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Top 9 Progressive Talk Shows

Posted on 26 March 2010 by Tim

Politics! I love it. And I love listening to these progressive liberal talk shows. Before Air America launched, I actually had no idea that there were liberal or progressive talk shows on the air. The ones that existed before Air America were mostly small, local shows as far as I can tell. Now, everyone has at least heard of a few of these shows – even conservatives.

I’ve selected my 9 favorite talk shows and included links so you can check them out. Let me know, in the comments below, what shows you like!

Top 9 Liberal Radio Talk Shows

1. Thom Hartmann – One of my three favorite shows, Thom Hartmann Nationwide is one of the largest progressive liberal talk shows in the nation. The depth of his knowledge is impressive and he really describes things in a way that’s digestible for everyone. Thom has written a vast array of books and even helped create a Discovery Channel documentary on the JFK assassination. [Thom Hartmann Nationwide]

2. Ed Schultz – The self-described “big fat red head from Fargo”, Ed Schultz, is the most entertaining progressive talker to listen to. Ed serves up a large helping of common sense to political discussions. Schultz is easily one of the most passionate radio hosts, uncovering the lies of the right with humor, insight and great sports analogies. [The Ed Schultz Show]

He’s a straight talking, no-nonsense voice of reason in unreasonable times. While others preen and pontificate, Ed Schultz keeps the lines wide open for his listeners-making good on his boast that The Ed Schultz Show is Where America Comes to Talk. No radio talk show is as accessible. [About Ed]

3. Randi Rhodes – Funny, feisty, yet down to earth, Randi is the best female liberal talk show host on the radio and one of the best in the biz across the board. Randi was named “Woman of the Year” by Talkers Magazine in 2007. It’s a well deserved award. Randi fights for women, the rights of homosexuals in the military, and all other Americans. [The Randi Rhodes Show]

It should be noted that after all their bluster, Senate Republicans managed to hold up the bill with frivolous amendments for exactly 21 hours. Every dog has his day, but these dogs didn’t even manage a full day. [Randi's Blog]

4. Norman Goldman – Widely known as Ed Schultz’s Senior Legal Analyst, Nor-man Gold-man is a strong character in his own right and I was stoked when I heard he’d earned his own show! Norm is the most independent of the bunch, he’ll swing at liberals just as hard as conservatives if they’re not acting right. When it comes to legal issues, Norm breaks down legalese like a bull in a china shop. [The Norman Goldman Show]

5. Carl and Christine – This is a local duo in Portland, Oregon, frequently collaborate with Thom Hartmann, and they bring a lot of local coverage and humorous commentary to the air waves. [KPOJ Mornings]

6. Stephanie Miller – According to her site, “Miller’s fresh voice and political satire have been cultivated over years of experience as a media personality and comedienne.” Stephanie’s show is a big ball of fun. Her comedy skills are always on display as she skewers loony right-wingers. Her co-hosts are an enjoyable bunch but Stephanie is the light of the show. [The Stephanie Miller Show]

7. Ring of Fire – Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Mike Papintonio, and David Bender are three political activists who have had impressive careers outside of radio. Together, on air, these three bring a lot of history, legal expertise and laser sharp intellect to the political issues of the day. These gentlemen host very insightful interviews with lawmakers and topical experts. [Ring of Fire Radio]

8. Jack Rice – Jack is a former CIA Officer, so his insight is a rarity on radio programs. No one on right-wing radio has this kind of experience to share. Jack’s expertise is sought on other shows too – Ed Schultz being one of them. [Jack Rice: In the Cross Hairs]

As an award winning journalist and correspondent, he has chased stories around the world. He is a former CIA Special Agent and Field Operations Officer as well as a former prosecuting attorney and columnist. [About Jack Rice]

9. Bill Press – Author, Columnist and TV show host, Bill Press has worked in every media format. Bill is an interesting guy and his four-Emmy Awards demonstrate the quality of his work. Reasonable, smart and laid back, The Bill Press Show is the latest addition to my play lists. [The Bill Press Show]

The former co-host of MSNBC’s Buchanan and Press, CNN’s Crossfire and The Spin Room, Press has built a national reputation on thought-provoking and humorous insights from the left side of the political aisle. [About Bill Press]

Image by Paul Schultz

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PC Game Review: Star Trek Online

Posted on 08 March 2010 by Tim

Like many PC gamers, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of Star Trek Online. The anticipation of the rush of commanding my own starship in a fast-paced battle really grabbed me. Will you choose the Federation or the Klingon Empire?

