Animation Pile Up Pt. 2

I've spent a lot of time on gaming these past two weeks. In fact, I've been playing non-stop and have already finished Batman: Arkham Asylum. The only thing I remember doing outside of playing games were reading comics and updating this blog. So today I decided to pull away from my PC and watch some comics-to-cartoons instead.

Anyways, here are my quick reviews of the animations that I saw today.

Green Lantern: First Flight
8.9 of 10
Even as a comic book enthusiast, I honestly don't know much about DC characters. Luckily, they've been churning out a lot of Direct-to-DVD animations of their superheroes' origins. First, it was Wonder Woman (which I really liked a lot). Now it's Green Lantern's turn. Like Wonder Woman, Green Lantern: First Flight tells the story of Hal Jordan and how he became part of the Green Lantern corps. This is a pretty good animation, even better than Wonder Woman. The story is good, the voice-overs are done well and the art is just amazing.

8.5 of 10
I saw 3 episodes of this anime last year, and I liked it. So when I learned that one of my friend had a couple of DVDs of this series, I just had to borrow it. The anime is also based on a comic book. However, this is not a faithful adaptation of Top Cow's version of Witchblade since the setting, the characters and the story are entirely different. Nonetheless, it is a good watch. At first, since the series is riddled with well-endowed and scantily clad women, I thought this was just another "B" anime with tons of great fights and eye candy. But the story turned out to be good, and the main character is also likable.

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
7.0 of 10
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is one of the first graphic novels that I bought. I didn't like it, however. That's why when I rented this DVD I was hoping that DC added something more to the story. But they didn't. In fact, the script was lifted up from the comics, panel by panel. So there's nothing in here. The bond between the two iconic heroes' weren't even explored in depth, which they should've. The art is also horrible, even more than the comics. The heroes just look too muscular and Power Girl looked like a blow up doll. The only thing good in this movie is the action, lots and lots action.

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Less Heroic, More Vertigo

The comics that I have been reading these days are becoming less super-heroic. But it's not a bad thing, however. It's just that I cleared a couple Marvel comics off my list to make space for some new Vertigo titles. It's not the "Disney effect" either, mind you, like some people might think. I don't blame Marvel for selling themselves off to Mickey Mouse so they can cross over to the Disneyworld. I just can't read and/or afford too many comics. That's all. So I have to manage my time and money wisely.

Anyways, the new Vertigo books that I'm reading are awesome. I especially love The Unwritten. The story, I think, is based on an idea of what if Harry Potter (or any other popular fictional character) becomes real? It's a fun and refreshing book to read. Greek Street is also a cool book. It's basically a hodge podge of Greek myths that are retold with an urban touch. Then there's Sweet Tooth. Its story is about a deer one, a boy with deer antlers. I don't know much about the setting yet since it's only at its #1 issue. But I already like it. The book is well-written, full of emotions.

So these are the books that I replaced Dark Avengers, Avengers: The Initiative and Wolverine with. While I'll definitely miss my Marvel books, all 3 Vertigo books are sure worth it. If you like comics, or don't like it at all, I suggest you grab and read these titles.

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Album Review: No More Stories...

No More Stories...by Mew
8.9 of 10
Buy album from Amazon
Download album from Amazon

Back in 2005, I had an insatiable craving for new progressive rock bands. I was exploring all corners of the internet just to find any prog-rock that hatched during the last decade. That's how I found Mew, a prog-rock band from Denmark, and their highly praised album And the Glass-Handed Kites. It was a sublime album. Seamless and contemporary, it was the future sound of prog-rock. But I was in the mood for something classic and epic at that time. So Mew's masterpiece was overshadowed by Coheed and Cambria's Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One.

As time passed, the existence of Mew was erased from my mind. But early last August, I stumbled upon a music video that showcased flying metallic boxes with laser lights. The video was pretty odd, I think. The music, however, was astounding. It had a nice dance rock tune, with subtle shoegazing elements, and vocals that sounded so ethereal. Later I found out that it was actually a music video for the song "Introducing Palace Players", the carrier single for Mew's latest album, No More Stories...

I got hooked with the single and bought No More Stories... as soon as it was released. The whole album is just awesome. I enjoyed every single track in it. However, the new album lacks the seamless experience and the "thump" factor that And the Glass-Handed Kites delivered. It is also much more poppier and upbeat, which will definitely earn Mew some new fans. Nonetheless, there's still an abundance of bells and whistles -such as King Crimson-eqsue guitar riffs, dreamy vocals, odd beats and otherworldly soundscapes- that will keep former fans and prog-rockers happy.

