The Halo Movie : How To Make it Well

There needs to be a Halo movie. Just watch these two shorts (the first directed by Neill Blomkamp) and just agree with me on how awesome this could be.

There’s been speculation since the acclaimed release of Halo 2 that Microsoft would team up with a movie studio to make a film out of their blockbuster franchise. Numerous projects have started and stopped, with the names Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp attached, but nothing has ever gained any traction.  Although Halo 4 Forward Unto Dawn could be viewed as the Halo movie, and although it was in fact fantastically well done and about an hour and a half in total length, at a $10 million budget it comes to about 1/10th or 1/15th of what a large production would cost. With the upcoming release of the Xbox One and Steven Spielberg’s promise to release a Halo TV series along with it, there is much doubt about the creation of a Halo film happening at all. However, if it were to happen for real, here’s how it should happen.

1. The Plot

Although a first person shooter game, the overall plot to the Halo series is a rather good one, with scores of books and lore being spawned outside of the video game series. To me, it makes the most sense to tackle the series from the exact beginning, or to tell the story as mostly presented in Halo : Combat Evolved. Although criticized for its seemingly uncanonical approach, besides the game we can draw on the book Halo : The Flood amongst anything else in the Halo universe to help support the plot. I’m not going to rehash the plot of the entire game and novel for you, if you really want to know what happens just play the game or read the book.

The movie will begin with a prelude similar to a 007 movie or JJ Abrams’ Star Trek. In it, we’ll see Noble Six from Halo Reach delivering the package to Captain Keyes, who then boards the Pillar of Autumn and takes off in conjunction with Cortana’s coordinates under heavy enemy fire. As the Pillar heads into Slipspace and arrives at Halo Installation 04 with the enemy already present there, the movie really gets underway.

In order to punch the ticket for Blockbuster status, the Halo movie will need to follow the four main characters, Captain Keyes, Sgt. Avery Junior Johnson, Master Chief John 117, and Cortana. The audience will have a tough time identifying with the Spartan supersoldier Master Chief during the onset of the film, which is where Keyes and Johnson have to take over, by giving the mere humans the emotional roles. It will seem at first that MC is just a cold aloof soldier that is really good at fighting and does cool stuff, but once the credits roll the writers and directors will have to shift the audience’s identification from Johnson and Keyes to John and Cortana. Master Chief will partially evolve through the movie as his relationship with Cortana is brought to light, and he begins to reveal his human side other than what could be taken for as a cyborg in a metal suit. Given that Keyes is imprisoned and killed about 2/3 of the way through, the transitional period from him being the emotional center to Master Chief becoming the relatable crux will need to happen right at the instant of his passing. Keyes’ humanity can be shown through his commanding decisions and flashbacks to his daughter Miranda, and her mother Catherine Halsey. Johnson is more of the comic relief badass marine, who has seen more than his fair share of war (especially by being where the war started and being on Harvest) and is scarred by it, yet continues to trudge on despite his personal losses.

The risky section of this movie is there are times where the main characters will all be split up doing different things. Although not often, there will be occasions when Keyes will be at one place, Johnson another, Master Chief another, and the villains yet another. The writers may have to mess with canon a little bit to simplify things, as when in films such as Return of the Jedi, following three or four different character lines at once can be too much. They will need to take a page from The Return of the King and keep everything simple and coherent. Although you have what was happening in Mordor, Gondor, Rohan, Minas Morgul, and the Paths of the Dead all at once, everything came together seamlessly by not spending too much time apart and focusing on the most important parts of the film. You don’t switch scenes in the middle of battle or of a major plot point, instead you let it play out until such a time where everything coherently makes sense.

The other key part of this movie will be the main villain. Although the parasitic flood will turn out to be the main enemy, the film needs to craft Thel ‘Vadam (the Arbiter) as the antagonist. As shown in the beginning cutscenes from Halo 2, he is the Supreme Commander of the Fleet of Particular Justice that follows the Pillar of Autumn to Halo. A lot of movies nowadays are make or break when it comes to the villain. Iron Man 3 was rubbish because of an awful villain, whereas The Dark Knight was amazing because of a fantastic one. The directors and writers will need to draw from other films that have alien species as antagonists (I’m mostly looking at Star Trek and perhaps parts of District 9 in this case) and create a humanistic/modern feel to them, such as juxtaposing the religion of the Covenant to overzealous terrorism, and the Covenant corruption and caste system to present day examples of government scandals and class separation. The thing we learn about Thel throughout the movie is that although he’s the villain, he isn’t exactly in the wrong as he is merely following the orders of the Prophets. Even though The (future) Arbiter the primary antagonist, he is more of a sympathetic one guarded by codes of honor and loyalty.

