Monday, December 31, 2012

Adventures in Indie Publishing with Dean Smith-Richard 12.12

We're proud to announce a new monthly column--Adventures in Indie Publishing with Dean Smith-Richard! Dean is the author of the 3024AD science fiction series and president of Sprocket Books & Publishing. You can read his random musings on his personal blog, and he is a regular contributor to the Nerdery Public as well. Dean lives in the Pacific Northwest, where, between reading and writing, he still manages to squeeze in a day job as an engineer. Starting in January 2013, you can look forward to reading Dean's column on or around the 15th of every month here @nerds_feather.  

For a long time, self-publishing was the exclusive province of those that couldn't or didn't produce a good enough product to warrant the attention of a real publishing house. The costs associated with actually printing a book independent of an established publisher alone were enough to deter most, to say nothing of the impossibilities of distributing the book.

If you're reading this, I am going to assume you don't need me to explain to you how Amazon, tablets and e-readers have changed this considerably. With next to no expense, a manuscript can be uploaded and is available for anyone with Kindle (or, you know, whatever) software to download.

Therein, of course, lies the rub. Now literally anyone can be a 'published' author, with nothing in the way of checks for quality, story or even spelling. Obviously, the publishing industry has produced its share of garbage (great, now that's in my browsing history), but at least you can bank on proper spelling.

If you're a book geek (again, I'm making some assumptions here), these are exciting times. How the indie vs. big publishing houses conflict will eventually play out is hard to say. But with said publishing houses slashing budgets at every turn, and the popularity of ebooks soaring (to say nothing of the profit for the authors from them), there are clear opportunities for upstarts. Does that mean we can expect to see the quality of self- and indie- published books increase as well? We can only hope. There are certainly quality works out there, and the purpose of this column will be to find them, emphasize them and set forth some manner of standard for self- and indie-published books.

Five Questions With: SC Harrison

I, personally, do not read 'young adult' fiction. If I did, however, it would be this lovely lady's, because her stated goal is to defy a lot of the conventions that make YA the trite and played-out arena it has become. Her first novel, Revive, came out earlier this year. You should pick it up. She was gracious enough to answer a few questions:

Why did you pursue self vs traditional publishing?

I wanted to maintain control over my own story, both legally and creatively. While I’m always open to change in the pursuit of a better, tighter product, I wasn’t about to censor the “scary stuff” just to make my book less of a financial risk to a publishing house. Giving readers a fresh, new brand of YA storytelling unbound by submission requirements is what I strive for.

Who were your biggest influences in writing?

Firstly, Dave Barry. Secondly, Anthony Burgess’ prose in A Clockwork Orange. His use of language to not only build atmosphere but even act as a character has latched itself onto my mind, right in the place where all words pass on the way to my hands. Each word must be careful and beautiful to make it to the paper. And also all the YA books I hated influenced me to write nothing like them.

What is your one-sentence synopsis of Revive?

When seventeen-year-old amnesiac Cat Lindensen discovers the truth behind her uncle’s careful fa├žade—and her own lost past—she’s thrown headfirst into the harsh world of bargains and curses, and a love that tests her very sanity.

Who is your favorite character from Revive and why?

Uncle Hal. It took me years to get to know him and even longer to communicate the internal struggles boiling beneath his cool demeanor. He’s a man torn in several directions with conflicting intentions, none of which become clear until near the end of the series—or rather, the last page of the third book.

!SPOILER AHOY!

It appears that Uncle Hal is indeed involved in the rest of the series, despite the events in Revive.

!SPOILER ENDED!

What’s next for you?

Right now, dinner. After that, there are currently four more books in the Revive series awaiting monumental revision and release, which I hope to accomplish within the next couple of years. Outside of the fantasy realm I have a few other stories I’m sitting on for the time being. Two in particular I’m immensely proud of and wouldn’t consider handing to a publisher, as by the time all the dark, raw reality was cut in the name of marketability there’d be nothing left of the story save the scenes where my heroine checks the mail. These two are very personal to me, and so being able to share them on my own terms is a blessing.

Other Trends

Another avenue that amounts to self-publishing I am seeing on the rise is simply posting short stories or chapters of a novel online (apparently I am not as innovative as I thought). One science fiction work I am tremendously exited about is Tesla Prime and the Regulus Event, which has the first six chapters available online and is slated for a 2013 release. He is also working hard at producing a quality manuscript via editing and beta-reading, which is a pleasant change from those who push f7 and call that editing (note to writers: it is not).

