This Week Online - April 14, 2014

Hola all - please enjoy some amusements I found online in the past week!

Lastly, you know I'm a big fan of Tabletop, the Geek & Sundry web show hosted by Wil Wheaton on YouTube. They've decided to crowdsource the third season of the show over on Indiegogo. Check out the campaign and give if you can. If he can reach $1m, we will get a third season of Tabletop with 20 episodes AND a new spin-off show all about roleplaying games. THAT is something I really want to see!

Enjoy your week!

This Week Online - January 20, 2014

Hola everyone! Hope you're having a warm & relaxing MLK day today. Here's some fun stuff I've seen online in the last couple of weeks:

We're expecting snow here tonight, which would be a nice change from the relatively mild temperatures and lots of rain we've had so far this Winter. Have a good week and check back soon for more posts!

This Week Online - November 19, 2013

Goodness, the month is flying by. I'm halfway through my wordcount for NaNoWriMo, which is great, but still about 6,000 words short of where I should be at this point. Distractions, distractions everywhere! Here are some fun distractions I found on the internet this week:

  • Pretty cool voice acting Batman vs. Superman!
  • Sesame Street did a send-up of The Hunger Games? They sure did!
  • Are you stoked about the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special on Saturday? Check out this awesome prequel minisode that leads into that episode!
  • Someone used game theory to figure out how to win consistently on The Price Is Right. Some people have too much time on their hands.
  • Steve Martin got an Oscar. Not at all sure why his award wasn't awarded during the main ceremony. But he's touching and hilarious and awesome in that way only Steve Martin can be.
  • A short film written by Neil Gaiman about a girl who tries not to fly.
  • And, sadly, the best thing I had to share with you has been removed due to copyright issues. Hal (Bryan Cranston) wakes up in bed next to Lois (Jane Kaczmarek) having had a nightmare about being Walter White. It was truly hilarious. The short will apparently be part of the "Complete Breaking Bad" DVD package. Here's a full description of the short.

Hope you're all having an excellent week!

This Week Online - October 28, 2013

It's been a fairly slow week this past week in terms of interesting Geek News, but I was able to find a few interesting tidbits.

I hope you enjoy these!

This Week Online - October 18th, 2013

Goodness how the time has flown! Real life has kept me away from the site but I'm back with some fun things for you to check out on the Internet!

I've got several more posts in the pipe for the upcoming week. There have been two Tabletop episodes (Shadows Over Camelot and Betrayal at House on the Hill) since I last posted. Also, I saw Wil Wheaton vs. Paul & Storm in Northern VA a couple of weeks ago. More on all of that soon!

This Week Online - October 1, 2013

Hello all - Here's tidbits from the Internet that I've gathered over the last week. I hope you enjoy them.

I'll be back Thursday with a link to the new episode of Tabletop!

A Bunch of Random Stuff (Geek Week)

It continues to be Geek Week on YouTube, but for some reason the nice everything-we-released-today lists have stopped arriving in my mailbox. Not to worry, though. Here's a bunch of random awesome from the Internet from the last two days:

And finally, if you aren't aware of the video game review site Zero Punctuation, you should be. It's hilarious. Though, generally only for games you've actually played.

Tomorrow on Geek Week it's Gaming Day, so I can't wait to see what is dished up then!

Oh, and I finally finished Shadowrun Returns. That last fight was a beast. Onward and upward!

All's Quiet on the Geek Week Front

Hoi chummers, I've been busy trying to finish Shadowrun Returns and dealing with real life responsibilities for the last few days. I'm working on the final boss fight in SR right now and it's a chafe.

So while I'm busy with that, I wanted to make sure you are aware of the fact that this week is Geek Week on YouTube. Yay marketing. But, I hope it'll give some good visibility to some folks who are doing good work out there. Some of the videos they've posted I knew nothing about and was glad to discover them.

Today is day 2 of Geek Week, so I'll add links to further Geek Week content to this post as they come out.

