Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: A Year In Review

So, I kinda sorta fouled up the whole "daily update" idea, as I always do when I promise daily updates. So instead, I thought I would close out 2012 by talking about some of the highlights of the year.

Best Movie of 2012

Okay, it's really hard to find a good poster of Les Miserables on short notice, so tolerate the limited German. There were a number of great movies this year. The Avengers had an unprecedented effort towards cross-film continuity and was an excellent summer action film. The Dark Knight Rises concluded Nolan's excellent Batman trilogy and actually closed the story of Batman effectively and happily, something that no comic book writer likes to do because then you can't sell more comic books. However, they both pale in comparison to Les Miserables which manages to bring one of Broadway's best musicals to the silver screen in a creative and compelling fashion. They could've been lazy about it and just done the musical but with better special effects or just done a screen play with a few of the songs from the musical in it. In a worst case scenario, they would highlight Taylor Swift's hot new single "On My Own (Remix) ft. Harry Styles".  But they managed to walk the line between adapting all of the highlights of the musical while making necessary concessions to the medium of film, such as a few lines of spoken dialogue. I could go on for hours about Les Mis, but the new years is only 90 minutes away and I have a three more categories to go over! In summary, I shed tears at the end of the movie because it was that movie. I mean, tear. A single manly tear. I didn't just admit to crying at the end of a musical. I'm totally virile, fine honeys, I swear.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Unthinkable- Hiatus until 12/16

All right, I'm going to level with you. I really wanted to keep the schedule I set in the last post. But then I got sick and have been trying to convince myself that I would not be Patient Zero in the zombie apocalypse ever since. The good news is that today I am certain that I am a human and will not be the first of the living dead. The bad news is that humans have to worry about grad school and I have several major things to take care of over the next 12 days. Luckily, we're in a lull at work so I should be able to make up time there. Oh wait, I'm lying. We're about to enter the second busiest time of year for the world of Residential Life.

So here's the deal. I have at least 20 pages of writing to do over the next 2 weeks and 3 finals to study for on top of that in addition to my other responsibilities. So I'm putting the blog on break until the 16th, when the world finally slows down. So I need to be producing about 6,000 words over the next twelve days plus studying plus two presentations (which are literally no sweat for me). It's not impossible, but I also know I won't be able to put the normal effort I like to put into my blogs. Also, as you might have inferred, while 6,000 words is the bare minimum of what my professors ask of me, I will more than likely exceed that total which will be great for my grade and bad for my spare time.

I offer you a promise: come December 16th, there will be new content and new postings every day from then until the end of the world. Or December 22nd, which ever one comes first.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hasty Review Schedule Organized Hastily

I thought I would try outlining my week and rolling out some blog updates with that. As it is break and I'm stuck on duty Friday and Saturday, it seems like an ideal opportunity to work on my backlog of work.

Monday- Well, I've got a terminally depressing Monday Night Football game, so I'll put it on the board: The REAL Assassin's Creed Brotherhood review will be up tonight!

Tuesday- Preparing a party for work friends. Also, attending said party. Odds of update are slim.

Wednesday- Skyfall with High School friends. Also Walking Dead Episode 5 finally comes out and I conclude the tale of Lee Everett. Odds of update are slim.

Thursday- Thanksgiving day means one thing- three consecutive football games. Also, spending time with my family. Odds of update are slim.

Friday- I'm on campus all day. My only goal will be to try and grab a copy of Dishonored for $25 off Amazon and maybe start doing my online shopping for my family. Odds of an update are very high. It's just a question of whether I'll do AC: Revelations or Walking Dead: the Game. Walking Dead will be fresher in my mind, but I probably will end up spawning a new review series and I don't need that.

Saturday- I'll also be stuck on campus but with no online shopping. I'll do some type of Assassin's Creed Review today.

Sunday- Halo 4 review!

Who thinks I 'll keep to this schedule? Nobody? Well, I can't blame you but let's try!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fantasy Football Update: Weeks 8 - 10

So I'm not doing so great on keeping up with the week by week of fantasy football. I blame grad school expecting me to study and Residential Life expecting me to work. Very few of my afternoons can be spent blogging about fantasy football as a result. Also, by sheer coincidence, I won each of the week's I didn't update. So this post is my offering to the fantasy gods and also my scapegoat if I lose this weekend. For those of you who care, I did, in fact, crush the Beamn in both leagues this past weekend. It was beautiful. I'm 6-0 versus the Bean family this year and improve to 17-2 all time against the Bean.

So let's do this rapidfire style.

Week 8

Pimp: Doug Martin. Seriously, I wrote an entire blog post about how amazing he is. This guy was my boy all preseason long and he's made it rain points for my team all year long too. 34 points against the Vikings, how could he possibly get better?

Gimp: More Dr Pepper, the entire team. Not only did Sam's team fail to beat Bean in a week he was vulnerable (only 85 points), but his team put up a performance so pitiful that victory would be virtually impossible in any week. Special commendation goes to Antonio Gates, who truly saw his era of Tight End dominance go down the drain. Rob Gronkowski outscored Gates by a sum of 26 to 1. It was not a battle so much as a massacre. Maybe Gates was trying to pull an Obi-Wan and by striking him down, he would become more powerful than Gronk could ever imagine.

Week 9

Pimp: Doug Martin AGAIN! Doug Martin II: The Muscle Hamster Strikes Back, Doug Martin II: Hamster Harder or channel my Christopher Nolan and just call it The Muscle Hamster. The point is that Doug Martin provided the rare sequel that is better than the original in all regards. Doug Martin looked upon 214 total yards and two touchdowns in Week 8 and said "Mere child's play! It is time that I took matters seriously". Thus began the ruination of the Oakland Defense. The entire countryside was laid to waste before the Muscle Hamster's onslaught, down to their last lizard. He had 272 total yards and no less than 4 touchdowns for a grand total of 57 points, which is the highest single player total in Iron Dirigible history. Now, people who are addicted to sabermetrics might point out that if Doug Martin scored 0 points, I still would have won handily by a score of 88-81. But the fact of the matter is this is the single best performance in Iron Dirigible history.

Gimp: Percy Harvin of Team Gray. Harvin has had a great season up until this point. All he needed to seal a Team Gray victory was four points. So naturally, he scores three points, fumbles the ball, and twists his ankle to leave with one point.

Week 10

Pimp: Tony Gonzalez of the West Katzen Maus Munchers. For an unheralded tenth round pick who was clearly past his prime and ready to ride off into the sunset, Gonzo has been pretty dominant all season long. Although he wasn't the highest scorer on the Maus Munchers, his two touchdown, 24 point performance was the most surprising. Also, the Maus Munchers are the first team in the league to lockdown a winning record despite receiving a "D" in Drafting, proving that professor is a no-talent moron.

Gimp: As much as I would love to point out that Bean's team only scored 62 points and I nearly doubled his point total and that got exactly 1 point from both his starting running backs, I'm afraid that someone is even worse than that. Eli Manning, 25th overall pick, has scored 10 points over the past three games. Not averaging 10 points a game, which would be awful and put him just ahead of Ryan Tannehill for 27th in average QB scoring, 10 points total over three weeks. Over this period of sheer terribleness, Eli has sunk his average from 17 points a game (which is good for 11th overall) all the way down to 12.9 points a game (which is good for 22nd overall). The most troubling trend is Eli is getting worse: 5 points against Dallas, 3 points against Pittsburgh, and just 2 points against Cincinnati, which includes no less than 3 turnovers. It wouldn't surprise me if he scored 0 points this week!

Matchup of the Week: It a tie between McLovin vs Godfearers and Team Gray vs the Pimpmasters. Why? Because they both feature the same storyline. One 4-6 team desperately trying to avoid drowning in the cellar of the league and missing the sweet playoffs and one 5-5 team trying to keep their head above water. A loss for one 4-6 team and a win for the other just about sinks their playoff chances. A win for the 5-5 team and a loss from my team means that the second bye week spot is wide open. Anything can happen in the last few weeks. Except for the Baron missing the playoffs. I'm pretty sure 7 wins will guarantee you a spot in the top 6 in our league.

