2016: The Year That Was (Making The Best of a Bad Thing)

2016 isn’t over but it will be soon. It’s been a really rough year for many folks, for pop-culture, for the world as a whole. Yet, many of us still stand and we can’t just stop. We must keep going. On that fact I want to reflect on the good things that happened in 2016. For myself, for my friends, for pop-culture, so I’ll do my best. In terms of movies, TV and music I’ll only mention those that were at least from my view less mixed and truly favorable opinions of what was delivered and even if some mixed what I felt were a really nice thing to make 2017 look happy and smiley. These are incomplete lists, not definitive and just trying to capture some of the good in such a bad year. This also was an incredible year for professional wrestling. From debuts, to folks making it to a bigger show, to smaller shows becoming bigger, it truly was way too many grand things to truly list.

MOVIES (this list should probably be longer, but I’m way too critical and also have not seen many of the films being given FYCs for Awards)
Zootopia
Deadpool
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Kubo and the Two Strings
Hardcore Henry
The Jungle Book
Zoolander 2
Captain America: Civil War
Keanu
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Disney’s Alice Through The Looking Glass
The Secret Life of Pets
Nerdland
La La Land

TELEVISION (both Network, Cable, and Internet)
Mr. Robot Season 2
Gravity Falls – “Weirdmageddon 3: Take Back The Falls”
Regular Show in Space
Grease Live
The Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker Trial
Westworld
Suits
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
Elementary
The DCTV CW Crossover (and all of Supergirl, Flash, Legends… only some of Arrow)
Luke Cage
Shut Eye
Fuller House
Preacher
Blindspot
Gotham
Timeless
Lucha Underground
Devs Play by Double Fine X 2 Player Productions
The Venture Bros.
Braindead
Planet Earth II
Dreamcorp. LLC
Royal Pains final season
Steven Universe
Blunt Talk
Girl Meets World
Degrassi: Next Class

MUSIC (This is way more a personal thing)
Green Day – Revolution Radio
Good Charlotte – Youth Authority
Sixx A.M. – Prayers For The Damned and Prayers for the Blessed
Lady Gaga – Joanne
Panic at the Disco – Death of a Bachelor
Miike Snow – iii
Sia – This Is Acting
Animal Collective – Painting with
Cheap Trick – Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello
Pet Shop Boys – Super
Travis – Everything At Once
Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway
Sabrina Carpenter – EVOLution
Waterparks – Double Dare
David Bowie- Blackstar
DNCE

VIDEO GAMES (again this is personal and to stuff I played & loved and stuff I wish I gto play but didn’t have the console of required PC power)
Oxenfree
Not A Hero
Uncharted 4
Firewatch
Amateur Surgeon 4
Batman – The Telltale Series
Slayaway Camp
Dots and Co.
Watch Dogs 2
Day of the Tentacle Remastered
Samorost 3
Quantum Break
The Final Station
Dishonored 2
Headlander
Kathy Rain
The Witness
Small Radios Big Televisions
Mother Russia Bleeds
The Banner Saga 2
Quadrilateral Cowboy
This is the Police
No Man’s Sky
Burrito Bison: Launcha Libre
Obduction
Mafia III
Let it Die
The Last Guardian
The Walking Dead – The Telltale Series: Season Three
INSIDE
Yakuza 6

COMICS (this is personal as because of limited funds and the higher cost of comics while pay checks stay the same I don’t get to read as much as I like these days and hence do not get Previews to explore independents more then I’d like)
West Coast Avengers
Howard the Duck
Future Quest, Wacky Raceland, The Flintstones, and even Scooby Apocalypse (the HB reboots)
Sugar & Spike-Metahuman Investigator from Legends of Tomorrow
The Adventures of Miru
The Twilight Children (Darwyn Cooke’s final published to date interior art work)
CAGE by Genndy Tartovsky & Stephen DeStefano
Superfuckers Forever by James Kochalka
The Red Hook by Dean Haspiel

and here’s a few PERSONAL highlights for the author of this (me)
Kaiju Big Battel with Liza followed by FTW Wrestling where I hung with the workers during. Saw Scotty Too Hotty do the worm.
Day out at mall in CT with mom, Al’s and Al’s family.
Becki’s Moving Party.
Passover with mom, Al and Al’s family.
Mike and Lauren moving into a house.
Trip to Philly with Nick and Terri.
Best man at Nick and Terri’s wedding.
Guns n Roses: Once in a Lifetime with David S.
Tarin becoming a full fledged hairstylist.
Hanging out with Brad at my place and his place and other places.
Hanging out with David at his places, other people’s places, parties, events.
Robots Will Kill 15 Year Anniversary.
Ad Hoc 10th Anniversary party.

