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Video Game: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

March 28, 2017

The Uncharted video games are among the medium’s most cinematic experiences, and with the upgrade to the PlayStation 4, this has never been more true. I tend to find long-form video games exhausting these days, but Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is so perfectly executed that it rewards the commitment. If this is the final game in the series, it’s going out on a very high note.

The series follows the adventurous exploits of Nathan Drake (voiced brilliantly by Nolan North). Drake is a modern-day Indiana Jones with a smidge of Jack Bauer: an international treasure-hunter who travels to the ends of the Earth in search of valuable artifacts and the riches of history. Characterized by terrific voice acting, compelling narrative rife with lavish cut scenes, violent third-person shooter action, and lots and lots of jumping, the Uncharted series unfolds like an interactive TV series, each season bringing back its recurring heroes — including journalist Elena Fisher (Emily Rose) and crafty father-figure Victor Sullivan (Richard McGonagle) — for new globe-trotting adventures.

Uncharted 4 opens with Drake trying to move on from his violent, dangerous past, living a simple life as a salvager back in the United States. But he’s soon lured out of retirement when his long-lost brother Sam (Troy Baker) miraculously reappears. Long thought dead, Sam suffered for years in a Central American prison, and now that he’s out, he’s up to his ears in debt to a shady cartel criminal. To save his skin, he recruits Drake to help him track down the pirate treasure of Henry Avery, a legendary pirate of yesteryear. Motivated by guilt and the lure of new adventure, Drake soon becomes obsessed with the case, leading to an epic search for the lost pirate city of Libertalia.

Any discussion of this game has to start with the visuals, which are (as usual) gorgeous, and not just in the dramatic, movie-like cut scenes. The vistas are stunning and the worldbuilding is incredibly detailed, which only becomes more impressive when you interact with it. During gameplay, the graphics are seamlessly realistic. When Drake is in combat, he flinches convincingly from gunfire as the objects in the room shatter around him. Pushing through crowds, he displays sensible body language as he brushes up against people. When he skulks through high grass in stealth mode, it rustles in response to his passing. Uncharted has always had a first-rate third-person shooter mechanic, and it’s just as well handled here as in previous installments, but with the most responsive destructible environment I’ve ever seen. It’s an impressive spectacle, truly state of the art.

But where Uncharted 4 stands out even more is in its clever writing and stellar voice-acting. Oh, the pirate-treasure plotline is the usual heightened reality nonsense, but the characters are well defined and superbly performed. The dialogue is well written, with a deft sense of humor. Another nice touch is the way your gameplay triggers the dialogue: crash your jeep, and Sullivan criticizes your driving, for example. It takes the interactive experience of gaming to another level.

Of course, like the rest of the series, Uncharted 4 is dreadfully violent — indeed, almost sociopathically so, which is occasionally disturbing in the context of such an immersive story. And speaking of immersive, the visuals are so disorientingly vivid that at times motion sickness became a problem for me, especially when trying to drive the goddamned jeep. But those are my only real complaints about an otherwise fantastic entertainment. I don’t often have the patience or stamina to finish video games of this nature, but this is an outstanding exception.

 

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Games

Video Game: Star Wars Battlefront

March 8, 2016

BattlefrontIn light of the limited number of available PlayStation 4 titles of interest, it seems inevitable we’d end up with a copy of Star Wars Battlefront. In the wake of Star Wars: The Force Awakens fever, how could we resist?

I was excited about the look of the early trailers, but my enthusiasm was dampened by the — totally valid, as it turns out — negative reviews it received. Star Wars Battlefront lacks the two aspects of video games I crave most: narrative and character. The former problem is considerably more pronounced: Battlefront’s single-player, offline mode is woefully slim, basically a series of training exercises. But it’s the inability to create your very own Star Wars universe character that I found even more disappointing. You can level as a player, unlocking new weapons and guises that enable you to randomly change gear and appearance, but there’s never a sense of embracing an identity, which tends to be what truly invests me in a game.

