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Predicting Autobiographies by Peyton Manning and Tom Brady

Predicting Autobiographies by Peyton Manning and Tom Brady

Let’s have some fun today. Two things we know about football are that the greatest quarterbacks of all time are Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. That means after they’re both retired, they’ll inevitably release their autobiographies.

I’ve taken the liberty to predict those autobiographies. Here are a few excerpts from them on various subjects, written in the very style I believe they will both respectively employ.

Brady:“I was always smaller than the other kids, but naturally gifted. I would knock on the doors of the other kids and ask if they would please play football.”

Manning:“Whenever my Dad and brothers finished throwing around our durable Wilson footballs, we’d eat delicious Papa John’s for dinner.”

Brady:“I was awed to play in the biggest football stadium in the country for Michigan, the greatest college football team ever!”

Manning:“Tennessee, of course, was a popular team with a lot of merchandising.”

Brady:“I couldn’t believe it when I finally heard my name called. I was finally going to play in the NFL for one of its greatest teams!”

Manning:“I switched on my Sony radio just in time to hear my name get called on Sony’s crystal-clear airwaves.”

Brady:“In my first NFL season, I owned the bench. No one could own a bench like me. And I had the privilege of learning from Bill Belichick and Drew Bledsoe, who were great.”

Manning:“Although I led the Colts to only three wins, I had started something great, but it was the hard, uncomfortable Astroturf holding us back. The softer and firmer footing offered by the Gardenista brand allowed the Colts to play without fear of injury.”

Brady:“When I had to start for the rest of the 2001 season, I didn’t have any jitters. I had total confidence in my team.”

Manning:“In my second year, I was feeling much better about the Nike cleats I had to fill.”

Brady:“Accepting that first Vince Lombardi Trophy was the proudest moment of my life.”

Manning:“Accepting that smooth-riding Cadillac Escalade for being the MVP of my first Super Bowl was the proudest moment of my life.”

Brady:“I was nervous about my first commercial shoot, and I knew I couldn’t do it without the people who made me a success: My teammates.”

Manning:“I was never nervous about commercial shoots, but I knew I had to come up with something for the commercial for my reliable and rewarding Mastercard that people would remember at their banks. I was at the butcher shop waiting impatiently because I was late for the filming, and I suddenly yelled to the butcher, ‘Hey, you! Cut that meat!’”

Brady:“That perfect season was hollow without the ring. I let so many people down.”

Manning:“My neck injury wasn’t so bad, because my Covidien neckbrace gave my axis and atlas the support and alignment they needed.”

Brady:“I took the pay cut. Leave the greatest fans of the greatest team in the greatest city in America? That would be unthinkable.”

Manning:“After it became clear that I would no longer fill the comfortable Reebok hi-tops Johnny Unitas once wore, I hopped a Learjet and flew to Denver in first-class style.”

Brady:“After that second Super Bowl against the Giants, everyone said we were done. But I knew we had a great team, and we would return!”

Manning:“After heaving that interception to Tracy Porter, all I could do was stand on the sidelines in my perfectly stretched, one-size-fits-all New Era cap and watch my team fail on me.”

Brady:“With my team frantic, I knew I had to stay calm. I trusted Mr. Belichick to make all the right calls to get us out of this hole against that vicious Seahawks defense.”

Manning:“All the clear, high-definition footage from the Broncos’ Canon XA35 HD camera didn’t prepare me for Seattle’s defense. It wasn’t the camera’s fault because it has top shutter speed.”

Brady:“Even against Buffalo, we had to play our best. The Bills were one of the worst teams in the league, but they had still won a few games against us.”

Manning:“Visits to Buffalo always involved the moist, tender, crunchy chicken wings made by Duff’s.”

Proper as the New Radical (Short)

Proper as the New Radical (Short)

So I thought about this today. For pretty much my entire life, my parents always taught me how to act proper, but I didn’t take to a lot of it very easily. As I always did, I questioned because all of it seemed like relics of the ancient past. Through my late teens and most of my 20’s, I was always playing the role of the radical, trying my best to avoid what I thought of as pretension.

It wasn’t until I returned to Buffalo after living in Chicago that it hit me: I had the radical beliefs and capacity to question everything that city raises its natives to pigeonhole them, but if you lined me up side to side with anyone else there, you would never know the difference between me and the types of people I was rebelling against. I wasn’t doing anything to distance or elevate myself, so I started to re-evaluate the way I presented myself. I haven’t regretted it.

Today we saw the inauguration of Donald Trump, a man with the temperament of a spoiled child whose “bwankie” was taken away. This man, who ran a stormy Twitter rant almost 20 minutes long about how he was portrayed on Saturday Night Live, is now the leader of the free world. So it was today that I realized the full importance of conducting myself as a proper gentleman the way my parents always wanted me to.

With the enormous swath of people taking after Trump’s vile behavior, being proper is the way every radical should rebel and show the rest of the world the best of our behavior. Any nitwit can scream curse-filled slogans at the town hall while wearing political cartoon t-shirts and growing unkempt hair; they just blend in with their ideological opposition, which can frequently be seen dressing and acting the same. It takes a true wit to rebel by outclassing their opponents.

Now, more than ever before, is time to stop being an angry slogan-screamer. Look what just happened – see what doing that got us? It’s time to start cleaning up our language and expanding our vocabulary. Wear well-fitting clothes that flatter our figures, even if we’re just in jeans and t-shirts. Stop being indignant and start being tactful when we get offended.

If Donald Trump wasn’t born with a silver spoon, he’d be just another whiny little brat. Think about it: Who or what would he be without his pop’s fortune? So since the new president has no intention of acting presidential, it’s time for us radicals to pick up his slack and show the rest of the world the country’s best.

The Definitive Ranking of Every Star Wars Movie (Including The Clone Wars)

The Definitive Ranking of Every Star Wars Movie (Including The Clone Wars)

With the recent selling of Star Wars to Disney, we Star Wars fans know what we’re all about to get: Star Wars up the ass. A few weeks ago, the first movie is a series of canonical spinoffs, Rogue One, appeared. Last year we received The Force Awakens, the first in a line of direct sequels, and still before that, an animated series called Star Wars Rebels began a run on The Disney Channel.

Naturally, that gets one wondering what the best and worst Star Wars movies are, especially if they’re one of the few who have somehow managed to avoid exposure to Star Wars. Well, being a major league Star Wars nerd myself, I started asking myself that very question as well. If every Star Wars movie was to be ranked, what would be the best one? What would be the worst? How would everything look in between? So I sat down and thought, and this was the list that eventually popped up. Before getting to the list, here are a couple of things to remember: First, these are movies only. To qualify, they have to have made a run in theaters. That means anything shown only on television doesn’t count – not the original Clone Wars movie or the Holiday Special. Second, the pilot episode of The Clone Wars TV show DID visit the theaters, so it counts.

9: The Phantom Menace (Episode I)

Yeah. You already knew what this one was going to be, didn’t you? Even in a media universe as expansive as Star Wars which has so many differing opinions about what is and isn’t worth your time, hatred of The Phantom Menace is something that’s as universal as returning to The Force.

If you were a newcomer to the Star Wars universe watching this and then asking hardcore fans their opinions, a lot of them would be pretty Star Warian: The whole Midichlorian issue, the apparent virgin birth of Anakin Skywalker, the fact that Anakin was now the creator of C-3PO, and a few other things tend to rub fans the wrong way. But you would also notice that there are a few hallmarks of filmmaking which is just bad: Jar-Jar Binks might be the face of everything wrong with The Phantom Menace, but he’s not the only problem. A lot of character development is just off. We got nothing about Darth Maul – although he proves to be one of the most badass characters of the EU, he’s just a figurine-pusher in the movie that introduced him. Anakin himself – the boy who would become Darth Vader – isn’t evil enough to hit back a cheater in the pod race. The space shootout at the end seems composed of bridge shots, and it’s pretty disgusting that Anakin destroys the space station by accident.

I’m one of the few people who doesn’t completely decry The Phantom Menace. It does have a few redeeming values. I always thought Qui-Gon Jinn was one of Star Wars’s most underrated characters, the final action sequence is great, and even Episode I’s loudest detractors think highly of the pod race and lightsaber duel. But the movie does keep getting bogged down in things that it’s not. Ultimately, there are a number of problems that glare brighter than Darth Maul’s lightsaber. The first is that despite the Clone Wars and the friendship between Obi-Wan and Anakin being noodle incidents, George Lucas focuses more on bringing the Star Wars universe full circle when he really should have been concentrating on telling the story of a friendship blossoming and going bad. The second is that with The Phantom Menace, Star Wars forgets its identity and tries to be a kids’ version of Star Trek. Jar-Jar is another figurine-pusher, no one wants to see a kid Anakin when they dreamed of being Han Solo while growing up, and The Phantom Menace gets bogged down in politics. Politics doesn’t work for Star Wars, which has always been a classic good against evil tale.

8: The Clone Wars

The Clone Wars were first mentioned in the very first Star Wars movie, A New Hope. They were a noodle incident: They were mentioned and implied to be something huge, but otherwise left to the imagination. We knew two things about the Clone Wars from there: First, there were clones. Second, they were wars. No need to be descriptive. Then the Prequel Trilogy came along, and for a set of movies that delves into the Star Wars backstory, we didn’t actually get to see a whole lot of them.

