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Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Crackpot Book Club: Jingo



I've been tearing through the work of Terry Pratchett for the last few months. I've become a huge fan bordering on disciple. He's so charming and so understated. He waits for you to get lulled into a false sense of high fantasy satire then BAM. He dumps a bucket of ice cold humanity all over your head and you love him for it.

America has had a rough week and I think I have just the thing. A proverbial mug of calming tea with a bitter aftertaste. I'm only a few hundred pages into Jingo (city watch) and from that title you can guess where it's going. It's about being good police in a time where citizens are taking up arms for selfish, deluded, causes. It stares racism down and laughs in it's face the way only the English can. So polite... yet so brutal. It's helping me through a difficult time in the American south and I'm going to shut up now and let it speak for itself:

It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone's fault. If it was Us, what did that make Me? After all, I'm one of Us. I must be. I've certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We're always one of Us. It's Them that do the bad things.

-Terry Pratchett

Thursday, August 10, 2017

C&C episode 84: Our EMOTIONS!!!


 



 

The table is being set for the return of Hannibal.



American Gods was... ok. Splitting the book into 2 seasons was a bad idea mostly because there was barely enough material for the first. That and the last half of the book is the weakest. It's just not Gaiman's best work at the end of the day. I got the sense that he doesn't think much about American culture even though he tried REALLY hard to appreciate it. All the American gods are pale intimations of their international betters and all the new gods are essentially villainous. I mean, you don't see technical boy boosting AIDs research through crowd sourcing, do you? Anansi was the sh*t, though. It was like Orlando Jones was waiting his entire career for that speech.

So thank christ the talks for Hannibal's resurrection are moving forward. This was Fuller's most inspired work by far and it deserves another chance at an ending. Hopefully we'll get some closure for Bedelia at the very least.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Cinematography of Preacher Vol. 2

 
Back by popular demand: season 2 episode 8. You keep the Hitchcock homages coming and I'll do my part, Preacher.





















Monday, August 7, 2017

So I gave Warframe a shot...

Sometimes the randomizer hits gold. So help me if I'm tacky, when in Rome.


...it is not for everyone. It's free to play for a reason, if I had dropped more than $20 on it I'd be pretty bummed. But it is absolutely free and it is interesting enough for me to spend a weekend with. It's destiny on speed. You walk faster than most games sprint, the aiming is flawless, and the jumping/light platforming is smooth as silk. Though enemies are bland turtle people that look and sound like sh*tier versions of Andromeda's already underwhelming rock jerks.

This here bag? She's mixed, but did I mention the roguish class has Max Payne's strafe jump but with a jet pack? You can just glide around corners going 60 mph and reasonably pull off head shots. I'm already having more fun than I did with Destiny. People rag on that game's storytelling but Warframe makes it look like Doctor, f**king, Zhivago.

But it's free. Sooooo free. $5-$20 for new costumes and weapon skins, so the ethical kind of free. But it really makes you appreciate games like Borderlands who put so much more effort into WHAT you're shooting even though Warframe makes it more fun to actually do that. Shooting, that is.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Thrones was pretty good tonight!


And it gives me an excuse to bug everyone with a cruelly forgotten Queen song:

Yeah! How you like me now?!

I'm sorry Beddy, but the headboard connectors were drilled in at an angle and... you just frustrate me sometimes.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The manliest thing I've ever manned.

99.9% MAN SWEAT. 00.1% anguish tears.


Moving sucks. Especially if you can't afford for someone to take apart your stupid fancy bed for you and you have to beg your dad for help. We gave up last night when his electric screwdriver got fritzed; but by god I was going to take apart all the load bearing lug nuts before we tried again tonight. I did it. The last lug alone took me 28  soul crushing minutes, but I finally got the f**ker. Now we can load these 3 easy pieces into the truck and be done with it. There's no way putting it back together could be MORE complicated.

...Right?

Who am I kidding? I can't stay mad at you, Beddy.

C&C Ep: 83

Ok, the geisha/spiderbot fight wasn't half bad.

I was absent this week, busy buying my sister drinks for getting an interview at JOHNS HOPKINS so we can listen to it together. Pyre sounds neat and yes, Ghost in the Shell is a rank mess. I can't wait to hear all the ways Chance and I agree.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Cinematography of Preacher



People just ain't talkn' bout' Preacher like they should. To me at least. It's like the perfect storm of Tarantino and Breaking Bad. It's got an air of violent immaturity but it sobers up when it needs to. What it says about faith and particularly evangelicals walks a fine line of respectful disobedience.