What I'm Reading Now, In Case You Care

Worlds Other Than These, a short story collection edited by John Joseph Adams (who you hopefully know from Lightspeed Magazine) and published by the always-excellent Night Shade Books. So far, so good- I will have a detailed review for you next month.

What I'm Doing Now, In Case You Care

Wrapping up editing and cover design on my own short story collection, with the inspired title of 3024AD: Short Stories, Series One. If you care to read the unedited versions of most of them, feel free to over at www.3024ad.com, and I just started posting stories from the second series set in that same universe (bi-weekly, on Monday). In any case, the full, edited and expanded collection should be available on January 15 of 2013.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Top 5 Upcoming Games in 2013

2012 was a good year for games. We got new iterations of Far Cry, Halo, Call of Duty, and Borderlands. However, 2013 looks to be a banner year that could have record sales and an almost depressingly unhealthy number of hours spent gaming. Here are the five games that I'm looking forward to most.

5. Crysis 3





I didn't have a supercomputer a few years ago so I never played the first Crysis game. It was famous for stretching CPUs beyond the breaking point and only the strongest of processors could handle it. Crysis 2 made it to both major consoles and was a helluva lot of fun to play, even if it wasn't written by Hemingway. You were able to choose, through the use of a cryo-suit, whether you played stealth or tank style since it provided both camoflage and armor. However, you were forced to only use one at a time so strategy became a major part of the gameplay. Friends in New York City have told me the maps are based on actual locations. The third Crysis looks to return the Big Apple, although there has been quite a lot of terraforming going on so it may not be quite as recognizable. Still, I'm looking forward to the first-person shooter that appeals to sci fi buffs that can't stand the Modern Warfare franchise.

 

4. Dead Space 3



This one could go either way. They're finally adding a co-op element to Dead Space. It's been the best sci fi horror series of this console generation. However, that's due in large part to the amazing sound design. This game is one that MUST be played in Dolby 5.1. It's terrifying when played in a dark room with surround sound cranked up. Having a headset on and chatting with a friend may take away from that experience. Even so, I'm looking forward to returning to the character of Isaac Clarke. This game has been a nice mix of shooter with weapon and suit leveling options that resemble an RPG. I'll probably play through it once alone and then try out the co-op campaign. It could add a dimension the game has been lacking, but I suspect it could also draw from its overall appeal. We'll just have to wait and see.

3. Gears of War: Judgment



Gears of War has lost its driving force in Cliffy B, but they're continuing on without him back to Emergence Day, when the locust hordes began wiping out mankind. The two main characters are Baird and everybody's favorite running back, Augustus "The Cole Train" Cole! New multiplayer modes are promised. I just hope they do a decent job with the story. This franchise should do fine as long as they don't try to get too cutesy. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. We were all worried when Bungie quit making Halo games and that turned out okay. Let's just hope the same happens with Gears of War.

2. Grand Theft Auto 5



If this game is anywhere near as good as the previous version, we're all in for a treat. In this game, we're leaving the Big Apple and heading back to the City of Angels, otherwise known as San Andreas. There are rumors that this game will offer multiple playable protagonists. That's great and all, but what I love the most about these games is the sandbox, open-world quality. As long as they hold to the realism and depth of world that made GTA 4 the highest rated game ever, this should be a fun time for those of you who are as desensitized to violence as I am.  

1. The Elder Scrolls Online



I'm not a huge PC gamer. The way I look at it, I spend way too much time on my console as it is. I don't need another life-sucker in my schedule or I can kiss any semblance of a normal life goodbye. Even so, I tried World of Warcraft to see what all the fuss was about. I also made it a decent ways into Star Wars: The Old Republic. Still, it's not my choice of gaming platform. That said, I am honestly scared of this game. Between Oblivion and Skyrim I've logged well over 300 hours of playing time. It's probably closer to 400, but I'm only counting my main playthroughs. I can't imagine what a massive, never-ending version of these games is going to do to my life. I don't know if its anticipation or fear, but I'm going with the Elder Scrolls MMO as my most anticipated game of next year.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday Morning Superhero

Time for a special week of Thursday Morning Superhero.  With limited comics out this week due to the holidays, I decided to focus on the big comic of the week, Amazing Spider-man #700.  I will warn you that this will contain spoilers so if you do not want to be spoiled then now is the time to leave.