Since Star Wars has always been a classic tale about the battle between good and evil, it usually shows us its best when the two sides are duking it out in the traditional fashion. That’s what The Clone Wars is, and holy hell, what a spectacle. The Clone Wars is bare-boned, straight-laced action rushing at you in a form video game designers from the 16-bit Golden Era would have appreciated. A fan of a well-done action movie will love every waking moment of it, and there are plenty of blasters, lightsabers, duels, and all that other great jazz we know from action movies. Taken as that, The Clone Wars is pretty fucking awesome. It lets us view the spectacle of the legendary conflict right up front, starts giving out details of why Anakin Skywalker was the great pilot and warrior Obi-Wan first described in the original, and introduces us to Ahsoka Tano, one of the greatest characters in the Star Wars universe for my money.

The reason it ranks so low is because it barely feels like a Star Wars movie. Aside from the lightsabers, there are almost no hallmarks of Star Wars anywhere to be found, and so a movie nut who has never seen anything Star Wars (a stretch, I know, but bear with me) would never figure out just from watching The Clone Wars why it is that Star Wars stands out. Lest that be written off as the ranting of an outsider, there are a few things in The Clone Wars to piss off Star Wars fans too: The Jedi are working for the Hutts? How many Sith are there anyway, and where do they keep coming from? Padme was almost certainly shoehorned in, the twists are clearly in the movie to extend the running time, and I’m not sure many fans are all that interested in more of Jabba’s relatives. But this movie was the pilot to an animated TV series – yes, even though it was a feature film – and what it blossomed into was incredible. The TV series showed us the full potential of what The Prequel Trilogy should have been drawing out, the conflict and the friendship between Obi-Wan and Anakin.

7: Return of the Jedi (Episode VI)

Few fandoms are weirder about their fandom than Star Wars. For everything Star Wars envelopes, there are still legions of fans who proclaim that true Star Wars consists solely of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and The Clone Wars TV series. Vaunted though The Original Trilogy may be, there’s a surprising mass of fans who hate – and some who even refuse to accept – Return of the Jedi. Yeah, it can be tough to take Star Wars fans seriously when they refuse to defend the entire trilogy that started everything.

It’s confusing, but Jedi was written to be the grand finale of what was back then expected to be the only Star Wars media that ever existed. George Lucas and director Richard Marquand wanted Jedi to be a testament to finality, and holy shit did they deliver. Episode VI is littered with some of the biggest and grandest sequences the whole series has to offer: The revelation about Luke and Leia’s relationship, the speeder bike chase on Endor, the death of Yoda, the Sarlacc Pit, Luke fighting the Rancor Monster, Darth Vader’s return to the light, Wedge and Lando navigating the tight innards of the Death Star in a race to its core, and a Rebel Alliance pilot guiding his terminally damaged starfighter in a kamikaze attack against the Executor. There’s plenty here that screams out for attention, but despite so many scenes that carry heft, there seem to be only two things scenes that people remember: Anakin coming to the rescue of Electroshock Luke and Leia’s official and permanent embossing as a teenage fantasy.

There’s good reason for that, too: Jedi’s structure was a clear rush job. The movie’s entirety goes like this: Jabba the Hutt’s palace, Dagobah, Rebel meeting, Battle of Endor. The Dagobah and Rebel meeting parts run a collective total of about 20 minutes. So what we’re left with is Tatooine and Endor sequences bookending 20 minutes of blah. It was like George Lucas was in a hurry to finish up Jedi so he could get to his other landscape-altering projects like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and, ah… Willow and, er… Howard the Duck… It’s a blatant example of trying to put style over substance, at least in terms of the story. As if that wasn’t offensive enough, Return of the Jedi also marks the spot where Lucas came to fully realize the marketing potential of his onetime sci-fi serial pet project. Gold Bikini Leia? That was done to appease the crowd adolescents. The Ewoks were there to sell to the kids. To really drive the kid angle in, an animated TV show was later created about the Ewoks. When Jar Jar jumped to the small screen, he did so as an important but bit player on The Clone Wars, not as some Alf clone wannabe.

6: Attack of the Clones (Episode II)

After The Phantom Menace hit audiences with a loud thud, George Lucas started making a push to bring Star Wars back in The Original Trilogy’s direction. Attack of the Clones doesn’t miss what his goal was, but it doesn’t quite hit it, either. It may be the best movie in the series as far as pure action movies go – at least the live-action movies and exempting The Clone Wars, anyway – and it brings the series back in the proper Star Warian direction it had to return to after The Phantom Menace’s bad reception.

Attack of the Clones is good at holding your attention. Unfathomable action scenes are sprinkled everywhere, Christopher Lee gets to play the villain, Yoda finally goes into combat himself and shows us why he’s the ultimate Jedi Master, and Jango Fett gets to be the badass everyone thinks of Boba Fett as. At the same time, it starts to plant the seeds of the Star Wars universe of The Original Trilogy, right down to the Death Star. As with Return of the Jedi, Lucas seems to be taking the big-scene-of-impact approach. The difference is that the statement scenes don’t seem to contain as much heft. It’s also in Attack of the Clones that we start to see the dark side of Anakin Skywalker. He comes out in an arrogant and angry fury, especially in a scene where he slaughters a group of Tusken Raiders.

And then there’s that damn love story. Because of course there is. The story between Anakin and Padme is pretty trite and cliched – it ranks in the wretched annals of love stories right along with Romeo and Juliet. It slows the movie down, makes no fucking sense, and has water/oil chemistry. And the delivery of Hayden Christensen, who plays Anakin, doesn’t help matters. Now, this is just the delivery I’m talking about. In every other respect, Christensen actually does a great job portraying Anakin. He has a sense of regret, sadness, and anger which drives Anakin into doing a lot of things a proper Jedi wouldn’t do, and it’s through his array of gestures, unsure postures, and facial expressions that Christensen gives a performance which is actually very effective. Acting is about much more than line delivery. Unfortunately, line delivery is often the most noticeable part of a performance, and Christensen is so bad at that part that it overwhelms a lot of the other aspects of his performance. It’s almost as if Christensen himself can’t believe the load of shit he’s being told to recite. But he doesn’t deserve all the blame for it. Do you honestly believe that even Marlon Brando could have ever rescued the atrocity that was Anakin’s sand monologue?

5: A New Hope (Episode IV) (AKA Star Wars)

And lo, we have it – the phenomenon that started it all. The original Star Wars movie that came out in 1977, Hope was expected to be nothing more than a quick cash-in B-movie. It was supposed to run a familiar trajectory: Plop it into all the theaters, let it make a few million bucks for the local studio, then put it on this new thing called a VCR while it dissipated in the backwoods, forgotten by all but the biggest bad movie nuts. No one was expecting Oscar nominations, let alone Oscars. No one was expecting Star Wars to break every box office gross intake record known to man. No one was expecting a massive multimedia empire with stories in a fictional universe that dated thousands of years. And no one was expecting Star Wars to be influencing movies and filmmakers 40 years after the fact; even the great hit movie of 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy, was a clear nod to Star Wars.

Being the first of a long running series, you know what that means: Early-installment weirdness! Except in the case of Hope, there’s not as much of that as you would probably think. A lot of the regular Star Wars Easter eggs are in there. Lightsabers, The Force, the Millennium Falcon, hyperspace jumps, Star Destroyers, the grandiose score of John Williams, X-Wing and TIE Fighters, Stormtrooper aim, and all those other things. The installment weirdness is less in retcon than in simple tone – the dramatic heft of most of the other movies is notably absent in Episode IV. Luke’s aspirations of Jedi-dom are a quick vocal McGuffin; he’s more interested in getting off Tatooine. The original lightsaber duel happens between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader; it’s clearly shoehorned in so a couple of earlier scenes featuring the lightsaber have some sort of significance.

There’s not a whole lot to hate on here. Hope is two hours of condensed fun and awesomeness which is as joyful as an adult as it was as a kid. The problem comes when you go back and watch it, and it sinks in just how many of the lines in it no longer make any sense. George Lucas himself clearly had no idea of what Star Wars would become, and his attempts to retcon it in the ensuing two movies were just clunky. (See, he was doing it back then too.) Darth Vader wasn’t originally Luke’s Father – in Star Wars, he’s described as a former student of Obi-Wan’s who murdered Luke’s father. Although Lucas finally got around to explaining it in Jedi, it was given a single-line throwaway so hasty that it pretty much pegged Obi-Wan as a puppet master. Luke and Leia’s relationship comes out of nowhere, and Obi-Wan and Darth Vader seem rather benign toward each other after what they went through. (Well, okay, there was 20 years since their last meeting, but still…) Did I say early-installment weirdness? Yes, I did, a couple of times. And this can’t be said enough: HAN SHOT FIRST!

4: Revenge of the Sith (Episode III)

Here’s the end of The Prequel Trilogy, where Darth Vader makes his transformation into Darth Vader. It doesn’t happen the way The Original Trilogy would have had us believe, where the cool suit is part of the identity and went with everything, and I think that may be something that a lot of fans are upset with. But I think one of the big parts of the issue fans often take with Revenge is that, once again, they were expecting something that was quite different from what was actually shown.

George Lucas did a lot of things right with Revenge that Menace and Attack got wrong, and one of those things was placing the full circle of The Original Trilogy on the backburner while focusing on telling the story. This is where Anakin’s fall into the Dark Side finally happens – and it’s pretty anticlimactic. Remember Obi-Wan in A New Hope telling Luke that Vader was seduced and tempted by the Dark Side? Well, Revenge of the Sith shows us that it’s more like he was tricked into joining it out of his love for Padme, whose health he was fearing for. More to the point is that it’s presented in such a way that we don’t really blame him for doing it, either; Palpatine offered Anakin a real way to cure her while the Jedi sat on their worthless asses and told him to not do anything. (In the EU, we learn that the story Palpatine tells Anakin about the Sith Lord who found a way to live forever was true.) From there, we have to wonder if there was any sense of nuance from Anakin – he goes from wanting to save his wife to greasing a group of little kids in nothing flat.

