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What I’ve Been Doing 19 Sept 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Sep 19th, 2011 by Dan

Gears of War 3 - "Ashes to Ashes" trailer screenshots

"Shit"

It may look like I’m insulting Gears, but I’m really not. That’s legitimately the closest those guys come to eloquence most games. They’re fantastic games, but their stories are fundamentally idiotic.

Movies

Thor – I’m pretty sure that complaining about blatant product placement in a movie was last interesting five years ago, but I found the Southwest Airlines advertising in Thor to be too much. Did not like. The movie itself was cool, although Natalie Portman’s character had nothing to do but be a pretty damsel. Don’t get me wrong, she’s good at that, but I wouldn’t have minded her being more active (like Peggy in Captain America). Her portrayal of Jane was true to Thor: The Mighty Avenger, aside from her career, so at least there’s that. I hope she comes back for The Avengers (and that The Avengers is good).

Adaptation – Charlie Kaufman (of Being John Malkovich fame) really kind of cheats here in a movie screenplay that we’ve all just thought about handing in, but that is ultimately kind of lazy on a spectacular level. On the other hand, it’s not too much unlike the New Yorker articles it’s quasi-about where the writer is as much a part of the story as the story (in that Gonzo/New Journalism kind of way). Adaptation is postmodern and deconstructionalist and it works best when it’s not pointing out how obvious it is that Kaufman’s doing this (see the obnoxious callback to McKee and voiceover in its final voiceover), but it’s a clever movie that’s more interesting that it ever should be. If you’re really bored this can entertain you, but this movie about writing a movie strains interest. Perhaps if it was written a little better?

TV

Weeds – About two weeks too late I called that this season is all about Silas and Nancy and it became truly obvious now. It’s funny how the Botwin lines have been drawn since the Lars revelation last season. I can see trouble starting in a lot of directions for Nancy, so I wonder if the payoff this year will be worth it, because I’m not seeing it yet.

Top Gear – Didn’t finish the episode!

Archer – So funny this week! This three-episode mini got off to a great start. Can’t wait for the rest of it next week. The jokes about Rip Riley being a 1930s relic were absolutely hilarious.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – Yep, these guys are still the worst people in existence. Loved the closing scene with abandoning the prostitute in the hallway, even if it was shockingly terrible. I don’t think the “Mac gains 50 pounds” gag is working yet.

Parks and Recreation – Finished rewatching S3 with Min this week. So great! “Calzones are useless. No one likes them.”

Music

Even more Wild Flag – I think I’ve hit my threshold with obsessively listening to this new release. I’ve got tickets to see them in October, so I can’t wait.

Books

Collected Stories – Still no stories not obsessing with death. Still interesting in a surreal, well-written way. Still tough to read.

(THAR BE COMICS BELOW!)

Batwoman – Not sure if this was the best book of the week or Daredevil was, but it was certainly the prettiest. J. H. Williams III’s art was astounding. I’m so in for this new book.

Amazing Spider-Man – Still enjoying Spider-Island, even if this book was relatively mediocre. Stage 2 mutations begin!

Ultimate Comics Spider-ManThe new Spider-Man is Miles Morales. I really enjoyed this book and I can’t wait to see where this goes. It was surprisingly well done and unique from Peter Parker’s story.

Spider-Island: Herc – This book was terrible. What a waste of time. If you want a good Silver Age-style story, read Thor: The Mighty Avenger instead.

Spider-Island: Spider-Girl – Middling. When you’ve only got three issues, you can’t waste the first one because then your second and third will feel rushed. This felt kind of rushed.

Daredevil – Still the best book, all-around, that Marvel is putting out. Loved it and I loved the way that the sound villain was integrated with Daredevil’s sound “vision” for ludonarrative resonance. Great stuff.

Nedroid Read the first printed collection that Anthony Clark signed and sketched in. Super funny stuff. I love Nedroid.

Video Games

Team Fortress 2 – I’m up to 210 achievements in this. I think I’ve got 169 to go! Can’t believe how much I play this game nowadays, it’s so good! Loving the way that the new trading systems are integrated with Steam. It might even get me playing Spiral Knights at Min’s behest.

