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What I’ve Been Doing 9 Oct. 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Oct 9th, 2012 by Dan

Pitch Perfect -0

I love a capella so there was zero chance I wouldn’t see this (Photo courtesy lissamabcd)

Thanks to the long weekend this is posting a little later than usual. I also jammed a ton of TV in this week thanks to all that extra time.

Movies

The Guard – Irish movie about an Irish policeman who is one of those curmudgeonly old man types. Funny, but ultimately not that substantive. Worth seeing if you’ve got a free afternoon.

Pitch Perfect – I loved most of the music in this movie and I always enjoy Anna Kendrick on the silver screen. Mostly I found myself impressed by how well she inhabited her role. The other two movies I saw her in, Up in the Air and 50/50, had her in a much more professional, trying to be respected role. Here she’s aged back to 18 and everything about her performance reflects that. Good, fun stuff. Go see it.

TV

SNL Weekend Update Thursday – Kind of unnecessary. Barely any politics either.

Up All Night – Not digging the new setup. The new brother character is just not that interesting. I did laugh at the trapeze part in the most recent episode.

Glee – Knocking Tremé is not cool. “Celebrity Skin” not that good. The election episode was so boring. The breakup episode, on the other hand, had a lot more emotion and a lot more going for it. Dug it a lot more.

NTSF::SD:SUV: – The time slide episode was so good that everything afterwards has been a bit disappointing. The SDCC episode was meh as was the Dragon Shumway redux.

Childrens Hospital – Ladies Night! Man, Lake Bell is hot. This show is consistently hilarious/awesome.

Homeland – Danes seemed off early in the episode, but that’s probably intentional since her character is supposed to be off her rocker. Loved the way that Damian Lewis is playing this. As for the plot, this season is shaping up to be very cool. Liked the way they pulled Danes back in and I liked the father/daughter bonding over Islam.

Tremé – The included murder mystery doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the show, but everything else is going well. Nice and slow-paced.

Sherlock – That Reichenbach Falls episode was SO GOOD! I wonder if Moriarty is actually dead (Sherlock isn’t!). Hard to see where the next series goes from here, but that was astounding. It didn’t have the same pounding pressure as Moriarty’s time-limits from last series, but it was still quite tense and fun. Loved the part where Moriarty was pretending to be an actor.

Key & Peele – Not as good as the season premiere, but I really enjoyed that dubstep sketch. Also dug the Luther sketch and the concept of the guy who had to follow MLK’s speech was funny, but it wasn’t executed particularly well.

The Mindy Project – You know what? This show is a lot funnier than some critics are giving it credit. Mindy Kaling has a really sneaky sense of appalling humor that really works. I think this is my favorite new show I’ve seen (so far).

Four Weddings – Sometimes your girlfriend watches stuff that you don’t want to.

Giuliana and Bill – See above…The worst part here is that she thinks this show is dumb too! There just wasn’t anything else on worth watching.

Halloween Wars – Another Food network thing. This has got the Cupcake Wars crew, but they’re carving pumpkins and making Halloween scenes. It’s ok.

How I Met Your Mother – Caught the first two episodes of the season. I’m still kind of bummed that Victoria isn’t the mother. She was the original plan if the show had been canceled. I like her.

30 for 30 – “Broke” wasn’t as good as the other documentary I saw, but I still dug it. This series is worth checking out.

The Daily Show – I’m glad that Stewart went and eviscerated Obama for his debate performance because it was shameful. Not a bad week of episodes.

Parks & Recreation – Two words: Lucy Lawless. Please and thank you.

Saturday Night Live – A lot of bad sketches in this episode, but I did like the lesser known Bond girls one. Daniel Craig can do better? Was it the material?

Music

The Pokemon Reorchestrated project is coming out with fully licensed reorchestrations of Pokemon game music. Pretty cool stuff, if you ask me.

Books

After the Quake – Murakami really likes writing about Jehovah’s Witnesses. I really enjoyed “All God’s Children Can Dance”

Video Games

New Super Mario Bros. 2 – I was wrong. There are way more hidden worlds than I realized and they’re pretty fun. Liking this game even more.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy – I technically “beat” the game, but there’s tons more content to enjoy.

Professor Layton and the Last Specter – This series reminds me of Detective Conan. One of the puzzles really stumped me. I’m dumber than I thought I was, haha.

Pokemon White – Wanted to catch the last few legendaries I was dilly-dallying on. Got that done before 2 arrived.

