Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Battle For Fatherhood Dominance, Part 2

It was dire my friends, dire. Looking at the board was like looking into your own demise. The Politician had control of 80% of the world, with only Africa and my little Australia untouched. No one had heeded my warnings and it happened the only way that it could have happened.

But I was still alive and spoiling for a fight. I talked to the Gamer. Let us put our differences aside my old adversary. Separately we are doomed but together perhaps we can change the course of this war. Turn and fight my friend, fight for everything you hold dear.

He would not. He was not convinced. It is often this way with the power hungry and delusional. The truth was there but he refused to see it. At that moment I could have wiped him off the face of the board and I considered it. But again, Risk is more than just tactics. It’s about people. And in that moment, I decided that the course of action that I would take was the only one that I could take. If you would not hear my words of peace, dear Gamer, if you slap away my hand of friendship, so be it. I will show you through my actions my commitment.

At that moment, I started the greatest march ever seen in the board game of Risk. 1000 feet with 1000 dreams marched. Victory or death, there were no other options. The ground shook, the heavens rumbled and the women quivered. If others lacked the courage, then so bit it. From Australia we marched. Through the steppes of the Mongol empire we marched, conquering as we went. Into India we slaughtered, up to the communist block we freed the people. We bypassed the Gamer. If he wanted to see what kind of men we were, then we would show him.

We made the leap to Greenland and pushed on. We swept over the land like the bubonic plague, crushing each hotspot of resistance offered by the Politician. We steamrolled through the East Coast and then exploded through the Midwest. We turned north and retook Alaska. We erected a monument to those fallen and then we turned our attention once again south. In the west coast we threw the invaders into the sea. My army was unstoppable. When the Politician rolled 5’s, we rolled 6. When he put up a barricade, we burst through it like a bloody spear. We could not be stopped.

We faced off with his South American Army, the main force of his empire. They could not avoid the onslaught brought to there doorstep. When it was all done, the Politicians army lay in tatters, strewn about on board like a strippers nurse’s outfit on buffet night. We had marched from one end of the map to the other. It was a march that would have made General Sherman proud. It made the blitzkrieg look like a Sunday stroll. The Politician was not defeated, but he was severely weakened I had effectively taken away every major army that surrounded the Gamer, giving him the only chance he would ever get, if only he would believe. If only he would have faith.

He did not. The politician is wily and has skills. To underestimate him is to sign your own death warrant. He rallied his troops and organized his reinforcements. He then took out his vengeance on the Gamer. Very calmly and methodically the Politician wiped the Gamer’s forces off the board like crumbs from a plate. The politician had erased the memory of every single player from the game, with one lonely exception. And now he turned his attention to that exception.

Like a scourge he came and like a badger I defended. I lost hope, I lost faith. In my moment of darkness I questioned if I should go on now or just open my torso to his bloody conquest. But I said before that the game of Risk is more than just about tactics. It’s about more than just strategy. I wanted to concede but the ghosts of the vanquished allies would not let me. Yes, the game is also about people and their memories.

“Fight on!” whispered Mr. Rogers. “Yes, to the end!” The Teacher said. “Anyone have anymore chips left?” The Hippie asked. I did not have any more chips. But I did have some fight left in me.

Wave after wave I defended. Again and again I gave ground but inflicted heavy casualties on the aggressors. Like the Spartans at the hot gates I drove back the Persian horde. And then the politician made a mistake. He split his forces. Sun Tzu, I know thee well. His split forces could not erase me from the map, although they tried. Now it was my turn. Opportunity, that fickle mistress, had arrived at my pad without any panties on. How could I refuse her?

I began my counter offensive. No mercy, no prisoners. We traded blows, punch for punch. Every move made, every move countered. Back and forth, each inflicting damage, each taking it and then asking for more. The Politician and I, locked in a bloody struggle for more than just the Risk game, this was the struggle of Fatherhood dominance.

