Pocket Casts Update!

After having getten hooked on Downcast on iOS, I've been looking for a similar podcast app experience on Android. The previous version of Pocket Casts was the closest I had found that was architected in such a way that I felt there was the potential for future updates to bring about the features I'd been accustomed to.

For once I was right. This new version (4.0) brings us sync, sharing, smart playlists, larger touch areas for controlling during playback, "instant" refresh and playback while downloading.

Wrap that all in a Holo skin and it's chock full o' goodness.

One thing that always bugged me was how the video would pause when changing display orientation. Well, no more. Playback seems smoother than ever.

What's the catch? Well the price went up from 2.99 to 3.99. Which is still a deal in my book, but may keep many of you who are perfectly happy with what you've got from switching. (Nothing wrong with that!)

Read more about it at Shifty Jelly.

Comic Book Stash: February 13, 2013

Mini-reviews and ratings of comics released February 13, 2013.

Agree or disagree? Let me know by hitting me up on Twitter or Google+.

Archer & Armstrong
4 stars
Fred Van Lente
Emanuela Lupacchino

Action, humor and historical inaccuracies make this yet another must-read. At one point I found myself wishing that someone would turn this into a movie.

4 stars
Scott Snyder
Greg Capullo

The finale for the largely well received Death of the Family storyline. Bizarre, disgusting, twisted and thought-provoking. Nobody has taken any permanent physical injury, but the "bat family" seems to have been disrupted judging by the ending. Thus bringing to fruition the promise of the series title.

As always, Joker's "death" is ambiguous.

Both writer and artist continue to flesh out characters that we've known for decades. My opinion is that Snyder and Capullo have the potential to go down in history as one of the greatest comic book collaborators of all time.

3 stars
Duane Swierczynski
Manuel Garcia

I'm ready for the end of this arc. Bloodshot comes up against a bunch of Project Rising Spirit freaks, finds some creepy child psiots and their apparently invulnerable "nanny" who feeds on fear. It's all interesting, but it's not the progress I'd like to see.

This is my least favorite title of the Valiant relaunch. Even so, it's not a bad read. I'm just sensing the potential for greater storytelling in the future.

Green Arrow
3 stars
Jeff Lemire
Andrea Sorrentino

Technically this should have been on last week's list. I didn't much care for the New 52 take on Green Arrow and dropped it from my list after the second issue. I decided to dip my toe back in the waters after hearing reviews that talked about a change in direction.

And did they ever hit the reset button. Company gone, framed for murder, assistants blown up... it was certainly enough to pique my interest.

As far as the art goes, I'm on the fence. Sometimes I loved it and other times, not so much. I believe they are headed in the right direction though and I'm looking forward to seeing more of Mr. Sorrentino's work.

Iron Man
4 stars
Kieron Gillen
Greg Land

This is yet another title that I had dropped previously, but have now picked back up due to a change in direction. Iron Man in space which, I'm assuming, will lead him to a spot with the Guardians of the Galaxy eventually.

In the meantime, he's a man out of his element and this is not a situation that Tony Stark finds himself in often on Earth. The possibilities here intrigue me.

Oh! And if there were a prize for the funniest scenes in comics, Iron Man #6 would be a contender for top honors.

3 stars
Tom DeFalco
RB Silva

I only picked this up as part of the H'el on Earth arc. Otherwise I'm not interested in Superboy's story.

Bake Me A Wish Review

For Valentine's Day I thought I'd order a cake for my wife. I'd heard of Bake Me A Wish through my favorite comic book podcast who they sponsor. Their tiramisu cake would be the perfect choice.

Since many of you may be hesitant to order a cake online or are curious about what to expect, here are some unboxing photos.

I was gratified to find this box on my doorstep on exactly the day I requested (February 13th). It seems to have seen some rougher-than-I'd-like treatment. Note that on every side you see the notice that the box contains a perishable item and arrows pointing out the correct box orientation.

Inside you will find a solid styrofoam inner-container.

Popping the lid off reveals a very chilly ice pack.

Removal of the ice pack reveals the cake box inside with a handy ribbon strung beneath the box to make it a simple task to life the box straight out of the cooler.

Et voilĂ !

The cake is well packaged within the box (and still quit chilled as you can see). However, because someone either doesn't recognize the sanctity of a "this side up" message or as the result of some cataclysm beyond a mere mortal's control, the box must have achieved a down side up orientation at one point during its long voyage. This is evidenced by the amount of sugary goodness sticking to the underside of the plastic wrapping.

It wasn't in perfect condition, but one can hardly blame Bake Me A Wish for the rough handling of its baked goods. Overall it was still in decent shape.

How did it taste? It was most excellent. There are very few places in this town to get a good tiramisu. This is a pretty good option.

I'll definitely order another cake from BMaW again in the future. It's super easy, reliable, reasonable and delicious.

