Monday, December 29, 2008

The Top Ten Best Video Game Villains Ever

If you want to see the article with a spiffy design, go here:

You know, the problem with top ten lists is that you only have a selection of ten to choose from. Sure, I could make my lists into top 20 lists, but where’s the joy in that? It’s either go top ten, or go top 100, and I just don’t think I can name that many games on my own to make a list of that stature. So here are my top ten favorite video game villains of all time. Some of them may seem like cheeky afterthoughts to you, but hear them out. I think you’ll agree that I have a valid point with most of them. Or not.

10. Mario/Jumpman from Donkey Kong Jr.

Ah, so the tables have turned, I see. Who ever knew that Mario was a spiteful little man who would actually kidnap a baby’s father and put him in a cage because of a previous girlfriend stealing incident? Well, in the bizarre sequel to the hit game, Donkey Kong, Mario did just that. This would get much higher on the list if it came out much later in the Mario canon, because as it stands now, our favorite portly plumber was still simply known as “Jumpman” back then. He was nowhere NEAR as three dimensional (Pun SO intended) as he is today, so let’s cut the guy some slack, okay?

9. Dr. Robotnik from the early Sonic the Hedgehog series

Man, Dr. Robotnik is an idiot. He knows how to make all these strange looking egg shaped contraptions (Hence, the reason he later became known as Eggman, I suppose), but to control them, he hypnotizes woodland animals and puts them into machines to do his bidding. Uhhhh…what? Well, be that as it may, Dr. Robotnik is a pretty bad dude if you take into account that he’s trying to harvest those omnipotent chaos emeralds to take over the world. Really, if you wanted to be a pedant about it, you could make the claim that Sonic the Hedgehog is actually an allegory for man vs. nature. But who would make a claim like that? Well, besides me, of course.

8. GLaDOS from Portal

In any given story, the most interesting character is always the bad guy, and in the genre bending, Portal, GLaDOS steals the show from the stoic protagonist, Chell, who never says a word the entire game. Cracking jokes about pretty much everything that has to do with your demise, that monotone robot voice of hers is the perfect, icy communiqué to set you off at all the key times you’re trying to concentrate. Murder by humor, now THAT’S a new one.

7. The black marble from Marble Madness

If you’ve never played Marble Madness, then you have a right to sneer at this entry. But if you have played the game, then you already know the grimace you have on your face when you see that damned dark nuisance roll onto your screen. It’s hard enough to negotiate those tight turns and sharp grooves (ESPECIALLY on an NES controller when you should really be using a rollerball), without falling off, but the added black ball becomes a real menace when you’re just barely keeping on the board by a nail. I mean, when I was younger, I actually FEARED the black marble. I’m not even lying to you, that’s how serious it was to me.

6. Kefka from Final Fantasy VI

That evil laugh (mwa ha ha ha ha ha ha, mwa ha ha ha ha ha ha!) and those garish clothes are enough to hate Kefka already, but there’s so much more to his sinister appearance than meets the eyes. First, he’s the kind of bastard who would poison a whole water supply to kill everybody in a village. Second, he’s a complete nihilist who wants to obliterate the human race just because he doesn’t really feel like a part of it. And third, and this might be the most heinous of all, he runs away from fights, avoiding any real conflict that might possibly endanger him. As far as RPG villains go, I’d put Kefka way above Sepheroth anyday of the week.

5. Goro from Mortal Kombat I

Talk about a bodyguard. Goro, the four armed goon that gets nailed in the nuts by Johnny Cage in the movie, is so much tougher than the final boss, Shang Tsung, that their roles should have been reversed. Goro, large, intimidating, and two arms up on you, was such a monster that I actually spent eight whole dollars in quarters on him when I was a youth, trying out every character against him and failing miserably. Kano eventually took him down, but I’ll tell you. Goro’s no joke.

4. Lavos from Chrono Trigger

This alien parasite has only one real intention in life—to suck the Earth bone dry of everything and everyone, and that alone makes him pretty badass. But this sleeping beauty, who awoke to attempt to decimate the Earth on 1999 AD is not just diabolically evil, but, if the story serves me correctly, is also responsible for the birth of all human beings in general, making him mankind’s father, so to speak. This makes patricide the only option to prevent Lavos from destroying the world. But, what I remember MOST about fighting Lavos was that final boss battle, which went on FOR-EV-ER, especially against Magus. He also returns in the sequel Chrono Cross, but in a different form. But all Chrono fans will undoubtedly remember him most from this adventure.

3. Yourself in Shadow of the Colossus

One of the greatest turn of events ever in the history of video games is in the finale of Shadow of the Colossus, where you realize that YOU were the enemy the entire time, and the colossi were totally innocent in their existence, and actually acting as a shield against a satanic type creature that talks backwards. I don’t want to spoil everything for you if you haven’t beaten the game (Oh, wait, I already did), but let’s just say that you’re going to have to attone for killing all those colossi just for the love of your life to be revived. Some people hate the ending, while others absolutely adore it. But finding out that it was you the entire time that was the problem is a pretty big slap in the face to all your effort. Some people say the big reveal in Bioshock was a bigger surprise, but I’m still sticking with this one myself.

2. Bowser in the Super Mario Bros. series

How typical, right? Wrong! Bowser, if you look at him through the chronology, is actually pretty tame when you see the big picture. Whether he was played by Dennis Hopper in the movie, or was flipping over in a pool of magma in the original SMB as King Koopa, the only REAL crime Bowser is guilty of is kidnapping a princess, and quite frankly, sometimes, I think she allowed herself to be kidnapped because she just liked the attention. So why is he so high on this list then? Because he’s so damn iconic, that’s why. Some might say the capturing of the princess is actually just a MacGuffin for the awesome gameplay that follows, but I think Bowser plays a much larger role in the saga than that.

Just check out the oddball darkhorse of the series, SMB2, to see if the spiked back one isn’t missed in the series. In that game, the final boss is some fat toad named Wart, because Bowser just wouldn’t fit into the chronology of that story because it was so damn weird. And why was it so damn weird, you ask? Because it was based off of another game called Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic, and characters from the Mario universe were just switched in to make it work because the Japanese thought the real Super Mario Bros. sequel was too tough for us westerners. I mean, why else would the Princess be an actual playable character in the game if something wasn’t up? And get this, if the Princess is free, then what would be the purpose of Bowser then? And if there’s no purpose for Bowser, then what the hell is Mario banging his head against bricks and going down drain pipes for in the first place then? The scenario without Bowser works in SMB2, because it’s just a dream, but how would it possibly work in the other games when the key focus is to rescue the princess? So, really, Bowser, evil or not so evil, IS the reason the Mario series even exists today. Try to wrap your head around that one for a little bit, why dontcha?

1. M. Bison from the Street Fighter series

Okay, let me just start off by saying that Goro doesn’t hold a candle to how many times I had to continue against M. Bison, as his psycho crusher, and flying head stomps, put me at the game over screen more times than I can count. But besides his insane difficulty, M. Bison makes the number one spot for several reasons. One, he’s genuinely evil. Unlike many of the other characters on this list (With the exception of Kefka), Bison is a total asshole. He wants to take over the world and doesn’t care who he has to step on or trample to get there. Two, he’s the ultimate terrorsist. Sure, many of the scenarios that intertwine with the story of M. megalomaniac, are outright silly (Zangeif dances at the end of his story for some reason), but that still doesn’t keep him from being the ultimate tough guy who would bomb your city without thinking twice. And three, even his name is badass. The M. in M. Bison can be substituted for anything you want it to be (M for Mr.? Naw, too tame. M for Master? That’s a bit better. M for Militant? Perfect!). And to think, his name in the land of the rising sun is actually Vega. Vega! Could you imagine that? With that red hat, those sinister eyes, and that maniacal psycho powered smile of his, M. Bison couldn’t be any other name, ESPECIALLY not Vega. All hail the sire of Shadaloo!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Top Ten Greatest Fighting Games Of All Time

If you want to see the full article with pictures, check out:

Street Fighter IV is coming out soon, and I think that’s call for a celebration. To celebrate, what better way to greet a new fighter into our library than to create a list that is sure to infuriate fighting fans when they read it (Sorry Clayfighter fans. This list is not for you). So below, gnash your teeth at my HIGHLY opinionated list of the greatest fighting games of all time. If you have something to say, the comment box awaits you.

10. Primal Rage (Arcade)

I’ll give you this, Primal Rage wasn’t the easiest game to play. With some really wonky controls (Wait, so how many buttons do I have to press and complete circles do I have to make to get this monkey to fart?), and a really idiotic storyline about shamans turned into dinosaurs, you might brush off PR as a game best left in the past. But what PR lacked in flawless gameplay it more than made up for in histrionics, and in a fighting game about warring dinosaurs, that’s half the battle. When you hit a dinosaur or grabbed him by the throat, that surround sound really kicked in, making those crunches sound fierce as hell. And sudden death matches, hoo boy. They were actually accompanied by meteor showers that would rain down on its combatants as they battled for supremacy. Even cooler was when you were actually able to pull off one of those nasty juggling combos and a lightning bolt would flash from the heavens when it was completed, signaling that the gods were appeased. Like I said, it might not have been the most balanced fighter ever, but it was definitely one of the most fun to just sit and watch.

9. Mortal Kombat II (Arcade)

I was chewed out in my last top ten article for not including the words, “Finish Him!!” as one of the best game phrases of all time, and for good reason. In MK II, “finish him” had so many different possiblities that the game became more than just a brutal basher like its predecessor, but an actual namebrand that was finally coming into itself. With two fatalities per character, babalities, friendships, friendships?! And secrets galore, this game had REALLY thrown in the kitchen sink, and get this, it was the only the second game in the series. But I’ll tell you, this game had it all. A balanced combat, (Or is that “kombat”?) system, humor (“Toasty!”), a decent storyline. The only reason it’s not higher on this list is because some of the characters, while cool, were utterly useless (Reptile, I’m looking at you), while others could absolutely dominate, Katana being one of them. But this is DEFINITELY still the best game in the deteriorating series. Granted, it didn’t have Joker punching Superman in the face, but back then, it didn’t need such gimmicks.

