Archive for the ‘Daily Posts’ Category

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Circulatory Systems!

August 27, 2009

So, Circulatory Systems, part of the Elephant 6 Collective of musicians, has released a new album and it’s great.  It’s like if Goldfrapp’s beats snuck off for a quickie with Muse and My Bloody Valentine. Members of Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control played on this album as well.

If you want to listen to the full album, it’s streaming on NPR for a couple more days.

-amanda seamus

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Adventure Games: So You Want to Be a Hero?

August 27, 2009

I was a kid in the 90s which in my family meant M*A*S*H* reruns, Night Court, Nickelodeon and Sierra adventure games.  I remember sitting on my Dad’s lap while he played old DOS games like Eye of the Beholder and Hexen and being alternately frightened and fascinated by these games about dungeons and adventures.  My Dad grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons and listening to Pink Floyd so he thought nothing of exposing me to video games at the age of 4, but  my mom would decry the violence in the games my Dad played, worrying that I would be scarred or turn out to be a sociopath (which I didn’t, but I’m still terrified of the green dragons that shoot fire in Hexen by id Software)

Those Green Dragons were dicks.

The point of all this is, I grew up loving old school adventure games, and my favorite was and is Quest for Glory: So You Want to Be a Hero.

The Quest for Glory games were made by Sierra Entertainment, and Quest for Glory 1 was a VGA remake of Hero’s Quest (they had to rename it be cause of copywrite issues).  The thing about games in this series and Sierra games of that time is that they all had a clear, crisp, colorful aesthetic with off-color jokes and easy-to-learn gameplay, though some puzzles were quite challenging and obtuse.  You can choose to play as a fighter, mage or thief and depending on your class, you have access to different aspects of the game.  The story is misleading in its simplicity, and while I will not give anything away, it’s fun and tricky like any good fairy tale.  Also, the music is beautiful, they do some great things with MIDI in this game.

Gameplay wise, it’s a point and click interface, with a series of buttons above that you click on to change your cursor so you can interact with the world in different ways, which can lead to hilarious results when you say, click on yourself with the lockpick from your inventory.  The thing about these games is when you die, they make fun of you.  That doesn’t happen anymore, there are no more mocking text boxes saying things like:

“Unfortunately you push it in too far, causing a cerebral hemmorhage.  Guess you should have been practicing on less difficult locks” -When you click the lockpick on yourself.

Adventurer with an Antwerp

And people wonder why I tend to have lots of save files… you never know what could happen… you could die from doing something really stupid because the Sierra folks thought it would be funny, and they were right!

If you are interested in checking it out, it’s hosted for free on Abandonia (make sure you get the VGA remake version).  Download DOSBBox, which is compatible with both PCs and Macs and allows one to play all of the old Dos games, being essentially an IBM PC.

Oh Silliness

Sierra made lots of great adventure games like the Kings Quest (Roberta Williams’s magnum opus), Police Quest, and Space Quest series (full of Hitchhiker’s guide jokes).  For what it’s worth, Ms Dos and the game it housed, from Jill of the Jungle to Xargon, was and is my NES.   I view games like Jazz Jackrabbit in the same way that other kids look at old nintendo games.

This might seem to come out of left field, all this talk of old PC games, but I enjoy going questing, and a game that lets me name my adventuring gent Balsak the Brave is A-Ok by me.

Battling in QFG 1

Battling in QFG 1

-amanda seamus

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The Best Indie Pop Album I have Heard this Year:

August 6, 2009

…is The Ruminant Band by the band Fruit Bats.  I know that Noble Beast by Andrew Bird is a great album and that other albums have come out this year that are equally worthy of note, but I would be a liar if I said I had enjoyed listening to any of them as much as I love The Ruminant Band. This album is consistently great from beginning to end which these days I find rarely in pop albums.  It’s like CSNY and Robert Plant in Tangerine had sex and then produced a baby, but it was sickly (oh drugs!) so they left it on a mountain where it was found and raised by the Shins.   Listen to the album streaming on spinner.com here.

