Monday, July 29, 2013

The 50 Greatest Sega CD Games of All-Time! (PART ONE: #050-to-#041)

A Five-Part Series Counting Down the Greatest Games the Sega CD Had to Offer!

Hey You! Looking for the Previous Installments in this Series?

PART ONE, counting down games #050 to #041, can be found right here.
PART TWO, counting down games #040 to #031, can be found right here.
PART THREE, counting down games #030 to #021, can be found right here.
PART FOUR, counting down games #020 to #011, can be found right here.
PART FIVE, counting down games #010 to #01, can be found right here

For what it’s worth the Sega CD (known as the Mega CD in Europe) might just be the single most underrated console in the history of video gaming. Considered a proverbial laughingstock by gamers that have hardly spent any time at all with the system, the Sega CD was actually a pretty damn good little console, stocked with plenty of killer console exclusives, graphically and musically superior special editions of 16-bit classics, and even a couple of standout genre offerings that, sadly, have become outmoded in today’s all-too-familiar virtual world. Come on, you know you miss side scrolling shoot ‘em ups and digital comic books as much as I do…

After tackling a list of the best the Sega Dreamcast had to offer, I thought long and hard about which console I wanted to focus on for my next countdown. Seeing as how the unsung, unheralded Sega CD generally gets about as much recognition and praise as gonorrhea, I figured the criminally underappreciated console was absolutely perfect the “Top 50” treatment. For those of you that had the honor of owning and playing through some of these classic games (many of which remain under-the-radar gems to this day), consider this a fond recollection and celebration of what once was, and for all of you young whipper snappers that equate the console with “pure fail?” Something tells me that’s a tune you’re going to change in a hurry after seeing everything you’ve missed out on.

As for the criteria for the list, I was pretty lax and subjective. Ever the jingoistic American that I am, I decided that only games that were given North American releases, while the Sega CD was still in production, should qualify as candidates, so no obscure-ass Japan-only SHMUPs or home-brew RPGs some dude made in his basement in 2008 are in contention here.

As always, the opinions expressed herein are solely my own, and your list would surely differ. That said, whose ready to take things to THE NEXT LEVEL?

Sewer Shark

You know, nobody in their right mind is ever going to consider “Sewer Shark” to be a good game, by any stretch of the imagination. Hell, considering the ultra-simplistic game play involved with the experience, there are sure to be scores of folks out there that don’t think “Sewer Shark” is meaty enough as interactive experience to even be considered a “video game” in the first place. That said, “Sewer Shark” remains an iconic title that, for better or worse, has become emblematic of what the Sega CD was all about, and no countdown of the console’s 50 best games would be complete without it’s presence.

I guess the best way to describe “Sewer Shark” is “Top Gun” meets “C.H.U.D.” with a healthy bit of “Weekend at Bernie’s” thrown in for good measure. In the full motion video (FMV) offering -- which, eventually, came bundled with the Sega CD itself -- you take control of this really grainy looking, cyber-punk style amphibious vehicle and blast your way through some very skuzzy, brown and grey environments while a higher-up barks directional commands at you. So, yeah, it’s basically nothing more than a glorified game of “Simon Says” at certain junctures, but that’s not to say that there isn’t a modicum of fun to be had, either.

As a fairly primitive first person shooter, however, it’s actually somewhat competent, and the game’s quirky humor and B-movie “plot” is strangely endearing. Of course, it’s not a very challenging game (at all), and even novice gamers could probably blow through the experience in about an hour, but just for the sheer absurdity and nostalgia of it all, it’s probably worthy of at least one play through. That, and the credits on this one are just crazy. I mean, how could you possibly resist a game that features music from that one dude from Devo, special effects by the guys that made “Critters” and features the guy that voiced Harvey Bullock on the ‘90s Batman cartoon as the central villain?

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Eye of the Beholder

A lot of people consider the Westwood Associates developed “Eye of the Beholder” to be one of the greatest RPGs on the Sega CD…you know, like that’s such a deep pool to be swimming in to begin with. While it’s certainly a solid game, with some neat music and decent graphics, I don’t think it’s necessarily the be-all, end-all role-playing magnum opus some make it out to be. Even so, it’s still an undeniably fun game, and one of the better dungeon-crawlers to be found during the timeframe.

One area that most certainly is not up for debate is the greatness of the game’s soundtrack. With a downright thumping, techno-esque score by video game legend Yuzo Koshiro, there’s no doubt that you will be bobbing your head while slaying orcs and looting dungeons for gold pieces. If for the music alone, it’s certainly a better iteration of the game than the Super Nintendo iteration, which was handled by Capcom (and if you were wondering, Sega itself was responsible for handling this port right here.)

The graphics are actually quite good, and the gameplay -- although a little repetitive -- is also fine-tuned and deeply satisfying. Of course, there are some downsides; the story is formulaic, there’s not a whole lot of character customization options and the big kicker, the inherent clumsiness of playing a point and click adventure with a directional pad. Even so, it’s a really enjoyable  game, and a title well worth playing if you are a hardcore AD&D junkie. And hey, did I mention how awesome that music was?

Ecco: The Tides of Time

I have never, nor do I ever plan on becoming, a huge fan of the “Ecco” series, but in some ways, I suppose you could call the “Free Willy”-inspired franchise something of a guilty pleasure. While “The Tides of Time” is mostly just a rehash of the original “Ecco the Dolphin” -- hell, most of the same graphics and sound effects are recycled here -- the game remains largely entertaining, and some of the new gameplay features are…gasp…actually sort of cool.

The controls in “Tides of Time” are more or less identical to the controls in the first game, so experienced Ecco enthusiasts ought to have no troubles at all getting their fins wet with this one. Similarly, the game employed the very same metrics (the health bar and the air meter, most significantly) from “Ecco the Dolphin,” and as an added bonus, you actually begin this game with two of the most powerful upgrades from the original already mapped to your repertoire. And if that wasn’t enough, the game includes an oblique nod to the beloved “Altered Beast” series, with a new game play mechanism in place that sees your eponymous porpoise transforming into a variety of sea creatures, including jellyfish, seagulls and even a freaking shark (which, unofficially, makes this the best “Jaws” game ever by default.)

As far as some of the other “tweaks,” however, I’m still not a very big fan. For one, I HATED those 2.5D vertically-swimming (as opposed to vertically-scrolling levels,) which were sort of like the ring challenges in the much, much detested “Superman 64.” And the less said about those stupid escort missions, I assure you, the better. Alas, even with those sidesteps taken into consideration, “Tides of Time” isn’t a bad game, and that funky soundtrack -- think, a cross between DJ Shadow, Yanni and Tangerine Dream -- clearly makes this one a much superior title than the comparably dry and sandy Genesis version.

Bill Walsh College Football CD

“Bill Walsh College Football ‘95,” as we all know, is one of the absolute best football games of the 16-bit era. While this Sega CD re-do of the first “Bill Walsh” game isn’t quite as awesome as it’s Genesis successor, there’s no denying that this collegiate pigskin sim is a thoroughly fun title -- especially since the audio capabilities of the hardware actually allow for REAL school fight songs and not just those cruddy MIDI files were used to with most 16-bit sports games.

The gameplay, for what its’ worth, is identical to the Genesis version, and the graphics really aren’t all that improved from the cartridge-based game, either. That said, it’s still an immersive, enjoyable football sim with a ton of teams to choose from and some very robust playbooks -- considering this game came out in 1993, I think oust modern gamers would be utterly shocked by the wide array of options the title offers you.

That said, there are still quite a bit of peculiarities on display. For one, one, some of the official team names aren’t included, so if you want to have a throw down between Ohio State and Notre Dame, you’ll just have to suffice for a “Columbus” vs. “South Bend” match-up instead. And considering that the Genesis was capable of providing fairly respectable play-by-play audio, there’s really NO excuse for this game to lack running commentary. Everything considered, though, “Bill Walsh” is still a really enjoyable little sports game, however, and it’s far and away the best American football title to be found on the console.

Chuck Rock II: Son of Chuck

If you got around as a platforming fan in the early 1990s, you probably stumbled upon “Chuck Rock” on the SNES or Genesis. By and large, it was a fairly forgettable, albeit harmless little hop and bopper - - well, unless you get really offended by games in which your primary attack looks hilariously like an overweight caveman thrusting his junk up against enemies like or something.

On the surface, “Chuck Rock II” bares an uncanny resemblance -- both graphically and conceptually -- to the “Bonk” series on the Turbo-Grafx 16. That said, “Chuck Rock II” is actually a pretty enjoyable, if not derivative platformer with lots of neat environmental effects, vivid visuals, and even a couple of entertaining and unique boss fights.

The music in the title may fluctuate from just OK to irritatingly saccharine, but the sound effects are actually really good. The animation is nice, and the overall graphical quality is much better here than it is on the Genesis or Super Nintendo versions. It’s a pretty short affair (most gamers could blast through it in an hour or so), but that’s not to say there aren’t a few challenging sections here and there. “Sonic CD,” this one may not be, but as a standalone platformer, it’s actually one of the more enjoyable offerings to be found on the console.

FIFA International Soccer

Admittedly, this game would probably be ranked a whole lot higher if it weren’t for the existence of a certain other footy game, which, SPOILER, ranks very, VERY high on this countdown. Even so, there is a lot to like about Electronic Arts’ soccer sim, beginning with the impressive (for its time, at least) audio.

Known as “FIFA International Soccer Championship Edition” in the PAL region, this version is more or less a highly polished version of the Genesis release “FIFA International Soccer” (hence, the namesake, I suppose.) As with cartridge-based game, you get tons of game play options here, and with it, a wealth of teams to select -- which, in turn, provides an almost endless array of roster tweaks and substitution possibilities. Of course, the big selling point here is the greatly improved audio. You may not think that something as simple as real crowd noises would improve the overall quality of a game, but trust me: the awesome audio atmospherics here -- complete with soccer chants and the occasional bull horn blurt -- make the game infinitely more engaging and riveting.

The only real downside to the game -- and it may be a backbreaker for some -- are the game’s lengthy load times. Granted, it may not take as long as some first-wave PSP games to boot up, but if you’re itching to hop right into the pitch, you may be turned off considerably by the waiting time. Overall, though, “FIFA” is a really enjoyable soccer title, and if you’re a hardcore footy fanatic with an operational Sega CD in your possession, it’s definitely a must-own.

WWF Rage in the Cage

As far as I know, “Rage in the Cage” is the only pro wrestling game released on the Sega CD. While it’s not necessarily a grappling classic on par with the “Fire Pro” series offerings of the timeframe, it really isn’t a bad little title considering its own merits, either.

Granted, the game is more or less a slightly refurbished version of “Royal Rumble,” a popular 16-bit WWF-branded game on the SNES and Genesis -- which, admittedly, was a pretty good little grappler by its own right. That said, there are a lot of neat tweaks to the already-solid game engine including the inclusion of mid-90s ‘rasslers like The Headhunters and Kamala, who -- and I could be wrong here -- never made any additional appearances in officially licensed WWF games throughout the decade. Add to the mix several “exclusive” game modes, including a pretty fun steel cage option and a “brawl” mode that allows you to fight dirty as a mofo sans referee repercussions, and you wind up with a pretty respectable little title that, at the time, featured more playable characters than any other wrestling game out there.

Of course, there were some anomalies at play, however. For one, even though the game included several tag teams, the game, inexplicably, lacked a tag team mode, and even though the title contained some full motion wrestling clips -- with in-ring audio introductions by Howard Finkel, no less -- the game utilized chip tune versions of the wrestlers’ iconic theme songs. That’s right, folks -- for whatever reason, LJN decided to use MIDI music for its CD-based software!

Keio Flying Squadron 

Imagine, if you will, a 2D version of “Panzer Dragoon Orta,” only developed by Treasure and incorporating some of the zaniest, bullet-hell gameplay this side of “Cho Aniki.” What sounds like an LSD trip mixed with a stomachache is actually one of the system’s greatest unsung SHMUPS -- a wild, wooly side-scrolling shooter with tremendous music, intense action and some really, really annoying and overlong FMV sequences. But, uh, the less said about those, the better, I suppose.

Essentially, “Keio Flying Squadron” is your standard side scrolling shoot ‘em up, only instead of piloting your tried-and-true space ship, you’re actually a semi-naked rabbit woman piloting a Plucky Duck look-a-like that can launch fireballs out its armpits. And instead of merely blasting away at your generic aeronautic foes, this one has you duking it out with absolutely MASSIVE, exquisitely detailed and animated foes -- among them, a gigantic wooden tank, a squirrel carrying a giant acorn with an elephant demon inside it (with a dude wearing a fish suit riding atop its head) and a gargantuan flying contraption made out of dozens of tanks with an American flag on it. Oh shit, did things just get all sorts of political up in here all of a sudden?

Clearly, “Keio” is a beautiful looking game, with rich animation and downright gorgeous sprites. The levels look crisp and vibrant, and the character design is utterly astounding (just wait until you get to the boss fight with the giant kitten headed automaton!) The problem is that it’s just too short a game (probably less than an hour in length for most players) and, at times, the boss fights do tend to drag on longer than they should. If this game were a little longer -- and a little bit more diverse -- it surely would’ve ranked even higher on this countdown. Even so, it’s a really fun SHMUP, and one of the console’s many, MANY unheralded gems.

Wolfchild CD

“Wolfchild,” an Amiga original that was eventually ported over to the much, much more popular 16-bit consoles, was a game that was overlooked by most Genesis and Super Nintendo owners. In hindsight, while it wasn’t necessarily the best action game of the time frame, there’s no denying that “Wolfchild,” as a whole, was really enjoyable. If you ever wondered what would happen if you put  “Altered Beast,” “Mega Man X” and “Contra III” in a blender and hit puree…well, Wolfchild isn’t the best possible result of turning the switch, but it ain’t too shabby a mixture, regardless.

