Category Archives: Culture

Things I’m Geeking Out On – Top Ten Edition

There is so much going on in the geek circles this week that I’m just going to make this entirely a “Things I’m Geeking Out On” list. We’ll do it list style since we just did a list for Topless Robot this week on the new Daredevil series so my mind is in total Top Ten mode. (By the way, when you are done here, you can totally go read that over here – if you don’t mind spoilers, or have already seen it.)

Top Ten Things I’m Geeking Out On This Week

  1. The new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer – I didn’t think I was THAT excited about it yesterday when everyone was losing their minds over it, but now that I’ve watched it a couple of times, it really is pretty exciting. I found myself excitedly chatting up to one of my co-workers after she mentioned her dog is named Mara Jade. Apparently none of her friends are cool because she didn’t know the new trailer had dropped, nor did she know Celebrations was happening RIGHT NOW, 20 minutes away from our office! (I live for moments like this, I really do.) Anyways, it does look like it’s going to be hella cool, so you win this round J.J.
  2. Batman V Superman – Not in the sense that I’m excited about it, because I’m expecting it to be a hot mess at this point, but more in that I’ve been nerd raging about it since that insulting excuse for a teaser trailer dropped yesterday. Then the news that you had a to get tickets to see the trailer in select theaters? After the giant pile of MEH that was Man of Steel, I feel like the Warner Bros marketing team needs to earn my excitement, not act like they are doing the fans a favor. I mean, COME ON, the movie was pushed back A YEAR. That can’t possibly be a good sign. (If this movie isn’t another Suckerpunch, I’ll be amazed.)
  3. Mad Max: Fury Road – That new trailer is amazing. I cannot wait for this movie to be out. What a lovely day indeed.
  4. Fast and Furious 7 – Two of my favorite categories of movies are car movies (see above) and caper movies – F&F is pretty much the best of both worlds. The only reason we haven’t seen this already is because of Daredevil, but that will be fixed on Saturday! I need my car chase fix!
  5. Convergence: JLA – I was pretty skeptical of Convergence because I’m getting pretty tired of the seemingly endless DC comic crossover events, BUT give me the 90s versions of my favorite comic characters from my favorite era of comic collecting and I forgive surprisingly quick. In JLA, they doubled down and gave me not only some characters I’ve been really missing, like the green skinned Jade, Type A Speedster Jesse Quick, and Queen of the Sea Mara (Aquaman’s lady who is a force to be reckoned with herself), but gave us a girl power super group that I instantly fell in love with. If they turned this comic into a regular series I would lose my mind and subscribe in a heartbeat. The issue was pitch perfect – the art was beautiful, the ladies were tough, but also felt like real women, and the part where they taught some grabby dudes a lesson in manners was priceless. Also, a great reminder that DC has some pretty amazing super ladies BESIDES the way overdone Wonder Woman. In this case, we got Supergirl, Jesse Quick, Mara, Jade, and a very gothy take on Zatanna. This would be an amazing TV show – you hear me DC!?
  6. Convergence: Superboy – Speaking of characters I really miss, the Convergence version of Superboy was a total throwback to my favorite Superboy; the one with the leather jacket and the 90s haircut and the attitude. Team Cadmus is also back and excellently written (and reminded me more than a little of another certain science team on some show called Flash. Coincidence?). I felt like I was reading a lost issue from the late 90s. It made me miss it. Can we get this version back, please?
  7. Harley Quinn – Ok, I’m pretty much always geeking out on the Harley series, but this whole Team Harley storyline is pretty amazing. I love how the creators just single handedly exploded the number of female minority characters (and even added one possibly gay dude?) in the DCU. Also, those uniforms are like a gift to cosplayers everywhere. I want to see some cosplay group take this on. The humorous nods to Mad Max and 50 Shades of Grey via Harley and Ivy’s trip to the movies were also pretty delightful. Harley and Ivy’s BFF/FWB relationship has been pretty fun to watch play out.
  8. Daredevil – I liked it. I didn’t LOVE it, like some people seem to. It was very well executed and surprisingly meaty for a superhero show. My takeaway quip was that it was the Breaking Bad of superhero TV Shows. That didn’t make it into the article, but that would be my one sentence summary. If you liked Breaking Bad, you will probably like Daredevil. If you did not (I wasn’t a huge fan), you might find it’s serious approach a little much. Although, in fairness, this is the show Gotham should have been. A hard hitting crime drama with occasional super hero elements. Why didn’t I love it then? I felt like the Kingpin was not handled very well – it seemed like Wesley was in charge of everything most of the show, with the Kingpin seeming more like an idealistic figure head he was indulging, and Wesley seemed way more evil than the Kingpin would ever be capable of. Also, it was just really… dark. It’s hard to put my finger on it, but it’s mainly a circumstantial evidence thing. See, we’ve binge watched A LOT of shows at this point. When something is really good, really grabs us – Battlestar Galactica, Lost, the first 5 seasons of the modern Doctor Who – you cannot drag us away from the TV. We will reschedule everything to squeeze in just one more episode. With Daredevil we found excuses to take frequent breaks, rarely able to sit through more than two episodes without suddenly needing to make a coffee run, go to the pool, or deciding to go out to dinner with friends. That’s not a great sign to me that I’m enjoying something. Would I watch a second season? Yes. Would I watch it all in one weekend again? Nope.
  9. Witcher III: The Wild Hunt – I was not expecting to geek out on this one, but we watched the trailer last night and this video game looks AMAZING. I’ve been waiting for someone to give me a Skyrim sequel for years now, and while this isn’t exactly that, it looks pretty damn close. Close enough for me to be super excited to play it!
  10. Community – I don’t know why it took me this long to watch this show, but I finally started it three weeks ago and… I’m already caught up. You see what I mean about devouring a show if I really like it? I think I literally watched all of Season 5 in one day. (Ok, it’s only 13 episodes at 22 minutes each, but still, I have a day job!) The show is really funny, and has that absurdist, pop culture aware sense of humor that I’ve loved since The Young Ones or The State, and currently love on Archer. If you are fan of either of those shows, or have ever been back to college as an adult (which I have), or just love geeky absurdist comedy that would make Weird Al proud, you should totally catch up on Hulu or Amazon, and then check out the new season happening on Yahoo.
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Elder Scrolls – SKYRIM (XBOX 360)

Skyrim is a surpassing RPG experience, and one Burgandy and I have both been logging long hours on. It’s the latest in a long series of games, but in my mind it’s basically a sequel to Oblivion, with all of the good and bad things that entails. It is a sandbox game – a lot of time is just spent wandering around a large game world, looking for trouble to get into and for things to do. You have plenty of things to do on a good / evil / political axis, as well.

Bethesda also does the modern Fallout games, which are another great experience – I remember thinking, after playing Fallout 3 after a long absence from gaming, that I finally understood why ‘the kids’ were largely over table top gaming. Bethesda RPGs have such immersive environments and freedom of action that they start to seem like a full role playing experience.

Now, one thing about Fallout and (even more so, say, Dragon Age), is that they have fully-formed NPCs and exciting plots. The Elder Scrolls games are a lot more ambient – there is lot of detail, but it’s more likely to be environmental – towns with realistic weather and beautiful scenery with plants you can harvest and bugs you can catch. The people you meet are pretty flat, which can be disappointing, though I understand why with the huge mass of people you can run into.

The main thing about this game is all of the stuff you can do – there are a half dozen different crafting systems which, unlike in most games I have played, have a lot of practical use in the game, not least of which the ability to gain experience and money from it. You can also fight with archery, magic, swords, two-handed swords, sword and shield, and even one hand with a spell and the other with a sword, which is great fun.

The combat is fun, but tough – you really have to use your brain and choose your spells, weapons, and companions carefully. You spend a lot of time fighting, but a lot of time just wandering, too. This could be a grind, but the game is so beautiful that I often would grab passerby and tell them to look at a bridge or waterfall I found, and there are strange things and mystical bits everywhere.

Basically, if any of the above sounds fun to you or if you just enjoy computer RPGs, I couldn’t recommend this one more. It is the most fun I have had with an RPG or really any video  game in general in years, and rivals some of the better tabletop gaming for sheer immersiveness.

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Pink’s Hot Dogs – Knott’s Berry Farm Location

Pink’s Hot Dogs is a moderately famous place, especially in recent years, with the expansions out in Vegas and in Buena Park. I have not eaten at the original Pink’s, but I have eaten their catering once and their Buena Park location once. Fair disclaimers if they are necessary. Pink’s Buena Park has a pretty standard fast food vibe, albeit with a lot more celebrity pictures than you would expect to see in your average mom and pop fast food place. The line wasn’t too bad but, again, being fast food there was no particular service to talk about.

Pink’s is pretty simple – other than the fries, there are four basic ingredients: turkey dog, hot dog, chili, and cheese. The hot dogs are good but perhaps a bit odd, at least to my palate. This is due to their having a moderately thick casing, enough to pop when you bite through it. This combined with what at least had a mouth feel of better meat, led it verging on seeming more like a sausage dog than a hot dog. I found this good in small doses but the bacon burrito dog, which contains three dogs and thus three times the casing, started to wear me out after a while. Too much work, though the cheese, chili, and tortilla were all quite tasty.

I found myself preferring the turkey dogs – they were tasty and easier to eat, without so much effort in the biting. Now, it certainly isn’t an inherently bad thing to load up on casing and I think a fair number of people actually prefer it, and it’s not really physically difficult to eat – I just prefer a simpler, easier to eat hot dog than the beef dogs at Pink’s, especially when they were packed on top of each other in an appalling but delicious fast food concoction. As a side note, their chili cheese fries were very forgettable. I would definitely take Weinerschnitzel or Tommy’s chili fries instead of these, and I believe they are cheaper, as well.

One warning, though – I am not sure if this is exclusive to the Buena Park locale since that happens to be inside Knott’s Berry Farm’s little shopping area, but the prices were quite expensive for what I would really struggle to call anything other than high quality fast food. On the plus side, Knott’s actually has a handful of free historical exhibits like Independence Hall and a replica of George Washington’s fireplace, so you can make an afternoon out of it. I believe the original Hollywood location may be cheaper, but in the past when trying to go there the line was literally around the block and I can’t imagine waiting that long for hot dogs.

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Thing to do in Vegas (When you don’t gamble)

We go to Vegas quite a bit, thanks to the generosity of my parents and their timeshare, but we don’t gamble, and we usually take our daughter. So why go so much? There’s a whole lot to Vegas both on and off the famous Strip that is worth checking out.

1. Hit the Buffet of Buffets – We covered this before, but seriously, this is a great deal for families with picky eaters or who want to introduce their kids to new foods without shelling out for a whole dinner they might end up not eating.

In the Fall...

Or summer.

2. Mt. Charleston – You cannot get farther from the neon lights of Vegas than to find yourself surrounded by miles of beautiful wilderness to explore. Although the mountain does have a ski resort, I’d recommend taking a break from the heat of summer to enjoy the trails – the mountain is often about 10 degrees cooler than the valley. Or go in fall and enjoy the snow like we did on our recent trip. At only about an hour drive from the Strip, it’s a great day trip.

3. Hit the fair or a sporting event – There is much more happening in Las Vegas than just what’s playing at the casinos. Take the time to look up local events before you go, and you might find an expected game or event going on that is right up your alley. The last time we went to Vegas we got to visit a Renaissance Faire being held the park across from Sam Boyd. Way more fun and educational than wandering around the Excalibur Hotel.

5. See a show – Although many shows in Vegas are Adult Oriented Content, a little homework can reveal more than a few magic shows or Broadway style musicals that are perfectly kid friendly. Like “V, the Variety Show” at Planet Hollywood. Just remember, never pay full price. “Family friendly” shows tend to be afternoon shows with light attendance, and discount tickets can usually be easily found in one of the many, many Vegas coupons books you are likely to be handed during your trip.

6. Visit a museum – Vegas is actually home to more than a few museums, some of which are on the educational end and some of which are just fun. We visiting the Museum of Natural History a couple of years ago – while small compared to the one in LA, it had plenty of rooms to explore including some cool hands on exhibits. Or you could get in a game or two or two hundred of pinball at the Pinball Museum.

7.  Meet a furry friend – Nevada is much more exotic pet friendly than California, and as such, it also has some pretty awesome pet stores with much more to check out than your usual kittens and puppies. Visit Pet Kingdom and you might find yourself being nuzzled by a piglet, quietly observing sugar gliders while they sleep, or getting ready to write the governor about repealing California’s ban on ferrets after they climb all over you in the most adorably aggressive way possible. Or if you prefer something you won’t be tempted to smuggle over the border, you could just visit the Las Vegas Zoo. Which also has exotic animals, but in a less up close and personal way.

 

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Three Musketeers: the (newest) movie review

Well, by luck and happenstance we ended up seeing a screening of the Three Musketeers today.

Now, I am going to disclaim my feelings about this movie a little.

I am a big fan of the Milla Jovovich / Paul W S Anderson Resident Evil movies, which this basically serves as the steampunk version of. If you’ve seen those movies, you know of what I speak – wild technology, slow motion fighting, action that every once in a while is actually really good but can also get really campy, etc. If you like that, you will like this.

Also, if you’ve ever hummed Abney Park’s “Airship Pirates”, you’ll find some goodness in here. I don’t want to get spoiler-ish but there is some really, really great fan service in here for those who like airships.

Paul W S Anderson has a habit of making movies that look like the exact movies my inner 13 year old would film if he could. This is definitely one of those movies.

I am a bit sad about the PG13 rating – other than a bit of language here and there the movie was almost kid-oriented, with a very high wacky factor, relatively nonviolent fights (especially compared to the R rated Resident Evil movies). There are some quite funny character / comic relief characters.

Another important note – the movie was shot in 3D and the 3D was quite good, unlike quite a bit of bad 3D I saw this summer. Pirates 4 comes to mind – the 3D was super disappointing in that one in particular (and they both had a lot of 3D swords, so I think it is a fair comparison).  I’m not thinking I’ll see any oscar noms for the effects, but they were really pretty good and not entirely dependent on CGI.

So, in summary – if you like Steampunk, slightly westernized martial arts movies, slow motion fight scenes, Milla Jovovich, airships, anachronistic technology, or any of the Resident Evil movies you should catch this one for sure! If not… maybe not? It did have a bit of a B movie vibe, just one that I happened to really like.

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This is Halloween… Haunt.

Growing up in northern Orange County, Knott’s annual Halloween Haunt isn’t just something fun to do in October, it’s an institution. You didn’t just go to Haunt, you went with friends, you made plans around it, when you were older you would work there, or you would at least know a bunch of people that worked there, then eventually, like all teenage obsessions, you would get over it, then not go for a few years until nostalgia began nipping at your heels and some friend of yours says “Hey, you know what we should do? We should go to Haunt!” And filled with memories of your glory days, you figure out babysitting for the kids, realize you are stuck going on a Saturday because you don’t want to leave early from work for haunt, but you don’t want to go to work after being up until 2am either. Or maybe that’s just us. But it WAS us, and for the first time in a decade we made our return to the land of mazes and mayhem.

First off, it may have been worth it to try to pull off Haunt on a weekday. We dropped off our daughter with my parents at Beach and Main at 6:45. Knott’s, for those unfamiliar with OC, is about a 15 minute drive up Beach from there. Usually. Or it might be 8:30pm before we are FINALLY pulling into the parking lot. And it might then be another half hour braving a line to get in the gates and searching through wall to wall obnoxious teenagers to find our friends. (Cell service, at least for us, was quite spotty throughout the night.)

Once that nightmare was over we were more than ready to hit the mazes. Killer clowns have nothing on a gaggle of teen girls looking like they got lost on the way to a Ke$ha concert and squealing about every roving monster they come across. (Must… restrain… fist of death.)

*Ahem* So, the mazes. Lines were pretty long here, unsurprising at this point, so we didn’t get to hit every maze. We visited Dia De Los Muertos (in 3D!!! Which is weird because isn’t EVERY maze in 3D? WTH Knott’s?), which was pretty fun, if not particularly scary. The sets were drenched in every color of glow in the dark paint, and the halls were actually really roomy, so the whole thing had more the effect of visiting a Hispanic museum in October while seriously tripping on acid than a frightening maze. The sugar skull decorated pole dancer in the “cantina” set was more hot than fright inducing, although she didn’t seem to appreciate this assessment. (Dude, I didn’t put the pole there. I’m just calling them as I see them.)

Working our way clockwise around the park, we next visited the Big Top maze. Apparently the killer clowns did not get the memo they are supposed to be IN the maze. More clowns seemed to be running around outside menacing people around the “Carnevil” scare zone than were actually working the maze. My sister, who once upon a time worked Haunt tells me this is unusual, but it seriously undermined the maze when it became just walking from one goofy room to another, constantly seeing spots where, clearly, someone was supposed to be pretending to be scenery before jumping out at us. Not cool guys. We waited freakin’ 45 minutes to get into the maze, I expect more than just some attempts at off color humor of the circus variety. And again – HUGE hallways. Where were the claustrophobia inducing mazes I remembered from my ill spent youth?

We wandered over towards the Necropolis scare zone, lured by tales of vampire steampunk monsters, and discover some of the best mazes of the night – Virus Z and Fallout Shelter were both very well done, and very old school mazes. Lots of monsters, some surprisingly good special effect, and really detailed set pieces. While most of the monsters so far had managed to do little more than be boring or downright piss me off, the guys and gals working the two zombie themed mazes got us good more than once and by the time I was near the end of the Fallout maze I was getting that fun but creepy paranoid feeling any good maze should give you. Honestly, there were some moments in the Fallout shelter maze that actually felt like some kind of Resident Evil LARP (so much so I had to remind myself that if you punch these zombies, it gets you kicked out of the park), and I consider that high praise . If there was any downside, it was that we were shuffled along so fast by the crowd we didn’t get as good a look at the awesome sets as we wanted to.

Rounding out the night – Cornstalkers was fun, although a couple of the monsters were a little too aggressive, and our friends had high praise for Dollhouse and Delirium, although we did not get to experience them ourselves. Invasion (in the mine ride) was just… lame. Just skip that one.

Highlight of the night was not actually a maze at all – if you go to Haunt, you MUST check out Ed Alonzo’s Psycho Circus show in the far corner of the park – it was a ton of fun. Great magic, funny jokes, and some neat dance numbers with hottie girls, topped off by a topless (male) fire dancer. Really awesome show. Much higher production values than I was expecting after wandering the mazes. (Some of which are populated by costumes that appear to be nothing more than thrift store clothing and a cheap mask.) Very Vegas-ish. Well worth checking out and not a bad way to get off your feet after walking what must be miles of mazes.

So, there you go. Haunt from a middle aged perspective. It was fun, but maybe aimed at a younger audience than me. But, you know, it’s TRADITION!

(I’ll fix this later, but for now, visit their pretty awesome website here: http://haunt.knotts.com/

and if you are going to go, I’d recommend getting discount tix from AAA online if you have a membership – it was the best deal going when we got ours.)

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The new 52 – DC Comics Reboot

The background – Burgandy and I decided to get pulled in by a publicity stunt and pick up some of the DC reboot. See, we used to read comics back in the day, mostly stopping after the mid 2000s when DC finished one Infinite Crisis whilst raring up for another one. We did, actually, miss them and were not entirely happy with only seeing comics through the prism of movies and cartoons, so when we heard DC was cutting some of the crud and aiming for a more newbie friendly event we signed up!

Due to the huge number of comics released (52, plus some #2s by now, some of which we have read and some of which have not) I will probably be posting impressions over a few different posts. So, here are some quick takes.

Good–

Stormwatch. I mostly missed this title the first time through and so I enjoyed the reboot, especially with a meaner-than-before Martian Manhunter grounding things a bit. Fair disclaimer – I know almost nothing about this title, save a vague familiarity with the main characters left over from reading one of their trade paperbacks ages ago, so as far as I know this whole issue was a complete rehash. Still, liked the art and the story seemed super-epic without being too confusing.

Action Comics. This was great! Grant Morrison brings it – we have a Superman who is younger, a bit weaker, but still super fun to read. Unlike some of the other comics, I genuinely got the feeling that something new and exciting was being created – it didn’t seem at all like a rehash. The first meeting of Superman and Lex was especially fun. The character was contemporized a bit but nothing too jarring – plus a more populist / less law and order friendly Superman is both a new idea and a return to the character’s roots. Lois and Jimmy seemed fun, too.

Demon Knights – This was pretty much the comic book of the ultimate DND game – Conan mixed with Superheroes! I didn’t expect anything at all of this but ended up totally loving it. I am a bit of an Etrigan fan, but it was actually the little things that I liked – a part where a bunch of marauders invade the city thinking they’re going to overthrow it only to run into five very annoyed superhero / warriors who just wanted a drink was one of my favorite comic moments of the whole set.

Eh–

Green Lantern. For all that this issue has a #1 stamped on it, it seemed to just be another Green Lantern story, no hint of a reboot whatsoever. (Internet research shows that they did not, actually, reboot this comic… why the new #1, then?). I actually enjoyed it, given the premise – Hal losing the Ring, the Guardians deciding to reinstate Sinestro for some reason – but Burgandy, who is less familiar with the Green Lantern Mythos, was completely checked out.

JLA / Justice League – Uh. This seemed like the first third or maybe even fourth of what would actually be a pretty good comic. But as it is, two characters meeting, and debating a bit, then running into a third character, who is only in a splash and has one line of dialogue, isn’t too exciting. Especially with no particular overarching threat or villain – it’s literally one guy visiting another guy and then the two of them deciding to take a road trip and see a third guy. Not too epic so far – nothing was bad about it, but nothing really happened, either.

Bad –

Red Lantern Corps. I think this probably made sense to someone, but to me (who is not familiar with Red Lanterns beyond an understanding that they are the embodiment of rage) it carried basically no information whatsoever. Just a lot of weird looking creatures and critters foaming at the mouth and sometimes punching each other. Considering the implied promise of slapping a #1 on a cover to make a story a new person could actually read, I was super disappointed.

Batman – Detective Comics #1. Think it would be fun to see a new take on Batman? What about if it was his first fight with the Joker? Great, right? Well… unless Joker is basically a sideline to some weirdo family take on Texas Chainsaw Massacre who likes to cut people’s faces off (probably for some fiendish reason or another). Oh, and Joker gets his face cut off. Which of course is obviously some sort of weird stunt and also bizarrely out of place in one of the theoretically non-dark books.

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