Gears of War 2 – Min and I beat it this weekend. As I said before, the story is idiotic while the gameplay is mostly solid. Hey game devs: the parts where you make us drive tanks or ride Reavers and stuff are stupid. Torque bow enemies are also assholes. Min and I spent an hour clearing this one room because we kept getting shot with arrows. Ian was also over on Saturday for a marathon session that was lots of fun. Can’t wait for Gears of War 3. I’ve always felt that I’d missed the boat with the releases so now I’ll get the chance to be “in it” for the co-op campaigns and maybe a little Horde/Beast multiplayer. Can’t wait for tomorrow!

What I’ve Been Doing 12 Sept 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Sep 12th, 2011 by Dan

Malin Akerman

I thought about posting a picture of Rob Corddry instead, but I think we'd all much rather see Malin Åkerman. (Image used courtesy of Gage Skidmore)

Movies

The Wrong Side of Town – Danielle’s parents were watching the tail end of this terrible wrestler movie. It was pretty awful, so I read a Batman comic instead of paying that much attention.

TV

Top Gear – Two of the guys bought used luxury sports cars for under £10k and they plan to follow up on how long it takes for the cars to break down and die. Funny stuff. I found James’ trip to America where he picked up a transvestite Cher impersonator to be in poor taste (as in they were using it for humor when they shouldn’t)

Top Gear (USA) – I thought I’d check this one out to see what it was like. While it’s not as funny as the original, it’s got a handle on what it’s supposed to be and its cast has a decent rapport with each other. You’d think, given how much they seem to love America in the show, they’d still use “Jessica” as their theme, but they don’t, much to their detriment.

Childrens Hospital – I thought that this show would be too silly for its own good. One of those Adult Swim shows that’s just not as funny as people make it out to be, but this was legitimately hilarious. I’m hooked! It also helps that I find Malin Åkerman (of Watchmen fame), Lake Bell, and Erinn Hayes to be quite good looking (especially Malin Åkerman). I think that I just missed Season 3, so I’ll have to wait for the DVDs on that, but so funny!

Parks and Recreation – Watched the beginning of S3 with Min since he hadn’t seen it. Brilliant show. Absolutely fantastic. Seriously, just skip Season 1 and start watching S2 onward. I find it tough to believe that you could not like it.

Archer – Watched the Zeppelin episode with Eric. All I can say is, “M as in Mancy.” So hilarious.

Music

Neon Indian – Their album was on First Listen this week. I think I only love “Polish Girl,” but the rest of the album is decent.

More WILD FLAG – Can’t wait for the album to drop tomorrow so I can start scrobbling many, many listens.

Books

Collected Stories – Read one where a beautiful woman lost control of her corporeal self, wanted to eat an orange, and decided that the best way to do it would be to inhabit a cat. By the time she decides to do it, 3000 years have passed and she’s screwed. It was kind of weird.

(Comic books from here down. I’ve linked reviews on Comic Vine where appropriate)

Morning Glories – This story is so cool. I really dig this book, just wish it came out more often. Patience is a virtue, right?

X-23 – I liked this book more than Eric, but it remains one of the better books out there. Good writing and solid art plus the FF and I’m there.

Irredeemable – The arc moves in a surprising direction as Kaiden, Gil, and Bette Noir make their return to the strip. The part where The Plutonian traps a bunch of male models in a pool by freezing the surface was chilling mostly because I harbor a fear of drowning.

Batgirl – Barbara Gordon is no longer handicapped! Pretty good book that has a literary depth that many aren’t seeing. I have no prior history with the character, so I dug it.

Action Comics – My first Grant Morrison book and my first Superman book (I’ve ever paid for). I think that (having read a trade of his and this issue) Grant Morrison is overhyped as a genius. His stories are good/solid and well-written compared to a lot of other stuff that’s released, but I’ve yet to be really shocked by anything he does. It all feels so by the book that it’s like he’s the best at writing something conventional. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it feels like he’s being safe. Where’s the iconoclast quality that I felt when I read Alan Moore’s early work? It’s unfair to dock the book for not being overly impressed with the writer’s legend, but it’s inseparable at this point. Good read nonetheless, even if it’s almost needlessly dense.

Swamp Thing – My favorite DC book of the week. Snyder did something neat here and I really dug it. The art was also fantastic.

Batwing – Racial politics of a white man empowering a black man aside, this was a good read. I didn’t care much for the art, but I’m interested to see where it goes. The DRC is a vastly more interesting setting to me than Gotham.