Or, if you’re lazy and need a taste:

Note: Eric Johnson has been recording under the name Fruit Bats for a number of years and he is a member of the Shins 🙂  This album is what Wincing the Night Away could have been but better.

-Amanda Seamus

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I ACCEPT Your Contract!

June 10, 2009

This has been an epic month and a half in nerdery.  Let me see if I can cover the main points.  I am on the last case of Apollo Justice and I’m still on the Floating Continent in FF6…mostly because it fills me with unbridled rage and I don’t have enough health potions to move on and I don’t want to have to do it all again by going on the airship and then coming back later.  It’s a bit of a quandary.  Other than that, work stuff has kept me busy lately, Conor and I are PAing for a certain reality TV show that involves singing other people’s songs.  In addition, Buffy is finally no longer on hiatus, I just read the most recent Tales of the Vampires one-off written by Becky Cloonan, Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba, and Vasilis Lolos and a 5 issue arc by Jane Espenson is supposed to be coming out soon I believe.

In addition, our merry band of miscreants has been watching an anime series called “Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion“.  It’s 50ish episodes total divided into 2 seasons and COMPLETELY worth your time.  I just finished it last night and I feel great about how it ended.  The characters are interesting and consistent, the artwork is decent and though CLAMP did the original character designs they aren’t horrible, and finally and most importantly the writing is really intriguing and subtle.  At times it can be extremely over the top, but I found that my feelings regarding many of the main characters vacillated between extreme hatred and overwhelming sympathy.

I recently started playing through Mass Effect, and it’s still too early for me to make a statement on how I feel about the game, but I must admit that the character models are GREAT and I enjoy the conversation tree system a lot.  The gameplay is taking a lot of getting used to, I’m not very apt at squad based combat but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.  I tend to be a lone, stealthy person and right now Shepherd is bumbling about.

That’s enough rambling, expect something more coherent soon.  Also, I would be remiss not to recommend Endless Frontier: Super Robot Taisen OG Saga for the DS.  Conor, Terry, and the rest of our merry band have been playing the hell out of it.  Personally, I want to pick up Broken Sword but right now I’m reading a book by Herman Hesse named Narziss and Goldmund and before that I reread Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

Amanda Seamus

Lelouch promo pic

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Season One of Dollhouse: Did I Fall Asleep?

June 1, 2009

Season One of Dollhouse: Did I Fall Asleep?

-Jess d’Arbonne


EDITOR’S WARNING:  There be SPOILERS in these here WATERS!

It’s no Buffy or Firefly, and it definitely isn’t Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Joss Whedon’s new show Dollhouse is something entirely different. Like, really different, right down to the legions of different characters actress Eliza Dushku plays from week to week. It’s also a different kind of show: a sci-fi series masquerading as a primetime thriller.

Despite a dubious start while the show’s creators found their bearings, I found Dollhouse intoxicating from the start. It quickly picked up speed, racing ahead through the plot twists at speeds other shows never even consider for fear of crashing. I soon found myself stationed religiously in front of the tube on Friday nights, more concentrated than a can of orange juice, just waiting for the next secret to be revealed.

Now that it has officially been renewed for a second season (and with good reason), it’s time to wrap our brains around the first season of this unique new show… if we can.

At its core, Dollhouse is about identity. What makes a person who they are? How easy is it to erase that identity and replace it with another? The Dollhouse in the title is a very underground, very illegal organization offering a bizarre, titillating, and morally ambiguous service. The Dolls—or Actives, as they are called—are blank slates, people whose memories have been wiped, allowing them to be imprinted with any personality, any identity the client desires. The Dolls can be anyone and do anything during their limited Engagements with their filthy rich clientele. Want the perfect date to impress your friends at that class reunion? Need a blind person to spy on the religious cult living in your backyard? Looking for a chef to make you the perfect three-cheese omelet you’ve been hankering for all week? The Dollhouse has you covered. Dushku (Angel, Tru Calling) stars as Echo, a Doll whose habit of going off-mission and thinking outside the box gets her into trouble as often as it advances the juicy—sometimes creepy—plot.