Finally, the movie will have to run in a non-linear style, similar to Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. We’ll need flashbacks explaining the origins of the Master Chief and the Spartan program, along with some explanations on the Covenant side of how the war came to be. Starting off with the destruction of Reach is a good introduction for the characters and action, but as the film progresses there will need to be seamless explanations for those that are not familiar with the Halo universe.

2. The Cast

The problem with casting for a Halo movie is that your main character, The Master Chief John 117, is encased in his high-powered suit, the Mjolnir Mark V body armor the entire time. And in order to stay true to Halo lore so far, you can’t reveal his face as it sits under the suit. Which means, in order to better connect with your audience, Master Chief needs to be one of the films main characters, if not the main one. The good thing about this is that the iconic voice of the MC for the past 12 years, Steve Downes, can remain in his role, and we can save some room on the budget as far as casting goes. But in order for a more humanistic feel, who do we cast in other roles?

First and foremost, Captain Jacob Keyes. George Clooney or Bruce Greenwood. Greenwood already fits the bill as being Captain Christopher Pike and Star Trek, but Clooney has the acting chops to pull it off very well, creating an emotional and identifiable character.

Secondly, Sgt. Avery Junior Johnson. Either Idris Elba or Denzel Washington. Again, same scenario as above. Elba played a fantastic Marshal Pentecost in Pacific Rim, but Washington is the superior actor and has a better feel for an ironic comic relief role. Plus, as Man on Fire, American Gangster, and The Book of Eli have proved, he’s already got the badass part down.

Third, Catherine Halsey needs to be Bonnie Hunt. Because, who else in Hollywood can you picture playing Halsey well in a minor role?

Cortana can still be voiced by Jen Taylor and Thel ‘Vadam as Keith David as dictated in the video game.

Casting Miranda Keyes as an adult is something I would choose not to do for this movie, simply because if there’s a sequel made she needs to be a main character, and actress continuity for a small part in this installment to a starring role in the next might be tough to find.

3. The Director

I would love for any of the following directors to be in charge of this movie. Those being JJ Abrams, James Cameron, Christopher Nolan, or Zack Snyder. Unfortunately, Cameron and Nolan only deal in their pet projects, and Abrams is tied up in Star Wars and Star Trek just as Snyder is tied up in the DC Justice League universe.

Which leaves three names out there, two that we’ve already visited in Neill Blomkamp and Peter Jackson. After seeing what Guillermo del Toro did with Pacific Rim, and his ties with Ron Perlman (who is Lord Hood in Halo 2 and 3), his name should be submitted for candidacy as well.

And in all honesty, I’d be okay with any of those men directing in conjunction with production from Steven Spielberg. I like Blomkamp’s sci-fi flicks in District 9 and Elysium, but I don’t know how well he would do creating a PG-13 movie, as he does like to attend the Peter Jackson school of gore at times. Under tutelage from Spielberg I think he could flourish and create a spellbinding sci-fi epic, but that is all up to him.

Should the Halo movie be made as I spell it out? If you have any ideas that shine brighter than mine, let me know in the comments. There’s nothing that I love more than speculation on something that will never happen.

 
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Let the Wookiee Win

Fortunately for C-3PO, the droids in Star Wars didn’t find out the hard way what happens when a Wookiee loses a game of holographic chess and is upset with the result. Even without a central nervous system to experience pain, somehow I feel like losing your arms or any sort of appendage as a robot is rather detrimental to successful operation.

A little background information about myself, if you know me at all, you know that I like to win. I am very competitive by nature, especially when it comes to things that I am actually good at. Winning is fun, winning is rewarding. Winning releases and stimulates endorphins and dopamine which makes me feel good. I like winning.

