Category Archives: geekery

Skyrim: My Dragonborn

Baby got it goin' on.

I’m coming in for a landing on Skyrim, and it is a truly masterful game. The sheer quantity of stuff to do boggles the mind. Wanna be a mercenary? A thief? An assassin? A chef? A bard? You can do any of these things. More confusingly, you can do all of these things. Skyrim is more about texture and immersion than narrative. The cast of characters you encounter are actually pretty one dimensional. Most of the quests you undertake have little bearing on the world around you. People you extort and steal from happily turn and engage you in some cheery conversation before selling you health potions. You have to create your own narrative, and reconciling the full and complete player experience of running all over Skyrim doing different jobs with the overall storyline of a prophesied warrior taking up arms against ancient dragons is tricky business. Here is my attempt:

After his exile down south, Orren the Red wasn’t back in his Nordic homeland for more than an hour before he found himself bound and sentenced to death for reasons he still isn’t clear on. The damned imperials would have been the end of him had it not been for the timely intervention of a beast from out of forgotten legends. The dragons were coming back to the land of Skyrim.

A rebel leader helped Orren escape amidst the confusion and tried to draft him into the Stormcloak underground, but Orren was a young man more eager to learn to fight than get involved in politics. He set out to join the Companions of Whiterun and became a mighty warrior during his adventures with the group. A mysterious encounter with another dragon awoke something strange and ancient in Orren, but he did his best to ignore the strange powers he was developing and refused to answer the mysterious call of the ancient Greybeards.

He threw himself into his adventures with the companions, but after they inducted him into their inner circle he became horrified at the truth: they were werewolves and they had infected him with their lycanthropic blood.

Orren fled the Companions in fear. After some random wandering, he found himself on the streets of Riften, stealing to survive. The Thieves Guild soon recruited him and he rose through its ranks with surpassing swiftness, first entering the elite order of Nightingales and eventually becoming the Guild Master in a ceremony beneath the streets of the city. Orren had more money than he had ever dreamed of, but nothing could stop his hunger for blood. He had a tendency to end a job with a high body count no matter how careful he was. And still, he could hear the mysterious voices calling him from their mountain top.

It was while working for the Guild that he first came across the Daedric Princes. They frightened him almost as much as his own nature.

While in Windhelm on a job for the Guild, Orren came to attention of The Dark Brotherhood. He had grown weary of the burglary and petty pickpocketing jobs that seemed beneath his station as Master of the Thieves Guild and he saw the shadowy organization of assassins as a way to put his stealth skills to work while indulging the Beast within. It wasn’t long before Orren took over the Dark Brotherhood, mainly through an inexplicable connection to their dark spiritual patron. In time their zealotry and blithe disregard for human life disgusted even Orren. He was ready to seek something purer. And still, he could hear the mysterious voices calling him from their mountain top.

Orren made his way the Mage’s College in Winterhold, hoping that the wizards there could cure his wolfen nature. Instead, he discovered that the scholarly mages had killing of their own that needed doing. Orren spent many years at the College, slowly uncovering the mystery of the Eye of Magnus. Although his duties as Arch-Mage were surprisingly sparse, Orren soon felt the wanderlust returning. By then, he had learned a great deal more about the demonic evil of the Deadra and their totems. There were fifteen objects in the world, tainted by the Daedric influence and Orren set about to collect and contain the items. Eventually, he found them all. He knew they could never be destroyed, so he sank them to the bottom of the Sea of Ghosts. And still, he could hear the mysterious voices calling him from their mountain top.

After a short stint as a bard in Solitude, Orren returned to the Companions of his youth. He finally came to terms with his inner wolf and returned to the companions just in time to put the spirit of his old mentor Kodlak to rest and restore the lost power of the Skyforge. He also rekindled his romance with Aela the Huntress, and the two were wed in a secret ceremony: packmates for life.

By this time, the political unrest between the Stormcloaks and the Imperials was bubbling over. Tensions between the ruling elite and the rebel forces had been high, but the increased presence of the dragons was making the populace paranoid. The entire hold of Whiterun was a powder keg.

