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Preview: Hooligan Youth Reviews

Hooligan Youth Reviews



You throw us the idol, we throw you the whip.



Updated: 2017-09-07T19:40:45.868-05:00

 



Well, holy moly. He's actually doing it...

2016-12-08T11:20:53.209-06:00


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Bicycle gear review: Sunlite Gold Tec HD Tourer Rack & Roswheel 3 in 1 Bike Bags

2016-08-24T00:33:14.466-05:00

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know...it's been almost two years since anything got posted on HYR.  I'll do another post as to why but for now here is a first impressions review of the Sunlite Gold Tec HD Tourer Rack I picked up from The Bike Shop last week (08/15/2016). I decided to try to install it myself (rode home with it jerry-rigged to my backpack).  Managed to get it attached with a minimal amount of profanity and sober.  All right!  Woo!  Yesterday (08/22/16), as I was riding home the top connectors came loose (popped out more accurately) as I was riding and the entire rack hinged back and bounced off the wheel.  Fortunately, I wasn't on North St, was slowing to an intersection, didn't really have anything in my Roswheel 3 in 1 bags, and was only about a half mile walk to The Bike Shop (which was still open).  The staff at the shop was awesome and helped me get fixed up (and I need to not only start carrying tools with me but I need to get a set of wrenches, rassafrassarassa bicycles making me feel all, "You know nothing, Jon Snow!").Apparently I neglected to tighten the connectors with a wrench.  I knew something was wrong after I installed it because I heard a rattle ("That doesn't sound right") and was going to swing by the shop anyway because I figured that I had messed something up and I did. So there. Stupid learning experiences. There's nothing wrong with it now (knock on wood).  Rode home yesterday with a decent load of groceries.  Went for a ride this evening and nothing was rattly or shaky.  It's not particularly heavy (2.4lbs) and seems solid now that is properly attached.  That being said, I'm planning on putting fenders on my bike which means I (or the fine folks at The Bike Shop) will have to take rack off and compensate for a fender.  Once that is done I'm thinking applying some thread locker might not be a terrible idea (or maybe it is, what do I know?) to really clamp the bastard down.  First impressions, not really a fan, but for the price point *shrug*.I picked up the Roswheel 3 in 1 bike bags earlier this month for about $30 (I couldn't pass up the deal at that price point). I kind of really dig the OD Green.It's been raining here in East Texas for the last week or so (not as bad as in Louisiana but pretty severely on and off) and these bags have managed to keep whatever I put in them dry.  Now, I haven't gone through a deluge with them yet so...I like these bags though I haven't tried to see just how much I can cram in them (I haven't given them the 30-pack test yet).  It's a set of panniers that velcro to the rack and the top bag/satchel clips on at four points.  Looking at the photo now, ah so the satchel strap is supposed to go through the whacha-loop-things...hold on,  I was figuring that's how it was supposed to work because there are plastic D-rings on the panniers to help lift them up.  I'm going to go see how this is supposed to work.*cue holding music*Well, I can see by the picture how it is supposed to work but the shoulder strap clips do not fit through the loop.  It's about half-inch too narrow.  Easy enough to fix, was gonna have to pick up some bungees and paracord anyway. The shoulder strap is nigh on useless as a shoulder strap in any case.  Before I picked up the rack I tried riding to work just with the satchel and shoulder strap. Uncomfortable and unsteady.  Won't do that again.First impressions, there is a learning curve.  Once I figure out how to properly secure and pack the panniers with the right gear they're probably going to be pretty awesome for the price point.  They have great clearance for pedaling and they don't shift about (even with a poorly mounted rack).  There is a fairly rigid piece of paneling on the interior so the bags won't get sucked into the spokes (again, knock on wood).  What I am not so keen on is the lack of interior pockets/storage compartments.  However, if what I've been reading and w[...]



The Pineywoods Purgatory 25 mile ride or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Long Distance Bike Ride

2014-10-04T19:05:43.502-05:00

After months of not posting I finally have something worth posting about:A good friend asked me if I wanted to attempt the Pineywoods Purgatory 25 mile ride.  To our mutual surprise, "Yes, I do want to".  I wanted to a lot.  The next day, when I was sober, it dawned on me that I had no idea what I had drunkenly agreed to and immediately began to think of reasons to weasel out (yeah, pretty much what I do when I agree to do things when I'm drunk) and then, I didn't want to weasel out of this.  I did not know if I could do it or what it entailed or...I went through the self-doubt rolodex.A few weeks passed and I poked around on the internet for reviews of the ride, tips for riding your first 25 mile ride, yadda, yadda, yadda.  98% of what I found was, for  my tastes, useless information. There were articles for cyclists (y'know, people who ride 25 miles as their warm-up).  There were articles for women who wanted to train for their first long ride but who trained and went a gym and balanced bicycling with their lifestyles.  Then last week I threw some numbers around about what I have been biking each week (roughly 35 miles) since the middle of March 2014.  So with maths, roughly 840 miles in six months from my new home to work and back and around town.  Downside is I still smoke like a fish and drink like a chimney but hey, bicycling and new found confidence that I could potentially complete a 25 mile ride without dropping dead or vomiting blood or both.In the last week people have been asking me, "Why are you riding 25 miles?"  Mostly with incredulity, though I'm not sure if they wonder why someone would ride that far in one go or if they wonder why the hell I would do it (most people seem to think that I hate everything, up to and including most physical activities people think of as "fun").  My initial response was honest and far from snarky, "I never do anything, I've never done anything like this before, and I want to see if I can do this."  Then I would say something snarky to make them feel more at ease.My friend picked me up this morning at 6:30am.  Loaded up the bikes and gear and drove down to Lufkin for the ride.  Yeah, I was nervous over the last couple of days and last night I asked, "What the fuck did I talk myself into?"  That early on Saturday morning after only a few hours of little kid Christmas Eve sleep, I wasn't nervous I was on autopilot.  He offered much needed advice and suggestions on riding etiquette and cadence & pacing.Around 7:30amMy biking outfit consisted of khakis (hems tucked into socks ride to work style), Stewart plaid Doc Martens (purchased in 1996), my smelly hat, borrowed bike gloves, new underclothes (second time wearing boxer briefs in my entire life), and an electric blue too-tight shirt I bought from Goodwill last Thursday for $3.99.  Riding a 7.3 FX Trek (gifted back in May '14 by same friend who invited me to this ride).I joked that if I died, I wanted to have a last cigarette.A couple of minutes before lining up to set off.  I have to admit that I felt an old, sadly familiar, Hooligan Youth feeling watching and looking at most of the other riders.  Self-conscious, woefully inexperienced, poor, and not sure if I should really be there at all. Then that surge of, "I'm going to kick ass just out of spite."  Nerves really hit me when  my friend and I got queued up - thankfully near the back.  I didn't have to recite the  "Litany of Fear" but I had to consciously keep my breath regulated.Then it was time to set off.  I almost hit a firetruck bumper trying to get my left shoe in the strap and not crash into anyone.  Out of the parking lot, took a right, and had some goddamned fun.I funned all over the place.I swear to God, I had all the funs.  Except for...well, I can't tell you.There was one point I had to dismount but other than that I did solid (mostly).  Awesome ride with excellent com[...]



