Thursday, October 31, 2013

Why You Shouldn't Buy the X-box One OR the PS4 at Launch - By Mike Fatum

It's time! It's finally time! New consoles are coming! In just a few short weeks, we'll have our hands on the shiny and the brand new instead of the old and busted. Hooray!

But wait, before you get too excited. Let's stop and think about this for a minute. Despite our love to have the newest and the greatest, should anyone really be buying the X-box One or the Playstation 4 at launch? Is it worth it just to have these consoles in your living room? I'd say no, honestly. Why? Let me break it down for you:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Why I'm Not Going To Watch Ender's Game--Possibly Ever - by Chris Brecheen

It's true that Orson Scott Card would only get a "few cents" of my movie ticket price, but even that is not okay. 

In just a couple of days from this writing, a movie that just about every science fiction geek has sworn they would love to see made into a movie will be coming to the big screen like a lifetime dream realized. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card, has moral questions. It has plot twists. It has intellectual quandaries. It has a fantasy fulfillment hero who most geeks (with a propensity to be "gifted" themselves) tend to identify highly with. It's got neat fights with smart combat. And by the end, it has some serious fucking explosions! This book hits just about every "must read" list of science fiction and mainstream alike. 

Plus giant bugs.  I mean come ON. It will be like Starship know....not stupid.

So why on Earth wouldn't a geek like me be salivating to see it? Why is it, that even though it's a winter release (facing down a lineup of romantic comedies and Christmas feel good movies instead of summer blockbusters in its own league), in what should rightly be the biggest collective jeans creaming since The Avengers, there is instead a trepidation on the part of many in the geek community about exactly how much support to give this movie, if any? Why are so many simultaneously wetting themselves to see this flick and struggling to justify doing so?  And why has there erupted a deluge of convoluted ways to rationalize a viewing instead of the usual shameless pitching of tents at two in the morning to wait in line, dressed like a Borg or Legolas or something?

You normal.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Should We Pay to See One Actor? - by Jonathan Howe

Throughout the years many famous actors and actresses have gone to conventions to promote whatever project they are working on, and to meet the fans that have followed them for their entire career. It didn’t matter how big of a character they played and for how long, people lined up outside and inside buildings just to meet their favorite actors from their favorite movies or TV shows. (There's always a booth at Comic-con for the Stormtrooper who said "Look sir, Droids!" -Ed) However, there is always that random actor/actress that just didn’t want to go to conventions and deal with the people that are less than calm when in the presence of someone they idolize. In the Power Ranger fandom, there is that one person, Amy Jo Johnson.

2013 marked the 20th anniversary of the Power Rangers Franchise and, as such, many conventions are celebrating. Many past Ranger actors have gone from convention to convention to talk with fans It’s always been known in the Power Ranger fandom that Amy Jo never wanted to show up for a convention. It was never clear why, though many speculated that it might be because she regretted her time as a Ranger. This news was somewhat upheld by Amy Jo herself when, during a recent interview, she stated that she had nightmares while doing stage shows for Power Rangers. It’s not clear if these were a contributing factor of her not going to conventions, but anything is possible.

However, everything changes next March as Amy Jo is scheduled to show up to Lexington Comic & Toy Convention. The ticket website has her doing “a private function with limited admissions”. It’s not clear how many seats are available and the price, per ticket is $100. Now, this doesn’t seem that bad, considering Jason David Frank, a co-star of Amy Jo’s from Power Rangers and long standing convention goer, is holding two private “functions” himself with each ticket at $75. One thing is for sure though, many con-goers will be upset as Amy Jo will not be having a booth on the con floor or walking around the convention. She is showing up for her special two hour function where the attendees will watch her two new movies “Bent” and “Lines”, listen to her sing songs from her new album “Never Broken” and then a moderated one hour Q&A session. Needless to say, fans will be upset if they can’t afford the $100 price tag to see one of the most beloved Rangers ever.

It’s been twenty years since she dawned the pink helmet and spandex and many people were looking forward to her coming out of the dark and into the light for everyone to see the first Pink Ranger. There will be people that are sympathetic to her that knows what can happen at conventions but, to make it so you need to pay that much money just to spend half the time watching a movie and a concert just doesn’t seem right. Amy Jo Johnson is a good singer and actor and I’m sure some are looking forward to listening to her sing and watch her movies but, not walking the convention or having a booth of your own? Why does it seem more like this isn’t so she can meet fans and more of just to sell her CD’s and movies? Is this nothing more than a publicity stunt? The truth will be revealed on March 11th, 2014.

X-men: Days of Future Past Trailer!

Good morning everyone! Here's a nice surprise to wake up to: the trailer for X:men: Days of Future Past is live! Check it out after the jump:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Nu-Metal? Superman acting like a douche? Must be the New 52.

DC released the trailer for their newest animated movie, Justice League: War, which follows the new origin on the Justice League. Here's the trailer.