I bought the game the first day and created a Federation Male Vulcan Tactical Officer. And actually, you can’t even create a Klingon character until you reach level 5 with your Federation toon. Starting out in the game is a little lame because you begin with ground missions. The ground portion of Star Trek Online is basically a poorly designed first-person shooter (FPS). While the graphics look great the gameplay is not very exciting and you have very limited weapons and attacks.

Once you’re in space though, things improve quite a bit.

I’ve heard from a lot of players that they expected more from the character creator than Cryptic currently offers in STO. I wasn’t expecting the same depth of character creation as Champions Online because I don’t really care to choose the color of the accent on my belt and the exact curve of my character’s lower back. Seriously. I’m far more concerned with logging in to play a great game…not a Sims-like character designer.

Star Trek Online has five ranks:

  • Ensign
  • Lieutenant
  • Lt. Commander
  • Commander
  • Captain
  • Admiral

Leveling up! I’ve been a little surprised at how slow level progression is. Each of the 5 ranks has 10 levels. For example, in the pictures below my character is a Lieutenant Rank 8. To make it to Lt. Commander I have to hit Lieutenant Rank 10, then I’m promoted. The nice thing about this though, is that you gain skill points with each mission you complete and even pick up a few while you’re doing a mission. You grow more progressively rather than at set points like more traditional RPGs like World of Warcraft.

Want to get promoted faster and learn detailed strategies? Take a look at the Star Trek Online Mastery Guide.

  • Leveling Guide
  • Career Buide
  • Professions
  • Traits, Skills, Ships and more!

When it comes to character class (known as Officer Class), you are basically limited to three – Tactical, Engineering and Science Officer. Tactical is focused on combat, Engineering on ship/ground abilities and survivability, and Science is more a support class with healing and enemy debuffs.

The learning curve for this game is very shallow, it’s a simple one to figure out. Space combat, while fun, is not particularly challenging. Simply keep your ship flying around, mind your deflector shields, and pound your enemies shields till they drop and you can use a special attack to finish them. Then repeat.

The most boring missions are the exploration missions. Fly long distances doing nothing along the way, scan an anomaly then go to the next one.

Also, at what point is a game considered massively multiplayer? Because for most instanced missions, Cryptic has decided that 5-players max is MMO scale. So far, I haven’t heard of any boss fights either. Maybe I’m not far enough yet. But that seems like a serious problem for people who like raid-style challenges.

Star Trek Online, great in concept, is only average at best. Cryptic Studios hasn’t impressed me with any of their MMOs and it’s a bit sad that they got the Star Trek franchise. Outside of World of Warcraft, I have yet to find an MMO that has grabbed and held my attention. But I have high hopes for Star Wars: The Old Republic.

The pictures in the gallery above are screenshots of Star Trek Online from my computer. I hope you enjoy them!

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Top 10 Best Anime Movies of All-Time

Posted on 19 February 2010 by Tim

Like all film genres, there are some movies that tower over others for their innovation, amazing storyline, or strong characters. Anime is no exception. Based on my own opinion and some informal surveying on RhymeTorrents and Kumoricon I’ve come up with a great collection of the best anime films.

My goal with asking for others opinion was to try to find the cream of the crop and develop a definitive list. With most film genres, or just in general, there are classic movies that have broad appeal such as – The Godfather, Gone With The Wind, Citizen Kane, Casablanca and Titanic. These are considered among the best films ever made (Maybe add Avatar now too?). I was a little surprised at the lack of consensus among anime fans as to what would constitute the 10 best anime movies.

But I have to admit, it is difficult to pick 10 from among all the great films and series available. Anime has a plethora of quality stories, awe-inspiring graphics and stomach-cramping comedies. From the genre these films have been selected by myself as the greatest. These are the films I would recommend to a friend who is new to the genre.

