might just have the upper hand…unless you’re playing with the dominant guy. Then just hope you’re on his team.

Why do we tip in restaurants?


This past weekend I decided to go out to a couple of bars and restaurants to watch some football. It’s an activity that millions of Americans take part in, and it’s a great way to socialize. However, after ordering a burger and a few beers that are reasonably priced, you have one last charge that costs you 20% minimum…and if you don’t pay that or more, you’re an elitist jerk who doesn’t understand the horror that waitresses go through every day. Yup, it’s the tip at the end…and I hate the practice of tipping.

Having an incentive for your work is nothing new in the world. There are plenty of jobs where nearly your entire salary is based on commissions. Everyone hates telemarketers right? They call during dinner and are pushy and make you feel dumb if you don’t purchase their services. No one feels bad saying no to them, hanging up on them or flat out being rude to them. When you hang up on them, or say no, you are hurting their chances of making a living for their family. Yet that’s the exact same argument that’s given for why we HAVE TO TIP OUR WAITERS. That’s the argument I hear consistently from people who are pro tipping. “They deal with horrible people all day and make only $2 an hour. It’s a terrible job and if you go out to eat you need to take care of them.” Why is it that this is the only profession that we feel that we have to take care of the people serving us?

There are a lot of theories behind that, some people have said that tip stands for “to insure promptness.” However if that was the case, wouldn’t we tip at the beginning of the meal to make sure the waiter did a good job? Then what if he didn’t? Would we demand our tip back? How did this whole thing get started anyway? Through some research, it appears that the practice started here in America in the 19th century when wealthy American businessmen would return from Europe. The practice of tipping was established there at the time, and the wealthy decided it would do well here in America. However it was resisted at first, people in America considered it bribery and would have no part of it. However, when restaurant owners found a way to not pay their employees, and pass those costs down to the customer directly, they jumped on it. They lobbied until the practice became standard. Strangely enough, in most European countries today, tipping is frowned upon.

Whenever I’ve gone out to eat with people who have worked in the food service industry, they have always tipped generously. Whenever I ask them the reason for this, their response is almost always, “These servers get paid next to nothing for their hourly wage. They live completely off of tips and they deserve it.” While I completely understand their reasoning, I am constantly confused why the food service industry gets away with paying their employees next to nothing, and other industries are regulated so their employees can’t receive a tip of any sort. I’ve been told that servers have to deal with rude customers, messy children, people who treat them like dirt, and an overall crappy job. Well I can say that after my days as a bank teller for both a credit union and large bank, I can see a lot of similarities. People are consistently rude, forceful, and downright hostile (ever heard of a bank robbery?) The employees work long hours and in many cases are on their feet the entire time (many bank branches feel that if the tellers are sitting it is not as professional.) They have to deal with children running around the building and rarely get any bonuses or commissions of value. But in this industry it’s not customary to tip.

I feel that the solution is simple, let’s make the restaurants pay their employees for once. I can’t even count the number of times that I’ve gone out to a restaurant and just ordered water to drink…and then had the server completely lose interest in helping me. Apparently if I order water instead of a soda or alcohol, it means I’m a cheapskate and therefore will not tip well. I would rather have waiters and waitresses work their jobs for a wage, and if I feel their service was exemplary, then I’d leave them a little something extra. I don’t feel like I’m giving someone incentive to work hard for me if they know everyone is going to give them a 20% tip right off the bat. It’s very likely that if this ever changes, the price of my food at a restaurant would go up in order to offset the “lost wages” the restaurants will have to face. I’m perfectly willing to pay an extra 20% to know that my server is getting paid a fair wage for a fair job. I can completely identify with the difficulty of a waiter’s job, it’s not easy by any means, but why am I the bad guy for wanting their employer to pay them a decent wage instead of me?

I really wish this could happen someday. But I can dream
I really wish this could happen someday. But I can dream

 

Predictions for the Final Breaking Bad Episodes


Again, this contains spoilers. Read at your own peril.