Based on these paper-thin story elements, it’s obvious the developers were counting on dazzling visual effects, compelling atmosphere, brilliant John Williams’ music, and the players’ investment in a legendary franchise to sell this one. And really it’s hard to blame them: from a production standpoint, it is truly impressive. Battlefront looks and sounds and feels like Star Wars: an interactive, intensely violent, grunt’s-eye view of Star Wars, at any rate. The problem is the only way to experience it is through ruthless, player-versus-player battlegrounding.

This is a style of gaming that’s never really appealed to me, alas. I soldiered through several online sessions only to find myself blasted over and over again by better-skilled, better-geared players and then having to run a mile or so back into action. It really didn’t get its hooks in, at first, with the exception of Fighter Squadron mode, where I found death a little less inevitable and more impersonal.

For some reason, though, I kept coming back for more, and ironically as soon as I embraced my inner stormtrooper, I stopped dying so much and missing my target. The game that hooked me was Walker Assault, where the tactical and strategic objectives lend an element of drama and sense to a game that’s otherwise all flash, dazzle, and frustration. It’s even possible to do well in this one even if you’re not particularly good, provided you focus on the objectives. Mindlessly laboring to destroy a couple of AT-ATs, or escort them to victory, has turned out to be an odd kind of therapeutic fun.

Star Wars Battlefront is a rightly maligned game, and I’m not sure how long it will hold my interest. But it does have its addictive qualities and it’s certainly beautifully produced. Depending on your gaming style, this title will be hit or miss.

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Postapalooza II

February 24, 2014

The drawback to reviewing virtually everything: it’s almost inevitable you’ll fall behind. So far, the blog hasn’t been as verbose as usual in 2014, which I chalk up to a combination of day job exhaustion, writing depression, and, well, marathoning the increasingly addictive final three seasons of The Shield. (Holy shit, guys…but more on that in a later post.)

This doesn’t mean stuff hasn’t been happening, of course, but the idea of catching up with my usual pathological  completism is just too daunting.  So, in the interest of catching up, I’m purging the backlog in one massive post.

COMICS

 I’m still collecting comic books, although lately I’ve scaled back my pull list for financial reasons.  The Marvel universe continues to dominate, with Captain Marvel, Daredevil, and especially Hawkeye continuing as favorites. I’m also quite excited about the new Ms. Marvel, penned by G. Willow Wilson; the first issue, featuring Marvel’s first Muslim superhero, was superb.  The new Black Widow solo book is also promising, gorgeously illustrated by Phil Noto. I’ve pretty much dropped all the Avengers and X-Men team books, which have fantastic art but feel almost universally incoherent to me, mainly by cramming in too many characters at the expensive of focused story-telling.

I’m also keeping up with a few independent titles: Greg Rucka’s darkly futurismic Lazarus, Ed Brubaker’s period spy series Velvet, and Matt Fraction’s hilarious Sex Criminals. The latter is easily the best of the three; Fraction takes his Hawkeye sense of humor and pushes it in playfully clever new adult directions, in a refreshingly sex-positive manner. All three, though, are worth supporting.

MUSIC

A major highlight of the year so far was my first rock concert in, like, seven years – wait, what? Two Thursdays ago, at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles, I introduced some friends of mine to two of my favorite bands:  miRthkon and Secret Chiefs 3. Wow, what an awesome show! miRthkon raised the energy of the room brilliantly with their inimitable brand of avant-garde genre fusion: a blistering rock show infused with funk, jazz, and metal. Then Secret Chief 3 came out and played for nearly two hours, an ecletic mix of tunes reaching back through their amazing catalogue of metal, surf rock, cinema soundtrack, techno, and Middle Eastern music. Both bands were amazing live; at times I felt they were on some other planet, grooving in impossible time signatures. It took a full day for my ears to stop ringing, but it was worth it. Great show! And hey look, here’s a clip of SC3 from that very show (the tune is “Vajra”):

I’ve also added some new albums to my collection:

