Saturday, August 25, 2012

One Giant Loss For Mankind

Neil Armstrong: 1930 - 2012
Some men are too big for one world. They have too much heart, too much courage, and too much determination to be tethered down by something as simple as gravity. Neil Armstrong left this world once, and now he has done it again, but this time he won't be coming back. He'll be missed.

Monday, August 20, 2012

In Memoriam: Tony Scott (1944 - 2012)

I'm saddened to hear of the death of filmmaker Tony Scott, not only because my heart goes out to his friends and family, but because it means I'll never get to see another movie made by Tony Scott. The man himself may have passed on, but he leaves behind a legacy of some of the coolest and most ridiculously entertaining movies ever made.

Happy Birthday, Everybody!

August 20th is an exciting day to be alive, and an even more exciting day to have been born. I looked up famous birthdays today so I could make a cheap joke on my friend Justin's facebook page, wishing a happy birthday to some other person instead of him (I chose Fred Durst), and I was shocked by how many other cool people are celebrating their birthdays today. (And when I say "other cool people," I am of course referring to my friend Justin and not to Fred Durst.)

Anyway, here are some notable people celebrating a birthday today:

Justin Garret Blum: My best friend

Andrew Garfield: The Amazing Spider-Man

Alan Lee: All time greatest Tolkien (and over all fantasy) artist

Ray Wise: The world's most epic character actor ever

H.P. Lovecraft: Master of horror literature

Isaac Hayes: Musician, actor, writer, god of funk

Amy Adams: Actress, all around uber babe

John Noble: actor who should be in a movie opposite Ray Wise where they play the most intense brothers ever

Alan Reed: Voice of Fred Flintstone (and a million other roles)

Jonathan Ke Quan: of Indiana Jones and Goonies fame.
Demi Lovato: Actress, singer, dancer, prettiest girl in the world

Blog News Nobody Cares About

So I recently made note of a new a Jack Kirby-themed blog I added to my roll of recommended sites, but I have since removed it. At the risk of sounding like a flip-flopper, I read it in more in-depth and didn't like much of what the writer had to say or the emails he was posting from his or her fans. It's still a great resource for some outstanding Jack Kirby art, but it's also one of those sites that praises somebody more often than not by attacking somebody else, in this case, Stan Lee. There was just so much negativity against Stan Lee to the point at which they all but accused him of having absolutely no input on the creation of the Marvel Universe that it just hurt my stomach and made me want to sever any links (literally and figuratively) to this website.

You won't hear me taking too many political or ethical stances on this blog, but I certainly won't tolerate people bad mouthing either Stan Lee or Jack Kirby, both of whom I considering to be the premiere giants of the comic book industry.

That's all.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Kirby Dynamics

This isn't Earth-shattering news, but I added a new link to my blog roll over on the right: Kirby Dynamics, a super cool site full of super art by Jack Kirby. Check it out if you like this kinda stuff:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Some Games I've Played Recently

I normally don't like to review a videogame until I've actually beaten it, but I've come to the conclusion that I'll probably never beat another videogame again. The days are too short, I have too much to do, and games just keep getting longer and more complicated. Anyway, here are my brief opinions on some games I've played recently (and by "recently" I mean sometime within 2012):

If this game was fun, it'd probably be the best game ever. As it is, Skyrim is playable, interesting, and kind of addicting, but I dunno if I ever really experienced what I would call "fun" while I was playing it. To begin with, the controls and point of view are just wonky and never felt right. It's a first person RPG, but the field of view was so limited that I kept losing sight of the enemies, and the depth perception was weird so blocking and swinging with my weapon felt random. Most battles just turned into button-mashing-madness. There's also a third person perspective, but it's even worse and makes the game completely unplayable.

The graphics are wonderful, but honestly the environments all tended to look alike. One snow-covered castle in the mountains looked like every other snow-covered castle in the mountains. There were a few exceptions, however, where the game's locations were absolutely stunning. The characters and enemies also looked great and were animated well, but, again, they all kind of looked alike. But all complaints aside, this is a huge, epic, gorgeous game that looks pretty fantastic.