Which, transitively, means that I enjoy solving problems because coming up with solutions to problems is like winning. You have beaten the issue, the person, the opponent, villain, whatever moniker you want to assign your nemesis. And, to complicate matters further, not only do I like solving my own problems, but I enjoy solving the problems of others (including the ones that aren’t even brought to me). Problem solving, via competition is simply in my nature. If I am presented with a problem that I feel needs to be addressed immediately, I quickly jump into a systemic approach in how to best expediently and completely solve the issue.

It shows a lot through my job, because when I get a claim from a store that says that they did not receive said product that they were billed for, I find whatever claim is the most urgent and tackle it however I see fit. I take the necessary steps to track the product(s) across the warehouse and verify if we did in fact in most probability ship it, and if I (as the company) can wash my (our) hands of the matter. Obviously there are going to be variable responses and problems within problems popping up, but for the constant of my job is solving problems to make people happy and not misplace product in a way that benefits both the retailer and distributor.

Of course, this is completely applicable to real life, and is the reason that I brought it up in the first place. A friend of mine was having relationship struggles and brought it to the attention of my wise, sage-like fountain of knowledge that I possess. As much as I hated to admit (and admit to myself in the past), there are some things that when you’re solving problems for other people are simply beyond your control. It is the worst type of scenario (the no-win, ugh), but sometimes that’s the only card to play. There is a certain satisfaction you get when you gave everything and still lost, but there’s simply no satisfaction in the no-win situation.

I compared this to my work. On occasion, I will get a claim that is of a high amount. And sometimes, for reasons outside of my control, I will not have the appropriate information to address this claim. I know that the store making the claim is a lying bunch of drygulchers as I have proved in the past, but there are times where I simply cannot prove it. Whether it’s because their customer service rep was on vacation and we lost the palletizing video footage due to dating, or the load control paperwork was misplaced, or whatever problem may occur to hinder my investigation, the fact is that there are times when I simply cannot deny (or approve) a claim for a product that we most likely shipped and that the store most likely received. I know that they’re scheming cheats, and I know that chances are if I deny the claim that I will be right (if not evidentially), but the fact of the matter is I have to let them win.

I have to let those thieving carnies, those walking carpets, those Wookiees, win.

And by the same token, there are times in a relationship where you simply have to let the other person win. No matter the evidence in the way, no matter the mitigating circumstances, there are times where you have to care more for the person than the instantaneous solving of a problem. As I told my friend that night, there are times when you just gotta zip the lid and let your significant other have their way. Without outright telling them, send that message that they themselves and their desires are way more important to you than your need to want to solve their problems.

Sometimes, you just have to let the Wookiee win. It’s not worth getting your arms (or heart) torn out in the process.

NFL Week 8 Picks

Last week: 3-2 Overall: 17-18

New England minus 6.5 v Miami. New England is at home coming off of a loss. Tannehill is shaky and Miami is in free fall. Pats 34-20

Cincinnati minus 6.5 v New York Jets. The Jets are coming off of an improbable home win vs the Pats but Cincy beat the Pats at home too. The defensive front of the Bengals is too strong for the Jets and Smith will be dared to throw. Cincy wins ugly 23-10.

Denver minus 12 v. Washington. I know Shanahan has ties in Denver but Peyton has ties to destroying bad defenses. Manning will ruin the Mike’s return to Denver because the skins can’t cover a cadaver with that secondary. Denver 45-31.

Minnesota plus 9 v. Green Bay. The Packers are still without Cobb and no Freeman for the Vikings could be a blessing. This seems like a silly pick but AP is embarrassed and the Vikings don’t want to ruin a primetime home game with another clunker performance like last week. Pack win 27-20.

Seattle minus 11 at St. Louis. Sam Bradford is not walking through the tunnel. Seattle will go on a feeding frenzy and win 38-14.

Troegs Brewing Company : A Review

As you may have read on one of our past posts, fellow writer Samuel Madison has correctly suggested that the reader base limit drinking of poor quality, mass-produced cheap beers, instead switching them out with better tasting and higher ABV beer. Granted, a case of Traveler Brewing Company beer is going to be more expensive than a case of Coors Light, but you will be rewarded with a much higher quality product on every single level. Because this happened to be a topic upon which we agree, during an off work stretch of four days of mine, Mr. Madison, Ms. Johnson and myself all ascended upon the Troegs Brewing Company plant in Hershey, Pennsylvania for an afternoon tour. Below are our findings.

