My 2010 in Music [Feedback]
Dec 31st, 2010 by Dan t-shirt

Thanks to, I can tell you what my personal favorite music of 2010 has been!

Top 10 Artists of 2010

1. The Beatles (989 listens)

The re-release of the entire catalog reinvigorated my love for The Beatles as I more thoroughly explored their catalog and loved songs I’d never realized were by the Fab Four. Heaping praise on The Beatles is almost ridiculous, so I’ll leave it at that.

2. April Smith and The Great Picture Show (385)

This one doesn’t make as much sense to me. I think there might be some miscounting by one of my tagging services, but, regardless, I’ve loved April Smith since the first time I heard her singing “Terrible Things” on All Songs Considered. She was absolutely my breakout sensation of this year. There will be more on her in the New Year…

3. Rx Bandits (370)

“We get it, Dan. You love the Bandits, even though almost no one on earth has heard of them…”

4. Arctic Monkeys (295)

Kees van Dijkhuizen’s fantastic Youtube video Cinema 2009 featured “Crying Lightning” and I was hooked. Then I gave Favourite Worst Nightmare and I knew that these kids from Sheffield really knew what they were doing. We’ll see if 2011 will bring a new album.

5. Sambomaster (268)

“Shut up about Sambomaster already, Dan.”

6. The Zutons (179)

A fine band whose plays came mostly because I made “Put A Little Aside” the anthem for visiting a girl I was quite taken with. It’s a song about a guy having an affair, so I’m proving that we really only hear what we want to out of our favorite songs.

7. Jonathan Coulton (177)

Everyone’s favorite nerdy singer of songs about robots, monkeys, zombies, and evil geniuses continues to get tons of plays from me. Great stuff.

8 Glee Cast (165)

No comment.

9. Lucky Boys Confusion (163)

An old staple that will never get old. Too bad they broke up.

10. Girl Talk (147)

Talk about making a fast impression. With only two months of the year to make an impact, Girl Talk still finds itself in my top ten. Props.

Top Tracks of 2010

1. Felicia Day – “Penny’s Song” (88 listens)

Whoa, really? Wow. Didn’t realize I loved this song that much. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is one of my favorite musicals, but “Penny’s Song” isn’t really my favorite track from the movie. Oh well, I’m still happy to see this top the list.

2. Glee Cast (featuring Kristin Chenowith) – “Fire” (79)

I love this song. I’m just barely not embarrassed to admit it.

3. Sambomaster – “Ohベイビー” (70)

More Sambomaster love.

4. Stars – “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead” (68)

Another song I wouldn’t have heard if I never listened to All Songs Considered. Their episode on break-up songs featured this track by Stars and it blew me away. Always makes me think of Ashley. Nearly makes me cry plenty of times. This song is brutal and awesome at the same time.

5. Glee Cast (featuring Kristin Chenowith) – “One Less Bell to Answer/A House Is Not a Home” (65)

Kristin Chenowith’s voice is amazing.

6. Rx Bandits – “Mientras La Veo Soñar” (60)

A great song on a great 2009 album.

7. Lucky Boys Confusion – “Not About Debra” and April Smith and the Great Picture Show “Wow and Flutter” (58)

Probably my favorite song by LBC and one of April Smith’s best. Smith currently uses “Wow and Flutter” as the last song in her set and the band all plays fantastic solos. Love both of these songs.

9. The Zutons – “Oh Stacey (Look What You’ve Done!)” (55)

It’s weird to have this so high when I love at least four or five Zutons songs more than this one. Guess that’s how it goes when you do a lot of random shuffling.

10. April Smith and The Great Picture Show – “Drop Dead Gorgeous” (54)

Brilliant song, because, really, “If you’re just drop dead gorgeous, you should just drop dead”

Luisa Maita Tiny Desk Concert [F]
Dec 29th, 2010 by Dan

Listened to the audio for this on the drive to work today. I love Brazilian music.

Day 2! [GO/ER]
Dec 29th, 2010 by Dan

The DLC category took a whole hour of podcast time to resolve! Enjoy another day of quick summaries.