About the story I can't say much, not only because I don't want to spoil any of it, but because it's incomprehensible. I got pretty far and I do intend to finish this one, but I still have no idea what is going on, what the main plot is, or why I should really care. And just to be clear, I love fantasy novels and films and have read countless entries in the genre. This story just wasn't all that well written, so most of the dialogue sequences were boring and hard to follow, and I was never really able to understand the main conflicts going on in the game world.

But... it's a neat game and worth checking out if only because there's so much to do and so many things to see. And you get to fight lots of dragons. I say... rent it from Redbox.

First person shooter by id, the company who basically invented the genre, for whatever that's worth. This was another game that wasn't really embraced by the critics or gamers, but I thought it was pretty cool. It has probably the best graphics I've ever seen (no joke) and the gameplay (mostly shooting and driving) is solid and a lot of fun.

I don't have much to say about this one, other than that it's a pretty fun first person shooter. Check out the demo, or just buy it. I bet you can find it for ten bucks like I did. 

Blood Stone: 007
I actually beat this game!

This game took a beating from the critics, but I don't know why because it's actually pretty awesome. I think I remember them saying it's too short and too derivative of similar games like Splinter Cell: Conviction, and I can't really argue with those claims, even if what they consider faults I consider pluses. I like games that other people consider "too short" because those are the only ones I have a chance of beating. And Splinter Cell: Conviction is one of my all time favorite 360 games, so a rip-off of that game with James Bond instead of Sam Fisher is ok with me.

Anyway, this is a third person action game (with the occasional driving stage) set in an original James Bond story, complete with its own theme song, villain, and incomprehensible story. If you like James Bond and action games, give this one a try. I like it a lot, and I still log into the multiplayer every now and again, even though I'm awful.

The action is great, the story is clever, and the voice acting by Daniel Craig is fantastic. I even liked the driving stages, which a lot of critics complained about for some reason. 

The Witcher 2

Solid, fun RPG with great graphics, great gameplay, and very cool story. This is way more fun and interesting than Skyrim, but it is more linear and straight forward. There's very little exploration or crafting or the like, but the fighting is better and the story is way better written.

Check it out if you like action RPGs.
Mass Effect 3
I loved the original Mass Effect and thought it was one of the coolest games I've ever played (you can read my review here), but I merely tolerated Mass Effect 2 (you can read my review of that here). The first game was an awesome action game with a brilliant sci-fi storyline, while the second was just a rehash with slightly better control. I figured I'd skip the third game, but then I played through the demo and it was amazing. So I caved in and bought it. And Mass Effect 3 is pretty amazing too.

Sure, it's just like the first two games, but while the second game's story was lackluster and boring, this one is pretty epic and the gameplay is a lot of fun. The graphics are better, the controls finally feel right and live up to the promise of the first game's premise, and the story is awesome. I've heard a lot of people complaining about the ending, but I can't comment on that because I haven't beaten it, and at the rate I'm going, maybe I never will. But I'd like to.

Oh, and don't even think about playing this game unless you have already played the first game. Feel free ti skip the second, however, since it served no purpose and added very little to the overall storyline all things considered.

Great game.

L.A. Noire
Here's the concept for this game: What if you played a game just like Grand Theft Auto only you were a cop instead of a crook? And what if instead of it being really fun and exciting, it was instead incredibly tedious and boring?

All things considered, a police procedural game set during the L.A. of the 1950s is a pretty interesting premise full of possibilities, and searching the crime scene for clues, questioning witnesses, and interrogating suspects is actually a lot of fun. This game fails as a game, however, because there's just no variety, the gameplay is severely limited by the rules you have to follow as a police officer, and the whole story is so poorly written and conceived. Seriously, this game has one of the most profoundly stupid stories I've ever seen in a videogame, and once you make it toward the end you'll give up like I did because you just won't even care anymore.

However... it is fun for the first half or so, and the graphics and concept are really fantastic. Pick it up if you find it for under ten bucks maybe.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I Love Paul Ryan!

