Thursday, October 9, 2008

This is Wal-Mart do not panic

This goes back a ways now, but I'm sitting here at work staring at my dual cinema displays (fanciness!), getting a headache because my right earbud is fried and zapping me with non-artful distortion, and I've been meaning to write about this. And I'm bored.

Background: I own an Xbox 360. I enjoy using it to make Lego Chewbacca dismember Lego Stormtroopers and to pretend Tom Brady is still alive. And lately, A. and I have taken to setting the world ablaze with our color-coordinated riffing via Guitar Hero 3.

When I first heard of this game I thought it sounded ridiculous, and I'm sure it is, but I guess I enjoy ridiculous things (Love's "Revelation" comes to mind). But after an all-night session of Rock Band at a friend's house, we really couldn't deny how fun it was. We were hooked. So we played until 3 a.m., woke up the following morning (luckily a Saturday) and shot straight to Target to get GH3, because that's all our small PRC apartment could handle. (We're in a much bigger place in Mitt-Town now, and are currently in a heated debate over Guitar Hero 4 (her) versus Rock Band 2 (me). Frankly, I will not be denied RB2's set list.) The game came with only one guitar, and since we wanted to play together the way adorable couples should our next mission was to buy a second wireless guitar, which is indeed sold separately with some assembly (stickers) required.

Last Christmas my brother- and sister-in-law were nice enough to buy us an iPod adaptor for the car, one of those you have to wire into the back of the stereo. But it sat unopened because our car has a tape deck (old school!) and we already have one of those flimsy-yet-functional cassette adaptors that are much simpler, and we had held onto the gift long enough that the return/exchange period lapsed. It came from Wal-Mart online so who knows if we'd have followed up on that shipping nonsense anyway. It took a planned visit to my dad's in New Hampshire to start the let's-get-away-with-something wheels rolling, thinking that if they sold the same item in actual stores then they might take one back.

More background: sometime last year we saw the documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. I was easily and illogically (and uncharacteristically, but I'll get to that in a second) swayed against ever shopping there again, even though I recognized the film's point of view as purely one-sided. I'm the guy who complains about unions and, while living in Northampton, thought local shops that couldn't compete with the Wal-Mart up the road should stop whining. Still, I was so repulsed with the way the chain was portrayed that I took all the bullshit and made a nice quilt, and then burrowed into it with the effortless cuteness of a purring kitten—my naiveté was darling. (On a related note, unless I let my dark soul pull the lever for Ron Paul next month I'll be voting for Obama simply because I don't squirm and turn away from the television when he speaks, whereas watching McCain in action is the most uncomfortable thing I'm capable of doing. During the debate the other night I went into Kennedy/Nixon mode and watched during Obama's turns but closed my eyes and only listened during McCain's turns. I figured it was the best way to fairly judge the discussion. This plan worked until I closed my eyes too successfully and fell asleep.)

Anyway, I figured Wal-Mart must sell video games and stuff, and they certainly must be able to afford a little red ink. Why not try to return the iPod thingy for store credit (we had the receipt, but the date would debunk my "We received this as a gift, um, last week" cock-and-bull) and see about getting ourselves a gee-tar? So after dinner we hit the nearby Jaffrey Wal-Mart for some scam-o-rama. Nice, right? Nice.

Except: not nice. The plan was a brutal failure, with the no receipt and the no return. ("But I do have a receipt, see?? Wait, let me scratch out that date and barcode and everything. Are you calling me dishonest? Well you smell funny. Eat that truth.") To make matters worse we ventured back to the electronics department after the monkey-wrench incident and saw that they did carry the individual GH3 guitar we were looking for. Drag. So we went home empty-handed, and for some reason held off buying one on Amazon or wherever for a couple of weeks. Soon enough we had plans to head to Wal-Mart country again for a dinner date at my mom's in central Mass. The Lunenburg store wasn't too out of the way so we figured we'd give the return trick another shot. This one's close to where I grew up, and I knew that whole strip-mall sat on a manufactured hill that used to be a lovely cow pasture. I always loved driving by those cows when I was a kid. I figured the awareness of this attack on nature and childhood wonder might shift some points our way when we stopped in on the way home.