  • Vasaraasia (2000), Alamaailman Vasarat:  An early album from this uniquely crazy Finnish band – their name translates to “Hammers of the Underworld” – with an otherworldly chamber music feel heavy on low end and unusual orchestration (saxes, cellos, and horns). Entertaining stuff.
  • The Quantum Hack Code (2012), Amogh Symphony:  Inventive, djent-metally concept album, its pieces tied together with science fiction narration, replete with the requisite factory-default “soothing female” voice. The story is nonsense, but the music is interesting and different.
  • Swarm (2014), Atomic Ape:  I just got this, but I’m very excited about it, a new project featuring Estradasphere guitarist Jason Schimmel. All-instrumental jazz with a quirky, energetic, Middle Eastern vibe to it. Instantly likeable.
  • Sing-Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious (2009), Diablo Swing Orchestra:  An earlier album of “swing-metal” from this group, which hooked me with their more recent Pandora’s Pinata. Great stuff.
  • You Must Be This Tall (2013), Mike Keneally: Keneally’s stuff usually takes several listens to win me over, but I liked this one almost immediately, even though its songs struck me as…deliberately uncatchy? For me, his best since Dancing; I usually have to describe Keneally’s work by referencing Steely Dan, XTC, and Zappa, but at this point it’s all just sounding distinctly Keneallian to me. An unjustly overlooked rock composer.
  • Lingua Franca (2013), T.R.A.M.: Is this “djazz?” This EP is a side project of Animals as Leaders’ brilliant guitarist Tosin Abasi.  An improvisation-friendly blend of djent metal, modern jazz, and world music, very interesting stuff.

VIDEO GAMES

 Our PlayStation 3 is pretty much our one-stop shop for home entertainment these days. Jenn and I have been sampling console games together on the weekends lately and we’ve hit on some great ones. The most impressive for me was Tomb Raider, the much-discussed Lara Croft origin story released last year.  Fans of the original series find it wanting in some ways, but as someone new to the series, I found it quite satisfying from a gameplay level, and positively immersive as video-game story-telling.  Particularly in its opening stages, Tomb Raider is affecting and harrowing, with some real emotional weight to its survival story. In the end it relies too much on high-bodycount, third-person gunplay, and probably borrows too much from the Uncharted series.  But overall it’s the kind of cinematic story-telling game I’d like to more often from the industry.

Less enthralling to me was Skyrim, which struck me as a console variation on World of Warcraft. Its  world is gorgeously designed and it’s lavishly produced, and it is fun and robust, accommodating many play styles.  But I found it less-than-addictive, for some reason; maybe my WoW-style itch has been scratched already? I suspect, on the other hand, that it will strikes others as superior to WoW, with its real-time combat, striking visuals, and its entirely voice-acted character interactions.

Finally, there’s Borderlands 2, which is also analogous to WoW in some ways: it’s got classes, leveling up, weapon upgrades, and an identical quest system. But Borderlands 2 is wild, stupid first-person shooter fun with an in-your-face, Tarantino-like sensibility and a great sense of humor. We’ve had a blast playing this in split-screen, co-op mode and so far our only complaint is that the missions run long and the saving system is confusing. Other than that, though, thumbs up.

WRITING

 I’ve been in a bleak place with writing lately, but I’m hanging in there, with the help of Jenn and my awesome local writing group, the Freeway Dragons.  A new short story is making the rounds, and February has seen the start of a new novel project, a corporate espionage fantasy with the working title Ubiquity, Ltd. It’s still early, but so far the new book feels like a total freaking mess. But at least I’m putting words down – 12,000 of them so far – and sometimes that’s the only part of this business you can control. So I’m hanging in there!

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Games

PS3 Games

July 31, 2013

As part of our general household streamlining last month, I traded in a bunch of old games for store credit* and brought home a couple of fresh titles.

Jenn and I have been playing the Uncharted series together, and the third one, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, is another highly entertaining installment in the series. This series follows Nathan Drake, a kind of modern day fusion of Indiana Jones and Jack Bauer, who roams the world tracking down archaeological treasures and solving historical mysteries.  The earlier Uncharted titles boast some of the best story-telling in the business, and this one is no exception.  The graphics, meanwhile, are absolutely gorgeous.  (The cityscapes in Yemen are particularly impressive here.)  The gameplay is fun, a combination of puzzle-solving, third-person shooter, and cinematic viewing experience; in fact, if there’s a flaw to the game, it’s that it tries to be all games to all people. For me, the shoot-outs and action sequences grow tedious after a while, interrupting the flow of narrative, and the body-counts get increasingly ridiculous. (Others will probably live for the fights.) Overall, though, this title is pretty great.