Yeah, I'm still not dead and neither is HYR:

2014-02-27T17:43:19.625-06:00


"The days go on and on... they don't end. 
All my life needed was a sense of someplace to go. 
I don't believe that one should devote his life to morbid self-attention, 
I believe that one should become a person like other people."
- Taxi Driver (1976)


Been a long while since I posted anything besides on the Hooligan Youth facebook page, I know.  There's been a heavy funk fog settled in here at HYR headquarters for the last few months (and no, I don't mean gamer stink and cigarette smoke).  I haven't posted because, frankly, I didn't have anything going on that was worth more than a sound byte and I have been depressed as hell.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not tra-la-la-la, "Nobody gonna break my stride" right now - I'm still on the razor's edge of living off of the good graces of friends and thinking navel-gazing morbid thoughts.  It's just, well, I'm at the start of the up-swing from the opening quote.

Moxie & I are moving into a historical home with an excellent family of friends (one family but I'm friends with all of them) in the next two weeks.

Positive aspects about this life change:

  • Moxie will have a bunch of other cats to hang out with (indoors).
  • The depression plaguing me for the last year (or so) has been replaced by my preferred mental mode of pragmatic logistics (thank you, three years of EVE and over three decades of gaming for this neural mapping).
  • My daily commute mileage will be doubled.  I'm gonna get wicked shredded.
  • If I do die in my sleep (in the next year or so), someone will notice sooner than later.  I had a really bad night a few weeks ago, when I couldn't sleep and my brain was just being a total dick and I started thinking about being dead and CSI gross and an inconvenience and Moxie has eaten chunks of my face (and is all psycho and like Church at the end of the book and has to be put down) and the corpse that was left, unnoticed, in a car back in Austin on North Loop in the parking lot of our apartment complex and the stench of death was horrible but all of us neighbors were all like, "God, what is that smell? Smells like something died." (Seriously, before Amanda and I moved to Nac in 08, that summer, a corpse was in a car in the summer heat - it smelled worse than my Grandfather's dog who loved to roll on carcasses).  
  • The house has two kitchens.
  • I'm looking forward to min/maxing my stuff into more or less one  room.  It's not that I own a lot (thank god I never wanted to buy a sofa, thank you Fight Club) but I have a good amount of stuff I've lugged around for years that I haven't looked at (or listened to or read or used) in years.  Maybe it's time to just shitcan that stuff.
At this juncture all I have for a cribbed closing is, "This is this."

I hope that all of you fine folks are safe and doing well and not letting the bastards grind you down.

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Iron Man 3 (2013) dir Shane Black

2013-12-28T21:10:13.902-06:00

As we all know, well those of us who know, Shane Black has scripted Christmas for a lot of us.  Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.  These movies imprinted on me hard when I first saw them as a kid (I was 10 in 1987 - Mr. Black was 26 - the year that Lethal Weapon  came out).  Brutally hard movies with noir dialogue (and yes I knew what noir dialogue was when I was a kid because my father took me to a revival theater that mostly screened noir but that's another story for another time...).

So Shane Black directed and co-wrote Iron Man 3.

Fuck it.  This movie was awesome.  I wasn't expecting some of the human elements (though I should have) that Black brought to Tony Stark.  Stark's PTSD wasn't overplayed nor did it have/lean back on Hallenbeck humor (Tony Stark is too, well, Tony Stark).  I found the dialogue play between Downey Jr. & Cheedle to be not only the best parts of the movie but also the most Black-esque.

Not as satisfying as the first Iron Man movie nor as satisfying as Black's earlier works, I think that this movie will grow on me as I watch it.  Fuck, when's the last time I wanted to own a movie after watching it?  Iron Man 3 is fun and filled with mayhem and Black gets some solid performances out his crew (something Branaugh and Whedon didn't on Thor: the Blonde Douche God).



Valerie June "Pushin' Against a Stone" (2013)

2013-12-28T22:02:31.536-06:00

Holy fucking shitfire.  The first post in months and it's about an album?

(Side note primus:  My life has pretty been suck and broke, mostly in tandem for months.)

I managed to drunkenly blunder up on and over Valerie June's "Pushin' Against a Stone" the other night when I was feeling sorry for myself (you know what sucks more than feeling sorry for yourself when you're drunk?  Feeling sorry for yourself when you're sober and watching SVU  on mute and eating crappy microwaved popcorn and still thankful you have the electricity to microwave anything).

In any case, this is one hell of an album.  It reminds me of: The Cowboy Junkies, Mazzy Star, Liz Phair, Portishead, Goldfrapp, and Sharon Jones.  It's twangy.  It's super Soul.  It's a make-out album.  It's a break-out album. It's fucking brilliant.  It flows and transitions smoother than a hand down a silk clad thigh.  It's a kitchen album.

There's a fucking guitar riff on the title track which reminds me of Cream but then track that follows ("Trials, Troubles, and Tribulations") is as good as any track off of Stewart's "Every Picture Tells a Story" (well...almost).

   
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She's got some burn.

A hell of an album by a woman with one hell of a voice.  I've got her on heavy rotation, you should too.



Compulsion (2013) dir Egidio Coccimiglio

2013-09-13T19:02:46.332-05:00

Compulsion has two draws for me, Heather Graham and cooking.  Combine those two elements with top shelf production quality, Carrie-Anne Moss, Kevin Dillon, Joe Mantegna, and you have a nasty little remake of the Korean 301, 302 (which I haven't seen because I'm not all hot and flustered by K-Horror that much...).

This is a psychological thriller for gourmands.  Where Feed is ostensibly a "foodie" (I hate that fucking word) horror movie Compulsion is food pr0n of the highest quality.  Graham's Amy is a gourmand whose entire world and sense of self, sexuality, ability to interact with other people centers around haute cuisine.  She is obsessed with food to the point of being frigging nuts.  At first it's endearing, plus Graham is ravishing in her classic dresses and aprons, but over the course of the film she gets spookier and spookier.

This is another one of those movies where the less you know about it going in the better.  Moss dishes up (no pun intended) a particularly painful performance - in the best way possible.  Dillon, well I really like Kevin Dillon but every time I see him I go, "Oh shit, it's Kevin Dillon."  I dug his character and his performance as Fred, Amy's fiance.  There's one section of dialogue in which he says something that made me say, "Oh.  Dude.  You done fucked up now."  I've been a Mantegna fan since I was a young film dork (I particularly loved him in David Mamet's Homicide (1991)) and he delivers a great performance as the straight-man of Compulsion.

What I really enjoyed about Compulsion is a two-fer.  The first: This is a movie for grown-ups.  Not because of T&A or anything of the sort.  The themes, pacing, dialogue, and ability to connect with the characters is stronger if you're older/experienced/etc.  I could easily say the same thing about some of Almodovar's work or Greenaway's classic The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1987) or  Delicatessen (1991).  The second:  No gore despite the abundance of sharp and jabby kitchen implements and some really dark happenings.  Yes, I know, gore has its time and place when the movie calls for it but my gorehound days are fading in my rear view mirror.  I still love Neil Marshall gore though, then again I love him doubleplus good.