Day 1 -- This series of videos includes SkyHook (with Freddie Wong), We Meet Again (Star Wars Parody), DramaBug CatBug (animated), Animated version of Patton Oswalt's Star Wars Filibuster, RWBY Episode 2, 10 Best Blockbuster Fan Parodies with Brian Blessed, 10 Ways to Make a Hollywood Blockbuster for under $100, Breaking Bad: The Middle School Musical, The Fallen, and Star Wars vs. Star Trek Street Fight.

Out of the first day, my favorites were the Star Wars Filibuster, the 10 Blockbuster Fan Parodies, Breaking Bad: The Middle School Musical and the SW vs. ST Street Fight.

Day 2 -- This series begins with a Naruto fake movie trailer, How To Be More Asian, Yogsquest Episode 2, 18 Days Episode 1, Chameleon Circuit - Teenage Rebel, 20 Best YouTube Animations from Around the World with Warwick Davis, and The Top 10 Mind Bending Facts about Dr. Who with Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman.

My favorites today were the Naruto trailer, How To Be More Asian, Yogsquest, 18 Days Episode 1 and the 20 Best YouTube Animations. 18 Days is written by Grant Morrison so if you enjoy his comics, I think this animated series will be a must watch.

 

Two Fantastic Anti-Hero Shorts

I'm continuing to find phenomenal short films on YouTube so want to keep sharing them with you. First up is a short about the Spider-Man vigilante, The Punisher. Thomas Jane, the lead actor in The Punisher from 2004, stars in this short film which was made in 2012. Ron Perlman is a secondary character in the short. Be aware - this short film is very brutal and violent.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/bWpK0wsnitc width="400" height="300"]

 

The same folks who made The Punisher short film have made a Venom short film. I know what you're thinking. "But Venom is responsible for making Spider Man 3 suck so badly!" Yes, yes. Give this a chance. It's gritty. It reminded me a lot of The Blair Witch Project in terms of style and tone. It stars Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) as Eddie Brock. Do yourself a favor. Click on that link and scroll down to the two paragraphs under "Backstory". Read those. Then watch this.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/7YDYL6oECjU width="400" height="300"]

Watch all the way through the credits. There's extra footage there to see.

I think both of these films are so well done that they put most of Hollywood's superhero-themed offerings to shame.

The Wolverine

wolverine The Wolverine is pretty darn good. Especially when compared with the train wreck that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine from 2009. I had forgotten how truly awful that film was until I re-watched it on TV the other day. Yikes.

I will admit, I am not a regular reader of Marvel Comics. I was a DC girl growing up (Batman and Wonder Woman 4eva!). But I am aware of the X-Men mythos, have many friends who have filled me in on the various story lines, and have seen all of the X-Men related films.

Hugh Jackman makes Wolverine a compelling antihero, and he's just as good in this film as he has been in all five previous films (X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class). He appears to me to have bulked up extra big for this film - when he gets his inner animal riled up he's physically very formidable.

This film is the story of how he meets Mariko, the love of his life, and introduces various characters well known from the comics such as Yukio, Madame Hydra/Viper, and the Silver Samurai. There's the usual amount of big action sequences (which run a bit too long for my tastes) balanced out with a nice amount of emotion-focused character development for Logan along the way. Logan is without his mutant healing abilities for much of the film, and this allows for a re-focus from Logan's physical to his emotional side consistent with the story being told.

Is the Silver Samurai's story the same one as from the comics? No. Is Logan meeting Mariko after he's already loved and lost Jean Grey? Yes. Can we overlook these continuity differences from the comics? Depends on who you are, I guess. Since I wasn't already a huge fan of the franchise from the comics, I can easily accept these changes and enjoy the story that is told.

Oh, and make sure you stay through the credits. There's a nice hook into the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past film coming out next year.

