Monday, May 16, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

GoT - Hold Your Khalasar!


Hatch already!

In anticipation of Alex's and Luke's visit this week, I will not be posting a response to the Game of Thrones episode Sunday, because I haven't seen it. I am saving it to watch with the aforementioned losers. Stay-tuned for a blockbuster double-episode post next Tuesday.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Road Trip

Hey everyone, I will still be MIA all week, as Luke and I are driving up to Santa Cruz to run around the forest some and then hop over to San Francisco to visit Zach and Mele.




I'll do some real posts next week I swear.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

GoT - The Song of Arya and Arya Series



Another note: I've been rather melodramatic in my responses to the goods and bads of the series thus far. So much so that Mele finds it outside of my character to develop such strong emotions for a series that thus far can best be summed up by the word Boring. The answer to this is simple: when Josh originally lent me A Game of Thrones in 1996, it quickly became my favorite fantasy series, and Josh and I counted down the days until the sequel, A Clash of Kings, came out in 1998. With each new book, I reread the previous books, and this continued for each ensuing sequel, to this day, as we all await A Dance of Dragons (and if you're keeping score at home, yes, I have read A Game of Thrones over five times). There's something about being there from the start, for sure, and while Martin was winning awards for the The Song of Ice and Fire series, it wasn't until 2011 that it reached a best seller list. But the main reason, at the time, was that I was reading these books that were told mostly from the points of view of children my age. As a fantasy nerd whose dream was to write fantasy novels, I emailed George R. R. Martin, and he responded to my questions, and this obviously meant a lot to me - enough that there is a piece of me invested in the show whether I am enjoying it or not.

The Good
  • The main subject of those emails was Jon Snow, because Jon Snow was a boy my age. The Jon Snow in the HBO series is a bit on the older side, but I find myself still being drawn to him. Last episode I expressed concerns that his presence wouldn't be able to buoy the scenes at The Wall, but so far, aside from way too much foreshadowing about spookiness, I found the scenes at The Wall to be rather enjoyable. However: where's Ghost?

  • Of course, the best moments of the last two episodes belong to Arya, and I don't see that changing. She just makes you smile, which is exactly when she did in the books, and it will be interesting to see how much of that adorableness she is able to maintain as her character progresses. That said, Syrio the Dance Master will always maintain his adorableness.

  • Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish is cast perfectly. Maybe that has to do with him already being a politician in my head from The Wire, but either way, both him and Varys (one of my favorite characters) are looking to be pretty awesome and accurate portrayals of key characters in King's Landing, and that's vital. (My only problem here is that Littlefinger seems to be getting more screen time that I would have guessed appropriate.)

  • I think Eddard/Sean Bean has improved in episode three. All he really needs to do is be worried about Robert, annoyed at politicians, and earnest about fatherhood, and he'll fill the bill. The scenes with Arya should go a long way to make him a tad more likable, which would be good for the show in general. (They could stand to go easier on the Petyr/Cat/Ned triangle.)

The Bad
  • This episode took a step back in quality, and I kind of know why. We arrive in King's Landing, and all of a sudden audiences are introduced to a whole bunch of new people (yay Renly!) and scenarios, and this has got to be disorienting for those of us who haven't read the book half a dozen times. Because of that, the first fifteen minutes of the episode is full of fake dialogue that would never actually be said. The characters are used as puppets for the writers to summarize things for the audience and I'm not really sure this is the way to go about it. And not all of the actors can make "Hey remember when we had a mad king" comments look as real and engaging as Mark Addy.

  • I have to pause a moment to shake my head at Joffrey. The development of his character isn't all that inaccurate, though he's showing signs of being a little more evil than seems realistic. But it all goes down the drain because Joffrey is supposed to be, on a superficial level, prince valiant. He's supposed to be this beyond-handsome teenager on his way to becoming a paragon of royalty. Doofusface is changing Joffrey's identity by simply looking like a Doofusface.

  • Meanwhile, back with the Dothraki... Dany is becoming a little easier to root for, but the whole setup is just so hard to grasp. So much of Dany's story in the books requires her inner monologue and interaction between herself, her brother and the knight. The show is pressed for time, so instead of showing Dany slowly gain confidence and win over her subjects, they decide, hey, let's have her stop the caravan all of a sudden and sum up months with just one scene. Effective, I guess. Are there better, more subtle ways to deal with this? I think so.

