Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Upgrading Linux Mint 16 (Petra) to 17 (Qiana)

Well, it's been a while. I have been extremely busy with my internship, school work, and other projects, but I thought I would pop in to make a brief note about upgrading my OS from Linux Mint 16 to LM 17.

First, the method recommended by the official tutorial simply does not work and should be ignored. Luckily, a user named Wellspring provided a link in the comments section to a tutorial that actually works. Big thanks to him, and to Matei Cezar at TecMint.com for writing the article.

Basically, you enter these commands in this order. Read the linked tutorial for explanations.

$ sudo cp /etc/apt/sources.list  /etc/apt/sources.list.bak
$ sudo cp /etc/apt/sources.list.d/official-package-repositories.list  /etc/apt/sources.list.d/official-package-repositories.list.bak

$ sudo sed -i 's/saucy/trusty/' /etc/apt/sources.list
$ sudo sed -i 's/petra/qiana/' /etc/apt/sources.list
$ sudo sed -i 's/saucy/trusty/' /etc/apt/sources.list.d/official-package-repositories.list
$ sudo sed -i 's/petra/qiana/' /etc/apt/sources.list.d/official-package-repositories.list

## For Package Sources only if they are enabled ##
$ sudo sed -i 's/saucy/trusty/' /etc/apt/sources.list.d/official-source-repositories.list
$ sudo sed -i 's/petra/qiana/' /etc/apt/sources.list.d/official-source-repositories.list

## For Getdeb Sources only if they are enabled ##
$ sudo sed -i 's/saucy/trusty/' /etc/apt/sources.list.d/getdeb.list
$ sudo sed -i 's/petra/qiana/' /etc/apt/sources.list.d/getdeb.list

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
$ sudo apt-get upgrade

After dist-upgrade, enter "y" whenever prompted in the terminal, and answer "yes" and "install the package maintainer's version" when prompted in the graphical interface.

It's not mentioned in the tutorial, but I was also asked to restart xscreensaver and xlockmore while upgrading. This is probably unique to XFCE distributions and not all LM. To do this, open a new terminal and enter:

$ sudo killall xscreensaver
$ sudo killall xlockmore

Credit to hmagoo of UbuntuForums.org for this solution.

Then proceed as normal. The process takes a while, once it's done go ahead and restart. Again, I urge you to read the linked tutorial. This post is a stripped down version mainly for my own reference.

Friday, January 24, 2014

HonestGamers.com *UPDATE*

A few months ago I started going to HonestGamers.com, a nice little gaming review site. It's filled with modern and retro reviews from a somewhat small but fairly active community of gamers. There are also a few reviews from paid freelance writers, but the real draw for me is the amount of user generated content in the reviews and their comment sections. It reminds me of GameFAQS back when it still had a focus on reader reviews.

I wrote a a few reviews there, here are the links:

Dragon's Crown
Beyond: Two Souls
Mass Effect

I plan on writing a few more when I get the chance, as I do I'll update this post.


Since I wrote this, I started working as an intern for Honest Gamers. I also wrote a few more reviews, which you can read here:

Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 3
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z
Darksiders II
Long Live the Queen
Armored Core
Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider II
R-Type Dimensions
Tokyo Jungle
Sly Cooper Thieves in Time
Starlight Inception

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Devil Inside

This is part of a series of posts on Matt Wagner's Grendel series. There are spoilers for each individual story and for the series as a whole. I recommend reading the series before reading any of these posts.

Being only three issues in length, The Devil Inside's brevity belies its importance to an understanding of the Grendel series. In Devil by the Deed and Devil's Legacy we saw two characters embrace the Grendel identity and achieve incredible power and respect through brutality and strength.

Hunter Rose was an incredible personality who bent most of the North American underworld to his will. Christine Spar was able to transform from a widowed writer into a warrior who overcame two literal monsters in the form of Tujiro and Argent. But the story of Brian Li-Sung found in The Devil Inside is different. It is petty and small scale. Brian will not achieve any remarkable feats, he will not overcome a powerful nemesis or make a significant impact on the world. In this way, he is the most relatable. If Hunter Rose is Scarface, Brian is the kid wearing the Scarface t-shirt.

Notably, this is the story that reveals the supernatural nature of the Grendel entity, and its possession of its avatars. The depiction of this demon here, as a nagging influence that causes petty snide comments and a general attitude of disgust with the world and those with whom one should find comfort, such as the also grieving Regina, calls to mind the demons described in C. S. Lewis works such as The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce. The demon is not all conquering and fearsome, it serves its purposes gradually by confusing, harassing and undermining its victim. Much later, in Behold the Devil, its physical form as little more than an imp is also telling.

