If you subscribe to RSS feeds with truncated content, you might find this site handy — it gives you a full-content feed to plonk into your RSS reader.

I’m using it for MacRumors, AppleInsider (yeah, echo chamber, I know), The Onion, TPUTH and Wired right now. (Links go straight to the full-text feeds, unless my copy and paste skills have failed me again.) (Among my other “trusted” news sites, Ars Technica uses truncated feeds as well, but only for really long articles that I’d send to Instapaper anyway.) (Yes, The Onion is a “trusted” news site.) (I love parantheses!)

I’d previously been relying on Reeder‘s clever use of Readability to fetch full-text content in-place without having to wait for the full site to load, but that still involved a short wait between reading the headline and getting to the content. Now I save seconds. TONS AND TONS OF SECONDS WHICH I CAN WAFFLE AWAY ON OTHER RSS FEEDS.

Instapaper, oldest first

February 23, 2011  |  Tags: ,   |  

In a tweet, Tim van Damme suggested sorting Instapaper articles by “oldest first”. I tried it out.

Advantages

  • Clearing through some of my oldest articles. How the hell have I put off reading articles from 2008? Was Instapaper even around then?!
  • Re-discovering things I’d wanted to read back in 2008.

Disadvantages

  • Discovering that some of my interests in 2008 were embarrassingly lame.
  • My reading list still doesn’t get any smaller as I keep adding crap from Twitter and Reader. Worse, I’m increasingly likely to become embarrassed by things on my list as I put off reading them till 3 years later.

ARGH! LIFE IS SO DIFFICULT.

Anyway, I now set Instapaper on my iPhone as oldest first, while leaving the iPad version on the default “newest first”. I heartily suggest for everyone to do the same, and if you don’t have Instapaper, an iPhone, and an iPad, to get them so you can.

Did you love to play graphic adventures as much as I did, and want to learn more about them? The book Graphic Adventures is the mostly correct history of the adventure game classics by Lucasfilm, Sierra and others, from the pages of Wikipedia.

Also features interviews with game creators like Al Lowe, David Fox and Peter Langston. US$29 on Amazon and Lulu; free HTML version available for download. @ me on Twitter if you’d like an ePub version for your iPad, or convert it on your own with calibre.

I’m a bit late with this, yes. I’ve been away from regular comics reading for a bit, but some of my favourites are in there:

  • Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi, 2000
  • Box Office Poison, Alex Robinson, 2001
  • Krazy & Ignatz collection, George Herriman, 2002 – I can’t quite recreate the sense of wonder I first had when I was reading this for my art class, but it still holds a special place in my heart.
  • Daredevil, Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev, 2002 – 2006
  • Y: The Last Man, Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, 2002-2008
  • Blankets, Craig Thompson, 2003
  • DC: The New Frontier, Darwyn Cooke, 2003 – 2004
  • Bone one-volume edition, Jeff Smith, 2004 – so good I received two copies of it from Amazon by mistake (they told me I didn’t have to return it, so I gave it away.)
  • All-Star Superman, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, 2006 – 2008

The comments in the post are also a joy to browse, too. Makes me happy just knowing that there are so many more great stories out there waiting to be discovered.

What I’d add to my personal “best of” list for the past decade:

  • Transmetropolitan, Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson, 1997-2002
  • Barry Ween: Boy Genius, Judd Winick, 1999 – 2002
  • Planetary, Warren Ellis and John Cassaday, 1999-2009
  • It’s a Bird, Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen, 2005
  • Superman: Secret Identity, Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen, 2005
  • We3, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, 2005
  • Seven Soldiers of Victory, Grant Morrison and various artists, 2006
  • Nextwave, Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen, 2006-2007

Okay, so I snuck in some 90s series, but they ended in the 00s, right? I guess I should tone down the Warren Ellis love-fest.

Lists for 2005: Comics

December 26, 2005  |  Tags:   |  

Favourite graphic novels from the year.

Comics This Week

November 15, 2005  |  Tags:   |  

I’ve been catching up on my readings a little lately, but now I have a lot of reviews to catch up with. Here we go, thematically: this week, Robots.