I also snapped up FIFA 2013.  EA Sports does sports games right, and this soccer simulator is pretty spectacular. Like the NHL franchise, this one has modes where you can control the whole team, or just one player (“Be a Pro”). I’m finding the controls more complicated than hockey, but the graphics, commentary, replays, weather effects, and ball physics are all very well done, and in general I think it’s a better-looking game than the NHL series, and just as addictive.

* Footnote for the future:  In 2013, there are still brick-and-mortar video game stores where you can go to buy games.

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Gaming Sequels

October 15, 2011

Part of my extended blogging break involved playing some new video games – and an old one. First up is Portal 2, which I bought Jenn for her birthday.  We started with the cooperative mode, wherein you play two Wall-E like robots in an abandoned, post-apocalyptic research facility.  Using “portal guns” to open doorways in the dilapidated, maze-like buildings, you’re directed by a sardonic female robot voice through a series of puzzle-solving tests, utilizing various silly technologies to navigate the tricky corridors and reach the end of each level.  It’s loads of fun, a great two-person game combining eerie dystopian atmosphere, brainteasers, and a quirky sense of humor.  We’ve only just sampled the single-player mode, which is very funny and quite different from the co-op mode.  Great game!

My folks got me the latest EA Sports hockey title, NHL 12, for my birthday.  I’ve been a fan – maybe addict is a better word – of this series for going on seventeen years now.  (Holy shit, has it been that long?)  So far this version looks like yet another improvement to an already great game, and I’ve finally found the sweet spot between too easy and infuriatingly difficult.  The new physics engine rocks, and the game’s never felt more realistic and unpredictable.  I’m playing both the “Be a Pro” mode and “Be a GM” mode, and both are fantastic.  In “Be a Pro” mode you can create an avatar of yourself and join your favorite team’s roster, just playing that one player’s shifts. (I’m wearing #13 for the Sabres at the moment…) “Be a GM” mode is the classic franchise mode, where you can control an entire team – everything from drafts and trades to line combinations and strategies to the gameplay itself.  Yep, still loving the NHL series…and loving that hockey season is back!

Finally, I got a great, throwback nostalgia gift from Jenn:  Call of Duty 2, a World War II FPS that I was hooked on before I converted to Mac.  I ended up giving my PC versions away, but the Mac version runs great on my new desktop, and I’m having fun replaying this one’s familiar missions — this time with smoke effects that don’t disable my computer.  (The later, PS3 versions of this game, even with improved graphics, have never held the same appeal for me as the earlier mouse-and-keyboard CoDs; I’m planning to re-grab the original Call of Duty and the United Offensive expansion too.)

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Games

Video Game: Civilization V

April 7, 2011

Several years ago I played an earlier iteration of the Civilization series on my old PC.  I loved it, but it  kept crashing my computer and I drifted away from the series.  Recently I felt the itch for a new gaming pasttime, and since I figured my new Mac would be robust enough to handle it, I decided to check out the latest version of the game:  Civilization V.

Civ is a powerfully addictive, turn-based strategy game involving manipulating units on a detailed, randomly generated map of a planet.  You start by selecting a civilization to play (American, Chinese, or Roman, for example), settle your capital city, and then send your units out to explore the world.   The map fills in as you move around, revealing resources and various types of terrain (deserts, mountains, and so forth), and eventually you start bumping into other nations and city-states, with whom you can trade and negotiate.  There are various ways to win the game:  everything from military domination, to diplomatic victory, to building a space program.  And as such, you can adopt a play style to fit your personality, focusing on the military angle, diplomatic interactions, policy, or cultural initiatives.