So far, Breaking Bad’s final season has been a critical and cultural success. Actually saying success would be an understatement. The writers and staff of this fine show have produced one of the most spine-tingling, thrilling shows that has ever been produced, and it has fans watching the clock every Sunday waiting for the next episode.  I’m completely hooked. There’s no way around it. Each and every Sunday night I am totally locked in with my eyes bulging and my jaw dropped at what has transpired in front of me.

Now, a few weeks ago I posted 5 predictions for Breaking bad season 5. So far…let’s just say I haven’t been perfect. I’d like to re-review some of these and we’ll see how it has gone so far.

  1.  Hank doesn’t arrest Walt…right away – So this one was right for the most part. Though the writers took it in a very different way than I was expecting. They basically laid all of their cards on the table immediately, as Hank punched out Walt at the first chance he got. Unfortunately, he had no evidence, so he couldn’t get him right away.
  2. We haven’t seen the last of Gus – Welp. I was wrong. There’s been no mention of him or the cartel. I think this is a done deal
  3. Holly is going to die – Nope. The cute little baby in pink has barely had any screen time outside of the first episode. I wonder who is watching her nowadays.
  4. Walt’s death – Too soon to tell…though it sure looks like we’re heading that way.
  5. The end will not be happy – Again, too early to tell…but man is it looking grim.

So I’m basically 1 for 5. In all honesty? On a show like Breaking Bad that’s not too bad. They have taken us for so many twists and turns that I am not even trying to think ahead anymore about what might be coming up while I’m watching an episode. I’m just allowing the ride to go with me strapped in along. This past week’s episode probably left me more comatose than any other episode I’ve watched this season. Breaking Bad is able to set up an ending of an episode that could end two minutes earlier than it does. Every fan would have been in awe of last week’s ending if they would have faded to black with both parties pointing their guns at one another, anticipating if a shot would be fired. But, just like the first episode of this half season, they decided to go that extra couple of minutes to give the fans what they wanted immediately. Not many other shows would go to those lengths that quickly.

So I have three final predictions for this final season.  Three things where if I go 1 for three I’ll feel pretty good.

  1. Hank and Gomez don’t survive the gunfight – There were about seven neo-nazis there in the desert and 2 DEA officers. Yeah I don’t like their odds. I just can’t see any way that they get out of this situation.
  2. The Neo-Nazis capture Jesse – From the flash forwards form the beginning of the season we see that Walt has changed his identity and grown his hair back, meaning he’s not back in the meth game. We all can tell that Todd’s uncle wants to make as much money as possible, and Jesse is second to Walt in the quality of meth production. Walt has sworn off the business and is too powerful to be coerced into cooking again. This only leaves Jesse.
  3. Walt goes on the run, and then comes back to avenge Hank and rescue Jesse –If we’ve seen one thing from Walt this season, it’s his loyalty to family. He was in handcuffs, giving up his life’s savings for his family while being arrested by his brother in law. He didn’t want his hit men to kill Hank, even if that meant he went to jail. Nevertheless, Neo-Nazis don’t take no for an answer, and Hank will need to be avenged upon his death.

Sometimes this feels like a pointless endeavor, trying to predict the amazing things that Breaking Bad will bring us. I have never been more excited for the last few episodes of a series. I really feel that based on the first five episodes of this season, there isn’t a chance that this series finale will disappoint. In all seriousness: viewing party at my house! Email me for directions. It’s that epic.

Is “The Simpsons: Tapped Out” Worth my Time?


There’s been a lot of debate over the years about mobile gaming and whether it should count as part of the genre that so many people follow. Should we look at a game that is designed to be played for five minutes at a time a really form of art? However, one thing has not been up for debate: the popularity of The Simpsons. The two have combined into a game called “The Simpsons: Tapped Out” with the promotional blurb of “This game is life-ruiningly fun.” But is it really worth your time? I’ve been playing it for the better part of a year now, and I’m here to tell you that it is.

Oh Homer...What have you done now??
Oh Homer…What have you done now??

The game starts out like any Episode of The Simpsons would: Homer is sitting at work wasting time on his MyPad. As he plays a “Farmville” type game, he doesn’t pay attention to the rising thermostat attempting to warn him of the imminent nuclear power plant explosion. The plant explodes, sending people and buildings flying everywhere.  Of course this all works out for Homer, as no one is killed and they just have to be returned to Springfield by re-building the town. But this time, Homer (or better yet, YOU) gets to decide how the town shall be laid out and be rebuilt. Springfield can finally become yours.