Revenge is Palpatine’s great show more than anything. The slimy, two-sided power monger is the standout star, and Ian McDiarmid has the time of his life playing him. The movie gives a full display of exactly how powerful Palpatine is and why the people in the Star Wars universe fear him. The way he gradually slides himself into greater evil and power is something McDiarmid portrays with such mastery that it’s worth it just to watch Revenge for him alone. This is a character so powerful that when four Jedi Masters are sent to arrest him, he quickly slaughters three of them in no time, and the fourth is Mace Windu, the greatest lightsaber master in the galaxy. He manipulates the entire senate into consolidating its power and giving him absolute control and no one thinks twice. He lies to his personal pet project – Darth Vader – about how Padme dies so Vader completely loses it. He fights Yoda so hard that Yoda gives up. (And yes, Yoda just plain fucking gives up in that lightsaber duel.) In the meantime, Obi-Wan and Anakin give us one of the greatest scenes in all of Star Wars. The only thing that drives me crazy about Revenge – besides Vader’s big “NOOO!!!!!” – is Padme’s death: She “gives up” while her damned kids are being born? Wouldn’t having her kids turn her into a stronger, more resolved Mama Bear? What the fuck, George? That’s even worse than the virgin birth of Anakin!

3: The Force Awakens (Episode VII)

Remember all the lines in A New Hope – and, hell, the entire Original Trilogy in general – that don’t make any sense in hindsight? The Force Awakens is that ridiculously expansive – and expensive – Youtube video that goes back and corrects all of them. At the same time, it also serves as Hope’s gritty reboot and the remake millennials pissed off with The Prequel Trilogy didn’t realize they wanted until it came out. Director JJ Abrams doesn’t do anything to hide it, either. Even Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill were tapped to show up and say, “Hey, look! Star Wars is gonna be good again real soon!”

Despite the blatant tributes, though, there was also more than enough inside The Force Awakens to bring back the old Star Wars magic that captured imaginations in the 70’s and 80’s. It was pretty cool that one of the main characters, Finn, was a reformed Stormtrooper. Rey is a great character too, and the way she spends the movie slowing learning and growing in the ways of The Force is a good way to show the kind of person she is and the kind of character she can grow to be. Of course, those are also callbacks to Episode IV – Rey, like Luke, spent the movie trying to learn and use The Force, and the way she comes out using it is more overt than what we saw at the end of Hope. The reformed Stormtrooper angle of Finn is a way of redoing Han Solo, the reformed smuggler. And I know I’m not the only one wondering about the issue of Luke’s old lightsaber. The plot revolves around the old blue-bladed lightsaber Obi-Wan gave Luke in Hope and which Luke himself finally wielded in The Empire Strikes Back; you know, the very same lightsaber last seen taking a swan dive to the bottom of Cloud City’s repulsorlift shaft with Luke’s severed hand still attached. It would explain Luke’s look at the end of the movie. He’s thinking, Who in the name of The Force went to pick THAT up?!

All in all, though, The Force Awakens cured the collective cynicism and doubts of Star Wars fans left disenchanted by The Prequel Trilogy. After three movies which were drowning in computer effects that are starting to look dated, Episode VII brought us a return to a Star Wars defined by characters we don’t have a whole lot of trouble thinking up general descriptions for. It gave us back the special effects and classic action of The Original Trilogy, brought back a lot of our favorite old characters to show us that our opinions were heard, and basically showed us that Star Wars can still have plenty of life left in movie form after all. I’m sure there were several Star Wars fans who walked out of every movie in The Prequel Trilogy wondering if the problem was on them, and that Star Wars had lost its magic because they were now grown up and critical. The Force Awakens showed us that that wasn’t the case after all. The problem with The Prequel Trilogy really was the movies themselves. And Disney and JJ Abrams took Star Wars and said, “We know you love Star Wars, and you don’t have to worry about it anymore. We got this.”

2: The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V)

The second movie from The Original Trilogy, Empire was the movie that raised the bar on the series. It still stands tall today as the movie that every other Star Wars movie is judged against. More to the point, Empire is the movie in which Star Wars truly became STAR WARS. The universe hinted at in Hope was fully realized, and a lot of the series’s mythos that we know and often take for granted was first introduced in The Empire Strikes Back.

Remember how we all assumed Darth Vader was the supreme universal bad guy after seeing Hope? Empire was the movie that showed us that he himself had to answer to Emperor Palpatine. Remember how Obi-Wan told Luke all about his Father, the best fighter pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend? Empire brought on the plot twist that Luke’s Pop wasn’t dead at all, that he was the one who fell to the Dark Side and became Darth Vader, and that turned into a million terrible plot twists in a million bad movies afterward. It developed the love story between Han and Leia and introduced Yoda and the Force Ghost of Obi-Wan. Lando was seen for the first time, and we got the true scope of how dangerous the Galactic Empire really was and how The Force could really be used in the hands of a capable user. Most importantly, it was Empire that went out of its way to bring the characters to the front and center in an effort for us to better KNOW them and understand them. What we saw in every piece of Star Wars-related media from here on out was based on character traits from Episode V.

While Empire revolves around Luke’s quest to become a Jedi while Han and Leia search for safety from the pursuant Empire, this movie is Darth Vader’s show. Think about it: What did Darth Vader DO in Hope that was so bad besides kill Obi-Wan? You could build a good argument that Grand Moff Tarkin was the true villain – Vader answered to him, and he was the one who ordered the demolition of Alderaan. But in Empire, it’s Vader who takes out Echo Base, invades Cloud City, chokes two of his Admirals to death, carbon-freezes Han Solo, and nearly kills Luke. And don’t forget, he’s still taking orders from Palpatine. It’s because of Vader’s coming out that Empire takes a more operatic tone than Hope. It plays out like a tragedy, and by the time it ends, the only good thing about what the Rebels just went through is that they’re still alive after it all. It’s an incredible testament to Empire’s staying power that it still holds up among the fans as the highest-regarded Star Wars movie, but once more, I have a wild disagreement with the general consensus…

1: Rogue One

The fact that Rogue One is the newest Star Wars movie doesn’t detract from its quality. I take nothing away from the other movies in the series, but there’s a new champion. Yes, Rogue One is an unusual feat among Star Wars movies. Whereas the other movies in the series essentially centered around the bad mojo of the damned Skywalker family, Rogue One is the movie that gets us to wonder about the scale of a full-fledged rebellion and what the sentient cost of it would really be. We’re looking at a war movie set in space, among characters who are somewhat aware of their roles as cannon fodder.

You remember the opening crawl from A New Hope? About Rebels striking from a hidden base stealing plans to the Death Star? Rogue One is about that battle. The buildup to that battle, though, provides some nuance to the Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire that much of the Star Wars series has been lacking. The Rebels in Rogue One are frequently prone to use techniques which would be condemned if the Empire tried them. There’s an entire scene late in the movie where the Rebels argue about whether or not trying to keep going with their fight would be worth it if the Empire to build something as powerful as the Death Star. Many of the battles are sudden and random and make it difficult to tell who’s on what side, alliances among characters are formed at random and very shaky until loyalties are proven, and the bad guy isn’t a face of traditional Star Warian evil. The main villain is Grand Moff Tarkin, our old pal that got himself blew up with the Death Star in Episode IV and was never seen again. Tarkin has always been a representative of more bureaucratic evil than the more light and dark forms of it, and it makes him a downright chilling villain. So no, this isn’t a typical Star Wars movie.

What Rogue One does do is successfully give us the trench viewpoint. Few standards from the other movies are mentioned at all. Darth Vader makes only a short cameo. But where Rogue One succeeds is placing us on the ground with the Rebels who fight even knowing their time is going to come. The AT-AT walkers from The Empire Strikes Back return in this movie, and the look like the giant monstrosities they were supposed to be. Darth Vader’s cameo is short, but he takes on his original role as a menacing terror who cuts through a swath of Rebel Alliance soldiers with ruthless efficiency and immunity; Vader is finally faceless again. The Rebel Alliance, as Rogue One points out, is built on nothing but hope. Throw that mix in with an in-your-face final space battle which sets up the famous opening scene in Episode IV (and includes a spectacular scene of two Star Destroyers smashing into each other), an explanation for why the Death Star had that silly weakness at all, a very funny reformed battle droid played by Firefly’s Alan Tudyk, and an array of well-developed characters, and Disney has delivered on its ultimate promise: Star Wars is back. Surely anyone who remembers falling in love with The Original Trilogy at an early age remembers how overcome they were with the incredible scope of it all. Then we got older, started tacking adult meanings to everything, and were pissed off at various points with subsequent Star Wars media, and that original magic was lost even among the best Star Wars stories. But I never forgot four-year-old me and the way he felt watching Episode IV. And I’ll never forget how, seeing Rogue One for the first time, the surrounding world dropped out of sight and, for two and a half hours, I was that four-year-old watching Star Wars for the first time once again.

 

The Annual One-Percenter Christmas Gift List

Well, it’s that time of year again: You rush out and buy gifts for everyone you know. And then you come to the realization that you have that one rich friend who lives the life you envy, and can’t figure out what to get them. Then you get into a big funk about it and start to wonder if you should even bother trying to buy a gift for a person who has everything. And then you come to the conclusion: Yes, of course you should! The incoming president is an egotistical billionaire, so if anything, thinking of your One-Percenter pals is going to be more important than ever! And that, readers, is why I’m here: To give you all a decent starting point for what to buy for Christmas for your One-Percent friends. After all, it’s not the gift, it’s the thought, right? Except in their case, it’s also the gift.