But more to the point, I think its the best looking show on TV right now. Thrones is looking more and more exhausted while Preacher is hungry and eager to prove itself. These screen shots are all from a mid season placeholder episode. Keep that in mind. 

 

 
Where the hell is Ruth Negga's Emmy?
 
  







Friday, July 28, 2017

Review Improv.

Thanks, Jaume Cullell!

This week's episode... I'm not particularly proud of. I try to review LoveCraft Country off the top of my head and near the end I start rambling about a half remembered anecdote neither host, or you, could understand. But Chamberlain and Chance are great! Stay for them and read Lovecraft country before Jordan Peele makes an awesome anthology series out of it.

Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

Morning in America.

And what a good morning it is...


I promised not to get political here and I intend to keep that promise. So I'm just gonna talk about how calm I am today and how much more faith I have in the system now than I did even 9 hours ago. I'm drinking the same Kona blend coffee I always drink and yet it tastes so much stronger today...

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Rest in Peace, June Foray.

https://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/dreamworks/images/9/96/Rocky_The_Flying_Squirrel_The_End.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20151017192812

Flying Squirrel, Roadrunner, Soviet Honey Trap, and grand dame of voice acting. She was 99 and her last credit was in 2015. She wasn't just an incredible multifaceted performer, she was one of the hardest working actors who ever lived. She may only get a tombstone, but American pop culture owes her a Mausoleum.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Here's an excellent longform review about Stranger Things.

backwrdblackbrd (NSFW)



In case you didn't know... I absolutely motherf***ing love Stranger Things. Apparently so does this guy:


Monday, July 24, 2017

A personal favor.



I love the finale of Dark Souls. Did it come out of nowhere? Yes. Is the boss some random dude introduced in the last DLC? Unfortunately. But! BUT! The actual fight is fantastic. The idea behind that fight turns whatever "honorable" notion you may have had about what you as the player are doing inside out. You are both sad, decrepit, monsters squabbling over power that cannot help or change anything. This series' commitment to being a stone cold bummer is now final.

But personally? The fight has the best  track in the series. Way back in 2010, Demon Souls actually made me snicker with how thunderously sh*ty it's soundtrack was. I wanna thank FromSoftware for keeping enough money in their coffers to give Dark Souls the full choir experience to bring it all home.

So here it is, the curtain call:

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The End.


Man... that was fun.


I've beaten each boss every SoulsBorne game has thrown at me. Feels like closing a book I've been trying to understand for years, finally enlightened. Guys, I am going to miss these games so goddamn much.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Oh, Hey Stranger Things!



Been a while. Bigger CGI budget this year, that right? Nice going getting another season before puberty hits. I think they're talented enough to survive, but the gods of adolescence be fickle and cruel. Break a leg, guys!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Floccinaucinihilipilification.



Sometimes a word has more syllables than it's definition. Sometimes people think they can handle an intro when they have no idea. Sometimes I feel like posting episodes of the podcast I guest on.

But only sometimes.



Chamberlain and Chance - Floccinaucinihilipilification!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes Review: The Hate Escape.

Caesar... is... sad.

They did it. They really did it. They made a near perfect trilogy of films after changing directors a third of the way through. They pioneered a motion capture tec so convincing I forget I'm looking at FX 10 minutes in. They managed to fit a touching amount of humanity and nuance in a story told in broad, vibrant, strokes. What these films have to say about politics, war, and civilization deserves to become immortal. This is Shakespeare with gorillas and guns and by god it all works. 

Whoo! I'd better slow down a bit, don't want to sound like this is the be all end all. I don't see a screenwriting oscar in it's future. Still though, these films are so good and so unique I can't help but trip over my own words while I evangelize them. They always play against my expectations. When I expect to see apes conquering the fading world of man; I see apes struggling to stay alive while man does a fine job killing itself.

In the aftermath of Koba's rebellion, his former faithful kowtow to the last bastion of military strength in America. Wouldn't you know it, it's a skin head militia. War wears its incendiary politics on its sleeve. It shines a spotlight on this country's biggest social issue and screams "All these people want is a world where they're in charge. Get it?!"



These "donkeys" are branded and sent to work as dishwashers and pack mules. They betray the future of their own kind only out of spite for their old leader. Subtle ain't it? Naturally, Caesar and co. want out of the Red Woods ASAP. Their scouts found a way, but how do you sneak 200 odd apes around an army?