At Troegs, you have several different options. If you just want to drink, they have all their beers on tap at a large bar where you can go and try what they have to offer, at pretty reasonable prices. We went in the off-peak season, as Hershey is a huge tourist trap in the summer, and similarly I would expect the Troegs bar to be full of people on vacation, especially on the weekends. I got a very large 7.5% JavaHead for around $5, which is about what you can expect for a high ABV quality craft brew.  There is also a grille area for those interested in food offerings, although I cannot say what it offered in particular. You can also take the self guided tour, which highlights some interesting parts of the brewery with useful and historic information included. There is also the General Store, where you can buy all sorts of Troegs merchandise, such as glasses, mugs, t-shirts, and the highlight of their goods, beer. They have every beer that they are currently brewing for sale, with most available on cases and all available in six packs, which you have the ability to mix and max for a tad higher price. Pricing isn’t bad either, as what they charge at the General Store is about the same price you would pay for a Troegs product at a distributor. After our guided tour, Samuel and I both bought a case (he bought the Hopback, I the JavaHead, details are at the bottom),and exchanged half so that we would end up with a little bit more variety.

The final point of interest is the guided tour, which you are supposed to make reservations for (although on a slow day walk-ins would probably be accepted). We made our appropriate reservation, and showed up at the assigned time with the designated dress code (15 minutes early, $5 a person with closed toed shoes with no heels, and safety glasses as well). We had a total party of seven, which seemed to me to be rather large for an early Tuesday afternoon in October. Parties can range in size up to 10, as long as reservations are made beforehand. Although the tour cost $5, it was more than worth it. The tour guide was friendly and informative, basically your typical outgoing bubbly guide who knew more than enough to answer the questions that the older couple in our group couldn’t resist asking. We went all through the brewery from where the brewing begins to where it finishes, all the while being educated as to what was going on during the process and staying out of the way of the employees who were getting their work done around us. Along the way we received different types of beer at different stages in the brewing process, including at one point playing with a jar of hops and having a container of wheat kernels that we were able to consume to ascertain the differences in what was being used for which beer. The tour contained all aspects of the process, starting from the inception of the beer and how/where it is made, to the bottling and shipping of it.

At the conclusion of our tour, we were all invited to try what amounted to about half of four different types of beer that Troegs offers, including their popular “Mad Elf” seasonal variety that is 11.0% ABV. All of us were also given a free “Troegs Official Taste Tester” pint glass at the finale of the guided tour.

All in all, this entire visit was a great idea. For $5, their guided tour is a terrific plan, which probably primarily serves as marketing for the company, because there is no way they could be making money off a 45 minute tour in which they give away about 2 beers per person, and a free pint glass to boot. If you are ever in the Hershey area and are even simply a casual beer fan, stop by Troegs brewery and you will not regret it.

Troegs generally carries the following types of beer, along with a rotating serving of experimental Scratch beers:

Beer Style Production ABV IBUs Color[2] Malts Hops Yeast Notes
Dead Reckoning Porter August – September 5.8% 53 30 Pilsner, Caramel, Roast, Black Vanguard, Chinook Ale
DreamWeaver Wheat Ale Year Round 4.8% 15 4 Pilsner, Vienna German Northern Brewer German Wheat 55% Wheat
Flying Mouflan Barleywine April 9.3% 100 24 Euro Pils, Vienna, Munich, Dark Crystal Warrior, Chinook, Simcoe, Whole leaf Nugget Ale Includes cane sugar. Introduced as Scratch #4 in 2007.
HopBack Amber Ale Year Round 6.0% 55 15 Pilsner, Munich, Crystal Cascade, Williamette, Nugget, Crystal Ale A hopback is a vessel through which beer passes en route from the brew kettle on the hot side of the brewery to the fermenter on the cold side
JavaHead Stout Year Round 7.5% 60 40 Pilsner, Crystal, Chocolate, Roast Cluster, Chinook, Cascade Ale contains oats and a blend of roasted espresso and Kenyan coffee beans
Mad Elf Ale October – December 11.0% 15 14 Pilsner, Munich, Chocolate Saaz, Hallertau Spicy Belgian contains honey, sweet and sour cherries
Nugget Nectar Ale February-March 7.5% 93 9 Pilsner, Vienna, Munich Nugget, Warrior, Tomahawk, Simcoe, Palisade Ale
Pale Ale Pale Ale Year Round 5.4% 45 9 Pilsner, Munich, Crystal Amarillo, Cascade Ale
Perpetual IPA Year Round 7.5% 85 6 Pilsner, Crystal, Munich Bravo, Chinook, Mt. Hood, Nugget,Citra, Cascade Ale
Rugged Trail English-style Brown Ale Tap House only 5.9% 20 Toasted amber, chocolate Production of this beer resumed mid-2013; only available at brewery tap house and produced sporadically. [3]
Sunshine Pils Pils April – August 4.5% 45 2 Pilsner, Crystal Saaz, Hallertau Mitt. Lager
Troegenator Double Bock Year Round 8.2% 25 18 Pilsner, Munich, Chocolate Magnum,

German Northern Brewer

 

NFL Week 7 Picks

Last Week: 2-3 Overall: 14-16

Kansas City minus 6.5 v Houston: I’ve bet on Kansas City often and it has been very successful this season. Case Keenum will make his first career start and Case Keenum is not an NFL quarterback. Besides, Kansas City’s defense is one of the best in the NFL, especially at home. Chiefs win 24-10.

Dallas plus 3 at Philadelphia: Dallas is not the same on the road and Murray is out but the Eagles defense is terrible and Nick Foles loses more often than not when he doesn’t start against Tampa Bay.  Dallas 28-27

New England minus 3.5 at NY Jets: The Jets did not score a touchdown at home last week and their receiving score is still beleaguered by injuries. Gronk is back and that will serve at the very least as a decoy for Tom Brady and a group of wideouts who are progressing. Patriots 31-17

Pittsburgh minus 2 v Baltimore: This is a tough game to pick but Baltimore is not a good road team. The Steelers have some confidence from finally winning last week and the defense should be able to get to Flacco. Steelers win ugly 23-19.

New York Giants minus 3.5 v Minnesota: Freeman is making  his debut and the Giants have had 10 days to prepare for this home game. The giants finally remove the goose egg in the win column 27-13.

My Five Favorite Not-So-Famous Songs

Last week I ran a post on five songs that were well-known and rather non-hipster that were among my favorites of all-time. This week however, I’m going a bit of a different direction and throwing five songs out there that are not quite as famous. Although in some instances you may have heard of the band or even the song, for the most part these tracks reflect some of my favorites from albums that are less commercially known. None of these songs were released as singles for mainstream radio play either (at least not in the USA), so unless played at specific request I rather doubt you would hear them by turning the radio dial.

5. Head over Heels (in this Life) – Switchfoot

The follow-up to the follow-up of their most commercially and best received album The Beautiful Letdown, Oh! Gravity adds a distinctly more poppy and upbeat feel than their previous effort of the darker Nothing is Sound. Head over Heels is a very happy song, and has what I would call cute visualistic lyrics. It is nothing too special or fancy, but like drinking a glass bottle of Coca-Cola while fishing on a beautiful spring late afternoon, this song simply puts a relaxed smile upon your face.

4. Howl – Florence and the Machine

Off their debut album Lungs, Florence and the Machine through their two studio albums has solidified as a current favorite of mine in the music scene. I first backtracked from Ceremonials to Lungs and discovered that although not quite as lyrically matured, the good content on Lungs is as good as anything Florence Welch has written. Obviously, “Dog Days Are Over” is probably the most recognized and best song on this release, but even with singles such as “Kiss with a Fist” and “Rabbit Heart” I picked “Howl” to be my second favorite track on the album. The lyrics compare young love and passion to an animal or even perhaps werewolf base desire, and in doing so achieve a dark take on immature destructive love. The lyrics are so poetic, and the way the words roll off of Florence’s tongue is simply mesmerizing.