That trailer music, man. It's like every cheesy straight to DVD movie from the 90s. Which is what the New 52 is in a nutshell, really. It's every awful cliche from 90s comic books brought back to life in a desperate attempt to capture some of the comic sales from back then. Ugh ugh ugh.

What's Bruce Timm up to these days?

Why I Lost My Head Over Sleepy Hallow - By Jarys

Sleepy Hallow, a FOX channel supernatural thriller, has taken my friends by storm. I nodded my way through a handful of recommendations, people swearing that if I was not too in to Agents of SHIELD, I would like this. I was told it was up my alley. However, as much as I appreciate seeing what my fiends think of as "up my alley", I have been quite busy over the last few weeks. I meant to check it out, but there was always grading to do, games to plan for, etc.

Thank goodness I got everything done before this weekend. I found myself nursing my jaw after a tooth extraction (you're out of the tribe, bottom left Wise-guy!) with nothing I HAD to do, so I found Sleepy Hallow online and tried it out. 

Damn. It's good. 

Here is why: 

- The show uses the supernatural intelligently. The show begins in New York during the Revolutionary war, where the character Ichabod Crane is mortally wounded in the persuit of a mission and wakes up in a cave in 2013. When he wake up, he is surrounded by jars of sleeping amphibians, which shatter as he wakes. I was struck with how closely this stuck with American Folk magic of the 18th and 19th century, which was influenced by European Hermetic beliefs. Most relevantly, as written in the Tres Libris Occultes, Hermetic mystics believed that all things, living or not, has essential qualities that could be extracted and focused elsewhere. They also believed that many amphibians, especially frogs, did not hibernate in mud as much as they possessed the quality of immortality. It would be perfectly reasonable for an  occultist of the time to attempt to put someone in to a coma by siphoning off such a quality from frogs into the "patient". This is not the only occult aspect which fits with the colonial-beliefs theme. 

- The writers pay particular attention to history. One of my favorite example is a joke I shall not spoil. Instead, I will point out that the technology, culture, and politics that Crane understands is entirely period appropriate. There is a moment when he asks to see a Native Shaman and reacts to the knowledge that the U.S. Government wiped these people out with shock and anger. Crane venomously reminds a mostly ignorant American audience that our own ideas of a democratic republic were influenced by Native American democracy. No one ever talks about this on prime time fiction programming, as least as far as I have experienced. I was surprised and delighted. The history isn't perfect, however, see below. 

- The show IS up my alley. If you need any further convincing, read the last two paragraphs again. Plus I love funny and the show has that, a smart humor that often utilizes the writers' knowledge of history. 

This was supposed to be her last day on the job.
- Lieutenant Abbie Mills, the other half of this "buddy-cop" set up (who is an actual cop), is a fantastic character. She carries compelling and horrifying personal baggage, is more than just a "strong female character", and is intricately connected to the plot and character of the show as an active force  (to balance Crane's "fish out of water" aspect). Her moral struggle in the first five episodes is a great and deep look into mental illness stigma (having been a witness to supernatural events). She is a good character who can equally balance the interest Crane brings as a magic time traveler. 

- The characters' relationship is non-romantic. Crane has a wife to which he is still loyal, despite her death. Lieutenant Millls neither has nor needs a romantic interest to give her outside connections. She does have an ex on the force that she wants little to do with. Her and Crane's relationship is semi-professional and becoming more trust-based camaraderie every episode. No "will they won't they?", no pushing characters in to "knight and maiden" roles to reflect their romance. This is a huge plus to me, as it frees up the interpersonal relationship to more intricacy, I am bored of those sorts of conceits, and it plays up the "Men and women can't just be friends" myth. 

I know it's a well kept beard, my eyes are up here. 
- Ichabod Crane is very attractive, to me at least (although I am sure his general appeal is a factor of which the show's creators are aware). He is written as intelligent, loquacious (mmmm), progressive (for his time, he swears to Mills, who is black, that he is an abolitionist in an attempt to prove his good intentions), passionate about the cause of the Enlightenment without being unrealistic, empathetic, and witty. It does not hurt that he is also svelte, long haired, deep eyed, and in possession of a well trimmed beard. And his fumbling around technology and with the modern world is endearing. Ok, I'm done treating this guy like a piece of meat. Let's move on to....

The show's imperfections:

- The show has a strong and heavy metaplot which has factored in to every episode I have seen (up to episode five). Without a procedural or open investigative element, I am concerned that this plot will not carry the show. The show reminds me a little of the X-files, in that it is a supernatural investigative, just without the science fiction elements. X-files episodes could be divided into plot episodes and "monster of the week" episodes. Sleepy Hallow has yet to show anything but plot episodes, and may sink under the weight of this sort of focus.