Episode 3: C-.. I am still very excited to see The Hand's Tourney, and to be introduced to all of those characters. I think it would be awesome if the show spent an entire episode on the Tourney in King's Landing and ignored Dany, Winterfell and Jon Snow until the following episode, to allow time to pass in those storylines.

Monday, May 2, 2011

FINALS WEEK

I am in finals this week!!!!!! Yayayayayay!


But seriously, this means that I won't be posting all week. I realize my posts have slowed down greatly recently, but that was mainly because most of my classes have papers due on the final and I was trying to get those out of the way. Anyways, thanks Zach, Marvin, and Josh for helping me fill me some downtime lately. I'll write a detailed report of how my first semester of grad school went next week. I'm out for now.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Top Ten EDH/Commander Cards From New Phyrexia

I wanted to take a break from my favorite cards series (even though its almost done) to talk a little bit about New Phyrexia, since this set is pretty amazing. I'm going to be writing about the set in the context of EDH since thats the format that most of the readers here who care about Magic play pretty exclusively at this point.

For those of you who don't know, New Phyrexia was spoiled in its entirely like a month in advance before its release because some pros got a copy of a pdf containing every card in the set in order to write about it for a paper magazine (I don't know why paper Magic magazines even exist considering they are usually outdated by the time they hit the press but I digress). Anyways, these very well known French Pros decided to share it with a couple of people in their test group, one of which happened to be this arrogant teenager who just made it onto the pro circuit. This guy ended up sharing it on an IRC chat room in order to gain some e-penis and now we all have the spoiler. All of the guys involved with the leak are now banned from playing in tournaments for a long time. Anyways, onto the list:


10. Life's Finale: Black has a bunch of relatively situational or expensive wrath effects that make its mass removal options a little bit dicey at times. This card gives black another good wrath, and since I doubt highly it will see any relevant tournament play, this card will be worth like a dollar, meaning its a cheap alternative to those of us who can't afford things like Damnation.


9. Sword of War and Peace: The swords have all been centerpieces to aggressive EDH decks, and this one is no different. Its abilities are only alright (although hitting with it while someone has over seven cards in their hand can be pretty devastating), however the protections it offers are extremely relevant, since both of those colors are heavy in spot removal.


8. Jor Kadeen: He is a pretty obvious 'build around me' general, and I like him better for aggressive red/white decks than some of that color combination's other options. Why couldn't this guy be a knight? My Knight deck can use a better general than Sidar Jibari.


7. Elesh Norn: Here is another sexy white general introduced in this set. She single handedly shuts down entire strategies (tokens) and generals (like Azusa and Azami) as soon as she hits the board. Even though she shuts down tokens and aggressive strategies pretty well, she actually has a decent home in those kinds of decks since they can benefit from her huge creature boosting ability.


6. Praetor's Grasp: This deck should go into most black decks, even if you are mono black. If your opponent isn't playing your colors, you can still grab a good land or artifact from them. Stealing people's Cabal Coffers, Sol Rings, and Swords out of their decks is good times.


5. Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur: This guy is just hilarious, and Wizards already stated that he was made with EDH in mind. You wouldn't necessarily use this guy as a general, as you would generate about the same amount of hate as using Iona would. Regardless, its still another gigantic blue spell that can end the game as soon as it lands, much like Time Stretch.


4. Chancellor of the Spires: All of the Chancellors are quite good in EDH, but blue gets the best one. Ignore his first ability, its garbage. Instead just realize that he is a memory plunder on a nice body. Memory Plunder is already one of the best cards in EDH, and putting the ability on a creature, even an expensive one, is going to be easy to abuse. If your opponent has something like Rite of Replication in his graveyard when you cast this, then congrats, you just got yourself infinite 5/7 fliers. Fun times.


3. Sexy Karn: His first and third abilities are more cute than anything, since restarting the game in EDH seems like a good way to get punched in the face. His main draw comes from his second ability, which allows every color to have access to a double Vindicate. This block gave Black and Red so many ways to get rid of enchantments its not even funny.


2. Caged Sun: This is a one sided Gauntlet of Power, and Gauntlet of Power is already an auto include in every mono colored EDH deck. Its safe to say that Caged Sun will also make its way into every mono colored (or mostly mono colored) EDH decks. Its power level should be obvious.


1. Beast Within: Green gets an instant speed Vindicate in this set ... ummm WTF. Now, green can nuke anything it wants! Whenever it wants! Its drawback is basically negligible in a multi-player format where everyone starts at 40 life. Throw these in every green deck ASAP.