Pokemon White Version 2 – The package here has gotten so much sharper from year to year, but the nearly identical mechanics keeps a lot of people away. I’m playing with a Nuzlocke Challenge: Defeated pokemon must be permanently retired, you can only catch the first pokemon you see in an area, and, one of my rules, you must use pots to heal. Only one pokemon center visit per town. So far I’ve lost a Patrat permanently in my gym battle with Roxie. Tragic stuff.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown – Just started it this morning. Played two missions. Loving it! Look for a Dan Plays series to start soon.

What I’ve Been Doing 2 Oct 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Oct 2nd, 2012 by Dan

Sunny Isles Beach, FL.

Fun times. (Photo by kow626)

Summer’s gone and the regular baseball season ends this week, but that doesn’t mean the fun is over.

Movies

Almost, but no.

TV

Sherlock – The Hounds episode was terrible. I like Sherlock when his mysteries are solved with thorough detective work and deduction, not the kind of gobbledegook that we had with the hallucinogens and the weird hound. Very disappointing episode, way more so than the Chinese smuggler episode from the first series.

Tremé – Really happy to have this back on tv. Underrated, if you ask me. Fantastic music and fantastically real stories.

The Daily Show – The King Abdullah interview was spectacular. I loved seeing a regent talk about policy in a serious way. Kind of funny to go from that to Olivia Wilde the next day.

The Mindy Project – A lot of up and down on this in the critical scene, but I thought this show had an exceptionally strong comedic voice. Funny and I’m down for more.

New Girl – Not sure if I find Schmidt still hilarious or if they’re overdoing it or if it’s just that I know that he’s a breakout character. In any case, the season came back in strong form. Remember when Jess used to be scared of sex? That was not the Jess we saw in the second episode. I’m all for half-naked Zooey Deschanel.

Parks and Recreation – I’m not sure I buy Leslie’s crisis of conscious considering how strong a voice she normally is, but I still enjoyed the ep.

EDIT: Key & Peele – Forgot to mention this one. They had two brilliant sketches about post-win sports interviews and literally/metaphorically and an amazing one about Confederate reenactors. Good stuff.

Music

The Alabama Shakes are pretty cool, y’all.

Books

The Woman in the Dunes – Told you guys I’d read this weekend. The book was a very Kafkaesque look at a man trapped in an absurd situation who eventually loses the will to fight. Very Japanese, but also very interesting. I dug it.

After the Quake – A short story collection by Murakami containing vignettes following the Kobe earthquake in 1995. I bet a bunch of people came back to this at some point this year. Very Murakami so far (read two of the stories), which means it’s very interesting so far.

Video Games

Mark of the Ninja – S-Rank! Finishing off New Game + kind of sucked.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy – I’ve been slowly pushing through the main series while completing dark notes each night. Last one I did was FF IX.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 – Managed to beat it last night. Kind of too bad it’s so short. Haven’t played a six world Mario game in…ever? My favorite part was Tiffany watching over my shoulder and laughing every time I died in Bowser’s Castle.

FTL: Faster Than Light – Course I’ve still been doing these! Gotta get back in the groove of it tonight.

Professor Layton and the Last Specter – No matchstick puzzles yet. This is my first Layton and, chronologically, the first Layton. So far so good, but I wish the DS screen resolution was better. It makes solving some of these puzzles unnecessarily difficult.

What I’ve Been Doing [F/FB/IB/BT/GO]
Jul 11th, 2011 by Dan

2010 Pine Leaf Boys scene from Treme, Breaux Bridge April 30 (23 of 34)

A performance from Tremé

Tomorrow night’s the All-Star Game, but my coverage might be a little different than usual. I plan on watching it with friends, so there may not be a liveblog, but I will cover it in the morning. In the meanwhile, here’s what I’ve been up to.

Music:

Rx Bandits – Saw the Bandits down at the 9:30 Club on Saturday for their farewell tour. I don’t think anything will match the unparalleled emotion I felt at Five Iron Frenzy’s “Winners Never Quit” tour back in 2003, but it was a special show. They’re not writing off being a studio band, but that may have been the last time I’ll ever see the Bandits and they did not disappoint. Great show. The tour t-shirt puts me up to 5 RxB t-shirts. I think I’ve reached excessive there.

Movies:

Carancho - Ricardo Darín’s strong showing in El secreto de sus ojos attracted me to this movie. In it, Darín plays a carancho (translates to vulture), or an ambulance chaser, who scams victims out of their settlements. The story is a little uneven, but it’s clear to me that Darín is ridiculously talented and I love seeing him in anything. Gotta track down more of his films.

TV:

Tremé – Finally got around to watching the season 2 finale. Good stuff. It’s neat to see the differences between Tremé and The Wire. David Simon is clearly not compelled to make this show more watchable by limiting the live music or giving it a more structured plot, but that’s ok sometimes. It’s nice to see the different storylines just play out because, hey, that’s life. Good to also see the Vietnamese shrimp boats as a preparation for an eventual Gulf Oil Spill storyline.

