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What I’ve Been Doing 1 Aug 2011 [FB/IB/BT/GO]
Aug 1st, 2011 by Dan

FLCL

My favorite cosplay from the con

Otakon was this weekend, but my stolen camera prevented me from photographing any of the cosplay. The example above was taken by Eric.

This week was comic book heavy. There was a huge sale at Eric’s shop that I took advantage of along with some Amazon orders to finish off small runs of series I was reading.

Movies

Barney’s Version – It’s weird to see movies prominently set in Canada. This Can-Lit adaptation is pretty good. I can see why Paul Giamatti won a Golden Globe for this. Again, solid, but not great. I think this one was probably better as a book.

Be Kind Rewind – I liked Eternal Sunshine, so I figured I’d give this Michel Gondry film a try. It’s another passable movie. It’s got heart, which I love, and Jack Black not Jack Black-ing it up too hard, which I also love, but, and this may just be me, Mos Def’s earnestness came off more like he might be developmentally challenged, not sincere. Not a terrible way to spend 102 minutes, but not the best way either.

TV

Better Off Ted – I thought this show was really funny when it was on. It still is, but I can also totally see why it was canceled. Not bad for when I want to watch something no streaming when I’m eating a meal or something.

Weeds – This season has been really good! I love how much this show evolves and I actually dig the new NYC setting. I’m interested in where this Doug plotline is going (for once!) and I’m also impressed by how much Hunter Parrish is killing it yet again as Silas. This week also brought back a character from the early seasons, which is part of what makes this show so great. There’s an established past that can be referred to even though the present keeps evolving…you know, like real life.

Books

One of Our Thursdays is MissingA REAL BOOK?! Yep! The Thursday Next series has always been remarkably funny and clever to a sneaky degree. Sure, some knowledge of literature is assumed, but it’s mostly stuff that any educated person would come across naturally. Any other gaps can be filled by Wikipedia. Funny in a way that books rarely are anymore, this one is really pulling me in.

Slaughterhouse Five – Still making progress, but sidelined by OoOTiM (see above), this story remains one of my favorites.

Daytripper – Twin brothers Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá created this fantastic, beautiful, somber series about the important moments that define our lives. Like real life, they frame the beautiful with the somber. Each issue is framed with the death of the protagonist, an obituary writer for part of his life, and an obit about where his life is when he “died”. Beautiful art, good writing, and a plot that is deep and engaging while remaining light and digestible.

Air – A series that’s supposedly acclaimed, but whose premise falls entirely flat to me. It’s about a stewardess who is afraid of heights and shadowy conglomerations trying to get air technology that doesn’t use oil. Just…boring. I didn’t really like the art either. Really did not resonate with me.

Thor: The Mighty Avenger – Finished off the eight-issue (over WAY too soon) run of the delightful and excellent series by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee. Fantastic lines, beautiful art, and light, happy dialog that reminds us our heroes don’t have to be angsty or violent to be interesting. It’s just sweet and fun and if you don’t like it, it’s entirely possible that your heart has turned to stone.

Amazing Spider-Man – I gave the book another try after thoroughly disliking #665. The latest, #666, remains far too wordy and doesn’t let the characters or art breathe, but I also read some back issues around where Peter joins the FF that were absolutely delightful. More importantly, they were funny. That’s what Spider-Man books are all about. Sure, there’s plenty of Peter angsting and brooding, but there should also be jokes. Funny jokes! I’m on-board for Spider Island (or, should I say, #SpiderIsland (no, don’t ever say that))! Hope it doesn’t disappoint.

Ultimate Fallout – The book lost a little focus and fun this issue between Tony Stark’s mystery rich people secret society and Kitty’s angst (overusing that word today, I know), but I still enjoyed the writing of the latter while I was intrigued by Jean Grey and The Hulk. Not the best issue, but I can’t wait for the reveal of the new (Ultimate) Spider-Man in this week’s book.