Panavision PSR 35mm Film Camera Used to Film Star Wars

I feel almost bad about including this, just because I’m a huge Star Wars freak myself, and this is an honest-to-god piece of real movie memorabilia. It’s not some cheap junk camera that you’re going to use to try to make your own home porn movies. It’s something that you’re going to toss into an out-of-the-way corner of your house to show all the visitors to make yourself feel cool. Think of all the iconic scenes that could have been filmed using this thing: The Cantina scene in Mos Eisley, the trash compactor scene, that big fucking Star Destroyer flying overhead… It would be harder to come up with a set of the more inconspicuous scenes in Star Wars to dissuade you from buying this. This is something ANY movie nut would love to have. And it recently sold at auction for $625,000, which makes it the most expensive vintage movie camera to ever be sold at auction. The big problem with nabbing this for your One-Percent friend should be obvious: There’s only that one right now. So if you’re thinking of trying to pick it up at auction yourself, you should take a knife or a silenced gun and learn how to sneak to the room’s light switch VERY quickly.

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Kopi Luwak Coffee

What we have here is a One-Percent answer to a very common need: Coffee! Coffee is the robust, smoky, bold liquid that wakes us up in the morning, and therefore it’s something your One-Percent friend will find essential to hold onto their One-Percent status and not end up giving it all to a megachurch Minister who is more One-Percent than they are. But you can’t be cheap and buy your everyday Folger’s for your friend. They have exquisite tastes, which means you should go out and buy them a nice pack of Kopi Luwak, the world’s most expensive coffee. A little bit of this coffee will impress your One-Percent pal not only for the price – $600 per pound and $50 per cup – but for the bean collection. Kopi Luwak is from Indonesia, and it comes from beans which were eaten by the common palm civet, partially digested, and then let out the other side. The name of the coffee comes from the Indonesian word for coffee – Kopi – and the local name for the animal – luwak.

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Dussault Apparel’s Trashed Denim Jeans

Let’s be honest: I’m not sure what business your One-Percent friend would be doing moving around among the blue jean-wearing plebes. Anything that can be taken care of can be taken care of on the One-Percent oasis, right? Or if not, surely someone can be hired to run the common errands for them. But oh well, some One-Percenters have certain eccentricities, and when the need to satiate them arises, they can’t go out in their usual velvet and silk ensembles because the regulars can smell it. A good pair of blue jeans is essential camouflage, but surely you don’t plan to go out to Poor Palace or whatever it’s called for a mere $100 pair of the blues, right? Well, Dussault is here for them with a pair of $250,000 jeans that come studded with rubies, diamonds, and rose gold. Surely no one will notice.

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Tod’s Alligator Skin Cover iPad Case

Damn near everything these days is about the iPad. They’re good to conduct business transactions, they’re just plain good for business, and they’re important if that business revolves around legitimate business transactions of the white collar sort involving offshore holding accounts. An iPad, though, is only as good as its casing, which means you can’t just send your One-Percent buddy’s butler to the mall for a cheap Star Wars case to attach to it. You have to go with the good stuff. Tod’s, a luxury firm in Italy – you’ll want to remember that no quality goods have ever come out of Slovakia – hand-makes these cute little iPad cases out of the world’s finest alligator skin and sells them for $4900 apiece. Be sure to get one in every available color: Blue, brown, or tan!

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Hastens Vividus Bed

Sleep is another one of those great universals which no good One-Percenter dares acknowledge. Sleep is for the rich and work is for the poor, right? That’s why a One-Percenter needs a bed that lives up to the wealth they inherited. Hastens presents the Vividus bed, designed in Sweden, which has been described as sleeping on a cloud. It certainly sounds nice, and it will sound even nicer to your One-Percent friend with a $59,750 asking price. It will sound even better to them yet one your friend ganders at the $700 concrete slabs the people who do the work all sleep on.

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Chopard 201-Karat Watch

Yes, it’s pretty easy to keep time these days with everything up to and including your own eyeballs having the ability to keep time digitally, but sometimes you just can’t beat that old retro charm. A good mechanical watch can be a nice little addition to a good power suit, as well as a cool gadget that your geek friend can use to show their love for all things steampunk. This cute little accessory from Chopard, will allow your One-Percent friend to both flash back to the simpler days of Victorian yore while being glittery and ostentatious at the same time. This Swiss watch features a pink diamond of 15 karats, a 12-karat blue diamond, and an 11-karat white diamond, presumably because they decided making it a white diamond somewhere between 12 and 15 karats would have been pushing it. After making those heart-shaped diamonds the centerpieces, Chopard then threw in 163 karats of white and yellow diamonds just to be on the safe side. You know, in case the original three weren’t enough. And I’m going to assume it tells time according to the atomic clock! At least, for $25 million, it fucking better.

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Pear ANJOU Speaker Cables

If you think all cables do the same thing and work the same way, you must be part of that OTHER percentage of people. The Pear Cable Corporation is here for your One-Percent pal with the ANJOU Speaker Cable, a good 12-foot length of cable which Pear says will “allow new levels of sonic accuracy to be explored.” Obviously, you, the 99-Percenter buying this for your One-Percent friend, probably believe the $7250 price tag is there to cover the advertising tagline that’s telling us that. And that a combination of “proprietary hybrid geometry,” “ultra low electrical resistance,” and “fully annealed 99.999% pure oxygen free copper” are what’s allowing these levels to be explored. Dave Clark, an editor for the high-end audio magazine Positive Feedback, said these cables were “very danceable.” Perhaps the best part of getting this gift for your One-Percent friend is that the James Randi Educational Foundation is giving you an opportunity to join the exclusive One-Percent if you get it for them! How, you ask? It’s easy: Just prove beyond any reasonable doubt, or questionable doubt, or really any slight facsimile of a doubt at all that these cables work better than any other cables on the market!

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William Shakespeare’s First Folio

This is a first edition of Shakespeare’s original plays, and like the Star Wars camera up there, it’s a pretty damn cool collectible for literature buffs which needs to be bought at auction. In 2006, it went off for $5.1 million, so be sure you have your little trick with the light switch and silenced gun mastered before tracking it down. If you manage to get ahold of it, this sucker has some priceless words written on it. It was published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare died, and it has a treasure trove of 12 plays he wrote that were never printed anywhere again, as well as a lot of the favorites you’ve come to know and love. So pony up so your One-Percent friend can speak with the erudite “thous,” “verilys,” “thines,” and “thys” the upper crust was known to speak with before Donald Trump killed all but about 100 words in our wonderfully quirky language. And maybe if there’s a time continuum snag involved here, you can convince your friend to burn the original copy of Romeo and Juliet and fucking rid the planet of it for good.

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Team in the National Hockey League

Okay, we all know nothing excites a One-Percenter more than a new opportunity to make more money hand-over-fist without doing a whole lot, but your friend will almost certainly be disappointed at your cheap-shotting them here. This is a hockey team, after all, and it requires they make an effort to establish the team in the public consciousness; as opposed to a football team, which would make money even if they blew up the stadium during a game. But it’s still a professional sports team, which is always a good opportunity to gouge an entire city. And an NHL team would be comparatively cheap to run. It’s the NHL which is expanding to try to include teams in every city with populations of 100,000, and the ever-thinning talent pool means your friend can be as cheap as they want with the roster because there soon won’t be enough superstar or even starting-caliber players to go around. On your end, to get them the team, the application is $10 million, $2 million of which is non-refundable. Then the franchise fee is $500 million, which is considerably less than the $700 million the National Football League’s newest team cost the city of Houston. Yeah, they might have to do some work to get the team visible, but if even if they blow it, they can always take the team to Canada. Or Tucson. Knowing the commissioner’s line of thinking, probably Tucson.

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LELO INEZ 24-karat Gold Dildo

The very same one recommended by Gwyneth Paltrow, because a list of nice gifts for your One-Percent friend just isn’t complete without a GOOP gift from Miss Gwyneth. Right? Right!

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With thanks to The Most Expensive Journal at most-expensive.com.

The 2016 Acid Martini Award

The 2016 Acid Martini Award

Ah, language: That thing we use to prevent communication from being reduced to a system of blinking. The trouble, however, begins with the fact that language has a habit of changing and evolving. Today’s rude slang word is tomorrow’s popularly accepted word, which becomes a dictionary term the day after. If you went back to the past, the language even in English-speaking countries would sound like some sort of alien-ese that couldn’t be deciphered by the linguistic experts of either Klingon or Elfish.

It’s at this point that I should pause to remind you that Klingon and Elfish are both fictional languages and that, despite being fictional, they ARE languages. Not like pig latin – which is just an annoying way of revising English – but LANGUAGES, with proper words, pronunciations, sentence structures, and words which condense entire ideas into a singular expression or term. Let that sink in. Also consider the fact that to avoid linguistic confusion between international boundaries, scientists use terms in latin in order to maintain a sense of universality. Latin has been dead in common usage for thousands of years.

That doesn’t mean all the changes will be for the better, though. Slang comes and goes in ridiculous and sometimes ugly trends. That’s why I’ve created the annual Acid Martini Award, which I named after the drink I would serve to anyone I heard using the worst, most annoying slang words in English. I started them a couple of years ago, giving out awards to a battalion of words and phrases that cropped up which I considered an insult to our Germanic lingual roots. Then I relocated, meaning I skipped them last year. But now, this is going to be a yearly thing, as I award the word, phrase, or expression which got under my skin the most during the last year. This year, the winner of the Acid Martini Award is…

Jelly
No, I don’t have anything against your favorite toast spread. But that’s the problem I’m having. If “jelly” were still a reference to something you digested, I would consider it normal and not bother it again. But lately its come to the forefront of my list of annoying truncations: “Jelly” is apparently the truncated way of saying “jealous.”