8. Dead or Alive 3 (X-Box)

Any game that has actual interaction with the background has DOA to thank (or blame) for that. The first two games were merely a display of the mismanaged physics of a woman’s breasts, but the second game had some real meat to it. The characters were typical DOA fare, with Bass being the relative Hulk Hogan wannabe with the grabs, and Kasumi being the femme fatale who would step on your head. Depending on who you talk to, the fighting system was either amazing (Gotta love those counters), or maddening (Button mashing works), so that’s obviously not why this game made the list. It made the list because no other game before or since, could let you fling your opponent straight into a tree that was sitting in the background. The alone makes DOA one of my favorite fighters of all time.

7. Tekken 3 (PS 1)

Sure, many would go the length to say that Tekken 5 surpasses number three in pretty much every single way, but I have to disagree. There’s just not the same magic to it by the fifth time around. I’ll agree, the fighting is pretty spot on in five, as far as Tekken’s go (I really like the new customization feature, too), but it just doesn’t have that same spark of freshness as playing as a young Eddie Gordo for the first time, or realizing that Dr. Boskonovitch really CAN’T stand up on his own two feet and you had to deal with him just like that. These characters were just so fresh and new (and different!) at the time that they really made a revolutionary character like Steve Fox from number 4 look like a gimmick compared to the strange selection in the one before it. Plus, beach volleyball! DOA, they beat you to it!

6. Bushido Blade

Some people might go the length to say that Bushido Blade isn’t even a fighting game, and I’m not going to argue with them. But I will say that it’s a great testament to the title that it can be seen as so many different things to be considered undefinable. Doesn’t that just sound so zen-like? Well, in my opinion, Bushido Blade is indeed a fighter, and a damn good one at that. There were neither bars to designate your health, nor were there any clocks to tell you how much more time you had before your character covered their face in shame that they couldn’t kill somebody in 99 seconds. Matches could end in one hit depending on the angling of the attack, and escaping or countering a fatal slash could either be to your benefit or to your detriment if you didn’t know how to counter the blow. It really was a war of skill, and one that grows on you the more you play it. I wouldn’t say it was infinitely playable like some of the other games on this list, but I think it did a lot for fighting games in general by being so genre defining and unique. Without the free-roaming of BB, we’d probably never have a Powerstone today, and who doesn’t love Powerstone? Well, you for instance, maybe…

5. Virtua Fighter 2 (Saturn)

Okay, so maybe I’m not the BIGGEST VF fan in the world (I already know I’m going to catch hell for not including the latest game in the series on this list, or for not making this game number one), but I can definitely appreciate a good fighter, and VF2 is definitely one of the best. Gone are the lame matches that almost always end in ring-outs (Well, sort of) from jumping clear over your opponent, and that’s because the ground game was so satisfying this time around. Two new characters were added to the fray, one a drunken old man, and the other a fighter using mantis style, and never have I felt a roster to be more complete with just two added characters. That’s because all of the old characters felt fresh and new, and definitely more focused. Akira, for instance, didn’t just seem like a powerhouse anymore. He seemed balanced if you understood how he moved, and more importantly, how the other characters moved. Actually, all of the characters felt like this, and it really made you explore how the other fighters worked so you could use their own faults against them. I guess you could say that this is true for ALL of the VF post this one (and maybe even pre), but this is the only one I ever really spent extensive time with, so there.

4. Soul Calibur (Dreamcast)

Certainly the best game for the Sega’s fated swan song system (Even better than Shenmue), it was also one of the first. With sweeping music, an excellent cast of characters (Though, the fighting styled dopplegangers were pretty lame) and, oh, such beautiful graphics, I guess a lot of things about this game could be excused for being such a gorgeous fighter. But don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying it was Battle Arena Toshinden bad when it came to excuses. If anything, the excuses were minor, such as, if your opponent had the intention to, they could ring you out like crazy. But everything else about it was spot on, so it really didn’t matter all that much. Oh, and did I mention the graphics?

3. Killer Instinct (Arcade)

Let the ire begin. I don’t care what ANYBODY has to say, Killer Instinct is awesome. Let me count the many ways I love this game. Obviously, there’s the combo system, which doesn’t just border on being ridiculous, but gets flung right off into a vat of molten hot lava. But there’s so much more to it than just the combos. It’s not that KI is as balanced as VR 2, or that it’s as wildly different as Bushido Blade, but it’s such a damn good crowd pleaser (Even more so than Primal Rage), that it’s hard not to overlook its crippling problems (A skilled Jago player will destroy you. It doesn’t matter how good you are with Fulgore). Back when this game came out, I seriously couldn’t wait for this supposed “Ultra 64” system to come out, just so I could play this game at home. And when it did finally come home to the much less ultra Super Nintendo, I really had felt cheated as a gamer. The follow-up didn’t really help, either. Killer Instinct 2 was an utter disaster in comparison and didn’t feature any of the gold (Get it? No? Well, who asked you?) features that made the first one so grand, so the original kind of doesn’t get looked at in a very positive light nowadays. But just try playing it again—with a friend—in a pizza parlor somewhere if you can find it. It’s actually much better than you remember it, if that’s even possible.

2. Street Fighter 2: Championship Edition (Genesis)

Talk about balance! Many have gone on to say that this is the grand daddy of them ALL when it comes to balance, and I agree. If you can master the character, then you can dominate with him/her, as each character has their own Achilles’ heel that leaves them completely vulnerable to a devastating combo if you really know how to use your own character.

I mean, it really says a lot when the characters actually reflect the players who use them. Ken, for instance, is just Ryu in blond hair and a red gi, but you wouldn’t imagine (Or you would, if you played the game), how wildly different they’re used in the hands of those who pick them. In Championship Edition, Ken isn’t the rapid character he later becomes, but players don’t play the same with him as they play with Ryu. Players seem to take more risks with him, while Ryu players seem to be a bit more conservative. In other words, Ryu players would rather wait and bait then be brash and crash like Ken players. And that’s just from their difference in appearance and where they hail from around the world. Plus, this is the game that actually let you be the final bosses from The World Warrior, making you realize what annoyingly unlimited power you now had with Sagat doing high and low “tiger!” fireballs. It really was a grand day to be a gamer.

What really settles it though for me was that it was just so damn fun to play. You could literally spend HOURS with this game with only one character, and not even realize that you were using up so much valuable time learning their plusses and minuses. Only one game could be better than THIS one, and that would be…

1. Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes (Dreamcast)

Yes, I realize that I put MvC2 above both SF2:CE and VF2, but I never said I was a pompus player who valued gameplay over sheer fun. I mean really, aren’t those the exact same thing when it comes to down to it? While fun can be found in a challenging game, I think even MORE fun can be had in just being an overall blast to play, and no other game comes remotely close to that than MvC2, not one. Let’s start with the roster. Being the last game in the Marvel/Capcom collaboration (So sad…), Capcom really pulled out all the stops for this one. Containing pretty much EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER from the past three collabo games, plus a few more, you didn’t feel like your character of choice was left out of the fray. Sure, I would have liked to have seen some of the wild cameos made in the first Marvel vs. Capcom (Arthur from Ghost and Goblins takes the cake), but adding that third character to the team really makes up for it in a big way. Just like how the Smash Bros. games are a love letter to Nintendo fans, MvC2 is a wet kiss on the private area to all Capcom lovers, with Jill Valentine, SonSon, and Servbot all making appearances.

What I think is MOST important to mention though is that even though some of the characters may not be that good at all (Again, I must mention Servbot), it didn’t really matter since you had two other characters to rely on. I’ll give you an example. I really like bone claw Wolverine—I actually prefer him to Adamantium Wolverine (If you’ve never played the game before, please don’t mind me, I’ll be done in a second)—but I’m not that good with him. I am, however, REALLY good with Strider and excellent with Guile, so I can use those two characters as my anchors when all else fails, and it’s this ability that makes MvC2 fun beyond belief, because you actually CAN use everybody on the roster, even if it’s only once. Seriously, there is no game more fun that this one, and that’s why it’s all aces on my list.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Girl Scout Helping Animals Around The Town

The unedited version is below, but if you want to see how it ended up looking on the site, click below
When many people think girl scouts, they think cookies. But cookies only represent a small fraction of what the girl scouts have to offer. Case in point: fifteen year old Washington Area Girl Scout, Tara Carroll, who recently set up an educational campaign around the area to inform more people of how to take care of their pets.

“I feel there’s a need right now, what with the economy the way it is,” Ms. Carroll says, “More and more people can’t take care of themselves, let alone their pets.”

So thus began the awareness campaign, which has been titled the 2nd Annual ‘Collection for the Paws.’ It started on the first of December and ends on the 21st.

Five locations have been set up—The Long Valley Dog Park, Well Bred in Chester, Pets Pets Pets in Califon, Hoffman’s Supplies in Long Valley, and the Washington Twp Hall—and all of them, along with the educational campaign, will feature a large collection drive for food and pet care, some of them set up by Ms. Carroll herself. This is all in line with the 65 hours of community service she needs to put in to attain a gold award in her troop.

“[When I started my community service], I knew I wanted to do something with animals,” Ms. Carroll says.

Ms. Carroll, who has a black Labrador herself named, Hershey, feels that pets should not be neglected, no matter the circumstances. She hopes that these information sessions and collection drives will help those in her community who have a hard time taking care of their pets in this economic crisis. But this isn’t all she has planned for animals in the future.

“I plan to set up an adoption event in May,” Ms. Carroll says, “But that’s still in the process right now.”

This isn’t her first whiff of community service, either. To get her silver award, Ms. Carroll collected boxes and supplies for foster kids’ birthdays, and for her bronze award, she helped set up a foster care party for kids, each time learning more and more about what it means to give back to the community.

“You have to pick a cause that helps the community, and it can be done over a four year period,” Ms. Carroll says on how to achieve a gold award, “and [once you complete it], you’re a girl scout for life.”