X-Men – Awful book. Bad writing. Bad art. No more X-Men for me, even if the FF are hanging around.

Static Shock – I wanted to like this one more than I did. It was a little confusing because they didn’t treat it as a reintroduction to the character. I’ll give it another issue.

Casanova: Avarita – The weirdest book I read and also the most artistically interesting. I like where this is going.

Animal Man – I’m totally loving the creepy horror of this title. I hope that it ties in with Swamp Thing well, as they’ve said it would. Combining the man who has animals at his fingertips with a man who has plants would be neat.

Spider-Island: The Avengers – A tremendously silly story about Frog Man saving the day from hilariously awful villains. Great jokes and lots of fun. Spider-Island is a great event.

Mystic – Mini-series about magic. It’s nothing I haven’t seen before, but I like the Disney-style art, so I’m game.

Moon Knight – Beautiful art, as always. I really love the way this book looks.

Video Games

Team Fortress 2 – One of these days I will get 10 sentry kills. Mark my words. Until then, at least this game is super fun to play.

Gears of War 2 – Played nine hours with Min. The shooting parts are so much fun, but the vehicle sections and the really weird non-shooty parts that they feel like they have to include are much less so. Still, a stellar game. Can’t wait for part three next week. Min and I still have to beat this one though.

EDIT: David correctly pointed out that I forgot:

Left 4 Dead 2 – Played a few rounds with David, Lee, and Min, including a run of my favorite map, Hard Rain. Love that game! Sad that the last map is next, but excited to play RE5.

Blame my omission on thinking about Malin Åkerman too much.

What I’ve Been Doing 05 Sept 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Sep 6th, 2011 by Dan

Wild Flag

Best NPR First Listen!

Movies

Tokyo Godfathers – I wrote at length about this movie here, but I just wanted to take a few words to say how truly fantastic it was. Great movie.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. – Tiffany and I were choosing between this and Our Idiot Brother (ostensibly because they were the only two “date” movies, but really because of my dual crushes on Emma Stone and Zooey Deschanel), but I think this would have been the better choice. Crazy, Stupid, Love. was sweet and funny. Only real downside was the C-plot being a little creepy. Easily the best romantic movie I saw this summer (Best comedy goes to Bridesmaids).

Super – James Gunn is a sick man, haha. The movie was middling to me, but it was much better at showing how sick and ridiculous everyone involved would have to be than Kick-Ass was, so I liked it more than that. Ever wanted to see an awkward sex scene/quasi rape of Rainn Wilson by Ellen Page? This movie’s got it and it’s just as off-putting as you’d think it would be. Ellen Page does a great job playing a quasi-psychopath in this. She’s fantastic.

TV

Weeds – I can’t believe I’ve missed what’s been in front of my face this whole time. The whole season has been about Silas and Nancy’s relationship with each other after he found out who his real father was. Things are really ramping up here.

Top Gear – What a fantastic show. Makes me think stupid things like that I want to buy a BMW, but it’s a lot of fun to watch. The segment where they tried to escape that Italian town was hilarious.

Dexter – Lent my mom Seasons 1 and 2 and ended up watching part of the first episode. Always neat to watch the pilot and see how the show has changed from its inception.

Better Off Ted – An adequate way to kill a half hour while I eat or need a break. The show wasn’t gonna break any funny records, but it’s better than some of what’s out there. Just no real place for it on ABC, I guess.

Retro Game Master – The affirmation section of The Wing of Madoola was really funny. This show is at its best when the Kacho is able to make all kinds of silly jokes. Also hilarious was the part where he called the game company to see if he could still win a raffle from the 1980s.

Music

WILD FLAG – NPR’s First Listen looks like might it’s still up. Go check it out. I listened to this disc all last week and loved it.

The Civil Wars – Really got into them last week. Joy’s voice is so sweet and John Paul harmonizes well with her. Delightful to listen to.

Jonathan Coulton – His new album, Artificial Heart, came out this week. Good times, good music. I really like “Dissolve”.

Books

Collected Stories – So far Márquez is obsessed with twins and death.

(Comics from here down)
Amazing Spider-Man – Spider-Island continues! Still lots of fun.

Spider-Island: Deadly Hands of Kung Fu – Felt just a little too stereotypically Asian for me. Good art, but the story was kind of boring.