Irredeemable – This book continues to get better and better. I’m all caught up in continuity and I’m just loving the drama and struggles between The Plutonian and the remaining, surviving heroes. The most recent issue had quite the cliffhanger as the end of the arc, which is disappointing to me only in that my favorite character may be out of the story for a few issues. Mark Waid’s book remains one of my favorite reads at the moment.

Incorruptible – The companion piece to Irredeemable has the world’s worst supervillain reforming and becoming a superhero after witnessing The Plutonian’s mass murder/destruction of Sky City. Max Damage (dumb name, I know) is initially clueless about being a hero, but his development (and the addition of Alana Patel, The Plutonian’s ex-girlfriend, to his cast) makes for a really interesting story. I love the unstable partners (Jailbait and Headcase) and the recovering alcoholic police lieutenant on his side. Irredeemable has a grander scale and a more interesting ensemble, but Incorruptible’s more focused nature makes for an equally interesting character study. I wish the two intersected a little more, but it’s not the biggest problem.

FF and Fantastic Four: Dark Reign – Guess what? I like Jonathan Hickman’s writing. You’ll see more of that later on in this blog, but I enjoy it. FF is currently mired in some backstory that has me intrigued, but most fans bored, while the old issues I read in Dark Reign were funny, satisfying, and tied in nicely with later Fantastic Four/FF books.

Ultimate Fantastic Four – Nearly done with my run through this series. Main continuity beats it in terms of quality, but the situations inherent to the Ultimate Universe are still interesting.

Secret Warriors – More Hickman, this time writing about Nick Fury exiled from SHIELD. Makes sense why he started the Brotherhood of the SHIELD book, but I’m wondering now if the two are related, especially since HYRDA called themselves “The Spear” in an early issue of this book. I’d love for Hickman to just revamp the Marvel universe’s perceptions of SHIELD and, considering the huge revelation of this book’s first issue, I’d say he probably succeeded at that. Yet another book for me to collect!

Moon Knight – Bendis’ attempt to revive the oft-canceled series about a multiple personality disorder superhero has been remarkably good. I don’t want to spoil any of it, but I doubt you can be disappointed with the first two issues of this. I haven’t read beyond that (there’s one more), but it’s a lot of fun. I’m digging it.

Cowboy Ninja Viking – Just trying to finish off the book. Two volumes. Most certainly canceled due to lack of sales, but not with enough lead time to get a satisfying conclusion. I really feel like the second set of issues didn’t deliver on the fun promised by the first five.

Morning Glories – I get such flashes of Lost every time I read this book, which is a good thing. Sure, the whole “violence at a prep school” thing has been done to death, but it’s quite interesting here in this context. I’m at the edge of my seat wanting to find out what will happen next issue.

Wolverine/Deadpool One-Shot – The first story in this book was funny, involving Deadpool, Wolverine, cross-dressing, and a robot, but the second story was a little too madcap and stupid.

Y: The Last Man – The reread continues after much delay! I really dig this story and how well it deals with the post-apocalyptic aftermath of the elimination of the Y chromosome.

Video Games

Team Fortress 2 – I’m tantalizingly close to realizing my Scout achievement goal of 2004 kills (3/4 of the way there is closer than you’d think!). Getting back into this game was definitely a shock to me.

Catherine – The central conflict of this game is choosing responsible, bossy Katherine or impulsive, immature Catherine. It’s impossible to go into this game without any baggage (unless you’ve never dated anyone) and mine is screaming out at me every time I play this game. Sure, I abhor cheating, but Katherine’s bossiness and smothering, maternal nature reminds me so much of my Ex that I can’t stand her character. Throw in tons of blatant (and subtle) masculine/feminine symbolism and Freudian levels of horror and fear toward women and you’ve got a game that is more interesting to think about than to play. The block puzzles are neat, but they’re not doing it for me. Probably doesn’t help that I’m not very good at them either…

What I’ve Been Doing [F/FB/IB/BT/GO]
Jul 11th, 2011 by Dan

2010 Pine Leaf Boys scene from Treme, Breaux Bridge April 30 (23 of 34)

A performance from Tremé

Tomorrow night’s the All-Star Game, but my coverage might be a little different than usual. I plan on watching it with friends, so there may not be a liveblog, but I will cover it in the morning. In the meanwhile, here’s what I’ve been up to.