To be honest it has been a while since I read an Amazing Spider-man story, but with the big announcement and the conclusion of the series I wanted to give it a read.  The over 90-page conclusion to the series includes some nice bonus stories at the end, but that isn't why readers are picking up this book so we will leave that alone today.

First some backstory to get you caught up.  Doctor Octopus is not in the best of health and only has a few days to live.  In a desperate move to grant him new life and kill Peter Parker he utilizes a robot to swap memories with Parker, thus trapping his mind in Parker and Parker's mind in the ailing body of Doc Oc.  Parker (Doc Oc) is settling into his new life and learning all of the secrets of Parker's past (one of the side effects of swapping memories is that you also gain the memories of who you swapped memories with).

In a last ditch plan to attempt to swap memories back, effectively killing Doc Oc and saving himself, Parker, as Doc Oc, escapes from prison and steals the last remaining robot that can swap memories back.  Doc Oc, as Parker, meanwhile, is up to his own plan to punish Parker and ensure that many of his loved ones suffer.  

What ensues then is a series of events that demonstrate the intelectual superiority of Doc Oc as Parker, as Doc Oc, is one step behind.  It all culminates with the two plummeting from the top of the Avengers Tower to the ground below.  Parker as Doc Oc finally has his moment to swap memories back before the body of Doc Oc finally succumbs.  As we learned from this issue, Doc Oc is always one step ahead and has a special plate on the back of his neck that block the robot.  It appears that all is lost until Parker's life flashes before his eyes.  Both Parker and Doc Oc are privy to the series of events that made Spider-man and Peter Parker such strong characters. 



Through this flashback Doc Oc, as Parker, realizes that life is valuable and that he must protect those who he loves.  In essence, this series of flashbacks has truly transformed Doc Oc into Spider-man and we are now left with the next chapter for Spider-man, the Superior Spider-man.  I guess with Doc Oc's brain and Spider-man's past the new iteration could be interesting, but I am not completely sold on the idea.  I think I will pick up some of the issues that led to the monumental Amazing Spider-man #700.  I am guessing that the memory of both individuals will play a pivotal role in the series and we may see a darker Spider-man.  Intriguing development, but not sure if I will be drinking the Marvel Kool-aid on this one.  Hopefully they have good plans for the new Spider-man.

Microreview [film]: The Star Wars Holiday Special

Star Wars Holiday Special
Animated Han Solo, making the intergalactic symbol for utter failure.
The Meat:

The Star Wars Holiday Special. Perhaps you've heard of it.

Carrie Fisher plays it at parties when she wants people to leave.

George Lucas said that if he had the time and a hammer, he would track down and smash every single copy of it (and The Phantom Menace showed us all how low his standards are)

And it was named the worst two hours in the history of television.

I had heard the stories, sure. I had read about the coveted bootlegs out there for the intrepid to find and endure. But nothing could prepare me for how awful it really is, and how unimaginable the self-discipline to finish it would prove. But finish it I did, so I could bring you this microreview.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a holiday called "Life Day." It was a big deal to Wookiees. Chewie and Han Solo were busy running from Imperial fighters for undisclosed reasons, but their adventures were imperiling Chewie's Life Day celebration with his family. This is where we begin. Back on the Wookiee home planet, Chewbacca's family - his wife Mala, who looks strangely like Fergie saddled by a case of lycanthropy, Chewie's father Itchy (Itchy!)' who appears to be a horny old drunk, and Chewie's kid, Lumpy, who is not an elephant from the Hundred Acre Wood - are awaiting his arrival for festivities. But then Imperial Guardsmen show up, interrupting Itchy's disturbing, virtual reality frolic with Diahann Carroll and decimating Lumpy's stuffed animals. Harvey Corman and Bea Arthur do some variety show sketches, and I slowly discover my will to live fading...fading...

Wookie Holiday Card

The one - well, "redeeming" would be far too generous a word - mildly diverting feature of the Holiday Special is the introduction of Boba Fett, who makes his first appearance in the series by way of an animated segment that really isn't that bad compared to what's around it.

Lumpy: Chewbacca's...boy?...girl?