“Halo And Sprocket: Welcome To Humanity” (Kerry Callen)
Thoroughly charming and utterly hilarious. I don’t remember the last time I laughed out loud so often reading something (wait, I do — probably when I read the Get Fuzzy collection over a year ago). Writer/artist Callen takes the simple (and wonderfully inexplicable) premise of “an extremely powerful angel, a socially inexperienced robot and a young, simple woman sharing a house”, and spins genuinely funny tales of human insight. Highly, highly recommended, and for all ages too.

Too bad it’s the only collection out now, but the Halo and Sprocket home page has a bit more material and some sample strips.


“Clockwork Thugs, Yo (Livewires, Vol. 1)” (Adam Warren, Rick Mays)
Adam Warren brings his frenetic style to Marvel’s newest digest-format sci-fi action drama title, Livewires. Warren handles writing and does layouts for penciller Rick Mays — a fact that escaped my notice until now, because the art just looked tremendously Warren-esque, with a generous helping of speed-lines and anime-style puffy-eyed characters. Nonetheless, the art’s great to look at, and the colouring (even on the lower-quality digest format paper) gives the book a vibrant and exciting feel.

The Livewires are a group of “nanobuilt humanform combat mecha” (basically, kick-ass cyborgs) designed by a secret government agency to seek out and destroy other secret government agencies. The plot’s pretty generic (basic tale from the eyes of the newbie joining the supergroup), save for the ending, but the action’s fast-paced and little plot elements are smart and original, making for quite a page-turner with what I felt was quite a refreshing ending. Good stuff.


“NYC Mech Volume 1: Let’s Electrify” (Ivan Brandon, Miles Gunter, Andy MacDonaldn)
Unfortunately, this little piece of pointlessness ruins an otherwise perfect record of robot comics this week. I picked this up during one of Kinokuniya’s 20% sale weekends based on all the strong recommendations on the back cover from the likes of J.G. Jones, John Cassaday, Brian Azzarello, David Mack and Robert Kirkman, all thoroughly respectable and talented comicbook creators. “Intense and stylish”, they said. “Hip, inventive, and utterly charming”, piling on with the praise they go, “Pure robot genius.” “NYC MECH is at the top of my pull list”, apparently.

What. The fuck. Were you guys. Smoking?

The book follows the lives of robots in some alternate reality of New York City, where everyone is a robot. Wait, no — where everybody looks like a robot. That is all. They eat regular human food, have regular human jobs, and get physically injured the same way humans do, just that they look like robots, and that’s the entire premise to this comicbook. I’m not sure I see the point of even making this a robot comic at all, save for how NYC Humanflesh would have been a poor title.

Alright, fine, useless premise. Not that big a deal. However, writers Brandon and Gunter saw fit to torture us with their version of cyberpunk poetry overlaid on the (admittedly capable) art. Here, judge for yourself:

Am I inside or out?
Shapes move about and I remember where I used to be / I remember being anywhere but here
Ice cubes melt on my tongue and it feels like a thousand tiny drops of sound fill my head / This moment here… every second is on hold… / …it’s like forever all over again. / Everyone this [sic] tiny little vortex… / …swirling away until I can’t really see them in any way that counts. / Now there’s only the light and the sound of the bass
Every… / …single… / …note / Explodes inside my head. / Faster… / Maybe more than I can handle.

Those lines, from the first four pages of the book, are juxtaposed with images of robots having sex in an alley, someone at a concert, two robots smoking up (or something), and two robots beating another up in a toilet. None of the images make sense, nothing is resolved, the words could easily have been “oogly-boogly-oogly-boogly-oogly” and would have been equally (if not more) poetic. What the fuck?! Thankfully, the “poetry” stops after a few more pages, and the first of two story arcs begins. Unfortunately, it looks like the reader gets stuck with the same rambling narrator from the “poem”, who poses many questions of blinding insight, such as “Am I outside or in?” (ooh!), “Am I lost inside my head?” (ahh!) and “When’s enough, if nothing ever stops?” (PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP), while hanging out with his deadbeat armed robber friends.