Mew has pretty much nailed a good balance between art and accessibility by incorporating some pop elements into their neo prog-rock sound without eschewing the complexities of the genre. Progressive rock isn't an easy genre to listen to. With its tangled song structures, either you get it or you don't. So if you didn't like progressive rock before, I urge you to try and give No More Stories... a shot. It's definitely worth it and it's one of the best albums you'll listen to this year.


Black Wings

I've only played a couple MMORPGs (6 total), and 4 of which I've played since beta and the early access program. Amongst those 4 games, Aion is by far the biggest with 400,000 people participating in the head start program alone. That means, all the servers were already overpopulated even before it went live officially.

So, ever since Sunday (start of the early access), I've been queuing up for as long as 3 hours before I could play the game. Yesterday (Tuesday, the day the game went live) was even worse because I waited for, what seems like, 6 hours before I could get in the servers. I didn't really mind waiting, however, because I can always load up Arkham Asylum or read a book/comics. But I can understand why others are frustrated. I mean, their subscription -their time and money- is wasted every day. I hope NCsoft fixes this problem as soon as possible if they want their customers to stay.

Anyways, as for me, I've probably spent more time queuing for the game rather than playing it. I've been on it since Sunday but my character is only a level 11 Cleric (see here). But I've finally earned my wings today, and also joined the Gaiscioch legion (which is also my guild in Warhammer Online). Hopefully, since I'm off from work for two more days, I'd be able to put in some time on the game and reach a level 20 by Friday.

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Comics Bundle: 09.17.09 Pt. 2

The is the second part of my Comics Bundle for this September (part 1 is here). As always, the part 2 deals with non-Marvel comics. For some reason, all of my non-Marvels in this bundle are just too awesome. I actually had a hard time picking 5 issues to review.

Fables #88
9.3 of 10

Of all my comic book titles, Fables is definitely the one that I missed the most. Thanks to the crossover that choked the life out of the title like an arterial blockage. But now that it's done and over with, I'm happy to be reading Fables with all its quirky characters again. Speaking of characters, the main ones like Snow and Bigby aren't present in this issue. But others are getting some spotlight, which I'm glad. The witches, especially Frau Totenkinder, are stepping up into the plate as they gather power to confront the Dark Man. Beauty and Beast are also getting some attention that they deserve. Hopefully, the couple will get as much limelight as Snow and Bigby, even at least in this story arc.

Batman and Robin #4
8.7 of 10

The main Batman title has become too unbearable for me to read. With Dick Grayson now in full swing and all smiles wearing the cape and cowl, I never thought that I'd miss Bruce Wayne that much. Luckily, Batman and Robin has a lot of edge. Of course, that edge comes from Damien (who seems to be keeping Dick from smiling). He's a tough little kid who can really fight, and shows great potential to become Batman. Even Dick, with all that experience, can't sneak up on him. I just wish that he'd grow up soon enough to replace Dick as Batman.

DMZ #45
9.5 of 10

Like Fables, DMZ was also interrupted by a 3-part story arc that flowed outside the main continuity. While I enjoyed the story, I'm nonetheless glad to have Matty and Parco again. Matty Roth has surprisingly evolved. If compared to a couple issues back, he's now a much more confident, ballsier and ruthless character. While he still works for Parco, he acts more of his adviser rather than an underling. He even have his own security crew -which includes the sniper Angel from the early issues. All in all, this is an awesome issue.

Chew #3
9.7 of 10

Tony Chu is probably the most unique character in the comics industry right now. As a detective "cibopath", a person that can get psychic from impressions from what he eats, he'll know who killed a person just by eating the corpse of the victim. But just when I thought the creators are done making unique characters, they brought out Amelia Mints into the fold. Mintz -who is also the love interest of our protagonist- is a "saboscrivner", a person who can describe the taste of food (good or bad) so accurately that all those who listens to her or read her writings will also be able to savor it. Now how cool of a character is that?

The Walking Dead #65
9.0 of 10

The Walking Dead, to me, has been a medium to explore the twisted side of humanity, the dark side that is borne out of desperation. In the recent arc, Kirkman gave us cannibalism when a group of man-eaters pursues Rick and his crew. But one thing I love about this group of cannibals is that they're not some mindless, hungry primitives. Kirkman actually defended them by giving them a sense of logic. Even though their logic may seem twisted, it's actually part of the natural order, the survival of the fittest. This actually made me pause.