Following your requisite horribly animated opening cut scene, the game plops you down straight into the middle of the action, with your lion-haired avatar shooting his way through a futuristic enemy airbase. From there, you’ll be jumping and shooting your way through all the standard locales, including jungles occupied by Predator-esque, uh, predators and the obligatory underground laboratory (patrolled by giant wasps, of course.) Clearly, “Wolfchild” borrows heavily from a lot of series, including “Contra,” “Metroid,” “Mega Man” and even a little bit of “Sonic,” and when I say the game apes “Altered Beast” HARD, I mean it: not only does the game utilize a same “grab the orb to power-up” gimmick that the infamous Genesis pack-in utilized, I am almost 100 percent certain that the developers of this game used the exact same howling sound effect that Sega utilized!

There are a lot of negatives working against the game, however; the graphics are really underwhelming, the sound is a little warbled and it’s pretty short (I managed to blow through the game, on my first play through, in less than an hour.) That said, it’s fun while it lasts, and it’s simplistic, unrefined mechanics make it a game anyone can easily hop into and enjoy. An all-time classic the game may not be, but for a boring afternoon, you could do worlds worse than “Wolfchild CD.”

Wonder Dog 

Developed by Core Design, “Wonder Dog” was one of the very first games to be released on the Sega CD. In many ways a standard platformer, the game stood out due to its crisp graphics (with super detailed sprites and fluid animations that were years ahead of what the Genesis and SNES was capable of doing) and its unique combination of speedy and exploration-based game play. Think of it as a combination of “Sonic the Hedgehog” and “Kid Chameleon”…just not as good as either, of course.

One of the things I really dug about the game was its backgrounds. While most platformers of the time frame relied on the usual dull and drab color schemes, the landscapes in “Wonder Dog” were actually quite varied, and some even utilized some neat scaling effects that really wouldn’t become the norm in 2D platformers until the emergence of the PS1 and Saturn.

Clearly, the game suffers from repetitive level structures (the backgrounds, as diverse as they are, don’t hide the fact that the actual stage infrastructure is basically the same throughout), and the formulaic boss fights -- which entail your character going toe to toe with huge sprites, including a Sasquatch-like monster and a Goliath-sized Elmer Fudd knockoff -- get pretty irritating after awhile. Even so, the game as a whole is quite enjoyable, and as the stages progress, the title takes on more of a puzzler-esque vibe, with levels that are a whole lot more varied and complex. “Super Mario World,” it ain’t, but if you’re looking for a straight-forward platformer with vibrant visuals and solid gameplay, “Wonder Dog” is one of the more fine-tuned options to be found on the console.

It's still our hearts.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

What Will the NFL Look Like in 2050?

International Expansion, Perpetual Realignment and Even a Name Change to the Sport May Be Inevitable as the National Football League Marches into the Not-Too-Distant Future…

It’s fun to think about the future. I mean, just how much different can the world be in 50 years, with all of that newfangled technology and geopolitical factors that we can’t even dream up at the moment?

Speculative fiction is a popular hobby for a reason, as apparent by the popularity of sci-fi junk like “Star Trek” and “Doctor Who” and the peculiarly high number of YouTube videos out there featuring armchair generals “mapping out” how they think World War 3 could feasibly play itself out. And while it’s fun to think of the not too distant future in terms of nuclear explosions and robotic concubines, it’s probably even more fun to wonder about the more banal aspects of our contemporary existences and how they may change radically over the next three decades.

Case in point: have you ever wondered what the National Football League may look like 37 years down the road?

Clearly, a lot can change in such a timeframe. Just take a look at what the National Football League resembled  in 1976: 28 teams, an eight-team playoff format, and the Oakland Raiders were actually good. And for you visual learners: this is what the NFL used to look like, compared to what it looks like now. Just a wee bit of difference, no?

With the 2013-2014 season nigh approaching, I decided to prognosticate the near future of the National Football League myself. What potential expansion teams, and rule changes, and realignment scenarios might take place between now and 2050? After gazing into the crystal ball and picking tea leaves out of the cup, this is the prophetic vision that assailed me...

2014 -- With their lease up at the Oakland Coliseum, the Raiders sign a 10 year lease agreement with the San Francisco 49ers to play eight home games a year at Levi’s Stadium. As part of the relocation, the team officially changes its name to the Santa Clara Raiders. The Raiders remain in the AFC West.

2015 -- Unable to reach new stadium deals, both the San Diego Chargers and the St. Louis Rams agree in principle to a joint lease agreement at Farmers Field in Los Angeles. Both teams, officially rechristened as the Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams, respectively, will begin play in 2017. The two teams will remain in their respective conferences -- the AFC West, and the NFC West.

2016 -- Super Bowl L ends in grand fashion, with the Cinderella Santa Clara Raiders defeating the highly-favored Atlanta Falcons 26-20 in the first ever Super Bowl that requires overtime play. Raiders CB Charles Woodson is named MVP, after he picks off Matt Ryan at the Falcons’ own five and returns the INT 95 yards for the game winner.

2018 -- Tim Tebow, third string quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, makes history by becoming the first openly gay NFL player.

2019 -- The National Football League announces its first two international teams when the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars, unable to secure new stadium deals, relocate to Toronto and London, respectively. The London Jaguars will play at a renovated Wembley Stadium (with the NFL footing half of the renovation bill) while the ex-Bills, now rechristened as the Toronto Canadians, agree to play five seasons at the Rogers Centre while an all new stadium is constructed in Brantford, Ontario (which opens in 2023.) Ironically, the Canadian Football League counters by relocating the Toronto Argonauts to Orchard Park, New York the following season.

2020 -- The NFL announces two expansion teams; the Mexico City Aztecas (who play at Aztec Stadium) and the Google-owned Dublin Shamrocks (whose home field is Croke Park.) Both teams begin play in 2022. With 34 teams, the league announces plans to realign its conferences, with 17 teams in the American Football Conference and 17 in the National Football Conference.

2021 -- Unable to secure a feasible plan to finance a new stadium, the New Orleans Saints reach an agreement to relocate to San Antonio for the 2022 season. The team, now known as the San Antonio Saints, will remain in the NFC South. The same year, the first Super Bowl played on non-U.S. soil takes place in London, where the Los Angeles Rams blow out the New York Jets 44-9.

2022 -- The Miami Dolphins, under new ownership from a consortium of Cuban and Puerto Ricans business leaders, change their nickname to the Miami Delfines. As a result, the Delfines split their home schedule between four games in southern Florida and two games a piece in Havana and San Juan. Meanwhile, mounting political pressure results in the Washington Redskins changing their official team nickname to the Washington Federals -- a sardonic nod to not only the city's former USFL squad, but a sly ode to the teams' primary financier, Federal Express.

2023 -- The first Super Bowl featuring a non-American team, the Mexico City Aztecas, takes place in Glendale, Arizona, with the Dallas Cowboys eking out a 34-31 victory in a game considered by many to be among the most thrilling ever played.