The Math

Objective Quality: 2/10

Bonuses: +1 for Boba Fett's introduction; +1 for the amazing vintage commercials in most of the bootlegged versions; +1 for its legendary cult status

Penalties: -1 for every musical interlude, including those by Diahann Carroll, Jefferson Starship, and Princess Leia; -1 for, as Wikipedia calls it, the "comedy" from Harvey Korman, and -1 for the 10-minute, non-subtitled introduction spoken entirely in Wookiee.

Cult Movie Coefficient: 2/10. Really, really bad.

Leia singing. You can't tell from his expression, but 3PO is dying a little inside at this very moment.
[See explanation of our non-inflated scores here.]

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Nerds/Feather Holiday Card: Take 1.

I hope everyone who celebrates had a Merry Christmas, and that those who do not have had or will have excellent holidays of their own. If this blog were to send out holiday cards, I might choose to encode this video for your viewing pleasure:


Sunday, December 23, 2012

2012 Last Minute Nerd Gift Ideas

I'm probably not qualified to be suggesting gift ideas, especially of the geeky variety. I stopped collecting everything years ago, settling on a rather stoic life. I own books and clothes, that's pretty much it. But here are some very last minute ideas. Certified cheap too.


Futurama

I never met one, but I’m sure there are a few nerds out there who don’t watch Futurama. If you know such a misguided soul, buy that person your favorite season—though you can’t go wrong giving them the first. Futurama is funny, intelligent, and has more heart than any TV show out there. But you probably know this already. The DVDs are widely available, so you shouldn’t have a problem tracking one down. You may even find a used set in case your friend isn’t that close of a friend.



Target Gift Card

Don’t overthink it. A Target gift card is the perfect present for anyone, even nerds. In fact, neckbeards could probably use them more than anyone else. They can get some food, some deodorant, new boxes—all kinds of things they don’t sale at comic shops and gaming stores. They also sale video games.



Vintage Gaming System

An old gaming system might be the perfect gift for a buddy. Let’s say you and your friend spent a lot of time playing Goldeneye, or Tekken—or Mario Kart, Mario Tennis, Mario Soccer. You surprise him with the system and the cartridge. Then the two of you get drunk while engaged in epic battles. Just like old times. Added bonus, a 64 or Sega Genesis can be pretty cheap. And cheap is good.


Comics 

Buy kids comics. Simple as that. Comic books get kids reading, get kids to like reading. Isn’t that in and of itself a good thing? And kids these days are primed for comic book reading. Superheroes are a staple of cartoon programming and a 4-year-old kid freaking loves Spiderman. Manga is also popular among kids, so that’s always an option. But I would suggest you do your patriotic duty and buy them American comics. USA! USA!

More Comics

Buy everyone a comic. OK, not everyone. We’ve all tried to get other into comics. Probably 75% of your friends and family will think less of you for buying them a comic book. But there are those people in our lives that we think we might be able to turn. For these loved ones, take some time and consider what they would like. Give your hipster girlfriend something by Dan Clowes, give your news junky cousin Joe Sacco’s Palestine. And if you know anyone who liked the X-Men films but doesn’t read comics, I would suggest that you give that person The Dark Phoenix Saga just so they can appreciate the enormity of Brett Ratner’s crime.

Friday, December 21, 2012

2012 Nerd Gift Guide: Molly

Let's face it: if you're reading this, there's a good likelihood you're a dude (50% at least) scrambling to find a gift for the lady in your life (or dude, but I'm a lady, so that's what we're going with) before Xmas comes and she realizes you think more about Skyrim than how best to express your love for her. But, lo, she too is a nerd, and that's when you realize: you can't eff this one up.

As the only member of the Nerds of a Feather team with ladyparts, I feel obligated to provide a list of nerdy thing geared toward the nerdy lady in your life. Pretty much I'm just going to show you everything that's in my Amazon wishlist, but if your female friend is anything like me, these things are sure to woo.

For the literary, bling-worthy nerdy lady

Sharing a book with someone is special. What sorcery it is to share separate memories of the same thing! Let your boo know that you love her brain and her decolletage by giving her real fake jewelry from her favorite fiction (and its movie).





For the bakin' nerdy lady

If the fastest way to your nerdy Xmas elf crush is through her kitchen (not a euphemism), give her the gift of geeking out while on a homemade sugar high.





For the one you wanna stay with

In it for the long haul? Show her you're thinking long-term. Forget Ikea; real men buy oak furniture and get excited about raising the Next Generation of geeks. (See what I did there?)