Comic Stash: February 6, 2013

Mini-reviews and ratings of comics released February 6, 2013.

Agree or disagree? Let me know by hitting me up on Twitter or Google+.

Legends of the Dark Knight
3 stars
Joshua Hale Fialkov
Phil Hester, Eric Gapstur

A single story issue with a Mickey Spillane style plot involving a private eye in the wrong place at the wrong time witnesses a murder that he then gets framed for. Enter the Batman.

It was a decent story, but it really illustrates my problems with how Batman is portrayed most of the time. He's gone from being the world's greatest detective to a bruiser more interested in beating the crap out of an alleged criminal than finding out the truth.

At least it all works out in the end.

Batman: The Dark Knight
2 stars
Gregg Hurwitz
Ethan Van Sciver

I'm lost. What happened to the "Death of the Family" story line? Who is Natalya? I've missed something.

So crimes are committed and the leads point to The Penguin. More or less. Why? Let me quote the Batman...

It's a huge operation. Citywide. Few have that kind of reach. The weaponry's high tech. The kind you could get your flippers on. Plus, some of the kidnappers wear bowler hats. Like your thugs.

Obviously because hats are involved it must be the Penguin. Up until the Penguin points out that others in Gotham like hats. So now it must be the Mad Hatter!

BAH! Back to my previous statement. This is what the world's greatest detective has degraded into?!

Detective Comics
2 stars
John Layman
Jason Fabok

Granted, I'm reading these on a sick day from work. It's quite possible that my judgement is being clouded.

Or it's possible that this week's selection of Batman comics stinks.

The MerryMaker turns out to be a stupid character with an overly complicated scheme to accomplish a fairly mundane set of hits. Fortunately, the identity of the MerryMaker is telegraphed from page 1 and the attempted swerve is laughably easy to spot.

If this spoils it for you, I'd apologize except I think you'll thank me in the long run.


3 stars
Geoff Johns
Paul Pelletier

Cyborg makes a big decision (I guess), what will become the JLA shows up (I think), Batman and Aquaman make up (more or less) and we find out who has been pulling the strings from behind the scenes.

It surprised me, for what it's worth.

Unfortunately the art was confusing in spots otherwise I'd have ranked it higher.

3 stars
Justin Jordan, Patrick Zircher
Patrick Zircher

Issue number 4 appears to finish up the Shadowman origin arc. I'm sure we'll learn more about the character as time goes on, but Jack has assumed the mantle, met his mentors and been introduced to his nemesis, Master Darque. Oh! And we learn that the talking monkey's name is Jaunty and has some familiarity of Darque.

Things should start getting really fun now.

4 stars
Joshua Dysart
Mico Suayan, Pere Perez

Largely about Toyo Harada's origins at Hiroshima. One certainly sees how he has come to be motivated to do the things he does. He seems to really want to help the world at large, but goes about it in a way that many would find distasteful. Harada is a character with a strange mix of understanding and ruthlessness.

More great storytelling from the new Valiant crew.

Winter Soldier
3 stars
Jason Latour
Nic Klein

New writer, new artist and a new story arc. And I'm not sure what to think about it.

The issue starts... confusingly. On a space station. Involving nobody I recognize.

The story shifts to Bucky with several pages of dialog between him and Nick Fury. It's slow, but I suspect it's a way to get new readers up to speed. As things pick up, it finally get interesting and hints at more of the intrigue we've come to expect from this title.

The artwork has its highs and lows, but overall I feel it fits well.

I had the sinking feeling at one point that this was going to become yet another zombie tale. It doesn't look like that's the case, but fair warning. More zombie nonsense and I'm out.

And finally... where can I get some Hydra brass knuckles?

The Superior Spider-Man
4 stars
Dan Slott
Ryan Stegman

Two words. "Spider Signal". Hilarious.

Dan Slott continues to tell new stories with old characters. This is quickly becoming one of my most looked forward to reads.

3 stars
Jonathan Hickman
Adam Kubert

I'm not familiar with Smasher so this was a good way to get acquainted with this particular Avenger. With art by Adam Kubert (a favorite of mine) this was a pretty good standalone issue.

It also seems that this is the start of the next arc. Something big is coming.

Free Bird Mascot Photoshop File

A friend on Twitter put the word out that they were looking for a titmouse mascot drawing. It sounded like a fun little challenge so I figured I'd give it a shot.

The method I used to color the drawing (solid color layers) makes it really easy to change the colors as desired.

Now my personal need for bird mascot images is pretty limited, but it's very possible that some of you could use it for... Heaven only knows. So feel free to take this Photoshop PSD file and use it for your own nefarious purposes.

Download the bird mascot Photoshop file

If you do use this for something, I'd love to know. Hit me up in all the usual places (Twitter, Google+ or Facebook).