It’s also a case point for what the oldens hate about the millennials. As far as truncations go, “jelly” has an unpleasant and valley vapidity to it. If the movie Clueless was 20 years younger, Cher and Di would have been spitting it at a rate which would force its viewers to jam rail spikes into their skulls, and the movie wouldn’t be the cult classic it is now. Say it aloud to yourself and you can project the full valley girl picture in front of you.

The greatest absurdity is that “jelly” doesn’t even shorten the word. Both “jelly” and “Jealous” contain the same number of syllables, so it’s not as if you’re even saving yourself a mouthful or any unpleasant things you’re forcing your tongue to do.

The Ultimate Battle of Yours Truly’s Adopted Home Cities

A little over a year ago, I made a choice to throw my life into a major upheaval. After graduating from the prerequisite courses I needed to peruse an education in physical therapy, I decided that I wanted a drastic change of scenery before starting the proper certification program and moved to Seattle. That made Seattle my third city of residence, after Buffalo and Chicago. The adjustment period wasn’t easy, and Seattle proved to be a more closed-off place than I expected, but I managed to get through it, and it’s home now. I’ll be here quite a bit longer no matter what happens.

It’s not making me forget about my other adopted home, though, by which I mean Chicago. (I’m a native of Buffalo; therefore, it doesn’t count.) That’s not because of some ill grudge I’m holding against Seattle, however. It’s because of the conditions under which I was forced to leave Chicago, which leave it as a sort of question mark. I had a life there which I had to leave in a sudden fashion. If it weren’t for social media, no one there would have known I left, or what happened that I had to leave. It’s also because of how much living there changed me. It blew my mind open and awakened me to my own potential as a person, setting me off in a few directions that I hope to continue walking while in Seattle. Also, a lot of the friends I made in Chicago had regular runs to and from Seattle. They had friends and contacts here, and a few made regular visits. Naturally, I decided that warranted an entry in my Ultimate Battle series: The Windy City against Rain City. The Second City against The Emerald City. So let’s do this! Chicago vs. Seattle. One day, I’ll learn.

City Layout
The first thing you notice about both Chicago and Seattle is that both of them use directions to designate their street layouts. Every street in Chicago will be either north, south, east, or west. The point where the directions change confuses me, though; at least in the way that the east/west axis doesn’t make any damn sense. State Street is the dividing line between east and west, which is weird because the placement of State Street limits the east side. The east is fairly prominent if you’re on the South Side, but as you go north, it starts to get blocked by Lake Michigan. The east addresses start to limit themselves to double digits, and when you get up to Lincoln Park, State Street stops and there are no more addresses on the east. Despite this, though, Chicago’s layout is a logical grid, and although a few diagonal streets there can throw you off, it’s pretty easy to navigate and to pick a street you know and follow it down to the end. Seattle uses a fairly simple pattern of numbered streets: 1st Street is the one closest to Puget Sound, and they progress numerically. Unfortunately, Seattle sits on a thin little strip of land between Puget Sound and Lake Washington and gets interrupted by Lake Union, and instead of just building around them, they all got in on the layout and have a habit of tripping things up just when you think you’re starting to understand the pattern. If you’re on the western half of Seattle and try to head north, you’re in for a treat. West Seattle is cut off by Puget Sound the same way Lake Michigan leaves Chicago’s east side. Then when you make your directional adjustment and go through downtown Seattle, the whole grid makes a sudden shift to the northwest when you reach Denny Way. And when you throw in the fact that there are streets with north, south, east, west, northwest, northeast, southwest, and southeast designations that otherwise have nothing in common with each other, you’re defining the street layout in Seattle as “a mess.”
Winner
Chicago. And it doesn’t help Seattle’s case any that no one there seems to know how to build a bridge. The number of bridges connecting popular northern neighborhoods like Fremont and Ballard to the business districts is limited and part of the reason traffic there can trip you up at midnight. In Chicago, the bridges crossing the Chicago River are nothing more than extensions of the street – you pick the street you’re looking for and drive into the sunset.

Transit
If you don’t like ferrying yourself back and forth, a good transit system is necessary to a city’s infrastructure. Although widely derided within the city limits, the Chicago Transit Authority – the CTA – usually comes through in spades. Consisting of an expansive bus network and a very good subway called the L – which has the unique quality that most of it is perched two levels over the ground instead of under it – the CTA has its problems, but it’s usually there when you need it. Nothing related to the CTA stops running, although they run with less frequency during lower travel hours. During peak hours, you’ll never worry about missing your bus or train because they come by so often that seeing one go by only means you have to wait ten minutes for the next one. The CTA is augmented by a commuter train network called Metra, which sends trains hourly to and from suburbs both close and distant. If you’re going into a near suburb, there’s a separate bus network called Pace which can help you around, but Pace is far from reliable. It runs only a few routes that don’t start to cover places you may need to get to. Seattle enjoys, well, I’m not sure what services are there. It’s not because I don’t know or have little experience using them, but because there are so damn many of them. There’s SoundTransit, which runs inter county buses, a lightrail called the Link, and a commuter train called the Sounder. There’s King County Metro, which is the bus system all to Seattle… And someone there also runs a streetcar system (which has two lines), a speed bus system called Rapidride, and a trolley system which is really comprised of electric buses. The advantage of Seattle’s transit system is that there’s a significant range which stretches into the local suburbs, which include more independent networks going in Snohomish and Skagit and Pierce counties. They’re not as effective as they could be, but they work, and they give people in those places a rung into Seattle. They’re also working together to simplify travel between those places, so they’re at least not as confusing as it seems. Seattle’s iconic Monorail doesn’t have anything to do with any of them – it’s a tourist trap used to get visitors in a time crunch between Westlake Park and Seattle Center quickly.
Winner
Chicago. Despite having eleventy billion public transit networks, there’s a reason Seattle’s traffic is so harsh: It’s because everyone who lives in the area knows you’re pretty much sunk if you don’t own a car. After years of being a holdout radical, I’ve decided to finally bite the bullet myself and get one. If you’re using the inter county buses, they have limited hours, and those hours are stupid. The SoundTransit doesn’t give a shit about you if you’re trying to go anywhere at noon; you’ll have to wait until the evening to get to Snohomish county. There’s a cute nickname for anyone living anywhere in Everett where the closest bus line is one of the circulators: “Walker.” The Sounder is next to useless. It goes all the way down to Tacoma. Are you planning to use it for a weekend trip to a Tacoma Dome concert or a Rainiers game? No you’re not – trust me on that.

Architecture
One of the important things to remember about architecture is that cities in the eastern and western United States are defined by different styles. There’s a lot more neoclassical architecture in Chicago and cities like Chicago. The west tends to favor more glass and steel superstructures. Although there’s no avoiding the neoclassical buildings in Chicago, the city uses a wide mix of architectural styles. Its tallest building, the Sears Tower, is done in what’s called the international style – a style identified by its square shape, grid-like windows, and facade angles of 90 degrees. Neoclassical shows up in Tribune Tower and the Wrigley Building. Merchandise Mart combines three building types: The skyscraper, the warehouse, and the department store. The John Hancock Tower is an example of structural expressionism. The architects that have graced Chicago include luminaries like Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Fazlur Rahman Khan, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The crown jewel of Seattle’s skyline would be the Space Needle, an observation tower with a rotating restaurant that was built for the 1962 World’s Fair. Seattle also has numerous styles – its well-known Smith Building was once the tallest building on the west coast, and it’s a neoclassical structure. Seattle’s architects have included greats like Frank Gehry, Lawrence Halprin, and the architect of the new library, Rem Koolhaas. Seattle’s architecture has a way of blending into the rest of the city without a problem, while Chicago’s buildings look like they’re trying to fight each other for attention.
Winner
Chicago. I love and respect most of the architecture I see in Seattle, but there are two factors deciding this for me: One is that there is an entire school of architecture named for Chicago, which is frequently called commercial style. Commercial style has managed to spread out of Chicago and found itself in Australia and New Zealand. The other is the nasty wave of gentrification in Seattle turning decent neighborhoods into Tetris block structures, which is a clunky, unseemly, and very unpleasant way to look no matter where it is.

Food
Chicago has one of the most famous food scenes in the world. The people there aren’t the pickiest eaters, but Chicago cuisine involves staples like the Chicago-style hot dog, Italian beef, and deep dish pizza. Although you can find pretty much any kind of food in Chicago, those three stand out as Chicago’s edible exports to the entire world. The pizza stands out – it’s not in everyone’s taste, but it’s known for being almost cake-like in its depth. If you’re curious about it, you can flag down Uno’s, which was founded in Chicago and brought it out on the national level both in restaurants and frozen foods. The hot dog has turned Chicago into a city of snobs who are almost cultish in their devotion – the bun needs poppy seeds, and the hot dog needs to be Vienna beef before they’ll talk to you. But Chicago is also home to the most famous hamburger in the world – McDonald’s is headquartered in Oak Brook, and the corporation has designs on moving into Chicago proper soon. I know that’s barely an argument, but Chicago also has the inarguable burgers served by the famous Billy Goat Tavern, a local chain which grills burgers plain and lets you dress them however you see fit. Seattle is a city that still holds strong to its marine heritage, and that means its food icons were all pulled out of the ocean not too long ago. Fish and chips with tartar sauce, lemon, and ketchup are a common dish. Salmon is a signature of all people in the city, whether they’re decorating it with caviar or cooking it at a backyard barbecue. Smoked, grilled, or turned into chowder, salmon is something that’s going down your gullet at some point. If it’s a quick fix you’re looking for, you can find Asian food everywhere. The argument then turns into what kind of Asian food you’re after. Teriyaki or pho? Also, Seattle is one of the world’s leading producers and sellers of chocolate.
Winner
Chicago. I give Seattle a lot of credit for having healthier options overall, but all those seafoods tend to strain the account after awhile. Also, Chicago’s foods are more versatile (except the food snobs’ fucking hot dogs); they can be cooked in more ways, include different kinds of ingredients and toppings, and leave more room for experimentation. Yes, Seattle’s chocolate is an enormous strength, but if a decent chef in Chicago gets ahold of the right stuff, you can bet your ass they’ll find a way to cook it into a pizza.