As opposed to the demon Moloch, who always appears OUT of focus.
- The metaplot is supernatural, but Christian. Not that there is anything wrong with Christian mythology, but in a show about the supernatural, such writing limits the creatures, situations, and wider world that can be discovered. Bringing in non Christian elements later risks disrespecting the cultures from which they originate. Now, one thing I notice is that the show does not glorify Christian belief or practice, it just uses the mythologies of an 18th century Christian world, which was obsessed with magic, witchcraft, demons, and prophecy. I also note that most of the plot they use is based off of the Book of Revelations, which does not strictly relate to most of the rest of the bible. Honestly, the way the show is set up, it is entirely possible that the characters are viewing a far more multicultural supernatural world through a specific lens.

- The show uses almost nothing from the original "Sleepy Hollow" story. In that story, Crane was a shmuck, Katrina had no interest in him, and the Headless Horseman is all but settled as a prank. Bad news for narrative purists, of which I often am. In spite of my instincts, I think the show is better without these elements.

FINAL VERDICT: GUILTY..... of being very entertaining and pleasingly written. The show is not perfect, but I highly recommend it to you. Go out dear readers, go discover this show. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Trailer is live!

I gotta admit, I had a little trepidation about the new Captain America movie. There seemed to be too much crammed in - SHIELD, Black Widow, the Falcon...but now I've seen the trailer. And that trepidation is gone. It looks like they're hitting exactly the right notes with this, and I'm damned exited. Hit the jump to see it in action.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Vegas: Day 3

Hey all! Stephanie here again with Day 3 of my work vacation in Las Vegas!

If you missed yesterday (Day 2), you can check it out here

If you're just joining me now, go ahead and start back at the beginning, here

TL;DR: Wednesday went much much MUCH better than Tuesday. I got the courage up enough to conquer the trade show and ended the day with further exploration of the Strip!

Vegas: Day 3

The adventures of StephCa, Boss-lady and Boat-girl continue!

Compared to yesterday, I woke up at a pretty reasonable hour, took a shower, got dressed, and ate a breakfast bagel (made by yours truly, with cheap ingredients bought at Walgreens the day before). Sporting some black pants, a black dress shirt and a red scarf for a little "pop", I was mentally preparing myself for the trade show. All of those people and all of those booths - it was really intimidating still!

After reading up on an article about networking for introverts, I had enough courage to get myself over to the convention center across the street. Based on some reflection and careful consideration, I decided that I would walk up and down the rows of the trade show in order to familiarize myself with my surroundings. I felt that this was really helpful, considering that yesterday "flight" rather than "fight" was my response when being met with the overwhelming situation that was the trade show.

[psycho babble] The brain, when being exposed to new stimuli, goes through a series of tests so as to increase the chance of safety and self-preservation. The reptilian portion of your brain is in charge of the flight or fight response. If your brain responds with
"NOPENOPENOPEFUCKTHISSHITIAMSOOUTOFHERE" then your brain releases adrenaline and a
series of other chemicals to help get you out of that situation as fast as possible. If your brain decides that "hey, this isn't so bad, I'll probably be fine", then a different set of chemicals gets released and curiosity and emotional aspects from the limbic portion of your brain can take over. The limbic portion of your brain is in charge of emotions, storing long-term memory, and it's also where our mirror neurons are located. If you've ever found yourself in a conversation with someone and you've begun nodding or gesticulating like they are and mirroring their moves, credit goes to your mirror neurons. From there, your neocortex - the portion of your brain located behind your forehead - is in charge of logic and critical thinking. It is this part of the brain that takes that information you're bringing in and begins to analyze it. [/psycho babble]

I got pulled over a few times when walking around the trade show floor, and although everyone was nice enough to talk to me they didn't spend a whole lot of time with me. When you introduce yourself as a student, they're excited that you're excited about the industry, but there are other people out and about the trade show that will actually buy stuff from them. Also, apparently having my own business cards despite being "just a student" was impressive to a lot of the vendors there, so that made me feel pretty good.

After about an hour of roaming around, I made my way over to a campfire session. The campfire sessions at IMEX are designed to be miniature classes for about 10 or so attendees, and they talk about a particular topic for approximately half an hour. (Some of these I get credit for, but most are for personal development.) Boss-lady recommended that I go to a confidence-building class, and after my failed attempt at attending the trade show yesterday I agreed that it could only get better from there.

The campfire setting consisted of a series of about a dozen little, cube-like ottomans that were placed in a relatively tight circle. When I first arrived at the campfire, I was greeted by three very friendly women who invited me to sit and even provided some water for me. (Water was scarce at the convention, so I tried to chug as much of it as I could when possible.) I was instantly turned on to this style of communication where people were able to connect with each other face-to-face and in a very small, but welcoming environment. I felt very at-ease talking to these women.