2025 -- The National Football League announces several sweeping organizational changes, beginning with its name; to better permeate international markets and avoid confusion with that “other football,” the NFL officially changes its name to the International Gridiron Association (called INGRA, colloquially.) The “new” association also announces two more expansion teams, the Scottish Knights (who play 6 games a year at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium and 2 at Glasgow’s Celtic Park) and the Guadalajara Guerreros (playing at a renovated Jalisco Stadium, financed by the team’s majority owner, Telmex.) With 36 teams in the league, INGRA announces a major overhaul of its’ conferences and divisions, fully abandoning the terms “American Football Conference” and “National Football Conference” in favor of the geographically-realigned “Atlantic Gridiron Conference” and the “Pacific Gridiron Conference.”

2026 -- The Los Angeles Chargers officially change their name to the Los Angeles Cargadores, a symbolic gesture for a city with the highest population of Hispanic residents in the United States. Meanwhile, financial difficulties force the Microsoft-owned Seattle Seahawks to sell the team to Hong Kong venture capitalists, who relocate the team to British Columbia, where the team is rechristened as the Vancouver Totems.

2027 -- The Mexico City Aztecas become the first non U.S.-based team to win a Super Bowl, defeating the New England Patriots 27-14. The Aztecas go on to become the league’s preeminent squad, winning three out of the next five Super Bowls.

2028 -- Amidst the greatest recession in a quarter century, several INGRA teams fall into complete disarray. Facing dual bankruptcy, long-term rivals the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals decide to merge into a single team, the Ohio Barons, who play six home games a year at Ohio Stadium in Columbus (the other two home games are split between Cleveland and Cincinnati venues.) Also facing financial ruin, the Kansas City Chiefs sign a joint agreement with a consortium to split the team’s home games, four stands a piece, at venues in Kansas City and St. Louis (who have been without a team for almost two decades.) The “new” team is simply re-dubbed the “Missouri Chiefs.”

2029 -- Two expansion teams enter the league; the Rhine Panzers, who play at Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund, Germany, and the Cascadia Novas, an interstate team that splits its home games between venues in Seattle and Portland. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dissolve into an all new franchise, the North Florida Sharks, who splits its home games between venues in Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville.

2030 -- For the first time ever, two non-U.S. teams face off in the Super Bowl, with the Mexico City Aztecas defeating the Dublin Shamrocks 26-13 in Los Angeles.

2032 -- The Tennessee Titans become a dual-site team, splitting its home games four a piece at sites in Nashville and Memphis. Meanwhile, the Arizona Cardinals become a multi-state, regional team that plays its home games in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and Albuquerque. The new team is rebranded as the Southwestern Cardinals.

2033 -- A new scoring system is implemented, with field goals being worth one point for every ten yards out. Philadelphia Eagles kicker Pat Solitano, Jr. breaks the league record the same season for longest field goal, netting his squad the first ever “eight-point” shot when he dinks an 83 yard FG in a game against the Washington Federals.

2034 -- The Midwest, now a bustling industrial mecca propped up by new technological firms (the “New Silicon Valley”, its nickname becomes) gets two expansion teams: the Nebraska Aeros (owned by Berkshire Hathaway, who play four games a piece at sites in Omaha and Lincoln) and the Exxon-owned Oklahoma City Twisters. The Carolina Panthers, facing insolvency, are bought out by IBM and relocated to the Richmond, Virginia area. The team is now known as the “Virginia Crusaders.”

2035 -- With 40 teams in the league after the Monterrey Gladiadores begin play, INGRA announces an all new conference realignment, with 10 divisions of four geographic rivals apiece:

2036 -- The official playoff format expands to 16 teams, with no first round byes (similar to the playoff brackets used in the NHL and NBA today.)

2037 -- Following a cataclysmic hurricane that leaves Southern Florida in ruins, the Miami Delfines officially relocate to Orlando. They maintain the Delfines nickname, while the North Florida Sharks permanently relocate to Jacksonville.

2038 -- The Tennessee Titans relocate to St. Petersburg, Florida, where they become known as the Tampa Bay Titans.

2040 -- The New York Jets move into Manhattan Stadium, which has been in construction for 20 years. Meanwhile, the New York Giants relocate to Brooklyn, playing games at the most expensive stadium ever constructed, The Shawn Carter Dome. Both teams retain their respective “New York” monikers and nicknames.

2042 -- The long-roaming Southwestern Cardinals find a permanent home in Austin, Texas (now the fifth largest city in the nation) and change their team nickname to the Rattlers. Meanwhile, the first “Corporate Team” is established when Wal-Mart Co. (annual revenue: $6.3 trillion) purchases the Missouri Chiefs and relocates the franchise to Bentonville, Arkansas. Following a lengthy antitrust case, INGRA manages to “buy back” the squad, who remains in the Bentonville area under the name the Midwestern Hammers.

2044 -- The Rhine Panzers become the first European team to win a Super Bowl, defeating the Green Bay Packers 67-6 in the most lopsided Big Game victory ever.

2045 -- In an attempt to gauge further international interest, the first Super Bowl in Asia is held in Shanghai. The move inadvertently starts a new tradition, with international cities vying for the Super Bowl the same way cities vie for the Olympics in the modern era. The league’s championship game, as a result, is held in venues in Pakistan, Nigeria, Russia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (now known as Konystan and one of the world’s ten richest nations) over the remainder of the decade.

2047 -- The highly touted “Intergalactic Bowl” -- an exhibition game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears, held on a U.S. lunar base -- is cancelled when league officials realize its impossible for QBs to throw spirals in the vacuum of space.

2048 -- The Detroit Lions relocate to Ann Arbor, Michigan, officially changing their name to the Michigan Lions.

2049 -- The Official Championship Game is renamed “The Goodell Bowl,” with the Lombardi Trophy rechristened as “The Belichick Cup.”

2050 -- Expansion teams in Riyadh, Doha, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Mumbai and Karachi play their first seasons. With 48 teams in the league, INGRA redraws its conferences, with six divisions of four teams in each. The season concludes rather anticlimactically, however, with the Green Bay Packers besting the Oklahoma City Twisters in match-up that sees the league's two smallest-markets compete for the global championship...

Monday, July 22, 2013

The 2013 Atlanta Street Food Festival!

We came. We Saw. We got Indigestion, Real, Real Bad.

Nobody really thinks of Atlanta as a haven for world-class foods -- unless, of course, you have a hankering for orange drinks and chili dogs or waffles promoted by former Motown divas

While no on is ever going to take a gander at the ATL's burgers and pizza joints and say they trump the eateries of NYC, Paris or Chicago, that's not to say there aren't a few hidden gems in the area. And wouldn't you know it, a lot of those gems just so happen to rest atop diesel-fueled vans. 