Here’s hoping 2017 will be better in the ways that 2016 was not and that in terms of pop-culture things will continue to be excellent.

Worst Movie of All Time says Fashion Designer

ZOOLANDER 2 was lame. It was the dumbest fucking movie. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are old and they suck. That shit wasn’t funny. Pathetic film. So many idiotic cameos. Why this movie be having everyone in it? That’s just dumb. Stupid and gross. That plot too, what was that thing? They got some monkey’s up in there writing this stuff?

Could Penélope Cruz be more ugly too? Those big nasty breasts, that horribly perfect butt?
Then wrapping everything up? What movie does that? Garbage movies only!
My new favorite movie y’all. Six out of Five Stars! Watch that thing on repeat!
-Don Atari’s review of Zoolander 2

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I have noticed that there are people who have completely hated on ZOOLANDER 2, which means my using the sarcastic laden style of Don Atari might fall on ears/eyes the wrong way. I absolutely LOVED the film. There wasn’t a thing I didn’t like. Every character, every nuance, every cameo, the structure of the script. It was solid and I recommend it.

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Tim Schafer Games: the History of, and my Love of BROKEN AGE


Double Fine Adventure was what turned me into a Kickstarter fiend for a few months. The only thing that ended that fun was a mix of finances and seeing certain projects I funded just take way too long. Still I pledged $100 to DFA with trust in what Tim Schafer and Nathan “Bagel” Stapley coming together and combining their efforts to create a modern point and click adventure based off the strength of Tim’s previous work and where it’d lead had he not had to move on to things such as Psychonauts and Brutal Legend. This is not a commentary on those games, but more to explain my views of what became BROKEN AGE and my feelings towards it versus how certain reviews and opinions have formulated based on preconceived expectations based on misunderstanding and lack of comprehension on the part of the backers.

Being a backer meant that for the last two weeks I have gotten to playtest, look for bugs, analyze the game and prepare for whatever post release onslaught could be coming. The fans on the boards who were negative… and I mean NEGATIVE and I can understand most of their issues. Yet, those issues are mostly based in falsehood expectations that they had. Not one of them have I heard complain about the story or the art. Many of them have complained about length and character, but the second is to each his own. Some people love Natural Born Killers, others hate it, the same with True Blood, My Little Pony, Ben 10, Batman and many many other things. One person will say the character was full of emption and I could really relate and another person of the same exact character can say they had no emotion and could not relate at all. These are things that happen with every creative piece of art ever made and BROKEN AGE truly is a piece of art and it is a game.

It is is not an interactive story, or an animated children’s book which you can press buttons on. It is the perfect example of an adventure game that exists as it would’ve had if when Double Fine was created did nothing but point n click games. This is how they would evolve. They wouldn’t just be retreads of Day of the Tentacle or Full Throttle or even Grim Fandango, but the next step, following the path that gaming has taken from going casual, back to hardcore, a return to casual and then reaching a happy medium that isn’t exactly a perfect balance and definitely won’t please all, but would allow for something fun, creative, purposeful, enjoyable, engaging and for some challenging, while others truly easy. For those who find it too easy though they would be getting something that no other game possessed. A special kind of charm, a witty humor, a sense of logic and story building that only Tim Schafer and a team he helped hand select could create.

My personal largest issue is people saying this is not what they expected and yet their expectations are all based on their own personal nostalgia and conception of what a Tim Schafer game is instead of the reality of it or at least to sound less biased, that there is another view of that and that the most important one is Tim Schafer’s. I will leave this argument and focus more now on the game itself and a couple of facts on the history of Tim Schafer games and Double Fine.