Giant Bomb’s Game of the Year Awards [GO/ER]
Dec 29th, 2010 by Dan

It’s the end of the year and that means that the Giant Bomb guys are putting out their Game of the Year awards. This video summarizes their deliberations which can be heard in full on their podcast while also highlighting Starcraft II, the PC game of the year.

Millennium Actress [FB]
Dec 6th, 2010 by Dan

millennium 8

A cross section of Chiyoko's roles in her career

It’s weird to get back into the mental state that we were all in back in 2001. The Y2K buzz was forgotten and embarrassing, most of the retrospective documentaries had passed, and the nostalgia craze was nearing its end. It seems fitting to have a movie like Millennium Actress pop out in July of 2001. Long enough after that it doesn’t feel pandering, but also at the perfect time to look back at the prior 70 years of Japanese cinema.

The title of the movie is meant to evoke several meanings. It came out, after all, at the end of the millennium, for one, but it goes just a touch deeper. The main character, Chiyoko Fujiwara, starts her movie career in the 30s, making movies for the war effort, but by the end of her career her films span a thousand years, from the Heian Period to the scenes in outer space that bookend the film. Our last millennium reference, that I can spot, is Chiyoko’s name. With some help from TV Tropes I learned that her name means “Child of a thousand generations” in Japanese.

Shocker, I know. A Satoshi Kon production with layered meanings and significances. I’m sure I’m so far from even approaching all of the things that are going on within this movie, but it’s an absolute pleasure to watch. As I said earlier, it’s an examination of the legacy of the Japanese film industry, but it’s told through the lens of Chiyoko’s career. The movie studio she worked for is being torn down, long after she became a hermit and left acting. Our other main characters for this movie are a documentarian and his cameraman who have hiked up to Chiyoko’s house to talk to her about her career.

The movie’s story is cleverly told through scenes of Chiyoko’s actual movies, whose subjects conveniently mirror her emotional state, as we learn why she began acting and eventually why she quit. Reality and the movie narrative meld together until what is actually happening and what is just plot becomes ambiguous at times, but not so much so that the movie is unwatchable.

Given what I’ve seen of Paranoia Agent, another work by Satoshi Kon examining pop culture, memes, the Japanese obsession with kawaisa (“cuteness”), and media, it’s clear that Kon believes his art is as linked with the culture of Japan as its own history. Chiyoko’s movies mirror the war in Manchuria and the gung-ho nationalism of Japan during the Pacific War (WWII) before delving into the relatively lighthearted light historical dramas that pepper Japanese media even today. Then things go bad for the Japanese and Chiyoko’s movies turn to the firebombing of Tokyo and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Like Japan itself, eventually her movies and life begin to reflect her growing maturity and Japan’s growing prosperity post-war. It’s fascinating to me, I don’t know. I totally dug it.

There’s also a love story tied in with the whole plot. Chiyoko’s main motivation for acting is to attract the attention of a painter she met only twice in her life, but who she constantly pines for and chases. Her love for someone she barely knows is so pure and unattainable that it almost deserves to belong to the plot of one of her movies.

I’ve done an absolutely terrible job of summing this movie up, but I really liked it. Millennium Actress is many things: loving homage to Japanese cinema, an examination of how movies and culture mirror each other, a tender love story, and a look at growth, maturity, age, and the harshness of time for actresses, but most importantly it’s good. Go check it out.

Back to the Future: The Game Trailer [ER/GO]
Dec 4th, 2010 by Dan

“Jeez, Dan. Your blog is all videos now!”

Yeah, I know. Sorry, but that’s what I’ve got time for right now. Enjoy this video of the upcoming Back to the Future: The Game from Telltale. I’m definitely interested.

A Serious Man [Filmmakers Bleed]
Dec 2nd, 2010 by Dan

Poster A Serious Man

"Don't you want somebody to love?"