And that’s food for thought a whole box of Caramel Samoas couldn’t satiate.
To find out more information of drop-off locations, check out

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Five Best Moments of Video Games Featured In Movies Ever

Before Uwe Boll began churning out video game movies twice a week, to see a video game in a movie was a rarity. What was always most interesting to me though was how little the people obviously knew about video games in the first place when they decided to put them in the movie. Case in point is the John Cusack vehicle, Grosse Pointe Blank. In that film, Doom 2 makes an appearance…as an ARCADE GAME. Oh, yeah, I remember putting in that God Mode code at my local Cineplex, right on the keyboa…wait a minute…arcade cabinets don’t have keyboards.

So below are my top five favorite moments of video games featured in movies. Number one is my absolute favorite, mostly because I actually believed it was true at the time.

5. Karate Champ in Blood Sport
Karate Champ was a horrible game. It was horrible back then, and it’s an atrocity today, but in the Van Damme foot fest, Blood Sport, some serious male bonding happened when the muscles from Brussles and some other dude united by playing it. Seriously, I would think Pit Fighter would have been a better pick, given the subject matter.

4. Afterburner II in Terminator 2

Whoa, is that Butnick from Salute Your Shorts I see rocking out in Afterburner II? No way! Believe it. The nineties was a deciding decade for Zubaz pants and bizarre red mullets (Just check Wheeler from Captain Planet if you don’t believe me), and Butnick, so bad he just can’t help it, hanging with his friend, John Connor, adds the perfect cheese factor to a game that supplies all its thrills on the fact that it’s in a plastic plane that moves. They don’t make ‘em like they used to, that’s for sure.

3. Super Mario Bros. 3 in The Wizard
Okay, so maybe The Wizard was more a commentary on autism and Nintendo merchadising, than it was on anything else, that still doesn’t make that final, pivitol moment in the film when the idiot savant finds the hidden whistle by ducking on the white rectangle. Never have I felt more like a geek than when I tried the trick myself and found out that it worked. Little Big world was the shit.

2. Double Dragon in…Double Dragon

In the whoa, meta category is seeing the arcade cabinet for Double Dragon in the actual movie of Double Dragon. The scene occurs when that guy who ruined the X-Files, Robert Patrick is fighting the Lee brothers, and he slams them against the arcade cabinet, the game flickering on and on in the background. Okay, accuracy might not be the true aim of the film, but am I really supposed to believe that a movie that takes place in the not too distant future is still going to have old-school games like DD in them? Come on, where’s the cheesy virtual reality footage of people with headsets on fighting from the mind’s eye? Also…a little Battletoads love would have been nice, especially with their eventual team-up in the real not too distant future.

1. Game Gear in Rumble in the Bronx

Rumble in the Bronx was Jackie Chan’s first breakout film here in the US for many reasons. It had suspense, it had romance, and it even had magic, as revealed in the scene where Jackie’s little wheelchair bound friend is seen playing a Game Gear and there’s sound coming out of it. The magic lies in the fact that THERE IS NO GAME inside the Game Gear when he’s playing it. Ta da!

I’m not really sure if this was meant to market Game Gear as the tool of the devil, or just a prop to show that Jackie’s friend was wasting time, but I’ll never forget seeing that one shot of the kid playing Game Gear, in all its beeping and booping glory, and there was nothing even in it to make that noise in the first place. Leave it to Hollywood to mess up something as easy as putting a game in the gameslot.

What pains me MOST to admit, though, is that I actually believed that Game Gears could play games without having cartridges in them. The Master System could (Hang-On was on there), so why not the Game Gear? I mean, the number 1 and 2 buttons were the same, so why not this feature? Alas, it was not true, and upon unwraaping it for a present for Christmas, it didn’t take me long to realize I had been rused again. Dammit, Jackie! Ay ya!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Father Works Tirelessly For Son With Rare Birthmark

Click below to see how the article actually turned out on the website:

Greg Antonelle works multiple jobs. One such job is as a board member for the Washington Township school system, which he says, “puts food on the table.” Another job is coaching his two eldest sons’ baseball, football, and lacrosse teams, which he finds equally rewarding.

The third job, though, he makes no money off of at all, and that’s because it’s purely volunteer work, a title he took on because his third son, Nicholas, was born with a rare, incurable birthmark condition, known as lymphatic malformation.

“When he [Nicholas] was born, we were given a wrong diagnosis,” Mr. Antonelle says in regards to the lack of information many doctors have on vascular birthmarks. “I got more and more frustrated with the lack of information [on vascular birthmarks], so I said, you know what, I’m going to stop complaining and do something about it.”

And that something was getting involved with the not-for-profit Vascular Birthmark Foundation (VBF).

Antonelle got so involved, in fact, that he’s now the executive vice president of it, a job he took on to help families, such as his own, that have a child who has been affected with a birthmark, tumor, or other rare syndrome.

“We get two million hits per month on the website,” Antonelle says of the central hub,

Mr. Antonelle, who was merely looking for treatment for his son, didn’t even plan on attaining a position in the organization, but his intuitive ideas for fundraising made him a likely candidate for the job.

“On May 15th every year, we have a VBF Day of Awareness,” Antonelle says of how he first got involved with the organization, “and I wrote to celebrities with something called, Celebrity spring cleaning. [We were able to get things like] a cowboy hat signed by Garth Brooks, a pair of pants from Courtney Cox, and other things.”

Antonelle took these items and put them up on eBay alongside information about the VBF. With many of the items viewed by 1,000 people, he did the math and found that with everything he managed to acquire, that number soon jumped to 10,000 people reading and learning about vascular birthmarks.

“So you’d see a CD signed by Coldplay and also read about vascular birthmarks,” Antonelle said, “And that’s how it all started.”

He’s continued that outreach to celebrities for the past three years up to the VBF’s biggest day of the year, the annual “Mark of Beauty” gala in Manhattan on November 15th, from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m at the Hudson Theatre in the Millennium Broadway Hotel. There, many of the items Antonelle has reached out for, such as a guitar signed by Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers, a bat signed by Reggie Jackson, and a 2007 New York Giants signed helmet, among other things, will be auctioned off in hopes to acquire more money to sponsor physical education, research, and programs that promote acceptance for living with a birthmark.

Birthmarks are, after all, something many babies are born with everyday.

Paraphrasing the VBF President and Founder, Dr. Linda Rozell-Shannon, “one out of ten babies are born with vascular birthmarks,” Antonelle says, “Some will go away within days, and some can’t be found by the human eye, but what Nicholas has is extremely rare…[but] the only thing you really care about is that you’re child is healthy.”

Following the “Mark of Beauty” gala the next day will be the 2008 Vascular Birthmarks Conference on November 15th, beginning at 8:30 a.m. It will take place at Beth Israel’s Phillips Ambulatory Care Center and will include lectures by the country’s top specialists, as well as examinations for children. Reservations are required.

To contribute to the organization, contact Basia Joyce at (518) 374-2062 or

Sponsor A Wreath Fair Becoming a Tradition in Local Town

Drive through Washington Township after December 6th, and you’re likely to come across a barrage of wreaths sprinkled about town, hanging up as you travel.

“We put wreaths up around route 24 on the white fences,” says Deacon John Amato of the Long Valley Presbyterian Church, “We put up more than four miles of them.”

This is all part of the “Sponsor A Wreath” fundraiser started by neighbors Sam Akin and Harvey Ort Jr. five years ago in an attempt to give money to the Washington Township Food Pantry. The Fundraiser has since expanded to aid the Resident’s Emergency Fund, which helps out residents who could use the extra money at this time of year. Both the Food Pantry and the Emergency Fund are both administered by the Interfaith Community Outreach of Washington Township Area (ICOWTA), which is a coalition of 10 local churches that operate both the pantry and the emergency fund in the Long Valley Presbyterian Church on Bartley Road.

“Akin and Ort were really the impetus for the fundraiser,” Deacon Amato says.

What started with about 25 families participating, though, has blossomed into a community-wide project, one that everybody from local businesses, to the Garden Club of Long Valley, and even the Old Farmer’s Road School get involved in every year. In fact, the aforementioned school donated 160, 659 pennies this year from their “Spirit Day” competitions, which is about 100,600 more than last year.

“Luckily, the bank had machines to sort through all those pennies,” Deacon Amato says, “It took them two whole hours.”

Despite all that money, though, the wreaths in the fundraiser aren’t actually bought, but rather, sponsored by people.

“Some people might give five dollars, some people might give two,” Deacon Amato says about the amount of money they receive each year from people, “and some people might give $1000 at one time.”

The money comes in from many different sources, though, the Washington Township Library being one such place.

“We welcome the opportunity to get the word out,” says library director, Virginia Scarlatelli. “One big push we had for it was in the first two weeks of October, where in lieu of fees, we had people give money to the food drive.”

The wreaths can be sponsored in dedication of a loved one or to any other benefit you see fit.
This year, 480 wreaths is the goal.

“It’s become a tradition,” Deacon Amato says.