If you don't know what a "food truck" is, congratulations on the view from your ivory tower. To the uninitiated elites out there, food trucks -- similarly referred to as food vans or food mobiles or any other permutation of food and "motor vehicle" you can think of -- are giant motorized vessels that come equipped with full kitchens. Generally, the proprietors of such businesses just park their colossal restaurants-on-wheels at opportune sites -- like, say, a construction site around lunchtime -- and the scratch-making, it doth instigate. 

Apparently, such enterprises are so lucrative in the ATL that a yearly competition is held to determine which food mobile hawks the best short-order items. And if you ever wondered whether or not such ventures could be profitable, buddy, you ought to have been at this year's festivities.

The 2013 Atlanta Street Food Festival was held this year at Piedmont Park -- basically, Atlanta's equivalent of Central Park, only with way less zoo animals and way more shady areas that provide both ample and facile mugging opportunities. 

For those of you that don't know much about Atlanta, it's usually pretty hot in the summer. This season, however, it's been raining more or less every day in July, and as such, the event was a rather chilly affair. With that in mind, I'd say both competitors and patrons lucked out considerably in '13 -- imagine helming a deep friar when it's 103 degrees, or having to swat mosquitoes the size of USB drives while stuck in line behind two 400 pound dudes in tanktops, and you'll realize just how much the Gods were smiling upon us that afternoon. 

The set-up was pretty simple; the food trucks in competition set up their vehicles, and patrons ambled on up to their order menus, plopped down their monies, and got a full-sized meal -- either sheathed in aluminum foil or dropped in a greasy fry basket, of course. 

There were about two dozen or so trucks in competition, with several small tents offering designer Popsicles and Aquafina for two dollars a pop dotting the landscape. As far as patrons, there had to have been a couple of thousand in attendance this year. No matter which truck you went to, it was pretty much guaranteed that you'd have to spend at least half an hour in line to collect your comestibles. Thankfully, a majority of the denizens at Piedmont that Saturday evening remembered to apply their Speed Stick, so it seemed (and smelled.) 

Clearly, I didn't have enough time to try everything on display, but I did get my hands on quite a large assortments of street food inventory. Here's a quick rundown of what I ingested, and what all of you none-ATLiens missed out on: 

Viet-Nomie's Food Truck!

Sadly, I don't think I've ever tried Vietnamese food before, so clearly, this Viet-Nomie's vessel was destined to be my first stop of the day.

For those of you unfamiliar with my dietary ways, I'm something of a disenchanted vegetarian, so I was certainly pleased to see so many tofu-based alternatives on display. Eventually, I decided on the Banh Mi To Fu, which was more or less a hoagie with tofu, thinly sliced pickle strands and a whole lot of spiciness.

The sandwich itself was very filling -- imagine the best Subway item you've ever had, and topping it off with the most delicious sweet chili sauce you could possibly envision, and yeah, you've pretty much got the Banh Mi To Fu starring you in the face.

The bread itself had this really unusual cheesy taste to it -- unexpected, but utterly delicious, so I'd consider it a very, very pleasant surprise. The guys marinated the tofu in a rich ginger sauce, and as such, the faux meat gelled incredibly well with the pepper chunks. Really adding a kick to the sandwich were the pickle slices -- those white thingies below that kind of look like onion strands. They had a really sweet taste, which complimented the tofu itself quite nicely.

In all, it was a freaking scrumptious little meal, and reason enough to forgive the Viet Cong for any wrongdoings they perpetrated on U.S. soldiers back in the 1960s and 1970s (and as an American, I thusly apologize for all of the "Missing in Action" films to all the Vietnamese readers out there... except for part 3, which was actually kinda' awesome.)

Masala Fresh Indian Street Food!

I've tried Indian food quite a few times before, and I have been very, very impressed by the offerings I've encountered in the metro Atlanta area thus far. So when I spotted this little food wagon, you just KNOW I had to give its offerings a look-see (and also, an eat-see.)

The Masala Fresh truck had a pretty interesting set-up. Basically, what they asked you to do was go down a flowchart of sorts, picking out certain toppings If you've ever been to Chipotle's before, it's kind of like that, I suppose. I decided on a rice bowl as opposed to a naan wrap, but what do you know, when I received my "rice bowl," it looked an awful lot like a naan wrap. Because it was one. 

What you're looking at here is Masala's paneer naan insanely delicious, burrito-like offering filled with rice, soft cheese chunks and a very, very yummy sauce that's one part curry, and one part jalapeno. 

Granted, the wrap may look like an exploded Sloppy Joe (or, uh, worse), but the dish was actually ridiculously tasty. Making the meal even better was the inclusion of a very unique tasting mango-pickle side sauce -- a remarkable paste that's an amalgamation of tropical fruit, vinegar and habanero juice. Long story short, this stuff was freaking tremendous, and you really, really ought to try it if you're in the metro-Atlanta region. 

Great American Cookies!

While the Great American Cookies truck may not have had the overall oomph that some of the other food wagons had that day in Atlanta, it did have one MAJOR advantage over the competition: namely, the fact that the lines outside the mobile eatery were WAY shorter than all the others.

This M&M cookie Double Doosie more or less speaks for itself. It's basically a giant Oreo, only the black stuff is two huge-assed M&M cookies, and instead of a smattering of white creme, you get approximately nine pounds of it clumped betwixt the two baked goods. 

Needless to say, the double-cookie treat was quite the delectable snack, resulting in an immediate sugar rush that, two weeks later, I think I am just now beginning to come down from. These things, I suppose it goes without saying, are dangerous...dangerous, and friggin' delicious

The Bubble Tea Truck!

So, after cramming two spicy ethnic foods down my gullet and washing it down with 16 ounces of fluffy sugar, I found myself fairly parched. Now, I could've just ambled over to a vendor and bought a Coke Zero, but that sort of defeats the purpose of attending a street food festival, don't it?

I'm not really sure what "bubble tea" is, precisely, but if you ever want some non-traditional drank in the ATL, it's probably in your best interests to flag down The Bubble Tea Truck if you ever see it drag racing a MARTA bus or something. 

Of all of the truck's specialty beverages -- teas and coffees and a whole bunch of other stuff that was probably too warm to drink even on a balmy Atlanta summer eve -- I settled on this, a blueberry smoothie. As you would fully expect, this Grimace-hued fruit shake was really quite tasty -- and man, was it fun to poke that giant straw through the plastic wrap protecting the top of the cup like a drink condom! 

Tex's Tacos!

All day long, Tex's Tacos had the longest line of any vendor, so it probably shouldn't come as much of a surprise when they were awarded the coveted "best of show" award at the end of the day. I know...I was literally filling out my order for a taco when the announcement was made over the park's PA system. 

The menu was really diverse, with quesadillas, nacho plates and, of course, taco offerings galore. They even specialize in these things called "pastor-style" tacos, which contain chunks of pineapple and chipotle sauce. Granted, I would've bought about half a dozen of said "pastor" tacos had I read the signage in its entirety, but can't argue with a decent veggie soft shell, either, can you?