Honorable Mentions: Phyrexian Ingester, Phyrexian Obliterator, Melira (for her interactions with Persist), Sheoldred, Moltensteel Dragon, Slag Fiend, and Brutalizer Exarch.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

FUCK-YOU-KEN!




Well, here it goes, my first post on this blog. I said I would eventually make a post about Street Fighter, and now seems like the perfect time to do it. Way too much Swords-and-Sorcery kind of fantasy going on around here, and not enough Feng-Shui kind of fantasy. You know what I’m talking about. HA-DOU-KEN!, that’s what. Before I get into the meat of the thing, I want to say that the main focus of this article will be on Street Fighter IV. Sorry, I ain’t acquainted with the parry system. Henceforth, every time Street Fighter is written in this article, replace it with Street Fighter IV (sorry, my legal writing has gotten a bit rusty since Shadowloo fired me from their unpaid intern position.)

Anyways, to put it simply, Street Fighter is a strategy game wherein two players control an avatar in a two-dimensional plane. Each selectable avatar has a set of multiple options for attack/defense that are unique to the avatar itself. These individual differences mean that each avatar must play with a different strategy against every other avatar. For example: A player who chooses “Ken” can win with fireballs, but using that strategy, cannot win against “Ryu”, whose fireballs are slightly faster. Sounds simple, but for me, it’s been a lifelong learning process. Here’s the concise timeline:

As a child, I always chose Ryu. Why? Because fuck Ken! Not only was my rival about six feet tall in the second grade, he knew how to do a dragon punch! My simple mind couldn’t comprehend the difference between DOWN-RIGHT-FIERCE and CHEAP!





Fast-forward to middle school. New places, new friends. Being raped by Ken taught me a few things. I laughed like Sagat every time I showed Zach his place.







Blur into college. WTF Zach, my new(old) rival (read:punching bag) somehow can beat me at 3rd strike? Must be the Asians.

Canfield haha I didn’t even know what a tech throw was.

And then I came here, the Land of the Dojos(aka smoke-filled arcades). One dollar at a time I attempted to beat these masters, only to realize I was nothing. Neither the length of my beard nor the height of the mountains from whence I came made any difference. I still lost to the subtly changed Hadouken-Hadouken-Shoryuken! strategy from before. Then I got mad. Psycho Science is the best science...





Continue? 10…9…
8…7…6

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

GoT - Starring Sean Bean as a Crybaby



I was rather harsh on the show last week, and I'd like to add a note on why I feel entitled to be so critical. I am neither an expert on film, on television nor on the fantasy genre, so when I throw down bolts of lightning from Mount Olympus, it's out of love. I read a zillion fantasy books as a kid, and GRRM's Song of Ice and Fire series was, for me, the first fantasy series that wasn't a Sword & Sorcery adventure like Conan, a Save-The-World epic like Lord of the Rings, or a combination of the two. I wouldn't say that Game of Thrones transcended its genre, but it came closer than anything I'd read before. It's for that reason, and some promising interviews/trailers for the series, that I believed HBO's Game of Thrones had the potential to appeal to non-Fantasy geeks. It had the potential to open up television to future shows in the genre that aren't written off as "stupid" in the first 8 minutes by mainstream audiences. To me, episode one of Game of Thrones would have scared off anyone who wasn't already a fan of the genre, and that was a big let down.

The Good

  • Episode two, however, was an improvement. Scenes actually lasted longer than 30 seconds. Characters had real conversations that were only partially exposition to the audience. There was even a drop in sweeping lord-of-the-rings exterior shots, which helped a great deal in lending credibility to dialogue (and cut down on bad CGI).

  • Cersei is coming into her own a little. Her presence still isn't believable as the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, but as a political player and controlling wife she's been pretty effective. The scene where she manipulates King Robert in front of his friend Eddard showed a glimpse of what she could be throughout the show (conniving bitch).

  • I have very quickly warmed up to Mark Addy as Robert. He's a caricature of the merry, irresponsible king, but somehow I actually see depth in him. I think Mark Addy just might be a talented dude who is somehow able to inject a wide spectrum of emotion and weight into a goofy figure.

  • The added scene of Jaime Lannister talking to Jon Snow was a great building block to Jaime's character as well. His devil-may-care, ironic point of view of the game of thrones and life in general is that nugget of redemption that is so very important to Jaime's story arc. I'm glad the show took that angle instead of just making the kingslayer seem cruel.