The best part about this particular campfire though was hearing the horror stories of the day before - turns out most of the people that were attending also felt extremely overwhelmed! I cannot fully express how much better that made me feel; it was like I hadn't made a mistake yesterday, but, rather that I just could've handled the situation better. We even did some short role-playing to help address our anxiety and our confidence coach was absolutely amazing. 


Once the campfire ended, I did a lot of quick chit-chat with some of the other group members that had joined us a little late and swapped a bunch of business cards. (Again, many people were impressed that I had business cards - more confidence boosting!) I thanked the presenter and her assistant profusely, and then even began walking around with some of the other women I had become expo friends with! Even when we eventually did split up, we would still run into each other out on the floor and give each other tips for where the best giveaways were taking place, or who has the best food, etc. This was the con experience that everyone really needs to have in order to feel that the con was a personal success, and I was finally having it! Victory was mine!

I would also like to note that I made another bagel sandwich for lunch and there were finger-foods provided at the convention to supplement my lunch, so other than a drink and a few souvenirs at Walgreens I had not spent any money during trade show hours - huzzah! (Walgreens trip was about $8 for berries, a drink and a few gifts.)

It didn't look nearly as...uh...awesome as this?

After the trade show ended, boss-lady, boat-girl and I went up to our rooms and got changed into something more comfortable and then went down to dinner at the in-house buffet. When boss-lady booked her package she also got bonus food vouchers so we got to eat a free dinner too! Lemme tell you - I haven't had a food baby that large in a long time. Since I had only eaten bagel sandwiches and pretzels throughout the day I was overly excited to see real food. They had a sushi bar, BBQ bar, salad bar, pizza bar, a misc food bar (baked potatoes and fish fillets didn't really fit anywhere else I guess), and finally a dessert bar. Like the fatty I am, I tried ALL THE FOOD OMNOMNOMNOM. For a free buffet, I could not complain. My stomach complained a lot though.

Following dinner we three ladies hit the Strip! We took the monorail to the MGM Grand at the end of the Strip and then made our way back towards our hotel after a few hours of exploring. We stopped by MGM, Luxor, Excalibur, New York New York (and we rode on the roller coaster on top of the hotel!), Ross Vegas, Paris, Bellagio, Q's, Harrah's, Caesar's Palace, Mirage and then finally back to TI!

A shout out to New York New York's roller coaster. Clocking in at $14 for a single ride ($25 for an all-day pass), this roller coaster had me screaming until there was no more air left in my lungs. First, the coaster sits on top of the casino, so the fear factor is already above average. Of course, as all roller coasters do, this one started out with a suspenseful clickclickclick up to the top of one of the longest drops I've ever experienced. Lots of very tight twists and turns, and a few loops to boot. Additional scare-factor because it was at night and we were in the back car. Totes worth it. I would highly recommend to any thrill-seeker or coaster lover. 

 This was an ice cream shop where they made your ice cream in front of you using an anti-griddle.  Super neat!

The place I would most like to give a shout out to is Dick's at Excalibur. It's a restaurant and bar where the staff give you hats with funny insults that they make up themselves. Boat-girl went up to the bar and after 2 minutes asked "where's my hat" to which the bartender replied, "slow down girl, you just fuckin' got here" to which we all had a good laugh. Following suit, her hat had said "FUK OFF", as inspired by this first interaction. Boss-lady's hat said "I make Dick's swell" (double-entendre, well played...) and mine simply said "I'm 2 EZ". The bartender also made us a drink, slightly yellow in color, appropriately called "golden showers". Normally I hate red bull and vodka, but it was surprisingly pretty good! The drinks were a little pricey ($14 each, and I tipped the guy $2), but we got to keep the glasses as souvenirs so we agreed it was worth it. 

Damage report:
Breakfast: Free
Lunch: Free
Walgreens: $8
Dinner: Free
Monorail ticket: $5
Drinks: $16
Total spent: $37 YEAH WHAT SON

#shameless #selfie

Friday, October 18, 2013

Why the Last Episode of Korra was Damn Great Enough That I Am Writing a Post About It - Jarys


     Have you been watching Season 2 of The Legend of Korra? I highly recommend it. After a narratively self contained first season, Korra and the gang are off, going to interesting locales (mostly around the South Pole) and getting tangled in politics. Which is also family affairs.

      It's complicated.

      There are a handful of new characters, most notably Unalaq, his twin children, and Verrick. Unalaq, Korra's uncle and the leader of the Northern Water Tribe comes in to teach Korra spirit manipulating water bending, but little of that is done before he unpacks a political plot development: Unalaq wants to unite the Southern and Northern Water tribes for the spiritual good of the world. There's some good moral greys here, with Korra torn over who's side she should support, her uncle or her independence loving father. Unfortunately most of those details quickly collapse in a plot twist many could see coming, though not an inappropriate one.

