Tuesday, January 03, 2012

My Top 5 Albums of 2011

I've been meaning to do this for some time now and with the holiday break, I've fallen into the void of relaxation, post holiday sales and Skyrim.  You really can't help it though; having a week and  a half off will do it to you.

Anyways....here you go, my top 5 albums of 2011 in NO particular order:

Polar Bear Club / Clash Battle Guilt Pride
Must Listen To Track: Slow Roam

Lenny Kravitz / Black & White America
Must Listen To Track: Superlove

Times of Grace / Hymn of a Broken Man
Must Listen To Track: The Forgotten One

Foo Fighters / Wasting Light
Must Listen To Track: Dear Rosemary

Machine Head / Unto the Locust
Must Listen To Track: The Sentinel (Judas Priest cover)

Honorable Mentions:

           Drake / Take Care
Must Listen To Track: Crew Love (feat. The Weeknd)

 The Weeknd / House of Balloons
Must Listen To Track: Wicked Games

Common / The Dreamer, The Believer
Must Listen To Track: Sweet

     Childish Gambino / Bonfire
Must Listen To Track: You See Me

††† (side project of Chino Moreno of Deftones & Shaun Lopez of Far) / EP 
Must Listen To Track: This Is A Trick

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Our Early Christmas Present!

Our New Buddy Spencer the Cat
Christmas came a little early for us.  After going through a little approval process, my fiance & I are the proud parents of Spencer the Cat aka Dr. Pickles.  He's 18 months and through the wonderful people at Brooklyn Animal Action, we were able to rescue this little guy and bring him to our little apartment.

We've been looking for a cat that fits us for about a month now and it's been harder than you think.  After doing some searching on Petfinder, going to different rescues, we found Spencer who's little video sold us on him.  He was described as a very loving lap cat and he is exactly that.  We wanted an older cat because there's so many older cats out there that are just overlooked because most people want a cute little kitten.  While he is considered an adult cat, he's still only 18 months and very much a baby.

The people at Brooklyn Animal Action (B.A.A.) really made the adoption process very easy for us.  They rescue cats and set them up in foster homes, get them spayed/neutered and up to date with shots all the while they look for a new home for these abandoned/stray kitties.

After filling out a lengthy application about who we are, what type of household we have, animal history PLUS giving them references (which they do check), we were able to meet Spencer at his foster home.  We saw him for 3 minutes before he hid under the bed but we knew that he was the kitty for us.  B.A.A. then delivered him to us a few days later.  The delivery of the cat allows them to check out your apartment/house to make sure that he's in good hands.

As I sit here writing this blog entry while watching the WWE Slammies, he's just chillin right next to me watching along with me.  The first night he took to us really well letting us hold him and pet him most of the night.  He did hide from us behind the couch a few times and when we went to bed, he hid under the bed.  This morning though we both woke up to find him sleeping at the foot of our bed.

When getting ready for work this morning, he walked around with us, visited each of us as we got ready...I don't think we could have asked for a better kitty for us.  He's been so good and we couldn't be happier.  If you're in the Brooklyn or NYC area and are looking for a cat of your own, take a look at their list of kitties up for adoption or just visit your local shelter!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Kitty Adoption

How can you say no to that?
My fiance and I are contemplating adopting a cat.  Both of us have had cats before with our prior roommates and really enjoyed having them (they're living with our old roommates now).

As of late, we've missed having a little buddy around the house, purring, looking to be pet or just curled up in a ball on the bed (other than me being curled up in a ball on the bed).

Recently, we've come across a cuddly cat like you see above through Brooklyn Animal Action.  We're looking to adopt an older cat instead of a kitten because the older cats get, the less they get adopted.  Over the weekend, we put in an inquiry, filled out an adoption application and went through a phone interview and gave references to meet our prospective cat.  Looks like we passed though since we're going to meet him on Wednesday!

If all goes well, we can have him :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!

It's not Thanksgiving without a Hand Turkey
Hope everyone is having / had a good turkey day.  I know I've slacked a little on the updates but it's the holiday season so here's a small update:

REDBOX: Where have you been all my life?!

