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What I’ve Been Doing 5 Aug 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Aug 5th, 2013 by Dan

o-ORANGE-IS-THE-NEW-BLACK-facebook

The awesome cast of Orange is the New Black (Photo by missmegsblogcontent)

Lots of talk on the internets about how Orange is the New Black was a fantastic show not worth missing. After checking it out, I’ve got to say everyone’s really right.

Movies

Nope, but probably this week!

TV

The Bridge – Demian Bichir is doing fine, fine work on this show, but the serial killer stuff seems fairly fantastical and he’s almost omnipotent in his power.

Orange is the New Black – Netflix seems to have finally found its killer show. Extremely high quality and an intriguing watch. Definitely check it out.

Music

I’m not sure I actually like Regina Spektor’s new(ish) single (too much rock, not enough piano), but it’s worth hearing

Books

Not this week.

Video Games

Shin Megami Tensei IV – Got a bunch more time in this weekend while rendering episodes for my channel. Getting better. The battles are, without a doubt, rather tough, and the story’s gotten intriguing as I’ve left the first area. Not sure if it’ll continue to be awesome, but we’ll see.

EarthBound – Finally booted up Shigesato Itoi’s SNES epic to play the intro while Min watched this weekend and it still totally holds up. Just super sharp dialogue and an endearing level of charm.

Rayman Legends – Super quick challenge levels this week. Min and I need to unlock Awesomeness lvl 2.

Spelunky – Played the XBLA version one last time before I signed off forever thanks to the release of the PC version. Didn’t get past the jungle due to some dumb play. It’s really easy to fall out of practice with Spelunky.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf – I really thought I’d be able to bring fruit home with me from the dream suite. Kind of lame that you can’t.

The Last of Us – They try and pretend all the time that you can pick how you want to approach encounters. Stealth or fighting, etc. It sounds good in theory, but instead they have all these required confrontations. The latest one involved two bloaters, two clickers, and two runners and it was just a pain. Kind of disappointing…

Pikmin 3 – These games are so charming and SO fun. I love Pikmin games. Clever writing/localization and a fun combat mechanic makes for the first real reason to turn on my Wii U in a long time.

What I’ve Been Doing 29 May 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
May 29th, 2013 by Dan

Slight Malfunction

I bet that’ll be fun to service later.

David was in town for the weekend! DAVID! He’s never in town. Stupid Iowa!

Movies

I tried so hard to get David and Min to watch Star Trek or Fast 6. Neither would agree. Stupid David and Min.

TV

Arrested Development – Got about halfway through the Netflix season. I think it’s at least on par with the latter half of the third season. I’ve definitely had some gutbusting laughs and it hasn’t felt like a total mishap. I want to see how it all turns out with each of the character vignettes, but so far I’m pretty happy with how this turned out.

The Venture Bros. – To be fair I only watched 5 mins of the first episode (I didn’t remember any of it from the last time I watched it).

The Americans – Season 1 complete. I don’t think it’s as groundbreaking as some are saying it is, but it was an absolutely enjoyable season full of much better acting than I expected from the principals. I’m eager to see where they go from here, but it looks like I’ll have to wait a whole year!

Veep – Season 2! Finally cracked into it and I’m delighted to say that it’s also busted that gut of mine. Just some deliciously funny insults, lines, and situations. I feel like Catherine is going to be a larger part of the season, which is fine by me. I like seeing that side of Selina. Julia Louis-Dreyfus does a great job of showing a completely different aspect of her personality from her ass-kicking VP persona.

Music

Vampire Weekend’s latest continues to be awesome. Here’s a fun track for people who like Biblical allusions and veiled Outkast references. The song is called “Ya Hey”

Books

Sadly, no. Maybe this week.

Video Games

Rhythm Heaven Fever – The girlfriend litmus test was in full effect as I had Katie try out one of my favorite games ever. She kind of dug it. I kind of dig her.

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask – Just more daily puzzles to kill time. Still fun.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box – Slowly moving the story along. I’d say I’m about halfway done.

Rayman Legends – More daily challenges, but this time with David! I think we got a silver on one day, which is pretty boss.

Castle Crashers – Man, I hadn’t played that game in forever, but Dave, Min, and I were looking for something co-op. Kind of slow and didn’t age well, if you ask me.

Spelunky – Speaking of co-op, I think Dave, Min, and I did more of this than anything else. Our quest to hell almost came true, but there were just too many obstacles, not to mention weird bugs resulting from playing multiplayer. Maybe next time that David’s in MD.

