30 September 2011

NO BLACK PLUME #31


Curly has bought you the gift. It's the gift of confidence. Aubrey is NOT a drug addict, she reads cocaine for the articles.

29 September 2011

SOMETHING COOL #31

Today I come bearing a recommendation for an activity that is thoroughly awesome and extremely entertaining, and which I have had the pleasure to partake in this evening.

Fancy Laser Tag.

It's quite simple, really. Put on your best dress or suit, grab a couple of friends (figuratively, unless you're into that kind of thing) and transport yourselves to the nearest laser tag facility. Give yourselves entertaining names (ours included the names of ponies from Friendship is Magic, as well as characters from the film Brazil) and have yourselves an awesome time.

And for the record, Curly and I were victorious as well as fancy. So, so fancy.

--- Aubrey

28 September 2011

NO BLACK PLUME #30


Curly is a resounding "yes".  Aubrey can see past the lies and the shadows.

SOMETHING COOL #30

Easily one of the most addictive websites ever, TV Tropes is a website dedicated to cataloguing the tricks of the trade of writing fiction.  If you've ever had a conversation that included, "You ever notice how in movies..." or "It seems like in every book I read...", then you're discussing tropes.

Tropes are tools; they are not inherently good nor bad, and their success depends on how they are used.  The website includes a massive trove of pages about tropes, as well as pages for individual works of fiction and the tropes they include.  Odds are, your favorite book or movie has a page, as the site is very well-maintained.

Trust me, it's better than it sounds.  If you, like me, ingest a lost of fiction, you'll be hooked as you read about trope after trope that you've seen a thousand times before but haven't noticed.  It's one of the best ways to ruin your life.

26 September 2011

NO BLACK PLUME #29

Curly had to resign from a beard competition upon the discovery that he had been utilizing facial hair enhancing drugs. Aubrey had Schrodinger's cat as a pet before the physicist got his hands on it.

SOMETHING COOL #29

Today: The Hunger Games (the book itself, not the series as a whole)

Generally speaking, I don't particularly care for "young adult literature" as it is defined in today's market, with the exception of John Green novels and a few other books. I also try to avoid books that have a lot of hype for worry that a Twilight-esque fandom of squealing girls will follow.

However, I did enjoy The Hunger Games immensely. They were entertaining as well as well-written, and the motifs surrounding the inability to trust one's government as well as the justification of inhuman acts on the innocent for the purpose of making a point were eons ahead of the typical "girl meets boy" cliches that I've come to expect from the Young Adult genre.

I did read the other two books, the second was also very good, while the third was entertaining enough, with an ending that I felt was lacking, but nonetheless the first book is excellent on its own. I hope that the movie (which is set to be released this next year) will not spur the aforementioned fandom of squealing girls, though, as the book is both well-written and not centered on poorly thought out ideas concerning romance, I do not see this happening. I very much recommend The Hunger Games, it exceeded my expectations.

23 September 2011

NO BLACK PLUME #28


Curly has mastered the way of the ninja.  Aubrey knows no mercy.

SOMETHING COOL #28

Not so much a franchise or product as a pastime: Terrible Movie Nights.

A semi-frequent occurrence with my friends, we get together and watch awful movies and make fun of them.  The concept is by no means new, but I wanted to throw my recommendation behind it.

Among other things, Terrible Movie Nights are a treasure trove of good times and inside jokes.  You can make a party of it if you want.

Personally, I recommend the following setup:
Two bombardiers--those who notice every little thing that sucks about the movie, and are quick to point it out.
One snarker, who is more sarcastic about it.
Someone who laughs at everything.
Someone else who keeps the group grounded and focused on the movie.

Yes, I analyzed it.  That's what I do.  This is the setup our group follows.  Of course, it helps if all the invitees have a good sense of humor.

Of course, this isn't to encourage selective inviting policies.  Any group of friends will have a great time.