  • Catelyn Stark's casting is perfect. It's difficult to shower love on her simply because she was the figurative villain in the books, in my reading experience, but I have to admit that not only is she exactly how I pictured her, but her story is a lot more intriguing when you don't have to read 15 page chapters from her point of view. She also has established herself as the first character whom you really get to know in terms of what she wants, what she's afraid of, etc.


The Bad

  • I'm already worried about Jon Snow's scenes. The actor looked so much more promising in the first episode, and while I think he came off great in his (very important) scene with Arya, he was a dead fish in his scenes with the Lannister brothers, and the storyline at The Wall just won't be as colorful as King's Landing. If the actor doesn't have the presence to make life as a soldier interesting, then those scenes will be dry spells in the show.

  • Sean Bean as Eddard Stark, probably the most exciting piece of news to hit when HBO first picked up the show, has been one of the worst parts so far, in my opinion. While it's true that Ned Stark is a solemn man, Sean Bean has for some reason decided that pouting is going to be his character's one dimension. The worst of it is the scene where Sansa's dire wolf Lady is sentenced to death, which is a key piece of characterization for Ned. In the book he must retain his stoic demeanor in front of his children, which I believe is an important detail. Sean Bean instead QQ's all over the royal court.

  • Where is Hodor?

  • Theon Greyjoy is one of those important side characters that have really missed the mark for me. He is the weasely "step brother" of Robb Stark, a rather unattractive and timid person so far, which goes entirely against the dashing and cocky person (the love-to-hate-him persona) I always pictured when reading. If the show decides not to pursue Theon's subplot, then this is forgivable, but if the Iron Islands stay in the picture, his sister Asha better be awesome.

  • Alas, of course, I must complain about The Hound. As my favorite character, he really hasn't established himself as anything but a nondescript bodyguard of Joffrey. The worst part is that The Hound is probably the easiest character to develop ever, and yet they decided that the burns on his face weren't going to be that bad, which kind of makes him seem more of just an ugly dude than a monster. The latter impression is an important characteristic.

  • The Dothraki scenes are still just unbearable for me. I can't get past how stupid everything looks, how unrealistic everything seems. The scenes with Dany so far are making so little sense because Dany looks so much older than her character is supposed to be (and she looks so much older than the actress is trying to portray), which is just coming off as a disaster in my opinion. Those sex scenes are so stupid because they're lacking the effect of a 30+-year-old raping a preteen. That was kinda the point.

  • I forgot to mention last week how badly I wanted to vomit when I saw the opening sequence. You know, when a camera pans over a toy fantasy map with a cheesy fantasy font showing the credits. That plus the music has kept me faintly sick to my stomach throughout both episodes, and I hope the Westeros community lobbies to get both of those things changed by season two.


Episode 2: C. It was a step in the right direction and I am hopeful that episode 3 takes yet another step forward.

Monday, April 25, 2011

News Roundup

New Nintendo console should be out by the end of this year.

It will also have a weird controller ... with a touch screen built into it.

More Skyrim info. Hopefully the release of this game coincides when I have a break from school.

More Diablo 3 info.

For Mallory: LA Noire gameplay trailer.

Game of Thrones is already renewed for a second season.


Castro resigns from party leadership in Cuba.

If Walmart decided to pay all of its workers a living wage, it apparently wouldn't raise the prices at Walmart past a couple cents.

Apparently, business majors have it the easiest in college. Considering how hard some of my classes are, I'm assuming this doesn't apply to grad school.

Interesting article regarding unpaid internships.

Zahi Hawass, Egypt's head of antiquities, has been sentenced to a year in jail on corruption charges. I've always hated that guy.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Favorite Magic Cards of All Time: Enchantments

You know the drill by now:


Astral Slide: Every block there are always multiple enchantments that play into whatever that block's key mechanic is. Usually these enchantments are just awful, like Rumbling Aftershocks, but Astral Slide broke the mold. Astral Slide is amazing because it plays defense very well (Cycling is instant speed and uncounterable after all) and allows you to abuse coming into play effects. Also, you can save your creatures from your own mass removal. It should be pretty clear why I would like a card like this by now.


Land Tax: White so rarely gets cards that generate obscene amounts of card advantage, nor does it get  mana ramp very often. Land Tax does both of those things ... and for one mana. Some people might look at this card and think that that its mediocre since you can only get lands and you have to work to get it to activate consistently. However, people tend to underestimate how important thinning out the lands in your deck is. Since White doesn't have any card draw, in the late game you need to insure that you can draw gas, and Land Tax lets you do that. Also, it combos with Scroll Rack.