DmC Devil May Cry – I think I’m on the final level or at the final boss. Made serious progress Monday morning and I’ll probably finish this weekend while Katie’s biking. I’m interested in the conclusion, but also fairly confident that Vergil is going to double cross me.

What I’ve Been Doing 3 Dec 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Dec 3rd, 2012 by Dan

Lincoln Memorial

Which is the greater monument: the movie or the…monument? (Photo by MarkusR)

Four score and seven seconds ago I started trying to come up with a clever line to write here. As you can see, I failed.

Movies

Lincoln – I’ve talked to lots of people about this movie and it’s one I feel better about recommending the more I think about it. Sure, Lincoln himself may or may not have been as epic a figure as the movie makes him out to be (dude is like a god in this picture), but the political intrigue and heist-like nature of the vote makes for good cinema. Now if only it didn’t feel quite so awkward to have all these great white men saving black men…

TV

The Amazing Race – Watched Abby and Ryan get eliminated from their race in Amsterdam. That was brutal to see them so badly screwed over by flight issues, but they were pretty unpleasant, so…Having enemies makes for good reality tv, right? Now what do we have…I also watched the first three episodes of the first season. Holy cow are there plenty of highly unlikeable folks in that…

New Girl – Sure seems like a lot of shows are addressing the late pregnancy thing. I wonder why that’s all in the zeitgeist right now…or maybe I’m just of an age where I notice it more?

Parks and Recreation – The sight gag with the balloon Leslie and Ben was brilliant. I really love Eagleton episodes.

The League – Not the most exciting or adventurous episode, but I definitely dug the way the guy in the wheelchair was obsessed with his legs.

Homeland – Didn’t see last night’s, but the one where they took down the terrorist cell at the cafe had me thinking that the show was playing its hand too early. I can’t even imagine what the next three episodes will bring for the show, especially now that they’ve revealed that the CIA’s end goal is to murder Brody once his usefulness is up.

The Mindy Project – I really do think this show is on the upswing. Mindy Kaling is probably the funniest person on screen most of the time and the Morgan and Danny characters are also very funny. The rest of the cast is still growing on me.

Glee – I found myself saying (multiple times, mind you), “This is the dumbest shit I’ve ever seen” during the past two week’s episodes. Guys, “Gangnam Style” is played out and, worse, Marley’s got to be some kind of idiot to think that her body is getting bigger in the span of days. It’s dumb and it feels like a setup for all those “very special” episodes Ryan Murphy loves to do on Glee.

NTSF:SD:SUV::
– Alan Tudyk, Alison Brie, and Jake Johnson? Fantastic two episodes. I loved ‘em.

Childrens Hospital – Wow, I really didn’t remember the 28 Days Later amnesia spoof. My memory of this show is apparently very vague.

How I Met Your Mother – I dug the dance sequence in the S7 opener. Glad Netflix finally has it.

Music

Been listening to a lot of Channel Orange. “Bad Religion” is one of my favorite tracks

Frank Ocean’s pretty good. Check him out.

Books

The Revolution Was Televised – Alan Sepinwall’s book on the way that tv’s been changing and evolving has been pretty interesting so far. I’m still in the proto-stages where he talks about the precursor shows and the first real new drama, Oz. Seems very cool.

A Confederacy of Dunces – Ignatius is growing on me. I dig the way that he’s sabotaging Levy Pants.

Video Games

Nintendo Land – Played for hours at Ian/Morghan’s place. Hadn’t realized that the coop games require Wii Motion Plus, but I forgot my adapters. The other games were super fun though. Definitely a great multi game. Hopefully I get to play some with Eric and Danielle too, but there’s always Christmas.

Donkey Kong Country Returns – I don’t think it’s as good as the old SNES games, but it’s got some nostalgic music and I’ll keep checking it out.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown – Got back into the recording game. Lots of fun even though my rust caused some terrible performance.

FTL: Faster Than Light – I nearly killed David with laughter over my terrible Mantis B gameplay. Lots of fun.

New Super Mario Bros. U – Acorn Plains was too easy and they sure seem to distribute a ton of item blocks, but I’ve been having lots of fun playing with Min. We’ve quickly gotten back into our wii habits. Lots of fun.

Sleeping Dogs – I didn’t realize that my files had been corrupted, but that provided about an hour of frustration until I tried that and realized I had to redownload files. So far it seems pretty cool. Can’t wait to see how the story develops.

Team Fortress 2 – Got rolled in a few rounds with Lee. Lots of fun, but I was doing pretty poorly.

The Old Republic – Started working on my Sith Warrior because I was thinking the Vette relationship would be neat. Locking quick bars for F2P for non-subscribers is weak, by the way. Bad move, guys.