P.S. Apparently my definition of rapidfire is just south of 900 words. Awesome.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood- Or Ezio II: Electric Boogaloo

Now that I have finished Assassin's Creed III and Halo 4 and have soaked the grounds of Colonial America and Requiem with the blood of Redcoats and Covenant aliens respectively (tangent: I want to see an Elite wearing a tricorner hat. Somebody with Photoshop, make this happen!), I can get back to talking about perhaps my favorite of all the Assassin games: Brotherhood. Now, part of this can be attributed to the fact that the game is set in Rome and I have a deep-seated yet unspoken love of that city (not unlike Peeta to Katniss). In fact, if that city were a lady, I'd be all up ons. They incorporate almost all of my favorite sites in the city that I have read about such as the Colosseum and...


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Status Update

So, I've not posted on here in nearly a week, I figured I could at least keep everyone informed as to what's up.

Assassin's Creed 3- Beat. I feel great personal shame in having beaten this game so quickly. I swear, I actually do have a life.
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood Review- Not started
Iron Dirigible Update- Started, but will have to be scrapped. It was a mid-season retrospective but then games happened and changed all of it. I don't know what I'll do.
Health Care Take Home Test- Almost finished. It just enervates me.
Last Night's Election- You can count the number of Election 2012 posts I've made on one hand. Let's keep it that way.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Ezio Trilogy Part 1: This is much, much longer than I expected

All right, I had a chance to sink my teeth into Assassin's Creed 3 for a few hours last night and again this morning. In a nutshell, I love it. I have a few nitpicks, but honestly it is nothing compared to the simple joys of  dueling Brown Bess's with bayonets drawn. But now is not the time for me to gush over Assassin's Creed III, that part comes later.

"Spoiling details of Assassin's Creed III will be very painful... for you." ~Bane
Where were we again? Ah yes, the Ezio Trilogy!

Assassin's Creed II (2009)

Two years after the adventures of Altair, we once again returned to Future Desmond, casually loafing around the secret lair he's been imprisoned in. But mere moments into his introspective moaning, sassy blonde initially cold love interest, or "Lucy", bursts through the door and tells Desmond he'll actually have to do something this game. One quick trip to the Animus later (and a fairly clever sequence where we see Ezio be born), and Desmond actually breaks out into a light jog. A few fight tutorials later, he's absconded to the Good Guys hideout. You know its the Godd Guys hideout because the British computer guy is snarky instead of sinister (side note: all British men have to choose between being snarky, sinister, suave, or Scottish. It's the 4 S's of the British Isle). Also, the female lab assistant is allowed to have short hair and wear jeans and a t-shirt. Besides that, they're basically doing the exact same thing the bad guys were doing to you: making you relive the memories of your ancestors to help them achieve their goals. Fortunately, their goals in this game are to turn Future Desmond into a likable and competent character. To do that, they plan to use the creepy Bleeding Effect from the first game to bleed in memories from Ezio Auditore da Firenzie: Italian Renaissance Playboy and all-around hardcore dude. You begin Ezio's story at a pretty smart starting point: when he is a carefree teenager from Italian nobility and also apparently moonlighted as Flynn from Tangled.

Seriously, this can't be a coincidence. Flynn's hair is just slightly browner and they're both excellent thieves & climbers. And that flower that gave Rapunzel's hair magic powers? That could be a Piece of Eden and that would make the witch a Templar. Is Tangled just an alternate timeline for Assassin's Creed II?
Excuse me, I have to go write that fanfic.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Assassin's Creedence Clearwater: A Retrospective of my Favorite Non-Halo, Non-Mass Effect Series

As fans of the Hunger Games know, I am the master of promising and postponing. So we're holding off on the Walking Dead review until I play Episode 5 and going right in with an overview of Assassin's Creed. Why? Because Assassin's Creed 3 (the fifth game in the series, just roll with it) comes out today and I won't get to play it until at least 7 PM because I had to be an idiot and volunteer at a blood drive.This is what service to others gets you: less time to pretend killing Redcoats. Assassin's Creed is one of my favorite series largely because it combines historical settings with many sword fights and also crazy alternate history intrigue. Now I'm going to try and deviate from my normal writing style, because otherwise this retrospective will be 8,000 words and come out in January. I figure I'll talk a little about the plot for each game, what I liked what I didn't like, and then conclude with a ranking of each game in the series. Today, I will do Assassin's Creed 1 and tomorrow, I will review what is known as the "Ezio Trilogy" or "Where the Numbering went FUBAR". Without further ado, let us begin the look back at the Assassin's Creed series:

Assassin's Creed (2007)

If being an assassin doesn't work out, Altair should try the NBA. He's got mad hops, yo.
Fall of 2007 will be remembered as the greatest season for video games of the 360/Wii/PS3 generation. It saw the release of no less than a half dozen phenomenally good games: BioShock (one of the few "artsy" games that is also fun), The Orange Box (specifically Portal), Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (perhaps the most revolutionary FPS of the generation), Halo 3 (which was just fun), Mass Effect (you know, I think I've said enough about this series), and Assassin's Creed. In the game, you play as Altair, a member of the Order of Assassins during the Third Crusade. You are tasked with killing both Crusaders and Saracens who are profiting and prolonging the carnage, because if they did it accurately, you would be in a group of Muslim extremists murdering Christian soldiers and that would be just great for sales. But wait! You are also Desmond Miles from the far off year of 2012, henceforth known as Future Desmond.

"Literally no one likes me" ~Future Desmond

Friday, October 26, 2012

All Glory to Doug Martin!

The last few times we've been out here, I've threatened to talk about The Walking Dead Game and also politics. But I'm here to renege on those promises and get my fantasy football league caught back up. For you see, I have fallen prey to heresy and have left the pure path of weekly updates. Pursuing the idol of political satire, I have forsaken the bonds of overanalyzing minor trends in sports. And I would be lost, were it not for the light of Doug Martin. For tonight, the Muscle Hamster did tread upon the Vikings defense as the elephant upon the soft earth and rack up over 200 yards of total offense and 2 touchdowns. Such was his magnanimity as to grant me this boon two full days before any other game, allowing the Heretical Pimpmast Doug to stew in the inevitability of the upcoming battle.

He crushes footballs as mere mortals crush grapes: to make alcohol and/or jam.
Before I continue, let me give some context for my adoration of Doug Martin. Astute readers may recall that Doug Martin was one of "the picks I'm proudest of" way back in August. I had believed that this dude could be 2010 Arian Foster (great RB with little history to come out of the midrounds). I made drafting him early a priority. Up until tonight, he's been very solid, but unspectacular. All in all, it had seemed like I drafted him so early as to negate his value. But then tonight happened and he was all "Since reorganizing on the BYE week, I have scored 12, 17, and now 34 points". All aboard the Muscle Hamster express! So since I have about 4 weeks of games to get caught up on, I'm going to forgo the traditional system of nominees in an effort to get contemporary.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rock Superstardom

I'm just letting you all know that I've decided to pursue my dream of being a rock n roll legend. Guitar Hero and Rock Band 2 have convinced me of my supernatural guitar playing prowess but I needed a band name, some hit singles and a truly great album to launch the dream. Well, the wait is over!

I present to you: "Horses & Bayonets" the hit single from the album "Binders of Women" from the newest rock n roll band: Pioneers of Outsourcing!!!!!

It'll be insaaaaaaaaaaaane!!!!!!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Making the Most of Tragedy

I've spent the last few posts talking about fantasy football. It's easy to get wrapped up in the opiate of sports and humiliating the Bean on so many levels. I could regale you with stories of how the Barry family is solely responsible for 2/3rds of all Bean family defeats this year. But I digress. The thing is, it's easy to forget how fragile everything is. Last night, tragically, in the blink of an eye, my The Walking Dead save file died. Three and one quarter episodes worth of progress gone in an instant.