3. Forest Whitaker – Bad Books

Jonathan Drama’s brother Quintus Dellius first showed me this song through his “What’s the Alternative?” playlist on Spotify. Although I did not think all of those songs were heaven sends, this one jumped out more than enough to me so that I actually took the time to find and download it, something that is rather rare for myself. I confess that I have not listened to anything else that Bad Books has released (this song is off their second studio album entitled II), but if this track is any indication, they definitely have a unique sound. Forest Whitaker has a good beat, creative and relatable lyrics, and is well produced to form a fantastic final product.

2. AKA…Broken Arrow – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Yes, my Oasis obsession continues even through lesser-known tracks that are not even explicitly by Oasis themselves. Besides anything by The Fray, Florence and the Machine, and Lana del Rey, throwing on Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds self titled album is one of my favorite things to do when trying to relax. This song to be honest does not terribly make a lot of sense at first glance, but that’s where I glimpse the most creativity that Gallagher has yet to offer. Judging by some of his previous writings, Noel is no stranger to simply writing nonsense that when turned into song translates to a higher poetic meaning. When asked what the lyrics “slowly walking down the hall, faster than a cannonball” in “Champagne Supernova” meant, Gallagher responded, “I don’t know. But are you telling me, when you’ve got 60,000 people singing it, they don’t know what it means? It means something different to every one of them.” On the surface, Noel doesn’t always make sense when he writes, but when he does it comes off with enough strength that it creates its own meaning and becomes memorable that way.

1. Kings Horses – JET

As Thurston Howell and I both like to point out, JET is best known for their blatant ripoff of Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” in their 2003 hit song “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?”. Beyond some TV adverts and having songs interspersed in films, the Aussie brothers Cester formed a band that was mostly a flash in the pan, something that existed in mainstream popularity in the mid 2000’s. Heralded as the next coming of AC/DC, with their recentish split it seems that Nic Cester has taken his musical style talents elsewhere, probably to be heard of only when he covers “Back in Black” wonderfully with Muse again. Despite producing some utter garbage (check Pitchfork’s review of their album Shine On for proof) that I loved in sophomore year of high school, there were flashes of brilliance, most notably this song “Kings Horses”. The meaning of the song is quite simple, as it is about a person’s regret over a situation where after everything falls apart they realize that they could have easily prevented it from happening. It’s also hopeful in the fact that even though (stealing from the rhyme and the song) “all the kings horses and all the kings men (couldn’t put him back together again)”, that you can always start over. Where this song delivers its genius is by piecing together nursery rhymes into the lyrics and creating a memorable sing-song ballad that is both creative and simply meaningful. Maybe if JET could have written more songs like this, they wouldn’t get an album review that is simply a video of a monkey urinating in its own mouth.

NFL Week 6 Picks

Last Week: 2-3 Overall Record: 12-13

Pittsburgh plus 1 at New York Jets: The Steelers are hungry coming off of a bye, but healthier too. Bell and Miller are back and Dick Lebeau is incredible against rookie quarterbacks. The spread is basically non existent because the Steelers are on the road but I don’t believe in Geno in two consecutive weeks. Steelers win 26-17

Seattle minus 13.5 v Tennessee: Seattle is at HOME. The Titans are starting Fitzpatrick. Seattle will be resting people in this game I think by the second half. Seahawks big 34-13.

New England minus 2 v New Orleans. Brees and company are coming off of an impressive win last week at Chicago while Brady and the bunch are reeling from a road loss at Cincy. If you know anything about the NFL week to week that screams for betting with the home team Patriots. Saints can’t run and the Patriots are proficient in pass defense and they have Tom Brady. Patriots win 31-27.

Washington plus 5.5 at Dallas: I like Washington off of the bye this week. Dallas looked good and lost to Denver but their defense was carved up and RGIII is still very capable. Washington covers but Cowboys win 38-34.

Houston minus 7.5 v St. Louis. I struggled a lot with this one but St. Louis won’t have an answer for the Texans D. Schaub will break his pick 6 streak and the Texans will do just enough to cover. 24-16.