To the Moon – A quick four hour game/interactive fiction. I was led to believe that it was more incredible than it was, but perhaps that’s just in the pre-Walking Dead world of games. The story is good, mind you, and quite funny in places, but it’s not going to win any awards or terribly surprise you. Not a terrible way to spend four hours, but I wouldn’t expect anything mind-blowing.

What I’ve Been Doing 13 Feb 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Feb 13th, 2012 by Dan

Samurai Champloo DVD Cover

The journey is over. (Photo courtesy Sold Out Activist)

Big TV week for me. A lot of huge episodes and great acting made me a very happy viewer.

Movies

I was supposed to watch Hanna this weekend, but I never got around to it.

TV

Samurai Champloo – Turned out to be a show about transition and the end of things. About an age where Japan was forced to move forward and accept the great wave washing over it. Combining that with hip hop was a great idea. Mugen’s final battle was annoyingly unsatisfying. With Jin and Fuu at least the fight had something to do with the plot. The guys Mugen fought were not plot-relevant at all to anything that happened in the series. Also, everyone took ridiculous amounts of abuse and damage and then just lived to tell the tale?

Glee – What the heck was that? All of the numbers were embarrassing, Ricky Martin was used to pathetic effect, and none of the music was that interesting. When you make your episode focus Latin music, but you only really highlight pop crossover Latin stuff it’s kind of insulting to me in the same way all of that was insulting to Santana.

New Girl – For a show that gets a lot of grief, New Girl has been bringing it the past few weeks. Playing chicken with the proposed three way was hilarious. The show still has nothing for Winston to do

Up All Night – “Everyone hates flan!” Preach.

Justified – Whoa, what an episode. That last scene with Devil and Boyd…wow. Not to mention the stuff with Dickie and Limehouse. Awesome stuff. Can’t wait for more!

Breaking Bad – Everybody’s been talking about how great this show is for three years. Guess what, guys? They’re right. It’s awesome. Only saw the pilot, but it was impressive. Can’t wait to see more. Glad it’s on Netflix Instant.

Grammy Awards – Tuned in for the back half with Tiffany. I’m bummed that I missed all the Rap categories (I was pulling hard for Kanye’s stuff. Looks like he did quite well), but it was a fun show. I hadn’t realized that there were so many performances or I would have watched it in the past. Paul McCartney was pretty great, Nicki Minaj was appropriately bizarre (just rap, Nicki. Your flow is unstoppably awesome), and it was generally a good showing. Adele cleaned up, holy cow.

Music

The Weeknd – Aside from the Grammys, I’ve been listening to The Weeknd like crazy. His stuff is totally awesome and 100% free here. If you’re looking for some red hot R&B, look no further. Particular props to “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls” and “D.D.”

Books

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Get a couple pages in here and there during breaks. Such absolute wish fulfillment writing…Bloomqvist is a weenie, but he gets laid like crazy.

Video Games

Saints Row: The Third – This game is so hilarious and awesome. I spend most cutscenes hitting the Print Screen button to try and cap the ridiculousness. Well-deserved props from the Giant Bomb folks. I’ll probably beat the main campaign this week.

Ghost Trick – Still clever and fun gameplay. I think Min is playing this on his iPad now. He might catch up and beat me!

The Old Republic – Haven’t had a lot of time to work those alts (Min’s been busy), but it’s still fun. The news that Dave might be willing to play soon is awesome and encouraging.

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

Balrog

Here's a suggestion: If you're playing Cave Story for the first time, don't pick hard mode (Photo courtesy escaped.monkey)

Busy weekend with lots of media consumed. That kind of thing happens when I hang out with Min.

Movies

The Descendants – Shailene Woodley was a revelation as Alex in this movie. Excellent acting. George Clooney was also quite good. Pretty chill movie and worth seeing, even if the land ownership subplot is kind of tacked on and not as interesting.

Evangelion 2.22 – I thought I’d seen this…but I hadn’t. I really missed seeing some of the fun/interesting battles of the old tv show. I mean, cutting Israfel in favor of a school drama plot about making Shinji lunch and a dinner party? I’d rather have that sequence instead. I also get that the movie doesn’t allow for the ponderous and deliberate psycho-analytic battle against Leliel, but it’s one of my faves so I was bummed about losing it too. Did not care for the new pilot, Mari, at all, and I didn’t love the business with mixing up who’s who in the battle against Bardiel, but, whatever, right? Some things are different. 2.22 makes me want to watch Neon Genesis Evangelion instead. The more relaxed pace allows for much greater character development and interesting concepts. We’ll see what happens with the rest of the movies and the new ending.