I feel to look properly at BROKEN AGE we must skip Monkey Island, as those were mostly Ron Gilbert games in which Tim got input but did not show us what type of game he would make. Day of the Tentacle is the first place when one sees the type of game Tim would make. Something that would take the genre to the next place. While multiple characters had been used in Maniac Mansion, finding a way to have those characters work together was new. DOTT was not as hard as people seem to remember though. Dave Grossman co-directed it and lots of his work which would be seen later on Moop & Dreadly and the Telltale Games catalog was definitely in place here… and they were equally Tim’s. Simplifying things to extract humor and thoughts but not making things so hard. The same can be said with Full Throttle, a game that was much more about fun, humor and story then trying to make things hard or complicated. It was short and balanced and even combined a difficult but not impossible action sequences, the first hint that Tim felt the best way to expand the genre was to simplify puzzles and add different types of gameplay. Full Throttle also showed Tim’s great and intriguing choices in voice casting and focusing on getting performances that would really show off his hilarious quips and really thought out storytelling. Mark Hamill, Maurce LaMarche, Tress Macneille, all inspired choices who at the time were established actors known to animation and genre fans worldwide. Then with Grim Fandango he flipped EVERYTHING upside down and made a 3D game with difficult controls, an abstract plot and even more abstract casting with voices everyone knew… Tony Plana, Maria Canals, Alan Blumenfeld and Pamela Segall-Adlon were all established actors with careers. It was an indication that if Tim could he’d really reach as far and as wide to get performances above and beyond that of a normal video game. The kind of performances we have all slowly now gotten used to, but back then… not even close to the norm.

Then… Tim Schafer stopped making point and click adventure games. Psychonauts had puzzles, but it was also an action platformer and one that took that genre into new directions with a heavy emphasis on conversations, visual cues, great storytelling with depth, and amazing acting performances. There was some really interesting casting on it with Armin Shimmerman, Josh Keaton and Tara Strong. He also proved a dedication using a lot of the talent from Throttle and Fandango. Then came Brutal Legend, turning the entire third person action adventure game in new ways and at times trying to do also way too much by adding Real Time Strategy. Yet, inspired casting, dialogue and story really leaped and showed Tim’s true talents as a director. Jack Black, Brian Posehn, Tim Curry, Jennifer Hale, Cree Summer and of course getting those legends of Rock.

After Brutal Legend and how it fared though Double Fine went smaller and Tim became a department head, while other voices in Double Fine showed how equally awesome they were. Costume Quest, Stacking, Iron Brigade, Middle Manager of Justice were all brilliant and definitely Double Fine games which also felt like Tim games even with Tasha Harris, Lee Petty, Brad Muir and Kee Chi as directors.

All this brings us to BROKEN AGE and I’ll start with this. I love it, I understand any negative reviews and complaints but respectfully disgaree with them and I think this is something all gamers who want a new experience that at the same time feels old. Tim’s handprint is all over this thing. The jokes are aplenty and funny. Some are easily missed if you don’t experiment at illogical things, but there comes the real fun of adventure games. This is the linchpin of everything for me. Tim has created something that is funny, heart warming and full of depth. Are the puzzles easy? I guess. I’ve seen plenty of people also stating they were stuck in places and actually turning to a walk-through or asking for a hint, so I think the balance has been hit. A delicate balance that any game of this type will have had trouble juggling. I believe they have done so successfully. We also really get everything we’ve gotten from Tim in the past, innovation, the next step. This is the game he’d of made in 2014 as an adventure game especially if Psychonauts and Brutal Legend were point and clicks if he had complete control without publishers and never turning to Kickstarter in the first place. Turn to Kickstarter he did though and that created a whole different setup. Because this might not be the game he would’ve made under a publisher. A publisher would’ve maybe given him that little amount asked for and then he’d make a game and publishers would complain instead of fans. All this could be wrong, but it’s what I feel and isn’t that what reviews are, feelings?

I think the biggest thing that makes BROKEN AGE special is twofold.

Firstly, taking the evolution of casting to the next level. Tim brought in a ton of old friends along with him, including the folks with him since Day of the Tentacle and even bringing back Jack Black, as well as Cree Summer and even recruiting Wil Wheaton again. It’s the NEW people that are so exciting though. In the leads Elijah Wood (yes, that guy!), Masasa Moyo (best known for Team America: World Police and Young Justice), and David Kaufman (Danny Phantom and animated Jimmy Olsen); joining them in minor roles are major voice actresses like Hynden Welch and Grey Delisle with a final extra special appearance by the creator of Adventure Time & Bravest Warriors (and the voice of Spacy Lump Princess) Pen Ward. It’s like the greatest cast ever in forever for anything.

Secondly is the art style. No game has ever looked like this, because no game has ever tried to look like a painting by Nathan Stapley (well other than the Flash game on Double Fine.com based on his comic book). While he’s been an employee at Double Fine for a long time and was previously at Lucas Arts, his personal work is something special and other worldly. His palette and style has a frenetic energy that has not been seen by many… not even his occasional mate and fellow Double Fine employees Scott Campbell, Levi Ryken or Lee Petty. “Bagel” is a very special artist and that comes through every image in the game. While Peter Chan and the other artists I mentioned had a major part in the concept art, the final look of this thing is still all through the eye of Nathan.  Words really do it no justice, so here’s two screen shots.  One from the “fantasy” world and one from the “space” world.  Both have all the artistic influences in here and really show off how absolutely beautiful this game is.