This painting is a metaphor of what happened last night. The zombie is my save file, the hammer is my Xbox 360, and I am the little girl. I guess Lee Everett (the dude swinging the hammer and the player character) would be like fate or something? I don't know, I'm getting too deep again!
 The silver lining in all this is that, as a part of getting psyched for Season 3 of the TV Show and because I really wanted to play Episode 4 last night, I will be replaying the whole thing starting tonight. I've wanted to talk about the series for a long time now, but I never seemed to get the timing right. But this time, I will blog about the whole shooting match as it goes down! Get psyched for the return of the walkers, people!

No, that's the return of the White Walkers. But both involve large groups of the shambling dead, so we'll call it even.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Iron Dirigible Week 3 Recap- I shouldn't be alive

Here we are, mere moments away from starting Week 4, and I still haven't posted the update for Week 3. Normally, I'd say something funny about a video game, tv show, or movie I'd experienced recently and use that as justification for the delay. But that's not true. Last week's games have sent me into an existential crisis. You see, I defeated my best friend/archnemesis the Bean in Fantasy Football for the 15th time in 17 total games and I did so in a way that humiliates and degrades him. You'd think I'd be overjoyed. But I'm not because of one simple word: The Fail Mary aka The Touchception.

Can I declare victory over the Bean if it is based on a clearly fraudulent call? Strictly speaking, yes, yes I can and I already have and I'm going to gloat about it. Neener neener neener! You couldn't score 15 points with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay defense combined. Neener neener neener! Also, it helps that Bean declared victory halfway through the third quarter and then literally everything went my way. I'm not even kidding. I'm in two leagues, you see, the Iron Dirigible and the Beanpocalypse Now. In Beanpocalypse Now, I was playing against Bean the Elder and he was starting the Seattle defense. I'll spare you the details, but I beat Bean the Elder by one point and Bean the Younger by two points. If Rodgers gets sacked once and Martin gets called for the interception he threw at the end of the game, I lose both games. But thanks to a terrible labor dispute, I won.

I feel like I've been war profiteering.

So Pimps & Gimps of the Week, right?

Pimps of the Week

The divide between Pimpin teams and Gimpin teams was particularly vast this week. You had two teams score over 120 and two teams score under 70. I'd like to welcome Larry Fitzgerald to our readership because he saw how I called him out last time and decided to make himself indispensable again for Team Gray. Side note: Dorian, you can't change the name of your team in the middle of the season after going my one team name for five years; I will not acknowledge this change, much as I won't acknowledge Matt Ryan's 21 points. Calvin "Megatron" Johnson also gets a shoutout for scoring more points against the Titans than he had in the year to date, yet still somehow losing to the Titans. So he helped to build the Middle Tennessee community AND pay dividends to the Pimpmaster.

But the true pimp this week is Jamaal "Juggernaut" Charles. The greatest tragedy of this season is not the replacement refs, but that I could not draft Jamaal Charles in either league. I came so close to drafting him, but Tune channeled his inner-Doug and took him the pick right before mine. See, normally when I talk about guys who show up Stay Puft Marshmallow man big, they normally have a few touchdowns to their name and a pretty great total of yards (like Reggie Bush's 140 something). But Jamaal Charles thought differently. He looked at the Saints defense and said "Don't you know who I am? You must not know who I am. I'M JAMAAL CHARLES, B***********H". And he scored 36 points.

But it's the way he did it. He only had one total touchdown and 55 yards receiving. The other 25 points he scored? Pure yardage. "Silly Saints, your tackles cannot harm me. I'M JAMAAL CHARLES, B***********H!!"

Gimps of the Week

To the surprise of none, this update took much longer to write than expected. So I'm going to fast track the Gimp of the Week section. Remember last year, when Vick was supposed to be opening a new chapter on his career and usher in a new era of quarterbacking? Yeah, it turns out 2010 was a fluke.  Vick completed less than half his passes for less than 225 yards and no touchdowns. He "added" -3 points with his feet with 15 yards and two lost fumbles. Demaryius Thomas, your game line is bad and you should feel bad.

But the real victim is Aaron Rodgers. He had such a promising career, then Bean drafted him. Now he's put up back to back stinkers. And it's more than just Bean stealing his talent, it's created bizarre situations that wouldn't happen if Bean didn't own Rodgers. For example, the Packers were close to the goal line and decided to run it in with Benson. Last year, the Packers only had 8 non-Rodgers rushing TDs versus 55 touchdowns Rodgers was someway involved in. But the Packers decided to eschew what worked in the past because they knew that Bean has ruined Rodgers forever.

Matchup of the Week: Tune vs the Velociraptors for two reasons. First reason is "Tune versus the Velociraptors" should be the name of a children's book. Second, this will answer the age old question of whether it is better to be lucky or good. Tune is second in scoring with over 300 points in 3 games whereas I have 263. But I have the better record because I've only had 247 points against me instead of the 293 scored against Tune

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Iron Dirigible Week 1 & Week 2 Double Pack

For reasons of wanting to do something special for my 150th Blog Post (btw, mission accomplished! I got so many compliments on the Hunger Games article from people I didn't even know read my blog), I did not get around to discussing Week 1 of Iron Dirigible in a timely fashion. I know, many of you are crestfallen, and by many, I mean "the seven other people in the league plus the handful of my friends who are equally football crazy". So I'm going to do the awards for Week 1, Week 2 and the Week 3 previews all in one swoop. If I don't do it today, it's not going to happen in a timely fashion either. Quick glance at my schedule for the enxt 36 hours: office hours, class, class, errands, Borderlands 2, sleep, tutoring, Borderlands 2, lunch, Borderlands 2, Office Hours, Senate, then friends over for football (editor's note: this schedule has now been thrown completely out of whack, just roll with it). Since time is of the essence, let's dive right in to the Pimps of the Week and the Gimps of the Week for Week 1!

Borderlands 2 forces me to make the hardest choice of my life: big guns, many guns, or guns & also swords.
I am paralyzed by indecision.
P.S. Is it sexist that the lady has the least number number of guns & swords and thus least appealing to me?
P.P.S. Is it a Freudian thing that all the guys in the pictures have swords and guns and the lady has a round glowy ball of death?

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Hunger Games: A 150th Post Extravaganza

That's right! I'm delaying talking about Fantasy Football to finally talk about the Hunger Games! I have no idea how I'm going to broach the subject, but I'll do this the EMPH way: with very little forethought and a great deal of digressions with the illusion of order!

I'm partial to this logo. It's simple, classy and has meaning to the story.

What I Think of the Series as a Whole

I'll start this off with a bold statement: I think The Hunger Games is significantly better than Harry Potter. For starters, Katniss never uses a time machine to solve all her problems and then never mention it again. Secondly, The Hunger Games brilliantly use Latin and classical history and Harry Potter has all the subtlety of a freight train with Latin. Seriously, the main evil family is led by Lucius Malfoy (translated: Satan McBadguy, because Lucius is one step away from Lucifer) and his eldest son, Draco Malfoy (translated: Satan McBadguy Jr., because Draco means dragon and dragons historically are the very incarnation of the Devil). I will talk more about Latin later, because this is really one of the highlights of the book. But back on point, I think The Hunger Games is substantially more relatable than Harry Potter and its story is much more focused and relies less on deus ex machina to resolve the plot. For starters, Katniss's unhappy starting place is a lot more believable and a lot more sad than Harry's. Her family lives in poverty and was pushed to the brink of starvation due to the untimely death of her father in a mining accident, which forces her to assume more responsibility than a teen girl should. Harry's sad place is an evil wizard killed his parents before he ever met them and now he must live with his comically abusive aunt and uncle where they force him to live under the staircase instead of one of the extra rooms they have, because they are jerks and Child Services doesn't exist in this universe and literally no one has ever asked Harry about his well-being. Then one day, Hagrid shows up and tells Harry that he's a wizard and also he's the wizard of destiny and also his parents left him a fortune in wizard gold but lacked the foresight to convert any of their money into wealth their son could use OR consider leaving him in the care of someone who wasn't estranged from the family. Whereas Katniss has to overcome her obstacles by playing things smart and surviving, at least until thefirst half of Mockingjay, Harry overcomes his obstacles through things he had no control over. Boy, it sure is fortunate that it turns out that Harry's very touch kills Voldemort and that Voldemort forgot about this. One good avada cadavra spell from Quirrell and it's a 1 volume story. It's also a good thing that Dumbledore's phoenix can apparently find its way into long hidden and forgotten chambers so that Harry can literally pull a magic sword from a hat. I could do this all day, but I won't.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

NBC WANTS me to share this video

So I just got out of my first staff meeting and got to see my beloved Steeles punt to Peyton Manning and the lightly less beloved Broncos (btw, they've been recommunicated with Church of Hunterian Football after renouncing the McDaniels Heresy and purging the Tebow Apostasy from the team). Anyways, as Peyton Manning took the field, they began playing that xylophone part from "Somebody that I Used to Know". It could be a popular song OR IT COULD BE THE GREATEST INSIDE JOKE EVER. Behold:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Iron Dirigible Week 1: This is all Obamunism's Fault

I had plans, you know. I was going to talk about The Hunger Games and then hype the first week of football after that. But NO! Somebody had to give his acceptance speech on Thursday and the NFL decided it would look really bad for American culture when football absolutely crushed the President of the United States in the ratings department. So now I have to once again eschew talking about the tale of Katniss Everdeen because I am all about punctuality on this blog.