Limited Resources: Imagine playing this card turn one in a 6 player game. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL. This card is banned in EDH :(


Mind Over Matter: This is probably one of the most degenerate combo enabling enchantments of all time. Seriously, the possibilities with this card are endless. Here are a few examples: Combine Mind over Matter with a land that produces a lot of mana on its own (Tolarian Academy) and a way to draw cards (Stoke of Genius). Combine Mind Over Matter with Niv Mizzet to deal damage equal to the amount of cards in your library. Combine Mind Over Matter with Temple Bell and an Eldrazi Legend to deck all opponents. The list goes on.



Necropotence: While the card seems confusing, it basically reads: "Pay 1 Life: Draw a Card". I shouldn't have to tell you how good this is and I'm surprised that this is even legal in EDH (but Bargain is banned go figure).


Oath of Druids: Basically, when you play Oath of Druids, you play it in a deck that only has like 1-2 creatures in it. As soon as your opponent plays their first creature, you get to reveal cards from your library until you get one of your 2 giant creatures. Or you can Forbidden Orchard to forcibly give your opponent a creature to activate your Oath. Alternatively, you could just run zero creatures in your deck, and just use Oath to dump your entirely library into your graveyard for some shenanigans.


Opalescence: Probably one of the more hilarious enchantments of all time. Opalescence actually is a very nice finisher for enchantress decks, especially after casting Replenish. But seriously, how does this card make any sense flavor wise?


Rancor: Still the best aura of all time and the only one ever worth running. Not only does it have an excellent cost to power ratio, but it also gets around the main weakness of auras: If your opponent kills the creature enchanted with Rancor, you don't get 2 for 1'd.


Recurring Nightmare: Despite being a stellar creature reanimator, Recurring Nightmare has a tendency to open up infinite combos. Example: Jet Medallion, 2x Priest of Gix (one in play the other in the graveyard), and Recurring Nightmare. That combo was a Zach favorite.


Sneak Attack: Sneak Attack was one of my favorite cards for a long time. Just imagine sneaking in an Emrakul or Blightsteel Colossus.  Its also a lot of fun with Greater Good.


Story Circle: One of the problems with the original Circles of Protection, is that while they were really powerful, they were sometimes just dead cards. Story Circle circumvents that restriction, making it one of the best White defensive enchantments of all time. Seriously, play a Story Circle naming red against a red deck. There is literally nothing they can do.


Survival of the Fittest: A creature tutor and graveyard dump together in one neat hard to kill enchantment that can be activated multiple times. This card recently had to be banned from Legacy due to its ridiculous interactions with Vengevine. Even before that card was printed, Survival was a combo machine, especially when paired with Recurring Nightmare.

I just want to point out that a good chunk of these cards were from the Exodus expansion. Damn that set was so good. Anyways, my favorite of these is probably Mind Over Matter (although its a tough choice as Astral Slide and Sneak Attack are so good). Next up: Lands (this is the last card type to go over).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

GoT - Initial Reaction



The Bad
  • I was hoping that Game of Thrones would be filmed like any other drama, with dialogue- and acting-heavy scenes that resembled any other HBO show (aside from the armor and fur and swords). Instead, in the first episode of GoT, there were only a couple memorable conversations, and even those were shot in such a way that screamed LOOK AT ME I'M LIKE LORD OF RINGS! Probably the last thing I wanted. What's wrong with having a scene or two take place without some extravagant background?
  • Scenes are too short and rushed. They had A LOT to set up in the first episode, and even I got confused about who-was-who multiple times, and I have read the first book at least five times. I think it was probably twice as fast as it needed to be and each scene had been stripped of everything interesting for the sake of essential facts.
  • The book series is very realistic for its genre. The show looks the opposite. Between zombies that go for B-movie sensationalism and (bad)CGI-dominated shots of scenery and castles, I saw a lot more Xena, Warrior Princess than I saw Rome. The violence is cartoony, the Dothraki were probably on TV in the nineties, and the only HBO aesthetic that survived the tame Renaissance Faire filter was female nudity.
  • As a nerd-raging fan of the books, I have a big problem with Cersei's casting and Lena Headey's performance as the queen. She's not nearly glorious enough, charismatic enough or powerful enough in presence. I think it's the only casting so far that has really struck me as missing the mark. Sean Bean as Eddard isn't a great fit either, but at least he's Sean Bean.
  • I wish I could shut the music off. Way to not distance yourself from every other B-television-show about fantasy ever made.



