Mars visits the Octopus

September 2007.

 

A young me walks fresh out of the local, and long since closed, CD and record shop with Kanye's "Graduation" album tucked. I had been reminded by 106 & Park that the battle between Kanye West and 50 Cent for album sale supremacy had begun, and I had to go support my mans. Little did I know I was also purchasing a piece of artwork: the album cover by famed master contemporary artist, Takashi Murakami.
 
Fast-forward to the year 2017. I get word from a friend that the Chicago Museum Of Contemporary Art is having an exhibition that will be featuring Takashi's artwork throughout the years. Soon after, I flew out to visit the exhibit titled "The Octopus That Eats Its Own Leg" and was blown away by the work of the Japanese artist, as well as the many works of the local talents on display. I could go on and on about my Indica induced adventure through historically magnificent contemporary works, but my words would not do it justice. Instead, I took photos to help!
 
"The Octopus That Eats Its Own Leg" wraps up and leaves Chicago Sep 24, 2017. If you happen to be in the area, stop in and check out a fine display of brilliance by the master.

 

Anime Flashback: The Gundam of the new Millenium.

The great Gundam franchise has many faces. Since the 80s, there's been numerous iterations of the series and, if you're familiar with them, you'll have your favorites. It's a nice pool to choose from, but one has stood out as not only a fan favorite but as the grandfather of the Mecha anime genre, if not anime in general. I remember watching this series as a youngin, in awe of the beautifully crafted and colored giant robots wrecking havoc amongst the stars. The series was new and bold and complex, something I had never seen. It was dark, gritty, and I didn't know what the fuck was going on, cause I was 10, but it looked so cool. It's name was Gundam Wing.

Fast-forward to now. While this version is still one of the more popular series in the franchise, in the "Gundam community" it's often seen as overrated in comparison to the many other iterations of the series. I needed to see for myself if my dear memory had betrayed me, so I decided to go back and re-watch the series as a socially damaged adult.

What immediately stood out to me was how censored the version I originally watched on Toonami must have been at the time. This series is 15x more gruesome than I remember. First aired in North America on Toonami in the year 2000, Gundam Wing tells the story of Heero Yuy, a 16 year old assassin/freedom fighter sent to Earth from a space colony, along with 4 other teen Gundam pilots, to fight for its freedom in a battle with the forces on Earth. The root of this series lies in the conflicts between one faction and another sprinkled in with the standard twisted bad guy ideologies here and there. Occasionally, the sub par dialogue does a bad job of actually explaining the plot, but the intense action and drama is enough to keep you engaged.

When introducing the main characters, the pace of the show is so fast that it leads to concepts that grow beyond the standard formula: Backstory, training, and finally using their Gundams. All 5 pilots and their Gundams are immediately introduced and are death clouds of carnage and hellfire wrapped in teenage bodies, causing havok in the name of justice and freedom on behalf of the ruled colonies in space. As the series progresses, all of the main Gundam pilots go through varied experiences that push their ideologies to the edge and makes them question their involvement in various conflicts that usually result in a lot of folks dying, even a few you won't see coming in true Gundam fashion. Whether it's the faction they're fighting for betraying them out of fear or their enemy going through their own internal civil war, for its time and place on American television this show told the story of these kids while also painting a symphonic space drama.

The visuals are a perfect representation of classic 90's animation, with designs as detailed and intricate as I remember. From your first time watching Gundam Zero 1, you can appreciate the amount of detail paid to the science of what makes the Gundams tick(And mobile suits in general for that matter) as well as what makes each Gundam unique. That showing of mecha brilliance with 01-05 (the various Gundams) is what you'd expect from the father of the giant robot genre, and this iteration furthered that and much more. Coupled with a dramatic tune and theme, the space and land combat is fluid whether the Gundams are fighting 1 mobile suit or 100 of them.

Although there are better Gundam series out there, Gundam Wing was perfect to introduce a new, young American audience to a genre that continues to deliver such high quality content. The nostalgia might carry the load for a bit when the story falters but the action, drama, and political chess that's played, combined with an outstanding second half and OVA, makes Gundam Wing more than worth another look. Take one and see what made this Gundam series really standout out West-Mars

-Mars

Overwatch: A year in the service

Season 4 is underway and the one-year anniversary for one of the most celebrated games of 2016 is quickly approaching. Overwatch has entered the fray of gaming and has made A LOT of noise offering a product that’s fun enough for casuals, and deep enough for the hardcore gaming community.

Overwatch, created by the OG developer Blizzard, is a competitive shooter that pits two teams of six against each other in objective-based game modes. It has a huge variety of characters to choose from ranging from high attack, tank, and support. The stages are lush and vibrant with deep detail and are set in futuristic versions of real cities around the world. These two combinations toppled with the short but very fun game modes deliver an experience that’s very enjoyable from a casual to a competitive level, which is rare in shooters these days.