What? If I say it enough times, it has to be true, right?

I am reluctantly ready for some football! A Wednesday Night Happenstance!
Normally, I start by recapping last week's games, talking about the major disappointments and the major surprises (lovingly known as Pimp of the Week & Gimp of the Week). However, the closest thing to a game we've had in the past month was the draft. And the last time I discussed that event, it took over 5,000 words and discredited me with virtually every fine honey within a 20 mile radius. So let's not repeat that. I sorta want to be done writing this post before the NFL season kicks off. Let's dive right into the match-ups!

By the way, fun bit of trivia: George R.R. Martin, author of A Game of Thrones and all its wonderful sequels, is a HUGE New York Giants fan.

Also, if you're so moved by my discussions of Iron Dirigible that you just have to see what all the fuss is about, you can visit the league here.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Iron Dirigible Draft 2012

You know what this blog needs? MORE SPORTS TALK! But not just any sports talk, I need something that is both abstract in concept and requires an immensely deep understanding of a particular sport. This leaves only one logical option: FANTASY FOOTBALL!!

P.S. It's more fun if you imagine me saying "Fantasy Football" in the Denzel Crocker "Fairy Godparents" voice.
P.P.S. This blog has started out with me discussing sports trivia and a tacit admission of watching Nickelodeon as late as high school. I am seriously not making good decision re: the Fine Honeys.

This blog post is spiraling out of control and heading to a very dark place. I'd better engage in some course correction stat. Save me, Peeta Mellark!

 "This bread is like our district: soft and white."~Peeta Mellark
What?! You were supposed to help me, Peeta. Noooooooo!
Okay, so quoting Peeta isn't helping me at this precise moment. I'm just going to back away slowly now. Hunger Games, you'll get your day. Soon. You're the blog update that the English Muffin Power hour deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll postpone it, because you can take it. Because you're not a hero. You're a silent protector. A watchful guardian. A dark knight.

Anyways, earlier this month, I held the 6th annual Iron Dirigible Draft at my apartment, because I was straight power tripping. Additionally, it was the largest attended draft in our brief history. We had 6 of the league's 8 members gathered in one place at one time. And when you consider that Sam never shows up for the draft, it's pretty good to only be missing one guy. Let me say, nothing compares with drafting with your friends in person, all together. My personal highlight of the night was when Pimpmaster Doug took Brandon Lloyd the pick before me, I shouted "Are you a wizard?!" because that was the second pick of mine he stole from under my nose out of a possible three times that night.

Anyways, on topic, the point is I'd thought I'd do a quick recap of the draft. I figure I'd do rounds 1-4 individually, rounds 5-12 by pairs, and rounds 13-16 as one big group because drafts become increasingly desperate and therefore less controversial. Also, it makes a nice bit of symmetry in that I will do exactly 9 recaps and that appeases my neurotic side. Plus there will be nine recaps to counter the nine Black Riders of Mordor, so that's nice.

"Did he just make a Lord of the Rings reference right after inadvertantly dissing The Hunger Games AND quoting The Dark Knight?"
"Yeah, I think he did. Player does not have his head in the game today."

N.B. This draft took place on August 9th, because it was the last day everyone was going to be in town. So a number of picks look really silly in hindsight.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Things Went Horribly Right

So, in a change of pace, I'm actually going to talk about myself on my blog. I know, it's shocking, scandalous and uncalled for on every level. Unexplained month-long hiatuses are nothing new to the English Muffin Power Hour (sadly). But this time there is an actual legitimate explanation.

People who have been keeping up with me know that on July 31st, I was offered and accepted the position of Resident Director at Corlew Hall. Literally the only downside to this job was that training officially began about 18 hours after I was offered the job. In some ways, it's awesome to be the first alternate. In other ways, it can really, really suck. In the weeks since then, I've been swamped almost every single day. If I've not been swamped, I've been desperately trying to recover from being swamped. Or playing Starcraft 2. I won't lie to you, in the early days, playing Starcraft 2 was time that probably could've been spent better blogging or something. But you live and you learn. Plus, I couldn't say no to Tychus's voice.

"Jimmeh boy, nothing says I can't fufill my obligations to the survival of the human race and get paid at the same time." ~Tychus
When I started with RD training, it was a lot of 9-4:30 days in a row, which was a bit of a jarring transition from summer break. Nothing I couldn't handle. But then RA training started and the 8 hour days became eleven hour days with some extra curicculars. That was brutal. But it's over and I'm back to the sweet 3 hour days with some classes and a few extra projects. So I'm going to give a brief recap of the good, the bad, and the ugly of the past month of being an RD.

The Good

  • I'm enjoying a level of freedom, autonomy, responsibility, and respect far greater than anything I have previously experienced.
  • White Parking Pass
  • My co-workers are some of the most outgoing and clever people I've met outside of the Brain Trust (you know if you're in the Brain Trust).
  • White Parking Pass
  • A free apartment conveniently located next door to the building where all my classes are
  • I went to the Pizza Hut Buffet during the middle of the busiest school day at MTSU and my parking spot was there when I came back. That's power you can't buy. That's the power of faculty parking.
  • I'm get paid in apartments and American currency to update my blog during "Office Hours". (NB: Yes, I've finished all my busy work creating flyers and updating rosters. FYI, nothing trumps a penguin wearing sunglasses)

"You DARE challenge me in my domain?! This shall be a rap battle... FOR THE AGES!!"

The Bad
  • Somehow, it has gone from August 1st to August 28th in the span of about a week. I think the space-time continuum has been damaged.
  • I haven't had a day devoid of professional obligations since August 11th and most of those days were long.
  • My bathroom has all the luxuries and amenities reserved for minimum security prisons.
  • I guess ice cubes could be easier to access?

The Ugly
  • The aforementioned crate of dirty clothes. There were green cartoon stink lines emanating from the box. I had to get a hazmat suit before I was legally allowed to start my laundry.

So the net effect of this is that there will be substantially more blogging. Why? Because blogging is indistinguishable from writing important emails about the state of residential life. Also, I got to fill 3 hours a day somehow.

Speaking of which, there are 90 minutes left today and I just finished my last goal...

I guess I'll finish listening to George Washington: A Life or something...

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Times, They Are A-Changin'

I'm taking a break from my normal rantings about books and video games to let the English Muffin Power Hour community know that the NFL is a mere 43 days away! That also means that Iron Dirigible football is right around the corner. Most importantly, this means that all the stuff I meant to write about last year is finally current again! I'm very excited about proving, with math, how terrible Bean is at fantasy football. Also, my beloved Braves made headlines today by trading for Ryan Dempster. Dempster is currently leading the entirety of Major League baseball in ERA. The only thing I dislike about this trade is that we gave up a 22 year old for a 35 year old, and we made a deal with Theo Epstein. Historically, that means that Delgado will become some kind of a superstar. Even so, the Braves have a very real shot of winning the division this year and Dempster has very solid numbers, even without this year's phenomenal work.

If you mention "Braves", I have to stop what I'm doing and talk about them. It's a real problem.