Caesar is a lot more tired now, his fur snowy with age. He's ready to give his life to make sure his people get out. The dirty secret is this movie isn't about a war at all. It's about the torture and suffering required for leadership. Uneasy lies the head and all that.

I'm sure there was a version of this script with a more Christ-like Caesar but thank god this one is anything but holy. He is consumed by betrayal and it gets him nothing but trouble... and a mute blonde kid. It's fun to see them work in the original's use of mute humans, though this time it's cause is viral instead of surgical. The single best scene is all about Woody Harrelson's skin head commander facing the silent future of humanity and tragically losing his sh*t.

So emotional...
There's so much more I want to talk about. But they've managed to keep the last 2 acts a complete secret and I'll be damned if I spoil what this movie is really about. Serkis is still tremendous as Caesar, Maurice is still the world's most lovable orangutan, and Steve Zahn singlehandedly saves the film from being a complete bummer. No small feat.

I'll need to see it again to see how it stacks up against Dawn, one of my 10 perfect movies, but right now they're pretty close to each other. It's rare to see movies that understand intrigue, politics, and humor all at once. Even rarer to see those movies get top spot at the box office. Let this be a lesson to all aspiring filmmakers. This trilogy had it's "thinking man's sci fi" cake and ate it too. So can yours.


Kentucky's favorite son.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Internet Gold: Hunt for the One Nostriled Man.



One of the best things about the information age is that you can think of something that should exist (a music video of Weird Al's Albuquerque using footage from Breaking Bad) and poof! There it is, perfectly realized:

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Siskel and Ebert review Mask of the Phantasm.

http://comicsalliance.com/files/2013/04/untitled-2-1365193762.jpg


If you listened to the podcast last week, this post makes a lot more sense. It's also just fun on it's own watching these two be all "Has the animated series been better then the movies this whole time?!"

Yes, gentlemen. Paul Dini kicked even Burton's butt.


Wasteland Survival Guide Vol. II: Smelling Roses.


It took a fair bit of mod tweaking, but I've finally come around on Survival mode. The necessity for food and water feeds into the necessity for maintaining multiple settlements. Which means I've had to dive into the half of Fallout 4 I cared for the least. I'm not a builder. I would have much rather have 3 more cites like Good Neighbor than have that minecraft chaff in the game at all. But now I've got all the food I can eat, tons of clean water to sell, and a flourishing chain of surgical clinics. I've got supply chains running all up and down Boston. There's an island off to west whose shoreline glistens with ballistic turrets, automated rocket launchers, and a civilian militia 20 women strong.

I liked settlement building so much I turned Spectacle Island into Themyscira.

I see what I've been missing, it's been a lot. Did you know there were legendary settlers you can recruit? The vault tec salesman's one, except he's a ghoul now. I always felt sorry for that bastard. I did not see Survival mode giving me a fleeting sense of closure. That was damn sneaky of you, Survival mode. Cut that crap out.



Monday, July 10, 2017

This guy thought he could come into MY town...


...mess with MY people.

You all right there, Piper?










Even he knows the ponytail isn't helping...












Whoever did these magazine covers isn't getting paid enough











Seriously Piper... what's going on?



Saturday, July 8, 2017

Wasteland Survival Guide Vol. I: "I'm THIRSTY."

The starch... is an absolute good. The starch is life.

Survival mode is not what I expected. After 6 hours with it I'm both delighted and frustrated. There are great ideas mixed in with punitive nonsense. It's like a 10 course meal and you can't stand 4 of them. Clearly a lot of effort went into it, like it was a pet project of someone high up in Bethesda. If you're the kind of person who wants all games to be a little bit like the long dark, this is certainly that.

I adored New Vegas's hardcore mode. Ammo weight becoming a thing, eating, drinking, and sleeping being necessary. It made the game just involved enough to be more interesting rather than irritating. Fallout 4 has all that and oh, so much more. In New Vegas sleep, thirst, and hunger, would only effect you if they ran out. You would die. Now those things have four depths each taking about 5% off your action points like radiation on your health bar. Oh, and the second levels start deducting SPECIAL points. One time my strength got cut by 4 and I was literally too tired to move.

You can't walk for more than 5 minutes with being sleepy or peckish, or parched. So you find yourself devouring all the cram,  mac'n'cheese, and dirty water in your pack to stave off the crippling consequences. In the process I took out a third of my health bar in RADs and... well let's just say radaway now behaves a lot more like actual chemotherapy now.