The Good
  • Despite over-the-top characterization and a silly fake accent, Tyrion is already promising to be a good character. His dialogue is already the best dialogue in the show, and I don't expect that to change. Arya, Jon Snow and Viserys all look potentially great as well.
  • Plot-wise, it's great to see a TV show take a book series from my childhood and not stray from the storyline. It's actually kind of amazing. I'm hoping they don't try too hard and keep the feverish pace of the first episode in attempt to fit in every major piece of action, but I'm glad they are trying to stay true.
  • The costumes are solid for the most part, and the people are beautiful. Mele won't shut up about Jon Snow and Jaime Lannister. I'm not complaining about Dany. If it's going to continue in its current Soap Opera/Melodrama style, then it might as well supply the eye candy to go along with it.
  • It's the first episode. Nothing exciting from the book has actually happened yet, and pretty much everything in the story thus far serves only as a precursor for the real action of the book. It makes sense to me that the worst episode of the season would be the first episode. Hopefully, that is the case here.


Initial Reaction: D. Probably the worst Series Premiere I have ever seen on HBO. That's a tough standard to live up to, especially since the last one I saw was directed by Martin Scorsese, but it's still the truth. Here's hoping it gets better!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Lots of (Mostly Nintendo) Gaming News Last Week

As you guys should all know by now, Nintendo is planning to announce a new HD console during E3 this year. Here is some more information on it.


Cooking Mama announced for 3DS. How amazing is that going to be?

Starfox 64 3D and Zelda Ocarina of Time 3D get release dates.

Zelda Skyward Sword is supposed to be released this September. It will basically be the only Wii game to come out this year.

Here is some Street Fighter vs Tekken footage.

OMG, they are making a new Jurassic Park game. Here is like 13 minutes of footage.

A third party company is making a new handheld SNES.

All of Star Trek is coming to Netflix.

New study of the Big Bang shows that Time Travel is impossible. :(

How did dinosaurs have sex?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Walking Dead Review, because Zombies are the new Vampires



Rick Grimes, total hotness.


Zombies have definitely have had a reemergence of popularity in the last decade. It could be due to the creation of the “28 Days Later” super zombies, or the next logical step after vampires to be cashed in by the entertainment industry due to the Twilight craze. Whatever the reason, nearly half a century after George A. Romero's “Night of the Living Dead” comes the first zombie television show; “The Walking Dead.” While I'll admit I was supportive of the show to the point of being over-zealous, after the initial bias comes the first solid zombie drama.



Based on the 2003 long running comic of the same name. The show follows Rick Grimes as he searches for his family in a zombie ridden world. The pilot can be a little misleading, the show sets itself to be horror in the traditional zombie fare. However the show could be put in the same category of “Tru Blood.” A drama set in a distinct setting with heavy horror elements instilled into it. It works for the most part, though some of the drama falls flat on it's ass with forced moments of emotion. The show has some solid actors in it's lineup, but its obvious that this show was a bit of a risk with the network. The first season only has six episodes, with that comes the issue of some poor character development and not much in story progression either. While it still yet is to be seen if the show will be successful, it is getting a second season. So hopefully these issues will be resolved.


Considering the setting of the “Walking Dead,” the show would be an utter failure if the actors couldn't portray their characters as sympathetic citizens trying desperately to survive in world that as completely collapsed. Luckily, the main cast are all skilled enough for viewers to connect and like them for their quirks and flaws. Though Laurie Holden and Steven Yeun, who play Andrea and Glen respectively, prove to be the most enjoyable to watch. Holden specifically does an amazing job as Andrea who also is the only character who shows any growth throughout the season. And if anyone does not connect with her in her most touching scene does not have a soul. Walking Dead has a large supporting cast, and the show tries to flesh them out a little bit, but due to a small amount of episodes, most of them seem a bit flat and uninspired. Merle is a completely irrational and dangerous character is odd to believe that the group would take him anywhere. Though his brother Daryl is slightly more accommodating, considering how many times he's willing to threaten people's lives, its hard to see why others would ever put up with him. It seems that with little given time the producers choose to focus on it's main cast, while that was the smart decision, it still feels like a missed opportunity to create a “Lost” like character study.