My favorite thing about this deal is it means we can take Jurjjens out of the lineup until he gets his head on straight. Jurrjens got shellacked in his last two starts and the Braves blew an excellent opportunity to steal momentum from the division leading Nationals this weekend. Now that they've added Dempster to the rotation and Ben Sheets has returned from the grave to pitch like Cy Young contender that he was three years ago, the Braves have a really strong rotation. Hudson, Sheets, and Dempster are all good enough to be the #1 pitcher on your average ball club, and the Braves have put them all in one line up. The last team to do that was the Philadelphia Phillies and look at where it got them! They failed to win a World Series and then imploded the next year from injuries and old age! Bad example, but it's not like players turn to garbage as soon as they join the Braves. Look at Dan Uggla or Mark Teixeira or OH MY GOD WE'RE DOOMED!!!!

I mean, optimism! Ignoring the almost supernatural level of bad mojo this deal has, I really like it on paper. But at the end of the day, our best pitchers are 37, 35, and 34. However, it's been 7 years since the Braves won a division title. They haven't been to the World Series since 1999. They haven't won a game in the World Series since 1996. They haven't even advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2001. They haven't even won two games in a single postseason since 2004! My point is maybe the Braves should try to win today for a change.

We need to go back to what works: karate kicking people in the face.

P.S. What I mean to say is, in short, there will be a good deal more talk about baseball and football on the blog. I will share my thoughts on the Hunger Games... somehow.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

For Want of a Brain: A Review of the Novel "Feed" by Mira Grant

Astute readers will recall I've been promising to review the Hunger Games trilogy as well as the feature film since April. But Feed has zombies in it and I've been reading it at the beach this past week (by "reading" I mean "alternating between it and three other books"). Also, Hunger Games has about a million images to choose from and Feed has very few, which means I can write this review and then watch to sun set over the Gulf of Mexico without having to worry about whether or not I've done service to Gale's immaculate biceps. Also, Feed has zombies in it. End of debate.

Now if Katniss shot zombies with her bow, then it'd be a different story. Specifically, she'd be a female Daryll from The Walking Dead. Imagine if she traveled back in time to the zombie apocalypse and met Daryll and they bonded over their love of archery and rural Appalachia. Then they had kids who would be super good at archery and would shoot all the walkers and... Excuse me, I have to go write this fanfic.

Feed takes place 25 years after the Great Zombie Outbreak of 2014 (although most of the story takes place in 2040, which is 26 years later, but there are more important things to discuss than conversational mathematics). The conceit (and double entendre) of Feed is that bloggers played a vital role is spreading word of the zombie apocalypse and were hailed as the real heroes of the zombie war (get it, like an RSS Feed and how zombies have an insatiable hunger for the flesh of the living). Three 22 year old bloggers are assigned to cover the presidential campaign of Senator John Ryman, but little do they know they are about to uncover a conspiracy that will shake the world as they know it.

Is that good? Have I done enough of the PR Spiel to actually talk about the book now? I hope that familiarized all my unfamiliar readers with the premise of the book. I know for a fact that I blew up at least two of my friends' phones with about 15 consecutive tweets about this book. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I only read 150 of the 400 pages and then consulted Wikipedia for the ending. I really wanted to get through the book before I wrote about it, but there was just so much to say. As the old saying goes, one does not have to eat the whole egg to know its rotten (and covered in zombie virus).

It's the Apocalypse, what could go wrong?

In a sentence, the problem with Feed is that it gets zombies, politics, and blogging wrong and that nothing that happens makes any sense and that the characters are all one dimensional & boring and that the whole world building exercise falls to pieces as soon as you think about it and that the entire universe the book is set in is more like Left Wing California Wish Fulfillment Apocalypse than anything based in reality. So you see, nothing too serious. The tragedy is that this is a super interesting time period that seldom gets talked about. Society isn't being destroyed but it's also not able to overpower the Undead Menace. If properly developed, this book could have like a Cold War style to it (albeit with more explosions and less diplomatic intrigue),

One of the problems inherent with any post-apocalyptic story is the ease with which you can punish people you personally find offensive. The best post-apocalyptic stories (such as The Road Warrior and A Boy and his Dog or Fallout 3 if you want me to cite video games) avoid this completely and generally paint the bad guys in broad strokes (usually to the tune of them being well intentioned people driven mad by power or by lack of power [e.g. the impotent underground people in A Boy and his Dog]) and that makes the hero more awesome because he/she doesn't succumb to that corruption. In bad post-apocalyptic films (think The Left Behind series), people are specifically targeted because of their beliefs. In Feed, the victims are picked because Mira Grant doesn't like them and it's done in a super obvious, illogical fashion.

The Zombies have more Brains than the Author

I'll start with the first example to book hits us with. Our three heroes are recording footage of zombies in the overrun town of Santa Cruz, California, getting footage of Shaun (get it? GET IT?! IS IT NOT AN OBVIOUS ENOUGH REFERENCE TO THE HIT ZOMBIE MOVIE "SHAUN OF THE DEAD"?) bothering zombies to upload to YouTube so their blog will get more hits. Because, obviously, after a global nightmare in which billions perished, people want to see adventurous types needlessly risking life and limb. There is no way this has already been done before in the 25 years zombies have been around. Santa Cruz was one of the first cities to fall to the zombies because it is densely populated and is a college town and is also in California, where gun ownership is marginalized and treated with suspicion (so, yeah, this makes perfect sense actually. Good job!). Well, in the course of pissing off zombies, a group of zombies is alerted and gets all up in our heroes' collective grills. In an escape that makes for a thrilling first ten minutes of a TV Pilot, the heroes barely escape the hordes of the undead and drive away to safety in Berkley, California. Which is also a densely populated college town. And has no natural barriers between it and Santa Cruz. So how is it safe again? Also, I wonder which branch of the University of California Mira Grant went to and which branch was her least favorite. I honestly have no way of inferring this knowledge from such a subtle and well thought out universe.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Low Tech Future

Starting today, I'm going to be spending the next nine nights away from my beloved computer, Lord Stanzibar Quintilius di Montferrat. That means I'm going to be cut off from the rich array of luxury resources that make my blogs so great, like mouses and keyboards and screens bigger than the palm of your hand. I'm going to consider blogging from my phone, but I can't make any promises about their quality. There is a very real chance that they will read like telegrams rather than traditional blog posts. But I suppose half a blog is better than none, right?


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Star Wars Episode 1: 4 Kidz! (And the Top/Only Good Five Things in Episode 1)

I discovered this fragment of a post from February. I'm going to roll with it and see if I can remember the points I wanted to raise four months later.

I honestly cannot describe how much I dislike this video, which is a real thing made by people who work for George Lucas and were paid money to do so. Every second, no, every frame grates my nerves. From the stupid announcer to the way it highlights all the worst things about Episode 1 (Jar Jar, kid Anakin, Darth Maul dying), every single thing in this trailer is awful. The ironic thing is, Episode I is probably my favorite of the new Star Wars movies. (NOTE: This is where past Hunter stopped writing and present day Hunter assumes direct control).

You know what this blog needs? More Mass Effect references!

5. Pod Racing
Before I go on, I am aware that the Pod Racing scene goes on for ten minutes too long and never really elaborates on why Anakin is the only human who can pod race and raises a whole host of other issues. BUT, conceptually, the pod race is one of the few things in the entire new trilogy that is completely original and not desperately trying to call back to the Good Trilogy. Technically speaking, it is highly reminiscent of the speeder chase on Endor in Return of the Jedi, but there's enough of a change in context, environment, and the actual look of the racers makes it different enough to be enjoyable. Plus, the Pod Racing video game that came out with it (and undoubtedly was a primary motivation for its lengthy stay in the movie) was really cool and that's more than you can say for any of the other ancillary stuff from the other movies.

Plus, it didn't rely exclusively on lightsabers like every other moment in the Bad Trilogy.