Top 10 Best Anime Movies of All-Time

  1. Akira – Made in 1988, Akira is based on the ever popular manga series. The film is set in the futuristic, post-war city of Neo-Tokyo. Kaneda, the protagonist, is a bike gang leader. Tetsuo, one of Kaneda’s gang members crashes into a boy, who mysteriously remains unhurt and then simply vanishes. Tetsuo becomes part of a secret military project dealing with supernatural powers. Tetsuo unlocks his powers which leads to death and destruction.
  2. Spirited Away – Touching and sad. Hayao Miyazaki is the writer and director of this slightly depressing but ultimately very good film. Heading down the wrong path can lead to some weird stuff happening. That’s the fate of Chihiro in Spirited Away. The film draws parallels to post-WWII Japan.
  3. Ghost in the Shell – It is the year 2029, where cyber-augmented humans live in a virtual world. While it recalls themes from The Matrix, it’s quite different. The ultimate secret agent can travel the information highway without limit and has no phyisical presence. It is a future dominated by super computers and cybernetic technology. “A female cyborg cop and her partner hunt a mysterious and powerful hacker called the Puppet Master.” – via IMDB.com
  4. Neon Genesis Evangelion – Who wouldn’t want to be a robot-pilot as a teenager? Heck, I’d still want to be a robot-pilot! Unknown beings called Angels attack Earth in 2015 and only a handful of EVA pilots are capable of stopping them.
  5. Serial Experiments Lain – The virtual world is called “The Wired” and a little girl named Lain becomes involved in a series of strange events. Using an old computer, Lain is able to speak with her friend (recently deceased via suicide). But she’s not dead, she just didn’t need her body anymore!
  6. Rurouni Kenshin – Set in Mejii-era Japan, a wandering young swordsman comes across a struggling dojo and becomes friends with the instructor. A master of the deadly sword style – Hiten Mitsurugi Ryuu, Kenshin dedicates his life to protecting others as retribution for the lives he took during the revolution.
  7. Vampire Hunter D – A young woman named Doris is bitten by a vampire. Naturally in such cases, you hire a vampire hunter to remedy the situation. The hunter known as D, is the best there is. His mission is to hunt down and destroy Count Magnus Lee, who bit Doris. “Artistically, Vampire Hunter D is a beautiful movie.” – via AnimeNewsNetwork.com
  8. FLCL – A strange women named Haruko rides in on a Vespa, brandishing a large buzzsaw-equipped guitar. This soon brings a little bit of drama to 12-year old Naota who is otherwise a normal school kid. “Honestly when I first watched FLCL I really wondered what the hell I had gotten myself into. It was just so different to anything I had seen before…” says Sam from WilkoJunior.
  9. Astroboy – This is a great series for all ages. “Astro Boy is the classic anime story of a permanently youthful robot boy modeled after the son of a research scientist, Dr. Tenma.” – via Anime.com
  10. Oh My Goddess – This is a love story. Yes, a love story. The film is about the relationship between Morisato Keiichi, a normal college student, and a goddess name Belldandy. Keiichi makes a wish for a woman like her to stay with him forever since he has relationship issues. This unfortunately gets misinterpreted and Belldandy thinks he wants her to stay with him forever. She grants the wish and is committed to Keiichi forever! “Oh My Goddess! is one of the love comedy classics of anime, and deservedly so.” – via AnimeWorld.com

I would also like to highlight some comments made by Karl Olson, also known as Ultraklystron. He’s a huge anime fan (anime maven?) and he writes for ToonZone where he is “the head moderator at the Anime Forum here at TZ, and he’s a reporter for TZ as well. And he produces the podcast as well contributes to it.”

Here are some highlights from his post on RhymeTorrents:

On Akira: “The first push towards art-film aesthetics entering into anime. Opened the door for works like Perfect Blue, Angel’s Egg, Ghost in the Shell and pretty much any other intelligent, bizarre, fringe anime to be made.”
On Astroboy: “Launched the anime industry and even gave it legs internationally. The whole industry arguably owe it’s existence to this show, but it’s influence on content (or rather lack their of as of late,) is why it’s in second place.” (Second place on Karl’s list.)
On Evangelion: “Changed anime story structure and marketing as we know it. Not only do moe and tsundere series have roots in Eva, but most existentialist series do as well. Eva may itself owe a debt to Ideon, but Eva made the point stick. Shoot, Nadesico, which satirized a lot of the elements of Eva, inadvertently launched the lolicon trend via Ruri Hoshino. IE: Eva is so influential, it’s parodies have influence.”