Tangled – Min hadn’t seen this, it was on instant, and we were bored. It’s pretty great, but I hate the video quality of the Starz movies.

Haywire – Went to see this on Sunday and it cut out 40 minutes in. We could have either stayed to watch it from the beginning or taken a voucher for a new movie. As interested in seeing this as I was, I couldn’t stomach watching the slow opening 40 minutes again. I’ll either try again or wait for Netflix.

TV

Childrens Hospital – Ward 8 and the children stabbing Nick Offerman with pencils was great. So was the Bob Seger joke to find out how old he was. Fantastic show. Can’t wait for a new season.

Up All Night – Megan Mullally and Shayna. So great. The bit about cheating on watching a TV show with your spouse was great. Super awkward.

Glee – Pretty interesting “Summer Nights” recreation, complete with the overlay in the climactic final note. I like songs like “Wedding Bell Blues”, but the processed voices sound a lot like they don’t belong in the show. I guess it was a dream sequence Wow, making Artie move/act like Mick Jagger is surprisingly effective even though he’s in a wheelchair. Whoa…what?! The thing about Finn’s dad came out of NOWHERE.

Justified – I’m cool with case of the week stuff when it’s this good. Sometimes it’s ok for Raylan not to be the absolute center. I hope they get Carla Gugino on the show more. The other new villain is appropriately scary.

Archer – “Cyril?” “No breakfast for you!” Another great episode of Archer this week. I miss Ray as a field agent, but I guess this has a lot of comic potential.

Parks and Recreation – The bit about Tom bowling like a grandma (and Ron begging him to have some decency as a man) was amazing. April being nice is unusual, but she’s been softening up a lot anyway. Still one of the greatest shows out there.

Scrubs – Just put it on for a few minutes to pass some time. Always a good show.

Sherlock – The middle episode about the Chinese smugglers is kind of boring, but the Moriarty episode is fantastic. I love how crazy Jim Moriarty is. So great.

John Oliver’s New York Stand Up Show – Popped this on during dinner for something to laugh to. Pretty good stuff.

Music

The Gregory Brothers – You know they put up a new Auto-Tune (Songify?) the News segment, so that got me listening to all of them again. I even dipped into their non-ATtN music because I love Sarah Gregory’s voice.

Books

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Slow and steady. Bloomqvist sure gets around with the ladies, doesn’t he?

Video Games

The Old Republic – The guild’s got Eternity Vault Normal on farm status so now it’s time to start working on Karagga’s Palace.

Ghost Trick – Making a lot of progress in this game. The mystery continues to deepen as my Spanish continues to improve. I love playing games in Spanish!

Earthbound (Mother 2) – Started up a new save file to play in between bosses in a raid. Fun times. Still very early in the game (haven’t explored the meteor yet)

Rayman: Origins – Min and I beat the game and started going for the prestige levels. Holy god the last one, Land of the Livid Dead, is about as punishing as the game can get. Platforming gets frustrating, but it’s also got a super satisfying feel once you conquer it.

Cave Story + – Thought I’d boot up something different while Min was napping. This game is pretty fun and pretty solid, but deciding I should play it on hard mode may have been a mistake. I’m stuck on Monster X because he’s a beast. Every one of his purple projectiles kills me in one hit, so I’ve got to be perfect. On the good side of the spectrum, the machine gun mechanics are amazing. Love that gun and the ability to float with it.

What I’ve Been Doing 12 Dec 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Dec 12th, 2011 by Dan

Our Idiot Brother Poster

Movies are back! (Photo courtesy adonismens)

My brief movie vacation wasn’t willingly imposed, guys. I was just waiting for Netflix to finally send one of the movies at the top of my queue to me. Let’s see if they can keep this up…

Movies

Our Idiot Brother – Paul Rudd was surprisingly good in this. This movie is not laugh out loud funny, but it’s pretty great in a low key laughs kind of way. Rudd’s three sisters, Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschanel, and Elizabeth Banks, all play troubled/damaged women who could all use a little folksy advice from their too trusting, semi-naive brother. It’s better than it sounds plus it features Rashida Jones in dorky glasses playing a lesbian in a relationship with Zooey Deschanel. Pretty good stuff! Only nitpick is that Emily Mortimer’s American accent is a little thin. It wouldn’t make sense for her to be English, but it wasn’t as natural as it could be.

TV

Glee – Sectionals! I like that music gets most of the focus for this episode because that’s the only good part about Glee right now. At least we’re done with all of the storylines going into the Christmas episode and the rest of the season in January/February

New Girl – Would this show be half as funny without Schmidt? Gotta admit, I don’t love the stupid way Jess acts around sex. She’s not coming off as “adorkable” (shoot me for typing that), she’s coming off as idiotic.