4. The Villains

"It is a shame that nothing is known about my motivations, personality or beliefs other than I think Double Lightsabers are neat. Yet I am still more menacing that Grievous and Dooku put together"

For starters, Darth Maul was a fantastically designed villain and the only solid new villain the prequels provide. Dooku was just Christopher Lee (which is not scary) and General Grievous is a textbook example of a character they just never stopped designing (what if he was a robot and a lizard alien and had like four arms of lightsabers and had a bad cough...). Darth Maul is the closest the Bad Trilogy comes to capturing the essence of the great design behind Darth Vader. Whereas Darth Vader's design (and personality) was like a person but cold and calculating like a machine (so that we understood him just enough to be afraid of his capabilities), Darth Maul's design makes him like a person but with horns and war paint, like some sort of space barbarian alien thing. It would've been nice if they had spent more time establishing a personality for him to reinforce this design. But still, he's head and shoulders above all the other new villains.

Shockingly, I'm going to bring up the Nemodeans as a strength in The Phantom Menace, at least in comparison to the Separatists. Despite the myriad of problems there are with the Nemodeans (they're racist caricatures, they are completely ineffective fighters, they have no grasp on strategy and offer no real threat to anyone whatsoever), they have one thing that makes them better than the Separatists: a motive. Sure, it's a simple motive (become richer by plundering/owning Naboo) but I can understand that goal. I can see how the choices they make facilitate that goal. I honestly have no idea what the Separatists are fighting for. I don't care if it's brought up in an Expanded Universe novel or a comic book or 3-D diorama. It's the responsibility of the movie to tell me these things. Entertainment should not require outside reading. But I digress. What does the Techno Union gain by seceding from the Republic? You'd think the Techno Union army would fight for the preservation of the Union. After all, what would Techno Ulysses S. Grant or Cybernetic William T. Sherman have to say if they discovered the Boys in Blue turned secessionist?

Cybernetic William T. Sherman has a flamethrower for a hand. He approves of any strategy that destroys the Atlanta System.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Cycle Begins Anew

Last week, I finally finished my long awaited discussion of the five biggest problems in Mass Effect 3. That finally meant I could move onto other topics to discuss, like the Hunger Games or Game of Thrones or the fact that I have been work at a camp all summer and am now tan (which is somewhat unbelievable) or the fact I hate the NBA so much right now (why are you tormenting me so, David Stern?!).

But then, the long awaited Extended Ending DLC is going to be released on Tuesday. So that means I'll need to spend a few hours clearing out the Cerberus Base & Reaper-occupied Earth to see the ending that will do things that they promised (i.e. provide closure based on the choices you made throughout the course of the games). Then I can put a nice bow on my favorite game of 2012 and move on...

To my favorite game of 2011, Skyrim, which is seeing it's first DLC (Dawnguard, which apparently involves making sure the sun rises in the east and sets in the west and waging a guerrilla war against cloudy days) also released on Tuesday (NB: I am aware that it really involves stopping/causing a vampire apocalypse and that this is awesome). SKYRIM, MASS EFFECT! STOP FIGHTING FOR MY ATTENTION! I LOVE YOU BOTH!!!!

But in fairness to the rest of my reading community, I'm going to try to get in a few posts over this weekend so that there is a brief respite in the incessant Mass Effect chatter.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Bottom Five Things in Mass Effect 3

Well, it's been a ridiculously long time coming, but I'm finally going to talk about the worst five things in Mass Effect 3, and none of them are going to be the ending (which is terrible in every way a thing can be terrible and has caused irreparable damage to my immortal soul). Officially, I'm saying I was waiting for Pimpmaster Doug and Sam of Dr Pepper to finish Mass Effect 3 so I wouldn't spoil them. Without further ado, let's discuss The Bottom Five Things in Mass Effect 3.

5. The Checkpoint Guards on the Normandy
They're so annoying, no one actually has a screen capture of them.
The most common complaint in Mass Effect 1 was the elevator system. Rather than include loading screens, the development team decided to mask loading times by using very, very slow elevator rides. While this was justifiable (although still loathed) on a giant place like the Citadel, it's not possible when going from one level of your ship to the other. In fact, it was extra painful because this super slow elevator was what stood between the boring squadmates (Liara & Kaidan) and the awesome squadmates (Wrex, Garrus, Ashley, and Tali). So every time you wanted to chill with the cool people, you had to suffer for it. Now, you may wonder why I'm bringing up five year old memories of torment at the hands of a loading system. The answer is that I would gladly bring back all the elevators if it meant never having to listen to those stupid friggin' checkpoint guards ever again.

Once again, these two are the byproducts of a need to hide a loading screen. For whatever reason, Mass Effect 3 can't load the War Room AND the rest of the 2nd floor at the same time. So you need to stop off at a scanner to confirm that the most famous man/woman in the galaxy, whose name is synonymous with the SSV Normandy, is a member of the crew. In an effort to alleviate the boredom of waiting through a lengthy scan, the good folks at BioWare decided to have two lovable guards banter with each other. And by "lovable guards" I mean "stupid nimrods" and by "banter"  I mean "vapidly discuss things you already knew/would never think of because it is so stupid". To BioWare's credit, they tried giving them personalities. It's just their personalities were "Stupid One" and "Pretentious Stupid One". Here are a sample of some things you have to overhear every single time you want to go get some missions or talk to someone or maybe check on your Galaxy at War score.

SO: "Once we beat the Reapers, we should get some payback from all the races that didn't help us."

PSO: "Yeah, that's great. Let's follow up a war with another war."

-In this scene, it appears that SO has forgotten that we're facing an unstoppable armada from beyond the galaxy which has ended all life more times than can be remembered. But hey, don't let that stop you from assuming we'll win easily with enough military capital to overpower any adversary.

SO: "I can't believe the Asari won't help us."

PSO: "If it was Thessia [Asari Homeworld] that was invaded, you can bet we would be holding back around Earth."

-In this scene, PSO forgets that the Alliance's fleets were possibly crippled saving the Destiny Ascension at the end of Mass Effect 1. Also, she seems to be forgetting that these machines are invading everyone they can at this current moment. I guess the Asari and PSO think that the Reapers will kill all advanced life... except themselves.

SO: "We should bomb the Reapers"

PSO: "But the Reapers don't have any planets. If you bomb them, you're bombing yourself."

-There is literally so much wrong with this dialogue, that I will lose my mind if I specify all 17 ways it's wrong. Suffice to say, most planets invaded by the Reapers get pretty chewed up anyways, as is normally the case with world's assaulted by intergalactic genocide. Also, I'm pretty sure there's a level of bombing short of "Planetary Destruction" or "Ecological Collapse". Also, I'm pretty sure we don't have bombs capable of destroying a Reaper. Also, nothing you said or have ever said, made any sense. Also, I'm pretty sure I hate all of you and I just wanted to talk to Wrex. WHY AM I ALWAYS PUNISHED FOR TALKING TO WREX?!

4. The Galaxy at War system

"We are a force greater than any you could imagine. We have destroyed countless civilizations from the dawn of time. Your struggle is in vain, Shepard, for we... wait, you have over 4,000 Military Points! OH SNAP! *explosions*"
When I talked about the things I liked about Mass Effect 3, I mentioned how much I loved Search & Rescue. It was great to finally see a tangible contribution for all your hard work over the course of three games. The problem is the Galaxy at War system ruins it and makes all your hard work irrelevant if you're willing to play multiplayer or buy iOS games.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Curse you, Summer Cold!

So I'm about 1,800 words into The Bottom Five of Mass Effect 3. The trouble is I've been dealing with a real nasty cold the past few days and it's interfering with my ability to be snarky. Hopefully, I'll be able to muster at least a 7 on the snarkometer tomorrow morning. If not, then God help us all.