And this, amigos, is the best of the best when it comes to Atlanta street food. White cheese, guacamole, grilled vegetables and a warm tortilla -- simple, sleek, and incredibly nuanced in flavor, it truly is one of the best Tex-Mex offerings I've had in quite some time. Of course, I didn't get the honor and privilege to try out everything at the festival, but if there was anything on display that could match this -- well, let's just say, my estomago would've been filled beyond the point of maximum capacity, surely. 

Pamplona has the Running of the Bulls, Gloucester has its annual cheese-rolling festival and Atlanta...well, they used to have Freaknik, but to be honest, I think I'd much rather prefer that our noble city be known for THIS annual gala instead. 

Metro-Atlanta foodies really have no excuse to not attend this event, and if you're a hardcore-enough fast-food aficionado, it's perhaps worth the 200 or 300 mile trek from some of Georgia's neighboring states. The lines may be long, and the mosquitoes may be out in droves, and the bathrooms may be disproportionately distributed throughout the park, but really -- it's tons of awesome, original foodstuffs, a summer afternoon in the sun and an opportunity to chuck down icing-glued cookies while holding a grape-flavored milkshake in your adjacent paw. 

If I have to tell you this thing is awesome, you've already failed on so many levels, ami

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Five Types of Girls You COULD Date in College

No matter your luck in the game of amore, here's a quick countdown of the five, stereotypical collegiate dames even the lousiest Lothario on campus might have a shot at

A while back, I penned an article for this blog titled "The Five Types of Girls You Date in College." It was about, well, the five types of girls you date in college, I suppose. Alas, the five types of females I listed in that article aren't your sole options as a college go-getter, of course. As a matter of fact, no matter which school you go to -- be it a state university, a community junior college or a pyramid scheme endorsed by Master P -- there's no doubt going to be a sizable pool of, ahem, "widely available" campus women that even the dorkiest and most socially inept fellow has at last a halfway decent chance of hooking up with.

With a new semester right around the corner, I decided to highlight some of the less celebrated date alternatives out there for the nation's incoming frosh. For the uninitiated, the dateless, and the socially averse that are beginning college this fall? Here are the five types of females that just might be your co-ed saving graces... 

The Super Nerdy, Considerably Overweight and Overtly Flirtatious Girl That's Always Outside the Library

Why yes, she would LOVE to go to dinner. Several of them, actually. Tonight. 
College isn't an easy time for most girls, especially if you're not one of those plastic-mold, purple-nail-polish sporting, blonde-pony-tailed, perennially yoga-pants-clad sorority girls with a crippling albeit expertly veiled eating disorder that consumes every moment of your waking life. Simply put, bigger girls just don't get the respect and attention they deserve, and if you're a college lad looking for anybody to date, this is probably you're most reliable wide-out. And yes, I know the term "wide-out" can be construed as a cruel fat joke, and I don't care, to be honest. 

You've seen this girl before, no doubt. In fact, you've probably talked to her/ignored what's she said a few times in the past. Generally, she likes to hang out around the vicinity of the campus library, where she's busy chatting it up with anyone willing to listen to her. Periodically, she'll drag a few fingers across her laptop (no doubt speckled with "Hello Kitty" stickers or something else equally infantile) and if she catches your eye, she just HAS to strike up a conversation with you. 

As far as date material goes, this is a proverbial gift from the gods. Usually a social isolate, she'd probably go out with anybody as long as they don't carry a bloody axe in their backseat. And hell, if she's in a particular dry spell, she probably doesn't even mind the occasional gore-encrusted farm implement, as long as you're willing to hold her hand at some point in the evening. She's almost 100 percent unlikely to turn you down, she might actually have a few interesting things to say while you're out, and as we all know by now, she's roughly 1,000,000 times likelier to put out than the average co-ed. Of course, your dining expenses may exceed the National norms here, but I reckon there's enough fringe benefits to make up for it. 

The Hot-to-Trot, Considerably-Well-Past-Middle-Aged Hyper-Sexual Wannabe Cougar That's Taking Nothing But Remedial Classes
"Mmm, you're cuter than my fifth husband. Who I'm still legally married to, by the way."
It's one of the questions that have plagued college men for eons: "how old is too old?" Well most of us posit "double our own age, plus 5" as a Golden Standard, some folks will strive for whatever they can get. And if you're an especially adventurous type, with looser norms than a Belgian nightjohn, this co-ed here might be just the thing you're looking for.

It's somewhat hard to gauge her age. She looks 40, maybe even in her early 50s, but she could potentially be a 30 year old that's turned herself into beef jerky with self-tanning spray. That said, she will always have the following characteristics: a.) she will be about as intellectual as a tree stump, b.) she will ALWAYS reek of cigarette smoke and knock-off Victoria's Secret perfume and c.) she will make her sexual adventuring known to the public to such a degree that most world class advertising firms would be envious of her self-marketing skills. 

The big positive here, of course, is that as long as you hold open at least one door for her and pay for at least six of her drinks, you're almost assuredly "getting some." The downsides, however, are both severe and multitudinous, including, but not limited to: dealing with her oldest child, who is roughly the same age you are, a possibly psychotic and highly vindictive ex-husband, boyfriend or pimp, and of course, the ultimate deal-breaker: the inherent danger of plunging one's self into a half-century old woman, whose lady-parts may or may not be a miniature CDC collection of sexually transmitted infections. 

The Insanely Quiet-Yet-Always-Twitchy Emo-Goth-Wiccan Girl That May or May Not Be Schizophrenic 
She's not like other girls. Other girls tend to blink their eyes every now and then, right?
There's this thing out there called a "manic pixie dream girl." I could give you a long-winded history lesson on what the hell that is, exactly, but to save us the time and effort, it's Zoey Deschanel. Well, in this particular scenario, what we're eyeing is something of an inverted manic pixie dream girl -- a supper depressive, pseudo-Victorian nightmare co-ed, to some extent. She's pale, she's ridiculously solemn, and she's the kind of girl you just KNOW cuts herself and bleeds all over her diary because it causes the native spirits to do some shit you don't care about. Clearly, this is NOT the kind of girl you'd typically bring home to mom (or acknowledge to anyone else), but dab-nabbit, there's just something about her you can't resist.

You'll probably find her sitting alone, starring off into space in the cafeteria and looking nervously as she attempts to eat a tuna-melt sandwich in front of everyone. If you have a class with her, she will almost certainly gravitate towards the back of the room, where she goes out of her way to shield herself from the rest of humanity. So coy, so silent, so afraid. You just want to hug her, and tell her everything's going to be all right and that you'll whisk her away to a magical, Tim Burton netherworld where everything sounds like The Cure. Well, you would, if not for the fact that all of that stuff you just said are all things you detest with a mighty passion.