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Comics Bundle: 09.17.09 Pt. 1

Most of you who have been following this blog know that I always pick up my comics late. Some of you might have even noticed that I didn't have a "Comics Bundle" post last month. That's because I didn't pick my comics for two months. The owner of the store was about to call me yesterday when I strolled in her store to get my comics, which was a thick stack and costs almost a $100. But I really missed my comics and read all Marvel/Walt Disney comics right away.

Anyways, here are the good -and also the not so good- ones that I've read. This should be quick since I still need to finish reading my DC/Image/Vertigo titles.

Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Exodus #1
8.0 0f 10

While I did love the first issue of the Utopia crossover between the X-Men and Dark Avengers, the rest of the issues were just bland. It just didn't meet my expectations, which is action. Fights between the mutants and the Avengers just didn't erupt at all. Exodus, however, became a saving grace of the whole event. It satisfied my want and saw some match ups -like Colossus vs. Venom or Dani Moonstar vs. Ares- that are rare or even unthinkable in the Marvel Universe. There were also some surprises here. The most notable one perhaps is what happened to Emma Frost. All in all, Exodus is yet another issue that perfectly closed one chapter and opened another for the X-Men.

Deadpool #15
7.9 of 10
I've never seen Deadpool so serious before this issue. Well...serious in his standards anyways because there are still a lot of crazy things going on in here. Stranded in the middle of the sea, Deadpool finally had the time to re-evaluate his life and figured out that he is alone. This, of course, has led him to a decision to join the X-Men. I cocked a brow at the idea. But, really, I want the writers to push this one through. Deadpool joining the X-Men sounds like a lot of fun to me.

Thor Annual #1
3.0 of 10

I know this might sound very unconstructive and subjective but skip this book. Yeah, it's bad. So bad I don't have the words for it.

Dark Avengers #8
8.6 of 10

This is probably the most surprising issue of the Dark Avengers yet. In this issue, due to its cover, I was expecting Ares, The God of War, beating the crap out of Nick Fury and his Secret Warriors in order to reclaim his son. He didn't, however, and the whole encounter turned into a man to man, father to son talk. I liked it a lot because it showed a different side to Ares. I mean, I didn't know that a God of War have a softer side.

Thunderbolts #135
8.3 of 10

I love Deadpool. But I must admit that the Thunderbolts/Deadpool crossover was a disaster, although still funny. I was even thinking of taking it off of my pull list. But then they executed a twist and gave us Natasha Romanov, the first Black Widow. With the twist also comes the back-stabbing, double-crossing, and all manners of betrayal. Suddenly, this title has gotten interesting again, and I want to know where it all ends.

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Elyos for Breakfast!

Early access for Aion starts tomorrow, and a lot of my guildmates are already excited. I am excited too. But probably not as much as they are because I have yet to see the PvP content of the game, to see if it's better than Warhammer Online.

Arkathos, he's a cranky priest.

I've already pre-selected my two characters, Arkathos (Priest -> Cleric) and Arkathor (Warrior -> Templar), just this morning. I tried yesterday but it was a no go since NCsoft blocked character creation -in order to balance population and races- on my guild's selected server. Anyways, me and my guild, Gaiscioch, will be Asmodians on Zikel. Look us up if you want to roll with a casual and mature guild on Aion.

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First Impressions: Arkham Asylum

I've never really followed Batman: Arkham Asylum during its development. I was expecting that it's going to be a bad game, like most comics-to-games are. But when I tried out the demo, a few weeks ago, I was blown away by it. So, as a birthday gift to myself, I bought this game the moment I turned 20 something.

As it turns out, the demo only featured a part of what the game has to offer. Besides the free flowing combat and stealth action that were showcased on the demo, elements of adventure games and even RPG are also integrated in the gameplay. You can gain experience in this game and upgrade your gadgets or learn new fighting moves. There are also puzzles, courtesy of The Riddler, to test your detective skills.

My initial impressions of this game is pretty solid. The game displays a lot of kick-assery and the story couldn't be any better. It also runs really smooth on my machine, even with its top notch graphics. It's a well-made game, and I've never played one since BioShock.

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Leafing Through Fall

It is really fortuitous that I received all my new books the day after I finished my last one. Now I can get an early start on my reading for this Fall. Although I'm a bit torn between which book I should read first, as all of them seems to be pretty interesting. Anyways, here are the books that I bought:

Everything Matters!
This book tells the story of a guy who knows exactly when the world will end from the moment he was born. This seems pretty tragic, and that sounds interestingly funny.

