Marwencol (2010)

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I’ve been meaning to watch the documentary Marwencol forever. Though I am late to the party, stepping over spilled beer, chip crumbs, and unrecognizable refuse, I can still say it was memorable. I’ll simply offer Marwencol praise, recommend it to you, dear reader, and whet your appetite:

On April 8, 2000, Mark Hogancamp was attacked outside of a bar by five men who beat him nearly to death. After nine days in a coma and forty days in the hospital, Mark was discharged with brain damage that left him little memory of his previous life. Unable to afford therapy, Mark creates his own by building a 1/6-scale World War II-era Belgian town in his yard and populating it with dolls representing himself, his friends, and even his attackers. He calls that town “Marwencol,” a portmanteau of the names “Mark,” “Wendy” and “Colleen.” He rehabilitates his physical wounds by manipulating the small dolls and props — and his mental ones by having the figures act out various battles and stories.

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The Time of Contempt (The Witcher): Andrzej Sapkowski

My 2013 reading habits were more useless than a shriveled up baby Voldemort being held by worm-tongue. So it is with great pleasure to announce that I wrapped up The Witcher titles until the next volume rolls onto tablets in June/July. While the 3rd book suffers from translation issues and a tumultuous political story-line it manages to capture the magic (pun-intended) of the prior works. These are quick-must-reads for any fantasy fan. Sapkow keeps the story moving and the right moments, guaranteeing that you are never bored and continually in wonder.

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Blackfish (2013)

What kid doesn’t grow-up in love with aquatics, marine-life, and Orcas? Having been to Sea World San Diego and constantly in its proximity, I never thought to question their practices (outside of questioning zoos in general). Blackfish shines a light on the sordid and profiteering world of Orca raising/training for entertainment. It is a must-see documentary that is changing world-views, leading me to conclude that Orcas, complex and emotional creatures, have no business in captivity. After I watched the film, I read a bit more about the tragedies surrounding Sea World practices and even discovered that Sea World Entertainment is owned by Blackstone Group, an investment company whose main concern is to generate cash/revenue and focus on the bottom-line.

 

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Her (2013)

Spike created a beautiful and immersive world. While largely recognizable as our own it’s the differences in behaviour, technology, and culture that make Her sci-fi. As my 2013 movie pick I could find little wrong. It’d be easy define the main character, portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, as self-indulgent/selfish but one would miss out entirely on his complex emotions and general character (existing in a world that largely forgives selfish and seemingly sterile). Scarlett Johansson totally blew me away. The depth she conveys in acting-voice only still gives me chills. Her had me mesmerized from beginning to end.

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Official “2013, Best Of” Friends of P Edition

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In terms of volume consumed 2013 may have been the worst year since my lists began in 2008. Though I can’t complain (much) about the results.

[2008 and 2009 Best of Lists2010 List2011 List, & 2012 List]

Film: Her by Spike Jonze

Film Runner-up: Gravity & Pacific Rim

Let down film: Iron Man 3 (iegads)My memory must have temporarily erased the worst 2013 film, Superman.

TV Show: House of Cards

Album: Owen L’Ami du Peuple & Night Terrors of 1927 Guilty Pleas EP

Book read this year: Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher Saga & Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood

Comic: Dark Horse’s Star Wars by Brian Woods

Restaurant: Lil Woody’s Burgers, Seattle, WA

Hardware: XboxOne & 55” Panasonic LED-LCD

Software: MLBtv

Video Game: Dead Rising 3 & Assassin’s Creed IV

Coffee: Le Petit Outre, Missoula, MT

Bar: Rum Club, Portland, OR

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XboxOne: the beginning

Eight years after the Xbox 360 debut we now have next-gen consoles. Though my gaming tale began long ago on the dusty shores of Barstow, CA. At the time I was five or so and my family picked up the original NES brand-new with Duck Hunt and Super Mario Bros. What encouraged them to pick up the system, I’m not sure, and should probably ask them sometime. At any rate, this console fueled my brothers’ and my addiction to gaming. Thereafter we on to enjoy additional machines: SNES, Sega, N64, Dreamcast (for Street Fighter 3rd Strike), PS1 & 2, Gameboy (multiple iterations), PCs/Macs, etc. We toiled with friends on their: Sega Saturns, Sega CDs, Gamegears & TurboGrafx, Jaguar 64s, etc. Any new console was exciting in and of itself.

In college my gaming definitely dwindled. Though I did own an Xbox as did many of my friends. We Halo’d and Rainbow Six’d over beers. We even managed a Street Fighter Puzzle Fighter Arcade cabinet and spent many a late night fighting it out. Grad school brought me back into the gaming fold with the Xbox 360 and Halo 3.

Today marks day five of the latest and greatest Xbox. So far I’ve plugged away a good 15+ hours into Dead Rising 3 and enjoyed football games passed-through the system. The TV system allows one to easily check up on a live-game and jump back into the football game should things get interesting. The Skype system via Kinect is also novel, though not as intimate as using a tablet or mobile device. Viewers get more living room than person and the angles can be odd. My favorite XboxOne features to this point are:

  • Voice command to record gaming clips
  • Ability to edit & upload the clips to the Internet/Web
  • Snapping TV to the side of a video-game in progress
  • The clarity of VOIP
  • How damn fast the machine is to load a game, respond to commands, etc.
  • #1 feature: the new controller

I seriously love the new controller. The layout is smart and the re-sizing clean. The thumb sticks grip and provide smooth movement. Hopefully the sticks break in just a bit more for faster strafing, etc. Overall the controller is light-weight with the heavier points evenly distributed for balance. I am all the more engaged for it.

Lastly, Dead Rising 3 just might be my game of the year. I have not played the uber-story and drama driven Last of Us. Nor have I played Bioshock and the latest GTA. Dead Rising speaks to me. Filled with campiness, gore, b-movie story-lines, and fun- DR3 is not trying to be a shiny gem with lovable characters, clever origin stories, or celestial greater-than-thou heroes/events. DR 3 as my instant classic makes sense, considering my first video-game involved an Italian-American plumber whose, “objective is to race through the Mushroom Kingdom, survive the main antagonist Bowser′s forces and save Princess Toadstool.” [wikipedia]

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Fallout New Vegas (2010)

It can be hard to review a game three years after the fact (and my game Q is bearing down on me). Especially since it is part of a franchise that released the Fallout 3 and Skyrim. However, New Vegas is by a different developer (Obsidian) than the aforementioned (Bethesda).

New Vegas is a bit too sparse for my liking, miles of nothing, and interactions that overwhelmingly feel empty. The first town you find yourself, Goodsprings, starts off just right, helping you build a sense of trust and empathy for a people beaten by the politics and atmosphere of gangs and mob rule. Soon after though you find yourself alone wandering the desert justifying your existence. Once things get going, you manage to build up quests, get into the main story, visit Vegas, interact positively and negatively with various settlements, etc.

At any rate, I think I am about 1/3 or half way through and the objectives all feel kind of the same. Maybe I am not giving it a fair shake, exploring enough, or being engaged but I can only invest so many hours before I realize that I’m not getting the same kick out of it as other RPGs (Dead Island for example is half as complex but twice as fun). The battle system is OK but with this type of game it is more about bringing down a meter of HP versus location and timing and with stealth and a sniper rifle: my dudette has been unstoppable.  As new places and things (mutants, ghouls, etc.) become uncovered I stand unimpressed. The main element keeping me going is Rex, a loyal cyber-dog that recently had a brain transplant with the Legion’s fiercest fighting bitch, Lupa. My robotic dog is the best story-line so far. That and putting an end to Benny, leading up to this sweet piece.
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