The murders committed by Brian continue the trend of those committed by Christine. When she psychologically tortured and then killed the police officer who brutalized Brian, it was an extreme overreaction meant to make the reader uncomfortable. Certainly, the reader disliked the officer, and the tension of wanting him to be punished and also wanting Christine to be better than a vindictive murderer made for one of the most intense issues of comics this reader has ever seen. Brian's murder of the racist security guard, who has not committed any violence, is even more clearly an extreme case of Grendel victimizing an undeserving person.

And, of course, the final battle the series leads to ends with a whimper, as Brian is easily shot dead. This is a shorter post about one of the shorter stories in the series.

Next up: Devil Tales

Monday, January 6, 2014

Devil's Legacy

This is part of a series of posts on Matt Wagner's Grendel series. There are spoilers for each individual story and for the series as a whole. I recommend reading the series before reading any of these posts.

Continuing my series of posts overviewing the Grendel series, in this post I will share a few thoughts about what is possibly my favorite comic story, The Devil's Legacy.

After my initial reading of Devil by the Deed, I was wary of any sequel. The complete life of Hunter Rose is told so well that it seemed there was no room for more story. A soon as I opened Devil's Legacy I was even more worried about the quality since the art this time is not by Matt Wagner (and in full color) and the format is that of a traditional comic and not the storybook format that worked so well in the previous story.

My fears were, of course, completely unfounded. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Devil's Legacy is my favorite Grendel story arc.

As Devil by the Deed addressed our common fascination with organized crime, Devil's Legacy serves as a criticism of revenge fantasies in media. After Christine's son is kidnapped by a disturbing child-killing vampire who collects eyeballs, she suffers the seeming incompetence of the police force and steals the Grendel costume and weapons to hunt the vampire herself.

We've seen this story dozens of times. “X has been kidnapped, now Y must find X in time and/or get revenge on Z”. A wronged person (usually male) takes matters into their own hands for revenge after they have been wronged. They are given super powers by their anger and are able to accomplish things no one else could. Be it Jack Bauer, a Schwarzenegger character, the Liam Neeson character in Taken and its sequel, or any other of the countless examples in any form of storytelling media. Clich├ęs are not necessarily a bad thing, far from it. If I felt they were, I don't think I would be writing a blog about American mainstream comics.

The tale here has enough differentiation to remain interesting despite the familiar setup. Tujiro is a bizarre villain, a vampire in a mostly (so far) mundane world. Further, he is a child killer who harvests eyeballs for reasons that are never explained. Also, Christine both fails to save her son and to kill Tujiro. And this episode is only the first half of Christine Spar's story.

The second half concerns the new duel between Argent and Grendel, the continuation of Devil by the Deed. Argent pushes Christine's friends hard, and a police officer named Dominic Riley brutalizes her boyfriend, Brian Li-Sung.

In what I consider one of the best single issues of comics, “Devil's Revenge” we see how the Grendel persona has transformed Christine. In the issue, originally appearing in Grendel #9 of the Comico series, Christine stalks and psychologically tortures her Dominic, harassing and terrifying him from the shadows over the course of an evening before ultimately taking his life. The only words in this issue are “And as to the problem with Dominic Riley...” on the first page and “...eventually I killed him” on the last.

As described by Virgil W. Ferguson on the letters page of Grendel #14: “Just twelve little words, but sandwiched between them was as neat – and as terrifying – an exercise in urban terror that it has ever been my – pleasure? - to experience.”

Originally, the reader sympathized with Christine's quest, with her need for revenge. Her actions in response to the seeming lethargy of the police seemed extreme, but worthy of respect and perhaps admiration. After all, her son was murdered, and cruelly, by a powerful and hideous monster.

But Dominic Riley is a different matter. He is simply a corrupt police officer. He brutalized Christine's boyfriend, and certainly had justice coming. But Christine's extreme response is completely over the top, a true “exercise in urban terror”. She did not intimidate him, she did not brutalize him, she did not even simply murder him. She tortured him in a series of well thought out exercises designed to instill horror, and then, after making sure he suffered, she finally executed him.

This is not the Christine Spar from the beginning of the story, or even the Christine who rose in the Grendel costume to confront another creature of horror. This is Christine as a sadist, a woman receiving satisfaction from the pain she causes to another. She followed the arc with which we are all familiar, embraced her anger, became stronger than the monster she was fighting and defeated it. But unlike the resolution to a Hollywood movie, or the conclusion of a mainstream comic arc, the violence she embraced did not leave her unscathed.