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Inspiration Point by The Morning Birds

Posted on 21 January 2010 by Tim

Self-described as alternative, experimental rock, The Morning Birds surprise with a mellow acoustic sound that sets a relaxed mood. When I listen to Inspiration Point, I can imagine myself sitting in an underground lounge enjoying some Crown Royal and chatting with my sweetheart while the band plays.

Despite only being a year old, The Morning Birds have great chemistry on the album. The vocalists, Sam and Jen, compliment each other well and their real world chemistry carries over into the music too. The two “met about a year prior at a mutual friends b-day party and began dating.

But things didn’t start out easy. A little drama played into the creation of The Morning Birds. Sam was working on a solo album “New Dawn”, which Jenn augmented with some writing and music practice. The couple “decided to go out on an east coast tour, under Samuel Markus & the Only Ones” and work on new material. On their return trip they got into a car accident!

Instead of moving to the mountains as planned, [we] had to hole up in Jenn’s home town, Torrance, to get back on [our] feet,” they recall.

While in Torrance, Jenn introduced Sam to Eric who is a drummer. “After playing with Eric a couple times, it magically came together, and [we] decided to form a new band, The Morning Birds!

The band has traveled all over the United States and in Canada as well. They’re primarily based out of Los Angeles and have performed at The House of Blues on Sunset, Molly Molones, and the Hotel Cafe.

The Morning Birds have a unique style that is hard to categorize, which is one of their strongest features. I like the exclusive blend of tones and layered vocals they use.

When asked about their influences they told me, “Many things have influenced our style. We try not to be influenced by other music, but our past interests in folk, hip hop, classic rock, and classical definitely come through!

As far as lyrical content, their inspiration is life experiences and their spiritual connection. “We have recently moved out to the woods, for seclusion and to be influenced by the rhythms of nature, to finish recording our second album, “The Quickening” – which should be out by April this next year [2010].

Inspiration Point is a great debut album, even for a trio of experienced musicians. It’s one of those few albums you can listen to straight through without any songs grating on your patience. I really enjoyed listening to The Morning Birds!

Enjoy their music? Follow them on Twitter here!

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Plutus Awards: First Annual Personal Finance Awards

Posted on 15 December 2009 by Tim

A blog award show for personal finance blogs is in the works and leading this endeavor is Flexo from Consumerism Commentary (One of my Top 20 Personal Finance Blogs). The awards are meant to showcase the best of the personal finance blogosphere.

Plutus Awards - Personal Finance

It’ll be tough to narrow down the field and vote on winners. But it’s going to be really fun to see who wins. Important: Nominations will begin Monday, December 21, 2009 and will continue through January. There will even be prize money (possibly more?) for category winners.

The Plutus Awards will feature categories such as “Best Savings Account,” “Best Money Management Software,” and so forth. The Plutus 2.0 Awards are an extension of awards into blogs and social media. These awards will feature categories such as “Best New Blog,” “Best Investing Blog,” “Blog of the Year,” and so forth. [More About Plutus Awards]

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Rocking’ With The SEACATS

Posted on 11 December 2009 by Tim

When you think of Northwest rock, most people think grunge or something along those lines. Well, these guys from Kelso, Washington are hittin’ the airwaves with funky, powerpop rock that is well worth listening to. The SEACATS are a nerdy blend of alt rock with plenty of radio friendly tracks.

Their 6-track self-titled EP, offers up riffs and synths with equal vigor. Overall, the album is energetic but track 6 slows things down a bit. Although it’s slower, Paint (track 6) does not disappoint with its long storytelling feel, angry guitars and happy chimes. Fun, fun music!

Though some of the vocals sound young, the quality of the musicianship is well developed. With a positive feel and party time tunes I can see these guys rockin’ shows and iPods from coast to coast.

People seem to think we’re a 90′s throwback band. Could be worse I guess.” – SEACATS.

Click the image below to download their self-titled EP for Free!

Up tempo guitar chords, and bratty vocals just make me want to curl up with a bowl of POP’s and watch Nickelodeon cartoons when they were at their best“. Read more of the review of the SEACATS by Kris Foster.

SEACATS-We Don’t Sleep from The Mike And Joey Jesus Show on Vimeo.

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My Zombie Pinup: These Girls Aren’t Shy Eaters

Posted on 03 December 2009 by Tim

I’ve heard lots of guys say they like a woman who can eat… Really?