Drinks
Chicago’s reputation for liquid nourishment comes from two sources: Intelligentsia coffee and Goose Island beer. You’re not going to find very many detractors of either brand. Goose Island brews 312, a signature beer they named for Chicago’s area code. Frankly, there’s not a weak spot in Goose Island’s beer lineup, and most of their stuff is comparable – and even preferable – to other popular microbrews, including Ohio’s beloved Great Lakes. Intelligentsia was founded in Chicago in 1995, and it spread out to locations on both coasts since then. Of course, those locations are New York City and Los Angeles. Although it’s pretty hard to place anything official on a review of Intelligentsia, their coffee is generally held in high regard. As for Seattle, it can counter Goose Island with, well… Microbrews. Dozens of them, if not hundreds. I haven’t found a defining Seattle brew since I moved to the northwest, but I think that’s because the city is renowned as one of the microbrew capitols of the United States, and people can argue about their favorites the same way they argue about their favorite teriyaki joints. As for coffee, Seattle has, you know, Starbucks! Around Seattle, Starbucks is known as the coffee everyone loves but are ashamed to admit it. Starbucks is basically the coffee god, which you can say about a chain with over 23,000 locations everywhere in the world. For those who not only claim to hate Starbucks but attempt to act on that hate and avoid it (HA!), they have to contend with Seattle’s Best, a subsidiary of guess who! Starbucks! And Seattle’s Best has also managed to penetrate Burger King, Delta Airlines, and Borders back when that was a thing. If you’re trying to avoid Starbucks, there’s also Tully’s, a chain which was started in Seattle and is now trickling into prominent cities in the western United States.
Winner
Seattle. Chicago never stood a chance here. The biggest statement to Seattle’s power here is that you don’t find many people in Chicago going out of their way to get to an Intelligentsia bar if there’s a nearby Starbucks… And Starbucks has a presence in Chicago which is almost as ubiquitous as it is in Seattle. While Goose Island seems to have designs on becoming a go-to brew on a national level the way Samuel Adams has, it still has to compete with Samuel Adams, and don’t think for a second that it’s ever going to catch on in Seattle.

People
I trust everyone reading this is familiar with the classic Chicagoan stereotype: Tough, takes no shit, but friendly in a midwestern way and able to ward off the most epic bad weather there is. Yep, it’s a long-running narrative, and there’s a good reason for that: It’s because it’s pushed endlessly by overgrown frat megadouchebros who graduated from Big 10 schools and used their lineage and connections to grab six-figure jobs immediately. You see them in Chicago all the time, even though they’re concentrated around Lincoln Park and Wrigleyville. The tough person angle gets pushed because those are the guys running the Sun-Times and the Tribune, and writing Redeye, the city’s most prominent free rag. Seattle has an image attached to its people as well: Friendly, but a little bit standoffish and hard to crack. But educated. There’s a good case to be made that Seattleites really are like that, but if you walk up to any random person and end up striking up a few words, they can be pretty chirpy as well. And while there aren’t any weather stereotypes that go with Seattle’s residents, let me say this: I’ve never seen people more resilient to a straight-up drenching. They may not run around announcing their waterproofing to the rest of the world, but why should they? You, the transplant, knew the city was rainy when you moved here. If you’re not willing to learn how to deal with it, tough shit.
Winner
Seattle. There’s no gentile way to say this: Chicago’s people are just dicks. Despite everything you hear about their national reputation, they get so caught up in trying to act HARD that it can be difficult to get straight answers out of people you don’t know. And that’s all the hardness is: An act. Stand your ground against any of those posers and they’ll back down. If they try to start a scuffle, get in their faces and watch them run. The weather toughness is bullshit as well; ten inches of snow and these people buy out the grocery stores before locking themselves up for the next month. Chicago would let itself get invaded by an army of hipsters. It was two or three years before people stopped trying to impress me with how tough and broad-shouldered and cold-weathered Chicago was. When they did, they fell back on the old excuse that hey, they’re sure it’s nothing compared to Buffalo. Which it isn’t, so they better drop the fucking act and stop bragging about their toughness or they need to start fucking backing it up! I don’t pretend Seattle’s people are flawless, but they do know how they are, don’t delude themselves into thinking otherwise, and make the effort to improve.

Weather
Let me clear up a couple of things: First, Chicago’s brutal winters are old hat to anyone who has ever spent any considerable length of time living in a cold weather area. Seattle’s rain is manageable because so much of it comes in droplets, sprinkles, and mist rather than the all-out downpours we northeasterners have come to associate with the wet stuff. That being said, both cities have their reputations for good reason. It gets cold in Chicago and rainy in Seattle. Both places brag about their summers, though, but it’s only Seattle that really gives its people reason to do so; Chicago’s summers are steam baths, and unlike Buffalo, it doesn’t have the Lake Effect there to air condition the city when the harsher summer elements set in. The jet stream blows to the east, and Chicago is situated on the west side of Lake Michigan, so the cool breezes that prevent Buffalo from becoming a sauna are nowhere to be found in Chicago. Seattle’s weak season is the winter, which is the rainy season. Winters in Seattle can bring rain every day for weeks, to the extent that meteorologists talk about Sun Breaks. But the corollary is that Seattle’s climate is pretty temperate for most of the year. There’s none of the incredible extremes that regularly terrorize Chicago. And for a rainy city, there’s surprisingly little humidity.
Winner
Seattle. The rain can barely be called rain, and between that and the moderate climate, it makes for yearlong bicycling weather. It helps that when Seattle isn’t raining, the weather is the next best thing to perfect.

Sports
Okay, let me be clear about something here: When I say sports, I don’t mean the number of teams or championships won by the area. I mean knowledgeability and reaction to the local sports teams. Chicago has teams in all of the big four, plus MLS, and they’re one of two (three if you count Los Angeles) cities with two baseball teams. With the Cubs’ World Series victory, every team in Chicago has won at least one title during my lifetime, and they’ve all racked up respectable totals: The Bears have nine titles – one Super Bowl – which is good for the second-most in the NFL; the Bulls have six, which is better than all but two teams in the NBA; the Blackhawks add another six, tied for fourth-best in the NHL; and the White Sox and Cubs both have three, the third of which came for both after extended droughts. We can add an extra if we want to count the titles the Arizona Cardinals won when they were still Chicago’s team. Of course, the big question is more: Are the fans aware of all that? Well, during the time I lived in Chicago, I received more unwanted information about the 1985 Bears than about the current Bears, or any Bears for that matter. They think 1985 is still the trump card in a bar argument. The Blackhawks spent the last six seasons fielding what advanced stats proved is one of the greatest dynasties in NHL history, but before the 2010 Stanley Cup victory that kicked it off, people forgot the Hawks existed at all, and I’m not saying that as a colloquialism; I wore Blackhawks gear around the city during the last couple of bad years, and people constantly asked me what happened to the team. There was a large chunk of fans who thought they moved, and many other people thought the city’s AHL team, the Wolves, was the primary team in the city. To their credit, though, Chicago’s baseball fans are the best I’ve ever seen. Seattle has teams in two of the big four, plus an MLS team. The more dominant team of them is the NFL’s Seahawks; they’ve visited three Super Bowls, winning one with the most dominant defense since the 1985 Bears. They’ve also been robbed of a storied NBA team which had also been a champion at one point. Their MLB team is the Mariners, who have a large group of core diehards and a contingent of foreign fans due to their willingness to sign Japanese players. The MLS team, the Sounders, is one of the league’s most popular teams, and Seattle is also familiar with its sports history: There are fans who still wear Sonics gear, and I’ve even seen a Metropolitans shirt or two. The Seattle Metropolitans were the first American hockey team to win the Stanley Cup before folding sometime in the 1920’s. But that doesn’t mean the people of Seattle have forgotten their hockey history. This is a hockey city that just happens to not have a team.
Winner
Seattle. Big sports fans is another one of those megadouchebro-fueled myths that started with the frat people running the Chicago media and got around the country. While Chicago’s baseball fan base is unquestionably one of the best in the country, they don’t make up for Chicago’s “fan” missteps: They know nothing of football at all outside the ’85 Bears. They literally forgot they had an NHL team. I guarantee the dumbasses writing for Redeye have discounted the 2016 Golden State Warriors from any discussion because their 73-9 team lost the Finals while Chicago’s 72-10 team won the title. In Seattle, no one forgot the Seahawks’ 2014 title against Denver, and they know their team well enough to take on any Bears fan, but have already put that behind them to enjoy some of the best football in the league waiting for the next one. Seattle hasn’t had a major league hockey team since the 1920’s, but there are hockey fans in Seattle and they recognize my Nordiques and Whalers logos when I wear them; both of those teams have been defunct for at least 20 years. In short, Seattle’s fans may not have Chicago’s exposure or accolades, but they know about and appreciate what they’ve got.