The tying of bows on wreaths at Ort Farms will take place on December 5th from 4:00 PM—6:30, followed by the hanging of the wreaths, which will start at Valley View Chapel on December 6th from 9—11:30AM. All are invited to come.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

10 Best Places To Hang Out Once You've Lost Your Job

Again. Another one from Here's the website if you want to see all those purty pictures they put up to accompany it:
10 Best Places To Hang Out Once You've Lost Your Job
By Rich Knight

There are few places as fun to futz around in as your local pedophile playground or pornography warehouse, but the pressure of putting food on the table can often hinder this gratifying feeling of freedom. But thanks to the crumbling economy, more and more people have free time to look forward to, now that losing your job is as easy as blowing your entire paycheck on gas at the local Sunoco. Here are a few great places to chill out at once you no longer have a job (you lucky bastard).
10. The Library
You can often find a wide assortment of "free men" just like yourself bathing in the bathroom to get "that stink" out their clothes. The library is sweet if you don't mind the lack of prostitutes or gangster rap music.
9. College Campuses
Students, especially freshmen, will usually just fork over wads of cash so you stop looking at them and reminding them of what could happen if they skip physics again to watch paternity tests on Maury Povich.
8. At the Airport
This is a good place to pilfer wallets. When tourists become mesmerized by the big board that tells them when their plane' departing, yoink! Bye bye, wallet. Hello, boxed wine.
7. Park Benches
Park benches are no laughing matter when it comes to curling up in a fetal position and getting a good night' rest. What is a laughing matter, though, is the look on people' faces when they see you wrestling the birds for the bread they just threw. A man' gotta eat, dammit! A man' gotta eat!
6. In Back of Chinese Restaurants
Do you think the Wong family is gonna let all that delicious Moo goo gai pan go to waste by selling it at discount prices by the end of the day? No way! They're going to toss it in the trash out back. This is where you step in. With an empty tray you fought off another bum with your knife.
5. Train Bathrooms
If you want to get to Point A to P oint B without sucking off the conductor, the best way to do this is by rushing on board a train, then running into the nearest bathroom before you get asked for a ticket. Once the rattling door is locked, listen carefully for your stop. Sure, some surly business man might be upset that he has to "hold it" until he gets home. But hey, you're homeless. Would he rather you "hold it" in his best shoes?
4. Family Reunions
Always make sure that there are a lot of people there before you make your walk-on guest appearance. If the place is packed, open the fence and step right in. Hopefully there will be so many indistinguishable faces that nobody' really going to notice or care if there' one more body they can't quite put a finger on. There' usually a BBQ as well, so also make sure you're first in line when they start handing out the dogs. Don't ever get screwed when it comes to free food, that' the homeless man' creed!
3. Box Factories
Find your future mansion.
2. Red Light Districts
Hookers make good punching practice. Just make sure you get sucky sucky before you start getting all Ivan Drago on them.
1. Your Old Home
Nothing says new lock better than old brick through old window. When the new family' on vacation, make yourself at home. Hell, you earned it... at one point in your life. Just watch out for the new guard dog or Sloman Shield that might be on the door. Those two obstacles will fuck-you-up.

Failed Celebrity Auditons For Proactive

Here's the link to the article on the actual site (With pictures!):
Failed Celebrity Auditions for Proactive Commercials
By Rich Knight, CRACKED Staff

Don't believe what US Weekly tells you: Celebrities aren't like us at all. Do you have a Perrier bidet in your bathroom? Does your son think the Oedipal complex means wanting to fuck the nanny and kill your bodyguard? Do you go out on the weekends looking to have a low key night and wake up the next morning half engorged in Mischa Barton? Actually, that last one only proves that you know someone in a rock band, but for the most part, celebrities' lives don't come close to resembling yours. Except in one important way. No matter how rich and famous they are, they also get disgusting, pus-filled pimples all over their faces. Lucky for them, Proactive works! And lucky for us, celebrities get paid obscene amounts of money to talk about it on TV. Through insightful, thought provoking infomercials, we've seen stars such as Jessica Simpson and P Diddy remove unsightly warts to once again return to a life worthy of a VH1 reality show. CRACKED recently managed to get our hands on some audition tapes of Proactive-using celebrities that failed their auditions for their own Proactive commercials. See if you can figure out why!
John Goodman
I remember I was on the set of Roseanne, and Rosie, that' what she demanded I call her, said, 'DANNNN,' in that whiney voice of hers, and I said, 'No Rosie, it' only Dan on the show, my real name is John.' And she was like, 'DAAAAN, get rid of those pimples or I'm going to replace you with Andrew Dice Clay,' who was a popular comedian at the time. And I said, 'But Rosie, I've had these pimples on my face ever since I was a child and nothing works.' And then Becky, I don't remember which one, there were two of them, I think it was the first one, handed me this bottle of Proactive, and it changed my life forever. Now, I only have pimples on the spots above my crotch I can't reach because my stomach is in the way. Thanks Proactive, you saved my career!
Hey, Proactive, I've got a story for you! Now we all know that fat is beautiful, there' no denying that! But the raccoon-like areola of pimples I used to have around my eyes was not so beautiful, and I needed help. The first dermatologist I spoke with said that I should try wearing sliced cucumbers over my eyes at night instead of open Oreo cookies. But rather than make a lifestyle change, I decided to seek a second opinion. And that' when I found out about Proactive. I remember being on the set of The Parkers a few weeks later, and the producer saying, 'Hey, when did we replace the grotesque woman with the raccoon-like areola of pimples around her eyes with a grotesque fat version of Oprah for the role of Ms. Parker?' I just giggled to myself and made a race-related joke about him being whiter than the ashy knees of my old boyfriend. Thank you, Proactive!
Jon Voight
Back before Angie was born, I couldn't get a good lay with all the pimples I had in the creases of my face. It was so bad that on the set of Midnight Cowboy, they were scrambling to write a backstory in which my character was burned about the face and neck in a toxic chemical explosion. Guess they thought it was problematic that the guy playing the crippled bum looked better than me. Too bad Proactive wasn't around back in those days. They ended up using what' known in the industry as a "belt sander and caulking gun." Now I'm so scary looking, I only get cast as terrifying villains like Coach Bud Kilmer in Varsity Blues, Senator Thomas Jordan in The Manchurian Candidate or Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Pearl Harbor. I wish I had you back when I still had a shot at being handsome, Proactive! Now my daughter won't even talk to me!
Jon Lovitz
Before Subway would even give me the time of day, I had pimples all over my beautiful face. During the kissing scenes on the set of High School High, Tia Carrerre' stunt double wouldn't even come near me, often drawing a picture of her face on a paper plate and making me use that instead. But after I started taking Proactive, I realized that it doesn't matter if the pimples on my skin are unsightly and gross, all that matters is that I once was a star on SNL with a catchphrase, and I could probably get regular girls who are turned on by men with money. That boosted my confidence. Now, I can say 'Subway, Eat FRRRAISH!' with the kind of attitude I need. Thank you, Proactive, for saving my life.
Kathy Griffin
I never had pimples that a good face-lift couldn't cure. If I had a pimple on my cheek, I'd have them stretch my face until the pimple was behind my hairline. If it was on my nose, I'd stretch it until it was at least on my cheek! When my face became stretched so tight that I was having difficulty pronouncing words, they started using skin left over after Russian babies were circumcised. Now my face is comprised of 96 percent baby foreskin, and I can thank my 'proactive' attitude towards plastic surgery for my unblemished looks. What do you mean that doesn't count as a Proactive ad? I used the word 'proactive,' didn't I? Wait! Please don't take that camera away! I'm so lonely.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Ten Greatest Phrases To Ever Come Out Of A Video Game Character’s Mouth.

Quite possibly my most read article to date (Though, I don't quite know why), click on the link and add one of your own favorite video game quotes:

I’ve said it before, and I'll say it again, video game storylines suck. But that doesn’t mean that the character’s in those horrible storylines can’t come up with pearls of wisdom (Or is it just comic gold?) when they open up their mouths. Below are, in my opinion, the ten greatest phrases to ever come out of a video game character’s mouth. I’m sure I’m missing a few here, but that’s what comment boards are for. So here they are, the top ten phrases ever. See if you can close your eyes and remember just how they sounded the first time you first heard them. Just don’t do it while you’re driving or operating heavy machinery. You should usually keep your eyes open for stuff like that.

10. “Waka Waka Waka, etc.”—Pac-man

Fauzy from the Muppet Babies, is that you? Nope, it’s just everybody’s favorite yellow one third of a pizza chomping down on pellets while avoiding ghosts, or Ku Klux Klan members, or whatever the hell, Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde happen to be. If you’re good enough to get past the first few rounds, you can even almost forget that Pac-Man is rude enough to talk while he’s eating, as the sound just becomes natural after awhile. Don’t forget the power pallet on your way around the bend!

9. “Aaaaaarrrrriiiiieeeesssss!!!!!”—Kratos, God of War

Shouting at the top of his lungs, Kratos, the pasty white anti-hero of the ultra-violent series, God of War, made it clear from the very onset that he was ready to take on the gods. I personally love vendetta stories, and God of War has one of the greatest, this shouted phrase being testament of a character of insurmountable power. Who knew that Kyle Barker from Living Single had such a killer voice?

8. “I’m sorry, but your princess is in another castle”—Toad, Super Mario Bros.

Whether that’s really Toad or not sitting there, fatter and plumper than he’s ever been, is disputable. But what isn’t disputable is that whoever he is, he’s going to be the bearer of bad news, telling you that you went through all that trouble just for nothing. No wonder Mario bangs his head on so many damn bricks all the time.

7. “Aym Banjo, whoooooa!”—Banjo in Diddy Kong Racing

While Diddy Kong Racing might most be remembered for its multi-vehicle awesomeness and Conker the squirl’s miscasting (He used to be so sweet before that dreadful, Bad Fur Day of his), what I remember most about this game was clicking on Banjo from Banjo-Kazooie fame and hearing his God-awful voice. Seriously, could he BE any more Red-necktified? I never saw him the same way again after that.

6. “Upside down whirlwind !#?whirlwind!”—Q*Bert

And you call yourself a gamr? If you can’t read that phrase up above, then you need to play Q*Bert again and land on one of the many enemies that pervade the playing field. That profane little whatever he is, is swearing up a storm!

5. “Jill, here’s a lockpick. It might be handy if you, the master of unlocking, take it with you.”—Barry Burton, Resident Evil

Okay, what? Wasn’t anybody at Capcom aware that this is one of the worst statements in the history of video game statements ever? First off, who even addresses a person by what they’re good at? It’s not like you’re going to say to me, “Rich, here are some Zubaz pants. It might be handy if you, the master of imitating Joey Buttafuoco, put them on.” That would just be plain silly. And second off, well, there is no second off, this phrase is just plain stupid.

4. “I am error.”—random fat dude in The Legend of Zelda 2

It’s been said that this was merely an error in the translation (“I am Errol,” is what some people claim he’s supposed to say), but seriously, can’t anybody check these things out first before they ship them over here? At least it’s not nearly as bad as this next one.

3. “All your base are belong to us.”—CATS, Zero Wing

Whoever this CATS character is seriously needs to brush up on his engrish. If you can actually find the transcripts of what was originally intended for the game, though, you’ll find that it was actually pretty good. At least, good compared to lines like, “Somebody set up us the bomb,” and “You have no chance to survive make your time.” If this is all it takes to become a translator, writing nonsense, then please sign me up immediately.

