Wednesday, December 28, 2005

She's a lady

"Well she's all you'd ever want,
She's the kind they'd like to flaunt and take to dinner." - Tom Jones

When you make the decision to get married to a person, one of the first things that you need to be sure of is the fact that you are compatible.

I'm not saying that you have to agree on everything, that would just be wrong, but there are certain parts your personalities that just have to click. I knew that Sarah and I were working on that level shortly after I met her. You can just feel things like that about a person that you're that in tune with.

A few weeks ago, I got Sarah's her very own game console for the first time. There was a moment or two when I thought that she was just humoring me when she said that she was happy to get it, but after a while I could tell that she was really enjoying having it and was on her way to becoming a gamer.

"She's got style, she's got grace, She's a winner." - Tom Jones

If you're married, or even if you're just dating someone, there are those special moments that come along in a relationship that let you know that you're with the right person.

One of the most recent "special moments" that I have shared with Sarah happened just before I fell asleep a few nights ago. I was laying in bed beside her, while she was playing "Pac N' Roll" on her Nintendo DS. Here are the three sentences that I heard, in order, from her.

"Oh, come on."

"Aw, shit."

"Well doesn't that just suck the big wanger."

"Yeah yeah yeah She's a Lady
Listen to me baby, She's a Lady
Whoa whoa whoa, She's a Lady
And the Lady is mine" - Tom Jones

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A night before Christmas

Everyone that has read my writings for any period of time should know by now that I've been a video game player for a good portion of my life. For most people, remembering their first experiences with video games wouldn't be a big deal in any way, but for me games were always something special. Games always took me to places that I didn't think I would ever be able to go. They told me stories about far away places, but the best part wasn't just the stories, it was the fact that I was the hero. I was the person that was running and jumping and saving the princess. I wasn't just another kid sitting alone in his room playing with his toys. I actually meant something to the characters in these games and it made me feel special.

On Christmas Eve 1987, I received the first gaming system of my own. My family had owned some other systems before that point, but this was the first time that I had a system of my own.

When I was growing up, my sisters and I were told that each Christmas we could ask for 1 big gift. For months we would scan through the Sears and JC Penney's catalogs and evaluate each of the items on the toy pages and agonize over the decision of what item we would put on our list for that year.

One of the worst and, in this case, best traits that I have is that I can be incredibly naive at times. On that particular Christmas Eve my naivete led me to the most surprising Christmas gift that I have ever received.

The evening began with a normal holiday meal, but after dinner my family decided that it would be a good idea to videotape the gift opening festivities for the evening. I didn't think anything of it, seeing as how we had just won our first video camera a few months before; it just seemed like the sort of thing that most families would do on a holiday. What I didn't seem to understand was the fact that my sister was only following me around the house with the camera.

After everyone had opened their gifts, I recieved my last gift, a small package. Confused, as I often was and still am, I opened it delicately and found that it had a riddle contained inside of it. The riddle led me to another room in the house, where I found another package, which contained another clue, which led me to another room, and another and another.

Never once during this whole scavenger hunt throughout the house, did I have any idea what I was being led towards. I would open each of the packages, read the clue, and then move onto the next one. Finally, after multiple difficult riddles that I had to solve, I opened the last package. "It's behind the couch," was what it read.

I walked into the living room and walked over to the couch and found a long rectangular box approximately 2 feet by 1 feet, by 6 inches behind it. As I began to pull back the paper, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. For a moment in time, I actually thought that my parents had played a cruel trick on me and had somehow obtained the box for the item, but something else was inside of it.

"You've got to be kidding me," was all I could say as I opened up my Nintendo Entertainment System. For months, I had gone on and on about how much I wanted one and somehow my mother and Dennis had gotten it for me.

Over 50 million people got an NES system before Nintendo stopped selling them, but I doubt that anyone had an experience nearly as special as mine when they got their system.

Ever since that day I have been a Nintendo fan. I have friends that have mocked me for my "alliance" with a company that doesn't put out the best looking or the hottest games, but for me my feelings for Nintendo go much deeper than the hardware or software that they put out. Whenever I see Mario or Zelda or Samus on my TV or handheld system, I think about opening the box for my NES on December 24th, 1987 and remember how special my parents and Nintendo made me feel that day.

Nintendo's next game could be a Mario plumbing and pipe cleaning simulator, but I know that I'll eventually end up buying it... not for what it is, but for what Nintendo meant to me as a kid and for what that memory means to me today.

Monday, December 19, 2005

My first gig

In 1993, one of my friends tried to convince me that we could start up a metal band. We were both listening to a lot of Pantera and Metallica at that point in our lives. Also, we were drinking a bit too much as well. So, one night when I had had a few too many, I decided that "getting the band back together" sounded like a good idea. He already had a guitar and had become quite adept at playing it, and considering the fact that I couldn't sing, it was a done deal that I was destined to be the drummer.

