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What I’ve Been Doing 30 April 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Apr 30th, 2012 by Dan

Gomez

Gomez: The Hero of Fez (Picture courtesy Titolian)

I did a lot more with this week than I thought I would have time for considering how much I played The Old Republic and how late I was getting home for a lot of the week. Fez gets special mention at the top of this article for completely immersing me in its world. Everything from its ambient, minimalist soundtrack to the weird artifacts, perplexing language, and dense, unspoiled mystery has me super intrigued.

Movies

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – I swear that I’m gonna stop tagging this someday soon. Tiffany hadn’t seen the US version and it was in Redbox, so we picked it up. I was struggling to stay awake at the end (it was one of those weeks), but it’s still a pretty solid movie. That stuff after Martin dies has always been way too long.

Shame – You know you’ve messed up if your movie about a sex addict living in NY is boring. It just wasn’t the daring, risque movie that I thought it would be. I did rather enjoy Carey Mulligan’s haunting “New York, New York”, but it was a little long. Watch it if you’ve got nothing to do/you can find it for cheap/free.

Like Crazy – Watching the trailer for this made me think I would hate the leads and I definitely did. They’ve got this youthful, lovey-dovey, can’t be separated from each other for five minutes thing that drives me crazy. Doesn’t help the plot that it all hinges on one stupid decision that anyone could have prevented. I also had a real tough time understanding why Anton Yelchin would rather be with Felicity Jones over Jennifer Lawrence. I mean, come on…JENNIFER LAWRENCE.

TV

Mad Men – Last week’s episode was very interesting and very artistic and I came away from the Ginsberg/Peggy scene just in love with the show all over again. Can’t wait to watch last night’s offering.

Veep – Guys, this show is hilarious. Best comedy pilot I’ve seen in a while. Just clever and subtle and sharp. They really capture the office/government job vibe.

Girls – The entire internet has an opinion about Girls so I felt like I needed to watch it. The first episode frustrated me with Hannah’s spoiled dependence on her parents, but had enough wickedly funny moments that I was on board. The second had lots of hilariously bad sex. I mean, the line about why doggie style isn’t always degrading, “What if I want to feel like I’ve got udders?” was pretty brilliant delivered. Mike Birbiglia’s job interview scene was great too. The whole thing with the non-PC conversations and the complete 180 on the offer was so good. I’m on board for now.

Kids on the Slope – ShinichirĊ Watanabe and Yoko Kanno’s latest collaboration is not quite as stylized as Cowboy Bebop, but it’s got the same strong Jazz roots. Worth watching for the music alone, as are most of Watanabe’s shows. I want to find that title track. It starts with this slow marching beat and then it just turns into this great piece. Love it.

Parks and Recreation – Getting tired of the election storyline, but the show is still selling it. Chris Pratt’s live action movies were hilarious and Aubrey Plaza continues to be a delight.

Community – Pitch perfect Law & Order spoof. The back half of this season continues to impress.

New Girl – I want to love this show a lot more than I do. It’s just so mediocre when it’s not funny. Happy Endings has deeper swings (funnier and more terrible) and I just dig that show way more than New Girl…

Music

“Sakamichi no Melody” by YUKI:

It’s not gonna blow you away, but I love the way it flows and changes. When it picks up in that middle section…how can you resist not tapping your toes?

Books

Moe Berg: Athlete, Scholar, Spy – Only a couple pages into this story about a baseball player who was also a spy. We’ll see how it is.

Video Games

The Old Republic – Min and I got our alts going now. My Trooper story has been interesting and I’m glad I’m playing it instead of a Consular.

Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP – Finished the first movement/section/track. Have yet to go back in and start putting serious time. Very stylish and cool.

The Walking Dead – Captures the spirit of the comic and zombie apocalypse WAY better than the tv show does. Love it.

Saints Row: The Third – Played a little co-op with Lee. This game is so hilarious. I’m thinking of switching my character to zombie voice.

Fez – Really fantastic game. I can’t stress enough how immersive it is in its sparseness. I can’t wait until I start to understand the puzzles and mysteries more. Gonna try to limit my exposure to the internet since they’ve mostly solved everything. I know I’ll need their help eventually, but for now I’m on my own.