But my army, fueled by the righteousness of our cause, rallied and would not be pushed back any further. Coordinated, we attacked everywhere at once impaling the dreams of the vanquished upon my pikes. The Politicians world grew smaller and smaller while mine grew larger and larger. The urging of my fellow players at the beginning, seeing them wiped out without mercy, my trying to convince the Gamer to join my cause, my heroic march across the board: all of it went through my mind. In the end there was blood and carnage. In the end there were screams and cries. In the end there was destruction and chaos. In the end, there was victory.

The Politician had been vanquished and my army stood alone upon the Risk board. Tired and hurt but united on the board of victory. 6 of us started and only 1 remained. It had been a long road. A road where friendships were tested and chips were eaten. Beers were consumed and wives went to bed. There will be other challenges and other challengers. The Teacher, The Hippie, Mr. Rogers, The Gamer, The Politician and myself all fought for ultimate control of a child’s board game. Just a board game and yet, something much much more.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Battle For Fatherhood Dominance, Part 1

They all should have listened to me, that much is clear. But they didn’t and most of their carcasses litter the battlefield with the buzzard’s getting the more juicy parts. Yes, they should have listened to me.

My strategy was as sound as as old as the game of Risk itself. Fortify Australia. One way in, one way out. My armies would die for me to the last man. Some called them fanatics, barbarians. Little plastic men with little plastic minds. I called them Legion. They would unleash hell and horror on the battlefield, driving my opponents ashes into the board game itself.

Mr. Rogers and the Hippie both tried to control N. America from the beginning, ignoring the rest of the board, forgetting about the power of Europe or the rich mines of Africa. Had the cold war taught them nothing over the last 50 years? Mutually assured destruction, making it easier for 3rd world terrorists to come in and take over our beloved country. The cry of “Wolverine” would be heard no more.

In Western and Easter Europe dwelt the Teacher, a newer member to be sure but did he hold some ancient wisdom? Perhaps. Perhaps not. If he did he would need all of his cunning if he was to fight off the attack coming from his south. The Gamer had set camp in all of Africa and his intentions were clear from the start: Go North to the rich bounty of armies that holding Europe commands.

I was not worried about any of these players. You could easily see the chaos that was about to erupt and the only thing that comes from chaos is the annihilation of all those who try to control it. They would blindly kill each other without seeing who the real enemy was even though it was close enough to peep in their windows as they got undressed. In South America the Politician roamed freely, unchallenged. His boarders heavily defended, it’s inner secrets heavily guarded. He was poised to launch multiple attacks in multiple directions. Burn and pillage his way through the game, becoming stronger with each captured territory. In my mind’s eye I could see the outcome, I could see each maneuver, each roll of the die. Eventually he would end up at my doorstep and I only had hope that my group of patriots could drive him back.

“Brothers!” I screamed. “Can you not see the threat poised directly to your south and west? The Great Satan has arisen and means to consume you all in fire and ash! Unite my brothers! Forget your petty squabbles! Unite and defend our freedom!” I say again, they did not listen to me.

With a lust for power and an all consuming greed for control, Mr. Rogers and the Hippie began their struggle for North America. Again and again they attacked, neither gaining an advantage but only proving that little plastic soldiers can die a hero’s death. 40 armies became 30. 30 became 20. 20 became a handful. They had decimated themselves, leaving only a token force in all of North America. The Hippie retreated to Alaska choosing that place to make his last stand while Mr. Rogers went to Japan and I offered him my protection. And the Politician? He waited. Silently.

In Europe, the teacher attempted in vain to hold off the advances of the Gamer coming up from the dark reaches of the Congo. Like a 16 year old zeroing in on a drunk cheerleader, he was relentless and a bit handsy.. The Gamer had a good home base and a nice little fatwa going in the subcontinent. But he had no objectives, no direction to point his force. Into Europe he would venture, then stop short of victory and pull his men back. Into Asia he went where my fantastic fanatics pushed him back. But he ignored the Politician, right next door and growing more powerful. And the Politician? He waited. Silently.