Dead Like Me – As a fan of Pushing Daisies, I was not surprised to learn that this was a Bryan Fuller show. The same little quirks were apparent in the early episodes and although he left the show rather early in its run, his DNA runs through it. I gotta wonder about Fuller’s preoccupation with death and women with masculine nicknames…Anyway, it’s a pretty solid show that my girlfriend is watching and I hop in for an episode or two wherever she is. The premise, that the main characters are grim reapers who collect souls that are about to die, is pretty neat and I dig the characters. I also like that it was a Showtime show, so the writers are free to let the characters talk like real people.

Mad Men – Last weekend I just blew through S3 and S4. This is a fantastic show. I do love it when a show finds itself continually evolving so it’s neat to see how far the characters have come since S1. It was a little troubling in the 4th season to see Don struggling, but I’m excited to see what S5 brings in 2012. This is seriously one of the best shows I’ve seen in ages. Very good.

Books:

Chew – New issue (#19) came out last week. Toni appears in this one and she’s rapidly grown on me as one of my favorite characters. The latest issue sets up a lot of neat plot points that I’m excited to see born out and also reveals some interesting secrets about the Chu family. Definitely the best so far in the new arc.

S.H.I.E.L.D. – My love affair with Jonathan Hickman’s work has not abated yet. His examination of the secret history of an organization that a lot of Marvel fans kind of take for granted is very interesting. Could have interesting implications for the greater Marvel universe, but it also ties in very nicely with Hickman’s work in FF. Gotta wonder if Hickman has some serious father issues, because it’s yet another book of his thematically dealing with fathers and sons, but this time with a fate vs. free will wrinkle.

Fantastic Four/FF – More Hickman, more awesomeness. I finally got around to reading Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four and I was seriously impressed. I mean, we’re talking a breadth of narrative that’s still bearing fruit in his current issues of FF. FF is one of my most anticipated books every month. I can’t wait to see what The War of the Four Cities will bring and whether or not the issues with the Council of Reeds (first introduced at the start of Hickman’s run back in 2009) will be resolved in this arc.

Ultimate Fantastic Four – Still cool, but man does it pale in comparison to the work being done on FF. Almost done with it, so I’ll continue for now.

Video Games:

Torchlight – Picked this guy up for $2 or so in the Steam summer sale. and it was well worth the purchasing price. Definitely scratching my Diablo itch with some seriously addictive game mechanics. Playing as the pet class and loving all the summons, but on Very Hard the final dungeons are proving challenging. I’m afraid to try it hardcore next, but the challenge is calling me (for those who don’t know, hardcore mode means that death is permanent for a character. THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE!)

Left 4 Dead – David finally built himself a new computer allowing him to play all the sweet games of the past that we couldn’t play before. We played No Mercy last night and it was a real blast from the past. I can’t wait for him to see the ways the game has evolved in L4D2! I’m sure he’ll find it just as awesome as I do.

inFamous – Beat it on very hard on the good track. Considering an evil run for trophies, but, truth be told, this game is middling, at best, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to motivate myself to play it again with more interesting options on hand.

StarCraft 2 – Played a couple of quick rounds with Dave and one of his friends. Still solid, but I’m not always in the mood.

What I’ve Been Doing [FB/IB/BT/GO]
Jun 28th, 2011 by Dan

WEEDS Poster Mary Louise Parker

TV

Weeds – New season started yesterday. The three year time gap puts Nancy in New York City and moves far past the storylines from last year by also claiming that Esteban is dead and his cartel disbanded. It seems that Nancy is heading toward working in the weapons trade instead, which is interesting, but we’ll see where the season goes. Ever since they left Agrestic this show has really started to shine as it changes every year. Can’t wait to see where it goes this year.

Tremé – Only one episode left this season. The culmination of the events lacks the oomph of old finales of The Wire, but this show remains solidly entertaining even without being thrilling.

Movies

X-Men: First Class – One of the better action movies I’ve seen in a while with only a few disappointments:

– January Jones does not exercise her talents at all in this movie. Emma Frost is a little uninspired.
– Any moment where the characters feel the need to say “We should be called the X-Men!” or “Call him Magneto”. They all fall flat for me where they’re supposed to be great moments?

McAvoy, Byrne, and Fassbender, especially, are all great in their more senior roles in the movie. Jennifer Lawrence is mostly great, but gets saddled with some of those terrible lines that I hate. Worth seeing.