     Unalaq is an interesting character. He starts cold, but wise, as much removed from the world as the spirits he represents. He seems incredibly focused on spirits and the price of his dedication is slowly revealed. Until Korra finds such misdeeds that she must oppose him, he never seems to be wrong. In fact, even after that point it's easy to see his side of things. I get the sense that his depth as an "bad guy" will not come solely from his blood relation with Korra. His turn to antagonist was a cool twist,  but not unexpected.

     But there's more of a twist here, that comes out in the last episode, "The Sting". On the wake of Unalaq's troops is the eccentric businessman named Verrick. Verrick up until this episode is played for either laughs or as the source of monumental bad ideas that spark the plot to further conflict. He pushes the Southern Water Tribe to revolt, he offers Korra and her allies escape, he pushes Asami to make risky business decisions, all the while smiling and giving a carefree and overconfident attitude. He seems the clown.

     Not so. For Verrick, early in the episode attempts to push Asami to trade by saying "if you can't make money in war, you just can't make money." And if you don't catch that, the evidence Mako finds revealing Verrick to be behind a number of conflict rousing crimes, all pushing for war, will really take you by surprise. his last appearance in the episode is one of incredibly more intelligence and malice than he has ever shown before. He squints and smiles as Asami signs away a controlling share in here company to him. His plan is revealed......he is entirely behind the war, has been weakening Asami's business through bad advice. He is all the more malicious than Unalaq as his is a position without idealism or principle, he manipulates only for personal profit.

     I rather hope they make him into the main antagonist......

     Before I go, let's talk about Bolin. I like Bolin, he's a dynamic fool, both silly and wise, and he has some strong characterization in the first season. Much of that came from his courtship of Korra, which gave much reason to cheer. Bolin is upfront about his desire to date Korra and keeps this distinct from his loyalty to her as a friend. He directly asks her out and when she says no due to feeling less then presentable he argues for her inalienable virtues. I especially appreciate that at least two of the virtues he extols refer to her physical strength and general prowess, showing that he is attracted to her for more than her looks or other male on female compliments I find tired. They go out and the date is not resolved. 

So I feel Bolin is well in his rights to be upset when he walks in on Mako and Korra kissing. He cries, he tosses sass at his brother, and even references his brown heart when Korra next tries to heal him. But he accepts the healing and is very mature when they talk things out about their friendship. Bolin doesn't blame Korra for not liking him and liking Mako anymore than he blames himself for liking her. He brings a point of maturity to a typically bitter comedic role as spurned suitor. I appreciated that because it shows a bit healthier take on dating than the shows I watched as a kid depicted. [EDIT: I am now wondering if I am rembering the details of the date correctly. I'll get back to you and correct any mistakes.]

But that is not the Bolin in the last episode. I was quite dissapoinyed. I will not spoil the details, but if you watched, please feel free to discuss in the comments. It's all out spoilers in here, folks. 

I'll keep watching and I hope you enjoy the show as much as I do. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Las Vegas: Day 2

Hey all!  Stephanie here again with Day 2 of my Vegas shenanigans!  If you missed the first post, check it out here.

The tl;dr version of today's post is that I'm kind of a loser.  

Las Vegas: Day 2

Let me tell you about all of the things I should've spent my day doing, and then I'll tell you what I ended up doing.  

I had planned on going out exploring the many sights in Las Vegas - going to the top of the Eiffel tower, riding the roller coaster at New York New York, checking out the Red Square at Mandalay Bay, shopping at Ross Vegas, etc.  Once done with that, I was going to head over to the convention center for giveaways for the last hour or so, and then go catch a few more shows and explore some more.

None of that actually happened day went as follows:

Woke up early, only to get up for half an hour and fall back asleep for another two hours.  When I woke up, I started on the blog for Day 1 and it took an excruciatingly long time to finish.  Once I was done with that, I proceeded to take a shower.  By the time I got out and dressed, it was already 1pm.  I popped across the street to meet the boss-lady for lunch (which, by the way, we snagged for free!)  We had the pleasure of eating our boxed lunches whilst watching gondolas glide on the indoor canal system within the Venetian hotel. 

They sang in Italian too!

Once we were done with lunch, we made our way to the expo floor, and then I panicked.  

I had a "holy shit what do I even do here?" moment.  It soon became a "holy shit why am I even here?" moment when I realized that I left my business cards in the hotel room by mistake.  D'oh.  This was the end-of-game boss-fight of event expo's and I'm a level 0 commoner surrounded by level 30 dragons in disguise. 

 I had a very brief walk-around with boss-lady which then led me to believe that this room stretched on forever.  Of the 2.25 million square feet in the convention center, they're using about half of it.  We eventually made our way back to the SF Travel booth where boss-lady was stationed, and I met a few people from various hotels and tourism companies.  I had to leave pretty soon after though; all of the people and the noise and my inexperience with trade shows came crashing down and I was on the precipice of a panic attack.  

