I have to be honest: I don’t get why Angry Birds is so big. It’s a perfectly enjoyable video game, and I can enjoy slingshotting birds across the screen as much as the next guy. But is it really worthy of the incredible superstardom it’s achieved? To find out, let’s look at some of the ways that Angry Birds has taken a bite out of pop culture.
Archives for July 2011
Comic books are tremendous, classic comic books even more so. Comics still hold a soft spot in the hearts of many with films featuring comic book characters released seemingly every month, the recent conclusion of another Comic-Con, and new methods for sparking comic cravings. The books themselves (the good ones) are works of art, with one artist, Brandon Michael Barker, taking iconic comic book covers, envisioning them as art, using stained glass.
Many comics billed as horror comics simply fail to elicit that clammy, sweaty response that one would expect from the genre.
The same cannot be said for one of the latest offerings from Oni Press, now into its second issue. Spontaneous deals with the story of Melvin, a boy cursed from childhood with the ability to perceive who stands at risk of spontaneous human combustion.
At least, that’s how it appears on the surface. Melvin is one of those nobodies that we walk past every day and try to escape any conversation with. Much as we hate to admit it, I know this can strike a chord with everyone. Joe Harris weaves a disturbing tale where nothing is revealed straight off the bat, while Brett Weldele’s illustrations set a generally depressive mood with great use of greys and an almost pointalistic style of colouring. Seems odd to say that about a comic book even now, considering the old four-colour processes, but Brett delivers a relationship between intensity of mood and density of colour that brings to mind the film of Anna climbing out of the well in the last movie to really make me fear, The Ring.
The only highlighting is via the colours of flame, but with the backdrop of muted greys and browns, this hardly provides any comfort, but is simply a stark and violent contrast to a story which flows yet dwells in an atmosphere of nothing really happening. We’ve all felt it, growing up in whatever smalltown we arrived in, and after moving on, looking back in sympathy (and some derision) to those who failed to escape.
The words I am using here to describe the two issues I have read so far do not do the series justice. Depressive, dark, gloomy, small town, nobody; these words all accurately conjure the atmosphere of the story; yet I am at once both entranced and repulsed by Spontaneous. It is a long time since a comic has made my flesh crawl, and the best thing about this is that so far, I cannot tell you why I am so repulsed. That to me is an expert use of static media of the page, which has had a greater effect on me than many of the so-called horror films.
I doubt the inclusion of Hellblazer back into the DCU will have anything on this, yet the only comics simile I could compare in to would be the early issues of Hellblazer, although Spontaneous is more subtle than that. I re-read the issues two hours ago, and I still feel uncomfortable.
In a good way though, if such a thing is possible.
No, I am not feeling morbid on this overcast Friday, but who can resist reading up on something called mushroom death suit? Inventor slash artist Jae Rhim Lee has taken on an immense project that crosses boundaries. On the one hand, she tackles the scientific aspect of training fungi to eat dead bodies. On the other hand, she tackles the prevailing attitudes of people towards death.
Lee was interviewed at the New Scientist, where she talked about her mushroom death suit, which is part of the Infinity Burial Project. ((Source))
The premise: we live in a culture of death denial, where the norm is to preserve – albeit temporarily – the bodies of the dead with materials such as formaldehyde. She talks about the negative effects of this practice on the environment and people.
The solution: toxin-cleaning edible mushroom to eat the body.
The method of delivery: mushroom death suit.
That’s the Lee herself wearing the suit at a TED talk. Obviously, the suit is not entirely made of mushroom. The diagram below shows how it is supposed to work.
As Lee has explained, the mushroom death suit is made of organic cotton (it has to be organic, of course!), which is covered by a crocheted netting. This netting is supposed to resemble the growth of mushroom mycelium and is also the medium for the infinity mushroom (the ones that will eat your body) to grow. She also does admit, however, that the netting might not serve the purpose as mushroom spores are difficult to cultivate outside of petri dishes. Her possible solution? Gelatin as a second skin.
This is really interesting, but I have to admit that I am feeling my stomach stir as I write. Lee’s ultimate goal is to increase awareness for her cause – environmental stewardship that does not necessarily end when you pass away. I applaud her for that, but I think I will stick to my original plan – the hottest of fires. I may be acting like a wuss here, but isn’t fire just as environment-friendly as the mushroom death suit?
Nintendo has announced that the price of the 3DS portable game console is being dropped from $249.99 to $169.99 on August 12th. If you do the math, that’s a 32% price cut for a console that’s less than 5 months old. Nintendo couldn’t have picked a louder way of announcing to the world that sales of the 3DS suck.
The 5-minute scene you’re about to watch cost Warner Bros. $10 million to make. It was meant to be the opening of Superman Returns, Bryan Singer’s 2006 big-budget film that heralded Superman‘s return to the big screen. But there’s a very good reason it didn’t make the cut: it’s dull as dirt.
A recent fad almost as popular as planking is the art of hacking electronic road signs. It’s remarkably easy to sneak up to these things when nobody’s looking and input your own message for passersby to read. A quick Internet search will turn up instructions on how it’s done; here are 25 of the most epic road sign hacks ever.
There is no other word for the iPad 2 Gold History Edition but outrageous. Wait, let me take that back. You can say preposterous, absurd, ridiculous, and all the other synonyms you can think of. There really is no other way to describe this new creation of Stuart Hughes. ((Source))
Remember him? He’s the well known British jeweler who comes up with luxury versions of practically anything you can find in the market. Televisions, mobile phones, cars, liquor – name it, he probably has a version of it.