The 100 Greatest Qutoes From The Wire [IB/ER]
Apr 27th, 2012 by Dan

If you haven’t seen The Wire, this obviously spoils the 100 best lines from the show. Those of you who have, this right here is pure gold.

Mad Men S5E5 “Far Away Places” [IB]
Apr 24th, 2012 by Dan

Now that was something. Mad Men does this kind of thing from time to time, but rarely is it done this well. Everything about it just felt so surreal and amazing to behold. I know I’m firmly in this show’s pocket, but I really feel like everything in this episode worked…and quite well.

The flagship moment of the episode is, of course, the LSD trip that Roger and Jane take. Some have called the hallucinations cheesy or overdone, but I’ve personally never seen such an understated LSD trip. There was no “Tomorrow Never Knows”-esque song leading us into the trip. It went straight and it was more revealing and terrifying for doing so. I thought the music in the vodka and the cigarette were nice touches.

It led to the honest revelation that Jane and Roger were unhappy and they agreed to split while high. Jane didn’t seem to want it as much sober, more likely fearing the unknown than actually wanting to stay together (and looking smoking, by the way), but they both ultimately felt it was best. What else did we learn? Jane feels like Roger doesn’t respect her or pay attention to her (both true) while also fearing that he thinks she’s a joke. Roger, on the other hand, shows that he still feels inferior to Don and Cooper. His insistence that he’s the man behind Don Draper always reeked of insecurity, but his drug haze confirms it.

Meanwhile Peggy has completed her transformation into Don by alienating Abe, making overly emotional pitches, browbeating clients, having anonymous sexual encounters, and sleeping in her office. It’s telling that none of the moments felt all that jarring to me. Her personality and character have so evolved to be Don that even a hand job in a theater seems normal. A lot of critics are saying that this was a move to please a man where she’d failed to do so with Abe and Heinz, but I took it more as a power play. She didn’t want anything done to her, she wanted to do something to the man. To be the one in charge of a situation when she feels powerless in the environment of the 1960s. What greater position of power is there than to have a man literally in her hands and at her mercy?

The most powerful sequence in her story comes post-movie during the late night work session with Ginsberg. He tells Peggy about his origins as an infant born in a concentration camp and adopted from a Swiss orphanage through a metaphor about being a Martian. It makes sense in a very Ginsberg way and it’s so vulnerable and affecting that I feel like I need to watch it again.

Of course what would a Mad Men episode be without checking in with Don? The groundwork of resentment that the show has been laying regarding Don’s disregard for his and Megan’s work ethic forms the kindling of their conflict. I’m not sure yet if this show is going to terminate this marriage this season, but they’re definitely showing that it’s terribly dysfunctional. Don has severe power issues and Megan confusingly plays into and against them. It’s a very tantrum-y thing to start shoving sorbet in your mouth, but what else could Megan do after Don shot down her every complaint about his lack of respect?

Naturally Don throws as big a fit after she callously (and accidentally) references his dead mother and Don drives away, abandoning his wife at the HoJo. Power dynamics continue to come to play though. Would Betty have just waited for Don instead of hitching a ride to a bus station and going to the city? One thing’s for sure, Megan’s not gonna let Don have the power of denying her transportation and she exercises her power in not responding to any calls.

What follows in the apartment is their ugliest, most violent fight yet. The two of them seem so very mismatched, yet Don seems to think she’s a fantastic wife. I’m intensely curious where the rest of this season (and that marriage) are headed, especially now that Bert Cooper has called Don out on his absentee work. Will we see a shift in Don a la “The Summer Man” or will he continue to atrophy away like Roger? Time will tell.

What I’ve Been Doing 23 April 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Apr 23rd, 2012 by Dan

Landscape

Unrelated shot of the beautiful Red Rock Canyon

It was a nice, lazy, fun weekend full of baseball, movies, and video games. Who could complain?

Movies

The Cabin in the Woods – If you think for a second you want to see this movie, you probably shouldn’t read anything about it. Those of you who don’t, well I thought it was an interesting deconstruction of the horror genre that was expertly written by Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon, but perhaps a little too elbow nudge-y, wink wink to be taken completely seriously. Still worth seeing. Lots of fun.