Orren had no love for the single-minded racism of the Stormcloaks, but he had never forgotten that the Imperials had tried to kill him. Their iron rule was destroying everything that made Skyrim a free land. On top of that, Orren had a personal vendetta against the Thalmor after some business with the Battle-Born clan had gone bad and he knew they were the true puppetmasters behind the Empire. Reluctantly, Orren swore fealty to Ulfric and entered the civil war on the side of the rebels. The war was brief but bloody and when it was over, far too many Nords lay dead but those that remained had a new High King.

By now, Orren had matured. He knew that the strange voices he heard were calling him to a greater destiny. He had slain several dragons and each time he had stood over them he felt a surge of otherworldly power. As he climbed the steps to High Hrothgar he knew in his heart that he would finally learn what it meant when they called him Dragonborn…

2011: The Games I Have Played

The Grey Warden Kicks Ass

Dragon Age 2 and Dragon Age: Origins. I started with the much reviled second entry into Bioware’s sword and sorcery franchise. When it first came out I made a good faith attempt to play the original, but I failed to get into the game and decided to cut bait after about three hours. Something about the mechanics of the game just didn’t click with me and I had trouble effectively controlling my party. But after playing my way through the sequel, I decided to give Origins another go-round and this time it all made sense. I purchased the Ultimate Edition with all the DLC included so I went dead to the world for a significant portion of the summer while I quested my Grey Warden from one end of Thedas to the other. That was after I lead my dapper rogue through a tumultuous decade of running around Kirkwall and bedding pirate queens in part 2. Although the recycled level in part two did get old, I loved the setting and characters. This whole series has restarted my long dormant love of the fantasy genre. Thanks so much Dragon Age. I thought I was done with barbarians wielding swords…

I am the Night.

Batman: Arkham City. The purest Batman experience is sadly the closest I will ever come to swinging down from a gargoyle and straight up punching a criminal in the face. The open world mechanic worked like a charm and the voice acting was top-notch. The plot was convoluted and some of the action setpieces didn’t quite work out as well as they were intended to, but overall Rocksteady knocked it out of the park with this one.

warhammer 40k space marine cover is for the weak

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. Not much to add beyond what I’ve already said, but this game was not without it’s charm and suffered from the inevitable comparisons to

The Passion of the Dom

Gear of War 3. So the saga of Marcus Fenix and his human meat tank bros finally came to an end this year. I have only played the campaigns for the three games in the Gears of War series, and I found the story of an earth-like world rocking from cataclysm after cataclysm strangely compelling. The background story plays out like the hopelessness of early Battlestar Galactica crossed with the macho posturing and general brotasticity of Predator. The gameplay was hectic and the fine folks at Epic Games know how to put together excellent firefights on a massive scale. The third installment tied up most of the loose ends and while the game failed to achieve anything approaching real pathos, the narrative never shied away from taking risks.

Call of Duty: BlackOps. Another game which I have already spoken about at length.

Cyberpunk as Fuck

Deus Ex: Human Revolution. This was easily my most anticipated game of 2011. I absolutely adored the original and its sequel, and I was totally looking forward to immersing myself in the cyberpunk noir future where human augmentation had run amok and tranhumanist philosophy had created a race of nano-enhanced supermen. Human Revolution delivered the goods. The game wasn’t perfect. The boss fights felt tacked on and went against the grain of everything the game’s structure had been pushing toward and the ending(s) left a great deal to be desired but this game had texture, man. There was a grit and a lived-in feeling that permeated every aspect of the game’s world of 2027, from Jensen’s apartment to the neon fever dream that was Hengsha. This game was awesome.

Poet and a Prophet.

Crysis 2. I did not play the first Crysis, so I am unable to assess its merits in contrast to the first version of the game. I can tell you that this version was a better than average shooter whose sci-fi aliens invading New York city narrative was almost done in by some shoddy A.I. and less than thrilling enemy design. I liked the convoluted plot and the gameplay variations that you get from your nanomachine super-suit, like invisibility, invincibility, and speed but the experience never really gelled for me.