Accompanying Body of Water
Chicago, of course, has Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is one of the Great Lakes, which – if you can believe this – is the largest collection of freshwater bodies in the world. Back when the Rust Belt was the undisputed trading route of the country, Chicago was the largest city on the Lakes, and so a lot of ships have come in and out of Chicago, and there are even a few famous shipwrecks at the bottom of the lake. Seattle is located on the eastern bank of Puget Sound, an inlet of the Salish Sea that eventually opens up into the Pacific Ocean. Given Seattle’s location in the northwest, that location made Seattle an ideal transportation hub and port. The mariner culture which grew up around and in Seattle is still prevalent.
Winner
Seattle. It’s clear that the culture of sailing had far more of an influence on Seattle than on Chicago. Puget Sound also has a much more direct route to the ocean. A ship on Lake Michigan has to go east through the other Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway, so there are limits on the kinds of ships that can get there. That means Seattle has also hosted a wider variety of ships than Chicago – Puget Sound has had Nimitz-style aircraft carriers dock, and those are ships the Great Lakes are too shallow to let pass. You may make the argument that since Lake Michigan is freshwater and Puget Sound is saltwater, you can drink the water in Lake Michigan. As someone who’s spent most of his life so far in Freshwater Nation, I don’t buy it. Chicago’s location and history mean Lake Michigan spent decades as an industrial hub which shamelessly polluted the water with every chemical known to man. It wasn’t until less than ten years ago that fisherman were given the all-clear to actually eat the fish they caught in any of the Great Lakes, and even now, you’re an idiot if you actually try to do that.

Popular Culture
Here’s the question of how well Chicago and Seattle have been represented in popular culture. Chicago has a huge early start here, since most of the population of the country was scattered throughout the northeast and northern midwest back at the start of the 20th century, and Chicago – after having been burned to a crisp during the 1870’s – grabbed its spot as the second-largest city in the country and didn’t let it go until Los Angeles pulled itself into second during the 80’s. Not that Chicago lost very much – it’s still firmly in third, which means that anything on a worldwide tour WILL make it there. That means Chicago is a place which has had a good century and a half to capture the imaginations of producers and entertainers everywhere. First, there’s no getting around Chicago’s comedy scene, especially if you want to specialize in sketch or improv; you’ll pass through Chicago at some point before a decent troupe even considers you. Sketch and improv are to Chicago what theater and music are in New York City or screen entertainment is in Los Angeles. The list of musicians who have written songs glorifying Chicago is long and includes heavyweights like Django Reinhardt, Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, Wilco, Common, Elvis Presley, Weird Al Yankovic, Brian Wilson, Buddy Guy, The Doors, and Frank Zappa. Books set there include The Razor’s Edge, The Time-Traveler’s Wife, and Upton Sinclair’s law-changing classic The Jungle. Plays include American Buffalo, A Raisin in the Sun, and Glengarry Glen Ross. Films are too numerous to even begin to cover, but include classics like Ordinary People, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, High Fidelity, The Fugitive, The Blues Brothers, Eight Men Out, A League of Their Own, Risky Business, and almost everything John Hughes had anything to do with. TV shows set in Chicago include The Bob Newhart Show, Chicago Hope, Early Edition, ER, Family Matters, Married… With Children, Perfect Strangers, and The Untouchables. Seattle hasn’t gotten the attention going back that far; right until the 60’s, all Seattle had to draw attention to itself was Boeing. Attention was pretty slow to find Seattle, and the remains of the old industrial identity are still all over the place. But during the second half of the last century, Seattle started getting more people until it began to boom. The cultural tributes to Seattle aren’t even close to what they are with Chicago, but there’s some definite quality to it. Songs about Seattle include Arthur O. Dillon’s “Seattle the Peerless City,” which is the city’s official song. It was written in 1909. After that, save a couple of odd time signature appearances in the 70’s and 80’s, Seattle falls off the map until – yeah, you guessed it – the 90’s. At that point, the music scene exploded, and Seattle found itself with numerous songs shouting out to it by the Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Macklemore, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Queensryche, Harvey Danger, Duff McKagan, Soundgarden, and Marcy Playground. Sherman Alexie emerged as a popular literary voice for places all over Washington, including Seattle. The list of movies set in Seattle is long and very respectable. It includes Singles, Sleepless in Seattle, 10 Things I Hate About You, The Ring, Wargames, Say Anything, The Fabulous Baker Boys, and The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. TV Shows include Frasier, The 4400, Millennium, Reaper, Six Feet Under, Twin Peaks, and Weeds.
Winner
Chicago. Come on, even if Chicago’s insane head start was factored out, it’s still going to swamp Seattle. Although Seattle’s music scene is a who’s who that can fight blow for blow with anyone – for god’s sake, Ray Charles and Jimi Hendrix came out of Seattle before it was cool – there are surprisingly few songs ABOUT Seattle. Seattle isn’t a referential must or a place comics move to hone their skills in anything, while the influence of Chicago’s comedy is apparent in almost every variety and sketch comedy on the air. I couldn’t find any live theater set in Seattle; they NAMED a whole musical after Chicago. (Even if it was a lousy musical.) The most important book set in Chicago changed food regulations to make sure corporate greed didn’t make us sick. True, Seattle’s TV settings are damn good – Frasier remains one of the best and best-aged sitcoms there is and one of the few real adult sitcoms ever made; Reaper was an experiment with an edge that was popular on the WB when it was here but which wider audiences just weren’t ready for; Six Feet Under and Weeds were popular everywhere; and Twin Peaks is a beloved cult classic which there are constant rumors of a revival of. Chicago’s TV shows were popular, but a lot of them were popcorn schmaltz – Miller/Boyett liked to set sitcoms there. But even if we cut off Chicago before 1962 – which is the year of Seattle’s World’s Fair, which was sort of the city’s coming out when the Monorail and Space Needle opened – Seattle is still getting washed out.

Landmarks
Neither city is lacking here. Chicago has the Sears Tower, the tallest building in the country (yes, it’s called the Sears Tower, and no, a panel of New York City-connected architects handing its title to Freedom Tower doesn’t change how tall it is), and Seattle has the Space Needle. Chicago has the John Hancock Tower, Seattle has the Smith Building, which was the tallest building on the west coast for decades. Seattle has the Monorail, Seattle Center, and Pike Place Market while Chicago has Lincoln Park… You know what?
Winner
Fuck it, this one is a tie. I’ll let Seattleites defend their landmarks and Chicagoans whine about how I didn’t give this to them all they want, but this really is one of those fanboy things. Both cities stand out.

Bicycling
Bicycling has been making a hard charge to establish itself as a viable form of transportation in recent years. That means cities have been racing – okay, well, more or less, anyway, in Buffalo it’s WAY less – to set up a workable infrastructure for cyclists. Chicago activated a plan a couple of years ago to set up a citywide network of bicycle paths, and progress so far is pretty good – I spotted traffic lights during my last trip to Chicago which were there strictly for bicycle traffic. But that’s nothing compared to Seattle, which already has every possible line painted on its streets and every possible trail set up for bicycling back and forth. Of course, if civil rights can teach you anything, it’s that even if the laws change, the people don’t necessarily go along with them without kicking and screaming. Especially in Chicago, where the people specialize in kicking and screaming. While I was living in Chicago, the city barely did anything to adapt to cyclists beyond painting a few lines on the side of the road. Bicycle lanes still don’t exist for a lot of streets, including the most prominent street in the city, which is Western Avenue. I’ve already noted that the people in Chicago are whiny little assholes about a lot of things, and cycling is one of them. Pedestrians still don’t look around when flinging open car doors. If the need should arise to get onto the sidewalk – and it will – don’t be surprised by physical assault. Yes, there’s the Lake Shore bicycle path, but that’s pretty well out of the way, and the floating trail which cuts through Wicker Park isn’t that long. Seattle, of course, is in the place that spearheaded the return of bicycling – the pacific northwest. It shows, too – trails and lanes are a dime a dozen around the city, and they’re pretty much everywhere in the park system. Despite the difference in terrain – Chicago is flat while Seattle is replete with spectacular hills and inclines – Seattle has managed to normalize bicycling to such an extent that Seattleites had to come back around from the other direction to make it niche again: The Naked Bicycle Ride was created in Fremont! Yes, there is a share of people who hate cycling in Seattle too, and no doubt there are those who like to assault cyclists, but Seattle as a whole is recognized as one of the best cities in the United States to commute by bicycle.
Winner
Seattle. Chicago isn’t outwardly hostile toward bicyclists, but its been playing a huge game of Follow the Leader. There isn’t anything Chicago has done yet that wasn’t done – and likely done better – in other bicycle-friendly cities already. The fact that it took Rahm Emanuel to sign the current bicycle plan into law should tell you just how far Chicago is behind its contemporaries.