Some movies to watch:
A Troll in Central Park
Troll 2 (not related to A Troll in Central Park)
Batman: The Movie
Batman and Robin
Anything by The Asylum (Megashark vs. Giant Octopus, Moby Dick: 2010, Sharktopus)
Frozen
Any really old, low-budget horror film (you can find collections of them really cheap at big box outlets near Halloween)

So... have fun.

--Curly

20 September 2011

SOMETHING COOL #27

Today: Hyperbolic Geometry, and why it is awesome.

So a quick recap on the different kinds of geometry we generally deal with. Euclidean geometry is the kind we all know and love, where, if you have a line and a point outside a line, exactly one line can be drawn through that point that is parallel to that line. Hyperbolic geometry falls into Non-Euclidean geometry, where an infinite number of lines can be drawn through that point such that it is parallel to that line.

Now despite the fact that hyperbolic geometry has existed as mathematical concept for an extremely long time, it's only until recently that mathematicians were able to come up with a tangible model for it. The coral reefs, of all places, are one of several examples of hyperbolic geometry in nature (crochet is another method of recreating hyperbolic geometry).

If the mathematical concept is a little hard to visualize, watch this TED talk on the subject, which has a wealth of information on the subject: Margaret Wertheim on the beautiful math of coral.

--- Aubrey

18 September 2011

SOMETHING COOL #26

In my personal opinion, too many video games have become too formulaic.  So when there's a series of games that has a genuinely fresh formula, it's pretty refreshing.

In this case, I'm referring to the Professor Layton series of games for the Nintendo DS.  Remember all those brainteasers you'd read in puzzle books as a kid (or maybe that was just me)?  Professor Layton tackles them and puzzles much like them.  Like many things, it's better than it sounds.

The clever gameplay is backed up by fun stories and animation.  If you like a challenge, I recommend you check them out.

16 September 2011

NO BLACK PLUME #25


Why yes, Curly did cut his hair so as to better resemble the second king of Austria. Thank you for noticing. Aubrey is a dolphin of abominations.

14 September 2011

NO BLACK PLUME #24


Curly saw the signs of impending doom.  Aubrey both is and is not.

SOMETHING COOL #24

Here's a cool show that's massively underappreciated: Stella.  It ran for half a season on Comedy Central back in 2005.

The show was based on straightlaced, deadpan absurdism, The three protagonists, Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, and David Wain (actors playing fictionalized versions of themselves, which is always fun) basically collapsed into ridiculousness at the touch of a feather, including a corrupt election for residence board president or writing a novel.

Anyway, the show got poor ratings and was canceled only 10 episodes in.  If that's not enough of a punch in the gut, it was replaced with... Mind of Mencia.  That show was awful.

There are also Stella shorts floating the internet, but in my mind the show was the best part.

--Curly

12 September 2011

NO BLACK PLUME #23

Curly lives next door to a mysterious man who leaves gifts for him in the tree in front of his house. Aubrey doesn't always save babies from burning buildings, but when she does, it's glorious.

11 September 2011

SOMETHING COOL #23

Today: It's time for music, with Steve Burns.

Do you remember Blue's Clues? If you're anything like me, then you idolized Steve. I literally wanted to be Steve as a child. That was my life goal in a nutshell. I even had the green striped shirt and everything.  And we all remember when Steve left for "college" to be replaced with his traitorous "brother" Joe (that orange shirt wearing bastard). Well it turns out that, rather than dying, being fired for drug use, or sexually assaulting a young girl (all of which are rumors on the internet), Steve left the show to pursue his musical career.

I know what you're thinking, because I thought it too. I expected his music to suck. I thought it was going to suck hard. So, so hard. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it... wasn't that bad. In fact, it was kinda good.

And so I leave you with Mighty Little Man, courtesy of Steve Burns (Steve was, in fact, his real name), from his album Songs for Dustmites.

09 September 2011

NO BLACK PLUME #22


Curly knows no bounds.  Aubrey is a professional George Clooney impersonator.

SOMETHING COOL #22

Firefly.