Soooo sneaky....

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Another sequel that I dove into the deep end without starting at the dawn of the franchise. This version was the first Assassin’s Creed game I ever played, and I enjoyed the crap out of it. The narrative was gibberish, but the stealth and planning elements to each hit were fun. My main criticism came when I realized that it was nearly impossible to actually die. Ezio’s health regenerates just a little that makes it difficult for even a swarm of Borgia goons to actually kill the player character. The challenge, then, comes from the mission parameters and whether you are able to sneak and stealth your way through your objectives without being seen.

The Courier True Identity Revealed!

Fallout: New Vegas. This one almost didn’t make the list because I couldn’t make it to completion. After around thirty hours of roaming the wastes with my trusty supermutant companion helping out survivors of the last great war and personally assassinating Caesar this broken, buggy, unfinished game went crashed on me and I was unable to load any of my save games. I enjoyed the experience before it came to a crashing halt, but I didn’t have the patience at the time to retrace my steps in the game so I stopped playing. I plan on buying the ultimate edition later this year, which will include all the downloadable content and hopefully a stable version of the game itself. I will give that version another try, but I am worried because war never changes.

Oh, Wheatley, you lovable scamp.

Portal 2. Easily the funniest and most well-constructed game of last year, Portal 2 was short, sweet, and to the point. It was funny and I don’t have a single bad thing to say about it.

The Semantic Drift Game of the Year: I played some excellent games this past year. Skyrim kicks so much ass, but I am still neck deep in the Stormcloak rebellion and I don’t want it to end ever. Since I haven’t completed the game and will be slaying dragons for at least the first few months of 2012, the game is exempt. That leaves Batman: Arkham City as the greatest game of 2011.

Post-Apocalyptica: Fallout 3 Review

Of late you may have noticed that Semantic Drift, which is only sporadically updated even when I’m at my most prolific, has slowed to a crawl. Partially this stems from a phenomenon I’ve noticed whereby the amount of free time I have to update my blog is inversely proportional to the amount of interesting things that happen to me and my ability to summon the will to write about them. For example, when my finals are looming or I am in the midst of some serious vagabonding I have nothing but great ideas and witty turns of phrase that only my hectic schedule can slow down my enthusiasm; a million interesting things, and no time to blog them. But lately I’ve been experiencing the opposite. My days are long and empty, with ample room to sit my ass down and write. A slight lull between the end of my semester in Australia and the beginning of my return to San Francisco has left me with literally nothing to do for a month or so. You’d think that means I would be stoked about finally having enough time to do some serious writing (and other things that have nothing to do with law school), but as the binary tumbleweeds drifting through the vacant blog attest this has not happened.

Another factor has been the birthday present perfect for the man with more leisure time than he knows what to do with:  Fallout 3.

fallout3 Brotherhood of Steel

I tend to straddle a strange line between casual and hardcore gaming. Months will pass where I don’t so much as touch a controller, and my console acts as a very expensive dust collector or piece of modern art. But every once in a while a game comes out that totally grabs my attention and I become a prisoner, shackled to my Playstation 3 or X Box 360 for hours at a time pressing buttons in the flickering dark. I am a binge gamer.

It doesn’t happen much. Frequently, the games that grab me are the latest entries in series that I’ve been playing for quite some time. Earlier this year Grand Theft Auto IV and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots sucked up all my time. Less often, I will fixate on a new game that demands my attention and I usually play with the full knowledge that I am signing myself up for further obsessions down the line. Bioshock was enough to get me onboard for any future installments.

And so was Fallout 3.

