There are three types of people in this world: ones with a nice ass, ones with a huge ass, and ones with no ass at all. Only this last kind should be wearing belts. Those of the second kind clearly should not be wearing belts because to be effective they would have to tighten them somewhere around the armpit or risk a muffin top that can kill at thirty paces. The gorgeous people already look fantastic in jeans and skirts and shorts that no one else can wear so must they really claim the belt as well? They can afford to leave some wardrobe scraps for the less fortunate. I admit I am one of the assless and prefer to stick to the timeless standby of the knotted rope but have in the past few years added a variant, knotted vinyl tubing, for the reason that it is waterproof and more elastic. And working around fish tanks with a boss who remarked pointedly that I should stop yanking my pants up, there seemed no other recourse. But enough about my pants coming off, let’s talk about your pants coming off. Prurient, I know, but we’re all adults here and hopefully at least one of us has a nice ass.

Belt loops (yes, indeed, they are not carabiner loops you slobbering, stutter-brained hipsters!) are an inspired invention that a lady at a club once attempted to use to get me to dance which despite her being very attractive resulted in one ripped pair of slacks, one red-faced girl and a whole lot of unnecessary sniggering from nearby patrons. Nevertheless they require some skill to manage as the tail of the belt will never make it to the second loop and will instead flop around giving the impression that you are more interested in her than is actually the case when in fact you are only mildly embarrassed and wishing you could change into sweatpants. Any efforts to remedy this by losing weight, gaining weight, buying new clothes, or learning to sew, will avail you nothing as can be seen by a direct application of Murphy’s Law to your pants followed by a palm to your face. Duct tape here, as always, is your best friend. A quality leather belt with duct tape might seem a bit tacky so I recommend making the entire belt out of duct tape and saving 90 bucks. Or just taping the waistband directly to your crotch. I cannot imagine any negative consequences to such an action. The alternative is wood staples which are fine for formal gatherings so long as you don’t intend on removing your clothing for a few days. Keep in mind this is how World War I started.

Taking a belt off is just as important as putting it on. Careful, systematic removal interspersed with sighs will not do. You’ll want to rip it from your body in one motion and hurl it into the closet all with the dramatic style of Charleton Heston parting the Red Sea. If you can’t get it the first time, don’t be discouraged; practice makes perfect. Remember, you’re compensating for a humiliating lack of gluteal muscles. When done correctly, any witnessing party will be alternately grasping their sides in wonder and using both hands to stifle spontaneous cheering.

I want to close on a serious note. Asslessness affects millions of people: from sufferers and their disappointed lovers, to dented chairs. To combat this devastating condition we need to be supportive: more supportive than standing next to someone and holding their pockets while they make a call. We all know someone who is suffering silently and if we can create a safe, loving environment they will someday have the courage to say to you, “My name is Frank, and I have no ass.” On that day I hope that you will open your heart and your arms and present them with a belt of their very own.

I’m a comic book fan and a musical fan. When the Spider-Man musical was announced, I couldn’t help but get excited. As all the bad press accumulated, I knew that there was no way the show could surpass my expectations. Yet, there was no way I could miss the show either. In writing this review, I was torn between evaluating the musical as a fanboy and as a typical musical audience member. Although the fanboy may begin immediately cynical, I thought it was a much-needed perspective, perhaps to balance out the mainstream media’s theatrical bias.

First, let me address how stupid I think the title is. I guess it speaks to the blackout that New York City faces through the second act, but it is counterintuitive and not in a “makes you think” kind of way. In fact, there wasn’t much to think about in the musical. It’s another origin story, slightly modified. For non-comic book fans, I suppose that Spider-man’s origin story is the only one worth telling.

There were several glaring character omissions. Since this is a retcon of sorts, I don’t mind director Julie Taymor leaving out Harry Osborn altogether, though his friendship with Peter Parker is rife with dramatic conflict. In fact, I would have actually preferred for more villains to be left out of the musical altogether. But I suppose that having Green Goblin, a newly created Arachne, and an entire Sinister Six does allow for suffficiently pagentry that Lion King alumna Taymore needed. Yet the inclusion of her version of the “Sinister Six” was problematic for me. Sure, the Sinister Six’s line up is fluid, characters drop in and out all the time. However, there was no reason that Taymor had to create an awful new villain Swiss Miss, a garish silver transvestite reminiscent of Silver Samurai, especially when Mysterio and Doctor Octopus are the very definitions of theatricality. Mysterio is a special effects artists obsessed with illusion! The chorus even acknowledges that Swiss Miss was made up on the spot.

How can you leave this guy out of a Spider-Man musical?