Dear Owen: A Letter to a Two-Month Old

Owenursinus

Hey buddy,
First of all, you won’t be this cute forever so prepare for a dose of reality little one. As your uncle, I feel privileged to never have to discipline you and appear as the fun one of your mother’s siblings…but the privilege I feel is unique to your life which is just beginning. I cannot wait to watch you experience new things with courage, curiosity, apprehension, and levity. I’m amazed by your power when you kick whoever is holding you; your determination when you scream to get what you want; your unbridled joy when you look into your parent’s eyes; and your innocent laughter. The world is yours and you will affect so many lives with your own and I find that, and you, fascinating. I’ll always be here to distract you when your parents need a break, to pretend like I know what I’m talking about when you need advice, and to listen when you tell stories about your days at school. I’m excited, not as excited as you are when mommy gives you a bath, but buddy we are all in this together so let’s make the most of it!

There will be times in your life when you want to ask why. You don’t understand why your mom and dad are just right or why things are the way that they are. Never lose that skepticism. Embrace the question why like your favorite stuffed animal. None of us have all of the answers and you won’t find them either, but to not seek answers to your questions is opportunity wasted.

You will play with kids and people that are different from you. Different skin colors, cultures, and backgrounds are great ways to understand how people live and think. If you avoid the heinous temptation of allowing those differences to reinforce your own status quo and, instead use them to expand your horizons, you will make the world a better and more tolerant place.

You will meet someone that at first you like and maybe will love. If it’s a girl, let her be her own person despite what the archaic gender stereotypes dictate your role as a man to be. If it’s a boy that you love, don’t let the world tell you that who you are is unacceptable. Unconditional love is a function of understanding the relationship between yourself and the world around you and embracing what you have to offer it and what it offers to you.

You will have interests and hobbies that may or may not lead to what you study in school or what type of job you seek in adulthood. If your work is separate from what drives you, don’t let it change your mind about what makes you passionate. What interests you is more important than any occupation. Success is not defined by your income or job title. Happiness is not defined by material wealth. Pride is a dangerous thing. Learning and education teaches you how to be tolerant, how to serve your neighbors instead of be served by them, and doesn’t define its pursuits by a money driven bottom line. You will have money concerns at some point in your life, so why devote your life to its proliferation? Your life could pass by and no swipe of a credit card will change that.

Go outside. By the time you are my age your friends will probably want the iPhone 19 but trust me, the 20th one will come out soon enough after! Hike, bike, climb, explore. Life is about balance and there is no better way to counteract the forces of daily life by being in nature and actually experiencing what is above, beside, and below you instead of what is on a screen in your pocket.

Travel. When you are old and retired, it might be too late. Meet people you wouldn’t have otherwise met and try food you wouldn’t have otherwise eaten.

You will have ideological debates swirling in the politics of your day. Stay aware, but most importantly, try your best to separate what is political and debatable and what is a question of decency and morality. The “right thing” is not right or left winged. You will know how to answer the question of what that is each and every time, but you have to have the courage to ask it amid a competitive, finger-pointing world.

People will try to convert you to their religious beliefs. You don’t have to convert to or deny anything. When the time comes in your life when you have doubts, questions, or emptiness, seek what is rational and true. No matter what conclusion you reach, understand that full-fledged devotion is silly. Worship is not required by a worthy God, nor is admonishment required by reason and logic. Be respectful, kind, and understand your place in the universe and you will be fine on Earth and wherever else you class of 2031-ers will end up.

When you get tired of listening to your uncle talk about factoids and historical tid-bits, be inspired to emulate the difference-makers whose stories I am retelling. The coolest way to be famous is for doing what history needed you to.

The two most important things you can do in life are listen and learn. You will have opinions you will want to express and don’t be afraid to, but why will you think the way that you think? What topics will spark your interest? The only way to further your future explorations is to keep your mind open, your predispositions dormant, and your ears tuned to hear voices that no one else values. For all you know, your own might be that same faint tone to another.

Owen, your uncle is really weird. And, as your uncle, I hope you are too bud. If you truly embrace the life ahead of you, then you’ll turn out to be peculiar, fascinating, understanding, and intelligent. The slate is clean for you Owen, so go crazy, make it filthy, and don’t worry about cleaning it up. As soon as you try to make sense of the mess you’ve made, you’ve lost all the passion and ingenuity that helped you create such a unique and captivating life which is about to unfold in front of my eyes and I couldn’t be happier to share it with you.