One of the biggest driving points in Overwatch is its vast selection of characters with different skills, moves, and personalities to choose from. Whether it’s the time-jumping Tracer, that uses two close range submachine guns, or the Mammoth sized armor-clad Reinhardt, that uses a rocket-propelled hammer to smash his foes, each character has a full set of moves that make each engagement in battle that more fun. Each character fills the standard roles we’ve seen, being Attack, Defense, Tank, or Support. It’s important to know how to use at least one of these characters from each group so your team is well-rounded, thus giving you a better chance at winning the match.

The stages are designed with the game types in mind with areas large and spacious enough to host control and capture points, and routes lined with alternative passages for quick ways to escape or chase down an enemy, the stages are built with purpose while also displaying various countries around the world with very futuristic themes. Whether it’s finding a backdoor to flank ya enemy in Egypt or marching a forward winding path weaving through buildings marching an objective in Beijing, the areas around you feel spaced enough for all matters of combat. You could engage a person one second in a narrow hallway and the next would be in a hanger bay and it all feels natural and within the game and city, you’re in. Continue Reading

For Honor : A Song of War

Guns. Friends. Online. This is usually the formula for having a successful multiplayer online experience. Very few games allow us to share the glory of an up close and personal steel to steel battles without it being relegated to an RPG game add-on or side scrolling hack and slash adventure. For Honor fills this void offering a true PVP experience featuring the SAMURAI, VIKINGS, AND KNIGHTS!!!

For Honor is set in a period where all 3 factions are in a warring state. For storyline purposes, this conflict is antagonized by the mysterious woman in black armor, Apollyon. Her motive is to keep the gears of war moving, so this game centers around this conflict amongst the warring clans. The matches online are  4V4 so naturally, I enlisted the aid of my 3 fellow brothers in arms about their personal experience after about a week or so of us in thick of war. These are their stories…(And Gamertags)

Q (QtheUsurper)

The thing that makes For Honor the most enjoyable, for me, is being able to wage good ol medieval war with my friends. There are obviously tons of multiplayer war games but the time frame and class options are near a perfect fit for the group of people I play with. A variety of character typing allows us to create warriors that are clear reflections of how we are and on the battlefield, the real life chemistry comes through. Especially in modes like Dominion where I spend a lot of time darting around the field capturing bases and reviving the fallen. To me, that is a direct translation to how I operate in the real world. I’m out here jugging these moves for the squad and if somebody falls down, I’m on the way to scoop them up without hesitation. The only thing I’ve seen bring us this close, gaming wise, is Pokemon but the war factor gives it more edge.  My comrades and I running amok in a Skyrim-esp world (minus the magic and dragons) is a for sure winner with me. Continue Reading

Simply Fantastic: A year back in the Wizarding World

Throughout the history of literature there has always been a staple or series that would define the genre of that era for years to come. Lord of The Rings, Sherlock Homes, Various Stephen King Novels, and a host of Tom Clancy novels all fit the bill of series or writings that define their time. Unless you’ve lived under a literary rock you’ve experienced the phenomenon that is Harry Potter. From the books, to the films, HP has stretched its magical reach across the world and wowed us all with stories of heroism, bravery, love, and friendship. But everything must come to an end, as did the HP series after releasing its final book in 2007, and film in 2011…

…………until this year.

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If you’re a potter fan like me, you’ve probably read the series a couple of times, seen the movies more than that, and read every bit of information J.K Rowling gave us ravenous folk just to sate our appetite. A lot of us grew up with this series and to say that its apart of us is an understatement. We wanted to go to Hogwarts, or Durmstrang or whatever American wizarding schools we could imagine. We wanted to learn, explore, fight. We wanted to be magical. That feeling this year was reignited with the announcement of a Potter story/stage play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and the release of anticipation for the long-awaited film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them. Once again we were on our way back to our favorite world.
Continue Reading

Fresh off the Corner: CSG celebrates its 1 year!

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A couple of weekends ago the good fellas at Corner Store Goods invited the AO team out to the illustrious Burn Rubber shoe store for their 1 year anniversary/Pop Up shop event. Hosted after-hours, the brand showed love to its folks, introducing some new pieces from their collection, ranging from tees to hoodies, just in time for the fall. The spirits were flowing, the mood was lovely, and the fellas behind the brand kept everybody in the loop.

I briefly spoke with the crew about the brand, with its origins coming from the owners all meeting up at MSU; two of them being brothers and growing from there as a collective after sharing a common idea. Through the love of the people, the line has already came far with their pieces going fast and of course them being housed in one of the most popular sneaker stores in Michigan, Burn Rubber. A tall feat indeed for only a year, the brand seems to not be losing any steam with theirs designs harping in between boldness in design patterns while maintaining a subtle look that’s perfect for every day wear. Continue Reading