Music:

Rx Bandits – Saw the Bandits down at the 9:30 Club on Saturday for their farewell tour. I don’t think anything will match the unparalleled emotion I felt at Five Iron Frenzy’s “Winners Never Quit” tour back in 2003, but it was a special show. They’re not writing off being a studio band, but that may have been the last time I’ll ever see the Bandits and they did not disappoint. Great show. The tour t-shirt puts me up to 5 RxB t-shirts. I think I’ve reached excessive there.

Movies:

Carancho - Ricardo Darín’s strong showing in El secreto de sus ojos attracted me to this movie. In it, Darín plays a carancho (translates to vulture), or an ambulance chaser, who scams victims out of their settlements. The story is a little uneven, but it’s clear to me that Darín is ridiculously talented and I love seeing him in anything. Gotta track down more of his films.

TV:

Tremé – Finally got around to watching the season 2 finale. Good stuff. It’s neat to see the differences between Tremé and The Wire. David Simon is clearly not compelled to make this show more watchable by limiting the live music or giving it a more structured plot, but that’s ok sometimes. It’s nice to see the different storylines just play out because, hey, that’s life. Good to also see the Vietnamese shrimp boats as a preparation for an eventual Gulf Oil Spill storyline.

Dead Like Me – As a fan of Pushing Daisies, I was not surprised to learn that this was a Bryan Fuller show. The same little quirks were apparent in the early episodes and although he left the show rather early in its run, his DNA runs through it. I gotta wonder about Fuller’s preoccupation with death and women with masculine nicknames…Anyway, it’s a pretty solid show that my girlfriend is watching and I hop in for an episode or two wherever she is. The premise, that the main characters are grim reapers who collect souls that are about to die, is pretty neat and I dig the characters. I also like that it was a Showtime show, so the writers are free to let the characters talk like real people.

Mad Men – Last weekend I just blew through S3 and S4. This is a fantastic show. I do love it when a show finds itself continually evolving so it’s neat to see how far the characters have come since S1. It was a little troubling in the 4th season to see Don struggling, but I’m excited to see what S5 brings in 2012. This is seriously one of the best shows I’ve seen in ages. Very good.

Books:

Chew – New issue (#19) came out last week. Toni appears in this one and she’s rapidly grown on me as one of my favorite characters. The latest issue sets up a lot of neat plot points that I’m excited to see born out and also reveals some interesting secrets about the Chu family. Definitely the best so far in the new arc.

S.H.I.E.L.D. – My love affair with Jonathan Hickman’s work has not abated yet. His examination of the secret history of an organization that a lot of Marvel fans kind of take for granted is very interesting. Could have interesting implications for the greater Marvel universe, but it also ties in very nicely with Hickman’s work in FF. Gotta wonder if Hickman has some serious father issues, because it’s yet another book of his thematically dealing with fathers and sons, but this time with a fate vs. free will wrinkle.

Fantastic Four/FF – More Hickman, more awesomeness. I finally got around to reading Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four and I was seriously impressed. I mean, we’re talking a breadth of narrative that’s still bearing fruit in his current issues of FF. FF is one of my most anticipated books every month. I can’t wait to see what The War of the Four Cities will bring and whether or not the issues with the Council of Reeds (first introduced at the start of Hickman’s run back in 2009) will be resolved in this arc.

Ultimate Fantastic Four – Still cool, but man does it pale in comparison to the work being done on FF. Almost done with it, so I’ll continue for now.

Video Games:

Torchlight – Picked this guy up for $2 or so in the Steam summer sale. and it was well worth the purchasing price. Definitely scratching my Diablo itch with some seriously addictive game mechanics. Playing as the pet class and loving all the summons, but on Very Hard the final dungeons are proving challenging. I’m afraid to try it hardcore next, but the challenge is calling me (for those who don’t know, hardcore mode means that death is permanent for a character. THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE!)