I've recently found out, thanks to Chi's Twitter from GameCritics.com, that the rental service Redbox is in a few places here in NYC.  For those of you who don't know about this service, it's basically an automated kiosk where you can rent games and movies for $1-$2.  You can rent it from one location and then return it at another which is VERY convenient.  You're also able to reserve games/movies online, so all you have to do is just go to the kiosk and pick up your rental.

They all have the latest games and movies so I've been indulging in trying out all the latest games to keep up with what all the podcasts I listen to are talking about.  Here's some quick 2 sentence reviews:

-Skyrim is amazing.  Every great thing you read about this game is true!

-Dark Souls is a love/hate game, most definitely.  It's hard but feels like a racing game where you have to memorize the level so you know what's coming next.

-Saints Row The Third is surprisingly a LOT of fun.  It's what I've been wanting from the GTA series that it doesn't take itself seriously.

I feel the need for another piece of turkey.  Pick...pick pick!...Tell me I'm not the only one who remember's this commercial?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Under-Appreciated Games: Arcania Gothic 4

See that guy?  That's you!
I've always been drawn to the lesser loved games as well as lesser loved movies (big fan of Hudson Hawk).  Games such as Conan, the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series, Spiderman: Friend or Foe, even Outlaw Tennis.  Graphical glitches, general storylines, characters walking through walls, fighting the same baddies who just have different colors, wonky controls...these are all the norm for these types of games, but I've always been able to look past these and enjoy the game adapting to what's given.

My latest in my under-appreciated games collection is Arcania: Gothic 4.  I'm sure you could probably find this game in a bargain bin somewhere for like $17 bucks or maybe cheaper.  It's basically your normal light, third-person role playing game with swords, armor, magic, bows & arrows.  I say light because if you compare this to any of the Elder Scrolls games, this game just looks like a hack & slash...and for the most part it is.  

The storyline is basic: normal guy falls in love with normal girl in a village, something bad happens to everyone in the village, guy goes out and seeks vengeance, helping out others along the way and seeing he's part of a bigger story. That's the best description I can give without spoiling but I would say that most RPG games out there are some form of this outline.

First and foremost, you'll notice that you cannot customize your character.  The guy on the cover?  Yep, that's you so deal with it.  Right then and there, RPG nerds around the US are screaming BLASPHEMY!!!  I did too but after I started playing, I got over it.

The feel of the controls and the pacing of the story is really what keeps me interested.  Your melee weapon, magic spell and ranged weapon are all mapped to their own buttons.  How you use them is up to you.  So it's sort of a button mash in a way but there is a method to your mashing as you upgrade your skills.  As you get quests, talking to other people opens more of the story.  You will want to talk with other characters cause the dialogue is funny...almost as if the character knows he's in a video game.  I should warn you, there are curses but they're sprinkled out here and there.

I am SO not a fan of those wasp, bug things.
Meeting people on your way, you do side quests / fetch quests, pick up ingredients, find collectible items or chests hidden around the land.  Like I said...light RPG.  A RPG where you don't have to put as much though into it as you have to in games like Oblivion or Fallout 3.  Maybe it's the somewhat linear storyline that makes it RPG-lite, who knows.

If you want to get down to the nitty gritty of the gameplay, you'll find small things here and there that'll get annoying.  Sometimes NPCs will walk right through me, or I'll even walk through walls.  While there are some dialogue options when talking to other NPCs, they really don't make a difference in the story as it's pretty linear.  Walk around the world all you want to explore and you'll find some interesting things but you'll feel a little lost.  The map is pretty much useless; it's basically just there to show you where you are.  And remember to highlight the quest you're doing or you'll just walk aimlessly, but you'll usually find what you want.  Oh and crafting?  That's easy: get recipe, get ingredients, hit button, tada...but what more did you want?

While I haven't played any of the Gothic games before on the PC, most of the reviews I've seen (and there aren't many), give this game grief because it's not like the others comparatively.  Maybe it's because this is the first on a console that they had to change a few things around, I don't know BUT if you take this game as just another RPG game out there, without knowing any of the backstory from the other Gothic games, you'll find it's a pretty fun game to play.  Isn't that what video games are for? 