I’ve seen four other Coen Brothers movies before I came to this one (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and Burn After Reading) and while some of their movies (O Brother) tend to have a well-defined plot that makes sense (mostly on the basis of it being based on one of the oldest stories in history), most are blessed with a more realistic vision of life and the world around it. Like Burn After Reading, which immediately preceded it, A Serious Man is a movie about nothing in which random events seem to happen and no one understands why. Unlike Burn, ASM‘s perceived randomness stems from an examination of Jewish religious mythology and faith, in general.

Like most deities, the randomness of God, in the Jewish sense, is ascribed to be beyond human comprehension. The best we can do, per most religions, is to try and live pious, good lives and hope that things go well because asking that very human question, “Why?”, will get you absolutely nowhere. No one should know that better than the main character, Larry Gopnik, professor of physics at a midwestern university. Both of the lectures we see him deliver in the movie (Schrödinger’s Cat and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle) deal with conventional properties of physics meant to undermine our ability to perceive anything in this world, yet his personal philosophy is much more along the Newton’s Third Law variety. Actions have reactions. There is a first cause to everything.

Larry’s life begins to fall apart not long after the movie begins. One of his students is bribing him for a good grade, while his father threatens to sue him for defamation if he comes clean on it, his wife wants a divorce from him so that she can marry a more distinguished man, the subject of his tenure is up for review, but anonymous letters have begun appearing making claims against his moral fiber, and his socially awkward and unstable brother is becoming more and more of a nuisance in his home.

As the drama and tension escalates, Larry finds himself confronting rabbis at his local synagogue to try and make sense of it all. This is where the true beauty of the movie shines through. The first rabbi is young and obtuse to his problems while the second actually hits the point of the movie on the head. He tells a mythological and spiritual shaggy dog story, naturally with no point and no resolution, with the very real and brilliant moral that Larry should stop trying to make sense of why his life is crumbling and worry more about living his life.

There’s a brilliance in the way that this movie both tries to convince you that actions have consequences and that they don’t. At one point in the movie Larry and Sy, the man who is stealing his wife, get into simultaneous car crashes, only Sy’s is fatal. Surely the viewer is supposed to view this as karmic punishment for stealing away Larry’s wife, except it’s also the kind of bizarre coincidence that is absolutely meaningless and that happens every day. Not to mention the final scene of the movie in which Larry decides to take the bribe to help pay his mounting legal fees only to have a phone call come in from his doctor with ambiguous, but serious news the second he finishes changing the grade all while a tornado bears down on the Hebrew school at which his son attends.

The movie starts with Larry’s misery, shows the people who trouble him perhaps getting their much deserved karmic comeuppance once he begins living a more pious life, and then, at the last minute, things turn sour for him when it appears he turns away. Coincidence? Meaningful cosmic decision? That’s the point. Is there a point?

I’m being obtuse, but so are the Coen Brothers. Their intention was to present a midwestern Jewish community, much like the one they grew up in, while simultaneously exploring the futility of seeking meaning. The situations are unclear, the outcome of both Larry and his son Danny is left to the viewer, and we’re supposed to leave the theater feeling satisfied.

Even more perplexing is the fake Yiddish folktale told at the start. No mention of it is made again, none of the characters reappear, and the only real point, to the degree that there can be a point, is that it’s impossible to tell why things happen and whether the actions you make will have the right outcome.

I like this movie because it reminds me just how limited my attempts at attributing meaning to the ups and downs of life really is. If you absolutely require a true narrative arc with defined motivations, actions, and reactions, this is not the movie for you. Coen Brothers movies have a powerful ability to leave you feeling uneasy and uncertain about life and that’s precisely what I love about them. I can’t wait for True Grit to come out later this month.

No Controller, No Wires, No Worries [ER]
Dec 2nd, 2010 by Dan

Mega 64 and Rooster Teeth have teamed up for Season 3 of the RT Shorts and Episode 1 is pretty great.

Richard Pryor in the Star Wars Bar
Dec 1st, 2010 by Dan

Richard Pryor is a comedy legend. I had no idea he made this short where he was a bartender in a Star Wars bar. Hilarious.

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