Superman: Man of Steel

manofsteel  

I saw Man of Steel today. I had not heard very good things about the film going into the showing, so I had reservations. I'm happy to report, they were unfounded. I thought it was a good movie that could have been a great movie. [spoilers ahead]

The previews that played before the film included:

  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (This preview looked better than the entirety of An Unexpected Journey.)
  • 300: Rise of an Empire (I wanted the two hours of my life back after seeing 300. I'm certainly not motivated to see the sequel.)
  • Turbo (Looks cute, but I'm not sure how motivated I am to shell out money to see a racing snail.)
  • Despicable Me 2 (I loved the first one and this one looks hilarious. Definitely going to try to get to see this one ASAP.)
  • The Lone Ranger (Sigh. Johnny Depp as Tonto? I'm so worried this film is going to be horrible. Which makes me sad, because I really liked The Lone Ranger TV series.)
  • Paranoia (A film I hadn't heard of before this preview. Harrison Ford vs. Gary Oldman? Sounds like a must-see, if only on Blu-Ray and not in the theater.)

The film starts on Krypton. The technology the film envisions for Krypton is really neat - it's very Mass Effect/Halo-like in terms of the look of the ships, guns, armor, etc. I really liked the interplay of Zod and Kal-El and the ruling council. I wish there had been more explanation of why Jor-El is such a naturalist, flying around on animals (rather than spaceships) and having Kal-El via natural childbirth when the rest of his entire civilization is dedicated to mechanical/artificial ways of doing things.

The natural childbirth decision is explained, but you get the impression Jor-El and his wife are the only people on the entire planet who feel this way.

The storytelling of Clark growing up is beautifully done. You jump around in time, out of chronological order, seeing him perform various acts of good from young school age through his early 20s. The various scenes are well strung together in terms of pacing and theme.

I have an issue with how Pa Kent is written. There's nothing wrong with Kevin Costner's portrayal of him, I simply don't agree with the direction they went. The Kents are supposed to raise Clark to be the truly Good person that he grows up to be. However, Pa Kent has this whole "don't reveal yourself to the world, they aren't ready, they will hate you -- even if it requires you to let some people die" philosophy that we see him repeat to Clark at various times while Clark is growing up. Pa Kent's self sacrifice in the tornado was… absurd? A meaningless death? Yes. That's how I felt about it.

For Avatar: The Last Airbender (the animated series) fans, I felt like Pa Kent's death reminded me of General Zhao's refusal to accept Zuko's hand to save him from the Ocean Spirit.

I am not a fan of Russell Crowe. That being said, he does a fantastic job with Jor-El. The use of Jor-El throughout the story is very well done, and I love that Jor-El works with Lois to escape Zod's ship and get Superman the information he needs to defeat Zod's forces. I honestly wish there had been more of him in the film.

Henry Cavill is a great Superman. I never thought I'd say that about anyone other than Christopher Reeve, but he really does a great job. He's heroic without being arrogant; thoughtful without being weak. If I have any criticism about Superman, it's not with Cavill's portrayal. It's, again, with how the character is written. He's oh-so-concerned with saving lives so it's supposed to mean something to us when he kills Zod. However during the course of his fight with Zod, thousands of people must have died in Metropolis (New York). I guarantee you people died in the little town where he has his knock-down-drag-out with Zod's henchmen. His concern over personally killing Zod left me a little flat, given all of the collateral damage deaths that he caused.

Amy Adams does a solid job with Lois Lane, and Lois is written marvelously. She's strong, confidant and never the screaming woman-in-distress. She has her own career, and pursues reporting with passion and skill. She drinks straight bourbon (mad props). She rolls with the punches of alien technology, outer space, and threats to Earth with aplomb. I like the fact that she knows who Superman is at the end when Clark takes his job with the Daily Planet.

Michael Shannon as General Zod (does he remind anyone else of Bill Hader?) was over-acted at parts, but for the most part he was a competent villain. Again, my complaints are with how the character was written. Why couldn't Zod be given a bit more depth? He needed more explanation of his viewpoint and rationale for his stance that Kryptonians were worth the extermination of another people other than "I was born to be this way". He needed to be less megalomaniacal and xenophobic. If he had been a character that one could even slightly empathize with, it would have made his villainy less two dimensional and improved the film.

Why was Laurence Fishburne in this film? He was given absolutely nothing to do as Perry White. Every time I saw him on the screen I thought "Hey, there's Laurence Fishburne. He's a really great actor. I wish he was doing something other than sitting at a desk or dodging buildings."