After a few awful sounding months, the experiment failed and “World Disorder” was put to rest. A few years later I sold off my kit on consignment at a local drum shop and bid farewell to my dreams of becoming a musician.

All of that changed a few months ago when my passion for gaming and poorly performed music combined with the release of a new game for the Playstation 2. I've mentioned this game in an earlier column. It's called Guitar Hero and it kicks all kinds of ass.

I've played more than a few games in my life but I can't recall one before that I've tried so hard to become great at. At this point I'm still playing the game on the medium level, because I want to perfect or "5-star" each of the songs before I move on to the final two difficulty levels.

Another way that I know that the game is great is because of an email that I got from a friend recently. Here's a quote.

"Cowboys from Hell. Four stars, bitches."

Now that is a concise and to the point email, people. Also, it rocks.

There aren't many games that I've played that have inspired me to jump around the room like a little kid when I manage a great score, but this game makes me feel like I'm 10 years old all over again.

So, the other day I'm walking through Best Buy, as I often do, and I see that they have a copy of Guitar Hero running on one of their TV's there. Sadly, there was a 20-something grunge kid just hacking away at the game and making a fool of himself. Seriously, it was just plain sad. Once the song, mercifully, finished I picked up the controller and commenced rocking for the entire retail audience.

After one (5-star) performance of "Spanish Castle Magic" by Jimi Hendrix, I had about 7 or 8 Best Buy employees all gathered around to watch me play. After the song finished, I had guys shouting out requests. Sure there was the one jerk saying "Play Freebird," but he was quickly hushed away by his fellow employees, who knew that they were in the presence of a rocker who could kick his ass for suggesting such a song. After a few moments it was decided that I should take on Symphony of Destruction by Megadeth.

In a performance that everyone present agreed that put Dave Mustaine to shame (not like it takes much to do so) I put down my axe and threw the sign of the goat as I walked away.

Next time I'm bringing a hat to collect tips.

Friday, December 16, 2005


For me, that moment occurred a week ago when Sarah took ownership of her first ever video game console.

When I first met Sarah, she professed herself to be a casual gamer. For anyone that was born in the 70’s that typically meant that you played some Atari and/or Nintendo games in your youth. So when she told me of her gaming background, I knew I would have some work on my hands in order to shape and mold her into someone that would not only tolerate my addiction, but would actually happily participate in it with me.

I knew that I would have to move very slowly if this effort was going to succeed, but if I was able to pull it off; my home could become an audio/visual paradise, a Nintendo Shangri-La if you will.

I knew I would have to begin with the basics. Sarah had told me that she enjoyed playing the Mario titles when she was growing up, so we started her with Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64. Having her jump from the 8-bit platformers of her youth and moving her to the newest generation of that type of gaming just seemed to be the natural way to go. Immediately she fell in love with the game. In fact, I think she even went so far as to obtain more of the stars, and complete more of the game, than I did. I was called upon to defeat Bowser in the final battle, but she did put in a monumental effort to get to that point, so I was happy to help her in completing the game.

After she was done with Mario, she moved onto Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon on the Playstation. These games were very similar to the Mario 64 style of play and she took them on with great gusto, but after a time she tired of them and looked to move on to another gaming genre.

“I loved Tetris,” she said to me and so I began again, looking for a new version of a game that she professed to love. First up was Tetris Plus on the Playstation. So many hours were spend playing this game and solving the puzzles contained within, that to this day we still mimic the Macaw-like woop of the victorious professor when he found his treasure. After that version of Tetris she began to play Tetrisphere for the Nintendo 64, an incredible underrated adaptation of Tetris played on a 3D sphere. Hours upon hours were spent playing multiplayer battles against one another with Sarah, more often than not, bettering me on a consistent basis.

Just as a side note, when you’re a gamer, there is nothing sexier than a woman beating you in a game. When a man beats you, you’ll throw the controller and scream for blood. When a woman claims victory, you’ll probably need some “special” alone time.

After Tetris had run its course I decided that it was time to try and introduce a new genre of game into Sarah’s repertoire, the RPG. One of the things that I found while having Sarah try all sorts of different games was that “twitch” or fast action games were never going to fly. So, it was natural to move on to turn-based role playing games. Sarah could dictate the pace of the battles and could stop at any time to look up a hint, if one was needed, to continue. It became clear, very early on, that games such as Final Fantasy wouldn’t fill the bill as there was too much micromanagement to be done and that there were far too many options to make the game interesting to her. Thankfully Nintendo stepped up to the plate and delivered Paper Mario, a cartoony role playing take on the Mario games of yore. Sarah defeated the game faster than I would have thought possible and was ready to move on.