2. “Do a barrel roll!/Try a somersault!/Use the boost to get through!”—Peppy Hare, Star Fox 64

Oh, Peppy, Peppy, Peppy, bless your heart for being so enthusiastic about your work. I love how every line Peppy says sounds like it has to be louder and more demanding than the last. It makes lines like, “Your father used to do it like that, too!” sound justified. You actually feel proud for following Peppy’s instructions. And heck, half the time, he’s right. I really DO need to do a barrel roll.

1. Hadouken!—Sonic Boom!—Ryu/Ken, Guile, Street Fighter series

Ah, childhood. You could not walk into an arcade without hearing, “Hadouken!”, “Sonic boom!” volleyed back and forth like a tennis match. Sometimes, I’d stand by the arcade cabinet, waiting for my turn to play and watch whole matches that consisted of nothing but hadoukens and sonic booms, the Ryu’s and Ken’s usually beating out the Guile’s since they didn’t have to hold back for two seconds or anything like that. Whoever thought of the idea of shouting out your attack (Probably DBZ creator, Akira Toriyama) before fired it was ingenius, absolutely ingenius. Yoga. Yoga. Yoga. Yoga flame!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Why An All Led Zeppelin Game Would Be Better Than An All Beatles Game

Now, before you jump on my back and start punching me in the back of the head calling me a Beatles hater and all kinds of other terrible things that just aren’t true, hear me out first—I actually like the Beatles better than I like Led Zeppelin. I think the Beatles just had a more diverse vision of where music could be taken, and they definitely took it there. If you don’t believe me, just listen to all of the records between Please Please Me and Abbey Road to see what I mean.

But that doesn’t mean, however, that MTV, which recently made the announcement that a Beatles game was indeed being made, is going to show that magical mystery tour throughout their entire catalogue. As is often the case with these ultra popular music games, the songs that are going to be hand-picked for the game are most likely the most popular, endearing ones by the group. And with only 45 Beatles’ songs getting picked for the game, you can bet that some really awesome fan favorites (Like, “Dr. Roberts,” and “I Will” for me) might get short shrifted to make way for, “I want to hold your hand,” or “Come Together,” which are great songs, don’t get me wrong, but exactly what you’d expect from a game like this. I want the unexpected.

And that’s what I think I’d get with an all Led Zeppelin game, as their guitar heavy songs have a better chance of drifting among some of their lesser known hits in their catalogue. And this is because, quite frankly, Led Zep aren’t nearly as popular or beloved as the Beatles, and your mom won’t get upset if “All My Love” is on it, but “When the Levee Breaks,” isn’t. But she will get upset if she doesn’t get to croon, “Strawberry Fields,” even though that song is known less for its instrumentation and more for its surrealistic lyrics. And that’s another reason why an all Zep game would be even cooler than an all Beatles game—Zeppelin songs just rock harder. Really, besides “Helter Skelter” by the Beatles, can you name a single other song by them that is actually all that hard? I’m not saying a game has to be all hard rock all the time, but if the tracks are mostly just sing-songy and poppy, then that’s going to get tiresome real fast. But Zeppelin have enough all over the place music to make a really great game, and it would attract fans of the group and also those just interested in them in the process. So a Beatles game, awesome. But an all Zeppelin game, even awesome, er…er?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Knights of Columbus in Chester Never Lacking Good Intentions

If you shop regularly at any given supermarket, chances are you’ve probably seen them at one point in your travels. Same goes for if you’re just driving down the street, their symbol is recognizable in many different areas across the land and not just here in the United States, with some of their other locations including Cuba, Guam, and Saipan just to name a few.

They’re the Knights of Columbus, and with more than 13,000 councils and 1.7 million members across the world, there’s little wonder why this Catholic organization that bases its foundation on charity, unity, and fraternity, is so well-known almost anywhere you go.

Pete Grice, chancellor and field agent, for the Knights of Columbus Council 5410 of Chester, has his beliefs as to why their organization is such a guiding force in the giving business.

“The list [of who we participate with] gets pretty long as far as charities go,” Mr. Grice says.
Grice, who has been with the Knights of Columbus in general since 1968, and with the Chester branch for the past five or six years, counts the many different charities on the list that round out their annual donations.

“We give money to ARC in Morris County, Cerebral Palsy in Chester, Wehrlen,” he says, thinking of a few other places the organization gives money to annually, “We also donate to a firemen’s house in Boonton, as one of our retired members is in there,” he says.

Along with these organizations, there are also the scholarships they give out to local high schools such as in Randolph High, Medham High, and in West Morris in Chester.

“We pretty much stick to the schools in our backyard,” Grice says.

And there are also the aforementioned stand-outside-the-supermarket charities mentioned earlier, such as the state organized, God’s Special Children Charity, where members of the Knights of Columbus stand outside the store with a can, asking for donations, with any money received never too small.

“One year we might be giving out $600,” Grice says of how much money they might donate to their charities, “And some years, it might be $1000. It really all depends on the year,” he says.
But what doesn’t depend on the year at all is the fundraisers that they hold to garner as much money as possible. One such event is the annual St. Patties Day Dance, while others not so stuck on a specific date events include meals for the public, such as pancake breakfasts and Italian dinners.

“Every time there’s an opportunity to have a donation, we’ll hold a meeting [about what we can do]” Grice says.

This notion of giving for the sake of giving sticks closely to the group’s original intentions. Founded back in1881 by a parish priest named, Father Michael J. McGivney, the fraternity was founded with the intention of forming an organization dedicated to selflessness and philanthropy. And in 2008, that organization still stands strong on their ideals, their beliefs still alive that the bigger picture is much more important than the smaller self.

“I’m just one member,” Grice says, “one little cog in the wheel.”

Luckily for the world, it’s a wheel that never stops turning.

Review of Salo or The 120 Days of Sodom

95 out of 100

Few movies outside of Eraserhead can be considered cult classics purely for being so outrageous that they need to be seen to be believed. A Clockwork Orange fits that bill, and so does Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom, a movie that is so graphically powerful that some people believe that Italian director, Pier Paolo Pasolini was actually murdered because of its release, though, the case has since been re-opened for his 1975 murder.

Set in 1944 during the final days of Mussolini, the story is centered around four powerful men who take male and female teenagers into captivity as sex slaves for their pleasure and experimentation, submitting them to horrible sexual treatment and even a whole feast of devouring feces. If you thought that whole shit eating scene at the end of Pink Flamingos was bad, your stomach won’t be able to handle this.

But amidst the controversy of seeing young people in such depraved situations, this is not torture porn in the vein of Saw or Hostel, which both derive their giddy thrills out of seeing other people in pain; schadenfreude at its extreme. Instead, this is a deep, introspective film about consumerism, fascism, and a metaphor for a totalitarian government taken at face value. In every way, it’s a masterpiece that outlives its horrific past and shines even more resplendently on this 2-disc special edition, Criterion release, where it has been re-mastered and decked out with discussions on the creation of the film.

Granted, on first viewing, some of the story-telling segments where old prostitutes tell stories to arouse the gentlemen into debauchery may seem a bit repetitive at first. But on multiple viewings, the film begins to unravel itself into a state where it’s not even shocking anymore, but rather, mesmerizing.

Few movies outside of the great ones can do that, and even after 33 years since its initial release, Salo still does.

Defending Uwe Boll

It’s easy to pick on Uwe Boll. His movies are the equivalent of the trash bag ripping open on your shoes on garbage day, and he’s unabashedly German. And who doesn’t like making fun of the Germans?

But Boll isn’t nearly as bad as you make him out to be on your blog, and he certainly isn’t as bad as Ed Wood.

Really, a closer look at Boll’s films shows that he’s at least making progress, with his most recent release, Postal, being a good example of a director flexing his creative muscles to make a movie about some dude going nuts more than just a crappy reinvention of Falling Down.

But before I get into praising Boll, let’s get some of his skeletons out the way first.

House of the Dead. Garbage.

Alone in the Dark. Garbage featuring Tara Reid.

Bloodrayne. Garbage starring Ben Kingsley as a vampire. Oh, and Kristanna Loken topless.

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Seige Tale. Promising garbage.

And now Postal, which is more about life in Bush America than anything else. If you haven’t seen it yet just because of Boll’s name, I advise that you do. If not for Boll’s humorous take on terrorism, then at least for the shock of seeing somebody actually making a 9/11 joke in the first five minutes of the movie.

Really, Boll has a lot of passion for his films. Why else would he box his critics to defend them?

And in all truthfulness, just look at the games he’s translating into movies in the first place. Have you ever played House of the Dead? Granted, a movie of it probably shouldn’t have been made in the first place, but still, Boll took what he had and made a film that wasn’t any more ridiculous than the actual game.

Same goes for Bloodrayne. Trust me, it’s no Final Fantasy.

Personally, I think a lot of Boll’s failure has to do with his source material. Some of his other, non-video game movies, such as Heart of America or Blackwoods really aren’t that bad. I mean, Spielberg may be a genius and all, but do you think he could pull off a movie version of Pong? Well, maybe, but you get my point, get Boll a quality script and let’s see what happens. Unfortunately, that day may never come. His reputation does precede him after all.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Having Problems With Your Bank? Maybe you need a good Credit Union

Here's my attempt at writing a business article. See if you enjoy.

Times are hard, and you don’t need any newspaper article to tell you that. With banks holding back on loans because of the economic crisis, and the rest of the international market stepping on eggshells, it might seem daunting to try something new like putting your time (or capital) in a credit union.

But Affinity Federal Credit Union CEO and President, John Fenton, of Basking Ridge, has a hunch that you might want to give it a try.

“[We’re always saying], what can we help you do to put you in a financial perspective?” says Fenton.

This kind of help has kept Affinity out of the kind of hot water most banks are going through right now with the whole subprime issue.

“One of the secrets to why we’re doing well is that not everyone gets a credit card or a loan,” Fenton says, “We don’t have a lot of lending and we also don’t get involved in subprime lending.”
Subprime, which is when borrowers with low credit scores are offered high interest rates to compensate for the high risk it puts on the lender, is actually one of the reasons why banks are struggling right now with the currently busted economy.

