Friday, March 30, 2007

Eric's Bookshelf

For those of you interested in what it looks like these days:

Thursday, March 29, 2007

March of the Penguins

It's been a great ride so far.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have come out of nowhere to be Stanley Cup Contenders. Since the All-Star Break, they've been on this unbelievable tear, swimming up from fourth place in the division to a near dead tie with the Devils. If by some miracle the Devils lose one or two and the Pens finish out with wins, they'll have the Atlantic Division sewn up.

I said it before, I'll say it again: Wait, what?

It's every fan's dream for their favorite team to do one of two things: A) Experience the glory that is becoming a champion, and B) Recapture that glory as often as possible. The Penguins, led by names like Mark Recchi, Ulf and Kjell Samulsson (no relation), Jaromir Jagr and the legendary Mario Lemeiux, danced with Lord Stanley for the first and second times in the 90-91 and 91-92 seasons. Since, that mini-dynasty is all we've really had to be proud of in Pittsburgh, until the Steelers' win last year in Super Bowl XL.

For 15 years, the Penguins have danced, not with Lord Stanley, but on the edge of a very, very sharp knife. Twice the team has come close to being sold off and shipped to some other city. The first time, Mario literally took one for the team as he deferred the salary the team still owed him into an ownership stake, keeping his Penguins (the team he played his entire NHL career with) in Pittsburgh. This most recent scare involved some clandestine meetings that have resulted in the construction of a new Arena, again saving the Penguins from packing their bags.

And hey, you know what? It doesn't hurt that this very young Penguins team, with veteran Mark Recchi back in uniform, is doing pretty damn well for themselves, either.

Last year's Caulder Trophy-winning Rookie of the Year Sidney Crosby is at it again. Not only is he the youngest player in NHL history to hit his first 100 point season, but he's doing it again! He's already over 100 points for the year, and has become the youngest player to hit the 200 point plateau as well. Is there any stopping Sid the Kid? At 19 years of age, he's already playing like a Gretzky or a Lemeiux. Eric Lindros, eat your heart out!

I don't think anyone will argue the fact that Evgeni Malkin is going to take the Caulder Trophy this year. Not only because he's at (or near) the top of damn near every rookie stat category on the list, but because of what he went through to get out of Russia and play in Pittsburgh. The culture shock alone would have been enough to have most people crying like children. Not this kid. No, he turns around an churns out an incredible Rookie season.

It doesn't stop there, either. Malkin isn't the only Penguin considered to be in the hunt for the Caulder. Jordan Staal, anyone? For a rookie playing on a team already stacked with young talent, he's certainly managing to have a breakout year. I've watched this kid make some pretty unbelieveable shots with that reach of his, and more often than physics says he probably should, he finds the back of the cage. While the Caulder Trophy will most likely be deferred to Evgeni Malkin, there's no denying that Staal should be mentioned right in there with him.

More later. For now, I've got to fix a real world problem...

First Impressions Are Always The Hardest

And in this kid's situation, he's lucky he survivied making it. This kid somehow got over a meter-high railing and fell 9 stories to the lawn below - And lived. Farker Chiam Witz sums it all up in classic fashion: It's a grass angel!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Who Are These Kids?

Yes, they're the Pittsburgh Penguins. And for some strange reason, as I write this, they're sitting atop the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference, in a tie for first with the New Jersey Devils. Also as I type this, they're leading the Washington Capitals 4-2.

Wait, what?

I don't care who these kids are. All I care about is the fact that my Penguins are back in the hunt for Lord Stanley's Cup, and it's been an incredible ride. LET'S GO PENS!

UPDATE: PENS WIN! And what's even better, they've secured a spot in the playoffs! Rock on!

Sunday, March 25, 2007


It's been so long since Nintendo was at the top of the Video Game market heap. The NES and SNES ruled their respective generations (8bit and 16bit), and produced some of the most loved and enduring franchises in video game history (Mario and Zelda, and was the original platform for Final Fantasy).

But then, a disagreement with Sony over the proposed CD Drive for the SNES (to compete with Sony's SegaCD for the Genesis) doomed it to almost a decade of being second (or lower) banana. The decision - whether it should be top-load (Sony) or front-load (Nintendo, since the CD expansion port was on the bottom of the console anyway) - led to the creation of the PlayStation, and gave Sony the edge in the market for quite a long time. Nintendo's 64 seemed a bit outdated, still being cart based (though the games were quite impressive with load times much faster), and the GameCube (it'll always be the Dolphin to me, it's pre-release codename) couldn't outmuscle the PS/2's pure muscle.

Microsoft came along during this time with their XBox, but they couldn't quite take away from Sony's lead. Of course it outclassed the GameCube, giving Microsoft Sega's old position of Second Banana. Then came the XBox 360: It got the early drop on both Sony and Nintendo, and is quite the machine in it's own right.

But both Microsoft and Sony got careless. With the 360 and PS3, they focused more on the hardcore gamer market, with their graphics and bells and whistles. Sony rushed too much, and the Cell-powered Titan turned out to be more of a blinded cyclops than anything. And with both machines selling well above $300, they further limited thier market scope.

But no, not Nintendo.

Codenamed Revolution when it was announced, it was a huge gamble for the former King of Home Gaming: Focusing less on graphics and more on intuitive game play, they banked on expanding video games to a larger market, beyond the hardcore, basement-dwelling game geeks that have come to stereotype the industry. With radical controlers allowing for user interaction like never before (unless you count the Power Pad, Power Glove and U-Force) and simplistic yet engrossing gameplay, Nintendo put all its chips in with the Revolution.

And yes, a revolution was born. The Wii Revolution.

This here MSNBC Article takes a look at one front of that Revolution: Senior Citizens. Yes, your grandma and grandpa are digging on video games. Who knew, right? Before, they were just "those stupid boxes that make pretty pictures on TV and keep kids indoors." All of the sudden, they're breaking hips playing Wii Tennis and Wii Bowling, cheering and huigging when victorious, and even having friendly tournaments.

Everyone wants the Wii. And at $250, it certainly has a huge price advantage over Sony and Microsoft. College Students and Teenagers with too much time on their hands aren't the only ones buying boxes anymore.

And, after far too long, Nintendo is back on top.

I was always a Nintendo kid. I had an NES, SNES, and in College I bought a 64 so my friends and I could have Goldeneye killfests. After that, though, I was disillusioned with the game market. Never owned any Sega consoles, Playstations, the GameCube, or any handhelds beyond my old puke-green-screened Game Boy. Hell, I'm borrowing the PS2 I have now from my boss, with games coming from friends.

But I want Wii. Oh yes, I want Wii.

I've played it, and it's unreal. Remember when you used to play a racing game, and you'd catch yourself leaning into a turn your trying to make, rotating the controler as far in that direction as you can, praying to whatever game god you worshipped at the time that it would help? Well, now it does! The Wii Sports package, which comes with the system, is enough to keep any gamer entertained for quite a while. The graphics aren't all that hot, but who cares?

After all, when have you ever played a boxing game where physically punching your buddy actually made the on-screen guy punch? I can't remember ever going through my full motion bowling delivery in a living room. And I was honestly afraid I'd get overzealous and whack my opponent in the head with my controller playing Wii Tennis.

Yeah, it's that fun.

So, folks, my next major purchase is most deffinately a Wii.

Let's Get Wii-tarded in here!