Left 4 Dead – David finally built himself a new computer allowing him to play all the sweet games of the past that we couldn’t play before. We played No Mercy last night and it was a real blast from the past. I can’t wait for him to see the ways the game has evolved in L4D2! I’m sure he’ll find it just as awesome as I do.

inFamous – Beat it on very hard on the good track. Considering an evil run for trophies, but, truth be told, this game is middling, at best, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to motivate myself to play it again with more interesting options on hand.

StarCraft 2 – Played a couple of quick rounds with Dave and one of his friends. Still solid, but I’m not always in the mood.

What I’ve Been Doing [FB/IB/BT/GO]
Jun 28th, 2011 by Dan

WEEDS Poster Mary Louise Parker

TV

Weeds – New season started yesterday. The three year time gap puts Nancy in New York City and moves far past the storylines from last year by also claiming that Esteban is dead and his cartel disbanded. It seems that Nancy is heading toward working in the weapons trade instead, which is interesting, but we’ll see where the season goes. Ever since they left Agrestic this show has really started to shine as it changes every year. Can’t wait to see where it goes this year.

Tremé – Only one episode left this season. The culmination of the events lacks the oomph of old finales of The Wire, but this show remains solidly entertaining even without being thrilling.

Movies

X-Men: First Class – One of the better action movies I’ve seen in a while with only a few disappointments:

– January Jones does not exercise her talents at all in this movie. Emma Frost is a little uninspired.
– Any moment where the characters feel the need to say “We should be called the X-Men!” or “Call him Magneto”. They all fall flat for me where they’re supposed to be great moments?

McAvoy, Byrne, and Fassbender, especially, are all great in their more senior roles in the movie. Jennifer Lawrence is mostly great, but gets saddled with some of those terrible lines that I hate. Worth seeing.

Bad Teacher – Not as bad as the critics make it seem, but the implied shared heritage with Bad Santa doesn’t seem to be helping the movie any. I didn’t really like Bad Santa, so I’m ok either way. Kind of long, but stupid, passable comedy. See Bridesmaids instead, but if you’ve already seen it, no harm in coming here.

Video Games

Shadows of the Damned – Played the first act with Min watching. Delightfully juvenile and chock full of style. Stay away if dick jokes offend you. I’m serious. Still early, but I dig Resident Evil 4-style gameplay so I’m down so far.

Hot Springs Story – Playing this on my Android phone. Sounds like a dating sim or H-game, but it’s really not. A management sim that will easily pass the time and be very entertaining. Fun for short bursts.

Books

FF (Future Foundation) – The First Family continues on after the death of Johnny Storm. Things are really starting to heat up with this initial arc and I’m really drawn in. Went back and picked up the rest of Jon Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four to try and catch up on the plot points being explored in FF. Can’t wait for the next issue tomorrow.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – The Invisible Man really put me off of this book for some reason since we’re introduced to him in a female boarding school where he was raping women and making them think it was the Holy Ghost doing so. There are plenty of bad people in comic books, but I just can’t get behind rooting for him as one of the heroes.

Proof – Supernatural cop series where “Proof” is John Prufrock, a Sasquatch working for “The Lodge” to investigate other cryptids and cryptid-related crimes. Seems neat, but didn’t grab me as much as…

Cowboy Ninja Viking – Ridiculously silly title and premise, but the book is about multiple personality disorder patients called Triplets who were trained to be assassins. The title character’s identities are self-evident, but the other combinations are pretty funny. Kind of confusing to follow some of his art, but I still dig it anyway.

Ultimate Spider-Man – (Ultimate) Spider-Man is dead. Who will be the next Spider-Man? I’m intrigued. Always loved this book and I can’t wait to see where it evolves.

Ultimate Fantastic Four – It’s interesting to see where this universe diverges from 616. The UFF has been pretty interesting, but the storytelling isn’t quite as sharp as I want it to be. I feel kind of like this book got a little less creative attention than some of the other Ultimate titles, but I still dig the team so I’ll finish off it’s run. I’m halfway done with it anyway.