Gritting my teeth and ignoring the narration, I struggled to the end of the first chapter, hoping to see some plot. Uh… no luck there. The first chapter ends on a cliffhanger where the group of friends are faced with… get this… a pack of snarling dogs (and ends with another brilliantly insightful metaphysically nonsensical question from our dear narrator!). Aargh! Thankfully, everyone dies in the first story arc, including the narrator. The second story arc was slightly better (not saying much), but also pointless.

Overall, a complete waste of time and a gut-wrenching exercise in frustrated reading. Damn you, Image Comics, for publishing this shit and getting your friends to say good things about it. I want my $18 back. Aaaargh.

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Comics This Week

October 10, 2005  |  Tags:   |  

I’m supposed to be doing homework that’s due in the morning. Logically, this means I will write more for these reviews to avoid doing work.


“A History of Violence” (John Wagner, Vince Locke)
Note to publisher: Printing critical acclaim about the movie that’s based on the book you’re selling probably helps sales-wise. Printing critical acclaim about the lead actor on the back cover, however, reeks of desperation. This is the book that David Cronenberg’s new movie of the same name is based upon (IMDB details here). The movie opened to critical acclaim at Cannes, and Mark Kermode was drooling all over it in one of his more recent BBC review podcasts, so it can’t be all that bad. Cronenberg has, however, mentioned that the movie deviated quite a bit from the comic, so take that for what it’s worth.

That said, the conveniently-abbreviatable AHOV is really quite good. I’m probably not giving anything away by summarising the plot from the first few pages: two nasty characters, intent on robbing and murdering small-town coffee shop owner and family man Tom McKenna, instead get a brutal taste of their own medicine when he retaliates, killing one and injuring the other. McKenna becomes a local celebrity, attracting the unwanted attention of some shady people, possibly from a past life. Hilarity ensues.

Vince Locke’s art is very, very loose and a little hard to get used to — I ended up forcing myself to read faster so I wouldn’t get too disoriented from it — but it serves its purpose well here, especially in depicting some of the more graphic scenes. Despite the loose, sketchy look of Locke’s art (somewhat like a woodcut), characters are easily recognisable, and that’s no small achievement in a comic without distinguishing capes and costumes. Wagner’s story unfolds at a comfortable pace, so it’s certainly no page-turning thriller, but the brutality and twistedness of the violence depicted here makes the graphic novel a page-turner nonetheless. I really didn’t expect to like this one, but I really did.


“Ex Machina: Tag (Volume 2)” (Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris)
Amazon kindly provided the entire wrap-around cover when I searched for this book’s cover. Isn’t it pretty?

I mentioned volume 1 briefly here, but didn’t say very much about it beyond the point that it was really quite good. Um, well, this one’s good too.

The story continues describing ex-superhero Mayor-of-NYC Hundred’s term in office while providing a bit more information about his power to speak to machines, apparently derived from some shard being investigated by his old NSA security handler. Mysterious grotesque killings involving the shard and its symbol occur, and before long, the mayor is drawn into the whole situation against his will. The mayor also makes a controversial decision. See, how was that any more informative than “it’s really quite good”? I keep calling him “Hundred” or “the mayor” because I can’t remember what the hell his name was — I read the first volume back in January, fergoodnesssake.

Anyway, yeah, it’s really quite good. Top-notch stuff from Brian Vaughan and Tony Harris (though the latter’s “realistic art” takes some getting used to, I much preferred his work on Starman and Obergeist).

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Comics This Week

September 12, 2005  |  Tags:   |  

I have so many comics to catch up on. It’s only appropriate that this NIE mid-term break is called a “reading week”, I guess.