Friday, May 4, 2012

May the Fourth Be With You

Brian King and I successfully watched all three Star Wars movies today. And yes there are only three. Those stupid movies that came out last decade were just high budget rip-offs that are not in-canon. I finally watched my BluRay High-Definition But Irrevocably Scarred by George Lucas's Undying Affection for CGI Edition. The HDBISbGLUAfCGIE was great. The CGI was pretty terrible one Tatooine, which meant it suffered a lot in the early part of a New Hope and Return of the Jedi. I don't get why Lucas feels the urge to always clutter the scenes. The good news is Empire Strikes Back is virtually untouched and they do a better job with "Han Shot First". Greedo still fires, but I felt like he was dead by the time his shot went off, which explains why it went wide right. Anyways, during Empire, Brian and I developed a drinking game. For optimal results, I would advise using a large pizza and have at least 4 beers at your disposal. Without further ado, the Star Wars Drinking Game:

  1. Take a drink every time Han cracks a one liner. 
  2. Take a drink every time Luke is annoying.
  3. Take a drink every time 3PO calculates odds.
  4. Take a drink every time Lando's line could be ended with "Awww yeah". 
  5. Take a drink whenever Leia is bossy.
  6. Take a drink whenever Leia looks longingly at Han.
  7. Take a drink every time Vader kills someone. 
  8. Take a drink every time there is an iconic line.
  9. Take a drink every time R2 uses his USB thingie. 
  10. Take a drink every time an AT-AT is destroyed.

Patent Pending

So tonight, a discussion with some of my Econ friends led me to the decision to invent a new type of restaurant genre: Dude Food. Dude Food is primarily burgers, wings, and pizza. I may yet open a restaurant called Dude Food which specializes in those three things. There could even be a lucrative sponsorship deal: The English Muffin Power Hour, brought to you by Dude Food.

In other news, I am now the #7 suggestion when you type in "English Muffin" on Google. This is awesome!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

What Happened to April?

How is it already April 28th? My silence this month is directly a result of Crusader Kings 2, a game I now simultaneously love and hate. I love it because it is literally the closest thing to Game of Thrones the game as you can get, mixed in with a healthy dose of medieval history, but I hate it because it has swallowed all my spare time. Tonight, I've got lined up with other stuff to do, but I'm going to begin writing my concluding thoughts on Mass Effect 3 and some other stuff.

Oh, also, I guess Master's courses are to blame, but that is for quitters! The real villain is the King Gerard the Bold, ruler of twelve kingdoms. If he would just hurry up and let Gerard II, Duke of Damietta succeed him, I could get back to work. Also, in the interim, blogger has changed their interface. I am afraid now!

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Top Five Things in Mass Effect 3

First, let me begin with a sincere apology to all the fine honeys who read this blog and don't play Mass Effect. You ladies have really missed out. I'll tell you what, I'll make it up to you by talking about the Hunger Games next and how that girl you hated in high school is exactly like Clove. But for now, we're going to talk more about interstellar politics, spaceships, aliens, guns, and explosions. Hurray!

Like I alluded to yesterday, the best way for me to handle Mass Effect 3 is to break it up into composite parts. I know it can be hard to tell, but I really like this game. If you're the type of person who puts stock into numbers, I'd give it 4.75 English Muffins out of 5. Someone burned a bit of the last muffin, but you can scrape off the black stuff and still enjoy its nooks and crannies. I feel the real measure of a game is talking about the things you liked and the things you didn't like. It gives a clearer picture of what people would like about the game than just a raw score and rambling.

5. Squadmate Closure OR They Should Call It Terminus Graffiti

Going into Mass Effect 3, I thought it would be easy to release a revised "Top Whatever Squadmates". The wheat would be separated from the chaff and it would confirm my every complaint about the poorly written characters. But I wasn't permitted to be that lazy. With the exception of Jacob Taylor (more on that later), every other squadmate had significant and meaningful closure to their story. More than that, it also improved my opinion of every non-Jacob character. Best of all, their involvement in the story never felt cliche or forced, but rather an organic growth from the story.
Jack became an effective & caring teacher for biotic teenagers, rather than a selfish nihilist. As a non-Jacob, she saw growth as a character. Is this what you'd call a "character arc"? It feels good!

No one did anything that felt out of character or that looked like three separate kinds of impossible. Not everyone survived, but not everyone died either. It honestly kept you guessing. The ones who did die died in an awesome way, which is how characters we care about should die. No one wants to see Darth Vader die from a complication in his breathing machine. They want to see him die from a complication in his breathing machine, caused by Force Lightning after he threw the Emperor off the Death Star!

The real genius of this set-up is the squadmates' stories are interwoven into side quests and other areas of otherwise non-essential importance. Each person is in a believable scenario, and it's just as believable that Shepard would run into them there. The side quest would still make sense if the former teammate wasn't there, but the end result wouldn't be as good. It rewards your hard work for keeping people alive (except Jacob). Honestly, I could do a whole separate update on just how great each and every one of these moments was (and I just might). For now, it's enough to say that these quests which were pretty boring in prior Mass Effect games provided an absolute roller coaster of emotions. I'm going to close this entry out with the best moment from the Former Squadmate Quests: The Conclusion to Grunt's Investigation of the Rachni.

4.The Search & Rescue system

In a vacuum, the Search & Rescue system is merely adequate.  But this review is not in a vacuum, it's in the context of all other Mass Effect games (even the terrible iOS game). The absolute worst non-Kaidan, non-Jacob part of every Mass Effect game has been gathering resources. In Mass Effect, it revolved around methodically clicking on every planet and/or asteroid and hoping the game asked you to press A a second time. If you were real fortunate, you'd have to go down to the surface on the Mako and navigate the seemingly randomly generated terrain to get to spare resources. God help you if it's not immediately clear if you should go up the side of the hill in your ATV.

I'm 73% sure I can go the rest of the way up!
 In Mass Effect 2, they decided the solution would be to force you to meticulously scan every square inch of every planet from space, hunting for four different kinds of resource in the hundreds of thousands of... um... whatever the standard unit for video games is. I don't have to say anything about this, the sheer slowness of the scanning and silliness of the concept has been a running joke on the internet for two years now.

In Mass Effect 3, instead of hunting for resources, Shepard now uses the Normandy's stealth engines to perform interstellar search and rescue for vital war assets (think way ward capital ships, stranded spec ops teams, etc.) in Reaper-space. This is balanced against the fact that scanning for resources draws the attention of the Reapers, who will destroy you if they catch you. This gives the entire affair a feeling of tension prior resource gathering mini-games lack. This does have the unintended consequence of making you outrun the Reapers often, which undermines them as a threat. But even though it's not perfect, the fact that resource gathering is no longer the worst part of Mass Effect is a minor miracle.

Friday, March 30, 2012

March Disappointments: Specifically, Mass Effect Disappointments

First and foremost, I'd like to issue an apology to the blogging community. The Mass Effect 3 ending was so devastatingly bad that I sorta shut down and tried to forget it ever happened. As a result, I only have a measly three entries for the month of March. I intend to double that over the course of the next two days. I blame seeing actual friends and grad school for this decline in posting. In fairness, I did just grapple with an Excel spreadsheet which had approximately 5.2 million cells of data and had to answer approximately 300 questions about that.

Also, I finished the Hunger Games trilogy and introduced my parents to the amazingness of Game of Thrones, both of which I really want to go into in more detail. Basically, what I'm trying to say is I've generated enough ideas for the English Muffin Power Hour to last until June, excluding any new developments.

However, March 2011 has been my most popular month ever and I feel like I've betrayed my new readers. My older readers know to expect long droughts of content, but I don't believe this should be acceptable. Going forward, I will continue to blog regularly. After all, a 17 day hiatus is downright tame compared to what I normally subject you to.

I've been discussing with myself the best way to discuss just every way the last 15 minutes of Mass Effect 3 has been a terrible disappointment. I was tempted to discuss my beliefs about the ending (I completely subscribe to the Indoctrination Theory, by the way), but honestly, this video said everything I wanted to point out and then some. Obviously, if you're name is Pimpmaster Doug or if you're one of the dozen or so other Mass Effect fans who haven't finished ME3 because of their infant sons or attendance in Medical School, don't watch this video.

I would like to add that the Catalyst also frames your choices in the way that would make destroying the Reapers seem least appealing, which would make sense if the Catalyst was just a Reaper illusion. If you do the right thing and destroy the galactic menace which is older than time itself, you'll also destroy your friendsL the recently sentient Geth (who are now totally cool with the Quarians) and EDI (who is on your squad now). It's a classic manipulation technique known as "framing the question". Your choices aren't presented as "Try the crazy man's idea, fuse with the enemy, or destroy them outright". It's "Show how strong willed you are by controlling the Reapers, forge a new path in history by synthesizing organic and synthetic life, or be a total jerkwad and destroy all synthetic life." The person posing the question really doesn't want you to pick the last option. Because that's the only way the Reapers all die.