Given the short amount of episodes in mind, the show never seemed to grasped me emotionally as it does in the first episode. The pilot does a fantastic job introducing a sympathetic character in a world transformed into a horrid wonderland. (Although Rick proves to be pious to the point of absurdity) The rest of the season moves at a molasses pace, and even the season finally is a bit of a letdown. The conflict of Rick Grimes searching for his family is quickly resolved, and the show makes a drastic story change involving the CDC. The final episode does a sufficient job of leaving the viewer intrigued in what happens next, although it ties absolutely no loose ends. Also the big last discovery isn't much of a discovery as any zombie enthusiast will probably collaboratively “meh”. However, the one exception is the episode called “Vatos.” What I thought first to be an episode full of long believed stereotypes and forced filler came to be the best in the season next to the pilot. It grabbed me from the touching fishing scene between Amy and Andrea, to the old Latin lady you might not understand but is hilarious nonetheless. It all builds up to a classic horror rule that will leave you breathless and understand what the Walking Dead is capable of doing. Most other moments fall ridiculous short of this. It is doubtful considering the subject matter that characters dying in the show would be surprising. Most of how it's handled feels boring and rushed. Oh this random character we only met the episode before is in trouble, neat. One particular situation in the season finale comes to mind. One character wishes to stay behind, it's supposed to feel tragic. Yet, considering the little amount or depth of the character in question the viewer will feel the monumental emotion of “meh.” Luckily, two other character's conversation prove to be a lot more substantial and important.



Most of the issues could be contributed to the small amount of episodes, so it's still unknown how the show will do in its second season. With a full amount of time to flesh out its characters, create a more interesting story, while keeping the shocking moments fresh and well timed. It's still a solid start for a what was a risky bet for everyone involved. It will be interesting to see where they stay fateful to the comic and where they will implement original ideas. But I'm glad it was successful enough to warrant a second season. So I guess we will see.


Female zombies, total hotness

Friday, April 15, 2011

April's Dinosaur of the Month: Triceratops

I realize that Velociraptor Awareness Day is this month, but Velociraptor already had its day in the sun. This month, we're going to talk about the beloved Triceratops. Think about the most popular dinosaurs you knew of when you were a kid. T-Rex, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Brontosaurus, and Pterodactyl probably come to mind (Raptors didn't get popular till Jurassic park). Out of those maybe two ... and a half are actually dinosaurs. WHAT?!

Well we already talked about Brontosaurus a couple months ago, so you should be aware of his mishaps. Pterodactyl was never actually considered a dinosaur as they are just flying lizard in a completely different family. T-Rex and Stegosaurus are both actually dinos. Well what about Triceratops? Well, hes a dinosaur too ... but he might not be what you think.



That is the skull of Torosaurus. Who the hell is Torosaurus? He may be what Triceratops actually is. You see, last year two Paleontologists, John Scannela and Jack Horner (who is a known contrarian) published a paper basically saying that Triceratops is actually a juvenile form of Torosaurus. In order to fully explain their evidence, I need to present you with this:


These are Nedoceratops skulls. Basically, they are claiming that Triceratops is the early stage of life for this animal. The triceratops loses a horn and turns into Nedoceratops as a transitional stage. From there, it gains its horn back, gains an entirely different head shape, and becomes Torosaurus. Seriously, they are suggesting that this dinosaur went through a life cycle similar to a pokemon.


Anyways, the bottom line is that new evidence is showing that Nedoceratops is not a transitional form between Triceratops and Torosaurus. I don't want to go into all of the scientific details here, but you're interested in reading about it, head over to this article.

While the jury is still out on whether or not Triceratops and Torosaurus are linked, take comfort in the fact that Triceratops will not disappear. Since Triceratops was the name that came before either of the other two, this dinosaur (pokemon) will always be called Triceratops.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

ARTIFACTS

Today, I'm going to go over my favorite card type: Artifacts! You'll also get to see the upper limits of my douchiness when playing Magic. So yay!


Chalice of the Void: While this card is almost worthless in EDH, it is a superstar in all constructed formats where it is allowed. Why? You'll be surprised by how many cards in a deck you can shut down with a Chalice on 1 or 2 counters. A Chalice on two against a aggro deck can frequently turn off half of their deck. Its pretty ridiculous. Getting multiple chalices out is even more fun, and with sufficient artifact mana, you can power them out on turn one or two.



Chrome Mox: This card is awesome since allows you to make absurd turn one plays in any format that allows it. Turn one Chrome Mox and Ancient Tomb allows you to cast a morphed Exalted Angel or a 3-sphere on turn one. Sometimes it allows you to combo off on the first turn by chaining things like Rite of Flame into a storm card like Empty the Warrens.