The Teacher was desperate and his forces were quickly diminishing. I offered him sanctuary in East Asia as well. I set a circle around The Teacher and Mr. Rogers giving them the protection at the level that they haven’t seen since their mother’s held them in her bosom. I did this not only because I am merciful and kind, but because I know that the board game of Risk is more than just strategy and tactics. It’s also about people and this was perhaps my secret knowledge that would, if used correctly, allow me to defeat the scourge in South America. With my blessing the Teacher and Mr. Rogers unleashed their minions back into Europe, trying to persuade by force where diplomacy had failed, that the Gamer should renounce his ways and attack the Politician immediately. In the meantime, I used the extra time bought to slowly grow my empire. And the Politician? He waited. Silently.

In the cold of the night, hidden in Alaska, the Hippie tried to replant his soldiers but it appeared futile, the ground could not be sown. Supplies were running low, moral was on the brink of mass suicide and desertions were common. The Kool-Aid was being prepared but they never even had the chance to drink it. A rumble in the south, a scream by the gate. The Politician was on the move. He was silent no more. Like an uncaring tidal wave crashing on the shores he consumed all before his path. Up through the Rio Grand Valley, into the heartland of America he swept virtually unopposed. Taking a detour to Greenland and then back into North America The Politician came, unstoppable until he reached the hot gates of Alaska and the Hippie. I wish I could say it was a valiant defense. I wish I could write of the bravery and sacrifice. I wish I could tell you of the Alamo like stand the Hippie made. But I cannot. It was over before the first breath screamed a warning. The Hippie was no more.

The Politician was not finished and would not be finished until all bowed to him on bended knee. Using the Bearing Straights he swept into Northern Asia and then south to confront Mr. Rogers. That lovable Mr. Rogers who just wants to make arts and crafts was being besieged and I could not help him. But his stand was valiant and he took many a men to the grave with him. But in the end, the force opposing him was just to strong. Mr. Rogers joined the Hippie in destruction and the prophecy was complete.

The Teacher was now being pushed on all sides. His Asian force went with a whimper but his Eastern Block army held there own for a little while until cold and hunger took them. He was eaten alive by the Gamer and by the Politician. Let his name be sung and put into ballads of old. He was in a better place now and the mortal world could no longer hold him.

To Be Continued.................

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Activity: Ariline History Museum

Location: 201 NW Lou Holland Dr
Kansas City, MO 64116-4223

(816) 421-3401


Hours and Rates: Monday through Sat, 10 to 4. Sunday 12 to 4.
8 for adult, 4 for 6-12, kids under 4 are free.

Ages: Any and all. It's plane's man, everyone loves planes.

Caution!: These planes still fly and do airshows. So before you go, give them a call to make sure you can see them.

I'll start the review this way: My 2 year old son was so excited that he cried.

Located in the downtown KC airport, the hanger that houses the planes and the museum sets the tone just right. The hanger is huge. I mean really huge. It's the type of huge that they use football field lengths to describe. And it has to be huge because that is where they house the planes.

The museum portion of the attraction is not bad either. Located on the inside of the hanger, it offers a glimpse into air travel over the last 60 years and provides a good chuckle. For example, in the 1940's, flight attendants could not be married and it was suggested that they have a degree in home economics. There are a lot of model aircraft as well as some actual 1970 style airplane seats. The kids loved these although I have no idea why. Wait until they are 30 then they will come to loathe them.

On display on the inside are numerous items that include flight books that you can flip through, china from airlines (they actually used glassware at one point) and other neat little oddities.

This sets you up for the big dog of the show: the planes.

They have three planes that you can see. A Super G Constellation, a Martin 404 and a Douglas DC-3. Now you may have no idea what these are so let me clarify. They are huge commercial planes from the last 50 years. Did I mention huge? Yes, huge. It just seems so different when you are right up next to them.

This is a little bit of a guided tour but most of the kids were in awe of the planes. When they weren't, remember that this is in a hanger so there is PLENTY of space to run. And what are they going to break, it's a plane man.