“The Ultimates 2 Vol. 1: Gods And Monsters” (Mark Millar, Bryan Hitch)
Millar and Hitch finally return with their widescreen no-holds-barred rendition of the Ultimate Universe’s Avengers. The first series felt a bit like the creators were still doing The Authority — especially the second volume with the alien invasion — but this volume is definitely all-Avengers fun. From the trial of the Incredible Hulk (he ate 800 innocent human beings in the first volume, after all), to Thor being exposed for a fraud (or is he merely a victim of Loki’s machinations? A clever nod to the origin of the original Avengers), to Hank Pym’s attempt at joining the sad-sack Defenders. Nothing ground-shatteringly brilliant, but still rather good fun, I thought.


“Deer Park (Buddha, Vol. 5)” (Osamu Tezuka)
Volume 5 of 8, continuing Osamu Tezuka’s work of ground-shattering brilliance. It’s great, and I wish it weren’t $50 a volume. I don’t have that much more to say about it.

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Comics This Week

August 15, 2005  |  Tags:   |  

When writing these mini-reviews, I’m beginning to have more and more trouble remembering what the hell I actually read the past week. These are actually from two weeks ago.


“Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 13: Hobgoblin” (Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley)

More of the usual Bendis/Bagley fare. Not as silly as the previous volume with the Wolverine body-switch, but not as horribly grim as the one before that with Carnage. Short summary: disturbed son of Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin), Harry Osborn, returns to Peter Parker’s life — huge fight ensues. Not particularly outstanding and quite easy to breeze through in one reading.


“Wanted” (Mark Millar, J.G. Jones)

The lead character’s father, part of a secret super-villain cabal that runs the world, dies and leaves him a place high in the villain pecking order. The lead character then transforms from sad ordinary 8-to-5er into The Killer, in a fantasy life where actions have no consequences and where self-gratification is the order of the day.

There’s a lot more to the story, but there’s no point ruining it — suffice to say, it’s deeper than the usual Millar power-trip story that my description might have evoked an impression of. My only quibble was that there was a ton of extra material in the book that made the story look like it’d end much later than it actually did, so the ending was a bit of an anticlimax. This also happened with the 50th anniversary edition of Fahrenheit 451, and in both cases, I found the respective endings unpleasantly sudden, though sensibly concluded after some thought. A good read, nonetheless — it’s not often that I feel like I want to finish reading a graphic novel in one sitting (unlike the case above), and this was just page-turning fun.


“The Pulse Volume 2: Secret War” (Brian Michael Bendis, Brent Anderson)

Bendis again, this time with Brent Anderson of Astro City fame. I’d forgotten how much I appreciated his art — functional and nicely embellished at the same time. In this volume, lead character Jessica Jones gets caught right in the middle of super-spy leader Nick Fury’s Secret War, losing boyfriend Luke Cage to inexplicable attack, injury and kidnapping. Having never read Bendis’ Secret War series, I was just as befuddled as Jones was about what the hell was going on. That’s when I realised — what an effective crossover! Bendis gets to play the man-on-the-street angle very nicely (last done effectively by Kurt Busiek in Marvels) with Jones’ lack of inside knowledge on the War, writing her into various investigative and reactive situations very effectively. Pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable this was, and now I’m really curious about what the hell Secret War was all about. Where’s the graphic novel?!

Oh, and a manic-depressive Wolverine cameos for a few pages. That certainly justifies his cover appearance.

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Comics This Week

July 28, 2005  |  Tags:   |  


“Space Ghost” (Joe Kelly, Ariel Olivetti)
I don’t know what I expected from a comicbook promising “the true origin of the animated star!”, but I stupidly went ahead and plonked down $20 for it anyway. Well. Umm. The painted covers by Alex Ross are kinda nice. Ariel Olivetti’s art is stiff but… umm… colourful? And the story… the story, umm. The story has giant insects? And… uh… the closing line is, charmingly enough, “a very big rock”? This comic really doesn’t have that many redeeming values — it’s meaningless, predictable, soulless, repetitive and just takes itself way too seriously. Guhh. What a waste of money.


“Y: The Last Man Vol. 5: Ring of Truth” (Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra)
The big reveal on why all the men died and Yorick didn’t! Solid instalment in this critically-acclaimed series. I liked it, just like I did the last four volumes.

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