But for Fenton, besides the whole subprime lending thing, banks and credit unions really don’t have that much different about them except for one key factor—“Credit unions are owned by its members, and don’t have any stock-holders owning it,” Fenton says.

In that way, credit unions are like manual stick shift to a bank’s automatic drive, where people are more aware and more in control of their money, and the managers who run the credit unions are more aware of their customers in turn.

“Here’s a good example of how I think a credit union is different than a bank,” Fenton says, “[With the mortgage situation] banks have adjustable rates, while we said, let’s get them [our customers] into a fixed rate, so our members were protected.”

Fenton says that not all of the members opted to take this option, though, as some decided to go their own way about it.

For those who did take the fixed rate option, though, it hurt the credit union in the short term, but helped out members in the long run, which basically helps the not-for-profit business stay afloat. Credit unions are considered not-for-profit for a reason, and that’s so the members can be served and kept care of, and not to maximize profits like a bank might do. In fact, according to the World Council of Credit Unions, “credit unions use excess earnings to offer members more affordable loans, a higher return on savings, [and] lower fees or new products and services.”

“We try to put people in things that will make them successful in the long run,” Fenton says.

That said, not everybody can just up and join a credit union, as there are a few things that keep it from being as easy to join as a bank.

“Federal charters are actually a bit more restricted than a bank,” Fenton says.

They’re restricted in the sense that only people who fall within the credit union’s field of membership can join. If you’re looking to join a credit union, you’ll have to see what the specifications are, as credit unions can tend to have different qualifications for their field of membership.

Some might be community based, where people who live, work, worship, or attend school in certain areas are eligible to become members. For Affinity, it’s occupational based, and you or a family member has to be an employee of one of the 1,800 different businesses or organizations that falls in the parameters of its sector.

“A credit union is a cooperative, which means that you’re participating in it,” Fenton says, “you wouldn’t join a Costco or a Sam’s Club without using it [your membership],” says Fenton.

The thing about a credit union, though, is that being a cooperative, a credit union can cooperate with other credit unions all across the country, making for collaborative networks between everywhere from California to New Jersey, creating a united base all across the nation.

“A bank borrows from the public sector,” Fenton says, “[but] a cooperative makes use of everybody’s deposits.”

You can have accounts in both a bank and a credit union without stepping on anybody’s toes, so there’s no real risk if you wanted to give both a try. And with the twentieth Affinity Federal Credit Union in New Jersey opening in Flemington soon, you’ll have plenty of more options to get started with a credit union if you’re actually interested in doing so.

All you have to do is give them a call or stop in one of their offices.

“It’s an easy process to have both,” Fenton says.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Mortal Kombat Vs. The DC Universe Is Either Going To Be The Greatest Thing Ever, Or The Worst

Crossovers suck. From The Flintstones meeting The Jetsons to the Harlem Globetrotters meeting Scooby Doo, there has never been a justifiably good crossover besides the satirical The Critic meets the Simpsons, which actually made fun of the whole idea of crossovers, and Marvel Vs. Capcom, which surprisingly worked beyond any level of comprehension.

But the idea of the Otherworldly beings in the Mortal Kombat universe meeting the Justice League and their super-powered reject friends just sounds stupid from the get-go and here’s why—Both Mortal Kombat and the DC Universe are wildy unbalanced. Okay, okay, okay, you can tell me until you’re vermillion in the face that a match-up between Servbot from Mega Man doesn’t seem like a fair match-up against The Incredible Hulk, but the Capcom universe has always been bound in a sense of never mind the story-lines, just stick to the multi-hit combos. And that’s what makes Marvel vs. Capcom 2 so much damn fun—you’re not being asked to think, just to rub your flat palm against the buttons quickly during combos. But Mortal Kombat has always prided itself over its storylines, even if they suck, and the idea of the DC Universe, with its ultra-powerful Superman facing off against a lowly grunt like Baraka, just sounds idiotic, even if Ed Boon does say that the DC characters have been weakened to make it a fair fight.

The fact of the matter, though, is that this DC Universe game doesn’t have enough well-rounded characters to really sell the crossover in the first place. Checking out the new list, DC is throwing in fan-favorites like Superman, Green Latern and the Flash, but leaving less powerful Joes like Sgt. Rock, Lobo, and Sandman out of the mix because they may not have the appeal of a Batman, Wonder Woman or a Darkseid. Of course, a character like Sgt. Rock would NEVER make it into this game since it doesn’t gel well with the overall storyline, but why does this game need a storyline to begin with? Can’t it just be a bunch of brutes duking it out, Mugen-style, just because it sounds like an interesting premise? Do we really need to sell this crossover to the fans, causing all kinds of hubbub amongst both the DC lovers (Superman could kick Raiden’s ass any day!), and the Mortal Kombat acolytes (What? No dismemberments? Come on!)?

Fighting games, unlike RPGs, which need a storyline to sustain themselves, are not about storylines and never should be. Similar to a martial arts picture, (excluding all these new artsy fartsy ones about love and iridescent colors), the storylines will always lag behind the actual combat, as it should be in video games as well. And when that interesting combat is taken away in exchange for some ridiculous scenario where the DC Universe battles the Mortal Kombat warriors, then you’re just looking to run into some problems from the start, many of which I’ve already pointed out.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’ll be totally awesome. If it is, then this will be the first MK since the fourth one that I will have actually liked, and the first DC game since Batman for the old, change-my-contrast-please, Gameboy that I’ve even found tolerable. If it does rock, I’ll eat my own words with catsup and sauerkraut, I promise you that.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

How I Got That Story: Adam Sobsey

The 2008 AltWeekly Award winner for Arts Criticism talks about his work.By Rich Knight

Adam Sobsey's favorite part of his job should be obvious: He gets paid to read new books. "I get to read books I normally wouldn't read otherwise," Sobsey says.

When he's not doing book reviews for the Independent Weekly or writing theater reviews for The News & Observer in Raleigh, Sobsey spends his time swimming in his own text, writing plays about Ezra Pound and about himself growing up in the 1980s. He's also tried his hand at a novel, but hasn't had the best luck finishing it. "I've been given a new appreciation for writing books," he says.

How did you get into the business of reviewing books?

I had been a freelance theater critic for The News & Observer for about four years and the arts editor, David Fellerath, asked me about writing theater reviews for the Indy. They only had one drama critic, and it was a struggle for him to make it to everything. The N&O prohibits its writers from covering the same subject for other publications, but David was actively looking for writers. With my background in literature, I became a candidate to cover books.

You are a playwright; does that ever get in the way of your time reviewing books?

More the other way around. I went away for five months to write plays this year, and only wrote one piece for the Indy while I was gone. I love writing book reviews, but if I had to choose, I'd choose playwriting.

Do you like movies at all?

I used to be a really big moviegoer, but I hardly ever go now. I [actually] haven't been to the movies since I saw The Darjeeling Limited. I'd rather just stay home and read. I don't have a television. I don't have an iPod, I only have CDs. I'm still pretty 20th Century.

Your articles tend to offer a bit of backstory about the authors you're critiquing. What do you think an author's past says about their current work?

That's true of two of the reviews I submitted for the AAN Awards, but more an exception rather than a rule. I usually just focus on the book I'm reviewing. In the case of the books by David Guy and Larry Brown, I think an awareness of their pasts will help any reader to better enjoy their books.

How does a book review in an alt-weekly differ from one in a daily?

I feel less pressure to make a consumer judgment -- buy the book or don't -- when I write for the Indy, which feels to me more like a place to interact with a book rather than merely rate it -- largely because a) it's got a heavy arts and culture component, and I feel justified in looking more closely and deeply at what I'm reviewing, and b) my editor encourages a more essay-like style rather than just the standard thumbs-up-or-down reaction. Also, I often have more space in the Indy than I do when I write theater reviews for The News & Observer, so there's an opportunity for me to say more about what I'm reviewing, either specifically or more broadly. I'm more comfortable in the Indy with using language and syntax that might be considered too literary in a daily, as well. The News & Observer cuts words like "misprision" and "abjure" when I use them.

When you write your reviews, do you expect your audience to have a smidgen of knowledge about the writers you're talking about?

I imagine they know at least a little about literature or they wouldn't be reading book reviews, so I write for an audience that I imagine has some background in the "canon" and don't hesitate to make references to authors like George Eliot and John Cheever. But most of the authors I write about aren't really famous ones -- although a fair number of people in Durham are probably familiar with David Guy, since he lives here -- which is why I sometimes make a point of offering some biographical or literary context.

What do you ultimately feel is a book critic's purpose?

Ultimately, to champion a great art form, to ask from it as much as it can give, and to read and write for a community of readers who take their reading -- of my reviews and of literature as a whole -- into the world with them every day.

How I Got That Story: Jeffry Cudlin

Posted September 18, 2008: How I Got That Story: Jeffry Cudlin-The 2008 AltWeekly Award winner for Arts Criticism talks about his work.By Rich Knight

Jeffry Cudlin knows that his home city, Washington, D.C., isn't the hippest place in the world when it comes to his passion. "D.C. is a pretty funny place for the arts," the art critic for Washington City Paper says. "Somewhere in the background, there's always hand-wringing over the fact that we're not New York."

Coming out of the University of Maryland with an MFA in art, Cudlin spent his time teaching art theory before he got his current gig. Moving into journalism, he learned to tone down his artsy jargon. When he's not discussing art, he's usually painting.

How did you get into art criticism?

I've always been something of a writer -- as an undergrad, I did a lot of editing for various publications at the University of Virginia. I'm an art-history nerd, too.

I first moved to the D.C. area in 1998 or thereabouts, [and] I always admired Glenn Dixon's writing for the Washington City Paper. Dixon wrote reviews that were smart, dense with cross-disciplinary references, and irreverently funny, all at the same time.

After I finished my thesis and started teaching at the University of Maryland, I finally got it into my head that maybe I could submit something to the City Paper. Dixon had left for the Washington Post -- for a tenure that would turn out to be pretty short.