Just as Homer’s mobile game before his explosion, The Simpsons: Tapped Out is a Farmville type game, where the player has to set characters to do “jobs” for a certain period of time, and then come claim the rewards from said job. The difference (and the fun part) of the game comes from the characters that we’ve known and loved throughout the years. The real Simpson’s cast lends their voices to this game, so you’re able to hear the real voices in Springfield as you follow the game prompts to rebuild Springfield.  In true Simpsons fashion, the lines of dialogue are funny, self-promoting and self-deprecating. The characters make multiple references to how much certain (worthless to the plot) items cost and how the player is more and more of a loser as the player rises in levels.

EA will do anything to get your money
EA will do anything to get your money

If there’s one downfall to this game, it’s the fact that it’s made by EA. EA owns the rights to all Simpsons video game media (as evidenced by the surprisingly excellent The Simpsons Game) and they will use any excuse to extract your hard earned money from you. Most games today have some sort of option to pay real dollars to help you along in the game or access premium content to make your town feel….well cooler I guess, I haven’t figured it out. In this game, donuts are the form of premium currency, as they have apparently been affected by the radiation of the nuclear blast to distort time and space. A player can use donuts to speed up the timing of a building or job, or to purchase a character or building that regular in-game money can’t buy. EA puts the opportunity to buy donuts everywhere, the items that donuts buy plentiful, and the opportunity to earn donuts virtually nonexistent. Of course it’s a free app, so people can get through without purchasing anything with real money, but it really drives someone crazy when they have to wait two days for a building to complete so you can move onto the next part of the mission.

The Simpsons: Tapped out is a pretty good way to pass about 5 to 10 minutes in a day if you’re not doing anything else. The game is simple to learn and despite the short lines of dialogue, still makes me laugh. The game is being updated frequently (a complaint that was addressed about 6 months ago when there was nearly no new content) with new characters and missions for the player to complete, so you’re always feeling like you’re actually doing something…even if you’re really not. However, out of all the popular mobile games out there (Candy Crush, Angry Birds, whatever the app of the day is) this game is absolutely near the top. Instead of mind numbingly harvesting crops, you’re able to mind numbingly send Bart to school…but you get a chuckle out of it. Over all, I’d give it 3 ½ donuts out of five.

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Review from a Sports Gamer: NCAA Football 2014


Sports games are a strange genre. They are often dismissed by hardcore gamers as something not worth time and effort due to the annual releases and the lack of innovation that comes year over year. Many times their complaints are worthwhile, as some games just retool the rosters, throw a couple new lines of dialogue in and call it a day. Thankfully, NCAA 14 is not an example of this, as it’s the greatest football simulation game I’ve ever played.

The blocking is totally redone...and is smart
The blocking is totally redone…and is smart

At the core of any good sports game is the gameplay. Without a solid on-field experience, your game could have all the bells and whistles that anyone could think of and still suck. This year’s edition has a major overhaul with the blocking scheme, as your linemen’s AI system was redesigned by a former college lineman. Linemen will get out quickly from the line to find someone to block instead of just standing in one space while a corner back comes and gets you as you try to run a toss play.

College football today is all about the spread offense and the read-option, and NCAA football 14 captures the ability to run the spread option to perfection. They have added a one of the best tutorials yet in a sports video game. The Nike Skills Trainer (nice ad placement, right?) effectively teaches you how to run the spread offense and how to properly read the defenders and make the right decision on each play. The in game experience even puts an “R” above the defender’s head to tell you which player to read, and then make the correct option.

Which way will the option take you?
Which way will the option take you?