Next up for Sarah was Jak and Daxter on the Playstation 2. This game was made by the same developer as the original Crash Bandicoot titles for the Playstation and Sarah fell in love with it quickly. With my help, defeating a few of the more difficult bosses, she finished the game and even went so far as to obtain every orb and get the “special” ending.

Sarah took a bit of a break from gaming while she was attending school to get her nursing degree, but once she started her job at the hospital, she found that she needed some help staying up on the nights that she wasn’t working. That was when I introduced her to the Gameboy Player for the Nintendo Gamecube. With that device she was able to play some of the old Mario games that she loved, as well as another new RPG, Mario and Luigi. After a few weeks she had played until she reached the final boss, whom I sadly couldn’t defeat for her, and she took another break from gaming.

That takes us up until a few weeks ago. I sent Sarah an email with a link to Nintendo’s new webpage for the upcoming Mario and Luigi role playing game that would soon be out for the Nintendo DS, and even though she hid it well, I could tell that she was excited for this new game. The only problem was that I was enjoying some of MY new Nintendo DS games and I wouldn’t be willing to leave MY system home during the day. The solution was an obvious one; Sarah would have to have her own system.

Christmas came early to the Haag household this year as Sarah “bought” me an Xbox 360 and I returned the favor by buying her an electric blue Nintendo DS.

When she registered her system and began to play her new game, I knew it was a special moment. A few days later she told me, barely able to contain her pride, that she had defeated the first boss in the game without any help from me; a tear welled up inside my eye. I knew I had taken this girl from her humble gaming beginnings and have helped to develop her into a woman that I’m certain will be sending me the following instant message some day.

“DING. W00T! Level up.”

On that day, I won’t be able to hold back my tears.

Your moment of Glen

7:00 p.m. Gaby goes to sleep for the evening.

Temperature outside: 30 degrees Fahrenheit (22 with Wind Chill)

Decision to be made: Do the meager bit of shoveling that is left after the plowing service has completed the driveway or do something else.

Decision? Play Guitar Hero for 2 1/2 hours. P.S. I rock!

9:45 p.m. Done playing Guitar Hero(for the evening.)

Temperature outside: 24 degrees Fahrenheit (15 with Wind Chill)

Decision to be made: Do the meager bit of shoveling that is left after the plowing services has completed the driveway or do something else.

Decision? Turn on Xbox 360 and begin downloading movie trailers that I've already seen, but this time watch them in 720P on the HDTV.

10:20. Done watching movie trailers (for the evening.)

Temperature outside: 22 degrees Fahrenheit (12 with Wind Chill)

Decision to be made: Do the meager bit of shoveling that is left after the plowing services has completed the driveway or do something else.

Decision? Spend an hour conversing with my friend Bill via email.

11:20. Done emailing with Bill (for the evening.)

Temperature outside: 18 degrees Fahrenheit (8 with Wind Chill)

Decision to be made: Do the meager bit of shoveling that is left after the plowing services has completed the driveway or do something else.

Decision? Freeze my stupid ass off shoveling and de-icing part of the driveway at 11:30 at night when my dumb ass could have been outside for 10 minutes when it was 15 degrees warmer earlier in the evening.

There it is, your moment of Glen.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The one where Glen gets sappy

Gabrielle reached Version 1.0 last Saturday and it really got me thinking about a lot of things that have happened with her in the last few weeks and months.

Just a week or so ago she began standing unsupported and, in the last few days, she's started taking her first few small steps. Watching her change from, what was essentially, a lump to an infant that has the ability to think and move on her own has been nothing short of amazing.

Last night, Sarah and I went out to dinner with Gaby. When we got to the restaurant, there was no one there to seat us, so we waited in the entryway until someone would be there to help us.

This particular Italian restaurant was playing some music over it's intercom. I was holding Gaby, so I grabbed her right hand with my left hand and began swaying with her to the music, dancing about the only way that someone could with a 1 year old child. Almost immediately, she began to smile as I rocked her back and forth to the music. It took me a few moments to realize that I was having my first "dance" with my daughter and it nearly made me cry.

The entire time we were "dancing" she never broke out of that smile and it made me feel so wonderful that something as simple as that brought so much joy to my daughter. The moments like that make me realize that I'm never going to want to let this little girl of mine go.

I know that in time, hopefully 20 years or more, someone is going to come to us and tell us that they want to marry our daughter. All I know is that it's going to take someone pretty damn special at this point, or else I'm bringing out the shotgun. Hopefully I'll have enough warning that something like this will be coming up... because I'll need to buy the shotgun. Right now all I could threaten them with is the gun that came with my NES.... and even the dog in Duck Hunt laughed at that.