TV

The Voice – You have to make sacrifices sometimes when you have a girlfriend. This is one of the watchable ones. Some of the eliminations continue to baffle me, but at least RaeLynn is gone. Yay!

Glee – The Quinn in the wheelchair episode was absolutely terrible. The disco one, on the other hand, is a return to form. Diana Agron mysteriously disappeared for long stretches of the episode (perhaps her wheelchair dancing is not to par). I wish they’d use Mercedes more…she’s tragically underused and has the best voice on the show.

New Girl – “I might as well call you ‘Bridge to Terabithia’ because you make kids cry” New Girl…what do I think of you? Most improved show of the year? Perhaps. It’s gotten to be quite good, but it’s still not perfect and I still think Happy Endings does the young 20-30 somethings hanging out thing better. Glad the show is improving, but I could do without all the sappy moments.

Justified – Great great GREAT finale. Gonna miss watching Raylan Givens solve crimes every week. See you next year, Justified!

Mad Men – I remain a week behind on this, per usual, but the boxing match between Lane and Pete was hilariously awesome. Fantastic episode.

Community – It was one of those weeks where they really go all out in the emotional, barely funny route. It worked before and it works again, mostly because Alison Brie is a joy to watch.

Dollhouse – The guy who plays Topher (Fran Kranz) was in The Cabin in the Woods, so I felt like trying to watch some of S2. The show definitely has problems (lots of them), but it’s improving and I am interested in seeing how it all ended.

Bob’s Burgers – Food truck episode…way to be timely? They’re still a thing, but it’s just not that funny in 2012. At least the cast makes it work…mostly.

Baseball – Two Marlins games, two Marlins losses. To the Nationals! WTF!

Parks and Recreation – Bradley Whitford’s part was too small, but that’s ok. Aubrey Plaza continues to show range and grow. I find Aziz Ansari to be increasingly irrelevant in Parks…

Music

All of the Coachella news has put one song permanently in my head last week:

If you know someone who doesn’t like “Changes”, you know a monster. A MONSTER!

Books

Sadly none.

Video Games

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP – Only got like 15 mins in so I didn’t get a chance to get a serious impression. I like the style and the sneaky interactive elements. Music seems cool so far too.

The Old Republic – Started up a Trooper so that Min and I could have the full compliment of buffs as we leveled. Love hearing Jennifer Hale’s voice again. Great game and the Trooper and Smuggler have neat stories.

Devil Survivor 2 – Made it to Wednesday, I think. Fighting the first boss that appears at like 0830. Love this style of game, but I’ve got a long ways to go still.

Mad Men S5E4: “Signal 30″ [IB]
Apr 20th, 2012 by Dan

Guys, seriously, how great was that episode? Pete is a weaselly, slimy character, but he’s oftentimes the most interesting character on the screen after Don. He’s a guy who wants it all, but cannot recognize when he’s got it. More importantly, Pete Campbell can never have it all because he is so aggressively unlikeable.

Driver’s Ed:

Pete has a thing for going after defenseless and possibly naive women. New hire Peggy, the neighbor’s foreign maid, and now high school student Jenny. He always has a sneaky angle in and he’s always just a little too creepily aggressive. I’m thankful for Jenny’s sake that Handsome showed up to be a more age-appropriate suitor. It’s definitely an ego blow to have Handsome mistake Pete for the teacher and to feel so old, but I feel like Pete is probably more insulted by the way that Handsome makes it all seem so effortless like Don or Roger or the other men he’s trying to surpass.

The Bordello:

How hilarious was the part where the prostitute was trying out different personas for Pete? Perfect window into his soul, too. He didn’t want the devoted housewife (Trudy) nor did he want the virginal teen he seemed to crave (and who had recently rejected him in favor of Handsome). No, he wanted to feel powerful like a king. Like I’ve said, Pete constantly wants everything, but he’s never satisfied. How great was that post-club cab where Pete fumed at Don (of all people) for judging him. Don had a perfectly valid point, but Pete couldn’t see how his aping of Don could be met with such hypocritical, self-righteous scorn.