No, not that Paul Ryan, the imposter who was currently chosen to be Mitt Romney's running mate in the 2012 presidential election... I love the real Paul Ryan, who was one of the best comic book artists during the late 80s and early 90s. I loved Paul Ryan's art, especially his epic run on Avengers with writer John Byrne, but also Quasar, DP7, and even Fantastic Four, although the storylines were never up to the par of his artwork.

Anyway, whenever I hear about this other Paul Ryan in the news, I think back fondly on the real Paul Ryan, the one who drew thousands of comic book pages that I grew up reading and loving. So here's some Paul Ryan art, just for fun:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Manhattan Projects

The Manhattan Projects is the most brilliant comic book to debut in the 21st century. Honestly, I haven't enjoyed or been as engrossed by a series since the first League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series debuted in 1999, or Mike Mignola unleashed his Hellboyverse in 1993. Now, I'm not saying that this comic is the second coming of Lee and Kirby or anything, and I don't want to hype it up to much, but since I first discovered it on a whim a couple months ago, I searched around every local comic shop to find and devour all five or so issues that have been released so far.

And I recommend everybody else do the same. It's just a damn good comic.

Published by Image Comics, written by Jonathan Hickman, with art by Nick Pitarra, the series presupposes an alternate history where the top secret government project to develop an atomic bomb was just a cover up for another, even deeper secret: This group of scientists were actually conducting investigations into the supernatural. That's an incredibly simplistic, dumbed down synopsis for a series that is anything but simplistic or dumb, but even on a dumbed down level, anybody would have to admit that's a ridiculously fun concept. I don't want to give anything away since part of the fun of this series has been the big reveals and surprises Hickman's mythology has sprung on the reader, but along the way we've seen cannibalism, aliens, interdenominational doorways, super-powered death monk squads, and the consciousness of FDR placed into an artificially intelligent super computer. And most of that was just from the first issue.

Basically, this series does for the folks at Los Alamos what League of Extraordinary Gentlemen did for Victorian literature, although that's kind of an unfair analogy since TMP owns nothing to LOEG and creates its own mythology and worldview that is just as epic and well told. The main characters are all historic figures from the real Manhattan Project, but viewed through the skewed, twisted perspective of Hickman's alternate reality. If you know much about the actual historical characters involved, you'll get a lot more out of this, especially when somebody like Harry Daghlian shows up as an irradiated skull kept alive in a radioactive containment suit. You know what... just read it.

The story is so out there and outlandish it is a testament to the talents of artist Nick Pitarra that he was able to make it all work. His work is highly stylized and akin to the manic energy of somebody like Geoff Darrow, but he also somebody manages to add a sense of realism that grounds the story and makes it feel like history and not fantasy. And he just draws really cool monsters and epic inter-dimensional landscapes. He's one of those artists who's work might look rough or off-putting at first glance, until you finish the issue and realize you love it. Does that make any sense?

So that's The Manhattan Projects. Just... go read it, but track down the first issue first because it is one long narrative full of twists and turns that begs to be read in the proper order. I can't recommend it enough, and I hope it continues on for years to come.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

From the Mail Bag

So two years ago I made a brief mention of the Commodore 64 I used to own, and somebody just sent me an email about it:

I read about your problems loading Commodore 64 disk software, which you said required a complex command and took about 20 minutes even though it was on disk, not cassette.

This was all due to Commodore's crappy recycled BASIC, not written for the C64, but for the Commodore PET series. AFAIK to load from disk took a command like LOAD "filename",8 . This meant load from device 8, which was the disk drive. I never owned a disk drive for it, but it was almost as slow as cassette, anyway. To load from disk on Atari 8 bit systems I think you typed LOAD "D:filename" and it was a lot quicker, but most games were on cartridge anyway. To load from cassette on Atari you just pressed down 2 keys when turning the computer on, then pressed PLAY and hit Return.

You may enjoy my new blog , about trying to program the Commodore 64 and why it was crap.


Paul Londoner

So... there you go. And if you want to learn more about the Commodore 64, check out that blog.

Thanks for reading, Paul!