And—huzzah!—it did. The nice old lady working customer service accepted it without question, even going so far as to cut open the security tape (we never opened it since we always planned to return it) and taking everything out to make sure nothing was missing. I didn't mind this overt mistrust because it meant they had to take it back, since she was the one to ruin its pristine newness. So now we had like a $60 credit, which as we learned in Jaffrey was an even swap for the guitar. Sweet! We practically ran to the electronics section, and I had that feeling in my stomach like I was shoplifting. It was exhilarating. But rats! They didn't have the prize in stock. Fucking shit. Luckily I anticipated this at my mom's and mapped out other Wal-Marts more or less on the way back to Cambridge. (Rest assured, you pinko bastards, there is no Wal-Mart in the People's Republic) Hopefully we would get lucky in West Boylston, Hudson or (the inconvenient last resort) Framingham.

Route 190 is a scenic highway I enjoy touring. It's the only direct north-south passage in the middle of the state, and I'm always amazed at how little traffic it carries on the weekend (I guess Worcester isn't quite a Saturday night hotspot, unless Vince McMahon and friends are in town). So I had no problem with a southward detour to West Boylston. Unless, of course, the West Boylston store was also sold out. And naturally it was. Getting lost on the way to Hudson was not as fun as cruising 190. I had a bad attitude going into that store and a worse one walking out, after learning that they "only sell the Wii version." This was not working out, and I was in no mood to deal with route 9 and its Framingham/Natick Shopping Madness Spectacular. But I also didn't want to go home without that friggin' guitar. So off to Framingham it was, even if we should've been home an hour and a half ago.

As it turns out, the fourth (fifth, really) time was the charm. They had like ten of those fuckers on the shelf, and you're damn right we took our time picking out the perfect one. Of course we got home too late to even play, but who cares. We'd just gotten away with something, however minor in the grand scheme of things, and that's what counts when it comes to dealing with The Man. But you knew that, right?

Friday, October 3, 2008

In case you’re wondering, my blog is the shit

I was just perusing a fairly professional-looking sports blog written by (let's see) my wife's coworker's husband, who coincidentally is also my ex-conjoined sister (I find the wife's-coworker's-husband story easier to explain). The blog's OK, not good enough to name here, very Sports Guy rip-off-ish (territory I've admittedly come close to at times). And since the Sports Guy seems to have had his recent articles composed by those people who post on IMDB message boards (save for the Manny diatribe, which I think is strong and coherent if you discount a couple of (natch) forced A Few Good Men and The Usual Suspects references, and for the fact that he never called Boras out either, which really deflates his whole argument, which really devalues the article, which is now an oozing pile of turd-flavored pixels) I don't think this is much of a compliment anymore.

Anyway, sis is a Sox fan who either gets paid to write the thing or has crazy amounts of free time. He wrote about the first win against the Angels the other night, at one point posting the Sox lineup and noting that it contained "no easy outs." Meanwhile, The Adulterer Jason Varitek is in the ninth spot where he belongs, swinging at every first pitch in the world and being reduced to sacrifice bunts—I hate bunting because making outs is the one thing batters are supposed to avoid, but I suppose it's better than the inevitable double plays. Still, the scumbag is such an easy out he's actually making outs on purpose. So this blogger's judgment on easy versus difficult outs is, at best, lame-brained. (And in case you think I'm being overly critical based on one written opinion, a few weeks ago he posted multiple times about replacements for Tom Brady, and one of them was entitled "Bring in Daunte Culpepper. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD BRING IN DAUNTE CULPEPPER!!" Emphasis his. Nitwit.)

Meanwhile, Manny is the most talented consistent offensive player the Sox have had since notorious asshole Ted Williams, and he gets run out of town for another white guy. New England's baseball priorities are misplaced since getting that 1918 shit off our backs. Before October 2004 everyone would have overlooked Manny's occasional ho-humness and pointed to his outrageous offensive output. That's what every true Sox fan did—the only ones complaining about lack of hustle and grit and gamer-ness were the casual fans who couldn't spell Youkilis (or Belichick, for that matter) and the exact same media types whom the Sports Guy properly (though not often enough by name) calls out in the article—"exact same" because they will never leave us alone until they are destroyed, and even when they do leave an outlet they just jump from one sinking ship (the Herald) to another (the Globe) like notable fucktard Tony Massarotti. ("Mazz." Really! Can we stop applying sporty-sounding nicknames to sportswriters? And can they stop calling each other by their last names like they're sporty teammates? Also, that link is purposely and hilariously transposed.)

As a baseball-related aside, I noticed baseball-reference.com changed the address for Youkilis's stats page from www.baseball-reference.com/y/youkike01.shtml to …youklke01.shtml, even though it defies the site's standard first-five-letters-of-last-name-followed-by-first-two-letters-of-first-name convention. Would they have made that change if he weren't Jewish? The pure version still works, for all you anti-Semites.