The final word from me is you need to get BROKEN AGE. Be it now (released February 28th, 2014) off STEAM to experience the awesomeness of ACT 1 and marvel at an amazing Part 1 or waiting for the whole game off of Humble and other sources. I say play it now… as you get the entire game. Also grab the soundtrack.

To Boldy Review where no Date has Reviewed

I have not truly amazingly had the luck to actually date many fellow nerds in my life. This isn’t to say I haven’t dated, jut I haven’t dated many nerds. The people who I consider my own. The comic fans, the wrestling fans, the sci-fi fans, the video gamers… now I have been with those people, but generally more than not I’ve been with people who actually were not on the same wave length as me. Not from lack of knowing where to find them, ask them out or any of that. Just the luck of the draw here.

Still I know there are plenty guys out there who can’t even get to that first step or even if they do, what to do next and after that or even after that. When you grow up watching Thundercats, playing Super Mario and reading Booster Gold while rolling dice for a D & D game and discussing the merits of Ric Flair over Roddy Piper on the phone with your friend whose thinking about his acne and multiple allergies, how to go out with the opposite or even same sex is gong to be an art you never really learn.

That’s where THE GEEK’S GUIDE TO DATING by Eric Smith comes into play or at least that how’d I’d sell it if I was a marketing person. Oh wait, I am… but that’s not where I’m coming from in this review.

I’ll admit even I might not be nerdy enough for this book. Some references were completely and totally lost on me. I’ve never been into Firefly, I’m not a big Link fan, I don’t know HALO from a brick in the wall… but I somehow still know what Eric was going for with each reference so it was never completely lost on me.

In many ways this isn’t just a geek’s guide to dating, but a clever voice in just basic logic of dating, understanding the ways and what fors of finding it, going on it and what to do after said date. These are tips that can be used by anyone in our modern social media driven world of Facebook, twitter, Foursquare and more. It’s just painted to attract an audience that would not necessarily go for it while being open enough for a non geek to at least see the the great cover and start skimming to see what it contains, notice how concise the advice is and just be “Huh, I could use this”.

One other great aspect that is a huge selling point to me is the cool Kickpixel pieces. I can’t really say anything about them, they just look awesome especially since I love 8 bit art even if I don’t like 8 bit games. Just look at this piece and if you don’t love it…I don’t know you. Even if you hate it, you still need this book. Actually if you hate it, you need this book more than anyone cause boy oh boy do you need some social tips.

GEEK’S GUIDE TO DATING came out September 3rd from QUIRK BOOKS and is a 5 x9 hardcover priced at $14.95

PRIMORDIA Review

What came first? Robots or Man? Was there even Man? Is Robot Man actually Man Robot? Can a Robot wear a Monocle? Can a machine have emotions? Is anyone above the law? Is the law truly the law? If you don’t know your own past, does it really mean you aren’t who everyone thinks you are? Can a robot fly, be sarcastic, and funny, but still really helpful and a great friend?

All these questions and more are asked, but not answered in PRIMORDIA... or more exactly they are given multiple answers, in which your own spiritual moral code will let you decide the answers.

In my preview of Primordia I said it reminded me of Beneath A Steel Sky, but once you really get into the crux of the game it feels both its own beast and yet even more a true predecessor and that is an actually great thing. There’s no denying the genius of Beneath A Steel Sky, no matter how hard one might try and there’s no denying the genius of Primordia.

It is an excellent point n click adventure with truly inventive puzzles that make you think as much inside the box as out of it. You are introduced to Non Player Characters who become extremely fleshed out as the story progresses, maybe more fleshed out than any I’ve seen before and in some cases more fleshed out than even your protagonist. In that it’s more link hints, little smattering, things to put together the puzzle together yourself.

All together the game presents a very large and over encompassing story about a post apocalyptic (or seemingly so) world in which only robots remain and these robots live in a 1984 lifestyle in which your character invades, upturns and rearranges in surprising ways. All along the way you’ll laugh, cry, be amazed and question your choices. These are meant more to convey the impression, they are not red herrings. There is no way to not finish the story. Actually there are multiple ways and that is just an added bonus to everything.

As a perfect ending to this short, succinct, but loving review I thought I’d share with you my also short but with brilliant answers via e-mail interview with the developers of Primordia and an extra bonus question for publisher Dave Gilbert of Wadjeteye.