Up All Night – Best line: “Ga-goosh? Oh, I’m sorry, is that a penis sound?” It may not be the best show on TV or the funniest, but it’s got solid construction and the principals make me laugh when they interact with each other. Sounds like what you want from a comedy, right?

Community – Great skewering of Glee. I mean, the ridiculous focus on regionals? Brilliant. Mr. Rad? HILARIOUS. The best number of the night for sheer ridiculousness was the Annie regressive sexpot role. Just hilarious.

Parks and Recreation – Great episode, but it was pretty unfocused. Upon second watching I actually dug that about it even more. The marshmallow Ron Swanson was the best.

Persona 4: The Animation – Rise and Teddy persona episodes! Not as hilarious as the camping or Kanji episodes, but still good. I guess next week is the DQ homage dungeon, but I wish they’d slow down a bit and do some more social link stuff.

Childrens Hospital
– Party Down AND the return of Dr. Jewy McJewJew! Why isn’t Lizzy Caplan in more things?

Music

So much stupid dubstep this week! If it didn’t have wobble bass I didn’t want to listen to it for the start of the week. I spent the weekend listening to Janelle Monáe and The Root’s new album, Undun.

Undun is quite good and Amazon was selling it for super cheap. Unfortunately it’s a little on the short side, but it’s still worth the money.

Books

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (AKA Men Who Hate Women) – I started this book like a year ago. I pick it up and read a few pages here or there. The Swedish movie was good enough and close enough that I feel like I got the gist of it already, which makes this read a slog because the writing is kind of dull. Dunno if I’ll finish it this year, haha. I’ll definitely see the new movie when it comes out, though.

Video Games

Expect this section to dwindle to OMG THE OLD REPUBLIC! next week because that’ll probably be all I do.

The Binding of Isaac – All I’ve got left to do is beat Sheol game as ??? (and then a few no damage runs that will be near impossible). It’s been a lot of fun and I think this game is spectacular. I don’t think we’ll be getting any more add-ons, but man was it the best $5 I’ve spent in a while.

Civilization V – This game is the most addictive and awesome games out there. I played about 17 hours of it this weekend and I’ve got 40 turns to finish before tomorrow (assuming I get into the early access for TOR tomorrow). Gonna be a long night, folks!

On Qwikster and Tone Deaf Moves [Mr.D/FB/IB]
Sep 19th, 2011 by Dan

Netflix

Missed Opportunities (Image courtesy hapa boy on Flickr)

I understand the reasons for Netflix spinning off its DVD business as a discrete and separate entity. They recognize a sinking ship when they see one and, theoretically, this would enable them to eliminate tons of overhead (buildings, postage, the employees who check and stuff discs, etc.) increasing their profit margin for the foreseeable future. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the massive overhead reduction results in a huge profit in the next quarter.

I get it. There’s just a better way to do it.

Remember, in the current news/media environment, what’s most important is what happens directly surrounding an event. This increased revenue will surely allow Netflix to do new, better things with its money, but consumers are not seeing the benefit right now. They’re only seeing inconvenience. We now have two queues to manage, two websites that have our personal/financial data, and, most importantly, two discrete entities handling what used to be one integrated experience. The sum inconvenience might not be all that bad, but it will be blown up because Netflix did nothing to make themselves simultaneously better (in public perception).

Consider these two scenarios:

1. Netflix announces the Qwikster split and simultaneously announce a major content coup. Maybe they have concurrent releases of a network’s lineup this season. Maybe they made a deal with a major network to score their entire back catalog or they’ve got a movie studio’s releases. This distracts consumers from what they’re losing by showing them what they’re getting.

2. Netflix announces that they’d like to pass some of the savings along to you and drops its streaming cost by $1 per month or something. It represents a loss of $12 per customer, but if the DVD shipping business was costing them more than $12 per customer, they wouldn’t have tried to wring $96 per year out of us by splitting the plans.

Either of those would do amazing things for Netflix’s public perception. Instead we see them as inconveniencing us while simultaneously increasing the perceived value of Qwikster, the service they see as dead in the water, by adding a new feature: video game rentals.

It reeks of desperation and tone deafness and I can’t believe that ostensibly smart people have made such a stupid decision. Of course, they could be counting on people forgetting that this is a big deal in a month’s time and hope that subscriptions will climb, but I don’t foresee them picking up the customers they lost with this move.

You’ve made some odd decisions, Netflix. Let’s see what America does now.

What I’ve Been Doing [FB/IB/BT/GO]
Jul 25th, 2011 by Dan

Arte de Chris Samnee para Thor: The Mighty Avenger 4. O Deus do Trovão se estranha com o Capitão Britânia.