2012 Nerd Gift Guide: Jemmy

1. Show 'em You're the Ultimate GRRM Fan: For Nerds Who Take GRRM too Seriously

So, you think you are the world's greatest George R.R. Martin fan? You've read all the books, you've seen the HBO series; heck, you've even bought the awesome Hodor T-shirt from the HBO website. Let me tell you, you are still not a Song of Ice and Fire nerd. Simple consumerism is not enough. You need to start down the path of Song of Ice and Fire obsession. To get this distinguished honor, you need to expand your horizons. It is time to start painting your own Song of Ice and Fire miniatures. Available at Dark Sword Miniatures, each character miniature runs from around $10 to $25, and is a perfect gift to show your true and unadulterated obsession.  



And don't worry if miniatures are not enough to float your boat. You can still exercise your nerdish obsession in other ways. Why not also buy replicas of Longclaw, Needle, King Robert's Warhammer, and the various fine examples of Valyrian steel, at the Valyrian Steel online shop? Let's truly bring Westeros home!

[King Robert's Warhammer on the left; Longclaw on the right]


2. The Ultimate Back to the Future Gear

A few days ago, Vance suggested getting a model dusty Delorean. I suggest we up the ante. Do you remember in Back to the Future II, when Marty McFly travels to the year 2015 to stop his son from getting involved with Biff's grandson? Yeah? Do you remember how cool the future looked? Well, you can wear the future fashion (even before 2015) by buying this cool, reflective Marty McFly hat at Think Geek. For the low price of $19.99, you can sport the Marty McFly retro future look! It even has velcro: how futuristic!


Now hold your horses. I know you don't want to stop at just buying a Marty McFly hat. You can show off your inner nerd by buying a hoverboard as well. Go over to Matty Collector and shell out $120 for this beauty. Just don't expect the hoverboard to actually hover...


3. Politically Incorrect Games: Cards Against Humanity

A new party game for horrible people, Cards Against Humanity lets you and your friends throw political correctness out the window. Literally. It can be as despicable and awkward as you and your friends are. In the process, Cards Against Humanity is uncontrollably funny. This game is Apples to Apples on crack, or as the Onion Av Club states, "a sort of Apples to Apples for the cross and jaded." Once you start, you won't be able to stop. You'll have a group of cards that will make you laugh or make you wince, possibly both at the same time! It is available for free via download, or for the low price of $25 at Cards Against Humanity.




With any of these three nerd-gift ideas, you'll be too cool for school; too nerd for... word.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thursday Morning Superhero

What an amazing week for comics.  I would like to claim that it is in spirit of the holiday why I am not picking a book that was "not as good" this week, but it is simply that every book was great this week. As I begin to think of a year-end top 10 list or something of the kind, all of the titles from this week have crossed my mind.  If you have ever considered getting into comics, then this may be the best week of 2012 to do so.

The Best:

Locke and Key Omega #2 - Joe Hill and Gabe Rodriguez finally gave me the book I have been waiting for since the characters introduction.  A Rufus issue!  Rufus, after quite the hiatus, makes his return in dramatic fashion.  Through his conversations you can't help but feel sympathy for this child who only had his mother to turn to in his 16 years of life.  Despite Dodge killing his mother, she is along with him as he appears to be the last hope in stopping Dodge.  This book is so packed full of heart and suspense that I can't help but encourage everyone I know to read this series.  In a comic market packed full of great books, this stands as my clear favorite and Omega has been a bittersweet ride thus far.

Runner-up:
Saga #8 - There is a reason that Saga was named the top new comic of 2012 in a vote on IGN.  The series is just amazing.  Chapter eight provides more insight into Marko's parents and actually includes the first moment that Alana and Marko meet.  Marko and his mom are still in a very dicey situation trying to track down their spirit babysitter and it seems that Alana and her father-in-law are truly hitting it off.  The big reveal is at the end of the issue and it seems that we will be revisiting the Will again quite soon.

The Rest:
Sixth Gun #27 - Cullen Bunn has the ability to make me want to reread his series with each new issue.  In the most recent book, Sinclair and Becky are still trapped in an endless winter by the Wendigo. Drake tries to bargain with the Wendigo to set the women and children free who it is holding captive, but the demon wants to ensure that the six guns do not fulfill their destiny.  Meanwhile, Gord, Kriby and Asher flee the Sword of Abraham as they attempt to reconnect with the guns and Sinclair and Becky.  The mystery grows with each issue in this series that I can't get enough of.