1.) How much of Beneath A Steel Sky was an inspiration?  It felt throughtout the game and up to the ending even that it was being heavily referenced, but that could be my own nostalgia fog invading.

Vic: Yes, Beneath a Steel Sky was definitely an inspiration for me during the conception of the game. I recall that in some respects I wanted to make something in a similar vein, tonally. Metropol I think had the most direct graphical influence from BASS, but that said, I don’t really think of Metropol as representative of the art style in Primordia, which I feel is essentially more of a kind of Ray-Gun Gothic style you see around the UNNIIC and the Dunes – a melange of technologies flowing into ruin.

Mark: I played Beneath A Steel Sky years ago, and I remember somewhat liking it, though less so than Revolution’s later games — the Broken Sword series — which had a definite influence on my puzzle design.  Of course, people subconsciously assimilate ideas all the time, so I’m sure I drew from BASS.  Still, the strongest connection that people have been noting — Crispin to Joey — is misplaced.  Crispin is directly inspired by another sidekick, but it’s not Joey.  It’s Morte, from Planescape: Torment (along with some others like Cedric in King’s Quest V, Orko in He-Man, Zzyzzx in Sacrifice).  I don’t remember Joey at all from BASS, other than that there was a robot sidekick.  By contrast, I can can point to a lot of Crispin that was directly inspired by Morte — his refrain of “boss” (from Morte’s “chief”), his implausible amorous declarations, his skepticism of epic motifs.  But if people want to draw comparisons to BASS, I’m certainly not going to complain!  It’s a beloved game with a strong following.  I’m even more perplexed when people say that Crispin was based on Wheatley from Portal 2, a game I didn’t play until after the Primordia writing was done.  But, again, that’s a nice comparison for people to draw!

2.) What was the development process, did you complete the world/history/background before designing puzzles or was it a side by side creation.  Is there a large bible detailing the whole Primordia world?

Mark: There is a design document, but frankly the game is probably more expansive in content than the design document.  I spent a lot of time thinking about the world, of course, but like Sean Connery says in The Rock: “It was in my head!”  All along, we wanted the puzzles and the setting to complement each other, so we designed them in tandem. One of the reasons why I didn’t do some vast setting bible — which I’ve done for other games — is that I would rather that players fill in the blank areas on the map with their own imaginations, which I see some have already done.  We tried to include a lot of evocative references to places the player never goes, but left them vague enough that, say, Steeple’s Cathedral or the fractal network of robots in Civitas or the vast Factor complex are left to the player to create.

(Added side note by RHC post interview: The actual quote is “The blue was in my head”.)

3.) What was the creation style for the pixel art still paintings?  Are they originally paintings and then pixelized or straight from “sketch” to pixel?  Is there full on beautiful concept art that was done before all the pixels?

Vic: Almost all of the graphics and sprites for Primordia are hand painted in high resolution, then re-sized and touched up to create what is seen in-game. I did a lot of concept art and illustration for Primordia too, both to work out specific designs in detail, and also to create works that would inform the style and the overall look of the game. I probably did a lot more illustration than was necessary for Primordia (I even did some aerosol art toward the end too), but with all the low res graphics I had to do, it was a nice break to be able to make something a bit more, well, illustrative once in a while. I still think my best work in Primordia was the in-game graphics though. For me, an animated environment with characters etc will always win over a still image; at least in my mind and when it comes to my own work.
4.) We now have another sci-fi inspired Wadjet Eye published game with multiple endings… are we creating a pattern?  Is there any chance this style could influence Blackwell?

Dave: Hah – I’d love to do multiple endings in a Blackwell game, but since it’s an episodic series that could get very problematic. Maybe in the last installment!

Book Review: How I Slept My Way to the Middle by Kevin Pollak

I probably first took notice of Kevin Pollak when he played one of two brownies in the Ron Howard directed fantasy comedy WILLOW, opposite Rick Overton.

I have since stayed a fan and tend to enjoy everyone of his performances.

Despite being a “character” actor he’s avoided the “that guy” stigma. His other career as a stand-up and impressionist are part of the reason for that, but the fact that he’s completely versatile owes to it to. He can somehow be both cute, nebbish and non-threatening as he is at being menacing, hyper-intelligent, unlikable and a jerk, sometimes at the same time even.