So glad I found this at my local Borders. An absolute delight to read. I'm keeping my eye on Langridge and Samnee

Movies:

Gentlemen Broncos – Netflix told me. It said, “Dan, you’re not gonna like this movie. Two Stars.” I said, “WHAT DO YOU KNOW, NETFLIX?! YOU DON’T OWN ME!” and then Gentlemen Broncos arrived and it was terrible. I didn’t really dig Jared Hess’ work on Napoleon Dynamite, but it was still funny. Broncos has all of Hess’ excesses without any balance. I watched it at 1.5 speed so I could still hear the dialogue, but be done with the movie faster. Don’t watch it.

Wet Hot American Summer – Saw this a long time ago. Didn’t really dig it. Heard Marc Maron talk with one of the creators about how it was the 10th anniversary this year. Since I last saw it I’ve gone a little deeper into the rabbit hole of comedy nerdiness and I actually liked it a lot more this time. There’s a lot of genuinely funny comedy in here, especially the intentionally bad comic near the end.

El secreto de sus ojos – Another rewatch, this time with Min. One of my all-time favorites.

Star Trek – Min and I went to see Captain America and he told me he never saw the remake. Naturally I figured we’d remedy that and Netflix’s giant Star Trek deal came to the rescue. Netflix Instant quality is way terrible for how great Star Trek should have looked, but it’s still a really fantastic movie. I also was looking out for lens flare this time. I’d noticed it before, but now that I was looking for it…HOLY COW. They need to tone that down a bit!

Captain America: The First Avenger – Better than I thought it would be. Aside from a few nitpicks here and there, the best action movie I saw this summer. There’s a lot of earnestness and honesty in Chris Evans’ Cap that makes this movie work. Stay until after the credits. You won’t be sorry (DISCLAIMER: You might be sorry).

TV:

The League – A little more of this. Finished off season 1. It was good to get a little background into season 2. Still very juvenile and silly, but a fun diversion.

Weeds – This season is only three episodes old, but they’ve really been fantastic. Post-prison Nancy has got some secrets up her sleeve that I know we haven’t had a chance to see. Her struggles with her son and sister are dramatic gold and I’m loving everything this season is bringing to the table.

Books:

Slaughterhouse Five – Rereading one of my favorite books. It’s quite good. Vonnegut’s talent for reducing things to the absurd is at its best with Billy Pilgrim. I love Vonnegut’s humanist ways and anti-war leanings. He’s a literary hero of mine.

Thor: The Mighty Avenger – I don’t really care for Thor. He’s kind of silly. However, everywhere I looked people were telling me that this mini-series was fantastic. Thanks to Borders’ going out of business sale, I picked up part 1 (of 2) of this book and I’m really quite amazed. Roger Langridge’s writing hearkens back to the Golden/Silver Age of comics where heroes didn’t have to be brooding, angsty messes without getting too corny. The relationship between Thor and Jane is so sweet that it’s a joy to read. On top of that, Chris Samnee’s art is just perfect. It’s got that old-school look of innocence and purity that works when you’re writing about a Norse god.

Morning Glories – Nick Spencer’s series was described to me as Lost meets Runaways. Those kinds of x-meets-y descriptions don’t always bear fruit, but this one seems to work. It’s dark, violent, and horrific with a hint that there’s all kinds of intrigue in the pipe. If Spencer’s got a good plan, this could be really great. I’m liking it so far and the first trade paperback is only $10

Irredeemable – Another series with some acclaim, Irredeemable is about a Superman-like hero going ballistic and becoming a super villain. It’s really a character piece on what might cause a guy like Superman to just snap and turn evil. There’s a lot of suspense in the first issues because of how powerful he is as the remaining heroes search for clues and weaknesses. A real sharp read that I picked up especially because it’s by Mark Waid, who wrote the next thing I read.

Daredevil – It’s kind of odd that I never was into Daredevil. He’s another one of those heroes in NYC that gets no respect, kind of like Spider-Man, but perhaps a little darker. Well, Daredevil had apparently gone super, ridiculously dark in recent years. Like depressingly so. Waid has stepped in for a new #1 and a new take on Matt Murdock. He’s either got to start looking at the world with a little levity or go insane from his troubles and I’m digging it. Throw in some sharp art and Waid’s good writing and you’ve got a series that I’m really excited to keep reading.

Video Games:

Left 4 Dead 2 – Not a lot of change here, just going through the campaigns with David. Such a perfect game. Lots of fun.