I strongly recommend Compulsion for you folks who can appreciate a strong psychological thriller as much as they can an exquisite meal.  If not, there's always an Eli Roth movie you can fap to whilst eating Jack in the Box.   



American Mary (2012) dir. Jen & Sylvia Soska

2013-09-12T19:16:27.688-05:00

If you're not a "serious" modern horror fan then you might not have heard peep about "The Twisted Twins" (Jen & Sylvia Soska) American Mary.  I had been hearing drums in the dark about the movie since mid 2012 and read Film Deviant's January 2013 review when it was released.  Okay, I skimmed the review because I try to avoid as much info as I can about movies I want to see.  This is one of those movies that left me with a need to talk about it afterwards, particularly with one or two friends who I feel would have insights into the movie that would fill in some blank spots for me.

American Mary is a difficult movie to review in-depth without giving away too much.  It definitely falls into the modern Western ero-guro genre hardcore - Bizarre Mag UK hardcore (if you don't know what this means you might not want to look it up when in polite company or at work or if you're the type to be offended easily...then again you're on my site so you probably don't offend easy).  What sets Mary apart from the Excision/Woman pack is that this movie are its moments of humor (blacker than my lungs though the humor is) and there are a few moments of twisted tenderness which took me aback.

What surprised me, in the best way possible, were; the performances, dialogue, strength of not only the protagonist but of the supporting characters as well (two of which I adore), and quality of production.  Oh, and Katharine Isabelle - as a man who once went to more than a few Goth/Industrial nights back in ye olde 90s, uh, I'll tell you about it when I'm older.  Pervy joking aside, Isabelle turns in an excellent performance, at turns utterly human and empathetic and at others frankly scare me.  She reminds me of a friend I used to have in the bad old DC days.

Two performances really sealed the deal for me with American Mary: Tristan Rusk's Beatriss Johnson and Twan Holliday's Lance Delgreggo.  I'm not leaving out Antonio Cupo's Billy Barker, he did an excellent job and I think he's a great actor and, in a weird way, he was the connection character for me (insert proper cinematic term).  Rusk nailed it with, I dunno, I can't help but think Lynchian flair.  Holliday is a hired goon but delivers a monologue that makes you go, "Awww" and "Jesus fucking Christ" at the same time.

The Soska Sisters have put together an excellent movie though I'm not sure if I would call it horror anymore than I would call Blue Velvet horror.  It's a movie I wouldn't recommend to the average horror fan but if you're into the kind of weird and creepy and sexy (or any combination thereof, like sexy violence and violent sex) hell yeah, watch American Mary. 




Oblivious

2013-08-18T13:24:11.822-05:00

"Oblivion";  Starring Tom Cruise and occasionally featuring Morgan Freeman. It's 2077, earth is in ruins, the moon is trashed and civilization is supposedly on Titan. Aliens invaded, we nuked them, and now, we're sucking up the water supply to use as an energy source for the colony.  There is a giant pyramid in space called the "TeT" that controls the water sucking equipment, and humans on the planet that repair the drones; the drones protect the water sucking equipment from what aliens are left trying to destroy humanity.

To begin, let's start with this is almost exactly like every SciFi movie about aliens descending on humans, screwing up our planet and causing problems for the next century.  It's also a mash-up of several "humans vs. Aliens" movie from the 90's. 

[Ed. Contains Spoilers]


BUT, there's a funky twist - There ARE no 'aliens' ! Never Were!  The "TeT" is actually a mech control (ok, so 1 alien, but it's a machine, not an organic or even an hybrid lifeform) that is killing the human survivors that live underground on earth. And what drove those humans underground? What could one alien mech force do to humanity?  Send in the CLONES!  That's right, the main character is one of THOUSANDS of Clones! AND --- He does not know it; but this ONE clone who is the focal point, THE main character, is haunted by flashes of memory he can't place, which is where it got slightly more interesting than eating photopaper.

It's not until twist #'s 2,3 and 4 come along that we get more of the picture....we never get the FULL picture.....

In the end, I suppose, "Oblivion" is mildly interesting for those who, like my husband, enjoy post-apocalyptic films. I felt oblivious, as there is no discernible plot! WHAT is motivating the characters? WHERE is the Climax? WHO is the Hero? WHAT is the antagonist?  This film does not move properly, and was poorly drafted. According to IMDB, it started as a 'treatment' and while I have NO clue what that's supposed to be or do, it should have STAYED as such.

-side note- Tom Cruise did some decent acting, and it didn't feel forced like so many of his other films have in the past. There were also some fairly decent special effects, but they were not HEAVY.

This could have been a great story - but they rushed it too much. Questions are many, where answers are few. To say "I don't get it" is acceptable when you finish it.

I don't recommend buying this unless it's $1.



Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I&II (2010/2011)

2013-08-11T13:17:18.231-05:00

Watched the last Harry Potter movie last night with some friends.  I'm glad they were patient enough to put up with and answer my non-fan questions and my cross-geekdom jokes (Neville hanging off the bridge -"Fly you fools!").  There were some cool moments in the movie though and it was cool to see some of the staff of Hogwarts proving to be badass.  Big V's snake buddy was pretty cool.  Dobby turned out to be awesome (though a very underused asset a la the Eagles in LOTR).  The Deathly Hallows tale animation was really slick - I'd love to see a movie in that style.  Maggie Smith knocked it out of the park. Neville was pretty awesome and to me, he's the real hero.I still don't really get some of the mechanics/stuff'n'junk of the Potter-verse - e.g. the need for wands when there are numerous occasions when people are casting without them.  Why aren't there some whoop-ass international magic users coming to help?  Why didn't the Hogwarts crew enlist some more monsters (that griffon could have been handy)?  What's the back story on the subjugation of metahumans (a.k.a Why are wizards such dicks)?  Why don't warding spells refocus and rebound incoming attacks (a shield is a weapon just as much as is a defense)?  Why does England turn into an Orwellian dystopia so easily?  If Hogwarts has a legion of House Elves slave bound to Hogwarts why didn't they join in the fight?  If the Gobbos have a blind cave wyrm protecting the vaults why did it have the ability to fly on pinioned wings?  Why were they only pulling one Basilisk tooth at a time (any RPGer worth their salt would have looted that whole corpse and crafted it into something awesome [like a wand or a nice piece of hickory studded with teeth or bullets] or had the teeth stockpiled in the bag of holding)?   How did Harry and Ron get so ripped?  My friend brought up an excellent point of - "Why isn't there magic theory at Hogwarts?".  I'm curious as to why Hogwarts didn't have more of an inbuilt defense system - I mean, hell, it's a castle - where are the wall mounted scorpions and trebuchets?  Wait, if the bridge to Hogwarts was destroyed by explosion kid, how did the baddies get across - like the giants?  Was there another causeway?  Why didn't a cadre of baddies storm up from the docks?  Where was Death's cloak of invisibility? All random questions but I never got into Harry Potter (even though I am a fantasy fan with over thirty years of experience under my belt), never read the books, or the slash, or fangirled out so I'm kind of coming at the last installment as an outsider.  Oh, and before you whine about it being for kids - shut up.  Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain and Michael Ende's The Neverending Story were also children's books.  Alexander's Queen Achren is more than a match for Bellatrix (Achren was Arawn's teacher).  Big V never had the Huntsmen of Arawn (some of my all time favorite baddies of all time, even more so than the Nazgul). I'm splitting hairs and being grumpy.  Harry Potter is superficially entertaining and anything that gets kids to read is a good thing in my book. I leave you with one of my favorite cross-geekdom fan pics:"In the grim dark future of Hogwarts, there is only war."[...]