The Party:

Pete’s sycophantic compliments toward Don must have surely stung when Don fixed the sink that he technically broke. I mean, he was completely ineffectual there. Ken covered the spray with a pot while Pete went hunting for his tools and Don got to work quickly remedying the situation. Pete was left just looking useless while all the women fawned over Don. Not even the appearance of the daughter everyone was fawning over could help mask his feelings of inadequacy.

SCDP Offices:

Pretty sure everyone who’s watched all five seasons of this show has been waiting for the moment when Pete would finally end up getting punched in the face. Who would have thought that Lane would be the one to do it? The thing is, Pete and Lane have always had a somewhat genial relationship, season 3’s competition aside, and yet Pete felt the need to belittle and insult Lane. Neither of the men feel like they belong at the office, but Lane could not stomach being relegated to the bottom of the totem pole without a fight. Where does Pete stand in the office? In past seasons Don and Lane have expressed respect for him, but he’s been a rude jerk all of season 5. Insisting meetings be taken in his office, openly feuding with Sterling, calling out Don in the cab, and now this with Lane. Where does a man so thoroughly insulted go from here? I can’t wait to find out.

Other Stuff:

– Ken continues to derive the real joy in his life from his wife and non-work-related activities. Anyone else surprised he took up a different nom de plume once the old one was forcibly exposed?

– Too little for Peggy to do this episode, but Elizabeth Moss is killing it this season. Love it.

– Don and Megan’s marriage continues to be really interesting. She can tell him what to wear! She can tell him to make his own social calls! I think that her “That’s impossible” line about him putting a baby in her perhaps deserves more inspection. What did she mean? Was it a throwaway line that I’m putting too much importance into?

– Trudy is awesome. Alison Brie kills it on Community and she’s killing it here too. Loved her social maneuvering.

– OH YEAH! Lane totally kissed Joan. She was polite enough to let him stop without resisting and then open the door and come sit back down, but how utterly humiliating. I hope their relationship doesn’t sour too much over his gaffe.

– All the men in this episode looked so weak and ineffectual at various points. It’s like their new firm sheen is coming off and their age is starting to show.

– I liked the way that the drip symbol popped in and out of the episode. It’s one of Mad Men‘s more obvious symbols, but it was appropriately used.

Common Historical Misconceptions [ER]
Apr 18th, 2012 by Dan

Think you know about Vikings, Lady Godiva, or Napoleon? Think again!

Unless you already know about these misconceptions. Then you don’t have to think again.

What I’ve Been Doing 16 April 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Apr 16th, 2012 by Dan

In Front of the Bellagio

It looks photoshopped, but I promise it wasn't!

I didn’t do much this week, but cut me some slack, man! I was in Las Vegas!

Movies

Nope

TV

Mad Men – My thoughts on the last episode are here, but it’s a safe bet to say that I love this show and this season has been great so far.

Books

Ha! Nope. Should have on the plane…

Music

This is actually a pretty cool video:

Can’t believe I still haven’t picked up “El Camino”

Video Games

Devil Survivor 2 – Had a dicey moment against the Day 3 bosses where I thought I would have to start over. Pulled through, but then left my DS in the hotel. Thankfully Lee recovered it. Thanks Lee!

Dragon Quest IV – Played this for a half hour on the flight home on Min’s DS. I’m not in love with the accents in the first chapter, but I like the multi-character story structure.

Joel McHale’s 3DS Commercial [ER]
Apr 12th, 2012 by Dan

It’s a little too on the money to be hilarious, but I still enjoyed it.

The Besties Hit PAX East [GO/ER]
Apr 11th, 2012 by Dan

“Shouldn’t the world’s best friends choose the world’s best game?”

I gotta admit, it took me a while to get with The Besties podcast, but now that I recognize how truly ridiculous and hilarious it is I’m all about it. Remember, they’re not really there to have legitimate debate about the merits of the games they bring. In fact, sometimes Justin doesn’t even play his, but they’re fun to listen to and even funnier to watch.

Mad Men S5E03: “Mystery Date” [IB]
Apr 10th, 2012 by Dan

You know what’s my favorite thing about Mad Men? Even when it’s dead serious or surreal it’s not above brilliant jokes. I want to hit on the lighter moments first, because this episode was very dark and violent.