Team Fortress 2 – Every time I check Eric’s inventory he’s got another item that I want for classes he doesn’t really play. It’s kind of unfair! We need to initiate some trades, pronto.

I love the art in this book!

What I’ve Been Playing/Watching/Reading [GO/IB/FB/BT]
Jun 1st, 2011 by Dan

Totoro(rororo)

Here’s another breakdown of the media I’ve been consuming:

Video Games:

I haven’t talked about these for a long while, so I’m just gonna go over recent history, post-robbery.

L.A. Noire – Just beat it last night. I think that the game premise shows a lot of potential, but the true masterpiece will be any game that piggybacks off of this one. Why did they feel the need to open world this? It only creates dissonance between the character as portrayed and the character they want him to be. Also: interrogations are neat, but very tough.

StarCraft, Mass Effect, and Portal (all part 2) – Been meaning to fix some choices that my Paragon Shepard made in ME2 before ME3, so I was getting some of that done. Portal 2 multiplayer with Eric was lots of fun. Now I can’t wait for the new “test” this summer. I hope they’re a lot harder. Played SC2 with Min and Simon. We did alright as long as I wasn’t goofing off trying to Hellion rush the enemy. Turns out those flamethrower cars don’t have AA. Fancy that.

Movies:

Bridesmaids – Super hilarious. Kristen Wiig is one of my favorite comedic actors and it’s great to see her find success. I hope this means good things for female-led comedies (no more Heigl, please! (unless she’s in an Apatow movie)). Worth watching.

My Neighbor Totoro – How did I get to be 25 without seeing this movie? The landmark Studio Ghibli feature was heartwarming and fun and just awesome. A sincere movie that is hard not to love.

Love and Other Drugs – I constantly recommend films to friends, but I don’t often watch their recs if I know they’re not gonna be very good. Since that’s kind of hypocritical of me I took this recommendation despite knowing in advance that the movie wasn’t very good. Guess what, it isn’t, but I also knew it had a lot of Anne Hathaway’s boobs in it, so I guess I win anyway.

Animal Kingdom – Australian gangster film. Well done, but not quite as interesting as I was hoping it would be. Gotta love the accents, but creepy uncles are always weird…and creepy.

TV:

Tremé – Season 2 started and I fell about six weeks behind. Watched the first episode last night. I still love these characters, but without the urgency of post-Katrina I have even less of an idea of what the characters are doing now. I kind of like it a little more, but that may just be familiarity. The show also continues to impress with its strong music.

The Office – I’m about two episodes in and Ricky Gervais is proving to be the absolute worst boss possible. Micheal Scott has nothing on how cringeworthy Gervais’ David Brent is. Martin Freeman’s Tim is also meaner than Jim in the US The Office, but I think I like his early character more. I’m interested in seeing this through, it’s only about six hours, after all, and I like succinct series.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – The opposite of succinct. Don’t think I’ve mentioned that I started watching this show at all. I’m about four episodes into season 2. S1 was pretty good, but we’ve advanced much further in television since then. It’s so very 90s and I think that Joss Whedon is a better writer now than he was then. S2 opened with an unbearable episode with Buffy being super emo, but it moved on to be as enjoyable as S1. I’m not 100% on board with this show like other people might be, but it’s been solid.

Mad Men – I’m 2/3 of the way through the first season and I’m really enjoying it. So far I’ve been most impressed by the superb acting. Don Draper and the rest of the cast are all so nuanced and interesting that I can’t help but silence the annoyance at the period-appropriate mistreatment of women and the job-appropriate philandering. Fantastic show so far.

Parks and Recreation – What a stellar third season. I wish NBC hadn’t given us two straight weeks of two episodes because then I’d still have P&R for a little bit longer. This is, without a doubt, the finest comedy on television right now. I can’t wait until it’s on Netflix Instant so that I can watch it with Min and Tiffany (that’s right, watch it two more times!).

Community – A season of ups and downs ends on some solid up episodes. Throw in the promise of a reduced role for Chevy Chase (thank you Dan Harmon, he was getting old) and I’m pretty hyped for this show (not as hyped as I am for S4 of Parks and Rec).

Glee – What a weak season. No, seriously, it was super weak. The magic and fire of season 1 has been lost, no doubt thanks to how successful this show has been. Risks are gone, the music is much more poppy and less classic/Broadway, and the writers keep pushing the angsty relationships of the characters to the forefront as if anyone cares. Guess what, Ryan Murphy, we don’t care about Finn and Rachel! We really don’t. Every time I want to quit this show they manage to do one number that keeps me hooked, but this season hasn’t made me want to buy any recordings. Original songs? No thanks. What was up with the finale? Where was the spectacle? There were barely any numbers in it! I’ll probably watch next year, but you’re on notice, Glee.