I should say that I am playing it on the 360.  There is a demo on the 360 which gives you a very good slice of the game.  If you're hard on cash but feel up for an RPG, don't look this over.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Adventure City Where Everything Goes Wrong BUT You Still Have Fun!

Adventures in Atlantic City is what happened this past Friday night.  Without spending 24 hours in the city, we managed to miss the concert (save for 2 songs), lose our hotel reservations at Harrah's, got cheaper rooms at ShowBoat and pay a ridiculous amount of tolls to NJ.  I've come to realization that New Jersey tolls are the reason that change currency is still in circulation.

Starting from picking up the rental cars, things weren't going right due to the long line and not getting the car that was reserved.  Upon picking up the rest of our party peoples, we find out that the GPS that was given to us by a family member will not work because he gave us the wrong car lighter adapter!  Instead, we used the iPhone GPS/directions.  

The task of getting out of NYC on a Friday night at 8PM is what it is: daunting but my fiance did an amazing job.  While she was driving through the crazy NYC traffic, the indoor car light was on and we couldn't figure out how to turn it off.  I even ran out at a red light to check if the trunk was closed (it was).  After quite some time of driving around with the light on, I leaned over to my fiance while driving and found a dial that turned it off...even though this looked like I was giving road head. HA!

Fast forward 2+ hours (yes...it's THAT far away!) and we make it to our destination catching the last 1.5 songs of the show.  Sadness :(  We do the music industry thing, see the band, hang out in a small dressing room, drink the beer then move to the VIP room at a club to just hang out.  That was a lot of fun to be there and hang with the band.  They played on Fallon earlier that night so the club was nice enough to put it on the TV in the room.  To watch their reactions seeing their performance on TV were priceless and genuine.  Amazing bunch of people who are very humble.

The rest of the night is a blur from Harrah's giving away our hotel rooms at 2AM (they were completely booked...at the beginning of November...who knew it was a popular time) to getting cheaper rooms at Show Boat to scarfing down a corn-beef sandwich on rye in a place called Canal.  Definitely a different experience than I had the last time I was in AC (I was 12 then)...but oh so much fun.

Monday, October 31, 2011

What I see on my coffee cup...

I had to draw the rest of him...kind of reminds me of Die Fledermaus from The Tick cartoon no?
I don't know if it's the fact that I've been up since 5:30AM or maybe the dentist sucked up my brain with the spit sucker thing earlier...but this is what I saw when I bought my coffee today.  I just had to draw the rest of him.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ice T & Video Games...they do go hand in hand actually

Nog it up!
Coffeemate Egg Nog creamer is at our grocery store.  It's officially the holiday season!  Time flies huh? It's already Halloween next week.

This past weekend, I finished Ice T's latest book, Ice, and I have to say, there is NO way you can read this book and not think that Ice T is the man.  His views on life (love the little Ice-isms at the end of the book) and how he took what he went through, flipping it to be a positive fuel to get himself to where he is today...really inspiring. Absolute must read for anyone who watchs Law & Order: SVU, listens to Body Count or even knows who Ice is.  Added plus: he's a gamer also!

Spent most of the weekend in the insanity that is Staten Island with the future in laws, had dinner & drinks with some friends visiting from VA...nothing too crazy.

Thanks to CheapAssGamer's trade forums, I recently got Star Wars: Force Unleashed 2!  Really enjoying it now that I can go and finish this storyline.  Only a few hours into it, but I am already seeing some recycling of levels here and there.  I don't really care cause the gameplay is a lot of fun.  How can you NOT enjoy duel wielding light sabers and changing their crystals?

While that scratches my sci-fi itch, I also played a little Arcania: Gothica 4 yesterday (another game I got thanks to CheapAssGamer's trade forums).  This game didn't have many good reviews, but I am enjoying it...call it RPG lite compared to Oblivion being RPG heavy.  Still VERY early in this storyline but it's nice that I can pick it up from time to time and move through it at my own pace.