Moment numero uno has to be the scene with Peggy and Sterling. It’s just perfect to see how far Sterling has fallen that he can threaten to fire all he wants, but he can’t intimidate Peggy (or Harry, for that matter). She has his number and she gets her reward while being super cheeky and super funny. I could watch her count cash for hours.

What else? Well, Ginsberg was particularly hilarious in the post-meeting bar. I think it’s telling that I agree with him when he asserted that he wasn’t as close to being fired as Ken thinks he was. Yes, Don means what he says, but I still think Ginsberg’s confidence is well-placed.

Speaking of Ginsberg (and segueing into more serious topics), I think it’s telling that his reluctance to be a crime voyeur and his shaming of his peers was very interestingly juxtaposed with his pitch. I mean, the Speck murders were lurid, violent, sick, twisted, and meaningless, but his pitch…that was stalking and sexual violence, but presented in the sanitized way that horror movies are. I know it’s ridiculous to call a horror movie sanitized, but they are clearly about sexual violence a lot of the time. There’s that erotic tension in there that is personified by your virginal main character trope, for example, or the fact that most protagonists are female while the monsters are male. It’s what makes Alien so subversive.

While we’re on the subject of sexual violence, how about that (kind of annoying) fever dream that Don had? Look, we all knew it was a dream and that it was a little cheesy, but for it to incorporate elements of the Speck murder (women under the bed) and the almost horror-movie ability that Andrea had to appear back in Don’s bedroom…I mean it’s clearly intentional. Like I said, I knew it was a dream, but there was a part of me that was worried that Mad Men might go the way of Friday Night Lights Season 2 until it was officially confirmed a dream. While the symbolism was a little clumsy and obvious, it was an interesting moment to see Don symbolically murdering his adulterous nature. Will it stay dead? It was gone in the morning, but was it because it had survived? Whatever the case, Matt Weiner is doing a stand-up job proving to us that Don and Megan truly care for each other and that Don is at least mostly invested in the relationship. If his adultery count stays at 0 + i (as in one imaginary fling) I wouldn’t be surprised, based on the way he’s being characterized this season.

Peggy and Dawn got to interact after Peggy discovered that Dawn was stuck in the office because she’s black (subways are too dangerous, cops around everywhere, cabbies refuse to take her past 96th…). I thought it was a very telling line that what Peggy was most worried about was the “white person problem” (not really a WPP, but it was also not the racially charged problem) of the Speck murder while Dawn is clearly referencing the race riots erupting in various parts of the country. Despite how much Peggy wants to connect the dots between the feminist and race movements, she ultimately commits a faux pas with the purse gaff at the end of the night and she feels terrible for it. It was a very awkward moment that I thought was beautifully shot and captured. It’s funny how a whole night of, well, one-sided drunken sharing can be erased by a lingering glance.

Sally and Pauline’s scenes together were all captivating as well. I mean, how much sense does it make that Pauline’s father just kicked her to put the fear of him into her. That kind of random violence is precisely in line with the violence of the Speck murders and the terror that women on the whole must feel. There’s a strong undercurrent of fear that men don’t really understand. We tend to be physically larger and we are most commonly the aggressors in society so we don’t understand what it’s like to watch your back or feel threatened when alone among men, but Pauline doesn’t know which direction to take it with Sally. She repeatedly chastises her and treats her like a child while simultaneously asking why she doesn’t act more like a grown-up. Pauline wants Sally to understand what it is to be a woman and she overshares details about the murders and the psychological fear of men with her, but then she grants her the power of temporary ignorance with sleeping pills. Of all the characters on the show, Sally is the one who I fear for the most. What is her life going to be like?

Best thing about the night might have to be Joan finally acknowledging that evil that Pauline alludes to in Greg and his rape of Joan in S2. When she finally says out loud what she already knows, that Greg is a nobody who needs to assert his power to feel strong. That he is a bad man…that is the big moment we’ve all been waiting for since that ugly moment in Season 2. Joan’s scenes play out predictably and I’m glad that the show never let Greg off the hook by killing him off in Vietnam. It was a powerful scene and a powerful moment for Joan who, one would hope, will not rekindle her relationship with Roger, but move on to something healthier. I mean, who doesn’t love Joan? She’s among the most tragic of a cast of many tragic cases and we all want to see better things come to her.

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