Love,
Uncle Fun

My Five Favorite Famous Songs

Unlike my cowriter Thurston Howell, I do not pride myself in being a hipster enough music geek to know and be a fan of the wide range of underground rap, funk, and indie music that he is so often prone to listen to. Although there are some under the radar songs that I will listen to from time to time, for the most part you will find my iPod or music library filled with albums and artists that the a-little-more-than-casual music listener will recognize. As such, I have decided to post five of my favorite songs that you definitely should know about.

5. Flashing Lights – Kanye West Feat. Dwele

(Caution, mild lyrics)

A lot of people do not like Kanye West because of his media persona of being an entitled jerk (or at least that’s the role he plays). That being said, those people probably do not listen to his music for that reason, and are blinded by their own false opinions. If you have a respect for good production, good beats, and smart lyrics, provided you like rap/hip-hop, you should like Kanye. Flashing Lights is his best song overall, although if you like this he has many, many more to offer.

4. Shoot to Thrill – AC/DC

I have always loved this song, coming off AC/DC’s best Brian Johnson album, Back in Black. But when Marvel (in one of their few good calls) decided to use it as Tony Stark’s hand-picked Iron Man theme, it started working its way into many of my playlists. It is a perfect song for a summer drive, a game of Halo, or jumping out of an airplane in your high-tech prosthesis.

3. Summertime Sadness – Lana del Rey

I will readily admit that I am in love with Lana del Rey. Despite all her obvious shortcomings and eccentricities, and the fact that she writes from a female perspective, I just love her lyrics. The hipster inside me hates that this song receives so much attention, as I thought that maybe “Blue Jeans” or “Young and Beautiful” would be her best known songs, but according to the 88 million views on youtube I might be wrong. In line with hipster methodology, I discovered this song way before it hit radio play, so my love affair with it is definitely longer than yours. The main thing I love about this track is the vividity of her lyrics. If you simply close your eyes and listen, you cannot help but picture in bright color exactly what is going on in this song. It just makes it seem so real.

2. Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones

From Call of Duty : Black Ops, to Scorsese films The Departed, Goodfellas, and, Casino, chances are you know this song perhaps not by title but by tune. Written in 1969, this song is written by Mick Jagger in a apocalyptic type feeling, with the Vietnam war weighing prominently on his mind. Just like Shoot to Thrill, this song is even more perfect (if such a thing exists) for a sordidly hot and sticky summer day with the top down and aviators on. Although Jagger may have written requesting shelter from the violence at the time, today we can create a twofold meeting out of it. Just pick the newest war that our country has decided to take place in, and play it on a Pennsylvanian day in July and you are well on your way to being a complex individual.

1. Wonderwall – Oasis

If you know me at all, this song should come as no surprise to you. In fact, you are probably rolled your eyes just as you saw what song number one was. Although this is not my favorite version of this song (songwriter Noel Gallagher does a killer solo version), it is nonetheless the one that I have deemed my favorite song for at least the better part of my music listening life. Do I know why this song is my favorite? To be honest, not really. I cannot pinpoint an exact reason, because I simply love everything about it. It is simply my favorite song by my favorite band.

NFL Week 5 Picks

Tough week last week thanks to Houston.

Last Week: 2-3 Overall: 10-10

Kansas City minus 3 at Tennessee: This is solely for the opportunity to bet against Ryan Fitzpatrick.  23-16

Jacksonville plus 11.5 at St. Louis. I know it’s Jacksonville but they have to win once right? St. Louis is not great offensively. Rams win 20-13

Chicago plus 1 vs New Orleans. Saints are coming off of a short week and they think they’re good. Chicago the complete opposite after giving up 40 to Detroit. The NFL is funny this way…bet on Chicago. Bears win 27-24 OT

San Fran minus 6 v. Houston. A long time to prepare for Harbaugh and the troops. Home game in primetime usually favors the Niners. S.F. wins 31-17

Atlanta minus 10 v. NY Jets. The Jets and especially Geno Smith are terrible. Take the Falcons at home who are DESPERATE to win. Falcons 34-10.