It’s a robust, compelling simulator to be sure — and so far, my experience with it has been limited to single player mode with the difficulty level set relatively low.  For diehard strategy gamers, I expect the higher difficulty levels would be more fun, and of course you can also play online games against other human-controlled civilizations.  (The game is so time-consuming, I can’t imagine fitting group play into my scattershot video gaming sessions.)  My new Mac still has trouble with the “Huge” map size, but other than that it’s been able to handle the game’s complex world-building and graphics.  Be forewarned: this one can get its hooks into you and eat hours of your day, but it’s great fun!

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Games, Hockey

Video Gamery

January 7, 2011

I rang in the holiday season with two new video games. I’ll start with NHL 11, the latest installment in EA Sports’ classic line of hockey simulations. This series goes back to 1994 with me, when I first played the Sega Genesis edition, and I’ve basically been a junkie to it ever since. It’s come a long way since then: the play-by-play is more realistic than ever, and every game feels a little like an interactive TV broadcast of a real game, complete with replays, stats, and commentary coloring the proceedings. The season and dynasty modes continue to improve, and there are all sorts of online gameplay options I haven’t even investigated yet, but lately all I play is “Be a Pro” mode, which lets you create a single player and play that one player through an entire career.  (Compared to the rest of the game, the character-creation graphic options are pretty crude, unfortunately.)  A new option this year allows you to play yourself through some junior games prior to the draft, to position yourself to be selected by whatever team picks you. This year I put myself in as a playmaking center, got drafted late in the first round by the Calgary Flames (gah! Not the Kings or Sabres?), and squeaked onto the team out of the preseason. Now I’m centering the second line between Niklas Hagman and Ales Kotalik, where I specialize in faceoffs, accurate passing, and getting flattened by defensemen. The puck physics are even better this year, and the games feel pretty damn real: sticks break, controversial goals are waved off, skater momentum is more natural. If you love hockey, I recommend this one: a much less frustrating alternative to following your actual team muddle through a season. ☺

There’s a reason I don’t review a lot of video games, by the way. That reason is World of Warcraft, which consumes the majority of my gaming time. In mid-December the third expansion dropped, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, and it’s easily the best yet. The simplest way to describe WoW is “virtual D&D;” players create characters, choosing a race, a class, professions, and so forth, and then gain levels by executing quests and acquiring experience points as they journey across the landscape of the fantasy world of Azeroth. The world is enormous and the game is rich and deep, accommodating any number of game styles: you can play for the social media angle (as a mmorpg, it’s a strictly online game wherein you can interact with other players, role-play, join guilds, run group instances and raids, etc.), for the story-telling (the different zones, races, and factions each have their own lore, and the quest-lines tell stories), for the PvP options (the two main factions, Alliance and Horde, are constantly going at it in the various “battleground” instances), and more.

Cataclysm is, in some ways, the Ultimate Patch to the crusty old regions of its original release – a thorough revamping of the entirety of old Azeroth, but also adding five brand new high-level zones, and two new playable races with their own starting areas. The high level content is fantastic, with the stunning underwater region of Vashj’ir and the Egyptian-feeling desert zone of Uldum standing out for me. But the new race starting areas are particularly fun: the dark, rainy territory of Gilneas, where the worgen (basically werewolf) race begins, and the even more fun goblin starting area of Kezan. Both of these zones do amazing things with phased terrain, the landscape transforming drastically as you complete quests and level through areas. The game has gotten a little simpler over the years; a number of game mechanics have changed since the early days to make it easier to keep up and get around. I suspect this is a change of strategy to make it easier for casual players to get involved rather than just hardcore gamers. Of course, I’ve never considered myself a hardcore gamer, but I’ve always found it frighteningly easy to get immersed in WoW. The rumors are true about its addictive, time-consuming nature, so enter at your own risk! But I do recommend it highly, particularly to gamers with willpower.

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Catching Up

November 6, 2010

I just noticed I’m on pace for my least productive blogging month since I launched this site two Januarys ago.  I think part of it has to do with the Futurismic shutdown, which I have to say hit me like a ton of bricks — harder than I expected, actually.  I didn’t think it would be that much of a mental readjustment, but it sure has been!

That said, I haven’t exactly been moping around avoiding the blog.  I’ve just been staying busy, and not quite tearing through movies and TV shows and books at the usual reviewing pace.