As you know from my praise of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, I'm a fan of Joss Whedon.  He's an inspiration to me personally as an aspiring television writer as he blends art and entertainment.  Though I haven't watched a lot of Buffy, I'm going to go out on a limb and say Firefly is the best representation of Whedon's work.

The plot centers around a ramshackle old spaceship, populated by "the kind of people the Enterprise would just pass by".  Think of it this way: science fiction is cool; westerns are cool; ergo, a well-done science fiction western must be AT LEAST double-cool, and I think you'll find it's quite a bit more.

Sidebar: WHHHYYYYY, WAAAAASH?  WHYYYYY!

Anyway, it had a really short run, but it was followed up by a movie that ties up a lot of the loose ends, and there are comics and supplementary materials galore.  It's a lot higher quality than most TV shows, and a whole lot more entertaining.  You can watch it for free on Hulu.  Check it out.

--Curly.

07 September 2011

NO BLACK PLUME #21


In Soviet Russia, laugh makes you Curly. Aubrey doesn't always kick babies, but when she does, she wears Converse shoes.

06 September 2011

SOMETHING COOL #21

Today: Questionable Content, a webcomic.

If you like web comics with plot-based humor, then Questionable Content is the way to go. It has a continuous plot line with a cast of likeable and entertaining characters. The comic also employs a somewhat subtler type of hipster humor than the walking stereotypes that haunt most hipster-based comedy (this may be because the comic is much older than the general public has been aware of hipsters, or because the comic's creator is a self-acknowledged indie hipster himself, but I digress). The comic is well worth the few weeks it will take you to get caught up, and is my favorite web comic though it may not be the funniest (though it does have numerable funny moments, making it similar to The Simpsons for me). The plot is just genuinely enjoyable to read, and the art has improved immensely over time. I give it four flying pancakes out of five based on a system I just right now made up.

--- Aubrey

05 September 2011

NO BLACK PLUME #20


Curly is adept at both magic and swordplay.  Aubrey has level 1 clearance.

SOMETHING COOL #20

Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

Everyone has a friend they trust absolutely for advice on one topic or another.  For me, I absolutely trust my anime recommendations from my friend Claire.  Shows like Puella Magi Madoka Magica are the reason why.

Though it starts out like the typical mahou shojo anime (see Cardcaptor Sakura, Sailor Moon), it quickly shows that it dares to be so much more.  In its twelve-episode run, it creates a dark and eerie world, sympathetic characters, and a situation so complex that it genuinely challenges you to consider your morals.  Plus, it's got awesome animation and music to boot.

I'm pretty serious about spoilers.  I can't really tell you a lot, since it jumps right into the action.  But trust me.  You'll want to check it out.

--Curly

02 September 2011

NO BLACK PLUME #19

Curly wanted to create an advanced society of sea monkeys, but the Simpsons did it. Aubrey likes to think that the man in this comic is not the true father of those children, making him resent them all the more.

01 September 2011

SOMETHING COOL #19

Today: Hank Green, musician.

Do you enjoy novelty songs? What about science, angler fish, Harry Potter, and similar topics? Then you need to listen to Hank Green. Guitarist, songwriter, and founder of DFTBA Records (a company that helps musicians who are just starting out, especially on youtube) Hank and his music are basically awesome. As well as a purveyor of nerd rock, Hank and his brother John (a young adult fiction novelist) have a youtube channel where they share interesting/entertaining/funny videos (topics have included the Fermi Paradox, the United States debt crisis, and the mating habits of giraffes). The community of people who watch these videos are called Nerdfighters, a group of intellectually minded people who have done a plethora of awesome things (planted thousands of trees in honor of Hank's birthday, calculated whether having a plate of vegetarian spaghetti shipped to and from the moon is more efficient than making a hamburger, and, wait for it, managed to discuss religion civilly ON THE INTERNET).

Hank Songs:
Strange Charm: A Song About Quarks
The Fermi Paradox
It All Makes Sense at the End

Their youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/vlogbrothers

--- Aubrey