While the numerical qualifier obviously means that Fallout 3 is not a brand new game, it is new to me and that is all that counts. I’m sure there were a few jokes and references I missed that tickled devotees of the series, but if so they were integrated into a package that was friendly to newcomers. I never played Fallout 1 or 2, but the story and game world felt accessible and nothing seemed to fly over my head. And what a bleak world it is. The game takes place in the year 2277, over a hundred years after nuclear war has turned the world to hardscrabble desert.

fallout3

You play as a denizen of Vault 101, an underground shelter where pockets of humanity have survived the devastation. When your scientist father flees the Vault under mysterious circumstances, you follow in his footsteps. Or not. The game world is invitingly open. Your quest to find your father makes up the central narrative of Fallout 3, but the game lets you pursue it at a leisurely pace with as many side quests and digressions as you feel like. If you want to eschew the central narrative altogether and concentrate on other matters, Fallout 3 has something for you. You can be a freelance assassin or spend your time patching up the leaky pipes in a large settlement. You can become a scourge of humanity and put whole towns to the gun, or an avenging angel of righteousness who travels the land righting wrongs.

fallout3_6831

Aside from the way certain non-player characters react to you, the game does not seem to care what sort of person you decide to be.

It is an open world in the same way that Grand Theft Auto is. Fallout 3 provides a sandbox and you decide how to play with it. But this proves to be something of an illusory freedom. There are in truth a limited variety of different tasks to perform. Like any good role playing game, every new location is stocked with characters eager for you to perform actions for them, whether it is recovering a lost violin from a hive of Feral Ghouls or clearing a train station of mutated fire ants for an overeager scientist

fallout-3-20080713054030694

After a while they all seem to blur together and I found myself driven back to the central arc of the main quest which is probably just what Bethesda Softworks had in mind when they designed Fallout 3.

The most obvious antecedent for Fallout 3 is Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which was designed by the same company. The engine that runs the game and the basic structure of the game echo the previous effort. Dialogue options and navigation operate basically the same way, but I enjoyed Fallout 3 because of two key differences that propel it to far greater heights than Oblivion:

1. The Setting. This might be a personal thing, but I have never been member of the Tolkien set. Oblivion was a sword-and-sorcery romp, with elves and other fantastical frippery. Fallout 3 is leaner and meaner, a tale of brutal loners struggling for survival in a future post-apocalyptic wasteland full of monsters and the worst humanity has to offer. The austere Mad Max-ian landscape is full of small settlements and pockets of survivors making the most of the remnants of Washington D.C. The post-apocalyptic world of Fallout 3 is full of intangible but persistent signs of its sensibility.You can see it in the little things, like the design of your in game P.D.A, the the Pip Boy 3000:

pipboystatus

In the game’s history the Cold War never ended and neither did the 1950s Leave it to Beaver style of culture. There are wandering malfunctioning robots, but they all look like rejects from Lost in Space, with tentacled pincers and cylindrical torsos. The streets are clogged with the bombed out remains of high-finned Cadillacs and old-timey vending machines dispense soda pop. This Gee-Whiz retrofuture clashes nicely with the utter desolation and crumbling remnants of D.C. landmarks.

2. The Controls. On the surface, Fallout 3 plays just like Oblivion. At least until your first fight. Fallout 3 is a hybrid of first person shooter and turn-based strategy. Its up to you whether you want to proceed in real time or use V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) to pause the action and tactically target your oppent’s critical areas. While it can break up the frenetic action of a heavy firefight, V.A.T.S. provides a more strategic dimension to combat.

bloodymess

Also time slows down into a gloriously gory slo-mo explosion of a bloody pink mist that makes the act of unloading a shotgun into the face of an attacking Supermutant infinitely more satisfying than launching a Wand of Wattoomb at a goblin. I literally never got tired of that. Your mileage may vary.

    But after your character reaches level 20, you stop advancing. You no longer earn experience points for slaughtering your enemies and completing quests. You can still earn good karma and material rewards, but you lose the tell-tale ka-ching! noise that accompanied each fallen foe for most of the game. I found it hard to care about completing the side quests after I had maxed out. Level 20 seems an arbitrary cut-off point, and this is basically the only real criticism I have with the game. I had managed to max out my skills fairly well, but if I knew ahead of time that I could advance no further, I would have allocated my XP differently. Perhaps I would not have allowed my lockpicking skills to moulder and played the game differently.