Darksteel Forge/Mycosynth Lattice: I'm including these together since I frequently try and combo them together. With both of them out, it makes your entire side of the board indestructible. This is pretty hard to beat for any opponent. Once you include something like Disk or Shatterstorm in the mix ... well ... your opponent will probably punch you in the face. These cards weren't great in constructed, but they are all stars in EDH.


Everflowing Chalice: This is one of my favorite artifacts printed in a long time. I love it so much that I've been cramming them in all of my standard decks since the Worldwake came out. There is better mana excel in the grand scheme of things (such as Grim Monolith), but this chalice has a special place in my heart. Also, its an auto-include in most EDH decks because of its scalability.


Karn: I love Karn so much. He's probably one of the most flavorful legends ever printed (he was a pacifist in the storyline for a long time and its reflected pretty well in his card). His second ability allows for some insane alpha strikes against unaware opponents and it can be used the turn he comes into play. Imagine Karn out with the Lattice and Forge pictured above. Thats 15 power worth of indestructible creatures with only those two cards. Also, he's getting his own planeswalker card in the next set.


Mesmeric Orb: This is mostly a Zach card, but its a card that has had me nerd rage quite a bit. Its incredibly annoying to play against while simultaneously opening up a slew of graveyard based combos for the person playing it. Here is an old article Zach once wrote praising the 'Morb.'



Metalworker: This is one of those creatures that if you don't kill right away you just lose the game. Its as simple as that. If I play metalworker with even 4 artifacts in my hand, thats an extra 8 mana ... on turn four (or sooner if you powered out your metalworker earlier). Assuming you played a land every turn, that gives you enough mana to hardcast a Blightsteel Colossus. There is a reason this guy is banned in almost every format (although I did just discover that he was recently unbanned in Legacy ... which is sexy).


Mindslaver: Yes, this card is as devastating as you think it is. When you mindslaver someone, you have a pretty good chance of really messing up that player's plans. However, thats not what makes the card powerful. The problem with this card lies in the fact that you never just get mindslavered once. With cards like Academy Ruins and Goblin Welder around (I mistakingly left the Welder off my favorite creatures list), its pretty easy to recur Mindslaver over and over again, ensuring that your opponent never gets another turn.


Oblivion Stone: This card is pretty straightforward. I don't do anything really tricky with this card or anything. Its just a nice wrath effect for any color.


Sundering Titan: Good Ole 7-10 split. This card has made Zach nerd rage more than any other card I've ever played with extensively. Like Mindslaver, this card's effect doesn't just happen once throughout the course of the game, but multiple times. Combined with Goblin Welder, things get pretty ridiculous as you weld him in and out of play and he triggers every time he enters or LEAVES the battlefield. One sided Armageddons are pretty good I hear. Also, you can accelerate into him on turn four rather easily. Fun times.


Tangle Wire: This is one card that I used to nerd rage over when Josh had 4 copies in all of his aggro decks.  An early Tangle Wire can really mess over your opponents, and its a pretty easy card to work to your advantage. Imagine this card in combination with all of the new Proliferate cards. Thats enough lulz to make me wanna track down a copy for my Bosh deck.


Trinisphere: Let me take a second to explain this card really quick. As long as its out, any card that would cost less than three, now cost three mana instead. The additional mana added to the spell is all in colorless. Also, if a player tries to cast a spell for free, like say Force of Will, that spell will still cost the player three mana. With that out of the way, imagine having one of these out on the first turn against an aggro deck packed with cards that cost one and two. Imagine having a trinisphere out after casting a mass land destruction spell. In either case, your opponent is basically fucked.


Umezawa's Jitte: This is one of the most powerful pieces of equipment in the game, and its also the most deceptive. Upon first glace, it doesn't look that powerful at all. Once you play it though, you'll realize that it just wrecks people.  I remember when Betrayers first came out, I got two copies of it (one in a pack and one in a pre-con), and I wasn't even sure it was that good. I made this awful suicide black deck with them and played against Ian. In one game, I landed a Jitte, and Ian simply could not recover. There was literally nothing he could do, since it killed all of his creatures and I bashing for obscene amounts every turn. He basically refused to play against that card again after the match, and thats when I realized how awesome it was.

Notice a theme with these artifacts? I really like to give myself tons of mana while denying my opponents any. I also really liked the first Mirrodin block. It got me back into the game after a substantial leave of absence. Although I'm sure I wouldn't look at the block too fondly if I were actually playing competitive at the time. My favorite of these is probably Sundering Titan, or maybe Trinisphere. Its hard to pick one out of those two.

Next time: Enchantments.