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31Jul2013 1000: CHOO CHOO

T minus 10 days to my Maine trip! Goddamn do I love seafood. It may not be the pleasant, laid-back, swimming-hole kind of ocean but it is absolutely stuffed full of seafood. Soon I will be too! And it's a great excuse to take a train again, two days of lounging around and letting plains and mountains roll past. I'm getting excited about the train and packing up board games that might be appropriate for a tiny table and the world at large is NOT HELPING.

Monday was the latest doctor visit because of the whole cancer thing. He just reiterated what he said on the phone last week: you're clean but you should go see a doctor anyway. This is winding-down phase I always feared, where it's pretty much assumed that I don't need to see doctors but they keep bouncing me around anyway. It's going to cost more than it should, but the medical-industrial complex has me by the ball here.

In celebration I went to the local game shop and spent some comfort money on Space Hulk and a collection of Superior Spider-Man. I'd been interested in this new Spider-Man since its announcement, reveling in both the opportunity to tell actual new comic stories and the wailing and gnashing of Internet teeth. This first trade (issues 1-5) is exactly what I was looking for. Other books like Watchmen or Gotham Central try to explore "superheros in the real world SHIT BE CRAZY" -- to be extremely reductive about it. Superior Spider-Man is exploring more "why isn't Spider-Man reaching his full potential"? It's still rooted firmly in the silly comic book universe, but writer Dan Slott is posing a series of what-if questions needling old Spider-Man. Peter Parker (a) has a great-paying job in super-science and (b) frequently fights villains who rob banks. Why doesn't he try to buy them off? Peter Parker has built all these technological marvels over the years, including tiny autonomous robots. Why does he still personally go on patrol? (Spoiler: because it's awesome) The books are filled with these questions, usually stated directly in the text; there is nothing subtle about it but the bluntness is part of what I love.

24Jul2013 1900: Monte Cristo, Earl of Sandwich

Disseminating the information any way I can: the doctor says my cancer phase is over. I'm glad I got into it before all my friends, I'm banking some serious hipster cred for when we all hit our seventies.

My weekly product whoring segment is not even digital! I know we all just survived the Steam Summer Sale -- may God have mercy on our wallets -- but the frivolous purchase I'm most satisfied with at the moment is this tiny jambox. Even odds that this miniature marvel is better than your car speakers, and it's paired perfectly with both my phone and my computer tower. I've taken to piping my Google Music through the little guy and turning off my television; it's great to have when I make a trek to the bedroom or sit out on the deck. It's also great to have an up-close set of speakers when my air conditioner is running. You can detect just the barest hint of lag when watching a movie with this, enough to make it look like a foreign-language dub, but for music it's perfect.

I'm working my way through The Count of Monte Cristo and... I'm not fishing for spoilers here, but what the heck is this book even about? I've always heard it's about a jailbreak and revenge against the people who locked him up. However, this book is 1500 pages long(!), and the entire sequence of accusation-prison-jailbreak-riches occupied the first 300 or so. 1200 pages of revenge? I mean, I'm a fan of vengeance, but 20% injustice and 80% revenge seems a bit much. I can't stop racing through pages so I can see why it's a classic. I can only assume it pays off. Probably a few times.

Google Music's recent pumpkin reskin wreaked havoc on my phone usage, but on the web it had a wonderful side effect: I can find the free music collection! Even the URL is kinder! Go grab these while you still can, except for Isaac Sure-Isn't-Hayes. The rest range from barely tolerable to pretty good. No standout surprises this month, unless you count the R&B surprise tucked in the middle of the torch song [Alice Smith - Ocean].

Who am I kidding? 90% of everything is crap, so stick to [Ola Podrida - Blind to the Blues].

17Jul2013 1015: Robots Punching Monsters Forever

Going in to last weekend I was worried that Hollywood had broken me. Classic nerd-focused pictures like Star Trek: Into Darkness and Man of Steel completely missed my mark, while the most glorious film I've seen all year is also too dumb to contemplate. Something had to be wrong with me, yeah? Well I'm glad to say the answer is "no", as Pacific Rim is a bunch of fantastic goofy fun aimed squarely at where I thought my demographic was.

It was difficult to contain my excitement for Giant Robots Punching Giant Monsters, perhaps my favorite genre and one underserved by American films. And yes, there is a massive stretch in the middle that contains no monsters whatsoever. We spend a large amount of time exploring the fantastically dumb lead characters archetypes. We are assaulted by some terrible and on-the-nose dialogue; every word spoken in Pacific Rim seems just five degrees off of "believable". But when the robo-punching kicks in it's like an angelic choir playing a power chord. The fights are all at night and frequently in the rain -- hiding the minor flaws that might have killed the CG -- but they hit every beat I wanted from a flick like this. Acid breath! Missile chests! Rocket elbows! Pilots shouting out attack names! Good lord, this franchise needs to run for fifty years.