I got to enjoy him as a stand-up luckily early on in the late 80’s, as we had cable along with HBO and by 10 my folks let me watch things that weren’t for kids. This probably screwed me over mentally but I’m here to talk about Kevin Pollak, not myself.
Although as I read his autobiographical memoir “How I Slept My Way to the Middle” (available November 6, 2012 from Lyons Press) I could not help to see parallels from his discovering himself as a performer at a young age and my own experiences. While they were very different in many ways, his slow rise through hard work and determination makes me wonder where I’d been by 30 if unlike Kevin I didn’t let my setbacks cause me to give up for a long time before climbing again.

Kevin never gave up though. He was tenacious with making a firm edge in becoming both a successful actor and comedian as well as now an excellent memoir writer or in the very least chronicler/collaborator for co-writer Alan Goldsher.

Starting in introduction with a hilarious anecdote about acquring his role in CASINO, the book quickly leaps into a chronological first person prose of Kevin’s upbringing, discovery of comedy and development as a performer. Interceded in the middle of stories and at the end of chapters are “words” from other well known people who have worked with, for, against, aside or just have been in the same room as Kevin. One of the funniest ones has to be Matthew Perry’s, although James Roday’s anecdote is pretty hilarious as well. There are also “A Few Good Words from Kevin’s Mom”, which may not actually been from his mom, but who knows. Many of the stories also have a post-script, in some cases a pre-script which actually is at the end of the story, but is still a reflection of a detail left out.

All together it fits as a 200+ page comedy special, which might be like a 4 hour show if performed. Maybe more, maybe less. Mostly funny, sometimes stupid, occasionally tragic. Kevin didn’t always have it easy, he had relationship problems, financial problems, and confidence problems. He’s very mellow in one breath and a sarcastic egomaniac in the next. A man who think he’s accomplished nothing and is extremely humble about his career, then a braggart who thinks no one else could achieve what he has. This personality has probably kept him as a commodity, but away from that breakout role that made him a household name. Not that he isn’t a household name, his name is known, but he definitely teeters on that strange balance between star and “that guy who was in that thing” on a regular basis. He seems comfortable with this too, as much as he hates it, he’s embraced… as much as one can.

What’s fascinating about the memoir is that it actually does go all the way up to the point of the publication, covering the bases of him getting into internet and the creation of Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show and it’s very exciting success. In a time when many stories of celebs (autobio and biog) stop at pinnacles of success 10-15 years before the actual writing of the book, this makes this one just that much better.

(Also, it has photos throughout, black & white yes, but published in context instead of just an insert in the middle)

{This review is based on Advanced Reading Copy}

As an addition to this review, here’s once again (it was embedded in a Book Expo overview) a video I filmed of Kevin promoting the book using his Christopher Walken impression:

memoirs of an imaginary friend: book review

I have no memory of it unfortunately, but according to my mom I definitely had a clear cut imaginary friend when I was younger. There’s no way of knowing if he was a simple kind, the kind you’d see in Fosters for Imaginary Friends or maybe like the Family Circus. I am sure he was nothing like Budo in Matthew Dick‘s absolutely fascinating and captivating “memoirs of an imaginary friend” though.

If I had to guess at my imaginary friend I’d assume he was just as human as Budo though, probably taller than me and more athletic, someone to discuss cartoons with in the morning, because ya know… who wants to talk to themselves? Still I am sure he was nothing like Budo, but whose to know. There is a chance that Matthew Dicks has delved into something we’ll never be able to prove with this novel. Maybe they aren’t as imaginary as we think… maybe they just live in a different realm.

While Budo is the voice and perspective of “memoirs”, he is not the lead character , that would be Max, a very special boy, whose actual diagnosis is never completely disclosed. He shows signs of autism, and possibly Asperger’s. I am not fully aware of either disease. I have a friend who is a very low spectrum of the autistic bend and  my father used to work with special needs children, but my own real experience is minimal other than having an immense respect for any child or adult who doesn’t let it stop them achieving a regular life full of work, love, fun and friends.

We know Max doesn’t like to be touched, he doesn’t like people or at least most people, he is very stringent in his ways and he has trouble expressing emotions. When he faces something new or different he gets stuck, like an empty wall. I saw it in my mind sort of like Tommy staring at a pinball machine, the entire world shut out and focus almost seems non-existent and in Max’s case, it being actually completely non focus. He’s very smart when it comes to traditional learning, likes to read, playing with toys, military strategy, building things with LEGOs and of all things pop culture, Star Wars.

As Budo describes both his own life as an Imaginary friend who instead Imaginary as one would think and Max’s difficult life with his parents, teachers, school bullies and more the book grows and turns in very unexpected ways. We meet the teachers, fellow students, other imaginary friends and some of the local residents, all through Budo’s very interesting and eye opening viewpoint.