Since the principle Dolls Echo, Victor (Enver Gjokaj), and Sierra (Dichen Lachman) have drastically different identities from week to week, each episode is bound to surprise. In a 12-episode season, the show has more shocking twists than a water slide. Assume nothing, and especially don’t think you know who anyone really is.

The routine of Doll mind-wiping is creepy and enthralling. At the end of each Engagement, the Doll very calmly goes back to their handler, “ready for their treatment.” Not a word is spoken about how their current personality is about to come to an abrupt end. After they’re wiped they say with ritual seriousness, “Did I fall asleep?” The Dolls exist in a childlike state between Engagements, perfectly innocent and clueless. Creepy? Exceedingly so. Want to see more? Yes please.

We enter the Dollhouse this season a short time after a mysterious accident, in which a “composite incident” caused a Doll to go rogue, wreaking general mayhem and murder in the Dollhouse before escaping. Alpha remains the mysterious antagonist for the entire season, popping up once every few episodes like a bad rash to muck things up for the Dollhouse according to his own nefarious plans. Defending the Dollhouse against this menace are Adelle Dewitt (Olivia Williams), a cross between the commander-in-chief and the madam, Topher Brink (Fran Kranz) the quirky genius behind the Dollhouse’s technology, and Echo’s handler, protector, and all-around father figure Boyd Langdon (Harry Lennix).

The Dollhouse is faced with another threat in the form of Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett of Battlestar Galactica), a determined FBI agent hot on their trail. Obsessed with finding Caroline, the girl Echo used to be, Ballard believes the Dollhouse to be no better than a slave trade, dealing in murder of the mind, if not the body. Yes, he’s a bit dramatic, but you’ve got to admire the guy’s pluck and tenacity. Our first earth-shattering plot twist comes when it is revealed that both Ballard’s mob contact and his girlfriend Mellie (Miracle Laurie) are Dolls, placed in his life to lead him on a wild goose chase and keep tabs on him.

But the Dollhouse has bigger worries than FBI agents and rogue Dolls. From within the plush confines of the Dollhouse, a threat is growing. Some of the Dolls are becoming self-aware in their childlike state, forming friendships and crushes. Despite Topher’s best efforts at wiping their minds, Victor falls in love with Sierra, and Echo shows an amazing ability to adapt, learn, and remember. While initially seen as a problem, Echo’s growing self-awareness helps to protect the Dollhouse when it is revealed that there is a spy in their midst. Echo not only requests to be imprinted, but snoops out the spy (head of security Laurence Dominic, played by Reed Diamond) and takes him down herself. “I’m not broken,” she declares while pummeling said spy, and we are left to wonder: Is that the imprint talking, or Echo herself?

Things come to a head when Ballard finds the Dollhouse and breaks in, unwittingly helping Alpha in his dastardly plans. And who plays the enemy rogue Doll? None other than Whedon veteran Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Arrested Development), pretending to be the paranoid designer of the Dollhouse before revealing his true identity as the scalpel-wielding evil mastermind. The two-part season finale becomes a race to save a life—Caroline’s life, Echo’s old life, the person she used to be and the soul she can never be separated from… it’s all very existential. Old enemies become allies, secrets are revealed, and the delicate existence of the Dollhouse is thrown into peril! Intrigue and excitement abound!

At the end of the day, Echo saves everyone with a little help from the unlikely team of Boyd and Ballard, and we get season two, so everybody wins.

Visually, Dollhouse is jaw-droppingly beautiful. No expense was spared in constructing the set of the luxurious, feng-shui Dollhouse, and it shows. But besides the décor, the actors provide a delectable menu of eye candy. Seriously, there are an unusual number of uniquely beautiful people in this phenomenal cast. It’s almost unnatural. Whedon’s strength lies in his ensemble casts (just watch Buffy and Serenity), and despite the range of characters each actor plays, together they form a dynamic, fascinating troupe. The Dolls show extraordinary range, playing characters with not only different personalities and life stories, but vastly different nationalities, abilities, and ages. Dushku makes a surprisingly good 50-year-old society woman, and Gjokaj is breathtaking when imprinted with Dominic’s personality: an actor playing a character playing another actor playing a character. How’s that for complex?