I made my way to Walgreens next door, hoping that shopping for small gifts and buying some snack food would help keep my mind preoccupied.  Turns out that everyone and their mothers decided to hang out at Walgreens and buy souvenirs too, so my claustrophobia kicked in when I was surrounded on all sides in a tiny aisle that was impossible to maneuver out of.  
Cost for this particular Walgreens trip was about $42.  Great...(not)

After that, I proceeded back to the hotel room to recover and watch funny youtube videos in an attempt to pull myself together. 

Pewdiepie is playing through Beyond: Two Souls right now.  All the feels.  
Also, that gif about sums up what I felt internally towards my afternoon.

Boss-lady soon informs me that she's bought tickets for the Cirque du Soleil show at Treasure Island for us.  
Ticket cost: $68.  

She also informs me that we have dinner reservations with other people from the SF Travel booth at a Mexican restaurant down the street.  Food was good, and I bought the cheapest items on the menu, but when the bill came it was decided that we'd split it 5 ways instead of paying individually.  

Dinner cost: $32
My dinners worth: $18 );

After dinner was done, we had about half an hour before seating began for the Cirque show.  Boss-lady, boat-girl and I went back up to our rooms to freshen up before the show, and then came back down promptly at 9pm when theater doors opened.

The Cirque du Soleil show was definitely the highlight of my day.  I had only ever seen it on television, but there's SO MUCH other stuff happening simultaneously it's almost a crime to try and televise it.  Turns out that the show that we saw, Mystere, has been playing at TI for over 15 years now.  The usher we spoke with said that he got tired of the show pretty quick (hour and a half shows, 10 times a week for 15 years and he has worked nearly all of them), but it didn't mean that the show was any less amazing for me. 

Following Cirque, we saw a....potentially NSFW show?  The Sirens of TI show takes place outside of the hotel, and it's free.  After a few wind warnings, they finally started.  Lip syncing and inappropriate jokes galore.  (The lady-captain? of the sirens started off with "if any seamen dare enter my cove....", I shit you not.)  It was a free show, so I'm not complaining so much as I am laughing/crying over it.  

Once that train wreck was done, we went back to our rooms...and here I am now writing this blog at 2am.  

Money breakdown:
Breakfast: free (leftovers)
Lunch: free (boxed lunch)
Walgreens: $42
Dinner: $32
Entertainment: $68
Total damage: $142.  

Better luck tomorrow I suppose :/

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Return of the Walking Dead -by Kyle Johannessen


     As the euphoria of one of the greatest, back to back comebacks in all of sports history was washing off, (yes, I’m talking about the New England Patriots and the Boston Red Sox. I’m a well rounded geek!) it came time to sit down with the roommates and start watching America’s favorite gore fest this side of Westeros. The Walking Dead. I started out as a pretty big Dead fan. I thought the first season was masterfully done, and couldn’t wait for the second season to start. Unfortunately, the second season bored me to tears, and I found myself unable to make it back after the Mid-Season finale. Which is a shame because it was the only other show I would watch on a weekly basis other than Game of Thrones (I’m not big on network TV.)

Two shows with NOTHING in common.- Ed

     But then the second season got put on Netflix, and right before the third season was set to start, I binged watched it all the way through. I was immediately back into it. Which was great, because I very much believe that the third season is even better than the first in just about every way. I also binge watched the third season again last week to get me caught up for last Sunday’s season premiere. Unfortunately, what I got felt a lot more like season 2 than season 3 and its big “twist ending” left a pretty sour taste in my mouth.

      We find Rick and the gang back in the prison several months after the last season ended. Everyone left in Woodbury that the Governor hadn't killed has moved in, along with a bunch of other people that Daryl has found along the way. It is not explained by anyone why they didn’t all just stay in the very well defended Woodbury, the set must have been too expensive to maintain. Rick has kind of taken a back seat in terms of leadership, letting Daryl do most of the heavy lifting now. Everyone seems to be less concerned about survival, and more concerned with living life. Despite the ever present threat of Walkers pressing on the fences of the prison, life seems almost idyllic. Which means it’s all going to get destroyed sooner or later.

     Daryl takes everyone on a raid and Beth’s boyfriend, who we’ve known for literally five minutes (and she was supposed to end up with Carl!) dies. This whole plot is not all that interesting. Except that it literally starts to rain zombies. Beth’s reaction to her new bo’s death is one of numb indifference, which takes Daryl by surprise. With the addition of more children in the cast, the showrunners are doing a fairly good job showing the difference between Adults who once knew normal lives, and children who are growing up in this world. But again, I’m not going to give a damn about a character I’ve known for five minutes. I have zero emotional attachment to him. But perhaps that was the point - maybe I was supposed to feel what Beth felt. I’m chalking it up to bad writing because this is my article and I can.