To be honest, I would have been ok with the film ending with the implosion of Zod's ship (assuming Zod had been on board). I felt like the Zod/Superman fight at the end was entirely unnecessary. Though I did laugh when Zod grabbed Superman's cape and swung him around by it. Did anyone else think of Edna Mode in The Incredibles?

All in all, I enjoyed Man of Steel. I think if the script had been a bit tighter, the film could have been a truly great superhero film. As it is, it is a good film and worth seeing.

Attending a Reading with Neil Gaiman

dayglo-gaiman Last night, I was fortunate to attend a reading of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. The reading was at the Lisner Auditorium on the campus of George Washington University in Washington, DC and was sponsored by the Politics & Prose Bookstore.

I had not attended a reading and book signing before this event, and I am impressed with how smoothly the event was run. The line of a couple thousand people (I'm guessing here - I think the auditorium's capacity is around 2000 and the event was sold out) moved smoothly through the will call line where we were all assigned our book signing numbers (via our tickets). When it came time for the signing, they called numbers in groups of 50 to line up, and had staff assisting Mr. Gaiman with pens and getting books open and ready for signing so that things moved along smoothly. Mr. Gaiman also has a policy of allowing people with small children, pregnant women and the disabled to be part of the first group in line so that they do not have to wait hours. I have a feeling it was a very late night overall. My number was 492 and I only had to wait 2.5 hours before meeting Mr. Gaiman. I know the line numbers went up to 1500 at least (from posts on Twitter).

The reading began shortly after 7. Mr. Gaiman is witty and personable and had the crowd cheering and laughing throughout most of his talk. He chatted a bit about his experiences at book signings and then introduced his book with a quick overview of the story leading up to Chapter 4, which he then proceeded to read. Intellectually, having just read the book, I knew the prose was musical. I didn't realize how musical it was until I heard him read it, however. I have to wonder if his process of reading the book, chapter-by-chapter, aloud to his wife as he was typing it up allowed him to refine the music of his words even further.

For my review of The Ocean at The End of the Lane, check here.

After the reading, he answered questions from the audience which had been collected on index cards by the ushers while we were all finding our seats. One of my favorite questions was "Why are there so many angels in your stories?" His response (paraphrasing from memory) - "Angels are like cockroaches. I think I'm done with them and another one comes scurrying along." After he was done answering questions, he read another section from Ocean (p.32-34) which ended the reading on a light and humorous note.

gaiman-talking

Thus began the signing portion of the evening. When I got to the table, I asked Mr. Gaiman if what I had read on the Internet was true and if he was writing a sequel to American Gods. He told me that it is true that he is in the middle of a short story that focuses on Shadow, the protagonist of American Gods, and that the story is set after the events in American Gods. However, he has not yet started writing American Gods 2.

me-and-neil

I don't recall when during the evening that this statement was made, but Gaiman stated that there is a common thread running throughout all of his works of which only he knows the full extent. THAT would make a fascinating read some day, wouldn't it?

If you get a chance to go see Mr. Gaiman do a reading/signing near you, I highly recommend getting out to see him. This was an event I would have been sorry to miss.

The Dream Hunters and American Gods

IMG_0927 The Dream Hunters is a personal favorite of mine. It tells the story of a fox who falls in love with a Buddhist monk. Foxes are shapeshifters in Japanese lore, so the fox becomes a beautiful woman and tries to trick the monk. The store cascades from there, using dragons, demons, kings and the dream world to weave a wonderful tale of love and sacrifice. There are two versions of this book - one has text and illustrations and the other is a comic adaptation. Both are excellent.

American Gods is probably Gaiman's most well-known novel. The main character is named Shadow, and he is as mysterious and dark as his name. The book starts with Shadow getting out of prison, learning that his wife has died, and taking a job as a bodyguard for a con man calling himself Mr. Wednesday. They travel across America visiting Wednesday's colleagues. The fundamental reality of their world includes the fact that gods exist because people believe in them. There are many, many gods in this book from many, many pantheons. It's delightful to try to figure out who they all are as you are reading the book. Wednesday and Shadow try to rally the old gods to fight the new gods.