Even the non-Doll characters give multi-layered performances. But it’s the relationships between these characters that truly drew me into the show. There’s the father-daughter relationship of trust, pride, and protection between Echo and her handler Boyd, touching for its sincerity and heart-breaking when they are separated. The budding romance of Ballard and Mellie is adorable in the crush stage, and deeply disturbing when he realizes she’s a Doll sent to spy on him. And in a truly gratifying twist, ice queen DeWitt only shows her true vulnerability to Victor’s Roger imprint, whom she engages for a secret rendezvous on her day off.

Getting renewed for a second season was never a sure thing. From day one, there was talk of Dollhouse getting cancelled. For fans of Whedon, the feeling of dread and anticipated disappointment was all too familiar, after his cult series Firefly was cancelled with only 11 of the 14 episodes aired. News of a season two in the works means fans of Dollhouse can breathe a sigh of relief, but we’re not out of the woods yet. Season one moved unusually fast for a plot of only 12 aired episodes. This might have been a sign of the show’s creators preparing for the possibility of cancellation, trying to bring closure to the show after a single season. Since so much was revealed in the first 12 episodes, we have to wonder: What’s left to tell in the Dollhouse’s story?

News of season two is still relatively recent, so there’s a lot of speculation as to what we have to look forward to. Season one left us with a few unanswered questions: Who inside the Dollhouse has been feeding Ballard information? What will happen to Victor as a Doll now that his face is scarred? Will Doctor Saunders stay with the Dollhouse now that her past has been revealed? Have we seen the last of Alpha?

Season one of Dollhouse feels like a roller coaster ride. It starts of slow and unsure of itself, then quickly picks up speed and hurtles its viewers through hairpin turns. By the end you feel breathless and a little frazzled, trying to understand what just happened in front of your eyes. The opening credits is dreamlike and creepy for its watery images and the theme song that sounds more like a lullaby. Though the repeated shots of Echo make it seem like the All Dushku All the Time Show, anyone who sticks with it past the opening will realize that Dollhouse is not just about one woman and her strange quest for identity, but about the cast as a whole, flaws and complex relationships included.

If you’re looking for a healthy dose of ass-kicking and sexual tension, Dollhouse has your prescription. If you like complex interpersonal struggles, thrilling heroics and savory intrigue, come to the Dollhouse. If you’re looking for the guy or gal of your dreams, give the Dollhouse a call. If you want to know how what happens next…wait for season two.

WORDS: 1,615

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Hiatus, Shmiatus

May 16, 2009

Shmiatus kind of looks like a real word… Anyway, so we fell off the face of the Earth because life stuff happened, college graduation, etc.  However, expect updates of the things we’ve been playing/doing geek-wise real soon.

Terry has a review of Code Geas: Lalouche of the Rebellion that’s definitely worth reading in the meantime: CHECK IT.  Anyway, thanks for listening CHIL-DREN, this is THREE DOG, WOOOOO!

…and you’re reading Not So Random Encounters.

Amanda

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Kevin Shields has Apparently Been Kidnapped…

April 10, 2009

Ok not really, but I’ve been listening to the “Second Stage” on NPR, and I can’t help being struck by the thought that Shoe Gazer music is back, at least stylistically a bit. Listening to all of these new bands like The Pros, Papercuts, Loxsly, and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, it’s like they have taken the lovely fuzzy guitar tracks from “Loveless” by My Bloody Valentine and are recording Mates of State/generally twee-ish vocals over them… and it’s great! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining at all, I just am constantly amused by the cycles music goes through.

Seriously though, NPR Music’s Second Stage is worth listening to, they’re playing lots of unsigned bands that had to record an entire album in the month of Februrary and it’s really great because they didn’t have a million years to doubt themselves, they just recorded and were done because they had to be, and there’s a raw honesty to it that’s great.