    On a related note, more enemies would be nice. Your opponents fall into three or four basically similar categories, and after a day or two or playing you will probably have traded bullets with the entire bestiary.

    fallout-3-ss-23

    Despite that, the sheer depth of the Fallout 3 environment provided with me hours and hours of entertainment and I really loved it. Any game that can make me wear new butt-grooves into the sofa and go days without showering and barely eating is worthy of attention. Fallout 3 is the game I would like to have with me in my fallout shelter as the air raid sirens blared and the bombs started to fall. A game this immersive deserves serious attention. On my newly created rating system, Fallout 3 earns Five Bored Girlfriends (Out of Five):

    Bored Girlfriend

    Wordcamp 2007: The Next Topic

    1:00 PM Lorelle Van FossenKick-Ass Content Connection

     

    • We would have gotten a free book, but UPS has proven unreliable. It is possible that a certain British Boy Wizard has gummed up the shipping works.
    • Problem with Blogs (according to her Israeli pal): Too many posts look like they were written in 10 minutes by bad spellers and deficient typists.
    • Secret to good blogs: “Show something new.” Failing that, “Show them something old in a new way.”
    • Search before you write. Try to ignore the ubiquitous and focus on the fresh. Look for what is missing on any given topic. (I like the way she speaks. She is animated without being annoying about it.)
    • You are the editor and publisher. Inspect your content, and thereby find the holes.
    • Lay off the feeds first thing in the morning. Look at them at night, and sleep on it. Think about before writing (unless you blog the news) because you cannot be the first out of the gate so don’t bother trying.
    • Blogging in the moment causes haste, you process without thinking and your readers will do the same as they read. Calm posts lead to calm readers, and calm readers will perceive you as wise.
    • “Relationship Blogging” is the new black. Comments create conversation.
    • Check out Liz Strauss. She says that you blog for yourself. What are you saying? Blog for yourself and to yourself. You create a sense of home and a place unique to you that will create the same sense in the reader.
    • When a blogger is faking it –
      • Inaccurate Information
      • Too many ads
      • Linkdumping/blockquoting without your own words
      • Reposted Twitter feeds (Someone in audience has been accused of having intercourse with her computer. She doesn’t deny it).
      • “Dear Diary” events from boring people’s boring lives without engaging the audience. No one cares what you had for breakfast. Unless you were ancient and blogged about it on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Then, it’s gold.
    • Blog for the future. Blog well. Blog for the children. (She’s reaching a bit here.) In Israel, there is a saying about “fucking the land” inserting yourself, penetrating it so that you build something for future generations.
    • Stop whining about not having any commenters. Improve the conversation:
      • Stop writing for your 8th grade teacher because she was probably a bitch.
      • Purposely leave things unfinished to encourage readers to fill in the blanks. Incomplete thoughts allow readers to complete them. Lists of 6 or 7 encourage readers.
      • Responding to every comment is crap. Trick your readers into thinking that you respond to every comment. (They are a cowardly and superstitious lot.)
      • Don’t ask “What do you think?” It doesn’t work. Pretend that your reader is like an old friend or your partner in an old married couple. Make readers finish your sentences.
      • Blog about what other bloggers are writing about. Link to meaningful conversations. Memes are stupid.
      • circularcommunications.com a guy made an interview by blockquoting her old posts. (She finds her own ideas brilliant. Who’s to say she is wrong?)
      • Comment on other blogs, preferably in an intelligent manner. This will encourage others to click back and find out just how clever you are. Comment incompletely. Help each other carry on the conversation.
      •  (She is now giving shout-outs to members of the audience, including a guy who gave her a ride on a motorcycle. She also talks about Israel a great deal in the manner that people who have lived in foreign countries are wont to do.)
      • Be generous in your backlinking.
    • Return to the spirit of the pioneer.
    • Entertainment Blogs:
      • “Blogotainment” (A ridiculous word that the speaker did not come up with.) Disclosure of intentions is important.
    • Stick to your themes. Stay within the scope of your blog.  
    • Use triumvirate of spam controls:
      • Akismet, spamKarma, Bad Behavior
      • Join the fight against comment spam! (She’s giving a call to arms.) Kill it dead.

