Grab Bag – Spring 2012 Edition

The days are getting brighter, the flowers are blooming…could it be spring? Or the return of the Grab Bag?  We may never know, but let’s take a peek and see what the first Grab Bag (my regular collection of stuff that I hope you’ll find interesting) of 2012 brings…


I spent much of last year looking forward to the release of Mass Effect 3 (review). I pre-ordered it awhile ago, I went back into Mass Effect 2 to make sure there weren’t any important quests that I needed to finish (there were two tiny little missions, but everything else was done), and by the time the box arrived, I was really excited to get back into the world.

That was a few weeks ago. I’ve played it exactly once. Now, sure, I’ve got a bevy full of excuses, but that bevy is the same it has always been, so what’s going on? Well, to begin with…the beginning. Now, call me over-emotional, but, I was really, really frustrated that I had to do the character creation thing all over again. I’ve been hanging out with my scruffy avatar for many years now, and it was really irritating that I couldn’t bring him back into the final chapter (there may be a patch coming, but who knows how long that will take?.  Then, I started playing, and it just felt a little like Halo meets Mass Effect, that is, it was just more explosions and drama…and running on rails through those explosions and drama. Now,  I assume thing will “free up” after awhile, and I’m already seeing a glimmer of freedom, but I can’t help but wish that the game came out at the end of Fall, when it was getting dark and cold and it made more sense for me to stay at home and play the game, despite all the drama about the controversial ending…which might change? Ugh, I dunno. I will get into it, I am sure, but clearly, I was more enamored with the idea of the game than I am the actual game itself.

By the way, if you haven’t seen the April Fool’s teaser for the animated series of Mass Effect, you should check it out. I couldn’t help but think oft the opening for The Mighty Orbots (which I think featured some of the best animation on Saturday mornings–at least the opening sequence–of that bygone era).  Careful with those links–it’s very easy to fall into a Saturday morning cartoon vortex from which it is very hard to get out of.

If you love old video games and are on the East Coast of the US, you may want to check out the Smithsonian’s exhibit on the art of videogames. In the Ars Technica article I link to, you can see a few of the pieces, including the comic book that was released in conjunctions with the original Star Raiders videogame, which I still have!  What’s easy to forget is just how important the art was for early videogames. When you looked at the systems we were playing on, you needed  to really inspire folks to endow the blocky graphics with a little imagination to get into the game, at least initially.  I always remember the art for Yars’ Revenge compared the actual gameplay graphics (which were hotat the time) — very different experiences (of course, that game also came out with a comic — I smell an article idea…). One this is for sure, I am not going spring for this new “chrome” controller.

In other videogame news, Wil Wheaton has a new show on the Geek and Sundry network, called Tabletop, which is all about, I assume, tabletop gaming, which I used to do a lot of before moving to New York and leaving gamer crew behind.  Given how easy it is to forget just how truly social games can be (snarky 12 year olds kicking your ass over a headset notwithstanding), it’s nice to see Wheaton (sporting a beard that makes me question my own scruff) doing a show like this.


Given the dominating success of The Hunger Games, it might be easy for some to forget that the genre movie season is just beginning, and wow, would I be lying to you if I did not admit that I am starting to get excited about Marvel’s: The Avengers, especially after seeing this new commercial — I love it when other characters use Hulk as a threat!  And while I had heard rumblings about a remake for Total Recall (mostly in the vein of “why?”), I will just say that I like the trailer for the…re-imagining quite a bit. It reminded me of the first part of the extended edition of Avatar, which gave a glimpse into a dystopian future Earth that, not unlike the Earth in Total Recall was getting so bad that society needed to get out.  I don’t know much about the movie, but visually, this is impressive, and I really like the gritty “realistic” feel of the cops that bust the plot wide open at the beginning of the trailer. I can also now say, for the first time, that I have a real experience in common with Colin Farrell — we’ve both taken a drive with Jessica Biel.  (Sorry, couldn’t help it.) And it’s not just the 2012 films that I am looking forward to — I dig the retro-feel of the new Man of Steel logo and was very happy to hear that they’re planning an X-Men: First Class sequel.

In small screen hopes and dreams, the first teaser for Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom got me all a-twitter (literally).  While I was a fan of Studio 60, I can see why no one else did; I am looking forward to an HBO-Sorkin partnership and I think Jeff Daniels is an inspired choice to play the lead (who is also coming back to the theaters in the dubious sequel to Dumb and Dumber?!). And while I am waiting for my new TV to arrive tomorrow morning to see the premiere of Season Two of Game of Thrones in all it’s (presumably) ass-kicking glory, you certainly do not have to be a fan of the series to enjoy this really great interview and profile of Peter Dinklage, whose award-winning turn as Tyrion is one of the best reasons to watch the show in the fist place. If you want to make a living being creative, this is a must-read, reminding us that sometimes, saying “no” is just as important, if not moreso, as saying “yes.” Finally, I am sure Mac people are all bent out of shape that it looks like Ashton Kutcher will be playing Steve Jobs in an upcoming indie flick based on the late Apple founder’s life, but I, for one, kind of think it is an inspired choice. While there are obvious physical similarities, Kutcher and Jobs share a lot of other things in common, including the love of playing pranks and having the personality type to start their own successful businesses. This could be a very good move for Kutcher and I can see him doing a fine job.


Yikes—I shouldn’t wait so long in-between Grab Bag grabs. I’ll finish off this month’s edition with a lightning round because you’ve got things to do and there are already a lot of links that will keep you occupied. With the new iPad out, I am really looking forward to seeing artists take advantage of the device’s higher resolution. One drawing program, Paper, is getting great reviews, though some users are furious that you have to pay per brush (as an in-product purchase), which makes the app technically free. Still, I use Sketchbook Pro a lot and I don’t use all that many brushes, so maybe that’s a good thing–though I did just see a nice pencil set available in the app for free, so maybe I haven’t looked around enough.  I really enjoyed this collection of accidentally (?) humorous comic book covers, but I think Whitney would be far more interested in the Smithsonian’s collection of more than 15,000 meteorites (we actually have quite a few meteorites from Whitney’s uncle, who has been collecting them for years — very cool).  In a somewhat cautionary tale about how important it is to scrub your data from any device you’re done with, it is kind of fun to see just how much you can learn about a person from his saved game history on a classic XBox. After driving to Vegas and back this weekend, I think I spotted quite a few obnoxious drivers, but this is a great checklist if you need the help.  I mentioned Wil Wheaton’s new show on Felicia Day’s new Internet channel, Geek and Sundry; i09 has a nice interview with her discussing this new project. And now that Wheaton’s beard is in my head again, I can’t help but mention that I did in fact join the awesome-sounding Dollar Shave Club, but have to warn you that they are not fulfilling orders until the middle of May because the demand was so crazy. You can still watch the awesome ad, though.

So there you go, folks. Hope you enjoyed this latest rummaging.  We’ll have another Grab Bag in a month or so!


Mike Romo is an actor in Los Angeles. You can reach him through email, visit his facebook page,  and bump into him on twitter.


  1. how dare you not play mass effect more! I have been doing that in lieu of sleep

    also, you should post a screen shot of ur shephard

  2. Thank you for mentioning my beloved Yar’s Revenge in the liberal media. I loved that game. And – as soon as I manage to free my Atari 2600 from the Afghanistan that is my parents’ garage – I shall finally play it again.