Mars Attacks #6 - Issue six brings us the start of a new story arc and a great jumping on point for Mars Attacks.  John Layman really kept the nostalgic and campy feel of the original Mars Attacks in the first arc and continues in arc two.  This arc seems to center around a child prodigy and a scientist who figured out the Z-frequency that is capable of stopping the martians.  The first wave is held back successfully but the Martians do not give up that easy.  I don't think they counted on Tommy Bailey (the child prodigy) who will probably throw the wrench in the gear of this plan.  Just a fun, violent series that I have really enjoyed.  Bonus trading card this round.




Fables #124 - The revolution in Oz finally comes to its conclusion only to learn of the adventures of Bufkin and Lily told through the eyes of Hangy the Rope.  It is safe to say this is a fun story that really brings a "human" quality to Bufkin as him and Lily rely on multiple spells, etc., in order to produce grandchildren of all types.  A solid standalone book that just leaves you feeling good inside.

Hawkeye #6 - We are treated to six days in the life of Hawkeye around the holidays and what fun it is.  In a simple issue that features Hawkeye setting up cable in his apartment, we are reminded that despite being a superhero, Hawkeye is a human being with some flaws.  In the end he does the right thing and will have some challenges because of that, but isn't that why we love superheros in the first place?  From the simplistic art to the creative storytelling, this is a series worth your time.

2012 Nerd Gift Guide: Mike

A print from Nakatomi Inc.: For the pop culture nerd
The fine folks at Nakatomi Inc. have numerous, fantastic, and well priced pop culture prints.  Tim Doyle me drinking the Nakatomi kool-aid as I am running out of room on my walls for his company's work.  My house currently has about six or seven of their prints on the wall, ranging from Yo Gabba Gabba! to Arrested Development to Super Mario Brothers.  Two of my favorite in-stock prints are featured below.  For a direct link to the store click here.




Tauntaun Hobby Horse: For the nerd parent
One of the greatest things about being a nerd parent is socializing your offspring into the nerd community.  Confession, my daughter is named Zelda and had a Harry Potter themed nursery.  She is almost three and already went through a huge Captain America phase and her older brother Henry is a whiz at the new Mario brothers game for the Wii U.  Sharing the nerdy love with your children is a tremendous thing and I can't think of a better product than the Tauntaun hobby horse.  It is even on sale right now!  Click here to get yours from Think Geek!

Zombies!!!: For the zombie/Walking Dead Nerd:
You and your friends are stuck in a zombie infested town and you need to survive long enough to reach the helicopter on the heliport square once it is played.  Each game will be different as you construct the town and place the zombies a little in each turn.  Be prepared to roll the dice as if your life depended on it, secure varying bonus items to assist you, and be ready to stick it to your friends if they are looking like they might reach the helicopter before you (it can only seat one!).  For a game that is simple yet complex at the same time, and loads of fun you can't go wrong.  Twilight Creations Inc.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

2012 Nerd Gift Guide: Brad

Merry Christmas, fellow nerdlingers! I guess I'm going a bit off the pattern here, but I'm posting what I actually asked for this year. Don't worry, they're all nerd-approved gifts.

Wireless Router

Yes, I'm the last person in America who doesn't have wifi. Laugh it up. You see, when I first got my new tower a few years ago, I hooked it up to the HDTV in my living room. I had a wireless mouse and keyboard, so I could sit on my couch and surf the web in 50-inches of glorious high definition. And you thought your 27" monitor was big? Pffft. Anyway, since my Xbox and my computer were all part of my entertainment center, there was no need to spend $150 on multiple wireless antennae. Instead, I just got a wired router for forty bucks and was good to go. Unfortunately, since that time I've turned my second bedroom into an office and moved the PC back there. Since I still needed Internet access, I resorted to the picture below. I figured it was finally time to get rid of the "wire down the hallway" look and since I just got a new XBox with wifi included, I only have to drop half the scratch on an antenna for the CPU. 21st century, here I come!