A non-fiction book, this is a first hand account from a New Orleans painting contractor who witnessed the catastrophic events in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I don't know much about what happened there besides what the news gave us. So I'm pretty interested to know the bits and pieces, as well as the personal impact, that got muddied or lost in the mainstream media.

1984/Animal Farm
I've already read 1984, and it's one of my favorite books. But I was looking for a hardcover edition to replace my paperback that I gave away last year. That's how I found this double feature by George Orwell. While I don't have any plans to read 1984 again, I haven't read Animal Farm yet (which most Orwell fans said it is as good as 1984). So I really need to read this one.

There, that's what my Fall reading program looks like. So which book do you think I should read first?

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Book Review: When Skateboards Will Be Free

When Skateboards Will Be Free
9.5 of 10
Author: Said Sayrafeizadeh
Buy Hardcover Edition from Amazon
Buy Kindle Edition from Amazon

I don't buy a book based on its cover art (like I do with music sometimes). But I often fall prey to a book's title. So when I came across When Skateboards Will Be Free at Amazon, I couldn't help but toss it into my cart. I was so captivated with the book's title that I bought it unknowingly of what it was really about. A non-fiction, I thought it was a documentary of the skater culture. But after I had read its synopsis, and saw its subtitle, I realized that the book is about the author's political childhood rather than extreme sports.

I wasn't disappointed when I found out what Skateboards is about, however. It actually piqued my curiosity due to its synopsis and title not adding up together. It's the kind of book that you would want to read just to learn of how or why the author chose such title. Luckily, author Said Sayrafeizadeh was quick enough to quench my curiosity and revealed the origins of his book's title in the first chapter. It's a dream, a political one, of a coming revolution that the author and his mother had clung to during most of his childhood.

The book, of course, doesn't stop from being interesting after the first chapter. In fact, it is only an appetizer since Sayrafeizadeh seems to have emptied his memory bank just to fill this book with funny and depressing anecdotes from his childhood. An Iranian-Jewish descent, Said Sayrafeizadeh is born to parents who are members of the Socialist Workers Party. So his childhood is full of mishaps and adventures like stealing grapes during the Grape Boycott, trips to Cuba to learn about living under a socialist government, or losing friends by supporting the Iranian Revolution.

When Skateboards Will Be Free is probably the only book that I didn't regret buying because of its interesting title. It tells a very beautiful story that will let you glimpse into a life of a socialist in a capitalistic world, of a child with a different ideological upbringing. It's heartwarming as well as heartbreaking. It actually made me appreciate my life as a kid and all the things I had even more. But, at the same time, it also made me envious of the author's unique childhood. If you're looking for a book with an amazing story, then look no further and grab Skateboards.

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It's recommended that you should defrag your hard drive before and after you install a software. It's part of achieving a clean installation. I've been doing this, for years, ever since I read about it in TweakGuides. I've also been doing this in an almost ritualistic way. Whenever I have a new game, I'd always uninstall the older ones that I don't play anymore, then I'd update my drivers, defrag, install the new game, and defrag again. So far, unless the game or application is buggy itself, I've experienced minimal crashes (1 crash on my new PC in almost a year).

For the past couple months, however, I've been installing and uninstalling games without defragging my HD. Not that I got lazy but my Windows Disk Defragmenter have been painstakingly slow. Lacking the patience, I usually end the process prematurely at the third or fifth hour. But since there are alot of games coming up this September, and I have to update my closed beta Aion into its open beta client, I decided to defragment my HD again and sit on it as long as it takes. I opened a book and read it the whole day yesterday while defragging my PC, and then I slept through it. 16 hours later, it was still running!

I knew something was wrong, that some how some program have been rebooting the defragmenter. But since I'm using the defragmenter that came with Vista, I had no way of telling what was up or if the process is almost done. So I went to snoop around TweakGuides again and found out about Diskeeper. So I downloaded the demo over at their website, installed the software, and started the defragmentation. After I had a quick breakfast and a shower, the process was done. The job report was also very detailed (the number of fragments left, performance improvment on my HD, and other things I don't understand).

So far, I'm happy with this Diskeeper. I'm going to keep and use the trial version for another 30 days and I'm going to get the real deal.

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The MMO Schedule

It's September 1st and Champions Online just came out. 21 days from now, Aion will also go live. By that time, I'll be juggling 3 MMOs, other hobbies and some minor aspects of my life. So, in order to make my life much more easier and sane, I made a two-week period schedule (see above, click image to enlarge) that I will follow to the letter.

P.S. Until I've decided which two of three MMO's I'll keep (Aion, Champions, Warhammer), updates on this blog from here on will be scarce, really scarce.

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