Things are engineered thereafter to build to a final fight with Argent. The resolution mirrors Devil by the Deed, but this time Argent dies too. During the battle, it seems Christine enjoys the fighting on some level, electing to arm herself with “just the forks”, noting it is “poetic”.

She embraces the identity completely: “If you can trample them...Screw them. And now I see as Hunter must've seen, his entire life. ...Do it. Or they will trample you. He must've burned inside. As I'm burning.”

No Hollywood ending here, just horror, violence and death. And as the last few pages show, there will be consequences for her actions to the people who loved her.

Next up, The Devil Inside.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Devil by the Deed

This is part of a series of posts on Matt Wagner's Grendel series. There are spoilers for each individual story and for the series as a whole. I recommend reading the series before reading any of these posts.

When the crime lord Whitey Bulger was captured, I saw a woman from his neighborhood on a news program. She seemed like an average, middle-class, middle-aged respectable woman. But it was clear from the interview that she admired Bulger. When the interviewer asked her about his crimes, his murders, she said “That was his profession. Every one has a profession.”

It seems unthinkable that someone would make an excuse for a stranger guilty of multiple profit driven murders, and yet, here we see it clearly. And the attitude is common. Remember how regularly you could spot Scarface t-shirts among teens and young adults a few years back?

Back to Bulger, crime novelist Dennis Lehane gave an excellent interview about the man with Steve Inskeep of NPR in which he explained the fascination quite well:

INSKEEP: Well, what do you think it says about us, collectively, that we, the public - or at least Hollywood types and people in Boston - are really, really fascinated by a character like this?
LEHANE: The gangster story is a fascinating story in general. It tickles something in us that we believe that we don't speak of, which is this idea that maybe the whole thing is rigged. Maybe this faith we have in governments, maybe this belief we have in the electoral process, maybe this belief we have in this idea that some people are better than others is all a lie, and that a gangster, at the very least, is upfront about this. I mean, anybody who can tell me the difference between a gangster and a feudal lord, I'd like to meet them, because I can't find it.

I found this observation incredibly insightful, and it colored my reading of the entire Grendel cycle. As the series transitions from Hunter Rose to the far future and from crime and horror to political drama (and back again) I will refer back to this idea of organized crime as feudalism.

As for Devil by the Deed itself, it is enough that we know that many of us admire criminals, at least on some level, and in this world there is enough admiration for Hunter Rose that a biography is being written many years later. Hunter Rose is handsome suave, sophisticated, witty, intelligent, and, it seems, a gentleman, at least when he isn't wearing his mask. He also has that quality our modern values demand in any character on either side of the law who warrants our admiration: he never hurts, and is indeed protective of children.

We also see his opponent, Argent, as a grotesque, violent, asocial monster. From this and future stories it is clear that Argent is not loved by the public, despite being the only creature seemingly able to pose a legitimate threat to Grendel and his operations.

The story is told through a combination of imagery and text more akin to a storybook than a comic. Even with its fantastic elements, the story has an air of believability given by the strong voice of the fictional author writing the biography that makes up the text. It seems there is a society that lived through the events described herein, and now, with enough time, has returned to them with curiosity and fascination.

We know this is truth. In our own world, the Italian mafia in the United States barely remains in existence, yet is continually used in fiction of all types in modern and period pieces. New non fiction accounts are also common. We may not want to hear about the suffering caused by modern organized crime affecting our lives in the current day, and often ignore the distressing news about gang violence in our major cities and the ongoing drug war against the narcos in Mexico, but a flashback to the romanticized days of ethnically European gang warfare in the United States is a constant source of interest. It is true that in the Hispanic community in the United States narcos are glamorized in song and other media, but the general public still reacts with disgust. For the purposes of our discussion of Devil by the Deed we will ignore the ethnic element to our tolerance and admiration for criminals and assign the largest factor in their acceptance by the general public to time.

So, despite his reign of terror over New York, we are to marvel at his accomplishments. Despite being the murderer of the orphaned Stacy Palumbo's guardian, we are to admire his affection and care for her. We empathize with, or, at least, can understand, his jealousy of Argent's relationship with Stacy. Ultimately, it will be Stacy who leads to his death at the hands of Argent, and then she herself will meet a grisly fate in a mental institution.