Reason 6.5 Upgrade

I'm somewhat of an amateur musician. My father is an orchestra conductor, so of course I had to play an instrument growing up. From age 4 through college I played the violin and sang in several choirs. I break out the violin from time to time, but it's usually just for weddings and funerals these days. However, I still like to tinker with music production and Reason is some of the best software available for that activity. It's an all-in-one package that contains a sequencer, synths, drum machines, and effects processors. It's the best way I know of to get all the tools you need to produce music without dropping $20,000 on a studio. Sadly, my version 4.0 is pathetically out of date, so it's time for an upgrade! 


New Balance 990v3

Finally, I need some new kicks. I'm not the flashy Nike type. They're just too, I don't know, ostentatious. Reeboks have kind of fallen by the wayside since the good old days of the Pump (Remember those?). Adidas are cool, but their classic shell-toe is too thin for my fat feet. New Balance is the only shoe company that actually offers different widths (I'm an 11.5 2E). They're made right here in America and definitely have more nerd cred than any other athletic shoe. Not only that, but they're super-comfortable, like walking on thick carpet in socks. This will be my fourth pair of New Balance 99X (They went from 990-993 and have now returned to 990, for some reason). My current pair have a little hole in the right shoe and put off a bit of an odor when worn all day. I can't wait for some freshies!



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

2012 Nerd Gift Guide: The G

For the Nerd Who Spent Too Much Time in Pizza Parlors as a Kid: Arcade Cabinet Kit

You think you're good at Tetris, huh? Test your skills the way they were meant to be tested...on a tabletop cabinet like the ones you used to find in every greasy pizza joint from Brooklyn to Santa Monica. It's a bit pricey, so you better actually like this friend...a lot. And it doesn't come with an LCD screen (sold separately) or the actual gaming board (I recommend this one, it has Tetris). But it's made of solid parts, looks like it would be fun to put together and is guaranteed to make waiting for pizza more fun. Oh, and I believe there's a mod you can get that turns this badboy into an actual coin-op machine, so your friends can pay for the privilege of getting pwned, 80s-style. Available from Holland Computers for $329.


For the Nerd Who Takes Star Wars a Little Too Seriously: The Jedi Path--Manual For Students of the Force [Vault Edition]

If you know someone who's always going on about Star Wars, even in spite of the execrable prequels, then look no further. This book outlines the ancient teachings and histories of the Jedi Order and even includes marginal commentary from Yoda, Obi-Wan, Annakin (he can read?), Count Dooku and others. So yeah, not only can your friend drone on about the Old Republic, he/she can now quote scripture at you too! Plus, if you buy this, you're not only getting your friend something ridiculous, but you're getting him or her something ridiculous that also comes in a ridiculous box. And comes with a ridiculous pendant. Available from Amazon for $99.



For the Simultaneously Literary and Musical Nerd: The Ghost of John Henry by Sci-Fi Romance

You may know Vance as our resident film nerd, but he's also the singer and guitarist of Los Angeles-based band Sci-Fi Romance. Described as folk music with a "serious, literary bent," Sci-Fi Romance matches tight songwriting with lyrical content that explores mythology, history and (yes) even science fiction. So yeah, this is very smart music. Plus there's cello! Available as a digital download from iTunes for $10, and as a CD from Amazon for $12.


Monday, December 17, 2012

2012 Nerd Gift Guide: Vance

Star Trek Pez: For the Nerd Who Can't Wait for Into Darkness
Currently, Star Trek: The Next Generation is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and the TNG Collectors' Edition Pez set is available at many fine retailers such as Rite-Aid and, potentially, Walgreens. But if you do a little digging, you can still find the Star Trek Pez dispensers for the Original Series. They're a little pricier, since they're out of production, but that's only...logical. Amazon

A Dusty Delorean: For the Nerd Who Knows Everything Was Better Back in the Day
I have the Back to the Future: Part II edition at home, and I can attest that this is a pretty neat tribute to the films. The car itself is about a foot long, with push button-activated lights and sounds, including a teensy flux capacitor inside the cabin that actually fluxes. Or, lights up. This new Back to the Future: Part III edition is fitted with railroad wheels, steampunkish stylings, and a healthy patina of Old West dust. Entertainment Earth
Back to the Future III Rail Ready Time Machine Vehicle

Cuddle-thulhu: For the Nerd Who Just Needs a Good Hug
Got a case of "the Mondays"? What could cheer you up better than Cthulhu, the Crawling Chaos himself, the Thing that Should Not Be, in cuddly plush hand-puppet form? That's what I thought: nothing. Not even a shipful of Norwegian saliors' souls. Entertainment Earth
Cthulhu 17-Inch Hand Puppet