In the “keeping busy” department:

  • The day job has been kind of exhausting the last couple of weeks.  Year-ending earnings tends to load us up with copy before the holiday slowdown.
  • Jenn and I went to a hockey game last weekend!  It was our first in nearly a year, a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils (goals:  Justin Williams, Michal Handzus, and Jarret Stoll).  There was also a nice pre-game ceremony for former defenseman Mattias Norstrom.  By the way, the Kings are leading the NHL so far this year — what the hell?  It was nice to get back to Staples for a game; we had been going a few times a year, but haven’t been able to afford it as much lately.  A great birthday present — thanks for the date, Jenn!
  • I’m revising Subnetworks.  Or, as my writing friends might describe it, “pre-revising.”  I read it through once for pace, now I’m red-inking it for the ultimate actual re-writing.  It’s going slower than I’d hoped — distractions have abounded, from being bummed about Futurismic to uh, considerably less bummed about the next bullet point.  But the project moves forward slowly.  Major revising is new territory for me, especially at this length, so I feel like I’m still learning the ropes.
  • At long last, I bought a new iMac.  I’d been planning to do this for a long time, but the money has been elusive.  Well, it’s still elusive, but I finally took the plunge.  Between the new World of Warcraft patches and my ever-increasing body of GarageBand work, I was rapidly running out of space on my veteran laptop.  Setting up the new computer has come with some labor-intensive file migration and trouble-shooting, and my dramatically improved framerate has made Azeroth look like an entirely different world.  So my work mornings have been consumed with music remixing, WoW sessions, and computer maintenance stuff.  I’m enjoying the hell out of it!  (Now all I have to do is pay it off…!)

Aside from that, still consuming media at a slightly less insane pace than usual.

  • Books:  Slogging through a massive, interesting WWII history about military deception called The Deceivers by Thaddeus Holt.  Also rather enjoying an anthology of spy fiction, to be reviewed soon…
  • TV:   With Rubicon’s first season in the books (and here’s hoping it gets renewed!), my current favorite show is Terriers on F/X.  This show just keeps getting better — great characters, fantastic dialogue, and mysteries-of-the-week that actually interest me.  I’m also enjoying Modern Family (even funnier this year, I think) and The Big Bang Theory (to a lesser degree).  Although I’m happy it’s keeping Nathan Fillion employed, I’ve kind of given up on Castle.  I sampled BBC’s Luther and didn’t make it through the second act.  Haven’t experienced The Walking Dead yet, but we’ve got it recorded.

So plenty of blogging material, then — just haven’t quite been blogging it!

Other from that, I’ve been spending quality time with Jenn and the cats, brainstorming new creative projects, gearing up for a new GarageBand album, and generally enjoying life!

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A Weekend of Milestones

August 30, 2010

This year my M.O. for vacation time has consisted of scheduling it out piecemeal into various four-day “staycation” weekends that give me a chance to get away from the office and recharge my batteries — in the company of my favorite person and my two favorite cats, of course!  Since home is my favorite place to be, I’m perfectly happy to spend my vacations this way — and the fact that it’s both cheaper and lazier is a nice bonus!

This weekend held particular significance, though:  Thursday represented the four-year mark since Jenn and I met at Worldcon in Anaheim.  It’s been an exciting and wonderful four years so far, full of change and adventure for both of us.  We rang in the occasion with a spectacular dinner at our favorite restaurant here in the Valley, Café Carolina.  Jenn’s post describes the meal perfectly, so I won’t try to elaborate, except to show you the dessert:

We filled our Friday and Saturday with food and fun as well.  One highlight was an outing to Dark Delicacies in Burbank, a horror bookshop where Amelia Beamer was signing her new novel.  There we met up with friends and made some new ones, then stopped over at Porto’s for a pile of pastries.