Today, we start Wicked.  Let's see how this goes...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tired & Mindless Serenity

This past weekend felt long and trying on our emotions.  We've been spending most of our days & nights at the hospital visiting my future father in law (he'll be fine and is getting out today!).  Running errands for my future mother in law and just being there, while the act of being there is just that, is tiring on the mind.  Just wondering if everyone's all right, if my fiance is holding up okay...a lot of thinking.

We came home yesterday afternoon and just both collapsed on the couch and relaxed.  We began going through the various shows that the DVR has recorded (Up All Night is our new favorite show).  It was much needed.

After a few shows, I went to relax with a little 360 time.  I found that I wasn't in the mood for games like Fallout 3, Oblivion or even Borderlands.  I just didn't feel like I wanted to deal with questing, strategic fighting and everything else that comes with those RPG games.  I ended up playing Torchlight for HOURS...basically just mashing buttons and moving my warrior deeper and deeper into the world.  It's games like that and the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series that I love where I don't have to put too much thought into the story or action and just enjoy the bells & whistles; it has a calming effect.  So far I'm down 17 levels into the world and i'm trying to find out what's causing the earthquakes.

In other news, I'm just about halfway through Chuck Klosterman's Killing Yourself to Live.  He's one of my favorite writers of pop culture always referencing aspects of life to music & entertainment in his essays/stories.  Really digging this book as I whittle down my pile of To Read books in my library before I tackle the 1,000+ page Storm of Swords!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Korean Food, Cocoa Bar & Games

It's been a crazy past couple of days with work and some family issues.  I'm sure everything is going to be all right but cross your internet fingers, would ya?


I've recently decided to go back into the world of Fallout 3 to finish the DLC that I've bought.  This past weekend, I finished Broken Steel and started Point Lookout. Broken Steel kind of felt all over the place with the storyline but I did enjoy the ending with the Air Force Base.  Tons of great weapons and lots of loot!

Point Lookout on the other hand is HARD!  I'm going into it as level 28 and i'm having a rough time.  I love the different location; kind of a run down Coney Island / swamp theme going on.  Let's see how this goes.

From Point Lookout: Doesnt' he look like Sloth from The Goonies?
Also, thanks to trying out the demo on XBLA, I've picked up my DS again to play out Might & Magic Clash of Heroes.  Huzzah for puzzles RPGs!


I'm only about 50 pages to the end of The Princess Bride and this will absolutely get 5 stars from me on my GoodReads page.  The edition I have contains the next chapter of the story, Buttercup's Baby, which is where I am.  The way Golden writes this entire book is fascinating.  His narration, comments and sheer insanity by creating a story within a story within a story is so much fun to read, I have to remind myself that everything he's writing is fiction.  There is no S. Morgenstern (the real title of the book is actually The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love & High Adventure), there is no abridgment of the book, there is no Florin...it's all made up!  A must read for any lover of high adventure / fantasy and the movie.

Over the weekend, the fiance & I had a long overdue date over in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  I was finally able to calm my stomach for the desire of Korean food I'm happy to say.  We had a wonderful dinner at Moim.  She had a hot seafood Bibimbop in a stone bowl which looked and tasted amazing.  I tried the Dak Bok Kum which had little Korean style gnocchi in them that I gladly welcomed into my belly.  :)  The prices were just right for our tight little wedding saving budget.  Definitely going to go back again to try their Kim Chi Fried Rice.

We sat right there :)
After, we headed to a place that we've been wanting to go to for a LONG time: Cocoa Bar.  This is a coffee / wine / chocolate bar...and coming from a person who does NOT like a lot of chocolate, I loved this place.
Coffee & tea in the front...wine in the back.
You can't help but have a good time here (especially after having a few glasses of wine).  I had myself a homemade ring ding and a peanut butter patty along with a pinot noir.  She had a raspberry chocolate cake mini cake...thing, along with her merlot.  After a few glasses talking over our wedding plans, we left here very happy and wishing we had enough money to stay for more.