Anyway, have you ever thought a zombie was, maybe, a little sexy? If not, you might consider the possibility when you see My Zombie Pinup. These lovely, flesh munchers not only want you…they will go great on the wall of your office!

Why? ‘Cause My Zombie Pinup is a wall calendar. Plus, you can get great swag like t-shirts and hoodies.

Miss July Jaylin Suicide from My Zombie Pinup

My Zombie Pinup is an homage to the classic pin up. With several of the shots directly references some of our favorite works by the master of the pinup Gil Elvgren. [More Inspiration]

The photos, as you can see above, are top notch. The background settings are flawless and the models look great. In fact, some of them are downright creepy! The contrast of sexy pinup and bloody zombie is intriguing and creates a unique appeal.

If you haven’t picked up a 2010 wall calendar, you should consider My Zombie Pinup. I mean, where else will you see girl-on-girl zombie action?

Girl-on-Girl Zombie Action - My Zombie Pinup

Thank you to Shalaco, co-founder of My Zombie Pinup, for bringing the site to my attention and talking with me via email.

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Champions Online: The Superhero MMO

Posted on 25 November 2009 by Tim

Champions Online, made by the same folks who created City of Heroes, is essentially an MMO version of the same thing. Heroes with powers run around and kill people. Typical MMO fare. However, the content is relatively shallow, the powers aren’t that interesting and you have to stick to established builds to do well in combat. There’s an archenemy system that is supposed to challenge you but other than that there aren’t many truly unique aspects of this game.

One thing you’ll notice right off the bat, after installation, is the drawn out super-in-depth character creation. You can customize your character with a wide array of features. The sad thing is that the rest of the game doesn’t seem to have the same level of detail put into it.

Leveling is a linear progression of quests. Basically, questing is the only way to level a character. Not that it’s a bad way to level. But Champions doesn’t offer much…the quests aren’t interesting and didn’t pull me into the lore of the game. Although Cryptic Studio is working to improve group quests, there isn’t much group content at this point.

Champions Online will not pose a major threat to other MMOs. It’s simply not that good.

I gave it a go. But the game didn’t turn out to be worth the monthly subscription. I won’t be playing CO anymore and will approach Cryptic Studios games with a bit more caution.

I’m holding out hope that Star Trek and Star Wars: The Old Republic will turn out to be much better.

Champions Online Logo

Other Reviews of Champions Online:

  • MMOCrunch says, “It’s extremely casual and alt friendly, but is hamstrung by a lack of group content early on.”
  • For The Lore thinks that “This is the next step in the evolution of hero MMO’s. It is a good game but it is very clearly built upon the shoulders of City of Heroes.”
  • EuroGamer covers it pretty well here: “Cryptic’s superhero MMO serves a huge heap of wish-fulfilment to you before you’ve even started playing, ladles yet more onto your plate after barely an hour, and then lets it all go cold and you hungry for half the game’s length. It has hundreds of missions, but somehow they’re barely enough to sustain a single play-through, and they’re stretched out over a handful of over-extended locations. It doles out character progression in terms that are hard to understand or notice; it constantly showers you in meaningless items, but rations exciting new skills with mind-numbing parsimony.”

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Rules of the League: A Fantasy Sports Web Comedy

Posted on 22 November 2009 by Tim

Punt. Pass. Play! Rules of the League is the fantasy sports comedy web series.

Rules of the League

We meet Joel Ballard, a clean-cut athletic looking guy, shortly after he becomes unemployed. The now former-journalist has lots of free time and Joel wants to relaunch his sports blog. Problem #1: his press pass was revoked. The blog also reignites an interest in the fantasy sports league he started in college.

Joel has help though…well, sort of. Wallace is the goofy best friend that lends a hand to Joel in getting his blog, and the fantasy league, on track. They’re an odd team but it works. Except when Wallace gets caught watching porn while babysitting Joel’s baby. That’s just not right.

The characters are approached with a mix of high school and adult humor that entertained me through the first 5 episodes (all there is to-date). Each episode is offered in HD and has an intriguing cast of characters like Teri Bradshaw, the blog’s gossip queen.

This show is worth keeping an eye on. Rules of the League has a lot of potential.

The Rules of The League – Trailer from One Step Productions on Vimeo.

See the Tubefilter’s review of Rules of the League here.

Rules of the League logo

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