What I’ve Been Doing [IB/BT/GO/FB]
Jun 21st, 2011 by Dan

Mad Men's Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway

My favorite part of Mad Men, the lovely Christina Hendricks

Video Games:

inFAMOUS – Handles a little looser than I’d like. Scratches that open world itch that LA Noire hinted at. The powers are fun, but I’m not sure yet if I’ll try and play with evil powers too. Shadows of the Damned comes out this week and that may start sapping playtime away if I decide to pick it up.

TV:

Mad Men – Oh man do I love this show. So great. All of the acting in it is fantastic. Just watched the opening five episodes of Season 2 and wow. Two scenes in particular just blew my mind, the first in Flight 1 where Paul and Joan have that fight after Paul’s party over Paul’s new girlfriend and the other when Betty and Don get into that argument about disciplining their child and get to shoving each other. This show has a way with words and expression that’s just unreal. I love that they respect us enough to see the undertones and show, not tell. Almost forgot about the scene with Rachel, Bobbie, and Don. Just fantastic. I miss her as a character, she was awesome.

Movies:

Blue Valentine – Not a date movie at all, but I watched it with the girlfriend. Watching their relationship in its infancy and in its death throes was a fantastic examination of the ways we can hurt the ones we love. It was also deeply affecting in the way that it mirrored some of the bad breakups I’ve had. A fantastic, raw movie.

Books

Chew – Almost completely up to speed on the book. It even got me to set up a box and pull list at the local comic store. An absolute breath of fresh air. Dark humor, quirky storytelling, and it pays attention to its history. Arcs seem to be set up many issues in advance and I can kind of see where we’re headed 1/4 of the way through the run. That’s another thing: glad to hear the book has a set ending. Keeps the narrative in line and eliminates some of the filler. The timeskip was a pretty funny callback to issue #1 too.

Ultimate Fantastic Four – I love the Fantastic Four. The books are more hero-y than drama-y (like, say, Spider-Man), but I’m still digging it. I enjoy the relationship between Ben and Johnny and it makes me want to start pulling the Freedom Foundation books.

Powers – I didn’t really care for the first two arcs of this, but people seem to like it. It’s not quite the same thing, but I much preferred Alan Moore’s Top Ten brand of superhero crime drama. Maybe the book gets much better in its later arcs, but I’m not seeing it yet. Doesn’t help that I don’t like the art much either.

Whiteout – Another book that was critically acclaimed. I love the challenge of using white versus black, but the book isn’t overly impressive. Solid, but not amazing. Worth a read.

Comics [BT]
Jun 14th, 2011 by Dan

Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions (Beenox / Activision)_Deadpool

Eric’s gone and done it. His renewed enthusiasm for comics has gone and made me want to read them again.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man (Issues #141-148) – The Chameleons arc was actually really neat. Super odd to have several issues go by where Peter Parker was not Peter Parker (they even changed the colors of the inner monologue boxes), but an effective way to eliminate the status quo and get NYC hating Spidey again.

Powers (Issue #1) – Another Bendis book. About cops without powers in a superhero world. Read an issue. Has promise, but I’m not in love with the art style. I wonder if it will end up a less interesting Top Ten.

Y: The Last Man (Issues #1-2) – Rereading one of my favorite books. Y is about an apocalypse scenario where the world’s men all spontaneously die, save one Yorick Brown. Definitely an awesome series.

Want to get to/check out:

Chew – Tony Chu is an FDA agent who apparently has the power to get psychic impressions from the things he eats. Naturally he uses this power to solve crimes. Could be neat. Very critically acclaimed.

Ultimate Fantastic Four – I think I’ve got a volume of this, but I’ve always wanted to catch up on the Fantastic Four, but I get distracted by the X-Men

Whatever’s going on in the current books of The Walking Dead – The next hardcover isn’t on sale for quite some time, but I’ve been thinking of catching up with :gasp: real issues. Not sure if I want to go down that rabbit hole yet.

I suppose I’ll also check out the DC revamp stuff when it happens in September, but Eric’s got that covered so I’ll probably just borrow his.

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