There are plot twists later into the book that take what was seeming like it a sweet and simple, but written with depth story about caring, love, understanding and growing up into a tense, suspenseful, adventure thriller. That may seem like a huge leap but in context it all comes together brilliantly and in the end you feel like you’ve truly walked away with a higher understanding of growing up as a whole. Dicks also doesn’t leave one hanging on certain conceptual threads, they aren’t clear cut final thesis into the reality (per se) of imagination, death, afterlife and more, but boy does he try and I commend him for it.

I must say I truly like the original ARC cover then the one used in the UK where the book is credited to Matthew Green or the final American cover. That is why it’s the image I chose for this review.

“memoirs of an imaginary friend” came out in the U.S. In August 2012, this review was based on a complimentary Advanced Reader’s Edition.

Antoine Wilson’s Panorama City: Book Review

When one grows up insulated and with not much world experience, you would assume that the world will both be an oyster and possibly swallow that person whole at the same time.

I personally can’t say that is something I’ll ever get to experience. Seeing the world for the first time as an adult, since my parents starts making me my own man at a young age, I learned the appreciation at a young age as well. The not knowing what you have till it’s gone or once having it realizing it wasn’t what you wanted. That all came to me young, long before I ever had to consider it or worry about it. Not to say I faltered here or there, but luckily I’m also quite smart. Not to try and sound egotistical even, I have a good brain. I catch on quick, I know what’s happening, I’m aware of my surrounding.

Unlike some classic fictional characters who have been both locked in their own world and not very smart till the world hits them head on. The most notable of these of course would be Winston Groom’s Forrest Gump, but to completely use him as a reference to discuss Antoine Wilson‘s PANORAMA CITY would give its protagonist disservice.

Oppen Porter is definitely not the smartest guy in the world, he’s quite naive indeed and it takes him awhile to process things, but he’s not completely a lucky clueless fool. In a shirt time he experiences what to some would be years of experiences. Love, heartbreak, religious awakening, spirtual founding, job promotion, switching careers, oppression, new friends, old friends, losing friends, death. All in less than two months, two tumultuous exciting months that he relays to his unborn child through tapes.

This device of first person narrative through what could be conceived as transcripts is a clever way to get pulled into Oppen’s viewpoint while also feeling like a listener who knows that it is only one viewpoint. This is a theme of everything Oppen tells his future son though, varying viewpoints and how no one way is right or wrong, they just are.

Life in many ways always seems to work in circles, but not perfect circles. Circles with spikes and protraction. I was reminded of this throughout PANORAMA CITY and yet it also gave me a feeling of hope. Antoine Wilson’s wordplay and semblance of sentiment and wonderment through Oppen causes one to see the world with new, more open (slight pun intended) eyes and a desire to live life to its fullest whatever that means for ones self.

The book also really made me want a bicycle more than ever.

Here’s an original drawing of a bike by the author Antoine Wilson.

The preceding review was based off an advanced galley.
PANORAMA CITY by Antoine Wilson is scheduled to come out September 25, 2012 from Houghton Miflin Harcourt.

iCookBooking PCS Style

 

Being a trained chef who prior to getting an expensive education read and studied cookbooks for fun means that I now infrequently use such books. Although I do turn to them when needing some new pointers, or a very popular or famous chef compiles their favorite original concoctions along with personal anecdotes and now as a technophile I actually checking out cookbook apps and software when I can or when offered a look.
I have tried out Better Homes and Garden’s, Cooks Illustrated and more, and the biggest issue I found in them was that you have to have an internet connection always running to get to the recipes. Yes, we are talking about iPhone/iPad apps so the idea that you’d be offline is pretty crazy, but what if you’re doing a barbeque in the Ozarks and for one second you decide… “Hey, this potato salad is so boring… what else can I do with potato salad?” and in this imaginary situation you have access to any food or food item you want, but no internet and you’re flavor profile mind isn’t just kicking in. So an app which you can download recipes to before you head to the Ozarks is best right?I’ve been sampling a few that were okay, but had many flaws I didn’t care for and have missed a few that fascinated me but were truly out of my price range and there’s some that haven’t come out yet. There are a variety of interesting celebrity sponsored apps such as ones from excellent chefs and television personalities like Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver and when looking for something very specific they come in handy. There’s even a version of Mark Bittman’s “How To Cook Everything”, but that is much more a guidebook to cooking and less so a cookbook collection.