Not only do you get a chance to get up close and personal with the outside of the aircraft, you actually get to walk through 2 of them, all the way up to the cockpit. Now I know, who hasn't walked on a plane before? Well, this is a little different. First off, they are old. Nothing says old like nicotine stains from years and years of smokers on planes. When was the last time they even allowed this? Second, you'll be surprised what you will find in them. Some of the compartments had fold down beds that looked nicer than what I had in the dorm. Arranged in a bunkbed style and featuring great 1970 curtains, travel in style as you sleep away the miles. You also get to go to the "galley" where all the food was prepared. It's interesting to actually see this. FYI: the drink cart hasn't changed in 50 years. It's the same then as it is now.

But wait, we're not done. Also in the hanger they have an engine ripped apart that the tour guide shows you. How cool is that? You'll learn all the interesting facts from this tour. For example, one of these beasts guzzles 500 gallons of fuel an hour. Makes your Hummer look down right respectable doesn't it?

A couple of oddities that are also worth seeing here. They have the rocket ship from the old TWA building downtown. It's larger than I thought it would be. Also, when you get in the hanger, look up. They have a ceiling fan that is by far the biggest thing I have ever seen. Apparently if you crank that bad boy up to full speed you get a 4mph breeze going through the place.

So if you have an afternoon to kill and what to do something cool, this one is for you. Our kids loved it and the dads found enough interesting to ignore the kids at our leisure


Activity: Steam Boat Arabia Musuem

Location: 400 Grand Blvd, KC MO.


Hours and Rates: Open 7 days a week. M-S 10am until 5:30. Sunday: 12 pm to 5.
Adults: 12.50. Ages 4-12: 4.75. 3 and Under are Free

Ages: I would keep this for the older kids, atleast 5 years of age. However, if you have a kid in a stroller, that works just as well.

For those who are not familiar with this museum and what it is, let me explain. The Steam Boat Arbia was a steamship that sank in the Missouri River in the later half of the 1800's. The river then changed course and the ship was covered by dirt. Eventually some people dug it and that's how you got the museum. What makes this interesting though is that everything that was in the ship was intact and was basically a big time capsule.

I have seen a lot of well done musuems and exhibits in and around KC. This one though, has got to rank up there with one of the best. It's a huge building that appeared to be really well kept. The top floor is reserved for eating and shopping and this is where the tours begin. This is one of the reasons I wouldn't take toddlers to this. You have to be part of a tour, at least at the start. They do give you plenty of time to roam free but 20 minutes is spent listening to a tour guide. This is great if your kid can stay still and not distract you. Those aren't my kids though so I missed most of what our tour guide said.

However, shortly after the speeches you are allowed to roam through the exhibits and I think this is really the thing that sets this musuem apart. The exhibits are exceptionally well done. They have a recreated paddlewheel that is actually working on the old drive train of the boat. My son couldn't get enough of this. Other pieces of the boat are spread throughout the museum and are in really good condition. They put back together a back portion of the boat so you can actually see what it was like and it's really well done.

Most of the other exhibits are behind glass which was a great thing in our case. 3 year olds can tend to be a bit grabby and this prevented them from destroying anything and us getting banned. As you can see, the museum is not built for the younger crowd so I'm not sure how much they got out of it. Toddlers are big in to touching and learning and there wasn't much of that here. The dad's however thought it was great and loved to see everything that was pulled out of the boat.

Woodworking tools, nails, horse gear, sacks--you name it. It almost felt that if it existed in the 1800's then we had a chance to look at it. Guns, ammo, and tons of other stuff made this one of the more interesting exhibits that we have seen.

I do want to add this: the museum is superbly laid out with large spaces so even the kids that weren't able to really grasp any of this had plenty of room to move around without worrying about hitting anyone. As a parent, I always appreciate this.

Final call on this one: 12 bucks is a little high but in the end I thought it was worth the price. The exhibits are first rate and so is the building. The large spaces makes it manageable for younger children and the paddle wheel will distract just about anyone long enough for you to read a couple of plaques.