Despite her stand-offish disposition, Lydia Deetz here is actually more than likely YEARNING for social interaction quite badly on the inside, so if you woo her enough with your knowledge of "Invader Zim" and "The Crow," you might just be able to score a night at the movies with her, to watch something no doubt wretched and stupid, like "ParaNoman" or "9." Whether or not she's girlfriend material, of course, is a case-by-case issue. My two cents? As long as she doesn't want to do a "sacred blood ritual" with you on the first date or introduce you to one of her split personalities, I say give it a second chance. Especially if one of her split personalities is sorta' slutty.

The Only Male-to-Female Transsexual on Campus
You already have so many things in the same set of genitalia!
The last frontier, in many, many ways. Granted, we live in some fairly liberal times, but I'm not so sure most date-starved college boys are eager for a night out so badly that they're willing to sorta' switch teams for an evening. But, if you're the kinda' fella that don't mine dabbling in the unknown (or if you've ever gotten wood while watching those episodes of "Maury" with drag queen contests) there may actually be quite a few benefits to dating the token campus tranny.

For one, trannies know where the parties are, so if you want to live it up on the dance floor or get sloshed like crazy, these are excellent candidates for dates. Second, trannies are almost always surrounded by non-tranny women, so if you're lucky, you might get what we in the industry call "run-off skank." And lastly, it makes you look open-minded, what with your publicized bi-curiosity and all, and for some reason, that seems to get most chicks really hot.

The big moral quandary here, of course, is how far do you go with her? I mean, if you have a really good time with her, and you're just a little tipsy, and her make-up looks really good and she wants a goodnight smooch, does having one quick, mostly innocent spit-swapping session with a transgendered general education major make you, eegad, one of those kinds of people? Honestly, these are the sort of personal dilemmas that I believe are best decided on the individual level. That said, if anything happens below the waist, the answer -- to whatever question you're thinking about -- is a succinct "yes" in bold lettering. With sparkles.

The Pseudo-Hippie Sexual Libertine That's Literally Made Out with Everyone at School
Seen here, making out with your best friend literally five minutes after you leave the room.
Some girls you just know are trouble, and by trouble, I mean "sluts," but apparently, you're not allowed to use that term to describe people anymore, because it's insensitive or something. How dare we judge people by their individual actions these days, after all! That said, at some point in your life, you're probably going to develop a peculiar attraction to at least one extraordinarily trashy femme fatale, and your college years are probably the most opportune time to meet such a nice assortment of them.

The pros here are rather obvious; if she's a mega hippie skank, she'll probably take you up on your date offer. Buy her some french fries, get her a pitcher or two and possibly buy her a pack of Pyramid Cigarettes, and if you don't know what the grooves of her tongue feel like around your bicuspids by the end of evening, you're basically found a way to throw a rock at the ground and miss.    In terms of output in accordance to effort, the net results hardly get anymore facile than this.

As for the downsides? Hoo, boy. Have you ever gotten into a fistfight at a pub because your girl was playing tongue rugby with some guy over at the pool table who bought her a free round of Schlitz in the split second when you were checking hockey scores on your phone? Or how about punched in the face because you wouldn't spend your last five dollars on a handful of those mini-liquor bottles they sometimes sell in value bins at Wal-Mart? Or received a text message at 2 in the morning reading "LOL, Get YR Junk CheKed, Srsly, tho?" These, my friends, are the high costs of a supposedly "free-lunch," after all...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

American Media versus Middle America

Just why does Hollywood hate rural consumers -- and their preferred entertainment brands -- so much?

Paula Deen, the Savannah, Georgia native whose love of deep fried, calorie-loaded cuisine made her a cable TV Leviathan, is the latest victim in a media purge of any and all Red state icons from popular culture. For those of you that have been living underneath a boulder all summer, Deen confessed to dropping the “N” bomb several decades ago, and since she may or may not have wanted to stage something of a minstrel show at her brother's wedding, she was immediately sacrificed on the altar of contemporary political correctness -- a considerable amount of fat to burn as an offering to the (non-gender or race-specified) P.C. Gods, no doubt.

Say what you will about Deen’s alleged statements (and, uh, the shit she actually fessed up to), but it’s hard to deny that her brutal public assassination by the media’s sharpest shooters isn’t indicative of a widespread cultural pogrom against mass media figures that are a.) lucrative, b.) beloved by rural (especially Southern rural) individuals and c.), of course, Anglo-Saxon European in culture, heritage and outward appearance.

The barons of popular media aren’t just celebrating Deen’s downfall like the denizens of a Super Bowl winning city, they’re revealing in her career suicide like Scrooge McDuck showering himself with golden coins. The elimination of Paula Deen from “the mainstream” is another moral win for the elitist, coastal media cartel -- a consortium of hyper-liberal, hyper-P.C. and hyper-snotty social guardians that have no problems making moolah off rural citizens but would rather commit hari-kari before giving them any bona-fide political and social representation in the public spotlight.

It’s a clear paradox; the New York-Hollywood media connection absolutely detests everything rural America -- especially rural southern America -- stands for. They hate their right-wing political views (automatically deemed oppressive, homophobic, misogynistic and racist, of course), they hate their religious beliefs, they hate their attachment to family (and those loathsome, prejudiced “family values” tied with it) and they hate, much more than anything, the fact that they actually HAVE money and can contribute considerable amounts of revenue into their pop culture constructions (which, clearly, most southerners choose not to.)

If you gauged what rural America was based on popular culture, it appears to be a social wasteland, filled with toothless, rebel-flag waving homophobes and subservient, still-marginalized African-Americans, united only by an admixture of charismatic Christianity, regional kitsch, folksy patois and of course, horrifically unhealthy foodstuffs. In some ways, the public eradication of Paula Deen is something of a symbolic destruction of the cultural systems that the coastal P.C. police consider the main obstructive pillars separating southern folk from assimilation into Camp Democrat. If only the whites and blacks would give up that crazy old time religion, and give up the fried food, and give up the ass-backwards lingo, and start reading Vogue and Newsweek, than maybe, we could civilize those folks into the kinds of consumers we want ‘em to be.

As opposed to other reputable news sources, of course.

The problem here is multi-pointed. First and foremost, the cultural aggressors are apparently unaware that the southland, that worthless stretch of real estate stretching from Virginia all the way to Texas, is not only the most heavily populated region of the country, it’s also…gaspthe wealthiest, being home to approximately one-tenth of the world's Fortune 500 companies.

Looking at the household income of several Southern metropolises, such as Atlanta, Austin and Charlotte, it’s quite apparent that all of us poor honkies and black folk are in reality quite a bit richer than most of the high-and-mighty denizens of Liberaltopias such as Philadelphia and Santa Barbara. The fact that cultural integration -- i.e., the levels of people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds living, commingling, schooling, working and marrying together -- is oftentimes higher in the south than elsewhere is also an inconvenient reality that is all but ignored by contemporary, coastal media. Seems to me that the media complex doesn’t WANT to acknowledge the southlands’ impressive progressivism in terms of race relations and economics, because…well, shit, I just reckon they want some racial holdover around to kick up whenever an uncomplicated answer is needed to complex social problems. “Well, uh, we can explain complicated cultural matters today because…a long, long time ago…there was racial bigotry in the South!” The past indiscretions of Dixie, it seems, is a cultural security blanket the mainstream media never intends on relinquishing -- all the while ignoring  the north's history of racial persecution and contemporary discrimination, of course.