Speaking of the chorus, yes, there is a Greek chorus, renamed the Geek chorus. They serve the dual function of narrating and interacting with the characters from time to time, existing partly within the production and outside of it at once. I thought this was a nice touch. The major draw of the musical is the high-flying trapeze that occurs over the orchestra seating. Hence, I probably had one of the best seats in the house, front row on the balcony. There were enough times that Spider-Man swung up to the platform next to me before running into the exit in the back. Though impressive the first time, it quickly gets old and I stopped appreciating the complexity of the wire flying. In any other dramatic production, it would be the climax, done to great effect. In Turn Off the Dark, it simply got boring. In terms of special effects, I would’ve loved to see more web effects or even some exploding pumpkin bombs. Otherwise put, the Spider-Man musical has nothing much else to offer except the web-swinging and once you’ve seen it, you’ve got little incentive to see anything else.

Now as a musical, songs are typically critical to the performance. I judge my initial impressions on whether I leave the show with a tune on my brain. Maybe I’m just not a fan of rock musicals, but Bono and The Edge should stay out of theater. Many of the songs fizzled, and there were more than a few cringe-worthy lyrics. Perhaps I prefer showtunes for my musical shows; I’m just old-fashioned like that. But rock operas can be done to great effect, as in Rent. Since the songs were nothing special, the performances were also nothing spectacular. There was little opportunity to showcase the talent, with the exception of Arachne, played by T.V. Carpio who has some scene-stealing numbers. Patrick Page, performing as The Green Goblin also added some dramatic flair.

I think my biggest complaint was the lack of comedy or wit. There weren’t enough one-line zingers delivered by Spidey. A song consisting of Spider-Man teasing his opponents would’ve been a perfect. It makes me question whether Taymor or Bono have sufficient exposure to Spider-Man. They sadly missed the essence of Peter Parker’s character and their portrayal is superficial at best. I wonder if writing a review would actually affect the show. People would see it no matter how bad it actually is. Even I went in expecting the worst. Given that we can get all the special effects Spider-Man from movies and other media, what should the musical vehicle offer? Aerial trapeze, check and overdone. But the music is such a big component of a musical that it needed to be the high note of the performance, and that was certainly lacking.

Ah, the almighty dodge roll. How many times have you saved my avatar’s sorry ass from annihilation? The dodge roll is such a vital action adventure game convention that playing a game without that function is oddly restricting. In fact, when I start a game without the ability to dodge roll, I instinctively think that it must be unlockable somehow. This weekend, I played indie 3-d action fighter Lugaru, a deceptively simple interface that is frustratingly hard. Sure enough, one of the first tasks in the tutorial was to learn how to dodge roll (and its equally valuable cousin, the handspring).

It makes sense that some sort of emergency evasive maneuver lends itself well to the genre, where fast reflexes often mean life or death for the player. In certain games, intelligence may not amount to much if you have the finger dexterity and timing down (I’m calling you out God of War). From Zelda to Castlevania, Metal Gear Solid to Kingdom Hearts, a fast roll to one side or the other exists in all these games. It is however, notably absent from games where the character is purposefully encumbered. I’m thinking Resident Evil, where many times I could’ve survived a zombie rush if only I could roll out of the way. Gamers pride ourselves on many things, amongst them is our reflexes. Among the things we’re not so proud of is our physical fitness level. Being able to translate our fast moving fingers to our slow moving bodies is cathartic to say the least.

From a gamer’s perspective, I’m starting to worry how the prevalence of dodge rolls is affecting my real life. An FPS will never convince me to shoot innocent people. Grand Theft Auto doesn’t breed a disrespect for the law for me. My concern is how these nimble gymnasts in the form of video game characters are boosting my confidence in my own abilities. I can say that I walk across the street with heightened confidence that if a runaway car comes my way, I’ll be able to roll to safety. I wouldn’t be shocked if at the precise moment some on-screen prompt at the bottom of my field of vision would tell me precisely which button combination to press.

Acknowledging the importance of the dodge roll, I will also add some caveats for the incorporation of dodge rolls in games.

  1. A dodge roll should move the character at a faster rate than the regular movement. This is so essential as to be almost definitional of a dodge roll.
  2. A dodge roll should have an appropriate recovery period. In other words, characters should not be able to substitute rolling for running. That would be absurd.
  3. Aforementioned recovery should occur after completion of the maneuver. Dodge rolls should be instantaneousness at the press of a button.
  4. Dodge rolls should be unlimited. As mentioned before, it is so necessary that it should not be restricted in use.
  5. If the character does not start out with the dodge roll, it should earn the ability soon. Given it’s usefulness, I don’t want the reward of something so foundational so late in the game.
  6. Of course, all action adventure games must have a dodge roll (or evasive equivalent like handsprings, short-range teleportation, etc.).