It wouldn’t be a four-day weekend without TV, movies, and games, of course.  I’m catching up on season five of Rescue Me (about halfway through so far); I always seem to forget how good this show is when I’m not watching it.  I find elements of it problematic, but there’s something refreshing about how unapologetic and gutsy it is, and the ensemble cast is consistently amazing.  (I think Steven Pasquale in particular is a brilliant comic actor, and his story arc this year has been filled with entertaining surprises.)  We also instant-streamed the weird Belgian animated film A Town Called Panic, a wonderfully strange, frantic movie I found a little too stream of conscious for a full review — suffice it to say, it’s the best weird Belgian stop-motion animation you’ve ever seen.  And on Saturday night we enjoyed some World of Warcraft instancing with friends, where I got to heal my first heroics with my neglected resto druid.  (If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry about it…)

The weekend wrapped up with Jenn’s birthday, and I made my first solo batch of chocolate chip cookies — a personal baking milestone.  Not only that, but they look and taste like cookies.  Holy shit!

It was nice to shut down and relax for a while, but it’s Monday again and time to resume some responsibility.  Back to work, to editing, to blogging and bill-paying…and soon, to writing, as I’ve decided September will ring in draft two of Subnetworks (or, more likely, draft 1.5, the last pre-critique version).

For now I’ll leave you with our anniversary photo — I do believe we are as happy as we look in this picture, so it’s a great way to remember a great weekend!

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Weekend Tube: Two Mini-Marathons

July 5, 2010

A couple of TV mini-marathons this holiday weekend, courtesy of instant-streaming:

The 10-episode second season of the tragically canceled Party Down  started a little slowly, but hit its stride midway through (“Steve Guttenberg’s Birthday” and “Not On Your Wife’s Opening Night” are two highlights), mostly living up to the promise of its first year.  As usual, low-key chemistry from leads Adam Scott and Lizzy Caplan anchors the series, while the antics of the rest of the crew color the proceedings.  Attempting to replace the irreplaceable Jane Lynch is Megan Mullally, and she does an admirable job, bringing a little something different to the mix.  Often crass, occasionally sweet, and usually very funny, Party Down was clearly too smart, witty, and fun to live — I guess the ratings were pretty dismal.  Fortunately the final episode brings some rather satisfying, understated closure to the series.  Sadly, I expect this one will develop its cult after the fact.

We also caught up on season three of The Guild, Felicia Day’s gamer-oriented, short web series featuring a sextet of misfits playing a World of Warcraft-style mmorpg.  Codex (Day) assumes guildmaster duties in this season, which pits them against a rival, evil guild, run by (who else?) Wil Wheaton.  The comedy is pretty uneven and the budget is shoestring, but it’s cute and charming for those steeped in the source material (non-WoW players really need not apply).  Slight, but fun, and I thought this season was a step up from the previous one.

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Busy Saturday, Lazy Sunday

October 4, 2009

It was kind of a long, rough week, so Saturday came as a welcome respite, and Jenn and I spent a busy and celebratory day together.

First we went to Jenn’s studio in Burbank for a screening party of the new Slangman’s World episodes.  For those who aren’t aware, Jenn has been writing and voice-acting for this animated kids’ show, the next incarnation of which is debuting on Georgia Public Broadcasting tomorrow.  The new shows are a blast and it’s an exciting time for the studio as they anticipate further production.

Then we drove south to the Staples Center in downtown LA to watch the home opener for the Los Angeles Kings.  We’ve never had so much fun watching our team get destroyed.  The visiting Phoenix Coyotes, a team in financial disarray and with its ultimate future still in limbo, shredded our defense to win 6-3.  Decked out in our home blacks, we had fun anyway, and both of our jersey picks — Alexander Frolov and Anze Kopitar — scored goals, leading us to conclude that had we just worn four more jerseys, we might have pulled this one out!  Better luck next time, fellas…

In the aftermath of this busy and exhausting day, we stayed holed up at home on Sunday writing, drinking coffee, napping, watching TV, and generally chilling with the cats.  I also joined my first-ever World of Warcraft PuG raid, an overpowered Molten Core run this morning.  I usually hate pick-up groups but for some reason I got talked into this one, and had fun.  I also came out of it with this awesome screenshot of my orc taking aim at the final boss:

ScreenShot_100409_125241

Overall a great weekend, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  Life should always be all weekend-y!

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