So I submitted a review of Jim Dine's show at the National Gallery. Then-arts editor, Leonard Roberge, sent me an extensive edit -- basically challenging me to completely rewrite the piece, and stripping out a lot of art-world jargon.

Really, it was Leonard who quickly schooled me on how to write to an alt-weekly audience and put me in line with the CP stylebook -- he was also an art-history nerd, with a master's in contemporary/modern art. He cared passionately about the stuff I was covering.

In the piece on Mingering Mike and Wolfgang Tillmans, you write about two wildly different artists. What inspired you to write about the two of them together?

At the time, I was really just trying to find a way to shoehorn more gallery coverage into the paper -- gallery pieces tended to be picks, running at 250 words. That said, I do think there's a bit of a linkage between the two: Tillmans seems to be an inauthentic prankster, using casual snapshot aesthetics in his photography and pinning up pictures with scotch tape and binder clips, or playing with/making fun of heroic postwar abstraction, making homoerotic jokes using images of military men, etc. Yet Tillmans' work has at its heart a definite moral compass, a strong ideology about personal freedom and contemporary culture. So here are two guys who on the outside seem to be parodists or pranksters, but who both are expressing some fairly heavy content.

When you critique an artist's work, like in your "Squaresville, U.S.A." piece with Edward Hooper, are you knowledgeable about the artist's entire oeuvre, or do you just consider what will be presented at the exhibit?

Well, you have to know about what isn't in the show, too, in terms of evaluating how effective the curator was. Obviously I'm not going to write at length about works not actually in the show -- but I will mention unfortunate or misleading omissions.

Your reviews aren't scathing, even if you think the project wasn't a complete success as in the show, "The Mod that Failed." What are your feelings about critics who feel their major role is simply to bash people's work?

If a show is truly awful, if it really has no redeeming value whatsoever, why would you write about it? Writing about a show validates it: You are proclaiming that this show is somehow an important contribution to the conversation overall, even if it's flawed. The modernism show was a mess, but it was important because of the sheer array of objects it presented and the broader points about the political legacy of modernism that the curators seemed to be bypassing.
I am very critical, though, and this can make people upset. But I feel that you have to pick apart a show and have high expectations for it. This is the only way you can keep a local art scene from being provincial and self-satisfied.

What would you say is your main role as an art critic?

My role is to make people understand how important visual culture is to daily life -- how avant-garde gallery culture is basically the leading edge of culture in general, a sort of proving ground where artists try to figure out what the present moment is actually about. I also want people to understand that this seemingly complex stuff is meant to be experienced and enjoyed. This city is full of free art museums. It's a crime not to actually use them.

Interview with Little Britain

While you’ll be able to find the revised, much truncated version of the same interview in the latest issue of Complex Magazine (Which I advise you pick up. It has Kevin Smith and Seth Rogan on the cover. Huzzah!), here is the long as a grocery list version of the interview for your viewing pleasure, featuring all the nitty gritty little bitties you WON’T find in October/November issue. Enjoy!

Your name is David Walliams but you used to be David Williams. Why did you change your name?

David: To join British Equity, which is the union in England, you can’t have the same name as someone else, and there was already someone named David Williams.

Okay, so you changed it?

David: Yeah.

Okay, so can you tell me more about your swim across the English Channel?

David: Well, we’d done some work with this charity Comic Relief, which is run by Richard Curtis who’s the screenwriter for Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually, you know, those films, and we’d done some comedy sketches for them to raise the money, and they sent it to Ethiopians. And while I was there, this guy who runs Comic Relief asked ‘is there anything you ever wanted to do,’ and I said, yeah, I always wanted to swim the English Channel, and he said, ‘Well, you can do it next year.’ And I was like, oh, okay. And then I started training, and eventually the day came, and you know, God was on my side. It was nice calm weather and the sun was shining and I managed to do it. So it was great, my achievement outside of the world of comedy in my career that I’ve done that’s special.

So, Richard Curtis started Comic Relief?

David: Yeah, Richard Curtis started Comic Relief in the mid-80s. There was Band-aid, and Live-aid, so it became a comic thing, stuff mainly for Africa. In England, it’s a big thing, it’s like a telethon you have every year for Comic Relief.

And so, did Matt get the Proclaimers?
(Matt enters the room)

Matt: Hi there! How’d the Proclaimers thing happen? Well, me and David were approached by Peter Kay, who is an enormously successful comedian in the UK, and a couple of years earlier, he had done a kind of single for Comic Relief which was really, really successful, and sold a lot of money for Comic Relief. So he had another idea to do a song with the Proclaimers and take the 500 Miles song and do an update of it. I’m a massive Proclaimers fan, I’ve met them a number of occasions, and I’m a massive fan of Peter’s, and so we both got involved with that and it was great fun.

So now that you’re both there, when was the first time you met?

David: It was in 1990, we were both in the National Youth Theatre, which is an amateur theatre for young people. Matt was about 16, and I was 18, and we became friends, talking about comedy that we liked. And then, a few years later, we decided to do a show together, a fringe festival. You know, in Scotland in every August, there’s a contest for all the comedians and people at the theatre who put on shows. And so it went from there. And TV people come to that festival and try to spot talent, and we got some opportunities from there. And many years later we did Little Britain on Radio 4, BBC Radio 4, and then we got picked up for TV.

Now how did it get picked up from radio? How did the transition work from radio to TV?

David: The great thing about the BBC is that it’s a huge organization, which has many different kind of options for creativity, so when you do a radio show there and it’s successful, the TV people are aware of you, so actually, the path was quite smooth. The challenge for us was to make a show that was especially better than it was.

Matt: We now have detailed make-up, and nice kinds of crazy cameras and tracking shots, and could use the music to underscore some of the action. To create a package that worked for the TV show.

Now, when you bring the show to the America, are you going to have American writers, or are they going to be the same writers from before?

David: We finished filming the show. Some of the British characters that you may know from the British series have come to America for various reasons. Like Vicky Pollard was caught trying to burn down a ride in Disney World and has now been sent to Boot Camp. Daffyd is enrolled at the University, that kind of thing. And now, we got new characters who are American who have been put in the show.

Are you going to have Kenny Craig? He’s my favorite character.

David: Kenny Craig we did film, but I think it’s likely to be in the DVD extras.

Matt: Actually, it’s quite a nice scene, but we just didn’t have room for him. It’s just a nice situation to be in that you can’t even fit in all the stuff that you like. So it’ll be an extra on the DVD.

So can you say any of the new characters, or is that totally in secrecy until it debuts in America?

David: That’s not a secret at all. We’ve got a bunch of new characters. One is Ben Gordon, who’s a retired astronaut who prides himself of being the eighth man on the moon and doesn’t want anyone to forget about it. We’ve got a mother and daughter, Elly (may be spelled wrong) Grace and her mom, the daughter is about seven, played by Matt. And they say cutsey things to each other, like when the mom is putting the daughter to bed, like, she’d go, “I love you more than rainbows.”

Matt: (In voice of character, a higher pitched voice with a bit of a lisp): “I love you more than chocolate milk.”

David: “I love you more than bunny rabbits.”

Matt: “I love you more than penises.”

David: She says all the rude things that she picked up at the playground and she gets really offended. We’ve got two guys who hang out, big kind of muscly guys called Tom and Mark, and they’re gym buddies, and they have this sort of strange homo-erotic [relationship]. They’ve got massive muscles but extremely small penises. (laughing) So it’s sort of the subtle Little Britain humor there.

Can you guys tell me what’s the difference between American and British comedy?

David: Um, the accents sometimes.

Matt: Some of the words that people say are slightly different.

David: Or they mean slightly different things. It’s hard to categorize really because, you know, what has come out of Britain in America are Monty Python and Benny Hill. They were kind of different to each other, and the stuff that’s come out of America were different, too. So I think the only thing is that some of the times, the characters [in Britain] are like losers. In America comedy, sometimes, with an example of a sitcom, the character will be quite smart and say funny things. Whereas, in Britain, all the characters are like, they’re funny characters and we’re invited to laugh at them. There are very few British comedians who you can claim to be cool. You couldn’t imagine someone with the glamour of like a Chris Rock.

Matt: I think in British TV, the comedy is seedier and less asperational. And the people in American comedies are more handsome. They look healthier!

David: There are about 6 people in Britain who are as good looking as that. They wouldn’t be on comedy.

Matt: It wouldn’t work. They would just be smoking pot and doing nothing.

What about shows that are from Britain but are being Americanized? I mean, you guys are keeping it real by keeping it British.

Matt: We were approached by Simon Fuller, who had been talking to HBO about bringing us over. But I think if we were on say, network television, than we probably would have chosen to sell the concept of Little Britain and they could have done a Little America, and you would have your own actors, and you would have a Vicky Pollard style of character, but she was America and had America references. But I think because it’s HBO, they’re a little more into…they’re okay for the more individual idiosyncratic sort of writing that will be uninhibited.

David: Well, they already have a good relationship with Sasha with Ali G, and Ricky had a big success with Extras, so I think they just really trust the talent and really like giving the people the great opportunity to do what we do. And they really didn’t want to tell us what not to do very much. They wanted us to make it relevant to the American audience, which is what we wanted, but they didn’t say you have to make all your characters American, or that you can’t do this one or that one, so they let us follow our instincts. So it’s really been a harmonious relationship. We were taken by surprise. We thought, like the obvious, they just wanted to make the right version of it and that would be the end of it for us, and we’d just sit at home and receive the royalty checks, which would be fantastic. But they let us do it. It’s amazing for me and Matt, just look where Sasha went.

Matt: He made the funniest film in the last 25 years.

So have you guys ever thought about making a film? I mean, Lou and Andy seems like the perfect choice for a movie.

Matt: We thought about it. It means getting up, you know.

David: We have offers. Simon Fuller even said to us that ‘I would personally fund a Little Britain film,’ but at the moment, we haven’t quite had the idea that makes us think that that’s the right thing to do. And we really like working on tv. And I do feel that comedy works very well on TV and in a half hour chunk. I think it’s probably harder to make a film that’s funny all the way through. I mean, you could probably count the comedies that are really genuinely funny all the way through on both hands. You know, it’s not that many. It’s really hard. Because another thing, after about an hour, you might get bored and get tired of laughing. With our show, it’s relatively short, and it’s over in about 25 minutes. And we work in sketches as well, so we’re not even maintaining a narrative for that long. I mean, at some point…we’re doing other things right now at the moment. We’re doing other films, but they’re not Little Britain films.