Still doesn’t ring a bell? How about the most expensive iPhone 4 I shared sometime last year? Yup, that was Hughes. If you thought that was crazy, then this new iPad 2 Gold History Edition will totally blow your mind. Take a nice look at the front.
Of course it looks impressive. If nothing else, Hughes knows how to grab one’s attention with his creations. The usual suspects – diamonds – are all over the place: a single cut 8.5ct flawless diamond inlaid in its own platinum surrounded by 12 outer flawless diamonds. And if you’re wondering how Hughes achieved that look in the front, it’s courtesy of the oldest rock in the world called Ammolite. More than 75 million years old, the Ammolite comes from Canada. And as if a 75-million-year-old rock weren’t enough, Hughes had to get hold of a 65-million-year-old T-Rex thigh bone. After some splintering and shaving, the bone made its way to the front panel of the iPad 2 Gold History Edition.
Outrageously luxurious, but it doesn’t stop there! Now for the back.
That, my friends, is a solid mass of 24ct gold weighing 2,000 grams. The Apple logo is something else as well, with a grand total of 53 individually set diamonds.
So let’s summarize the materials that went into this thing: 16.5 ct diamonds, 8.5ct single diamond, 57 grams of T-REX bone, 750 grams of Ammolite stone, and 2,000 grams of solid 24ct gold.
Understandably, there are only 2 units. After all, how many people are willing to part with 5 million GBP (a little more than 8 million USD)? Rather, how many people have it and are willing to part with it for an iPad2?
Don’t you just love it when you refresh your iPad’s store “Top” category and scroll down to find something you’ve been iffy about buying but now it doesn’t matter because it’s free? Well, you can say that for To-Fu the Trials of Chi, a best of show in the App store since its debut last month. I guess this is what you get for continuously refreshing the App Store screen or downloading one of those “Free App” notifiers. Well before you continue reading, I highly suggest downloading it now before the limited time offer expires!
The cool thing is that after downloading To-Fu, you’re greeted with a refreshed app icon for both the retina and HD versions as well as entirely new levels compared to the trial version. You could say that this new version doesn’t even duplicate the old levels (save for one) we saw on the first release. This is because the latest version gives you an additional 10 extra trials and updates the game with in-app purchases for extra levels in the future.
To-Fu: The Trials of Chi is a frustratingly addicting game where you need to guide our sticky little soy bean curd from point A to point B without dying. And that’s the bare minimum. You are a sticky wad of tofu with a bandana. Your goal is to get to the finishing portal without dying. You accomplish this by stretching and flinging yourself to sticky surfaces whilst evading spikes and electricity. Different surfaces react differently to you — from bouncing wall trampolines, to portals, to hard wood and slippery glass surfaces.
There are two extra mechanics that the game adds: collecting blue “Chi” balls and finishing a level equal to or below the minimum number of moves. These mechanics are of course completely optional but they add entirely new dimensions to the game without having to force you to select a difficulty level. So, essentially you can really just fling To-Fu across the screen to get from A to B ignoring the balls and moves or you can be more hardcore by completing all objectives without dying.
To-Fu The Trials of Chi HD
Download now for FREE.
On Saturday at San Diego Comicon, a panel gathered to discuss the effects of the digital market on the comics industry. It is amazing that in one breath a statement can be made that is both abhorrent to long time devotees of the medium yet is perfect common sense at the same time.
As a former comic store manager, the words uttered by Mark Waid struck fear in me.
“There was not a single Sony executive worried about the record store in my neighbourhood.”
This was very true, and no one can deny the strength of the digital download market for music today. Indeed, I have to confess, the majority of comics I read nowadays are in digital format. I have limited storage space, so online access or direct download has proved an ideal solution for me. Yet there are certain comics when, especially after reading them on my laptop, I hightail it down to my local store because I want a paper copy.
I applaud the digital market for the creators’ costs as well. In the mid-Nineties when I reigned supreme over my own comics’ empire (that is one shop), I remember that the cost of paper rose by a factor of three in as many years. According to Mr Waid, the cost of printing the raw comic has doubled in the last five years. To break in as a new creator or new company entails even greater expense, whereas to publish online the high cost of paper is simply replaced by the cost of web space and bandwidth, although greater promotion is, of course, required.
I remember in the earlier discussions of downloading music that without the guidance of the record companies, the world will be flooded with lower quality music, but I have yet to see the evidence of this. No doubt there is some truth in this, but quality always rises to the top of the pile. So, could we be seeing the beginnings of a whole new wave of innovation?
In the meantime, our wages as readers (if we are lucky enough or old enough to be waged) are stagnant; nor does our living space increase by the year. There are far more people connected to the internet by computer, phone or tablet than live within easy travelling distance of a comic book store, so new markets can be accessed. Yet where would this leave our stores?
Merchandise will always sell, and if a store can specialise in this, whilst finding other ways to engage the local community in events, then they will survive. I fear ‘evolve or die’ will be the catchphrase for the LCS for the next few years, but I look forward to seeing what arises out of such challenges.
Meanwhile, it’s a busy week on the shelves. It seems not so long ago that I was writing about Infestation Outbreak #1, yet the second issue ships today. The same can be said for Fly, and the third issue of Phoenix arrives as well. Of course Invincible #81 and Incorruptible #20 continue as strong as ever, and my remaining recommendations are Dracula In The Company of Monsters #12, The Sixth Gun #13, Jonathan Hickman’s FF#7 and if you haven’t looked at Time Lincoln yet, today sees the release of the trade paperback The Fate Of The Union, so you can catch up.