The real rift between the rural South and the coastal media cartel is simply a matter of marketing, however. You see, the left-coast media-makers have a firm idea of what it is that American consumers want -- Tom Hanks movies, gangster rap, TV shows about New York hipsters ala “Friends” and “Seinfeld.” The thing is, people in rural America just don’t give a shit about the stuff the mass media complex keeps telling them they should like, and have instead embraced their own pop culture machinery. Country music is a format that exists entirely outside the domain of contemporary pop culture, a form of music that lives in an apartheid state completely detached from everything else in the industry; and unlike niche genres like death metal and techno, people actually BUY country music, making it, effectively, the most popular genre in the U.S. Of course, you never saw Garth Brooks on MTV, nor did you see the Oak Ridge Boys play at the Grammys -- the record companies are certainly willing to make a cheap buck of acts that cater to rural tastes, but they will be goddamned before they give them a prominent spot in the public eye.

Back in the late 70s and early 80s, movies catering to southern viewers -- stuff like “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Cannonball Run” -- were huge moneymakers for studios, but of course, the makers of such films were ashamed. Not because the films were of a low quality and pandering to rural demographics, but because the movies actually MADE money and people that otherwise had no interest in Hollywood productions actually opened their wallets to see them. Movies geared towards southern audiences today are limited to the occasional “Tyler Perry” movie, with southern viewers of all racial delineations having no interest in Hollywood claptrap like “The Devil’s Knot” -- a film that typifies Hollywood’s almost infantile inability to view southerners as actual human beings as opposed to intellectually-stunted, slow-talking space aliens.

They have beards, therefore, they have to be racists. Clearly.

But really, it’s TV where the rift between Hollywood and Dollywood shows itself the most. Far and away, television is the go-to media format for older southerners. They almost never go to the cinema, they don’t buy music and they’re Internet use is highly limited. Therefore, they watch a TON of TV. Now, since such a huge audience of rural folks (with sizable disposable incomes, at that) are watching television, you would THINK that the coastal conglomerates would try to cater to the format-dedicated audience. While Hollywood tries to sell general America on “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones,” middle America is watching what it’s always enjoyed; trashy daytime talk shows, pro wrestling, Country Music Television, SEC football, “American Idol” and the granddaddy of all old-shame, regional programming favorites, “Cops.” And even when programs of the like net huge ratings for networks -- as the “Blue Collar Comedy” flicks did for Comedy Central -- the same networks try to shy away from what puts money in their own wallets and invest more airtime in “civilized” programming that rural citizens have no interest in subjecting themselves to. This wholly explains why David Cross is allotted money for commercial failure after failure, while proven box office draws like Larry the Cable Guy, despite consistent media success, are considered persona non grata in the entertainment complex.

Strangely, the reality TV boom of the 2000s gave rural citizens its two most prominent slices of pop culture exposure -- “Duck Dynasty” and “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” In a way, both programs are reactionary to the glut of high-society, elitist pop-crap like “The Hills” and “Laguna Beach” -- insight into the phony, plastic-wrap world of make believe debutantes and vapid high-society snobs that has about as much appeal to southerners as an all Canadian Stanley Cup Final.

The truly weird thing that happened with both programs is that, while they were clearly designed as passive aggressive swipes at regional anti-intellectualism, they actually CONNECTED with rural viewers. The misadventures of an obese, energy-drink chugging fourth-grader and the probably-scripted anti-adventures of a bunch of bearded capitalists pretending to be general store stock dunderheads had much more allure to regional viewers than, say, something like “Dexter” or  “The Wire,” if only for the fact that “Honey Boo Boo” and “Duck Dynasty” had an air of sincerity to them. In a way, the southern folks KNOW they are being pandered to with such programs, and they appreciate the honesty with the greatest civic endorsement of them all -- hitting the record button on their DVRs.

Of course, the success of the two aforementioned programs has led to a dearth of pale imitators, all trying to capitalize on the unexpected popularity of  “Dynasty” and “Boo Boo.” The coastal conglomerates MISTOOK viewers’ appreciation of the genuine representation of southern culture as the primary catalyst for the shows’ success, and instead thought that such shows were popular because viewers had a cruel, Schadenfreude streak in them that enjoyed miring in stupidity, aimlessness and the culture of rural poverty. In a recession-rocked world, THEY thought that shows of the like were ways for distressed suburbanites to vicariously pretend to be careless white trash, to fantasize about not having duties, obligations or that precarious feeling of elitist stature. And from that, enter shows about parolees and pit bulls, people that pretend to raid storage sheds for a living and quite possibly the nadir of the entire movement, “Buckwild,” a pseudo-reality program about Darwin Awards-baiting teenagers in West Virginia that incurred an untimely series finale after its star attraction was killed in a bizarre  accident that in no way, shape or form looked like the desperate act of a suicidal youth trying to escape his social confines and unwanted media attention. Tears a plenty were shed by Viacom that day…not because their reluctant lead actor was dead, but because he died BEFORE they could catch him on tape saying something politically incorrect. Suicide in Hollywood is cool, remember, just as long as you don’t commit career suicide first.

And so, Hollywood’s bizarre “white trash exploitation” fad -- a movement in which media producers shamelessly trot out stereotypical product after product and attempt to feign shame when such productions are more lucrative than their “higher brow” offerings -- looks like it’ll be chugging along for quite awhile. Methinks as the trend continues, perhaps the media producers can take their offerings to the next logical step, and utterly embrace the low-budget, hedonistic lifestyles of Southern miscreants. Coming this fall to AMC, it’s “Crankin’ Y’all!” an all-new semi-reality series about small-time meth dealers in Mississippi with third grade educations, whose dialects consist primarily of grunts and racial slur variations. Finally, a show that lifts the veil on a culture the Hollywood elitists so desperately want to exist, a veritable smorgasbord of Caucasoid idiocy and social backwardness! Mullets and illegal firearms and pitiable religiosity and of course, all the blatant, self-righteous condemnation of impoverished racists you can shake a burning cross at!

Meanwhile, the executive suits at A&E and TLC wait anxiously, twiddling their thumbs and praying to the gods they don’t believe in that Honey Boo Boo gets caught dropping an ethnic epithet in front of a TMZ camera crew, because as we all know, the ignorant parroting of a child living in paucity is a far, far greater social ill than a bunch of ravenous adults following around children with the intent of wrecking their social livelihoods. Oh, the joy producers must feel cherishing the thought of one of the “Duck Dynasty” members being recorded saying something homophobic or anti-Semitic! Never mind the squandered revenue, in this day and age, the scent of a burnt cash cow is more desirable than milking a pitiful, rural-icon for millions in annual profits.

Let’s face it; these hyper-P.C., Red-state haters aren’t going to be content until Dixieland burns down for a second time