       The real interesting storyline is the subplot with Rick. Rick goes out to scavenge for food. He comes upon a big Walker trapped in a snare when a Walker comes up to it. But, to Rick’s surprise, the Walker speaks! It’s not really a Walker at all, but a dirty young woman who appears to have experienced every horrible thing this world has to offer. She begs Rick to help get food to her husband and take them both to the Prison. Rick agrees, but only if they can answer three questions to their liking (more on those in a second.)

Damn it, that was my line.

      As Rick travels with the woman to her camp, she can’t help but speak of the terrible things she’s seen, or the terrible things she’d had to do to survive. I came to the realization that this woman represents what Rick almost was during the third season after Lori died. Rick was so close to becoming this woman and it scares him. I found this woman to be a really interesting window into Rick’s psyche. Her sudden yet inevitable betrayal wasn't all that surprising, nor was it that surprising when her husband ended up being a Walker in a bag. But her committing Seppuku right there in front of Rick was a very intense moment. It was also a bit of a disappointment, as the actress was really quite amazing and I would have liked to have seen the character grow. They succeed in making me care more about her in the brief time she’s on the screen more than the other fatalities on the show. And as she gasps her last breaths, she begs Rick to ask her the three questions. Which are “How many Walkers have you killed?”, “How many people have you killed?”, and “why?” In a world this grim, these are some pretty great questions to figure out just who is sane enough to be kept around. This woman, as she lies dying, also raises a new theme for the show. Can you escape the things you've done? Let’s hope, for Rick’s sake, that you can.

      That brings us to the big twist ending that really put a damper on the whole episode, and made me very worried about where the season was heading. One of Carl’s new friends (another one of those characters that we’re supposed to care about in two minutes of screen time) gets sick very quickly and dies. And of course, because he dies, he turns into a walker. Maybe he was bitten and no one knew, maybe he just contracted some sort of horrible virus that killed him quick. Maybe it’s the zombie virus mutating into something. Whatever it is, it’s lame. This show isn't The Thing. The tension comes from knowing the threat, often seeing it coming, and not being able to stop it. The Walkers are this threat, and so was the Governor. Now we have to worry about who is infected, who isn't and why. Of course, we’re never going to find out why, because there are no freaking biologists left and if there are, there are certainly not any working labs to figure out the cure. And they better not find the cure, because that would also be lame.

     I understand that they have to raise the stakes, but I just don’t know why they had to go the mutated virus road. It’s not interesting, and it doesn't really fit the universe. All in all, I would say that this was a disappointing season opener, but it’s certainly not enough for me to turn it off next week. At least not yet. The Walking Dead has been so consistently good for two and a half seasons that I will give it the benefit of the doubt for now.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Vegas: Day 1 - By Travel Correspondent Stephanie Cala

Hey guys! Stephanie here, and today I'll be bringing you the rare and elusive travel blog! (I don't get out much.)

This week I'm in Las Vegas NV for an event planning convention/tradeshow. This is my first time actually stopping and staying in Vegas (and my first tradeshow), and now that I'm over 21, ohhh IT'S ON. I will write about how I'm spending my days, and how to be smart about what to spend money on when on a tight budget. (It was kind of a last-minute trip...found out from the boss-lady Friday night, bought my ticket Saturday, packed on Sunday and left Monday morning, aaaaand I don't get paid until next week. Cheers!)

Vegas, day 1: Monday 

 I caught an early morning flight from SFO to LAS on United. They were surprisingly on time, well-mannered, and my baggage wasn't lost. Other than my spilling hot tea on my book and neighbor, it was a short and uneventful flight. (Seriously, it was the shortest flight I've ever taken.)

 Culture shock #1: The first things we saw when stepping inside the gate at LAS were slot machines. If you didn't know you were in Vegas before, you certainly do now. There's no point in playing the ones at the airport though, because they don't have payouts, so don't waste your time.

 First dollars spent: shuttle from the airport to the hotel. My boss and I opted for the shuttle rather than a taxi because we wanted to see various hotels on the Strip. The driver was pretty cool too - he told jokes and gave us some info about the various hotels.
 Total cost: $7.50. Realizing now that I probably should've tipped too. My bad ):

 Culture shock #2: We're staying at Treasure Island, and lemme tell you, this hotel is BIG. In fact, all of the hotels are HUGE. And there are casinos in every single one.

 You can even gamble in the restaurants while you're eating! Some of the bars have tv screens built into the counters so you can gamble. The restaurant we went to at TI had gambling games at the table, and you just had to give the info to the servers and they took care of the rest. That reminds me...

 Lunch money: Pho for lunch. They had a $15 special running where you got an appetizer, an entree and a drink. I was starving by that point so I opted for that, since the pho I wanted was $13 for a bowl anyway. Egg rolls were pretty good, bowl of pho was a little small and didn't have all of the essential pho ingredients (no tendons, no tripe, etc), but it was a nice, quick meal downstairs and we were in a rush. 
Total cost: $18-ish? Hard to say for sure because I put both meals on my card and my boss gave me some cash back.

