Wednesday, November 14, 2007

best of 2007: random cool stuff

As you may or may not know, I like to post “Best Of” lists at the end of the year. I’m starting a little early because I have a ton of shit to do before Thanksgiving vacation, and I get the feeling work will be crazy apeshit when I get back, so I might not have time to write for a while. (What did you say? Write on my off time? Heresy!) If something comes along between now and the end of December that begs to be included on one of these lists, then I’ll update accordingly.

Anyway, I'll start with my list of random cool stuff from 2007. A few notes before I begin:

  • Not all of these things first made their debut in 2007, but since I didn’t play/eat/hear/see them until this year, they belong on this list.
  • These aren't in any particular order.
  • I'm sorry about the discrepancy in picture size, but I just couldn't be bothered to make them all even.
  • As always, your mileage may vary.

When I heard that Sanrio was releasing a Hello Kitty fragrance, I thought it would be some cheap crap in a cute bottle, like the Tinkerbell perfume I used to wear as a kid. But then I found out it was created by Tristan Brando, the genius "nose" behind cult favorite Monyette Paris, and I figured it might actually be good. And lo and behold, far from being a bubblegummy scent for little girls, Momoberry is a sophisticated blend of vanilla and gardenia that has me sniffing my wrists every two seconds.

Rei, the protagonist of Fatal Frame 3: The Tormented, is a young woman who is mourning the loss of her fiance. When she falls asleep, she's drawn into a nightmare world, and she must use her wits and a special camera to survive. Out of the three Fatal Frame games, this one creeped me out the most; one ghost in particular made me scream every time it appeared. My biggest complaint is that the end boss is a colossal pain in the ass, but that made it all the sweeter when I (er, I mean G) finally put her to rest.

And, oh, that ending made me cry.

A stunning documentary series about our world and some of its most beautiful, bizarre, and ferocious inhabitants. I can't imagine anyone watching it and not gaining a new appreciation for our planet.

Gawker Media is the blogging empire that includes Defamer, Kotaku, Fleshbot, and The Consumerist, and as such, accounts for probably 60% of all my web surfing. Jezebel, the latest addition to the family, is aimed at women and consists of celebrity gossip, beauty, fashion, and sex, all written in gloriously snarky style. If you devour BUST and Bitch and think you can be a feminist without losing your sense of humor, this is the website for you.

This line of bath products is cheap, considering it's imported from Europe, and they smell fantastic. My personal favorite is Sugar---big shocker there---but it also comes in Vanilla, Blue Fruits, Chocolate, and Red Fruits. You could practically collect the whole set for what it would cost you to purchase one stinkin' bottle of Philosophy.

This game is kind of like one of those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books for the digital age. You play disgraced cop Kyle Hyde, who’s checked into a rundown hotel while searching for his missing partner. It soon becomes apparent that the hotel’s inhabitants aren’t quite what they seem, and he must unravel the mystery of Room 215. I loved the graphics, which reminded me of the A-Ha video "Take on Me", and some of the writing is really snappy. One of the puzzles was way too hard, and some of them were so easy they made my eyes roll, but overall this is a fun game that kept me up late at night, stylus in hand. (No, that’s not a euphemism.)

This is the high-tech version of those puzzles where you look at two seemingly identical pictures and find the differences. Sounds like a breeze, right? Well, not exactly. Some of the puzzles are easy, of course, but there are several that made my blood pressure skyrocket. There are some fun innovations, too; in one special level, you have to blow into the microphone of the DS to clear leaves from the screen, and then you have to quickly circle the differences before the leaves fall down again and obscure the picture. The artwork is excellent (the picture above notwithstanding; there are over 200 pictures in the game, and for whatever reason, they chose some of the most boring ones for the cover) and encompasses everything from ultra-cutesy anime pictures, nods to previous Namco/Bandai games like Katamari Damacy and Dig Dug, and truly weird shit that looks like it was taken from an art therapy session for schizophrenics. All this and a daily fortune, too!

These energy bars (or, er, cakes) are packed with vitamins and utterly delicious. I didn't particularly care for the Berry Pomegranate flavor, but the Vanilla Macadamia and Orange Blossom ones are yummy.

How brilliant is this...pina colada gum! I'm addicted to the taste and the way it makes your mouth as cold as a penguin's panaynay.

This is an insanely addictive game that tests your skills in everything from logic to math. Some of the games seem really easy at first, but they quickly become more challenging as you go along. There's also a fun test mode which "weighs" your brain; my highest score was 1590 grams, or a B+. Needless to say, I didn't do so well on the math puzzles, but it turns out I'm a dab hand at memorization!

RPGs have never been a favorite genre of mine, but Odin Sphere is an action RPG, which means that it focuses more on red-assed beatdowns. The graphics are gorgeous, the story is engrossing, and they give you a choice between the original Japanese dialogue (with English text onscreen, of course) or English dubbing. There are some aggravating flaws, like massive slowdown during some areas and a couple of borderline impossible boss battles, but overall Odin Sphere was an enjoyable surprise.

This TV show is about Chuck Bartowski, a "Nerd Herd" computer tech, who opens an e-mail that transmits top-secret government information into his head. Two agents, a lovely blonde and a sarcastic guy, are sent to protect him; hijinks ensue. The action in the first episode was particularly good, because it was directed by McG (Charlie's Angels), but the stunts have gone downhill from there. Still, I love this show. The dialogue is crisp and funny, and Chuck is the most genuinely likable TV character I've ever seen.

This is caramel ice cream swirled with cinnamon streusel and studded with cinnamon dough. It should be renamed Happy Mouth Flavor Explosion, because every time I eat it, it’s like my tastebuds are having an orgasm. My favorite B&J flavor used to be Uncanny Cashew, but now that they’ve sent that one to the flavor graveyard (bastards!), this one is definitely the new winner.