And IN THE FUTURE, last names will become first names and all names must be approved by the Federal Department of Stupid. There are some real doozies in here: Raleigh Becket, Hannibal Chau, Newton Geiszler, fucking Stacker Pentecost. So good.

I can't figure out why this hit when Star Trek didn't, when Superman didn't. I'm using the words "dumb" and "stupid" a lot in this post, and all three movies were certainly that. I think it's the quality of the stupid, its application to the script. Pacific Rim has a stupid alien plot involving sending giant monsters through a hole in space. It has a stupid human response to build skyscraper-sized robots to punch the monsters in the face. It has utterly insipid character interaction. It closes on the WORST trope on any planet, the "Oh no the hero died in the final battle WAIT NO HE DIDN'T YUB NUB". But Pacific Rim spends barely a minute on that cliché, where Star Trek: Into Derpness stretched it out over the last ten minutes. Pacific Rim robots knock down all sorts of buildings in their battles with the monsters, just like Superman does while fighting Zod. The difference is that Pacific Rim also shows civilians evacuating to air-raid bunkers, normal people getting the hell out of the way instead of gawping from their 27th-floor window. Star Trek had the entire ruling council of Starfleet hold an emergency meeting about a terrorist a single room with giant windows open to the outside! Pacific Rim places its leaders and military might inside of mountains and behind blast doors, attempting to interdict monsters miles offshore.

Maybe the point is that Pacific Rim is a consistent level of doofy and crazy, where everybody in the film participates and nothing "real" intervenes. Star Trek and Man of Steel spent so much time grounding their characters and technologies that the doofy elements stuck out more. I don't know. I don't know what I'm saying any more.

But take note, Hollywood: in a movie entirely about giant monsters destroying the most populated cities along the Pacific coast, not a frame of it evoked 9/11. Star Trek went there. Man of Steel went there. Not every movie needs to go there, okay? People died and buildings crumbled long before airplanes were invented, and it's far more likely that some giant force of nature will swallow you whole than somebody will fly a superplane through your office.

There's probably a passel of free Google Music out there, but damn if I can find it. Truly, the best music I've heard in the past month is last year's Regina Spektor and choice samples from /r/comeonandslam. Not kidding. The mere fact of that subreddit's existence warms my heart, and a couple times a week it brightens my day. A couple times a month, it presents me with a song that makes it onto my playlist. It is once again the proper quantity and quality of dumb. It amuses me. It is also the kind of only-on-the-Internet thing that I may want to try my hand at someday, like webcomics or AMVs.

10Jul2013 1115: Everything Happening At Once

Heeeeey guys. I haven't updated in nearly a month. I have to believe that both of you who read this site already know why, but I'm not sure that the Google spy robots know yet. The weekend of 22 June I went back to San Antonio for another work conference. Let me tell you something: San Antonio in June is far less fun than San Antonio in April. Most of this trip was spent hiding from the merciless sun inside various buildings. After I got back -- and I mean directly after getting back, the very next morning -- I set off for Chicago environs to attend my uncle's funeral. I finally got back from the trips on 30 June.

Which is good, because it gave me a whole day to rest up before I went in for surgery on 2 July. To remove cancer. Yeah. That went as well as can be expected. So I've spent the past week resting and healing and not doing anything physically, and now this weekend it's the annual family reunion. That promises to be a blast. And if I wasn't going to that reunion, it would be the 15-year high school reunion, or the Magic 2014 Prerelease, or watching Evo 2013, or going to Pacific Rim. Frankly there is too much going on right now; I can't recall a summer, or any other span of a month, where so many things collided accidentally quite like this, to the point that I have to ignore half of them.

But right now, this very day, I'm blessedly unoccupied while my abdomen glues itself back together. To keep me distracted from the horror and death all around me I have the one-two punch of Rogue Legacy and Dust: An Elysian Tail. Dust is an interesting case: a man who makes a living as an animator decided to make a videogame. So then he did; he taught himself programming from square one and filled it with his art. Everything is goddamn gorgeous and hand-painted and based on animation cliches. Do you dislike comedic sidekicks with squeaky voices? Maybe give this a pass. But do you like Metroid? Because this is an okay Metroid game, replacing missiles with a sword and power suits with...magic suits. And man, just look at this game in motion!

Rogue Legacy goes in the opposite direction. The graphics are a throwback to a 16-bit era that never existed, deliberately pixelated and flat; the plot is "go into castle and kill bosses"; your character has no personality beyond the jaunty way they carry their sword around. The castle itself is randomly generated each time, snapping together Lego blocks of spike traps and floating ghosts to most efficiently murder your ass. Your character -- fine, fine, my characters -- rarely survive five minutes in this medieval meat grinder. It is pure, raw, pulsating game mechanics, your human reflexes tested against the algorithms of antagonism. When I have five hours to sit down and heal, I pick up Dust. When I have fifteen minutes to rest, I pick up Rogue Legacy and end up playing for five hours. It's a good time to continue to be alive.

Is there new free music this month? Who even cares? Who even has time to care? Just go grab Daft Punk's Greatest Hits and get ready for kebabs.