     

    I’m at Wordcamp 2007

    I’m sitting in the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco with a gaggle of other bloggers at Wordcamp 2007 . We are listening to other WordPress users talk about blogging. I got up way too early for this, but so far it’s worth the bleary eyes and the hosts were kind enough to give us free coffee. I’ll try to post my impressions throughout the day. Please bear in mind that they are my impressions, and I give them to you free of the restraints of linearity in the order that makes the most sense to me.

    Regarding the Blogs vs. Journalism Panel:

    • On Blogs and the Mainsteam Media
      • Dvorak: Blogs being coopted by mainstream media
      • Malik: Blogs see stories as ongoing processes, not finished events. Covers evolution.
      • Dvorak: Digg got biggest upsurge from Paris’ Hilton’s PDA- Bloggers fall for non-news celebrity tripe as much as mainstream media
      • Dvorak: Blogging = “Institutionalized Ankle-biting” -scrutinizing mainstream media, which the big dogs find annoying
      • Dvorak: New York Times is designed after the Onion. Bloggers suffer from being typecast as “only a blog,” partially because of simplicity of template. If they had slicker design, people would have more faith
      • Dvorak: All Bloggers are citizen journalists, even if they report on nothing but whether or not their cats can have cheezburgers.
      • Malik: Bloggers should make attempts to call the subjects of stories, this
        covers their ass legally
      • Dvorak: Bloggers should maybe take one journalism class, look into libel law. You
        can’t legally call someone a crook, but you can call them a douchebag. Is
        calling someone “shady” libelous?
      • Malik: Big media sites should engage smaller bloggers and engender a sense of trust with readers. NYT does a poor job of this. NYT does not use audience effectively.
    • On Comments:
      • Malik: Comments good, bad, and ugly show a level of engagement and involvement
      • Dvorak: If your filters are worth a shit, they will do most of the moderating for you
      • Malik: Like a bar, you decide what kind of bartender you want to be and what kind of joint you want to run
      • Dvorak: leave some of the “You suck!” comments in, if they offer evidence for why you suck
      •  Dvorak: rated comments are bull (except for reviews) because they are prone to partisan smack-talking
    • On Mistakes- Permanence of Articles v. Changing Copy
      • Dvorak: changing the text after mistake is noticed is fun because it can make commenters look like dopes
      • Malik: write the post, step away for 15 minutes then check again before posting
    • On Blogging Internationally:
      • Malik: mostly via mobile phone, especially in India
      • Malik: Australia not good at cricket, may or may not be good at blogging. Blogging is directly correlated to availability of broadband
    • There is a NYT Blog worker here and we are experiencing our own little Crossfire. The last word? Dvorak says the NYT are clueless. (Possibly douchebags, although this goes unsaid).

      GIANT ROBOTS

      Say what you will about Michael Bay, the man can do movies about car chases and explosions. Apparently he can also do movies about cars who become robots and blow shit up. They blow shit up real good. Transformers is big, loud, dumb, and awesome. The only criticism I can really give is that the movie pays a bit too much attention to its human characters, but when it focuses on the Cybertronian warriors all is right with the world. Autobots, let’s Roll Out.

      Abusing The System

      Taking a page from Stephen Colbert’s playbook, a guy named Hammer is trying to monkey around with the way Google works in order to make himself the first search result for World’s Smartest Man.

      I am relatively certain this isn’t the same Hammer who we can’t touch, although it remains unclear whether or not he will hurt ’em, despite our entreaties for him to please don’t.

      Here’s who else is playing:


      Thought for the Day
      Cultural Subterfuge
      The Thinking Blog
      Charles Sheehan-Miles
      Discover Something Every Day

      The Rag Box
      Views of the All Seeing Eye
      Money Blog Site
      Brakar.com
      Earn Online Money
      Bob Meets World
      Bobbarama
      What a Weenie
      A Frog to Kiss
      Semantic Drift
      Goldy World
      Debo Hobo
      Speedcat Hollydale
      Mattress Police
      Barstow Mama
      The Psychic Guy
      Fat Aussie
      500 Pound Gorilla
      The Thinking Blog
      Terrence Culkin
      The West Virginia Blogger
      2Perfect
      Random Content and More
      Blogging Demo
      Tasty Booze
      Horndog
      Filtered Design News
      Hammer Uncut
      The Rain in Spain
      Dirt Exposed
      Market to the Mobile Masses
      Monster Truck Man
      Decipher Wealth
      Magazine 13
      Rich Gentleman Hide
      Baja Energy Blog
      Blog Slut
      World’s Smartest Man