Shadowrun Returns (2013) Harebrained Schemes

2013-07-31T17:44:03.593-05:00

How do one begin a review of a game that one has been waiting two decades for?  Where does nostalgia stop and reality set in?  Does the good outweigh the bad?  How many characters are you going to make before settling on one and finishing the damned game?  And when all is said and done, "Is Shadowrun Returns a good game?"These are all questions I've been struggling with when not worrying about bills or thinking about how to min/max stats for yet another character.  It's been making a review of this game difficult.  I've played through the first half/two-thirds of the game several times with several different character builds.  Tried different tactics, different conversation selections, difficulty levels, so on and so forth.  So does my love of Shadowrun (1993) SNES add or detract from my impressions of Returns?  Well, yes and no.Returns is certainly a worthy successor to that old classic and I think it was well worth the wait.  The story and dialogue are great, with some particularly brilliant characters and exchanges.  It's very much a classic cyberpunk noir story but done by those led by the man who created the pen and paper game so of course it's on point.  The game is oozing with inside jokes, cameos, references that your average bear wouldn't get, and some pretty dark humor.  The score has cues from the SNES version (which made me giggle like a fat kid given free rein at a cake shop).  The graphics aren't the main focus of the experience but there's a rainy, neon-soaked familiarity and high level of detail to areas that makes me feel at home in my imagination.  It struck me as strange the other day when I was in the middle of a marathon session that I was using my imagination and playing each character slightly differently.  Instead of watching a cut scene, I saw it in my head.  In one early part of the game; my character poked a thug in the chest daring him to make a move as a feral grin played across my lips.  Another section; a tense multi-part fire fight erupted, I was covering a decker, running low on ammo as the other runners lay down suppressing fire and joking with one another.  I kept hiring the same runners for jobs, felt a rapport with them.  One mission I only brought one runner with me, a person I had developed respect and a sense of friendship for.  She asked me, "We really gonna do this?  Just us?"  I replied, "You got the nuyen to hire anyone, else go for it?"  Two runners I hired angrily whispered at one another, debating who was going to breach the door.  I said, "I'm gonna shoot the both of you if you chummers don't open that fragging door.  You want that?"This is all coming from hours of solo play and having fun (okay, there were one or two parts where I wanted to say very very very bad words) and being surprised I'm roleplaying my characters.  Here are some of my favorites so far:Puncharella: Female Troll Unarmed Combat Specialist who is dumb but has solid Charisma and is a sucker for a sob story.Frank: Dwarven Technomage who might be the wimpiest Dwarf around"Swingin" Johnny Shotgun:  Orc shotgun master who is just a dick and when not shotgunning people, Louisville Sluggers them.La Chinga:  Sniper and drone specialist, not very charming but effective.Boudreux:  Male Orc Shaman, he use swamp magic and de machete.  Nice to women, don't cotton to authority or bullies.Betty:  Elven female who uses a combination of Mage and Shaman skills.The Artful Dodger:  Human decker, drone specialist who is utterly useless at anything else except avoiding damage.Doc-H:  Elven gunslinger with high Charisma.  Smarmy fucker who can shoot a weapon out of an enemy's hand.[...]



Inspired by a fellow movie buff...

2013-07-24T19:13:21.723-05:00

and former co-worker and a man who has a great website: Frank the Movie Watcher.  The man knows his stuff but I have to admit I'm stealing one of his ideas:  My Favorite 100 Movies.  However, I think I might have to shift it a bit because I categorize things into genres, subgenres, decades, and themes.  I'm considering twenty categories of top five or perhaps top ten of ten decades (which seems more likely).  Or perhaps I might just use a free list methodology...not sure yet.  Mr. Campbell used the EW template but I'm a sucker for footnotes and asides (aka justifications).  In any case thanks to him I have an idea to play with and write about.

Here's a trial run:

Top 10 Movies I Watch the Most:
  1. Big Trouble in Little China
  2. Master and Commander
  3. Blade 2
  4. The Wild Bunch
  5. LOTR - Director's Cut
  6. The 'Burbs
  7. Jump Tomorrow
  8. Aliens - Director's Cut
  9. Tropic Thunder
  10. Burning Paradise

Yeah, needs work...



Shadowrun Returns (2013) Harebrained Schemes: Pre-release jitters and nostalgia

2013-07-24T18:23:51.514-05:00

Once upon a time, there was a young man growing up in a small town on the New York State edge of the Berkshires who loved few things in his world: his Sony Walkman, the "Back to the Future" soundtrack, Nintendo, military modelling, film noir, Max Headroom, Games Workshop, action movies, sci-fi, and cyberpunk.  He had been introduced to Warhammer 40,000 in 1988 and cyberpunk very soon there after, in the form of Blade Runner (the version with the narration and no stupid unicorn dream sequence).  He spent many hours reading and rereading what little he could get his hands on from the hobby shops or going through catalogs and writing dream lists of miniatures and modelling terrain.  He read Dungeon and White Dwarf religiously (when he could find copies or have enough allowance to buy one).Then one day he saw a poster in a hobby shop, done by an artist the young man was proud to easily recognize - Larry Elmore:It broke his fragile little mind.  Was that elf hacking a computer, via wetware?  Shotgun and magic (tee hee boobies) and DUAL WIELDING UZIS!?!  Battling in a big city, not some stupid fantasy realm.  And it was called Shadowrun.  It made perfect sense to him, the way Lionel Ritchie's "Running Through the Night" made sense. Sadly the young man never got the opportunity to play the pen and paper version of Shaowrun.  Then when he was in high school, tearing through dystopian fiction in all its forms, learning about new music from friends a game was released for the Super Nintendo.  A Shadowrun game.  And he played the wheels off the game. Over and over again (when he wasn't making mixtapes or painting miniatures or getting into trouble) he would run through the game, experimenting, perfecting, obsessing. Then, for a time (after the young man graduated high school and moved to a big city) he focused on various forms of bad behavior and debauchery.  While he didn't forget that which he had loved so dearly, he was distracted by wine, women, and song (to put it as politely and mildly as possible).Following another move, this time to the Lone Star State, he slowly began to paint miniatures again, start playing more video games and visit hobby shops.  In the early 00s he was working at a bookstore and a co-worker was playing a game on his laptop in the breakroom.  The young man heard a very familiar piece of music, a cut from the SNES Shadowrun score.  It was a bizarre moment and the young man and the co-worker were soon completely nerding out about the game.Fast forward over a decade and that young man ended up as me: 36, living in East Texas, trying to re-boot my life again.  Correction, I'm trying to re-boot my adult life.  My desktop is a HD screen cap from Blade Runner.  I've been rereading the cyberpunk classics (or in some cases re-rereading) over the last year.  I've even busted out my paints and a mini or two when the light is good.  Last year (April 2012) Jordan Weisman, the man behind the original Shadowrun released this Kickstarter video: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="239" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/N6tXU5qCmvU" width="425">"Maybe you've heard of these games, or maybe your Dad has..."  sighYeah, I didn't pee myself.  It was more of like when Gollum gets the Ring again and capers to his doom in...uh...Mount Doom.Fast forward to today (07/24/2013) allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="239" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/ohNk2FBQQUg" width="425">If I hadn't replaced my eyes with mirrorshades I might get all misty.  Really, a game company releases this kind of video the day before release.  A release date that was delayed because they wanted to releas[...]



Holy rusted metal, Batman! Reviews! On a review site!

2013-07-24T16:10:27.615-05:00

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.

It's just that most of the movies I've watched in the last few months haven't really rung my bell.  So here's a rundown and mini-review of some of what I've watched recently:

John Dies at the End (2012)  Was interesting but while watching it I realized something.  I'm not in my early 20s any more.  Conceptually and visually interesting with some decent performances I was reminded of a bit of Cronenberg and some stuff I read in the late 90s, early 00s.  Again, it wasn't bad but, like the whole Scott Pilgrim craze, I'm just not part of that target demographic.  I'm sure if I was ten years younger I would have loved it.

Crawlspace (2012)  A sci-fi thriller from Down Under that turned out to be a lot better than I thought it was going to be - mainly because though it starts as oddly derivative, it ended up going in a direction I was not expecting in the least.  Worth a watch, not going to win any awards or special place in my collection but time well spent.

Barrio Tales (2012)  A Chicano Creepshow.  I went into this expecting to turn it off after five minutes like a good deal of the total garbage horror on netflix streaming.  I watched the whole thing and had a good time too.  Don't expect anything except for what it is and it'll be just fine.  I really enjoyed the second segment and that alone made the entire watching experience worth it.  It's Summer, time for junk horror.

Silent Hill: Revelation (2012)  Pretty much completely forgettable, like a Papa John's pizza.

Last Kind Words (2012)  I don't want to say much about this movie other than it was a solid, enjoyable Southern Gothic.  Solid performances and while not staggeringly original - a well done little movie.

Come Out and Play (2012)  Another movie I don't want to say anything about because I really enjoyed it but I think I enjoyed it more knowing nothing about it.  Not for the squeemish but not a splatter flick either.  This is one of those that I want to talk to someone about.

and my favorite of this bunch:

Elfie Hopkins (2012) starring Jaime Winstone (the excellent Ray Winstone's daughter).  You can definitely tell she's Ray Winstone's kid, in a good way both physically and presence.  I really dug this British teen scream.  It was predictable in a way (thanks for the shit spoiler title American release!  dicks) but all in all was really satisfying.  If you like teen screams or have teenagers who dig horror, give this one a shot.  It's a nice change of pace from the standard hey bros and tit's'lip gloss slashers - put it this way - I liked the teenagers in this movie.  Now that's saying something.  



Pa pa Wady: First Impressions

2013-07-03T06:45:36.042-05:00

A few months ago an Asian grocery store opened here in Nacogdoches.  I thought I had imagined it when I went past it coming back from a work event out of town back in April and only in the last month or two have I heard more and more about it via word of mouth.

I had been thinking that it was surprising that there wasn't an Asian grocery store in Nac considering the influx of Burmese employed at one of the local factories and two of the Asian places I eat at would have to drive to Houston once a week to buy ingredients.

Amazonbutterfly had been a few times in the last month or so and finally she took me over there this afternoon.  Now it's a running joke among some of my friends that I really don't do anything for fun.  I have to respond, "I love going to non-American grocery stores.  That is fun."  I love being slightly out of my element but also having a pretty decent knowledge of ingredients and this and that just from experimenting, spending time in markets, and teaching myself what is what.

Pa Pa Wady is an excellent little market that manages to have a startlingly broad selection in a space the size of a 7-11.  Ingredients range from the Subcontinent to the Philippines with a focus on Burmese, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Thai cuisines.  The fresh produce is inspiring and a reminder that there is more out there than what you'll find in a typical American or Mexican grocery.  There's a wide range of fresh mushrooms all priced less than what you'd find elsewhere.  Seriously, I'm not even much of mushroom fan and I'm thrilled to get some next visit.

There's a selection of fresh meats along with three large coolers chock full of frozen meat, seafood, and that good old fashioned stuff that makes one realize that one's palette has limits (e.g. cow spleen, yeah, I'll eat it if I go to someone's house and they serve it but normally I avoid the waste removal organs - and brains).  I didn't pick up any of the seafood but I'm definitely going to on a future visit.

Then we get to one my favorite sections: spices, sauces, condiments, and assorted goodies.  I picked up some "super hot" fried chile paste (Dragonfly brand which I haven't tried - normally I buy Bell & Flower), some Pearl River Bridge sweet dark vinegar (I love this company's Superior Light soy sauce, I buy it by the half-gallon), and a "sweet" chile sauce from Malaysia - Yeo's (very thick and very citrus-y, I plan to add it to my al pastor).

An excellent experience, I feel inspired again.  Plus, I'm going to youtube how to speak foodie tourist Burmese.  If these folks are nice enough to open a proper grocery store, the least I can do is learn a little bit of their language.







Made dinner for a friend's mother's birthday today:

2013-06-16T20:44:28.726-05:00

HYR poster TiNK asked me if I would help cook for her mother's birthday so I said, "Yeah, sure."  I wanted to something really light and simple (with a short amount of prep and cook time).  So she picked me up and we went to the store.The first thing I had in mind was a variation on the fruit salad I've been getting at La Michoacana for the last month or so (damn near every day).  Seasonal fruit with lime and chile powder.  The ones at the store have a random mix of fruit but for a $1.99 it's really two solid servings of fruit and I've gotten kind of hooked on the idea of working with jicama since tasting it fresh in some of their salads.  Last week, or so ago, I was flipping through Earl Peyroux's Gourmet Cooking and found a recipe for "Salade de Pasteques" - (a.k.a Watermelon Salad) and I thought, "Well, right on, I'd like to try his version sometime but I think I found a starting point for making my own." I didn't do any jicama or mangoes but kept it simple.  Not to crow but I was really impressed by the result.Abuelita J's Fruit Salad: (serves roughly ten people)1/4 seedless watermelon -cubed bite size1/2 cantaloupe -cubed bite size1 pineapple - cubed bite sizeJuice of two proper limesgenerous amount of fine sea saltliberal amount of Smoked Spanish Paprika4 capfuls of apple cider vinegarYeah, this requires some prep work because fuck a bunch of paying triple just because someone cut it up for you.  This is easy prep work if you have a sharp knife and good fruit.  TiNK had purchased a cantaloupe from our local Farmer's Market that was exquisite not only in a sensory way but to simply work with was dream (plus a freshly sharpened knife helped).  When your ingredients are like that, not only does the dish flourish but the "work" vanishes.  This dish is so fucking easy even I can do it.Cube everything, put it in a big ass bowl, add everything else, cover bowl and shake like a Polaroid picture.  Add a few inches of salt, cover.   Put the whole thing into the fridge for an hour to chill.  Take out and toss again.  Serve.The reason I used Smoked Spanish Paprika and not something smokier or stronger is because TiNK's mom ain't real into the heat.  When I make this for myself, I might use a touch of the ghost chile powder I have in reserve and add maybe some minced ginger and chopped jicama.We also did a standard spinach/crushed pecan/dried cranberry salad.Then for the meat she bought a solid filet of salmon (about four lbs).  I have to admit that I felt like kind of a dick at the fish counter of the grocery store, asking shit like, "When was this brought it?", "Can you bag it with ice?"  I mean I was joking and cordial about it but after my May the Fourth 2013 debacle I have to ask these kind of questions.I was thinking of doing a baked salmon with a yogurt glaze, seemed like a good idea at the time, but when I was prepping the fish I decided not to since I've never really been comfortable cooking with yogurt (inexperience) and I didn't want to fuck anything up.  So it was a simple affair with ground rosemary (I had some fresh that I dried and then ground today), smoked black pepper, sea salt, smoked spanish paprika - more for color than taste, a liberal amount of #42, a solid drizzle of this California olive oil TiNK's mom brought back (the texture of which was more velvet than oil).  Sliced two lemons into 1/4" rounds, put the rounds on a broiler pan, then salmon on top of those.  350 oven for roughly a half-hour.  Eh, voila.Learned a brilliant thing from TiNK today -  use a broile[...]



Damn, almost a month since my last post.

2013-06-16T12:57:37.016-05:00

Apologies for dropping off posts folks but there hasn't been much going on worth a full post or article, lately. I started a new job (first time working in a restaurant) a month ago and that's been a hell of a good time.  Sure a learning curve but it's awesome.  I'm just kind of pissed it took me this long in my life to get into a kitchen.

Movies have been fairly lacklustre on the whole and I haven't seen any of the blockbusters yet - I only want to see Pacific Rim in the theater (no, I haven't seen a trailer or read anything about it - please don't mention/say/tell me anything about it).

Mainly I've been watching documentaries about food, corporations butt-fucking the environment, and Gordon Ramsay shows.  Turns out I really like Gordon Ramsay.  The Kitchen Nightmares show is kind of a crash-course for what not to do in a kitchen so for me I'm actually learning a little bit.  I want to pick up Michael Ruhlman's Elements of Cooking.
So yeah, once I have something of note to post I shall do so.  Probably some recipes coming up soon because all I've been thinking about is food.  Well food and, "How the fuck am I going to pay back student loans along with everything else?"




Rusty Taco: First Impressions Are Lasting Impressions

2013-05-26T16:02:48.844-05:00

Rusty Taco2801 North StNacogdoches936-569-8002I was trying to figure out what to eat for lunch today and since I have nothing but bare bones in the larder (and have been picking up things from La Michoacana as I need them) I was then stuck trying to remember a place I wanted to go that I don't go to all the damned time.  Then I remembered that a new taco joint opened recently (May 18th) on North Street in that weird location next to Subway that was at one time a hot dog place and another time a smoothie (?) place.  I checked on google maps for their location which places it on North Drive and University which is not even close.  The home site lists the Nacogdoches location as opening in June.  So I called, and not only were they open but they are until 10pm on a Sunday night.  That's pretty awesome.  I checked out the menu.  Yup, tacos, for lunch it is.The parking lot is still a drive-in layout but there seems to be ample outdoor seating at picnic benches, though I was pleased there was in-door sixty-eight degree indoor seating.  I was grumbling to myself about them not having a bike rack when an employee (a manager) came up and said hello and, "We really need to get a bike rack."  I had to laugh. Rusty Taco has a fairly simple layout with sit down counters next to the kitchen and a small but comfortable dining room.  Order at the counter, standard stuff.  One potential problem I see for ordering, especially when the place is busy, is managing the flow of traffic and queues.  There's a large upright cooler blocking space where you walk in and order.  It wasn't a problem when I went (after one pm on a Sunday - good luck finding a place that's not packed with church crowd in this town) but as I was eating I noticed a bit o f a bottleneck with people looking at the menu, people walking in, and people trying to get their orders.The menu consists of a baker's dozen of tacos and there are breakfast tacos!  Booyah!  I went with the #2 Roasted Pork Taco, #3 Beef Fajita Taco, and the #11 BBQ Brisket Taco along with chips & salsa.  With a drink it was the standard lunch price of under ten bucks for one person ($2 a taco).  They have three different sauces (habanero, verde, and standard red) so I gave all of them a try.The Roasted Pork was solid roast pork.  Moist and tender, with pickled onions and cotija cheese, yup.  Nice work.I was underwhelmed by the beef fajita.  Not that it was bad in the least but it was just kind of bland and it didn't have the sear/char I like on my beef fajitas.The BBQ Brisket taco, however, was pretty frickin awesome and more than made up in taste for the fajita.  I was particularly pleased with their lime slaw.  Hell, I would get a side of their lime slaw if they offered it.  The brisket was shredded and plentiful and the BBQ sauce was an accent and didn't overwhelm the meat or the slaw.  I will definitely be getting one of these again.Of the sauces I liked the habanero the best.  It actually wasn't that hot and had a good citrus note to it.  The verde was standard verde.  The red was just too mild for me (and had a peculiar ketchup-y aftertaste).The salsa wasn't bad, tastes the same as El Ranchero's, but was cold which was a drag.  I don't mind cold salsa if it's really chunky and more on the pico end of salsa than liquidy but the smooth stuff, gotta be warm.  The flavors blend better.  Cold, you just get tomato flavor.  A minor complaint and one that I'm su[...]



XBOX One unveiled!

2013-05-23T20:21:22.055-05:00

Oh my stars and whiskers!  I'll be able to watch live TV, a movie, Skype, update my NFL Fantasy League in real time and play a game ALL AT THE SAME TIME!  I can even use my TV as a wicked awesome monitor for Internetz!  If I need to take a piss it'll even help me find my zipper!

*dramatic pause*


allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/t3fMCipPIgc" width="420">



Oh movie quotes from the 1980s, you help me express myself so well
 (I used to use this sample on my old mix tapes).  

The unveiling, which I watched on ye olde XBOX360, started strong.  No, fuck that.  It was depressing.  The entire event reminded me of a sad Sears photographer trying to make a sad, fat baby happy while a dour looking Mother glares at the photographer and sweats Crisco.

Okay, okay, to be fair, let me take a breath and reign in the snark.  This is not a product that is marketed to me.  None of the features revealed appeal to me (including but not limited to a Kinect that is always on, a Kinect - period, 8G of RAM, live updates to fantasy sports, the ability to watch live television, absurdist levels of multi-tasking, fuck a bunch of HALO, and interfacing with technology I have no inclination of owning).  There was minimal talk of games except for three cash cows (Forza, Madden, and COD) which is to be expected and of course XBOX is gonna save some of the fireworks for E3.

Thinking about it rationally, I realize that my ire comes from feeling discluded.  Reminds me of the time I broke-up with Playstation and started dating 360.  Though, this is different, because before it was a matter of price and other factors.  Now, I just feel as if they don't give a shit about gamers.  And since I've started a relationship with PC gaming a few years ago, she's going to make the most of this opportunity to comfort me in her bosom whilst smirking at consoles and thinking, "He's all mine now and you're never getting him back.  I have been doing all you might promise and more."

I should reserve judgment until the system comes out and games are revealed.  Yeah, fuck that, I'll just save my pennies and buy some shit off of newegg.com for a fraction of the price of a new console.



Dark Souls - I'm losing the fear. Minor game spoilers and build theory.

2013-05-09T16:29:35.672-05:00

Yes, you read that right.  Dark Souls and I have achieved an understanding and if not an understanding than a grudging mutual respect.

I'm not going to give away any plot spoilers or major walk-through info but instead I'm going to tell you a few things that I have picked up through trial and error and bullshit.  I am currently almost level 70 with my fourth character - a Pyromancer/sniper build.

Pyromancer is a beast in combat.  Combined with a 40 Dex and a +10 Black Bow of Pharis and +9 starting armor and 20+ vitality/endurance I can dish out a good amount of dps at long and medium ranges.  Short range still gives me trouble but I've juiced up Combustion and a couple of light melee weapons for those get stuck in moments.  Also dumped a bunch of humanity into the Chaos Servant Covenant for extra boom boom.

I've even developed a kind of love for PvP in Dark Souls.  I know, right?  I've even won a couple of fights though most of the time I dread being invaded, usually because I'm desperately trying to recruit for a boss fight.

Anor Londo is one of my new favorite levels in a game.  Hell, Dark Souls, is rife with a multitude of areas I really dig but Anor Londo is a sniper wet-dream.  Stunning vistas coated in an amber light that provides for an interesting change in scenery from the rest of the first half of the game.  It is a dangerous area if you're not prepared but coming on the heels of Sen's Fortress (a trap laden nightmare that gave me a headache for almost a day on my first run-through) Londo is just stunning.  Plus it's a great place to grind before and after you beat the area boss.  Run a circuit and make 20k souls, bonfire, rinse, repeat.  For ranged attacks, it's brilliant.  I couldn't imagine taking on some of the enemies up close but I reckon if I was built for melee it wouldn't be so bad.

Now that I am at the (I think) halfway point of the game story wise I have to wade into new areas and get out of my grindy comfort zone during my next proper game session.  I plan to grind a bit for humanity and souls so I can be loaded for bear before tackling the unknown.

Dark Souls has turned into less of a nightmare and more of a luxurious challenge.  I am not stomping the game but I feel I have a definite fighting chance backed up with some skills and some inventory and hard won knowledge.  Even crappy one shotter enemies will eat your lunch if you don't pay attention to your actions.  It is a far cry from AFKing a pack of wolves in Skyrim to nerf your armor stats.






"May the Fourth Be With You": Hooligan Youth Cooks edition.

2013-05-03T18:57:12.479-05:00

(image)


That's right folks I'm serving up some vittles for the 2nd Annual May the etc etc Star Wars party.  This time I'm gonna theme up the main dishes I am working on more than last year.  I started poking wookiepedia with a bantha prodder for cuisine ideas and realized, shit, I already embrace the four tenets of Mandalorian cuisine (I'll get to those later).  As far as main dishes go I wasn't too impressed with a large amount of the glop the humanoids eat.  No way in hell I'm making Huttese or some weird Rodian muck.  I'm doing one dish in the Mandalore tradition and one in the Twi'lek.

Mandalorian cuisine is based on four tenets (thanks to Melyc'inya's awesome forum post from 09) which encompass heturam (mouth burn), hetikleyc (nose burn), yai'yai (richly nourishing), and a fourth that doesn't have a term but seems to be a variation of wok hei.  I'm not going to be making this dish terribly heturam or hetikleyc but I figure a well-rounded flavor with a touch of piquant and just a stab of heat.  Enough to notice the knife behind the smile.

I ended up deciding on roast shatual, a dish based on the fauna of Mandalore.  Being unable to acquire shatual on this backwater planet I am using two ten pound pork butts.  One will be roasted with #42 and the other with a little something I've code named "Order 66".  It's gonna be so good you're gonna slaughter Jedi.

The second dish is something the Twi'lek came up with, mynock.  Yes, I know, the mynocks are chewing through the external power cables.  Instead let us chew through them.  I've decided to go with chicken drumsticks (proper meaty ones not crummy bar food ones) in their stead.  I couldn't find many sources on the style of Twi'lek cuisine but I figured it'd be more a savoury, subtle style.  A mix of roasted coriander, ajwain seeds, and peppercorn blend has given them a light, floral aroma with a slight hint of white pepper heat.

I will also be serving mynock legs as the evening progresses based on what people might be interested in.  You want spicy?  I can do that.  You want smoky?  I can do that too.  You want sweet?  Well, just for you, this once.

It's been kind of fun planning theme dishes.  I'm not as hardcore about Star Wars as I once was but I do love the setting (and AT-ST).  I'll post recipes and fun stuff I come up with as the evening goes on and I promise not to yell at anyone in Huttese, unless they get into my safe zone.

p.s. If you're really nice I'll set you up with something I learned to make on Socorro.



Dark Souls (2011) What happened after I lost my save file.

2013-04-27T15:19:06.939-05:00

Initially my reaction was like this.  Then I kind of got "mad at dem eggs" and restarted with a new character.Dark Souls during a second go through is a little easier.  The game still hates you but just knowing a few things about how the game works and what areas you can exploit and what items not to waste but it still hurts like a bastard to have lost the time, though not as much as it hurt to lose a big old stack of souls and humanity due to a stupid mistake.Here's a couple of the things I learned with no spoilers and some friendly advice (even though apparently one isn't supposed to give advice about Dark Souls if you're "hardcore" - meh).I changed my class from thief to wanderer, mainly because wanderer isn't quite as squishy as thief nor bohunky as warrior or knight.  Not that the class ultimately matters because you're going to be putting points into skills you enjoy/prefer.  The skill lvl cap is 40 and over-all lvl cap is over 150.  Still you don't want to waste time putting time and effort into a skill that will ultimately prove useless (e.g. Resistance).  Plus you don't want to waste precious points you'll need for equipment and skills.I've a pretty simple PvE build Soul Level 38 Wanderer with a decent combination of range/melee and been hoarding resources for better equipment I know I'll be finding down the road.  I also bought a metric fuck ton of arrows and fire bombs to just range aggro enemies.  There are a couple of spots where you can plink an enemy from across a canyon and sometimes they will simply charge straight at you  (and thus fall into the ravine and die) instead of legging it the long way round to attack you.  Work smarter, not harder.  The piddly little spell Aural Decoy has also become a fairly useful resource for triggering ambushes, sending enemies running off cliffs stupidly (or close to a cliff edge so I just walk up and bash them off), or giving me a few seconds of breathing room so I can run awa...I mean...tactically retreat.  Being forced to restart has also allowed me to enjoy the game a bit more instead of running around screaming like a n00b on fire (or dying every other fucking minute).  There are some nice looking vistas and some interesting enemy animations and graphical touches.  I've gotten used to the controls and quick-changing through items is a breeze (learn from this Bethesda).  Not going to jinx myself because I'm dreading going into the new areas (if I can ever beat the boss I need to take down - son of a bitch just clobbers me) but I am digging the new pace of game play.  I still have to be cautious and alert (even crummy enemies can ruin your day if you're careless).One downside to where I am in the game is that I am going to have to get some serious grind on in order to break through the current ceiling I have hit.  I'm just of wandering around, looking at stuff, and trying not to die.  I did, finally take down a baddie that was one-hitting me over (and over and over), through sheer lameness (cast Aural Decoy to lure him out of his hiding spot then fire bomb him, and wash and rinse and repeat over and over).  But this uncle-fucker of a boss demon is starting to piss me off to no end.  Sigh.  Looks like I'm gonna wander and loot for the next game-play session or two.  [...]



Dark Souls (2011)

2013-04-21T21:27:26.746-05:00

We're gonna take a trip down ye olde nostalgia gaming lane for a moment, bear with me:Remember in the olden days when RPGs did not come with a map, or they came with a rudimentary one and you couldn't expect a full map from Nintendo Power for a few months?  When a game seemed to actively work against you to the point where you thought the game hated you, and you alone?  Secrets and hidden prizes were the reward for exploration and exploitation on a second play-through?  You had to grind through  mobs just to hoard whatever meager XP and GP they dropped just to get an advantage over the next dungeon?  Imagine a time when you didn't have to wait for load screens.  Imagine a RPG system you couldn't instantly nerf.  Remember when death brought a tangible cost to your character, not just in L33T perma-death mode?Well, dear readers.  I think that I might have found such a game. Dark Souls kept me playing from around 2AM Saturday 04/20/13 to 5AM 04/21/13 - sober  (I played a couple hours of Puzzle Quest waiting for Dark Souls to download) and I think I've barely scratched the surface to this beast. I have checked no FAQs, no cheats, no hints (except for in-game), no game manual, and no one I know has played it.  Dark Souls is not a loot'n'run, it is not Skyrim, it is not going to kiss your boo-boo when you fall off your training wheels.  Dark Souls doesn't give a fuck if you like it.  In fact, if you don't like it then you weren't gonna hack it anyway, so take a walk down wash-up lane.Dark Souls can be summed up very simply, "Do it again and do it right this time."  But in a very Kafkaesque way, you are lost and somewhat scared  of what you're doing.Do I have your interest?I remember reading about Dark Souls on a couple of "hardcore" gamer and RPG junkie sites back in '11 but I got distracted by Skyrim and all that folderol.  It just slipped through the cracks until Saturday evening, while I was looking for a game to download and play.  For $19.99 I figured, "Fuck it.  Worse comes to worse it's an RPG I can tear through and review."Load up, character class selection, etc etc, yeah I got this...During the beginning of the game, what sparsely is a tutorial, I died.  Okay, not a big deal.  Wait, I died again?  Okay...learning a new game, it's a little different than Skyrim and Dragon's Dogma.  Ah ha!  Got the bastards that were killing me!  Huzzah!  What's down this hall way?  FUCK.  I just got one shotted in the "tutorial"?  A peculiar combination of rage and fascination came over me, the likes of which I haven't felt since my early days in EVE.  Okay.  I took a sip of my water and rolled the kinks out of my neck.  Then got killed again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  At one point the rage set in and I stormed in...and got killed again.  And then, the rage turned into, well if you've seen me hardcore game and bulldog a problem, or if you've seen me when I'm past anger and into calculation shut-down mode...that time I didn't die.Then after I got through "the tutorial" I found myself in a land where everything hates me.  There are no mission markers, no map, no nanny NPCs, no explanations, and no crutches.  In a strange way DS immerses you in the game the same way Ico did.I could write more ab[...]



Django Unchained (2012) dir. Quentin Tarantino

2013-04-17T19:40:25.864-05:00

Hold on to your pretty pink bonnets, dear readers...Django Unchained is the first Tarantino movie I have thoroughly enjoyed since Jackie Brown.  I mean, from start to finish I had a good time and I'd be willing to watch it again, hell, right now.Now as we all know, as I have soap-boxed at length, I have had a lot of problems with Tarantino's last couple of films.  I went into Django Unchained with arms crossed, a big bowl of snark-covered popcorn and a large piss'n'vinegar (easy on the ice), ready to take a big ol'grumpy dump on this movie.  Then as the credits began rolling and I laughed smugly at the use of Bacalov & Rocky Roberts' Theme from Django (1966) I realized this was a good opening shot.  Wait, Morricone did some original music for the film?  What?  Wait, is this starting out as a good movie? Now don't get your hopes up, Joshua.  Inglourious Basterds started off brilliantly too...As Django Unchained progressed I felt myself both surprised and drawn in by the film.  I am a Jamie Foxx fan and I really dig Christoph Waltz and their on screen chemistry just worked.  It felt like a natural rapport.  I think I prefer the first half of the movie over the second but that's just me.  The first half develops nicely at its own pace with a good number of moments where Tarantino and director of photography Robert Richardson put down some classic shots which reminded me of movies I grew up on (e.g. Jeremiah Johnson  [1972]).  I'm kind of surprised one or two cues weren't used from Jeremiah Johnson but, meh, less than nit-pick.  It is kind of amazing what Tarantino and crew can do when they can sit and enjoy a comfortable silence with their audience.The humor of the first half, one segment in particular, actually made me laugh.  In a strange way the humor reminds me of a warped version of the first half-hour of Blazing Saddles (the rail-way sequence of that movie remains one my favorites in all film comedy - despite, or maybe because of the surreal and absurd racism).  One of the running jokes throughout the movie is definitely from the Brooks school.  Waltz himself proves to be an actor who knows that comedy hinges on delivery and timing.  His smooth talking bounty hunter (though with a decidedly bloody streak) has a pragmatic Germanic approach to his work and is hard not be taken in by.  Foxx was part of the In Living Color crew and Booty Call (1997) is damned funny movie.  Since the early 00s he's done far more serious roles and has developed into an outstanding actor.  His Django has a charm, humor, and playfulness to the character but Foxx tempers a great deal of comedy with the seriousness of his character's role.  He portrays a caring, charming man who must harden himself to survive at all costs.  Not at all an uncommon archetype in action films but Foxx doesn't come across as a Blaxploitation anti-hero or cartoonish.The second half works well and is much more Tarantino-esque, dialogue and action-wise.  The bloody climax reminded me of Better Tomorrow II, which is not surprising but I thought Tarantino was going to go the route of the original Django (which has an ending that has to be seen to be believed, okay BTII also has one of the best endings to any action movie ever made). There are a number of element[...]