 

That’s what the app iCookBook can help with. Although it’s much more than that. In terms of layout and design I’ve liked it much more than any of the others. I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re the best of the recipes though, despite being many of them and I mean any. The collection is of all Brand name recipes, things from boxes of products ranging from Kraft, Hershey’s, Pace, Wish-Bone and more. Of course you wouldn’t have to use the name brand product if trying a recipe, you could use something similar and probably get the same results.

The app has monthly free downloads adding new recipes along with optional paid recipe options based on themes and styles.

The setup is as easy as many, you get your ingredient list and then follow very simple instructions. You can find recipes via filters such as method of cooking, theme, time of creating the dish, theme of the dish, and more. For someone like me I’d be using it as just a pointer, but it’s definitely a good pointer and much easier to use than any of the other apps as I said and more versatile.  I wouldn’t be surprised to discover something new and interesting too, with over 2000 recipes available on download and many more there’s going to be something I didn’t ever learn in school or post school studies.

It also has easy access to items such as conversion charts and substitutions, the ability to create a shopping list and offers customer service.

iCookbook is a universal app designed to work on iPhone and iPad equally and is available for $5 which is cheaper than any cookbook that would be on this collection. It is also available for Android, HP Touchpad and Windows 8.

(this review was based on a generously gifted iPhone review copy, but had no bearing on its review)

Keeping an eye on Wadjeteye

I first discovered the writing and programing talent of Dave Gilbert through the AGS website and specifically the first games he tackled based on the Reality-On-The-Norm universe and then his first AGS game, the uncomplicated as it existed, but still essentially continued (by Blackwell) Bestowers of Eternity. I was happy to see him continue on as a writer with the AGS award winning Two of A Kind and his first major project The Shivah. This game was eventually expanded into a commercial game which allowed him to begin his independent studio Wadjeteye Games which has not only become home to his excellent and inspired Blackwell series, but as a publisher/distributor for games written by.

The latest game from Wadjeteye was The Blackwell Deception, a very well crafted chapter full of interesting dialogue, clever puzzles and exciting plot enhancement and direction which delivered on all fronts for fans of adventure games. While the pixel bit graphics are obviously a desired taste, a true adventure game fan and a person who appreciates great writing as well as the painstaking effort to create recognizable quality pixelart will absolutely love it.

At this years New York Comic Con I had the pleasure to sit down with Dave on a relaxing Sunday after much chaos and have a passionate and exciting 25 minute conversation about his history getting into programming and developing as such.

I found it quite interesting that prior to AGS and Reality-On-The-Norm he had minimal background in programming and had not been published professionally as a writer. It was 10 years ago after going to school for broadcasting and being laid off from a job at CNN, that over a weekend after the Twin Towers/September 11th situation happened he discovered AGS and the RON games and decided he could do this, as the software was fairly easy for one with some basic programming skill and RON already had an established shared universe and graphic assets.

Following that came the aforementioned Bestowers of Eternity, followed by a collaborative project Two Of A Kind, which won lots of merit and awards. Dave laments that the two other people he worked with no longer seem to be involved in the gaming world.

I asked Dave a lot about the writing process behind the entire Blackwell saga, curious to how much he had locked down in terms of where the story is going. He told me that he knows exactly his ending, but it isn’t exactly fully structured out with notes like a set screenplay or novel, there’s no “bible”… just what sits in his head, except some major structures are “written” down, like Joey’s origin. Which I find quite fascinating, cause that’s a lot to keep jumbled up there, but at the same time it allows him to work more freely and let random ideas pop in or change his focus on the sage as it exists. He had done a job where he was paid to defraud a phony psychic and he knew that at some point he wanted to use that as the plot for a game and he worked around that for a Blackwell game, building from the basic plot. The puzzles and writing come first, followed by dialogue and restructuring before the actual coding.

We proceeded talking about puzzle solutions, how people will solve them, how they get decided upon, it was really fascinating, and showed me how passionate Dave is about game creation and adventure games.

One of the final things we spoke of was Dave’s one professional game developed outside of Wadjeteye. Approached by games company Playfirst for a casual adventure game and after several pitches an Emerald City/OZ game was approved. Emerald City Confidential is one of the favorite games in my echelon of ownership. We discussed the conceptions of creating an OZ story and the rights behind creating something in public domain.

I suggested that Dave consider writing his games out as a book as well, we shall see where that goes but in the meantime, grab yourself all the Blackwell games, as well as Gemini Rue, the first published game by another developer from Wadjeteye and do yourself a favor and hunt down other games as well. The AGS scene is awesome and while Dave is one of the tops and deserves the attention, broaden yourself, it’s worth it.