Web Comics

    One of the motivators to learning to read as a kid was the Sunday morning comics. Garfield, Peanuts and many others in their colorful format would catch my eye. Later on I would enjoy reading through the various collected anthologies of Calvin and Hobbes that I had, a personal favorite to this day. Perhaps they are the reason that I still enjoy reading webcomics today. Of course on our Department of Offence we have had two web cartoonists interviewed: Sketch Gustafson and Doug Kallberg, and I would recommend giving any of those interviews a listen to.

    Personally I have a wide variety of webcomics that I read and try to stay caught up on, which becomes rather difficult when the book marks folder I have takes twenty seconds to scroll through. So my usual method of consumption involves going on an archive binge. Archive binges are where you read a massive number of archived articles (that do not necessarily have to be webcomics). I use this method and only keep up to date on a few webcomics at a time. A very few webcomics almost require an archive binge to read at all like the very well done Homestuck by Andrew Hussie, which updates an average of 5.5 updates a day and is thousands of pages long.

    One thing I enjoy about webcomics is how often times the art and story will evolve over time, such as the first page of Questionable Content compared to this one. Or this page of Nerf This to this more recent one. If you take a look you can see how the art went from being pretty meh to actually pretty good for a regularly updating strip. Of course not every strip has that kind of art evolution, such as if you take a look at Randall Munroe’s XKCD which has managed to go from stick figures to… stick figures; better drawn, cleverer, stick figures.

    As I mentioned there are actually a few webcomics that I do stay up to date on. One of the ones I have not mentioned yet is one called Two Guys and Guy by Rickard Jonasson. The clever comedic sociopathy parallels the television show Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia. A more recent one that I have added to my *Keep Up To Date On* list is the wonderfully drawn Paranatural by Zack Morrison with its witty dialogue some pretty hilarious facial expressions.

    One thing to keep in mind about webcomics is that often Sturgeon’s Law (or more techcically Sturgeon’s Revelation) applies, that 90% of everything is crap. For every gem of a webcomic out there, nine webcomics that are pretty horrible are out there. That’s if you are being generous. Of course it all comes down to personal taste in the end.

    -This will certainly not be the last time I cover the topics of webcomics, and certainly not the last time I use a lot of hyper links. After all next week I am covering tvtropes.

  • Monday, April 15, 2013
  • Carlos

The Good Doctor

    The long running science fiction show Doctor Who has been around for a very long time. In fact this year marks the 50th anniversary of this beloved show. Since 1963 the Doctor has adventured through time and space in his blue police box, all while capturing the imaginations of many along the way. In recent years this British show has even managed to gain a large following here in the US.

    I did not grow up watching The Doctor fight aliens (though I did see part of an episode when I was very young) and was first really introduced to the show with the revival in 2006 which started with Christopher Eccleston taking on the role of the Doctor. With time the show grew on me, especially when David Tennant took on the role and I have been watching. It is true that the special effects can vary between rather silly and impressive, but the show has a charm to it that you do not really find elsewhere.

    I should probably try to explain what Doctor Who is about. It is the ongoing adventures of a human looking alien known only as The Doctor (no not that kind of doctor) who travels through space and time in a blue police box, most of the time he takes humans with him on his journeys. Periodically The Doctor will die but instead of staying dead he regenerates into a new body which means a new actor. This is what people mean when they say things like how the tenth Doctor is their favorite. Currently the show is on its eleventh Doctor played by Matt Smith.

    A long running show like Doctor Who has a lot of history and recurring aliens, villains, and allies. Luckily you do not need to start watching the show from the very first episode to enjoy it. Honestly the best place to hop into the series is the same place I started, Series 1 with Christopher Eccleston as the 9th doctor. The next season or “series” opens up with David Tenant taking over the role, and I highly recommend at the very least watching some of those episodes.

    Doctor Who is definitely a very weird television show, but it is a show that is very worth getting into. If you already are a Doctor Who fan then congratulations are in order. If not then I hope you will keep it in mind next time you do not have anything in particular to do. Currently you can find Doctor Who varies places online or on Netflix.

  • Monday, April 8, 2013
  • Carlos

The Chronicles of Amber

    I have read a great many books and I am sure I have mentioned this in previous posts. But today I want to talk about a favorite series of mine; The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny. It is a dimension hopping, mystery filled adventure; where the world of Amber is literally the center of the universe.

    The first book opens with a man waking up in a hospital on our earth with amnesia knowing only that he is uninjured and has been heavily sedated. As he makes his way out and meets up with family he learns he is not even human, but an heir to the greatest kingdom of all the worlds; Amber and a member of one of the most dysfunctional families around. Corwin sets out to reclaim his memories, take the throne, get revenge, and to try not to die. All in the first book.

    Length wise these books are not too long, my old paperback copies averaging 190 pages while the ten book omnibus I have reaches almost 1300 pages. For ten books, this is not too bad. The books are narrated in a clever and snarky first person perspective that makes the pages fly by. The stories told are interesting, if at some points a bit bizarre.