It's all really, REALLY, annoying. At least at first, because then I decided I needed to play differently. The lead belly perk, something I'd never conceive of choosing normally, made my crop of mutfruit magically RAD free! The industrial water purifiers used to be something I'd make just because I could. Now that stimpaks dehydrate you, the 30+ bottles of the stuff I make a day are vitally necessary. I also noticed that melons hit both hunger and thirst at once making it worth it's weight in friggin' platinum. I found smart ways to game the new systems and now... well I still think I get too thirsty too fast but I'm still truckin' along.

I could go into how emotionally devastating it can be to loose 45 minutes of progress to one legendary radioactive mole rat who came out of absolutely f**kin nowhere... but I'll save that for Vol. 2.

Raise your hand if you've actually had one of these. Not bad, right?



Thursday, July 6, 2017

Fallout 4: Deathmatch.



The steam sale this year was kind of a bust, it's my fault for being able to afford the things I want when they're first available. Damn you, reasonable income! But I'm nearly done with my 100% Bloodborne run and I need something... different. I've never liked playing the modern fallouts at high difficulty because outside of VATS the combat ain't nothing special. Sad to say.

But I do like the sound of survival mode.* Only being able to save while resting sounds devastating. That's going to change the entire way I approach the game. Each enemy has the ability to erase hours of progress; the cruelest possible fate in any Bethesda game. It wasn't a bug that ate your save file this time, it was your own damn incompetence!

Hell, while we're at it, lemmie try out this savant build. This is the kind of madness I need in my life right now. The fun kind that that doesn't end with radioactive ash hanging in the air. Apropos of nothing, my travel plans won't include Japan or Korea for a very long time. Everything's going to be fine!


*I'm modding fast travel back in because f*ck. THAT. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Back to Bloodborne.



The Souls games were the greatest thing to come out of the last generation. At least to me. They were truly something new. An action RPG that relies on reflexes as much as arcane statistics. Where the level design is as striking and tragic as it's monsters. It's a series that is going to be copied again and again for years to come.

I've ripped each game apart except for one. One I appreciated, but not as much. It was a distant admiration. Bloodborne may have hit higher highs than the Souls trilogy, but at the cost of it's endless replay-ability. In BB you have half as many weapon and armor choices, the levels are more linear, the yharnam architecture gets copied and pasted a bit too much, and the chalice dungeons were kind of a waste of time.

At least that's what I thought at launch. Years later a handful of patches sweetened the pot a bit. For one, the loot has been vastly improved. The blood gems (weapon mods) have more depth and variety to them. I don't remember ever being able to slap some electric damage on my sword cane or shave off some of it's stamina cost. They get even deeper n' weirder in the late game. The loot situation is so good... it made me want to finish the chalice dungeons.

This is an area that tried to be great. It almost got there. The act of a chalice ritual (setting the odds of good loot drops for a dungeon) is brilliant. You can make some crazy ass dungeons if you want. With tight corridors choked with obnoxiously over leveled enemies with ridiculous amounts of health who happen to drop the best loot in the game. Grinding is a problem in souls games, you can never really blow past a boss because you got over leveled. I'd get stuck on a boss and put the game down for a while. In Bloodborne you can make a dungeon way past your level, suicide run it for blood stones (damage upgrades) and kick the shadow of yharnam's ass. They keep you from running into the same proverbial walls and I like the idea.

I get why they're there, but the appeal of souls is lost when the level design goes to sh*t. Once you spend an hour or two down there you know exactly what the layouts are like. After 4, you've seen every room it can generate. I'm at the deepest level and I'll tell you I am sick to death of these rooms. I mean, god help you if you find the courtyard area, you will get lost for at least 10 minutes. Different enemies can shake things up but even the treasure rooms don't surprise me anymore. I know exactly where they can show up.

That being said, this is my longest run by far and I am loving this combination rapier-pistol thing I found. I can shoot and stun an enemy while smacking him around. The enemy AI thinks "melee combat= no bullet stun" but not with this. I trick them into a fight they can't win. I am a goddamn matador. BB on it's own is a 9 out of 10. The chalice dungeons on thier own is a 7 at best. But together, now that I see them as a main quest vacation/loot slot machine I'd say BB is now my second favorite game Hidetaka Miyazaki has made. I'm really glad I gave it a thorough second chance.

Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta go get my ass kicked: