The Next Three Books

After a week of waiting, I finally received my package of books (and CDs too) from Amazon. These three books (pictured above) are part of my reading program this Spring. I'll probably start my reading with The Next 100 Years because its synopsis is very interesting. Then I'll follow it by The Book of Dead Philosophers. As for Anthem, I've already read this book (twice). But since I bought a new copy, I think I'll read it again. Unfortunately, with Dawn of War II keeping me occupied, and Empire: Total War just around the bend, I don't know when I can start with these books.

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Comics Bundle: 02.18.09 Pt. 2

This is part 2 of my Comics Bundle. Mostly covering all the DC, Image and Vertigo Comics. Like the first part (click here for part one), I'm going to go off here as fast as I can.

Four Eyes #2
9.8 of 10
The first time I read this title, its high fantasy themes, involving dragons, tailored and fitted into the U.S. depression era captured my attention immediately. But, I haven't heard of it since then so I thought the series was canceled. But I was so ecstatic when I finally saw a copy of #2 at the shelves, last Friday. Like the first issue, this one is also a gem. What I like about this series is that, not only it deviates from the standard high fantasy, it also serves as a warning of what people will do, can turn into, during times of financial troubles.

The Walking Dead #58
9.5 of 10
The Walking dead, especially in this issue, continues to astound me with its human drama. A little light has been shed on the newcomers as Abraham tells his side of the story. Of how his fellow survivors raped his wife, and how he killed them with his bare hands. While there was no illustration of what happened, Abraham's words alone was still pretty brutal. But what really surprised me was Carl, who admitted that he want to kill people and that he was glad he shot a man to save his dad. Normally, I don't care about violence but, coming from a mere boy of 10, it was very disturbing.

Fables #81
8.0 of 10
This is probably the slowest issue of Fables I've ever read. The first part, especially, was a bit dragging for me. Although it did establish a status quo for the new villain. The last part, however, was pretty good, as some characters visited Boy Blue on his deathbed, defining him during his last moments. It made me a bit sad though. Boy Blue is one of my many favorite characters in Fables. He's a cool boy who just likes to play blues, not a hero or an anti-hero archetype. Even in the end, he wished that everybody will continue to treat him as the regular guy by not burying him with those who died during the war with the empire.

DMZ #39
8.0 of 10
Like with Fables, this issue of DMZ is kind of slow too. But that's probably because the protagonist, Matthew Roth, who tells the story in first person, is left in the dark so he has no story to tell. He became a tool of Parco, the newly elected Governor of Manhattan, and doesn't know any of his plans at all. But the end of the issue was very juicy. Parco already have gold, and now he have acquired a nuke. So what's next? I couldn't wait.

Final Crisis #7
@% of 10
At first, I didn't like Final Crisis because it was too convoluted for me. But then it all made sense around #3, got better around #4 and #6 was just awesome. So I thought, with its climbing pattern, it's going to get even better with the final issue. I was wrong. I didn't understand a thing. I read it three times too, and I could've gone for a fourth. But it's too messed up I'm afraid it'll blow my brains out.

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Comics Bundle: 02.18.09 Pt. 1

I haven't picked up my comics for some time...like a month. So I ended up reading a bundle of comics that were released in the last four weeks. I enjoyed reading it, of course. But writing decent reviews about these books is too much for me. So I decided to split these into two parts (click here for part two), and I'll go fast too so I can get back to playing my new game, Dawn of War II.

Thor #600
10 of 10
Thor finally jumps to its 600th issue, and it's a heck of an issue. Loki, after scheming and planning in the past 12 issues, finally set his motion into plan by resurrecting Bor, Odin's father, and bound him with a reality distorting spell that sent him rampaging. Eventually, Thor defeated Bor, who unbeknownst to him was his grandfather and the king of Asgard. Bor's death carried great repurcussions and it all fell on Thor's shoulders, changing the course of this title. From here on, I think it's going to get darker with Loki having more room to move about.

The Dark Avengers #2
8.0 of 10
I didn't like this issue as much as the first. But the sarcasm and perversity still continues in this issue (which reminds me of Warren Ellis' run on the Thunderbolts) and that's what makes this title different from other books. The fun dialogue between bad guys who are trying to be good public figures is still worth my $3.00.

Wolverine: Manifest Destiny #4
8.5 of 10
This, perhaps, is the only Manifest Destiny tie-in that I really liked. It's a lot of fun and brings me back to my childhood watching Kung Fu films. In this series' conclusion, the reason why Logan ticked off the Chinatown Tongs was finally revealed. We also see Wolverine at his best, fighting the Black Dragon Tong and defeated most of them without "snikting" he claws out. But the most fun of all, we finally know what makes him happy, which were few: Jean Grey, Mariko Yashida, Beer and killing people.

X-Men: Magneto Testament #5
9.4 of 10
This title has finally reached its conclusion. I've been waiting for this issue to see what happens in the end. In truth, I was disappointed at first. I thought I'd see Magneto hurling train cars at the Nazi. But that didn't happen. Then I remembered that this isn't really a Magneto origins book. It's about his testament, his solemn vow that he won't stand idly, fearing any kind of reprisals, and let any genocide happen again. So far, as we know it, he's not standing around anymore, and have been fighting to prevent mutant genocide.

Secret Warriors #1
8.9 of 10
I thought it was very cool when I saw the Secret Warriors being assembled, in the pages of Secret Invasion tie-in of The Mighty Avengers, by Nick Fury. The idea of a hardened veteran mentoring a group of unknown and unproven super powered teenagers just got me going. It's like The Runaways in boot camp. Now they have their own series and the first issue was a lot of fun and full of character. But the best thing about this issue is the revelation in the end. I won't talk about it because it's so big...probably bigger than Dark Reign.

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Steaming Snow

Finally, I've been granted a much needed time off from work for 4 straight days. On top of that, it's also the weekends, and coincided with pay day too. So I made plans on how to spend it and, so far, I couldn't complain. Yesterday, I had a haircut, pulled my comics, and ate at Portillo's (got myself a greasy Double Bacon Burger). Today, my plan was to get a copy of Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, one of my most anticipated games of this year, and shop for some books and CDs. However, when I woke up this morning, I saw the snow whipping the living daylights out of the day.

Dawn of War II, available on Steam.

But the snow didn't really ruin my day because of online shopping. Yes, thank God for online shopping. I would've been left dejected if I got snowed in, on my 4-day pseudo vacation, without playing Dawn of War II. So, instead of whining about the bad weather, I opened my Steam account, purchased a digital copy of Dawn of War II, and waited for a little less than two hours for the download to finish. It's that simple and fast. Normally, I don't do digital purchases -for the reasons that I like to keep a hard copy of my games (the same goes for all my media). But I needed Dawn of War II, direly. Hence, my first digital purchase of a game.

As for the books and CDs, it was also easy. I just went to Amazon and got them. I already knew what music I wanted, which was Carving Desert Canyons by Scale the Summit. It took me awhile to decide which books to get. But, in the end, I went with The Book of Dead Philosophers and The Next 100 Years. I'll be reading both of these in the next two months. In addition, I also got the hardcover copy of Ayn Rand's Anthem. It is one of my favorite books but I had to donate my copy (a mass market paperback) to make some space for my new library of hardcover books and large paperbacks (see my post here).

Well, that's how I spent day two of my 4-day off. While I won't be able to read books or listen to some new music, at least I'll be able to play Dawn of War II for the next two days. As for the Steam purchase, it was actually a good experience and I might consider of buying my games, digitally, from them.

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Raising the Bar

My office is on fire.

Finally, Bar Rafaeli made it into the cover of the 2009 SI Swimsuit Issue. I saw this girl two years ago (SI Swimsuit 2007) and thought that she's a piece of heaven on Earth. She's got nice sparkling eyes and her body is perfectly natural, even more perfect than Joanna Krupa or Jo Garcia. I especially love her flat stomach. It's not toned and doesn't look like it was forged from hours of working out in the gym. Too bad, she's already spoken for by Leonardo DiCaprio. That's alright though. Because I don't have a chance with her even if she's single.

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DC Direct: Toy Fair 2009

Cover Girls of the DC Universe: Black Canary.

So what I posted yesterday about the Toy Fair 2009 was only the tip of the iceberg. Earlier today, I caught myself drooling over a lot of toy photographs captured from the fair, courtesy of IGN comics. I got a better glimpse this time and saw a lot of cool toys, from comics to animation action figures. Also, besides the standard fare, some gaming toys were featured too. NECA (Gears of War and Street Fighter) and McFarlane Toys (Halo and Guitar Hero), all of their figures were very detailed and exquisite. But, for me, DC Direct definitely stole the show.

When I saw the gallery of DC Direct, my salivary glands just went berserk. Their toys are just beautiful. I especially loved the Cover Girls of the DC Universe -they're to die for ($100 each), the Batman Black & White and the new series of Ame-Comi (specifically The Huntress and Batgirl). Their World of Warcraft figures also looked neat, and shouldn't be missed by any WoW fans.

On the down side, however, the mighty Hasbro, the toy company that filled my childhood with fun memories, has indeed tumbled down. It seems that all they can do these days is profit from nostalgia by rehashing their old toys. Even their Marvel Select looks pitiful. Marvel should ditch them and strike a deal with DC Direct. I don't know if that'll work. But it would be awesome if it does.

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Toy Fair 2009

I wanted to attend the NYCC 09 and the Toy Fair 2009 in New York. But, due to work schedule, and lack of funds, I wasn't able too. It's a good thing that the dudes at Gizmodo was kind enough to put up a very tasty photo gallery of toys taken from the Toy Fair 2009. I'm telling you, those Watchmen action figures from DC Direct are definitely must haves. See here for yourself.

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Logitech X-240

Last month, I posted my E-budget for 2009, a list of electronic toys that I'm planning to get this year. The first thing I've mentioned to get was a desktop speaker because the PC that I recently acquired didn't come with any. I've been using the old speakers that came with my previous computer, and a cheap Logitech headset. Both of which produces horrible sounds. But that's maybe because I'm suffering from mild audiophilia. So, since Best Buy sent me a 12% off coupon, I decided that it was high time for some new speakers and got myself a Logitech X-240.

The X-240 is a 2.1 speaker system with a very simple design. It includes two satellite speakers, a sub-woofer, and an iPod dock. The satellite speakers have very simple design, no bells and whistles, but they're sleek and don't take a lot of space. The sub-woofer, like the satellite speakers, is also simply designed and is small enough to be hidden behind my trash basket. The only thing I didn't like about the whole package is the iPod dock that can hold almost every mp3 player except the Creative ZEN. So it's useless to me. What's worse is that the dock is also hardwired. So I can't take it off and stow it away.

As for the X-240's sound quality, I did some tests on it, comparing it with my Ultimate Ears earphones, with different audio and video materials, last night and this afternoon, and I'm very satisfied with the results.

  • Ultimate Ears Super.fi 3 in-earphones
  • Akira (DVD)
  • Beck (DVD)
  • Afro Samurai: Ressurection (270 kbps)
  • "Ulysses" by Franz Ferdinand (256 kbps)
  • "Love Letter to Japan" by the Bird and the Bee (192 kbps)
  • "Board Up The House" by Genghis Tron (320 kbps)
  • "A Private Death" by Blue Sky Black Death (192 kbps)
  • "Better Days Ahead" by Norman Brown (256 kbps)
  • Mirror's Edge
  • Fallout 3
The first notable change in my new set up is definitely the sub-woofer. It just makes the explosion in my games and movies even more destructive. It also adds more thump to the beats in my music. Especially in "Board Up the House" where it turns the song into a thundering chaos of drumworks. It also delivers crisp and clear sounds. Although not in the level of my Super.fi 3 earphones, it's enough to enjoy the sparkling guitars of Norman Brown in "Better Days Ahead".

Originally, Logitech Z-2300 were my choice speakers, not the X-240, when I made my list. But, for some reason, the Z-2300's price had astronomically increased since then. If not for the available demo at Best Buy, which allowed me to conduct a "sound off" between all the displayed speakers, I would've ended up buying the Z-2300 and regretting it. Not that Z-2300 is a bad speaker. In fact, it is a better system than X-240. Although, price wise, X-240 is more reasonable and practical.

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An Impromptu Valentine

So yesterday was Valentine's Day. It's the time of the year when guys buy stacks of Hallmark cards to impress their fuck buddies and, at the same time, practice one-upmanship -the art of making other guys look inferior to their girlfriends. So where was I in the middle of all this? Well, I was at Best Buy picking up a new PC speaker for my rig. But, believe it or not, that excursion actually led me to an impromptu dinner date.

As I was walking back to my car, after I got out from Best Buy, I thought I heard someone calling my name. I stopped and looked around for a moment but didn't see anybody. So I just shrugged it off, blaming the pollens and love -so palpable in the air that it can choke you- that caused me to hear things, and started walking back to the direction of my car. Then, all of a sudden, I heard a clamor of footsteps and frantic screams, as if somebody was being chased, behind me. When I turned around I saw four of my co-workers (all single and leggy blonds) running towards me.

It turns out that the four of them were shopping at the nearby mall and were planning to have a singles dinner date. Being a single myself, they invited me too. At first, I vehemently refused. I just wanted to go home because I was so excited about my speakers. But they were very persistent. So, in the end I capitulated and went with them. Besides, I could use another dosage of spontaneity and some night out (with blond girls).

Since we were surrounded by a chain of restaurants, we drove around for awhile before we decided to eat at Red Lobster. The place wasn't our initial choice but it was the only restaurant with a vacant parking lot at that time, and the girls were getting hungry. The place inside was jam packed with people. We stood in line waiting for about 45 minutes and, just before we were ushered to our seats, two guy friends of one of my co-workers joined us.

When we got to our seats, I ordered lobster rolls for appetizers, and wood grilled lobster and shrimp. The food wasn't that great but it was good enough that I enjoyed it. None of us had any desserts since we were all full after the main course. So we just drank beers and talked. Most of us just talked about work though. Then me and a co-worker's guy friend got into a tech-talk. Unfortunately, he started blabbering about iMacs and iPods like a religious nut who's trying to convert me. Then, after we paid the bills, we parted ways.

I really want to add something in here like: "Then I had a one-night stand with one of my co-workers." or "Soon after, me and two of my co-workers participated in a 'menage a trois'." But, sadly, I can't. I have high work ethics. So shitting in my own backyard is not on my policy.

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NY Jets...Crashes

I'm not talking about the football team. But rather, I'm asking why are there so many plane crashes in New York? Seven plane crashes (that I know of) within these past 8 years, and 5 of them were major airlines.

Anyways, since I've got nothing less tragic to post, I've compiled a list of the seven planes that crashed in NY in the past 8 years.

US Airways Flight 1549. Casualties: 0, Heroes Born: 1.
1. American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 (Sept. 11 2001) - These two don't need any descriptions at all. You are a very lucky person if you don't know anything about these crashes.
2. American Airlines Flight 587 (Nov. 12 2001) - This plane crashed into a residential area, two minutes after taking off, due to an engine failure. But during that time, after a couple months of the 911 attacks, people were forming conspiracies that it was another terrorist attacks.
3. Conney Island Plane Crash (May. 21 2005) - A sight-seeing plane crashed at the Coney Island, due to engine failure.
4. 1011 Crash (Oct. 11 2006) - A single engine aircraft crashed on the side of an apartment building in New York. The student pilot, Cory Lidle, a NY Yankees pitcher, and his flight instructor, died.
5. US Airways Flight 1549 (Jan 15 2009) - The plane crashed in the Hudson river and, thankfully, no one died due to the pilot. This is probably one of the most heroic news stories I've heard in my life. They should make a TV film out of this one.
6. Colgan Air Flight 3407 (Feb 13 2009) - The latest and 2nd plane crash in New York this year. The weather, strong winds, fog and light snow, seems to be the cause of the tragedy.
So is there like a mysterious bad mojo in the air space of New York, kinda like the Bermuda Triangle? Is this just a chain of coincidence? Or is it that the national news just happens to cover the crashes in New York and not anywhere else?

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Book Review: 2666

8.9 of 10
Writer: Roberto Bolano
Buy book (hardcover) from Amazon
Buy book (paperback) from Amazon

After three weeks of reading in spurts, I've finally managed to finish 2666. Normally, I don't read this type of novel (the kind with a lot of realism). My fiction reading lists are usually limited to two genres: Science fiction and trashy fantasy. But 2666, when it reached North America, made a lot of fuss that was hard for me to ignore. Especially when every literary nut and critic were giving it high soaring scores. At first, I was skeptical about the ratings that they gave. But after reading the book myself, I couldn't agree with them more.

The book is divided into 5 different parts, each of which can stand alone as short novels because they have their own individual plot -sorry, I won't go into detail because it's long. In fact, each parts have little association with one another. They, the parts, are only bound by a central theme of violence and death, a recurring nightmare, which are the unsolved rape and murder cases of about 300 women in Santa Teresa, a city in North Mexico, and are linked together by a cast of characters that crosses over in different parts of the book.

Published a year after its author's death -the first draft was rescued from Bolano's desk, 2666 is actually an unfinished book. Nonetheless, even unfinished and without a logical ending, this book is a masterful work of literature and never felt incomplete. Because, instead of a proper closure to the story, an openness is left, an abyss where readers are cast to ponder and fill the blank spaces in the story with their imagination, and a message: that violence and death is endless and that some things will continue to remain as mysteries, unsolved.

The book was also written by Bolano during his illness and, since the book was only in its first draft, was published in its partially unedited state. But Bolano's illness didn't diminish the solidity of his writing. But, my guess, his disease even fueled him, encapsulating his suffering and celebrating his life through this book. Its unedited state also made it real and sincere. Sometimes, I feel that Bolano himself is talking to me, about literature or the history of snuff films. Although, I do admit, that in some parts, in its unedited state, the book is convoluted by nonsensical and feverish ramblings.

I was definitely left at awe, drained but at awe, after I finished this book. Now, I understood why the critics gave it a high score. The book is a masterpiece, epic in its openness, imperfection and sincerity. I've never read an open ended book such as 2666. Though, sometimes, it's quite maddening to think of a fitting end to the story, or how Bolano would end it. Sometimes, I also wish that it was edited, and that the convoluted parts were ironed out for smooth reading. But, I guess, if my wishes were granted, the book won't be as great as it is now. As for Roberto Bolano, I've never read any of his works before. But, now, I'm sold and all his books are on my reading lists.

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Between War and War

The Forever War and Dawn of War II.

I've got exactly 8 days between a war and another war. Dawn of War II is finally coming out next week. Although, before I get behind the keyboard and lay out my stratagems to defeat the aliens and the heretics, I need to finish reading The Forever War first.

I'm not sure about the details within this book, yet, except that it's about the war on Iraq. A lot of people liked this book a lot and, since I haven't read anything on the recent war on Iraq, I decided to ask my aunt for it (as her Christmas present). It's been waiting for me on the top of my drawer since December. It wasn't neglected or anything. I was just busy reading two 900-page books, Anathem and 2666, which I will never read again unless I have a week vacation. But, now, it's this book's turn to be consumed.

But I only have more than a week to finish it, and then it's Dawn of War II. Though this book is only 400 pages long. So, compared to Anathem and 2666, it doesn't seem that much.

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Waxed Grammy Award

I've only seen one Grammy Awards (The 37th) in my life and decided that it's a waste of my time. From then on, I've never watched the wretched award show. But, nonetheless, the very next day after the awards night, I would scour the news for the list of Grammy Winners. Most of the time, I'd be disappointed with the results. Although there were times too that I'd be satisfied. Like when Tool won the Best Metal Performance for "Aenima" (The 40th) and "Schism" (The 44th).

The Mars Volta, "Wax Simulacra".

But nothing could have prepared me when I saw the list of winners from last night's awards. The Album of the Year was Raising Sand, by Alison Kraus and Robert Plant, which is a great album. Then, best of all, my boys Omar and Cedric, from The Mars Volta, won the Best Hard Rock Performance for "Wax Simulacra".

The Mars Volta acceptance speech.

Man, I never thought that TMV would get a Grammy award. True, they're very talented musicians and probably one of the best bands that came out this decade. But I just can't see them winning a Grammy. But they did. Although I don't really care if they won. I think they don't care either. They might have even lost the trophy already. The only best thing about them winning is that people are flocking them right now. Flocking them and hating them, I love it. TMV, even though with the Academy Award under their belt, is still not for everyone to love or understand.

By the by, The Grammys still suck. Why? Because The Jonas Brothers were nominated.

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A Flash of Armor

PC gaming is dead. A lot of people have said that (like this guy, for example, whose game is overrated). Why? Because the sales of PC games have dwindled over the years? Because the number of PC exclusive games -well polished PC exclusive games- have dwindled over the years? While I'm not so sure about the former, because all sales numbers are only based on the physical purchases, excluding the digital downloads. The latter, however, because most of the games that I see on "Best PC Games" lists are also on the "Best Xbox 360" or "Best PS3" lists, I can agree with. But PC gaming dead? Not quite.

Warfare 1917, a flash game that wages war on boredom.

There are four things (or maybe just three) that can prove PC gaming is alive -not kicking like it used to but still alive. First, there are the MMOs, whose loyal subscribers pay a meager monthly sum of $15. And for Blizzard that sums up to a total of $150 million each month ($15/month x 10 million soul less subscribers). Second, there's me who still buys a 1,500 PC gaming rig instead of getting an Xbox 360, a PS3, and a Wii. Third, if the polls and studies are right (I doubt it), PC is still selling games and is the largest market amongst the gaming platforms. Lastly, there's the flash games that people can't stop playing.

Ah, thank God (or any deity at all) for flash games. It's the only consolation we have for being stuck on an idle day at the office, the only thing that can make us look busy and frantic with work, and -sadly- might also be the reason for our termination (and this is why nobody at work knows the existence of my blog). But, to me, the fun always outweighs the risks. So during nights when I'm stuck in my office, finished with all my work but can't punch out because it's too early, or just too sick of working, I always visit Armor Games, a haven of flash games.

GemCraft, a very addictive tower defense flash game.

Armor Games probably have hundreds of games. Although I've only played two, Warfare 1917 and GemCraft. I highly recommend both of these games. GemCraft, especially, a tower defense game that is highly addictive. I know I only play it to occupy myself when I'm bored but once it gets busy again I find it hard to pull away from the game. So, if you're bored at home or work, try these games out and support PC gaming. Just be careful of not getting yourself fired though.

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Spider-Woman Ongoing

I thought my comics pull list will be much thinner in the following months. Especially with Final Crisis, X-Men: Magneto Testament and Wolverine: Manifest Destiny done and out of the way. But Marvel always finds a way to make my list dense with their new ongoing titles and mini series. First, there was news of Deadpool: Suicide Kings, which is hard for me to pass up. Then, there's news of Dark Reign: Cabal, which is also hard for me to pass up. And now, there's also news of a Spider-Woman ongoing series.

Fans of Marvel Comics' Spider-Woman have been waiting almost four years for the character's ongoing series to become a reality. The possibility of an ongoing “Spider-Woman” series by writer Brian Michael Bendis and frequent collaborator artist Alex Maleev was first mentioned back in 2005, but the character's abduction and replacement as part of the Skrulls' “Secret Invasion” prevented the series from becoming a reality.

Well Spider-Woman fans, “Secret Invasion” is over and your wait is too (almost)! This April, fans will finally find Bendis and Maleev's “Spider-Woman” #1 in their local comic shop...

And Michael Bendis talks about the motif of the series, which makes me even more interested about it.

Bendis feels the intense emotions Jessica Drew, AKA Spider-Woman, feels over being abducted by the Skrulls and impersonated by their leader Queen Veranke during “Secret Invasion,” is one of the main reasons why “Spider-Woman” was an ideal series to be done as a digital motion comic. “Sometimes I see these motion comics and I'm interested in them but I'm not feeling anything. And Jessica's story is so angry. She comes out of 'Secret Invasion' pissed-off and that rage is so attractive to write and very easy to get across in both the print and digital motion mediums. I thought, 'There's a good place to start.' Let's start with that rage. Let's start with 'I'm fucking pissed off.' Let's get that across, and from there we'll get into her psyche and see what else we can do,” Bendis explained. “Also, we can be in her head as she's experiencing new things, and her abduction by the Skrulls means she's new to the Marvel Universe. So everything she is seeing is new, and her point of view is unique. All these things made the digital motion medium such an attractive experiment for her ongoing.” - Dave Richards, CBR
Well, that sucks. It sucks because I'm weak and Jessica's pheromones has enthralled me to buy her series. It sucks because my budget is going back to square one. I lost three series on my list and gained back three.

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Dragon Age Videos

The release date of Dragon Age is finally at hand. I've been waiting for this since 2003. So seven more weeks of waiting doesn't make me anxious or excited anymore. But, honestly, after watching the videos released at the New York Comic-Con, I was put off. The gameplay is much similar to Baldur's Gate, a tactical pause and play, as they had promised. But it looks awkward though. Hopefully, the actual game isn't awkward as it was presented in the video.

Anyways, you guys can watch all NYCC game videos here.

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July 9, Dragon Age



Chicago North Loop. Picture was taken from the highest building in the United States, the Sears Tower.

My artsy younger sister who, by the way was featured as a Daily Deviant at Deviant Art (see her profile here) last December, is currently taking art classes that requires her to go to Chicago Museums for their projects. Since I know my way around downtown Chicago she asked me to go with her. At first, I hesitated because I wanted to finish reading 2666. But the weather was so nice, no blizzard, arctic temperatures and wind chills, and my life had been a big whole routine lately. So I thought I could use a little spontaneity, and went out with her. Besides, she was buying lunch.

Me and my sister didn't really do much. We were planning to go to the Field Museums so she could take picture of whatever is being exhibited in there. But we never got around since she found her piece real soon, an Emerald Tree Boa at the Shedd Aquarium. So we just strolled around the city after that, ate a couple Giordano's deep dish pizza (because you can't go to Chicago and not eat one) and decided to go up to the Sears Tower (which I haven't done for 8 years). Then, we went home.

I took some pictures, which can be found here. It's not much though because I didn't really take a lot. It's just weird taking pictures of the city. It makes me feel like a tourist.

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Hop and Pop

Last Friday, I went out to find a sturdy book shelf for my growing collection of hardcover books. But my search ended in vain because all the shelves that I liked were beyond my budget's reach, and all that were on my budget's reach were either rickety or small. So I went home, defeated, denied of a book shelf in which I can proudly display my books. My only solace that day were the CDs that I bought, even though they were out of budget, purchased for the reason that I can't go home empty handed.

Amongst the CDs that I got were Antony and the Johnsons The Crying Light. It's a very good album, an operatic indie music that is filled with grief. But I'll post more on this album some other time. The others were Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future, a bubbly poppy album by The Bird and the Bee, and Late Night Cinema, an instrumental hip-hop album by Blue Sky Black Death. Two albums that proves I also listen to hip-hop and pop.

The Bird and the Bee

A lot of people assume that I don't like pop music. Well, I can't blame them since every time they gaze at my ZEN, its playlist consists of hard rock and metal. But I do like pop. Not just the kind of pop who are in the top 40's. I like The Coors, I like Tegan and Sara, heck I even liked Tatu. But, right now, I'm really in love with The Bird and the Bee's album Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future. It's poppy, it's bubbly, it's kitschy, and very retro. I'm sure a lot of people will have no problem loving this album, no matter what they listen too.

Blue Sky Black Death

Like with pop music, a lot of people also assume that I don't like...that I hate hip-hop. Their assumption of how I feel about pop maybe right. But they couldn't be more wrong about how I feel with hip-hop. True, I don't love it as much as I love rock but I do love it. Especially anything by Public Enemy and 2Pac. Now, I'm currently loving BSBD's Late Night Cinema, an album that I missed last year. BSBD is an instrumental hip-hop duo, and their latest work, a very dense melodic hip-hop album, is just astounding.

So, there, I can like pop and like hip-hop. But, really, the two albums I just mentioned above are exemplary. Albums that artists in their genres should start copying. I know this post is just a short review of the albums, a bird's eye view of the whole thing, so I didn't really do them justice. If time allows, I'll write a proper review for both. But, for now, I hope the sound clips I've included will suffice.

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My Top 5 Natalie Portman Films

I have large boxes, probably four, stashed in our basement. These boxes are full of CDs, DVDs, and toys that I have collected over the years. These boxes have been down in our basement, neglected, for more than a year already. So, today, I decided that I should open the boxes and bring my things up in my room. That was a bad idea.

I only opened the first box, which is a box full of DVDs, then I got distracted. The culprit: Natalie Portman films. After rummaging through the box and found The Professional (aka Leon), Garden State and V for Vendetta, my thought strayed and it was all over. I just went upstairs with the three DVDs on my hand and started a Natalie Portman-a-thon. It lasted a little over 5 hours. So, in the end, I didn't do anything for today. I should've just read 2666 so that my reading list won't pile up. Well, at least, I'm in love again.

Anyways, since we're on the topic of Natalie Portman films, I also wrote a list of five of my favorite Natalie Portman movies. So, without further ado, here's my list:

5. Closer

This is where Natalie Portman was really recognized for her acting by landing an Oscar Nomination and receiving a Golden Globe Award. Honestly, I don't like this movie as much as a Natalie Portman fan should. The characters were great and the dialogues were fun (especially Natalie's). But the story is just too soap opera for me. The only reason I liked it because Natalie never looked prettier in any of her films than here. Plus, she also played as a stripper.

4. Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

I already saw Natalie Portman in other films prior to Star Wars. But it was in the Phantom Menace -the scene where Anakin asked her if she was an angel- where I fell in love with her. While both Episodes I & II aren't that bad (in my book at least), I have to say Revenge of the Sith is my favorite Star Wars (with Natalie Portman), even though she died in the movie and didn't have much screen time.

3. V for Vendetta

Natalie Portman stars in it + It was based on the graphic novel written by Alan Moore, the greatest comic book writer + The story is of dystopian nature = I love it. It should've been on number two if only Alan Moore endorsed the film.

2. Garden State

Garden State is probably my favorite Natalie Portman movie. I like the story of this film, a lot. It's heart-warming and I can totally relate to it. Although, sometimes, watching it makes me feel like a total loser, and feel that I should be doing something important. As for Nat, she's just so scintillating in this film and makes me wish I had a girlfriend like Sam.

1. The Professional (aka Leon)

This is one of my favorite action films, and not because Natalie Portman is in it. In fact, I didn't like Natalie Portman in here because she was just a kid. Although she did perform really well in this movie. But Jean Reno, man, he played a killer role as a killer, making him one of those ultimate action movie bad asses. If you haven't seen this movie and really love action films, you should go see this one now. Because the action scenes here, especially in the end, are epic.

There it is, my top 5 Natalie Portman Films. By the way, my criteria isn't based on how Natalie looked in the films (because she always look spectacular to me). Except for Closer, I like all these movies because they're great movies, with or without Natalie Portman (although it's always better with her in it).

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Album Review: Meriweather Post Pavilion

Meriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective
8.9 of 10
Buy album from Amazon
Download album from Amazon

I became familiar with Animal Collective through a co-worker when she shoved a copy of Strawberry Jam on my face. It's a great album, she said, and the critics agreed with her. But despite the album's high ratings, I admit, I couldn't get into it. Maybe I was so enamored with Les Savy Fav's Let's Stay Friends during that time. Or maybe because the metalhead in me was rejecting their type of music. But whatever the reason, I think, the main point was that Animal Collective's music in their 2007 album was simply inaccessible to me.

Two years after Strawberry Jam, Animal Collective returns with a new album: Meriweather Post Pavilion. At first, since their previous work didn't really do it for me, I didn't care. But the anticipation of their album, spread by rabid fans, who plagued forums and the blogosphere, was so contagious. So when the album was released I started snooping for reviews, and the majority of which held the album in high regards. But, most importantly, they sang praises about the band's effort of widening their music's reach. That sold me into buying it.

During my initial listen, I fell in love with the album right away. But it grew even more on me as I repeatedly listened to it. I've never heard such a happy, but not cutesy, songs that invokes visions of summer, of people dancing in parks, that can warm you in a winter weather. From the swirling synthesizers and hand claps of "My Girls", a song about a man who only wishes a home for her wife and daughters, to the playful tribal chants of "Brothers Sport", a track that can easily put you on your feet and throw glow sticks into the air.

Animal Collective did an excellent job with Meriweather Post Pavilion. By digitizing various world music, from African and Brazilian tribal to British folk, and staying in their comfort space, the band have created their own unique sound. As for a wider audience, however, it maybe so. After all, I fell in love with it. But I still don't think it's for everyone. It maybe poppy, but not the kind of pop that plays on an FM station. It's electronica, but not so much because it's still grounded by the humanity of the lyrics, of the simple pleasures of life. Although I still encourage anybody to try it out. Because this is the first best album of 2009.

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