 Next thing we did was go to Sands Convention center to drop off some supplies for the trade show. Lemme tell you, this place is HUGE. 2.25 MILLION SQUARE FEET. We walked into the hall and I could not see the back wall. I'll snag a picture later when I get there for festivities today.

 Went back up to the room to collect some things, and then I was off to a class! That's right, the convention has classes! And I get units! I was ecstatic! I AM ecstatic! The class I went to was called "Using A/V to enhance learning, memory, and the meeting experience". TL;DR would be "A/V Psychology". This class was awesome! I wanted to be a psych major when I was younger, so it was really really interesting to see what a difference A/V can make in your presentations. Also, there were so many fun facts! Example: When giving a presentation, audience members will judge you in the first 12 seconds and subconsciously decide if they're gonna keep listening or not. TWELVE SECONDS. Oh, here's another fun one: 72 hours of video gets uploaded to Youtube every second. *boop* 72 hours, *click* another 72 hours. It would take you three years to watch everything that was uploaded in a single day. Like, WHAT?

Please note that my company is now apparently StephCa inc. I couldn't just put "student" or "independent planner".

 More money: After class I went to Walgreens for some snacks, because it was 5pm and I didn't know when we'd be getting dinner. THE WALGREENS HAS A FRO-YO BAR INSIDE. I resisted the fro-yo that time, but I still walked away with a bag of pretzels, a banana, and a sandwich.
 Total cost: $8

 Went back up to the room and changed, and then worked out for about an hour or so. It was kind of awkward because the gym isn't listed on the map for the hotel. Turns out, you have to go through the spa to get there. Anyway, I love me some treadmills so I did that and some yoga. Feels good, man.

 After that, it was time for spontaneous shows on the Strip and dinner!

 Mirage volcano show: FREE
 (I will upload a video when I get home)

 Bellagio fountain show: FREE
 (here are pictures, but I have a video I'll upload later as well)

 Culture shock #3 and #4: You can smoke and drink just about anywhere. We realized this when we saw people walking around outside with open beer bottles and giant 50oz margaritas (I kid you not). Also, you will not find a casino without smokers. It just can't be done. And, you can buy both cigs and alcohol just about anywhere. Outside our hotel there's a corner shop with a Starbucks and a margarita bar. There are a lot of Fat Tuesdays, which is a slushie bar for alcohol-lovers. Think the 7-11 slurpie machines with jagermeister or vodka or tequila. It's just crazy all the time.

 Also, another fun thing: there are dozens of people every block that hand out cards for call girls. They are EVERYWHERE, despite prostitution being illegal. The sidewalks get flooded with these cards. Bewbz everywherez.

 Dinner money: We wandered around and finally made it to Toby Keith's I Love this Bar & Grill inside of Hurrah's. It's a restaurant created by one of my favorite country singers and it's themed around his music as well as other southern themes. There are red solo cup light strings, they give you drinks in mason jars, etc. It was fun. Lemme tell you, the fried mac'n'cheese balls were by far the best mac'n'cheese balls I have ever had. I also had a monstrous Cowboy Reuben sandwich that was ah-MAYYYY-zing. We also got very lucky because they happened to be running a deal on Groupon, so I snagged $40 worth of food for $20, and boss-lady picked up the remainder.
 Total cost for dinner: $24 (with tip); total cost at the gift shop: $10

Red solo cup lighting!

 After dinner we continued exploring around the Strip. We went to the Cosmopolitian hoping to see bunnies and kittens like from their commercials, but there weren't any ): However, there were lots and lots of shiny things, and the DJ was an awesome chick so I was happy.

 Funny enough, across the street from the likes of Prada and Louis Vuitton was a Ross, which was deemed "Ross Vegas". We got there just before midnight so we didn't get a chance to look around for long, but I will return!

 We went on and on until we finally got to the MGM Grand to catch the monorail back to Hurrah's. From there, it was about a 10-minute walk back to Starbucks outside of TI (needed tea....mmmm tea) and another half an hour before passing out in bed around 1:30am.
 Monorail ticket: $5; Tea: $2

Day One Damage Report:
Shuttle: $7.50
Lunch: $18
Snacks: $8
Dinner: $24
Souvenirs: $10
Monorail: $5
Midnight tea: $2
Day 1 Total: $74.50 - not bad.

 Day 2 will be my explore Vegas day. Day 3-4 will probably be mostly tradeshow, or a combination of both.
Day 2 Goals: Go to recommended bars and try specialty drinks. Buy the rest of the souvenirs needed, and spend less on food by buying sandwich ingredients at Walgreens instead. Stop by the tradeshow for the giveaways they're doing today and network with other industry peeps, and check out more classes!