And the one writing this history, the one the most fascinated by it, is the direct descendant of Stacy, Christine Spar. Despite a life directly affected by the violent history she describes, she ends the text of Devil by the Deed with open appreciation of Hunter Rose's abilities, ultimately describing Grendel as “the demon of society's mediocrity.”

Next: Devil's Legacy

Thursday, December 19, 2013

New 52 Wonder Woman- through issue 24

Now that I've read the first 24 issues of Wonder Woman, I'm a bit more enthusiastic. In my last post I addressed what I didn't like, mainly the supporting cast and changes to the Golden Age story elements I liked, which, admittedly are the only others I have really read.

I have a different view now. The supporting cast seems to make more sense, as they are now being used to show Diana's strength as a leader. One important character even points this out to her (and the reader) and I have to admit I'm impressed with the way it's playing out. Batman has the bat family, now Wondie has her own army of sidekicks, and the reasons they follow her seem believable and not at all contrived.

The appearance of Orion in the narrative is unfortunate, but only because I think DC should have done at least one dedicated Fifth World title in the New 52 instead of relegating the residents of New Genesis and Apokolips to secondary positions and cameo appearances. Still, I think Orion does fit well into this book and provide a much needed break from the somewhat wearying all Greek mythology cast. His early depiction as a hot headed sexist frat boy is toned down with some nice character development when they travel to New Genesis.


This development also hints at a possible path to redemption for the First Born, who is called a dog by Apollo as Orion is by High Father. There is a deliberate, obvious parallel between the characters and I would be surprised if he did not become a recurring ally at some point in this run just as Hera has. Perhaps Azzarello is taking cues from Dragon Ball Z.

All in all, I'm glad to be almost caught up with this title. It's the first New 52 book I've read this far into and I like where it's headed. Diana's new role in Olympus and in the DCU is a good fit. I look forward to the coming stories, and, hopefully, seeing her grow in power and influence.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Thoughts on New 52 Wonder Woman after first 12 issues

I like the Wonder Woman character, but have never really followed her comics other than the first one or two volumes of Golden Age reprints DC put out some time ago. I enjoyed those early stories a great deal, and I also liked what I read of J. Michael Straczynski's run prior to the New 52 (the one where she wears pants) so I decided to give Azzarello's Wonder Woman a try.

I read the first issue about six months ago, and I read the first trade collection, “Blood” a little more recently when my wife got it. I didn't hate it, but I wasn't really impressed. At least, not enough to buy the next trades even at Amazon prices. However, yesterday I snatched up digital copies through issue #24 for $.99 on Comixology thanks to the sale they're running. As of this writing I've read through issue #12, and including #0, which unfortunately was not part of the sale. It's a shame, I really like the simple story of young Diana's trials and training and wish it had been included in this deal.

There are some big changes to the story I know from the Golden Age, and from what others have told me, from other modern takes on the character. The big one is that she is no longer made of clay, but is a true daughter of Hippolyta conceived through a union with Zeus. That's quite a new direction, and appropriate for the New 52. It's a deliberately bold deviation, and I think it works.

I'm less enthusiastic about another change though; the idea that the Amazons have orgies with sailors whom they execute afterwards. Again, I've really only read Golden Age and I understand Paradise Island has been interpreted as a not-so-great place by others before (Amazon's Attack, which I've fortunately avoided, seemed to be this to an absurd degree) but it seems extreme that the Amazons are such cold blooded killers of innocents.

Diana is suitably outraged at this revelation, and the concurrent one about what happens to male children on Themyscira, but it still bothers me. I like her as the fish out of water ambassador from a better world, not the exile from a magical land of murderous psycopaths. And speaking of which, the story's urban fantasy/Greek mythology setting does nothing for me and provides none of the culture clash charm I like in Wondie.

One final oddity in the series is the addition of two male sidekicks who can handle themselves well, and a pregnant damsel who constantly needs saving. What happened to the old “Steve Trevor's been kidnapped by Nazis who are begging for a pummeling” I fell in love with? Sure, the gender flipped dude in distress is a little obvious and corny, but this is a superhero comic, after all, and fun should come first. This isn't necessarily a feminist issue, it's just weird.

Still, the story is suitably exciting with some cool art and action. I'll repeat a final time that I haven't read a whole lot of other Wonder Woman stories, so it's not like I feel really strongly about my expectations for one. I just hope as I move forward through this run some of the changes, back story wise, characterization wise, etc., excite me more and puzzle me less. I'm at the introduction of the New Gods so I'm hoping it will pick up a little.