    I have given a very bare bones description for the fact that there is a lot of twists and turns that I could accidentally spill. The first book in the series, “Nine Princes in Amber,” is one of my favorite books of all time. I would highly recommend this series to anyone looking for a fantasy series that is smart but as bogged down with plots and counter-plots as Wheel of Time or Game of Thrones.

    In the event that you want something a little bit more in the science fiction section Zelazny also wrote a very excellent and Hugo award winning novel called, “Lord of Light,” (written in 1967) that mixes in Buddhism, Hinduism, and very advanced technology.

  • Monday, April 1, 2013
  • Carlos

Pyschopaths

    Just the other night I finally got around to watching the movie Seven Psychopaths, and I have to say that I greatly enjoyed the film. Starring Collin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson and Christopher Walken. Written and directed by the same man behind the movie “In Bruges.”

    Basic story is that Farrell plays an alcoholic Irish screen writer with writers block trying to write a film called Seven Psychopaths and in the course of it crosses paths with many different psychopaths. Rockwell is his well meaning dog napping friend who works alongside Walken. Woody Harrelson is gang leader who’s dog gets taken and hilarity ensues.

    Everybody turns in amazing performances in this film most notably Sam Rockwell for his amazing performance as the horribly and hilariously misguided Billy, especially funny is the scene showing how Billy thinks the screenplay should end. Other standout performances include Tom Waits short role as the psychopath Zachariah.

    In short this film deconstructs other violent revenge films and even pokes fun at itself in the form of the ongoing screenplay being written. From well written characters to lampshades being dropped on tropes all over the place this film was very entertaining and is one of the films I have seen so far this year. So I highly recommend it.

  • Monday, March 25, 2013
  • Carlos

Dark Souls

    A few days ago I decided to dust off my copy of Dark Souls for the 360. Dark Souls is a very difficult game where you will die. A lot. A game where you will have to think your way through combat and cannot just go in blindly swinging. A game that will make you yell, “Bullshit!” at your television. It is one of those games I never got around to beating, not because I ran out of patience for it but because my attention span drifted off. Of course I had to start the game over since my mad skills had unfortunately deteriorated in the last year and a half.

    The very basic of the story is that you are undead and were sent to a where all the other undead are sent. The first goal you come across in the game is to ring two bells to open some gates. Sounds easy right? Well unfortunately there are a lot of very strong enemies between you and those bells. And this game does not hold your hand at all, you will have to blindly trudge your way through the game (or watch walkthrough videos if you really want to.) Each time you die you lose all the souls and humanity you were carrying, along with your progress. Souls are used to purchase arms and armor, spells, and even to level up. After dying you appear at the last campfire you rested at; with all the enemies you defeated back to their places. You can get back the souls and humanity if you make your way back to where you died, but if you die a second time all those souls and humanity are gone for good, which is rather detrimental to making any progress.

    All in all I have to say it is a very entertaining game, if you are looking for a challenge. If you are looking for a game to casually play through, do not choose this game. This game is difficult and unforgiving but the sense of, “I did it!” when you finally accomplish something you have died at repeatedly for the last hour makes it worth it. I definitely recommend this game if you are up for the challenge. The sequel is currently in development.

  • Monday, March 18, 2013
  • Carlos

The Unfinished

     I own a lot of video games and a lot of books. Unfortunately I am rather bad at finishing what I set out to do. As such there are quite a few video games and books that I just never finished; not because they were bad, but because I just got sidetracked.

     I will start out on unfinished books. Generally this problem of not finishing a book crops up when I am in the middle of a book series, such as how I am only part way through the Dresden Files. Unfortunately for me I have a habit of keeping the books I am currently working on spread all throughout my room. I have Rise of Empire by Michael J Sullivan stacked on Red Country by Joe Abercrombie stacked on William Gibson’s Nueromancer. All half-read and all within arms reach. And do not get me started on all the newer books I have sitting around that are unread that I have acquired in the last four months (hint: they have their own bookshelf). But the worst offender would fall to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. A series I have tried to push through from start to end several times and failed every time, losing steam after the seventh book.

     Perhaps the problem in my case is not that I do not have enough books but I have to many books. I have boxes of books that I have bought. I have boxes of classic science fiction books that I have inherited. A guess as to the ratio of books I have read to books that I just own would probably fall in at one book out of every twenty. This is in spite of just how prolific a reader I am.

     This problem is in some ways worse with video games. In some ways I want to blame the online Steam sales, especially the developer package deals (I have only 13 out of over a hundred games installed from Steam.) But the fact is I have had this issue long before I had a computer. On the Sony Play Station the only rpg I beat was Final Fantasy 7; leaving FF8, FF9, FF Tactics, Legend of Dragoon.

     Unfortunately I will never have the time to go back and finish many of these. It seems that if I don’t sit down and power through a book or video game (or tv series for that matter) I may never get around to finishing it. Except for the books, might be some hope for them.

  • Monday, March 11, 2013
  • Carlos
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