12.26.2009

Cheap Princess

As a new user, one thing I did not know about Steam is that they always hold a year-end sale. Their price cuts are huge too, enough to make me regret buying games from them earlier this year. Torchlight, for example, I bought it for $20 from them not two weeks ago. Today, they slashed 75% off its retail price, dropping it down to $5. It's like slap in the face, I tell you, for not waiting. Indeed, good things come to those who can wait.

But what's done is done, crying over spilled milk won't refund me for being hasty. Besides, this sale ends a week from now. That's plenty of time for me to watch their special deals like a hawk and salvage my loss with Torchlight. So when they put King's Bounty: Armored Princess on the pedestal, I plucked it right away with my greedy talons.

My army, small yet terrifying.

I've been wanting this game since its release last month. However, with my budget cut short due to the holidays -and having a tough time deciding between this game and Blood Bowl- I have to skip on it. But now that Steam brought its price down to $10 (from $40), I just didn't have enough reason to refuse it.

It's a pretty enjoyable game. If you love turn-based strategy like Heroes of Might and Magic or Disciples, this is a perfect game to play. Although not much have changed since the first King's Bounty. The only addition in here is your cute pet dragon. Other than that, the atmosphere and the gameplay are all the same. Which isn't a bad thing at all, especially if you liked the first game.

With that said, I'll end my post here. I still have an army to raise and lands to conquer.

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12.25.2009

On The Table

I worked 16 hours on Christmas Eve (6 am to 10 pm) and then went to Church at midnight with my family. Since I'm tired to the bones from working, I decided that I'd rather stay home this Christmas and sleep the whole day than drive an hour to attend a party, hosted by my mom's boss. But, before they left for the party, my mom left me some things on the table: food and gifts.

The food wasn't much. But it was enough for me and it was good. Some garlic mashed potatoes, garlic bread, fresh eggrolls, a quarter of coffee cheesecake, two bottles of Heineken and maybe a pound of honey-baked ham. Because I only ate a slice of deep dish pizza for dinner last night, I devoured the food like a month-starved prisoner. I gave a very loud, very satisfying belch afterwards.

After I finished eating, I opened up my presents and here's what I got: (clockwise from the top right on the picture)

  1. Invicta Chronograph Watch - This was from my mom -she knows I'm a watch fiend- and it looks kick-ass. Although its huge, almost like belt buckle than a wrist watch. I'm still gonna wear it though.
  2. The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, Graceling, and Fire - These 3 fantasy books were from my dad. Except for Graceling, which was sitting on my wishlist since last year, I didn't ask for any of these books. Now I got more books to read. Awesome.
  3. Shin Megam Tensei: The Devil Survivor - This was from my sister. I never bought any NDS game this year. So it's nice that I got one, and this game seems good as well.
Well, that's what I got for Christmas 2009. I couldn't ask for anything better. All in all, I had fun this Christmas. Although I wish the weather was a bit more nicer.

Merry Christmas to all my ardent readers and blog mates.

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12.23.2009

Holiday Steam

It's the 23rd of December and all of my gifts are already wrapped, snuggled under the tree. But if you're a last minute shopper -like most people I know- and have a PC gamer in your Christmas List, then it's your lucky day because Steam just rolled out their holiday carpet and slashed their prices to a jaw-dropping low.

It's insane, really, because -during my entire gaming years- I haven't seen prices as low as these. There are a lot of good games as cheap as $10, some are even cheaper. So if your head is spinning because you can't decide what to buy from Steam's catalog, then here are my top 10 picks to help you out:

  • Grant Theft Auto IV
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
  • Braid
  • Defense Grid
  • Knights of the Old Republic
  • Torchlight
  • Freedom Force: Freedom Pack
  • World in Conflict: Complete Edition
  • Plants vs. Zombies
  • Mirror's Edge
While the sale will end at January 3rd (which gives you plenty of time), some deals will only last for a day. So better head there now (click here) if you want to catch some good deals. As for me, I think I'm going to treat myself with The Witcher: Director's Cut and Braid.

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12.21.2009

Film Review: Avatar

Avatar
8.7 of 10
Director: James Cameron
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver







I wanted to watch The Road, yesterday, a movie based on my favorite book of the same title. Unfortunately, it's not available on any theaters near me. So I decided to go with Avatar, instead. At first, I thought the movie was based on the cartoon series. That's why -for the first 30 minutes- I was so confused when I saw spaceships and mechs, instead of martial artists with elemental powers. But as soon as I accepted the fact that it was a different movie, a majestic film emerged.


The story in Avatar revolves around Pandora, an earth-like moon that orbits a gas-giant planet in another star system. Pandora holds massive amounts of an element called unobtainium -a valuable resource that Earth desperately needs- in which a mining corporation wishes to exploit. Unfortunately, an indiginous giant-sized cat/monkey-like species that inhabits Pandora, whom are called the Na'vi, becomes an obstacle to the humans. So the corporation hires Marines, equipped with gunships and mechanized battle suits, to plow through the obstacles.

Of course, being wary of the press, the corporation also tries diplomacy. That's where the Avatar Program comes in. The program uses "test-tube" created Na'vi avatars that can be controlled by humans through a mind link. When mind linked, humans uses their Na'vi avatars to explore and study Pandora -because its atmosphere is unbreathable by humans- and also to communicate with the Na'vi, learning their culture and hoping to build diplomatic ties with them.

The visuals here are also mesmerizing. At first look, the designs are pretty much makes it a James Cameron movie as it draws inspiration from his previous films. The Scorpion gunship reminds me a lot of the laser gunship from Terminator. And the neon luminous creatures and plants that lights up Pandora at night has Abyss written all over it. The critters that inhabit Pandora -especially the rhino-like creature with its horn that looked like a hammer- are also very well thought out.


I really enjoyed watching Avatar, overall. The visuals and the story are both epic, and it really defined holiday entertainment the way Lord of the Rings did for me a few years ago. But besides its entertainment value, Avatar also carries a huge ball of messages. Anti-war, anti-racism, pro-green kind of messages. It even has the "corporations are evil" message -even though they sell Avatar toys at Wal-Mart- and the "whoever has the biggest bird gets the girl" message. So if you like movies, go watch Avatar. This film shouldn't be missed.

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12.20.2009

The Playlist #6

If not for our Christmas Party at work, my week would've been uneventful and I'd have nothing to feature on this playlist. So, with that, I'll feature songs from all the albums I received on Christmas parties.

"November Rain" by Guns N' Roses







I started listening to music during my 1st year in high school. That was 1993. I just bought my first album ever, Appetite for Destruction, by Guns N' Roses and I can't get enough of them. So, everyday, I announced it in our class that I wanted Use Your Illusion I, hoping that my secret santa (or secret pal) would get it for me. Thankfully, she did.

"About A Girl (Unplugged Version)" by Nirvana







1994. It's the year Kurt Cobain died. So everybody wants in on the gravy train and tried to capitalize on his death. MTV kept playing Nirvana's Unplugged set almost every night and Geffen Records released it on CD. So by Christmas, everybody wanted the Nirvana Unplugged album. I'm no exception, of course. So me and the rest of the student body in our school, who also listened to rock music, got Nirvana Unplugged for Christmas.

"Tomorrow" by Silverchair







1995 was the year I took music seriously. I took guitar lessons, formed a band and started to explore more avenues of music beyond what NU 107 and MTV played -which were songs by Silverchair, Bush and Foo Fighters. For Christmas, I asked my secret pal for And Out Come The Wolves by Rancid. I didn't get the album. Instead, I received Frogstomp by Silverchair.

"Dyin' Day" by Steve Vai







Back in 1996, I started listening to classic rock, progressive rock, mostly music with great guitars. That Christmas, I didn't ask for anything and left my secret pal not knowing what to give me. She gave me 100 PHP instead. So I bought Steve Vai's latest album Fire Garden.

"Dreams" by The Corrs







I was an irregular student in college. My classes were all over the board and I have no permanent section. So no school Christmas Parties for me. Although, in 1998, on our family Christmas Party, we decided to have a secret santa. I asked for, and received, Talk On Corners by The Corrs. My cousin -who was also my band's drummer- teased me endlessly about going soft. But I didn't care because I had the biggest crush on Andrea Corr.

"Intertiatic ESP" by The Mars Volta







2003. For the first time, I spent Christmas in New York. Since I had a lot of older cousins and aunts who have high paying jobs that live there, I got a lot of good presents that time. One of them was Deloused in the Comatorium by The Mars Volta. But, back then, I only asked for the album because of the band's association with At-The Drive In. I didn't know that they'll become one of my favorite bands.

"Blindsided" by Bon Iver







Last year was probably one of the best Christmas. Not only my aunts from the Philippines and New York spent it with us. I also got 4 albums from my co-workers. Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago was one of those albums.

Well that's it. A few more days and it's Christmas. I hope you guys get to unwrap some good music. If you don't, however, then I'm here to shower you with some music every week.

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12.19.2009

Let It Snow and Spin

Right now, I'm as drunk as a blind ostrich who just ran on 355 and got hit by a 10 wheeler UPS truck, trying to catch up on last minute Christmas deliveries and devilries. Yes, it was our Christmas Party at work, today. We did it cheap this year and held the party at our boss's house, instead of dining out on a fancy restaurant. We also started early, 1 PM, because we're trying to avoid driving late at night in the middle of a snowstorm.

By 5 PM, my vision is blurred, voice is slurred. Already drunk.

At 7 PM, my Secret Santa gave me this:Let The Great World Spin, written by Colum McCann. I have no idea what this book is about, actually. All I know is that it's the winner of the National Book Award and also Amazon's #1 book of 2009. So it's one of those things that you just want because it's so shiny. Plus, it's only $10, which makes it the perfect item for my Secret Santa wishlist.

I wish I could start reading it now. But I'm so buzzed up. So tomorrow, then.

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12.17.2009

Book Review: Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures
8.0 of 10

Written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Buy the Hardcover Edition from Amazon
Buy the Kindle Edition from Amazon







Unless it's post-apocalyptic or dystopian, I normally avoid young adult novels. Not that I think they're bad but because -as a guy already in his late 20s- I can't stomach the ham & cheese type of writing and romance of this genre. That's why I'm still questioning my reasons of why I bought Beautiful Creatures, and even finished reading it, despite its Twilight-like synopsis. Was it because it's Amazon's #5 book of 2009? Or was it because the hopeless romantic in me was enthralled by the book's boy meets cool/weird girl story? I hate to admit it but it was probably the latter.

As I've mentioned earlier, the book is pretty much like Twilight, a supernatural teenage romance. Unlike Stephanie Meyer's "magnum opus", the parties involved in Beautiful Creatures are mortals and casters -wizards, not vampires. There's also a role reversal in the story -which I really like- since Ethan (the male) is the underpowered mortal protagonist and also the narrator, while Lena (the girl) is the caster. Ethan and Lena's relationship also have a spin of Romeo and Juliet into it, since both their guardians are trying to separate them from each other because of their differences.

Unfortunately, the whole Romeo and Juliet theme is the gag factor. Because when the star-crossed lovers are apart they get angsty and long for each other, and when they're together all they do is cuddle, kiss, hug and tickle, instead of trying to find a way to stop the inevitable "claiming" that will keep them apart forever. It's all cute sometimes but, since these scenes are prevalent throughout the book, which also drags the story down, I can only handle it so much. There's also no sex, or talk about it, which I find unbelievable since most of the characters in the book are running on teenage hormones.

But what kept me interested in this book is the southern gothic setting. The story is set in a small town called Gaitlin. It's pretty much a totalitarian town that is run by small-minded, book-burning type of people. In this town, conformity and ignorance runs high. If you read a book, you're an outcast. If you don't have blonde hair and orange-tanned skin, you're an outcast. While there's a Voldemort-esque villain in the story, the real antagonist here is the town itself. Since the townsfolk are the ones who are trying to burn the dark-haired, pale-faced Lena on the stake, keeping him apart from Ethan, who is one of their own.

The mystery that blankets the town and its plot is also a page turner in this book. Like I said, Gaitlin is a small town with small-minded people. It's the kind of boring town that you just want to leave behind. But as you read further, page by page, chapter by chapter, the town gets more interesting as its buried secrets -past, monsters, magic and underground libraries- creeps up into the surface. Uncovering the mysterious plot -especially the one that shroud Lena's "claiming" and Ethan's power- was also gracefully executed by the writers. They would tease you with events upon tiny events that will keep you hooked.

It's a no brainer that this book was aimed towards the fans of Twilight, especially young girls, which will put a lot of people off (at least, the people I know). But I have to applaud both writers for trying really hard to get away from Meyer's grasp by using other supernatural creatures like incubuses, ghosts and spirits, and by reversing the roles of the protagonists (a powered female and a mortal male). But if there's anything that makes this book worth a read is its southern gothic setting and totalitarian nature, giving it a bit of dystopian flavor and a step ahead from Twilight.

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12.15.2009

Relapse

Rudyard Kipling once said "Four things greater than all things are: Women and Horses and Power and War." I don't have Women, Horses or Power. But I can always play WAR.

I actually thought I won't be coming back to this game. But after seeing my former guild move to a much more active server and then saw their recruitment video (watch it here). I just started to itch for some realm vs. realm action. So I remedied it by re-activating my account and had a lot of fun playing with guildmates last night. It's just sad that we have to leave Phoenix Throne.

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12.13.2009

The Playlist #5

It was a quiet week for me, to sum it up. I started reading a new book and there was snow, a lot of snow. In fact, there was snow as much as I have music.

Anyways, here we go, my 5th playlist:

"Hanuman" by Rodrigo y Gabriela







A couple years ago, I met a guitarist at the hospital I work at. He was playing on his mother's bedside, ripping his nylon acoustic guitar with flamenco scales. His skill was just mesmerizing. Guiltily, however, he admitted to me that there's no money in Spanish guitar. So he left it and played rock instead. But after I heard Rodrigo y Gabriela, last Monday. I thought, maybe, that dude just gave up easily on his music.

"Decode" by Paramore







I'm currently reading the book Beautiful Creatures. At first, I thought it was another Twilight rip-off, riding on its hype wave. But as I read further, the story -that is clearly Twilight, Harry Potter, Romeo & Juliet, To Kill A Mockingbird (and even a bit of Star Wars) rolled into a really fat joint- opens up a wonderful new world. The girl in the story, Lena Duchannes, is also my new heroine. She's cute and edgy, strong and fragile, and her voice will probably sound like Hayley Williams of Paramore.

"Snow Blind" by Black Sabbath







Wednesday, a nasty huge storm whips across United States. Chicago, of course, was snowed in. I had work that day, and the drive back to home was nasty and slow. The roads where slippery and the blowing snow reduced driving visibility.

"A Small Victory" by Faith No More







A Faith No More song came up randomly while I was listening on my iPod. I realized that the audio quality of the song was really bad, even though I ripped the CD at 320 Kbps. But then I remembered that the CD I had isn't a remastered version since I bought it during the 90's, before the digital age. So I went to Amazon mp3 and bought the better versions. I know it sounds like I just wasted money. But we're talking about Faith No More here. They're one of my favorite bands and I spare no expenses when it comes to them.

"Wanderlust" by Baroness







So I found out about this band called Baroness a couple weeks ago and bought their Blue Record. I fell in love with it and then also bought their previous work, Red Album. Red Album, in my opinion, is even better than their Blue Record, which is also awesome. I'm now a member of their fan club.

"Glasshouse Tarot" by Sparta







Two months after I bought my iPod Touch, I'm now down to ripping my CDs of artists that starts with "S". Wiretap Scars by Sparta was the first CD I ripped. I love this album, it's one of my favorites. The guitar sounds in this album is just sonic bliss. The song "Glasshouse Tarot" is the best example of Sparta's sterling stringmanship in here. The intro, especially, is just wow. I could listen to it forever.

"1901" by Phoenix







There's a TV commercial by Cadillac and it has this really good music (see the TV ad here). I've been wondering what the song was, or who the artist was, for months now. Then I previewed Phoenix's songs at iTunes and found that it was actually their song. Phoenix is probably my most overlooked artists this year. I've seen their high ratings but I just ignored them. I was a fool. Now their latest album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, is on my Christmas wishlist.

Well, that's it. I wrote too much already. Now read, listen and enjoy.

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12.11.2009

Holiday Wishlist

We finally drew names for our Secret Santa at work today. The rules were the same as last year -gifts should be no less than $10 and no more than $15. We also included a list of 10 things we wanted on our names, which was my suggestion from last year. I came up with it simply because it will make shopping a bit easier, not having to run around and guessing what my gift-receiver wants. Of course, it's also a chance to get what I want.

The list that I got have assorted items like make-up, fragrances, iTunes card and even an iPhone protection sleeves. I'm going to give her an iTunes card because it's the most easiest and I love giving music. As for me, I made an Amazon Wishlist (check it here) and forwarded the link to all who participated.

Anyways, here's my list

Music

  • Geneva by Russian Circles
  • Aim and Ignite by fun.
  • 11:11 by Rodrigo Y Gabriela
  • Signal Morning by Circulatory System
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix by Phoenix
Books/Comics
  • Air vol. 1
  • The Northlanders vol. 1
  • Graceling
  • Let the Great World Spin
Tech/Gadgetry
  • iPod Touch Wall Charger
I'd be a happy man if I get any of these stuff. So, how about you, what's on your wishlist?

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12.10.2009

Earth One

I'm really bummed about the departure of J. Michael Straczynski from Thor. So, now, I'm trying to find books written by him. Then, yesterday, I found out that he's actually on a new project, Superman: Earth One. It's a revamp of Superman in an entirely new continuity, and it will be in an ongoing graphic novel format. This sounds really epic. Hopefully, with JMS at its helm, this new continuity of Superman won't be lame. I'm kind of expecting him to modernize Supes the way Mark Miller did with the Avengers in Marvel's Ultimate continuity.


On the other hand, there's also an Earth One revamp of Batman. Geoff Johns will helm the project. So it's also going to be big. What really got me about this Bats revamp is Alfred. No more nice Alfred Pennyworth, it seems like. He's crippled and grizzled, a veteran of the Royal Marines. He just looks more kick-ass (see picture above).

This Earth One sounds really promising, and might be a good starting point for new readers or those who aren't that familiar with the DC Universe -like me. Hopefully, if it's really good, DC will expand this Earth One and not concoct another crisis that will meld all continuities.

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12.07.2009

Demo Monday: Torchlight

At first, my interest wasn't really piqued when I found out that a bunch of former Blizzard North employees and Travis Baldree (creator of FATE) were developing an action-RPG entitled Torchlight, which is another Diablo clone. But after I saw the game's cheap price tag over at Steam ($20), I really found it hard to ignore. Fortunately, there's a demo is available for the game and you can download it here. So I decided to dip my toes on it first before diving head on.

The whole demo runs up to a couple of stages -until you reach the main boss fight- and your character level is capped to 7. There are 3 classes in the game, and all of which are available to play on the demo. I picked the Vanquisher because of her steampunk appearance and the ability to use rifles and pistols. Her skill tree is abundant of really cool abilities, each branch offers different tactics and strategies. What surprised me though is that the Vanquisher can actually dual-wield pistols in the game or use a pistol and shield. I haven't seen this kind of feature in any game, and that alone makes me want to play it.

Torchlight is pretty much a Diablo clone: kill, loot and repeat gameplay. But it definitely have some character and appeal of its own. The setting, the graphics and the atmosphere are all decently done. It's also a well polished game with a lot of love in its development. But if that doesn't get you, this game only costs $20. So, since Diablo III is nowhere near of being done, I think I'll just have to remedy my hack n' slash malady with this game.

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12.06.2009

The Playlist #4

It's December and it really feels like the holidays in the house. I didn't do anything this week except help with the Christmas decorations. I put up a tree last Monday, and then climbed on top of the roof to set up some lights. I also wrapped all my gifts and mailed my greeting cards. So I didn't get to start on any of my new books nor played games that much. But I did listen to a lot of music.

"A Horse Called Golgotha" by Baroness







I've never heard of this band before. But this band came up on the Genius Recommendation sidebar of my iTunes while I was listening to Mastodon. Curious, I streamed their songs, fell in love with the sick guitar riffs, and ended up buying the album at Amazon Mp3 (because it's a dollar cheaper than iTunes). The whole album, simply entitled as Blue Record, is one of the best metal albums I've heard this year. It has the complexity of Mastodon and the sludge of The Sword. \m/

"Crying Lightning" by Arctic Monkeys







I heard this song playing in the store while I was choosing an ink for my printer. At first -because of the bass intro- I thought it was the song "Cannonball" by The Breeders, which instantly reminded me of the 90's. I was wrong, of course, and later realized that it was a song from Humbug, the new album by the Arctic Monkeys.

"December" by Collective Soul







Well, it's December and it's starting to get cold around here. But besides the falling temperature and the month, this is also the first non-Nirvana song that my band learned to play.

"Monkey Gone to Heaven" by The Pixies







The announcement of The Pixies' boxed set, Minotaur, had put me in a state of extreme cheapskatiness -saving every penny I have so I could buy the set- and pixie worship. Unfortunately, I only have one of their albums, Doolittle, so I don't have much songs to share.

"The Fixer" by Pearl Jam







Pearl Jam have been nominated for the Grammys. Their first single, "The Fixer", from their album Backspacer is nominated for the "Best Rock Song" category. I do hope they win.

"Keep The Car Running" by Arcade Fire







My favorite indie band, Arcade Fire, is coming out with a new album next year! You can read all about it here. In the meantime, I'll just keep on listening to their 2007 album, Neon Bible.

"Your Decision" by Alice In Chains







This is the second single from Alice In Chains' new album, Black Gives Way to Blue, and it's actually my favorite song from the album. Its music video premiered on YouTube yesterday (12/05/2009), and I was so surprised to see Jerry Cantrell looking so old. He still rocks, nonetheless. Amanda Fields, a model from Project Runway, also had a cameo appearance on the video. I don't know who she is though since I don't watch TV. Anyways, you can watch the video here.

Alright. That's that for this week. See you guys next week and enjoy.

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12.04.2009

Books of Winter

I just got all the books that I ordered from Amazon last Black Friday. The delivery wasn't as fast like last year. But it was fast, nonetheless, even for a free shipping. I also got the books for a total $33, which was a steal since they're all new releases and hardcover editions. Unfortunately, I have yet to finish Everything Matters! before I start reading any of these books.

Anyways, here are the books that I bought:

Beautiful Creatures
Based on its synopsis, and from the reviews that I read, this book is a love story/modern fantasy. Kinda like Twilight, I suppose. Except that the outcast here is the chick. Normally, I won't touch love stories with a 10 foot pole. But I will admit that I do like "average-guy-meets-weird girl" stories, being an average guy/geek who's still looking for a weird/cool gal.

Catching Fire
This is the second book of The Hunger Games trilogy. I really enjoyed reading The Hunger Games last year. It's a dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction that reminded me of The Running Man. The book was cut short though. So I'm really excited to read this book and learn what happens next.

The Year of the Flood
Honestly, I don't know anything about this book. I didn't read the synopsis when I bought it. But I know that is a dystopian fiction written by Margaret Atwood (Oryx and Crake, The Handmaid's Tale) and that's enough info for me to buy this book.

These books seems to be really interesting, now that I just held them on my hand and smelled their pages. I haven't skipped reading a book for a long while. But I guess I'm going shelf Everything Matters! and then start reading Beautiful Creatures.

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12.03.2009

A Minotaurian Boxed Set

So I found myself drooling this morning when they unveiled the contents of the limited signed edition of Minotaur, which is The Pixies' boxed set, at Wired.



I love The Pixies. I especially love Doolittle, their second album. The band's guitarist, Joey Santiago, is also one of my music idols. Not only as an axe man, but as a Filipino musician who made it big in the world of rock music. So, yes, I really want this gorgeous boxed set. Unfortunately, the $495 price tag of this set -that is featured on the video- is just too steep for me. I think, I'll just settle for the $175 deluxe edition, which also includes all the awesome stuff from the limited edtion minus the gigantic art book and the band's autograph.

Anyways, if you haven't heard of The Pixies then you suck here's something extra for you:

"Here Comes Your Man" by The Pixies








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12.01.2009

Comics Bundle: 11.25.09

One thing I like about the holidays is that I can my holiday time-off. The result of that: I picked up my comics bundle on time.

Thor: Defining Moments #1
7.0 of 10
I was expecting a lot from this book, it being JM's Straczynski's last issue and it's also a giant size. Unfortunately, it's a big disappointment since it felt kind of short. Sure, the story was great. There was death, betrayal, tragedy, and Doom and Loki's plan are out in the air. What irked me is that they used the extra pages of this giant book for the preview of Thor #604 and a reprint of the first appearance of Thor. It's like buying a jar of jelly only to find out that it's only half-way full when you open it.

Chew #6
9.2 of 10
When I picked up Chew #1, I thought that the series will heavily rely on the disgusting nature of the main protagonist's strange ability, which is eating nasty stuff to get psychic impressions, to make us laugh. But Chew #6 managed the fun just well without the gross factor. Instead, the comedy here comes in a form of a weird buddy cop scenario when Chu is reunited with Colby, his old partner, who is now a cyborg. So we get an Asian detective who eats dead dogs to solve a case and he's now partnered with a Caucasian cyborg. Beat that Rush Hour.

The Unwritten #7

8.4 of 10
This title is already at its seventh issue, and the main character has been through a lot already. Yet, I'm still in the dark. I don't have any clue where this book is heading, I don't know where the character progression is going, and I certainly don't have any idea why people is after the main character. The book just keeps on brewing new mysteries every time it reveals something significant to the plot. It's kind of frustrating sometimes but, I guess, that's also the part of the allure that makes me want to read this book.

The Walking Dead #67

9.0 of 10
After the last story arc, I thought this issue is going to slow down a bit in terms of plot or character progression. Especially when the group is just foraging for food and water supplies, and Rick and Carl having a heart to heart talk, at the beginning of the book. But then Eugene is finally revealed for what he really is. That's a big gear of character and plot progression turning right there. Since Eugene is the sole reason why the whole group is moving to Washington.

Fables #90
9.4 of 10
There's no action in this issue but the plot moved greatly. A change of leadership amongst the witches, Bigby and Snow putting their resources into motion for the coming war, Geppetto and Frau Totenkinder are also brewing personal schemes, and Bufkin continues his guerilla war against Baba Yaga. It's amazing how a small book can put all those details without falling short. The dialogues here are also top notch. I especially love the confrontation between Baba Yaga and the Mirror on the Wall.

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11.29.2009

The Playlist #3

It's been a hell of a week for me. Both life and work were pretty busy. Holidays just sets people into a mad rush, I guess, and I'm not excluded. That's why I'm so thankful that I'm off for 5 days (I still have 2 more days left). So it's been a week of uninterrupted gaming, good food, sweet shopping deals and music.

I also ditched imeem -because they don't allow full streaming sometimes- and decided to host my own mp3 files using the money I earn from this blog. So you guys do me a favor and enjoy them.

"Two Weeks" by Grizzly Bear







I probably had Grizzly Bear's latest album, Vecaktimest, for months now. But I haven't listened to it as much as I should. So I didn't realize that the album is that good until last Sunday. The folk-pop songs here are very relaxing and sunny, an excellent album to listen to while resting on a Sunday afternoon. "Two Weeks", which I think is their first single, is a perfect example of how bright this album is.

"Graze" by Animal Collective

Animal Collective became one of my favorite artists this year when they dazzled me with their electro-pop on Meriweather Post Pavilion. So when they released an EP, entitled Fall Be Kind, last Monday, I just have to get it. At first, I was disappointed with it. I didn't had the hook and catch that Meriweather had. But after listening to it a few times, I fell in love with it. The music here is just so full of texture -results of experimentation, I guess. The first song, "Graze", is so floaty and dreamy with swirling synths on the background, then it ends up with a jumpy, joyous tune of a flutist on heroine.

"Ten Speed (of God's Blood & Burial)" by Coheed and Cambria







Not being able to attend Lollapalooza -for finanical reasons- is one of my biggest regrets this year. So I missed seeing my favorite bands, like Tool and Coheed & Cambria, play live. Fortunately, Coheed & Cambria released Neverender, a DVD featuring their four-night concert, and I was able to rent it from Netflix. I have to say that the DVD is quite impressive, and I'm planning to get the boxed set (which also included the live CD). All songs from all their albums are included in here, played live by the band. It's worth 5 hours of kick-assery.

"Shake It Out" by Manchester Orchestra







I thought I'm too old for bands like Manchester Orchestra. But when my clock radio played "Shake It Out" to wake me up at five in the morning, I found myself nodding my head on my pillow. It's an awesome song, with a nice progression to it. I also love the guitar riffs and the vocal style.

"Love Letter to Japan" by The Bird and the Bee







Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future is one of my few favorite pop albums. But I've never heard anybody, even amongst my peers, who like this album. So when I found out that Amazon named it as their #1 pop album for 2009, topping even Kelly Clarkson, I was so ecstatic. I was also relieved to know about it, of course. Because I thought that my taste in music was deteriorating, along with my memory and hair.

"People Got a Lotta Nerve" by Neko Case







I'm not really a big fan of Neko Case. Her music is good but it's not my cup of tea. Although her new album, Middle Cyclone, is Amazon's #1 album of 2009. Honestly, I don't agree. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix would've a been better choice, in my opinion. But Amazon was kind enough to offer Middle Cyclone for $2 -I guess to give non-believers the chance to listen to it- as part of their Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale. Fan or not, the deal is just too good to pass up. Surprisingly, I'm enjoying some of the songs on the album. But I still couldn't see it as an "album of the year" kind of material.

"Like O, Like H" by Tegan and Sara







I've been listening to Tegan and Sara's Sainthood, all day yesterday, while I was writing a review for it. While it's a good album, it actually made me sick -due to repeated listens- and miss The Con even more. Hence, I listened to The Con all day long to purge the Sainthood's power pop out of my system. "Like O, Like H" is definitely my favorite song from the Quin twins.

Well, that's the playlist for this week. I hope you guys enjoyed it. If you don't see the player, you probably need to install flash plug-in for your browser.

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11.28.2009

Music Review: Sainthood

Sainthood by Tegan and Sara
8.8 of 10

Buy album from Amazon
Download album from Amazon






Tegan and Sara's spot on the soundtrack of that famous medical drama series earned them a bit of mainstream exposure. This, of course, is how I discovered them. It's hard not to take notice when they've invaded the iPhones of young doctors and nurses (fans of the TV show) at my workplace. At first, I didn't like the act. It was too cutesy for me. But when the twins released their 5th album, The Con, back in 2007, I was hooked. The album's catchy lyrics, folky/poppy tunes and -the best of all- folk guitar riffs being assaulted by electronic synths was an aural treat.

Now the Quin twins are back with their sixth LP, Sainthood, a follow-up to The Con and one of my most anticipated albums this year. Their latest album is, more or less, still the same as their previous. The cutesy and poppy vocals are still present, as well as the catchy lyrics that will entice you to sing-a-long with the twins. Gone, however, are the folk elements from The Con. Instead, it's replaced with 80's power pop and new wave. The track "The Cure", its music and title, is evidently inspired by The Cure (band). Then "Alligator" will simply remind you of earlier Madonna songs.

All in all, in my opinion, The Con is still the better album. It was more complex and had more atmosphere. But Sainthood didn't disappoint me. While the album is much more straight-forward, it is bursting with energy. All the songs in here also have the same infectious hook like with Tegan and Sara's previous works. It may not have many bells and whistles like The Con, But it is still a very enjoyable album. I highly recommend Sainthood.

"Alligator" by Tegan and Sara








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11.27.2009

Dark Deals

It's Black Friday, also known as the Day After Thanksgiving. It marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season, and retailers all over the U.S. offer a lot of sweet deals on just about everything. In fact, their offers are so enticing that a lot of people camped outside their stores since yesterday noon, in the cold, entirely missing Thanksgiving, just so they could snag that door buster/early bird item. Most of them are doing it out of necessity though -like buying a laptop for school or a new vacuum cleaner for the house- so I don't blame them.


I, however, decided not to go to the stores this year. My reason is because, while the early deals are good, it can get pretty scary out there. This is the time of the year when people fight and die over a parking lot or the last PS3 bundle, you know. Then there's also the loud and obnoxious shoppers, who seems to always want to stop and talk in the middle of the aisle, completely halting the flow of the mob, you being stuck between the sea of consumers. In addition, I didn't feel like getting up early and there isn't any good Xbox 360 deals .

But I didn't avoid Black Friday, no. I worked 22 hours of overtime in the past few weeks and to not let that extra money I earned go to waste would be a shame. I toiled hard for it, I have to spend it and help the economy. So I went to shop digitally, and it was awesome. No crowds, no parking lots, no more Christmas songs with subliminal messages that urges consumers to spend more. Just me, with a large supply of assorted caffeinated beverages, leftover food from the day before, and my computer.

I didn't visit a lot of sites, however. I only limited my stay at Amazon, Steam and New Egg. But I found some great deals on these sites. Steam is by far the best. They slashed the prices of their games from 25% off to 75% off. From them, I snagged Majesty 2 ($9), Left 4 Dead 2 ($38) and Plants vs. Zombies ($5). From New Egg, I got my godkids some DS games -Chrono Trigger and Elite Beat Agents- for $10 each. Then I bought 3 books for the price of 2 (as stocking stuffers) at Amazon. I also got the hardcover edition of Beautiful Creatures and Catching Fire (sequel to Hunger Games) for less than $10 from them, sweet deal.

All in all, today is the one of the pleasant Black Friday experiences I had in years. Not because there was no mob to trample me (truth be told, I actually missed them). But because I didn't spend a lot (I still have $80 left on my Black Friday budget), and I mostly bought things for myself. So it's all good. Now I have 2 books and 3 more games to keep me entertained throughout the coming winter.

P.S. On a serious note, people do get killed on Black Friday (check here).

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11.23.2009

Difficulty in Gaming

Two articles regarding game difficulty seems to have sprouted up on the net. One is from Jeff Vogel, founder of Spiderweb Software (developer of indie RPGs such as Avernum and Geneforge), who wants to make games with easier, accesible difficulties. His opinion stems from being a game developer, however, stating that:

"People will happily forgive a game for being too easy, because it makes them feel badass. If a game is too hard, they will get angry, ragequit, hold a grudge, and never buy your games again."
Another article is from IGN, which is retardedly subjective or they're just brewing up some controversy. The article whines about games for not having enough difficulty levels, or are just too easy, today. But it seems to me that the writer is badly missing his older Nintendo games. Especially when he said:
"Forget graphics, forget weapons and puzzles, forget story, forget characters, and forget controls. Difficulty is the single most important element of any game."
So what's my personal opinion about game difficulty? Well, despite what IGN said, it's the story that propels me to finish a game. I don't mind if the game is easy, hard or gives you penalties when you die. If the story is good, I'd find a way to finish it no matter what. For example, I'm not really good at platform games (that's why I can't finish most of my NES games back then). But in Prince of Persia, I have to patiently jump over the same obstacle again and again until I succeeded because I want to see the game's ending.

Though I do agree with both articles about games should have more difficulty options, ranging from very easy to modes that will give you nightmares. I always treat games as a brief getaway from the challenges of reality. So it's not good if I buy a game and can't enjoy it because it's too damn hard. That's just plain cruel. On the other hand, I do love to be challenged occasionally. Especially with strategy games. So I crank up a game's difficulty, from time to time and come up with different tactics to keep the game fresh.

So what about you? What's your say about game difficulty? You like it easy or hard?

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11.22.2009

The Playlist #2

It's week two of my "The Playlist" series. I was actually planning to skip this post today since I thought I have nothing to write about. It was quiet week for me, oddly enough. Work was slow, never spent a dime (not even for gas), and never really listened to music that much. The only thing I did was play Dragon Age: Origins. I'm almost done with the game and I'm already itching to play it again from the start.

Nonetheless, last week brought enough music for me to write another playlist.

"Far Behind" by Candlebox

I woke up to this song last Sunday. This was a pretty popular song back in high school and I love it. Especially the song's guitar intro. I don't know anything about the band though, or heard any of their songs beside this one. I wonder if they're still around today.

"Hate Worldwide" by Slayer
I knew there was a Slayer album that just got out. I didn't mind it, however, because I'm not that much into Slayer, and their recent albums weren't that good anyways. But when I heard this song while driving home from work, I was smitten. It's old school and a lot of people (including old fans) are even comparing the new album to Reign of Blood and South of Heaven (two of my favorite Slayer albums). So know I'm thinking of getting the album.

"Lovesick Teenagers" by Bear In Heaven
This is one of my music purchases from weeks ago. I've never heard of the band before but I'm really loving them now. I especially love this song. It's just so dreamy and swirly. Listening to it will leave you lost and lazy.

"Worm Mountain" by The Flaming Lips (featuring MGMT)
I fell in love with The Flaming Lips after I heard At War with the Mystics, back in 2006. Now the band is back again with a new album, Embryonic, and it's crazy awesome. I don't know if they have an official single but "Worm Mountain" is my favorite song from their album. The buzzy bass of this song is just awesome. It's very psychedelic, very stoner metal.

"Wretched World" by Converge
I don't listen to metal or hardcore as much as before, I admit. But if Converge releases any kind of new material, I'm there to buy it. Ever since Jane Doe, this band have been breaking skulls. Their new album, Axe to Fall is no exception. Although this song is kind of slow, very un-Converge. I still like it, however.

"Hell" by Tegan and Sara
I've been a fan of Tegan and Sara since The Con. I'm currently enjoying their latest album, Sainthood, and it's definitely one of my favorite albums this year. Anyways, this song is the first single from their new album. While it's not my favorite track (there are far more better songs in the album) it's still a fun, fast paced song. There's clearly a lot of 80's influence in it.

"This is War" by 30 Seconds to Mars
Actor Jared Leto can sing, I like his voice, I'll give him that. Unfortunately, I don't like his band, 30 Seconds to Mars. They're not my cup of tea. But I stumbled a trailer for Dragon Age: Origins in YouTube (which can be found here) that features the single from their new album. I don't like the song though. The Dragon Age trailer, however, rocks. The Grey Warden and Sten looks pretty kick-ass in the video.

That's it for this week. I hope you guys will enjoy this my playlist as much as I did.

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11.21.2009

The Bowl or The Bounty?

During my early days as a gamer, most of the games I've played were cheap indies or imports from Eastern Europe. These games have little to no advertisement. But I didn't had any trouble tracking them down, and even followed their development. But, nowadays, it's been hard for me to find games that fly under the radar. So when the sequel for King's Bounty and an electronic version of Blood Bowl was made available on Steam the other day, I was very surprised. Knowing this also irked me because I only have enough money to get one game. Right now, I'm facing a conundrum. Maybe you can help?



Blood Bowl
This is the electronic version of the turn-based strategy, table-top game, Blood Bowl. I've only played the table-top version once, with my cousins, back in the early 90's, and I don't have a clear idea of how the game is actually played anymore. But I remember we were having tons of fun with it, cheering and shouting in the middle of the night. So I'm hoping to play this game again, relearn it and see if I can recapture the fun I had that night. Plus, I also found out that this game is also from Games Workshop, maker of Warhammer Games.

King's Bounty: Armored Princess
This game is the sequel to King's Bounty: The Legend (and I really loved this game). King's Bounty is also a turn-based strategy game, like Blood Bowl, and plays a lot like Heroes of Might and Magic (which I'm also a very big fan of). You can control a single hero, who gains level and earn loot by defeating creeps throughout the map, and can recruit followers. The game has this old-school feel which I really like. It's also developed by 1C, a small game developer that made Space Rangers -one of the best games evar!

Anyways, I'm really torn between the two games. I want to play Blood Bowl because its gameplay seems new and looks something different. But I don't know much about it. On the other hand, I know Armored Princess will be a lot of fun and it's also cheaper. But the gameplay is too similar to its predecessors. So should I go with the Bowl, new and untested? Or should take the safer and cheaper route with the Bounty?

This sucks, if I only knew these games were coming out I could've skipped Borderlands. It would've been easier that way.

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