The graphics in NCAA Football 14 look amazing with the brand new Infinity Engine. Ball-carriers move with fluidly, they’ll fall forward for extra yards, and they rarely go down on first contact. They’ll fight for more yards, which is nice when you’re playing as a big back but somewhat unrealistic when you do it with an undersized runner, like this game’s equivalent of DeAnthony Thomas. (Since we can’t really use his real name and all of course) The stadiums feel like the real thing and have changing sunlight and shadows as you get later into the evening of that week’s game.) The presentation has also been upgraded, as they have expanded the ESPN brand to make it feel like you’re really watching football on a Saturday afternoon. In the dynasty mode they’ll take a break to send it to the studio to show how other teams in your conference are playing and Reese Davis will have a comment or two about the simulated game that just occurred. While the audio is a bit choppy, it’s still displayed wonderfully.

The Dynasty recruiting mode has been redone to take much less time to properly recruit.  Previous year’s models made you call each individual recruit and try to match a topic he was interested with something your school was good at. The whole process felt forced and tedious, not to mention a huge waste of time. I always felt that the best part of the dynasty mode was building your team up from nothingness to become a powerhouse through recruiting, but recruiting was so boring…hence an unentertaining game. This year’s version has a point system that is used, meaning you can assign your top recruits the most points and adjust accordingly. The approach is still hands on and important, but much less time consuming. They have added deal breakers to some recruit’s profiles, meaning that no matter how much effort you put into a kid, if he doesn’t want to go to your school, he’s not going there…just like real life. For someone who enjoys playing the game more than recruiting for hours on end, this was a welcome addition.

I’ve always got the feeling that the decision to buy any sport’s game for that year was a gamble. While the past few years of NCAA football titles have proved that logic true, NCAA Football 14 certainly comes through in a lot of great ways. While none of the things that it does is groundbreaking, it certainly maintains its excitement level for season after (in-game) season. I’d absolutely recommend it if you haven’t played a college football game in years, or even if you purchased last year’s title.

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BulletTime #5


Frankly, I didn’t know what to write about this week. So I am going back to my favorite running gimmick: Bullettime

  • The World Series of Poker main event has been on ESPN in the past few weeks, and I am always drawn into the amazing players who put down that much money on the biggest tournament in the world. I have dreams that one day I’ll be able to put down the $10,000 needed to play with the best in the world…but it probably won’t happen…I’m scared to play with $40 at the casino against good players.  Though watching this has gotten the poker juices flowing within me. If only there were a way that my computer could connect to other computers where I could play poker for real money with other real players. Oh wait…it exists, but our government won’t allow it. I think this is really a poor decision. You have a product that people want, and an avenue where you can just tax the players and company for taking part in that product. I just don’t understand in these times of deficit and economic turbulence why we don’t legalize a few things that have been taboo (like marijuana maybe) and just tax the living hell out of it. It won’t solve all of our problems, but it’ll help a little at least.
  • I was lucky enough to visit my 90 year old great aunt and uncle last week in Costa Mesa California and had a bit of a crazy adventure while there. I have this warning for all travelers going forward: Don’t stay at Motel 6. My experience included arriving at 130 AM to the hotel, finding out that the hotel had given away our rooms, waiting an hour while they cleaned a new room for us, receiving a smoking room after exclusively requesting a non smoking room, getting a new room and then finding bugs all over that room. It was horrific. Fortunately I was with my parents and my dad sprung for a room at the Marriott. It only cost $50 more and was so worth it. Other than that awfulness, I loved every other minute of Southern California: The beach, the sun, and the perfect 73 degree weather. My uncle and aunt are getting up there in age, but still are always a ton of fun to talk to…even if I have to repeat myself a few times.
  • Seriously, Breaking Bad. Blows my freaking mind every time. So many times in TV and movies I get bored because I can predict things that are going to happen, but this time I have absolutely no idea. Without spoiling too much, I can’t believe they went the direction they did so quickly, I figured it would come much faster. I’ve never been more excited for a TV show…ever
  • Bioshock Infinite was the best Bioshock by far. I think that Shaun’s explanation of the ending was dead on, and I really liked the feel of this one so much more than the other two. There’s something that connects me to a main character who speaks so much more than to one that is the silent protagonist. While the Big Daddy and Jack were fun to play, being able to delve into the character of Booker was just the cherry on top of a great game.

I don’t have pictures of Stacy Keibler like Chris does…but I have a cute wedding picture! Til next time everyone!

Don't we look happy?
Don’t we look happy?