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Call of Duty Black Ops II: Campaign

Bits and Pieces


Let me start out by saying I'm not the biggest Call of Duty fan. I played a couple of the old WWII ones and Modern Warfare 1-3, oh, and World at War because my cousin and uncle got it and I took the opportunity to bond online with family I don't live nearby. Killing zee Germans. I didn't even buy MW3, I just borrowed it from my cousin to play the campaign since they're notoriously short. I was pretty tired of getting dominated in multiplayer by 8-year-olds with mouths that would make NWA blush. Somehow, some way, that lost it's charm for me. Hard to believe, isn't it? 

That said, G did a great write-up of the multiplayer aspect of the game and since I'm really more of a campaign guy, anyway, I figured, what the hey? IGN gave it a 9.3. How bad could it be? I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this game. After all the flack that Treyarch caught for making bad Modern Warfare games, this is a really creative step, both into the past and the future. I enjoyed the interesting alternate histories they provided. 

This game covers events from Vietnam to 2025, stopping at Afghanistan (The first time, in the 80s when we weren't really helping the Mujaheddin kill Russians, remember?), Nicaragua, and a slightly futuristic Los Angeles. Capturing Noriega before he could escape on a Lear was a kick. I enjoyed working from the aircraft carrier Obama for some missions. They missed the mark in one spot, though, as they had David Petreus as acting Secretary of Defense. Oops! Any fan of Big Trouble in Little China would also have got a kick out of James Hong's portrayal of the Prime Minister of China. 


This really pisses me off to no end, Mr. Burton!

Notable Voice Acting



Oliver North as himself was a stroke of genius. He shows up early in the game to personally give you orders. Jimmy Kimmel makes a cameo, too. Sam Worthington provides a serviceable job as the main character's voice (Alex Mason). He's as good as he was in Terminator: Salvation and Clash of the Titans, which is to say not horrible. My favorite "Aha!" moment was when I recognized the voice of Michael Rooker. I couldn't place his name immediately, but when he started talking I was instantly returned in my mind to the scene in Cliffhanger where Sly drops his girlfriend off a mountain. Now you know who I'm talking about? Merle from Walking Dead!


There is also a dead-on look-alike voiced by Tony Todd, known most prominently for his appearance as Candyman. He voices a completely believable badass Navy Admiral that would be able to scare me into combat if the options were face him or pick up a gun. Sometime I'll tell you about my infamous trip to Cabrini Green, the most dangerous ghetto in America, at 4am, by accident. 


Love/Hate Relationship

I didn't really care for the Strike Force Missions. Mr. Todd gave the intro to each of these. He had quite a Navy mouth on him, which is to say he cursed like a sailor. These were more of an attempt at a strategy-type game where you control squads, drones, tanks, and turrets instead of a single human character. I might not have liked them as much because I only managed to complete two of the four. By the way,  if anyone has extra money left over after Christmas and Hanakkuh, get me one of these. 


What I did like about the game was that the non-player characters like those voiced by Rooker and Worthington were actually worth their salt on the battlefield. In most games like this you have to take care of close to 90% of the actual killing because of incompetent help by the computer. Not so in Black Ops 2. One of them actually ran into a room and wiped out two guys before I had time to fire a round. 

The story is actually pretty decent. Whereas I'm usually pretty confused as to exactly who I'm shooting and why in Modern Warfare games, this one managed to hold a halfway understandable plot between firefights. Evil genius, bent on world destruction, doesn't care who he hurts. It kind of reminds me of some of the Bond villains. Wasn't one of them facially disfigured like the bad guy in this game?


Yup. That guy. 

The Math

Objective Score: 8/10 - But remember, I'm not a huge fan of the series so this is a pretty high score for me.

Bonuses: +1 for taking some chances and succeeding on most accounts.

Penalties: -1 for having a Avenged Sevenfold video after the credits. I'm not kidding in the least. After the ending ran and the credits rolled, two of the characters from the game joined the band to play a song called Carry On. I will not link it here. It was...awkward.

Nerd Coeffecient: 8/10 Well worth your time and attention if you like FPS games. Not really worth it without the multiplayer aspects, though. I was done in under ten hours, easily.