Ultimate Comics Hawkeye – I can’t say I’m that interested in Hawkeye as a character, but Hickman’s writing remains really cool and the consequences on the Ultimate U are huge. To have the X-gene eliminated in all but one region is a tremendous tactical advantage. Wonder if it will stick.

Video Games

Bastion – I agree with most people, the Narrator is super awesome. This game is fun, but it couldn’t tear me away from TF2 and…

Star Wars: The Old Republic – Got in the beta. Can’t say anything else or I’d violate the NDA.

Team Fortress 2 – TF2 remains awesome. Playing with Dave and Lee this weekend was a lot of fun. Got a lot of new achievements, but Sentry Gunner continues to elude me. I will have it one day. Oh yeah, I also played with KENDRA. Killed her once too. She did not get me back…yet.

Dragon Age 2 – Still working on that second playthrough as a Templar supporter this time. Reminds me that I’ve gotta go back and fix my ME2 playthrough for ME3 in March.

What I’ve Been Doing 22 Aug 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Aug 22nd, 2011 by Dan

Music guitar

Music joins WIBD!

Well, “music” of a sort. I have a last.fm thing that is linked to my tumblr that you can use to see what I’ve been listening to, artist-wise. No, unless a new awesome album comes out, the point of this is to talk about audio programming I’ve been listening to.

Movies

Morning Glory – This one came off the girlfriend’s Netflix queue. I had some interest in seeing it myself, but I didn’t realize just how much of a chicklit movie it was. It’s not actually based on a chicklit book, but I still got that vibe. Really didn’t do it for me. Also: full bangs are terrible.

TV

Weeds – My favorite part about this show is how it gets Nancy into these ridiculously complicated and difficult situations so I can watch her try to extricate herself from them. Hard to imagine something worse than what she just got involved in!

The Hour – I haven’t finished the first episode, but a few thoughts. 1. The BBC tends to have a house style that makes everything look kind of same-y. I don’t really appreciate that. All the comedies have the same “look” and all the dramas have a different, but similar “look”. 2. Idris Elba and Dominic West are so entwined with The Wire in my head that it blows my mind every time I hear their native English accents. 3. America has its share of class-based struggles with rich and poor, but I feel like England still has it a lot worse with where you went to school and nobility.

Retro Game Master – This week’s game was a golf RPG, Battle Golfer Yui. The best part of the show was how the computer kept losing by making bad shots and giving up. Definitely one of the funnier episodes to date.

Music

All Songs Considered – As a response to the “Songs That Make You Cry” episode from not long ago, All Songs came back with “Songs That Make You Feel Good“. I’m not done yet, but the episode has had a great Stones song along with that catchy whistle tune by Peter Bjorn and John and Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over”. They should rename the episode “Songs That Make You Speed” because all of these are so fun and happy that it made me worry about tickets.

Books

One Hundred Years of Solitude – Read the beginning while waiting for my replacement car window. Seems cool. I like Melquiades and I can vaguely see some of the connections between this and Mother 3.

Collected Stories – Finished that other short story. It was an interesting look at an identical twin whose brother died. He felt like he was choking on the smell of formaldehyde and mused as to whether his dead brother was dragging him toward death too or he was dragging him toward life. Kind of interesting. We’ll see if the rest of Márquez’ stories are as obsessed with death.

Ultimate Fallout – (the rest of these are comics) The mini-series ended with this issue. Set up some neat plot points to go from in the future. I like how much Fallout is differentiating itself from the 616 continuity. Can’t wait for the new stuff to start this week.

Spider-Girl – Very action-y with not a lot of substance, but that’s cool with me. It was fun. Good to see female characters around.

Venom – Supposed to be really good, but it was just kind of meh to me.

Daredevil – My favorite book of the week. Good art, fantastic writing, and great attention to detail. You should check this book out.

Video Games

Dragon Age 2 – I think I’m somewhere in the 50-60 hour range with this game now. I was not expecting it to be this good. The decision to scale it down and focus it on a single family and city was pretty brilliant. It allows for a more character driven story. There’s also a nice benefit to making it about a different character in that I get to meet old guys from the past games and talk about my old char. Mass Effect is slightly different in that you play the same guy and they’re reacting to you. If they continue the series past 3 and Shepard isn’t the hero I hope they still keep some of the ME chars around.

Team Fortress 2 – I had one of my favorite rounds of TF2 yesterday when both my brothers and Lee were in a game with me. This game is just fantastic. Really great stuff.