But I'm going off on a rant. I feel the best way to proceed about Mass Effect 3 is to discuss the things it did really well and the things it really screwed up (obviously, the ending, but there are other things). So tonight, I will return with the Top Five Things about Mass Effect 3.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mass Effect Madness Abates

So I've greatly enjoyed my week long sojourn into the world of Mass Effect 3. Most importantly, I managed to keep up some semblance of a social life and really enjoy Spring Break. My greatest triumph was getting my parents hopelessly addicted to Game of Thrones, because it is awesome. But I'll talk about that more in detail next time.

In a nutshell, I loved every minute of Mass Effect 3, except the last 15. Everyone who has completed Mass Effect 3 knows exactly why this is and it's not because that means there's no more Mass Effect. All in all, I'd give it a 9.7/10. The weapons, armor and resource gathering (the actual game) is by far the best in the series. It fixed things I didn't even know was wrong with the series. I didn't think I would ever prefer carrying less guns to a fight, but Mass Effect 3 made it happen. By rewarding the player with faster power recharge time for carrying less guns (and much, much stronger powers), it encourages you to find the balance that works best for you. I'm quite attached to my M-11 Wraith Shotgun with high caliber barrel and targeting VI to optimize the spread of the buckshot, with optional tungsten bayonet. Her name is Claudia and she is the greatest shotgun man has ever made.

Claudia, before getting dressed up for the night
Also, it's provided me with a lot of material to write about and you can be sure that March will be just as busy as February was.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Top Five Minor Characters in Mass Effect

So I'm less than 180 minutes away from the release of Mass Effect 3! It's been an incredible fortnight, but I didn't cover nearly as much as I wanted to. But before I am utterly consumed by the fight against the Reapers (Harbinger can suck it!), I'd like to talk about the little people. After all, the minor characters are often our favorite (isn't that right, Boba Fett?). And these aren't just minor characters, these are the minorest of minor characters! To qualify for this list, the character can't be a major fight, appear in more than one mission, or have any real consequence whatsoever.

You take the three on the right. I'll take the innumerable armada in the background. LET'S DO THIS!
5. Mr. Thax (Mass Effect 2)

We don't every meet Mr. Thax, so that's why he's fifth on the list. However, we do know that he's a krogan and has his employees (also Krogan) speaking in a very dignified fashion. The fact that I was the first person in internet history to write "Lord Wrexington of Urdnotshire" should indicate that I hold proper Krogan near and dear to my heart.

4. Richard L. Jenkins

The L stands for Luther. What else would it be?
 Sure, Richard L. Jenkins may have had five lines of dialogue before being unceremoniously gunned down by Geth Drones five minutes into Mass Effect. But in those five minutes, he managed to look damn good in a beret. Not many men can say that. And he wasn't around nearly enough to be annoying. So that makes him a better teammate than Kaidan and Jack already. Jenkins, you may be completely useless in a firefight and not understand the most basic concepts of infantry tactics, but you never once wiped your brow to try and impress me. I salute you.

3. Li the Turian Mechanic

"Hey did you catch the game last night? No, too busy saving the galaxy? Bummer. It was great."
 Li, who has a much more complicated and hard to pronounce Turian name (and he goes by Li in the game, so it's not racism), is a mechanic on the frozen planet of Noveria (because you gotta have an ice world). What stands out about Li is that he is, remarkably, the closest thing to a normal person in either game. He knows about current events, but is mostly just interested in keeping his comfortable mechanic job.  Sure, he can talk about the crazy things that must be going on in Peak 15 or the scandals surrounding Administrator Anoleis, but he'd rather talk about cars. Plus, he's one of the few people who is unconditionally nice to Shepard. In a galaxy of extremes, Li is a bastion of mediocrity and he revels in it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Reaping Day & Reaper Day

Ranking all 16 Squad Members from Mass Effect really took a lot out of me(the whole shooting match was 9,000 words long and covered 25 pages in MS Word!), but it's rapidly becoming one of the most popular pages on the EMPH. So after a brief recess (read: desperately finishing Mass Effect 2), I've picked up the blogging torch and have decided to keep the Mass Effect fortnight rolling... by taking things casual and talking a bit about what I've been up to this week.

What I've Been Reading (well, technically Listening To if you want to be pedantic)

There's Hunger! There are Games! It lives up to what the title promises.
 As a grad student/tutor, I have a spend a lot of time each week commuting to class, with about a 15 minute ride to the parking lot and a 15 minute hike from the parking lot to the actual classroom. And since I'm a grad student in Economics, that means I find all of today's music strange and terrifying.  I decided to switch things up by trying audiobooks courtesy of Linebaugh's eBook system (which has a small library, a long wait list, and a frustrating interface) and Amazon's (which has a free 30 day trial and two free audiobooks, and if you try to quit it, they'll offer your three months at $8 a month). Astute readers may figure out that I already listened to the abridged version of World War Z back in January. Last week, I got another credit and decided to see what all the fuss about the Hunger Games is about.

Now, I have a lot I want to talk about today and don't want to end up with another 4,000 word update, so I'll save a more detailed review for later. In short, I really liked The Hunger Games. I thought the main character was interesting, I thought the names were brilliant (so brilliant that it will require an entire separate article to discuss), and that the pacing was very strong. Furthermore, I understand precisely how the author is manipulating me with each new development, but it's done well and it never distracts you from what's going on. I still had an emotional reaction (read: I actually felt the emotion she was going for) when the sweet innocent character might as well have been wearing a t-shirt that says "I will die a slow and painful death". Also, I found out that there's a federal law which stipulates that any book with a female protagonist must have two and precisely two love interests for her to pick between. But those are just nitpicks. I honestly liked The Hunger Games better than Harry Potter, because Suzanne Collins doesn't make up the ending as she goes along ("Magic cannot be used to bring back the dead, Harry. Except Buckbeak. We'll totally use the Time Twister to save Buckbeak." ~Albus Dumbledore)

What I'm Watching

Contrary to The Hunger Games, we're 7 seasons into this and we've yet to meet your mother. Still good.
 If you aren't watching How I Met Your Mother, you must either be in a place without enough electricity to power a television or a grad student who has work and class every week night. If you're the latter, watch the episodes online! If you're the latter, how are you reading this anyways?! HIMYM is tied with 30 Rock for my favorite comedy on TV right now. But unlike most comedy shows, HIMYM never designates one character to be the butt of every joke (like J.D. in Scrubs). There's not one character who's always right (like Elliot in the later seasons of Scrubs) and there's not one character who always ends up on top (like the Janitor in Scrubs). Basically, I'm saying this show is much better than Scrubs. The characters are outlandish enough to be entertaining but grounded enough that you can still relate to them. The most exaggerated character, Neil Patrick Harris's Barney Stinson, has significant abandonment issues and is struggling to be a better person in recent seasons (which also make for some of the most powerful episodes). But most of the time he is trying to sleep with as many women as possible and concocting elaborate schemes to do so. That said, Barney is totally going after a woman who is all wrong for him. DON'T DO IT BARNEY! I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME THROUGH THE BLOGOSPHERE! ROBIN IS THE WOMAN FOR YOU!!!!

Man, that's probably the closest I'll ever experience being on Team "Love Interest's Name".

What I'm Playing

Yeah, bet you never would have guessed that.
So I could talk about Mass Effect 2, but I'm worried we'll have Mass Effect overdose. I've already had one dream this week where I was navigating a starship away from the Reaper Invasion. In a nutshell, I got my final "canon" import ready for Mass Effect 3. I've completed all the quests, saved all the people I wanted to save, blown up all the robot space stations I wanted to blow up, gathered all the guns I want to shoot, and introduced this strange emotion we call "love" to all the attractive alien women I wanted to (Captain Kirk style, awwwwww yeah). Bring it on, Mass Effect 3!