Bad Teacher – Not as bad as the critics make it seem, but the implied shared heritage with Bad Santa doesn’t seem to be helping the movie any. I didn’t really like Bad Santa, so I’m ok either way. Kind of long, but stupid, passable comedy. See Bridesmaids instead, but if you’ve already seen it, no harm in coming here.

Video Games

Shadows of the Damned – Played the first act with Min watching. Delightfully juvenile and chock full of style. Stay away if dick jokes offend you. I’m serious. Still early, but I dig Resident Evil 4-style gameplay so I’m down so far.

Hot Springs Story – Playing this on my Android phone. Sounds like a dating sim or H-game, but it’s really not. A management sim that will easily pass the time and be very entertaining. Fun for short bursts.

Books

FF (Future Foundation) – The First Family continues on after the death of Johnny Storm. Things are really starting to heat up with this initial arc and I’m really drawn in. Went back and picked up the rest of Jon Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four to try and catch up on the plot points being explored in FF. Can’t wait for the next issue tomorrow.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – The Invisible Man really put me off of this book for some reason since we’re introduced to him in a female boarding school where he was raping women and making them think it was the Holy Ghost doing so. There are plenty of bad people in comic books, but I just can’t get behind rooting for him as one of the heroes.

Proof – Supernatural cop series where “Proof” is John Prufrock, a Sasquatch working for “The Lodge” to investigate other cryptids and cryptid-related crimes. Seems neat, but didn’t grab me as much as…

Cowboy Ninja Viking – Ridiculously silly title and premise, but the book is about multiple personality disorder patients called Triplets who were trained to be assassins. The title character’s identities are self-evident, but the other combinations are pretty funny. Kind of confusing to follow some of his art, but I still dig it anyway.

Ultimate Spider-Man – (Ultimate) Spider-Man is dead. Who will be the next Spider-Man? I’m intrigued. Always loved this book and I can’t wait to see where it evolves.

Ultimate Fantastic Four – It’s interesting to see where this universe diverges from 616. The UFF has been pretty interesting, but the storytelling isn’t quite as sharp as I want it to be. I feel kind of like this book got a little less creative attention than some of the other Ultimate titles, but I still dig the team so I’ll finish off it’s run. I’m halfway done with it anyway.

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/FB/WMQ]
Apr 10th, 2011 by Dan

Source Code

Fan-Created Poster of Source Code by Matt Needle

Movies

Source Code – Some defect in the genetic composition of my brothers has caused them to write off this movie as garbage. I assure everyone reading that the numbers obtained by Rotten Tomatoes assuring the public that 90% of movie reviewers liked this movie are worth listening to. The “thinking man’s action blockbuster” seems to have become a thing with Inception last year and Duncan Jones delivers. It’s not quite as deep as Nolan’s epic, but still the best option in theaters at the moment.

Sucker Punch – I can’t think of a movie that has missed its mark harder than Sucker Punch did. It’s almost depressing to watch knowing what Zack Snyder intended. Instead we got a movie whose parts don’t gel and whose concept overmatches its director. It makes me want to propose co-directed movies. Let Snyder do the action while someone else handles all the dialog, character interaction, story, etc. It’s worth mentioning that the action sequences are super-cool and easily the only successful parts of the flick, which means if you get bored during straight action scenes, this movie has nothing for you.

Tangled – Naysayers who think Pixar is the only CG talent within Disney, look out. This movie proves that the magic from our collective youths has yet to be extinguished. Marketing would have you believe that Rider (the thief) and Maximus (the horse) would be the focus of the movie a la Aladdin. Marketing is wrong. Fearing that young boys wouldn’t come to the theater to watch a movie about a girl, they hid the fact that it’s a coming-of-age story about the very sheltered Rapunzel. Funny, charming, and worth renting.

TV

Justified – Continues to be my favorite show each week. Tensions are running high in Harlan County and Raylan is stuck right in the middle. I’m not caught up with this week’s episode yet, but I’m sure it’ll continue to be great.

Archer – Oh god, last week’s episode about Cheryl was a riot. The writers are definitely on a roll

Tremé – When I wasn’t watching baseball this week I was catching up on Tremé OnDemand. David Simon’s look at post-Katrina New Orleans lacks some of the focus, direction, and structure that police work gave The Wire, but Tremé is still chock full of fleshed out characters that I cared about. Every episode is full of fantastic music (some might say just a little too much music), great drama, and believable events. Season 2 starts this month and I’ll definitely be tuning in.

Baseball – Surprise, surprise, right? This season has started out with some mega-interesting storylines. The Red Sox and Rays have baffled sportswriters with their inability to win, Manny Ramirez has retired in the face of drug-related sanctions, and, most importantly, the Marlins are off to a solid 5-3 start good enough for second in the NL East.

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