Destructive Historical Fire
Because a good city should have a good comeback story, okay? Chicago’s fire ran from nine at night on October 8, 1871 to October 10. If you’ve ever been to Chicago, you already know the tale of Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow, but for those outside the Chicago bubble, here’s the story. Or the sentence, rather: The was a family called O’Leary. The Wife, Catherine, owned a cow. The cow kicked over a lamp and the fire spread out of control. That’s the popular tale, anyway. Another version blames a group of gamblers who happened to be using James O’Leary’s barn. The most common cause is probably related to a bunch of other fires that were going on in the midwest that day, but the truth is that no one ever determined who or what started the fire. What we do know is that the popular building material in Chicago at the time was wood. Held together with tar. During an unusually dry summer. In trying to control the fire, watchman Matthias Schaffer sent the department to the wrong place, and the fire destroyed damn near everything in Chicago, killing 300 and leaving 100,000 people homeless. But in stunning contrast to the way the people of Chicago today would have reacted to such a disaster – they would kick, whine, and scream about never becoming a world-class city LIKE NEW YORK CITY before spreading to places in Illinois, Missouri, and Wisconsin and leaving the remains to rot – Chicagoans back then WERE tough. I like to imagine two Chicagoans looking at each other in the ashes. One asks, “Well, what now?” The other replies, “Get some tools and start buildin’.” The way Chicago built itself back from the dead is the reason it’s called The Second City. Only five structures from then are still up: St. Ignatius College Prep, St. Michael’s Church, the Chicago Water Tower, Chicago Avenue Pumping Station, and a cottage at 2121 North Hudson. Seattle’s fire happened on June 6, 1889. Seattle was going through an unusually dry summer – not that rain would have helped, because the rain would only have spread out the thin turpentine all over the floor when the fire started. See, the fire was started by an assistant named John Black at the woodworking business of one Victor Clairmont in Pioneer Square. Black was trying to heat glue over a gas fire, but the glue boiled over, caught fire, and spread all over the turpentine and wood chips strewn about the floor. Seattle’s fire department did get there on time, but there was so much smoke that no one could find the source of the fire. So the fire was free to spread to a nearby liquor store, which of course blew the fuck up, which presumably helped spread the fire to… At least two saloons. The booze fire quickly wrecked an entire block. Attempts to fight the fire were inadvertently thwarted by Seattle’s own sewer system, because the pipes back then were made of wood. You can guess how that went. An attempt to stop the fire by blowing up a block went wrong when the fire skipped that block. After burning for two hours, everyone knew downtown Seattle was going to be a weird rumor very soon. Smoke was visible from Tacoma. The fire finally fettered out at three in the morning, and by then, 120 acres of Seattle were ash. Although thousands of people were displaced, damage was between $8 million and $20 million, and 5000 workers now had to find new jobs, the actual loss of life was apparently pretty low. But like Chicago, no one spent too long complaining. Not only did Seattle rebuild, the people also raised the street levels by 22 feet. In the year right after the fire, the population doubled, which made Seattle the largest city in Washington and a leading contender in being the terminus of the Great Northern Railway.
Winner
Both of these are awesome stories, but I’m giving the edge to Chicago. For one thing, it’s really cool that there are tours of the underground which take people through old Seattle from before the fire. But one of the remaining structures of old Chicago, the Water Tower, has become one of the city’s civic icons, and so it sits perched in a prime sightseeing area right at the northern end of Michigan Avenue. Also, we know the exact cause and trajectory of the Seattle Fire. We don’t have nearly as much info about the Chicago Fire, and there’s just something about that which screams CHICAGO! Perhaps it’s the fact that no one ever found the real culprit, and that the reporter who wrote the story – a fellow by the name of Michael Ahern – admitted in 1893 that he pulled the O’Leary’s cow out of his ass just to find a reason to bitch about the Irish. While the family was never charged with anything, the poor cow was so entrenched in local mythology that the city took the ridiculous step of exonerating the O’Learys and the cow in 1997. But the myth still lives on to such a point that the Chicago Fire Academy is located at its start (speculated) starting point. Besides, the Chicago Fire did more damage to its city. The four square miles it destroyed was pretty much all of Chicago.

Okay, this one is getting a bit too epic even for my tastes. We have a tie at six apiece with one draw, and I don’t want to be bothered anymore with trying to get one of these cities to lose this thing. If anything, I think I’ve sufficiently proved that no matter how many other ways you can think of to measure these two cities against each other, neither is a loser. Although I do have one note to give to one of them:

Chicago, stop whining. NO ONE finds your inferiority complex with New York City endearing.

Video Game Level Progression According to the Bad Guys

Video Game Level Progression According to the Bad Guys

So this is a random, weird thought, but if you’ve been following this blog, you should be accustomed to such by now. I’ve lately been giving a lot of thought to what’s in the head of a video game super villain as they lay out their obstacle course of doom for the hapless hero tasked with navigating wind, rain, and big dudes with powerful fucking weapons to save generic Cool Planet.

Start with the first level. There’s not a whole lot there. To the gamer and the designer, this makes perfect sense because you don’t want to throw your entire weight in the gamer’s direction right in the first level. It’s the training ground, there strictly to give the gamer a feel for the game. Obstacles don’t ask for very much beyond jumping short gaps to wide targets and enemies are all taken out in one shot. But think about this from the villain’s point of view: It probably makes good sense to them, too. It’s the beginning of the game, and the villains aren’t out to conquer more territory because they’ve gotten ahold of everything in sight. Right? Why else would every area a gamer visits be overrun with enemies? Now, if you’re the good guy, you’re probably not privy to announcing your presence with the deck stacked high against you. That makes the good guy some sort of rebel, or secret agent, or some sort of non-threat – if not a nonentity altogether – who is trying to go about the business of killing everyone in sight and slaughtering the bad guy real quiet-like.

From the game’s point of view, that’s why the first level is so easy. No one knows the good guy is there yet. If they’re on the main villain’s radar at all, they’re a blip that can be disposed up easily. Not everyone in the game’s world liked having the enemies take over, so its conceivable that many people in there tried to rise up at some point. Hell, the bad guys may have even taken out whole groups of better-armed good guys. What’s one more person going on a jaunt with a gun? The bad guys stationed on guard at the first level are probably feeling pretty confident because they’ve probably knocked off a few rebels already, and even if they didn’t, they’re trained, armed, possibly have better equipment and vehicular support, and the backing of the entire enemy organization. So if you were the main villain, what would be the point of throwing your entire arsenal at this one person? It’s barely worth making the effort to vocalize the orders.

Well, this new good guy comes in and defies the odds. They leave a bloody and hubrisful trail behind in that first level and have found every safe spot and weakness on the way through it. But… There’s barely any concern. Sometimes people get lucky. The good guys go into the second level, which is more often than not everything they faced in the first level, just expanded. And again, there’s not a whole lot to worry about. They’re a little closer to your evil lair, but your minions are still capable of stopping them. Right?

Apparently not. The good guy blazes through the second level, and word of their little one-person rebellion by this point is starting to get around. You’re not thinking of it as a significant thereat yet, but after cleaning your guards and sentries out of two different places and taking back what you stole from them, it’s starting to turn into a movement. It’s time to take some sort of action, but you’re too busy ruling and keeping the territories you still have to give the good guy any more than a cursory resistance. The third level is the wake-up call, and things start to get a little more serious and challenging. Enemies are better-equipped and can take more punishment before going down. From the grunt point of view, the time for guard duty is over, and it’s now time to begin a real fight against the insolent up-risers. They start counterattacking instead of just defending.

By the next level, word is starting to get out about the unexpected rebel running roughshod over the minions and taking over the outskirts of your stolen land. The ground officers are now seeing it fit to get involved and are running from one strategic location to the next, making sure there are traps and barriers being rigged up strictly for this rebel. The sentries who were around for the first couple of levels are still there, but they’re also scared to death because they all know they’re going to be fodder, so they’re being used more sparingly. And it isn’t helping that whatever mass resistance movement is starting to form behind the good guy is now occupying their retaken territory and capturing whatever’s left of their rank.

Good guy manages to get through that, and now that they’ve gotten this far, you’re starting to realize something: If – and you now know that the “if AND when” of getting rid of them has turned into a legitimate “if OR when” – you manage to successfully kill this rebel, there’s going to be some fallout. No one made it this far before, a large chunk of your forces have been wiped out or captured, and you’re starting to give in-person suggestions to your officers for dealing with them. This is becoming a full-blown war, and that head rebel who you thought was a gnat is going to become a martyr if they get killed. Fortunately, the good thing about depleted territory is that you can condense the remains of your military and launch a real offense at the good guy. And you’re not deluding yourself by now. This one is now a special case and will need to be dealt with through more direct means. (Red Faction for the Playstation 2 illustrates this gradual buildup better than most – it starts with a scuffle between a miner and a guard, and you start to see wanted posters for your character halfway through the game.)

The head rebel is also starting to anticipate the many types of troops, vehicles, strategies, and artillery you’re able to throw at them. It’s starting to give them a sort of mental edge against your own loyal people, so it’s time to start bringing out the stuff you didn’t expect to have to use. Omega Attack Formation using the flying gunships? Isn’t that overkill? The more they run around, the less it looks like it.

But by now they’re past the halfway point and have retaken over half what you took when you moved in. The people are rallying to the cause, the retaken territory is mopped up, and it’s starting to look like your victory – should it happen – will be a pyhrric victory at best. At this point, it’s time to break out the heavy-duty units. Special forces are in, and you’re probably hiring private mercenaries and bounty hunters too just in case. Something is going to have to work, and it has to be soon; most of your lower-end officers are now captured or killed. A couple of your high-end officers are groveling before you, begging for a second chance, and even though these are guys who have come through for you in tough situations in the past, you’re still reluctant to give them another chance because you’re not sure they can pull it off. You reluctantly give those guys their last chance, and give them your strongest equipment and troops to get the job done, but you’re now scared to death because they just failed again.

Face it, Dear Leader: You’ve lost. You now have your hired mercenaries and strongest minions holding on to your base, and any hope you now have of beating the good guys is strictly in the interest of your escape. What’s to do? Retreat, get out, build a new army, and try again. But just when the last vehicle out is ready to take you away, the good guy bursts in. If you were smarter, you would offer them your recently-vacated spot as your right hand, but it’s not like you have anything left to rule. So out you go to answer for your crimes against humanity.

And THAT is why video game levels progress in difficulty the way they do. Make sense?