      Your Site here


      L+O+S+T=AWESOME

      There have been some Lost-haters this past season. It’s probably my favorite show on the TV, and while I recognize many of its faults I am so invested in the mysteries of the island that I am willing to forgive them. But ever since the show came back from the mid-season hiatus, I feel like the creators have been firing on all cylinders; they’ve been hitting us with bombshells, playing with the narrative format of the show, and delivering some genuine pathos to boot. Has the second part of the season been perfect? No, but even the relatively uneventful standalone episodes were entertaining enough. But episodes like “Not in Portland” and “Flashes Before Your Eyes” which included a Scotsman who has come unstuck in time(!) have been off-the-charts bad-ass, and the show has delivered some of the most solid episodes in the most consistent manner since it returned.

      Noel Murray over at the Onion A.V. Club has just written about last night’s season finale, and I pretty much agree with him (BEWARE OF SPOILERS). The resolution of the Charlie storyline was well-handled, and the set-up for future plots makes me wonder (like always, but in a good way) how the writers are going to have this make any sense. The mind-blowing revelations will have to wait for future seasons, but as far as suspense, action, and mystery go last night’s finale delivered.

      I also think the shift to shorter, more tightly-focused 16 episode next year will be a good thing. It will do away with the momentum-killing hiatus and make the producers focus on chipping away the more extraneous plot threads. From here on out, it’s all killer, no filler. And I can’t wait.

      Okay, So I Lied

      Why should I devote my attention to writing that actually matters and which my academic future depends on when I can do meaningless blog updates instead?

      First things first: As a card-carrying member of the Geek League I was required to catch a midnight showing of Spider-Man 3 last night so my sorry is tired. I didn’t get out of the theater until 3:00am. I was drawn in once again, and though the running time is long, I never felt bored or like the movie was dragging. It was awesome, although possibly slightly less awesome than the previous two installments.

      spider-man 3

      I do have two complaints:(exceedingly minor spoilers)
      1. There were some weird musical numbers that seemed out of place, including a “Spider-Man Rag” number, in which Tobey Maguire goes all “Chicago.” Kirsten Dunst may or may not be a good singer. I really can’t say, but did we need her to sing two different songs in the same movie? (That was a rhetorical question. We did not.)

      2. Three villains seems a tad excessive, not to the laughable degree that marked the stalling out of the Batman franchise, but still the movie seemed a little overstuffed. I suppose there are worse complaints to make about a movie than that it had “too much stuff happening.” And how I think about is inextricably linked with the future of the franchise. If this really was the last Spider-Man film from Senor Raimi and the gang, than I can forgive them a little for wanting to do too much. I understand that the whole Harry/Green Goblin II angle may have been slightly repetitive and can see why they would want to punch things up with some other underwear perverts. But Sandman and Venom are both huge parts of Spidey’s rogues gallery and I think either one could have warranted the “lead villain” role alone. I think it would have been better to introduce Eddie Brock and the symbiote in this film, to let the bad blood between them and Peter Parker develop while he is dealing with Sandman and Green Goblin II. Then have Venom emerge as the central villain in the next installment.

      But if this was the last film from these guys (with 40 years of Spider-Man backstory and a ton of cash rolling in, I’m sure there will be a sequel but the involvement of Maguire et al is up in the air) I can see why they wouldn’t want to bother with all the long haul storytelling. As it stands, it does seem like things happen fast and not all the characters get time to really develop. There are fewer quiet moments than in the previous installments, and while it is by a narrow margin, I would have to say this my least favorite Spider-Man film (so far). The fact that I can say that about such a kick-ass film is a testament to the strength of the whole series.