American Gods is a very complex book, but it is only as complex as your interest in it makes it. You can read the book without looking up the histories of the various gods encountered, or try to figure out who characters really are while they pretend to be something different.

I haven't finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane yet, but right now American Gods is my #1 favorite Gaiman book. I'll write a review of Ocean as soon as I'm done with it.

The Sandman

250px-Sandman_no.1_(Modern_Age).comiccover When I was in college, I got back into collecting comic books. The dates converged nicely for me, as this was also the start of the Vertigo imprint with DC comics. I was not interested so much in superhero comics - I wanted comics with more adult story lines and complex themes. Vertigo was there for me. It was at this time that I discovered The Sandman, written by Neil Gaiman. I was blown away.

I found The Sandman more than midway through its complete run -- it joined the Vertigo imprint with issue #47 (out of 75). I frantically back-collected until I had the entire run of the series. The stories are mythic, fantastic, epic... all of the things you'd expect from Gaiman's writing.

The main character is Dream, who is the mythological Dream King, Lord of Dreams, etc. and the stories take place in the real world and in the realm of dream (amongst other realities). There are ten primary stories which have been collected into the ten collected editions: Preludes & Nocturnes, The Doll's House, Dream Country, Season of Mists, A Game of You, Fables and Reflections, Brief Lives, Worlds' End, The Kindly Ones and The Wake.

I think Season of Mists and A Game of You are the best stories in the run, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Brief Lives as that is the story that the series was in the middle of when I encountered it for the first time.

This series has been known to get non-comic oriented people into comics. If you like a fantastic story (some would argue the best stories ever written in comic form), I recommend seeking out this title.

E is for Erfworld

erfworld Have you read Erfworld? It's an insanely creative webcomic by Rob Balder.

The premise is vaguely D&D-esque, but he's created his own language for the world which spoofs and references things from our "normal world". He also has written a fair amount of text-only chapters (Book 0) telling the backstory of main characters in the world. The language is inventive and hilarious and the story is compelling. It's what keeps me coming back week after week.

I really can't recommend the webcomic enough.

In the time that I've been reading it, the comic has used two artists. The original artist was Jamie Noguchi (Book 1) whose vision for the look of the comic has persisted no matter who is doing the art. Book 2's artist was Xin Ye - the general look remained the same but in a much higher level of detail.

Erfworld is now getting a 3rd artist to take over -- David Hahn. You can see some of his art on their Kickstarter. It looks fantastic so far.

The point of the Kickstarter is to create an Erfworld primer (alphabet book) for fans to enjoy and give the new artist practice drawing everything in the comic before beginning to illustrate the comic itself. Depending on your backer level, you can also get nifty things like the hardcover of book 1, original art, plushie dwagons, stickers, etc.

The Kickstarter is already well-funded (the project closes in THREE DAYS). But if you're looking for a great webcomic to read and some serious creativity to back, think about backing E is for Erfworld. You'll be glad that you did.

Playstation 4 vs. XBox One

As a lifelong console gamer, I've been following the presentations of the next generation of consoles from the two dominant console makers rather closely. For the last twelve years, I've been an Xbox gamer. I briefly had a Playstation 2. Prior to all that, it was SuperNintendo, Nintendo, Atari 5200, and the original pong machine. Xbox One's offerings can be summarized here:

8C6D4B61-58FA-43A5-8476-CF4B7346D394

The two main issues I have with this list are the lack of used game playability and lack of backwards compatibility. To be honest, backwards compatibility is what made me go with the XBox360 over the PS3.

And then, Playstation did its presentation at E3 yesterday. I can't do all of the content justice, so I'll let you read all about it in this review of the presentation from Edge Online.

I am seriously leaning towards the Playstation 4 as my next console.

Here are a couple awesome Playstation 4 related videos that made me laugh. Enjoy.

How to share games on PS4: [youtube=http://youtu.be/kWSIFh8ICaA width="400" height="300"]

Greatness Awaits Ad: [youtube=http://youtu.be/QOdW1OuZ1U0 width="400" height="300"]

Then, to top it all off, today the guys at Penny Arcade posted a great comic about the subject.