Thursday, October 06, 2011


This was my first iPod.  Thanks for redefining how I listened to music.  R.I.P. Steve Jobs.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

iPhone 4S Two Cents

Yesterday Apple announced the new iPhone 4S and people were very sad/upset that it wasn't the iPhone 5.  They also disregard the fact that they normally debut new complete iterations of the iPhone at the WWDC.  Apple was very quiet about this press conference (probably because Amazon was holding an event the week before for their new tablet).  Normally there's a lot of speculation, the various tech sites would have stories about different ideas on what the new phone would look like or even a leak that someone found the new iPhone.  None of that happened (at least from what I saw).

Personally, I switched from iPhone 3G to Android and haven't looked back.  I have a Samsung Captivate and love it because I can do practically anything with this little thing.  You can call the Android platform the PC to the iPhone's Mac.  I do find, however, the price drop of the iPhone 4 to $99 intriguing...but not enough for me to go back.  New camera...new chip...not interested.

Their introduction of Siri is pretty interesting though, I must say.  You know you live in the future when people say, "That's it?" to a program that basically acts like your own personal assistant.  That's it???  You can talk to this program, it understands you, and will tell you what your day will be like.  Previously, Siri did not handle voice recognition but now your able to just speak to your iPhone, conversationally, and Siri will answer you via text and speech.  How can you NOT be impressed?

Oh...that's right...it's not a newer, prettier iPhone.

In other news, the new Machine Head album, Unto The Locust, is out and you all should give it a listen.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

COMPLETED! Drood & Gears of War 2

I feel a sense of accomplishment lately when I finish a book and especially when I finish a video game (see yesterday's post).

I've always been a slow reader.  Sometimes words popping in and out that aren't really there.  There are times when I have to stop, go back and read a whole page or paragraph again cause I just had no idea what was going on. The past year or two I've been reading a lot more lately and I'm enjoying it.  When I finish a book, I get happy because it feels like a big feat to me (especially when it's a 1,000+ page book) and I also get to start a new journey!

Yesterday I finished Dan Simmons' Drood.  The Washington Post review of this book is SPOT on; this book is pretty much the literary version of the movie Amadeus.  The book's narrator, Wilkie Collins, is the Salieri to Charles Dickens' Mozart; always feeling just one step behind Dickens, in his shadow.

While I found this book in the horror section, I don't feel that it was the correct genre for it.  It definitely had some tense moments and graphic scenes, but this had more of a historical fiction feel a la Caleb Carr's The Alienist.  Unfortunately, this book seems to lean heavily on the history and facts of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins.  Many times, Simmons will go off on tangents about past books that Collins has written, or the history of the different places Dickens has lived; so much that it feels as if it's a book report on Dickens.

If you look past this though, the story is interesting.  You begin to wonder about Drood.  Is he real? You start to notice things as the book goes on like, who really see's Drood? I don't want to give away a lot, but if you can get past the book report like facts that are given to you, you'll enjoy the book.

In the same day as I finished Drood, only a few hours later I finished Gears of War 2!  As an adult gamer, you come to the realization that you won't finish most of the games that you own, so finishing a game will be a big rarity for you.  In the past year, I've finished 2 games (Batman: Arkham Asylum and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2) and the only reason I've finished those was because I made it a point to finish them (although, Batman was just too much fun to put down).

Normally I try to play 2 main games at a time.  One game being a really long game (for example, right now i'm playing Oblivion) and the other being a mindless game such as a button masher like the Spiderman games.  This past weekend I figured I might as well finish Gears 2.  Of course, I don't remember much of the story, but I pop it in and I'm in the middle of some huge firefight.  Played for about an hour till I got to a frustrating part and put it down till last night.  Started up my 360, got past the frustrating part....30 minutes later the game ends surprisingly.  The final boss didn't even make me frustrated at all.  It just...ended!  Weren't end boss battles supposed to be tough?  Wasn't too impressed but glad that I was able to finish the game.

Needless to say, I got the bunch of gamerpoints, watched the credits, saw the teaser to Gears of War 3 and then popped in Oblivion.