Left 4 Dead 2 – Played a half hour with Dave until his net connection crapped out. Maybe we’ll finish the Dark Carnival tonight.

What I’ve Been Doing 15 Aug 2011 [FB/IB/BT/GO]
Aug 15th, 2011 by Dan

Blade Runner Lobby Card 06

There are no blades in this movie.

Movies

Blade Runner – Until today I’d never seen what many people consider to be the greatest sci-fi movie ever made. Fixed that this week. It’s an amazing movie full of symbolism and all kinds of neat visual imagery, but I didn’t love watching it. Definitely important to see, but you might not have a lot of fun watching it.

TV

Weeds – The shady accounting subplot they were slowly building looks like it’s coming to a head, but this season has been lacking some of the razor-sharp focus of last season. It makes sense considering last season had a goal of getting away from Esteban. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still enjoying it, but I’m very curious. It is neat to see how hamstrung Nancy has been by her son, job, and the halfway house, which is not her way, being turned into an empowered role yet again by working with the SEC.

Top Gear – My favorite show on British television. Watched part of an episode where Jeremy was racing the other two to Oslo or something via car while they were hiring other people and taking a boat. Had a funny ending, per usual. Great show.

How I Met Your Mother – I stopped watching this show about three years ago. Went back to finish off that season. It can be a fantastic show, provided that Ted isn’t in a scene. He’s so obnoxious and elitist and preachy that any episode not dealing with the mother/Ted is instantly in the top ten.

Retro Game Master – The Kacho played S.O.S. (AKA Septentrion in Japan) this week and declared himself a winner despite not getting a “good ending”. It was a funnier episode, but it was kind of quiet with so little action from the ADs

Books

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing – Finished the book. There was no shift to the real Thursday Next, which was a bummer. I wonder if Jasper Fforde is preparing us to make her the protagonist? Not my favorite Thursday Next book, but enjoyable.

Collected Stories (Gabriel García Márquez) – Only read one short story and half of another, but it seems that Márquez was obsessed with death in his early career. His writing has that definite postmodern surrealism that I’ve seen in guys like Murakami, so it’s very interesting.

Comics from here down.

Ultimate Fallout – This week’s issue was terribly weak. A budget story for Nick Fury and a too long explanation of how Quicksilver plans to enslave and exploit mutants for profit. Not worth reading.

The Red Wing – The plot thickens! I bet the ending of this mini is the beginning of the mini (it’s about time travel and cycles). More of Hickman’s obsession with fathers and sons too.

Morning Glories – I really like Nick Spencer’s book about a homicidal and insane prep school. Things remain unpredictable and I love that about the book.

Secret Warriors – Neat installment. Makes me excited to see more. Very well done.

Captain America and Bucky – Bought it on the strength of Chris Samnee’s art and it did not disappoint. Don’t really care for Cap, but it’s worth it.

Amazing Spider-Man – Spider-Island begins! I like the premise and I like the interaction between Peter and his girlfriend, Carlie, who now has spider powers. A lot more humor in this book than in the past few issues, so I’m all about it. The jokes are why I love Spider-Man, after all.

SI: Cloak and Dagger – A Spider-Island tie-in, this was actually my favorite book of the week. Beautifully illustrated by Emma Ríos, this book delivered on all counts. Filled with gorgeous art and Nick Spencer’s insightful writing, this book was a must read for comic book fans whether or not it had to do with Spider-Island.

SI: Deadly Foes – The Hobgoblin part of this book far outweighed The Jackal part. Very uneven.

Nonplayer – Amazing art and a neat take on MMOs bleeding into the real world. Could be neat.

Video Games

Team Fortress 2 – Got to 2004 kills! My long journey is over! I’m moving on to other class achievements, but this was a lot of fun.

Catherine – Got a Catherine ending (and golds on the other levels so I can easily skip ahead for other endings) and it was really funny! Two endings down, six to go.

Dragon Age 2 – (I also played about 20 mins of DA:O) I put off playing this game for a long while thinking it couldn’t be as good as the first, but I’m really digging this game. It consumed 11 hours of my Sunday and before I knew it the clock read 0200! Can’t wait to get back into this game! It’s got a lot more crunch than Origins and I’m loving the characters so much I can’t decide who to keep in my party.

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