Yeah, like you were in Narnia for a bit, right?

David: I play a very small voicing part of a bear. I suppose I’ll get some kind of Oscar nod…but I’m not sure if it’s going to be forthcoming.

Matt: (Joking) I think you picked up the Golden Globe, which is amazing. And if you were going to lay a bet, I’d lay it on David. Because I’ve never heard lines said like that.

So, you guys span very far across the world. I saw you guys had some French stuff, Spanish stuff. Where else do you guys think you span to?

Matt: What do you mean?

Like, how far is your audience around the world?

Matt: Well, yesterday, I’m here in LA with David, and yesterday, I was stopped by people who were Portuguese, people who were Israeli, and other various countries. I think it plays in about 40 countries around the world. I think it’s like, in some countries, like Australia, we’re really big. We actually toured in Australia, which is just thrilling, and in other countries where fans may have found it on DVD, so it’s not massive everywhere, but it’s shown a lot.

David: I suppose there are a lot of visual jokes in it that’s quite colorful and fast moving, so I suppose it’s one that probably translates to other audiences. But if we talk about Monty Python, which was world famous. It is an incredibly avant garde piece of work, and yet, that kind of captured people’s imaginations in America, so you can never truly predict what’s beautiful or what might just be too weird when it comes to Britain, but actually, it’s the biggest comedy export that Britain’s ever had.

You guys did a lot of episodes live in front of a real audience in Britain. Are you guys going to do that in America, too?

Matt: Well, when we recorded the show, we did about a month on location in North Carolina and then we went to Los Angelas and we recorded a lot of sketches in front of the audience, and we also played a lot of the stuff we did on location.

Uh huh, and how did that go?

David: Yeah, it was great. We had David Schwimmer directing our studio sequences. He had a lot of experience. He was both and actor and director in that area and he was pretty fun to work with. He’s actually a really great comic actor. But he’s got loads of fantastic ideas. And we got some really good guest stars, like we had Rosie O’ Donnell, who we got to do a sketch in. Paul Rudd plays the French President in a sketch which involves the British Prime Minister and the President. We were very lucky to work with these people. The Rosie O Donnell scene is really, really outrageous. We’ve already met her in New York, and we wrote the sketch around her. I’ve very surprised that she did it. It was quite outrageous.

Now I heard the word Prime Minister in there somewhere. So, I guess that means Sebastian’s coming back?

David: Well, yes, Sebastian. We kind of wanted to make that character work, but we weren’t quite sure how to make it relevant to the American audience if he was still in love with the British Prime Minister. So we made Sebastian the Prime Minister, and now he’s in love with the American President, played by Harry Lennix, and so we’re hoping that Barack Obama wins because it will make our show seem really up to date.

Matt: Because he looks like him.

David: You can imagine that if Obama wins, he’s really quite sexy, so you can imagine the world leaders really falling for him. You can’t really fall for George Bush.

Matt: What about Ronald Reagan? He’s not sexy. The next President has to be sexy.

David: Ford was before Carter.

Matt: Was Ford before Carter?

David: He wasn’t sexy, so that blows my whole idea out of the water.

Matt: So the next President has to be gorgeous. What about Hilary? Hilary’s got something. She’s got something about her.

David: She’s not going to be the one.

Matt: Oh, she’s not going to be the one? Well, she has something. What about McCain? Is McCain sexy?

Not in particular.

Matt: McCain makes us fries.

David: McCain makes us chips.

Matt: You see, what we call chips, you call fries.

Yeah, yeah, chips, fries. Okay, speaking of a character like Sebastian and Davyyd, though, I’ve heard you’ve gotten a little criticism over your gay characters. But Matt, you’re openly gay, so what are your feelings about that?

David: Well, I’m not openly gay (laughing). I’m closeted.

Matt: I say I’m gay, but I’m not reeeeally.

David: We hope that all the characters we portray, even though they’re comic characters, there’s always going to be a level of critique in a comic character. I hope we do them with warmth. And that you like our characters. I think Daffyd is really rather a sweet character, and he’s rather emotional. Sebastian is in the group of unrequited love, and so you really can’t help but kind of feel for them. So I’m hoping that we do it with warmth. Of course, it’s never our intention to offend people. But you know, somewhere along the way, I’ve heard that people, some even within the British crowd, say that Borat is racist, and you just think, oh come off it. It’s not intended in that way. It’s just a really funny comic character. I mean, with Inspector Clouseau, it’s racist against French people. And you know, it’s quite tedious. People do have a point, but unfortunately, if you do that, you might as well get rid of all comedy.

So are you guys living in the US now, or are you going back to Britain?

David: We came out here for three months to actually film the show and rehearse it. We’re here for promotions, speaking with you.

Matt: We sort of spend it half and half.

David: We spend the mornings in England and the evenings in America.

Matt: Yeah, we go home for lunch and then come back.

David: The more time we spend here, the better, in terms of the more American culture we soak up, the more competent we’ll feel when creating our characters.

Matt: And the less dreadful our American accents will sound.

Is there anything that you haven’t told a lot of people that you’re willing to share with us?

David: Yeah.

Are you willing to disclose?

Matt: Um, do you mean in life or to deal with the TV show?

In life, yeah. Life in general.

Matt: Well, let me think. I don’t know. What about you, David?

David: No, I can’t think of anything that I’d like to share at this point. But I think the thing to say about the show is who is that we’re catering to a new audience. And we have to sort of think of the person who’s never seen it. We have to perform for an audience that’s never seen it. So as much as it’s the British characters coming to America, it’s like the first sketch that we’ve ever done. You know, the first time you see Daffyd. You know, there’s nothing you need to know about these characters to enjoy it.

Matt: And if you already have enjoyed the show, this works as season four, and if you haven’t seen it already, it works as season one.

What about this new audience you’re going to have, because you’re huge in Britain, so you’re starting almost afresh here. What’s that like?

David: It’s really great. It’s actually like being new again, and it’s quite exciting. It’s where you’ve got everything to prove. So it’s actually been a real thrill. I remember that when we did the first sketch in front of the audience, I could remember standing there, and I thought, Oh, my God, we have to try to make people laugh in America. What if somehow no one finds us funny? But actually, there’s no difference between a British and American audience. People still laugh in all different places. When we were in Australia touring there, to make people laugh is extraordinary. But I think comedy’s much more universal than people think.

Matt: You know, the world feels a bit smaller these days. We’re all watching stuff on YouTube and downloading stuff, and you know, the number of imports in both countries seems to be more than ever before, and so actually, I think culturally, we’re probably closer than we’ve been in 25 years. We have the same acts in the music charts and something like that. But it was good for us to come here, for us, because it was the right time for us to have a fresh challenge. The show became bigger in Britain than many shows tend to be, and it was kind of hard to know what to do with it. So I think if we hadn’t had this opportunity, I’m not convinced we would have gone on to make series four of Little Britain, certainly not straight away. I think we might have decided to do something else. So naturally, when this opportunity presented itself, it seemed like the right time to take on a fresh challenge. And you know, it’s great to go places where not that many people know you.

David: You know, it feels quite organic.

Is Tom Baker coming back too doing the narrations?

David: Tom is still the narrator. It’s off and on. We have the American person, who would it be, it’s William Shatner. But then it’s comparing and contrasting America and Britain, which is kind of the concept for the show. It’s really just an excuse to have lots of comic characters. We’re back with David Arnold, who’s the composer for a lot of film music. He did Stargate, a lot of other movies, so there’s a lot of continuity with the British show.

Matt: Changing Lanes. I thought that he did the music for Changing Lanes starring Ben Affleck.

Changing Lanes, Oh, yeah, with Samuel L. Jackson, too, right?

David. Yeah, he’s one of the biggest film composers in the world.

Matt: Yeah, I think he also did the music for The Stepford Wives.

Are there any things on your show that you think would not fly in America? I remember the first time I saw the character who drinks from his mom’s breast. I nearly threw up.

David: We actually have him here. Bitty, we call it. That’s what he says to his mom when he wants her breast milk. Well, the showrunner and the director of all the location material said to us ‘that I’d actually like to see that character, maybe they go to stay with their American relatives.’ Oh, yeah, that’s a good idea. We made that for something to do for that character. A British family coming over to America, and they’re too polite to say anything about it, so it actually worked out quite well. The main thing we didn’t want to do was stuff that was really out of date, or things in America that were just too late. Like stuff that people have already done. Like Michael Patrick [*Can’t make out last name*] who’s really an encyclopedia for all things American comedy can say, ‘well actually, someone did this sketch on Saturday Night Live five years ago.’ We lived in Big Britain we didn’t see every big American show.

Besides SNL, are there any other sketch comedy shows that have given you any kind of inspiration for American TV?

Matt: Well, we’ve see some of Mr. Show. Mr. Show is my favorite comedy sketch ever. They did some really interesting and funny stuff.

David: And Tim and Eric. And Kids in the Hall. I know that’s Canadian.

So you have a lot of great catchphrases. Are you afraid the show might become just a show of catchphrases in America, what do you think?

David: I’m never afraid of that because I like catchphrases. Like Austin Powers, Mike Myers did that and I thought he was brilliant. He went, ‘Yeah, baby.’ It becomes a way people speak and it’s actually an exciting thing. But I think if you try to create catchphrases for their own sake, then it generally doesn’t work. But if you integrate into the sketch, like Daffyd is the only gay in the village, and he kind of has to proclaim that at some point because that’s what the sketch is about.

Matt: Monty Python had catchphrases, and that’s good enough for me.

David: Yeah, Monty Python had catch phrases. But if my mom wants to talk about the Spanish Inquisition, to me, it’s never about things. The thing is when you think of it and write it, you don’t want to put it in a false way, and you try to catch yourself and make sure you’re not [doing it].

Matt: It’s hardly a substitute for a joke. If it feels right, then we’ll do it.