Books:

The Hunger Games – Think Koshun Takami’s Battle Royale, but Young Adult. Dystopian future with annual deathmatches between 24 teenagers. Brutal, but with a heart. The series is being built up to be the next big thing and I think it’s worth it. A quick, snappy read with enough violence in it to hide the fact that it’s kind of a book for girls. Fight your sexism on this and give it a try. You might enjoy it.

The Last Best League – A book about the Cape Cod baseball league as the last real talent pool before kids start their professional career. I’m a little biased against New England and their overenthusiastic love of themselves and everything they do, so I don’t get into the flowery fellating of the region. Still, I like a good non-fiction baseball drama. Still early in it, should be interesting.

A Visit From the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel lived up to the hype I’d seen. The book is not an easy read, every chapter is from a new perspective, with different styles (including one that is a powerpoint printout) and different characters (they all tie into one person, in particular, but some have characters who are never mentioned again), but it’s an interesting look at the way time changes everyone and everything and the way that the world itself is changing as we hurdle onward in time. Definitely a good book.

What I’m Watching [IB]
Feb 17th, 2011 by Dan

Japanese TV

Been a while since I’ve talked about the tv I’m watching. Here’s a breakdown:

Justified

Based on novels and a short story by Elmore Leonard, Justified is about to enter its second season. I’m catching up on S1 and I gotta say I’m a huge fan of US Marshal Raylan Givens (played by Timothy Olyphant) and the crime landscape of Eastern Kentucky. It’s definitely worth tuning into.

Party Down

I’m tuning into this one a bit too late, but this canceled Rob Thomas show about failed actors working in a catering business is reliably funny enough for me to keep watching on Netflix instant. Rob Thomas’ other critically acclaimed canceled show, Veronica Mars, lends many guest stars to Party Down and it’s both hilarious and bizarre to see them in such different roles.

Episodes

It’s been a long while since Matt LeBlanc was on TV. Joey was a pretty short lived failure, which I’m sure contributed to Matt LeBlanc’s lack of work, but he’s back and doing remarkably excellent work on Episodes. If you watched the second season of Extras, you should be somewhat familiar with the whole “network ruining our smart show” concept, but the real beauty of this show is the way Matt LeBlanc plays, well, Matt LeBlanc. The other characters in the show initially give him very little credit, but his sneaky, behind-the-scenes machinations are actually quite intelligent and I’m eager to see how this show ends now that we’ve caught up with the media res introduction of the first episode.

Shameless

Did you know this was based on an English show? I guess it makes sense. First episode was pretty good. I don’t have much more to say on the topic, but I plan to keep watching.

Portlandia

Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armison are the brains (and primary actors) behind this sketch comedy analysis of Portland, the city where the dream of the 90s lives on. Some of the sketches are miss, but most are decent hits. I’m actually chuckling a little about the cacao sketch right now. I admit that I also take a little more out of it thanks to living two years of my life in a Portland suburb. Not gonna bust your sides, but worth a watch.

Archer

H. Jon Benjamin is the super secret agent Sterling Archer. It’s about as madcap and raunchy as you’d expect cable tv animated shows to be, but it’s also just funny enough to keep me tuning in each week. I think my enjoyment stems entirely from H. Jon Benjamin’s vocal work. He just knows how to voice a character.

Bob’s Burgers

Speaking of H. Jon Benjamin vocal roles, Bob’s Burgers couldn’t be more different from Archer, but is also as good or better thanks to Eugene Mirman and Kristen Schaal. All three combine to make a FOX animated show that is (thankfully) not a Family Guy knockoff. Last week’s capoeira episode was hilarious.

and the usual stuff:

Community

I don’t quite know where they’re going with this mini-Chevy Chase arc, but I’m not too fond of it. I think Pierce is the weakest character in the show and they’re going out of their way to make us hate him. Character death? God, I wish it were so. The ensemble doesn’t need him.

Glee

Season 2 just hasn’t lived up to Season 1. I blame the music. Too much pop culture, perhaps, and not enough classic rock and Broadway. Every time I think I might quit watching the show they go and wow me with something fantastic. Before the break it was the “Singin In The Rain/Umbrella” mash-up. Last week, amid the awful Justin Bieberfest, we got “Take Me Or Leave Me” from Rent. Just like that I’m back in.

Parks and Recreation

If you still think this show is The Office 2.0, you’re still wrong. Parks & Recs has matured into its own fantastic show and it’s firing on all cylinders. This past week I found myself literally guffawing at the episode. I think it might be my favorite comedy on television at the moment.

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